393 | The Power of "Yes" and "No" in Your Homeschool (Sean Allen)
Our lives consist of an innumerable series of "Yes's" and "No's". Our job is to make sure we're giving the right answers to the right questions and this certainly applies to our homeschools. Are we saying "Yes" to things that are proving a distraction to our homeschool and ultimately our family? Are we too often saying "No" to simple requests on the part of our children to spend time with them? Our homeschooling efforts are made up of such questions and our respective answers determine their ultimate success or failure.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here doing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Sean Allen Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. We're so appreciative of your time. And if you are new to the podcast, welcome. And if you listen to us frequently or infrequently, again welcome, and thank you for your time and for just spending time with us. We hope that you are gaining some kind of practical knowledge, or wisdom, or some something that will spur you on and give you encouragement in the wonderful work that you're doing. So I'm so happy to be with you.
Sean Allen I would imagine that you've probably hit the ground running. You're off to the races here with the new school year. I don't know that you could describe us or our family that way. We are going and we're moving forward, but it's at a rather slow pace. And the reason for that is that we discovered, not too many weeks back, that we are expecting again. And so this would make baby number nine, which is just amazing and wonderful and so surprising--just the number in and of itself. I've talked a little bit about myself in the past. I never would have dreamed, never would have dreamed... I did not dream that I would be here someday, and it's just a wonderful thing. It has its moments. It is so difficult. And you have days where you don't know... You have moments certainly when you don't know if you can put one foot before the other. But then you also have moments...
Sean Allen Like this evening I went out running with my children and they rode their bikes. We live out in the country a little bit, and we just have this clear road that we go walking on. We've been doing that for the last week or so and we try to go around the time of the sunset. So we're running and we're running east, and then we turn around and when we come back to our house we're facing the sunset and the children just love it. And I have to tell you, it just does something to me here recently. We crest this hill and there are my children up ahead of me. I've got my little son, Jackson, and I've got a few of my daughters... It's a different... Well, Jackson always comes. He's our two-year-old. He loves his little push bike. He's got this little bike that he sits on and he just...his legs touch the ground and he just kind of scoots himself along. He loves that thing. We've had that for two children now. And I didn't really get the purpose of it when we got it, I thought, "This is never going to..." But he has made the most of that little thing. He loves it and he just zooms around. But anyway, we come up over the hill and there's the sunset in the backdrop. My children are in the foreground and I get to see them. It's such a beautiful thing. It's such a beautiful thing. And they turn around and they look at me and they smile and they laugh, and they're enjoying the cooler weather. Boy, it's been hot here lately, but we've had some cooler weather here. It's just such a wonderful thing. And moments like that, you're just so glad to be alive. You feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to take part in the rearing of these these young souls. And I don't know what more I could say about it. I could go on and on about it.
Sean Allen And I know you feel things and see things like that, too. And you just wish it could go on forever, but it can't. But there's more beauty ahead. There's always more beauty around the corner. We just have to have eyes to see it. And so that's not what I wanted to talk to you about today. I just wanted to give you a little update on our family. Baby number nine is due sometime in April, I think early April. And we're just praying that the Lord will see us through this thing and will preserve that little life. And we'll look forward to meeting him or her in the not too distant future, because we're in the stage of life where things just are zipping by so fast and it won't be long now. That'll be in the thick of convention season, so we're a little, not worried, but we're wondering how that's all going to shake out, too. But we'll see. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Sean Allen But anyway, what I wanted to talk to you about today... Just a short, simple thought. Food for thought for you today. This has been rattling around in my brain a little bit, and I've talked about this before at conventions, or I've mentioned it before, but it's something I want to share with you now. And I think it's apropos for the school year, certainly, and for the topic of homeschooling. And it is the power of "yes" and "no". The power of "yes" and "no". There's a lot of power in that. And really the truth is, your life and my life consists of an innumerable...it's a steady innumerable stream of "yes"es and "no"s. Everything we do, we are making decisions constantly, everyday, day in and day out. And that certainly applies to our homeschool. It's almost like a computer code. My understanding is that the code that is in back of operating systems and things of that sort, it's ones and zeros. That's about as deep as my understanding goes. And if that's incorrect, I'm sure someone will correct me out there. But I think that's the basic code that's in back of everything. And these ones and zeros, they're switches ons and offs, and things of that sort. And our lives are like that, too. And so a "yes" is perhaps a one and a "no" is a zero, or however you want to characterize that. But we have this innumerable sequence of decisions that we have to make throughout the course of our lives. And it really is a code.
