Homeschooling Update {Week 12}

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is the scheduling freedom it provides. We do not have to choose between going to school and worrying about what is going on at home, or staying at home and worrying about what we might be missing at school. 

This week our adorable kitty needed some intense work done by a veterinary dental specialist. The Agents, of course, are very attached to this feline and just had to be there in the waiting room the entire time. Then after we returned home, they wanted to be close by and make sure he was okay. 

Luckily we were able to decide to forgo school for the day, knowing we can make it up later. Instead we focused all our energy on making sure our sweet cat principal stayed safe and healthy. Not like they would have been able to concentrate on anything else, anyway.

I am happy to report that Oscar {Agent O} is doing great. He is down to just six teeth now. Adult cats typically have 30 teeth. He came to us two years ago with about half already missing. They removed some remaining ones that were causing him issues, but I don’t think he will even notice. He is very capable of compensating and has adjusted well to life with minimal teeth.

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle.

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This week we added a new art book to our loop schedule: Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Art. It just came out this week {we had pre-ordered it} so we haven’t really gotten a chance to take a careful look at it, but I think it will be a welcome addition. 

She also authored another of our favorites, Women in Science, which we read last year and will probably add into this year’s loop schedule at some point as well.

We are very close to wrapping up our review of the first 20 lessons of Coffee Break Spanish, although I am a bit torn on how to proceed. I feel that we are mostly ready to move on to lessons 21-40, yet as I pointed out in last week’s update we could always use more frequent practice, especially with conversation. For now, though, it seems to be our most successful attempt at foreign language learning so far.

Agent E {grade 8} has been working through the series Practice Makes Perfect Spanish, which is very thorough and will give her a great foundation for high school or even college level Spanish. Of all of us, she would definitely be the most prepared if we ever had to rely on our Spanish writing or speaking skills. 

Should be business as usual here the next few weeks, then a bit of travel planned for October. How was your week? Any exciting plans coming up?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Yes; We Still Need Feminism

Just off the top of my head {I am sure there are more} these scenarios have happened in the past year or so:

  • Leaving Starbucks and I held the door open for the man behind me. He asked me if I also wanted to accompany him to his car and help him with anything else.
  • Visiting Hollywood and trying to take a picture of one of the stars on the walk of fame. I asked a man to move and he refused and called me a bitch.
  • Walking back to our hotel {just me and my oldest daughter} on one of our many Disneyland visits. Random man at a bus stop cat-called some things I won’t repeat here.
  • Told a photographer {at Walt Disney World, no less} we weren’t interested in a particular pose he suggested. He said we were difficult and “accidentally” misplaced several of our already paid for photos.
  • Someone going door-to-door trying to get us to switch to their cable/Internet package. I told him we weren’t interested in hearing his spiel; we were quite happy with our current choices. He yelled at me that I “owed” him to listen to what he had to say, then swore at me under his breath as he walked away.
  • Being on vacation and consciously choosing not leave the hotel room in the morning to pick up coffee {even though I am an early bird and craving some alone time}. Why? Because I would have to walk outside through a secluded walkway and across a parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness alone.
  • Being told I should smile more, ad infinitum. Because apparently that is what good girls do.

And people wonder why we lose our shit when it happens again and again—and yet again. 

Pink flowers against a pink background.

What exactly is feminism anyway?

When my now eleven-year-old daughter first asked me what feminism meant, I found that as with most things in life, the simplest explanation was the best. I told her that feminism is the belief that women deserve to be viewed as fully human and not treated as inferior to men in any capacity {socially, politically, economically, or personally}.

She was confused. Not that she did not understand the words I said, but legit perplexed that people don’t already accept this as fact and there needs to be a word for it.

Of course, she understands history. We’ve talked about what things were {are} like in this country and around the world, specifically regarding the rights of women and girls, both in the past and present. She’s mature enough that we can have a serious conversation about inequities. It’s not that she truly doesn’t get that the world treats some people better than others for reasons that are not reasons; she does.

But still, her gut reaction was how is this not just recognized as normal?

