Being Present

being present in homeschooling and family


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Speaker 1 (00:04):

Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. The upbeat, open-minded podcast that informs and affirms your choices about your kids' education. We'll provide a buffet of ideas to inspire you to Homeschool Your Way, because your way is the best way.


All of the content on the Homeschool Your Way podcast is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical or legal advice. The views expressed by the hosts or guests of the show are not necessarily endorsed by BookShark.

Janna (00:36):

Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Janna Koch and BookShark's community manager. In today's episode, I am joined by Kelli O'Brien. She's a homeschool mom of two who has been at this for 10 years now. She herself was homeschooled. And like myself, had never guessed that she was going to homeschool her children once they came along. In this episode, we're going to be exploring the idea of being present and setting intentions with our home school, our children, and maybe even ourselves. Kelli, thank you so much for being here.

Kelli (01:09):

Thanks for having me, Janna.

Janna (01:11):

So this idea of being present. We're going to jump right into there, but I'm going to stop myself and let you just introduce who you are to our listeners.

Kelli (01:23):

All right. I grew up in Colorado. I'm now on the beaches of Florida. I was homeschooled, as Janna said, all the way through high school. Then I have two daughters that are 14 and 12. I am homeschooling them. We love to travel. We love to be adventurous outdoors.

Janna (01:44):

And speaking of traveling, you guys are planning an international trip coming up. Is that correct?

Kelli (01:50):

We are. We are headed to Honduras in about a month, taking backpacks to the schools down there.

Janna (01:57):

Very nice. And how many international trips have you taken as a family?

Kelli (02:01):

I think only two others. We've done Mexico, with the kids. My husband and I have done more. But we were blessed and did a month in Europe, the New Year's of 2019.

Janna (02:15):

What an amazing opportunity homeschooling affords us, is to be able to travel with our children and continue maybe a non-traditional way of educating through immersion in the culture and other countries.

Kelli (02:31):

Well, absolutely. One of the things I'm most excited about in Honduras is to see how my children's Spanish is because they've been studying it now for quite a few years. And to be truly immersed, it will be fun to see how that-

Janna (02:46):

So it's not only a test for the student but also for the teacher.

Kelli (02:51):

No, somebody else has always taught them Spanish. I speak other languages.

Janna (02:56):

Wise woman. Wise woman, just outsource. That is good. That's always a great topic when talking about homeschooling. But our topic today is about being present, and that is kind of a buzzword in our culture right now. I think sometimes, we hear phrases. And we don't really even stop to consider what they mean. Because being present obviously isn't just being physically in a location. What is your definition of being present?


Kelli (03:24):

I think that everything is about relationships. I think humanity comes back to relationships. So being present is step-by-step, figuring out how to be more vulnerable with those around you. Truly getting to know not just the present intimacies, but the past and the future. And just kind of exploring it together, so that that bond kind of actually does the test of time.


So as a family, spending that time because knowing my children will kind of leave it shortly. That time together will help me because they're going to change when they move out, and they go to college, or don't go to college, or get married, or don't get married. Those things are going to change, very significant changes in their lives. And they're going to have changes in themselves.


But if we're well-founded and we've really been present with each other, then not only will we have an easier time watching the transition. But maybe we will be a part of the transition a little bit more. There'll be an inclusion there because we know how to be present with each other. We know how to communicate.

Kelli (04:39):

I have found more than ever, and it's probably just because of the different things that we're involved in now or I'm involved in. I can physically be present, but I am not present at all. And in fact, my girls have been very intentional to point out to me. They will stop talking and they'll wait. Part of me is ashamed and part of me is proud. And they'll say, "Do you hear what I'm saying?"


Now I will back up and say that I probably have done that to them in the past years when cell phones, TikTok, and all that stuff were taking more of a role in their life, social media. So I feel as though they're mirroring back to me some of the things that I had done to them. And its kind of roles has reversed slightly.


