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. 😉

How Deep is the Water – A Flood of Anxiety

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A dear friend of mine has a daughter who just began her new life at college. It’s not in Houston, but it’s only about an hour’s drive away. No biggie. She’s a good kid, a strong student, and the type of person whom you know will be successful. Life has dealt her some very hard kicks, but she is resilient and will not be defeated by the adversity that confronts her.

But she is drowning in this new world of college. The days have barely begun, and all she can focus on is getting back home. Her separation anxiety is off the charts, and she is missing her family to the point of being locked in place and utterly inconsolable. She feels like she is going under and sheer panic has taken hold.

I understand this feeling far too well. My husband and I went on a trip overseas many years ago. While we were there, I badgered him into taking the hotel’s Cliff’s Notes version of scuba (a.k.a “An Inappropriately Brief Summary of How Not to Die While Swimming Deep in the Ocean”). An 18 year old trainer gave us the ten minute speech (that in reality should have been explained in a classroom over multiple days of training), slapped some tanks on our backs, and plopped us into the resort pool.

 I. Freaked. Out.

We are talking a complete and total meltdown. Massive claustrophobia. Unimaginable terror about being unable to get enough oxygen. Horrific fear about drowning. All of it. I was very literally hyperventilating into my regulator and tears were streaming down my face inside my mask. It was absolutely terrifying.

My husband had been swimming a few feet away from me and immediately recognized that I was circling the mental drain. In his old soul wisdom, he knew that he had to intervene and proceeded to do something that truly saved me. He grabbed my shoulders, pushed me up out of the water, and said with a seriously annoyed tone, “Dude – Stand up.”

In my terror (a.k.a. complete doofus attack), I had literally forgotten that we were in the most shallow of shallow ends. Of a frickin pool. At a hotel.

The water was maybe 4 feet deep. Probably more like 3.

Embarrassing. So so embarrassing.

The anxiety attack was immediately gone only to be replaced by an “I’m a dumbass” attack. As I was too humiliated to continue showing my face above water, I dropped into the pool once more and of course knew from that point on that I was a-okay. Later that day I did a 40 foot dive without batting an eye. A couple of years and multiple certifications later, I went to almost 140 feet. But this isn’t about that kind of depth.

We sometimes feel like we are drowning in a flood of debilitating fear when we are in unfamiliar surroundings. We lose our sense of safety and control, and we begin to spiral wildly. The trick is to recognize when the depth of terror is of our own making. Sometimes it takes another person to jar us out of our anti-fantasy, but ideally we learn to find a way to recognize the delusion so we can then snap ourselves out of it.

Change is terrifying, and staring into the unknown rattles us all. But more often than not, the water is nowhere near as deep as we imagine it to be. In most cases, we truly just need to remember to stand up.

The floodwaters of anxiety cannot be allowed to overpower you or steal your hope and joy. Stand up so you can see who is standing by your side in support. Stand up and be willing to distinguish what is a true threat versus what is simply unknown. Stand up and realize that you are okay in this moment and that you can release the panic that distracts your mind and obscures your purpose.

And after you have regained your confidence and maybe even laughed at the comedy of your overreaction, you can dive in once more and at last begin to see the world of wonders just waiting to be discovered. ❤️

Big hugs to you all.  Jo

Parenting Struggle – Is Conformity Helpful or Harmful?

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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

Winks from the Universe

Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is sending you little divine winks to confirm that you are heading in the right direction? I think that I often miss them, but I suspect that this is not indicative of their absence.

I don’t believe in an inherently right or wrong path as there are innumerable choices we can make in every minute of each day. But even within those countless shades of possibilities that endlessly color our moments, I do experience times when I feel like I’m truly resonating with something important – like I’m making contact with the part of my soul that is so much bigger than my day to day life. I feel like I’m following a course that will allow me to spread the wings I innately have that are uniquely my own. The moments come and go in a flash, but when they happen, they leave a beautiful imprint on my spirit.

When I’m in that place, I find myself noticing funny little happenstances that only I would recognize. It can be a friendly text coming in from a person dancing around my thoughts. Sometimes it’s a surprisingly well-timed song on the radio. And this evening, it was bumping into a friend and having him unexpectedly share with me that he enjoys reading my writing – a surprising confession and a beautiful compliment.

Please note that I’ll be the first person to tell you that this isn’t earth-shattering stuff. Nevertheless those little unexpected moments reinforce the significance of the positive thoughts and actions we enact. They remind us that although we may be surrounded by a boundless universe and are mere specks of matter in the grand cosmic equation, what we do matters and who we are matters. These winks confirm in the most personal of ways that no moment of our existence is inconsequential.

So this is my little wink back to the universe. A hat tip if you will. Thank you for encouraging me forward. Thank you for reminding me once more to release more of the fear and place more of my energy in trust.

