You Don’t Go to School?

My daughter and I were waiting for the bus at the airport after a fabulous mother-daughter trip to visit my grandmother. We just had four days of bonding and connecting. We were able to visit “Butterfly World” a butterfly and bird aviary, where we sat among luxurious greenery and tropical flowers while butterflies and birds fluttered around us. We watched butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and fed lorikeets that landed on our arms. We enjoyed our time getting lost in the beauty and experiencing awe and wonder. We observed, connected, asked questions, and found answers. There was no rushing, no bells ringing or people telling us it was time to move to the next experience. The only time we were told to look at something was when someone else saw something amazing and pointed it out. We were driven by curiosity and a love of nature. We were free to explore, experience, and connect. We had a guidebook to identify the things we saw, if we wanted to. We also had journals to write and draw what we observed, discovered, and learned…if we wanted to record it. There was no agenda, no checklist of things to see and do, no benchmarks, and no tests.

These beautiful memories were occupying my head space when a woman, who was waiting for the same bus as my daughter and I, started engaging us in conversation. We did the typical small talk that strangers do when waiting for a bus, “Where are you coming from? Where are heading?” sort of questions. Then the kind woman asked my daughter “Are you excited to go back to school tomorrow?” To which my daughter responded nonchalantly  “I don’t go to school.” The woman looked at me confused, I smiled, and she asked my daughter “What do you mean you don’t go to school?” My daughter repeated her original statement and the woman didn’t respond. Well not with words anyways, just a look of shock and confusion. At this point I realized how differently we do things, and also how little people understand about life without school. As I was about to respond with probably a really long explanation, my brilliant daughter chimed in with “We homeschool.” The woman relaxed and the conversation kept flowing.

It is really hard to explain what we do. Not because I don’t know what we do, I feel I can eloquently explain what we do. But because the majority of people only know how to think of children in terms of school, they can’t relate to a childhood without school.  We use the term homeschool but I don’t feel like that represent what we do. My daughter recognized the woman’s discomfort and used the term homeschool to ease the tension and to put in a way that would make it more understandable. (My 8 year old daughter is amazingly brilliant, especially her people skills!)

Our trip to “Butterfly World” is one example of what we do without school. So to help people develop their understanding of a life without school, I made a list of what we do (and don’t do). Insert Forest Gump, “Mamma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.”

We don’t stay home, but when we need to… we stay home. We are purposeful with our choices so that we have time to be home. To enjoy our home and surroundings. To rest if we need to.

We all pitch in for housekeeping and life living: house maintenance and repairs, cleaning, food shopping, and pet care.

We play. We play everyday.

We create art when we are inspired to do so. We paint, draw, build, sculpt, and sew.

We don’t do school at home. Which means we don’t replicate a school schedule at home. There is no set schedule for learning to take place. We don’t make sure we are doing the same things at the same time as the local school district.


We live life together as a family. We take turns, laugh, help, support and encourage each other.

We engage in science experiments, together as a family or in organized groups.

We ask questions, explore, and discover. We read. We read a lot. We read for pleasure and to acquire knowledge. We make connections to things we read. We connect to ourselves, others, other books, and experiences. Teachers have terms for these connections: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-real world.

We write letters. We write about what we know, what we are curious about, or how we are feeling. We write stories, real and imaginary. We have journals for writing and handwriting workbooks for practice.

We are not limited by one room or one building. We don’t wait to be told what to learn about and how to learn it.

We are curious. We ask questions and seek out answers. We connect with experts on the topics we are curious about.

We utilize many resources: people, places, and things. Libraries, museums, parks, playgrounds, science centers, community events, beaches, hiking trails, businesses, professionals, teachers, books, magazines,  and internet resources.



We regularly spend time with friends of different ages. Some friends go to school and some don’t. Some friends school at home and some don’t. Some attend church regularly and some don’t. Some friends live in our community and some don’t.

