Asilomar Beach , Pacific Grove, Ca.
I've been silent from this space for a long time , mostly because I have so much to say and am not sure how to say it. This happens sometimes when I am shifting and growing a lot. I get lost in my head and have to talk things through to figure them out.
I have been wanting to share on the blog my thoughts and aha's from our recent big adventure but I guess aha's sometimes come over time not all at once. You see, last month I was blessed enough to take my girls on a 21 day road trip. It had started off as a simple enough vacation with a friend and her boys and before you knew it we had this grand adventure planned. I was thrilled. I have been feeling that ever present heaviness that comes from knowing my oldest is going off to college in one year and I want to soak up every last bit of connection and memories with her that I can and boy did we!
The thing was that I had not been on a trip this long since I was 16 years old so this was a big deal. Over the weeks leading up to our roadtrip I felt my excitement rising. Trips to REI were filled with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm I have not felt in a very long time. I am pretty sure my kids thought I was nuts to get so revved up about new camping utensils and collapsible pots and pans but I have to admit even in those early weeks I could feel the magic brewing.
After all our dreaming, weeks of packing and careful planning, the trip did not disappoint.
I recall sitting on the beach the first morning with my coffee for a few minutes of alone time and feeling this enormous amount of peace wash over me. In that moment I realized that over the years since becoming a mama , I had lost my inner adventurer - and now she was back!! She had been such a strong presence in my life when I was younger from the time I was 16 and went on a 3 week Outward Bound White Water Rafting/ Mountaineering Trip, to my time at UC Santa Barbara as a Adventure Staff Volunteer leading canoe trips on the Colorado River, and even into the beginnings of my relationship with my husband on our many camping trips and hikes. My inner adventurer was about more than being active though, it was an overall mental state, a feeling of wonder and excitement about life and the world. Anything was possible and I was filled with hope and wonder. The world was my oyster and I wanted to explore it all.
Then I had kids and as those of you with gifted munchkins ( and teens!!) know, raising intense, out of the box, beyond mainstream kids can probably relate: life suddenly got very very hard. We don't just learn differently, we are wired differently and experience the world differently .
Looking back now I realize that we had been in a state of crisis for so very long that I had completely lost any sense of fun. Everything was about managing my kids. In the beginning I became focused on just getting through the day because of course my kids didn't just magically sleep through the night. Later my relationships were strained ( or at least I felt they were) because my kids didn't fit in socially and sometimes didn't behave in public the way they were supposed to. The stories are many but I can remember one occasion when my now 9 year old started preschool that she kept running out of the classroom.and crying at drop off. Every time I drove away I felt awful but this was what was expected right? Of course, they had no idea what to do and would call me daily to report her "misbehavior". All the other kids. weren't crying and carrying on for week and weeks. I must be a bad parent. I must be doing something terribly wrong. How could I share this with friends and expect any support? They weren't dealing with this. They would look at me sympathetically but beyond that, couldn't relate.
Yes, in those early years my days were filled with managing problems at school, trying to force kids to "comply" at home", and trying to fit in when we so clearly did not. I had friends through my kids girlscout troop or sports team but I really had no tribe. I had friends but felt outside the circle even though I probably was not.
So, it is no wonder that I lost my way. I have been slowly making my way back over the past years since I started homeschooling and it feels so so good.
Meadow House, Willow Witt Ranch Oregon
I have been home from the 21 day Road Trip for a little over a month now and the aha's keep coming in. I have ideas to share and inspiration and hope to spread. For all parents but especially those of you raising unique, spirited kids I know one thing for sure: life doesn't have to be so hard...
We spend so much time focusing on our kids problems. This comes from a place of fear and worry. We want so badly for them to be successful in life, to have opportunities available to them so we think this is what we need to do in order to make sure that happens. Don't get me wrong, I understand that some kids need scaffolding or professional help when the challenges they experience make it difficult to manage life in a joyful way. I've been there too. But I believe we are taking it too far. I think as a community we spend too much time looking at what's wrong instead of looking for what is right.
I wonder what if we focus more on our own joy, our own happiness and peace. What if we look within to how we can be more organized, more inspired, more alive. What would happen if we rediscover our inner adventurer? How would our kids react? Our spouses, our friends? I think something amazing would occur in our children and our families.
I have been reading this book and the author shares this new way of looking at parenting that I have been feeling for so long. She says that our job as parents is to support our kids in becoming more of who they really are instead of focusing on what we feel are their faults or flaws.
