Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | July 22, 2016

Choosing Homeschooling Over a Waldorf School (Part 3 of 3)

k and l cheering

Check out the first post and second post in this series.

When our big girl attended the Waldorf kindergarten, my husband and I always disclosed our girl’s emotional and behavioral difficulties at our parent-teacher conferences.  We confessed our daughter’s tantrums and sleep deprivation to our beloved kindergarten teacher.  She gave us suggestions.  We always tried to implement them.  But, peace and sleep remained elusive.

Finally, in the spring, I announced to our beloved kindergarten teacher that we would be homeschooling for first grade.  She was shocked.  Even horrified.  She is a Waldorf teacher.  She believes in her heart that every child needs and deserves a Waldorf education.  And our daughter was certainly not just any kid to her.  She loved our daughter, so watching her beloved student “lose out” on what she believed to be the most important piece of childhood was heartbreaking to her.  I completely understood her position, but held strong to my conviction that school was not working for our girl.  Even the most beautiful, the kindest, the gentlest school was not working for our family.

Perhaps because we were leaving…perhaps because she’d been holding the words back for two years…perhaps because God just spoke through her at that moment, one day our beloved kindergarten teacher asked me something to the effect of – since everything is going so beautifully in the kindergarten for your girl and things are so difficult only at home, do you think that you (the mother) might be the problem?  Holy sh*t.  Her words packed a wallop.  After crying my eyes out for a week or so, I pulled myself back together and decided that I knew that school vacations and summers were entirely different experiences than the school year.  My girl was happier.  It was much easier for us to spend time together.  I knew that I was not a perfect mother, but that I was trying my very best and that I needed to follow my intuition.  We needed to at least try homeschooling.

And thank goodness that we did try homeschooling!  It has changed everything.  The sleep issues and tantrums stopped completely during that first year of homeschooling.  So I was right that school wasn’t working for our family.  I was right to follow my intuition and pull my kid out of school.  That was confirmed during the first year of homeschooling.  But it has taken me several more years to recognize that the teacher was also right.  Much of my daughter’s issues were my issues.  This correlation is only logical now that I’ve learned about conscious parenting.  I’ve learned that my children mirror my fears and traumas.  But I needed the time and space that homeschooling creates to come to this understanding.  In the everyday race to survive school, it’s very difficult for mothers to work on our personal issues.  The goal is to survive, thriving is not on anybody’s radar (as far as I know anyway).

School is seen as children’s jobs and it is the parent’s (usually the mother’s) responsibility to pick her kid up from school and deal with the unraveling that is bound to happen as a result of holding it together all day at school.  Adults have to work and so do kids.  Or so our culture wants us to believe…  Slowing down my children’s lives has been a much better gift than the music- and art- and movement-rich Waldorf school experience we have forgone.  I am forever grateful to our beloved Waldorf kindergarten teacher for the myriad of gifts she bestowed upon our daughter and our family.  And I am grateful that she spoke her truth upon our exit.  She was right.  And I am working on my own fears and traumas in order to clear them from both my field and my daughters’ fields, so we can all live more fully and joyfully.  And it is the homeschooling lifestyle that enables me to do to that deep, personal work.  And so in my experience, there is no such thing as a magical school that can meet every child’s needs.  Each and every school (regardless of its size, mission, appearance) is an institution.  No exceptions.  But my family has found our own little nirvana at home in our Slow Homeschooling lifestyle.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | July 18, 2016

Choosing Homeschooling Over a Waldorf School (part 2 of 3)

k and l on chair

Please check out the first post in this series, Choosing Homeschooling Over a Waldorf School (Part 1 of 3).

Once we received our big girl’s letter of acceptance to the Waldorf School, we sold our south of Boston home and bought a home in a town neighboring the Waldorf School.  We threw out (most of!) our plastic toys and put our television in the basement (for Patriot’s games).  We did not sign up for so much as one afterschool activity, nor did we send our girl to school on Fridays (despite paying for the requisite five days of kindergarten).  We had simplified!  Now all we had to do was sit back and watch the magical transformation!

