Friday, February 25, 2011

The "Safe" Atheist


I frequently find myself in the role of explaining non-belief to the believers.

Good, nice people who are simply SHOCKED to discover that I don't follow their particular brand of mythology.  (GASP!  They will say.  " are so...nice..."  Yes, I will answer, perhaps it is your assumptions that are incorrect here.") 

For the kind-hearted believer, I don't mind being their project.  I don't mind having them question me and, hopefully learn from me.  Doing this, I have had some wonderful conversations AND I have had the pleasure of seeing believers become more accepting of people who don't share their flavor of belief.

I am in the middle of one of these experiences now.  It's still early.  I don't know the fellow very well.  (My sister does, though.)

What gets me is his face!  The few conversations "in real life" we have had have been fairly time-limited and opportunity-limited.  But the funny thing is HIS FACE!  It always looks so far away and confused...  I can't figure out if he is going to attempt to convert me or what.  I don't continue conversations such as these when the person begins proselytizing.  But honest and polite and curious questioning is always okay with me.  But this gentleman just seems so perplexed by me.  I'm not sure he has ever actually conversed in this way with an atheist.

But I can't figure this one out yet...time will tell.
In the meantime, have I mentioned that he is a minister?


I got the idea for this post from THIS blog:

What would I say are the best habits that I have?  Here is my top ten list...written before I could fully read the one listed I can't use her list!

10.  Connect with other adults as often as you need to.  Some weeks I can get through the entire week without feeling that I MUST speak to someone who does not whine, throw ninja kicks and punches as we talk, or stomp out of the room in a tiff.  Other weeks, it's minute to minute!  The main topics of conversation range from gardening to reading to hobbies.  We almost NEVER talk about the kids!  But there are those days when we need to remind ourselves that we are capable adults!

9.  Have hobbies.  I have several activities that I enjoy on my own, around the kids, but not involving the kids.  I have some crafty things I do, reading, computers, yard sales, and blogging.  These activities I COULD share with them but I seldom do.  Honestly, it encourages them to follow their own bliss as well.  Mostly, I admit, it's time in my own mind.

8.  Spend LESS!  I have the urge to shop for more and better materials often.  But, I realize and remind myself, I have enough.  Plenty.

7.  Share the mundane.  The kids and I often talk about current events, family history, our schedule, upcoming purchases, people watching.  It is amazing what can become a teachable moment.  Just being alert to their questions, curiosity, interest, or confusion can be the start of a wonderful conversation!

6.  Free time!  I make it a point to make sure the kids are unscheduled, finished with lessons, and facing unplanned time.  These afternoons are the perfect opportunity for them to create something out of nothing.  Let them be BORED!  These are the afternoons that they remember the most fondly.

5.  I set down in the evenings after they are in bed and plan their lessons for the next day.  I check out websites, create work or practice sheets, unit packets, etc.  I have their work prepared for when they wake up.  That way, they know, in general, what work they will be faced with.  But the best part...I can sleep later!

4.  My daughter is awake late and my son is awake early.  So, although this means that I have my sleep cut at both ends, I wouldn't miss these times with each child separately.  My son enjoys the extra cuddle, read, talk time every morning.  We might get over an hour each morning before my daughter wakes up.  Sometimes these mornings are quiet and contemplative.  Other times they are fun and full of laughter.  In the evening, my daughter and I snuggle up and talk, play games, simply be together, beside each other on the couch as we read.  It's time I wouldn't miss for the world.

3.  Taking time OFF LESSONS is a wonderful time to regroup.  We, sometimes, put all lessons aside for the week and get out of the house.  In January we took some time where we were tourists in our own home town.  We had a great time and felt renewed and ready to get back to work after a few days off.

2.  I ask my daughter, who is 13, to sit with me as I create her lessons for the next day.  She will tell me WHAT she wants to do for lessons and HOW she wants to learn it.  It's amazing how much more cooperative she is...and she almost always gives herself WAY more work than I would have..!

