Big School Changes and Big Anxiety

I’m looking at the clock and it reads 4:26. In the morning. Ugh. I did fall asleep for a few minutes several hours ago, but that was short-lived. Since that initial night nap, I have tossed and turned in bed, cleaned out some old emails, read a book for awhile, and then stared out my bedroom window for a bit in search of nocturnal animals (whom I’m certain are close by but apparently don’t feel like making an appearance on this chilly night).

I want to sleep and the upcoming day will surely prove that I needed to sleep, but so far, that’s just not happening. I can’t seem to get to that place of calm surrender. Instead all I am doing is circling through potential steps I need to follow to get started with the new schooling protocol – not that I would have any real way of knowing this information given that our meeting with the new school won’t happen until later this week. But mental list making and overzealous organizing is my go to OCD response to high anxiety situations.

On the one hand, I am now certain that I’m committed to making a solid attempt at a tremendous educational change for my children. Although the pitiful strained camel’s back snapped several moons ago, I felt the need to add one more beast of a straw to his load as I did a quick mathematical basics test with my children yesterday. Given that my daughter takes advanced placement middle school classes and has achieved solid scores on the state standardized testing over the years, it would seem reasonable to expect that my little experiment would have been a no-brainer for her. But it proved anything but easy.

In case you might be wondering about the kind of complex test that I followed to be able to discover the limits of her proven mathematical abilities, I’ll tell you what I did. I ran through basic multiplication flash cards that I purchased when the kids were in second grade. Fast multiplication facts ranging from 0-12. And she bombed them.

I’m not telling you this to bag on my daughter. She is brilliant beyond description, and she has an incredible capacity to learn. But had you watched our few short minutes of total flash card failures, you would have never known that.

The most basic foundational components of our childrens’ education is being discarded and exchanged for an excess of learning that is ineffective and beyond student comprehension. I called a dear friend to tell her about my dismal discovery. My friend shared that she received an email the previous week from her middle school daughter’s teacher that requested that parents please stop teaching the children multiplication tables at home. Apparently it was hindering the way the teachers were trying to convey new material. What the crap are they talking about?!?!? On what planet does know fast facts screw up your ability to execute a math problem???

It’s crazy!!! All of it. You should see the writing errors that go completely unacknowledged. My children bring home A+ assignments that are rife with misspellings, non-existent or incorrect punctuation, partial sentences that just. Yeah – they just stop mid thought like the preceeding non-sentence thing. Seriously that’s not a sentence people, and it shouldn’t be accepted as such!

So once more I find myself gaining further confidence in our decision to make this huge educational. It’s still extremely unnerving, but hey – maybe my daughter will know her basic multiplication tables if she ultimately has to return to those advanced classes should homeschooling be a bust.

For now, I pray that we are on the right path. I hope that we are making the best best choice for our family. And I really look forward to getting some sleep.

Wishing calm and peace to all of you. Jo

The Homeschool Debate – From Madness to Methodical

Well it appears that I have moved past the madness stage of my homeschool debate. In truth it’s been less of a debate and more of total parental turmoil with a steaming pile of mama uncertainty / pre-emptive potential poor choice guilt. Typically I refer to all that as “Monday morning” but this past week decided that this was to be more of a Thursday crack of dawn gig.

However I have now moved away from the madness in exchange for a more methodological approach. Rather than spewing another charming head-spinning diatribe, I’m going to take a more pragmatic and comparative approach for this go round. The emotions haven’t vanished, but they aren’t pulling a Thelma & Louise cliff moment either.

Some of the primary reasons that have led to my mental mama turmoil with regard to our public school experience are as follows:

  • I’m completely flopping at figuring out how to use the school’s labyrinthine abundance of technological resources. Think of it as an onion – layers within layers within layers that are have proven more than capable of bringing me to tears.
  • I have been extremely concerned for years about the way our children are consistently taught concepts well beyond their chronological aptitude and at a pace that allows minimal opportunity for mastery.
  • The material is geared toward helping children do well on our state’s brand of standardized testing. Ironically I am a proponent of standardized testing, but the current tests are nothing like those that we took years ago. To further complicate the problem, they are not reflective of the material or testing style utilized by college entry exams such as the SAT or ACT.
  • There are way too many children in the classes. In one of my son’s classes last year, a student literally had to sit at the teacher’s desk because there weren’t enough seats. Beyond that, when a teacher has maybe forty minutes to convey heavy concepts to almost forty kids in one room, there’s no possible way that every child will be able get what they need out of the lessons.
  • The teachers and administration are unable to execute significant discipline for fear of legal or social media backlash. The bad behavior that happens in the best of schools everyday is astonishing, and no one seems to have the power to reel it in. A teacher or administrator never knows when a child or parent might be filming the scene with a phone that could be posted online moments later. A sentence or action can be taken completely out of context or a story can be entirely falsified. Nevertheless, the news and social media will believe whatever they want and take off running. It’s terrifying that so many people are willing to blindly believe a story that they neither witnessed nor researched.

