Dear Suburban Mom


Suburban MomHey there!!

Whew! You wrapped up another school year and I know some of you are wondering if you’ve really got it in you to do this all over again in a couple of months.

Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. You can’t even count the number of nights you spent wrangling with your kid about homework and trying to spin the idea that, yes, this is all necessary despite their protests. Because truthfully, you have your own doubts. All those “necessary” classes and subjects from your own school days – long forgotten! Besides, no one ever asked you about the Pythagorean Theorem or the date of the Battle of Hastings. Heck, you don’t even use your degree! Neither do I! (Talk about a waste of time and money.) Yet you’ve spent the year deputized by the kids’ school as their “Homework Police.,” making sure they memorize all those same irrelevant facts.  And that was not fun.

But what are you going to do? You used to remind yourself that this is simply what everyone must endure until they’re 18 and graduated. But school these days? It doesn’t look like your school days with so much emphasis on testing, the pressure and the stress. The bullying that happens has really gotten out of hand and the teachers seem incredibly frustrated. I don’t know whether the system got too big or too removed from what really works… I don’t know how it has gone so wrong. But you’re pretty sure your kids are not going to look back on these days with a lot of happy memories.

So as you’re wringing your hands and wondering if there are any viable options at all, you’ve started to notice a few more families deciding to homeschool. They’re not all ultra-religious or crunchy granola types either.

And it has you’re  wondering:
Do regular people like me homeschool their kids?

And as soon as that question slips in, the flood of counter-questions surface!

  • Is homeschooling even legal here? Are their a ton of hoops to jump through?
  • Would I even be qualified to do this?
  • How would they make any friends?
  • How would they learn anything?
  • What if we can’t stand each other?

So I just want to tell you,
Yes. Regular people do homeschool their kids.

I did. I had no plans to homeschool as we were trying to make school work for my little kindergartener. But as first grade rolled around, it became clear that the classroom experience was not a good situation. His enthusiasm for learning was already starting to wane. His curiosity was being squashed. His individualism and self-expression – well, there was no room for that. So I started to investigate the homeschooling option. It was the 1990’s and the landscape looked a lot different! Ha!

But the times have changed. And more and more moms like me (and you!) started leaving the local schools venturing into this learning no-man’s-land. Interestingly, there were plenty of people choosing home education back then and thousands more now. It’s a subculture that exists in every community.

To address the questions that popped up first:

1. Legality. Yes, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Each state decides it’s own rules for what hoops homeschoolers must jump through to legally homeschool. A quick google search can take you to your local and/or state homeschooling group and they will have an explanation as to how the community is dealing with the compulsory attendance laws. Some states require nothing of homeschooling families. Others want periodic testing, some want an end-of the-year evaluation. Send me an email if you have trouble finding out about your state and I can help you out.

2. Are you qualified? Of course you are! Do you know everything? Of course NOT! No one said you have to know everything. You simply have to be a good resource finder. Being able to tap into the local community (libraries, museums, friends with skills, the Internet, etc.) is all you need to be able to provide a wonderful rich learning environment.

3. Ahhh… socialization! That question always pops up. They make friends the way any of us do that aren’t sitting in a classroom – shared interests and experiences. These are the real friendships anyway. I can remember being “best friends” with someone for a year while we sat beside each other in class. And then the next year, we had no shared classes and that friendship was gone. :::poof::: Homeschooled kids aren’t missing out on anything by skipping those kinds of shallow “friendships.”

Remember earlier I mentioned a subculture you may not be aware of? All over the country, homeschoolers are getting together at parks and homes, libraries and recreation centers. They’re off on “field trips” together, meeting for “game days,” pool parties, and mid-week (gasp!) sleepovers.

4. How will they learn? Life provides SOO many opportunities – many you can’t even plan for! But when you’re open and flexible, you can stop to learn more about whatever is crossing your path. Between the internet, books, movies, conversations with people “in-the-know,” you will be shocked at how much your kids will learn. And, you’ll probably learn a little along the way too! Learning really doesn’t have to be dull drudgery to get through – it can be exciting and fun. That’s what will make your little learners engage! Not a stack of worksheets.

5. What if it’s too much togetherness? If this is really the case – and not just one of those unfortunate social kid-slams people say – then you will have the opportunity to work on it. You’ll be able to create rhythms in your day that work for you and for your kids. You don’t have to be side-by-side 24 hours/day! But when you remove the rushing around and the pressure that happens in those precious hours after they come home from school and before they hit the pillow, you’ll be surprised how much everyone’s attitude improves! And, if it’s a big concern of yours, I have an awesome book reference – Parent-Teen Breakthrough: A Relationship Approach by Mira Kirshenbaum.

