LIFE. IS. HARD.



I have offered to do the weekly inspiration for our Monday morning meeting for work.  Why in the world did I offer to do this?  It is Sunday night at 10:30 and I have changed my idea at least 5 times and am not sure I am wanting to be so vulnerable.  But, you know me.  I always take truth and vulnerability over the easy way out.  I shared this today with 150+ of my co-workers, through a shaky voice and tears. But I kept going, even when I wanted to stop.

Many let me know how deeply meaningful these words were for them and/or how desperately they needed to hear words like this today.  I am sure many of you might feel the same so I am sharing it, hoping that more who need some words like this right now, might also find comfort. 


Monday - April 27, 2020


An inspiration written on day 43 of isolation at home.  What in the world could I talk about that would be inspiring.   Even in the best of times, life is challenging. But, I am just going to come out and say it - I believe that it is the CHALLENGING stuff that shapes us, either in a good way or in a not so good way. Think about your life for a second.  Has it been smooth sailing, or a roller coaster, a day lounging on the beach or more like trying to escape a riptide? I bet that for every single one of us, life has been amazing and then awful….then you have the best year of your life until life seems just boring and mundane, and then you get caught off guard because out of left field comes another experience where you feel like you are being buried alive, followed once again by pure, unabashed joy.

THIS. IS. LIFE.  


I STRONGLY encourage you to think about one of those moments when you felt buried alive. I bet it didnt take long for you to think of one.   These moments are embedded in our cells and have created the person who we are.  I bet you felt like you would never, ever smile or laugh again.  I bet that while you were down, life kept kicking you in the stomach and in the head.  Right? And I bet there are two groups we could break into.  Those of us who found the good in that horrible situation and have grown because of it and those of us who added it to a long list of events that have prevented us from living the life we really truly want to be living.  I used to be in that 2nd group, wondering why so many bad things happened to me.  But, I want to make a case for the FREEDOM that can be found if you can shift the stories you tell yourself about your suffering.  


These moments of despair, they will either make you, or they will break you, and it is our choice - we decide. Now, some of you may not like that.  You may say that you have suffered too much, too many times,  to ever be able to recover.  I would like to lovingly and kindly tell you that I disagree. Maybe that will make you mad, or change your opinion of me.  But that is ok, because we are all on our own path and no one can choose your path for you, certainly not me. 


But, I want to believe that even now, even if you are 40 or 50 or 60 years old, you can change the way you think about the stories of your life.  You can teach yourself to find a gem of good even in the deepest, darkest places in your life.  My experience is that you only have to change one story and it can become the gateway to having the ability to change them all.  It took close to 10 years for me to see the good in my story, but once I found it, I was changed as a person.  I realized that if I could find the good in the worst suffering I had ever been through, I could find the good in anything that happened or would ever happen to me. 


Shane and I had been married for 2 years, I was 10 weeks pregnant and it was almost time for our 1st doctor's appointment.  We had to wait until we hit 10 weeks, the point past when doctors are concerned about miscarriage.  We were giddy with excitement and couldnt wait to hear the heartbeat.  I am sure you know where this is going.  The Dr. could not find a heartbeat and through ultrasound found that the amniotic sac was fully developed, but the baby had died. Most likely I would miscarry in the next few days so she just sent me home. 


I endured 3 more weeks of morning sickness, exhaustion and a growing belly waiting for my body to naturally end this doomed pregnancy. When it didnt happen I started to convince myself that maybe I had defied all odds and the baby was growing and healthy. A full 6 weeks after that horrible doctor appointment, I still had not miscarried and so we went for another ultrasound.  Even though the odds were tiny, I imagined we might see our baby inside healthy and strong. 


I was wrong. The amniotic sac was healthy and fully developed for 16 weeks - exactly on schedule - but there was no healthy baby.  My body had let me down in the worst way possible, continuing to nourish a baby that did not exist. 


I cried until I couldn't breathe....for weeks.


How would I ever trust my own body again?   The whole experience and aftermath left me battered and bruised and a shell of who I was before.   I was barely living.  Even when I got pregnant with Alli 18 months later, I had a hard time letting myself get excited.  A second miscarriage after Alli threw me deeper into a mistrust of my own body.  How could I keep doing this to myself?  Well, because life goes on and we wanted another baby. 


Luckily my 4th and last pregnancy was Jill, our now 12 year old.  I was so relieved I would never again be pregnant.  I still had deep mistrust of my own body and I still got sad over the babies I had lost.  I still used the story to justify feeling melancholy about what I had suffered in life, even with these two beautiful babies we now had.  


Then,  when Alli was 6,  I found a journal entry from my first pregnancy - from 8 years before - the one that had hurt me so deeply.  I was shocked at what I had written.  


I was not ready to lose myself to motherhood.  I didnt want to give up who I was.  Maybe Shane could stay home with the baby or maybe we could just find a good daycare.  I would not be one of those women who was “just” a mom.  I had already planned that I would go right back to work after our baby was born.  I had important goals in my life, I had things to accomplish. 


As I read this, I was crying because Alli was supposed to start first grade in the fall and I couldn't bear the thought of her being gone for half of the day.  I was “just” a mom and I was the most fulfilled I had ever been.  I had quit my job to stay home, I planned to homeschool as long as possible. I wanted as much time as possible with them in the short 18 years they would be mine.  I am a mom, that is a big part of my identity and I love that part of who I am.  But, during that 1st pregnancy, I had no intention of becoming the mother I am today. I had become exactly the person I had feared becoming and I would not change a thing.


