How to Homeschool Your Children

homeschoolpod

The following remarks are the opinions of homeschool mom blogger Tabitha Loder, and do not represent the views of A Fruit Salad of Harm.

Can we just admit that the great thing about educating your children is that you can pursue it ANY WAY YOU WANT TO? But some people don’t get that. They’ll find subtle ways of putting pressure on you to conform. Can we all just admit that education-shaming needs to stop?

Yes, we homeschool, and it’s clearly the most effective way to create independent, creative, brilliant children. But some people want their children to be mindless, private-schooled robots that employers can press into a cubicle like play-dough into the bottom of a Duplo block. Both are valid. It’s about defining your goals.

Let’s take something simple, like “How should you run your day?”

My day starts at five o’clock sharp, when my husband gets out of bed, makes coffee, goes to the gym, does his morning devotion, wakes the children, serves them their buttered kale shakes, reads to them from the Septuagint, chants through 15 psalms in the original Hebrew, and then starts them on their online course-work. Yes, we did splurge on soundproof education pods for them, and we did put a little bit of extra money into a restraint system that only allow the children to exit their pods once they show content mastery.

But here’s the thing: those pods are worth their weight in gold (which is about how much they cost). There’s no easy way to homeschool. Can we admit that? But strapping your children into a self-contained learning pod for eight hours a day take some of the pressure off. (My hubby calls them “education-coffins”. He has such a TWISTED sense of humor. Cracks me up.)

What am I doing during this time? I’m creating my vision for the day. My methodology here is . . . unorthodox, but effective.

Let’s talk about how it works:

I stay in bed, almost in an unconscious state, until around 11:30 AM. Basically, I’m vision-boarding, but mentally. I’m allowing thoughts to drift unfiltered through my mind. Sometimes the thoughts are CRAZY. Like yesterday, when my vision-boarding, intention-setting session was mainly about entering a cold room, that was my childhood bedroom, but didn’t look like my childhood bedroom, but I knew it was anyway. The room is cold, and in the middle of the room is a pine box, wrapped tight with chains. And I know my children are in that box. And I know I should let them out, but I resist. And then my hands become skeleton hands (gross!). Some people call these dreams, to which I say “Exactly!” I’m setting my intentions and achieving my dreams.

Vision boarding like that helps me to hit the ground running. After a revivifying soak in the tub, I’m ready for photography class by 3:00 PM, when the children emerge from their pods. Learning how to take flattering pictures is the fundamental skill in photography. And you will not believe how hard it is to get children to understand that. “Kittridge,” I’ll say, “Mommy doesn’t have a turkey neck, wattle-thing if you get the angle right.” Two hours later, it’s time to cull and spend some time in Photoshop. Can we just admit that seeing a five year-old master complex photo-editing tools is the CUTEST?

Then we set up the transfusion IVs and I receive a half a pint of energizing blood from each child. They keep me so young. Then it’s NAPTIME for them (they’re wiped out after every transfusion), while I prepare to spend some time writing and just VEGGING OUT on social media.

This is what works for us. It’s not perfect. Sure, we have days where we wonder if we’re doing the right thing. But I always tell my hubs that the energy he spends forcing the children into their pods (they are VIGOROUS) is an investment in the future. Hubster smiles and looks like he almost believes it.

How to Homeschool Your Children

Two Young People Drink and Cavort

Mark and I sat on the floor in the bathroom.

“It’s aged five years,” I said.

“I have a feeling that I can’t tell,” Mark said.

“It’s Ancient Age, and it’s been aged for five years,” I said.

“I wish there were other words to describe drinking from the bottle,” Mark said. “They’re all taken.”

“Took a pull,” I said.

“Nursed it,” Mark said.

“Hit it,” I said.

“Flooded the grub tube from the fire barrel,” Mark said. “That’s mine.”

We pushed the empty bottle out the window. It hit another bottle resting on the barely sloped roof and made a dim, quick-squelched ding, a recycling center sound, and sat there on the moss, a stunned living room dancer who missed a step and sat down hard on the rug.

Chris stood in front of the set of windows in the living room. He swiveled and the keys on the ring on his belt loop slopped against his thigh. He stood in the middle of the windows, in the middle of the peaked roof, and looked out into the parking lot across the street, intent on the parking lot. Chris would be staying home tonight and playing video games. He would slay countless digital demonic hordes.

“Hey, Chris,” Mark said. “We’re going to steal your car.”

“Were you guys in the bathroom together?” Chris said.

