My Struggle with Homeschool and Religion

burrowing owl 1 - WM2

Judgy much???

When we switched our children to a non-traditional schooling approach a few months ago, I understood fully that faith would be incorporated into some of their new classes. Prayer is no stranger in our home, and I am comfortable with my spiritual life. Given that I wanted our children to have greater familiarity with the Bible and its historical context, I actually looked forward to the addition of this into their regular curriculum. However I was worried, too. I wanted my concerns to be inconsequential, but that hasn’t felt true so far.

My issue is akin to this – If Jesus was to have a party, I feel certain that everyone in attendance range would get an invite. Being Jesus, He would already know that several of those peeps would decline, some would RSVP with bogus forgotten alternate plan excuses, and others would just straight up ghost the whole gig. But the door would have been open to them all anyway. Whether or not they ultimately decided to take it, He would have offered them a seat at the table. But that’s not necessarily how it works here.

In order to participate in the bulk of the homeschool co-ops that I have found or even to be a part of the social or educational clubs and groups for homeschoolers in our area, you are typically required to certify in writing that you are a Christian and that you follow the specific beliefs of that group. If you can’t or won’t do this, your family cannot participate or be a part of the community. The real irony of my issue is that we are Christians. My children have been baptized and all are up to date on their sacraments (If you aren’t familiar with those, just think of them as the big beefy spiritual shot requirements of the Catholic world). My faith isn’t in question when it comes to these assertions. However I do have a significant questions with regard to the exclusion of non-Christian families from the classrooms and events. Is this a Christian approach? Is this what Jesus would have done?

I completely understand the desire to filter out the insane crapfest of nonsense happening  around us all. It’s crazy out there. On a good day, social media is a total shit-show. On most of the others, it’s a frickin’ nightmare. People behave horrifically, and they prove time and time again why one should take time away from those wine glasses before tapping on one’s keyboard. In public school, the behavior that is permitted is atrocious and the administrators and teachers can’t do a single thing about it. The overt sexuality displayed by countless tweenagers is shocking, and the pervasiveness of drugs and alcohol is terrifying. Parenting is a scary stuff man, and the idea of being a child in today’s world chills me to my core.

I get it. Seriously. I do.

But does that justify shutting the doors on everyone else who happens to have a different set of beliefs in that moment? Does prohibiting a Jewish or Hindu child from sharing a seat at the table align with the way Jesus interacted with others throughout His life?

My very favorite part of the epic 1984 movie ‘Ghostbusters’ is when Winston says, “Hey, Ray, do you believe in God?” Ray responds, “Never met him.” And then Winston follows with these beautifully profound words, “Well, I do, and I love Jesus’s style.”

The whole movie is a damn funny classic, but this little piece of their conversation has always stuck with me on a completely different level. Even if someone didn’t follow Christianity, could they really argue with Jesus’s style or His approach toward humanity? Could anyone dismiss the Truth of His teachings of kindness, hope, forgiveness, and acceptance? And seeing the beauty and wisdom of those lessons, could we in good conscience turn someone away without even offering them a seat at the table if it was available?

Maybe someone doesn’t believe in Jesus in that moment. But what if allowing that same person to have an opportunity to hear those words and see that faith in action becomes the moment that reveals the Truth of it all? If we simply refuse to open the door, the opportunity to share and grow is lost.

This dynamic genuinely saddens me. As parents, my husband and I have spent years teaching our children the importance of being accepting toward others. I can’t fathom deliberately telling them to avoid or exclude others if their faith or sexual orientation is not in alignment with their own. It contradicts everything I was raised to believe and all that we have conveyed to our kids. But I feel like this is what we are being asked to assert.

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if you are Christian, Jewish, Burning Man attendee, or anything else, you can hit the road if you are a serious jerk with serious jerk tendencies. But if you are Christian, Jewish, Burning Man attendee or anything else and you also happen to be a good person with non-jerk kids, your family will always be welcomed to our table when we have chairs to share. Expect it to be a raggedy scene with lots of noisy debate going on, but we’re comfortable with conversation and love learning different perspectives even when we disagree. It may not be the party you want to attend, but you’ll always get the invite anyway.

