Why I Wish I Had Been Homeschooled: The #1 Reason 

I have some pretty great parents. My dad is wise and is the hardest worker. My mom is intuitive and is the best party planner.

Together they have loved me well, my whole life.

One of my joys of being an adult is getting to know them more personally.

One of the many great things they did for me was sacrifice for my education. They sent me to a private, Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade. I went and performed well in my studies, but the older I grew the more difficult it became for me to function in the setting. I had no experience with any other way.

It was in 3rd grade that I started receiving labels. Stubborn was one of them.

Here’s why: I used to put my left hand through my hair and twirl a section while writing. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. When the class was being lectured or quizzed, I wouldn’t do it – it was only when I was quietly working on my own.

My 3rd grade teacher would pace the room, and every day she would firmly grab my hand and pull it out of my hair. Sternly correcting me that I should not have my hand in my hair.

Was her correction successful? I’m into my thirties now, and I still twirl my hair when I’m thinking. I was just doing it while deciding which words to write.

Doesn’t that seem silly that a teacher would get so frustrated with a child for twirling their hair when it wasn’t distracting anyone? Well, it would be silly if it hadn’t scarred and shamed me.

That teacher wasn’t quiet about her opinion of me, and from 3rd grade on it was hard for me to earn the positive attention of adults in my life.

During an intense debate over my education before I was even a teenager, I remember begging to be homeschooled – even though I knew that would officially give me the “weird” title. I no longer cared about what anyone else thought of me. I just didn’t want to be anywhere near the school I was currently attending.

I longed for a break from the labels that seemed to be growing on every side. Every child needs the positive attention of adults. The more I was labeled and disciplined at school, the more I craved the relationship and attention of my parents.

Believe me, they gave me lots of attention – and I stirred up trouble to ensure I got their attention one way or another – and when I think back on all that now I see that I was a floundering fool.

But isn’t that what we know to be true about kids?

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…

Adults in my life meant well (most of them, most of the time), but they didn’t have the commitment level of a parent. They could only manage the exterior behaviors that I put forth, and they attempted to manage my behavior by ignoring me or threatening me.

Because of all the painful punishments and misunderstood arguments, I withdrew from trusting adults and started acting out. Any road that could have led to my heart was blocked with labels I used to keep people from getting close.

I was longing to come out from underneath all the labels and be recognized as a living, feeling, growing, and caring person. At home, I could sense that my parents still believed in me.

At school, I was a lost cause.

At my high school graduation, our commencement speaker attached a biblical character to each of us in order to personalize our challenge.

I was Jonah.

Rebel. Forced to obey. Angrily questioned God.

What a label. I felt publicly shamed. Even writing that out, the memory still brings me pain.

So I did run away from God. Self-fulfilling prophecy? I ran away from Him because it was people who in His name were labelling me as a failure.

Our decision then to homeschool our children is heavily influenced by my experience. But it is goes so much deeper than a mere reaction to the system that scarred me. I am not trying to relive my childhood or vicariously live out my desires through my children.

A large part of homeschooling for me is building my children’s identity. Truly treasuring them as individuals.

It is my responsibility to provide them with an environment that protects and nurtures them. My joy is to observe their natural talents and provide them with the time and tools necessary to develop them. All of this builds a sense of identity for them.

And that’s the #1 reason why I wish I had been homeschooled: to have learned my real identity, safely.

In the audiobook I’m working through while painting our new house (I wrote about this in this status), Lysa TerKeurst says to her kids each day: Remember who you are. The TerKeursts understand the importance of identity. They build into their children’s identities. This gives them permission to embrace who they were designed to be and to be filled with the knowledge of who they belong to at the same time.

Dr. Kathy Koch says that identity is the foundation of the 5 Core Needs in Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. She teaches how to see what a child or teenager is using as their identity in order to help get them to a more stable place.

I’ve been through a remedial identity process, and I can see now how God used every single piece of my story to build deeper compassion for all children than I would have ever had if my experience growing up had been rosy.

I can live to tell that it is possible to redeem an identity that has been lost and broken.

And I am so grateful for the opportunity to build into the foundation of my children’s identity through homeschooling.

