Category Archives: personal

John Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down

dumbing us down

I actually got rid of this book a few years ago, after I had put my children back in public school, because a friend of mine was starting to homeschool her kids. I was decluttering and getting rid of things that were no longer essential to my daily life. Annoyingly, she sent it back when she was done. I hate it when that kind of thing happens… like when I would go through my kids toys to get rid of things they no longer played with and they’d freak out over finding a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy with missing parts in the throw-away bag and all of a sudden half of the objects I thought I had gotten rid of were back in my life.

But I digress.

She returned it and I stuffed it back in the bookshelf that I keep in the basement that has all the books in it that I never, ever read but don’t want to get rid of. After the dust settled from pulling Eden out of the middle school I retrieved the book and re-read it this week. All my underlined passages and notes scribbled in the margins still there waiting for me.

I left a review on my Goodreads page.

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I’m Baaaaaack!

Well, this place is a dusty mess. It’s been almost 3 years since I last posted to this blog because life got a little too nuts for me to keep up with everything I was trying to do. I decided to put both of my homeschooled children (one was already attending) back into public school in the fall of 2012. Johnny, my oldest, had successfully bypassed middle school and timidly started high school. He has excelled academically but still has great disdain for the social life. He says he likes the learning, but not all the kids. Eden started attending a new elementary school in the 5th grade and continued there through the 6th. She loved her teachers and classmates and did beautifully. I had no qualms about her attending the middle school like I had with her brother. She has always been very confident, happy and open about her feelings and I felt that we could handle any ‘teenage’ stuff that came our way.

Unfortunately, a couple weeks into the year, she started acting strange about going to school. I figured it was just going to take some time getting used to the big building, older students, switching classes and all that jazz. As time went by, however, it only got worse. She started having stomach aches and head aches and other random illnesses that would keep her home. She began spending nearly every waking minute in her bedroom and stopped hanging out with her friends. I took her to a psychologist who said that she is clearly depressed, but Eden didn’t like the woman very much and didn’t want to continue sessions. After Christmas break the anxiety had built up to the point of hysteria. She laid in her bed, sobbing, telling me that she didn’t feel safe at school, that kids are mean and she doesn’t like hearing swear words and kids talking about smoking and drugs. She is very uncomfortable with boy/girl stuff going on and has seen people kissing outside after class is over. She can’t believe how disrespectful many of the kids are to the teachers. It feels like no one is in charge, and it’s scary.

So, to make a short story shorter… we decided to pull her out of school and homeschool her for at least the rest of this year, and probably next year. At first I was reluctant, and, if I can be totally honest, a little annoyed. I didn’t plan on ever homeschooling again, but she needs mom & dad be the rescuers in this situation. I started looking at some homeschool blogs again and started to get excited and inspired. I had her finish out the rest of her required work for the marking period, we dropped everything off at school and cleaned out her locker.

And that was that.

IMG_5635So, here we are. No curriculum and no plans to speak of, but I do have a child that is starting to sleep again. After months of depression-like behavior she looked at me yesterday and said, “You know what? I’m actually feeling kind of… happy.”

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The myth of patience

Probably the number one comment I get after I tell someone that I homeschool my kids is, “Oh, I would never have the patience for that.” as if I must have patience oozing from every pore of my body. First of all, if you don’t have enough patience with your kids you really should work on that, whether you homeshool or not. Secondly, I’m not exactly the patience poster child.

Eden (for the 100th time): What’s a noun again?


I’m mean, seriously? You’re in the 4th grade! What if a public-schooler heard you say that?! (That part was not out loud. Promise.)

I am quite positive that teachers think this stuff, they just might get in trouble for actually saying it.

On an average day the casual observer probably would think I’m unnaturally patient. I usually amaze myself. Like when it’s time for math and all of a sudden my daughter decides she needs use the bathroom…again. Or has to clean her ears with a Qtip. Or is in such dire need for a snack she probably won’t be able to think straight if she doesn’t have a pudding cup. For the most part I stay cool through this stuff, especially at the library because other humans are there. I think it’s because I have the dogs to yell at. I have three… one for each kid and an extra in case of emergencies. The dogs won’t cry when I go all ape crazy on them, they can’t tell anyone and can’t afford therapy. I also know that I can unload everything on John when he gets home. I notice that he never asks, “So? How was your day?” until he’s had a chance to change out his work clothes and relax for a bit.

He is a wise man.

Here is something I do though, when we pray with the kids at bed time and I recognize my fuse has been a little short, I’ll ask God out loud in front of them, “Help me be a patient mom and make good choices for my kids, and give us more love for each other.”

Why the heck do we homeschool?

Of course one of the big questions I am asked is why John and I chose to homeschool our kids. While we are Jesus followers that isn’t the only reason I do this. Acutally, it’s not even them main reason, to tell the truth. Many, many parents homeschool because they are afraid of what their kids are being taught in public school. We’re more worried about HOW they are being taught. I found a fantastic quote that sounds anti-community but is bold enough to match our bold decision, “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it raising my children.”

