I learned it watching you

 

The minute I heard about unschooling it made sense. Learn what you want, when you want, and how you want. The first time I heard about it was in this Nashville mommy blogger’s post where she bashes the idea. I read that post and it all clicked. All of my future children would be unschooled. Case closed. I never read or thought another thing about it.

Today I know a lot of families that allow their children to practice self-directed education (aka unschooling). And I have yet to meet someone that became a believer quite as quickly as I did (my Simply Sudbury friend, Catherine, excluded). Most of my friends found it to be a journey. The ideas made sense in some ways, but many wanted more research or literature. How do unschooled kids end up? Do they get jobs? Do they survive in the ‘real world’?

I’ve been marinating on this. Why, God, did it click so quickly and easily for me? Especially when you consider I was freaking amazing at school. If anyone was going to think school is awesome, shouldn’t it be me?

Then I read this blog post, Ours First, from ASDE by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson.

Marginalized groups have been learning the world for a long time, and without school. Before and throughout this colonialist era, it is the way we learned to manage our food systems and organize communities. It is the way we learned to predict weather and navigate seas. It is the way we learned transportation routes and our stories. It is the way we learned ourselves and others. It is the way we learned who the oppressors really were, despite what they told us about themselves in their schools.

It is the way we learned to survive under Western colonialism and imperialism. And it is the way we will thrive beyond it.

And…

Your people have been doing this – existing and resisting, learning the world and their freedom – for years and years. They’ve been doing it for themselves and with each other, and without school as we know it. Despite how the narrative is compiled around you, then, and despite whoever tries to sell you whatever is already inside of you, remember:

Ours. First.

Self-directed education, the idea that you can trust that you’ll learn what you need, when you need, and how you need, made immediate sense to me because it’s what I grew up seeing.

My mom and grandmother are two of the smartest, most capable women I know. I look back at my childhood and I knew that my mom didn’t have an education in the formal sense, but she is smart. Yes, she has her ditzy moments, but even that I saw as a sign of her emotional intelligence and playing to the reality that acting like you’re dumb can buy you social goodwill. I think about how she got on a plane in her early 20s and moved to another country to marry a man she knew, but not really. I think back to my childhood and how she always made the world feel safe for us, how it always felt like she knew what she was doing. And she did this without google, yall! She figured stuff out because that’s what you do.

Then there is my grandma. She came to live with us when I was in 2nd grade. She worked all over Nashville, and would get all over town on the city bus. This alone makes me open my mouth in awe because public transportation can confuse the best of us. And even though she also doesn’t have a formal education, she’s so smart. She knows how to cure things, how to farm, how to engineer. I remember being in labor with Otis, hooked up to all kinds of machines monitoring this and that, and my grandmother squinting and looking at my fingernails to see how my blood pressure was doing. This world was never scary to her because she is a fearless problem solver.

So I guess these women, and really all of the amazing Filipinas I am blessed to know and love, were always a testimony to me. I watched them build entire, productive, full, blessed lives without ever getting a stamp-of-approval from a school. I watched them trust their instincts, abilities, and eventually God to navigate this world.

I ‘got’ unschooling so quickly because I already knew that unschoolers turned out just fine because, in a lot of ways, unschoolers raised me.

Let’s Read the Bible Together

I posted on my FB page about how reading the Bible regularly has changed my life, and before I start another “Year in the Bible” plan I wanted to invite anyone else that’s interested to join me.

I didn’t think anyone would be interested. I’m not a pastor so it isn’t like I have any extra knowledge about the Bible. I haven’t even taken a religious class outside of a couple of Sunday School lessons and Priscilla Shirer Bible studies. And how, exactly, would people ‘join me’ in reading? And, again, why would invite people to join me on something I don’t know anything about?

But some of yall were interested in this idea! And you clicked the invite.

So now I’m fretting a bit because, crap. Yall clicked the invite and now there’s maybe some kind of expectation? But I’m doing this one step at a time, and I haven’t heard much else on what’s next so I’m just going to share a few thoughts I have on reading the Bible before we start…


GRACE ABOUNDS

Because we’re starting this on New Year’s it feels and looks and quacks like a New Year’s Resolution. “I’m going to read my Bible in a year!” you whisper confidently to the mirror. Great! If you respond well to New Year’s Resolutions then yes! It’s a New Year’s Resolution!

