Hi, My name is Allison and I’m a Secular Homeschooler. Is there anybody out there?

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Hello, everyone. My name is Allison. I am a secular homeschooler and couldn’t feel more alone. In my search for curricula, to my search for homeschool groups, I feel as if us secular Mama’s are few and far between. I’ve read books. I’ve scoured the internet, but I still feel alone. My only foundation seems to be my family and my lovely, homeschool warrior, Joan at The Back Pack, who understands my struggle. She listens and laughs and actually feels like a friend. I found her website in a search on the internet and I feel like she’s the island in this ocean of uncertainty that I was searching for. So, parched and hungry for knowledge, I climbed onto her island and listened to her journey in secular homeschooling. Who knew it was so different? Who knew we were so few? It’s not that I don’t think there’s a place for Christ in our home. It’s just that I don’t feel there’s a place for religion in our homeschool.

That being said, I am waiting anxiously for my books to arrive. Joan has been more than patient on me and the IRS. (My tax return being paramount in this undertaking)

Can one find a homeschool group that isn’t judgemental? I judge not, lest I still feel judged. Can one find a few homeschool friends that don’t think that the fact that we don’t have a memory verse everyday is a complete blasphemy? We do have character verse or quotes every week. This week was a Japanese Proverb that stated, “Fall down seven times, Stand up eight.” I thought this was a great proverb for my children to learn. Especially, Doodle 2 with his experience with bullies.

So, my point of this blog post today isn’t to plug The Back Pack. (I still am no way affiliated with them, I just happen to love the way they conduct business and the way they’ve fought for homeschooler’s, whether secular or otherwise) My point is to ask the question of why. Why can’t, we as homeschool Mama’s and Dad’s, unite as one team? Why can we not go on the same field trips or visit the same parks together? I am not anti-religion, in any way shape or form. But, I’m feeling as if the local homeschool groups feel as if I am. If I don’t incorporate Christ in my everyday lessons, I am an outcast. If I do, I am one of them. Accepted in the natural flow of what is homeschool.

The biggest part of my choice to homeschool was the safety and well being of my Doodles. Isn’t that why we all decided to take this hard, treacherous, unknown path? Isn’t that why we all decided that public school wasn’t the right place?

I was brought up to love my neighbor. To do unto others as they have done to me. Why in this journey, am I finding resistance in the very place that I thought I’d feel comfort. I am not an outsider. I am not an Anti-Christian. In fact, this journey has brought me closer to God, in many ways and now I wonder why. I’m not wrong, but, as I stated before, who am I to judge? I’m not. But is anyone else, either?

Charlotte Mason, Delight Directed, Unschooling, Oh MY!

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So, here we are. What seems like Week 100 of Homeschool, but it’s actually Week 6. I’m becoming frazzled and I feel like no matter how much I try or how many damn printer cartridges I go through, it’s not enough to be engaging. To the kids or me. To be honest, I’m bored. I haven’t found my niche, yet. And that’s why I’m writing this today.

Charlotte Mason, Delight Directed, Unschooling, Deschooling, Delightfully Mason, Undirected…..Ahhhhh! It’s all running together. I knew from the beginning that my kids or I didn’t fit into a certain type of curriculum or method, but the more I get into it, the more I wonder where the hell we fit. I’m lucky in the sense that they both learn in essentially the same ways, but buying “manipulatives” just isn’t in the budget. So, I’m relying on good ole Mama to act a fool some days just to get their attention. I sing, I dance, I run around the living room and after about 30 minutes, I’m tired and they lose focus.

So, back to the drawing board for this Mama.

I’ll start with Charlotte Mason. She is apparently the goddess of all things homeschool. The pioneer! I, on the other hand, think that although some of her methods sound promising, taking my kids outside for 3 hours a day so they can learn in nature, just sounds asinine. It’s 29 degrees outside! She must’ve lived in the most temperate climate in the world. I realize she lived in a time where children played outside more. Hell, I did, too. But, Ms. Mason, I’m not teaching nature studies while my children and I freeze. Our next step will be studying anatomy when our fingers start to fall off from frost bite. I do like her “living book’ philosophy. It seems like a grand idea and we do have a great library in our tiny little town, But, teaching math from literature? Um, no. Teaching literature, grammar and composition from literature. Um, ok. Sounds good to me. Actually sounds pretty cool. Now, how to plan the lessons. Do I read every book first and try to pull lessons from them or do I read with the children and let them find the lesson? I can tell you one thing, my Doodles won’t follow that very well. The concept sounds great, but especially Doodle 1, won’t give 2 craps about where a comma goes in a “living book’. However, a “living worksheet” will grab her attention just fine. Ms. Mason’s love for children is something I can get on board with. She believed children were people and treated them as such. This I love. This is what I can take from this method. What the Doodles say actually matters and their input is important. I also, think that her dictation and narration method could help Doodle 1’s written expression difficulty. I’m digging that.