Thank you also to my friend for his kind words. I appreciated them more than he could possibly know and needed to hear them more than I could have realized. Truly – thank you.

Big hugs to all. Jo

Feeling Lost – Destination Unknown

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I have serious trust issues. If I am going somewhere with other people, I insist on driving my own car. I struggle with surprises of any kind unless I am on the planning side of the equation. I share my deepest hurts with a very select group of people. And I am most comfortable when I can keep the majority of the world at arm’s length (or ideally much more) despite my surface smile and boisterous laughter. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and frankly, I’m comfortable with those boundaries.

The problem that I face is that my trust issues have a terrible tendency of extending to my comfort with the unknown plans of the Universe. Although I feel an extreme aversion to pushing my faith on others (unless you share my bed or carry 50% of my genes and then you are going to get an earful regularly), I don’t question the existence of God (Holy Trinity / Divine Spirit / Universe / Higher Power / Your Preferred Term Here). Divine plans have consistently blown my own ideas out of the water despite my incessant trepidation, and I have always been cared for even in the darkest of times. I know that there is no need to worry about what will happen in my life.

Yet I do worry. Constantly.

I question what will happen next. What move I should make. What plans I should follow. What direction I should go.

I constantly seek control of this spiritual experience we refer to as being human. A huge part of me recognizes the ironic humor in my futile attempts to control the uncontrollable while the other part fails to recognize the joke. I may aim my ship in one direction or another, yet I will never have any control over the wind that will carry me forward.

Nevertheless, I will find solid ground. Even though I might not be able to read the map of my future, I will be given direction. There is a path for me even though I can’t perceive it at this point in my journey. I have a purpose. A big important and wonderfully special purpose. We all do.

The Universe’s plan for us is not dependent on our willingness to trust that it’s there. However, it sure would make the trip more fun if we could remember to always enjoy the ride, to never forget to take in the scenery, and to be aware of appreciating the smallest of beautiful moments along the way.

Though we may feel like we are hopelessly adrift, we are never lost. We are on the path during each day that we live, and every moment is a new destination waiting to be recognized and adored. You are already where you are supposed to be, and so am I.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves what our lives will be like once we get to wherever we are going, we need to ask ourselves what we want our lives to be like at this point in the journey right now. The moment is here.

So what’s your next move? What should you be celebrating in your life and in your spirit right now?

Hugs and hope, love and light always.  Jo

Another Jo Project – A Daughter’s Room Makeover Surprise with Ocean and Beach Themed Design and Decor

***Originally posted on https://anotherjoproject.com/.

1hannah after - window and desk - ocean and beach decor IG

I struggle with a tremendous amount of anxiety when my kids are away. It’s a long-standing pattern within my persona, and my therapy of choice for stress relief is to tackle another self-created project. To my husband’s great dismay, it’s an endless task, but I do turn out some fun results at times. So when my children went away to camp this past week, I channeled that nervous energy into decorating my daughter’s room.

She had been asking me to create an ocean and beach themed room for her since we moved into this home several months ago. Her walls remained bare because I had yet to put her room at the top of the design agenda. I didn’t have a design plan in mind, but I typically don’t until I get to work on a specific space. Regardless I was certain that it was going to be a monster project. Consequently it was perpetually hanging at the caboose end of the “Rooms Still Pending Design Work” list.

3hannah before - window wall

Although her room was bland, she kept it lively with random and ever-changing mountains o’ crap. As the mountains weren’t her optimal theme, she patiently waited her turn. To her sincere credit, she never complained nor did she make the slightest fuss when multiple other rooms were completed long before her own. As she had no idea that I was going to do anything to her room (likely because I came up with the plan minutes before her departure), it was a tremendous surprise for her (and an excellent time crunch motivator for me).

1hannah before - bed wall

To put it mildly, this room was a serious beast to knock out in under a week but I had been stockpiling a few ocean and beachy knick-knacks here and there. Thankfully Amazon Prime and Hobby Lobby were able to fill in a substantial amount of the gaping holes of my unplanned approach.

4hannah after - desk wall - ocean and beach decor IG

5hannah after - window wall - ocean and beach decor IG

 We also created several large display pieces with some unused distressed wood that we still had on hand from an office wall project I put together several months ago (that’s a separate post for another day). The pieces included a unique picture frame holder, a wreath display, and a name board. From a skill perspective, these weren’t difficult to complete. However from a time and pain in the butt-ness perspective, they were projects I would not recommend one do in a limited timeframe. I will write a post with DIY tips on how to create these for those who are interested.

Incredibly, we completed the room and put on the finishing touches right before we ran out the door to pick the kids up at the end of their camp week. It was exhausting beyond words, but her wonderfully shocked and ecstatic reaction made it all worth while.

