The Day

He barely flinched as I swiped my freshly licked thumb across the last salt deposit marring his face. His concentration was too deep for even a "mo-om" as he played with the numbers in his head, then on paper. I watched him. Watched his face. Watched it scrunch with frustration, then relax with relief as he realized that it was a TWO! The number two belonged in that box on the kid sudoku puzzle on the menu in the restaurant. Victory was his, and he celebrated with a bite of blueberry pancakes and a swig of juice. "Mom," he said, "I think I learned more from this menu than I would have at school today, anyway."

And that was it. That was the day I became a homeschooling mom.

I guess it all started when the kids were born. The idea that it might be possible that I had more to offer them than "the world" did. I am their parent after all, and I was slowly beginning to realize that there was a lot of power and control and importance in that title. It isn't a passive thing, to be a parent. Sometimes it looks like it. Sometimes it feels like it. But even the most laid back of parent feels that constant surge of energy and awareness coursing through their body even while they sleep. That forever-ready feeling of fight or flight; but mostly fight; that is fueled by the love for their children. The older they get, the more I consider their future. No longer am I left worrying about SIDS or the color of their poop (yay!) or cradle cap or nicking their skin while clipping their nails. These worries are exhausting and tangible and very real. I mean not to minimize them. But they're in the past. They've been replaced with something vague and dream-like and impossible to vision. The Rest of Their Life. What I want for it, what they want for it, what God wants for it, and what The World wants for it. These wants are at war. Can't have 'em all...

Eli isn't the type of kid that does things just because he's asked. He wants to know why. And if that why isn't good enough, he doesn't want to do it. As he grows older and his empathy and sympathy develop further, he is more gracious with his why's. A "because I'd like your help" is enough for him. But a "because I said so" doesn't work for shit. Public school is all about the "because I said so's."

His first defined struggle began with the 100 sight words his kindergarten class are "encouraged" to memorize. They aren't mandatory, no. But that doesn't stop them from being the focus of the ENTIRE BACK WALL of the classroom. Each kid receives a different colored heart for each set of 10 sight words memorized. Some kids have all 9 colors, plus a gold heart to represent their 100th word. Some kids have no heart. Again: SOME KIDS HAVE NO HEART. Do you remember kindergarten? I do. I remember nap time and the big box-turned-post office. I remember stories and singing and dancing and SPACE TO MOVE AROUND. Like physically. There are 35 kids in Eli's class, and some of them have no heart. And none of them have space. One day when Eli came home from school and we were about to work on his sight words, he lost it. "I can't read. I am bad at reading and I don't like it. I'm bad at it. I'm bad." But he isn't, I told him! And it is true. He is a great phonetic reader. He can sound out most words, and knows lots of letter combos like ow, and sh. But all he knew was that he didn't have as many hearts as some of the other kids. And for a visual learner like himself, for his perceived failure to be displayed for all to see, it was too much. He shut his brain off from reading all together. I spent some time after this episode Googling the importance of sight words. That's when I learned that their ARE NONE. Studies show that kids who are taught the sounds of letters and letter combos pick up sight words organically. Just like you and I most likely did. 

Thoughts of homeschooling started obsessing me at that point. Before, I'd allowed myself to daydream about it, half-heartedly consider it, then dismiss it. Mostly because I didn't trust myself. I wasn't sure that I could juggle anymore than I already was. I was scared and I still am. 

A few months later, Eli told me that he had missed a performance of Don Quixote that was being performed at a school assembly. I asked him why, and he told me that it was because they took a long time to get through "stamina." Stamina is where 35 kindergartners are asked to sit still and silent for a block of 15 minutes to look at books. They are timed. Stamina is morbid. Again, I went to Google. Apparently this practice of stamina came about because kids of all ages and intelligence are performing better on the first part of their standardized tests than the second part. Apparently they can't sit still concentrate long enough to finish their tests strong. So they're starting the conditioning of sit down and shut up as young as possible to combat this weakness of standardized testing. Perhaps the worst part? Eli told me this is his favorite part of the day "because it's the only time it's quiet."

