Tag Archives: school

Mom Talk

This school year I will put my oldest five into public school after 8 years of homeschooling. It’s sad and not really a choice I wanted, but it is what it is and I’ll make the best of it (catch me at the gym with my little two working out, or wasting money at Target ✌). 

I realized first and foremost that I must learn to start speaking again in intelligible sentences and not Spongebob Squarepants quotes. Otherwise, attempts at making mommy friends and attending parent – teacher conferences, ARD meetings, etc, could be very awkward:

“Hi, are you Jacob’s mom? I’m Mrs….”

“I know you are but what am I?” 

I’m sure it won’t be all that bad. Like riding a bike again… After all, I believe I spoke in complete sentences and not one word commands before I had 7 children back to back. 

But I have noticed myself rambling on and on like a child monologuing about the 20th Transformers movie (or whatever number they’re on now) in repetitive, cringing detail. So far, while trying to get the kids successfully enrolled and placed, the counselors have been polite and simply smile while I drone on in a series of loosely threaded answers (complete with irrelevant and long – winded back stories)… But I guess they are counselors and are used to doing that…
SEE! There I go again! And I’m just blogging and not actually talking to anyone! 

I’m screwed. 

Maybe they have one of those books for dummies like “How to Start Talking Like an Adult after Years of Shut-In Mommy Speak.”

I’ll keep you posted on any progress…

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The Lost Lesson of Responsibility

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

Laura age 4-2

Recently, I had a conversation with someone close in age to myself about our childhoods.  I recalled my Saturday responsibilities growing up: raking and bagging leaves when I was younger, and mowing the lawn when I was a bit older. I had some kitchen clean up job every night of the week, except for my birthday, from as far back as I can remember (the above picture is me, age four).

When my grandparents needed help with things like cleaning out their garage or doing yard work, to their house I went.  I did get an allowance, but I was not paid to do these things.  I did them because I was a member of the house and as such, I was expected to pitched in.  When I did want extra money, my mom was always ready with a list of serious jobs.

There also wasn’t the constant badgering of “do you have homework” from my parents.  If I had it, I was expected to do it.  If I failed, that was on me.  And I was going to be in trouble for it.

As a mommy of a basketball team plus one and a half subs, I have a huge responsibility to teach them, well, responsibility.  I must say, I feel like I’m failing miserably.  Once upon a time we had chore day, which was in addition to the daily chores of kitchen clean up and nightly toy pick up.  But getting kids to do these things is hard. It takes a substantial amount of effort on the parents’ part to assign jobs, oversee them, etc. Not to mention, staying sane when they complain and whine every minute of the process.  I blogged about it a few years back 🙂

Then there is the teaching of responsibility with school work and helping with younger siblings.  It was actually much easier to know what was done and what was not done when my kids were all being homeschooled together.  Some work we did together.  The independent assignments took as long as they took.  There was no lying or cheating about it – I simply had to come in and glance at their paper to know how much was completed.  Now that three are in school, at least one has homework on a fairly regular basis.  I don’t usually ask, and he doesn’t usually come home eager to do it (understandable as it may be after being at school for seven hours).  It’s not until bedtime that he may panic and say he has work.  At this point, my reply is, “why didn’t you do it instead of _____?”  So a lot of his work goes back as incomplete.

Now I must confess that I am a helicopter mom by nature.  I like knowing what’s going on at all times with all my kids.  I usually err on the side of doing too much for them, yet getting upset when they don’t do something for themselves.  This is where I feel like I am doing them a great disservice in the lesson of responsibility.  Since they have been in school, I have let a lot of things slide.  Chores are a thing of the past.  I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to deal with the arguments.  Similarly, they now believe that chores are just a little too much on top of a long public school day.  So it is usually me who, after getting six kids ready and into bed, drags my tired self into the kitchen to clean up the mess. I clean the house. I do the laundry.  And when they are out of socks or underwear or their favorite pair of jeans has yet to be washed, they are upset with me for not having done it.  My first thought is why don’t YOU start doing your own laundry?! Yet how could I expect such a thing when I have never given them the opportunity of that responsibility?

It seems the more and more we do for our kids in an effort to “help” them, the more we are creating a helpless generation.  Does the idea of them ruining a whole load of laundry bother me?  Absolutely!!  Am I afraid that if I let them pack their own lunches, they will not get a balanced meal?  You bet!  But what am I really teaching them by simply doing it all for them, day after day?  If it can be measured by their constant ingratitude and complaining, I am teaching them nothing. And in the process, I am getting more and more exhausted and bitter.  Also, NOT HELPFUL.

I know that I need to take a few steps back and allow them to take responsibility for more.  I believe they would actually be grateful for this.  It’s a battle with myself, as well.  I found the following list from sheknows.com to be helpful for me as I try to begin this process:

mother and daughter doing dishes

1. Assign some accountability

Age-appropriate chores are a simple way to teach your child responsibility. Add in a little financial incentive and your darling will begin learning how to manage finances, too.

