Hard Lessons

We live in a neighborhood that is in transition. That’s a nice way of saying that we live in an area that is;

  • labeled as blighted
  • is often a dumping ground for the unwanted
  • sometimes called the ‘hood (even by me in jest)
  • a place where radio DJs have suggested folks go to if they want to illegally dump their extra trash
  • where prostitutes roam a well-trafficked road just a few blocks to the north
  • where gunshots and our favorite bird, a police helicopter, are a regular occurrence

We traded out a quiet existence on a suburban street where we never locked our doors for one where many bar their windows and lock their doors and are strong advocates (and owners) of concealed firearms.

A neighborhood in transition seems easier to say, however.

Last week, a young man approached our house and asked my husband if he had any work that needed done.

“Can I rake your leaves?” he asked and said he was “looking for weekend money.”

We prefer to let our leaves turn into mulch. In the spring we will run through the dried leaves with our mulching mower and turn them into good compost material so no, we didn’t need help with that. The next day, when Dave saw him again, he called out to the young man and asked him if he would be able to work on Sunday.

We didn’t have yard work, but we were planning on organizing the basement and hoping to finish the tuckpointing on the interior foundation walls of our 120-year-old home. After more than a century of living, the mortar between the stones was turning to sand. Chisel it out, vacuum it clean, and then apply fresh mortar. It’s a messy job and we looked forward to getting some help.

He said he was interested and we told him to show up at 10 a.m.

A few hours later, he was back at our door. “Could I get an advance on my work for tomorrow?” he asked. If it had been me, I would have told him unequivocally NO. I don’t get advances in my job and I would never ask for one.

I have a good reason for this. I know how it feels after you spend the money and then have to “earn” it after the fact. It feels like servitude. No matter that you asked for it and agreed to it, it has a different feel than working for a certain period of time and then being paid for it. And if that wasn’t enough, well, it isn’t good business.

Do the job, get paid. In that order.

I’m so weird about it that if a client sends me money through Paypal, I won’t transfer it to my bank account until after I have completed the work.

But I wasn’t the one who answered the door and that wasn’t the answer this young man got.

About an hour into our work on Sunday and no young man, my husband remembered that the kid had given his mom’s cell phone number as a way to get in touch with him. He called the number, and after hearing the story a very pissed off mama vowed to find her son and send him our way.

Hours passed, phone calls were made back and forth.

No kid.

We finished up for the day and took our baths, scrubbing the mortar dust from our skin.

I felt sad and disappointed. Not that I had lost $20 – that was nothing. Less than nothing. It was that we hoped it would be different. We wanted it to be different. We aren’t mad at this kid, we’re sad.

Let’s face it. Life is hard. It’s hard enough when you have two parents who love you and want the best for you. But as we found out in those snippets of conversation with the young man’s mom – that isn’t his life. His dad died. His mom is on dialysis. He’s having trouble in school, talking back, off with his friends and avoiding responsibilities at home.

And despite having seen the writing on the wall when he showed up at our house on Saturday afternoon asking for an advance, even now I wish for a different outcome. I don’t want $20 paid back to us, instead, I want to help. I wish I knew how.

I wish I knew how to explain to this young man how important keeping your word can be. That trust, when lost, is not easily returned. I wish I could tell him how difficult his life is going to be if he walks this road he is walking, and how much better it could be to walk a different one.

Write me up as a bleeding heart, it certainly seems to fit here, but if that young man were to show up on my doorstep right now, there would be no recrimination. It would simply be a “Hey there, I’m glad you came by. Here’s what I need you to do.” Afterward, I would tell him, “Let me know if you ever need work again.”

He’s fourteen. He thinks he knows how life works, he thinks he has it all figured out. And he’s got a long, long way to go. These kids, they need someone to believe in them. They need a better hand than what they have been dealt. They need opportunity, patience, and boundaries.

How do we help them find the right path to walk?

Posted in Challenges, Community | Comments Off on Hard Lessons

Not That Kind of Gross

This morning I was looking up the requirements/restrictions on claiming an elderly parent as your dependent.

Em peered over my shoulder, “Gross income? That’s silly.”

Homograph This

Homographs are words that are spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings. Not to be confused with heteronyms – words that are spelled the same, have different meanings and sound different.

