Saturday, January 31, 2015

Throwing Marshmallows

homeschooling, throwing marshmallows
Do you know how it is when you read something so simple yet so profound and true at the same time that is makes you laugh and gasp? I recently started reading a blog that I found....somewhere...and I am enjoying it very much.  I hope the author of the blog Throwing Marshmallows, Stephanie, starts writing more on her blog, because she seems awesome, like someone I want to hang out with, share some tea, wear some sunscreen, laugh until we pee. (Hey, I'm a poet and I didn't even know that I was!)

I just read something here on Stephanie's blog, a quote that seems to be her theme, her motto, the thing that keeps her sane:

Learning can only happen when a child is interested.
If he's not interested, 
it's like throwing marshmallows at his head 
and calling it eating.
~Katrina Gutleben

And, although I'm not a big fan of Pema Chödrön, and since I'm so digging Stephanie's blog, I'm going to share this next quote from Throwing Marshmallows with you. It is by Pema, a quote that I've always connected with, even though Pema said it.  *wink*

Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis.
Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness,
is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion,
therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of
our so-called negative aspects, because in that process
we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness.
 -  Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape

I like Stephanie's blog because she has such a loving and accepting and supporting way of working with her boys. She also has some gorgeous photography. If you have some time, check out the blog Throwing Marshmallows!

Because I admire her writing, her amazing heart, and her design I award her with this, the Inspiring Blog Award! I designed the award and it simply means that her blog is INSPIRING to me! No catch, no pay-it-forward, nothing except for my sincere appreciation for the intention and the effort of Stephanie!

 To All readers: Feel free to share the award with a blog that inspires you!

If you have been awarded Inspiring Blogger Award,

Friday, January 30, 2015

Do You Need a Homeschool Strategy?

how to homeschool strategies

Do you need a homeschool strategy?

What is a strategy anyway?
On Wikipedia, according to A Greek-English Lexicon, a strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.  Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited.

Does your homeschool need a strategy?

From the definition, it seems to me that a strategy becomes necessary when a parent is feeling uncertain. And I understand completely.

Choosing any unconventional or non-traditional path brings with it periods of doubt and uncertainty, including homeschooling. Most of us feel quite convinced that homeschooling is the wise choice, while still having to deal with periods of doubt. We may be convinced of the basis rightness of our lifestyle choice while still having a nagging fear that something is not quite right.

Where is that initial relief that you felt when you finally took the plunge?  

Where is the confidence that surged inside as you hit the road in the beginning?  
Where is the enthusiasm?  
Relief, confidence, enthusiasm:  are you missing them?

You may not be down right giddy anymore, and maybe that is unrealistic, but where are those sparks of brilliance?

I've been there!

I am here to admit that this homeschool thing is a real challenge. The house is a disaster.  There are tears.  No one is interested in reading the shiny new books. It is a struggle to get through the clever banter. You have gotten into the car and slammed the door just for the silence.

There are no fancy strategies. Just one reminder:
You are homeschooling, not schooling at home.

Get out of the chair. Open the door. Go outside.

The material in those books is secondary to the desire to LEARN.

Recently my daughter was doing something amazing.
In an outward sign of all of our frustration, she decided to paint her face and eyes black, wear all black clothing, and go Goth.  It was interesting, in retrospect, how she was reflecting the feelings that all of us were experiencing. 

We got into the car and went to the beach.
At first no one was interested. They were dragging their feet, moaning, unwilling to play, letting me know how stupid the idea of the beach was. (Couldn't you just laugh at their reaction to the beach?!  lol)

But as time wore on, we watched small children doing cute things, we were attacked by a bird, the breeze continued to blow in, and we began to feel the beach. They took off their shoes and started dragging their toes in the sand. And then, despite themselves, they took off down the beach and started running, hair blowing, laughter reaching me, smiles in spite of themselves, bare feet sinking in to sand, stretches of beach ahead, brilliant blue skies, puffy white clouds blowing the kites, water up to their ankles...

