To be human

“Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is to be human. It is to transcend not only national limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter into the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.”

-Thomas Berry

During this time, I am feeling some of my deep fears while also experiencing a rousing of my deep impulse to connect. To wake up from all the ways I’ve been asleep, to enliven my connection to the whole of Everything. 

The origin of the word heal literally means “to make whole.”

Our question is: how can we make ourselves whole? 

It’s a personal question. 

But it can’t just be personal. As soon as we begin to look inward, we are at the same time looking outward. Everything we do for ourselves, we do for the world. 

So the best place to begin is to look within.  

Sometimes it takes a crisis to realize we are broken. I remember when I was a new mom, struggling with sleep deprivation and falling apart at the seams, thinking “this is just life, I should be able to handle it.” My avoidance only thrust me deeper into a pit of depression, a dilemma of identity. 

But something called me—it was my own siren song of wholeness. Yet all I could feel was its absence. Its terrible, terrible absence. 

This is where I had to begin. In that abyss of absence. 

To be human is to feel all the feelings. 

I learned to sit. And when I was quiet, I could hear something other than the thoughts, “I should be this . . .” “This shouldn’t be happening . . .” “I am confined . . .”

I learned to hear my inner wisdom. Over time, I learned to be with this wisdom. To trust it. To keep making a space for it until it became my natural place of knowing. To relax my mind (the hardest thing of all . . . because it’s so used to being in charge).

To be human is to hold head and heart. 

We, humans, have the unique position of following intuition and using our brain power. Now, to evolve our humanness we need to understand ourselves as a part of the whole, and play our part in keeping the balance (within ourselves and within the world).

When I look at what this virus is doing to our world, I get scared. To be human is to be vulnerable. It is to live and to die. 

We don’t just want to live, we want to live fully, to be alive—this is human. Can’t you feel that right now? There is a shift, a turning towards home, to what matters. 

When I look closer, I can see our vulnerability collide with our power to change. Our creativity rising, our connectivity spreading. I just returned from a bike ride round the neighborhood with my daughter. She will be thirteen next week. She loves riding with no hands, it’s her new thing. She made it two blocks! On our ride, we saw a dad and his teenage son tossing the ball in their front yard.

More for the suddenly at-home-schoolers

You’re working from home. You’re managing meals and your kids’ education. You are socially isolated and figuring out how to live in this uncertain time. Of course you are overwhelmed! 

Here are the tips I covered on the previous blog for new homeschoolers:

  • Create a rhythm or schedule (without trying to turn your home into school)
  • Add warmth to your home

Today’s tip:

  • Set up space

Creating individual work space is nourishing and will help everyone function better. Your kids may have fun finding an area where they can easily store and access materials they need. 

For our mental and emotional well-being, I think it’s also important to make a place where you can go to nurture yourself—a place free of clutter that allows you to connect to your inward home, a safe sanctuary inside of you. Maybe it’s just the window in your bedroom, or a bookshelf where you light a candle—anywhere you can let go of fear and allow higher thoughts to be heard. 

Rhythm, warmth and space—it’s not all going to come together overnight. Give yourself time and grace. Give yourself time and grace. There is no falling behind. 

For day-to-day managing, create the schedule with your kids and tweak as needed. Everyone contributes to household tasks (even kids as young as two-years-old). My daughter and I like to write down a list of work choices in her calendar/agenda at the beginning of the week. She is then free to choose when and how those things get done (during our “work cycle” mornings). Sometimes she completes them all by Friday, but not always. 

If you’re juggling multiple kids, plus your own work, maybe this schedule from my friend Jamie Sheils of 18 Summers, will help (the family consists of two parents running two businesses, two young children and two teens): 

Mom & Dad’s schedule
Younger kids’ schedule
Older kids’ schedule

Also, Khan Academy has sample schedules for ages 4-18 with some helpful links. But here is the caution: do not judge your own schedule against someone else’s. It is okay to spend an entire day in the kitchen/garden/hammock/couch/etc together. Really, it is okay to forget about “schooling” as you know it. Sure, the kids need to complete their requirements, whether they are getting assignments from teachers or doing online school. But HOME has much to teach. 

Maybe there is a garden that could be tended. Maybe there’s a family recipe that could be cooked (and passed down). Maybe there’s a backyard full of flowers and plants and bees ready to be investigated. Maybe your kid has a passion he/she can now fully tend to, or the whole family can learn something new, something you all can’t wait to learn! Maybe there’s a craft you learned as a kid that you could now teach your child. An instrument to play? 

Or maybe not. That’s okay too. Maybe, right now, the kids will do their online school while you work, and you will focus on creating the smooth flow, the rhythm of your days. This builds a strong home. I have found that in tending to home—my inner and outer spaces and rhythms—home teaches me what’s most important. 

There is no falling behind.

To the suddenly at-home-schoolers

Are you homebound with your kids and wondering what in the world to do? My number one advice is this: Don’t try to turn your home into school. Seasoned homeschoolers know this, and I learned it right away when we started our home-education. It’s especially true right now . . . take a deep breath, don’t stress about academics at the moment . . . we are mentally and emotionally strained as it is. We are uneasy and uncertain as we navigate this time of confinement due to COVID-19. 

What we can do is give our home the attention it may need. We can give our life a slower rhythm (that it may have needed anyway). We can focus intently on the energy we want to bring into the home.

Schoolwork is one thing, but does your child know how to prepare a homemade lunch? Do they know how to silently observe the bugs in the backyard? Now’s the perfect time to learn! 

When you are educating at home, life and learning are all mixed together. Start with creating your own daily rhythm. As an example:

  • Breakfast & cleanup (everyone contributes)
  • Work choices (could be academic work or drawing or playing while the parent does their own work)
  • Snack
  • Walk outside or play in nature
  • Lunch & cleanup
  • Quiet time (audio books, or nap for younger children)
  • Walk outside or play in nature
  • Arts and crafts
  • Dinner 

Next, adding warmth to your home can do wonders! When the outside world is chaotic, cleaning out a drawer or a closet creates a clean mental space and can be a balm for the soul. Light some candles, put essential oils in the diffuser, bring in some cut flowers from outside. Clean a room and get a big psyche boost! 

There is so much learning that happens in just doing daily life together. Focus on that, not what you think is missing. And then be sure to find support in your friends or online communities where you can vent and get ideas—because we’ll all bump into our limitations. One thing I’ve learned as a homeschooling mom: things don’t always need to happen as I think they ought to. The relationship is more important than getting an assignment done exactly when and how I think it should. 

Ideas for things to do at home:

  • When the kids are occupied, limit social media scrolling. Do what nurtures you (rest, meditate, enjoy free yoga on the Down Dog app, etc.) 
  • Take nature walks if possible
  • Listen to audiobooks individually or as a family (your local library should have a platform; we use Hoopla)
  • Let your younger child listen to Sparkle Stories while you do your own thing 🙂 
  • Kids can listen to podcasts such as Brains On! 
  • Bake, garden, sing, play, learn a craft, get bored (that’s when ideas can come from nothing!) 
  • Take up the project you’ve been meaning to do

And resources for online learning: