5 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Easier

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“There is no consistent pattern for number of days of school per year, length of school breaks, or even length of an average school day among top-performing education systems. This suggests that when it comes to student performance, more important than the amount of time students spend in class is how that time is spent.” From a graphic on NCEE

How can we spend time with our kids and create a quality education at home? When we first start homeschooling it’s easy to recreate traditional school at home. It’s what we know best. And if a school can do what it does in six hours a day, 180 days a year, imagine how much we could teach having our kids 24/7, 365 days a year?!

But the truth of it is, many people start that way and quickly realize it doesn’t work. Homeschooling doesn’t need to look like traditional schooling at all and, in my opinion, it shouldn’t. We should always be Mom and Dad and never “teacher” to our children. That doesn’t mean we aren’t helping them learn, it just means the role we take in their education looks very different. Educating our own children, in our own homes, can and should take on a much more organic feel that looks nothing like a classroom and much more like a creative workshop.

We homeschooled both our boys from birth. I didn’t plan to and the evolution of our homeschool path was a rocky one. We were both traditionally educated, so when we decided to homeschool we automatically took the “school at home” approach. It’s what we knew and what we believed was a tried and true approach. But over time, through watching our kids, reading and studying education styles, talking with parents of grown homeschooled children, our homeschool quickly evolved into a radical unschooling approach that worked very well for all of us. Even if you aren’t using the unschool method, these five tips can help relax your homeschool and support your learning lifestyle.

My sons are now 17 and 19 years old. They both hold jobs and are moving toward independence at their own pace. One is living at home and enjoying the academic life of college. The other has spent a year in Europe on his own and is pursuing a vocational path. Both are competent young adults that people enjoy being around and trust. That’s not bragging, it’s my qualification to speak on the subject. I’m not an expert on homeschooling or on education in general. I’m a mom with experience, sharing what I found to work for us.

#1 Start a Morning Routine for Yourself

You know how on airplanes they say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your children.” We’ve seen it go around as a meme for years, quoted in self-help books, and laughed about by comedians. It has become cliché, but so totally true, especially for homeschooling.

If you’re homeschooling your kids this year, you’ve just expanded your duties beyond parent and into the realm of educator. Not only are you responsible for keeping them clean, fed, and loved; you now have the added responsibility of facilitating their education. Take care of yourself first, so that you’re ready and able to take care of others.

I’ve found a morning self-care routine is the best way to do that. Getting up before the kids, or having Grandma come over and watch the monkeys for an hour in the morning (one of the perks of a live-in Grandma), was one of the best things I did for their education. The routine evolved over the years from a few minutes in my favorite book with a cup of coffee, to journaling, to day planning, to meditation. The key is to create one that feeds your own soul and makes you a more relaxed person in general.

Search the internet for “morning routine” and you’ll find all kinds of inspiring ideas to get you started!

#2 Ditch the Pre-Packaged Curriculum

A standardized curriculum was created to get a large group of people through a designated amount a material in an organized manner. It’s useful for schools so they keep everyone on track and moving in the same direction. But we don’t need it.

“But won’t there be gaps in their education?”

“How will I know they are learning all the material?”

First of all, there are gaps in everyone’s education: public, private, homeschooled, or tutored. Use one curriculum and you’ll know one list of information. Use another and you’ll know a different list of information. There is no way to put into one human all that they will need to know in a few years of any style of schooling. The point of education shouldn’t be gathering a list of information. It should be learning how to find the information you need.

When my sons were elementary school age, I printed out the World Book Encyclopedia’s Typical Course of Study for their age and kept it as a reference. We’d go to the library once a week and, along with any book they chose to pick up, I picked a book that covered one topic in each subject and left them on our coffee table to thumb through at quiet moments, or look at while we ate lunch. If they found a topic interesting, we’d explore it more.

We also found great recommended reading lists, like the one at TJEd.org. I read those books aloud to the boys before bed, during meals, as audio books during drives, and in line for rides at amusement parks (a great use for a smart phone). There were loads of questions, discussions, and looking up word meanings, but never book reports, diagraming sentences, or tearing apart of character and plot. We just enjoyed the stories. Sometimes we’d find a movie based on one of those books and watch it, which led to more discussion and sometimes controversy.

Another alternative to curriculum and lesson plans is to go to a park day and play with other kids every week, get an annual pass to a museum, science center, or zoo, join scouts or another club, or spend time at historical sites and events all around your area.