1.  Avoid thinking of work by the grade level.  My son often wants to know the level of work he is going in math...because he understands math so well!  His work often comes from books intended for kids three or four grade levels above where he would be if he was in school.  Knowing that makes him feel pretty proud...but how would he feel if he knew which grade's work he is doing in spelling???  I don't think so.  So, I keep the level out of it and talk about "HIS level".  It is one of those things that a person could miss about homeschool that is just WONDERFUL - having your kids work at exactly THEIR LEVEL at all times.  ALL kids work at their own levels, actually.

So, there you go, those are my top ten for tonight!
What are yours?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Very Average

You will be extremely happy to know that you have nothing in common with me. You glide along through life like a leaf down a crystal stream. You tend to move in the direction everyone else is moving, and the road ahead of you is well lit, well marked, and mapped out. Your delightful children have been welcomed with open arms by everyone they’ve met, and your home is a sanctuary of peace, harmony, and good will. Best of all, your homeschooling experience has been the most rewarding and inspiring era of your life, and you’ve never doubted your calling for even a moment.
Absolutely nothing in common with me.

Me . . . my life has been slightly different. My leaf tends to get stuck against every wet shore and bottom of the stream, my course is random and full of stops and starts, and the road I am on has been steep up and steep down, ox bowed, and sent on unknown detours.  Frankly, I’ve been tempted to quit homeschooling more times than I’ve been tempted to cheat on my diet, and that is saying a lot. However, while my life in no way resembles yours, you needn’t feel sorry for me one bit. I like my life . . . actually, I love it - - every little bit of it - - it's completely me.

So many things in life seem designed with "average" in mind, don’t they? Airplane seats are designed for an average-sized person, cars are designed for average usage, time schedules are for those who arise with the sun and tuck in with the moon, clothing is manufactured for average, and bestsellers are certainly written for the average reader.  Our society caters to the average and I just can't fit inside of those boundaries.

Earlier tonight I felt such sadness when I overheard some parents talking with disappointment that their son didn't perform at school in a way that would have pleased his teacher. Or the first time my son was teased on the playground for dressing in his own inimitable way.  Or how my daughter felt getting "looks" when her clothing choice was her own unique style.  How in the world can "average" appeal to most people.  How can people be comfortable in the margins like that?  Frankly, I don't think that most people ARE comfortable there.

Homeschoolers have long been marginalized too, but over the years, we've earned our stripes.  Within the homeschooling community, there are now groups that help people fit in. There are Christian homeschoolers, unschoolers, Classical schoolers, Waldorf schoolers, Montessori schoolers, and traditional schoolers. Would you believe that I don’t fit into any of those either? We are secular homeschoolers, we've read some classics, but our exposure to Ulysses is limited to the silver screen, and I have tried almost every possible method of homeschooling out there over the years only to find that NONE of them are exact matches for my family. I suppose we simply don’t assimilate well.  But, the truth is, I love the welcome freedom to be ourselves, our unique selves.

And I have found a number of ways that life is meeting me head on and welcoming my lack of "average". Netflix started catering to our time schedule as well as our diverse interests.  Our homeschool group contains people from nearly every culture found in North America, and with people who enjoy the differences.  When my daughter decided to give middle school a taste, she was vastly interested in seeing just how "normal" she is.  She was pleased to discover that there was no "normal" way expected in that school that she was interested in pursuing!  And our home life is as far outside of the box as is possible.

I have learned over time that swimming against the current is actually inevitable for me.  When I embrace the uniqueness that I happen to have been born with, there is no way for me to completely fit in.   Many of my friends embrace their own sets of unique qualities also...  So, I expect and enjoy it that my leaf takes a few hits as it heads downstream. I'm embracing the idea of being unique . . . 

Because of this, I know that when I hit the river blocks of life, my path around them is going to be unique and all my own. When my children face their own challenges of being different, they have learned to celebrate those differences! Being different means being whole, I think.  It means being real.  It means having the integrity to be myself.

Come to think of it,  you're not all that "average" either..!