Ask Me Anything part 1: Homeschooling.

Hey friends.

I asked for ideas of what to write about, and it was met with resounding enthusiasm.  I was given many, many subject ideas and I decided that the best idea was to tackle them all, one at a time.

As of now, I’m just going to go down the list in the order that they were suggested, and write about them as I can.  It will either be in blog format, or IG format depending on the length of the answer.

Today’s topic:  Homeschooling.

I’m going to caveat this with two things.  The first is that homeschooling is an intensely personal endeavor for each family.  What works for one family will PROBABLY not work for another.  It is not “one size fits all” and we will NOT all agree on what is ‘best’.  The best we can do is look at what someone else has chosen, and trust that those parents are doing exactly what they feel is right for their own complete souls that they are guiding through life.

The second is that I have no idea if I am doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  I’m just doing what feels right for THESE complete souls.  And for myself.

We are mostly radical unschoolers, with a dash of “please learn to read.”

I currently believe that my children will learn the very best when their learning follows the path of their own desire.  When they are delving into their own interests.  When they get to ask the questions, and then follow the answers as deeply as they need to in order to be satisfied.  It has always seemed to result in the best learning for us, learning that sticks around long after the interest has gone.

We are currently using Reading Eggs in order to help the kids develop reading skills.  Other than that, we learn by living.  We spend time together.  We talk and ask questions.  We go to the library (or not).  We go grocery shopping and spend time with friends.  We have a homeschool co-op where we meet and learn together.  We watch YouTube videos on interesting subjects, and we go to museums, and we Google whatever we don’t know.

The hardest part for me, right now, is trusting that reading will come.  Holding on to the belief that, once reading fluency occurs, learning will be unstoppable.  Knowing that, when I put them in learning situations, they cannot help but learn.  We aren’t there yet, and so I’m still trusting.

This is our current path.  Everyone seems to be flourishing.  Enjoying.  Loving.  Living.  At this point, I cannot imagine learning any other way.  I’m so happy to have my kids home with me.  I’m excited to help them find their own paths through knowledge.  I look forward to guiding them in the directions that set their hearts on fire.  I feel unabashedly, unbelievably lucky.

Also, sometimes it’s hard as shit.

If you are interested, I have a blog a few pages ago that has hundreds of homeschooling and unschooling quotes that set MY heart on fire.  It’s good reading.

And that’s all!  Open to questions but totally not to judgements or denigrations!  <3

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Please forgive us.

This was originally only published on Facebook and Instagram.  I’m posting it here to keep it where I can find it.

Okay guys. This is hard. Hard to read and hard to see. I’m trusting you with my words and my soul.
————
Five adults
Four children.
A beautiful day.
Everyone helping. Talking. Loving.
Kids playing in the drive with old toys.
New treasures.
Back turned for a moment: lend a hand.
Out of sight.
Cannot see him.
Cannot hear him.
Run through the open door:
“Is he with you? Do you have him?”
Just a moment, not more.
“He’s not inside!” I yell, and everyone moves.
Down to the lake.
Just in case.
Just in case.
I thump around the path and down to the water on stiff legs, tightened with fear.
Scan the glassy surface, smooth as the eye can see, but for a break.
Just a break.
Surely not.
I step up on to the board walk.
I see him.
Still.
I scream. And scream. And scream.
As I run to him and pull him from the water, I scream.
Brock tears to us, fast as a blink, to hold him with me.
Yelling, “CALL 911!” his voice icy with terror.
Squeeze his chest, tip him, clear the water.
He is cold, but he is not blue.
No pulse. Tilt head. Breath. Breath.
One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen.
Breath. Breath.
I clear vomit from his mouth over and over.
I breathe into his tiny mouth for him, and pump his heart.
I move his oxygen. He is not blue.
Breath. Breath.
Compressions and breaths and clearing his airway.
I hear his lungs fill. I move his blood.
Someone comes to help.
Then EMS arrives.
I fall away from my baby as I let them take over. Hundreds of rounds of CPR and now I just watch.
My steel resolve disappears and I am keening and wailing. Screaming and sobbing.
My baby. My baby.
Brock holds me. My sobs join with his. We can’t look at each other.
Only at our baby.
They work and work. They fight for him.
We ride to the hospital in an ambulance. We beg him to come back.
Please choose to stay, Rory kai.
Minutes in the ER. Minutes like hours.
The doctor comes out.
“I’ve got a heartbeat.”
We scream our relief and joy and disbelief. He is not gone.
He is not gone.
Airlifted to the children’s hospital by a team of airmen fueled by love and kindness.
The most amazing team of doctors and nurses and therapists.
They keep him alive.
They stabilize him.
I can touch him. Hold him. Kiss him.
Brock puts his hand on Rory’s head and whispers sweet words.
Promises.
You can go in the kitchen whenever you want, buddy.
We warm his body. He was hypothermic. His brain function may return as he warms.
It may not.
We didn’t know it then, but we were gifted 24 hours with our sweet boy. Enough time to hold him and kiss him and fill him full of all of our sweet love.
His brothers and sister come to see him.
They cry. But they smile. They love him.
They will miss him.
He is slowly fading.
His lungs can give no more.
We nod when asked, and they pull out his tubes.
He is just my baby now.
Lying in my arms.
He breathes. Again and again, he fights.
He gasps.
I ache.
Brock sobs.
It hurts to watch him.
It’s okay to go, Rory.
You can stop fighting.
Thank you.
I love you.
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me.
You can go. I will be okay.
My hand on his chest as he slips away.
My lips on his face over and over.
I need to remember how he feels.
I need to never forget.
I hold his hand to my cheek one last time. His sweet fingers on my skin.
In a single instant, his body is no longer alive and yet I am sure – I am SURE
He is not gone.
He is not gone.
He is only different.

We love you Rory Kai.
Thank you for allowing us to be your parents.
We love you now, then, and always.
I’m sorry we could not save you.
Please forgive us.
Please forgive us.
Please forgive us.

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Hard is still hard.

I think one of the most powerful feelings I’ve had after all of this ‘tragedy’ (I’m sorry, that word has ceased to have meaning to me. Now it just seems like a really strange jumble of letters,) – the strongest feeling I’ve had is that Rory’s death should not make parenting harder.

I can’t tell you how many well intentioned messages I’ve gotten from very loving humans that make me think this point is absolutely missed. Parenting was already challenging. Raising children was already hard. Being a good mom was already a full-time job. Losing Rory wasn’t supposed to make that harder – for anyone. Including me.  Including YOU.

