Why Mom Wars Begin and How To End Them

I had my first baby six, almost seven, years ago. I remember everything about the birth. Honestly, who can forget that anyway? Nothing – nothing at all – short of seeing another birth prepares you for giving birth and I had been sheltered.

I remember riding in the car with my husband and heading home. I remember the colors appearing more vivid. I remember thinking a baby truly does change everything.

I also remember the intense loneliness of being a first time mother. I remember my first panic attack.

I remember people looking at me – us – differently. We were a family now, legitimate, bound. We needed to be left alone, our time together kept sacrosanct. No longer could neighbors and friends just “drop by.” These were not my rules, by the way. They were just ones that fell into place, somehow, mostly because of other well-meaning people who never asked me if that’s what we wanted.

I remember being consumed by the baby. Was she okay? Why was she sleeping so much? Was she breathing? Was she okay? Why was she crying? When would she stop? Was she okay? Was she okay? Was she okay?

In my frantic, worried lonely mind, every decision I made took on monstrous proportions.

Diapers? Mattered. Breast milk or formula? Mattered. The right stroller, the right car seat, how long the baby napped or didn’t, whether I picked her up or let her cry it out – IT ALL MATTERED. 

I was a new mother. Part of me was still posing as a mom.

Part of me wasn’t yet a mother and in this in between space, I was choosing, blindly, hormonally and binding myself to my choices based on – what? Perceptions and tiredness? In my bleary-eyed sensibilities, I chose and defended my choices with the kind of ferocity I should have saved for cuddling my pillow at night for a blissful but short three hours at a stretch, for ravenous midnight eating sessions, but didn’t. I poured the full wrath of it onto the mom I perceived myself to be. Anything attacking my perception was met with anger.

It was the beginning of the time of my personal mom war.

It wasn’t until later, much later, five years later maybe that I realized that all those things I had so desperately held on to did not matter. The children were fine, my real convictions had surfaced, my passions were pretty obvious, as were the children’s personalities, and all the things that didn’t matter, well, really, truthfully didn’t matter. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Do it until…?” “Fake it till you make it?” Well, I had.

I realized I had done it until. I had chosen to fake it until I made it. But when I did actually make it, I had become it. And when I became it, there was no need to fake it. In fact, there had never been the need to fake it. The mom wars were far behind me.

When my identity was no longer tied to a brand of diapers, breastfeeding, car seats, when I became so entrenched in being a mother and less concerned with behaving like what I thought one should be, the mom wars didn’t matter any more. When I didn’t have time to compare myself to other moms, when true convictions formed, I could shrug my shoulders and move on.

I was free to make mistakes. I was free to change my mind. I was a mom and my duty was to God, my husband and my children. And honestly, who had time for anything else?

The cure for mom wars is time and truth. It’s admitting that you don’t know it all and by the time you figure it out, you’ll also know what really matters.

And it’s not what that mom over there is doing.

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Mom, Homeschool Yourself!

A few days ago, when I was stuck at home because we didn’t have a car, I wrote about how one of the things I did was to learn Spanish to keep myself occupied. Then I came across this article about creative ideas for learning a new language.

I decided to try it. Off to the library I went.

Here’s what happened: at first, I found the entire process a little overwhelming. But I had been to the library a thousand times. I practically live there. It was the first place I felt completely comfortable being when I was new in the United States and yet somehow finding Spanish easy readers made me feel nervous, even a little excited. It was new, uncharted territory.

Uncharted territories don’t come cheap when you’re older.

When I finally reached the Spanish shelf of children’s books and pulled a few out, I could barely contain my excitement that I could read a few words here and there! And I understood, maybe for the first time since we started homeschooling, not just how fun it is to learn, but also how scary it can be not to know. I felt the trepidation, experienced the anxiety and then the relief.

I realized I had just had literal, practical contact with something my children experience on a daily basis.

I understood something of how they must feel. I hope I never forget it.

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Language Arts – A Kinesthetic Solution

All my kids are relatively late talkers.

I have never had one of those kids that chatters on before she turns two. My daughter, now six, didn’t speak a full sentence until she was four. Sure, there were times I panicked. But my husband calmed me down with three words. “Relax, she’ll talk.”

