Viscera

I’m going to try this post again. I’m just not happy with the first go-round.
I sounded redundant and bitchy and entitled, and while I am probably all those things, I can, at the very least, express it in a more existential way.

My birth certificate tells me that in 5 weeks I will have spent 40 years as a human.

Yes, I’ve been a bitter human at times. I was the epitome of the little girl who always wanted to be a big girl, always wanted to “do it all by my own self,” and viciously hated authority.

I look back at my childhood and, although much of it was idyllic, the bitter parts still sometimes invade the idyll in my memories.

I can do it all by my own goddamned self. And I still viciously hate authority.

I guard my heart with a fucking cement wall because when you are a child, your heart belongs to whomever thinks they have a legal claim to it.

You see, in the Big World there exists a special kind of vampire that feeds off the fledgling spirits of the Little World. Even the kindest and gentlest grownups in a child’s life cannot protect them from these toxic monsters. .

It is a kind of toxicity that permeates everything and lingers long. It is anger and narcissism and complicated neediness piled upon a child at an age when she is still trying to define her own feelings and should never be shouldered with the responsibility of someone else’s emotional and mental health.

Her spirit is slowly drained of its sanguine vitae by these vampires who, when challenged, are always able to conveniently provide proof of legal consent. Legality always equals morality when it suits their purpose, and when it doesn’t, they simply vomit words until one of them hits the bull’s eye.

I look back on that time in my life and feel the same rush of anger and urgency as a claustrophic stuck in a storm drain. It’s a feeling that guides my decisions on an almost daily basis. It is why I raised my children with as much free agency as was practical, short of letting them dance naked around a fire throwing rocks at Piggy.

It is why I refuse to fake a friendship, pretend to love, or show respect to those who haven’t earned it.

It is why I refuse to be guided by social expectations for their own sake.

It is why I show love by giving more of myself to others than by what I can take from them.

More than anything else, feeling as though I had no agency as a child was the most poisonous pill to swallow. There was always someone who thought they knew better than I did what was best for me physically or psychologically. Children have no choice over who they spend their time with, who is allowed to influence them, who is allowed to frighten them, who is allowed to raise them. If they’re lucky, they can at least voice their opinions, but in the end, the government knows best.

At almost 40 years old, I am still angry. Angry that I had no choices, no right to my own body, time, or space; that my wishes, my needs, and all attempts to hold them sacred were taken away by people who used equations to map out my childhood, replacing my name with an anonymous variable and making choices for me that had zero basis in what I wanted or needed.

I am angry that there were people in my life who thought they had a right to tell me who I must love and respect. Because I was a child. And by law, I was required to hand over my soul, the one thing that was my own and belonged to no one else, simply because they believed they have a right to take it.

I am angry that my childhood was fractured into two camps- the sane and the insane- and I was legally required to sleep in both tents. Because I was a child. And I couldn’t possibly know insanity even as it screamed in my face.

I am angry that I was told what I should and shouldn’t, what I could and couldn’t, what I will and won’t.

Yes, those things still make me angry, but I have learned how to use that anger. I use it when I give something I have to someone who needs it more. I use it when I fearlessly defend the hearts of the people I love. I use it when I show my children how much I respect their ability to make their own decisions by allowing them to make those decisions. I use it every time I admit I am wrong, every time I consider an alternate opinion, every time I hand the reigns to someone else because they’d rather go their own way for a little while.

But because that anger is so real and so visceral and so present, the number of people I love enough to hand the reigns to is so very, very small. Or maybe it’s because, in point of fact, there are so few people who deserve it. Both could be true.

Once upon a time, there was a peach tree sapling in the middle of a desert. Its roots were strong, its branches lithe, but it could not run or hide. Its voice was but a whisper of rustling leaves. The man who helped plant the tree was a broken man, spiteful and jealous; he felt entitled to every peach dangling from her tiny branches. He was deaf, starving, and did not know nor care if she needed water, shade or warmth. He couldn’t hear her begging for it even if he chose to listen, and would have refused to spare the little he had for himself even if he could’ve heard her.

When the rain and shade or sun came to her rescue, they would plead with the starving man to give her a chance to grow. He would drool, grunt, posture like a rabid animal, then strip her limbs bare.

Was he afraid that if she was allowed to grow unharmed, she may become stronger than him? (She did.)

Was there truly no more substance to this man than the hollow shell of a pseudo-human? (There wasn’t.)

The water, shade, and sun stood strong and reliable. In every direction the little sapling’s branches could reach, all three were there. They nurtured and soothed her. She knew love because she felt quenched, fed, and safe. They were everything the little sapling needed, but none of them could stand against the fury of the starving man.

He said he loved her with every peach he stole. Juice running down his neck, he muttered small words as he ripped and tore, gnashed and snarled.

One day, he said to the sapling, “Oh, how I have loved you. I travel here every day to see you. That proves how much I love you. I have admired your beautiful fruits. That also proves how much I love you. I even helped to plant you! Why don’t you bow your branches to me the way you bow to the rain and the shade? Why don’t you throw your branches toward me the way you throw them toward the sun? Have they turned you against me? Don’t you love me, too?”

She thought about this for a while. The man became anxious.

She knew one kind of love, the kind she felt from the rain and sun and shade, the kind that asked nothing from her but that she grow strong and solid and real.

Yet, her mind could not wrap itself around this other kind of love, the kind that is demanded, expected, and taken. She thought about this a while longer, putting the pieces together in her little mind.

Soon, the answer became clear. The sapling then told the man, “I’m sorry, but I cannot love you. You have no peaches for me to steal.”

How to Question Everything

confirmation, confirmation bias, idiocracy, election, opinionated, social media, clickbait, bias, sources

At some point in our lives, someone will inevitably give us the clichéd advice to question everything. As we grow into adolescence, we may begin to have a vague understanding of what exactly question everything really means. Yet, only a very few people are able to get down to the nittiest and grittiest depths of the question everything axiom, where the very ground beneath us becomes itself a question.

