Treasure Hunt

This post comprises my notes for my talk at the recent Homeschool Common Conference in London, ON.  It is not the full talk as it is missing all the personal stories and a bunch of other spontaneous musings, but you'll get the gist!


Treasure Hunt: Embracing Your Unique Homeschool Journey

Homeschooling is like an incredible, custom Treasure Hunt…. If you engage it with an open heart you will discover riches you didn’t know existed buried right in the heart of your own family! 

We’re going beyond academics and talking about living your own epic life.

  1. FAMILY: Explore the Undiscovered Treasure in your Family

This is your opportunity to write a new story… something that’s never been written before.

As we educate our children at home we have the opportunity to move beyond a focus on academics and can explore a multi-dimensional approach to life and learning.

Your family is here to blaze a trail: the world is waiting for your voice, participation, discoveries, art, innovations.

If your family was totally free, what would your life look like?  What would that feel like?  

Just let yourself imagine… What would it be like if your life was not bound by the schedule of school or expectations from anyone else, or the pressure to get your children to go to university, etc… picture for a minute what that would look like…  get a picture in your mind.

To me it feels like: exciting, powerful, engaged, connected.

As we engage this homeschooling process, we have the choice to make our decisions from FREEDOM or FEAR.

Let’s just be honest, our decisions are NOT one-dimensional…. We don’t have to exist in polarities.  We can rise above that and accept that there is tension in every decision. And so we can see it as a spectrum: fear on one side, freedom on the other.

How would you know if you’re making an educational or family decision from fear, or a decision from freedom and delight?

Choices made from FEAR feel like: comparison, inadequacy, panic, “shoulds”, urgency, fear of falling behind, missing out, stress, anxiety.

Fear does not bear good fruit!

Choices made from FREEDOM feel like: genuine excitement, anticipation, collaboration, adventure, experimentation, energy, delight

Freedom bears good fruit!  Freedom moves you towards your dreams faster!

As well as cultivating an attitude of freedom, we can also create this space by priming home to be an environment for the kind of life we desire.  A space that encourages personal growth and exploration.  

In our home, this involves lots of markers, and paper, and scotch tape and paint.  We have a space in our home called the ‘craft room’… Every day it explodes.. We have it built into our routine to clean it up every day… we’re not afraid of the enormous mess. 

Mess is actually one of the vehicles to take your kids to the next level creatively.  I used to be super focused on cleanliness and orderliness until I realized it was hampering their growth.

For us home is both a studio and a sanctuary… We set it up for these purposes: to rest and create and connect.  We arrange it with this in mind.   

Consider how you are cultivating your home for your larger vision for your family.  How can you use it as a petri dish for your passions? 

Sometimes, it means using your space differently than other families do.

You are not a cookie cutter.  You were not meant to fit the mould… you were meant to launch off grid!  Your home can reflect this!  What is your family about?  Do you have the freedom to embrace it?

What are the homes you have most loved spending time in?  Can you cultivate a home that your children LOVE to spend time in?  

For me, those are spaces with books, and hobbies on the go, personalized art, and life in process are super attractive.

What if home was more a process than a display?

What does ‘home’ mean for your family?  What would you like your home to feel like?

We don’t have to get stuck in prefabricated identities. We are the artists and cultivators of our own atmosphere, constantly adapting, experimenting, and engaging the process…. Embrace this!  

Walt Whitman said “I contain multitudes” - we’re so expansive!

We’ve all seen the performing families, or the families with children who get into university at age ten, or the ones who travel in a camper across the country, or the homesteaders… the list is endless… 

When we unmoor from the school system sometimes it can feel like we are searching for a new identity. It can be tempting to latch onto a new identity, but it’s important to not be bound…. Resist labelling yourself…. Trust me, I speak from experience:

-We tried to be minimalists…. 

-We tried to be farmers…

-We tried to be sailers…

-We tried to be the vonTrapps….

