Living a minimalist life as a family – and why that is something worth considering

This is a very special day for me because I want to share some ideas with you  that I’m very excited about: Minimalism.

Have you heard about Minimalism?

In case you haven’t I’m more than glad to give you a short introduction. Minimalism is a highly idealistic philosophy and a way of life that focuses on living a kind of essentialistic life.

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I know, that is very theoretical and I’m going to show what it means to live a minimalist life in practice and why that might be something worth considering in just a minute. But first I want to tell you why minimalism sparks me so much and why I think it is a deeply Christian way of living.

Do you know the saying “less is more”? I guess you do and if you do you also know Minimalism – because that is what minimalism is all about: owning less, consuming less, polluting less, harming less. Minimalism is all about focusing on what really matters and not getting bogged down in details.

So what does really matter to you?

Growing into a Minimalist lifestyle actually requires two things in the first place: Finding our what really matters and reducing things. Minimalists often refer to the “5 R’s”:

  • refuse
  • reduce
  • reuse (+repair)
  • recycle
  • rot

Those are actually not only the 5 R’s of Minimalism but also the principles of Zero Waste – but I will come to that later. So what am I trying to tell you here?

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We often get bogged down in details – simply because we own too much, we consume too much and we want too much. We kind of lose track of what really matters, what really is important and essential because we are so distracted. Other than that we cause pollution and harm others with these kinds of lifestyle choices.

Do you remember what Jesus says in Matthew 6?

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

~ Matthew 6:24

This is Minimalism. Consumerism doesn’t only cause pollution and harm other people due to awful labor conditions in many countries – it also distracts us from what really matters: God and his message to us – the Good News.

Minimalism can do so much for us, for our neighbors and the entire planet. It can help us grow as a person, it can help us grow in faith, compassion, responsibility and love and it can help cure the planet.

I’m very excited about these ideas and how Minimalism can look like in practice. So be prepared for a whole bunch of articles about Minimalism and its benefits! How do you feel about that?

Why idealism and perfectionism are just not the same

Just last week I told you about my idealistic values and how that affects my life and the life of the people around me. This week I want to talk about perfectionism. And I want you to understand something very important: Idealism is not perfectionism!

Being idealistic means to stick to a certain value orientation, to believe in certain values and to be willing to always learn and become better at things. It’s actually an optimistic worldview – and it’s really not about being perfect. It’s just about getting better and better.

Perfectionism means to always strive for the best result possible. And that’s basically all, it’s not about learning and growing – it’s just about never being good enough, because no one of us is perfect. Perfectionism is a very pessimistic worldview.

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Do you know perfectionists?

I do. Almost every mother I know is to some extent a perfectionist. Moms tend to always feel they could do more and what they are doing is just not good enough. So many Moms always feel bad because of that. And that’s horrible.

So what is my goal with this article?

Actually I want to encourage you and tell you that you perform a whole lot better than you might think. You can’t do it all. I can’t do it all – nobody can. And that’s OK, you know? Just think about it: Do your children really mind when the house is messy? Do they mind eating pasta for the third day in a row? They don’t.

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And you shouldn’t either, because taking care of your kids is the most important thing you do. And as long as they are happy with you – no matter how imperfect you are – you’re doing a pretty good job.

So what am I doing here?

I’m striking a blow for imperfectionism. Be imperfect! You are imperfect anyway, so let’s celebrate it.

Idealism and parenting

I’ve always been an idealist. I’ve always been called a do-gooder and a goody two-shoes. And you know what? I agree.

I think being idealistic is a wonderful virtue. And I think there is a dramatic lack of idealism in our society. Being idealistic doesn’t mean to be naive. I know my ideals will never come true – but that doesn’t stop me from striving for them.

The way is the goal – remember?

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When I first became a mother people laughed at me because of my idealistic parenting values. But I still stick to them. I know I will never be a perfect mother, or a perfect wife or a perfect Catholic – that’s not the point. The point is that I’m confident that I will learn and grow so much along the way that I will benefit from that. More than that: Others will benefit from my ideals, too.

I am pretty confident that my children will not only benefit but also learn from my idealism. I strive to teach them that it’s a good thing to treat others well, to act responsibly, to be eco-conscious and to honor God. I want to teach them that it is worth striving for ideals.

How do you feel about idealism?

Setting limits as an Attachment Parenting family

Sometimes we get asked whether we do set limits at all as an Attachment Parenting family. Some people seem to believe that being responsive to your children’s needs and treating them respectfully would require to just let them do anything they want.

But that’s not need-oriented, that is permissive. Attachment Parenting is all about love, care, respect, freedom and communication – but it is not a permissive parenting style. To the contrary, Attachment Parenting is an authoritative parenting style.

