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.


Monday, July 4, 2016

African-American School-Aged Children Development of Identity Survey


Trudy Crossbourne, a doctoral student from Western Kentucky,contacted me through this blog about a research project she is conducting involving African-American homeschoolers. She and her co-researcher are seeking survey participants. If you want more information about the researchers please see http://www.wku.edu/ealr/staff/kimberlee_everson and http://ealr.blog.wku.edu.

Please read the following letter provided by the researchers and follow the enclosed link if you're willing to participate.

Dear Art of Homeschoolery Readers,

You are being invited to participate in a research project conducted through Western Kentucky University. The project focuses on the development of identity among African American school-aged children. As parents of school-aged children, we will ask that you respond to questions regarding identity development in your child. This project has received approval from the Institutional Review Board (REF # IRB 16-513).

Your participation in this study is completely voluntary and you may opt not to complete the survey. If you decide to share your child’s experiences with us, your information will be kept confidential at all times and you will not be identified as a participant in any way. Filling out the survey should not take more than 20 minutes of your time. There are no risks to you for participating in this study.

We greatly appreciate the time you will devote to participating in the study.

Sincerely,


Kimberlee Everson & Trudy Crossbourne

My co-researcher and I have completed the survey. Here is the link to survey:



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bluebirds and Protecting Childhood

Did you know bluebirds are a symbol of hope and happiness? September 24th is the National Bluebird of Happiness Day. Seriously, I felt all Thoreau-like watching the activities of the bluebirds unfold. In just a few minutes, my ideas coalesced into this reaffirming belief in the necessity of consciously protecting my children's childhood. My daughter captured a video of our resident bluebird protecting its territory from an invader.

There are so many things trying to steal our children's childhood. The push for earlier and earlier academics. This push to prepare for college earlier and earlier. Who really expects a 14-year-old to determine his/her career path in ninth grade? Kudos to those teens who have it all figured out. But, are we pushing so much that teens are not being given the opportunity to explore who they want to become? Is it just a race to mindlessly accumulate AP classes, extracurricular activities, and honors? It's mindboggling to consider this race to college, and the difficulty of even finding employment after graduation. High school and college should be a time of healthy risk-taking and adventure. Are we allowing our children to discover passions or are we pushing achievement at any cost? There are already too many working adults plodding along in a life that no longer satisfies. It's our job to protect our children from this attack on childhood.

We watched the male and female bluebirds build another nest. The nest has been completed, and two eggs are comfortably ensconced. We're looking forward to watching the eggs hatch and seeing the young birds take flight. I'm keeping an eye out for the black snake.

               Male Bluebird

       Female Bluebird









Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stop and Smell the Roses


"Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going to fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why."- Eddie Cantor
 (http://www.brainyquote.com)
Just sharing a little of the early Spring action I didn't appreciate enough. I missed the blooming of two cherry trees I didn't even realize were there. I was more focused on weeding, mowing, and general landscaping.

Tulip


Bleeding Heart 
Tulip
Nothing compares to the smell of magnolia flowers.

Magnolia
Don't let your to-do list keep you from enjoying what's all around you. Being present offers the best opportunity for us not to miss the important parts of our children's lives.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Where Did All the Bluebirds Go?

"A man's interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town." - Henry David Thoreau (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes)
Anticipating the bluebirds that would nest in our bluebird box is one of the things that carried this southern girl through the snow and cold. It was a countdown heralding warmer days. We eagerly watched the parents build the nest straw by straw. We watched them protect the nest from other birds. Finally, the big day came when we counted four blue eggs nestled safely in the box.


Until, they were not there. The box sits on the deck, in clear view of our kitchen and deck doors. There was no way we could have missed the hatching. We wondered what happened until...


Yes, that's a black snake invading our bluebird box. The box was already empty, so I can surmise she was coming back for more. Since black snakes are harmless, I patiently waited for it to leave the deck. It slithered from the deck into a tree. I keep reminding myself they keep the rodent population down. The circle of life and all that.

Alas, the bluebirds haven't returned. But, now I realize the signs were there all along. Other birds and our friendly neighborhood squirrel, Charlie, were noticeably absent from their morning visits. Apparently, all danger has passed since Charlie paid us a visit recently.


Now, we're just hoping the bluebirds will return.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Year End Wrap Up

These last few months haven't been easy. Customarily, as the end of the year approaches, I reevaluate our decision to homeschool. It drives my children a little crazy. I ask a million questions and gauge every activity by how much learning occurred. Around evaluator time, I get a little crazy. I don't always trust the process. Trusting my choices becomes slightly more difficult. In January, despite a few bumps and straying from deschooling, I  committed to fully letting go of my educational reservations and allowing my children to process and grow at their own speeds. I thought I chose the worst possible time to deschool.  The need to deschool recurs as my children enter different stages of the educational process. My oldest son is entering high school, so that unleashed a whole new torrent of fears about college admissions. As I write this post, I realize it was the perfect time to deschool.