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Changed from a freak : My story of becoming free.

Self-control happened to me all backwards by the world’s standard. It didn’t come out of a season of strength of will or power of mind. I didn’t wake up one day and think, gosh, it’s time to master this in order to better accomplish my goals.

No, self-control was forced on me because of circumstances.

I was living as a single parent for a temporary time, and if I hadn’t been rescued by self-control I would have made a complete mess of myself and my kids. I was crushed and alone. My situation made me understandably angry. I didn’t want to rise to the daily challenges of being the only parent in the home. I wanted “me time” like I had been able to have before. I wanted security in one form or another – money or man. That was how my heart defined security.

I didn’t know from experience that self-control could provide me with a greater sense of security and with a greater sense of satisfaction with my life than I had ever known before.

Taking control of my life made me fruitful – almost immediately. In conversation, self-control helped me stay gentle. In response to a need, it helped me stay calm. Slowly, by reigning my desires, thoughts, feelings, and impulses in I started to see more clearly who I really was, and in that seeing I was able to know more deeply my identity.

A true understanding of my identity has changed everything about me. 

If I don’t know who I am, then it doesn’t matter what I do in a single day – I won’t have any feelings of worth. But when I know who I am – I can lay my head to rest each night satisfied.

Knowing my own identity does not change my circumstances. Self-control doesn’t rely on a scale to prove identity and worth.

Self-control is necessary while alone and with others. It’s impossible to live with self-control without it having an effect on others. They know if you have it, and if you don’t. The tests of life make it clear to everyone around you. Passing the tests does not include projecting self-control onto them.

Self-control doesn’t attempt to change others.

If I attempt to take control of your life that makes me a control freak. 

As a mother, I face the challenge of choosing to take control of myself and guiding (not controlling) my kids. And because this challenge is so difficult and daily, some moms give up. They either don’t control themselves because they don’t know how OR they have a wrong view of what true self-control is OR they continue asserting their control onto their kids (and husband) to greater and greater degrees all while not learning how to control the one person that they can control. To the frustration of all in the home.

I’m here to say, I’ve been there – I’ve done that. It isn’t path to fruitfulness.

Self-control leads to freedom. It leads to satisfaction. It’s by product is contentment. My self-control ministers to those around me in a quiet, unseen way that blesses them without their even knowing it. Self-control made me safe. Having it and growing it in my life, made my kids safe too.

So how do you get self-control? 

The irony is that you can’t do it by yourself. Sure, you can make goals, commit to try harder in areas of weakness, and you can even try to model your behavior after someone who has good control of themselves. But self-control is not born out of grit and determination. It is by the Spirit and His leading to say no.

The best no. The no to sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness.

No one else around you knows your thoughts, desires, and feelings. We keep our selfishness hidden well. Learning to say no to self isn’t something that can be modeled after someone else’s list of no’s.

Also, someone else cannot say no for you. And isn’t that a relief? I don’t know about you, but when anyone says no for me there used to be a great sense of rebellion that would rise for being controlled. (Not everyone who makes choices for others is a control freak, but it can feel that way every time for the one being controlled.)

Self-control is a taming of inner rebellion. True, intimate self-knowledge knows what thoughts and actions are born from a heart of rebellion or submission. 

Rebellion or submission. Fists or open hands. Death or life to the spirit. That’s what it boils down to. Rebellion lies and says it can lead to a freedom God doesn’t want you to have (sounds like a garden lie again) and submission tells the truth and says that God is sovereign and He holds the keys to true freedom.

So I was faced with trials beyond what I could bare. My hands were forced open, and my heart was exposed. I was confronted face-to-face with a choice of who I could become.

I was given the keys to freedom. I have tasted the fruit that has miraculously grown. 

There are 10 keys to self-control. I don’t think of 10 separate doors all leading to disconnected parts of myself, but rather one long hallway where to go further and deeper I must open the next door.

What’s the goal? Where is it that this hallway of self-control leads? It’s personal discipline, maturity, and greater growth. It’s coming to the place where you know for certain who you are, what you are called to do and the confidence to do it.