The key is to not push the “learning” aspect, but to create an atmosphere of learning all the time. That goes for you too! Go to movies, see the sites, find out what’s going on in your area. Talk with your kids, ask them questions, be curious, and always answer their questions. Show them through your actions that curiosity never dies, that learning never ends and isn’t a chore to be gotten through.

#3 Don’t Over-schedule Your Week

It’s tempting to fill your week with organized field trips and classes but don’t fall for it! There’s a lot to be said for time at home doing nothing in particular. A week could look like this:

Monday Park Day
Tuesday Home
Wednesday Library
Thursday Home
Friday Adventure/Class/Etc.
Saturday Family Time Adventure
Sunday Home

The key point here is flexibility and leaving time to process and relax. There should be time in your day to get the housework done, the groceries in, and to make meals. Invite the kids to help you and learn from the process, or ask them to play outside while you get things ready for them. We shouldn’t be running from one thing to the next and have no time to stop and enjoy the scenery. And your plans should be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of a show or event you just found out about or to take into account the needs of a sick, tired, or just plain grumpy kid (or parent for that matter). You should also have time to visit friends and family when you want to!

It may sound like taking time off to spend the day at the movies or at the zoo, but to a real homeschooler, it’s part of their education. Even something as mundane as the grocery store is part of the process. And when one of us gets sick, call it Health Science and find out what a cold really is, how the body works to fix it, and how best to manage symptoms. This, by the way, is one of the glories of the information age. You have a smart phone, start using it!

#4 Plan Meals and Rest Not Learning or Subjects

Our family’s day revolved around eating and sleeping when my kids were under 12 years old. Breakfast was generally at the same time (and when I read from the books I wanted to get from the library), lunch was at the same time, naps (or really just rest and quiet play), and then dinner when Dad got home from work, which went right into the evening routine of a tv show with Dad or a game, bathing, and reading stories (one for each and the “classic” I wanted them to hear).

Between those times is when the magic happened. Making lunch became science, world culture, and life skills. They’d reenact the stories we were reading in the backyard while I did the laundry. Building forts became physical science. The mailman would come, the street sweeper, the neighbor kids, the park, all lent itself to our education.

How did I keep track of it as a school? I kept a journal, both online as a blog and in a notebook. I took a lot of pictures, too. There were pictures of the kids doing things, places we went, signs we saw, and people we talked to. Part of the evening routine was sitting in the rocking chair in the their room while they went to sleep. I used it as an evening meditation for myself. I’d sit there with my journal, write down what we did, and then read my own book, usually one about homeschooling or some other self-help book. Most nights I ended the day in prayer and thanksgiving. And many nights I ended it in prayer and tears. Parenting is not for the faint of heart!

#5 Start an Evening Routine That Involves Reading What Your Kids Want to Read

We never had a bedtime per se, but we did have an evening routine. After dinner we usually watched a tv show, then we’d head upstairs for clean up, baths, teeth brushing, and pajamas. Then we’d read. Each of the kids would pick a book for me to read to them. It was usually one we’d read a million times. At times, they might choose to read aloud to the rest of us, which is so much fun when they are tiny and just making it up and pointing to words in the book to mimic you (also part of learning to read).

I would end the evening by reading a few chapters from a book from my list, usually a book that would be too hard for them to read on their own. There was a lot of discussion at this time. Lots of questions, looking up words, and talking about the story. Then they’d settle into bed and I would start with my evening routine.

It wasn’t always pretty, my journals are filled with Mom angst and tears for just one peaceful bedtime,  but there was consistency and the kids loved it. We must have read over one hundred classics by the time they got out of elementary school and the proof that it meant a lot to their education is that they still have most of those books and there are still jokes and references to them on a daily basis. And, I simply must add, they both tested right into college English without taking a single English class.


 

For the uninitiated, homeschooling this way feels like not going to school at all, especially during the elementary years, but if you keep a detailed journal listing only the books you read, the places you visited, and the play projects you did together, you’ll start to see the “school hours” rack up. Learning should be play for children and homeschooling this way relieves both parents and kids of some of the stress of modern living.

Our homeschooling lives don’t need to be complicated or expensive. If you’re spending time with them reading, exploring, relaxing and playing, they will learn. Answer their questions, make their lives regular, comfortable and safe. They’ll learn in amazing ways right along side of you and you’ll all be better for the journey!

Brilliant Little Communicating Machines

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“Boo,” he kept saying, becoming more frustrated with me every moment. What could he possibly mean?