And as a parent and as a working parent, I can easily say, "But this is for work," or, "I need to do something," or, "This is important." And it's communicating something to them. It's saying, "You are not in this moment with me. I'm in my own moment and you're side by side, but we're not in the moment together." And I have had to really step back and be aware of when that is happening. And I've had to intentionally set my phone down, walk away from my computer, look them in the eyes and say, "Please start over. I'm here."

Kelli (06:06):

Well, what a better mirror than our children. My youngest is constantly doing that. So I made a new rule. We seem to have watched a lot of things over break. And I was a part of that. So I said, "Okay, now that we're starting back to school, we're not going to watch anything all during the week. Weekdays are off." So weekdays are off limits.


Well, I'll put my headsets on and be listening to a podcast or something. And my youngest is looking at the phone, "Are you watching something?" Because I have those weaknesses too. They want to talk to you and they're really little. You get down on your knees and you have a conversation with them. It's very different than staying up tall.


So like you said, you've set everything down, and look at them, and have a conversation. Because you're going to remember that better. That experience is going to be all around completely different, than if it's distracted by other things.

Janna (07:09):

No, it's amazing. You make a great point about our children mirroring what in some ways, we've taught, but also are demonstrating. And sometimes, those two don't line up. We teach one way and one thing. But we are not demonstrating it in our own lives.


And I think that's part of the rub in homeschooling. As a parent, we are intentional about what they need to learn. And a byproduct is they see us interact socially. They see us interact with partners. They see us do all of these things in a relationship. But what we're saying and what we're doing, they'll be the first ones to let us know that they're not lining up. And I don't think other parents necessarily have that amount of time that that's happening.


So I'm sure as a parent, we all have that happens on a smaller scale. But when you're constantly with your family, it multiplies the time. So now you have multiple instances where your children can say, "Hey, I thought we didn't do that." Or, "Hey, are we supposed to be doing that?" And there's part of me as a parent that is like, "Well, I'm the adult. You don't get to tell me what to do." And I think sometimes that's my pride. And I've said multiple times as a homeschool parent, there is nothing more crushing than being a homeschool parent to your pride because you're everything that you need to change. And depending on how many children you have like I have three girls. Well, I have three mirrors. So I've got it all around.


But at the same time, I'm grateful, especially at the ages of my girls, 17, 17, and 13, that we have built this relationship. We can question. "Are you really present right now? Are you truly listening to what I'm saying? Am I effectively communicating?"


And it goes both ways, the speaker and the listener. Right? Because if I'm not paying attention, I don't ask follow-up questions. My kids know immediately if mom's not asking a follow-up question, she's really not listening.

Kelli (09:23):

My youngest will be giving a narration, and then she'll throw something else in there that's totally wrong, just to make sure I'm listening. Because I can partially listen. I can do that, but should I? Is that what I should be doing?


And that goes back to part of the reason I want to be present is because it brings me to my principles. It brings me to why do I want to do this? Why do I want to educate my kids? Why do I want them educated at all?


But I want them to have a life of learning. I want them to just enjoy learning, not so that they can go to college, or they can graduate 12th grade. It's so that they can read books their entire life so that they can travel and experience that their whole life. I just read a book about a girl who runs away, and she goes to the Metropolitan Museum. What kid would want to do that? But how fun. Those things.


And then it brings it back to yourself though because you're like, "But am I doing that? At 40-something, am I living those principles? Am I continuing to educate myself? And am I pursuing?? Am I sitting on my phone, or am I going to an art museum? What am I doing with my time? Am I sitting in a cubicle?" There are all these options out there, but we have to keep it in line with our principles and keep ourselves present with each other in those principles.

Janna (11:10):

And talking about it, it's kind of like, "Oh yeah, that makes so much sense." But when we start to actually walk that out, it can get messy, right? Because I've worked all day, or I've homeschooled part-time, I've worked part-time. It's the end of the day. I deserve to just relax, and there's nothing wrong with resting.


But if we want our children to pursue the things that we value, we are not demonstrating to them that we're willing to pursue them when we're down and tired. It's just such an interesting road as a homeschool family. The culture that we create, it's like you can be very academically inclined. And yet as soon as every T is crossed and I is dotted, then all of a sudden your downtime isn't that same inclination to learning. Whereas if it's a lifestyle of learning and a love of learning, your downtime is going to lend itself towards reading for pleasure, for information.



When you're viewing things, yes, entertainment is super fun. And don't get me wrong. I love to binge-watch things from time to time. But I often look at my kids and I'm like, "What am I demonstrating for them as a whole person?" Not just academically, not just professionally. But what kind of principle do I want them to take from me in their adult life? And being present kind of helps me remember that what I'm doing is demonstrating what I value. And so for them, I value them. I need to be present. But I also need to be taking it with me as I'm doing my leisurely activities too.

Kelli (12:59):

Yeah. Because I think that what we can get tied up into is we're doing it for our kids. But really, we should be doing it for ourselves. And then our kids benefit from it.


So if I can keep that in mind... I want my kids to eat their broccoli, but I want to eat broccoli because I want to be healthy. I think we do have a tendency, especially as homeschool moms, but as moms in general. I want my kids to have X and Y. "But you want yourself to have X and Y? Don't you want to pursue?" And then they can basically witness it and just follow. That's ultimately what we want.


But we have that forgiveness for ourselves. We are going to binge-watch over the holidays with her. But then we have a moment where we say, "Hey, let's stop this. All of us. Let's change this up again." And guess what? We don't miss it as much as we think, because we found other things to do. And we ebb and we flow, and it changes.


But the cool thing is we're all doing this for the rest of our lives. We're going to have this ebb and flow because we're doing it for ourselves together. We're being present together. "This is what I would like to do. Maybe you would as well." And then as they become adults, then they start to say, "Well, this is what I want to do." And then that's where it gets a little scarier because we as moms have to be like, "Okay, I'll go along with that." That's not what I would do, but I'll try it. Because that's the point, is we're going to learn who you want to be. And so we'll kind of see, obviously within reason. Because moms are more right and knowledgeable.

Janna (15:01):

Always. Although I'm learning to be a mom who is willing to put aside my own agenda more than ever and listen to what the input is as my children are aging, and getting older, I am now realizing that I'm the one that's setting the schedule. I'm the one that's doing that. I'm taking a little bit of step back and going, "Okay, I need your input. Is this something you even want to do? I have this grand idea."


And when they're little, you put them in the car, you pack the lunch, and you head out. And if they have a bad attitude, you kind of just start singing a song, and making a joke, and they move on, and they come out of it. Now as they're aging into young adulthood, it's like even my 13-year-old, I have to stop and say, "Is that even something you want to do?"


And that I think is part of being present. Because I can, in my own agenda, just do what I think is educational, what I think she's going to like, and what I think is going to be beneficial. But if I'm present and I'm reading it in her facial expressions... As a mom, of 13-year-old girls. I don't know about boys, I don't have any. But you can read sometimes when you need to push and when you need to relax on let's go do these things. But it is getting their input.


I wasn't raised that way. People didn't ask me what I wanted to do or what I thought about it. And so I don't know if you had that experience too, but I'm relearning how to parent each phase with each child. And Kelli, it's exhausting.

Kelli (16:45):

Well, so the irony is I feel like my personality, I actually did have a lot of that as a kid, where I really made my own choices. I had decided I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, so I founded an academy. I was just kind of given the reins. But I'm the personality that I just them, and I was fine with that.


But the irony comes in that it's hard for me to do that with my kids. When I started preschool or whatever, I was a sit in the chair, sit and do this. And then I was like, "What am I doing it?" I wasn't even raised that way. So I don't know where it came from. It was a societal thing. It was just something that I thought it was supposed to be.


But what I thought of when you said is like you said, throw your kids in the car for a trip or whatever. If you do that with an older child, the problem is that they won't be present. So they might be on the trip with you. But they're not going to be present at it, right? They're not going to be as invested as if they're a part of it. When we decided to go to Honduras, we all agree. "Yes, let's go to Honduras." And then we've had discussions since. Does this mean we have to go over a year? No. We talk about what these look like.