She says... " I know how extremely difficult it is for parents to trust that if we simply usher our children into their own self realization, rather than pressuring them to comply with our idea of who they should be , they will flourish, " " We feel that if we aren't trying to control or effect a desired outcome , we are not doing what we are supposed to do. Parents become obsessed with activity as an imagined antidote to fear. We treat our children like chattel , pushing them toward a future we imagine for them. Only when we stop listening to the voice in our head and stop obsessing and regard our children as sovereign beings who are fully capable of rising to the challenge of becoming the author of their own life will they embody the vigor and courage that is their natural state. " - Shefali Tsabary
I have noticed a trend on gifted and parenting blogs and groups of focusing on everything that is going wrong. We look for the problems and want support with that. I understand it because some days are really really hard. What I wonder though is what would happen if we took Shefali's approach and worked instead on finding our own inner adventurer, looked into ourselves for how we need to evolve and be better human beings for our children, what would happen?
For me, I know this is what I need. I want to create a childhood filled with wonder and curiosity. I wish for a peace filled home with connection and strong relationships. I want a circle of friends and a tribe of women who believe this to be true. This conscious parenting approach is going to require awareness and thoughtfulness because it is not how most of us were raised but for asynchronous kids and mamas- it may just the thing that saves us all.
Last weekend I was blessed to attend my very first Wild and Free Homeschool Conference on board the beautiful and majestic Queen Mary in Long Beach. The timing wasn't perfect since I am planning a 3 week road trip and we leave next weekend ( Shh....so many surprises there! I will be posting photos as we go so be sure to follow this page on facebook)
My girlfriend and I decided to make an entire day of it and started off with lunch, lots of catching up and a little shopping. By the time I checked in , I was feeling pretty relaxed and ready to see how the weekend unfolded. Let me tell you it did not disappoint!
As I looked around the room and took in all the attendees- I wondered who these ladies were. There were so many younger mamas, baby wearing mamas, nature loving adventuring, homesteader mamas. 450 homeschooling mamas who came together to be inspired, rejuvenate, and relish in this slow intentional living that we are so proud of. And you know what, they were happy and excited and so ready to have some fun.
I have been to a lot of conferences in my coaching career and as a homeschooler but none of them started like this. First there were these giant balls tossed around- we were giggling like little kids. It felt so good to just let go and be free. I joked to my friend about how I needed to lighten up, raising these intense kiddos I can forget just how much they need me to give in to a childlike sense of wonder and just let go and be in the moment. What a way to remember this little nugget!
Next up was the band Branches from Portland Oregon. So much fun! I cannot recall any conference I have ever attended that opened with a hip funky band! All at once these amazing group of women felt united and one. It was a very special and awe-inspiring moment.
Later that evening there was an opening where the women who started Wild and Free shared this little piece she had written in her latest publication of Wild and Free. I have to share it with you here because it really spoke to me. I was practically in tears when I read this because it spoke to my heart.
(Be sure to check out the Wild and Free website link at the end. )
We are not just homeschoolers. We are a community like no other.
We are not the norm. We go against the grain, flowing crosscurrent to mainstream culture. We are weird, unsocialized. And We love it. We embrace it. We're proud of it, in fact. Because we know this way of learning doesn't give our children a disadvantage in the world, but a leg up.
The path we're on is the right one even though it is less travelled. We believe that when kids are free to be themselves and that makes them a little "weird" , they possess what most adults are still striving to achieve, individualism. Purpose. Passion.
And when mamas are wild enough to walk their own way, raising up kidss in the way they should go, something amazing happens in their young hearts and minds.
We embrace nature and esteem good books. We love learning and strive for slow, intentional living. Webelieve mud pies trump memorization. And hikes beat homework any day of the week. We choose connection over curriculum,. And we beleive learning can be beautiful when it happens naturally. We call this "living" life.
Yes, we are passionate. And maybe a little crazy. But we are in this together.
We are Wild and Free.
By Ainsley Arment
Founder Wild and Free
( From Collection 2 of the new Wild and Free Print Magazine)
The entire weekend just flowed from this. This. This is how I feel and as a mom of gifted kiddos sometimes I can forget to live a slow intentional life. I can get caught up in the intensity of our days or even more likely my own emotional highs and lows and forget what I am seeking. I can start comparing my life to others or feel pressure to sign up for classes and camps or activities that don't hold our vision sacred. Our days can become so full that there is no room for exploration, connection and rest.
Sometimes, I forget the life I am trying to create for myself and my family.
A few of you may have heard me say that I have decided that this is my year of the Hell Yes!! I wish to live fully and in the present moment. I wish to go after my dreams and leave behind the pieces that don't serve me. I want to let go of the doubts and the fears that keep me stuck. I want to show up and live life full out. My kids need this. My husband needs this. I need this.
I suppose that this is what A Spacious Life is all about.
