The Story of How I Wish I Was Like Other Moms (plus a peek at what we will use next year).

I wish I could start this story by saying that I easily figure out what tools to use.

In the last post I wrote about finally, fully choosing the classical model. I don’t want to downplay this decision because it has been almost 2 years in the making. I’ve debated every angle of the decision through writing the educational theories series and by reading every website on the topic.

Going to Cincinnati felt like a finale for the debate. My husband and I set the goal of purchasing all our resources for the next year while at the exhibit hall. (And this is how we save a bunch of money: see this post for more info) So, I had 4 main companies in view: Tapestry of Grace, Veritas Press, Classical Conversations, and Memoria Press.

For 2 months prior to the convention: I read their websites, watched their videos, and searched for forums of other parents discussing the pros and cons for each.

During those two months, I felt like an investigator of every other homeschool moms’ choices and philosophies. For some reason, I was beginning to think that everyone else made their decisions effortlessly. I heard from moms who create their own units, those who easily create lesson plans based on their children’s interests, and moms who just don’t stress or worry about what resources to use (which only made me feel more inadequate for all my anxiety).

Through my research, I learned that Sarah McKenzie (one of my favorite online homeschool mamas) was in the classical camp in one of her Q&A podcasts, and that only intrigued me more to discover the beauty, goodness, and truth of this model for myself. I also learned that she’s associated with Classical Academic Press (CAP) – not only because they published Teaching From Rest, but also as a consultant.

So, I was slightly familiar with CAP, but never did I think to look into Classical Academic Press as an option for curricula. The 30 second first impression I got from their site didn’t shout at me “We sell whole grade curricula!” And as intimidated as I was to jump into a classical model, I wanted a company to take me by the hand and guide me step-by-step, day-by-day in the function of teaching classically.

Again, this is where I tend to wish I could be like other homeschool moms: I need resources and tools that essentially hold my hand through understanding the development and principles of an educational life. Maybe I think everyone else is more confident with their choices and I wish I could be that way too.

I wish I could choose easily.

I wish I could use what I choose without regret.

I wish I could stop comparing what I have chosen to what someone else chose (and then also not have regrets).

But oh, how God has faithfully used the GHC, my husband, and trusted sources to gently guide me to what I feel will be best for me and my family. Through these blessings, God has revealed to me that the struggle to choose and the struggle with comparison is a lack of faith and trust in what He has called me to do.

Isn’t this what each homeschool family needs?

Faith and trust that God will guide. He will use the little things to lead and refine. He will use my own inclinations to reveal a greater need for Him.

He did this at the convention, but that’s the next part of the story. Stay tuned…

If you're still wondering "What is Classical Education?" Check out this post from CAP.

February 2016

“Teach me to number my days.” This discipline of recording what I’ve learned at the end of each month has been such a great blessing for recording to remember. Without the mark on time, I’m prone to become discouraged. The difference I feel this year compared to last year in February is quite the contrast. (Last year, I had hit the bottom, and the well ran dry. I learned a hard lesson.)

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1. I don’t want to quit. I love being a homeschooler.

It’s a common feeling among homeschool moms to want to throw in the towel by February (and sometimes in November too). This year has been dramatically different for me, and there have been a lot of contributing factors to our consistency and positive attitudes. One major factor has been the kids’ Bullet Journals. I talk about this so much already, so I won’t bore you. But if you don’t know what I’m referring to then read more about them here.

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2. Chicago taught me to relax and look for the fun in anything.

My husband and I went to Chicago the first weekend in February for Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week. He is an alumni, and we hadn’t been there for a visit in almost a decade. (Yes, we feel old. If you were wondering.) My husband still knows the landscape well and can navigate at street level on the fly, which meant that he was the tour guide/planner/main decision maker and I was the tourist. We would discuss our options of sight seeing and dining choices and then head out. Sometimes I didn’t know where we were going or how long it would take us to walk there – but I resisted the urge to ask. I knew that if I even attempted to “know” or (worse) “control” any of the journey then I would ruin most of the fun. So, instead every once in a while, during our many, many walks I would whisper to myself “I’m having fun.” Maybe this is similar to the concept of looking for joy in every day situations or being grateful in everything, I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m learning to grow in staying present. I don’t want to miss the process because I’m caught up in controlling the outcome. And it was a bonus that we ate a lot of great food.