We stayed all afternoon and took another several days off to play other places, including board games at home and at the home of friends.

 When we got back to work, we were ready. We have never read books cover to cover unless we absolutely want to. When a thing is a drag, we just get the main idea and move on. If I can find a nonfiction book instead of a text book, we use that. And if we begin a thing and it is awful, we don't stick with it very long... The idea is to find the things that bring on love of learning.  So, if you are in a place where it all sucks, look for a single thing that is interesting and do more of THAT.

Yesterday we decided to do Zentangles. John thought it was ridiculous, but by the time he had finished his work, he was smiling and laughing and had enjoyed himself. Today I have seen markers in his hand again...

You might also like:
Are You a Good Homeschooling Parent?

A Parental Confession
A Very Damaging List Against Homeschooling

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dealing With the Confrontational Family Member

 Atheists Dealing with Religious Family and friends, secular parenting
Atheists Dealing with Religious Family 
(or Religious Friends)

Before going in to my brilliant answer to this problem, I have one question for you:

Can you appreciate where they are coming from?   

We know that the churches talk about atheists as though we are devil worshipers and all manner of evil things. The pulpit scares churchgoers. These beloved family members and dear friends of ours live with a very deeply-rooted fear of sin and evil and demons and all manner of dark things that humans have created...  Generally, these people do not understand that atheists neither believe in such things, nor do we have an agenda in alignment with any such invented force as dark side; but that is what they are taught about atheism.  
Their fear is genuine and bone deep. 

Believers can have some very real and profound emotional trauma when they think about their loved ones spending eternity in an everlasting punishment of hell. I have the utmost compassion for them.

I’m a non-snark kind of person and I sincerely discourage attacking the believer for their belief even if they are attacking you for your atheism. Their deep-seated fear may be unmovable. It’s possible that they will never accept your atheism. Remember, their church and their friends are advising them about their responsibilities to confront you about your atheism...what to say, what to do, and how to address you. They are very confused and they may be getting some terrible advice about how to handle it.

If only the advice was Live and let live we could all simply move forward and love one another, but it is unlikely that our beloved family members are hearing this healing and peaceful tenet from their spiritual support staff; it is more likely that they are hearing advice in how to entrap you, lure you, shame you, put fear in to you, or some other unscrupulous means of ensnaring new believers.

Make no mistake, they are scared to death.

Sadly, churches are so very good at creating fear rather than at alleviating it. But I do have a few ideas that I hope may help in keeping the conflict to a minimum. Keep in mind that everyone is different, every situation is unique, and we can’t really control anyone except for ourselves. Furthermore, remember that recovery from shock, disappointment, and pain requires time to heal the grief.

I offer these tips. 

Beforehand: Plan the conversation. Schedule the time so that everyone is rested, prepared, and has adequate time to discuss. Remember, you may be changing your relationship with beloved family members during this conversation and they may need time to regroup. 

1. Keep calm.  When talking with these beloved people (now possibly appearing as out-of-control angry people) we must acknowledge that the news is new and alarming to them. Most clergy people and public messages paint atheists as actual demon-worshipers. Let these people have the time to vent their fears and anger. Fight all urge to respond with anger.

 This does NOT mean that you stay in the room
 if any person becomes abusive. 

2. Avoid religion-bashing. Believers take their beliefs very personally and a person being attacked will always respond in attack mode. Besides, we are big enough to accept that their beliefs are important to them and we can respect that. We also can recognize that they are the fearful ones here, not us.
Be sympathetic to their fears and concerns.

3. Be factual about where you stand. Present your reasons if you must, keeping in mind that no explanation will be enough. This is not the time to disparage their beliefs but to explain where you are and how you got there. 

4. I strongly discourage debating believers. Debating and arguing has never changed a person’s point of view when they are in crisis and self-protection mode. Assume that the process will take time. It is not always possible to fully avoid debating. Maybe leave them with a great website or a letter to read and explore, then make plans to talk about it again at a later time. 