Honestly, life doesn't have to be so hard. Yes, there will be challenging times and not everything is roses. But in the end , we get to decide how we show up for the party and I think that makes all the difference.
My oldest daughter will turn 17 years old in a couple of days. It seems like just yesterday that I was bringing her home from the hospital so filled with wonder and joy at this new life we had created. I was so young then and my life as a mom was just beginning. So often people say to enjoy this time because they grow up so fast and now here I am and I understand deep within that this is true.
Our journey as mother and daughter has not always been an easy one. During her time in school my oldest was often very unhappy and as a result so was our relationship. I didn't know how to relate to her and there were miles and miles between us. There was lots of yelling, fighting and tears.
So , so, so many tears.
To be honest my oldest daughter is the sole reason that I decided to homeschool. I give her all the credit for giving me the insight and courage to take the leap from the mainstream. I once told her thank you for helping me be a rebel ( after spending most of my life as a rule follower) and she said- you aren't the rebel mom- we are. LOL!!
For those of you have been following along with this blog you know that traditional school was a disaster for her. We tried it all from public, to gifted , and even private school. There were so many years of parent teacher meetings, ongoing conversations with the principal and school psychologist about how to engage her in learning. There were a gazillion behavior programs implemented and failed , rules and rules and I am ashamed to say bribes. Pretty much all of these efforts only served to re-enforce my daughters feelings of low self worth and not fitting in. and making us feel as complete failures in parenting.
I remember a time in 5th grade when she refused to go with me to a parent teacher conference - (the teacher had wanted the kids to join in on the discussion.). I arrived at the conference ready to hear once again about how she was not performing up to her potential, I braced myself for hearing the words about what was wrong with her, how she wasn't doing the work and let me tell you the teacher did not disappoint. Her teacher shared about how my bright kid who could score a 99% on state testing was not doing well in school. And despite the lack of clear solutions, I sat through an hour of the teacher telling me how my daughter needed to step up, that she couldn't get away with this, how someone had to send her a message that this was not acceptable and how she would fail middle school at this rate.
I was told of 12 missing assignments, 10 missing assignments and tales of lost homework and incomplete work.. The teacher expressed how perhaps what I needed to do was to take away my daughter's art- the one thing she truly loved- until she shaped up. My blood boiled at that idea! The nerve. It was clear that as much as we had no idea how to change things- neither did the teacher or the school.
When I got home from that conference, I found my then 11 year old daughter curled up in the fetal position on top of the dresser in her closet.. She had clearly been crying and nervously asked me what the teacher said. She told me that she could never go back there, that the teachers hated her and she would never fit in.
That was the moment that we decided to homeschool though it would take 2 more years for us to finally pull the trigger. We were scared of the unknown but knew in our hearts that something needed to change for fear we would lose our daughter.
Looking back I do have regrets like we all do. I wish I would have listened a little more, done a bit more research into what gifted really meant especially when it came to underachieving and emotional intensity. Surely I could have read all the books on giftedness my mom gave me but sat unread waiting for me to have a little more "time". I wish I could have had the guts to be a rebel a little bit sooner and perhaps I would have saved us some of the struggles we had to go through those next few years before we were ready to let go of the fight of staying in school.
Mostly though, as I sit here thinking about the fact that in 3 days I will have a 17 year old young adult in my home, my lovely daughter growing up before my eyes, I am filled with a wonderful sense of gratitude and peace.
You see, I am so very very lucky. I am filled with comfort in knowing that we saved our relationship and have had the past 5 years to get to know each other all over again. Yes, I am sad that we lost all of those years and I definitely wish I could get them back. Still, I try and focus on what we do have and hope that sharing my story saves a few other parents and kids from following in our painful steps. .
What I want other parents of gifted kids who are struggling in school and are wondering about how they will handle homeschooling high school to know is this, Today instead of teenage strife and rebellion, we have had time spent together. Instead of anger, yelling, and tears we have had long conversations and hours and hours of learning and adventuring. Instead of worrying and fear we have comfort in knowing we are lovingly supporting our daughter into following her passions and blossoming into who she truly is.
Together with her sisters we have built beautiful memories from our weekly field trips (we have gone on over 200!!!) , enjoyed leisurely park days with no where to rush to, we have watched endless movies, and gone camping with our friends when everyone else was at school. I have loved watching the relationships between her and her 3 sisters grow as well in ways that would not have been possible if she had stayed miserable in school.
The title of this post was homeschooling high school and I suppose this is what it means to me. For us, high school has been less about academics and more about life. It has looked like helping my oldest figure out what her goals are for her future and facilitating finding the resources to make that possible. It has meant honoring her as a whole person, who just happens to be a teenager. Our focus has been on helping to light a fire in her belly by helping her strive for internal motivation and not forcing her to complete work or assignments only because it makes us feel better or reduce our own fear.