It wasn’t long after Rory’s death when I realized that I couldn’t keep saying “yes” to everything.

“Your brother died, yes you can have cookies for breakfast.”

“I would feel bad if you died and I always said no, so yes you can play video games.”

“Absolutely we can go to the store and buy a toy. Life is short.”

People. That lasted a week.

We still have to parent. We still have to survive as parents. We still have to live within our ability to handle the bullshit-slinging around the house, all day. Every day.

We still have to clean up the messes, and deal with the sugar highs and the crashes, and the world wrestling federation style smack-down that happens when video games are on for too long.

We still have to be able to enjoy our kids.

I’m learning very intentionally, now, how to draw compassionate boundaries – both in my relationships and in my parenting. Much kinder to have a boundary and stick to it, than to FTFO (that is “freak-the-fuck-out”) when you realize all of your limits have been crossed, all your buttons pushed.

So many people have been changed – in a beautiful way – by the passing of Rory.  I find it to be an incredible part of his legacy, and I’m so proud that something lovely has come from his loss.  But don’t let it make parenting be harder.  Rory was sweetness and joy and light… but he was also a toddler that pushed boundaries, and threw glasses of water off of the table, and whacked his siblings with sticks.  Hard is still hard.  Life is still life.  And that is okay.

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What helps?

Hundreds and possibly thousands of messages.

Instagram and Facebook and text and words. Hugs and gifts. All poured out with love and concern. All given with the most caring of hearts. All sharing the same sentiment.

“I don’t know what to say.”

The truth is, nothing helps and everything hurts. The truth is the words are all pain. Pain in love and pain in suffering and pain in loss. Everything hurts.

I’m so sorry.

I hate this for you.

I can’t imagine.

I wish we could change it.

I wish we could bring him back.

I see you.

I feel you.

I hear you.

I love Rory. I miss him with you.

Everything hurts like the gaping open wound that it is. Everything hurts every moment. There is no balm or salve. There is no bandaid. There is no healing, save time.

But that same truth? The same one is that everything helps. Every single word of memory, of concern, of caring. Every single time I know and feel and believe that someone remembers Rory with me.

Nothing helps and everything helps.

When you have gone through this most terrible of terribles, and been on this journey – you are given a perspective that no one wants to have. You are given a gift that everyone you know has spent their entire life avoiding, fearing, worrying, manouvering around. Thanking all that is bigger than they are for not having.

The perspective is this: There is beauty in all things painful. There is pain in all things beautiful.

You will never again see pain without noticing the beauty. You will never again see beauty without also seeing the pain.

Some of you are lucky enough to have gained this perspective with us. Lucky enough to not have to have lost your own child to see this new facet of the gem of life.

It is a perspective I did not want, and would give back in a moment… but I am thankful for the view it has provided me.

RoryKai

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Oh, hello.

Always, always I am drawn here again.

Where I can put words down on the page.  Where I can see my thoughts leap out of my mind and take physical form.  Where I can capture how I feel, put a name to it, and then release it.

Always.

Strange to come back to writing, after many months of not.  Strange to sit down at this familiar place, and be aware that there are giant gaps in the history of me.  Strange, knowing that, were someone to find me for the first time, they would have no idea what is going on.  So I guess some background is in order.

I’m Mandy.  I’m married to Brock.  We’ve been growing up together and raising children in North Carolina for the last eleven years.  I am a photographer, studying to be a midwife.  I homeschool my kids, of which there are four.  Ronan has a poets soul and a mischievous smile – he is 8.  Ruby sets the world on fire with her kindness and her joy – she is 6.  Ryder is every single bit a powerhouse – of love, of energy, of kindness, of bravery – he is 4.  Rory has eyes that are dark and knowing, to the depths of his soul; he’s filled with a calm being, an intense joy – he died when he was 19 months old.

An interesting paragraph that begins with “I am Mandy,” and ends with ‘my baby died.’

That feels like my whole life right now.  All encompassing, entirely enveloping, completely smothering.  Grief and sadness and sorrow and loss.  I am Mandy, and my baby died.

It has been five weeks since he died.  Rory slipped away unnoticed while our family was cleaning out the attic, and he drowned.  I found him, and did CPR until the ambulance arrived.  The team in the emergency room was able to get a heartbeat.  We airlifted him to the children’s hospital where he spent 24 hours under the most amazing care of the most incredible human beings on the planet in the pediatric ICU.  We held him and cried when they told us his lungs were not going to get better; there was nothing else we could do.  We held him and cried when they removed the tubes that were keeping him alive.  We held him and cried as he left.

It has been five weeks, and it feels like a hundred years and mere seconds in the same instant.  I can’t believe he’s gone, and I sometimes struggle to believe he was real.

Sometimes, I feel like that sweet, beautiful baby boy (whom I can still smell if I try hard enough) was really just an incredible dream that we all were lucky enough to dream together for a while – and then we woke up.

So where am I standing now?

Alive.  Feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be.  Struggling with positive emotions and negative ones.  Knowing Rory wouldn’t want us to be sad, and yet reeling with the guilt of joy.  Breathing, and breathing deeply.

Working at walking forward.  Always forward.  Even when it’s hard.

A post shared by Mandy (@tempestbeauty) on

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Unschool Quotes

I did not collect this group of quotes – I copied and pasted it to my blog so that I could find them whenever I needed them.  Original credit for this list goes here.

“Forced association is not socialization.”

~ Adele Carroll

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”

~ Alec Bourne

“I was asked to memorize what I did not understand; and, my memory being so good, it refused to be insulted in that manner.”

~ Aleister Crowley

“How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it.”

~ Alexandre Dumas

“It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child’s curiosity and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning he is offered special coaching for his scholastic difficulties.” ~ Alice Miller

“We don’t yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people.”

~ Alice Miller

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”

~ Anna Freud

“Everything I am interested in, from cooking to electronics, is related to math. In real life you don’t have to worry about integrating math into other subjects. In real life, math already is integrated into everything else.”

~ Anna Hoffstrom

“It is… nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreak and ruin. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” -Albert Einstein

“I do not believe much in education. Each man ought to be his own model, however frightful that may be.” ~Albert Einstein

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

~ Albert Einstein

“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.”