Conspiracy theorists are those who veer far off the path of the question everything mantra and into the realm of “factual information is purposefully hidden from us and nothing can be trusted, especially if it disagrees with what I [think I] know to be true.”

Others, though not as extreme as conspiracy theorists, have  such tightly held beliefs that almost nothing will ever change their minds. Humanity has an inherent revulsion toward being wrong, and many are doggedly opinionated believers whose very identity hinges on the veracity of the beliefs they hold. For these people, the realization that they may be wrong could span a wide range of emotions, everything from simple humility and/or humiliation to the utter loss of the very essence of the self. The easiest thing to do is to push that possibility aside.

Nothing illustrates these points more than a lame-duck presidential election year. I’ve reached several conclusions.

-Most people will vote along party lines regardless of anything.

-When those whose ideals about their candidate are so irretrievably shattered they will, for the most part, stop defending their candidate but continue attacking the other candidates.

-Most people have a penchant for desperately clinging to any and all information that proves they are right.

-Totally objective and non-partisan conscience voters are becoming extinct.

-Sensationalist media is malignantly implicit in making people lazy when it comes to fully educating themselves on our country’s political process, the ability to objectively discern for themselves the issues that matter and those that don’t, how to weed out fact from fiction, trustworthy and untrustworthy sources,  and the ability to take themselves off of autopilot and be an active and objective participant in the search for real information.

All of these aberrancies in human behavior are much more immediate threats to democracy than any individual political candidate. These are the problems that are fueling our downward spiral into Idiocracy, the consequences of humanity’s loss of judgment, the loss of free will and individual thought, the loss of the ability to self-educate and to find equilibrium from our own inner strength and intellect rather than depending on Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

In this vein, I am going to leave you with the following questions, not necessarily to be debated or answered definitively by the reader, but merely to be thought about. It is frightening that people seem to have lost the ability to think for themselves, that they rely on blatantly biased articles on blatantly biased websites, clickbait, unflattering magazine pictures, comedians, and sound bites to prove an opinion held with such ferocity that even if God himself appeared in tangible form and said “you are wrong,” they still would not believe.

To those who are either actively or passively interested in politics, political candidates, and the search for truth, especially those who share, post, or retweet articles on social media, reach out to friends and family through emails with links to information found online, or use information found online to debate politics face-to-face with neighbors, friends, and family, I leave you with these questions:

  1. When you come across an article online that confirms your political beliefs, opinions, or points or view, do you immediately find yourself excited and share it without a second thought?
  2. Do you ever look at the source of the article (the name of the website or the author of the article)?
  3. Do you ever conduct any independent research on the source of the article (website) and/or the author of the article?
  4. If you do, are you capable of recognizing when a source or an author clearly has a biased motive for writing the article?
  5. If you recognize bias, do you actively search for articles with an opposite leaning bias in an effort to gain a broader picture of the subject matter?
  6. Does it ever occur to you that the source and/or author’s bias colors the information represented as fact? Does it ever occur to you that the information represented as fact may, indeed, not be factual?
  7. Do you know how to not only fact-check information, but also attempt (as much as possible) to fact-check the fact-checking websites in an effort to discover if they themselves have their own biases?
  8. Have you ever felt absolutely, unequivocally certain about a particular opinion or fact, only to later find information that proved you wrong, and you actually changed your mind?
  9. Have you ever been taught how to properly source information and spot self-serving hyperbole, speculation, conjecture, and loss of context?
  10. Do you realize that for every single opinion or belief that can possibly exist, you can easily find someone in the world who agrees with you, as well as purportedly factual information on the Internet that would seem to prove you are right? (Flat Earth Society,FoodBabePsychiatry: An Industry of Death,Total Video Proof of Moon Landing Hoax).
  11. Do you know what confirmation bias is? Considering all that you have just read, can you retrospectively recall incidents when you may have unwittingly become victim to it?

I truly do have faith that the concept of an informed voter is still alive, but each time I see a careless piece of garbage sensationalism shared and reshared by those who proclaim it as gospel, little by little, that faith is chipped away. What I am suggesting is a call to arms that creates a nation of knowledge where the individual holds the power of truth and not the media.

Übermensch

“This world can take everything from usIMG_485580441
can forbid us everything,
but no one has the power to keep us from wiping ourselves out.” – Emil Cioran (eternal pessimist, died a recluse- “suicide by wasting?”)

“Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.” (Friedrich Nietzsche- suffered a mental breakdown at aged 44, among other things, from which he never recovered.)

I often wonder if I carry a responsibility to be more open about the truths of mental illness. Or, rather, open at all. Or rather, admit that it even exists…. within myself. I started a silly blog once. I intended it to be anonymous for this very purpose. It didn’t turn out that way and evolved into the silly blatherings of a woman who thought there was purpose in owning an identity given her at such a young age, medicated for it, and came out the other end. It backfired tremendously. Talking about it in such a frank manner only made it a gaudy, ornamental elephant in the room- a dramatization of who I really was. The words just poured out of me and turned me into something I wasn’t- an overly dramatic banshee of verbose poetry and flash fiction. There was one thing- a wonderful friend- that did come from it, which I do not regret. Yet, for the most part, it was ridiculous blather.

Someone I know recently committed suicide.

She was part of our family for seven years, and in those seven years, she was never a woman known to be given to mental illness, despair, disillusionment, or inescapable sadness, not even to her husband. This was not a marriage in trouble. Quite the opposite. These two people did everything together. They enjoyed all the same interests. They laughed together. Constantly. They fished together. All the time. They  took precious Facebook photos together. She had a huge social network of friends who adored her.. She was a country girl, no doubt. She loved getting dirty, catching gaters, and running her and her husband’s fishing and boating business likaboss.

