30 May 2008

Teacher Abuse

If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.
~Marian Wright Edelman~
Some disturbing things are coming to light in the schools recently. In most recent news, a Kindergartner brought a tape recorder to school, placed in his pants pocket by his parents, so they could hear what was really going on in their child's classroom. It certainly enlightened them to the verbal abuse their child was suffering.

Locally, there has been a case going on involving a substitute teacher who decided to duct tape the arms, legs and mouths of two Special Ed. boys who were acting up. And then he duct taped them to a chair.

Then there's the one with the teacher who decided to have her class vote another student out of the class. The students even got to take turns telling him what they didn't like about him. This teacher takes the cake, because she got her students in on the abuse.

I've read other cases in the past. Teachers verbally abusing students. I'm sure many of us have our own stories to tell about abusive teachers from our youth. If you link to the articles, what I find most disturbing of all are the comments from people who side with the teachers. Some of the comments are downright sickening. Some people think the children deserved to be treated that way. When does a 5 year old ever deserve to be talked to that way? Even if the boy has some behavior problems, how in the world does emotionally abusing him help to solve those problems? When does a child deserve to be voted out of his class? When does a child deserve to be duct taped to his seat?

Parents entrust their children to people they don't really know for 8 hours a day 5 days a week. That's a lot of time and a lot of influence. How many parents don't have any idea what is going on in their child's classroom? How many parents don't believe their children when they come home and say their teacher is mean? My children don't attend school. I don't think anyone's children should attend school, personally. No one can care for or love my child the way I do. Ever heard the phrase "children learn what they live?". Well, they live school. They learn school. What sticks in their heads is what is told or taught to them day after day sitting captive in a classroom. So if a teacher is constantly telling them they are trouble, they are pathetic, they are not worth his or her time, what is that child going to believe? And when immature teachers actually enlist the other students to join in, then it really must be true because everyone is saying it. Ouch. And we wonder why so many kids commit suicide.

Words hurt. Really hurt. Children's developing psyches are fragile things. Kindergarten is a time when some children get their first view of the world outside their home. When they are hurt by that world, what do they take away from that? Not to trust, not to care, not to try or believe in themselves. That they are worthless.

I am sickened by how our society treats it's children, as is evident by the comments section of these articles. There are of course a few voices who stood up for the children, but unfortunately there were far too many for the other side. IT IS NEVER RIGHT TO HURT A CHILD! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER! Children are not little adults. They view their world in an entirely different way than we do. They process information differently and they have fewer realms of experience to pull from. They need to be shown how to be compassionate, kind, loving. They need to have someone spend time with them and show them the way. If they struggle, they need help with their struggles, not shame and ridicule. We would never allow an adult to treat another adult that way in the same setting. The adult wouldn't put up with it. Adults can stand up for themselves, children can't.

I'm not sure how to solve this problem. Obviously people aren't pulling their children out of the schools (although I wish they would). I have a feeling that these adults, who treat children like this, probably were treated poorly themselves as a child. They figure that they survived it, so what's the big deal? The big deal is that they didn't survive it, look how they grew up. Look how they have learned to treat their fellow man. If a teacher is burned out, then they should leave the profession. If they cannot control their mouths or emotions, then they should not be allowed in the classroom with children ever again. Of course the institution itself doesn't help the situation. But that's a whole other can of worms for another time.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
~Stacia Tauscher~

29 May 2008

The Homeless

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
~Mother Teresa~
I've been thinking about the homeless lately. Our county has an organization called PADS. It stands for Public Action to Deliver Shelter. They offer a day program for homeless people to gain job skills and stay out of the cold in the winter. From October through April, they set up in area churches each night from 7pm - 7am and the homeless can come in, get a hot meal, shower, sleep. They are fed breakfast in the morning and given a brown bag lunch when they leave for the day.

In spite of this service, I still see homeless people roaming around town. This is not a brag, but I live in a fairly affluent town. 10 years ago you would never have seen a homeless person wandering around. Never. I actually saw a woman the other day set up right on the side of our busiest roadway. She had a shopping cart and had made a bit of a tent with it to sit under. This was also right in front of one of our major strip malls. There is a guy I see almost weekly. He walks around with all his stuff in a few bags. He just walks around all day. Sometimes I have seen him in the morning one place, and then in the afternoon at the other end of town.

So you are probably wondering why I haven't done anything to help them. I wonder that too. I have in the past given money to homeless people. One time I saw this man walking around various stores and gas stations checking all the public phones for change. I gave him $20. Probably not enough to make a difference, but he seemed appreciative. He did go right into the gas station and buy a pack of cigarettes with some of the money. I hope he at least got himself a sandwich with the rest.

My brother has an interesting perspective on the homeless. I remember one time he told me he took restaurant leftovers to homeless people. His point was that you could let it sit in your fridge for a week and throw it away, or give it to someone who would appreciate it. I thought it was kind of an insult to give food you had already munched on to another person, but my brother said it had always been appreciated when he did it. I think he still does it.

Recently I was emailing with my brother (who lives in AZ btw.) I had sent him this political cartoon:

I found the cartoon to be a bit truthful and funny. I wasn't at all thinking about the fictional homeless person mentioned. My brother sent me back this very thoughtful reply:

"Ok so what I get from that is that Barack will not give to the homeless, Hilary will give a little and McCain will give a homeless guy a Job.

The problem with homeless people is that 75% of them want to live on the street, 20% are drug addicts and alcoholics, and the other 5% do not have a choice.

We have a huge homeless issue in Tucson, probably due to our year round average temperature…I talk to, yes actually talk to, homeless people and most of them would not take a job if you offered it to them….they choose to live the way they do…..next time you see a guy with a sign that says “will work for food”…pull over and tell him to get in and that you have work for him….9 out of 10 will not get in the car or truck or whatever, they are looking for a handout, they are holding the sign so people who feel bad or think they are doing a good deed will just hand money to them…..I am ok with that….it takes balls and a lot of time to make money panhandling…and if it pays I guess it is a job…and the people who pay them are provided a service as well….they get to give money to the poor bum in hopes that they will get a better number in the waiting line to heaven….or they see it as a way of giving back…whatever the reason it works like a charm here in Tucson!

The only reason any of the presidential candidates would even look at a homeless guy is for the vote. I like Baracks response the best……”change” is an ambiguous term…..I am pretty sure at this stage of the game that it is not always for the better.

Oh and by the way, I don’t give the guy with the sign by the freeway any money….there are plenty of guys walking around collecting aluminum cans and getting 8 or 10 bucks a day from the recycler….if I see those guys I will pull up to them and give them $10 bucks and tell them to take the day off…..they are not begging for it.