Once again, my fears were unfounded. We decided to use an evaluator again. I spent a week snapping pictures, updating book lists, and just compiling a record of everything the kids have done this year.  Honestly, the fear of not having evidence of academic progress made me crazy. But, once I started reviewing our year, there was more than enough evidence of educational progress.

From reading my daughter's fan fiction to my nine year old beginning the Harry Potter series, it has been a wonderful "end" to our year. They completed plenty of projects and activities to fill common academic categories. We've made new friends, figured skated, taken home a basketball trophy, and watched my son in a dance recital. Culinary interests have led an interest in Arabic cuisine. And revealed falafel as my favorite word. Attempting to dissect a starfish cleared the room as soon as I revealed the insides. We took a side trip to the Parthenon in Nashville because of the Percy Jackson books. We've read so many books both as a family and individually.

 I still waver about screen-time. In moments of weakness, I do things such as the electronic reset mistake we initiated in February, which I realize was totally unnecessary. Instead, I'm working on helping my children enjoy video games and their devices. Since my concerns have more to do with environmental issues I'm focusing on decreasing the potential effects of blue light. It's easily done through using filter apps for devices and computers. Also, we found my son needed glasses, which was causing headaches. Electronics had nothing to do his problem. Making sure snacks are available during the day helps with emotional outbursts. They're hangry.

I still have moments when I want my children to exhibit more traditional educational interests. Meaning, ones where I can just hand them a textbook, a test, and wrap it up succinctly. Honestly, life is much easier when I can cross learning objectives off a checklist.

The threat of the old, yellow school bus really needs to stop rearing its ugly head. Looking back, how did your school year go?




Monday, April 25, 2016

Authentic Living

I still find myself looking for the mountaintop experiences in life. We've had those unexplainable moments where the stars just seem to align and the miraculous occurs. Difficulties seem to just float away and obstacles are removed.  There is a natural desire to continuously reach and search for these moments to avoid the pain and suffering of life.  In The Places that Scare You: A guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön, I am reminded it's in the ordinary moments where authentic living comes.

Even in homeschooling, we can find ourselves looking for the perfect teachable moments or signs of giftedness that will transcend the ordinary moments of everyday living. Magical experiences are wonderful and refreshing, but we can't live our entire lives in some spiritual state, disconnected from the uncertainty of this world. We're looking for security in a world filled with pain, suffering, and disillusionment. Many homeschoolers get caught up in finding the perfect curriculum, class, and co-op. All this in the hopes of preparing and protecting our children from the insecurity of living.

Everyday joy is watching the bluebirds build a nest, discussing who would win Superman or Batman, comforting a sick family member, or hitchhiking across the universe with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. In these moments, we're building a foundation of memories on. We need to consciously decide to face each day with joy. Each day is a brand new day for us to embrace with peace, joy, and calm regardless of the circumstances.

I'm understanding I don't need to avoid any situation.Why is it so hard to accept nothing is permanent? I have problems combining the inevitability of death with enjoying life. If it's all so fleeting why get up each day and try. Chödrön says it's this impermanence that frustrates us (page 26). Everything we do as humans is an attempt to stop change. I look in the mirror, see gray hair, and buy a box of dye. I step on the scale, notice a few pounds, and decide to diet. Botox, wrinkle cream, and facelifts are all part of the fear of change. I know I don't like things to change. I want my house, activities, friends, and family in SC. So, I distance myself from making friends or even considering my new location as home. I've staunchly refused to buy a house here because this is not my home. I know I'm dwelling in the past, wishing for what use to be. How can I enjoy the present when my thoughts are stuck in the past? This is exactly why we need to face each day with joy. This is a brand new day for us to embrace with peace, joy, and calm regardless of our circumstances.

Authentic living doesn't really take place in the high moments. Nor in the comfortable times. It's in the valley where we're tried and pushed beyond ourselves. Christian thought has the valley as a place of death. Death doesn't need to be physical. It can be death to any thought, idea, or action that is keeping us from experiencing the joy of the present. We're constantly changing. I'm not even the same person today that I was yesterday, much less a year ago. But, it's freeing to realize we don't have to fear the uncertainty, change, pain, or discomfort that comes from living.

Living is much more than the pain we try to avoid. It's a combination of all our experiences: the good, bad, and ugly. We just need to lean into the discomfort. How does homeschooling/unschooling bring you out of your comfort zone?

Friday, April 1, 2016

March Wrap Up

We've taken a much needed break. I've collected boatload of interesting youtube videos, podcasts, and projects to share with the kids. We're spending time volunteering at the county educational farm, sitting on cows, playing video games, and starting our garden.
We managed to catch up on Wolfblood, finish the first three movies of Harry Potter, and celebrate one birthday. As always, some sport is going on. We completed recreational basketball, and have started practice for travel team. My daughter is practicing for her first ice skating competition. My youngest son started 4-H archery, and the middle son is preparing for a dance performance.

We purchased one of those Smithsonian Institute science kits, and surprisingly the triops are hatching. My daughter was out of resources about orcas, so she picked this kit up from Michael's.  I'm hoping she'll get to take one of those marine educational field trips. We squeezed in a nature scavenger hunt this week. Bluebirds are visiting our box, and the cherry tree is in bloom. Toss in a few books, boardgames, band, and Bible study for a full week to end our break, which has been for a couple of weeks. We don't take extended Christmas breaks or holidays. My youngest found a deer shoulder bone at the educational farm. My oldest finished building a couple of model airplanes.

