Take a Moment for the Big Picture

Look at this photo of my children. Let me tell you why I love it:

I mean, obviously, it's quite an awesome picture just anyway, and you've probably guessed that it was photoshopped, but there are some quite subtle things in here that I think can help us all to think about our homeschooled children and what we plan to do with them and for them.

First of all, this is the final product. This is the part that people see. What's not visible is the time, months earlier, my children traipsed across our neighbor's yard in their swimsuits and parkas to his garage, and individually, stood in front of a green screen for photo after photo after photo.

The other thing that's behind the scenes is the digital magic done by the photographer. Not only did he have to look through all the green screen photos, but he had to choose those that would mesh together, checking lighting, positioning, clothing, goggles off or on, to make this unified whole.

The adjustments can be quite subtle. For example, do you see how the two older children align with each other? This is photo magic, because in reality, my daughter on the left is 5'5" and my son on the left is 5'10". The photographer had to shrink my son, making him smaller than he is in reality for the overall effect to work.

So what does all this have to do with you and homeschooling?

I'm drawing a kind of analogy here.

The final picture of where we want our kids to end up will come at a price of time, of adjustment, of aligning, and treating each as an individual.

I encourage you right now, this week or whenever you read this, to stop a moment and see your big picture in your mind's eye, and then focus down on each of your children for what you are going to put into the goals for him or her.

How can you "redeem the time", that is, make the time you have with them worthwhile? As they get older, this becomes a complicated dance of push/pull, catch and release, stay here and go away.

What does one child need to succeed, and how does that differ from the other one? Do you have to make adjustments where you draw one in closer for a while, or where you plot a different path?

For example, I have just launched my eldest to university which is over 2000 miles away, but my next child, the 16-year-old boy, is less certain about where he's going in his future. This makes us less laser-focused than we were with her, so we are taking a broadening track with him and reassuring him if his college career leads him closer to home, perhaps even commuting from home, then that's the right choice for him.  The next child after him is probably bound for college swimming scholarships, so we have yet another trajectory for her.

Plotting the waymarkers for each child's future is something to think about time and again during the year, but I'm also a big believer in keeping the family unit of one mind as well.

This doesn't mean forcing a child to be a carbon copy of the others. On the other hand, it's simply not possible to allow all activities, sports, co-ops, courses, opportunities under the sun, whether it be time or money or scheduling, so I think there's a bigger, corporate-family picture to also keep in view.

For example, we are a swimming family, something we fell into sort of accidentally in the UK when the children were younger. One of my children wanted to do golf at one point, so one parent went to the pool with some kids while the other went to the golf course with the other, but ultimately, he wasn't improving with only an hour a week, and we couldn't fit in or afford further practice, so it became logistically impossible to continue.

Our family goal was to have our children in sport of some kind, and swimming satisfied this goal for all of them and fit into our ability to provide for it. Do I feel bad that maybe I prevented the rise of the next Nick Faldo? Of course I do! I mean, you may have a child who's got potential as a gold medal downhill skiier, but if you are in South Texas, it's just one of those things that time, circumstance, money, or opportunity prevent from happening.

You know you can't do everything!

It would be like our photographer who composed the swimming photo - he sifted through all the photos and found, not just the best ones of each child, but the best ones that fit together.

Of course, life isn't exactly like photoshopping, but I hope you get the gist of what I mean - the big picture, the components of the big picture, and the many steps and time it takes to get there, are all bound up together, not just in this photo, but in the life of a homeschooling family as well.

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