Category Archives: schooling

It Is OK

I have a secret that I want to share with all of you new moms. It’s for moms who have had kids for awhile too. And for dads. It’s for everyone who takes care of kids. Are you ready? Seriously, are you ready for it?

No mom has it all together.

Incredible right? No, none of them do. Not one. It might seem like some of them do, but you are not seeing what they are letting slide.

This image appeared in my Facebook newsfeed recently and it seems particularly appropriate.


It is absolutely true, because you cannot have all three. And I would like to add to that: Please be gentle with yourself. If you are a parent, your job first and foremost is to raise your children. Everything else is a way to accomplish that or a distraction from that. That means that:

  • Sometimes people will ask you to do things and you will have to say no. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes the house will not be clean. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes dinner will be takeout. Or from the freezer section. Or from the canned section. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Sometimes the laundry won’t be done.
  • Sometimes you won’t get a shower.
  • Sometimes you will be late.
  • Sometimes it will feel like you have it all together, but
  • Sometimes it will feel like it is all going to pot. Probably more of the latter than the former.

It is OK, it is OK, it is OK because you have kids.

  • Sometimes you will need a break from everything because you have kids. Sometimes, you will even need a break from your kids.

Cut yourself some slack. No mom has it all together. You just aren’t seeing what they are letting slide.

So the next time it feels like everything is spiraling out of your control, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is the nature of having kids.

And that it is OK.


Taking Offense is How the Cows Get Out

A friend told me that joke about 10 or 12 years ago.

I find the phrase “taking offense” to be fascinating, mostly because it implies right in the phrasing that the action comes on the part of the offended and not the offender. As is often attributed to the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can offend you without your consent.” Whether or not she said it, I believe it is true.

I had a conversation with my oldest daughter the other day about this very thing. She told me about something her brother “made” her do. I realize that as an 8-year-old, her big feelings do seem out of her control and that she probably responded from her gut without really thinking about it. That is age appropriate, and not outside of expectations. I totally see where she is coming from. I still don’t believe he “made” her do anything though, and however she was feeling, she still chose to react from her instinct, rather than thinking it through and reacting differently. Do I think she gets this concept yet? No, not at all, but I do think it’s one of those things she will hear me saying in her head for the rest of her life because I say it so often now.

All feelings are valid, but even if you feel bothered by something someone else said, the idea that they said it simply to offend you is almost certainly not true. Most people aren’t trolling you just to get a response. My dad does that, but most of the other people I’ve ever met are more interested in honest and sincere dialogue than in irritating people for their own amusement. By the way, I didn’t figure that out until I was 25.

And here is a picture of a cat because I like pictures and I like cats.

But, lets get back to the phrase again:

Feeling: upset.
Reaction: taking offense.

My opinion can upset you. You can feel however you feel about it. Have the feeling. What you choose to do with that feeling though, is separate. If you want to know how I deal with those feelings without taking offense, read on.

Some people are blatantly honest, even to the point of rude. Some people take pride in that. Both of those things are fine, even though it will likely alienate them from others. That’s their choice. I take pride in it being really difficult to offend me. No matter what someone says to me or about me, I don’t have to get upset about it. If I do, I allow that person to live rent free in my brain and ain’t no one getting a free ride in my head. I usually focus instead on how ludicrous what they said was or how difficult it must be to be that _insert negative word here_. Truthfully, I feel sorry for people when they get huffy at me, and I find it more than just a little amusing that they are allowing ME to live rent free in their heads.

Can you choose how you feel? Sometimes you have some control over that, but generally, no. But we can choose how to react to how we feel. I choose to laugh, rather than to get offended. And I’m much happier now than when I used to choose the reverse.

Christmas Has Inspired Me

Wow, holy it’s been awhile since I wrote anything. I’ve been all kinds of active on the FB page, but most of my writing energy has gone to writing articles, mostly for RadioShack’s new content channel. If you’ve ever wondered what I do for a living, this is a pretty fair example. But back to actual life, which generally has little to do with restoring iPhone contacts these days and a lot more to do with wiping snot off small faces and pretending to eat wooden cookies.

