Remote Learning: You Can Opt Out if It’s Best for Your Child

Not everyone wants to opt out of remote learning but it is an option for those who feel it’s not good for their child.

Our society and economy are built on schools functioning as expected. I have no desire to change or challenge that. This means we need free public schools to function as a society. I totally understand that.

There are children who are better being at school than at home for various reasons. Those reasons are mostly heartbreaking.

Not everyone wants to homeschool. I get and support that.

I was just in a mom’s group though and a mom shared that she had no idea we could opt out of remote learning. Reading those words made me feel so sad.

You can’t irresponsibly opt out of remote learning. You can’t expect to ignore law and be free from consequences and implications. But, you can opt out of remote learning.

I worry that we have become so accustomed to sending children to school that we forget they are our children. Of course you can opt out of remote learning! Responsibly, though.

I wouldn’t normally post something like this. Under regular times there are just too many reasons to follow the system. These are not normal times, though. We have been forced out of the normal system.

Our Kids Well Being is Valuable

Having our families function well is important. It’s valuable. Taking care of our kids’ hearts and helping them have the most loving and warm Coronavirus experience as possible is important. Maybe that includes remote learning.

If it doesn’t though, please remember that taking care of your child so they come out of this whole might be the greatest thing we parents can contribute during this time.

This is not easy work. It takes a lot out of us- lots of thought, consideration, time, connection. Don’t be surprised though if you find it becoming less work, that it just keeps getting easier. Don’t worry that you’re doing it wrong just becauase it is easier or smoother. Lots of us who home/unschool had the same experience when we started.

Now, we are all looking at months and months of being together around the clock. You may find that you actually can stand being with your kids all day 🙂  You may find that you like it more than you thought.

Some Other Things You Might Find, Remote Learning or Not

You may find that your kids are getting bored with “screens” and that candy remains in your home much longer than you’d ever thought possible. You may find your kids more rested than they’ve ever been or that they are helping out more than you’ve ever seen.

I’m not suggesting this will happen for everyone and I may be really out of touch. Also, the anxiety and missing social connections are hard to accommodate.

Know though that if life feels easier and you find yourself thinking something must be wrong because you’re used to living in tension and schedule enforcing, it might just be that you are starting to learn how to live together. It might just be that you are finding a rhythm that works for your family- a rhythm that works for each of you and is based on people rather than a public school system.

It’s Not Long Term, So How About the Now?

For most of you, your kids will go back to school. This is only temporary. For most, making a long-term change to home/unschooling isn’t realistic. (Click here to read how we got started. )

We are living in the now, though. Even with all the kookiness of what’s happening if you find yourself feeling lighter, happier, and more connected and relaxed it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. It may just mean you’ve taken this opportunity to figure out what works for each of you and as a family.

If you have noticed that things are smoother- possibly more beautiful at home, maybe you can savor this just a little bit more, and consider how to incorporate them into “normal” life, once we go back. And we will go back.

 

 

As for remote learning, just because we are so used to school being a requirement of functional society, it doesn’t mean we cannot opt out for now. Just remember that if you choose to opt out to do it responsibly.

Above all though, remember that helping our kids have the most loving and warm coronavirus experience as we can is a valuable thing we parents contribute to this effort. It is important. It takes intention, gratitude, and remaining level-headed, but when our kids looks back on this time as cozy and connected we will be so glad we chose it, if we are able.

Author’s Note: I want to acknoweldge the privilege I have and the privilege most would have to have to be able to use words like “warm” and “loving” in the context of this time period. I haven’t written regularly becuase I don’t know how to write about my experiences and share my thoughts while adjusting for my privilege. I want to write. So for now I will acknoweldge my privilege and keep learning better ways to incorporate it. 

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Making the Days Smoother: A Tip for Parents that Might Help

Many parents are now living full time with their kids. Here’s a parenting tip that helped me when I first started living with my kids around the clock.

When I was first adjusting to being with my kids around the clock, something I found helpful was this: I leaned into my kids.

When I found myself getting frustrated and ready to be mean to them, I stopped everything else I was doing (even if it meant cold cereal for dinner and leaving half cooked food on the stove) and hung out with them. I kept a mental list of stuff I most enjoyed doing with them- maybe it was watching TV, going for a walk, or snuggling in bed while we looked at books.

It worked every time. Because really, it was never them I was frustrated with. It was always something else. It was just easier to blame them.

The more I did this, the more I started to identify what was really causing me to lose it each day. I could then evaluate it. Why was I trying to control so many things? Was the result of our fight over “screen” time really less damaging than “screen” time? Was the tension and pressure I put on that second cupcake less harmful than (I believed) the second cupcake was? (Through intense personal research I’ve learned the solid and unrefutable answer to both of those is no. Click here for more.)

Where do we go from here? Well, it’s probably best to retire the idea that the amount of time teens spend on social media is a meaningful metric influencing their wellbeing. (Click here for the whole article.)

The Parenting Tip is Not Permissive Parenting

Sometimes people think this means we are permissive parents. I assure you, we are not. What leaning into my kids allowed me to do is figure out what was really upsetting me, learn about it, and make a far healthier and more informed choice- choices that allow my kids to learn so much more than if I had chosen another route.