“Mark wanted me to check him,” I said. “You know, like in a physical. A little turning of the head, a little coughing of the throat. I was just being polite.”

“Bye, Chris!” Mark said.

“Bye, tiny little Chris,” I said.

“Don’t touch my car,” Chris said.

“Okay. If you’re still up, I can check you when I get back,” I said.

We would never have taken Chris’s car after drinking. Mark had a car. Mark had a perfectly good car. We got into Mark’s perfectly good Honda Hatchback. I sat there and thought about where we were in the plan.

“Hold on,” I said. “We were going to drive somewhere and then drink, and then not drive anymore. We stated that clearly. We were going to drive out into like a ravine, drink, and then come back to town.”

“So we’re abandoning the plan,” Mark said. “Because we’ve already done the drinking part. So we should drive somewhere now. Because we missed the first bullet point on the plan.”

I looked Mark in the face. His expression made drinking and driving sound fun.

“The plan evolves,” I said. “It’s a living document.”

In the convenience store, we got gum, gum awash with flavor crystals. We each took a handful of gum, the way toddlers take gum, alcohol heavy fingers.

In chapel we both sat in the back, and woke up sweating, to the sound of “and also with you” at the very end of chapel. Jeffery Bonds, towering over us, too old for our class, and too tall to trust, leaned down over us as we shuffled out and said: “Every pore is pouring whiskey stink. Both of you.”

Out on the sidewalk we ran. We ran to the art gallery. We bundled food onto first Friday plates, emptied a glass of wine, and nodded at each of the paintings, as though they were insecure and we were there to affirm them. I worried that I wasn’t nodding quite enough and that the painting could sense it.

“I’m not nodding enough,” I said to Mark.

“I’m counting my nods,” Mark said. And you could see his mouth move slightly when he did.

We could no longer go to the Prospector which had criminal drink prices, which turned out to be actually criminal. Can Norsemen be nebbish? Odin, the guy who ran the Prospector had been a nebbish Norseman. Mark said that he had “big brass, intestines. Guts.” Odin bought all the alcohol, everything, on credit, only took cash, charged next to nothing for well drinks, a dollar twenty-five, let his suppliers start to sweat about the lines of credit, let the mound of cash build up, and then got the hell out.

So we had to go pay two fifty for whiskey cokes, eight dollars for almond chicken.

The dark graded down the sky and we watched it from where we sat on a bench eating almond chicken off of styrofoam, darting occasionally into The Moderate Dog for the whiskey cokes, back outside to smoke.

Mark couldn’t make drinking and driving sound fun anymore. We walked back towards my house, to check in with Chris and see how his campaign against various demonic hordes fared, see if Mark would be able to sleep on the couch.

At some point in the walk we gained a throng. These high school kids, a few of them plenty stoned, were wearing bathrobes.

Mark asked if they’d just gotten out of the shower. A chubby sixteen year-old girl said that she was a wandering ascetic.

“But it isn’t a good look for you, my dears,” Mark said. “It’s not at all aesthetic.”

“Ascetic,” she hissed, like a patristic air hose.

Another chubby sixteen year-old girl said, “I look like Jesus.”

Mark stared at her.

“We need to keep walking,” I said. “Come on,” I said to Mark.

“I don’t know whether or not that’s true,” Mark said. “I want to pray with you.”

“Come on, Mark,” I said.

He pointed a finger at me.

“You are quenching the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“You are drunk,” I said. The throng cheered. The throng then decided to censure the sin of drunkenness and booed and wagged fingers.

“I am drunk and I want to pray,” Mark said.

I stopped and Mark put his hands on the kids in bathrobes and prayed with them. He told the them that he was gathering them to him as a mother hen gathers her chicks. His gathering was chaste and appropriate, and they seemed comforted by the embrace. Mark let them go. They passed on, silent and ascetic.

And we walked to my place, and Mark was overcome with emotion occasionally, and his eyes were wet, and I didn’t say anything and didn’t feel like crying or praying.

Two Young People Drink and Cavort

The Girls

thegirls

I called the video store across the street from my Dad’s veterinary clinic to see if they had a copy of Forrest Gump. They didn’t. I asked them if they could hold the next copy of Forrest Gump that came in. They said that they would. I thanked them. I couldn’t wait to see Forrest Gump. That done, I felt thirsty.

