Peace, love and happiness

Early this spring my son and I spotted the first of many peace, love, and happiness graffiti paintings we would see in the city this summer.  You have probably seen them too. They are on bridges and overpasses, on old train cars; all of the usual places you would find graffiti.   I loved them so much I used peace, love and happiness as my name here on the blog.


I am usually fairly opposed to the idea of graffiti. I try to teach the ideal of respecting other people’s property and the practicality of using paint only on paper or other approved surfaces so my house and furniture is not covered in Crayola water paints. I don’t care how washable they are, they do not belong on the side of the couch!  In this particular case of graffiti though, I was far from offended; I was inspired. We had a great conversation about peace, love and happiness; about how our world is rich in these qualities but could always use a reminder to focus on them more.  Every time we spotted another peace, love, and happiness symbol we remembered to be kind to others and to appreciate the wonderful things we have in our lives. It turned into a great summer-long scavenger hunt.

I have always believed that people are basically good; that most of us strive for peace, love and happiness.  Surely, the paths we take toward those goals have a multitude of appearances.  Some paths have a more obvious outward appearance of goodness than others. Despite those outward differences, I’ve always believed that deep down inside we are all more similar than we are different and we are all striving for a better world for ourselves and for our fellow citizens.  I’ve tried to teach those qualities of basic goodness and tolerance to my son.

The recent election results have shaken my beliefs to their very core.  I am a pretty conflict avoidant person (peace, love, and happiness right?) so I was hesitant to address this here.  I don’t want to offend anyone, but I really feel like this needs to be said.  How nearly half of our nation’s voters could cast their ballot in favor of hate and intolerance is beyond my comprehension.  I have been forced to confront the very real possibility that my rose colored glasses are just that.  Perhaps the world is not as kind and generous a place as I thought it was. Perhaps a large part of our country is so angry and self-centered that they are not basically good deep down. Perhaps they are so filled with hate that they truly are striving to make the world a better place only for themselves and not for their fellow citizens. If this nation can enthusiastically elect a man who brags about bullying others, who laughs about violating women’s bodies, who threatens entire religious and ethnic groups with exclusion from our society and who has no qualms about lying to anyone about anything to get what he wants; what are we to tell our children?


Those of us who have chosen to homeschool our children have taken on more than just the responsibility to teach them the academics they need to know to succeed in this world. We have also taken on more than the average parent’s share of the responsibility to teach them the values and morals they will need to succeed in this world.

I have always tried to teach my son to be kind to others and to be considerate of the needs of those around him.  I think those are important qualities for most of us to have in a civilized society.   Now I am doubting if those qualities are going to serve him well. In a world filled with bullies who have been emboldened by the mass cultural embrace of our president-elect, how far will kindness get him? Perhaps I should work harder at teaching him to make sure he gets the first spot in line even if he has to push others out of the way to get there. I’m fairly certain that is what the children in the homes of the adults who elected this man are teaching their children.


I have always tried to teach my son that hard work and education are important keys to success in this world.  The blue collar work ethic of Pittsburgh was drilled into to me as a child and became a strong part of my core set of beliefs. If you are willing to work hard and learn, you will be successful.  Again, I am doubting now if those qualities are as important as I thought. If the candidate who has spent her life preparing for this position, who on paper was the most qualified candidate for president in decades, was defeated by someone who knows no more about foreign policy or about the way our government works than my five year old son does; perhaps being prepared and working hard is not as important as I thought. Our children are watching. I can see the wheels turning in son’s head as he thinks, “Perhaps bravado and making things up as you go along is the way to go. It is certainly an easier path. Why work hard if you can just lie your way to the top?”


I have always tried to teach my son to include others and to embrace differences. I’m sure you have all been to pre-school playtime and seen the exclusion of one child or another.  As mothers, I think most of us try to limit that type of unkindness and encourage our kids to explore the idea of including those who have different ideas and interests in their game if they want to play.  This is the foundation of the social skills they will need to work with groups of people, personally and professionally, for the rest of their lives.  What are we to tell our children, when the leader of our country feels free to discriminate and threaten people based on their race, nationality and religion? Is it acceptable for exclusion to occur on that level, but not on a more personal level on the playground?  How do you explain that to a five year old?


