Preaching Against Prejudice

What are we teaching our children? Stop and think about this right now. What kind of little jokes have been told in the presence of your littles in the past week that, at their core, are prejudice? How many political speeches (can you say Donald Trump?) have had an underlying prejudice theme? How many television shows, websites, or comics have made some throw-off racist remark just to make people laugh? In the last week. In The Last Day.

There is nothing more abhorrent than prejudice. I have called it the Worst Human Flaw Ever, and I always will. It is the opposite of love. When you laugh at, belittle, or hate someone because they are different from you, you are killing love. Dead. Why would anyone want to do that?

I thought I was tired yesterday. Then I finally gave in and went to the store to get dish soap. Turned on NPR in the car, because that is what I do. Heard the news about the church shooting in Charleston. Wept. And wept. And wept. Racially motivated mass murder… WTF? How is it possible that this is still happening in the world? People from 26 different countries read this blog. They are not all like me. They do not all have the same color skin, the same sexual orientation, the same beliefs.  They are not even the same size.  I welcome their differences. I want to learn all about the Whole World, not just my little corner. I am honestly flummoxed that this kind of thing still happens. When we have more opportunity today to learn about and understand each other than at any other time in history, we should be learning about and understanding each other. We may end up not liking each other, but at least it will be based on something real.

When we talk to our littles about the Charleston AME Church shooting, it should not be our first conversation about racism.   It should be one in a long line of sermons against prejudice that we have given our children since birth.  Teaching our children tolerance should be one of the first and most important lessons we teach.  Let’s not get bogged down in the gun debate, that is the government’s job.  Let’s remember and teach against the true crime: hate.

“I’m here to shoot black people.”

Think about that.  Think about how horrific that sentence is.  Insert any other ethnicity.  And ask yourself why.  This monster was younger than Big.  He didn’t learn to hate ‘black people’ all by himself.  He is still a child.  He hasn’t had enough grown-up experience yet to make informed decisions.  His information still comes from his background.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming his parents.  I don’t know them.  In fact, I have read nothing about them.  I am merely trying to make the point that if we are not teaching tolerance in our home, refusing to give in to the pressure to find prejudice remarks funny, introducing our children to other cultures, and making sure they judge people on an individual basis, we are perpetuating the crime.

My beautiful husband wrapped his arms around me last night as I cried and admired my big heart.  There is nothing here to admire.  I simply don’t mind letting my Littles see how the tragedy of prejudice impacts me.  It tears me to my core.  The people who died in that church were husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.  According to their peers, they were all kind and giving.  They did nothing to deserve Dylan Roof’s hate.  From what I understand, he didn’t know a single one of them.  Each victim was a human being, just like me.  Just like you.  Just like your children.

Please.  Look at your children today and remind them that the world is very small now.  That they will meet white people, black people, Asian people, Latinos, Europeans, Russians, Australians, Africans.  Straight people, gay people, transgenders.  Thin people, fat people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Taoists, atheists, agnostics.  Tell your children that it’s okay to love all those people until unless they prove, individually, that they are unworthy of love.  Remind them that hate takes a lot of energy and that they shouldn’t waste that energy on people they’ve never met.  That even in countries where our soldiers are fighting for their lives, each of the humans involved is an individual who just wants to live.  They have the same hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, that we have.  They have the same right to life.

I read a quote last night from pop singer Solange Knowles (whom I happen to adore): “Where can we be black?”  In my house, Solange.  In your house, dear reader, too, I hope.

It has to start with us.  We have to teach our children how wrong prejudice is.  If we do that, we have a chance in this world.  As people.  To stop hate crimes.  To stop all the anger.  To let everyone live.

