Methods vs. Philosophy: Inspiring Purpose for your Homeschool

Some people find an educational method that is so in line with their personal philosophy of education that it perfectly describes how they want to teach their children. Others are more complex and don’t quite fit into any one box.

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There are so many posts out there about educational methods that I won’t take the time going through all of them. Instead I am going to write about finding what works for me.

Some call this the eclectic approach. For us that sums it up but I prefer to call it Unschooling Charlotte Mason because the two methods that best describe our learning environment are unschooling and Charlotte Mason. In reality the truth of the matter is that no matter which method you choose there will always be purists or radicals that stick almost dogmatically to the tenants as written about by the original authors. I have no ill will towards these people, I am simply not one of them. I will never ask what Charlotte Mason would say about xyz and I will never be called a radical unschooler. Like pretty much everything, there is a scale, and I am a centrist.

Philosophically, I identify with unschooling more than any other and use unschooling as the foundation of our schooling style. We are entirely child-led and we strongly believe in respecting the child as an autonomous entity that is capable of understanding and communication at developmentally appropriate levels. There are some misconceptions about unschooling out there that bother me, such as the idea that parents who practice unschooling don’t parent at all or that it is a lazy way to school. Neither are true, at all, even the most radical unschoolers are parents to their children who are teaching and imparting wisdom in very deliberate ways, it just looks different. When it comes to parenting we are more traditional than most unschoolers but that doesn’t mean that we respect our child less than others, it is simply a construct of our family dynamic. We personally do not reject social constructs but rather strive to build an understanding regarding the necessities of certain social constructs and to logically and respectfully decline the necessity of others.

Where unschooling is our foundation, Charlotte Mason provides our tools. Philosophically, I also identify with many of the concepts and reasonings behind the Charlotte Mason Method but what I use the most are the methods. I love the focus on literature, the arts and nature. I find that the short lessons fit well with our sense of respect for the developmentally appropriate needs of curious children and that copywork is a light introduction to a lifestyle that incorporates literacy in communication. I am not a fan of the schedules or rote memorization as they are used in some of the more strict CM households but I understand why that works for other families, this is where our foundation in unschooling is most apparent. followtheleader.jpg

The following are other influences on our educational philosophy that I don’t often mention but are equally important in understanding where I come from.

The Waldorf method uses natural or nature based materials as well as focusing on handicrafts as an important part of understanding your role in the greater world around you. We really like this aspect as it speaks to our more simple outlook on life. I love that it focuses more on creating than our more materialistic society with its need for more stuff.

Maria Montessori espoused the idea of allowing children to do everything adults did but at their own scale, which I think really aids in developing a self sufficient and confident child.

The Thomas Jefferson method has the seven keys of education, and I honestly agree with every one of them. They just seem like practical nuggets that make sense and they fit well with most of these other philosophies.

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My husband laughs and says that I am a hippy, with love of course, but I don’t feel like I fit into that category. Each of these aspects speaks to my desire for a more simple life. I prefer to follow in the footsteps of my great grandmothers who raised families almost a century ago. The raisers of the “great generation” to me did something right, something I wish to recreate in my own children. There is a sense of entrepreneurial spirit, strength in faith, respect and self discipline that I see in my grandparents and admire.

I can sense my own materialism, I can see my own self indulgent lack of discipline and my Vitamin D deficiency is proof of my need for more time in nature (which surprisingly, has lately been far more relaxing to me than a pedicure) and I want more for my children. I am not naive enough to think that I can return to that time or that I would even want to, I’m too much of a feminist for that. As a Puerto Rican Woman there is no way that I could have the kinds of opportunities that I have now, then, nor would my daughters. I do, however, want to take the aspects of that simple life, the freedom, the simplicity, the focus on respect and use them to balance out the indulgences of our hyper technology driven (automatic) present, while keeping in tact some of the more progressive improvements.

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I enjoy taking the time to make our food from scratch, even if I don’t do it that often, because I want to eat real food and I want my children to see the effects of hard work. I enjoy spending three hours out in the woods because it allows my children to organically learn in a way that just doesn’t compare to reading a book (that almost feels like sacrilege to write!). I want to teach my son and daughters how to sew because it is a valuable lesson that can be used later in life. I want them to be able to see art from around the world because it is culturally relevant and creatively fulfilling. I want them to have a deep love for great books but I refuse to force them into reading monstrosities they are not interested in, which is why reading aloud works so well for us.

