Sunday, September 11, 2011


Found this old thing.  Wrote it in September.  Publishing it now.  *Shrug*



Pssssst....  You out there?  *cough cough*

It's dusty in here.

I forgot about this place.  Well, I didn't entirely forget, because I've recently gotten several requests that I blog again.  I even received an extremely poignant compliment from my grouchy-and-cynical cousin who said he enjoyed my blog because he never gets to read good writing and he appreciates it when he sees it.  Picture me, humbled and speechless. 

Ask my Facebook friends, I don't do speechless.

And then my friend Kristin and her new Professional Writers Group had to go and woo me into doing seven hours of events at their book fair yesterday, including reading some of my own original poetry (who knew?) and I had several people approach me afterwards with kind words and feedback about my writing. 

I love to write.  But writing is time-consuming.  I found that the more I wrote about our lives and our unschooling, the less I was living my life and unschooling.  Something had to give.

And yet you gotta scratch the itch.

Emotions are a'tumble today as I sit here, missing my son who moved out 6 weeks ago - the one who was supposed to COME HOME AND VISIT HIS MAMA this weekend but didn't - and listening to the heart-breaking anniversary coverage of 9-11. 


Brady's departure was sudden and quite unexpected.  He had plans to travel this fall, to Oregon, to Vermont, and back again.  He had plane tickets in hand, and itineraries mapped out with friends.  And then we got an email about a job in film.  He sent his resume (after first writing it in a frenzy), got a callback, interviewed, got the job, and moved out - all within the span of about 5 days.  And just like that, my oldest child was launched.

The job is going well (so well he DIDN'T COME HOME TO SEE HIS MAMA THIS WEEKEND) and it promises opportunities in faraway lands like Los Angeles and beyond, if only his parents in the cornfields can wrap their heads around it enough to help him get there.

Brady called a few days ago to talk about finding an apartment in LA. Right after I puked up a little bit in my mouth, I peppered him with questions. I asked about the seriousness of this job option, if this was the track he was sure he wanted to take. I explained what a 'sublet' is, and then told him to quit this nonsense and come back home right this minute and sit in his room for 13 hours a day playing World of Warcraft.

Wait, what?

It wasn't all that long ago that Brady had a mini-meltdown in our kitchen.  He claimed he wasn't an extrovert like me, that he didn't know how to talk to people like I do, that breaking into groups was uncomfortable for him and there were opportunities he'd missed because he was shy. 

My first question, haven't you been watching me all this time?  Dude, I can talk the pants off a rock.  (If rocks wore pants.)  Some things you learn by exposure.  But in this case, he needed more explicit advice, so I gave him some pointers.

A few months later he got a job in the filmmaking industry because, among other things, "he was comfortable" with the interviewers and they liked him.  This, about my boy who doesn't know how to talk to people.

Sometimes all it takes is the right motivation. 

Because we don't subscribe to the one-size-fits-all model of school, there is little pressure to learn, grow and evolve on a timeline set by someone else.  Just as he didn't have to learn to long-divide in 2002 because he turned 9 years old, he isn't pressured to do other things because he crossed some invisible, arbitrarily-set age line.  He started community college at age 15 (because he wanted to) but doesn't have plans to start university until age 20, maybe, possibly, and even that is simply one option on an ever-expanding list of possibilities.  And this job tosses all previous plans out the window.

Usually, when my boys transition, it's practically overnight. Often, stages seem to last longer than they might if they were in school (where you MUST transition when they say so), and it can sometimes seem like "he'll never get past this" but then suddenly..... he does. Just like that. I'm still continually amazed in these unschooling moments by how things evolve when we are able to honor our own timelines. It's not always convenient, for sure - it would've been far better if he'd felt this confidence earlier, to help him with other situations that caused him angst - but in this case it happened when it needed to.  And it was as if someone lifted the old Brady and replaced him with the new, more confident version.

School imprisons children by severely restricting their movement and ability to make choices for themselves.  So much so that if you ask most high school graduates what their plans are, what they want to do, most don't know.  And how could they?  They've had no time to dabble, to try things on to see what fits, discover what they like, what they don't like.  Most insulting, during high school, the years when they ought to be transitioning toward more and more independence, they're still treated as children:  told what to do and when, told just how many pages their essays should be, and given only "controlled choice."  And if they rebel?  Troublemakers.  

With unschooling, the transitions are all natural.  Restrictions that are imposed occur authentically - a resume that must be turned in by the end of the day, registration that ends on Wednesday at 5pm, a bus that leaves with or without you.  We don't see the need to create arbitrary rules and restrictions.  Life provides plenty of those.

And Brady, who not so long ago "couldn't talk to people," evolved overnight into a young man who could not only talk to people, but talk his way into his dream job.

Go figure.

