Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘Boundaries’


Boundaries are my biggest weakness. I can’t say no. I don’t want to say no.

Goldilocks (who is fourteen years old) explained to me:

People need to know what your limits are – not what you can do, but what you will do. And what you won’t. That’s what makes them respect you.



Stress: It’s a Matter of Control

Seth Godin: “Every time I find myself wishing for an external event, I realize that I’m way better off focusing on something I can control instead.”

I cannot control everything.

I can only control what I can control.

When I am stressed, it is because I feel out of control of my life.

When I feel out of control, it is because I am trying to control things that I cannot control.

For example, I cannot control what (or if) Papa Bear earns. I can control what I spend my money on. 

I can’t change how much I owe the world right now, but I can change how and when I work. I can choose not to be distracted by Facebook and Mahjongg and interesting but distracting articles on digestive health and French fashion … I can choose to work smart AND hard, instead of goofing off when I feel overwhelmed.

I can’t change what happens to me or even a lot of what happens in my life. I can change how I react to it.

And I can choose what I will stand for – and what I won’t.

I can't control what happens to me - but I can control what I allow

Everybody hurts, sometimes

So much of the encouraging, uplifting, “fix-your-life-yourself” stuff out there lately seems to share the same advice: get rid of the people who hold you back. The people who weigh you down. The people who hurt you, who abuse you, who take advantage of you.

A wise woman once taught me that hurting people hurt people.

If someone hurts me, it’s most probably because they are in pain (or I’m too sensitive, but that’s the subject of another day’s ramble). The pain they’re in might even be my fault. Probably not, though. In all likelihood, the pain I feel is real and unjustified, and the advice to ditch that person seems wise and sound. It’s all about healthy boundaries, after all.

But – that person is in pain.

It’s clear that the person who hurt me lacks the tools to express that pain healthily. Because if they had the tools, they’d have used them, surely?

So, in other words, not only has this person been hurt, they have also been disabled – disadvantaged, if you will – by being denied the basic tools they need to heal themselves and stop hurting those around them.

I offer the view that perhaps the very last thing they need, in all the world, is one more rejection. One more person turning away. One more ‘friend’ saying, “Sorry, I can’t do this. You’re too hard to deal with.”

I have the tools, the strength, the emotional health to have strong and clear boundaries, then I have more than that hurtful person does. And perhaps, just maybe, I could be of use. Perhaps, just maybe, I could save a life.

It actually doesn’t take that much.

It’s a simply sacrifice: my pain for theirs. I choose not to take offence. I choose not to be hurt. Instead of allowing their attack to cloud my vision and blind me with rage, I allow it to illuminate my mind, to open my eyes to the need in another person’s life.

I have a chance to say,

I see you. I get it. I’m here.

If I have the resilience to say, “I choose my own happiness; I create my own joy”, then I have the resilience to say “I can do without that happiness – for a little bit – for the greater joy of easing your pain.”

Surely, if there’s one thing this life teaches us, it’s that we all have pain. It’s a road each of us must walk. For reasons that elude me we all seem to believe we ought to walk it alone. Perhaps we believe the lie that we are alone.

But we are not.

I may not share your specific pain, but I share pain. I know it. I feel it. You are not alone.

I don’t judge you for hurting. I don’t hate you for hurting me. I love you.

And I’m here.

Is that not the least service we owe to our fellow man? Is life really about finding my own happiness? Or is it about igniting joy in as many lives as I can possibly touch?

change a life

While I’m not advocating that anyone be a doormat, or rescind their healthy boundaries, I am humbly suggesting that each of us set ourselves aside, just a little bit, and see if there’s anything we could do for someone before we discard them for being “too hard”. Be the change you want to see in this world. – Mahatma Ghandi



Unschooling questions (and some answers)

As we expand our unschool experiment, we find that there are more questions than answers. And that’s okay: that’s how we learn. Unschooling really doesn’t come with any kind of hand book, and every family does what is right for their situation, interests, personalities, and a thousand other variables, unique to each situation.

Unschooling is not unparenting

We have not abdicated our roles in any way. Quite the contrary, unschooling actually forces us to be more involved than ever. We have to be aware of everything, sensitive to everything, to make sure that we never miss an opportunity to educate. Every moment is a learning moment – and that takes initiative, insight, imagination, involvement and energy.  We have to be aware and connected for as much of the day as possible.

Unschooling makes you honest

Because we learn every second that we breathe, we need to be very real, very transparent, and very honest. Learning happens by seeing, experiencing, “percolating” and discussing. It does not happen in a vacuum. We need to share what we learn, and let our children share what they’ve learned. This implies that we need to be learning, all the time. If something troubles us, we need to be honest about that. We also need to examine that. Why does a messy space trouble me? Am I being reasonable? Is the mess a logical and even necessary part of development? Is leaving the mess harmful in any way, or is that in itself a valuable education? These questions surround thousands of decisions every day, with the net result being that we are more connected, more “ourselves”, and more relaxed. I’m not really sure I can articulate why that is true, yet. But it is true, nonetheless.

