Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Freedom to choose

On Sunday night my daughter announced to me that she wants to go to school. She has made this statement off and on throughout the year. I have always maintained that my children should have the choice when it comes to public school. I imagine I could convince her to stay home, but I feel in the long run she would hit a point where she would resent my not giving her the choice. She is certainly different from her brother. She is much more socially extraverted and really feeds off of being around a crowd of people. She loved her 3 year old preschool class and has a positive association with school. So, I signed her up for the academic 1st grade prep summer school.

As I clicked the payment button my heart caught in my throat. How was I feeling? I couldn't put my finger on any one emotion. I was a tornado of emotions. My goal is for my kids to love  learning and to find their interest naturally by exploring and asking questions. How can I deny this reasonable request to try out a different way of going to school? Yet I fear her wanting to be there so badly she will sacrifice parts of herself to 'fit in'. I fear she is bright enough to know how to do enough to get by and desires attention enough to spend more energy on getting people to like her than to using her brain. I fear her emphasis on 'social learning', and it makes my heart race and ache.

I have talked to so many bright women who feel they stopped using their brains at a pretty early age. That is not to say their brains don't work, they just stopped getting exercise. The work presented was moderately challenging, but didn't really require full attention. But, the social scene that requires full presence. It is fun and exciting. It is a game and trying to figure out all the rules and how to play by them and break them successfully is fascinating. I was very good at that game, but I really regret that I stopped using my brain. I fear watching my daughter make my mistakes.

But, I guess that is what parenting is all about. I will have the opportunity to help her. I can provide some observations, support, and encouragement to stay true to herself. I can find ways to challenge her to really think. I can help her remember the person she is today and to know that person, that true self, is enough. She is bright, and funny, and sensitive, and caring and those qualities will remain no matter where she goes to school. I have to trust her and I have to trust myself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Intrinsic motivation

One of my major premises for homeschooling is to instill a love of learning. The highest hope is to learn for the sake of learning, because intrinsic learning is fascinating and blissful. Now, not all of life will be about following your bliss. But, you should be given the time and space to follow your bliss because that is your path that is where your deepest learning will happen. How do you learn to follow your bliss if you are following a carrot instead? I think the idea of rewards to lead you in a direction of uninterested learning is confusing. Learning multiplication before it has any inherent use or interest is a waste of time and energy. Why worry so much about manipulating children with rewards to get them to do intellectual work of which they have no interest. Most likely they will not use it, not know how to apply it, or just forget it.

Learning to follow intrinsic motivation or bliss is a powerful teacher. We are doing our kids a great disservice these days to put so much responsibility for 'remembering' and 'executive functioning' at such young ages. Their minds are wondering and wondering about so much. They are taking in the world in great gulps and then little sips. They are not little adults, they are children and they need to develop their minds and learn from doing and experiencing consequences. Their minds should be given permission to roam and explore and make mistakes. They should have room to be irresponsible and make mistakes while we are watching so they can get feedback and learn from mistakes. They should be given encouragement when they fail and role modeling to learn the skills of goal setting and caring for one self, the world and for others.

I am so grateful to be homeschooling. I cannot imagine having to try and stuff my children into the box we call public education. It has gone so far off track. The learning that was so important to the early childhood educator (like sharing, eye hand coordination, singing, dancing, and so many other important developmental games that lead to a complete whole functioning body/brain connection) has gone to the way side for important 'standards' brain based outcomes. The other day my son said 'mom, you know what is wrong with the world? People don't help one another enough.'  I felt like I might not be such a bad teacher after all.

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.

Friday, May 29, 2015


We are coming to the end of our 'deschooling' semester. After getting my son's testing done in January I came home feeling quite overwhelmed and sure that most everything I had been doing as a teacher was not good for my son.  I didn't feel like I had any energy left to fight the 'curriculum monster' and find a way to cram more information down my son's throat. I pretty much gave up on producing work samples and just went for reading and experiencing life together with my children.
I was going through was the 'deschooling' process.

I have a masters degree in education. I did very well in school. I taught high school mathematics. I have been engrained in the educational system my entire life. It was very hard to see my son through eyes other than those of someone who has relied on the education system to guide my life. I kept referring to the 'list' of skills that should be achieved at his age and the things we need to work on to get him up to speed. Although he is way ahead in many areas I was most concerned with the areas of weakness. I focused on his weakness and tried to get him to 'work' on that weakness.  I kept seeing him through the eyes of the public education system not the eyes of an educator.