So there are my quickie answers to the first five questions that popped up. I’m sure there are more percolating in there. And we have all summer to talk more. I’d love to be able to help you figure this out. There’s nothing worse than feeling you don’t have any options. At least in this case, that’s not true. You do. 🙂


P.S. If you already know you want to homeschool, but you’re overwhelmed with what the next steps are, a new 12 week support group is coming soon!
We’ll talk about deschooling, socialization, dealing with unsupportive family, building relationships, and more.
For more info: Chaos to Confidence.



Chaos to Confidence: For New Homeschoolers

 It’s Time!

Homeschooling helpA Group Mentoring/Support Program starting August 1st, led by Sue Patterson.
If you’re a new homeschooler/unschooler, Chaos to Confidence is perfect for you!

  • Everything a new homeschooler needs to know to be successful
  • Get answers to questions you have and didn’t know where to get them answered
  • Join a community of new homeschoolers exploring this path together
  • Group coaching from me for those critical first 12 weeks!

Don’t miss out!!!
Space is limited, so sign up soon!

From Chaos to Confidence

You can do this – and I can show you how!

If you’re just embarking on this homeschooling journey,
I want to invite you to this mentoring program:

Chaos to Confidence.

Chaos to Confidence is for you if:

~You’ve just removed your kids from school and you’re unsure about your next steps.

~Your kids are now “officially school age,” so you’re ready to commit to homeschooling/unschooling.

~You’re overwhelmed by all the info on the internet – but wondering who to listen to.

~You have plenty of people who think homeschooling is nuts, but something deep down is telling you that this is right.

~You’re wishing you didn’t feel so alone.

I’ve created this group mentoring/support program because I know what it’s like to be so new that you’re not even sure what questions to ask!

In our 12 weeks together, I give you the foundation you need to be successful and take you from chaos to confidence!

I can help you.  Every Day.  Walking beside you.

I’ve been where you are now – I remember it clearly. I was so afraid I was going to screw up my kid, or that they’d hate me when we were all done with this. But I knew that school wasn’t where they needed to be. I had to figure out what the heck was the right thing to do – and fast.

I saw what worked and what didn’t. Over those years while my three kids were homeschooling, people began to come to me looking for support and advice. They’re grown now, in their 20s. They are not screwed up nor do they hate me! (In fact, they’re successful, socially savvy and really happy with their lives!)

But maybe you want to know more about them…

The oldest went to community college, transferred to a university and graduated Magna Cum Laude. He also spent a lot of time doing community service, got his Eagle Scout award, went to Japan as an exchange student at 16, joined the Peace Corps after college and worked in Nicaragua, moved back to Texas, got married and just bought a house.  He is 27.

The second spent most of her teen years doing community theatre, taking acting, dance and vocal lessons. She took community college classes and went to an acting conservatory in New York City. She finished her conservatory classes in Los Angeles and ended up with an associate degree in fine arts.  She lives and works as an actress in Los Angeles now. She is 25.

My youngest loved people and all the pop culture type of things. After only unschooling, she went to the local high school for a year and half, made the dance team, did fine in school, but decided it wasn’t worth it. She left to go to cosmetology school and now works in an upscale salon in Austin, Texas. She married a local firefighter, bought a house and had a baby in 2015. (Adorable, I might add!) She is 22.

I’m not saying your kids’ paths will look like my kids’ paths. I shared this for you to see how different they each were and yet we were able to support them in ways that were totally individualized – not the cookie cutter one-size-fits-all (even though it’s called an IEP) ways schools have to use.

I can show you how you can focus on YOUR kids’ strengths and help them unfold into the person they’re meant to be. I focus a lot on helping you, the parent, undo the fear and the assumptions that the school way is the only way. It’s not. My kids are living proof of that.

If your kids have been miserable in school, I want you to know that a better way DOES exist! And I’m so happy we’ve found each other because I want to show you how to make this work!

Sometimes families made the leap to homeschooling but got distracted by curriculum and headed off on the wrong path. They ended up feeling isolated, frustrated, and disappointed in their homeschooling experience. Many ended up putting their kids back in school. They wished they had had someone who could have been a guide or a mentor to them – just someone to help them start off on the right foot or guide them along the way if they get stuck.

So that’s 2 types of families that Chaos to Confidence is built for:

The Brand New Homeschooler who is feeling overwhelmed and doesn’t want to waste time going in the wrong direction.

The New-ish Homeschooler who started probably last year and ended up unhappy with their approach.

Here’s My Plan…


You need practical information. Operating in the dark is scary and the info that you’ll get in this program will wipe out a lot of your fears. We will start with the basics – getting legal, thinking about what “learning” really means, finding reliable resources.


