Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After


Do you watch Once Upon a Time? My eldest daughter introduces me to it when she asked me if she could watch it because all her friends were watching.   So, we both watched one episode.  I loved it.  She hated it.   Now I'm hooked and she doesn't watch. I'm on Season 4 on Netflix.  Not sure what I'll do when I finish that and Season 5 isn't available yet? That will be a sad, sad day. 

I love Once Upon a Time because it's so realistic.  Well..not the fireballs or magic beans or portals between worlds or ripping people's hearts out and storing them in your magic vault. But the rest of it. The way that people feel and act and behave.  The characters are always looking for a happily ever after....and they never find it. 

There is always one new plot twist, one new discovery, one new villain, one new hardship. Of course...that's how they keep the series alive, but that is also how real life is.

And the characters are so real.  No one is all good or all bad.  People change and grow just like they do in real life.  There are heroes and there are villains but they aren't always the same people.  Sometimes the villains do something heroic and the heroes does something villainous. 

Which is how life is.  There is no happily ever after, because crosses are always popping up.  Just when one thing gets settled, something else comes along.  Sure, our crosses are not quite the same as evil queens incinerating people or losing our loved ones when they fall in a portal to another world.  But we have our crosses just the same.  Sometimes we behave in a heroic manner and sometimes we are villainous.  

Kinda like marriage.  Everyone thinks marriage is happily ever after, but it's actually more like happily ever two days and then the next thing comes up.   

Today, Ben and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Fifteen years seems like a really long time.  And it is. I remember when I was younger and I would hear about friends celebrating their 15th anniversary and I was all "wow, that's a long time".  Now, we are there. 

A few years ago, when we were only at 13 years, I dreamed of taking a romantic getaway for our 15th anniversary.  Unfortunately a getaway of any sort....romantic or not, is absolutely not in our budget.  So, we're just staying home...or maybe we'll go out for dinner. The good thing about making it to 15 years, and having had a baby within the first 2 years of marriage, is that we now have a built in babysitter who works cheap.....free for room and board. 

Every year at this time, I like to blog about marriage.  And even though the blog has been quieter as of late, this year is no different.   So here are my rambling thoughts on how to go from once upon a time to sorta happily ever after.  Because, after all, there will always be life's little and big crosses to bear. 

Always Try to Do the Right Thing.  That seems sorta obvious and not at the same time.   This world would be a much better place if people always tried to the right thing.   This world needs more heroes and less villains.  While most of us will probably never go on a quest to find the one ingredient in the potion to save some one's life, there are millions of other opportunities to do the right thing.  To be kind and considerate and not lazy or demanding. To put someone else first, instead of ourselves.  Anyone can be a hero...you don't have to pull someone from a burning building or jump in front of a moving train.  Even just putting someone else first and yourself last is heroic...just on a smaller scale. 

Don't Expect Your Spouse to Provide Happiness.  This is where my advice differs from the fairy tales.  Happily ever after doesn't come from anyone else.  You can't look to someone else to provide your happiness and joy.  They will fail you again and again and again, in both big ways and little.  The fairy tales and the movies would have us believe that happiness only comes from true love.  Not true.  The happiest people realize that they don't need someone else to be happy.  Happiness comes from within and above.   But mostly above.   So, don't look to someone else to provide happiness...it always fails.

Enjoy Each Other's Company. This is probably the biggest thing.  A marriage where both spouses enjoy each other's company is a happy marriage. 

What about you?  Do you have any good marriage advice?  Do you like Once Upon a Time? Talk to me. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nutritional Help for Anxiety and Depression

I'm not a doctor or a medical professional.  I do have a scientific background, but no medical training. I'm just a mom, who like lots of other moms has struggled at times with anxiety and depression. 

I stated in my other post about why I think anxiety and depression are so common among mothers.   I'd like to add something to that.   Not only our our daily lives stressful and we frequently don't eat enough, but pregnancy and breastfeeding take a huge nutritional toll on our bodies.  This is especially true if a mother has closely spaced children.  It takes time for a woman to recover her nutritional stores after pregnancy and breastfeeding and a mother's body will nourish the baby first.  So, if you have had closely spaced children (and by closely spaced, I really mean closer than 18-24 months between pregnancies which translates to a child spacing around 2.5 years or more), and struggle with anxiety and depression or just plain irritability and impatience, you may want to pay special attention to nutritional cures as your body may be depleted of vital nutrients. 

Why nutritional cures?  I'm a fan of nutritional cures for mood disorders because I believe that in may cases, these disorders are caused by a lack of nutrition and a nutritional cure addresses the root cause.

Forgive me for getting too science-y, but our moods are regulated by these things called neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters are formed from amino acids and vitamins.  If we don't have enough amino acids and vitamins, then our bodies can't make the neurotransmitters we need and we suffer from mood disorders. This is especially true during pregnancy or breastfeeding, because our bodies are shunting those amino acids and vitamins into either the developing baby or breastmilk, so these is less left over for the mother.

The only way to really know if a nutritional cure is going to work for you, is to try it.  And, it does work, it likely means that you were deficient in that nutrient in the first place.

