A Sure Way to Learn Humility

Perhaps I should avoid debates. I’m not good at them. I’ve been carrying on a debate by email for the last few days, and boy, am I getting schooled.


Why must I learn as I go? Why can’t I just know everything?

I’m not losing the debate, per se, but it seems that at every turn I get a clear view of my ignorance. I am, frankly, racing to stay ahead of my colleague. On Friday I had just pressed ‘send’ on an email containing a careful statement of my position only to turn the page of my colleague’s book and realize I’d missed a chapter–and you know it would be about what I’d just defended, and you know he’d use some of the same quotes as I to defend his own, opposite, viewpoint.

Ugh. It was to the drawing board (and Amazon for more books) for me.

Social media has also been an embarrassing, invigorating mess of learning for me. As an author who aspires to make writing a paying vocation, social media is a must. So, without consulting experts or anything, I just sort of put myself out there. I did horrible things like tweet only links and self-promotion and being rather socially awkward.

And then I was recommended Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb, and now I realize I’ve been doing it ALL WRONG! I wish I could delete my Twitter and Facebook profiles and start over, but I can’t.

Why must I learn as I go? Why must I make a mess?

Now that I’ve learned that social media is, get this, for socializing, it has all become so much more fun. But since I haven’t finished the book yet, I suppose I’m in for a few more forehead-slapping moments. Sigh.


And as to the debate? The beauty of this debate is that, even if I don’t win my antagonist over to my side, I will have learned a TON. We’re debating theology–not nit-picky stuff, but things that are of vital importance to our faith. The very fact that I have to race to read ahead shows that I’ve been sorely lacking in my studies.

The Apostle Paul said that God gave him a ‘thorn in the flesh’ to keep from becoming conceited. I suspect my propensity toward mess-making has the same purpose. Heck, if Paul needed to be kept in line, I must really need help.

Laurie Woodward said “The lesson continues until the lesson is learned.” I suppose I better get to it, huh?

In that spirit, for the first time ever, I have composed a post entirely on my phone, with the aid of a Bluetooth keyboard. So, if you see anything out of wack, let me know, eh?

Why You Might Want to Practice Your Smile in the Mirror

Ah, the smile-grimace.

As a retail clerk, I see it a lot. I greet a customer with a smile and a ‘hello’, and what I get in return is this… how should I call it? Lip curl, twitch, frown thing. I think they think they’re smiling. Well, they ain’t.

Dale Carnegie said, “An insincere grin… doesn’t fool anybody. We know it is mechanical and we resent it.” A genuine smile is an expression of genuine happiness, delight, amusement. It says “I’m glad to see you”, “I like you”, “You make me happy”. The grimace thing says, “I’m acknowledging that you exist, now beat it.”

The expression on your face is one of the first things people see. It is part of your first impression, and we know that a first impression is often all you have. As far as I’m concerned, a pleasant countenance is far more important than what the person is wearing, or what sort of body composition they have. The best beauty tip my Mom ever gave me was “Smile, and you’ll look beautiful.” True that, Mom.

My favorite people are all smilers. I work with some fantastic smilers and jokers. When I walk into the preshift meeting, I look for them because I know they’ll smile like they’re glad to see me—and I’m glad to see them. They make work a fun place to be. When they’re gone I miss them.

Carnegie quotes Professor James V. McConnell: “People who smile… tend to manage, teach, and sell more effectively and to raise happier children. There’s far more information in a smile than a frown. That’s why encouragement is a much more effective teaching device than punishment.”

So, if you’re convinced, or if you aren’t, I challenge you to go to a mirror, shiny window, or your smartphone camera, and look at your face. Close your eyes, pretend someone just walked up to you, and smile like you always do. Open your eyes. Is that a smile or a grimace? Worse, is it a rictus?

Oh dear. I hope not.