This isn’t something that can be learned in a month or two. It took me years. (Click here for more.) It’s also harder to do if you are working full time from home. You can’t always drop what you are doing to lean in. Maybe you can more often than you think, though.

What I can say is that this small-but-not-so-simple act set me on a course to improve myself and my relationships with my kids (and them with each other) in ways I never could have dreamed of.

Not everyone can do this. Not everyone wants to. Maybe, though, if you find yourself really struggling with your kids day after day after day you could give it a try and see what happens.

One More Parenting Tip

Remember to look at their faces while you hang out. Listen to what they are saying. Ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to. Back off when they are done answering. Don’t be annoying. Don’t make it about you or about insituting some thing you have ready is good for every child. Don’t ask something just because a parenting article says it’s a good question. Don’t follow anything just because a parenting article says you should!

These times aren’t easy and I’m in no way pretending there’s a quick or easy fix to make the days smoother. Maybe it could be just a little bit easier than we think, though, and maybe leaning in is something we can try more easily than we suspect.

If you’d like to hear more about how parents who spend all day every day with their kids are are happy, calm, engagend, and keep things mostly connected and smooth, here are some wonderful thoughts from one of my favorite people in the world, Martha:

 

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Happiness is a Practice and How I am Practicing with Resources

Happiness is a Practice

This afternoon I was driving along a road that runs parallel to the ocean. It is a cold day here in New England, just twenty-one degrees, but the sun is shining. It’s been weeks, it seems since we have seen real sunshine.

My kids were in the car with me. We had just come from drum lessons and were headed to drop some birthday balloons for my mom at work. It was another nothing/everything moment. (click here to read).  One of those moments when everything just seems so… perfect. I caught myself smiling. I noticed my shoulders were lower. There was a tingly feeling through my whole body- not major or weird, but it was only the 4th or 5th time in my life I’ve noticed it.

What Was It?

I’m big on self-awareness and have been practicing it more in recent years. So, when this feeling-I’ve-only-noticed-a-couple0f-times came on again, I took a moment to be with it, right there in the car while I was driving.

It was a little overwhelming, almost scary. At the risk of sounding new-agey (I’m not) or woo (I am also not) it felt like I was transcending something.

I sat with the feeling for another moment right along with the feelings of overwhelm and the beginnings of fear. I remembered feeling this way when I was younger.  I recalled that it was a reminder to check myself- to remember that something bad is always around the corner and that I should be prepared. But, what was this feeling?

Happiness. The feeling was happiness.

Not so long ago I did not believe I was worthy of happiness, it seems. So instead of appreciating it and feeling gratitude for it, my lovely brain would kick me down a notch to keep me in my place by reminding me that life ain’t easy and something bad is-a-coming.

I have always been open to personal change and growth. Over the last few years though I was forced to put in more of a concerted effort. (Click here to read) I had to dig deeper than ever to figure out how to keep life more steady. At the time, happiness wasn’t even a goal.

Funnily enough, my personal work on feeling better kept leading back to a few common themes; self-worth, gratitude, and happiness. There were some other things too.

I learned that for many of us, living with self-worth, gratitude, and happiness is a practice. It’s not something we are born with or are guaranteed. We have to continually practice these things if we want to feel them, to live in them. I also learned that there are specific things we can do to help ourselves live in these places more often- we can practice them.

prac·tice
/ˈpraktəs/
noun
  1. 1.
    the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
    “the principles and practice of teaching”
  2. 2.
    the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
    “current nursing practice”
  1. 1.
    perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
    “I need to practice my French”
  2. 2.
    carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
    “we still practice some of these rituals today”

There are lots of ways to practice these things. In this particular moment this afternoon, though, I practiced two specific things. One of them is called “savoring” and I learned of it through the free Yale class being offered (you can take it too!) “The Science of Happiness” (click here to see the course).

As I currently understand it, savoring means just what it sounds like- to feel the good moments, the sensations, to spend time in what feels really good. So this afternoon, with the sun shining, my two kids with me, and driving a car I love I let myself savor the feeling of happiness I was experiencing.

I thought about how my body felt -light and tingly-, the way the sun felt shining through the car window onto my face, the energy from my two happy children talking about the song they are creating, the joy from knowing the ocean was so close by. Instead of reminding myself that this is temporary and wouldn’t last forever I savored it.

The Second Happiness Practice of the Day

Which brings me to the second new skill I practiced today and came from a book I recently read called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks. There are many wonderful concepts and practices in this book (life-changing stuff) and what I specifically practiced today was knowing that I am worthy of living in that happy place all of my life.

That’s a big jump, right? I mean, nobody’s life is perfect. How could anybody live in happiness all the time? Combined with all that I have learned over the last several years I have come to appreciate the value in believing not only is it possible to live in and expect happiness all the time, but it is legitimate and that I -and you- are worthy of it.

I swear I do not woo and am not new-agey!  So much of this is scientifically backed!