And there was an amazing transformation.  For starters, she spoke at school!  She spoke quietly and only to those she trusted.  Our girl loved her teacher (both teachers actually, the assistant was as angelic as the main teacher).  And she loved her friends and playing at school.  She loved the food the assistant lovingly prepared for the children’s snack each day.  Her heart opened as she spent hours outside each day.  She stopped caring what her classmates thought of her clothes and began to choose clothes based on her own likes and dislikes.  She learned to relax deeply into play.  She now could get lost in play – and play independently – for hours.  Even at the time, we understood that the gift of play is the cornerstone of a happy, healthy childhood.  And I am forever grateful to our beloved kindergarten teacher for these gifts.

Two things, however, did not change:  the sleep and tantrums.  Afternoons and evenings were a series of tantrums.  We would walk on eggshells in an attempt to get through the day in hopes of avoiding those dreaded episodes of kicking, punching, screaming and crying.  But our poor girl just could not unwind from her day.  She could not fall asleep and as a result, it was incredibly difficult for her to get up the next morning for school.  Weekends were much easier because she could just sleep in and would wake up much happier on her own time table – and with several hours more sleep under her belt!

Though age eligible for first grade, we opted to have our daughter do a second year in the kindergarten (a decision we will never regret).  We figured that the sleep and tantrums would work themselves out during that second year of kindergarten.  But by the time we reached January and there’d be no signs of improvement, I knew that full-day first grade wasn’t going to work for our girl.  Our family couldn’t even sustain the half-day kindergarten schedule; there was no way we could endure the first grade.  And so I started my research on homeschooling.

Please stay tuned for the third and final post in this series

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | July 16, 2016

Choosing Homeschooling Over a Waldorf School (Part 1 of 3)

k and l on swingBig Sister (Waldorf Kindergartener, age 6) and Little Sister (Newly Home, age 2)

It feels really important for me (to the point that it’s my responsibility) to share my family’s experience with Waldorf education.  I’ve met countless homeschool families that fantasize about Waldorf schools, envisioning them to be some sort of educational nirvana.  At the park, at the pond, in the woods…I regularly meet families that lament their inability to send their child(ren) to the Waldorf school…either because their child was not admitted to the school or because their family could not afford the school’s hefty tuition.  And so, they’ve opted for homeschooling, but as a second choice to the Waldorf School.  I often wonder if I would feel exactly that same way too, if we hadn’t sent our big girl to a Waldorf School for two years?

Without the experience of having sent our older daughter to the Waldorf School for two years of kindergarten, I suspect that I too might have some of those same lingering doubts that I hear from moms and dads in my community.  These families all wonder the same thing…what if Waldorf might have been the one school where their child could have thrived?  Luckily, however, I was able to CHOOSE homeschooling without any nagging doubts that somewhere in the world there exists a magical school that could meet my super-sensitive big girl’s needs.  And so, I’d like to share my family’s story with you…

We loved our older daughter’s Waldorf kindergarten teacher.  In fact, my heart overflows with gratitude when I think of our two year relationship, as this beloved kindergarten teacher changed the course of our family’s life.  We weren’t living very consciously before we chose Waldorf kindergarten.  Before attending the Waldorf School, our daughter watched at least two hours of television a day.  Our then four year old daughter, after being in preschool all morning, was rushed around to afternoon enrichment activities such as ballet and gymnastics.  Our daughter cared deeply that the clothes she was wearing were the same as those of her preschool classmates (think Disney Princess!).  Our daughter required a playmate or an adult’s constant attention.  She had no idea how to play on her own.  And she could not fall asleep before 9PM nor could she wake up (without be dragged out of bed) before 9AM.  Finally, to really spice things up, our daughter had been diagnosed with a bogus school-based disorder called selective mutism.  And not surprisingly, our daughter tantrumed all. the. time.

