A few things Francis Chan’s Crazy Love has taught me.

If you know me in real life, there’s not a lot you may know about me currently. I’ve been Facebook and Instagram free for awhile now and it’s felt, well, wonderful. I met a woman yesterday, and we were talking about a homeschool group that’s exclusively on Facebook and she made the quiet comment that she’s not on Facebook, expecting me to give her the “ARE YOU INSANE, LADY???” look but when I said I wasn’t on Facebook either, our eyes locked and it was like we were transferred back in time to a period where people actually took two seconds to truly know each other. It was refreshing. So what have I been doing? Homeschooling my daughter, for one. It’s been an amazing roller coaster ride of perfect moments shuffled in with the imperfect ones (think a Vegas card dealer who doesn’t know what he’s doing). But overall, a great experience and the way she looks at books now is the exact way I look at books. So mission accomplished. I’ve also been writing. I’ve given up on novels, and I’m allowing myself to be okay with that. I know. How dare I. But every time I attempt one, I frustrate myself, and if the end result of me trying to write one is me being angry with the world, then I think I’ll pass. I have, however, been writing poetry. I have, however, grown in my relationship with God and have struggled with the idea that I am a Christian. I’m not a fan of your typical Christian who enjoys their Starbucks lattes, oversized SUVs, and smacking an “I Vote Republican” sticker on the back of their bumper. So you can imagine that having to say those words out loud is a little like biting off my own tongue. But I AM a follower of Christ and have seen how He changes lives, my own included. Thankfully, Fancis Chan is a reasonable, logical Christian and I kind of just love what he has to say in his book Crazy Love:
Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or beacuse some people persist in calling us a “Christian nation.” – Francis Chan, Crazy Love
That noise? I do believe it was the mic dropping. Dude. YES. For the longest time I didn’t want anything to do with Christianity because I thought it meant I had to be like the typical smug American Christian. And maybe that’s not fair, but you have to admit there’s A LOT of them walking around. But you know what’s wrong with my assessment of people like this? They’re not Christians. They may call themselves that. But they’re not. Something else I’m taking from Chan’s book is the fact that I must ALWAYS be running towards God and self-assessing my own life. If I get too fat and happy, I’m doing it wrong. So really, this whole country is doing it wrong. You can’t love Christ and your big screen TV. You have to take up your cross and follow Him. And if you’re not going to do that, then okay. But stop calling yourself a Christian. It’s just getting embarrassing at this point.

I know, no social media, and I get all up in arms about everything. But I promise I’m not cranky. I’m just finally getting IT.

So now, a prayer. That all of us walking this path can find love in Christ. In others. That we stop kidding ourselves, believing the safe path is the best path. If things aren’t confusing, uncomfortable, or the opposite of everything you’ve ever wanted, it’s time to pray. To find out what God truly wants. And to set aside those creature comforts and your need to prove yourself to other people in order to prove yourself to the only One who matters.
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How to Choose the Right Homeschool Curriculum for Your Child

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”

— Gandhi

So Many Curriculum Choices, So Little Time

This was the first roadblock…er step.

This was the first major decision that prompted me to become extremely intimate with my bedroom ceiling during the late hours of the evening.

I had decided I could teach. I had even decided I NEEDED to teach.

But what, exactly, would I teach?

After a lot of soul searching, prayer, and deep hyperventilation within the confines of a paper bag (kidding…kind of), I had finally figured out the homeschool curriculum we’d be using for our daughter.

The following are the steps I took to get there that are far less rough and tumble than the stages I actually endured. But fortunately for you, no paper bags required!

Difficult choice aside, choosing what works best for us curriculum-wise was a lot of fun.

1. Assess Your Teaching Style

Notice, I put this as numero uno. I suppose I could have flip-flopped the steps, assessing Ava’s learning style first, but to be honest, that’s something I had to observe and familiarize myself with.

As for my teaching style, I already knew how I like to teach because I taught creative writing classes in the past. And if any of those aspiring writers thought they were going to be given the opportunity to lay back and chill for two hours, boy were they wrong.

Yeah, I’m a bit type A. And I love label makers.

So when I realized that homeschooling didn’t necessarily mean unschooling only, I let out a little sigh and put those paper bags to better use (hand puppets, naturally).

Not only did a more structured curriculum speak to me personally, we also made our final decision to homeschool pretty quickly, and I needed to make sure all my i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. With a pre-packaged teaching plan like the one we chose, all the books and teaching materials were sent to me as well as a guide for how to teach them.

