The Next Great Adventure
Izzy was in 1st grade and Noey was in pre-K when the pandemic hit. Schools scrambled to go online, but for Noey and other kids in Pre-K there weren’t many online options. And for Izzy, despite heroic efforts done in record time to provide kiddos a robust educational experience from home, online school was a major bust.
As fall 2020 approached it was clear the pandemic was far from over and a vaccine for children was nowhere in sight. For various reasons including concerns over masking/not masking in FL public schools, no vaccines for kids, and the emotional and social effects of public schooling during a pandemic, we decided to homeschool both kiddos.
Having never homeschooled and not knowing many people personally who homeschooled we found ourselves among the many other families across the world who were suddenly “pandemic homeschooling” and learning how to create curriculums and be their kids teacher.
It was also during this time that I felt the need to leave social media. And not just leave, but totally delete every account and all the info that went along with it. Partly because I needed to fully focus on this new adventure of homeschooling my kids during a pandemic where we had very little places to go and very little social interactions. But, in truth, the overarching reason was more because of how all the discourse and division was effecting my mental and spiritual health as well as my on and off-line relationships.
In some ways leaving social media for two years was amazing. Not being drawn into arguments and bad-faith interactions online brought more lightness to my days. Not having an easy social hit by scrolling through people’s lives prompted me to reach out more to people in real life. Not having to see day in and day out the appalling beliefs and behaviors of people who I used to like, love, and respect helped me heal and come down from my constant feelings of fight or flight.
But in other ways, leaving social media proved to be unhealthy for me. Before leaving social media, when I didn’t have the bandwidth to write a blog or submit my work for publication in magazines, I would write short blurbs on social media. Sharing my thoughts via writing has always been very therapeutic for me and losing that social media connection to share my writing took a toll on my mental health, and more specifically in my sense fulfillment and purpose.
Sure, I could have written for myself in a journal or something, but journaling isn’t my “deal”. My deal is sharing my life with others so that we can all feel less alone, broken, ashamed, or rejected.
Returning to social media was my first step in returning to writing again. Recreating Katie Mae’s Dailies has been a much needed source of healing for me and reconnecting with so many people near and far on social media and via my little blog has restored something in me that had gone dormant for quite some time: Hope.
I have been feeling drawn towards reconnection/connection for several months now. Fear, hurt, and pain has kept me isolated mentally, physically, and spiritually for years now. I had lost hope in humanity and without hope, it’s hard to do much.
To be honest, this sense of disconnection started well before the 2020 pandemic began. Since 2015, in seeing what so many people in the church and in our nation really believed, I have found myself slowly and steadily adding bricks to a wall I’d build around myself to keep the people that have hurt and disappointed me out.
But in doing so, I have also kept other people out as well. That’s how walls work.
(The irony of me building my own emotional walls to keep people out because I was afraid of them and didn't trust them, while being mad as a hornet at swaths of people in our country wanting to build actual walls to keep people out of our country that they were afraid of and didn’t trust is not lost on me. I became what I hated. Fear will fuck you up, man.)
I have spent the last two years while the kiddos have been in school working on myself and my healing. Unfortunately, I have faced lots of health issues related to getting COVID several years ago despite our efforts to prevent getting it and am just now beginning to feel stronger mentally and physically. But despite my physical health issues, I have worked hard on healing my mind, body, and spirit. And it is because of this work that I have been able to take my wall of protection down brick by brick and replace the wall with a desire for healthy connections (and healthy boundaries).
But wait, there’s MORE!
I haven’t been writing for a few months and that’s because my husband, T, and I have been focusing our energy on making some big decisions in relation to our kiddos and also our goals as a family.
It’s been difficult living in Florida with everything happening politically here. Unless you are living directly in a major city in FL, you are living in a very politically/religiously conservative area. Of course, this isn’t anything new, but within the last year things have become untenable for many living in FL - especially folks who are LGBTQ+. With book bans, restrictions on healthcare for trans youth, limits on what teachers can teach or even talk about in public schools, and the laundry list of other moves by DeSantis and conservatives in this state, we have felt less and less at home here.
But not everyone can move just because they want to. There are personal reasons why a move from FL isn’t able to happen as quickly as we may prefer.
