Category Archives: on my mind

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. We got on the ride in November and we’ve been going full speed ahead, up and down, up and down, sideways, upside down and stop, stop, go ever since.  As a parent it is the best and the worst of times. It’s both energizing and exhausting. My only advice, If you are thinking about homeschooling, is make sure you put on your seat belt first.

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

There, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I’m going to dive in with why we love it. First, field trips are fun and we can do as many as we want. We can go any where, at any time. We can turn almost anything into a learning experience!

We take as long as we need to learn something.  When my daughter is struggling with the concept of doubles plus one, we can just hang out and practice it until she’s got it down. She doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of a classroom filled with other kids ready to move on. If we don’t like the book or curriculum we are using we can change it.

We spend lots of time together (this can also be stressful at times especially when you are a die hard introvert like I am). We get to witness our daughter learning. When she grasps a concept that she has been struggling with I turn into a real-life cheerleader, pom-poms and all. It’s one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. My daughter loves all of the undivided attention. I get to learn about how her mind works and what interests her.

A short lesson on dinosaurs can evolve into discussions about big things like space, the big bang theory, God, various religious beliefs, scientific theories, the life cycle of turtles, and evolution. We have all of the time in the world to talk, dissect, and explore.

The downside of homeschooling is pretty thrilling too. Like a psychological thriller. There are endless periods of anxiety where we question if we are teaching enough or if she is learning enough. We worry about whether we are teaching her the right things. Is she behind her peers? Is she ahead? Will she be able to make it in the adult world if I close up the books and use baking to teach her fractions instead? I can lie awake for hours pondering these questions while simultaneously googling for statistics, curriculum, and homeschool support networks.

There are also days where nobody wants to do anything at all. The baby is cranky, the six year old is determined to watch Netflix until her eyes fall out of her head and her brain turns into zombie mush. There are days so packed with social activities that we forget to do spelling, or math, or to read. It’s feast or famine around here with almost everything.

Some weeks my daughter will be obsessed with math. It’s math from morning to night.  Meanwhile I will fret over her undone phonics workbook pages and reading practice. The very next week she will hate math telling me it’s boring or too hard and she will want to read everything she can get her hands on including the small print on the dog food bag. I then, of course, fret over her unfinished math worksheets and fall into despair over whether or not this first grade math failure will prevent her from acceptance into MIT.

There are entire days devoted to art, music, and cinema. These days I will congratulate myself for exposing her to culture, imagination, and creativity. Then I will berate myself for neglecting the three r’s.

Other days will be about science and history and the all mighty playground. On these days I will fret about how messy my house is becoming and about how I have no time to myself anymore. I’ll worry that the baby is being shuffled around from place to place and doesn’t have the nap schedule she deserves or needs. I will look around and realize that the homeschool stuff is taking over every room of the house and wonder if we really need all of these items to produce a well-rounded education. In the next moment I’ll worry we don’t have enough stuff or that maybe I have invested in all of the wrong items. There is always the sense that we could do more or could do better.

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. I’m hoping over time the anxiety will settle and our schedule will become more consistent. I’m also hoping to learn to accept the ebb and flow and develop a stronger faith in the idea that things will turn out all right in the end. So far, none of us have wanted to get off the roller coaster, no matter how scary it gets, so I guess that speaks volumes about the experiment we are conducting. Tiny-Small said it best the other day when she was  clad in her pajamas at 1pm and eating chocolate while building a house out of gumdrops and toothpicks, “I’d never be able to do this if I was in school right now!” I picked up a chunk of her Rice Krispies earth model we had cut in half the night before, bit into it and said, “You got that right, Kid!”

I’m Trying Not To Use The Word “Crazy” To Describe Things

A few weeks ago I read an article somewhere (I know, my citing abilities are incredible) about how using the word “crazy” to describe things was insulting to people who have a mental illness. The article  got my attention because I call everything crazy. If someone tells me something absurd I say, “That’s just crazy.” If I see a wild pattern on a shirt I say, “Look at that crazy shirt!” If my dog turns into a rabid, rage machine I say, “He just went crazy!” If someone asks me if I like chocolate I reply, “Are you crazy? I’m crazy about chocolate!”

So, yeah, me and crazy have a long history. I also use the word insane. A lot. Like, “That is insane.” I say that for everything. The teacher wants your kid to do twelve worksheets for homework? Well, that is just insane. The insurance company wants to raise the premium by $100, well, that is insane. The store was mobbed? It was insane. The kids pestering me every second: They drove me insane. You want to go to South America this summer? That would be an insane trip.

I know. It’s some weird shorthand I’ve developed to replace all of the other words. It’s kind of sad that this is what I have to show for my many years of education.

Why I am trying to stop using the word crazy

I’m not a bad person. I promise. I’m mostly good. I never even think about people with mental illness when I am using these two words.  Mostly I use “crazy” to describe things that seem extreme. I’d argue that I am using a different definition of the word crazy. I don’t use it to mean deranged, lunatic, or mad (words I found when looking up the definition of crazy). Ouch. That would be insulting.