What do you think? Is exclusion for the sake of protecting your child a valid tact to take? I would genuinely appreciate your perspective and feedback on this. Please note that I will delete your comments without response or apology if you get ugly or cray-cray. I see enough of that on Facebook and have no interest in watching that unfold here, too.  😉

Best wishes to all.  Jo

Searching for Peace

My thoughts won’t stop circling. I keep replaying images of the final heart-shattering farewells of his parents and sister as the touching songs from the funeral loop silently with deafening tones through my mind and soul. Moments beautiful and raw. Impossible and unfair.

I have been inundated with work and all things family lately and consequently haven’t found time to write in weeks. But tonight I write in an effort to still this clamor in my head. I search for some semblance of peace and acceptance, and I hope to gain a hint of clarity and calm as I piece together this post.

I lost a precious family member in a car accident last week. Death is a rough blow to take when it comes for anyone you care about, but it’s especially hard when the person who is taken is young. The other people in the accident were wearing seatbelts and survived, but he wasn’t and didn’t. He lived life in his own bold style, and seatbelts simply weren’t his thing.

As someone who loved (and loves) him, I struggle deeply with this. My emotions are rife with deep sadness and overwhelming frustration. I want to turn back the clock to have a chance to change that terrible course of events. What if he really could have comprehended the true danger? If he had had the slightest understanding about how immeasurably important his life was to those around him, would he have chosen differently that night? If he could have glimpsed the unimaginable pain that losing him would bring, could everything have ended differently?

The truth is that none of us will ever know what might have happened. And while I have no idea if he could have survived that crash even if he had been wearing a seatbelt, I believe with all of my heart that he would made different choices that night if it meant protecting his family and friends from that pain. He would have never intentionally hurt the people whom he loved. He was kind and fierce and bold, and he lived to take care of those in his circle. Sadly, there is no turning back time, and there’s no changing that night.

It was just a mistake that ended with a terribly tragic accident.

For those who continue to drive but aren’t convinced feel that wearing a seatbelt is really necessary, I sincerely ask that you please seriously reconsider that. If you can’t make it happen for your own sake, please make that choice for the sake of those in your life whom you love. You have no idea how many lives you impact. You worth is beyond compare, and you absolutely matter. It’s not a huge action to take, but the result could be life-changing for you and countless people around you.

To P – I am certain that you will continue to look out for us all in new rockstar ways with your own bold style sweet boy. You will always be treasured, and we will always miss you. Keep soaring darling. We love you to the moon and back for forever and a day. – JoJo

I’ll Never Homeschool, My Kids are Fine, & Other Parenting Certainties That Have Gone Toe Up

When I tell you that I had no intentions of entering my family into any form of homeschool whatsoever, I feel like this is basically the understatement of the century. Not only was I not planning on taking them out of public school, but I was fiercely against it. A handful of the reasons for that unwavering conviction (***unwavering until it utterly crashed and burned) are listed below. Feel free to raise your hand if any of these sound familiar. Also please note that I can’t see your hand, so maybe pretend like you are waving to someone across the room so you don’t look like a total weirdo randomly raising a hand.

I’ll never homeschool because…

  • Public school reflects reality.
  • For the most part, our children make good grades and are being taught the appropriate curriculum in our schools.
  • We like our teachers and the school administration, we don’t have problems with any specific families or kids, and we are zoned to one of the best districts and schools in the state.
  • Children need social interaction with their peers, and hanging with a sibling 24 hours a day simply doesn’t cut it.
  • We cannot put each child in a bubble, and pulling them out of regular school is a futile attempt to avoid conflict that they will face in reality.
  • Every school has issues so why would I want to pay money for different issues?
  • Although we are a family of faith, we do not concur with highly conservative or fundamentalist views and do not want the individual beliefs of others pushed on our children.
  • I work full-time, so even if I wanted to homeschool (which I don’t), that would be impossible.
  • I have zero patience and the news would surely be at my home within days if we were to homeschool.
  • We just aren’t the homeschool type. I don’t eat granola, my kids don’t look like they recently escaped the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and F bombs are an integral part of my classy speech pattern. Public school is so our bag baby.

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For our individual family, it feels like these are seriously solid arguments against homeschool. As I said before, never gonna happen.

But there’s a seriously funny thing about using the word “never” with regard to anything in the Parentiverse. You unwittingly use the word “never” with absolute conviction in a sentence about something pertaining to choices you will or won’t make for your children. The Universe (God / Jesus / Your Preferred Divine Name Here) then catalogs those words, laughs hysterically, and proceeds to turn your world inside out just for the sake of proving you 110% wrong.