She wants to go to college and wishes for a full 4 year experience so while she tried out a community college class once, she knows she doesn't want to start there and transfer in to a larger university as a junior. We have allowed her the freedom to meet high school standards in her own way.
Watch history movies and read books for history- YES!!, Take that online sign language to fulfill your foreign language requirement- go for it, dabble or dive deep in Coursera classes just because you are interested- you have plenty of time. I cracked up when she signed up for the history of extraterrestrials. I mean, if you can't take a class like that when you are 16- when can you?
Math has been a bit harder because she doesn't love it but she has gotten there in her own way, in her own time. We don't force or push. I don't collect assignments or grade her work. We believe in developing independence and self motivated learners but of course help in finding the tools they need to be successful. She has a tutor and has been studying for the ACT. She treated it like a full time job and with the luxury of no homework she has been able to do so with focused attention but not stress and overwhelm.
We have watched her passion in art grow into areas we didn't even know existed from painting and sketching to game design and digital 3-d art and even jewelry making, crafting and pottery. For the past few years she has worked as an assistant art teacher and gained so much life experience in working with parents, organizing kids , and deepening her understanding of the business side of being a professional artist.
Mostly, homeschooling highschool for us has been a journey of amazement and awe in watching our child unfold into a warm, caring, and beautiful young lady. She has helped us to to let go of what we believed was true and be open to learning and growing- outside the box. With her gently (and sometimes not so gentle- HA!!) pushing we have changed and shifted ourselves and that is truly a gift.
I have come to learn that for us homeschooling highschool is not really about academics, It is certainly not about curriculum even if that is part of the experience if it is needed to reach our kids goals. Instead I believe that homeschooling high school it is about the relationships. With ourselves, our families and our teens and if we stay focused on that, everything will turn out just as it should be.
Today I celebrate my daughter on her birthday and I take pride in the mother she has helped me to become.
Enjoying Europe with Dehesa Charter School Fall 2015
A few days ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a local workshop for parents who are considering homeschooling this next school year. As the parents arrived I could tell that they were filled with a mixture of ......curiosity and excitement sure but to be honest.....yes- more than a little bit of fear.
Could they do this?
What would others think?
Could they get their spouse on board?
Would their kids fall behind their peers?
What about college and transcripts,
and well being a success in life?
As our evening unfolded they shared with me their stories about why they felt that leaving mainstream school was the best choice for their families.
There were 2 moms who said that they had always thought about homeschooling ( but had not yet done so) and 1 who had homeschooled on and off but for the rest of the 15 other families- this was something entirely new and unexpected.
They told stories of kids who were not getting challenged in school, of kids crying everyday- not wanting to go, of tummy aches and and constant worries. They shared about the bright light of curiosity starting to dim and of happy kids starting to seem well.....not so happy. They shared stories about kids with reading challenges that were falling behind despite support from the school and other kids who were extremely bored and not engaged.
A couple of parents shared how homeschooling was the only option for their kids with health issues which made school a potentially unsafe place to be and while homeschooling wasn't their first choice- they were willing do it for the sake of their child's needs.
After I left the workshop- I felt inspired to continue to support others on this journey, to offer a safe space to share the struggles and the accomplishments along the way.
I know firsthand that it can feel like a very lonely place to be at times especially when everyone in your local area is doing the school thing and you suddenly find yourself outside that circle staring in. You may feel isolated when others don't understand or seem to care.
It is a strange experience when your neighbors are talking about homework, parent teacher conferences or school issues and you are planning what curriculum to use next year, or your next field trip or learning adventure.
I promise you are not alone. Most of the parents in our community didn't come to homeschooling because it was what we always wanted to do. We didn't question that school was the logical next step for our kids, in fact if anything we tried to ignore the signs that maybe it wasn't going to work because we wanted so badly to believe that it would.
We love our kids desperately but we also looked forward to the break that school would provide us to catch our breath or explore our own interests.
Listen, our kids are intense, asynchronous, emotional little beings. They push us to our limits and force us to find a strength we didn't know we had. I need to make something clear for fear that you may misunderstand..
For those of us raising emotionally intense, creative souls -
homeschooling isn't really something we CHOOSE....in fact , I think it is
pretty safe to say that homeschooling CHOSE US. It is what we do because it is what our kids need and somehow by a miracle almost we are able to rise to the occasion.
