Review: Different

I have recently finished reading Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson.

This book arrived at such a needed time in my life. While I think parenting in general is not an easy task, parenting four children ranging in age from 2 up to 10 years feels especially overwhelming most days.

Parenting children who are considered “different” certainly presents an additional layer of parenting challenges.

I have been working through several titles by Sally Clarkson (she’s one of my literary mentors for the year…) and if there was a word I would choose to describe her, I would probably choose “together.” This is such an incredible woman, a Godly woman who shares her experiences and wisdom for families and homeschoolers.

I was blown away with her raw honesty she poured out in Different. Along with her son Nathan, the pair talks about the struggles (and blessings!) of dealing with a child being different. They take turns sharing their experiences navigating a variety of issues, including OCD, ODD, and ADHD.

It was refreshing to read Nathan’s story from both his and his mom’s perspective. Reading this, you get an honest picture of the very real struggles that go along with dealing with behavioral  and mental health issues. Clarkson also was candid about their struggles seeking professional help and a diagnosis. Dealing with mental health issues is an ongoing process, with good days and bad ones too.

“But even in this broken world, where our differences often come with burdensome baggage, the imprint of God on our lives still gives value to each one of use as we are.” (p.7)

Clarkson was candid about the tension that can arise between spouses as they parent a child that is different.

“Most OCD kids, we have learned, have one parent who acts as the ‘confessor’ in their lives – the one they go to daily to tell their recurring thoughts and find relief from the guilt those thoughts carry, the one with whom they find acceptance and sense of safety. ” (p. xxv)

While she shared some of the more challenging occasions in their lives, she also discussed some of the techniques or strategies she found helpful in her daily interactions with Nathan.

“I learned to appreciate and celebrate (not just “cope with it”) because all human beings are a work of the Artist and have infinite value to the One who made them.” (p.8)

“I intentionally pressed in on issues that would affect relationships, character, and faith and tried to back off of other, less crucial issue…” (p.41)

And she spoke of the heart and attitude necessary to deal with out-of-the-box type children.

“If we accept the puzzle we have been given and ask, “What can I learn at this juncture, God? How should I be humble and glorify You in this place?” then we will become stronger, developing muscles of faith, wisdom, humility, and understanding.” (p. 121)

Clarkson addresses something that parents everywhere probably struggle with, a need to control. We want the best for our kids, and so there is a conscious or unconscious desire to control things so we can guarantee a positive outcome.

“In our broken world, there is – and will be – much that we cannot understand or control.” (p. 135)

“He [God] does not require us to control our children or friends, much less ‘fix’ them. But he does call us to pay attention, to love others, to be the ones who reach out as consistently as possible.”

It was so encouraging to read about these struggles with mental illness and behavioral issues both from the perspective of the parent and the child.

I could go on and on with the powerful words and encouragement I got from reading this book. But I’ll close with two statements and then encourage you to read the book yourself.

From Sally:

“My most important ministry would unfold one obedient moment after another as I learned to love and understand and serve those who were closest to me. Nathan or one of my other family members would push my buttons. And I would have to overcome my feelings and practice giving patient answers, to give up my rights one more time…” and “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit often means choosing to be patient and loving when you feel like being impatient and angry.” (p. 137)

And from Nathan:

“The truth is, we live in a deeply fractured world, and we don’t always have a choice about being broken. But we do have a choice about where we let our brokenness lead us. We can follow it into escape or addiction. But we can also follow it straight to God. To the One who knows us inside and out – with all our mistakes, broken parts, insecurities, and battles – and who still loves us. To the one who can not only handle our anger and our frustration and our questions, but can use them to transform them.” (p.186)

Reading lists, planning and accountability

I spent my New Year’s Day with my personal scholar planner, my 2017 book list, paper and pencils.

My monthly spread in my personal scholar journal helps me keep track of Good Morning Girls daily bible chapter readings, as well as any live author events through Read Aloud Revival or with a book club.

I finished my 2017 book list, but needed to sit down and work out the nuts and bolts. How am I going to get all those books read in a year?!

 

 

 

 

I first prepared a divided a unlined sheet of paper into 12 blocks – one block for each month.

