Speak

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about speaking our truth. Setting current events aside, I want to dive into this more general topic, but as it relates to homeschool moms like us. There seems to be an incredible amount of pressure and forces at work that want to keep people silent. I imagine all people experience this from time to time, but in my experience women seem to feel it the most, and I think homeschool moms have particular truths we hesitate to speak.

I recall a time about 16 years ago when I was absolutely drowning with the realities of my life, and I was so depleted I had almost no internal resources to try to help myself. When sharing about my situation in an online group I was in at the time, I was cautioned by a woman in the group that whatever I did, I must not tell my husband how I was struggling. If he knew, she told me, he might want us to not have any more babies. He might say that we should put the children in school. In short, knowing the reality of my suffering and despair might upset the ideological apple cart, and for some reason it was more important to uphold those ideals than to make sure I was healthy, whole, and happy.

(Thankfully, that poisonous advice was enough to wake me up. And I told my husband. And we did make some changes in our life. And know what? It was the right thing.)

Why do we do this? Why do we send messages that if others speak up about their truth that steps on someone else’s toes, they must be silenced? Why do we allow others to try to shame us into a box and stay there alone, unsupported, and afraid?

How often have you had thoughts like these?

I feel like I’m failing.

I’m lonely.

The pressure of homeschooling feels like too much.

There isn’t enough of me to go around.

My husband is not supportive.

My children are so far behind, I don’t think we will ever catch up.

I’m not happy with my life.

And how often have you felt you had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn, no right to voice these things, because there might be people that say things like, “HEY! If you didn’t want to deal with all this, why’d ya have so many kids in the first place? Why did you decide to be a stay at home mom? Why did you think you could homeschool in the first place? Weren’t YOU a dope to not pursue a career?”

Just like every other type of cold blame, we are often told we did this to ourselves. “So now sit there and suffer the fate that you picked.” No room for our truth. No room to voice our experience. No room to spare for empathy, or to honor the paths we’ve chosen, though every path comes with its own set of challenges and difficulties.

Sister, I want to tell you something. You have one beautiful, precious life to live. And believe it or not, you matter. Your well-being matters. Your happiness matters. Your health matters. It’s true.

You and I are not born to be upholders of ideologies. We are more than ambassadors for our beliefs and practices or educational philosophies. We are meant to travel through this life in the best ways we know how, and to love and be loved for who we truly are.

When we stay hidden, and when our truth stays hidden, we are not fully known, and we prevent people from fully loving us. If we are hidden, how can we be known or found?

If we push others into hiding and silence with our rejection and blame, we let them know that the biggest thing that matters about them is their compliance. We don’t want their humanity.

Instead of being agents of silence and shame, let’s work to each be a conduit for truth. Let’s be a safe place for friends to tell us what’s really going on. And let’s be willing to be vulnerable and take a chance on telling someone else what truths are going on within us. This is the path forward for ourselves, and for our children, and our children’s children.

I don’t know how to change the world, except to start with myself. You can, too. Even as a busy homeschool mom at home with her children.

What do you think?



Beating Winter Blues: Online Activities for Kids

This is a guest post by Jenny Wise from Special Home Educator

Oh the weather outside is frightful… and kids don’t find it so delightful!
Having to stay indoors when the winter weather is bad can leave a child feeling restless.  Without the freedom to go outside, run, and play, they may turn to binge watching television or playing video games until their hands cramp. However, doing so can be detrimental to their health.

● Kids who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight.
● Television and video games can encourage risky behaviors like drinking or drug use.
● Television and video games can also make children more aggressive.
● Seeing troubling images on television can cause anxiety in kids.
● Spending too much time in front of screens encourages isolationism.

This season, encourage your kids to step away from TV and video games and instead put some time into learning new skills or pursuing their interests online. The internet has various fun and educational online activities perfect for children who are stuck indoors. Here are some of our favorite ideas for you to try.