My young son had more thoughts, needs, and motivations than his tiny vocabulary and vocal muscles could pronounce. We had begun teaching him “baby signs” at six months old and by eighteen months he had a varied vocabulary that included many signs and several words. He could tell you when he was hungry, when he was wet, when he wanted to snuggle. He could ask for a specific “snack” and tell you that he wanted to play at Disneyland, not the park. He knew “mine,” “share,” and “go.” It was a little uncanny at times for someone so small to be so articulate.

I had learned about baby signs when he was born and was told it would help ease the frustration of the toddler years and so far, it was working like a charm except for today. Today he had a new need and was working on a new word to express it.

“Boo!” he shouted this time, pointing up at the shelf of video tapes, music CDs, stuffed animals, and other knickknacks. I moved to it, looking over each item, pointing to some.

“This?” I asked.

A small stomp of the foot. This had to be so frustrating. “No. Boo!”

“This?” I asked again, picking up a stuffed animal, a small blue bear that worked like a music box.

“No.” Shaking his tiny blonde head in sadness, then suddenly looking up with bright eyes. He had an idea. He put both his hands up and opened and closed his little fists several times, “Boo Koo!”

Suddenly it dawned on me. Blues Clues! He wanted to watch Blues Clues! He could see the light come on in my head as I reached for the correct video tape. He did is adorable “happy dance” hoping around on one foot and spinning toward the couch.

“Yes!” he said, another word he spoke so well. We were both relieved that the communication gap was bridged.

Putting the tape into the machine and turning on the TV, he points to the kitchen, “SNACK!” he says with both fists up, clenched to his body like he’s angry. That means something sweet, preferably some crackers with a few M&M’s in a bowl.

“Sure baby!” and I run to the kitchen to get us both something sweet while the Blues Clues title song starts to play.

Settling down next to him, snacks in our lap, I wonder at this little language learning machine. It’s a miracle really. Not only do they learn to hear and understand what we express, but they learn to form those words in their throat and mouth, and all the body language and tone along with it.

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Thanks for the October writing prompts, Writers Write!

Run For Your Lives! Teens!

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I can’t really say that I feel qualified to write with authority about young adults just yet, but I can write with confidence about my current observations and how we are coping with the transition from teen to adult in this house.

Recently, something strange happens when I talk to people about my kids. When I talk about what they are doing, their new girlfriends, their jobs, etc., people get weird. I can’t put the right word on it. They act “worried” for me or them. They act as though we are all standing on a precipice and at any moment the wind could blow and knock one of us off. As if right now is the most dangerous part of our lives. Anything can happen! Our lives could be ruined with one poor choice. It takes all the fun out of relating all the cool things my kids are doing, how they are changing, and how I’M changing to my friends and family.

I say “kids” but what I’m talking about are my young adults, full grown people that live in my house more like roommates than children these days. They have jobs, cars, and girlfriends. They go to college, pay taxes, and go on adventures without us. My youngest is under 18 and races motocross, so we still take him in our truck, since he doesn’t have one, and sign documents he isn’t legally allowed to sign but other than that, they pretty much take care of themselves.

And I don’t mean they always do it well or completely on their own. They mess up, as we all do all our lives. That’s how we learn. I try to help where I can. I offer advice when they ask, and sometimes when they don’t. They also make choices I would not make and that make me nervous. I do my best to stay out of it but sometimes my mom heart feels compelled to jump in and ask what in the world they are thinking. My belief is that they will be better at living with their own families if they can live this way with us. It isn’t easy and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

Some day I think maybe I should be more “strict” like people say and tell them how it is around here. If they want to do things their way they need to move out and not involve me. But that breaks my heart. I want them to be able to bounce ideas off their Dad and I and know that we aren’t going to make them do anything or ridicule their choices. They should know that they can take our advice or leave it and we’ll still be there to love them.

And I want them to know they will always have a stable base to fall back to if their plans go awry.  We may not be able to buy them new cars or pay for college, but we can offer them a place to stay and food to eat. That’s a lot though, if you think about it. It won’t be luxury but at least they won’t be homeless. That doesn’t mean they have free reign to run off and be reckless. I’ve always wanted them to feel free to give things a try, to not be afraid of failing. Trying something and failing is different than doing something really stupid and paying for it. Our lifestyle of radical unschooling was supposed to show them the difference and so far, it’s been working.

Honestly, I think most people see their children begin to be adults and think, “This is where my life went downhill.” That’s when they begin to try and stop them from making the “wrong choices” they themselves made. As if there is a certain age that people get to and begin making rational “good” decisions instead of learning by living through the age and getting to the other side.

I see my young adult children differently. I think, “This is where the fun began, the adventure!” I smile in anticipation of all the glories they are about to discover. And I’m proud that we’re able to support them as they grow and be a part of their lives, even if it is from the sidelines.

