“There’s so much to see…”

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Coney Island and all its splendor.

Last month, the Monkey and I went on a whirlwind adventure of the Big Apple.  And when I say adventure, I truly mean it.  We landed, got an unlimited pass for transit and rode the bus or subway from Brooklyn to Queens to Harlem to Times Square to Staten Island to Manhattan to Coney Island and everything in between.  On most days we visited at least 3 boroughs and managed to see absolutely everything she wanted to see.  We had no plan, no prepaid passes.  Just a willingness to see everything we could stuff into our 5 day journey.

And I have to admit that when booking this trip I thought we would only see one major attraction per day.  I mean she’s five, has little legs, and I don’t really like love people.  But despite its busyness and overwhelming population, we managed to make New York feel small.

We took our lessons on history, geography, ecology, biology, paleontology, astronomy, and *ahem* crowd etiquette on the road.  Basically, I turned our vacation into one massive field trip and I allowed her to take the lead.  Each day she chose what we would do and where we would explore and I just tagged along….and paid for stuff.

So I guess the lesson here for me was when you make learning feel, look, at smell like adventure, everyone benefits.  And no one whines or complains or throws hissy fits about absolutely nothing.

We also got free donuts from the diner in Park Slope because my kid’s so stinkin’ cute.  FREE DONUTS.  And that made the entire trip well worth it.

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Free donuts taste better.

The Dangererous Position of Neutral

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Recently, my kid’s school had its annual Thanksgiving feast and my daughter was not present.  Not because she was sick or had other five year old obligations.  But because I decided to keep her home.

Now before I continue I want to say that I love her school.  I love that she gets to experience both a school environment and learning with me at home most days.  I love that she gets to pray for others, learn about God and all his amazingness, and still learn how to read and spell at the same time.

But just because she is enrolled at a particular school or even public school doesn’t mean that I agree with absolutely everything that is taught or celebrated.  That would be negligence and ignorance on my part as a parent.  And recently one of those disagreements came up.  I sat down with her teacher, shared my views and opinions, was respected for my decision, and the show went on.

Growing up, I remember learning about Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and Indians, and the heroism of Christopher Columbus.  I remember dressing up in feathers and sharing fake turkey and corn during school plays.  I remember thinking that it was so amazing that a man could discover the Americas despite the doubts of his own people.

Then somewhere along the line I learned that almost none of the things that shaped my perception of Thanksgiving or discovery were true.  Yes, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and accidentally landed on various Caribbean islands.  But homeboy never actually set foot on North America.  So you can see the confusion as to why learning of his discoveries was so important.  And that’s not even touching the atrocities that came along when he found land, including slavery and wiping out populations with disease and murder.

On the other hand, I believe that our country and our world is coming to a precipice on how we react to cultural issues.  On one hand, there are groups of people screaming for justice, understanding, and equality.  On the other, you have those who feel these groups are being too sensitive and should understand that certain phrases, names, or traditions are just that.  And traditions never offend, right?

Well as a mother and a human, I felt like I needed to take a stand.  I didn’t feel the need to picket, protest, or angrily share my views and why I felt Christopher Columbus should not be celebrated or made part of a school assignment.  But I did feel the need to step away from what has become the norm and teach her that understanding the who, what, when, and why behind tradition is more important than the tradition itself.

I explained to her teacher that just because you or I may view someone’s offense as being too sensitive or not seeing the positive aspects of a Thanksgiving feast doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t acknowledge that hurt.  Because somewhere in that hurt is validity.  And whether I agree with it or not, I will make an effort to understand.  And once I understand, I will make the decision to teach my child that all traditions are not necessary and some of them may even be harmful.

Dressing up as “Pilgrims and Indians” may seem harmless, but there are echoes of discontentment that run deep in Native American culture that are dying to be heard.  Whether it’s cultural appropriation, cartoonish images, stereotypical war cries heard at football games, or the names of sports teams.  Each of these things has a history that I dare you to explore further.

And even if you decide these histories have nothing to do with you and bear no importance in the course of your life, at least acknowledge the weight they carry for others.

10 Things I’ve Discovered While Homeschoolin’

Oh my.  It has officially been 1 month since we started our homeschoolin’ journey.  Some days are great and run like lard in a hot pan.  And some days are incredibly trying with me attempting not to lose my mind, patience, or my salvation.  Amen.

Regardless there are some things I’ve discovered in these last 4 weeks that hopefully will accomplish a few things: (1) allow others to understand more about the best decision I’ve ever made for myself and the Monkey (2) encourage others to consider which education options are best for your own little Monkeys, and (3) to remind myself to keep going on those days where I want to dangle her safely from a medium height balcony à la Michael Jackson.