Exercise Videos

If your child is a bundle of energy that needs to be released, point them to fun, interactive exercise videos specifically made for kids to help! There are tons of options out there, all you need to do is figure out what kind of exercise you child may enjoy.

● Yoga
● Dancing
● Pilates
● Aerobics
● Strength Training
● Rhythmic gymnastics
Animal crawl exercises

Becoming interested in fitness throughout childhood is extremely important. It helps them create healthy habits that they take with them as they grow. It builds their self-esteem, prevents health issues, and even helps them do better in school.

Online Music Lessons
If your child loves music, now is the perfect time to get them interested in learning to play an instrument. The internet has a vast array of digital music lessons they can reference. At home they are able to pick and choose which songs they learn — if they get to try out their favorite tunes, they are more likely to stick to this new habit! Plus, saving money by taking online lessons makes it easier for you to invest in their instrument. Just be sure to pick one out that is appropriate for beginners. For instance, if they want to learn the saxophone, start out with a beginner’s alto model that they can use to learn the fundamentals. Once they have those down,
they will be better able to pick out which kind of saxophone they want from there (soprano, baritone, tenor, bass).

Drawing Tutorials
If your kid likes to doodle, online drawing tutorials can help them hone their craft. There are plenty of free online art classes for beginners up to the advanced. Arts are extremely important for child development. Some of the benefits include:

● Increased creativity
● More neural connections
● Builds fine motor skills
● Improved problem solving abilities
● Socializing is easier
● Teaches sharing and collaboration
● Taking lessons improves listening and retention skills
● Fosters a better understanding of the world
● Helps young kids learn to write

Staying indoors because of harsh winter weather can make kids feel restless. While their first instinct may be to turn on the television or video games, spending too much time in front of these screens can be detrimental to their well-being. Instead, encourage your children to pick up new skills this season online. Exercise videos release their pent up energy. Learning to play a new instrument is great for kids who love music. And if you child loves to draw, online tutorials can help him refine his talent. Whatever it is your kid loves to do, there is an online class that can help foster that interest.

Jenny Wise created Special Home Educator as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families.



Can young children really appreciate art? YES!

My sweet little granddaughter is only 2, and already she enjoys the Fine Art Pages on display in our bathroom.  Several months ago when she saw this Rubens work: Boy with Bird, she pointed to the curly haired child and said, “Look!  It’s me!”  She knew her hair was curly and free just like that little child in the portrait.

The other day she was looking at the same piece of art (yes, it’s still up!) and I wondered what she might say about it now, since she has been seeing it for months while visiting us.  I asked her if she liked the picture, and she pointed to it, looked at it again, smiled, and said, “Yes.  It’s beautiful!”  She pointed to the bird and smiled.  I wonder what she thinks about a child she identifies with holding a green bird on their finger!

Immediately after she talked about this painting, she turned to the other Rubens work that is near our bathroom sink, and pointed it out, asking, “What’s that?”  She was curious.  Art is interesting to her.  Her curiosity is already sparked, as a two year old.

I feel that she will know this work of art for the rest of her life.  She has a relationship with this painting.  She identified with it, connected with it, appreciated it.

None of the Rubens works on display are “for young children” or especially aimed for her age group. They simply offer the timeless joy and beauty that all fine art does. I believe that the human soul appreciates and even longs for truth, beauty, and goodness. When we see an inspiring work of art, when our hearts are thrilled by the sound of well-crafted music, when we hear a poem that reaches a part of us that we didn’t know existed, that’s IT. And young children have this in them as well.

Art is a language that can be understood by everyone, without regard for age, education, intelligence, or social status. Let your children feast on a lavish buffet of great art, beautiful music, rich language, and creativity! These things bring an intangible, innate value to each and every person that comes into contact with them, and can be brought into your home life so easily with the resources I’ve created for you at Enrichment Studies! Knowing the difference these things have made in my life and for my family inspires me to keep sharing these things with you.

To see all of our Fine Art Pages, click here.

To learn more about our Artist Studies, click here.

