Thursday, January 29, 2009

A great thing about home schooling--knowing that I know that they know what they should know.

I promised to share my top 10 list of things I love about home school. I discovered a new one today and it’s about “knowing” as I have so eloquently stated in the title of this blog.

When my kids were in school, I had concrete ways to “measure” their success such as their grades, conduct, teacher qualifications, child/teacher ratios and the reputation of the school they were attending. But if you had asked me at any given time, if I knew what they knew, I would have said, “No. Not only do I NOT know what they know, but I don’t know if they know it.” Somehow, I rationalized that this was okay. “They’re in a top private school and performing very well by their standards, so I am sure it’s all very fine”, I convinced myself.

In preparation for homeschooling, one must start by reviewing and analyzing curriculums. (Not easy, by the way if you are not from the world of academia). I now realize that many of the curriculums chosen by schools are “dumbed down” as my mom puts it. They are designed to move the average along at an average, state determined pace. And with California ranking in the lower tier of states for education, I am not sure that’s a great standard to be striving for.

I was really impressed with the quality of curriculum available for home school use and realized that with a few of those programs and my own creativity, the kids could be challenged to a new level. The bar had been raised, and with it, my own standards for “knowing”. I rediscovered my own love of learning, and according to my wise friend Tina, that’s the best thing we can hope to instill in our kids! I just hope it’s contagious.

In this process, two things have become very clear to me; 1] kids today are expected to know ALOT more than we were, and 2] prior to college, I had a very marginal education. I have no regrets. I am simply stating a fact. One of the joys of homeschooling for me right now is the joy of learning what they are learning so I know when they know it. In order to do that, I am relearning things I didn’t quite “learn” the first time around, and learning a plethora of new things I never thought I would—all so that I will know if they know. The testing of the “knowing” is unchartered water for me. And, as my children have told me this week, in no uncertain terms, I am not so great at the testing of the knowing. I’ll be working on that.

Schools devise a number of safety nets designed to catch those students potentially falling through the cracks. We even develop national government supported programs for this like “no child left behind”. In home school, the safety net is sharing their frustration when the learning is slow and seeing their face light up when they have mastered something well enough to KNOW it.

I have my curriculum plan, but when push comes to shove, we will go at our own pace until we KNOW!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A great thing about home schooling: You can learn on a beanbag inside a tent.

The first week we started this new venture, I tried to write a list of the top 10 things we love about home school. I didn’t get very far of course, because I had no direct experience—no point of reference… yet. But now, some distinct advantages are emerging and I thought I would share. One really great thing about home school is that one can learn on a bean bag inside a tent!

When I first set up our room, it was full of office chairs and work stations. Boring! What was I thinking? That lasted about a week as I noticed that the ergonomically correct office chairs that I had so painstakingly selected had not been graced with a single “booty” of any size, including mine. They were nothing more than glorified "space taker uppers" in our quaint little lair of learning. My mistake was quickly undone. We ceremoniously removed the chairs and quickly replaced them with our new chair of choice--mismatched animal print bean bags.

At first, the interior designer in me resisted these garish, unmatched swatches of cheap polyester stuffed with undoubtedly toxic plastic beads. I had worked diligently to create a “designer environment” for our den, gosh darn it! I gave it up, focusing on the possibilities for fun and creativity. So, off to the store we went. Our first official home school field trip destination was “Bean Bag World” in a very rough section of south Santa Ana. Never has $89 gone so far. I embraced the moment and even got one for myself—a lovely brown, tan and black cheetah print with a slightly fuzzy texture adding a little touch of designer luxury.

They are “oh so versatile” and my children are still discovering uses for them. One bowling alley shaped room in our home with a slick limestone floor provides tremendous sliding opportunities when we need a break. We crank up the music and see who can get the farthest. They are light and easy to drag from room to room as we need them. They are perfect for reading, writing, pondering, or watching history tapes. For anyone considering getting into meditation, they can’t be beat, for you can wiggle and jiggle yourself into a position of blissful, weightless suspension. And if we pile them on top of each other, we can take turns jumping into them. And of course, during class time, they are the chair of choice for all of us. The down side for an adult is getting out of the chair, but I have even developed my own signature move for this which involves transitioning to all fours, then popping myself into a “yoga-like lunge” and slowly rising so the blood doesn’t rush to my head.

Today, I entered our classroom and found a new addition to the room—pop up tents placed strategically around each of the kid’s bean bags. Yes, the pop up Cinderella and Buzz Light Year tents that they have had since they were two (and that I have considered giving away at least 10 times) are still, to my utter amazement, being put to creative use. With the addition of the pop up tents, the kids have symbolically “marked their territories” and further defined their “space.” They love crawling in with their laptops and a snack to take on the day’s assignments. And surprisingly, the interior designer in me doesn’t even care.

So it turns out my list of “things I love about home school” is a little different than I expected. I remain open to surprises and will continue to share as we discover them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Week 3 Wrap up: Love Has the Patience to Endure the Fault we Cannot Cure

We have quickly reached the end of week three and are settling into a “routine” as I stop to reflect on our weekly leadership topic. This week we focused on the fact that when you love someone unconditionally, you can “endure” those all those less than admirable qualities which might otherwise be intolerable. The decision to choose unconditional love over “stacking grievances” is within our control. The power of choice is ours, and we must choose unconditional love more often than we choose the alternative if we want to create magic in our lives and experience love to the fullest.