That is not to say that I believe pharmaceuticals are bad, I don't.  I would never judge anyone for taking them.  However, I do believe that good nutrition is vital and that if we do have a nutritional deficiency that is affecting our moods, well the smart thing to do is to correct it. It certainly can't hurt to eat well. 

Is anyone really nutrient-deficient? 

I think a lot of people tend to have a hard time believing that in our society of plentiful food and overweight people that anyone is really nutrient deficient.  Yes, many of us eat plenty of food, but not plenty of the right kinds of food.  We eat junk food, nutrient-deficient food and calorically-empty foods.  In our society, food has more become more about pleasure and fun than nourishing our bodies.  

What Can We Do?

I found the following three books to be extremely helpful.  I suggest you either buy them through my Amazon link <wink, wink> or check them out from your local library.  Unless you live in my city.  Then you can't, because I have them checked out and if you put a hold them, I will have to return them, instead of renewing them the 4 times I had planned.  Just kidding....I will happily return them, so you can check them out.


 


Product Details





I can't tell you everything in these books...you'll have to read them yourself...but I will tell you some of the highlights.

Eat lots of healthy fats.  Fat is an essential part of brain health and development.   Most people think they are eating enough fat but they really aren't or they are eating the wrong type of fat.   We basically consume 3 differents fats in our house....butter, olive oil and coconut oil.  We stay away from things like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil...none of those are healthy. 

Omega-3 fatty acids. Lots of studies have shown that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids help with anxiety and depression.

Lysine and Arginine. Studies have shown that these two amino acids help lower cotisol levels and decrease anxiety. 

There is a reason you crave chocolate: Chocolate is high in magnesium and fat....both of which are an important part of mood regulation. I like to make my own healthy chocolate....mix coconut oil with dark cocoa powder and then a bit of honey or maple syrup.  Much healthier than typical chocolate and still satisfies that chocolate craving and gets you all the healthy fat in coconut oil and magnesium and anti-oxidants in dark chocolate. 

Lots of protein.   I have read suggestions to eat 25-30 grams of protein with each meal.  Especially in the morning.  That's a lot of protein. A lot!  Most of us get nowhere near this.  All this protein serves two functions..it regular blood sugar.  Low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes is a common cause of feeling anxious, irritable, depressed or moody.  Plus, protein is composed of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters which regulate mood. 

To get that much protein you pretty much have to go back to a traditional meat and potatoes, eggs and sausage way of eating.  Our society has taught us that raisin bran is a healthy breakfast, that a salad makes a great lunch and that meat should be a small part of dinner.  We're told to get vegetarian sources of protein like nuts and beans.  Which is fine...but really you need to get 15 oz. of black beans to get as much protein as in 3 oz. of chicken. 

Whether it's because of budget concerns or diet concerns, our society has gotten away from eating lots of meat. And I think our health is suffering....because it really is quite hard to get enough protein without eating meat. And without enough protein we don't have enough amino acids to make the neurotransmitters we need.

Lots of vegetable and fruits.   Amino acids don't just form neurotransmitters all on their own.  They need vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin C.   Hence...the need for eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Some carbs too.  Yes....carbs can be healthly and we do need some.  They are an efficient energy source and a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Consider supplements.  You can read more in the books, but some supplements that are are especially helpful are L-theanine (an amino acid), inositol, other amino acids, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Stay away from bad stuff.  Limit sugar and consider an elimination diet to discover if  you have any hidden food allergies.  Gluten and dairy are the most common hidden food allergies or intolerances,  Some people find that their mood improves just by eliminating those foods.  Others find that they can tolerate them in small amounts, but not on a daily basis.  I have learned that I am sensitive to gluten  I can eat small amounts (maybe 1 serving once a week) and be fine, but if I start eating gluten-containing foods more often than that, I start to notice a reaction. 

Pay attention to your moods. Try to think when you feel the most irritable or anxious or depressed or not yourself.  Pay attention to what you ate or didn't eat before those times.  I've realized that for me, I tend to feel more anxious and irritable in the mornings.  I tend to feel much better after lunch and even better after dinner.  I think that's because I tend to eat a small breakfast, mid-sized lunch and big dinner.  Even something as simple as reversing that....eating a big breakfast and smaller dinner makes a difference in my moods.  There's something to be said for the hearty breakfast idea. 

Consult a doctor.  I have to tell you that.  Of course, it's a good idea, especially if you can find someone who will help you find nutritional cures.
Naturally non-nutritional things like exercise and prayer are also helpful.  It may take some experimentation to figure out what works for YOU.  I've listed some things that work for me, but you might find other solutions that work for you.   If so, please share them with me!  I'd love to hear your experiences. 


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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Motherhood, Depression, Anxiety, Stress, Weight Loss and Nutrition.



Anxiety and depression seem to be at almost epidemic proportions among the moms I know.  Whether it is bloggers who write about it, or just friends who  mention it, it seems that more moms than not suffer from some sort of anxiety or depressive disorder.  

Whether it's  professionally-diagnosed or self-diagnosed.  Whether it's treated medically or naturally or not at all, it is seems to be super common.

Why is that I wonder?