I'm gathering our material for the evaluator in late May or early June, possibly testing for the oldest child to prepare for ninth grade. We're anticipating a college sports career, so next year will be a lot more formal for eligibility reasons. Although, we're hoping for at least one credit this year. Initially, I was bemoaning the forthcoming restrictions to our homeschooling, but I decided to focus on the positives. The next four years are planned. My son prefers an outline to guide his studying. I realized within those restrictions there's a lot of room for choice, projects, and living books. My son is a hands-on learner, and I've found a wonderful website at http://bie.org/about for applicable projects. Plus, he's learning to meet guidelines and using education to reach his goals. I want him as prepared as possible for the path he's chosen to follow. He's my guinea pig. I foresee one or two of  his younger siblings playing college sports as well. We're looking forward to the high school years. I'm just a little saddened to see his homeschooling coming to an end in four years. My main goal is to treasure this time with him.

Now, our pressing goal is to catch up on the TV series The Flash and finish the rest of the Harry Potter movies. Hope you had a wonderful finish to your Spring Break.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Recovering from Education Part III

Reading Miseducation of the Negro enabled me to analyze my thoughts about education and in particular educating Black children. As a child, I was held to a higher standard, expected to work harder and be smarter than white children. I think that was/is pretty standard in black families. But, what's the point of duplicating the thoughts and ideas from hundreds of years ago? Even in the 1930's Woodson recognized no one wanted imitators. Standard education doesn't have all the answers for society. We need to embrace new ways of thinking and learning. It definitely won't look like what many of us experienced.

It's been hard letting go of the expectations I have for my children. I battle constantly with the idea of high grades, being exceptional, and giftedness. It embarrasses me when my children don't know what other children their age know. To think my children are average offends that school part of me that was tracked from 7th-12th grade. The strain of looking for the learning has turned me too much into an observer and not a participant.

 I loved school. I loved seeing A's on paper. I loved being recognized for my academic strengths, even if in some of my school years I felt alone, as if I had to represent all Black people. I felt glee when I broke the curve the teacher set. I felt honored when a teacher had me write the exam for the other students in a college class. I became defined by my academic achievements. If I couldn't be the pretty or the athletic one I could be the smart one. My love of learning is real, but the need to constantly prove myself is unnatural.

I look at my children and see all the weaknesses I tried to rid myself of. I remember every failure and embarrassment from the time I started middle school to college graduation day. Every incident that reinforced I wasn't good enough. I want them to be everything I'm not. I want every one of my weaknesses to not show up in them. I understand the need to accept myself. If I can accept myself, then I can accept them. Academics made up for all the deficiencies I felt growing up as a child. I keep reminding myself to focus build on strengths and not weaknesses.

A psychologist would probably say this is a result of a child of divorce. The whole if I'm good enough and perform well enough routine. As the oldest, I set certain standards for myself and determined I'd never cause my mom trouble when she already had enough to take care of working, going back to school, and caring for my siblings. College, career, and then family, which didn't exactly follow that plan longterm. Staying at home was never on the radar, and homeschooling came even further out of left field. Academics and constantly working justified my existence somehow. Even now, I have a problem with being a stay at home mom, because I feel guilty putting the financial burden on my husband regardless of his support.

Let's be real for a minute. School at home made me look good. It insured the kids met prerequisites for their ages/grades. It provided expectations and goals. It justified forgoing the public school system. It legitimatized our decision to homeschool. It gave me something to do with all those educational theories. I work so hard at home, never relaxing, to justify the decision to stay home. It never really took my children into consideration. I wanted to create geniuses. Deschooling is dismantling all the thoughts keeping me from living in this moment. I don't even know how to live life without overthinking and analyzing situations to death. If I can just think enough about a situation I'll have security.  I've chosen to be bystander in my own life.

There's this big disconnect keeping me from mindfulness, clarity, and peace. So, I can't invite my children into my life when I'm living this kind of half life. Pema Chödrön, in How to Meditate, teaches a type of meditation "about awakening fully to our lives" and "opening the heart and mind to the difficulties and joys of life-just as it is" (p. 6). I want guarantees in my marriage, childrearing, and life in general. Too bad there isn't a manual I can follow. I don't even know what to do on a day by day basis without a planner and curriculum. So, the next step is learning how to manifest a life that draws my children and reflects all the curiosity and love I have inside of me. How does mindfulness, clarity, and peace affect your ability to live and learn?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Recovering from Education Part II

Building upon the need to question, let's look at the college-vocational dichotomy. Even when I was younger in the 1980's and 1990's, black children were advised to enter careers or earn degrees where you could earn a living. Certain majors like Art, Music, and Drama were frowned upon unless it included a teaching certificate. Solid career paths like engineering, nursing, and education were seen as certainties. You tracked in high school and propelled along one of these paths.

