Every three months, give or take depending, I have a med check with my psych, and we talk about how I’ve been doing. She always makes me rate things on a scale of 1 to 10. Depression? Anxiety? Sleep? Check, check, check. I hate that part of the appointment, because it’s hard. How do you rate something that’s so fluid? But I especially hate it right now, in the middle of this pandemic. I don’t know how I feel one minute to the next, let alone well enough to be able to assign a number to it.
What I’ve realized though, is that despite how I rate my feelings, I am managing. I’m managing. No more, no less. I see all these people and their quarantine hobbies… their sourdough bread making, and their new exercise regimes, and their foreign language learning, and their freshly painted living rooms, and that’s… not me. And that’s okay.
I recently saw someone on Facebook asking others about their new hobbies, and she said, “There’s no excuse not to be learning something new right now!”
But there is an excuse.
Things are hard right now. Things are different. Things are uncertain. Things are new. It’s okay not to be productive right now! Really, it’s okay not to be productive anytime, but it’s especially okay right now.
It’s okay if you’re not doing a new hobby.
It’s okay if your house isn’t spotless.
It’s okay if your laundry has piled up.
It’s okay if you’ve been watching Netflix like it’s your job.
It’s okay if all you’ve been doing is breathing in and out.
It’s okay if, like me, you’re just managing.
I have had some bad days over the past five months. I have had some very bad days over the past five months. (Fun fact: medication is not a panacea.) But I’ve had good days too – which is exactly what I tried to tell my doctor when she pushed me for a number. Ups and downs are normal and healthy, which is why toxic positivity gets under my skin so much. It’s normal to have bad days. It’s normal to have bad moods. It’s normal to have moments of screw-you-I’m-not-putting-on-pants-or-leaving-the-house-or-doing-anything-you-deem-productive-today.
And a lot of days, days like today, are neither bad nor good. They’re just… days. Days, like Matt Haig says up above, to “be and feel things and get through and eat crisps and survive and that’s more than enough.”
Life will be normal again one day, What on earth this new normal is going to look like, I have no idea. But it will come. Until then, it’s okay to just hang on. It’s okay to just manage.
My kids have never gone to school. In fact, with the exception of my oldest, who spent a couple of years in speech therapy as a toddler, they have barely even set foot in a school. So I guess one could argue that I have no skin in the game, and therefore my opinion is pretty much irrelevant. But I assure you, I share your horror over the questions faced by parents and administrators surrounding school right now. Is it safe for them to go back to in-person classes right now? Should they wear masks? Should they socially distance? Should they stay home? Should they do virtual learning? Should they do a combination? Should they, should they, should they.
And what does it all mean for teachers? For librarians and cafeteria workers and janitorial staff? What does it mean for those at higher risk? Or for those going home to high risk family members? A lot of questions, and very few cut-and-dried answers.
If all of that wasn’t enough, many parents are worrying about their kids’ education itself, or about them falling behind. To those parents, I want to say, without a shred of hesitation:
The kids will be alright.
The school’s timetable is arbitrary. There’s no set body of knowledge that a kid must have at 8. Or 12. Or 17. There’s no such thing as falling behind. Every single kid at every single age knows more about some things and less about others. Every single kid at every single age has his own interests and her own passions. If you lined up 100 5th graders, each one would be plotted on a different spot on the knowledge scale. And that’s by design! Learning is individual, and unique to the learner. Learning styles are different, pace is different, timing is different. It doesn’t matter if someone can’t do complex fractions by a certain (again, arbitrary) age. It just doesn’t.
It should also be noted, for those who dismiss my words as nonsense, that John Taylor Gatto – a former New York City public school teacher – tells us that “reading, writing, and arithmetic really only take around 100 hours to transmit, as long as the audience is eager and willing to learn. ” 100 hours. A few months, or a year, away from formal education will not hurt your child. I promise. We somehow trust that adults who are out of school are able to continually learn on their own, but we often fail to give the same consideration to children. Your kids are always learning, regardless of what four walls they’re surrounded by.
