On Father’s Day

I said I needed a man who was tough enough to take on my problems.

I said I needed a man who would let me hide behind him.

I said I needed a man who knew how to cook, knew how to fix cars, and could iron his own clothes.

I said I needed a man who did not mind that my email address was in latin, that I read medieval history books for fun, and that I know some of the weirdest trivia facts.

I said I needed a man who would be a good father.

I said all that, in a note. I tucked the note into my journal, almost 10 years ago, and forgot about it. I got busy with school and work, and life.

And then -he- wandered into my life.

I had 1,001 reasons why it wouldn’t work. The age gap (I’m older), he was in the Army, I didn’t want to leave Texas, I didn’t like to cook, I had baggage from a string of failed relationships. He was nothing if not persistent.

I found myself, somewhere around 2 years after writing that note, sitting in a bathroom in a rental house in Georgia, south of Savannah, a few minutes from the gates of Fort Stewart. My pants were around my ankles, a Route 44 Strawberry Limeade was on the bathroom counter, half-empty. And 3 pregnancy tests were sitting on the counter.

Every single one was positive.

He became a father while on an airplane coming in from Iraq. He didn’t hold his first born until the next day. He smelled like dirt and sand and airplane, and his ACUs desperately needed to be washed when he dropped into the chair next to my hospital bed, and held his little girl for the first time.

And that was all she wrote.

Family life has heaped a heavy burden on his shoulders. He took it.

He held on as I cried through the loss of a sibling, and then another. I lost an aunt, then grandparents that never really liked me, and still I cried. He has endured countless mood swings; both girls inherited my temperament. He carried first one baby, and then another, on his shoulder, propped in the crook of his elbow, changed diapers, changed their clothes, brushed their hair. He’s learned how to give breathing treatments, allergy medicine, how to put on cortisone on itchy skin, where to put a humidifier to get the maximum effect.

He has gone to work on little sleep, after spending the night up with a sick baby and a wife too stressed out to remember how to measure out baby Tylenol. And slept with a sick baby in a recliner. And slept with a sick wife propped on his shoulder.

That note, with my list of things I wanted in a man is long gone. But I remember the last line, he has to be a good father.

He is the best father.

~Jennifer

What We Learned

 

The first day of school, and the last. Of course I took pictures, it is what I do, I record memories and save them. Print them, frame them, turn them into books to flip through. I compared the pictures, side by side, two little girls, gamely holding up signs and smiling for me. Or really, smiling for the bribe of candy I promised.

We have come so far. Some days I lead, and they follow, like ducklings at my feet. But I realize now that they have led as much, leaving me to follow. If I just shut up, and trust in myself; to teach, in them to learn, in us to come together, I learn just as much.

I’ve learned that I do not have girls who learn through play. Well they do, but I came into homeschooling thinking we would have a play-based, Montessori-style education.

Instead Sprout will watch documentaries on Egypt, come to me with questions, and we will stumble down a rabbit hole, learning obscure facts.

I’ve learned that Pudge will stack blocks, just so, over and over, until they are aligned perfectly. She sits patiently with a box of rainbow counting bears, carefully sorting them and matching them, standing them facing the same way.

Where Sprout is all instinct and rushing into things, Pudge is calculating, technical, taking her time to finish something. She still eats paint though.

I discovered a huge secular homeschooling group, and my sanity when I did so. Through them I found a history curriculum, a science, a math. I am better armed for the formal years of schooling, now that I’ve seen so many of them do it, than I was before. And I am better prepared for how the girls need to learn. They need to be challenged and nudged, led to discoveries and realizations.

Halfway through the year, I realized that many of the questions I was getting, about homeschooling, about what we do, were not questions, but were thinly veiled criticisms. How do you do it, really means can I do it. I don’t see how you can teach that, you didn’t take it in school, really means, are you smart enough to teach it. I’ve learned to see the genuine questions, and the criticisms. Questions I answer, and criticisms I ignore. For the most part.

Along with that, I’ve learned that some people are not going to respect my decision to homeschool. (Our decision really.) I’ve whittled most of those people out of my life. Homeschooling will be a huge part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and I do not have the time and patience to deal with the nay sayers. I do not want to create an echo chamber, but I do not want to waste my time defending my decisions either.

I’ve learned to write lesson plans, to stay organized. A few minutes at the start of the week, and everything goes smoother. It’s easier to fill those little brains and keep them learning.

