Monday, January 23, 2012


I've been meaning to write about homeschooling and what my intentions are with it. It needs to be addressed, but since my children will be "second generation" homeschoolers, I find myself taking the routine for granted. I research and read and stumble on people's blogs who are home educating their children and I sense a common tone: desperation. They seem to have so much to prove. Haha! See! Look how much I'm doing! Look how brilliant my children will be! I am going above and beyond! I'm not just keeping up with standards, I'm creating ever higher and higher academic goals that we WILL achieve! It all feels like struggle. They seem to be overachieving because they have to prove (to the outside world? the local school administrators? their families? themselves?) that they have made a superior educational choice for their children and that they, as parent-educator, are brilliant and on top of everything. Their blogs have "tips," "curricula add-ons," and my favorite, "some printable worksheets that I just created." Often they appear to be pushing their child(ren) into busy work that is more advanced than said child's grade level. They appear ever-patient, ever-prepared, ever-flowing font of knowledge and wisdom and experience. Yet, to quote The Princess Bride (because there can never be enough of that), "Why is there fear behind your eyes?" I can seriously almost smell it on some of these homeschooling blogs. And yet, I don't have it. I just don't understand what all the fuss is about.

I have yet to meet a "second generation" home-educator, as I am. I know they exist, but maybe we just don't feel the need to prove ourselves, at least on the wide world of the internet. Don't misunderstand me - I'm, technically, a "new" homeschooling parent. I have a bright, precocious almost-five year old. I should be freaking out. I should be frantically gathering supplies, making plans, drafting lessons, sifting through curricula, wondering how I will balance everything, worrying that she's not signed up for enough "extra curricular" activities, making sure she has a good peer group, etc. But I'm not.

Ok, did I just say that? Yes. I am relaxed because I know something. Homeschooling really works despite our best efforts. Yes, despite. I'm literally living proof that it works. It's not for everyone, but most people who start down this path have already done the hard work - just starting is the work. Being willing to sacrifice your time and energy and go against the mainstream flow is the hardest job of it all. So all these people I read just need to relax. You've done the hardest bit. You've declared yourself a homeschooling parent, pulled your kid out of school or just kept them home, and so you need to pat yourself on the back. Whew.

Many of us are intuitive parents of our babies and toddlers. Sure, you get nervous about certain things and call your doctor, your mother or father, but the bulk of the time, you just go with it. And, unless your baby is in daycare fulltime, you spend most of your time with your baby. You are it. You are the first one he sees when he wakes, the last one he sees when he sleeps and he trusts you. And then you start to trust yourself. You know when he's hungry. You know when he's overtired and sick or ready for a different toy. You know how to get that baby to sleep, make that baby laugh, feed and change and bathe that baby. Sure, you may have read a few books about it, but nothing, no one, really prepares us for the feeling of living at the "edge of intuition." Living with a creature so utterly befuddling and unlike anyone else that we can only go on instinct because there's never been another creature like him on earth. And you love that child. Fiercely, wholly. So, why when that same child, that same one you've rocked, nursed, and played with for all of his life, turns a certain age, would you turn him out of the house and send him off to spend the bulk of his time learning from strangers? When you're the one who taught him the beauty of a smile? When you're the one who taught him how to drink from a cup? How to share? How to look at a sunset? How to play chase with the waves? How to build castles from blocks and how to eat? Why do we parents lose trust in our intuition and our fierce love?

James Baldwin said, "A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him." Now, don't get me wrong here, this is not an "anti-school" blog post. This is a blog post for those of you who already want or do homeschool your child. I don't think teachers in schools despise children, generally. But they don't know what you know about your child, that's for sure. They don't have a parent's love. So, that's the start. That's how you know you can do it. I know that I can. I may be terrible at math, and not hold a degree in early childhood education, but I know that I can teach my children what they need to know. My intention, as I need to get to it, being the title of my post and all, is to raise children who have a thirst for knowledge and who are self-sufficient enough to quench that thirst themselves. Sir Walter Scott (yes, an old one), wrote, "All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education." I believe that. And I believe in it. Granted, a five year old cannot have the chief hand in much, even though she thinks she'd like to. But the outcome that I hope for is that my children have a sense of ownership in their education. That they feel nurtured and nourished in body and soul and mind by their educational experience and thus have the foundation for self-sufficient adulthood. I believe that that outcome can be best achieved at home.

At home. It sounds sweet and almost provincial. Domestic has recently become a dirty word and I don't know why. Home is the world. Or it can be. Home provides us with stability, peace, security, comfort, and is our greatest resource. To me, it seems a natural place to provide a child with an education. You do anyway, even if your child goes to school. The lessons a child learns at home are not all academic, but they are vital. Home is already a classroom... it's ok to keep it that way. And home isn't always about shelter. It's at home that we can sometimes be the most vulnerable, the most challenged. My intention is to create an environment at home that encourages exploration in a safe way, and that challenges in a loving way. I'd like my home to be full of excited children, creating and learning and contributing to a harmonious family life.

Self-sufficiency, curiosity, self-respect, love and respect of the natural world, acceptance and love for all people, health of body and mind, authenticity, creativity, internal freedom, kindness, common sense, revolutionary thinking, individuality. wisdom, love of peace, and self-trust are what I most hope to foster in my children as I "teach" them. I did not say "A student," "star athlete," "great performer," "obedient child..." on purpose. My children will show me what they are in time and my intention and intuition will guide them there.

