Now Give Me One Last Big Push

As you near the end of labor, someone, be it nurse or doctor or midwife inevitably say these words, “Now, give me one last BIG push”.   It’s what we need to hear, an encouragement that this will not last forever. I was at that point with my third child when my doctor starting singing, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”. That’s right. I thought about kicking him. He was in close proximity. Really though, I just needed it to be over.

That’s how I’m feeling with this school year. It’s been a really good year. We’ve completed a couple of subjects, are close on a few more. Religious Ed. and Explorer’s are wrapping up. I find myself wasting my days. I’m not playing with my children like it’s summer, but we aren’t accomplishing as much as we typically do “during school”.

I think what I need is just one last big push. I need to finish up strong. Complete what needs to be completed and achieve that clear ending. I’m afraid if I let our days slowly morph into lazy days of summer that we won’t really complete the last few things that need done.

How do you achieve that last big push? Do you tighten the reigns and buckle down, or do you slowly let go of the schedule and relax into summer? I’d love to hear how other families get through the final days of the school year.

Fight this Homeschool Legislation Now!

Representative Stephanie Chang (District 6) has introduced a bill to be decided this Tuesday (April 21, 2015). Her letter requesting co-sponsorship states:

This bill would require that each person who is educating a child at home furnish the school district, at the beginning of each school year, with information about the child being educated. In addition, if a child is being educated at home, the parent or guardian shall ensure that the child meets in person twice a year with a physician, social worker, teacher or school counselor, regulated child care provider, etc.

Ms. Chang cites two severe cases of child abuse leading to death as the reason for her legislation. One is a recent case out of Wayne County involving two children who were dead in a freezer for years and no one noticed them missing, ostensibly because the parent claimed that she homeschooled.

It’s easy to look at a horrific case like this and say, “Something needs to be done!” But, legislating against homeschoolers is not the answer. Here’s why:

  1. The right to oversee and direct the education of children rests with the parent, not the state. I, as their parent, have the right to choose to put my kids in school or to homeschool them. I evaluate that choice for each of my kids. I make changes as I see fit. The state does not and should not have the legal or moral right to require that I notify or answer to them about my child’s education.
  2. It seems like a small thing, asking that we submit a form and have our kids get a physical and meet with a social worker each year, but it transfers the authority to the state from the parent. This legislation shifts the power and sets a precedent for future increased regulation.
  3. Let’s call a spade a spade. The people that Ms. Chang mentions, these horrible, horrible child abusers and murderers, are NOT HOMESCHOOLERS. They lie and say they’re homeschooling. Homeschooling becomes the scapegoat. Why validate the lie of a murderer by harassing and regulating a group of innocent people? The news is full of horrible stories of child abuse and child murder that have absolutely nothing to do with homeschooling. Child abuse is awful. Child abuse needs to be stopped, but regulating homeschooling won’t make any difference.
  1. My son (adopted out of the Michigan foster system) saw a physician regularly and went to day care, and yet somehow the doctor and workers all missed the three broken bones that were in various stages of healing when he came into foster care at four months of age. What Ms. Chang proposes is a band-aid fix. Our foster system is broken. Children are abused with no consequence to the abuser. Children are returned to the abuser over and over and over.

People call CPS because a neighbor lets her kids run barefoot, yet no one calls when they haven’t seen their neighbor kids for years on end? Wayne County, where the kids in the freezer were found, is home to 70% of Michigan’s foster kids, yet my experience with the foster system there was appalling. Legislators, if you want to protect our kids, begin by fixing the foster system and start with Wayne County.

Homeschoolers, believe me when I say that we don’t want caseworkers anywhere near our kids. Three of the ones I’ve worked with have lied in court under oath. We’ve had two great caseworkers; the others were dishonest, uncaring, and at times malicious. We saw false reports filed and policies violated repeatedly. While there are some great individuals, as a group these are not people I want talking to my children.

Legislators, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Homeschoolers are doing a great job. The test results show it. The graduated homeschoolers show it. No regulation is needed for something that is working and working well. Use our tax dollars elsewhere. For example: you could put laws in place to require prosecution and lengthy prison sentences for child abusers. You could introduce legislation to prosecute GALs who don’t do their jobs, or legislation that would allow foster parents to become a party to the case for children in their care. Creating a fair way for cases to be appealed on a child’s behalf, not just on the parent’s, would really do some good, as would better oversight of judges.

Everyone, please contact the state representative for your district before this goes before the Michigan House of Tuesday. You can find your representatives here: http://house.michigan.gov/MHRPublic/

The Myth of the Un-Athletic Kid

I’d like to share a worjockd of encouragement on a tough topic. One of the challenges in my workday is to help develop the physical skills of kids who have labeled themselves non-athletes. Of course, as long as that label is in place, this is a major uphill battle. It is self-image, not physical potential that holds them back. The good news?  None of this needs to be permanent, and working on it is totally worthwhile. Let’s examine.

At some point a your kid got picked last for a team on the playground or internalized the careless words or actions of an indifferent coach, and this heartbreaking moment set them on a course of disassociation from their own bodies. These negative beliefs can be reinforced when adolescents, seeking identity, are tempted to define themselves by rigid category. When kids who excel in art or academics see Athlete as a mutually exclusive or even antagonistic label, you’ve got yourself a problem.

Over time, It’s easier than it should be for parents to accept this fate. When our kids seem relatively happy and well-adjusted in their niche, one could imagine worse things than a lack of athleticism. Plus, it seems like those sports kids spend an awful lot of time and money on their activities, and who could imagine adding all of that to our plate? Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Some piousness can even slip in at this point–What care we for the things of the flesh?

The flatulent sound has not been made that can express the contempt we should feel for that sentiment. Let’s be real. It matters if you are too clumsy to dance with a girl, too slow to avoid an accident, or too weak to help someone in trouble. Imagine the mountains not climbed, the races not run, and even the years not lived by kids who develop false and limiting beliefs about what they can do with their bodies. It is a great, and somewhat invisible tragedy that we should not settle for in our families. We were designed to be good stewards of our bodies, to figure out how they work and enjoy them. The truth is that almost everybody can do almost any physical thing they set their mind to with the proper training.

What to do if you’ve got a kid who’s more than a few steps down the un-athletic path? Start by re-framing their whole point of view with a useful distinction: a Jock is different than an Athlete. Show them that Jocks bloom early and have talent, while Athletes develop skills*. Jocks are one-dimensional and uninteresting. Athletes are smart and well-rounded. At age 30, a Jock rests a box of donuts on his beer gut and talks about the good old days while an Athletic ex-nerd competes in the Cross-Fit Games. Show them some examples of physical late-bloomers and help them see the long view. Creatively demonstrate how silly it is to allow a single snapshot of physical ability at age 9 to dictate a life of awkwardness and poor health.

It’s fine to ditch team sports if they aren’t a good fit, but never give up on the potential for athleticism. Let’s continue to make it part of the picture we paint when talking to our kids about their future, and continue to expose them to a wide range of physical opportunities. They will find something that connects.

*This idea of talent vs. skill has been huge in working with my 8 year old son who has an incredibly talented cousin/best friend. We talk all the time about how skill can eventually overtake talent, and that anyone can develop the skills they care about.