It was not working. It was painful. It made him angry and me angry. It made us both want to cry. I had to stop. I had to stop just about everything. We cut 'school' down to about 10min a day.  One page of math (3 problems), maybe one page of handwriting, maybe one vocabulary, or reading and only a couple times a week. We did the bare minimum needed to produce work for our ES. We calmed down. We found time to read together and go hiking and play games and build legos.  We found the calm center of our being together of our enjoyment of one another. This was my deschooling experience and it felt good. I was enjoying being home with my children.

Now it is May. I am looking toward September and wondering if I will be able to maintain this sense of calm and joy when we start up 'school' again. I need more structure. I need to feel like we are making chartable progress. I need some of the reassurances I get from school structure, feedback telling me we are 'on track'. I want to feel my child will have choices when they get to the age they are ready to choose for themselves. Will I be able to create a curriculum that both fills my needs as a parent and the needs of my very different children and their learning styles? Will I rise to the challenge? Can I become a true educator?

I think I can.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Two roads diverged...

Today on our morning walk around the block we ran into a neighbor mom and her 3 year old son. She was curious about the kids being with me and I explained we homeschool our children. She commented that it must be a lot of work. I agreed but said I imagine she does more work being a full time working mom. She did agree to that point, but also felt it must take a lot of courage to take the leap removing our kids from the social norm. I replied that it was a tough choice but we have decided to see it as a lifestyle choice. We gave up some aspects of conventional life to gain other advantages in our non-conventional life.

A lifestyle choice. All our life we are faced with these types of decisions. Some seem much bigger than others, but at the end of the day they are our decisions. It is our life to live. We chose to remove our child from the system because the benefits did not outweigh the negatives. Anyone who has faced a system that is failing them will understand the joy of having a choice to continue on the same path or change course. We were fortunate to have the means to chose to change course. It takes courage sure, but all of life's big decisions take courage and commitment. Taking kids to school and trusting the system to meet your child's needs in the best way possible takes as much courage and commitment as deciding to homeschool.

The decision to homeschool often reminds me of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken".
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5 

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Hopefully we are able to enjoy whatever road we choose!

Blessings on your journey.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Unfolding the Self

I started my year long adventure of yoga teacher training the other weekend. I fell in love with the physical practice of yoga at the YMCA a few years ago. When my hunger grew larger than what the YMCA had to offer I was lucky to find a great studio in my neighborhood offering a wide variety of classes and quality teachers. After a year of attending classes with one teacher I decided I was ready to absorb the teacher training.

I always knew I had poor posture and it was one of the reasons I was so interested in yoga. I had these visions of myself walking around at 80 slumped over caving in on myself and not able to fully lift my head. I didn't like that picture of myself at 80 and I started creating a new vision of myself at that age. My vision included great posture and a smiling generous heart. So this teacher and her philosophy were/are a great fit for my future self. The practice with my particular teacher is very heart centered and deeply alignment based. The physical practice revolves around pulling into your midline strength so you can open your chest and  breathe. Good posture also allows good breathing.

So, what in the world does all of THIS have to do with homeschooling you may ask???? Well, I have found the experience of homeschooling very mentally exhausting. I have so many questions and theories and fears around education. How will I know if I am doing it right? How do I ensure I am giving my kids the best education? The education they deserve? The education they are capable of? Am I giving them challenge? Am I giving them too much? Should this be 'fun'? Do I need to be 'fun'? Should we 'learn' something everyday? How much evidence do we need to provide that we are 'learning' and what evidence is truly reflective of our process?

It is a nightmare inducing thought thread that had me tied up in knots, literally. On top of all the emotional scars and baggage from my past here I am trying to figure out my present and focus on the future all at the same time. Yikes. Recipe for disaster is what that looks like.  So the practice of yoga is all about BE HERE NOW.  It took a year of breathing and consciously letting go of the past and the  future to finally be able to take a look at what is in front of me RIGHT NOW.  I am starting to feel the weight lifting off my back. I am starting to feel my shoulders turn up and my heart opening. I am starting to feel the possibility of engaging in my present moment without holding so tightly to the past and being so fearful of the future. It feels amazing!

I can't say that I have homeschooling figured out. What I have learned is like all of life it is a process. You have to start somewhere and you have to realize that where you start may look nothing like where you will end up. I have learned to forgive myself for being such a bad teacher and to recognize I am a great parent. I have learned that by letting go of my fears I am starting to feel my heart again and I can feel the depth which I am engaging with my kids. I can feel that this is just the beginning and that our time together will deepen and expand. I have realized by being my true self with my kids I am giving them the greatest gift they will know and it feels awesome.