~ Agatha Christie

“Each day was a severe test for me, sitting in a dreadful classroom while the sun and fog played outside. Most of the information received meant absolutely nothing to me. For example, I was chastised for not being able to remember what states border Nebraska and what are the states of the Gulf Coast. It was simply a matter of memorizing the names, nothing about the process of memorizing or any reason to memorize. Education without either meaning or excitement is impossible. I longed for the outdoors, leaving only a small part of my conscious self to pay attention to schoolwork.

“One day as I sat fidgeting in class the whole situation suddenly appeared very ridiculous to me. I burst into raucous peals of uncontrolled laughter, I could not stop. The class was first amused, then scared. I stood up, pointed at the teacher, and shrieked my scorn, hardly taking breath in between my howling paroxysms.”

-Ansel Adams

“Education with inert ideas is not only useless, it is above all things harmful.”

~ A. N. Whitehead

“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”

~ Arthur Koestler

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

~ Beatrix Potter

“Children learn how to speak by listening to others speak. They learn how to converse by watching and listening to others converse. They learn how to hold books by watching other people hold books.”

~ Becca Challman

“Sadly, children’s passion for thinking often ends when they encounter a world that seeks to educate them for conformity and obedience only.”

~ Bell hooks

“We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.”

~ Bertrand Russell

“Life-long learners start their education at home.”

~ Beverley Paine

‎”Today for Show and Tell, I’ve brought a tiny marvel of nature: a single snowflake. I think we might all learn a lesson from how this utterly unique and exquisite crystal turns into an ordinary, boring molecule of water, just like every other one, when you bring it in the classroom. And now, while the analogy sinks in, I’ll be leaving you drips and going outside.”

~ Calvin, from Calvin & Hobbes comic

“If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.”

~ Carl Rogers

“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.”

~ C.G. Jung

“I was undisciplined by birth, never would I bend, even in my tender youth, to a rule. It was at home I learned the little I know. Schools always appeared to me like a prison, and never could I make up my mind to stay there, not even for four hours a day, when the sunshine was inviting, the sea smooth, and when it was joy to run about the cliffs in the free air, or to paddle in the water.”

~ Claude Monet

“My job is not to teach at all, but to find the opportunities for my kids to learn. NOT knowing something can be an advantage, as it reminds me of the wealth of resources out there in the community and world, if only we are willing to go look for them.” ~ David Albert

“Think of reading like riding a bicycle: One doesn’t consciously name the muscles involved or the particular actions required of each, or the parts of the bicycle, or Newton’s laws of motion, or the physics of gears, or the changes in brain chemistry associated with balance. One gets up on the seat and starts to pedal.”

~ David Albert

“Homeschooling is an act of liberation and an act of passion. It is an occasion to walk away from institutional images of life and to embrace a vision that is filled with personal meaning and unmistakable truths for our families. The quality of awareness that comes from the heart is more dependable… Homeschooling… is about helping make it possible for children to reach maturity with healthy, curious, fully conscious minds.”

~ Earl Gary Stevens

“Public school–where the human mind is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation and oppression.”

~ Emma Goldman

“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

~ Eric Hoffer

“I loved learning, it was school I hated. I used to cut school to go learn something.”

~ Eric Jensen

“As far as I have seen, at school…they aimed at blotting out one’s individuality.”

~ Franz Kafka

“Education: free and compulsory – what a way to learn logic!”

~ Frank van Dun

“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts.”

~ Frank Zappa

“What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but the substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“There is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

~ George Santayana

“Why have kids just to get rid of them? I’m opposed to the whole nonsense.”

~ Gomez Addams

“In the end, the secret to learning is so simple: forget about it. Think only about whatever you love. Follow it, do it, dream about it. One day, you will glance up at your collection of Japanese literature, or trip over the solar oven you built, and it will hit you: learning was there all the time, happening by itself.” ~ Grace Llewellyn

“All the time you are in school, you learn through experience how to live in a dictatorship.”

~ Grace Llewellyn

“If our earth is to survive, we need to take responsibility for what we do. Taking control of our own education is the first step.”

~ Heidi Priesnitz

“Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance that accumulates in the form of inert facts.”

~ Henry Adams

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch out of a free, meandering brook.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“How could youth better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

~ Henry David Thoreau

“The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”  ~ H. L. Mencken

“School-days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense and common decency. It doesn’t take a reasonably bright boy long to discover that most of what is rammed into him is nonsense, and that no one really cares very much whether he learns it or not.”

~ H. L. Mencken

“The child who attends public school typically spends approximately 1,100 hours a year there, but only twenty percent of these — 220 — are spent, as the educators say, ‘on task’. Nearly 900 hours, or eighty percent, are squandered on what are essentially organizational matters.”

~ Homeschooling For Excellence

“The act of placing the power over learning and life into the individual’s hands is both empowering and motivating. The ‘motivation’ people see in unschoolers is really a joy in learning that is seen far less often among the masses in school.”

~ Idzie Desmarais

“Knowledge has outstripped character development, and the young today are given an education rather than an upbringing.”

~ Ilya Ehrenburg

“School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.” ~ Ivan Illich

“Learning from programmed information always hides reality behind a screen.” ~ Ivan Illich

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”

~ Ivan Illich

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”

~ Isaac Asimov

“Children are not our own art products to be turned out well, but their own life work in continual process.”

~ Jan Fortune Wood

“Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society…But for me, education means making creators…You have to make inventors, innovators, not conformists.”

~ Jean Piaget

“Four years was enough of Harvard. I still had a lot to learn, but had been given the liberating notion that now I could teach myself.”

~ John Updike

“The more I think about it the more I think high school is seriously warped.”

~ J.S. Feliciano

“Every day I went to school was a constant attack on my self-worth. I learned not to believe in myself. It was a bombardment from all directions; the teachers were saying how bad I was doing in their classes, my family was ashamed of my grades, and the students were attacking me about everything under the sun! I was like a plant trying to grow in darkness–it doesn’t. It all left me afraid to dream my dreams-afraid to be my true self! Who wants to show their true self if they’re just going to get a rock hurled at it?! The real question is: how do we undo the damage done? We have to take time to dream again, not other peoples’, but our own precious dreams that mean everything to us. Our dreams are our life maps.”

~ Jenny Smith – unschooler

“Education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.”