All these things are amazing and can fit at particular points in your journey, but flexibility is HUGE… be slow to label your family/children… viewing things as chapters is part of flexibility that allows you to blossom in season.

TRUSTING the PROCESS and enjoying your personal discovery process is one of the most powerful things you can do as a homeschooling family.

2.  CHILDREN: The Treasure in your Child

We have elven children, this has given us enough experience to recognize that no two are alike!!!  

But, there is a magic key to guiding them:

Delight is like a magic compass…   it is the spirit of your child communicating to you… follow this and your child will emerge as a beneficial presence in the world.

REMEMBER: Children are BUILT to learn (it is in our child to walk and talk… we can’t take the credit). One of the biggest things we can do to support them is let go of our fear.

Parents’ job is to help nurture, unveil, discover, call forth the gold.

You don’t have to manage everything - your child is providing the direction. Children don’t need much - already oriented toward connection, beauty, exploration, learning, wonder.  

Your child doesn’t want to sit at the park, they want to chase the geese.  They are wired to get off the path and explore.  They developmentally and intuitively know what they are ready for.  A lot of these things can present as irritation to us, because they are often not convenient or don’t strike us as important, but they are the very places we need to go with our children.

When you experience POWER STRUGGLES they ARE A FLAG indicating that the child has an agenda that is different than ours.  When we can move past the struggle and ride their motivation, that’s the sweet spot!  Pay attention when your children are driving you crazy and not responding to your methods - - they are teaching you something!!!!   Your most frustrating challenges are actually your greatest opportunities in disguise!!

We need to consider working with these tensions:

Top-down agenda  VS  Interior compass 

Parents’ knowledge of a child  VS  Child’s current “passion”

Parent as teacher/instructor  VS  Parent as Attentive Observer

And we try as much as possible not to get polarized on anything, thinking that we always know best and the child is irrational.  

Their behaviour is almost always rooted in some important need that they are expressing.

Speaking of pressure, I wanted to mention the social pressure we sometimes feel:

For life in general and homeschooling specifically, comparison is the wrecking ball of your life; comparing your home-educating process with someone else’s will only invite grief.  Beautiful homeschooling websites and homeschooling peers can unintentionally stir up fears and insecurities you didn’t know you had!

Call out the goodness and wonder within your children.  Practice trusting the deep-rooted compass in your child and engage the process of working with their motivation.  Your faith in their process is powerful.

You can use workbooks, lessons, curriculum and tutors when inspired, but don’t be a slave to them.  Don’t orient two decades of your family life towards a college admissions application.  These academic books are just tools.  

There are many tools!  Some more would be:

Modelling exploration and development

Regularly speak your child’s true identity (grounded in goodness)

Allow some healthy neglect - Allowed to be bored

Connecting with interesting people

Actively going on adventures

Encouraging “process”: space, time, mess 

Sometimes, it feels like you can’t seem to find or uncover the right “tool” for your child’s next step.  This can be so frustrating!  Try to restrain from sinking into Google madness, and instead take time to reflect what it is your child really needs.  Practice gratitude that the solution is already in the works, and learn to REST into your SOLUTIONS… I guarantee the answers that come are way better than you could have come up with yourself!

CAN YOU TRUST THE PROCESS?

If you lived as though school expectations didn’t exist, what would your relationship with your child look like?  

If there wasn’t a timeline on their learning, what would your relationship feel like?

3. YOU: The Treasure in You

By homeschooling, you are not putting your life ‘on hold’ you are choosing to live actively and presently in your own unique journey.  You are embracing a truly original and comprehensive lifestyle.  

Don’t expect the world to understand.  You are actively building a dynamic family culture that is worthy of your best hours, days and years.  But, this often comes at the cost of being misunderstood by a culture that often promotes working for someone else over investing in your family.

As the mother in your home, your work is not so much about delivering an education, but modelling a life.  

In a sense this journey is so much about YOU, the parent.

  • What are you learning?
  • What are you excited about?
  • What is challenging you?
  • How are your children observing you grow?

