Evaluating Education Options

How do you get straight answers, avoid bait and switch, and determine what options are best for your child? Whether you’re interested in online or offline, public or private, or homeschooling or unschooling — this overview is for you.

— The most important question you need to ask first.
— Elements to seek and pitfalls to avoid.
— Learn what questions to ask to get straight answers.

Could Have Been My Child

rainbow flower“But what am I?” Her eyes were glassy from unshed tears.

“You’re you. And you’re wonderful,” I tried to reassure her, but she saw the worry on my face.

My beautiful daughter: smart, compassionate, kind to all things living and not. Seriously, the kid bonded to pet rocks! And she never did fit in a box.

“There just isn’t a label for you yet,” I said as the letters of the current acronym went through my mind. None of those letters fit.

But she wanted a label. As much as she didn’t fit into boxes, she always wanted them. She would even ask me to create them for her. “Just tell me what to do,” she would say, even as a teenager.  I, however, was the worst parent for that request.

“I’ll help you find your way,” I would usually say. But this time I felt lost on how to do that. She was hurting, and I didn’t know how to help.

“I love you. We all love you.”

The words felt weak. Insufficient. How well would that love armor her against a world full of hate?

That was seven years ago, and my daughter travels the country, living life, lighting up the world the best she can. There’s still no perfect checkbox for her, but she has found a sense of belonging in other ways, and she makes the world a better place.

As I listened to Anderson Cooper recently read each name of those who died in Orlando, my fingernails cut into my clenched hands as I tried to stay as resolved as he was. With each name, I  thought, that could have been my child. I will hear these names. Then I saw the text message of one child to his mother. I had no words. Only emotions in a sea of synesthesia.

My heart turned to my school’s students. So many of our students are targeted – for their culture, or religion, or neurotype, or sexuality, or other reasons.  Each one is precious.  We open our arms to them and their families, and do what is within our power to help them find their way. And love them.  Always love them.

But I find myself wondering what more we could do.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”  ~ Fred Rogers

There’s Nothing “Just” About Jealousy

aloneOh he’s just jealous. He’ll get over it. It’s a growing experience. Act jealous back and see how he likes it. Jealousy is a sin; there’s something wrong with you if you feel jealous. Get over it. 

Sound familiar?

The above statements are very common and usually applied in the context of romantic relationships. Today I saw variations of the above applied to discussing a child whose formative infant years included separation from his mother. Of course he’s jealous.

Whether it is this situation, or romantic jealousy, or other scenarios, the one thing we all need to remember is this:

Jealousy is a symptom – usually of needs being threatened or not met.

  • Insecurity – needing reassurance of one’s own value or that one’s needs will be met.
  • Need for time, attention, nurturing, and both physical and emotional safety.
  • Fear of loss, abandonment, and/or being replaced.
  • Competition jealousy – usually another symptom of any of the above. We want to be uniquely valued.

So how do you deal with jealousy?

If you are helping a child, the first step is to talk about the fears that the child has and ways to address them. That takes patience, spending one-on-one time, reassurance of love, and discussing the fears in a respectful way.

If it is a romantic partner or other relationship, it is much the same. Discuss the fears and where they are coming from. Explore ways to counter the fears. The fears could be real too; the person feeling jealous might have real reasons to fear loss, and this fear can even lead to behaviors that are self-fulfilling. If the fear cannot be eliminated, let’s at least deal with the issues in a respectful manner.

There is that word again: respectful. The worst way of dealing with jealousy is with judgment; compassion and respect are required instead.

Yes, some people have a greater tendency for jealousy. And you might decide that you cannot be in a relationship with someone who is prone to this symptom of their fears. Just understand that it is a symptom, especially if you are the one who experiences jealousy because your solution will be to build your self and your life in a way that allows for greater levels of security.

We also want to help our children avoid or counter jealousy, and this is important. Telling them that it shouldn’t happen or that it is just wrong is going to reinforce the jealousy. They are not “just jealous” – they are just exhibiting a symptom of some underlying issues that need to be dealt with. 

Those of us who learned as children that we could not trust that our parents would be there or protect us have some extra challenges. Some of us just don’t allow people to get close enough to hurt us and can proudly claim we don’t get jealous. Can’t be jealous when you don’t have a source of that fear! For those of us who do take that risk, it’s soul-deep.