~ John Dewey

“Education now seems the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators, and ‘fans,’ driven in all parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve ‘education’ but to do away with it, to end the ugly and antihuman business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves.” ~ John Holt

The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.” ~ John Holt

“A person’s freedom of learning is part of his freedom of thought, even more basic than his freedom of speech. If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought. We say, in effect, you must think not about what interests and concerns you, but about what interests and concerns us.” ~ John Holt

Teaching does not make learning…organized education operates on the assumption that children learn only when and only what and only because we teach them. This is not true. It is very close to 100% false. Learners make learning.” ~ John Holt

“There is no difference between living and learning… it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate.” ~ John Holt

“Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process, the independent scientist in the child disappears.” ~ John Holt

“All I am saying … can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” ~ John Holt

“Children do not need to be made to learn about the world, or shown how. They want to, and they know how.” -John Holt

“It’s not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.” ~ John Holt

“The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him, He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense … School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning.” ~ John Holt

“Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school.” ~ John Holt

“Ask questions to find out something about the world itself, not to find out whether or not someone knows it.”

~ John Holt

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges. It should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“School is about learning to wait your turn, however long it takes to come, if ever. And how to submit with a show of enthusiasm to the judgment of strangers, even if they are wrong, even if your enthusiasm is phony.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“One of the first things a family tries to teach its children is the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. One of the first things our schools do is destroy that distinction.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“Creative work and critical thought, which produces new knowledge, can’t be conditioned; indeed, conditioning prevents these things from ever happening.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“It was never factually true that young people learn to read or do arithmetic primarily by being taught these things. These things are learned, but not really taught at all. Over-teaching interferes with learning, although the few who survive it may well come to imagine it was by an act of teaching.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“School presents daily exercises in dis-association. It forces unwelcome associations on most of its prisoners. It sets petty, meaningless competitions in motion on a daily basis, pitting potential associates against one another in contests for praise and other worthless prizes.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“It is absurd and anti-life to be a part of a system that compels you to listen to a stranger reading poetry when you want to learn to construct buildings, or to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when you want to read poetry.” -John Taylor Gatto

“I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.” ~ John Taylor Gatto

“The old system where every child was locked away and set into nonstop, daily cut throat competition with every other child for silly prizes called grades is broken beyond repair. If it could be fixed it could have been fixed by now. Good riddance.”

~ John Taylor Gatto

“The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents. So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called education. School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you and industry can’t take you.”

-John Updike

“The parent knows that the child cannot be artificially motivated to learn; they know that he is already motivated by the strongest driving force on earth: his inner intent.”

~ Joseph Chilton Pearce

“Before children go to school in the first place, all of their natural learning systems are intact. This is what we can see from families who have homeschooled their kids from the very beginning. However, once children are in school for about three years, they are forced to shift over to a very unnatural system to survive the emphasis on memorization and the daily stress, rigidity, and humiliation of classroom life.”

~ Judy Garvey in GWS

“Like jilted and disappointed lovers, some of my students just want to be left alone.”

~ Kirsten Olson

“The idea that people should study for about 12 years and then start living is more deeply seated in our culture than many people realize.”

~ Larry and Susan Kaseman

“Schooling was influenced by the idea that self-directed learning created ‘dangerous,’ free-thinking, intelligent people who would make sure the government never became more powerful than the people.”

~ Laurie A. Couture

“Just as eating against one’s will is injurious to health, so studying without a liking for it spoils the memory, and it retains nothing it takes in.”

~ Leonardo da Vinci

“Education is a private matter between the person and the world of knowledge and experience, and has little to do with school or college.”

~ Lillian Smith

“Artificial learning takes what is simple and natural and turns it into a complex array of objectives, goals, measurements, administrators, supervisors, counselors, and transportation experts. Natural education requires only a guide providing direction, and a learner ready to discover and create goals and values that are personally meaningful.”

~ Linda Dobson

“I recognize June by the flowers, now. I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.”

~ Lisa Asher, unschooled teen

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.”

~ Linda Darling-Hammond

“Schooling, instead of encouraging the asking of questions, too often discourages it.”

-Madeleine L’Engle

“My grandmother wanted me to get a good education, so she kept me as far away from schools as possible.”

~ Margaret Mead

“The most potent force for change… is the growing recognition of millions of adults that their own impoverished expectations and frustrations came, in large measure, from their schooling.”

~ Marilyn Ferguson

“Whenever I had second thoughts about the socialization my children may have been missing by homeschooling, I’d take them to a G-rated matinee movie. One look around the theater at the running, screaming, popcorn-throwing little socialites was enough to overcome my doubts.”

~ Mario Pagnoni

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

~ Mark Twain

“I hate, loathe and despise schools….School is bad for you if you have any talent. You should be cultivating that talent in your own particular way.”

-Maurice Sendak

Everywhere I go I encounter older people who seem to be technologically challenged… and I am talking about smart people . It could only be schooling that has capped their ability to learn on their own. ~ Miscellaneous Quotes

“Love goes towards love as schoolboys from their books; Love from love, toward school with heavy looks.” ~ Miscellaneous Quotes

“A blunt ax and programmed education are like fording a river instead of crossing the bridge. The things you planned to do today didn’t get done. ~ Miscellaneous Quotes

“The teacher who is attempting to teach a pupil with no desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.”

~ Miscellaneous Quotes

“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as long as we live.

~ Mortimer Adler

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”

~ Noam Chomsky

“My teachers could have been Jesse James for all the time they stole from me.”

~ Natalie Goldberg

“Most people, most of the time, learn most of what they know about science and technology outside of school.”

~ National Science Foundation

“I am always doing things I can’t do, that’s how I get to do them.” ~ Pablo Picasso

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

~ Pablo Picasso

“Life is learning, learning is life. Unschoolers simply do not think there are times for learning and times for not learning. They don’t divide life into school time or lesson time versus play time or recreation time. There is no such thing as “extracurricular” to an unschooler – all of life, every minute of every day, counts as learning time, and there is no separate time set aside for “education.”

~ Pam Sorooshian

“When I look back at all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”

~ Paul Simon

“We learn because we want to learn, because it’s important to us, because it’s natural, and because it’s impossible to live in the world and not learn. Then along comes school to mess up a beautiful thing.”

~ Peggy Pirro

“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

~ Peter Thiel

“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”

-Plato

“I was fortunate enough to extricate myself before insensibility set in.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore, on quitting school at 13

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

~ Rachel Carson

“Skill to do comes of doing.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Children who live surrounded by rules, instead of learning about principles, end up becoming adept at getting around rules, finding the loopholes in rules, disguising non-compliance, or deflecting blame for non-compliance (i.e. lying about what they did). These are the skills that they then bring into adult life.”

