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High School

We don't ask our kids "what do you want to be when you grow up?" We don't ask them questions that we ourselves can't answer.

We ask them what are you inspired to do today?

Actually, for the most part we don't have to ask, it's obvious. And then we bring in resources and tools to help them build skills and knowledge around those inspirations and interests

We ask, how can you help other people with those skills? Where is this knowledge, this expertise needed in society?

We can't know what the jobs of the future will look like. People's basic needs stay the same but society is constantly evolving and changing and so we don't fixate on a job title or career path; we focus on building skills, knowledge, and experience in an environment of flexibility and adaptability. 

As our kids get into their late middle school and high school years we talk about ways of meeting needs and earning money using those skills, knowledge, and experience. 

We don't just talk about it, we actually find ways for them to earn money while gaining the skills and knowledge. Because they've have lots of time to practice (and play) they are actually pretty good at some of the things they enjoy doing. Good enough to sell the stuff they make and to get paid for their services. 

We talk about different post-secondary schooling options that support the acquisition of these skills and knowledge. Right now our high schooler has no post-secondary plans percolating.

At fourteen, she already has income earning skills and knowledge. She can support her teenage financial needs by doing programming-related technical projects as well as design and graphic work for us. She's been learning these skills for years now and shows a strong interest and aptitude for both. If she decides to pursue either in post-secondary studies she's well on her way. Or she may become an academic who studies medieval Japan. Who's to say?

She studies subjects that interest her and learns skills doing real work. Real projects. Real life learning. 

This month I've been writing about winter inspiration. A couple weeks ago I did seven re-posts from previous years, the most re-publishing I've ever done on the blog.

In re-publishing those posts and publishing last week's two brand new posts, both on the subject of action and inspiration, I saw themes emerging.

It's fun to pull a bunch of writing together, that's been done over different years, in different situations of my life, to see the common threads and truths.

This post is the recap of these nine posts, a wrap-up of winter inspiration and action.

inspiration action FIMBY
you can pin this post, there's a handy button on the bottom left


First, some quotes from those posts, which illustrate key points of inspiration and action, of having dreams and then making those happen.

Make time in your life to be inspired. This inspiration will give birth to dreams.

Imagine having time to unplug, time to dream, time to push your limits and boundaries.

All you feel is tired and cranky and maybe like this whole trip is just too much work. But then you hit the trail head. And your push yourself through that first mile and realize "I can do this".

Much of the weekend was spent talking and listening; dreaming and scheming. I came home from last weekend inspired to do something about it. To make changes on the small level that affect change on the big level.

Sure, I don't particularly love the work of getting ready, but you know what, life is work.

Hard work? Yes. But living the life you want is good work, life changing work, family building work. Kind of like backpacking.

I like to regularly remind myself that I am just passing through. Literally. When I die I don't take anything with me. None of us do. I want to live a life that brings me joy in the living, not in the acquiring and owning.

The beauty of winter (life) is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away.

Enjoying winter (life) is a choice.

A strong, healthy family life provides the best structural framework for reaching our potential, for getting out the door, making ideas happen, getting things done, and doing the work.

Family life, when operating at its best, provides the unconditional love and accountability that humans need for personal growth and self actualization.

The process of writing clarifies goals and gives you a fixed point to work towards. This clarity, whether you are conscious of it or not, helps you sift through all the input coming your way. Helping you filter out that which is not helpful to your end cause or goal.

After you've been in nature for an extended period, say a few days or longer, you will start to see how your everyday patterns and quirks - maintaining a standard you thought was necessary - may not be so necessary after all.

And when you let go of controlling all these things, mentally and physically, you gift yourself and your family with more breathing room, more time, and more peace. You gift yourself with freedom.

I want this wrap up of inspiration and action to be very applicable to you, regardless of if you camp, hike, or ski. Regardless of if you live in the city or the woods, whether your "dream" is RVing around North America, homesteading, cycling from Alaska to Argentina, doing non-profit work in the Philippines, or traveling the world with your family.

