Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Homeschooling Not So Fairy Tale

Son #1 - Handwriting Without Tears - 2nd grade
The plea on the page was like a time portal carrying me to days I navigated the same heartbreaking struggles:

My son and I have had a truly frustrating day. It took him a whole hour to write, "The king of Egypt was called the Pharaoh." Any suggestions for keeping a badly ADHD 6-year-old a little more focused than that?

I thought back to oral spelling tests when my six-year-old wrapped himself in a blanket and danced on first one foot and then the other to the tune of 'c-a-t'.

How strange we would have looked in my former classroom of twelve boys aged five to nine. Even in that setting, a psychiatric inpatient program for boys too disturbed to participate in a public school class, we expected our students to sit still in a desk.

In truth, they sat but were rarely still. They drooped. They draped. Knees and elbows bounced with the ferocity of human jack hammers. Pencils slipped out of wiggly hands, and rescue maneuvers required contortionist-like feats. Still, they sat.

Son #2 - Junior Olympian 2013

I had no idea how much my life as a teacher was preparing me for my future as a homeschool mom.  Ironically, I also had no idea how my past classroom experience would hamper my adjustment to homeschooling.

I still have one perpetual motion machine left to graduate. In two short years, my nest will be empty. How can it be? Only yesterday, my young friend’s heartfelt cry was mine. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was reduced to tears by a child who just would not sit still and do his work?

I am standing on your horizon looking back at you. I see all the days between the two of us. Perhaps today you feel weary, provoked, frazzled, puzzled and desperate. In fact, you may be wondering if it is time to throw up your hands and call it quits.

I shake my head in wonder because I remember those days. If I told you the truth, I’d tell you I’m not sure I know how we got through all the days I felt the same way you feel now. I can tell you we did, and I can say we are all better for the journey.

I am not an ironfisted homeschooler who will label you a failure or heretic if the day comes when life dictates you make another schooling choice.

Son #1 September K5 Self Portrait 
Among my friends are folks who have a child in public school, one in private school, and another in homeschool all in the same school year.  Some friends transition between private, homeschooling, and back again because of expense.

Over the years, I held my freedom to homeschool loosely. In fact, there have been times I have mounted desperate campaigns to join the traditional schoolers in brick and mortar schools.

I laugh at those efforts now. God made it plain his plan was for me to keep my nose to the homeschool grindstone even though I was buckling under the strain.

How did I know? My husband was laid off every single time we got the private school applications submitted. After a while, even I can take a hint.

We tried public school. I volunteered in our son’s class every day teaching advanced students how to read while the teacher worked with the others on letter recognition.

Son #1 May Self Portrait K5
One day, that courageous woman pulled me aside. “Get him out of here. He will never survive. My son is only in this school because I teach here.” 

I had never really been a snob about homeschooling. I just didn’t know many who had made the choice way back in 1997. 

I did spend eight years chanting, “I will not homeschool.” Every day from the day my pregnancy test came back positive till the day before I brought our son home to school, I sang that song.

God must have laughed at my song. He knew he’d spent a lifetime preparing me to do what I was about to do.

Eleven years later - just after returning from China
We brought our son home to school in the middle of his first grade year. The Valentine’s Day party was on Friday. We took him out on Tuesday. It broke my heart in two. 

I still think of that day every year around Valentine’s Day. Does that surprise you? As I begin to figure out the framework of my post homeschooling life, my friends tell me it is time for me to tell you our story.

I suppose I have hesitated because I feel so mediocre and ordinary. I’m just me, and we’ve just plodded along over the years doing the next thing. There’s nothing heroic or inspiring about that, do you think?

But, yesterday when my friend’s question transported me back across time, it was as if God said, “Now’s the time to tell these mothers all the things you wished someone had been there to tell you. Now’s the time.”

Courtesy B. Creasy -2010
So, I hope you’ll follow along over the next few months as I begin to tell you a once upon a time story that didn’t lead straight to happily ever after. Along the way, I hope we will both be empowered by my journey.

For the link to part 2:
click here

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the Company of My Peeps

 Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I had no idea how much my life was going to change last April. I stumbled into the Titus 2:1 Conference not knowing what to expect and wondering what I’d gotten myself into.

