Honest Homeschooling: What to Think About if You’re Considering Home Schooling You Child

Today, Little Bear and I start our first official day of homeschool. Our path to homeschooling started waaay before the pandemic. As we’ve shared, Little Bear has Sensory Processing Disorder and some developmental delays, so I’ve been thinking about what his education would look like basically his whole life. I have nothing but love and respect for teachers working in public education. I truly think many of them are doing God’s work. But the education system is tremendously flawed, underfunded, neglected and it can be difficult for them to meet the needs of non traditional students with their limited resources. I always knew I wanted something different for Little Bear, I just wasn’t sure what. 

Initially I leaned towards a Montessori school as my main option, then the pandemic hit and everything changed. I have a strong background in education. In college, I worked as an assistant coordinator for an after school program in the Oakland Unified School District. I’ve written curriculum, attended state sanctioned seminars, worked hands on teaching creative arts to children and providing academic support and tutoring. My time studying and working in the field of education has given me some strong opinions around education and child development. So, in my case, I always had this feeling inside that I had the tools to educate him myself, and give him the education I believed he needed rather than the tired model that leaves so many of us needing more.

But I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I woke up stoked to basically become a teacher. That’s not my calling or passion, so while I knew the idea felt right, I was still very resistant to the idea of taking on the task of educating my child myself. In all honesty, my road to this point was kind of messy. But the mess helped me see the situation for what it was, and eventually I found my way through.

Here are the things I considered when weighing my options;

  • Your mental health. Homeschooling is not easy, even when it’s easy. And if you know from jump, that this isn’t for you, it’s worth taking the time to process through any resistance you may be feeling about taking the plunge into full time homeschooling. Do you already feel overwhelmed and overworked? Does the idea of even getting started with homeschool stress you out and fry your brain? Do you know patience and helping others work through problems are difficult tasks for you? That’s ok, you’re human. But you do have the responsibility of setting the tone for your child. So take some time to get familiar and comfortable with your new role and the responsibilities that come along with it. Reach out to others for resources and support. You’re not the only person in this situation, and you’re not the only one who needs help. It’s going to be okay. 
  • Consider what is best for your child. How does your child learn best? What kind of activities or toys do they engage with most? How have they been handling virtual learning? For me these answers to these questions seemed a little counter intuitive. For some reason, I felt that my child had made more progress when he wasn’t participating in virtual learning sessions than when he was. This was a key realization for me, because it helped me to understand that the virtual model didn’t work for my child, which is actually pretty normal.
  • Your strengths and weaknesses. No one is good at everything, so have an honest conversation with yourself and take stock of your most valuable skills, and how they will help you in homeschooling. Then, write a list of the areas you struggle in, or would like to improve, and write down how these negatives will also effect your homeschool process. 

Decide your educational core values.
What is the point of education, for you? What kind of environment do you want your child to learn in? What are the concepts that you want to make sure they can grasp to function at their highest level? What was good or bad about your own educational experience and how did it shape you later in life. Answering these questions will help you determine your answer to the next point of consideration. 

  • What is realistic for your lifestyle. there are a lot of factors that go into homeschooling that you might not necessarily think about right away: your budget for supplies and resources, if you have the space in your home to dedicate to education and your ability to modify your space if necessary, how much time you can dedicate to planning and prep and how often you’ll do it.
  • What kind of educational method is right for your child. there are many alternatives to the traditional public education model we’re familiar with. The Montessori education model has been around for over 100 years and has seen ups and downs in it’s popularity with American parents. There are others too: Waldorf, Harkness, Reggio Emilia, each with a unique set of principles, they believe foster the ideal learning environment for kids. We’ll talk more about different educational styles and how their benefits in the next few weeks. 

The good news is, homeschooling is extremely flexible and can be structured in whatever way works best for you and your family. There are a variety of robust tools and resources available to make homeschooling fun, interesting and engaging for you and your child.

10 Ways White Parents Can Talk About Race & Racism With Their Kids

Race has been a point of contention in the U.S. since its inception. Parents of black and brown children already understand the importance of instilling a sense of racial identity in their children, and discussing how racism will inevitably affect them, are essential tools for survival in America. White parents and children on the other hand, have a more disconnected relationship with race that often allows them to ignore the harsh realities of how racism lives and thrives here in the U.S. 

But as racist violence and the fight to combat it continues to dominate our daily lives, the necessity that white parents discuss racism with their children has reached a tipping point. As a white passing Latina, I can attest to the fact that unpacking these issues and our role in them, both conscious and subconscious, is tough stuff. But this work is ESSENTIAL. We have to recognize the ways in which we participate in these structures and how we benefit from keeping them in place. We’ve got to teach our children about race and what racism looks like so they can recognize it and learn to stand against it from a young age.

Common Sense Media, an excellent resource for parents to review the media their kids are consuming, has put together a list of ways we can discuss race and racism with our children. Television, books, movies and other media can be powerful tools in starting meaningful conversations that kids can understand. 

Below are 10 suggestions for how white parents can use media to start talking to their kids about racism, via Common Sense Media.