~ Robyn Coburn

“The best function of the school in my head, as it turns out, is to remind me where not to dwell. I did my time in and around school, and learned things painstakingly and grudgingly that my children later learned while laughing and playing and singing.”

~ Sandra Dodd

“Growing up, I couldn’t understand the confusion. Wasn’t it obvious that I could learn math and physics if I wanted to? Couldn’t my uncle see that I had no use for chemistry but that if I did, I’d learn it? Why did anyone care, anyway? And why did people ask me if I knew math and English but they didn’t ask whether I knew about good nutrition or how to shingle a roof?”

~ Sarabeth Matilsky

“Homeschooling is not about sitting at the kitchen table with a pile of textbooks all day, recreating school in the isolation of the home.  (Unless, for some reason,  you want it to be.) For many–maybe most–families, homeschooling is about getting out and about. It is about opening to possibilities, about finding learning opportunities around every corner, and about having the ‘luxury’ of making the kinds of community connections that are sustaining and enjoyable. It is about exploring the world with open eyes and minds, trying new things, going new  places, meeting new people. It is a veritable kaleidoscope of experiences that provide a unique educational path for every child–and parent.  You can find or create anything you want, and have a blast doing it.”

-Shay Seaborne

“Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization… I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.”

~ Seymour Papert

“The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running.”

~Simone Weil

“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.”

~ Stanley Kubrik

“Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information?”

~ T. S. Eliot

“Education itself is a putting off, a postponement; we are told to work hard to get good results. Why? So we can get a good job. What is a good job? One that pays well. Oh. And that’s it? All this suffering, merely so that we can earn a lot of money, which, even if we manage it, will not solve our problems anyway? It’s a tragically limited idea of what life is all about.”

~ Tom Hodgkinson

“The only thing I didn’t do in school was learn.”

-unschooler Jason Lescalleet

“People will always try to stop you from doing the right thing if it is unconventional.”

~ Warren Buffett

“If we truly are living as if school doesn’t exist, we can stop describing ourselves in school terms. We can de-couple learning – and the life we’re living with our families – from the institution of school. When we use words like ‘unschooling,’ we are reacting to school, rather than leaving it behind as the short-term social experiment it was.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

(This quote makes me happy that I was not able to find a good domain with the term “unschooling” in it!)

“We need to separate our identities as people from our university degree.  That of course, ultimately means letting our names appear naked on our business cards.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“The mere fact that most school attendance is compulsory reflects an attitude of mistrust of children and their desire to make sense of the world. In fact, if governments were really serious about their professed goal of developing, nurturing, and enhancing the intellectual and moral autonomy of the young, would they not have to abolish compulsory, externally imposed education?” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“We must demolish the institution of schooling because it impedes learning and enslaves children. Then we need to put both money and creativity into creating opportunities and infrastructures that respect children and help them learn.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“I wonder why so many parents still want to keep their children hidden away in schools, when they could be learning in the wonderful, bright, ever-changing, always-stimulating real world.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“The force-feeding process of schooling is so relentless that many students gag on it. They tune out or leave school, and in some cases, become permanently soured on learning.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Children don’t need to be taught how to learn; they are born learners. They come out of the womb interacting with and exploring their surroundings. Babies are active learners, their burning curiosity motivating them to learn how the world works. And if they are given a safe, supportive environment, they will continue to learn hungrily and naturally – in the manner and at the speed that suits them best.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Our schooling has led us to misunderstand the difference between the power to do something and the force that makes us do something. We were told one too many times to sit in our seats and listen, to put up our hands when we had to go to the bathroom, and to buy what we were offered.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Because schools suffocate children’s hunger to learn, learning appears to be difficult and we assume that children must be externally motivated to do it.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Public education reflects our society’s paternalistic, hierarchical worldview, which exploits children in the same way it takes the earth’s resources for granted.” ~ Wendy Priesnitz

“One of my early memories of school is wondering when they were going to start teaching me the things I didn’t know, rather than what I already knew. Many years later, I began to understand how, insidiously, school had reinforced my inadequacies and had left me with what I now call ‘learned incompetency’ and a fear of not being able to do things ‘right’ the first time.”

~ Wendy Priesnitz

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

~ William Butler Yeats

“There are only two places in the world where time takes precedence over the job to be done. School and prison.”

~ William Glasser

“I was happy as a child with my toys in my nursery. I been happier every year since I became a man. But this interlude of school makes a somber grey patch upon the chart of my journey. It was a unending spell of worries that did not then seem petty, and of toil uncheered by fruition; a time of discomfort, restriction and purposeless monotony.” -Winston Churchill

“How I hated this school, and what a life of anxiety I lived there for more than two years. I counted the days and the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home from this hateful servitude.” -Winston Churchill

“Schools have not necessarily much to do with education…they are mainly institutions of control where certain basic habits must be inculcated in the young. Education is quite different and has little place in school.” ~ Winston Churchill

“I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught.”

-Winston Churchill

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An Unexpected Journey

Hey friends.  I know many of you have been following my struggle – both with Ryder and my hashtag #mandyshealingjourney.  Some of you have reached out to me regarding your own struggles, journeys and difficulties; whether it be to offer comfort or seek solace.  My sweet friend Shelly felt called to share her story with me, and I asked if I could share with you.  She graciously gave permission, and I hope some of you find comfort in it, as I have. <3

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So, you know that moment when you start picturing how your life will be once you are married and have kids? You have everything planned out. You’ll be the Pinterest queen, your kids will have perfectly matching clothes, your house will look like you have a maid, you will be the ultimate crock pot meal prepper. Every day will be perfectly planned out. You’ll wake up early and have your daily devotions in quiet with your cup of coffee, you’ll have a wonderful breakfast waiting for the children to get up, after breakfast you’ll have a list of activities for the children to do, then snack time, then outdoor play, then a well rounded healthy lunch, followed by a peaceful nap that allows you to get your house back in tip top shape. After nap, you’ll have a creative snack, followed by some other Pinterest driven craft, then prepare dinner, then eat dinner, then bathe the children, then read several books, give kisses and hugs and say bedtime prayers, then they fall asleep peacefully and you think how perfect your life is and you do it all over again the next day. Ok, THIS was my view of what my life with kids would be.