5. Know that they are “taking you to church", Women’s group, friends, clergy, or other members of their church for advice. Recognize that their words may not be their own. These so-called supportive friends are whipping up the fervor to a fevered pitch and your beloved friends and family are not getting any honest messages of love, healing, or acceptance. They may feel intense pressure to put forth their church's byline.

In other words, you are, first, facing the religious community by-line more than the real issues of your loves ones.

6. Reassure the people that you love, family and friends, that your atheism does not change how you feel about them, nor does it change the person that you are. Listen again and again to their fears. Model calmness and courtesy.
Respect their need for time to grieve.

7. Assure them that you have no desire to confront their beliefs, recruit them in any way, become a different person than they know you to be (except for being and feeling more honest), or have anything secret or unknowable about your life. Your atheism is simple and open and completely knowable. You are very comfortable answering any and all questions that they may have.
They truly don't know what you mean by atheist. 

8. Identify areas of agreement. We all love each other and we love the kids. We are all doing what we sincerely believe to be the right thing. We are talking over this issue because we are honest and because we respect one another. We want to remain a close, loving family.

9. Make it clear and firm, whenever the need arises that you expect them to respect your parenting toward the kids and that there is to be no secrecy about talking about religion with the kids. Our parents had us to parent and we have our children. It is truly within our rights as the parent to protect our children from secrecy and other situations that put our children in uncomfortable situations. I don't know a single child who is at ease keeping secrets from their parents.

10. And finally, Love them through it. Even though the disagreement remains between you, do all you can to keep the relationship intact, healthy, and affectionate. Give them time to grieve the idea that you will share their faith with them for their mythical eternity. You may have to ignore some of the conflict and focus on the good. Life is about connection after all. 

Bonus 11.  Be the one to create the dialogue and keep that dialogue open, honest, and peaceful to the best of your ability. And isn't it nice that we, as atheists, can decide our response to things rather than look to some false authority figure instead?

Bottom Line

You can't change anybody else except for yourself. History proves that some religious thought is incredibly resistant to logic, reason, compromise, openness, acceptance, or secular thought. As always in this freethought journey, know that the only thing you can control for certain is your own behavior in a situation.

Some people may be entirely unable to square things with you.
Some churches and belief systems are very divisive and, sadly, encourage people to split with loved ones over issues such as this one. It is sad for our beloveds...

My wish for you people who try to understand:

If you have some time you can check out the show this week
on the SecularTV channel on Youtube.
Click here for the 50 minute show.
And PLEASE ignore the weird faces I make when I talk.
The Secular Parents

  Have you dealt with this????
  Do you have any words of wisdom?  

You might also like these posts:
Raising Atheist Children
That Hideous Dance Between Faith and Critical Thinking

Unsupportive Non-Secular Family Members

secular tv, atheist parenting, secular parenting, atheist coming out of the closet
Special Invite to my friends here at My Own Mind blog

The Secular Parents: Sundays, 8pm CST/7pm ST: EP 2: Dealing With Non-Secular Family Members

We're diving into the deep end of secular parenting issues here on our second show at the SecularTV channel on Youtube and discussing the struggles of handling push back to our secular parenting lifestyle.

Think Grandma cornering the kids in the hallway to talk about the Lord and Hell...which is what happened to us a few times!  Don't do what I did! lol)

What do you think of our show's little icon thingy?

I hope you click this link to join us this Sunday evening and

For my post on Dealing With 
Unsupportive Non-Secular Family Members,

Friday, January 23, 2015

Growing Pains

Homeschool socialization
This is a TMI post.

My son is really struggling these days. He is a uniquely deep and mature kid who is also silly, fun, and amazing. 
He is 14, the age of terrible social unrest for kids. 

Tonight we have been talking for hours about his philosophical side, his feelings, his reflections, his struggles, things that he wants, changes, realities, longings, options, his disdain for kids on social media who stereotype and generalize without seeing the humanness of the people that they refer to in posts and memes, the serious issues he ponders, his profound longing for meaning in life, and some other weighty and complex stuff on his mind, changes in friendships and alliances, new realizations... can be so hard for a kid.