This is what I would like to tell her {and you}

Her humanity—her life—is just as important and valued as any other person on this earth. That all people deserve equal rights. That everyone—regardless of what gender they identify as—is worthy of dignity and respect. And we need to continue to strive to treat all humans decently and fairly because it’s the right thing to do.

You should never be made to feel bad by responding negatively to any query. If no is not an option, it was a demand not a question.

You are not responsible for another person’s feelings or reaction. You do not need to appease someone else at your own expense because it is “nicer” to do so. 

No is a perfectly acceptable answer to any question. Say yes if you want, no if not, and don’t feel bad about it.

Just because someone is trying to engage you does not mean you need to respond.

If you thought feminism was about burning bras and working versus staying at home, I would like to welcome you to reality.

Here’s the problem, though

Women and girls are culturally conditioned to be nice, to not ruffle feathers, to make things comfortable for those around them. It can be nearly impossible to rid yourself of this ingrained feeling. It becomes an automatic reply.

When we do speak up, often the reaction can be less than positive, or in some cases downright dangerous. 

What if the person cat-calling you is not just an asshat, but an asshat with a gun? What if the guy on the elevator gets grabby when you don’t politely laugh at his pathetic attempts at humor? Maybe the man walking quickly behind you is just trying to get to his car; maybe he’s trying to catch up to you.

So I remain torn between wanting to stand up for myself {and my girls} and give the person in question a big old STFU—and worrying that they are going to wind up being some freaking nut job that follows us or threatens violence. 

It is not a victim mentality or simply a matter of not having courage or being paranoid. We are not asking to have some special bubble of protection. We still need feminism so we can simply live out our lives without a constant internal debate of potential consequences.

Because those consequences are what women and girls in our society have to balance every. single. fucking. day. 

If you have never had to consider any of these options, you are probably a man. {And probably a straight, cisgender, white man at that, but that is a whole other post.}

So how do we fix this?

We hope like hell that we can raise our children differently. Talk to your daughters and your sons about it. Do not let another generation come to pass that thinks this it normal to treat people this way. It. is. not. normal.

Take the women and girls in your life seriously when they say no. Don’t second-guess their choices or view their rejection of your ideas as some sort of character flaw.

Stop misogynistic behavior  in its tracks when you are able and it is safe to do so. Defend other women and girls when you see it happening. Even if you don’t confront the perpetrator. Even if “all” you do is express a small sign of recognition and solidarity. It means something.

Most importantly, recognize that we still need feminism. It is not a thing of the past or an idea to be mocked. It is still an every day battle we need to wage. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Homeschooling Update {Week 11}

Another blogging lesson I have learned: If you plan to post something on Sunday, and you are going to be gone the whole weekend, you might want to have it composed in advance.

We spent the weekend at Disneyland—probably our last visit for a while—and I should know better than to think I am going to accomplish anything other than laundry and maybe feeding people the evening we come home from any Disney trip.

This was the first time we stayed “on property” at one of the resort hotels, and it definitely cut down on the amount of travel time. However, unlike at Walt Disney World, I wouldn’t consider it a necessity, because everything is much more contained to start.

The Grand Californian is a pretty sweet hotel {and expensive; we used DVC points for our room}. Unfortunately with just a two-night stay we did not have the opportunity to check it out as much we would have liked. The Agents have already requested a return visit so we can spend more time taking advantage of the amenities. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle.

We had a four-day week {we did school on Labor day, but left for Disneyland on Friday}. I like that with our loop scheduling this year we do not feel behind when we miss a day. 

One tweak I might make to our loop, however, is to rotate Spanish in twice. I feel that we need to bump up our lessons to every other or every third day. Especially if we are going to have any chance of practicing our conversation skills with an acquaintance we will see next month. 

Because we start the school year so early the Agents have already finished up a few workbooks and projects. So now I am back to my continual mission to find the best way to organize and store completed work. 