Sometimes parents tell me that they could never homeschool their kids because they are too intense, they'll never listen to them. They question how they would they ever get their kids to learn if they were the teacher when homework is already such a battle. I understand since I have been blessed with 4 of these strong willed driven little fireballs.
I promise you , you can do this. You are stronger than you think you are. Let go of the fear, the doubt and the uncertainty.
You have a community of other parents who get it waiting on the other side ready to lift you up and guide you-just when you need it.
You got this!
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Upcoming Local Event:
Sunday April 17th 6-9pm
Newport Coast, California
Homeschooling 101 Workshop
Cost: $20 OC Gifted Meet Up Members
Join me as I share about my journey through public, private and eventually homeschooling with my own gifted children ages 5, 8, 13, and 16. I will be providing tons of valuable information on getting started homeschooling in California as well as answering your individual questions. Each participant will receive a workbook with everything you need to begin the journey.
email me at email@example.com or join our local meet up group to RSVP- link at www.ocgifted.com .
I have a confession to make. I have a problem with spinning my wheels- if you are a parent of multiple kids maybe you can relate. I have such good intentions but lately I find myself wasting time and not being very productive. I used to be so organized - I mean I am a professional coach afterall - but something's happened to my brain. It got all murky and fuzzy and somehow I sort of lost my way. It got worse as I had more kids and now with homeschooling 4 it is amazing I get anything done at all.
This past week I had this growing sense that I was reaching the point of overwhelm or being burned out. I couldn't really put my finger on what was bothering me but instead of fighting it and pushing through like I normally would do, I decided to listen to that inner voice that said I needed a break. I completely cleared our schedule which with 4 kids ages 5, 8, 13 and 16 is no easy feat. I cancelled all our appointments, told the soccer coaches we would not be at practice and let go of the pressure to go anywhere at all. I set up a playdate for each day this week so my kids would still have something to look forward to and asked the moms to just drop off so I ( and they) could get some time to ourselves.
Let me tell you it was heavenly. I spent the first day planning my daily rhythm and cleaning up my to-do list and then I got to work. I cannot tell you how much I got done.
started poetry tea-time with kids
scheduled a workshop I host on getting started homeschooling
caught up on laundry
cleaned my carpet ( just bought an awesome new machine!!)
washed the couch slipcovers
organized my photos
cleaned up my computer
set up coffee dates with a few friends
wrote a newsletter for my gifted group
ordered groceries from Amazon Fresh ( Can I tell you I just LOVE this service)
downloaded photos from my phone to computer
contacted a bunch of potential piano teachers
created a monthly meal plan for April
ordered throw pillows for my new to me ( bought on craig's list ) sectional
ordered a towel rack for the bathroom- it broke over a year ago! ( yikes)
Wow! I must say I am impressed with myself. However, I don't share this list with you to brag. I share because in the midst of doing all of this- I realized that I felt more relaxed and at peace than I had in many months. Why is that? As you can see I wasn't spending my week off lounging- I was actually pretty busy.
I'm realizing that part of living a spacious life is living life with intention and purpose. Most of us have our schedules so filled to the brim that we spend our days just doing the next urgent thing that is right in front of us and never getting to the things that will bring us the most peace and joy. We long to have a life well lived but we are slaves to our schedules. As a result, during those rare moments when we actually do have a few minutes, we spin our wheels, randomly check facebook or watch mindless television.
I want to live my life differently than the mainstream and set an example for my girls. It is important to me that we eat a mostly whole foods diet, cook from scratch, read aloud voraciously, learn something new everyday, spend lots of time in nature, play board games together and explore the world around us. I want to have weekly date nights with my husband and spend quality time with friends. I definitely want to have more fun. Sounds pretty awesome , right?
This week taught me some valuable lessons on slowing down, getting focused and finding the balance between being productive and relaxation. I am sharing my list below so that you can begin to implement it into your life and hopefully find the success that I did. As always, I am available for private coaching if you find you need a little extra focus and support:) Just fill out the contact us form and we will set something up.
Top Ten List for Being Organized for Homeschoolers ( and Everyone Else Too!!)
1- Create a Daily Rhythm and Post It
2- Write Out Your To-Do List Daily with No More than 7-9 Items
( I Keep a Master To-Do List Separately)
3- Only Look at Your Daily T0-Do List As You Work On Tasks
4- Do Chores First Thing and Get Kids Involved ( Even 5 year olds can empty trash cans)
5- Order Groceries (Amazon Fresh) and Supplies Online ( Target Delivers Free Over $25!!)