This is not an easy concept to comprehend (let alone to carry out in day to day practice), but it is absolutely mandatory if we want to experience beautiful relationships with ourself, with others and with society as a whole. If we want to be able to give love unconditionally, we must first love ourselves unconditionally. Teaching my kids the principle of unconditional self love proved to be a little more complicated than I expected. My kids weren’t going anywhere near my suggestions that we chant “I love you” to ourselves in the mirror. No way!

We prayed and memorized love prayers. We listened to “love gurus” like Leo Buscaglia, Zig Zigler and Wayne Dyer speak eloquently on the topic. We planned “committed acts of unconditional love” towards a family member. (That didn’t quite go as I planned). And we followed the guided meditations of Tricia Brennan to get in touch with our higher selves while connecting to “all that is” ( For the record, they loved the guided meditations!

As a last resort, I turned to the wonderful teaching opportunity provided by our very own “family unit”. I finally realized I didn’t need to look very far for practice and/or practical application of this principle.

In the end, it was the family dog, a thirteen pound, toothless ball of fluff that we call “Gorgeous Georgeous” who helped to drive the point home. We rescued Georgie from the pound, and he is eternally grateful to us for it. It turns out, more than anything, the kids could understand unconditional love in terms of Georgie. They recalled the feeling of self-esteem and significance they experienced when they decided to choose a rescue dog over a pet store puppy. They vividly remembered how great it felt as we brought him home for the first time. They knew, deep within their hearts that because of our love, he would have a safe place to live the rest of his life. They could relate to the fact that no matter what they are doing, how they are acting or feeling, Georgie is always there to love them. He doesn’t criticize, he doesn’t “stack grievances”, he doesn’t complain. He just nudges your hand, which is his signal to pay attention, and licks you incessantly to let you know he cares.

The really great thing about dogs is their complete lack of inhibitions. They’ll sniff each other’s butts and chew their own and they don’t give a hoot, who is watching. They hang out car windows, their hair blowing, jowels a flappin’, living and loving life to the fullest. This same lack of inhibition drives them to “ask for love” when they need it. That is an important lesson for us humans. It’s perfectly okay to ask for love every once in a while. Whether we need a hug, an ear, or something deeper, we deny our loved ones the chance to give us the gift of love if we don’t tell someone what we need.

The bottom line is that Georgie is always there for us—unconditionally! Maybe through him, my family can all learn that it pays in spades to choose love first.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Sweet Sounds of Silence! Why we all need to turn down the volume in our lives.

Silence…the complete absence of sound or noise. Stillness in all its glory! Often, it is silence that allows our mind to open to new possibilities and discoveries. Silence is an important part of life and is a critically important component of home school. Because we spend so much time together, silence can be much welcomed, needed and easily tolerated. There is no such thing as uncomfortable silence in our home and I often wish I had my own personal “cone of silence” like Maxwell Smart on the old Get Smart series.

My family is winding down from a prolonged period of noise of the most intolerable kind. You see, recently, gigantic yellow earth-moving equipment stormed our property (per direction of the hubby). For the last 10 days, these big yellow beasts have been droning along mercilessly from sunrise to sunset as we re-grade our yard. My husband seems to be immune to this noise. He grew up in a loud family. That’s for another blog.

The outcome of this noise might (I emphasize might) be worth it, for in the end, we’ll have slightly more usable yard space. In the meantime, the noise is taking a toll on us. Couple the relentless noise with the occasional outburst of sibling rivalry, the continual background music meant to drown out the noise, piano practice, the drone of the television, and PMS and it’s a recipe for mom to have a mini meltdown or two.

But it has made me think about my own childhood and the multitude of embarrassing “silence inducing techniques” conceived of by my very own, forward thinking mother. I now realize that what she was really doing was coveting and promoting opportunities for silence. She was protecting us from the noise of the outside world. Her “silence based rules” were totally unappreciated by us kids. Now that I am an adult, I realize the simple brilliance behind them, and I think it’s too bad there aren’t more silence focused moms like her.

Let me tell you about Linda…

Linda was ahead of her time in many ways. She reduced, reused and recycled. She conserved and composted before it was cool to be “green”. She fed us whole wheat flour, made us grow and eat our own veggies, and forced us to try a little of everything on our plates even though we protested dramatically. Chores were mandatory and she often “white glove tested” us.

We ate three meals as a family per day, and we all had to sit quietly at the table and hold polite conversation through the entire meal. Meal times were not to be interrupted by the “noise” of outsiders. To insure silence, she made signs that said “come back later, we are eating”. We had the embarrassing task of hanging these on the door to ward off unwanted visitors (i.e. neighborhood kids) while we were eating. The same practice applied during our afternoon nap appropriately named our “quiet rest”. Each day at 4:30, we begrudgingly hung out a sign that said “come back later we are resting”. Our “quiet rest” was a period of 30-45 minutes in which my siblings and I were banished to our rooms to engage in silent activities. Oh, how she must have relished that time. Secretly, I did too!