So here's my takeaways from these nine posts, which are actually takeaways from five years of inspiration to action movement in our family life.


Give yourself space to dream.

For us that literally means wide open spaces. The more time we spend outdoors the more we dream. You might not be outdoorsy but I encourage you figure out some way to spend regular time outdoors with your family - walking, biking, beaching. Get into nature.

Evaluate your life.

Identify areas you want to see change and forward movement, and then work towards that. Write down your dreams, goals, values, and mission.

Start exactly where you are.

Today. And move forward. Don't disdain humble beginnings. We all start somewhere.

Surround yourself with inspiration.

Tune into inspiring people, music, blogs, books, and media. Be inspired in relationship and community.

Question the status quo.

Question what society says family life (student life, retired life, "wherever you are" life) must look like. Must it mean a house of a certain size, a job with certain benefits, a certain schedule? Get creative and think outside the box of how you might achieve your dreams.

Do something difficult.

Do something that you think might be nearly impossible. It will inspire you to do the next nearly impossible thing. You will set a precedent in your life of doing difficult things. And what was once difficult will be easy and you'll move on to more challenging tasks.

Allow for mess.

Moving ideas from inspiration to expression is messy (and you may experience what other people call failure, we call it growth), but this is the stuff of life. Let go of perfection. Getting out the door is better than never crossing the threshold.

Living is hard work.

Regardless of how you slice it it's going to be hard. Why not invest those energies into moving forward in your family and personal dreams and goals?

Do it together.

We're wired for relationship for many reasons, one of them is simply that there is strength in numbers. Working together helps you capitalize on individual strengths (you don't need to do it all!) and support each other in weakness.

I believe you can make goals and work towards them. You may currently feel trapped in a situation, but you can make choices, right now, today, that move you in the direction you want to go.

Questions to ask yourself

Where do we want to be? What direction do we want to go in? (Hint: You'll need some dreams to point the way.)

What can we do right now, today, that moves use closer to that?

What are we willing to change in our life to make that happen?

Where can we find inspiration for these dreams? How can we surround ourselves with inspiring dreamers and doers?

What big, scary difficult thing can set our sights on? And how do we move that direction?

Who are we, together? How can we maximize our "team effect"?

There are no guarantees in life. Ever. There are no guarantees of success, health, or happiness when you "go with the flow" or accept the status quo. So why not live the life you dream of living?

In the context of homeschooling

I'd like to suggest that homeschooling is no different.

Let your kids dream. They'll need spaces of open time for this.

Surround them with inspiration.

Evaluate your core beliefs about living and education. This is your educational philosophy.

Do your homeschool methods and resources align with those beliefs? Are your days, the rhythms and patterns, an expression of that philosophy.

Help your kids do hard things. Show them how. Partner with them. Let go of perfection in your homeschool, in your life, and gift your children the freedom of good enough.

And above all else, do it together. Invite your children into a lifestyle of learning, study, and scholarship.

What are your thoughts. How do you take winter dreams (or summer dreams) and make them real? How do you move from inspiration to action in your life?

I did something last week for the first time. I skinned up the ski hill and skied down, all by myself.

It doesn't sound like much, but I'll explain why for me it was significant.

Two winters ago, was my first season on telemark equipment. I didn't learn to telemark though, not even close. I mostly cross country skied in the fields and woods around our chalet.

Remember that little cabin? Good memories.

Last year was our first winter in this home (this is our last). Living at the ski hill we decided to take full advantage of the opportunity and buy a family seasons ski pass. Our goal was to practice skiing as much as we could in the groomed terrain and then apply that skill to the backcountry. Backcountry skiing is a very rewarding activity (we prefer it to ski hills) but it's physically challenging and it's hard to learn the basic skills while dodging trees.