We met our beloved Waldorf kindergarten teacher at the interview.  There was a pretty severe snow storm that day, but my husband had taken the day off from work and was willing to risk all three of our lives on Route 95 in order to avoid taking an additional vacation day for his wife’s crack-pot idea that we would send our then four year old to half day kindergarten in Lexington to the tune of $15,000.00 a year.  Luckily we made it to the school without any fatalities and that day, my husband fell under the spell of our soon-to-be beloved kindergarten teacher.  She was warm and kind and wise.  But most breathtakingly, she understood our girl.  Despite the fact that our daughter did not even whisper one word at the interview, this teacher “got” her.  And my husband was ready to take out the check book.

Please stay tuned for part 2 of this series

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | July 12, 2016

Summer Reading Programs are Stupid.

Challenges[1]

Recently, at our beloved local library, my big girl spotted the (above) flyer for a Harry Potter Summer Challenge.  This girl is a serious Harry Potter fan!  She lives and breathes Harry Potter.  She only reads the seven Harry Potter novels (over and over again) and books about those seven novels and the accompanying movies.  She is unbeatable at Harry Potter trivial pursuit.  She was sooooo excited about this challenge.  She re-read the flyer and then asked me a question, “what grade am I in, mom?”.  Homeschoolers don’t care what grade they’re in…they don’t keep track of such unimportant information.  She is officially entering the fourth grade, but from an age perspective, she could be entering the fifth grade.  Upon confirmation of her fear that she is not in sixth grade yet, her face fell.  The Harry Potter Summer Challenge is only open to children entering grades six and up.  So…um…how stupid is that?  I bet my big girl could win the challenge.  I cannot imagine that any child has a greater knowledge or interest in the Harry Potter series than my ten year old.  But the library has decided to segregate its readers on the basis of age, recreating the outdated, now purposeless school model.  How sad.

Of course, we went downstairs to the children’s room to ask our beloved Lauren the librarian if perhaps we could sneak our ten year old Harry Potter expert into the challenge this year?  But she assured us that the teen librarian was strict about the age/grade requirements.  My ten year old teared up.  A well-meaning library assistant tried to raise my girl’s spirits by asking her if she’d like to join the younger kids’ summer reading program.  Children keep track of the hours they read each day and once they’ve reached a certain number of hours, they bring their reading log into the library where they are rewarded with a marble which they can add to one of three jugs.  Each jug represents a movie.  The movie with the most marbles at the end of the summer will be shown in the community room.  Umm…that’s lame!  My ten year old wanted to participate in Harry Potter trivia, not get marbles for reading and voting for movies!!  My ten year old declined.

I told the library assistant that we were homeschoolers, so reading is a natural part of our lives.  Just something that we love to do.  And, I may have added that I don’t believe in rewarding children for reading.  Lauren the librarian who is an absolutely lovely human being jumped in and said something (in her lovely and diplomatic way) about how we could just participate in the program just for fun.  She’s so sweet.  But we still declined and the library assistant was p*ssed.  How could we not want to participate in summer reading?  It gives kids incentive to read!  It’s free!  You get a free book!  Who wouldn’t want to do the summer reading program?

Well…us!  Because summer reading programs are stupid.  Why would we reward children for reading?  It would be like rewarding a kid for eating all of her ice cream!  Reading, like ice cream, is delicious and irresistible!  Why would we ask kids to keep track of the time that they spend reading?  Why would we want to make reading a chore, instead of allowing it to be what it already is:  the key to other worlds!  No bribery or blackmail necessary.  Just leave the kids alone and let them read whatever and whenever they want this summer.  Summer reading programs are stupid.  Period.  End rant.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | June 21, 2016