Parents who want to raise their children in this way do discipline their children but in a gentle way – and they do set limits.

The question is not if Attachment Parenting families set limits but which limits they set – and how.

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Attachment parenting is a highly communicative parenting style. As parents we communicate our own needs, we respond to our children’s needs, we communicate the needs that we have as a family and we also communicate the needs other people have. We also talk about our values concerning faith, manners, ecological awareness, humility, generosity and so many other things that are important to us.

And that is also the way we set limits, we talk about what’s right and wrong in our family and how we can do things better. Setting limits doesn’t mean to force your children to do certain things or to behave in a certain way, it’s not about punishing misconduct or conditioning our children’s behavior. Setting limits in an attachment parenting way means to communicate and to ask our children to do or not to do certain things.

This is a beautiful way of growing together as a family in love and respect and yes, it does work. Sometimes it works better, sometimes it doesn’t work at all – like all things. Give it a try!

Why I consider Unschooling as deeply Christian

Just last week I pointed out what Unschooling is all about. This week I want to discuss why I consider unschooling as deeply Christian.

Yes, that’s right, I think unschooling is a Christian thing to do!

How is that? you might ask.

Well, let me point that out to you: As parents we are rewarded with the most precious gift you can get – our children. They are given to us by God – and they are given to us in trust. They are created in the image of God, not in our own image or in the image of society or culture.

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Our children are not unfinished beings who have to be shaped and finished by us in order to fit in. They are little persons who we are fortunate to get to know and who we can learn from. They will also learn from us and they will be shaped by us just as we will be shaped by them – but that’s not the point. The point is we can learn learn together, grow together, draw closer to God together.

So what’s our job as parents, really? Do we have to shape them – for society, workplace, culture? God? Or will it suffice to model our values to them? Will God do the rest? Do we trust him enough to let him do the rest?

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying every Christian family has to unschool their children. And I’m also most definitely not promoting any kind of permissive parenting style!

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All I’m saying is that God gave us our children in trust – so we should trust our children and trust God and model that trust in our families. A beautiful way to do that is a need-oriented unschooling parenting style. It’s not the only possible way and it’s not the answer to all questions but it’s a great path you can choose for your family in order to honor God’s trust in you as parents.

 

A Weekendin Pictures – May 21st/22nd 2016

This was one hot spring weekend – and although we usually don’t enjoy heat that much we had a great time as a family. We enjoyed having family and friends over for a time full of laughter, good food, good talks and playground time.

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In our family we have a tradition that is very dear to us: Our guest book. Every guest that we have who spends at least one night at our house gets to write something fun, wise or subtle into our book. Some of our guests prefer to draw something, which is also nice.

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Nap time can be hard, though, in a family with two kids who hate hot weather. I doubt that anyone will ever fully understand how thankful I am for my book of hymns in these moments. It is definitely the greatest thing that keeps me calm while singing my children to sleep – for hours if necessary…

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Books really are important to us. So you won’t be surprised to hear that my toddler gets very excited when I’m studying my bible, right?

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Anyway, we spent a lot of time outside on the playground which was neat as always – especially since we all love being barefoot…

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… and getting some rest.

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Other than that I can’t spare you my blossoms pictures – you know how much I love them…

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How was your weekend?

What is Unschooling after all?

I think most of us have heard about unschooling. In case you haven’t: Unschooling is a certain concept of homeschooling that focuses on natural or life learning. Unschooled children are allowed to learn self-determined and self-regulated. That sounds interesting, right?

But what does that mean in practice?

And more importantly for a family with very young children: When and how does unschooling start?

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Unschooling starts when your child is born, maybe even before he is born. Natural learning just happens because your child is eager to learn. Children are never not learning. And they do learn a lot, don’t they?

In his first years a child learns to sit, to walk, to speak and to do so many other things – without really being taught. You don’t teach your child how to walk, learning to walk is a natural learning process. Unschoolers think that basically everything you learn can be learned in such a natural learning process. Children have their own learning goals – and they pursue them. If we let them.

Children are intrinsically motivated to explore the world and to learn so many things – basically everything they really need to. We as parents, however, have to learn to trust them in what they are doing. That’s what unschooling is all about.

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You don’t really start unschooling. Unschooling is a process that comes naturally as soon as your child is born – maybe even before birth. The question is if you stop that natural learning process one day to school your child – or not.

There are different unschooling approaches. Some parents do use classical learning materials in a sort of “prepared environment”. That means they hardly regulate their children’s learning processes, but they do offer learning materials and a prepared learning environment in order to take stock of their children’s state of knowledge. And sometimes they even seek to inspire their children to deal with domains they don’t love too much.

Radical unschooling, however, doesn’t instruct or regulate at all. There is no prepared environment or school materials unless the children utterly demand them.

How do you feel about unschooling?