I could have very easily ended up on the streets, drunk, alone, and dying.
I have to help my fellow man because of the gift that has been given to me, I will never be able to give or help enough to pay that back………….Life!"
See, my brother used to have a drug and alcohol problem. He wouldn't have ended up on the street, he has family that would have taken him in. But he can sympathize. After our mother died my brother really was touched by the hand of God. He was headed down a very destructive path. He has been clean now for almost 4 years.
I was really touched by his words actually, which is why I decided to post it here. Everyone might not agree with his statistics, but he makes some very valid points. Which brings me back to the people I see in my town. We have services in our county, yet they continue to live on the street and wander around. Could they be mentally ill, do they really want to live this way? How can you help people who don't want to help themselves? I suppose I can be like my brother, offer a hand out when I am able, and try to have compassion. I've been given a better lot in this life than most. Sure it doesn't really seem that way sometimes, especially because I am at the lower end of the spectrum for the town I live in. But globally, thinking of what most of the world has, I have been blessed. And I need to start being really thankful for that.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
~Mother Teresa~

27 May 2008

More on Cleaning!

I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.
~ Joan Rivers~
The weather here in Illinois has been pretty crappy. Our spring never really came, although we did get a peek at summer this weekend. We got to 80 degrees yesterday. Today, we'll be lucky if we hit 55. Argh!
So I decided to clean. Too cold to go out. (Ok, I realize 55 isn't cold, but I am meant to live in Florida. I don't how I ended up having to spend my life in Illinois!)
So, yes, me, I decided to clean. I did say earlier that I do finally get to the point where even I can't stand something. Today it was my tub. I have 2 daughters, plus me, that makes 3 women in this house. All with different types of hair and body needs. So we have a multitude of shampoos, conditioners, body washes, face soaps, razors, loofah thingies, etc, etc. all over the tub. I needed to control the mating that seemed to be going on in the tub. Not only did the body needs "thingies" seems to by multiplying, but so did the mold, mildew and soap scum.
First I consolidated all the bottles I could. Why my daughters cannot finish a bottle of shampoo or conditioner before starting another is beyond me. Youngest told me yesterday she was out of conditioner. Well, today, after consolidating 3 almost empty bottles I have made her 1/2 a bottle of conditioner. And I have decided the only way to stop the multiplying madness is if I refuse to buy anymore until they are completely out. Otherwise I'll need to hide the new bottles under my bed until I know they have scraped out every last glob of beauty goo.
After feeling successful with the bottle control, the tub was empty and now was the time to attack the other things multiplying in my tub. I got my handy sprayer of Lysol mold and mildew cleaner and went to town. It smelled just like a bleach based cleaner at first. Then I got a sponge and started scrubbing. That's when I noticed a really foul odor beginning to emanate from the tub. I thought this was the same sponge I used last time I cleaned the tub. There must have been some other kind of cleaner left on the sponge from another inspired cleaning moment. I began to gag. Great, I thought to myself as I fled the bathroom, I am going to die cleaning! See, I was right, cleaning can kill you. So, even though it is only 55 degrees out, and I am cold, I had to open all my windows. My entire house stinks. I knew the only way I was going to be able to get the smell out was to go back in there and rise the damn thing. So with a damp paper towel over my face, I proceeded back to the toxic tub of doom. I did manage to get the whole thing sprayed down with only two breaths. Maybe I haven't killed too many brain cells yet. I hope not, after my youth, I don't think I have too many left as it is.
So now it is 1/2 an hour later. Despite the open windows, my house still stinks. And I still feel a bit sick to my stomach. I had such great hopes for today. I did manage to get some laundry done before my tub attacked, but the way I feel now, I'm not sure I am up to anything else. Another inspired cleaning moment has come and gone. I tried, I really did.
Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.
~ Simone de Beauvoir~
The scorn men express for a male who does housework is exceeded only by their aversion to a woman who doesn’t.
~ Penny Kome~

23 May 2008

House Cleaning!

Although you'll find our house a mess, Come in, sit down, converse. It doesn't always look like this: Some days it's even worse

I hate cleaning. There, I said it. I am a stay at home mom and I suppose one of my primary purposes is supposed to keep a clean house but I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it!!!!!!

It's not like my house is filthy. It's more cluttered than anything else. Sure I do let the laundry pile up, because laundry really is the bane of my existence. It just multiplies. And just when you think it's done, there's more again. At least when you vacuum, the rug looks clean for at least a few hours. Until the cat yaks on it anyway.

I have tried different systems over the years to help me keep my home clean. Flylady being the latest. I think the problem is that I am not that kind of person. You know, the kind of person that knows she will wash her kitchen floor Monday, scrub her toilets Tuesday, polish the silver Wednesday (silver?) whether it needs it or not. I clean when it needs it. If it doesn't look dirty, does it really need to be cleaned? I know those systems are meant to help one keep their house clean, so it never will look dirty. But my brain just can't wrap around doing something that doesn't need doing!

So I wait until my house is good and messy and then I clean. Begrudgingly of course. I do finally get to the point where I can't take it anymore. My DH would tell you I am a slob. I think that's a bit of an exaggeration. I am a bit of a pack-rat, that label I will accept. But I am not a hoarder. Not like those hoarders I've seen on Oprah. (Have you seen those shows? Shudder!) You can walk through my house (at least most of the time, LOL : )

I keep things because I am one of those people who worries that I may need something one day. And that day will be the day after the Salvation Army has just driven off with my stuff. I know it's just stuff, but I like my stuff. I also have way too many clothes. Most of that stems from the small problem I have varying what size I wear occasionally. Better to keep the clothes if I may need them rather than having to buy new ones again, right?

My mom was a slob. She was messier than me. So I think there must be hope for my daughters because it appears that the succeeding generations are improving. Although my grandmother was pretty tidy. She actually used to clean our house a lot. (My mom was an only child and I think when my grandmother got old, she was trying to make up for past sins.) We also had cleaning people. I actually used to clean houses myself funny enough. My mom (the slob) had her own cleaning company. We did a really good job in other people's houses. I think it's much easier to clean someone else's house because you aren't distracted by your own stuff. Or by your kids, or the phone or General Hospital.

My DH worries my daughters won't know how to keep a home tidy when they get older. He says I set a bad example by not making them clean. Hmmm, is that all that matters? Will their value be less if they like to leave their clothes on the floor and only scrub the toilets once a month?

Like me, my daughters know how to clean, they just don't like to do it. I only know a few people who really LIKE to clean house, and those people could use a little counseling IMO. I realize in life everyone has things they NEED to do, but is house cleaning really one of them. Sure you don't want to live in health code violation territory, but a few piles of laundry and dishes in the sink isn't life threatening. Knowing how to do something and having the desire to do it are entirely different things. I am sure when my girls get older, if they choose to marry and have a family, they will be more than capable of keeping their home tidy enough. For them. Why isn't what is good enough for them good enough?

