Thursday, December 14, 2017

Creating Space

I don't find it enjoyable to get invited to five or six Christmas parties. While I appreciate the sentiment of being in demand, every invite comes with a request for a dish and a white elephant gift.  Honestly, I'm not pulling out my wallet, crockpot, or baking cookies for every party. Yep, I've become the mom who stops by the local pizza place for one or two $5 pizzas. Plus, the local grocery stores make some pretty good baked goods. I don't bake for people I don't feel close to. Baking and cooking is a sign of closeness that I simply can't create for acquaintances.

I'm seriously starting to hate potlucks. I bring a dish and limit my eating. It's more than being vegan. There's been this weird evolution of people refusing to use serving utensils at potlucks. I'm seeing too many children and adults putting their hands in bags of chips and sifting through the baked goodies to find the perfect match. Please stop breathing all over the cookies. Yes, I did see a string of hair hanging off a crockpot. Serving utensils are not suggestions. They're requirements. So, I look all weird because I'm eating a plate full of "I just opened this bag of chips, so I know your grubby hands haven't touched it." It's a great way to not gain weight during the holidays.

This has started an odd family ritual where I slide up to one of my children or husband and whisper, "You might not want to eat that." It's funny how we pick up each others idiosyncrasies. My son stepped out of the chip line because someone double dipped. He graciously allowed the person behind him to go instead. He didn't know how to warn the other person. My daughter chastised a friend for not wearing gloves when serving.  We do the whole please don't drink after your friends, mono is real thing. You touch it or drink it, it's yours. No animals in the kitchen while you're preparing food either.

This reminds me to be very careful of the ideas, fears, and anxieties I share with my children. They've taken each one of these food rules in. On a more serious level, I don't want my burdens to become their burdens. They observe so much of what I do and say. Many times, I'm unaware they've picked up some idea or concern about a certain situation or person. I am mindful of the impact of words. Am I creating unnecessary anxiety or fear? Am I causing them to doubt themselves? Am I creating an atmosphere of negativity? Yes, I've done all of the above. Now, I'm more aware of when this occurs. Often, I wonder how many of the habits they've picked up from me will require counseling in the future.  I want to create space for them to form their own ideas and thoughts. They need the freedom to wrestle with uncomfortable and new ideas. They need the space to disagree with me. This space is what I hope to discuss in future posts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Raising Human Beings

"Relationships survive on trust, and if that is broken at any point, it's pretty much the end of the relationship. Besides, inability to communicate leads to problems." Yurvay Singh, Indian athlete*
What does it mean to raise human beings? Ross W. Greene, Ph.D answers this questions in Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child. Are we interacting with our children on the basis of power or influence? Dr. Greene outlines a process to effectively problem solve with our children. Briefly, empathize, define adult concerns, and invite the child to problem solve.

Parents must look at their expectations and determine whether they are compatible or incompatible with our children's personalities, character, and abilities. We try to change behavior by exerting power, such as by taking away the Xbox or TV when chores or homework are undone. Instead do our expectations match our child's personality, temperament, and abilities? If not, incompatibilties arise. No one wants to fail. The biggest takeaway for me- operate from the premise that children prefer to do well. Compatibilty or incompatibilty occur as a result of the interaction between our children's characteristics, my characteristics, and the world's demands and expectations. He advises working on improving compatibilty not fixing our children. It's our job to look beyond behaviors and find the root causes of incompatibilities.

We can choose a collaborative partnership with our children. We are helpers. Helpers help. We don't make things worse. Also, we must not take things too personally when interacting with our children. Look beyond the sarcasm and attitude. We are helping our children figure out and accept who they are. We want their lives to align with this. Naturally, we want to influence them. Not influence in the way of attempting to control, but influence where our children want us to share our wisdom and opinions. When we have proper expectations we have influence. But, influence comes from having a relationship and positive communication. A big part of fostering this collaboration is observation. Just take a moment to sit back and observe your children. Really see who they are. Their likes and dislikes. Note the obstacles that cause them to stumble. Note the things that ignite the light in their eyes. Are our expectations based on the reality of who our children are? Our aim is to problem solve with our children.