For the homeschooling newbie, this type of curriculum offers reassurance and automatic back up if you find yourself in a teaching rut.

Quick Curriculum Side Note

I love a lot about what unschooling represents and some of its finest features like putting family and relationships over societal demands are very big in our own household. But I don’t allow Ava to control choose her educational path 100% for reasons I’ll get into in the next paragraph. I think it’s a majorly cool concept that works for a lot of kiddos but not for mine at this point in time, and I’ll elaborate on that shortly!

It was bring your dog to school day. Ha!

2. Assess Your Child’s Learning Style

I spoke about Ava’s ADHD in my last post, and of course this was a HUGE factor in not only our deciding to homeschool, but also in deciding how we homeschool.

Ava tends to, well, get distracted. And my biggest fear about potentially unschooling her was her starting a project and then letting it fall to the wayside or her eventually manipulating her way to watching TV as part of her “research.”

There are TONS of children where unschooling fits like a glove, and quite frankly, I think I would have thrived in this type of learning environment. But if there’s one thing my daughter needs and even craves on some level, it’s guidance, structure, and boundaries. And really, I think this is because she’s so naturally averse to them.

That being said, I’m also a big proponent of balance, and I definitely can’t forget the best aspect of learning: fun!

 

Add in a sprinkle of adventure, and we’ve got ourselves a curriculum!

3. Create Balance for Your Homeschool

Since we are sticking to a more structured curriculum that covers the necessary basics like math, science, history, the Bible, reading, writing, and spelling, I’m also sure to mix it up a bit to keep things fresh, fun, and balanced.

Here are a few things we do to keep our structured learning from becoming the dreaded “b” word (boring!):

  • Field trips: From art museums to good old fashioned pumpkin picking, getting out and exploring the world is essential to a well-rounded curriculum.
  • Breaks: Plenty of pauses, stretches and jumps on the trampoline to get the blood flowing and the brain working.
  • Special projects: There are definitely areas of our learning that I allow Ava to give her input and even let her take the reigns. She gained an interest in Hellen Keller from one of her reading books, so I asked her if she’d like to write a paper on her. She’s been researching and writing up notes like a pro.
  • Co-op: We joined a homeschooling co-op which offers extra classes that have peaked Ava’s interest. Who wouldn’t want to take American Girl history and bring your American Girl doll to class?
  • Fun time: Fun is had in all forms from making fluffy slime like a champ for science to heading to the trampoline park or the pool for PE.

No matter what curriculum you choose, knowing yourself and your child is key in finding what works best and taking this adventure together!

3 Reasons I Decided to Homeschool My Daughter

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

— Helen Keller

Deciding to Homeschool

Let me start by saying I shouldn’t be here right now. No, currently, I should be at a small Massachusetts liberal arts college teaching creative writing and living with a chocolate Labrador named Scout who enjoys my shoes more than I do.

But alas, life turned a curve and here I am. Thirty-three, mother of one, sitting at the computer in my dining room the morning after two full days of homeschooling my daughter this week.

The old me would have been much more apt to believe I’d eventually sprout horns rather than willingly educate a small human being.

It’s not that I didn’t think I was capable. It was more that homeschooling wasn’t my passion, and if I’m to be really honest, I didn’t even consider it an option. Not that I didn’t think it was a viable alternative to traditional schooling. It was more that, frankly, I had forgotten the possibility even existed.

So how did I get here? Well, like any parent, it came down to doing what was best for my daughter.

A great thing about homeschooling? Taking education outdoors.

 

1. My Daughter Has ADHD

My daughter is like a butterfly…that’s been given too much Dr. Pepper. She’s been this way since she was very small, and even though I’ve admired her incredible bouts of energy, I’ve also had my heart broken with her diagnosis, namely the times she’s cried because “my body won’t stop moving.”

That’s a tough one in any setting, but being required to sit still and be quiet for long portions of her day is a hard feat for somebody who’s body won’t listen to their brain. Her school was VERY accommodating to her condition which we appreciated, but I think she started to feel like this was just how it was, and she’d never move been beyond being the girl with ADHD. It’s almost as if she fully believed the label and instead of being willing to move forward and try harder in her subjects, she just sort of became complacent.

Considering this child talked at six months and could tell you directions to her grandparents house just three months later, I knew great things were expected of her. And I wanted to show her how to get there one-on-one.

Jumping at the chance to homeschool! Corny. I know.

2. My Daughter Needs Me

Well, naturally, right? But it went beyond seeing her before school and before bed when we were both cranky and horribly exhausted. I could tell that her attitude was tailored around the fact that I worked A LOT and wasn’t the most patient person after ten hours at the office. Weekends were no better because how are you to communicate with a person after spending all week snarling your nose at them?