On reflection, as is quite common in many, many hindsight reflections on the suicide of a family member, the only hint one can conjure are more frequent mentions of fatigue and lethargy. Most people never realize that this is emotional fatigue and not physical. It’s a purposeful deception, and many people who are depressed are extremely good at it. Many times, they’ve had a lifetime of practice.

But I know how these people engineered that. I know exactly how they do it, how they can lie to their entire family and social network, and I know exactly how it makes them feel.

It’s simply a false vacuum of reality painstakingly, and often subconsciously, constructed over time. It is a mask of normality patched together in the image of all the social norms perceived in the life swirling just outside of one’s reach. Its construct is based on shame, guilt, worthlessness, emotional exhaustion, and a darkness to which the soul can travel that few humans can ever conceive. This is not a place one finds themselves upon waking overnight. It’s a long journey into that abyss, one in which the scenery never changes but your perception of it warps in darwinian time until there comes a day when all you see and hear around you is acutely not what others see and hear.

That is where a road in the mind forks. One person, such as myself, living in this same intolerable vacuum, will scream aloud for someone, anyone, to puncture that bubble because although that journey and that mask took years to create, I realize how false and fragile it is, and how quickly it can be dissolved by merely shedding my mask before one whose feet are firmly planted where my toes no longer reach. The alternative fork in the road, the tragic and irreversible one, is taken by those who cannot see the bubble but only what the peepholes of their masks show them. Disordered perception has become irrevocably real, the mask flesh, and to even the soundest mind, there is no escape from flesh but through the destruction of life.

How can one person see the bubble and the other cannot? How can one person see the fork in the road and another sees only a straight path on a dead-end road? How can one be so loved, so surrounded by those who’d hold her hand in an all-night vigil as she sheds that mask, no matter the screams or chunks of farce that must be bleached away, yet not see any hands at all?

It seems to me that, in 2016, with all the attention paid to ending the stigma of mental illness, the fact that anyone can define that kind of stoicism- the mask of zen hiding a gauche perversion of the psyche- as a personality strength is confusing and antithetical. The failure to have the courage to reach out, to anyone, is a weakness. A terrible, tragic, and selfish weakness.

And that brings me back to my original perplexion. Do I have a responsibility to be vocal about mental illness? Do I have a responsibility to talk about how I have learned to live alongside it, maneuver around it, find courage and strength in knowing I need help rather than creating a false reality of strength in the lie of normality?

Only five people on the whole of this planet know who I truly am. Or rather, who I was. I am not something I talk about in casual conversation. Diagnoses of the mental sort are not something I talk about. I am not even sure I believe in them. But I do believe in dark places. I do believe in that mask of zen and the vacuum of false realities. I’ve worn that mask, and I’ve found myself locked in that vacuum. But I also believe that no one has the right to allow someone to love them, emotionally invest in them, rely on them, lean on them, cry with them, laugh with them, plan their lives around them, and then violently and purposefully rip themselves away from the world.

Conversely, I also know that those suffering from such a warped reality have zero ability to see the continuation of their life in this way. They are not selfish. They are in agony.

There are no do-overs. There is no absolution. This person has not only taken themselves away, but taken away the options of all those in their sphere of influence. They have irreparably, and without permission, changed the course of the lives of dozens, or hundreds, of people. They have damned them to a life of questions never answered, pleadings never heard, guilt never assuaged, anger without a target, screams without a receptive ear, inextricable violent memories- the permanent intricacies of the scars of the most selfish damage a human being can levy upon another.

And they’ve robbed themselves of the chance to discover the best version of who they could have been.

I’ve admitted to at least one, or all, of those five people who know the me behind the mask that suicide has never been a thing that has crossed my mind, not even in my darkest of moments. I’ve joked that I am far too narcissistic to think the world could possibly be better off without me.

The truth is that I feel a responsibility to whatever chaos patched my organic subatomic particles into a living being, a responsibility such that as long as there is air within my lungs, I must breathe it. Whatever may come. However laboured that next breath may be. However painful that next inhale and exhale, as long as my lungs expand and contract with that beautifully perfect mixture of nitrogen and oxygen, I must allow them to expand and contract.

The stardust that congealed the chaos which became me is still within me. Who am I to scatter it to the aether, only for it to congeal into some other being, perhaps far more frightening and damning than I could ever be?

I have no right.

No one does.

Nietzsche also said
“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.
Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.
‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and blinks.
The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.”

I am not the last man, and I am surely not the overman.  I am merely a flea among fleas, with a responsibility to take every breath required of me, even when accepting my own fate, over the bridge, toward the Übermensch I may never become, but have no right to deny myself, but more importantly, to deny anyone else.

Narcissism or self-deprecation?

Perhaps both, or neither, depending upon one’s impoverished understanding of Zarathustra. And fleas.

But, truth.

I know that I cannot create a caricature of myself for the benefit of others to define mental illness or to navigate the labyrinth of the darkest corners of the mind. I cannot lead anyone by the hand through that maze. I cannot stop those whose mask of sanity has fused to their flesh so tightly that the only way they can free themselves is to crumble back to stardust, the velocity of their final wisp of existence and the violence of their self-destruction measured in Planck time.

I can only take responsibility for my breaths, for those who are bathed in them and those whose breaths search for my body in turn. I can only think of human things, wonderful and awful human things, like unsated passion, the desire for a flicker of life in eyes looking into mine, my desire for them equaling their desire for me.

I can only take responsibility for the lives I brought into this world, the men who look to me as the woman who will define all other women in their lives. It’s a yardstick any mother would be a coward to shatter.

I am no coward.

But I am also no savior.

I cannot take responsibility for those who do not want to be saved. I can only look into the stars on this Blue Moon and think of eternal recurrence, all that which is repulsive, but also all that is divine.

 

Marmalade

I had a dream last night that I’m sure would make a brilliant- if not Huxley-esque- story. Of course, it’s like all my dreams, simply fragments of ideas.