Another merit of home is that it preserves the diversity between individuals. If we were all alike, it might be convenient for the bureaucrat and the statistician, but it would be very dull, and would lead to a very unprogressive society. -- Bertrand Russell

A Winter's Day

Winter solitude--
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.
-- Basho

Finally, last week, winter came to the house by the sea. I've been meaning to preserve and write about these lovely images I captured the day after it snowed. They are especially beautiful today, as we are in the midst of a winter thaw. Sigh. When I see the eloquence of snow-covered trees, the drear of winter lessens. I've noticed that winter in Maine is a time in which our outside and inside are clearly divided. The house becomes truly a cave - full of warmth, chaos (in my case), laughter, tears, smells of richly spiced food and damp snow clothes. I need only to step outside into Basho's world of one color to immediately feel calm. The summer doesn't have this sharp definition - our outside and insides mingle with screened porches and bare skin - we have no need to fetter ourselves in heavy trappings of warmth and protection when we venture out. To a mama tucked into her house with two children quite often, this calm, this frozen peace outside is an intense relief. Blueberry and I trucked out into our little woods between the yard and the stream that carries itself to the cove on the morning I took this photos and the stillness caught us both. The silence of snow; the muffled world created by 6 new inches of white stuff was entrancing. This year, so far, has been the winter that wasn't, so the snow was all the more magical. Blueberry explored newly minted "caves" made from branches under the weight of glistening snow. We pretended to be Arctic explorers collecting "samples" and then snow fairies, painting the world winter white.

I can remember the heavy stillness of snow from my childhood. It was lovely to escape the house full of five children and run off into the woods, flopping down onto the expertly padded ground and tucking myself under the laden branches of a hemlock or spruce tree. Gazing up through those branches, snug away from my "real life," I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be anywhere in space or time. I never really settled on anything, though. It was more the feeling of clean blankness, escape; recognition that the snow gave me respite from being something and allowed me just to be. The stillness out there was tangible. The stillness out here - it's the same as then.

The warmth of spring and summer awakens us, recreates us, makes us choose what we are and will be, but in the dead of winter, there is only this lovely void.

The stillness outside in the winter turns us inward. And we find that inside we, too, are all white, canvas-like; there is only potential here. Only the sound of wind.

Friday, January 20, 2012

{this moment}

These posts are fun. Nice and easy when I'm short on time or inspiration. Thanks to Soulemama for the idea.

Friday, January 13, 2012

{this moment}

A Friday ritual, inspired by SouleMama. A moment from the past week that I want to hold a bit longer, re-tasting, savoring.

Buttercup's first kiss. 1/11/12

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


"Now is the winter of our discontent [...]"
from Richard III, Act 1, scene 1

I cannot tell you how many times we utter these words in our house, mostly in jest, often to refer to a grumpy teething baby or a whining four year old who wishes for more snow. But sometimes it's not in jest. Eleven days after New Year's Day, we are thick in what I call "the disgruntled season." This is the season when detox tea flies off the shelves of our local food co-op, when the gyms are unusually full of the flabby and depressed, when we find ourselves staring out of windows forlornly and throwing away anything with chocolate in the cupboard only to wonder if it's still edible a few hours later.

Everything conspires to close us inside. The weather has been dismal; the lack of snow here in Maine, particularly on the coast, has been unusual and depressing. Sickness abounds; we were sick from Christmas through New Year weekend with a combination of viruses that refused to allow us to enjoy The Man's week-long break. Everyone I know, it seems, has been touched wtih sickness since mid-December. The weather keeps thawing and freezing; wild fluctuations that seem to mess with our rhythms and internal regulation. In spite of this, my friends and neighbors determine to stick to their lists of semi-impossible New Year's resolutions.

This is the first year I can remember in a long time that I decided, purposefully, to not make a resolution. At all. None. This is the first January in a long time that I have not restricted what I ate (pretending that quinoa was waaaay better than apple fritters or chocolate cake), or suddenly started flossing like a mad dentist, or forced myself to sit in front of a blank page of paper until I wrote something every day. This is the first January that I haven't tried to take a "break" from social media or determined to write more letters or made an impossibly long list of books I determine to read. This is the first January I haven't tried some new craft- lacemaking, candlemaking, needlepoint. This is the first January I haven't had to force myself to stare blankly at The New York Times/Atlantic/New Yorker/Washington Post/The Guardian, etc, websites every day in an effort to better inform myself and sound clever in social gatherings.

It feels amazing.

But here's the funny thing. I find myself embarking on some of these things anyway. My teeth are woefully unflossed and I am just loving NOT being a diet so much I've decided, no resolved?, not to be on one, but I have set some new patterns for myself and our family that I am really enjoying. We have some new routines for Blueberry and Buttercup, enabling me to do some "school" with Blueberry. The Man and I are trying to work better together at coordinating dinners, baths, bedtimes... little changes that make a huge difference. And I've embarked on Project 365. It's an easy premise - take a picture every day for a year. It sounds daunting but as many parents can tell you, it's easy to do when you have adorable subjects. I've posted a few of my favorites below. I'm really curious and excited to see the outcome - a chance to observe what I most want to capture and preserve in a year. But since it's not a "resolution," I don't really care if I don't "succeed." This lack of resolve somehow translates into motivation for me.

Don't misunderstand. Things don't automatically get amazing when you let go of resolve. It's not like some magical reverse psychology. I still love chocolate and beer. And resolve isn't bad. It is, in actuality, an admirable quality. It's the discontent behind the resolve that I've tried to let go of this year. Instead of looking in the mirror, stepping on the scale, wishing things were "better," let's celebrate imperfection in the new year. Let's celebrate the comforting fact that things will not drastically change because we change calendars. Our cozy love handles won't be noticeable under wool sweaters and no one will fault us for ignoring the Republican primaries. Let's enjoy a wee bit of complacency, no, contentment.

1/365. Cheeks.

2/365. Color.

6/365. Growth.

8/365. Elation.

9/365. Treasure.