So, instead of thinking that I had better hoard this momentary feeling because I wouldn’t feel it any time again soon, I lived in the moment, felt it, savored it. I rode it out for as long as I could. Not in a forced way but in an authentic and real way. I self-talked things like:

“my body feels so light and tingly.”

“I realize my mouth is smiling and I did not even know it.”

“I feel so calm and centered.”

“the sun feels so good and warm and comforting on my face.”

“my mind feels free. I am thinking only about this moment and how I feel and it’s scary for me to not be worrying about something. It’s hard to trust that this level of happiness is okay but I am going to trust it and feel it so that I can remember it for the future.”

Sound Goofy?

Does that sound totally goofy to you? It was hard for me to even write all of that. It feels vulnerable and even embarrassing to think of putting those inner thoughts out to the world.

Jesus, though. They have helped me so much. For the first time in my life I am embracing happienss and actually counting on it. I am trusting that my life will be full of happienss because I am worhty of it and because I am practicing at making it so.

Savoring and feeling happiness. Those are the two things I practiced in the moment today.

I could have just dismissed the feeling I was having- brushed it aside. I could have reverted to the belief that I shouldn’t bother fully experiecing the happiness I was feeling because something was coming to steal it anyway. Most times I still do. Instead, today I chose to put into practice the things I want in my life because they do take work.

The work doesn’t have to be miserable or hard. It’s not even manual labor. It’s just choosing to make a different choice in the moments when it’s an option.

For me today that was driving down route 1 in New England with the sun shining, my body tingling, and my mouth smiling. Instead of letting who I was before rob me of the life I am living, I chose to practice some new things that keep making life better.

If you are interested in some of these things I recommend the two resources linked within this post. They are wonderful! The Science of Happiness is a free course offered by Yale and the Big Leap can be purchased or maybe checked out of your library. I have read and watched a lot of crapola, too, so I recommend these resources thoughtfully.

How about you? Do you have any non-new-agey and non-woo resources you can recommend for practicing happiness? Will you share them? 

 

 

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Life Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

This is exactly the way I dreamed of my life when I dared to dream.

In the dark times- Cancer, job loss, a marriage close to the brink of divorce, a mental breakdown, alcohol abuse, poor mental health… during all of that I was privy to a glimpse. A glimpse of a good and happy life. A happy life filled with contentment, gratitude, and connection. A life of warmth, thoughtfulness, coziness, and laughter.

I caught a glimpse of opting out of the struggle, embracing those around me for who they are, tightening up our bubble, and living fully and authentically with those I love.

I couldn’t imagine I deserved such a life. I am so, so flawed. So very imperfect. So many irresponsible and gross choices.

Yet, here I am. There isn’t a part of my day, or my life, that I dread. Not going to sleep (former insomniac), not waking up (used to hate my life from living a life out of obligation), not Mondays or Sunday nights or Wednesdays at 2.

My husband works from home. We live as though school doesn’t exist. (Click here to read.)  We make choices based on what feels good and right. We keep learning, and S-l-O-W-L-Y try things that make us feel even better.

I don’t hold steadfast to others’ ideas of how my children should live, and what they should do. I don’t get scared when I hear another parent operating out of fear of what may be. When my kids, or my kids and I, or my husband and I argue -and we still don’t argue in a healthy or admirable way- I know that our joint accounts are filled with promises kept, “I’m sorry’s”  accompanied by personal change, and so much love and warmth that the damage done is far less than it’s ever been.

I no longer berate my body and have intentionally opted out of spending one more second of my life obsessing about food or trying to (sweet Jesus above!) lose weight. (Click here to read).  I wear comfortable clothes every minute of every day. Imagine? Nothing cutting into my waste or chosen specifically to hide an area of my body that somebody else believes should be embarrassing for me- my body! The very thing I live in being too shameful to have seen as it is!

I never really dreamed this much peace was possible- this much joy. This much calm. This much authenticity. God, it feels so good.

So as I make a chock-full-of-not-addictive-cheap-and-yummy-sugar-filled strawberry shortcake for dinner with the fire going, my husband working in his office the next room over from me, and listening to my kids drumming and strumming (click here to read) I am filled with such a deep gratitude I’m not sure how to harness it.

But I’ve learned how. I’m learning how. I’m savoring it. I’m recording it. I’m sharing it. Instead of sabotaging it, I’m recognizing that this is my next big leap– knowing that I am worthy of all happiness all the time in my life, and knowing that accepting it is a daily practice.

This is real. It’s not made up. It’s not dramatized. In fact, if I really wrote about how awesome life is I’d no longer be credible- because it seems to good to be true.

Why am I sharing this? As usual, I have no idea. Maybe it’s more ego driven than I’ll admit. I’m selling nothing- no course, no coaching, no opportunity. None of what I have now came from any of those things. It came from a necessity for life to improve and that had to come from me.

I think I’m sharing this so that you know. Maybe it’s because I’m proud of myself, but I think I want you to know in case you need to read this.

