Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Ineptitude

I recently quoted Nancy Pearcey on my Facebook wall. The quote went something like this.

Homeschoolers are the ultimate do-it-yourselfers. They are self-motivated and self-directed, independent-minded and creative. They are not content to turn their education of their children over to the government.

One of my readers who also happened to be an old friend mentioned under it that she also saw homeschoolers as incredibly driven because this is no small enterprise we undertake. Another friend objected. Not necessarily, she wisely pointed out, adding in her characteristic way, You can be lame and still homeschool and you’d still do better than sending your kids to the government run mills.

In my mind, they were both right. I have seen homeschoolers who are organized, driven and make teaching their children their job, one that takes up all their time and attention and one they do exceptionally well.

On the other hand, I have also met homeschooling parents who are more hands off, but take their children with them, teach them whatever they know, believe simply in being involved in their lives.

Both kinds of homeschoolers do just fine. And yes, both are better than assembly line government run public schools.

An Assembly Line

I recently went to get a new car key made for our family van we bought last year. I couldn’t help but notice how unable or unwilling the people who worked at the dealership were to do things differently.

Would I like a free car inspection?

No, thank you, I’m just here for a new key.

Well, we do have to check tires. It’s the law.

Fine, but nothing else. I’m just here for the key. I have other things to do as well.

And even after all that, the car somehow ended up at the vacuuming and cleaning place. After waiting for over an hour, I inquired, complained and finally was able to leave. Not before paying for the key and upsetting the people working there.

Why were they upset, you ask. They were angry because I refused to be part of their assembly line. Because I wouldn’t passively accept what they thought they needed to do to my car.

Because, as the customer, silly me, I thought I was supposed to be in the driver’s seat.

Customization is Key

What is true of good customer service is true of education.

Your children are not supposed to be carbon copies of another. They are not to move from station to station, getting inspections along the way; they are not supposed to walk lock step with their peers.

They are unique people. They are to be the best and fullest version of themselves.

Unfortunately, the only way to get that education in a system that is developed for an assembly line is to anger people who are part of it.

Or you can choose not to be part of it.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Ineptitude

I was reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon written by Brad Stone and came across a part of the book that illustrates this perfectly. When Steve Jobs created the iPod, the writer says, Amazon’s music sales suffered. It no longer made the profits it used to by selling CDs. Music became digitalized and sales drifted to iTunes.

Did Jeff Bezos decide to then produce a cheap imitation of the iPod? Thank goodness, no.

He didn’t make another iPod because he couldn’t. Doing so would be a poor imitation of something that was, for all intents and purposes, perfect. Instead, he took an e-reader that had failed in the past, rejected by most and came up with the Kindle.

The difference in the two giants here – Bezos and Jobs – who in many ways have similar life stories – was not just in the products in they created. The difference was in their personalities that were the reason behind the products they created.

You see, Bezos loves words and arguments in the form of a narrative. He made his employees write essays instead of create PowerPoint presentations. He had this to say about why.

Full sentences are harder to write. They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.

Jobs on the other hand loved music. There is no way he could have created the Kindle. That would also have been a cheap imitation.

Homeschooling is about Customization

Homeschooling then is the ultimate education and life hack. It shuns imitation. It allows families to be who they truly are, it lets children blossom and become who they are meant to be. It lets inventors tinker in their garages, readers read.

It doesn’t seek to stuff individuals into molds and send them off to the next station waiting to be vacuumed and polished and made perfect.

Even if it ruffles a few feathers along the way, homeschooling is well worth it.

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Homeschooling News and Views of the Week

Oh, look it’s been a week already and here we are heading into the weekend. From what I read, there isn’t much that is new, but there are some developing stories worth mentioning.

First up, the HSLDA pledged support to what is called the last homeschooling family in Sweden. Thomas and Marita Sandberg of Mörbylånga, Sweden, have endured threats, fines, investigations, and even public shaming as they continue to defend their right to teach their own children. The Sandbergs are currently live in Finland.

More news on the Buffalo mother who has now been separated from her children for 45 days. She has now filed a civil rights case.

I found this defense of writing about math in Common Core a good article. As I have mentioned before, I don’t have a problem with teaching different techniques of solving a math problem, it’s the this is the only way approach that is bothersome to me.