On the other hand, I’ve learned when to throw those plans out and get creative. The weather will ruin a perfectly planned outdoor experiment. I will run out of supplies the night before a big project. One of us will get sick. Those days, we put our best laid plans to one side, and just relax.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to relax. Although my end goal is to keep the girls on roughly their age level in public school, it is ok that Sprout has atrocious handwriting and doesn’t like to work on it. Or that she is ahead in math and science. I can teach them at their speed, subject by subject, until things even out. But they are learning, soaking in everything I point out, talk about, whatever they read about. More of it is sticking than I ever dreamed would.

We do things differently. We’ve become more classical in style than unschool. We have more of a routine than many homeschoolers do, especially with young kids. But it is working for us. That’s what is important.

For the rest of the summer, I have plans to do summer school. A few projects and things to do every day, nothing like the rest of the year. Maybe some handwriting work, lots of science lessons and math, lots of art and coloring.

And then?? We’ll see how much we all learn this next year.

~Jennifer

 

Here We Are

I wasn’t planning on writing this post anytime soon. I have a couple I’ve been working on, writing and saving as I come up with ideas. But like most of my life, plans changed.

On June 6, 2017, I washed the last load of cloth diapers for my kids. A little over a month before my 37th birthday, and we are done.

Tonight, the 11th, Pudge fell asleep without her milkies. She asked, but this time when I told her that bottles were gone and I would be happy to get her a cup of milk, she whined, and then fell asleep. It probably helps that she was up almost 2 hours past bedtime.

I am sitting here, drowning my sorrows in hummus, tortilla chips and Dr. Pepper.

The long, sleep-deprived trek of my life that has involved babies is over. My youngest is 2. My oldest is 6. And the days of rocking a sweet-smelling infant to sleep have slipped through my fingers.

I am at turns unsettled and comfortable with this.

On one hand, both girls are sleeping better lately.

On the other hand… footed pajamas. Neither girl liked them much past when they started walking. So they have come to symbolize babyhood for me.

The Jennifer of Before Kids is not back. And honestly, she may never back as she was, so much has changed. But the Jennifer as I Am, the who I am beneath Mom, I can see her now. There is still so much I want to do, things I want to accomplish. I finished up my Bucket List, the one I wrote a week before high school graduation, before 30. In between 30 and 37, I have been Mom. And The Mrs. There hasn’t been much time for a new Bucket List, I’ve been too busy washing bottles and diapers, wiping faces and butts, rocking babies, folding clothes, pumping gas, carrying children.

To go back to those times of babies will be to give up what little Me I have rewritten. There is so much story still left to write, so many pictures to take and songs to learn, and tattoos to get. There is so much to do still.

But…

They were my babies. Long before they started claiming their independence, long before they started snipping apron strings, they were babies. They were my fiercely guarded lion cubs. They were mine. And I will have to give them up, to their own lives, far sooner than I realized.

I would stay longer in the Land of Babies, if I could. I would linger here, with tiny clothes, tiny fingers to curl around mine, and a tiny head propped on my shoulder. But the girls will not let me. They didn’t linger here any longer than they needed to, and now they are pulling me through their childhood.

We have tea parties to play, and dolls to dress up, sidewalk chalk to color with, and bubbles to blow. We have toes to paint, and lip gloss to use up. We have childhood to get to.

While I will throw myself into their childhood, just like I did their baby years… I may stop to look back. A few times.

~Jennifer

Redefining, Two Years Later.

It has been two years since I wrote Redefining.

I broke one of the cardinal rules in my family. I spoke openly about them, and not in glowing terms. I knew as I was writing it that it would not be well-received amongst my Mom’s family, but I wrote it anyway.

You see, I wrote it, like I do everything on this blog, for me. I shared it with the world, but I put those words to paper for me. I knew in publishing it that it would shred the last bonds that held me to the people that have done so much damage to me.

Their response was everything I expected it to be. And some even shocked me. But it was typical for them, gaslighting and meanness and the toxic attitudes I grew up in.

Those responses proved me right, that I had to, at all costs, protect my girls. There was no one to stand up for me growing up, but I will not let my children share that same fate.  I have been driven, since I held Sprout for the first time, to give them a better life than the one I had.

In taking stock of things, I’ve realized how far I’ve come.

My excommunication from the family no longer stings. I don’t find myself staring at the phone, or wondering why no one calls. This is simply how things are, and after I burned every bridge back to my family down, I built a new Family. I have this hodge podge collection of friends and some blood family, who are amazing, supportive, caring people. The definition of what family is supposed to be is found there, not with my Mom’s family.

