Archive for the ‘On Being a Mother’ Category

Announcing the release of my Brand New Book!

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

A Gracious Space_Fall Edition 500x650CopyrightAll rights reserved

50 Daily Readings for Fall

Homeschooling can be a lonely road. You are at home with children, embarking on a task that changes every year (sometimes every month!) as your children grow and mature. The ability to sustain that commitment comes from sheer grit, idealism, faith, and trust. When in doubt, where do you turn? Some of us rely on close friends, homeschooling support groups, and Internet communities. These companions are important and must be nurtured and cherished.

In addition, though, it helps to refresh your philosophy of education and parenting. How do you renew your faith that you and your children will know what to do when you face challenges and obstacles to a harmonious home education?

A Gracious Space is a non-sectarian compilation of fifty essays about homeschooling and family life designed to encourage you, the homeschooling parent even on your worst day. Read an entry with your morning coffee or tea to help you focus on the principles and ideals that undergird your homeschool.

Essay titles include

  • It All Adds Up!
  • Content, not Conventions
  • Know Your Kids as They Are
  • Less is More, Really!
  • It’s the Relationship, Sweetheart
  • Prophecies of Doom
  • In Defense of the Disillusioned
  • How You Say it Matters
  • To Plan or Not Plan Your Lesson Plans
  • When Your Kids are Unhappy, What Can You Do?

This collection of essays currently comes in two formats: PDF and ePub (for iBooks). You will receive both of these formats when you order.

Purchase Price: $9.95

Order Today!

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You matter, too!

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Baby's Nursery - Jack in The Box by Caleb ZahndImage by Jamie McCaffrey (cc)

In the hurry scurry to be all things to all people, don’t forget to be there for you.

You deserve choices—what to eat, what movies to see, where to take a walk, how to decorate a room, what topics to study, what field trips to take, how to spend a holiday weekend, what to do with unexpected funds.

You are not merely the mirror for all the choices of the ones you love.

Not only that, your opinions, thoughts, and feelings can change. You don’t have to hang onto one idea or belief simply because you held it fiercely at one point in time. It’s okay to test a new belief, to try a new idea, to return to a discarded one and try it again.

You don’t have to agree with all the members of your household. You can disagree (even strongly) as long as you leave room for the others to have their own strong opinions too. You can contend for the ideals or values you are forming, while recognizing that these same ideals are incomplete/unfinished and can grow and change again (and likely will).

It’s okay to need time to yourself (even five minutes, behind the pantry door, to regroup and fight back tears).

Your feelings can be hurt. Your heart can feel torn in two. You will occasionally be genuinely annoyed by one of your children (worried about, embarrassed by, sick of).

You’re human. You get to be. You get to lose it occasionally, and you get to ask forgiveness, and to make amends.

You matter. Your life is not only about these other precious people you selflessly serve. It is also about you. You get one life. Be sure you are living it.

The best definition of co-dependency I ever heard was this:

“When you’re drowning, someone else’s life flashes before your eyes.”

Make sure your life is flashing before yours, now, while you can live it fully. Put something on the calendar for you—time, space, food, reading, exploration, a new goal.

Amazingly, everyone in your home will respect and admire you more when they see you enthusiastic about your own life. After all, how else do your kids get to understand the value of being an adult if they don’t see the wonderful stuff adulthood offers YOU?

Be good to you today.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

It's a difficult topic, but let's talk about it: Raging at children.

It’s a difficult topic, but let’s talk about it: Raging at children.

I sat with a cluster of women, each one sharing about her struggle with anger and control. One spoke of rage—how it came over her like a flash flood, and the next thing she knew, she’d be screaming bloody murder at her small children. All she could feel was the complete out of controlness of the moment, the thwarting of her much-better-plan, the awareness that how it should go was not at all how it was going. The fact that small children were cowering didn’t slow the lava flow of verbal assault. She’d give in to it until she had exhausted herself…and wounded her kids.

It took years before she could appreciate that her kids really had been harmed by the yelling, the screaming, the cursing.

The next one spoke of holes she’d punched in walls, “things” she’d hurled in anger that shattered menacingly in front of her trespassing offspring. This mild-mannered friend listed the ways she dressed down her kids when they got in her way—took my breath away. I would never have known.

Another mother talked about the obsessive nature of her need to know that her adult daughter was taking her medications. She found herself nagging and manipulating and finally yelling down the telephone line.


I was used to hearing about rage in marriages—usually men toward women. Or if in families, fathers toward kids. It was startling to listen to mothers, and painful, too.

The rager rarely notices the impact of the rages. The rager feels out of control and justified in venting it. When the children comply out of fear, the rager may even feel reinforced in the strategy. “If I yell and scream, stuff gets done and relieves my anxiety.”

The secret of many families is that volatile anger is a constitutive part of their family culture but no one talks about it. It’s as though we’ve all cooperated in this huge silent secret—we show smiling photos of our assembled families at holiday meals, and yet behind the smiles is the memory of screaming and yelling with insults and character evisceration five minutes before the camera shutter clicked.

I honestly don’t know how to cure rage. It must come from within the rager, it seems. Conversations don’t work. Some awareness of how damaging it is to the victims needs to get across the transom from wounded to wound creator. Then steps need to take place that help the rager reign it in and heal whatever pain in her causes the outbursts.

What I do know, however, is the devastating impact of cumulative experiences with rage. The victims carry that shattering experience inside—it’s as though they can come apart at the hint of criticism or raised voice. They take that pain into their adult relationships.

It’s bad enough when adults hurl insults at each other. They are peers, even when it doesn’t feel that way.

