I’ll Never Homeschool, My Kids are Fine, & Other Parenting Certainties That Have Gone Toe Up

***Reposting this from my primary blog momentumofjo.com.***

When I tell you that I had no intentions of entering my family into any form of homeschool whatsoever, I feel like this is basically the understatement of the century. Not only was I not planning on taking them out of public school, but I was fiercely against it. A handful of the reasons for that unwavering conviction (***unwavering until it utterly crashed and burned) are listed below. Feel free to raise your hand if any of these sound familiar. Also please note that I can’t see your hand, so maybe pretend like you are waving to someone across the room so you don’t look like a total weirdo randomly raising a hand.

I’ll never homeschool because…

  • Public school reflects reality.
  • For the most part, our children make good grades and are being taught the appropriate curriculum in our schools.
  • We like our teachers and the school administration, we don’t have problems with any specific families or kids, and we are zoned to one of the best districts and schools in the state.
  • Children need social interaction with their peers, and hanging with a sibling 24 hours a day simply doesn’t cut it.
  • We cannot put each child in a bubble, and pulling them out of regular school is a futile attempt to avoid conflict that they will face in reality.
  • Every school has issues so why would I want to pay money for different issues?
  • Although we are a family of faith, we do not concur with highly conservative or fundamentalist views and do not want the individual beliefs of others pushed on our children.
  • I work full-time, so even if I wanted to homeschool (which I don’t), that would be impossible.
  • I have zero patience and the news would surely be at my home within days if we were to homeschool.
  • We just aren’t the homeschool type. I don’t eat granola, my kids don’t look like they recently escaped the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and F bombs are an integral part of my classy speech pattern. Public school is so our bag baby.

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For our individual family, it feels like these are seriously solid arguments against homeschool. As I said before, never gonna happen.

But there’s a seriously funny thing about using the word “never” with regard to anything in the Parentiverse. You unwittingly use the word “never” with absolute conviction in a sentence about something pertaining to choices you will or won’t make for your children. The Universe (God / Jesus / Your Preferred Divine Name Here) then catalogs those words, laughs hysterically, and proceeds to turn your world inside out just for the sake of proving you 110% wrong.

In addition to the “never homeschool” beatdown I would one day (a.k.a. now) receive, I would also be getting a bonus gift that would simultaneously lead to my eating the words below.

My kids are fine. I know this because…

  • They look happy and don’t seem upset.
  • They actually want to go to school (In truth, that one still weirds me out, but my kids have always been such complete nerdzillas.).
  • Their teachers don’t complain about their behavior to us.
  • They are in advanced classes, perform very well on average on their grades, and always score solidly on the state standardized tests (STAAR – the state standardized assessment tests that I have loathed with a fiery passion since we first experienced them several years ago).
  • If they had problems in school, we would recognize it because we are a close-knit family.

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The two sets of bullet points above have been covered in extensive detail during countless conversations with my husband, family, and friends over the years. Even as my spouse and I watched our children’s individual learning gaps yawn wider and wider with every semester that passed, we couldn’t fathom how a non-traditional program could possibly fit into our lives nor did we want to go that route. We agreed that it would never happen.

Apparently I have been using the word “never” a little too emphatically because God has since felt the need to put me on the fast track in order to change my mind. Here are some of the gems that we never saw coming that we have discovered firsthand over the past two weeks.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t realize years ago that...

There is zero emphasis on fast facts. Seeing teenagers count on their fingers is painfully commonplace. I’m not being facetious. They literally count on their fingers. Education has shifted basic mathematical teaching to a utilization of various techniques that attempt to optimize every potential learning style. The problem is that the kids don’t have enough time to get really good at any single style, so they never get the most basic of foundations for any concept. Fast facts aren’t engrained in their base mathematical learning, and this dramatically impacts their ability to solve complex equations with any level of accuracy or speed.

As an example, I watched my genuinely brilliant daughter solve very complex equations this week. Unfortunately these equations took her an excruciating amount of time due to all of the micro-calculations one would expect to be automatic by that point in her educational experience. When I say micro-calculation, I mean something incredibly basic like 4×5. A student at her advanced level should easily be able to recognize that 4 x 5 = 20, right? Well I absolutely assumed so, but I watched my daughter repeatedly solve basic problems like this… 4 x 5 = 4+4 = 8 so 8+4 =12 so 12+4 = 16 so 16+4 = 20. This is not unusual for children in modern middle school (a.k.a. junior high school), but it is absolutely bonkers. Unbelievably, I came to the terrible realization that we needed to reintroduce the same flashcards that we once studied when our children were in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Although we found that our other kid could easily recite fast facts, we also discovered that he actually forgot how to solve 99% of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems at his level without a calculator. Full access to calculators has been a standard in his classes for years. I agree that calculators are fab, but unless you are solving something extremely complicated or inhumanly possible, one should still understand how to solve those same problems via pencil and paper. Sadly, we are now working on reteaching him his entire last three years of math once more. Three. Years. He will get it again at a fast clip, but the truth is that he should already have it given the grades he achieved in those classes.

