December 12, 2008

Living the Dream

I have spent most of my life falsely believing that I must sacrifice my own individual development so that I could support my children to learn what the public school system required of them. Good parenting meant enrolling my children in every kind of extra curricular program I could squeeze in after-school hours and during the summer. I was so caught up in giving my kids every possible opportunity to excel that there wasn’t time to focus on real family life. The most important outcome was their accomplishments and not the focus on relationships.

It’s a painful realization that in many ways I was following the masses along a conveyor belt of compulsory education. I sent my children out the door each morning and didn’t see them until the late afternoon. Then my time was spent making sure they got to all their lessons and games. There was little time or energy left over to focus on the children’s real needs. My heart often cried out in quiet anguish, yet I had no idea there existed a different and better way of living. Pulling my kids out of school and staying home from work to raise them simply was not an option.

But extending my parenting time into a second season has brought new opportunities to enlighten me in ways I never dreamed were possible. Through my discovery of the principles found in the book by Oliver DeMille, “Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century,” I have had a major paradigm shift. I no longer sacrifice my own development. My children no longer have compulsory education and now have the freedom to choose what they’d like to study and have unencumbered time to do it. My focus is on my family and not my career and they get the best part of me each and every day, no longer having to get by on my left-overs.

Oliver DeMille said in a recent seminar that the biggest challenge of the 21st century is the “lost family” because most people don’t talk about classics, tradition, family history and stories anymore. There isn’t time because of over-commitment. Building and nurturing long-term relationships based on core values of right and wrong, true and false, good and bad through family work and play are fundamental to everything else.

In our home we are raising youth instead of teenagers. Youth who get themselves up early everyday to go out in the dark and cold to feed a variety of animals. Who chop wood, keep the fire going that heats the house, complete their stewardship without complaining, read and enjoy the classics and study for hours independently. Youth, who have no desire for television, video games, I-pods, cell phones and are not concerned about the latest fashions or fitting in with the crowd. It really is possible to say no to stuff and yes to family.

Our family life has never been better. We make the time to focus on what matters most. I no longer experience the regrets I had when our family was on the conveyor-belt. We are happy just being together day in and day out. We enjoy a much richer, deeper friendship with each other as we learn to serve and help our family relationships grow and thrive. This is what I have always wanted for my family. We are finally “living the dream.”

December 11, 2008

Title Swap for December

The Children's Treasury of Virtues - William J. Bennett
Wrinkle In Time - Madeline L'Engle
The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Chicken in the Headlights - Matthew Buckley
The Giver - Lois Lowry
John Adams - David McCullough
Mandy - Julie Edwards (Andrews)
Seven Medieval Queens -
Man of LaMancha - Don Quixote
Kidnapped - Robert Lewis Stevensen

December 3, 2008

An Adult On the Path of Leadership

I was the oldest of us four children while we were growing up. My mother and father both worked outside of the home, thus I was left in charge during the hours in between school and when our parents returned home from work. Our generation has been referred to as the “Latch-Key Kids” or “Generation X.” Although no real harm came to us during these hours alone, most of us missed the paternal guidance that is helpful to naturally acquire the skills needed to become effective leaders as adults. The results are a nation of parents who are dependable followers, trying to guide and raise their own children in a very difficult and demoralized society. I refuse to believe that what the conveyor belt has to offer is all that is available for my life and my children’s. I want to break free from being a dependable follower.

According to Dr. Oliver DeMille, in his book, “Leadership Education, the Phases of Learning,” the best dependable followers are great at copying, counting, and comparing with others. In contrast, responsible leaders create, value, and impact others.

