acceptance, achievement, patience & presence

In a previous post I mentioned the author Ben Hewitt and an online article that caught my attention.

I was so excited that just last week his new book, Home Grown, arrived at the library for me. This book is his personal take on life lived on his 40 acre farm as he and his wife unschool their two sons. 

Our life here is different than the Hewitt family, yet in principle we are similar. We are not full-time farmers, simply part-time urban gardeners. We do not unschool, but homeschool. Unschooling is mostly led by the child interests, while homeschooling is mostly parent directly. I think, really, our family is somewhere in the middle, as I do direct the book work of my children, but they are given much time for outdoor pursuits and creativity. 

Hewitt's thoughts on accepting your children for who they are, our culture's definition of success and achievement and parental presence and patience resonated with me so I'm sharing those quotations here. I realize it is difficult to read these out of context, but maybe they will interest you enough to read the entire book. 

In the book the author's thoughts are shared mingled with his description of life in Northern Vermont on his farm and relationships established with his family and neighbors. I have a clear view of that life, and do think I have an even better schooling perspective for having read this book.

On a personal note, there have been times in  my life I have realized each person in my family (my husband, me, my daughter and my son) has not fit in culturally (I won't take the time to define those cultures and situations at this time). I think one of the hardest things on a person can be the realization that they do not fit in or are being excluded for who they are. These topics of culture, acceptance and achievement will probably keep my interest for a lifetime. 

Acceptance of who your child is
The acceptance of who our son was rather than who we thought he should be marked a crucial turning point in Penny’s and my journey of unlearning the expectations and assumptions we’d been socialized to. I now view our son’s high-octane temperament as being one of the great blessings of our lives, for if he had been an easygoing child, willing to apply himself to whatever lessons we placed before him, we might never have allowed ourselves to grant our children the freedom that has been so essential to their growth and development. We might never have granted ourselves the freedom that has been so essential to our growth and development. p.79

Culture’s definition of achievement and success
It is so easy to explain and demonstrate success in the context of our culture’s common vernacular regarding achievement. Home ownership, a good-paying job, a generous 401(k), a nice car, recognition, personal ambition to achieve these things: These are some of the metrics by which our culture has come to define success, and a sort of shorthand for a life well lived. Or perhaps it is simply a life of comfort, which itself seems to serve as an emblem of a life well lived.
It is not that there’s anything particularly wrong with any of these metrics in isolation. These are not inherently bad things, and indeed, I have some of them myself. The danger is that the pursuit of them threatens to hijack our lives in ways that make it difficult for us to cultivate meaningful relationships with place and nature. p.77

Patience and presence
There’s often a misperception that unschooling parents don’t do much. That they just let their kids run willy-nilly while the adults go about their days. That unschooling is, when all is said and done, easy. In this family, at least, nothing could be farther from the truth. In this family, unschooling is not easy, or convenient. It demands significant reservoirs of thought and patience and, as I’ve pointed out, presence. Many parents aren’t all that accustomed to being patient and present for their kids anymore, if only because they’re simply not given the opportunity to be patient and present. Jobs get in the way. School gets in the way. After-school activities get in the way. As I have learned – as I am still learning – patience and presence are muscles that must be developed and exercised regularly. Some of us may be born with more or less of these qualities than others, but no one is born with them fully realized.
It is not easy or convenient to be parents to children who think critically. It is not easy or convenient to be parents to children who feel a strong sense of ownership over their time. p.102,103
all quotations taken from Home Grown by Ben Hewitt

One of the great blessings of parenthood so far has been to accept the awesome people God created when he formed my children. Instead of trying to manipulate our children's personalities or gifts to suit our lives, my husband and I have eagerly embraced who they are strengths, weaknesses, quirks, beauty and all. At the same time I know we've begun to accept ourselves and how we were made as well.

One of the great freedoms of life has been for me to analyze why certain cultures, people groups, organizations accept certain people and reject others. It's been quite liberating to not care about achieving (coming from someone who thrived on that at one point) and instead simply being. 

One of the great challenges of relationships is to be slow down long enough to choose patience and presence. However, once chosen, both patience and presence seem to be a gift to me just as much as the recipient. In my opinion, being patient and present with a child are two of the greatest ways of showing selflessness and love.