10 Thoughts on Homeschooling

I spend so much time with homeschool families and around homeschool families that I’m surprised it can still seem so foreign to people. The misconceptions people have can be amusing at times and frustrating at other times.

In light of running into a few of thsoe lately let me just say a few things:

1) My children see plenty of other children. In fact, sometimes they are with friends until 8 p.m or later. They are well-socialized and regularly interact with people from babies and toddlers to older adults whom they love and respect.

2) We don’t spend our days like mole rats, hiding from the light of day with books and pens and paper. We do school at home, a few (for us, just a few) classes at Home Connection, Carolyn has girl scouts and riding lessons. We have tons of appointments. My kids are interacting with people and the world as much as any child, and sometimes maybe even more that some kids. My favorite days are the days when we sprawl out on the grass and read and learn and warm our bones.

3) We LOVE Home Connection But, for the most part for our family, it is a place where my kids take enrichment classes.
They take classes like sewing and art and exploring clay and piano. They get to dive deep with things they are interested, with other kids who share those interests, and with teachers who they love.

BUT those are not the “Real Classes” of their education. I’ve run into a couple of people lately who have made comments that make it clear that they see Home Connection or co-op classes as the REAL education and the stuff at home as “the fringe.” Nope. Not so much. *I* teach reading, and math, and science, and history, and writing, and civics. I LIKE it that way and I WANT it that way.

Even for those whose kids do Core at Home Connection (which is more of the math, literature, English, etc) parents are still co-educators. All the pieces of a kid’s education are “Real.”

4) My kids work together and learn together. They help one another. They aren’t locked in a room with me for their education. They also work with friends. Sometimes they have homework parties. Sometimes they take on extra projects with friends or sisters. Collaborative and cooperative learning happens a lot around here.

5) They aren’t just playing hooky and watching TV every day. They do have more down time than kids who are educated in other ways might. They are learning all the time. And they don’t like it when you ask them to prove that by quizzing them on what they know in conversation.

6) On the flipside, just becuase we homeschool doesn’t mean that I am churning out super geniuses. It is my hope and desire that they will all love to learn and pursue knowledge but they are kids with struggles and challenges and they aren’t super smart just becuase we’ve homeschooled them. (Though seriously, I think all my kids ARE super smart) When things like dyslexia are in the mix, I am especially grateful for the ability to tailor education specifically to my kids and their needs. We don’t focus so much on “grade level” as much as we focus on their individual levels and working them into the next one that comes.

8) I don’t do school at home. I don’t set up desks and give pop quizes and tests. Sometimes we do testing. Sometimes we practice taking tests so they are ready for that when it comes at them in other capacities, but by and large we learn things and find ways to interact with what we’ve learned. It doesn’t look like the way I remember things at public school, but they are learning and engaging a lot more deeply than I remember being able to.

9) I did not get hit over the head by the Patience Fairy’s wand when I decided to teach my kids at home. I am not any more patient than any other parent. I sometimes DO go head to head and toe to toe with my kids on their learning. I am often exasperated. They respond to me as Mom rather than as a neutral educator and that can be very challenging some days. I still do it. We work through it. Homeschooling doesn’t mean we are more virtuous or patient than other families. It often means that we’re always in a pressure cooker together where our flaws and humanness come to the surface constantly. That means we get to love one another through them and figure out how to move forward on the days that the kids just want a quit and Mom is out of patience. It’s messy and it’s tiring and frustrating some days, but it’s also beautiful and a chance for all of us to refine ourselves daily.

10) I love homeschooling my kids and it continues to be the path we choose for many reasons. But it’s not all that we are. They aren’t “just homeschoolers,” and I am not “Just a homeschool Mom.” We all have interests and talents and responsibilities outside of what we do as homeschoolers.

At the end of the day, this is just a choice my family has made because we believe it’s best for *our* family. We love it a lot of days. We feel ambivalent others. But, it continues to feel like the most right choice for us. It’s good stuff. It’s a different way to approach education. It’s a little out of the box and that’s one of the things I like the most about it. So we’ll keep doing it and doing the best we can just like I know all families do in the paths that we choose.