We take trips, excursions, scavenger hunts, attend co-op, take classes, sign up for activities, attend camps, and visit with friends and family.

We don’t think we have all the answers or that we are better in any way. Raising and educating children is hard- no matter which path you choose. We are all trying to do what’s best. Please remember that.

We have opportunities to practice skills, take risks, make mistakes, and have “redo’s.”

We set goals for ourselves based on individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

We make decisions that are in alignment with our goals. We say no to the people, places, and things that don’t support our mission.

We follow our passions and curiosities. We are not restricted to only learning certain topics at certain times or in a certain order.


Learning without school… what would you add?


Next post will be about our role as parents in our children’s education.



Changing the Script

This week I wanted to share some quick thoughts on changing the script that runs in your head to help ease feelings of overwhelm. I was so distracted by my little one, he soaked my pants with tea while recording. But at least he sat quietly!


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More Joy

Last week I received some great reminders. The kids and I had two really wonderful mornings. They just felt different, and better. Those two mornings were spent reading, talking, connecting, and enjoying each other. It is how imagine our ideal “homeschool.” The day pictured below, we brought our book outside and sat in the front yard. It was a really neat 50 year old copy of “Grimms’s Fairy Tales.” We read fairy tales with our chickens pecking and scratching around us. We picked dandelions and discussed the different versions of fairy tales we have recently been exploring.915053AF-94AE-4CA2-8AD3-473191FA811C

It was wonderful. We discussed where stories come from, perspective, story elements (chracarters, settings, plot), and staying true to your heart.

I realized why this felt different. We have not been doing enough of the things that bring us joy. We have been doing schoolwork and to do lists, but I couldn’t remember the last time we had a day like this. Probably because there wasn’t any to recall. We have been out of alignment for far too long. It was clear that what we have been doing is not in alignment with our philosophies and goals. So I am pledging to do more of what I love, more of what brings me joy, and sharing that with my children. I will let my children explore and express their joys as well. Less of what I think we should be doing and more following our hearts.

A verse from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin came to mind:

“Don’t mistake your desire to talk for their

readiness to listen.

Far more important are the wordless truths they

learn from you.

If you take delight in the ordinary wonders of life,

they will feel the depth of your pleasure

and learn to experience joy.”