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3. Glasses on a toddler means a lot more attention from strangers.

My poor kids are accustomed to strangers everywhere coming up to them and touching their “adorable curly hair.” But with glasses on the little one, it’s been like an epidemic. I’ve taught the kids from the beginning that having the opportunity to make someone smile just because they like your hair or your smile means that God has given you a gift. He wants us to spread His beauty and goodness to others, which means that when someone tells you how cute they think you are, that’s your opportunity to share God’s love with them by being kind. My toddler gets a lot of practice at this.

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4. We are having a girl!

We enjoyed seeing our little one on the ultrasound screen. I have to admit that I wanted to know that the four-chambers of the heart and both sides of the brain were developing well more than I wanted to know the gender. When we did find out that our little one was a girl, I was overwhelmed. I was ready for another boy. I kind of expected that the baby would be a boy, but I also hoped that we would have another girl because I really think this baby will be our youngest. (I thought my current toddler would be my youngest, but that’s another story.) Now if only I could settle on a name… Our usual is to name the baby after the ultrasound. We usually love naming our babies, but this time it’s felt impossible. I have a feeling I’ll need to hold her first before her name comes to me.

5. Joining the gym has been such a great decision for all of us.

So…I gain a lot of weight while pregnant. I don’t eat for two, I know how to balance my diet, and I am very conscious of eating the best foods for the development of the little one inside me. That said, I still put on a lot of weight during the first trimester (when you’re only supposed to gain 1-3 pounds). What I knew I needed was regular exercise: endurance training and muscle toning. Now, I know there are many things I can do to exercise at home. But I just don’t because of the many other conflicting roles and responsibilities in my life. Without the option of going outside, the inside of my home is just too distracting to my desire to workout. The gym we chose is right around the corner, my husband gets a nice discount through his employer, and they provide a kids gym so that all of us can go together. Win win, going to the gym has been really rewarding. Not to mention how getting out of the house in the winter improves my mood dramatically.

Photo credit

Photo credit

6. I have a passion for seeing homeschool moms connect.

I’ve been researching curricula (still) and the best way I’ve found to get a handle on how the curriculum functions is to read forums. On these, moms share what they do, how it works for them, or they ask questions about how to solve certain issues they are facing. Most people are respectful, helpful, and kind – sharing in ways that leave room for personal freedom and expression while being specific about what they have faced or how they solved certain issues. There’s no pressure to take the advice found there, and there’s no shame for asking questions. I want to cultivate a safe place like this in person and online. I hope to inspire homeschool moms everywhere to celebrate their homeschool, and to support and encourage the homeschools around them. I wrote about comparison in February, sharing my past burden from comparing and my current freedom. I know I’m still learning how to apply this, but it’s so close to my heart that I hope to see others blessed.

7. Accountability is a popular topic.

I wrote about accountability this month and it generated a few great conversations. While I was in Chicago, I was reading a book that is encouraging me to pursue my passions. I had a light bulb moment right in the middle of Moody Church while waiting for the evening session to begin. I feverishly began writing in my Bullet Journal the thoughts and plans I came up with. Then I wrote the post on accountability to get a pulse on the issue, and to my delight the post proved that this topic is one that people want more of. I am so excited to be developing my plan. The goal is to see moms go from floundering in their personal goals to flourishing. I am developing a program that will take you from dependent on an accountability partner to independent and personally disciplined, reaching your goals with consistency.

The program will not be a generic video based course but a one-on-one partnership. I’m getting close to the launch and I’ll be inviting the first 3 partners to try it for free! If you think this is something you’d be interested in then sign up for the email list now! There will be more details to come.

Today’s post (see it by clicking here) is a day in our homeschool life. See how I manage our daily routine hour by hour.

Thanks for reading this months "What I'm Learning" post. I have linked up with Emily Freeman on this one, and you can read more about what she learned here. Don't forget to sign up to learn more about personal accountability! You won't want to miss what's coming soon. Click here to sign up now!