And please hear me when I say I know that there are other things we’re collectively worried about. I know that some parents need to work, and are unable to stay home with their kids. I know that for some kids, school is the only place where they can get a decent meal. I know that in some families, school is the option that’s best for their safety. I know. These concerns are real, and valid, and important. THESE are the conversations that need to be happening right now. These are the problems that need solving and addressing. Not whether little Suzy is going to fall behind in social studies. There’s too much focus on the wrong problem.
I know people are worried about their kids mental health, and I hear that too. But I truly don’t think that being thrust into a strange new environment with masks and distance and hand sanitizer is going to help. The fact is, this pandemic and its resulting isolation is hard on all of us, adults and kids alike. It’s hard! I’m not even a particularly social person, and I am lonely. I’m aimless. I’m distracted. I’m anxious. I miss people and hugs and face to face conversations, and I know that kids are no different.
But your kids have something that you and I might not have. They have YOU. They have someone who supports them, who cheers for them, who has their back. They have someone who loves them unconditionally, who cares for them, who sees to it that they have everything they need. They have someone who can be their rock through the uncertainty, their port in the storm, and their safe place to fall. You get to be the person who takes them by the hand, and gives them a sense of safety when the rest of the world feels like it’s falling down around them.
I know that not everyone is able to stay home with their kids, but if you can … if you’re finding yourself in the position of choosing between sending your kids into a situation you’re uncomfortable with or doing school virtually … know that there’s another option. Know that you can opt out. It breaks my heart to see so many parents lamenting how miserable their kids are trying to do distance learning, because it doesn’t have to be that way. YOU CAN OPT OUT. You can, today, right now, submit an intent to homeschool (and depending on your state, you might not even have to do that. Check here for your state’s laws) and just stop. Stop the stress, stop the pressure, and just learn together. No fancy curriculum or arbitrary schedule needed. Live together. Play games, bake cookies, read books, watch movies, do science experiments, play music, write music, explore YouTube, build things, take things apart, make art, make videos, virtually chat with friends… Make life as interesting and sparkly and happy as possible.
It’s okay to opt out.
I don’t know the answer for the bigger picture, and I don’t know the answer for those who need the schools. I wish I did, but I don’t. What I do know is that we’re all learning all the time, and that there is no timetable for success. I know that if one of your concerns right now is whether or not your child is going to fall behind, that you can take a breath. Take the pressure off yourself and off your child. At this time of uncertainty, give yourself one less thing to worry about.
I recently asked on my Facebook page if anyone had any questions, and you guys delivered, both on Facebook, and through email. I got a good handful of questions I’m going to answer over the next several weeks, and this is the first.
How do you explain going to school with structured classes yourself, after unschooling your kids? (to your own kids, other kids, other parents)
I feel like I can’t answer this question without first addressing the role that college may play in an unschooling life, regardless of whether the student is a parent or a child.
College and unschooling are not incongruent. Let me start there. Plenty of unschoolers go to college. Some start taking classes in their early teens. My own 16 year old was in the process of applying to the local community college before Covid hit.
One of the great things about unschooling is its celebration of options. Just as I don’t view college as the be-all, end-all, I also don’t discount it. It’s just one of many paths a child (or adult, for that matter) may choose to take. As they get older, unschoolers may choose to enter the workforce, to travel, to start a business, to learn a trade, or, yes, to go to college. All are worthy. All are valid.
Having said that, I think people get confused about the role traditional classes may play in an unschooling family. My kids have all chosen to take classes at various points in their life…. from dance to music to small engine repair. Unschoolers generally aren’t strangers to learning in mainstream ways, which seems to surprise people.
A few years ago, I posted a blog that included a piece of crocheting I had done. It was lying on top of my open planner, where I keep track of all my day to day to-do’s. Someone left a comment that read:
Just curious…if you are an unschooler then why do you have a planner with lessons in it?
The comment was fair, if a little accusatory. Bad unschooler! You’re not unschooling the right way! The fact is, there are a million reasons why I might have had a planner with lessons in it. Maybe it was the time when my daughter wanted to “try school” and asked me to make up a schedule for her to follow each day. (That lasted about a week). Maybe it was when we were spending time at a local Free School, and they’d planned a different activity each day. Or maybe it was when my oldest was taking the engine repair class, and he asked me to help keep him on task. Alas, it was none of those things. It was because I’d just gone back to college, and needed a place to keep track of my tests and assignments.
