Fearless Homeschooling in Times of Stress

929117_curious.jpg“We are disturbed not by events, but by the views which we take of them.” – Epictetus, 1st century Greek philosopher.

When we think of fearlessness, we often think of daredevils like Evil Knievel or Derek Hersey; people who regularly, and intentionally, put themselves into dangerous situations either for fun or profit.

There are indeed people who like the thrill of danger, but that is not what everyday life fearlessness is about. The kind of fearlessness that we can have in homeschooling and in life, is an acceptance that life is naturally a series of events, some of them “good”, some “bad’, and that we are capable of dealing with the bad things that happen. With this kind of view of life and of homeschooling, we aren’t afraid of events because we are confident in ourselves to take effective and sensible views on these events. Fearlessness is a state of being comfortable with uncertainty, and a knowledge that nothing, no matter how horrible, can destroy us. And if it does destroy us, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it right now, except live the best we can.

It’s OK to be afraid once in a while. But what we are truly afraid of is not that bad things will happen. We KNOW bad things will happen. It’s the way the universe works. The pendulum between good and bad swings back and forth, and also changes as our views of the world changes. What we might consider “good” one day, will turn to be “bad” the next, simply because of changes in our own minds.

No, when we are afraid, we are not afraid of the events. We are afraid of our own lack of personal power to deal with those events. We are afraid of ourselves.

To be fearless, we have to be in a state where we trust ourselves, and we know that if we are presented with stressful events, we can deal with them. We don’t have to convince ourselves that everything will be OK, or that we can even fix anything. It’s a confidence of our own mind, that we have the mental capacity to let go when we need to, and act when we need to. As the saying goes, the only fear is of fear itself.

Becoming fearless is an internal process of self-understanding. It’s an internal process of self-like and self-appreciation. It’s also a process of losing our attachment to thinking that things outside ourselves define who we are.

Accept that:

– things will happen. It’s inevitable. And we won’t like some of those things. We will deal with it when it happens. We will make reasonable precautions to avoid certain kinds of things we don’t want, but sometimes, those precautions won’t work, and that’s just how it is. Having emotions and reactions to things that haven’t happened yet is detrimental to current lives.
– we are capable and smart individuals. Everything we need is inside us.
– we have friends and family who will support us. A huge step in becoming fearless is to create a strong structure of support.
– fear is a natural emotion. If we feel it, get comfortable with it. Accept it. Embrace it. Get to know it. We’re getting to know ourselves when we accept fear along with all the other emotions we have.
– we can’t handle everything. Most things aren’t our responsibility to deal with. If we feel like we are spinning our wheels, we probably are, and it’s time to get off the bike.
– if we mess up, it’s a learning experience, not the end. It’s only the end if we decide it is. It’s only “bad” if we look at failure that way.
– we have internal truths that only we have access to, and can never really be expressed. Other people’s judgments of us never change that. Other people can only distract us from those truths, and only if we let them.

Being fearless requires that we know ourselves, face ourselves, and most importantly, trust ourselves. When we are fearless, we accept fear, we accept that things fall apart, and we move ahead anyway. The more often we do this, the more often we fail and recover, fail and recover, the more we learn how to be successful. It’s when we fail, and then lose ourself in that failure that we get stuck in fear, and it becomes our master.

In Deschooling Gently: A Step by Step Guide to Fearless Homeschooling, I talk some about these concepts in relation to the ins and out of daily homeschooling life. But these precepts are also true about life in general. Once we are fearless in homeschooling, it starts to trickle out into everything else.

Pema Chodron has two books on fearlessness that changed the way I think about myself and about dealing with difficult emotions and events: When Things Fall Apart and The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. I invite you to seek these out. They might even be at your local library.

What are you afraid of? What is keeping you from being a fearless homeschooler, a fearless parent, and a fearless person? If you consider yourself fairly fearless, was it always like that?

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11 Responses to “Fearless Homeschooling in Times of Stress”

  1. suburbancorrespondent Says:

    What about fear of the future? Fear that our kids won’t be adequately prepared for college, or life, or whatever? I think that is what haunts homeschoolers the most…

  2. Tammy Says:

    Fear of the future is exactly what I’m talking about suburban. We fear that our children won’t be prepared is because we have a fear what WE aren’t prepared for our own future. We think that there will be things that happen and then our children won’t be able to handle it, just as we fear that things will happen to us that we can’t handle.

    If they are taught, by watching us, that we are confident that no matter what happens, we can handle it, the future isn’t scary anymore – to us or to them.