But if you’re even a little like me, and you go into something with big dreams and then reality creeps in and you miss a workout or you eat that bag normal portion of potato chips and you’re like, “Forget it. This life isn’t for me” and you quit, can I beg you to not see this as a New Year’s Resolution? Approach this thing we’re doing with as much grace for yourself as your little brain and heart can muster.

You are going to ‘miss’ days.

You are going to not get all of the day’s reading done.

You are going to not feel like it.

The point of this isn’t to feel like you’ve added homework to your life. The point of this is to use the Word to get to know a God that desires a relationship with us. You’re going to hear a voice that wants you to feel shame for messing up or for not feeling like reading and that voice is NOT from the Holy Spirit. It’s a great time to get in the habit of telling that voice, “Not today, Satan.”

porsha williams nbc GIF by The New Celebrity Apprentice

This past year I was able to read every day, but I wasn’t getting the entire day’s reading done, and the app will tell you how many days you’ve missed. And I ended up, like, 3 months behind and I’d kinda sit in this space of, “Ok, I’ll read 2 days worth today and I’ll be caught up.” But then it became this desire to ‘catch up’ and not a desire to know God. So the Holy Spirit reminded me what the point was and there was this little button on the app that lets you ‘catch up’ and basically resets the plan so that you don’t have any more ‘missed days.’ This was grace in action, and I loved it.

JUST ASK

If you’re new to reading the Bible it’s going to be really easy to feel like it’s irrelevant to your life. How can reading about a miracle done in the middle east a billion years ago matter to me? What on earth am I supposed to do with a story about a guy who kills his brother? NONE OF THIS MATTERS!!!

I’m gonna say that whatever prompted you to join me wasn’t an accident. I believe with everything in me it’s the Holy Spirit moving and nudging you here. So, in the same way I suggest you say, “Not today, Satan” when you’re feeling crappy, I’m going to suggest you literally talk to the Holy Spirit as if He’s a person (because He is) and ask, “What are you trying to teach me, Holy Spirit? Please make me sensitive to what you’re showing me in the Word.” These questions to the Holy Spirit are commonly known as prayer. Simple, right?

the office questions GIF

I really believe that if you open your heart this way before you read the Word you’ll get a tingle to something. It might be one sentence or even one word. But something will jump out at you. Underline it. Highlight it. Text it to yourself.

Also, lots of things you’ll read will probably leave you with more questions than answers. Write those questions down! They are some of my best conversation starters with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make sense of it and then listen to where He guides you. Sometimes He just tells you and gives you clarity. Sometimes He tells you to talk to someone about it. Most of my google chats with Mark are me saying, “I just read this and that is not how I’ve understood it before…” and we end up having really fun conversations that give me new and deeper understandings about God.

TIMING

I have never been too strict about when I read my Bible, but I have found that it being part of my routine has made me more consistent. When I was pregnant and waking up every night at 3 in the morning, that was when I’d do my readings. Then Wren was born and I was on maternity leave for a couple of months and I found that the early morning feeding was the best time to do it. Then I went back to work and found that during the 10am pumping session was the best time to do it. Today I usually get it done while I’m laying in bed and everyone is asleep, and I have an imaginary ‘rule’ that I can’t check anything else until I do my readings. Find a part of your day that happens pretty consistently and see if you can’t tag the Bible in there. The Bible app also has an audio thing so you could listen to the day’s reading on your drive to work, too!

you know what time it is nfl honors 2018 GIF by NFL

TRANSLATION

I was in a Sunday School class last year and someone mocked the idea of reading the New Living Translation like it wasn’t real. This made my blood boil because that’s what I read! It’s an easy to read translation that doesn’t get me stuck feeling like I’m reading Shakespeare. I am gonna suggest finding a translation that you enjoy reading, and not get too caught up in it being the most scholarly translation. My two cents: You can quickly and easily change the translation you’re using in the Bible app so feel free to find a version that makes it as easy as possible to digest the Word.