Then consider this. Daniel Pink says:

A genuine smile involves two facial muscles: (1) the zygomatic major muscle, which stretches from the cheekbone and lifts the corners of the mouth; and (2) the outer part of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which orbits the eye, and is involved in ‘pulling down the eyebrows and the skin below the eyebrows, pulling up the skin below the eye, and raising the cheeks.’
Artificial smiles involve only the zygomatic major. The reason: we can control that muscle, but we can’t control the relevant part of the orbicularis oculi muscle. It contracts spontaneously—and only when we’re experiencing enjoyment…
In other words to detect a fake smile, look at the eyes.

Observe. Here is a picture of me faking a smile.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.56 AM #2

And here is a picture of me actually smiling.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.56 AM #3

Now that you know how to detect a fake smile, you’ll see it in yourself and in others. Stop it. Stop faking it. Leadership guru Tim Marks says that he had to practice in front of a mirror, and even practice smiling while driving in order to make a genuine smile a habit.  It mattered that much to him.

I’ve tried to make it a reflex—walk past a person, and smile. Or, if nothing else, try to look pleasant. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded, but I’ve made progress.  And now I work at a place where I have to wear a mask (not the retail job), and the eyes are the only way to tell that I’m smiling, so it better be genuine.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.58 AM #2

Well, am I smiling? Am I?

And no, my profession is not ‘bandito’.

Life is hard, and sometimes we are so tired and beat down that it feels impossible to eke out a smile. In times like those, we need the kindness and the smile of another person. It’s important to realize that others have the same need. If a smile is what it takes to brighten up a day, a room, a conversation, a job then that is not too much to ask. And whatever you do, rid your life of the smile grimace, and you will, at least, offend fewer retail clerks.

Much appreciated.

Photo on 2014-01-07 at 11.59 AM #2

Works referenced:

Carnegie, Dale: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Simon and Schuster, 1936.

Pink, Daniel: A Whole New Mind. The Penguin Group, 2006.

Blue Saw the Rabbit: Make a Point, Tell a Story

Young Jessup and Grandpa sat on the front porch one lazy Sunday afternoon, drinking sweet tea.  Grandpa’s hound, Blue, lay snoozing by Jessup’s feet. Grandpa had just asked Jessup about his fishing the day before, when a rabbit dashed across the road. Blue, who had been by all accounts asleep a moment before, exploded from the porch and disappeared into the scrub on the other side of the road, barking like mad. A couple moments later the terrified rodent skittered across the yard and behind the house. Blue burst from the bushes, hot on its fluffy tail.

Jessup laughed and slapped his hand on his knee. Grandpa only smiled and leaned his head back. Blue could be heard yipping and howling behind the house, and soon the ruckus doubled. Blue shot around the house with the neighbour’s collie right behind them.

“Where’d the rabbit go?” Jessup asked.  If it had passed by, he hadn’t seen it.

Grandpa shrugged.

But the dogs were undeterred. They could be heard baying and barking up and down the road, around the house, and down in the gully by the river.  Soon every dog in the near vicinity was chasing after Blue and the rabbit.  The hullabaloo was tremendous, but they didn’t seem to be getting any closer to catching a meal.  And next time they came into view, it was just the collie and Blue.  Blue didn’t seem at all discouraged that the rabbit was yards and yards ahead.  He was still charging ahead, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.

A few minutes later, only Blue’s barking could be heard. Every other dog had deserted him. But Blue came back, panting and spraying saliva past the limp rabbit in his jaws. He set it down in front of Grandpa’s feet.

“Go on, Blue.” Grandpa kicked the rabbit off the porch, and Blue bounded after it. Moments later, all Jessup and Grandpa heard was his smacking and chewing.

“Grandpa,” said Jessup. “Why did the other dogs give up?”

“Well…” Grandpa rubbed his chin and gazed at the floorboards. “The other dogs were just chasin’. Blue?  He’d seen the rabbit.”