Actually, I don't have to wonder that long.   It's actually fairly obvious.  Moms have a HUGE amount of pressure and stress and responsibility load. 

Dad do too, of course.  But, in my experience, moms tends to be the mangers. 

They don't necessarily do all the work, they direct all the work.  And sometimes that is even more stressful. There is a reason why CEO's get paid so much, they have a super stressful job. 

Mothers tend to have an even more stressful job, because the people they are in charge of are childish, unreasonable, illogical, demanding, and unpredictable.  And you can't fire them. 

There are about a million and one things we need to worry about, stress about and take care of on a daily basis. 

Money, finances, health, behavior, child care, pet care, home care, how much kids eat, what they sleep, where they are, what they are doing, what they are learning, who they are friends with, clean clothes, brushed hair, breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, carpool, gift buying, doctors appointments, vitamins, homework, schooling, electronic use, car issues, house issues, children's chores, baths, brushing teeth, bedtime, diapers, 

While we don't always do all the work, oftentimes we direct all of it, make arrangements for it or delegate it.  If you send your children to school, you are still ultimately responsible for their education, helping with homework and making sure their educational needs are met.   Whether you stay at home or work outside the home, you still have the ultimate responsibility for childcare. You have to provide it or you have to arrange it. 

From worrying about the minutiae (what is for dinner) to major problems....health issues and money issues and world peace issues....there is a lot of things that cause stress and anxiety out there.

But, that's only part of the puzzle. 

I think another large part of it that so many of us are nutritionally depleted.  I'm a big fan of nutritional cures for many health ailments.  This isn't because I'm against pharmaceuticals.  It's because I believe that many ailments are in large part due to our poor diets and lack of sleep, sunshine, fresh air and exercise. 

If magnesium supplementation or omega-3 fatty acids or amino acids help anxiety or depression, then it likely means that the anxiety or depression was caused by a deficiency in those nutrients.  That makes sense to me, anyway.  I haven't been able to find any confirmed studies on this, but I do believe that anxiety and depression frequently follow periods of weight loss. That has been my experience anyway.  Why?  Because losing weight....no matter how healthy one is eating, involves a caloric deficit which leads to a nutritional deficit.  It is super, super hard to get all the nutrients one needs on less than 1800-2000 calories a day.  Especially because the gist of most diets is generally to either cut fat or cut carbohydrates....both of which are essential to good health. 

The bottom line is, we have to eat enough of the good stuff.  And, if we don't, no matter how healthy what we DO eat it, it's still not enough. 

So what can we do about it?  Stay tuned for my next post which addresses nutritional cures for anxiety, depression and stress.   Again, this is not to say that pharmaceuticals are bad.  Sometimes they are needed.  However, I do believe that if a health issue is caused by a nutritional deficiency than the cure is to correct that deficiency...and that nutritional deficiencies are way more common that we like to think in our land of plentiful food.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 Reasons I Love Owning a Dog



1.  They clean your floor.   



They eat every.single.crumb or bit of dropped food. Everything. It's amazing. Like having your own personal maid for the floors. Our floors have never been so clean. I love it!

2. They are fun to take on walks.



When we were looking for houses, one of the things we really wanted was to live in a walkable neighbhorhood.  A neighborhood with nice sidewalks and tree-lined streets. Walking is one of my favorite activities and having a dog really encourages us to take lots of walks.  We went through a period of time where we took walks every day, but then we moved and lived in a very unwalkable place (right on a busy road) so we got out of the habit.  It's so nice to get back into it. 

It's also a great way to meet people in the neighborhood. Everyone wants to come up and pet our dog.  Unless they have their own dog that is.....then they are frantically pulling their jumping, excitable dog away from our jumping, excitable dog. 

3. They are great companions.


You just have to love someone that loves you back so much!  And petting a dog is a great natural stress-relief.  The kids fight over whose bed George sleeps in at night.   A dog is a great way to keep scary monsters away. 

4. They encourage responsibility in kids.

Dogs need to be fed and taken outside. Every single day. Even the littlest one can help out and they all fight over who gets to give George his daily treat.




5. They treat you like a returning war hero.

He's so excited and moving so fast, he's just a blur.

Whenever we leave the house, we get the royal treatment when we come back.  A little hero-worship is always good.  It's nice being greeted at the door by someone super excited to see us.

(Linking up for 5Faves) 
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Homeschoolers All Grown Up - My Concluding Throughts


I am curious about what it was like to be homeschooled....so I decided to interview a bunch of former homeschoolers.   You can read the full introduction here.  Here is Part I, Part II, Part IIIPart IV.



Disclaimer:  This was not an unbiased interview process or anything.  There was selection bias in the people who I interviewed.  I asked around on a couple of Facebook groups to which I belong and on my personal Facebook page.   Most of the groups I belong to and most of my friends involve fellow Catholics/Christians and other people with similar values as myself.   I'm sure if I had asked on the  Angry Athiests Who Are The Former Homeschooled Children of Fundamentalist Christians, I might have gotten different answers.  But, I don't belong to that group. 

So, here my thoughts on their answers. 

Wow....those were some interesting responses.  I was mostly concerned with two areas....social and academic.  Those are the main objections people have to homeschooling, that children will not be socialized or will not have a good academic education. 