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So back to this whole list thing.  I probably could’ve listed waaaay more than 10, but I feel like after 10 you all would probably stop reading.  So would I.  Plus 10 is a nice, round number.  And here we go:

1) Education is about developing, grooming, equipping, and celebrating each child’s uniqueness.  Not bending their abilities and talents to fit uniform standards.

And this applies to public, private, and homeschool.  Not one of you is safe.  I even find myself trying to fight the standards that others think she should be fitting into on a daily basis.  When it’s noon on a school day and we’re at the grocery store I get stopped by at least one person wondering why she’s not ‘in school.’  Correction.  She is.  And we’re learning about the nuances of nutrition, monetary transactions, counting, reading, social skills, and the importance of planning.  Things I wish I had learned in school, but was stuck to a desk for 8 hours in the day.  And, again, I turned out fine.  But being able to take school outside (literally and figuratively) has been amazing and shown me the strange and amazingly unique ways that my child thinks about herself and the world.

2) Spending this much time with your kid(s) makes you love and appreciate them so much more.

My kid is the best darn 5 year old on the planet.  No joke.  She’s funny, athletic, bossy, loving, and has an old soul.  She likes weird music like her mommy and her favorite song is Paradise City by Guns N Roses.  She doesn’t like to brush her teeth but understands how bad breath can hinder her social life.  She cries uncontrollably during sad parts in movies and is an empath at heart.  I knew these things prior to our homeschooling time, but not to the depth that I do now.

3) Spending this much time with your kid(s) makes you want to be by yourself more often.

I feel like this doesn’t need a blurb or an explanation.  See my post on Heaven in Duluth for more inspiration.  Or reference the Michael Jackson dangle.

4) Some homeschool days are the best ever.

I feel like superwoman.  Like I can conquer the world.  Or like Leo doing his happy strut.

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Like I can get the laundry, cooking, homeschooling, and work done at the same damn time.  And then…

5) …Some homeschool days are just plain bad.

She has a complete, nuclear meltdown about a broken brown crayon.  Or that I put her bracelets in the wrong jewelry box.  Or that we have raspberries instead of blueberries for lunch.  Or for no reason at all.  Like.  AT.  ALL.  These are all true stories, by the way.  Just in case you couldn’t tell.  Then there are the shining mother of the year moments where I snap about the complaints of “We’ve been doing this for 10 hours!!!”…when it’s only been 5 minutes.  Which leads me to number 6…

6) In Kid Time, 5 minutes is equivalent to 6 hours, 39 minutes, and 17 seconds.

So when I’m trucking along in math work, with my Leo Happy Strut, thinking things are peachy, and it’s been…21 minutes!…and she starts to whine.  I have to take a step back and realize that it’s just been an ETERNITY in KinderLand.

7)  Kids crave independence more than we give them credit for.

If I had a penny for every time she screams “Let me do it!” I could be homeschooling AND retired.  And if your kid is a human, I’m sure you hear this a lot, too.  But do you listen?  Do you actually let them do it?  Or do you try to pull a ninja “it’s already done” move before they notice their opportunity has passed?  Don’t feel guilty, sometimes that ninja move is necessary.  But every once in a while, let them actually do it.  As long as it won’t kill or maim them.  Notice I didn’t say hurt.  Because sometimes kids need to fall, bump, bruise, and pick themselves back up in order to learn their best.

8) Those cheesy homeschool planners that you can download from the internet are amazeballs.  Get one.

I mean, really.  Like most things I was skeptical.  I asked myself, “Do I really need to plan out each homeschool day?  I mean, let’s just go with the flow, dude.”

Yeah, no.  We went ‘with the flow’ for exactly 1 day before I caved.  The Flow was more like a muddy monsoon.  So I found a .pdf planner online, sent the print order to Staples, used a coupon because I’m cheap, and walked outta Staples with my homeschool planner and Leo Happy Strut.  And just to make it extra nerdy, I got it bound with the clear plastic front cover.  Like a BOSS.

Now, if a homeschool day is an epic fail, at least I know it wasn’t on the schedule.

9) Make time for community.

I hesitated with this one for a while, and for a few reasons.  First, I am unashamedly introverted.  Also, I had a lot of fear.  Fear that they would judge me for being a single mom.  Silly and unwarranted.  Fear that I would have to participate in small talk, that they would notice I wasn’t exactly participating, and it would make all interactions awkward.  This didn’t exactly happen.  Fear that I would forget every grown person’s name and resort to calling them “Such-and-Such’s Mom.”  This has happened.  Repeatedly.  I am sorry.

10)  Homeschooling has completely changed our home life.