2hannah after - bed and dresser - ocean and beach decor IG

More often than not, my life fails to look like the stuff of Hallmark movies. We mess up constantly. Lose our tempers. Get it wrong and then find a way to make it even worse.

But every now and then, we really get it right. And when that happens, it’s an immense gift to all of us.

I believe strongly in the value of creating a personal space that makes a person feel good, and it is extremely important to me that my family feels that their home is warm, inviting, and special. I love that I was able to create this room for my daughter because her elation with calling it her own is palpable.

Rejoice in the big parenting wins when they happen, but find joy in the smallest of good moments as well. It doesn’t have to be a room redo or a massive surprise. A simple “I love you” in the morning or a sweet note in a lunchbox is a world changer for children.

It’s not about the presents. It’s about your presence. Be there, see them, and let them know that no ocean in the world is anywhere near as deep as your love for them.

If you would like help with your kids’ rooms, drop me a line. If you have fun posts on your child room decor, I would love to hear about that, too!

I wish the very best to you all!  🙂

Jo Price

***Originally posted on https://anotherjoproject.com/.

Travel Anxiety Overload – Don’t Panic

I could be scheduled for a flight to the moon, and I would be happy as a clam as long as my family was by my side. But the moment I have to take a trip by myself, I’m basically purchasing a first class ticket to Crazyville (because one should never book economy class when flying into insanity).

I blame my kids. I was normal before they came along. Clarification – I was normal-ish specifically with regard to travel (but absolutely nothing else at all). The moment the mini-Jos appeared – boom – separation anxiety mania. Again with the clarification – my separation anxiety, not theirs. My children are annoyingly chill when I’m away. Although my husband vehemently denies it, I firmly believe that he intravenously supplements their diets with a chocolate drip while I’m away. (Lucky kids.) There is also a strong possibility that’s he’s just an amazing father. (Lucky all of us.)

But I have no chocolate I.V. and am therefore significantly less copacetic about the situation. I just worry about… (insert any random / statistically improbable / impossible occurrence that your brain can conjur here). Burglaries (I can walk to the police station from my house), plane crash (stats don’t support that), car crash (my being there won’t change those stats), pool accidents (we have no pool), illness (and on the 8th day God created pediatricians), flash hurricanes preventing me from returning home (yeah so that’s not a thing in the Gulf of Mexico but there was a tropical storm that actually did appear overnight in Houston several years ago – Tropical Storm Allison – huge mess!), or alien invasions (of the off planet kind that will probably necessitate a space wall courtesy of our new space army).

And then there’s the whole general social anxiety thing. I fake it damn well, but I am actually completely overwhelmed when I am out of my personal zone and away from my people. The littlest thing will send me into an internal panic, and I become particularly nervous when I have to go into the office for the first time in months. As an embarrassing example, I typically try to fly in the evening before I need to be there because I dread having a ton of faces turn my way when I walk onto the work floor unexpectedly mid workday. I feel like Norm in that old show “Cheers” when everyone greets me except I have zero comfort with finding myself in the spotlight and wish that I could do a sneaky army crawl and pop up unnoticed behind my computer screens. But even that spotlight doesn’t hold a candle to the discomfort I feel with regard to the hug gauntlet I must traverse if I’m not there before most of the team arrives.

There are ten thousand people en route to my desk (give or take about ten thousand people), and I feel obligated to hug them all. It started years ago with a small group of people and has since grown to comical proportions as the team has become very large. Ironically I actually am a total hugger and genuinely love my team members, so it’s not the actual hug part of the show that unnerves me. I just have no interest in perfunctory hugs for the whole work floor and get seriously weirded out when I feel like everyone is watching (which in reality is not actually happening). In addition I am acutely aware that some people don’t like to be hugged ever but then they will look weird, too, if they don’t join in on the team lovin’ so bring it on in here big guy! Eck.

As I have made it to town already, I should be there early enough to evade the excessive team P.D.A. lovefest. There will be a hug here and there, but I will be able to skip out on the over-thinking of my emotions and whatever additional emotional story I create in my mind for the non-huggers. Crisis aversion TBA.

The world will keep spinning. It will be fine. I will be fine. And so will my kids and my husband. We always are.

Hugs to all! Jo

**I will update you on my wacky Jo work trip tales because they always happen regardless of my plans to the contrary. They work out every time, but I never seem to have bland travels. If you have any funny travel tales of your own, I would love to read them. Feel free to tag me and post a link to it the comments here. 🙂

*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 6 of the challenge, I am tagging https://insidetherainbow.blog/. If anyone in the world can get why the hug gauntlet would make me shudder, I know that it’s you!!! 😉 Hugs to you sweet friend.