How Do You Homeschool?

When Anika started homeschooling, we were living at Red Rock Bible Camp. To get her to the closest school, we would have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest town so she could catch a school bus for a 40 minute ride to the next town.

Homeschooling just made sense. By the time we left camp, we’d been homeschooling for four years, and it had become a normal way of life for us. We loved the freedom and flexibility, the creative approach to learning, and most of all, the time with our kids. It’s the relationship aspect that makes me want to keep doing this as long as I possibly can.

When we moved to Niverville, everyone assumed we’d put our kids in school, but it was too late – we were hooked!πŸ˜‰

It was scary, back in the beginning, though – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and desperately wanted direction. I pounced on any experienced homeschooling parent I came across, to ask all my burning questions: “What does your day look like? How do you know what to teach your kids? Do they have any friends? What about high school?”

After ten and a half years, those are the same questions people are asking me, whether they’re considering homeschooling their own kids, or they’re just trying to understand why someone would make the decision to homeschool.

A friend asked me the other day why I don’t write about homeschooling on my blog, and I wasn’t completely sure how to answer that. This isn’t a homeschool blog, so I have a good excuse, but it’s more than that. I think part of it is because it’s such a deeply personal thing – we all love our kids, and want the very best for them. When someone chooses to do things very differently than we do, it can bring up strong opinions. It’s often felt easiest just to stay quiet about the whole thing.

But it was because people were so open with me many years ago, and were gracious enough to answer all of my questions that I began to get a picture of homeschooling as something that could be beautiful and life-giving, and something I wanted our family to be a part of. If I share about this journey we’re on, I could be doing the same thing for someone else.

So today I’m answering the questions about homeschooling I get asked the most. Let me know if I’ve missed anything you’re curious about!

Why do you homeschool?

If I had to pick only one reason, it would be the relationship. I know parents can have a good relationship with their kids even when they’re in school, but there is just no other way to have this amount of time with my kids. (Can you tell that quality time is my love language?!)

I also really love the way it grows curiosity, and provides so much flexibility and freedom to learn about what interests them the most. I love how my kids have so many extra hours in a day to just be kids, and pursue what brings them joy.

Another huge benefit is being able to learn in a way that fits my kids’ learning styles. Anika is an audio learner, so she needs to think out loud. She often talks to herself while she’s working, or mutters cutely and quietly under her breath as she tries to work out a problem. Kaylia is very tactile, and is always creating things. She draws while she listens to me read, or cuts and glues and creates things based on what she is learning.

It made a huge difference to figure out what they needed most to learn well, and I’m happy to have the freedom to meet their individual needs. Because I’m a hands-on learner, I remember how frustrated some of my teachers would get when they had just finished teaching the class, and I’d go up to their desk for individual help, and ask them talk me through it again while I tried to work it out. I always felt really bad for doing it, but looking back, I can see clearly how I just couldn’t learn the way I was “supposed” to. There are different ways to learn, and I love having the ability to pursue education in a way that’s specifically suited to my children’s needs.

I’m sure teachers try to address these needs, but I can only imagine how hard it would be in a class with so many kids.

Creativity is also a huge deal for me. I love watching my kids using their imagination all day long. A school guidance counselor I know once said to me, “Keep homeschooling your kids. Every day, I watch kids at my school going from class to class, listening to a bell signaling where to go and what to do, and I see them losing their creativity and individuality.”

I was listening to a podcast this week that had nothing to do with homeschooling, but I found it very interesting when CJ Casciotta, author of Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret Success, talked about how we spend all our years in school and college living by the rule that we must fit in to survive and succeed. The goal is to become like everyone else so we don’t stand out, but then we graduate and apply for jobs, and every employer wants to know what makes each of us different, unique, and able to offer something the other candidates can’t. He talked about how hard and confusing it is to find our individuality after spending years trying to hide it.

Seems to me it’s a better thing to keep it all along. In my experience, homeschooling is an excellent way to do that. πŸ˜‰

How much time do you spend on school work each day, and what does your day look like?

Actual time spent on school work is a hard question to answer, because school work and everything else we do runs into each other a lot. Some school work becomes play, and lots of learning happens through life lessons, and not specifically during a set “school time”.

Anika keeps some school books right by her bed, so that when she wakes up first thing in the morning, she can get a bunch of reading done while she’s still cozy in bed.

Then she comes upstairs, we make breakfast and eat, and then she gets to work on subjects that require DVDs (for math), or the computer (for writing, French, or typing for answering questions for literature and science).

Kaylia takes a bit longer to get going in the morning. She would love to have hours for reading or playing when she gets up, but then it’s hard to pull her away from those things to focus on school, so we try to get her work done as early as we can so she has the rest of the day to spend as she chooses.