We've talked about travel a lot like that for years, because that's what we try to do in December, is travel. That makes us more present because we have to say down the road, "Hey, we want to take this trip. Is everybody on board? Does everybody want to go?"


It's also made me realize that I'm more intentional about my own life now. So we moved to Florida a year and a half ago, something like that. And it was an adventurous move, and it's been a blast. But one of the things I did when we moved is I was very intentional about a few things.


One of them was as we were looking for a homeschool community and looking for people, we found different communities. My community in Colorado was homeschooled families. So all of my friends are like you. They're homeschooling moms. Do you know what I mean? Not all of them, but a lot of them are homeschool moms. So most of my best friends in Colorado are home-schoolers.


Well, I found here that I didn't want to pursue my kids' friends' moms. That's not what I wanted. Because I only had homeschooling in common. And I'm only going to be homeschooling for five more years. So I was intentional and made my own direction of friends. And I think that was great for my kids. Everything's not tied together, but they see me intentionally seeking out something, and being present with those people.


And then I take the time and I separate it out, and I'm present with them. I still have as much time to homeschool. No different if you have a job. I ran a shop years ago. I learned I had to segment it a little bit. I had to be present at the shop, and homeschool. Which is actually, the timing of that was perfect. I closed the shop about the time my oldest needed more homeschool attention. I had to be more intentional with her, and so I needed that time change.


I think that being intentional is another word that you hear, but do we really know what that means? Do we know what that looks like on a day-to-day level in our personal lives?


So when you are making decisions for yourself, to be intentional was to seek it out. Not to just let it happen, not to just see where the cards fell. Not to just go with the flow. Even though when we make those decisions, it's not that we're saying we're rigid and inflexible. But for me, being intentional is thinking it through. So not planning it all out, but maybe... I know we talked about the word goal. And I don't think it's a goal, but what is your flow process for that?

Kelli (23:10):

I'm a spontaneous person. So I think what sounds like planning to other people of me having intentions of going out and seeking friends, I do it in a very spontaneous way. "I'm going to try this, and I'm going to try this, and I'm going to try this. What works great? And if it works for a little while, great. If it doesn't." So it probably depends on your personality, because I'm a big-picture person. So I see the big picture of, "I'm going to make friends." And it sounds very goal oriented. But really, I just kind of do this and do that. And if it happens, great. I'm not trying to plan it out. But I like that for our children a little bit as well. Because I find that if I try to plan too much, it will never happen. And as we're talking about 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds, they're going to change it all up on us. And so we have to have that flexibility.


But if we are helping them with their intentions, and we're all supporting each other through those intentions and how they ebb and flow, then it's a little bit more supported and easier. But we can only do that, or I think we can do it better if we're present with each other.


So it all ties back to that. We have to kind of know each other to maybe say, have feedback on a conversation. "Hey, I'm thinking about doing X." "Okay, but do you remember this scene? Or do you remember this?" And so you've had these moments, or these, you are understanding each other so that you can... And then they may come back and say, "Yeah, I hear you. But I disagree." "Okay, then we're here. We'll support you. Let's try that intention," whatever that is. And having that freedom to do that in our homes, and be a little bit supported through the process.

Janna (25:18):

Yeah. I am constantly saying to my family, "I need to know the end goal. Not even the end goal, but what do you see at the end? What is the purpose of it?" And then I work backward.


So I am a planner in my personality, and I can go with the flow. I like an outline. I don't need verbatim what needs to be done. And things can change, and we can switch out pieces of it. But I need to know where we're going. So I need a destination. And maybe that's better than a goal.


Because many people are maybe taken aback by, "I don't even know what my goals are," but where's the destination? So here's my destination. Now I work backward. And in a very simple illustration, my husband comes home from work and I said, "What time do you want to eat dinner?" And he is like, "It's literally 4:00 PM." And I'm like, "Right." But I have to work backward because I have to know when I need to stop doing my work so that I can start dinner so that the end destination is dinner on the table at the time that we all agree upon.