An example of a mother who is lost as a dependable follower was found on a recent blog entry I came across. In an effort to save money, she and her husband had decided to turn off their cable. She wrote that she was bored out of her mind because she was not able to watch TV and she had already read the Harry Potter and Twilight series. She was desperate for advice because her husband was about to go out of town. To my astonishment, she received 18 comments, ranging in advice on how to download illegal copies of her favorite TV show off the Internet, to renting a TV series from Blockbusters. Others commented on how they were too addicted to TV to ever consider trying to cut out their cable bill. I was deeply saddened by this mother and her friend’s inability to think outside of the conveyor belt box. What if this mother pulled out a classic, like Jane Eyre or began to study the Constitution? What if she began organizing her home or did a 6-month purge in her new found time? I commend her for turning off the TV, but filling the void with something worthwhile would have made her a leader, instead of a follower.

I am finding that simply by reading classics, I am weird. You would not believe how many strange looks I get when I tell people that not only my book group reads classics, but writes papers to share with one another. Pulling yourself off the conveyor belt can be very scary and isolating. At first, I found myself excusing and apologizing for my son being instructed at home. I have had to find the courage to not only take the smart risk of home schooling my children, but to not look for external approval and to stop fearing my own greatness. All of these are transition skills that are needed to be an effective leader; skills that I did not acquire when I should have because I was a “Latch-Key Kid” left on my own.

To create, to value, and to impact: this is what I want for my life and my family’s. I want to create an inspiring environment that enables my children to have a love of learning. I hope to show them how to value the good things in life, instead of how to count them. I pray that I may acquire the skills needed to make a positive impact on others.
When I slow down and take time to reflect and feel the pulse of my family, I know there are some things missing. Reading “Leadership Education” by Oliver and Rachel DeMille confirms it. Obviously I can’t incorporate everything I think would be ideal for us overnight, but as a result of reading, studying, and praying, the Lord has helped me to prioritize what my family specifically needs.

One of the concepts mentioned in several ingredients of “Leadership Education” is the concept of hard work building both character and body. The pictures created in my mind when reading about Oliver James chopping wood, milking goats, mending fences, planting trees, and still doing the work of a scholar make my heart race. My soul hungers as I read of the DeMille children taking care of bunnies, the dog, the chickens, and most importantly, their handicapped brother, Hyrum. The DeMille’s explain, “We simply could not imagine how to have the kind of family culture our grandparents did without having the environment and activities they had. . . The yard, the animals and the home required our attention as if the homestead were a part of the family. We had to take care of it so it could take care of us.”

I recently had an invitation to my friend, Molly’s house in Round Valley. Her house is twelve miles south of Cascade. As I drove the nearly two hours to get there, I felt like I was entering into the presence of God. That sounds dramatic, I know, but the absence of everything commercial had the same effect on me as leaving a smoke-filled building to suck in that first breath of pure air. The experience, although lasting less than 24 hours, was surreal to me. Round Valley is a place where keys are left in the ignition in full faith that they will still be there upon return, where the night sky is darker and yet brighter at the same time, where you can clearly see the view of the mist hanging in the trees at the base of the mountain, and where cattle have the right of way.

Upon my return, I cried: first, because I felt like I was headed back to Sodom; second, because we were 4 weeks away from buying a house in a perfect little neighborhood with a yard, a fence and lots of neighbors. It’s all I ever wanted . . . until Cascade. I don’t want what I used to want. I want a place for my children to play and explore outside without the worry of neighbors disliking the noise, or traffic whizzing by, or sex offenders in the house down the street. I am tired of the HOA complaining about toys left in the front yard and weeds in the cracks of the driveway (true story). This is the season in my life that is for rearing children, molding character, building human edifices to God. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have the delusion that simply moving a few miles south, buying a few chickens, and chopping some wood will fix all our problems and make us magically complete. However, I do feel that a change in the lifestyle of my family will aid us in becoming the kind of people Heavenly Father needs.

I’ve heard that when you read a book over and over, you have a different experience each time —not because the book has changed but because you have. That’s how I felt when I came home. Everything was different. I saw my house and family differently. I treated them with more care. My house hadn’t changed, my children and husband were the same, but I had changed through my experience in Cascade. And it made all the difference. What changes could come through a daily marinade of souls in such an environment? I can only imagine.