But as always, it was a teachable moment so I jumped up, grabbed a piece of chalk and explained the difference between gross and net income – something she will need in the future.

A tiny bit of math later and she understood the difference and why it makes sense to focus on net rather than gross income.


I’m waiting for this book to come in but I’ve already started the conversation. I would far prefer to see Em working for herself than for someone else.

We have been talking intermittently about this since a dinner table discussion about some billionaire who insisted his children all learn a trade. And not one you go to school for – but something like carpentry, housepainting, et cetera.

I remember pushing my eldest to learn how to type by touch and learn basic computer skills. I was able to make ends meet for nearly two decades by working in offices. And while it tended to be creativity-killing b.s. – it has always been a fallback.

I use so many of the skills I learned way back in the early days of working as a receptionist, office manager, and customer service rep. That experience provided me with a better understanding of business, customer service, and organization – and I use them to this day.

That said, I wanted to hear what Em would say to the question of learning a trade.

“I think I would want to learn how to paint houses,” she said, after a moment’s pause. She has already mentioned she wants to be an artist, but that was the first time I had heard of the idea of painting houses.

“Are you going to be okay on a ladder?” I asked, envisioning her high in the air on a 20-foot ladder propped against the side of a house.”

“Oh, well, maybe I’ll just do short houses.”

“Or you could just do interiors. That wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Yeah!” she looked excited at the thought.

At eleven, you might think she is rather young to be having these discussions. But looking back, I think I really should have had more of these discussions with my eldest earlier on than we did. I realize too that I was limited because I was still figuring out my own life, which has evolved drastically in the past twelve years.

In any case, I’ll be having more of these discussions as time goes on. Perhaps, as we ease back into homeschooling, we could make a study of careers and learn more about what other professions do. Perhaps I can even arrange interview time for her with different people on their work experience, the education needed, and the pros and cons of what they do. That could prove an interesting career path exploration class.

Posted in Challenges, Community | Comments Off on Not That Kind of Gross

Back to Homeschooling?

Back to Homeschooling?

Last fall, still reeling from a particularly harsh assessment of my parenting skills by my eldest, I found myself doubting everything, including homeschooling. And so I enrolled Em in public school, unsure if it would be a catastrophe or a saving grace.

And nearly four months later – it’s more grace than catastrophe.

As I look back over the time she has spent in school, I have come to a few understandings. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Educationally speaking – Em was on track and doing fine. In fact, her assessment tests indicated higher scores than her peers in writing, reading and science.
  • Not getting recess or longer lunch breaks (just 20 minutes) sucks and not getting to talk with friends sucks more
  • I have really enjoyed the extra time to focus on my writing career
  • Our mornings together before school have been lovely
  • No homework at her school was a huge boon
  • Her teachers, mostly, ROCK. I adore her homeschool room teacher and science teacher especially – they are both fabulous people.
  • Em has made even more friends (I truly didn’t think it was possible for one kid to be so popular) and several came to her birthday party

There are a lot of benefits and some drawbacks. But after several talks back and forth, Em said to me last Saturday, “Mama, at the end of the school year, I really want to go back to homeschooling.”

“Why is that, Em?”

“I miss it. I miss co-op, I miss my friends and I don’t like having to ask to go pee or get told I can’t talk during lunch.”

But Not Until Fall

I nodded, “I can understand that!” And in the end, where is asking permission to go pee a skill you will need in life? Or being controlled in your free time by NOT being able to talk during lunch?

Her teachers are wonderful and I have truly enjoyed the past few months, but I love the thought of returning to homeschooling. Now that I have had a basic assessment to tell me what I should have already known – my kid is doing fine.

So we will resume in the fall. My plan is to do a mix of co-ops and homeschool through her 8th-grade year and then enroll her in a community college in 9th grade. Just 2-3 classes per semester (1-2 core classes and one elective) will give her enough credits to graduate with an Associate’s degree by the time her peers are finishing high school. After that, she can make the choice of what she wants to do educationally speaking.

Foster Care Training

I feel as if we have sailed into uncharted waters. It’s scary, intimidating, and heartbreaking as we dive into foster care training. So far we have taken two classes and we have one last Thursday night class and two all day Saturday classes to go to finish up.