He is remarkably in touch with his emotions and has such an articulate way of expressing himself...he is such a thinker and he's having a hard time finding friends who are, well, deep too. 
Intellectual. Thoughtful. Maybe a bit existential...

It's kind of hard to write about, actually.

Sometimes he feels so lonely because of this part of him. He is not lonely in the not seeing friends kind of way; he is lonely in the desire for depth of connection kind of way. He craves deep, meaningful connection and conversation.  His angst is genuine and profound this evening. Quite a load for such a young person.

I am so grateful that our relationship is so close and that we can talk about all of this. Otherwise he would feel so overwhelmed and even more lost. His heart and mind are so good; he reminds me of the wonderful human being that I married...he also reminds me of myself a bit...  I know that one day this young person will grow up into such an AMAZING adult person. 

I'm writing this now just to help me so sort through so much of the melancholy that he felt all evening. I think he went to bed feeling better though...

For now, he's hopeful that he can keep himself busy with his hobbies, studies, activities, and his true friends...and he's already looking forward to going to college where he might meet like-minded friends who he can...TALK TO.

Other Posts Like This One:
I Embrace My Feminine Side

I Find it Hard, the Letting Go
I Took John to Church
John Read My Blog 
My Parenting Manifesto 
That Hideous Dance Between Faith and Critical Thinking

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Son Doesn't Like to Write

homeschooling, fine motor skills, reluctant writers
Do you have a reluctant writer?

Oh, I do, I DO!
And by reluctant writer I mean anything that involves picking up a writing implement.

Here are a few sneaky ideas that I have used to get my son to pick up a pen/pencil/other tool and improve his fine motor skills. Keeping in mind that the kids can type like a professional, I still want him to be able to write his name without being embarrassed by it.
  • Keep score when we are playing games.
  • Creating characters for upcoming games.
  • Writing the shopping list or chore list
  • Using tweezers.
  • Mazes
  • Crosswords and Word Finds
  • Sketching on graph paper
  • Draw over grey-lines pictures  (see below for example)
  • Sending postcards to family members and distant friends.
  • Writing a menu for dinner
  • Writing personal poetry or favorite poems out of books
  • Extremely silly writing prompts
  • Coloring mandalas
  • MadLibs@
  • Writing on Post-it@ notes or index cards
  • Writing creative and new answers to old jokes
  • Write short lists (5 movies I want to see, 5 of my favorite dinners)
  • Sentence expansion.
          I write a sentence like John is a boy.
          He adds to it:  John is a blond boy.
          I add to it:  John is an active, blond boy.
          He adds to it:  John is an active, blond boy who is hungry.
          I add to it:  and so on.
  • We do writing prompts together.
          ex. Describe the best afternoon possible.
          We both sit and write for 3-5 minutes, 
          then read answers aloud.
          I have books full of writing prompts.

The point is that this child does not like to pick up a pencil because he feels incredibly inadequate with handwriting. I make it a point to not correct (much) or editorialize (much) on what he has done. He actually enjoys the pages where I include a grey outline image and he draws over it, working on making long, comfortable lines.

Maybe it's shocking sounding that his handwriting is as bad as it is, but he can write a nice paragraph or two on the computer, so I'm OK with it at this point.

Do you any any other ideas, sneaky ones!, for getting a kid to pick up a pencil and actually use it?
Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

What if they Never Learn to Read?

Part Two:  What to do with Spelling Words
Mother of the Highly-Distractable-Child blog

Here's an example of the coloring sheet 
that I print out and have him write over the lines...

Don't judge me!

It's My Blog Anniversary: 600th Post

atheist parenting atheist blog
It occurred to me that TWO blog anniversaries are happening for me. 
THIS POST is my 600th post, which is cool. 
And on February 7th, this blog will be FIVE YEARS OLD!