 Ok, I think that’s all I’ve got. I’m so excited to see what God does here!

happy paul sun hyung lee GIF by Kim's Convenience

Seek and Find

Every parent wants to give their kid a ‘Wow’ present. I remember that feeling of waking up on Christmas morning and all the magic and joy of seeing The Gift under the tree. I want, more than anything, to give my kids that same feeling of joy.

The problem is that the older your kid gets the harder it is to capture that joy in a toy. Otis is especially hard because from what we can tell his joy comes from just being around his family. He is full Elf when he hears that I’m not going to work and we get to spend time with Bobbby, Lindsey, Meesa, Shawn, and Tater.

will ferrell elf GIF

Unfortunately, he also really loves opening presents and wrapping up his aunts and uncles would be… difficult.

But, yall. I found The Gift.

Meet The Sharers. YouTubers that are just super sweet, happy guys and Otis loves them. They do that little hand signal thing and Otis throws it up regularly and will say, “Mom, stay awesome and share the love” (which is what they say when they begin and end videos).

Image result for youtube sharer

It clicked a week before Christmas that Otis would lose his mind over a red Sharer shirt. He’d never take it off. It would fill him with joy that he’d never experienced before. I’m not being hyperbolic. He would love The Gift.

I order the shirt and it’s scheduled to get here on time. Phew.

A few days later a manila envelope is in the mailbox. I open it and a quick peek says it’s The Gift. Yay! He’s gonna flip, yall. I toss it in the closet that is holding all of our Amazon boxes, and go about life.

Christmas Eve and the kids are in bed. We start wrapping the presents. We don’t leave presents under the tree because I’m not in the mood to be asked about opening gifts for weeks on end. Everything goes out on Christmas Eve after the kids go to sleep.

“Where is the manila envelope from the closet?” I ask.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

Hmmm….

I tear the house apart. I start looking in the weird places like the freezer, my underwear drawer, and behind the lawn mower. I stand in the middle of rooms just staring hoping it will jump out and yell surprise.

confused ryan reynolds GIF

I did this until almost 2 in the morning. My heart was feeling so broken and hopeless. I had to find The Gift. I just had to.

Obviously, I was praying the whole time, but finally I had to sit down and get serious.

“Lord, please! I need to find The Gift. Where is it?!? If he doesn’t get The Gift he won’t have The Joy.”

And then I heard the Holy Spirit gently convict me…

Guide him to find the The Joy in The Gift of Me.

I was/am dangerously close to training my child to find Joy in the things of this world which would be fine if it was possible. We all know that by dinner the joy of most Christmas gifts has worn off. We know that the high of the perfect present is fleeting, but we keep chasing it down. And no matter how perfect that Share the Love shirt is (and I cannot fully explain how. perfect. this. gift. is.) it isn’t anything compared to being in relationship with Jesus. So instead of stressing and using my energy to find a shirt, I thanked God that He made this relationship possible and prayed for wisdom about how to guide Otis best towards Him and His joy.

Image result for john 15 11

 

 

 

Stand Your Ground, Little Bird

I was running up and down the stairs putting laundry away and I hear general rough housing start downstairs. It’s only Wren and Otis. Surely this isn’t going to end bad-

“MOM! WREN SCRATCHED ME!”

Me:
ashley olsen eye roll GIF

Wren:
eyeroll GIF

I walk half way down the stairs and see Wren sitting behind her brother pulling her own hair looking at me like, “You know this mofo isn’t innocent, right? This is an open and shut case of stand your ground.”

“Otis, did you pull your sister’s hair?”

guilty bruce wayne GIF by Gotham

And I guess I just thought having kids 6 years apart was gonna spare me from this…

Sssss is for Snake

The kids and I recently watched a video of a snake eating a chicken. I don’t know why. Stop trying to understand my ways.

stop GIF

Wren loved it. Whenever she gets my phone she’ll ask for ‘snake’ followed by the most adorable hiss you’ve ever heard. And then she squeals when I react because she is delighted by the ‘fear’ she has created in me. The picture above is one of the best smiles I’ve ever captured, and it’s actually her in the middle of one of her hisses. My sister and cousin have both pointed out that she’s a Slytherin in the making… and that’s a good thing?

well see scream queens GIF

In other hiss related news, my baby boy has learned about the letter S. He is in love with the S sound, and loves pointing out every letter S he can find while we read their* Daniel Tiger book. Which can we talk about how he wants to listen to me read a book? Yes, it’s a pre-k book. Yes, he’s seven. Yes, he’s never been into a book before now. But he is getting excited about this and I’m just like…

adrienne banfield-jones praise GIF by Red Table Talk

You guys. I cannot love these babies any more than I do. It’s impossible.

