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Monday, August 31, 2020

Raising up resilience

It has been a while since I've written anything for my blog. The stories I wanted to write didn't seem like all mine to tell. Such is often the case when you are writing about the lives and experiences of your children, especially if your childen have disabilities. Although the things my kids were going through affected me as well, it still didn't feel right to talk about publicly unless and until they seemed ready to share. But like many homeschooling moms, I've discovered that in spite of challenges, I have been raising amazing, resilient young people and they are excited to pursue their goals in whatever manner they can.

I have three children. My twins, 18, and their little sister, who will be 13 this month. Yes, I am about to be a mom of three teens! This is an exciting time in our lives. The twins are seniors this year. They started concurrent enrollment classes at the local university last semester, and are taking more classes there this fall as we concentrate on applying for admission and scholarships for their freshman year. My son is leaning toward a career in the medical field, and my daughter is interested in finding her niche in the entertainment industry. My youngest is entering middle school and has interests as varied as any you might imagine. 

Dealing with the pandemic

This year has not been too difficult for us, as far as dealing with the pandemic is concerned. Homeschooling had already prepared us well for learning successfully at home, and although we all missed some of the social aspects of our routine, at least the educational components of our lives weren't thrown suddenly into chaos. 

Actually, taking the extra precautions we've needed to take, primarily due to my younger daughter's heart condition, has given us something of a season of rest. You see, before Covid-19 arrived on the scene, we were exceedingly busy. We had appointments scheduled multiple days each week, many of which were more than an hour away because we live in a small town. Some appointments took us hours away from home, and all had to be scheduled around the twins' college classes. 

Facing tough diagnoses

The last couple of years were spent in what seemed like a rolling snowball of of doctors and tests. My kids, all three of them, were preemies and had been dealing with mysterious issues since they were born. The twins qualified for speech, occupational and physical therapy in preschool, but we didn't know the underlying reason for their challenges. I've spent their whole lives looking for answers, but it wasn't until they were in their teens that things started to come together. Without going too much into their diagnoses, I will simply say after seeing two geneticists and multiple other specialists, we finally had definitive answers, and they were discouraging. 

It is not easy to receive life-altering diagnoses, not as the patient and not as their parent. I think having an imposed break in all the appointments, due to the pandemic, gave us all time to catch our breath. The kids' medical conditions aren't going to go away, and whatever poking and prodding and physical therapy and other work needs to be done will still be waiting when we're ready to resume. But for now, it is good to have time to focus on other things, like their college applications and dreams for the future.

Still chasing their dreams

Homeschooling has helped me to raise overcomers. My older daughter has spent a lot of time researching different jobs in the film industry, and various paths to the type of career she wants. She's spent time thinking about the limitations she might face, whether due to her mobility or tolerance of heat or cold, for instance. The flexibility she has experienced as a homeschooler has given her the ability to envision different ways to accomplish her goals.

My son's diagnoses seemed to light a fire under him. I'd done my best to open as many doors as possible throughout his education, making sure that he learned the basics and had plenty of opportunities to study subjects of interest, but he'd been pretty committed to "Undeclared" as his major until this year. Recently he has started to take a hard look at the type of career he really wants, and what sort of labor he will be able to physically do over the long haul, and he's working hard to make a plan and go for it.

My little one, who was born with a heart defect and has dealt with overcoming disability her entire life, is watching her older siblings as they deal with the challenges they face now and those that will come. She won't be tested for the same disorder until she is older and can consent on her own. Part of me just wants to know now, but I understand that it needs to be her decision. Whatever happens, she's one of the most resilient people I have ever known, and I have no doubt she will find her way.

Homeschooling made a difference

I'm not sure if my kids would have been as ready to face their challenges if I had left them in public school. By the time they finished kindergarten, the twins were already dealing with setbacks. My daughter felt like a failure on the playground, and was going hungry from the limited time she had to eat lunch. My son was drowning in a classroom that was so mismatched to his learning style he seemed doomed to fall through the cracks. Homeschooling allowed them to learn in ways that suited them, and to succeed in ways that they might never have discovered in an overcrowded school.

If you are reading this, you are probably already considering homeschooling. I encourage you to give it some serious thought, especially if you are dealing with a medically complex child. Every child has dreams, even if some of them may come with limitations. Homeschooling may be just the thing to help your child build a legacy of success and gain the courage to explore all the possibilities that await them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A raw, honest glimpse into the journey through years of infertility - 'Hail Mary for Peanut' review

Infertility is a condition like no other I know. There is the pain, the longing, the anguish of yearning for a child and feeling like a failure, all the while dealing with the intrusive nature of treatment options and the well-meaning but often hurtful opinions of family and friends. And of course, the unending feeling of standing in an unmoving line while others inexplicably get their turns. Will your turn ever come?

