This was meant to be chapter one of nonfiction book about homeschooling that I wrote a couple of years ago. The idea of editing an entire book is overwhelming me, so I will post it bit by bit. I would love to know what you think. I will still be working on my novels, but wanted to be an encouragement to parents going through some of the same things we did. I want you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is worth all the effort and sacrifice we put in.
You are doing important work.
Be a dream encourager.
Teach them to follow their dreams.
I had dreams for her. I had dreams for all my children, but for my little girl I had cotton candy, white-lace-curtain-dreams. I knew exactly what I wanted her room to look like. We would wear beautiful, hand sewn, matching dresses. In this magical world, the days would be filled to the top with joyful moments. We would cook together, sew together, and take nature walks. She would have long, beautiful hair and I would spend hours and hours brushing and curling it. Demure and lady-like, she would sit quietly by my side when I suggested, in a calm and gentle manner, that she do so. Like I said, it was a dream.
By the time I had proof positive that I a little girl was actually on the way, I had birthed enough boys to realize many of these ideas would probably not come true. Still, I never even considered a girl child of mine would not like to sew and cook. After all, my boys all learned to quilt and are well acquainted with the sewing machine. Two of them can cook reasonably well, and one excels in the kitchen. Maybe this is why my daughter sees absolutely no reason to spend her time over a hot stove.
There was a period of time when she became interested in sewing, but she didn’t want my help. She was in a club that sometimes did sewing projects, and these she did with her brother’s assistance, because she would rather sew with him than with me.
I bought plenty of hair bows and barrettes. She never liked me messing with her hair, and hid in the closet to hack it off. She’s not a big fan of brushing her hair either. Saying that here will probably get me in dutch with her, but it’s true.
She doesn’t love the same things I love. She needs to go her own way. My dreams are not hers. She needs her own.
Each of my children has their passions. This is how it should be. While there is a sorrow in not being able to share things that delight me with my most favorite young lady in the world, we share enough. It would be a terrible disservice to cripple a person by smothering their gifts, either by superimposing our own or otherwise.
They have to have room to grow, to find their true self. They need time and space. Every person is born with natural inclinations, and the wise teacher will be able to discern the areas in which a person will naturally bloom by observing them. We live in a world full of limitless possibilities; as long as we don’t limit ourselves by spending too much of our time and energy trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what our lives should look like.
Human beings are born wired to learn, to explore, and to search out new experiences. A baby grasps at things both familiar and new. This is the way we are made. No one has to force a toddler to reach, test, and try new things. As long as we keep reaching, we will find what we are best suited for. The best thing we can do for our children, and for ourselves, is to get out of the way of natural tendencies allowing our dreams and passions to instruct us.
Growing dreams takes time.
Nurture them the same way you would a tender plant. Give your students opportunity and fertile soil in which to find their rightful place. Allow them to experience plenty of opportunities. My children were shocked to recently meet someone who had never been to an art museum. While peers may often shake heads because my children were not raised on cable TV, mine are surprised and saddened that many of their friends went through their entire childhood without ever building a fort or digging a hole big enough to put your whole body into. A childhood without trees, music, and art, is a childhood of poverty.
We may not have had a great deal of material things, but God blessed us with abundance. Children need time in nature and time in the quiet to use one of the greatest assets at their disposal, their imagination, and they need books. Lots of books. Encourage your children’s interests. Listen patiently to them talk about what they love and they will love you for it. Feeding dreams is an honorable calling. Watching the growth is a blessing. Trust me on this one. It’s not something you want to miss.
There are two sides to this coin. As with everything in life, balance is hard to come by and maintain. Not only do we have to encourage them to strive towards their chosen goals, we need, at times, to give them a reality check. People will lie to you. They might tell you you’re great at something because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Limitations are in place to help guide us to the calling we were intended to pursue. Don’t get in the way by refusing to acknowledge the fact. I am not talking about being critical or actively discouraging children from their true ambition. They will never learn what they’re capable of unless you encourage them to test limits and reach goals higher than they can realistically expect to achieve. More often than not they can and do move beyond what they thought they could do.
But let’s face it, not everyone can be a rocket scientist or a famous singer.
Sometimes your children won’t listen to you, no matter how well delivered the advice. I have found the best thing to do is to get out of the way and let them either succeed or fail.
I used to think that anyone could sing. Then my middle son decided he would like to be a musician. He never did learn to sing, however he did learn to play the guitar, the piano, and produced an album as his senior project. He has a extremely good grasp of music theory and has mad technical skills. He just can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Just because he can’t sing doesn’t mean he’s not a musician, as he has proven.
I suspect he still thinks maybe he could learn to sing if he had a better teacher. Maybe he’s right. There’s nothing quite as delightful as watching your children prove you wrong by succeeding at something. I will always be their biggest cheerleader.
Protect them from dream killers.
Reality may be harsh, but false perceptions can be more destructive and even harsher. There will be always be those who will try to hold people down. Learn to recognize them. Finding the strength of character to break away from those who seek to hold you down can be difficult, and often is, but to succeed and to be pleased with your own life this is something you must do. The world is full of naysayers, both obvious and not, who delight in other’s failures. Be careful of the environment you place your child in. Even if you think you have done the best job and trust implicitly the people who influence your child, do a health check every now and again. Situations can change. Just as you reevaluate your child’s academic progress, reevaluate the situations they are placed in. Home educating is no guarantee against the typical social positioning and conflicts. Talk to your children and listen to them. Be that obnoxious mom. You’ve earned the right.
Everyone has been born with a unique destiny, a purpose for being.
Following our passions enables us to be satisfied. There is much more to life than simple muddling through, surviving day by day. I believe we are part of a much bigger picture, fitted together into the grand and beautiful design. Everyone matters.
As I write this I’m visiting at my middle son’s house.
“I need encouragement,” I tell him.
He ignores me, looking at his phone.
“Pay attention to me,” I demand.
“I’m listening,” he says, “I’m looking up how to be an encouragement.”
“No really, listen. You’re great, you’re awesome, good job.”
I can’t tell if he’s trying to make me laugh or irritate me. Whatever.
“Thanks,” I say.
The time it is late and I suddenly realize something.
“I forgot to make your lasagna,” I tell him.
Earlier, I had told him if he brought groceries I would make him one.
He shrugs. “You don’t have time to make lasagna. You’re busy changing the world with your writing.”
I swivel my head around to look at him. He is going through his mail, his head bent over the pile of flyers and envelopes. I can’t read his expression.
“What do you mean?”
My visit has been too long and we are starting to get on each other’s nerves. It’s hard to read people when you’re busy jabbing at each other. He looks up. He wears little boy earnestness, something he’s never quite outgrown. My beautiful intense child.
“You’re sharing wisdom with your writing.”
He says this with utter seriousness. He believes in me. A spare five minutes ago, I was whining, complaining.
Now I say, “That’s what I meant earlier. What you just said is encouraging.”
He furrows his brow. “Really?” He seems honestly surprised. He thinks about it a moment, and then shrugs. “It’s the truth.” He goes back to pawing through his mail, as if he had not just handed me a priceless treasure.
He’s a dream encourager.
I never knew I was growing my own cheerleading section.
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All my best,