Being a homeschool mom is like no other job.
At some point during 4 years of college, and perhaps another 2 years of graduate school, there is a marriage, the beginning of a career, and a pregnancy. With the arrival of that new little life, the real work begins. You are a mom. You trade in your young, trendy professional wardrobe for wash-and-wear comfort. (Maybe those in the medical profession are onto something with the practicality of a closet filled entirely with scrubs.)
In a rare moment of mental clarity brought on by the perfect balance of a full night’s sleep and a great cup of coffee, or 3, you might realize that the typical job description of mom includes a 92-hour work week — during which you fulfill at least 10 different job roles. You are a housekeeper, day-care center director, cook, director of public relations and communications, senior laundry attendant, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and psychologist. A mom. You are on-call 24/7 with little time off regardless of illness, holidays, or vacations. It takes a salary of $165K a year for anyone else to do this job. You are doing it for free. Mom.
And if you’re listening to this podcast, at some point you probably decided you didn’t have enough to do. You decided to homeschool. More hours. More responsibility. Same pay. Homeschool mom. What is wrong with you?
At least you’re in good company.
Remember what Laura shared in Episode 2 from Season 1 about her entry point into the homeschool world?
I have gotten the crazy eye several times from people because they know we have 4 kids and they’re stairsteps. They’re like, you have 4 kids that close together and you’re homeschooling?! Aren’t you ready for a break?!
And you love being a homeschool mom.
Because it’s a privilege. Because the upside is amazing. Because, even with their future on the line, you know it’s the natural extension of what you’ve already been doing. It’s just the next phase of mom -ming. You read every book you can get your hands on. You talk to every homeschool mom you know, and a few you don’t. You pour over the endless curriculum options. You become an expert on all the leading philosophies of education. From the moment you begin your first math lesson, the game is on. The stakes are high and you are determined to succeed. And that kind of power — the power to shape the minds of the next generation — is awesome. In both senses of the word. Ask anybody in education — a good teacher is a world changer.
But while you might be rockin’ your responsibilities, you’re as human as the next mom.
You do what makes sense to you.
And though you may not realize it, you expect your kids to do what makes sense to you too. But they don’t. They do what makes sense to them. And that often doesn’t make sense to you.
How do you get this one to talk when he just wants to shut down? And even if you do manage to understand what he’s feeling, how do you teach him to persevere? What if your firstborn seems determined to rule over and subdue the world? Your second is a compliant child who never makes waves? And your third is a complete mystery to both you and your husband? So what if they get a full ride to an ivy league school if you hate each other and homeschooling by the end of it?
So what I want to do this season is tell the story of…
Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends
These two-dimensional characters of a child’s imagination perfectly embody the four ways we take in information and make decisions.
Unlike other shows that dedicate one or two episodes to personality types, this entire season is going to focus solely on Myers-Briggs — but without the confusing psycho-babble-speak.
If you’re not familiar with Myers-Briggs, or even if you are, here’s a little background to get us all on the same page. In the early 1900s, a mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers — both highly intelligent observers of human behavior — set out to build a practical assessment tool based on the personality theory of psychologist, Carl Jung. The gist of the idea is this: Everyone has a set of preferences for gathering information and acting on it. When we are involved in activities and relationships that fit our preferences, we are happy and energized and typically successful. When that is not the case, stress, burnout, and even illness can result.
Briggs and Myers speculated that if people had a dependable way to identify and explain their preferences, we could all understand each other better. This desire was only increased with the onset of World War II. They began seeing lots of people — women in particular — take on new job responsibilities out of patriotic duty. Unfortunately, patriotism was not enough to sustain these job roles and before long, many people hated the tasks and the work they had promised to do for God and country.
Categories and Codes
So Katherine and Isabel created an assessment and code or shorthand for measuring and discussing these preferences. You’ve probably heard of some of the categories: Introversion, Extraversion, Intuition, Sensing, Thinking, Feeling, Judging, and Perceiving. The code takes the first letter of each of the words — other than Intuition — and you end up hearing people say things like:
…and I’m an INFJ.
But what does that really mean?
How does that information help you? What can you do with it to make your life easier?
A lot, actually. Which brings me back around to Winnie-the-Pooh. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers did a fantastic job of putting Carl Jung’s very heady psychological theory into an easier to understand package. If his stuff is at a level 10 of psychologist shop talk, they brought it down to about a 6. But that’s still a little bulky to wrap your arms around when you’re in the middle of the action with a kid who consistently responds to challenges in ways you just don’t understand. So my goal is to bring these concepts down to an even easier to understand level — like a 1 or 2 — and I’m going to do it with Winnie-the-Pooh.
Admittedly, I’m assuming that you are familiar with Winnie-the-Pooh — a lovable storybook character dreamed up by the English author A.A. Milne, ironically, around the same time Katherine and Isabel were making their mark on the world of psychology. But that is not why I’m linking these two seemingly disconnected concepts.
I have studied several theories of personality for 10 years now. When I’m not at the school table with my girls or writing the next episode of Beyond Curriculum, I can be found conducting business consultations for clients of Talent Insights — a personal assessment company — which I helped create and continue to provide research, development and consulting for.
