As the end of the traditional school year is coming to an end for most families, it won’t be for ours since I am in pursuit of the Meanest Mom Award and have decided that we WILL be homeschooling throughout the summer months. Nevertheless, I found myself reflecting on the past 9 months of our homeschool. However, rather than reflecting on what my DS had learned this year, I was more interested in what I had learned! After all, I’m the “Old Dog” that supposedly can’t be taught new tricks, right?
Well, I’ve gotta tell you, this old dog learned PLENTY. Too much to write all about it in one post so I’ll break it down into pieces. This post will deal strictly with how I learned to GRANT PERMISSIONS. Not just to others but to myself. I never realized how liberating it is to grant permission! I mean, being on the receiving side of a permission (i.e. being the GRANTEE) is always pleasant and gratifying! Just think about the toothy grins and elated squeals of delight of your children when you give them permission to snack on some cookies…or (gasp!) to drink a can of soda! Never did I imagine that being the GRANTOR could be just as pleasant and gratifying. Let me share with you some of the ways in which I granted permissions and how, in doing so, I became transformed:
- I gave myself permission to let God interrupt my day…every day. This little golden nugget of advice was gleaned from the inspiring article “We Now Interrupt This School Day” written by Melanie Hexter in the March/April 2008 Issue of Home School Enrichment magazine (while I was unable to find the article online at www.homeschoolenrichment.com I was able to find the article published at http://www.crosswalk.com/homeschool/11573105/). By granting myself permission to let God interrupt our day as I prayed in the morning or with the children at breakfast, I was, in turn, granted more of a peaceful mind and heart throughout the course of the day…especially when my plans were drastically deviated and was forced to cope with unsolicited and unwanted distractions. Being fully armed with the knowledge that my plans may not be His plans, as well as having the desire follow His plan, I was able to deal with the interruptions with much more grace and less stress than I could have ever imagined! Interrupt away, Lord!
- I gave permission to my friends and family to be themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean that I called everyone I knew and gave them the “good news” that I was giving them permission to be who they are. No. What I was really doing was silently accepting that my friends and family may be like me or…they may NOT be like me. Honoring those similarities and differences was a very freeing experience for me. It not only allowed me to appreciate each person all the more but really assisted me in my always difficult quest to not judge others.
- I gave permission to my husband to (gulp) LEAD our family. Like many women, I have secretly AND outwardly wished, hoped and prayed for my husband to step up and assume his God-given responsibility as leader of our family…not giving more than a fleeting thought to what would happen if he actually did (because let’s face it…for some of us the answer to this prayer was akin to raising Lazarus from the dead). This year my spirit was particularly nudged (okay, nagged) to relinquish 27 adult years of control over to my DH so that he could fulfill his role. And I did so knowing full well that there would be not-so-pretty growing pains that our family may suffer as a result (not the least of which was my DH’s passive resistance leading to our potentially declining financial credit rating). The source of my courage was the insightful book “Husbands Who Won’t Lead and Wives Who Won’t Follow” by James Walker written for both husbands and wives.
- I gave myself permission to FOLLOW my husband. Oh, and by the way, my DH’s ability to lead successfully is completely contingent on my ability to follow. And I gotta be honest, since I began supporting myself at the age of 18 (and I didn’t marry until I was 36), I was NOT conditioned to follow anyone’s lead other than my own! This one is by far the hardest permission for me to grant.
- I gave myself permission to go against the homeschool mainstream. I had already given myself permission to go against the educational mainstream by deciding to homeschool. But once immersed in the homeschool culture…boy, oh boy, is it EVER hard to break free from that mainstream and do what’s best for your own personal situation. I’m talking about the curriculum that “everybody” uses, the activities that “everybody” is involved in, the method that “everybody” employs, the schedule that “everybody” keeps, the people that “everybody” hangs with…you get the idea. It’s really, really hard as a first time homeschooler to (first) become indoctrinated in the ways of homeschooling then to realize that the fight to stay mainstream may, in fact, really equate to a fight to swim upstream. Understanding and recognizing the unique qualities, attributes and dynamics of my own personal homeschool really helped to propel me to take action that appeared to be a departure from the homeschooling norm. I have to say that while daunting in the beginning, it eventually became a situation of relief to my homeschool soul. I still have immense affection for “everybody” and a complete respect for their choices. But now I also have a complete respect for my own choices, too. And it’s a beautiful thing!