I will not force my children to study history chronologically but I will offer them a timeline when they want to see how things line up. I will not force my children to practice piano but I will show them inspirational videos of famous pianists who talk about the importance of practicing. I will not tell my child that they must finish that book, but I won’t buy them a new one in the mean time and I won’t let them ruin the ending by watching the movie version.

I may not look like a CM’er and I may not look like an unschooler either, because I’m both with bits and pieces of others mixed in. On some days I may sway more towards the side of CM, with my focus on living books and narration (usually in the Spring when we have the most energy), whereas others are purely unschooled with the children entirely leading the way (mostly in late autumn when it is darker out but the weather is still decent). Even on those days I’m still practicing both methods, in fact I am always practicing my own special mix of all of these because the method in which we homeschool is based on my philosophical understanding of life, the universe and everything. (42?)

I am influenced by my faith, my relationships with my family, my relationships with traditional schools and school teachers…everything that I am is a combination of experiences and ideas that have solidified themselves as a part of my personality. I am me today because of it and I should expect that it will influence my parenting, my community association and yes, the way I feel about education. As will everyone else’s experiences shape how they approach education (as teachers, supporters or homeschoolers). I would go so far as to venture that most homeschoolers are eclectic which, I will define as being educationally influenced by multiple educational methods. Yes, there are the purists who hold true to a single view point out there but I think that people are probably more inclined to pick and choose aspects from multiple sources, even if they only claim their main method.

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If you know someone who is struggling with homeschooling but doesn’t want to throw in the towel, or can’t, remind them that the stylistic options are as numerous as the sun. Keep what works and tryout something new for those things that don’t. No two homeschool families will look exactly the same because no two families are exactly the same. Whether you are going to pick up curriculum or not, how you approach learning as a family will be directly linked to your families philosophy of education.

When your in those beginning phases of planing for next year (or if your just reassessing this year) make sure that your asking yourself the following questions.

What is my purpose, why do I homeschool?

Why do we school this way?

How is this helping our family grow academically, spiritually, and socially?

What am I expecting out of our homeschooling experience?

Is this realistic?

Who am I doing this for?

Where do you find your purpose and inspiration?

Are you inspired or are you just trudging along?

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Welcome to My World

Welcome back to Everyday Random Blessings where life is crazy, school doesn’t look at all like school and we try our best to embrace our very own muchness.

Join us for a look into a typical day as we join The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s March Blog Hop.

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Before I get started lets set the stage.

As a family, we are in a crazy place right now. For the last year our family of six has been living in a two bedroom apartment with a loft as well as living as a one car family in order to save money in anticipation of an early retirement and career change later this year. We will also be moving from this tiny apartment within the next few weeks because we are buying our first home. YAY!

Before the premature departure of our second car from our lives and the housing downsize, our Unschooling-Charlotte Mason hybrid homeschool really could have been called an “anywhere but home-school.” Alas, with life there are always changes and the biggest change has been getting used to being home most of the week. Below is a collage of our “out of the house” days. 

Each morning starts early. Rushed as we force our way out the door, often needing to remind someone that now is not the time to play, sometimes with a bag full of clothes uttering statements I thought I would never say, like “no, you cannot wear flip flops in the snow!” or “yes, you can bring the kindle” and ponytails lined up on wrists. All while sandwiches hang from our mouths and footed pajamas race down the stairs, dragging blankets behind them. We don’t like to waste gas going back and forth, so once out of the house, there is no returning. From the moment we drop Daddy off to the moment we pick him up, we are off on an Adventure, trying to fill up a weeks worth of activities into only one or two days. We don’t bother with writing assignments or math sheets but school is happening with every conversation spoken, every song heard on the radio and every destination we come to, even if that destination is the side of the road so that I can google the answer to a random question that is really is out of my pay grade!

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These days are always a blast but they are not our norm, not anymore. Our norm nowadays is much, much slower and yet much, much more unpredictable. I never know exactly how a day will pan out but they always start the same way.