I didn’t make up, or look up this story.  The pastor told it in church a solid year ago. I fleshed it out a bit here, but the gist of it is still locked in my memory. I don’t even remember what the point of the sermon was, but the story is almost self explanatory: a clear vision, an eye on the prize, is the key to not giving up.

That Sunday, the kiddies I teach couldn’t tell me what the sermon was about either, but they could tell the story back. Six year olds paying attention to the sermon?  Well, they heard the story.

Don Norman said:

Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions…. Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.

A story connects the facts together and makes them real.  A story gives both the solution and the application.  A story can illustrate, entertain, convict, clarify, and sell.  A fact and a date might disappear but the flow and colour of a story sticks in the mind like hair on a biscuit.

Have something to say?  Tell a story

For further reading, check out A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink, particularly his chapter on ‘story’.  A fascinating read.

Chris and Terri Brady are fantastic at teaching by telling stories.  Check out their blogs:

3 Reasons Why I Love Audio Learning

What are you listening to right now? What’s on your phone? What’s in your disk-changer (if you still have one of those dinosaurs)? Is it helping you or hurting you? Is it feeding your brain?

I love listening to music–darn near addicted. But for the past five years I’ve been on a steady diet of audios–podcasts, lectures, sermons and motivational talks. And I love it. Here’s why that’s my favourite way to learn.

1. I can multitask.

As a borderline workaholic, I love to be able to accomplish two things at once. I can prepare dinner while learning about the history of Great Britain—a workaholic nerd’s dream. The kitchen becomes a classroom, the car becomes a university on wheels, and the bathroom becomes a church. Getting preached at while I put on mascara? Oh yes. Unlike reading, which requires having eyes on the page, audio learning just requires having your stereo (or phone) in earshot. This kills the “I don’t have time” excuse.

2. It’s cheap and effective.

Let’s compare, shall we? I subscribe to a fifty-dollar CD and book package that sends me four CD’s a month on various topics. I’ve received this, or something similar, for almost five years. Let’s say I’ve spent three grand on audios over the last five years, give or take. I also get three free podcasts a week. 16 audios a month for around fifty bucks, and I listen to them more than once.

I spent two years in college to receive a diploma. It was a small private school where the tuition is partially subsidized by donations. This cost me about 15,000.

Both were well worth their while, but I learned about the same thing in each–History, economics, politics, leadership, success principles, personal development, time management, financial management, principles for a good marriage, principles for parenting, psychology, theology, communication, philosophy, apologetics, and science.

And the audio learning didn’t require a loan, or quitting my job.

3. It refreshes my mind.

I’m a consummate over-thinker. When I’m worrying or just plain in a funk, I need something to shut me up. I’ve found that if I pop in a CD or put on a podcast, it shuts out my negative self-talk and invigorates my mind. After listening I am ready to take on the next task—and if I’m not, I’ve at least accomplished something. But this only works if it’s a positive audio. If it’s some negative, crass, or ‘brain-candy’ type thing, it probably won’t work.

Where to Start?

Pick stuff that interests you and challenges you. Pick stuff that will help in your area of expertise, or is in a field you’d like to improve in. I also recommend a steady diet of personal development material from sources who have the results that prove they know their stuff.

Here are a few ideas:

The LIFE audio series, by LIFE Leadership:
LIFE produces audios on the themes of the “8 F’s” (Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Freedom, Following and Fun), taught by successful business and social leaders. Relatable, engaging and entertaining. Cost: roughly 50.00 per month for 4 CD’s and one book.

The British History Podcast: Produced by Jamie Jeffers, a former attorney who presents the history of Great Britain with a conversational, witty style and doesn’t hesitate to buck tradition. This is NOT your high school history class. Cost: free podcast, with optional membership for bonus content (5.00 per month).

Ravi Zacharias, “Let My People Think”: Author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and guests discuss living and defending a Christian worldview in a hostile environment. Ravi is humble and soft-spoken, but his brilliance shines through. Free podcasts.