To check out our Composer Studies, click here.

We offer an absolutely beautiful and inspiring Great Poets collection here.

Til next time,
Erica 



My Greatest Wish For All Moms

When my kids were younger, I’d see people talk about their sadness about being empty nesters, and I could not imagine ever feeling that way. Not that I thought I’d be happy to not have my kids around, but just that I wasn’t going to boo-hoo as my kids grew up and spread their wings! No sirree. I don’t know if it was because I was overwhelmed with all of my kiddos at the time, or if it was because I’ve always tended to transition into each stage of motherhood without angst. But I was pretty sure that the natural order of things was not going to get me down.

Well, I understand it more now. For me, it’s that my kids are an absolute delight to me. They are my dearest friends, too. And now we are facing having some of them move away, and it feels really, really sad.

My oldest son is going into the Air Force, so he and his wife and my little granddaughter will be moving away. I’ve been so blessed to have them nearby and to see my little granddaughter regularly. I feel so thankful that my daughter-in-love is an absolute sweetheart that is a total joy to have in our family. I’m so thankful for the time we’ve had. And it is really going to stink to have them move away. I feel it acutely that a really special, charmed portion of our life is now coming to an end.

Then, to make matters worse, my third child is about to graduate from high school this week, and has now gotten an offer to go on a great adventure far from home to pursue his dream. I think he’s going to take it–and he should, if he wants to!! But, knowing he’s suddenly leaving home feels terrible. He’s one of my favorite people. He’s my good buddy. We share a lot of interests and enjoy talking to each other every day. Gosh, I will miss him terribly.
Things are moving too fast!

Every time a child leaves the nest, the dynamics change. It’s a loss, but also an opportunity to grow and nurture other relationships, to see how each family member changes and develops within the family structure. It’s good, and hard, and sad, and exciting to see the big kids tackle life in the broader world. It’s right and normal. But it’s a huge loss, too.

I know that most of you are not in this stage of life, but it’s coming for you, sooner or later.

I am so glad for the huge amount of TIME that homeschooling has given me with my kids. I am glad that I’ve been mindful of getting INTO mothering, instead of trying to GET OUT of it. There isn’t a single investment of time, energy, patience, encouragement, or effort that I regret having spent on my kids. It’s 100% worth it, and it feels great, even when a chapter is ending, to know I gave myself to this fully.

My friend, if there is one wish I have for you, it’s that you would be mindful of the gift each day and each challenge presents. Don’t wish away an age or stage–appreciate the beauty that’s going on right now. In the words of James Taylor: “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel…”

Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you. Keep loving your tribe fiercely, tenderly, and enthusiastically. This is worth the very best you have to offer!

To life!
~Erica



Graduating Jacob: Reflections on our homeschool journey

My third child, Jacob, graduated from our homeschool Friday night.  It was my first homeschool group graduation, and it was really lovely.  As soon as we got home, I did a facebook live chat to share about it, because I just wanted to encourage other homeschool parents in their journey.  If you’d like to go watch (and cry along with me), click here to see that replay video.

What I want to talk about today, is something that happened last month. As Jacob and I were working on putting together some information for his graduation ceremony, we got talking about his feelings about homeschooling and what he feels home education has done for him.

Although we started out homeschooling in 1997 when our oldest child was a kindergartener, we diverged from our homeschooling path briefly in 2003 when babies 4, 5, and 6 had arrived in under 3 years, and there were simply too many needs and not enough of me or my sanity to go around.  Our 3 oldest kids, Micah, Haley, and Jacob, went to school that fall, and the 3 babies and I stayed home.

Jacob did fine in kindergarten, and benefitted from the speech therapy at school.  First grade got bumpier, as the strong emphasis to have all children reading was not a fit for him.  His well-meaning teacher encouraged us to practice reading with him more and more, but it was no use. He was not learning to read. We knew something was off, but didn’t know how to help.