Life is short. I feel the time slipping by me so fast. I have my kids home with me, at least right now. My eldest is talking high school, so I may lose her in a year. (I know, it's not like she is moving away, but she'll be gone all day!) Soon enough I will be old and my kids will be gone. I don't want to spend all my time with them right now worrying about whether or not my house is clean enough or yelling at them to clean their rooms. Looking at the big picture, does it really matter? We are all well fed, we shower and wear clean clothes, we mow the grass. I wash the floors when they are sticky, I wash the dishes when we need clean ones. I scoop the cat litter. The essentials are done on a daily basis. You may visit me and see dust on the furniture, and cobwebs in the corner. There may be a pile of newspapers in the corner and a pile of laundry on the bedroom floor. There might be recycling piling up in the kitchen and last nights dinner dishes in the sink. Will you think less of me? When I die, will it matter whether I kept a clean house? Is that what people will say at my funeral "I really liked Donna, sorry to see her go, but boy was she a slob!" Or will they say that I was a person willing to help when needed, who was always there for her kids, who took in stray animals and tried to make her small corner of the world a better place? Isn't doing those types of things more important than how clean I kept my house? I think so, and sometimes, even if it may sound selfish, what I think is all that matters.

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?

~Erma Bombeck~

22 May 2008

And The Winner Is...........

.....by 12 million votes........DAVID COOK!!!!! (and the family goes wild!)
My faith in reality TV has been restored. (Pretty sad that I have faith in reality TV to start with).
The best man did win. The American people finally got a vote right : )

21 May 2008

American Idol

Ok, so I know I shouldn't really care. But I do. I've been watching all season. Last night was the finale, the final two battled it out to see who the winner should be, which will be announced tonight.
This contest is supposed to be judged by the audience. Sure the judges are there to offer what they consider to be their "expert" opinions, but they do not have final say, we do. So I am left to wonder why they felt the need last night to basically announce David A. the winner? Simon said it was a "knock-out", in David A.'s favor. (They were doing a whole boxing theme for those who may not know).
If you haven't watched this will probably mean nothing to you, but if you have, I think it's hard to deny the appeal of David Cook. I think his music is much more marketable than the other David. It is much more listenable, and more modern. Plus he just seems to be a much more likable guy.
Our entire family took turns calling for the full four hours last night. I think everyone predicts David A. to win. I am looking forward to an upset. I hope I am right.
If you want to hear how well David C. sings, I have a playlist below. (Some of the songs have been disappearing on me, which makes me think the Idol powers that be may be shutting them down. ) The first two on the list are amazing, espeically if you have heard the originals. There is no doubt the boy can sing.

20 May 2008

What Are You Good At?

I'm not good at anything. Or to put it another way, I never learned anything that I can use as a marketable skill or for enjoyment. My husband plays bass guitar. He's good at it. He's in a band for enjoyment and at our church. I'm sure if he tried hard enough he could find a paying gig. May not pay much, but it is a skill he enjoys and could use to make money if he chose. My brother plays drums, same thing. My sister went to college, so she has an actual degree that helps her to be marketable. My mom could cook. She was a really good cook. While she never made money off of it, she certainly could have. I'm not good at anything.
I dabbled in quite a few things when I was young. My mom started my sister and I in dance, because every little girl takes dance. I enjoyed it when I was small, but as I got older I realized that while I could enjoy it all I wanted, I really wasn't very good at it. Art was the same way for me. I loved art. It wasn't until I was a Freshman in high school, after I had taken a double period art class, that the teacher told me that maybe I would want to explore hands off careers in art if I was determined to stay in the art world. Be a critic, run a gallery, etc. She tried to gently tell me that I wasn't any good. No matter how much I enjoyed it, I could never do it for a living. Same thing happened with piano and flute. I took piano lessons for years. It was always a struggle. I didn't enjoy it as much as the other things, so my parents finally let me quit when I was 13. Flute only lasted a year.
In high school I was also interested in drama and choir. I can sing and carry a tune, but my voice isn't exceptional. I don't know enough music to teach voice, and no one is going to pay me to sing. I enjoyed acting in plays and musicals, but was always a bit self conscious being on stage, so it didn't come naturally to me. My parents weren't exactly supportive in any of my endeavors. They were willing to sign me up and let me attend a class, but they never showed any desire to understand what I was doing or had an interest. I wonder if that affected any of my outcomes?
So how does one find their natural talent? Does everyone have one? Some things seem to come so easily to some people, and then there are people like me, who really like to do some things, but struggle through every step.
I'd like to help my children figure out what their natural "bents" seem to be. So far they have both danced (seems to be the obligatory thing a mother does to her children : ) My youngest took to dance better than her sister. She started in ballet then moved onto Irish Dance. By the end of her second year of Irish dance, she realized that while she enjoyed it, it was a struggle for her. I had to let her take a private lesson each month just so she could keep up with her class. It took her longer to get it, and it just didn't flow naturally from her. So she decided to quit. My oldest took one year of ballet at three, dropped out of a tap class at four, and then decided at eleven that she wanted to try hip-hop. She liked it and was fairly good at it, but it didn't hold her interest enough to want to do it again. My girls also rode horses for about two years when they were seven and nine. I thought they both did really well. They seemed to enjoy it, and were quick learners. But after two years they decided they were bored with it. My youngest has mentioned maybe wanting to try again. Maybe horses are her thing.
My oldest has recently decided she wants to try Martial arts. Kyuki-do to be exact. It's more of a mixed martial art, combines many different disciplines. I think it will be good for her. It requires discipline and focus, it will be an outlet for exercise, and she will learn self-defense. Especially as they get older, I worry more and more about my children's safety. I'd feel better knowing that if they had to, they had the tools to defend themselves. I think this is something my daughter will excel at. She really wants to learn it. Her desire is strong.
By allowing my children to try a variety of things, I am hoping they will find their niche. That thing that inspires them, that thing they can become passionate about. I think eventually everyone, if given the chance, can find that thing they are good at. And I think it is my job as a parent to help my children find that. I know many people who's children have become proficient at something they love, and that could support them in the future. One girl has been ice skating for years. She does well and enjoys it. If she chooses, she can teach it when she's older. Another girl rides horses. She could own a barn and give lessons. Musicians could earn money performing or giving lessons. (I know homeschool teens who earn money giving piano lessons.) Cooking, baking, sewing, dancing, martial arts, swimming, etc. etc. If given the chance and a child finds any of these to be their passion, not only could they end up having a life long hobby that gives them an outlet both physical and emotional, they could possibly use that passion to teach that skill to others. Making a living doing something they love.
I am still searching for that thing I do best. Maybe it is mothering. I want to give the best to my children. I want them to have every opportunity I didn't have. I want them to have all the support I didn't have. I want them to feel that they are good at something, to have a skill or skills that set them apart from some of the rest, that they have things in their life that bring them joy. I realize for my children to have opportunities, I need to sacrifice. I need to sacrifice my time and my money to give things to my children. Isn't that what parenthood really is about? Putting our children's needs and wants before our own? I only have so many years to give to my children. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is 11. Time is flying by. I hope when they are older, and they look back on their growing up years, that they see that they came from a family that tried to give them every opportunity to become well rounded adults. I hope they feel the love that was in everything I did. I hope they don't wake up one day and have to wonder "What am I good at?" But if they do, I hope they have a marvelous answer.