And then you have the nightmare that is composition. The kids don’t study grammar much (if at all) and consequently can’t write sentences correctly. They don’t capitalize words properly, and they don’t use punctuation. If they do use punctuation, it often appears in the most bizarre of places. One of my older children wrote a paragraph for me a couple of days ago that literally started with a comma. The comma was intentionally written before all of the words. Despite my obvious head explosion at the sight of such horror, she has since pulled this wild punctuation move multiple times (because apparently she has been doing this for quite some time). In. Sane.

Another fun note is that while I feel strongly that one is permitted to have moderate to severe crap penmanship, you still need to be able to read and write your own name with a real live signature. I don’t care if the rest of your class jumps off the block letter bridge. You aren’t in kindergarten and should therefore be able to sign your name like a big boy / big girl / adult. Countless young adults are graduating high school and college with honors yet they can neither read or write cursive nor can they sign their names with a genuine signature. I am waiting to see someone put an X on a piece of paper. When that happens, you will hear my scream of horror from whatever corner of the globe you happen to inhabit.

Don’t even get me started on spelling speling spellyng because it has gone the way of the dodo doedoe doughdough. It’s Crap Central, and wow that’s seriously not okay.

An unexpected fun game I introduced to the kids was “Can You Figure Out How the Dictionary Works?” Spoiler alert – they couldn’t. My brain almost popped out of my head watching my daughter attempt to interpret the apparent hieroglyphics that systematically covered the pages of the new Webster’s Dictionary I recently purchased for this event. I bought the book in yet another attempt to back the kids off technology. Sometimes they need to look up words, but we have always used apps or the internet. I had no clue what a mind scrambler I was handing my poor child, but she was fascinated to discover the hidden code (know to the seasoned few as “alphabetical order”). It feels like they are so dependent on technology that they have lost what should be an innate ability to problem solve, to recognize patterns, and to seek alternate possibilities.

Our children are extremely intelligent and should be able to do so much more than what I have seen over the past two weeks. Thank heavens that my husband and I still have time to break this disturbing and debilitating pattern that is afflicting our children, and we will do whatever we have to to make this change. We have to figure this out for their sake. I refuse to raise meatheads.

Each new discovery of the past two weeks has left me feeling more and more guilty. It has made me question my parenting and forced me to ask myself how I could have possibly missed so much. Thankfully I was sharing those feelings with a kind friend of mine, and her response was exactly what I needed to hear. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What a gem of a comment and a beautiful soul! (The biggest hugs go out to you Lynda!)

She was right. Had we known, we would have done something differently. Maybe we wouldn’t have opted for homeschool, but perhaps we would have supplemented their educations. It’s spilt milk now (buckets and buckets of it but over and done nonetheless). Thankfully, we know now.

Although I know that we are on a completely new path, I still can’t tell you how all of this will work. I have no doubt that I will have plenty of mom fails in this arena, too. I feel like that’s kinda my special skill, but then again, it’s just how is goes in the magically imperfect world of parenting. However, we always continue to learn, and ideally, we do our best to help all of our little loves do the same as well.

I pray that your littles are happy and well and that they are receiving the best education that they can get. I hope that you are having better luck with regard to being able to help and coach them in that journey. And if you are experiencing anything close to what we are seeing, I want you to know that you aren’t the only one. I’m here if you need to know that you aren’t alone, and I sincerely believe that you can make anything happen if you can be brave and release the fear. We’ve got this, and the One who sees it all has got us. ❤️

Parenting is so easy, right?!? (…said no one ever) 😉

Best wishes to all of you.  Jo

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

Parenting Reality – Back to School Photo Fails

MOJO - 2018 - first day reality1 - what you see

I love it when I meet a parent who owns the reality that comes with raising kids. There’s the family life that we typically display on social media (image above).  And then there’s every other minute of the day that we constantly attempt to keep tucked away along with the rest of the crazy we are sporting (every other photo).