I think my mom, in her own way, was insisting that we “turn down the noise” in all areas of our lives so we could spend some quiet time and family time completely free of distractions to think, ponder, explore, and assimilate the vast potential of our minds, or to simply enjoy each other’s company without constant interruptions. She remained unwavering in her commitment to this practice throughout my childhood. I am trying to assimilate this into our home school routine with moderate success. The practice is phenomenal. My discipline is lacking. The bottom line is that we need silence to explore our potential and grow as human beings.

So go ahead, grab the remote and turn down the volume on your life!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope is not a strategy (although “unconditional love” might be).

Our home school history curriculum was predetermined today. We watched the inauguration along with millions of others. I want to assure you that my comments in this blog are not a political statement. In fact, if you don’t know me, I am hoping that when you finish reading this, you will not know my political affiliation. It is irrelevant to this discussion.

I began writing this blog last night, before the historic event, because with all the negativity in the country, I wanted to really think about what to say to my children during the ceremony this morning. Obama won the election on his “ticket of hope”, although hope alone does not a strategy make. The challenges of this next presidency will require a serious shift in thoughts and actions by the policy makers and the American people. As the founders of our country faced almost insurmountable challenges, so too, are we venturing into uncharted waters. There are many parallels and many differences.

In our leadership class this week, we are beginning our study of “unconditional love” towards self and the greater good. Last night, I pondered the question of how the events of this inauguration relate to the concept of unconditional love. We hear (ad nauseum) from politicians on both sides, a cry to “put partisanship aside”. I wonder if they are a bit “off” on this strategy. Maybe the principle of unconditional love, (while it sounds a little “fluffy” for a country as powerful as ours), might be a better strategy.

I came to my conclusion by rehearsing what to tell my children must now take place in order to create real, positive and lasting change in our country. We discussed this today after the inauguration. We played out both sides and considered what must happen on a spiritual and practical level in order to move the country forward.

If Obama was your man, it will do the country no service to spend the next four to eight years staring into the wake of the past. Assigning blame to the Bush administration will only serve to chip away at any positive progress that could be made. The past is to be acknowledged, but we cannot afford to “live there”. We are not our past. We are who we are becoming as individuals and as a nation. I was thankful today to hear these words from President Obama…“we are all suffering from our collective failures to make hard choices”. My interpretation of this statement was that he is willing to assign collective responsibility to the current state of affairs and move beyond, for we are all co-creators of this crisis. I hope that will be the case.

If McCain was your man, it does the country no service to sabotage, withhold, or to begrudge the new President. There are no “justified resentments” and we must remain open-minded to all possibilities and while being attached to nothing. I paraphrase a famous quote… “The same level of thinking that got us where we are today, will not take us to where we need to be tomorrow”. I believe sending out unconditional love, support, and maintaining a state of open-mindedness are the best practices to adopt. I commend the Bush family for making this their priority during the transition of power. It was admirable!

It was truly an historic event today--one that our country will memorialize forever. It meant something different to almost everyone. As Americans, we must stand firmly in the present, reverent to the past, and committed to creating our ideal future.

We must use our heads AND our hearts to manifest our destiny!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Week 2 Wrap Up: Without Vision, the People Perish!

We began the week with an inspiring chapter from the pages of Sir John Marks Templeton’s, Worldwide Laws of Life in which he explains that without goals and a reason for attaining our goals, we won’t live life to its fullest. While this is probably obvious to most adults, I think it is an important concept for preteens, tweens and teens to learn as their understanding of life and self begins to expand. Why not help them discover that the secret to attaining their ultimate goals is based on implementing a few simple principles?

We learned that small incremental changes of one degree at a time add up to big changes over time—and that by using the concept of “compounding interest , we could achieve “compounding improvements” in our lives.

We learned how to establish a goal, define a compelling purpose for attaining it, and put a specific plan in place to achieve it. We learned that it is okay to have BIG DREAMS, BIG IDEAS and HIGH STANDARDS, even if most people they meet in life aren’t aspiring to anything. As part of our guided meditation, my daughter, Austin, envisioned herself shooting a movie on top of the Hollywood sign. In my mind, this was a perfect metaphor for being on top of your game. She pictured it down the last detail, explaining to me that the crew had cleaned the bird poop off the top of the letters before she had to get up there. That’s my girl!

We studied real life examples, like Walt Disney and his vision to create “the Happiest Place on Earth” and Mother Theresa and her vision “to provide hope to the forgotten” through her City of Hope. We analyzed how their inspirations coupled with an unyielding vision, lead to accomplishments beyond even their own expectations, thus creating legacies that have lived on beyond them.

I am finding this “law” challenges me daily in home school. I am very clear about my long-term vision of home school and what I want to create. I want to implement an expanded curriculum beyond that taught in a traditional school environment, work at a pace that challenges my children and is not grade specific, create a strong family bond and more time spent together, and include numerous opportunities to learn life lessons outside the classroom (i.e. opportunities to travel). While my long term vision is very clear, I am finding that I need to get my head around my vision for each day in order to keep the troops engaged and receptive. I now see why Susan Wise Bauer so firmly recommends a daily lesson plan. I must follow her lead, tightening up my daily curriculum plan so I know what the objectives are for each day. That way I don’t have the underlying sense that we might “perish”.