We were so excited, and nervous, when we found out I was pregnant with our first child, who is now three. We had a wonderful experience with our chosen birth center and team of midwives. We had an unmedicated water birth, and it was everything we’d hoped for. I did have some issues with breastfeeding, that I would eventually overcome with success, but the struggle caused some really emotional times. However, I would say my post Henry Birth 2partum experience was fairly normal. I didn’t experience any sort of depression. Fast forward 14 months, and we found out we were expecting our second child, who is now a little over a year. Again, we had a wonderful pregnancy experience, and a very successful unmedicated birth. We were over the moon with joy and love for him. We had two beautiful sons. My post partum experience right after my second son went pretty normal. Breastfeeding was no issue at all. There were some emotional days with tears, but nothing out of the ordinary. You know, the normal “Oh my baby is beautiful and I don’t want him to ever grow up,” feelings.

Our second son was born January 2015. Around late September of the same year, I started noticing some differences within myself. I was suddenly more emotional and had a slight temper. Quickly after noticing this, I started my first menstrual cycle since having my second baby. My hormones were very off and I could feel it. I chopped my emotions up to the hormonal shift of my body trying to get into balance. Unfortunately, things began to Familyquickly spiral into a downfall. I was no longer just feeling emotional, but I was starting to have feelings of anger. Strong anger. I began to feel very overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood. I couldn’t keep up. My sink was always overflowing, my laundry was always piling up, and the kitchen table was the drop off center for everything. I was constantly yelling at my two year old for pushing my buttons. I felt like I had no control over my life at all. I would, and sometimes still do, go four to five days without a shower. When I would shower, it was a quick ten minutes before my husband left for work or after the kids went to bed.

I began to feel like I was suffocating on a daily basis. I would wake up in the mornings and immediately feel anger. I didn’t want to conquer the day. I wanted to just sleep all day. I started feeling resentment towards my husband. I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve been home since I had our first child. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a stay at home mom. This is the dream, right? Well, I began to hate my husband for the fact that he worked. Yes, I despised him when he left for work. Every day when he would get into his car, I would just stare through the door and think about how he had the luxury of driving thirty minutes to and from work in peace. Just to think. In the quiet car. Meanwhile, I’m trapped in this jail cell with children attacking me and I can’t breathe. I literally felt like I was stuck in the back corner of a tight closet, with zombies coming at me, with no escape. The thing is, I KNOW my husband doesn’t enjoy leaving us to go to work. I KNOW he works his butt off when he’s there and it’s not a vacation. No, I didn’t want to go back to work and leave my kids every day. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I was struggling. Struggling like nothing I had ever imagined before. Struggling to the point of not enjoying life. I was crying a lot. I couldn’t focus. I would take the kids with me to the store, and once we got inside, the aisles would be spinning out of control and I couldn’t even figure out what I needed. So we would leave. I would sit in a room of the house and just stare at the wall. My two year old would be talking to me and it sounded like I was under water. Then eventually I would snap out of it and try to have a conversation with him. I felt like there was a brick sitting on my chest and I couldn’t lift it off. Every single day. I would walk up and down the hall, pacing, with my fists clenched in anger at my husband not being home. I would be enraged when I would get all the laundry done, only to find his clothes on the floor. Enraged with such anger, I could have literally hit him. Literally. This was my life every day. I hated life. I was never happy. I never smiled. I loved my children deeply and I loved my husband deeply, but I hated myself. I tried to talk to a few close people about how bad I was struggling and how hard the days were. My only responses were, “I’m sorry. It’ll get better. Being a mom is hard. Tomorrow will be a better day.” I was practically screaming my head off, trying to tell someone that I am not me. That this is not normal. That I need help. I need someone to run in and rescue me. Pull my head out of water because I am literally drowning.

There was one day, that it hit me hard. I was having a REALLY hard day. I was crying. I couldn’t focus. My head was spinning. I felt extremely sad and unhappy, but I didn’t know what was wrong. My husband told me to drive by myself to Target and just walk around and get a drink. I was barely able to even make it to Target. I couldn’t focus on getting myself there. Once I got there, it took me a while just to get out of the car. I had to talk myself through it. Once I got into Target, I had an even harder time navigating the store. I literally didn’t know which way to walk or turn. I felt lost. Like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was literally not myself. This was not me. Something was wrong.

I decided to contact one of my midwives whom I felt really close with. I told her everything. She had me come in to the birth center and talk with her and she wanted me to fill out a depression questionnaire. It was so hard even going in. I’ve had two babies with them and they’re all like family. Of course several of them asked if we were expecting again and if I was there for a prenatal, with big smiles on their faces. I kind of put my head down and quietly said I was just there to talk with my midwife about something. Each answer on the depression sheet was worth a number of points. She informed me that anything over a nine, she treats with a medication. I scored a fourteen. I tried to talk to her and I lost it. I poured my eyes out in that room like I never had before. I kept telling her how this is not the mom, or the wife, that I was suppose to be. I’m better than this. I always have full control and I never lose myself. Why is this happening to me? How did I spiral this far out of control? Can I ever have more children? I want more children, but can I? Will I ever come out of this black hole? She was so good to me that day. She spoke to me in the exact way I needed her to. I can whole heartedly say that she was the only person who heard me out and understood my screams. She “got me.” I felt so comfortable pouring my embarrassed heart out to her. I was ashamed and humiliated and down right scared. I would have never seen myself getting to a point of not knowing who I was. I also expressed to her how lost I felt as a human being. I was watching so many people on social media doing the things they love. Having amazing experiences. Working or volunteering to do things they were passionate about. Things they were called to do in life. A few years ago, and even more so recently, I have felt called to be a part of the birth world and help mothers with breastfeeding. It’s become a huge passion of mine. I feel like it’s where I’m suppose to be in life. Being in a season of “waiting” has been very difficult. Those passions aren’t something that I’ve been able to jump on just yet, and it took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. I’ve had feelings of failure and often asked, “when is it going to be my turn to accomplish my goals?” I felt like I wasn’t being fed. I felt as if I was alive, but not living. I was simply existing, but existing for others and never for myself. Like I was slowly dying on the inside and there would eventually come a time where it would be too late for me to accomplish anything. She reassured me that this was only a phase. She told me I can absolutely have more children and I WILL accomplish the things I’ve felt lead to do. We just have to get over this hurdle.

