Mamas, I want to share something with you this morning. My kids are all still asleep, it’s supposed to rain today and so I baked some yummy muffins and am journaling and drinking my coffee.
I’m a deep thinker 💕💕
Here’s the thing. You can’t do ALL the things. So many of us are exhausted and overwhelmed because we feel so much pressure to get this homeschooling thing right. We want to make sure our kids are well read and know math and have awesome friends, and get to experience amazing places and take great classes all over town (well not me but many do 😂😂)
But here’s the secret - you can’t do all the things mama. You can’t clean and work and homeschool and go on field trips , and attend park days, and bake and cook from scratch and be an awesome partner and be Martha Stewart ALL the time. You can be some of those things some of the time but the rest of the time you have to do the things that matter most.
Some seasons this means staying home more to get things done there and other seasons it may mean letting some things go so you can get out more. It may mean taking a week off so you can get organized or quitting everything so you can start fresh.
The thing is you get to choose. This is your show. You are in charge of your life. You have permission to make it wonderful.
Mamas, if you feel like you are always behind, always trying to catch up, like you can’t do enough, it’s time to step back.
Make some muffins. Journal. And redefine what A Spacious Life looks like for you .
You've got this mama!
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7 years ago my bright and gifted oldest daughter was failing out of 7th grade after being in 3 schools in 3 years and many more before that.
She’d completely lost her love of learning , was angry, defiant, and depressed . Our relationship had deteriorated to the point that my husband wanted to send her to boarding school because he was afraid she would hurt our youngest child.
I pulled her out in the middle of that school year and never looked back. We deschooled and then unschooled through high school where she eventually skipped her senior year and graduated early.
Today she is 18 and thriving in college as a game art and design major.
Yesterday I received this text from her long time mentor and art teacher. I wanted to share to give you all hope that by homeschooling your children and listening to their needs instead of forcing them into a box is exactly what they need to become who they are meant to be.
Keep on keeping on!
“Karen, hats off to you- you are an incredible mom! Your daughter is a gem. She is intelligent, kind, genuine and oh so talented. Take a big breath - you deserve it. You’ve raised a decent human being in which the world needs. That is so important. Thank you.”
These days I am a homeschool coach and gifted advocate supporting mamas all over the world who are raising gifted and 2e kids through private coaching, workshops, my blog and facebook group on unschooling and self directed learning.
Mamas, I’m writing you today from my favorite place - glamping in Santa Barbara with my family. It’s a place I come to as often as possible to recharge and connect with nature.
My oldest daughter (18) was able to join us this weekend- and I’m reflecting on how far we’ve come (she’s my best friend ❤️) , the lessons I learned along the way, and what I hope to share here in this space and with those of you I’m blessed to be able to coach and mentor.
So this morning I leave you with this...
I know sometimes it’s hard to have faith that you are on the right path. Your days may be challenging, you may feel lost, lonely, and discouraged.
7 years ago I was in your shoes. I was listening to mainstream “experts” advice. Well meaning teachers and psychologists who didn’t understand what Gifted really meant and had no clue about educating outside the box.
...,”Your kid can’t be a hermit. You can’t just not “do school”. Your kid needs to obey, conform, change their behavior....”
Those words didn’t feel right - they felt heavy and so negative, but I had lost touch with my intuition and was desperately seeking answers from anyone who understood kids like mine.
Eventually we hit rock bottom. We’d been in 3 schools in 3 years. Our days started and ended with tears, resistance, anxiety, stomach aches, and failing grades.
But then something happened. I woke up. I dug deep. I discovered my own voice. I learned to trust.
My hope is my story touches one of you and helps you keep going.
I wish you to see how beautiful this journey is.
I pray for you to shift and grow.
I long for you to move into a new paradigm beyond what you currently know.
Mamas, it’s true that our children may be different than we expected. They may be more intense, more out of the box, and they may require more of us than we could have even imagined.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be hard.
Let go of trying to force your kids to fit in the box.
Fully accept them exactly as they are.
Perfect. Amazing. Divinely made.
A Spacious Life is awaiting you.