We have eight years for Agent E, six years for Agent J, and four years for Agent A. Right now it resides in a combination of boxes and plastic bins, which is not optimal. What kind of storage solutions have you come up with for keeping your students’ work? 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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How To Prepare For a Successful Move

How many times have you moved to a new home? Not counting local moves or college, I have made nine major moves {to a different state or, in one case, country} in my adult life. While we don’t yet know exactly when or where, a tenth is imminent. 

Being prepared in advance is critical for a successful move. Even if you utilize a moving company, there are so many ways you can make the overall experience more organized and less stressful. Some can be started weeks, even months in advance; others you will be need to take care of closer to your move date. 

This post will address all the behind the scenes work you need to complete to prepare for a successful move and smooth sailing on moving day.

Three yellow-beige decorative boxes stacked on top of each other.

Declutter

Even if you have not been in your current house/apartment for very long {as a military family, we have been averaging about two-and-a-half years} you have undoubtedly accumulated a lot of stuff since you moved in. Now is the time to evaluate everything critically and let go of what you can.

Start small if you must: Kids outgrow clothes and toys, random things collect in your closet, and books hang around collecting dust. Just walking around the house for a few minutes could probably nudge you to consider ditching at least ten things. 

One advantage for us is that we move so frequently it is easy to remember if we used a particular thing while we lived in our current house. This gives us a better sense of whether or not we should hang on to a specific item. Looking at something that is still boxed up with moving company stickers on it, and realizing you have not opened it and did not miss it makes it easier to let go. 

Don’t forget big stuff, too, like furniture. Just because it has always been there does not mean it is useful or necessary. Consider the layout of your new home, and if you would prefer to use that space for other things.

Donate

Once you have made a good sweep of the entire house, remove anything you do not intend to keep as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Try not to postpone or overthink this part. In all likelihood you will not change your mind and you will not have regrets. We have decluttered our home dozens of times over the years, and I can count on one hand the number of specific items that invoked even a twinge of maybe I should have kept that

Personally we have made several donations to the Vietnam Veterans of America. In many cities they will come directly to your home to pick up your donations, as long as individual items can be handled by one person {i.e., no large furniture or appliances}. 

Organize

Now that you have pared down a bit, what remains needs to be organized in a way that makes sense. I like to start by cleaning out closets, cabinets, and drawers. 

While your bedroom closet is probably the easiest place to start, you really have to go room by room and work your way through the entire house. Don’t forget the kitchen cabinets, pantry, coat closet, desk, linen closet, and anywhere else you have stuff behind a door or drawer.

You may have already started this as part of the finding-things-to-donate process. If not, I’ve found the best way to accomplish this successfully is to take everything out {and I mean everything}, clean as necessary, and put only the things that truly belong there back in.

Likely as you do this you will find more to donate, but even if you don’t just seeing how neat and tidy everything looks will put a smile on your face. 

In addition to donation items you missed the first go-around, you will also probably find several things that belong in another part of the house. Move them to their correct home {or find them a new one}.

Once you have dealt with all these “hidden” areas—or simultaneously while going room-to-room if that works better for you—you will also need to deal with things “out in the open”—like bookshelves and lamps and knick-knacks and countertops. Again, the important thing here is that every item has an appropriate home. As a general rule, if you pick something up and realize it is in the wrong spot, move it right then without setting it back down.

Another tip: Put anything small that you want to keep together {e.g., nail polishes, hair accessories, fridge magnets,} into Ziploc bags so they don’t get tossed around or lost. You can even take it a step further and box up small, like items in advance, such as extra toiletries or your junk drawer. {You know you have one.}

Clean

Once you have decluttered, donated, and organized, now it is time to clean. 

You want to move a clean, organized house. You may think who cares it’s all going in boxes and I’m just going to have to re-organize it on the other side anyway, but trust me when I say it will make your life 100 times easier when you start unpacking.

As you declutter and organize, you should also be wiping down cabinets and shelves and bookshelves. Vacuum the couch cushions. Dust everything before it gets wrapped up. Send kitchen chairs free of crumbs, wipe down furniture, take big toys outside and hose them off. {Don’t forget patio furniture while you’re at it.} 

You will probably still want to do a thorough clean of the closets, windows, floors, etc. after all of your belongings are out of the way, but this will save you valuable time later.