In addition to the “never homeschool” beatdown I would one day (a.k.a. now) receive, I would also be getting a bonus gift that would simultaneously lead to my eating the words below.

My kids are fine. I know this because…

  • They look happy and don’t seem upset.
  • They actually want to go to school (In truth, that one still weirds me out, but my kids have always been such complete nerdzillas.).
  • Their teachers don’t complain about their behavior to us.
  • They are in advanced classes, perform very well on average on their grades, and always score solidly on the state standardized tests (STAAR – the state standardized assessment tests that I have loathed with a fiery passion since we first experienced them several years ago).
  • If they had problems in school, we would recognize it because we are a close-knit family.

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The two sets of bullet points above have been covered in extensive detail during countless conversations with my husband, family, and friends over the years. Even as my spouse and I watched our children’s individual learning gaps yawn wider and wider with every semester that passed, we couldn’t fathom how a non-traditional program could possibly fit into our lives nor did we want to go that route. We agreed that it would never happen.

Apparently I have been using the word “never” a little too emphatically because God has since felt the need to put me on the fast track in order to change my mind. Here are some of the gems that we never saw coming that we have discovered firsthand over the past two weeks.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t realize years ago that...

There is zero emphasis on fast facts. Seeing teenagers count on their fingers is painfully commonplace. I’m not being facetious. They literally count on their fingers. Education has shifted basic mathematical teaching to a utilization of various techniques that attempt to optimize every potential learning style. The problem is that the kids don’t have enough time to get really good at any single style, so they never get the most basic of foundations for any concept. Fast facts aren’t engrained in their base mathematical learning, and this dramatically impacts their ability to solve complex equations with any level of accuracy or speed.

As an example, I watched my genuinely brilliant daughter solve very complex equations this week. Unfortunately these equations took her an excruciating amount of time due to all of the micro-calculations one would expect to be automatic by that point in her educational experience. When I say micro-calculation, I mean something incredibly basic like 4×5. A student at her advanced level should easily be able to recognize that 4 x 5 = 20, right? Well I absolutely assumed so, but I watched my daughter repeatedly solve basic problems like this… 4 x 5 = 4+4 = 8 so 8+4 =12 so 12+4 = 16 so 16+4 = 20. This is not unusual for children in modern middle school (a.k.a. junior high school), but it is absolutely bonkers. Unbelievably, I came to the terrible realization that we needed to reintroduce the same flashcards that we once studied when our children were in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Although we found that our other kid could easily recite fast facts, we also discovered that he actually forgot how to solve 99% of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems at his level without a calculator. Full access to calculators has been a standard in his classes for years. I agree that calculators are fab, but unless you are solving something extremely complicated or inhumanly possible, one should still understand how to solve those same problems via pencil and paper. Sadly, we are now working on reteaching him his entire last three years of math once more. Three. Years. He will get it again at a fast clip, but the truth is that he should already have it given the grades he achieved in those classes.

And then you have the nightmare that is composition. The kids don’t study grammar much (if at all) and consequently can’t write sentences correctly. They don’t capitalize words properly, and they don’t use punctuation. If they do use punctuation, it often appears in the most bizarre of places. One of my older children wrote a paragraph for me a couple of days ago that literally started with a comma. The comma was intentionally written before all of the words. Despite my obvious head explosion at the sight of such horror, she has since pulled this wild punctuation move multiple times (because apparently she has been doing this for quite some time). In. Sane.

Another fun note is that while I feel strongly that one is permitted to have moderate to severe crap penmanship, you still need to be able to read and write your own name with a real live signature. I don’t care if the rest of your class jumps off the block letter bridge. You aren’t in kindergarten and should therefore be able to sign your name like a big boy / big girl / adult. Countless young adults are graduating high school and college with honors yet they can neither read or write cursive nor can they sign their names with a genuine signature. I am waiting to see someone put an X on a piece of paper. When that happens, you will hear my scream of horror from whatever corner of the globe you happen to inhabit.

Don’t even get me started on spelling speling spellyng because it has gone the way of the dodo doedoe doughdough. It’s Crap Central, and wow that’s seriously not okay.

