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Thursday, January 3, 2013

"It's cool that you're homeschooling . . ."

When people hear we are homeschooling, there are a variety of responses we get, ranging from supportive to curious, doubtful to discouraging.  What follows the reaction is either an interesting conversation or a complete shutdown of conversation, generally.  Recently, though, I had a conversation about our choice to homeschool that went a bit differently than most others.

I think he was trying to be supportive, offering a sort of "Yeah, that's a great idea -- I kinda wish my parents had homeschooled me" response, but it didn't follow that path long.  What he actually did was recount frustrating school experiences (implying that we were good to help our child avoid them), particularly emphasizing all the down time in classrooms "while the teacher has to focus all their energy on the one ADHD kid who can't sit still or focus on anything."  He was clearly one of the "good kids" in the classroom who had been irked by the "trouble kids" who challenged his sensibilities daily. 

Despite my ADD, I was actually one of the teacher's pet types in school, too.  And given my profession as a college teacher, this guy probably assumed my kids were the bookish kind as well.  There's no way he could have known that I had one of "those kids" he was referring to, that his intention to be supportive could be heard as: "Good riddance! Keep that kid away from everybody else who's trying to learn quietly."  That's not at all what he said, yet it's exactly what he meant -- it's the flip side of the very same coin.

While I wanted to be hurt by the comment, the reality is this:  I'm glad I'm keeping my kid from having to be pegged daily as one of "those kids" that gets in everybody else's way.  I'm glad my kid can learn at his own pace, follow his own interests, absorb information rather than just be exposed to it.  I'm glad my kid gets to enjoy learning in a way he'd never be allowed to enjoy it in a traditional classroom, in a way that this guy, ironically, wasn't allowed to enjoy learning either.

For my kid, learning is loud.  (Truth be told, for my kid, EVERYthing is loud!)  Learning is active; it involves a lot of moving around.  Learning is interactive; it requires just as much explaining as it does listening to the explanations of others.  Learning is hands-on; it requires even more touching and experimenting with his own two hands then it does looking and listening.  Learning is fun!!!

While loud, active, hands-on learning is amazingly powerful, it's disruptive to those who prefer quite, calm, observant learning.  Moreover, it is difficult to handle when magnified by many children, rather than one or just a few.  Unfortunately, in our effort to maximize efficiency in education, we've prioritized only one kind of learning, and in so doing, have implied that that is the only acceptable way to learn anything at all.  But some things just can't be accomplished quietly; some things need to be loud.  Some things can't be done passively; active involvement is vital.  Some things can't be experienced with only one of our senses; diving in, all in, is key.

So, "supportive of homeschooling guy," you're welcome.  In a roundabout way, and for all the opposite reasons you mentioned, I'm as committed as ever to continuing to educate my loud, active, messy, hands-on kid at home, where he can enjoy a learning environment free of the kind of labeling and judgment your comment subtly included.

OneWord 2013: JOY!

A college-friend of mine who is now an incredible author and blogger inspired me recently with a post about a new way to make resolutions for the new year.  Instead of getting bogged down with a list of things you'll feel you've failed at, she's started choosing a single word to meditate on, cultivate, pursue for the year.  My ADD self gets sidetracked and bogged down easily with too many options, so this sounded like an incredible idea.  And it didn't take long for me to decide on the word I wanted as my mantra for the year:  JOY! 

Joy.  Not the fleeting-happiness or smiling-through-gritted teeth or "yay, things are going well today" kind of joy.  The "count it all joy" kind of joy that makes you look for the silver linings and blessings in even the difficult circumstances.  The kind of joy that lets you smile for real, because even though things aren't going well, you are alive and can choose how you respond to your circumstances.  The deeply satisfied kind of joy that only comes from God and from leaning on Him in everything.

I've had some legitimately rough times in the last few years.  Even beyond the daily grind or work and family life, and even beyond the "I have a special needs kid" kinds of difficulties.  The kind of international news-making "this only happens in the movies, right?" kinds of challenges.  And while I'd been holding together pretty well for a long time, I've really lost it the last six months or so.  As more and more was piled on, I slipped further and further into a place of negativity that normally cheerful and optimistic me hardly recognized.  And it's been killing me.

Pity parties.  Sobbing sessions.  Relational strife on every front.  Times of sincere anger at God and resentment over my "lot" in life.

And something has got to change.  And it has got to start with me. 

It won't be easy.  I've had more tests on my resolve in these first 48 hours of the year than I would have believed possible: a raging sinus infection, a puking toddler, a speeding ticket, getting locked out of my computer network at my office (rendering a 30-minute drive there useless), along with all the usual trials and tribulations of family life.  And I've already decided that there will be days I don't do so well at this pursuit of joy I'm embarking on.  I will fail.

The perfectionist in me normally wants to give up once the record is tarnished, but the beauty of this plan is that failing, and getting right back up is precisely the point.  It's not about achieving your OneWord, but about commiting to a daily journey of pursuing and cultivating that OneWord in your life and then looking back at the end of the year over the progess that's made in itty bitty daily steps in a purposeful direction.

A clip I saw recently from the Sacred Parenting DVD series talks about how important it is that your children see that your faith matters, that it affects your life, that you are different as a result of it.  Not that you are perfect -- they clearly know you are not.  Not that you have arrived -- you clearly have not.  But that you are walking the path, pursuing better, making progress.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine close.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.    (1 Timothy 4:12, 15-16, emphasis mine) 

Persevere.  Progress.  To me, that's what the OneWord challenge is all about.  And the thing I most want to persevere to make some progress on is seeing more joy in my life.

So, joy it is! I'm deciding now to pursue joy, to actively seek it out, hunt for it, run after it, even when it seems elusive. I'm choosing to look for the bright spots and focus on them, to recognize and spend time relishing in the silver linings in the storm clouds. And I know I can't do it without looking to God's direction, so I'm calling a truce and stepping into pace with Him again.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   (James 1:2-4, emphasis mine)

How about you?  What do you most need to persevere in this year?  What do you most want to make some progress in this year, in tiny daily steps?  What OneWord will you choose to guide your path in 2013?