Perfectly Imperfect Summer Solistice

summer solsticeSo…Summer Solstice kinda snuck up on me yesterday.  We’d had a super busy weekend.  Sunday was busy from sun up to sun down celebrating the girl’s daddy and my father.  Then on Monday, the girls started baking camp, my sister Nicki came to visit overnight, and my sweet niece came over for the afternoon.  And so, around 4pm I final got around to taking out my favorite pagan parenting book – Celebrating the Great Mother.  As I read the book’s beautiful ideas, my heart started to race.  How the f*ck was I going to pull this off?  How could I make summer crowns with the girls when we had no flowers, no wire, only ribbon?  How were we going to make a summer solstice altar?  I had no sunflowers.  Sh*t!!  I then dove head first into a tirade of negative self talk.  Why hadn’t I thought of Summer Solstice earlier?  Why hadn’t I planned?  Why was I such a bad mother?  I couldn’t even celebrate the beginning of each season with my family – there are only four of these damn days each year!!

But then, I’m pleased to report that I did a most important thing:  I took a breath.  And I thought, okay, I need to feed these people dinner.  How can I make it a Solstice dinner?  And so, because my sister was visiting, I was able to leave my two very tired campers home with her while I ran to the grocery store to buy food that we could prepare over an open fire!  I bought hot dogs, sausages, meat-less sausages (for my California girl sister), corn on the cob, and summer fruit.  When I returned home, my sister and I successfully started our very first fire together (how had neither of us lit a fire in our combined 81 years?)!!  It was empowering actually!  The girls helped us to cut the wood for the fire and to light it.  They were tickled with our girl-powered effort!  Once the fire was roaring, we roasted our prepared summer meats over an open fire.  The girls LOVED it.  Said it was the best meal they’d ever eaten.  And when the daddy got home, he was greeted with big smiles, meat on a stick, and a gin and tonic (I forgot to mention that the auntie and were sipping gin and tonics while we labored.  It was hard work after all!).

So this is what I’m learning:  maybe I don’t have to plan everything out months in advance?  Maybe I really and truly don’t have to worry about creating Waldorf-approved, breathtakingly beautiful festivals.  Maybe I just need faith.  Faith that things always come together.  Not necessarily perfectly, but there is something to be said for imperfection.  Hot dogs on a stick didn’t make it into my Pagan parenting handbook.  And yet the meal was (for my family anyway) a perfectly imperfect summer solstice celebration!

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | June 8, 2016

Homeschooling Only Some of the Kids

hsing only one kid

I had the chance to chat with a lovely friend of mine who is planning to homeschool only her younger daughter next year.  Her older daughter will remain in school.  This friend was the third amazing mama to sit in my kitchen to discuss her plans to homeschool only one of her children while the other child remains in school.  Sadly, friend #1 and friend #2 have since enrolled all their children in school.

So why doesn’t homeschooling only some of some of one’s children seem to work?  Each of these moms shared similar thought processes…she was doing what felt right for each individual child.  But the problem is that they are thinking inside the “school box”.  They are thinking within the context of school:  learning happens between certain hours and through direct instruction from an adult (a school teacher or mom).  But, homeschooling is so much more than an alternative way to educate your children, it’s a lifestyle.  And once you step outside of that school box, everything starts to change.  You start to view the world in a totally different way.  And really, how can you break through the limitation of this widely held, deeply instilled societal belief that learning = school if you have even one child in school?

Once you switch your lens…once you understand that children (and people in general!) are always learning…what would be the purpose of sending any child to school?  Once a family comes to view their community as their children’s best classroom, not a school setting with 20 or 30 age mates and one teacher, then why would that family (like all three of my friends) scrape together twenty thousand dollars a year to send each child to a private school?

So as a result of having even one child in school, you are pretty much tied to a school model.  Not just the school schedule (daily and yearly), but also the school mentality.  School happens between 8 and 2 (approximately) and through direct instruction.  This means that mom assumes the role of teacher for the homeschooled child(ren).  On my site I call this the school-at-home model.