The instructor is busy separating the wheat from the chaff by telling us endless horror stories. And after over 18 years of providing foster care to teens on down, she certainly has plenty.

We are sticking with it, though. I am certainly learning a lot about foster care and how broken the system is, as well as why the workers say what they say or do what they do. It can be scary, not just for the child, but for the parents as well.

If all goes well, we should have a new addition to our household in April.

Posted in Advocacy, Community | Comments Off on Back to Homeschooling?

Cat Box Roca and Other Stories

Twitter, the internet in general, it can be a huge time suck and sometimes it is just good for a belly laugh or two.

I was browsing through Twitter and saw a retweet posted by another dystopian author. Meg Elison has written The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and The Book of Etta, neither of which are appropriate for young children, just saying.

The tweet said…

Which of course led me to read all about it. Which in turn led me to read a little further in the book…

I howled with laughter and couldn’t help but remember last year when I had purchased a container of Almond Roca, which bears a strong visual resemblance to litter-encrusted “cat box roca.”

My husband played a terrible joke on Em, holding one of the Almond Roca pieces and declaring that the cat must have pooped. She about lost her mind when he popped it into his mouth and ate it.

I’m revving up for some short story writing for tomorrow, but I just had to share that bit of humor.

Now it’s your turn, share a funny story about your family or kids below…

Posted in Humor | Comments Off on Cat Box Roca and Other Stories

Schedule and Routine Makes a Difference


When I was homeschooling, one of my biggest challenges was dealing with an ever-changing routine. This mainly had to do with my work schedule cleaning houses, which fluctuated around my clients’ needs and schedules. No one day was the same!

And while my schedule of cleanings has not changed, our enforced daily routine of public school has made a difference and laid a path to how it could be better if we ever returned to homeschooling in the future.

Em is happy at her school and is doing well – both in her academics and social life – so, for now, we are content with keeping with a public school regimen for this year and quite possibly sixth grade as well. After that? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to get as much writing done as possible before that time rolls around.

When Em became so stressed over her juries in her music class (juries are basically assessment tests), we incorporated a small change that has really made a difference. Read on…

Cuddle Time

At 6:30 in the morning, I wake the kiddo up and entice her out of her lofty platform bed nest with hot tea. She drinks it just like her dad, Earl Grey with milk and honey. We sit in the library, me with my coffee, her with her tea, and cuddle on the loveseat as she takes a few minutes to wake up.


Each morning I read a chapter from a book to her. Currently, we are reading Bad Luck by Pseudonymous Bosch. Any other time of day, in any other position (other than sitting up) and I will fall asleep. But somehow, the combination of sitting up and first thing in the morning (at least for Em) and I am not a victim of reading aloud induced narcolepsy – thank goodness!

Emily absolutely loves me reading to her and it is just the best way to start off our day. Literary me is happy that she is experiencing a story, even if she isn’t reading it, and Em loves the attention and time with me. I can see us doing this every morning for pretty much forever.

She will be 30 years old, in her own home and I’ll still be reading…well…maybe not.

Cello Practice

With her wake-up time of 6:30, Em has an hour and ten minutes to wake up, get dressed, drink some hot tea, cuddle, listen to a chapter, and then finally practice her cello. And I love listening to it. I found a perfect place to store the cello, right next to my rolltop writing desk in the library part of the room (the other section is my office). After reading aloud, I retreat to my corner desk to deal with various to-do’s while listening to her practice. It’s the perfect fusion of productivity, time with Em, and practice for her mixed together.

And how she has improved! In just two short weeks, we have seen an enormous improvement not just in her playing but in her attitude. The successes she has seen in her abilities has spurred her to practice more and also given her a real sense of accomplishment. I think she realizes that she is in control of her ability and progress, and that is a powerful lesson.

What about your daily routine with your children? What have you put into place that makes a difference in your daily routines?

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Posted in Bonding, Connections, Homeschool - Music | Comments Off on Schedule and Routine Makes a Difference

Teaching Responsibility

Apparently, it is crunch time in my daughter’s little academic world. And it is interesting to see how she reacts to it.

Menopause has its benefits – I’m far more patient now than I used to be. If I were a man, I’d be stroking my beard, staring off into space and saying (slowly), “Well, it seems to me…”

Last Day of NaNoWriMo

I just received this email from my daughter’s teacher:

I guess this is Emily’s focus position.
Haha! Last day to bust out those words!!

