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 (www.brainyquote.com)
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?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post Election Reflections

"I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he's wrong. Than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil." Malcolm X

(http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/malcolm_x_2.html)
I shared on FaceBook my children woke up on Wednesday feeling some kind of way about the election results. Disappointment. Sadness. Surprise. Confusion. Just a disclaimer, my husband and I were not Trump or Clinton supporters. So, this isn't a bash Trump post or elevate Clinton. Or vice versa. But, what did the elections teach my children?

They learned people they like will support ideas and people they find difficult to accept. My younger boys were disappointed and confused by their friends supporting Trump. If their friends were watching the same debates and speeches how could they support him? Children in our co-op debated the merits of Trump and Clinton. There were some pretty strong convictions on both sides. Unlike adults, they were able to play together lately.

They learned what's in you will eventually come out. The fear, isolationism, and hate for various groups reigned freely in this election. People will eventually show their true colors given the opportunity. So, always watch and listen to what people do and say. You'll learn how people really feel about you. I've always had more respect for people openly truthful of how they feel than those who hide it behind false words.

They learned adults are not always the best examples of appropriate behavior. Name-calling and bullying tactics are unacceptable in our home. The kids watched the debates often commenting about the "childish" behavior. It became a running joke that it was insulting to children to label their behavior as childish.

They learned the more things change the more they stay the same. People of color have made great strides in all areas of life, yet nothing actually changes. For many, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's is history. It's something we read about and discuss with our elders. We watch documentaries and visit museums. This election reminds us we must remain vigilant. The struggle is real.

They learned our lives aren't controlled by who's in the White House. Most Black people I know don't depend on the government to live fruitful lives. We've always known the merits of self-education and self-sufficiency. The world will still go on. Dad still has to get up and go to work. Bills still need to get paid. People of color will do what they've always done: adapt, educate, survive, and thrive.

They learned politics is a game. We listened to Trump's victory speech. My kids noted this man was not the man who spoke before the election. This man spoke of unity and complimented Secretary Clinton. This man was calm. One of my son's asked if maybe Trump was acting earlier in the campaign. Politics is a game of tailoring your actions and words to the latest audience. The best speakers in any field know how to do this. Politics is no different. So, the wise person listens deeper.

Today is a new day. The elections are over and there's still work to be done as a nation and separately as individuals and families. This will never change. All we can tell our children is do the things necessary to live a life independent of who is the White House or has the senate majority. Build your families and communities. Educate yourself. Become entrepreneurs, or always have a side gig. Don't get caught up in materialism and personal debt. Love and respect others. Remember you are your brothers and sisters keepers. If you're really adventurous, grab that piece of land and start growing your own food. These things withstand political affiliations.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mama with a Cape

"We all wake up in the morning wanting to live our lives the way we know we should. But we usually don't, in small ways. That's what makes a character like Batman so fascinating. He plays out our conflicts on a much larger scale."  
Christopher Nolan (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/batman.html)
 I feel different when I wear my Batman t-shirt with a cape: bolder, more confident, and happier. It never fails to excite my younger boys. I think everyone needs a cape in his/her repertoire, especially deschooling parents or those who find themselves wavering a bit on the unschooling path. The goal is not to become superwoman or superman, but to live life authentically.

A cape says:

I'm clued into what my children love.

My children (especially my younger boys) love everything Marvel and DC. I'm talking movies, guides, and video games. They know all the storylines. We watch Flash, Young Justice, Teen Titans, and The Batman. I know more about parallel universes, time wraiths, and the speed force than I could ever have imagined.

I remember how to play.

Nothing quite says let's play like a cape. It brings back memories of using clothes pins and towels as capes. My cousins would jump off the roof while pretending to fly. I'd forgotten how to play. I struggled when the boys asked me to role play or even build with Lego.

I'm comfortable being me.

A cape attracts attention. I've spent a lifetime feeling self-conscious. I have a need to meet some invisible standard of "acceptable" behavior. I'm constantly amazed how content my children are in their own skins. My response to them causes the discontent. Wearing my cape calms the inner voice that dictates proper behavior for an adult.

Silliness is okay. 

Children find everything funny. I use to find humor in everything before life became overwhelming. I felt free to let my big smile and laugh reign free. Now, I have a limit for silliness. I want to add more silliness.

I'm resilient.

Unschooling is serious business for me. I'm trying to enjoy life more. It's easy to let the world seep into our lives. I get caught up in there seemingly being so much to teach my kids before they enter the world. They're in the world now and experiencing so much. It's hard to keep my cynical, jaded views from negatively influencing their joy. I see Black Lives Matter,  the presidential elections, 13, homelessness, and the school to prison pipeline. We discuss these things, yet my children remain hopeful. They're wearing invisible capes, capes of resiliency. Batman's cape helps him glide through Gotham. It provides protection. I remind myself I don't quit because situations seem difficult or impossible. The principles of unschooling seem unattainable some days.There are times when I don't want to get out of the bed in the mornings. I sometimes need a serious do-over. Every day is a brand new opportunity to start over.

