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The School System is Oppressive for a Reason

School system feels oppressive quote from book and book cover on desert background.

“Marianne’s classmates all seem to like school so much and find it normal. To dress in the same uniform every day, to comply at all times with arbitrary rules, to be scrutinized and monitored for misbehavior, this is normal to them. They have no sense of the school as an oppressive environment.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The school system we have is not the best way to create a responsible and independent population.

Speaking out against the public school system is unpopular, I know. I usually get even fewer likes when I speak my mind here. But hear me out, please. What we are currently doing (and have been for nearly 100 years) isn’t working. That old cliché definition of insanity comes to mind.

I pulled this quote out because it reminded me of my own experience in high school and my feeling when I talk to parents that send their kids to school. In fact, it reminds me of how I feel when I talk to kids in high school, or that have just left it.

I was good at the system. I was able to work my way through public school in the 80’s and get good grades, make some friends, and start university. But I felt like I as living a lie, walking among zombies that didn’t realize there was a world outside what we were being forced to live until we were 18 or completed so many credits. Why was I different?

I don’t believe controlling other people from birth to death is the way we create order out of chaos. I’ve heard time and time again, if you don’t teach a child that you are bigger and stronger than them, the authority in all things, while they are small and fragile, they’ll walk all over you when they get into their teens and are bigger than you, capable of walking away from your control. It sounds so perverse.

It’s the same with schools today. I’ve heard parents tell me that you need to put your children in daycare early so that they learn to fit in to the system once they get to school age. Children that have not been corralled from early age have a harder time settling into the mold of school days.

A young person, fresh out of high school at 18 years old, scoffed at the fact that my son (her boyfriend) must have been too lazy to finish high school. He didn’t get the same education as she did and would probably never fully understand the system of merely making good grades and completing checklists instead of engaging in and learning from the material and teachers he came across at college. He was 16 and taking the same classes as her, helping her with her math assignments and holding a job.

When people see us, our children, and our lifestyle, some say, “Sure, that’s fine for you but other people need the control of an authority.” Do they? Or have they been trained from birth to believe that they do?

Some people have met us and have told me, “Wow. Your sons are so happy and intelligent. They seem like full-fledged people, not teenagers.” Their next comment is usually that we must have had a strong hand on them, kept them out of trouble, restricted them from video games and cellphones. It was the opposite. They have grown up being respected as individuals, with their own needs and wants, the ultimate authority of themselves, even when we thought they were crazy. We worked together to make living together comfortable. They grew up treating us the same way.

It wasn’t easy. Every decision, every change, every stage of life has to be thought about and evaluated to some degree. Negotiation so that everyone’s needs are met is impossible sometimes. And sometimes we failed miserably. We were learning too, not just the kids. Ultimately, now that the youngest is leaving home, I think it worked out well overall, more positive than negative.

The quote above, Marianne’s feeling about the school environment she is in, it’s legitimate. Raising large groups of people in controlled environments where they have no choice but to attend and obey is oppressive. It brainwashes people into believing that they are not capable of living outside a set of parameters set by someone else.

And that, my friends, is bullshit. We can all live exactly as we please. That doesn’t mean I have to live next to you or with you and agree with you, but it does mean you have the right and the ability to make your own choices, ones that serve you and your needs alone.

Stop raising humans as herd animals and start treating them as independent sentient beings from the moment they are born and we’ll begin to see civilization flourish in ways you can’t imagine.


If you’d like to go back and read my thoughts on this book from the beginning, start at my post New Read: Normal People.

You can find “Normal People” by Sally Rooney on Amazon.

My monthly newsletter highlights my immediate after-thoughts about the books I read the previous month. You can sign up for that awesome email at the link on the right or by hopping over to my Autobibliography page. Once you opt-in, you’ll receive one email a month only available to my email followers…mmm…so exclusive!

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning – Episode 6

What the heck?! Where have I been? Was there NOTHING to be joyful about? Nothing to share? No reason at all to get up in the morning?!

(That’s me, creating drama!) No, nothing like that at all. I’m just inconsistent with my writing habits. In fact, inconsistency is my mantra, my whole being wrapped up in one fine word! So here I am starting up again, picking up where I left off and waving a big hello to you. I’ll wrap you up in a big hug and sit down next to you, maybe under a tree on a park bench, or across from you in a restaurant over tacos.