 Does all of this sound a bit like unschooling or self-directed education? We are raising real human beings to live in the real world. I'm still a work in progress with this process. It's a new process for my children. I thought I was extending the invitation, but "our" solutions were not always realistic. Nor did I give my children time to problem solve. If it doesn't happen fast enough I jump in with my solution. The solution should be mutually agreed upon and realistic. I also have a tendency to try to address too many concerns.

* From

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Looking to the Horizon

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do accordingly (chapter 1, page 1)."
I finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston last weekend. Or rather rereading it. Nothing compares to reading this book as a 42 year old as opposed to a senior in high school. I remember enjoying it, but never getting past the class discussion aspect. Their Eyes Were Watching God speaks to the desire for freedom. It's about finding a place for yourself, loving yourself, and self-awareness. It offers a lens through which I can view our unschooling life. This is what I want for my children.
We've allowed ourselves to get sucked into that stereotypical middle class family mindset. We've gotten use to devoting ourselves to schedules of dance and sports. Our biggest issues seems to be keeping the grass cut and maintaining the house. We're focused on finding co-op classes and activities. In and of themselves, none of this is wrong. But, much of it hinders free exploration. In Their Eyes, Janie searches for her identity instead of the one imposed by society. It's easy to get caught up in keeping up with the homeschool joneses. Janie discovers the person she wants to be. I want to be in my children's lives what Janie's grandmother was unable to be for her. I want to offer my children a view of the horizon. The horizon represents the endless possibilities available in life. Nanny couldn't picture a life based on independence and freedom because of her previous status as a slave. This is the fallacy of the middle-class mentality. Thinking once we've gotten the degree, the six figure salary, the house, and 2.5 kids that we've arrived. This is not the myth I want to perpetuate.
While I'm stuck in my head, my husband asks, "What do you want to do?" Well, I want to travel. I want the children to see more than their little corner of the world. I want more natural experiences, more interactions with diverse people. Less perpetuating the status quo. I don't want my family to become a carbon copy of everyone else. I don't want to fill the days with co-ops and classes. I want them to have the opportunity to form their own ideas and opinions without memorizing the agenda of others. 
There is the necessity of meeting all of our needs. Right now, my oldest children are pretty tied to their sports/cheer and all the travel and practices that entails. They don't want to move outside their established zones. They want some organized classes. So, we'll work on incorporating it all. My husband's solution is simple. Leave earlier on sports travel days and take time to explore the areas where the team plays. Make use of those bye-weeks. I tend to be an all or nothing sort of gal.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Zombie Apocalypse, Little House on the Prairie, & Butter

Parent 1: If the writers of the Declaration of Independence were here they'd think we were.... idiots (another parent inserted the word idiot, I believe). We can't even churn butter.
Parent 2: Well, they wouldn't be able to drive my car.
Me: Or use my microwave.
Parent 1: But, they could learn to drive your car.
Me: I could learn to churn butter if needed to, but is that really a relevant skill.
Parent 2 (if he were with Alexander Hamilton): Do you know the second law of thermodynamics, no, neither do I, but I know Google.

The parents involved in this conversation were both public school and homeschool parents. We're so quick to believe the hype about technology being negative. Although, there is a segment of the homeschool population who only use books from the 18th and early 19th centuries. They prefer really old encyclopedias and dictionaries. They're all about cultivating 18th century farm skills. I'm not opposed to homesteading, gardening, building handcrafting or survival skills. It's great to build self-sufficiency and independence. On a deeper level, I believe people are yearning for a return to so-called simpler days that were not so great or simple for many people of color.