Consumables

I like to try to finish as many open consumables {e.g., personal care products and household cleaners} as possible beforehand. Some things simply shouldn’t be packed {e.g., any cleaning supplies that could be potentially flammable} while others would just be a pain if they oozed over whatever they are packed with {e.g., an open shampoo or conditioner bottle}. To play it safe, we like to use up as much as we can so there is simply less to deal with.

You will also of course want to use up as many non-perishable food items as possible. While technically it is not a big deal to move cereal boxes or cans of soup, do you really want to waste time packing and unpacking that kind of stuff? {I do usually pack less-frequently purchased items like spices even if they are open, as long as the dates are still good.} 

While completing this step, you will want to take a closer look at the medicine cabinet {if you haven’t already}. Do not move expired or unwanted meds. {If you need guidance on how to dispose of them properly, check out these guidelines from the FDA.}

This would also be a good time to verify what medications and first aid supplies you intend to travel with and put those aside. If you need a refill or any over-the-counter meds, do it now while you’re thinking about it.

Transition

This will look different depending on how many days you will be spend in a partially packed house and/or living out of a suitcase and/or traveling to your new home. 

We usually pack our suitcases similarly to how we pack for most vacations, but instead of one outfit per person per day, we typically go with four per person max. Yes, we may need to do laundry multiple times, and yes, we might be tired of the clothes in the suitcase by the time our household goods arrive at our destination. But, four changes of clothes times five people is more than enough to worry about.

Make sure to consider weather {moving from warm to cool? cool to warm?}, activities you might do while in transit {e.g., swimsuits for a hotel pool}, and entertainment for yourself and the kids {books, Kindles, small toys, art supplies).

Movers

All of our recent moves have involved a moving company coming to our home and packing everything and loading it on the truck, so if you are executing a completely DIY move some of this section might not apply. 

First and foremost, if you don’t want it packed, get it out of sight.

Our experience has been that movers will pack every nonliving thing that is not nailed down. I cannot even count the number of people I know who have found trash or dirty dishes neatly packed with their household goods upon arriving at their destination. 

Prepare for a successful move for your pet as well. If you have a dog or other animal that needs more space and will have to be let out you may want to find a sitter for the day or board him or her. Other pets {like our kitty} can simply be put in a small room with food, water, and litter {bathroom if you have more than one, or the laundry room} for the day. You will need to make sure anything in that room that needs to be packed is outside of the door and you clearly mark the door as not to be opened.

You can also put your suitcases and anything else you don’t want packed right away in the “pet” room if you have one—or alternatively, in the trunk of your car. If there is something you want/need to leave out all day {e.g., cell phone} it’s best to have it on your person so it’s doesn’t accidentally end up in a box. Make sure the trash and recycling are taken out and all receptacles in the house are clean and empty.

Here’s a trick for “hiding” items you don’t want packed: Put them in the refrigerator, the stove, or the microwave. Seriously, they may try to pack last night’s lasagna dish from the sink, but they will not open any of these. Food from the pantry you still plan to use up, the coffee pot, dishes and utensils for a night or two, laundry detergent . . . whatever you might still need in the short-term until you walk out the door can be easily hidden in one of these spots.

You may want to also park your car on the street or at a neighbors. Make sure it’s far enough away that it’s not blocking access in/out of the driveway, garage, front door—wherever folks are going to be moving about.

Perspective

Most important with any major event like this is to maintain perspective. In all likelihood, the actual “move” itself will be one day, or perhaps a few days tops. Everything will probably be fine, and like most of life, thinking about it will be worse than actually doing it.

If you follow these steps for how to prepare for a successful move, you will be as ready as you can be. Know that when you arrive at your destination, you will have done everything you can to make this next life transition as painless as possible.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Homeschooling Update {Week 10}

So Long, Charter Option

We have decided not to continue with the Agents’ charter school this year. Last year we enrolled in a charter for the first time, and while the experience was okay, it really wasn’t worth the oversight and paperwork IMO. 