The alarm blares beside me and I don’t even know what time it is. I feel like I just fell asleep and there is no way its time to get up already. Lately, in an effort to pinch pennies and get my husband to actually eat more than one meal a day (because if you don’t tell him to eat and he gets into a work mindset, he will forget), I have been getting up with him and making him breakfast. Before I did this Little Miss (6) would wake up with daddy, spend some time with him and then climb back in bed with me. I didn’t know she did that, I thought she was waking up when she came to my bed asking to watch cartoons, now I know … and its good to know because I understand why she’s always so hungry in the morning. Any way, she wakes up, he wakes up and I make them breakfast and they all eat and merrily go upon their way.

Im too tired at this point to really understand what’s going on but eventually Little Miss and I climb back into bed together and commence with the cartoon watching, book reading or question asking. Curly Que makes her appearance somewhere between half way through whatever Little Miss is watching and the next episode, still in zombie mode. She joins us with a few solid moans and slowly wakes up in the process. Next to enter are Little Man and Itty Bitty  usually pretty close to 9 am. By this time Curly Que is ravenous and Itty Bitty is always Hangry when she wakes up forcing me out of the warmth and comfort of my bed to prepare second breakfast. On some mornings I allow the minions free range of the kitchen while I switch the load of laundry. Ok, most mornings they fend for themselves.

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Because we are unschoolers there really is no start to our school day, unless you consider waking up a good start… which I do. Clothes are optional, pajamas are preferred. Less laundry that way.

 Somewhere between cartoons and second breakfast the theater troupe that resides within these four walls begin their performance. They must be socialists because they discuss roles and plot development diplomatically, not a tyrannically. Well, that’s not entirely true, there is a tiny tyrant that tries to rule them all with her Itty Bitty fist but she is often ignored and swept to the side or else patronized and called cute, much to her chagrin. She leaves the fold with a pout and a whine in order to console herself with math manipulatives only to find that her new pastime is interesting to the others as well and shall be the new setting for their latests dramatic enactments. I use their preoccupation with my tiny wooden conspirators to wash dishes, change laundry and generally get at least a little bit of cleaning done only to come running at the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The next two hours go something like this:

Captains Log, stardate 2015:

“I came too late, the battle has been fought and the game has been taken over by the larger more dominant inhabitants of this strange land. They speak a foreign language, no, really, a completely foreign language what  is this ‘hutsu’ and how did it originate? They discuss planetary alignments and argue over how a circumference is related to pie…oh wait, they are correcting me… what’s that now, did you say pi? They run in a frenzy carrying weapons and barking like dogs before spouting off names from their favorite tales. Oh good, they are occupied, now seems like a good time to have some coffee and sit down.

Or not. The one known as Curly Que is coming towards me. She is running, tears streaming down her face as she tells me a heart wrenching tale of a sister who would not acknowledge her right to refuse her humanity in order to instead release her inner german shepherd and a brother who claimed she couldn’t be a german shepherd because they were currently located on Mars and the infrastructure just doesn’t exist. She claims that she is not a German Shepard on Mars, she is a German Shepard in China making a living as a wildlife photographer. Her hiccups interrupting her very real sobs as I try to find a way to mend the dog/astronaut/alien relationship before the sun explodes. Which apparently will be occurring within the next five minutes, unless the alien and astronaut can stop the weapons of mass destruction.

Just as the diplomatic mission is ending and the German Shepard is appeased appropriately Itty Bitty appears with an Egyptian Mythology book to be read, she is asking for mummies while I distinctly smell a present I want nothing to do with. I ask her desperately if she will ever agree to go near the potty to which she responds “NO! I can’t use the potty, I’m only a toddler. Baby’s use diapers and I am not three yet.” How can I argue the logic, wait, why am I even considering arguing the logic of a two year old, she’s two and I’m the mom, shouldn’t that reasoning alone be enough to prove she’s ready for the almighty potty… then again, I have lost that battle three times already and know better now. Instead I instruct the littlest one to find diapers and just go about the task of cleaning yet another thing… Why is she running away? Great, now if only I could catch her. Maybe I can trick her using a book as bait. There we go, hold up goodnight moon and offer to read it again…and…gotcha! Wait why should I read this book to her again, “Little Miss come over here, lets practice reading Goodnight Moon to Itty Bitty” …wait for it, wait for it…

YES! Two birds with one stone, Momma for the WIN! What time is it, please tell me its almost lunch time…nope, its only 1030.

