Slow Down and Smell The…Seashells.

treasure hunt.

While we’re living on the beach, Sassy and I love to wake up and spend the morning collecting seashells. We walk leisurely, heads down, slowly ambling our way through a trail of shells.


We stop for golden Atlantis shells, and cone shaped shells, and nautilus shells, and sand dollars. We take our own spaces, but when one of us finds something great we give a squeal of delight, and then the other one of us comes running over to see.


Each of us is finding something of value in the experience. Sassy treasures the shells, and I treasure time with Sassy.

This is the gift of unschooling. No hectic rush out the door to get kids on the schoolbus. No struggles over homework at the kitchen table. No schedule other than the one we make for ourselves. Having done it the other way with Naturalist, with many tears and frustration on both our parts, I am most grateful for this lifestyle. And for my hubby who supports it in every way.

We also don’t spend our time in a rat race of activities. Not that we don’t love to get involved in lots of things, but not for the purpose of some future payday. Many of my friends have their kids in sports, music, and foreign languages by first grade so that their child has a good portfolio for their college admissions. Rather, we choose our activities based on interests and enthusiasm. And sometimes that means that if my kids are neither interested or enthusiastic about anything, then we just rest. Hang out. Find seashells like beach bums. We talk to each other, play games, throw frisbees at the park.

Quiet moments, energetic too. Sometimes alone, most often together.

At 13, Naturalist is at a point where her friends parents are complaining about how distant and separate their teens are becoming. I look and see the separation as happening a lot sooner than teen years. It started when days became so full of school and after school activities and sports and…and…and…that quality family time was reduced to whatever time they spent in the car shuttling between things.

So many voices are calling for an increase in childhood planned activities, but I advocate for the opposite. More free time. Less structure. An hour at the park flying kites together is worth exponentially more than any other third party organized activity.

I learned to value quality time with my kids the hard way, after experiencing not only a loss of a daughter but also a close call with my own life. It was a transforming experience. Suddenly I didn’t see life in terms of school and grades and responsibilities and work. I saw life as a singularly astonishingly short glimmer of time. A shooting star in a dark sky. I don’t have it in me anymore to live it without joy, because it’s over all to soon. Maybe thats why I jump!


Take time today to slow down and smell the seashells, or whatever it is you can do with the people you love. Blow off a baseball practice to go out on a date with your kid. I know it can get busy, but take time for you and your family. In the end, it’s the best investment of all.


21 Responses

  1. Oh, goodness. A friend of mine just went through the same loss last week – a baby boy at 38 weeks gestation. So hard. You are incredibly eloquent. It was nice to read your feelings about that loss and the healing process.

    This was a great post. You are teaching your kids something much more valuable – that life is to be lived fully and that drudgery is not something to just put up with. That attitude will serve them better than knowing how to memorize and spew information.

    • Carmen, I’m so sorry to hear that. If she needs someone to chat with, I’m here! It’s just such an overwhelming loss, and it takes lots of time, love, TLC, and friends to make it through the tough times.

      Living life fully, amen! πŸ™‚

  2. I feel so intensely aware of how rare the experience of just reveling in being with our kids is. It makes me so sad for many people and so grateful that I have it. I love that I’ve found clusters of people online and IRL that share this and take advantage of it. I so enjoy reading your accounts of life, thanks for sharing them.

    Also, feel free to send us some of your shell abundance- we’ve only been to the beach once and have already crafted up all the shells we collected. πŸ™‚

  3. The beach and rock pools can almost always dissolve my stress, as they fill my senses with soothing, peaceful patterns and rhythms. I love the sea’s moods too … they’re bigger than mine, which is reassuring.

    Thanks for linking to your entries about baby Rose. I cried as I read your words. And about Carmen’s friend losing her baby. Love … children … the power, enormity and passion which words can’t really express.

    Jump all you like!!

    • Thank you for your comment, Vanessa. I totally agree with you on the affect of the beach/tide pools, and about the powerful enormity of love and family. xoxo

  4. Hear, hear! Just deleted 2 paragraphs rambling about family time, down time, home time vs. overscheduling in so many homeschoolers/unschoolers. Whew. Keep it simple. ;P We prefer spending time together as a family – our relationships with each other are the most important and we love being together!

    • lol
      overscheduling kind of creeps up on you sometimes, at least it does with me, and then i have to take a step back and remember what the point of everything is.