I decided to plan a quarter at a time since it’s possible I won’t make all my goals and this allows me to retool my plans before each quarter.

My books generally fall into one of two categories – long-term (over the course of the year, or several months at least) and monthly reads.

At the top of each block, I listed all my long-term books. Below these I then listed books I expect to be able to read in a month.

In my previous post, I mentioned several areas I am focusing on this year. When planning my monthly goals, I tried to include one book from Educational Philosophy, Parenting and Christian Study. I also selected two or three fiction titles and one from another area.

On paper, then I might have fifteen books listed. This sounds daunting to me, but eight are long-term reads, so I am reading just a little at a time. For example, each month I will read the corresponding chapter in The Life-giving Home, and in In Defense of Sanity, I am reading one essay a week.

My weekly bullet journal spread. I plan out daily reading portions for my current reads. I purposely leave the weekend light since I know I won’t get much reading done. I also plan the upcoming week on the weekend.

On my weekly planning pages, I list out all the books I plan to read each day, and make not of chapters or pages to work through. I only do this on a weekly basis, in case I haven’t met any of my weekly goals. Having a checklist helps me feel accomplished as I work through my daily reading goals.

 

For those books I am planning to finish in the month, I have planned for more intensive reading periods.

So… why even do this? I am not a formal student anymore. I don’t have quizzes or exams, I’m not paying for courses or risking a poor grade if I don’t get my reading done. So why the planning, why the schedule, why the extra effort?

Last year, I planned out my 2016 book list, and when I fell behind in my reading schedule, I stressed.

But I persisted and even though I fell short of my reading goal, I still read A LOT more books than I would have if I had not bothered to research and put together a reading plan, plan a reading schedule and commit to regular personal study time.

I list out my goals for the month, including books I want to complete, and how much progress I’d like to make in others. I also prepare a tracker page with day columns. Each book gets a row, and I fill in a block for each day that I read from that book.

I am active in an online book community and there is an awesome comradery and environment of encouragement and even a mild sense accountability.

 

 

 

Though honestly, there still isn’t a consequence for falling short of the goal like there would be in school.

So again, why I am doing all this?

December’s Reading Tracker page. Each day I read a particular book, I fill in a block. Lines indicate that a book was completed.

I love the term ‘personal scholarship.’ It really sums up what I am striving for, and what is the driving force for everything I do.

There are so many things I want to read about and learn and experience through books, and no one is going to hold me accountable except for me, because it is a personal goal.

By planning and scheduling, I am making a commitment, a contract with myself to work toward a goal. I want to hold myself accountable to this commitment.

If I fall short, well I reevaluate my reading goal and adjust my plans and schedules – maybe it is not realistic in light of family commitments. I reevaluate and adjust, I do not abandon. I keep the contract as a tangible “thing” that I am making myself accountable to.

 

The Ever Scholar

I’m working on a new project. Well, it’s not really a project so much as a mission. I have always been a book worm, having several books in queue at any given time. But over the last several years, between the pressure of growing a career and the pressures of growing a family, my personal reading habit has suffered.  

 
Now I find myself moving into a new phase. We are officially done growing our family, and my youngest, at 7 months, sleeps though the night regularly. My home routine s becoming more regular as the children get a little older. While my life is far from calm, with a husband, four kids and four dogs, I am finally able to find small lulls to focus on myself again. 
 
Even though I’ve gone through college and graduate school, I will be the first to tell you I still have a lot to learn. I’m not going back to school, though I am about to start a year-long course that I’m really excited about (I’ll post more details on that soon). What I am doing is reading, lots of good books, on a variety of subjects. And I’m not settling for passive reading, just to log books as “read.” I’m reading books “actively,” taking notes and annotating as I read, following rabbit trails when they appear, participating in online book groups and discussions. 
 
I realized that, as I record my notes on the books I am working through, I’d love to share them with others. Since I’m reading several books at a time, and also doing an in-depth Bible study as well, I have decided a new site would be the best thing for sharing. I will be posting my Bible sudy notes, book journaling and other personal scholar notes over at the The Ever Scholar.  I would love to have you follow my reading progress there!