By Malissa Kelsch, author of Life Tumbled.
Guest writers are invited for their insights into different aspects of the Homeschool Hub Utah's four pillars, which are to connect, empower, educate, and serve homeschooling families in Utah. While we feel each guest blogger's message will be helpful to homeschooling families, not all ideas presented by every guest blogger are officially endorsed by Homeschool Hub Utah
In 2001 my dad was killed in a car accident on his way to work by a drunk driver. During that time my kids were learning about rocks. We had gathered a bucket full and had begun the process of smoothing and polishing the rocks in a rock tumbler.
Just after a week of tumbling I was in the kitchen opening up the barrel and my father’s spirit came near me. He told me how our lives are like a rock tumbler.
He said our spirits have these beautiful colors. Our personalities and bodies have these jagged edges like the unpolished rocks. Additionally, in this life we will be shaped by outside forces, but also by ourselves. Sometimes life throws us grit to grind away the sharp edges and other times we purposefully shape ourselves with the grit we choose. Also, just as we are not alone in life, the influence of other rocks in the barrel help to shape us.
He then told me he was taken sooner than he had hoped, but it was alright. It was still good. Then he emphasized, “Malissa, if I knew what I know now…I would NOT be afraid. DON’T be afraid. Go! Do good.”
That has stuck with me and is what I want to share with you. Don’t be afraid. Have courage and show it by applying action. Homeschooling can be tough at times, but great spirits, and even God, are with you if you allow them into your life. All it takes is some applied action, just like the action of sand polishing the rock or being tumbled a bit.
One thing I want to emphasize is NOT to be afraid of your child’s journey, even if it moves in an unexpected direction. Your kids are the rocks and you are the grit, the tumbler, and everything between. I would like to dive into each of these just a bit.
Rocks, our children, are intelligent spirits. They can handle a lot. They are tough, made of real earth, and sometimes we may underestimate how well they can take what we give them. Never assume they cannot learn more.
My oldest son left high school when he was 15 because he was terrified of giving a speech in his speech and debate class. He began to research film, and now he has his own film production company. He found comfort and confidence following his own quiet way of learning and this led to eventual mastery of a subject he enjoys. Sometimes the fear of something uncomfortable directs us towards learning something completely different. I think a lot of young people want to learn without fear and in a more natural, comfortable way for them. So why not let them escape something they fear to find something they like? If they are like my son, they might build a career from it.
My son taught me this; we may avoid one thing because something else is more interesting and comfortable to learn. As your kids learn different subjects, more questions and avenues of learning will continue to appear. Students must choose which road to take, which intellectual avenue to explore.
Taking on the responsibility to homeschool our kids, however, is not something to fear or escape from. It is one of the highest forms of parenting we can reach for.
Grit is something I call “co-creation realization.” We are all part creators in the good and bad that comes in our life. This core principle is a difficult one to teach because it says in a way, that since we are all active creators in the grit of our lives, we all get what is coming to us. I have taken the challenge to teach my kids that they are not victims of life circumstances, but instead they co-create their lives. We are all part creators in what we learn and in what we teach. Co-creation realization is a fabulous way to teach personal responsibility. If something does not go right with any of my kids, I ask, “How did you co-create that?” Immediately they are taught they can't hide, escape, or run away in denial. They are purely conscious and aware of their every step in life.
Last is the tumbler. The tumbler is the environment we bring to our children. I think many homeschool parents are unsure, and perhaps afraid, of how to create the perfect environment in which their kids will blossom, thrive, and be strong enough for the world, while simultaneously protecting them from negative outside influences. This is where I personally see a lot of parents unconsciously hindering their children. I would like to open a few minds and maybe give some hope to this great fear of exposing your children to the world.
My husband and I created something called Local Common Wealth. The first chapter of this business and community networking organization is called The Dixie Business Network. We created this network to help our community and to inspire our children to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Business networking is a very powerful way to bring the world to your children. I cannot emphasize how important this is. (Before we launched this new vision, we researched the entire history of business networking and found an empty hole. If you click on the Info Packet on the home page and then click on the document that says History of Business Networking, you will see what we found and why a new vision was needed.) We brought the world to our children by creating a new vision in our community.
Many homeschool parents want their children to be a powerful influence for good in the world, but surprisingly, some parents often shield their children from the world enough that those same kids don’t understand how the world works. The tumbler of outside influence is a fear for these parents because many of them choose to homeschool precisely because of the negative aspect of outside influence. But here is the great secret. There are many kindred spirits and loving people in that world. So why not bring them into the lives of your children? Why not let your children interview and shadow various trades in your community? Why not create a network of support and resources where many like-minded people cross-pollinate each other and build a better community together.
It’s a balancing act. And it needs to be. Oftentimes homeschooling parents are cautious to not over regulate and over manipulate their children’s lives. They don’t want to shelter their kids to the point of weakening them. But at the same time these same parents may be more afraid of bringing outside influences into their children’s environments that may do them harm and therefore limit healthy community exposure.
In the coming years homeschooling parents are going to be faced with an even greater challenge. The outside world is working fast and hard to silence, control, and censor independent voices. If we keep our education isolated and not connected to our community, our children will not be prepared for a world that looks radically different than what they grew up in.
I have seen many homeschool children go to college and return programmed and indoctrinated with ideas their parents never introduced them to. They were sent to an environment very foreign from their home experience, and the children were completely ill-prepared to tackle new ideas without relinquishing their family values and beliefs.
Do not wait until it is too late. Challenge your kids with the difficult stuff you avoid while they are still home. Test them with ideas that make no sense, and then give them the principles and wisdom to stand on their own. It can be scary, daunting, and overwhelming. The solution is to bring more life to our kids sooner rather than later. Don’t be afraid of having conversations with your children about things happening in the world. Imagine preparing your children with that kind of critical thinking, understanding, mental and emotional stamina, that kind of tumbling and that kind of grit. Instead of only worrying about the world outside your home, see yourself and your children as part of the solutions to the problems you see. Be active co-creators of the good in the world. If you can start thinking like that, preparing your kids to take on the world doesn't seem so daunting after all.