In high school, most of the black students were in the vocational or non-college track. Few black students were on the college prep track when I attended. My husband, who was on the college prep track, remembers wanting to take auto body his senior year of high school and being told he couldn't.  Now, did it conflict with his schedule, I don't know? There's always that possibility.  He finished classes at noon and definitely had a free afternoon.

There's so much tied up in our fostering of classism and socioeconomic status. What about the student who wanted to attend college, but wasn't able to adequately prepare? Why is college seen as a secret club for the select few? Why build barriers between students with so-called blue collar and white collar jobs? Who does this benefit, and why do we feed into it? There was a perception that some skills/knowledge were unavailable if you were on a certain track.

The debate on whether  classical (meaning college) or vocational (or what Woodson calls industrial) education presented opportunities to earn a living was a major issue in Woodson's day. Think along the lines of Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Woodson criticizes both the industrial and classical schools of his day. The industrial schools for providing poor training and classical education for not being useful due to the lack of opportunities to practice advanced education. He feels the purpose of education is to create thinkers, but he believed the classical education created discontent without a corresponding increase in possibilities.

Although some might feel as if we're eschewing college and choosing to become less educated that's not the case. I've noticed an upturn in the number of black parents encouraging their children into vocational careers. They're looking at their communities and seeing the needs that exist. There's been a decrease in people entering these fields. We've been told a bill of goods that college is the ticket to wealth, success, and the American dream. It is one way, not the only way. Woodson describes it as being "educated away from the fruit stand" (p. 41).

But, he doesn't say choose vocational or classical education. The question becomes how do we earn a living? Woodson complains that the vocational schools of his day were teaching skills that could not be applied to life, thus presenting no opportunity to make a living. He advises looking at our communities and finding a new way to do a task. Stop imitating and duplicating what others are doing. This applies to the professional arena as well. In professional fields, he encourages knowing the people you're serving, obtain the necessary training, and gain all the knowledge you need to successfully practice your field. Step up and become leaders and pioneers. If you enter a field that has not been explored fully by African-American (my substitution for Negro), don't limit yourself to what society says, but expand your horizons. Take it abroad if necessary. Many artistic types did just that during Woodson's time period, going to Europe to reach more accepting audiences. He encourages the artist to become "world reformers" (p. 180). Seize the opportunity to change how the world thinks. Reach new heights and add to the current body of knowledge in whatever field of study.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Recovering from Education Part I

"The mere imparting of information is not education. Above all things, the effort
must result in a making a man think and do for himself just as the Jews have done in spite of universal persecution." Carter G. Woodson,
The Mis-Education of the Negro, p. xvi
In honor of Black History month, I joined a book club to read *The Mis-Eduction of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. It's been years since I've read the book, and I don't remember ever finishing it. This time, the importance of it to homeschooling/unschooling really hit me. Many African-Americans are beginning to homeschool because of overt and covert racism in the classroom. It's just one less obstacle to learning. Whether consciously or unconsciously, to use Woodson's own words, "the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and almost every book he studies" (p. 2). It is both sad and amazing that a book published in 1933 speaks so eloquently of the educational and social dynamics in 2016. How do we recover from the education we've received? First, recognize lies have been told.

Homeschooling/unschooling offers a unique opportunity to really see our children and educate them according to who they are instead of who we'd like them to be. This is an important idea to remember as we discuss this book. Woodson describes a system filled with "propaganda and cant" (p. 4). All attempts to misdirect the African-American (my term) student. According to Woodson, the only person who escapes this promulgation of inferiority is the student who leaves school early. This person might have a chance to be of some use the African-American community. Otherwise, she is taught to hate herself and her race. The more highly educated you are in such a system the more Woodson considers you a detriment to the race. He considers "successful Negroes" (p. 2) as those who are less educated. Now, many would make the case that all students are deliberately filled with propaganda and made useless. The names John Gatto and John Holt kept popping into mind when reading this book. 

Who determines what is learned? Are we passing along to our children what "the traducers of the race would like to have [them] learn (p. 2)? Or are we looking at our children, families, communities, etc and building an educational foundation on what is needed and important to them. Now, history is being rewritten. The word "workers" replaces "slaves" in modern textbooks. Apparently, Africans boarded ships to America to seek better opportunities. The truth is erased in a feeble attempt to remove racial barriers and ease guilt. But, truth is what will set us free from the mistakes of the past and put us on a path to respecting differences. Yes, slave owners and segregationists used differences to justify slavery and segregation, but differences in and of themselves don't indicate superiority or inferiority (p. 8). Acknowledge the pain of my ancestors while realizing I understand you didn't enslave them. Acknowledge the psychological effects of slavery, segregation, and oppression. Acknowledge our wonderful similarities and differences and how our histories intertwined to build a nation. Our education and degrees in the current system assist us very little in doing these things. All we do is attempt to imitate the system that imprisons us. We never reach the point where our gifts are freely shared. Woodson says this, 
"They hope to make the Negro conform quickly to the standard of the whites and thus remove the pretext for the barriers between the races. They do not realize, however, that even if the Negroes do successfully imitate the whites, nothing new has thereby been accomplished. You simply have a larger number of persons doing what others have been doing (p.7)."
"They" refers to the educated African-American (my term as opposed to Negro). Nothing new has been added when we downplay our differences. It's the differences that enrich our interactions. Equality doesn't mean erase who I am. 