Not long after that, Eli got in a punching match with his best friend on the school bus. Eli started it and was in the wrong as far as how he handled the situation. I dealt with that accordingly. Hitting isn't okay. But the reason behind the hitting killed me. His friend switched from one bus seat to Eli's half way through the ride and Eli didn't want him sitting there. Eli wanted to be alone and didn't want to talk, so he punched him. His friend didn't understand, and I wouldn't expect him to. His friend wasn't the problem. The previous 3 hours of chaos and noise and work was the problem.

I started doing a lot of research about homeschooling, how it's done, pros and cons. It began to feel more manageable, as do most things we are passionate about and educate ourselves on. (Yes, I learned a great deal on my own. Without school. Hmm... food for thought...) I asked Jordon about it and he said he supported me 100%. He trusted that if I said I could do it, I could do it. At first I felt a little dismissed, as I tend to do. The more I thought about it however, the more it hit me. HE TRUSTS ME. HE SUPPORTS ME. Jordon isn't trusting by nature. Not superficially supportive for that matter, either. But he's with me on this, and not blindly but because he believes what he says is true. That I can do it.

A few weeks later I couldn't get Eli to get ready for school without tears of panic and frustration. He was fed and he'd slept long and well. He just didn't. Want. To go. To school. He tried so hard to fight the feelings, push them down as he brushed his teeth and got dressed. He knew he should go but his emotions were winning out over his logic. Or maybe his emotions were more logical than the seemingly logical thing? This went on all the way to the school drop-off zone where I witnessed what could only be described as a 5 year old panic attack. I dropped off Braedon, took Coral to my mom's, and went to breakfast with Eli. We chatted for a bit, did the menu crossword and sudoku puzzle, and just hung out. He was relaxed. More than he had been at home for weeks. And so was I. I knew right then we'd never have to fight that morning battle again.

I Am Right About Everything

It doesn't matter where I go, it's everywhere. I see it when I take the kids to school, grocery shop, and even on TV. In fact, the media seems to glorify such an abomination, making it seem hip and perhaps even trendy to accept such an evil, disgusting lie. It's impossible to shield my children from. This world is spinning wildly out of control as we become desensitized to the truth. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see a little bit of it in me, and it's terrifying. This sin of sins, living inside my very flesh, attacking me, making me weak, leading me to eternal damnation. It's something I fight every day. 

Lord help me from becoming; and protect me from; fat people. It is unnatural and wrong. Have you ever seen a fat lion in nature? I don't think so... it's a sin of man, the Bible says so. Gluttony is alluded to nearly 100 times in it. Yet we stand idly by, allowing people to be fat, expecting them to get the same treatment as a normal person, the same rights even. I just don't get it.

Sometimes I hear people talk about Jesus and the things He taught. Things like how important love is, how we are all at fault, not one more than the other, and how we really don't know what the hell we're talking about when it comes to Big Picture God stuff. That may not be a direct quote, I'm not sure, but it's pretty close. I hear them blab on about what a great guy Jesus was, eating with hookers and tax collectors and stuff... but does the Bible ever mention him eating with FAT PEOPLE? I don't think so. It's the one thing- the sin of sins- the one way ticket to hell that just shouldn't be tolerated by anyone. THE BIBLE SAYS SO.

The Bible trumps Jesus, right? Isn't that how it works? I mean if it didn't, that means we'd have to like... love. Even people we disagree with. Even people we think are wrong. Even people we KNOW are wrong. And If I KNOW someone is wrong, but they KNOW I am wrong, they are more wrong than I am because I have almost 100 Bible verses telling them that I am more right than them, and that makes me the winner. Which makes me closer to God. It's not like there's a direct line into God's heart, after all. It's not like we can just open the door and allow Him in, that'd be too easy. We have to prove our worthiness first by pouring over the sins of others and how often and in what ways they are found in the Bible, build a case for our own holiness and the insufficient holiness of others, preach that case as loud and as far as possible, and alienate ourselves from anyone that doesn't accept the Truth. Then and only then will we be holy, fat people be damned.