Honestly, I feel like moms who homeschool only some of their children get the worst of both worlds.  They remain philosophically attached to the school model and they are tied to the school schedule/calendar and they don’t really get a minute to themselves.  And as I *may* have mentioned before, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

So here are my top reasons to homeschool ALL of your children.

1.  Life Style/Life Learning.  By homeschooling my children, I’ve come to see that education and school have little to do with one another (as a former school teacher, this lesson rocked my world a few years back!).  Only because we left the world of school was I able to see that direct instruction from a predetermined curriculum is not a requirement for learning; in fact it’s often a hindrance to real, deep, self-directed learning.

 

If you have one child in school, it seems almost impossible that you’ll adopt a slow homeschooling (unschooling) lifestyle.  Most likely, you’ll adopt a school-at-home model, trying to (at least somewhat) emulate what your other child is doing in school.

 

2.  More time together as a family.  This is really a continuation of reason #1.  By stepping off the school treadmill, you get to spend so much time together as a family.  You get to enjoy one another at home, unrushed.  You learn naturally by experiencing life together as a family.  By removing the stress of school, my children, my experience of motherhood, and my family as a whole blossomed.

 

3.  Sibling relationships.  Homeschooled siblings for the most part, enjoy wonderful relationships with one another.  They spend a lot of time together and have ample opportunity to work out their problems and resolve their differences.  School gets in the way of sibling relationships, placing more value on peers than family.  So if you only homeschool one child, you miss out on this wonderful gift.  And, it’s worth mentioning that two happy siblings entertain one another thereby giving the primary homeschool parent a break!  (See if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy motto above!).

 

4.  Pace.  Ahhh..slow mornings.  When the whole family homeschools, no alarm clocks are necessary!  Mornings are peaceful, quiet, and productive!  My children play beautifully for several hours after breakfast.  That’s when I get all my own stuff done.  I wouldn’t have those crucial hours if I were dragging one of my kids to school every morning.

 

5.  Visiting museums, libraries, etc and vacationing at off-peek times.  By time boxing homeschooling to the hours your other child is in school, you are missing out not only on the magic and beauty of slow-homeschooling, but logistically you are missing out on the best times to do stuff!  Between the hours of 12 and 3 is a magical time to explore museums for example; you get the whole place to yourselves!

 

And those vacations!  If you homeschool ALL of your children, you can go on vacation anytime!  Europe in May or September.  How ‘ya gonna beat that?  Homeschool friends of ours spent a month in Hawaii this winter.  Can’t do that with a kid in school!

 

I would love to be wrong about this.  I hope that it is possible to LOVE homeschooling only some of your children.  While I feel like it would be impossible for me to successfully homeschool one of my children, I most certainly (honestly and truly) hope these families work out a beautiful dance that works for their families (or better yet, decide to pull ALL their kids of out school)!!
Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | May 27, 2016

Redefining Motherhood

sacred site

Want to know something?

I went to Peru for two weeks at the end of April.  On a spiritual trip.

I didn’t tell many people that I was going.  I was ashamed that I was leaving my two young children for two whole weeks.  I cried the entire week before the trip in anticipation of what I believed to be the inevitable:  emotionally scarring my six and ten year old daughters by leaving them for two weeks.  I was picturing them as 20-somethings lying on couches in their therapists’ offices, weeping as they remembered their mother abandoning them to go to Peru in 2016.  

But do you know what?  My kids were fine.  They actually had a really good time with their very capable dad and the awesome team of sitters I assembled to care for them while I was gone.

And I had an amazing, life-changing experience in Peru.

Not surprisingly my biggest lessons revolved around one my favorite topics:  motherhood!  My fear about leaving my children (and being a “bad mother”) turned out to be one of the biggest reasons that I needed to go on the trip.  Lean into your fears, ladies!   

