CALM is an acronym I came up with
some years ago when it was anything
but how I was feeling at the time.
It is my foremost hope that this website will be accessible and beneficial to all home educators. The explanation of how I came to devise this acronym cannot be shared honestly, however, without blatant talk of God, and my relationship with him. This is one of very few articles on this site which is particularly integrated with my spirituality. Please continue reading – I hope there are ideas explained which can benefit all.
I love acronyms, both for use in our home education, and in my everyday life. The reason I love them is that they can help me remember a string of much more complex information.
For example, when we had our huge mural of the solar system up on our now demolished wall, Hayley was struggling to remember the names of the planets in order. Together we came up with a silly sentence: “My Very Eager Mother Just Said, ‘Up Now! Paint!'” For Hayley, that was something her mother (me, back then, at least) was very likely to say, in somewhat dictatorial tones. The acronym was useful, and with its help we both came to be able to recall that the order of the planets is Mercury (closest to the sun), Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. (I should say that I still remember it, but Hayley has mostly forgotten due to lack of interest 😉 What she does remember is that around that time, Pluto was discredited as a planet.)
‘Calm’ is not something I felt a lot in the first few years of our home education journey, when we were attempting to follow a more schoolish model. There came a day when I felt like I might possibly explode and make a huge mess, or if I didn’t, I’d implode and all that would remain of me was a small, smouldering pile of ashes on the floor.
From that desperation, which had been developing over a long period, came this acronym for CALM. As I came to grips with the different elements of ‘CALM’, a whole new atmosphere descended on our home education experience – I was genuinely more peaceful, which meant that Hayley was too, and the whole experience became happier for the whole family.
As an aside … It was the understanding that unfolded along with the development of this acronym for CALM that allowed me to relax away from more rigid approaches to education and embrace approaches which better facilitate life learning.
The understanding of CALM came as the result of prolonged frustration, as I struggled to find resources that Hayley would willingly engage with. I already knew that a lot of the locking of horns that we encountered was due to my unrealistic expectations in many areas, and I was struggling to let go of many of my previously held rigid ideals that really do belong only on the pages of fiction books.
CALM, the acronym, was born over the course of several days, as I pursued thoughts and prayed through various notions that at the time seemed utterly bizarre.
If you are a christian, I trust that you will glimpse the God-process in my unfolding understanding. Click here, if you would like scriptural references and additional insights to support this text.
However your beliefs differ from mine, I trust that you will glean insight from the principles and the questioning process I share, and find a usable, practical insight that makes sense to you. With all my heart, I hope that you will feel, for yourself, more confident in effectively home educating your own precious child/children by the time you finish reading.
In brief, the acronym is as follows, with additional detail below. Some of these words have a particularly spiritual overtone, but they all have practical undertones, which I hope will make sense to everyone.
C – Called: I am Called to home educate my child
A – Anointed: I am Anointed for this purpose
L – Loved: I am Loved in this
M – More: I am More because of this
The truth is that many home educators find themselves in times of frustration, asking aloud, “Why am I doing this?” Our children aren’t always grateful, our spouses aren’t always supportive in the way we’d like them to be, our own interests are often sidelined, and it is a genuine question. Why am I doing this? I reached a point where I simply had to explore that question, or implode.
For me, in that particular cataclysm of frustration, I couldn’t find any valid answer. As I began to breathe through my desperation, however, I came to ask the question genuinely, rather than just as a cry of despair. The answer, when I found it, was profoundly resident in the depths of my being: I am called to this.
The word “called” can sound cheesily spiritual. For me, it certainly is spiritual, but it is a spirituality that has a substance to it. It is practical. I believe the word is applicable to anybody who finds the right connection between their innate (albeit often latent) abilities, the cry of their heart, and a context in which those can be released. We hear people from all walks of life, regardless of beliefs, saying that in a certain context, they have “found their calling”.
I have not unearthed any dictionary definition of the word ‘Calling’ that makes ultimate sense to me, so I will define it like this:
Calling: when the inner cry of the heart finds a context for expression.
My first response to realising that I was Called to home educate our daughter was to object. Loudly. I certainly didn’t feel like I had the aptitude to do any of it, especially in that moment. There was nothing about it that felt innate or natural! It felt like every single second of it was a struggle.
In my heart, I felt that if it was true that I was Called to home educate, then I was failing. It was a miserable experience (in that prolonged moment), and thus I was failing my child, my family unit, and even God himself. I could not have been a bigger failure if I tried.