We get all her written work out of the way first, like math, grammar, handwriting, and spelling, and then we spend as long as we want reading social studies, history, and science. Sometimes there are activities or experiments to do, or we get distracted with looking up more information and videos on the internet about stuff we’re learning.

After she’s done, she spends time with Everett, who is very eager to play at this point, so I can spend some focused time with Anika on math.

Then we have lunch, do chores, and have “Rest Time”, which means napping for me (if Michael Hyatt naps every day, I should too!), writing fiction for Anika (I think she’s writing her 12th book), reading/playing/crafts for Kaylia, and audio stories for Everett in his room.

After that, it’s time for exercise or playing outside, and then Anika does some reading for social studies and history. I make supper while Kaylia and Everett play together, or have friends over.

Anika takes voice lessons, Kaylia takes art lessons, and I teach them both piano. They practice after supper, finish any chores that need to be done, and spend time playing, reading, or relaxing. After Everett is in bed, Ben and I take turns reading to the girls one on one. Anika is out more evenings now as she gets older, attending youth and worship team practice, or babysitting and hanging out with friends, but the majority of our evenings are pretty slow at home, just the way I like it! Staying home is the new going out.😁

Do you ever get a break?

Yes!! Everyone needs breaks! I get up early so I can start the day quietly, getting my mind and body ready for the day by doing devotions, meditating, and exercising.

We have “rest time” every afternoon, so we can all have a bit of time alone, and Ben and I enjoy quiet evenings after the kids are in bed. Our girls love books, so they enjoy having time to read and unwind in bed before going to sleep, which gives us a longer evening.

How do you have enough patience?

I don’t have enough, so I pray a lot! I also make sure to take care of myself so I am in a better place to take care of my kids – no one has patience if they’re eating junk food or not sleeping well.

But another important piece is that when my kids are very annoying, it can often be a sign that they need more attention and time with a parent. When I spend time connecting with them, they are more enjoyable to be with, and require less patience! Also, the less my kids use screens and the healthier they eat, the happier they are.

But the truth is that it can be really hard at times. There are good days, and there are very bad days, but we press on, and it is so worth it.

How do you know what to teach your kids, and are you qualified to do so?

You guys, the world of homeschool curriculum is a wild, wonderful place. There are SO MANY amazing options, and you can choose resources that do most of the work for the parent. In Manitoba, we’re provided a list of subjects we are required to cover, but we have complete freedom as to how we want to cover it and what material we use.

It’s up to me to find what curriculum is a good fit for our kids (using online reviews, recommendations from other homeschoolers, or by trial and error!), but once we choose our books, the lessons are clearly laid out and easy to follow. The curriculum is specifically written for parents to teach their kids, so it’s not hard to use. We’ve had some bumps along the way, but with all the resources available to us in the form of books, DVDs, or online programs, we’ve always found a way through.

Here’s the thing – the class doesn’t move ahead until the student is ready to move on. That means Anika WILL understand her math, for example, before we move on. Her lessons introduce concepts in small, manageable chunks, and we get each chunk under control before going on to the next thing.

I almost failed math in high school because I couldn’t keep up, and no one had time to help me. I wasn’t dumb, I just needed more time and practice. But I spent years thinking I was dumb, and couldn’t do math. I am so thankful that my kids have the time and one-on-one attention to learn, because it was what I needed.

Am I qualified? Well, I care about my kids’ education more than anyone else ever could (except Ben!), we have all the resources we could ever want or need, and all of us have the desire to make this work. I’m satisfied with those qualifications.πŸ˜‰

What curriculum do you use?

Anika uses Math U See, Essentials in Writing, Progeny Press literature studies, TruthQuest History for world history, Donna Ward’s historical fiction list for Canadian history, a boring textbook I wouldn’t recommend for social studies (I make up my own assignments using the textbook, or let her research topics she’s interested in), Discovering Nature Series for science, and Duolingo for French.

Kaylia uses Math U See, Growing With Grammar, Pathway Readers (Amish readers so good I have to hide them because my kids want to read them for fun but I want to save them for school!), Spelling Power, Donna Ward’s social studies series, Story of the World, Apologia science books, and Duolingo.

Is there any way in which their education is monitored?

I need to send our plan for the year to the Manitoba homeschool office each September, listing all the subjects we’ll be covering, and what curriculum we plan to use. In January and June, I have to send in progress reports to update how things are going.

There is no final homeschool exam before kids can graduate or anything, which is something lots of people ask about!

Do they have friends?

Our kids have wonderful friends, some who attend school, and some who are part of our homeschool group.