Two years ago I started with skis that worked well for backcountry rolling terrain. They were usable for downhill but more difficult to maneuver. Last March, we took advantage of an end of season sale and switched me to a more downhill friendly ski. These babies.

Months of practicing last winter, a few telemark lessons, and then an upgrade in my equipment (first the skis and then full-length skins in December) has yielded a marked improvement in my technique. And as my technique (in other words, my ability to get down the hill without "falling down the hill") has improved so has my confidence in my abilities.

Before this week I had never gone up and skied down a mountain alone.

Maybe it's the extrovert in me. I like doing physical activity with other people. Maybe it's the fact that I broke my leg alpine skiing as a child on a run I felt scared to ski, while my family had all skied ahead of me.

I don't know why exactly but I felt a first a wee bit nervous skinning up alone for the first time. The nerves subsided as I climbed higher and higher and my confidence grew. I felt so physically strong. I felt clear headed listening to the wind and the sound of my breathing as I huffed up the mountain.

That first ski down alone was glorious. The snow was perfect and it was like floating down, with minimal effort. After all the sore muscles of last winter, pushing myself physically beyond what I normally do, after the embarrassment I felt as the "beginner telemark skier" on our small community hill, this pure joy at skiing was both completely foreign and wholly welcome.

Halfway down an eagle flew over head and that was just the icing on the cake.

As I told Damien when I tromped in the door, smiling and warm in spite of the cold, it was "skiing without the angst". Skiing without the physical pain of learning a new skill and without the worry of anyone watching. It was freedom. On skis.

The next day the conditions had worsened. The snow was crusty and wind whipped. But my confidence stayed with me because the experience I had the day before. I knew I could do it.

So what if the conditions weren't perfect? The sun was shining and I felt strong and capable. It was a good feeling.

Last winter I was writing a series called the Adventure of Learning. I was writing it as a learner, as a student myself studying both French and telemark skiing, and a bunch other things. (My French studies are on hold this season because of the intensity of our hike preparations).

I never did conclude that series. The final post was going to answer the question "what they learn when you study?" They meaning our kids.

It's important for our kids to see us learning. For them to see us apply ourselves to study and to struggle through it.

I'll take it a step further and say, I think it's more important for them to see us applying ourselves to study and discipline, than it is for us to make them study and be disciplined.

I'm not saying we don't encourage our children to study and be disciplined but you can't "make" someone learn. You can inspire, teach, create the right conditions to encourage learning, but you can't "make" it happen.

That concluding post, which I hope to eventually publish, talks about what my study and skill practice looked like last winter and what I felt my kids were learning through my learning. It was hard work. It felt vulnerable. It took courage.

That's what I want to teach my children about learning. That it's sometimes a struggle.

And then I want to teach them this also.

That when you push through the barrier, when your muscle memory takes you down the hill instead of sheer will, when your fingers remember the right keys, when the concept mentally "clicks" and all of a sudden "you get" long division or solving for x, when you've practiced "proving" enough words that you finally read them, whole, it is so worth it.

By that point though I don't have to teach them, because they know.

Learning is its own reward.

That's what our kids learn when we study. That's what they learn when they study.

Prizes, bribes, and even grades are not the reward for learning.

There is a place for grades, don't get all panicky on me. Grades are necessary in certain situations to assess knowledge. I want to know the professionals I trust have passed their exams to become doctors and car mechanics. But grades have taken on something completely different in a conveyer belt education system. They have become the reward. The knowledge, the skill, the thing being learned no longer matters, only making the grade matters.

Radical notion: an exam should be welcomed as a means to test knowledge, to test oneself, to assess your level of understanding of the material. The grade is not the reward, knowing what the test assessed is.

Celebrate the victories in your learning environment. But don't bribe your kids to learn, or study because knowing the skill, having the knowledge, owning the strength and confidence that comes with that - skiing down the mountain on your own - is the reward. And if you shortcut that reward with false prizes you take away the joy of the real reward - which is learning itself.