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Kathy Eggers & Lesli Richards
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We are excited to introduce to you a new column with Kathy Eggers and Lesli Richards of The Homegrown Preschooler. We think you will be inspired by their wisdom and encouraged by their passion.

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I am Kathy Eggers, and I am honored to be part of the Homeschooling Today team as a contributor to the new column, Cultivating Little Learners. I have been in the field of early childhood and homeschooling for over thirty years. I am the mom of ten children, ranging in age from fourteen to thirty-six. Our family has grown to include three grandchildren, with number four on the way. We have been teaching our children at home since the very beginning, and each year has looked a little different. I only have a few years left on this journey; some days I can’t believe we have made it this far.

As a child development specialist, young children have been my passion for as long as I can remember. At my core, I believe that the early years should be full of play and concrete experiences. When given the chance to discover and experience the world first hand, wonder grows in a child and provides them with a foundation for abstract thinking as they mature. I have had the privilege of witnessing this professionally and personally. Children who are encouraged to play and figure things out for themselves in the early years are more willing to take risks and problem solve as they become adults. As Mr. Rogers so eloquently put it, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”

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I am Lesli Richards, co-author of The Homegrown Preschooler and A Year of Playing Skillfully, and co-host of the Playing Skillfully podcast. I have had the pleasure to teach my five children at home for the past eighteen years. I have been married to my husband Brendan for twenty-six years, and we live in beautiful North Georgia. I have always loved children and dreamed of having a large, happy family. My oldest son has autism, and had to be taught to play, which sparked my interest in how children learn. I believe that children learn best through play and exploration and love researching and presenting my findings to parents in a way that is practical and easy to implement. There is so much to discover about how God has wired kids to learn, and it is so exciting to have this new forum to interact with homeschool families and encourage the play lives of children all over the world.

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Embarking on the Adventure with Boldness typography
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Webster’s 1913 Dictionary: Pronunciation: bōld.
a. 1. Forward to meet danger; venturesome; daring; not timorous or shrinking from risk; brave; courageous.
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If we were to describe our parenting journey over the last twenty years or so, the word “adventure” is one of the first things to come to mind. We all started out with certain ideas of how we would parent our imaginary children when they arrived. The real flesh and blood children were quite a wakeup call! Those first few years of parenting are filled with sleepless nights, worry, and an abundance of Google searches. Before children, dining at a restaurant meant hot food, delightful conversation, and a condescending smile at the inevitable screaming or misbehaving child. You knew with confidence that your future children would never behave like that! Fast forward to those early parenting years and you find yourself a mother attempting to eat a few bites while trying to head off a meltdown at the table! You realize that maybe you didn’t know as much as you thought you did and may even be questioning your decision to become a parent in the first place. Oh my, parenting is not for the faint of heart!

So many choices and decisions have to be made for our children and about our children on a daily basis. Do we breastfeed or bottle feed? Are they talking enough? Walking early enough? The list goes on. What if we mess up? How do we handle this parenting gig with confidence and boldness, when we are constantly being confronted with how much we really do not know?

We do our best to prepare ourselves by reading books and talking to other parents, but this preparation is often one-dimensional, and it is nothing like experiencing our own children when they come. So many variables are added to the equation! Our children have their own individual personalities that sometimes clash with our agendas. Everyday struggles like flat tires, strep throat, and tight family budgets can wear on us.

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Thankfully, we serve a bold God, who wrote us a whole book on how to live out this adventure. He tells us to stick close to Him and ask for wisdom. It is a wild ride, but He has our backs. He wants us to lean into Him. We think you need to look at parenting and educating your child as a wonder-filled journey of exploration.

God is glorified when we take the time to notice the details. You are going to find days filled with untold beauty. There will be memories along the way that will sustain you through the times that will break your heart. You will learn new things about yourself and your child every single day. You will be constantly surprised by interruptions and obstacles, great and small. There may be terrifying twists and turns. You will be tired. You will want to quit some days, but the next day, you will boldly begin again.