Sean Allen And I think for each one of us, we discover at times that we are saying "yes" when we should say "no". And we're saying "no", when we should say "yes". There are times when we give the correct answers. By the grace of God, He's either taught us or corrected us or shown us a better way. And whereas previously, we were saying "no" to something that was actually good, now we're saying "yes". And vice versa. And the Lord is gracious and works with us and and brings us around. Doesn't He? And we're trying to get as many of these questions that are presenting themselves to us... We're trying to get them right as often as possible. And we make mistakes every single day. And we reflect on the day at the end of the day. And we see areas in which, "You know what, I should have given a different answer here. I should have done this instead of that." Or we also find areas in our lives where we're consistently giving the wrong answer because we've got a bad habit that has cropped up in our lives and we're wrestling with it. And we desperately want to give the right answer, but we just can't find the will to do it. And that's terribly... It's a discouraging thing and it's a weighty, heavy thing that rests on our hearts and minds. But we trust that the Lord will help bring us around in those areas as well.
Sean Allen And so as this... How this applies to homeschooling is giving the right answers at the right times is imperative to the success of our homeschools. And there's any number of things that are arrayed against the success of your homeschool, or the eventual success of your children as they grow and as they mature and as they flower and flourish into the young people that they are becoming. There's a lot of opposition to that. Some of it's seen, most of it's unseen. And we have to wrestle with that. And it's very subtle at times and clever and quiet. And sometimes we don't pick up on it until it's a little too late, but it's never really too late. We just have to keep our eyes and our ears open and recognize these threats as they make themselves manifest. We have to be discerning. And what I'm talking about is... There's lots of different things we could talk about here, but with with some homeschool parents... Well with some parents in general, their dilemma is saying "yes" too often. And then there are other parents who say "no" too often. And I've talked about this a lot in the past, but there is... I like to characterize parents as either being left-sided or right-sided. And those are extreme forms of parenting. And we all kind of fall in, not necessarily one of those two categories, but in-between the spectrum of those two extremes. And right-sided parents, one of the things that they're very guilty of is saying "no" too much. And left-side parents are the exact opposite. They say "yes" too much. So, what do I mean? I mean that they indulge their children. And so, "Oh, you want to you want a cookie? Sure, you can have a cookie. Oh, here we are shopping at Wal-Mart and you want to go through the toy aisle? Absolutely. We'll make a U-turn here. We'll go make a beeline to go see the toys." And, "Oh, you're throwing a fit and you're upset about something? Well, let's talk about that. Well, okay, you're demanding that we do this now? Oh, let's do that." And so there's too many "yes"es there. We're being too indulgent of the child. The right-side parent is the exact opposite. There are too many "no"s.
Sean Allen And the interesting thing is that if you take stock of your home, there's a very good chance that one of you--either the husband or the wife--is one or the other. I mean, one of you is one, and the other is the other. If I'm making myself clear. So you have the two polar opposites that are represented in your marriage. So say your husband is right-sided and you're more left-sided, or vice versa. And it usually falls that way, but it's not always that way. We meet all kinds of different home situations, as we travel the country. But oftentimes it's the man who's more right-sided and and the wife is more left-sided. But be that as it may be, it's a good exercise to engage in, is to take stock of your day...your day to day activities and the way in which you are interacting with your children. And ask yourself, "Do I say 'yes' or 'no' more?" And it's not... I don't know that this is... I don't think the goal is to balance the answers out. It's really not. You'll go through periods in which you need to be more heavily weighted on one side versus the other. But if you're consistently weighted on the "no" side or you're right-sided, you have a problem there, and that can become very toxic. And it goes the other way as well. And so, again, you might go through seasons where "no" is the predominant answer, but you're always going to be trying to get back to more "yes"es at some point.