Clean diaper, check. Reading practice, check.”

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Around this time the drama has been abated and the requests begin flowing in.

Little Man: “Moooooooooom! Can I watch Nova Hunting the Elements?”

Little Miss: “Not Nova, can I watch You Tube, I want to watch The Piano Guys, right Itty Bitty? we want to watch the Cello?”

Itty Bitty: “Cello!!! I want to play the Cello!”

Me: “Sure you can watch the cello one. Itty Bitty do you want to play your sisters guitar? Little man go watch Nova on the other TV.”

Curly Que: “Mom, can I play the reading game?”

Me: “Yes, Curly que can play the reading game.”

Little Man: “Wait, we can play games? Can I do Sumdog or Age of Empires?”

Me: “There’s only one computer, choose something else, wait I thought you wanted to watch Nova? If you want to do something else why don’t you do journal work? You haven’t explained to me how hydrogen works yet.” -Time to act excited…

Little Man: “ummm, how many sentences do I have to write?”

Yes!!!!! Win for Me: “How many will it take for me to understand?”

Little Man “I suppose I could write 5, but just one paragraph and then no more writing!”

Double win for Me: “Deal”

Itty Bitty: “Peg plus Cat! One hundred chickens!”

Me: “Is that already over? Ok, Peg plus Cat is fine. Little Miss what are you going to do next?”

Little Miss: “Can I paint?”

Me: “What kind of paint?”

Little Miss: “Watercolor”

Me: “ok I guess but don’t let Itty Bitty get into the paint or the water” 

Hmmm, time to change the laundry and reheat my coffee.

 Wait its lunch time! 

Me: “Sorry princess, I know your in the middle of your masterpiece but look, it’s already 1130 am, it’s almost lunch time, can you finish your painting later? Everybody else, stop what your working on. Clear the table and clean everything up while I make lunch.”

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The morning is full of unschooling with no clear direction but lots of learning. Lunch is when I dig deep for my inner Charlotte Mason. They eat and I read between sips of my finally warm coffee and already cold lunch. I pull out the Living books we scavenged from the library last week and read to their hearts content. We read about Dinosaurs and Egyptian Mummies, Dark Matter and chemical compounds, the human body and composting. Any book that looks even remotely interesting gets snatched up and brought home to be read while little faces are smeared in peanut butter and little hands are sticky with jelly. I read, they interupt, we discuss or debate and I read some more for the next hour. Each person able to add to the overall conversation until our plates are cleared and put away.

At this point they need to be cleaned. Shower or bath time, depending on the kid, occurs in the middle of the day, calming and relaxing them before our next activity. I only fight the water on the head battle every couple of days. Even at 7 and 4, Little Man and Curly Que scream and wail if even the tiniest amount of water gets near their faces, so does Itty Bitty but she’s still young and may grow out of it yet. Little Miss on the other hand becomes a Mermaid. After the bath battle is the hair saga, trying to get a brush through thin curly hair on overly sensitive heads is a necessary evil.

Then we retire to the haven of all havens, mommy and daddy’s bed. The one place nightmares don’t reach and blankets lie thick and heavy atop a freshly cleaned child. Each person find the coziest, most comfiest spot and the read aloud book comes out. For the next hour we are all wandering across the heather speckled waste with Howl, Sofie, Michael and Calcifer in Dianne Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and contemplating which is better, the book or the movie. Each character gets a different voice and sometimes Little Man asks to be the reader. The smallest one cannot escape her exhaustion and falls asleep to the lilting sounds of a well told story, marking the beginning of the sacred Quiet Time.

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Quiet time is that special time of day when everyone separates. Each person gets almost two hours of solitude. You can choose from a smorgasbord of quiet school like options (varying from workbook sheets to madlibs) to complete on your own, read, or play quietly with manipulatives in your bed. It is a time of contemplation, deep thought, artistic expression and intellectual stimulation. Mommy is available for consultation but individual exploration is recommended until Tea Time. It’s not always as quiet as I would like but I believe strongly that everyone needs time alone with their own thoughts. 