Might I have become this person without the suffering and trauma I experienced in that first pregnancy?  I dont think so.  That loss hit me somewhere so deep, that it changed who I was forever.   This story has a different meaning for me now and that means that my life has a different meaning.   This story shifting in my mind,  allowed me to start to think about other things that had happened TO me and find a new way to think about those stories, too. 


I was never the same after finding that journal entry.  I realized that if something good had come from that deep, dark and painful experience that I could find the positive in any hardship I had been through or would go through for the rest of my life. 


So, back to today and the COVID situation we now find ourselves in.   I know that what we are living through right now is crazy and scary and very uncertain, but it is still life.  Life is still going on while you are trying to figure out what the future holds when this is over.  Life is hard.  Life is awful, and then it gets better again. And then it gets hard again.  Today, trapped in your house, your life is happening. 


There is no pause button and the stories you tell yourself about what is happening to you right now becomes the reality of your life next week, next month, next year.  


There is great suffering in our world, I would never claim that these are joyous times. But you will break your spirit if you are focusing solely on what is going WRONG right now.  


Take some time to find the gems that are happening today.  They are there. We have a poster on our front door where our family is adding the good we are finding in our days.  I won't lie, it is still only a handful of things, but the important thing is that we are looking for them and acknowledging them and we are continuing to add to that list.  I give thanks that we have a handful of good to cling to right now, some do not.  

What is the story that you will tell when this is over? 

You are writing that story, as we speak. 

UPDATED - This is not HOMESCHOOLING

Day 18 (notice the calendar in the background) Shane and I working on a Monday morning.  This isnt easy even for those of us who are USED to this.
UPDATED:

As we head into a new week of "stay at home" orders it is important to remind each other that it is ok to not be handling this well. It is ok to feel stressed out and overwhelmed and sad and worried and angry. It is ok to stay in your pajamas all day. It is ok to cry and be short tempered and wish you could just have 15 minutes alone. We all need to have an abundance of grace for ourselves and everyone else right now because


everyone deals with fear/ anger/sadness/anxiety differently.


I wanted to update this posts with some realities from my world. I feel like I am a good person to share my thoughts because I have A LOT of experience with both working full time from home AND with homeschooling our kids. Shane and I are not super social, my kids are not social, we were never big shoppers, we rarely went out to eat - our daily lives have changed VERY LITTLE, so you would think that our family would be handling this just fine.

However, I AM STRUGGLING to stay focused - both with my WORK and with HOMESCHOOLING our girls.

The girls are super clingy, they are less willing to do school, and they are spending WAY more time on screens (boy do they love that!). They also get in huge fights with each other over who knows what! There are times in the day where all that is happening is Alli, Jill and Chaco are running WILD through the house chasing each other, screaming (barking), and leaving our house looking like a tornado hit. It is LOUD around here.

This extra noise is complicating the fact that my brain is not functioning properly! I struggle to think of words, my typing skills have PLUMMETED, and I just feel like my brain is in a fog the majority of the time. Things that I could easily do in February - read, do brain puzzles, answer emails, know what day of the week it is - take so much more energy now.

I have to keep reminding myself that it is OK to feel this way, we are in the middle of a CRISIS. It is ok to let the kids' school look different right now. It is ok to shut my laptop and not answer emails because I can't think straight. It is ok to do a jigsaw puzzle or yoga or read a book in the middle of the work day because I need to clear my mind.

I am reminding myself and my family - as often as I can - that this is just a blip of time, even though it feels like it is never going to end. We are resilient....we will get through this.

ORIGINAL POST:
The girls spend lots of time chatting and swinging together. This is day 16 of being isolated at home

Apparently I only create a new post when there is a crisis.  My last post was about supporting the 20 families we knew who had been affected by the CampFire.   It is hard to believe that was only 2018. What a rough few years this has been. I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on this “homeschooling” and trapped at home reality we are in right now. Those of you who know me, know that I am SUPER wordy! I tried to be brief, but it is just not possible! I apologize ahead of time for my inability to keep things short!

(Background on our family for those of you who might not know us - I taught high school math for 6 years before having Alli (now 15 years old).  I have homeschooled our children for 9 years - their entire academic lives - they are currently in 6th and 8th grade. For the last 4 years I have been employed by a homeschool charter in California. I work as a teacher and as a local coordinator for Butte County.  Shane was a high school science teacher for 13 years before quitting his job to work along with me for the last 3 years.)  


With schools closed all across the nation, I feel like people are using the term "homeschooling" very loosely.   What is happening right now, in the majority of homes, is not homeschooling. Families are in the midst of a national crisis and their children are forced to be at home. Families who CHOSE to homeschool prior to this crisis are at a major advantage over those of you who are suddenly finding yourselves forced into this.  For those of you getting work sent home from teachers who are telling you to get X, Y and Z done by this deadline, YOU have literally been thrown into the ocean with a bag of rocks and been told "GOOD LUCK!" (at least that is my interpretation of what families are going through right now!). 

Currently, I see overwhelming amounts of “free” educational websites and the worksheet/curriculum links and online classes, etc... being shared all over the internet and I feel like I felt 9 years ago when I started on this journey of taking on my kids' education.


 It was/is/still can be SUPER overwhelming.


I will be 100% honest with you, I spent the early years as a homeschooling mom, crying A LOT!  Alli really struggled to learn anything and I was homeschooling her so that I could tailor her education to her strengths, and it was REALLY, REALLY challenging.  I wanted to give up all the time. I was overwhelmed all the time. And that was with being able to go outside, go on field trips, go to the library, etc.....we were not trapped at home!