Let’s not let this turn into a gun control debate.  Because that much hate could have come out in any way.  Knives. Bombs.  House fires.  Stay focused, and teach your littles about hate control.  Because that is the bottom line.  We are a family of hunters. I spend many, many hours every November and December hunting meat to put on my family’s table. I am a full-on believer in our Second Amendment rights. I think it’s one of the things that keep our country strong. But we are only as strong as our weakest link. And our weakest link is prejudice. Hating each other. For no reason. Killing each other over our differences.

Our differences are what this country was built on. Differences populated this country. Differences make this country great. But we have to embrace them. We have to teach our littles to embrace them.  I implore you to talk to your children about it.  Every day.  Because change has to come, and it has to start with us.

Despite it all, I still believe, with all my heart and soul,

Love wins,

KT

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Love Wins

Somebody asked me over the weekend why I always sign my blog posts “Love wins.”  I thought it was pretty self-explanatory, but I guess it maybe isn’t.  It was not enough to explain to my friend that I wanted to end things, always, on a positive note.

“But what does it Mean?”

It means lots of things, and all of them are important.  Mostly, it is quite likely my biggest belief in life, quite possibly learned from my mother’s example of “Be sure your children know you love them and everything else will work out.”  Possibly it stems from my love of the common fairy tale, in which, every time, love wins.  Perhaps it is derived from my own life story, in which finding Martin and having a family with him has shown me the true power of love.

But what does that mean to me, love wins?  Some people believe good always wins.  Some people believe evil always wins.  Some people think there might be some kind of give and take, sometimes good triumphs and sometimes, unfortunately, it’s the other way around.  Some people believe it is light, or dark, or kindness, or cruelty that tends to win.  Even within different religions, these beliefs are held forth.  In my experience of watching the world–the universe–and how it works, I’ve come to a conclusion that I fully believe.  Love wins.  Every time.  Maybe not in the ways we hope it will, but it always wins.  It lifts us up, it makes us strive to be better, it softens blows, it carries us.  It generates kindness, compassion, empathy, understanding.  It is truly the most powerful force we have at our disposal.  There’s a reason the Bible tells us to love our neighbor and Confucius tells us, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”  When we love each other, we give everything we have to treating each other right.  We make sacrifices to see each other smile, however fleetingly.  What, I ask you, is more powerful than a smile?

High Quality Love Blank Meme Template

Well, love is. haha

“But what,” my friend asked, “does that have to do with homeschool?!”

Everything.

See, as I said in Friday’s post, none of the moms or dads I know who homeschool come at it from anywhere but a place of love.  I homeschool because my job on this planet–since I chose to have children–is to love them fiercely, raise them up to be productive, gentle, loving men, and make sure that while they are under my charge they are shown a world blown wide open with possibilities.  I don’t want them placed in a box where they have to live up to expectations or a reputation which might stymie their dreams and abilities.  When Martin and I decided to homeschool, we did so with all the love we carry in our souls.

When you, dear reader, decided to homeschool, you did so with all the love you carry in your soul.  So love won.  Again.  Always.  When I spend hours trying to winnow the complex history of China into a doable lesson that touches all the relevant points, I am loving my children so hard they ought to pass out from it. (haha)  When I, who am not a math genius, come up with games to help Littlest get his multiplication memorized in a way that is fun, love is Winning in this house.  When you are trying to decide which curriculum to use, how to afford a field trip that will cement a lesson, whether to join a co-op, you are showing your children that love wins for them because they are the most important thing in your world.

In so many ways, we homeschool parents ensure that love wins on a daily basis.  That is not to say that other parents don’t, because I know some awesome parents whose children attend public or private schools, but this post is about homeschooling.  We don’t get paid for this job.  We rarely even get Praised for this job.  We slog along, letting love lead us, Because We Love.  We are paying so far forward by doing this thing that our great-grandchildrens’ acquaintances might feel the ripples.  We are casting such love into the universe that it is expanding, in part, because of us.  Our children are expanding.  Because. Of. Us.

So again, what does “love wins” have to do with homeschool?

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Everything.