It begins with the idea that there are certain children suddenly being born with the inability, or lack of desire, to eat human food. They grow and develop normally, but no one can figure out why and how.

From what I can gather, these children are alien spawn. Kind of like a purposeful panspermia thing. Otherworldly beings are putting their fertilized ova inside the wombs of human women.

Turns out, the interloping alien parents are actually feeding these children with some kind of marmalade-flavored drink. I don’t know how these children procure the drink, all I remember is a quick scene where one child, maybe 10 or so, is in a car with his mother. She is circling a parking lot looking for a place to park. Suddenly, Bruce Willis shows up.

For real.

He knocks on the window of the car and asks the boy if he has any marmalade. The boy opens a secret compartment in the car and hands over a bottle.

Next scene.

It then appears as though this boy, or the whole lot of these alien hybrids, are transported to the world from whence their DNA came. They are told it is a world where they have no needs because they are all provided for, but they have no wants because the concept of wanting, whether fulfilled or not, does not exist for them. And, of course, everyone lives happily together. Lalalala.

*Then there is something to do with a purple nitrile glove with legs which scuttles by my feet as I am inspecting a factory*

Cut scene.

The caveat is suddenly revealed.

The Earthling-hybrids are told they will be allowed to move to this world, but while all their needs will be met equally as with the pure-bloods, they will continue to retain the Earth-trait of wanting…..  which will forever be unrequited.

OR…. they could return to Earth, forever doomed to a fate of drinking marmalade juice, facing the ever present possibility of going without a need, but also the hope and self-determination to fulfill a desire.

Hmm…..

the end.

My Big, Fat Homeschooling Post- Revised

This original post was written almost 3 years ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, when several of my friends were asking questions about homeschooling. I’ve had a couple of people ask me again recently, so I decided to repost it.

In the past 3 years, I have very little to change from my original post except to say that at 19 and 20, while my little bugsies are now growed up……. they still live at home. So, take any advice I give with a grain of salt🙂

They’ve been homeschooled pretty much from day one.  I think Jake made it to the middle of first grade.  Andrew never made it past preschool.  His preschool teacher took it upon herself to diagnosis a 4-year-old little boy with ADHD because he liked sticking his fingers in the fan and wouldn’t sit still for story time.  That just happened to coincide with Sarge getting orders to South Korea.  I took them out of school, we moved across the world.  We actually did have every intention of putting them back in school when we got back to the States.  Then we got back.  And I really cannot explain what Sarge and I saw in our boys that made us change our minds.  There was something about them that was just different.  We never put them back in school.

I spent the next several years patchworking every kind of curriculum I could think of.  Everything from the little workbooks at Wal-Mart, all the way to full-on school-at-home with Calvert School.  I read an article on the Department of State website geared toward foreign ambassadors and Calvert School was one of the distance education options they suggested.  Good enough for ambassadors, good enough for my kids, right!

I beat myself up.  A LOT.  If I regret anything, it would be that.  Beating myself up for not being organized.  For not sticking to a schedule.  For not sticking with a curriculum.  For not forcing them to do schoolwork.

I beat myself up because I thought I was ruining them.  I would never be good enough.  They would never be good enough.  They would grow up and hate me.  On and on it goes.

Honestly, it wasn’t until about 3 or 4 years ago when I quit beating myself up and made a decision.  Although, I never really told anyone that decision except my mother.  That decision was to officially become an unschooling parent.  You can read all you ever wanted to know about unschooling here.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling I read a lot about John Holt’s philosophy, read Sandra Dodd’s blog.  I had really been doing it all along, I just kept trying to be something I wasn’t and would never be.  But it was at this point when I just let go.  I completely let go.

I didn’t tell anyone because I knew the whole thing had the potential to be a gigantic clusterfuck freight train headed for disaster.  I knew that would be the thought process of everyone who knew, and they’d all be looking at me out of the corners of their eyes just to see the train wreck.  Perhaps, I thought, if I don’t tell anyone and this all goes horribly wrong, maybe I’ll still have time to fix it?  I don’t know.

So, I am telling you now.  And anyone who wants to know.  My kids were unschooled.  We don’t have textbooks.  Or desks.  Or school hours.  Or any kind of studious discipline.

They take standardized tests every year, as per North Carolina homeschooling law, but they just fill in the little bubbles randomly, I send it off to be machine graded, and stick them in a folder.  I have never even looked at the stanines, or whatever the fuck it’s called.  Nor do I care.

My kids have taught me more than school ever did.  I truly believe this experience has turned me into a different person entirely.  Watching my kids discover their world.  Teaching them how to learn, fostering in them a passionate desire to want to learn.  Do you know what is more amazing than your child running through the front door waving an immaculate report card at you?  Watching your kid teach himself a musical instrument, and actually wind up being ridiculously talented enough to stand up next to professionals.   Watching that child you thought would never learn to read…. teach himself how to read.  And not with books or worksheets.  But just during the normal course of his life.

I stopped pretentiously dogging on formal schooling long ago.  It’s a bullshit attitude to have.  A lot of kids thrive in school.  They have wonderful experiences.  So, I am only going to say this once.  The other thing you learn the most when you have unschooled your children is…. okay…. this stings… but…. how little formal secondary education matters.   And how quickly an enterprising child who loves to learn is able to teach himself the few useful things he needs to know to move into adulthood.  I listen to both of them talk.  I have conversations with them.  In the course of those conversations, I tell them things.  Things I knew they probably did not know because they never went to school.  And I will tell them these things, and then they say, “Duh, Mom… everyone knows that.”  You know, obvious shit like how the axial tilt of Uranus makes it look like it’s tipped over on its side.  Sorta like, everyone knows Mickey Mouse, and everyone knows Uranus has an axial tilt of 97.77 degrees.  Duh.  Idiot.