But I had made a CHOICE to homeschool.



I really, really sympathize with those of you who did NOT choose this and do not want to be in this situation right now.   I am a helper by nature, and so I am struggling with the fact that I dont know how to help people right now. Yes, I am staying home. Yes, I am checking in with my co-workers, families on my roster and others. But, it still doesn’t feel like enough to me.  I want to do more. 



So, I would like to do my best to calm down those of you feeling overwhelmed about "homeschooling” and the reality of being trapped at home right now.  I am also acknowledging that our family is quite unique so these recommendations may not even be the issues that your family is feeling overwhelmed about. I only feel it is fair to share advice in areas that I feel knowledgeable in - homeschooling, protecting relationships and keeping my kids off screens as much as possible are my top priorities right now.


  1. The number one important thing right now (and always, really) is your relationship with your children.  Read together, play games, do puzzles, watch funny shows, find amazing documentaries to watch, have flexibility in what your days look like, let your children lead.  BUILD MEMORIES TOGETHER SO THAT WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE GROWN AND TALK ABOUT THIS TIME OF CRISIS THEY REMEMBER YOUR LOVE, YOUR SMILE, YOUR PRESENCE. 

  1. Regarding school work  --  REALLY listen to your children right now.  Are you trying to finish the “packet” sent home by the teacher so you and the kids are in tears and screaming at each other every day?  Just stop. You are the one on the front lines of this and you need to do what is best for your family right now. If your child is willing to do a little, then do a little and leave it at that.  One year from now it is not going to matter if they finished that worksheet. Let them build legos, create funny movies together, play board games and create couch forts. Encourage them in having the freedom to create wonderful memories of their time home with their family. Children are incredibly resilient. You will be amazed at the things they will learn all by themselves when they are given freedom to explore topics that are interesting to them.  Also:


    1. Try to not get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there.  You will never find all the amazing things that are available and “educational”, it is endless. I recommend that you pick one or two websites you love and stick to them.  For that reason I am not even going to suggest my favorites here….I do not want to add to the feelings of overwhelm.

    1. I have had some trauma/crisis in my life. 
      1.  There was the 3 months that I stopped all school because we were busy “fixing” Alli’s eyes using Vision Therapy.  (2012)
      2. There was the 6 months I stopped doing all school because Jill was suffering from MASSIVE anxiety and was screaming and throwing tantrums for hours every day and up crying off and on all night long. (2015)
      3. There was the 3 months I suffered from a 10mm herniated disc and unable to walk/eat/sleep or do anything more than cry….. (ALSO 2015!!)
      4. There was the 6 months during/after the Campfire when our family’s life was upended and schooling was quite creative around here!!! (2018-2019)


This accounts for 18 MONTHS of reduced “learning” time in my kids’ lives


AND GUESS WHAT


after all of these events were mostly resolved, both of our kids continued to improve in their academics.   I will be honest, I have never cared much about how “at grade level” they were but I always cared that over time they were continuing to learn.  Currently in 6th and 8th grades, they are both right where they need to be for reading and their math skills continue to improve. (HA!!!  As a math teacher it cracks me up how neither of my kids inherited my math brain, oh well!!) 


  1. Regarding screen time --  
    1. We do not have a TV and our family has always had incredibly limited screen time.  Prior to this crisis, our kids had 2 hours a WEEK of screen time. That has changed since Shane saw what was coming in the beginning of March and so the 3 of them got Nintendo Lites!  They are playing Zelda together for 45 minutes at a time, 3 different times during the day. Nintendo has an amazing app that allows for Parental Controls. I have it set up so that after 2.5 hours their Nintendo’s shut off until the next day.  There is no arguing about more time, they literally shut off!  
    2. This same ability is available through GOOGLE FAMILY for phones, chromebooks, and other devices.  We have their phones set to 1 hour of screen time (I know, we are SUPER MEAN!!) and they can choose how to spend that time.  The app allows for you to disable certain apps so our kids have no google, facebook, you tube, etc….on their phones. One drawback is that after a child is 13, you lose parental control - this is INSANE to me. I got around that rule by having their birthday fall 5 years after they were actually born. That way I will have parental controls until they are 18. I can slowly loosen the reins as they get closer to 18.  (I know I am SUPER MEAN, I have been told.)
    3. Chromebooks through Google Family can have the same settings. You can limit the time spent on them and you can limit what your children can access.  So, my kids have 1 hour on their chromebooks and need to ask permission for any website they want to open. Once I approve it they can access it indefinitely, so their Mango Languages, typing programs, and Mystery Science (an educational website) are always accessible to them, but anything new they have to ask permission.



I hope that this information can help some of you to loosen the reins and make this time at home memorable for the good things you were able to do together as a family. My last parting advice is to please go easy on yourself. You can only do the best you are able to do at any given time - we all stumble. I am hoping that we can all work together to help each other continually get back up over the next few weeks which are probably going to be very, very rough. Be safe everyone.

Make 2019 The Year You Help 89 People





One month left on this project!! 

January I wanted to give $20 to each family and we raised enough to give $50.  For February donations increased enough to give $60 to each family.  For March, my new goal is $75 per family!  We only need $380 more to reach this goal!! 

We have donated over $11,000 to these families.  Thank you for helping us make this possible!  

