Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why I Broke Up With Public School

After a difficult beginning and a confusing relationship, public school and I broke up last month.  We had the kind of relationship where nothing was particularly bad but nothing was particularly great, either.  And once the scales tipped slightly towards the negative, I felt like it was time for our relationship to end, at least for now. 

A challenging class combined with many substitute teachers created an environment where my kid just no longer felt comfortable.  She cried one day as I dropped her off in a busy classroom under a substitute’s care.  I drew a heart on her hand like we did at the beginning of preschool, reminded her that I loved her, and told her I would be there to pick her up in a couple hours. 

But that was the beginning of the end.  From then on, if there was a substitute at the door when we went to drop her off, we drove back home.  And we started looking for a good time to end the school year early. 

Some might think that a few tears are not enough to change a child’s whole educational course.  But for Eden, those tears were the indication that what had been working well enough was no longer working.  The uncertainty and frequent changes were pushing the limits of her ability to adapt and roll with it. 

I wrote an “it’s not you, it’s me” letter to her teacher, Eden said good-bye to her friends, and we broke up.  It was a good break-up, I think, full of mutual respect and no hurt feelings.

In the whole scheme of educational choices and philosophical camps, it’s easy for people to draw lines and take up sides.  I suppose making choices for our kids puts us in camps and gives the appearance of sides.

But I’m not going to bash public schools.  I actually love the ideal that public school represents…that we pool all of our kids from all different backgrounds and all beliefs and all abilities and educate them in one community.  That our kids become our ties to each other and we learn to care for each other’s kids and each other’s families.  That our teachers pour their lives into our kids and encourage their passions and find the techniques that work best for each kid.  That our kids make friendships that teach them how people who are different can become like family. 

The reality may be far from the ideal, in some cases.  But I believe that most public school teachers and administrators are working, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, towards that ideal. 

I’m hopeful that one day public school and I will reunite, when it’s a better fit for my kid and our family. 

For now, I am a homeschooler.  Yikes.  That’s something I thought I’d never say and someone I never wanted to be.  But, we don’t wear denim jumpers and braid our hair and read the Bible every morning.  I thought those things were requirements, but it turns out they’re not.

Above all, I’m grateful to have a choice.  Many families don’t.  I’m going to make the most of my choice and the path we’re currently on.  Just like the public schoolers, the unschoolers, the private schoolers, the charter schoolers, the virtual schoolers.  We may disagree on the particulars and the goals and the methods, but we can lean into the hope that we’re all making the most of the path we’re on, doing the best we can for our kids.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Voices That Crowd

There are many voices
Seeking, shouting, vying, trying
To be heard, acknowledged, prized
Above the rest. 

Skittering across the net
Bouncing from site to site.
Each one calling “pick me!” “pin me!”
“stay here!” “like me!”

Songs from the past
Play a never-ending loop in my mind.
Melodies that haunt and don’t inspire,
Words that beat and tamp down

My flame, my song, my voice
Still persists.
On being.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eden's Operating Manual

We were driving home last night after a lively dinner at my sister’s (lively = kids go wild while sisters chat, oblivious to kids’ water dumping shenanigans until it’s too late), when Eden announced, “I don’t like our house.  I wish I could live all by myself in my own house and decide everything for myself.” 

We’ve been hearing a lot of the “I want to decide things for myself” refrain around here lately.  It occurred to me as we were driving that this was probably about more than just not being allowed to flood the inside of her auntie’s house.  It’s about more than just wanting to eat as many treats as she wants because “it’s my body and I can decide for myself!”  She’s growing, stretching, and leaning into her independence, sometimes straining against me in the process. 

So we talked in the van (don’t the best conversations happen when you’re driving?) about some areas where she could decide more things and have more responsibility.  We decided that she’d add some items of her choice to our grocery list and have free rein of a self-serve snack basket in the cupboard.  She assured me that she would still only eat one granola bar a day, because she still wants to eat healthy foods.  She will brush her own hair.  I asked, “what should I do if your hair is all tangly and I ask you to brush it and you say ‘no, I don’t want to brush it’?”  She looked genuinely confused and said, “I won’t do that.  I’ll brush it.” 
I think God knew that I am a little slow to catch on sometimes, so he gave me a firstborn daughter with her own articulate, insightful operating manual.  She’s basically all but telling me, “excuse me Mama, but I’m desiring more autonomy and would enjoy more opportunities to express my independence, please.”  Thankfully I heard her this time. 

