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Loosening Up

By Clay and Sally Clarkson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #41, 2001.

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Clay and Sally Clarkson


Let's talk personalities for a minute. You've probably noticed each of your children has one. And if your family is anything like ours, you've probably noticed there is a wide variety of personality in your children. One boy is building forts on the hill, one is building websites in the den, and one is building castles in his mind. One girl is playing Mommy in her bedroom, one is playing Juliet through the banister rails, and one is playing Olympic archer in the backyard. If all our children had the same personality, child-raising would be easy. But God doesn't want it to be easy . . . He wants it to be fun!

We've studied personality type for many years around our house. We all speak the language of one particular personality theory (MBTI) which has helped us, adults and children alike, understand and appreciate our God-designed differences. What I want you to see in this short column, though, is one small aspect of personality that can really help you find the fun that God wants you to have in child-raising. I can guarantee your children will remember it for the rest of their lives!

These are my own personality labels (no psycho-techie talk), but let's just say there are two kinds of people in the world - those who are "time" oriented, and those who are "experience" oriented. Those who orient to life based on time need predictability and order. They don't like surprises. Those who orient to life based on experience love surprises. They need to live with their options open.

My experience has been that most of us as active, in-control homeschooling parents feel the need to try to live an orderly, scheduled life. The pressure to get the school work completed, to go to lessons and classes, to keep the house straight, to get the chores done, and to fit a little recreation in there, too, drives us to live with a "time" orientation. Even if, as parents, we are "experience" oriented, life forces us, and our children, into the time mode.

Here's the problem. Younger children (14 and under) need a healthy dose of both kinds of orientation in order to help them differentiate what will become their own personality. They may exhibit signs of one or the other, but it takes both time and experience before they will decide as they come into young adulthood what they really are. But the problem is that they get a lot of emphasis on orienting to "time" in a homeschool, but not nearly enough emphasis on orienting to "experience." All year long you're "tying up loose ends," which is a time orientation. But you need to balance that with a liberal dose of "loosening up tied ends." You need to just experience life, not always control it.

And that's where summer comes in! It's the time to really flex those unused personality muscles of experience for the benefit of your children. If you are naturally experience-oriented, it'll be easy and you'll love it. If you're naturally time-oriented, it won't be as easy, and in fact it might be uncomfortable for you, but you'll love it even so. Here are a few suggestions for giving your children a summer of learning to enjoy the "experience" orientation.

GO AND STOP DAY Pile everyone into the car (or the homeschool bus) and just take out on the roads around your town. Whenever someone says, "Stop! I want to see that," you stop and experience that thing. Then you get back in the car and GO until there is another STOP. No preplanning or itinerary allowed.

FLASHLIGHT TAG Buy everyone a good flashlight and play flashlight tag some evening. Make up your own rules. Hiding behind bushes in the dark was a memorable experience for our kids (we paired younger children with older).

KIDS RULE DAY No, this is not kids "rebel" day, but just a day when you let your children set the agenda. Sit down in the morning and let them decide what the family will do, eat, talk about, and such. You're still in authority, but they're in control.

LARK & WHIM DAY "Is there anything you've ever wanted to do but just didn't feel you could?" Ask that question and see if it leads to a spontaneous experience. Let your imagination go and see where it leads.

MOVIE MARATHON If your house is like ours, watching a movie is a "big deal." A movie marathon would be totally out of character. But it would make a great memory. So get several of the best family movies, spread out the bedrolls, pop the corn, pour the soft drinks, and tube out. Your kids will think you're great.

GO FOR IT! We analyze everything to death around our house. Analysis-paralysis has kept us from boldly going where we've never gone before more than once. So, this summer, we'll talk about doing something outside our comfort zone that will open up new experiences - climbing a mountain, meeting someone famous, making a CD.

If you need permission to step outside the boundaries of your time-oriented life to explore some experiences, then go ahead . . . it's okay. Trying to keep all your loose ends tied up eventually just ties you up in knots. And your children get all knotted up in the process. So, for their sakes, use this summer to loosen up. Your children will be more balanced because of it, and you'll have more fun as a parent . . . just what God intended. You can't lose when you start to loose.


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