Love wins,

KT

Homeschool Roast

Here’s the thing.  Lately I’ve come across several articles and/or blog posts bashing homeschooling.  Not for the usual reasons, and not by the usual people.  No, these articles have been written by former homeschooled kids, some of them college grads, who had such miserable experiences with homeschooling that they are dead set on discouraging any- and everyone from attempting it.

My heart aches for these kids.  It bleeds tears.  I can’t help but think of Big’s Beautiful Girlfriend.  She was homeschooled, and I met her long before Big did, because she was a regular patron at my library.  She was one of my faves.  She would come in on Saturday and, as long as I wasn’t too busy,  we would talk about the whole world.  She was so bright, so capable of probing the depths of any conversation.  I loved her before she ever promised herself to my oldest son.

When she did meet and fall in love with Big, I had already moved from the library to the school and was contemplating homeschooling.  She was one of the examples I thought of when I wanted to remind myself what could come of homeschooling my kids.  But.

But.  Our talks at the library didn’t open a window into her life the way getting to know her as Big’s girlfriend did.  When they first started dating, they had to do it in secret.  Not from me, but from her parents, who would not have approved of how seldom Big went to church.  Big is an intelligent, responsible, hard-working, college-attending young man.  He doesn’t drink or smoke.  He might curse a little more than necessary (I don’t really know), but never around me or anyone else he might offend.  He keeps her on a reasonable pedestal and loves her with all he is.  There is little to disapprove in my son.  Except he isn’t particularly religious.  So she wouldn’t have been allowed to date him.

She also was discouraged from attending college, getting her own place, or having a life in general that didn’t revolve around homemaking, baby-making, being a submissive wife.  Her education was geared more towards those things and she taught herself everything else by being a voracious reader.  She used to be scared of math until I encouraged her to get her GED and she passed.  When she told her parents, at almost 20 years old, that she wanted her own life, they gave her 24 hours to get out.  She came here.  She and Big had been seeing each other for more than a year by then, and I was not about to let her live on the street.  She had a bit of savings but no car.  But that girl… She wasn’t on our couch a week and she had found and rented an apartment and gotten a job.  We loaned her a car.  She made it.  She got her GED because she wants to go to college and her parents didn’t supply her with a diploma.  She is a manager at her job now, making great money and planning greater things.

Still.  She had a pretty terrible homeschool experience.  Quite similar to some of these articles I’ve been reading.  But Beautiful Girlfriend, she didn’t turn against homeschooling in general.  She is even seriously considering homeschooling her own kids when she has them (and I hope they’re my grandbabies, but I hope she goes to college first because she wants to and she deserves to live the life that She wants).

So when I see these kids whose experiences must have been infinitely worse, even abusive, I don’t know what to say to them.  My initial reaction whenever someone bashes homeschooling is to defend it.  I know homeschooling isn’t done (at least not these days) by arrogant, prejudiced people who don’t–to paraphrase a couple of articles–want their kids around gays or blacks or whites or Latinos or atheists.  I know that All of the homeschoolers I know personally homeschool because they want their children to have Real Educations and Opportunities that have sort of petered out of the public school system in the last couple decades.  Whether they teach religion in their schools or not, they are not trying to indoctrinate their kids with hate and fear.  All of them, whether educated or not, are intelligent, creative and Involved in their children’s educations.

But these kids, they don’t want to hear that.  Anything I say to them is going to touch a place of hurt so deep they can no longer reason.  Especially if all I have is a small space in the comment section and they can’t see my face or hear my voice and know I am coming from a place of compassion.  So I am at a loss.  Even as their assumptions (which is what they are, based on their own experiences) anger me, my anger is smote by regret for their experiences and a true desire to just hug them, to just let them know they are valid people.  And to tell them that they must be strong indeed to come away from their environment with a voice and a strong enough will to write about it publicly.  And maybe ask them to hang out in the blogosphere with me and my community of homeschooling mamas and dads who are part of the New movement of homeschooling, who are truly doing this because our children are more important to us than our own limbs, and who are (hopefully) getting it right.  Put some light on homeschooling.  See it for what it has become.  And leave behind all those old ideas about social awkwardness, prejudice, and closet abuse.

