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.   

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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!”.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | January 9, 2016

Alternative Treatments for Children Exhibiting Violent Behavior

rage free kids

Recently, a friend asked me to do some research on alternative treatments for children exhibiting violent behavior.  And I decided that I should probably post my findings!!  So here ‘ya go…

1. If I were a parent with a child exhibiting violent behavior, I would definitely start with homeopathy.

I would read the book Rage Free Kids.

“Rage-Free Kids describes how homeopathic medicine is effective for the treatment of defiant, violent and aggressive children.  …The book includes information on oppositional defiant disorder, rage and violence, an explanation of homeopathic medicine, and over twenty-five case histories of successful homoepathic treatment.” (Amazon.com)

After reading Rage Free Kids, I would find a homeopath.  You can find recommendations for homeopaths in the Boston area on my Practitioners Page.

2. In conjunction with the homeopathy, I would start working with healer extraordinaire Joy delGuidice (who practices energy kinesiology among many other healing modalities).  I know that the child is exhibiting the violent behavior, but as I always say, the child is a mirror for the mom and if the mom can clear her old stuff – her parent’s old stuff – her grandparent’s old stuff, that clearing will most likely have a tremendous healing effect on the child exhibiting violent behavior.  Families are systems…moms’ and kids’ energies are so interconnected…and Joy can treat the family unit.  The healing will be much, much faster than trying to resolve the problem only through the child.

If homeopathy and energy kinesiology do not resonate with the parent, a few additional treatments I might investigate include:

3.  Naturopathy (or naturopathic medicine).  Naturopaths focus a lot on nutrition.  They suggest vitamins and supplements and sometimes even homeopathic remedies.  Unfortunately, because naturopathic medicine isn’t covered by insurance in Massachusetts, there don’t appear to be many naturopaths in the area.  In fact, they all seem to move to the more progressive west coast where insurance covers naturopaths!  But NH seems to be getting on the naturopathic train, so you might also consider checking NH.  You can search here for a naturopath.

I also got a very strong recommendation from one of my own practitioners for Dr. Hubbich, a very alternative MD in Watertown.  Like naturopaths, Dr. Hubbich seems to focus a lot on diet, as well as herbs and homeopathy and a wide array of alternative treatments.

4.  Chinese Herbs.  I have no idea how you’d get a kid to choke down Chinese herbs, but there is a practitioner in Cambridge that comes highly recommended by two of my friends (who don’t even know each other!).  His name is Abram Ojure.  He also practices acupuncture.    (As an aside, I personally am more interested in homeopathy than Chinese herbs.  Both can be quite effective, but homeopathy seems much more gentle.)

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | January 2, 2016

The F-ing Holidays

angry-guy

me.

 

I do so much personal work.

I am always trying to figure out my role in situations and how I am contributing to any unhealthy interpersonal dynamics.

I blog about being a conscious parent and how that which upsets me in the world is actually a reflection of my own fears.

If you’d asked me earlier this month, I would have confidently said that things are going pretty well for me.

And then BAM!  The holidays come and knock me right off my pretty little pedestal, and onto my ass.

My peace and calm go out the window.  All my grace is replaced by the trembling, insecure little girl (inside of me who) I try so hard to love into growing up.

My peaceful breathing is replaced by heart palpitations and tears.

I have created a beautiful home, a quiet sanctuary, for myself and my family of four.  And it is here that I’ve been able to do my personal work.

But when I re-enter the stress of the outside world and I experience other people’s palpable feelings of anger and unhappiness, I am overwhelmed to the point of dizziness.  My senses are overloaded and my heart aches.  I am transported back again to my own angry childhood home where hurtful words were thrown like grenades.

So what is the solution?  To move to an island to escape all unpleasantness?  That’d be my first choice!  But unfortunately my husband won’t agree to plan A.  So I’m stuck with Plan B:  to better hold my boundaries and continue to do my personal work in hopes that one day, I’ll be able to stand on the battlefield that is the holidays and hold strong.  As strong as I am in my own home.

Our children are our primary mirrors into our own souls.  And so the fact that my home is (usually) peaceful is a big deal.  I am proud to say that it reflects the massive amount of personal work that I have done over the past nine years.