Rob and I are feeling a bit afloat during this kids-moving-out transition.  Jonathan is only 15, but Brady's sudden departure showed us that things can change in a heartbeat.  As we sat at side-by-side laptops, largely ignoring each other, Rob said "we'll need to be more interesting." 

But all is as it should be.  The 9-11 anniversary coverage reminds me that not all transitions are happy ones; many aren't chosen but thrust upon us.  I'm feeling grateful this morning, that even though some transitions are more painful than others, we are free to explore this life on our own terms.

I can't think of a better preparation for "real life" than living in the real world all along.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I am THAT Mom

I'm gonna dust off the ol' blog so I can join in on the unschooling bloggie fun.... thanks for the prompt!

I am That Mom....

I am that mom who still gets hugs from her teenage boys; and knows when a hug isn't welcome and respects that without reading into it. (Like today, when dropping Jonathan off for his first day of football camp. All throughout the gymnasium moms were filling their sons' ears with last-minute instructions, trying to hug them, brushing their hair out of their eyes, while their sons brushed away their hands, rolled their eyes, and practically crawled out of their skin with each doting embrace. How can they find the inner strength to tackle a day of football camp among total strangers when mom's attention is all soft and schmoopy?)

I am that mom who doesn't flinch when her child tells her he wants to cut his hair into a mohawk, or learn to ride a motorcycle, or promote hemp oil as a cancer cure, or sleep behind the couch for three months straight. I am that mom who sees her kids' interests and desires, no matter how unusual or dangerous, as valid, worthy, and do-able.

I am that mom who says, "How can we make this happen?"

I am that mom who gets physically and emotionally ill when I witness (or even hear about) a parent shame, berate, or threaten her child. I am that mom who some days can't go out in public because I'm not strong enough to navigate such interactions. I am that mom who, on those days, feels overwhelmed with gratitude for my relationship with my children.

I am that mom whose child says, "some of my friends need an escape, which makes sense. But I love my life and I love the people in it, and I can't relate to the need for escape."

I am that mom whom other parents thought (and some, probably, still think) was the irresponsible one, the one who'd "pay for it later" when my kids ran wild, became disrespectful, or couldn't function in public due to my "hands-off style" of parenting. I am that mom who knew all along that wasn't true. I am that mom who watches those controlling, authoritative, drastic-measures, zero-tolerance, 'my way or the highway' parents struggle today. I am that mom from whom they now seek advice. Advice I begin with "It's never too late."

I am that mom who knows that because I listened before passing judgement, my kids talk to me. That because I don't over-react, my kids trust me. That because I have no hard and fast rules, my kids seek my advice and input.

I am that mom who believes in 'people over principles' and 'relationship first' and 'everything is negotiable.' EVERYTHING.

I am that mom who will end friendships if they are detrimental to our family's well-being. I am that mom who understands that her children choose their friendships for their own reasons. I am that mom who will tell you to back down if you are infringing on my child's sense of self. I am also that mom who will empathize with YOU when you struggle, when you hurt, and when you want to be better.

I am that mom who can go from setting a proper table to having a sock-throwing fight (ewwwww, nasty!); from scrubbing a floor on hands and knees to watching the "most amazing video game replay ever"; from talking to listening at the moment it's necessary.

I am that mom who believes nothing - NOTHING - is more important than this family. Who'd live in a cardboard box before she gave up a minute of these growing-up years.

I am THAT mom.

Any questions? :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brady and I Changed his First Flat Tire

I keep my cellphone on vibrate most of the time, so I didn't get Brady's text that he had a flat tire. Rob finally reached me a while later, and since he was out of town, I donned my "rescue persona" - a mix of "I'm coming to help you, honey!" and "Dangnabit, I'm not in the mood for this" - and headed out, after changing into clothes I didn't mind getting dirty. Brady's never changed a flat before, so I had visions of me doing most of it, teaching my boy how it's done, getting my hands dirty.

So this is where I think I'm still needed. "Here, let me show you how to do the jack."

"I know how to do the jack, Mom."

"Well, maybe I should make sure it doesn't slip."

"It won't slip, Mom."

"The last time I tried to change a tire, I couldn't get the lug nuts off so I had to get help. But for the record, I KNOW how to change a tire. Don't think I play 'helpless female' because I don't."
"Ok, Mom."
Brady's friend, Joe Convoulsion Bubenzer, smiles nervously.

"See? Those lug nuts are a b*tch to get off, aren't they? We might need help."
"I'll get it, Mom."

"I wonder if there's a service station nearby?"
"Mom, I'll GET it."

"Wow, you got it. How do you know how to change a tire anyway?"
"I watched Dad once."

"Need me to get anything for you?"

Ho hum... la dee dah.... *twiddles thumbs*...

"I'll put the flat in the trunk for you."
"Ok, Mom, you do that."