An unexpected fun game I introduced to the kids was “Can You Figure Out How the Dictionary Works?” Spoiler alert – they couldn’t. My brain almost popped out of my head watching my daughter attempt to interpret the apparent hieroglyphics that systematically covered the pages of the new Webster’s Dictionary I recently purchased for this event. I bought the book in yet another attempt to back the kids off technology. Sometimes they need to look up words, but we have always used apps or the internet. I had no clue what a mind scrambler I was handing my poor child, but she was fascinated to discover the hidden code (know to the seasoned few as “alphabetical order”). It feels like they are so dependent on technology that they have lost what should be an innate ability to problem solve, to recognize patterns, and to seek alternate possibilities.

Our children are extremely intelligent and should be able to do so much more than what I have seen over the past two weeks. Thank heavens that my husband and I still have time to break this disturbing and debilitating pattern that is afflicting our children, and we will do whatever we have to to make this change. We have to figure this out for their sake. I refuse to raise meatheads.

Each new discovery of the past two weeks has left me feeling more and more guilty. It has made me question my parenting and forced me to ask myself how I could have possibly missed so much. Thankfully I was sharing those feelings with a kind friend of mine, and her response was exactly what I needed to hear. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What a gem of a comment and a beautiful soul! (The biggest hugs go out to you Lynda!)

She was right. Had we known, we would have done something differently. Maybe we wouldn’t have opted for homeschool, but perhaps we would have supplemented their educations. It’s spilt milk now (buckets and buckets of it but over and done nonetheless). Thankfully, we know now.

Although I know that we are on a completely new path, I still can’t tell you how all of this will work. I have no doubt that I will have plenty of mom fails in this arena, too. I feel like that’s kinda my special skill, but then again, it’s just how is goes in the magically imperfect world of parenting. However, we always continue to learn, and ideally, we do our best to help all of our little loves do the same as well.

I pray that your littles are happy and well and that they are receiving the best education that they can get. I hope that you are having better luck with regard to being able to help and coach them in that journey. And if you are experiencing anything close to what we are seeing, I want you to know that you aren’t the only one. I’m here if you need to know that you aren’t alone, and I sincerely believe that you can make anything happen if you can be brave and release the fear. We’ve got this, and the One who sees it all has got us. ❤️

Parenting is so easy, right?!? (…said no one ever) 😉

Best wishes to all of you. Jo

Another Life Claimed by Suicide

Last night I received a call informing me that a family in our community lost a parent to suicide. Sadness doesn’t begin to describe my feelings for them. When I told my husband, of course he felt the same. In the course of our conversation about this, he made this comment that so many people make.

“No matter how bad I feel, I just can’t imagine it getting to the point that I would do that to my family.”

There is very real truth is those words. He can’t imagine it. Although my husband has his own heavy emotions and struggles to carry, he has never walked the path of someone who lives with severe clinical depression. He literally cannot fathom the world through that unimaginable filter. If a person has not faced the darkest of nights or wrestled to the depth of their soul about the value of their own life, they have no way of comprehending the torturous confusion and pain of those moments.

A person who committes suicide did not have a clear perception of their reality. His thoughts were terribly twisted. He couldn’t recognize the tidal wave of devastation that his death would bring. He didn’t see that his mind was creating vicious lies, and he couldn’t understand that his life was precious and invaluable. He truly could not comprehend that he was and still is needed more than he could ever believe.

All that person knew was that he wanted the pain to end, and that he didn’t want to hurt the people in his life anymore. He had no ability to perceive that his leaving his family would create a deep void in their hearts. Although they would heal to some extent over a long, long time, that place in their hearts would forever remain jagged and raw. His presence will never be forgotten, and he will always be loved.

If you are fighting this battle in your mind, do not believe the lies that depression creates. It poisons your thoughts and tells you that you have no value. That confusion feels so real but it is the cruelest of tricks. Don’t you dare ever believe those lies. Never ever ever.

Your mind will not stay in darkness forever. You must continue to hold on whenever you most want to let go. Your life has value beyond measure, and the people in your world need you more than you can fathom. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth living, and despite what you seem to see all around you, everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

If you struggle with loneliness, self-worth issues, fear, guilt, or overall chronic imperfection, you are landing solidly on the scale of normal humanity. You aren’t alone in this and you don’t have to be alone in depression either.