But really, this is what I tell myself to justify my word choices. I’m not trying to be cruel or heartless, but It’s not up to me to decide what is hurtful to other people, so I have to pause. I have to think. I have to empathize. I mean, people used to call things retarded without even thinking about the implications. I’m pretty much doing the same thing with the word crazy. I have to wonder, would it kill me to use a different word? Would putting a little more effort into how I describe things be that much of an imposition? It’s important to me that people feel safe and comfortable around me. Choosing a different word seems a small price to pay for that comfort.

Besides, when it comes down to it, I use the words crazy and insane because I am lazy. I mean, I have a much bigger vocabulary than that. I could use any of the following words instead: foolish, silly, absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous, preposterous, farcical, laughable, risible, nonsensical, harebrained, cockamamie, half-baked, impracticable, unworkable, ill-conceived, senseless…

I could say I am passionate about chocolate. I could say my dog barked until his voice went hoarse because he was so angry that someone knocked on the door. Sure, it takes a little longer sometimes, but I could say all sorts of things instead of “crazy” and sound smarter doing it.

I’m working on that. Old habits don’t break easily. I have to stop mid-sentence sometimes and rephrase what I want to say. I forget too and an occasional “that’s just crazy” will slip out. I’m a work in progress. I am putting in the effort though so I hope that counts for something. I heard your complaint and I am trying to rectify the situation as best I can. One sentence at a time.

My daughter just had “crazy hair and sock day” at school. How cool would it be if next year they called it “cockamamie hair and sock day” instead? Or even just the simple version: Silly sock and hair day.

There are plenty of good options that don’t make people feel bad. I’m up for the challenge, how about you?

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Sometimes I Want The Biggest Piece Of Cake

A few years ago I was watching my husband serve cake and I noticed that he gave himself the biggest piece. I started paying more attention to how things were distributed. When I made dinner (or dessert) I gave my husband or my daughter the most, the biggest, the best looking, and let’s be honest, the least burnt of whatever I was making. I kind of just assumed that was what every cook did. Not my husband. He gave himself the prime choice.

Then I noticed that, given the choice, my daughter did the same. She’d try to get the biggest or best of what ever was being offered. This didn’t just happen with food either. It happened with all sorts of things. At first I thought getting the smallest piece was just a mom thing. Mom’s sacrifice for family all the time. My behavior wasn’t anything new or special. This was completely normal behavior and something I could blame on socialization and uber capitalism.

Then I observed myself stepping aside so other people, even non-family members, could have the first pick, first opportunity, best seat, or most coveted of whatever was being coveted. I figured they probably wanted it more than I did or possibly deserved it more than I did. I’d pride myself on being polite. I didn’t seem to need the biggest or the best. I just sat back and watched everyone else trying to get it. On the plus side I never had to feel bad for taking what someone else wanted. I could make-do with the smallest piece of cake guilt free.

Sometimes I Want The Biggest Piece Of Cake

After a while I started to wonder about myself, what kind of person doesn’t try to get the best or the most of everything? Was this a sign of low self-esteem? Was I so afraid of disappointing someone else that I would happily disappoint myself instead? I started to think about all of the opportunities and experiences I may have missed out on by settling for second best. All of the opportunities that had gone to someone else out of etiquette. Should I be resentful? Angry? Sad? Was there any benefit to perpetually occupying last place?

The answer to all of my questions was yes. Yes, sometimes I have let people have things because I thought I didn’t deserve them. I’ve suffered from Impostor’s Syndrome and that has stopped me from asserting myself more, but I’ve also found great joy in watching other people get what they want. I like giving my husband the least burnt toast and my daughter the biggest piece of pie. I like to see their faces light up. I enjoy seeing people who have worked hard win.

Still, I know I am angry with myself over some missed opportunities.  I am often frustrated with my incessant need to be nice while simultaneously struggling with feelings of guilt over the times I have chosen myself first. Those moment often appear in my thoughts when I go to bed. My personal, guilty boogey man.

Then I questioned if I was truly being nice. Maybe I was trying to avoid conflict. I’ve always found winning embarrassing. Maybe I just wanted to avoid the responsibility that comes with being or having the best.

I finally came to the conclusion that it was complicated. Navel gazing almost always is. It’s one of the quickest ways to exhaust yourself with mental gymnastics. There is no one answer and like most of life we are delving into many layers of gray and hoping to come out with something in black and white. I decided I should take action. All of this thinking wasn’t getting me anywhere anyway.

I gave myself the biggest piece of cake.

My family was shocked, but I think they understood when I explained that sometimes I want the biggest piece of cake too. The world didn’t end. I do, however, have to exercise more. The biggest piece of cake comes with a lot of extra, empty calories which means getting the biggest piece of cake may not always be what it is cracked up to be.

 

 

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