When I visited Em’s classroom a couple of weeks ago, she was at five percent of her monthly goal. And I have a sneaking suspicion that she might not have progressed very far past that in the weeks since (although I am holding out hope at being proved wrong at this).

Writing (and reading) are not at Em’s list of favorite things to do.

And this was a further reminder of the rocky start to our morning…

No Practice + Ultimatum From Teacher = Tears and Stress

Last night, I heard Em ask her dad to “wake her up early.” She didn’t specify when she wanted to be woken up, and so this morning, my husband woke her up at ten minutes before seven. Her normal wake-up time is 7 a.m. and she has 40 minutes to dress, brush her hair, and listen to me read aloud from a book before heading off to school.

Due to our neighborhood being rather impoverished, the school dispenses breakfast and lunch to everyone, regardless of their family income, so she eats two meals a day at school.

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that came in the wake of her dad waking her with just ten minutes more to her morning! After she had calmed down a little, I went in and asked what was going on, and why had she needed to get up early.

“Ms. Ezge says I need to practice and if I don’t practice I’ll fail my trials.” Tears ran down her cheeks. “And now I don’t have time to practice!”

At the beginning of the school year, I had talked to her about setting up a regular practice schedule. She had agreed that she needed to practice regularly and decided that Sundays and Wednesdays would both be good practice days. I had stepped back then, unwilling to take on yet another thing I needed to remind her about, and of course, no practice had occurred.

And now, here we were, near the end of the first half of the school year and Em struggling to play the assigned music.

“Well, how about we skip reading and you just practice for me in the library? And then, after school, you can do a little practice as well before you go to Harmony Project.”

She nodded and smiled, “Yes, thank you, Mama, that will work.”

We ended up sitting for a few minutes in the library with me reading from the chapter while she calmed down and sipped her tea. “I tell you what, I’ll finish the chapter and then you can practice the cello for me.”

“Do we have enough time?”

“We do if you get your cello set up while I’m reading these last few pages.”


I finished reading the chapter and listened to her play. It was, in a word, excruciating. Her difficulty quite obviously stemmed from zero practice and after she had practiced for about 20 minutes, and looked ready to cry again, I held up my hand.

“Let’s stop for now. You know what you need to do, and you know this doesn’t happen overnight, right?”

Her little face looked so sad, “Yes, Mama.”

“This is your deal. This is your class and your life and YOU need to be the one who makes the decision to practice, or not. But you know what happens when you don’t practice. You struggle.”

She nodded, shoulders slumped.

“Each day, when I wake up, I ask myself, ‘What do I need to get done today?’ Sometimes I make a list. Because there are always so many things – from writing, to reading to you, to taking care of Gramps, or going and cleaning someone’s house. But these are things that need doing, just like you need to brush your teeth every day or take the garbage out on Tuesday night. It’s part of being a responsible human being.”

She straightened a little, “Hey, maybe I should make a chart of all the things I need to do each day. I could put it on my computer so I can’t open my computer until I get those things done.”

“That’s a good idea, kiddo.”

I’m so glad she suggested it and that I didn’t have to. Raising a child is a lot like learning math. The basics take a while, but they are so important. Just like you need to know basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division before you learn algebra – you need to be able to get dressed and brush your own hair before you drive a car.

I’ll follow up with her tomorrow on creating a chart. I’ll probably help her by typing it up with her directing me on what needs to happen each day.

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Posted in Bonding, Challenges, Responsibility, Self-Esteem | Comments Off on Teaching Responsibility

Highest Score in Fifth Grade?!

Em came home yesterday and informed us that she had scored the highest score among all of the fifth graders in the school in reading. “It was nine hundred something,” she said, “and the second highest score was Azule, she was a seven hundred something.”

As a result of her high score, Em will be moved to the 6th grade reading teacher’s class along with the other girl, Azule.

I couldn’t help but smile.

Less than three months after entering public school for the first time – and them being concerned that she might not be able to read at all – it has been quite a change.

I would like to think that Em is changing how some of these teachers might view homeschoolers. She’s bright, outgoing, and involved. I can’t help but be proud.

