One Mother’s Transformation
I am so thrilled to share Monique’s journey with you today. Monique came to the Grand Rapids event a couple of weeks ago and sent me the most engaging description of how she applied what she learned in her family. I’ve waited for permission to post her thoughts here which came while I was away in California. I’ve included her follow up email as well since it extends her ideas even further.
So let me give you a bit of background first:
Monique’s children were homeschooled until this year. She put her daughter into school (a bit) to “teach her a lesson.” Monique, like so many of us, got frustrated with the way her daughter dragged her feet about learning, how she didn’t appreciate her mother’s investment of heart, time and energy, how she seemed to turn what was supposed to be a delightful, family bonding experience into a power struggle between mom and kid.
In the “Nurturing Brave Writers” workshop (UPDATE: Now available digitally and on DVD!), we spend a lot of time talking about how to create the context for peaceful, nurturing relationships as foundational to any education (whether your kids are in “school-in-a-building” or homeschooled).
Here’s how Monique applied these insights:
Thank you so much for a great event. I truly mean to let it enhance the way I view my children. I came home and emailed all my inspiration to my aunt, who now lives in Morocco and is one of the most interesting, intelligent people I know. This was her response:
WOW ! What a message….what a good mother you are ! “If I raise my girls to be interesting people…” To paraphrase : if I guide my girls to the maximum of exposure, their God-given individuality will surely be ‘interesting’. As I look back, our mother CONTROLLED our exposure, and….when the world changed (faster than her Betty Crocker cookies could crumble), she became bitter, no longer enjoyed who her daughters were (forgetting HER sordid past!), and kept her world in chains—criticizing anything outside its boundaries. College ? Molly may just be an auto-didact artist by then and a diploma may cramp her style—not easy to let them go (‘Let the reign’ of daughters bud and flower in family soil, but where their seeds fly belongs to their generation). Difficult to even calculate the mathematics of change; but the more data (cause) available, the more the consequential effect compounds….and, for sure, the in-put your girls will receive is only for them to digest. You and Pat can sit back and enjoy the show, fixed in the garden of your generation.
When I came home Sunday, I had to do homework with Molly. She had a book report due. Instead of plopping her in front of her worksheets to fill it in, I decided to make it a collaborative, learning experience, as well as honoring my child’s amazing love of projects. So we turned her boring book report into a splendid lapbook. We spent 11 hours on it, only breaking for dinner for an hour.
My sweet girl just LOVED making a lap book. She kept sighing and looking at me and saying, “Mommy, I just love you.” She did so much copywork in one day that she now has every possible form of punctuation mastered. We pored over quotes in the book that would encapsulate each character. We discussed every aspect of the book imaginable. Instead of doing a character sketch on just the main character, as her teacher asked, we did a character sketch on every single character. Her choice.
When she summarized the book, I tried to mimic how you said your mother would compliment and then say, “How about . . .?” I taught her about good openers instead of saying, “The first part of the book was about…” We had to come up with the heart of the book as well. We couldn’t figure it out. So we sat on it for an hour then came back and it struck us. She kept asking me if all this help would be considered cheating. I told her all I care about is if she’s learning. If she got an F on it for cheating, oh, well! I knew her teacher would be thrilled, though.
When we turned it in, her teacher was astonished. She ooohed and ahhhed and praised up my Molly. She made a point to pass it around the class so everyone could see. She told the class that she would never assign this, but if they want to take a homework assignment and make it into a lap book, by all means, please do. My shy daughter was bursting with pride.
And I felt great all over that I honored who she is and basked in it for 11 hours. What a gift to give my daughters, just to honor them.
Oh, and before I launched into this all day marathon project, I played Webkinz with my middle daughter. I never told her YUCK once. I kept telling myself I’m the adult here. I’m the bigger person. I’ve navigated a marriage, for crying out loud; I can play Webkinz with my daughter for a half an hour!
Thank you again for a great weekend. I love opening my thoughts to positive, new ideas.