For the love of pie

“Pie. Pie! PIE!”

What on earth is the small human chirping about?

“Do you mean rice?”

“Pie.”

“Pie… Small Human, I have no clue what you want. Can you show me?”

The small human grabs my hand and starts walking up the stairs, “Pie. Pie. Pie.”

She stands in front of the freezer.

“Pie.”

I open the freezer and look around… has she ever had a pie? From a freezer? It’s not impossible. I mean, frozen-let-them-thaw pies are the only kind I know how to make…

“Pie!”

“Where?”

She points. The box of popsicles.

Small Human loves her some ‘pie.’ Loooovvvvessss it. She will run in the kitchen chirping (“Pie, pie, pie”) and stand next to the freezer until Mark obeys gets her a popsicle. Once I asked Otis what did Wren love and he quickly answered, “Pie.” And she has taught the whole family the meaning of pie because, as my father-in-law says, “This is Wren’s world and we’re just living in it.”

john crist comedy GIF by interstellardesignz

The One Where She Potty Trains

I never really wrote about potty training Otis, but just trust me: It was a process.

I had heard, like all moms, that I should wait for the signs. So I’d google The Signs and try to figure out where he was on the Ready-To-Potty Scale.

Hiding to pee or poo? Not really…
Taking off wet diapers? Nope.
Interest in potty behaviors? Not even a little bit.

I thought the internet was lying. Kids don’t really do these things! You have to force them! Convince them! THEY LOVE SITTING IN THEIR OWN CRAP! I mean, who doesn’t, right?!

And then I met 10 month old Wren.

She would ask for diapers to be removed (or remove them herself). In her pretend play with dolls someone is always pooping and sitting on the potty. She carried the toy toilet around from Otis’s fire station for a solid week. Once she insisted on nursing while I was on the potty and when I told her to either nurse while I was on the potty (the disgust on her face at the suggestion made me pee my pants into the toilet) or wait for me to finish she promptly handed me some toilet paper and tried to flush the toilet. She knew how the system worked.

I’ll be honest, early potty training is just as scary, to me, as late potty training.

“Are we sure she is ready?”

“(Remembering potty training Otis) This is going to be a mess. UGH. Diapers are cool, Wren. TRUST ME.”

“Where is my baby?!?! WAH!”

“Are we totally against a third baby? Where are you going?!?”

This past weekend, at 18 months old, Wren pulled on her diaper and said “Poo. Poo.”

I took it off for her and she sat down on her little potty and started ‘trying.’ She then noticed that I had just put the diaper to the side, ready to put it back on her as soon as she ‘tried.’ She got up, picked the diaper off the ground, walked it to the trash can, and came back to the potty and went pee.

you are amazing franchesca ramsey GIF by chescaleigh

I’m not gonna lie, we still haven’t started officially potty training, but I’m thinking this is gonna be a cake walk.

Colors of the Wind

I’ve started describing myself as a weird Christian. Because if I just say I’m a Christian then you’re going to think I’m like the Christians you hear about on MSNBC or Fox, and I’m not like those.

I can’t express how seriously I take God. I believe the things most Christian professing people believe (He made everything in the universe, there’s a spiritual battle going on, Jesus is God and died on the cross for my sins, the Holy Spirit is real), but then I believe other things.

Like that He speaks to me. Regularly. And my job is to listen. Is it very Pocahontas/Colors of The Wind? Yes. Yes, it is.

disney princess GIF

90s colours of the wind GIF

If you follow me on Instagram you may remember when I was doing those Jesus work outs with Megan and Rev Wellness. What’s a Jesus workout? Basically, Megan would have scripture and questions for me to consider and meditate on while also telling me to do 10 squats. These were some of the most intense, life changing workout sessions in my life. One session in particular stuck with me…

I was on my back doing some exercise and the whole session had been about being able to hand everything over to God and trust Him with every dream in me. To love the Giver more than the gift. So I’m on my back doing this exercise and Megan says something about being like Moses and being ok with not seeing the promised land.