With that, we turn to Delight Directed. A method that seems to use your children’s natural interests to facilitate the learning experience. This also sounds pretty great in philosophy. Letting the Doodles follow what Delights them would be so great. But, there are no lesson books on Minecraft, Terreria and now in Doodle 1’s case, boys. I can see how they would be more interested in things that delight them, but even with the small bit of structure and direction I would give them, we’d spend all day on a tangent of thoughts and we’d never learn about any one thing. It would be a jumble of information that their little minds wouldn’t process in one day. Much less, a year.

So, on to unschooling. To me this sounds great! I could let them tell me what lessons they’d like to do and I’d write them with them and we’d then go frolic in a wheat field in our homemade hemp clothes. No. I in no way mean to deny that this is a very functional method for other people and I don’t mean to put it down. It just wouldn’t work for us. We’d spend 3 weeks on a study of Lego’s followed by a 6 week study of the in’s and out of an IPad. I wish this would work for us. I wish I knew someone that this worked for. I read something about one family that was studying astronomy when their child was eight and then when the child “wanted to”, they started learning to read at ten. What?! Maybe that sounds extreme, but I swear I read it right. Unschooling seems like Noschooling to me. But, I admit, it sounds like a hell of a lot less work for me!

With all that said, where in the hell do we fit in? A combo of these methods is the obvious answer, but I haven’t found the happy medium, yet. I do get a lot of books from the library to support our lessons. So, there’s a bit of Charlotte Mason. I do try to make lessons that the Doodles will be interested in. So, there’s a bit of Delight Directed. And I do get off on tangents and tell them about the fun that is a nerve synapse. Like the impulse is jumping from lily pad to lily pad. So, there’s a bit of unschooling.

My books are coming in next week from the most amazing secular used book distributor, The Back Pack. Here in ole North Carolina (I’m in no way affiliated with them, but they have been so helpful that I couldn’t help, but add them into this piece) I will have books, but no curriculum, so that is where my confusion comes in. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment. I feel like I’m in one of those bad dreams where you want to run, but your feet are stuck to the ground. And you’re being chased by the State, I mean monster, and you’re screaming and nothing’s coming out! Oh, I’m screaming to the Homeschool Gods, alright. But I’m pretty sure not a one can hear me.

Bipolar: The roller coaster I didn’t pay to get on

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You’re crazy! You’re a bitch! You’re a mess! I wish you’d just get your shit together! Why can’t you be normal? Just get out of bed! It’s like you’re two different people! It’s all in your head! You’re just lazy! Good for nothing! Worthless! Pathetic!

These are just a few of the things I’ve heard over the years in my struggle with my mental health. Some of these things have been said by friends. Some of these things have been said by loved ones. And some of these things I’ve said to myself.

Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really bad day. You wake up late. Forget the most important thing that you needed for work at home, but you’re already late, so you have to make up an excuse not only about your lateness, but about your not bringing that important thing. Your boss calls you in the office to “discuss” your performance or lack there of. You then begin to cry, but it’s only eleven AM, so you have to keep working and act like someone didn’t just make you feel like an idiot, when you know you’re not. Then, you start doubting yourself and start believing what was said. Next, no one asks you to join them for lunch because you look like you’re having one of your “days”. You try to work, but the thoughts play in your head like a CD stuck on repeat. You accomplish nothing, but more failure and your closest coworker gets mad at you for not holding up your end of the bargain. You try to tell them that you’re sorry. You try to tell them that you’ll do better, but they don’t believe you and you start not to believe yourself either. Finally, you go home only to think more about being worthless and wishing you could just die. You think that you’re probably just a burden on everyone and should just quit. Quit your job and life, itself. You’re hungry. No, you’re not hungry enough to fix anything, so you sit in silence and try to go to sleep early. Ha! The Sandman laughs in your face. Sleep doesn’t come because you continue to listen to that CD. Over and over. You believe it. You know you’re just a pathetic human being. Then you finally fall asleep miraculously, only to be awoken by a nightmare that you’re being thrown in a dumpster filled with other people “just like you”. Then, much to your dismay, your alarm goes off and it’s time to start the struggle of life for one more day.