Which brings me back to the original question.
In 2017, I went back to college. I’d always wanted to pursue a degree in psychology, but I was pushed encouraged to study writing instead. I went off to college straight from highschool, but I’d only completed a couple of years before deciding to take time off to have babies and eventually homeschool. Some 23 years later, I found myself in therapy learning to live with bipolar disorder, and the experience made me realize how badly I wanted to go back and finish what I’d never started: a psychology degree. I was 43 when I went back, and 46 when I graduated (just a few short weeks ago!) When the world isn’t upside down with Covid, I want to go back for a nurse’s degree, and eventually become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. All those things require college, and a lot of it.
If my kids wanted to pursue something that required college, I would support it. When I wanted to do something that required college, my kids supported it. They’re seeing their mom do something that’s been a long time in the making, and I am crazy proud of that. They’re seeing their mom work hard at something that’s important to her, and I’m crazy proud of that too. They’re seeing their mom decide on her own unique path, and take the steps to follow it, which is at the very heart of unschooling.
So how would I explain it, to anyone who asked? I had a goal, and I’m pursuing it. No more simple nor complicated than that.
Hey, come on try a little Nothing is forever There’s got to be something better than In the middle But me and Cinderella We put it all together We can drive it home With one headlight ~The Wallflowers
I miss writing. I miss normalcy. I miss going to the store without seeing masks and plexiglass dividers and taped X’s on the floor. I miss the days when my morning news didn’t start with how many new deaths were logged the day before. I miss people. I miss hugs.
Two weeks ago, I finished my last class of my Bachelors. An event that should’ve been marked with relief and excitement, the jubilation was painfully short-lived. Going to school gave me something to focus on at a time when focusing on anything feels next to impossible. And now that it’s over, I’m finding myself a little lost. The plan was always to go back to school (the psychology bachelors was only supposed to be part one), but with the world being what it is, 1) I need a break, and 2) step two would require in-person classes, the status of which is currently… questionable. So, I wait.
Arizona is currently in crisis mode, as one of the nation’s biggest hotspots for Covid-19. Our conference, along with just about everything else, is cancelled, and the re-opening (which was well beyond rushed if you ask me), was rolled back, and bars, gyms, clubs, theaters and waterparks are all closed once again.
So now what I’m feeling is… limbo. In the middle of normalcy, and… what? I can never finish that sentence. There is no getting back to normal, because normal is over. I keep telling myself that this won’t last forever though, and we’ll arrive somewhere eventually. We’ll find someplace to land. We’ll find a new normal.
I think the hardest part of all of this, besides the obvious soul-crushing fatigue, is just the UNCERTAINTY. How bad is this going to get before it gets better? WHEN is it going to get better? What’s it going to look like on the other side? How are we going to be affected?
The world is a veritable dumpster fire right now, and it’s making me so, so tired. And before you say it: Yes, there’s still good. Yes, there’s still things to be thankful for. Yes, things could be worse.
But right now? Today? Today, I get to be tired. Today, I get to be sad. Today I get to be frustrated at the virus, at the injustice, at the fighting, at the selfishness, at the grandstanding. Today I get to feel all the feels of being in the middle, of being suspended in this weird space between reality and whatever it is that lies beyond reality. Today I get to recognize the juxtaposition of taking this all too seriously and not seriously enough all at the same time.
I feel aimless, and I don’t like to feel aimless. I feel distracted, and I don’t like to feel distracted. I feel anxious, and I don’t like to feel anxious. And because my life is one big example of irony, underneath all of that, I actually feel good. My meds are on point, and I haven’t had anything close to the dip I had this past winter. So I mean, I guess there’s that?
This feeling though. This restless, anxious, crawling-out-of-my-skin aimlessness is grating. I’ve made self-care a priority (A side note on self-care, if I may: Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. I’ve recently made some major changes to how I interact online, and it has made a world of difference. I’ve cleaned up my Facebook feed. Everyone who stresses me out gets snoozed or unfollowed. Comments that are condescending or rude don’t get to stay. Yesterday I got a snotty response on Insta, and while past me would have let it stay and stewed about it, I just went ahead and blocked her. Done, and done, and I instantly felt better. Boundaries.) I’m making myself get dressed even when I don’t feel like it. I’m getting enough sleep. I’m drinking enough water. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.