I had reached a point where I was questioning if homeschooling was the right choice for Lilly. We were both stressed, bickering and struggling, and just not enjoying what we were doing. My fourth child was 3 months old and I was depleted from newborn care. The days, weeks, and then months were unfolding in a way that wasn’t what I envisioned for our homeschool life. We were both tired and struggling. It was the end of the winter (the winters are long in central NH) and I was eager to find a solution. I started thinking about sending her to school. Maybe just for the spring and she could finish out the school year at school and that would reset everything, then we could try again in the fall. I started thinking of the pros to this plan. I would get a much-needed break, focus on my other children, she could fill up on “socializing” and learn what it’s like to attend school. Then she would see that what we do at home is so much better and be happy to not return back to school in the fall. My husband and I discussed it for a few weeks and I talked with Lilly about it and she was willing to try it. Even though I had a plan and a list of all the positive attributes of this plan, I still had that awful feeling in my gut. That intuition thing that tells you something isn’t right. That heavy feeling in the center of your torso that makes you feel kind of sick, that feeling wouldn’t go away. Then I started remembering all the reasons why we choose not to use the local public school, and that feeling got worse. I couldn’t send her there. But I still didn’t see a way out of our struggle.
So I called a private school located the next town over and they invited Lilly to come spend the day and see if she liked it, while I could get a tour and ask questions. I started to feel a little better that maybe this would work. So we scheduled our visit and tour. The school was nice, it had small class sizes, lots of parent involvement, carefully selected curriculum, individualized instruction, P.E. twice a week, a large art room. I began to feel excited that maybe this would be a good fit. As were walking down the hallway of the school, a realization hit me. It was a moment of enlightenment. This school was just more of the same. It was still an institution. It was still just a building where children spend 6-7 hours a day. They still only focused on a preset curriculum. They sat in desks and received instruction and then were tested on what they remembered. There was very little free time, if any. No choices. No opportunities to connect with the community they were a part of. No exploring unknown places or ideas. Most of their time was spent with the same group of children of the same age. The common practices did not support or encourage curiosity, creativity, risk taking, or mindfulness. Waiting to be told what to do next was the norm, rather than self directed learning. The day to day experiences in the classroom did not have depth or relevance. The purposes for learning were to perform well and then move on to the next predetermined item on the checklist. So even though it was a different choice, (possibly considered a better choice by some), but ultimately it was just more of the same. And it did not align with our philosophies or vision in raising and educating our children. So now what? We were back to not knowing what to do.  
A path less traveled.
We were attending a weekly co-op (that I started with a group of friends) and we were chatting outside while the kids played. One of the moms asked how Lilly’s visit to the school was. Previously I had opened up to them about not being happy and not knowing how to move forward. I explained what we were going through, my feelings, and Lilly’s feelings. So I shared our experiences during the tour and how Lilly enjoyed her day at school. “So what are you going to do?” they asked. I didn’t have an answer. Now, this is an amazing group of women, so we openly discussed ways for my daughter and me to get our needs meet. Then I started to hear things like: “Sometimes going to school is the best option.” “Some children thrive at school.” “Everyone is different, sometimes you just have to let them go.” I began to question myself, yet again, that maybe I am holding my daughter back because of my own fears. As I got quiet and drifted into my headspace, everyone else started talking about what they would do if their children wanted or had to go school. They shared stories about children who ended up at school and were doing well. I know they were trying to be supportive. Then one of my friends Samantha, who had been quietly listening said, “I really don’t know what we would do if our kids wanted to go to school. We are committed to educating and raising our children in this way, so we would try everything else to meet their needs rather than sending them to school.” I knew what she said was significant, but I was still wrapped up in my own fears and emotions that her words didn’t click for me. Not yet anyways.
We got through our struggles without using school. Much of our troubles were arising because I needed more time to myself and other outlets to fill my cup. I needed more sleep and more time to adjust to being a mother of four. Lilly needed more independence and free social time with her friends.  It wasn’t until a year later that Samantha’s words came back to me and turned on a light bulb. I had let our commitment go. I realized that I was under the assumption, and therefore belief, that if something in our homeschool wasn’t working then the only solution was to send the children to school. I was willing to forget about everything we had pondered and carefully considered; to forget about why we did not want to choose the traditional path; to forget about the child as an individual with needs, strengths, and passions; To forget about our passions, goals, and values. How silly and closed minded of me. I almost threw away something amazing and beautiful because of a limiting belief that if something isn’t momentarily working, we should forget it and just do what everyone else is doing. All we needed was a break, and I needed to take better care of myself. I was pouring from an empty cup and not able to see clearly. My perceptions were blocking me from seeing the big picture. So the key word from my friend’s enlightening statement is “commitment.” I forgot about staying committed to our choice, and you can’t be successful without commitment. I didn’t make this choice because it was the easy thing to do, I made it because it was the best thing to do.
Part of commitment is making a pledge or promise. Commitment is an obligation. Commitment should be honored. No one says “let’s just homeschool.” Choosing this alternative path was not a decision that was made lightly or without careful consideration. I needed to honor myself, my child, and my decision by nurturing and holding true to my commitment. 
Learning in progress.
My lesson was: Don’t lose sight of your long- term goals because of a short-term setback. Homeschooling allows you the freedom to make changes. That is one of the great characteristics about this alternative path, the ability to make changes to support your children and family for an individualized education. A child is struggling with something, you give extra support or take a break, whatever is needed. The family needs more quality time together, make a change in the schedule to allow it. You need a break, so you plan your time accordingly to fit in your needs too. Because when you are committed you find a way, without commitment you’ll find excuses.
Think about any other commitments you have made: a professional goal, a relationship, a project, or a lifestyle change.  These commitments don’t lead to success if you give up too easily or if you don’t make them a priority.