Personally, I have the benefit of being aware of all of the above from a young age, so I used to not understand – and was admittedly irritated with – people who would get jealous. I had very little patience for it.  That doesn’t mean that I never had fear or hurt or even anger; it means that I always targeted the source of those emotions. Now that I understand why people experience jealousy, I can be more understanding. I can also help prevent jealousy of loved ones by being mindful of the sources, and having a clue on how to address issues when they do come up.

Because they are never just jealous. There’s no such thing.




Accidentally Dyeing My Body Blue, and Other Acts of Love

blue splatMy goal was to have quality time with my daughter Heather, and I left the options wide open on the different things we could do together. She didn’t come up with any ideas, gave “maybe” as the answer to others, but when I suggested she help me get my hair cut and dyed, her response was that she’d be down with that.  And I’m with it (cool? hip?) enough to know that “down with that” is a good thing.  So that’s what we did.

For the next two days.

Not two hours as is typical, but two days because the adventure included things like having to fix, and fix again, the attempt at getting a particular style.

And then there was the whole accidentally turning my whole body blue part. That part took a while to fix too.

I usually go for variations of the natural colors of my hair: browns, reds, maybe some copper. However, I mentioned the idea of playing with blue since I have seen this done well by others in my circles. Heather was very encouraging of this. She seemed more than just down with it –something even bordering enthusiasm. Since the salon didn’t have a blue that would stay in for more than a single wash, Heather headed to Hot Topic to get something called Manic Panic Rockabilly Blue.

In anticipation of this amazing blue, the salon gave me a base of black with highlight strips.  However, when we got home, we realized that the strips were too subtle for what we were envisioning.  Since we couldn’t just paint the blue onto the strips as originally planned, Heather handed me the bottle to use on my own, without any supervision (she should have known better). I applied the entire bottle of Manic Panic to my head. In hindsight, I probably only needed about a fourth of it to cover my short hair.  Also in hindsight, using less of the dye might have prevented what happened next.

My previous experience with home hair dye didn’t prepare me for this. In the past, it was perfectly fine to hop in the shower and rinse out the hair until the water runs clear. This time, it took longer than normal for that to happen. Streams of blue ran down my body, from head to toe, and across the base of the tub. Even when the water started running clear, the tub color stayed blue, as did my body. I was absolutely Avatar! Only, short. And not nearly as athletically impressive.  So I guess I was really just… Smurfy.

Heather had to go to work and couldn’t take the time to help me, so I grabbed some make-up remover wipes and did what I could. However, I realized that there were parts I couldn’t reach, and Kevin wouldn’t be back to help me in time before our appointment for a couples massage. I called to cancel, apologizing for it being so last-minute, explaining what happened. You know that strained tone in a person’s voice when holding back laughter? The receptionist managed that before giving up and letting the giggles bubble up. But she did find a slot for us the next day.  I just had to desmurf by then.

Kevin appreciated how the black hair reflected blue like a raven’s wing, but he agreed to help me get the blue off of the rest of me.  Back at the hotel, he went to work with the remaining wipes, using each one to the point it couldn’t pick up any more blue. Scrubby-scrubby.  Everywhere – especially areas I couldn’t reach or see well on my own.  Scrubby-scrubby.  Even when I pointed out that, “Sweetheart, I’m pretty sure the massage therapist won’t go there!” Kevin made some noncommittal sound and kept at it. Scrubby-scrubby-scrub.

The next step was to get into the hotel shower, but Kevin realized that my hair would likely bleed out more blue dye, wasting all of his efforts up until that point. He used towels to make a soft pallet for my knees, and my naked (but now less smurfy) body was draped over the tub with Kevin washing my hair while I shielded my eyes. All this massaging and scrubbing could have been a relaxing – even sensual – experience, if it weren’t for the absurdity, touch of embarrassment, and giggle-fits dominating the mood. The mood was sealed when Kevin said, in a beautiful sing-song voice, “This is what we do for loved ones…” Scrubby-scrubby.  “Like picking off lice or ticks.” Scrubby-scrubby-scrub.

The next day, Heather used color correction with a highlighting cap to pull out some of the color and give the multi-color definition I am used to having in my hair – only a blue version of it.  If anyone can recommend a vibrant color dye that behaves more like regular hair dye, please let me know! Also, any recommendations of ways to spend quality time with teenagers – I’m open to suggestions here too. Meanwhile, Heather did ask if I would be available for an upcoming rave, and I’d be down with that.

Smurfy Holidays Everyone!



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