We often bring the same school mentality into our homeschools, thus creating school-at-home. I constantly share with people my bachelor's in Psychology, with an emphasis in education, hinders more than helps my home. It fills my head with theories and ideas that sometimes limits instead of frees. The "educated" Negro learns his place very well in society and maintains the status quo. But, I don't want to do things the way they've always been done. I don't want my children to do things the way they've always been done. 

It seems simple. The second step to recovering from education is questioning. Question everything you've been taught about yourself, education, parenting, children, religion, the world etc. Why do we hold certain beliefs? Who benefits when we hold certain beliefs? Most of our knowledge comes from places outside of ourselves, and we never question why we're told certain things. We're stuck in a system that we can't change or often get out of. I think Woodson would ask:  Who does this serve? Who are the agents that uphold the system? Look deep and hard.

Homeschooling in general speaks of families wanting to do things differently and on their own terms. So, do charter and free schools. This is why unschooling speaks to me. It moves beyond simply homeschooling to an area that pushes you to reexamine everything you've learned. 

How did you recover from your education?


*All quotes taken from 2000 edition with profile, introduction, and study questions by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Winter Blues

The cold weather and snow have given me too much time to think and debate
my commitment to homeschooling, religion, and life in general.  I've spent hours analyzing the very foundations of my belief system and the correlating impact on the decisions I've made thus far. Mortality, humanity, God/no God, free will, responsibility, and the meaning of it all has consumed me. Hopefully, it's pushing me to live more authentically and come to terms with what it means to be mom, wife, me, and human. Or I just have too much time on my hands. I just want to add, to a true South Carolina girl, this much snow is unnatural.

Is it an existential anxiety, the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder?

Seriously, I self-identify as suffering from existential anxiety. Why? Because I'm just that deep. Not really, but I do question my existence and the value of this life on a pretty regular basis. Just a quick search on existentialism and existential anxiety was quite interesting. If you are suffering from major depression or thoughts of suicide and death not of the questioning your mortality type, please seek help. *Check out the link about SAD for more information. I have too many thoughts flying around in my head affecting my sleep.  So, I need ways to step outside myself and otherwise occupy my mind and body. Either way, the weather has me taking myself way too seriously.

Connect with others. We volunteered with Serve Our Willing Warrior, a retreat center for wounded, ill, or injured armed service members in the recovery process. We had a great experience helping prep the house for upcoming guests at the center. I didn't know my children could clean that well, which set a new standard for our house. Check out http://www.willingwarriors.org/our_mission for more information. Hopefully, we're able to make it a regular occurrence. Also, we made it a point  to support a child's friend at his basketball game. It was great for the moms to just sit around afterwards and chat. I considered unplugging from FaceBook for a while, but it's a great way to keep up with ideas, activities, and the homeschooling/unschooling world. Also, I'm reaching out to others more, just to share a words of encouragement whether through cards or giving my information to new parents considering homeschooling.

Spring clean. I'm purging our house of the books and papers we've accumulated over the winter. A decluttered house always makes me think better. I've purchased houseplants and just tried to pep things up a bit.

Get back to nature. This past warm day I just sat on the deck for 2-3 hours soaking in the sun and rejuvenating. We're already looking forward to gardening. On warmer days, I just stand and watch the birds flitting around the backyard. We have new visitors, woodpeckers. It propelled me to jump back into our natural history project by cataloging the animals we observe visiting our yard and local parks. I started feeling all Thoreau-like and checked "Walden" out of the library. My dream is the escape to a cabin in the woods by a nice, little pond and soak up the solitude.

Plan for the future. Looking forward gives me hope, even if it's just planning a family vacation or a sewing project. I have a point to direct my attention. Right now, I hope to plan a trip with my siblings and any family to just hang out and connect. I'm a thinker and planner, and not much of a doer. But, my goal is to walk out my desires regardless of how imperfect they might seem.

Learn something new. I decided to check  Coursera for courses I'd normally overlook, which led me to "Introduction to Game Design." Now, I love board games, but not so much video games. I'm going through another course, "How to Create a Comic Books," with one of my sons as well. I added "Creative writing: The Craft of Plot" to jumpstart the ideas rolling around in my head.

Exercise, sleep, and healthy eating. I don't do cold weather. If I could hibernate during the winter months I would. I got a treadmill for my birthday, and started back weightlifting. I'm sleeping better, as well as more conscious of what I'm eating. I'm energized, and it shows when I feel the healthiest possible.

Read something new. I'm always willing to broaden my knowledge base. So, I'm reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Tarditional Africa by Clyde W. Ford, and The Gift of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

Revisit old favorites. In honor of Black Histiory month, I joined a book club reading The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. It's been years since I've read this book. If this is not a manifesto to homeshooling/unschooling I don't know what it.