Here is what I learned in Peru:  over the past ten years (of motherhood), I have given away my power.  I have been so busy trying to be a perfect mother by meeting my children’s every need and protecting them from every difficulty, that I’ve stepped out of my power.  I’ve lost touch with myself…who I really am.  My big energy can overwhelm others and I’ve felt that I needed to stuff down my power in order to fit into the small role our culture has carved out for mothers.  We’ve been taught that a mother is supposed to put the needs of her family before her own.  A mother is supposed to sacrifice herself in favor of serving her children, her family, and her community.  And what is the end result of this sacrifice?  Disempowered, incredibly unhappy mothers.  How is this good for our families?  For our communities?  For ourselves? 

For me, part of this process of finding myself has to do with laying down my need to not be like my mother.  Now, of course, I do not want to emulate my mother’s mothering!  But I’ve gone so far to the opposite extreme!  I’ve raised the bar for myself to absolute perfection.  I hold myself to an unattainable standard:  If I am not perfect, I am like my mother.  And in my attempt to achieve this impossible goal, I have whittled the scope of my life down to only motherhood.  In essence, I have become so obsessed with not being like my mother, that I haven’t been able to settle into being myself.  I haven’t defined motherhood on my own terms. 

I have only been home for a short while, but the transition home has been an incredibly difficult one.  I opened so wide in Peru and I came home to see just how small of a life I’ve carved out for myself at home.  I have chiseled my life down into one that revolves around meeting the needs of my children.  That is not a whole life.  My children cannot be the sole purpose of my life.  Rather, my two beautiful girls are these amazing gifts.  These beautiful souls have helped me to resolve my own childhood wounds.  They show me the personal work I’ve yet to do and they model joy and unconditional, boundless love to me everyday.  I love them more than words can convey.  

While mothering young children is a beautiful season in a woman’s life, we cannot lose sight of ourselves during this time.  We cannot fade into the background in favor of caretaking our families.  We mamas hurt ourselves and those around us when we make ourselves small and live through our children.  We are supposed to live these huge lives that fill us with meaning and purpose and our children are along with us the amazing journey.  They are with us to witness our fullness and to learn from our love of life and to find their own calling along the way.  And that is my challenge…my next step…to learn what it is that fill me up.  And to work towards my own inner fullness, my own happiness and to bring that light into my family…into my community…and into the world.   

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | March 21, 2016

No Going Back

When we first decided to homeschool, my big girl’s beloved kindergarten teacher said something to the effect of – “You may homeschool for a year or two, but I just can’t see you homeschooling forever, Tracy”.  I took the comment in stride on the outside, but her comment stung.  Why did she think that?  Had my mother somehow managed to get a message (from the other side) to the kindergarten teacher regarding my selfishness?

In hindsight, I probably read way too much into her comment.  I suspect that the teacher had visions of me planning two beautiful Waldorf main lesson each night.  Teaching perfect individualized, Steiner-approved lessons to the girls each morning.  This is actually most people’s vision of homeschooling:  mom creates a little school-at-home (usually at the kitchen or dining room table).  And I suspect that if we’d gone the school-at-home path that the teacher would have been right; I probably would have lasted only one, maybe two years playing the role of both Waldorf teacher and mom.

But, anyway…luckily we are slow homeschoolers (or unschoolers, if you prefer that term!).  And so, fast forward three years from that conversation with the kindergarten teacher and it turns out that she was wrong.  I still am happily, joyfully homeschooling my children.  And let’s be clear here:  there’s no going back.  We could never give up our freedom.  We could never rejoin the mainstream (school) culture, not when we’ve tasted the good life.

The girls and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) today.  And the whole time, I kept thinking, “Why would anyone go to school?”.  “How could anyone who’s so much as heard about homeschooling not try it?”  Before we began homeschooling, I read the book Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything (in which the author pretty much describes the life that we now lead) and the whole time I kept thinking, “c’mon, is this really possible?”.  I wasn’t even particularly confident that it was possible…but it just sounded so wonderful (so much better than the hell that we were living when my older daughter went to school) that I knew we just had to try it!  And every single day, I am grateful for that book.  Grateful to the universe for connecting me with just the right people to encourage me to take the plunge.  Grateful for my husband’s faith in my judgement.  Grateful that we tried homeschooling.  Because it turns out that, as Weldon’s book title claims, homeschooling really does change everything.

