One could say that I did not take the traditional road to becoming an ND. I traveled for a bit, I went to University for a year, I traveled a bit more but when I finally discovered Naturopathic Medicine I was convinced. This is what I wanted to do – helping others through a philosophy of medicine that I truly believed in. No more breaks. I went straight from completing my undergrad to Naturopathic College. It was rigorous, it was stimulating, it was overwhelming and exciting. I loved it! When it came time to graduate and start practicing – I had a baby! Apparently, my non-traditional road continued into my career which has now spanned 8+ years.
My latest break was not a planned break. My husband had a wonderful opportunity to follow his passion which I did not want to take away from him. As such, it meant putting my career on hold to move to Atlanta, GA with our two young children (3 & 5 at the time). Before we left I was certain that I would stay home and homeschool. It would provide us with flexibility in terms of where we would live in Atlanta, it would help us to meet other like-minded families and it would give us the flexibility we needed/wanted to be able to explore the area and come home to Canada when needed.
Let me say that I loved it! Not all of it and not every moment but overall it was a wonderful experience. But how, you are asking, did staying home with my children make me a better doctor?
I am going to go back to the philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine – that hook that got me here in the first place. Upon graduation, we took an oath which includes the following guiding principles:
To act in cooperation with the Healing Power of Nature.
To address the fundamental causes of disease.
To heal the whole person through individualized treatment.
To teach the principles of healthy living and preventive medicine.
I would love to say that as I began my homeschooling journey my guiding principles were as well defined but alas they were a work in process. Our journey was one of discovery – the three of us tried out different methods, we met with different homeschool groups, and finally over the months found a rhythm that worked. And what worked was an organic style of learning that I feel I was so privileged to witness.
It is funny writing this as I was the one “homeschooling my children” but these are some of the lessons I took away which in the end, I believe, have made me a more compassionate, more confident, more curious and overall a better Naturopathic Doctor.
Observation – There is nothing quite like being with children, out on a hike in the wild or picking dandelions on the front steps at home, that gets you noticing every little detail. Children are keen observers of life and taking/making the time to take in all the pieces is often the key to reaching that aha moment.
Curiosity – Why is the sky blue? Why is there so much traffic? Why do we have curly hair? Why, why, why? It doesn’t end at 3 or 5 or ever (especially if you homeschool)! In fact, it is something that you do not want to end. In the right environment children have an insatiable appetite for learning. It is inspiring to witness. As an ND part of my job is to ask why, and how, and when – how else would I get to fundamental cause of disease – the root of the problem.
Spontaneity & Thinking Outside the Box – This is a lesson all parents get to learn daily. Nothing ever goes as planned, does it? Homeschooling taught me to go with the flow – today no one was interested in the 37 books we brought home from the library on cloud formation. I guess instead we will go and lie on the trampoline and observe the sky. Thinking outside of the box allowed us to embrace every moment as a new opportunity to learn & come up with solutions to problems we didn’t know we had at the beginning of the day. At work, I am forced to think outside of the box daily. It allows me to look beyond the label a patient has been given and to see the whole person that I am treating.
Individual personalities/needs and interests – As a parent of 3 now, it constantly amazes me how different my children can be and at the same time have so many similarities. It is yet again nature vs. nurture, however, in this case it is not one or the other but a combination of both. By standing back and being able to observe nature in action I am better able to understand them, their needs and their desires which in turn allows me to better nurture them. The same goes in practice. As I watch nature unfolding and think about the evolution of disease, I am better able to work with the healing power of nature in my treatment plans.
Balance – “Balance” can have many meanings, but I want to be clear, in this context it certainly does not mean having it all. We all must make choices about what is important for ourselves & our families. For us, ensuring balance in our life was as important while homeschooling as it is today. We spent time learning together ensuring that we had fun in the process. We got our chores done together. We took time to craft, play and spend time outside. It was a way of incorporating healthy life lessons into our daily routine. At work, I talk a lot about lifestyle changes, something I believe is at the foundation of good health. For me it is not only about teaching these healthy lifestyles and preventative medicine but to teach by example.
We moved back to Ottawa in August 2015 and today my children are back in our neighbourhood school. I will always cherish the years I was able to spend with them homeschooling but feel so lucky that we can take those lessons and transfer them into our daily lives – at school, at home and now back at work.