MOJO - 2018 - first day reality2 - what you DONT see

MOJO - 2018 - first day reality3 - what you DONT see

MOJO - 2018 - first day reality4 - what you DONT see

Are my kids the only ones who balk annually at first day of school and Xmas card pics? Where are everyone else’s crappy kid attitude photos? Let’s just go ahead and be honest with each other. Those are the ones most of us secretly want to see anyway.

Or again, maybe not. Perhaps I’m a twisted sister, and it’s just me and my photographically belligerent crew who can’t see to figure out a happy approach to these yearly rituals.

(But I don’t think so…)

😉  Jo

What I Would Have Missed

I originally posted this on my primary blog momentumofjo.com. My thoughts went to this entry earlier this evening when I read a post by Danielle at daniellemhttpsariecolucci.com/ regarding her own struggles with depression. If I could share anything at all, I would want her to know that there is always good stuff around you, but you simply can’t imagine the magic that will be heading your way if you can grant life the time to make that happen. All you have to do is stick around, trust that pain and anxiety won’t be a constant in your life (it really won’t), and let the wonders of the universe come to you. And you can’t fathom it now, but some of those wonders will absolutely melt your heart in the most unimaginably beautiful way. ❤️ Big hugs to you. Jo

Momentum of Jo

1a

Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels.  I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here.  Not that I would want to anyway.  I owe them my life.

Twenty years ago, I almost died.  There was no accident.  I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness.  I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore.  It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it.  I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.

1d

1b

When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright.  I could see possibilities all around me.  But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would…

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Is Our Parenting Style a Model of Dysfunction or a Reflection of a Normal Family?

We parent loudly. To be more clear, we yell. A lot. While I imagine that it would be wonderful to have more patience, I also know that my kids can be stinkers and oh em gee how many times did I already ask you to put away your personal mountain o’ laundry???

I’m not sure if it’s good or bad to be mostly okay with your personal family dysfunction, and what’s even worse is that I’m not fully confident that it actually is full-out dysfunction. Sometimes I think that we are raising our children to be permanent residents of Crazy town but then I get a peek into other people’s family lives. Based on those glimpses, it seems to me that everyone has their own version of weird.

My husband is from a family of master artists in the media of quiet anger coupled with overt passive aggression. My own family has always opted for outright hostility and total overreaction. Our approach is to get furiously mad but then get over it fairly quickly and move on down the road. As I won the parenting style debate, the screamy mom and dad approach in our household was adopted and has been in place for years.

At times I have worried that our open lack of patience would damage our children’s psyche as well as their hearing, but I have since recognized that public school and the local news will mess with their them far more effectively that we ever could.

We always try to become better, wiser, and more patient with each day that passes, and when we screw up, we say sorry and we mean it. Although I have no qualms with embarrassing my kids (in fact, I believe that you are leaving some major parent artillery in the discipline safe if embarrassment isn’t on your options list), but we would never physically harm our children. We aren’t perfect parents, but noise aside, I honestly feel like we do try. I have only had one “wire hangers!!!” meltdown this week, so life can’t be all bad here. We tell our kids that we love them constantly and we do as much as we can to show them that we mean it.

I wonder if this the way it goes in most of the families out there. I wonder if we are building stronger adults who are going to be more responsible or if we are just ensuring that therapists of the world will always have a job as long as my grown kids are around. Only time will tell.

But for now, my kids are asleep in an indoor tent in the living room. Maybe they are dreaming about the fireworks we took then to see this evening, or maybe they are just passed out into oblivion since we let them stay up waaaay too frickin late. All I know is that as much stuff as we get wrong, I think that we often get a lot of that right, too.

You can be critical of some of your shortcomings, but it’s healing to look for the positive side of that story, too. We aren’t perfect at anything, but we don’t tend to be all bad either. Release the guilt for the mistakes and focus on making more of the good stuff the main stuff. When you put more emphasis the positive side of your story, your tale will play out with a brighter tone altogether. Do better whenever you can and celebrate the good always.

Big hugs to you! Jo

*Thank you Janie at https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge (7 days / 7 b&w photos / no people / no explanation / challenge a new person daily)

For day 4 of the challenge, I am tagging my partner in blogging friendship crime Maria at https://renewedhealingarts.wordpress.com. Maria and I have been blogging friends for years and began our new blogs simultaneously earlier this week. It was unplanned as always but that’s how Maria and I have always been on our coinciding random life choices. LLet’ see what you’ve got Maria!  😉

**The photo above was inspired by Cee’s Black & White Photography Challenge specific to birds. https://ceenphotography.com/