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High School

I am so proud of my kids.

I know there are all kinds of parental warnings these days against too much verbal affirmation, or the wrong type of verbal affirmation. We're not supposed to tell our kids they are smart, gifted, or inherently talented. We should praise them for their efforts, for working hard, not simply for being.

I missed the memo. I have been praising my kiddos for years for both outward and inward traits. I think it will turn out ok in the end because the main point of all that affirmation is to communicate my unconditional love for them, and to make sure they know, in their heart of hearts, that they are wonderfully and uniquely created by God - talented, gifted, and intelligent.

I know I'm completely biased but my kids are amazing.

In becoming Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, through their own blood, sweat and tears they have accomplished something that very few adults have enough fortitude to do, never mind children.

As thru-hiker kids they are at the top of an elite class. And yes, I am dang proud of them for their incredibly hard work to achieve that. Something I told them often on the trail, minus the dang part (the kids reprimand me when I swear).

Family thru-hiking was a difficult endeavor and in those moments (and months) of self-doubt about why we had taken on something so monumental I sought a sliver of reasoning to hold on to, something to justify why we'd willingly putting ourselves through these trials, and conscript our kids to come along. (What kind of parents are we??)

The words of encouragement that came most readily to me were ancient and true. They were the Apostle Paul's perspective about trials, perseverance, and character.

But I was mixed up because, without a Bible handy for reference, I kept thinking that character was the highest aim. That we struggled through sufferings, to produce endurance in our lives which in the end, develops character. End of story.

Not so. When I finally took the time to check the verse I was a bit surprised and puzzled that character was not the end goal or "prize" when we suffer tribulations, hope is.

As Christian homeschooling parents, good character is high on the list of our child-raising goals. (I'm not saying non-Christians don't have this same value but Christians tend to place a high value, rightly or wrongly, on character.) Throw in my innate tendencies as a rule abiding, authority respecting ESTJ, and you can see how raising kids with responsible, solid character is something I naturally uphold as a good goal. And so I think I took the bit I knew - trials produce perseverance produce character - and stopped there because for me, often, character is the highest aim.

So when I read the verse again, and wrote it this time in my trial trail journal to ponder further, I was challenged by Paul's idea that hope is the highest aim.

I spent the rest of our hike asking myself the question, "why is hope the highest end, not character?"

I perceive hope as risky, sometimes a bit naive, and almost always too trusting. There are no guarantees.

Character on the other hand is more solid. It's a firm foundation, it's stalwart and steady.

As I wrestled with this I remembered discussions Damien and I have had about our parenting goals for this season of family life. We want our teenagers to be invigorated by hope, ideas, and inspiration for their future. We want them to experiment with creative ideas to solve problems, to take chances and not be afraid.

Yes, we want them to develop good character. We've been working on that since they were toddlers. But maybe that's not the end aim and is only the foundation for the real goal, having the courage and inspiration - the hope - to move forward with living, loving, and learning.

You need both.

If hope is the audacious belief you can fly, then character is the firm footing from which you jump.

Last weekend I picked up and resumed reading Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly. I had started it before our hike but just couldn't get into it with all our efforts and preparations. It's a timely read to get back into. Funny how it was the book most accessible and handy to reach in our many boxes of "life" stored in the basement.

I started near the beginning, where I had left off, but right before closing the book for the night I flipped to the end, to the chapter on Wholehearted Parenting. And this sentence in bold jumped off the page for me.

Hope is a function of struggle.

A new take on ancient wisdom, wouldn't you say?

Brené goes on to say a few things about hope.

If we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness, we have to let them struggle.

hope isn't an emotion; it's a way of thinking or a cognitive process... [it's] a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.

Children with high levels of hopefulness have experience with adversity. They've been given the opportunity to struggle and in doing that they learn how to believe in themselves.

Our kids came off the trail full of ideas for their future. Hope. Their enthusiasm built on experience and personal knowledge (in their aching muscles) that they have what it takes to accomplish dreams, goals, and vision. Character.

I am proud of my children for their accomplishment. (I am proud of my husband, beyond words, for holding the whole show together.) I am proud of myself for following through on my commitment to our hike even though I felt broken and weak. It didn't actually break any of us. Instead, all that hard work grew our character.

I am extremely gratified at the character traits I see in my children. Determination, tenacity, long suffering, responsibility, sacrifice, kindness.

Equally though and perhaps more importantly, I am thrilled that hope is the fruit of that character growth. That from the foundation of character springs hope and inspiration for their future, hope and inspiration for my future.

Hope. Not a fuzzy, feel-good emotion, or wishful thinking, but a faith rooted in the soil of adversity and perseverance through trials. The confidence that you have what it takes to move forward with your dreams and goals.

That is something to feel good about.

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

Quotes

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.

Takeaways

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?