Growth and Potential

Karen James wrote it, but I named it (← Sandra)

I found a seven-year-old comment by Karen on an old Just Add Light post, quoted it on my intro page of her, and announced that on Facebook. Karen responded and it's worth saving, too. What preceded that: (and I've added some italics):
"The more I live this unschooling life with my son, the more I realize what was taken from me as a child and young adult. I don't mean that in an I feel sorry for myself kind of way, just in an I can finally be myself kind of way. Seeing and feeling that change in myself helps me look more directly at my son. And, what I see inspires me. I am inspired by Ethan's potential, interests and sweetness. I'm excited about uncovering mine again."

Karen James wrote that in January 2012, and I found it just now. I've put it in my collection. http://sandradodd.com/karenjames

There's a link there to where it was originally written. Very sweet. I didn't know her, yet, well enough to know that when she wrote "Wow" she meant it in a good way. :-)

Karen James, thank you for sharing your thoughts for the past seven years and some, where other parents can share the updraft.


Two responses before Karen wrote:
Jenny Cyphers:   She inspires me almost daily with her art, so I think it worked, her plan to uncover her potential, interests, and sweetness.

Janine Davies:   That's just so beautiful and profound, and true. Thank you Karen, for sharing your always beautiful, heartfelt and inspiring thoughts and ideas with us


Two days later, Karen James:
I've been reflecting on the idea of potential these past couple of days since I saw this lovely post. I think, six years ago, I was thinking of the potential to be anything. Now, six years later, as I watch my son navigate his teen years, and as I come to understand him and myself better, I think the potential to be comfortable enough in one's own skin, to be fully and unapologetically oneself, is what is so great.

Ethan came to me a little while ago, feeling insecure. He asked me if I could help him with something. That something was getting back to being okay with himself. For reasons I'm not sure, he was comparing himself to others, saying he wasn't as good at this and that, and generally feeling down. Mostly, at first, I listened. When I felt it was okay to do so, I reminded him of the things he was good at. I told him the teen years are awkward for almost everyone. Our appearance changes. Our interests change. Our understanding of the world around us deepens and changes. Everything is changing. In all those changes, it can be hard to hold on to who you are. Add to that outside pressures to Be something, and it can all feel kind of overwhelming. He said, "You might be right." ;-)

We talked about an hour in the wee hours of the morning. I showed him pictures from over the years, reminding him of all the experiences he's had, the people he's known, the places he's been. He'd just turned sixteen. He told me that although nothing had changed in *him* it felt like everything *should* be somehow different--that suddenly he should be thinking about things in a different way, planning for something, but he didn't know what.

I told him that one of the things I've learned all these years we've been unschooling is that curiosity and interest and drive are enough to feed the meaningful learning that moves a person toward his/her goals. That's the easy part. That's our human nature. The tricky part is to hold on to and believe in who you are (what interests you, what motivates you, what makes you want to learn and experience more) and appreciate the value you have to bring to this crazy mix of people that make up the world around us. It can be simple or it can be profound. What it *is* doesn't much matter. What it does for *you* and how it feeds your spirit and your sense of self-worth matters a lot. The potential isn't in what we do, but in how we feel about ourselves and what we choose to spend our time on.

My husband is a professor. He's taught at Carnegie Melon University, Cornell University, and now he's at Stanford. Every year, a couple/few times a year I join him for faculty gatherings. These are people who have achieved a lot. Most couples are dual professors or, at least, dual professionals. Most kids are in school, getting great grades, doing big things. I often have felt ridiculously inferior in their midst.

I'm a very humble artist who makes weird things. I'm a homemaker. I'm a homeschool parent. I'm a wife. I'm a mother. I'm a person who likes to go for walks and find little treasures in the dried weeds or celebrate the way the sun shines on a blade of grass. While I can't boast (I don't mean that in a facetious way) the accomplishments of my husband or his peers, I'm still uniquely me. Being me is more wonderfully rich in potential than I ever realized. I didn't appreciate that at all until I watched my son for years be uniquely himself.

I hope to help Ethan hold on to the potential that is being Ethan. What he decides to do with whatever skills he chooses to focus on and develop is of little consequence to me. That he can feel good about himself and all he has to offer matters most to me. That's what has been challenging for me to get back, but I am getting there (most days! ;-) ). Unschooling my boy (now a young man!) has helped me get there, and that's been a pretty cool, unexpected, and deeply rewarding experience.

Original, December 13, 2018, on Radical Unschooling Info

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