Sometimes homeschooling/unschooling moms can feel really isolated. They really need to feel connected to other parents on this path. So, I’m creating a private Facebook group for you and the other new homeschoolers in the 2016 Chaos to Confidence program. Over these 12 weeks, we’ll be able to get to know each other and give support. Members can pop into the group to share success stories as well as fears that show up. Learn where to find support locally, in your state, regionally, globally, and online.


Chaos to Confidence is the reassurance you’ve been looking for! I want to share everything I know with you so you have success and confidence when you feel like you’re swimming against the tide. As you work your way through the program, you’ll find yourself on steadier and steadier ground. Your anxiety and fear will begin to evaporate. Your kids will be happier and more engaged. You’ll see changes in the way the entire family gets along. You’ll be able to see learning in a way that might be different from what you’re used to – richer, exciting, much more enjoyable. And I’ll be with you every step of the way!

Here’s what we’ll do each week!

(I’m soooo excited!!!!)

Homeschool Coaching

And here’s the framework for the entire course!

homeschool coaching

Sounds great, right?

Sometimes we just need a little hand-holding to get started.

I’ve made the price super affordable – just $90 total for 3 months of reassuring support and boatloads of information.  That’s group coaching from me on our private FB group for a $1/day!

But I want to keep the size of a group manageable, so don’t delay.

And now, it’s time to sign up!

Before working with Sue I had tried every method I could think of to make my son’s traditional schooling work for him. I was feeling confused, defeated by all the bad advice I was getting, and very alone in my decision to teach my son at home. Sue helped me to realize that other options existed that were actually better for my son and his situation. I now feel confident and excited about his learning experience. He is now thriving and enjoying this unschooling experience in ways he could never have done in the traditional environment. It has been an amazing transformative experience!
~ Becky M., Michigan

A Wonderful Coach + All That Knowledge = EXCELLENCE!
~Tracy M., Kentucky

Before working with Sue I had tried every method I could think of to make my son’s traditional schooling work for him. I was feeling confused, defeated by all the bad advice I was getting, and very alone in my decision to teach my son at home. Sue helped me to realize that other options existed that were actually better for my son and his situation. I now feel confident and excited about his learning experience. He is now thriving and enjoying this unschooling experience in ways he could never have done in the traditional environment. It has been an amazing transformative experience!
~ Becky M., Michigan

USA Today Interview

This week, I spoke with a journalist who ​was working on an article for USA Today about unschooling. She specifically wanted to know what kinds of challenges unschoolers face. She described the readership as generally more interested in how to help their child excel, get into a “good” school, and be competitive. Well… you and I know these aren’t traditionally unschooling characteristics.  😉 

Yet, I am on a mission.

It breaks my heart to think of kids that are miserable in the school system being told they have to stay, that they “just have to get through it.”. 

Because I KNOW that isn’t true.

Yes, lots of us felt that was the case when we were growing up. Little did we know that a movement was brewing and one family at a time was quietly leaving the school system saying, “Enough already!”  

I want to do whatever I can to stand on the highest building and shout that there are other ways to learn. AND you can still go to college, get a career, be successful – whatever carrot that has been dangled out there to lead people around. 

So, with that mindset, I agreed to do the interview. The reporter was lovely and genuinely intrigued by the idea of unschooling. She found me through this coaching website and through the Unschooling Mom2Mom website. (Hooray! All those volunteer hours of curating the “best of the best” in unschooling writings and making them all available in one place paid off!!) 

I shared our story of why we left the school system. You can read some about our early homeschooling/unschooling days here: The Patterson Interview or  Our Own Curriculum Wars.

But then we ended up talking about challenges.

So what do I think the biggest challenge is for parents who choose this style of homeschooling?

By far… the toughest challenge is undoing our warped way of thinking about learning and education and children. And we think this way PRIMARILY because of all those years we spent in school. Year after year we were told that we had to “stick it out” because school was our ticket to success.

We were not told that there are multiple right answers to any given question – but instead only one right answer. It had to be all black or all white. And what I’ve come to know is that most of life is gray. And I know now that a multitude of ways exist for arriving at any given answer. People can use all sorts of tools to learn!   

And all of that… takes some undoing. It’s as if we have ruts in our brains. We’re taught to conform and we’ve been conditioned to believe that thinking independently is NOT a good idea. Somewhere along the way, we stopped trusting ourselves and we look for validation from others instead of from within. 

But I’m here to tell you that that doesn’t have to be a permanent way of thinking! 

Thousands of parents – like me – are living proof that you can change how you think about all of this. It takes some deliberate effort to swim upstream though. Society does what it can to influence you to conform, to get back in line. Recognizing this is the first step though. Reading about deschooling and opening up our eyes to what’s really happening right in front of us – these are things that will help change our way of thinking. Noticing how children learn without coercion or lesson plans will help loosen the ties of that old way of viewing learning. Piece by piece, you can begin to dismantle all those preconceived ideas we carry around with us. And we can always talk more about it together! 