Most people seemed to look favorably on their homeschooling experience.  Not everyone though.  One person had an experience that sounded like it could likely qualify as bona fide CPS-intervention-worthy, educational neglect.  Maybe, I'm not an expert on that type of thing. For what it's worth, these sorts of stories are Why I'm Now a Fan of Homeschool Oversight. 

However, most of the experiences were overall positive, which was really very reassuring to me.
I was really concerned about the social aspect.  I'm right in the middle of being an introvert/extrovert.  I can't go days and days without seeing other adults. Whenever we've moved to a new area, I've always made a point of jumping right into groups and getting involved.  I put a lot of effort into my children's social lives..signing them for groups and activities, arranging play dates, getting them involved, taking them places.  We all seem much happier when we are out and busy quite frequently.  I found it very reassuring that with many of these answers, that seemed to be "enough."  Many respondents were perfectly happy being involved in homeschool groups and 4-H and youth group and other activities and considered their social lives to be just fine.   However, not everyone was totally happy with their social experiences.  I think one area where a problem can occur is if you have extroverted child with an introverted parent.   A lot of people talk about how extroverts may not understand introverts, but I think it is equally true that introverts many not understand extroverts.   While some children may be totally happy and satisfied with seeing other people only once or twice a week, other children may  need more social interaction than that. 

My other big concern is the academic aspect.  It's important to me that my children receive a rigorous education.  I realize that not all children are academically minded and that college is not for everyone.  However our family does seem to be academically minded so I want to encourage that and make sure they have all the education and tools they need in order to succeed.

I was especially interested in these responses because I wanted to know whether other homeschoolers felt there were gaps in their education.  The three areas of major gaps that seemed to come up were in the areas of math, science and writing. 

Math is tough.  I know it's not politically correct to say that, but I think that for many people it is.   I also think math is one of those things is harder to teach.   I think it's important to keep in mind that lots of children who attend public or private school also struggle with math.  Homeschooling does have one advantage is that a parent can search around and find the right curriculum, while school teacher often has to user the curriculum decided by the school. 

Science is one of those subjects that I do think is harder to homeschool well.  Yes, a homeschooled student can do lots and lots of reading on science subjects.  However, most parents do not have the resources or time or ability to have a full science lab.  I know in our house, we tend to let those science experiments slide....frequently because we don't have the necessary supplies.  Thankfully, we are part of a co-op that teaches science, so my children get their labs and experiments through that.  

Writing.  I know with homeschooling there can be a temptation to let writing slide by and do a lot of discussion and answering of question orally.  This is especially true if you have a child that is more resistant to writing.  In a school setting, that is not possible.  A child has to learn to answer question on paper at a very young age, whether they like writing or not   One of the big advantages of homeschooling is that the studies can be tailored to meet the child's needs.  However, I do think it is important to remember to make sure that a child does learn how to express themselves on paper and how to write things in a clear and succinct manner.   This is something I have always encouraged with my children.  Even though the purpose of answering history questions is not necessarily to learn writing, the learning how to write an answer is important.  

Interestingly enough a few people mentioned unschooling/self-directed learning with different experiences with it.  I think unschooled/self-directed learning is something that is very child-dependent.  Some children do very well with this, while others need more structure and guidance.   Personally, I'm not an unschooler and I don't think I have would have done well with unschooling as a child.  Sure, I would have learned A LOT about certain things, but other things, I would have never bothered to learn.  However, I do think it can be fine for certain personalities.

A few people mentioned that their parents homeschooled because for various reasons, regular schooling was not meeting their needs.  I thought this was also very interesting.  I do think that the reasons a family has for homeschooling play a large role in the child's homeschool experience. 

Overall, this was a very interesting blog post to write and really enjoyed reading every one's responses.   It helped me be aware of potential trouble areas to be aware of and was also very reassuring in other areas.   I really enjoyed reading all these interviews and wish I could sit down with each and every one of the respondants to have a more in depth conversation about their homeschool experience.  (To be totally honest, with a few of them I could because I know them.) 
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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Homeschoolers All Grown Up - Part IV


I am curious about what it was like to be homeschooled....so I decided to interview a bunch of former homeschoolers.   You can read the full introduction here.  Here is Part I, Part II, Part III.


Disclaimer:  This was not an unbiased interview process or anything.  There was selection bias in the people who I interviewed.  I asked around on a couple of Facebook groups to which I belong and on my personal Facebook page.   Most of the groups I belong to and most of my friends involve fellow Catholics/Christians and other people with similar values as myself.   I'm sure if I had asked on the  Angry Athiests Who Are The Former Homeschooled Children of Fundamentalist Christians, I might have gotten different answers.  But, I don't belong to that group. 

So, here are the fourth sets of answers with their made-up anonymous names.  All names have been changed to protect the privacy of those who responded.  To all my participants:  I apologize in in advance if your anonymous name is one you've always hated

Second Note:  These responses are unedited (other than for formatting).  I have left any grammar/punctation errors and original sentence structure intact.  I thought that was important, as it gives an idea of how well former homeschoolers write. (Spoiler: Most of them write very well.