Unschooling challenges beliefs

There are some unschoolers who don’t set limits on their children. Everything in life becomes a collaborative learning journey, with children setting their own limits as they work out what works for them. For instance, if the child prefers to stay up late, that is the child’s choice. She must then deal with the consequences of loneliness, being up when everyone else is asleep, and grumpiness the next day when she’s over tired, or ever oversleeps and misses an outing with the rest of the family. This way, she learns that an earlier bed time has its benefits. Well, fair enough. But not for us. In my opinion that’s a form of child abuse, frankly. I believe that children lack the ability to make certain decisions and cognitive leaps, and that’s why they have parents. Otherwise we’d all just grow up together in something like a giant, collaborative orphanage with common sense and consensus determining the way we live. I’ve read Lord of the Flies. I don’t think we’d do well left to our own devices.

Here are some of the beliefs I’m examining at the moment, as we delve deeper into this adventure:

  • Children need boundaries. They need to know when an action is acceptable and when it isn’t. And sometimes words are not adequate to convey this.
  • Children need direction. They may well be curious beasts with a passion for knowledge. But they also need a little guidance. If Papa Bear had never introduced me to the internet, I may never have developed an interest in it, and then I’d be doing something else for a living now. If we don’t know there are things out there to be discovered, we won’t discover them. We need to allow our children the opportunity to develop an interest in what’s out there by letting them know what’s out there.
  • Not everything is fun and interesting, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant or superfluous. Just because I don’t enjoy doing a thing, or don’t feel like doing a thing, doesn’t mean I don’t need to do it. Yes, I prefer dancing to running, and running to soccer. So perhaps I’ll dance more often than I’ll chase a ball. But I need to exercise, and if the only option I have is a game of soccer, I need to accept that and get on with it. I may even find it fun. Possibly. Few people fascinatedly pursue a regimen of dental hygiene, but that doesn’t mean we can just get away with not cleaning our teeth two or three times a day. And so on. So while I am letting the girls not clean their room for a while, I am probably, at some stage, going to insist that it gets done, and that beds get made religiously. Because some things just need to be done.
  • We all need to do our share. So maybe we don’t say the word “chores” anymore, and maybe (just maybe), pocket money and housework are no longer linked. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all pitch in with dishes, dog food and domestic goddessery in general.
  • Work has worth, and earning a living is a life skill. I haven’t made up my mind about pocket money. I believe it is necessary, and very educational. The girls have learnt maths, the value of money, and the value of things, all through pocket money. They’ve also learned that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. So to speak. (Of course they eat, but a messy room means no pocket money, and that means no buying toys at the market – their lifeblood, you’d think!). So while I am experimenting with not insisting on a tidy room (for now), I don’t think they’ll start getting money for nothing. That can simply be a consequence of not cleaning up.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being organised. Being spontaneous does not exclude being organised, and vice versa. If I work better in a structure, that could be a good thing.
  • Sometimes, children need chastening. It may take various forms, but a polite and respectful “No, darling. That’s not how we behave.” simply doesn’t cut it sometimes. In those cases we need a clear, communicated and consistent way of communicating unacceptable behaviour.

At the end of the day, these children will one day be adults, and they need to be ready for that. That goes a lot further than simple fact knowledge. It’s about being equipped to deal with other people well, and being practised in making smart choices. Schools don’t teach that, families do. And must.

Workaholics and a day of rest

This week has been a bit of a voyage of spiritual discovery as I have begin observing what seems to be the most logical understanding of the Sabbath. My first Sabbath day was Thursday. Perhaps I need to provide some context here. It’s not that I never take days off. Sometimes, on Saturdays, after I’ve been to the Market, prepared food for the week (where possible), prepared for Sunday School and Discipleship for the week ahead, cleaned the house and done the homeschool prep, I only check emails. Mostly I do a bit of work, but not every Saturday. The rest of the week seems to be round-the-clock work, and it’s fine because it’s the life I’ve chosen. I don’t mind or resent it a bit, I’m just tired.

The idea of a whole day where no work is allowed to be done is so very beguiling that I decided to investigate it even if it was just to see how it felt not to work at all for a twenty four hour period. And what did I discover?

Simple: I’m a workaholic.

For years I’ve been telling myself that I work so hard because I have to. I don’t have a choice, and if I did I certainly wouldn’t spend the day behind my computer screen. I may have to revise my thesis. I was actually jittery. It was a bit like the way one feels when the internet is down and a deadline is looming. Panic. Nail-biting, jaw-clenching, armpit-wetting distraction. What should I do all day? We had a bit of school: Bible time and reading some great stories. I had a challenging quiet time, and then I fairly paced the room like a caged animal.

In the end, I actually did do a bit of work, operating under the vain hope that if I don’t charge for it, it doesn’t count. Genius? Hmm …

It turns out I may well have an addiction problem. And I may well have a problem with idol worship. My idol seems to be my work, and I need to process what exactly I’m going to do about that.