Here’s a brief description of what we do…
Is your business looking to hire top performers and design winning teams? At Talent Insights, our expertise, our passion, and our focus is about helping your company hire better and manage smarter. We set the course with our uniquely insightful multi-assessment profile — or MAP — which provides a three-dimensional view of a candidate’s personality, motivators, and behavior. In less than 20 minutes, your candidate can complete the MAP. And our technology synthesizes the results into an easy-to-read report that is available instantly. The MAP steers you through the challenging terrain of hiring and management so you can arrive at your desired destination — a thriving business with a happy and productive workforce.
Several years back, I ran across an intriguing article titled, “How Winnie-the-Pooh Helped Me Understand Cognitive Functions”. On a side note, as much as I would love to give credit to the author, every version of the article I find online does not include a name or site the original source. So if by some chance you are out there listening, please reach out to me. I would love to meet you, credit you, and give you a serious high five for your insights.
The author’s premise is this…
A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is a perfect [analogy], because the 8 animals that live in the hundred-acre wood… do not learn, or grow outside of themselves, because they can’t. They are all fragment’s of a young boy’s imagination. And although they are incapable of growth, they rely on each other in their own ways, and work well as a team, when they decide to. Because they are static characters, they do not have personality types, with the exception of Christopher Robin, who is the only one who actually learns and grows.
The 8 cognitive functions (that’s just psychologist speak for brain activities) work in a similar way: Alone, they are insufficient for a healthy personality. An overly dominant function can lead to an unhealthy individual, just as an under-used function can cause a reliance on a less familiar function. But the combination of all 8 when used in harmony is essential for a healthy personality.
As we make our way through the 100-Acre Wood, true homeschooling dramas will be married with everyday dramas we all face in the world. Homeschoolers are pursuing a family life that most people will never experience. But we are also pursuing personal goals exactly like everyone else — to understand and to be understood. To raise kids who are happy, healthy, and successful in adult life.
The season will have heart but it will also have a lot of humor.
Because it can be exhausting to learn parenting on such a grand stage as a future generation’s education. The stakes are high and mistakes can cost someone their livelihood. But the mechanics of doing so are also kind of funny — at least in retrospect. After all, in parenting, there are times you have to laugh or you’ll lose your mind.
A homeschool family finds themselves spending most of their time together because, more than any other family, the majority of their day is spent around the school table or within the four walls of the schoolroom. Yes, mom, you fight over who is in charge some days. You compete with each other for dad’s attention when he walks in the door at the end of the day. But you also learn together, play together, grow together. Your challenges become your victories — or the accepted thorn in your side that keeps you humble.
Set in the 100-Acre Wood.
This is not Psychology 101. In fact, I won’t be mentioning Myers-Briggs in any of the following episodes. The only reason I bring it up today is so you know that I’m not just making this stuff up. It really is based on a long-term, well-researched theory of personality and put in an easy-to-use package. Simple characters, simple descriptions, simple solutions. It’s not everything you could ever learn about personality. But it will give you quite an edge in understanding what each of your kids really want and need so they grow into confident, well-adjusted adults. MAJOR mom points!
To give you a taste of what I’m talking about, I’ll be willing to bet you are probably raising at least one of these little characters in your home right now — or you are married to one of them, or you are one of them.
Organized, action-oriented, and results-based, Rabbit values logic, efficiency, and productivity above all else. Even as a young child, he is quick to take charge and impose order anywhere he can. Rabbit is always busy, active, and on a mission to take on increasing amounts of responsibility and self-direction. Sometimes you think he’s really just a short adult.
Always connecting with and concerned for others, Kanga is highly motivated to maintain social norms and keep the peace — sometimes at all costs. This is because Kanga cannot fully enjoy herself unless the people around her are healthy, happy, and comfortable. It’s like she understands what everyone is feeling except her.
Adventurous. Rambunctious. This is the kid who doesn’t slow down until he falls over in bed at the end of the day. He’s always on the lookout for new experiences or adventure, and typically not concerned with learning from the past or understanding the world — only with having a good time. He exudes a natural sense of confidence. He is usually quite sure of who he is, what he wants, and then he goes for it. Parenting him feels like your job is to keep up, keep him busy, and keep him alive.
Excitable and highly creative, when Piglet is alone, his imagination runs rampant with new possibilities — for good or bad. He enjoys exploring ideas and various interests, but views almost everything in life as a challenge. Piglet is constantly thinking about what to do or experience next, and therefore, has a difficult time sticking with just one idea or plan long-term. This kid is hard to predict, hard to plan for, and even harder to train with routines.
Sound like anyone you know? Of course I will also introduce you to Roo, Eeyore, Owl, and Pooh Bear, who are a little trickier to identify early on. And I’ll explain why that is.
Every kid is different.
If you have more than one kid, you know what an understatement that is. What works beautifully with one of them doesn’t help at all with another one. So what do you do? What if you’re blaming yourself for issues you see in your child that actually come from his personality? What if they don’t need to be corrected, but channeled in a more productive way?
Imagine a child growing up with constant reassurance, understanding, and admiration for her unique strengths and weaknesses. What would it mean for your family dynamic if brothers and sisters knew how to team up and admire each others’ differences rather than put them down and tease? Imagine children who feel lovable, capable, and worthy exactly as they are because they have been raised by parents who respected, accepted, and even celebrated their unique individuality. I think that is one of the best gifts we can give our children.
Together we will build powerful categories for understanding our kids. It will be better than the most amazing decoder ring or x-ray glasses you could ever hope for. But best of all, when your kids realize how much you understand who they are deep down inside, when you know how to encourage them to be exactly who they are meant to be, they will be so glad they are your kids and not anyone else’s. Oh, and it works great for spouses too!