Ugh.  How are we ever going to convince people we’re not doing those things when we have (apparently) a generation of 20-somethings out there writing about those very things happening to them?

The thing is, Beautiful Girlfriend’s parents haven’t spoken to her since she left their house.  It wrecks me.  Because if they could see the love and happiness inherent in her relationship with Big, if they could see what an amazing woman she is today, and how well she has done for herself, and all she has learned… I think they would be proud.  I know I am.  And I know she misses them every second of every day and would welcome them back into her life in a fraction of a heartbeat.

Maybe all these kids need is a mentor in their lives to let them know they are loved.  Just like any kid.  Because, by God,

Love wins,

KT

Bless the Mamas

It is a beautiful, warm summer morning.  The doves are cooing, the geese honking, the rooster crowing.  The locust trees are in full bloom, their purple scent wafting across the yard and fields and filling me up.  The mama rabbits are suckling their babies.  The mama dove sits placidly on her nest.  The mama goose leads her gosling around the pond.

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This mama is quietly pondering.  Her babies are still abed, dreaming of how to spend this summer day.  There will be plenty of laughter (there always is), a few squabbles (there always are), and movement, movement, movement.  But right now, before the sun fully tops the trees, they are quiet and still.  And I cannot stop thinking, with Mother’s Day coming up, about how blessed I am.

littles in hats

See, I get to watch these two amazing beings grow, hopefully into young men as wonderful as Big, who see the world through bright eyes, develop strong friendships, face their responsibilities, and love with abandon.  I have gotten to be with them since their very conception.  I knew their personalities before they were born.  I was the first voice they heard, and the first person to hear their voices.  I am the first person they come to in need, and the person who needs them more than anyone.

I love being a mother.  I love the responsibility of it, the joy of it, the lessons I have learned from raising children.  I love that I still get to see the world through a child’s eyes, and that I get to show the Littles the world through my eyes.  There is nothing like the moment when Middle comes to me out of the blue and says, “Mama, I’m going to hug you.”  At 12, he is bigger than me, so he has to warn me or he chances knocking me over.  Or in the late evening, when all the chores are done and we sit down as a family and Littlest curls upkota at IU beside me, his feet tucked under him, his legs curled up against mine.  He doesn’t make a thing of it; he’s 10 and so maybe should have outgrown the habit by now.  I marvel that he hasn’t, so I don’t make a thing of it, either.  I just savor.  I can’t get over the excitement of being their teacher, and how it is more fulfilling than any other job I’ve had.  Sometimes I wish it would never end.  I love that teaching is another role I get to play for them.  Big came to visit yesterday, and I got to enjoy the closeness he and I have always shared.  For the first 8 years of his life it was me and him against the world, and that bond is a very special one.  He still talks to me like I am his friend as well as his mama.  I still talk to him like he is my friend as well as my son.  But now I get to enjoy the man he has become, which adds a new richness to my love for him.

mom bday clothes

Thinking about the things I enjoy about motherhood makes me think of my own mama.  My mama is one amazing woman.  The biggest lesson she taught me was that the world may fall apart around you, but you will come out okay as long as your kids know you love them.  She was a single mama of three kids, and she worked hard to make sure we never realized how hard she had to work to keep us going.  I swear, I was 12 years old before I realized we were poor.  We were latch-key kids back when that was a thing, and it made the bond between my siblings and me strong enough that our friendships have withstood lots of hardships and disagreements.  But I remember when mama would come home from work.  She must have been exhausted but she didn’t even rest; she started dinner.  And when it was done we sat at the table together and ate and talked about our days.  She was genuinely interested in us, and we in her.  I never doubted that my mama loved me more than the moon and the stars, or that she would do anything within her power to make me happy.