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Posted in Tales From...THE SYSTEM | Comments Off on Highest Score in Fifth Grade?!

Learning in Action – Flow Charts!

As we settle into the school year, the weeks have flown by. Em is doing well – happy, well-liked by her teachers and the other students, and applying herself in class. Last week was her first parent-teacher conference…

Quarterly Parent/Teacher Conference

Em has earned all As and Bs in her classes.

Reading – Ms. West gave her a B and admonished her to focus on her work and to ignore those kids who talk and goof off during class. “Your quality of work goes down when you let them distract you.”

Writing – Ms. Lamunyon gave her an A and is pleased with her progress. She told me that Em is the “mother” of the class.

Social Studies – Ms. Jerome gave her an A, but reminded her to try and focus less on the intricate details (they are making maps) and more on getting done on time. She let me know that Em had some difficulty working in a group, mainly the other kids were not doing what they needed to do and pulled her down with them, but overall, her work is great and she is very participatory in class.

Science – Ms. Grammer gave her an A and sang her praises. She told me that Em’s class is such a good class and that they are so responsive and open to learning that they have accomplished some extra experiments that the other classes have not.

Math – Mr. Gazaway surprised Em (and me) by stating that Em had strong math skills. He gave her a B in the class and we talked about why Em would feel she isn’t doing well and what we could do about it. His suggestion was the same as mine has always been – keep practicing multiplication and division, nearly everyone has difficulty with it at this age but it is so important that they learn it.

Overall, she is doing fabulous. Her one “cranky” teacher likes her more than Em would probably admit. All of them clearly want the best for her and are devoted to their jobs. Who would have thought it? Here we are, in the ‘hood, with some of the best teachers I’ve ever seen?!

I count myself lucky, yet again, that we are here in this place and this neighborhood.

Flow Chart – It’s For the Dogs!

I love seeing the unexpected benefits of learning. Because, let’s face it, getting info from your kids on what they learned during the day is difficult if not impossible. Short of when she comes home with an experiment, Em’s brain is apparently wiped of all information on the short one block walk home each day.

On Tuesday, a particularly windy day, we had the gates of the dog yard blow open not just once, but TWICE. That evening we put padlocks on all gates. Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend two hours circling the neighborhood looking for my dogs again.

Not that we find them, because we didn’t, they finally came home on their own. Em insists that there is a secret, underground doggie nightclub somewhere nearby.

But yesterday (Wednesday) she presented this lovely flow chart. I had a giggle over it, but it is now posted on the wall and will help us determine where the dogs are and whether or not we need to jump in the van to go find them!

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Posted in Community, Playful Learning/Learning Throug Play | Comments Off on Learning in Action – Flow Charts!

Great Minds Think Alike

Eleven Years Ago Today

Eleven years ago today I had just spent one uncomfortable night in a hospital bed, hooked up to far too many monitors. I was sure that “today was the day” that I would get to meet my daughter – but my body and Em were not willing to cooperate. This was a frustrating day that decade plus one year ago, and I remember it clearly.

Em’s arrival at 3:13 p.m. on October 4th, 2006 was a long-awaited relief.

I had so many fears in those days – one of them being that she would be shy, that she wouldn’t have any friends. I couldn’t conceptualize of the amazing social butterfly I would soon give birth to.

This past Saturday was filled with family and friends who came to wish Em a happy birthday. It was a wonderful day, and I remembered thinking how lucky I am, that my child has made such an impression on so many people, and formed some truly wonderful friendships.

It doesn’t seem possible that it has been eleven years. I absolutely adore this girl, much as I did her sister. Why oh why must they grow up?

Great Minds Think Alike

Em wakes up at around 7 a.m. these days. Since we live in a school district that has a fair amount of impoverished families, the school automatically provides breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of income, so Em eats there for two meals each weekday.

This gives us forty glorious minutes to wake up, cuddle, read together, talk, and just share some together time upstairs before she has to head out of the door.

This morning, as we sat on a loveseat in the library, her head resting against me, she said, “Mama? I’ve been thinking about school and I wondered if, after sixth grade, you would want to homeschool me again?”

Which kind of blew me away because that was exactly what I have decided I wanted to do! Whittier goes through the sixth grade and having her so close is lovely. It’s a quick half block to school and back and she likes most of her teachers and the friends she has made there.