But there is certainly not peace in the larger world.  And where there is discord, well…I wish to be anywhere but there!  So I suppose this is the next step of my journey.  To figure out how to bring that peace and calm I have created in my own home into the world (as opposed to being swallowed up by others’ anger and unhappiness).

But I can’t lie, I’d really rather just stay home!  I like it here so much.  I am still a mess from this f-ing holiday and so I am not holding the space (the peace and calm) for my family the way that I need to.  I am teary and unhappy and off kilter.  And so, guess what?  Everyone else is a wreck, too!  Especially my two sweet little mirrors who are down and out with colds again (it’s no wonder why…).  Okay, I know I’m a broken record, but I have to repeat my tag line:  when the mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.  And this mama ain’t happy at all.  Thank God I have another year ’til I have to try it again…

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | December 13, 2015

Slow Homeschooling

Slow Homeschooling.JPG

During our first year of homeschooling, I made the (what at the time felt bold) proclamation, “We are Unschoolers!“.  But I just don’t feel that same heart connection with the term unschooling anymore.  Not the way that I feel a deep sense of alignment with the slow homeschooling lifestyle.

Milva McDonald, in her Examiner article, explains her family’s slow homeschooling experience, “I observed my kids with interest and joy, and provided resources to help feed budding passions. I did my best to act as a guide while trying to stay the heck out of their way. What I did not do when they were very young was sign them up for every math workshop, science club, or whatever activity came on the homeschooling list serve, and I certainly never enrolled them in a learning center. It just wasn’t necessary. Beyond a pottery session here and there, for the most part classes and other structured activities weren’t even a part of my kids’ lives until they hit double digits.  So what did we do?  We spent our time at the park, the library, and in play…”.

Milva describes my kinda homeschooling beautifully.  As she notes in her article, slow schooling has become much less common.  With so many classes and learning centers available to us, homeschoolers often get caught up in the resources of it all.  Many homeschoolers end up cobbling together a homeschool experience that is not all that different from the existing school model.  A literature group on Mondays, a math class on Tuesdays, a Spanish class on Wednesdays, a science class on Thursdays, and a soccer clinic on Fridays.  Is the literature group richer than the Flat Stanley 2nd grade curriculum?  Yes.  Is MIT a more inspiring place to learn about science than a public school classroom?  Yes.  But this type of homeschooling feels like a (better, richer) curriculum that takes place in a (better, richer) environment, in one’s community instead of a school building.  So why call it unschooling (not-school)?

And is this model really child-led?  In many families, I’m sure the parents are offering these classes to the kids and they’re saying, “yeah! sure!”.  But if the family does not have a strong homeschool community and taking classes is the only opportunity for the child to be around other kids, then of course a social four year-old would quickly say “yes!” to a Quantum Physics class.  And then there’s the old TV argument.  Classes (and TV) aren’t necessarily bad.  But the question is what could the child be doing if he weren’t taking so many classes (or watching so much TV)?  My view of the world is that a child would be better served by being allowed to choose one special class.  And then the kid would actually have some time to do some truly self-directed learning, which for children is called PLAY.  Don’t children need time and space and to experience this crazy old fashioned feeling called boredom in order for them to come up with amazing new ideas?!

I just can’t help but wonder if all these better, richer academic programs are really unschooling?  It’s homeschooling for sure (since the kids aren’t going to school).  And the child is saying “yes” to the course offerings and he is able to drop the class at any time, so it’s technically unschooling.  But does this educational model really support a child’s blossoming into her true authentic self?  Does it really foster the child’s understanding of his unique gifts that he is meant to share with the world?  I would argue that these rigorous schedules make homeschoolers well-rounded students, like their schooled age-mates.  But isn’t a main goal of unschooling for children to find what they are truly passionate about?  Doesn’t this process require the time and freedom to explore and participate in the world in authentic ways, not just as students in classrooms?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know that if my family had something scheduled everyday, we would never go to park days and we wouldn’t have built a strong community of friends.  Nor would my children spend nearly as much time together.  They wouldn’t need to figure out how to work things out between them and they wouldn’t enjoy such a close sister relationship.  My younger girl would not have enough time to get lost in her imaginative play.  She would miss out on whole days of playing doctor, Calico Critters, and play dough.  And my older daughter wouldn’t have time to read multiple novels a week, to perfect the hands and eyes in her figure drawings, or to write and illustrate her own stories.