Speak up. Ask for help. And hold on another day. And if needed, hold on again. Just don’t give in and don’t give up.

You’ve got this, and we’ve got each other. You are here for a reason. Give your life a chance to prove that to you.

You matter and your life is precious. Fight to keep it. Always.

My heart and prayers are with every person who has lost someone to this battle. Please know that it was never your fault, and it wasn’t the fault of the person who committed suicide either. Depression is a vicious disease.

***Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if you feel like you are at the end of your rope and truly can’t hold on much longer. If you are seriously considering ending your life, you desperately need to speak to someone who can help clear the blackness and the lies that are you can’t control in that moment. Call 1-800-273-8255 and please please please get help.

You are precious and you matter.

In love and light always.

Joanna

Another Sexy-time Fun Mom Weekend

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

I pulled my head out from under the covers a few minutes ago. I wanted to stay there, but who has time for that kind of shutdown?

Please note that I wasn’t there because I was sleeping nor was sexy-time on the books. I actually got out of bed hours ago because I needed to make breakfast, do some cleaning, and ideally have a little family time. Unfortunately the family that decided to join me for that time (my own) was irritating the crap out of me, so I ended up extricating myself from the area due to safety concerns for all within my range.

Upon returning to my own room, I immediately found myself dealing with unexpected calls and texts from the outside world regarding outside world craziness. Apparently madness knows no bounds. My husband and I barked at each other momentarily in response to all that (which never ceases to be ironic because we are rarely truly mad at each other about the outside insanity but rather just stressed in general about scenarios neither of us can fix). Following our scrappy moment, he left the room and I proceeded to climb back into bed and pull the covers over my head like I was hiding from a vampire (that has lived under my bed for decades waiting to strike if I mistakenly happen to leave a toe exposed outside of my blanket as I fall asleep) (because apparently this vampire has a thing about toes but not actual heads / necks) (yes it’s weird, okay???).

Does anyone else do this? Something childish and ridiculous like literally putting the covers and pillows over your head in a futile attempt to turn it all off for a few minutes? Truth be told, I would greatly prefer blasting music to literally drown out the noise with a louder better rhythmic beat. Unfortunately that would simply call the aforementioned housemates (a.k.a. my children) to me like rump shakin’ rats to an inappropriate hip-hop and 90s rap playing pied piper.

I. Need. Space.

But too bad for me. There’s crap to do, and times a-wastin’.

So here I am. Newly emerged from the covers once more and tapping away to write this post on my phone in a desperate attempt to syphon off some of my excessive irritation and overall overwhelmed everything that is circling furiously around my brain. But even that has to stop because, as I said previously, I got shiznet to handle.

Hopefully you, too, will find your way out of the covers. Best of luck on your own sexy-time weekend plans. Peace out.

Jo

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

My Savings

Another new poem for the book…

MY SAVINGS

I stocked up on cheap shirts

And tons of new tank tops.

The shoe racks had discounts

Even on cool high tops.

I bought enough makeup

To earn me that free gift.

Jeans and skirts for half price.

My bags too full to lift!

I’ve saved so much money

And know now without fail,

My shopping has ended.

But what’s that there? A sale!

– Jo Price 😉

A Million to One

***Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

My daughter has been asking me to write a book that she could then illustrate. I have half a dozen book ideas bouncing around my brain, but poems feel more like her style. I’m looking forward to seeing the fun collection my little artist and I can create together. Here’s the first poem that I am comfortable sharing. These are aimed at kids, but there are winks for adults, too. I just started these today, so the artwork is still in progress. ☺️

A MILLION TO ONE

Some people will tell you,

Don’t bother to start.

A million to one chance

That you’ll get the part.

Don’t waste your time writing.

Just put down that pen.

Don’t spend your years wishing

For dreams with no end.

Set free all of your hopes.

Just let each one go.

There’s no point in trying.

Stick with status quo.

But don’t you dare listen.

It’s your path to walk.

Their words have no power.

It’s only just talk.

Real magic can happen

If you join the dance,

‘Cause no matter the odds,

There’s always a chance!

– Jo Price

Never forget that impossible is not the same as improbable. Even the most unlikely of odds still means that it can happen. Aim for greatness and follow your dreams. Always. ❤️

***Originally posted in lifeinthespectrum.com.

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