Old Posts Make Me Smile

They really do. When we started our homeschool journey someone told me that a great way to keep a private school record was to keep a personal blog. I started writing in 2006, the year my oldest turned six and had to be enrolled in school. I started our own home-based private school that year and this year was our last private school filing. I stopped writing on my first blog, Liberty Academy, in 2014. I had started using Facebook more and printing it as a book at the end of the year, so I felt keeping up with both was too much.

Comparing Facebook and a Blog, there are definite perks to both. I wish I could combine them! With my blog, I tend to write more commentary. I use fewer pictures in each post, using only the ones that highlight the day. I also write more about what went on that day and what I thought about, along with things they said or did that made me smile or pull my hair out.

With Facebook posts, I tend to post more pictures and only caption them. The positive, and what keeps me coming back, is the feedback I get on Facebook versus the blog. Facebook gets “likes” which tell me that my friends and family are seeing what I’m posting. My blog, well, it was more like an online scrapbook that I drug out when family was over to see baby pictures and vacation photos.

Looking back, I wish I had continued my blog along with Facebook for a more complete memory. Posts like the one I’m sharing today bring back vivid memories of my parenting journey and I hope my sons enjoy them as they get older. I’ve printed blog books and My Social Books for each year and love thumbing through them on quiet days.

The post I’m sharing today was from one of our many Disneyland visits. When we lived near it, we spent about one day a week there, sometimes more, but once we moved to the desert, we slowed down to about one day a month until the cost of an annual pass exceeded our interest in going. I love this post because it shows my interest in them and our relationship along with details about the cost of Disneyland! I did not edit this other than to correct some typos.

November 15, 2012
Yes, Disneyland Again!

When we decided to get Disneyland annual passes, we looked at the cost of the pass and budgeted for gas and at least one trip per month. That actually gave us a couple trips in some months because of black out days for our passes. So, we’re starting to wind down. We got the passes for Christmas last year and our first trip was in January, so we only have a couple more trips ahead. Tom is a little sad. It’s not going to be fun the last time we go and will probably end up being a VERY long day. Jake is easier going. He enjoys going and loves all the fun but is perfectly fine with doing something else and looking forward to the next time he may or may not get to go. Polar opposites those two are, on just about everything.

So why do I like Disneyland so much? I really couldn’t say. I grumble and complain and say I wouldn’t go if they boys didn’t want to, but then I’m there and it’s fun and there are the memories, and I’m teared up at the fireworks show. It’s strange. The down side parts are the cost (we could spend that money on doing things we’ve never done before), the crowds (not just the amount of people but the quality, blach!), and the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The drive down, the drive back, the bustling about all day, and then there is the recovery day after. But then there is the up-side parts! Spending the day with my boys. The drive there and back is filled with singing, talking, and laughing. Riding rides I remember as a kid, getting churros, telling stories about going there when I was little and when I worked there. The conversations we have in line are probably pretty bizarre to those around us, they pretty much cover just about everything; the physics of the ride, the capacity, when it was created, what used to be there, the theme, crowd control, funny stories of when we worked there, books we’re reading, movies we’ve watch, people in line, plans for the rest of the day, etc. I wish I could record them all! All the while I’m thinking how many people get to run wild through Disneyland so many times with their 10 and 12-year-old boys? I’m not dragging them and they’re not dragging me. We are having a blast together and there is nowhere else we’d rather be. The only thing that would make it better is if Dad could come with us. Poor guy has to work! But we always try to bring him home some candy and tell him all the stories.

I guess I’ve gone on long enough about this, so here are the pictures from our day!

On the tram again! My sons cannot just look at the camera and smile. Really, it’s physically impossible for them.

1 Jake on the tram         2 Tom on the tram

Ahh the traditional picture in front of the big Disneyland Christmas tree! They were blind from the sun. It was 85 degrees out! So much for the Christmas feeling.

3 boys at the christmas tree

4 stupid fake tree

Hey! Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! This tree is FAKE! What happened!? This prompted a half hour “In my day…” diatribe, which again made me feel old. I can’t wait to do this to my Grandchildren!