Monique’s follow up:
I’m really focusing on honoring just who each of my girls are. It’s hard to not put them into what I think they ought to be. Yet it’s freeing to honor their own individuality.
The other day I was frustrated with my older daughter’s clumsy ways. She was just crashing into everything possible and making poor choices with her belongings. So I thought to honor what she might need. I grabbed a blanket and a big beach towel. Despite the fact it was cold out (something she’s always been amazingly oblivious to), I told her to take off her shoes and socks and roll up her jeans. Then I took her to a flooded, mucky park and told her to get out of the car and get it all out of her system.
Her eyes blazed like a mad woman. She crashed out of the car and did an arm spiraling stumble into the first puddle she could find and totally delighted herself in a mud-slinging, stringy-hair, flying human tornado. Her sister meanwhile tip toed through the least wet grassy areas, while holding her jeans up even farther than I had them rolled. But the two had a great time. My messy Molly actually did full swan dives into the deepest ice water indentations she could find. When they got back into the car, the little tidy one was bitching up a storm. But my Molly was open-armed sighing out “I love you Mommy’s” to me, in the backseat naked under the blanket I brought. When we got home my husband saw our mud encrusted blue lipped daughter and was shocked I let her do that. I just loved the kid I have. She’s a lot of fun. And I love my middle tidy one too!
Thanks from all of us.
There’s nothing more to say except:
Thanks for this sharing. I have often thought that a month of public school would solve our difficulties. Somehow, just thinking about doing it reminds me of why we homeschool. Ironically, the “why” of our homeschooling has nothing to do with the reasons I would consider a quick school enrollment. Perfect behavior, compliance, consistently neat handwriting, no whining coupled with a cheerful smile while remembering to do chores would sure make the days more pleasurable. However, freedom, the love of learning, serendipitous moments, relationship, discovering together and learning how to spell prejudice among other things drive our homeschooling.
It can be really painful and difficult when our sacrifice and heart felt love and effort are rudely rejected. Most of the time, though, it is nothing that a wild, cold, roll in the mud can’t cure. What a brave and true, good mother you are Monique! Somehow it is so much easier to give our little ones what they need when they are having a tough day…playing in the rain, mud, tea parties, gnome house building..I guess just allowing them to play. No invisible pressure to academically prepare them. I wonder about this aspect of play in our lives and our older kids lives. I would love to let my older son just “play” more in an unstructured way…goof off and feel okay about it. When I do he really seems to better able to focus and to work on his academic subjects more carefully and cheerfully. I do appreciate so much hearing of others experiences like this. It is a blessing and an inspiration!
It is wonderful to hear of Monique’s little girl so joyfully learning and engaging. (The I love yous are pretty great too!) I am rejoicing with you about all of them!
Thank you for the wonderful reminder about honoring our children’s interests and who they are. It is so simple, and yet we often forget amid the “things” that need to be accomplished.
I loved the lapbook idea as a book report. What all could you include in that besides plot, characters, and setting? Sometimes my creative juices just aren’t flowin’. Maybe you could blog about good questions to ask during a book conversation that would lead to creating mini-books for a lapbook.
Loved this post! And it came at such a good time for me… after a couple of weeks thinking that I had made a mistake two years ago to to take my kids out of public elementary school. I have had too many days in a row of whining, non-compliance, bickering and yes, boredom. So good to know that other families get into this place, too. Maybe tomorrow a romp through the wet woods when no one feels like making an effort will do us all good!
And, I so want you (Julie) to plan a Brave Writer workshop in the Northwest (Seattle, maybe?).
Finally, like Cindy (above) would you post some good questions to ask during a book conversation. That would be oh so helpful.
Thanks for all…. I love your blog(s) and check them frequently!
Thanks for your replies. I’ll take you up on the question about conservation starters for books. Look for it in a blog near you. 🙂
That was really empowering to read her story. I think spring causes some of this old impatience for most of us and it is nice to see how others adapt and respond to being more receptive to their kids needs. Thanks for sharing it.