Creating Your Life (and Your Children's Lives) As A Work of Art

There are two things that I have always counseled home schooling parents to do.

First, I have encouraged them to look at their children differently—not as containers to be filled with information, but as unique individuals in which God has placed certain abilities, interests and desires. So my motto has always been “Feed the interest, invest in the desire, train the ability.” This has sometimes taken our home schooling in weird directions, but it’s a recipe for producing healthy minds, hearts, and spirits.

My husband and I have called this approach “Identity Directed Home Schooling,” but it is really little more than discovering who your child is and then nourishing that and creating a context for it to develop to its fullest.

To better explain this concept, I’ve often used the analogy of plants (in fact, the Bible uses the analogy of “tender plants” to describe children). I love gardenias. But I can’t grow gardenias where we live because the winters are too severe and the soil doesn’t have the right pH. So I would be foolish to expect gardenias to flourish in my yard. It would be contrary to the way God made them. In the same way, I would be foolish if I tried to “grow” my children in a context that fails to nurture who they really are.

Plus, to try and force them to “grow” in an environment that kills their spirits and souls is a guaranteed recipe for damaged children and damaged parent-child relationships. And one of the main reasons I home schooled my children is that I wanted to have a deep, meaningful relationship with them and really know them for who they are.

The second piece of advice I’ve always given home schooling parents is borrowed from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is “Begin with the end in mind.” If you don’t have a vision of where you want to wind up when your child is 18 years old, your home schooling years will be a long, rambling road, fraught with frustration and missed opportunities. And, even worse, because you don’t have a “destination” you’re traveling towards, you will tend to drift from one way of doing things to another, always looking for the latest techniques, teaching materials, or doctrines.

I’m not saying that home schooling parents should map out every facet of each child’s life, but what I am saying is it’s better to have some sort of vision that will be recognizable enough that you will know when you’ve achieved it.

There’s a difference between being in a sailboat headed for a certain destination, and being in a sailboat adrift. Because in sailing you often have to tack back and forth at angles away from your final destination in order to eventually reach it, you will sometimes look like you are going in the wrong direction.

But if you are adrift, you are at the mercy of every current or gust of wind, and you’re actually going in no direction, even though you’re moving.

Robert Fritz and Your Life as Art

This brings me to a discussion of Robert Fritz and Your Life as Art. A couple of years ago, I did a telephone interview with Robert Fritz and I had several people e-mail asking why. Although he believes in God, his work is not overtly Christian, and people have questioned his appropriateness to home schooling families. What I hope to be able to explain to you is why I think you should be exposed to his work.

The first reason we want to introduce you to Robert Fritz’ work is that we are moving toward an entrepreneurial emphasis and Robert’s book The Path of Least Resistance for Managers is one of the best books on business we’ve ever read.

But the second and most important reason we want you to know about Robert Fritz is because of his insights on organizing your life around who you really are.

What I have discovered as I talk to home schooling parents about “Identity Directed Education,” is that most parents have never been “identified,” so they have a hard time knowing how to identify their children.

Robert's work is about recognizing what really matters to you, and then creating your life based on that. So in a way, he teaches you to give yourself what you’re trying to give your children—the nourishment and equipping of your deepest desires and highest aspirations so that you live a life centered around those instead of centered around whatever comes your way or around what you’ve been taught your life should be about.

When I first was introduced to Robert’s work in The Path of Least Resistance, I was stunned to think of my life as a creation in which I participated, just like an artist creates a work of art. In this book, Robert wrote,

“It is not common for people to think of their own lives as creations. You are not encouraged to have with your own life the kind of relationship a creator has with his or her vision. But your life can be a creation. What a difference that is from reacting or responding to circumstances.

You can conceive of the life you want to bring into being as an artist conceives of a painting, take strategic actions to build such a life as the artist takes all the necessary actions to create the painting, and inhabit the life you want to create as the artist may hang the painting on a wall to experience it.”

What an amazing concept! I can approach my own life (and eventually the lives of my children) as a work of art that I co-create with God. This thought opened up to me a whole new understanding of God, the creator. Why did God create me? Because He loved me enough to bring me into existence. Love is at the heart of everything God does because His nature is love, so true creation is always a matter of bringing things into being because you love them enough to want them to exist.