In local news, cursive writing might become part of the curriculum in Ohio schools, Arkansas homeschooling advocates push to let homeschoolers play school sports and an Internet poll in Texas reveals parents want a removal of tests, not school choice.

My reading this week has been a little fantasy and a little fun.

And that wraps up another News and Views post. See you next week!

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8 Books to Make You Fall In Love With American History

In honor of President’s Day, I thought I’d share with you some of my current favorite books on American history. I absolutely detest textbooks – as some of you might know – but anything that can give me a sense of time and place without idolizing a person in history is my kind of book.

So if you’re jaded about reading history, chances are it’s because you’ve never read it like this.

First up, you have got to read everything by Michael Farquhar – especially Foolishly Forgotten AmericansIf your eyes glaze over at the mention of American history, this book is the perfect antidote. Farquhar makes it interesting and extremely enjoyable – to the point that you can’t but share some interesting trivia with the person next to you. All. The. Time. Just ask my husband.

Another book in a similar vein to the above is That’s Not In My American History Book by Thomas Ayres. This is a fun compilation of little known things about American presidents, wars and, hey – did you know there was actually a fourteenth colony that was not part of the Union? Ayres has also written A Military Miscellany: From Bunker Hill to Baghdad for the military buffs among you.

Daniel O’Brien’s How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country is like watching a stand up comedian (oh, and not someone with clean language, in case you were wondering, talk about presidents. So if you’re not into that, stay away from this one. You’ve been warned. But if language doesn’t bother you, this book is incredibly entertaining. I finished it in one day. And now I’ll always remember the distinguishing characteristics of all the presidents. (He only writes about those that have died, no one alive.)

So far, I’ve mentioned books for you because I truly believe that you should be learning right along with your kids as you homeschool them (and some day I’ll have a curriculum to prove it) but for now, this next suggestion comes for the children. Get your hands on everything by Jean Fritz. So far, my children have read and loved George Washington’s Mother Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? , And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? and Shhh! We’re Writing The Constitution

Happy reading!

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What Lovers of History Know To Be True

It is no secret that I absolutely love history. In honor of President’s Day, here is one of my favorite history quotes. It comes from That’s Not In My American History Book by Thomas Ayres.

The quote speaks to those of us, I think, who see history as interesting biographies and love to see the people behind the stories and conjecture how their lives must have actually been.

History is not just dates, places and events to be memorized by school children. It is people influencing events – real people with blood coursing through their veins and thoughts through their minds. History breathes. Its heart beats. Just like those who make it, history changes and remains the same. It repeats its triumphs and tragedies. History is little people caught up in great events and great people turning insignificant events into momentous ones. History is madman and genius, warmonger, peacemaker, idealist and cynic – actors all, playing out their roles on the greatest stage of all.

You can buy the book here.

Other books by Thomas Ayres:

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On Studying History & Fake News

I’m not one of those people bothered by what is currently referred to as “fake news.” I am not currently wringing my hands wondering what kind of a world my children will inherit and how they will ever make sense of it. That is because I love history and am deeply passionate about it.

Allow me to explain.

History tells us that from the beginning of time, people have told lies. This is nothing new.

The earliest written history is a battlefield in itself – what with Egyptians consistently trying to remove names of underappreciated pharaohs from the lineage to obliterate their names and Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, ordering a larger than life epic poem be written about himself to win over his subjects.

Fine, but these were not journalists, you say. Well, not in the sense of reporting to newspapers that got delivered to you which you read over coffee, but they did have the job of delivering important news by word of mouth, as was more common those days. It was only the influential people of the world had their own “birds” and spies to keep an eye out. It’s possible that’s how they got influential. So consider if you would feel trust the news when it came from the likes of Lord Varys. (Sorry for the Game of Thrones reference, but it makes my point perfectly.)

And this is just the beginning of written history.

Why is today considered any different? Do we think we have somehow arrived at the point where people reporting the news have become completely trustworthy?

What I Am Not Saying

Now look, I’m not arguing for lying. I’m certainly not saying that you should make stuff up, that it’s somehow good for your neighbor. Of course you shouldn’t.

I’m just arguing for some perspective.

History looks different when one is caught up in it. And people haven’t changed. This is the nature of the creature we are dealing with.

Was there ever a time that we could accept what was being reported as absolute truth? If there was, I’d like to know because I’d run out and buy textbooks from that era.