So for me, I feel like instead of being goal-oriented, I'm very intentional in setting destinations. So with my girls, the destination is, "You are going to finish high school with an associate's degree." That was something that they wanted to do. They're fully vested in it. I'm not pushing that.


But to work backward, there are times when I'm like, "Hey, I see that you're on your phone for an hour and a half, and you've communicated that you have a 14-page paper due in two weeks. Would it be wise to set aside some time right now and focus on that?"


So I think that being unintentional would just be like, "Okay, don't you think you should do some homework? Shouldn't you be doing homework? Why aren't you doing homework?" Or even in the home school arena, "Did you get that done? Why are you getting that done?"


But always showing my kids the destination. "Didn't you want to have that completed by this time? Let's work backward. What do you have to do in order to get it," and I do see what that could look like. Well, you're just setting goals. Are you meeting those goals?


And I don't like to see it that way, because I hate to fail. I don't know about anybody else. But resolutions, goals, I feel like they just set you up for failure. But if you have a destination like on a road trip, it doesn't matter if you take the scenic highway north, if you're going to drop back down to your destination, or if you choose to take the straight line. You're still getting there. You don't need all the steps planned out, but you still need some type of roadmap.


And for me, that's what being intentional with their education, with our family, what we're doing, where we want to go. And my family kind of looks at me like I'm insane, which they're not completely wrong. But it's that it's almost like I have a picture in my mind and now let's work backward. Instead, let's set all these goals to hit to make sure that we accomplish something.

Kelli (28:23):

I do the same thing with dinner, by the way. I don't ask what time. I just pick the time. So I'm a little bit of a planner, I guess. I'm going to make just one little twist on this. I'm struggling with this right now because I have a child who thinks she wants to go to law school, and so you have to work backward from that. Although, I also know somebody who was a ballerina, and then that didn't work out, and she was doing some other things. And she's now on a full-ride scholarship to ASU for law school.


So life can do a lot of interesting things. I always say that there's a famous ballerina who didn't even start dancing till she was 14. So goals can be moved. Do you know what I mean?


But I wouldn't do goals. I wouldn't even do necessarily intentions. I'm trying to figure out how to make it a little bit broader and make their principles or make their values. Make them things that I just want to guide us in being good, knowledgeable, strong, and confident people.


If I broaden it out to those principles, then I might set a goal of say having an associate's degree. But that may change. And then I don't feel like I failed. Because if I'm still pursuing my principles or my values, then that's okay. I have degrees in engineering and Russian. I don't do either of those anymore. I mean, I can use a computer pretty well. My life has had so many steps in it that took it in 500 different directions. Does it make me a failure at engineering? No. I did fine at it. I had a job at it for a while. I did these things, but my life changed it. But my principles and my values hopefully have continued to stay the same and grow. So as long as we're learning and we're growing. So doing those things.


And then the intentions become the goals. So there are little steps along the way. But we're not stuck to the system. We're not stuck to the goal. We're not stuck to that because it's not what's guiding the whole thing.


Just like a curriculum. You look at your curriculum, and you have a lot of choices. But I know that you don't expect every parent to do every step. You want them to make it their own for their own use and guidance. Right? So you don't want them to be stuck to the system, because they might fail. And you don't want them to fail. The system is good. But if they can apply their own principles and make them their own, then no matter what, that's where the success lies. And that's the choice I have.

Janna (31:25):

And how many homeschool parents feel like they're failing on a daily basis? Because they have goals stuck to a system, versus intention stuck to principles?

Kelli (31:38):

Yes. I'm feeling it right now with a high schooler. I mean, dual enrollment. In Florida, they have these academic things. They have ACE. They've got AP and IB. It's being thrown at us like, "You have to do all these things." And I'm like, "But they don't know what they want to do."


I met a girl last night. She's in 10th grade, and she does four hours of homework a night. That's by her own mouth. And it just breaks my heart because I'm like, "When does she get to be present with her family, or her friends, or her other community, or something fun? When does she get to binge-watch TV?"