After our conversation, and with her help and guidance, we decided it would be best if I go on a mild anti depressant. I was now going through the embarrassment of being on an anti depressant. I knew it was for the best, but I had never had to go on any sort of medication for my emotions and mood. The drive thru at the pharmacy didn’t make it any easier when they grabbed the pharmacist to have him come to the window and he asked me repeatedly if I’d ever been on an anti depressant. Then repeatedly told me the side effects and all the details with a line of cars behind me. I know this is protocol, but, “give me my stuff and leave me alone”, was all I could think.

Once I started the anti depressant and got through a few small side effects, I do feel like it helped me. I still felt like the only mother who had gone through anything like this though. I only discussed this with a few close friends, who were very sympathetic and supportive. However, as I began to open up to more and more moms about what I was battling, they all related. Many of them said they’ve had the same feelings as me and a few said they also had some sort of depression and anxiety. A few even said they needed the help of an anti depressant to get them through it. This just screamed at me. I have never felt so alone before, and yet there is a whole group of women who have experienced the same things. They all related to me. Why did I not know this? Why is this not talked about more? Why are so many women hiding behind their closed doors and windows and suffering alone? There are so many different groups for moms to attend these days. Why isn’t there a group for moms who are struggling? Where we can pour our hearts out to one another and cry with one another and then lift one another up. It could be this stigma that society has placed on us. We pay so much attention to people on Facebook and how perfect their lives appear to be and we compare ourselves. This will drive any mom insane. These perfect moments that people share on Facebook are simply a small glimpse into their chaotic lives. I couldn’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You’re such a great mom. You’re super mom. You have it all together, girl! I love seeing your posts about your boys and everything you all do.” I would usually just smile and say, “Thank you,” but on the inside I was screaming, “Actually, I feel like I’m going crazy. My house is trashed, I never cook, I smell because I haven’t showered in five days, and I feel like I’m going to rip all of my hair out. Don’t get anywhere near my face because I often times don’t even brush my teeth until it’s bedtime again.”

I battled back and forth between wanting to share my story with people. I was and still am terrified of the judgement. However, the way I look at it is, I’m either going to be judged for how I parent, or judged for how I have struggled as a parent. So why not attempt to help other moms who may be hiding and screaming to hear that another mom has/is battling the same issues? My goal with sharing this, would be that other moms wouldn’t be afraid to talk to someone. I tried talking to a couple of people, but they weren’t getting it. It took me having to seek out my midwife and ball my eyes out to her. Then I ended up discovering many of my friend moms have battled as well. I just never knew it. So if you’re struggling and you feel like your head is slowly slipping under water, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I thought I was alone, but I’m not. Talk to someone. It will do you NO good to keep your feelings and thoughts bottled up, because you’ll be battling YOURSELF, and that’s a battle you will never win.Family2

Most importantly, if you know a mom and she is beginning to act different and not herself…I would highly encourage you NOT to judge her. You may have/might be handling motherhood in a way that appears to be better than her. However, maybe you never went through this. A lot of moms do, a lot of moms don’t. Or perhaps you just haven’t entered that difficult season yet, that she is currently in. What you CAN do, is tell her that this isn’t forever. That she WILL make it through this. You may not understand her and what she’s battling, but you need to encourage her and support her. She may be feeling extremely overwhelmed, which could make her appear to just be in a bad mood or grouchy. Have an open mind and a warm heart when you’re with her. She may not even realize she is coming across as cold. She may just be feeling cold herself, and could really use a tight hug instead of criticism and judgement.

I can honestly tell you that I do feel like I am still in this unexpected journey. This weird season of feeling lost. I take it day by day. I have no idea when I will be done with this. Some days are wonderful and some days are horrible. I DO know, that once this is over, I will owe my children an apology for not always being patient with them and not being the mom I aimed to be. I will owe my husband a major apology and a clearer insight into what I was battling. I know he has tried to understand. I know he has sat back and watched me and probably wondered who stole his wife for so many months. As odd as this sounds, I’m just not ready to have that sit down yet, but one day we will.

I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes from his book “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” “You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And NEVER mix up your right foot with your left.

To my fellow moms everywhere… “You’re off to great places! Today is YOUR day! Your mountain is waiting. So….GET ON YOUR WAY!”

~Shelly Mckoin Collie

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Dear Ruby: A good mama is.

Dearest Ruby,

Somewhere along the way, you’re going to contruct an idea about what a ‘good mama’ is.  It may be because of me, and it may be in spite of me.  It may come from television, or magazines, or movies.  It may come from your friends.  If your life is anything like mine, it will likely come from social media.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a good mama is.  What MY idea of a good mama looks like.  I’m not sure where all of them came from, but I’m going to share them with you.

In my mind, rolling around in my head, is an “ideal mommy.”  The one that I strive to be like.  Let me tell you about the ‘good mama’ in my head.

A good mama always speaks kindly.

A good mama doesn’t get mad.

A good mama has clean kitchen counters, and nothing under her couches.

A good mama always responds with empathy, never spite.

A good mama always has a nutritious meal prepared for dinner.

A good mama is just as happy to see you as she tucks you in to bed as she is to see you wake.

A good mama doesn’t say mean things.

A good mama never says no.

A good mama doesn’t need alone time.

A good mama doesn’t hate being a mama sometimes.

I hope you realized something when you read this, Ruby.  I hope you saw all the red flags – the ‘nevers’ and the ‘always’s.  I hope you realized that this mama doesn’t exist.  She was not me, and she is not you, and she is an unattainable perfection that is simply not reality.  Because being a mama is HARD work, and being a GOOD mama doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.

It’s okay to say no sometimes when you should say yes.  And it’s okay to give everyone cereal for dinner once in a while.  Or twice a week.  You aren’t a bad mom if your floors are dirty again.  And again.  Sometimes, you’re not going to like your kids.  And sometimes you are going to wish you weren’t a mama for just a few minutes.

It doesn’t mean you don’t love your beautiful babies like crazy.  I LOVE you beautiful babies with all of my heart.

It DOES mean that you need to take care of yourself.  You need to find moments that are yours to fill your heart and soul with love; love for you, so you can give love to them.  It DOES mean that you have to check in with your expectations – your house might be messy, and clothes wont get folded, and toilets wont always be scrubbed.  But you are still a good mom.