THAT’S what I think the biggest challenge is. 

What about you? What has been YOUR biggest challenge as you carve out an educational path for your family? I would love it if you’d share it in the comment box here:


We’re Not Going Back to School!

A lot of people have been enjoying their kids throughout the holiday break and are NOT looking forward to sending them back to school. And this isn’t just the parents, the kids have been dragging their feet and unhappy for some time now. 

But homeschooling? Really? Are you kidding? Me?

Lots of kids are not thriving in the school system. I know this often makes my teacher friends defensive, but it’s a fact. Just like bullying, boredom, peer pressure, crowd control, over-testing, and labeling are facts. Despite the best efforts of many many teachers, all children do not thrive in a school setting. Their resources are limited and politics has made their jobs incredibly dfficult. And while a huge percentage of American families are satisfied with their school, a decent number of parents are exploring their options. 

Are you one of them?

Lots of people homeschool/unschool now and the reasons are countless. It’s not just the realm of the religious or the hippies. Suburban parents are waking up and saying, “Enough!” The good news is that this awakening has been happening for a long enough time that we’ve been able to gather some data on some of these grown homeschoolers. I surveyed 75 of them and asked about what their lives were like as homeschooled teenagers.

Here’s a link if you want to read the book, Homeschooled Teens.

My kids are grown now, each in their 20’s and happily pursuing their own dreams. They learned and grew and discovered so much more than they would have, if they had been in school for 12 years. It’s not that outrageous of an option.

If your child is suffering in school, be their advocate. Learn about the very real option of homeschooling. School may seem like the only way to “get educated,” but that’s not true. It’s just one way. And, in my opinion, not the best way.

What if instead of dreading the spring semester, you and your kids were able to open up to all the creative possibilities that exist? What if you just said, “No.” to the idea of going back to school?


Sign up for my FREE newsletters!

 Children of all ages can start homeschooling immediatedly. It takes a certain amount of courage, on the parent’s part, but you’re already on the path of gathering your resources! 
I’m creating a monthly newsletter filled with resources and inspiration AND a weekly Q & A email spedifically for new homeschoolers/unschoolers,

Sign Me Up! 🙂

and receive this free PDF that will help you get started: 

The Curriculum Crutch

“Buy this, and your kids will be smarter!”

“Use this, you’ll be more organized!”

“Get this series and you will unleash their inner genius!”

Or something like that. Ahh… the lure of curriculum.

crutchesMarketing has targeted our community for some time now. Advertisers realize that while we are an independent lot, we still harbor a lot of fears. And isn’t that how marketing works best? Identify the fear or the lack, and then convince people that they need the product to fill their void. It’s as if they’re handing us crutches and telling us to lean on them – when in fact, we have no weakness, no lack of opportunity. The whole world awaits our children and these crutches they offer will simply hold them back.
Pre-planned materials often inhibit learning, keeping the child from all the benefits of discovery and exploration. It keeps parents from continuing to engage and facilitate new interesting opportunities out in the world. Don’t look wistfully at those crutches – embrace freedom! And yet. So many don’t. When people do things on what seems like a subconscious level – when they don’t question it, and they just accept it – we have to look a little deeper.

What’s the hold?
What are we believing way deep down?

This desperate search for experts or someone to tell us what to do… isn’t it time to let that go? No wonder we have those tendencies though. Schools conditioned us to look to teachers for instructions. How many times were you told,  “Don’t read ahead”? Our self-confidence was systematically broken.

If we poked our little faces up to explore outside the very clear boundaries schools had set into place, we were humiliated, ostracized or punished. And if you think this is too harsh of a characterization, what was used in your schools to get you back in line or make you more cooperative? Were you called out in front of the class? Did the teacher say, “Class, Johnny has something he wants to share with all of us,” when Johnny didnot have anything he wanted to share at all. Were you sent to detention to “think about what you had done?” Was your named scrawled across the chalkboard when you did something wrong? – a reminder of who the class “troublemakers” were. Not that long ago, religious schools and many schools in the south used corporal punishment for reprimanding youth. And while now, spanking is passé at school, diagnosing and medicating are the control mechanisms du jour.

Why do I bring this up?

Because  this is what has conditioned us – you, me, all of us who spent time in the school system. We learned something there, something that trumped any other academic pursuit:

  • making waves comes with a price,
  • stay safe,
  • do not lean into that inner yearning that doesn’t fit the school plan.