15 May 2008


I have two daughters. (Disclaimer: I do have a step-daughter, but I am only 14 years older than her, and I was only 23 when we met (and she was 9), so I never really felt like a mother toward her. More like a big sister. Plus she spent most of her time at her mom's. She's 25 now, and out on her own.)

So, back to my birth daughters. Currently they are 13 and 11. I really like my daughters. I love them, as I believe most parents do, but I also really like them. I like to be with them. I like to do things with them. I like to hang out with them. This is a big part of why I have them home instead of locked up in some institution all day with people who will not care about them anywhere near as much as I do.

When my eldest was born, I remember not wanting to let her go. I didn't want anyone to hold her, I only wanted to hold her. She had been in my body for 9 months, shouldn't I have been allowed a little weaning time? I got a lot of grief from people when I wouldn't want to let them hold my daughter. I learned with my second. I wore her in a sling.....all the time. When people would ask to hold her I would say "Sorry, she's all comfy in her sling, maybe later". I had a bassinet given to me by a friend for my eldest. I tried to put her in the bassinet the first few nights home. I couldn't sleep. Even though she was in the room with me, I couldn't stop checking on her. I finally decided to bring her to bed. I had never read a book on Attachment Parenting or co-sleeping, but that was what I was doing. I trusted my gut, my instincts. I knew perfectly well what my daughters needed. It was only after I found out I was pregnant with my second when I got some books on AP and co-sleeping. I wasn't part of the lunatic fringe as so many thought, lots of people do this. Hooray! I felt proud of myself for following my heart and not what other people said.

I nursed both of my children. My first unfortunately only 4 1/2 months because I had to have major back surgery. But I let my youngest self wean. Oh imagine the grief I got for that. "When are you going to stop nursing her?" "Will you still be nursing her when she goes to Kindergarten?", etc., etc. I never had anyone in public ever say anything to me, but I did get some stares. Especially when she was around two and wanted to nurse by straddling me upright and lift my shirt for the world to see. And of course when she could talk and would ask for "Boo"! She did finally stop at 3 1/2 years, and it was all of her own accord. I also never pushed my children out my bed before they were ready. And much to many other's disbelief, they both did finally decide on a time when they were ready.

Here are my girls when they were little:

Even though I had been Attachment Parenting, I really hadn't considered homeschooling. I was surrounded by people who had their kids in pre-school, so that seemed like the right thing at the time. I did end up at a Montessori, which I believe wasn't as bad as if I had put them in regular pre-school. I did miss them though. So I started working at the school. I could peek in the little window at them whenever I wanted.

After their early years in Montessori, we started homeschooling. As I said in an earlier post it took us a while to get into unschooling. But even before then I often would just say "Let's go do something fun or adventurous". We have a beach in town and a wonderful park. The park has a playground as well as hiking trails and a pond with a bridge. My girls loved to go to the park. When they were younger mostly to play on the playground and feed the ducks at the pond. Now my youngest likes to go on hikes with me. We recently went on a short hike to a pine forest area in the park and ate lunch. It was lovely to be out with my daughter. We hiked and talked and ate our lunch, then she wanted to walk around the pond. It made me realize how quickly these girls of mine are growing up. My oldest doesn't care to do that kind of stuff anymore. She is more than happy to have me sit beside her on the computer and watch her play some games. Or to go into the basement and watch her do DDR (Dance Dance revolution). She also likes it when I lay on her bed at night and play with her cat. (He's always on her bed). That's when I can really get her to open up and talk to me.

I try to practice respectful living with my girls. I don't want to be a home dictator, and everything I say doesn't necessarily go. They are allowed to voice their opinions, they are allowed to disagree. I am always willing to discuss something with them, even something I want them to do. And I often change my mind, or let them change my mind. We are all just people here, trying to live harmoniously together. I am not them, and they are not me. Why should I force them to be like me? Just because I can't stand some of their music or TV shows doesn't mean I don't have to allow them to watch them. I don't have to watch them, but they can. I may not like everything they choose to wear, but it's them wearing it, not me.

I know so many parents that dictate every hour of their children's lives. What time they need to wake up (this is homeschoolers I am talking about, not people that necessarily have to be somewhere), what time they will eat breakfast, (whether they are hungry or not), I know one mom who even schedules bathroom breaks into her "homeschooling" day. How is that respectful of your child's needs? If they are not even allowed when to decide they need to use the bathroom? I feel eating is the same way. I grew up in a home with a mother who had some serious food issues. I have spent most of my life battling the bad things I learned from her. I was determined not to let the pattern repeat with my girls. Who decided people need to sit down and have breakfast at 8am, lunch at noon and dinner at 6pm? Why is it not ok for people to just eat when they are hungry? Isn't that listening to ones body? Isn't that a healthier way to live than someone else telling you when you must be hungry and must eat, which then forces you to suppress your own hunger urges so you never learn to feel them? I try my best to let my girls follow the feelings of their own bodies. When they are hungry they eat, when they are thirsty they drink and when they need to use the bathroom they go. Isn't it unbelievable some people don't allow these little liberties to their children?

I think my girls are growing into fabulous young women. I am not waiting for them to "become" something. They are already wonderful today, the way they are. So many people "raise" (what are they vegetables : ) their children for the outcome. "I want them to go to college, or be this or be that". Why not just enjoy each moment. Each stage of their life. Looking to the future is good sometimes, but if you live constantly in the future wondering or worrying about what will be, you are missing the present. The wonderful memories that can be created right now.

I look forward to just continuing on this path with my girls. We love the summer and the beach and going to the pool and that is what we looking forward to the most in the next few months. We take things day by day. What I appreciate the most is that they want to do this stuff with ME! And I really like doing with it them. Like I said, I really like my girls, and I love them too.
Here's what they look like now: Carley, 13

Catherine, 11

A daughter is a miracle that never ceases to be miraculous...full of beauty and forever beautiful...loving and caring and truly amazing.
- Deanna Beisser-

14 May 2008

I'm Turning into Elly Mae!

I feed animals. Inside ones and outside ones. I started out just feeding stray cats. Then I started feeding the birds, which of course brought the squirrels. Then we noticed that we would also occasionally have raccoons and possums (opossums?) in our yard. And of course we always smelled it when Mr. Skunk would make an appearance. We have a fence around our backyard, so we don't see too many bunnies. (I guess they don't like to dig under fences). We used to have foxes before they started doing construction in the field across the street. I liked the foxes.

Now before you think I live in the boonies, let me assure you, I live right in the middle of a fairly populous suburban town. (about 35,000 people). There is shopping and a major roadway 5 mins from me. But my subdivision is one of the oldest in our town, so these animals have had about 50 years to establish themselves.