And here are a few of my key concerns with regard to homeschooling my wild ones:

  • I work out of the house but I’m seriously busy with my job. I’m talking full-time and then some. And my job isn’t optional. It’s bill-paying house-keeping kinda necessary. Also I like to work.
  • Although I’m an excellent teacher when it comes to helping my children understand confusing concepts, that does not mean that I am a patient person. Not. At. All.
  • I’m afraid that it will suck. All of it. Really. I’m terrified that I won’t follow through, that the kids will be whiney and bitchy about having to do their work, and that I will just do it all wrong. I worry that the limited time that I will have to work with them after my own work hours have passed will be insufficient to achieve educational success.
  • I worry that they won’t have sufficient social interaction to prepare them for life in the post-Mom and Dad world.
  • I’m afraid that they will survive on macaroni and goldfish and waste their brains on endless inane YouTube memes when I’m not paying attention (which will be all the time as I will be working while I’m here).

My biggest worry of all has been that no matter what direction we ultimately decide to go, we might be making the wrong choice. That fear has kept me in perpetual worry and our family in the same stressful school situation year after year.

I’m tired of worrying about what I can’t predict. Is it possible that I will flop at homeschooling? Yes. Could we discover firsthand that it definitely isn’t a good fit for our family? Absolutely. But those aren’t the only possibilities.

Could it be a better choice for our children? Maybe. Is it possible that they might learn something different and we might prove up to the parenting challenge? You bet.

It could go either way. But if I remain unwilling to step up, to tell my fears to take a hike, and to make a change while there’s still time to make a difference in my kids’ lives, I’ll never know. And let’s face it – if homeschooling is a mega fail for our tidbits, all we have to do is re-enroll the kids back in their normal schools once more. At worst they will miss a couple weeks of new material plus a couple more months of standardized testing overload. Seems like the world will keep spinning either way.

So we are seriously evaluating a program that utilizes a combination of classroom schooling led by various instructors along with satellite learning at home. Our hope is that this will allow our kids to have necessary social interaction while also receiving instruction from teachers (who ideally won’t have investor reports due at end of day but who do have a higher level of patience).

As my mother has said to me over and over again, life is not set is stone. If you make a choice that doesn’t turn out as you hoped, make a new choice.

We can’t allow fear to govern our lives. When we are too afraid to make different choices because of our fear of the unknown, we may miss incredible new experiences that can only come with leaving our comfort zones.

Get out of your own way, and allow life to happen. Reach for your faith, and hold onto hope. And most of all, remember that life isn’t set in stone.

❤️

Homeschool Contemplation Once More

Well another couple of months have rolled by, so it’s only natural that I’m finding myself facing another “To homeschool or to keep doing the same public school” mental calisthenics routine once more. I have performed this obsessive analysis repetitively for years but have yet to make the move.

Please note that in my pre-kids / pre-public school life, homeschool landed solidly in my category of ‘Things That Immediately Caused Me to Scoff and Roll My Eyes’ because seriously – what kind of granola helicopter parent would think that they could do better than an entire school system. Of course the best part of judging other people’s choices that you can’t understand in that moment is we often end up with one heck of a personal lesson of our own that makes it crystal clear how much you did not see beforehand.

To be clear, I’m not trying to sell anyone else on the merits of homeschool vs. private school or public school. That’s a personal choice, and all of the options have massive pros and cons. I’m not seeking approval on whatever route we ultimately decide to follow either. You are totally welcome to do whatever you feel works best for your wild teenies, and we will figure out what we believe is best for our monkeys. My thought is that we each mess up our kids in our own unique way despite our collective best intentions to make 100% awesome choices for them.