Want to send a one time donation:
Venmo: @JENNYJ29 (Picture is of me and my dog, Chaco)
Paypal: shennyandjane@gmail.com

Keep reading below to find out about our project.  

HERE IS THE SURVEY TO SIGN UP TO HELP in February and/or March:
https://goo.gl/forms/j3idgCPUTEmDbYaN2

Shane and I know and work with each of these families. 5 of them are co-workers, all 19 families homeschool with us through Inspire, 8 of them lost jobs along with their homes, there are 52 children!!!  We see them, we hug them, we laugh with them and cry with them. I want to support them as long as they need, but I also want to take it one step at a time so 3 months gets us to Spring.  Then we will re-evaluate.

I know this is the season of giving and maybe you are all "gived" out, but I want to remind you that there are THOUSANDS of families could use your "giving spirit" long after the Christmas tree is thrown away, long after the presents are no longer being played with and long after your life has gone back to "normal".  I refuse to forget about the families who have had their entire communities burned to the ground.   However, there is just no way for Shane and I to help every single person affected by this horrific fire, so we want to do what we can to help the 89 beautiful people we are closest to.  We can only do so much alone.  So, as you are out buying the last of your gifts or treating yourself to a $5 starbucks latte, please consider helping Shane and I to help these 19 families.

Our goal is to give each family $50 a month - $950 each month.  This is hardly anything, but it might allow a family to go see a movie, or go out for dessert or buy a birthday present.  This is not fundraising to buy a family a house or a car, it is fundraising to get a little bit of "normal" back into their lives until they feel stable again. Shane and I will give $400, which leaves $550 we need to raise from family and friends - our family and friends, people who know these 19 families, ANYONE who wants to help. I want to start with just a 3 month commitment, as I dont want to scare people away with a long term commitment, but 3 months seems doable.  

Of course, if there are enough people and enough donations to reach $100 or MORE a family that would be AMAZING and that is my heart's goal, but again - baby steps - We are really just looking for another $550.  All this takes is 11 people to commit $50 a month!!!    

Want to help?  

 Keep reading

Cant help?

....keep reading and you might change your mind.  

( the math is simple....100 people giving just $1 a month gets us $100 - 50 people giving $5 a month gets us $250....it all adds up, one penny at a time!! )

Why are we doing this?  Because we can, because we care, because we know there are others who want to help also, but don't know how.  

If you are committed without hesitation then here is the plan.

1. You will fill out this survey - DONATE 2019
2.  I will email you the 1st of the month (starting in January) reminding you to send me your donation.
3.  The 15th of the month I will venmo or paypal each of the families WHATEVER amount we have raised divided by 19.  Maybe it will be $21 a month or maybe it will be $500....that will depend on how much support we get.
4. Repeat 2 more times.



If you are not sure because 1 - you have no idea who I am and think I might just run off with your donation and spend it on myself or 2 - you just want to donate one time, or 3 - cant afford to donate then keep reading.

If your issue is in trusting me, there is nothing I can do about that except to say that I am that person who goes back into the store to pay for something when I realize they didn't charge me for the 5 items in the bottom of my cart....I am that person who gives all of my money away because I don't need "things" and it makes me happy to give to others....I am that person who doesn't take the discount offered because someone else needs it more than I do. I would never EVER run off with even one cent that did not belong to me.  But, if you are still skeptical about sending me your donation then don't.  I would never force trust on anyone.

If you want to just send me a one time donation - GREAT!!!  Venmo @JENNYJ29 or Paypal - shennyandjane@gmail.com

If your issue is that you cant afford it then I have the following to offer:

Nothing creates fear in people like money.  Once upon a time, in my life, I feared money also.  We had lived on one income for our entire relationship.  We knew what it was like to count pennies, to not have enough money to buy gas to get to the end of the month....to eat the same dinner every night because there was no money to "splurge".  I sold my PLASMA in college to get gas money...did you even know that was a thing?  Well, I did!!  

If Shane went to the store and spent $20 that I hadn't budgeted, I would have to pull the money out from somewhere else.  We had NO EXTRA MONEY - NONE.  Even when Shane was teaching and we had small babies, we still got by on a VERY tight budget.  We lived for years this way, until 2016.  

I started the Course in Miracles - Abundance class with Robin Duncan.  She says that even if all you can give is $1, then give it.  You will get it back and more, when you dont cling so tightly to it.  I started to send $10 a month to random friends.  I noticed that we didnt miss it...so I went to $20 a month, then $50....pretty soon I was up to $200 a month that I was giving away when I had BARELY been able to find $20 for Shane to go to the store a few months prior.  The kicker is that we did get it back -TENFOLD - when I got my job with Inspire.  Not only do I have a job that I love more than I can express, but I get to still homeschool my children, be with my family all day and have even more money to gift to others.  Dreams come true!

One thing that I love about giving is that I NEVER, EVER regret it.  I NEVER miss the money and it
has NEVER made me poor to give.  In June 2017, we helped a friend go on a trip that cost $3000.  She was supposed to pay us back.  However, it became a very large burden for her, causing her stress and unreasonable grief.  Shane and I realized after 6 months that we really didn't need the money back, so we wrote her a very nice card stating that the money was a gift, given freely and with love.  Not 2 months went by and I received a promotion with a 35% raise and Shane got a 20% raise.  When you give freely and with nothing expected in return, you will receive.  And what I love about that is that we then have even MORE to gift to others.