6- Create a Monthly Meal Plan and Post it
7- Let Go of As Many Commitments as You Can
8- Delegate (I hired my 16 year old to work on my photo project for example)
9- Reduce Mindless Television and Internet Surfing
10- Get Plenty Of Sleep ( I find at night is when I waste the most time)
My youngest daughter who is 5 just started playing soccer last week. She was so excited. Her grandma took her shopping and together they picked out matching cleats, shin guards, and a brand new soccer ball. She was so excited to finally join her older sister in the sport. For days leading up to the first practice, it was all she could talk about.
So imagine my surprise as we got to the field on that first day of practice when she was overcome with fear and hid behind my legs while the coaches introduced themselves and the girls to each other. As the coach called them over to get started , she refused to budge and tears started streaming down her face. I noticed my emotions begin to flare, there was that feeling of being judged by other parents for my kid who refused to go on the field but also the protective mama instinct creeping in who just wanted to keep my child safe and was doubting if this was such a good idea..
I looked down at my 5 year old and really focused on her. I saw in her face that she just needed time. I got quiet and pushed out the thoughts of being judged and was the parent my child needed me to be at that moment. I pulled the coaches aside and told them to please not rush her. I could tell they didn't agree but that was okay
My daughter and I stood out there on the field together for 45 minutes of that practice. I asked her every once in a while if she was ready to go play but I didn't force her. She and I kicked the ball a bit together and I just patiently waited. Finally during the last few minutes of practice she slowly joined the other girls and started to play. She did it in her own time and in her own way.
Gifted kids are complex and often intense. They can be intellectually light years beyond their peers and emotionally years behind. We know this. The thing is after we have read a few books about gifted and attended a few talks- we want to know more. We want to go beyond giftedness and learn exactly what to do, which words to use, what specific actions to take. These kids push us so far out of our comfort zone as parents, there was no training for this job. Learn to trust yourself.
I understand that parents of gifted kids need specific tools that we can begin using to help us better support our kids in living their lives. How do we respond when they have a meltdown, what specifically do we do when they refuse to listen to us, how exactly do we manage their huge emotions.
Life with gifted kids can be a daily emotional and mental struggle. Our kids are often intense and demand a crazy amount of our energy. Things that could go so smoothly for a parent with a neuro-typical kid, can cause an uproar in a family with gifted kids. I get it, I have 4 of them myself!!
My advice is simple but not easy. Get grounded. Do your own work. Stay calm yourself. Be gentle. Listen to your child. Get down on their level. Use less words. Meet your child where they are. Be present and engaged. Practice patience. Fill your own bucket so you can fill theirs.
Learn to see your child - beyond giftedness.
Some days I wish that I could just focus on being a mom, I wish that it was enough. Honestly, I really love being with my kids. We explore new places every week, visit museums, the library, cook together, go on amazing field trips and have a tight knit community of friends, I don't feel the desire to send them off to someone else or have them away from me all day. Being a mom is incredibly fulfilling, and yet somehow I want more.
I was a coach and owned a thriving organization for women entrepreneurs for over a decade before I started homeschooling. I met privately with clients helping them start and grow a business. I taught them how to get more clients and make more money working the least number of hours.
We worked on their personal lives too - I helped them learn to be more organized, overcome procrastination and face their fears. I helped college students figure out what they wanted to do with their lives, and out of work middle-aged men find work. I loved it all but the pull to be home and do one thing well was always there.
It's been over 5 years now since I closed that business to begin homeschooling. It's been an incredible journey and one I would not trade for anything but now I want more, again. Lately I have been asking myself, what if A Spacious Life includes having something for myself and teaching others in return?
Starting a business is at once exhilarating and exhausting. There are the long hours contemplating what it will look like, brainstorming ideas, and watching it unfold. There are the deep conversations and revelations. Ooh...this is my sweet spot. It is as if I am coming home once again.
I am learning that it is okay to want more and that it is good for my kids to see me as an entrepreneur. They are watching and picking up little bits just like they do with everything else that I teach.
If you are still with me , maybe you are wondering how you can make a little extra money for your family and all those fun adventures you want to go on? Or perhaps you have a great idea and you feel called to see it come to life. You can do this! We can do it together.
As homeschoolers we are very busy. Our days are full. My advice is to start with laying a really good foundation. Clear your clutter, plan your meals, develop a plan, eliminate your tolerations. I have spent the last year getting ready to start my business doing those things because I knew I would fail if I tried to add it into my already chaotic life. It may not take you an entire year but taking the time before diving in is key. If you can, don't skip this step.
Next you are going to have to figure out when you will work. For us, we homeschool in the nooks and crannies of our days. We are not sit around the table learners most of the time but we do have scheduled activities that happen at predictable times. I have found that getting up way before my kids do works perfectly for me to write blog posts, journal and read. I also work a few hours a couple of days a week meeting with clients both over the phone and outside the home. Generally I spend 1 day on the weekend working as well. The main thing is to be consistent but with enough flexibility so that you don't stress yourself out.