Andrew does that all the time.  And I think he surprises me most because he’s not nearly as…. uuuhhh… vocal as Jake is.  Jake will just verbally slap me in the face and say, “Shit, I didn’t even go to school and I know more than you.” And I smile.  And nod my head.  Because he’s right.

But this blog post really isn’t supposed to compare my own way of teaching my children to any other mode of education.  This is not intended to convince anyone of anything.  Or to spit hatred toward formal education.  Or any of that.  Because I don’t hate formal education.  I just chose not to pursue that for my children.  The purpose of this blog post is simply advice.  I have had a lot of people over the years, and even more lately, ask me about homeschooling.  They ask for advice, where to look for curriculum, how to start, all of those things.  So here goes.

First, check out HSLDA.  The Homeschooling Legal Defense Association.  There, you will find the homeschooling laws and governing bodies for your state.

For North Carolina, it is The Department of Nonpublic Education.

Go to those websites.  Read, read, and read.  Follow the law.  Do the things you are supposed to do.  Some states have more lenient laws than other states.  But know that no matter where you live, you aren’t just going to fall off the grid.  You are answerable to someone.  Like it or not.

Second thing.  And this paragraph is most important.  Decide on how you want to teach, or not teach, your children.  Decide on a curriculum.  And then….. realize that this will change with the wind.  At any given moment.  Anytime.  All the time.  You are going to start homeschooling just like a kid on the first day of school.  Brand new backpack, brand new Lisa Frank pencils and pencil box.  Brand new Trapper Keeper.  Brand new clothes and shoes.  Everything smells new and exciting.  And by the time Christmas break comes around, you’re ready to stick an ice pick in your ear.  Homeschooling is no different.

Some homeschooling moms have the perfect personality for this.  They love charts.  They love being organized.  They love playing school.  They make a goal and keep it.  They dig in with both feet and barrel through it with guns blazing.

And then, there is you.  You are going to hate yourself.  Your charts will get lost beneath the electric bill and accidentally thrown in the trash.  You will have conversations with other parents about what their kids are learning in school, and will immediately be absolutely certain that your children are mentally retarded and it’s all your fault.  You will assume all of this means you were not cut out to be a homeschooling parent.  And you will assume that your only choice is to relent and run to your nearest principal’s office.  At this point, many parents quit.  Those are the parents who say, “Yeah, we tried it for a while, but it just wasn’t for us.”  If you choose to do that, there is no shame in it.  You do what you think is right for your child.  Full stop.

If you choose to stick with it, I will say this.  Don’t do what I did.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Have faith.  And that is coming from someone who barely believes in oxygen because she can’t see it.  Have faith.  Have faith in yourself.  But more than that, have faith in your child.  If you believe in him or her, they will feel it.  If you truly believe they are smart, it will rub off on them.  If you value your child as a human being, if you ask their opinions and mean it, if you have conversations with them about real-world topics, you are telling them that you believe they are smart enough to keep up, and then, they will go make themselves smart enough to keep up.  See how that works?

Along with faith, be real.  Be real in front of your children.  Have faults, and talk about them.  Fuck up, and apologize.  Relate to them with real-life stories.  And listen to theirs.  What does any of that have to do with homeschooling?  Because you are making yourself more than a parent.  You are making yourself a human being they respect.  If they respect you- not as an authority figure, but as a human being- they will listen to you.  They will hear you.  They will consider your words, allow your words space in their brains.  They will know that you might not always have an answer, and if you don’t, you’ll find one, and then you’ll show them where you found it, and now they magically know how to find answers for themselves.

After a while, once you’re done with the initial freak-out, once you’ve spent gads of money on all sorts of curricula only to toss it all out the window in the second month, and then spend the next 10 months blaming yourself for it.  Once you’ve gotten over that, school becomes a non-issue.  Totally a non-issue.  That might happen sooner for some of you, much later for others.  It was much, much later for me.  Like, 2-3 years ago.  I did not belong to any parenting or homeschooling support groups.  I knew a few homeschooling parents, but they were nothing like me.  Even the unschooling ones.  I just never fit in.  Hell, the boys’ cub scout pack was almost entirely made up of homeschoolers, and that was a fucking joke.  That shit had to be the most pretentious and self-important bunch of human beings I had ever met.  And my kids never liked their kids, either.   So, whenever I had a “Oh my god, my kids are going to be on welfare and they will hate me forever” moment, I had no one else who could relate to me and tell me what to do, or how to feel.  I learned on my own.

A lot of unschooling parents do subscribe to the theory of doing a bit of actual textbook work in the older high school years, and in hindsight, I think I’d be an advocate for that. However, you may find that once your kids are that age, they will want to learn it on their own. They will find their own websites and information.  Because you taught them that.  You taught them to love learning.  You taught them how to find answers.  So when the idea of going to college becomes a little seedling in their mind, and you show them the kinds of things most high school seniors need to know (meaning, really, honestly need to know.  Meaning, seriously.  Considering most college freshman years are spent reviewing everything you just learned in high school), they will sit down and learn it.  More than likely, it will take them a month or so.  Maybe shorter.  Maybe longer.  But you won’t have to do anything.  You’ve already done your job.  Going over and nudging shoulders with your kid and trying to “teach” just annoys the hell of out them… because they’re busy learning shit.  And you’re in the way.   See how that works?

This is the point where I am going to give you some more links.  I’m going to look in my school folder in my bookmarks and pick out the ones I think are most helpful.  These should get you started pretty quickly on the road to that emotional breakdown that will cause you to either 1) Give up and enroll them in school tomorrow, or 2) Feel absolutely right in your element, your kids are thriving, you’re proud of them, and all is right with the world.  Or, 3) Lie to yourself with daily Stewart Smalley-esque affirmations until, 10 years later, it finally becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you go online to your blog and admit to the world that you don’t teach your children dick or squat.  And they are still fucking brilliant.

