Love who you are
Have you noticed how easy it is to wish away your chief personality features? Do you think to yourself, “I’m the wrong personality for my temperament”? You might wish for a clean, orderly home in your heart, but your personality style is relaxed Bohemian. Or you are the sort who keeps a ship-shape house, but wish you could relax when your kids make big creative messes.
Layered on top of the structured versus unstructured selves we bring to homeschool are our memories of school. We compare what we do at home (even when we don’t want to) to what we experienced as children. We react against it (“I’m not doing that!) or we we suffer because of it (“I’m not teaching my kids anything”).
The temptation to overhaul our essential selves is powerful. Advertising everywhere tells us we are one tweak away from being the fantasy person in our heads. We may be able to resist Botox or Coach purses, but the seductress for home educators is any “method” that results in effortless, joyful learning where parents and kids get along all the time.
We hop from one program to the next like frogs on lily pads forgetting to consider which personality is implementing the philosophy!
Let me let you in on a little secret.
There’s no one personality type that is better for homeschooling than another.
Let me drill down further.
There’s no one personality type that is better for parenting, loving, nurturing than another.
Every type has its marvelous strengths, and (darn it all) each type has its blind spots and liabilities.
What you and I need to do is to become self aware people—able to recognize when our personalities are creating the hum of happiness and productivity, and when they are sapping the energy from the room and causing pain.
It isn’t always better to have a messy or a neat house.
Sometimes waking up to a clear kitchen table, fluffed pillows, books easy to access, and a freshly vacuumed carpet is the most nurturing way to start the day. If, however, the process of getting there ended an art project or removed a Robin Hood fort still lingering in the minds of your kids as they went to bed, the same cleared space in the morning may now feel like robbery:
“Where did you put my art project?”
“Do I really have to get out all the blankets again for my fort?”
The question to ask yourself as you move through the day isn’t “How can I be more relaxed?” or “How can I be more productive?”
You want to ask yourself a single question:
“How can I best serve this moment?”
I remember when I went to graduate school, I had just begun our unschooling experiment. It was a study in contrasts. I was being educated by highly trained academics with lectures, a syllabus, reading schedule, essay assignments, and tests. My kids were free to explore the world without any hindrance.
Or so I thought.
What became apparent to me after a semester surprised me. I loved graduate school. It felt nurturing to have someone care enough to create lessons, to show me what I should read to get a full view of the subject, to dialog with me from a position of investment and knowledge. I liked having a plan and a schedule. I felt relief. I had studied the subject area for five years on my own, and now I felt this surge of strength that came from guidance and support.
Meanwhile, the structures I had used in homeschool were on hold. I wanted my kids to feel free to learn what they wanted, to investigate any topic to their hearts’ content. A couple of them took off! But two floundered. They felt (strangely enough) unloved. They wouldn’t have used that language but in hindsight that’s what it was. They felt connected to me when I took the time to plan their lessons and guide their education. They lost that connection when I gave them “freedom.”
I spent hours on unschooling lists learning how to create the context, how to support an unschooling lifestyle, how to foster and nurture a rich learning environment. I didn’t “abandon” my kids to doing whatever they wanted unsupervised. Nevertheless, two of my children missed planned lessons and a structure for learning. I understood this because I was having a parallel experience in grad school.
What becomes so difficult to tease apart as a home educator is the idealized vision of learning that dances in our heads like sugar plums and the very real home and family we have. Our job isn’t to be more organized or more relaxed, more structured or completely free of structure.
Our job is to serve the moment—to serve the needs of our families from within the framework of our delightful personalities.
We can do that best when we lean into our strengths.
If you’re an orderly person, create happy order. Avoid the temptation to require everyone to be like you. Resist your tendency to nag or to have your feelings hurt when the rest of your gang is unenthusiastic for kitchen duty or keeping tables cleared. Straighten, file, assemble check lists, keep the sink empty, make the beds, plan the day. Enthusiastically offer your talent for creating a clean, peaceful, orderly, neat space to the family as a gift.
If you’re a relaxed, go-with-the-flow mom, stop pummeling your personality. Your home is cozy, it’s alive with activity, and it supports messes without stress. Keep big containers nearby for quick clean-ups, make a loose routine to follow each day (rather than a schedule), allow your kids who need order to create systems to support you and the family. Smile.
Do not worry that you aren’t getting enough done in either system or style. Focus on this moment. What is happening right now? How can I help it become a good moment? Shall I ease up and let the mess grow? Shall I hunker down and clear the space so something new can be born? Are we getting along and growing?
Above all: no system saves you. You will eventually go back to being who you are. Your job is to be the best you, you can be. Be the you that creates love and learning, not the you that worries and frets or ignores and pretends away.
You can even say to your kids in a moment of frazzledness:
“You know me! I need everything cleaned up before I can think straight. Anyone willing to help me so we get the day off to a good start? My brain is about to fall out of my head when I see shoes scattered everywhere. Cookies to the helpers!”
