Questions. Children have them. They are a never ending chasm of questions and wonder. Of course we want to encourage their questioning, their desire to know. Some damn days the answers don’t come as easily as we would like, though.

The other day Professor Chaos bolted into the living room, presumably basking in the glory of the removed baby gate, and positioned himself at the end of the couch. He had a question. Tilting his rainbow colored head to the side he began:

“Mom, dad says that boys can have vaginas and girls can have penises.” I confirmed that what his father had told him was correct and then I waited for the question(s) that I knew were about to follow.

“Well, how is that?” I breathed a sigh of relief, that one would be fairly easy to explain. I told him that people don’t always feel that their outside matches the person inside, so they take steps in a long process to make that happen. Sometimes that means changing everything, sometimes that just means a few things change. What’s in their underwear doesn’t define if they are male or female, though, the person defines that.

He nodded in understanding and then said, “Well, I get that. That’s not what I’m asking, though”. Then my heart skipped a beat, because there wasn’t going to be anything easy about this conversation.

He started again “I want to know how they have a penis or vagina”. I looked at him for a moment, slightly confused, because we’ve discussed reproduction before; but he’s only seven and it’s been a while so I figured he needed a refresher. “Well, it happens in the womb, when the baby is forming.” Then we watched a video on male and female sex organs and a four minute time lapse animated video on fetal development. 

Job complete. High five mom...or not.

He shifted on the couch and then locked his brown eyes on mine, “So that’s what I looked like when I was inside you?” “Yes, I replied, "sort of. You didn’t look exactly like that at the end, but all the rest of the stuff is right.” Mission complete. The victory march plays in my head and then… “I already know all that stuff, though.  That’s not what I’m trying to ask.”
Damn it.
“Well”, I asked exasperated, “what, exactly, do you want to know?”
“I want to know how they are that way. Why couldn’t they just be born the way they want to be?”
Holy shit. This parenting thing was suppose to be simple. Go back to when I could just put something shiny in your face or turn on Blue’s Clues to end a line of questioning clearly above my paygrade and worldly intelligence.
I had to admit I didn’t really know how or why and do my best to say something of use. “Their reproductive organs develop one way, while who they are as a person develops another way. No one can tell another person who they are, that’s for all of us to discern for ourselves. Our job is to love and support everyone. Just know that we’ll love you no matter how you identify, OK?” He nodded his understanding and then my inquiring mind needed to know if he felt like a boy, a girl, or something else. He responded he felt like a pony, like Rainbow Dash. Then he lamented his disappointment in my not letting him have blue skin, I told him one day we could get him a blue bodysuit. He thought it was a fair trade. I reminded him one more time that we would love him no matter what, to which he sighed and said “Mom, I know! You guys tell me everyday”, before dashing out of the room.
I patted myself on the back and then I got myself a beer.
I’m still waiting for this parenting thing to get easier. I’m starting to believe that’s a lie told by people to keep us in the parenting trenches for the long haul.
Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes

Oh sweet blog of mine, it’s been a while.  Not that I haven’t written, or started writing, various posts for you...I just haven’t taken the time to finish them, edit them, or upload them.  I've been pretty fucking busy over the last year, to be frank, so I've neglected areas of my life I love -such as writing- so I could focus on getting through my husband being gone for 9 of the last 12 months with, what’s left of, my sanity and children still in tack. I do have goals for this year, writing wise, so it’s time to dust off the ol’ keyboard and make some magic happen.  Hopefully, before Uncle Sam notices I’m enjoying myself and fucks it all up.  Let’s begin...

Last year, I touched on the difficulty of starting over when it came to making friends and the agony of putting oneself out there. *If you weren't a follower then or completely missed the post you can find it HERE.*  Despite my misgivings, I still jumped into the giant social pool and swallowed the bitter pill that is acceptance of our current duty station.  Of course, with mixing and mingling with the general population you encounter the standard line of questioning that comes with interacting with the human race.  It’s a tedious checklist humans fumble through to determine if you’re a human worth investing the time needed to actually move up to the exciting tidbits that make someone a whole person or if you’re not.  

