In pursuit of a slow education

in pursuit of a slow education
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

This world spins fast–and we twirl dizzy along with it. Round and round, we juggle more to do: more buttons to click and status updates to check and details to accomplish.

We have more ways to measure ourselves than ever before–How many friends (online or off), how many “likes,” how many tasks checked off? It’s never-ending.

Our kids are not immune to this–how could they be?

We measure them too–with ever-increasing focus on standardized testing and our tendency to push, push, push. We treat them like adults before they’re ready, eager it seems, to get them spinning right alongside us.

Can someone slow down this crazy train, please?

Thankfully someone has. My friend Tsh Oxenreider from The Art of Simple reminds us just how much our fast-paced culture influences our lives in her newly released memoir, Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.

blue bike

In it she describes her family’s experience moving from the relationship-based culture of Turkey back to a productivity-driven culture like the United States.

“Is it possible to live slowly in America, or is it wishful thinking?”
~ Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike

In one chapter Tsh describes a visit she and her now-husband Kyle took to Greece. There they saw a sign in a restaurant that announced what the place served: SLOW FOOD. Believing this to be a cultural blunder of the term “fast food,” Tsh laughed.

Only years later did she realize that slow food is a real thing, a dish lovingly-prepared from scratch–a type of meal that fewer and fewer people regularly experience these days.

When I think of “slow food,” the image of a crock pot always comes to mind. What’s the most successful element of a crock pot meal?


Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 4.21.26 PM
Photo by Janine

We place ingredients inside, in the right environment, and then we leave. Slowly over a period of hours, flavors converge, the smell fills the air, and voila–dinner is served.

Time is the secret ingredient.

“Adults could learn a lot from watching our kids freely explore when they think no one’s watching.”
~ Notes from a Blue Bike

Tsh’s story made me wonder: Could there be such a thing as a slow education? And could it be that a slow education might offer our families and kids certain advantages that a results-driven method can’t compare with?

Is it possible that time just might be a secret ingredient in learning as well?

Here’s what I imagine a slow education looks like:

  • unhurried
  • not frantic or based on the fear of our child “falling behind”
  • grounded in deep-rooted joy and inspiration instead of compulsion and force
  • we work hard to surround our children with the right environment (remember the crock pot?) and we let that environment influence and nurture them over time
  • we recognize that education is not a race to win or a finish line to cross, but a journey we take–for our whole lives–in our own time and at our own pace

This type of education is possible if we dare to choose it. Our kids won’t thrive without the slow and steady nourishment their bodies and minds deserve.

With courage and attention, we can provide both types of sustenance in our homes with ease.

It boils down to intention–not merely accepting the cultural norms that surround us–but questioning them and deciding what our family really wants, what our children truly need.

Tsh01Tsh is one of my mentors when it comes to intentional living, and like a good friend across a coffee table she shares her wisdom in Notes from a Blue Bike.

Tsh breaks her book down into five categories–the areas she believed most important in her family’s path toward simplicity: Food, Work, Education, Travel, and Entertainment.

Void of pat answers, I see Tsh’s words as an acknowledgement that simple living isn’t always easy–but that part of being a grown up is the work of choosing our lives, instead of allowing our culture to set the pace for us.

My takeaway from Tsh’s book: Intentional living doesn’t have one definition. I love that she doesn’t prescribe a specific response but leaves it up to us to do that work for ourselves.

As a dear friend for years now, I know that Tsh’s beautiful heart matches her inspiring words–I believe Notes from a Blue Bike would bless you and yours. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out!

As for me and my family, our home now overflows with unhurried time to fall in love with learning–an advantage we’d never have the chance to enjoy if we hadn’t gone in pursuit of a slower education.

“Do whatever it takes to increase your sensitivity to the little things in life you wouldn’t otherwise notice, much less savor, if your autopilot setting is hurry.”
~ Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. “This type of education is possible if we dare to choose it. Our kids won’t thrive without the slow and steady nourishment their bodies and minds deserve.” After teaching for nine years, I left so I could move into slow with my children. It’s the answer to what is ailing so much of society. Lovely post, Jamie. Looking forward to reading Tsh’s book.
    Kelly’s latest post: This Moment

  2. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I have to get this book!
    Shelly’s latest post: Beware of the Pack Mentality

  3. I’m reading Notes from a Blue Bike right now and I am loving it. I’ve jotted down things that have come to mind as I’ve read and it’s cool because just as Tsh says in the book the outcome of intentional living applied in my family will look different than it will in other families. It’s really helped me to organize and identify some thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind.