In the beginning, I was concerned about the social aspect of homeschooling, as well, but I don’t worry much about it anymore. I want them have great relationships with people, but I’ve learned this can happen in a variety of ways. As siblings, I think their relationships are much stronger than if they were in school, because of the time they spend together, especially considering the wide span in their ages. I also feel that they have opportunities for enjoying relationships with a wide range of ages – school can make us slip into thinking that “socializing” means spending time with kids the exact same age, but that only happens in school. In the real world, we spend time with people of all ages, and I like the variety our kids enjoy.

Will you homeschool your kids all the way through high school?

I hope so! Anika has decided she wants to homeschool all the way through, and Kaylia says she doesn’t ever want to go to school, either. I haven’t started any formal learning with Everett, but he picks up a lot from being around the girls all day. Because he’s a lot more active than the girls, I like the idea of him not having to sit still for most of the day in school, once he’s old enough to start. We’ll see how it goes, but we plan to continue with all of them.

Are you worried about hindering their chances of getting into college or university, or holding them back from any other opportunities in the future?

No! Colleges and universities love homeschooled kids, and I’ve been told they “roll out the red carpet” for them, because they are such great students. In general, they love to learn, and are very self motivated. Because they have such a different education experience, I’ve been told they receive a private interview when they apply for university or college, which allows their gifts and passions to shine through.

Anika is very interested in music, dance, and writing, so we’ll see where this takes her. These are interests easily explored outside of school, and we see homeschooling as an amazing way for her to have the time and freedom to focus on what interests her most.

Are you concerned your kids will be too sheltered, and not transition well to the “real world”?

Attempting to shelter our kids has never been our motivation to homeschool, and it’s a good thing, because problems come up wherever you are – that’s just kinda how life works. We haven’t locked our kids in Rapunzel’s tower, and we encourage opportunities which will be eye-opening, and expose them to different viewpoints.

But when Anika comes home after hanging out with friends who attend public school, and passes on all the stories about drinking, drugs, and sex, I must confess, we do not search out ways to expose her to stuff like that, so I guess she is a bit sheltered.

But that issue is easily solved, if we ever feel like she’s needing more drinking, drugs, and sex in her life.πŸ€” Innocence is hard to keep, and easy to lose, so our kids should be able to catch up quick.

But seriously now, our kids are sheltered from some things, and looking back, I wish I had been, too. There was a lot of junior high drama that I would have loved to avoid completely. Challenges make us grow, but some types of challenges can have long term negative effects. Someone once told me Anika should go to school because being bullied would do her good. I’ve never tried to find ways for her to be bullied, but she has been in some tough relationship situations that have been difficult to handle, and she came through beautifully. I think she’ll be just fine.

Life is tough in all kinds of ways, and problems don’t just happen at school. Also, homeschooled kids know they’re different, and they feel the strain of growing up in a way that’s different from everybody else. That’s not easy, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn. Raising strong kids who are willing to live counter culturally sounds good to me.

From the book Simple Parenting, I’ve learned that a lot of kids these days are very sophisticated, but that isn’t the same thing as being mature. Knowing about life is not the same thing as knowing how to handle it well. My kids may not grow up to be the coolest, most sophisticated in the crowd, but that’s not what we’re going for anyway.

Attending school does not guarantee a child’s success, but a kind heart, determination, creativity, a good attitude, and a willingness to learn will take them a long way. I believe they can learn those things very well at home.

Homeschooling is not perfect, and it also doesn’t guarantee success. Ben often reminds me there are pros and cons to either option, and it’s our job to keep reevaluating, looking for ways to bridge the gaps. So far, we have seen a lot of pros, not very many cons, and we really love the fruit that has come from homeschooling. 😊

We realize there are some things our kids miss out on because they don’t attend school, but there are other things they gain. In the end, it has to be a choice each family makes, and do what feels true to who they are and what they hope to gain from an education experience.

Like I said at the beginning, we all love our kids and want the best for them. We are so blessed and fortunate to live in a place where we have the freedom to pursue learning and creativity in the way we choose!

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Parenting Truth #2: Healing Happens When We Welcome Tears

I had to break some hard, hard news to my sweet, sensitive middle girl last week, and it was rough. The whole time, I had this thought running through my head. “Tears are good! Tears are healing, and exactly what she needs right now.” Everything in me wanted to cheer her up, and skip the hard part, but I kept holding it back, and let her cry.

This is new for me. As I shared in my last post, I’ve been putting myself through” parenting school”, and situations like this are my homework. Before, I would have jumped right into all the positive ways to view the situation, but I’ve been reading an AMAZING book called Parenting Without Power Struggles, and it’s about making room for your child’s feelings, which is making a ton of sense to me.

It has to do with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Far too often, we get the message in our society that not all emotions are acceptable, and we don’t allow room for grief. Or another issue is that our kids get stuck in the angry and bargaining phases, but what they really need is to move past into the depression stage, where they will allow themselves to feel sad instead of mad.