I Might Have Some Things To Say

I wander back here from time to time.  I’ve noticed lately that I have been composing blog posts in my head a lot, and so I’m taking that as a sign that it’s time to get back to writing.

What would I write about?

Well, for starters, I was diagnosed with another hard to pronounce rare disease.  Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  I practiced pronouncing that for about 3 weeks before I got it.  It’s shifted things a good bit in our house if only because we are eating vastly differently.   I’m on an elimination diet and staying away from a big swath of major allergens.  I don’t have it in me to be a food blogger.  I’ve always known this, but thinking about connection to food…  the soul connections of food…  loving with food.  All of that has compelled me to give voice to some thoughts.

I’m also churning over life in the U.S. in this particular bit of history we’re all living in.  I’ve never fit well into categories or boxes.  I still don’t.  So much is happening.  We are so polarized.  I can’t help but think we have settled so far into our polarized answers that we’ve stopped asking good questions.  I continue to want to look for good questions.

Husband is still in the Navy.  There is still a lot to say about that.  Maybe more than there ever was really  This place in his career is mind-bending.

I’m still in the process of mothering three amazing girls.  I want to protect their privacy here–more so as they get older, but I continue to be stymied at…  well how stymied I am by this role.  I assumed I’d grow into it.  And, in many ways, I guess that’s true…  but you don’t get more answers as they get older… only more questions.

Finally…  There are some rumblings in my mind and heart that may need voice one of these days.  I feel new things emerging…  and maybe old things that again need a voice.

I’m not promising to write every day.  It may be months before I come back to this, I don’t know.  But I’ve thought nearly every day about writing here, and I felt like I needed to write a post to pave the way for that.

We’ll see what happens.



The Sun is Red

So when I look out in my kitchen the sunlight hitting the floor is an unnatural red. When I look out in my backyard I can see the sun itself looks blood red and the sky is an unnatural dusk in the middle of the day kind of color. It’s a color not far from the “tornadoes are coming” color I remember growing up in the midwest.

I’ve heard that ashes are falling out of the sky in Seattle while people go to work, or to the dentist, or to the store.

How does this impact my day? Not hugely. I opted to exercise inside today instead of walk. I will teach my kids, get Abbie to her appointment, get groceries the same as I always do.

It’s like I am pretending that the abnormal is normal.

I saw in a startling map a photo of all the wildfires raging right now. I read about how the Columbia River Gorge has become an inferno. My dear friend has been praying for her parents in Montana for the last month. Down South the folks in Texas are recovering from Harvey and the folks in Florida and Georgia and the East Coast are preparing for Irma. Homes are ravaged. The heartache and devastation is massive.

Still,somehow, large swaths of unaffected people in our country go on relatively as normal, just like I do. Maybe they write a check for aid. Maybe they pray for those in the direct paths of destruction. There are people who are losing everything to “the way things are” right now. I can be blase about it, for now at least. They can’t.

This feels like where we are in America right now. We are looking outside and seeing that our sky is completely opaque and our sun is now blood red and the light it shines isn’t yellow but red and dark and different. And we are continuing on with business as usual pretending it’s all normal.

While the man in the White House condones White Supremacy–supports it even.

While he tries to take away health care from millions of people.

While Immigrants who have lived hear peacefully for years are being forcibly deported ripping holes into families and communities.

And now as individuals who came here as children and are part of the very fabric of America are being told that they will be sent back to a place that was never home to them in recent memory.

We are telling people who are transgender that they are too complicated to serve in our military. Supposedly because of a pittance amount of medical costs. Their service is being considered worthless. Their heroism glossed over. This is not about readiness. This is about discrimination.

We are watching things fly into instability near North Korea and a non plan, plan be put into motion in Afghanistan. Military Members and Civilians alike will be impacted by those things.

There are plenty of people for whom “business as usual” has become life-altering. But for most of us are sky is just a little opaque. It’s abnormal in ways that to my memory are unprecedented, but we keep going on about our days just as though the sky was blue just as it has been all along…   It doesn’t stir us to action outside of posting on Facebook and scratching our head at the oddity.

And this, I think, is why we are where we are.