Sounds like hell, doesn’t it? It sounds unreal.

It was a day in my life. On my “down” days, I felt like this. Sometimes even worse. So your worst day, is a day in the life of someone with bipolar disorder when they cycle down. Oh sure, I cycle up, too. Here’s what that feels like…

You are woken up by your alarm and today, you don’t feel like throwing it across the room. Could it be? You’re not sure yet. You get ready for work and today you feel like listening to the radio. What? You get to work and say hello to everyone you see. Good Morning, everybody!! You start your workday and do your work without interruptions of doubt. All of the sudden, while chatting with your favorite coworker you both realize that it’s almost time to go home. Already? Awesome! You drive home, windows down, singing your favorite song and thinking that sunlight is pretty great. When you get home, you cook your favorite meal and enjoy it in front of the TV, watching your favorite rerun of Friends. (The Prom Video, obviously) Then you take a nice warm bath, look in the mirror one last time and smile. Today was your day! Today was an amazing day! You pick up that novel you’ve been meaning to read and then fall asleep easily, without the constant feeling of worthlessness.

Sounds like a pretty good day, right? Sounds like what most people would call a normal day. For me, these days are precious. They are coveted. I yearn for these days. I beg for these days and when they come they’re gone too soon.

I haven’t always been bipolar. I’ve been to so many doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. I’ve been told I’m depressed. I have anxiety disorder. I’m just hormonal. I need to exercise more. I should just eat better. I have toxic people in my life and if I rid myself of them, then I’ll be fine. Fine, they said. But, fine never came. Fine felt a million miles away.

So, I started doing research. I listened to some of those closest to me. One ex said I acted like two different people. He named them “Allison and Callison”. It took 10 years before I knew what that meant. I’m not two different people, but my brain just might be. So, I called an emergency mental health hotline. No, I wasn’t having a true mental health emergency, but I needed someone to listen to this epiphany. I needed someone to listen. I needed some one to listen to ME. Not judge me. Not try to over analyze me. And not throw the latest pill at me and tell me it’s been a miracle for other patients. So, he listened while I explained what I knew in my heart was finally right. I think I’m bipolar, I said. I had actually said it. Bipolar.

The next step was making an appointment with yet another psychologist. But this time was different. I had an idea of what to say. I’d never been completely open with any provider before, but this time I was. I explained my lifelong battle with my brain. And she listened. She gave me a test. It wasn’t long. I had to answer about twenty questions. I answered all, but a select few, with a resounding YES. I didn’t know what the test was for, but I knew whatever it was, it understood me. The results? Bipolar Type 2, with hypo-mania. YES!! I knew it. But, wait. What the hell do I do now? Another pill? No. That’s not why I came. Pills don’t work for me. I should know. I’d been on every single one. But, she was adamant that this pill was for bipolar disorder. This pill was “right” for me. I gave in. I went to the pharmacy and filled it.

Then, I waited. They always say to wait two to three weeks before you give up.

I waited three days. Yes, three days. On day four I woke up different. Good different. Something felt good. Not high, good. But, I just felt good. What? No self loathing this morning? No hatred of all things morning? Ok. That’s great. Now, I’ll need to go on and get up. I have things to do. I got up. I showered and dressed and then I had an errand to run. I hopped in my car and immediately turned on the radio. I rolled the windows down and began driving. About three miles down the road I came to a stoplight. One of those looong stoplights that if you don’t hit at just the right time, you’ll sit forever. So, I sat. I looked around at all of the other people in their cars. Some just sitting. Some on the phone. And some smiling at me. Why were they smiling, I thought. Oh, shit! I’m smiling, too. Then, it hit me! I’m happy. And I began to cry. I cried because I was happy. I cried because I felt what most people call normal. And right there at that stoplight, I knew my struggle had just gotten a little easier. So, I cried some more. I cried for the years I’d missed not feeling this way. Then, I stopped crying. I stopped because I wanted too. I stopped because I could.

So, what now? I had a diagnosis and a medication that managed it. I felt like someone or something had given me back my life. No, wait. I felt like someone or something had finally given me life.

