Posted in boys, Christianity, culture, Education, kids, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Parenting Ideas, public school, Uncategorized

The day I taught my son the F-word

Teachable moments. You know the ones–they come up out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Mommy, is there a bad F-word?”

My heart stumbled. I cocked my head at my first grader. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Some kids in my art class said there was a bad F-word.”

First grade?! Already? Is this what I get for sending my kids to Public School? “Can you tell me the word?”

He smiled sheepishly and whispered, “Fruck.”

Laughter bubbled up, unbidden. So he’s still a first grader. “Well, honey, there is a bad F-word, but it’s not ‘fruck’.”

“So, what is the bad F-word?” He asked, sticking his pencil in the corner of his mouth.

“Uhhh…”
scarterstudios M018I paused, my heart tripping over itself once again. Is this what the Teachable Moment looks like? Wide-eyed, innocent, and 7 years old?

While my pause was calm and calculated, the tension I felt inside twisted tighter until it was a palpable ache: I wanted to preserve his innocence. I wanted to tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to worry about bad words.”
But as much as I mentally chided myself about the “bad influence” of public school kids, I knew that was a non-issue.

Public school or not, my kids were going to hear things and learn things from others as they grew up, public school, private school, homeschool, or Sunday school. I can’t control the moments they are not with me.

But he was here with me right now. This moment, at our kitchen table, in our home, was a safe, teachable moment.

If not now, when?

He was asking me for truth. And the truth was, “asking Mom” wasn’t always going to be his first choice.

So I took a deep breath and said, “Well…yes, honey. There is a bad F-Word.”

I told him what it was. I said the word and he repeated it, making sure he heard me right. I tried not to cringe at the profanity coming out of my baby’s mouth. Instead I pushed forward, plunging down this new path.

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But with knowledge comes power and just because you know this word doesn’t mean you should say it or teach it to anyone else.

It is not your job to tell kids at school that you know this word. That’s their parent’s job, not yours. I am very serious about this. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

I looked at his face, at the soft, smooth skin on his cheeks, knowing that they wouldn’t always be soft and smooth. I would be kissing stubble on my firstborn’s face before I knew it.IMG_4869I pulled myself back to the present, savoring his innocence and openness and the questions that he asked without fear or embarrassment. That precious door was wide open and I wanted to keep it that way.

“You know, sweetie, sometimes kids talk about stuff at school. Kids think they know stuff. But that’s not always true. But Mommy and Daddy—we do know stuff. So if you ever have questions about anything that kids talk about at school, you can come to us and we will tell you the truth.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

And then I helped him do his homework.

It was such a bittersweet conversation.

As much as I want to plant goodness into every corner of my children’s lives, the fact is that the world is full of hard, nasty, evil things. I want to shelter them from that darkness. But I also want to help my sons grow to be men who will be lights in a dark world. And if I am going to teach them to be lights, I can’t ignore the darkness.
F-wordI I have to be proactive.

So, when he asked, I taught my son the F-word.

Should I have told him that we would have this conversation when he’s older? Perhaps. Maybe it was too early.

But at 7 years old, his first instinct was to come to me.  As he gets older, that instinct will fade.

The conversations we have now about language, what’s right and wrong, about light and darkness are forming his very soul.

The Teachable Moment is terrifying but, for me, being keeping the door open in order to teach my children the truth is a gift that can’t wait.

PS. House Church, Cussing, and ASD (teachable moments that DO NOT go as planned!)

How do you navigate these terrifying Teachable Moments?
Have you taught your child something huge and scary? How did it go?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

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Posted in Adult Homeschoolers Series, Autism, Education, kids, Learning Disabilities, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, public school, Uncategorized

I love my children enough not to homeschool

I was homeschooled and I loved it. My mother was passionate about homeschooling and viewed it as her chosen vocation when my siblings and I were growing up.

All my best friends were homeschooled by women who were as passionate and dedicated as my mother.

Although I don’t remember it being said in so many words, I somehow gleaned this message in my growing up years, a message about motherhood and truly loving your children.
It went something like this: Good mothers homeschool their children. If you really love your children, you will homeschool them.

After all, my mother really loved us and she really loved to homeschool. And I loved being homeschooled. It was just logical.

I loved to learn and I loved everything “school.”
My children would too.

