Home » Homeschooling/Child-Led Learning » Contraction and Expansion in Parenting and Education

Contraction and Expansion in Parenting and Education

I love it when someone names something I have been doing for years, something that occasionally comes naturally but mostly unconsciously, and gives it a name or files it in a category.  It makes me feel normal.

You know when your kids have been sitting in front of the television or playing video games to long and you think they seem pretty wired so you kick them outside?  Well, there is a name for that.  It is called expansion and contraction.  Contraction is the TV watching time and expansion is the ‘kicking outside’ time.

In reading my Oak Meadows curriculum, The Heart of Learning by Lawrence Williams, he writes about this concept.  I identified with it immediately.  I know when I have been writing or reading (contraction) to long I need to get outside for a walk or meditate (expansion) to feel refreshed. Same happens after Teela and I have been colouring or doing puzzles, I need to get up, outside and stretch my legs.   “Basically, expansion is the act of focusing on life, and contraction is the act of focusing on form.”

Amazing crayons from honey bee wax. I will never buy any other crayons again. You can buy them off the Oak Meadows site.

Form refers to our physical world.  It refers to our senses and everything we perceive through them.  Life refers to our imagination, feelings, and insights.  Life is our chance to get out and connect with nature, be inspired.  Feel our hair blowing in the wind and then form brings us back to the ‘real’ world to put it into some concrete way.

When I have been out playing with Teela, generally playing princess and knight, after so much time doing this I need to go inside.  I ache to write.  If I can’t write I want to nap or do something in solitude.  I have had too much expansion and need contraction.  I have had too much life and need more form.

Princes shoes in the sandbox. We are often on a spaceship with treasure. The sandbox being our spaceship.

Have you been there?  Tired of playing Barbies or My Little Pet Shop, or something of the equivalent, and felt you were not a good parent because you were sick of playing pretend and would rather go do the dishes?  Well, you are not alone and this guy has a whole theory, and dare say a curriculum, based on it.  Isn’t that amazing?  Well I think so.  I have been talking for so long about how I wish I could play pretend with my kids longer, how I don’t have the stamina in my imagination to play as long as they can, judging myself harshly.  Here, I now realize.  It is okay.

I am normal.  We are normal.

Now knowing this bit of information and having more compassion for ourselves, for our parents that told us our pretending was stupid or them not playing with us enough, how can we use this bit of information to bring out not only our own true nature but our children’s as well?  Could this open a portal to a world of forgiveness and understanding and so much more?

Photos from my own library.

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2 thoughts on “Contraction and Expansion in Parenting and Education

  1. This writing, this “contraction,” is essential. It’s my “me” time (though sometimes I have far too much me time to spare since my children flew this nest). We need it as a reminder of who we are. :) Jane

    • I agree. This time of contraction allows us to reflect on our abilities and limitations. Sometimes us writers, or artists, need a refresher and that is where an artist date, from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, comes in handy. Something to refresh our soul – expansion. Man this whole concept has just enlightened me and the things I do. I am seeing it everywhere now.

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