Thankfully, my questioning didn’t stop there. I had acknowledged that I was Called to home educate. That much I couldn’t deny. I knew that I knew that I knew that it was the right thing for Hayley. Even though I had found an answer to my original question, I had not yet found the answer. Not entirely.
But, inept as I was (and felt with every nerve in my being), I had acknowledged one important truth:
I am Called to home educate my child.
I genuinely believe that home educators, regardless of beliefs, are called to this path. It’s far too individualistic to attempt without a deep conviction of some sort.
‘Anointed’ is a word used by christians, but it’s not one that’s necessarily easy to define with any degree of adequacy. You may hear of ‘the anointing’ – for many years the term puzzled me because even though I sought definition, it seemed elusive and intangible.
Traditionally, people may be familiar with the practice of anointing the sick with oil – churches still practice this. Very broadly, ‘the anointing’ (as different to the practice of anointing someone) is understood to be supernatural enablement. I had come to understand that the practice of anointing someone was about imbuing them with supernatural enablement.
While it was all very nice to understand those things, in my desperation, I needed something practical. Something conceptually tangible that I could take hold of and use.
My understanding was helped tremendously by a couple of word pictures that I still find incredibly helpful. They brought the knowledge I already had to life, in a way that made sense to me.
The Anointing is like:
- lubricant in an engine – it’s the grease that keeps things moving without friction
- oil in a frying pan, that stops food sticking while it’s cooking
The practicality is that I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to have answers all the time, and I especially don’t have to have them all immediately to hand.
It occurred to me that a lot of my stress came from thinking that I did have to have all the answers, all the time, and readily available on call. I felt like I had to be like ‘God’ to my child, in a sense. Huh!
Despite all I’d read about enjoying the journey of discovery with my child, I was still locked in a prison of unrealistic expectation – both of my child and of myself.
There is a principle, that if God has Called us to something, he has also Anointed us for that path. It means that he isn’t requiring us to walk the path alone – he walks it with us, and provides for us along the way. Even if you choose to ignore the spiritual aspect, the principle remains true.
Anointing: the ability beyond your human self, beyond what is resident within you, beyond what is already at your fingertips, to walk the path ahead.
There is genuinely great joy in exploring the possibilities (sometimes with your child or your partner, sometimes alone), and finding the solutions along the way.
It was a relief to realise that although God had asked me to do something that was beyond my current capabilities, he had not asked me to do it alone. I realised that somewhere deep inside, I had felt like he’d thrown me to the wolves, and I was being eaten alive. Nothing could have been further from the truth! As always, he was providing for me as I interacted with him about everything. There is also valuable help in the community of home educators, local and worldwide.
Practically speaking too, there are answers to be found. There is progress in asking, “What do I know about this situation?” “What don’t I know about this?” “Where can I find insight?” Oftentimes I suspect that we don’t gain additional insight because we don’t allow ourselves to question anything. If we weren’t willing to question anything, we wouldn’t be home educators, so why not question further still? With the internet at our fingertips, and hearts that are seeking solution, there is always more understanding that we can gain that can benefit both us and our children.
Even as those understandings about Calling and Anointing took shape in my heart, I still felt considerable disquiet. It took me some time to identify what it was.
It was good to acknowledge two truths in my heart, however:
I am Called to home educate my child,
which means that I am also Anointed for the task.
I believe that there is additional help available for all home educators, regardless of beliefs. We just have to stop thinking that we have to know it all or have it all together, and be willing to ask questions.
For quite some time I struggled with the knowledge that I was both Called and Anointed, but the ongoing disquiet of feeling that wasn’t yet enough knowledge to give me the freedom I yearned for.
As it happened, I had not long finished reading a book by Stasi Eldridge called “Captivating“. In it, Stasi conveys that as women, we long to be loved, and we spend a great deal of our time fearing that we will not be loved. We fear that we will void the love available to us in some way.
Somehow my ponderings unearthed that with all my discontent, in the midst of all my many fears, I did indeed fear that my failure to ‘succeed’ in my Calling would rob me of the Love I so keenly yearned for.
But what is Love? What was it I was fretting about?
Love is always: for the love of, in consideration of; for the sake of, the other person.
I had been so focused on ensuring that I was acting in Hayley’s best interests, or the best interests of my family, that my own little heart was feeling utterly neglected. It was crying out, “What about me?” and I was ignoring it. In that state of neglect, it had become afraid. In its state of fear, it had come to believe a lie. In believing a lie, my heart was causing me to want to control everything, and an attitude of Perfectionism will always lead to destruction.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this before, but for me, in an instant, came the realisation that what I had been believing and acting out of, was actually very far removed from what I knew to be the truth. The lie in my heart had been exposed.