Honestly the only reason we stuck with it all year is because the Agents really loved their in-person drop-off classes, and they have eliminated those for the coming school year. So, we are back to submitting the forms on our own.

{If you are curious about what homeschooling is like in California, the California Homeschool Network is a wealth of information.}

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle.

Parenting Weirdness

A few weeks ago I shared a parenting dilemma in our weekly homeschooling update. The short version: When do you decide it’s okay to leave your kids home alone? 

Well, I am happy to report that after fretting over this we actually had to do it one day this week and everyone lived to tell about it. It still just seems so bizarre to me, though, that Hubby and I both left the house and all three kids were just there—hanging out, surviving without us. Parents of older kiddos: Tell me this gets less weird.

Foreign Language Fun

Do you or any of your kids use Duolingo? I have been doing the Spanish lessons for a few months, and this week I started Latin. Agent E also does Spanish, but her daily streak is much better than mine; she has been doing lessons every day for just over two years. 

I find it fun, and it encourages me to practice writing and listening, but I really need to improve my conversational skills. You would think this would not be too difficult given that we live ten miles from Mexico in a town filled with bilingual people {seriously; like everyone you meet} but alas, I don’t put in the effort I could.

Music Help

In other school-related news, we are a bit stuck on what to do for music. We find that a lot of the “music for kids” books tend to be too basic or cutesy, and the “history of music” books aimed at adults tend to be way overwhelming and detailed. 

Plus, you can only read about Bach and Beethoven so many times. We did enjoy Kathleen Krull’s Lives of the Musicians but we’ve already been through it twice.

So, if you have great ideas for middle school music I would love to hear your suggestions. I will add that one Agent {the oldest} does dabble in a few instruments, but the younger two are not interested just yet.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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5 Lessons Learned in 5 Months of Blogging

As of today I have been writing in this space for five months. While technically not a blogging newbie {I wrote on a different platform for years} I am more conscientious and deliberate about my writing these days. 

With that in mind I would like to share five blogging lessons I have learned since hitting publish on Welcome back on 30 March.

Coffee cup on saucer and open notebook with pen sit next to a laptop computer on a wooden surface.

I Am a Writer {Yes; A Real Writer}

Previously I hesitated to say this out loud, because I erroneously assumed that only people who get paid for putting together words were permitted to use such terminology. 

But then I applied that logic to other things, and it did not make sense. Do you need to win marathons before you can call yourself a runner? Do you need to sell masterpieces before people notice you are a talented artist? When people comment that you are a great baker, do you dismiss them because you are not a professional? 

If you are good at something and you love to do it, does it matter whether or not you are financially compensated for it?

Support Other Writers {But Remain True To Yourself}

One of the great perks of blogging is getting to know so many other wonderful writers and bloggers along the way. After a while you really begin to feel like you “know” them, even though you have never met in person and likely never will. I genuinely enjoy following along and engaging with fellow writers and sharing their work. 

However, I cannot compromise my own integrity by supporting work I fundamentally disagree with. I generally do not connect with pages that promote pseudoscience or pages that are overtly religious. If I don’t feel comfortable sharing much of what you post on my social media accounts, I probably have no interest in following your page. And I am completely not offended at all when folks feel the same way about mine. {Atheist homeschoolers aren’t for everyone.} It is what it is.

Writing Versus Marketing {Two Very Different Things}

I enjoy writing, and I know I write pretty well, but I have difficulty with self-promotion. The hardest part of this whole gig is marketing my own words. 

In theory, I know all the marketing tricks of the trade; in practice I often feel nervous sharing my own work. Not because I don’t think it’s useful or I am afraid people will judge—it’s more some sort of ingrained need to feel like I am being “nice” and “not rude” and “never too pushy” when it comes to, well, everything. This is probably my biggest challenge to overcome as a blogger.

You Can’t Do Everything At Once {So Just Start Somewhere}

When first starting out, figuring out the necessary steps to take in the right order can be very overwhelming. 