So I did.

"Why did I drive all the way up here?"
"Because I didn't have a jack."
So I WAS needed after all.
Nicely done, Brady, nicely done.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Well, Hello There

Hello all you new readers. Um, where did y'all come from? Oh that's right, my blog was listed in the latest statewide H.O.U.S.E. newsletter, wasn't it. I forgot all about that since it seems like ages ago that Pamela asked if she could use my blog to jumpstart that section. I haven't written much lately, so I kinda cringed about being listed. Sending folks to a quiet blog probably isn't the best way to generate excitement.

But I've written lots in the past about unschooling. Check the sidebar for category LABELS such as
'Unschooling Q&A' or 'An Unschooler Goes to School' about Brady's year of private college-preparatory high school after eight years of radically unschooling, or if you're in the mood to laugh check out 'Cornfield Country' or 'Family Farm.' And if you want to know why this isn't a food blog, check out 'Why I'm Not a Food Blogger.'

And now, because you're likely here because you're an IL homeschooler, be sure to check out my one post about last year's
InHome Conference - it's not comprehensive by any means, nor a review, nor a plug as publicity chair (bad publicity chair! Bad!). It's a bunch of goofy pictures of us having a good old time. Be sure to pop on over to the InHome site and register - it's always fun fun FUN! I was in charge of workshops for kids ages 10 and up, so I've been very involved this year and it's going to be a great year. John Taylor Gatto is coming! If you go, if you see me, say hi or introduce yourself. I'm a Chatty Patty and love to meet new peeps.

For now, I'm at the
UWWG, where I'm scheduled to speak tomorrow on 'Seasoned Unschoolers' (wait - does that just mean I'm OLD?) and Thursday on 'An Unschooler Goes to School.' We're having a grand old time.

Coffee calls. And Gatto. And waterslides. And more chatting. Woot!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello? Is it Really You?

Wow, it's been two months - TWO WHOLE MONTHS! - since I've written on my blog. It seems my passion for blogging has all but disappeared, I'm sorry to say. I'll keep it - I've met so many great people this way, and there's too much writing on here to just hit the delete button and banish it forever, but posting has been spotty at best and unless I have a sudden change of heart, I doubt that will change. I'm on Facebook - not a lot, but I'm there. And I'll be speaking at the UWWG in Ohio and Life is Good in May - perhaps we'll meet up?

In other news, life in the cornfields is great. Brady is exploring industry requirements for computer programming and game creation so he knows what secondary education route to pursue. He's working at Subway, taking Community College classes, and teaching programming to homeschoolers.

Jonathan is taking sax lessons, karate lessons, and art lessons. He's writing a book about Chewy McBuckBuck, a schizophrenic beaver, and knows more about football and football history than most adults. He is a happy kid, every day. Rob has an exciting new venture at work coming up but I can't share it yet because it's still a secret. He's teaching karate to several friends and cousins every week in our basement and loves getting back into it.

We're all doing p90x together. That's been fun and challenging. Sometimes my *ss hurts so badly I wonder why our house suddenly has so many stairs? I've started providing personal training for clients at our fitness center, so with teaching, training, and doing p90x, I'm wearing way more spandex than should be allowed, and feel like all I ever do is squat-and-reach and count in sets of 8.

Oh, and.... just in case you're wondering, our marriage is a still a smoldering volcano of torrid passion it's always been. See? This was taken just yesterday by my mom's new husband, Gordy.

Hope you and yours are well! If you haven't already, find me on Facebook and let's keep in touch there!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good Morning!

Good Tuesday morning! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and other than an achy hip which has translated into an achy knee on the other leg as I over-compensate (running is hard on a grrrl), I am feeling wide awake, chipper, and alive! Somedays you feel like grabbing life by the fistful and diving right in. Sometimes you feel like you have unlimited options, like the sky's the limit, like the world is your oyster.

Oh wait.
And somedays reality just smacks ya right upside the head.

I can still live large... I can still revel in the day's endless possibilities... I can still be joyful and optimistic...

Right after I clean up this mess. Good morning indeed. Or 'twas a good night, if you're a raccoon living in cornfield country.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Another Reason to Unschool

In July, Jonathan turned 13. One of the gifts he received from a friend was juggling balls and a homemade instructional DVD of his friend demonstrating and explaining some basic juggling moves. Jonathan was thrilled. He practiced diligently. He consulted his friend Eli for help whenever he got stuck, or whenever he was ready to learn a new trick.
He juggled for hours every day. He looked up juggling instructions on the internet. He invited Eli over more often than usual so they could juggle together. He brought his juggling balls along when we went places.

Eight weeks later - only eight weeks - he was good enough to be asked to juggle at a Renaissance Faire in Monroe, WI.