But! You’re reading this, so you’ve probably mustered up the courage to say no to the schools and you’ve started on your home educating path. You still run into a lot of naysayers though, so you’ve either figured out ways to word it – or maybe avoid the conversation altogether (“Pass the bean dip”).

One way that does seem to appease everyone is if you’ve “found a good curriculum.” Even if it’s 1st grade! Your naysayers are a little relieved if you tell them this. Often because they doubt themselves – and definitely, they doubt YOU! – to provide a good education for your child without a preplanned curriculum. They ask questions about oversight or testing or scope and sequence. None of which have to do with learning, and actually only relate to the teaching process.

And that’s what using a curriculum does.
It pulls you into the teaching process
as opposed to the learning process.

Maybe your concerned relatives/friends come to you from a place of fear for you and they have only your best interests at heart. Let’s assume that’s the case. Where does that idea come from though? All that research they’ve done on unschooling families or even the current homeschooling movement in general? Not likely.

It comes from that deep seated fear they learned as children:
Don’t step out of line or something bad will happen to you.

Before you’ve even talked to them about the enormous advantages you’ve discovered by choosing to home educate, they can’t hear it. They’re working on their laundry list of all the things that could go wrong. (Maybe in your spare time, you could create a laundry list of all the things that could go wrong if a child went to school? Might take a while.) And if their concerns center around academics – their assessment of YOUR intellect, or college opportunities, or basic education – you may have discovered that whipping out a full-service curriculum will calm them. (and it helps with those lingering fears you haven’t completely tackled, that pop up in the middle of the night)

But you’re still locked in.

Because that’s kind of the issue with these naysayers. They’ve watched you eyeing the door. They see the yellow light spilling in from the cracks on the other side. But now you’ve gone and opened it!  And it’s just like the  Wizard of Oz – leaving that familiar black and white room for Technicolor! They’ve been conditioned to stay in their seats. They’ve bought into all the rationales that tell them that the black and white classroom is best. Wizard-of-OzAnd when you start heading for that door, they panic – for you, for themselves, for the entire system that their world revolves around.

So that’s a lot of fear swirling around.

And you have it too, to some degree. You may have just started dismantling it. It’s impossible to leave the school system and come away unscathed.

We come away with various levels of confidence and courage. And that’s where curriculum comes in. Curricula development companies don’t want you to trust yourself and just jump into life. They want you to prep for life – with their textbooks. They want you to think that life is better tackled in a linear fashion. Yet, what part of real life is like that? They want you to doubt your own abilities and rely on them. They’re counting on all those years of you USING curricula to influence you to the point that you think that’s where learning comes FROM.

What do you get when you choose their curriculum?

  • You insert someone else between you and your child. These experts believe they know more about what your child needs to learn than you do – even though you’re standing right in front of them.
  • You trade a watered down 3rd person narrative ABOUT life for actually living the life in front of you and your child
  • Instead of creating a learning environment unique for your child, you try to fit them into that curriculum box.
  • You stop your own curiosity as you look for cool opportunities to share with your child, and trust that the curriculum knows best.
  • You become a warden, enforcing the curriculum package on your child. Your child tries to assert himself, explore his own curiosity, and you focus on snuffing that out so the all-important curriculum can be followed.
  • You tell your child that YOU know what’s best for him, and he cannot trust himself.
  • If you discover that the curriculum isn’t working for you, you stay with it a little longer because, after all you spent quite a bit of money on it.

Instead of moving toward MORE confidence, you move toward more dependency. You perpetuate the cycle.

You end up CHOOSING the crutches, instead of the freedom of stepping into life with your child.

What if you let go of those crutches?

(you don’t even need them!)

  • Your child learns to trust himself and his ability to find what he needs in the world.
  • You and your child live a full rich life starting now – not waiting until later (after 18, after graduation, etc.)
  • You get to discover what are your child’s true interests – they won’t have to wait for years into adulthood to figure them out.
  • Your family bonds are prioritized and healthier than they ever could have been.
  • Your child knows that when you tell him that his learning is really his – you mean it.
  • You are truly in charge of your own lives – what an adventure together you’ll have!


Our Own Curriculum Wars

So they loaded up the truck and moved to… Alaska. ;) Ahhh… those Clampets!

So they loaded up the truck and moved to… Alaska. 😉 Ahhh… those Clampets!

Back in the ’90’s when the internet was still young…
We had loaded up our car and we were moving to Alaska. Really. We were. My husband was in the Air Force and we had decided that on this move, we’d make the break with the school system and set out on our homeschooling adventure!

An exponential shift seemed to be happening.