She did. She talks all day now from the time she wakes up until the time she closes her eyes. She also reads fluently.

There’s just one problem. Grammar.

Because she is a late talker, she hasn’t had as much time as other kids to learn language patterns and so she gets her grammar wrong. As does her five year old brother and because they talk to each other all day, the same wrong speech gets reinforced and learned.

No, we do not have a grammar curriculum.

I figured we could reach a language arts solution in the same way we came to the problem. Here’s what we do. We do nothing formal. We just let them interact. When we hear them use wrong grammar, they are required to do three push ups.

It’s not punishment. It’s just correction. And it’s at the level they understand – a kinesthetic level.

There is no shame in it. In fact, for them, it’s fun. It works.

Speech patterns are caught more often than they are taught. It works for us and it works for them.

As I write this, my daughter caught my son saying “fell” for “dropped.” He is currently on the floor doing push ups, repeating “dropped” three times.

 

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10 Things to do When Homeschooling Gets Lonely

I won’t lie. It’s happened to me.

In fact, I’m in the midst of it as I write this. Our car, that we had owned for almost ten years, gave up the ghost last week. Since we’re frugal and don’t want to buy a car on credit, we are waiting to sell some investments to be able to pay cash for one. The result being that I can’t get out of the house.

I’m not good at this sort of thing. If you tell me I cannot leave the house, you might as well tell me that I’m not allowed to have fun of any kind. Getting out the house, even on errands, has achieved a new kind of attraction lately, especially after having children.

This week has made me think much about being stuck at home with kids. It can be lonely, even boring, especially if one or more of the children are still young enough to be in diapers.

So what do you do when it gets like this?

When the memory of every room is etched into your skull, when you think all you’re doing is walking around like a zombie looking at the same smudges on the walls, hearing the same fights among the children, doing the same lessons with them? What do you do when the end of the school year is so close you can almost taste it, and yet so far.

Here are some practical suggestions, based on what I’ve been doing.

I can’t promise they will work, but they might lift your mood and get you out of your long-days-and-short-years perspective on motherhood and homeschooling.

Learn a New Skill

Learning a new skill – make aioli, anyone? Truffles? How about canning? How about dancing? Or singing? Or learning to read music? Just because you’re stuck at home does not mean that you are limited in your learning. Check out YouTube, Pinterest, check out Udemy and take an online course on anything from programming to yoga, marketing to guitar, photography to cake decorating. Take the time to experience the world as your children do – with wonder. The internet can do that for you.

Learn a New Language

Learning a new language changes your brain. Besides, it’s just plain fun. Check out Duolingo. It’s a free app. I’m currently learning Spanish. And the children are picking up a few words, too!

Exercise

Just taking a walk makes you feel more refreshed and gets you out of the house. If you want more workout inspiration, there’s Netflix, YouTube, Pinterest. If all else fails, the roads are always open. Just be sure to be safe and wear reflective gear.

Explore a New Podcast

Have an interest in something no one else shares, especially the little ones? Search millions of podcasts and learn something new or add to your body of knowledge. I have bluetooth wireless headphones which I can wear and work while listening to whatever I want from my smartphone across the room. I bought them thinking I might hear music, but listening to a podcast is much more fun.

Read / Listen to a Book

I love reading, but I don’t always get the kind of peace and quiet that lets me sink into the characters. The library currently FREE carries e-books which can be downloaded and read. It also carries audio books. Check them out! If you are a Prime member, Amazon now gives you Prime reading – a few tens of thousands of books to read for free on your Kindle! As the old cliche goes, books give us someplace to go when we can’t get anywhere.

Dream / Plan

Speaking of places to go, the longing to get out when lonely can make planning and dreaming much more fun. I use the time to ask questions about where I really want to go. This week, for instance, I’m planning a few homeschool seminars to attend this summer and dreaming about camping. I’m also using the time to review our insurance plans – a good exercise in saving money.