- I gave myself permission to say “NO” more often. This actually started out as more of a directive from my DH (in his valiant attempt to lead our family) to reduce the amount of time I dedicate to volunteer on activities for homeschool, church, friends and extended family so that I would be freed up to attend to the needs of my immediate family, namely my DH and kids. However, his directive quickly developed into a need to give myself permission to “say NO” without emotional angst. As both a people-pleaser and a Type A personality who thinks she can do it all, I really struggled with the thought of disappointing people and coming to grips with the fact that I simply CAN’T do it all. So not only am I honoring the wishes of my DH (See? I’m following…), but I’m also giving myself much needed emotional relief and, as a result, reaping more time with the people that mean most to me…my DH and kids.
- I gave myself permission to fail. Oooooh…big one. Growing up in a household where straight A’s were not good enough (“Why weren’t they A+’s?”), failing was “not an option”. But over time I’ve slowly learned that to never fail means to never grow. This revelation became crystal clear to me after we had children and, moreover, began to homeschool them. In trying to teach my DS that it was perfectly acceptable to make mistakes in order to achieve growth, the very same message was being ingrained in my lifelong conditioned, quest-to-be-perfect brain. Other than a specific period in my late twenties, I can’t remember another time of experiencing a “growth spurt” of myself as I have this past year. And all in the name of failing. Yeah, baby!
- I gave myself permission to carve time out for quiet time with God each day. We’ve all read, heard, and watched about it on TV on the benefits of quiet time with God. And most of us even have the desire. I had the knowledge and the desire, but for me the trick was practical implementation. With all that is required of me during the course of the day, how could I possibly carve out meaningful, quiet time with God when I don’t even have time to sit down while I eat? What it came down to was really giving myself permission to NOT get other things done. As the pastor of our church recently said in one of his sermons, you cannot “make” the time to have quiet time with God…you have to “take” it from other things that are also meaningful. So as a result of carving out quiet time with God, for the first time in my life I am actually reading the bible in a year, getting serious with my prayer journal and prayer life, and leaning more on Him than on me. The rewards have been simply abundant!
- I gave myself permission to lean on others. Let’s face it. We moms have the hardest jobs on the planet. And as homeschooling moms, it’s even harder. We just can’t do it all on our own. God desires that we lean on Him but in his infinite grace and wisdom has also blessed us with friends, family, and outside resources to help us along. Accepting help when it’s offered is hard enough…but when it’s not offered, going the extra mile and asking for help when you need it is even harder. At least for me. But once that sinful pride is squashed and thrown into the compost pile (of course we compost…we’re hobby farmers!) asking for help is rather easy. And liberating! Yahoo!!!
- I gave myself permission to have lunch with my husband. I saved my favorite for last. It’s my favorite because I love my DH dearly even though I usually do a lousy job of showing him. He’s a sweet, kind, loving, affectionate man who regularly calls me to ask me out for lunch (he manages his own construction company next door to where we live). And I almost always turn him down because I’m either running behind, or committed elsewhere, or just too tired. Bad, bad wife. The errors of my ways were revealed to me through some lovely women who blessed me with their encouragement to seek out time with my husband (in the same way we should seek time with God). So I began seeking DH out with lunches once a week…and scheduled date nights every one to two weeks. It remains a challenge to line up our respective schedules week after week but it’s so worth it. It doesn’t sound like much, but those 60-90 minutes are really the only uninterrupted time we have alone together…at least at this stage of our lives. It’s amazing how these brief meetings can bridge so much of a gap in our marriage. And to actually SIT while eating…Ah! <scream of delight> A true blessing, indeed!
So this old dog was able to learn a few tricks this year after all! Who knew? At least one gal did. One of the best nuggets of advice I received this year was from a seasoned homeschooling mom of a gazillion children (to protect her identity I’ll refer to her as “AW” or “Awefully Wise”). She very simply said “Stay teachable. No matter where you are in your homeschool journey (new or seasoned), stay teachable.” I love that advice. Not just because it is solid gold advice that will help me be the best homeschool mom I can be…but because that advice transcends every other area of our lives, not just homeschool. Thank you, AW! You are a precious blessing to this old dog!