Finding freedom in leaving school
Many moons 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 for years and then unschooled high school until she eventually skipped her senior year and graduated early.
Today she is 24 and thriving. She graduated as a game art and design major at Laguna College of Art and Design a few years ago and now teaches art lessons to homeschoolers and does freelance work for video games.
Soon after she graduated 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.”
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Homeschooling in Uncertain Times
Mamas, life is unpredicatable. It always was but many of us have been blessed to not have to face that fact on a daily basis. All of us have had our lives upended by this pandemic, We are overwhelmed with information, many are not sleeping well, experiencing unsettledness and anxiety, and our everyday routines have been disrupted and most activities have come to a sudden stop.
The reality is that every child is now at home. Public schools, private schools, charters and homeschoolers.
As a homeschool coach my phone is ringing off the hook with phone calls and texts from parents who never planned on educating their children at home. They are stay at home parents, entrepreneurs and employees that are now juggling these new responsibilities and with no notice.
I have so much compassion for them because for different reasons , I was also once a sudden and unexpected homeschooler. I know what it feels like to forge into unchartered territory and have no idea what the heck I am doing. To fall into the black hole of the internet trying to understand it all.
My heart also breaks for their children who are scared, lonely, confused AND still being forced to do compulsory school at home.
For some of them the routine of online classes and worksheets turned in to teachers via email will bring them security and for them I am glad. However, other children will suffer emotionally and mentally now that their safe place (home) to escape from school is gone. There will be fighting and tears. Moms and dads will be frustrated and at their limits and this could continue for months.
I cannot imagine how my kids would have responded to that as school was never a happy place for them before we pulled them out. It would have been a disaster. SO I am speaking from personal AND professional experience when I voice these concerns.
So mamas, the truth, the elephant in the room , is that there is a huge difference between what we strive to do as self directed learners and this mass schooling at home that is going on in most of the world at this moment.
I have been doing my best to help those who are suddenly unexpectedly homeschooling because of the pandemic because we all want the same thing. We want our kids to feel safe and secure and we want to allow them to feel some sense of their normal lives even in the midst of chaos. We know we are in this together.
So to those of you who are new to my site welcome. Our focus here is on self directed education and unschooling. We talk about conscious parenting and living our lives with purpose. I hope you will take advantage of this time to really think about what education means, to learn about alternative ways of igniting curiosity and to be brave in doing what is BEST for your children EVEN if that means going against what is being required of you from your school. Eventually most of you will return your kids to school and your lives will go back to normal but perhaps you will go back with a new outlook and more insight into your kids and what lights that fire in their belly. That is my greatest hope.
Others of you had already been considering homeschooling and will keep your kids home even after this passes. We welcome you into our tribe . Here on this blog and on my facebook group ( A Spacious Life Homeschool Tribe) is our safe space to share our concerns and fears but also to continue to look for to beauty and the blessings. We believe in giving our children as much freedom to learn as we possibly can stand and that they are autonomous human beings with a right to learn what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
Here we will continue to work to simplify our lives, focus on what matters most and love our families well.
I’ve been in the counseling field for over 20 years now and I can say with confidence that mainstream society focuses on what our children need to change to better fit in with our lives. The focus is on identifying areas of weakness, scaffolding, behavior modification and self regulation. Words are used like acting out, defiance, laziness, distraction, hyperactivity and more. These words all identify something that may make it hard for a child to live comfortably in a mainstream society and they also all direct our attention to something being wrong with the child.
I can hardly I stand to listen to the negative way in which many in my field describe atypical kids and the ways that we as parents talk about them in social media and in social circles is even more shocking. Imagine if they could hear those words.
It hurts my mama heart.
In full disclosure and before everyone jumps all over me , I used to believe these ideas too before my oldest daughter forced me to re-examine every belief I had about parenting, education, and well society even and EVERYTHING changed for the better. As I began to learn about conscious parenting, self directed education and unschooling I was reborn so to speak. Prior to that I was one of the professionals who also looked to these words to help give me a sense of understanding of my differently wired kid and to help me figure out how to parent her. Still if I was being completely truthful it was because I felt so inadequate to get her to comply with the things I wanted her to do and of course to fit into the box that was traditional school, work and life.
