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

Posts tagged ‘priorities’

The Reluctant Learner

One of my favourite blogs is Simple Homeschool. What I love about the content on this site, is that it reminds me what this journey is all about when I get so bogged down in the minutiae – the overwhelming little details that can so easily make me feel inadequate. A failure. Simple Homeschool often reminds me that, at the end of the day, my goal is to raise resilient, capable young ladies who can think for themselves, look after themselves, and learn whatever it is they need to have the best possible version of their lives.

Everything else is just fluff.

This is why we’ll typically spend a lot less time studying the unique variations on the coastline of Micronesia, or the specific eruption patterns of the average volcano, and a lot more time studying the nature of man: what makes us who we are, why we act the way we do, how to understand and accept others with compassion, and how to improve ourselves where we can.

Having said that, I do love learning. I am fascinated by every aspect of life, and I want to impart that fascination to my girls. I wish they could be as inspired to pore over the atlas as I was as a kid. I wish they’d devour pages and pages of the dictionary in a sitting, and go to bed with an encyclopaedia under their pillows for a bedtime story. That’s what I did. Surely they should be just like me? Isn’t that the point?!

Of course not.

And the simple (yet astounding) truth of our journey is that, in so many cases, they really couldn’t give a jot or tittle about education of any kind (unless you count hours of stable work on Star Stables, or conquering kingdoms in Age of Empires ‘educational’. (And to be clear: I now do :))). They are reluctant learners. Or, they were.

When I read Simple Homeschool’s article on teaching a reluctant learner, I suddenly realised just how far we’d come.

When we started home education, I was convinced that my genius children simply needed the right motivation, and they’d soon have a truly encyclopaedic knowledge of every fact known to man and recorded in the last 5000 years.

*Cue the gales of laughter around the globe*

With the years, and with the tears and fights and frustrations, I have learnt to distil what really matters in home education – and life – and to pursue that vigorously and wholeheartedly. We spend far more time on Bible studies, personality profiles and in-depth philosophy debates than most 8-11 years olds probably do. And we’re all having a lot more fun. We’ve evolved a very simple and potently effective approach to Maths, Literature and History (most of which involves Khan Academy and Crash Course). And the rest of our learning takes place in really life, as we discuss what we believe matters, and then attempt to live it in our flawed, human way.

We have stopped focusing on academics and started focusing on living, instead. The surprising, beautiful result is that my once reluctant learners now love to learn. They each rush to be first to do Maths, they’re writing mini-essays with ease and pleasure, and when I read 15th Century history to them, they beg for more. My head is finally proving what my heart has always known: with the right focus, and the correct priorities, the details take care of themselves.

What about you? How have you motivated your reluctant learners? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Put down that glass

waterLittle Something from Art Jonak: A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down.

Doing what you love vs the fear of man

only as high as I reach can I growGoldilocks was quiet as we drove home from her dancing lesson. Subdued. Something was brewing inside her, and I decided to wait, and let it spill over when she was ready. Finally,it came. “Mom,” she said quietly, not looking up. “Do you think I’ll ever be good at dancing?” Now, Goldilocks is incredibly flexible and astoundingly musical. When music starts – any music – she simply cannot keep still. She has to move. And she does so with grace and joy.

“Yes, Darling. I think you were born to dance,” I said.

More silent brooding.

“I don’t think I want to go back to dancing,” she admitted at last.

We don’t have spare cash for extra murals. The money for this term’s dancing lessons had been carefully hoarded together since the beginning of the year, after months of pleading for dance lessons by both girls. We’d sacrificed to make this happen – we were glad to do so – and now, neither of them wanted to go back. Ever. She was miserable.

“Are you not enjoying dancing, my Love?” I asked gently.

“It’s not that!” she quickly answered. “I love it! I love the music, and the steps. I love the dances our teacher creates and I really love to dance.”


“What’s making you not want to go then? You’ve been pleading with me to let you go to dancing. Have you lost interest?”

Because I sit in the lessons, I knew there hadn’t been a specific incidence of meanness making her so miserable. But I also know that little girls can be incredibly cruel – subtly so – and devastate one another without thinking.

“It’s not that,” Goldilocks said slowly. Then it came out all at once. “It’s just that I haven’t been to lessons for two terms. I don’t know any of the steps. And I’m the oldest one there! Everyone else must surely think I’m an idiot, making mistakes all the time and being stuck with the younger classes.”


“If there was no one in the class, would you go?”

“Oh yes!”

“Do you enjoy dancing?”

“I love it!”

“Do you know those other girls? Do you know what they’re thinking, what they’re like? Does it affect you at all any time besides that half hour a week in the school hall?”

“Well … no. I suppose not.”

I explained to her that the other girls are probably very nice young ladies with no idea how old Goldilocks is, and no interest in her achievement since they’re all focusing on getting it right themselves.

But aren’t we like that sometimes? We give up our dreams because of potentially unfounded fears of what others will think of us.

Who cares? So what if someone laughs at you. You’re doing something you love, aren’t you? Does it really matter, after all, if someone you don’t know and almost never see thinks less of you for something outside of your control, like how old you are or how often your mom takes you to dance class? Surely not! The truth is that those people probably have no interest in your concerns. If they think about you at all, in all likelihood it’s probably to admire your courage. But the truth is that people are so wrapped up in themselves, they’re probably not thinking about you at all. Are you deriding them in your mind? Do you think less of them because of their age or race or experience or circumstances? I didn’t think so.