Sometimes I feel like she is five going on fifteen.  I see a tall, beautiful teenage girl, yelling, “It’s my body and I can decide for myself!” in reference to something much more important than eating a second cookie.  But really, she is five going on six.  We’re practicing, figuring out how to negotiate more independence for us both.  Expanding what it means to respect each other.  And if we practice this now about issues like treats and hair brushing, hopefully we’ll be okay when the teenage years come.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Collaborative Poetry, Part Two

And here's the rest of our poems!  We didn't give them titles, but I'm using the topic as the title so it doesn't get confusing.  Again, thanks to these authors for contributing: Connor Ball, Satyam Bharadwaj, Sherry Corley, Daniel Guastella, Bryonna Manes, Jody Mitchell, and Dustin Tushar.


So close, yet so far, I can almost hear the beach's
waves wherever they are.
My toes curl, searching for sand to
blissfully hide beneath.
So delicate and so warm, but not too hot to burn my feet.
The water and my feet meet for a nice
The sting of the sun, and burning skin,
suntan lotion, and foamy waves.
Pressing heat but hurts so great,
the one thing we look for on college break.
For this is our time to chill and rest
because that's what we do best.

Trusting Someone

Being stripped of any sense of security, putting
power into someone else's hands.
The one true hero we look upon, for guidance
and comfort, peace and tranquility,
For this person truly has your back
for years and years to come.
For this person will never leave you, will never betray
Yet this doubt lingers in your mind,
haunting your heart.
Like these new cars they're all push to start, If you keep
pushing my buttons we will split apart.
Just like my heart if you break
our trust for we must
stick together.


Cats are furry, cats are round
Lots of furballs floating 'round.
Cats can scratch
Dogs aren't a match.
Cats lounge for hours in the sun,
Since they have no work to be done.
Whisker to whisker, they move so quick,
So quiet - they are basically slick.
They run through allies with fur against the bricks,
and skip through bushes without hitting a single stick.
Their quick nimble feet pitter-patter
along the brick as they
skip, skip, skip.


I look up into the sky and see
Not a bird, not a plane, but the stars are what's free.
But what's really free, are we
Freedom we are guaranteed,
But freedom binds us greatly.
Fought and won, we can never be without.
But we do not think of how much we need
until we lose what we cherish most.

Check out yesterday's post for the description of our method and how you, too, can have fun writing amazing poetry.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Collaborative Poetry, Part One

According to the U.S. make-every-day-a-special-day calendar, April is National Poetry Month.  The students in my writing class also happen to be working on a collaborative multimodal project this month.  So, I decided to combine these two into a collaborative poetry writing lesson to show that writing poetry can be fun, @#!*% , and that sometimes we can create things together that we could never create alone.  It actually was fun, and the poems they wrote were really amazing.  

Our writing method was to write one line of poetry at the top of each paper and write the general topic at the bottom.  Each student would read the line at the top, add their own line, and then fold the top of the paper down so the only line showing was the one they had just written.  Then they’d pass the paper along, the next student would read the one line showing, add their own line, fold the top down to cover all but their own, and pass along, etc. etc.  So each student was writing a line of poetry with only the general topic and previous line to give them context.  (Aside:  I know I read this method somewhere, but can’t remember where and google is no help.  Maybe it came to me in a dream.)

The resulting poems, as you’ll see below, are actually quite cohesive!  I was impressed with what they wrote in just a minute or two per poem…the poems have strong imagery, alliteration, and even cultural critique. 