Neither Brad nor Hayley were about to withdraw their love for me if I did throw up my hands in horror and declare that we weren’t home educating any more. Such a turn of events would indeed require major adjustment from all of us, but I would not cease to be loved because of it.
Beyond that, I had been ascribing to the author of pure love (God), whose love is truly unconditional, a humanistic, fallible love that was contradictory to his very being. Wow.
I had to not only require the best from myself, but also believe the best of those most treasured hearts in my world, trusting that their love was both unconditional and unshakeable. (One of the biggest dangers of Perfectionism is the hidden belief that unless I am the person doing, nothing will be done properly.)
As I realised that the Love in my life was genuinely not conditional on whether or not ‘I succeeded’ with home educating Hayley, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and my heart.
As an aside … In my struggles with health issues, fearing that I will lose the love of my family because of the difficulty of my situation is something I’ve faced many times, as I recognised what a hard path my husband and child were being forced to walk with me. As much as it takes adjustment, they are united with me in the attitude that “there is a way through this, and we’ll find it together”. Talking about hard things goes a long way to finding unity in a family, even in the most difficult of times.
After such a lengthy process, it was a surprise for me to realise that I wasn’t done yet. There was still a component of my disquiet that was yet to be explored.
What I did have, though, was significant:
If I am Called to this,
I am Anointed for this,
And I am Loved in this.
It’s really important to recognise that as parents, we will make mistakes. Just like you don’t stop loving your child when they make a mistake or ‘get something wrong’, your partner and child are likely to be forgiving with you if you ‘don’t get it right’ all the time with your child’s education. Love is bigger than that, and we’re all working life out on the way.
Ah, the things we find when we go scrabbling about in the depths of our own hearts. I suspect that the image we use for a heart, with the two smooth mountains at the top and the narrow pointy bit at the bottom is no accident. The mountains remind us that the journey we’re on is made smoother if we keep that tiny niche down the bottom clean. When we’re walking the walk, it’s easy to miss seeing the dregs of our lives that fall down into that tiny trap down there. But if we don’t keep that nook clean and clear, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by the mountain of dregs that develops, rather than awed by the view from the heights. None of us wants to live our lives wading through, or consumed by, the dregs!
Down in the furthermost recesses of my heart, I found Unmet Expectation.
Truthfully, I never expected to be “just a mum”, or a SAHM (stay at home mum), as online forums have coined. From my childhood, I had never expected that just raising my own children would give me a satisfied life. By the time Brad and I married, I could see the benefits for children who had a mum who was based at home, and over the course of many years, my willingness to be at home did adjust. We, as a family, weren’t doing anything that I didn’t want to do, or believe was the right thing for us as a family unit.
Thus, I was surprised to find part of my heart having something of a temper tantrum, stamping its little feet, shaking its little balled-up fists and yelling, “This isn’t what I expected!” with its little face as red as a beetroot.
It’s quite comical to observe a part of yourself from an almost external perspective and be shocked by what you see. It’s also very sobering, at least once your laughter has subsided.
I had expected to be a working mother, at least in some sense, and not just working at home, educating my child. There was something about that expectation, that despite the pragmatism of my adjusted attitudes and expectations over the years, was feeling denied. Hence the tantrum.
But what to do about it?
I’d read all the arguments about motherhood being so fulfilling, both scripturally based and otherwise. I’ve also read in Proverbs 31 about the so-called ideal woman, and there I see a woman who was not only in charge of running her household (with the help of servants) in an manner that was culturally relevant at the time, but a woman who also had business interests, and who was respected, and spoken well of by her entirely unthreatened husband.
Now, I have to say that my own husband, Brad, is also of the unthreatened variety. He has never seen that he is only proved great by my willingness to abide obediently under his thumb. (Never a place I saw myself being comfortable or happy, scripturally or otherwise, I must say.) He has always actively sought to provide release for my creativity, and the person God made me to be.
So, if my husband, my Calling, and even my God had no intention of keeping me under anybody’s thumb, or restricted in any way, what was my problem?
Again, the answer lay in my perception.
I have always been something of an Independent Miss all my life, and anybody who knows me well will laugh and say that I still am. Because independence isn’t a quality praised scripturally, I have strived to understand biblical submission, which some portray as being the converse of independence.