I am going to take this opportunity to make a plug for one of my favorite Christmas gifts to our family this year: Wildcraft!

Is this not the cutest game you’ve ever seen in your entire life? I’m sure probably not, but at the moment, I’m a huge fan of this game. Not only does it teach you to recognize a variety of wild herbs on sight and which ailments they are the most useful for, but it also teaches cooperation. This works best for my oldest daughter, who has a reputation for throwing a tantrum when she loses a game. In Wildcraft! either everyone wins, or everyone loses. Getting back to Grandma’s house before anyone else avails you nothing. We’ve played a few times, and it has lent a delightfully happy and cooperative spirit to our home.

Thinking About and Not Envying the Parents Getting Their Kids Ready for School

I read a hysterical open letter to sadist teachers. I first saw it courtesy of Jen on People I Want to Punch in the Throat and she credits Ginny at Praying to Darwin

I will reblog it here:

Dear Mrs. X:

In just over a week, you will be my son’s Grade 1 teacher. He is ever so excited to be under your tutelage. Why, since the last day of kindergarten, entering your class was all he could talk about. He gleefully thrust a piece of paper into my hand on that June afternoon, and said, “Here’s a list of the stuff I need for school next September!”

And I have to admit, I, too, was excited. I’m a school supplies geek from way back. And so, in early August, I set out to buy the items you’d listed.

It was on my fourth store that the realization began to sink in.

You’re a crafty bitch, aren’t you?

This list was a thinly disguised test. Could I find the items, exactly as you’d prescribed? Because if not, my son would be That Kid, the one with the Problem Mother, Who Can’t Follow Directions.

For example, the glue sticks you requested. In the 40 gram size. Three of the little buggers. (What kind of massive, sticky project you’ve got planned for the first day of school that would require the students to bring all this glue, I cannot imagine.) But the 40 gram size doesn’t come in a convenient 3-pack. The 30 gram size does. But clearly, those would be wildly inappropriate. So I got the individually priced 40′s, as per your instructions.

Another bit of fun was your request for 2 packs of 8 Crayola crayons (basic colors). The 24 packs, with their 24 different colors, sat there, on sale. I could have purchased three of the 24 packs for the price I had to pay for the 8 packs. (Clearly, you’ll not be teaching the youngsters any sort of economics lessons this year.) Even the cashier looked at me, as if to say, “Pardon me, ma’am, but are you slow?” as I purchased these non-bargain crayons. But that’s what the list said. And I was committed to following the list.

But the last item, well, now, you saved your malice up for that one, didn’t you? “8 mm ruled notebooks”, you asked for. Simple enough. Except the standard size is seven millimetres. One. Millimetre. Difference. Do you realize, Mrs. X., exactly how infinitesimal the difference between 7 mm ruling and 8 mm ruling is? Pretty small, I assure you. The thickness of a fingernail, approximately. But that millimetre, that small bit of nothingness, made me drive to four different stores, over the course of three sweaty August hours. And when I finally, finally found the last remaining 8 mm notebooks, I took no pleasure in my victory. I merely shifted my focus. To you, Mrs. X.

You wanna dance, lady? Let’s dance.

Because I am just batshit crazy enough to play your games. And, in turn, come up with some of my own.

On show and share day, my son will be bringing the video of his birth. It will be labelled, “Ben’s First Puppy.” Enjoy.

He will be given a list of words, and daily, he will ask you what they mean. Words such as, “pedophile”, “anti-semite”, and “skank”. Good luck with those.

At some point, you will attempt to teach him mathematics. And I’m quite sure that, like most of your ilk, you will require my son to “show his work”. And he will.

Through interpretive dance.