I do not donate to big charities, I do not care that I cannot deduct my donations on my taxes.  What I care about is bringing a teeny tiny bit of peace and hope and love directly into the lives of people that I care about.  My hope is that it ripples out.  These friends then give to their friends, then they give and they give, etc... and etc....and 

so again....

If you are committed without hesitation then here is the plan.
1. You will fill out this survey - DONATE 2019
2.  I will email you the 1st of the month (starting in January) reminding you to send me your donation.
3.  The 15th of the month I will Venmo or Paypal each of the families WHATEVER amount we have raised divided by 19.  Maybe it will be $21 a month or maybe it will be $500....that will depend on how much support we get.
4. Repeat 2 times.

GUESS WHAT - KIDS LEARN AT THEIR OWN PACE!

Sept 16, 2018
ALLI'S READING LEVEL IS IN THE GREEN!!!!!

This post is long overdue and not gonna have pictures.  This post is straight to business. The business of being advocates for educating our children how WE want, not how SOCIETY thinks we should.  I feel that it is super important at the beginning of the school year to share with all you other  parents out there with children who do not learn AT THE PACE THAT SCHOOL and SOCIETY HAS DECIDED THEY SHOULD!  I wish 5 years ago I would have known what I know now.  Keep reading if you want to learn from my past fears about my childrens' learning pace.

This is also a post for anyone who thinks that parents of children who struggle are doing something "wrong" and if the parents/teacher would only PUSH the child more then they wouldn't be behind....be it friends, grandparents, neighbors or the clerk in the grocery store who REFUSES to not quiz your kid on how much change they should get back. (I could go on and on regarding how often my homeschooled children are quizzed by strangers....it is nauseating! Does this happen to kids in public school?)  Or those of you who think THIS method will finally work or THIS game will help them memorize their times tables or if we just do MORE and for LONGER that they will learn better, or if we get them a tutor (I could go on and on) I thought all of this too because I was too afraid to just let them BE and I felt that I must be doing something wrong since they struggled to learn at their "grade level"!

Shane and I are both credentialed school teachers. He has a degree in a Geology and a minor in Chemistry and taught 13 years at Oroville High.  I have a BA in Mathematics and a MA in Mathematics Education and taught 6 years at Las Plumas High.  Our children never attended "real" school.  They have been homeschooled for their academics.  The two children of highly educated and smart parents are BOTH been behind academically - and ALWAYS have been!!  Yes, part of that is because we do not spend 6 hours studying the state capitals and flash cards and all the repetitive worksheets that kids do in a classroom, but part of that is also because both of them just were not ready to learn the things that are at their grade level.

Who decided that all kids in 3rd grade SHOULD be able to memorize their multiplication facts.  Just because a kid is 8 does not mean that this is now a possibility. IT DEPENDS ON THE KID!!!  I want to emphasize this. It depends on the KID, not on how persistent the parent is or how much the grandparent really thinks that the child should know something or how the school thinks intervention will get this pounded into the kid's head. It SHOULD depend on where the child is successful move from there, not on grade level that is arbitrarily based on an age.  

I have 38 kids on my roster right now (at Inspire charter schools - LOVE THIS SCHOOL) and guess what. I have a 4th grader reading at a 7th grade level and ready for Algebra and a 5th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level and can barely subtract - and guess what,  they are both EXACTLY where they need to be.  Lucky for my 2nd grader, who will be celebrated for their growth over time....not continually made to felt inferior because they are not at "grade level"!  But I digress...

The story about Alli and her academic struggles is long and drawn out, but you can read about it here if you want. 



In a nutshell, at the age of 8 she only knew 2 words (out of 10) on a PRE-SCHOOL reading list and no matter how much I time we spent on reading..she did not learn any quicker.  We found Vision Therapy (VT), spent 6 months "fixing" her eyes and when she graduated from VT, she jumped to knowing all the words on the 2nd grade reading list and half the 3rd grade!!  That is an argument for the benefits of VT if needed.....but there is more to the story.  When the kid is ready it will be easy.  If you want a huge daily struggle on your hands then by all means continually push them to learn things they are not ready to learn!  I did for a long time because of the fear put in my at the school we were at back then.

She also struggled in math.  We would work on her basic facts but if we took the weekend off she would forget so much...so we worked non-stop, year round!  It was exhausting for both of us.  

When she was 11 I realized that I needed a change.  I needed to put our relationship in front of her academics and so I backed WAY off.  I left that awful school because I was tired of fighting with them to look at her GROWTH and not at her "lower than grade level" results.  I also left because they took away her dance and art classes because she needed to spend all her funding on TUTORING.  I went back to just reading to her, playing games for math and we did LOTS of arts and crafts again, like when they were little.

I then got my job with Inspire and that is when life got GREAT!!  Not only was I loving my job, but Alli's testing showed that she improved....I was blown away.  Both kids, by me backing off and allowing them some space to learn at their own pace had improved by more in the previous 6 months than they had in the previous year and a half!  

And FAR more important....all of our relationships were stronger.  It was amazing.  All of these things that I had been FORCING Alli to learn (how to tell time, how to count money, reading for fun) she was now doing on her own.  She wanted to know things things and so she learned on her own.  It was SO FAST once she wanted to learn it.

Fast forward to this summer.  Alli read FIVE books that were 500+ pages.  Jill would get so mad at her because all she wanted to do was read and Jill wanted a playmate!!  It was hard to pull Alli away from the books.  In July, Alli asked to start school again.  "Mom, can we please start doing school again, I feel like I am forgetting all the math I learned last year?" Ummmm...of course!!  

