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. 😉

Screw the Filters

Writing your honest story can be a rocky mental path to take. When I first started blogging, I went the anonymous route. I never had to worry if anyone I knew might be reading my posts. I didn’t concern myself with thoughts about if this person might think that I was referring to him / her or that that person might pick up on the reality that yes I actually was calling him / her out as a total jackass. And even though I could be brutally honest from that black box, I felt wildly disingenuous. I felt like I couldn’t possibly be writing my honest truth if I couldn’t own the words in front of real people in my life. So I shared my writing with a few people and then a few more and ultimately many people started reading my posts. At first I was okay with that, but as more time passed, I found myself editing the entries in my mind long before I even began to type the first word. My comfort level with regard to speaking my own unsavory truths has become paper thin. I just don’t want to rock the boat on my already tumultuous seas. To put it another more delicate way, I already have enough shit to deal with and have no interest in adding more to the therapy heap.

If you’ve been following my mental meanderings for months or years, you have probably noticed that I sometimes disappear from the blogosphere for several months at a time. In the past, this has stemmed from a lack of time or straight up writer’s block. But that’s not what has been happening to me lately. I am busy as all get out, but there have been stories and inspiration to spare. The problem is that I am so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, overstepping my bounds, or saying the wrong thing that my mental edits have been leaving the remaining words with a dull hollow ring. The raw emotion is stripped away, and I leave myself with puddle deep platitudes.

I’m tired of running circles in my mind about the imaginary thoughts of others. I’m over worrying about if someone might misread what I’m saying or, even worse, might not misread my words. For better or for worse, I have been given this voice and the call continues to throb in my mind. My mental censors have been on overdrive for too long and I’m utterly sick of it. I’m going to write whatever I want to write and no one else has to read it. If it offends you, read something else. If you think it’s about you, you’re probably wrong, but maybe ask yourself why you think that or, more importantly, DON’T. Don’t worry about it. These are my ramblings. They aren’t about you. This is about me. My crap. My issues. My journey. It’s the Jo Show and there’s enough happening in my one woman circus without bringing in additional side acts to manage. I’m over the silence. I’m tired of the gag. Screw the filters. It’s time to write again.

Are You Feeding Depression?

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When you are in that place, that dark inescapable place where depression traps your thoughts and emotions, you feel like you are surrounded in blackness. There are no doors to open. No exits to be found. You’re trapped there until the lies of your mind go quiet and the treacherous confusion clears.

There’s no ON/OFF switch for depression nor is there a quick fix formula to keep it away forever. Is there anything that you can realistically do to make it stop?

Without question you have to speak up and ask for professional help. Beyond that, I believe that one of the most important steps you can take when you are struggling with depression is to ask yourself if you are feeding the monster. Are you helping the downward spiral spin even more furiously?

Those of us who have struggled with depression often do so in the shadows, but we may reveal our hurts in less visible ways. Some people write anonymous blogs that focus on their heaviest of thoughts and emotions. I have read extensive poetry written by people who either love Edgar Allan Poe’s dark style or (more likely) are struggling with their own mental health challenges. There are countless art pieces celebrating the dark night of the soul, and you could pack any home to the ceilings with books about the hopeless feelings of those suffering with depression, OCD, severe anxiety, thoughts of suicide and attempts to take one’s life.

We commend the bravery of those willing to speak their blackest truths as so many continue to stay silent about their mental health struggles in the public eye. We celebrate those who are able to create tangible evidence of those intangible mental shackles.

But it is really healthy to create or celebrate that? From my non-professional off-kilter and utterly imperfect viewpoint, I would say yes and no.

We can’t bottle up the immeasurable pain, slap a smile on our faces, and “fake it till you make it” all away. We need to be able to be honest about what we are going through if we are going to find a way to healing. We benefit from finding a community of people who may be facing different challenges but who can relate to the pain of feeling broken, unworthy, or unwell. Giving voice or visual to our struggles reminds others that they aren’t alone in those times, and we receive the same benefit when we see it from another.

However it takes a very sinister turn once that becomes the predominant or, much much worse, the only voice we have. When we start to focus entirely on hopelessness, giving up, perpetual loneliness, being shattered, feeling worthless, or wanting to die, we poison our thoughts. We energize the darkness and validate the confusion and pain. Those thoughts that dig at the mind become more and more real, and our ability to push them away from center stage decreases.

Attention is attention, and negative attention still fills that desire. Are you being supportive of someone who is struggling or are you feeding the monster? Are you giving voice to your pain or are you inviting it closer?