*Take a break. This is probably the most important tip. We all need to rest. Our lives can become filled with activities so quickly. We have band, dance, football conditioning, figure skating, basketball games/practices, church, time with friends, and volunteer time. This is keeping it simple for us.  Right now, we're on a much needed winter break.

How do you beat those winter blues?


Check out http://www.livestrong.com/article/138049-what-is-existential-anxiety/ or http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20021047 for more information. 




Saturday, January 30, 2016

Restart Update

A quick update: We ended our extensive media blackout. I realize technology is not evil. This wasn't the point of the restart. I had noticed some troubling physiological signs in one child, and happened to come across Dr. Dunckley's Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time. We've always had tech free days and a week here and there. I thought it would be interesting to see if I noted the same changes she did in her book. Obviously, I don't need a book to tell me when our family needs a tech break. I do end this reset acknowledging, technology is a part of our lives that we'd do better to learn to moderate than abolish. There is a lot of good involved in its use. Normally, we share articles, recipes, videos, and funny memes. My children gathered around the computer co-writing stories, researching, and creating Keynote presentations. It is one way to connect to the world when it is not used as a consistent escape or substitute for real activities, family, or friends.

Overall, my children noted differences in themselves during the time off. Two children stopped experiencing headaches and eye strain. So, their tablets might remain unused, but mainly because the screens are too tiny and stress the eyes. Our iMac does need a glare screen for increased comfort. With our help, my sons must learn to recognize the signs before screen-time becomes too much.

We recognized there are moments when we're not fully present with one another because of a digital device. Yes, I love to get responses from Facebook and find exciting blogs. But, we do the same thing with books. We're constantly trying to read a book and eat, read and play a Monopoly game, or listen to an audiobook and do everything else. It can consume us so much we disengage for hours or days until the binge reading or listening has ended. While I didn't make any radical discoveries, it magnified areas of our lives that we'd let fall to the wayside.

We started working out as a family in place of media time. We enjoyed a couple more audiobooks than usual, probably spent more time at the library, which is hard to do. My eldest started back baking consistently. I mentioned in a previous post how I actually opened my new sewing machine. Dinnertime lasted a little longer with more lingering and just talking. We dusted off a couple little used boardgames. We constantly discussed our family movies and sports events. Naturally, we had to have our doses of Cam Newton and Stephen Curry. But, these are not terribly novel things. In another post, I noted I was more fully present. Before, I'd have them wait and forget what I committed to do. If I said it, I tried as much as possible to do it. It was a calmer atmosphere to a certain degree, but that's probably because four children didn't need to share one x-box. The children also shared space a little more readily, whether out of boredom or not I can only guess. When I limited my computer time, I focused better and completed tasks easier and quicker. More experiments than ever were completed, which they loved. It was a flashback to our earlier homeschool days, much more relaxed. Finally, my son,who has complained for weeks, he's unable to write a story did just that yesterday. He's been checking out tons of fairy tales, listening to audiobooks, and is writing his own story. He's increased his novel reading as well. Somewhere along the way an obstacle was removed. I can't definitively label it as cause and effect, so we'll go with correlation.

Honestly, I did feel as if I were robbing my kids and husband of experiences they enjoy. I constantly second guessed my decision, wondering if it was unfair. It was extremely hard for one child, who actually had emotional breakdowns. But, he admitted he loved being headache free. My other children didn't even really care. They enjoyed playing tons of games, eating by-products of my son's baking, and reading. I made a deliberate effort to observe and note the things they were really enjoying. It felt more like deschooling than anything else. I plan to continue what we're doing, but with the addition of electronic screen-time in doses that are best for each child. We gained time and focused togetherness.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Teaching What is Good

At the local pool on Thursday, I met a woman who mentioned she homeschools so she could teach her children what is good. After meeting parents homeschooling based on this concept of good, she initiated her own family's journey. This sparked a discussion between my husband and me about the meaning of  "good." In the midst of this conversation, we were feeling quite deep as we came up with differentiating between relative good and absolute good. This isn't new. The Bible speaks of it, Aristotle, other philosophers, and belief systems speak about this as well. So, we're looking at absolute truth.

When I accommodate my children's learning styles, learning difficulties, and giftedness, I am applying relative good. I am supplying what is good for that individual child to benefit his/her natural leaning. This is a normal part of homeschooling/unschooling. Teachers do it as well in the school system when they present information in various formats to engage different types of learners.

But, as I realized this lady was a Christian, I assumed she meant more than relative good. It brought to mind Philippians 4:8:

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." (Chronological Study Bible, 2008) 
Absolute good means there are certain characteristics my children and all people need to cultivate to be well-adjusted members of the human race. Paul instructs the readers to focus on what is just, truthful, decent, amiable, and excellent. We are to imitate what is excellent. Galatians 5:22 gives a list of characteristics we are to exhibit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The Bible is not the only source of a list illustrating absolute good.

"Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him." 
(African Proverb, answersafrica.com)
A quick search revealed Aristotle created a list of twelve virtues he believed must be taught and practiced. He presented his list as being the balance between the extremes of excess and deficiency. His list is similar to Paul's: courage, temperance, truthfulness, modesty, friendliness, and patience/good temper are just a few. See the article entitled Aristotle's Ethics Table of Virtues and Vices by Central Washington University for the complete list (www.cwu.edu/~warren/Unit1/aristotles_virtues_and_vices.htm). Obviously, the study of ethics is much deeper than what I've discussed and can include other belief systems. Despite one's belief system, I think we can agree absolute good is absolute truth. Therefore, there are certain virtues inherent to being human. We must live out these qualities before our children in deliberate ways.

Homeschooling/unschooling makes it easier to model these virtues for our children. I'm not saying public/private schooled children are characterless or parents are unable to teach virtue. But, we're able to put academics on the back burner and take the time necessary to concentrate on character building. Sometimes that is more important than a textbook. Character shows the world who you are. My mom always said, "What's in you will eventually come out." So, we want to make sure as parents we're putting in good things. Another African proverb says,
 "What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn." (African Proverb, answersinafrica.com)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Screen-Time, Me, or a Little of Both?

Restricting TV and gaming is one of those old age debates in homeschooling/unschooling circles. I don't claim to have the answers or suggestions for other families. I can only share what I'm learning about my family. I admit, I am one of those parents who restricts screen-time, both passive and interactive. So, I thought based on behaviors seen in my children, we needed to do an electronic fast.

We're finishing week two of Dr. Dunckley's Reset Your Child's Brain: A Four Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time. She discusses the effects of excessive electronic device usage on the brain and body. She does note that many of her patients are on the Autism spectrum or have other psychological concerns. But, that every child (and even adults) benefit from decreased screen-time. Also, Dr. Dunckley distinguishes between passive (TV) and interactive screen time. According to the research presented in her book interactive screen time is worse. Her chapter on the psychological and physiological affects of electronic screen media describes how digital technology changes and stimulates the brain and body, affecting how we retain information and even causes cortisol (stress hormone) production to increase among other things. According to the research, the brain needs to rest from the constant bombardment of screen-time.

Most of the positive results we've seen in our children are not definitively cause and affect. Dr. Dunckley even admits this in some of the case studies she shares. But, it can't hurt to make more time for personal projects and family. She also encourages parents to choose problem behaviors to monitor, observe, and record occurrences as the program is followed. Physiologically,  I do have a son experiencing light sensitivity, headaches, and eye strain when using electronic devices. He's the main reason for the fast, since he's the most attached to his tablet and computer.

Otherwise, I believe the level of engagement and creativity we're seeing in the children has more to do with deliberate, focused family time than the devices themselves. Although, some might say eliminating the devices freed up some time. But, I don't think it's that simple. Starting the program involved creating an activity calendar, organizing all the items needed for activities/projects, and keeping my word. I've done a poor job of having the supplies available when the kids want to do projects. There's always a last minute hunt for some essential item. I just unpacked the new sewing machine I bought months ago to hem a costume. My 13 year old reminded me that we were suppose to make him the same knight's tunic I hemmed for his brother when he was 9 or 10. My youngest son discovered he likes to use the sewing machine and hemmed a tunic for one of his siblings. The kids are talking more, certain individuals are experiencing less meltdowns, and one child even mentioned this was the first time he/she had finished a lengthy book. I'd like to add, I'm not a big fan of endless hours and days of reading to the exclusion of active and hands-on living either. Although, obviously screen-time and reading don't affect the brain and body in the same ways.

I listened to a podcast by Pam Larrichia and I had to consider that just maybe TV and gaming become a problem when the child's life is lacking in some way. In this case, I became too hands off in an attempt to help them become more independent. I wasn't keeping up with our family reading or being deliberate about supporting their projects.

It's funny I restricted them when they've shown they're not controlled by it. They were hanging out with friends playing Minecraft, but asked not to do it anymore since they felt uncomfortable that some of the kids were taking it so seriously to the point of emotional breakdowns. Plus, it stopped being fun to them when it appeared all their friends wanted to do was play Minecraft. As I write this I realize my kids won't sit and game all day every day (hopefully). But, they need interesting additions and alternatives to their day.

More than anything, this time is helping us refocus as parents. It's easy to get caught up in work schedules, to do lists, and ferrying children from one activity to another. Once again it's not so much about the children, but us. We've been more deliberate about cooking, reading, crafting, and just relaxing together. As a matter of fact, we spent time tonight discussing our take on the Force Awakening and the cut scenes from their favorite video games. These are things important to them (husband included), and it's unreasonable to center on cutting these activities out, but the aim is to find a healthy way to make room in our lives for ALL of our interests. The goal has become to make our lives/relationships more fulfilling and rewarding than screen-time. Maybe, I'm the one who needs to learn how to handle screen-time.

We'll continue following the reset plan. I'll continue reading research and books on both sides of the debate. I want to read Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. I do believe excessive screen-time affects mood, reading comprehension, and attention span in certain children. Based only on my family, I see the emotional and physiological toll it takes on my children. Hopefully, I'll get to update the last week of the program.


