Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I recently had an amazing conversation with a friend that led us to a shared epiphany.  As homeschooling TJEDers, we are both frequently asked to compare our homeschooling to public school and to more common K-12 homeschooling.  My friend and I were talking about the differences and I was having a particularly hard time comparing what I do with typical education.  “Homeschooling” didn’t cover everything I meant when I used the word “education.” 

As we talked we acknowledged that the goal of Leadership Education is for a person to realize their full potential while the goal of typical education in the U.S. is for a person to realize their academic potential.   

Our shared epiphany was this: It is impossible to compare what we are doing – Leadership Education – to typical education because Leadership Education is concerned with the whole person while typical education is only concerned with a small part of a person. 

It is like comparing holistic medicine to brain surgery.  As a former brain surgery patient, I can sincerely say that I understand how critical a brain surgeon is and I’m so grateful for the surgeon who saved my life.  But it would be ludicrous of me to ignore all the other systems in my body and assume that brain surgery would ensure my entire body’s physical health.  Just as there is more to my body than my brain, there is more to a person than their academic potential.  All the people I know understand this.  I suspect there are very few, if any, people who don’t understand this. Sadly, society in general doesn’t live in accordance with this truth. Many, many parents, teachers, and students are trying to live this truth.  I love Leadership Education because it embraces this truth.  It is teaching me how to live it.

Typical education may begin as early as pre-school and end after high school, college, or graduate school.  Ideally Leadership Education begins at birth and continues throughout a person’s whole life – it is never finished. Typical education happens during school hours and usually in a classroom.  As soon as the bell rings or the student leaves the classroom, education is done for the day. Leadership Education happens 24-7 wherever the student’s body is at. 

As my friend and I talked we started to use an analogy, probably inspired by Oliver and Rachel DeMille’s beautiful poem about an Oak Tree (on the back cover of the book Leadership Education).  We compared our children to little plants that we were raising.  We’d already helped them get from seed to tiny plant but we both know our little plants have a long way to go.  Ever since that conversation I have started thinking of my children as little plants and myself as a gardener of children.  My goal is to give my little plants the environment and nurturing they need to grow and develop and become whatever plant they were meant to be.  Each one is unique.  They are not all going to become the same kind of plant.  They have unique needs and unique development paths.  I’m certain academics will be something each of them need at some point, likely many points, along the way, but that is just a portion of their development.  Especially with my core phasers, academics aren’t a high priority at all. 

At the beginning of the week I try to look at my little plants in my minds eye and ask myself, what do they need this week to grow and develop?  Then each day I try to ask again, which things do they need most today?  This week, what comes to mind is my 3 yo daughter needs opportunities to work alongside me with jobs like picking up toys and emptying the dishwasher; lots of snuggle time; opportunities to improve her hand coordination with activities like coloring and cutting; and our daily devotional.  Thinking of my 3 yo son, I know right now he needs lots of Dad time; opportunities to climb and run and jump; recognition of all his good choices; and our daily devotional.  As I think of my 8 yo daughter I know she needs more sleep; my help purging and reorganizing her bedroom; opportunities to talk with me; one-on-one time with Dad; time to ride her bike; lots of time to work with or near me; to be read to by me; time to read and “play” with the academic subjects she is interested in; time to socialize with friends at least a couple hours/week; opportunities to learn more beginning cooking skills; inspiration to read our core book on her own; and our daily devotional.

This is what I think my little plants need right now.  Some of what I think they need is constant, like our daily devotional.  But most of what I think they need changes with each week, month, and season of the year.  We are transitioning right now from our “school year” to our “summer.”  For my core-phasers, the big difference will be not going to physical therapy for 3 months and going to weekly park days, but other than that, life will feel pretty much the same for them.  For my love-of-learning-phase daughter, there are more noticeable differences.  The clubs she participates in have ended or will end soon for a summer break.  Now that our Seattle weather is getting warmer and dryer (relatively), we can spend a lot of time outside and park day with our friends will be what we look forward to all week.   I won’t be involved in as many of my book clubs and classes so we’ll have more family time and a simpler schedule.  Our daily work will change in response to the change in season.  There will be lots of food preservation, vacation planning and prep, planning for the next school year, and yard work.  Meal preparation will be focused more on washing and cutting up produce and won’t involve the oven, crock-pot, or stove much. 

I’m sharing a little slice of my family’s life right now but it will look different next week and completely different in 3 months.  Kind of the way a garden looks so different each season and the gardener’s work is different from day to day. 

In addition to considering the little plants we are raising, my friend and I considered our personal plants.  It was a new way for both of us to look at our personal growth and development.  It made it easier for us to recognize things we ought to say no to and opportunities we shouldn’t miss. Often now when we talk, rather than asking each other, “How are you doing?”, we ask “how is your plant doing?” and “How are your little plants doing?”.  I recommend asking yourself How Does Your Garden Grow?


Megan said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I hadn't thought of a person's life journey as a plant before.

Jill and Dane said...

Love this post. I feel the same way about being a "gardner of children" and I love the brain surgery comparison, because that is SO true. I definitely believe in Leadership education and I think you defined it so well. :)

Andrea said...

I loved this Jen, you have such a great way of describing this whole process. Love you, and miss you!

Jen said...

Thanks Andrea! It sounds trite but I mean it. I miss and love you too!

Jen said...

Had a great conversation with another of my sisters about this the other day which resulted in another epiphany. I've always believed and said that you don't have to homeschool to "do" TJED. One of my sisters is in this category. She and her family absolutely have a TJED lifestyle and her girls go to a charter school. Now I really get it. TJEDers who use schools are using them as a resource to help with academics and maybe a few other areas of their children's development. But they remain the mentors of their children, coordinating the outside help with their larger effort of growing a person. Homeschoolers use a lot of outside help too. It is almost impossible to do it all on your own. I certainly don't plan to. For TJEDers that send their kids to school, the challenge is they have a lot less time with their kids to work on all areas of development. They have to be more choosy with their family time. But again, they know what their kids need most and they can ensure that their kids get what they really need.