The girls have grown, and changed. Sprout no longer asks for the family she knew, but instead plays with her friends, and shares a bond so tight with her baby sister that you cannot get a piece of paper between them. There came a morning when I realized the girls had forgotten the pain of the past, and I took my cues from them. Go play in the sunshine and pick flowers; and let the memories of the past fade away like a bad dream. Pudge is 2 now, with blessedly no memory of anyone in the family that has caused any pain, or drama. They are true California girls now, growing tan and golden in the sun, with an entire mountain chain standing between them and my family.

I have built a small bridge with my Dad. I find myself calling him more, sending him pictures and letters more. I can see him now, not as the monster my Mother’s family cast him as, but as he is. Flawed, struggling with his own demons, but human, and someone who loves me very much. I see myself in the girls, and that means I see plenty of my Dad. There was a time when I would have hated that. But now? It’s a gift.

I am the better for all of this. Several times in the past two years, I have doubted my choices. I have considered writing letters, emails, making phone calls, and starting to repair some of the damage done. I still haven’t, and I’m the better for it. I’ve learned who to rely on, and who to consider fair-weather, and who to just let slip through my fingers and keep going. I’ve finally, at closer to 40 than I am to 30, learned to see toxic relationships for what they are, and walk away. If I had paid attention, and been willing to stand up for myself earlier, it wouldn’t have taken this long. But at least I learned it.

There is no one to explain myself to. I parent differently than I was raised, I educate my girls differently, I’ve made a 180 in many aspects of my life. And I don’t have to explain any of those choices. By putting so much distance, literal and metaphorical, between me and them, I have freed myself of the expectations, and freed my children of the same expectations. We can simply be who we are supposed to be, without having to explain ourselves to anyone.

It brought Hubs and I closer together. We spent so much time apart, those first years, that I had no idea how to be with him. He was always away, when the going got tough, and I always turned to my family, even as the family used what they learned during those hard times against me. I still had not learned to come to him, when I wrote Redefining, and for a few months, I was a little off-center. But now, I’ve learned his shoulders are strong enough to carry my problems, that he is brave enough to face off against my family, that he never backs down. The qualities that made him so attractive, when he was a soldier, are still there. He is oftentimes my shield, my hiding place, my safe harbor. He is the best father I could ask for, the best husband I could want.

Let me pause here, and say that I am sorry for any pain I have caused. I did not mean to then, and do not mean to now, cause intentional harm. But I also will not just play along with everything, and pretend that things are fine, when they are not. I do not lie to my girls, and I will not lie here. No one has made any effort to see what prompted Redefining, nor have they made any attempt to reach out to me (save one person); so I do not feel too bad about the uproar the post caused. But I am sorry for causing anyone pain.

There is peace being on the outside. Out here in the desert, it is calm, and quiet; I can raise my girls and live my life, and be happy. I think I’ll stay out here a little longer.

~Jennifer

 

A Story

I want to tell you a story.

It is about a girl.

She was Rapunzel in a tower, except it wasn’t Mother Gothel keeping her there, but the weight of her family’s expectations. The goals they had set for her, the standards she was expected to meet.

There were times, when the wild spirit showed through. When she would disappear for a weekend and come home with memorabilia from artists in Austin. When she took off chasing thunderstorms across the Texas plains, and spent the night watching lighting storms in Oklahoma. When she went wandering into a club in Dallas, and learned that whips and chains were used for an entirely different purpose than what she had believed.

She dreamed dreams and made plans, different dreams and different plans than her family wanted. She slipped out from their thumbs to take pictures and pick flowers and watch movies and eat too much candy.

Her heart was broken. Her skin was bruised by a fist. She survived, and she was still wild.

But then, she met a soldier. She fell in love, into a safe, warm love, and suddenly found herself wanting all that she had said she did not.

She got married. They got pregnant.

And she settled down to a life of expectations. New expectations.

Good mothers do not go sky diving. Good mothers do not dye their hair pink, or blue.

A good soldier’s wife wears a dress without wrinkles. Her hair is perfect. She doesn’t have a pink stud in her nose.

Good mothers keep their house spotless, their children in perfect clothes. They put on makeup every day.

She smothered her dreams and hopes and wants in a layer of respectability. She learned to act the part, dress the part, almost be the part. But she was not a hot house orchid, carefully cultured and cultivated. She wilted like a wild flower in winter.

Listening to the opinions of others, she slid into roles she did not want. Said things she did not believe. She forgot the person she was, before, when she was new. She separated the part of her that created; that made blankets, took pictures, played music, from the rest of her. She surrendered to someone else’s idea of what a mother should be.

