What I want you to know about homeschooling

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Heather Caliri.

If I tell you I home school, and you don’t, I can guess what you’ll say: “I could never do what you’re doing.” I want you to know something: You’re wrong. You could do what I’m doing. Let’s be clear. I’m not saying this in a judgy, “get with the program already” kind of way. I’m saying that I know mothers. And I know we do what needs doing. We get up each morning and serve and work and cook and clean bottoms and do the laundry when someone gets the stomach flu. 
We do what needs doing, period. Whether it’s home school or public school or the NICU or the soccer team. So let’s get this straight: if you needed to, you could do what I do. And I could do what you do. I want to celebrate that, and affirm each of our paths. Sure, we might not prefer to switch places. Which is the second thing I want to say: That’s okay. 
The idea of homeschooling make you want to run screaming? I get it. And that’s okay. I’ll be honest: the idea of school makes me want to do the same. And that’s okay too. But that doesn’t diminish our choices. That doesn’t take away from our freedom to live the life we need to live. That doesn’t mean we can’t lift each other up, affirm each other, and learn from each other. You keep doing things in that weird, broken, blessed way that makes you thrive. You keep doing the carpools and the PTA and the class mom gig. It’s hard, and blessing you, and it’s the right thing. Because I know that the day it’s not right for your family, you will make the hard choices necessary to change. I’m doing the same. I love our life right now, but I know each day brings manifold surprises. I know that if it’s necessary, I’ll be ready to make hard choices about our life too. 
Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is what’s hard about homeschooling: people use “homeschool” as a cudgel—on themselves or other people. Somehow the choice to homeschool—or not--has become another place to feel less-than. It used to be “enough” to be a room mom and serve on the PTA. Or it was enough to have a kick-ass career and be empowered. Or—Wait. Was there ever a time when we were enough? Just as we are?
We have so many choices about our kids that it’s fairly dizzying. Parenting styles and work hours and toys to buy and BPA free sippy cups and extracurricular and media usage. And education: charter, public, private, and homeschool. It would be great if all this choice made us feel freer, but does it? It would be great if all this choice helped us learn from each other, but does it? 

Look, the “mommy wars” are waaay overblown. Here’s what’s not: our awful internal dialogue, comparing ourselves negatively to everyone that seems fancy or intentional. And lest you think homeschooling would solve that inner chatter, it doesn’t. I feel intimidated by parents who seem to homeschool “better” than I do. I get all judgy and insecure over here too.
So let’s lay down our insecurities and decide that enough is enough, and that we, right now, are enough. Let’s affirm and lift each other up, and not be afraid of our differences. Let’s be easy and content with the life we choose, even if it doesn’t sound exotic. Let us never feel the need to apologize—to ourselves or anyone else—for the hard work we do as parents. Because we need all the energy and support we need to confront the challenges that life brings, each and every day.



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Friday Finds

1. The Complete Book of Home Organization: 200+ Tips and Projects | by Abowlfulloflemons.net
2. Sega Toys' Night Sky Projector |  by The Grommet
3. Spy Alley Game of Suspense and Intrigue | Amazon 
4. Dana’s Bakery | Macaron Making Kit
5. 8+ All Natural or Organic Snacks a Month | Love With Food
6. Nixi Silicone Teething Bracelet, Quadro | Bumkins
7. Tools4Wisdom | Planner 2016 Calendar 4-in-1
8. Monkey Weesie Pal Plush Toy Creation For Children With Special Needs | Etsy 
9. Febreze | In Wash Odor Eliminator





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How I became the target of hundreds of white supremacists from a video of Christmas morning

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been getting hundreds of racist comments every day. They berate me for having adopted black children, they take pictures of my kids and create racist memes, and they say awful things about my boys. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen some if it. Many people have asked me how this also started, so I wanted to provide the backstory. A timeline of the hate, if you will.

It started with a video I took Christmas morning of my girls opening their American Girl dolls Christmas morning. A couple weeks later a video went viral of two young white girls being gifted with black dolls and subsequently expressing their disapproval. I decided to upload a video of my girls receiving their dolls and the joy they felt as an alternative reaction.


The video of my girls was up for a week with very little fanfare, but then suddenly the video starting to get a ton of traffic, and with it, nasty comments. I was getting daily, and then hourly, comments about how disgusting I was, how my boys were going to kill me, how they would rape my daughters . . . all kinds of vile hate. Initially I was deleting the comments. Then they started coming in too swiftly for me to stay on top of it. I contemplated removing the comment option on the video, but then decided to leave it up. I wanted to write about what was happening, so that people could see this kind of overt racism in action in our “post-racial” society. But before I had time to do that, something else happened.

I finally figured out the source of all of the traffic on that video.

