What If Is a Two Way Street

This morning Celine sat down to write - for the sheer pleasure of it. For the single purpose alone to express her own thoughts on paper. At twelve years old, I had despaired (in my darker moments of homeschooling doubt and insecurity) that this day would never come.

Celine has not naturally gravitated to this form of self expression. From my informal observation and reading I don't know that many young children do. Putting thoughts to paper is hard work and multi-layered. There's the actual skill of moving the pencil or pen, making marks people understand. Then there's expressing your thoughts, while moving that pen or pencil. That's some complicated brain work.  

I haven't pushed my children to write. We've tried a couple spelling programs but quit when they weren't inspiring or interesting (to either mama or child). I haven't formally taught the kids grammar. I haven't required Celine to write book reviews, potentially turning her off reading, one of her main interests and life loves.

My elementary writing philosophy has been we write when we have something to communicate.

I have taught our children the mechanics of writing. How to form letters and eventually join them all together in beautiful cursive - the aesthetic matters in this family.

There's been copywork of inspiring literature, on a somewhat sporadic basis. And lots of everyday writing, what Julie Bogart, creator of The Writer's Jungle, calls The Jot It Down and Partnership Writing phases.

Celine taking the initiative to write something, akin to a journal entry, on her own accord - that miracle has not happened till now. Oh yes, this writer mama is beaming. 

When the nagging what if (what if Celine never wants to put her thoughts to paper?) would rear its ugly head I told it to be quiet because in the end I trust.

I trust that sooner or later the desire to self express in written word will motivate the learner in that direction. In her own sweet time.

There have been so many what if's on this interest-led homeschool journey. There have been so many what if's on this new journey of adventurous, small-scale, location independant family living (or something like that).

What if's abound, but that street runs two ways. At one end is doubt and the other is trust.

  • What if what we hope for, will happen, in God's perfect timing?
  • What if the uncertain future exceeds our wildest expectations?
  • What if God's glory and provision is just over that next mountain we've been asked to climb?

One of the lessons from this move has been to reframe the what if's - about our adventurous living dreams, our unconventional homeschool path, the teenage years that lie ahead.

What if Laurent doesn't learn to read? Of course he will, but you know how fear is irrational.


What if his art prints and commissions start him on the path to earning a livelihood doing what he loves, at the ripe old age of ten?

What if Celine doesn't want to write her thoughts?


What if her logic driven, attention to detail, problem solving brain makes her especially gfited to write in a technical language?

What if Brienne's dogged determination and strong will makes her young adult years heartbreaking and difficult? 


What if her strong will enables her to climb mountains, literally and figuratively, that others only dream of?

Before you let the what if's stop you from living your values, aspirations, and intentions point yourself around in the other direction. Because what if is a two way street.

How do you reframe the what if's?

PS. If you're struggling with homeschooling what if's I'd love to walk with you - in the direction of trust, hope and joy.

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  • heather

    heather on Oct. 28, 2011, 12:49 p.m.

    gorgeous as always, renee. emily is a writer by nature, but does not like to write "on demand" (me neither!). she has written a private blog for a year or so now (for family and her friends) and it has given her a place to practice regular writing and photography. she has fallen in love with photography as a result of her blog! the rhythm of blog writing keeps her 'in practice' for when bigger writing ideas or projects come up, and she enjoys the technical/creative elements of designing a blog. it's been really positive for us.

    also, when we homeschooled for a brief period several years ago, i wrote a post about using writing seeds in our school day. that book pictured in the post is quite good if i remember correctly. a book about writing put out by new moon magazine. http://beautythatmoves.typepad.com/homeschool/2007/10/if-you-were-to-.html

    trust is everything, isn't it? we are so firmly planted in a place of trust/faith right now. if i didn't have those two things i think i'd be a blubbering homeschool mama mess! ;) trust and faith... keep it coming.


  • Wendy

    Wendy on Oct. 28, 2011, 1:29 p.m.

    So well done. The 'what if' topic is something I've been struggling with over the past few months, not in regards to homeschooling, but life in general. Your positive 'other side of the coin' outlook is so encouraging to me.

    Your thoughts on writing and children strike me as some of the most logical and intuitive I've heard in quite awhile! Thank you!pr


  • texassky

    texassky on Oct. 28, 2011, 2:47 p.m.

    This is very insightful. My little girl is 5 and in kindergarten. On a weekly basis, I am reminded that she is behind in reading or she colors her pumpkins purple instead of orange or that she finishes her math to quickly then becomes a distraction. It's frustrating to say the least. And, also brings some "what if" questions to mind, even though she is only in kindergarten...lol. However, homeschooling is not an option for our family, so we have to make adjustments to encourage learning and remain positive.

    Thank you for your post. I am reminded of what's truly important!


  • Kika

    Kika on Oct. 28, 2011, 4:09 p.m.

    Along the same line of thinking as the "what if" statements, I have observed that the very characteristics/personality traits in my children that frustrate me at times or make me worry are linked to their greatest strengths. Like they are the flip-side and you can't necessarily have one without the other.

    As an example, my son is very logical and reasoned, interested in justice and fairness. When playing board games when he was younger he'd slaughter me and when I whined and asked him to go easy he would not. He knew the rules inside and out and wanted to play by them. He could seem harsh at times with his sisters too, especially when he felt they got away with behavior they shouldn't. But this young man will stand up for people that are being treated unfairly and not flinch when he stands up for his own values. He seeks out in-depth information on topics of interest to him and will reason his way through the challenging arguments on both sides of the fence. I think his penchant for factual detail has worked its way into his creative writing even as he has entire novels worked out in his head - every detail must be "canon".