 At the end of it all the waking of Itty Bitty is the alarm that alerts everyone to the end of quiet time. We gather around the table to enjoy a light snack served with warm tea or iced lemonade. The poetry book gets pulled out as snack is quietly or not so quietly eaten. The ridiculousness of Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl makes for some belly rumbling fun before we dive a few pages into the classic children lit selection that will be read. Winnie The Pooh, is a running household favorite, as is Alice in Wonderland but lately we’ve been getting into mythology more and more. While I read the little hands keep themselves busy with legos, blocks, whizzing toys and art supplies before The Call.

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The call signals the end of the daytime chaos and the start of the evening shenanigans. Daddy calls to give the little fair warning and operation clean up commences. Depending on the events of the evening we will either eat at home or eat on the run as we dash out to AWANA or Robotics, either one being the highlight of the whole day. On nights not out and about the imaginations are then let loose once again, not that they ever really go away, but finally free of the constraints of the day until bedtime approaches and we send them off to the Land of Nod.

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It just wouldn’t be fun if it ended so anticlimactically and lucky us, it doesn’t.

Little Miss and Curly Que are always the first to fall asleep. Often without a hitch these two lay in their beds and chat until they both fall asleep together, leaving behind a tiny revolutionary who protests often and dreams of a covert rebellion. She silently escapes her perch in search for a behemoth of a book and a snack to aid in her attack on sleep. She gets caught only half of the time. 

Meanwhile, Little Man reads aloud to himself from up in his loft, spending hours giggling at the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Duddley Durselys’ new word. Other nights are spent oohing and ahhing over a series of chemistry and astronomy books, often surrounding him on his bed spread out like radioactive fallout. Sometime between 1000 and 1030 he falls asleep, but not without attempting to sneak a peak at Daddy playing Destiny first. 

At this point it has been quiet for over an hour and so we assume that the tiny revolutionary has lost the battle and succumbed to exhaustion, probably on the floor somewhere. But no, that would be too easy, instead we turn the corner only to find her quietly sitting on her bed reading a book about dinosaurs while eating a stolen banana. 

She sees me and then explains loudly why the Gigantasaurus is scary because he will eat her but the Stegosaurus is her friend, and they can eat salad together. I sit down beside her and begin reading the encyclopedic text outloud. I am hoping that it will calm her, but instead the new information about the Devonian Era excites her and she tells me that the fish and crocodiles are just like Ponyo. Finally I start to yawn compulsively, it’s been over an hour. I stand to go to bed (my novel awaits) but she is still reading her book…her book with skeleton cutaways and a triceratops head being eaten by a T-Rex.

Will you ever fall asleep dear child… or will that picture scare you and leave you even more awake?

Oh good, she fell asleep.

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Is the Grass Really Greener?

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

I remember first hearing this phrase while watching a Saturday morning cartoon. I don’t remember which one, but I remember the character stepping onto their neighbor’s perfectly green grass and sinking up to his knees in water. I laughed so hard at the image and I didn’t even understand the punchline. Now I understand, and it is not that funny, just sadly familiar.

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Pinterest is my best friend and worst enemy. Admittedly, I collect far more pins then I will ever actually use, waste far more time then I should spend in front of a screen in a week and I have no plans or aspirations of giving it up. You see, I am a recovering perfectionist but I still crave inspiration and my biggest problem is comparing what I see to what I have. I have had to tell myself repeatedly, that the pins I post to my various boards are not pictures of what my life should look like but rather a myriad of ideas from which I can pick and choose inspiration, like those choose your own adventure books I used to read.

Being a perfectionist and comparing myself to others is not something I see as a positive trait. It took me years to realize that this had become a problem. Over time it has lead to issues with procrastination, anxiety and stress because I get these ideas of what things should look like in my head and I get annoyed with myself if I cannot properly create my ideal or I shut down in anticipation of failure.

Because of this I have struggled with my choice to be a SAHM instead of returning to the workforce. I have agonized over being unable to both homeschool and chase academic pipe dreams, because living on a single military income with a family of six is hard enough without adding in the expenses that accompany the pursuit of knowledge. I have budgeted and re-budgeted, cutting corners everywhere possible, just so that we can afford to fund the interests of our precocious children (like Piano lessons, Robotics class and Hands on Science courses) while crying over being unable to fund others (like ballet, guitar lessons and gymnastics). I have stressed and pestered my husband late into the night with what if scenarios regarding the choice to unschool instead of buying a curriculum. I have a house full of half started projects and DIY’s that I am too afraid to finish because I am afraid of messing it up. I have piles of fabric that were gifted to me that lay uncut because the fear and anxiety of failure cripples me. I know what pitfalls perfectionism and comparison carries and I want so much more for my children. Doesn’t every parent?