Sheesh…I just scanned back and realized that I haven’t talked to you since late August. Two whole months! Instead of boring you with a long list of what I’ve been up too, because honestly, it’s a lot and pretty wild and crazy and…oh who am I kidding?! I’m talking to friends here! You know me. The wildest I get is maybe one too many glasses of tequila and a very loud game of pool on the back porch, but that’s what life is for!

I’ll just pick one thing that I’m extremely proud of at this very moment and tell you about it. My oldest son is off on another adventure today. He’s packing up his car and heading out into the world again. This time, he has a new job in a new state and a new car. And he’s very excited (and I know probably pretty nervous too).

The “pandemic” brought him back to us back in April. He had two jobs, one online and one at an airport, but when the airport laid him off and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, he decided that it was probably best just to head home for a bit and regroup. I’ll admit…I kinda pushed in that direction. I was worried and wanted as much of my family together as possible. I’m not always as strong and cool as I make myself out to be. Control is my go-to when I’m not sure of the outcomes, and I grab for anything I can. So here we are, six months later, and after a long and strenuous job search, he’s found work and is on his way.

Me? I’m not so much worried about him leaving as I was in the past. I know he’s a more than capable adult. I just know I will miss him terribly. I realized earlier this week that I was pretending like the day wasn’t coming, just going through the week like usual. I hate dwelling on what’s coming. I hate mooning over “This the last workday. This is the last grocery trip. This is the last beer we share.” Just typing that makes me choke up…stupid to sit and ruin those “lasts” so I pretend they aren’t. It’s ridiculous anyway. He’s not dying or moving to another planet. All kids grow up and move out. Sentimentality is not my strong suit. My husband on the other hand…poor guy.

While I wish he loved the desert as much as we do or could find work closer so that he could be here on weekends to visit, I’m happy that he loves adventure and follows his own heart. I’m happy that he’s not afraid to try new things and create his own world. I’m proud that we’ve created a strong enough foundation for him that he just jumps without worrying about what he’s leaving behind. I wish I were more like him. I think he’s going to love it there once he gets settled and I have a feeling he’ll find some new friends there.

One more thing before I go! His brother is not far behind him. He’s on his way to University in January and when I looked on the map I found that they’ll be only six hours apart. They’ll be able to spend some weekends together camping and hiking, maybe even racing sometime. I know they’re crazy different people and that they each have their own worlds to create, but something about knowing they at least have each other close enough to visit if they want to makes this Mom heart happy.

See you next week!

Really. I promise.

Why Do I Get Up in the Morning – Episode Three

Not following me on Instagram?
You’re missing out! @desertmichelle

This week’s “Why I get up” crept up on me a little at a time until…POUNCE…I was bowled over.

Last week I got three invitations to answer questions about how to homeschool. Three. I think I got three last year and here I am with three in one week. One email, one phone call, and one meet up. The meet up was the pounce!

I know…you didn’t ask me about homeschooling and I’m not going to tell you how you can or why you should or shouldn’t, don’t worry. Mentioning homeschooling in most circles has much the same response as a “Jesus Juke.” Yes, Jesus may have changed your life, but it doesn’t always apply to everyone in the same personal way.

When you feel something strongly, when you discover something life-changing and fantastic, it’s hard not to share it with the world…loudly. I did that for a long time.

These days I’ve matured (in some ways, shut up), calmed down a bit, and found that, like spiritual matters, parenting and education decisions have to come from inside a person. It’s personal. If someone asks where my kids went to school, I answer honestly. If they are curious and ask questions, I answer them. If they want to know how we did it, I’m happy to discuss it. It’s been a long lesson to learn, but I learned not to bring it up myself. Again, like religious experiences, seekers will find their answers.

The “Why I Get Up” though, that’s the thing I want to tell you and it’s related to those people that reached out to me about homeschooling.

This past week I got three chances to share the joy and love I have for homeschooling, specifically the private “radical unschooling” that we did with our children. There are few things in the world more wonderful than getting to share with others things that have changed your life, hoping that in some small way you are able to pay the universe back for bringing that change into your life.