In second grade my sweet son continued to struggle.  Reading just couldn’t unlock for him, and writing was really tough, too.  His kind teacher told me that she felt we would eventually learn that Jacob had dyslexia, but at his age he was too young for an official diagnosis.

After that year, things had stabilized enough for me that I was able to have Jacob return to homeschooling.  My feelings about his needs were that I could not leave him in an educational environment that was both subtly and overtly teaching him that he was not smart, and I knew that at home I could help him learn without making a big deal about his reading difficulties.  I wanted to preserve my son’s sweetness and optimism, and nurture his love of learning, whatever that looked like for him.

Over the years since then we have utilized a number of different tools and approaches to learning, despite Jacob’s dyslexia. He eventually spent most of a year in a special cognitive therapy program that helped his brain overcome much of this learning challenge.  (See my P.P.S. at the bottom for some info on this!)  We built upon each opportunity and breakthrough naturally.  His confidence grew and his interest in trying new things grew as well. He joined community theater, which capitalized on his ability to memorize, and overcame his awkward and nervous speech patterns, helping him become a much more confident public speaker, and helping him discover that he had a natural talent for acting.  He periodically would decide to try out writing historical novels, theater scripts, and screen plays, just for fun!  He has become an extremely proficient fitness expert, and his ability to set and achieve fitness goals inspires me continuously!  (Recently, after about 5 months of working toward this goal, he was able to do a muscle up.  Except he didn’t do just one.  He did 5.  In a row!)

We thought Jacob’s post-graduation plans were all set.  He was planning to get his Personal Training certification, start working, and save up for his next big adventure that he hoped to begin in about a year.  However, when he got a golden opportunity last week to jump into that adventure NOW, he had the confidence to say YES.  So, he graduated on Friday, and is currently on his way to New York City where he’ll still be working and becoming a Personal Trainer, but also seeing what he can get into for theater opportunities and other creative pursuits.  Whoosh—just like that I went from “I’ll still have this terrific guy around for another year or so” to the realization that everything is changing…..right. this. minute.*

When I look back at how I felt about Jacob’s needs as a second grader, I know we made the right choice, and it is incredibly satisfying to see that a home education allowed my son to grow into a confident, competent, caring young man that knows he has what it takes to go forward into his adult life and continue to learn and grow and rise to the challenges he faces.  He and I agree that if he had remained in a typical school setting, the outcome on his mindset  and feelings about his own abilities would probably have been much different, and less positive, for him.
 
It’s incredible, the amount of encouragement we can get from our kids!  When my son shared with me his appreciation for the sacrifices his dad and I have made to provide a home education for him, and how he felt this changed his life for the better, it was the sweetest and most precious PAYDAY I’ve had in a long time.  The areas in which I have felt inadequate and lacking in our homeschool journey are numerous, yet I see that even so, we have gotten exactly what we wanted out of this experience.  What an amazing blessing!

Moms and dads:  Get a vision for what your kids need from you, and find a way to provide it!  
Invest yourself deeply, fully, and with great love and reckless abandon into this incredible mission opportunity before you.  Each and every one of your children is an amazing individual that has their own unique life to live.  You are their guide, facilitator, cheerleader, teacher, and friend along the way!  Homeschooling can be a powerful catalyst for your family.  Keep finding ways to make the most of this opportunity.
To all of us as we do our best for the things that matter most,
Erica

 

P.S.  For those of you with kids that struggle with learning challenges like my son did, I want to invite you to come listen to my talk about the cognitive therapy approach that helped my kids, and can help yours, too!  You can watch the replay here.

 



The Day We Got 1565 Golf Balls

Storytime:

Once upon a time, I was a weary homeschooling mom of many, with a husband just 6 weeks past having open heart surgery, and we were dealing with a lot of tough,exhausting, and difficult things. It was 2014, and it became known to me as the year where I got very comfortable with the concept of uncertainty.  Things were hard.

Always aiming to do my best in spite of circumstances, I tend to teeter-totter between firm responsibility and indulging in whimsy. After all–both are important, and it’s not always clear which one is needed worse.