2. Let her make decisions

Letting your child make some of her own choices will teach her accountability and help her to gain independence. Younger children should be offered limited options, but give her the chance to choose from them.

3. Foster independence

The only way to master any skill is through practice. By letting her tackle age-appropriate tasks, like getting herself dressed, she will also become more self-reliant.

4. Set a good example

Taking your own responsibilities seriously sets a good example for your kiddo’s watchful eyes. “Whether we promote it or not, children always learn by example”, says Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Keeping your promises or being on time are ways you can lead by example.

5. Pick up a book

Stories pack a lot of punch, so when it comes to reading time, select books that illustrate responsibility. Interesting characters and situations she can identify with will hold her attention. Even better, she won’t tune you out because she isn’t being lectured!

6. Talk her through difficult situations

Although your first instinct is to direct and protect your adolescent, instead of automatically telling her what she should do, guide her through the process of coming to a conclusion on her own. Ask questions and encourage her to think it through with your support.

7. Show them the bigger picture

The ultimate goal is for your sweetheart act responsibly because she wants to, not just because she’s told to. Explaining to your child how doing her part is helping the family as a whole can sometimes help young children understand how their actions affect others.

Teaching your child responsibility helps build character and makes her a more independent, self-reliant person. As she grows, remember to let her responsibilities evolve. Finally, don’t forget to give her plenty for praise for a job well done!

Here is a list of Age-appropriate chores.


A book I read several years back, which I found invaluable at the time and seriously need to re-read a few more times, was Have a New Kid by Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman.  He takes a very simple, yet no-nonsense approach to parenting, discipline, and teaching responsibility and accountability.


The Real World

real world

The Real World – A term we’ve all grown up hearing and using probably for as long as we can remember.  However, it seems I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.  At the very least, I’ve been noticing it more.  And it’s getting on my nerves.  So I started thinking during a night’s wrestle with insomnia, what the heck does it mean?

I’m sure at this point you’re saying, “Duh, it’s when you get kicked out or flee the nest, get a job and start paying your own bills.” Hey, that’s pretty much how I’ve always viewed it: life outside the safe haven walls of Mom and Dad’s house.

But I’m going to be obnoxious for a moment and enter a few definitions:

relevant or practical in terms of everyday life
synonyms: practical · actual · everyday · real · real-life · true
– EncartaDictionaries

Real Life
– Merriam-Webster

the realm of practical or actual experience, as opposed to the abstract, theoretical,
or idealized sphere of the classroom, laboratory, etc.
– Dictionary.com

1. Noun – The real world is the place in which one actually must live and the
circumstances with which one actually must deal.
2. Adjective – The realm of human experience comprising physical objects,
and excluding theoretical constructs, hypotheses, artificial environments and
“virtual” worlds such as the Internet, computer simulations, or the imagination.
– YourDictionary.com

You may notice that none of these definitions mention anything about being an adult.  So it’s safe to say, unless we are all living in the Matrix, the real world begins at the point of existence.  For the baby taking his first breath of oxygen after birth, that’s his whole world: his real world.  For the two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store over a candy bar, that’s his whole world: his real world. For the fifth grader about to take a test, yep, that’s his real world, too.  The businessman.  The couple walking down the aisle.  The grandma on her death bed.  From existence until death, our life and its events are real and thus, part of the real world.
These definitions also do not hinge upon employment or education.  So why, then, does everyone seem to follow the notion that the real world is something that magically begins at the age of 18? School is not the real world, but the second after graduation is.  Life certainly counts and matters before those events!  And most assuredly, we are capable of making decisions that have very real consequences.  I don’t care if we are at an age of reasoning or not.  My 15 month old climbed onto the bed this morning and promptly fell off.  My 7 year old decided to make a game of “run into the bed at full speed and slide across.”  It didn’t go so well either. Both were very real consequences of their actions.  My ten year old son is being bullied in school and told that he needs to learn proper coping skills so that, and I quote [the school counselor], “so he will know how to handle these situations when he goes into the real world.”  She had me up until that last part.  Yes, learn coping skills.  But to deal with NOW.  Every day.  Not some abstract point in the far reaches of the future.  The real world is every day for every person.  Regardless of age, event or location, we are all a part of it.
In fact, I’ve heard this lame future point of reference term so much lately as an excuse as to why we must put up with this that and the other, or why we must do something NOW, that I might just jump out of my skin the next time I hear someone mention THE REAL WORLD. Is it a cop-out?  Are we simply in some sort of training simulation until our entrance into this point of our lives?
I’ve been told so many times that children who are homeschooled are denied the experiences that properly prepare them for, yes, you guessed it: the real world. Who came up with that dumb idea?  My kids learning in their home is not as real as kids learning in a classroom?  My kids not being picked on by a bunch of their classmates is somehow denying them the privilege of coping with the office jerk they’ll meet in their adult future?  Maybe.  After all, one of my kids now in public school is at a loss as to what to do when he gets bullied.  Hey, maybe if he had always been in real school, he would know how to be mean back.  Or, he’d have learned something more effective than telling the kid he doesn’t like what is being said to him (his current “coping skill” method).  But at the moment, I’m leaning towards the beginning of John Mayer’s song “No Such Thing:”

“Welcome to the real world,” she said to me
Condescendingly…

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above.