How did they find me? Because on my blog there is a small page about it and I’m listed as a contact on some small homeschool sites. Finding my name or something I wrote is like finding a penny. It’s not hidden. It’s not all that rare. And it’s value is relative. If you found it and you want it for whatever reason, then it must have been something you were looking for.

I got to spend some of my time this week explaining the rules and encouraging a few people and I’m excited that I may get to do it again. I was also reminded that I should probably put some love into my homeschool page, especially right now with a lot of schools not opening back up in the Fall and a lot of parents looking into alternatives.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a positive feedback kind of person. I feel that I need to know that someone out there appreciates what I’m doing to feel good about continuing the work. I found out this week that I should learn to stop that practice if I’m going to have more of an impact in this world.

I should write and post because I have something to say, not because I want applause and kudos. I do enjoy putting my thoughts in order. It’s definitely good for me. I’d much rather talk out my process than write about it, but that’s not always feasible. So here I am tapping away. Lucky for you! I may not get “likes” or “follows.” My website may not reflect all of my actual readers. But my happiness with my work should not depend on that. It should depend only on my own satisfaction.

I love the thought that someone might read this and feel something. I’m thrilled at the thought that, maybe not today, but some time in the future, someone could read what I wrote and use the information or be encouraged to try something new. But that, my sweet, sweet reader, is an awesome side effect if it happens, not the reason why I write.

Writing is a reason I get up in the morning. And the hope that someone will read it, somewhere, someday, that’s just icing on the cake!

Am I Productive? Or Am I Just Coasting Through Life?

The feeling is overwhelming for a housewife and stay-at-home mom. It feels as though everyone around you is doing something big. Everyone else is living productive and satisfying lives while you waste away, folding laundry, making beds, and chasing children in an attempt to keep them from running out into the street or generally making a nuisance of themselves.

As you all know, my active parenting days are coming to a close, and I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering what is to become of me. I feel like I’m being put out to pasture. The feeling of retirement is especially poignant for a homeschooling parent. My career is at an end people! What am I supposed to do now?

“Relax and enjoy it!” I hear people say. Please, people. I’m 47 years old. I can’t spend the next 30 to 40 years watching Netflix and reading books…or can I?

Today, I saw the following graphic on Mark Manson‘s Instagram feed and became exasperated. Live consciously doing WHAT, Mark!? Ugg.

wp-1587663715399.jpg

After a short grumpy session with my husband, and actually listening to his encouraging words for once, here’s what I came up with.

1. Do fewer things.

I got that. Over the years I have cut back and then built up and cut back again. It’s hard to find the sweet spot, that place where I’m doing only what is essential to me, not too much and not too little. In general, I only take care of and focus on, the things that make me who I am. Finding out what those things are has taken me most of my life.

2. Do those things deliberately.

Yep. I have a list that keeps me on track. I make sure to do those things regularly. When I ask myself, or others ask me, why I’m not doing more for…whatever it is…I can look at that list. My dance card is full. Each day is filled with my essentials.

3. Do them to completion.

Something I struggle with that from time to time. When I’m consistently not getting something done, I have to ask myself if it just doesn’t fit in my schedule or if it’s turning out not to be important to my bigger goals.

4. Share them with others.

Here is where I’ve run into a brick wall lately. Share what with who?! I mean, come on. I’ve been a housewife and stay at home mom for the last 19 years. What exactly is there to share? “Look I dusted and vacuumed the living room!” and “Nice laundry pile, right?” I don’t create. I don’t add to the GDP. I don’t produce anything.

But then it dawned on me. I have been creating something very important every day for the last twenty years, a happy, healthy, and organized home. My positive attitude about that work has waxed and waned over the years, the same way it did when I worked outside my home. That’s called being human and having emotions, but it doesn’t mean my work is pointless or not worth sharing.

So who do I share that product with?

First in line is my family, the people I support with my “work.” The house is clean, the laundry done, the yard in good repair, there’s food in the house and dinner is ready. Sure, that’s good, but what about my attitude? What if I am happy and at peace, proud of my work, and excited to be the support team for them? How awesome would that be if my husband came home to a happy wife when he was done working? Wouldn’t it be better for my sons to see a proud Mom when they were done with classes or home on vacation? It might make their lives a lot easier if I were more satisfied with my own work, instead of coming home to, “But all I did today was pull weeds and do the dishes!”

