Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our First Badge - Healthy Eating

My daughter earned her first homeschool badge, Healthy Eating, by writing the following essay, her first ever essay.

Perfectionism and the Journey

I caught myself thinking this morning - Why is this parenting stuff so hard? Why didn't I read everything I needed to know before my kids were born and get it all figured out long ago? (As if that were even possible.)

Then I realized how I let myself learn about any other subject as I go - while writing a book, keeping chickens, gardening. I don't see it as a failure, but a journey deepening into something I value. Somehow learning to parent as I go feels like a failure. And into my mind popped the image of my daughter (age 7) melting into a pile of self revulsion because she can't draw or play piano or spell a word perfectly the first or second or third time. Hmm, I thought - while my response is less dramatic, it's the same pattern. Expecting myself to be beyond perfect from square one.

Time to let myself grow as I go, even as a parent, and to show my daughter my process. I've tried to show her my mistakes and learning in other areas - sewing, cooking, my career - but never my biggest project of all, parenting.

My daughter is an amazing artist. And she has a lot of room to grow. I guess maybe I can say the same about me as a parent - the former can be true, and the latter is okay, too.

Control or Mutual Creation

I'm reading articles in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Home Education Magazine about how other homeschooling and attachment-style parents are working towards not controlling their children. They are seeing how their fears have gotten in the way of letting their children grow into people who realize their own self control, aware of their own limits and their choices for honoring those limits. I feel myself resist a little against their words. This morning we had yet another explosion from my 7-year-old. It set off the whole house. I'm tired of her being the center of everything, the "spoiled brat princess." My response has been to ignore, stepping in only if she can't bring herself down. Usually she can't. So I offer empathy, which usually sends her distress higher. She's a bit of a drama queen. She started crying yesterday, for instance, because her imaginary sister isn't even real, so she is so very sorry and sad that she is all alone in the world. I wanted to roll my eyes and say, "Please. Get over yourself already." But I didn't. Not exactly. I sure did want to control her, though - control her outburst, control her hyperbole, control her personality which so often triggers me. So anyway, this morning, after the outburst when she was still lying on the floor kicking a half-deflated helium balloon and both she and her brother had asked their dad to play with them (I was lying in bed with a horrid cold), I overheard my husband say with great irritation, "Okay, everyone - first I need to clean up the kitchen, and then I can play with you." A little something clicked in me, a memory of how my daughter's behavior was really really challenging a few months ago and how "putting her to work" really shifted the energy. I said, "You can go help Daddy clean up the kitchen," to which she said, no, I'll wait, and I said, no, you won't - you can go help or vacuum, or clean up your room. So she reluctantly helped put away the dishes. And then clean up a few other messes, trying to include her three-year-old brother in the process. He naturally didn't want to help, so she made a game out of it, and they cleaned up together. By the end, her mood had shifted completely.

So then I'm reading these articles, and loving the idea of not controlling my children, but remembering this morning when I told my daughter what to do and it helped her. I wiggled uncomfortably in the thoughts that it actually helped me by reducing my distress at her outburst, and by creating more control in the house. That really I'm controlling. That it won't help in the long run. That by trying to control her behavior I am actually setting up a horrible situation and am a horrible mom.

But a reframe stepped politely in the picture: I'm not trying to control her, I am inviting her (with some pressure) to participate in the family. This gives her a locus other than the world revolving around her, which is never a happy place to be. We expect it to turn out a certain way, because we are at its center, and it never, ever does. But when the locus is the unit of the family, then it's not about control, it's about support and mutual creation.

So I'll be looking now at my ways I automatically try to control my kids and how I can instead invite them into mutual creation and belonging. It's going to be interesting.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Badges Project

After a friend of mine went to Yellowstone this past fall and her daughter collected jr ranger badges, I got me a homeschooling idea. I discovered that on ebay one can purchase girl scout badges for about $1 a piece. Some of them say something, like "gardening" while some of the older ones are just images - a bird, a butterfly, a horse. So we're doing some nature study these days with that same friend, and I've purchased badges for our girls to earn. We're pretty unschoolish, so while my background in outdoor education peeps its head out of the backpack now and then, mostly we just explore and play. We might develop a website someday based on this idea - homeschool badges - where homeschool families can gather online, earn both literal and virtual badges, and get ideas to connect with nature (and other badge-earning projects). But for now we're just keeping it small. Thought I'd pass along the idea!