As a homeschool mom, you are not only responsible for your children’s education but also their emotional and social development. That task can be daunting, as we all recognize the gravitas.
When we discover that this mothering thing can’t be engaged flawlessly, when we learn there is no such thing as mothering perfectly, because we aren’t perfect or flawless, then we discover we have a giant responsibility on our hands that could feel plenty overwhelming or it could feel freeing.
And if we want to feel freer, we are required to do the internal work and must choose to grow ourselves up.
This is where Jenny Brown’s book, “Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships,” can be an invaluable resource for homeschool mom personal growth (also, it happens to be our book club offering in the Homeschool Mama Book Club this upcoming Friday in the Homeschool Mom Room).
Today I want to explore the most important points from Jenny Brown’s book, “Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships” and discuss how they apply to our homeschool mom personal growth, freeing us from our experience of overwhelm as we learn to incorporate growth practices that bring more authentic, harmonious homeschool family relationships.
Questions to consider in your homeschool mom personal growth:
- How can you apply Family Systems Theory (by Murray Bowen) to your homeschooling journey to better understand your role within your family dynamic?
- What strategies can you use to enhance your emotional intelligence and manage your emotions effectively in your homeschool?
- How do you establish clear boundaries and encourage open communication to create a more harmonious homeschool family environment?
- In what ways can you take responsibility for your homeschool decisions and adapt when necessary to ensure your children’s growth and learning?
- How can you prioritize nurturing relationships with your children to build connected bonds?
In this podcast episode, I share with you 5 elements from Jenny Brown’s book, Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships.
“A key distinguishing factor of being an adult in relationships is having the capacity to see that it’s not all about you! We are part of a bigger picture of interconnections between people, where our reactions can either enhance or quash the growing-up space of others.”
Jenny Brown, Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationships
1. Learn more about the 8 concepts behind family systems theory to develop your homeschool mom personal growth:
Jenny Brown’s book delves into the concept of Family Systems Theory, which examines how families function as interconnected units.
Now to give you a superficial flyover of Family Systems Theory, developed by Murray Bowen, I offer this remarkably simplified flyover:
These are the simplified definition of the eight core concepts of Family Systems Theory by Murray Bowen are explained simply:
- Differentiation of Self: Becoming an individual within your family while maintaining healthy relationships. It means not letting your emotions get overly influenced by family dynamics.
- Triangles: This concept observes how conflicts often involve three people, and a shift in one relationship affects others in the family.
- Nuclear Family Emotional System: It deals with the emotional patterns within a family, like anxiety or tension that can be passed from generation to generation.
- Family Projection Process: It’s about how parents’ emotional issues can impact their children, often by projecting their own problems onto their kids.
- Multigenerational Transmission Process: This concept examines how emotional issues can be passed down through multiple generations in a family.
- Emotional Cutoff: It’s when individuals distance themselves from their family to avoid dealing with emotional issues, often by physically or emotionally cutting ties.
- Sibling Position: This refers to how your birth order and your role in the family can shape your personality and behavior.
- Societal Emotional Process: This concept looks at how broader cultural and societal influences can affect family dynamics, like societal values and expectations impacting family behaviors.
As a homeschool mom, understanding the 8 elements of this theory can help you see how your actions and emotions affect your children and vice versa.
The importance of self-differentiation is super important. I spoke about this in my book, Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer. Self-differentiation means you become an individual within the family system while maintaining healthy relationships. Holding both concepts at the same time.
Self-differentiation is the intention to be oneself while living alongside others.
It seems evident on the exterior that we are separate from our family members. In practice, though, self-differentiation is less obvious. We are separate from our children. Hard as this might seem in the all-consuming, early homeschool days, we even have an identity outside the realm of a homeschool mom.
Who are you apart from your partner and children?
Are you fully versed in your identity separate from them? Do you engage in activities that are distinctly you? There comes a time when we recognize that though we passionately appreciate and enjoy the homeschool mom role, we are also a person outside that role.
You were a person apart from them before they existed. What did you do when you had spare time on a weekend afternoon? Were you out late on a Saturday or were you a Sunday afternoon brunchgoer?
I was neither. As a struggling college student, I preferred cheap movies on Friday night, an occasional breakfast at Denny’s on Saturday mornings, and wandering through Chapters with Starbucks in hand any Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, I worked as a night shift labour and delivery unit clerk and studied for my nursing science degree.
To this day, these are things I love (minus the nursing night shifts). I still love reading, writing, watching films, and gardening. I rarely eat at a Denny’s; compliments to the hens at my Cluckingham Palace (sixty feet outside my front door).
Learning to maintain our sense of self while maintaining a relationship is a challenge.
As a mama of young kids, there is a thin line between us and our children. If young kids need us, we respond immediately. When we function as a homeschool mama long enough, small kids turn into big kids. Because those big kids stay with us for years, and they need us no matter their age, we are accustomed to responding to them with the same presence no matter their age.