In many ways, your children become WHO YOU ARE.

As you take time to explore the treasure and the dreams inside of you, your children will reap the rewards of a witnessing their mother thrive and grow.  This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children: an animated, and joyful mother!

Are you living the dynamic, creative, potential-filled life that you would like to see them live?  

What’s holding you back?  What limitations are you accepting?  What scripts are you believing?  What if they could change?

These questions aren’t to layer on more pressure!  The point is to peel back the pressure to discover the deep longings of your soul and begin to take some baby steps in the directions of your own dreams, even as you lead your children… this is one of the most powerful experiences our children can ever have: to witness their mother grow into an expanded version of herself! 

 

This is deep education.  This is soul work.

I am living and creating my own life, and not just here to facilitate theirs.

Don’t despise small beginnings.  

Give yourself time to cultivate personal interests.  Keep your expectations low, but be persistent.

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you to go for it, to give you permission.  THEY NEVER WILL.

The process of homeschooling unlocks and activates new aspects of yourself that you didn’t know were there!  

There is treasure inside of you that this process uncovers as it strips away your security in lesser things and calls you into deeper places.  As you guide your children, you begin to naturally study your own process.  It’s a thrilling life!

At times, homeschooling can feel like loss on the surface (loss of free time, immediate personal goals, comfortable place in the culture) but the GAINS are huge… Here are a few I’ve discovered:

1) Develop a profound and lasting attachment with your children.

2)  Learn to experiment with your life - living outside of the pace/9-5 grid - it’s invigorating to find your own footing.

3) Un-school yourself, de-program, rediscover your personal values and passions. 

Explore your own delight in small ways in front of your children.  This is living in the tension of this moment with a vision for the future.  

I want to encourage you to enjoy creating the script of the story of your life… do NOT follow any one else’s script.  Own your story.  You are enough and don’t need to be like anyone else!

CONCLUSION             

The systems of the world are tired.

World Economic Forum: “65% of children now entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t yet exist.”

Let that sink in.

We are all ready for something new.  

The world is hungry for new expressions of creativity, vision, and innovation to be made manifest through our children and families.  

A vibrant future is not going to be born through the tired educational strategies of the past; it’s time to be pioneers.

You women and your families are planting seeds today that will grow an incredible future harvest.  Step into this work with gusto because you are changing the world!

Deep Winter

Learning to embrace the season that we are in is a perpetual challenge, there's always the wooing of some hypothetical pain-free future that would call us out of being present in the moment.  But, 'challenge' need not be seen as a negative thing; challenge is an invitation into the discovery of the dormant potential inside of us!

As Ben and I press into embracing the seasons metaphorically, we decided to press into winter literally (instead of running away from it!) and took a trip to the mountains of beautiful Quebec, with the children.

We decided to explore winter more deeply, and actually take to the outdoors as if we meant it.  Toboggan, ski, hike, watch our breath release in chilled puffs as we soak in the outdoor hot tub, then run and roll in the snow in our bathing suits. (Okay, I confess, I could only sit in the snow, not roll in my bathing suit - these crazy kids though!)

Last night, as I lay awake for hours on the couch in our beautiful rented chalet, with a baby who wouldn't sleep, I watched the clock ticking.  And ticking. And ticking.  (An adventure like this is so special but is physically exhausting on it's own...  the logistics involved in helping 13 people launch from home base are spectacular!)

I took a 'step back' from the frustrating reality of me feeling utterly exhausted, and observed: I am having an experience.

That was it.

It's like I could see myself from a short distance away and recognize what was happening, but not need to infuse it with emotion.  I could just let the moment be what it was.

After observing my situation with as much neutrality as
I could muster, I was able to release the tension building up in my flesh and flip the emotional balance, and tickle my baby as we snuggled on the couch. The night was awash in his soft husky giggle.  The struggle was over: I surrendered to a potentially completely sleepless night, and in the end I found some rest. We stared into each other's eyes.  The tranquil silence of the snow blanketing the night through the window mirrored the scene in my heart.  We have the opportunity to live from perpetual rest, even if we don't actually sleep.