Homeschool Supercenter

Core Curriculum of America

University of Texas High School

Indiana University High School

Texas Tech University Elementary School

Texas Tech University Middle School

Texas Tech University High School

Calvert School 

Keystone School (Middle and High)

Time4Writing (online writing courses, elementary thru high)

Time4Learning (One of my kids’ faves)

Seton Testing (standardized tests)

Merit Software

Purple Math

Family Learning Organization (more standardized testing)

Mari, Inc. (reading, lit guides, etc)

eNasco

Delta Education (science and math)

E-Tutor

GeoMatters (geography)

LearnPlus (German and Spanish courses)

Neave Planetarium

Stellarium

Celestia

WikiSky.org

Your Amazing Brain

AncientWeb  (civilizations)

ReadWriteThink (K-12 activities)

Smithsonian Education

Instant Anatomy

Ascend Math

K12.com (free online public school in some states)

 

I have tons more links.  TONS. MORE.  And giving you my opinion on any of them wouldn’t matter.  First, because I really don’t have a lot of experience with most of them.  Second, and this is the most important thing, every child learns differently.  That is the beauty of being human.  We are all different.  The way we experience the world is as different as the number of humans that walk upon it.  I do not know any parent who wants their child to become another brick in the wall.   We are not a cookie cutter species.  That is why we are humans.  And not ants.  Or bees.  Or a herd of antelope.  We have self-awareness.  We are curious about our world and our place in it.  What works for my kids might not work for yours.

And lastly, if I had to sum it all up, and give you the absolute best advice I have, it would be these few things.

1)  Be the parent your child needs, instead of molding your child into the kid you want.

2)  Have faith.  In yourself and your kid.  What you don’t understand is that even though you have lost faith in yourself, your kid will think you’ve lost faith in him.

3)  When given the choice between worksheets or fingerpaint, always choose fingerpaint.

Vagabondage

It’s been a while, no? I think my last post was some philosophical Nietzsche-esque thing about how little our individual lives matter and the legacy you leave behind. Clearly, looking back on my thoughts I’ve scribbled over the past 7 or 8 years, my inherent self has always remained the same. Ever the skeptic, ever the searcher, the wanderer, disillusioned with humanity as it is yet fascinated by what it could be. Looking here and there, under the rug, over the fence. Deciding and undeciding. Overthinking the worthiness of a person, an event, the entire human species. Regardless of any simmering potential, frozen within the doubt that anything I do will make a difference. The way I choose to, or think I should, express that inherent self, however, has always been a labyrinthine evolutionary journey. So much so that, at times, it’s rather funny.

I take myself too seriously.

So I quit my job.

And despite never having drawn anything more than a stick figure prior to September of last year, I quit my job….. to become an artist. Well, to be more specific, a pyrographer.

Ha!

Really.

Because. Well. Why the fuck not? Tomorrow, I might be a philosopher again. Next week, I may finish my novel. Sometime this year, I may find myself pinned beneath an ATV in the mountains of New Hampshire and wonder why the hell I never allowed myself the latitude to say……

Whatever, man. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. I don’t know what time I’m going to bed. I don’t know what time I’ll wake up. And frankly, I don’t care.

Whatever, man.

All the experiences that have created the life that is me are a fantastic mosaic of stained glass and iron twisted, molded, and colored into this body and this mind and this soul, each of which I only have one.

I can’t do this over again. So. I suppose. For as long my body will allow me. I’ll try to do as much of everything as I can.

I wanted to be a writer. So I will write.

Once, I wanted to be a financial counselor, so I will advise.

I wanted to be a philosopher, so I will seek the irrational and illogical and wonder more about those who embrace them rather than refute them. Because.

Whatever, man.

And I guess, for now at least, I’ll wake up at some point every day and laugh at myself for never having known, or wondered, or cared that I had any artistic talent whatsoever.

Somehow, I’ve accumulated a ridiculous amount of wood and power tools, an incredibly expensive woodburning unit, and after four months, have somehow created things on wood that people are willing to pay me a few hundred dollars for.

Four months ago, if anyone asked me what ability I did not have, have never had, and would be the least likely to develop, “art” would not even have been on my radar.

But, today it is. Tomorrow, it may not be.

Whatever, man.

I’ve got my guide, my towel, my babel fish, and- of course- for purely sadomasochistic reasons- my book of Vogon poetry. And I am certainly, most definitely. Not. Going to panic.

IMG_7985-2
“Pearl” from “Standing Nude” by Bob Seidemann

 

Buzz Kill Baby & A Little Dezz Carts

IMG_467872577
Sorry. This is as close to “costuming” as you’ll ever see me.

Chris and I were driving the other day. After passing a “pumpkin patch,” we started talking about all those hackneyed family photos we’ve never really participated in, and how funny it would be if we got everyone to dress up in our goth-y-est getups and go around taking the same pics with our…. special family twist. You know, “pumpkin patch” autumn photos with both the boys in black, glaring out from under shaggy hair, arms crossed, both standing next to Chris and I, who are equally austere and darkly dressed.

Skip to the almighty family Christmas photo. Ha! I think we’ve done that maybe once in 20 years of playing house. But we could certainly pull off the most awesome “Fucked Up Davis Family Christmas” pics, fo sho. There would be a Santa and some bird-flipping involved. No smiles. NO SMILES!

Cut to Halloween. It ruins our plans. We’d simply look normal.

I’ve never been a big celebrator. I was done with Halloween at a fairly young age. Strange fact, especially considering my love for all things horror. I’ve just never been a dresser-upper. I enjoy seeing the pics of all you guys who are my age and still love dressing up for Hollerween, and cosplay equally- all the creative costumes that didn’t come from a store are super cool. But for myself, it just doesn’t rev my engine. Never has.

Same with Christmas, birthdays, (enter the name of any holiday here). I can’t really say why. I don’t know. I’ve just never gotten excited about things like that. Decorating my house, giving/receiving gifts, dressing in costume….. it just all seems like too much trouble for little reward.