Which brings me to yesterdays and today's happenings. We realized about a month ago that a small possum had taken up residence under our deck. We could see right through the slats (we have an old deck), there he'd (it could have been a she, but we'll refer to it as he), be all curled up, fast asleep as we went about our backyard business. I feed a stray cat that has also taken up residence on my back deck, so occasionally there will be a bowl of food on the deck, that said stray never finished. Mr. Possum would wake up and come onto the deck and eat. He was very cute, if you like that primeval look in your animals. Didn't care for the tail too much, but cute overall. This isn't our possum, just a picture to show you how cute they are.

So anyway, said possum has/had been hanging around for the past month or so. Over the weekend, I noticed he was not in his same sleeping spot under the deck. Instead of in a corner up near the house, he had moved out into the center of the deck. I could see him, he appeared to be sleeping, I thought nothing of it. Monday while outside, I realized he was in the exact same spot. I got down on all fours and really peered down through the slats at him to see if he was breathing. I didn't see movement. How well can a possum play dead? I didn't want to poke him, I was afraid he might wake up and I didn't want to be face to face with a mad possum. (Wouldn't you be mad if someone woke you by poking you with a stick?) So I just watched him a while. Looked pretty dead.

I told DH. About 10 years ago another possum decided to die under our deck. We didn't find out about him until he began to smell. So I figured we were at least ahead of the game on this one. He wasn't smelly yet. But it still wasn't a pleasant experience pulling a dead possum out from under ones deck.

By the time DH got home Monday night, we forgot about Mr. Possum. So last night we knew what we had to do. Or I knew what DH had to do. We/he had to pull up 3 deck boards just to get to where he was at. That's when we realized he was actually wedged under a lower deck support. I think he didn't realize he was a growing possum, and went and got himself stuck and died. I feel badly that he probably died of dehydration/starvation under my deck. Why didn't he scream for help?

Anyway, removal was not easy. We/DH (when I say we I mean I was there for moral support and to offer helpful advice when needed. Of course DH would tell you my advice was never needed.) Oldest DD was there with her video camera and made a movie of the entire episode. It was kind of like a tragic comedy. Maybe we'll post it to you tube.

So DH was finally able to pry poor possum out from under the support board and grabbed him by his rat like tail and flung him into an already prepped garbage can. See picture below. (Possum is barely visible dangling upside down over the garbage can).

The homeschooling mom in me came out when I realized he would be the perfect specimen for a dissection! Of course it was only for a fleeting second, because I don't think I could really do it.

May poor possum rest in peace, and may the rest of his kin not be so stupid as to think they can fit under my deck!

Today's' tale started with my oldest yelling from her bedroom that Cal (see cat story in archives for picture of Cal) had a mouse. I went running (bad leg and all) into DD's room. Said mouse is now nowhere to be seen. I decide to let the cat try to find it again, as DD's room was not exactly clean enough to go mouse hunting. About 15 mins later DD calls again. We can hear him digging in her closet. Well, her closet is full of crap! I close one side of the closet, so I know he only has one way out, and I'll see him if he tries. I slowly start taking things out of the closet. Hats, bags, clothes, comforters, books, toys, stuffed animals, an old loom, old shoes, a plastic sword (which actually came in handy. It prevented me from actually having to touch something that may have a mouse hidden in it. While I do like small rodents, I don't like to be surprised by them, kwim?) He did run around few times while I was removing stuff, but he was never in a position to throw a box over him, which was my plan.

Finally I had everything out of the closet and poor little mouse was huddled in the far corner. My youngest got me a Cheeto (did you know mice like Cheetos?) and a peanut (which we have on hand for the squirrels) which we dipped in peanut butter to make it particularly fragrant and pleasing to delicate mouse sensibilities. I placed the Cheeto and peanut butter covered peanut right in the center of the closet. Oh mice are stupid animals. After a few minutes he walked right over to the bountiful buffet we had laid before him. He didn't even notice the shoebox getting ready to come down over his head. Ah ha! I had him. Luckily DD's room was still a mess because there happened to be a clothing box just laying there from Christmas time! I ripped off a chunk to slide under the shoe box. But the shoebox and cardboard base were still too flimsy to pick up, and I was afraid Mr. Mouse would escape and there were 4 cats ready to eat him if he did. So I slid him on the floor, down the hall all the way to the front door. (That's fun to do with a bad back and leg btw). When we got the front door, I needed to get him over the threshold. I slid an old record album (Rick Springfield actually. I knew he'd come in handy again : ) under the box to make it sturdy and picked him up and put him outside. Both DD's were ready with their cameras to take his little picture as we gave him his freedom. Here he is, isn't he cute? He's a Deer Mouse.

So one dead possum and one live mouse later, I am wondering what animal will befall us next? We have had squirrels in our house, we have had birds in our house. And obviously we have had mice (this was not the first time). At least we didn't up end up with a dead possum IN our house. And I saved a mouse, I did my good deed for the day. And my karma is back in order because I didn't hear the calls of a poor, stuck possum.

~“Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.”~
—Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2416

12 May 2008

Update on my Endovenous Laser Surgery and Stab Phlebectomy

It has been one week today since I had Mr. Nasty plucked out of me, and his cause, Mr. Saphenous, shut down by laser. All I can say is, "It still hurts!"

The day of the "procedure" (I guess it wasn't technically a "surgery", it was called a "procedure"), I was a bit nervous. I'm not overly fond of pain. But extremity pain is more bearable to me than internal pain. I'd rather have veins ripped out of my legs than my appendix ripped out of my abdomen, kwim?

The first thing they did when I got there was to start medicating me. I was given liquid Versed, 2 Valium, and a Cipro (anti-biotic) for good measure. I was told to sit in a comfy chair for 20 mins to let the meds start working. The doc came in about 10 mins later with a sharpie. I felt like I was going to have plastic surgery. He proceeded to mark all the spots on my leg where he planned to jab into me. Lovely! He also decided at that point that I needed more Versed. The nurse seemed surprised as she said "Really?" when he asked her to give me more. I must have a high tolerance for narcotics (hmm, my past coming back to haunt me?), maybe I wasn't as messed up as he thought I should be. So I drank another cup of the liquid versed. BTW, it is some nasty tasting stuff.

About 10 mins later I remember being walked into the "procedure" room. I do remember laying on the table. I remember him jabbing into my knee (to get to Mr. Saphenous with the laser) and it really hurt. I know I asked some questions, but can no longer remember the questions or the answers. I do remember asking to see my vein, (I am morbid that way) and the nurse did show it to me. It looked much smaller than I thought it would. (Although it could have been in pieces). It also wasn't bloody which I thought it would be. I suppose when they take it out, there isn't blood in it anymore (duh) so that explains that!