Come seventh grade, however, and we would need to decide on a school a little farther away and probably far more populous. I had literally just written to a family member that “I figure we will let this year and probably one more play out there at Whittier and then I’ll re-assess the schooling situation before 7th grade begins. Middle school can be dicey, and I would prefer that she avoid too much early teen drama and focus on learning, but we will see how things go.”

I laughed in delight at her question. “That is exactly what I was envisioning, Em! We could homeschool and go to co-op two days per week for 7th and 8th grade. Then, when you hit 9th grade, we could still do co-op and also add in two classes per semester of community college. Probably math and some other core class to start with.”

“Really? You would want to homeschool me again?” Her face perked up.

“I sure would! And also, by 7th grade, you can have more say in what you are learning.”

“Could we do more science?”


“I think taking a math class at college would be good for me.” She paused, “I mean, it would be hard, but I know I need to learn it better. Mr. G says some of the kids in class aren’t as good at it as they should be and he sent me home with flash cards so I practiced with Daddy last night. I tried to do them fast because, you know, they are flashcards after all.”

“You are doing great with math, you know. You get better each time you practice. That’s all it takes, really. Just doing it again and again until you get it.”

She nodded and then turned to look at the blackboard walls, “Could we practice right now, Mama? On the wall?”

I agreed and she ran to get dressed while I wrote a 3-digit multiplication problem on the board. That ate up the last five minutes before it was time to go.

I miss homeschooling her, but I also look forward to the break this year and possibly next. It is good for both of us.

Re-Dedicating Myself to Learning

I am trying to eke out some reading each day. Right now, for fun, I’m reading Vector by Robin Cook, but I also want to add to my knowledge base, so I’ve been reading (and listening to) the following:

  • 365 Tao – It has daily quotes and concepts to examine and incorporate into my life. Some inspire, other resonates as part of my daily goals in life. It’s short, sweet and to the point.
  • Scriveners for Dummies – So far, I’ve figured out on my own most of the book’s tips and tricks, but I have had a couple of good ideas for better usage of the Scrivener program which I use to organize my book-writing projects
  • The Book of Yoga – I’m just getting started, but I hope to incorporate yoga, stretching and light weights into my daily routine
  • Mad Science – Just a snippet of science per day. A “this day in science” kind of book
  • Science Podcasts – While I’m cleaning, I’m trying to listen to podcasts and get some research done for my new book project, the sequel to Gliese 581: The Departure.

I’m keeping the old brain active with these different topics. I might also return to A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. History can be fascinating, after all!

Posted in Bonding, Connections, Daily Conversations | Comments Off on Great Minds Think Alike

How About a Mental Health Day? (and other stories)

As the weeks and months have marched on, I can see clearly the path that this blog will be taking. I’m sharing that vision, along with an Em update, below…

Great Grades

“Hey Mama, I almost forgot, here’s my quarterly report card.” Em shoves two stapled papers into my face and I marveled at how quickly 1/4 of the school year has gone by.

As I looked over the grades, they were predominantly A’s with some B’s sprinkled in. In other words, excellent work for the first quarter.

Her homeroom teacher has lovely things to say about her, and her science teacher wrote me the other day and said, “Your daughter’s class is my favorite one. I always look forward to seeing her!”

So, while I believe that grades are not necessarily an indicator of learning, I am pleased to see her participating and trying hard in class.

Revival of Mental Health Days

Today, just as I was leaving to go to a cleaning, Em’s teacher messaged me. “Em’s eye is bothering her and she is asking for eye drops.” Since the nurse there did not (or could not) dispense eye drops, I picked Em up, swung by the pharmacy and took her to my cleaning with me.

I showed her the easier way to administer eye drops. “Lie back, close your eyes and try to relax. I’m going to add these drops here where the pocket of your eye is and when you open your eye, the liquid will flow in.”

She was scared the first time, but got over it and later, administered them a second time when the eye was still a bit scratchy and irritable.

“I could take you back to school after my cleaning, or you could take the day off if you wanted.”

“Well, my tummy still feels a little hurt.” (she had strained it doing situps for their fitness tests the day before)

“I wasn’t asking if you should stay home from school today, I was asking if you wanted to.”

