Why Deschooling Was Important For Our Homeschool

I was told by more than one homeschool expert we were supposed to “deschool” after starting our homeschool. To me, this concept was a little scary.
What exactly is deschooling, and what is the point?

What We Learned From Deschooling- Why Deschooling helped our homeschool

At first I found deschooling was a surprisingly difficult process. Everything I knew about education came from traditional schools; the idea that we weren’t supposed to be formally learning anything just felt… wrong. Even though I felt like the general idea of deschooling made sense, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to discover at the end of it… and perhaps more perplexing… how would we know when “deschooling” was over?

But I told myself to trust “the process” and from June to January, we embarked on what I called “The Longest Summer Ever“. We took trips, visited a few parks and museums, listened to audio books, gazed at stars, took long walks on the beach, and did a little soul searching until we came to a point where we got a little restless.

It was time.

Sometime in October, I really started to understand why deschooling was important.

I also understood why people had a hard time articulating exactly deschooling was so important.

Deschooling allowed me to take a step back and observe our new family dynamic, see they way they learned and what they were interested in.  It is only after school really, truly, isn’t a factor anymore that everyone settles into their more natural tendencies and the family dynamic starts to shift.  After deschooling for a few months, I could really step back and see how to fit a homeschool around my child, rather than a child around my homeschool.  I was pleased that some of my ideas about how I wanted our school to go were confirmed, but I was also a little bit surprised.

Here are deschooling taught us about what we need in our homeschool:

We need fresh air. 

Surprisingly, the boys don’t always agree with me on this, but getting outside has been essential to keeping the peace in the house. I can always tell if we haven’t had enough outdoor time when people get lazy and start bickering.  EVERYONE, even the reluctant ones, feel better once we’re out and about, and that feeling extends long after we get home.  Our homeschool must incorporate plenty of time outside and exploring.

Mornings set the tone.

After trying a few different ways of doing mornings, I realized it was the morning that set the tone for the day. We’re a group that loves to sleep in and stay in our pjs so the temptation is to start late. But I found that if we aren’t up, dressed and fed by at least 9 we never seem to get our day back.

We need a schedule.

I am not a person who naturally falls into a schedule on my own and neither are the kids, so we need to make a conscious effort to implement one.  Nothing strict, but having some kind of schedule adds predictability to our day, which keeps everyone happier.

STEM is everywhere; the humanities resources are harder to find.

There are thousands of resources out there: local events, books, games, toys, and programs, but the humanities are not nearly as emphasized.  I get why STEM is so important, but the humanities are as well. With STEM enrichment resources being so plentiful, we’ll be working extra hard to balance them out with heavy doses of art, history and English.

Unschooling is not for (all of) us.

When I decided to homeschool, I promised myself to be flexible… after all, that’s one of the huge advantages to homeschooling in the first place.  I promised that if something didn’t work, I’d do my best to recognize that and throw it out.

The homeschool I envisioned was more child-led. I wanted the kids to take ownership of their education and run with it. I would be involved of course, but more in the role of supporter than teacher. Finally, my oldest son came up to me and said, “I need you to just tell me what to learn and I’ll learn it.”  Oops.

After I thought about it, I understood why.
Sometimes, when I find myself with a few hours alone, I am absolutely frozen with indecision on what to do, often I waste the time simply because I can’t choose between all the possibilities. The kids felt the same way.  There’s a whole wide world out there with a lot to learn; there are hundreds and thousands of things to discover and it caused the kids to feel like a deer in headlights.

While I still love the idea of a child-led education, we’ve moved to much more of a parent-led education than I expected.  I call it “teacher-led, child-influenced.”

 

Of course, we would have come to these conclusions eventually anyway, but deschooling gave us an unhurried, pressure free opportunity to figure out exactly what we wanted. To my surprise, after deschooling the transition to our more “formal” schooling (which I’ll share more about soon) was surprisingly smooth.

And so our homeschool journey has been a little bit of a winding road; I imagine that it will do quite a bit more winding before we’re through. Now, we’re all feeling refreshed and looking forward to what this school year will bring us.