  1. cut out (tissue or part of an organ).


Today is a day to consider that which might need to be cut out of my life.  To consider what tissue is participating in bringing life forward, and what tissue might be destroying it.


What impedes the flow of blood

Or breath?


What grows and replicates in ways it should not?

What is malign?

And what is benign but should not be there just the same?


This is a task of

Compassion and precision.


Today is a day to remember


Today is a day to affirm life

And cut out

All that does not.




Today of all Days

I was unconscious to the thing that saved my life.

Knife slipped through skin.

Danced around nerves.  Vessels.

Cut away the danger.

Sliced out the disease.

All While I slept.

(I wonder about the conversation they had over me

Did they talk about the weather, their love lives, what they’d have for lunch

Over my splayed out body?  I’ll never know…

Why does that trouble me?)


Today I shall be awake.

To that which saves my life…

To that which IS my life.


I want to taste and see.

Smell, feel, hear.


I want to breathe

Long, cool, droughts of air.

Or even heave deep breaths

Of lung-burning.



Today calls for Super-Hero senses

To suck up all that I am alive to.


I know it may not all be good.

The kids will giggle, but they will also bicker.

I will feel gratefulness.

But I may also remember fear.


And I may seek excitement.

But feel boredom in the end.


That is ok.

It doesn’t all have to be good

To be



But today, of all days,





Adventy Advent

It has been an exceptionally Adventy Advent.  Full of darkness that I couldn’t quite explain….  full of grasping and digging in with my finger nails for any shread of light.

I’m not even sure how to tell you about it, though I have tried to several times.

It was as if I just found myself in a room where the lights went off…  like someone had forgotten to pay the power bill and the past due notices weren’t getting through in the mail and suddenly with a click and a buzz and then a stillness, the darkness arrived and I yelped out loud at it’s totality.

The thing is, there should have been more light this year.  We are at the tail end of a deployment….  As people have been reminding me since before he left, “How wonderful that he will be home for Christmas!”

An Advent of waiting has been made very tangile.  My girls and I have been straining forward in this act of waiting for months now and we are about to realize the delight of the appearance of our beloved.

That’s a metaphor that’ll preach, no?

And yet…  the darkness has engulfed me.  Flat knocked the wind out of me.  Is it the fatigue of simply being on deployment number 5?  Is it the darkness that surely the whole world is feeling with the attacks around the world-Paris, Beirut, San Bernadino?  Is it the darkness of Bigotry that potential leaders are now spewing quite vocally and visibly instead of in dark corners?

Is it biochemical?   The short, grey PNW days have caught up to me again?

Or muscle memory from other dark Advents…  the year of the miscarriage…  the Christmases when we didn’t have him home…  the year of the tumor…  the year of learning to live without my Mom.

I don’t know.

My friend, Lia, posted a blog this week that had a paragraph that hit home so hard I choked on it.

Every year I think now this year, this is the year I finally *get* Advent. The sadness, the waiting, the longing for all things to be made new. And every year I do understand it a little bit better. This does not show any sign of stopping.”

It doesn’t show any sign of stopping….  it seems to be something that is inside of me this time of year and I can do nothing but let it in to do a work in me.

I vacilate between embracing it and rebelling against it.

There are moments when I have exhaled in deep relief when I realized that it was advent…  As I’ve written before, Advent gets the darkness.  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

If there is a time in the church calendar for the darkness  and the light that follows to be allowed in to do it’s work, it is this one

But in the face of fighting for the emotions that I want to have–namely relief, excitement, joy at my husband’s impending return I have also been deeply discouraged by the darkness.  Discouraged and distressed.

I have felt shattered.  shipwrecked.

And panicked honestly.

I offer no answers here…  I haven’t found the end of this darkness, though I hope that some of it will lift when I find myself in the arms of my husband again.

I only know that in this season the darkness is acknowledged and expressed and invited in to do some myserious furniture moving in our souls….

And this is so because light is coming.  “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…”

I can invite the darkness in and hand it a snack and a blanket because it is working something out in me….  something that will be redeemed in a shaft of light, and an unexpectedely small form.