She locked herself back into a tower, this time of expectations of what she should be now. It was safe in the tower, it was what she knew. But it was stifling. She crumbled.

Her life came back to her in small pieces. Glimpses of the force of nature she had been. She picked up a camera again, dyed her hair pink, learned to play princess songs on her guitar.

And then… one night… in a shower so hot it turned her skin red and made her dizzy, she made a decision. It is better to be the person she is, than a Mother she is not. It is better to let her children run as wild as she did, without the weight of family. She could be the mother that let her children stay up late looking at stars, and still be a good mother.

She could have tattoos. She could have piercings. She could take too many pictures, play guitar too long, she did not have to do dishes before she went to bed. There was no harm in not folding the blankets perfect on the couch before she turned out the lights. It was more important to spend time with her family, than worrying about the cares of others.

To ignore the person she was, who she really was, when all the labels were stripped away, was doing her harm. And in doing herself harm, she was doing her family harm.

How does this story end??

I don’t know. Rapunzel came out of her tower and had a grand adventure with Flynn Rider.

It is time for me to come out of mine.

~Jennifer

Room for Me??

I have written, and re-written, and re-written this. The previous incantations are all in the trash, sitting there on my desktop, mocking me. Mocking my fear.

I am afraid to write this. I am afraid to post it. I am afraid to even say it out loud.

Here goes…

There isn’t a place in Feminism (the movement, not the people within it) for me. That is remarkably hard to type.

I am a stay at home mother. I spend my days in yoga pants, homeschooling two small children. I rely on my spouse, a man, for income. I go to Starbucks in flip flops. A trip to the grocery store alone is a small vacation.

Feminism is all about Leaning In now. A woman’s place is in the boardroom. And I am not living up to that goal right now. I traded in a job, a career, for late night diaper changes and singing the ABC song during circle time.

And Feminism is leaving me behind.

Often I see posts and comments online deriding stay at home mothers. I see things talking about how boring it must be, and how women who are at home can not be fulfilled with those choices, and we are part of the problem.

But I thought Feminism was about me having a choice. I thought the goal of the movement was to allow women to make their own choices for their lives, from pregnancy to careers, to where to live, to who to bank with, all the choices we get to make. I’m not home because I am forced to be. I am at home by choice.

Let me say that again.

I. Am. At. Home. By. Choice.

I needed a break from the rat race that is working. I needed time to breathe and be in this season of my life. I was tired and emotionally wrung out, and I wanted some peace in my life. I found that, at home. I am happier at home. I like being at home.

I had plans to go back to work. I had plans to put Sprout into kindergarten, and go to work. I stumbled onto homeschooling, and then I had Pudge, and I realized that there is, right now, no other place I would rather be.

Yeah, some days I get bored. Somedays I am so tired of The Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider. BUT.

The good days outnumber the bad. The moments in the sunshine, playing in the grass, the moments in the rain, jumping in puddles, the lazy warmth of afternoon when we put a movie on and snuggle on the couch, those moments all outweigh the bad tenfold.

I thought Feminism was about choices. I thought it was about letting each woman make her own choices for her own life without interference from anyone.

So why then, is the focus on pushing me to work? Why is the focus on putting me back into a career and a job and a life I do not want? Why can’t I be at Feminist and be at home? Why can’t I be a Feminist and homeschool? Why must I Lean In, when all I want to do is Slow Down?

Is there room for me within Feminism?

~Jennifer

How Far She’ll Go

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Right now, Sprout tells me she isn’t going to move out. When you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she says nothing, she wants to stay at home with me. “I’m not leaving my Mama”, she says, with a stubbornness that is genetic.

Every time she says it, I get a pang in my chest, my heart squeezing painfully against my ribs. Despite her insistence that she is not going to leave, I know she is. Her time will come, and she will want her independence. Already she is stretching the bond between us, spending more time without me, playing by herself, or with her sister, wanting Daddy for more and more, letting go of my hand when we’re at the grocery store, and skipping ahead down the aisle. She jumps from one brown tile to another, skipping the white ones, on the floor, until she is at the end of the aisle, and I have to call her back.

The knowledge that she will spread her wings and fly shows itself in her taste in music. She loves the Moana soundtrack, and she loves How Far I’ll Go, the most. One day, after she sat and sang the entire song from her car seat, I asked her why she liked the song so much. Because Mama, Moana is going on an adventure, and she sees all kinds of things on her adventure, she meets Maui, and the sparkly crab and whales, and she learns to steer the canoe by the stars.