The Freedom to Compare: Part 2

Shauna Niequist Quote Comparison

 

 

In 2012, I deactivated my Facebook account. I went off the social media grid for almost a year. It wasn’t because of wrong use or conviction that it’s all evil; my reason was to heal from information overload.

I simply couldn’t keep up with all the friends, new babies, prayer requests for family members, event invitations, etc. etc. I didn’t know how to order my life off-line and my online life was moving too fast. I couldn’t keep up.

When I (very cautiously) came back online, I had a clear sense of the purpose for why I was engaging with the online community. I wanted to be inspired and to share encouragement. My soul tank had been filled while off-line and I finally felt ready to share my life again with others.

I’ll never forget the first time I read a blog post after such a long break, and the old feelings of wow, they sure have it all together, or I wish I could be like them were gone! In its place was a sense of connection and celebration. I was inspired without feeling like I had just lost a competition.

Because that’s how I used to feel after every single time I would compare myself to someone else. I don’t have a strong competitive drive, but that doesn’t mean that I like feeling like a loser.

When I came back online and started feeling more and more inspired by the good things other people were sharing, I realized that the problem with comparison was a really a miss directed problem with affirmation.

I wanted to be affirmed by comparing myself to someone else, and even though affirmation isn’t a bad thing either, entering into competition with the hopes of being the “winner” isn’t the right type of affirmation.

So here’s the deal: I don’t believe you can live life without comparison. I think it’s the motive and action that surround comparison that will make your heart healthy or unhealthy while comparing.

Crystal Paine Quote Comparison

I think it is possible to selectively compare with freedom. But it takes time away from comparisons to understand yourself and to learn to celebrate and connect with others.

Here are the mental hoops I jump through when comparing myself to other homeschool moms:

Listen first. There are a lot of things that homeschool moms share with each other. Curriculum choices, learning styles, routines, schedules, extra curricular activities, etc. It is too easy to line myself up with their list before I’ve fully heard them out. If I begin to compare myself to them without listening to understand them then I have not only disrespected them by turning them into a competitor and not a friend, but I also have missed an opportunity to encourage them. Everyone needs to be listened to by someone who will support and encourage them.

Prize their uniqueness. After hearing them out, there will be things that I think I could never do – but they can do well! This is cause for celebration. It is their unique life that allows them this freedom to do different things than I can do. While there are many things I may be able to learn from them and try to do myself, I will never be able to live life just like they can. Prize them for that.

Ponder their creativity. I’m not very creative. So, I enjoy hearing about how others think outside the box. I’ve tried (and failed) in the past to copy and paste their creative things, and what a disappointment that has been. I now realize that comparing myself to the creative thing they do takes a lot of thought and adaptation. Sometimes it works to try someone else’s creative idea. If it works, celebrate them. Give them credit. It doesn’t make me less affirmed to make much of someone else.

Ask questions to further understand areas that may be replicated in my home. Like I said, no one can truly copy and paste. I have to know my own routine and nature well enough to adapt ideas to best fit my home. I had to learn to humble myself to ask the “dumb questions” in order to better determine if I could make their idea work for me.

Always remember that no one has the perfect life. When another mom, curriculum, child, or schedule sounds wonderful and I’m tempted to wish I could trade places, I have to remember that they have struggles and trials that I’ve never had to face before. I am not equipped to take on another person’s life. To want only the good and ignore the difficult only brings hurt and discouragement.

The freedom to compare is recognizing that I have a lot to learn from other people through connection with them, not competition.

Want to learn more? I’ll be sharing the final installment to this series on Monday when I share my “Day in the Homeschool Life” post (this post will be linked with SimpleHomeschool.net). Click here to read part 1: The Burden of Comparison.

Don't miss another post. Sign up for TheHomeLearner via email and get in on the accountability program coming soon!

 

The Burden of Comparison: Part 1

Even if you’ve never wanted to homeschool, you’ve probably heard or asked these questions:

What do you teach?

When do you do it all?

How does that work?

Homeschooling can seem like this nebulous thing that only a few seemly, well-put-together families have figured out while the rest of us have to bust our rears on a daily basis just to make sure each child has clean underwear.

