How less gets you more

I’m going all Penelope Trunk on you today, thinking about quality of life and how to get there.

This morning my 10 year old and I went for a run. She and I (and two other of my kids) are running a 2 mile race on Saturday, so we’re in training.  The other two are mega speedy and will doubtless be far ahead, but my 10 year old and I are planning to run together. We’re the perfect team:  I have stamina without speed and she has speed without stamina. How to meld those two to make a good running team?

Typically I’ve urged her to run slowly, hoping she can get at least a mile before she walks a bit.  Apparently I’m not all that convincing–we’ve spent most of our runs with her either a few hundred feet ahead or a few hundred feet behind me, depending on whether she is currently in sprint or walk mode.

Today on our run I decided to push myself to run faster than my usual pace (to keep up with her) for half a mile, which is about the outer limit of her stamina, then walk a tenth of a mile, then repeat with another short run.

Usually I do 2 miles in 22 or 23 minutes (with one walk break), and have felt frustrated that I’m not getting faster.  Today our 2 miles (with THREE walk breaks instead of my usual one) took 21:30. I may have been more out of breath while my daughter and I chatted. I may have listened more than I spoke– out of necessity. I took walk breaks sooner than I strictly needed to. But during  the run portions, I was running faster.  I wasn’t bugging her to run longer.  And  we stayed together the entire time. Win, win, win.

I’ve been applying the ‘less is more’ idea in other areas of life too.

Last year, bound and determined to have a great school year, I got everyone up at 7AM. This year, older and more tired wiser I’ve decreed 8AM to be our waking time.  Folks who don’t finish their work in the time allotted can get up early the next morning to catch up.  Those who work well can sleep til 8 every morning.  Everyone approves.  Less is more.  More motivation to work hard, more sleep, more good humor during the day.  Win, win, win.

Another example: in past years I’ve tried Teaching Textbooks math and loved the self-grading feature, but being kind of an education snob, I rejected it because it is not quite as thorough as our old boring Saxon math.  This year the kids who learn well with Saxon are still doing Saxon, but the ones who hate math are back to Teaching Textbooks.  This way the computer (not mom) can repeat the lectures as often as the child needs to understand the lesson well. The computer (not mom) can mark problems, and ask for a redo.

Will the math-haters get as good instruction?  Maybe not quite.  And yeah, that thought bugs me a little.  But here’s the thing:  they enjoy math more with Teaching Textbooks.  Who can blame them?  Staring at a math page uncomprehendingly for minutes on end is no fun.  Neither is having something explained a third time, still with no comprehension in sight.  If needed, once the math skill is stronger, kids can go back and review with Saxon.  But at this point in our life with the kids God gave us, less stress and more peace for the whole household is a major win.

What about you?  Got a place in your life where doing less would actually gain you more?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to hear about it.

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  1. I practice less is more with my weekly menu, I don’t assign the meals days of the weeks I just make sure I have enough food for 7 lunches and 7 dinners and then use it more as “suggestions” then a set plan.

  2. Great post! Great thoughts!

    Two ways I can think of right now (in the same categories you mentioned!):

    1) Exercise: 15 minutes of T-Tapp that I do is better than 45 minutes that I never do.

    2) Homeschooling the littles: reading and some very easy math. And that’s IT…until they become strong readers! And that makes my job easier, and I truly believe it’s developmentally appropriate. Boxed curriculum (history, science, art, etc.) for five-year olds? Not at this house!

    (P.S. Love the description of running/walking with your daughter.)

  3. We’re trying Teaching Textbooks with my youngest this year too. She’s the last one at home and really struggles with math. We spent much of last year concentrating on math. This year she really sees it as a game to play. I’m loving it.

