Monday, June 30, 2014

the gift of work

A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather. If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber. You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come. You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

My grandma used to say that a lot of people were unhappy because they hadn't learned to enjoy their work.

This, from a farmer's wife who was still gardening and preserving and baking and sewing and hosting-- and smiling-- the summer she died, two years ago. (We just finished our last jar of her green beans the other night. And just like that, an era is past).

I think of her often, especially as I work.

Sometimes- well, all the time- I am nostalgic for the simple life she lived, when creating a home and raising children and working with your hands was everything and enough.

It was the most creative kind of work-  to make the most of what you had. To create beauty out of the limitations life gave you. There was a freedom and satisfaction to their way of life; however poor they were also rich.

They raised children on a dairy farm and they worked hard. From the time my dad was very young he woke before sunrise to help milk cows, and came home from school to milk. He used to love telling stories from his childhood, and it would seem that there couldn't possibly be a happier childhood.

We are almost finished reading Farmer Boy. I am fascinated by the work- the endless, creative, physical work. I envy the satisfaction that must have come from the hard work of farming- preserving food to last the winter, churning the very finest butter, growing the very best pumpkin.

I understand now that work, physical work, is it's own kind of therapy. It seems important to give my children the gift of hard work.

My kids do chores, they all know how to clean a bathroom, but we don't work hard-in-the-fields-all-day hard.

So much of work now is solitary or sterile, requiring sitting, lacking touch and growth, rhythm and season.

This podcast: On Igniting a Love of Learning in Your Students at CiRCE Institute mentions that many kids play video games because it is their only form of accomplishment.

This struck me. What do we give our kids to accomplish?

How can I give my kids the opportunity to work hard work, and the satisfaction that comes with it?

One of the opportunities of homeschooling is for kids to find their own little cottage industries, to begin early earning money and responsibility.

My kids are still young, but I want them each to find something they will accomplish next year, in addition to school work. Ideally something which requires working with their hands. (Last year we renovated a dollhouse. It was a small project, but enough to get us through the winter, and I think provided some element of satisfaction and accomplishment).

This is what I am thinking about today, as I work. (We are busy preparing for grandparents to visit. I may have done one or all of these in the past week: meticulous cleaning tips for the OCD person. Ha.) 

1 comment:

Misha said...

I want you to know I have still been reading you and for some reason I haven't been able to comment - I am trying a different way now - but I had to try again just to say how much I love your thoughtful writings. I'm so glad you post your thoughts. : ) Just wanted to say that... I love Wendell Berry and I love this concept of enjoyment!