_______________________________________________________________________________
 *****Gretchen

1.       1. I was homeschooled from grades 6 through 11.  I returned to public high school for my last year so that I could graduate with a diploma, not a GED (this seemed like a lesser option to me, though friends went this route and had no trouble), have access to a full science lab, and have a different math teacher as I was struggling in this area and my parents weren’t able to help me. (This was 1995-99 so homeschool co-ops and programs for homeschooling families to attend high school part time were not yet common in our area.)
2.        
3.       2. My parents had two main motivations for homeschooling us which they did tell us when they made the decision to pull us from public school.  The first was the introduction of a sex education program in grade 6 which had been going on for a while, but which they were told about when my older brother got to that age.  They felt that this program was too detailed for the age group, took the information out of the context of family life, and focused too much on STDs rather than waiting till marriage.  Also, they just wanted to teach this stuff themselves and through our church’s very good youth group program. 

The second reason was that my dad, a former English teacher, was disgusted with our grammar and writing skills.  He was surprised that we were not being taught to diagram sentences and couldn’t spell very well.  Our public school district was supposed to be very good, yet these omissions made my parents look more closely at our school books and question what other weaknesses there might be. 

Finally, several families from church that we knew well had been homeschooling for a few years and liked it.
4.        
5.   3. I loved being homeschooled! I started when I was in 6th grade.  My older brother was in 7th, and our youngest brother was in 2nd.  I think having those years at home together made us better friends as we spent so much time together. 

We learned so much, my school books were actually interesting to read, and best of all, we were done with school almost every day by 1 or 2pm.  We knew that if we wasted time and slacked off, we would be working later into the day.  We lived around the block from one of the families who had first talked to my parents about homeschooling, so we were always trying to work more quickly to get over to their house. 

We could play the imaginative games we all loved but which would be made fun of in “normal” school, and we could go on fun field trips where we actually got to do everything because we were in a group of only 15 or 20 kids.

At this time also our mom went back to work part time.  She still was mainly responsible for the day-to-day of our schooling so with a more flexible schedule we saw more of her.  She is a great lover of nature, so she took every opportunity to get us outside, often with our school books. 

Lastly, and most importantly for me, homeschooling gave me the chance to read and read and read.  I read my school books like novels and I read so many novels!  I felt like I had time to think about what I was learning, to ask my dad questions, and then think some more about his answers.
6.        
7.   4. I was a shy child, so for me the daily interactions with the two other homeschool families near us, and the weekly and monthly gatherings with the larger homeschool group were just enough.  I had three very close and good friends and a large group of boys and girls of all ages that I was used to playing with in group games. 

      My parents put all three of us in sports – I took figure skating – both for exercise and to be in a group of different kinds of people.  I also tried basketball one winter but strongly disliked the team sports full of rules and a hierarchy I couldn’t understand and no one explained.  I loved playing football and other games with our huge homeschooling group at weekly meetings, but these were much less formal than the team.

I    In high school, I joined the youth group at church and there I really blossomed.  The families who participated were all like-minded in terms of values and how they wanted to raise their kids.  The parents talked and knew each other well.  The woman who ran the group was truly gifted not only in teaching and communicating the faith, but also in understanding people.  It was and is a unique program in the world of youth ministry.I can see now that my parents actively encouraged my friendships by befriending the parents and the whole family.  Also, they talked to me often about my friends and were interested in my activities with my friends.  I was not left to figure things out on my own, or to get stuck in situations where I would be unhappy and teased, as might have happened in school.  If a hard thing did come up (like the little jealousies than do happen with a group of friends), mom helped me work through them. 

(I    I should tell you that my youngest brother was not so happy with the social situation.  He says that being at home all the time made him “weirder than even school-weird” and that he didn’t know how to talk to people, especially girls.  I think this is partly because, as the youngest by 4 years, he didn’t have the advantage of us older siblings doing things right alongside him.  Also, there were not so many kids his age in our homeschool group, just the way the families fell out.  And, my parents were older and maybe didn’t pay as close attention to him as they had done to us. )
8.     
    5.  Overall, I think my education prepared me very well for college and for life after.  My parents both directly shaped my thinking about the world, not just in morals but even how I think about our country’s history.  For example, I don’t think our schools today are turning out kids that love their country, but patriotism was taught in our house, starting with the good things we have done that are worth emulating. There was also a love of learning and excitement about mastering new areas of study that are still with me today that was fostered through both the content and the method of schooling. 

      There are weak spots, though.  My parents were both good at math and science themselves, but they were not such good teachers of these subjects.  I think these are two subjects that are changing so much, especially in science, that they just didn’t have the knowledge to share with me.  They did try to get me extra help with especially in science, but it didn’t really all click until I went to public high school.  Actually, I also took a math class at the community college the summer of my sophomore year of college and had a really excellent teacher who made 13 years of schooling fall in to place.  And even though I had a good teacher for chemistry in high school, I still feel like 3 years of lazily reading a science book at home just was not enough, so I feel a weakness in this area even today.