I’m just so fed up with facing the same school crapola for the thousandth time. Here are a handful of the issues that have my mind in high gear once more. The reading assignments that I see are laced with language and concepts that are way beyond the kids’ years. In the world of math, the teachers are forced to blow through countless concepts at a furious clip. The kids are never given sufficient time to gain a solid grasp on anything before blasting to the next item on the requirements list. One of my favorite school frustrations is that they are no longer taught how to read cursive or sign their names. No joke. Most current high school graduates literally write their names in block letters as their form of signature because that’s the only way they know how to write. Then there’s the overzealous commitment to tech. 95% of assignments are completed on the school computers so we don’t see most of them. Some concepts are easier for some kids on paper. Algebra anyone??? Also we receive several email notifications about other tests and assignments on a daily basis (assuming that that information is added within the same week or two or three depending on the instructor), but good luck trying to find out what your child should be completing or studying. If I want to check their assignments, I have to filter through daily emails from some teachers, comb through another set of email notifications for each child that then takes me to a separate site with six individual teacher pages with additional subcategories (per teacher and per child), and then also review further separate emails from the school itself. We are bombarded every single day, and the plain truth is that I can’t keep up with it all.

If I felt like my kids were soaring, I would roll with it, but they aren’t. Not at all. You would never know it by looking at their grades, but my kids are so amazingly sharp and extremely intelligent. If they are taught concepts in ways that they can understand with effective practice material, they can learn anything. But their grades are okay at best and unbelievably bad at times. This is not a ‘My kids must have all A’s!’ issue. Honestly I don’t give a rat’s a$$ about that. If a C is your honest best, I’ll take it. But my kids are bombing tests about concepts that they understand with ease once we review them for a few minutes at home. They are losing points on assignments that they somehow forget to submit because they get overwhelmed with it all, too. The kids don’t seem to know what needs to be done when, and they look at me with blank stares when I ask what happened or what they need to do next. My kids make mistakes, but it feels like they are getting lost in the shuffle to the point of disappearing.

And don’t even get me started on the standardized district and state tests. Talk about Crapfest Central. You truly wouldn’t believe some of the questions that they throw at these children. I wish I had an example, but it’s now past midnight and my rant doesn’t need any additional fuel. I don’t care how well read, mathematically inclined, or test savvy you think you are, I assure you that some of the questions would leave you asking what in the name of all that is holy would lead someone to answer Question # x with the answer that was deemed to be the ‘best right answer’ for the scenario. That best answer situation is actually a very real problem in these exams. That means that there is more than one genuinely correct answer in the available multiple choices but the test taker has to make a guess about what the test writer’s subjective opinion. Our teachers have told us repeatedly that they often don’t know the correct option and consequently have to confirm the supposed best option before explaining the answers to the children. This has been an issue we have faced since elementary. Cra. Zy.

There are only two monster speedbumps in my furious desire to get them away from their current setup and into a more rational and pragmatic school environment. My full-time job and social concerns for them.

I’m a really good teacher. Although my kids could bend your ear for days with countless terrible Mom tales, they would openly sing my mad teaching skill praises. Regardless, that doesn’t mean that the teaching happens in two minutes. It takes time to go through a concept. Even if it was just 15 minutes per subject per day, that’s a serious amount of daily time per child. Although I work out of the house, I am seriously busy during those days. My job is not optional as our bills have yet to start funding themselves, and the truth is that I enjoy working. I’m good at my job and my brain would go bonkers without the mental stimulation.

It’s possible that I could teach the kids after my work day ended and on the weekends, but what would they do during my working hours? Would they get into ‘The Ellen Show’ or become obsessed with Plinko on ‘The Price is Right’? Would they blog about their crazy working mom and her obsession with blogging about school? Could they potentially spend that time doing independent study and completing additional projects or would they just nap and zone out on mindless memes on YouTube? Are there local groups that they could join for several hours a few days a week to learn more concepts while also killing YouTube meme-time and developing a sense of community and teamwork? And would that solve the second part of my worry equation with regard to their developmental need for similar-age social interaction? I do believe that our children could highly benefit from a social environment that was smaller with more direct interaction. Yes that can absolutely be a double-edged sword, but the truth is that we are already facing multiple razor-sharp edges where we are now. Those are stories for another day, but as I said before, there are problems no matter where you look.