What I am opposed to is denigrating modern contributions to society because we choose to use our phones, tablets, and computers. I'm opposed to the premise of our being less intelligent because we can't churn butter. I do know how to correct this if I ever need to prepare for a zombie apocalypse I'd: read a book, watch a video, sign up for a back to basics class, subscribe to Mother Earth or Grit magazine,  ask my grandparents, or visit one of those colonial farms. I'm offended by the idea we're unable to learn a skill if and when it becomes necessary. Or even the idea I'd find churning butter a useful skill just out of the blue. Churning butter becomes a relevant skill when it meets a need. Maybe, I just finished reading Little House on the Prairie or my grandmother has shared stories of her childhood. I might want to save money (I'm not even sure it's cheaper), prefer the taste of homemade butter, or want to go off grid/homestead. Or I might think homemade butter is healthier. Whatever the reason, when the need arises, it's simple enough to learn.

We can't prepare for every eventuality, but we can prepare by learning how to find the information we need. Technology doesn't have to be seen as limiting. It's opened up an entire world that can coexist with churning butter.  Honestly, when I have gardening questions a quick search on the Burpee site gives me what I need. But so does volunteering at our local education farm or asking gardeners I know. It's a beautiful combination.

Links for churning butter:

Build Your Own Butter Church-Small Farmer's Journal,

How to Make Homemade Butter with Lehman's Dazey Butter churn

How to Churn Butter-

Pepper and Pine YouTube Channel Old Fashioned Butter: Homemade Butter

Kilner Butter Churn 34 fl. oz capacity-

Standing Stone Farms Butter Making Kit-

No butter churn necessary:

 to Make Homemade Butter with Lehman's Dazey Butter Churn

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Power of Choice

 "Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back 
In my husband's latest sermon, he discussed how following God is a choice. Using Deuteronomy 30:11-19, he asked the listeners to choose between blessings and cursings. For those unfamiliar with this passage, the Israelite leader, Moses, is asking the people to choose to make a commitment to God's commandments. This led me to Joshua 23 in which Joshua brings the people together asking them once again to choose right then and there who they're going to serve. I think this is wonderfully applicable to unschooling and parenting, especially for those of us who do more talking than walking. 

You know what I mean. You've read, listened, and watched every bit of material on unschooling and parenting, but you never quite get to the doing. It's time to choose to make the commitment to the life you and your family want. Just to clarify, I'm not in any way using these scripture to support unschooling or homeschooling. I'm just talking about how these scriptures spoke to me.

Don't keep going back and forth, make a choice. Trying sets us up for half-hearted attempts and failure. It makes us, and those around us, doubt the path we're following. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of wavering. I'm tired of sending mixed messages to my family. Are we going to keep trying to become more thoughtful? Or keep trying unschooling? Or will we choose thoughfulness and unschooling? We have the power and ability to choose. 

Are we going to choose life or death? Are we going to speak beneficial, encouraging words to those in our life?  Am I trying to foster an atmosphere of peace, curiosity, and joy? Or am I actively creating this atmosphere? My decisions, thoughts, and actions must line up with the things I say I want. Not trying, but doing. Yes, I get up each and every day consciously choosing to act on this knowledge. It's not a once and done type of deal. Live life, don't try to live life.

You have the power: choose.

*Any similarities between this post and my husband's sermon are intentional used with his express permission.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Unity in Homeschooling

"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved." Mattie Stepanek (
Self-righteous. Know-it-All. Queen Mother of All Things Correctly Done in the Homeschooling and Parenting Universe. Passive-Agressive. My husband wouldn't have been wrong if any of these thoughts coursed through his mind. What do you do if you and your spouse differ on methods of homeschooling? To be clear, we have always agreed on homeschooling. We always agreed on classical home education, school at home. Until we didn't.

Years of homeschooling, reading, and later deschooling led me to believe our family needed to do things differently. Instead of drawing my family into the process. I leaped in wholeheartedly, revamping our entire lifestyle. Notice I said "I." I didn't really consult with my husband. Or even my kids for that matter. Instead of gradual change, I flipped the script on them. I just threw out curriculum (except for my son who wants to play college sports). Decided no separate subjects. Straight living life and freedom. Too much, too soon. But, I didn't stop there. I went straight radical. No bed times, no limits on electronics All this after completing an electronic screen-time reset in February. Total electronic blackout. Inconsistency and too much change.