Focus on the Family Radio Theatres: Movie-quality sound, original scores and full casts bring classic novels and original stories to life. My personal favorites are the Chronicles of Narnia. Other titles include Ben Hur and Les Miserables. Available through iTunes. Cost: 4.99 to 25.99 per title.

Give it a go. Try one per week. Try a few different audios. I bet it will grow on you.

Channing Tatum and Living While We’re Young

Channing Tatum, when asked about stripping as an 18-year-old, said “If you’re gonna do something stupid… do it when you’re young, don’t do it later in life. I went ahead and made sure I did every stupid thing from the time that I was born until about like twenty-three years old and then I started dialing it back” (1).

When I heard this, my gut reaction was “wrong!”

Perhaps I’m just bitter because I’m a boring person who’s done nothing exciting all my twenty-three years and now, according to the esteemed Mr. Tatum, must start dialing it back.


The extent of my crazy exploits is taking a Mini Cooper S down a busy highway at 100 miles an hour. That’s it. I hit my rebellious stage really late—about twenty. I had my first drink at twenty (For American readers, legal drinking age in Canada is 18). Thereabouts I started cussing and I had an epistemological crisis in which I questioned everything I believed and if my parents may have led me astray. I’m kinda still in that rebellious stage, but it’s the tamest rebellious stage you’ve ever seen. I have not one drunk party story or crazy ex-boyfriend to my name. Heck, I’m kinda a ‘good girl’.

So I might not be qualified to have an opinion here, but after giving it some thought, I decided that Channing’s got a point. When we’re young, the stakes aren’t quite as high. We can recover faster. We don’t have the same family responsibilities, and we have less to lose (like money, houses and status).

Youth is the time to take risks, have adventures, and explore our identity and purpose in life.

To his credit, Channing used his ‘humble’ beginning as a launching point for a very successful acting career. All disagreements about morality aside, that’s admirable.

Here’s where I challenge his theory:

Youth is too precious to waste. Think about it. It’s the prime of life. Your energy levels are higher than they’ll ever be. Your mental faculties are as sharp as they’ll ever be. Young people can adapt faster and learn faster. Young people love to innovate, and try new things. They’re less jaded and beaten down by life’s hardships. And, like I said, with lower responsibilities, if what you try fails, you’ve lost far less.

This is the perfect opportunity to attempt great things. This is the time to devote yourself to a mission: whether it’s a business, a non-profit, a church, a project, art or education, even starting a family.

We’ve already wasted so much time—on Facebook, on shopping, on sleeping, on pure hedonism. And me too! I’m preaching to me, here!

In the last couple years I’ve tried to take more chances, work harder and discipline myself more because I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I’d done that”. I’ve had some great experiences already, and I’ve made headway in finding a path for my life. I hope that as I become braver, less selfish, and gain wisdom, I can do great things with my life.

No age is too late to begin on a path of significance, but I believe its best to start when you’re young.

Note: Neither young people shouldn’t rush forward in arrogance, but should take council from people older and wiser (more on that in “The Art of Mess-making”). I know myself, and I tend to go to extremes with my ideas, which my older friends have been kind enough to temper before I could do too much damage. Books and audios have also been very helpful for me.

Anyone care to agree or disagree on this one? Older readers, I’d love to hear what you think.

(1). “’Magic Mike’ Unscripted: Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum.”
September 16, 2012. Moviefone. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcpaTGGrdX8&gt;.

Aunt Win’s Last Lesson for Me: a Tribute

She lives in my memory as a tiny lady with bright eyes behind her glasses, and lines around her mouth that said she spent more time smiling than frowning. Her body was slight to gauntness, but spry and active, as was her mind. She never married or had children, but I, along with dozens across Manitoba, am ‘her kid’—through her teaching, her love, and her giving.