For many of us, life doesn’t have to be so hard. We don’t have to move in chaos. We don’t have to fight with our kids so much. We don’t have to control them. We don’t have to have a particular house or car or pair of shoes to justify our worthiness. In fact, the happiest people I know don’t value any of those things.

I’m not suggesting how anyone should live. Really, I’m not. It just doesn’t have to be so hard.

So, I’m off to take a shower and put on my pajamas before dinner- a dinner table likely filled with various meals and the same dessert. A dinner table with people who love to be together, love me, and love each other.

I never dreamed this life could be real. But here we really are.

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J.Lo and Shakira’s Halftime Show: Some Stuff we May Not Know

I guess I’ve come a long way. All I saw on the halftime show heard from Minnesota to Nebraska was two powerful non-white women absolutely fucking crushing it.

A decade ago I too probably would have cried old school feminist virtues. Now though? I saw two women standing in their power, embracing who they are, and in a mere fourteen minutes and 21 seconds including lots and lots of women (not normal sized women yet, but Lizzo is changing that for us and it will have a ripple effect).

Not Much of a Feminist

I don’t pretend to know much about feminism. I’ve only started embracing feminism in the last year or so. I can say, though, that with all I’ve been learning I’m starting to sense that the only way we can live in our power is to be inclusive and intersectional.

This may mean evaluating ideas that make us really, really uncomfortable- and embracing them in the interest of coming together. This doesn’t mean abstaining from our values, or watering down the strong convictions we hold, but considering that the greater our inclusivity, the stronger our power. The infighting does nothing but bring us down, it seems.

Is sex work legitimate? Is stripping or pole dancing empowering and respectable? A decade ago I would have looked down my nose and called the idea disgusting- an assault to womankind.

Now though? I understand the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity. I know, right at my core, that calling women in is better than keeping us out. I know there are circumstances, perspectives, values, and considerations I’ve never been exposed to. I understand there’s more than I know. I feel, for the first time in my life, my privilege, and my limited, sheltered life. I don’t know how I feel about sex work and stripping. What I do  know though is that there is more to  all of this than I ever knew and that I’m privileged to have lots of options.

Maybe Most Importantly

Most importantly of all maybe, when I watched that half time show I felt nothing but pride for my fellow women on that stage. I felt inspiration and gratitude that these two women stood up there on behalf of all of us and moved their bodies in total confidence- with homage to their diverse heritage.

There is no question who held the most power in that arena during those fourteen minutes and twenty one seconds. It was Jenny from the block and Shakira. Two Latin women who commanded we see their strength. Two wildly successful women who have influence, control, power, money, and incredible dedication, perseverance, and skills. Two women who use all of this to raise up women and others who aren’t white men. Why would we, as women, or as feminists, try to shift that message?

Why wouldn’t we instead raise them up, together? What if we considered that these two women have risen through the challenges we women face- they have “made it”. They have lived every experience that holds us back collectively- and J. Lo chose to pole dance. What if instead of casting the line we’ve always held true, we pause for a moment to consider why?

What would happen if instead of trying  to control or contain their power we all cheered them on like hell? What if every single one of us chanted, consistently, that they are amazing?

Did you SEE what they did?

Did you FEEL THAT POWER?

Can you believe how lucky we are to have them standing up for us?

What if our voices were one? What if our collective message was one of support, pride, and love? It’s worth pausing to sink into that experience for a second, I think.

Still Lots to Learn

I have lots to learn. There’s so much I don’t know and I will rightfully be corrected on much of what I’ve written.

What I do know though is that exclusion and telling others how to stifle their power doesn’t really have a place in my feminism anymore. Are there exceptions? Of course. But if you find yourself wanting to cite examples of women using their “power” to harm, you’re stretching so far you are off track.

For those of you who are up for it, I offer you this opportunity.; if you’re in a place where you are capable, watch this performance looking only for the power. If you can, try to overcome any feelings of being offended. Just one time of watching it. Each time you start to feel upset, if you can, acknowledge it and push it aside, just this once.

See what you see. If you are able to feel the power of these two women, maybe you can consider that shift going forward, and see if it makes you consider other things differently.

You don’t have to do this, obviously. I’m really not trying to change anyone’s mind. I don’t know enough about this to have any desire to do this.

What I do know is that things are different than I though and that I’m glad I was finally open to reconsidering and learning. After all, not only am I a woman- I have a daughter. So, if you’re able, watch this show and see if you can see it from a perspective of nothing but woman power. The clip is below. Before you watch it though, there may be a few things you want to consider.

But First

First though- there are a couple of things you may not know. You may benefit from taking a couple of minutes to learn what some of the gestures performed mean. It may change the way you see some of the performance:

1. That tongue flicking gesture. Did you know it is something called Zaghrouta and is a traditional vocal expression done to express joy in Arab cultures? Click on this quote to read:

“The Grammy-winning artist, who is half Lebanese, was letting loose a zaghrouta, a chant often raised in the Middle East and North Africa at moments too joyful to celebrate otherwise. If you’ve ever been to an Arab wedding, you’ve probably heard such an ululation. If you’re related to anyone like my late grandmother, you heard it before you went off to prom, when you aced your final exams and when you returned home after a long trip away. Call it a “yeehaw,” a “yaaass,” a “hallelujah” — whatever suits you best.”