Get my drift?

History is Anecdotes

I have written before about how we study history in our home and have since refined that philosophy to include memorization of a timeline as well as Presidents’ names.

With a firm foundation on some very basic facts, we then segue into individual biographies, anecdotes and otherwise interesting trivia. Now, here’s where it can get tricky.

After the basic facts of someone’s life – place of birth, date of birth, childhood home, mother, father, sister, brother (and sometimes not even that!) all we are left with is the stuff of a life lived. And life, as we know, is messy.

But the fun, the joy in history comes from its very inability to wrap it and tie it with a clean bow.

And so we read and wonder about George Washington’s mother who often complained about her son not sending her money and Mary Todd Lincoln chasing her husband Abraham down the street with a knife. We admire Andrew Jackson fighting off his own assassin and beating him with his cane at 67 years of age when the rest of the people around him froze.

The anecdotes, the trivia, the details, and yes, even the “fake news” that may or may not be true, add color, depth and – believe it or not – truth – to history.
It adds truth because no two people saw the same event from the same perspective. They were limited in time, in space, in their cultural situation, their thinking – limited people with limited attention spans, varying levels of interest and somewhere else to go.

I’m not arguing that objective truth does not exist, mind you, just that if you’re hoping to get it from people, you had better have more than one source because what you will get will be fractured, anecdotal and always a little skewed this way or that.

Laziness or Textbooks?

Jim Gaffigan says that the news media is like that slightly annoying friend of yours who knows what’s happening and is full of “Did you know…?” “Have you heard…?” I wish more people held this view.

Because even with the mantle of supposed transparency of journalism, this is true. Cameras and the printed word can lull us into thinking that the ultimate picture of objective. But it’s not. It’s just one perspective of what actually happened.

So what is it that makes us blindly believe all news when it’s reported? Is it that we’ve been spoon-fed history through such textbooks? Is it because we’ve been so brainwashed in public school that we are used to two-dimensional cardboard character in a committee-approved politically correct history textbooks?

There’s only half a step between “if it’s there in the textbook, it must be true” to “if the newspaper says so, it must have happened.”

False information has always been around. There has never not been a need to sift through and question.

Never in the history of time or American history for that matter could you put skepticism aside and blindly accept what the magazines, rags, neighbors, newspapers, water cooler junta, or reports said. For all you knew, everything was tabloid talk.

Homeschooling, History & Current Affairs

I am a huge fan of the internet. I couldn’t be happier with access to more than one news site, more than one perspective. Give me another blogger with something to say, something to report. The more kaleidoscopic an event is in reporting, the fewer chances some one person has to tamper with it.

Does this mean the readers have to be more vigilant and weigh information? Yes, of course it does. But it’s what they shouldn’t have stopped doing in the first place.

Discernment is a skill that we value in homeschooling. It is one of the reasons why even if we use a history textbook, we only use it as a “spine” for the curriculum. It is also why we watch current events and discuss them, relating them to the past as often as we can.

If you’d like to know more about how we study history, get my book The Classical Unschooler

And if you’d like to read some fun, historical anecdotes this President’s Day, check out my listicle about my most recommended American history books.

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News and Views of the Week

It’s raining out here in Sacramento, California as I write this and the rain seems to be dampening everyone’s spirits, because news this week is fairly tame.

(Except for those handpicked stories I am sharing here, of course.)

First up is the HSLDA story about HR 610 – a bill introduced in Congress that calls for all federal education dollars to be turned over to the states. The states are to then make them available as vouchers to all public, private and homeschools. According to the HSLDA, this will hurt your rights as homeschoolers and they oppose it as a matter of prudence and principle. You can read the details here.

If you’ve been following the news story of the Buffalo mother who pulled her children from public school to homeschool them and then had CPS take the children away, you can read the follow up to that here. Last I heard, HSLDA has taken up the case, so I will post more when I have further information.

This post to homeschool children to keep them away from someone who is in favor of homeschooling struck me as funny.

New books in the last 30 days I am looking forward to reading: Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the WorldThe Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups, Norse Mythology (those of you who are Neil Gaiman fans, this is a double attraction!) and The Homeschool Life Coloring Book

And, oh, if you are a coloring book kind of person, you should check out this deal on gel pens I shared on my Facebook page last week. 80 gel pens for under $16! Claim it here:

Have a great weekend!