What is not talked about enough, however, is verbal abuse that is unleashed by parents on children. If a grown adult woman can feel as though she’s been beaten by the loud booming accusing voice of a peer (her husband/partner), how much more must small children feel fractured by the assault of anger and control, rage and cursing from a parent they love and want to trust?

When your home is the daily full-time residence of your children (they don’t go to daycare or school), preserving that space as the sacred, safe place to live is even more paramount. Everyone loses their cool occasionally, but a habit of using anger, rage, and shows of violence to control children is a step way beyond frustration or momentary anger. It’s our job as parents to protect our children from demonstrations of rage.

I know this is a more somber post than I usually write. I know that it veers uncomfortably into territory that is far afield from writing and language arts, or even run of the mill homeschooling issues.

Yet I can’t ignore it because it keeps coming up (in emails from customers, in phone calls, in in-person conversations). To thrive in learning, a child needs to trust the educator. Risks, missteps, failures, and childishness must be permitted and welcomed for homeschooling to thrive. Raging against children undermines everything. According to some experts (Stephen Stosny is one), a full recovery from being on the receiving end of a rage is a full year (12 months!). The victim carries the “anxiety” of the rage in their bodies and can’t let go of the need to “protect self” through fight, flight, or freezing for an entire rage-free year.

If a child is on the receiving end of rage several times a year, you are creating a condition for the child that is ongoing and doesn’t heal, even if they don’t tell you and appear “okay” on the outside. They live with rage-created anxiety.

My hope is that this little PSA will give you a moment to pause and reflect, to find support, to grow…if this is you.

It’s good to remember how vulnerable our little charges are and how much they do depend on us…for everything.

Image © Sergiyn |

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Behind closed doors

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Sad woman at ChristmasNo one knows what happens in your house. You don’t know what’s going on in your friend’s home.

The rosy, twinkle-lit home down the street may hide the stale tension between parent and child, husband and wife, even without financial struggle or illness. The holidays are dreaded, but you would never know. The loneliness of transition from teen to young adult or middle-age to senior happens in multiple generations all at once, and shows up during the holidays—each person feeling misunderstood. It can be hard to get across that street to find each other in new ways. So normal, so rarely talked about, so deeply felt as failure.

Some families are heart broken at this time of year over a young adult child in prison, or another addicted to drugs or alcohol, or the failure of yet another child to wait until adulthood to start a family.

In other families, fifteen+ years of marriage reveal the deep flaws in both parties—not everyone navigates the challenge of overcoming them well. Not every marriage weathers the storm of familiarity and accumulated hurts.

The holidays are sold as a guarantee of nostalgia and family-centered joy. If your family is suffering (for any reason), television advertising and your friend’s Christmas letter may be just enough to put you over the edge into despair or depression.

I like this reminder:

“Nothing is what it seems.”

Behind the “good” are layers of challenge and personal pain points tolerated, stood, endured, resented, and not always overcome. Each family has its own distinct blend of wonderful and terrible. The holidays often accentuate both.

Behind the “bad” are the threads of what was imagined, hoped for, and loved—both aspiration and realization, loss combined with gain. A mixture of goodnesses survives “in spite of,” which mitigates the “bad.”

If this year is tough (not how you wanted it, not how you imagined it, not how you expected it to be!), hold on. It’s only one year. I liked what a friend said about Thanksgiving. She said if you are struggling through the over-burdened-with-expectation event, call Thanksgiving by its other name: “a Thursday.”

You can do that with any holiday this season. You get to let one go in your lifetime, if you have to, if that helps.

In the meantime, you can hold out for glimmers of good. Finding the good in a year gone wrong takes persistent attentiveness. You might be too tired. I know I’ve been some years.

I like to tell my day: “I don’t have the energy to make today good. Instead, surprise me.”

Then, a tiny part of my heart looks for the surprise. When it comes, I pause and am grateful (to the extent that my energy affords me). It doesn’t always work, but even in my darkest years, the surprises showed up sometimes. They made a difference (stuff like a satisfying phone call with a friend, an early bloom, finding my favorite chocolate on sale, a long hug from my teen at home).

If you feel alone in your “behind closed doors” shames, I wanted to throw out a life ring into that sea. You’re not alone. Hold on. This too shall pass. You can get through it. You will find a way. Maybe not today. Maybe not this December. But you will, eventually.

Be good to you.

Keep going. It’s just “a December.”

Cross-posted on facebook.

Image © Citalliance |

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From me to you

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Thank YouImage by Katharina Friederike

Thank you…

…for making the grocery list, shopping, finding discounts and deals, remembering to buy gluten or lactose free, selecting the sparkling cider for the kids, and buying two kinds of whipped cream.

…for cleaning the house, even the bathroom you usually ignore, in time for company or family.

…for getting up early on the holiday to start the turkey while everyone else sleeps in.

…for making a huge mess in your kitchen and then cleaning it up on what is a day off for most people.

…for the lovely table setting, the well timed coordinated finish of all the dishes.

…for hosting or being hosted and not minding either.

…for bringing your best pie or side dish to your mother-in-law’s, and driving on the busiest travel day of the year.

…for stopping to help a sad child, for changing a diaper, for putting up with grouchiness and hungry tummies while the real meal is cooking, for being taken for granted.

Thank you for being the glue of the family, the backbone of tradition, and for the cheerful way you hunker down to create memories and meals.

Thank you for what is hidden from view (how you let the insult slide, how you held back a snappy retort, how you stood up for yourself inside).

Thank you for doing what is expected, even if you wish it weren’t expected of you.

Thank you for caring and carrying on tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving week!


Cross-posted on facebook.

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