  4. I am going to get this today! Sounds like something that would really benefit our family and right along the same thoughts I have been having about our lives and our “schooling”.

  5. There is a book called “The Hurried Child” by David Elkind PhD on this exact topic. Very thought-provoking, and an important discussion in this era of cookie-cutting/hurrying precious children to be adults.

  6. This is precisely why we chose an unschooling route for our family. We are also farmers so although our work life rarely slows down, we are truly blessed by our quiet country life. Plus my whole family is introverted and we are okay with that. Life runs so much better when we focus on relationships, both within our family as well as our church and community, instead of getting caught up in the rat race.

  7. Margaret Krebs says:

    Hi. How does one implement this in their home school when state standardized testing is required for grades 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10? Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Margaret. I answered this question on Facebook as well, but here’s what I would say: I think with regards to testing you want to really take a look at the law and see what is required. In some states you just check off that the test was done – the results don’t actually “count” for anything. But even if you must keep up with testing, you could do so in whatever is the absolute minimum way possible in order to leave the maximum amount of time for unstructured, inspirational learning. The best book I’ve seen for HOW this actually looks, and to help you get off the conveyor belt of education, is Leadership Education by Oliver and Rachel DeMille:

    • My personal response would be that its against your beliefs to have your child involved in government controlled education. Its hard for them to argue against a persons belief system as long as you can show that they are nurtured and getting the education you believe is right for them, you can fight their standardized testing laws. At least that’s how I would go about that. We choose to homeschool our kids to get away from the the public school and their beliefs, and I would stand by that to the end.

  8. Yes! I love the crock pot analogy. So many solutions are organic IF the right ingredients and environment are readily available. I hope this slow concept gets a lot of attention!

  9. Slow cooker education- I’m loving that. Time to contemplate, good hearty whole ingredients (books and learning experiences). We need slow in order to savor any of it!
    Sarah Mackenzie’s latest post: Looping: Task Management for the (Recovering) Type A Mom

  10. Like Kelly in the top post here, I\’m going to thumbs-up Jamie\’s statement, \”This type of education is possible if we dare to choose it.\” Our family tries to live this way everyday and it\’s HARD in this modern age! There\’s always a bit of nagging self-doubt even while each day is beautiful, mindful, and details-savoring. I\’m going to download Tsh\’s book for support as soon as I finish writing this comment! We were watching figure skater, Jason Brown, 19, on the Olympics last night and the commentator was saying that he learned some type of triple jump \”late\” in his career compared to other skaters, but Brown claims that this was a benefit that allowed him to become strong in all the more foundational aspects of competitive figure skating. I loved this! Even Olympians can benefit from slow living.

  11. I enjoyed reading this post. I am constantly reminding myself that life is not a race and what is that saying – Good things come to those who wait. You know what is the hardest thing? When your kids are old enough to see and experience the world. I’m talking about those teenagers. Man those kids are in a rush let me tell you ( :
    Kristina’s latest post: T.V. Spurs Inquisitive Behavior

  12. This post came at a perfect time for me. Today is my daughter\’s last day of public school and Monday will be her first day of homeschooling. I just felt like her and I were always rushing; rushing to get up and ready, rushing to get homework done, rushing to make dinner and eat, rushing to bed. There was never any time for us to just be together and enjoy being a family (including with my husband and son.) Don\’t get me wrong, my daughter\’s school was great, they did everything the could do help her with her learning disabilities. I just knew (mother\’s intuition I suppose), that something had to change for the sake of my daughter. I felt our relationship struggling and if it was that bad in 3rd grade, it wasn\’t going to get better in the coming years. What truly settled the whole for our family though, was when I asked my daughter if she truly wanted to homeschool or if she would miss her friends too much. Her response melted my heart; she said, \”I just love you Mom and I hardly get to see you. I just want to be with you.\” How could I say no to that? Your post, helped me to see that we are on the right path. I just purchased \”Blue Bike\” and I can\’t wait to read it. Thank you for your wonderful post!

    • What a wonderful response from your daughter, Charlotte! Take things slow for a while and just enjoy making up for lost time – then the learning will start to flow from that naturally. xo

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