     The other area of weakness was writing.  So much of how we did school was through talking about a subject rather than writing it down.  However, I read so much and such good quality things that I had very good models of writing.  Again, in that one year of public school I had an excellent writing teacher who helped me put into practice the things I had been learning about writing and taught me the basics of writing from an outline.  In college, I got a lot more practice.  To this day, I feel like it takes me a lot longer than it should to put my thoughts on paper.  If I can, I revise many times before sending even a friendly email. We used Our Lady of the Rosary curriculum with some supplementation from Seton books.  It’s not a curriculum that is much used anymore, but we liked the old Catholic school text books, especially the history and literature series. All in all, I think my education suited my personality very well, and that is the conclusion I keep coming back to whenever homeschooling is a question for people.  Sure, it can help create a very good family culture, and safeguard your kids from bad teaching and bad influences while they are young and impressionable, but if it isn’t suited to what your child needs, then it will do more harm than good.  I needed lots of quiet, lots of time to process ideas, people to give me one on one attention and listen to my ideas and I got that with my brothers and my parents around me.  I had friends that tried it for 2 years and hated it. 
9.     

         I went to a small Catholic liberal arts college where I studied Literature and Latin, among other things.  After that, which was a very happy time for me and where I excelled in learning, I went to a public college and in another 2 years got a teaching degree.  I then taught middle school literature in Catholic school for 9 years. Now I am a stay at home mom to an infant and help my husband in his family business. I do a lot of the writing for advertizing and answering of emails.  I also take on part time writing jobs when they come up.  In all of this, I think the greatest advantage of my homeschool background is still that innate love for learning and delight in doing something well. 

      If there is a weakness from that background, it comes more from who my parents are; totally unworldly people who still go down to the public library to “use the email” once a week. I had to learn a lot about technology, money, getting through public college, job hunting and other life skills on my own and from friends.  I don’t know if a different schooling would have helped with this, but I suspect I wouldn’t have had to spend 6.5 years to get my teaching degree if I’d had a good high school counselor.  

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*****Katie

So I had a pretty unusual homeschooling experience, which is why I wanted to take part in your survey. There are good/right and bad/wrong ways to homeschool. I know people who had wonderful homeschooling experiences and turned out to be very “normal,” well-adjusted, productive people, and I’ve read all the same news stories about hillbillies in the mountains who homeschool their kids as a way to hide abuse and neglect. I think either homeschool, private school, or public school can turn people out for better or for worse. I also think that people can overcome bad education experiences and become great parents themselves. I think it’s important that both good and bad experiences are included in discussions to demonstrate the importance of putting the child’s needs first in education decisions.

1. How long were you homeschooled and what ages/grades? 
I was homeschooled for three years - 6th, 7th, and 8th grades (I was 11, 12, and 13). I have one younger sister and my mom decided to homeschool us both.

2. What was your parents’ primary motivation for homeschooling (if known)?
We moved when I was in the 3rd grade and I never really settled into the new school. My grades deteriorated until 5th grade, when I actually started failing subjects. My 5th grade teacher was the straw the broke the camel’s back: my dream was to be a writer, but he told me I was stupid and could never be a writer. My mom was also disgruntled over a number of his poor teaching strategies and thought she could do a better job.

3. How do you overall feel about your homeschool experience? and
4. How do you feel about the social experiences you had as a homeschooler? Do you feel that you had enough friends, or enough opportunities for friendship?
The first year, it was awesome. My mom quit her job and threw herself into teaching us. She researched curriculum, sat at the dinner table with us and helped us when we needed it, signed us up for art and dance classes at local studios, took us to homeschooler playdates, and took us on field trips. We had lots of opportunities to make friends and plenty of social interaction. But then my mom decided she wanted to go back to work and still homeschool us.

The second two years, it was awful. My mom worked days and my dad worked nights. Every morning, she would go to work and my dad would be sleeping. He would get up in the late afternoon, do some work around the house or yard, make an early dinner, then go to work. My sister and I would be home alone for a few hours until my mom got home. She’d heat up dinner, we’d eat together, then she’d plop down in front of the tv and watch the news until it was time for us to go to bed.

About once a month, my mom would make daily school schedules for my sister and I to follow during the day while she was at work and my dad was sleeping, but no one ever followed up with us. She never checked our work, asked us how the day went, or even graded our tests. I personally did not do any school work. At all. Most days I never even touched my school books. I spent the entire day in my room, reading novels, writing stories, and day dreaming. One time when my mom was making up a schedule, she asked me to bring her one of my school books so she could see how many more chapters I had left. It turns out that I had actually been scheduled to finish the book a few weeks ago and she was assigning me chapters that didn’t exist. Even though she caught me red-handed lying and not doing work, she did not check a single other assignment. We had to stop going to art and dance classes, playdates and field trips, so my sister and I lost all our friends and had virtually no social interaction for two straight years. We didn’t even play with each other. I was deeply depressed and hated my life.

The summer after 8th grade, my mom announced that we could go back to public school. I am not sure why she decided to send us back to public school, but I am very glad she did.

5.  How do you feel about your education?  Do you feel you received an average, above average or below average education compared to same-aged peers in your community? It was a terrible education, significantly below average. I really did not even go to school for 7th or 8th grades. It was like I went from 6th to 9th, so you can imagine that transitioning back to public school was pretty difficult. I struggled in math and science and I had no idea how to interact with my peers.