I explained to my dear Goldilocks that she needed to decide what mattered more to her: the imagined derision of her dancing partners, or the dancing itself. I assured her I would respect and support her requirements, whatever they turned out to be. But I encouraged her not to give up her dream simply because she thought someone might laugh at her.

Someone might. Someone almost always does. Dreamers unintentionally set themselves up as targets of ridicule. But that doesn’t stop them from changing the world. Don’t let it stop you, either. The mockers are too small to matter, and you are too awesome to let them.

Missionaries or Mission Fields?

A few weeks ago a missionary was speaking to us, and he said, “You’re either a missionary, or you’re a mission field”. His point was not that we should all be out in full-time service. Who would support us on the field? His point was that if we’re not supporting missionaries financially and in prayer, if we’re not supporting our church’s outreach efforts, and if we’re not actively winning the lost we know and love, perhaps it’s because we ourselves are those very lost.

Once we fully grasp the depth and the vast extent of the grace and love of our Lord for us, and for each soul on earth, how can we do anything but share that miraculous gift with everyone we meet?

The other day, Goldilocks was stumped by a verse in Proverbs that said that the righteous are better than the unrighteous. She pointed out that God says each of us is lost and sinful, and none of us is better than any other.

I explained it like this: we may not be better, but are we not better off? Is the person saved from drowning not better off than the one who is drowning still? And does that person, so recently saved from certain death, not have a duty and a responsibility towards his drowning fellow? Absolutely.

As we immerse ourselves daily in the Word of God, and every day ponder His precepts, we become completely convinced of His love for us and everyone we meet. We become convicted of His urgency in meeting the need for salvation in the lost. We are driven to do all we can to be part of His saving grace in the lives of those we meet. When we find ourselves caught up in pettiness: loss of joy, disputes over length of skirts and hair and beards, legalism and liberalism, we know we’ve lost sight altogether of our Maker’s plan, and it’s time to get back on track. Fast!

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.

Education at home: distilling what matters

We had a lot of reasons to start home schooling our kids, but at the end of the day there were results we wanted to see in our adult children, and what was happening in the classroom each day bore no relationship to our family goals.

We’ve tried a number of curricula and a range of course material, and this is what we’ve distilled:

I think that they will enjoy anything if we make it absolutely gripping. I also see no harm in starting with stuff they DO like. Eventually, they WILL be interested in everything. Here’s what I care about right now, in order:

  1. Do they have a strong concept of RIGHT and TRUE, and can they navigate their own lives based on this concept, without my help?
  2. Do they passionately LOVE to learn?
  3. Do they love to read, and take any and every opportunity to do so?
  4. Are they competent at Maths and able to grasp the concepts, extend them and, above all, APPLY them to the real world?

Beyond that, everything else is superfluous. I fundamentally believe that with these in place, the rest will come. They will eventually be curious about aspects of the world that may not old their attention now. And one day it will click together and they’ll be filled with wonder.

Considering that this happens to me more and more as I get older, I am not worried about them not completely grasping certain facts so early in life, because for me the facts are merely the vehicle taking them to the goals I’ve mentioned above. As long as the books I use to teach the facts serve my purpose, I will continue to use them. When they don’t, I’ll find ones that do.

We put a lot of energy into making sure there’s laughter in our household. Trying not to sweat the small stuff, laughing whenever we can, finding the lighter side of life. It’s not always easy but it’s already paying off, so in the long run I am very optimistic about the future.


How to balance working from home and home educating your children

I wish there was a simple answer to this question. Our typical day starts early (around 5AM): I do a quick round of laundry and dishes, make breakfast, and launch straight into school. After school I check emails and return calls, then make lunch. Work follows, flat out until it’s time to make supper. After supper it’s time for dishes and bed time stories, then back to work.

Bed time is usually between 23:00 and 02:00.

For me, there are two equally important keys to making this work. The first is prioritisation. Decide what’s important, and focus on that. But realise and accept that what’s important today (or this morning, or right this moment), may not be the same as what’s important tomorrow, what mattered tomorrow, or what is important in your life generally. It helps, too, to have a very clear idea of what is important generally, so that when you have to make a touch choice, it’ll be the right choice.

The other important key is acceptance and realistic expectations. Many years ago I had this romantic notion that eight hours each day, five days each week, would always be enough for getting work done. Add to that three hours of school and half an hour of exercise, and you still have plenty of time for sleep and being a domestic goddess. That’s not how life works. School often takes five hours or more. Or no time at all, since there isn’t any time for school and that’s that. Exercise is usually a distant memory and sleep sits on the bookshelf between Fairy Tales and Rumpelstiltskin. Being a domestic goddess is many miles away from divine most of the time, and every moment of every day of every week seems dedicated to putting out fires and desperately trying to keep promises that seemed so very realistic when they were made. The thing is that when you accept that what is, is; that this is just the way things are, it becomes so much easier to face each challenge rather than always looking for the road to “The-Way-Things-Should-Be Land”.

It’s not easy, and it’s not for the faint hearted. But it is what I wanted and that, too, makes it easier to bear. With the end game in sight, and taking things one step at a time, each day is better than the last.

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