Playing to our Strengths
On Wednesdays this spring, I’m teaching the ladies at my church about personalities. It can be freeing, motivating, comforting, and challenging to learn how I am designed to reflect a particular splinter of God’s image—and so is each person in my life. Understanding personalities can be a huge way for me to both receive and give grace. This plays out especially powerfully in my mothering.
It was interesting for me to hear recently that the particularly rare Myers-Brigg type I have is three times more common in homeschool moms than in the general population (INTJ). We are in some areas better equipped to lead a group of students than most but are also less likely to go on field trips and use co-ops (how did they know me so well?!!). As with all strengths, mine has a corresponding weakness; it is good for me to be aware of it so my kids don’t end up understanding apologetics but being unfamiliar with the resources and experiences in our neighborhood.
Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses as the mom/teacher is freeing for me. I can delight in and excel at my strengths while consciously choosing to incorporate enough of the important but difficult areas I struggle with for my children’s sake. For me, this means when I get back from an outing, I’ll know why it takes me days to feel like a whole person and get the house back into some semblance of order. Best of all, I won’t be so tempted to feel guilty or inadequate!
The most fun and challenging of all is learning to better understand my kids. I have a lot in common with three of my seven children but each in different ways. Not a one of them is a clone of their mom or dad. They all bring a unique set of aptitudes and limitations to the table. I have become an avid student of their personalities so I can do my best inspiring, encouraging, and prodding them to be all they can be.
Here’s an example of how this works in my family. I excel at communication and felt called to share my gift with both my family and the wider community through a podcast I host with my children. It takes both clear speech and also a certain amount of technical knowhow. These are skills I want to pass on to my children. My oldest daughter is naturally gifted in speaking and has a keen imagination. So, I’ve assigned her to develop her own podcast with myself as her coach and mentor.
BTW I can be your family’s coach if you take the course on Schoolhouse Teachers Podcasting to Change the World.
My second son is a quiet, hands-on boy far more comfortable in front of the stove than a microphone. I am not going to require him to add his own podcast to his high school transcript. It would be torture for us both and not likely to help him achieve the purpose God designed him to fulfill. I probably will assign him to learn the tech side of things when the time comes, though.
I’ve had times when I either accelerated the pace of learning for one of my students or slowed things down based on both their mental readiness and whether that particular skill was likely to be important to their overarching purpose in Christ’s kingdom.
There are some things we all need to be passable at. Even my quiet sons need to be able to express themselves for their own emotional health, personal relationships, and ability to share the Gospel. The least mathematical of us still needs to balance a checkbook. We all need to know how to find whatever information or resources required for our long-term growth.
But homeschooling provides my kids with a special opportunity to target their strengths and prepare them to shine. All of us are happier when each student is free to focus extra attention on things that bring them delight and fulfill their purpose.
This is also something I intentionally share to help my children understand each other. They more than anyone else see the flip side of the coin for the rest. I often remind them that the thing driving them nuts about their sibling is going to be the very thing that makes them the most amazing as they learn to harness it.
For example, one of my sons is constantly wanting to hoard stuff. He has a “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is mine,” kind of mindset far beyond toddler age. But I know that is the fleshly side of the gift of giving he has. Fairly often, I will actively picture a bright future when this brother is helping all of us invest and steward our finances in a way far beyond the abilities of anyone else in the family. We will all be blessed because of his “annoying” personality as he brings it under Jesus’ control.
We are to train up our children in the way “they should go.” I rejoice to watch as God shows me more and more which ways He has designed each of my children to go. It will be a miracle to watch what happens as potentials become realities!
Cheri Fields is a 2nd generation homeschooler involved in learning and teaching at home since 1982. She currently teaches her seven kids in Michigan and has found ways to include them in the online ministry God has called her to, particularly as cohosts for their family’s podcast. You can find her at https://creationscience4kids.com. She is a member of the International Association of Creation and a graduate of the Institute for Children’s Literature.