A prominent white supremacist “news outlet” had created a video defending the video of the girls reacting poorly to black dolls, making a case that it’s natural for children to only be attracted to dolls of their own race. The video attempted to debunk the famous doll study from the 50’s with all manner of pseudofacts, even suggesting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a puppet of the Communist party. After a tangent on the history of civil rights and the dangerous “Marxist” ideals of desegregation, we’re treated to about 5 minutes of irrelevant footage of white rappers that is, apparently, supposed to horrify us into realizing the ills of race-mixing. And then the video turned it’s attention on me . . . stealing footage from my own youtube channel, my blog, my TEDx talk, and the interview I did with Yahoo news. I was portrayed as a “nauseating” woman who hated her own race and who was training her daughters to be ashamed to be white. Which, listen. I do promote diversity. But I can also appreciate a good English scone, and I’ve never met a kale salad I didn’t like, which is about the Whitest thing anyone could ever eat. It’s possible to value diversity and enjoy your own heritage at the same time.

When I saw that this white supremacist organization had used images of my kids, without my permission, in a propaganda video for segregation, I was livid. So I took to twitter, asking both the organization and the “reporter” in the video, a woman by the name of Lana Lokteff, to remove the video. Until then, the harassment from racists had been contained to youtube, but me calling out these sacred cows of white supremacy on twitter created a firestorm. The racists circled their wagons on 4chan and other online white supremacy forums and came after me.

For several days, I fielded comments coming so fast that my twitter feed looked like the NYSE ticker. The comments all had a general, not-very-creative theme:
  1. I’m disgusting
  2. I’m teaching my white kids to hate themselves
  3. I’m probably Jewish
  4. I’m probably cheating on my husband with a black man
  5. My black children will sexually assault their siblings
That last one was the worst to stomach, but after the shock wore off, the absurdity of it sank in. These men (they are predominantly men) are totally obsessed with the sexual virility of black men. It’s fetish-level obsession. They just cannot stop thinking about black men, sexually. And yeah, it’s racist as hell. But it’s also all kinds of Freudian weird. They are seriously, seriously threatened by the idea that black men are getting more action than they are.

When I was a therapist, I saw a few clients who dealt with psychotic breaks, and several of the men struggled with the compulsive fear that they might cut off their own penis. The paranoia around black men that these guys hold . . . feels about at that level.

However, as ridiculous and ignorant as these people are, they are one thing: committed. Granted, this is probably because they are living empty lives with nothing better to do:

Photo Feb 05, 12 49 26 AM

The harassment was coming in faster than I could report it, so I instead asked people to report the abuse that I retweeted. My friends rallied and a number of the worst offenders had their accounts suspended. I’m sure this post will bring a fresh wave, and I will continue to do the same.

Honestly, I am less bothered by the minions in this whole operation than I am with the leaders. By and large, the people harassing me on twitter seem like uneducated idiots. Most of them are anonymous and have under 50 followers. They are spewing talking points (which they can handily read through on their forums.) They are one-dimensional and their criticism is irrational and repetitive. Dealing with the on twitter is like swatting at flies. Oh, a picture of my black child with fried chicken superimposed on it? How original. Block and report.

But the leaders of this movement? They scare me. Case in point . . . Lana Lokteff, the shrill and smug host of the internet show that stole my content. She’s quite savvy at spinning a narrative to incite fear. She mocks the idea of systemic racism, pointedly mentions anyone who is Jewish, and refers to scientists who attempted to prove that race is merely a social construct as “bullshitters.” She suggests that the ideals of the civil rights movement were Marxist. And her twitter feed is a curated list of crimes committed by people of color – as if rounding up bad things that only people of color do is solid proof of her premise instead of a bad example of confirmation bias. But her minions buy it. (And probably don’t understand the concept of confirmation bias to begin with.) She presents her videos with a mix of history, politics, and science, relevance-be-damned, and speaks in a quick tone like she’s trying to imitate an episode of Crash Course in History. However, her “data” is full of holes. She presents something true and then projects people’s fears into an outlandish outcome. For example, she plays on the idea that eventually scientists will implant a chip into our baby’s brains to cure them of racism. Lana’s currency is fear and xenophobia, and her customers are people who aren’t smart enough to smell the bullshit.

Now, because I’m guessing the trolls will find their way over here, I’m going to address Lana’s minions who keep asking me why I won’t engage Lana in a debate on twitter. Let me try to break it down for you. A straw man argument is a logical fallacy in which one person introduces an idea into a debate that their opponent never even presented. For example, Lana has suggested that I don’t allow my girls to like white dolls. This isn’t true. I never said that. But it gets people riled up. Lana’s recent video about dolls was chock full of straw man arguments.So were ALL of her tweets to me. In fact, it is her main persuasion technique. If you can’t see that, you need to work on your critical thinking skills. But the reason I won’t be debating Lana is because I don’t engage in debates with people who rely on straw man arguments because it’s a waste of time. And an insult to my intelligence. And also because I have a very full life outside of the internet. You should try it!

