Why We Homeschool…The Sequel


Where were we?

Oh yeah.  Deciding whether or not to send my little guy back into the world of mass-market learning.  Well…I spent the whole summer before Uber’s 1st grade year studying my options…

  • Private school?  Not even an possibility.  Therapies and doctors visits had already put our rears in arrears.
  • Public school? Scary.  I’d heard horror stories from local moms about how their kids with special needs were mercilessly teased and how services for kids with IEP’s or even worse – – giftedness – – were basically non-existent.
  • Charter school?  Hey, there’s an option. So we went for it!

But no one told me that the brand new charter school which was getting such rave reviews had a waiting list about three miles long. (and btw, Uber could’ve probably done the unit conversion for that to kilometers in his head at that age!)

So we homeschooled again the next year.  And the next.  And it was a rousing success. But when H-T’s time came along, would you believe I STILL couldn’t quite give up the dream?  That’s right, H-T’s cute little five-year-old tushie was marched right into kindergarten. 

And yes, I got to be a homeroom helper.  And wait in the drop-off/pick-up line.  And even bring cupcakes for his birthday.  The whole kit-n-kaboodle!!  Yet when his teachers sat down with me for his first conference and told me they suspected he might have a learning disability, the very first thought that came to my mind was…

“Well, I’ll just homeschool him then.”

So I did.

And except for a short bout of Uber wanting to try his wings in school during sixth grade and part of seventh, that is exactly what we have done. 

Not because I didn’t believe in the public school system – – far from it.  But because I believed it was the best choice for my individual kiddos.  And I still believe it…so much so that this year I’ve even trusted my kids enough to put the bulk of the responsibility for their education into their own hands. 

And when they sit in their therapist’s office twenty years from now, and regale her with tales of how they are in the crappy mess they are in because their mother didn’t “socialize” them properly, I will STILL believe I made the right choice.  (and probably also that my latest facelift makes me looks a little too much like Charo)

But those are the breaks, kids.  All I can do is what I think is best for my boys, who I say I “love” when “love” doesn’t even begin to cut it. 

Here’s hoping they’ll think so too someday…

This stage is crap!

All through the life of my kiddos, I have adored every stage and age.  In fact, whenever people would say to me “don’t you think this stage is the best of all” I could ALWAYS answer “YES” no matter what stage it was, because they were ALL the best. 

From the newborn still-smells-like-heaven stage, through the toddler might-survive-if-they-can-stop-running-into-walls stage, up through the intensely curious preschool stage and the fun stage of elementary school where I finally had these two little PEOPLE who I could joke with and talk to and basically convince that I walked on water in my spare time.  All of it was pretty wonderful, actually.

And then we cut to now.  Where my oldest is fifteen and is desperately caught between childhood and adulthood. 

And I am basically useless to him. 

When he craves independence, it’s to be independent of me and my protection and my influence.  When he makes a big change in his life, I am sometimes the last to know.  And when he craves solace and comfort, I’m not a candidate because I “just can’t understand” what he’s going through. 

Seriously??  I can’t understand the person I pushed out of my body and have spent basically 24/7 with since that moment?? 

THIS is a stage of the process that I could honestly do without.  If you are in this stage as well, I send you my sincere condolences.  If you still have years before this stage, then please – – by all means – – enjoy them!

Someone wake me up when we get to the NEXT stage, please.  Or just assure me that along with this stage comes an extra layer of skin that I will soon grow into, okay? 

The Good News and the Bad News

So wow!  I can’t thank you folks enough for all the well wishes on my behalf after I shared my basically nauseating tale of having a mole on my upper back removed. 

The good news, though?  The little creep was innocent of all charges, and had been taken to the slammer unjustly.  However, as a result of the experience, he has decided to travel from school to school as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you forget to use sunscreen.  Be looking for him at an assembly near you…

On a totally unrelated note, however, I’m sad to report that my eldest son also has a growth that I have no idea how to get rid of.  It would seem that he and his netbook have become a single entity. 