These days I’m finding my work as a life coach for homeschooling mamas is focused on conscious parenting - meaning really being in relationship with our kids and listening to their needs, wants and hopes. We look for what their strengths are, really get to know them instead of thinking of them as something that is broken that needs fixing or changing. Our lives slow way down and we begin to trust the process and we become a partner and advocate in helping our kids develop and grow in their own time and in their own way. We are not passive observers nor do we try and manipulate and control. In listening to our children and learning to trust ourselves , we find flow.
It is amazing how often we know the answers if only we would truly listen to our inner knowing.
Still it doesn’t stop there - our little ones are so sensitive to our own energy that when we are feeling down, overwhelmed, distracted and generally not at peace - guess what- everything seems to be chaos. So while we discover who they are and find new ways of showing up so must we rediscover our inner joy, make room for our own passions and desires and resolve to stop avoiding what is not working in our lives - because it always comes out mamas. Always.
The coolest thing begins to happen when we make the shift and focus more on being fully present, mindful and intentional with our lives.
We begin to live A Spacious Life.
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The Power of Saying Yes
The Power Of Saying Yes . This year my mantra is open heart open mind. After a season of discontent I’m working on being more present and joyful in my everyday life. I want to make space for the things that matter most and raise my vibration to one that is more positive and hopeful.
I long to be a mama that seeks the goodness and richness of life. One that radiates joy and peace wherever I go. I want to be her.
Mamas, a lot of us go through life feeling frustration and a heaviness about not having what we want. As homeschoolers of gifted and intense kids it’s pretty safe to say that life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.
But here’s the thing, in order to have what you want you have to get really clear about what that even looks like. At first that may mean letting some things go. The goals and dreams you used to have may not apply anymore. It’s totally normal as you evolve to find that certain things just don’t matter anymore.
Be bold and speak your truth. There is strength in bringing authenticity to those around you but do not waiver when not everyone loves the new you. It’s okay, those who don’t connect with your new vision may fall away - this is only the universe’s way of making room for those soul sisters who align with your vision.
Do not fear. This time of being in the meantime is only temporary. Have faith. Sometimes things must fall apart before they fall together.
Just remember to say yes when the universe finally brings you what you asked for. It’s coming. Soon. Stay the course.
Sometimes that’s going to require you to get out of your comfort zone, sometimes things are going to happen to test you to see if you are really serious, but mamas, don’t ever forget the power of saying yes to life. There is so much beauty and wonder that awaits you.
Gifted Kids and Unschooling
It’s easy to let fear guide you when you are are starting to homeschool for the first time. We worry if we can do this, if there will be gaps, if we will have time for ourselves. We wonder if they are doing enough, if we are doing them a disservice by giving them space to be themselves, to grow at their own pace.
It’s tempting to look around us and see what everyone else is doing .
Those of us who are suddenly unexpectedly homeschooling didn’t have time to mentally prepare for this. We don’t have a philosophy of education to ground us. More often we are flying by the seat of our pants so many of us make the mistake of doing school at home and as a result miss out on the riches available to us if we would give ourselves time to expand and grow.
My sixteen year old struggles with severe dyslexia and anxiety. Homeschooling saved her. Unschooling gave her back to us. Awakened her. My favorite image of her is our first day of homeschooling lying in the bathtub reading - one arm over the side petting her dog, how beautiful is that?
She’s going into 11th grade next year and I’m pretty sure she’d be way behind if I compared her to her peers, but who cares. This isn’t a race. What matters is she’s sitting there writing an amazing story and she’s at peace. My girl with severe dyslexia and anxiety that was so debilitating that when I pulled her out of school she could barely talk to us let alone learn. At home it was as if a giant weight was lifted off of her and over time she began to unfold. Just like her older sister I know in my soul she’ll get where she’s going in her own time and in her own way. Self directed.
So today I give you permission to trust yourself and your child. You don’t have to do this like anyone else and it’s completely okay- more than okay to allow space for self discovery and growth. Find your homeschool philosophy. Figure out what you stand for and make choices from there.
At times you may doubt yourself. I understand. It takes faith to stand with grace in the unknown.
Mamas, you can’t mess this up. You have time and the rewards are great.
So before you go sign up for all the classes and fill all the space in your days- imagine what your mission is in this journey and go live that.