Once you have a solid structure in place you can get started!
1. What type of business do you want to own? What lights you up and gets your creative juices flowing? What do you do best and what are you good at? What you are selling and who you are selling to? Owning a business takes an incredible amount of dedication and drive but when you love what you do, it fills you up in a way that nothing else can!
2. Decide what success looks like to you. Are you just wanting to make a little extra money so you can take the kids on field trips or are you wanting something much bigger. Perhaps you want to start a non-profit so you can give back to the community. Get really clear about what your goals are from the very start so that you can stay on track.
3. Create a business strategy. This doesn't have to be set in stone. For now, you just want a general guide so that you don't lose interest over time. It will help you stay focused on your goal. I find that many business owners fail because they start and stop one thing and start another before ever gaining momentum. This can be a general one page outline to get started. It will include the things you want to focus on, your target market and your business mission and vision. You can even find templates online for a one page business plan.
4. Do market research. Take the time to gather information, find other businesses that are similar to yours both in person and online, talk to prospective customers, see what people are paying and make sure there is a demand for your product or service,
5. Make it legal. This includes choosing a business name and registering it as a DBA( Doing Business As) . Determine your business structure- decide if you will be a sole proprietor, partnership or a corporation (LLC, Non Profit etc) . You may also be required to get a license in your city. Register for State and Local Taxes.
6. Get Paid. Figure out how you will collect money. Will you collect cash, checks or take money on paypal, square etc. There are pros and cons to each so choose carefully. Once you start making money you can open a business bank account and keep careful records.
7. Create an Online Presence. Pretty much every business these days needs to have a website. Will you hire someone to make one for you or will you do this yourself? Will you have a blog? Or a facebook page? Begin thinking about the ways in which you can market yourself on the internet.
8. Find Prospects and Get New Clients! Start spreading the word about your new business. You can send a grassroots marketing letter to your contact list or facebook friends letting them know about your new venture. Be sure to follow up with those who express interest.
Of course, starting a business takes time especially when your kids are home and you are not able to spend 8 hours a day on your idea. No need to get overwhelmed, Remember that you don't have to do this all in one month or even one year. If all you can do is work on your plan a few hours a week , you are still getting closer to your goal. Stay positive, keep moving and above all have fun!!
I imagine you have been thinking about educating your child at home for some time and you feel pretty strongly that this is what is best for your family. Maybe your bright, intense, creative child is unhappy in school, or they are complaining of being bored, or you just know that a customized education would be so so much better than what they are currently getting.
Whatever your reason, you want to homeschool but your spouse says no.
I know you....you have done all the research and have talked to other homeschoolers but every time you try and discuss it - all that happens is you end up in an argument. It seems every issue you have in your relationship is being dredged up because you just can't let this go and you are not sure what to do.
Listen, I get it, Homeschooling is a huge change and it is not something most people do on a whim. We are talking about leaving the mainstream and forging out on your own. It's no wonder that even the very idea of it can be enough to cause alarm. There are worries about what others will think, fears about the effect it will have on relationships, and concern over whether or not you can really handle the work.
The good news is that I have come to learn that most of the time it is not so much that the other spouse is so against homeschooling ( even though they say that they are) but rather that they don't really understand what it even is, You are asking them to trust something that is so foreign to them that they can't seem to even listen and as a result communication between you is seriously failing.
I came up with this list after working with couples who were in your exact same shoes and through our work together they were able to find common ground. I hope you will use it as a guide to seek understanding and support so that you can achieve your homeschooling goal.
6 Tips to Get Your Spouse on Board with Homeschooling When They Say No Way.
1. Talk with your spouse about what their fears or concerns are...
Have them list them out one by one. Listen carefully with an open mind and heart.
2. Review together the many options of how to homeschool legally .....
Check into the laws in your area and what it might look like for your specific family. Some families choose a hybrid approach where your child was in a classroom setting several days a week, others go with a charter school where the kids are overseen by a teacher, still others homeschool online.. These are just a few. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. , Explore them all.
3. Discuss what education and learning mean to you....
Most of us just send our kids to school without ever giving this much thought. Give yourselves time and space to really think about what skills, knowledge, and experiences you want your child to have when they go off into the real world.
4. Meet with a veteran homeschool parent...
Let you spouse ask all the questions. Nothing quite compares to power of the story from a parent who homeschools successfully and the comfort that it provides to ease ones' fears.