Commitment isn’t always convenient. Again, you’re not doing this because of its convenience, but because of the end results. So what does it mean to be committed to your decision to homeschool?
  • You have a clear vision and goals for yourself, your children, and your family.
  • You have a mission statement and educational philosophy.
  • You understand how your goals are supported by your philosophy and mission.
  • You have the ability to see and admit when something isn’t working. You possess a willingness to actively seek out solutions and make changes.
  • You say no to anything that interferes with your vision and goals. That includes people, places, activities, and other obligations.
  • You say yes to what you know is right.
  • You understand that all children are unique and come with their own set of strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
  • You understand that education is not a “one size fits all” system,
  • You realize that there are many ways, methods, curriculums, styles to educate.
  • You remember that you are a voice and advocate for your child(ren), if you do not find the answers or support you are looking for, you keep looking.
  • You take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup!
  • You make the necessary choices and changes so that whatever path you choose contains love, passion, some challenge, curiosity, wonder, and fulfillment.
  • Uncertainty is not something to be feared. We can willingly accept uncertainty from a place of understanding and use it for its creative potential. That in itself is a learning experience being modeled first hand for your children.

Our Stories

     I am still reflecting on stories, people’s personal stories. Authentic stories. defines authentic as not false or copied; genuine; real; representing one’s true nature or beliefs. That right there is what I am passionate about. Discovering our authenticity and living life accordingly. There is beauty and magic in authenticity. In my last post, I shared about connecting with others through stories, we can also connect with our true selves through our stories. Working with our stories through introspection, reflection, and sharing can lead to profound healing and freedom.
     So what is your story? Without judgement of what went wrong or right, what is your story? Not just bits and pieces, not your opinion, just the story. Without telling what you think people want to hear, and not because you want people to feel or react a certain way, what’s your story? How does it make you feel? Are you sharing the whole story? Can you tell your story without crying? Our answers to these questions tells us a lot about who we are, and probably what we need to work on. For example, if we can’t share bits and pieces of ourselves/stories without feeling hurt then there is some healing that needs to take place. If you only tell people what you think they want to hear, then maybe you need to overcome some fears and practice asserting yourself.

“Be who are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Suess

     Are we taking responsibility for our stories? Is there a sense of control to how stories play out, balanced with some faith about where we are and where we are going?

“This is my life, my story, my book. I will no longer let anyone else write it, nor will I apologize for the edits I make.” -Steve Maraboli

What about the words you use to share your story? Are they uplifting or gloomy? Are there repeating patterns, perhaps there is a lesson we have yet to learn from?
     Sharing my spiritual journey has brought many new, remarkable people into my life. My personal authenticity has deepened my connections and relationships to the people in my life. It has also filtered out the people and things that shouldn’t be there. Some people have had new boundaries set for them, while others walked away. But that is where the beauty lies.

“As we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we liberate from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”              -Marianne Williamson 

        My journey has revealed to me that I should be writing and sharing my stories. Not just for my own personal growth, but because my truths may be healing for others as well. I have been writing and filling notebooks, but not knowing what to do with them. A few weeks ago in a prayer, I asked for a sign that I am on the right track. Something to confirm that the writing I am doing is on the right path. The next day I took my four children on our weekly library trip. We had our usual visit of picking out a large stack of books and chatting with the library staff. The cooperation level of the children was quickly diminishing so I knew it was time head out. On our way out my 3 year old wants to get a magazine off the free rack. I said “No, let’s just get to the car.” So he starts crying. At this point the oldest two are now arguing over who gets to hold the doors and I am balancing a 20 something pound baby on one hip and 40 something pounds of books on the other side. The 3 year old is insistent on getting a magazine and runs over to grab one. We finally make it to the car. One of the older two is near tears because they “never get to hold the door!” The baby does not want to go into the car seat, so he starts crying. I buckle in the 3 year old and get in the driver’s seat to take some cleansing breaths before driving home. At home, I am unloading the car of children and books when the three year old shows me the magazine he picked. I got goosebumps when I saw the title because I knew that was sign I asked for. The magazine was How to write your Novel in 30 days.


