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I think somewhere in the far (very far) recesses of my mind, where things are neat and organized, I had a vision of doing school at home in an, at least somewhat, organized manner. I pictured specific hours, specific daily routines, life on a schedule. I imagined the first few weeks would be an adjustment, but that I’d get a handle of things, that we’d just settle in and have a whole new normal.

It’s mid-February now and I’m coming to accept that I just don’t have a handle on anything and the closest thing to normal now, is that we’re not.

When Alex and I do math, the pencil tapping is vigorous, and he runs and sits on his head on the living room couch. It’s how he thinks, when it comes to numbers. He turns his entire body upside down. He stares into space. He taps whatever is nearby.

At school, he tells me, I had to sit on my hands. 

Here, at home, he does what he needs to do to make the numbers line up in his brain, while I hang back. I move on to help Asher or Lila. I try to give him his space, and I try to convince myself that just because I’m letting him act out his thinking here at home, he’s not going to one day wind up doing a headstand in the middle of a business meeting.

But then, what if he does? What if he does grow up to be someone who learns and lives out his learning process in weird, impractical ways and he makes people stop and stare at him, wondering what’s going on with his head?

Lila is the opposite.

She’s the one who misses the school bus the most, but, she also needs the most quiet, she needs space. She needs me to leave her alone while she works and then to encourage her with over-the-top exclamations when she comes to me with a three-digit subtraction regrouping done perfectly or a spelling test, with words correct, and doodles of “I love you!” and hearts over every spare inch of space.

I wonder, what will she do, someday, if she has a boss who tells her what to do and then micro-manages? Will she be able to deal with someone who does not cater to her specific need for space?

Am I creating unrealistic expectations of the world for my children? Am I raising them to believe that bosses and leaders will bend, based on their needs, rather than the other way around?

Will they have a handle on how the world works? Will they have handles on themselves?


I remember being a student in school buildings. I remember staring out the tall classroom windows, watching cars driving by and being  envious. There’s a world out there, I would think, there are people who aren’t stuck in this box, like me.

I remember thinking of my mother, at home in her soft blue bathrobe, or in jeans and a cream colored sweater with round wooden buttons, sitting with coffee on the couch and watching The Waltons while folding clothes, in the hours before she had to go to work. I remember longing for home.

We would come home to folded laundry and dinner ready in the refrigerator. We would come home to my mother’s fingerprints of care and love throughout the house.

And, she would be on her way out to work.

I grew up, resenting desks and cubes and punching clocks and working for other people.  I grew up resenting time spent away from my family, from the comforts I craved.

I don’t think this was really because I went to public school. I think it’s just who I’ve always been. It’s why I live just a little outside of the box now.  Perhaps, I would have been a stand-on-my-head learner too, given the chance.

But still, in my choices, I like to have a handle, to feel in control in some way. And in having children, in homeschooling children, I feel less and less in control. This winter isn’t helping, with cabin fever driving us all to fits of madness, scribbling on the walls, standing on our heads, blaming division for the cause of all evil in the world.

Yesterday, I found an word document, a blog post that I never published. It recounts an entire day of life from last fall. The tone is overwhelmed – at bus routines, at toddler routines, at my complete inability to get a handle on early morning snack-packing and the rush of after school activity and homework. The title was “Busy” and it ended with me accepting that word as just part of this stage of life, for better or worse.

Turns out, I had just forgotten myself.

Homeschool or public school.

I’ve never had a handle on anything.

This morning, Alex and I discussed metaphors as he stood barefoot over a heating vent and tapped his head with a pencil. As I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, we talked about how metaphors and similes are different, and what it means to speak metaphorically.

Oh, be still my creative writing heart, this is where the good stuff lingers. In the kitchen, in the mundane moments, when you’re not trying to teach at all, you’re just talking to your kid – about something that excites you, no less.

So, we learn in our pajamas, in the kitchen and at friend’s houses, and at church, and in dojos and town hall drama classes.

So, we aren’t normal.

So, I don’t have a handle on anything and every day is a different version of routine.


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