Second, my blog and social media feeds. This life we chose, housewife and mom? It’s pretty damn rewarding. It’s fun. It’s satisfying. And we can be proud of the work we do in the background. All kinds of businesses have background people, support crews. That was the kind of job I did before I had kids and I was damn good at it.

Home and family are no different. My husband works in the world and brings home money. My children are making a way of their own in the world. Me? I have always been the support for that, something they don’t even realize they need until it’s not there.

Attitude about your work can change everything. I have been productive. I have been and still am filling a need in this world. Now that I’m not so busy with little kids, finding ways to share it with others outside my home through this blog and my social media feeds has become my new outlet, a way to encourage other people in their journey. I’m hoping I can do more of that as the years go by. Who knows where it will take me!

We’re Still Learning by Living

This was written six months ago. Life changes a lot and very quickly.

sweet bug

This sweet bug! I found him strolling across the porch this morning, just as I was coming out to water my plants. I ran inside to get a jar and picked him up, running around the house showing it to my son as he was on his lunch break from work, and my husband, even though he was not on a break. My younger son was still sleeping so I decided to make a video to show him later. Never. Ever. Wake up a teenager to see a bug.

He was only about an inch and a half long, so put him down on the ground and plopped my camera alongside him so that I could get a good shot of all those legs moving along the sand. He looked like a monster from a Godzilla movie until my cat walked into the frame and sniffed it!

I knew he was a millipede and not one those nasty centipedes I have found in the yard before. I wasn’t sure if he would bite, so I Googled him and found that he didn’t. I posted my video of him to Facebook so my friends could share in my discovery.

When my younger son got up, I showed him the video and we decided he looked like a long pill bug! If my kids were younger, they would have wanted to keep him a while. They’d have gone out to the laundry room and dug out the terrarium they had saved, put some yard sand in it and a few twigs and leaves, and deposited Mr. Millipede so that they could watch him over the next few days.

They’d look up what they eat and how they get water. Would it need shelter? A rock to hide under or a few leaves to eat? They’d take pictures of him, talk to him, draw cartoons of him growing into a monster and taking over a city, and then get bored of him and set him free in the yard again.

I would have written down “natural science, bug collection and species classification” in the log I kept for education. That’s how we homeschooled their whole lives. Everything is interesting. Every day an adventure. Sadly, those days are gone. They’re grown! (insert mom sniffle here)


We homeschooled the boys through the private school option out here in California. At first, I tried to imitate the public school model that I grew up in. I had paid $500 for a pre-packaged curriculum for the year and a lesson plan all set up.

I quickly fell behind the planned schedule with a preschooler and a kindergartener. I just couldn’t see taking time out to learn about something from the prescribed book when we were already spending the day at the zoo or the science museum. I couldn’t figure out how to get them to sit and write letters on paper when they were busy climbing at the park or digging holes in the back yard. So many more interesting things were happening every day, that I couldn’t bring myself to follow the curriculum. I gave up using them after the first month of our first year of homeschooling. They were learning so much already.

At the same time I was stressing myself out over how we were going to afford curriculum for both the boys and stick to it, I went to a local homeschool conference and learned about unschooling. What they described was what we had been doing since they were born, what had worked to get them to the level they were at already, and what we were trying to throw aside to make room for a pre-packaged state-approved curriculum. My worldview changed drastically that day. I was not alone.

From then on, I kept a log of what we did every day. We focused on experiences and following their interests. There were no tests. There were no grades. I spent the week finding fun things to do around our area. We went to parks, museums, libraries, and zoos. We watched tv shows. We read books. We drew pictures and played. We ate when we were hungry, and we napped when we were tired. Somewhere among all that they grew up and started looking outside of what I could give them and eventually started doing things for themselves.

It’s been fascinating the last few years, watching them move out into the world, start college, get jobs, and make friends. They come home each day and have so much to share with me, so much to teach me about the world as it is now instead of how I remember it.

I’m starting to see less and less of them every day and that’s ok. There were days when they were little that I would have sworn that the needs would never end, that they would never make a sandwich on their own or ever be able to help with housework, but here we are.

My sons are rapidly becoming self-sufficient and it brings me a lot of pride to see my life’s work take off before my eyes. Soon, they’ll be completely on their own and I’ll see them and eventually their own families on holidays and birthdays.