2. Belly Dancing, Rope Dance, and Instruments we Did not Notice:

“Shakira stood up for her Lebanese heritage in a country that is still overwhelmingly defined by ignorance and misinformation regarding the Middle East. And of course, the FCC complaint database is riddled with complaints of “indecency” from last night, and although I’m sure Jennifer Lopez’s stripper pole received a solid amount of those, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good percentage of whining puritans were scandalized by Shakira’s ethnic performance first.”

And finally, here’s the clip of the performance again. Maybe seeing a few of these gestures differently will shift the way we see the rest of the performance, too.

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For Homeschool Moms Because Nobody Else Understands

As homeschool moms (I use solely moms intentionally because homeschool dads are generally revered as superheroes 🙂 ) we don’t receive accolades. We don’t get a certificate for the new skill we learned. We don’t get a bonus for juggling everyone’s needs and activities in a certain week even though it took extra hours.

We don’t hear “job well done”. Our role is not celebrated by society. Sure, every once in awhile someone says “my gawd I don’t know how you do it. I’d kill my kids if I spent all day every day with them” but that’s not positive recognition. It’s not even about us. It’s about them. It makes us feel… invisible, maybe.

They Don’t Know

Though many partners are grateful for the life their kids are living, if they are the working parent they cannot appreciate what we homeschool moms do, because really, they don’t know.

They don’t know that we only slept for four hours because one child was so immersed in a new digital drawing project until 3 AM and the other is so excited about playing electric guitar that he gets up at 7- leaving, at best, 4 hours for sleep if we want to be with our kids when they are awake.

They don’t know that it is after so many trials, conversations, and attempts that we have finally figured out how to navigate a day, or a week, when each child has different things they want to do, and it doesn’t seem possible to make it all work.

They don’t know that in the spare 40 minutes we have each day we are checking the web for recipes everyone will like and cool activities for the kids. They don’t know that we attend events and activities even though we don’t enjoy our time in the environment, because we have prioritized our kids.

They don’t know how much we have read or listened to so that we can better respond to questions, challenges, and curiosities, or how many times we have stopped ourselves in our tracks, backed out and started again because we are applying what we are learning as we go.

They don’t know how much thought, reflection, learning, improvement, and growth it’s taken to make life so peaceful.

Sure, parents whose kids go to school do these things too, I’m sure. And they have a different set of circumstances to which I cannot relate (“Gawd, I don’t know how you do it” comes to mind. 🙂 ).

Even the partners who came alongside our belief that not sending our kids to school is what’s best cannot appreciate what a day is like. And unless roles switch, and they become the homeschool parent, they never will. And that’s okay.

It’s Just an Acknowledgement

This may sound like a complaint. I assure you, it’s not. I choose to spend all of my time with my kids. I adore them and they are literally the two most awesome people I know. At any moment I could choose to send them to school for free and then decide to go back to work full time or not. Yes, I have Boku privilege. I know.

I could choose for my kids to spend several hours awake without me each day- I could choose that. They are old enough and responsible. But they both like having me up with them. I make them snacks and they often call on me to listen to or look at something. I love having the privilege of being the one who gets to do that all day every day. Really, I cannot believe I am so lucky.

On weeks like this when my partner who normally works from home is away, though, I am reminded of how much homeschool moms do. As I finished putting the last dish in the dishwasher before we leave to pick up my husband at the airport I gave myself a little congratulations.

Homeschool Moms Life

With two kids exploring new things they are passionate about this week, and with two very different sleep schedules, I have learned enough to allow my kids to flourish in the time my partner has been gone.

The laundry is done. The house is clean. We ate yummy home cooked food all week. The beds are made. And I managed to sneak in close to a dozen auditions, too– and write this piece, and another piece… all while supporting my kids fully. It was not crazy or chaotic. It was calm, peaceful, and connected. I feel really, really good about that.

I could try to tell someone  about this accomplishment- my parnter, my sister, a neighbor-even another mom. It would sound so silly though. Only another homeschool mom could understand what a robust and accomplished week I’ve had.

It’s okay for me to pay myself on the back. It’s okay for me to acknoweldge how awesome it is that I was able to do all of that this week while keeping home mostly peaceful. I’ve worked really hard to get here, and probably, so have you.

Here’s To Us Homeschool Moms

Tomorrow morning my partner will bring me coffee in bed while my daughter and I watch a show. He will listen to my son play guitar and probably take him to breakfast. The dishes will be put away, the kitchen clean, and the guinea pig’s cage cleaned, by him, before I even wake up. It will be easier, smoother, and all will feel easy again. Like I said, this is not a complaint. This life is beautiful.

Still. Here is to  us- my fellow homeschool moms. Here’s to us continuing to learn, grow, improve, listen, try, watch, give up old habits that no longer serve our family, add in better habits that do serve our family, learning to better communicate… all the skills that go unnoticed on a daily basis but are so much a part of our work. It’s a wonderful life we’ve chosen and I think it’s good for us to pat ourselves on the back when we know we’ve done well. And this week, I’ve done well.