Friday, March 13, 2015


The hardest poses for me to do in yoga are those requiring a lot of balance. I have strength and my flexibility is pretty good but balance, not so much. It is so interesting how the struggles we have with our bodies often mimic the struggles we have with our mind/self.  There are so many directions to go at one time, so many things to be done, to do, to explore how do I know what to do next?! I feel pulled one way then I change my mind and go another. Unbalance.

If you have not tried yoga before I think you will be amazed at trying this simple exercise. Stand up with your hands at your sides take a strong stance but soft and close your eyes. If you can, great, next just take a moment to feel your motion your gentle sway. The next challenge is to try and do it on your toes, then standing with one leg lifted.  For me these exercises take a lot of focus. The key to success in these posses is to let go and center in on the core of your being. Balance does take flexibility and strength, but it must be used gently to balance your core. Then you will feel the solid sense of all three powers coming together and you will be like the trees who can stand tall and balanced on this earth,  whose roots are firmly planted in the earth, whose branches reach for the sky, and are able to sway with the breeze while remaining strong and rooted in place. I love trees.

Of course I find all of this a metaphor for my journey in home schooling. I feel like I have been in a storm and my roots were not quite deep enough. Luckily there have been enough calm periods between the storms to give my roots a chance to deepen and hold me standing strong. I have not toppled. I am becoming more balanced and my roots are getting deeper. I can see how this journey can work without seeing every stop along the way. I am trusting my roots, my strength and my core to provide the balance my kids need in their education.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Trying too hard

Yesterday at my son's eye therapy appointment I had a discussion with the therapist about my son not wanting to wear his glasses. She explained to me that the glasses are meant to help him relax some of his eye muscles. When he is reading he is relying on a set of strong muscles he already has developed to do all of the reading work. The glasses give those overworked muscles a break. The trick is it takes time to get the eyes to stop working so hard and relax so the glasses can do the work. Wow.

I walked away on the verge of tears, as usual being highly emotional, and realized that could have been a description of my parenting. I feel so bound up and tight in my approach to teaching these amazing kids. I feel like I am working hard, maybe too hard. Everyday I am trying to find a way to 'teach' them. What have we accomplished today? What are we learning with this activity? How can I document this or blog about it in a way that will help me feel successful. My mental, emotional, and spiritual muscles are working so hard to be 'successful' that I can't seem to relax enough to let the other parts of me (creative, easy going, light hearted, humorist) take over and just enjoy the journey.

Recently I discovered the joy of yoga. I am pursuing it with passion. I love it. I think the parallel of trying to relax my muscles and trying to relax my mind are exactly what I need. It helps me consider the possibility of letting go, of balance, of play, of relaxing into the moment and then letting it go.
This journey I am on as a homeschool mom has opened so many places inside of me. I realize I have some trauma from my own schooling and childhood that I am processing. It is challenging to separate my past with our present. Yoga is helping me open my heart and begin to see the journey in front of me not the path behind me. I am starting to trust myself. I am beginning to heal the wounds and let myself believe in all the good that can come.

Until then I will be sharing our stories of struggle and uncertainty. Although I feel hopeful I don't feel anywhere near successful. I am so grateful for the wonderful homeschool and gifted communities for the support and stories of families on similar journeys. I know I am not alone and I know in time we will find our rhythm. If you are out there feeling the struggle and slight hopelessness I hope you will find some comfort knowing you are not alone. I do believe this is only going to get better!!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An 'ah ha' Moment

We have been engaged in this homeschooling adventure for about a year now. Having a MS in Education makes the homeschooling journey an exciting opportunity to explore my educational philosophy. I spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of education I want for our children and why. We decided to commit to three years of homeschooling as our introductory phase. It seemed to me it would be hard to get a real feeling for what homeschooling can be in one year. That has proved to be the case. At the two year mark I feel we are just getting started.

I spent the first year following a pretty strict and concise curriculum for my 1st grade boy. It involved a lot of me doing what teachers do, giving him things to learn. He was a good student and we made it through the year, but we were both relieved to make it to summer. Starting 2nd grade I had a lot of anxiety planning the curriculum. I knew another year of the same curriculum was going to bring us to tears. I made a few changes but stuck with a pretty traditional classic curriculum. We went slower but during the first month we were already having multiple outbursts and lots of tears. I had always felt there was some part of my son I didn't quite understand and this past month made it clear I needed help if we were to continue homeschooling.