But my English skills were significantly above average. I am still shocked at how advanced my reading/grammar/comprehension skills were after a curriculum of just reading books from the library. All freshman had to take an evaluation test in 9th grade English and my results said that I was reading twice as fast as the average person and at a 12th grade reading level. I actually ended up skipping a grade in high school and took college English classes during my senior year of high school. Eventually I did catch up in all subjects except math, which I continued to struggle with throughout my education.

6.  What did you do after graduation?  College? Work? How prepared did you feel for “the next step?”
After high school, I went to college and earned my Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in three years (yay, college credits in high school!) and with honor. I majored in English. I don’t think I’m a very smart person (I’d rate myself as having average intelligence), but I do think I’m a hard worker with an above average work ethic. My social skills also never really caught up, so it was easy for me to spend weekends in my dorm room making flashcards and studying notes.

I really struggled for a long time with crediting my homeschooling as causing anything positive, but now I do realize how much my hatred of it motivated me to push myself in high school, college, and real life. And I also recognize that it allowed me to read - literally - all the time, which gave me a huge boost in my English classes. It’s hard to say how much would have been different if I had never been homeschooled (after all, I liked to read before middle school), and I would never say the experience I had being homeschooled was worth either of those results, but either way, I can only work with what actually happened.

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*****Heather

1. How long were you homeschooled  and what ages/grades?  

I believe I officially started when I was five or so; because I had a sister 22 months older than me, I would hang out while she learned and learn things before my time. I graduated from twelfth grade when I was 18.

2. What was your parents’ primary motivation for homeschooling (if known)?

My parents desired to give their children a firm foundation in the faith, as well as a good education, and saw homeschooling as the best method for their family of doing so.

3. How do you overall feel about your homeschool experience?

I never regretted being homeschooled, and I don't expect I ever shall. I feel grateful to my parents. That said, I don't think I had the "perfect" educational experience (who does?)

4. How do you feel about the social experiences you had as a homeschooler?  Do you feel that you had enough friends, or enough opportunities for friendship?

I had ten siblings, and they, and the folks at our little church plant, were my "social experiences". Six years after graduation, my siblings are still my best friends, and while I recognize the many deficiencies in my social life growing up, I also recognize that for my personality, being what many people would consider "under socialized" was far more conducive to being healthy and unstressed than being over socialized. One great benefit that I am enormously grateful for is being able to converse easily with any and every age group, newborn to deathbed. I think that is something that children with peer-based friend groups often miss out on.

5.  How do you feel about your education?  Do you feel you received an average, above average or below average education compared to same-aged peers in your community? 

I feel like I received anywhere from average to slightly above average education, partly due to my own initiative and love of learning. I feel that if, in the older grades, I had at least had discussion groups for many of my subjects (we were mainly self taught for the upper grades), the knowledge would've stuck with me longer.

6.  What did you do after graduation?  College? Work? How prepared did you feel for “the next step?”

After graduation, I divided my time between living with my parents and helping educate my younger siblings and run the household, and volunteering as a nanny for 1-3 month blocks of time for family members. While I was well prepared for the work involved in all this, I was not necessarily well prepared for the changes relationships go through as self-differentiation occurs. Thanks to the help of some older siblings who gave me the space and respect I craved, I became "my own person" in time, and was able to successfully able to live with my parents as such, despite an overly patriarchal environment. I would say that educationally, I was well prepared for life as it develops outside the classroom; spiritually, I was adequately prepared (I think it was far above average, however, at least for the niche in Protestantism I was raised in); and emotionally, I was poorly prepared

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*******Cristina

1. How long were you homeschooled for and what ages/grades?

After 9th grade, my parents and I planned that I would homeschool for grades 10-12. This soon turned into a combination of deschooling and attending a few college courses at the nearby state school as a non-matriculated student (age 15). The next year (age 16), I applied for full-time status and was accepted starting in the spring semester.

2. What was your parents’ primary motivation for homeschooling (if known)?

Age-based school was a bad fit for me. I'm part of a longitudinal study of people with ratio IQs over 160. This developmental difference just cannot be accommodated in school, educationally or socially, without extreme adjustments. I attended a selective private school for students with IQs above 115 or so, and each grade had three ability groups. This may seem like "adjustments," but it's not nearly enough for this developmental difference.

My parents grew up in a time when acceleration was routine. They each started school a year early. Today they say that they didn't really understand until very recently how much this had helped them, how much they'd have suffered both academically and socially without it, and how many of their classmates had also been accelerated.

When I was a child, my parents' unthinking acceptance--characteristic of their war-baby generation--that of course everyone has to (a) go to school and (b) do exactly what the school people decide is best...caused increasingly severe difficulties at home. What Stephanie Tolan wrote (http://www.stephanietolan.com/open_letter.htm) about two other such children could equally apply to me:

"By the spring [of first grade] RJ was no longer a warm, outgoing, happy child. He had become grumpy, difficult, argumentative and prone to temper tantrums. Our interactions at home became more and more negative until we were fighting almost all the time.... When school was over at the end of the first grade year, it was as if someone had pushed a magic button. The RJ we knew was suddenly back! Gone were the grumps, the temper tantrums, the constant conflict. We finally understood that the culprit was school--educationally, socially, in every way....