Do I need a platform first? Should I just start writing drafts until I have several posts in progress? How important is it to have a specific niche? What social media accounts should I have? How can I possibly be active on all of them? Who is my target audience? How do I get search engines to notice me? What if I run out of things to blog about? How do I find technical help when I need it? 

The truth is, all of those things are important, and to some extent you will be doing them simultaneously, so you might as well pick one and get moving.

Many great Facebook groups have helped me tremendously in my journey. If you are interested in which ones I have found to be the most useful, I am more than happy to offer suggestions.

Invest in Yourself From the Start {It Will Be Worth It}

If I could go back and start again, I would pay for self-hosting on day one. When I started, I thought: I need to make sure I am going to stick with it this time; I need to get x number of page views first, I need to prove that I am “worthy” of the cost

Trust me, it will be so much easier to just start out where you want to be straight away.

Even though I’m plugging along now on a self-hosted site {I made the switch a month ago} I really stressed and struggled at the beginning with transferring everything over and updating the layout and just trying to figure it all out again in general. It would have been nice to have only had to do that once. Also, I had to go back and update all of my pins to reflect the new website, which was unnecessarily time-consuming. 

How long have you been blogging? What blogging lessons have you learned?

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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How To Homeschool: What Do Very Young Children Need?

Welcome back to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

If you have been following along with these posts, you may have noticed I have only addressed from Kindergarten on, nothing for pre-K or preschool or toddlers. There is a reason for that.

At those ages, say before five or six, play is the most important part of their lives, and all they need to thrive. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle.

Oh, reading to them is great, of course, and if they start to read on their own, that’s great, too. Mine all did by around age five with no real “instruction” of any kind. Art is fun, too, and most kids enjoy creative pursuits {i.e., coloring and getting paint and glitter everywhere}. Outside time is always encouraged, and if you are fortunate enough to have parks and zoos and museums nearby to explore, even better.

But play is how children learn. Play is their job. Play is all they need. Really.

{For additional perspective, you may want to check out Help! My 5-year-old won’t “do” school! over at Simple Homeschool.}

Are You Sure About This?

At least once a week on one of the homeschool-related pages or groups I follow, someone wants detailed information about curriculum choices for their two-year-old. Or expresses concern that they are not “doing enough” with their three-year-old, or that they need a plan for their four-year-old to follow, or that they are afraid their kindergarten student is behind. 

No. Just, no. 

Very young children do not need structured learning. 

I know that statement makes at least a few of you reading this uncomfortable. Edgy. Even mad. You might have big plans and put lots of careful thought into how you will do toddler time and preschool at home. You might feel that I am judging you personally. I am not. 

Still, it doesn’t make it less true.

It might help you to have a plan, a schedule of activities, a routine in place. But realize it is all about your own need to have control over events at this stage. Routines are extremely useful in parenting, especially when your children are littles. I personally love routines. I am all over making plans and having a weekly schedule. But, your kids don’t need this.

No one will ever say I wish I did more structured schooling with my toddler. Literally, no one. 

I have BTDT with three young students of my own, and I obviously have so many feels about this. Suffice it to say that your preschooler or kindergartener—or heck even your first or second grader—will be 100% fine, a-okay if they are not into “doing” school with you. The best laid plans and most awesome curriculum will not matter to them.

{This post by A Magical Childhood from nine years ago is without a doubt the best post I have ever read about early childhood education.} 

So What Exactly Do You Do? 

From my experience, anything before age five should be strictly for fun with no educational strings attached. Kindergarten through about second grade is sort of a grace period where you can try out different things and see how it fits your student, and maybe focus on some basics {math and reading}, but not get too jazzed up about “school work” just yet. Third grade is where we kick it up a notch and have more specific expectations. 

Agent A is at this point now. Oh, he’s done lots of written work in the past few years {due to his weird love of workbooks} and he’s been sitting in on his older siblings’ coursework, but he is turning a corner now. He pays more attention, seems more involved, is more of an active participant.