I’ll keep doing what I’m doing – with hopefully a little less news reading – and let go of everything else.
And somehow, someday, we’ll all come out the other side.
That we were all the same, that there was no black and white
But then I learned
That to see no color meant I was erasing real struggles, real history, real people
That I wasn’t even seeing the people right in front of me
People with their own feelings, and their own hopes and dreams, and their own heartaches, and their own stories
So now I see color. Now I respect color
I used to hear the term, “white privilege”, and I was confused
What did that even mean?
Was I supposed to be sorry for being white?
Was my life supposed to be “easy”?
But then I learned
It didn’t mean that my life couldn’t be hard, or that there was something wrong with being white
It meant that I was afforded certain privileges simply because of the color of my skin
It meant that my skin color didn’t make my life more difficult
It meant that I didn’t have to worry about: jogging, or bird watching, or walking to the store for Skittles, or getting pulled over for a routine traffic stop, or sitting in my own home.
Or for existing while being Black
I used to hear the phrase Black Lives Matter, and thought, of course they do. All Lives Matter
But then I learned
Saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter, too
It means that right now our Black brothers and sisters are hurting
It means that right now our Black brothers and sisters need our attention
It means that right now our Black brothers and sisters need our help
Saying Black Lives Matter means that right now we are focused on THEM, on their safety, on their fears, on their lives
Saying Black Lives Matter means that their lives matter, too
Saying All Lives Matter detracts from the very real work that needs to be done. It erases the very real need for our attention, our love, our outrage at a broken, and a systemically racist system that has told us for decades that Black lives do NOT matter
I have made mistakes, and God knows I’ll continue to make them. But I know this: Staying silent isn’t the answer, being afraid to try isn’t the answer. We need listening. So much more listening
I’ve deactivated my Facebook account three separate times in the past couple of weeks, mainly because I got my feelings hurt. (If you’re new here, my feelings are hurt very easily. Let’s just make peace with it.)
In the bigger picture though, I did it because we’ve collectively forgotten how to be nice.
And I get it. I do. At the time of this writing, nearly 90,000 people have died. We’ve lost loved ones. People are worn down, and scared, and anxious, and staring at a whole hell of a lot of unknowns. People are losing jobs, businesses are going bankrupt, people are going hungry, our mental health is suffering. There are protests. There is violence. There are inequities.
We’re scared. We’re scared. We’re scared and we’re pissed off, a combination that is…. volatile, at best.
A few days ago, I posted a link to an incident at a Target in Van Nuys, California. There was an altercation over the requirement to wear a face mask, and an employee’s arm was broken. I guess the (positive?) thing is that the result was a broken arm, not a death like the case in Flint, Michigan. The truly terrifying thing, which I said in my post, is that I’m no longer surprised to see these headlines.
To say that tensions are high is a gross understatement.
In the course of ensuing conversation, I used the phrase, “lost their minds,” and I was promptly reprimanded. (Paraphased): You’re everything that’s wrong with the world today. We can disagree without name calling. We can be civil adults. What makes you think you’re better than everyone else?
Pot? I’m the kettle. You’re black.
Now, could I have used a softer phrase? Sure. Could he have been kinder in his response? You bet. But we’re skipping kindness in favor of being right, and it’s made me so, so tired. So tired that I immediately deleted his comment, deleted my post, and deactivated Facebook.
We’ve forgotten how to be kind.
And to be fair, there is a lot at stake here. Disagreements aren’t just regular disagreements anymore. These disagreements are quite literally about life and death. People have drawn clear lines in the sand, and whether the stance is a political one, a scientific one, a moral one, or just a gut-feeling one, we are all holding on for dear life.
But does anyone truly, truly believe that it’ll help someone else see our perspective if we’re beating them over the head with it? Because that’s really not how it works.
I am scared to click publish on this one, probably more scared than I’ve been on any post before. Both because of the, “did I say what I meant to say, and is it going to be completely misconstrued” fears, and because it is such a fragile, volatile time right now. More fragile and volatile than anything I’ve ever experienced in my 46 years on this planet.
