Family Pledge

Having trouble getting your family members to head down the same path?  You’re not alone.

We were struggling to all be heading in the same direction and Melissa and I prefer to be self-guided.  We thought that without a clear vision and understanding of our values, it could become challenging to get anywhere together.  We needed something that would tie us together, a set of guiding principles, a cornerstone to our family culture.

This was our challenge; we wanted to journey through life together as a family.  We needed a common thread in our family that binds us together and serves as the basis for our decisions and behavior.  Our initial direction was a family mission statement but we quickly realized that our children wouldn’t easily remember it.  Melissa and I together wrote a rough draft of our values.  Then we sat down together to have one of our very first Family Meetings.

We read over what we had written and explained it as best we could to our then 5 children.  We tried to make it fun and allowed for the little ones to wander but did make sure that the older children knew this was important.  Then we started to ask questions.

What words would you use to describe yourself?

What words would you want someone to use to describe our family?

Who is someone you admire and how would you describe them?

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We wrote down all the feedback (Melissa was the scribe) and used terms that they knew and understood.  This made it very personal to all of us.  It has been further simplified over the years we have had it.  What we created is a Family Pledge.

Our Family Will:

Give Love

Show Respect

Extend Kindness

Help Others

Be Honest

  and

Do Our Best

This pledge is really very simple but also very powerful.  We have a common path we are traveling and consult our pledge when we are making decisions.  We have a deeper sense of meaning and good conversations about our values.

Writing a pledge is not difficult and the results are fantastic.  We make it a point to say the pledge at the beginning and often also at the end of our family meetings.  Even the 3-year-old knows the entire pledge by heart.

If you are struggling to walk the same path, please consider giving this a try.  If you have any questions I would be happy to help.

Step 1 – Call a family meeting to talk about creating a pledge and explain the problem/challenge to the family in words they will understand

Step 2 – ask yourself and everyone in your family open ended questions *add a worksheet

Step 3 – write a simple family pledge using the words that were used during the family meeting

Step 4 – Use the pledge often, write it down, display it where the family can see it and use the words daily

Suggestion is a very powerful tool.  Having a pledge is a fantastic way to suggest and remind yourselves of the type of person and family you want to be.  For us, the family pledge is our rock.

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A Letter to my Children

I’m writing this letter to you now as I am contemplating a career change and hoping that you will spend the very most amount of time in the best possible way.  I want you all to be most concerned about the outcome of your life and not the income you can generate.  I am concerned that I am not conveying that message well.

Please do something that is good or beneficial to the global community with your time.  Not all of your time has to be spent this way (you can play with friends) but your life’s work should be something of value to the planet.  Please treat our home with respect and remember that high incomes can often mean high levels of consumption and poor outcomes.  Do your best to remain passionate, if you can keep the fire going you will do well.

Please exercise kindness at all times.  It is impossible to fully understand why someone or something is the way it is.  It is not your duty to change it, but it is your responsibility to treat it kindly.  Practice empathy as much as you can.

Please try hard, at everything.  Whatever you do give it your best.  If you cannot give it your best move on, it is not meant for you to do.  When the fire dies it is time for something different, your time is worth too much to be spent on something that makes you miserable.

Be honest, with yourself and others, do not be a fool.  Without honesty we have no hope of addressing some of our worlds worst problems.  Lies often make something sound to good to be true and create envy or lead to a poor decision.  Honesty, while sometimes unflattering is a true measure of progress.  We can work out a common understanding by having an honest starting position.

Give love, radiate it, everywhere and on everything.  If I have made you biased in some way or another it was a mistake.  Please do not withhold loving, let it out and be proud to do so, it will only multiply in number.  Do the best you can to stay soft and open, share your smile with everyone.

Show respect all of the time.  Even if you disagree and have good reason to, you can respectfully disagree.  You do not have to be right or prove your point.

Help others as much as you can.  Nothing will make you feel better about yourself than lending a hand.  Being helpful, like giving love is something that has a return in value to you that is tremendous.

When I was young I was groomed to be a worker, that is what public school and society is still pushing for today.  I want nothing more than for you to just be.  By the very nature of being human you will find yourself being a lot of things, but I want to make certain that “worker” is not positioned as the top thing to be.  I hope that passionate, thoughtful, respectful, kind, helpful, dynamo … are some of the adjectives you can use to describe yourself and you do not have to define yourself by your job as so many do.

Give love, show respect, be kind, be honest, help others and do your best.  If you can carry these values with you at all times I believe you will be able to look at your life, smile and be very proud.  I now know that richness is not a meaningful measure unless it is capturing the amount of love, respect, kindness, honesty, helpfulness and effort in your life.

I love you.

Meditation Musings

I started a meditation habit in November.  Not a long time but I have been pretty consistent about doing it every single day since January.  My hope is that my reflection thus far will help encourage others to give meditation a try.

In the beginning it was a bit strange.  I started by placing a meeting on my calendar for every single day.  Having only dabbled in meditation a couple of times before I knew it needed some time and commitment to understand the value of this practice.  This time around I signed up for a 10 day trial of Headspace.  A guide for meditation is what I needed, I had experienced my mind running wild in my previous unguided attempts and this time it would be different.

In the early going it was much the same, although I did appreciate time to focus on my mind and that kept me going.  Each session left me feeling calm and often wishing I could go longer.  My days were busy and cluttered and setting aside time to slow down and try to free myself from mental clutter felt amazing.  Some sessions were missed but I didn’t get hung up on it, I think it took me 16 days to finish the free 10 session trial.

After the 10 session trial period I decided to signup for Headspace and I also started to couple reading Leo Babauta’s book Zen Habits, Mastering the Art of Change before my meditation session.  This practice created a natural transition from busy work into a brief period of personal growth and reflection.  The result has been extremely satisfying and I want to encourage you to also give it a try.

Some of the positive results have included:

  • Better control of myself – I don’t lose control with my children nearly as often
  • Attention is intentionally applied – I spend less and less time on things that distract me
  • Connection with my emotions – being honest about what matters most
  • Sense of purpose – a side effect of spending time sharpening your mind is you might find something better to do with how you are currently spending it

If you would like to get started here is a list of what has worked for me.

  1. Pick a trigger – I put a reminder on my calendar but often don’t do it at that time, my trigger is when I read the Zen Habits book.  I have a couple of triggers for reading the book but I leave it in front of my face at all times while sitting at my desk.  Put a post it note on the mirror in the bathroom, make you phones background say “Meditate” whatever it takes to trigger you.
  2. Tell other people – I asked my wife, my son and a couple of friends to join me and asked if they don’t want to join me would they at least help remind me to do it.
  3. Find a guide – HeadSpace I have mentioned a few times, there are others but personally I enjoy Andy’s voice and style.  If you use an application to guide you set your phone to do not disturb while meditating.
  4. Journal – Spend time afterwards writing something down, this will give you a chance to reflect on your growth over time.

If you need a partner for accountability let me know, we can help each other.

Habit Based Homeschooling

 

My wife and I are “unschooling” our children.  For us that means we are not following a set curriculum or development schedule.  We tried a set curriculum and development schedule for a year and a half and it didn’t work for us.  We were stressed, the kids weren’t learning that much and generally speaking we weren’t happy with our schooling effort.

How we unschool:

