Choosing Confidence

In five weeks, I will reenter a world I didn’t think I belonged. I was part of this world once, and I never felt like I fit in. I felt like a failed citizen amongst a world of accomplishments. This world was, for me, a bit stormy, wrought with feelings of inadequacy.

This is the world of homeschool.

“No one can teach your children better than you.” It’s a common phrase used amongst homeschoolers and, quite frankly, I think it’s a total lie. Because there are a lot of people who can teach my children better than I can – namely, actual teachers who are trained to teach.

I bought into that lie the first time I attempted to homeschool, and I skidded to a painful stop at the end of the year, certain that I was a failure as both a teacher and a mother because the year had been so difficult. So, why on earth am I doing this again?

While I disagree wholeheartedly that no one else is equipped to teach my children better than I, what I do believe is that no one else on this earth knows and understands my children’s needs better than I do. This is something I can latch onto with full confidence. And it is for this reason that we’ve chosen to bring two of the children home again this year.

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I’ve also had time to reflect on the year that we homeschooled, and to see some of the fallacies in my plan. I didn’t really set myself up for success. We were new in town, and we had little to no community. This meant I was going it alone in foreign territory.

Never a good idea.

In addition, the move caused some strain in our marriage as we worked through shattered expectations, disappointments, and anxiety over our decision to settle our family in a new state. Those strains did not help in the schooling process.

Finally, I simply didn’t know what I was doing. I was so terrified of screwing the children up irreparably (which is laughable now that I look back on it, given the fact that they were only in preschool, kindergarten, and 2nd grade at the time), that I woke up daily with my stomach in knots over the whole process.

I never planned lessons in advance, but lived the entire year by the seat of my pants. And when it was all said and done I was certain I had destroyed them.

I’m a little wiser this time around. I have a better grasp on the process of schooling my children, on the expectations that I need to have of them, and yes – I absolutely know them better now than I did four years ago.

I know their struggles and their strengths. I know what makes them tick, and what doesn’t motivate them at all. I know where to put my energy, and where to let things slide.

Here’s the other thing – I know this is right.

My daughter is skilled in a sport that requires a lot of her time. It is in my power to give her every opportunity to succeed in her gifting while still excelling academically. My own insecurities can be put aside for her sake, because I believe in her ability to excel, and I believe in my ability to teach her.

It’s also important to me that we see her on a daily basis, and going to school while training competitively as a gymnast takes away too much from our family. So sacrifices are made, starting with me. I’m okay with that. It took me awhile to get there, but I really am okay with it now.

My son is extremely smart, and I believe it’s in my power to challenge him beyond what a traditional classroom can so that he reaches his full potential. I believe in my ability to do so.

I’ve set measures in place this time around to make sure I don’t burn out or get lost in insecurity. Lee will be helping with math, and for good reason. I opened Tia’s math book last week and almost threw up because I didn’t understand the first page.

So she will attend a co-op where a skilled math teacher will teach the concepts, and her dad will help with the weekly work. Because there are people more skilled at teaching her in these areas than I am!

I’m setting plans in advance for what we will accomplish when, and how long we’ll work each day. And I’m choosing to believe that I belong in this homeschooling world, even if it’s still a daunting place for me to tread. I’m entering back in confidently, because I believe that right now, this is where we’re supposed to be as a family.

I’m grateful that I can give my children, and myself, the option to be the very best they were meant to be, whether that be academically, athletically, or simply as a growing young person.

And as the teacher moving forward, I am choosing confidence.

Summertime Inspiration

I learned early on in my motherhood journey that I am not good at working with my children around. I am easily distracted, have a difficult time stepping away long enough to concentrate, and feel the general, nagging feeling of guilt contract my heart when I have to shoo them away so I can work while they play quietly in other parts of the house.

So summer is a hard time for me to be effective in my profession of creativity.

There is still inspiration to be found, though. Especially now as my children are older and I get to soak in their ability to create something from nothing. I watch them play, write stories, paint with water colors, and read good books, and I remember what it’s like to be a kid and relish the gloriously long, unscheduled days of summer.

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There is a certain measure of discipline that I’m required to place on my own summer days. Given the fact that I’ve told my kids they aren’t allowed to use electronics between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00 am, I kind of feel like I need to adhere to that same principle myself. So my writing will take place in the early hours of the morning, or after 10:00.

This morning, I sipped my coffee slowly and watched them learn. We drilled multiplication tables, discussed verbs and nouns, and read books. The kids swam while I cleaned up the house, and I relished in the blissful quiet of a lazy morning.

By the time 10:00 rolled around, we all felt refreshed and ready to tackle the day, and I felt inspired.

I’m inspired by my kids imaginations. I’m inspired by the down time. I’m inspired by the forced slow down, the reading and learning, the just being together.

Will it always be this idyllic? No. They will grow bored with the morning routine at some point, and we will have to sludge through the boredom. Some mornings we will be up and out early to enjoy Florida life (hello water parks and beaches and all the things that make Florida awesome!).