You all know the list:

“Where are you from?”
“Any siblings?”
“How old are you?
‘Are you married? What about kids? Oh, wow, and how old are they?”
“What does your spouse do for a living?”
“How long have you been married? Where did you meet?”

I find it very reminiscent of the old A/S/L line of questioning from AOL chat room days.  Eventually, the conversation turns towards wanting to know where my children attend school, unless I’m with a group of homeschoolers.  At that point in the conversation I start to sweat just a little bit, despite homeschooling growing, people are still pretty clueless about it.  Aside from some preconceived, often inaccurate, notions about who homeschoolers are and what we do all day.

After stumbling through the “Where do your kids go to school?” question and the subsequent questions that follow, I figured I would get off my ass and finally write a post to address this a bit.  Here we go folks!

First, let me address how I usually respond to the question “How long do you plan to homeschool?”, this question is usually asked with slightly narrowed eyes right after I blurt out the words “Oh, they don’t go to school. They are homeschooled”.  

Over the last year I've usually answered this question with a stammered and stuttered “Well, we’re going to evaluate every year and then make a decision”.  ← This is bullshit!  

When we first started homeschooling, formally/officially/what the hell ever you want to call it, the plan was to evaluate every year simply to appease The Spouse.  That was the only reason we were going to do yearly assessments to dissect our homeschooling efforts and determine if they were “working”.  Here’s the thing, though, if a child is learning you know.  Annual assessments are, generally, pointless.  If you’re constantly observing what a child is doing and how they are handling the work they are being given why do you need to have a separate assessment?  You don’t.  Our kids are learning, growing, and dysfunctional enough to be interesting.  We have no plans to put our kids in public school, ever.  Just like a great deal of public school parents could NEVER imagine homeschooling we could NEVER imagine sending our kids to public school.  It’s not for our family and we’re all cool with that.  So how long will we homeschool?  Until T.B.M. reach the point where they can branch out into their chosen paths. *Or they beg us to send them to public school...which is highly doubtful, because they aren't fans of wearing clothes everyday or being anywhere before 9am.*

After the how long question I, usually, get a question along the lines of “What’s it like?”.  I will admit I like this question, because it means people are willing to learn about what is considered an alternative to the norm.  They realize that the Duggars and horror stories that make the evening news are not complete representations of homeschoolers, which is fantastic.    

Answering that question, though, isn't as clear cut as I think people expect it to be.  What is it like to homeschool?  Well, that depends on the day.  I guarantee you, though, what it’s like in our home on any given day is completely opposite from what it’s like in someone else’s home on that very same day.  

The best way to give you all understand of what it’s like is to paint a picture of an average week.  For us, average means spending at least 75% of our week at home.  We love our home and the large wooded lot it sits on, plus we’re all happier when we don’t have to run, run, run.  On an average, and I use that word loosely, week the kids get up and start their chores, consume breakfast, and head outside to play for a bit.  Around 10-1030am they head upstairs to our schoolroom and start their assignments for the day, unless it’s a co-op and music day and we are gone nearly all day long.  On an excellent day we have what we call History Tea Time, which is just me reading aloud from whatever decent history book I've managed to get my hands on plus a snack for the kids.  Then there’s lunch, some yelling, finishing of school work, begging for candy, dinner, evening chores, bedtime stories, and the wonderful silence of sleeping children.

Sounds rather dull, right?  Dare I say it sounds rather...normal, at least everything after about 3pm.  It can appear that way.  We have cycles we go through when we’re very busy and involved in something and then we have moments of calm and just being in this phase of our lives.  This ebb and flow is a delicate balance that we work to keep, often resulting in chipping away at things that disturb our flow.

There are days when we forgo our regularly scheduled programming and the boys, especially Professor Chaos, spend their whole day in the kitchen cooking.  Other days they exist outdoors coming in only to eat and possibly use the bathroom, sometimes they choose to just water a tree.  