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Mamas, I see you. You want to believe you have the freedom to choose how you do this gig but you are still trying to do that homeschool freedom thing AND school.
It's so hard to have blind faith and really leap. I know because I was you.
Mama's, listen.... if you are feeling overwhelmed with choosing curriculum, finding classes or how to spend your days it is time to get off the internet and do the deep soul searching work.
I mean how does this all work anyway?
It's time to ask the hard questions about learning and growing and becoming an adult and how best to prepare your children for that. For life.
Your children have answers too. They know. Its just that in school no one asked them. They didn't have choices so they have forgotten how. Childhood wonder and imagination has ideas about what they would be doing if they had all the freedom in the world.
And you get a say too. What do you love and want to know more about. Hate crafts. Don't do them. Love science - go deep. Never want to do math again - don't. ( You can hire it out, unschool it, let them learn naturally, delegate it ) Need tons of quiet time or lots of time spent in community? Want nature and adventure?
It is all up to you. There are no rules.
Learning doesn't have to be seperated into subjects like history and grammar and math to count as an education.
So get quiet mamas. Pull out that blank journal and start writing. How would you spend your days if you had complete freedom to live and learn alongside your children exactly as you wanted. What would be on the must do list and what would you let go of.
Thats freedom mamas. That is homeschooling.
My kids this year said:
E - (15) How to start an animal sanctuary
K - (10) Ancestry of our family
C - (6) Space and the Universe
We could fill our entire year up with just these 3 and learn so much or we could venture off in to new curiosities and rabbit holes. Throw in some living math and read endless books, go on countless field trips and museums, science experiments, crafts and projects , park days and camping , and community and friends and its looking to be an amazing year.
As my kids grow they begin to have their own goals and dreams and I am the facilitator to help them get there but there is no hurry.
This is not a race.
Mamas, homeschool doesn't have to look like school. it can but it doesn't have to. And isn't that the entire point?
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Mama - You don't have to homeschool like anyone else. There is no magic bullet, no secret formula, no perfect curriculum or method. I promise though I know that some days you really wish there were.
Mama - You don't have to go on endless field trips or do crafts and bake. You don't have to sign your kids up for countless classes and drive them all over town. You don't have to sign your kids up for summer camps. You don't have to do "math" or grammar or writing or science. Or you can do all these things but you don't HAVE to.
You don't HAVE to do anything other than be fully engaged and mindful about this journey.
Mama, the beauty in homeschooling is finding YOUR style and your rhythm. The one that works perfectly for your family and your kids. And this will take time though I know you so desperately want to have it all figured out right now, today.
Mama, give yourself the gift of going slow. Listen to podcasts, read books, listen to the mamas who have walked the path ahead of you tell their story. Let it all sink in.
Mama, I know you are going to be tempted to buy curriculum and have your days planned out for you. Resist. Allow this to unfold in its own time and its own way. You will figure it out but it will take time.
Mama, You don't have to do this like anyone else.
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Mama I see how hard you are trying.
I see you. I understand.
I see how overwhelmed you are with doing this just the right way. I see how your mama intuition is telling you to trust your child. To give space and freedom for learning. To allow this to evolve in its own way. I see you are struggling to let go of the way things were supposed to be and accept that this is the way they are. I see you are finding yourself isolated and alone. I see how you can't really talk to family and friends. I see how they don't understand and how their "helpful" words of advice only leaving you feeling like you have to defend yourself at a time when all you know is that you have no choice to do this drastic thing all the while having no clue how it is all going to turn out.
It is as if the world is a train continuing by and you are just standing there on the sidewalk forced off the path and left in the great unknown.
Mama, I see how hard you are trying . I see you. I understand.
Here is the thing mama. Raising emotionally intense, gifted and atypical little ones means there is a good chance that you are wired a bit differently too. Your path to homeschooling is going to look different and more intense than it is for someone else.
I know this because I am you.
I spent most of my life thinking that I was the only one that felt this way. For years, I wondered if something was wrong with me. Mind you I spent hours and hours coaching women entrepreneurs so it wasn't that I was ignorant to that fact that people struggle but still I felt different.