Sir John Marks Templeton illustrates this “law” with a wonderful story of Florence Chadwick, the woman who swam the Catalina Channel in Southern California setting national and international records. She eventually set her sights on swimming the English Channel and on her first attempt, “perished” very near the shore. She had trained and trained for this. She had physical and emotional support along the way. And unexpectedly, a thick fog rolled in, blocking her view of the shore. When interviewed afterwards about whether she knew how close she had been to the finish line, she said it simply didn’t matter. “You see,” she said, “I lost sight of my goal. I am not sure I ever had it firmly in my mind.” This story illustrates the fact that even well- trained, well prepared folks without a vision, will perish—or FAIL!

Now my kids can begin to learn how to embrace failure rather than fear it by understanding that failure is really God pushing us to grow and prepare for even greater things. They will learn to accept responsibility for their failures, realizing that when they do fail, it may have been that they weren’t really committed to that goal (i.e. no sense of purpose), had the wrong goal or didn’t keep their vision “in living color” in their minds. The next phase of this lesson will be to study failure in all its glory and to learn about the great leaders and visionaries whom have failed over and over again before finally achieving their greatest accomplishments.

But we’re not there yet. That’s another Leadership Unit and another blog.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Heart.

I often do this… I purchase a book or a tape and it sits on the shelf until seemingly just the right moment. Yesterday, I noticed a book on my shelf that I literally purchased 10 years ago, before kids, and hadn’t yet read. The book is entitled HeartMath Solution by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. It describes the physical and spiritual role of the heart in our well being, even going as far as suggesting that the heart has a “brain”. It’s on my “highly recommended” list now. Their website, is equally enlightening and documents their success with using this technology in schools to improve performance on testing.

It got me thinking about “the old ticker” and the spiritual role it plays in our lives. If someone asks me to point to myself, my finger goes directly to my chest, not my head. I am willing to bet ($5) that this is a universal reaction. I believe it makes a strong statement about us as human beings. We ARE our hearts, NOT our heads, and the more time we spend in our hearts, the more fulfilled our lives will be.

How does this relate to home school you ask? Well, of course, I am going to weave this into our science and leadership classes. My kids will think it’s really cool stuff to watch a computer graphic of a heartbeat and to learn about the brain of the heart. We are also going to learn some of the coping tools they suggest called a “time-in” and a “heart lock-in”. But there is more to it than that.

Our world is becoming a very challenging place, and I believe that part of the reason we are in such a global funk, is because our lifestyle causes us to live most of our time in our head rather than our hearts. I am willing to wager even bigger money ($10) that the isolated Pigmy tribes in Africa don’t exhibit this “head/heart” conflict.

Living in our heads causes us to be focused on our image rather than what is spiritually important to us. Put another way, I believe that “head centered living” may contribute to the dominant trends in our society of image, materialism, instant gratification, and self indulgence. I read a study recently that said young girls in Fiji exhibited almost no signs of eating disorders until in recent years as they have been exposed to Western version of the “ideal female”. Now, eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia affect Fujian girls at the same rate that they affect young girls in our country. Ouch! I believe the “head/heart conflict” effects more than our self image, it impacts our health.

Polls show that 4 out of 5 Americans believe now that spirituality is directly related to their health. But how many people actually dedicate time to study and practice improving this area of their lives on a daily basis? Maybe besides our daily dose of cardio, we need a daily dose of HeartMath cardio. But it doesn’t seem many of us feel we have the luxury of placing “heart centered living” at the top of our priority list, especially when there are other demands that are so pressing.

Consider this…according to the authors of the Heart Math Solution, “Feeling loved is more important to and for children than anything else”. It is not just a want. It is a must! Kids, more than adults, are really in-touch with their hearts. And when they are tuned into their hearts, they are much more open- minded, cooperative, and secure. They learn more effectively and have a greater sense of respect and honor towards others and themselves.

Emotional states are contagious. Parents with emotional balance are more likely to produce children with emotional balance. So in my mind, this isn’t really a luxury in our society if we want strong families and well balanced kids. We must practice “heart centered living”, daily.

Being emotionally balanced has now become a MUST for me. Flying off the handle, criticism and with- holding are no longer options. This is not easy for me as I am somewhat high strung and am a type A personality. In parallel with this blog, I am working on a blog entitled Why PMS and Home school Don’t Mix in which I take a humorous look at one of my more challenging days so far for achieving emotional balance. I digress.

What is it like to be a home school teacher? Whatever you want it to be, I suppose. I am noticing that the quality of our days spent in home school is directly proportional to the amount of the time we spend “tuned into our hearts”. My primary responsibility is to do whatever it takes to “stay in the zone” so that they stay in the zone.

And since I have decided that this part of my life is about connecting with myself, my children and my husband in new and more meaningful ways, I am playing the role of heart-centered living advocate. I have always been the emotional anchor for our family, but this role is challenging because I have to learn how to maintain an emotionally balanced state continually. Home schooling is giving me a very practical place to test out the theories in a real life setting to see what works and what doesn’t.

Our children (said in the collective “our") will bear the responsibility of transitioning the planet to a higher consciousness. They will need to know how to use their heads and their hearts to navigate the challenges they will face. According to the authors of the HeartMath Solution, “To improve our world, you have to go back to the basics, back to the family where the core heart values that make up a world worth living in, are meant to be developed and nurtured.”

Heart centered living means we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts!

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Wicked" Inspiration!

Sunday night, I took my 10 year old daughter to see the last performance of Wicked, the Musical at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I made sure she knew it!