Where my son goes, the netbook goes.  Coffee shop, grocery store, church, mall, homeschool gatherings. 

In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw him take it with him to the bathroom yesterday.

It’s becoming a little worrisome.  I’d like to separate him from his new gadget, but I fear it may take more than a visit to the dermatologist to get rid of this foreign body.  I’m not even sure a surgeon has got the skills needed for an excision like this one. 

Nope… this one is going to need some heavy-duty psychoanalysis, I think.  If I could only remember how I got H-T to finally give up that pacifier…

Who Is This Linux Guy…And What Does He Want With My Son??

Computer rigeneriamoci

Image by rigeneriamoci via Flickr

I’m not sure how your family actively studies vocabulary, but we have our own unique strategy around here: give birth to a geekling. 

Our 15-year-old has a new passion, and I can always tell, because a whole new crop of words begin cropping up in his daily conversations. Now I like to think of myself as somewhat of a word nerd, but I quickly realize I am out of my league when the following arcana starts to infiltrate our life:


Root (and I don’t mean like the plant!)




desktop environment

I kind of get the whole “desperate parent” thing Jon Voight has going on.  It is not exactly easy to be completely bypassed by the person who was asking you to help them tie their shoes not long ago! 

So to stay in step with my son it means I have to embrace the idea of Linux. 

Lordy, do I feel old today.

Awww…They’re Human Again

Parthenon from west

Image via Wikipedia

So yesterday, I gave into the whine that had been building up, and gave it free rein.

But today, I have been privileged to sit on the sidelines and watch and listen as my two wonderful young men have made their plans for learning today.  Thanks to the suggestion of Stone-Age Techie, we have begun to read aloud the first in the Percy Jackson series to supplement Uber’s current interest in Ancient Greek culture.

This read-aloud has led to a natural interest on H-T’s part in Ancient Greece as well – – especially the different gods and their attributes. So, the boys have added a documentary on Ancient Greece to the Instant Watch queue on Netflix.  Then, together (yes I said TOGETHER), they have decided to watch that documentary over the network, on our new BluRay player.

Then, as I have sat hear quietly eavesdropping from the bedroom, my two free-form scholars have begun watching and making the most awesome comments back and forth about things like airborne illnesses, Sparta, and the Coliseum.  It is a beautiful thing to listen to!

So I think at least PART of the prescription for the illness that is teenage-dom must be taking charge of one’s own education.  Perhaps it meets some of the cravings for independence that are so common at that age.  Whatever the reason, I’m feeling pretty doggone happy about this educational experiment.

For today, I have my young men back.  And I have unschooling to thank.


p.s. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to head back to Monday’s Topsy-Techie birthday giveaway to enter for a chance to win the Martha Stewart cake decorating kit!


Consider Yourself Warned, Moms

For many of you who have been following me for a while, you may already be aware of this, however it is completely new to me.  Why someone hasn’t given me a head’s up on this before now, I’m not quite sure.  It certainly would have been the compassionate thing to do.  But instead, everyone has simply let me find this out the REALLY HARD WAY.  No one thought enough of me to fill me in on the fact that…

I am the mother of two teenagers!!!!

For the past year or two, I have gone about my life blissfully unaware of this fact.  But in the last month, it has become all too clear.

Uber, for instance, who as a general rule is a VERY laid-back young man with a soft-spoken demeanor and a heart of putty, has recently turned into an emotional roller coaster of drama, defensiveness, and diva-tude – – especially in regards to his girlfriend (aka “soulmate”).  The Venus flytrap, a well known carnivorous plant

Have you ever seen a documentary about those weird carnivorous plants in the rain forest that sit there so peacefully and beautifully, and then some insect lands on them unawares and WHAMMO – – bug soup??!!  Well, I’ve experienced that phenomenon up close and personal by happening to drop the slightest of negative opinions about a recent action of said girlfriend within earshot of Uber.  WHAMMO!  – – Mom soup!!