I don’t doubt it now.  The most important thing to her, Ever, is that her kids know she loves them.  And we do, Mama.  We do.

So while I disagree with the whole Hallmark-ishness of it all, I’m glad there’s a day to celebrate motherhood.  I’m glad to get the chance to tell my mama why I love her and to be reminded by my own kids why they love me.  But mostly I’m glad for the chance to reflect on all the mamas I know, be they stay-at-homes, working mamas, or something in between (like my bff who rocks both motherhood and running her own business from home).  I’m grateful for the chance to acknowledge all the mamas everywhere who work hard every single day.

Just to make sure their kids know, without doubt, that they love them.

Because, after all,

Love wins,

KT

A Valentine for My Children

kota baby 2

First, there was Big.  He was mine alone for nine years.  He was so full of excitement and wonder about his world.  He crawled at 5 months.  He walked at 7 months, long before I thought it would be possible for his tiny legs to support him.  He was speaking full sentences long before he was two.  He took himself off the bottle, potty-trained himself.  His natural curiosity and desire to learn led him to do everything early.  He was my best friend.  My first marriage was not a happy one, and Big was my shining star.  Me and him against the world.  No one could crack our bond or even get inside the blanket-tent we built of our relationship.  He has had to overcome many things in his 21 years, and he has done so beautifully.  He is truly a young man to be proud of.  I have always considered it an exquisite stroke of luck that he was born to me, and I can’t take credit for who he is.  He was born that way, and he remains true to the promise that was him as an infant.  He amazes me every day.

caleb baby

Then came Middle.  He was a complete surprise.  Truth be told, Martin and I weren’t even married when we found out he was coming, but we had already formed a family of love, he and Big and I.  So Middle kind of just became an organic addition to our trio.  Carrying Middle was one of the fine joys of my life.  Holding him in my arms after nine years of thinking I would never have another child was a miracle.  He was wise from the start.  His mind always working.  When he was very young and his imagination took flight, he would go quite still and stare at a single spot until he had played the story out.  I watched in awe as he imagined what it might be like to be an earthworm while sitting on a swing perfectly still and staring at the ground.  As he grew, he showed a creativity and intelligence that continues to floor me.  My Angel-Faced Baby, I called him, and when I became pregnant with Littlest, I reminded him over and over that he always would be.  And he is.  Such an angel.  Such a blessing in my life.

Between Middle and Littlest, there was Davy.  David Arthur, who lived in my womb for only 8 weeks.  How devastated I was when he left me, how I struggled to understand what I had done wrong.  But I love him just as much as if he were running around this house with the others, distracting me and enlivening me and keeping me happily mom-crazy.  He is my true angel.  I love you, Davy.

jamie baby 2

And then Littlest.  My magical boy.  The one who, as an infant, would watch his dad and brothers wrestle and jerk his little body toward them even before he had any control at all over his arms and legs.  When he got big enough, he dove right in.  His joie de vivre keeps this house on its toes, but it also keeps it running.  He greets every day like it is both his first and his last, with a sense of adventure and excitement that never gets old.  He loves to laugh and to make others laugh.  I am often reminded of the Blake Shelton song that goes, “That one’s kind of crazy, that one is my baby.”  He is the bright energy in our lives, the light in the gloom.  My joyous Littlest, boy of my dreams.

all boys

My Littles.  My boys.  This day and every day, remember that there is nothing bigger in your mama’s heart than her love for you.  That it will always be here, no matter what path your lives take.  That you will always be welcome.  That no matter where you go, I will be with you, just as close as the  next breath of wind.  I hope it makes you stronger.  That knowing my love is here gives you wings to fly beyond me and be something so true your life stays lit up forever.  Just… always come home.  At least once in a while.  So I can bask in you again.

Love is all there is,

Mama

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