Little did I know I had become part of a vibrant community of friends whose influence would impact me every single day for the rest of my life. It’s hard to believe we will gather again in less than 6 weeks.

This week, the 2013 attendees are linking up in an effort to foster new and rekindle existing relationships. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and get to know my friends because they are sure to inspire you as well! (Click here to meet my posse.)

One of our fearless leaders suggested a few questions to get the conversations started. So, here’s a peek into my world. I wonder if I’ll surprise you?

I've been homeschooling since Methuselah was born. Well, there are days it seems that way. In reality, this is my 15th year of homeschooling. I have two more to go and am already wondering what I’ll do and who I’ll be without my community of homeschooling friends.
New Mexico - 2011

Given my above transparency, it may not surprise you that my homeschooling super power (if I suddenly sprouted a cape and phone booth) would have to be determination/perseverance. I never believed I’d homeschool my sons all twelve years, but here we are. I can’t believe the end is in sight!

If I could have a dream ‘mom-cation’ and money/time were no object, I would have to divide my time between:  Kiawah Island, SC and Santa Fe, NM. I told God I'd appreciate it if he could make my piece of Heaven exactly like those two places!

Here are a few more quick facts:

Courtesy B. Creasy - Kiawah Is 2010
In my previous life (aka before homeschooling), I taught K5-3rd grade, worked in a psych hospital (as a teacher/therapist), completed management training with a national chain of bookstores, and adjudicated disability claims for the Social Security Administration.

I really wanted to be a doctor or Occupational Therapist when I grew up. We’ve moved so many times that realtors say I need to be a realtor.

I have sewn 2 wedding dressings and made 3 cathedral length veils back in the day. Just typing that fact nearly gives me heart failure.

Future Doctor/Seamstress ??
I do my best thinking in the shower. Unfortunately, as soon as I pull back the shower curtain and reach for the towel, I can’t remember a single one of my braniac-storms.

I am looking forward to this year’s conference with less fraidy cat anxiety and more unbridled excitement because I know what to expect now. And, I expect lots of laughter - as in laugh until you snort laughter. I can’t wait to see my IRL friends again and make new ones. 

Amid all the laughter and hugs, I know I will learn a lot. And this year . . . I’ll actually understand what I’m learning because this group didn’t stop teaching me when the conference was over last year. They have patiently kept answering questions and breaking down technical information for me all year long. 

In the last year, I have often said:

     Titus 2:1 is a gift that keeps on giving!

If you are a homeschooler who blogs about anything at all and have been thinking about going but just can’t quite make up your mind, let me knock you off the fence. You don’t just find friends at the conference, you find your people. They get you. You don’t have to explain a thing! See you there?

Wanna know what I was thinking just after the conference last year? Click here!

Links to this post

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Monday Meet Up – Weeks 3 and 4

Courtesy L. Richardson

The mom was maybe twenty-two at most. Intense concentration pushed the tip of her tongue to the corner of her mouth while she filled out the medical forms.

Rocking a car seat with her foot, she reached to pat first one child and then the other sitting in seats next to her. The five-month-old was wheezing.

As the dad strode in with a freshly mixed bottle, the calm evaporated. He set the room a-buzz barking orders at the eighteen-month-old and five-year-old.

The kids became more fretful as he strutted back and forth. The mom’s precise control began to slip as the dad’s nervous energy sucked the air out of the room.

As annoying as he was, it was plain to see how hard he was trying. Even plainer to see how afraid he was of someone else becoming impatient if the children grew too restless.

Courtesy  A. Squires
I was the only other person in the room, but he cared desperately about my opinion. That much was plain to see.

Where were the folks on whom this couple relied to speak a calming word, offer a quiet moment of respite, and reassure them in their journey?

I reached in my bag only to realize my copy of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe was on the table in my living room. 

I thought of how Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson take turns speaking about the seasons of parenting. I twisted and turned in my seat. If I said anything, I could overstep my boundaries.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
If I said the right thing, this young couple might stop and take a breath. The ache in my heart grew sharper as I saw the older two children begin to crumble under the chaos the dad was creating.