After the final applause, the writers came out on stage with the actors to pay tribute to those who had made it all possible. My daughter saw this as an opportunity to sneak out before the masses but it was the moment I had been waiting for. I explained to her, “This is what makes this night so incredibly special. We get to see those who inspired this phenomenon take pause for a few moments and acknowledge the greatness of what they have accomplished while thanking those who found the vision so irresistible that they joined forces to bring it to life.” Well, I didn’t say it quite so eloquently. It was more along the lines of “be quiet and watch”, but she caught my drift.

We left elated—filled with the vibrancy of color, light, sound and passion that we had just witnessed. Not wanting the evening to end, we stopped at an Italian bistro on Sunset Blvd. for dinner. Perfect strangers stared judgmentally at us as we waited for our food. I was aware of their unspoken thoughts, “why do you have a child out at 11:00 on a school night?” Never mind them. I was fully engaged in the moment as we relived the experience, scene by scene, line by line and song by song. And, we arrived home at 12:30 a.m. Monday morning, but when your home schooled, you can do that (I digress).

The opportunity to see Wicked before it left LA was the one thing my daughter truly wanted for Christmas. Santa obliged her, and Mom was given a ticket to “chaperone”. It exceeded our expectations (the best musical I have seen) and left me reflecting on “inspiration” as we drove home.

What prompted one person to find a “pre-story” in the Wizard of Oz, I wondered? What possessed this person(s) to act on the thought and create a musical sensation that would reached millions of people around the world? How many jobs had he/she/they single-handedly generated from one small inspiration? How many obstacles had they over come to make it happen? How many times were they told “no”? And what was the compelling vision that pulled them through to the point of enormous success? Was it the brainchild of a large studio? Or was it, as I suspect, one person’s passionate journey down a creative path? Based on the quality of the production, I chose to believe the latter.

Inspiration, or to be “in spirit” is such a simple and powerful concept. At the heart of any great accomplishment is inspiration. The motivating force for great leadership is inspiration. What puts some people in a state of inspiration almost continually, while others never get there? Is it a capacity that we are all born with but only certain folks utilize? And for those who apply their inspiration on a regular basis to repeatedly achieve greatness, is it nature or nurture? Were they “just born with it or did something in their environment coax it out?” Did it begin in child hood from words of kind praise and encouragement, or out of humiliation, desperation and discontent? Is it motivated by pain or pleasure, or both?

My guess is that almost any circumstance can provide inspiration. Some just have to look harder for it than others. And even fewer choose to act upon inspirational thoughts and yet, some of the most monumental achievements in human history were born of a simple, inspired idea. To me, the profound revelation is to understand what must happen in order for inspiration to become the catalyst for great accomplishments.

If an idea is the spark, then the flame must be the initial inspiration. Add a vision and purpose to the mix and inspiration can become the fuel to create a raging fire too powerful to ignore. In order for inspiration to lead to action, the vision must be irresistible and the visionary must be capable of communicating that vision in a manner that compels others to engage and remain committed in spite of the inevitable challenges. This requires strong leadership. So, is it fair to say that leadership is a driving force of inspiration?

In my mind, it must be.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homeschooling as a substitute for Marriage Counseling?

Mother and children.
Mother and children.
Day after day….mother and children.

I can’t prove that this is the case nor am I judging, stereotyping, being sexist or whatever label one might assign to it. I am only assuming that because in most households, the mother is still the primary caregiver, that most homeschooling households follow suit.

With that being said, How does the Hubby fit into the home schooling scenario? It’s an interesting question and one I can’t answer other than to share a little insight to the shifting dynamic in my relationship with my husband now that we are homeschooling.

He’s more interested in me!

Go Figure. I never could have predicted it. In fact, I feared the opposite. I have been an “egalitarian, career obsessed, business associate or partner to my husband for as long as I can remember. In the early stages of our relationship which began in college, I was pretty convinced he fell in love with me because of my “take charge attitude”, my entrepreneurial nature, and my chameleon like ability to morph into a number of business roles over the course of that time. I was a budding entrepreneur with potential to rise to the top of the corporate ladder with him. He was Harvard bound and would need someone like that at his side.

Two years ago, I informed him that I planned on “retiring to spend more time with the kids”. I essentially “kidney punched” him with this information. He was completely blindsided. He just didn’t get it. And in fact, for about six months he denied that he heard me say it even though I was very careful to follow up the verbal conversation with a certified email just to document the event and my intentions. (Our relationship was very “electronic” at that point in time).

Honestly, I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive my transition from glass ceiling breaker to home maker, but I also knew that our marriage would no longer survive our working together as business partners. I was at a proverbial crossroads--damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. There was nothing I could do but hope that I could reinvent myself as I had so many times in the past into someone he would still love, respect and revere while I followed my soul’s new calling.

Then we moved into a period I call “the dark ages”.

It seemed like ages. When two married people aren’t in sync, things can get very dark and time moves painfully slowly. For the last year, I would have to say I have been pretty uninspired and therefore, uninspiring. I haven’t been much of a wife because I haven’t been the person I am capable of being.

All during this very drab and listless time, I was trying to convince him that now was the time to start homeschooling. Slowly but surely, I built my case. I knew that my chances would be better if I enlisted the support of the children.