Jesus himself said that the Old Testament is divinely inspired. After that he goes on to change a bunch of the rules, which, honestly I think is kind of rude. It's like telling a kid, "Get straight A's, pad your resume with volunteer work, shave every day, stand up straight, never do anything wrong ever, and your life will rock." And then they screw up a bunch, and you come back to them again and say "Awe man, nice try, but that was pretty impossible, wasn't it. Did you learn any lessons? Here, try this instead. Love me and others with all of your heart, be thankful for all that you have, and give to others. JUKED YA!" Well, let me tell you something. I can do Plan A better than they could, so I'll just go ahead and stick to that. If you ever need any guidance, please, come to me for advice 'cause I can Google and mangle bible verses, take them out of historical and literary context, and mold them into something entirely new like nobody else. You bet I have all the answers.

And if I had a TV show, and if I chose to spread those answers far and wide through another media outlet, I hope you would all stand behind me and lift me up and sign petitions to keep me on the air, develop memes about me, and tout me as a hero because it is not okay to be fat!

That's what this is all about, after all. Fat people are terrible. Oh, but I'll still be superficially nice to them to their face. Because God is I am awesome like that.

Parent Teacher Conferences

When I was pregnant, I loved thinking about what parts of my fresh little bundle would be me, and what parts would be Jordon. Green eyes or blue? Pasty white or olive skin? Mushroom or ski slope nose? I never really thought about the other traits we'd be passing on, and I certainly didn't think about the traits that they were almost destined to receive, as both their life givers possess the same ones. Sometimes I want to apologize. Sweep them up, squish their guts out, and tell them I'm so sorry, it's not your fault. You get that from your dad and me. You were doomed from the start. But something tells me that's not a smart parenting move. 

Yesterday at the boys' school conferences we heard almost identical comments out of both their teacher's mouths. It's strange to see how cookie cutter they are at school, because at home? Um, no. They're very much their unique little selves. Apparently at school they are smart, (yay!) responsible, (awesome!) respectful, (go you!) quiet, (yeah, a little) put a lot of pressure on themselves, (er... our bad...) serious, don't often smile, and never get in trouble. I include that last one where I did, because Eli's teacher told us point blank, "my goal this year is to have to yell at Eli to knock it off and stay on task. I hope to help facilitate that." 

Then there's the overachiever Braedon, who when instructed to take a Timed Test in math, realized only too late that his teacher did NOT say "Times" Test. With tears in his eyes, after struggling to multiply large single digit numbers, he had to confess his mistake out loud. In front of the class. When I was told this, I could see his face in my brain. And I could FEEL his burning cheeks, his puffed up eyes, the lump in his throat, and his shaking hands, because I know that feeling. I gave it to him.

It's bad.

I mean... it's not THAT bad, but in my brain, the brain that I cursed them both with, it's hard not to see THINGS I MUST FIX when I hear these reports.

The truth is, though, it's not fix-able. It's adjustable, but not fixable. I know this because I still live it, I work within its limits at times stretching them, and at other times being crippled by them. I still mix my words when put in the spotlight. I still feel like I'm going to puke the entire day before the first time I meet someone new. I still OBSESS over small mistakes, certain that I have a glowing red look who screwed up indicator on my face. I still take Life too seriously. Under it all, though, struggles and all, I like who I am and how I am. I'm happy.

It sucks that I can't teach happiness.

As the boys get older, I'm starting to understand more and more, that I am no longer their teacher. At most, I'm their facilitator. It is my job to allow them the space to mess up, and to be there when they need it. It is my job... and this one is a doozie... to keep my unsolicited advice to myself. It is my job to sympathize, empathize, laugh with, and cry with my kids. It isn't my job to over-correct, direct, or shape their little personalities. BECAUSE THEY ALREADY ARE WHO THEY ARE. 

As parents, we gave them their traits. Now it's our job to give them the tools to make the most of those traits. It's a daunting task. It's an exciting opportunity. It's the least we can do.

The acne, though... they're going to be shit outta luck on that one. Our bad.