This is why I’m writing this mini-series on comparison. Good can come from comparison if it means that you learn more about yourself and if that knowledge helps you move forward. Comparison isn’t about discovering what is illusive about someone else, but it’s useful for learning what you don’t know about yourself.

Thomas a Kempis quote for comparison

At the beginning of my homeschool-motherhood, I was constantly hungry with questions for any other homeschool mom. I wanted to know what they had tried, what they had researched, and how they structured their day.

I didn’t do a lot of comparing because I had only just begun, and I hadn’t done enough to weigh myself to their standard. So while comparison can hide discontent in its wake, I was met with a different setback.

I took it all on.

If one program worked for this family, and another for that, then I should try both! My hunger for understanding the inner workings of homeschooling in each family, quickly became a hunger to do-it-all.

Thankfully, I have since dealt with this in my own life, and as a positive side effect, this hunger led me to write the Educational Theories Defined series because I wanted to know more about the camps that the curricula I was hearing so much about were coming from. Knowing the theory behind the resource helped me to quickly judge if it was worth my consideration or not.

As you can imagine, taking it all on led me to great failures. Here are some but not all:

Financial stress. I bought way more than we needed or could even use.

Physical stress. I have now moved whole boxes of unused curricula 7 times. (Let’s chat about my need for Marie Kondo some other time.)

Personal stress. Buying something and not using it is poor stewardship. Taking on more than I am able to bear is burdensome. These may seem like no-brainers, but I didn’t just fall into these poor choices – I ran head long into them – and it hurt.

Relational stress. I subconsciously held my kids and husband to blame. (Sin nature is so gross sometimes.) I wanted to do this “good thing” for them by leading my family on the educational path, but as I cluttered the path with so many resources and choices, we all stumbled and felt confused.

All this stress took its toll on me, and I slumped into homeschool-mom-failure-mode. I thought (wrongly) that I would never measure up, that I wasn’t disciplined enough for this lifestyle, and that I was ruining my children. Stress has a way of preying on weakness (and having a weakness isn’t a bad thing).

Through this process of coming to terms with my weaknesses and trying my best to forge on, I learned from other more wise homeschool moms that I needed to separate my times of planning into seasons, and that the bulk of my efforts on a daily basis should be put into just doing the next thing.

What I lacked most was experience, and I couldn’t get that experience by avoiding the daily work. In effect, I was hiding from the doing by staying in planning mode. My fear of failure tricked me into thinking that I was engaged in a good thing, when really I was avoiding the best thing.

Want to know what I learned next about homeschool mom comparison? You’ll have to come back later this week. For part two: The Freedom to Compare.

Did you see the discussion going on about accountability on my personal Facebook page? Click over and read it all, then let me know what you think.

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The question that masks a deeper more confronting question.

The question that masks a deeper more confronting question. 1

I’ve already told you that I’m prone to panic. I had to learn through so much failure and struggle that the first few years of home education proved to be more for educating me on self-control and discipline than about what curricula is best suited for my children and their learning styles.

Even after 4 years of studying home education, I still ask other home educating friends on a regular basis, “how do you do this?

The truth is that while things do become more routine the longer you do them, there isn’t a magical answer to “how” they should be done.

I have spent so much time trying to answer this question before actually putting any action into home schooling. Reading books, blogs, studying development and researching the best tools for the right ages. Figuring out the “how” is difficult and no doubt daunting when I admit that the whole of the child in my care is resting on how well I do this.

While searching for answers to how, a fear rises and begins to tell me that I will never have enough information, tools, or understanding to do a good enough job for my child. And in response to this fear I put in even more effort, endlessly asking myself, how do I do this? The fear that maybe I can’t do this as well as I should begins to turn the question of how into an illusive thing. As I learn more about the best how, I lose sight of how to begin, how to be faithful in today, how to be content. I believe the lie that if I can’t match someone else’s “how” then mine isn’t good enough and I shouldn’t even try.

That was until this thinking was confronted.

You see, it doesn’t matter the subject of the “this” in the question how do I do this? If I’m not careful, this question masks a deeper more confronting question. One that has changed the very nature of how I view everything that is difficult in my life.