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Our Best Loved Books Hand-Picked By My Children

With Valentine’s Day having just passed and the air so full of love, I thought I would have a special treat here. I asked each of my children – ages 8, 7 and 4 – to list their favorite books for me. The only rule was that they had to have read the book and loved it. There was no other criteria.

Here are their personal recommendations.

Sierra’s (age 8) Best Loved Books

Graphic novels – This child loves every graphic novel everywhere. No exaggeration. Every time we go to the library, she heads straight to the area where the comic books are. I don’t mind. The recent explosion in graphic novels means she can read Shakespeare and other classics and also enjoy Asterix and Tintin.

Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter (anything about cats, really!) Because my daughter simply loves cats, I use them as a jumping off point for almost everything, but she picked this book series. It’s about a bunch of – get this – super hero cats. Ah, well. It’s fun, though. She started with the graphic novels and recently read a much larger book in the series.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – One of our first read alouds and perhaps our best loved, apart from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein. If you haven’t read this aloud yet, you simply must.

Audiobooks by Jim Weiss – Jim Weiss has recorded so many audio books, it’s hard to listen to them all, but my daughter has almost set out to do so. Her favorites are Animal Tales, Greek Myths and Spooky Classics.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – Knowing how much she likes fantasy and fairy tales, I should have known she would take to Greek myths. This book is amazing. I can’t say enough nice things about it. It has illustrations and all the Greek myths in one place. And also a family tree listing all the Greek gods. Indispensable when reading later Greek epics.

Hucksley’s (age 7) Best Loved Books

Minecraft Secrets – My middle son takes a very practical approach to life, as you will see. He likes to find things out if they profit him in some way. So these Minecraft secrets books that teach him how to maneuver and build things in the game were an immediate hit. Not only has he learned to read with these, these books have brought my kids closer together in collaboration. One reads instructions aloud, the other follows by following the directions. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

DK Eyewitness Books – We do love these books fondly and by “we” I mean the entire family. If you have read my blog post on how to use strewing as a technique even in unschooling these books come in very handy for that purpose. Even as an adult, I find myself skimming through these books and picking up a lot of information. They’re colorful, they’re informative and just plain inexpensive. Our favorites.

Atlases – Hucksley loves maps of any kind. Period. My husband found it funny when I bought a globe for the kids but they loved it. And my middle child absolutely loves maps. So I highly recommend these map books and also the app Stack the Stateswhich he plays daily.

Tales from the Odyssey audiobook – While my kids never cared much for the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales From the Odyssey (the audiobook) read by James Simmons always gets loud cheers. We first listened to it in the car and since then my son will listen to it by himself before going to bed. It’s excellent.

Carver’s (age 4) Best Loved Books

The Early Bird by Richard Scarry – We’ve been reading this book to him since he was – what, 1? Not sure. Anyway, for a looooong time. It’s a fun story about early bird with lovely pictures so characteristic of Richard Scarry. I would recommend anything by him, really, and this book in particular has stood the test of time for us.

How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room? by Jane Yolen – Another one of those inexplicable ones. Oh, but how he loves it! And I bet you $5 I can recite it from memory. It’s a delightful book. One we’ve read over and over and haven’t tired of. Check out the entire series. It’s just fun.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash – You must, must, must read this book! It’s just delightful. It’s possible I enjoy this a tad more than my son. The entire story is written in rhyme and it’s like a party for your mouth to read this aloud. Take my word for it.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he loves seeds. Sometimes, when he likes a fruit he is eating, he will take the seed and “plant” it in the backyard. Of course we have no idea where he planted it, so it never gets watered or tended, but he claims he has planted avocado, orange and apple trees in the yard. This book is one he picked out as a prize in the library program for reading. It is wonderfully illustrated and talks about the life cycle of a seed.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – Another enduring classic. I never tire of reading this one aloud to him. Also, check out other books by Julia Donaldson that are also great read alouds for preschoolers. Not as good as this one, but pretty close.

Happy reading!

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How to Organize a Typical Homeschooling Day [Video]

This is part of a video series I am currently doing on how to organize a homeschooling day.