My husband is a “data guy”. So I had to compile the data and feed it to him in small increments that he could absorb. It’s not that he isn’t intelligent. He happens to be the most intelligent person I know. It’s just that he has the attention span of a garden hose with ADHD and a tendency to fall asleep as soon as he stops moving. So I have to keep the data bytes small, plentiful and perfectly timed—like incoming missiles. Once I had my children on board, which was surprisingly easy, I continued to feed him the data while my children tugged on the heartstrings. The three of us make a very powerful team in this regard.

Anyway, he agreed to give it a try. With that blessing, he had given me permission to unleash the tigress within. The passion and enthusiasm and drive that I had been withholding for so long are now fueling my new found “career”. I’m back, so to speak and my hubby noticed. He’s loving the new me which is really the old me he fell in love with.

And I came to a very important realization. It was never my career capabilities that he fell in love with. I made that up somewhere along the way in my own mind. It was my passion and drive when I get interested in something that he fell in love with. The other day he told me I looked different. He must have sensed the change in my aura. And he told me that our enthusiasm in the “classroom” is inspiring him to step it up in his life. He’s suddenly becoming the man I married and I, the woman he married.

Maybe homeschooling CAN be a substitute for marriage counseling. (And in California, it’s state funded)! LOL (I learned that from my kids).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Week 1 wrapup: What you focus on, you get!

This simple principle was the topic of our week one leadership series. We heard thoughts from Sir John Templeton, Tony Robbins, Albert Einstein and Dr.Wayne Dyer. We did real life exercises on the topic. We learned how everything on the planet is nothing more than energy. We realized that in order to control and shape our lives, we need to control and shape our thoughts. We acknowledged the words of the great Albert Einstein who said “nothing can happen until something moves”. We practiced defining our dreams and making plans to achieve them. We discussed this at the dinner table, before bed and in the car. Hopefully some of what we learned will be retained.

I know that what I experienced firsthand this week is that my intentions shape all my outcomes. Whatever I do with the right “intention”, I do well. Each day this week was faced with the intention of making it the most positive experience I could for my children. I reinforced in my own personal learning, that if I have a plan and it begins with visualizing all that is possible, I can create something meaningful and lasting in the experiences and memories of those I am interacting with. I am not unique.

It’s a beautiful aspect of being human...Our ability to create, effect and impact is extremely powerful. If the entire planet would choose to channel positive energy instead of negative energy, we would raise the vibration of our collective consciousness and the world would be a much better place. In my own way, as I sit with my children every day, I hope that I am preparing them to be leaders in the transition of the human condition from negative to positive—from dark to light.

We heard a lot of great quotes this week in our learning. One very simple and elegant quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer was etched vividly in my mind as a poignant reminder of how easy it is to change something. “When you are in the dark, just turn on a light, for darkness is easily overcome,” says Dr. Dyer. This powerful metaphor of dark, heavy energy being easily replaced by light, bright energy is evident everywhere around us, minute by minute if we just look for it. And we can all do it. It is evident in a smile that brightens someone’s foul mood. It is evident in kind words that open closed hearts and minds. It is evident in a gentle touch that reaches someone’s starving soul. This is the simple and wonderful power of being human. We all have it, but our children will need to be masters of it. Our children must be equipped to call upon and execute this skill on a moment’s notice at the most basic and complex levels as they work to undo the damage that has been done by generations before them and help define a new global community.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

My home school bubble has burst! Well, that might be an overstatement of sorts. But I knew it wouldn’t last. Today, I gained some insight as to what will work for us and what won’t in the Eder Family Home School.

It all started with my hair—my gosh darned blasted hair. I just wanted to wash it and blowdry it. No, let me restate that, I wanted to style it. I’ll admit it. I wanted to take my time and actually make it look “hot”. I wanted to put on makeup as if I was actually going out to face my old life working outside the home. I didn’t’ think it was too much to ask. I only devote a total of 1-2 hours a week for my hair, much less, I think than most women. But it is an hour or two I treasure immensely. For at least 2-3 days leading up to the event, I anticipate the hot steam of the shower and the deafening roar of the blow dryer that conveniently drowns out the background noise of children, husband, phone calls and contractors at the door. (Did I mention my husband is a serial fixer-upper? That’s another blog).

What happened next is my own fault. I know that. Shame on me for selfishly desiring those 60 minutes to myself. Shame on me for scheduling it at the beginning of the day. Shame on me if I told a little white lie to make it happen. And the rest of the day was about karmic payback and I knew it.

At breakfast, I cheerfully explained to the kids “that the day was going to be structured a little differently to provide some extra excitement and a little variety”. (It doesn’t really count as a white lie if I am providing some fun, I rationalized). “We’re going to begin by watching the Mother Theresa movie up in my room as research for our leadership reports.” I explained, “And by the way, I’ll just be in my bathroom drying my hair”. Cheers and applause erupted around our breakfast table. Just when you set a plan in action, God will throw you a few curveballs. The Mother Theresa video was nowhere to be found. 15 minutes spent running around the house looking for it put us 15 minutes behind on “our schedule”.

No worries. I have very important titles on my resume from my past life like Principal, CEO, Creative Director and VP, and I am now a resourceful homeschoolin’mama. I can fix this. “Kids, go get your laptops, you can curl up in my bed and conduct internet research on Mother Theresa”, I continued. Small groans, but the plan was accepted by the troops. I smiled and disappeared to the shower.