 

Why I Ditched The Chore Chart — But Not the Chores

Why I ditched the chore chart-- but not the chores

IMG_4919.PNGFor the past couple of years there has been a chore chart on our refrigerator.

I had listed a daily set of chores that each child would be responsible for based on ability. Occasionally I’d get the kids to complete the items on the list, but mostly the chart sat on the fridge and collected dust. When I asked them to do their chores, there was a chorus of complaints; whining and bickering would grate my nerves and cause me to grumble about how lucky they are and how I don’t make them do anything, grumble, grumble, grumble, stomp, stomp.

But not too long ago, I ditched the chart all together and started a new approach.

What appealed to me about a chore chart was that it’s pretty easy.  No questions really: each person has a chore, then they do it and check it off the list. I made it myself so each chore was appropriate for each age and nobody had more than two items a day.

My problem with it was 2 fold:

First, it was easy.
There was absolutely no thinking involved. The kids looked for their item on the chore list and nothing else, and completed their item regardless of whether or not it really needed to be done, or if something else needed more attention. The dishes could be piled high in the sink and on the counter, but if their job was to pick up the toys in the spotless living room, then that’s what they did and be off doing something else, with the dishes still in the sink.

Second, I took away the chance to do something too difficult.
Dividing chores up by age and ability stopped the kids from doing something that was a little too difficult for them.  If there’s such a thing as dumbing down chores, that’s what I had done.  Since then I learned that, with a little patience and practice, Marlowe at 3 can easily put his clothes on hangers and fold his own pants… but his previous chores had been wiping down tables or cabinets (a chore now most often handed to Langston… yes, the 18 month old).

So, we’ve switched up our morning chore routine to reflect what I want the kids to get out of chores rather than to just get things done.

Instead of telling the kids what to do each day, I now ask the kids to make observations themselves. Each day before we do our chores (for us this happens at our morning meeting before homeschool), I ask the boys to take a look around and see what might need to be done (I usually add one or two items that I’ve observed).  Then we create our list of chores for the day and they divide them up amongst themselves.

While I realize I’m a parent, and work all the time, I also do chores at this time so they see me pitch in and know that I am available to help them when necessary.

Now we do chores with much more frequency than we used to (nearly every day) and there’s hardly any grumbling anymore from any of us. Occasionally, I’ll get a heavy sigh or a groan when they sign up for a certain job, but the requirement isn’t to not like chores, just to do them, so I ignore it.

I can’t say our house is much cleaner (by afternoon everything has exploded again), but in my mind, a cleaner home is only a benefit of what chores really are: a chance to learn how to work together for the good of the household.

 

 

Raising Helpers.

raising helpers

Raising children to be helpful

Most days we have a morning meeting over breakfast.

It’s pretty simple: we start with what day it is and how everyone is feeling; we’ll each talk about what we have on our mind and what we would like to accomplish during the day or week.

Monday morning, I gave the kids a challenge for the week ahead:

The kids had to find a time during each day to ask the question, “How can I help?”
They could ask  me or Jeff this question about something around the house; or our babysitter, their Nana, a stranger, or anyone. They could open it up beyond that, too. If they hear of anything on the news or in discussion, they could ask themselves, “how can I help?”
It didn’t matter so much who or how; what was important was to ask the question (and then actually help) daily.

I wasn’t sure how well it would catch on, but I didn’t want to harp on it, so I decided to change the way I ask them to do things around the house throughout the day.  Instead of saying, “Max, can you watch Langston for a minute while I fix your brother a snack,” I would start with, “Max I need your help.”  Instead of asking Marlowe to pick the books up off the floor, I started saying, “Marlowe, can you please help me”.

Raising helpful children.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but the boys have  been absolutely amazing. So amazing, actually, that I’ve decided to give myself the same challenge.

For the past week, I’ve been overwhelmed with many different calls to action, both on a political and a community level…so many things to get involved with, so many organizations doing great work in need of help.  What if I just asked this question once a day? It doesn’t have to be a big.  Can I devote 10 minutes a day to doing something that makes a difference? Can I make a phone call to my representatives? Can I attend a meeting? Can I volunteer? Can I make a donation to an organization? Can I offer someone help? Can I add canned food to my grocery list? Can I assemble a care package? Or maybe I can spend 10 minutes informing myself about a local candidate or cause?