5 waiting for matterhorn

This is Tom trying to figure out what the crests mean on the Matterhorn while stuffing a pretzel in his face. I’m proud of this picture because it’s natural. This is what Tom looks like pretty much all the time. There is not a moment that goes by that he isn’t trying to figure something out. On a side note, the figuring things out gets crazier in the evenings just before bed. It’s as if he has to finish every thought through before going to sleep. Poor Jake has to hear them all even though he is trying to go to sleep. While we were waiting, Tom noticed a couple things on the cars that he didn’t know about. He asked me about it, but I didn’t know either. I’ve never worked on that ride. I thought he forgot about it, but as we got into the car he stopped the ride operator and quizzed him about it for the few seconds before the ride started. He got his stinkin’ answers! :))

6 splash mountain

Splash Mountain. The plan was to go on this and then the Haunted Mansion, Pirates, etc., but it was broken when we got there so we went on Haunted Mansion first. Waiting for that, I got quizzed about why “splash was down” and what could have gone wrong, how long would it take, who would they call, and if it would be closed for the rest of the day. You could tell Tom was worried that the plan would be altered. I understand though, at least this time. This is his favorite ride. So we waited around for a minute or two to see if is reopened. He wanted to ask the ride operator about it, but I told him he wouldn’t give him any more information besides “Soon.” or “Later.” and “Technical difficulties that will be resolved shortly” I know this drill. Thank the maker, it opened up and they went running off. This is a ride that I do not go on. I hate getting splashed wet and then walking around cold for hours afterward. The pretty of the ride is not worth the misery, in my opinion. So, I wait for them at the exit.

Notice the white sky? The boys did too. This is something that always bugged me in the OC. They sky is such a pale blue that it almost always comes out white in pictures. Must be something to do with the moisture in the air? Don’t know. But it makes for some ugly pictures.

We stopped for some dinner at the Mexican place, per Jake’s request. My boys LOVE Mexican food. The bummer is that they’ve never been partial to kids’ meals (seriously, kids meals should be smaller versions of what is actually served at that restaurant, but don’t get me started) and they’ve outgrown sharing an adult meal. The cost of feeding these buggers has gone up tremendously!

And then it was evening and the lights came on! That’s my favorite. I love Christmas at Disneyland at night! I swear that just seeing Main Street, the Castle, and Small World is worth the price of admission at Christmas time. Luckily, Tom and Jake still like the kids rides so we went straight to Small World when the lights came on.

Here are the highlights…

8 small world christmas

15 small world christmas

And the GRAND FINALE! The family behind us in line at Space Mountain laughed when I told the boys we had to see the fireworks from in front of the castle or I was going to cry and not be consoled. They would have to drive home because I would be crying so hard, I would not be able to drive. As if I were exaggerating! Every time I try to see the fireworks close up, it’s way too crowded. I cannot sit there holding my spot for three hours. I just refuse. But the park attendance was so light, I just knew we’d get a good spot this time and we did. Here’s my view…and I’m not zooming.

16 christmas castle

I didn’t bother taking pictures of the fireworks since they never look good that way, but it was impressive even if I have seen it a million times from my spot light. It’s pretty much the same show we did back then, but with more on the castle, no tink, and Christmas music. But, I’ll admit, I loved it. The best part was watching Tom and Jake look back at me with the “Did you see that?!” face. Totally worth being sardined.

I planned on leaving at 8pm, but the fireworks were at 7:45 and then the park closed, so we were stuck in the mass exodus. Kinda fun swimming through that. And we got a cinnamon pretzel for the road because my friend was working at the Wetzel Pretzel stand. Then we got to listen to people fight, push, and scream at each other getting on the tram.

It was another great day at Disneyland. I’m going to miss it. Passes went up $100 per person this year, so it’s not going to happen for a long time. But there are other adventures to be had!

Just Hiking with the Guys

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Life has become complicated lately. “Become.” I laugh as I write that, as if life is ever not complicated for anyone. Interesting though, that whatever you’re going through at whatever age or stage of life, you feel as if you are the first and only person to experience it…but then maybe you are. Only you can experience anything your way.

My sons are almost grown. One foot out the door, as they say. It’s a complicated feeling for me. I’ve spent the last 18 years being a Mom and not just any Mom, a hands-on (or, more precisely, hands-off) radically unschooling mom. I’ve attempted to be their supporter and experienced friend instead of an authoritarian and I feel like just when they’ve grown to the point of being great friends to have around, they are beginning to do what all young adults are born to do, drift away to find a place of their own.

It’s bitter sweet, both harsh and rewarding to see my life’s work come to fruition. And when my heart behaves itself, I can see how life will progress. They will establish themselves as free and independent adults, capable of handling life without a parent to support them, and then they’ll come back as strong equals. They’ll be better friends to me than they ever could be now.

It’ll be wonderful and I look forward to seeing the men they become. But transitions are complicated. It’s two steps forward and one step back. There are days when I’m amazed by them and days where I wonder where I went horribly wrong.