5. Attend a homeschool conference ...
You'll get a chance to hear from parents who's kids have graduated and gone on to be successful adults and also learn from experts in the field. For a long time, even though my husband supported our homeschooling. I was on the journey alone. I was the one reading all the books and searching online. A few years in, I took my husband to a homeschool conference and that was when the lightbulb really went on. Plus these are great fun for the kids!
6. If all else fails: Hire a homeschool coach or therapist .....
who can meet with you and your husband and work through any remaining issues. Remember, your spouse wants what is best for you and your children and sometimes you may need an impartial mediator to help you get on the same page.
Our Homeschool Friends Camping 2015
A few years ago after many failed attempts to find a homeschool community where we really felt at home, I started a group on Meetup for families who have gifted kids. I cannot begin to tell you how many park days I dragged my oldest to when she was in 7th grade - only to have her sit with her back turned to everyone - headphones on and a sketchbook in hand. No matter how much I loved the other moms, somehow she just knew that she wasn't home.
Originally my group was just for me to have a way to talk with other parents who were also raising these unique, often intense, asynchronous learners. We would meet at a local cafe and share our stories over dinner. It was so reassuring to my husband and I to listen to each person relate such similar experiences and it helped us to not to feel so alone. As the year went on though it became obvious that in order for my kids to really thrive, they were going to need to find that same sense of belonging that I had found with these other parents.
I'll never forget that first park day when my oldest wandered off with this sweet tween girl who had taught herself to play the ukelele and then later when she got in the car and told me with a smile on her face... " mom I made a new friend" . I could hear the emotion beneath her words that said- I finally feel accepted and understood. I have come to watch this happen time and again in the group and every single time it warms my heart, Parents will bring kids to our park days who have rejected many other groups or have struggled to find like minded intellectual peers in school (and beyond) and then "it happens'. It is a magical thing when kids feel that very thing my daughter felt, sometimes for the very first time in their lives!
Often times, I am contacted by other parents who don't live close enough to visit our group about how they can start their own. I was lucky enough to organize a successful membership organization for many years long before I started homeschooling, so I thought I would write a top ten list of my best tips to help you get started. If you love the idea but don't want to start your own- look in your area to see what already exists. There are many groups on Meetup, Facebook, or even Yahoo. There are also online groups if meeting in person isn't possible and some have ways for kids to connect online as well.
Top Ten Tips:
1. Decide why you want to start a group .
Is this group just for parents or will you have activities for the kids as well? What are you hoping to get out of your group? How committed to getting this group started are you? Organizing a group takes a lot of time and dedication- figure out what is driving you so you can stick to that goal.
2. Figure out what kind of activities will you host.
Park Days, Field Trips, Campouts, Parent Workshops, Moms Night Out, Bookclubs, Classes, The list of possibilities is endless.
3. Choose which days you will meet.
In my experience groups fail to gain momentum because they are inconsistent. Consider deciding to meet on the same day every week for several months at the same time so that parents can plan for your events. For example- my parent workshops are on the 3rd Sunday of the month in the evening. Our park days are every Friday. Field trips are on Wednesdays. We meet at the same time with rare exception and families plan their lives around our events.
4. As the leader - attend every event.
As the organizer of the group you will need to be at all of the events. This can get quite exhausting so be certain to only choose events that you would be happy attending even if no one shows up. It is hard for a group to get off the ground if new members show up and no one is there.
5. Consider charging dues.
In my experience people are more committed to the groups that they pay for and gifted groups are no exception. Perhaps offer a free trial period after which you ask for an annual dues. This will attract members who value what you provide, weed out those who are not willing to get involved on a regular basis,
6. Decide on a forum
Personally I love using meet up because initially it markets to those interested in your type of group which gains you members right away, it is so easy to use, member dues are easy to set up and charge for, and scheduling events and keeping track of RSVP's is a breeze.
7. Pick a name for your group.
I think it is easiest to go with your city so people can find you
8. Market your group.
This one can be challenging for people but honestly- there are families out there right now that are desperately seeking what you have to offer. Consider marketing on homeschool forums, through friends, or through local professionals who specialize in gifted.
9. Be an advocate and don't be afraid of the word gifted .
I feel strongly that we must be advocates for our kids so that they know that being gifted just means it is how you are wired so I don't shy away from the word which is not always easy for people. It doesn't mean that we think our kids are better than anyone else. It means that they have unique needs and go through the world a bit differently than others. It is true that some people have not always been kind but the joy I get from watching my kid thrive in this community far outweighs any of the misunderstanding and I find that using the word gifted in my group name helps people find us. .
10. Above all have fun!
Enjoy the process and have fun!! Our gifted community has been the biggest and most unexpected gift for my family in our homeschooling journey. I wish you all the success in starting your own thriving group!