That is why I started trying to become an anti-perfectionist. I fight my perfectionist instincts by choosing and purposefully creating things that are less than perfect. I am trying to be more understanding of others in order to stop comparing myself to them. I am choosing to model imperfect success to my children. Like the delicious birthday cake that I made and decorated in a simple pink frosting with fresh fruit that would never be Pinterest worthy. It doesn’t look like a professional cake, it didn’t take hours of molding fondant but it was delicious and everyone wanted seconds. Yet, regardless of my efforts there are some areas that still bother me greatly, like a messy home and homeschooling.

The house is never quite clean enough and I try to talk myself into a good enough standard but it still gets under my skin. Sometimes I get this cockamamy idea that it also effects our productiveness. After all, a messy house needs to be cleaned and the time used for cleaning is time not being used for exploration of interests and ideas.  In theory, the cleaning is learning. At first it was. At first, sorting through the toys and hanging the clothes were considered math. Making the beds and checking off chores were routines and part of our health discussion but when we are spending several hours a week on sorting and their regular math includes multiplication tables then the worrying begins…the never ending “is it enough” questioning worms its way into my vocabulary. That virus of a thought that buries its way through my consciousness destroying my anti-perfectionist revolution.

My rebellious attitude is crushed singularly. I no longer see the learning that occurs while the toys are being put away. I no longer have the patience to work with the Imaginational over excitabilities that seemingly disrupt the most simple tasks and my temper explodes unwittingly, damaging my carefully constructed perfect mom form. Am I doing enough, causes a lack of awareness within me that blinds me to the weekly field trips we make to the Wildlife refuge, Farm or DC museum. I instantly forget the monthly plays and concerts we attend. I forget the wealth of information that gets passed through the doors of our minivan as we drive, everything from the trajectories of airplanes landing at BWI to owls as birds of prey who devour small mammals.

I think to myself that if only I worked too, then perhaps we could afford to sign the children up for falconry lessons (as asked for by the 7 year old) or archery (as asked for by the 6 year old) or violin lessons (my 4 year old is obsessed with  string ensembles and loves the sound of the violin). I wonder if living in this apartment (although it is temporary and nothing more than a transition for us) is stunting their growth because we can’t just go outside whenever we want and running or jumping inside is just too rude to the people below us. I obsess over whether or not my own depression and fibromyalgia keeps me from doing enough hands on learning. We read about 15 books a week at minimum and during a good week we read close to 40 and yet I question whether or not I read to them enough.

I see these moms online who do lapbooks, who have sensory bins and quiet books and I think they have it all together. Or at least I think that their children must have an amazing learning environment, completely ignoring the environment I create at home in the process! I know women like this personally too. Women that do amazing things and I think that maybe I should be more like that, do more like them.

I mentioned my jealousy once, about two years ago, to a Facebook friend who had read her fourth full book in a week while I was still struggling with the first chapter of the book I picked up 6 months ago, her response changed my outlook forever.

“Yeah, I read lots of books but I also have two kids and you have four, mine are several years apart where yours are close together and I ignore my kids. Well not really ignore them but they don’t need me to do lots of stuff with them anymore, they are more independent and you are always going places with yours.”

 I was comparing my toddler/preschool/homeschooling stage in life to her SAHM of elementary and almost kindergarten aged stage of life. I was not being fair to anyone with that comparision and I didn’t even think about how different both situations were!