Janna (32:22):

Because you're in Florida, when does she go to the beach, Kelli? When does she have time to go to the beach?

Kelli (32:27):

I have a 12-year-old that's still surfing in 60-degree water. We have to prioritize.

Janna (32:34):

We do. We do. But I think that just talking about it, getting people to start even getting comfortable with the terms and these ideas, to get away from the way we feel, or we have been taught it needs to look like it has to be. And start really looking and being present with our children so that we can help guide them in their future, in a totally different way.


I think part of that being present is letting our kids dream, and not coming in with the reality of what the world is all the time. I'm guilty of that. Because I just want to be like, "But the truth is," I'm a realist. "The truth is I don't see you really motivated. I'm not seeing the character qualities that are going to take that." But they're 17. They're 13. Those can come. Something can change. So just closing my own mouth more than ever as my children age.

Kelli (33:35):

I call my husband a pessimist, but he calls himself a realist. I'm an optimist. It's hard to help our children find that, and that's the process of it all. But I think if we remember to always come back in the presence of our values and our principles, then when they change up, it doesn't matter. Because you've always got something to come back to, a foundation there.

Janna (34:05):

Yeah. Wow. I think that's good stuff. I know that we have talked for days on end. We could talk for days on end. But before we go, I am going to ask you to share a home-school hack with our listeners.

Kelli (34:21):

All right. I feel like this has probably been shared. You're going to have that problem as you keep doing this. One of the hardest things for me is if there's a box to check, I want to check it. But I don't prefer that. But there comes a point as your kids get older that you need to check some boxes because they need to get it done.


So one thing I did in late elementary was my girls each had their own notebook. And every Sunday, I would write out what they had to do each day. So they had two, or three, or four. And then that grew or whatever, as they grew, things that needed to be checked off each day of the week. And then at the bottom was the list of the things that we wanted to get done if we could. And so if we get those done, great. If not, they roll over to the next week. And I know that's kind of a common thing.


The hack part really is that if you start that and write them out for them in late elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers, they do that for themselves. So all I give them is weekly, and they have it out as a term. So I hand them a term at a time. "Here's what you have to have done." And they have to get it done.


So they might be doing it on a Saturday because they want to go out on a Thursday. But they're learning to take responsibility. And one of the favorite things I saw was my youngest actually writing out, she writes out each day what she wants to get done for the week. So she's organizing it herself. Similar to how I did originally, right? But I don't make her do that. Whatever. So I think teaching that flexibility because we're homeschooling. It allows that, but then it also teaches them to kind of plan it themselves, and organize it.

Janna (36:25):

Yeah. And I love when we can get our kids vested in their own values, in their own principles when they're the ones starting to drive the ship. Because ultimately, newsflash Janna, that is what's going to happen. Ultimately, they're going to be responsible for themselves, what they do, how they do it, and the outcomes. And so any opportunity that as a homeschool parent, I can give them to start guiding them in that direction.


Although it pains me because I feel less needed at times, I'm just needed in a different way. And that's okay. Everything has a season. But I do think it's important that we set them up for success. That's probably one of my biggest values is setting my children up for success, and not defining success for them.

Kelli (37:20):

For sure. One of the hardest things I learned when I went to college because I had been homeschooled, was scheduling, timing, and those pieces. But I think I had advantages because I knew how to do the laundry and I knew how to cook, whereas others didn't.


So I think that it is. It's looking at the well-rounded values of things that they will need to know, things that they should know. But then also just letting them have the freedom to explore doing it differently.

Janna (37:59):

Yeah. Well, I am so grateful Kelli, for you and the time that you took to be on today. I just want our listeners to know, Kelli and I are actually very good friends. We have spent a lot of time together, and a lot of homeschool hours. And so I always love it when I can connect with people in my community and bring something to the broader community of homeschooling, in a way that is authentic. And you are one of the perfect people to do that with.

Kelli (38:31):

Aw. Thank you, friend.

Janna (38:32):

Thank you guys for watching. Until next time, bye bye.

Speaker 1 (38:39):


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