  4. Well my first thought was books. Books have been a part of my life forever but the last ten years or so they have really taken over the house. So after an intervention with three of my children: I went through every single one of our books and put the ones I could live without into the garage for sale. This left me with three bookshelves of books in the house and seven bookshelves of books in the garage (piled everywhere on those seven shelves). After the sale, have given four big boxes to the elementary school, six big boxes to local church, and donated four boxes to abuse shelter.
    To the less is more: I have limited myself to one (1) book per month to bring into the house for our library and that was three months ago. To date, have purchased one book to add to home library – a John Green book we all wanted. That is my less is more story—-I have more room in my house because none of those seven bookshelves will ever come back into the house (sold them) and less to clean and walk over. And since the garage sale have been vigilant to not bring anything into the house we do not HAVE to have.

  5. Once the school year started I tried to stick more with the summer schedule. My daughter (10) still has to go to bed and get up at the same time because of us working outside the house, but every dinner doesn’t have to be at a certain time or place. Homework first but with the promise of soccer or a walk afterwards. Keeping it light as possible has seemed to help.

  6. bethinthecity says:

    I don’t homeschool, but I can relate to this. My daughter has mild ADD and anxiety. She’s smart, but hates math. She’s in the lowest math class in her grade, but she likes it instead of hates it. She has the individualized, non stressful atmosphere she needs because there are only two people in this class – both with similar learning issues. It’s taught by her headmaster so what she looses in racing ahead farther in algebra with her other classmates she gains by spending time with this Godly man who cares about her and puts her at ease. I think it’s a win/win.

  7. Love this concept! We just have one two-year-old, so I don’t have to think about school just yet, but there are tons of ways I could apply this for us! Lots of thinking and praying to come 🙂

  8. We use TT math and it works well for my daughter and son for whom math is not their favorite subject. Also I’m not very good at it. My daughter is doing Algebra and my son is in TT6. We found we could skip a grade (we were doing a year behind their actual grade in school. My husband did some pre-algebra with my daughter this summer, and we decided to skip the 8th grade lessons, so I could stop worrying about how / when to “catch up”/She writes down problems she got wrong and does not understand, and my husband will help her. I was going to still do TT5 with my son, but I could not find anyone to borrow it from – I’ve lent out 3 TT programs. I finally decided to use the TT6 we had on hand since my son was complaining last year about not learning much. He seems to like it. So that worked out!

    I’ve simplified menus and snacks, primarily to save money and not waste food. I did not think it would work cause my kids are used to just grabbing food and juice/milk. But I just stated they had to have water between meals, and made a menu for snacks , lunch , etc. They can not just grab chips etc. any more. It has helped a lot. I think we are saving money too, I haven’t averaged it up yet.

    Also with school, I decided to focus on science with everyone first semester and not add History yet. I think this will help them focus on the science lessons and not just “do a little of everything” My daughter is taking her fist HS science this year. A friend is teaching Apologia Biology as part of the co-op and is doing a great job making it fun but a little intense. It is good work for my daughter, she is really applying herself, but she doesn’t need intense history too. So, I’m waiting on that with everyone. My little boys are learning about birds with my 11 year old. It is enough for them. They will also get a variety of other activities one day a week at our co-op. They do not like to sit still to learn and do drills, so I’m teaching a co-op class called learning games which should help them and some othr kids.

    • Lorrie, We handle the ‘secondary’ subjects like that too, esp for elementary school, focusing on either geography OR history OR science for a semester or half a semester, then switching to another subject. I also think it allows for better focus, deeper study, and less stress for everyone since it makes the daily to-do list a bit shorter.
      Thanks for the feedback!


  9. I did the exact thing this year. We have used Saxon for 18 years, through 5 kids. This year I switched to Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 for the two still at home. I decided spending 2 hours of my time working on math each day was not what I wanted to be doing and it was trying the patience of all of us. I have found they were farther ahead in the Saxon but the TT is allowing them to grasp the concepts more before moving on. I love it! (at least so far 🙂

  10. I love this, and I am exercising less with more intensity myself. I am eating less, and that’s definitely better. I am removing toys from our playroom, and little boys are playing more happily with less clutter. I must look at other areas of my life to apply this.