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. 😉

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

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

Back to School Anxiety (Mine, Not Theirs)

It all begins once more tomorrow. We went through the various outfit options, prepped the lunches and backpacks, and multiple kids got in big trouble before it was over. So all in all, it was a standard school night kind of evening. I already know that I will be terribly sad in the morning when I drop them off, and then I will be even sadder when I come home to the deafening silence of an empty home. Thankfully that pile o’ dishes and crumbs that will greet me upon my return will most definitely be awaiting me will remind me of their close proximity. Part of me is being sarcastic, but a bigger part of me is genuinely grateful for everything they leave scattered in their collective kid wake.

The good news is that if history is any indicative of future performance (which it is NOT in finance – please see attached disclosures), I may be luxuriating in the quiet after I get past my initial adjustment period. Although my favorite part of the day will always be when we are all together once more, maybe a few minutes of solitude won’t be the worst thing either.

Back to school Monday feels like a pretty crappy week starter at the moment, but I have a stockpile of work spreadsheets and truckloads of laundry that are betting otherwise. I guess we shall see.

Whether you are back to school, over school, past school, or just rejoicing in an endless  summer, I send you wishes for a lovely Monday and a beautiful week ahead.

Big hugs to all.  Jo

Parenting Struggle – Is Conformity Helpful or Harmful?

nana compare
This photo comparison cracks me up. It’s a perfect reflection of both sides of the coin that make up this funny beautiful awesome girl of mine.

As one who tends to preach owning your individuality, I find myself feeling more than a hair hypocritical that I struggle with the concept of conformity when it applies to my children. On the one hand I genuinely want them to stay away from running with the herd and just focus on being themselves whatever that may mean. However the other parenting part of me – the part that (likely incorrectly) assumes that their childhood challenges will be the same as those I faced – worries that their exclusion from that group will lead them to being trampled by it.

In my mind, the word “conformity” has always taken on a shadowy pejorative connotation, but LA at wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ at wrote a post that got me thinking (her posts have a fantastic way of doing just that). Is conformity really as bad as I have made it out to be?

Are there times when we should encourage some level of conformity for the sake of finding a moderate level of acceptance and comfort within one’s peer group? Could this be particularly true in the case of my comical kid (photos above) as she heads to middle school? If I said nothing, she would probably head of to school in full 80’s gym / wolf cub chic style. ***Please refer to this ridiculous yet true post on my primary blog for wolf cub reference clarification  —> so-i-just-waxed-my-daughters-leg.

The honest truth is that I believe that my daughter would be more than okay with either photo opp kind of look because she would never be a conformist no matter what she might be wearing. The perception of others has never defined my kids, and ultimately, the issue is not theirs. It’s mine.

Quite ironically, I really do recognize the error in my thought process. I just can’t seem to get that mama bear protection instinct to go gentle into that good night. I look for in style clothes that they like but that they also find as cool as the mismatched hole-riddled outfits that they already had in their drawers. I try to get them to fix their hair in moderately non-dorky ways and bug them about taking care of their teeth so they won’t reek of monkey butt breath. The non-monkey butt breath mandate is one subject that leaves me with zero mom guilt because seriously – nobody wants in on your stank breath action. No. Body.

Breath funk aside, I do want my kids to feel free to be themselves fully. I just fear the pain that comes with their not being accepted and the hurt that is inevitable when you are ridiculed or excluded. Many of us still wrestle with these same social challenges as adults, but we also have greater control over whom we will allow into our world. We get to decide who we want to spend the bulk of our days with and release those who are hopelessly toxic (or let go of the icky as Mer the rockstar extraordinaire might say – merbearsworld.wordpress.com/).

But you don’t get to pick the kids who surround your children in middle school, and more often that not, a handful of big-mouthed self-designated mob bosses run that show like lord of the frickin’ flies. I am saddened by my own memories of that time period in my life, and I want desperately to keep my children from carrying those painful experiences throughout their own lives long after their school years have passed.

So I push more than I should. I nag about their needing to change their look instead of smiling and snapping another pic for the embarrassing wedding video down the road. I search for ways to help them blend in or try to direct them toward focusing on their unique characteristics that would be appealing en masse. My intentions are good, but I don’t know about the actual execution.

Parenting is an endless learning process, and you never really know if you get it right until you are past the moment when you get to pick your move. No matter what you read or whom you try to emulate, there is no conformity when it comes to being a mom or dad to your kids. We all do the best we can in our own funky individual ways just like our parents did with us. We found our way and our kids will, too.

As far as I’m concerned, the herd can stick it. My sweet-breathed kids are incredible individuals who are meant to shine in their own ways. No matter how much I worry, my well-meaning but off-kilter advice will never be able to hide their light. With that said, I still believe that the proper use of a hairbrush does go a long way. I’m just sayin’.

😉  Jo