On a related note—and I realize this irks some people—you are not “homeschooling” your two-year-old. Home education is an option you choose once your children are of typical “school age” and would reasonably be expected to be at some type of public or private educational institution on weekdays during the school calendar. Unless complete strangers regularly ask your kid “oh, no school today?” when you are out and about on a weekday, you are not homeschooling—you are a parent, full stop. 

Please just let your kids enjoy having you in their lives and spending time with them. Any structure at this age is for your benefit. Have a routine—even a very specific and detailed routine if you must—but do not feel that you need to be “doing” any kind of formal schooling with them. I promise you, you do not, and you absolutely will not regret it in hindsight.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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It’s Okay If You Don’t Enjoy Moms’ Night Out

When my first child was born, I joined a local moms’ support group. One of the big things everyone kept going on and on about was moms’ night out and its importance for keeping mom sane, having fun, enjoying “me” time, saving the planet, and promoting world peace.

Okay, maybe not those last two. But, they certainly made a huge deal about it.

So, when Agent E was three months old, I gave it a try. And I absolutely hated it.

Darkened shadow outline of a mountain at sunset.

I came home {early} to a hysterical baby who wouldn’t take a bottle and simply missed her mommy. I tried attending moms’ night out again two more times over the course of the next couple of years. While the second attempt turned out okay—toddler Agent E did fine with Dad and Momma didn’t have a panic attack—I came home {early, again} from the third attempt to nurse baby Agent J. 

To sum: I did not have fun, I missed my baby as if a part of my own body were cut off, and I spent the entire evening uneasy. This was early in my mothering and a lot of my parenting philosophy hadn’t really come together yet. I assumed the problem was me.

Why Did I Feel This Way?

I felt guilty for having gone, and more guilty for coming back. Every message I had received insisted I had to leave my baby, I had to teach her to get along without me, I had to do this for myself. This was great for moms and I needed it! Right? Why didn’t this work for me? Why wasn’t I looking forward to this? What was wrong with me?

Turns out, nothing. It’s just how I’m wired: I am an attachment parenting introvert, and I erroneously let other people define that as a character flaw.

I always assumed that being an introvert meant you didn’t like to be with people, and being an extrovert meant you did. It made perfect sense that I wasn’t that into mom’s night out as an introvert, but there was more to it. I don’t dislike being with people. I enjoy family gatherings, small group discussions, meeting other moms at the park, and joining friends for coffee. However, that’s not how I energize myself when I’m feeling low.

Being an introvert versus an extrovert is more about how you refuel when you need to recharge your batteries. Somehow I had managed to find myself in a group of extroverts who thrived on being able to go out once a month {or more} for moms’ night out and let loose, have a few glasses of wine, and be part of a big group in a festive atmosphere. 

However, I much prefer to schedule get-togethers with one person {or just a few people} during the day. I am not a night person. I don’t drink. Crowds make me shudder. This wasn’t fun for me; it was something I endured due to outside pressure. 

Combine this disdain for the partying atmosphere with an attachment style of parenting, and you have a basic recipe for a moms’ night disaster.

I absolutely hated leaving my babies at night. It did not make me feel energized or like I finally had a break. It made me feel worse, and ignored my own self-care needs. 

What Do I Do Instead?

Even now—with my “babies” currently 13, 11, and almost 9—I still  prefer to be home in the evenings. When I do go out later than usual, I don’t feel recharged—I feel on edge and restless. I need “reset” time, just like every mom does, but in a different way. 

When the Agents were little, I would arrange breaks that didn’t involve me leaving them completely, such as having a mother’s helper come to the house so I could feel productive in some other room while the kids played. I did occasionally enlist the help of close friends with children of similar ages, leaving to run an errand for just a short bit while they were distracted. I never made it a goal to “make” them stay without me for any arbitrary reason.

Now that the kids are older and I have the benefit of hindsight, I no longer worry about what I “should” be doing, and that includes declining invites for moms’ night out. I do the things that help me {not any other mom} to refocus and enjoy parenting with a clear, relaxed mind. 