Because that is who you’ve chosen to tangle with, toots. A stay at home mom who is not entirely balanced, and has altogether too much time on her hands. But is, most certainly, A Mother Who Can Follow Directions.


Given that I am also a Mother Who Can Follow Directions and slightly unbalanced, this is one of my 267 reasons that I love homeschooling. You know what I have to do to prepare for school? Send a letter to the district saying that I intend to homeschool for the year. This is also the opportunity I take to stock up on cheap school supplies and because I am the teacher, I can get whatever is cheapest and off-brand. I do not have to cater to the teacher at school. It’s a beautiful thing. I love that I am completely in charge here and I do not have to follow directions. *insert maniacal laughter here* So feel free to make a voodoo doll of me to stick pins in while you shop for the random, expensive and ridiculous requirements for your kid’s school supplies. When I trip and fall on my face getting the off-brand stuff, I will know who to blame. And then I will happily sleep in on the first day of school and every week day thereafter. Mwahahahahahahaha!

A Hornet’s Nest

I have been a vehement supporter of alternative schooling options for a long, long time. The US system of public schooling is fabulous for creating a semi-efficient and semi-literate workforce, but fails in creating great thinkers. This idea was only propagated by the responses when I put what I thought was simply a clever illustration on my Facebook page. So, now I’m awake at 4 in the morning, pondering public education, its design and implementation and how and if I’m accomplishing my personal educational goals with my kids at home.

I stirred up a hornets’ nest by suggesting that the hornets were, in fact, hornets.

I overheard a conversation between my son and another boy at the park one day that really underlined this point for me:

Other little boy: “Where do you go to school?”
Aiden: “I’m homeschooled.”
Other little boy: “You will have a hard time getting into college and getting a job then.”

First- why does being homeschooled make it harder to get into college? Well, actually, between the GED and other standardized testing, it doesn’t, particularly if you are doing these things before the usual ages. Most colleges welcome kids who were homeschooled. It also doesn’t even come close to preclude him getting a job, since most jobs only care about the degree.

Second- Who says he needs to worry about a job at all? Why can’t he be an entrepreneur? Why can’t he be an independent contractor? Why can’t he do freelance work? Why couldn’t he be a politician? Why couldn’t he join the military? Why couldn’t he be a performer or an artist? Answer- no reason, but this little boy has already decided before he has even gone to high school that he himself must work for someone else at a “regular job” and so everyone else must also. That poor kid has limited himself and his parents probably don’t even realize it.

Does this kid have this idea in his head because of things only his teachers or administrators have said? No, probably not. The problem isn’t any one teacher, administrator, school or parent. This kid believes that he will have to work a normal job because that is the paradigm our society has created. No matter where the idea comes from, it is nearly impossible to uproot once it takes hold. Our school system is designed to do just that. If a kid is fortunate enough to go to a high school that hasn’t cut arts programs out and talented enough to receive some praise, he may stand a chance at breaking the mold, but almost no one exceeds expectations.

The key isn’t pointing out the number of self-made men and women who were traditionally schooled. There are a few in just American history, and you can probably come up with 50 examples with a few hours worth of research. That’s excellent, but it’s only 50 examples. The reason these men and women are inspiring is that they broke the mold and went on to do great things in spite of the crappy tools they were given. They either understood or figured out along the way that a positive attitude and drive to succeed could make even the impossible come true. These same people, as children, believed that the rules didn’t apply to them. Many of them had perpetual trouble with authority and exasperated teachers constantly. There are only a few of them.

Then there is everyone else. There are hundreds of millions of people who have been forced through the sieve and they came out on the other side with enough common sense to make good real world choices. Even sadder are those who believe that because they don’t fit that criteria, they can’t do anything and so they exist on a meager living until they die. These two groups are the bulk of the people churned out of the traditional schooling machine: hornet drones who fulfill their worker-duty to a larger cause until they die.