Perhaps, we are actually denying our children something even more important by separating their lives this way.  I am not saying there is not a difference between the child dependent on his mother and father for all needs and the mother and father meeting those needs.  To be certain, they are very different positions.  The parents have different responsibilities than that of their dependents.  But I think that to diminish a child’s life experiences as merely a foreshadowing of what’s to come (“you think that’s bad, just wait until you’re in the REAL WORLD!”), we are denying them coping skills.  A child’s responsibility is VERY great!  They are who the future will depend on, and so on!  Their lessons in class are vital!  The way they handle themselves and their relationships with everyone around them are just as important, if not more so, NOW as they will be when they are adults.  Our children must understand that everything they do matters.  Now, in a few years from now, and for the rest of their lives.  The here and now IS the real world!


First Official Spring Break

This January, my school aged kids began attending public school for the first time. It’s been a slow and sometimes difficult transition. But one thing we’re used to is fun field trips!

For the kids’ first official spring break, my parents wanted to plan something extra special.

In the beautiful Texas Hill Country, they own a breathtaking piece of land. The kids are happy to roam the 80 acres, feed the fish, look out for deer and sit by or swim in the pool. But this was no ordinary trip! A little rain meant that Enchanted Rock will have to wait for another time.  But we had a lot of fun visiting the Nimitz Museum and learning about the World Wars. We toured LBJ ranch where my ten year old was in paradise asking his usual number of questions of the guides (they’re educated questions, so most of the guides were happy to answer).

After the younger four and I went back home, my mom and dad took the older two to the Houston Port Authority and the rodeo. ALL six kids came back beaming. The older four have already written a dozen thank you cards each, which I hope to get in the mail asap!

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Dealing with Loss

Such a title immediately brings to mind death. And death, for certain, is a loss, heavy and painful and hard to come back from. I’ve blogged about such a loss before.

But death is not the only form of loss. There is a loss of innocence, of which I’ve also blogged. The loss of a certain season in one’s life, or a difficult change. We all will experience some form of loss in our lifetime, and perhaps many times over. Sometimes it seems that others deal with these changes “better,” or at least continue to move forward despite their pain. I feel that too often I’m immobilized by loss. As harsh as it may sound, the death of my grandparents and uncle were something I could accept more than, say, “smaller” losses. I knew their suffering at the end of their lives had come to a close and now they were at peace. I knew they lived loving others, their families especially, and therefore, there was no lack of closure when they passed. I mourned them, for certain. I regretted things I’d said and done, and those I had not (about which I also blogged). But I was able to move on knowing and accepting these things.

But when I lose a period of my life, that perhaps I should simply be grateful I experienced in the first place, moving on is much more difficult.

Recently, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had to put the bigger kids in school. For most people, this isn’t a big deal. Their kids always went to school. But for us and our kids’ individual needs, homeschooling always seemed to be the best fit. And while I had a difficult period of self doubt while pregnant with my beautiful sixth child, I never not wanted to homeschool them. After baby was born, I felt myself again – crazy pregnancy hormones gone. I felt we were back in our groove. Then hubby got a new job out of town, moved, and suddenly I felt shook up again. I was going to lose so many good friends and a strong network and support system. My kids were going to lose some very good friends. We were all going to lose a church we were deeply involved in and loved very much. It would happen… even though the move took more months than we originally thought (for which I was grateful). But I knew it was coming and I was broken.

And then another loss, the confidence others had in me and the assurance that my kids were succeeding, seemed to disappear over night. Was I doing that bad of a job? I don’t think so. My kids were happy, healthy, and they were learning. Maybe not what a public school assessment might have deemed necessary, but they were learning constantly. And they loved learning! They also were learning things that cannot be taught in school. But this lack of confidence around me once again made me lose faith in myself and made me question myself and what I was doing. Was I somehow doing some injustice to my children? I believe they had good intentions, but sometimes that is not enough to ease the pain.

We finally got settled into our new home after much bouncing about for several months. The older three went to school, with some significant delays for the 13 year old (he’s on the autism spectrum and so a plan had to be made for his needs, etc.).