On home school, self-employment and domestic goddessery

When I started talking out loud about the possibility of us home schooling the girls, the overwhelming response from most quarters was a screaming “Don’t do it!”. Some people pointed out the lack-of-social-interaction “problem” that everyone jumps to first. I listened and pondered and for a while I even agreed. But as you know, I don’t agree any longer.

The second most common reason given why I shouldn’t home school was structure. More specifically, the lack thereof. Now, in truth, I am a very organised person. I like everything to have a clearly defined, labelled, easy-to-access space, and that space needs to be noted somewhere. Preferably somewhere indexable and searchable. I like clear shelves and lever arch files in matching colours with clear, attractive titles. I like order.

Having said that, I am pragmatic. I learned a long time ago to have clear priorities (although I don’t always stick to them!). So if I have a ton of work to do, I won’t always do the dishes. And there’s a good reason for this: genetics. I come from a long line of hardworking ladies (on both sides of the family), who are very house proud, and who can never start anything until the house is “in order”. What I learnt watching them as I grew up is that the house never stops needing attention. No  matter how many times you wash the dishes, there are always more to do. So now I first do my work (to pay the bills), teach my kids (because I must, and because I love it), and THEN do the house. Of course, by then it tends to be 2am, and I often choose my pillow rather than my sink on which to lavish my attention.

The obvious result tends to be a rather chaotic-looking house, and the irony is that it usually takes less than half an hour to throw it all back together.

How does this apply to actual home school? You may remember a recent blog post about this article: the 5 myths of home schooling. Myth #2 is a lack of structure and today I’m talking about how that myth applies to us personally, as well as discussing this week’s progress. To put it in a nutshell: this week there’s been no progress. The only reason our house isn’t infested with new and peculiar life forms bred in the sticky remnants of half-eaten meals in unwashed dishes is because we have a wondermaid 3 times a week. Thank God.

The last week of every month (this week, in other words), is deadline week for me. What I usually do is put my head down and work flat out for about seven days in a row, trying to get as much done as possible before the new month. And I don’t school. I just can’t fit it in. The girls love it – for the first few days. But by Thursday they’re not happy. Bored and frustrated and tearful, they fight and work on their stomach ulcers (especially DD1), and develop migraines.

Of course, being deadline week I’m already stressed, and it goes without saying that DH, lacking the HW (housework) gene, utterly fails to notice the expanding sewer around him. Plus it also usually manages to be that  time of the month, as well.

I have to keep reminding myself that everyhting about my life right now is the result of calculated choices. I chose to home school. I chose to work. I chose to freelance. And I chose to be married to a boy (as one does). Every four weeks or so, I wonder why.

Lightbulb …

Don’t you love that moment in Despicable Me when Gru realises something important and says “Light-Bulb” in that delightful Romanianish accent, with a lippop at the end? It’s one of my favourite moments in cinematic history – right up there with horse heads in palacial sleeping quarters, and … I’m out. . It’s 2:30 am and I’m fresh out of film fanaticism. Please forgive me.


The reason I mention Gru is because I myself have just had a light-bulb-uh moment, and I’m sharing it with you. Here it is: domestic goddessery and old-fashioned craftiness are time consuming! Oh my goodness. All these years I’ve been beating up on myself for not taking the time to sew this and craft that and cook the other, only to realise (finally) that it’s because I actually don’t have the time to take.

Today is a good day to realise this. The reason I am up at 2:30 am is because of a sequence of events:

  • I thought it would be cheaper to make rather than buy a gift for the Church Ladies’ Tea tomorrow. (Four hours later at my hourly rate, plus raw materials at more than the upper limit for a gift purchase succesfully proves me wrong).
  • We had a friend round for dinner and I made a wonderful chicken curry (my personal best) and disastrous brownies (a real low point since the left overs were supposed to be my edible contribution to tomorrow’s tea, so my Saturday just became seriously compressed). (On the other hand, it was so lovely to catch up!)
  • I promised my daughter I would mend her pretty party frock before tomorrow. (My sewing is getting SO fast and SO neat since I started home schooling!).
  • And finally, I just remembered that I’m supposed to be orchestrating a Bible Trivia Quiz at the Tea tomorrow, and I haven’t done ANY prep. Yikes.
My problem is not so much that I can’t say no. It’s more a case of saying yes before being asked, with absolutely no ability to contain my runaway tongue.
I’m helping with the set up tomorrow at Church, and clean up after. I also have to sort out my house and make something edible to take along.
Oh, and did I mention I need to send out a massive emailer, create two websites, write and upload a third, and magick an entire news portal by Monday?
Now I’ve overwhelmed myself. I’m going to stop blogging, finish this dress, Google “quick and easy Bible Trivia Quizzes (KJV)“, and go to bed.
Night all.
(oh, just a quick aside: I can’t say more about what I made for the Ladies’ Tea because my sister reads this blog and she might get it, but I will say I’m pretty proud of how it turned out (provided the glue holds), and I hope whoever gets it is delighted. Although I will settle for just pleased.)

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