How about you?

 

 

 

 

 

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Unschooling Life: When Your Kind of Alternative Living is Center Stage

Did you know Billie Eilish is a grown Unschooler? Right. That Billie Eilish. The one who swept the Grammys on Sunday. She’s never taken a test. Never been in class. She learned through living life with her engaged, intentional, and involved parents. And on Sunday she swept the Grammys.

I didn’t watch them. As I heard rumblings on Monday though I put two things on my to-do list for that night. I wanted to watch Demi Lovato’s performance– I just think she is so brave- and I wanted to watch Billie Eilish accept a Grammy. So once the kids were settled into YouTube, and playing Guitar, I settled in front of my computer to watch.

As Billie’s name was called I watched her hug her mom, grab her brother, and head up onto the Grammy stage… to accept the Grammy for best new record.

The timing was particular. See, earlier that day I had wanted to sit down and write a Facebook post about something specific. I wanted to document the big appreciation I felt that day for my kids having all the hours of the day to pursue the things they love.

This appreciation came from my 12-year-old son getting his first electric guitar (the same day Billie won her first Grammy, though I would not know until the next day it worked out like that).

Why Did it Matter on this day?

I’ve been starting up my own career again now that my kids are a little older. There are several good reasons I decided to do this. As a freelancer, I am responsible for finding my own work. Doing the work itself is pretty quick, and when I have a job to record it becomes the most important part of our day, for good reason. But if I don’t have a job to record, my only work is marketing- finding my next job and following up with clients to stay top of mind.

I decided to reprioritize my career in 2020. It made sense for a lot of reasons. As an Unschooling mom, my kids are with me nearly 24/7. My role right now is to be with them and I love it. As they got older though I found myself with chunks of time throughout the day where nobody needed me for anything.

I started reading again and writing. I burned out from killing time on Facebook. It made sense for me to use that time to do something I love and want to do.

And?

My husband left on Friday for Poland though. Normally Kris works from home. We both cook, clean, play with the kids, do laundry, etc. It’s all pretty easy with two parents around. It gives me plenty of time to work and things stay calm and peaceful.

With Kris away though, I am doing all of the things. I don’t mind. Kris’s work provides us a great life. When he travels though the time I normally have to work evaporates. Nearly every minute of the day is spent either with my kids or doing household chores. So much so, that I couldn’t even find the time to write the Facebook post about my appreciation for all the time my kids have to do the things they love.

I wanted to share how fun it is to watch my son play electric guitar for nearly 24 straight hours, barely stopping to sleep and to watch him improve in that time. I wanted to talk about how excited I am that he doesn’t have to stop playing to eat dinner at a certain time or do homework or move on to the next class.

I wanted to share the value I see in kids diving deep for long periods of time- to say that last year my son was crazy into World of Warcraft and share all the things he learned from it and that the year before that it was World War II and the year before that it was X-box (which is what led him to WW2) and that somewhere in there was a deep dive into the Revolutionary War and life after that war and so forth and so on.

I wanted to express my gratitude that my kids can deep dive into any and all of those topics for as long or short as they want. Whether Owen plays guitar for a week or a decade I believe it’s more valuable than 12 years of forced lessons.

I wanted to express my gratitude that my kids can deep dive into any and all of those topics for as long or short as they want. Whether Owen plays guitar for a week or a decade I believe it's more valuable than 12 years of forced lessons. Click To Tweet

There was so much I wanted to say and more that would have come up, but I didn’t have the time. I was tied up listening to my son learn how to play the electric guitar. I could not pull myself away from watching his perseverance, intensity, strategy, resourcefulness, and best of all, the pure joy on his face the whole time.

As much as I wanted to document it, I could not pull myself away from it to do so.

So as I snuggled my daughter who was watching YouTube with her Guinea Pig, listening to my son play Green Day, I passed on writing the post. I passed on finding my next job. I stayed in the role I’ve chosen- the one that is more important to my family than any other- helping my kids dive deep into the things they love.

sydney and guinea pig daisy

When I sat down tonight at my computer to watch the Grammy clips, more spent than usual from doing all the things, not having done any marketing to get my next job, and I saw Unschooler Billie  Eilish accept the Grammy for best new song, then turn the mic over to her brother Finneas O’Connell, who also produced this album, I became very still. Then, as Finneas (also unschooled) ended his acceptance speech and said “We just make music in a bedroom together. We still do that and they let us do that. This is to all of the kids who are making music in their bedroom today- you’re gonna get one of these” I started bawling. It was unexpected and only lasted a moment but the emotion was so intense it overcame me.

Do I want my kids to be the next Billie Eilish? Of course not. That’s why we’ve made the choices we have. We want them to live their best life- to do the things they want to do, be the people they want to be. Just as Billie Eilish and her brother have done.

In Focus

Homeschooling can be lonely. Unschooling can be lonelier. Few people do it. Fewer people get it. It’s such a simple and authentic way of living as a family but the convoluted world makes it seem hard to grasp. I haven’t felt sorry for myself or wished things were different. We live in a little bubble of happiness with people who either get it or support it.