But I’m going to publish anyway. And I’m going to hope against all hope that when we share/post/comment about our feelings about what’s going on (and to be clear, I do think we should be talking about it. It’s important.) that we can all – myself included – do so with a little more kindness.
There is a video going around Facebook, basically making fun of middle schoolers.
Maybe you saw it. Maybe it made you laugh. I concede that parts of it made me laugh, because the guy who made it is funny. But I couldn’t finish it.
A few things, off the bat:
Are middle schoolers/adolescents/teens sometimes…. salty? Yes. Hormones do wacky things.
Are grown ups sometimes salty? Yes. Life does wacky things.
The difference is (and no, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last) we don’t make videos mocking adults for their less than stellar moments. This is childism, plain and simple. To believe this video is to believe that middle schoolers are always sullen, and angry, and irritable, and uncooperative.
Are they those things sometimes? Again, YES! I have four children, three of whom are well past puberty, and one who is thick in its throes. Have there been difficult days? Yes. Have there been frustrating days? Yes. Have there been days where I’ve felt I needed to walk on eggshells a little bit? Yes.
But here’s the thing.
Videos like this play into the stereo-typically “bad” parts of adolescence, and there is so. much. good! Truly.
Kids this age are funny. They’re intelligent. They’re creative. They’re masterfully growing into their own unique skin. If we’re having trouble seeing that – and I say this as gently as I know how – maybe that’s an “us” problem, and not a “them” problem. Maybe we’re seeing what we want to see. Or what we think we should see. Or what society tells us to see.
Not too long ago, someone asked on Facebook how his fellow parents of teens were doing. I commented (like I always do when the subject comes up) that I adore having teens. Because I really do. His response? “Seriously???” What upset me about his answer was not the fact that he was having a different experience (because yes, absolutely, all dynamics and relationships are different, even within the same family) but the fact that he was so surprised that it could even be a possibility.
The common parenting trope tells us that teens are difficult. Rebellious. Disrespectful. Self-centered. But why? Why do we feel the need to believe it?
Because posts, articles, and videos like this one present it as truth.
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
We can choose to see the good in our kids. We can choose connection over animosity. We can choose compassion over control. We can be the adults, and recognize that these young people are going through huge and confusing life changes, and that they deserve grace. Heaps of it.
What they don’t need? To be made fun of on social media.
These are strange and hard days. Even normally healthy people are having issues with their mental health, and when you have a mental illness and are already coming at it with a disadvantage, well, things are… well, they’re extra fragile. We’re too many days into quarantine to keep count, the threads that weave my emotions together are tenuous, and even simple interactions are leading to my undoing.
It’s a hard thing to explain to someone who hasn’t been there, but sometimes the simplest, most innocuous things can set off an ugly chain. And you see it, you see it happening as if you’re looking from outside your body. You can see you’re being irrational. You can see your mind is twisting things. But you’re utterly powerless to stop it. It takes on a life of its own, and it owns you, until it either burns out of its own volition, or you’re somehow able to recall some helpful tidbit from therapy that allows you to diffuse it.
Last night, I had the following conversation, which sadly, followed the same pattern of MANY conversations:
It started out well enough. YouTube, celebrities, tomato plants, desserts. Delightful. Happy. Random. And then for some reason (I never know the reason) I decided to unleash a tangled mass of word vomit, this time about how much I hated taking medication, and why did I take it anyway, and what if the naysayers were right, and what if I just stopped taking it? I was seeking reassurance I think, though the reasoning is often lost even by that early point.
What I got in return was not reassurance, but being (rightly) called out for being unreasonable. I promptly felt stupid, and embarrassed, and unheard. I could barely answer her. My friend ghosted then, for any one of a number of reasons. Maybe a kid needed her, or she got called away, or she had to cook dinner, or she needed to use the bathroom for God’s sake. I don’t know. But she was gone, and then my mind went into overdrive. Paranoia and abandonment issues are real. I felt stupid and embarrassed and unheard, AND now felt a desperate, frantic need to undo it. This is a big thing with me. ABORT! ABORT! Make the bad feelings go away. I tried to apologize (for what, I’m not sure. Also a big thing with me) all the while hating myself for it, because did I really have something to be sorry about? I was PANICKING. Pure and total panic, over… what? I never know.