Technically we’re still unschoolers, but I don’t feel like the term describes our lifestyle very well.  And so (in the middle of our third year of homeschooling), I’m rebranding.  We are slow homeschoolers!  Learn more by following the Slow Homeschooling Tumblr.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | December 2, 2015

Homeschooling in the Winter

K in snow

As park days come to their natural end for the season, mamas are starting to ask one another anxiously about their plans for the winter.  Homeschool mamas tend to worry about keeping their kids busy in the cold, indoor months to come.  I, too, can fall into this current of worry…in fact I did just the other day.  I joined the what-the-heck-are-we-gonna-do-in-the-winter chatter at the park last week.

In hindsight, I think that I joined the conversation out of my need to remain connected with my beloved homeschool mama friends, rather than as a result of any actual worry about the winter.  Because, in fact, I am not nervous about the upcoming season at all.  I honestly LOVE homeschooling in the winter!  I love the excuse of the wintry weather to stay home and read and bake all day.  Just me and my two favorite girls.  And if the weather is bad enough, that means the daddy can join us, too!

The creeping pace of the winter is actually when our family is the happiest.  We hunker down and without the stress of the outside world, winter is when our family life is most idyllic.  Pace is our main thing and mother nature ensures that we keep our pace oh, so, slow all winter.

We, of course, still play with friends in the winter!  But the playdates are more occasional and as a result, when we do spend time with friends, it is so special!  We savor every minute of our time together.  And having friends at our house (as opposed to the playground) creates an opportunity for us to get to know one another in a much deeper way.  A way that is well-aligned with my temperament and my children’s temperaments.

I’m hearing lots of talk about this winter being worse than last year.  And well…sounds good to me!  I’m grateful for the upcoming slower pace of winter…for days of snuggling on the couch with a good book…for the smell of sugar cookies filling the house…for cozy nights by the fire.  I love homeschooling in the winter.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | November 23, 2015

Staying Put.

k and l at the park.JPGIn some ways, it’s been a tough fall.  Our two original homeschool family friends have announced their decisions to move.  One family’s headed home to North Carolina at the end of the year.  And the other is planning their adventures in Vermont.

I wouldn’t trade one second of my friendships with either of these mamas.  Every minute of the past two(ish) years in their company has been a gift.  They taught me so much about parenting and how to better care for my family.  They were my ambassadors to homeschooling.  I am so grateful.  Though I am so happy for them and the dreams that they’re following, their leaving is difficult.  Because of all the joy they’ve brought into my life, I am so sad to say goodbye.

But while these friendships change shape…and become more long-distance than daily…something wonderful has also happened this fall.  We’ve made lots of new, wonderful homeschool friends.  Some families are new to homeschooling and some are just “new to us”!  My healer extraordinaire is always saying that we just need to trust that the universe will provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.  And this fall, for the very first time, I’m starting to believe it.

The other HUGE (certainly related) lesson I’m learning this fall is the power of staying.  Staying as opposed to leaving.  Staying put – exactly where I am.  Staying is not my strong suit.  I dream about moving all the time.  I dream about new and improved lifestyles.  A move to Cambridge to live the urban life.  We’d all wear black and be super-hip.  We’d ditch our cars and walk everywhere.  We’d just call (these new fangled!) Ubers whenever necessary.  Other times I dream about moving to Montague and living this hippie-homesteader kinda existence.  But here’s the thing.  Wherever we move, I’ll still be me.  I won’t change.  My new surrounding won’t make me different.  To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Wherever You Go, There You Are”.  I only read about 25% of the book and although it’s not a page turner, I do think the title sums up one my major life lessons perfectly.

And actually…things are really good right exactly where I am!  I’m happy.  Happier than I’ve ever been before.