And guess what happened after all that reading!  Two things....First, when we did our beginning of the year testing at the beginning of this month, she tested in the green for the first time EVER in her LIFE!!!!  After all those years of struggling when I never thought she would ever test at grade level, she finally had!  It was a gift to my heart to see her glowing in her happiness.

Second, she is FLYING through her spelling book at a pace I have NEVER experience with her before.  She just KNOWS these words now.  It is such a beautiful thing to watch her FLOURISHING!!!

Third - is math...Yes, she is in 7th grade and testing at 4th grade level for math.  She does not know long division, she does not have her times table memorized, she takes a while even with some of her basic math facts, but she GETS it all. She understands what she is doing.  The program we use, Right Start Math, is FANTASTIC in that it teaches for UNDERSTANDING and long term mastery...not regurgitation and then move on.  There are things that she can do in the blink of an eye (which is larger 7/8 or 9/10 - a problem that my high school kids back at Las Plumas could never do!!) because she UNDERSTANDS them, not because I am going to test her on it...but because she genuinely enjoys what we are doing!  

What do I want to share by writing this post? Kids are going to learn what they are ready to learn.  Whether they are ahead or behind, is simply because that is where they are CAPABLE of achieving at this moment in time.  Life is a lot more pleasant when we teach them with topics WHERE THEY ARE instead of pushing them to learn things they SHOULD know (based on someone else's ideas).  I wish I had known this when Alli was 10 years old.  I would have saved myself from a lot of tears.  Meet them where they are at and they will SHINE!!!! 

12 Lessons in 12 Weeks – Summer 2018



There was a period of time in our life where we openly shared all the ins and outs of our family’s life.  All the fun stuff like the 7 weeks we spent biking over 1,000 miles through British Columbia and the San Juan Islands,  or the backpacking trip with 4 year old Jill or the crazy trip when we drove hours out of our way from Colorado to go to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico (The namesake of our Chaco).  Then there was all the “not fun” stuff like
Our Chaco
Alli’s struggles with reading and her vision therapy that followed, Jill’s onset of MASSIVE anxiety that caused our family to nearly fall apart. I have posted a few times in the past years - Once in 2016 and 3 times in 2017 and honestly, I miss writing!  I miss sharing what is going on with us. It is like my digital journal.  So...I am gonna make an effort to post more than 3 times a year.  I hope you will join us if you want to come along for the ride!
Chaco - he gets cozy even in the worst conditions

If the last 3 years have taught us anything, it is that life is a roller coaster.  It has been so interesting to be able to look back on our blog to read about all these ups and downs.  In the past 3 years I have gone back and forth on keeping up on the blog. I cared and then I don’t care….round and round.  


But I always come back to the fact that LESSON 1: I LOVE TO WRITE!!    I love to share the lessons we learn on these trips and there is always someone out there who benefits from what I share.  I feel it is important to share a “real” life, the good and the bad, the amazing and the painfully hard.  I figure that if I share it on our blog then people who care can read about what is going on with us and people who could care less – can pass right on by…

So, with all of that being said, I want to write about our summer.  Read on or just scroll through the pictures….I love to write so I write for myself.  If my stories interests you, then thanks for reading!

As is true with everything in my life, the lessons start right away!!  Our first trip was 1 week to Santa Barbara with my parents and my sister’s family.  A tradition we have been doing for 5 – 6 years, a trip to southern California beaches. 

Lesson 2: Don’t take family for granted. There is something to be said for traditions shared with family and I think I have been taking that for granted during the last 2 years I have been trying to balance homeschooling my kids while working full time and being a wife, friend, daughter, sister, and thinking it is my job to make everyone happy.  Forget about trying to find a few moments of time for myself in there somewhere.  The blinders I had put on regarding how out of balance my priorities had become would start to come off during this first beach trip with my parents and my sister’s family.  
Kern River outside Kernville

I could feel it in the back of my mind, but I continually chose to block those messages out in favor of keeping up with the responsibilities I THOUGHT were so important. Those priorities that were so out of balance, they were nagging at me, but I just keep pushing them away.  And I was balancing so many plates that it was pretty easy to ignore obnoxious thoughts of figuring out a better balance in my life.  

It would become UNDENIABLE in July, and I would feel like I was drowning in a sea of all my past mistakes, but the lessons I would learn would be VITAL to changing my priorities.  I knew there was a reason I read FIERCE CONVERSATIONS TWICE in June and July.



Back to the traditional Beach getaway.  I have a few pictures from this trip.  One is the classic kids enjoying “hotel TV”.  They don’t realize that people have this same TV in their houses since we have never had a TV.  They fed the giraffes at the SB Zoo.  

Lesson 3: Gratitude for having 2 incomes. In the past I NEVER would have paid $6/each for the kids to feed 3 pieces of romaine lettuce to the giraffes, but we have a bit more discretionary income so I can justify the “extravagance” of this in exchange for the joy on their faces.  

The rest of the trip was all about food and beach time!  Santa Barbara is a great place to go for these two things.  I didn’t think it was possible to get sick of ice cream, but after McConnell’s the first night and then Pink Berry the next afternoon and McConnell’s AGAIN that night…I could not stomach any more ice cream!  However, New Earth carries their double peanut butter…it is worth the $8 a pint, although I really wish they would carry the espresso chip, it was AMAZING!!

Shane and I were still working (Inspire Charter School – YAY!!!!) so it was nice to be somewhere that we had signal and could still do our work even while sitting on the sandy shores of the Pacific or by the hotel pool or at the Santa Barbara Zoo!  The perks of having a job that can be done from a Smart Phone.