Sean Allen Let me give you some examples. So Caroline and I, when we had our first two/three children, I think we were more heavily weighted on the right side, and we were very much "no" people. We said that a lot. And we didn't wake up and realize that until we had three children. And we talked about it, and the more we talked about it, the more we realized, "Goodness gracious, all we ever do is say 'no'." And there's... You know, "no" can take many different forms. It was "no" in the sense of, "No, don't do that." Or, "No, you're wrong." Or, "No, that's not what we do." Or, "No, that's not right." And things of that sort. And also, I think that extended itself over into opportunities for interaction and for quality time with our children. So they want to go ride bikes, or they want to go outside and throw the ball, or they want to play Lincoln Logs, or whatever, and the answer was often, "No, we don't have time for that." And so clearly, at that stage of our lives, thankfully, we woke up and realized that we're saying "no" too much and we're missing the mark. We're missing out on these precious opportunities to say "yes". And then we kind of pendulum swung too far the other way. We overcorrected and we started saying "yes" too much because we felt so guilty about the "no". And so we we kind of allowed our children to have too much leeway and too much freedom in our home and their...
Sean Allen That didn't last very long, let me tell you. The "no" period lasted much longer than the "yes" period, because... I'll speak for myself at least, I'm kind of naturally inclined in that direction. And it's easier for me to say "no" than it is for me to say "yes", I guess I should say. And then when you start saying "yes" a bunch and you start coddling them, or you start indulging them and letting them kind of have free reign, well, that's when stuff gets broke and tore up and and people get hurt. And it's certainly more chaotic. And so we quickly snapped back. But the goal is to try to find some balance there. And the perfect example that you and I can look to for that balance that we're looking for is God. Because He's really the only being that there is that is capable of keeping those "yes"es and "no"s in perfect tension. He does that somehow. It's a miraculous, supernatural power because we're not like that. We're more inclined to be out of balance. And we lean either to the left or to the right, and sometimes we're wildly swinging between these two extremes and we just can't find balance. It's hard. It's possible, but it's hard. And we're not naturally geared that way.
Sean Allen So as I said, we kind of toyed with both of these things, and we were ping-ponging back and forth, back and forth, and we had to find some consistency. And so one of the things that we tried to cut out early on were distractions. So when I say "answering 'yes' to certain questions and saying 'no' to others," you may not actually be referring to questions directly. What I mean by that is these may not even be answers that you're giving to questions that your children are asking you. There may actually be no questions, but you're still giving answers. What I mean by that is your children have maybe become accustomed to the wrong answer. And so if they have come to you over a period of time and asked you for this or for that, "Can we read? Could you read me a book?" And the answer's, "No. No. No." And then the questions stop coming. And so you're still giving the wrong answer, but the question has died. And that's a bad place to be. And you can apply this to just about anything. Or maybe it's just time after work. So we struggle with this because we're self-employed and work can go on for as long as you want to. There's always something to do. And I mean, here I am at some ungodly hour of the night recording this podcast, and I'm not proud of that. But there's always another business item to tend to. And so you can see how the "no" answer can be easily and often given. And the children become accustomed to that and they stop asking questions. And that's not a sign to you that you've arrived. It's a sign that something has died inside of them. And you may actually lose the opportunity to answer those questions correctly. Think of that. That's terrifying. It really is terrifying.
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Sean Allen And so our children are there, but they only have so much patience and they only have so much will. And when they're continually being met with the wrong answer, they can get to the place where they think, "You know, what's the point?" Or they lose interest altogether. Because they'll find something else to fill those holes. "Well, my mom or my dad, they won't spend time with me, they're not..." They don't even know about these holes. They don't even know about these needs in their life. But they're there and they don't really go anywhere, they have to be satisfied somehow. And if you've turned them away often enough, they'll find other other ways to satisfy those needs and they won't ask those questions anymore. So again, I say that's a terrifying place to be when the questions stop coming. And if they're not reminding you, it's going to be easy for us to look the other way as well. Because again, there's any number of things that we can give our time and attention to, and that's the selfish side of us. That's what we want. We kind of want our children to stop bothering us and harassing us to play Monopoly or to throw a ball or bike rides, walks, anything like that. "Draw me a picture." We we get tired of that. And when the questions stop coming, there's that side of us that's that says, "Ahh, deep sigh." But it was the wrong answer to give in the first place. And we don't want to satisfy that person. That's the person that you want to kind of stamp down. You want them to go away because they're hampering your efforts at raising your child. And they're hampering your homeschool efforts as well. So be careful for the wrong answer to the question that no longer exists. Think about that for a little while.