How can I possibly make any of this work? How can I fit something non-traditional like homeschool into our double full-time working parent home? Is that even possible? The stark reality is that I just don’t know the answer. Not at all. But I am certain that I want our children to be free from the nonsensical restrictions that come from ridiculous attendance policies, a national obsession with faulty standardized tests, and an inadequate commitment to having kids grasp the basics before dashing to topics far beyond what is age appropriate.

I feel so strongly that there must be another option out there that would provide a better educational fit for our family. There has to be some way that would work for us. The standards are no longer meeting our standards. Something has to change, or maybe the real story is that someone has to change. I have the strong suspicion that the someone in question here will be me. Should be interesting either way. At least we have that going for us. 😉

The Walls Are Closing In

In my former life – pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-adulting – I would decide that I wanted to go somewhere on a whim and be headed that way within a few days or less. I love to see new places and experience new cultures, so traveling has always been great fun for me. In my current life, experiencing new cultures consists of visiting the latest Vietnamese restaurant that recently opened in an area strip center. You know. It’s the one by the 40th nail shop, dry cleaners, and Subway that can be found littered on every corner of Suburbia U.S.A.

I have an innate sense of wanderlust and have always wanted to visit a million different places on the planet. Unfortunately, there are two million reasons that stop that from happening. Work, school, schedules. Obligations, family, money. Reality. The other problem is that I work out of the house. While this is a huge blessing, it can also be very tough. While the rest of the family spends the day at the office or school, I remain here. Working out of your house can be extremely helpful, but it also means I spend almost all of my time here. I work long hours and don’t run out for long lunches. I don’t have time to go shopping or hangout with other moms in the area. Sometimes it’s can be very lonely. And when my work day ends, all I want to do is see my family and go out somewhere away from the house with them. However as they have been away all day, they naturally look forward to unwinding at home after their school and work days are over. I feel guilty if I go out without them, but I feel stir crazy if I stay home.

I want to jump in my car and drive for hours and hours to anywhere different and interesting. I want to plan trips to every corner of the (cornerless) globe. I have yet to see the Egyptian Pyramids, climb Machu Picchu, swim the Great Barrier Reef, or twirl in dizzy circles like a nun soon to be nanny on the slopes of the Alps. I still dream of photographing the incredible wildlife of Galapagos, making faces at the big noggins attached to submerged bodies at Easter Island, see the Northern Lights in person, or sit on the ocean floor as huge manta rays swim around me at a night dive in Hawaii. Seeing the beauties of the world through my phone screen is not enough for me. I want to breathe it all in. To take those journeys. To experience those wonders. To do more everything. And I want my family by my side the whole way.

But they usually want to stay close to home. And beyond that, short of having a long-lost unknown relative who has recently opted to pop a random massive check in the mail, that’s simply not possible in my life today nor will it be happening tomorrow either. It will be back to work, school, schedules. More obligations, family, money. Life as usual within these walls.

I’m blessed. Truly. I do know this. I love my family beyond measure, and I’m genuinely grateful for all of the realities that we are required to tend to each day. I just wish that I could either find a way to break out of the walls every now and then or learn how to fully accept living the vast majority of my hours within them.

I don’t believe that anyone should discard their dreams based on a moment’s perceived reality, but I can’t see how to surmount the realities at this point in my life either. The good news is that I know that life never moves in a straight line and incredible and wonderful surprises can appear when we least expect them.

Although I am feeling constricted in this moment, I ultimately choose to trust that the universe has bad ass plans in the works for my crew and me. I remind myself to breathe in the good in all of the moments and seek the magic in the smallest of our experiences.

Anything can happen and there are countless impossible possibilities that become spectacular realities every day. So this is my official shout out to the universal miracle request line. Bring it on baby because we are here and ready whenever you are!

Another Sexy-time Fun Mom Weekend

I pulled my head out from under the covers a few minutes ago. I wanted to stay there, but who has time for that kind of shutdown?

Please note that I wasn’t there because I was sleeping nor was sexy-time on the books. I actually got out of bed hours ago because I needed to make breakfast, do some cleaning, and ideally have a little family time. Unfortunately the family that decided to join me for that time (my own) was irritating the crap out of me, so I ended up extricating myself from the area due to safety concerns for all within my range.