Her life was one of courage and adventure from the beginning. In 1913, Aunt Win’s parents struck out from Staffordshire, England, to Canada in hopes of getting a good start to their family. Her dad had heard that the Canadian government wanted to bring settlers into northern Manitoba. They found themselves in the rocky, bush country of Grahamdale, near Lake Winnipeg. They had nothing of their own, except for the things provided by the government—a couple horses and cattle, and a bit of money.

With those small resources, they hewed a farmstead out of the trees, and coaxed wheat out of the stony soil. It took ingenuity to get by. To make a bit of cash, her mother took up baking for the large population of bachelors in the area, and baked bread every day but Sunday.

Aunt Win was born in the sixth year of their life in Canada.

But in 1921, life took a heartbreaking turn. Her father became very sick with Typhoid fever. Though his wife and a friend managed to convince the weekly train to take him to Winnipeg in the unheated baggage car, he succumbed to his illness. Seven months later, their second child, Sam, was born.

In 1924, Win’s mother took her two small children and moved south to Dugald. There she married a man who was renting a farm there. They all worked hard to make ends meet. Young Win fed the hens, gathered eggs and carried firewood. She was very young when she learned how to knit socks and scarves for the family.

She recounted the story to me of the first cake she baked—a white cake in a round pan. She served it at mealtime. When her brother, Will, tasted it he fell off his chair! When everyone rushed to see what was the matter, he pretended it was because the cake was so awful.

She told me about having no winter coat to wear to school until a neighbor lady altered a large coat and gave it to her. Win was very pleased to get to wear this new coat, with its fur collar and side-belt.

In Win’s teen years the family lived at a farm near My hometown. She went to school at the Beatrice school until she began taking correspondence courses in the latter grades. She loved her studies (except for history), and she loved the idea of being a teacher. She even turned the side of an old car radiator into a blackboard, and used it to teach her little sister, Sylvia, numbers, letter and arithmetic.

In her teens, Win was working to support her family. This made her studies difficult. But she was determined to be a teacher. So she saved up her money, got a job as a housekeeper in Winnipeg, and enrolled in a business course. Tenacity paid off. When the business college needed a teacher, she was ready and jumped at the chance.

Win taught at the business college for six years before becoming a teacher under the regular Department of Education. She then began teaching High School in Morris. That first day at Morris school—meeting the teachers and her new students–was a highlight. She was finally where she wanted to be.

Aunt Win loved to help her students learn. At the end of the year, when she saw those who had struggled hard to get their grades succeed, it was worth the time and energy. It pleased her to hand out report cards and think about how much she was able to teach them. She emphasized that “those were great days.”

She really missed her students when she retired in 1984. Win wasn’t ready to retire, but the school told her that she was getting to that age, so she would just have to get used to it. Instead of teaching school, she began teaching Sunday school.

Aunt Win was my Sunday school teacher. I confess I don’t remember much of what she taught, but I do remember how we got to do crafts. We would make things of wood, paper, cloth, bottles, paint, paper mache—pretty much anything. I learned a lot about painting, gluing, and woodwork from her.

I also remember her generosity. She loved to give gifts to ‘her kids’—the many children she got to teach over the years. She would buy ice cream for all the kids at church. If she came over to our place, it was often with a treat. She would give us Easter and Christmas cards (with a five-dollar bill for each of us). She would go out of her way to come to our place to hear us recite our Bible memory verses. She helped me with my writing in my junior high years—reading my essays and giving me editing feedback. If we biked over, she was ready to give us cookies and tell stories.

Aunt Win died this winter. I traveled over skating-rink roads back to my hometown so I could sing at her funeral. The picture at the front of the church was Aunt Win in middle age. It struck me as odd, because all my twenty-two years I had known her as an elderly woman. But the stories that were told were quintessentially her: adventure, fun with her nieces, nephews (like letting them drive her big, old car up and down the driveway until it overheated), great-nieces and great-nephews, generosity, love for people and her God.