I realized my daughter needed me. She has such a depth of love about her, and as much as she wanted to share her love with me, I was not always there to receive it. I realized this was a recipe for eventual disaster because as she got older, if she wasn’t connecting with me, who or what would she connect with? I didn’t want to keep up our usual arrangement long enough to find out.

This picture was taken the first meeting of our homeschooling co-op. Have you ever met people for the first time and realized they’re totally your tribe? Yep. That was this girl.

3. My Daughter Needs to Socialize

I know. You’re thinking traditional schooling is THE mecca for socialization and homeschooling definitely doesn’t fit that bill.

But that’s where I’m going to have to politely disagree.

Sure, my daughter made friends in public school. But she was also exposed to a ton of things a nine-year-old shouldn’t be exposed to without a loving parent to walk her through them step-by-step. Not only that, but Ava tends to linger on the immature side because of her ADHD which sometimes made her a target for bullying. And because she didn’t really know how to process this treatment, she’d get defensive and give it right back to the person bullying her. So yeah, recipe for major disaster.

Recently, we’ve joined a homeschooling co-op which gives Ava access to a wide variety of kids who learn, love, and are tackling life just like she is. And because there are parents all around, these kids can dive into the social scene with hands to comfortably guide them instead of being thrown to the wolves and expected to make the best of it.

It’s crazy to see what a difference this decision has made in her life and mine. It’s not the right path for everyone, but it is the right one for this mother and daughter duo keen on navigating life together.

Book Review: The Well-Adjusted Child

I’m absorbing Rachel Gathercole’s The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling through my pores.

This book consists of all the thoughts I had no idea were whirling around inside my brain matter.

Out and About

My first fear (as is the fear of a lot of parents on the brink of homeschooling) is that Ava and I will be trapped captive at our kitchen table, longing for companionship and counting down the minutes until Matt comes home to describe the colors and sounds of the outside world.

Gathercole’s book dispels that monster of a myth.

If anything, homeschooling seems to be the social mecca we’ve both been craving.

How so? Well, the typical 8 AM to 3 PM schedule is tossed right out the door since as the teacher, principal, and superintendent of my own school, I can create a schedule molded to the way we think and play. Plenty of breaks, trampoline time for my ADHD student, and a break up to any possible monotony with the promise of museum trips, pool time, and volunteering put a pretty attractive period on the end of the sentence.

Academic Adventures

Academically speaking, homeschooling is on point simply because of the smaller child to teacher ratio, not to mention the emphasis on learning because you want to learn, not just to do better than everyone else in the class.

I like this approach. I like the idea of finding new ways to learn and new subjects to tackle with the only thing potentially hindering us being the finite number of moments in a day. And I also kind of love that I can fully explain the love Christ has for her and how she can impart positivity and kindness to others because of this love instead of, you know, just showing off the new Nikes she just got.

Social Butterfly

But what about other kids?

Easy. Homeschooling co-op. By doing a simple Internet search, I found a co-op that offers field trips and meet up time as well as bi-weekly classes like sewing and American Girl history all for a VERY minimal yearly fee. Ummm…yes, please.

I like the idea of Ava engaging with kids of various ages and that those interactions, while happening intrinsically, can still be monitored by a parent who loves her fiercely.

Putting an End to Bullying

In school, there was too much bullying, too many hurt feelings, and no way to gauge how to walk that path all on her own.

And I know proponents for traditional schooling might say, “Well, she’ll have to learn some day how the world really is.” But have we ever stopped to think that maybe the world is the way it is because we aren’t guiding our children the majority of the day? We’re essentially offering them a Lord of the Flies type existence and are surprised that we’ve birthed a generation of Kim Kardashian wannabes.

Gathercole puts this another way: just because she’ll one day be living on her own in an apartment working to pay the rent, doesn’t mean I’m taking her apartment shopping any time soon. Just because one day she may need to put a fire out on the stove doesn’t mean I’m going to overheat the coconut oil and tell her good luck. Things should happen as a child can fully understand and handle them. And this is the very reason we parents exist in the first place.

So ultimately, I want her to learn the tools necessary to appropriately navigate her feelings and tend to the people who incite them. And Gathercole’s book gives a myriad of reasons as to why homeschooling lends itself to this kind of learning. I highly, highly recommend giving it a read!

Thinking about homeschooling? Want to pick my brain? Reach me via the contact form.