Yes, I've been there. For nearly a decade before my twins were born, and then several more years before unexpectedly being blessed with our youngest. I know this journey, all too well. That's why, when I saw a fellow homeschooling mom mention her new book, Hail Mary for Peanut, on Facebook, I knew I needed to review it. 

I expected an interesting read, with familiar elements and hopefully, a happy ending. What I discovered was so much more. 

Heather Nelson's book, part memoir and part advice, is so raw and honest, it took me by surprise. She didn't just talk about the yearning, she dove deep into the feelings of sadness, anger, inadequacy and loss. She brought to life the fears and the fatigue, the hopes and the frustrations of a years-long battle with infertillity and the effects it can have on a woman and on a marriage. 

It's been more than 17 years now since I finally got the positive result on the blood test that assured me I was, indeed, pregnant at last with my twins. But reading this book took me back, all the way to the years when I prayed desperately day after day for God to give me a baby, and felt so alone.

I wish I'd had a book like this when I was going through it all. I knew other women who'd dealt with infertility. My own mother suffered through the better part of a decade before I was born. But, I can't tell you how wonderful it would have been to have been able to curl up in my bed and read these words of sisterhood from a woman who wasn't afraid to tell it all. 

If you know any woman who is going through infertility, get her this book! It may be the lifeline she needs, just to know that she is truly not alone in any of what she is feeling, and that there is hope, no matter where her journey leads. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine named one of education's top 15 publications worldwide!

Four years ago, I submitted a pitch to write for a relatively new magazine in the homeschool market. It was an inclusive magazine, open to homeschoolers of all types, and completely free of advertising  connected to the Common Core. I'd read some of the back issues, and was excited to join the team of writers, but little did I know how far Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine would come in such a short time.

Today, Learning Tangent was named one of the top 15 education magazines in the world. Not just homeschool magazines, mind you. The top 15 of all education magazines worldwide, thousands of them!

I'm so proud to have spent the last four years with Learning Tangent Homeschool Magazine! It feels great to be part of such a great group of writers, and of course, kudos to our editor and the founder of the magazine, the talented Gail Nelson. She's given us the opportunity to reach out to so many readers and make a difference in the lives of homeschoolers around the world. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Don't overload yourself this year

In the weeks leading up to a new school year, many homeschooling parents become anxious about how much their kids will accomplish. Will their little ones learn enough to stay on track with their peers? Will their teens earn enough credits to graduate as planned?

It's so easy to get overwhelmed, not just in the planning of it all, but in the day to day execution of the school year itself. How can you keep from getting buried under a stressful mountain of schoolwork and administration this year?

Believe me, this is something you'll want to avoid, not just this year, but in the years to come, as subjects get tougher and the lessons get longer. I've seen what homeschool burnout can do to a mom, I've even felt it a time or two, and it's no good for you or any of your family.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Important things kids should learn from the James Gunn situation

If your kids are anything like mine, they are huge fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are some of our all-time favorites, and I knew that the kids would be shocked to hear that writer and director, James Gunn, had been fired earlier this week.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Whether you agree or disagree with Disney's decision to terminate Gunn, this situation presents a unique opportunity to discuss some tough topics with your kids, which is exactly what we spent time doing at my house last night. Here are some of the most important things that your child should learn from the James Gunn situation.

Some things are taboo for a reason

When you are young, it can feel liberating to engage in behavior that is shocking or disturbing to others. And yes, you may get laughs for the outrageous things you say or do, no matter how off color. But making jokes that disrespect others, especially jokes about things like abuse, is no laughing matter.

If the topic isn't one you'd laugh about around your grandmother, it's probably a very bad idea to post about it online. People may not believe you later when you say you were just joking.

The internet never forgets

When you do post something online, for better or worse, it's out there, potentially forever. The disgusting tweets that cost Gunn his job were posted many years ago, but even a decade later and public apologies, they came back. It doesn't matter whether you said something last week, last year, or thirty years in the past, if you said it publicly, it can hurt you.

I reminded my kids that every photo they share, every line the tweet, and even every meme they forward could have consequences when they are older, so take their time and think things out before engaging online.

Free speech doesn't mean speech without consequences

We enjoy the freedom of speech in America, which means that to a large extent, we are legally allowed to say whatever we want. But that does not mean, in any way, that the things we say will not come with consequences.

Our kids may not grow up to be famous, but there are plenty of ordinary people who have faced consequences similar to those of Roseanne Barr and James Gunn. They've lost their livelihood because the things they've said have caught up with them.

