Good Relationships

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”  A 75 year Harvard study has revealed this as the most important factor in human happiness. I have read about this study, and the length of time and amount of effort put into this is impressive. Although the study started with just men (women and children are brought into the study eventually), the results are significant for all. It seems like it should be common wisdom that the quality of our relationships affect our well-being, but it’s not common knowledge so it’s important for work like this to occur. And of course my mind goes right to how this knowledge is important to children and childhood. Childhood is the foundation of life. It is a crictical period of human development when we are figuring out how the world works and our place in it. We also receive lenses or filters through which we will view the world, ourselves, and our place in the world. The words we hear, the things we see, our experiences with people, places, and things, are all a part of that foundation.

How are we laying down a foundation for children that includes building relationships that are supportive and healthy? There are two things that come to mind for me. The first is what opportunities and support do children have to create these quality relationships? The second is what is being modeled for children?

  • On a side note, I realize I ask a lot of questions. It’s the Socratic philosopher in me. I actually can’t help it. I get passionate on a topic and I immediately think of  a list of questions that I want to ask myself and others. Anyone else like that?These are two topics I am particularly passionate about, so prepare yourself for a lot of questions!

Children need opportunities to practice the skills that will serve them for a lifetime. That’s why we have a childhood. It’s a period of development for them to observe, practice, take risks, ask questions, build knowledge, and seek answers. Their play is a vital component of the childhood experience. Their play is their work. So when we look at the foundational experiences of childhood, how are we supporting opportunities for them to develop good relationships? Are they getting opportunities to interact with a wide variety of people? Do they get to talk with people of different ages and generations? Do children get to cooperate on projects, seeing how different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and when they come together they can achieve big goals? Are they learning that all people have something to offer and do they have opportunities to showcase their strengths? Are children able to follow their passions and meet people that are passionate about the same topics? Are children sometimes introduced to a topic that they might not have explored on their own, and can then develop relationships from there? I’m asking all these questions because I believe they are important to the development of good relationships.

The second topic is where the adults come into play. Are the adults in children’s lives modeling how to seek out and maintain healthy relationships? Do they model setting healthy boundaries, expressing gratitude, practice empathy and compassion? Are the words that adults use sending messages of positivity, kindness, and encouragement? Do the adults have a healthy relationship with themselves? This is probably the most important question because it all starts with taking care of ourselves, everything evolves from there.  All of these questions are contributing factors to healthy development of quality relationships.

So if we look at the common and unquestioned practice of putting children into a school setting, how are these practices in support of the development of healthy relationships? Children are grouped into rooms with only children of the same age. They are gathered into schools based on where they live and placed with children that live within a certain geographical radius around their homes. I’m finding it hard to see how this practice is in the best interests of children and their development of healthy relationships.

Teachers do the best they can to bring the outside world into their classrooms, but is that enough? I have been there. As an elementary teacher I was always looking for opportunities to bring experts from various backgrounds and generations into the classroom. And these experiences are wonderful, but they are still just a substitute for the real life experiences that children need. Teachers do the best they can within their imposed limits. This is the reality of standardized, compulsory schooling. I’m sharing this point of view because we all have a responsibility to raising the next generation. Enrolling your child in the local school district does not necessarily mean a well rounded education. Children need more interaction in the real world in developmentally appropriate ways, in order to prepare them for life in the world.


To set children up for success we must first model what healthy relationships look like, with ourselves and others. And we must also give them opportunities to build a foundation that leads to development of good relationships. So no matter who you are: parent, teacher, grandparent, politician, stranger in the grocery store, please set a good example. The children are watching and learning from what they see, hear, and experience.

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.




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.