She is attracted to stories and songs about adventures. For a year it was Tangled, and the adventures of Rapunzel. Then it was Frozen. Now it’s Moana.

The stories about princesses who wait for the prince to come? They aren’t for her. She’ll watch Snow White warble on about her prince, or Sleeping Beauty sing about her dream of a prince, but given her choice, she picks adventures. She watches Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, she has dived headlong into the Emily Windsnap series, this morning at 5 am she was up reading. She wants adventure in the great wide somewhere, and just like Belle, she isn’t afraid of monsters.

My oldest child is going places. She feels the same attachment to home I have, and I know when she leaves it will be with tears in her eyes. But she will leave.

She is my child. The call to the road and adventures is genetic too.

~Jennifer

The Land of One

Tomorrow is my last day in the Land of One. There is no little baby coming up behind Pudge, once the clock rolls over to midnight, I will not come here again.

One is a land of sippy cups during the day, and bottles at night. One is a land of Up, and More, and NO. One is the land of naptimes, lovies and pacifiers.

The baby I cradled against my shoulder, a head full of dark hair, skin yellowed from jaundice, and slept in the sunshine from my living room window, she is gone.

But so is the barely one year old.

A sturdy toddler body launches herself into my arms from the couch. A head full of dark hair lays next to mine on the pillow at night, half-heartedly sucking on a pacifier as she sleeps. The crib has been turned into a toddler bed, and already we are looking at bunk-beds.

2T clothes, and soon 3T, dominate the wardrobe. Size 6 shoes sit by the door.

We are firmly in the Land of Toddler.

Today at lunch, she held her arms up, arms that are no longer chubby, and said Up. Followed it up with a please, and so I ignored the bubbling water on the stove, and hoisted her onto my shoulder. On their bedtime playlist is These Are The Days. I have memories of spinning slow circles in my kitchen with her cradled in my arms, or sleeping on my shoulder.

Sprout and I have Layla, the Unplugged version. She still firmly believes that Eric Clapton wrote that song for her.

Pudge and I have These Are the Days. And standing there today, on the last day of 1, with her head on my shoulder, and her eyes half closed, I cried. Not the big fat tears of true sadness. But small tears. Tears of letting go.

Tomorrow we are off to see the snow and play in the mountains. Her first day in the Land of Two will be one of adventure and fun.

Goodbye Land of One. My memories of you are sweet. And exhausting, I feel like every time I have come through this land, I am exhausted. But we can not stay any longer. Life is pulling us along.

 

~Jennifer

Alexi Laiho. Cheekbones.

Alexi Laiho is the reason why I know I have cheekbones.

Let me back up. In the years in between Sprout’s birth and now, I have lost two siblings, an aunt, and the only set of grand-parents I had alive. I have become the official Black Sheep of my Mom’s family. My husband has deployed once more, left the Army, and moved us across the country during the hottest part of the year. And I had Pudge.

Somewhere along the way my immune system decided it hated my thyroid, and left me dealing with a long list of symptoms, leaving me a casualty of the war between white blood cells and hormones. The stress of everything broke me, and I collapsed in on myself.

Then my husband got back into metal. He started going to concerts and watching videos and listening to it more. He bought a guitar, and then another, and then another, and then another. He started a blog. One evening, I saw a box. Holding an EMG Alexi Laiho signature pickup. Alexi Laiho was on the box.

The world stopped turning for a moment.

I was looking at the living embodiment of teen-age Jennifer dreams. The ultimate bad boy. That crazy rush of hormones that marks the start of a crush hit my brain while I was still staring at his picture.

First I hit Google, where I obsessively read everything I could about Children of Bodom. Then I listened to their music. Not played it in the background, while I was doing something, I sat in my bathroom, while the girls napped, and listened to it.

I nurtured this crush for months. One morning, after not sleeping while getting the girls back to bed, after dozing on the couch while the sun came up, a sick baby on my shoulder; I staggered into my bathroom. I felt every year, every single day of my life, as I stared at myself. A little voice, a little insidious voice started whispering in the back of my head, that I was not the type of woman Alexi Laiho would want. “You are not a take-charge person and you haven’t been for years.” “He would not want you.” “You are not worth his time.”

I spent a few days so wrapped up in that voice, that I could not concentrate. The house went to hell, I didn’t play with the girls, I barely remembered to feed the girls. I burned dinner. I didn’t sleep.