My goal in homeschooling my kids is both to ensure that they have a better education than the one I got and to fill them with a sense of possibility rather than squish them into a pigeonhole. While I recognize that some kids come out of a traditional school no worse for the wear, I want to do all I can to keep my kids ideas and dreams afloat so they stand the best chance at greatness. I believe that their best chance at remaining unique and exceptional comes from recognition for their interesting and exceptional ideas and that they won’t get very much of that at school. Their best chance at breaking the mold comes from waiting to try to force the mold on them until their ideas about life are solidified enough not to bend to the pressure.

If you want to be offended, don’t be offended that I believe traditional schooling methods turn out hornet drones. Be offended that large corporations view your children as the chattel and beasts of burden who will someday do their bidding. Be offended that schools mold the malleable minds and they crush the ones that refuse to mold. Be offended that kids who dare to have their own thoughts and opinions get labeled troublemakers. Be offended that using the same information to come to a different conclusion, even when it is well reasoned, gets labeled failure. Be offended that everyone treats Don Quixote as though he is crazy instead of someone who just views the world differently. Be offended that you have been programmed to try to reprogram me because I’m “malfunctioning.” See how you want to be angry and defensive and you want to prove me wrong?

Now am I achieving these ends? I don’t know. I know I have vibrant and wonderfully creative children. They have dreams that stretch to the sky. They’re still young and they are only limited by their own ambition. I tell them that every day. When they say they can’t do something, I tell them it’s only because they say so. I hope I am doing enough to counteract the messages they hear everywhere else about “reality.” At least I know I can’t do any worse.

Part Seventeen of Many: The Montessori Life: Let the Toddler Play

Toddlers play to learn. Period. This morning, Bri used her words and pointing to indicate that she wanted a rag out of my rag drawer. I gave her one and she promptly walked over to her little table and wiped a spot on the floor in front of it. I’m not totally sure why she picked that specific spot, since there are plenty of dirty spots all over the kitchen floor, but that spot evidently needed to be wiped, so she wiped it. Then she gave me back the rag and insisted I put it back in the rag drawer. I used the opportunity to show her that we put rags that have been used for the floor in the basket in the laundry room to be washed instead. At first, this upset her because she wanted to put it away. Then she accepted it as part of how life works. It was an awesome opportunity to watch her practice a skill she understood and then learn something new about it. This was just one of those every day moments that toddlers will cultivate themselves if they have a good environment for it. This is the basis behind the practical life works section in a Montessori classroom. You don’t need a classroom to help your child learn these things though. Place your practical life objects (safe, unbreakable and usually smaller versions of them) on lower shelves so your toddler can reach them and watch their minds go to work. At first, the things won’t be used for their intended use. That is OK. It is exploration on your toddler’s part. Frequently they won’t get put away when they’re done, either. A lot of that is just repetition with you to remind them where they go. Then just watch the magic happen when your toddler shows you how to use your baking pans, or how to set the table. A little broom and dustpan can be a good investment. Just generally, let your toddler play. I know I don’t witness a lot of these moments, because I have my home set up in a way that she can meander and explore in every room except those with closed doors (like the bathrooms) and I let her. I don’t watch her for a good chunk of the day because I know she’s in a place safe to explore and learn without hovering supervision, but I was privileged to see her do this this morning, and I feel so blessed to have gotten to watch her mind at work.


Sour to the Dough

I came upon a blog describing an easy way of making a sourdough starter just by trapping and cultivating wild yeast. The blog described the way the starter would look and smell when it was ready, but I thought there might be some value in documenting it.

Day one

Day two


Day three

On day four, I made the sourdough bread. I could have made it on day 3. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, so I let it go a day longer. I was initially worried that I may have killed it, but a quick internet search put my fears to rest. Apparently, sourdough starters are really hardy. The bread didn’t rise like I would have hoped, but I now know feeding the starter 12 or so hours in advance should make it rise more. Since on day 2, it rose out of the jar, that makes sense.