The Problem of Time

IMG_8937 black and white maple leaves
Tommy came downstairs the other day and asked, “Mommy, how many hours are in a day? Two?”

“Nope,” I answered, “There are twenty-four.”

His eyes widened with pleasure and surprise. “Twenty-four?” I nodded. “Wow.” Then he thought for a moment. “How long does it take to eat breakfast?” he asked.

“Well, it takes about an hour to eat and do our chores after breakfast, about half an hour for lunch, and we spend an hour eating dinner.”

He thought for a moment. “So that means I have twenty-one and a half hours to play!”

First: ????? This child always surprises me with how much he picks up just by living here. Or he’s incredibly smart. Or both. But I don’t tell him he surprises me.

Instead, I smiled and said, “Well, not quite.” And then we went to the chalkboard. We subtracted hours for sleep, hours for meals, hours for school, and hours for taking a bath and getting ready for bed. He watched his hours slipping away with great seriousness. At the end of our calculations, I said, “So, you see, you really only have eight hours a day to play, which is still quite a lot.”

He pondered that for a moment, then took his toy tractor outside to help Daddy in the garden. Time to get down to the business of the day!

IMG_8949 black and white roxie dogTommy is not the only one who has been pondering the problem of time.  These are two quotes I’ve run across in the past few days that have struck me deeply, and I have been considering them whenever the noise of my life recedes a bit and I can hear my own thoughts:

I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour”. (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist… ~ C.S. Lewis (Letters of C.S. Lewis)

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The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

Do I spend my time on the things that I ought and the things that feed my soul?  Or do I let my precious hours and minutes slip through my fingers like so much water?  Which material things and activities are sapping my time and energy and which are a comfort and a benefit to me or my family members?  What do I need to do to increase the time spent on what I value most, while minimizing or eliminating things that matter little or not at all?

And do you keep a chalk board (or whiteboard) in your kitchen or dining area?  I have found that our best homeschooling takes place in this very informal way, just answering questions over a meal, or sharing something we are passionate about.  The children learned about the Pythagorean Theorem at a very young age because I have always admired it, and we once had a friend walk in on a lively discussion of how much it costs to live on your own and whether the minimum wage can actually be lived on.  They have told me that our impromptu chalk board lessons have been some of their most memorable.  And it’s great for practicing tricky math with happy attitudes, for children adore writing on chalk boards.

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4 Comment

  1. We used to have a big white board in the school room/basement. I do miss it, but I have absolutely no wall space in the kitchen — where Faith and I school now. I think chalkboards are better than white boards any day.
    PS Tommy is a very clever boy!

    1. Tommy is a clever boy, and I agree about the chalkboard vs. white board. We have chalk in the kitchen and dry erase markers in the school room, but we love the chalkboard so much more!

  2. we don’t have one in the kitchen, but paper and pencil are never far away, and besides, I’m a huge proponent of mental math 🙂 But I have a feeling that window markers and our very nicely placed windows in the kitchen would do as a nice replacement. (Kids love writing on windows, too!)

    1. Mental math is great and necessary, but visuals stick in their heads better sometimes, making the mental part easier next time. 🙂

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