I never thought I’d say this, but I realized it when explaining to another parent the benefits of homeschooling:  Since I’ve started homeschooling, we have more time.  When she was in 5 day-a-week daycare, I felt like we were always rushing and I was constantly stressed about working and trying to stretch what little time we had.

Clearly, we now have more time with each other.  But, overall, we just have more time.  Yes, I still work, but I work a little less.  And because I know that I only have two-ish days to get work done, I work more efficiently.  I don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.  I worry less about things that didn’t deserve my time in worrying about them anyway.  I’m more present, physically and mentally.  And I’m starting to take my dreams, my dreams for my daughter, and her dreams for herself more seriously.

Regardless of what your situation is, I urge you to consider how homeschooling might change your life.

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All the feels.  End sappy moment.

Until next time, keep hope alive my homeschooling friends.

– Such-and-Such’s Mom

What are some things/myths you all have discovered about homeschooling?

And so it begins…

So today was Monkey’s first day of Kindergarten. I mean, really. Time is flying in the most annoying and awesome way.

Here’s documentation that I’m getting older and so is she:

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As a mom, people never tell you that it would be possible to feel multiple simultaneous emotions all at the same time at any given moment regarding the same person.  For instance, this morning dropping her off at school, I felt both excited and scared. Relieved and terrified. A little sad and incredibly proud.

And also…..wanting to choke her for not brushing her teeth when I asked and in awe of how cute she was in her uniform. Or irritated at her snails pace of getting ready while also admiring her laid back approach to everything life. I envy that.

But when all was said and done, the only thing that was a constant during all of this, and has remained since I embarked on this journey…is an overwhelming sense of peace.

Peace that I made the right decision. Peace that I am walking in God’s will. Peace that I am doing the right thing for myself and for Monkey. And peace that I will not fail.

And not surprisingly, a lot of folks have been asking what in the world made me do something like this in the first place. The questions have been non-stop. And understandably so. Some out of concern, some out of curiosity. But, regardless of the motives they always understand completely in the end.

I’ve explained these reasons in previous posts, but never explained where and how this incredibly insane thought originated in the first place. I’ve presented my experience in numbered list format, because apparently people like lists. So here you go:

1) I was praying in my prayer closet. Yes, I actually have a closet that I go into to pray. I write prayers on the wall. I talk with my Father. I listen. I cry. I cry out. I smile. I complain. I repent. I express gratitude. And so on and so forth. If you are a mom, or a human, I recommend you get one. It is the only place on planet Earth where I can meet Him face to face without distractions.

2) I was praying about something completely unrelated to homeschool. Possibly sprinkles and unicorns. Or maybe it was bacon and doughnuts. I hear there’s an impending shortage.

3) There was a pressing, heavy thought of homeschooling. Not an audible voice.  No thunderbolts and flashes of lightning.

4) I ignored it because….well just because I thought bacon was more important at the moment.

5) I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind for days. At that moment, I knew I was ducking and dodging on purpose. Don’t do that. He’ll just keep pestering you.

6) I researched and Googled because that’s what good millenials do.

7) I found a couple schools and Googled some more.

8) I doubted.

9) I went to some open houses, and felt peace. Overwhelming peace that hasn’t left since.

10) I gave in and decided I didn’t know more than the One who created me. Still not sure why this is so hard for humans.

11) Monkey had her first day of school today and I in no way regret steps 1-10 or doubt God’s hand or his presence in every aspect.

12) I might feel differently about 1-11 after tomorrow because it’s our first actual homeschool day. Yikes.

Doubting God

5-ways-to-stop-self-doubt-in-its-tracksI have to admit that I am scared.  The new school year is quickly approaching (Monkey’s first day is August 23d!) and I feel like I am ill prepared to take this on.  I’m scared of failing to educate her the way she deserves.  I’m scared of failing financially in my business and then having to take a more full-time position and therefore quit homeschooling.  

And here’s a kicker….I’m scared of succeeding and not being able to handle it well.  With humility, grace, and gratitude.  Even though that may seem like a silly notion, I’m sure you all can relate.  You know the situations where you’ve been praying fervently for something, waiting  patiently and with expectation.  Then it finally arrives and you either feel like it’s too good to be true, so you ignore or deny God’s hand in the circumstances.  Or you start feeling yourself a little too much, forget to give God the glory.  Or somehow forget to keep seeking God in your success and things eventually fall apart.

Either way, I have to shake off this fear.  I have to walk in confidence that His promises are not empty.  And it is hard, but not impossible.  It is a moment to moment, and sometimes second to second decision to choose trust.  Even in the process of writing this post, I’ve volleyed back and forth between the two extremes – choosing to stand in belief or fall victim to giving up.