And so, here is our great day at the MFA in photos.

mfa1 mfa2 mfa3 mfa4

And if the photos aren’t enough to convince you how great homeschooling can be, let me whisper some of the day’s magical logistics to you…

We left our house at 11:40 and got to the museum at 12 noon.  TWENTY MINUTES from Arlington to the MFA (unbelievable!).  Because it was noon (when no one else is at the museum), there were multiple spots at meters.  I paid $3.75 to park.  Three dollars and seventy five cents to park just outside the museum (unheard of!).  We stayed at the museum for about 2.5 hours.  We pulled out of our rock star parking spot at 2:40 and into our driveway at 3pm.  Our trip to the MFA today is just one little example of the miraculous experiences that homeschoolers enjoy every.single.day.

I’m sorry.  I just cannot help but be evangelical.  TODAY WAS A GREAT DAY TO BE A HOMESCHOOLER!  The truth is, everyday is a great day to be a homeschooler.  I think that may be my new tag line!!

Love, Tracy

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | February 18, 2016

Little Girl Lit

betsy tacy

I hated to read as a little girl.  HATED it.  Though I never particularly liked to read, my reading flame was fully extinguished when my fifth grade teacher assigned the book The Hobbit.  First, science fiction wasn’t (then and isn’t now) my genre AT ALL!  Second, the book was way too complicated…I couldn’t follow the plot line.  Being required to read a book that was too hard about a subject that disinterested me was too much.  I shut down.  I decided that I hated to read and stopped reading for pleasure completely.  It wasn’t until my late twenties that I started to read for pleasure.  I got really into Jennifer Weiner’s books.  Thank you, Chic Lit!  Light.  Fluffy.  Like a dessert.  And who doesn’t like a chocolate moose topped with whipped cream?  I now read much meatier novels for pleasure and information these days.  But, I really needed Ms. Weiner and her contemporaries to help me learn to love to read.

I think my cautionary school tale is why slow homeschoolers intuitively know we have to suffer through the Rainbow Magic series with girls between the ages of 5 and 8.  And why we follow our children’s leads and don’t force them to “move up” to higher level novels before they are ready.  It’s why we wait ’til our children want to graduate to thicker books with more complicated plots instead of pushing them to read more difficult books just because they’re ready from a “skills” perspective.

Also on the bright side, by homeschooling my children, I am getting the opportunity to read all of the amazing Little Girl Lit that I missed out on growing up!  And really, the very best titles are the oldies, but goodies.  Many of these books would have been available when I was a child.  And so, without further adieu, here a few OFF KLTR favorite Little Girl Lit titles…

Picture Books

Knuffle Bunny (and the sequel) and Edwina by Mo Williems

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairytale and The Ugly Vegetables and everything ever written by Grace Lin! 

The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker (illustrated by our beloved Grace Lin!)

Snowy Day and everything ever written by Jack Ezra Kates!

Younger Chapter Books (that my five, almost six year old loves!)

Claude series by Alex T. Smith (fresh! but so silly and funny!)

Cobblestreet Cousins by Cynthia Rylant

Ling and Ting series by Grace Lin

Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Chapter Books (that my nine, almost ten year old loves!)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and Matilda and everything ever written by Roald Dahl

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dagliesh

Starry River of the Sky and anything ever written by Grace Lin!

Wind Boy by Ethel Cooke Eliot

Series Chapter Books (that my nine, almost ten year old loves!)

American Girl Historical Books, like this favorite from the 1970’s Good Luck, Ivy! and Kit Kitterage from the Great Depression.

Betsy Tacy and Winona’s Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace

Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Ivy and Bean by  Annie Barrows

Katie John series by Mary Calhoun  (out of print – check your library!)