In the long run, I know where it will end up. Their Dad and I will be gone, and they will have families of their own to continue into the future. Life.

Learn What You Love

Learn what you love, study what interests you! That’s what I’ve always said. Radically unschooling our children has taught us that it works.

I found this quote in a newsletter from Gretchen Rubin this morning.

“I only study the things I like; I apply my mind only to matters that interest me. They’ll be useful—or useless—to me or to others in due course, I’ll be given—or not given—the opportunity of benefiting from what I’ve learned. In any case, I’ll have enjoyed the inestimable advantage of doing things I like doing and following my own inclinations.”

Nicolas de Chamfort

I’ve personally always found it easier and more beneficial to study things I like or find a use for. Just because there is a list somewhere that says we should know about X, Y, and Z, doesn’t mean they are necessarily my cup of tea or going be needed in my life. I take them as suggestions and move on to what I believe I need.

I’ve raised my sons the same way and so far, it has served them well. We’ve come to learn that the best way to know yourself, your limits, your own personal best way of living, is to follow your instincts, be aware of what you are doing, feeling, and of the results. That starts with not following someone else’s rules unless they make sense to you.

I saw a post about Tinker Bell this morning and my own bell rung. Imagine Charlie Brown talking to Lucy about phobias. “THAT’S IT!” I love it when I have moments like that. I posted the image and returned to comment, and that’s what led me to this post. Yep…animated fantasy movie characters get my mind going.

Here’s the image.

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Whenever I’m in a bad mood, when I’m feeling a bit grumpy and reactive, a little attention goes a long way. You may not need to change anything, fix anything, teach anything; just give me a little attention. “I know your mad.”, “What’s wrong?”, or even “You’re beautiful.”, will generally fix things with me. It gives me the power to resolve the situation myself. My sons are great at this. When they are doing big things, things teens have to do if they are going to move out into the world as adults, I get scared and sometimes I feel neglected. They sit and hug me, ask me about my fears and objections. They listen. And then they go do what they were going to do anyway. They do take into account my feelings, but I know that ultimately, they will do what they believe is best for them. Personally, I think it is the hardest stage of parenting so far.

But wait there’s more!

One of my friends said she didn’t like Tink, that she thought she was a “jerk.” This was my initial response.

“She’s a jerk because she’s passionate, protective, and independent. She’s beautiful and unsure of herself. Jealous to a fault. She’s small and mighty and fearful of being left behind. Her “meanness” is what you see but her motives…are beautiful. She needs to be loved and she’ll die if she doesn’t get that love. She needs unconditional love, not the kind that only hangs around if she’s sweet and gentle.”

All behavior is a symptom of someone’s feelings. We can’t help the way we feel about things. I’m having a hard time explaining this. I keep writing out the words and backing up. Let me start again.

Behavior is what we do when we feel something. It’s a trained action that starts in childhood. I feel cold and I grab a blanket. It might be someone else’s blanket. You might say, “Hey, that person is a jerk. They stole my blanket!” or you could think, “Why did that person steal my blanket?” That question might lead you to understand that the person was cold and needed to be warm. The only thing they have learned to do is take the first blanket they see.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “This woman is nuts. We can’t condone stealing because someone needs something. That’s anarchy!” I’m not condoning anything. I don’t need to think it’s ok for her to take my blanket because she’s cold, but I can understand and not be angry at that person. I can also lovingly ask why she took it and show compassion so she learns better behavior. There are very few people in this world that deliberately do things just to be mean. Almost everyone wants to be socially accepted and loved.

It could go like this.

“Why did you take my blanket? It belongs to me!”

“I’m cold and need one.”

“Well, so am I. It’s not ok to take things without permission, but I can see why you need one.”

“I need a blanket and you already have one, can afford another one, or I don’t care that you are cold.”

“Let’s see how we can get your own blanket without taking one from me by force.”

And you go off to buy her one of her own, help her find one from a charity, or buy one as a gift because you can and you love the person she is.

You know what she learns? Her needs are important and so are other people’s.

So, what does this have to do with Tinker Bell being a jerk? Tinker Bell is “acting out” as they say. She’s exhibiting nasty behaviors to get what she wants because she has learned no other way. She craves Peter’s attention and now he’s giving it to that damn Wendy. She’s jealous and rightly so, since Wendy wants Peter to leave Neverland and grow up.