“Our challenge as parents is to interpret for our kids what we sense is contributing to their anger. We need to try to speak on behalf of the fury underneath our children’s words or behaviour….This sometimes means gently guiding children to the Wall of Futility when they’re frustrated, so they can offload their feelings of discouragement or disappointment and move on to adaptation.”

The Wall of Futility means the point at which a child moves past anger, arguing, and bargaining, and moves into hurt and sadness, which is the true cause of all the other emotions.

Susan Stiffelman writes that as long as children stay in the arguing phase, they can’t move into dealing with the sadness, and therefore can’t adapt to difficult, painful, or disappointing experiences.

When we respond to their anger and arguing with logic and reason, we KEEP them in the stage that doesn’t allow them to grieve. And once they hit the stage of grieving, it is healthy and GOOD for them to get it all out in the open, without us trying to cheer them up right away, or even shaming them for their sadness.

If we respond with gentleness and compassion, even when they’re angry and arguing, and try to nudge them along to feeling the sadness and tears, they will get over the hardship sooner.

When they hit the stage of sadness, it’s super important for us as parents to welcome it, and hold space for it – to allow our kids to feel all the sadness, and to let them know that all the feelings are safe with us.

Just a couple of hours before reading that, I made the exact mistake of skipping over the healing tears. One of my kids came in upset, and I thought I was using good parenting when I immediately went into “Let’s look at this from a different perspective” mode.

It did not go well.

When I picked up my book later that evening, I could not believe how accurate this is! I completely missed the opportunity to draw out the hurt and disappointment, and it turned into a long, drawn-out, angry discussion about how my child felt it was NOT POSSIBLE to see things from a different perspective.

If course it wasn’t!! My timing was terrible.

I love how Stiffelman refers to it as “Act I” and “Act II”. Act I is all the outpouring of emotion, and it is most definitely not time for dealing with the problem. The kid should not be quiet, or reasonable, or see the bright side. They should just get it all out.

Once they have emptied out all that emotional angst, had a good cry, calmed down, and finished Act I, THEN it is possibly time for the logical thoughts of Act II – if the parent first asks the child if they’d like to hear a different perspective.

I tried this recently, and was told most decidedly that my child did NOT wish to hear my perspective. Since I’m new at this, I ended up telling her anyway, which went very badly. I reminded myself that I still need some practice! We’ll try again next time.

But all of this makes so much sense to me – I’ve seen it go the wrong way many, many times in the past, and wish I would have left more room for all the strong emotions to get out.

Growing up, I wanted to be a “good girl” so much, I ended up stuffing a lot of things inside. I wanted to be quiet and compliant, and didn’t want to cause any problems. I believed the best way to do that was to hold it all in. The issue with that is when the pressure eventually builds up too much, everything just explodes.

Janet Lansbury says that three year olds are often seen as having issues with emotions, because they cry and scream in the moment, but she said in reality, they are actually incredibly healthy emotionally, because they don’t hold anything in. They let it all out, and move on.

Now of course, a world full of people acting like three year olds would be outrageously terrible, but there are healthy, mature ways to release emotions. What I’m trying to do (with my kids and myself!) is to encourage privacy to be mad, cry, write it out, draw a picture, whatever it takes to get it out. The emotions usually aren’t the problem, it’s the expression of them that is. So the goal is healthy expression and release of the emotions, rather than holding it all in.

Because this goes against what I’ve spent most of my life doing, I have to admit, it’s taking some time to make the switch in my mind and responses. But as I work at it, I feel such a wonderful shift within myself. I feel space opening up inside for my own emotions, and I feel much less frustration over my kids’ emotions.

It’s even helpful just to be able to identify what’s going on in my children – I can silently check off the stages in my head as I watch them unfold before me, and it helps me hang in there with more patience, because I know that as soon as we hit the grief stage, and the tears start, we’re almost there, and things will be okay.

It’s really hard as a parent to watch your child suffer, but it helps to know we can be a safe place for them, and the tears are a sign of healing.

How Do You Play?

I’m in the middle of a great book about the importance of playing. It’s giving me something to think about as I go about my everyday stuff, because it’s making me realize that I don’t spend enough time playing. It’s making me watch my kids play, and think about how I can learn from them, how to encourage them in their play, and how we can pursue more fun around here.

Play isn’t much of an issue when Ben is at home – he is naturally a very playful person, and when he’s an old man, he will be a more wholesome version of the Taco Bell commercial about the seniors sneaking out of the retirement home at night. He’s always got a twinkle in his eye, and is constantly cracking jokes and reading stories with all the silly voices.