  • Expose your children to a variety of experiences.  Anything has the potential to light up your child, so try and not be judgmental.  It is our job as homeschooling parents to find ways to incorporate experience into our children’s lives.  This can range from baking a cake, to touring a real farm, to walking in the forest.  Seeking out opportunities to expose your children to something new is a great advantage homeschooling has, so do it often.  You will be surprised with the amount of dialog and lessons to be found with each new experience.
  • Make certain your kids get plenty of time outside.  Unstructured play and curiosity are extremely important for the development of a young mind.  Spending time outside observing, pretending and decompressing will pay off huge in the long run.  Many of the best days we have had were on a trail off in the woods with no toys or playground equipment.  Finding bugs and animal tracks, naming birds, making mud pies, climbing trees, talking about seasons, all present great teaching opportunities.
  • Talk to your children about the skills they are interested in having.  This is an extremely important step.  Having open dialog about what they want to be able to do is the very best way for you as a parent to understand what motivates your children.  This dialog also helps aide in interlacing the skills we all know are necessary into your child’s education.  For instance if your child wants to cook they are going to have to know some math, how to tell time, how to read …  Capitalizing on the enthusiasm and desire to have a certain skill will definitely help when it comes to motivating your child to learn.
  • Build a habit plan that corresponds to the skill he or she wants.  Help them build a plan to obtain the chosen skill and be careful not to be too influential here.  For instance my son wants to be an excellent slack line walker.  We worked together to build a plan based on  a few questions.
    • When you have this skill what does it look like?  The skill level desired will range and change over time.  In the example I gave of the slack line walker he had a vision of wanting to do certain tricks on the line.
    • When would you like to reach the level of skill you are after?  This is key in setting the frequency of the habit.  In the example of the slack line walker he wanted to be able to do a front flip in 4 months.
    • How will you obtain this skill?  This step defines the habit.  Both you and the child need to understand if there are materials needed and the amount of time necessary to obtain this skill.  My son had to first study other really good slack line walkers to develop a training plan, we had to have a slack line, he needed to understand the effort involved to reach the desired skill level.
    • What is your trigger to do this habit?  Picking something that prompts the child to go do the habit is better than a set time, or at least it is for our family.  My son thought about his day and where this would fit best.  He defined the trigger, in this case it was after he did math (another skill he wants).
  • Review the habit plan weekly.  Pick a day and discuss how it went.  Did they do the habit as often as they had planned?  If not what was the obstacle and how can they get on track?  Do they still want to obtain the skill?
  • Incorporate change.  As your child has new experiences new interest will emerge and there is no reason not to engage in the new interest.  Your child must understand that there are only so many hours in a day and that some interest are stronger than others.  To take on a new skill usually means having to change the habit plan or drop the pursuit of a skill they have lost interest in altogether.

For our family this method helps the children learn to manage their time.  This method also helps us to keep them excited about learning.  Children naturally want to learn, keeping things fun and exciting helps them to retain what is being taught.  This is much less stressful for our family.  Our children are learning foreign languages, math, reading, writing, art, science, and much more using this method.  The skills they are obtaining range from cooking, to Spanish, from raising chickens to book writing and illustration.  It’s not perfect, but it works for us and maybe it will work for you too.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions about our unschooling efforts.  I would be more than happy to discuss them with you.

Embrace the Uncomfortable

The unfamiliar or uncomfortable is where growth and happiness most often occur.  As the saying goes “If you always do what you’ve always done you always get what you’ve always got”.

Personally I don’t find a lot of my life’s purpose or satisfaction in comfort.  Emotions are what we are in pursuit of.  Think of the emotions experienced when in the pursuit of personal growth and achievement.  How uninteresting or unsatisfied would you be without relationships and the ability to persevere?  These things are difficult, but the result of learning, accomplishment, friendship and reaching a personal goal are truly something worth your time.

What is the difference between being dissatisfied and being complacent?   A body in motion tends to stay in motion so keep moving, keep changing and keep growing.  There are but a few things that make you feel alive and suffering or being uncomfortable is one of them.  Why else do we say  that he or she is “no longer suffering” at funerals?

Embrace the suffering, challenge yourself and know that these are ties that bind all living things.  You are happiest when in pursuit of growth and understanding.  You are not nearly as happy or satisfied while merely in comfort.  Let go of the movie playing in your mind, your reality will never meet the expectation you have built for yourself but that is no reason to give up or worse yet not start.  Resist having a childish mind that quits when something is difficult, or cannot resist an urge.  You are denying yourself who you want to be and you are better than that.

Go out and challenge yourself.  Try something new.  Make a new friend.

Carpe Diem

For me this realization began when I removed the television from my life.  It is the comfortable distractions that hold you back.  Let go of those comfortable distractions and spend your most precious commodity, time, as wisely as possible.

Today I started a blog, it was not easy or comfortable but I feel very happy about it.  I have been afraid of putting my thoughts and ideas out into the world.  Thanks go out to my wife, my friends and to Justin Rhodes for helping me overcome my fear.

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