We all have a daily choice: Freedom and fruitfulness or frustrated freak. Who will you control today?

For more encouragement from The Home Learner, click here.

A Mother’s Day Confession (AKA My Mom Identity Crisis)

My sweet, one-of-a-kind family.

Mother’s day is a tricky holiday to celebrate. There are joys and sorrows, successes and failures, gains and losses. At the core, I don’t think it’s meant to be a measuring stick day – but that’s what it has felt like to me in the past.

Come on and line up against the wall and we’ll mark the growth in your mothering – I hope this year you compare better to that mom… 

I feel like I wake up every Mother’s Day into a dream – like the ghosts of Mother’s Day past – reviewing my year as a mom. Silently praying my kids will still love me when they wake up.

I turn Mother’s Day into a pseudo “January 1st.” Making mental lists of resolutions. Behaviors I need to change, feelings I need to address, new habits I need to form.

Before I’ve even braved into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I’m already weighed down and feeling defeated.

Enter my sweet children with their handmade cards, flowers, candies, treasures they picked out for me themselves at the dollar store, and smiles – laughter and delight floods the room as they jump and hug (at the same time) – wanting desperately to excite me with their love.

A Mother's Day Confession My Family

My problem with engaging in the celebration of me was that no amount of new gifts could help me get rid of that old measuring stick.

This past year, I addressed my Mom-Identity-Crisis. I asked myself: as a mother – do I define myself by what I do or who I am? And I discovered that it is both, which proved to be not a cut and dry, easy answer to work through.

It was like finding my pulse. Activity raises it sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Doing and being live in balance. I found myself stopping often to check the pulse of my heart and mind – what am I feeling right now? What am I thinking about this activity?

This constant checking was useful in discovering what I actually enjoy doing – I could put a check by it and say I feel most like myself when I do this. I know that sounds a little silly but when I would measure myself against the measuring stick (I made from comparing myself to other moms) I never felt good enough.

  • I wasn’t elegant enough.
  • I wasn’t creative enough.
  • I wasn’t organized enough.
  • I wasn’t social enough.

When I based my identity on the measuring stick – my pulse was all over the place, racing then dropping. Busy then down and defeated. I beat myself up for all my “not enough” doing, not realizing that I was setting a being standard.

Elegance, creativity, organization, and socialization all flow from the spirit of a person. When my spirit was ignored for the sake of image, I lived out of balance. Full of the weights and burdens of becoming someone else.

Slowly I was able to change how I looked at myself. I determined not to read, watch, or listen to anything online if I was going to just compare or criticize. Who am I do judge myself by their standards or them by mine? Putting off the standard of doing allowed me the strength to gain inspiration from others. To put on the thoughts that build me into the woman I want to be. The woman my husband and children know and love.

This woman doesn’t cringe or hide from the Mother’s Day measuring stick. She knows she is different from other moms and is okay with that. She has a growing, healthy sense of self, and she checks her doing pulse often.

Balance is only possible when I accept who I am, and then base my doing on a foundation of strength and growth. Balance is also accepting who I am not, and crossing off the list of things to do anything that would be better left for someone else to accomplish.

This Mother’s Day, I look forward to my kids expressions of their love for me – just me, the mom they see every day and love anyway.

A Mother's Day Confession My Kids

For more parenting with purpose inspiration – check out my post “How to Make  Parenting Decisions with More Efficiency and Less Guilt.” I’ve included a free downloadable guide.

Alone and Afraid :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 4

Joe Butterfly

I’m not going to pick on introverts. I have a special love for them.

I am them.

But even though I’m in a special, happy place when I’m alone – I don’t like who I become when I’ve been alone too much.

The same is true for my daughter. It has been difficult, balancing her alone time. She has a brother who is an extrovert and enjoys talking with someone all-the-time. And so on the rare occasions when she can be outside his vocal range, she has done things that were destructive and compulsive and she doesn’t know why.

She would not say that she was lonely or that she wanted to be with someone, just that something didn’t feel right.

She would say something I remember saying when I was her age: “Just leave me alone.”

Oh, how those words hurt me. Saying them and hearing them.

