Homeschooling Sounds Better Than It Is

Mikey and I recently sat with a high school guidance counselor to pick a high school schedule for him. He is going to public school as a junior. She asked a lot of questions about homeschooling and was intrigued by the freedom and flexibility weilded by homeschoolers in New Jersey.

I explained that we rarely used a textbook or formal curriculum, favoring life learning, trips, experiences, museums, libraries, classes, movies, documentaries, and YouTube. She asked how I tested the kids and said that I didn’t. She asked I how I knew that they were learning – I said that I live with them. Mikey joined explaining how much time he has to snowboard in the winter.

On the way home, Mikey said, “You made homeschooling sound so much better than it actually is.”

“Ok”, I said. “Did you feel like I was not truthful or I exaggerated?”

“Not at all”, he replied.

“What sounded so good about homeschooling the way I described it in our house?” I asked.

“All of it. It sounds fun. Learning from experiences instead of books, the movies, and I do like documentaries.”

“Did you enjoy it this year? Were you having fun?” I asked. “Well, no. It wasn’t fun for me.” He replied.

Mikey likes the structure and chaos of school. He enjoys busy hallways, lots of people, the lunchroom, and the social beast that high school can be. He says discussions in classroooms help him learn and that he doesn’t mind homework.

I explained that it was important to consider and re-consider important decisions each of us make. I reiterated the things that we discussed when we were helping him make this choice. I reminded him that something can sound great on paper, or to lots of other people, but still not be an enjoyable experience for someone for a variety of reasons. I told him that you don’t have to like something just because other people do – even if those people are your family members.

Maybe especially.

Although I personally identify most closesly as a “homeschooler”, I have always maintained that my kids have ‘educational freedom’ and the option of learning what they want, from whom they want in a setting of their choosing.

Here’s to hoping for a great year full of lessons of all types – not just the academic ones.

What Do You Do?

It seems like a perfectly reasonable question. It is completely innocent and is a socially acceptable way to make small talk. But for me, it causes an existential crisis each time it is uttered in my direction.

“So, what do you do?”

The answer that comes out of my mouth the most is ‘I’m a mom’. The other person then replies enthusiastically that that’s awesome and a really important job. They ask how old my kids are. When I say 23, 18, 16 and 10, I suddenly realize that I look like a woman of leisure who has two grown children and 40 hours of uninterrupted ‘me time’ each week while the younger two are in school. It probably conjures images of daytime TV, a really clean house, yoga classes and homemade dinners. Hell, I don’t know all that it conjures, but I need another title.

Sometimes the response to my answer is “You’re so lucky” and although I am grateful for what Dennis and I have built here, ‘Luck’ is a word that sticks going down. It played no part in the formation of our family structure and completely discounts tough decisions, necessity, certain limitations and, at times, deep and abiding frugality.

I choke on ‘Stay-at-Home Mom’, ‘Homeschool Mom’ and ‘Primary-Caretaker-Of-An-Adult-With-Developmental-Disabilities”. Those words all come with their own visual misreprentation of my messy, complicated, and busy days. If feel like I am all and none of of those things. The jagged intersection of the roles I play often confound me, so presenting them accurately to someone else in a social situation is nearly impossible.

Why can’t I just be a secretary or a barista? See how neatly that comes out?

I don’t devalue my current responsibilities, but I hear a silent conversation in my head.

‘I’m a mom’.
Yeah, me too. And I’m a secretary, barista, lawyer, teacher…

No, I don’t think everyone has this conversation. But I know some do.

I don’t want to fall into a habit of justifying what I am doing, or more apatly, what I am not doing. Which is work. Outside of my house. For money.

It is hard to leave it at that point. No one wants to hear about kids who are not easily served by a conventional school system. It is complicated to explain life without school. I do not wish to launch into a conversation about the flaws and failures of the world of adults with developmental disabilities which makes life, not just paid work, incredibly challenging.

One of the other harder facets of this issue is that I am not entirely happy or satisfied with my current circumstances. There is a part of me that would love to have a fulfilling career that provides a sense of accomplishment, not to mention how much we could use an additional paycheck. There are compelling and appealing parts of the work world that lie in stark contrast to how I live now. A change of scenary and a job title seem very attractive.

I have developed a skill over the years of rehearsing difficult conversations so that the next time they happen, I can develop satisfying responses. But this one has eluded me. I cannot find an honest, effective answer to what I do.

Nothing. Something. Everything.

One Step At A Time

I did two things today that I have not done in a long time. I donned my bright pink Brooks – they make me happy – and purposefully walked a couple of miles with Neil Gaiman in my airpods and I logged in here.

Turns out I miss both things. A lot.

I had developed a very consistent habit of daily walking (sometimes in excess of 30 miles a week) that improved my fitness, reduced my stress and anxiety, lowered my blood pressure and decreased my waistline (and allowed me to listen to nearly all of Neil Gaiman’s novels), until I was tragcially sidetracked by this. Although I still have bouts of post herpetic neuralgia, I’ve decided that the benefits definitely outweigh the pain.

Walking is almost always the only time that I am not being asked questions, answering a ringing phone, switching laundry, and just alone with either Neil (do you get that I REALLY like him?) or my own thoughts. The toll on my mental health has been great. This winter was much more difficult. I have always said that walking and hiking were more for my head than my ass.

My friend Elizabeth, who is a gifted healer and an endless source of encouragement often posts about restarting, rebooting and resetting your compass as many times as you need to.

What could you reboot today that would make a difference for tomorrow? I’m headed back out with Neil.

Image result for restart as many times as you need to quote



Sunday Scenes – The QuickChek Edition

We have a brand new QuickChek in town. Doesn’t sound exciting? They have offered free coffee since November 6 and I have availed myself of that each day since. They also have this neat little seating area that is sunny and warm and free of my household distractions. I rearranged my Pinterest boards, picked some future crochet projects, watched this Bullet Journal Series by Kara from Boho Berry and drank coffee. I will continue to work on this habit as it was delightful.

This. Make this.

The shredder broke. There was only one other option 🙂

I am working my through all the Neil Gaiman books. I feel so late to the party…I didn’t know he was this marvelous!

I ended the day in front of a fire that Dennis called ‘too hot’ and ‘uncalled for’ and asked if I was going to use up all of the wood. If I need to.

*’Sunday Scenes is an exercise in mindfulness and trying to connect to the little moments in time.*