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All of those moms I read about online, yeah, not one of those moms are perfect either. Not one of those moms are in the exact same place that I am. Not one of them have it all together. In fact I would bet money that every single one is also plagued with the question of “is it enough.” I cannot compare my imperfection with my perception of perfection in others. Everyone is less than perfect. I had to realize that real moms and dads are not only less than perfect but that they also value vastly different things and as a result our priorities look different. So what may look like perfection is not really perfection at all, it is, however, a different set of values. To illustrate this I will use three of my best friends, each family in a vastly different scenario and each one inspiring in their own right. (DISCLAIMER: These are quick snippets into their very complex lives, looking at only one priority each and by no means a comprehensive analysis)

Friend A:

This friend who loves to cook, has a home cooked, from scratch meal made every single night by the time her husband comes home, even though she has three very small children. Not because that’s something every mom needs to have done but because for her that is important. It is part of how she shows her love to her family. She doesn’t let her young children watch more than an hour of TV in a day and her living room is filled with age appropriate toys which place her children in view of her kitchen at almost all times. She needs this because sometimes she starts working on various aspects of dinner during the morning when her children are engaged in another activity, like making meatballs for spaghetti at 10 am while her children munch on a morning snack. She has prioritized her fringe time and organized her menu in such a way that works for her and her schedule.

Friend B:

This friend of mine always has an immaculate house and is always advocating for the special needs of her three school aged children ranging from pre-k to high school. She is the epitome of a momma bear, constantly volunteering in her community and school while also happily working her behind off all day long to have a clean house at the end of the day because it is the most important thing for her. To an outsider it may look like she is always on the go but she has purpose in every action and prioritizes her day in such a way that allows for the cultivation of relationships and organizing her cleaning around her schedule.

Friend C:

This friend works full time and runs a non profit organization on the side benefiting families of children with serious medical problems. She is one of the most amazing women I know and her children are some of the most loved I have ever met. Her house is beautiful, her meals thought out but it also takes her an hour to get to and from work every day. She spends her weekends working at her non-profit with her children alongside her, building the most wonderful memories in the process.  I am regularly in awe at how close knit they are as a family and hope that one day my teens and tweens will be as considerate as her’s are.

None of these women do this because of some misogynistic idea ingrained into their psyche by old fashioned upbringings or as an attempt to prove anything. They each do this everyday because it makes them feel accomplished at the end of the day which in turn makes them feel great. Each woman working towards her own goals and following her own ideals. I love going to visit all of them, every time I step into their homes I can feel the warmth of their love radiating throughout the environment and all of them amaze me regularly.

At the end of the day, each of us places a value on certain things and there are different proportions of value for each person and family based on their unique situations and temperaments. What these women have is not perfection, it’s an organization of time based on the priorities they deam important. They manage their homes, work and lives in a manner that fits them…we all do even if we do it subconsciously.

My house is not always cleaned, I do not always get around to dinner and I don’t work outside my home but I do place a huge amount of effort into nurturing the relationships within our home while also creating an environment filled with room for exploration and creativity. For me that is the most important thing. I would rather read a book out loud over tea for two hours than spend that time working on a nice dinner. I would also rather make sandwiches to eat as we rush off to Robotics than setting up a sit down meal at home, because for me that experience is important. I would easily drive 45 mins in rush hour traffic to get to a museum in DC to see dinosaurs, sometimes by myself with four small kids, before it opens rather than use that time to prepare all the materials necessary to create an amazing lap book filled with printouts and graphs. That lap book looks amazing, I think it would be so cool to do but when it comes down to the price of time and having to choose, I prefer to see in person while we live close enough to even be able to. One choice is not better than the other, nor are they mutually exclusive, one day I may choose to go ahead and do that lap book. These are my preferences and they will probably change several times over the years as our values gradually adapt to new stages in our life.

The other key to escaping the grip of perceived perfectionism is the idea of a fluid life. The concept that like water, we flow through various places over a lifetime, never made up of exactly the same particles. Even when we think we are standing still, we are still constantly changing. My circumstances may on the surface be the same as yours but in the end we are different people with different lives. The stage at which I am currently living is vastly different than the one I struggled with last year. I am growing and changing as a person, as a mother and as an educator. The philosophies I once believed to be absolute truth regarding education may no longer apply although they might hold a comeback tour several years from now. So, if I can’t even compare my now-self with my then-self how on earth can I compare to a completely separate person living a vastly different life?

Honestly though, do I still compare? Absolutely! Do I still create a mental image of what should be? Well, unfortunately, yes. Do I still ask myself if I am doing enough? All the time. The biggest difference for me is that the anti-perfection revolution has already begun internally and the rebellion is growing so much that the question for me has changed from “is the grass greener on the other side?” to “do I even really like mowing the lawn?”

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How about you?