We’re the nurturers, the teachers, and the uber mamas. We live right beside our children in the next room or down the hall. Our children’s emotional needs, interpersonal needs, educational needs, physical needs, transportation needs, and financial needs are ever-present. Seeing ourselves as separate from our role as our children’s mothers as we attend to their accomplishments, struggles, and needs, can be a challenge.
Self-differentiating allows us to own our different opinions, interests, and values despite our family member’s differing opinions, interests, or values.
It also means we’re learning to maintain an emotional connection with our family members despite those differences.
Why all this discussion on self-differentiation?
Because it doesn’t take long into our homeschool life to forget we have an identity outside our children. Our goal is to maintain a connection with our children while also maintaining a separate sense of self. This is especially challenging when we are with our children most of the time.
How to Practice Self-Differentiation in Our Families:
- Observe family interactions. Learn how we affect our children. If we’re having a bad day, do we infuse our children’s days with unpleasant energy? (I know I can). How do our children affect us? Do they, at times, infuse our day with unpleasant energy? (Trick question.)
- Understand others’ feelings. Others’ feelings, no matter how woo-woo they seem to us in a moment, need to be acknowledged and respected. Even when…you fill in the blank.
- Collect the kids. Start the day by gathering the kids with a warm hug or a sunny “Good morning” before you do anything else. This infuses warm energy, which affects how they engage each other too. It’s also a great assessment tool. When a kiddo doesn’t want a hug, it speaks volumes about where they’re at and how they might influence their siblings. One grouchy child at breakfast will likely affect the rest of the kids. Two cranky kids make for a heck of a drive to town. Three grouchy kids might be a pseudo-nuclear meltdown. But just one persistently irritable kid will exhaust us by dinnertime even still.
- Explore your messy family dynamics to determine how the interplay bears out. How does the state of your marriage affect your children? How does sibling rivalry affect you, and how do you affect your children’s sibling rivalry? How does your partner influence each child? How does each of your children affect others? How do these interactions affect random strangers, extended family members, or community members? How does all this affect your well-being?
Who are you in challenging family dynamics?
The ability to be emotionally separate, to not become mired in another’s emotions, is the challenge. It is a challenge to maintain peace in demanding scenarios and continue enjoying the homeschool family life despite the mess.
Enmeshment is easy in family relationships. We’re with each other often and when others are content and happy, it makes our lives easier.
- It is easy to give advice when it’s not requested.
- It’s easy to be reactive when we feel offended.
- It is easy to worry instead of strategically planning.
- It is easy to feel threatened by kids’ contrariness.
- It is easy to withdraw from family members, instead of acknowledging our feelings and asking for our needs to be met.
- It is too easy to blame others instead of taking responsibility for our feelings.
- It is easy to become compliant or play the peacekeeper and not acknowledge our needs.
- It is easy to make assumptions (or mind-read) and not ask our family members what they feel or what they need.
- It is too easy to be overly serious or joke inappropriately about someone’s expressed needs.
Learn to take care of yourself, to self-soothe, when you feel intense emotions.
Self-soothing is a lifetime practice of becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions and learning how to engage them. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. Breathe through uncomfortable feelings. Counsel yourself in front of a mirror. Take a walk. Lie on a yoga mat.
Your goal is to be emotionally independent: to recognize your feelings and be able to share them when appropriate, to request what you need, and to honour those requests from those around us.
How to apply this concept to our homeschool mom personal growth? We need to have a strong sense of ourselves and when we do this for ourselves and our homeschool kids.
“This process of being mature in an anxious organisation has been likened to learning to sail against the wind; and as any sailor will tell you, this requires concentration and tolerating some tension as the wind pressures the vessel to let it take over the controls. Good skippers know how to tolerate sufficient tension to keep a steady course. They don’t try to overpower their vessel with too much sail in order to get to the finish line faster, as they know this will inevitably knock them backwards. They also know not to panic and retreat to the safe harbour of familiarity. They focus on their key tasks of setting the course and letting the crew know their intensions so that each person can get on with focusing on their own tasks. There’s only one path to growing this ability: through patient, thoughtful perseverance in the midst of experience…no short cuts to be found.”Jenny Brown, Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationships
2. An element we all know we need to encourage for our homeschool mom personal personal growth is emotional self-regulation and emotional intelligence:
One key aspect of “Growing Yourself Up” is the importance of self-regulation and emotional intelligence.
Homeschool moms can experience various emotions, from stress to frustration, during their journey. Brown’s book encourages individuals to be aware of their emotional responses and learn how to manage them effectively.
This is particularly important for us as children often mirror their parents’ emotions. Developing emotional intelligence can help moms maintain a harmonious and nurturing educational environment for their children.
Stories from homeschool moms I’ve coached…
- Learning to pay attention to their emotions…learning our internal narrative is the first step.