The poems I’ll post today begin with a line from poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I’ve used Stevenson’s titles so you can go read his versions if you’d like.  The contributing authors, who have graciously given me permission to publish their poems here, are: Connor Ball, Satyam Bharadwaj, Sherry Corley, Daniel Guastella, Bryonna Manes, Jody Mitchell, and Dustin Tushar.  Come back tomorrow to read more! 

Summer Sun

Great is the Sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
It is big and It is bright.
It is blinding, yet such a sight.
And we keep at least it’s reflection thru the night.
The reflection at first giving us a fright
Reflecting against the rolling sea,
beckoning for clarity.
Sun always rises, never sets, as we
stay up awake until winter chill is met. 


The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It sleeks and shines the ground beneath,
and drips from leaf to leaf.
Sound so calm, it brings us to a better place.
City to city but never captured, a force so strong
it is never relieved.
Drizzle, Drizzle, Drop, Drop rings the sounds
in our ears, never seems to drop a
beat as if it were on the radio.
It’s wet everywhere because of the rain,
rain, rain please don’t come again.
Yet as soon as you leave, I crave
nothing more than the sound
of rain upon my window.
Is that a sin though? Waiting for god’s
tears just to clean my life’s window. 

The Cow

The friendly cow, all red and white,
I love with all my heart. 
I fed him food all day and night,
till he grew big and strong. 
It provides me with milk
yet pollutes the air that I breathe.
Somehow we continue to graze them as such,
Pretty soon as we know it our lives will be flushed.
And our lives will be rushed
By those who we trusted,
for no more than mere lunch.
Caged, but treated as pets,
We care so much for them –
Herded and spared. 

Pretty great, huh?  Which one is your favorite?  Come back tomorrow to read the rest, and wrangle some of your family and friends into writing some collaborative poetry of your own! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reading Confessions

So, back in the blogging saddle again.  I’ve missed writing, but sometimes breaks are good and needed.  And I know at least one person missed my posts (holla Fran!) and sometimes that’s all it takes to get this writer writing again. 

What I have been doing a lot of lately, encouraged in part by my facebook fast during Lent, is reading.  My title, Reading Confessions, unfortunately does not mean I’ve been reading Augustine’s Confessions.  It means that I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole towards reading books that no self-respecting person with a degree in literature should read.  Alas. 

It all started with Wendell Berry.  His book, Hannah Coulter, consumed my life for about two months as I read, reread, journaled, read Berry’s nonfiction essays, and basically angsted away for a simpler life, where people lived and loved in one place for generations, where husband and wife worked together in their family-sized economy for the sustenance and pleasure of their community, where members of a community become a membership, where the land is tied up in the love is tied up in the land.  I highly recommend reading everything he's ever written and then buying a country plot and becoming a one-acre wonder.  Or at least dreaming about it.

And then, after an amazing book club discussion of the above, I was just tired of thinking.  Enter Divergent.  And Insurgent.  And Allegiant.  In like a week.  Compelling plot, strong heroine, interesting discussions of bravery and violence and choice.  All set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, which makes me want to go back and visit the city of my college years and try to jump on a moving train.

After my little foray into “fluff” books, as my mom calls them, I should have theoretically been ready for some real stuff again.  Alas.  I went in the opposite direction.  I really can’t remember how it all started, but I turned next to Nicholas Sparks.  Yep.  I did.  I read two of his books and watched the corresponding movies, and noticed how the movies are much more lighthearted and strip any menace or darkness out of the books.  And that’s about all there is to notice, I think.  Except, all the girls are short blonds, and all the boys are tall muscle men.   

Then I felt dumber.  Or is it more dumb?  Anyway, I decided to move upwards and onwards.  I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, which I found interesting and moving as a memoir/time capsule for Pausch’s kids.  I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which tells the story of teens living with cancer, trying to figure out the ending to their story.  I’m currently studying The Well-Trained Mind, a voluminous tome advocating a classical approach to home education.  Just reading it makes me feel smart and well-read. 

I think I’m safely back on the path towards good books again.  The next book club book is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which I started reading about six months ago but didn’t finish.  From what I recall, it’s a combination of opera lovers and a high-anxiety hostage situation.  It’s bound to be a good one.  I’ll keep you posted.