Catch up on Record Keeping

Record keeping, especially if you are unschooling, can be a bit of a chore. I keep a monthly blog for our school. (It started as a daily blog.) I like to keep track of books read, projects engaged in, field trips taken, and I also like to keep end of the year report cards, just to get an idea of how much the children have progressed.

Take Pictures

I often get lazy when it comes to taking pictures. I don’t usually pull out our Canon that takes better pictures unless there’s a special occasion or I’m bored. The days when I can’t do anything else are the days of making photo memories with the children. I take some of my best pictures then. Taking pictures also changes my perspective, pun intended. The living room looks bigger, the ceilings taller. Life isn’t so boring after all.

Invite Friends Over

Just because I’m stuck at home doesn’t mean my friends are, too! Having a playdate is a great way to get energized by some company and get out of the doldrums. The children get to play and make some friends or see old ones again.

Watch a Good Horror Flick

I know, it’s silly. But a good horror flick makes me appreciate my humdrum, boring life a little more. It’s a little bit like the Greek tragedy that was supposed to bring out a cathartic reaction. Don’t underestimate the power of a good horror flick. Just make sure the kids don’t watch it if it’s going to scare them.

And there you are. 10 things to do when homeschooling gets to be just too much and you want to quit. I’ve been inspired in writing this and now I’m off to learn some Spanish on Duolingo.

Adios, amigas!

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Reading Alfie Kohn

Parenting, as I see it, is a battlefield. It brings out the worst and the best in people. And because homeschooling is essentially an extension of good parenting, I find that commentaries on education, homeschooling and parenting make up the bulk of my reading. Notice I said commentaries, not manuals.

Anyway, I’ve recently been reading Alfie Kohn’s The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting. There is much in the book I don’t agree with but I think it is important anyway to plod through it because some of the things he says are dead on accurate. Consider this quote, in which he talks about how children are not any worse today than they were in the 1800s. He says,

Each generation invokes the good old days, during which, we discover, people had been doing exactly the same thing.

How many conversations about school and parenting have you had recently that said things were better in the past? Children were better, parenting was easier, children respected their parents more, etc.? And yet, as he points out, there isn’t one piece of evidence that suggests this to be true. Not one. And yet, the assumption is ubiquitous.

I wonder if this is for the same reason that people believe it is less safe for children to be unsupervised today, even though the crime rate is down and it is the safest time in history to be a child. Too much information, too sensationalized, too often.

Fascinating book. I’ll be a better mom for having read it. I’ll be reading more by Alfie Kohn.

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Three Things Moms Should Know About That Viral Video about Child Abduction

I’m sure you’ve seen it. My Facebook feed is certainly exploding with it. Every mom, it seems, is now holding her kid closer, hugging him tighter, repeating, Don’t talk to strangers! even more vociferously than before.

Here’s the thing: it’s a lie. Why this guy decided to misreport the facts that even though there are 700 children reported missing every day, the majority of them are NOT abductions but runaways that return home is beyond me.

Here’s the other thing: You cannot protect your child from every danger out there. You can teach them to know what to do. Instead of having to “watch them like a hawk” as moms like to put it, why not give them the tools to respond appropriately? Don’t tell them not to talk to strangers, teach them not to go away with strangers.

And finally, the thing that no one seems to mention: If you’re a mom who thinks your kid is not safe unless you are watching him every minute of every day, you are the kind of mom who will invite the government to take your place when you cannot.

And that’s where I come in.

Fear mongering invites the state into places it shouldn’t be. It effectively reduces freedom for all children – yours and mine. And that’s something to truly fear.

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The Hardest Thing about Unschooling

My Facebook newsfeed is full of the father from Philadelphia who wrote a scathing response to his children’s principal who had marked their family vacation days as unexcused absence from school. I know firsthand the kind of education his children received in those three days when they weren’t present in school. I know because we try to have days like that every single day where the children are always learning.

Whether Mr. Rossi knew it or not, he was making a strong case for unschooling.

The hardest thing about unschooling? Stopping.

We are on a personal vacation of sorts this week. It’s felt like a long year already because, as Mr. Rossi so eloquently puts forth in his letter, I have tried to remember and record every little subject the children are involved in learning during their daily lives. For good measure, and also because we must keep records for the state, I mark each day of sit-down, classroom style (albeit one-on-one) math, reading and writing.