Slaying the Beasts

Looking back at our adventures in parenting, we would like to warn you about a few of the beasts you might meet on your journey and give you some words to defeat them.

For many of us, Comparison is the first beast to show its face. Often when we ask our friends how their child is sleeping, we really want to know that our sleepless child is okay. When we notice the language skills of another toddler, we are quick to determine that our child is either gifted or in need of speech therapy. There will always be that one child who sleeps through the night right out of the womb, the one that is potty trained at a year, the one who is reading while your little darling is only interested in teething on the magnetic letters. These comparisons can be exhausting and can cause you to question yourself. Parenting with boldness means to observe your child and encourage individual progress. Every child is unique and develops at a different pace, both physically and cognitively.

“Parenting with boldness means to observe your child and encourage individual progress.”

Speaking of the comparison trap, we must mention that the comparison doesn’t end with comparing our children. Another powerful enemy of boldness is the way we compare ourselves to other moms and dads, their homes, and their online photos. This is playing with fire. Our hearts are not built to be burned by the fake perfection that is dished up with our morning coffee. This is not reality. Most of us are doing the best we can and what “mom influencers” do not understand is that by putting their best on social media they just might be causing you to feel your worst. Be bold enough to look at those pictures for what they are: someone’s posed moment. You are a real person with unique strengths and weaknesses. All parents are good at something, but no parent is good at everything. So when you face this beast of comparison, look him in the eye and declare “I am the mother wisely chosen for my child who is fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Another noisy beast you will encounter on your journey goes by the name of Google. It is an interesting time to be a parent when so many facts and opinions can be at our fingertips in seconds. It’s truly shocking how many opinions and acrid disagreements you can find on diapering alone! Maybe you researched bottle feeding or breastfeeding? Did you check the facts about homeschooling and socialization? The internet can be a dark rabbit hole and can leave you full of self-doubt and despair. It can paralyze you and keep you from arriving at the simplest and best solution for your family. We have found that it takes boldness to resist the urge to search. We both have had children with medical emergencies and chronic illness, and the only thing that saved us from emotionally spiraling out of control was limiting our online information consumption. Tell that beastly Google, “Thank you very much, but I am well equipped. I am the expert on my child. I am the best (insert child’s name) expert out there.”

The last enemy of boldness we want to mention is a sneaky one we will call The Well-Meaning Naysayer. Homeschooling seems to especially attract this species. You and your husband have spent much consideration on decisions that are best for your family and your children. Sadly, not everyone will agree with those decisions. You will hear opinions of how others did it and how their way worked better than your way. You will be given lectures and books, and you will be sent websites with research. Most of these people in your life are well-meaning and love your children. However, it takes boldness to recognize they are not the parents of your children. You were given your children, and you know the intimate details for their development, their personalities, and their makeup. Tell the naysayer, “Thank you so much for caring about our children. What you have to say is very interesting.” And leave it at that.

Companions for the Journey

We suggest you find a few like-minded moms and dads that you can trust sharing the joys and struggles of this journey. Their wise counsel will often be the thing you need to calm your anxious heart.

A seasoned mentor is a valuable asset. Think about the parents you admire. Be bold enough to reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to fill that role in your life. We know many empty-nester moms and dads that would be honored to mentor younger parents.

Find your favorite down-to-earth experts that focus on the areas that you need the most support. The homeschooling and parenting community is filled with amazing real people who want to problem solve with you, rather than showcase their own perfection. Visit a conference or two, and you will find your people.

Fortify Yourself for the Adventure
Find a few verses and quotes that remind you of why you are on this journey, and post them in a prominent place, such as your bathroom mirror, to refocus yourself on low days. Inhale truth, and exhale lies and worries.

Honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Find resources for the areas in which you struggle. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask your friends or mentor.

Journal regularly about your experiences. Most mothers journal all about their children, but they often forget their own hopes and dreams. We would encourage you to continue pursuing some of those dreams as you grow your family. Challenge yourself with the downloadable journaling prompts found here to develop the habit of looking within.

Slay the beasts. Find your companions. Fortify yourself. Be bold for the adventure God has called you to live.