I could continue, but frankly the whole topic is depressing me so I will stop here.  My coping strategy so far has been to tune out – the TV is off; I am not reading the news; I have been staying at home a lot and Facebook is sending me increasingly frantic messages about how many urgently important things have happened in my account since I last logged in.  I know burying my head in the sand is not a viable long term solution to this problem, but it is the best self-preservation method I have been able to come up with.  So what are we to tell our children for the next four years? How are we to negotiate this hostile new world in which we live? ~P.L.H.


Everyday Lessons

I am sure I’m not alone in loving the everyday lessons that arise as a homeschooling family.  Sure, I feel great when I pull off a well designed lesson plan, and the learning meets my expectations.  However, my heart positively soars when I see my children gaining solid knowledge in organic ways that simply pop up as we do life together.  Life skills are never far away, and if we walk through life slowly enough to have the luxury of doing tasks in careful, mindful ways, then these lessons are ready-made!



Are you ever struck by the “are we doing enough?” question as a homeschooling family?   I wrestle with those concerns weekly.  I think about the specific tasks that “should” be done but sometimes fail to make the top of the daily to-do list.  I feel the stress creep in as the joy gets pushed out.  Then I force myself to make a mental list of the life skills we practiced that day.  My household has five children in it, so there are many opportunities to practice sharing, negotiation,  compromise,  selflessness, organization, categorizing, decision-making, leadership, and forgiveness.  We exercise our bodies, our minds, and our creativity.  Every single day.  Even on the down days when we lounge a bit and read a lot, we are practicing many skills that will be valuable long past these “school years.”


When I think about my deepest reasons for homeschooling, I come back to appreciation.  For my children (and myself!), I desire an appreciation for the beautiful Earth that has been given to our care, an appreciation for music and art, an appreciation for my kids’ own abilities to create music and art and objects of all kinds, an appreciation for their unique personalities and capacities for learning and sense of humor, and an appreciation for meaningful friendships.  In our particular family, an appreciate for God as a loving Creator is of foremost importance.* I want my family to have the time to appreciate these things and more–all those wonderful intangibles such as honesty, integrity, humility, and grace.  Don’t forget the very concrete skills, too.  We experience our share of laundry, sewing, dusting, digging, and cooking (and on and on and on).  So much life to live!

Everything I have listed can be found in the unique and brilliant lives of families who choose public and private schools as well.  I do not doubt that!  However, I love the opportunity to thoughtfully craft a life for my family that makes room for these things purposefully and without hurry.  When I have doubts and worry about the many, many subjects to cover in the fleeting years we have, I give thanks for the everyday lessons we share together.  They add up to a magical sort of life.  ~Erica~


*Neighborhood Homeschool has a diverse staff of bloggers from a variety of lifestyles and faith traditions.  This is an welcoming space where people can share their unique experiences and points-of-view.

Homeschool and Motherhood

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.”  -Osho

 This is one of my favorite quotes about motherhood.  It’s so very true:  when we give birth, we shed the skin of our former selves and are born anew as a woman forever connected to her child.  Our selfish selves can no longer exist, for we are physically, mentally and emotionally bonded and responsible for this new little human who has come from our body.  This happens with each subsequent birth- when a new life enters the family, life resets and a new dynamic takes shape.  Motherhood is a constant evolution and the most intense and thorough form of self discovery.  We can’t possibly know how we’ll feel, what we’ll believe or what choices we will make until that baby is birthed from our body and in our care. 

There are many things in my experience of motherhood that I never imagined doing:  homebirthing, breastfeeding until my children outgrow the need (my oldest son weaned in his 5th year), and adopting a holistic, natural-minded lifestyle are a few.  But the biggest surprise of all would have to be homeschooling.  I never imagined that “homeschooling mom” would be part of my motherhood identity.  I always carried the typical stereotypes of homeschooling in my head: isolated, anti-social kids who seem to be missing out on life.  I probably thought it was strange and certainly never imagined that it would become part of my own lifestyle.  In all of my parenting choices, I have let my instincts guide me and have made educated choices that feel right for my family.  Homeschooling has become an extension of our “natural-minded” lifestyle and a beautiful opportunity that I feel fortunate to provide for my children.  It was when my oldest son (now 6) was around 3 that we started doing “circle time” on a daily basis.  As an only child, “playing school” was something I did on a regular basis and throughout my life, I’ve worked with children in various ways (babysitting, volunteering at daycare centers, working at KinderCare).  It felt natural to me to begin doing learning activities with my son at home and I began reading and researching homeschooling.  A couple of close friends felt similarly and we often discussed the concept together.  My husband didn’t immediately understand or agree- we are both products of public school and we turned out fine, didn’t we?  But after many discussions and exploring the idea together, he was on the same page and supported my feelings.  It was a natural evolution to arrive at the decision that I would homeschool our kids.    