A great deal of T.B.M.’s day is spent doing whatever they see fit.  A couple of years ago I changed the way we approached our schooling, instead of trying to cram in a handful of subjects everyday, we only focus on one or two core subjects a day.  In order to ensure they are still getting any necessary practice for the other subjects (reading, writing, math) they have daily assignments which are quick and reinforce whatever needs reinforcing.  This means once they have knocked out their daily assignments and core assignment(s) they have hours at their disposal to read, explore, and connect.  Those are the things we value over a schedule full of social events and a mile long list of extra-curricular activities.  That’s our ideal.  That’s what it’s like for us and that’s what works for our family.    
Interested in hearing more about secular homeschooling?  Well, check out Episode 6 of The Secular Parents!

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes 

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
~Elbert Hubbard

In order to obtain a friend, someone who knows all about you and still loves you, you have to first put your neck on the line and risk the guillotine of rejection.  Aside, from the rejection is also the reality of eventually moving again from my own personal perspective.  I've found over the last year, as I've written and rewritten this post, that this is something I’m struggling with.  I made quality friends at our last duty stations, but I've also had to say goodbye to them and rely on the beauty of the internet to stay connected with them.  When you’re part of the most hated group in America finding friends can be difficult and depending on where you live damn near impossible.  

I’m in the fortunate position where we are currently stationed to come across people who don’t seem to have a problem with my heathen ways and a few who are happy to hear that I am in fact a godless heathen.  Which you would think would have me jumping for joy and completely bearing my soul on the altar of inclusion, but something keeps holding me back.  This small voice that whispers sweet nothings of doubt into my ear.  “Sure they’ll accept you” the lusty voice begins, “but you know one day you’ll have to say goodbye.  Do you really want to go through that again?”  Well, no little voice, I don’t.  I don’t want to have to put on the tough face, I don’t want to hike up the big girl panties, I don’t want to have to start over again.  

The voice knows this and I know this, and so here I sit.  It’s Saturday night and I’m rewriting this for the third time today.  How does one convey the agony of saying goodbye to quality people and the burning desire to protect your emotions from further pain, even if it’s what you've known your whole life.  I was born and raised in the military life, I know what it expects, I know goodbyes are part of the territory.  That doesn't make them any easier and as I age I keep asking myself is it worth it to put myself out there?  

A lot of time and energy has to go into making and maintaining meaningful relationships, and that little voice is there to always ask me “Is it worth it”.  I don’t know anymore.  Part of me wants to say yes, yes it’s worth the hurt that will come one day.  It’s worth the lifetime of memories, those moments over Oreos and books that bring a smile to your face and a small tear to your eye.  Memories of curry lunches, pedicures when you've forgotten to shave your legs, because friends don’t care about that, and silly photos to fill the photo albums you keep safely tucked away.  Memories that bring joy and pain in the same heart stopping moment.

Then part of me thinks about all the moments I've missed out on weddings, births, celebrations of life and death.  The ups and downs of life, a friend is there for those, and when you consider yourself a friend to someone and you miss out on those moments, it hurts.  It adds salt to the wound that goodbye already created.  The voice reminds me “The less friends you have the less you’ll miss out on and the less guilt you’ll feel”.  I've said over the years that I have given up making new friends, honestly it can be exhausting mentally, emotionally, and physically.  No matter how often I say this though, I still climb back in the friendship ring.  It’s getting harder to hop that rope though.  

Can you ever reach a point when you listen to the small voice of doubt completely, throw in the towel, and cut yourself off from the risk of new relationships?  I’m not sure myself.  Maybe it’s something that only time will be able to answer.  

How about you? Yes, you, the military spouse, the spouse of a nomad, whose life is one series of hellos and goodbyes.  And you, the nomad who can barely recall the last five places you've lived. 

What say you?  How many rounds do you have in you before you listen to that nagging voice and tap out?