My emotional sensitivity and intensity had always been an issue for me causing hurt feelings and misunderstandings with friends as a child. Oh and I was bossy too. Boy was I. My parents still love to share stories of times I made sure to direct everyone in a loud voice about the "right" way to do things. As a teenager I would find myself feeling both like an old soul and naive young girl at the same time snubbing my nose at the silly ways teenagers are all the while also feeling like I didn't fit in. I was always that person that others came to for support but never felt like I really had anyone who could be the same for me in the way I needed them to be. It wasn't their fault really. They just didn't get me.
As an adult I struggled to find my tribe. I had friends but they didn't always last. Usually my emotional intensity would get in the way somehow either by something I said or my strong feelings would cause us to drift apart. Or sometimes it was just that I would simply grow bored or disillusioned and be ready to move on.
Finally as a mother I was part of this larger tribe of mothers but even then I was on the outside. You see ( well of course you do!!) my kids were emotionally intense right from the beginning. They didn't sleep when they were supposed to sleep, talk when they were supposed to talk, read when they were supposed to read. I couldn't leave them with babysitters because they would cry and when it came time to start preschool and eventually school- it just didn't work - while for most everyone else I knew it just did. Those days I had friends but I always felt I was on the outside looking in.
So mama, I see you. I understand.
Our path to homeschooling has been a long and windy road but I want to share with you mama that it is only here that I have found my people and my hope is that you will too. For the first time in my life I have met other mamas who describe themselves with the same words that I use to describe myself. Some of these mamas have become real life friends and others I just get to "see" online .
For all those who say that being "gifted" doesn't matter once you are homeschooling I disagree. Finding other mama's like myself who have also been forced to homeschool has healed me in ways that I cannot even begin to put into words. It doesn't mean we think we are better than you or that our kids are superior in any way. It simply means that we are wired a bit differently and being with others like us , helps us to feel not so alone. It allows us to feel heard and understood. It helps us to heal and for our children to heal too.
These soul sisters I have in my life now as a homeschooler have allowed me to be the mama my emotionally intense, atypical, little souls need me to be.
So mama, I see you and I understand.
You aren't alone. We are all in this together.
For more information about gifted adults read this great article from SENG ( Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted)
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Recently I had a call with a prospective homeschool coaching parent who described herself as a forced homeschooler. Someone who never planned on homeschooling but had no choice other than to pull her child out of school for the sake of their child's emotional health and well being. Someone who wanted desperately for the traditional school system to meet the needs of her child- but school was failing miserably.
As a mother of 4 children ages 6, 9, 14, and 18 who never wanted to homeschool - I could relate to her words so much. I am a forced homeschooler too. I mean, really why should we have to homeschool? Why should we have to give up everything to teach our kids at home? School seemed to be working just fine for most of my friends' kids so why not for ours?
Well meaning friends and family stared at me blankly when I told them that I was going to homeschool. Their ears were listening but their blank faces told me that they didn't understand. My heart was filled with anxiety about the unknown, feeling desperate and out of control but knowing that something had to change. Sharing my heartache with those around me for whom school was not failing them, only seemed to make me feel worse and more alone.
They didn't understand because they were not going through what we were....
You see. I never wanted to homeschool. It wasn't my lifelong dream. I didn't start researching this philosophy when I was pregnant with my kids anxiously awaiting the day we could begin.
It was forced on me.
When you tell me that you could never do that, I imagine it is because you were never in my shoes. School is working for you and I get it. I'm happy for you, I really am.
Homeschooling was the last resort for my family. It was the necessary thing that we had to do to save our child. And it did. We absolutely love it and our only regret is that we did not do it sooner but that doesn't change the fact that we didn't choose it, it chose us.
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My oldest daughter just turned 18 last month and is in her final week of her very first semester as a Game Art and Design Major at our local art college. I will never forget that first day after college orientation when she came home absolutely glowing saying that she knew when lunch rolled around and everyone pulled out their sketchbooks that she had finally found her tribe. She belonged. Over the past few months I have watched in amazement as my formerly unschooled daughter navigated being in classes, having homework and learning to be a student all over again for the first time in many many years. She had to get herself up in the mornings and drive herself to class, complete assignments and take tests and manage her time And she has thrived.