 

Snake

girl jumping on trampoline

I’ve written
everything
for God
and nothing
for the braided
spine
linking
my past
with this moment.

No. Lies.
Because everything
snakes
from the beginning
to end and
Even when you
cut off the head,
the body still thrives
if only for
a
heartbeat.

Ugly

There’s your face
Cheek to my skin
And nobody even
Knows the shade
Of all the colors
Bleeding into
The hollows of your
Cheeks,
But I feel it goes
Beyond the white
Of my outsides
and the grainy
Hash of my
Innards.

If I had
All the beauty
In the world,
I’d spoil it
By losing my name
and Yours, too.
And as our breath
Mingles,
You taking
Everything
From my reach,
And all I have left
To touch
Are the hollows,
those colors.

Why I’m Homeschooling My Daughter

girl taking photo of dogs

I want to tell you a story about a man named Gabriel I trained once at my job.

First, let’s mention the fact that I had recently become the company’s new training manager. And now let’s revel in God’s amazing wonder at how he used a human being who hates ice breakers and general eye contact as one company’s main point of contact for the new and terrified.

That God, man. He’s a riot.

Gabriel’s class was my first class. I don’t remember everyone who was in it because I’m a terrible person but here are a few of the characters that roughly recall a memory when I think about them: Bill, an incredibly obese and incredibly forgiving gentleman who held a glint of sympathy for me in his eye but was still somehow Gabriel’s best friend; Derek, a young man who had just underwent bypass surgery and whose girlfriend had just left, leaving him to tend to their newborn daughter; and Maggie, an older lady who had a peppery stink about her and was originally from California. She said it would be easy to remember my name since her lesbian daughter had spelled hers the same way as mine before she committed suicide. It seemed like everyone Maggie knew had died. Which worried me a little.

I’ve changed all the names except for Gabriel’s, FYI. And I’m sure he’d be okay with that.

First day, I was all armpit sweat. I thought maybe I could coast through most of the material because it covered Federal laws pertaining to communicating with borrowers via the telephone which isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. But of course Gabriel challenged me on everything and attempted to lead a mini-revolution in our classroom when all I wanted to do was find the steering wheel in my car to smack my head against.

And then there was the moment he threw a wad of paper at my face. After being asked to read from our company’s manual aloud (he did so in a variety of multi-cultural voices ranging from a Cockney accent to a Southern drawl), he crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it directly at my nose. I opened it and it said, “I’m bored.”

I was devastated. I went home empty and yet filled with grief. This wasn’t the first time my job had challenged me, but this definitely was the first time a forty-year-old man in an expensive cologne-soaked Polo had ever thrown anything at my face.

Why, God. Why?

And then that tiny voice that always answers when I ask that very question said exactly what I expected it to: Because you can.

So I did.

I kept showing up for that week of training. I kept teaching and talking and ice breaking like a son-of-a-gun. It was my responsibility to impart wisdom on these people: Bill of the kind words, Derek of the wonky eyes, Maggie of the many deceased relatives who would later loudly ask me if I was pregnant in front of a slew of other employees, and even Gabriel whose favorite target was my face.

And here’s something for you. At the end of it all, they had to write reviews of how I did, reviews that would later be given to my boss. And do you know what that Gabriel said about me? That I was an absolute class act and that the company was lucky to have me. And everyone there needed to take a page from my book.

I’m not quite sure what that book is. Maybe The Complete Guide to Not Punching Someone in the Face When They Throw Paper at You?

Regardless, that experience made me feel like I had won. Like I could do anything.

And you see, that’s the point.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

To keep up with our homeschooling journey, follow us at @homeschoolery on Instagram and be sure to sign up for email updates on the blog.

Wild Edge

ava jumping 2

Between sex
And death
Cecilia chose
The latter
And that was
Always
the music
That played
At my heels.

Sex or death.
Sinner or saint.
No in between.

But can’t you
See?
It takes a lifetime
Of bad memory
To untangle our
Legs,
Smooth over
The edges,
And no amount
Of “I’m sorrys”
Will kill the story
“You’re forgiven”
has played
On my heart.

Or

girl bowling

 

Here’s what will happen:

You’ll hate me for a lifetime 
Or
A moment.

And I will visit you at the church where you work or in the prison near my house.

And you will love God or learn the world according to Satan.

And maybe you will have children or know the ways of an untrained womb.

And maybe you’ll be happy on your own accord or shear every inch of yourself to wear another woman.

And you will remember all my sins and stack them up against me.

Or you will love me and let memory rot and forget the day I screamed until both our throats ran dry.