In other words, I’m boring.

Or perhaps my dopamine receptors- the pleasure center of my brain- simply require a different kind of fuel to catch fire?

I do enjoy things. Meaning, I am not pathologically wretched. I think it comes down to the bare-bones definition of the phrase “old soul.” I’ve heard it used mostly as a synonym for “deep-thinking” or “profound,” but those are misnomers. When I Googled the phrase “old soul,” however, the first result that popped up was spot on. LonerWolf’s 9 Signs You’re an Old Soul hits it out of the park. I won’t go through all 9, as a couple seem to mirror each other, but I’ll touch on the bigger points-

“You tend to be a solitary loner” Ya think? Yes, I have friends. And yes, I had friends my own age when I was a child, but I always knew there was part of the relationship that was missing. I knew 99% of those friends did not have the same thoughts I had. I knew I had ideas and interests that I would never be able to share with them. Many of my thoughts and ideas as a child would have been perceived by my peers as about as exciting as a hedge maze in the shape of a Mobius strip, and many were far and away outside of the boundaries of “appropriateness.” Even today, my habit of over-thinking drives people nuts. And when I tell people that the first full-length novel I ever read was Stephen King’s Carrie, and I was in the second grade, or that I was (at least in thought) extremely sexually precocious at an even younger age, eyebrows inevitably raise. Yet, I was happy inside my own head. I never feared my thoughts. I was never ashamed. I was curious. Intrigued. Yes, intrigued with myself. And I learned very early on that I was going to have to do a whole lot of pretending in order to survive my childhood. Could that be why I find no enjoyment in dressing in costume for Halloween? Perhaps my human suit I wear every day is my costume. Oh! The profundity! (insert cackling laughter). It’s probably also why Disney, the World, the Land, the corporation, the manufacturer of assembly-line fantasy, has also never done much for me. When I was little, I remember watching the movies and cartoons and feeling insulted. How dare they try to define me with a silly happy ending and talking animals! “MoooOOOooom! Can I read your Stephen King books?” The smartest thing she ever did was tell me “No.”

“You love knowledge, wisdom, and truth” ……. and it’s gotten me in trouble on more occasions than I can count. It sounds like a humble brag, yes? But when you strip away the aura that surrounds those words, what it’s really saying is that an old soul is incapable of believing anything for the sake of conformity. Everything must be questioned. Nothing is accepted at face value. Disbelief until proven otherwise is an old soul’s reflex, not acceptance until proven otherwise. That is a precarious position to be in when you’re a child. A child is expected to take a parent or a teacher’s word at face value. Although a teacher may pay lip service to a desire for their students to be curious, most of my teachers had no idea what they were getting themselves into with me. I was the “Why Kid,” the kid who constantly had my hand up, but mostly to ask a question rather than answer one. Why? How do you know? WHY? WHY? WHY? I learned fairly early to just shut up and regurgitate until I got home. That was after my 6th grade teacher gave me seven detentions in one day because I refused to stop raising my hand. It was a classic Breakfast Club “Bender/Mr. Vernon” standoff. Thankfully, she was 9 months pregnant, went on maternity leave, and forgot to let the substitute know of my wickedness.

“You’re spiritually inclined” Yes, but not religiously so- spiritually insofar as having a fascination with consciousness, and the validity of the consciousness of others around me. I can’t speak for all old souls, but I have always had a solipsistic bent. It goes back to the “disbelief until proven otherwise” concept, even metaphysically so. To be able to believe that all things outside my own consciousness exist mutually exclusive of my own self is a HUGE leap for me. One of my earliest memories is a xerox copy of this concept. I was 4 years old, sitting on the floor at preschool. The wall to my right was all window, floor to ceiling, and I could see the school buses parked in a line just outside. The carpet was a pattern of colored diamonds, very busy, very 70s. As I sat, I traced the outlines of the diamonds. The teacher was speaking, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was watching my finger as I traced, and thought to myself “I wonder if all the other kids can see what I am seeing. Can they see the diamonds? Are the diamonds they see different than the diamonds I see? I probably shouldn’t say that out loud….. someone might think I’m weird…..” Now that I think about it, that last phrase is the motto of my entire life. “I probably shouldn’t say that out loud…. someone might think I’m weird…..”  I learned very early on how to wear my human costume well.

“You understand the transience of life” …… and it’s frighteningly liberating. Life itself- human life- human consciousness- is a fascinating microcosm. Much like the fleeting life of a comet traveling too close to the sun, the microsecond birth of a new star, or the rogue planet on an unintended path of destruction, human life is equally bound by chaos, coming and going from the Earth at the whims of nothing. It’s liberating because I am able to recognize when I become lost in human mundanity- the Game of LIfe- The Machine. I’m not afraid to play my own game, write my own rules, and decide that those things society labels as desirable hold no interest for me. It’s frightening because this line of thought can easily lend itself to sociopathy, or nihilism at its very softest. The questioning of any sociopath will reveal a touch of solipsism, nihilism, narcissism, and the understanding of the transience of life. The one thing that separates the old soul from the sociopath is the spiritual quest for the definition of kindness, the deliberate understanding that its opposite is cruelty, and the desire to display kindness and abhor cruelty. In itself, it would seem that these things stand at odds with the belief that anything outside yourself may not exist. Why bother defining kindness and cruelty within the confines of one’s own fantasy? Reflexive disbelief. The understanding that although the solipsistic law of parsimony would conclude that my own existence is the only provable existence (I think; therefore, I am, and you are, because I am), there also exists the understanding that I may be wrong (I think; therefore, I am, and you are, because you are).