Hopefully, this is a new habit for our whole family, myself included.

Raising children who help out

Putting Black Lives Matter into Perspective: Our Study of American History.

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Note to reader: I don’t think Black Lives Matter is political per se, although I do understand that the movement itself has political consequences as well they should.  I hope that this is about as political as I’ll get on the blog but also felt it was important to share how or homeschool allows us and encourages us to dig a little deeper into current events and learn about how our history shapes our current political and social landscape. 

I’ve never been good at memorising facts or dates, but history has always been important to me. History is the context by which we make incredibly important decisions and history is a window to understanding other cultures. This is why history will a very significant part of our homeschool.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel that raising young men is a great responsibility. Raising any child there is responsibility of course, but raising boys that become white male allies is important, and the privilege that comes with being white and male creates it’s own hurdles. One of those hurdles is that it is still too easy to learn history through a white male perspective provided in many of our history books.

I also found that as I was answering questions about Black Lives Matter they had little historical context… What they had learned went something like “Slavery, Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr has a dream, everything is great because black and white kids can be friends.” I think this lack of context is why (white) people seem so surprised by the Black Lives Matter movement… as if it came from nowhere.

This is why we’ve decided that we will be studying American history from the first slaves landing in Jamestown in 1619 to the current #BlackLivesMatter movement. We’ll end our period of study with at trip to the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington DC.

I know, my timing is off because it’s not black history month. Why start in November and not February? Because I intend for this study to take much longer than 28 (or 29) days. In fact, I have no end date for this particular theme. We’ll spend as long as we need in order to make it through. When we study African American History, we study American History so we’ll learn about a few notable white men along the way too.

Of course, we’ll still be taking hikes and playing in nature, that never stops, but if you are following our adventures on the blog and on Instagram you’ll likely see many trips and activities related to this subject as well.

Current events have informed our study and our recent trip to Jamestown was a perfect jumping off point. I feel very fortunate that we have the freedom to learn history this way.

 

Here’s what we’ve checked out from the library to begin our study:
(Amazon affiliate links below if you don’t find these at the library or cannot find a local bookstore which carries them. If you cannot buy locally, please consider purchasing through my link to help support this blog.)

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Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy)  by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underground Abductor An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman – Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales
Frederick’s Journey The Life of Frederick Douglass  by Doreen Rappaport
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Dear Benjamin Banneker  by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate
Phillis’s Big Test By Catherine Clinton

I’ll keep an updated list of books in posts every so often as we go along.

Please feel free to leave us recommendations of places to go or books to read on facebook, instagram or on the blog as we go!

A Different Kind of First Halloween.

I’m not really a holiday person.

It’s not that I have anything against holidays; I understand why people love them, but they just aren’t my thing.

Halloween in particular; I might be able to get into the idea of Thanksgiving or the Christmas spirit for a little bit, but Halloween… not so much.

And so every year I thank God for Target and pre-made Halloween costumes.  I usually avoid even thinking about Halloween costumes until the week before. This year it went something like this:

What do you want to be? We’ve got a puppy costume in the attic. Boom. You’re a puppy. Adorable. What do you want to be? Grim Reaper. Fine. Here’s a big black thing for half off 3 sizes too big. Wear that and a glow light so you don’t get hit by a car. What do you want to be? Oh, you’re a baby. Excellent, you’re going to be adorable no matter what.  There’s a dinosaur costume in the attic next to the puppy one. Perfect.

So far, Halloween was going swimmingly. Except for one thing.

Hudson decided he wanted to be Peashooter from Plants vs. Zombies.

Hudson who won’t even wear a hat, a shirt with buttons, or a color other than blue really, wanted to be Peashooter for Halloween. And this time, Target failed me.

Hudson who actually WENT as the color blue last year because we couldn’t get him in a costume and he dresses in head to toe blue anyway. I had given up on the idea of Hudson ever dressing up for Halloween and this year he wanted to dress up in a costume, with a giant mask.

And that’s how I found myself at the store buying a pack of balloons, green spray paint, a green tee shirt, a small pile of felt, and craft foam on the day before Halloween.

