I first heard the phrase “cheerful nonchalance” from my friend Meg.
In her mid-20s, Meg was an old soul. She was one of those people who seemed “considered,” you know what I mean?
She was basically the opposite of willy-nilly. She would not be flying by the seat of her pants, no matter how many people around her flapped and shouted.
For instance, Meg taught a group of us about a parenting technique she termed “cheerful nonchalance.”
I can’t remember exactly the way this came up, so this is the example I offer:
Let’s say that you’ve noticed that your toddler has not had a vegetable since last month.
Kids go through stages like this, but when we are young mothers, our beloved child neglecting a couple of bites of broccoli is enough to send us into a tailspin.
Meg, in her infinite wisdom, pointed out that hand-wringing, hair-tugging and weeping aren’t likely to make our kids suddenly develop a love for greens, and won’t help us navigate the situation with much aplomb.
Instead, she offered practicing cheerful nonchalance.
OK, you say to your vegetable denier. More broccoli for me. Or the dog. Or the compost bin.
Maybe you just keep serving vegetables and keep eating them but not making a big production of it and it’s just that simple?
Sounds better than the crying thing, right?
What you do not do is freak out.
Because our children, although they be small, are mighty wise. They sense our emotions like tiny sponges in dungarees, and at a certain point in their young lives when they are learning about independence and the word no, we can find ourselves on dangerous turf.
It’s better, then, to be cool.
Be cool. You be cool.
This advice carries over way past the toddler NO stage and food refusal, of course.
In fact, just recently, when I shared with my mom that a certain teen here has a “special friend,” my mom gave me some advice.
“Be cool,” she said.
But … I said.
“Be cool,” she said again, like a 65-year-old Shaft in nursing shoes and Snoopy scrubs.
And I know she’s right. This is another place to practice cheerful nonchalance.
She’s a year older? No sweat.
She drives a car? Sure.
She wants to meet you downtown for coffee like you’re both 52 and met on Match.com? Who am I to say no?
Of course, I’m the parent, so I reserve the right to say no, but I think my mom has a point. If I can just manage to be cool I’ve got a lot higher degree of likelihood that he doesn’t jump out his window in the night and head to a state where you can get married at 16.
What we don’t want in a Romeo and Juliet situation here.
Cheerful, nonchalant homeschooling
I believe that cheerful nonchalance has helped my homeschooling, because it has helped protect my relationship with my kids.
There are 82 billion ways to fix math, but it is infinitely harder to fix a broken relationship; broken trust.
So when a kid arrives at our dining room table cranky and out of sorts, the last thing I do is slap down a math worksheet and tell them they can’t get up until it’s done.
Homeschooling isn’t easy, but one huge advantage is that we don’t have to do things the traditional school way. Giving up that old mindset changes everything.
So instead, I attempt to stay cheerfully nonchalant, while also not letting my kids play Mario Kart all day and eat nothing but Hot Cheetos. It’s a balancing act, but worth the careful navigation.
If you aren’t familiar with strewing, don’t worry – I just wrote a whole ebook about it!
But here’s the short version: Strewing is just placing educational materials in your child’s path for them to discover.
You can strew for pretty much any homeschool subject – my book gives you more than 100 ideas to get you started in language arts, math, science, social studies, art and more.
But I have to tell you my absolutely No. 1 strewing tip, and that is to practice strewing cheerful nonchalance.
When we get ideas to share with our kids, it’s only natural to get invested in and excited about those ideas.
But we need to be careful. Our enthusiasm can easily spill over into pushing, and that’s not what strewing is about.
In fact, some things you strew, your kids just won’t love. Trust me! I’ve been strewing for years and have strewed some real dud projects.
I’ve also strewed some stuff that turned into unit studies and long-time passions.
It’s kind of like Cactus Schooling.
We must strew GENTLY, and without a ton of emotion in order to be more successful in the long-term.
To learn more about strewing, and my low-stress method, head over to check out my brand new ebook: Strewing 101: An Invitation to Play, Learn and Grow.
Inside you’ll find:
Answers to frequently asked strewing questions like:
- How to do it
- When and where
- How to balance it with more formal academics
- What to do when strewing goes wrong
- A printable for keeping track of strewing ideas
- More than 100 strewing ideas for all subjects
- Directions for 3 next-level strewing projects
This book is on sale for a limited time (until February 19, 2021).
Remember – be cool. You’ve got this.