He was unaware that the children were causing far less commotion than was he. Finally, he came close enough to meet my eye by accident. It was then or never:

Young man, you are working so hard. It is plain to see that you are both working so hard to be good parents. Shhh . . . it’s o.k. Take a deep breath and calm down. Those are sweet little children who’ve barely made a peep since you came in. It’s obvious that you are doing the best you can by them. Relax. It’s going to be o.k. Just breathe.

I looked over at the mom. Her eyes were full of tears. She mouthed, “Thank you. Thank you!”

Too many young women (and men) are navigating the parenting maze alone. Indeed, they mount heroic efforts despite coming from fractured families where no one knew how to teach the gentle art of either friendship, marriage, or mothering.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
As Sarah Mae and Sally take turns speaking about the heartbreak and beauty of parenting, I see the seasons of my own life. I see the need for women in my age bracket to embrace the book as well as the young women around us.

I see the need for each of us, younger and older, to look for ways to build community. I need your vigor and enthusiasm as my body and mind begin to slow a bit. You need to be able to ask me if it will always be this hard, and a million other things, I’m sure.

Do you understand the situation I described above because I have described your life experience? Perhaps you have also observed a young couple or single parent adrift and alone - desperate with the need to breathe - and wondered what to say.

Have you felt ill-equipped to speak an encouraging word to a struggling young mom? Do you wonder if you are all alone in your parenting struggles?

Courtesy M. Horrocks
Won’t you join me in reading Desperate? Whether you are a young mom with lots of littles or a mom in the scrunched season of life launching young adults while caring for elders, we will find common ground in these pages.

Consider Sally’s words:

In this individualistic culture where everyone is too busy and overwhelmed with life, the groups in which we find community will inevitably be the groups we start ourselves. (p. 22)

Are you looking for ways to build community? Won’t you join me for in(RL) on April 26th and 27th? This worldwide event is free. On Friday the 26th, we will watch a computer webcast from the comfort of our own homes. On Saturday the 27th, we will meet with a small group of other women and begin to build community.

Come on now. Don’t be a friady cat. Go watch the trailer, register, and find a group close to you by clicking here:

in(RL) hosted by (in)courage

To order your copy of Desperate, click on the book link at the top right of this page. 

To read another story of a desperate young couple and how our paths crossed, read:

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010

Micah 6: 8 (NIV)
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Meet Up – Week 2

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I was feeling pretty desperate to breathe today. The pace of life leaves me dizzy at times. Over the past three weeks or so, I needed great big gulps of air to keep checking things off my never ending to do list. What about you?

When I decided to start this Monday Meet Up series in preparation for the in(RL) virtual conference on April 26th and 27th, I had no idea how life would unfold today.

It’s been one of those days when I think God’s sense of humor has taken license with my life – if you know what I mean?

A month or so ago, a friend approached me with a business idea. It was courageous, gracious, and timely given my life circumstance.

We discussed my reservations but agreed we would move forward and work together to create a win-win for both of us.

Courtesy Aly Hughes
Neither of us had attempted a project of this nature before, so we weren’t really sure what the finished product would be. We gave it a courageous try knowing things would take shape as we progressed. 

Then, life began to happen. What looked good in theory became frustrating and cumbersome in reality. We backed up and took a run at redefining and redesigning our ideas.

Just when I thought we had come up with a solution for the issues that had perplexed us, I received news that blew our best laid plans to bits.

Given the news, I simply could not, in good conscience, commit to the plans we had hoped to accomplish.

It was heart-rending to face the music and break the news. It was even a little demoralizing to admit I was done before I had gotten a chance to begin.

As a people pleaser addicted to pleasing, it hurt even more to know I was letting down a friend. I chastised myself for letting my family down because the plan would have benefited all of us as well.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Even as I winced and wrestled with myself and God over the decision before me, I had a serene sense that he was in the midst of the details.

It was as if he whispered, “Your dilemma, the question behind the question, is what happens if you let go of better in search of what is best. This plan, as wonderful as it is, has come at the wrong season of your life. It is o.k. to let go. I am here.”  