Halloween supplies

Hudson sat and watched me construct every piece of that costume.  He made sure nobody touched the paper mache as it was drying and checked on the pieces we left to dry in the backyard. He made sure we didn’t lose or misplace a single component of that costume, and he made absolutely 100% sure that the leaf on the back of his Peashooter head was exactly at the right angle.

Halloween Peashooter costume

My son, who won’t wear a hat, a helmet, or a hood for more than a minute, put on a giant paper mache Peashooter head. He loved it (he tried it on several times during the construction). After it was finished, he wore his costume in the yard (carefully reaching up to make sure his leaf was still attached to the back), wore it for pictures in the park and, of course, put it on for Halloween night.

Halloween Peashooter Costume DIY Homemade

After visiting 3 houses, he declared he was done trick or treating (not being a big fan of candy to begin with).

“Well, that was Halloween,” he said as he stripped off the costume inside. “Now it’s time for Thanksgiving.”

 

 

Our First Year of Homeschool: Small Changes in Our First 2 Months.

Hello from the beach!

Homeschool on the beach

My mother in law invited us to join her on a short trip to North Myrtle Beach so we hopped in the car on Monday to join her. I thought for sure 70 degrees would be too cold for the kids to get in the water but I was wrong, and the kids spent the afternoon with their pants and shorts rolled up running in and out of the water with the tide.

Our first year of homeschool

Adjusting to our new homeschool life has certainly had it’s challenges but the freedom to do things like this make it worth it.

In the past few weeks we’ve been to Shenandoah, Northern Virginia, Maryland, Jamestown and now South Carolina.

We’re still in that deschooling phase, adjusting to our new way of life. I’ll admit I was occasionally frustrated that after 2 weeks of “deschooling” nobody suddenly woke up saying “I want to learn calculus” or “I can’t wait to go on a 3 hour hike today!”.

When people talk about deschooling, or unschooling for that matter, the narrative always seems to be “we relaxed and now my child is reading above grade level/is a math genius/designed a rocket that actually went to the moon and back”

But we’re not focused on the product, we’re focused on the process. And lately I’ve noticed some little things that are telling me that we’re on the right track.

Max, who hates learning, is asking more questions. “What kind of bug is that?” “Can I listen to that book while we drive?” “Can I take a picture of that?”

Hudson, who used to cry every time he had reading homework, sleeps with a giant stack of books in his bed. He looks at the pictures every night. He’s sounding words out on his own out of curiosity. And he’ll sit and listen to me read until I have no voice left.

Hudson’s speech therapist remarked that he seems like a “totally different kid” that he walks in more relaxed and ready to work.

The kids are asking to collect things. They are keeping themselves more entertained outside. And I even heard the words “I’ve been on the computer enough today” come from my 10 year old.

We haven’t made actual rockets, nobody has discovered a secret hidden genius. But we’re learning, and that’s what our homeschool is all about.

our process learning about homeschool

Making Acorn Beads

It’s been in the 80’s lately and not feeling too autumnal but cooler weather is on the way.

I noticed some huge acorns outside on our walk the other day and I forgot about a little craft I had not made in a long time: acorn beads.

I posted my bead on instagram and a couple people asked me about them so I thought I’d share a quick post on how to do it. It’s super a simple fall craft and can be made without any special materials.

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While the woods and streams already provide lots of entertainment, making acorn beads is one of those mindless activities great for conversation or passing the time.

First, you have to gather up your acorns. Nice big fat ones work best.

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Rub the outside on a rough rock (asphalt or concrete path actually works best). Rub both ends just enough to expose the soft nut on the inside.

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Then use a sharp stick (you can sharpen one on the asphalt too if you need) and start digging out the nut.

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Keep working until you make it all the way through.

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Once you’ve made it through the middle you’re done! String the beads on a necklace, paint them or decorate with them.

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Have fun making your beads!

 

Day at Jamestown Settlement

Every once in awhile, usually as we are driving to Virginia Beach or somewhere south, I’d say out loud in the car, “we should really go to Jamestown.”   I hadn’t been in about 25 years, but I did remember Jamestown Settlement capturing my imagination as a kid.