And, so goes the beginning of my life with bipolar disorder. Is it always as easy as it was that fourth day? No. Is it ever as bad as my worst day? No. I still cycle up and down. Just not as frequently and not as high or as low. I’ve had to add some medications and I’ve taken a few away, but right now I’m managed. I still deal with the stigma. How many times have I heard someone laugh at someone else’s expense and joke that they must be bipolar? A lot. I just kind of look down and smile to myself. They don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know that every single day is a battle. But, they also don’t know that I’m finally winning

 

Do Homeschooler’s get Snow Days?

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Here I sit, downloading new worksheets for sight word fluency while watching the snow/sleet/annoyance fall outside the window and listening to Doodle 2’s live commentary of Terraria. (Some sort of IPad game that is like Minecraft, but thankfully not Minecraft) The question of the day is, do homeschooler’s get snow days? We do have a few things that we could’ve done today. Did we do them? Nope. Do I really give a damn? Nope. They woke up late, they’ve played outside for a total of 25 minutes, got cold and came inside ill as hornets and now they’re actually getting along and helping each other with their games. Ahhh…. So why in the hell am I scouring Pinterest for worksheets? The honest answer is that I don’t know what else to do. Since I’m a newbie with little to no resources, I think every waking minute that I’m not teaching, I’m looking for something to teach. The obsession continues. Maybe one day I’ll be able to look back at these days of constant resource gathering with jolly laughter. I’m the squirrel preparing for winter of homeschooling printable freebies. A pdf. document hoarder. Soon they’ll do a show about me. Crazy Homeschool Mama Loses Control When Her Laptop Crashes…Coming up next on TLC.

So, the answer to today’s question has two answers. Yes and no. Yes, my homeschooled children get snow days. No, this homeschool Mama isn’t getting one.

Homeschool Mama Fail

047Have you ever had one of those days where everything you do and everything you say just goes in one ear and out the other with your kids? Well, as a new homeschool Mama, this isn’t a good thing. Yes, I know it happens to everyone, but damn, I felt like they didn’t grasp a thing today and they were so disinterested that I practically had to beg them to finish their “craftivity”. You like that? I’m picking up some of this teacher lingo! Anywho, in the words of my mother, who was and is, in fact, an amazing teacher, you tell them what you’re going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you’ve told them, then you implement some sort of assessment to determine if they’ve got it. Sounds easy, right? Easier said than done today. It was if I could’ve told them that our next field trip wasn’t to the library, it was to the moon and they’d of just shrugged their little shoulders like,”OK, Mama…”. I guess I’ve spent so much time planning and preparing (with little to no resources) that I want them to love every minute of homeschool. That’s why I took the Doodles out of public school to begin with. They were miserable there. And today, I was the miserable one. Hoping tomorrow brings rays of sunshine shooting out of their hineybutts and a new found desire for knowledge. Who am I kidding? I’m seriously just hoping that they show up at the dining room table with at least one eye open. Here’s to a better day and a homeschool hug for all of you out there they might have had a similar day. I think we all need one and this Mama may need some adult grape juice tonight.

Homeschool: The headache and the heart

141To homeschool or not? That was the question. Our decision was not made without careful thought and a lot of fighting. Fighting the schools, not fighting between C and me. Let me lay out the basics for you, my daughter is a new middle schooler and starting to “bloom”, shall we say? My son is in second grade and is a sweet and quiet child. Both were ripe for bullies to take over their whole school experience.

My school history was almost fairy tale like. My Mama taught at my K-8 school and we lived in a community where I could do everything from ride horses, to play at the park, to jump in the pool and if it was “Adult Swim”, we could just go jump in the lake. Which we frequently did. I had a few bullies, but none that really hurt more than just my pride or self esteem. C’s school was just about the same. He rode his bike to school and everyone congregated at his house afterschool to play in the neighborhood. He played baseball and his best friend’s Dad was the coach from T-Ball to fast pitch. Needless to say, when our children began having problems at school, it was hard for us to believe.