What does juggling have to do with unschooling? Unschooling means we help our children pursue their interests, we support them in their passions, we assist in whatever ways they need. And in doing so, our children learn. Juggling isn't listed in the "scope and sequence" section of any curriculum, I know, but anyone can see that he's learning many things in addition to juggling. He's researching, committing to a task, challenging himself, and setting goals for himself. He's reading about juggling, networking with other jugglers, and applying his juggling knowledge to real life situations.
Unschooling, really, means we live life fully, without worrying about all those schoolish terms above. But rest assured, all those schoolish things are happening, all the time. We just don't name them and quantify them and demand they happen in a specific order on a specific timeline.
If school were to teach juggling, it would be broken down into a easily-measured objectives. You might have to learn specific steps and do them in a specific way and a specific order, proving you've mastered each level before you can move on to the next. You might be tested on it to prove you've learned something. You might not get to touch the juggling balls during the first few lessons. You might only get to read about it, or use something easier to juggle like scarves that waft slowly through the air. Your juggling skills, or at least participation or attention to the lessons or willingness to cooperate, would be graded.
By that time, juggling has become very very un-fun.
Unschoolers just start juggling.
And sometimes, if they like it, they continue juggling and find themselves performing a juggling act on stage at a Renaissance Faire in front of strangers.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Brake for Yard Sales

Listen carefully, I have some very important advice for you.

You must - MUST - stop at yard sales.

You never - NEVER - know what you'll find.

A beautiful antique floor lamp, a backpack, a decorative candle....

Two goofy costumes made out of cardboard and paint....

If you never stop, you'll never happen upon a find like these. And then you'll never be able to come home, make your 16 yr old and husband dress up in them and make fools of themselves in the yard.

And that'd just be a real shame.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Farm Fiasco Part II

Hey cows! readers! Remember part I of the Great Escape story? Here's part II. The part where I save the day. Seriously!

From my sister's blog I quote, "[She] saved the day, I tell you." In italics.

Nevermind it was after a thinly veiled criticism of my tendency to talk a lot. But hey, it was my ability to talk a lot that saved the day. In italics.

(I kinda like this whole 'someone else writes my blog posts' thing.)

Hey cow - Who you lookin' at, huh? After all that, I'm done taking any crap from you bovines, ya hear? Done.

I think we've been going too easy on them. Gotta show 'em who's boss. This oughta intimidate 'em: You think?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ten Things Overheard at Grandma's Birthday Party

Grandma: "I'm an old lady now. That means I can't remember words."

Mom: "That was a long time ago."
Grandma: "It wasn't THAT long ago, it was only like 30 years ago."

Grandma, talking about a high school boyfriend: "He must've been gay. In two years the only time he touched me was when we were dancing."

Grandma: "Back then we didn't say gay, you know. We just said he was 'different.'"

Grandma, receiving a gift wrapped in a plastic bag: "Is this a dead chicken?"
Jackie, the gift giver: "Yes, as a matter of fact it is."

(Note: It WAS a dead chicken.)
(Yes way.)

Grandma: "A dead chicken for an old hen!"

Me to Grandma: "Here's MY gift. Dead beets."

Grandma: "Dead beets from a bunch of deadbeats."

Jackie doing a 5-minute impression of her horse after taking a big bite of a jalapeno plant in the garden.

Aunt Susan: "You know what they say, if my boobs were any longer they'd be nuts."

and a bonus:

Gordy: "I think football in the other room is calling. Please excuse me."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Google Likes Me! They Really Really Like Me!

Did you know that if you search for "Boots in the 80's," my blog comes up as the first option of 3,010,000? I thought you might want to know. And here's why.

I think it should somehow be my new tagline...

"Wistful Wanderlust.... Your Place for Useless Knowledge"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Farm Fiasco

"Now where'd did that d*mn steer go?!?"

We had another eventful weekend on the farm, but this time it wasn't my fault! I wasn't involved! I am completely innocent of any and all wrong-doing!
Ok, I did inadvertently allow that one rogue steer to crash through the fence (as opposed to jumping over, like a sane animal might do) and escape into a 100 acre cornfield, but that's only because after racing him up and down the fence line he finally decided to show me who's boss and put on the steam.

Sounds like a new tv game show - "Are You Faster than a 1000 lb. Steer?"

In a word, no. No, no I'm not.

I'd love to tell you the whole story, but I've got a busy weekend ahead. I'll let my sister regale you with the details. Besides, it's her farm, they're her steers, and it's about time one of the farm fiascos happened while she was in town rather than out,
leaving us dopes in charge. (Wishing now you'd've booked that exotic Caribbean cruise, aren't ya sis.)
And besides, she's funny. And she can lift haybales her own d*mn self, thank you very much.

Part I of the "Great Escape" is here. Enjoy!