It wasn't always this way.
My oldest daughter spent her years in school from kindergarten until middle school feeling misunderstood, unchallenged and like she really did not belong. She had begged to homeschool for quite some time but we had 4 kids, I owned a coaching business and my husband worked full time outside of the home. I just didn't see how that would work. How would I get her to do her work? Would we get along? Spending long hours in charge of my daughters education when our days were already filled with so much conflict and strife just didn't sound like my idea of fun. I couldn't even get her to complete her homework or take a shower with ease - how could I possibly teach her? So I said no. That is one of my biggest regrets.
To our credit, my husband and I really did our best to advocate for her. We consistently requested meetings with the teachers and principal, visited therapists, did our best at home to stimulate her and read countless books on giftedness. But for a child who was considered bright, unmotivated and underachieving the message we consistently heard was that unless she was falling behind there was really nothing the school could do. A kid who could easily ace the test was not a priority despite the fact that she consistently didn't complete assignments and was slipping through the cracks.
In the end we would try 3 schools in 3 years. Public, Private and Gifted. We tried them all and all of them failed her. Failed us. We felt overwhelmed, isolated and heartbroken.
So finally in the middle of 7th grade despite our best efforts to find a school to meet her needs and in spite of our doing our very best to advocate for her, our daughter was emotionally a mess- angry, defiant, and incredibly depressed and literally failing every class. No amount of bribery, coercion or manipulation could get her to do the work. In desperation to save our daughter we decided enough was enough and pulled her out of school. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing but we knew that we could not continue to put our child through even one more day of this misery.
Making the decision to homeschool 6 years ago would prove to be the single best decision we had made as parents and would change the course of our children's lives forever. In that moment we would come to realize that as parents we had handed over our responsibility in educating our children to society and had become powerless victims in the process. We watched our kids suffer for years and stood by feeling powerless as if we had no choice in the matter. By choosing to homeschool we were taking back ownership over our family and choosing our child's health and happiness as our ultimate goal - not test scores and grades or even fitting in with the mainstream. It was an amazing feeling of freedom that I still cannot put into words.
So began our journey towards unschooling.
In the beginning we spent many hours discussing what our homeschool family would look like. We talked about what education meant to us and what lessons we ultimately wanted to send our kids off into the world with. It was a time of complete liberation. For our oldest it was as if a giant weight was lifted off of her shoulders and for the first time in so long she seemed happy.
In the end I would come to realize that I had different goals for each of my children and for her it was internal motivation. She has spent so many years trying to fit into a system that did not fit her and to take our home and do the same thing just didn't seem right. I had a deep knowing that freedom to learn and explore life on her own terms and in her own way was what was needed here.
In those early days of homeschooling she spent countless hours playing video games and watching tv. She stayed in her room most of the day and slept past noon. It was so hard for me to let go of control but I did my best to give her time to find her way and always I kept the mantra- INTERNAL MOTIVATION. What good would it do for me to turn home into school only to have her go out into the world eventually and not have a fire in her belly to pursue her dreams? I had to have faith and trust the process but for this TYPE A mom with an advanced degree who had done well in traditional school- it was not easy.
I read the book "Teenage Liberation Handbook" by Grace Llewelyn and the works of John Holt. I devoured "Free to Learn" by Peter Gray and read so many blog articles that I have lost count. I listened to the podcasts at www.unschoolingsupport.com and slowly the words of those homeschool pioneers who walked the path ahead of me - my heart and mind began to open up.
As I was learning and growing it seemed only logical to bring all of my children home and we spent those next 2 years building a homeschool community and rebuilding our relationships at home with each other. It was a beautiful and treasured time. In my deepest self, I felt confident and inspired.
As high school loomed we began to discuss what that would look like. In truth, it was scary and overwhelming at first!! I thought I knew what I was doing but this, this was different. Luckily, those feelings didn't last long and I remembered my mantra- internal motivation was the goal.