“You aren’t materialistic” …… as opposed to those who crave objects and define themselves by the procurement of them. Bigger. Better. A newer model. I am not a house, nor am I defined by the one I choose to live in. I am not a car or a television or an outfit or a piece of jewelry. I have these things. I desire these things. But I don’t live and die by them. I am not defined by them. I am not defined by how my material world compares to that of someone else, nor do I judge a character by the house it lives in or the car it drives or the money it spends on subjective frivolity. In fact, my reaction to someone else’s perceived importance on the basis of their material world is the exact opposite of the reaction they expect to receive- all I see is complete lack of substance.

“You were a strange, socially maladaptive kid”…… and truer still, when I right-click on the underlined word “maladaptive,” the only option I get is “manipulative.” Yes and yes. It is only natural that one begets the other. Not only was I maladaptive, I was downright dysfunctional. Growing up in the Deep South didn’t help matters much, though I have enjoyed, via Facebook, watching some of my old high school buddies branch out from their deep southern roots a bit and show a little of their own weirdness while still staying true to themselves, amazingly so. I was always weird. Everything I did was weird. At first, I wasn’t trying. In fact, I was trying to pretend to be normal, it just never seemed to work. No matter how hard I tried, something always fell out of my mouth that gave away my true nature. I was fortunate enough to have a small posse of buds to catch me when I fell, but I almost always fell. So, I gave up, and purposefully stopped trying to hide my weirdness. If everyone around me thought I was Satan incarnate, why not prove them right? Why not have a little fun and scare the living shit out of everyone? No reason, just fun. Which again caused me to question where I fell on the scale of sociopathy. Is it a normal thing for a 12-year-old girl to question whether she has a conscience? Is it a normal thing for her to painstakingly pick through every single soul in her world by name to see if any of those names evoked feelings of love or empathy (spoiler: They did). It was only in the last 5 or 6 years that I have been able to put a name to my conscience- “Selective Conscience,” and it was only through finding a true female soulmate in the most unlikely of places that I was able to discover that about myself.

“You just “feel” old”……. “This can often be perceived as being aloof and cold, which is only one of many Old Soul Myths.”…… Yes. I feel old. I have felt old since my earliest memories. I have been ready to move out and “be all growed up” since the day I learned to tie my shoes. Instead of feeling the shock of adulthood, I spent 17 years feeling the torment of a childhood I never belonged in, like a marionette with strings being pulled by adults who (I perceived) loved to lord over children for the sheer fun of wielding unchecked authority. The only thing I could do to feel comfortable in my own skin was to rebel. To question. Constantly. To refuse giving my respect to anyone on the trite notion that children must respect their elders. To scream when I was told to be quiet. To bang, as loudly as I could, on a piano after I was scolded for playing it in church, after which the scolder attempted to “pray with me,” all while I laughed at her attempt to exorcise my demons…. and then I banged some more. To laugh, long and loud, while I was being spanked. To tell a high school teacher  (who shall remain unnamed) to “fuck off” when I was scolded for a pair of shorts that did not pass the archaic dress code. The “side-hug” was my hallmark. I felt, even as a very young girl, that physical affection was forced on children, that all adults assumed children desire it, even need it, and they give it without asking permission to enter a child’s personal space. A child MUST desire her mother’s hugs and kisses, right? A child MUST feel loved when a teacher wraps her arms around them, yes? No. Yet it was even more complicated than that. It wasn’t that I inherently did NOT desire it, it was the assumption that I DID and the failure to ASK that repulsed me. What I sought was autonomy, the cutting of my strings, to be left alone to choose my path and the people I allowed to walk it with me. Aloof and cold? To those who I have not allowed on my path, yes. I have no allegiance to anyone save those to whom I have pledged it. I felt an allegiance to  my mother as a girl because I loved her, not because she was my mother. I feel an allegiance to my husband because I love him and I have pledged it, not because he is my husband.

I feel an allegiance to my children because children are the only humans who are born with a birthright to the allegiance of their parents, unconditional allegiance and love, an allegiance and a love that is not required to be reciprocated unless a parent has proven they deserve it.

I am old. I have been old since the day I was born. The things that excite me today are the things that have excited me since the beginning of my time on this Earth.

  • I am a creator.
  • I am a silent observer.
  • I am a questioner, a disbeliever but an active seeker of truth, even if I stubbornly choose not to believe it.
  • I am a storyteller for the sake of the journey, not the audience.
  • I am selfish with a shallow well of devotion that I must ration carefully, only to those who have earned it.
  • I am a lone runner who cannot understand the concept of a “running buddy.”
  • I am a family girl who has never, ever been able to grasp the concept of extended family vacations. Family reunions. Week-long family trips with aunts and uncles and cousins. Whoa. Personal space, people. Personal space.
  • I am a player on a team of one; I cannot be responsible for anyone else’s destiny.
  • I am an introspective narcissist, made clear by this silly blog of constantly evolving self-definition.
  • I am a writer of magic, yet I don’t believe in it.
  • I am a collector of karma, yet…. I don’t believe in it.
  • I am an anonymous giver; saying “you’re welcome” are two of the hardest words I have ever tried to muster.
  • I am a learner who refuses to be taught.
  • I am a wanderer with clear goals at the end of an unplanned path of which I have no map.
  • I am obnoxious.
  • I am loud and naked when I drink too much.
  • I eat the exact same thing every single day.
  • I am a nonconformist for the sake of nonconformity alone.
  • I am a true rebel without a cause because it has been my milieu for so long that I don’t know any different, and us “old folks” don’t take too kindly to change.

For good or ill, I am an old soul. Terrible at parties, on the off-chance I accept an invitation. My best friend, one of the triad that completes my inherent self, together with my mother and husband, lives 10 minutes down the road, yet we still communicate- 100% of the time- via email, using the same email addresses we used the very first time we ever met, and she is the only person I ever email using that address. And if all that isn’t weird enough, we share the same psychiatrist.

I drive my husband crazy. My kids are used to it. My mother knew it from the time I spoke my first words. I’d have never met my best friend if I were any different. And I still rather doubt that any of you even exist.

Cogito, ergo sum. Cogito, ergo es. Fortasse.