The next 2 weeks were in the Eastern Sierras. There are so many wonderful places to go in the Sierras that we can go there every summer for weeks and weeks on end and never run out of places to explore.  This year we spent a week in Onion Valley and a week in Palisades Glacier.  Onion Valley was a GREAT place to set up camp for a week because there was cell signal and the truck could still get Wi-Fi, this allowed us to be in the mountains, but keep up with work requirements. 

Lesson 4: Getting away from EVERYTHING in your life will ALWAYS bring clarity to those questions that are nagging at you!!  

Palisades Glacier was in July and so we were both on vacation!!  Out into the woods we went and without cell or Wi-Fi (our truck has Wi-Fi through AT&T), or any other responsibilities it was the first we were able to really just check out and enjoy each other and the kids and being away.  

My eyes started to open wider to the fact that I had WAY too many responsibilities and I had some fierce conversations with myself and Shane.  I promised that I would figure out some ways to balance these aspects of my life that felt out of whack.  Working at night and on the weekends, having a lot of time commitments outside of family time, always answering texts and phone calls, etc…. all these habits had to go….  But, where to start??  That is the hardest part, actually making REAL, MEANINGFUL and LASTING changes. 

Lesson 5: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans….Mid-July brought us back to Chico, which is NEVER good! We miss the coolness of the Sierras (30- 40’s at night), the elevation of the mountains,  the joys of being away from everything that feels like a WANT TO and back into the world of heat, heat HEAT and HAVE TO’s.  We were home to participate in some classes and
My office in Onion Valley
workshops, but as life would have it, LIFE HAPPENED and we ended up taking a 180 degree turn. Sometimes life throws you those curve balls and you feel like you are under a wave with no clue as to which direction is up.  This was one of those times for me, and while it took me a little bit….I found the lessons and used it to improve my life. 



This is where I feel that I shine.  Instead of staying in a place of feeling beat down, hurt and disappointed in what was going on, I found the lessons in the situation – and the lessons were overflowing with gifts that I had been blind to just one month prior.  There was no denying that now my eyes were WIDE OPEN to the changes I needed to make. 

It wasn’t going to be easy, to change some DEEP, DEEP characteristics about myself, but I was willing to look at myself and make some changes that needed to be made. 

I work A LOT when I find something that means a lot to me!!!  I have always been this way. When I do something I do it at 200%. There is no 150% or 110% for me.  It is 200%, and I put my heart and soul into whatever it is I am doing, and I LOVE IT!  Yes, this is a downfall of mine. It benefits whoever I am doing things for, but it doesn’t benefit me or the most important people in my life.


This was the #1 reason that I resigned from teaching when I was pregnant with Alli.  I knew that I could not be a good teacher and a good mom.  I would EXCEL at one of them and SUCK at the other, so I gave up teaching to become a mom.  For 12 years I put 200% of myself into being a mom and wife, and never regretted that decision.  My kids and Shane were the center of my universe and that was perfect!! 

Then the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.  I could work for a homeschool charter, get paid to share my 6 years of
Shane and Jill Backpacking in July
homeschooling knowledge with other homeschooling families and continue to homeschool our children.  I was told there would be 10 students, maybe 15!  That seemed totally doable for me.  Alli and Jill were 11 and 8 and I felt like I could balance these tasks better than I could have when the kids were younger, or when Jill was deep in her anxiety/sleep chaos - HELL.  Jill was still struggling with being away from me so this would allow me to work at her “enrichment classes,” so she could still participate in the classes she loved without causing major anxiety about her having to be away from me.  It was a WIN-WIN for all of us.

My 10 – 15 students grew to 20, then 25, then 40, then 45….and I LOVED IT!!  I loved my job. I loved the freedom I had and we had NEVER had 2 incomes so not having to count every penny was SO AMAZING!! 

I LOVED meeting with my families and helping
them navigate the sometimes choppy waters of homeschooling.  It felt like all those years of stress and crying and hard work I had put in to homeschooling our kids was actually serving a purpose.  I UNDERSTOOD what these families were going through and I could really help them!  And slowly, slowly….I was losing myself in my job.  There was no boundary between the two and so I just became my job.  But I loved it, so that was ok!

This is probably true for a lot of people who have a mostly virtual job.  You can’t go HOME, and check out of 
work because all of your work can be done on your Smart Phone which is always within arm’s reach.  


Where it used to be my children that were the only thing within arm’s reach at all times, now it was my laptop and my phone.  I was never “off” work.  But I LOVED my job so much that I made excuses for this.  I also had spent so many years being “just mom” that I am sure that some of this dedication to my job was because I finally felt important in a tangible way…not in a mom way (you know, in 10 years they will really appreciate me!)

Lesson 6: Lessons will continue to teach you when you are willing to continually learn.  The eye opening events that occurred for me in July had
Bear Lake in Utah - This place advertised "Most Famous Shakes"
We went next door to the place that advertised "Least Famous Shakes"
ripple effects that continued to teach me lessons during the trip we took in August.  This was not a planned trip, but it was one of the gifts that rose up from the lessons of July.  


It was so incredibly hot, then the Carr Fire in Redding along with numerous other fires, we just couldn’t take it (the heat, the smoke…) anymore.  We headed to Wyoming. 