So, finally, we packed in the car and went.

Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum just down the road from Historic Jamestown (the actual historic site).  At Jamestown Settlement, you can walk through a recreation of the Jamestown fort along with a Powhatan Indian village and the three ships which first sailed to Jamestown in 1607: the Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed.

The museum ticket also includes a film which we skipped because 3 out of the 5 of us don’t really sit well for these kinds of things.   We’ve talked about Jamestown at length before we went so we felt okay skipping it; however, I hear that if you are a bit unfamiliar with Jamestown or it’s been a while, the film helps you get more out of your visit.  There is also a gallery indoors which takes you through the history of the settlement… that we also skipped for the sake of time and hungry bellies but I really want to come back and check that part out.

Besides, it was a beautiful day outside and we’d been in the car for an hour, so we headed straight for the outdoor portion of the museum.

Jamestown Settlement is delightfully hands on.  The kids were actively encouraged to touch things and try different activities, allowing them to really learn about the culture and immerse themselves in each place.

Our first stop was the Powhatan Indian village.

Powhatan Village Jamestown Settlement Review

Jamestown Settlement Review Homeschool Field Trip

The kids pounded corn into flour, used oyster shells to take the fur off an animal skin, worked on creating a net and played games.  There were lots of houses to visit and explore, and you can see what a Powhatan Indian home would have looked like (quite cozy). Max studied Native Americans of Virginia quite a bit and was a great tour guide as we explored Powhatan homes.

Jamestown Settlement Review Homeschooling History is Fun

Jamestown Settlement Review A Multifaceted Mama Homeschool field trip

Homeschool Field Trip to Jamestown Settlement

The ships were Hudson’s favorite part of the trip.  I was struck by how small they were and we talked about the challenges of living on such a small boat with so many others. Sadly, I didn’t get a ton of pictures on the boat because once we got on the boat, the kids were immediately running around in all directions. The proximity to water, the challenges of fitting through doorways with a baby on my back and the many levels of the boats made taking pictures a little bit less of a priority.

Jamestown Settlement Discovery ship review

James Fort recreated what the homes were like around 1610 – 1614.  The kids could hear the musket fire throughout our trip and were excited to finally see a demonstration.  They also got a chance to try it out themselves with their own wooden muskets which was… entertaining.  Let’s just say ADD and Colonial warfare make a really bad combination.

Jamestown Settlement Review day trip homeschool

They tried on some 17th century armor and toured the Governor’s house, an Anglican Church, and smaller homes. The Fort was filled with the smell of smoke and gunpowder which helped create the atmosphere.

Jamestown Settlement review Homeschool

Homeschool Field trip to Jamestown Virginia Settlement review

Hands on Field Trip to Jamestown Virginia review

Jamestown Settlement Review

Jamestown Settlement Review Jamestown Virginia Homeschool field trip

We spent a little over 3 hours at Jamestown Settlement, but definitely could have spent more if we had stayed for the movie and to check out the galleries.  There are a couple areas that make good spots to stop and have some lunch; if you plan to visit, be sure to pack some snacks. There is a cafe at the entrance which seemed to have pretty standard museum-cafe fare. After 3 hours in any particular place and certain members of our group start slowly falling apart.

We’ll definitely be heading back to Jamestown Settlement and checking out the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.  If you’re interested in checking it out yourself you can find out more information here.

Jamestown settlement review Jamestown Virginia

Inspired Thanks to WOW Summit

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump.

The transition from working to being a stay at home mom to 4 boys AND homeschooling has been difficult. I knew it would be, but I didn’t fully grasp it.  Kind of like you know it’s hard to have a new baby… but you don’t really know what that means until you get there.

Anyway, blogging has been tough. I’ve struggled to figure out how to write… not just when but actually how to form my thoughts.

Some part of me must have anticipated this because I signed up to go to WOW Summit and I’m so glad I did.

One of the great things about WOW Summit is that it combined both incredible opportunities for bloggers with valuable information in a really packed two days.