  5. I have spent my entire day perusing the internet reading all about unschooling. I had all of these grand plans when we started out homeschooling. But I am finding the more I relax, the better things go and the happier we all are and the MORE we learn, ha! Imagine that! I find it facinating that considering where we both were in our lives when we saw each other last, that we have both in many ways found joy again in similar ways. I have soooooo loved bringing my kids home. It feels so natural, like it was always supposed to be this way and I know it was the right thing for our family to do. I hated everyday I had to send them off to school. I love that I get to be with my children and watch them grow into whoever it is they will become. What a gift it is! Learning and living and loving and enjoying our time together. There is nothing better in this world than that, is there. I am so glad to see that you are doing the same. It makes my heart smile ;o) We have both come a loooooonnnggg way baby……

    • Oh yes, Sharon! We have walked down so many of the same paths, good and bad. We may not always know the way, but our hearts do :).

      Sent from my iPhone

  6. “More free time, less structure.” I quite agree with you here.

    Recently I’ve been reading about Slow Parenting vs. Hyperparenting (google Carl HonorΓ© to read more) and I’ve realized I’m a slow mom. It is possible also when you don’t homeschool or unschool. There are lots of choices to make after a schoolday too. And I’ve let my instincts guide me in making those choices… or in giving my child the chance to choose.

    Glad to hear other people agree with the fact that…
    … slow is good πŸ™‚

    • I’m definitely checking that out, thanks for the tip!

      sloooooow is the way to gooooo. πŸ™‚

  7. I just found your blog and know I’ll be a regular here.

    I could not agree with you more. Sometimes I find I really have to muster my courage and revisit my convictions not to sign my boys up for more. Sometimes that feeling of “they’re falling so behind” starts creeping up when I see other kids tear up the basketball court or hear of their exploits on the ski slopes. But then I remember that my kids do better with down time. That tight schedules make us all tense and that they are just nine years old. It’s a long journey, not a sprint. I’m glad I found you today, because there aren’t as many out there who are happy in the slow lane.

  8. Oh, Tiffani, you had perfect timing. This is just what I needed yesterday. I went through and read your previous posts about your baby Rose. Thank you so much. I agree whole heartedly and am working on enjoying each moment too!

  9. Hi Tiff , Here it is vacation time and I had wanted to send my kids to some drawing or music classes . But then after much thinking I understood that there is no point in sending them .

    Coz here the vacation classes are all so packed. Working parents want to send their kids some where safe .. And drawing classes and all are more or less like day cares .

    I can give them more care and we can have more fun . So I have decided to sit back and relax and follow my kids . Play with them and lot more ….

    Sea shell collecting was one of my hobbies as a child . Great to see those pedicured feet on the bed of shells. That reminds me I had fixed a full pedicure and manicure date with my daughter πŸ˜€

    • oh, what you have planned sounds so much better than any class! Starting with the pedi/mani with your daughter! I’m due for another one, speaking of…. πŸ™‚

  10. I found this poem in a post at and thought of you.


    Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
    kept flickering in with the tide
    and looking around.
    Black as a fisherman’s boot,
    with a white belly.

    If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
    under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
    which was rough
    as a thousand sharpened nails.

    And you know
    what a smile means,
    don’t you?

    I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
    to leave it, like another country; I wanted
    my life to close, and open
    like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
    where it falls
    down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
    I wanted
    to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

    whoever I was, I was

    for a little while.

    It was evening, and no longer summer.
    Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
    huddled in the highest ripples
    as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
    one gesture, one black sleeve
    that could fit easily around
    the bodies of three small fish.

    Also I wanted
    to be able to love. And we all know
    how that one goes,
    don’t we?


    the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

    You don’t want to hear the story
    of my life, and anyway
    I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

    to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

    And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
    a few people just trying,
    one way or another,
    to survive.

    Mostly, I want to be kind.
    And nobody, of course, is kind,
    or mean,
    for a simple reason.

    And nobody gets out of it, having to
    swim through the fires to stay in
    this world.

    And look! look! look! I think those little fish
    better wake up and dash themselves away
    from the hopeless future that is
    bulging toward them.

    And probably,
    if they don’t waste time
    looking for an easier world,

    they can do it.

    Mary Oliver

  11. firstly, i’m sorry for your loss
    although from reading your posts, i can see how the experience has promoted you and yours valuing and experiencing joy in your life
    i echo your sentiments about over scheduling and yes, the acknowledgement that there is a difference between being busy and doing activities out of choice and passion and not out of an interest in taking something in order to be on the cutting competitive edge of a future resume
    i love love love your attitude and the wonderfulness of your life shines through all of your pics! i wish i could be there on the beach with you… feels like yesterday i was in so cal lapping up the waves with my boys. ahhh memories. πŸ™‚

  12. I discovered your blog somehow. We too are unschoolers in SoCal and LOVING life this way πŸ™‚ Your blog has been a fun read. Now, I am just curious where oh where this amazing beach with all these shells is located. My son and I are on the search for a good beach to go hunt out beach treasures and this one just drew my in. If you would share we would both be so tickled πŸ™‚ Thanks!

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