The fable about the tortoise and the hare is mind-numbingly familiar. We all heard it growing up. Has a cocky hare sprinted across your memory yet? We all know this story by heart, but have we ever recognized the profound truth hiding in the familiarity of this little tale?
Many of us sprint through life like the hare. We have things to do, do, do! We dash off, frantic to get stuff done—thinking that by this method we will eventually cross whatever finish line we hold in mind. When we begin to lose momentum, we fuel up mid-stream with a double shot of whatever and take off again, only to eventually nap under some short-of-the-finish line-tree. The next morning we paw at the starting line and BANG! Off we go again.
Let me translate this into real life. I’m a hare. I’m eager and ready to dash out into the world each morning. The results? My kids have an active life. Besides home schooling, we have horseback riding lessons, drama class, piano lessons, choir, writing co-op, gym class, and worship team. Field trips are sprinkled in when something irresistible crops up like the maple syrup making, state capital day and civil war reenactment. No two days are alike as we hop, hop, hop around the extra-curricular landscape.
Then the turtle comes into view. Quite simply, the turtle represents getting to someplace specific. (In other words – the finish line.) As the hare dashes around and arguably has more fun, enjoys his natural talent and sees more of the countryside, he doesn’t accomplish the ultimate goal, which is important at times!
My discovery: When I want to teach my children a set of specific skills or work on a character issue, the turtle has the right moves. My hare-like nature has been surprised to watch this principle work out. When my daughter was struggling with long division, it became apparent she hadn’t mastered her math facts. Discouraged, I dashed down several fix-it roads, considering changing curriculum mid-stream. But then the turtle came into view. I began to simply work with her for 5-10 minutes every day. I watched amazed as she progressed. Slow and steady wins the race.
I began to apply this to other areas of my children’s lives. With achievement testing approaching, I felt certain we needed extra preparation. Bounding down the path of several complex history curricula, I quickly tired. Then the turtle came into view. I found a simple summary of what 5th graders should know about history and I began to read to her every day for 10 minutes, asking comprehension questions as a review. Hardly thinking that 10 minutes was worth it, I watched in amazement as she made steady progress. With that success, I began to plot a daily course for character issues needing attention: doing basic chores without complaint, talking kindly to siblings. Slow and steady wins the race.
Who knew the deep truth the simple fable of The Tortoise and the Hare has been hiding all these years! My new hero the Tortoise has shown me how to succeed where I so often have failed. A little every day gets one a long way over time. Slow and steady does win the race.
-posted by Donna Detweiler, who knows that yes, hares also have their redeeming qualities, but that’s another blog!