Sean Allen It really would be good for you, and for me, to sit down and think, "Hmm, were there ever any questions that my children asked of me that are no longer forthcoming?" And it might be because of age. Maybe they've aged past it. But, maybe you missed that opportunity at three and four. There were certain requests, and they've aged out of that. But don't miss six, seven and eight. Don't miss those! Those opportunities are going to look different. They're going to have evolved, if you will. You missed three and four, don't miss this other stage. Alright? Don't give the wrong answers. Because they'll get past that as well, and then you've got a teenager on your hand, and that's a whole nother ball of wax. So take stock. How often do you say "no"? How often do you say "yes"? Are you left-sided? Are you right-sided? It's a good exercise to enter into.
Sean Allen And the questions as they pertain to your homeschool: Maybe you've got some "no"s where you need some "yes"es. Let me give you another example here: A "yes" that I think we could all agree on, that we all need to be giving. An answer to a very particular question is routines. So you have a homeschool in mind that you want to conduct. You have a vision for what you hope to accomplish in the coming year. And aside from meeting measurable goals, I think you and I would all like to be happy as we strive or reach for the attainment of those goals. Okay, so it's not just about goals, but it's about the level of happiness in our homeschool at any given time. So routines are things that can free us to achieve those dreams and those goals and those visions that we have for our homeschool. And I don't know about you, but we have found by sad experience that when we do not maintain routines in our home, things start to slip through the cracks and things start to even spin out of control. And a lot of people that are in our present situation or present society, they find routines to be very restrictive and they don't like... That's kind of a dirty word. And actually it's the opposite. The opposite is actually true. In that, routines help to free you to be spontaneous. And yes, I just said that. Because if you...
Sean Allen You need to say yes to the establishment of inflexible routines that free you to homeschool the way that you always wished that you could. I mean such things as getting up on time, and eating breakfast at a certain time, and having school between these hours and then stopping at this time, and then having dinner at the table at this time, and so on and so forth. "And we will do math here, and we'll do science here." Or, "I'm going to read with so-and-so here, and we're going to go outside and we're just going to have some free time here." And things of that nature. And when you set routines that have been custom-designed by you to benefit your homeschool, you're going to find that you're making progress and you are making measurable progress towards the attainment of the goals that you've set for yourself. And I don't know what those are, you do. Your goals are going to be different than ours, and it's going to be different from homeschool to homeschool. But when you feel that progress being made, what does that do? That sets you free. Because you're never going to be spontaneous when you feel that you're behind. When you feel like you've got 15 things that are left undone and you're constantly scrambling to catch up, catch up, catch up. And, "No, we can't go on this field trip. No, we cannot go outside for the next 3 hours. No, we cannot take the day off and read. No, we cannot hold an impromptu tea party. No. No. No. We cannot do any of these things." It's constantly chasing the unattainable goal of catching up to where you think you should be.
Sean Allen And so routines can help with that. If you feel like you're out of order, if you feel like your homeschool is just in a constant state of chaos, you can forget spontaneity. You can forget creativity. And that's a bad place to be because everybody gets sad. Everybody gets sad and discouraged in that situation. Believe you me, we have gone through that! Especially living in the situation that we're living in with two houses and remodeling and all that. That has been so very difficult. But routines can set you free. And so you need to say "yes" to that. I think that is true. I can say, that is true of all of us, whoever you are that's listening to this. Now our routines are all going to be different, but set them and be deliberate about them and be inflexible about it. And it's not about being too rigid or too harsh or being restrictive. It's about saying, "This is what we want, and we believe this is worth going for, striving for, shooting for, pushing towards that mark. And in order for us to achieve these things, we must have routines, because in routines we will find freedom to have joy in our homeschool, and to enjoy one another's company, and to look back with delight upon the time that we had together." But again, if you're constantly chasing your tail and you're playing catch up, that's nobody's idea of fun. So there's a "yes" that I would recommend that you should say.