     One of the lessons in my story is learning how to listen to the whispers; how to be still, content, peaceful so that you can see and feel clearly how things are and not how you think they should be. I have learned that my passions are connected to my purpose. That buzzy feeling of excitement means you are connecting with your truth. By following that excitement the universe supports you and  opens up new possibilities and paths. Guidance is there for you, you just have to ask. Be ready to walk into the gifts that are waiting to unfold for you.

Sharing our Stories

I have been thinking about stories. Not the horizontal sections of a building, but the other kind of stories. A story (as defined by and The American Heritage Dictionary) is a true or fictitious narrative, prose, or verse constructed to interest, amuse, or instruct the reader or hearer. A story can be an account of an event or a series of events. It is also the existence of something or an account such as “The Story of Public Education.”
Stories are a significant part of human existence. Before pens and paper, before written language, there were stories. Written stories or verbal storytelling are important for numerous reasons: personal, historical, philosophical, spiritual, educational, builds empathy and compassion, the list goes on. But what I am drawn to is people sharing their stories, their knowledge, thoughts, and truths. By sharing our stories we can help others find their way. We all possess some knowledge, insight, or experience that is useful to others. Stories create opportunities for building connections with others, either through insights people learn about the storyteller or they discover something about themselves. It is a way to intimately connect. It’s risky to share your story. You are revealing your true self, or at least pieces of truth, but that’s why we can connect so deeply through sharing our stories.
Check out StoryCorps, an oral history project in America. This non-profit organization archives personal stories for future generations, and shares the stories through weekly PBS broadcasts, podcast, and bestselling books. Another successful story project is Humans of New York. HONY began as a photography project. Then the project’s creator Brandon Staton started to interview his subjects and share stories from their lives. HONY now has over 20 million followers on social media. It is obvious sharing stories is valuable and needed.
Over the last few months I have heard the calling that I should be writing and sharing my stories, thoughts, and experiences. I tried here and there to write some thoughts but it was hard. I am a “Stay-at-home” mom (for lack of a better term) and I home-school our four children ages 8, 6, 2, and 9 months. So even when I could find some writing time it was always interrupted because with four little ones, someone always needs something! But there were little things that kept happening, little coincidences or synchronicities that were telling me not to give up on writing.
So, one day the stars aligned and all the children were sleeping or playing contentedly so I thought it would be a great opportunity to sit and write. I went to my homemade “desk” where I keep a little pot with pens. There were no pens. So with a grunt of frustration I went off to search for a pen. I asked all household members if they knew where a pen was, and of course nobody had a clue or admitted to taking one of my pens. My dissatisfaction with the unresolved pen issue was building. Now that I am searching through every room in the house, I am noticing all the mess and clutter that I don’t get to, so the tightness in my chest is increasing. Then I’m thinking about all the wasted time. If people just put things back, I wouldn’t have to waste precious minutes searching for the things I need, like pens. There have to be 20 something pens in this house, and I can’t find a single one.
So now I am talking out-loud to myself in a frustrated and negative manner about all of the above issues. Then I ask the question out loud (to myself and whoever else is listening to me rant) “How? How am I supposed to write when I can’t even find any pens?” At that moment, my two-year-old announces he’s hungry, “Mumma, can you make me some popcorn?” I give up on my pen search and retrieve the popcorn maker from the storage shelf in the basement and get the popping corn from the pantry. Upon taking the airpopper out of the box I reveal something in the bottom of the box and you’ll never guess what it was. A pen.
So I put out my question of “How am I supposed to be able to write?” and the universe responded, “Here’s a pen.”