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I spent the first day soaking up all the information I could get at three different blogging workshops, then had the opportunity to “speed date” with sponsors and learning about some new products. As a blogger it was a great chance to network and as a mom it was an opportunity to check out some awesome new products.

It was refreshing to meet so many like-minded mom bloggers,  and I look forward to keeping in touch with them through their blogs and Instagram. I wish I had stayed at the beautiful Gaylord Hotel, because the festivities went into the evening with food and drinks and lots of opportunities to meet new people.  Even without the cocktail hour, day 1 was definitely a whirlwind.

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On day 2, I brought my little helper along with me as we taste-tested our way through the many vendors who attended.  Marlowe consumed his weight in chocolate milk, fruit snacks and got all loaded up with gummy probiotics and vitamin C. It was preschooler heaven.  We walked away, bellies full and our arms weighed down with huge swag bags and tons of coupons for new cool products.

Regardless of where you are in your blogging journey, I can’t recommend going to a blogger conference enough.  I’m feeling totally motivated after this trip (I might even write more!).  WOW Summit combined information with inspiration for a pretty amazing weekend. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go and I’m already planning to go back next year.

WOW Summit is hosted by Moms Meet. Keep up with their events here.

I received 1 ticket to WOW Summit as a part of a partnership program and I’m effectively hooked. Thanks again for the amazing weekend!

Boys Will Be Boys: A Mother’s Plea For Help.

Sigh.

I can’t wait to talk about my weekend trip to WOW Summit but this seems to be more pressing given the circumstances.

As many of us have, I have been watching the recent news about Donald Trump’s comments with horror.

Just as I read in horror the coverage of Stanford University’s Brock Turner.

Just have I have sat in horror reflecting many, many comments which are explained away with statements like “boys will be boys”.

Yes, boys will be boys.

As you may have noticed… I’m surrounded by quite a few boys.  In addition to having 4 boys of my own and having been married for 10 years, I have a father and a brother and grew up having many male friends. Regardless of whether or not I had any of those, I live in a society dominated by “boys”.

Boys Will Be Boys A Mother's Plea For Help - A Multifaceted Mama

Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about boys:

I have learned that fart jokes are almost always funny.

I have learned to tolerate a little rough housing as long as they move the coffee table out of the way first.

I know that no matter how much I clean the bathroom it might never matter.

I know that they may have trouble expressing themselves, or freeze when you do. Boys might say things that make your eyes roll, because it’s gross or dense or just plain annoying.

I know a lot girls like the above too.

But I know something else about boys:

I know that they can listen.

I know that they, like girls, look up to role models.

I know they can control their behavior.

I know they can control what they say.

I know they can think of others before themselves.

I know they can treat people with respect.

I know they can understand the meaning of the word ‘stop’.

I know they can be caring brothers, and fathers, and friends.

I know they can tell the difference between right and wrong.

I know they can be emotional.

I know they take cues from their parents and our society.

And I know that boys can live up to the expectations we set for them.

These are the type of boys that I hope my boys will be.

Every day as I raise my 4 boys I remember this. Every day there is some example, somewhere that I can set for them… and every day there is some example somewhere that makes that job more difficult.

Sure, we all have our flaws, but being a boy doesn’t have to be a flaw. Being a boy doesn’t mean that they will be vulgar, or disrespectful. It doesn’t mean that they can ignore people’s boundaries. It doesn’t mean they can take what they want without asking.

We TEACH them what being a boy means. Every day. We show them what it means when we give them passes for bad behavior because they are “just being boys”.  We teach them that it’s okay to behave poorly when they see other “boys” get away with it.

And so, I am asking you to help me.  Give my sons the credit they deserve. Don’t write them off, hold them to a higher standard.  Give them role models who set the example of who boys can be.  Help me show them that boys can be strong without being cruel and that kindness and strength are not mutually exclusive.

Hold boys, including mine, accountable. Start when they’re little. They can take it. Don’t let them get away with being less than what we know they can be. They are better than that. I promise you I will do my absolute best to make sure that my boys live up to the standard we set for them.

Help me teach them what it means to be a boy.  Because, yes, boys will be boys… but eventually these boys will become men.

If this post resonates with you, please feel free to share.
Raising boys. Boys will be boys.