Recently I was telling someone about being afraid to not get married—I didn’t want to be alone in my old age. Soon after I found the “Memoirs of Aunt Win”, which I wrote when I was fifteen, and from which the details of this article are taken. Many lessons can be drawn from her life-story, but I will point out one: she was unmarried, but she wasn’t alone. She had a family of brothers and sister, nephews and nieces, and their children who loved her dearly. They told stories about how they loved to visit her because it always meant fun adventures and good cookies, and how she cared about what was happening in their lives.

I see great possibility for myself in this, ‘cause I’d love to be the crazy, fun Aunty! Seriously, though, there will always be a demand for someone who cares, who pours themselves into others. Aunt Win was such a person.

Warning: Life in Progress

(Written at 12:30 last night)

I hit the wall tonight. Maybe it was triggered when I took apart my coating machine, cleaned it and put it together again only to have it not work. Six hours of work down the drain. Perhaps it was the politicking of my coworkers. Or, maybe I’m just tired. But I took a nosedive.  Energy: gone.  Tear ducts: primed and ready.

I’ve been flying high for a few weeks now—working hard, making changes, learning, and having fun. But today I read my sheet of goals, looked at my bank records, saw the year ticking away, and realized that I was no where near where I wanted to be.

Keeping score on myself sucks.

Before I kept score I thought I was doing pretty good—above average for sure, Maybe even great. And now I’m horrible.

I’m nowhere near hitting my goals for the month. I don’t know what I was thinking when I set them—obviously I didn’t think I was going to plateau/get stuck on almost EVERYTHING.

And who decided I should set a budget? Damn it, I’m going to keep this budget if it kills me, and it just might. I had no idea I was wasting so much money!

There isn’t enough time to read all the books I want to read AND write AND network on social media AND keep up the housework (though I wouldn’t mind letting that go…).

I’m eating healthier but I’m still fat. I’m saving money but I still can’t afford a car, and winter is coming fast–can’t ride the bike then, not in Manitoba.  I’m improving at my job, but I’m still a long way from competency. I might have been able to catch the mechanical error tonight, but I wasn’t confident in what I was doing.

Well, I DON’T give up.

By the grace of God, tomorrow will be a new day. I am reminded that, first, it has always been in my lowest moments that God has provided for me in the biggest ways. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought I was a lost cause. Second, I don’t have to get my life together immediately. It would be rather nauseating for y’all if I did.

This life is a work in progress. Have I done my best? YES. I have never done better than now. Well, then there is no more to ask of myself. It’s probably time to take a break, relax and rest up.  So, with that, I’m going to bed.

Did You Like Being Homeschooled?

When people find out I’m homeschooled they generally ask the same thing: did you like it?

That’s like asking a fish if it likes water.

But I’m going to try to give this a good answer. I polled a few of my homeschooled and homeschooling friends to see if their experiences were similar. We all liked homeschooling, and here are a few reasons why.

Flexible Schedule.
In my family Mom and Dad set a time by which we had be fed, dressed, and ready to start schoolwork. But no one set when we had to do which course. And if we had an appointment that day, or planned to go on a week’s holidays, no one said we couldn’t.

Jon says he enjoyed “hunting before or after school…. And taking days off to go ice-fishing.” Also, “If you work your butt off you can be done quicker.” That is true. There is no class holding you back or forcing you to keep up. You work at your own pace.

Lessened Peer Pressure.
This is an educated guess, actually, but I’ve noticed that homeschooled kids are less likely to feel the need to be stylish. They’re less likely to feel the need for the latest gadgets. They don’t know the latest slang. They know far less about what’s on TV. That’s awesome! It gives them more time to just be kids.

The love of learning is less likely to be ‘peer-pressured out’. Who’s there to say they’re a ‘nerd’ if they’re smart? Who’s saying that school is boring? Even among my college classmates, who were paying big money to be there, there was an adversarial relationship with the professors and class was something they were being ‘forced’ to do. Where did they get that? I’d say at school.