Doodle 1 is what I call my oldest, my sixth grade daughter and Doodle 2 is my second grade boy. Doodle 1 faired the best in her experience. Her biggest problem was that boys were yelling at her. That’s right. Yelling at her to get her attention. I guess that’s how boys flirt these days. My concern was for her safety, so one day I went all, To Catch a Predator, on their asses and took my 17 year old neighbor with me to pick her up from school. Complete with his Class of 2016 sweatshirt on. So, he’s either a senior in high school or a guy posing as a senior, right? With me in the truck, he walked all the way up to where the carpool kids were waiting. My daughter saw him and asked (in front of a staff member),”Where’s my Dad?” He told her that he was at the doctor and then they left. Yep. That staff member knew that C was supposed to pick her up and let her leave with a teenage boy with ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTIONS. I attempted to call the principal. I was told he was always busy. (4 times?) and when I finally got a call back from an assistant principal, he told me that something of this nature should be take up with the principal, as it is a serious safety issue. No shit! I tried going that route and it got me back to him. That was the straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back for Doodle 1’s time at that middle school.

Doodle 2’s experience was a hell of a lot worse. We moved to this school at the start of his first grade year. A pretty easy transition time, I thought. He had bullies. Not one, but a few. One day C went to pick him up early and his class was out at recess, so C said he’d go get him out there. Upon walking up to the playground he sees at least two kids pushing Doodle 2 up against a fence and punching him. With the teacher right the hell there! Not 10 yards away. C yells to break everything up, asks the teacher what the hell is going on and she just says she’s sorry and she’ll pay better attention. Had it not been for the fact that we had somewhere to be very soon, I’m scared of what C may have said. Doodle 2 complained a little more about bullies, but it seemed to taper off by the end of the year. Then second grade happened. I say happened because it was a full blown catastrophe. All was well the first few weeks. No problems, as the worst of the kids that bullied him in first grade was in another class. Then one day he came home and said a boy had pushed on the play ground. I asked him what he did and he said that he told the teacher. Mind you, I got no note home. I told him if it happened again to push the kid back and then tell the teacher. He has to learn to take care of himself, right? Well, a few weeks later he comes home with a note stating that “during a game of tag” Doodle 2 was pushed down and got a scrape on his side. A “scrape” to them was a six inch abrasion that they hadn’t cleaned and put a band aid over. A little one, too. You know, just where he was bleeding the most. The teachers note says, “The boy who did it is in another class and the other teacher is taking care of it. Sorry, but no one saw what happened.” Two damn teachers and no one saw a thing. AGAIN. This time I went to the school to speak with the assistant principal. He acknowledged the issue and said that maybe they shouldn’t have Doodle’s class going out with that class and they’d switch them. No shit. My child has a scar from this “scrape”. Another week passes and I’m feeling better knowing that he’s not outside with the kid that pushed him. But now he passes the kid in the hallway and every time Doodle 2 sees him the boy says, “I’m going to kill you, bitch”. What? Not 2 weeks later, the boy comes to school with a knife and says to his teacher that he brought it to hurt Doodle. I DIDN’T GET A NOTE HOME. Doodle told me this and than proceeded to tell me that the boy was suspended for 10 days. 10 damn days for threatening to kill someone. I’m not sure what counts as a weapon in this county, but I’m sure as hell that a knife sure is. Shouldn’t that be expulsion? Shouldn’t the child be put in an alternate school? Nope. Just 10 days vacation and a wonderful excuse to hurt my child again. At that moment I pulled both of my kids out of school. I feel much better knowing that the assistant principal who took care of this issue is no longer at that post. He’s now back in the classroom. Because of this incident, I’ll never know, but I like to think it was. The county we moved to is rough. I knew that. But didn’t expect it was that rough. And you’ll never guess why the kid hated Doddle 2 so much….Doodle was faster than him. Literally, a faster runner and the kid couldn’t take it and instead of say, working on running faster, he decides to eliminate the competition. What the hell? Is this the world we live in now? We can’t even send our kids to school without the threat of violence?

So, to homeschool or not to homeschool? It really wasn’t a question, was it?

 

 

 

 

So, I guess I’m a Blogger, huh?

So, here I sit. Typing my first blog post. And after all of the work customizing and widgeting, it seems as if I have nothing to say. I am new at this and since I fail miserably at writing in a journal (I’ve bought maybe 2479 in my life and not a one has more than four pages written in it) I thought I’d try blogging as a way to get my thoughts out in a non-constructive, probably not organized and mostly chaotic way. That being said, please join me in this trip into my brain. May you enjoy the happy, cry with the sad, laugh at the hilarious, ponder the deep, empathize or sympathize with the crazy and learn that we’re not all perfect. We are who we are and that is and always will be ok.