"[Jason's second grade] teacher didn’t allow him to read when he finished his work, and tried hard to 'help' him fit in with the other children.... At home he clearly showed his rage at his parents for continuing to send him off to what he considered torture five days a week.... It can be said fairly accurately that only twice-a-week therapy got Jason through the second grade without serious and possibly permanent damage."

By the time I was about 12, I felt the problem was my parents, one of them felt the problem was me, and the other was torn between us--a la /My Name is Asher Lev/ ;) (anyone who's read that book will remember the title character's "Brooklyn Crucifixion" painting depicting such a torn parent).

So in 7th and 8th grades I researched and chose a boarding high school to get away from that environment. My year as a 9th grader there taught me that while personality conflict was indeed part of the problem, the root of the problem was a disastrously poor fit at school. In addition, another student there happened to lend me /The Teenage Liberation Handbook/ by Grace Llewellyn--a John Holt-inspired book that tried to convince teenagers to unschool. I did not actually read all of it ;) but, again, I'd learned from experience that for me, the problem was school. I came home wanting to homeschool.

3. How do you overall feel about your homeschool experience?

It was a necessary deschooling experience. An extremely developmentally inappropriate curriculum and/or social environment damages a child. Some recovery time is necessary.

4. How do you feel about the social experiences you had as a homeschooler? Do you feel that you had enough friends, or enough opportunities for friendship?

My previous developmentally inappropriate social environment in school is what reduced my opportunities for friendship. While unschooling, I found developmentally appropriate friends online (as a side benefit, this also improved my writing skills). At that time I was still too damaged by my school experience to be interested in other opportunities for friendship.

5. How do you feel about your education? Do you feel you received an average, above average or below average education compared to same-­aged peers in your community?

Much better, but that's only because I was a self-motivated learner. That's unschooling: You learn what you want to learn, and you learn it well; you don't learn anything else. Unschooling is necessary for some, but I know it doesn't work well for everyone.

6. What did you do after graduation? College? Work? How prepared did you feel for “the next step?”

When I enrolled in college, I immediately started taking CLEP subject exams, and wound up with two years of credits (as if I'd started college at 14). I didn't study for these--I just chose the subjects I'd been interested in over the years. It just turned out that my "for fun" reading had taught me these subjects. (See? Unschooling works! ;)

Since I attended a few college courses while otherwise unschooling, they obviously prepared me for the college environment. When I first started taking them, I had to adjust from the "fishbowl" private school environment to the more relaxed state college environment--no one noticing/complaining about late work until you get the bad grade at the end. I can imagine that a homeschooler might have a similar adjustment; I just want to point out that you might have the *same* adjustment if you *do* have school experience but it was at a *private* high school! Oh, and for driving, I went to a driving school instead of taking driver's ed at a high school--this worked fine.

I felt unprepared for some things in later life, but based on both my own experience and also the ongoing publications of the study I'm involved in as well as other similar studies...I believe this is the result of developmentally inappropriate treatment in school and the community.

What do I mean by "developmentally inappropriate treatment"? Well...

One mom I know mentioned how her son would write enough in response to writing prompts that it was clear he needed to begin learning to separate his writing into paragraphs. But in school, just producing this amount of writing at all was far ahead of the rest of the class; he would receive an A and no additonal guidance. As a result, he developed a habit of ignoring topic shifts, writing very long pieces with no paragraph breaks. When the class was finally taught about paragraphs, he had trouble because he had years of bad habits to unlearn.

This type of thing also can happen with social expectations. You may learn that you are expected to behave in ways that are not natural to you, that have not been natural to you for years. Having memorized this "babyish" set of behaviors, you don't then grow out of them when others do. Kids grow out of natural immaturity--they don't grow out of "immaturity" they've been taught to fake. You need to learn to take turns (or whatever) when *you* are ready to learn, not be allowed or encouraged to get away without taking turns for years because other kids aren't yet ready.

This is a problem I had that was caused by school, not homeschooling. The classic, research-supported ;) solution to this problem is grade-skipping within a school. Homeschooling seems like it could also prevent this problem. ;) By the time I was unschooled, though, it was obviously too late to prevent it for me.

Overall, my "unschooling year" was necessary and helped me a lot, but I'd have been better off if the necessity for it could have been avoided. I personally feel I'd have been happiest if I'd just skipped grades earlier on. High school is iconic in American culture. My experience taught me very thoroughly that there was nothing for me in high school when I was 14, so I don't "wish I'd stayed in high school." I do wish I could have gone at an age when I could have appreciated it. In my case that would have been about age 10-14; I may be an odd case, but I know there are many others out there who could go at more like age 12-16 and be very happy.

That said...these days American high schools are so strongly focused on busywork and on going through the motions rather than mastering the concepts...that right now I would personally be extremely hesitant to send any kid in my charge to high school.

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Whew...those were some interesting interviews.   These are the last of them.  Here is my follow-up post with my thoughts. 

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