Time with Family
Yup, your classmates are your siblings, Mom is the teacher and Dad is the principal. Some might think this would drive you nuts (and they’d be right sometimes). But we’re also forced to put up with each other and learn how to get along.

My siblings are some of my best friends, and I have a great relationship with my Mom and Dad. I give credit to spending so much time with them.

Kyla agrees, and says “My strong relationship [with my family] has helped me immensely in building relationships with others.” I agree. The firm foundation of family gives the confidence to build relationships with others.

Having said that, I know other families whose children have gone to public school, yet are close. The point is to be intentional about spending time together and building memories. That’s what bonds you together.

Tailor-made Education
Not everyone learns the same way. There is no universal method. The homeschooling parents know their kids better than anyone, thus they can choose the teaching style that works best for their kids.

They can add courses or focus on subjects they deem important, or suited to their child.

They can also choose curricula that are in line with their worldview. This is the reason my parents chose to teach us at home. They wanted to educate us in their beliefs, not the beliefs that the government deems correct. This is also the reason that, if I have kids, I will homeschool them also.

I think I’ve established the why we loved being homeschooled. But, to be fair, there are a few cons. This is what we came up with.

Sheltered/Out of touch.
On one level this is a really good thing. Kids deserve to be kids. They don’t need to know about sex when they’re eight. They don’t need the pressure to conform, or look a certain way.

But, there was plenty of embarrassment in my teen years because I didn’t know the correct slang. After all, these days anything can be spun dirty. But worse, in my small community most of the kids went to the same school, knew the same people, bashed the same teachers, etcetera. I didn’t, and that made me feel like I didn’t belong.

The need to prove one’s self.
Kyla said “One of the downsides for me was the way that some homeschoolers seemed to think they were above people that went to public school but still felt a strong need to prove themselves to them. That worked to lower my confidence level when interacting with others.” I had a similar experience. I had this need to prove I wasn’t out of touch.

It may complicate post-secondary education.
Bethany’s high school diploma was not recognized by her college, and she was required to obtain her diploma through adult education. At my school I was accepted on academic probation until I could prove that I could maintain a ‘C’ average or higher. I was insulted. But after I finished my semester on the dean’s honor roll, the probation was dropped.

Homeschoolers in Canada have advocates such as the Homeschool Legal Defense, which in some cases can aid homeschoolers if post-secondary institutions are giving them a hard time.

So, there you have it. The main points of why homeschooling is awesome, and a few cautionary notes. Did I like being homeschooled? Yup. If I have kids, they’ll be homeschooled too.

For additional info (and entertainment), here is YouTuber Jordan Taylor on Seven Lies about homeschooling.  Enjoy.

I’d like to say thanks to my Mom and Dad who ‘retired’ from teaching this summer after my youngest brother graduated. Congratulations on successfully homeschooling four kids, and thanks. I love you.

What Algebra Taught Me (and I don’t mean math)

Motivation doesn’t generally start in tenth grade Algebra. The word Algebra doesn’t reek of motivational powers, if you know what I mean. But, that is where I learned an effective way of lighting a fire under my seat: prizes.

Yes, prizes. Lemme ‘splain.

I was homeschooled, so by nature all my schoolwork was homework. Math homework was a three to four hour process every day. I wasn’t that great at it, and by the time the second hour rolled around my brain was shot and my tear ducts were working overtime. My Mom, in an attempt to keep sane and keep her daughter on the path to academic success, suggested a concept she’d read about. It was called ‘sprints’—breaking up a task into shorter bits and assigning a time limit to them. For instance, I had one hour to complete ten math problems. To create more motivation, she encouraged me to add a ‘prize’ for winning or a ‘punishment’ for losing. For instance, Mom recalls that one day I missed a goal so I had to drink nothing but water for the rest of the day. I also bribed myself with canned drinks—an hour for ten problems, and then a canned drink to enjoy while I finished the rest. Turns out, I’m a five-year-old when it comes to motivation.