I want the joy my children exhibit.

I need to create opportunities for fun in my life. Life is so short, and the time I have with my children even shorter. Every time I squelch their joy and laughter our relationship is negatively affected. Until my children, I never knew what it meant to always have a song or dance inside you. I don't mean figuratively, but literally dancing or singing all by yourself in the grocery store, at the park, or just walking anywhere. They have what I want.

How much of the way we parent is filled with envy at the parts of ourselves we've lost, but that our children possess?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Acting White"

Former NBA player, Charles Barkley said what many Black Americans have experienced for years. I was teased for "acting" white a couple of times by people who didn't even know me. Even at an HBCU, I had one girl tease me for "talking" white. Is acting white speaking grammatically correct? Is it getting good grades? Is it preferring country music to hip-hop? Regardless of the answers,  it's time to stop the foolishness.

As a child, an uncle had me correct my speech on an index card whenever necessary when I spent time with him and my aunt. He's another one of those Alabama boys. Education, whether college or trade, is highly valued in my family. Older people encouraged college. They forced you to do Easter, Christmas, and Mother's Day speeches to improve speaking skills. They asked to see report cards. They wanted to hear about your educational achievements. You were encouraged to act as youth president and secretary of the Sunday School. Every person had a hand in your development. Formal education was still seen as guaranteed success.

I don't know if young people today have the faith to jump through the hoops we did. They see the social inequities and it seems useless. College graduates can't even find employment. Maybe, all those years ago, the voices crying "you're acting white" were crying out against a system trying to marginalize them. Could it be they were the ones seeing the real intent of the system?

Now looking back, I think about the repercussions of being in a tracking system. I've mentioned before, once you were tracked on a certain academic level for middle school, it essentially lasted until graduation. My sixth-grade teacher actually did not sign me up for any advanced classes. My mom overrode her recommendations. I was not a straight-A student, but my mom felt I could handle the work. In elementary school, I was never seen as acting white. My classes had a large Black presence. Kids loved to make the honor roll, participate in Spelling Bees, and other activities. I was not the exception with academic achievement.

Maybe other parents chose to take the sixth-grade teacher's recommendations for seventh-grade courses. Maybe they thought she knew best. I think there were one or two other Black students who moved into advanced classes. But, once I was separated from my classmates, I was never able to fully reconnect. A decision made in sixth grade labeled me the exception, along with several other Black students who were in the same classes as well.

The academic tracking created a class system inside of the school. It  separated low, middle, and upper-class students.  Obviously, there were those who stepped outside these parameters, but it put an invisible barrier in place that made us seem privileged. I'm not sure it's so easy to say it's the crab mentality. At its core, it's an adversarial system. I didn't spend each day tormented and bullied. None of my childhood friends wished me harm or failure. They were not jealous. It's more as if I became invisible to people I'd spent a childhood with.

There's an entire world of experiences out there, if we can ever move beyond our and others limitations. Our children have the right to explore their interests without being made to feel less than. Whether it's the black teen playing rugby or deciding to sing opera who are we to diminish another person and force them into a box. Or if you want to play basketball or football, that's okay  too. We're forever hearing think outside the box, but why can't we just throw the box away. Years  ago, you might have been a  black student told not to major in Music or Art. At least in my little circle. I remember my astonishment when a slightly older person from a rural southern town told me her parents encouraged her Drama major in college. Although, based on an September 4, 2016 article in the Washinton Post liberal art major aren't encouraged by parents in general. Now, I have a cousin who graduated with a Fashion and Textile degree. I met another young lady who travelled to Spain on some sort of internship to perform opera. A young man from my church plays rugby. We're expanding ourselves. But, we must stretch ourselves so much more. Think of the things people have avoided from fear of being seen as white.

We have so many labels and perceptions about other people based on race, gender, religion, and hundreds of other things. How do we overcome our biases to extend respect and love to all people? Many brown and black people worry about physical safety, whether from those in the community or in power. Immigrants worrying about deportation and the building of a wall. Refugees seeking asylum. Law enforcement officers feeling vilified. Others worrying about diminishing power in a growing world of color. At the end of the day, we're looking for a place of acceptance and respect, some times in the wrong ways. We're always speaking about creating a better future; what about creating a better today. We need a different present. The future is built upon the many choices we make today. Today is the beginning of change. How will you contribute to building a positive present?





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Take Heart

My heartfelt condolences go out to the civilian and law enforcement families who lost their loved ones this past week.