This my friends is a spacious life.
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We come to this space of homeschooling our gifted children often in a sudden and unplanned way so it is no surprise that we begin by thinking it is all about curriculum and books and not having any educational gaps. Of course, we sign up for so many classes and buy all the stuff simply because that is what everyone else is doing so we imagine that must be what homeschooling is.
As new homeschoolers we don't realize the truth is it simply makes us feel more in control since we honestly have no idea what we are doing. Even though we haven't completely thought it through- at least it feels like the beginning of a plan.
The burden is this, school wasn’t meeting their intellectual or emotional needs so of course we decide that suddenly all of that responsibility is on our shoulders.
So we do ALL the research . We plan our days by the hour, maybe by the minute, attempting to squeeze in all the subjects, with breaks for lunch and snacks. We are so filled with the fear of not giving them ALL the things. We fly forward into the unknown absolutely overwhelmed but committed.
With rare exception our kids resist. They fight with their siblings. They cry and argue. They don’t go with the flow. We threaten to send them back.
We have taken that safe space we call home and made it into school. We take off our mama hat and put on our teacher hat and it all blows up in our face. 😬😬
It gets worse, we ask for advice on facebook and everyone tells us we must be firm. Our kids must listen and obey- punish them if they don't do their "work" , withhold screen time and games - all the things they love - even though we know in the back of our minds that gifted kids seriously resist being controlled. Our own kids would never give in to this manipulation so that just makes us feel even more inadequate and alone.
So we fall into bed each night, completely spent and exhausted and we wonder in the darkest hours how we can possibly get up and do this all again in the morning. Or for another 10 years.
It really doesn’t have to be this way. As a homeschooling mama of 4 gifted and intense girls ages 19, 16, 11 and 7 - I have walked the path ahead of you to pave the way for your release from this madness. To show you that everything will be okay.
Mamas, I want you to know there’s another choice and it feels so much more authentic and real.
Let go of having it all figured out - just for now - and focus on getting to know your kids all over again. Imagine your perfect day. Figure out a rhythm for the things you must do. Spend quality time together. Get out in nature, read good books, find a community. Discover what they are curious about and most enjoy learning about.
The rest will come.
The thing you don’t know yet is that homeschooling gifted and emotionally intense kids is the most beautiful and amazing experience if only you will begin the journey to self directed education and allow your children some control over what and how they learn.
We have to be willing to relearn everything we ever knew about parenting, education, and living. We have to stop doing school at home.
Inside you there is also a little voice that is telling you there is another way. Are you listening?
There’s a deep knowing that things can be so much better than they are. There’s a part of you that knows you are a rebel , you are a powerful woman capable of breaking free of all of the powerful stories about how this life is supposed to look.
You are so much more. Your kids are so much more.
What if bringing your kids home is your awakening? This is your invitation to step into a new paradigm if only you would allow it.
A spacious life is a sacred sisterhood of homeschooling mamas who want to create a life of intentional choosing.
We know that we can consciously decide how we are showing up, how we spend our time and that when challenges come our way - we can respond in a meaningful and productive way.
In doing so we can not only free our children but also ourselves.
Mamas, join me in living a spacious life.
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Mamas, I’m on vacation with my family in the desert and grabbing a quick coffee by myself while everyone is still asleep.
In the quietness of this new day I’ve been thinking about how fleeting this time is. We used to come here when my girls were babies and now they are growing up my oldest already 19 years old. I’m so filled with gratitude that she’s here with us. That she still chooses to be here with us. 🦋
Oh mamas, cherish this time. Soon your emotionally intense and gifted kids will be older and have lives of their own. They may not always be able to join you on your adventures as work and college become new priorities. This is my life - I’m adjusting and growing and learning. It’s getting easier but oh mamas it will come ❤️
Mamas, cherish these precious moments . Release the worry and the stress and choose to focus on what you most dream of creating in your homeschool and daily life. Know that it is possible and you are free.
Make memories to last a lifetime. Let go of what isn’t working and make it your number one goal to find what does 🙏💕
Do not allow yourself to give in to thoughts of “this is just how it is” - for what we focus on expands. Overwhelm and frustration are only messages from the universe crying out for you to “wake up”!