On May 10, 2015, I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on spreading the gospel. The series was titled Ignite, and the message was titled Spreading the Fire. As a church, we were studying what it means to be disciple-making-disciples.

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The subject of evangelism has always been a difficult one for me because I don’t come to the command with a personality that can quickly embrace the implications of spreading the name and fame of Jesus easily. For me, talking about the gospel and bringing the name of Jesus into every conversation is a challenge because I’d rather not have to talk to anyone at all. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not commanded to do so just as much as one who enjoys conversation and can readily share the gospel with others.

So when I was listening to this important message on the imperative command, I was suddenly confronted to my core when my pastor said:

Asking “how do I do this?” is really asking if there is an easier way to do it.

I knew that this was true for me in wanting to learn more about how to share the gospel. How do I start a conversation? How do I know what to say? How do I follow up with people outside my normal context? All of these additional questions are legitimate but they serve to distance me from obedience because I begin to believe that if I don’t have the answer to the “how” questions then I don’t have to start obeying. If I don’t know how, then I’m not accountable to the what.

Thinking this way is wrong. The conviction that I’ve been distancing myself from obedience has had a ripple effect in every category of my life.

In my heart, I knew that wanting things to be easy was my secret desire. For all my learning about faith, marriage, home education, and building friendships I came to the conclusion that anything worth doing requires sacrifice. And in order to begin and commit to following through I consistently came to the place where I stopped moving forward when things became costly all because I fooled myself by wanting to know “how.”

In my foolishness, I thought my wanting to know how was wise when really it was a cover up for wanting obedience to be easy.

So here are some practical suggestions if you find yourself burdened under the question of how:

  • Accept that hard work is hard. If someone else makes home education or life in general just look easy – it’s a fact that they work hard, and have worked hard for so long that doing so has become natural. Nothing in life was meant to be free from work. Own your work and commit to getting started today by just doing what you already know to do.
  • Stop comparing your how to someone else’s how. There is fear in learning something new like how to home educate. I fell into the trap quickly of wanting my day with my little people to look like the ideal – I wanted all the boxes checked, all the books read, and all the clutter cleared. I didn’t want to have to give space for learning curves and growing pains. But when I began to value my life simply because it is mine, that’s when I could actually own my how and let go of someone else’s.
  • Start in layers. Just do one thing and commit to doing it well. Discipline is grown best over time and with patience. I was tangled up in the “how can I do it all” mess when I first started home education. I wanted to give my children the best of me 24 hours a day which led me to a point of utter exhaustion. Exhaustion led me to resentment, and resentment led me to the point of missing my own life. I had to start all over and just choose 1-thing to commit to be disciplined in, to be patient to watch that one thing grow, and to be content with the time I was spending to guard and be faithful to this process.
  • Ask yourself what is easy for you. Be honest about the things you are good at and don’t miss out on the joy to life these easy things bring. These easy things are different for each person, so enjoy seeing where they can balance out the things that are difficult.
  • Talk it out. Whether in your own self-talk or with a friend, spell out the areas of home life and home education that are too hard to even begin. Discuss with your spouse whether certain ideals are even worth pursuing in the season of life you are in right now. Write out the balance of responsibilities and weigh out the easy and difficult things. It is okay to take non-essentials off the list for a season.
  • Be resolved to not measure yourself by an impossible standard. Own the gifts you’ve been given and commit to do your best. End the struggle between being a good mom and a bad mom because the best answer to “how” cannot guarantee you won’t make any more mistakes.

As I wrestle with the hard things in my life, now I am confronted whenever I start asking myself the wrong question: how can I do this? I now know that I am really asking: isn’t there an easier way to do this? And if the answer is no, there isn’t an easy way, I’m learning to own the work and just get started. I don’t want to waste my life waiting for an easier way. The how do I do this question is answered easily: start.

#Back2School in #31Days: Day 10 – Planning: Big Picture

Home schooling is like designing your own puzzle. With each member of the family, commitment on the calendar, activity to be involved in, and all the daily routines of chores, meals, and play comes a piece to the puzzle.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

When I started to research home schooling, I relied on the good-ol’-standby-mirroring trick of looking at the “good pieces” of someone else’s puzzle and copying their pieces to add to my puzzle.