She resurfaced after my bumbled attempt to apologize, after I was already certain that she hated me, because seriously, how long can I expect a person to put up with someone who flies off the handle at any imagined provocation? She told me simply, “You’re okay,” which, for some irrational reason made me feel ten times worse, because I needed to hear words. I needed to hear reassurance. I needed to hear – ironically – that I was okay. That WE were okay. That I wasn’t crazy. That she didn’t hate me. That she understood. (Though, how anyone could understand any of it is beyond me) I needed to hear something magic, and I don’t even know what it was. I don’t know that anything would have helped. When I reach that point, very little does.
So they stayed. The gross, tearing-up-my-insides feelings remained. I went to bed feeling stupid, and embarrassed, and unheard, and sad. I went to bed hating myself, because WHY DID I DO THAT? Why did I do that, AGAIN? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be normal? The answer to that final question, by the way, is because I’m not. My brain is not wired normally. And it’s okay. Maddening and frustrating maybe, but okay.
Sleep was hard to come by, but it finally overtook me. I woke up feeling stupid, and embarrassed, and unheard, and sad. I woke up hating myself, this time because in my post flip-out hangover, I saw it even more clearly. I saw what I’d done, and I knew – I KNEW – that if I’d stopped and breathed and used any number of self-centering tools, it all could’ve been averted. But I never realize that except in hindsight. In the moment, I’m too blinded with… something. Something that takes over.
And now, 24 hours later? I am calmer. A little more rationality has crept back in. I feel a little more human, a little less crazed. But I’m tired. I’m tired of it catching me off-guard. I’m tired of the sudden and sickening tsunami of emotions. I’m tired of worrying that my relationships can’t withstand me. I’m just tired.
But I’ll move on. I’ll try to learn from it. I’ll try to do better next time (and, sadly, there will be a next time). When all is said and done, all I can do is try.
*Warning: What follows is nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness, vomiting of words. It has no point other than to get some thoughts out of my head and onto the computer.*
Seventeen days ago (it was just 17 days!), I wrote about the Coronavirus. Don’t panic, I said. Let’s take a deep breath, I said. Let’s keep it in perspective, I said. While those things might very well still be valid, we are living in a very different world now, JUST OVER TWO WEEKS LATER.
Cases are rising. Rapidly. Schools are closed. Bars and restaurants are closed. Gyms are closed. Libraries are closed. Many retail establishments are closed. Events are cancelled. More and more states are implementing a state-wide “stay in place” order. People are being urged to cancel play dates, gatherings with friends, trips to the park, and to otherwise practice “social distancing.” We are living in a different world. Whether you agree with the restrictions or not, life is different now, and while this time will eventually end, none of us are coming out of it unchanged.
I’ll be honest. I’m about as big an introvert as they come, and at first the idea of self-imposed isolation sounded lovely. I get to stay home ALL THE TIME! I don’t have to see people! I can wear pajamas all day!
That elation was, however, short-lived.
This is surreal. I feel suspended in this state somewhere between reality and I-don’t-know-what. I’m scattered. I’m anxious. I’m depressed. (Note to those who read my Rock Bottom post: I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m just….. this is just unlike anything I’ve ever lived through before.)
I’m finding myself sort of wandering through my house, not knowing what to do with myself. I’m working my way through my current – and second to last! – college class, but I’m lucky if I can concentrate for 10 minutes at a time. I have books to read and projects to do, but for real, who can concentrate right now?? Even television, one of my favorite things, requires a certain level of attentiveness that I just don’t possess at the present time.
Mike is now working from home, which is weird in and of itself. It was one of the things that made this finally click into “real” for me. He was sent home under the edict of working from home “until further notice.” Not for two weeks, not for six weeks, just… indefinitely.
Paxton (19 at the time of this writing) is still working outside the house (which gives me its own sense of panic), because his job is considered essential. Tegan (12), our sole extrovert, is going absolutely stir crazy, and the other two boys seem to be handling all of this okay.
But none of this feels real. I feel like I can’t state that enough.