The whole thing seemed to go by rather quickly, but it really took over an hour. What I found out later was that Versed, as well as being a major sedative, is also an amnesiac, meaning it is supposed to promote memory loss of the event. The intent is that you don't remember a lot of what went on. So it seems that it worked a bit in me. I do remember bits and pieces, but I don't remember the entire procedure. Oh well, it was probably pretty fascinating and I might have been able to learn something if I had been more coherent. I am sure that some of the questions I asked had to pertain to what they were doing. They were probably happy to not have to answer me. I am also happy to not have felt much pain during what was probably at least a slightly painful procedure.

When it was all over, they wrapped me up. I do remember most of the wrapping up (my drugs must have been wearing off). I had about 5 layers , starting with gauze and ending with huge ace bandages. And it was tight. So tight my toes kept getting tingly and I couldn't bend my knee. The bandages went from toes to upper thigh. I was not to remove any bandages until Thursday morning ( the procedure was Monday). That was also supposed to be the first time I was allowed to shower. Well, I wasn't going 3 days without a shower. I managed to get a really big lawn and leaf bag around my entire leg. I tied it off with the drawstring from some sweatpants. Then I wrapped a towel around the end for good measure. Luckily my toilet is very close to the shower, because I managed to rest my leg on the closed toilet lid, and take a sideways shower with the curtain open. It was a little difficult, but I did it. And I felt so much better being able to shower. People should know better than to tell me I can't do something......when there's a will, there's a way!

Here's a picture of what my leg looked like after taking off the bandages......this was day 3 post "procedure"

So, now it's Monday again, one week later. It's not as bruised, it's all fading to a lovely yellowish green right now. But it still really hurts. I am still wearing my super tight surgical support hose, and have to for another week. I'm still not supposed to stand still for longer than 5 mins or so at a time, although walking is good. I'm not supposed to lift anything or do anything "strenuous" for at least another week. After next Monday, supposedly, I will be almost cured, and can slowly ease back into normal activity. I'm kind of looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to it not hurting when I walk, or when I don't have my legs up. I'm looking forward to being able to sleep on my right side again. (It's my right leg).

Of course the best news was when I went back for my post "procedure" visit on Thursday. After telling me everything looked pretty good, he informed me that while he was taking care of my right leg, he decided to ultrasound the saphenous vein in my left leg, (he uses ultrasound during the procedure, so he just happened to have it there) as I have a small (very small) varicose vein on the front of my lower calf). It seems Mr. Saphenous in my left leg is shot too. He told me to let him know when I wanted to to have the left leg done! I think I'll wait a while : )

10 May 2008

Ode to my Mother on Mother's Day

My mom, Carol Ann, was born July 10th, 1941. She died June 13th, 2004. It's been almost 4 years since her death and I still miss her. We didn't have that great of a relationship, her and I, but I still miss her.
My mom was what most would call a troubled person. She was an only child of a clueless mother and a drunken father. I don't really remember my mother's father, he died when I was 5. What I know of him is mostly from the stories people told. And most of those stories weren't too pretty. Seems like the dysfunction in our family started back pretty far. I loved my mom's mom. She doted on her grandchildren. It was only as I got older that I began to understand that a lot of what she did for her grandchildren were things she wished she had done for her own daughter.
The pain and trouble started early for my mom. She suffered great emotional and physical abuse. She never got over it. It affected the rest of her life. She married young, and had children young. Too young to really be a good parent. She was never really parented, so she never learned how to parent. My father didn't have a great life either, so really, neither one of them really had a clue about how to raise children. They did what they knew: they controlled, they yelled, they beat and they ignored. I do think they loved us, they just had no idea how to show it.
This ode to my mother is not meant to tear her down. I actually had a fairly good relationship with my mom when I was very young. We moved to Illinois when I was 8 years old. My mom was born and raised in NYC. She loved the city. She moved very unhappily to "suburbia" when my father was transferred with his job. It was during those years that I became aware of my mother's problems with depression. I spent most of my childhood remembering my mom being in the hospital. It wasn't until I was in 7th grade or so that I was finally told what types of hospitals my mom was in. Sure she occasionally had a regular illness that required her to go the hospital, but most of the time she was in the psych ward. I think a lot of her physical ailments were also caused by her psych problems. I remember spending many weekends driving with my dad to visit my mom. I used to count the dead animals on the road while we drove. I don't know why I remember that. I remember the time they let her out for Christmas. She had to go back the next day.
I am the youngest of 3. My sister is 5 years older than me, and my brother is 4. So by the time I was in high school, my siblings were out of the house. It was around this time I guess my mom felt I could take care of myself. So, instead of heading into the nut house when she needed it, she began taking off. She would just up and leave. Drive to Florida, go visit friends, just leave. I remember being at work one day, and she called me at work to tell me I needed to go home and feed my grandfather dinner (my dad's dad lived with us) because she was heading to Florida. No one knew she was leaving that day, she just left. I asked my dad many years later why he stayed with her. (Life with Carol just wasn't easy.) He said he stayed for us kids. Not sure how his staying with her helped us, but in his mind it did.
Again, I am not trying to slam my mom. These are just memories. All of us kids really raised ourselves. A lot of times it seems like the roles were reversed. We needed to parent Carol.
I fought with my mom. I always told her what was on my mind. In reality now, I know I am a lot more like my mom than I would like to admit. Despite her many faults she could be a very strong woman. She did teach us to stand up for ourselves, (probably because she was unable to do that for herself). We learned how to survive in the real world. I know a lot of people who are book smart, and have no life smarts. She taught us life smarts. I'm sure living in NYC helped with that. I know that no matter what happens, I CAN take care of myself.
It wasn't until I had my own children that I better understood my mom. I was 27 when I had my first. My mom was 27 when she had her 3rd (me). I think if I had 3 children at 27, I too might have been a bit loopy. I remember she came to visit me when my first born was 3 weeks old. I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing with a newborn. I remember crying to her and telling her I should have just kept having cats. She reassured me that I would be a good mom and I just needed to give it time. For once she was right.
My mom was loud and over the top. She liked to party and was often the life of the party. I remember so many parties she threw while we were growing up. Every Christmas Eve we had an open house. My mom loved to cook and entertain. She loved to drink and dance. People really liked my mom. She often helped those outside her family more than she helped those within. She could be a really wonderful person at times. It seems that those were the times she had her demons under control. But they always came back. She had many self destructive tendencies.
After my mom died my brother, sister and I went through her house to sort out her belongings. (My dad had already died 6 years earlier). Years ago, my sister and I had given her a book called (I think) "For My Children's Children". It had questions to answer and spaces to write info about one's life. When we gave it to her, I don't think my sister or I really thought she would fill it out. She did. It was surprising to read some of the things she wrote. At the very back of the book it asked what was the one thing the person was most proud of in their life. My mother said "her children". None of us expected that. She wrote more, but suffice it to say, we were the most important thing she felt she had ever accomplished. She never verbalized that to us. I don't think she knew how. It was comforting to read that upon her death.
So here I sit 4 Mother's Days after her death. I wish I had been given more time with her. I wish she had been given a chance to purge herself of her demons. I wish my children had been given the chance to know her.
I do know I will see her again. I hope she is happy and finally free where she is.
Happy Mother's Day mom. I love you.
I miss thee, my Mother! Thy image is still the deepest impressed on my heart.~Eliza Cook