Still, to see our way of living displayed on such a societally accepted stage while my son literally made music in his bedroom next to mine put everything right back into focus in the most joyous way.

I’m still building my career and I’ll still write on Facebook but I love the reminder that I got from Billie’s and Finneas’s wins this week- that when kids are given the space, support, and resources, they can create the most unimaginable lives- whether the world gets to see it on stage or not.

 

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We Are Not as Fragile as We Think We Are

We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We are capable of handling the hard conversations and setting boundaries. We are strong enough to sit with emotion and think about what it is we mean. We are durable enough to change our mind and shift our perspective and see it from another angle.
We are smart enough to learn what we need to learn and apply it in the moment.
 
We are courageous enough to try on something new and have it feel ridiculous. We are brave enough to try and realize we don’t like it.
 
We are capable of being in that hard moment and sitting in the silence. We are level headed enough to keep it all straight.
 
We are confident enough to know that when things get mixed up it’s temporary and we will straighten them in the right time.
 
Our capabilities and strengths and courage and intelligence are greater than we’ve been taught. We can handle it but we don’t always have to. Sometimes, we can pass. Sometimes, we can step right over it without needing to shove it under the rug. Sometimes, we can look directly at the thing trying to be inappropriately passed to us, acknowledge it, sit with it, and never accept it. We can do that. We can learn how. We are capable.
 
We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We don’t often permanently shatter. Instead, we take all the shit we’ve been handed and make our version of a beautiful life anyway, without understanding how capable we are.
 
Imagine if we knew? If deep down we felt our strength and smarts and abilities? Imagine if we didn’t have to spend so much of our days picking ourselves up- wondering why we are suddenly feeling so low about ourselves?
 
Imagine walking through life with a self-worth so high we see the world more accurately? Knowing nothing is personal. Standing with another while they process their stuff without it becoming part of ours…
 
Pretty dreamy, huh?
 
We are capable. We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. When we do shatter, wouldn’t it be helpful if others could sit with us knowing we will have to put the pieces back together ourselves? Knowing that every time they they distract us from that work it’s preventing us from being put back together? Wouldn’t it help if those who see us shatter were strong enough to sit with us while we do the work, only handing us the glue when we ask? Getting us some water and a cupcake?
 
How glorious would it be to sit in the company of those who understand our capabilities, see our strength…those who know it’s all there? And of course, for them to see it in us they have to see it in themselves first.
 
We aren’t as fragile as we think we are. We are capable. Do you believe it?

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Self-Worth for Women: Resources that Helped after a Mental Breakdown

Here’s what I know: we are losing too many important contributions from women. Instead of speaking up we are camouflaging our stomachs. Instead of saying “no” we are nodding. Rather than swimming, we are staying covered in a chair. We opt out of jumping on the trampoline because our boobs and butts are too jiggly. We are modeling this for the next generation, too.

It would be better if it ends, now.

Everyone comes from a different place. The voices in our heads are unique. Our experiences and criticisms are all different. How we got where we are is as different as our fingerprints. I do believe though that we have some common ground; we all have room to love ourselves more, we could all benefit from increasing our self-worth, most of us would have better lives if we were happy in the bodies we are in, and all of our lives would be better if fewer people told us what we need to be happy.

How do we get there? Gosh, just google it and a million people will give you their “how-to”. Many suggest we follow their ten-step plan. It does feel easier that way- doing a plan somebody else created for us, even though they do not know us.

Self-Worth for Women

In my experience, it’s much harder than that. It’s more work, thought, intention, and time. Our goals and endpoints will all be different. The way we get there will run parallel and even cross sometimes, but it will never be the same path. Our roadblocks, closets, and foundations all contain different stuff.

We don’t have to do any work. We don’t. We can stay as we are. Sometimes it’s too painful. Some of us have been so shattered we need to stay where we are. We find contentment in the life we have.

Though unfair, some of us are able to start to peek into our closets and take the first timid steps through our roadblocks. We are able to rebuild our foundation with new thoughts and memories so that the fresh construction on top is stable, known, intentional- so that when there is a crack we better know how to repair it to make it strong again.

We may not all be capable of doing this work. Life is not just. Some of us have more than others. Some of us get more than others.

Self-Worth for Women

I have no call to action. I have nothing I can sell you, offer for you to download, and no link to my calendar to book a coaching session. Maybe one day I will have something more to offer.

All I have today is my own personal experience of being lucky enough to miraculously find the strength to pull myself from the bowels of self-worth, mental health, and emotion. I’d never be able to tell you how I did it and if I could it wouldn’t matter. My path is not the same as yours. Sometimes what matters is only knowing that another has done it. For me, this acted as a lifeline.

I can share a few of the resources that helped me start to think there might be life left in me. Maybe another time I’ll find it in me to share more of my story and the resoruces I continued to use to not only pull myself out, but build myself up.

Why Is Self-Worth for Women Important?