I think the hardest part, for me, is just the high level of uncertainty. There is just so much UNCERTAINTY. We, as a people, tend to like to be in control, and this is very much the exact opposite of being in control. We don’t know how long we’ll be isolated. We don’t know when the economy is going to get back to normal. We don’t know if we – or our loved ones – are going to get sick. We don’t know if the stores are going to be stocked. Some of us don’t know where our next paycheck is coming from. Some of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from.
I’m worried about my loved ones who are high-risk.
I’m worried about what this is going to mean for the economy.
I’m worried about the folks for whom this is a hardship, financial or otherwise.
I’m worried about the mental health of, well, everyone.
I’m just… worried.
And I get it. Some people say, “It’s not like there’s anything you can do about it. Why worry?” Yes. Sure. But that doesn’t change the uncertainty. That doesn’t change the anxiety. That doesn’t change the very real feelings of being out-of-control.
And so, I’m going to do my best to do the things I can control. It might sound silly, but today I put on jeans instead of staying in pajamas because I thought it might help somehow (the jury is still out). I’m going to keep writing, and journaling, and working on my class, and hopefully – if my attention span allows – being creative. I’m going to keep my nails painted. I’m going to keep listening to good music. I’m going to talk with my kids, and eat good dinners, and drink plenty of water. I’m going to take all my meds on time, and I’m going to try to make sure I get enough sleep. I’m going to keep checking on Everett’s garden, and playing with Tegan’s hedgehog, and trying to read good books. I’m going to make self-care a priority and an imperative.
It’s a question I get a lot, in various forms, from people trying to wrap their heads around radical unschooling.
“How will they learn to clean their house if you haven’t made them do chores?”
“How will they learn to get up in time for a job if you haven’t made them go to bed at a certain hour?”
“How will they get into college if you’ve never made them take a test?”
“How will they learn to obey authority if you’ve never made them follow any rules?”
“How will they learn to socialize if you’ve never made them go to school?”
While I won’t address all of those questions right now, two of my kids are doing some cool things that definitively answer a couple of them.
About a month ago, my 19 year old started working a full time job. He had no high school diploma (side note: if it were important to him, or to any of my kids, there are lots of ways to get one online), so we helped him make a resume. For someone who’d never gone to school or held a job, it was a pretty cool resume! It included desert cleanups we’d done with off-roading groups, work he’s done with the planning, organization, and execution of our unschooling conference, the years he’s spent writing and performing with various bands. We talked with him a little bit about the interview (be yourself, be polite, be honest) but that was more to be thorough than because we thought he really needed it. He was offered the job at the interview, and he started a few days later. Previously used to staying up late, he started using his alarm, and quickly shifted his sleep. He usually works 11-8, and had absolutely no problem adjusting to the new schedule.
Our youngest son, 15 at the time of this writing, recently decided he wanted to take some classes at the community college this summer. Again, no high school diploma (and he’s not yet old enough to have gotten one traditionally anyway) but that’s not an issue for community college. We reviewed the application process together, and he started working his way through the steps. The last thing he needs to do is to take placement tests to see what level math and English classes he would need to take. He’s never taken a test before, save for the driver’s license test for his permit – which he had no problem taking – so he’s doing what everyone does. He’s studying. The college posted some study guides, and he’s going through them one by one. He said the English was pretty easy, except for the grammar. (Which is fair. I like to call myself a writer, and I think grammar is hard too). He found the math easy too, except for when he got to the upper level algebra. So he’s taking his time and learning what he needs to know. He’s never taken a math class, or an English class, or a science class. But he knows a lot about all of the above, and more importantly, he has the confidence to learn everything he doesn’t yet know.
It’s a hard concept for a lot of people, simply because it’s so different from the norm, but I think that unschooling has given them a huge advantage when it comes to doing new things. They have no hang-ups about learning, no anxieties around certain subjects (math trauma, anyone??), no doubts that they can do anything that they set their minds to. The simple answer to all of the above questions? They decide they want to do something… and they just do it.
I'm Jen... the shy, lost girl from the east coast who married at nineteen and eventually found herself - four kids later - in the middle of the desert. I like chocolate. You can read more about me here.