At over thirty, I’ve grown out of this some. Or maybe I can just see it whereas before I was blind.

Before kids I worked outside the home and I liked the accountability. But my “off time” was “free time,” and alone time wasn’t always good for me. I was unsupported, my companions weren’t always there for me, and I was lonely. Instead of reaching out, I retreated in. I wasn’t confident in my identity and I wasn’t a safe place for myself.

The more lonely I became, the more I wanted alone time. And the more alone I was, the more fearful I was of social engagements. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from a chemical imbalance of some sort, but I can only see that in hindsight.*

And that’s when fear became an untamable beast in my world. Every social engagement became an exercise in controldo-not-panic I would preach to myself. I shied away from more and more places. I didn’t want to engage in small talk anywhere. I was afraid to run into people I knew in the store. I would hide.

(If you ever saw me turn, run, and hide – I apologize. It’s not you, it was me.)

My husband would say, “but you don’t look scared of being around them – you’re smiling!” And I could smile. That was all a part of the grasp on control. I knew I shouldn’t feel so fearful of others, somewhere inside I knew that what I truly needed was more people not less.

Then add in small children.

I knew I needed to get out of the house with them. We would go to the park, the store, the library. Those places only pacified our need for relationship by putting us around people. We weren’t with any of them. We didn’t belong to them. We weren’t supported by them.

It wasn’t until my oldest was nearly 6-years-old that I realized that I had to change our social habits or she would never gain the companionship she needs.

Joe Butterfly with friends

And me? I’m amazed at how much different I feel toward people since embracing how I’m wired. I was designed to share, encourage, and support. Fear taught me that people don’t need that from me. I believed they wanted wit, humor, and surface. But love has taught me that I’m free from the expectations I thought others had of me.

Now I still don’t jump at every chance to be in a group, and neither does my daughter, but I strive for a better balance in our overall routine. I pursue investing in others on purpose because loneliness will never be cured by spending more time alone.

*One thing I must encourage strongly is the need for healthy companionship. If you feel like you can relate deeply to the feelings I explained here, please open up to someone trustworthy.

This is Part 4 in the series, to catch up on the other posts click here for the Index.

Laziness and Moodiness :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 3

Listless and cranky. Bubbly one minute and barking the next. Impossible to predict. A challenge to train and guide.

There could be thousands of reasons why children behave in these ways on any given day. And believe me, I’d be the first to comfort someone if they were struggling and exhibiting these traits for a good reason.

But what if this is becoming a pattern? And what if it is really annoying and hard to train? And what if I’ve tried to parent the child through their bad attitude and it isn’t letting up? What’s feeding this behavior?

These two frustrating behaviors could be the fruit of loneliness.

First, laziness is a lack of motivation, an unwillingness to make an effort.

Laziness can be a result of too many hurts. A child is naturally bent toward doing. They feel their “being” and express it with actions. It’s the reason why toddlers are often labelled “busy.” I’ve never observed a lazy 2-year-old. They are busy, and they do a lot. Until they are stopped. Or hurt. And this is when pain teaches children (and adults too) that their being isn’t good enough.

The kind of behavior that shows me a child has given up is when they are no longer motivated by rewards or positive reinforcements. It isn’t the same as being bored.

At the root of laziness is a confusion of identity.

Every child needs to be able to anchor their feelings to their identity. So that at the end of any given day, they know who they are, who they belong to, and why that matters. Before they know that their doing matters they need to know that their being matters. Feelings must be interpreted through identity. Our culture allows us to define our identity by our feelings, and this leads to an unstable emotional and physical state. The push to define their being by their doing doesn’t satisfy.

Talking through how a child feels about a situation or action isn’t enough. They need to know what to do with their feelings. Is it valid for them to be feeling that way or not? Identity isn’t bossy. Feelings are. Kids need help to know what their anchor is and how to process their feelings based on that anchor.

A child’s identity needs to start with a solid family identity. For our family, we’ve chosen to teach our kids a “team view” of family identity. I remind them often that we are on the same team, we are doing the task together, and we enjoy the benefits of belonging because of the team view. We review our priorities often so that they know why our family has chosen to live a certain way and what those benefits are.