15 incredible, hot, lathery, steamy moments later I emerged a new woman. I was quickly aroused from my zen-like trance by the piercing screams of my 9 year old son when there is a technology failure at our house. “The internet is down!” he wailed. 20 more minutes spent running around the house checking all the routers and internet connections put us another yet another 20 minutes behind. “ Did we pay the bill?” I pondered. I was cold and my hair was starting to frizz. Again, resourceful homeschoolin’ mama solved the problem. “Find the connectors and hardwire yourself into the Ethernet.” I ordered.

Peace and tranquility slowly returned and the kids resumed their positions on my unmade bed. (Note to self; still gotta get to that. I subconsciously tacked another 5 minute delay onto the schedule). I searched the house for a spray bottle to get my hair back into a “primed for styling” state. 30 minutes behind plus the 20 minutes we lost before plus another 5 for bed making. “Did I clean the kitchen yet, I wondered. “ What would that cost me?” Wow. We were really off track. Mild panic set in. I didn’t want to fail on day 4. I needed to at least get through a week to pass the unspoken, new home school family “initiation” period. You are not really part of the club unless you have made it through a full week.

I refocused on my primary task. “Just get the hair dry, Kim.” I settled. Styling was becoming less important with each minute that got added to our day, and makeup? “I look okay without make up don’t I?” I rationalized. 45 minutes later, I retired the blow dryer, put on my clothing (workout wear , of course, so I could try to sneak in some yoga). I went to check on the kids, expecting pages teeming with inspiring snippet’s on Mother Theresa. Instead, I found Frankie working on his Fibonacci spreadsheet in Excel, and Austin was creating her Fibonacci report in Power Point. Not really what I envisioned, but still part of the program, so in one, deep yoga breathe, I let it go.

You can guess how the rest of the day went. The schedule was off—way off. I lost the respect of my proteges and command of the classroom. They suddenly thought they were in charge. They had to be, right? When you can’t respect your leader, you have to take charge. That’s what my irrational brain told me was happening at least. But somehow, we made it through. And at the end of the day we checked everything off our list that we needed to complete. And I knew in my heart that they had still learned more in one day than they had learned in 2-3 days of school. And they got all that from their mama. I was pretty proud!

Going forward, we will not deviate!

We WILL follow the schedule. It WILL start with leadership (which is my chance to get in 30 -40 minutes of yoga while we all listen to someone wiser than me say something very intelligent via audiotape). There WILL be a shower, makeup, deodorant and clean underwear before I even think about coming down for the day so I can be a “home schoolin' hottie”, not just a “homeschoolin' mama. And, if my hair needs a “style”, I will do it late the night before, put on my makeup and sleep in it.

And going forward…all will be good!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Told You So

Day 3: Another great day! I admit I am very new at this and we need more time to fully assess this "home schooling thing". We're not even into our routine yet, and I still don't have all my materials. Heaven forbid, I rush to judgement with only a few days experience under my belt. But my friend Tina would say "I told you so" if I sent her this blog. (I think I will).

Tina, a very wise woman who jumped in with both feet a year before me, has said things to me like: I am closer to my children. My children would not want to go back to "traditional school". My children are more inspired to learn and learn more than they did in school. My children get along better. My children are willing to help around the house.

Let me share my conclusions on these matters on my third day into this.

1] "I am closer to my children," Tina said: My daughter's last words to me and my son tonight were, "Mom, I know we need to go to sleep, but I just need to say this...."you guys are the best". My son, who can be somewhat moody, has been on a education, inspiration and attention induced "high" since Monday morning. He has been cooperative, huggy, generous, observant, and "in his power". I caught him on our balcony last night at sunset, with his stuffed animals (who, by the way, attend school right along with us). I watched for a while and snapped a few photos before he noticed, and then, reluctant to break the spell, asked him what he was doing. He said, "I'm just enjoying the beauty of the sunset and our surroundings, mom! It's so wonderful!" I almost fell down. Then, as if that wasn't enough, he said, "thanks for doing this, mom!" I struggled to hold back the tears.

2] "My children would not want to go back to traditional school", Tina said. We were in a wonderful Catholic school with beautiful teachers and great friends for the kids. My daughter unequivocally loves it. My son, who was a little unsure of this "homeschooling thing", told me tonight...."Mom, this homeschool is so great. It's convenient. We learn so many cool things right at home. I love this mom!"

3] "My children are more inspired to learn and learn more than they did in school," Tina said: Tonight, just before we went to sleep, a quiet voice emerged from the darkness. "Mom." my daughter whispered, "Can you listen to this poem I just made up?" She proceeded to recite a 12 line poem off the top of her head, and straight from her heart that was absolutely charming. I made her get out of bed, turn on the light and write it down before she forgot it. Everyday, the kids brainstorm together and help each other work through their assignments. And, I have observed a trend emerging pertaining to the length of the school day. My original intention was to have "class" from 8:15 am to 2:30 pm. Each day, the kids want to keep going, so we have been quitting between 3:30 and 4:00 pm. Interesting. Does this mean they "are more inspired to learn?" They told my husband at dinner, "Dad, we learned more in a day here than we do in three days at school."

4] "My children get along better," Tina said: I won't lie. There are still moments of tension between them. The completely honest way to say this is that I have noticed a significant decrease in the level of sibling rivalry and in the severity and frequency of the fights that occur. That, to me, is significant progress.