    Another example: my middle daughter is very creative (very much a right-brained learner)and impresses me with her musical and artistic abilities and adventurous spirit. The flip side is that she is totally unlike her big bros and maman in that she creates huge (and I do mean huge) explosions of mess wherever she treads, loses things in our own home - things like pieces of artwork she has worked hard on- and is not a skilled time-manager as she totally gets lost in whatever she is working on or reading. After lots of reading and asking questions of other right-brained learners I see that these traits often (not always, I'm sure) go hand-in-hand.

    My youngest is very sensitive and emotional and has provided lots of opportunity for prayer and problem solving for my husband and I. But what compassion she has for others, such a sweet spirit and very thoughtful responses to things that come up in life. Her big personality brings smiles and comments from people on a regular basis. I think she would die in a classroom at this age. She feels things so deeply and carries lots of worries on her shoulders. But I look forward to watching how God uses these traits as she grows.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 28, 2011, 7:04 p.m.

      I totally agree and have found this to be so true with our children also. Those traits that worry me (how will they adjust to the "real" world?), bother me, cause me the most frustration are usually their greatest strengths. I am so thankful for exactly who my children are and how God has shaped my own heart through mothering them. So, so thankful.


  • Marianne

    Marianne on Oct. 28, 2011, 5 p.m.

    I am not exagerating when I say that this idea will change the way I mother our son. For the better. Thank you for this.


  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Oct. 28, 2011, 6:34 p.m.

    Very inspirational! As a mother at the bottom of our homeschooling mountain looking up, I can get consumed with these what-ifs that can quickly turn to fear if I don't get them in check quickly. Thanks for this beautiful reminder and for being an example of how this child-led homeschooling can lead to really amazing things.

    I may just have to add a small section to our budget very soon for "homeschool coaching". We are a military family in Ohio and I receive little to no support with this "crazy idea to homeschool" from our friends and family, especially when our (my) picture of education looks nothing like what most people are accustomed to. It would really be wonderful to get some clarity/direction from someone that's been there, done that.


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Oct. 29, 2011, 12:39 p.m.

    Beautiful Renee! When we can let go of our fears and just TRUST, the whole adventure is completely different!

    I just can't get over how talented Laurent is! No wonder he is not into writing just yet, his vital forces are totally into creating arts and beauty! This is some serious talent!


  • Joan

    Joan on Oct. 29, 2011, 1:28 p.m.

    I need this post today!!!. Fear, Fear, Fear has been round me this days. The what if they don't succeed in life, If I had been doing the right things, If they are learning the right way. If I'm in the right path.

    I need to look more deep in my heart, in my children abilities and talents ( very brilliant both and thanks God for them).

    Renee, thanks for all your thoughts and writings.


  • Britton

    Britton on Oct. 29, 2011, 2:25 p.m.

    Thank you, Renee. I needed another perspective- we have kindergarten looming for my 1st born (even though it's still almost a year away), and I'm already stressed out. "What ifs" abound for me right now. I had never, ever considered homeschooling (I was a 5th grade teacher before kids), but through your blog and others' I've seen that homeschooling is a real possibility, especially in light of my "what ifs" for my son. More importantly, though, is that after reading this post, I am going to strive to see my son NOT through my worries and what ifs (my mom brain could spend every moment spiraling around those), but rather through the change in perspective: the strengths that both my kids exhibit on a daily basis. Thank you.


  • Maryam

    Maryam on Oct. 29, 2011, 6:03 p.m.

    This post has arrived in my inbox perfectly timed and perfectly phrased for my life right now, my family's many strong wills, and our homeschooling days together. Thank you so much :)


  • Cari

    Cari on Oct. 30, 2011, 5:05 a.m.

    Thank you so much for these wise words. I'm the queen of "what if" but have never thought to flip it on its head. This is an empowering message and personally well-timed.

    Blessings in your new work. Cari


  • Southern Gal

    Southern Gal on Nov. 20, 2011, 1:07 p.m.

    Oh, how I had learned this (read this) when I first started homeschooling. We let those "what if's" nag at our hearts and minds. I've lost much sleep with worrying about my made up "what if's". I have two older children who have exceeded my expectations despite all my questioning. One graduated this year as an RN and the other is a junior majoring in computer software engineering. You'd think I would have learned by now. Thank you for the reminder. For the peace of mind for my nine-year-old. Thank you.


  • Kiasa

    Kiasa on Nov. 20, 2011, 3:35 p.m.

    This awesome! (I'm stopping in from simple homeschool.) I remember briefly skimming the book Taming your Spirited Child and gaining so much from using s similar perspective you've outlined here. My 5 year old is so busy it drives me bonkers, but she will do great things with such determination and spirit in the future. My 2.5 year old is not talking at all yet (and we are frequently worried), but he is very creative in communicating and a perfectionist. I'm learning I can change my attitude and perception. And that's what makes all the difference as I mother my sweet little ones.


  • Erin

    Erin on Nov. 21, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

    Thank you for this. Our homeschooling has become very difficult in the past month and I am plagued by what-ifs. What a lovely and timely reminder to trust. The issues will work out....I just need to wait and trust.


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