04 May 2008

54 Things I Love About My Husband

Today is my DH's birthday. He is 54. We are calling it his triple golden birthday because he was born 5/4/54......and today he is 54! So I thought maybe I could come up with 54 things I love about my husband. (disclaimer....I got this idea off another homeschooling moms blog! : )

1. He's cute
2. He's funny
3. He has a nice butt
4. He smells good
5. He can fix computers
6. He can fix cars
7. He can fix almost anything!
8. If he can't fix something, he reads about it until he can (he's very unschooley that way : )
9. He's very smart
10. He's witty
11. He's forgiving
12. He eats my cooking
13. He takes me out for dinner
14. He puts up with my PMS
15. He puts up with my cats
16. He puts up with my outside cats : )
17. He puts up with my unschooling the girls
18. He puts up with my minimal house cleaning skills
19. He calls me from work to say hi
20. He calls me before he leaves work to come home
21. He kisses me goodbye every morning
22. He'll get me my paper before he leaves for work
23. He'll go out in a thunderstorm to clean out the gutters so our basement doesn't flood
24. He kills spiders
25. He doesn't kill mice
26. He's a musician
27. He sings to me (sometimes)
28. He watches the History channel
29. He knows a lot about technology, so we have a really cool TV
30. He watches American Idol
31. He lets me use all the tivo hours for all my shows
32. He's a good son
33. He's a good brother
34. He's a good dad
35. He has really nice hair
36. He works hard
37. He takes care of his family
38. He wears Hawaiian shirts
39. He barbecues
40. He knows a lot about a lot of things
41. He watches Jeopardy with me everyday
42. He loves his kids
43. He loves me
44. He took me to Vegas
45. He took me to Disneyworld...3x
46. He rubs my back
47. He cuddles
48. He does the laundry
49. He sets up the Christmas tree and fluffs the branches
50. He has traveled to all sorts of interesting places and tells me about them
51. He likes to have "Jamaica days" when it's really hot in the summer
52. He bails me out when I make stupid mistakes
53. He takes care of me when I am sick
54. He's the best thing that ever happened to me!

I love you sweetie! Hope you had a wonderful birthday and may we have many more birthdays together.

And in the end The love you take, Is equal to the love you make.
-Paul McCartney-

02 May 2008

Endovenous Laser Surgery with a Stab Phlebectomy on the side

That's what I am having done to me on Monday.

I developed this big old nasty varicose vein (herein called Mr. Nasty V.) 13 years ago while pregnant with my eldest daughter. I was always conscious of it, it's ugly. It's in my right inner thigh. So if I wore longer shorts, or kept my legs together, : ) it wasn't very visible. But if I was on my feet all day, I knew it was there without needing to see it. It would hurt. It would bulge, and get hot. Ewwww! But then if I spent some time with my legs up, the pain would go away. So I ignored it all these years. Until January of this year. My leg had been bugging me more than usual. The Christmas season had been busy, I was on my legs a lot, I chalked it up to that. But one day in the shower, while shaving said leg, it hurt when I got near Mr. Nasty V. I looked at it and realized it was pretty red and also had two very prominent red lumps in the vein, that were painful and hot to the touch. Hmmm, that doesn't seem good. So off to the doctor I went.

Seems I had some blood clots in Mr Nasty V. I had an ultrasound. The blood clots were contained in Mr. Nasty V., so "supposedly" it wasn't too serious and I "shouldn't" worry about anything breaking off and killing me! Don't they know me? Worry is my middle name!

I went to see a Vascular surgeon. He specializes in Laser removal of Mr. Nasty V's, not surgical stripping. That's a good thing. He checks me out, and tell me all sorts of things about the veins in my legs that I never learned in high school. See that would've been good information for a woman with a genetic pre-disposition to Mr. Nasty V.'s to have learned.

Anyway, it seems you have a big old Femoral Artery that runs down your leg. The next biggest vein that shoots off the Femoral is the Saphenous vein. It appears my Saphenous vein is shot. Doesn't work anymore. At the top of my leg where the Saphenous meets the Femoral, the diameter of the vein has blown open. It's something like 3x the size it's supposed to be. (Can't remember how small the opening is supposed to be, mine is not small enough). Also, there are little valves in your leg veins that are supposed to close after the blood gets pushed up. My valves weren't even visible, which means they have either been blown open or somehow disappeared. So, basically, I need my Saphenous vein shut down. BTW, my varicose isn't in my Saphenous vein, it is an off shoot of the Saphenous vein. The bad Saphenous vein, (you know, the blood running back down my leg because it had no help getting back up my leg since my valves went AWOL) caused the varicose vein to develop. So, not only do we have to do something with the Saphenous vein, I will need another procedure as well to take care of Mr. Nasty V.

This is why on Monday I am having Endovenous Laser Surgery (to take care of Mr. Saphenous) and a Stab Phlebectomy (to take car of Mr. Nasty V.) Basically I will go in to his office and first he will give me a nice cocktail of pain killers and sedatives so hopefully I don't feel anything during the procedure. I will not be asleep, but should be "happy" as he liked to put it. Then he will begin to numb my leg from groin to knee with a SERIES of injections. (I don't know how many a SERIES is, but I don't like the sound of it.) After I am numb, he will use a needle to poke into my Saphenous at the knee. Once in, he will thread a small laser into the vein and up to the top of my leg where the Saphenous meets the Femoral. Once there he will begin to pulse the laser, slowly pulling it down the vein while he pulses. The heat from the laser will shut down the vein. It will close behind the laser as he pulls it down. (I REALLY hope I can't feel that). "Supposedly" my body will just absorb the closed down vein over time. (Wonder where it goes?) "Supposedly" the blood that used to run through that vein will be re-routed elsewhere. (Can you tell I am hesitant to believe everything I am told)? That part of the procedure should take 30-45 mins.

After he is done closing down Mr. Saphenous, he will move on to removing Mr. Nasty V. That requires him to make a SERIES (there's that word again) of stabs along the length of Mr. Nasty V. (Mr. Nasty V. is about 6 inches long btw). After he makes these "stabs", he will use a crochet hook like thing (their words, not mine) and pull the vein up out of the stab holes and remove it. I am guessing he will have to cut it at some point, although he never used the word "cut" while explaining it to me. This part should take about 20 mins. After that they will wrap my leg in a giant ace bandage from toe to groin, and I cannot remove it for 48 hours. So no shower for me........ewww once again. The only plus to all this is that I get to lay around for those 48 hours. I am supposed to keep my leg elevated as much as possible although walking is good for me. I can walk to the bathroom (and the refirgerator : ) Standing is a no-no, so no standing in front of the stove to cook or sink to wash dishes or ironing board to iron clothes. Awww shucks!