Everett’s backyard version of “water skiing”

And then there’s me – a little on the intense side, often forgetting that life is not one big to-do list. I think I can be pretty funny sometimes, and I enjoy pursuing creativity and relaxation, but playfulness…not so much. I’ve just never thought about it a lot.

So now there’s this book: The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turning into a Tiger. (affiliate link) It’s interesting to be reading about the scientific study and different categories of play, while watching my kids naturally doing these things, and trying to figure out when I lost it. Movement, banging things, building things, imagining, wrestling, storytelling, and rituals. (That last one is actually one of the easiest for adults – ritual or celebratory play refers to birthday parties or the fun things we do for holidays.)

Having kids gets me to do more of these things with them – and I do have to admit that it feels good to build Jenga block towers or get out the puzzles. But how often do I intentionally pursue play for myself? I don’t even know how I would do some of those things. What could I build?!

I can see dramatic improvement in my life when I do take part in any these things – daily walks and yoga have been a huge benefit in my life. Writing and telling stories feeds my soul. Dancing in the kitchen while we clean up from supper is always a good way to get everybody in a good mood. So maybe I’m doing better than I thought, but there’s still lots of room for improvement!

I found it interesting that in this author’s mind, competitive sports don’t count as play! She’s referring specifically to recreational play, where there is no pressure to win or perform, and the focus is on freely playing without worrying about improving skills or striving to reach goals. Just plain, simple fun.

I want more of that! How can I intentionally pursue play in my own life? Maybe we all need kids to lead the way! How do we keep them from losing their sense of fun and ability to play? I’m so curious to hear your thoughts!

Are you like Ben, and find it easy to incorporate play, or are you more task-focused?Β How do you play? I need some fresh ideas!!:)

Your Success is Not My Failure

It was the summer Anika was five, and she still didn’t know how to ride a bike.

Her little friend next door was a year younger than Anika, and had already learned how to bike the summer before. As a first-time, up-tight, over-achiever kind of mom, I was stressed.

Her little friend also learned how to swim earlier than Anika did, so pretty much, I was worried about her future. Suddenly, biking and swimming were no longer fun activities for her to take part in that summer – this was serious, and she needed to learn fast. We were falling behind. How would she grow into a well-functioning adult if she was behind on basic life skills and athletic abilities?I was pretty sure this was a sign that we were failing as parents, and I was passing on a nonathletic curse so strong that Ben’s athletic genes could not overpower it.

But one day, I went next door to visit our friends, and was waiting in their hallway for some reason I can’t remember. As I stood there, I suddenly noticed something hanging on the wall that I had never paid attention to before.  It was a rack full of medals – medals for bike competitions of some sort. A huge wave of realization swept over me – our friend was hugely into biking. He was incredibly passionate about it, and it was a hobby he spent a lot of time enjoying and perfecting. As a family, they took biking very seriously, and they had spent a lot of time teaching their daughter to ride a bike.

As I thought about these friends, I suddenly remembered that she was a lifeguard. Swimming was something she was passionate about, and she had also spent a lot of time helping her daughter learn how to swim.

If I could pick two activities that defined our friends, it would most definitely be swimming and biking.

This made me curious – what were Ben and I passionate about? It didn’t take me long to identify what was most important to us – reading and music. These were both hobbies that Ben and I enjoyed, and as I thought about it, I could see the ways in which we were passing on these joys to Anika, in the same way our friends were focusing on swimming and biking.

I read to Anika for hours and hours each day. She learned to read at a young age, and at five, she had the vocabulary of a 10-year-old. And Ben would often pull out his guitar and sing with her. I had taught piano lessons for years, and I loved seeing how Anika was becoming a very natural pianist, catching on quickly and playing confidently.

We had chosen to put our time, energy, and passion into the activities we enjoyed, and wanted to share with our daughter. It made no sense to assume that because someone else was naturally good at something, and had put in the time to increase their skill, we needed to do the same, and expect the same results, without the same amount of passion or practice.

I had been comparing my weakness to another person’s strength.

The comparison game never makes anyone a winner, but that day I realized how completely unfair I’d been with myself, and even with Anika. No one can be good at everything, and there isn’t enough time in a day to be passionate about too many things.

At that point, we were fortunate enough to have Anika share our love for books and music, but this would not necessarily always be the case. We could pass on our hobbies, but we also needed to allow room for the things she wanted to pursue, without that being a reflection of our skill as parents.

She did learn to swim and bike that summer, and now it doesn’t seem important anymore. I had to think very hard to figure out how old she was the summer she learned to bike, because it doesn’t matter anymore when it happened. She spends hours a day writing fantasy books, and is signed up for Musical Theatre classes this fall, and we love watching her enjoy things we enjoy.

And I often think about that rack full of medals, and how each family is unique, free to develop their own passions and interests, and even the culture in their own home. This is right and good – something to celebrate, actually.