As I re-define my life in light of the encroaching empty nest years and the present reality of a marital separation, I have looked at the future with fear.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Will my marriage heal? How does a woman in her fifties re-create a job history with current work experience when she has not worked full-time in over 2 decades? Who will I be when I am no longer the homeschooling wife and mother I have always been? 

How can I walk away from an opportunity like the one my friend offered when it seems to be exactly what would answer all those questions and more? Oh, the agony.

After my jangled nerves had stopped clanging like an old fashioned church bell in a belfry, I sat down with my copy of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to BreatheI took a deep breath. One of those cleansing breaths they talk about so much in Lamaze classes (which I failed by the way).  

I opened the book and re-read the first two chapters looking more closely at the things I highlighted the first time through. Do you see the humor I see in my life when I tell you that the first section is entitled: "The Dream Life . . . Altered"?

Today, my life dreams were refined. Again. I am the fraidy ‘bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ cat. I was prying my bony claws loose from the bird in the hand all day long. I read Sarah Mae’s words.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Many of my ideals were good, but the standard I set for myself to meet them was completely unrealistic. (p.5)

She was speaking of her struggles as a young mother to meet her goals for mothering. Yet, in her words, I saw my story taking place in a different season of life.

Mine is a fraidy cat story of being torn between better and best. What’s yours? What are the high standards, the unrealistic expectations of self, that rob you of oxygen?

I’ll be blogging a bit more about the first two chapters of Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson this week. Come back and bring a friend. You and I both know we are all struggling to breathe given the hectic lives we lead these days!

See you soon, fraidy cat? Don’t make me come looking! 

Courtesy  B. Creasy - 2010
Isaiah 41:10 (Amplified Bible)
Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Welcome to Monday Meet Up

Howdy! Life is moving at the speed of blink these days as I refine my vision for Confessions of a Fraidy Cat. Last year this time, it seemed as though God was whispering, “Be quiet. Study to show yourself approved.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Blog-silence equals a death sentence. While I was busy being quieter, Facebook made it harder for those of us using social media to spread the word about our platforms. Silence became even riskier. Can you spell s-c-a-r-y?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
While I soldiered on in a quieter mode than in 2011, God opened doors of learning again and again. I did my best to study every time a door opened.

More and more ideas began to percolate. I wasn’t sure how to hit the launch button on the new ideas, but I kept studying even as I felt myself melting into social media oblivion.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 
After attending The BEECH RETREAT this past weekend, I realized the time had come to resume regular, predictable posting. What a relief! Do you know how hard it is for me to be quiet?

Mondays from now till the end of April will be a fun day to drop by and bring a friend!

I am excited about my partnership with in(courage) on April 26th and 27th. This year’s annual in(RL) virtual conference serves to encourage community between women who might not otherwise meet in real life.

Courtesy D. Scott
Registrants will watch a one hour presentation at home, via computer, on April 26. On the 27th, groups of women will meet at appointed places in their hometowns to view a webcast together. 

I have signed up to host one of the April 27th small group meetings and can’t wait to see how God brings our group together!

I first heard of this event when I was at the Allume Social Media Conference last October. As soon as I saw the video promo, my heart rate quickened. I knew I wanted to be part of the process but never, in all my fraidy cat days, saw myself going out on a limb to host a group.

In honor of the upcoming event, I decided to dedicate Mondays to anticipation of the in(RL) event in hopes I might spur some of you to join us right there in your own hometowns!

Courtesy A. Hughes
I’ve invited my group over for a potluck lunch. We will connect with new friends and foster deeper relationships with old ones. The webcast is gonna be transformational for each of us. How can you turn down an offer like that?

In the weeks to come, I will be reading Sarah Mae's wonderful book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe (You’ll meet Sarah in the event promo, so click the link!) Each Monday, I’ll share my thoughts on and reactions to the book. 

I hope you’ll grab your copy, read along, and add your comments as we build anticipation for conference weekend.

Here’s your homework for today:

  • Come back next Monday and join the community and conversation re the first two chapters of the book.

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
No group in your area – no problem. If a fraidy cat can host one, so can you!

See you next Monday? Love you long and strong, Fraidy Cat. See you then. 

Psst! Wanna know how Allume helped transform my life?
Click here to find out.