But one thing I can say is that I’ve never seen Him fail.  Ever.  Even in those times where I felt abandoned or was caught up in how things “didn’t work out,” I can look back and say He was there, with me every doubt-filled step despite my emotional misgivings.  The times I thought my world was falling apart were actually just opportunities for me to return to the path He had set rather than trying to carry on in my own, destructive ways.

So for those of you who are waiting on something, whether big or small.  Or are discouraged because you feel like you are alone or that He’s forgotten about you, I beg you not to let your emotions win.  Not to let your lack of control during these times determine how you will proceed.  Not to let your lack of patience result in settling for less.

And even if things don’t turn out the way you thought they would, or the picture didn’t quite develop as quickly as expected, that does not mean He has failed you.  Because “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake” (2 Peter 3:9).  Not because he’s trying to punish you, but because He knows best.  If He didn’t He wouldn’t be God.

So what will you choose today?  Trust and surrender?  Or fear and despair?

Homeschoolin’ Pt 3: The Sheltered Christian

Let’s get back to this homeschool freak out sesh.  In Part 1, I let all of my stereotypes hang out about families that homeschool.  The sheltered Christian kids with no social life, no friends, and no knowledge of the real world.  Don’t look at me like that.  You thought it, too.

So I guess it’s safe to assume that one of the biggest reason most people assume I’m homeschooling is because we’re a perfect Christian family who can spout Bible verses on command and shout “Hi-Diddly-Ho, neighbor!” to every person that crosses our paths.  Yeah, no.  Wrong on all counts.

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First, we are followers of Christ, but we are not perfect.  If we were perfect we wouldn’t need to believe in or worship a perfect God or any god at all for that matter.  Second, I know a good number of Bible verses but please don’t put me on the stand.  I’ll plead the fifth.  tumblr_lgooplwshq1qfb1pvo1_400

And in regards to speaking to my neighbors, I say hello most of the time.  But the amount of cheer depends heavily on the time of day.  I’m no Ned Flanders.

Now let’s get back to the assumption at hand:  I am not homeschooling just because we’re Christians.  My main reasons can be found in my post on smashing traditions.  Is it a bonus that my daughter will get to pray, worship, and honor Christ during school hours?  Heck yes.  But I also believe wholeheartedly in bursting the Christian bubble wide open.

Contrary to very popular belief, Christianity is not some members only club where outsiders are not allowed.  However, that is how I once felt before I stepped out of my lukewarm lifestyle (Correction: I  was actually ejected forcefully and without my permission.  That’s a whole ‘nother story).  I felt like nothing I did would be good enough to be one of those “Christians,” so why even bother.  But along with smashing traditions, I am also all about smashing the traditional notions of  what a Christian should be (Or what it was to begin with.  Confused on this point?  Refer to the entire New Testament.  The church then would’ve been considered radical compared to our Sunday meeting, politically correct, whitewashed version we call Christianity now).

I’m getting off topic….back to me not being perfect.

Because guess what?  I don’t always follow the speed limit.  I curse people out in my mind and sometimes out loud.  I don’t always let that person in who’s trying to merge.  I could go on, but the point is I am broken and full of voids that I’ve found can only be healed and completed by a savior.

And to be honest, everybody is in search of something and attempting to fill the void however they can.  For some, this is sex.  For others, it’s the approval of others.  But for me, the only thing that’s outlasted and completely satisfied beyond all of these things is Christ.  That’s what I’d been searching for.  So it’s my job to share this with as many people as possible.  But it is not my job to condemn, judge, or act like you can’t sit with me because you haven’t come to a similar conclusion.  That’s not loving or acting like a Christian.  That’s shoving people away and acting like a jerk.

So even though I want to protect my child, I don’t want her to grow up unaware and ignorant of how the things in this world beyond our front door (or the church pew for that matter).  How would she understand how to shine a light if she didn’t know the darkness existed?  And let’s be real here.  I’ve met some families whose kids only know church friends and only attend church functions.

But as a parent, I must be conscience of guiding and not sheltering.  Preparing for ugly and beautiful truths, not masking with white lies and fairy tales.

So if you homeschool, I say go ahead.  Let your children get to know kids outside of your bubble.  Let them experience life outside of your reach.  Let them discover the answers to life’s toughest questions (and please don’t lie to them about where babies come from).  Let them figure out how God’s word applies to real life situations.  Under your guidance.  Not inside your cinder block walls stock-piled with padding and band-aids for every boo boo.

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Because some falls need to hurt.  And I’d rather her learn the lessons when I’m there to help her get back up than when she’s on her own with no idea how to navigate rough waters.  And on the other hand, you never know how much those encounters and friendships might change a life.  Someone else’s, theirs, or even your own.

I just bursted your Christian bubble.  And I don’t think you’ll regret it.