6 Ways to Shake Things Up

by EMILY ORTON

You might think this post is about homeschooling.  It's not.  It's about thinking new thoughts.  It's about figuring what works for you and your family even if it's unconventional.

 Doing the unconventional thing:  taking a chest freezer camping

Doing the unconventional thing:  taking a chest freezer camping

Yesterday I mailed our 10th set of annual homeschool assessments.  We never planned to homeschool.  Our first child got into our first choice lottery school in New York City.  That became our anchor.  Like most parents we planned our lives around the school calendar.  We gave up job and travel opportunities that might jeopardize our kids’ places in school.  Erik left for work at the same time the girls were released.  We complained about rarely being together, but we didn’t question.  School was a given.

The simple version of this story is that one day Karina asked if she could be homeschooled; that question opened the door to more questions.  After much research, discussion and prayer we decided to do the unconventional thing.  It was scary.  We had to make our own map.  We had no idea that doing one thing differently would change the course of our lives, but it did – in a good way. 

Accepting that one responsibility increased our freedom in every other aspect of life. We’ve enjoyed absurd amounts of family time.  We’ve taken career and travel opportunities that would have been impossible otherwise.  We’re permanently set on rookie mode because we’re always learning.  This lifestyle is both challenging and satisfying.  That’s on the parenting side.  We have two homeschool graduates now and it seems to be working for them too. 

They are curious.  They know how to learn.  They are pleased to pay their own rent and tuition in college.  They know how to cook, clean and get along with others.  They have cultivated a high tolerance for uncertainty and problem solving.  Karina has been hiking Europe since early May.  She's found it glorious with scattered showers of completely unnerving.  She'll hit Finland and Russia on her way home.  Below are some pictures of our kids' travels without us.

The more autonomy we have in our own lives, the more we want.  Still, it's nerve wracking to take those leaps.  Below are six ways we stay open to shaking things up:

Take a break from daily routines (At least 72 hours is ideal)

This is most effective if we physically go to a different location.  By the third day we have enough distance from our routines that we’re ready to talk about what might be better or best for us.  We write down our new ideas before we go home.  Old routines have a way of making us forget our good intentions.

Gather feedback

We ask ourselves, each other, and the kids about current interests and future dreams.  We ask What do you want more of?  What do you want less of?

 Forecast

We imagine a holiday gathering 25 years into the future and envision where it will be, who will be there, what we’ll talk about and what our relationships will be like.  Then we discuss how to get there from where we are today.

Disrupt

We do something out of the norm like visiting a new location, listening to a new band, making a new recipe or learning about an unfamiliar place or topic.  

Declutter

We pick any part of our life and start cleaning out the mulch.  It could be an email inbox, Facebook friend list, closet, junk drawer or book collection.  Here’s some inspiration.

Make new friends

We hang out with people who are already doing the thing we want to do, but are still feeling nervous about.  Online communities work well.  When I want to focus on wise spending, I frequent websites where everyone is talking about how cool it is to be debt-free.  When we wanted to live aboard a sailboat, we followed bloggers who were already living that life. 

 Bora bora not required, but it doesn't hurt

Bora bora not required, but it doesn't hurt

This Independence Day we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of our unconventional decision to homeschool.  Homeschool isn’t for everyone, but doing what’s best for you and your family is for everyone.  Shaking things up is for everyone.  Being deliberate about this one wild and precious life is for everyone.  

Happy Independence Day!!

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