Upon returning to my own room, I immediately found myself dealing with unexpected calls and texts from the outside world regarding outside world craziness. Apparently madness knows no bounds. My husband and I barked at each other momentarily in response to all that (which never ceases to be ironic because we are rarely truly mad at each other about the outside insanity but rather just stressed in general about scenarios neither of us can fix). Following our scrappy moment, he left the room and I proceeded to climb back into bed and pull the covers over my head like I was hiding from a vampire (that has lived under my bed for decades waiting to strike if I mistakenly happen to leave a toe exposed outside of my blanket as I fall asleep) (because apparently this vampire has a thing about toes but not actual heads / necks) (yes it’s weird, okay???).

Does anyone else do this? Something childish and ridiculous like literally putting the covers and pillows over your head in a futile attempt to turn it all off for a few minutes? Truth be told, I would greatly prefer blasting music to literally drown out the noise with a louder better rhythmic beat. Unfortunately that would simply call the aforementioned housemates (a.k.a. my children) to me like rump shakin’ rats to an inappropriate hip-hop and 90s rap playing pied piper.

I. Need. Space.

But too bad for me. There’s crap to do, and times a-wastin’.

So here I am. Newly emerged from the covers once more and tapping away to write this post on my phone in a desperate attempt to syphon off some of my excessive irritation and overall overwhelmed everything that is circling furiously around my brain. But even that has to stop because, as I said previously, I got shiznet to handle.

Hopefully you, too, will find your way out of the covers. Best of luck on your own sexy-time weekend plans. Peace out.

Jo

A Million to One

My daughter has been asking me to write a book that she could then illustrate. I have half a dozen book ideas bouncing around my brain, but poems feel more like her style. I’m looking forward to seeing the fun collection my little artist and I can create together. Here’s the first poem that I am comfortable sharing. These are aimed at kids, but there are winks for adults, too. I just started these today, so the artwork is still in progress. ☺️

A MILLION TO ONE

Some people will tell you,

Don’t bother to start.

A million to one chance

That you’ll get the part.

Don’t waste your time writing.

Just put down that pen.

Don’t spend your years wishing

For dreams with no end.

Set free all of your hopes.

Just let each one go.

There’s no point in trying.

Stick with status quo.

But don’t you dare listen.

It’s your path to walk.

Their words have no power.

It’s only just talk.

Real magic can happen

If you join the dance,

‘Cause no matter the odds,

There’s always a chance!

– Jo Price

Never forget that impossible is not the same as improbable. Even the most unlikely of odds still means that it can happen. Aim for greatness and follow your dreams. Always. ❤️

I Remember

I was sitting at my desk at Enron. When you work on an open trade floor, there are always TVs streaming endless news reports. But there was a particularly terrible story being shared. I was shocked and deeply saddened to see the smoke rising from the building. It was a living nightmare. A plane had somehow lost control and hit that tower.

I called my father to ask him if he had seen the tragedy. As I shared what I was seeing, another plane appear on the screen. The floor had already been fixated on the live report showing the initial horrific crash, but silence instantly took hold only to be followed by a collective gasp as the second plane exploded into the adjacent tower.

I was so young and literally could not comprehend what had just happened. What was happening. I remember saying to my father, “Daddy! Another plane hit a second building! How in the world could that same accident happen again?” And he then put voice to the obvious reality that I had never imagined as a possibility. “Baby, that was no accident.”

Our country was under attack. Our people were under attack.

We went home almost immediately afterwards. I sat terrified in my apartment until every person I loved had confirmed that they were home, too. I watched the news reports in horror and cried and cried and cried. The fear was palpable and struck me and so many others at a deeply primal level.

It’s been 17 years, but I still feel such raw sadness at those memories. A dear friend lost her brother to that attack, and I always imagine how terrible it must be for her to have to see those stories and images played over and over again each year. Losing your family member is devastating at any point but having them stolen from you out of senseless hate is unimaginable.

I remember her every year. I remember him every year. I remember them every year. All of them. I won’t ever forget them, and I will always honor those who lost their lives trying to save them as well as those who continue to risk and give their lives to keep us safe today.

Cherish your days here, and recognize how immeasurably precious your time is. We must remember those who have gone before us and pray for those who give everything to allow us to live freely.

Those of us who lived through that day will heal, but we will never forget.

My prayers go out to all who are hurting. May you find peace and solace in your wounded hearts.

Much love to you all.

Jo