Lately, I’ve had some really bad association: my mind.
Negative by nature, my mind was dragging me down. Critical, dissatisfied, ungrateful, my mind was a not so undercover agent of maya. I could see it. My mind was not acting covertly. Glaringly insufferable, my mind, which seemed inescapable, made my company unpleasant. Even to myself.
My health was bad as I suffered from some low grade anemia. Our bank account, also anemic, was a source of stress for me. My husband’s work schedule, the constant association of the under four crowd as well as my own unmet expectations for myself, my sadhana and my sanity made my mind look like pretty good company. “Rationalization is a function of the false ego,” as Dhanurdhara Swami says. Why can’t the supersoul reside in the mind instead of the heart?
By the grace of Krishna, without much effort on my part, I was able to wake up Monday morning and get past my mind.Of course, I had to surrender my false ego to do so.
Looming large in my life is always the issue of my children’s schooling. Since NC didn’t work out, we figured home schooling was what we would do for Venumadhava and Madhumati. Of couse, someone actually has to “do” it.
Educating my children has been an issue since before I conceived, and everyone always assured me that I had ample time to figure it out. Well, time certainly flies, as the cliche goes, and as Venumadhava approaches four, his need for some sort of organized schooling only becomes more apparent.
This summer Gita Nagari had a slew of Alachua visitors in succession, all glorifying the assortment of cultural and educational activities available for the children there. My lamentation began shortly after hearing about Jahnava’s daughter recieving the “Lalita Award” at preschool. Brajasundari was always “making arrangements” for the other students. Thus…
I was feeling stupid for moving to Gita Nagari. What was I thinking, moving our family out to the middle of nowhere, where no one lives, where no one ever comes, where nothing ever happens, where the was just no hope for any of us. And so my mind went.
Always tolerant, supportive and kind to me (when he is not totally fed up with my off the wall mind…thankfully although he has a high acuity for these matters, he has an even higher tolerance threshold…) my husband reassured me that our children were not destined for a life of mediocrity. He would make arrangements for us to spend school years in Alachua, if need be. With a ghee colored heart, my husband’s efforts to pacify my mind were appreciated, yet not 100% convincing. Nothing can overcome a thriving mind rooted in negativity.
And then, sometime Sunday evening between sublte stages of sadness and melancholy, anger and volcanism, I decide that this mind, my mind, was really an annoying drag which needed stiffling. Everything was the same as before, just my mind was telling me otherwise. Life would move forward with or without my mind. I wouldn’t travel cross country by car with an annoying travel companion by choice, and yet I was choosing to make this journey through life miserable by letting my mind ride shotgun, sometimes even taking hold of the wheel. So without furhter ado, positive thinking and metaphor, I ignored my mind and got busy thinking about this homeschooling thing.
On the spot I came up with a homeschooling plan. For one thing, I would let my children sleep as late as possible, employing whatever sleep prolonging techniques I’ve aquired in my nearly four years serving as mata. Then, after breakfast, school would begin. I made a bunch of pictographic signs for the different activities we would do at our school: playing, prasadam, aroti, yoga, reading books, etc. I hung a string between a doorway so when it was time for a certain activity, Venumadhava could find the respective picture and hang it on the string with clothespins.
Day one was an instant hit. We did preschool until 1 o’clock. When I tried to call it quits, I was met with the first tears of the day. Venumadhava did not want school to end. More fun as a teacher than a mata, Venumadhava was now loving me in the role of teacher, a role I foolishly thought he would have a hard time adapting to. We continued for another hour. Afterwards, I had the realization that my son, who I falsely thought would be a nightmare to homeschool, is actually the perfect candidate for such an endeavor; at this age he loves loves loves just being around me.
Later on day one, after school, we went into the kitchen to make achar. As I measured out the cumin seed, Venumadhava recognized the spice from a smells like, looks like, tastes like experiment we did in the morning. While making lasagna for dinner, he again connected the hing and Italian Seasoning we explored earlier in the day to the ingredients going into Gaura Nitai’s bhoga.
Venumadhava and Madhumati went to preschool again today. For me the day was interesting because I saw that what worked yesterday wasn’t necessarily going to work today. Yoga was a big hit on day one, but on day two, Venumadhava was a little bored with it (not Madhumati,who can spend all day on her stomach touching her toes to the back of her head). During their free play period I sewed three bean bags, well rice bags if you want to be technically accurate. One of the last things we did at school today was play a series of beanbag games. Hopping, skipping, running or jumping with our beanbags to a chair where we deposit them, then hopping, skipping, running or jumping to our start point. Pass the bean bag did not work out at all since Madhumati was fiercely against reliquishing her pink flannel bean bag.
As our school day began on Monday, I was weary how Madhumati would hold up while I directed the bulk of my attention and instruction toward Venumadhava. Her maturity and adapatability to the school day has proven her to be my favorite little girl in the house!
Tomorrow we will not do school. I bake for Radha Damodara and have a bunch of house stuff to take care of. But I see just from my first day’s experience with the kids, homeschooling is wonderful because I am able to directly connect my kids’ experiences to our life experiences. After school on Monday, I asked Venumadhava what he did at school that day. He said, “I don’t know,” the same answer I used to get when from the five year old I was a nanny for when I worked in Metuchen. But I knew, and I was able to talk some answers out of him until we were having a real conversation. I learned that his least favorite part aboutthe school day is when we offer our obeisances to one another. We’ll keep ending our day like that despite being disabused of any thought that I am running a homeschool gurukula.
As Radha Govinda Swami succinctly put it, “There is no need to say.” Yes, it is difficult being a parent. Yes, it is difficult to homeschool. There is no need to say it!!! Without fail, I could pick up the phone this instant and find 10 other mothers more than happy to engage in this kind of talk with me but what is the value? Negative bonding has no enduring positive effect. Bonding? More like bondage. Bereft of any positive effect on my mind, this association only increases my disfunction.
I am committed to homeschooling. I am committed to being a fully available, hang-on-able, sleep deprived mata. It is my pleasure, my dharma, my occupation, my love and my choice.
I know it is not popular. I know it is not the talk of a materially liberated woman. I know it doesn’t put spending money in my pocket or make me relevant to most other woman in my age group. I know it proves I am more hippie than I ever wanted to be, not wanting to ever be a hippie in the first place.
These last couple of days have been the most enjoyable days I’ve had with the kids in a long time. I thought homeschooling would make me feel fried, but on the contrary I am feeling soothed. My house is more orderly. At school we clean up after ourselves. My time is more organized. During school I focus 100% on the children. I don’t answer the phone, look up recipes, think about anything outside the world of preschool. My relationship with the children has improved as we know what exactly we are doing. “Can’t you two go play?” is a pretty stupid question, one that I would ask my kids repeatedly throughout the day. Children benefit from directive play. They need to be engaged. And the good behavior they are learning at school from their teacher is effecting my relationship with them outside of school as their mata. And, I can now invoke the threat, “If you’re not well behaved, you will not go to school tomorrow.” More threats in the repetoire are always handy.
So, to summarize, I had a bad bout with my mind which was predicated on being freaked out about what to do with my kids. Ironically, by shutting up my mind and my whining, I was able to start homeschooling my kids. Now we are doing something and we are happy. I like being a mom. And if you don’t, please don’t talk to me about it. My mind thanks you in advance.