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

The Pacy Lin Novels including Year of the Rat, Year of the Dog, and Dumpling Days by none other than Grace Lin!

Have a favorite Little Girl Lit book that should be included in this list?  Please post it in the comments!

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | February 4, 2016

A Reminder of Why We Homeschool…

bikes

Pretty regularly, I hear myself proclaiming (to myself and anyone who’ll listen), “it’s a great day to be a homeschooler!”.  And I believe this mantra from the bottom of my heart.  Everyday I feel lucky to be able to homeschool my children.  And the two 50 plus degree February days we’ve enjoyed in Boston this week were sweet little reminders of our great fortune!  While most people spent the days at their desks, we basked in the sunshine.  We spent Monday at the park with our homeschool friends and Tuesday the girls rode their bikes through the streets of our (deserted in the daytime) neighborhood.  These two beautiful days we experienced the palpable sweetness of homeschooling.  But I also received a harsh reminder this week of why we chose homeschooling three and half years ago.

Last week was really busy – beginning with a blizzardy weekend in Brooklyn, NY with family and ending with a farewell party for our dear friends who moved to North Carolina.  And then on Monday, we went to a SIXTY DEGREE homeschool park day (which was magical), and then we rushed home to pick up supplies for a 3pm appointment at the Lydian Center (which was wonderful).  And because we’d been out all day, I didn’t have time to make dinner, so we stopped at our favorite taqueria to pick up burriotos (which were delicious).  And since the taqueria is next door to our local used book store, we *had* to pop in there for a book or two (neither of which we’ve had a chance read, yet!).

We didn’t get home ’til after 5.  …And then all hell broke lose.  The little one lost her sh*t in a way that she rarely does.  She was screaming and crying, lamenting, “you wasted my time!  I didn’t get to play all day!”  I mean true, unbridled hysteria.  She crossed the line of sanity screaming things like “I don’t want to take a bath!” (umm…who said anything about a bath?).  And, “you don’t love me!” and “you never snuggle me!” (umm….what?  This kid is on my lap 50% of the day!).

My little girl had soul fever.  Soul Fever is what Kim John Payne describes as “the emotional equivalent of a physical fever.  When small (or large) stresses accumulate, you may find your child with a soul fever…They are ‘out of sorts’,  not at their best (and quite possibly at their worst) – and they may seem stuck in that frustrated state.  Kim suggests that we notice this and take it as seriously as a physical fever – slowing down, drawing the child near, suspending normal routine in order to give the child the calm and safe space to untangle their ’emotional knot’ – to return to their best, most balanced self.”  Simplicity Parenting Website

In hindsight, it’s clear that my big girl had soul fever for about four years (two years of preschool and two years of kindergarten).  And do you know what?  I’m equally sure that I had soul fever, too!  As Payne states, children need a calm and safe space to untangle their emotional knot.  But how can a mother with soul fever create that space?  Simple answer:  she can’t!  And so, soul fever became a way of life for my family.  Unattended, our soul fever grew more and more intense.  And that, my friends is why we homeschool.  We chose homeschooling as the ultimate simplification.  We chose homeschooling in order to slow things down, to draw our children near, and end the race we’d been running – and ultimately to create a calm and safe home in which our children can be their best, most balanced selves.

The other night, during my little girl’s meltdown, I felt that all too familiar knot starting to form in my stomach.  I remembered that when my big girl went to school I used to feel this knot every. single. day.  And I realized that my big girl experienced this same emotional pain and physical discomfort every. single. day.  She exploded daily in an attempt to release the tight knot in her belly.  At the tender age of three…four…five…six, my oldest child suffered from soul fever.  My heart aches at the memory.

And so, I am grateful every. single. day that we opted out of school.  And I’ll continue to shout my truth from the rooftops to anyone who’ll listen, “everyday is a great day to be a homeschooler!”.

Older Posts »

Categories