Second, moodiness is unpredictable and intense. Cheerful and excited one minute and angry and grumpy the next.

A child like this may have an issue with excitement. The thrill of being around other people followed by the disappointment of it coming to an end. This pattern of moodiness is relatively easy to talk a child through.

But when it’s ongoing, I think it is a mild sign of loneliness. The reason why I think moodiness comes out of lonely kids is because they do not have enough support and companionship. Or they can’t articulate their need for support in a specific area of their personal growth.

When kids are moody with their family it can be a sign that they are refusing the type of support and companionship offered at home. And there may need to be some examination of whether the child is being supported there.

Like the child who is aggressively excited for social engagements, being more social doesn’t cure moodiness in a lonely child.

Often when a child is exhibiting moody behavior to mom and dad, they need to be given more attention not less. Think of this as feedback and not as a separate behavior. Address the activity or engagement that is causing their response and help them process that. They may need to be validated that their experience was difficult or challenging. They may need affirmation that they still have a companion in you. They may need help to see themselves in a different light.

Supporting them through their feedback behavior looks like condoning it or ignoring it, but working on the root issue, helping them process their feelings, helps them know their identity. Once they are settled and their behavior becomes more steady, that’s when I gently address the behavior that was moody and off balance.

I’ve heard it preached that parents need to address behaviors immediately with children, but it is actually counterproductive. Kids have strong memories. They are able to think back one, two, or even three whole days to their behavior. It is wise to give space and time for the root work to take effect before addressing feedback behavior.

This is the upside down logic of parenting. I don’t parent what I’m seeing now. I’m working on what’s deeper to create healthier soil for fruit and relationships with others to grow.

Have you already read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series? If not, check out the intro and start there.

 

 

Aggressive Excitement :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 1

Are kids that are homeschooled predisposed to be lonely? Have I destined my kids to either be excessively shy or obnoxiously excited?

Socialize,” they say. “Allow children to play in a group of their peers,” authorities preach.

It seems like there is almost a mandate against children being at home with just their family because this goes against the current popular thought.

We are given pamphlets and handouts at the doctor’s office to mark our child’s milestones. They tell us to be sure to have them on schedule for all of their developmental needs. So it’s natural to start thinking of a child’s needs as a checklist:

  • Development
  • Socialization
  • Academics
  • Food and Shelter
  • Faith and Family
  • Exercise and Activities

Planned. Organized. In the box. But is that truly how anyone feels cared for?

The first warning sign of loneliness in kids isn’t an “alone” behavior. It’s actually seen clearly when a child is about to be in a group. Aggressive excitement.

Before I even begin to explain my thought here, I want to say I’m all about excitement. Or at least I’m trying to be. I have been relearning how to be carried away by the good feelings that being alive brings. Excitement is a good thing.

And it is a very good thing for children to express their excitement.

So what is “aggressive excitement”?

It is when a person uses their excitement to forcefully get others’ attention. It can also be a false excitement. When a person covers up insecurity with aggressive positivity.

And let me be frank, this behavior in kids can be frustratingly annoying. These kids are usually not “rule followers” and they don’t seem easily contained.  It can feel like the only solution for this almost-out-of-control excitement is to give them over to their peers and retreat as quickly as possible.

So how does this behavior show signs of loneliness?

They appear hyper, happy, and eager to be with others. This is the kid who does not seem to be lonely at all. The concern is that these little people are desperate to have their inner need for identity met within a 1 hour social engagement. The let down from any activity leaves them feeling drained and even depressed. Consequently, they have learned to put on this aggression in an attempt to force the engagement fill their need.

Often there are multiple emotional needs not being met in a child who becomes aggressively happy. This magnification of positive feelings reveals that this child has a lot of missing positive feelings and therefore they are trying to “make up for” what they lack.

Possible missing emotional needs are: security, identity, belonging, and responsibility.

What can I do to help a child who acts this way?

First, don’t retreat and don’t avoid social engagements. Again, this is the child who is excited to be around friends. Don’t take that away to solve the aggressiveness problem. Stay with them. Talk to them throughout the activity.