And the amazing part? Never at any point did I need to force them to learn anything. There was no lesson plan for our life. No sitting down to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. No chores and consequences for not doing them. No making them eat things they didn’t like or going places they didn’t want to. We just lived together as peacefully as growing people can.

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!

It’s Friday! Oh…wait…

And…it’s Saturday morning that I’m finally making myself take a moment to sit down and at least do my Friday post. I’ve been feeling a bit like a teenager, hormonally pulled and exhaustedly lazy at the same time. I think I’m ready for a vacation. Luckily for me, that is exactly what’s coming up for us!

So, let’s get to this!

Thing I learned: I thought that I was over being affected by other people’s opinions of me, but then found myself trying to behave in ways someone else believed is the best way to behave instead of being myself and accepting that some people will not like it and those people are just not my people. Wow. That’s a damn long sentence! Self, you are you, and you need to be ok with the fact that you are not everyone’s cup of tea! That doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not YOUR people. Keep being you in all your crazy, talkative, open and honest ways, and the people that like that will be attracted to your orbit. It’s going to take time. Some of those bodies are way out in the galaxy!

Thing I’m reading: This is dumb but I’m kind of a book snob. I tend to reject books that everyone else is reading just because everyone else is reading them. Not cool, I know. What does it take to get me to read a popular book? A cute boy told me to. That’s what I was talking about earlier, teenage behavior. I’m about three hours into the first Game of Thrones book and I’m really liking it. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, so it goes fast, and it has a lot of feeling. I have hopes that it will prove a bit of depth as I read it, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with an exciting adventure that you don’t necessarily want to experience again!

Thing I heard: My oldest son came home from his vacation in Germany this week and we’ve been catching up. We spend a lot of time talking, that boy and I. He’s very intelligent and I love his take on the world around him. We homeschooled and we live rurally. We’ve been home-centered, I’d say. This past year, since just before his seventeenth birthday, he has been out in the world gathering experiences on his own in big ways. Funny thing; he’s always been one to jump into things with both feet. He goes from knowing nothing of it to moving comfortably in it, no matter what he tries. It’s been the same for him leaving the nest. It’s like talking to a worldly man, a young, optimistic, and proud man.

As we sat at the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of toast and cheese (Euro Breakfast), he told me something profound. “Mom,” he says, “someone told me a few years ago that if I had gone to school, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s of some kind. I did not agree at all, but the more I talk to people and work with people, I’m starting to see that I really do think differently. It isn’t that other people are dumb or that they don’t know how to do things the ‘right way’, it’s that I just see things in a different way. And that’s ok. They do it their way. I do it mine. We can help each other.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. It was a long conversation. All our conversations are long. We love to philosophize over breakfast. I just about cried. This was exactly why we wanted to homeschool the way we did. I wanted my kids to grow up naturally. I wanted them to grow up secure in who they were as individuals, doing things the way they felt was best for them specifically, within a family that loves them. The theory works. He is not sheltered and afraid of the world. He does not hide away. He does not go with the crowd unless he wants to. He’s a wonderful young man and ready to take on the world.

Thing I want to do: Do less. I need to take some time to make a list of essentials. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.” Here’s the thing. We can waste money if we like because we can make more, but we can’t make more time. I only have so much time in each day. I cannot waste it on unessential things. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything. It’s time to take stock again and pare down. This time it might be painful. I’ve done it before and thought I had it down to the bare minimum, but I don’t. Since we’re going on vacation, just the two of us, my husband and I, in a couple weeks, I think I’ll use some of that time on the road to do that work. Without the regular distractions, I can focus on what I want to accomplish. I’ll treat it as if we’re going on one of those fancy retreats! We’ll “go dark”! Yes!

And the photo of the week is…

20190606_182239.jpg

A baby bird! We saved him! My husband saw him flopping on the porch so I picked him up. He couldn’t even stand in my hand, so tired. He sat in my hand for a minute, I put some water in my hand to see if he’d drink it, he closed his eyes a bit, and suddenly looked more alert. He flapped and flew up to a creosote branch. I looked him up on the internet and found he was a Bushtit and most likely a fledgling from nearby with his mom waiting to feed him.

Have a good week everyone! Don’t worry! I’ll get this writer’s life more under control pretty soon!

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!

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