When we first considered leaving the school system, we could find only religiously-oriented catalogs to help me figure out more about homeschooling resources. I’d comb through The Elijah Company catalog – they had some awesome science kits. Or I’d scan the list of Sonlight for an enormous array of literature. And even after we had started homeschooling (because we did not start as unschoolers), I looked at Cathy Duffy and Mary Pride’s gigantic books of curriculum. It was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole! I could visualize my little guys (then 7, 5, and 2) diving into a semester’s worth of curriculum with enthusiasm and glee. The story I had created in my head of what that would look like – with the help of all those curriculum pushers – was divine. alice-rabbit-hole-fc00-deviantart-net_ The more I read, the more I felt like I needed! How would they learn to spell without that Sing, Spell, Read and Write? How would they learn about the body without access to every DK book on the planet? The more I discovered, the more inadequate I felt.

My bookshelves began to bulge. I started talking to other people about all of their curriculum choices. Entire parkdays were spent comparing and contrasting everything anyone had run across. It felt so frenetic. We were so worried we’d do it wrong, choose poorly, or spend our money on something that would sit on the shelf unused. Yet we were pulled to continue our quest for curriculum that would perfectly fit our little ones.

The friends we kept didn’t help our situation. (yes, I still love them dearly). But this time period was also the early years of something called The IDEA Program. Someone had just figured out a way to get kids signed up into the school system yet still remain homeschoolers. They’d make their daily allotment per child, and they’d let these kids – our kids – be “distance learners.” They supplied our curricula, and even gave us a new computer.

These were the days of dial-up, weird noises as you waited to get connected, and “You’ve Got Mail!”

As unschoolers, we were skeptical. People were warning us that we weren’t “real homeschoolers.” In fact, they were right, we were part of a school district. But it was hundreds of miles away and no one ever darkened our doorstep. As a small group of parents, confident in our unschooling, we decided to see what would happen. The administration assured us that we could interpret learning in whatever way we chose. We swung over to the local Holiday Inn where they were handing out computers for every family enrolled. It was so disorganized, they were handing these desktop computers out hotel room windows! It definitely looked shady, but we shrugged and accepted the loot. We met at our monthly moms’ meeting, comparing notes. We knew that when they’d ask us to do testing, we’d pull out. But for now, that wasn’t the case at all.

So we put in orders for Playmobile to study Medieval times, nature center and science museum memberships, horseback riding lessons and whale sight-seeing trips. Lest you think we were simply bilking the system, we only received a fraction of the money that the school district received for enrolling us. What we didn’t get to use, built a new school for one of the native Alaskan villages, giving them small planes to work on so they could learn mechanics. (Small planes are used all over Alaska, so this is a trade they’d be able to use.) It paid for teachers and personnel to staff these new schools. And our kids were learning tons every day, playing, exploring and discovering. Win, win, right?

We were still new to unschooling/homeschooling and even though I was quickly embracing the idea that I didn’t need school experts to teach my children, I didn’t notice the tightening grip of curricula.  As the mellenium turned and we left the 90’s, the internet opened up. We weren’t limited by what our neighboring homeschoolers had personally found as had been the case when we started out – we could search online or ask in email groups. We even created lists and forums that reviewed products and shared obscure potential resources. We were downright giddy! We made purchases – the packages were appealing – bright colors, engaging promises, cartoon-like characters. Each seeming to shout, “Choose me! I’m the solution you’re looking for!” And I believed them – so many times! curric choices
It’s as if a magnetic force field kept pulling us back! We knew we didn’t want to send our little ones off to the local school… but the stuff! It was so appealing.

And our own anxiety was there too… sometimes coming in as whispers, other times, a screaming banshee in the night! Now in hindsight, I can see that we simply hadn’t cut the cord.

Curricula had become a crutch.

Sure, the toys and the memberships were used a lot, but a whole lot of other curricula that we were going to “try out,” went unused. Life got busy with three kids going in three different directions. We moved again – with all our stuff. And as time progressed, that program tightened up, requiring tests and progress reports… so we bailed. Bureaucracies being what they are, no one ever asked for the stuff back.

So now that my kids are all grown, I sit here with shelves in every room filled with dusty books, some unopened even. My kids are grown and gone.

What did I learn from all of this? What wonderful words of wisdom can I share with you?

I learned that….

  • Acquiring all that stuff was a distraction from what was right in front of me – my kids.
  • My anticipating what they might be interested in down the road, robbed them of the experience of searching and finding it for themselves.
  • I really identified with the idea of being a house with a lot of books. I liked that image. But for what purpose? When you have so many books that your kids gloss over when they see them all… that’s not a good thing.
  • Hanging on to all that stuff because someday grandbabies might use it…? I’ve had to let that go. Save a few true favorites, and the rest can be discovered when the need arises. Or I’ll get’em an iPad.  😉
  • I can’t move into this new phase of post-homeschooling life without letting all the stuff go. There’s no room for a new beginning, if all the stories of the past occupy the space.

