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May-June 2005 Selected Content

An Attitude Of Gratitude - Maripat Perkins

Recently I found myself down in the dumps and wallowing in various degrees of self pity. We had been homeschooling for three years and I was still plagued with self doubts and thoughts of inadequacy. Was I doing it right? Were my children getting enough? What if. . . What if. . . and more what ifs. . . ?

There would be occasional moments of relief while I talked with an encouraging friend or read an article written by a kindred spirit. But the relief would eventually sway and I'd find myself right back in the quagmire of my questioning thoughts.

The truth was I had no visible reason to doubt. My children were not clamoring to get back into the throes of the nearest school system. They were both exhibiting growth in various areas of development and happily investigating a range of interests. My husband was quick to point out the assets of home education and was ever ready with a pat on the back or a listening ear.

True, we hadn't had much luck in the way of support groups in our area, but we were connected to a few families we cherished spending time with. Lack of support wasn't really the issue.

I had enough experience with the perils of analysis paralysis to know I needed help, and it came to me in an unexpected way.

A friend gave me a book called, Gratitude: A Way of Life (Hay House; ISBN: 1561703095), by Louise L. Hay and other contributing authors. This is not a book about home education; in fact the topic of homeschooling is never mentioned. But the essays proved to be my saving grace and have inspired some new practices in my daily routine.

One offering by Dr. Tom Costa called, "Gratitude--The Vital Ingredient In Our Lives," shares the story of a man who had everything. He was in good health, had an occupation that he enjoyed and which supplied him with an ample living. He was married to a woman who loved him deeply and they were surrounded by supportive family and friends. Yet this man came to Dr. Costa seeking counseling because, despite all his many blessings, he was unhappy.

Dr. Costa saw clearly that the only thing lacking in this man's life was gratitude. Reading this essay brought me up short. I saw myself in that man and the answer to the feelings of dissatisfaction was there on that page.

I have a choice, and I chose to homeschool my children. Sometimes the choice to be at home is not easy. I hear about a mother doing exciting, creative work outside of her home and I fantasize about what my version of that lifestyle would look like. Or I listen as someone I know and respect talks about how her child is doing really well in school and I imagine my children are somehow missing out. But these fantasies and fears are like junk food; they leave me feeling empty, crabby and discontented.

Gratitude is the healthy nourishment I crave. It stabilizes my thinking and keeps me on track. Being grateful keeps me in the here and now; loving my family, appreciating the abundance of time I have with them and staying open to the opportunities present in every moment. The mere fact that I have a choice is cause for celebration.

Gratitude, A Way of Life also inspired another awareness in me. Tucked in an essay by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. entitled "Noticing the Abundance," I found the suggestion to make a list of fifty things I was grateful for every night. "Fifty things!" I cried, "Who has time for that?"

Well, guess what? When I make time to write a list of good things that happened that day it's amazing how well I sleep and how cheerful I am the following day as I look for my next "fifty things." These are not huge, earth-shattering events that I am praising. They are as simple as a smile, as timely as a call from a friend or as heaven-sent as a convenient parking space. Finding each tiny nugget of blessing cuts those worries and insecurities down to size.

So here are a few things from my homeschooling gratitude list: I am grateful that I live in a country where it is legal to home educate. I am grateful that I have the financial option to stay home with my children. I am grateful that, even though the fur does occasionally fly, my children have the opportunity to spend quantity and quality time together on a daily basis. And I am grateful for the homeschooling pioneers who came before me and paved the way so that my family walks a much easier road.

Gratitude is an attitude I want my children to adopt, but children learn what they live and by watching the adults around them. If I want them to acknowledge and bask in their abundance, they are going to have to see me sloshing around in my own. Gratitude can be my newly adopted way of life, and luckily, it's only a thought away.

© 2005, Maripat Perkins

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