But the real metamorphosis has taken place in my youngest spawn.  Dearest H-T, who has always been eager to please, slow to anger, and cuddly as heck, has morphed into this smart-alecky, know-it-all whose main goal in life is to push each and every one of my buttons.  In fact, I dare say his ability to go to sleep at night would be direly affected if he couldn’t look back with pride on his ability to turn me into a crazed demon at some point in the day. 

Have some advice for him?  Be ready for the snickers that will ensue.  Some words of wisdom?  Prepare to get not just an eye-roll, but a full on sneer of disgust.  Actually make the suggestion that he has fallen short in some manner?  Be on the lookout for a  lovely door-slamming, curse-mumbling display. 

Yes.  I know.  I’m wallowing in a bit of self-pity today.  I guess it is because up till now I thought I had successfully snuck by the line where they checked your “mom of teenager” credentials. I had “opted out” of the whole teenage drama-thing.

Why does life ALWAYS have to catch up with you???

So THIS is my good deed for the day.  Have a young man or woman around the house who is edging nearer to those lovely teen years? Unless your skin is much thicker than mine, go ahead and stock up on some titanium full body armor. 

Consider yourself warned.

I’m Not Talking To Myself…I’m Having A Parent/Teacher Conference!

Having been a homeschooling family for pretty much all of my sons’ educational careers has left me with a few nagging questions.

There are certain “quirks” my kids have that I never know whether to chalk up to their individual personalities or to the fact that they haven’t had the opportunity to have those idiosyncrasies teased, mocked, or beat out of them on a daily basis.

One in particular that is starting to cause me some consternation is H-T’s constant need to talk to himself.  He started this trend as a toddler.  He would repeat any and all dialogue from whatever TV show or cartoon he was watching.  H-T was late to talk, and required no small amount of speech therapy in his early years, so I actually thought his little habit was not only cute, but productive, as well.

The “little habit”, however, stretched out into most every moment of every day – – playtime with his imaginary friends, bath time with his floating tub-buddies, deep discussions at bedtime with whatever companions were busy helping him keep the monsters under his bed at bay.  Still, I knew he would grow out of it, and simply smiled at his vivid imagination.

But…fast forward to the present time, where a very-tall-for-his-age 13 year old is having full-blown conversations with the computer in his room and I begin to wonder – – just possibly – – if we might have a problem, Houston.

So to make myself feel better (and less guilty for aiding and abetting a serious personality disorder), I’ve begun making lists of jobs where talking to oneself might actually be a plus.

  • Truck Driver – staves off loneliness AND keeps one awake during long shifts
  • Telemarketer – even when you aren’t selling every appliance warranty in your catalog, your boss at least thinks you are
  • Businessman – I know that’s a pretty vague job description, but  one thing I’m certain of is that you are required to wear one of those Bluetooth thingies on your ear and are always talking to someone invisible anyway
  • Psychiatrist – So I’m not saying that I have any personal experience with this, but when psychiatrists talk all day long into those personal voice recorders, they definitely seem professional
  • Coach of a Professional Sports Team – Have you ever noticed that coaches ALL talk to themselves?  Yeah, I know that supposedly they are talking to the refs (who are across the field) or the players (who can’t possibly hear them over the cheerleaders), but they are actually just talking to themselves, aren’t they? 

So there is hope for H-T, right?  The fact that I have basically let him become his own radio DJ hasn’t turned him a into a total freakcase, has it? 

You WOULD tell me if it had, right?? 


A Homeschooler’s Wardrobe: The Solution

Decided to add a postscript to yesterday’s post when I discovered an ingenious website that might just solve most of my problems with weather-inappropriate wardrobe choices.

This is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” kind of websites, because it is so simple, but so brilliant.

It is called: “Sleeves”, and even the most technically challenged youngster (or mom) can figure this one out.  You simply type in your zip code into the home page, and you get your result of what to wear that day…long sleeves, short sleeves, go sleeveless, or Two Layers. 


sleeves 2

Now how can my kids possibly go wrong now?  

