Lesson 1 from the Exhibit Hall: Savoring vs. Shoveling

spaghetti girl

As we travel to various homeschool conventions across the nation, there is much to observe, much to learn. This season I have been pondering two lessons that have been played out in the exhibit hall again and again. I’ll share one of those lessons this week and the other next week. First, the lesson of savoring vs. shoveling.

If there is one thing I am learning to appreciate this convention season, it’s the luxury of having time to savor a meal. Most often when we’re working at the booth in the exhibit hall, we end up shoveling our food in between workshops or customers.

Last Saturday, for example, I had just enough time between workshops to grab a bite if I hurried. So I rushed to the booth, snatched the container of chicken salad off the chair where it had been left by a helper (Thank you, helpers!), dived behind our booth into a little storage space, and started shoveling in the lettuce with a little plastic fork. It felt good to be sitting down, but all the time I was glancing hurriedly at the clock to make sure I wasn’t going to be late.

Maybe you can relate during especially busy days. On those days when you have back-to-back appointments or errands, sometimes it’s all you can do to grab a quick bite and gulp it down on the move. In such situations, you barely notice how the food tastes.

How much nicer it was to sit down with some friends after the exhibit hall closed in the evening and relax over a leisurely meal! We had the time to notice our surroundings, enjoy each other’s company, and savor each bite.

I’m noticing the same contrast in how parents approach their children’s education.

Savoring vs. Shoveling

Some parents seem to be coming at homeschooling with a shovel mentality: “How much can I shovel into my child’s brain before he graduates?” They are constantly looking for more—more books to be read, more analyses to be done, more projects to be completed, more assignments to be rushed through. As a result, their children are having to gulp down their education with barely a taste of it.

How much better to give our children time to savor their books and to digest the wonderful ideas contained in them!

“We wish the children to grow up to find joy and refreshment in the taste, the flavour of a book. We do not mean by a book any printed matter in a binding, but a work possessing certain literary qualities able to bring that sensible delight to the reader which belongs to a literary word fitly spoken. It is a sad fact that we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought. But this is our error, for words are mighty both to delight and to inspire” (Vol. 2, pp. 262, 263).

Isn’t that what we want for our children’s education—to delight and inspire them? That was probably our goal when we began homeschooling. But it’s easy to get our eyes off that goal and start focusing on expectations around us instead. We start thinking in terms of quantity rather than quality, and the to-do list becomes a dictator.

It takes longer to linger with an historical figure through a whole living book than to just read a couple of paragraphs about him in a textbook, answer a few questions, and move on. And so we are tempted to move away from living books.

Or we stick with living books, but we add so many books to the list that the children have to sprint through the chapters just to keep up with the schedule.

Neither is what Charlotte had in mind when she talked about spreading the feast.

“More” “faster” is not the best way to educate a person, to shape who he is and who he is becoming. For that task, deep thought is needed. Time to ponder and grow is needed.

Let’s put the delight back into our home schools! Give the children lovely literary books that spread a feast of ideas, and then give them plenty of time to digest and enjoy them.

Let them savor the feast, not shovel it in.


  1. Such a great reminder and one that I so desperately needed to hear. Just wish you were at a convention locally so I could attend a workshop in person. Please come to the Pacific NW next year.

  2. Thank you for the timely article. We are wrapping up our school year and I was considering shoveling in a few mouthfuls at the last moment. Bad manners. Think we’ll enjoy the remaining morsels on our plates.

  3. Exquisite little blog! Sometimes our zeal for more (ie. the shoveling) is fueled by our love and passion as educators. I get so excited about bringing my child into this garden that I could lose sight of where he is on the journey. I’m always counseling him not to compare himself to others- how often am I comparing him to my own ideals?

  4. LOVE IT!!! Well said! And what a great reminder as we all begin to plan our new years 🙂

  5. I, too, appreciated this reminder! My children never volunteer to shovel in learning, they always naturally prefer to savor. It is mommy who can forget her manners and try to get them to pick up the pace. Bad mommy!

  6. I so enjoyed meeting you and your husband at FPEA convention in Orlando. I went with many questions and came home certain of what we would be learning next year. Between the three seminars of yours I attended, spending time with you two at your booth and a good friend with her experience, I am excited to begin “Genesis through Deuteronomy & The Ancient Egyptians.” I look forward to the announcement that the new books are ready to be shipped!

  7. Agreed. I needed that reminder as well. I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to help so many people. I know it has made a difference with my family and I really appreciate it. Also, I work with children with special needs and have used your advice in my work. Those families appreciate your efforts too.

  8. I ditto Elizabeth! Such a joy to meet you, hear you (through MP3 download) speak about Habits training in Orlando! I bought Delightful Reading for my son among other things…thanks again for coming to FL!

  9. This reminds me of something my daughter said to me several years ago when I asked why she was forgetting things that we had learned together. She must have been 6 or 7 at the time. She said, “Mommy, you keep on putting so many things into my brain that I had to let some out to fit the new things in.”

  10. I so neede to hear this as I have been feeling behind and anxious to keep my son caught up…that I started loosing the joy I had when we first started! Thanks for this humbling reminder! Let us not grow anxious!

  11. Oh, thank you, Sonya. How timely! My husband and I just had this conversation. Our ninth grader is an excellent reader, yet felt overwhelmed this year with the amount of readings I gave him. I now regret that and am being purposeful to let him savor instead of shovel in the future. I have always said “So many great books, so little time!” I am now working on a list for each child of books that they may want to read on their own or when they have graduated. Not required but good books to fit in. Lord willing they will have many years and can grow, read, and learn their whole lives. Thanks again.

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