It’s hard to stop.

Yesterday, I finally gave up. I found a good book and decided I was going to read, leave the kids to their video games and their television. I was on vacation. I was done.

When I came out, my daughter started telling me about scuttlefish, lion cubs, sting rays and sharks. She had watched hours of shows about lions and oceans.

Vacation? Yes. School? Also, yes. Today, we will go to a store and exchange a laptop I’m using and the kids will add to their knowledge base of money, trade and financial education.

I am learning, slowly, I suppose, as the letter above states, that the line between school and real life is not just blurry, it might very well be non-existent.

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Save Money at the Grocery Store: Do This One Thing

I dread grocery shopping and look forward to it all at the same time. Yes, I suppose I’m complicated. But seriously, I like spending money, filling up the fridge, knowing that my family will have food for the next 7 – 10 days and I will not hear complaints, um, requests from my husband and children that we’re out of this thing or the other.

On the other hand, I almost always overspend.

Many people have great success taking cash with them and calculating every dollar, but I shop with three kids six and under. The incessant chatter itself is enough to knock me off the calculations in my head. So that method, effective as it is, is out.

Here’s what I do: when I enter the store, I go around the “wrong” way. I start my shopping with dairy and meat. That’s it.

I can almost hear you think. How will that change anything, you ask. Oh, but it does, and I have a theory about why.

Here’s what I think happens – when we enter the store, we are immediately bombarded with temptations – these are items that are not on the list but seem like a good deal (they are usually under a dollar, like cans of beans, or fruit under a dollar a pound.) In they go. Then we come to the vegetables and of course we want to make salads, so in they go. I don’t know about you but by the time I get to the meat aisle, I’ve already spent more than I should have on produce.

When I shop meat and dairy before produce, I follow a more normal path of building a meal – I begin with protein, then add vegetables and then the condiments in the center aisles. At the very end is fruit, which we buy for purposes of lunches for my husband and snacks for the kids.

This method of shopping avoids the temptations I face right inside the door, temptations placed strategically to make me spend more. If any of those extras are still on my list, I can find them in the center aisles, where I can compare their prices with other items.

Overall, this one small change can help you save money every grocery trip with no calculator and no agonizing over every dollar.

(And you thought I was going to talk about coupons!)

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History: Our Schedule and Method

I have always had a disinclination to follow a prescribed method. Especially when it came to a creative pursuit. Which may be the reason I struggle so much with following basic recipes – it just seems too easy and not enough fun. Which also incidentally is why I don’t like to bake. It’s a little too perfect. Pinterest boards do the same to me – yes, it’s fun to recreate something I have found online and I’ve learned some wonderful things with Pinterest, but for me, the real fun is in letting what you have learned inspire you to put it together differently.

When I am learning or teaching, I want to hear the sound of things clicking into place, the aha! moment, the spark, that feeling of being awed – that is what I’m after. If that moment does not come often, I tend to get bored and exhausted.

Which is why we study history and science the way we do. For our family, homeschooling is a predominantly creative pursuit.

However, even with creative pursuits, the basics have to be grasped. If you want things to fit together, there still have to be things to be put together in the first place. Just as I would have no business playing with recipes if I didn’t know what the different flavors were doing, there is still a basic level of knowledge necessary to get to the next level. So I do emphasize reading, writing and math, but history and science, ah, those are fun.

We begin anywhere we want to. That’s the most important thing and the most freeing. We do not follow a curriculum, so to speak. However, I do love Easy Peasy Homeschool as a guide; it is completely online and free. We start there and then segue as much as we want.

For me, the segues are what make history fun, because it is when the most connections are made with what we have already learned.

I will also pick up books from the library – and not just from the children’s section, mind you – with lots of pictures for the children to thumb through. Since we are currently studying Ancient Egypt, I browsed and brought home two thick coffee table books about Egypt. The kids looked through them and asked me questions about whatever they saw. Since they’re still reading at a very basic level, I quickly read the blurb under the pictures and gave them the details. I was learning right along with them.