Now there is a loss. In my heart, in my home, in my mind. I struggle to keep up with their school work and with their new found struggles. My heart aches, back and forth, with the ache of my mind: Why? What can I do to help with their struggles when I’m struggling also? How do I let go and watch them literally fail classes, or simply be allowed (in the 13 year old’s case) to go through the day skipping assignments? How do I reconcile these new feelings of inadequacy? I try to be grateful that we had the time together that we did. Yet that seems to be clouded by the doubt: should I have started this journey in the first place? I never planned to not see it through to the end! But I didn’t plan for the what if of not being able to. And if that what if was possible, should I have ever started?

How do I open up again when I feel such a disconnect from those who stopped supporting me and believing in me?

And so the loss that I cannot really explain in words, can’t gather in my thoughts, can’t seem to reconcile during the day as I focus my attention on the little three… the immobilization of helplessness. And the fear that this loss will be misunderstood for selfishness, more hormones, or simply something that’s “not that big of a deal.”

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Homework

My seven year old had to write about her life today for homework. Our lives can be summed up with memories of events, both good and bad. For her, there seems to be only one that stands out. And I’m happy to say it’s a good one!

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Bullies

Bullies have always been around and, unfortunately, they always will.  Has bullying gotten worse?  I do not claim to know.  All I know is I was bullied horribly in school and now, as a mother, the thought of my own children being tortured unnecessarily brings me to my knees.  I am sure that most parents agree that bullying is not okay and hope that their children never experience it.  I have, however, spoken to people (parents and not yet parents) who think bullying is healthy in some bizarre way.  It builds character… makes them stronger… teaches them how to stand up for themselves… um, am I missing something??  A kid must be kicked in the stomach to know it hurts?  Or to burn their hand on the stove to know it’s hot?  Do they need to be called a string of nasty names to know they don’t like being made fun of?  I think that kind of logic is the most ridiculous and illogical bunch of nonsense I have ever heard.

My oldest son, who will be 12 in a few months, used to be autistic.  I say he used to be because he has since come almost fully out of it after being homeschooled and having his diet changed at age 7.5.  His last diagnosis 4 years ago was Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – a long name for “your kid has some characteristics of autism but not enough to fully diagnose him as such.”  When he was in public school kindergarten for two years, he experienced a lot of bullying.  I did not really know it at the time because I was not there and his teacher never told me anything.  It turns out, she was one of the bullies, too.  Unfortunately, he did not know how to communicate very well and was unable to tell me what was going on.  Our after-school conversations never reached more than: “How was your day?”  “Fine.”  “What did you do?”  “I don’t know.”  Any more questions were met with silence.   A few times, he said some things that really bothered me, and when I pressed more, he would stop talking completely.  He said things like, “My teacher kicked me,” “she grabbed my face and squeezed it.”  It hurt me to know something was going on, but not know what.  We pulled him out after that second year because he had learned nothing.  He could not count, read and could not communicate with us.  I could sense his unhappiness and did not want him to hate school.

Now that he has been out of school and functions like most other kids his age not on the spectrum, he has told me things about what went on.  He has told me the things kids said to him… the things the teacher said to him.  He told me how he was not allowed to go to the bathroom because the teacher didn’t believe he had to go.  Or how he was yelled at by the teacher for taking too long in the bathroom.  The list goes on and it hurts deeply whenever he just randomly tells me something.  He knew the whole time that it was mean and it always hurt him, he just lacked the ability at the time to tell me.  For all the kids who cannot express to their parents the pain of their day, either out of fear or an inability of some sort, my heart breaks.

Yesterday, my 8-year old got into the car after soccer practice and he burst into tears.   I asked him what was wrong and he said the kids were mean to him and were calling him “tiny” and “little b**ch.”  I was seeing red, but I calmly texted his coach and told her that some kids had called him a bad word.  She replied that she was very sorry and would find out who said it and talk to that child.

Obviously, we will all experience bullying in our lives.  As adults we will have to deal with bullies, too.  We will even have to deal with parents who bully our children and allow their own children to bully.  So for the people I have talked to who say homeschooling denies them of this wonderful experience, perhaps they are right.  My “sheltered” children are not used to this.  The friends they have are not used to it either.  They are all missing this experience.  And let me tell you something: I am okay with that!  They may be sheltered and protected from that kind of “education,” but they are not incomplete people as a result.  They shine with innocence and happiness.  They do not suffer from anxiety and all these other crazy things I hear about, like kids cutting themselves because they are hurting so much.

The world can be a very cold, evil place.  They will find this out soon enough.  Why must they be thrown to the wolves when they are still so young and lacking the tools to deal with it appropriately?  Sure, they learn… or suffer the consequences.  At home, in public or private school, not every day will be an ice cream sundae.  There are good and bad days and some days that are just hard.  But our children are young and innocent for only a short period of time.  I do not mind keeping that innocence in tact while growing their good character, morals, education and souls in a safe environment.