The strength and success of another person does not take anything away from me. Why is that so hard to remember sometimes?

Anika once said to me, “Just because my friend is very pretty doesn’t mean that I’m not pretty.” I’ve made lots of mistakes as a parent, but if she’s figured this truth out at the ripe old age of 13, I think she’ll be okay.

I wasn’t planning on ending this post with a collection of quotes, but when I went looking for a suitable thought to share, there were so many fantastic quotes that I couldn’t pick just one. Here’s a bit of inspiration to hang on to next time we start feeling the temptation to compare:

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For the Love of Introverts

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Today’s favourites are related to the post I shared yesterday on personality types. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert and I love my alone time!! But as a homeschooling mom of three kids, it can be hard to recharge, so today I’m going to share three things which have been really helpful this year. If you’re an extrovert, take notes, because you’re bound to have an introvert in your life who could benefit from these things, too!! (affiliate links included)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book has been showing up everywhere, and for good reason – it is AMAZING!! It’s such a good read for anyone, extrovert or introvert. It’s been crazy for me to read the ways in which our culture is built for extroverts. I’ve actually needed to read this book slowly, because I need to give my mind time to keep up with all the shifts that happen as I read it! I’m constantly recognizing ways in which I give in to pressures around me, or how I’m parenting my own little introvert in ways that aren’t helpful or healthy, but it’s just the way things have always been done.

Susan Cain has done a phenomenal job researching this book, and it is so well written. Her interviews are fascinating, and she questions many things we consider normal, but are really geared for extroverts, and make introverts miserable and uncomfortable. I keep realizing how much I’ve come to accept being uncomfortable! It’s hard for me to be honest and stand up for myself, and say no to things which don’t work well for my personality type. No, I’d rather not shake hands with complete strangers in church. (No offense!) No, I’d rather not answer my phone…like, ever. (I bet an introvert invented texting!) No, I’d rather not work with a group of people on anything I could just do it by myself.

As I shared in yesterday’s post, I truly love people, and I don’t like to be alone all the time. But there are certain interactions (small talk, gossip, strained conversation, etc.) that drain me quickly, while deeper conversations about topics which interest and inspire me are life-giving. It’s interesting to think of ways to recover from energy-sucking interactions, and add in more of the life-giving ones.

This book is great for introverts who want to find out what’s awesome about being an introvert, and for extroverts who need to grow in their appreciation for all that introverts are capable of, and why we need them to keep things balanced.

Headphones

Best purchase of the year. All of my kids looooooove listening to music, but most of the time, I just want it to be quiet and peaceful. I don’t like multi-tasking, so my favourite time to listen to music is when no one else is around, and I don’t have to listen to people talking to me and listen to music.

We’ve struggled with my low noise threshold for years, but finally figured out that headphones would save the day for everybody. It’s been the best thing ever – I have my peace and quiet, and my kids take turns listening to as much music as their little hearts desire. They think it’s far more fun to listen to music with headphones than without, so it’s suddenly become a special treat, and great entertainment.

Podcast Episode: How Personality Types Manage Energy

I used to think being alone was enough to recharge me, but listening to this podcast episode was very eye-opening. There are 16 different personality types (take the test here), and each type recharges in a different way. Each one has it’s greatest area of strength, and when we utilize that strength, we are recharged. For me, that strength is thinking! Specifically, it’s thinking about how my day is going, noticing patterns in my kids’ behaviour, trying to think up solutions to make our home run better and keep everybody in a healthier place. When I have the chance to be alone, I make myself set aside the phone or the book or whatever would distract me, and I just think. At first it felt weird and like I should be doing something more productive, but it’s been amazing for me! I could think for hours. However, there are also times when I need to get out of my head, and so the best way for my type (INFJ) to balance out is to do something that physically connects me to the moment of enjoyment, like yoga, a walk, or a hot shower.

But that’s just my type. There’s a type that recharges by going back to a familiar book or movie, and a type that feels most rested when they’re learning, so listening to a podcast feels very restful. Extroverts feel energized and refreshed by different types of social interactions. There are many different ways to recharge, and it makes a lot of sense to get intentional about it. When we just blindly stumble along and do whatever feels good, we could be wasting valuable down time that’s not leaving us recharged. This episode is definitely worth listening to, for all personality types!!

Alright, let me hear it – what are your favourite ways to recharge? What gives you energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personality Types

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

You guys, today’s topic is my favourite of all the favourites. It’s shaped my thinking in some big ways over this last year, but it’s a huge topic, so I’ll only be able to give you a bit of an overview. If anything peaks your interest, I’ll point you to some great resources so you can dig deeper if you’d like.