Copyright(c)2014 Rayven Holmes

While wasting away time on the Book of Faces I came across the following image:

I eventually shared it and of course that lead to book talk. Books, books, books, everyone has favorites.  The ensuing dialogue got the wheels in my mind turning and I thought how glorious would a list of people's favorite books be?! I'm always looking for book suggestions, but not just for myself. 
So dear blog readers I have a request, in the comment section below please share your top two favorite books of all time -excluding religious holy text- and your top two "every child should read this" books.
I'll take all of the suggestions and compile a list that will be easily accessible on my blog.  It will be updated with each new suggestion.

So hurry and share, there are books in need of devouring!

Copyright(c) 2014 Rayven Holmes

 I have a confession to make, some days I just want to throw in the towel.  This of course isn’t an uncommon phenomenon in homeschooling.  When our neighbors pieced together that T.B.M. were homeschooled I heard the usual “you must be very organized and patient”.  I had to silently chuckle and give my standard smile, shrug, and dismissive “meh...I’m a bit Type A”.  Am I more organized and patient than parents who send their kids to public or private school, I highly doubt it.  There are days when my precious darlings voices sound more like nails on a chalkboard than sweet singing angels.  

Our last couple of weeks have been nails on a chalkboard weeks, where every fight I have to referee, every complaint and question I have to field,and every unfinished assignment is another notch in the “you shouldn’t do this” belt.  These past few weeks as I’ve looked at my never ending to-do list, the chaos of my home that is still in PCS purgatory a year later, and the sound of nails on the chalkboard screeched my name I mentally snapped. I was done. Screw it. Never fucking again.  I was going to toss General Disarray and Professor Chaos into public school and hunt down a preschool for Stormaggedon.  Then I could reclaim my sanity-and hang a picture without having to investigate another crash!-, because I had clearly failed at this whole homeschooling- stay at home mom thing.   

Then Tuesday morning General Disarray got up, quietly did his chores, inquired about breakfast, and then disappeared for a bit.  When he reemerged it was to show me a series of drawings he had done, they were plans for mods he wanted to make for Minecraft.  He was thrilled to show them to me, but he was disappointed too.  “I want to make these, but I have to wait until I’m adult before I can make a mod” he insisted.  He was convinced this was only a skill an adult could acquire, because us adults possess the ability to do things that kids can’t -ha!-.

I assured him that he didn’t need to be an adult to create a mod for Minecraft he simply needed to learn to program, and even that could be learned at his age.  After a bit of Googling we discovered Scratch and made him an account.  He spent the rest of the day exploring and learning.  On Wednesday, after he plowed through his regularly scheduled lessons with gusto, he went back to work on the various projects he had started the day before.  His dinner conversation that evening was lively, he was so excited to share with us what he had done and what he plans to do. In the chaos of unorganized books, piles of unfiled paperwork, screams, complaints, and general life insanity a fire had been lit.  I did nothing more than let him know he was capable of something and then gave him the tools to do it, but then again that’s what I believe education should be.  To equip an individual with the skills and tools needed to fulfil their dreams.  It’s easy to forget why we do this day in and day out when we’re in the middle of the chaos that comes with homeschooling.  So today I’m remember why I do this, because tomorrow will be chaos, everyday is to some extent, but in the chaos are victories-both large and small-.  
Will T.B.M. still be homeschooled this upcoming school year, yes.  Will I still have moments of feeling as if I’m failing and days when I add to the strands of white hair that have started appearing on my head?  Of course. I’ll take solace in those precious moments when the why behind what we do becomes very clear, I’ll push forward knowing that more victories await us, and I’ll keep quality wine and chocolate on hand for the chaos.

“Take your victories, whatever they may be, cherish them, use them, but don't settle for them.”
Mia Hamm

Copyright(c) 2014 Rayven Holmes

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
—William A. Ward

Parenting, especially homeschooling, has taught me one very important thing, while adjusting the sail don’t forget to throw your head back and feel the breeze on your face.  