So… I wonder how many trips to Goodwill this is going to take?

Time to get started.

You might also like to read: The Curriculum Crutch

Pass the Bean Dip

Over the years, moms have shared ways to cleverly remove themselves from awkward situations. One of these methods is frequently referred to as, “Pass the Bean Dip.”
The saying was circulated a lot on message boards from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Some attribute the saying to someone named Joanne at The Well-Trained Mind forum. But I have my doubts. It sounds like a southern saying to me, something that may have been passed on from grandmas to aunts, etc.

When someone is asking questions about how you are unschooling (or even parenting) your child, and you’re fairly sure they’re not really looking for answers, you can get out of the hot seat by using a little distraction: “Pass the bean dip.”

Maybe you’re not ready to go toe-to-toe in an argument about your parenting choice, or maybe the time or place is not ideal.

“Pass the bean dip,” will be your ticket to breathe more easily and switch up the conversation. It’s not unlike a sports or weather distraction, “How ’bout those Rangers?” or “Can you believe this weather?” Another possibility is to ask the other person about their own children, job, lives – people really prefer to talk about themselves than listen to you! 😉

“Could you pass me that bean dip?”

When People Quiz Your Kids

Woman with thumbs downWe don’t live in an unschooling bubble, do we?

Our kiddos have to get out there in the community and brush up with people who have no idea what we’re trying to do. And while that’s a good thing, in general, it can be tough when they’re faced with An Interrogator.  Maybe it’s Aunt Jeannie who wants to see if your kids know their times tables. Or maybe the neighbor wants to see how they do in spelling.  Sometimes it’s even another kid who’s basically trying to prove that his education is better.

No matter who it is, it helps to prepare them.  So if your kids are away from you and you can’t run interference for them, they may need a couple of quick factoids they can rattle back at their quizzer:

“Do you know the capitol of Angola, or San Salvador, or Malaysia?”
(Here’s a wikipedia cheat sheet, so he can pick which countries they’d like to know)

Or how about a math question?
“What’s 2358 x 137?”
“What’s the square root of 196?”

(here’s a square root calculator, so she can pick her own!)

“Do you know which word  the spelling bee champion knew that no one else did?” (and then google the answer with him to see what it was)

The point being that the child can give some demonstration of knowledge and then happily skip away.

Another option is to talk to those people yourself. You could even suggest that your child say this:

Mom said if the quizzing starts, you should probably take it up with her.

No reason your child should have to go head-to-head with an adult with an agenda.

I recorded this video… let me know if it’s helpful!

Do you have other helpful tips to help your child cope with naysayers?
Please leave them in the comments.

It might be exactly the right fit for someone struggling out there!

Back to School is A-OK

This time of year, the whole country is focused on giving up playtime and getting kids ready to go back to school. Some homeschoolers/unschoolers take advantage of the sales, others plan their own NOT-Back-to-School parties, and others head off on adventures with no nod toward society’s preoccupation whatsoever.

Regardless which camp you fall into, I’d like to show you Ten Reasons we should all be just fine with this time of year:
Summertime extension :)

  1. Since it’s still August, we don’t have to end summer prematurely. It’s still hot out and all of our fun summertime activities can continue until fall actually arrives. We are in Texas, so that’s not until DECEMBER!

    Shorter lines!

  2. We will enjoy shorter lines at the waterparks, the museums, Six Flags, Sea World, Fiesta Texas, NASA – everywhere! But hurry, school field trip groups will start up soon!
  3. We will find less people playing at the beach, area lakes or neighborhood parks – let’s plan some get-togethers!consider-homeschooling - No Sleep Deprivation!
  4. Our kids won’t experience any giant disruption in their sleep patterns. None of the horrible side effects of sleep deprivation due to early morning class times for us!Fed Up - You should watch it!
  5. Healthy food is available all day long for unschoolers. Did you see the movie Fed Up?? You’d be shocked at how the schools are pushing such poor nutrition for the kids there.
  6. We continue to enjoy uninterrupted creativity and play. We know the importance of guarding their children’s imaginations and realize that from creativity, kids learn problem solving and critical thinking skills. These will be so much more useful in their future than memorized facts – especially since the phones in their pockets can give them answers to questions immediately.Playing-UM2M
  7. Our kids can pursue their passions all day long instead of trying to cram their interests into those tiny windows of opportunity after school between homework, dinner, and bedtime.
    Friends two girls and guy sitting on floor in summer jeanswear street urban casual style talking, having fun, top view
  8. Our kids can explore topics in whatever ways they choose. They can flit across the top of many different ideas and concepts or dive deeply into a particular interest. No school bell rings to tell unschoolers when to start and stop thinking.
    Family time can last longer!
  9. Our calendars are up to us – our own families and our own schedules. No vacationing only if the school allows it or working around the calendars set by the district.
  10. We have unlimited hugs, reassurance, games, books, sleepovers, potlucks, playtime, puzzles, music, projects, learning in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

First published in the TexUns Newsletter, September 2014


Don’t Do It

Do They HAVE TO go back to school?
Normally, I don’t write anti-school blogposts. Many wonderful families who love their children use the school system and many more see school as their ticket to the American Dream. That’s fine.