One day a friend of mine wrote on facebook that she had about 600 free used golf balls for anyone that wanted to get them. And for some reason, this struck a chord of interest for me. I don’t remember why. I honestly can’t think of any good reason to get hundreds of golf balls as I look back on it. But at that time, it seemed like it might be a worthy adventure. Or, it was a form of insanity.  I asked my friends on facebook for advice:

OK friends: Talk me down. I just found out about 600 free golf balls I could go get. I am currently frantically scanning pinterest to figure out what awesome thing I could make with them. Currently thinking of Christmas ornaments….. Help!

A short while later the kids had joined me in my interest:

Here is the fun already resulting in this crazy plan: Kids estimating how many golf balls could fit in each container that we have. Me starting to think about the cottage industry opportunities for the kidlets to turn these golf balls into money. This is the kind of homeschooling I really enjoy, and don’t get to do often enough.

I’m sure I had probably dozens or hundreds of other things I could have or “should have” been doing, but I have a motto that The Winds of Inspiration Must Not Be Denied, and so we went with it.  Here’s how it went:

I’ll tell you what–today I am the poster mom for following whimsical bunny trails.

 

I smiled and laughed all the way to pick up the golf balls, while the kids and I brainstormed about what we might do with them, how we would divide them up, etc. , and I got to visit with a sweet friend during the pick up.

 

And then while driving home we discovered that a few spiders had been stowaways with the balls. Poor Isaac is extremely scared of spiders, and the ensuing shrieks of terror and panic went all the way past terrifying over to utterly comedic. We were all screaming KILL IT! KILL IT! while poor Isaac was having a heart attack. After the poor unassuming spider was dead (sorry spidey) the kids were leaping into the farther back areas of the van, and we were all laughing maniacally. (It was very fun. You’ll just have to trust me on that.) They were yelling “PULL THE CAR OVER! MAKE DAD COME PICK US UP FROM THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!” hahahahaha. We were two minutes from the house so we carried on.

 

Aidan had been in the seat where he was responsible for preventing the tall hampers full of golf balls from spilling. So….of course once he wasn’t sitting there any more. I went around a corner and there went hundreds of golf balls onto the floor of the van. We laughed even louder. Then we got home and the kids in the way back of the van let themselves out the back door instead of the side door so the balls wouldn’t fall out. Dave met us in the driveway and before we could tell him not to open the side door, he did it, and a zillion golf balls went pouring out in the driveway, so we laughed and screamed even louder.

 

After we picked up all the balls and deemed them spider-free (I’m sure the rest of the spiders are taking up a comfortable residence under the van seats right now), we commenced to have much, MUCH practice counting by twos as we counted and divided up our bounty. Each one of us has almost 300 balls to figure out what to do with. We discussed the pros and cons of selling quickly for a lower price, vs. taking time to create something and then having to market and sell it in order to get a bigger return. We will possibly still be trying to sell golf ball items for the next decade.

 

It is a beautiful day outside, the breeze was very relaxing, I got some exercise, and Aidan labeled my bucket of golf balls “Mom is Awesome!”

 

1565 used golf balls: free.

 

An afternoon full of smiles and gut-busting laughs and memories with my kids: priceless.

 

(And later on if I ask myself, “Why on earth did you go borrowing trouble and go get all these golf balls?!” I will even laugh then, because I do not take myself too seriously.)

That. was. an awesome day full of fun and memory-making.  I think we ended up selling all of the balls within just a couple weeks, and each kid was pretty happy with the money they earned.  But the real point here is that I was able to let go and do some crazy thing with my kids.  I let go of my To Do list.  I let go of having to know what the outcome would be.  We just did a crazy thing and it ended up being a ton of fun that we still enjoyed talking about at dinner tonite.

There will always, always be more work to be done and more responsibilities to tend to, my friends.  Know what there won’t always be?  Children all around to make fun memories with.  Take time to prioritize those opportunities!  This matters more than you know.



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