Today we’re talking about personality types and the Myers Briggs tool. Most people are at least familiar with this tool, so you probably know about it, but this was the year I dug into it and got a much better understanding. In case you’re not too familiar with it, here’s how it works:

There are 16 different personality types, but this doesn’t mean each person with the same type will be exactly the same. We give our personality our own individual twist, and there are many factors playing into it, but these generalizations can be extremely helpful in exploring how we think and respond to people and situations.

Each 16 types is given a combination of four letters which stand for words describing your personal preferences – Introvert or Extrovert, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. My letters are INFJ, and Ben is an ENFP, for example. Here’s what that means:

Introvert or Extrovert

Do you need to be alone to recharge, or does being with other people make you feel energized? “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” (source) Although people have a preference one way or the other, people are usually a mix of the two. For example, I’m an introvert, but I really love people and don’t like to be alone for endless amounts of time. I need to be alone to recharge, and get super grumpy and overstimulated if I don’t get enough alone time, but if I’m alone for a whole day, I actually start getting depressed and feel very out of balance. Ben, on the other hand, is an extrovert, but says he would have no problem being alone for a couple of days. We are opposite in how we prefer to recharge, but because I’m an extroverted introvert, and he’s more of an introverted extrovert, we’ve found it pretty easy to find balance in this area.

Sensing or Intuition

Sensors are very present in the world around them. They take in information with their five senses and are very aware of their environment. They are focused on facts and experiences as they actually happened, while intuitives are all about reading between the lines and picking up on undercurrents. Their thoughts leap all over the place, they love new ideas, and they are more abstract. Ben and I are both intuitives, so our conversations go deep and wide, with lots of new thoughts to explore. Both of us use metaphors a lot to explain things. I find that most of my friends are intuitives, but I have great appreciation for the sensors in my life. My mom is a sensor, and there is no one like her when it comes to throwing a party. Sensors are all about holidays and traditions, and when I look back on my childhood, I can see how consistent she was with traditions that meant and still mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble with repeating the same practice for my own family. I used to feel a lot of guilt about this – being a “good mom” meant being like my mom, but I just didn’t have the energy to do a lot of things she did. It’s been very freeing to discover this past year that a “good mom” can actually look many different ways, and when we spent Canada Day at the cabin with my parents,Β  I was delighted to let her decorate and make the whole thing beautiful and festive so we could enjoy the tradition without me needing to do all the work. I’m absolutely not lazy, like I used to worry about – I just have different priorities, and get excited, energetic, and motivated by different things.

Thinking or Feeling

When making decisions, Thinkers focus on facts, logic, and effectiveness, while Feelers focus more on people’s emotions, and think more about keeping everybody feeling happy, understood, and cared for. Thinkers still have feelings, and Feelers still think, but it’s their preferred way of processing. Ben and I are both Feelers, so things in our home are very focused on the deep conversations to get everybody connected. Anika may very well be a Thinker, though, because sometimes she’ll suddenly say, “Okay, I get it, can we stop talking about this now?” I used to think she was being totally disrespectful, and while I still think tone makes a huge difference, I’ve come to recognize that she reaches her limit for conversation on certain topics. Sometimes I’d feel a little shut down when she’d say it, but now I can understand that my efficient daughter is just ready to move on to the next thing, and I choose not to take it personally.

It seems that many times, hurt feelings come about because of these differences. Feelers tend to share thoughts and emotions which Thinkers don’t always connect with. Thinkers are more straightforward, and think all the fluff and emotions Feelers use to communicate are unnecessary and maybe even a waste of time. These are vastly different styles of communication, and I’ve seen (and felt!) these opposite approaches bring about misunderstanding and hurt where it was never intended. As a Feeler, I find it very helpful to have another point of view to examine when someone doesn’t respond to me in the way I expected and anticipated.

Judging or Perceiving

The easiest way for me to differentiate between these last two preferences is to figure out if someone has a “work before play” mentality, or if they just love to have fun anytime, throwing in a bit of work here and there, wherever it fits in best. Or make the work fun! I use judging, and it’s all work. I don’t want to even think about having fun until the to-do list is done, and then I can move on to the fun part feeling guilt-free and ready to enjoy myself. But Ben is the fun one in our home, and he’s all about turning on the music while we work, and thinking up ways to make it more enjoyable. Life with him has definitely made me learn to be less intense. Sometimes there’s a bit of frustration because I have a list and I’m on a mission, which is not his style at all, but it’s pretty much the only area where we have to work on things in our relationship. I read an article recently about what it’s like for an INFJ and ENFP to be in relationship, and it said we’re the perfect match, comparing us to levitating unicorns, which sounds quite magical to me. Our relationship is not perfect, but it’s pretty great! I’m very happy with my unicorn.:)

So all of that is only the beginning of the 16 personality types, and it can go in a million different directions. In the last year, I’ve used it to deepen my understanding of myself, my relationship with Ben, in parenting, extended family relationships, friendships, pretty much anywhere I interact with people. It’s been eye-opening and sometimes slightly uncomfortable, but mostly fantastic. Interestingly, not all personality types like personality typing! Some types see no use for it, while other types are drawn strongly to it. Ben’s type doesn’t like to put people in a box, but he sees some value in the tool. My type finds it a huge relief, because I finally feel understood and like I’m not completely weird in the way I respond to stuff!