My oldest entertained the thought of going back to school for high school but it became clear for us that that would just mean more of the same she had already experienced during her years in school. At this point we had a taste of what was possible and we just wanted so much more for her than a traditional high school could have provided.
We looked at homeschooling high school as a collaboration where she was in the drivers seat and we were here to help facilitate. So began long hours of discussion and uncovering possibilities. She knew that she wanted to go to college and that she wanted a full 4 year university experience so my previous assumptions that she would graduate early and go to community college first went out the window.
Ultimately she decided that she would continue to unschool high school by combining some traditional classes to meet specific college application requirements along with lots of freedom to learn what she wanted to learn and in the way she wanted to learn it for subjects that were easier to learn in a more flexible way. All of this was always her own choice . Always. For her high school was a rich and rewarding experience and full of freedom and self directed learning.
While friends around us would share heartbreaking stories of how their highschoolers were incredibly stressed, sleep deprived and struggling with mental health issues as a result of school - we would privately count our blessings that our children would not have to experience that. When we felt uncertainty or fear- and we did at times - we would just look at our peaceful, content, and curiously engaged children and know we were on the right path.
I know how valuable it is to read real life stories of those with older homeschooled teens so I wanted to share what this actually looked like in our everyday life. The beauty in high schooling in this way is that it is going to look completely different for every single person. For high school my oldest kept records of every class she took online (Coursera, Sign Language for example) or in person (we occasionally hired teachers for things she could not easily learn on her own and was interested in (Biology Lab, Creative Writing, Digital Art, Piano for example), or purchased curriculum when needed (Geometry, Algebra, Chemistry for example) and she detailed every book she read or movie she watched- these lists were massive!! , field trips taken ( hundreds!!) or trips both local and abroad that contributed to her learning in a deep and rewarding way.
I want to mention that she was the one who kept these records - not me - and that I did not check assignments or track her progress in anyway. I felt that if I forced her to sit down and turn in assignments that sort of defeated the entire point of this whole thing which was internal motivation and freedom to learn . We would talk often about how things were going and she would share if she was feeling stuck or needing additional support through a mentor or tutor but for the most part she did her own thing.
Ultimately, I wanted her to have complete autonomy and to help to build independence over those last years with her at home. Unschooling high school can mean different things to different people and I am sure there are some who would say that using curriculum is not unschooling but I disagree. For us unschooling means not doing school at home and really complete freedom to learn in whatever way you wish to learn even if that is occasionally a class or textbook. It meant a wonderful open and loving relationship with a teenage highschooler who never had the need to rebel because there was nothing to rebel against. It meant respect and openness.
As I look now at my daughter who is thriving with great grades and a passion for her art that amazes me daily, I feel so much gratitude that I was able to gift her those years at home and look forward to the future with hopeful anticipation of what is to come.
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What would happen if you started treating this entire homeschool journey a whole lot differently? What if I told you it could be amazing and beautiful and the very best thing that ever happened to you and your family but that perhaps you have been going about it all wrong?
Imagine for a moment that you could give yourself permission to just take a BIG break from everything that wasn't fueling you or lighting you up? Maybe this would mean deschooling, dropping a few committments or plans. Or maybe it would be letting go of feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Or letting go of being unhappy or a schooly mindset. Or???
Imagine that you were in a place to recognize that that in order for this entire gig to really flow - you, yes you mama - have to be feeling awesome and inspired about this lifestyle and that is not going to ever happen when you just keeping on moving forward trying to force things to work- when so clearly they are not.
Something needs to change and you are not going to get there by finding a magic curriculum or classes. I promise.
I once read that one of the differences with today's homeschoolers is that most of us started homeschooling because of a need not because of the philosophy of homeschooling. This absolutely fascinated me because it makes so much sense then why most of us start off by buying a bunch of curriculum and signing up for loads of classes. We start off doing this in desperation and the only way to make ourselves feel better is to start filling our time. Most of us didn't have time to do the soul searching that mamas who always knew they would homeschool did.