And we already did this whole move in search of a new lifestyle thing.  We moved much closer to the city, much closer to the action.  We left Sharon to go to the Waldorf School, but also because I just did not feel like we fit in there.  And while it was true that we didn’t match the larger Sharon demographic, we had carved out a beautiful little cozy community for ourselves.  We had made wonderful friends there.  Friends with whom we will remain in touch forever.  But I was so focused on what I didn’t like…on what made me uncomfortable…that I couldn’t fully receive that amazing gift that was being offered to me.  The universe was giving me exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.  But I couldn’t receive it.  I couldn’t even see it.  Instead, I searched for something new, hoping that the perfect place would fill me up.

And ‘ya know what the irony is?  We don’t really fit into Arlington either!  Arlington is much less diverse than Sharon, so we actually fit in even more poorly here!  So what am I going to do?  Take my family on a moving tour of New England in search of some mystical needle in a haystack town that will be so perfect that it will solve all our problems?

Here’s the thing.  What if it’s not about fitting in, but rather it’s about being comfortable in my own skin?  Being my true, authentic self.  I am not my most authentic self all of the time.  I try to be!  But sometimes I lose my confidence and fall back into my “smaller to fit-in self”.  That’s my challenge:  to be my authentic self all the time.  Not to find this perfect place that will make me feel so comfortable that I’ll become a happier, more complete person.  And so, I am making the commitment to stay.  To stay put in Arlington.  And to love the hell out of my wonderfully imperfect town!  I am going to appreciate my beautiful neighborhood full of some of the most sincerely kind and generous people I’ve ever met.  I’m going to notice every day all the ways my home is charming and sanctuary-like and appreciate its proximity to the library, awesome restaurants, and the 77 bus to Harvard Square!

The reality is that we have to drive to find our homeschool community.  And the reality appears to be that there is a lot of turnover in the homeschool community.  Those are two really hard things.  But at the end of the day, we love homeschooling way too much to even consider a more mainstream path.  And instead of searching for a fictitious town where all the families are Pagan homeschoolers, we’ll stay here.  And we won’t be the same as all our neighbors.  Instead we’ll focus on being our most authentic selves, as that appears to be a far more direct path to happiness than moving.

Posted by: Tracy Barsamian Ventola | November 20, 2015

What if they spend their whole childhood playing?

happiness is here

Oh dear, sweet Happiness is Here blog.  Thank you so much for this post…I needed it!

I ran into a neighbor today and her son is struggling in full-day kindergarten.  Not so much in the classroom…he holds it together all day and then comes home and tantrums.  The usual stuff:  screaming, hitting and kicking.  Just like my big girl did when she got home from kindergarten.  My neighbor explained how she knows it’s too much for her little boy.  But he’s thriving in the classroom.  The tantrums are the price to be paid at the end of the day.

But wait.  The price to be paid for what?  For being trapped in a classroom on a 60 degree mid-November day (instead of running and jumping and climbing trees)?  The price to be paid for being forced to learn letters and numbers at a developmentally inappropriate age (instead of simply being surrounded by books and magazines and maps; instead of being allowed free choice in reading materials; instead of simply being read to)?  The price to be paid for doing pointless things like worksheets?  And growing to dislike “subjects” like reading or math (subjects that cannot exist on their own in the real, interconnected world).

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that some lucky kids come out of school unscathed.  These super-kids go to school and still come home and read for pleasure.  They still even like to learn about new things that interest them (just for fun).  Even those “success story” school children are at a minimum missing out on unstructured play, downtime and daydreaming.  Free-time and free-play enable children to really get to know themselves and who they are.  The luxury of time allows children’s own unique talents to naturally unfold.  Freedom is required to discover one’s interests and passions.  Isn’t childhood the time to nurture our children’s innate gifts that they are meant to share with the world?  What could be more important than a happy, unhurried childhood?

So thank you Happiness is Here for taking a much better approach.  The higher road.  And focusing on the positives of homeschooling and the incredible power of play.  What could children be doing if they weren’t in school all day?  What great things might they be experiencing, creating, doing if their childhoods were no longer defined by school?

Here is that beautiful post:  What if they spend their whole childhoods playing?

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