Immediately I knew what the promised land was. Nashville Sudbury School. If you aren’t following me on Facebook then quick recap: me and 7 other families started a school so that kids could practice self-directed education in a democratically run community. Our first meeting was in the fall of 2015. We’ve been at it for a minute.

Getting this school up and running was my everything from March 2017 to June 2018. MY EVERYTHING. I spent lunch breaks running all around Nashville touring any place that might be even a little appropriate for a school.  I USED A PHONE AND TALKED TO STRANGERS in order to find out what paperwork needed to be turned in and when to start a private school in Tennessee. The other day I got a catalog of courses a fire protection professional could take to stay up to date on fire codes in my mailbox because that’s how often I was googling the codes manual for educational institutions. I CALLED AN IRS AGENT.

And I was doing all of this for my kids. My little boy isn’t designed for school. And my little girl might burn it down (fire codes be damned!). All of this work was because I wanted to give my kids a place to be free.

My stomach tightened at the idea of handing over NSS. I couldn’t possibly do all of this just to not be a part of it on the other side…could I? Would God seriously ask that? My brain really couldn’t imagine it. Honestly, it reminded me of when I broke up with my high school/college boyfriend, walking away from something you had worked really hard to build for no real reason?

The minute the lease was signed I knew something changed for me on a deep, cellular, spiritual level. This school needed to be built, but it wasn’t where we needed to be any longer. I heard God whispering that it wasn’t what was planned for us, but I fought the whispers back because what about my sweet boy? Where else could he go, I argued…

Two weeks later I met up with a friend I had made during the Sudbury stuff, Catherine. She went to Christ Lutheran, one of the churches we considered renting from, and was a passionate supporter of  self-directed education. We really only knew each other a little bit. She came to tour a space with us and came to a founders’ meeting. I liked her and felt a kindred spirit with her because the Venn diagram of Christians + Sudbury is pretty small, but that was pretty much it.

When we got together I immediately start blabbing about NSS updates because I assumed that was why she wanted to get together, to talk Sudbury. So we did that for a minute and then she was like, “I asked you to meet because I think you might be a weird Christian, too. And I wanted a friend to talk with about God stuff…”

unbreakable kimmy schmidt mindy lahiri GIF

We spent the rest of our time sharing how seriously we take God, His word, His salvation (big and small), and His unending ability to meet us wherever we are. This is semi-unrelated, but this summer was also the exodus of some of my fiercest prayer friends so the birth of this friendship was giving me all the “God takes care of all your needs” feels.

rickey smiley jesus GIF by TV One

I even asked if I could take a snapshot of where God suggested me as an answer to her Psalm 145:11 prayers.

“Can I take a pic of your journal?” I am so weird.

Fast forward to June. God quits whispering. He starts using His inside voice. We pray. A lot. Because this isn’t about starting a school for me. This has always been about my kids. And walking away from this wasn’t God asking me to walk away from something I could put on my resume (“Marie Starter of Schools!”). He was asking me to walk away from something I have a lot of faith and hope in to help my babies, specifically my little guy. To say this was gut wrenching doesn’t begin to cover it.

But here’s my clue to knowing a decision has God’s hand on it: Peace. My spirit is settled even if none of it ‘makes sense’ on paper. The minute my spirit settles and rests in the confidence of my Father in heaven, I usually don’t think twice. I start moving towards His leading.

So we did. We walked away. We went on vacation. We caught our breath just long enough to hear God invite us to something new with my weird friend Catherine and Christ Lutheran, Simply Sudbury.

Last week, NSS passed their fire marshal inspection. And I wasn’t there for it. I didn’t get the “Congratulations! We did it!” email because, well, I am not part of the we any longer. The reality of not being in the Promised Land despite having witnessed all of the burning bushes and Red Sea partings gave me some feels, but it didn’t put even a tiny dent in my peace or even my joy. As I watched Instastories of their fire marshal inspection I cried real tears of joy on my side of the Jordan River*. Because He’s good. So very, very good.

Do I think God is in this? Yes. It has all the Color of the Wind vibes for me.

Does that mean I have any idea how the rest of this will turn out? Nope. Not a damn clue.

