26 February 2014


I've been thinking about homeschooling Four and Five. I'm intrigued by the idea of challenging what we know as "education," and I'd like to find a way to make my boys enjoy learning again, because they hate school.


They don't just moan about going, or grumble about the work load. They feel bullied, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. Less than a year ago, Five's anxiety about school was such that he wanted to die rather than go there. He threatened to throw himself out of my moving car. I had to hide the knives in the house because he begged to stab himself.

To be fair, there are other factors that may have contributed to his anxiety. My mother had recently died after living with us for over a year, and genetics had gifted him with a nervous disposition. But when your nine year-old would prefer to commit suicide rather than attend elementary school, I don't think the system can be held entirely blameless.

After medication and therapy, Five is better. He is no longer suicidal or highly irrational. But he still only attends school about 70 % of the time. Each day is a negotiation to get him to the school, and a separate discussion about staying for the entire day. Four leaves more willingly, but gives greater resistance about homework. I must supervise, encourage, and, in some instances, instruct in order to get it done every night. It's a long day for all of us.

Now, before you think "well, maybe if you took away their electronics/games/cards/free time they might be more inclined to do what you want," let me assure you that we have tried both negative and positive reinforcement. I am good cop and bad cop every morning, first offering encouragement/pep talks, followed by reminding them that staying home will be VERY BORING, to downright frustration and anger.

I don't want to be frustrated and angry with my children. I love them. I want them to educated in a place where they feel special and appreciated for what they have to offer.  I want them to be excited about learning, about exploring what interests them. No offense to Bill Gates, but I don't think everyone needs to learn more math and science. I think it denigrates the importance of the arts to suggest our society will only survive if we spend more time in structured learning, force-feeding the same subjects to all.

I am a product of a public education, taught in schools that I did not hate. But I'm not sure the system works for everyone. And yes, differential education exists to teach to the children with different learning styles. But it exists within the same structure that's been around for over a hundred years. Sometimes the system needs to be overhauled or abandoned. I mean, I'm pretty sure everyone thought child labor was a great idea at the time, or segregation, or denying women the right to vote. It takes bold thinking to change the world, one person at a time.

I want to be bold. I think my children's lives may depend on it.

19 February 2014


My slippers went missing.

This is highly inconvenient at this time of year. The slippers are necessary for early morning wandering to the bathroom because that floor is COLD. They're the happy alternative for my tired feet at the end of the day because I, literally, wear shoes from the moment I get dressed until I sit down on the couch sixteen hours later. The slippers are indispensable for transitioning between my outdoor snow shoes and my indoor sneakers, and, believe me, I've been switching shoes a lot for the past few ridiculously snowy weeks. Seriously, it's like I live in Minnesota--all the weather without any of the cute Nordic descendants.

The slippers are not beautiful, nor high quality. I got them at Target about three years ago and it shows. They have an imprinted fair isle sweater pattern, faux leather soles, and the fuzzy insides are pilling. They don't even fit really well, sliding slightly with each step, sounding a shuffle as I scuff down the hallway. And that is why I will never replace them.

When my mother was living with us there came a point when she started dying. Her spirit was still vibrantly alive, but her body just stopped playing along. In a matter of months she went from being able to walk down the hall on her own power to being pushed from room to room in her "red chariot" wheelchair. When it became too difficult for her to leave her room, we would help her back and forth between her reclining chair and bed. Finally, it required both my sister, Erin, and I to position her comfortably on her adjustable mattress so she could breathe through the night. Mom would sit on the edge of the bed and we would swing her legs around so her body was in the middle. Then we would recline the bed, lift her on a draw sheet until her head was just above the top of the mattress, and raise the back and feet for optimal airflow.

Invariably, Mom would slide down in the middle of the night and have to ask us to help her. Erin gave her a walkie-talkie to push instead of calling out, and since Erin was basically just levitating  instead of sleeping at that point she always bolted out of bed at the first squawk. Then she would open my bedroom door and I would pull on my slippers and walk toward Mom's bedroom light.

At halfway down the hall, Mom would say, "Here comes Meggie! I hear those shuffling feet."

I'd lope into the room, disheveled and semi-conscious, and Mom would smile, and Erin and I would start the repositioning process. When she was settled, she'd say, "Thank you, girls," and I'd kiss her forehead and go back to bed for another three hours, before pulling on the slippers to officially start another day.

I found my slippers in the kitchen yesterday, under a bench by the back door. Although it was the middle of the day, I took off my sneakers and slid my feet into the flattened fuzz. I shuffled down the hallway and thought of Mom smiling at me in the middle of the night.