There are lots of Tinker Bell’s in our life. Our children, our parents, our friends, our lovers, they all exhibit behavior we are not fond of. My children throw a temper tantrum over not being able to finish a movie before bed. My mother texts me a thousand times about where I’ve been. My friend doesn’t call me back because I forget her birthday. My lover is slamming doors and sulking. They are all symptoms of feelings and needs. What if we decided to look around the behavior and seek out what those needs are instead of punishing the behavior? If we knew what the need was, maybe it’d be easier to understand the behavior and help that loved one find a better way of getting their needs met.

Poor Tink. We see her as beautiful and filled with light. She can fly and make others fly, too! What more could you ask for? But really, she’s like all of us. She’s small and vulnerable and doesn’t know her own power. Peter could help her see that if he weren’t a child himself. Wendy does catch a glimpse of it but maybe she’s just too wrapped up in herself at the moment to help.

There’s so much more. I’d like to read the book again and focus on Tinker Bell’s point of view.

Window Into Our World

I’ll be re-sharing some of my favorite posts from my old blog from time to time. This one is from a couple of years ago, but I felt it really captured my feelings still.

I have to record the most awesome motocross weekend ever, from the Mom’s point of view anyway!

This series the boys have upped the ante so to speak and moved to the “expert” track. This alone was a feat of strength. They’ve been riding motocross for about a year now and weren’t really winning all that much on the “amateur” track but they figured, why waste time mastering the smaller track when they could be losing and gaining experience on the same track the pro’s use. The reaction from their friends was enough to spur them on. They were all excited and amazed that they would even try it. So there we were lined up for our first moto on the big track. That’s when I got nervous. What if they shouldn’t be there? What if they embarrassed themselves? What if they crashed? The gate dropped and those “novice” riders came roaring down the track with my boys in the back. My stomach dropped. We were way out of our league. The second gate dropped and the next race started and they began to catch up to my boys. Watching Jake ride was inspiring though. He looked like he was having the time of his life. Every jump was loose and every turn and slide was controlled. He wasn’t THAT far behind. But Tom looked like he was in fear of his very life. Stiff and rigid as he made every turn and each jump he just rolled it. He never made the last lap before they ended the race. I had to hold back tears the whole time.

There is some back story here. Three weeks ago we had a friend come and give them some tips and they rode the main track at another place. They were flying and very happy, ready for the “big time”. One week later, we went for another practice, this time on the main track we were going to race at next. They didn’t do so well here. I think they were intimidated by the fast riders on a Wednesday morning and lost faith in themselves. During the last round, Tom crashed, not a bad one by motocross standards but a good one for him. It was over a jump and he left the bike and came flying down the jump without it, landing on his back, rolling hard. He strained his back and fractured his wrist. We decided to baby that wrist to give it time to heal before the next race. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea because he didn’t ride those two weeks, he only did some strength training. We knew going there this weekend that he wouldn’t do well in the race for several reasons. The combination of the new track and level, and the fact that he was still healing from his injury and hadn’t ridden in awhile was pretty much cutting out all hopes of racing well. Jake on the other hand was ready. He’d been practicing and working out and was mentally ready for this race. And he did amazingly well. I’ve never seen him more confident. I feel bad that the focus leaned toward Tom and his problems when Jake had put in just as much work. But as always, the squeaky wheel, right? We kept praising Jake as much as we could without making Tom feel too bad. It felt strange because for the last year, it has been the other way around!

Back to this weekend’s race. Friday evening Tom comes down with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. He felt pretty crappy on Saturday morning as we finished loading up and headed for the track. What else can go wrong?

Saturday was a decent day of practice. The weather was perfect. The track wasn’t too crowded. But Tom wasn’t feeling it. In hindsight, you could feel his tension building but I thought it was just his cold keeping him low key. We registered for the next day’s race after practice and were encouraged by the TWMX staff about moving to the big track. Our usual after Race Day Eve rituals commenced.

Sunday morning we woke up to rain, as was expected. We waited for them to cancel the race, but they didn’t. It wasn’t a heavy rain so the track wasn’t flooded, just muddy, and it was supposed to start letting up at 8am just as practice was starting. By the time the races started it was looking nice. We got the schedule…the last race of the day! And the waiting began.

Both the boys took turns riding over to the track and watching, seeing where they were in the line of races. Tom always takes so much longer to come back because he stops and talks to people. The combination of his friendly and outgoing nature and his cool vintage pit bike leads him to conversations with people all along the track and pits. It’s fun to watch him. He introduces his brother and drags him along to talk with people sometimes, but Jake is much more comfortable at his camp or riding. The high point of his socializing is to joke and tell the rider next to him at the gate to slow down a bit and not make him look so bad! His sense of humor catches you off guard because he’s usually so quiet.