Our homeschooling journey has had its’ ups and downs and I've been realistic about it. There are days though, like yesterday, when I reach for our materials and realize that my little creator of chaos has actually accomplished the items needed to move from K/1st to 1st/2nd -I do a combination of grades allowing for them to have more flexibility in their core academic requirements-.

So our plans in the next few weeks will include a little graduation for him, something he has been looking forward to for a very long time. As realistic as I am that our struggles aren't over, that there will still be days when I want to bang my head against the desk, or actually bang my head against the desk. There is hope, that there will always be a breeze to refresh us.   

Copyright(c)2014 Rayven Holmes

Wow.  2013, what can I say?  Well, if you've read this blog for any amount of time you can tell I didn't say (type) much during the year.  On my personal blog I love to do a yearly recap, highlighting a post from each month, of course if I did that for this blog I would have FIVE whole post to share.  Blimey, that sounds a bit depressing, and in a way it is because I do enjoy blogging.  It’s therapeutic, it allows me to keep a running log of almost everything we do -when I actually take the time to sit and type it up-, and it’s fun to share our life with others and get a peek into their lives as well.  As much as I enjoy it, 2013 just wasn't the year for it, sure I could have made myself do it, but then it would have lost what makes it special for me and that’s just no good.

2013 wasn't a bad year, just a transitional one -to steal a phrase from a friend of mine-, and I think a break from all those various online things I spent 2011 and part of 2012 doing was good, mostly.  When we got to VA I had one goal in mind, it was my big yearly goal for 2013, to experience “all the things” in relation to home schooling options we have here.  There is a sea of co-ops, home school groups, clich├ęs, clubs, and teams to get absorbed into.  Now we didn't take part in all things on the running list in my head, but we did throw ourselves head first into a lot of opportunities, despite the chaos at home of adjusting to life back in the states, for our kids that was a huge adjustment because they don’t remember life before Okinawa.  As well as adjusting to a new area in general, first time home ownership, and the fact that we spent the first three (almost four) months of 2013 living in and out of TLF rooms (temporary living facilities for you non-military folks) which took its toll on everyone, we soldiered on in hopes that when the house of cards fell the pieces worth keeping would land face up instead of us just landing face down in a puddle of our own salty tears.

Well, the winds of 2014 blew the house down and I can say I’m pleased with the cards that are face up.  2013 was an exhausting year, but we gained some great insight into what works for us and what breaks us.  Once again I find myself reverting back to a central schedule, that got thrown to the wayside in 2013, and as a result there were clear negative changes in behavior, that were further agitated by all the other changes our family was going through, and not just for the children but for the adults as well.  I’m a firm believer in family cohesion and acknowledging that change doesn't just upset the children, but the adults as well, and our reaction to those changes can cause even more issues for our children.  It can easily become a cycle of negativity, stress, and frustration.  Now, personally that’s now how I like to live my life, and not how I want to live it, nor does this allow for a cohesive family unit.  The beauty in today’s obstacles is clarity tomorrow, though, and I have plenty of clarity now.

We’re all going into the new year with a family schedule, once again, and the freedom to say no to anything that doesn't fit, of course Uncle Sam is the only loop hole to this, but we have a pretty good idea about what he has in store for our family this year, which is a tremendous improvement over the last few years, and will allow our schedule to work in our favor even more than it has in the past.

For new readers let me reiterate something I've mentioned countless times before, I know schedules don’t work for every family.  Some like to play things loosely goosey and find that the rigidness of a schedule reminds them of public education and thus they avoid it.  That’s what makes the individuality of home schooling so amazing, what works for my family doesn't have to work for your family.  Take the bits you like and apply them as you see fit and throw out the rest, my family is just one example of the sea of home schooling families out there, and I promise you we all have a very different way of getting through these years of sleepless nights, family upheaval, and algebra.  Find what works for your family and stick with it and if or when it stops working embrace the freedom to change it.

And if all else fails, just dance.

Copyright(c)2014 Rayven Holmes