It took me years to realize that all I had was a mountain of pieces and no possible way to make one puzzle out of them.

My philosophies were mixed and conflicting, our commitments were more in quantity than quality, and I didn’t know what our goals were.

When I would read and watch other home schooling families, my attention was on the details – how do you teach reading, or when do you read-aloud? I never stepped back to see or ask what their big picture was.

All I had was pieces, no unifying picture to match them to. And more than that, I didn’t know what our big picture would be.

This is about the time (3 years ago) that I went to my first Great Homeschool Convention. Everything changed that year – in more way than one. I was pregnant with our third child at the time, and soon after the convention I went on bed rest. The amount of time I was given to think, pray, and ponder our big picture significantly increased because of this sacred time of rest.

Now, if you’re resonating with my puzzle piece but no picture dilemma, then hear me when I say that there is no fast and easy way to solve it.

For me, I had to move all the pieces I was collecting to the side and start by defining what the major pieces of the puzzle were. Kind of like finding the 4 corners to start the outline.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

For now, our 4-corners are: relationships, reading, real discussions, and rest. These are the categories that everything we do will be filtered through. So as I plan for what we will learn, where we will go, what commitments we have – everything comes back to these.

Why/How:

Relationships: my children are still young and building trust and bonds as a family unit are vital. A solid foundation isn’t established by accident. It’s important for my kids to know how much I value them. So even though it bothered me to put our kindergarten language arts curriculum aside, it was more important for me to build a bridge of grace to my daughter’s heart that was strong enough for the truth that “learning is sometime work and that’s okay” to reach her. Guarding our relationships from internal and external threats is a high priority of mine.

Reading: we have found it to be true that when we engage with good books we grow. Our minds are stretched, our curiosities are fed, and as Rea Berg said:

Good books will develop our moral imagination which leads to empathy and compassion. These build up the person from within and become the measure of success of an education.

She also said:

There are 2 things in life that will change you – the books you read and the people you meet.

Real Discussions: an easy thing to miss in life is the opportunities to have meaningful discussions. Often times with little children, they choose the most inconvenient times (from my perspective) to ask the important questions weighing on their little minds. Dr. Kathy Koch said that on average a 6-year old asks fewer questions than a 3-year old because they have learned that their questions don’t matter – that their desire to know more isn’t a priority. This is a tragedy. Curiosity is one of the qualities of a genius. So the reason this is 1 of the 4 corners for us is taking the time to fuel my children’s curiosities and build trust with them through listening to them. I want to honor their desire to learn even if what they are interested in has nothing to do with what was on my “schedule” for the day.

Also, real discussions includes talking about my life and choices, sharing and exposing in sensitive ways the hurts, failures, and sins have changed and molded who I am today.

Rest: we all need sleep right? Well, sometimes I forget to plan for real rest. This has been a personal area of growth for me, and I’m seeing how it applies to raising my children well. We all need a healthy balance of work and rest. Rest is commanded by God and fulfilled in Jesus Christ – so for our family I want to model and train my children to honor rest. To honor God by living well within the boundaries the He has defined. Rest plays a big part in our daily rhythm in balancing indoor and outdoor play, quiet time and silly-fun-music time. It’s important to teach what it means to be fully awake and aware of our surroundings too.

So there they are: our 4-corners for now. I’ve had to learn a lot of this through failure, and I still have gone back to mirroring other families a few times. But slow progress and baby steps are still better than nothing.

And making choices based on right thinking has a deeper and longer lasting effect than basing my decisions on how I feel – either on my own or by comparison.

I wrote this a little while back in the learning process:

Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but also the jailer locking you in inactivity. Just because my friend is able to set what I think is “higher” goals for her family, doesn’t mean that my goals are “lower” and inferior. The more I set goals that are attainable, the more success will inspire me to set higher and higher goals. At the end of the day, it’s not about how impressed you are with me – it’s how satisfied I am with myself.

This week it’s time to start planning, and my hope is that by sharing my big picture it will inspire you to examine both your big picture and the puzzle pieces that will get you there.

This is Day 10 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

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Further reading:

2016-HOMESCHOOL-CONVENTION-DATES

 

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