Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homeschooling: Dealing with Doubters, Part 3 (Trusting the Process)

The best way to deal with people who express doubt in the wisdom of your choice to homeschool is to provide yourself with spiritual fortification. Many of the tools I have acquired in this respect come from the 12 Steps and slogans of Al-Anon, a support group for family and friends of alcoholics. I recommend the daily readers, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, Courage to Change, and Hope for Today to anyone who needs spiritual encouragement. And of course the well-known "Serenity Prayer" applies in any situation:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Much serenity comes down to acceptance. You may just have to accept another person's lack of acceptance of your lifestyle choices. However, you do NOT have to accept unacceptable behavior. This is where learning to draw boundaries comes in. You don't actually owe anyone an explanation. You are not obligated to engage in arguments. It has been unacceptable to me for other people to tell me how to educate or discipline my child, what diet I should be feeding her, how long I should breastfeed, where I should live, how many children I should have, or when she should be potty trained. Each person must decide what for her is acceptable and what is not.

On the other side of the equation, it is none of your business what anyone thinks of you! Isn't that liberating? If it isn't any of your business, then you don't have to do anything about it or worry about it. Easier said than done. When you are struggling with a particular feeling or experience, you can look in the index of one of those Al-Anon daily readers and find the page numbers for topics such as doubt, acceptance, boundaries, self-esteem, serenity, detachment, keeping the focus on yourself, and so on.

Much time and emotional energy can be wasted worrying about what someone said or what you think they are thinking about you. Releasing your need to control, or change, what another person thinks or feels will unload an enormous burden. You are not responsible for other people's thoughts, feelings, or reactions!

Naturally, this letting go and letting God is hardest to do with those in our lives with whom we are closest. For example, a pattern with certain family members attacking me and criticizing my child via email had developed, and their comments amounted to unacceptable behavior for me. Problems were brought out after they occurred and were not dealt with in person, and then not being aware of anything being wrong, I would receive these hurtful email messages. I contributed to the problem by responding with anger and hurt feelings and allowing the arguments to escalate, and nothing was ever resolved in a positive way. My well being was seriously threatened, and I even became physically ill. Finally, a light bulb went on, and my husband helped me change my email address, and no one in my family has it now. This is an example of changing the things you can.

Ultimately, I had to figure out my part of the problem. You can't be responsible for another person's part. You can only keep your side of the street clean. What it came down to was that I had to let go of my need for other people's approval. The very nature of some of my relationships had to change, and yours may as well. For example, sometimes parents behave as if they still have authority over their grown children. In such a case, you may choose to no longer accept such a parent-child paradigm and instead learn to be your own authority, in line with the will of God. This takes amazing courage. How might you change the nature of inappropriate relationship circumstances?

If someone wants to pursue an argument, possible ways to end it are to simply say, "I understand that's how you feel," or "You may be right," and change the subject. If you are on the phone, just say you aren't able to talk anymore, say good-bye and hang up. This isn't to imply that you should avoid a conversation or conflict that is really necessary to deal with. But in many cases trying to defend yourself only gives credibility to someone who is way out of line in the first place. Express yourself simply and concisely, and let go of the other person's response. Practice detachment, or removing yourself emotionally from another person's toxic stuff.

Even if the other person refuses to change his or her attitudes or behaviors, if you change your own, the relationship will have to change, and you can find healing. Keep the focus on yourself and your own family, and if self-doubt creeps in, talk to another homeschooling parent. I am amazed at how prevalent the interference of parents is in the lives of their adult children. So break your isolation and realize you are not alone, by far.

I entered adulthood having been intensely affected by what was diagnosed as alcoholism in a younger sibling. This had a profound effect on my love relationships, causing co-dependency and my tendency to take care of others and try to "save" them. I had a happy childhood until my teen years when these issues occurred. As a young adult, I was dysfunctional financially and had difficulty keeping an orderly home. I worked at jobs below my level of education, skills, intelligence, and creativity. I was never paid what I was worth, and I did not manage the money I did make very well, being prone to bouncing checks and being charged late fees on credit cards. I was one of those people who guiltily dodged the telephone calls of debt collectors and secretly felt bad about myself.

My Bachelor degree in English sometimes helped but didn't serve me well enough financially, and at age 30 I found myself working as a nanny. Realizing I needed a career path with a future, I enrolled at The Spa School through the Ohio State Schools of Cosmetology and earned my license as an esthetician. I had a job at a prominent day spa before I graduated, and for the first time in my life I made enough money to comfortably support myself, even more than I needed. I enjoyed my work and paid off all my debts, and today I have an excellent credit rating! But when I was given this job and knew how much I could expect to be paid, I wondered whether I deserved it. I doubted my worth.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? I can tell you that at the age of 12, I was a bright, capable, confident, fearless person. I was strong and wise beyond my years. And then something happened. I betrayed myself. People betrayed me. For years as an adult I searched for my lost Self. I diluted my personality to try to make others happy. That 6th grade girl had not doubted herself.

So if you wonder whether you are doing the right thing by homeschooling, ask yourself if you got what you needed at home and at school to prepare you for the adult world, whether you were able to function well in the most basic ways--to balance a checkbook, cook yourself healthy meals, change the tire on a car, maintain stable relationships, manage your household, respect yourself. This is not to blame anyone, but to reflect on your life and what worked and what didn't. If, like me, the answer is no, determine to provide a better preparation for your child via the lifestyle choice of homeschooling, if that is what works for your family. You will need no other purpose, and there will be no room for doubt.

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