THANK YOU for reading the musings of my heart.
And special THANKS to the people 
who have become true and dear friends in real life
as a result of reading this blog.

Congratulations Me!
I've given it some thought as to how I want to celebrate this journey and I've decided to go simple.  My very first blog post was a list of descriptors in an attempt to summarily say Who I Am. I thought I'd show you that post and then type a list of Who I am Today, in an effort to see where this journey has taken me. To do that I am copy/pasting the first list (blacked out so that I don't see it yet, then unblacking it after I've written my second list...just so I don't influence

Here is my list from February 7, 2010:

Who am I?
I am a married mother of two children.
I am a homeschooling mother.
I am a happily married woman.
I am a happy person, generally a positive person.
I am, what is often called, a "People Person".
I am a Midwesterner. We live in St. Louis and I have always lived within 30 miles of our home.
I am a birthmother.
I am an atheist.
I am a movie lover.
I love to read.
I enjoy my children tremendously.
I totally like my husband and am very entertained by him. He keeps me centered.
I am 46.
I am a freethinker.
I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
I am fairly Liberal.
I went to college for well over eight years.
I am a SAHM.
I am a small business owner.
I enjoy publishing small publications.
I am a family person.
I love jasmine tea.
I prefer veggies to fruits.
I am a raging insomniac.
I love the WWW.
I am a researcher by heart.
And an editor.
I will always find the misspellings and grammatical errors in the book!
I am a recovering sarcastic person.
I am becoming a better parent all of the time.
I dislike confrontation and debate completely.
I am respectful and interested in differing points of view.
I dislike being in a "box" and I am fairly immature about it!
I am a terrible cook.
I love watching my children in their various performing venues.
I love spring and fall.
I am a good swimmer.
I love history and science and...well, everything except for math.
Math is interesting but totally flummoxes me.
Love astronomy.  Jer and I are amateur astronomers.
I am addicted to RCT2.
I am a lover of language.

I'm Karen.

Here is today's list, January 20th, 2015:

I am a blogger.
I am a huge reader and researcher.
I love books.
I am a community builder.
I am the parent of two amazing teenagers.
I am a very happily married woman.
I think of myself as an Open Atheist On a Mission.
I love travel.
I am always longing for Brisbane.
This blog has helped me clarify so many things.
Three of my best friends are from other countries.
I am the stepmother of two amazing human beings.
I drive a Mom Van, though my daughter usually has it.
I an co host of a Youtube talk show on SecularTV.
Because of this blog I am a maker of memes.
I may be a bit too TMI and I have decided to remain so.
I enjoy poetry.
I truly believe in paying it forward, quietly.
My favorite singer is a teenager from Australia.
I have started decorating my home to reflect myself.
I have stopped drinking soda and tea as my primary beverage. (woo!)
I often eat meatless meals as a choice.
I have regular columns on two online atheist magazines.
I am a suburb girl.
I love the beach and the mountains, and all of Australia and New Zealand.
My sleep patterns truly suck.

I admire kindness, compassion, simplicity, quiet wisdom.
I take medication for blood pressure and depression.
I am a lover of language.
I am the host of an Atheist Parenting Blog Carnival.

I have reconnected with some great friends from childhood.
I like Facebook and Pinterest.
My children have banished me from Twitter and Instagram for their own privacy's sake.  (like I looked for them or something...!  lol)
I curse too much, my favorite word being "the f bomb".
I brush my teeth regularly and floss after every meal.
I drink about half a gallon of water every just tastes delicious.
I would love gospel music best if it wasn't about god.
I'm a bit crafty and arty.
I love meeting new people and I enjoy learning about lives totally different from my own.  This might be my favorite thing.

Indulging myself...
Here are a bunch of pics and memes from over these 600 posts
 that I have either created or taken and that I love. 
Don't start or you'll be here for hours!

Atheism 101

THANK YOU for reading the musings of my heart
and for sharing this journey.
More to come.
Save yourself now!!!!