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.
- 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!
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!