I know the other question I will get: will this make me stop posting on the internet? No, it won’t. As I mentioned before, this is swatting at flies. I’ve got some plans in place to deal with a few of the offenders (remember, the internet is never as anonymous as you think), but I also think that this kind of harassment is always a possibility for people with a public platform. (Now that doesn’t mean that they deserve it . . . that’s victim blaming. But I’ve always been keenly aware that public criticism is a part of this gig.) I’ve always viewed my blog as a space to promote social justice and racial reconciliation, and this is not going to stop me.

At the end of the day, as my anger about the whole thing recedes, I really actually feel sad for these people. Sad for their miserable little lives in which trolling people with hate is fun. Sad for how sheltered they are. Sad that their world is so small. How pathetic it must be for them to spend their life avoiding things that involve non-European cultures. The experiences they will never have. The places they will never go. The people they will never meet. The food they’ll never eat.

As for me, I’m gonna put some Earth Wind and Fire on the stereo, pour myself a glass of French wine, fry up some Cuban-style tostones and Italian sausages and open a can of Indian chutney to dip them in, and I thank the Lord above that I’ve evolved way beyond the limiting mind of a white supremacist.



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Winter: the season of phlegm and darkness

This post is sponsored by ZicamTotal Immune

Warning: California resident about to whine about winter.  Temper resentment accordingly.

I hate winter.

I HATE IT.

I’ve never liked it.  I spent most of my childhood in Central Florida, where the winter was a time when you wore a cardigan over your tank top.  When I was 18, I decided I wanted to college somewhere where I could “experience the seasons”.  But really, I did this with all the anthropological curiosity of someone going to live with an ancient tribe in the Peruvian rainforest.  I knew it wouldn’t be a lifelong gig.  I just wanted to see what the whole thing was about.

Fast forward to the first snow of my freshman year.  I fell down the stairs of my school library after slipping on a patch of ice, injuring my elbow (and my pride) in front of half the student body.  This would be one of many ice-related incidents during those gray days of college.  I also distinctly remember waking up to the sound of people scraping snow off their windshield in the dark, realizing that I would have to do the same if I wanted to leave the campus/function as an adult.  I remember my growing resolve on those mornings:



I will NEVER AGAIN live somewhere where I have to scrape my car windows in the morning.
So I can’t really complain that I’ve landed in Southern California.  Except, I am going to complain.  Isn’t that endearing of me?  I still hate winter . . . even though I live somewhere where “coat checks” and snow plows are things my kids have never heard of.  I still abhor November through March.

First of all, the time change.  I’ve never liked the winter time change and if it didn’t seem completely petty and self-serving, I’d go lobby congress about it because SERIOUSLY?  The vast majority of us don’t really need sunlight creeping in our window at 6am.  We need it at 6pm when we are driving home from a dreary day at work.  But with kids, the time change is an especially unfortunate season.  My typical summer evening involves sending the children outside from dinner until bedtime.  Now, every night Mark and I look at each other after dinner with a wordless question: what the hell do we do with them for the next two hours?  The kids are stir crazy and bouncing off the walls in the evening when it’s too cold and dark to play outside, and I have gotten to the point where I would like to build an isolation chamber that I can live in during the evenings, where I can see the children and smile at them, but no have to hear them.

And to top it all off, it's cold and flu season.

With four kids, it seems like our family is passing something around every other week. And because I have major allergies, a simple cold can often turn into a sinus infection. I have been plagued with allergies my whole life, but up until about two years ago, I thought I was just someone who had a perpetual sinus infection during flu season.  I should clarify . . . I did have a perpetual sinus infection during flu season.  I just didn’t realize it, and thought I was just having a cold that lasted the whole winter.  A couple times a year I would have to go in and get a round of antibiotics to knock it out, and my doctor would remind me about my asthma and allergies and ask if I was taking any supplements. . . and I would be all, “oh yeah . . . that.”

This year, I've tried to be more proactive about keeping myself on supplements. We recently started using Zicam's Total Immune + Digestive Health Berry Crystals. These are really easy to stay compliant with. They come in a pack like a pixie stick, and they taste great. Zicam® Total Immune + Digestive Health Berry Crystals have pro-biotics with live active cultures that are important for digestive health, but more than that, keeping the gut healthy provides better over-all immunity. I'm taking mine every day, and it's such an easy way to keep my immunity up.

So for the time being, we are trying to stay sane, and keep healthy, and looking forward to spring, when it’s light past 6pm and the kids can play outside to their hearts’ content.



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Wednesday's Child: Christian

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.





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