Thursday, February 15, 2007


Life would be pretty dull if all our personalities were the same. Deb and I have commented on that many times. If we were like each other, we would probably drive each other nuts. As it turns out, the differences in our personalities add spice to our family. Many of those differences complement each other. It's the way God designed us. Opposites attract, and that's a good thing.

Personality differences can also be a source of strife. Statistics abound on the number of marriages split apart because of differences in how finances are handled, how each side communicates, and where the toothpaste tube gets squished, to name a few examples. Part of being married is discovering how to manage those differences.

In twenty-plus years of marriage, I have learned a lot about my better half. I have learned especially (and I am still learning) that God designed her to be her and not a carbon copy of me. It would be so much easier during a discussion or disagreement if she would just change her views and see things my way. After all, that's the right way ... right? But it doesn't work that way. She is who she is for a reason, and part of my job as a husband is discovering what that reason is, if she doesn't just come right out and tell me.

Deb is the linear-thinking worrier of the family. She is always thinking of contingencies and worst-case scenarios for every situation. If there are no contingencies or worst-case scenarios, she will invent one. If one of the boys climbs a tree, she is already planning the trip to the hospital, holding a child with every bone in his body broken. I am the random-thinking free-spirit of the family. I am always thinking of ... whatever. If I wasn't in the tree with my son, I would be pointing out which limbs could be used as good hand holds.

Now throw a couple kids into this personality mix. Stir well, then let stand. The result can be highly entertaining. The two kids that we have are definitely a blend of our personalities, but blended together in ways that can be surprising but are definitely unique.

Deb and Josh share the linear-thinking, task-oriented, driven personality. This similarity has prompted Deb to state many times in earlier years, "I could NEVER teach my own son. We're too much alike. We would drive each other crazy!" Now that we're homeschooling him, to some extent, that's true. Things are working, though. We're just learning what lines to draw and where. Deb doesn't teach math. We have a self-directed curriculum and I handle any questions or problems he may have.

Josh inherited my fascination with all things technical as well as my tendency to drift off topic if there's something more interesting to be explored. The latest issue of Popular Science is usually way more captivating than geometry or American Government.

One of the blessings of home schooling is the opportunity to celebrate and encourage those personality differences, and not to suppress them. Josh, when he is on task, excels at diving into the task and working steadily at it. David is more relationship-oriented and would rather spend time bantering with someone. And so the approach to teaching each of them is also going to be different and we as parents have to take this into account.

When helping out with their math, for example, I will naturally fall into a more logical explanation with Josh. If A then B then C. That's the way he is wired. Whether it's working through an algebra equation or a geometry proof, the logical progression works best. When we arrive at the logical conclusion, then he gets it and is good with it.

With David, the logic is still there, since math is inherently logical, but we will do things in a more back and forth, bantering manner. Story problems are especially good bait for this. They are usually some artificially contrived scenario with little basis in reality. The fun comes in exposing how ridiculous they really are while still benefiting from the underlying math practice. Who cares if Susan goes twice as fast as Jane in the opposite direction. One of them is going the wrong way.

Although much of the subject matter is the same, allowing the kids to express themselves in different ways when studying has helped keep their interest. Josh enjoys doing his reading and studying in the big easy chair by the window, David will be on the floor or at the kitchen table. We have figured out that some subjects work better in the morning, and Fridays are good for field trips and volunteering. David likes manipulatives. A wad of Silly Putty accompanies most lessons, or he will attempt to juggle several apples from the fridge while talking to Deb in the kitchen about his work. Josh complains about the bruises on the apples as a result of this juggling practice.

Other families may do things quite differently than ours, because the mix of personalities is different, but we do enjoy the flexibility of tailoring our schooling and our days around our personalities rather than the other way around.

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