We had already started back at work, so this was going to be a test of balancing work and travel.  Having WiFi in the truck really helps as this allows for me to work while Shane drives. Then, we find the GREATEST libraries to work in (shout out to Pinedale, Jackson Hole and Lander whose libraries were AMAZING! I wish Chico would put some money into our library!)  The kids can spend HOURS in libraries so we found that working on the road was super easy! 

This also tested a new boundary for me….no more working in the evenings!  I set this rule for myself when we were back in Chico.  I could answer emails for an hour in the evening OR I could sit on our porch swing with Shane and chat.  Those of you who remember the evenings when Jill just SCREAMED for hours every night (refer to 2015 – the year of HELL for our family!) will appreciate the fact that I am going to choose Shane over emails!! 

Let me tell you, I felt like a NEW PERSON!  I had found a way to turn off my working brain and just be ME!  It was so wonderful.  Those emails that come in at night are still gonna be there in the morning and I will answer them then.  What a GIFT it was for me to learn this.

Lesson 7 – Repeat Lesson 4: You really, really must GET AWAY from everything to clear out all the static in your head and find out what you really want - YOU, not other people!

Then we had our first weekend out in the Wind River Range.  SO BEAUTIFUL, and so out in the middle of nowhere that there was not cell service and the truck would not get WiFi.  We were completely unreachable and this is where the MAGIC happened.  Friday Evening to Monday Morning I was not there to answer emails, texts, facebook messages, etc….and guess what???  The world did not fall to pieces.  This was EARTH SHATTERING FOR ME!!!  

(Yes, I had 30 emails to answer, 15 FB messages, 20 FB notifications (from the Inspire group I monitor), 2 missed phone calls and 10 texts, but guess what….2 hours driving out to Lander and they were answered!  A new world just opened up to me that is for sure!  SIDE NOTE- My phone is now on SILENT at all times.  I cannot handle the constant dinging anymore. )

We had an amazing weekend.  CRAZY thunderstorms each day, Shane was hiking with Chaco for the largest one.  The same hike he spooked a Mama Moose and then the Moose trailed him just to be sure him and Chaco got VERY far away from baby!  At the same time, Jill and I had hiked along the south shore and found the sweetest little badger!  (You know badger are NOT nice, right?)  This one really liked us and just kept digging and walking around as we gave it enough space to feel safe. 

Later, when we had cell signal I looked up the spiritual meaning of these two animals that we ran into separately, but at the same time.  It made us smile and is right on, as the messages from nature are.

Lesson 8 and 9 from the animals:
Moose - Know and understand that you – and only you have the authority to make your own choices in life.
BADGER -   You must have faith in yourself and your abilities,  walk your path at your own pace.
From Green Rivers Lake we headed to Lander, Wyoming. This
place is serendipitous for us. Shane attended a conference there in May 2017  while he was still working for Oroville High.  He had already quit his job.  If you knew us back then, you remember that we had VERY LITTLE support when Shane quit his job.  Who gives up 13 years of tenured seniority in public school??? The high pay, the health insurance…for NOTHING!!  He just quit with no job in line, we were going to make it work on my income.   

People thought we were insane!   But we knew….that job was slowly killing him and money does not buy happiness.  We would go without so that he could get out of that awful job.  He spent his time in Lander planning on ways to maybe teach a class on the side to make a little money – or IDEALLY get a job with Inspire so we could work together.

Lesson 10: Quit a job that is killing you no matter WHAT people think!! So…here we were, one year later, back in Lander – Shane and I both employed full time with Inspire.   Shane quitting OHS was the BEST DECISION of our life!  Look at him – he GLOWS!!!

Shane went overnight in Lassen.  He hiked to the peak.

Lesson 11 – Never stop dreaming and believing that you can have everything that you want!!



We stayed for a few days with a family on my roster, so awesome, right?? (Selby honey production!!!  Best honey ever!!) The kids got to hang out with friends from back in Chico, we got to learn about
the ins and outs of honey making (FASCINATING!!) and hang out with some super cool people!!  Thanks, Chiaramontes!

From Lander we went to Yellowstone and met up with Shane’s parents.  We had a great time with them. 


Bruce drove while we looked for wildlife and walked the boardwalks of the Geyser Basins, and Mammoth Springs.  Believe me – I have NO DESIRE to hike in Bear, Moose, Wolf and Bison territory, they can have it all to themselves! 



                                                       Campfires (a treat…we
never have fires camping), GREAT FOOD, quality time with Grammy (you were so tolerable of the kids!!) .  Thanks Johnstons, we really appreciate these times that we get to spend together. 




We left Yellowstone on a Friday – Labor Day Weekend! We were able to go camping and be unreachable again….Palisades Creek in Idaho.  Family hike, 8 miles…that was a bit long, but it wasn’t an eastern sierra hike with crazy elevation gain so it was doable. Lazy days by some rivers and world famous SQUARE ice cream. 

We woke up today (Labor Day) and decided to drive home.  Yes, 13 hours – (15 hours with stopping) although we cross the time zone so at least we gain one hour back….but still that is a long drive.  We couldn’t stop in Winnemucca with only 6 hours of driving left.  We excel at this last day push home so we can sleep in our own beds! 

This summer really stretched my beliefs about many aspects of my life, but this is one of the lessons that I hold close to my heart.  No matter how long it took me to find a healthier balance in my life, my family didn’t hold it against me.  They just welcomed me back with open arms.  Thank you for the best lesson of all.

Lesson 12: I have the best family EVER.
Palisades Creek, Idaho. Kids playing Water Sprite Fairies...Still at 13 and 10 they have the best imaginations.