- Building a support system for others who care about our internal narratives is necessary. Who needs to care? Others & you. You can’t do it alone, you weren’t meant to. But you also need to connect with yourself.
- Your neural pathways are built upon practice.
- Self-shaming doesn’t work (also shaming doesn’t work for others either). Reinforce self-kindness if you want to learn something new.
- Be honest with yourself. If you’re getting feedback from a child, a partner, or a close family member that you’re coming across a certain way, listen to them. It’s not that their interpretation is spot-on, but their interpretation matters to you understanding you too.
Creating a more harmonious educational environment for our kids and more positively influencing their emotional development requires us to do some homeschool mom personal growth.
“The ability to be both a distinct self and part of a close relationship is at the core of being able to grow our genuine adult maturity.”Jenny Brown, Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationships
3. For homeschool mom personal growth, we bolster boundaries and healthy communication:
In the context of homeschooling, setting boundaries and practicing healthy communication is vital.
You spend too much time thinking about…
- what other people think about your homeschool
- knowing that you want more time for yourself but not getting it
- answering the phone when you should be eyeball-to-eyeball with your kids
- recognizing that you need more time spent on developing yourself but are not sure how or where you can do that
- spending more time doing extracurriculars because people are asking you to participate, even though you want a quiet day at home
- giving your time away to meaningful things, but not the most important things
- fielding unsupportive questions about your homeschool choice
- feeling exhausted by conflict with your partner
- knowing you’re not showing up as you’d like with your kids but you’re not sure why
- feeling guilty or ashamed at how you’re showing up with your kids
- desperately wanting a separate space or time away from your kids
- you feel unsupported and you don’t think you can ask even the most important people in your life to help
What I didn’t realize before I began building boundaries is that I would gain more than just “not feeling trampled upon”.
- I discovered that I could choose my activities and my people on purpose and feel so much freer and peaceful.
- I discovered that building boundaries meant I came into myself more. I learned to nurture myself.
- I discovered that I couldn’t do everything, and I learned that I was at peace with that.
- I was more present with my kids and less triggered because I had a plan for kid-related challenges.
- I built authentic, supportive connections that nurtured my true self.
To nurture personal growth as a homeschool mom, it’s crucial to establish clear boundaries and engage in open and honest communication.
“Mature parenting is not related to good technique but to nurturing a parent’s character.”Jenny Brown, Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationships
4. We need to take responsibility for our homeschool mom personal growth, actions & decisions:
As a homeschool mom, you are responsible for your children’s education, and this role comes with challenges and doubts.
Brown’s advice encourages you to reflect on your choices, adapt when necessary, and take pride in the positive impact you have on your children’s learning journey.
“Mature parenting is not related to good technique but to nurturing a parent’s character,” Jenny Brown.
This is why I believe…
- You don’t need to get a character training curriculum. You need to work on your own character.
- This is why therapy or life coaching is a necessary tool for exploring how you can take responsibility responsibly. Not self-shaming, not guilting others or blaming others, but determine how you can take responsibility.
In homeschool mothering, taking responsibility for your actions and decisions is essential for navigating the mistakes, challenges, and sometimes the failures that come with the role of a homeschool mom.
Jenny Brown, Growing Yourself Up: How to bring your best to all of life’s relationship
“The message of Growing Yourself Up is that you can’t separate understanding the individual from understanding relationships. All of life’s relationships are integral to increasing self-awareness and maturity. And it’s not necessarily the comfortable relationships that promote personal growth.”
5. Homeschool mom personal growth means we’re not only involved in teaching academic subjects but also nurturing the parent-child relationship.
“Growing Yourself Up” emphasizes the importance of nurturing healthy relationships within the family. It’s not just about educating your children but also about building a strong and loving bond with them.
And I certainly resonate with her words that “it’s not necessarily the comfortable relationships that promote personal growth”. In fact, is it at all?
Maybe it is, but certainly, the kiddo that is different than you, the one that confounds you, that triggers you, that one is teaching you to grow yourself up.
Also, the one that is like you but doesn’t appreciate certain character traits because they’re awfully similar to you, that one is also teaching you and offering you an opportunity to grow yourself up.
Homeschooling is a multifaceted task that extends beyond academics.
Jenny Brown’s book, “Growing Yourself Up,” offers valuable insights that can be applied by homeschool moms to enrich their experience.
Understanding Family Systems Theory, practicing self-regulation and emotional intelligence, setting boundaries, taking responsibility, and nurturing relationships are all critical components of a homeschool mom’s personal growth journey.
Build your Boundaries Journaling Workbook
Journal questions can aid in your self-exploration, to get curious about what your reasons for boundaries issues may be. They can be a self-coaching tool to help you clarify your needs, your relationships, and your identity, so you can get your needs met & become more you. This 31-page self-coaching workbook will be your best tool to build boundaries.
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Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod