Monday, August 9, 2010

"Joyful Busywork"

"Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile." Pierre Coneille

My boys were supposed to be working on a new schedule today. Math, reading, writing, chores, music - you know the drill. They knew the drill but didn't like it. So they hemmed and hawed, they procrastinated, Bruiser (the 5 yo) took out his new 1/8 size violin a hundred times - and Maestro took the full size out (no he does not play, yet!) to "help."

After a morning in which I worked harder than the boys - I was exhausted and ready for a nap. Buttercup, the 20 month old, was finally ready for a nap at around 11. The boys got to have some quiet play time while I put her down and took a 20 minute power nap of my own. Fast forward to the afternoon - time for laundry, four full loads of laundry to be brought upstairs, folded and put away. The laundry was brought up and Maestro mentioned wanting to get a good workout in, so he had brought up two laundry baskets up at the same time by himself.


I put one boy onto doing "side straddle hops" (jumping jacks), one to running stairs, one to push ups. They were working so hard that it was relatively peaceful for me to get the laundry folded before the commencement of "Operation Stuff Drawer," followed by "Operation Stuff Shirt" and "Operation Stuff Wardrobe." They enjoyed that all so much that they asked for more exercise to do afterward and were huffing and puffing from the exertion of it all.

So it begs the question. Why can't I find an equally engaging way to get school work done? I suppose my biggest hurdle is the knowledge that I could do all sorts of quizzes, games, puzzles and such to get the messages across and the lessons learned, but doing so takes huge amounts of effort and free time while I put such a plan and schedule together. (Time for a solo trip to Panera, I think!) Perhaps I'll make that happen on specific days, but on the "off" days, the boys are going to have to learn to make their own fun and find the joy in the process and love of the labor itself.

It took years for me to learn to enjoy the process of mowing the lawn, washing the dishes or picking up the living room; that lesson was hard one - and my turning moment came in having a friend profess to "love doing dishes." This friend is so joyful in her outlook and in the many, many activities she is involved with that I really admire her.

Her husband is away frequently for work, she has three boys and a young dog. She home schools, like we do, and is also involved with boy scouts and active in church and yet, she rarely looks tired or worn out and has often been ready to take my own children into her home for play time and fellowship. Perhaps I make others tired with my activity level, but she has been an inspiration to me and a great help. Most of all, she helped me change my attitude about work and what it means to be joyful in all that we do.

Ecclesiastes 2:24: There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment [1] in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God...

I believe in joyful work; and I believe that work is helpful for changing a bad attitude. In our house, it's called "working out the grumpus" and after about 30 minutes (sometimes involving my children wailing over their bad fortune or poor choices) they begin to ask for the next job to do, and with a joyful countenance. That is one of my primary goals for this home school year: work done in a joyful attitude coupled with happiness and peace with one another.


  1. I just want to again point out the value in teaching children to do chores and clean up after themselves ... I would have had an easier time of it in boot camp if I'd had some self-discipline to begin with! Work them boys!

  2. Beth, I have thought of your words often when they are worst about doing those chores or I start to doubt myself and wonder if I am pushing them too hard. In that way you have been my total inspiration and motivation!


I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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