Everything you say in public potentially reflects not only on you, but also on your employer, your university, your church, your family, etc. Employers, especially, are likely to take action to protect their reputation if their connection with you could make them look bad in the public eye.

Redemption is possible

When the boom falls on a celebrity, it may look like there is no such thing as redemption. An angry public can seem like a giant lynch mob, set to destroy an offender. Society does sometimes accept remorse and will offer reconciliation for the repentant, though it can take time.

What is always true, however, is that God offers redemption. Whether you've said something stupid and offensive online, or commited a truly awful crime, there is hope. I personally put faith in the idea that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 

That verse does not say while we were perfect, or while we were good, but while we were sinners, and that's what we all are. So let's pray for each other, that each of us finds redemption and a way to put down the stones we so quickly hold aloft when another stumbles.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How to turn being ghosted into a positive experience

If you or your kids have not yet been ghosted, I'm sorry to say it is likely to happen. Life is a series of relationships, some lasting forever and others ending, in partings both good and bad. Ghosting is one of the most cowardly and disgusting ways a person can end a relationship, and it is a growing problem in today's society.

Ghosting is one of the more painful experiences a person can endure, whether in a dating relationship or a friendship. I think it can be even more painful when it happens to homeschoolers, because our social circles are often smaller and more closely intertwined. So if it happens to you or your child, how can you possibly turn being ghosted into a positive experience?

As I am sure most of you already know, ghosting is the act of pretending someone you had a relationship with no longer exists. Texts and messages are left unanswered, calls are ignored, and the rudest of ghosters may even turn their back and pretend not to see their former companion when they run into each other in public. 

All of this happens with no explanation, too often leaving the ghosted party feeling confused, insecure and betrayed. It's okay. Those are pretty normal reactions to being ghosted. It's what you do after the shock wears off that determines whether the whole situation will turn out to be a positive experience for you.

You can't prevent someone from ghosting you or your kids, but you can grow, you can become a stronger person and you can use what you learn to form better relationships with others in the future. Here are some ways you can turn being ghosted into a positive experience after it is all said and done.

Monday, July 16, 2018

What to take with you to the PSAT

Is your child taking the PSAT this year? You'd better double check the list of required items, so they will be prepared. Here's what to take with you on testing day.

The proper photo ID

Last year, as my twins were getting ready to take their practice run at the PSAT, I suddenly realized they did not have the proper ID as required by the College Board. Since they were taking the test early, ahead of their junior year, neither of them had a driver's license or learner's permit yet, and we'd never had an occasion to get them a passport.

The College Board requires a government-issued photo ID in order to take the test. The homeschool identification cards many families use will not work, nor will their Social Security cards or even their birth certificates. There is a form on the site you can use in lieu of the required ID, but it must be notarized, so plan ahead.

Number 2 pencils

Bring two sharpened number 2 pencils with good erasers. Don't bring pens, colored pencils, or any other types of writing devices.

The right calculator

The College Board has a list of approved calculators. On the list are several graphing calculators and scientific calculators. If your student does not already have a graphing calculator, and will not need one in the near future, you may opt for a scientific calculator instead. These are a small fraction of the price of the approved graphing calculators, and will be adequate for most problems on the test.

If you are getting your child a new calculator, particularly a graphing calculator, for the test, make sure they know how to use it. Don't wait until a couple of days before the test to have them try it out. Graphing calculators are complicated, and it takes time to learn all the functions.

Social Security number

If your child has not memorized their own Social Security number, make sure it is written down for them. I suggest writing it in Sharpie on the back of their calculator. You can remove the ink with rubbing alcohol after the test is over, and your child won't have to keep up with a piece of paper with their sensitive information on it.

Comfortable clothing

Your child should wear comfy clothes on the day of the test, because they will be sitting in the testing room for up to four hours with minimal breaks. Because you have no way to know how warm or cold the room will be, layers are a good idea, with a sweater that they can take off or slip back on as needed.


According to the College Board site, students do not need special permission to bring their EpiPen into the testing area, but it may be a good idea to inform the test coordinator or proctor if you have one, in case they need to administer it to you in an emergency.

Nothing else unless approved

Anything else you might bring into the testing area, including other medications, food or drink, or anything not on this list would have to be approved with special accommodations by the College Board. You need to contact them as early as possible to request accomodations if needed.

Don't forget, the PSAT is administered in October each year. If your student will be a junior this fall, this is the year that it counts. If they miss the exam date, they will not be able to make it up later. Younger students can take a practice run at the PSAT ahead of their junior year, but all students who wish to take the test should register early at a nearby school.