*Is it the Jordan they crossed? I am totally relying on a Ginny Owens lyric so that could not be Biblically correct so…

Brush it Off

If my friends ever got together and were like, “Marie! Let’s write a book about parenting together!”

First, I’d be like…

flirting GIF by Chord Overstreet

But then I’d get over my DEEP insecurities about parenting and rush to claim the chapter on what to do if your baby falls down because this? This I’ve got.

If your baby falls down and isn’t injured in any real way you ignore that mofo.

ignoring you cory monteith GIF

You ignore that baby hard. You do not yelp. You do not ask if baby is ok. You do not even make eye contact.

Embarrassed Waynes World GIF

Because if that baby smells even a little bit of pity, even the tiniest bit of concerned mother energy going their way they are going into full blown soccer player dramatics.

football acting GIF

This is a parenting rule that has transcended cultures and generations since Adam and Eve. We may not agree about when to start solids or how long a time out should be, but we ALL agree that you do not baby a baby that has fallen down.

Well, Wrenegade fell down yesterday. And I followed my advice. And then this girl? THIS GIRL.

She falls down and my mom and I both catch ourselves before we attend to her. We are veterans at this. She is fine!

Wren stands back up and starts brushing the spot where a boo boo may or may not be. She brushes, she pats, she doesn’t cry. I won’t swear to it, but it makes the story better so I’m going with it She makes eye contact with my mom and I.

something nose GIF

Looks back at her “boo boo” and then this girl? This girl KISSES HER OWN BOO BOO. And goes on her way.

Wrenegade don’t care.

honey badger weed GIF

Wrenegade doesn’t need nobody.

life is but a dream beyonce GIF

Wrenegade is the boss, and we better not forget it.

Meryl Streep Sunglasses GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

And given that I am raising this queen maybe I should write that parenting book…

considering i love lucy GIF

Eureka!

Otis has always had this thing where he wants everything out of the box and on a plate or in a jar or in a bowl. I imagine he’s the kind of person that grows up to do crap like this:

Image result for clear container cereal pantry

Well, he decided he wanted some Little Debbie cupcakes and he wanted all of them on a plate which, fine, whatever. I don’t care because it isn’t hurting anyone so sure. So we sit and unpackage all of the cupcakes, place them neatly on a plate, and go about our day at Lola’s.

During this time my mom and I have a conversation about all of the stuff I’ve left at her house that I need to take home because her kitchen is not my second kitchen so GET YOUR CRAP OUT OF HERE, MARIE.

Fine, Mom. Chill.

One of those things is a cupcake baker thingamajig. You know what I’m talking about. The thing you put the cupcakes in when you bake them. Yes. That thing. I need to take it home so my mom puts it next to the diaper bag so that I can forget it again be sure to take it home and get it out of her house.

Fast forward a couple of hours. It’s time to go home. The cupcakes have been untouched, the cupcake baker thingamajig has been mostly forgotten.

Otis: I need to take my cupcakes home.
Pa: Ok, well, let’s put them back in this box so that they don’t fall on the floor.
Otis: No! I have a great idea.

Otis is notorious for saying he has a great idea. Most of the time those ideas are pretty decent because they include things like “Let’s get ice cream!” or “Mommy, please don’t go to work today!” I have no clue what his great idea is, but I roll my eyes because I’m sure it’s going to make my life harder and/or it’s a delay tactic so that we stay at Lola and Pa’s house longer.

Me: Otis, we don’t have time for your great idea. Put the cupcakes in the box like Pa said.
Otis: (walks past me with a cupcake in each hand) Nope. I. have. a. great. idea.

I watch him walk confidently towards the cupcake baker thingamajig and plop his cupcakes inside the little holder thingadoos.

mind blown GIF

Yall. It was like the most legitimate great idea I had ever seen with my own two eyes!

Me: Otis! That really IS a great idea! How did you do that? You are a genius! YOU JUST PASSED HOMESCHOOL!

I know it’s a small thing, but it really felt huge to me, and kept a smile on my face for a couple of days. To see him see a problem, not have a meltdown, and then see an elegant solution was just, well, beautiful.

My baby boy is making mama proud!

eddie murphy hercules GIF