But my twins were not like me.

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Beautiful, boundless energy (photo by Sabrena Carter Deal)

I had to bribe them to sit and listen to me read; they hated coloring, and could not care less about the “Letter O” worksheet. Trying to teach them to write their names usually ended with somebody crying. They struggled to hold scissors and were bored with clay and play dough.
Frustration and impatience ruled my days.
But I was determined. I would be a good mother. I Just needed to be more creative.

I made crafts for them, sewing, pasting, and folding unique and educational toys. But it was almost laughable how quickly they lost interest or ripped apart (usually accidentally) all my carefully planned projects.

I grew a thicker skin but deep down I doubted my abilities to teach them. So, I dug down even deeper and tried harder, harder.
But it didn’t work.
Nothing worked.
They resisted me at every turn.
I finally gave up. I reached an all-time educational low and I was so fed up that I didn’t even care: I resorted to a DVD to teach them phonics (LeapFrog Letter Factory) and what do you know? They loved it–and it worked.

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How I felt most days (photo by Sabrena Carter Deal)

All I could do was shake my head and say, “Whatever. Whatever.
But it hurt because I realized a DVD was doing a better job than I was.

The year they turned 5 I reached a terrifying crossroad: Homeschool or public school?
The pressure was crushing:

Good mothers homeschool their children.
If you want the best education for your children, you will homeschool.
If you really love your children, you would want to homeschool.

But I had tried and tried and tried to do all the right things and at the end of the day, it was just too hard. I did not want to homeschool. I tried to put on a brave, happy face but I felt like a failure.

They loved public school.  It was a good fit and we were blessed with amazing teachers.

Maybe my boys learn better from other people, I conceded.

The summer before first grade I was determined that Kindergarten would not fall out of their brains so I made them practice their new-found reading, math, and hand writing skills each day.

And most days, it was awful. Sure, we had some good moments, but overall, the frustration, head-butting, and fights over those stupid summer lessons, chip, chip, chipped away at my mother-worth.

Pretty soon, the thought that I would ever be “that mom” was  laughable. I can’t even do summer worksheets with my kids without losing my mind–homeschool?! Bahahaha!

I felt like I wasn’t enough. If I was, then I would homeschool, because that is what good, dedicated, passionate, creative mothers did. And I knew–I knew–I was all of those things but the disconnect between myself and my sons infuriated and baffled me.

The first week of first grade, my wounded soul came pouring out at a ladies church group.
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I burst into tears. It was the angst of back to school, of doubting the public school decision again, and the fact that 9/10 of my personal friends homeschooled their kids: why couldn’t I?

“I don’t feel like a good mom…because I don’t even want to homeschool!” I wiped my cheeks and shrugged. “But, I mean, really. If I homeschooled my boys, I would kill them!” A laugh bubbled out and everyone at the table joined me.

A wise, older woman–a mother, grandmother, and teacher–quickly quipped, “Well, then–there you have it. You love your kids enough not to homeschool.”
Homeschool

I laughed at her cleverness but the truth of her words shocked me. A peace slowly began to sooth that long-forged wound.

The peace grew deeper when we learned that Benji has a language processing learning disability.
Then my hindsight sharpened to 20/20 when Benji was diagnosed with high-functiong Autism and Micah with ADHD, just very recently, as they are both now in 2nd grade.

Slowly and suddenly, all our struggles from all those years just made sense.

My sons’ needs are complex, both as individuals and twins, but their needs are being met in their separate classrooms with their great teachers and support staff at their public school. Someday, our situation may change, and another schooling option may be best. But for now, public school is exactly what they need.

It’s exactly what I need.

I have finally accepted the truth:
I love my children, but I don’t need to homeschool to prove it to them…or myself.

Posted in Adult Homeschoolers Series, Education, public school

My kids are now the "Public School Kids" I used to judge

I sat on a blanket in my friend’s yard watching my 6 year old twins run and climb with ten other children on an unseasonably warm fall day.

The other moms and I sipped coffee and started chatting.

“So, where do your older ones go to school?” I asked.

“We homeschool,” she smiled.

“We do too,” another mom stated, with more of a look of resignation on her tired face. It was 4pm on a Wednesday, after all.