Robert further says, “The reason you create a result that you care about is that you love it enough to see it exist. This type of love is not simply responsive love. In responsive love the situation comes first, and the love second. Creators love their creations before the creation exists.”

If I choose to be a creator, then my mission is to give birth to those things I think matter. My life is about creating outcomes that I love enough to work on behalf of, sustain, and nurture. And I want to organize my life around the things that matter most to me, rather than around the things I have been told to organize my life around, or instead of organizing my life around circumstances or problems.

Edith Schaeffer partially addresses this idea of creating art out of everyday life in her wonderful book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, but Robert Fritz takes the concept even further and talks about making the whole of your life a work of art.

So What's the Big Deal?

Many of you may be reading this and thinking, “So what’s the big deal?” I guess to me the big deal was realizing I had been living a large portion of my life according to everything except the things that I valued most. My days were filled with reacting to circumstances and solving problems, being motivated by fear or by “have tos,” or “shoulds” or “oughts.” So I wasn’t really living my life, life was “living” me. It was as if I had superimposed someone else’s “grid” over my own life and was trying to live up to the expectations of that grid, not living out of my own internal values. In a way, I've been "unconscious" most of my life.

And there were so many areas that were hollow, including areas in my relationship to God, because they weren’t being lived out of who I really am, what I truly value and believe in and love. I saw that even though I wanted to nourish my children’s abilities, interests and desires, I didn’t love myself enough to nourish my own.

It was amazingly freeing to me to realize that I don’t have to “be” or “do” anything to be loved by God, He already loved me enough to create me, and He put in me the desires and dreams and longings that are “me.” So to deny those, to try to conform those to someone else’s expectations, to try and cast myself into a different mold that’s not me goes against the creative love of God.

So, although Robert’s books never mention God or Jesus, the insights he shares about life led me to a deeper revelation of the love of God and the freedom He has given me to live my life as an expression of the things that I truly love.

I look at Robert’s books as tools. Perhaps “recipes” is a better word. Just like when I use a cookbook I don’t care whether Jesus is mentioned or not, all I care about is whether the recipe works, tastes good, and feeds as many people as it says it will. I don’t try to make things that are meant to be tools into any more than that. But Robert’s books and insights gave me powerful tools to start thinking of my life like an artist thinks of a painting. And they gave me the “recipe” for organizing my life around who God created me to be.

Then I could look at “Identity Directed Home Schooling” as a form of creating. I was not only creating an environment that helped bring into expression my children’s abilities, interests, and desires, but I could structure our day-to-day lives around my vision of where they would be when they were adults.

Just like a good artist (if he really is a good artist and not a copier of other people’s work) already has painted the picture in his mind before he ever makes the first brushstroke, I can have a “vision” for my own life and for each of my children as works of art.

It has been said that Michelangelo was asked how he could create such beautiful sculptures. His reply was, “I see the angel in the block of marble and simply let it out.” He chipped away all that was not part of what he saw in the marble and brought out all that was. It is the same with our own lives and with the lives of our children. We chip away all that is “not us” and help bring into expression all that is.

I once had a friend ask me, “Who do you think it is that God loves? You or ‘not you.’” We spend so much of our lives being “not me” without even realizing we’re doing it.

Remember, you are a creator, whether you acknowledge it or not. You create your relationships, your attitudes, your surroundings, your career, and yes, music and paintings and inventions and sculptures and books. So why not create the life that is really you?

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter featuring lots and lots of great ideas and information about home life in all of its facets--schooling at home, creating family businesses, raising children, and more! Why not join us? The 20,000 plus home educators who receive our EJournal newsletter get timely, new articles, promotional specials, company news and more delivered right to their email inbox. We offer many articles and thought-provoking essays through the EJournal that you won't find anywhere else. Best of all, it's free. And, rest assured we never sell, rent or share our customer email or mailing list with anyone for any reason. You can unsubscribe any time.
Fill in your e-mail address below and press "sign me up!"
Your E-mail address: