Over the course of many years, I have had occasional dreams with a recurring theme…the buffet. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good meal, and I love variety when it comes to food. I’ve been a patron of a buffet more than once, though I don’t tend to frequent them because it always seems to promote a certain level of gorging. I certainly find it difficult to maintain healthy proportions, overdoing it more often than not. But how can I resist when faced with so many tasty-looking options?
I’m not so sure my buffet-dreaming has much of anything to do with food though. Here’s the thing…in my dreams, I never actually eat the food. Oh, I stand before the plethora of options feeling almost giddy with excitement over the possibilities and begin loading up a plate with one tasty dish after another. The entirety of the dream seems to be focused on getting more, with anticipation of how good it will be to sit down and eat, but I just can’t seem to stop piling on the plate or looking for the next item sure I’ll miss something truly tasty if I turn and walk away too soon. I seem to forget the very come-and-go nature of a buffet. In my dream, I’m happily anticipating consumption, grabbing a sampling of everything I see, but I never actually gain the benefit of eating. Not one single bite. Always waking too soon and left with a residual feeling of mild dissatisfaction. What sort of dream has me overwhelmed with possibilities, able to see and touch and try to grab them all, but never actually gaining the satisfaction from truly savoring any one of them? A dream that I am beginning to think reflects the sad truth of reality.
Our world is rapidly changing, a veritable cornucopia of possibilities. It is filled with options. So. Many. Options. It’s wonderful and amazing and exciting and…overwhelming. Yes, overwhelming. When this translates to parenting and homeschooling, choice can become a master and do more to tie a person down than to liberate. For the homeschooler seeking to provide the best opportunities, activities, and educational resources possible, seemingly endless possibilities can serve to debilitate more than enhance the homeschooling experience. Just as with a buffet, many options are available.
What method do we choose? Reggio-Emelia, Classical Conversations, Traditional, Montessori, Classical, Unschooling…? What mode should we use? Sonlight? Five-In-A-Row? Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool? Switched on Schoolhouse? Tapestry of Grace? Do we use multiple sources for different subjects? Do we create our own curriculum? What subjects do we want to teach? Math? Science? Reading? Shakespeare? Et tu, Brute? What do you think? Help. Me.
Wait, there’s more…character training! We must develop their characters. And do we join a co-op? What about extracurricular activities? Let’s see…sports, music, art, theater, dance, horseback riding, speech and debate, entrepreneurial and leadership skills. To summer camp or not to summer camp? STEAM is really important, they say. Maybe robotics? Programming? Children certainly need to know their way around a computer. Although too much time on the computer is bad, right? Limit the computer, then. Wait, their world might be fully intertwined with computers. So, typing, at least. Besides, cursive-writing isn’t even important now, right? Right? What about Minecraft? I see them learning from it, but the experts tell me that’s just a game, a time waster. Better limit it. I think. Wasting time…bad. Outdoors…good. Free play, good. Wait, free play IS wasting time, isn’t it? Limit free play. Nature studies, then. Kids need direction. Kids need limits. Kids need freedom. Kids need….
Choice is a wonderful thing, but when the buffet of life is laid out before us, it can feel overwhelming. Some may approach it with a more-is-better attitude; others are convinced that less is more. Some choose a path and never deviate, regardless of individual styles and some can never seem to nail down any single thing that really works for them. Some may actually find their groove, but I’d wager far fewer keep that rhythm through all stages and seasons.
There is always something new to learn, to explore, to ponder, a new skill to obtain, or an activity in which to engage. All the while, the dreaded FUTURE hangs over us like some unknown test we are desperate to pass, hoping against hope that we adequately prepare the young minds and bodies in our care to go forth in the world and do more than just live. We want our children to THRIVE. But we don’t know the answers to the test. All we see are options before us, with no real way to measure how each of those things will fit into a completely different set of future options that we can’t possibly predict. How do we ensure we take advantage of the buffet before us and still maintain a healthy balance? How do we ensure we are making healthy choices, taking only what we need, maybe indulging a bit, but not overdoing it? What do we consume that will leave us feeling full and satisfied without the side effects of over-indulgence and gluttony or a consistently full plate with nothing to show for it in the end?
We look to the ultimate guidebook. We seek direction in the foundational principles of His Word. When we begin with the basics, keeping God and family at the core of our lives’ nourishment, we are creating a truly balanced, nutrient-rich diet with limited excess and filler.
Will this focus eliminate decision-making and overwhelm you? It certainly won’t minimize the ever-expanding buffet of options available to choose from, but it will help you to more clearly discern which dishes to choose from. Do they have substance or are they just pretty dishes, presented beautifully, but with no real flavor or nutritional value? Do they feed more than our base desires of the moment? Do they fill our lives with long-lasting satisfaction? Do they ultimately nurture our souls?
When you begin with His Word and consider the unique personalities, desires, and needs of your children, it’s like starting with a homecooked meal. And, let’s face it, homecooking is the best. It is much more nutritional than anything you’ll find on the buffet, and it is what should provide the bulk of their steady diet. It is the ultimate comfort food.
It is easy to get caught up in options and possibilities, but too much focus on the future and what you can do to fill your children’s plates can leave them with a piled-up mess of a meal, precariously teetering and ready to topple as they gingerly make their way to the table…to their future. If so much time is spent on making the choices, picking through the dishes, sampling none or sampling too many, our children will be left wanting. A buffet can be a wonderful thing, but to ensure the most well-balanced, adequately prepared life, keep that hearty, tried-and-true, home-cooked meal as their primary diet. Everything else is just empty calories.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6, KJV
Crystal Bourne is the proud wife of a military Veteran and the mother of five. Her homeschooling philosophy closely resembles relaxed homeschooling/ unschooling, though she doesn’t always feel relaxed. She believes all people are Bourne Learners, gifted with individual skills and talents that will shine when given the opportunity to explore the world and pursue their passions.