 Homeschooling has been an amazing journey so far:  to see my kids learn together… to learn along with them myself… to give them enriching experiences that are “outside of the box” of traditional classroom education- I feel so lucky to be doing this wonderful work!  I feel that if I have the means and desire to provide my kids with this enriched lifestyle, our whole family benefits.  I couldn’t really imagine sending them to school where they are one of many- every child learns differently, at their own pace, has different styles, strengths and weaknesses.  I couldn’t imagine them spending the majority of their day sitting down and having to share the focus of their teacher with 20-some other children their age.  I can’t imagine my boys not being able to spend their learning time together and missing out on the many ages of kids (and adults) they interact with.  At this point in our experience, I have seen so many benefits to our homeschooling lifestyle that I can’t imagine it any other way!  I don’t think that all aspects of public school are negative- there are pros and cons to everything.  But I do know that it’s a different world than when I was in school and I can’t confidently say that public school would be the best I can offer my children.  I want more for them. 

Homeschooling isn’t easy- it’s downright hard at times- but it’s beyond worthwhile.  Many moms (realistically, probably all of us!) experience times of doubt.  We often question if what we’re doing really is the best option… if we’re “good enough”… if our kids are getting enough out of what we’re offering.  Asking those questions alone shows that you ARE doing it right…that you are selflessly giving to your children the invaluable gift of your time, your energy, your desires to want the best for them.  Isn’t the easier choice to just send them off to school?  By homeschooling, we’re providing our children with a way of learning that’s enriched, well-rounded and personalized- something that simply can’t be found in even the “best” of the public schools.  You don’t need a degree or special certification to offer this- your love, devotion and time is more than qualification.  As a mother, you provide a standard of care that can be matched by no other. 

I’ve found that SO many families are choosing to homeschool these days.  It’s far more common now than ever before (well, except when it was the norm back in the pioneer days!).  In wanting to connect with like-minded moms and kids to join us on our journey of learning, I decided to start a group which would serve to provide the social aspect that both the children AND the moms thrive upon.  We all need and benefit from the connection to others and the circle of amazing women whom I’ve become friends with has enriched this experience so much for me.  The friends my boys have made through our homeschooling circle has given me the reassurance that they’re not missing out on any of the social benefit of public school.  We do academic and learning activities as a group, as well as fun parties and adventures.  I am a better mom through the friends I’ve made through homeschooling.  The women I see on a regular basis through our group classes and get-togethers truly inspire me to be the best mom/wife/woman/friend I can be. 


I’ve learned as a mom- in all aspects, not just homeschooling- that my time is no longer my own.  Someday when my kids are grown and don’t need me as intensely, I’ll have it back to myself.  But for now, I’m learning to be ok with not accomplishing everything exactly when I want.  In life, our best laid plans don’t always turn out exactly as we hope (and sometimes, that’s for the best!) and the same is true with homeschooling.  Our lesson plans and learning activities may not always unfold exactly as we plan… we might not get to something on the day we intend… we may go weeks without accomplishing certain topics or activities that we had hoped to cover.  Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans and I’m constantly trying to be ok with that. 

There is a reality of not “getting it all done” that feels like a common theme in motherhood.  It can be frustrating but also awesome at the same time- sometimes not accomplishing everything leads to the spontaneous adventures that make the best impressions.  Life can be a beautiful, chaotic mess and when we embrace that fact, we make the real memories that are what we and our children will someday recall. 

I am so thankful that I have the chance to homeschool my children and to be part of their learning adventures.  I know that when I doubt myself and need a boost of confidence to keep going, I have the encouragement and support of a husband who believes in me, friends who share my values and goals and my amazing little humans who think I’m a great mom no matter what.   –Sara Sites