If it’s something that interests you, the best place to start learning is by taking a free personality test here. I love the podcasts by Personality Hacker, which you can find here. The profile descriptions at this site are very informative, and to get a better understanding of what the difference is between Extravert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving, I really like the list format provided at this site.

The best book I’ve read this year is MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths (affiliate link). A lot of things started making sense to me when I read this book, like why I parent the way I do, my relationship with each of my kids, why I was the way I was as a kid, and our family dynamics. I’m just finishing it up now, and I’m eager to see how it will positively impact things in our home.

Earlier this year, I was searching for a book that would help me figure out how to survive as an introvert parent when I’m with my kids all day. I love them like crazy, but I was feeling overwhelmed because of never having enough alone time. I’d feel guilty when I took alone time because I felt I needed to be with them to be a loving, attentive mom! I couldn’t find a single book for introvert parents, which made me feel very frustrated, but then a friend mentioned this book to me, and it’s been so much more helpful than I was even hoping for! Because it covers all 16 personality types, as well as the different personalities our spouse and children bring to the home, it is very informative and useful for absolutely anybody interested in learning more about Myers Briggs. Such a great resource.

And a big favourite around here is the Myers Briggs Disney princess site, because it’s become vitally important to understand which princess everyone is most like, and it makes me Elsa, so it’s a big topic of discussion around here.

Are you a fan of the Myers Briggs tool? Bonus points to anyone who takes the test and comes back to tell me what you are! πŸ™‚

 

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When I’m Parenting a Rutabaga Instead of a Pumpkin

A few years ago, I was at a conference and heard a speaker say something I still think about regularly. He was talking about parenting, and said,

“We don’t get to choose the seeds we grow. God gives us the seed, and it’s up to us to water it, make sure it gets the sunlight it needs, and care for it in every way we can, but we don’t get to control what kind of plant it grows up to be. If God has given you a rutabaga seed, but you want to grow a pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you will never get a pumpkin to grow from that rutabaga seed.”

I love my rutabagas very much, but there are still times when I have to fight back the pumpkin urges. Sometimes I think about what an awesome parent I would be if everything were perfectly organized and under control, with my three perfect little pumpkins all in a row. But I’m raising children, not pumpkins, and life gets crazy and wild, and how I react in the heat of the moment is more important than it’s ever been.

kidsI feel like parenting is a magnifying glass for all of my strengths and weaknesses – it provides a glaringly obvious look at my spiritual, emotional, and social health. Things which might be a bit of an issue for me with other people is going to come up with my kids, multiplied times ten. I can be socially acceptable in public for short periods of time, but you stick me at home with three kids, in the midst of homeschooling, housework, busy schedules, tantrums, lack of sleep, whatever else, and suddenly those pesky little personality flaws become crystal clear.

I have my own ideas of how a situation should be handled, and they have theirs, and suddenly I’m feeling the tension of a rutabaga. They are each their own little person, and I don’t get to control how they react or think. The only thing I have control over is how I react. It would be so much more convenient if I could change them instead of myself!

But I keep remembering this quote I shared a few weeks ago:

quoteI was thinking about it in relation to people in general, but Ben and I have been talking lately about how it applies to raising kids. Ben says we still have the responsibility to try our best as parents – the Bible tells us to train our children in the way they should go. But who gets to determine that way? We can guide our children, but how much can we really change them?

Ben has told me stories about his horrible temper when he was younger, and I find it almost impossible to believe, because Ben never loses his temper now. And although I am sure his parents did many awesome things in raising him, there was only so much they could do. It took maturity and deep conviction on Ben’s part to finally make a life change when he was in college.

This reminds me of a few truths to hang on to:

  1. God has a beautiful plan for my rutabagas.
  2. I need to be faithful as a parent, but also trust the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Between trying to change myself, and learning to entrust my kids to the Holy Spirit, I have plenty to keep me busy without trying to control my children.
  4. I’ve never tried rutabagas, but they could be fabulous, and I might like them better than pumpkins.

As I just reread that list, I mentally changed it from parenting to relationships in general, and they all apply! I am never “just” a stay-at-home mom – I’m learning, growing, and being challenged every single day, as are my sweet kids.

We can all be rutabagas together. Pumpkins are so overrated!