After much discussion we decided to have our son tested. He was doing great in many areas but there were some issues with emotional outbursts, sensitivities, and writing that just didn't make sense. After a lot of research I started to suspect he might be both gifted and a stealth dyslexic. The testing was to confirm those suspicions and it did. We learned we have a highly gifted boy with both CAPD *central auditory processing disorder* and several markers of dyslexia.  This was a big Ahhh Haaaa moment for me. There were so many questions answered with these testing results.

From the outside Leo had 20/20 vision and his hearing tests reveal he has perfect hearing. It is the underlying developmental tests that uncovered the processing issues he was having in both of those areas. In the world of the gifted he is labeled 2e *twice exceptional*. As a child in the public school system it is quite likely he would never have been identified with any of these very substantial learning differences. As his mother I knew we were missing something and I trusted my gut. I only wonder how many other kids out there are going left misunderstood and lacking the educational experience and support they deserve.

So here we are mid year second grade and I realize that the curriculum I have been providing is just a bit off the mark. It makes sense that he would not be engaged or interested in the level of work I am providing for him and also why some of the tasks that seem like they should be so easy are really actually very challenging for him. It also answered the questions about why he hates to join new groups (hearing in groups is very challenging) and also why he hates phonics and writing anything.
The testing process has totally reshaped my preconceived approach for educating my children. With a new lens I am reshaping my educational philosophy to fit my children. I only wish we could do the same for every child in the education system.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I grew up in the midwest surrounded by wide open spaces and very few people. I now live in Silicon Valley and I am surrounded by people and very little wide open space. I love where I live. It is full of amazing people, opportunities, energy, history, science, nature... It truly is an amazing place to live. But, there is a large part of my heart that longs for the open spaces and for my 'home'.

It was on this emotional note last year that I found myself cashing out an IRA so I could buy land back home. Every year around January I start looking and fantasizing about going home. Last year I decided to pull the trigger. I noticed a small parcel of land that was attached to a community that I love. I decided I had to have it. I grew up hearing stories of my dad saying..."I could have bought that land, If I had only known how much it would worth today!!"  So against all sound logic and financial advice I chose to take out a large portion of my IRA and buy that piece of land. I assured my husband that I had taken out enough to cover the fee and extra taxes.

Fast forward to yesterday and me doing our taxes for 2014. Well, it turns out that my estimation of how much that little piece of land costs has gone up considerably. Apparently when you decide to go against the advice of the people who are invested in you keeping your money in their system you will need to pay dearly for it. I digress. When my husband came home yesterday he found me in tears having realize we are not going to get the tax refund I thought we were going to get (which we really need at this point) we are also going to owe money (and not just a little).  I felt like such an idiot and I felt guilty and scared and lightheaded...

Luckily for me I married an amazing man. He held me in his arms and reassured me that it would all be ok and we would figure it out. Then he pulled a letter out of his pocket that he had printed from work. One of his workmates had sent a letter thanking his coworkers for all of their support during the previous 7 months. You see his wife had a stroke and was left incapacitated. He had to make some really tough decisions about her life without the support and consultation of his best friend, his wife. He had to support her and his young children while keeping up with the daily annoyances of life like paying bills, cleaning, grocery shopping, and homework. His wife cannot speak or move. He had to feed her, clean her, and make all the decisions surrounding her care. During this time his power got shut off, his car got run into, and his bank account was hacked. Life gave him a full court press.

Of course reading this letter made the tear fall even harder, but it did make me realize the smallness of my perceived 'problem'. It didn't take away my shame and embarrassment or frustration for my own mistakes, but it sure did help put them in perspective. Money problems are in most cases quite solvable. There are solutions and they may seem insurmountable, but really nothing compared to not being able to move.

Today my money problems seem pretty small. I still cringe thinking about it, but at the same time I have my piece of land at home and I do love it. I live in an amazing place and I can go out and enjoy it anytime I want. I realize my opportunity to live my life today and I promise myself I will not get bogged down in self pity, but look up and shine forth with perspective.

I hope you have a good day filled with perspective.

Going to India (3/14/17)

Well the travel adventure has started. I am getting ready to depart for a yoga pilgrimage to India with a group from my favorite yoga studio...