It will not get the final word.

This year, as in every year, the light will overcome the darkness…

I will hold tight to that here as I wait for the lights to come back on.





Dear Dr. C,

Dear Dr. C,

Eight years ago, I sat in your office trembling…  Because I was going to have to ask for help.  I was going to have to talk about things I didn’t want to talk about.  I was going to have to say the word ‘depression’ out loud.

And I did.  And I promptly ran away from it and denied that it could have anything to do with me.

You didn’t run away from it.  Or from me and my tears and my over-talking and my telling you about a few years worth of grief and challenge.

You listened.  You handed me a tissue.  And then you helped me want to get better.

There are these holy moments that happen during our ordinary days.  Both of us thought that visit would be pretty ordinary.  I mean, I knew it would be uncomfortable and that it was a big step to ask for help…  but I also knew that it was a 15 minute appointment in the middle of your day that was crammed full of appointments.

You couldn’t have known that the words that you would say that day would be words I called up continually 8 years later.  Or that you shared such wisdom and such insight into my life that day that I would use the same wisdom and insight to unpack events that would happen far into the future.

I must have seemed like a tea pot just hissing and spitting out water uncontrollably at you that day.  I cried.  I recounted the two years prior–the deployments.  Losing my Mom. Her illness. Being pregnant and all the memories it stirred up.

As much as I didn’t want it to be depression, I didn’t want it to be grief even more.  And you called me out on it.

You watched my body language.  You said you saw me actually try to push the words down and away from me as I told you that it wasn’t grief I was dealing with.

I was so angry that my body betrayed me to you.

But I have always felt a sense of grateful awe that you paid such close attention.

You said the word “bereavement,” and I recoiled…

I was supposed to be over the grief by then, I thought.  Only two years out from losing my Mama and I wanted it to be “over.”

You told me there was no finish line….  and that it was ok that I wasn’t through this yet.  You said it wasn’t a race and that there was all the time in the world to feel what I needed and get to the other side.

And then you cast a vision for me….  You helped me look forward in a place where all I could do was look back…  and then see where I was in that moment and feel stuck.  Just so very stuck in depression and sadness and things I just couldn’t seem to get over.

You helped me believe that it could be better and that happier moments were coming.

You told me that day, “Val.  You have faced a lot of challenges.  I can see that.  And I believe that in the not too distant future, you are going to look back at this time and say, ‘I got through that too.'”

I have echoed those words more times than I can count.  I have said it to women who were battling with postpartum illnesses.  I have said it to friends who were overwhelmed with challenges.

I have said it to myself when the mountains loomed high and my fear felt even higher.

I have gone over and over those words that happened in that one simple office visit for eight years now.  But I have also referenced those words in conversations with others, in speeches, and at retreats.

Holy moments that echoed deeply into the future that came out of you just doing your job.  Listening.  Paying attention.  Taking the time to be compassionate.

8 years later, and you no longer practice medicine here.  In fact, I heard through the grapevine that you aren’t even in the state anymore.

But tonight as I reference your wisdom yet again and think about that day and how deeply caught and cared for I felt, gratitude springs up in me.  And I desperately want the chance to just say THANK YOU.

Thank you for showing up.  Thank you for doing your job well.  Thank you for practicing the kind of medicine that sees people–even in a system that tends to push people through like an assembly line of illness.

You did cast a vision for me that day, and I grabbed on and held tight for dear life.  Your words stayed with me and have reverberated into other challenges.  You helped me get through cancer with those words–and that was years before I’d even feel a lump.  You gave me those words to call on during deployments, and other bouts of depression.

You reminded me that life would be a string of “I got through that too,” and that rather than that meaning that life was a string of challenges, it would mean that life was a string of triumphs.

Dr. C, wherever you are I hope you know that you make a difference.  I hope you are still showing up with compassion and really listening.  I hope your detective skills and your perceptiveness of body language is still just as keen.

It was an ordinary moment on what, I assume, was a very ordinary day of office visits for you.

But it changed my life in ways that continue to echo on.

It was the definition of the holy ordinary.

That’s what real healing looks like.  That’s good medicine.

With gratefulness,