Sean Allen Here's a "no": "No, we will not allow outside or other influences or distractions to rule or to disrupt our day. That's a "no". And that's a "no" I think that we can universally say is applicable to all of us. And we all have those things as well. And boy, oh, boy, I think probably something that may apply to most all of us--I'm sure that there are some of you out there who have taken a very hard line on this and I applaud you--is screens and technology. And that's a harsh taskmaster. And our children are very, very taken with these things, and social media, and being on their phones, and being on computers and iPads and video games, and things of that sort. And those devices, and much of the world that they present to our children, are at odds with the goals that you and I have for our homeschool, and for our families. And it doesn't play well with what we're trying to accomplish here. I don't know if you've noticed that, but I know that we sure have. And it's so alluring, so attractive, so intensely interesting to our children. They can't hardly step away from it. And then they're going to be looking for ways to sneak away and to slip in a little Instagram here and slip in a little Facebook... I don't know, maybe Facebook... I've heard Facebook is on the outs with the younger generation. I'm not on any of it, so I wouldn't know. And I'm not faulting anybody for being on it. My wife is on most of it. But I just know that it doesn't matter if it's Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or whatever next thing...there's probably something else that's out there now that I don't know about. It doesn't matter. It's all so intensely alluring and it does draw our children away, and you're constantly struggling with them, "Like, where is your allegiance right now? Is it with us and our homeschool? Is it or is it with whatever you're looking at on that device?" And so that's a "no" that I would recommend that you consider...or an answer, in this case, that I would recommend that you consider giving to devices and distractions in general, but more specifically to devices.
Sean Allen And I could go on and on about this. But we've learned the hard way that we made some mistakes with that early on with our children where... You know, you're learning as you go and you weigh this thing out. You say, "Well, should we let them have a phone? Should we not let them have a phone? All their other friends have phones." And things like that. And we held off a lot longer than than most people. But I think looking back, not long enough. And so now our our poor--I don't think she's poor, but she does--our poor daughter, who is our third child, now we've got more rigid rules for her because we think that they'll benefit her. We don't want to ruin her life. We don't want to see her sad or downcast or make her miserable. It's nothing about that. We just think she would be more benefited by not having this distraction. We think our homeschool will run more smoothly by saying "no" to these distractions.
Because your free time and the satisfying of your lizard brain, or however you want to describe that, is far less important than what we've got going on here in our homeschool. And it's not just about you. It's about the rest of the children because children as young as three/four, they can become enchanted with this stuff as well. And they're constantly finding brother or sister who's off on the computer watching... Ask me how I know. Ask me how I know this! Finding brother or sister on the computer and they're watching something on on YouTube, and before you know it half your homeschool is gathered around the computer, and you don't know where they've gone. Does that sound too specific? So if any of you all struggle with that out there, I'm just going to give you permission, say "no". Say "no". Get away from that stuff, because it's not helping the ultimate goal that you're trying to achieve and the inestimable value that can be found in a in a well-run, well-ordered--see what I did there?--well-ordered homeschool. So "yes"es and "no"s, folks. Very, very powerful.
Sean Allen You know I do this all the time, I intended to speak for about 10 minutes on this and it's telling me I've been on this for 30 minutes. So you get the point. You get the point. Take stock of your "yes"es and "no"s. What are you saying more of? Probably need to say more of the other. It's okay to say "no". It's okay to say "yes". We just want to make sure we're giving the right answers to the right questions. And also beware of a situation where the questions are no longer forthcoming. Beware of that. Be on the lookout for that. So, again, thank you for your time. And you know what? I can't see your all's faces. I don't know who you are. I know a few of you. I know a few of you out there listening. But if I could, I would just love to see each and every one of you, and I always want to speak blessing and hope and encouragement into your life because I'm so thankful for what you do. I know I say this too much, but I say it because I mean it. And so whoever you are, wherever you are out there, keep at it. Thank you for what you do. Keep up the good fight and I will look forward to talking to you again very soon.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschooling.mom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the Homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topic, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I'll be there. I hope to see you there too.