I went across the street. Passed someone in the phone booth making a call. That guy’s name was Steve, and I was pretty sure that Steve had the face of someone who used drugs. I didn’t want to judge Steve too heavily, but it seemed like drugs would make your eyes bug out like that, and make your eyes red in a way that made it seem like the skin around your eyes and the corneas were the same color. His eyes reminded me of Mr. DiRinaldo’s eyes, both bug-eyed, but Mr. DiRinaldo’s eyes were yellow, as though his cigarettes had nicotine-stained his eyeballs, the amount he smoked made it seem feasible. I know now that Mr. DiRinaldo was likely in some advancing stage of liver failure, and the bilirubin barely had anywhere to go but the eyeballs. His eyeballs wanted out of that body, bugging the eyes out. But they were stuck. I waved at Steve in the phone booth. Steve didn’t know who I was. Further up the street I saw a large group of people. All girls. A horde of Honey Brook girls, all staggering around. Continue reading “The Girls”

The Girls

The Story of Our Business

belt

Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
Original Text, October 21

I make belts. It’s simple. They’re leather, they have a buckle. I work real hard at making them right and everything. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Buckle Up
About Page
Original Text, October 23

We make belts.

One day Kelly had a latte in her hand, just cruising Target, looking to pick up something in the way of a little Mossimo. She happened to grab a boyfriend cardigan off the rack and turned to what she thought was a mirror.

Actually, it was Denise, holding the exact same boyfriend cardigan, wearing the same Wayfarers, with the exact same latte cup in her hand—but neither of them realized it for a solid five minutes! They were doing a sort of Marx Brothers’ mirror routine until Denise dropped her latte and tipped them both off.

The girls got to chatting and shopping, and in minutes they were pitching each other business ideas. They happened to be looking at the belts, and Kelly said, “Buckle up.” That cracked both of them up so much that they were forcibly removed from the Exton Target.

Kelly’s husband had a ton of experience doing leatherworking, so he was able to make all of the belts. It’s a family affair.

We’re just two girls who love drinking lattes and going to Target. We make belts together. Come see what we’ve made for you.

Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
First Revision, October 25

I make belts. They’re leather, they have a buckle. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. My best friend is my landlord and he calls me Frankingstein even though I’m a lady. He never helped me make my belts. I do it myself. Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Buckle Up
About Page
First Revision, October 26

We make our belts ourselves.

After a hard morning out drinking lattes and poring over merchandise at Target, Kelly and Denise head back to Kelly’s house. They put on Carhartts (but like cute Carhartts) and get down to business. First they use scissors and cut up some of the leather. That takes about a couple minutes. They they hammer the buckles on and poke some holes in the belt for the little dangly tine thingy to do its job. They can make like 20 belts in an afternoon this way.

Belts remind us that something has to hold us up. For us, that’s friendship.

Kelly’s husband doesn’t make our belts.

We make belts together. Come see what we’ve made for you.

Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
Second Revision, October 28

I make belts. They’re leather, they have a buckle. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. I tan my own leather. My landlord says most people can’t kill a cow hitting it with a brick in the face like I can.

I forge the buckles myself. I forge the frame, I forge the chape, I forge the tongue, I forge the bar. I make every part of the buckle. I make the whole belt. I do it myself.

Belts remind me of my daddy come home from Mac’s, smelling raw with drink. But I make the belts now. The belts are mine. Daddy don’t have the belts no more.

Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Lacin’ Up
About Page
Original Text, October 29

Our names are Kelly and Denise. We love getting lattes and going to Target. We make shoelaces.

The Story of Our Business

Silo

concrete

My office looks out on a parking lot. Across the parking lot are several silos. At times, I’ve stood at my window and looked up at the silos, attempting to have a profound thought. I’m relieved when nothing profound occurs to me. Because nothing profound has ever occurred to me, I’m always relieved.

One morning, I was looking out at the silos and I saw a figure step out from the little cabin at the top of one of the silos, and walk down the railed catwalk to the very top of another silo. The top of the silo the figure stood on had a circular railing at the very top, kind of like something on a World War II era military boat. If you stood at the very top of the silo, you’d be surrounded by railing with the stairs behind you. You’d be five or six stories up and completely safe. The figure stood there. I could tell the figure was male.

After standing there for a fraction of a moment, the man hoisted himself up over the railing. The top of the silo is a slick looking aluminum, and it slopes sharply away from the peak. You could take a few running steps down and leap out into nothing and land on the weed-broken cement below and have made all of the important steps towards becoming a corpse. I thought that I was about to see the man jump off the silo. And something not-profound occurred to me: I found myself holding a sliver of a hope that he would.

I didn’t want the man to die, obviously. I didn’t even want him to get hurt. But I did feel that witnessing a person throw themselves off a silo would be to touch something enormous and close by. Like sitting in a kayak on the ocean and putting my hand on a blue whale.

The man stood there, still holding on to the railing. Then he jumped back over and into the circle of protection. I had another not-profound thought: I was glad he didn’t jump off the silo. But then, for a couple days after, I caught myself looking out at the silos and wishing to see someone up there, walking out to the circle at the top. After a few days of this, I stopped looking out the window. Now I keep the blinds down.

Silo

Minimalism

minimalism

I have given up pretty much all of my earthly possessions. Some people don’t need drugs and alcohol to have a good time. I don’t even need socks.

I live for free in a walk-in closet in a friend’s apartment. I sleep on a salvaged mattress that smells like anti-freeze. Sometimes I imagine how the anti-freeze got spilled on the mattress, but those fantasies end quickly because inhaling anti-freeze fumes makes linear thought . . . I dunno.

I scavenge a lot of food from my roommates, Ben and Chopper. They put their cast-off food in a bag for me, and I check the bag for edible specimens. The bag is white and plastic and lines a short, white bin that fits under the sink.

Sometimes I scavenge food from the refrigerator or even a cupboard.

I do not own a phone. If I want to use a phone, I wake up very early, before Ben and Chopper are awake, and see if either of them are using their phone. If they aren’t, I use it for the whole day, and return it at night, after they’ve gone to sleep.

Neither do I own a car. But Ben does. If I need to get somewhere, I get up very early and climb into the back of the car and cover myself up with blankets. Then Ben and I play “chauffeur”. He drives me to his work. When we get there, I wait 5 minutes under the blankets, and then let myself out of the car and go about my business.

My business is climbing to the top of the parking garage, finding discarded pigeon feathers (and, if I’m lucky, whole pigeon corpses), and creating dream-catchers from them. I sell these handmade artifacts to many grateful patrons who are so eager to part with their money that they often throw it at me. That’s consumerism for you. Retail-therapy. A fool and his money . . . the anti-freeze is singing its lullaby.

Minimalism

Werner Herzog Narrates Fixer-Upper

As Andrea enters the kitchen, she sees no island. Andrea has hoped for an island in her kitchen for perhaps her whole life. To her it represents a steady point in the midst of whirling insanity. An island jutting up in the ocean of her kitchen would mean that man may take a stand against the unfeeling forces of nature and cry for order in the black cosmos. You can see how crushed she is in the tremor of her right eye. There. Hope has drained away in an instant.

She shows us an intensity that I have seen in the eyes of a person who has been overcome by the barren wastes of Antarctica. Who sees in the austerity of the landscape not possibility, but nothingness.

There’s a nobility in Joanna that surfaces in moments like these. She reads Andrea with total understanding. She suggests that an island may be added. Further, she turns to Chip and asks if he believes that the walls in the adjoining dining room could be covered in shiplap. He says that he believes such a thing may be possible.

In this moment, Andrea’s face changes. She acknowledges here that she has escaped the terror of a kitchen without an island. She acknowledges the joy that will be hers when she possesses a dining room whose walls will bear plain, rustic wooden boards, this “shiplap”.

However, look closer at her face. As a filmmaker I’ve become attuned to the myriad types of emotion. To me, even a program on HGTV is like a cereal aisle in a grocery store of human despair. So much variety.

And I see on Andrea’s face a mask of relief. By this I mean that her expression hides her true feelings. She has not truly felt a change.

In the moments when she believed she would not have an island in her kitchen, she contracted a kind of disease of dissatisfaction. She learned then that such abysses of disappointment do exist in human experience. Though the horror of living without an island in her kitchen has been avoided, nevertheless she has learned of the existence of such terror. Having witnessed the truth of the howling void within her, she will never again be free of it.

Andrea and her monosyllabic husband, Dan, choose this house.

Finally, it is demo day. But the truth is that demo day has already come and gone. A demo day of Andrea’s trust in a universe that cares about her desires. A demo day of her belief in a harmonious and meaningful existence. Unlike the house, Andrea will never be fixed.

Chip and Joanna see themselves as agents of order and harmony. I see them as purveyors of an impossible dream, one from which Andrea has only just awakened.

Chip is very funny. A comedic genius, I think.

Werner Herzog Narrates Fixer-Upper