I will go back and see him on day 3. If all looks well, I will need to wear my super tight surgical hose for the next 2 weeks around the clock. I can resume normal activities after the first 3 to 5 days, but nothing strenuous. (Aren't cooking, cleaning and laundry strenuous activities?)

While I am not looking forward to Monday, I will be happy to see Mr. Nasty V. go bye bye. I will once again be able to go to a carnival or walk around a mall or take a hike with my girls without my leg killing me at the end of the day. I will no longer need to wear long shorts or be embarrassed in my swimsuit. (Aside from the fact that I don't have great legs anyway and don't look too hot in a swimsuit either : )

I'll let you know how it all went after the fact. Hopefully I won't have any horror stories to tell.
(Click below for the after procedure update)

01 May 2008


I've had that comment thrown at me occasionally. Usually said in utter disbelief that 1) I thought I was capable or qualified to do such a thing or 2) What am I crazy? Wanting my kids around 24/7?

BTW, I hate the term "homeschool". If I wanted to do "school at home" I might as well put my girls in school. We don't do "school at home". We don't sit around the table with a pile of books in front of us and spend 45 mins on math and then we must do 45 mins of reading and then we must do 45 of science etc, etc. ad nauseam!!!!! Barf! I apologize to those of you who may do "homeschool" that way. But it is just not for us.

Unfortunately, we did start out that way. I didn't know any better. My girls started in Montessori, which I and they loved. By the time my eldest was a 2nd grader and my youngest was in K, I knew the costs of Montessori were more than we could handle. I could have gone back to work full-time and still not been able to pay the tuition. So "homeschooling" seemed like the next best thing. In Montessori kids are allowed the freedom of movement. They don't have desks like the public school. They have "work" they need to accomplish, but they can do it in whatever order they wish, and spend as much time as needed. Of course they still had the requisite gym, art and music classes, and those were on timetables. But the school was run completely counter to how they run the public schools. So I knew in order to continue fulfilling my girls ideal learning environment, the public schools were not for us.

But I knew nothing of "homeschooling". So of course, the experts (aka, other "homeschooling" moms) told me how it should be done. "You must get the "right" curriculum". "You must spend at least 5 hours a day on school". "You must have a schedule". Blah, blah, blah!!!!

It took me 3 or 4 months into our first year to realize this system was not for us. My girls and I spent the rest of that first year doing unit studies with library books. But next September, I was at it again. "Must have been the wrong curriculum" I thought, "this year will be better." Not! By Christmas we were once again ready to throw the curriculum out the window!

Around this time I started exploring unschooling. Such a controversial word, such a revolutionary way of learning! I spent most of the summer after our 2nd year of "homeschooling" reading everything I could get my hands on by John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. Wow! How come I had never heard of these guys before? How come this stuff isn't in the hands of every parent with children trapped in the system? It all made sense. It explained my feelings as a child trapped in the system. I actually did really well in school until around 8th grade. Then I got bored. And tired of being told what to do. And tired of doing the same things over and over even though I had already acquired the knowledge. As time went on in high school, I grew more and more resentful of being trapped in that building all day and treated so poorly. They talked about preparing us for adulthood, while treating us like small children. Being told what to do and when to do it. Even getting drinks of water and going to the bathroom were regulated by the "teachers". It was about crowd control. Nothing I did in high school prepared me for adulthood. If anything it prevented me from becoming a better adult.

So after reading books that validated what I already felt about the school system, I felt more than prepared to chart a new way for me and my girls. The last few years we have been learning through living. Another label I don't really care for, but the best way to explain it. We just live our lives and learn. Everyday is a new chance to grow and learn something new. Even adults learn something new everyday. I think I have learned more in the last 20 years out of school than I ever learned in school. And it was all self motivated, I wanted to learn. I sought out the information, found books, people (or the internet) with the knowledge, and learned it.

My girls have become experts on how to teach themselves. They know how to research, they know where to go to find what they need, or they know who to ask to help them reach their goals (usually me at this time : ) My youngest has begun drawing and building little homes for her small stuffed animals (Pokemon actually!) Her entire room has a become somewhat of an interior design studio. I didn't tell her to do it or teach her how. She enjoys it, so she does it. She has learned how to use space effectively, she has learned to sew blankets and clothes for her animals. She has learned how to combine colors for the best look. She is enamoured with all things Japanese. She has gone online and taught herself Japanese words. She asked for an Ocarina for her b-day, and has begun to teach herself to play it. She wanted to learn about poetry so we went to the library and got poetry books. I didn't "teach" her how to write poetry, she just read some classic poems. Then she wrote some, and they are wonderful considering she is only 11 and was never "taught" how to write poetry. My eldest is also into all things Japanese. She started going to an Anime club at our library. They view Anime and get to vote on whether or not the library should buy the video. The democratic process in action. She reads Manga. She know the difference between Manga for girls and Manga for boys. She also knows some Japanese. She runs online stores at Neopets and Subeta. She earns money (cyber money) and sells and buys items (real world math anyone?) She is a gamer, which uses many critical thinking skills. She can out game any girl she knows : ) She goes to a game night at the library and is usually the only girl there. I think she is comfortable in any situation, because she is comfortable with herself. She hasn't had to put up with the "mean girls" or feel like she can't be who she is or she won't fit in. I wonder why there aren't any other girls at the game nights? Could it be they are afraid of what others may think? My eldest is also a voracious reader. She reads about a book a day. I have never had to tell her to to read. She just loves it. So much can be learned by reading a wide variety of books.

I am not worried about my girls, although others think I should be. I am an anomaly in the world I am in. We go to a Christian co-op. I am the only unschooler there. Most people, at least other Christians believe unschooling to be wrong. It gives the children too much freedom. Children shouldn't have freedom, right? They need to be controlled and told what to do so that when they grow up they can find jobs and be good little worker bees and do what their superiors tell them too. Or if they are girls, they need to learn to submit and do what their husbands tell them to. GAG!!!!!! (Sorry again, if I offend, these are just my own humble opinions, what works for you just may not work for me).

I want to raise THINKERS. I want to raise girls who can solve problems, and think about solutions. I want to raise girls who are HAPPY. I have wandered aimlessly the last 20 years since graduating high school. I was never given direction or allowed the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do. I had a lot of different dreams as a child. Most were shot down by the powers that be as unattainable, irresponsible, unrealistic. So I became complacent and didn't know what I wanted to "be". So I really became nothing. Sure I am a wife and mom now, and I wouldn't trade that for anything at the moment. But my girls will move on, hopefully into happy meaningful lives. I am hoping in the process of unschooling with them, I have begun to unschool myself. May we all together grow and become what we were meant to be, in the freedom of teaching of ourselves.

Meanwhile, education--compulsory schooling, compulsory learning--is a tyranny and a crime against the human mind and spirit. Let all those escape it who can, any way they can.~John Holt Instead of Education