Whole Girl, Whole World—a speaker series that presents thought-provoking topics to the Crofton House community of parents, students, faculty and alumnae—returned in October with special guest Carl Honoré. Carl is an award-winning writer, broadcaster and TED speaker. He is the author of several books, including In Praise of Slow, that explore what he calls, “the Slow philosophy”—the idea of doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. “We have forgotten how to switch off. Unplug. To give ourselves over to another person or to a moment,” he said, “We have forgotten how to slow down.”
“Whole Girl, Whole World is an annual occasion for the community to connect and engage in conversations about the actions and attitudes we will adopt collectively to ensure each girl will become a courageous, creative citizen who will navigate life beyond Crofton with confidence and perspective,” said Katherine Grant, Parent and Parent Auxiliary Coordinator, Speaker Series. “The pandemic may have forced us to all slow down, yet the silver lining may be we will all thrive at our newly adjusted pace and be grateful for the opportunity to do so.”
In a world obsessed with speed, Carl had his own wake up call during his kids’ bedtime story, when he found himself rushing through Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. “I realized I had lost my way when I started skipping dwarves,” he said. Many people have had similar wake up calls, in part thanks to the pandemic. We go through life equating “going slow” with being boring, unproductive, or lazy. However, it’s not about going slow for slow’s sake. “Faster is often better,” said Carl. “But not always. The slow movement is about doing things at the right speed. It’s about doing things as well as possible. For our evening with Carl, we focused on childhood and what lessons ‘slow’ has to teach us as we raise our kids. He also spoke with students directly in sessions throughout the week.
Let boredom happen
“Parenting has become a cross between a competitive sport, and product development, but it’s backfiring,” said Carl. Kids need pressure, structure, and a little bit of being in a rush. But they also need to balance that on the slow side. That’s where playing freely, getting bored, and running reasonable risks can make all the difference. In moments of un-structure and uncertainty, they learn to think, invent, and use their imaginations. They learn how to get along with their peers and become whole.
P.D.F. versus extracurriculars
“You can’t have fun faster,” said Carl. Play and fun unfurl at their own tempo and he advocates for a good balance of what he calls “PDF”: Play time, Down time, and Family time. Time is our greatest resource and balancing it against what we want and need is our life’s work. To optimize our kids’ PDF, we need to consider limiting extracurriculars. “Kids today have schedules that would give any CEO heartburn,” said Carl. Tennis and tutoring are important, but PDF is what fires up the soft skills that turn kids into good students and future leaders. Even postsecondary institutions are getting behind the slow movement, encouraging students to go deep rather than broad when it comes to how they spend their time outside of the classroom. “It’s important to prioritize, streamline, and focus on where you give your time,” said Carl.
Paradox: slow is fast
The slow way is the faster way, because slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. The more we take on at once, the less productive we are. "People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said neuroscientist Earl Miller, MIT Professor of Neuroscience. And, he said, "The brain is very good at deluding itself." What’s actually happening is the brain is moving between two tasks. It's cognitively wasteful, and as a result, multitaskers make more mistakes and take twice as long as mono-taskers.
Cutting through rushing, anxiety, and the myth of multitasking teaches us to be present, calm, and thoughtful. Leaders who slow down to listen are the most successful. And the only way to listen to someone is to slow down to their tempo. “You can’t speed it up — you can’t listen faster,” said Carl.
Three pillars of the slow revolution:
Go together: Raising children is a voyage of discovery for parents and kids. Get alongside your child, take their hand, discover who they are together.
Less is more: Choose less pressure, less screen time, and less busyness. And you’ll have a more whole-hearted child who knows themselves, and revels in their imagination.
Balance: Take the time to figure out who you are as a parent, who you want your family to be, and who your child is. From there, design the right mix between fast and slow.
We are not “human doings”, we are “human beings.” If you want your children to slow down, you’ve got to show them the way. You’ll be modelling ‘slow,’ and you’ll also be present, and able to help and observe along the way. You’re not alone. Lots of parents are making slow changes, and they’re not going back. There is an African proverb that reads, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ That’s why Carl recommends students seek out students, or even an alumna who has recently been in her shoes. She can share her perspective that a lot of our worries are phantom worries. She could validate that when we do too much, we spread ourselves too thin—so thinly that even the things we could have done really well, are not fully realized.
It’s a growing movement and it works. And if you’re doing it? Say so, loudly, so other people know and take courage. None of us became parents so we could rush through it. Taking your time can (and will) improve your health, your work, and make you a better parent or student.
Tips to cut screen time
- Make specific outings screen free—like on the way to extracurriculars
- Create dedicated screen-free time for an hour after getting home
- Choose a room that’s designated “screen free” in your home
- Gather for a regular family meal
- Encourage “Switch Off Clubs” — groups who agree together that they will stay off their devices until an agreed-on time (after family time and homework)
- Role model the behaviour that you want to develop in your children