Please don’t answer that.


A Homeschoolers’ Wardrobe

Homeschooling has an interesting side-effect for my boys, that I’m not sure I started to pay attention to until fairly recently.  My children have no clue about clothing.  What’s in…what’s out.  It’s all Greek togas to them. 

Case in point…if I happen to leave both summer and winter clothing accessible to them, it is not unusual to see someone sitting around in shorts and a turtleneck.  Their idea of picking out something to wear is reaching into the closest drawer (hopefully one that is still j0283903 drooping open from yesterday so they don’t actually have to open it) and pulling out enough clothing to cover the parts they don’t want seen in pictures. 

Now this is fine and good while you are sitting in your bedroom, hidden away on your computer.  But what about if mom wants to take you out into the real world?  Now it get’s complicated – – not for them, but for mom.  Because at that point, we begin the repeating ritual that happens on a weekly, if not daily, basis at the Topsy household that I fondly like to call “the who-cares argument.”

It always begins with my suggestion that they look in the mirror.  I lead with this because having seen the ridiculousness that is their current wardrobe choice, I have this hope that someday they will “see it” for themselves.  Never happens.

So on to part two. 

Me: “We’re going out in just a little while, and I was hoping you might put on something a little more appropriate for the weather.  While the fuzzy vest was probably pretty cozy back during January, it probably just isn’t the best clothing choice for mid-June.”

Them: “Mom…it’s just clothes.  Who cares?”

Me: “I know it is just clothes, but besides being wrong for this climate, that outfit is also not really in style right now.  I think tube socks and sandals might have gone out a few years back.”

Them: “Mom, if we are running errands, we will probably never see those people again in our lives.  Who cares whether I am in style?”

Me: “You never know who we might bump into out there.  A neighbor, a church member, or God-forbid a future employer.”

Them: “Why would THEY care what we are wearing?  Do they own a clothing store?”

At this point my voice always starts getting an edge to it, and I am wearing down, and they sense it.  Time to pull out the big guns.

Me:”For all I know, some hot teenage girl will have started working at the pharmacy, and she will be the one to ring up our purchase, and you will have a chance to tell her that you like her nose ring, and she will giggle, and you will say something clever back, and then she will flash you her best smile, and you will brush your hair back over your ear, and she will lean forward over the counter to commence flirting and suddenly see that you are wearing a fuzzy vest, green shorts, and tube socks with sandals, and in horrified amazement, she will not only ignore your existence, but short change me, which will make me ill, and I will probably give you extra chores.” 

Works every time.  Off goes the fuzzy vest and the tube socks.  On goes the purple t-shirt which just happens to create some sort of 3-D effect with the green shorts.  But hey, I’m happy.  If you think I’m going to argue color schemes too, you’ve got another thing coming.  I’m going to let their wives worry with that one.

He Has Always Been A Star In My Book

I mentioned in my last blog post that Uber recently celebrated a birthday.  His 15th.  For those of you with kids under ten, let me assure you that YES, that really does make you feel old. 

Uber has always been a special kiddo.  He knew all his colors when he was eighteen months old.  He could read a newspaper when he was three years old.  He was doing simple algebra equations at age seven.  He has taught himself how to do almost anything he wants with a computer.

He has also dealt incredibly bravely with a difficult neurological disorder since he was five years old.  He has befriended everyone he has ever met. He has volunteered many hours of his time to help out various charities and non-profits.  He selflessly acts as an unpaid member of the Geek Squad for all his friends and family who hit computer snafus.

Can you tell I’m a bit of a proud mama?  I feel like I have bragging rights.  But apparently I’m not the only one who sees just how special he is.

Today, he received an incredible gift from his girlfriend.  She had a star named for him in honor of his birthday.  A star!!  I thought that only happened in the movies!! 

I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon and I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what happens between himself and this thoughtful young lady in the future, he will never be able to look up into the celestial beyond without remembering that he is special enough to have his name in “lights.” 

What more could a mom ask for her son’s 15th birthday??