More and more, I am convinced that this is what it means to live by faith: rest with gratitude in the moment, trusting that what you need will come.  And what you need might not always be what your mind has fixated on; sometimes you need a sleepless night to wake up.

Quiver

Yesterday, I had the honour of attending a remarkable unmedicated home birth.  This first-time mama walked the gritty line of power and vulnerability with a heroic heart.

I watched in awe as her body quivered under the pressure of forging the passage to the outside world, as the tremors of Heaven ran through her bones, delivering a new and perfect son.

To observe the deliverer in her process of undoing and unmooring from all known ports, and yet being born herself as a mother, is a profound and spiritual encounter.  I beheld the birth of a mother and father yesterday, a family conceived in love and born in the raw wilds of surrender.

This is what changes the world: courage to blaze into the unknown, persist through the pressure, and find there a goodness and wholeness never before imagined, unhindered by the pain of the process.

They say, Every Birth is a Lesson.

Yesterday, I encountered the sheer saintliness that radiates from an exhausted and worn mama as she descends into her own depths and finds there a reserve of power she didn't know she possessed.  I learned that sometimes Heaven looks radiant and ebullient, and other times it looks fierce and wild.

And this is where we so often find ourselves: straddled between the impact of the moment and the promise of a new day, these persistent realities ever colliding within us.

As we follow the map home, we find the sacred space where God resides, ever breathing new life into our pain, calling us into a higher experience of our own potential and beauty.

Home begins to look a lot like a garden we never left.

Vasectomy Pain

I am fascinated by the reproductive system, this miraculous collaborative anatomy that sparks eternal Life when a male and female make Love.  I am also intrigued by the emotional, psychological and spiritual features of this most wondrous system.

Why do we make the choices we do around reproduction?  What perspectives are born of our own traumas, fears, and needs for control, and what alternatives are there?

In a culture obsessed with controlling birth - essentially violating the natural physiology and impulse of the body's created order - what do we stand to lose?

These are questions I rarely see raised in a culture that promotes birth control options that often end up inducing further, unanticipated bodily harm.  I have a lot speculative reasons why this is, maybe I'll talk about it one day.

This book Vasectomy: The Cruelest Cut of All by Dr. Brad Bowens is one example of an excellent book that likely remains largely unread; in an age of so much common sense why do research?  When deep emotion and trauma are involved, this response is understandable. My concern, however, is what further trauma does vasectomy unwittingly induce?

Heaping trauma on trauma does not deliver us from our fears.

I just spent the last hour reading about the incredible anatomy of the male reproductive system.  It explodes the mind to examine the perfection of this one small system; it is so pristine and generous in its labour.  Like The Little Engine that Could, sperm continue to produce, never quitting, because... LIFE!!!!!

Regardless of where cutting off the Life Force leaves us emotionally, psychologically or spiritually, we must examine why we live in a medical culture that affirms vasectomy as a safe option for birth control, when it is questionable at best.  When the negative effects of vasectomy often only begin to be experienced 5-7 years after the procedure, we may miss the association.  What is vasectomy doing to our men, their virility, their power, their own innate life force?

"Vasectomy is a "safe and simple procedure" according to many in the medical profession.  While the simple part might be accurate, the safe part is definitely not.  The cruelest cut of all frequently produces lifelong pain, often worsened by sexual activity, arising months or year after the procedure.  Too ashamed to speak up many men suffer in silence unless the pain is severe...  With vasectomy labeled as a "safe and simple procedure" by the medical community, men and their spouses are being grossly misled.

Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome (PVPS) truly represents the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and the concern of physicians and researchers as to why this supposedly rare complication occurs is incredibly misdirected, because the theoretical and practical foundation supporting vasectomy is hopelessly flawed.  Take a pump and a balloon.  As the balloon fills you reduce the pumping pressure and then stop.  Now pump up another balloon and do not stop.  A young child will predict what will happen - pressure will build and the balloon will burst."- Vasectomy: The Cruelest Cut of All

What are the consequences for cauterizing our flesh, or short-circuiting systems that are not extraneous or optional but are fundamentally integrated with the wellness and wholeness and purpose of our being?

I am thinking about these things on a quiet winter afternoon, tucked in by the fireside, surrounded by my tribe of boys and men and wondering about a world that would seek to separate them from their own virility.

I share these reflections not as an platform for judgment, but as an opportunity for reflection.  We have all made mistakes; we are all growing; and I believe healing is available for every trauma ever experienced.  Yet, unless we are willing to stare down some of our most basic cultural assumptions and narratives regarding reproduction, how can we begin to elevate beyond the patterns and dysfunctions of our current time?

The words of Mark Twain come to mind:

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."

Clarity

New Year's day enveloped me in a euphoria that was energizing and slow to dissipate.  (I'm going to consider it my new normal and roll with it!)

I had realized a couple of days before that I needed to unclog my mind and my body and so was excited and ready to dump my social media (perhaps for a while, perhaps for forever) and eat clean.

For the first time a concerted season of eating clean was not a knee jerk response to a bodily condition I was aiming to remedy or a physical vanity project I was desiring to engage, but an all out desire to gain clarity in my heart and mind.  Which, interestingly, has made my cleanse and clean eating very emotionally simple!

I'd gotten so used to the fog of little treats here and there, and social media dopamine hits - this pestilent cocktail that seems so innocuous in the moment, but slays you in the end - that I'd forgotten what clarity and focus are.

And now I'm feeling it.  Like a rush: there's so much discovery going on my mind can hardly keep up with itself! I'm energized and awake and alive... and life is showing up in colour, because the deeper things are revealing themselves at a rapid pace.

Clarity, as a goal, is a new concept for me and I am eager to continue to see where this takes me!

Death by a 1,000 Cuts

You are not here to slowly fade into some fog of dense flesh inevitably expanding into compounding disease, as though to live were to bide the time.

Is this a way to live: to sooth the pain of fear and isolation by numbing feelings and ignoring the persistent daily invitations to shake out of this grey haze?  If we lose sight of the magnificence of our being, life quickly becomes a sort of mental cacophony of persistent interruptions, petty chaoses, charged emotional exchanges, religious busyness, and entertaining diversions.

Not you!  You were made to press in, to find God's expression inside of you and unleash that passion out into the world every day, for as long as you breath.

Do your daily routines - those tired old grooves from bygone eras mixed with the incessant 'pings' of this current era - give you life?

Are you searching for the more by traveling, and owning, and reading, and reaching endlessly? Do you writhe in your restlessness like a little boat on the sea?   Are you at war with yourself?  Are you always making a strategy to get out of your current predicament, or to avoid future problems?

Do you feel alive when you are wrestling, when you are fighting the 'bad', when you are trouble-shooting?  You will feel more alive when you move past energizing your 'pain body' with it's 'common sense' and focus on everything that is wrong, and begin to feel the freshness of life lived from joy, expectation and risk.

The peace won't be found until you still yourself, for a very good long time.  Learn to distinguish signal from noise.  Get out of step with the blare of our time and just feel the feeling of being alive.  Remember the dreams you had when you were young?  Stop planning all the ways to win the 'game of life' and instead open yourself up to the risks that your heart is calling you to take; start playing with actually being alive!

Risk it.  Take the plunge.  Live your story with effervescent boldness!  Laugh at the days to come.  Get big and joyful and expectant about the life that is ahead of you.

It's the faith of leaping that will save you.

The rest of this consumptive, hustle, pain-numbing life is like a thousand little cuts that slowly bleed you out.

Yet, so often we hardly notice because the internet still works, and that's pretty fun too.