Protests in Painesville, OH. Photo via John Kuntz, clevland.com

Diversify Your Bookshelf

If you grew up reading Little House on the Prairie, you can still share these stories with your kids. But don’t stop there! Look for stories featuring and written by people of color. Here are some places to start:

Point Out Racism in Movies, TV and Games

It can be easy to let stereotypes fly by when watching the minstrel-show crows in Dumbo or exaggerated accents in The Goonies. But by pointing out when something is racist, you’re helping your kid develop critical thinking skills. These skills will allow conversations about race and stereotypes to deepen as kids get older.

Watch Hard Stuff

As kids get older, expose them to the harsh realities of racism throughout history and through the current day. That doesn’t mean nonstop cable news replaying gruesome details of violence but carefully chosen films like The 13th or McFarland, USA. You can also watch footage of protests to kick off conversations about anger, fear, oppression, and power. Be explicit about racism and discrimination being hurtful, damaging, and wrong.

Seek Out Media Created by People of Color

As you choose your family movie night pick or browse for books online, specifically look for authors and directors of color in lead roles or as fully developed characters. With older kids, take an audit of how many movies or books you’ve recently watched or read that were created by people of color. Discuss the reasons for any imbalance and the importance of a variety of perspectives.

Broaden Your Own Perspective

Follow and read black and brown voices and media outlets. Use what you learn to inform conversations with your kids. Some places to start –  but by no means a complete list:

Protests in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Photo via Eric Baerren

Discuss Hate Speech and Harassment Online

Ask kids if they’ve seen racist language in YouTube videos or comments. For social-media using kids, talk about racist memes. Ask them to show you examples  and aim to develop empathy without shaming them. Help them understand how following or sharing racist accounts helps spread hate. Brainstorm ways they can safely and responsibly speak out against racist imagery and messages online. Adapt this lesson on countering hate speech for your conversations.

Understand the Online Landscape

Read this account of a white mom parenting through her son’s exposure to online white supremacy. And read the son’s perspective. Learn more about places where white racist groups congregate and how they recruit, and keep discussions open and honest with kids who socialize on sites like Discord and Reddit.

Explore the Power of Tech Tools

Use recent examples of how phones, video recordings, and editing tools effect our understanding of race and racism. Discuss how the release of video evidence can spur action, like in the case of Ahmaud Arbery. Explore together how photos and videos can both reveal truth and hide it – especially when context is edited out. 

Build News Literacy

Besides sharing news articles from different perspectives with your kids, use opportunities like protests in Minneapolis to discuss how news is presented. What kinds of stories get the most attention? How are language and images used differently to depict people and incidents depending on the news outlet, the people involved, and the topic? Look at news coverage of incidents where white people commit acts of violence and compare to when people of color do. Identify the differences and explore the realities of why the same situation is presented so differently.

Teach Your Kid to be an Ally

Learn how white people can support people of color by being allies and then integrate these ideas into your conversations and actions with your kids. Talk through scenarios your kid might encounter online and discuss (and model) when it might be best to just listen, to call someone out, to amplify someone’s voice, to share resources, etc. Share mistakes you’ve made around race and racism – in person or online – with your kids so they know it’s ok to not be perfect and that we can correct our behavior and do better in the future. 

Protest in Dallas Tx. Photo via LM Otero, AP

Original words & links brought to you by Sierra Filucci, Editorial Director at Common Sense Media.

XO, Fake Mom

The Fakest of Them All…

Hi there! You can call me Jas. I’m from California, and I’m raising a child that is not mine by birth. Stepmom? Not quite. Foster parent? Kinda…

I’ll get into the details of our back story a bit later, once we know each other a little more. But in a nutshell, I have guardianship of my two year old nephew, who has lived with me since just after his first birthday. It’s a jarring adjustment to bring a child into your life, and unlike conventional moms, I did not have months to prepare myself.

If motherhood is the hardest job in the world, unconventional motherhood is like doing that job with a blindfold on. Raising a child encompasses so many emotions; joy, pain, relief, anxiety, fear, power, love, loneliness. When you’re not doing it how everyone else does, all of those emotions are amplified.

And whether you agree or not that motherhood is the hardest job in the world, it is easily the most important. Without a doubt, whether we want to admit or not, the relationship that affects us more than any other relationship we will ever have, is the one we have with our mother. Moms are the foundation, the rocks, the compases, the glue, everything! And No mom, no matter the qualifier – single mom, stepmom, FAKE MOM –  should feel alone in her struggles or unsupported by her community.

And that’s what has brought me here, to Fake Mom. My friends don’t have kids, so I turned to the internet and mom bloggers for help.

There are a million Mom-Blogs out there and they’re great, but looking at a beautiful woman, her spacious home and her impeccably dressed family doesn’t really make me feel great about the fact that sometimes, I just can’t get a shower in, all weekend, no matter how hard I try. Or the fact that my baby is struggling with residual trauma and sometimes he gets so upset, I can’t console him. Or help me to understand why the lack of a ring on my finger is so triggering to strangers.

Fake Mom gets it, girl.

Just to clear the air before it gets clouded, the term FAKE MOM is something I coined to refer to myself, and is in no way meant to demean or ridicule anyone. It’s a reflection of a very personal struggle to make sense of an identity and reality that don’t always make sense together. One that I’m still adjusting to. In that struggle, as I’m sure you can relate, is where the most growth happens.

I won’t talk about myself too much on here, as it’s not meant to be a personal blog. Fake Mom isn’t about me, it’s about us. Thank you for being here.

Now that you know a little bit about me, click HERE to learn a little bit more about Fake Mom.