We talked and laughed and commiserated together. A few minutes later, I realized that out of the 4-5 women present, I was the only public school mom at our play date.  I listened to their discussions about curriculum and homeschool groups and contributed to the conversation where I could.

But I felt an emotional twinge, like I was an outsider.

I inwardly laughed: Me, feeling like an outsider for being a public school mom after I spent my entire childhood and adolescence feeling like an outsider because I was home schooled.

It really was funny…and so, so ironic.

I watched my kids climb into the treehouse and play good guys and bad guys, wielding sticks and plastic swords with their friends.

Then, my smile faded as a realization struck me.

My kids are the “public school kids.” 

My kids are now the kids that, as a homeschooler, I used to judge…
…the kids I thought weren’t smart enough, good enough, or Christian enough.

My friends and I even whispered about “wayward” home schoolers, saying “Look at her! She’s acting so…public schooled!”

It was the worst insult we could slap on a person.

Although I have long come to the realization that my prejudices as a child and teen were unwarranted and flat out wrong, it wasn’t until this moment that I felt the tragedy of my own hateful judgement toward others.

What if these sweet home schooled children think my boys are “less than” because they go to public school? 

What if they think that my twins aren’t smart because they aren’t home schooled?

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What if they shake their heads in pity, thinking my boys can’t possibly learn to love Jesus because, don’t you know? God isn’t allowed in public school. 

As I watched the children play, I saw no discrimination, no judging thoughts, no distinction whatsoever. Only play and fun and equality. 

It was only my own mind that was tortured by the demons of my past.

Wave after wave of guilt and shame hammered my soul as I watched the kids play so freely and so free of judgment and I thought:

Why did I think this way?! My parents never taught me to think I was better than other people. They taught us to love and serve others.  

But somehow this attitude crept in. Maybe it was that first generation homeschoolers felt like they had something to prove.
Homeschooling was new and uncharted waters, after all.
Society questioned, doubted.
So we homeschool students were taught to prove our worth, defend our education:
Our education was just as good as a public school education.
No, it could be it was even better!

Or maybe it was because I heard about the “evils” of public school at homeschool conferences in or in overheard discussions from parents.

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While I was growing up, comics like the one above scared me yet also created a smug sense of security and self-importance. Those pieced, spiked, belly-showing, long-haired “creatures” could not be my friends. Oh, I should love them, but from afar, at arms length, as people that should be witnessed to because if they went to public school, they obviously did not know Jesus. But I had to be careful because their bad influence might rub off on me.

I even treated the kids I interacted with at church like this. We were the only homeschooling family in our large church and, to be honest, I was really weird. I mean, I wore a pinafore with 4 inch lace frills (that I sewed myself!) to church…when I was in 8th grade.

I was low on the social totem pole.

But there were sweet, kind girls that invited me to their birthday parties and for sleepovers.

I went but I never reciprocated. I judged them in my heart because they wore knee length skirts, gushed over Justin Timberlake, and talked about (gasp) hickies! I was horrified and I judged those good Christian girls like the bow-wearing, pink-clad homeschool girl judges her public school peers in the comic above.

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My attitude toward public schooled students was like the comic above. I was the happy fish, swimming freely, while public schooled students were “locked up” in “government” classrooms, being “taught to be robots,” and were basically brain-dead by the time they graduated, like poor sardines in a can, begging for help!

But it was me that was locked up in a world of prejudice and judgement, shunning people who could have been my friends and who could have opened my eyes to new thoughts and ideas. (Thank God for this awesome public-schooled boy I met in college named Aaron…)

I know that the “us vs. them” attitude of homeschooelers is not dead. I wish it was. Everything I put in quotes in the paragraph under the comic are things I have heard from people I grew up with or from current blogs I have read (usually in the comments section under a controversial homeschooling article).

But when I became a public school mom (an agonizing decision you can read about here), I learned a few amazing things.

My kids are not locked in their classrooms or shackled to their desks (imagine that).
They are not robots, nor are they being taught to be robots (I have a son who constantly reminds me that he has a mind-of-his-own on a daily basis)
They love school and are taught by wonderful teachers who love them.
And, most importantly…

People are people. Not public school kids. Not homeschool kids. Heck, not even private school kids!

No more stereotypes and judgment.

People are people who deserve to be loved and respected for who they are, not judged or discriminated against for the school they attend.