“You know me! I can’t put a week-long system together for the life of me. Let’s make a quick list for today of things we want to study and do, and then put them in an order. Who wants to make the list with me? If today feels good, we can do it again tomorrow. Let’s eat cookies while we discuss.”
See? The goal isn’t to “reform” who you are and how you are. The goal is to be the best of yourself that you can be, acknowledging that within your strengths and weaknesses is a real human being doing the best she can. Your kids want to help you and they want to be themselves too.
They’ll learn to love who they are in direct proportion
to how well you love who you are.
Go forth and love yourself.
So I just read the last part of this outloud to my 7 & 11 yo kids and the 7 yo responded with, “but neither of those options will work, we don’t have cookies!” and the 11 yo responded, “I’ll make cookies if we can use them for motivators!”
I think they missed the point… 😉 but I thought it was pretty funny anyway. Thanks for this great article though. I’ve had a heck of a first trimester as of late and we’ve had to really relax the schedule… And you know what? I really like it. I have really learned some interesting things about myself and my family in these last, grueling, 6-7 weeks, and I hope I can remember and keep hold of some of these insights and changes!
Now the question is, “Who am I?”
A good question to ask, Angela.
As a person who struggles with weight issues, in a family that is striving to eat healthy, I get a bit flummoxed coming up with motivators that aren’t food. Tea time has dropped off a bit in our house, because carrots and celery just aren’t as fun as cookies and scones. Plus my little one puts spoonfuls of sugar into her tea…..We can’t afford to eat like that every week.
Mostly I love, love, love your philosophy of empowering moms and how you encourage us to love ourselves.
I’m just getting hung up a bit on the food aspect of Brave Writer.
Sue, that’s a great comment! I come from a family of health nuts so part of the teatime emphasis and occasional cookies or brownies as rewards is a break from my daily life and habits. I do understand totally the desire to create better eating habits. If you’ll notice, I also mention orange and apple slices as teatime options and none of my kids use sugar in tea.
As I say in all my materials, take what works for you and discard what doesn’t. Three of my kids are vegan/vegetarians. We routinely eat foods that have no dairy products in them. We tend to eat scones or muffins more than cupcakes.
I applaud your efforts to be more conscientious about health. My mother, when I was in 4th grade, completely switched our eating habits from typical American processed foods to a healthy diet of natural whole foods. That switch changed my life and sustains me today as I feed my family. The changes you are making now will last a lifetime.
Thanks Julie. Good feedback. We are doing tea time today, after my son’s calculus final (poor guy) and I think I’ll put out honey instead of sugar.
I want to add that we have enjoyed tea time a lot, and have grown together – in all the ways you mentioned. We discovered Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes and so many other gems. Tea time is a very special memory creator. So thanks.
So great! Such good poets you now love.
As always, so encouraging! <3
I too have one kiddo in particular who prefers more guidance and encouragement than my other two. I find that one of the best things about unschooling is that I can offer that to her…because it's what *she* needs. 🙂
I didn’t put my info on the above comment! Showed up as “anonymous”. Sorry. 🙂
You are an amazing inspiration to me and my “neatness attitude.” I love your quotes and will be using this one for sure. Cookies or homemade Banana Bread to all the helpers! So great, creative and just what I needed to hear. Yippee!!!
what about us “schizo” homeschoolers who feel like they are structured and organized but burn out after awhile and loosen the structure. I am not sure which one I really am or if I can be both! I sure waste a lot of time and money being both. I wish I could find a way to meld it orto trust one enough to stick to it. I *think* I am more of a relaxed homeschooler, but I don’t trust the process enough.
Lisa, I think you have your answer in the last sentence. 🙂
Btw, we all toggle between the two extremes anyway. Circumstances, ages and stages of kids, our own anxieties fuel the shifts. You only need to be present to who you are and your kids in this moment. Having a variety of materials is great – you can go for more structure when you need it and then loosen up when you feel the need for a different style.
Did you see our photo? Check this out. I bet you’ll relate.
Wow. Your post made me cry (in a good way) I am the relaxed one. I’ve been trying to find our style. I keep reading about the Unschooling is the only way or schedule school at home is the right way. I’m positive there is a middle somewhere or a little bit of one and some of the other.
This is my first year homeschooling my son. He is 7. This year has been such a struggle! It is the end of the school year and I’m at a loss on what to do next year. Your kind words of serving the moment is a cool, kind relief ! I just found your blog. Off I go to read more of you’re kind wisdom!
7 is so young. Enjoy him. When you feel tempted to be stressed, remind yourself that your little guy has only been on the planet for 7-8 years. He’s just getting the hang of being here. You have loads of time for hard work. For now, be curious together. Play together. Read together. Delight in the miracle of being alive, together.
That’s the best curriculum for K-3rd grades. 🙂
Please add a pin button so I can save your posts.
There’s a Pinterest button at the very top of the page and that allows you to pin the post. Just make sure you’re on the post’s individual url (in this case: http://blog.bravewriter.com/2013/05/22/love-who-you-are/).