Here are some of the reasons we made this decision, some of which will be discussed at length later.

  • I want them to have the ability to learn at their own pace.
  • I want control over curriculum and areas of study.
  • I want to spend more time with them. I was one of the parents who was in school all the time because I missed my kids so much and had no reason to be home alone anyway.
  • They don’t need to sit in a desk most of the day, restrained to one classroom.
  • They need space and freedom to explore and be creative.
  • They don’t need to be ‘educated’ they need to learn.
  • I don’t want them stuck into a category and identified by a grade number.
  • I want them to have more opportunity to associate with people of all ages and social situations, not a room full of kids the same age from the same neighborhood.
  • They need more time to learn life skills. They are spending the prime hours of their day at school and are worn out by the time I get them back.
  • They are amazing people, they don’t need to be institutionalized.
  • School is an hour-sucking waste of time. Waiting in lines to use the bathroom, eat lunch, spending recess on a crowded and boundary-limited playground,  waiting for the rowdy kids in class to behave before the lesson can proceed, etc…
The number one reason we’re doing this is BECAUSE WE CAN. Oh, all the things that we want to do are controlled by our government makes my head spin. This would need to be a whole other post though.

Now here’s where it get’s tricky… so many of my good friends and family have their children in public/private/charter schools. I can’t pass the judgement  that we’re making the ‘right’ choice therefore they are making the ‘wrong’ choice because parents make the choices that are right for their family.

About Me

The Purpose Of This Blog

The emphasis of this blog will land on homeschooling and all that comes with it. This is only our 2nd year of schooling at home so I still have a lot to learn. I’ll be honest and share and ups AND the downs. My intent is to discuss our lesson plans, curriculum, failures, successes, daily nonsense and inspiring articles (assuming I can write an inspiring article.) I plan to update it several times a week with a Friday Week-In-Review.

The Boring Stuff

  • Name: Valerie
  • Age: 30’ish
  • Location: Michigan
The Non-Boring Stuff
I have a pretty full, fun and crazy house. Here’s who fills it:
  • My husband of almost 14 years, John. He is a part-time  college instructor and full-time network security analyst. He is the logical, reliable, steady-minded guy who keeps this three ring circus grounded. He is my bestest friend and best daddy I know. Seriously.
  • My 12-year-old son, Johnny. He’s a lot like his daddy… loves technology and analyzing things. He is all about anything iPod and Halo. I wish I could explain his style of humor, because he cracks me up everyday. He is very well respected and liked. Ironically enough, one of his greatest strengths is creative writing. He claims to hate math, but hasn’t quite realized that if he wants to be a computer programmer he’s going to have his math down-pat.
  • My new 12-year-old son, Jake. Jake came to live with us in March as part of the foster care program. That’s actually the simple way of explaining our relationship with him without going through all the crazy, confusing details. Bottom line is that we finally  gained full, permanent custody of him in July and it’s happy-happy-joy-joy for all of us.  Because of judge ruling he will have to remain in public school this year, but next year we can petition the court for the ability to homeschool him. Even through his turbulent life last year, he remained a straight A student because he is, well, an amazing kid! He is a gamer like Johnny, but loves to be more active and outside.
  • My 9-year-old daughter, Eden. She is the light that makes this house shine. She has more of a social life than I do, and at night I pray over her that God would continue to bless her friendships. She is a cute, tiny little 4th grader who still cuddles with mommy, makes American Girl doll videos on her iPod and has a love affair with bacon. She makes my heart swell.
  • Our mixed-breed dog, Maggie. We refer to her as ‘the ugly dog’ because she’s gross, sheds and is always in your personal space.
  • My Scottish terrier, London. She is MY baby. She never appears guilty about anything, because apparently she has the right to do whatever she wants.
  • A Puggle that came with Jake, Peanut. Oh my! What a doll! She’s so ugly she’s cute and we just adore her. She and London disagree as to who is top dog.
  • Our kitty, Tinkerbell. She is very anti-people, anti-dog and most visitors don’t know she exists. She is Johnny’s baby.
Between the family, the animals and the plethora of friends coming and going, this place is crazy and I love it.
The Utterly Useless Stuff
  • My guilty pleasure is reality TV. Summer fave is Big Brother but I’ll even resort to Mob Wives in a pinch.
  • I drink about 4 cups of a coffee a day.
  • I have tried to get into green tea, but it’s really disgusting.
  • If anyone touches my word search books the whole thing is ruined.
  • I like to walk London because people makes nice comments about her.
  • I love filling the dishwasher, hate emptying it.
  • I wish I lived back in the ’50’s. Or Little House On the Prairie days.
  • My favorite jokes are knock-knock jokes.
  • Cat’s tails fascinate me.
  • Don’t ever give me ‘the finger.’
  • Three words: Brown Sugar Poptarts
  • I’m a Bonsai Blast junkie