I made unschooling more important than the relationship with my husband. Plus, I threw my children into chaos. No schedule, no organization. Which is not what unschooling means. When my husband returned from work the house was turbulent. Madness greeted him on a regular basis.  No bed times in the general sense, disturbed him. As the watchman of the night, he likes to know the house is secured. It's not o-kay with him for the kids to roam around the house at all times of night. Plus, it's hard for them all to maintain quiet. He has an early and lenghty commute. But, it turns out he has no problem with the kids occupying themselves in their rooms with quiet activities. This is about respecting him. Without his support of homeschooling we wouldn't be able to enjoy this lifestyle.

We go back and forth with electronics. So, we're working a plan that takes into consideration his thoughts. This is a partnership. He loves our children as much as I do. I think because the primary homeschooling parent reads, studies, and breathes this life it's easy to treat the nonschooling parent as a mere observer. No input needed or desired. He wants to know our children are learning. He wants to know I'm actively engaging them, and not just letting them roam wildly. It's up to me to show him the children are learning. It's my job to let him know he's included in our lives. He loves hearing about their days and new things learned. He loves seeing their projects.

He misses the projects and experiments. I admit I've become a little too hands off. Honestly, it's been my implementation of unschooling that's a turn off not the actual concept. He's all for independence, taking control of your learning, following your interests, and natural learning. What's not to love?What he dislikes is disorganization and lack of a plan. Unschooling doesn't mean no structure. I'm not talking about structure in the sense of micromanaging the  day hour by hour. Or even filling the day with activities I've planned for them. But, helping  them find activities of interest to them and supporting them once involved. Without unity, our homeschooling lifestyle is doomed to failure. As we enter the new year, I go with renewed purpose not only to unschooling, but more importantly to our relationship.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Living to Live Again

Living to live again is more than a concept of the afterlife (or whatever religion you practice or don't practice). For a Christian, the aim is to live this life in such a way that heaven becomes your home when you die. But, this isn't the end result. It doesn't matter if you're religious or nonreligious. How will you live again though your cildren, family, and friends? And how does home education help fulfill your legacy?

Killed in a car accident nine years later,  I'm still angry and hurt my mom died. Intellectually, I understand death is inevitable and often unexpected. My friend's mom died when she was 14. She's learned to look at the legacy her mom left. She focuses on her gratitude for not only the time she had with her, but looks back and acknowledges the foundation her mother laid for the life she is living now.

I attended funeral services for the mother of our church. It was one of the most beautiful and serene services I've ever attended. Just listening to the stories family and friends shared were amazing. To look out across the congregation and see her children, grandchildren, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, and friends celebrating the life she led was remarkable. She lived her to life to live again. She's gone, yet she still lives in each of the people she shared her life with. That's powerful.

If you're a Christian, it's more than a matter of someone living to live again in heaven. How will your children remember you? What stories will they tell your grandchildren? If you're not a Christian the questions remain the same. How does home education add to this legacy? What will they remember about these homeschooling days? Will they remember yelling, nagging, and math books flying? Or will they remember the passion and enthusiasm you shared about living life with them. Oh, there will be good and days bad. Hopefully, the good memories will outweigh the bad. Over time, I've found through my mom's death, the good memories really do overshadow the bad.

I look at my love of baking, parenting my children, and love of learning as a by-product of my childhood. My mom had such an amazing ability to pick her battles. She trusted her abilities to impart love and wisdom. She didn't rely on the latest in pop psychology or the newest parenting technique. My mom didn't need to read a book or the latest study to tell her it was okay to let your children watch TV or play video games. That's the woman I want to be. I know every day wasn't easy for her. She was a single parent, worked, and earned her college degree.

Fortunately, this isn't a one shot deal. Sometimes we do get a do-over of sorts. We have an opportunity daily to make the choices required to live again in our children and grandchildren. What choices do you need to make?