5] "My children are more helpful around the house," Tina said: My son has been doing things he would never do for me with out a significant negotiation, like helping unload the groceries from the car, cleaning the kitchen, keeping his room clean, picking thing up in the main rooms of the house, getting things for me when I need them. My daughter has been responding on my second request instead of the third or the fourth. She has been doing things for her brother like pouring him a glass of milk when she gets herself one. Major progress!

Tina, you were right! And, I am not surprised. I believed you over these last 18 months as you have shared your experiences with me. It was your lead that helped me take the plunge.

What I generally notice is that the kids are bubbly, energetic, focused, open-minded and completely present. The energy is high and light. Their committment is intense. I know this is how I am when I am completely inspired about something. I would like to think it's the same for them. And that's a state that I want to spend a lot of time in.

Confessions of a Secret Agenda

There is a very famous quote that I love that goes something like this...."The unexamined life is not worth living."

Therefore, I am an avid proponent of expanding ones spiritual experiences through constant spiritual learning. My favorite mentors are God, Tony Robbins (yes, I have completed all but two of his live seminars and tapes series), Dr. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Depak Chopra, Lazarus and my very own personal spiritual and life coach, the internationally renowned Tricia Brennan of Austrailia. Sorry for the shameless plug but she's the best and my friend of 25 years, Gina Raith, life coach and yogamaster extraordinaire, (

I am in a constant state of learning and self discovery, and I confess that part of the reason I have to tap into these resources daily is that I am a slow learner and unless I keep pounding it into my brain, it seems to float out into the ethers as fast as it goes in.

One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of home schooling for me is the chance to expose my young children, whose minds are spiritual and intellectual sponges at this point in their young lives, to a constant flow of this "stuff". (I cleverly disguise it as a "leadership class" and we open with it every day for about 30-45 minutes). Today began with another segment From Tony Robbins drilling in the concept of "what you focus on you get".

I always try to tie our leadership principles into the reading and grammar segment so that the learning is enriched and they link the concepts together in their brain. In the segment we listened too, Tony suggests that in order to focus on the right things and get what you really want, you have to do three things. 1] define precisely what it is that you want, 2] make it bigger than life in your mind so you are inspired to attain it, and 3] create a Massive Action Plan that will allow you to meet your goals in spite of the inevitable obstacles that you will face.

The action plan must include Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C etc... so that your chances of succeeding are increased. So, this became the morning's writing assignment. I suggested that they each choose to draft a plan for attaining for their hearts deepest desire.

I was hoping for things like "an end to world hunger" and "to create the world's first solar powered car". I got "doughnuts" from Child A and "a Pokemon Seedot" from Child B. Undeterred from my goal of permanently penetrating their minds, I lead a guided meditation to help stir the creative juices. They both began feverishly writing and within a few moments had committed what I considered to be a sufficient amount of ink to their journal pages. Austin was totally "in the zone" and had whipped out a poem that was pretty close to being a final draft. She was very proud of her work (justifiably so) and insisted on reading it to both of us over and over ad nauseum. So we decided to video tape her dissertation. You can see the results of this for yourself on our family homeschool website. Very funny!

And at the end of the day, I did what every obsessively health concious mother would do. I took the kids out for a doughnut. Krispy Kreme was closed, as well as the local dougnut shop, and by our third stop, we settled for a box of sugar coated Entemann's. In this case, the need to create a "magic moment" that would last forever trumped the organic natural food Nazi in me. The remnants of the packaged doughnuts sit pretty much untouched on our counter, and tomorrow, I will toss them under the pretense that "they have exceeded their expiration date".

Do they even have an expiration date?

January 5: Day One

To kick off our home school adventure, I developed a six to eight week project that we are undertaking on the Fibonacci Sequence. Our research will encompass all areas of our curriculum including math, science, history, writing, art, music, logic and reasoning, and computers. Wow! We launched the project today and began to learn the concept behind the numbers. Keep in mind that when and if this is taught in regular schools, it is a high school or college level concept. But I just knew my kids would get it.

Austin was getting very frustrated with the Fibonacci concept partially because Frankie was nailing it. This kind of thing is just completely intuitive for him. It's deep in his DNA. But the real problem was that I wasn't explaining it right because it was the first time I was teaching it (and truth be told, I don't fully understand it myself). She was getting frustrated and shifted immediately into a state of learned helplessness. She threw herself on the floor, completely withdrawing from the lesson. Essentially, she completely "gave up". So I quickly shifted to damage control mode and took them to a website that has numerous examples of the concept hoping there would be something she would grasp onto. (For those who are interested, a great website is

There are many fascinating aspects of the Fibonacci Sequence and one can get lost on this site for hours. But, we found a the theology section of the website and it was like a light bulb came on for Austin. Her entire face lit up and she launched into a whole dissertation about how the Fibonacci principle relates to religion and the trilogy. Soon, they were working together, fully inspired, feeding off each other and building on these concepts around religion and the Fibonacci Sequence. They spent a solid hour exploring the website and digging into interesting aspects of the Golden ratio and the Fibonacci principle. They were fully inspired and engrossed in learning. At the end of the day they told me that they loved it, and learned more in one day than they do in a typical week at school. If we can keep this up, the kids will be off the charts in their learning.