No wonder... we are driving all over town trying to meet each of our kids needs, barely surviving our responsibilities at home and wondering if this is really all there is?
So often what I hear and see online and in person are families that are miserable and struggling. They are wavering between threatening the kids to go back to school or mama falling apart from the demands of homeschooling in this way. Honestly, even those who tell me how much their kids dig classes and worksheets, eventually share how they aren't really sure how much their kids are really getting out of it all.
Homeschooling this way - feels so very very heavy to me.
A Spacious Life feels so much different. It feels , well...spacious!!
These days I feel pretty much on fire about homeschooling and want to share how much I love it with anyone who will listen.
Once I started spending hours and hours devouring everything I could not about classes and curriculum but about the philosophy BEHIND the actual lifestyle I just couldn't get enough and wanted more and more and more.
Mama's, I spend hours everyday listening to inspiring podcasts, reading homeschool books, and talking with mamas online and in person about the philosophy behind what we do and you know what? It makes me a way better homeschool mama. I don't feel weighed down by my choices because I know that everything we choose to do is going to be because it enriches our lives in one way or another. If it doesn't it gets tossed out. My kids see me being engaged and constantly learning and suddenly our home has this contagious atmosphere of growth.
What I am trying to say is this. If homeschooling isn't working so well for you perhaps it is time to take a step back and get really really clear on your WHY. Imagine that your kids are still toddlers and you are looking ahead to their school years with wonder and anticipation. Give yourself the space and time to learn from those mama's in this homeschool community who have walked the path ahead of you and listen to their wisdom. Really listen. Let their words sink in. Listen to their podcasts, read their books, talk about these ideas with your homeschool friends.
Trust me when I tell you that this will be a total game changer in how your days look and where you choose to put your energy with your kids. Things will become fun again and you won't believe how lucky you are to be able to teach your kids in this way. You'll start to find cool resources to share with your kids, interesting movies to watch together, books that ignite their little hearts and create openings for deep conversations. You'll search out communities of mamas who explore wild places in nature and create all sorts of possibilities for independent exploration too giving you time just for you as well . You will begin to see that this is homeschooling not just something that happens AFTER the curriculum or on the side. It is all of it. Homeschooling is not separate from living - it's all the same.
Words like freedom, curiosity, adventure, engagement and creativity will become your mantra. Learning to trust yourself and your children will become so natural to you that you won't believe there was a time when you did not feel this way. You can do it mama's.
Imagine living.... A Spacious Life
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I want to share something with you mamas. This time is fleeting. These days where you feel so exhausted and pulled in every direction will fly by. Soon you will be watching your children go off on their own and spread their wings and you will wish for these carefree days so much. You will long for just a little more time with them.
I pulled my oldest out of school in the middle of 7th grade. Our relationship at the time was pretty rocky. There was lots of crying and arguing and trying to get her to do what I wanted. To comply. To get her school work done, clean her room, take a shower, be nice to her sisters. Obey. All of it. She wasn't the most agreeable kid ( not by a longshot) and I wasn't a very enlightened mama- not yet anyway.
Mamas, I so wish I could go back and do those years all over again.
By the grace of God, somehow I woke up. That moment I pulled her out of school it was as if the blinds had been lifted from my eyes and for the first time in forever- I saw her, truly saw her and let go.
I realized then that she was her own person and my trying to control her to get her to do life my way- was killing her. It was literally sucking the life out of her.
What she needed was a sense of autonomy and control over her own life and the freedom to learn on her own terms. I learned to talk less and listen more. I became more of a resource and guide and less of an authoritative parent. Our focus became internal motivation and I stopped forcing anything.
I challenged every belief I had about the way I thought things should be- and when I could not come up with a good answer- I shifted. I gave in.
And she thrived. She thrived mamas.
I feel so blessed that I woke up and had this realization. Because of it I was able to create some amazing memories over the past 6 years with my oldest daughter and today just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday- have an incredibly close and loving relationship with her.
I may have lost a lot of time but no one can take that away from us.
Homeschooling is not just about academics mamas. It is about relationships. With ourselves and with our children. Let go.