It’s “Back to School” time for many students around the world, and even in our homeschool we use this time of year to make a fresh start. I’m always excited to start a new “school year” because I love to learn and I love the opportunity to change things up and hopefully inspire my 4 students to become avid readers and lifelong learners. I am currently enthralled with a new book called A Thomas Jefferson Education and all that it means for our homeschool journey.
As the book explains, there are often major differences between modern schooling and classical education–the latter being accomplished through mentors and study of the classics. It asserts that the only true education is self-education and that it comes about when great mentors inspire their students by their example. I am all over that! My favorite thing about homeschooling, which absolutely has its challenges, is how much I get to learn myself, and that my kids automatically absorb so much just by being around me as I struggle and persevere along my own path.
I am far from a perfect parent. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And I can honestly say that I have had a pretty great Catholic school and liberal arts education with some amazing mentors all along the way–I shudder to think what would have been if I had not! I feel I have much to live up to. And I believe that’s what makes me the ideal mentor for my kids. I have to pass on the lessons I have learned and the character I have developed–and I need a lot of time and opportunity to do that. True education can never be forced or rushed. It must be willingly received… patiently and passionately pursued. So that is what I will do, and I’ll trust that my children will follow my example, and eventually surpass it.
This is one of my all-time fave photos of my son, Aaron. He was three when I took this. See how sweet and innocent he looks? I like to joke that the only reason he survived his terrible 3’s is because of his cute looks! So glad we made it through that phase. 🙂
I’ve been reading several parenting books lately and wishing I had accessed the wisdom in them long ago. The one pictured here, “Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child” was really great. When I picked it up, I was just thinking of my daughter, who is very stubborn but also has so many wonderful qualities. I wasn’t having any particularly difficult challenges with her, I just wanted to be prepared should any arise. As I read this book, however, I realized that my four-year-old is also a strong-willed child, and that was why I WAS having so many challenges with him. I am also pretty sure my youngest will be just as intense. Yay.
What I love about this book, though, is the way it talks about the children, describing them as “aggressive researchers” and explaining that they are just wired to learn the hard way most of the time, and that they need to collect a lot of concrete data/evidence in order to know what their boundaries are. I felt so much relief and compassion as I read, because I realized a) that there are LOTS of kids like this out there, b) the parents didn’t do anything wrong to cause the kids to develop these intense personalities, and c) they’re not little anarchists, but rather just determined little scientists trying to figure out how things work in their world.
I got a lot of tools to implement in this book, and I’ve already started using them regularly (and making mistakes with them, too). I realize how inconsistent and vague I’ve been with my discipline and instructions over the years, and am trying to be much more focused going forward. Even with the mistakes, I’ve already had a significant breakthrough in my relationship with my daughter, which I believe was set in motion by this book.
This all started with a goal of yelling less at the beginning of this year… who knew there was so much more to it than just that. Yelling was a symptom of much deeper and more complex issues lying beneath the surface. Although I wish I’d seen them sooner, it feels great to be dealing with these issues so productively now. Better late than never. Yet another lesson in agile mothering!
Today is a day of extra celebration for me. Two years ago on this day I left my career to fully pursue my calling. It was more than a leap of faith… I playfully nicknamed it my skydive of faith, and that year became my “Year of Living Fearlessly.” I also decided to home school my older two kids (then 7 and 5) that year and became pregnant with our fourth child.
I am normally a very responsible, level-headed kind of girl who enjoys stability and security, but I also have my moments of insane courage, and I haven’t regretted a single one. I would never advise anyone to make the same decisions I made. I would only advise you to follow your gut, your heart, your truth… whatever you want to call it… that thing that you know deep down that you need to do to stay alive in every sense of the word, that is birthed in love. Once you figure out what it is, just go for it! For me, it was staying home with my kids and home schooling them, but that was only the beginning.
Every path has its twists and turns and nasty bumps, but the struggles that you choose are much easier to go through than the struggles that just happen to you when you’re stagnant or going in a direction you got pushed or trapped into. I used to think I was a control freak, but it turns out I just wanted to be assured that someone far more capable than me was in control and that there was a plan that I would be happy with. Once I was convinced of that, I shifted my perspective from one of “taking control” of my life to one of surrendering to my best possible life, which equals far less anxiety and stress, and A LOT more gratitude.
I’m a goal setter. The cool thing about setting goals is that once you identify those things you want to accomplish, a host of helpful resources start popping up wherever you look. That’s what happened when I set a goal at the beginning of 2014 to yell at my children less. I love my kiddos dearly, but I have a habit of yelling when I’m tired or frustrated (which is a lot)–short, intense outbursts to let off steam and then I am fine–but I worry that my kids are not and that I’m teaching them poor communication skills and poor anger management. Once I realized and owned up to my problem, I set my goal, and then picked up one of those free local parenting guides with all the cutesy classes and coupons. Lo and behold, to my surprise, there was an article about the Orange Rhino and her journey toward yelling less and loving more. “What??” I thought. “You mean I’m not the only mom who struggles with this issue? There are actually support groups for the many, many parents who have recognized their need for help with their anger and yelling??”
I immediately found Miss OR on Facebook and “liked” her page. Then I found out about her 30-day Challenge for yelling less and signed up. To be honest, I sped-read through the daily e-mails because I was simultaneously starting a new Spartan workout regimen to meet another of my goals and didn’t feel I could handle too many challenges at once. I only practiced a few of her suggestions on the days assigned (sorry if you’re reading this, OR), and I yelled as much as usual during those 30 days. However, I STILL benefited greatly from her challenge, believe it or not. Just knowing that I am not alone in yelling too much at my kids and feeling guilty has alleviated much of my stress and guilt. For some reason, hardly anyone talks about this issue, even though it is apparently rampant among parents. The OR page is approaching 50,000 likes, and I have since checked out other parenting resources that have told me that EVERY parent deals with anger and lashes out at times.
I have since incorporated more of the tools Orange Rhino discussed in her e-mails, along with some others from other parenting books, and have noticed a definite shift in my attitude and approach to parenting. I am yelling a lot less, and loving even more. I still have a ways to go, and I know that this is an ongoing journey–for me and for every parent on the planet. I just wanted to take a moment to thank the Orange Rhino and others like her who are willing to admit their struggles, and who have the courage and dedication to overcome them and teach others to do the same.