Monday, January 11, 2016

The Story I'm Telling Myself

Land Of Stories by Chris Colfer
Initially, I started off the year intending to plan, plan, plan. Get out the homeschool binder, organize, and have everything set for the remainder of the year. Over the Christmas break, I started reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly and just finished Rising Strong. It was as if I had a personal therapist in my living room. At the end of the day, I realized that much of the preparation and planning have been more attempts to avoid imperfection, create certainty in an uncertain world, and holding on to self-doubt. I'm not saying don't plan, but personally I've been planning out of anxiety. So, I've recognized I need to stop and listen to the story (from Rising Strong) I'm telling myself about decisions and moments in my homeschool. Many times the story is based on assumptions, half-truths, and fear. I'm no longer afraid to admit I'm all about keeping it simple, doable, fun, and affordable.

I accepted a scarcity mentality. I never knew homeschooling had to be hard until I started listening to other parents, and later reading blogs. I became embarrassed by not having battle scars when others were sharing their difficulties. Note, I'm not saying there haven't been difficulties or struggles along the way. But, I always operated from the stance I was "enough" and capable of homeschooling. I started believing we were lacking in curriculum and outside activities. It's as if I took on the mantle of self-doubt to fit in. I looked at other people and borrowed their troubles. I'm wondering if taking on this mantle has caused the "deficiencies" I see now. Meaning, maybe I created them. I created the scarcity mentality Brown describes in Daring Greatly. I forgot to be grateful for the ease of teaching I experience(d) with my children. I overlooked the joy of learning with them and the self motivation they display. Maybe, I needed something to worry about to fit in. I am by nature a worrier, looking far into the future to bring problems into the present.

I convinced myself shame was the way to inspire. I think of the times I used shaming when a child didn't understand a basic math, made grammatical errors, or didn't know a history fact, using words like "ridiculous" or "unbelievable," all with an exasperated breathe and eye roll. So, I set up a cycle of fear of being wrong and feeling less than. I think back to my days at the blackboard, staring blankly at the day's math problem feeling stupid and embarrassed. Thinking, until I started homeschooling, I'd never understand math. Now, I can't even believe all the problems I had as a child. I stopped being scared to get it wrong. In Daring Greatly, Brown quotes (p. 65), Peter Sheahan as saying, "The secret killer of innovation is shame." I'm killing their creativity and the failure resilience it takes to innovate. It's my shame rearing its ugly head when they don't know something I know I've taught them or feel they should know. It's not even about them; it's all about that blackboard experience.

I attached my self-worth to my children's accomplishments. Just because I homeschool doesn't mean my children have to succeed at a higher rate. It caused me to look ay my children as products I'm creating instead of human beings with their own minds, aspirations, and needs. I was kind of liking the whole tiger mom thing. I saw my children as projections of all my handiwork and teaching. According to Brown, this is also shame.

I'm too focused on what people will think when they see my children. Also, I think this is cultural as well. Growing up in the South, I was taught to always dress my best, have the best manners, and show society, I'm not what they think African-Americans are. My self-worth was tied up in my grades and how well I helped my mom around the house. It was an eye opener to realize I'm worthy just because I exist, not the things I accomplish. This has bled into my homeschooling.

I avoided vulnerability in my homeschool. Brown describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure (Daring Greatly, pg. 34). I think homeschooling is vulnerability personified, which is an extension of our parenting. We've made this statement we're capable of giving our children a quality education, and then we're put out there for family, friends, and strangers to either appreciate or criticize. Vulnerability is owning our decisions and ignoring the opinions of unimportant people in our lives. We all need people in our lives to provide loving, constructive criticism or advice. This list should be short.

We are uncertain on how this whole homeschool journey will end. As in life in general, we don't even know what tomorrow will bring, much less years. I have a tendency to not enjoy the moment out of fear of waiting for disaster to strike. Brown calls this foreboding joy. I can think of a million disasters lurking around the corner to attack at any moment. I can't stand not knowing.

 I remember the day in my youth, when I declared as an 11 or 12 year old I would never feel emotion again. It was after my parents' divorce. I've never accepted the transience of joy. Instead, of finding joy in the moments I'm given, I withhold experiencing the fullness of life. From that day, I never cried again until a day in college. It's scary that I can remember the times I've cried since then. I prided myself on being strong and never letting my guard down. I spent years not even being able to identify any emotions except anger.

 We're taught to be strong, Black women, never showing weakness. My love often comes out harshly. When I say, "It's ridiculous you don't know your multiplication facts yet, I'm sick of this." What I really mean is, "I'm scared that not knowing your basic facts is going to hinder you from doing the higher level math your career path requires." Regardless of whether this statement is true or not, as Black parents, many of us have been taught harshness prepares our children for the world they will encounter. Feelings are equated with weakness. I do believe it's why some of our children and young adults seem so angry and disengaged. It's time to rethink some of our parenting techniques. They're doing more harm than good in many instances. Anger is the only acceptable emotional outlet. Brown describes love as risky, uncertain, and scary (p. 34). We have to be willing to put it all out there. I want our home to be a sanctuary.

That my family, homeschool, and I are enough is the story I'm choosing to tell myself and them.