Second, stay calm. All children model what they see. If you want calm children, you must be calm.

Third, don’t focus on correcting their aggression. Build into their sense of identity by spending extra quality time with them at home. In their safest environment, start to encourage them to express their feelings through activities other than social times. Try listening to music, looking at old family photos, going on a walk (or to the indoor nature center if it is too cold outside), or baking cookies together. Somehow make it a point to invest more of your emotions into building up theirs.

Fourth, take note of when you see aggressive behavior and when they seem most calm. If observing your child doesn’t feel natural, then take time off from other activities at home in order to focus on them. Maybe you need to spend spring break entirely engaged by figuring out their patterns. Simply jot down what they are doing when they seem most excited, note how long the excitement lasts, and then note what they were like when the excitement was over. Get to know your child’s highs and lows.

If social engagements are consistently off the charts with excitement, take time to consider if your child needs a break from such emotionally charged situations. One clue that this is the case is if they are also completely drained after the engagement.

One thing I’ve made a point to communicate to my kids is that I have protective instincts. They know I’m willing to fight for them. And they have seen me do it. I’m willing to go to bat so that they don’t have to.  I’m also willing to fight them for their best interest. They are still too young to know exactly what is best for them.

They can be at rest knowing that I take responsibility to do what is best for them so that they do not have to be aggressive to do what is best for themselves.

Support them, comfort them, and be their safe place. Regardless of what educational philosophy you hold, be on the look out for these signs and be prepared to help the kids in your life.

This is part one of the Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids. If you missed the Intro to this series or the list of topics to be covered, check it out here.

 

Socialization: why I let my kids see me cry.

Socialization why I let my kids see me cry Home Learner

Weirdos. Unsocialized. Homeschoolers.

Just a few labels given to families like mine. Keeping my kids at home means they aren’t raised in a peer group. Sure they miss out on the culture of a brick and mortar school, but the gains far out way the losses.

As I focus my attention on their character in these early years, I see just how much they learn by example. Their lazer focus on my actions can sometimes feel like scrutiny, but I remind myself often that my behavior is their best teacher. And that’s why I let them see me cry.

I’m a highly-sensitive-person (HSP) which means I feel things extremely. My children see this in me on a daily basis. My daughter sometimes smiles at me knowingly, when my favorite song plays. She’s just waiting for me to cry. I can tell that she understands these tears don’t cause me pain, but rather these tears release a deeper joy. A joy that speaks of deeper roots grown through trials and pains. She tries to mimic me, trying to create the same depth of emotion.

But without the experience, one can never cry another’s tears.

When I’ve been hurt and felt alone, even with my babies all around me, I have let them see me cry these tears too. I’ve watched them grow in compassion, trying to comfort and encourage me. Sometimes saying things wise beyond their years.

We’ve talked about hard times that have brought us all to tears, looking back on days or weeks gone by realizing that time does help things change.

I was reminded of this today while watching Little House on the Prairie with my kids. Tears make things come alive again. Laura said. She and Jonathan had been talking about the river. He called it “Heaven’s tears” saying that when the people in heaven see the people on earth doing hurtful things they all cry – and it rains. To which Laura said, then I hope it never rains again!

Now hold on! Jonathan said. When it rains, the earth is watered and new things can grow.

So I talk to my kids about my tears, and we look together for what things have grown. What good things are new? Are we being conscious of growing in grace and compassion?

We are socializing each other.

I love this quote from the Clarksons:

Your influence on your children’s lives is not derived from how smart you are, but rather from how committed you are to becoming all that you need to be in order to help them become all that God wants them to be. It is not your responsibility only to give them an education; it is your vision and privilege to guide them into learning, growing, and becoming…with you. *

At the core of socialization is identity. Learning how to answer these questions: Who are they? Why do they matter? What behaviors benefit them as a part of the whole? And what skills do they need to accomplish their goals? These are the questions that I want to answer with them, not for them.

As I answer these questions in my own life – I let them in on the process, tears and all.

So call me weird, I don’t mind. But unsocialized? Never.

*This quote is from Education the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, page 29.
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