We will be traveling for a few weeks, and time will go by too quickly. Before we know it, summer will end and routine will crank life up a notch again. So while we have this time, I want to relish it – even the whiney moments of boredom.

There is inspiration to find in everything, in every moment of the day. I will get less done this summer, and I’m working to adjust my expectations accordingly, but I have this feeling that if I am willing go with the flow, to embrace the slow, and to soak in the quiet, then I could find that this becomes a summer loaded with inspiration.

What about you? How do you find time to create, and to soak in inspiration in the long summer days when the kids are around all day? How do you fill your time…and theirs? 

Summertime Agenda of Awesome

We still have a week of school left, but already I’m gearing the kids up for summer expectations. More and more, Lee and I have felt pressed to teach our kids how to fill their time wisely. This is a difficult task as it requires us to fill our time wisely. That whole “leading by example” mentality that’s supposed to be so effective in parenting, you know?

As we head into the summer months, my goal is to have plenty of fun activities planned, with a fair amount of downtime built in. So, without further ado, I give you…

The Stuart Family Summertime Agenda of Awesome

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I doubt this will drastically curb the desperate pleas for help entertaining themselves, but hopefully it will give them a reference to look to instead of tugging on me day in and day out with all their woes of boredom.

This sign hangs proudly on the laundry room door, right outside the kitchen. It is our agenda of all the awesomeness that’s about to go down this summer.

See how exciting I’m making it sound?! Think they’ll buy it?

So sprinkled in between visits to Adventure Island and the beach, my hope is that all of us will enjoy a little more downtime this summer. Time spent reading, relishing the silence, electronic free mornings and maybe…juuuuuuust maaaayyybeeeee, my children who love to hop out of bed before the sun even peeks over the horizon will sleep in just a teeny, tiny bit.

All I’m asking for is 7:00 WHICH SEEMS ENTIRELY REASONABLE TO ME! 

I’m not holding my breath…feel free to send coffee and Peppermint Mocha Creamer my way.

So tell me – how do you keep your kids active, engaged, and free from the summertime boredom blues? Do share!

Happy Weekending!

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

One of the great joys of my job as a writer is the opportunity I have to connect with other writers and creative thinkers. Social media has made this ability to connect nearly seamless, and I find myself grateful and in awe of the people I can interact with on a day to day basis online. Some of those people I’ve even had the privilege to meet in person, and I can now call them friend.

And I have talented friends.

This week I’ve been reading Tsh Oxenreider’s book, Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. The book is great, and has given me plenty of pause to stop and think about how to live this life with intention and purpose in a world that sometimes feels like it’s propelling you forward full speed ahead.

In her chapters on education, Tsh points readers to a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. This particular TED talk has been seen over 26,000,000 times, and after watching the 18 minute video, I can understand why. He’s funny, engaging, amiable, and he makes a heck of a lot of sense.

The title of the talk is How Schools Kill Creativity.

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It sounds like it would be a terrible public school rant, doesn’t it? Indeed, it’s not. Sir Ken is not out to bash the public school system, so much as to discuss the need for a massive paradigm shift.

I was so enthralled by Robinson’s assertions in this video, that I went on to watch all of his talks posted at TED.com, and each one of them bore the same central message:

Education must feed the spirit, and the energy, and the passion of each individual child so that learning can truly take place.

For some students, school really can be a magical place. The structure, the books, the sense of accomplishment and the broadening horizons of new things known feeds their souls.

And for some, school crushes the spirit.

It’s very difficult to be a parent trying to decide how to best educate her children in this day and age. On the one hand, there are so many options. We aren’t relegated to a one size fits all approach if we don’t want to be. We can choose differently for our kids.

On the other hand, there is so much information being thrown at us about what is best, how children learn, how to cultivate a love for learning, and so much of it is contradictory that we start to feel the smoke billow from our ears as information overload quickly shuts us down.

So what do we do?

I don’t have an answer for you here other than to say, I don’t think anyone can truly claim that they have found the be all, end all solution to education. There is no one right way to educate all children, because they are all different. So how do we choose? How do we guide them down this path of learning that actually gives flight to their natural bent, and speaks to their individual spirit?

I will say that it is very, very hard to do this in a public school setting. That’s not an indictment against the public school. All three of my children are currently publicly educated, and for us, for now, this is what works. But I see the gaps, and I cringe at the holes. I see the cookie cutter mentality, and the severe focus on standardized tests that have crippled our teachers, and stifled education. My job as the parent of public school children is to fill in those gaps when and how I can.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter, and ask that we could do so with respect for one another’s different choices in education. Do you think that schools kill creativity? Do you see gaps in your children’s education and growth as individuals? How do you work to fill in those gaps? What are your challenges as you face the choice of where and how your children should be educated?

I would love to hear your experiences.

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