And for quite some time, this made me feel stuck, angry, and fearful.
But I’m glad for the work I’ve been doing in therapy and how that has helped me be able to make plans for the future while working on making the present work for me and for us as a family even when there are things happening outside of our control that we don’t like.
Since we will be in FL for however long, we have to make choices as a family which allow us to live within our values and control what we can control.
One of the biggest decisions we have made in honor of controlling what we can control is we have decided to homeschool our kiddos again.
But this time, we will not be “pandemic homeschooling”. Since our previous experiences with homeschooling I have continued to keep homeschooling as an option for us and have gathered information and continued learning about all the different ways families homeschool.
This decision wasn’t made just between T and myself. For the past two years our kiddos have returned to public school they have been asking (ok - BEGGING) me to homeschool them again. And as the years have gone on and our efforts at advocating for our kiddos in the FL public school system have gained little ground (not necessarily at the fault of the teachers and administrators) it has become necessary for us to consider the benefits of homeschooling for neurodivergent kids and families.
We aren’t deciding to homeschool because we are against public school or feel the teachers or even the schools themselves are at fault. It’s just that school systems are designed using standards. These standards are designed to work for standard students. But when your kiddo isn’t standard, fitting neatly into the educational system can be a huge challenge for everyone involved. Teachers all over the nation, but especially in FL, are not getting the pay and resources they need to do their jobs, so how can we expect them to give personal attention to our children when they have so little support. They are only human!
I also realized that we have been parenting our kids for public school. Meaning, we have been siding with the teachers and school in trying to “make” our kids conform and fit the mold instead of partnering with our children in allowing them to learn how they need to learn and fully be who they are. And this has been much to everyone’s detriment.
We continued to hear complaints from teachers despite our efforts to get our kids to follow the rules and do what they were asked to do.
And we can’t do it anymore. The toll this has taken on our kids is apparent in their mental health.
But we aren’t just homeschooling because the kids asked us to.
We are viewing homeschooling as a new, subversive way of doing family life. Homeschooling for us is an act of resistance against the status quo and against what is happening with education in FL (and in our nation).
We have taken the time to evaluate our lives and ask questions about why we do what we do and see if any of it can be changed. And when we asked ourselves if the kids had to go to public school in FL we decided that they absolutely did not.
That said, I think making goals “against” something instead of “towards” something can end up being demotivating. I don’t want to do things out of fear anymore. So I don’t view our decision to homeschool as running away from public school. I view it as running towards thriving, being whole and healthy as individuals and as a family, pursuing fulfillment, and growing closer and healthier as a family.
With having connection as one of our main goals as a family I view homeschooling as an opportunity to find the community we have been missing since leaving church years ago.
I want to create a safe and brave spaces for my family to heal and thrive and I want to invite others into these spaces as well.
This summer is going to be a time of healing and recovery where we “de-school” and release all the previous expectations and ways we were operating as a family. The goal is: more FUN and more CONNECTION! Starting sometime in the fall we will begin our homeschooling journey as a family. When we told the kiddos last weekend that we have decided to homeschool them they were both very excited and relieved, but we know that despite all their issues with public school, they will miss it in ways they can’t anticipate yet.
It is my hope to bring all of you along with us on our homeschooling journey this time around. It’s not easy to leave the mainstream and forge your own way, but for me and my family at least, it’s not been easy trying to fit into the mainstream either. Homeschooling as an act of rebellion and subversion is a very satisfying and fulfilling perspective to take for me. It is my hope that as you all follow along in our journey you see that normal people like you and me can make choices that may seem small, but that have long lasting positive impacts that reverberate farther and wider than you could have imagined.
If you would like to support our homeschool there are a few ways to do so:
We have a VERY long educational wish list on Amazon that has been growing and growing. Is it too much? YES AND I LOVE IT! Do we have room for everything? NO BUT I WILL WALLPAPER THE HOUSE WITH BOOKS IF I HAVE TO.
We love used books, supplies, and secular curriculum! If you would like to send us some used goodies, please email me for our address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words of support, advice, and encouragement are always appreciated and are very much needed right now. Comment on my post or email me at email@example.com to share the LOVE!
Thank you for your support!