One of my children is an excellent writer who sometimes drifts into Emo Land. I think it’s good for him to work through the pain sometimes with the writing, but it concerns me when his teachers tell me how much they love or admire his willingness to share those feelings so extensively. I know my child, and this kid lives for teacher praise (nerd!) (but at least he comes by that honestly). If his instructor goes gaga over dark twisty, that theme and tone will pervade his writing. As I’ve seen him run with the “yay for your sad compositions” bait in the past, I now make a point to talk to his writing teachers to ask them to focus their high praise on alternate styles of compositions. I also try to give my child some glimpse into the importance of looking for the light rather than taking a dive into the darkness. It’s too easy to get stuck on that path of despair. I know this first-hand because I was there for many years, too.

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Admittedly this is serious weak sauce for dark poetry, but it’s not my thing anymore nor do I feel like taking much time to hunt through our fridge magnets at midnight.

I struggled with suicide and depression since I was very young. My negative thoughts and feelings became a natural part of everything that I composed including silly stuff like poems I compiled from refrigerator word magnets.

My husband (who was my then newish boyfriend at that time) landed in the relationship emotional intelligence hall of fame when he read some of my dark twisty fridge masterpieces and responded with his unfiltered and resounding review of, “You need to cut that sh*t out now.”

His response was utterly jarring to me. I said nothing aloud in return, but my mind screamed. Didn’t he see how deeply troubled I was? How could he be so cold about my pain? Why would he be so callous about my inner battle that he could never comprehend? What a massive jerk / soon to be ex-boyfriend!

But then I thought about his words. And then I thought about my own. What I was saying on my poor unsuspecting fridge? Why was I writing that stuff? What benefit was I getting from inviting the darkness in and why was I coating my major appliances with feelings that I was trying to escape? In that moment, I realized exactly what I was doing.

I was feeding the monster.

I never told him that he was right (a tradition that I continue to uphold whenever possible in our marriage to this day), but I did take down the festival of sadness as soon as he was out of view. He wasn’t asking me to pretend that I was happy when I wasn’t, but he didn’t have any interest in my parading around that level of negativity like it was fine art either. Until he pointed it out, I did not recognize how that I was validating and emphasizing the very feelings that I was trying to shake. I had been viciously chumming the water while simultaneously praying for the sharks to leave.

This is a tremendous problem on social media. If you have ever searched for #depression, #mentalhealth, or #suicide, you can find horribly dark and sad posts and photos with thousands and thousands of likes. They aren’t focused on healing. They are focused on pain. And to be clear once more, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel that way or even that it’s wrong to talk, write, or create art about mental health struggles and crises. But don’t go out of your way to embrace and celebrate them. Don’t cover your fridge in sadness and don’t spend your hours devouring and liking the pain of others.

If you want to heal, look for those who talk focus on getting better. If you want to step out of the darkness, look for the light instead. If the negativity of the news is making you feel hurt or angry, change the frickin’ channel or better yet turn it off altogether and go for a walk. And perhaps most importantly of all, if your fridge is turning all dark and twisty, invest in twelve dollars worth of sasquatch-themed word magnets. They are worth every penny, and that is one monster that you are welcome to feed (no offense intended to Bigfoot or lovers of said scientifically unsubstantiated ginormous critter).

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Again not my best, but it’s 1 am so you get what you get.

Always remember that whatever you take in feeds some part of you. If you want to feel better, nourish the good and offer that to your heart, mind, and soul. Your worse case scenario is twelve dollars down with a kick ass set of fridge magnets waiting in the wings.

Don’t get in your own way. You are healthier, stronger, and more incredible than you possibly know. Look for that and celebrate it. You got this honey. It’s time to let the real you shine.

Big hugs to all.

Jo Price  🙂

The images below will take you straight to Amazon if you feel like jazzing up your fridge. The sasquatch pack is hilarious, but they are even more fun if you add the Lumberjack addition to the mix. If you do buy these, please take pics of your art. We fall out laughing everytime we see these. 😉

Spreading Your Wings

I fall down when I walk. All. The. Time. Either my feet are mysteriously surrounded by unusually dense air or there is some kind of invisible trip wire system perpetually in my midst. These are the only viable possibilities as there appear to be no other culprits for my non-existent level of grace. Yes – having the inability to walk normally is yet another fabulous piece of the rockstar package that is Jo.