That voice was right. He would not want the girl who had been devastated by life, who had withdrawn rather than fight back. I realized I did not want that girl either, I didn’t want to be her anymore.

I bought makeup a few days later. I bought highlighter and bronzer and watched Youtube videos on how to even use what I bought, more makeup than I have ever bought before. I remembered to pluck my eyebrows. I bought lotion, and then more lotion, and then even more lotion. I bought lotion that matched bath soap and body spray that matched both. I started painting my toes again.

One morning, I actually used the bronzer. And I discovered, I have cheekbones.

I have cheekbones.

Now, months after I saw his face on that box… I am not who I was. I am still me.

But I am not who I was during those dark days.

I jumped into the world of metal. Hubs bought me a guitar. And then another. And then another.

I started reading photography tutorials again, I started taking pictures again, I remembered to take my camera out of my bag.

I went to a metal concert. Yeah, I went to see Children of Bodom. I stood in between the mosh pit and the rail, in a crush of humanity, screaming until my throat was raw. I did not have a panic attack. I did NOT have a panic attack.

In the middle of all those people, I did not cry, I did not get the itchy feeling that precedes stress hives. I didn’t get the overwhelming urge to run to the bathroom and hide, even when I was sure Abbath was going to summon Satan while playing.

I am standing now, wobbly, but standing, on the far side of the most trying years of my life. But I am no longer hiding. I am no longer afraid.

The next time I see my favorite singer perform with his band, I will be ON the rail, even if I have to stand there for hours.

And no, I am probably still not the girl he would want. But that is ok. I am, and will be, eternally grateful for the cheekbones. For reminding me to scream back at life when it seeks to level me.

But I don’t need him to want me. I will not wither away if he never sees me.

I am bad ass all on my own.

~Jennifer

Postscript: My crush on Alexi Laiho did not cure me. That will take modern medicine, and I will be perpetually thankful that I have good doctors who can treat me. But, that crush, that one-sided, adolescent crush, propelled me to change things. It prompted me to do some soul-searching, to find my inner bad-ass when she was buried underneath layers of grief.

Best Laid Lesson Plans

I am prone to tweaking lesson plans. I write them, plan weeks and occasionally months in ahead, and in the moment, that week or that day, I tend to change them. There have been moments where the girls were working on one activity, and I was re-arranging plans for the next.

Hubs challenged me to do 5 days, following my lesson plans to the letter. No substituting, no changing, do the plans as I wrote them. A brand-new camera bag/purse was on the line, if we met those days. I wanted that bag. And I wanted to see if we could actually get through those days, if with the promise of a treat, I would lead and teach the girls, and not find an excuse to spend the day in my yoga pants.

We set off the first day, and I was full of ambition. And caffeine. I have new curriculum for science, history and math, and I was eager to get into it. The night before I had printed off a lab, read ahead in the history book, printed off a map, and dug through my endless supply of math manipulatives. The girls sailed through that day. And the next. And the next.

But the 4th day, our Thursday, was a slog. No one wanted to work that day, especially me. I found myself accepting work I would normally ask for a redo on. Rushing through our science time just to get it over with. I didn’t stop to make sure Sprout has grasped the math concepts we were working on, and we had to go back to it the next day, and slow down. Our Friday was better, but everybody needed a break.

When we finished up that last day, Sprout looked up at me and asked if homeschool was always going to be this hard. Pudge had refused to let go of me for nearly an hour, desperate for some attention and some hugs. I had an epiphany in that moment, this is not why I homeschool.

I did learn some things though, and I have the feeling these lessons will stick with me through my homeschooling years:

  • It is so easy to fall into the trap of Drill Sergeant. Getting all those activities done, doing spelling words and math problems, became more important than what the girls were leaning.
  • In the moment, likes and dislikes change. Things that Sprout liked, that I could incorporate into lessons, were dislikes by the end of the week, and she did not want anything to do with them.
  • The ability to change lesson plans on the fly is a strength of homeschooling not a weakness. I can easily adjust to a new like, or skip ahead when something is mastered quicker than I anticipated.
  • I got into homeschooling for the creativity it afforded. The ability to teach on the fly, to change things up was a huge draw for me.
  • We have homeschooled for long enough now that going to a more structured schedule, more than what we do now, isn’t going to happen, at least overnight.

I hope to take this knowledge with me, to remember this when I start to feel bad about how often we don’t get everything accomplished, that the girls are still learning. Even when we do nothing more than stay in our jammies and build block towers and intricate marble runs, they are learning.

~Jennifer