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Musings on Contentment, Complacency and Continual Striving

from Beverley

In the autumn issue Jenny asked, when considering career choices, "Is continual striving the best way to go?" and "Is contentment such a bad thing?" and Belinda reported on right and left brain functioning. I wonder if the two aren't someway connected.

I'm a 'driven' person, focussed on success (whatever that really means): an achiever, a goal setter, with high (sometimes impossible standards). Robin, my partner, seems to live from day to day, focussed on the now moment, getting one thing done to his satisfaction, then moving onto the next task. He knows what contentment is. I don't.

According to Belinda's test, I'm 'both brained'. Robin's fairly balanced too, but shows a tendency toward left-brained thinking. I'm not sure how all this fits in with contentment, complacency and continual striving. I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on the subject. But it does seem to me that people who 'succeed' in any chosen field show 'both brain' functioning, more than leaning to the left or right. I think it takes a comprehensive range of well-developed skills, not only to achieve mastery in a field, but to use those skills as a basis for earning an income.

I agree that recognising how a child learns, whether they show a preference for left or right brain functioning, can identify problems with the learning program (not with the way the learner learns!). I think the easiest way to address this is by introducing a wide selection of learning modalities to choose from, thereby correcting the imbalance and promoting both brained functioning. Education places too much emphasis on using the eyes. Much can be learned from simply leaving the radio on all day. I don't think it's important to worry about the station or content, although by all means, select something you're happy listening to! The other neglected area in education is 'doing'. Moving the body parts. The hands get a good work out in schools, but little else. Doing a range of activities that mean moving the whole body, as in building, gardening, playing. these balance the hemispheres with very little effort!

Playing is the bees knees when it comes to balancing the hemispheres. Why do we have an epidemic of "ADD, ADHD, LD" children? Could it be because children don't get the opportunity to play enough? What is play and how do we encourage it? Consider what is happening inside a child's head (or yours or mine) when playing blind's man bluff. Now that's holistic education at it's best. Okay, it's not learning facts or knowledge, but it's building a balanced brain that can more readily absorb and use facts and knowledge in a meaningful and useful way down the track.

So how does all this fit in with Jenny's questions about striving and contentment? Continual striving is not desirable. We all need time to play. Play hones our 'all round' skills, brings balance to our lives and bodies, recharges our batteries. Play is relaxing. It's fun. How many of us are having fun?

Complacency or contentment? I suggest that most of us are complacent. I believe we are taught to accept this state as the norm as babies and that it's reinforced by our schooling. Contentment is something completely different. It's that wonderful sigh of relaxation that comes from knowing that whatever it is you're doing fits like a glove, is playful, fun, productive, constructive, progressive, soul feeding. It's what happens when all is right in the world, in balance and things are moving smoothly toward the goals without much effort (well-oiled wheels?) Nature abounds in wonderful examples - that's why it's so easy to feel content while wandering through the wilderness.

What do I want for my children? How can I help them achieve their goals without abandoning or losing wonderful contentment? I do what Jenny suggests: identify passions, show interest and support by providing resources (without taking over), expose to a range of activities, encourage entrepreneurial behaviour, be positive, and don't restrict. But I think I really need to add 'play more' to that list.


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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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