My self-care methods have changed now that I am not longer in the thick of babies and toddlers and the Agents are more independent. I get up early to have some quiet time for reading, writing, and thinking. When I meet with friends it is during the day, not in the evening, and certainly not near the time I’d be normally going to sleep. I arrange mom/kid meet ups with one or two other families at a time, and avoid big, organized events.

Of course, I make exceptions. I go out. Sometimes even at night and to places that I know will be filled with people. I stay awake {and out} too late on vacation. It’s not that I never socialize after dark. I just choose to minimize these times, and honor my limitations.

Self-care will look different for every parent, and that’s okay.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Homeschooling Update {Week 9}

This week we had our kitty to the vet {again} regarding his dental issues. {We adopted him at age 7, already missing multiple teeth.} Long story short, he will be seeing a veterinary dental specialist in September. 

Of course I had all three Agents with me at the appointment. Which several folks commented on, as the {year round} schools here went back in July. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle.

Interestingly, I rarely get even remotely negative or passive aggressive comments about homeschooling or socialization. Instead, I get a lot of “I wouldn’t have the patience” or “that must be so challenging” or “how do you manage with three” kinds of observations. 

I mean, how do you even answer that? “Well, actually, I am not a very patient person, it isn’t that hard, and I’ve had three kids for nearly nine years now so I’m kind of used to it.” 

When random people comment on homeschooling in your presence, how do you react? Do you feel the need to “defend” it? Or do you mostly shrug it off? 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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How To Clean Out a Closet

How often do you clean out your clothes closet? In the past few years I have made this a frequent occurrence—about every six months or so {usually spring and fall}.

You would think doing this with such regularity means it gets easier each time and I only have things I adore and wear all the time and absolutely must keep. 

You would be wrong.

I am continually amazed at what I find I truly do not need {or want, or use} each time I clean out. Of course this is also true when the Agents and I go through their clothes, although with them it is usually because they simply refuse to stop growing. 

Even if the thought of this task seems overwhelming, the following advice will make the experience efficient and painless.

Black and white photo of empty hangers on hooks.

The Basic Process

  • Take everything out. This is a critical step. It all has to leave the closet, even stuff you “know” you are keeping. Trust me on this one.
  • Figure out the best home for everything. Are you going to fold sweaters or hang them? Will pajamas live in a drawer or on a shelf? How much space do you need for small items like socks?
  • When in doubt, try it on. Yes, it takes longer and it’s a pain. Do it anyway.
  • Group like clothes together and only put back what you really want to keep. Be brutal if you must.

What Has To Go

  • Anything with an obvious stain or tear that is beyond simple repair, because nobody’s got time for that.
  • Clothes that had been demoted to this must go under something because it can no longer be worn by itself {usually because of—you guessed it—a stain or tear}.
  • Anything you haven’t worn even once since the last clean out for that season. A few exceptions slip in here {e.g., formal dresses and outerwear}.
  • Clothes you simply do not like for whatever reason. {Confession: I love a good sale, but sometimes I buy something I “couldn’t pass up” and then realize it wasn’t a smart fashion move.}
  • What doesn’t fit. Yes, seriously. Don’t keep too tight clothes in the hopes that someday they won’t be. {This one was hard at first, but honestly, if I lost ten pounds I would totally splurge and buy a new pair of pants—and you probably would, too. Dress the current, real you—not the future, potentially smaller you.}

Some Helpful Tips

  • Pretend you are packing for a two-week trip. What goes, what stays, and what wouldn’t you even consider? Being forced to pick favorites is eye-opening. {I have packed for many extended trips, and can attest that this definitely works.}
  • Look at each piece and imagine what you would wear it with. You should have at least a few options for everything that stays.
  • Start a wish list of specific pieces you might want to add to the rotation or replace. This might be an “extra” of something you wear almost daily, or a new version of a staple that is starting to look worn.

Warning: Whatever you do, do not go shopping based on what you think you need. Always go through the whole clean-out process first or I promise you will have regret.

When you admire your beautifully pared down closet, it will be hard to believe you will be repeating the process in a few short months. Yet you will, and it will be worth it to know in the end you will only have pieces you love and actually wear.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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