    When we fear that they won’t be ready for the future, then we are preparing them not to be ready. We are giving off the vibe that we don’t trust them to know how to deal with what comes along. We are teaching them to be fearful of their own future.

    If the kids are capable and confident NOW, and we are confident in them NOW, then we are preparing them for the future. If we are afraid that they won’t be prepared, then we aren’t spending enough time right now, making sure that they have the tools to deal with what they need to do today.

    Focus on today, and then tomorrow, focus on today again, and then the day after that, focus on today again… and keep doing that… and when tomorrow comes, they will be just as prepared for it as they are prepared for the moment you are in right now.

  3. debra Says:

    My response to suburban correspondent: they will know how to find out what they need to know. All we ever need to do is one thing now. That’s it. Then the next thing will be clear. Answers present themselves when we need them. The words are there when they need to be said. Being quiet in the moment, taking just one step at a time.
    Well said, Tammy.

  4. Zayna Says:

    That’s the thing about fear…

    It can just as much motivate as it can paralyze, and its very tricky to tell the difference.

    The thing is to be aware of whether or not your fear is encouraging you to expand or to withdraw in the here and now, like you said Tammy.

    Handle your everday fear with an open mind, a welcome heart and a stern goal, and you will inevitably be the best example for your children’s future.

  5. Angela Says:

    This was exactly what I needed to hear as a reminder today, Tammy.

    I am also reminded of what one of my great teachers taught me, (her name is Peggy Dylan) which is that fear is also just energy. You can allow it to paralyze you or you can use it to achieve your goals.

    And in the meantime, never forget to keep breathing.

    Lovely post.

  6. Elisheva Levin Says:

    This is a well-timed post.

    So often, homeschoolers are treading paths that others fear to take. When we choose them, it is good to have a strategy for dealing with the fears of the unknown that will come with our march to a ‘different drummer.’

    Thanks for the reminder that there are many ways to traverse this path.

  7. Gina Grothoff Says:

    I love reading your posts.
    I have always believed that people fear what they do not understand. I also see fear as a signal that I am stretching out of my comfort zone. My favorite mantra is from a Jack Canfield Self Esteem seminar (that I have on tape) and he says, “Feel the fear and go for it anyway”
    I used to live in fear quite often. I have to credit reading the Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsh for helping me release being trapped by fear. I still get fearful at times. Despite my desire to unschool and let my children take their paths and just be there to guide and nurture, I get worried I am not doing enough or the right things for them. I so agree with having a network of support and for me that means connecting with other homeschoolers who are of like mind. This has been challenging because I continue to change and evolve on my journey of homeschooling which means my support group must change and evolve, in other words, I must seek out new support or reconnect with people who I have lost touch with. Recently my local group discussed our kids comparing themselves to public school kids but for me the challenge is not to compare myself to other homeschooled kids! I see others using curriculum and doing things I am not doing and I doubt my methods and beliefs. (that is where the support of like minded is essential).
    Thanks for this discussion on fear! No matter how much I think I have released it, it is still there. Thank you for the reminder: embrace my fears, and and keep myself grounded in my beliefs by being connected to others of like mind, reading or email lists or friends.

  8. Karen Says:

    You wrote: “Once we are fearless in homeschooling, it starts to trickle out into everything else.”

    It is just as true that once you are fearless in any area of your life, it starts to trickle out into everything else. I think homeschoolers in general have to be fearless in some aspect of their lives already just to even consider homeschooling.

    Congratulations on another great post, Tammy. I will have to hunt up those books you mentioned, add them to my PaperbackSwap wish list!

  9. Tammy Says:

    debra – I didn’t used to believe this. But how true it is! It’s amazing what answers present themselves when we slow down and just observe.

    Zayna – well said. Thanks for stopping by.

    Angela – Very nice – fear is energy. Now, to learn to channel that energy. Did your teacher have any tips on that?

    Elisheva – you’re so right! One would think that if we’re fearless enough to homeschool, that we wouldn’t be afraid of the “what ifs”. But it has become so “easy” to homeschool now. A lot of families are homeschooling because it is more mainstream than it used to be. Now, I think a lot of homeschooling families are finding the fearlessness in them that they didn’t know they had.

    Gina – I loved Conversations with God. I am not religious, and certainly not Christian, and it was awesome. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Karen – you’re right. Practicing fearlessness (Or, embracing fear) is preparation for the next chance to practice it. Very profound observation. Thank you!

  10. Jennifer Fink Says:

    I needed this one today. I grew up in a state of fearfulness, so it’s been very hard for me to learn to relax and let go. I’ve made great strides in my homeschooling, but I still have a lot of work to do, esp. in the area of becoming fearless in relationships.

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