You will kiss booboos, and you will yell more than you like, and you wont always have all the answers…

…and Ruby.  I promise.  You are a good mom.  (I am too.)

I love you,
~Mom.
3/23/16
(I am 32.  Ronan is 7, you are 5, Ryder is 3 and Rory is 8 months old.)

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Dear Ruby Letters.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now…  I’m going to start writing letters to Ruby.

Why Ruby?  Well, she’s my only daughter.  And as such, she is going to likely be the only one that comes to me when she has issues with her own kids.  Not that daughters-in-law will not one day come to me – if they do, I will give these letters to them as well.  A little about the struggle, a little about to shine.  A little about how it feels to be in the trenches.  I don’t know that I will write regularly, but I will write when it needs to come out.  So here goes.


Dearest Ruby,

You just recently turned five years old.  Ronan is seven, Ryder is three, Rory is 8 months, and I am 32.

This is my first letter to you.  I wish I had thought to start them sooner, but better than not at all.  I am a mama of four.  I’m trying to write this as I sit here with three littles playing loudly on the floor.  I’ve already been interrupted three times, and yet I will power on – because this matters.

I hope you are reading these because you have a baby or two.  I hope you see me every few days.  I hope we are close, and talk every day.  I hope you ask me questions and I have pointed you to these letters because I’m in a different season, and I can’t remember how to answer the questions you have.

There are so many wonderful cliches that describe parenting.  So many quips and one-liners that reduce it all down.  “This too shall pass.”  “The days are long, but the years are short.”  But they don’t really explain what it’s like.  They don’t capture the highest highs and the lowest lows.  There is nothing like being in the middle of it.  I have already forgotten the blur of the newborn days, the sleepless nights.  I know I will forget this.

You are a treasure at five years old, Ruby.  You love to be helpful.  You ask, “What can I do to help you, mama?”  Especially when I am struggling.  You clean up rooms without anyone asking you to.  You are undeniably sensitive, just like me.  You can’t handle big emotions of others.  Ryder is awful to you.  Ronan is in school most days, you miss him dearly.  And you love Rory with EVERY OUNCE of your being.  I ask you a thousand times every day to give Rory some space.  If you could, I think you would merge your body with his to never be without him.  Your love for your dada is so huge.  Jump-hugs are your favorite thing.  You adore singing and dancing.  You are a wonderful painter.  Right now, you enjoy telling “once upon a time” stories, and they are always captivating.  You are SURE you want to be a princess, which means wearing pretty dresses.  I hope somewhere along the way, you learn that you ARE a princess, regardless of what you wear or how you look.

My days are a blur right now.  A blur of meeting needs and wiping bottoms and feeding bellies.  The absolutely brilliant beauty of giggles and hugs, games and songs;  the oppressing darkness of tantrums and yelling, hitting and rage – both from children and from myself.  I go to therapy, now, because I feel like I’m not the kind of mother you beautiful children deserve.  I’m see my therapist once a week in order to learn how to be calm and peaceful.  How to tame the anger that keeps finding its way to the surface so easily.  I hope that, as a mother, I have raised you to be better, more mindful.  I hope that, if I haven’t, and you are struggling… you never feel alone as you walk the path to peace.

A jumble of park days and pool days and play dates and screen time.  Sometimes we do crafts and sometimes we spend the entire day on the couch.  We have dance parties and pity parties and lots of grocery shopping trips.  I take a million pictures, because every moment is a moment I want to look back on.  I love you with all of my heart.  I love your father with all of my being.  I love myself too, because that is REALLY important.  I struggle to find the balance between being excited for what the future brings, and living as fully present in this moment as I can – where you and Ryder are playing, Rory is standing next to you, and I’m sitting on the couch writing this letter.

Life is just as beautiful as it is hard.

“The lowest of her lows must match the high of her highs.”

I love you, dearest Ruby.
Your loving mother,
Mandy.
3/2/2016

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Who am I, if not mad?

I am mad.

I have been mad for about six years now.

Really mad for at least three.

The birth of my third child was a turning point for me.  Car seat screaming, two toddlers under three with a newborn, and life was really hard.  I was really mad that it was hard.

It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I stopped just getting mad, and starting becoming mad.  I know the difference is subtle, but it’s also very distinct.  I stopped FEELING mad, and started thinking of myself as a mad person.

Over the course of the next three years, I very unintentionally continued to reinforce the idea that I was a mad person by being mad more often than I wasn’t.  The list of things that made me mad was long and quite exhausting.  Having to wake up, having to go to bed, having to deal with problems, having to clean messes.  It made me mad when there was no coffee.  It made me mad when I had to make dinner AND clean dinner.  It made me mad when I didn’t make dinner, and we had to eat out.

Are you seeing a trend here?  When I stop and put my mind to it, when I really think about it, there really wasn’t anything that DIDN’T make me mad.

It was exhausting, and not a nice way to live.

Today, Saturday morning, on one of my very rare chances to sleep in, my three year old came upstairs and pounded on the door for me to wake up.  I was IMMEDIATELY mad.  Where is his father?  Why is he letting him do this?  Why can’t he just let me sleep?  I JUST want to sleep in ONE TIME.  He’s going to wake up the baby!  My inner dialogue was JUST so angry.

I laid there, kind of detached, and observed my brain spinning out in anger.  One part of my brain was just so mad, and another was asking why.  Why?  Why am I so mad?  What if I just… wasn’t?

And then I suddenly wondered… who am I if I’m not mad?

And then I realized, quite painfully, that I have made anger part of my identity.  I have become so deeply identified with being angry all the time that I don’t know who I am if I am not mad.

One of the consequences  of this realization was that it completely diffused my anger.  I was immediately calm.  However, it begs the question:  “Who do I want to be instead?”

If I can become angry Mandy by deciding that I am mad all the time, I can become someone else.

I can become calm Mandy.

I can become energetic Mandy.

I can become peaceful Mandy.

I can become tidy Mandy.

I can become all of these things.  I can become any of these things.  All I have to do is decide that I’m going to become them, and decide that I’m NOT going to be angry and mad anymore.

I know that sounds like it would be really easy.  I have a feeling it’s not going to be easy at all.  But the realization and actualization is there – I know that I decided (perhaps unconsciously) that I was going to become mad.  Now I have decided VERY consciously, that I’m not going to be that way anymore.

I wonder who I can be instead.  I’m excited to see how awesome she will be.  I can’t wait to meet her.
  

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