It seems rather silly—using prizes or punishments to motivate myself—but it was quite effective, and I still use that method today. For the last two months I’ve been setting time goals for my writing. I must write eight hours every week. On my weekly to-do list I draw sixteen circles representing half-hour intervals and fill them in as I accomplish them. And every week I set a prize for myself.

If that week I’m craving ice cream, or I want to rent a season of TV shows, or I want a pair of earrings, I don’t buy them. Rather, I say ‘okay, if I succeed in writing eight hours, I’ll rent Sherlock’. If I don’t meet the goal, I don’t get the prize. And that’s happened quite a few times. Its an effective money saving tool too.

Last week I tried on a cute shirt off a sale rack at work, but I didn’t buy it. I put it on hold. I wrote this post to finish off my last half hour for my writing goal. The previous morning I still had five hours to write–it had been a busy week, and my family was spending the weekend at the lake. But, once they went to bed, I stayed up past midnight writing, and then wrote in the vehicle on the way home from the cabin. I wanted that shirt.

I can’t make winning too easy on myself. This week I changed it up, and set a ‘prize goal’ on two fitness goals for the week. If I meet them both, I get the prize.

I also don’t set prize goals on everything. That would be far too expensive, since I set weekly goals in three or four different categories of my life, and monthly goals in eight different categories.

I’m sure this method wouldn’t motivate everyone; I’m just throwing out an idea. The point is to find something that drives you toward your goals and dreams.

I’ve heard it said that people won’t lift a finger for their dreams, but they’ll work hard if they get to play laser tag. I guess sometimes the overarching goal is just too big. The task has to be broken down into bites, each with its own motivation. I learned that from Algebra.

A Peculiar Thing Called a Comfort Zone

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” -John Wayne.

I discovered something odd about myself the other day. I examined other test subjects (coworkers, I mean) and found a similar phenomenon among them.

I am well aware that my life contains comfort zones. We all have them—protective bubbles of familiar tasks, people, places and viewpoints. What I hadn’t considered was that comfort zones might contain uncomfortable things.

Lemme ‘splain.

I just completed a training program for a job at a large manufacturing facility. For two weeks I sat through presentations and worked in a lab. But the bulk of our time was spent reading Standard Operation Procedures (SOP’s). These give step-by-step instructions for every mundane detail of factory life—all in highly technical language. Often they were for machines or procedures I had never heard of.

I’m sure you can imagine how ‘exciting’ that was.

The odd thing was that because I was afraid to go work on the plant floor, which was part of the program, I began to look forward to the safety of SOP reading. There were no new people. There were no surprises—just me and the other two girls. Boring as heck, but comfortable (the SOP’s, not the girls).

Pathetic, right?  It makes me wonder what other circumstances I’m accepting in life—boring, unedifying or harmful as they are—because they’re comfortable. Maybe it’s unpleasant but it’s familiar unpleasantness. Like: “Oh, I don’t mind living paycheque to paycheque. At least my bills are paid.” Or “I don’t mind being fat. I dress well so I still look good.”

Geez, Geralyn!

It may be fear, apathy or plain laziness. But whatever my reason for staying in the comfort zone, once the pain of staying there becomes greater than the pain of changing, I’ll change. Hence, the second job. And often you won’t be able to stay in that zone forever. My employer sure didn’t let me stay in training. I’m on the plant floor now, like it or not.

So if our comfort zones are actually uncomfortable, and if others might force us out of them anyway, shouldn’t we root out these little islands of complacency ourselves? Or, if you’re a person of faith, why not let God work on these parts of our lives instead of dragging our heels?

Just a little something to think about.  I’ll be thinking about it too–as I’m working on the plant floor.