Life is meant to be lived full out not merely survived. 🎉
Oh mamas, I started out homeschooling in desperation - it was a last resort for a child who was slowly losing herself in school. Our family was in total chaos. We felt completely isolated and alone. All of the expert advice just felt so “wrong”.
Thank goodness I didn’t listen. 👊🏻💪🏻
My dear homeschool sisters I’ve walked the path ahead of you to share my story of hope. As I leaped from the mainstream into the unchartered territory of self directed education what I found was peace and flow. As I began to question everything I’d ever learned about parenting and learning -
I found a magical childhood 🦋🦋
Mamas, I desperately want that same thing for you and won’t stop writing until I reach as many of you as I can.
Today, imagine your most perfect homeschool day. You know that sweet spot where everything flows. Imagine what you would be doing differently if you felt confident and empowered to do this homeschooling thing your way in a way that honored your needs and those of your children.
Now mamas go do more of that.
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Mamas, let’s talk for a moment about how you’ve given up on your dream. How you’ve just accepted that life can never be what you want, that you don’t have enough money, enough time, or your kids are too hard or too intense to have a spacious life.
Mamas, let’s talk about how in your mind you believe that homeschooling gifted and intense kids is hard and how it’s stressful and you are exhausted. How you feel isolated and alone and like no one could possibly understand.
Now mamas, let’s talk for a moment about how our thinking creates our feelings which creates our actions and ultimately our reality. Let’s talk about how we can begin to shift that negative thinking and start to create something new and spacious.
Mamas, imagine for a moment what life would look like if you had everything you’ve dreamed of. I’m serious. Allow yourself for a moment to really believe it is possible.
Now imagine how you would feel. How would you be thinking and acting differently than you are now if you already had those things? Imagine how you would wake up feeling excited about all of the adventures you’d be having with your kids today. Imagine how time would flow. Imagine how you’d respond when little (or big) hiccups happen and how you’d let them go and move on.
Imagine how you’d exude a positive vibe to everyone you meet and how other mamas would wonder what your secret is. Imagine how people would think educating your children at home must be really working for you because you just seem so at peace. Imagine how you’d surround yourself with only those people and places that lift you up, inspire you.
Mamas, it all starts with what we believe.
Today let’s begin to let go of old ways of thinking or behaving that are keeping us from what we really want and start creating something new. Let’s begin to focus on what we do want instead of what we don’t.
Mamas, let’s begin. Join me.
Isn’t it time to have the life you’ve always wanted?
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Mamas, let’s talk a moment about staying calm when engaging with our precocious little (or not so little ones) I’ve gotten so good at this over the years that others often comment on it . It’s true really.
Last week I had an opportunity to practice😉. That’s me in the photo afterwards.
The group I was camping with was going to hike to a gorge and my youngest (7) didn’t want to go which would have meant the rest of us had to stay behind. To me that wasn’t really an option. So I listened deep. I didn’t try to talk her out of her feelings. I repeated her words. You really don’t want to go on this hike. I kept my emotions in check. We brainstormed options and ended up having someone drive us to the trailhead so the hike wouldn’t be so long. We packed yummy snacks and planned for ice cream at the camp store afterwards.
I let her feel heard and have choices even if she still had to go on the hike. She loved it so much that we went back a second day 👊🏻💪🏻💕
The thing is we have to recognize is that we are not here to force our children to comply. Oh I know you may want to mold them and shape them but that’s not really our job. Let that sink in a moment.
We must see that our children are autonomous human beings with their own thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Emotionally intense and gifted kids have an incredibly strong need for freedom and choice. We must either find a way to make room for it or face a lifetime of struggle and resistance. It’s our choice.
Mamas, today I encourage you to look inward and work on yourself. Yes create a rhythm and flow to your days. Create family guidelines and goals. Then let go and work on being your best self . Be the mentor and example your children need.
Give your child as much freedom and control over their own life as you possibly can. Learn to manage your own anxiety, overwhelm, anger and fear. In doing so we are able to be more conscious and thoughtful in parenting these often highly demanding and exhausting children . Over time you too will be able to stay calm no matter how your children behave. You will be able to let go and support them into becoming who they are truly meant to become.
Trust the process mamas ❤️
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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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