Over time, I have come to recognise that yielding my independence does not mean the severing of my brain, the denial of my preferences, or the extrication of my own considerable will. Being comfortable with submission does not mean denying all that I am – it simply means yielding it to God, who loves me and made me with purpose. God was rather particular in how he made me, and as I work with him, I learn more about that and am released more into that. Yes, there is the ‘dying to self’ factor, but …
Experience tells me that without the death there is no resurrection. And with the resurrection comes a bigger life, and More for me to do and enjoy.
And there at last, we come to the More in my acronym.
More: greater in quantity, amount, measure, number, extent or degree.
In my fears, I had come to believe that by staying at home, I was allowing myself to be less in some way. Because of all that unexposed muck down the bottom of my heart, that was probably entirely true, I have to say, but it was never supposed to be like that.
The truth is, that as I deal with the issues of my heart so that I am doing what I believe is right, with my will engaged, my heart finding joy in the realities of my days, and my mind enthralled with all there is to learn, I am not less, I am More. As I discover and genuinely enjoy who my child is, and learn to love exploring life with them, I am truly enriched.
I am not a lesser person because we have chosen to educate our child at home, or because I am the one who is hands-on facilitating her learning. I am not devalued by not being a financially-rewarded member of society – my rewards come in other forms. I am not less, I am More – because of this.
Yes, it takes sacrifice. Yes, it requires things from me that I never knew I had in me. Any good parenting does those things. It’s just that I have more opportunities in that area than perhaps some parents do, but as I work with that, my life is genuinely enriched and my world is truly enlarged.
And so, in the course of time, my distress found genuine resolution. It wasn’t in the changing of my child’s attitudes or behaviour, although that followed as a natural by-product. It came as I faced the truth about some of my own attitudes and beliefs, allowed them to be challenged, and came to terms with my enhanced understanding.
I am Called to this,
I am Anointed for this,
I am Loved in this,
And I am More because of this.
Our value doesn’t come from our ability to contribute to our family’s financial needs, or be rewarded financially for our efforts. I really consider that as home educators, especially in today’s society, we must learn to see the true, non-monetary value in what we do, and derive our own sense of self-worth from being the best we can be as a person. As home educators, we aim to contribute whole human beings who are wholesome, intelligent, considerate, skillful, etc., to society – both ourselves and our children. That is valuable.
Perhaps your big question now is, am I calm all the time now?
Life still goes on, family members still disagree with me (who could imagine such a thing?!), things still have to be worked through. But I do often still contemplate the practicalities of the things I learned about being CALM.
The reason I’m doing this is bigger than me.
The answers for the questions that arise can be found.
I am treasured for reasons beyond the actions of the day.
My value is established, and not relevant to society’s expectations.
Those are the interpretations of today, but tomorrow they may find a different expression. Other words or ideas might spring forth to remind me of those truths about my Call, Anointing, state of Love and expansion into More. But, however I express it in the moment, I can always afford to be CALM with home education because it isn’t all resting on me, and my fears have been resolved.
As I have become comfortable with the understandings associated with CALM, there have been amazing benefits to our home education and my life, including:
- we moved right away from rigid structure and adopted a more natural approach which was of benefit to the whole family (appropriate to us)
- if we reach a crisis point, we all stop, assess, discuss, re-evaluate and agree on a next step – relationship comes first
- Hayley has learned to ‘follow her fascinations’, having learned a lot about herself, how she learns and what will motivate her
- Brad is able to contribute to Hayley’s education in a great many ways, without it having to ‘fit’ any rigid structure or expectation
- I have found far greater freedom and time to do the things I love, without it being ‘at someone else’s expense’
If your basis for activity is fear, things will go awry. You’ll find yourself trying to manipulate circumstances and people, rather than allowing for their free will, or affording them time to reach their own conclusions.
I’ve chosen to be utterly candid in this article, exposing my private processes, not to preach to anyone, but to lay open the struggles that so many of us face, and how I, just one individual, have worked through something important in our home education journey.
Reaching your own place of calm will involve realisations of your own, that may or may not bear any similarities with those I’ve shared here.
On the days when you feel challenged,
… may you have the courage and honesty to examine until you find your freedom.
On the days when you feel release,
… may you know the freedom to leave the duties behind and explore throughout the joy.
But when women are moved and lend help,
when women, who are by nature calm and controlled,
give encouragement and applause,
when virtuous and knowledgeable women
grace the endeavour with their sweet love,
then it is invincible.
~ Jose Marti