I’m usually perfectly okay with people making decisions that differ from mine. But this time of year, I have twinge that doesn’t want to go away. It persists for about a month or so. I’m sure it’s exacerbated by all of the hoopla surrounding all the Back-to-School sales. Something in me wants to step into those shopping aisles, turn to those moms with their supply lists, and say, “Don’t do it.”

I know the reactions that would get.

The raised eyebrows.

The defensive posturing.

I hear those mothers who loudly announce to each other, “Only four more days…” With their kids within earshot, we all know the rest of that statement, “…until they go back to school and get out of my life.”

I also know there have to be mothers in those stores who don’t agree.

Something is tugging at them to maybe explore something else for their child.
They are mothers who want more time with their sons and daughters.
Mothers who see their own family as the most important unit, and not their child’s homeroom teacher and class.

And these are the mothers I want to lean over to and say, “Don’t do it.”

For years, these mothers have been conditioned to stop questioning the status quo, get back in line and ignore their gut about keeping their kids home. Quickly they rationalize that sending them to school is The Right Thing To Do. All of the pro-school marketing comes flooding back into their heads.

They think, “But they’ll have fun at school.”  Have you forgotten the boredom? The frustration with canceled field trips (only 2-3/year)? The staring at the clock waiting for the bell to ring? Sure, you can probably remember some fun times. But were there really that many? As compared to when you were out of school in the afternoons or in the summer?

Or they think, “They learn so much in school!” That’s not even true compared to the thousands of hours they actually spend there over the child’s lifetime. Studies show that children really only receive about 75 minutes of instruction time per day – that’s not even an hour and a half!  With so much time shuffling to classrooms, waiting for class to settle down, bureaucracy and busywork, collecting and passing out paperwork, going to assemblies, lunch, recess, not to mention that the instruction is aimed at the center of the bell curve and is obsessed with test prep, it’s pretty clear that not a lot of learning is happening.

Others argue, “They love being with their friends.”  They might – but not AT school. They have only three minutes to get from class to class, and a brief lunch period to hang out together IF they are lucky enough to have the same lunch periods. And, really, how many other kids did you hang out with after school? My school day was spent making plans  for how we would eventually get together in off-school hours or weekends. But it wasn’t that fun hanging out with them during class time. And what about the bullying so many kids have to endure? They end up creating all kinds of maladaptive coping mechanisms, learn that no one will rescue them and are forced to be in these situations for most of their waking hours.

Maybe the worry is:But I couldn’t homeschool – I’m not a teacher!” It’s not necessary! Most of the education they received in school to become teachers has to be shelved because of the way the system is set up. Even if teachers are good, most of their time is spent on crowd control and test prep and creating lesson plans for the entire class. It isn’t individualized  the way you could with your own child.


I want to tell them, “Don’t do it.” And if they didn’t roll their eyes and push their shopping cart away from me, I would add a few more things.

  • Life is short. Spend as many hours with your kids as possible. As I look back at the years my kids were living at home – it really did fly by!
  • Life is an adventure. Real life waits outside those school doors. Parents can have the incredible opportunity to become tour guides joining the kids on these adventures and learning alongside them.
  • Learning is everywhere. Learning happens everyday all the time. It doesn’t have to divided up and parceled out in boring, dull, disconnected ways.
  • You’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of kids are homeschooling. They are all discovering that schools do not have a corner on that market of learning. They are living in a way that allows them to pursue their interests, practice personal responsibility, learn on their own or in groups, make friends, and create entire communities out in the real world.
  • You really can do this. Resources abound!   Homeschooling books and magazines, articles, blogpostsFacebook groupsPinterest boards – even coaches – are out there to give you the support you need.

So, if you’re wondering if some option exists that could work for your family…or you have that uneasy feeling that you’re trying to ignore, maybe it’s time to make a change.

This article isn’t for those who are perfectly happy with their school choice.

But if you’re hesitating about whether or not to send your kid off to school, imagine me, leaning over, whispering to you:

Don’t do it.”

And if you’d like more support, Chaos to Confidence started August 1st!
It’s basically coaching for $1/day for 3 MONTHS of mentoring/coaching!
Find out more here!