I want more women to be able to feel better. I want us to stop being duped and start being empowered to heal the parts of us that need healing. I want us to know we are worthy of the time and effort it takes to love ourselves and to stop being exploited and victimized by industries that profit from lowering our self-worth. I am coming to believe the only way we can do this is by finding our self-worth and then reaching a hand back to help other women do the same.

So, for now, I will share these resources in hopes they might be helpful to some of you. You are worthy of feeling better and I hope it can happen for you wherever you are in your journey.

Here are some of the first resources I used when I was in crisis. They are helpful and useful whether or not you are in crisis:

Self-Compassion is a term most of us have heard but it may be different than we think. I dismissed it for years as weak, or woo. It’s neither. It’s important and Dr. Neff has a straight-forward and direct way of sharing it with us. Click here to buy the book.

This was the first book I read when I knew if I did not start to come up right in that moment I would likely not come up ever again. It shattered me open in a positive and helpful way. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown gives us an understanding that we are worthy as we are, even with our imperfect humanity.

For those who don’t know my story, I quit drinking when I realized how dangerously poor my mental health was. I had been self-medicating for years, and I stopped. I needed a way to fill that time at night so I started walking. I walked and I walked and I walked. I walked around the streets of Denver for two hours every night listening to music. (I do sometimes drink alcohol now, but not very often and not very much). 

At one point, I realized that when I listened to female musicians I felt better- that something inside me stirred and I felt hopeful… like I might be able to get better. I started to wonder how I could pump the voices of strong women into my head to drown out the voices of self-doubt and unkindness. This was when I disocovered podcasts and ultimately started my own (click here for Real Women’s Work Podcast).

I wanted podcasts by women only. Women interviewing women. I found Vibrant Happy Woman Podcast and Employee of the Month. I listened to those women speak their messy, challenging, imperfect truths with total vulnerability. I listened to how they had learned to live with their imperfections and sometimes even find their worth.

I listened to strong women share how they became who they are- the absolute shit they overcame and I started to feel connected. I credit these podcasts as much as I do books, therapy, and medication with helping me climb out of the abyss.

These are resources that helped me. They may help you. They may not. If you know someone who is living in a way that is authentic and attractive to you- reach out to them and ask if they have resources to recommend. If you have resources to recommend please, please put them in the comments below.

I hope this post is helpful to you in some way. I hope something in it resonates and sets something off inside that gives you permission to find your worth if its missing. I am coming to believe it is the most important thing we have. 

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I Only Work Out When I Feel Like It and I am Proud of It.

Me: “I only work out when I feel like it.”

Them: “pssht. If you only work out when you feel like it you’ll never work out.”

Me: “ I do workout. When I feel like it.”

Them: “I workout a lot because I like to eat.”

Me: “I like to eat.”

Them: “but I like to eat a lot of pasta and sweets.”

Me: “me too.”

Them: “but that’s why I workout. So I can eat a lot of that stuff.”

Me: “I eat whatever I want whenever I want.”

Them: “But if you don’t workout and you eat whatever you want whenever you want you’ll get fat!”

Me: “that’s not my experience and not what research supports.”

Them: “well you’ll never lose weight that way.”

Me: “I’m not trying to lose weight.”

Them: look at me up and down trying to be conspicuous.

Them: “Well, you’ll never make any progress if you don’t workout consistently.”

Me: “I’m not trying to make progress.”

Them:

Them:

Them: “well then why do you workout?”

Me: “because I feel like it.”

Them: “how often?”

Me: “Sometimes a few times a week. Sometimes a few times a month.”

Them: “but if it’s not to lose weight and not to make progress why do you even workout? I hate working out and if I didn’t have to I’d sit on the couch all day eating ice cream!”

Me: “I only workout when I feel Like it- when I’ll enjoy it so it’s not a chore. It’s a thing I always look forward to. I never have to talk myself into it. I’m glad both when I am on my way and when I’m done. To me, that’s really taking care of myself. There’s no self hatred tied to my workouts. No berating. No winning or losing. It makes me better without making me worse. I don’t spend hours dreading, talking myself into, or thinking about working out. I have no goal other than feeling good.”

Them: “I only feel good after I workout, or I feel so much better after I work out.

Me: “yeah. I remember feeling that way too. For me, it in part led to a massive mental breakdown because it wasn’t authentic self-care. I was doing something because somebody else told me it was what would make feel better.

I was a double session gym goer- I went every morning and every evening. I spun. I stepped. I lifted. I sweat my ass off. I was a size 6 always trying to be more fit. I always felt good after. But I was there to make my body pleasing to others, not because it was in my best interest. That took a toll. Now I’m fat. When I workout I lift weights causally and walk.

I still fight the demons that try to push me to do what others think is my self care. Fortunately, I found my worth internally and learned how to really take care of my self and now, I’ve never felt better, happier, or more content. I’ve also never been healthier.”

Them: “Wow. I guess I never thought of it that way.”

or

Them: “No wonder she’s fat.”

Either response is okay. Either way it does not change that I have stopped working out as a from of self-hatred and started working out as a form of self-love, when I feel like it.

 

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