So given that the whole “one foot in front of the other” gig has proven to be a strangely complicated task for me, the idea of spreading my wings to give the wind a try is more than a little daunting. Admittedly I’m speaking metaphorically here, but I fall flat on my face in the figurative walk of life, too.

I worry about failure. About rejection. About judgement. I’m afraid that my time and effort will be wasted. That my words will fall flat. That I will flop. That I will crash.

These concerns afflict countless people. We focus heavily on endless negative “what if” scenarios that we conjure in our minds. Taking it a step further, let’s actually imagine what would happen if those worrisome maybes actually did turn into realities?

In the vast majority of cases, the world would keep turning, and life would go on anyway. Our personal anxiety or embarrassment would be a mere blip on other people’s radars and would quickly be forgotten. In the meantime, we would likely learn a lesson or two (or five), and we would then be that much wiser when taking a revised approach in another attempt down the road.

So what’s your worst case scenario? What if it (whatever your “it” might be) doesn’t work out the way you hope? What if you don’t succeed? Can you keep going? Does life go on for the rest of the world?

If we can say yes to those questions, (and in the universe of chasing your dreams, we almost always can), then we are our own obstacle.

You must overcome your fear of falling if you ever want to soar. Maybe we will find ourselves flopping back to the ground if we attempt to fly, but we definitely won’t be able to rise up if we aren’t even willing to try.

If you fall, you fall. But then you get up, you keep going, and you never ever stop trying.

Don’t allow fear to chain you down or keep you from sharing the beautiful gifts you were given. We are compelled to spread our wings for a reason, whatever those wings may be.

It’s time to release the fear, look to the skies, and give those divine beauties a run. ❤️

Big hugs to you all. Jo

Stop Waiting for Heaven

I am not one to push my faith on anyone. Simply put, it’s not my style. Furthermore, I believe that we are all given a chance to have our own journey and that includes our walks (stumbles / face-splats) of faith.

However I have no reticence about sharing my belief that you do not have to wait for heaven to experience it. My halo has yet to exit the angelic assembly line nor have all those harp lessons paid off to date (probably because I never attended or signed up for any). But I know when I’m in a moment that is so surreal and spectacular that I can sense I beautiful imprint of that moment on my soul.

This can happen when I see something extremely special to me like watching my husband and children walk onto the same little island that I visited as a child and that my father visited when he was young. More often than not, it will happen in the most insignificant and unlikely of times. Being together for a low rent meal. Laughing hysterically during family game day. Being collectively thrilled at watching the raccoons squabble over peanuts outside our window at night.

It’s the smallest of the small stuff, but the magic is immeasurably great. I want to bottle up those feelings so I can access them whenever I forget. And I do forget. Constantly. By the hour kind of constantly. Probably more often than that.

But when I get out of my way and can see the beauty of the moment, I can recognize that it’s there all the time. Clearly I don’t have the full deets on what will happen once I discard this sweet meat suit o’ mine, but I sincerely believe that any version of heaven would have to incorporate these moments of tremendous wonder and feelings of boundless love.

Feel free to plan to take up permanent residence in heaven after you are gone. Just don’t forget to notice the divine perfection that is all around you while you are here, too. You don’t have to live a life of perfection to be able to find the celestial magnificence that fills every corner of our existence. I’m a prime example of utter imperfection in action yet moments of paradise reveal themselves every day nonetheless.

Notice them. Appreciate them. Allow them to remind you if the spectacular soul who you truly are. And if along the way you do happen to find a way to bottle them up, please drop me a line. We could all use a little more Heaven ready and waiting in the wings. 😇🐆

Much love to you.

Jo

The Storms That We Endure Shape Our Beauty and Strengthen Us

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We judge ourselves with the harshest of filters when we are struggling within. We often feel like we are battered by our situations and our emotions. In those times of severe self-critical examination, we fail to notice the beautiful revelations in those moments. We can’t see that the storms that we are enduring will never define us yet they will give us definition.

Our cracked facade is never a sign of our being hopelessly broken but rather proof of our indomitable strength. The perceived faults are our true beauty and the scars are evidence of the roads upon which we have traversed and triumphed. Our lives are miraculous wonders and our stories are anything but happenstance.

Celebrate the rough patches. The sharp edges. The broken corners. The rugged beauty of our human existence is a true wonder to behold.

Don’t ever let the wind or water take you down. You can survive any storm that heads your way, and your being able to read these words proves how far you have already come.

Never give up, never give in, and always always always keep going. You have important things to do, and it’s time to let your true beauty shine.

Much love to you all.  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

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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.

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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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