This post was sponsored by Sagebooks. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
One of the perils of being a blogger is that by virtue of being in a public space and writing about a topic a lot, people think I’ve got it all together and have some special dispensation of will power, consistency, and patience.
If only that were true.
In reality, there is only one reason I am able to succeed at this grand experiment of bilingual homeschooling my children in Chinese and English: the accountability and support system I have in place.
Yes, I could likely do okay on my own as a lone wolf. But what keeps me sane, thriving, and excited on this often arduous road to Chinese fluency (among other things) is the network of folks who have similar goals to mine.
Despite my avowed dislike of people, I have somehow lucked into finding enough humans I actually like – and love. The added bonus of us wanting similar goals in regards to bilingualism and biliteracy (or whatever it is I’m pursuing) makes my life easier and encourages me when I’m feeling weighed down by all this work.Whether you're preparing to run a marathon or get fit or build a business or yes, teach your kids how to read Chinese, you need people who are walking this same stretch of road with you.
For those of you who have been following my Sagebook series for the past few months (or heck, even the last few weeks), you’ve probably noticed my progressive demoralization and procrastination. I put things off, then cram a few chapters because I have to do my job, and then I forget, and then I cram some more.
I repeat myself with slightly different words each week. I say some variation of the following: the threat of public humiliation keeps me on track.
But honestly? It’s not really true.
I mean, it’s partially true. I don’t want to be publicly humiliated. (I mean, who does? That is, unless it’s your thing and then, you know, you do you.)
What I really mean is that I have people in my life who keep me accountable to the goals I’ve set for myself. And since I’ve made a semi-public commitment to go over Sagebooks with Glow Worm (~5) in various online groups (one of which is the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Group on Facebook), this gives me the extra push to make sure I do what I said I will do.Find people who want the same things you want and with whom you can be you in all your neurotic glory.
As far as I know, no one has said anything when I’ve missed goals or had a bad week or eight. People are kind, understanding, and help commiserate. If I’m in the place to receive advice, I get helpful suggestions which when I’m not buried under feelings of failure and shame, are useful and work.
There is no actual public shaming except that which I made up in my head.
Besides, public humiliation is a terrible motivator. Mostly because it’s not really replicable or practical. Plus, fear is a bad life strategy in general. Fear doesn’t induce permanent change because generally, it only makes a person do the bare minimum to squeak by. When you do things from a place of fear, you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Instead of focusing ahead on what you’re trying to achieve, you’re looking behind at what you’re trying to avoid.
Everyone knows from watching movies that when you’re running away from a T-Rex, if you look back you’ll stumble and fall and get eaten. But if you aim for something ahead of you and don’t look back, you’ll make it. Same thing in life and teaching kids Chinese.
Stop focusing on the T-Rex. Focus on the safe space that is just deep enough so the T-Rex can’t reach you with either its tiny arms or its giant noggin full of sharp teeth.
Wow. I’ve really veered off topic. (Also, that may have been one of the best things I’ve ever written.)
Fear Makes Us Focus on the Obstacles
Look, teaching our kids Chinese is hard. I’m not going to paint some rosy picture full of rainbows and unicorns. Even with curriculum that is engineered to build on itself as a foundation of the 500 most common Chinese characters in children’s literature, you still have to do it. (Which is the tough part! And even if it starts off easy, you will run into rough patches.)
When we primarily teach our kids Chinese from a place of fear, our goals are too small. We do not dream or plan for big, impossible things because all we can see are the obstacles and how difficult it will be. (And sometimes, it does seem that full fluency and literacy are impossible – or at least, really really really hard to achieve.)Besides, public humiliation is a terrible motivator. Mostly because it's not really replicable or practical. Plus, fear is a bad life strategy in general.
We tell ourselves we’ll be happy if our kids just understand basic commands or can carry on a simple conversation when what we really want is full fluency and literacy.
NOTE: This is not meant to dismiss you or your children if that’s what you’re aiming for. The difference is one of intention. If you intended to get your kids to this level and achieved it, you deserve all the praise for setting a goal and reaching it.
Sooooo… what am I nattering on about and how does it relate to accountability and support?
Accountability & Support Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Instead of focusing on the obstacles or on avoiding pain, we should focus on what we want.
The best way I have found to get what I want is to find a group of like-minded people to get accountability and support I need to encourage and spur me toward what I want to achieve.
Whether you’re preparing to run a marathon or get fit or build a business or yes, teach your kids how to read Chinese, you need people who are walking this same stretch of road with you. You need people slightly ahead to show you the way, people at the same pace to keep you company, and people slightly behind you to remind you from whence you came.Stop focusing on the T-Rex. Focus on the safe space that is just deep enough so the T-Rex can't reach you with either its tiny arms or its giant noggin full of sharp teeth.
Without my friends (many of whom I have never met in real life) who are on this epic Chinese journey to bilingualism and biliteracy with me, I would likely have given up years ago. I found all my children’s Chinese tutors and preschools from friends I met in a bilingual playgroup. One of these women, Hotelier, introduced me to the concept of bilingual homeschooling as well as the Facebook Group I now admin, Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese and English. From there, I began to blog about teaching my kids Chinese and the rest, as they say, is history.
That’s right. I’M MAKING HISTORY.
What? It’s not untrue… just perhaps less grandiose than I had imagined.
How does this relate to a T-Rex again? It doesn’t. Pay attention.
See? That’s how good support and accountability works. We let you run your mouth about nonsense and then gently (or brusquely) tell you we love you but for the love of bacon to please get back to the business of making your kids read Chinese.
Find people who want the same things you want and with whom you can be you in all your neurotic glory. Whether it’s for the lofty goal of passing the Chinese language to your children or the pedestrian hope of summoning the will to put the laundry away after folding, it’s always easier with good company.