So there we were, the first moto in the books and it didn’t look good at all for Tom. Jake was happily sipping his cool sports drink and eating a hot dog while Tom was silently freaking out. It’s hard when your kids are going through something like this. I wanted so much to help but really didn’t know how. Talking about it, going over what happened, seemed to be making it worse. I felt like talking it out would be helpful (for me) but then I thought maybe just putting it behind him would be better, look to the next one. He was going on about the mud and not feeling well. Maybe he had the suspension set wrong. What was he doing wrong? But we could tell it was fear. He didn’t see it. He wasn’t jumping and speeding because he was afraid of crashing again. He needed to put THAT behind him. What do you do? I went to congratulate Jake on his performance and then looked at Facebook to occupy myself and give him space.

We had about an hour before the next moto, so Jake went to see how things were going at the track and I suggested to Tom that he meditate, clear his mind of anxiety. He agreed and settled into deep breathing. And then we headed back for the next round.

We got there a bit early this time so we had about a half an hour to stand around and watch. Jake was chomping at the bit to get out there. He just loves being out on the track! He said that the running and climbing as cross training is really working because the moto’s aren’t wiping him out anymore. He could have done that for hours. And it was so awesome to see him so proud of the work he put into it. Tom needed more time alone. I held his bike while he stood at that fence and watched the other races take off. A Dad of a friend of his came up and talked to him for a bit and I watched him relax. He needs to know people think he can do this. That little bit of fame pushes him on. That man was a gift from God.

When we got to the gate, he swept, packed down the dirt, got ready. He said he was going to just ride to finish and not fall, focus on not falling. His breathing was short. He already looked stiff. In a moment of inspiration I told him to not focus on that. No, is what I said. Remember the breathing, roll your shoulders back, open up the chest, shake out your arms, legs, and head. Focus on your confidence. You CAN do this. You have landed this a thousand times. You’re all alone, look out ahead, and have fun. He shook his head yes and the starter took his place. I ran off to the side with Dan. I highly doubted it would help. He was pretty scared. The gate dropped and both the boys were out there in the middle of the pack. Jake was a bit behind. They rounded corners and made the jumps just like that first practice. It was amazing. I couldn’t help but yell out, “That’s my boy! That’s what they LOVE!” You could see it in their riding. You could feel it as they passed by. My heart soared with them.

Now…before you go thinking that they had magically went faster and moved up in the ranks of riders, they were still in last place. They did significantly faster laps, but so did everyone else. The track was more dried out and most usually do better on their second moto. It was the attitude that was different. They were matched in their joy and excitement of making the laps. Now they just have to work on speed. That will come with practice.

After the race, they always get back to camp first. They are on bikes and we’re walking. But as we walked up, the attitude at camp was WAY better than the last time. Jake was already packing up bikes and tools. He used to have to take a good long rest before he even started to move after a race. Tom was all thumbs up, running over to us. He was almost crying. He hugged me and told me it worked and I’m the best mom for helping him. And then I almost cried! Dan was so proud of us. It was a pretty awesome moment. We all talked about how great it was and loaded up, got dressed, put away all that muddy gear, and headed for home!

I’m amazed at my children. They are brave, confident, brilliant, and talented. As much as I dislike motocross, I cannot imagine life without their craziness. Since this is the race weekend from my perspective, I’ll tell you what I learned most, the admiration of two boys that push themselves to the limit of their abilities by sheer will power. I don’t like this sport. I’d love it if they decided that it was enough now and move on to something cheaper and safer. But I see it through their eyes and I’m just as excited as they are. I’m seeing where they could go and what they can do with the skills they are learning. I’m making plans in my mind about races across the country, two brothers and a box truck! I’m seeing factory teams, personal tracks, and watching them on TV and in sports magazines. But I’ll be happy seeing them play at it all their lives, find work that keeps them fed, and wives that support their crazy dreams. I can see them getting bikes for their kids and doing it all over again. Deep sighs for this momma.

Right now, the day after, I’m in awe. I’m relieved that we are home safe, no one came home injured. I’m happy we left the track on a high note for both my babies. I’m thankful that my amazing husband supports this craziness even though I’m sure he’d rather be doing a thousand other things with his time and money. I’m looking forward and planning the next practice day. And I’m terrified of the next race in two weeks. It will never stop scaring the crap out of me every time they head out there, but how can I let my fear get in the way of their joy? I think I’ll make cookies in their honor and just bask in their glory today.