Be sure to read the blog posts I have written about scheduling a day as well:

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Love Is Where The Home(School) Is – Quotes to Inspire You On Valentine’s Day

Every year, I do this. I get caught up in the love of Valentine’s Day. It’s impossible not to. The hint of spring, warmer days, flowers in the air and all the sneezing. How can you not?

And yes, I know, I know… Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about romantic love. But I’m still going to go ahead and do it. I’m going to make it all about education. And you know why? Because I actually love learning. Get it? Love? Learning? Ahem.

Okay, here are some quotes to inspire you.

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. – Dr. Seuss

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books. – H. W. Longfellow

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love. – Julia Child

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. – Elie Wiesel

Cultivate an appreciation and passion for books. I’m using passion in the fullest sense of the word: a deep, fervent emotion, a state of intense desire; an enthusiastic ardor for something or someone. – Cassandra King

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. – M. Scott Peck

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. – Robert Heinlein

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C. S. Lewis

Love is as love does. – M. Scott Peck

I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing. – Neil Gaiman

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – The Bible

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. – Gandhi

Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love. – M. Scott Peck

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. – J. R. R. Tolkein

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did? – Mother Teresa

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. – Ursula K. Le Guin

Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. – M. Scott Peck

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. – James Baldwin

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done. – Vincent Van Gogh

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them. – Agatha Christie

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. – Bertrand Russell

Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep. – Clive Barker

When we love someone our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion – through the fact that for that someone (or for ourself) we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful. – M. Scott Peck

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. – C. S. Lewis

Find what you love and let it kill you. – Charles Bukowski

“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh” – A. A. Milne

It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you. – John Updike

One word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love. – Sophocles

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. – Kurt Vonnegut

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Love Means Breaking Molds, Love Means Bending Genres

Have you heard the question, “If you were accused of being a _______ (fill in the blank with any noun you cherish) would there be enough evidence to support it?”

I have. And I don’t like it.

To me, the quote sounds too much like a plea for stereotyping. It asks that I act a certain way and carry a certain image to the outside world so that people would know exactly who I am and where I stand on certain matters.

A similar incident happened to the presenter of a podcast I listen to. Isaac Morehouse, whose book I have mentioned in the past, speaks about how he was approached after a speaking engagement by a man who sought to define his ideology. Not being able to pin it down was causing him quite a bit of difficulty.

“He was visibly bothered,” Morehouse says. “But I knew what he was asking for. And I wasn’t going to give it to him.”

He was seeking a label.

Breaking Molds, Bending Genres

But that’s the thing about life, isn’t it? That’s the thing about love. People we love, things we do – things that matter – are complicated. They’re real, they live and breathe.

The best ones break molds.

This is as true of you as a homeschooler as it is of you in any other profession. This is true of you as a wife, a mother, a father. You are at your best when you transcend a role. This is true of your children and their curriculum. This is true of your days.

The best ones bend roles and genres.

I don’t often listen to music when I’m driving. One of those rare times I flicked on the radio and it occurred to me that I had actually begun to enjoy music quite uncharacteristic of me.

Now, I have never been a fan of rap, or hip-hop. But on this day, there was a song this particular radio station played that incorporated both those genres and added some elements of the blues into it. Perhaps because it took from two genres I didn’t much care for and went beyond them, I quite liked it.

The Best Things In Life Are…

Surprises, of course!

Ever so often, I come across a person, an idea, an event, a book that changes me. Usually, I am going about my day, checking things off my list, doing the next thing and something or someone disrupts it. I am left in the position of the audience member just mentioned questioning the disruptive influence.

“What are you?” I wonder. “Where do you stand? Who are you?” (Or, in the case of an idea, what? What in the world was that?)

Integrating this newfound knowledge requires a paradigm shift. It requires that I change, that I grow. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, author of Flow, which I have written about earlier, says that we need differentiation as well as integration to grow and become our complete, whole selves. An appeal to act a certain way to convince others that I am a certain person is an appeal to only one side of the equation – integration.

We need people who break molds in our lives; we need genre bending music, ideas that don’t quite fit. We desperately need to be stretched in ways that our to-do lists don’t make us. Over the years, I have come to appreciate those people who make me think, even if at the time they say something odd, I am left confused. Even if I reject what they say, they have made me think and helped me grow.

And helping someone grow is the best definition of love.

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