When there is a documentary or movie that relates to what we’re studying, we will watch it. The different perspectives on the same issue do not bother me and I will occasionally stop the movie we are watching to discuss it, ask questions, cure falsehood with truth and remove false information that is often presented.

I firmly believe this is a good way for the children to learn that not everything they see on the screen or read in a book is true. Discernment is the best safeguard to revisionism of any kind.

Learning history in this way, besides giving all of us a spectacular education while saving money, (no curriculum to buy! Yay!) also leaves us free to pull information from different subjects, which is one of the best ways to learn. Why do we feel the need to break things up into compartments for the children? History for us overflows and enriches Bible study, geography, and science quite often. Not to mention art and music. There’s truly no greater joy that seeing my children make those connections and make the subject their own.

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Homeschooling / Unschooling Conferences in California 2015 – The List

It’s that time of year I’m most likely to feel on edge. The school year isn’t over yet but the weather is great. I want to dream about what we’re all going to learn next year, I want to plan camping trips, I want to get out on dates my husband and dinners with my girlfriends. Oh, and I want to stay in bed and read.

The last thing I want to think about is a schedule. But alas. We still have another month before we’re done. So I’m taking the time now to dream.

Here’s a list of homeschooling or unschooling conferences this year that seem interesting to me and close enough that I can at least hope to attend them. I plan on making it out to at least a handful for inspiration, curriculum and new friendships.

HOMESCHOOLING CONFERENCES:

Great Homeschool Convention in California – promises to be good. They have speakers like Heidi St. John, Cathy Duffy, Dr. Jay Wile and Matt Walsh. Registration is $45 per person and $60 per family. (Pricing increases the closer you get to the date.) Conference runs June 18th – 20th, 2015.

Homeschool Association of California Conference – is in San Jose from August 6 – 9. I’m especially interested in this one. It definitely seems closer to my general philosophy of homeschool / unschool. Their keynote speaker is Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn. Registration is $220. There is also a one-day pass available for $100 per person.

Valley Home Educators Conference was the one I attended last year. No pre-registration necessary. It runs July 24 and 25 in Modesto. $32 per person or $120 per family. Speakers include Andrew Pudewa, Annette and Steve Economides, Kathy Lipp, Teri Spray and Rebecca Keliher.

Christian Home Educators Convention – will be in Pasadena. Registration is $92 and your spouse attends free. They also have a free e-conference if you’re unable to attend as well as teen and children’s conferences on site. Click the link for more information. Convention runs July 16 – 18, 2015.

Sacramento Christian Organization of Parent Educators (SCOPE) Conference has a different location this year. It will be held in Rocklin from June 11 – 13. Registration is $65 per person (spouse free) or $85 per family. Keynote speakers include Dr. Jobe Martin, Bryan Osborne from Answers in Genesis (AIG) and Mike Smith from Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA.)

California Homeschool Network Family Expo will include a used curriculum sale along with their conference on June 25 – 28 in Torrance. Registration is $75 per person or $90 for a couple.

TriCounties Home Education Network Conference is on May 15 and 16 and includes speakers James Glenn, Sharon Hensley and Pat Roy amongst others. The conference will be held in Santa Rosa.

UNSCHOOLING CONFERENCES:

(Note: I had to extend my search to all include all of the Western USA because I couldn’t find as many unschooling conferences in California alone. Please don’t hate me.)

Homeschool Association of California Conference – is in San Jose from August 6 – 9. Their keynote speaker is Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn. Registration is $220. There is also a one-day pass available for $100 per person. Yes, I included this twice. It seemed to fit here.

Free To Be Unschooling Conference will be held in Phoenix, AZ from October 1 – 4. Registration is $160 per person.

Life is Good Conference will be held in Vancouver, WA from May 22 – 25. Registration is $80 per person. Presenters include Shannon Loucks, Pam Sorooshian, and Marina Shuman, amongst others.

So that’s it. I’m off to make plans. Summer is a great time to recharge and meet other homeschoolers and unschoolers and plan and think, and mainly, to dream.

Did I miss any? Let me know and I’ll include them here.

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