“Oh, well, yes, I would like that!”

I introduced the idea of “mental health days” to my eldest when she was young. She had a far more difficult time in school than Em has had, and the look of relief was always rather obvious. A day off school? Absolutely! As the years wore on, she would infrequently request them and I would usually oblige.

If the past six years of homeschooling has taught me anything, it is that kids do not suffer from a day off here or there. In fact, it can be rather beneficial.

We headed home and Em was in her room when I knocked at the door and whispered, “Would you like to go somewhere with me?”

Her face lit up? “Where?”

“Do you want me to tell you? Or do you want it to be a surprise?”

She grinned, “I want it to be a surprise.”

We told my dad we were heading out to run some errands and went to see the Ninjago Lego movie, eat popcorn, and fill our stomachs with three refills of Coca-Cola ICEE along with chocolate treats smuggled in from Trader Joe’s.

The movie was stupid, but Em loved it. More than anything, she loved spending time with me, and I felt the same about her.

I used to take her big sister on movie dates all the time when she was this age and younger. I hope to do more of it now that things have settled into a nice pattern.

If We Homeschool Again

While we were at the cleaning I asked Em lots of questions about school. What did she like best? What did she not like? Her answers made me smile…

Em likes…

  • Her homeroom teacher’s reading voice, “It’s soft and soothing, like yours, Mom
  • Science class – “It is always so fun! I love the experiments we do!”
  • P.E. – “We get to play games and stuff.” (And I always hated P.E.)

Em doesn’t like…

  • Math class – “I just don’t like math, Mom.”
  • Not being able to pee when she needs to pee
  • Not being able to talk during lunch – and seriously, what is up with that? That seems totally unfair!

I listened to her describe the ups and downs of her days. Finally I said, “I have a good idea of what I will do if we ever homeschool again.”

“Really? What?”

So I listed it out…

  • More science experiments and activities – it is obvious how much she loves the experiments and I think I could incorporate writing a short description of each activity and what she learned into the curriculum. And possibly get an experiment of the month subscription
  • Reading out loud with her – just like we are doing now, twice per day (I read in the morning before school and in the evening before bed)
  • More sports – soccer, homeschool sports, and maybe a yoga or dance class
  • More art – maybe explore a particular artist’s life and how they lived as we reproduce or create art in their particular style
  • Outsource math and history – through co-op classes. But also study from a basic math book and listen to Story of the World while doing art. Em might not like math, but she still needs to learn it.
  • Allow her to have screen time once she has finished her homeschool for the day instead of waiting until 5p.m. or later. It is a double-edged sword – but if she has it as an incentive, she usually applies herself to the work in front of her so she can “go have fun.”

I can see this public school working for this year and probably next year. But after that? Middle school? I’m not so convinced. I’ve simply told her, “If you decide you want to homeschool again, I’m up for it.”

And that is the truth.

Having my eldest stuck in the past and saying rather negative things about my parenting really shook me up. I’ll admit it. Combined with our life changes since my dad came to stay, and the stresses of other money-making endeavors, all snowballed into a painful decision to go with public school.

And it works quite well for now. I am also seeing, however, the possibility of making it work again in the future. The assessments show that I was doing a lot more right than wrong, something that I really needed to hear.

A New Domain Name Coming Soon

I just purchased the learningadvocate.org domain name and will be contacting GoDaddy for directions on how to make it point to this blog. I’ll eventually let the other one expire and just use learningadvocate. Because, after all…

Life is a Learning Adventure for All of Us

When I made the decision to send Em to public school, my thoughts inevitably turned to this blog. Should I keep it? Should I shut it down? What was I doing?

Crises of confidence are always fun, aren’t they?!

In the end I realized something very important – my signature on all of my correspondence reads…

Christine D. Shuck
Writer, Artist, Auto-Didact, and General Malcontent

And while I started this blog initially with the thought of encouraging others to homeschool while discussing my own path towards homeschool along with parenting ups and downs – in the end, it is about learning.

Lifelong learning – becoming an auto-didact – connecting with others in their quest to learn as well.

So this blog isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

More later, that’s enough writing for now!

Posted in Bonding, Challenges, Community | Comments Off on How About a Mental Health Day? (and other stories)