I have spent most of my life surrounded by men. I was a high school debater, which is mostly men. I was a professional beach volleyball player, which you’d think would be mostly women, but when there’s a group of athletic women in bikinis it turns out that the world feels like it’s mostly men.

Then I went into the tech industry. All men. I got my first job writing because Time Warner paid me to write about what it’s like being a woman in the field of tech startups.

Then I had kids and kept working. That’s when the world really divides. Women who work after they have kids are pretty much isolated from other women. Anecdotally it doesn’t make sense: of course there are other women at the office. But statistically this makes sense: Pew Research reports that 80% of women who have kids say they would not want to work full-time outside the home if they had the choice. (Interesting offshoot of this trend: Applications for moms wanting jobs as part-time phone sex operators have increased 400%.)

I downloaded a bunch of episodes of Mad Men to watch because I miss men. I miss their power-mongering energy. It is so different from women. Men don’t talk about feelings or kids. They talk about sports and business. I don’t know anything about football or basketball, so men talk to me about business.

I can’t tell if I miss the men or the talk about business. But I feel confused. Because when I was working all the time, and leaving my kids at home with round-the-clock nannies, I got so angry at men for being oblivious to what their wife and kids were doing at home. And now I think I miss having my small part of that oblivion.

I remember where I was when I first heard Mick Jagger singing about  mother’s little helper. I was in college. I had grown up with a mom who worked ten-hour days as a COBOL programmer and then even longer days in management. I felt sorry for the moms in the 60s who couldn’t go to work and had to take Valium to cope with their lives. I was happy I’d never have to live like that.

So it’s hard for me to tell you that I’m taking Zoloft. Here’s how it happened. I couldn’t stop the huge anxiety I had while I was spending days with the kids. My anxiety is generally great for work. I can do way more than a normal person can. I need very little sleep and my mind races with ideas all the time, so as long as I have a bunch of fast-paced projects going on, I have a place for each of the ideas.

Sitting at lunch with the boys, making Arthur pasta pieces talk. That just made me nervous. There was is no structure, there is nowhere to put my racing ideas, and I was anxious all the time. Also, I was yelling. And I really really don’t believe that it’s okay to yell at the kids. I think it’s bullying.

So I started taking Zoloft.

You can tell, on this blog, when I started. I stopped posting every day. Because it takes a crazy, manic energy to be able to maintain my other blog, which supports my family, and then also launch this blog.

I grew up thinking I’d be an exciting, edgy artist like Mick Jagger, and instead I’m becoming one of the moms in a Mick Jagger song.

My younger son has been bugging me about skateboarding for a year. I’m not a big fan. I think it’s a roadmap to a concussion and also, what are we going to do about cello if he can’t play for six weeks because of a broken wrist?

But he was relentless, so I decided that if he’s so curious about something, I should say yes. He loved it, and also he loved the other kids at the skate park. Finally we found a group of kids for him. It’s too bad that they can’t skate until after school, but he practices a lot while they are in school.

My older son saw how well things were working out for my younger son, so he wanted to do it, too. I was surprised. He has lousy balance and also a big part of skateboarding is knowing where the other kids are and what they are likely to do next so you don’t run into each other. This is very very hard for a kid with Asperger’s. But I told myself that things that are hard for him are good for him. Read more

We are at an indoor-playground type place, and it’s all boys, from about five to ten years old

The place is sort of out of the way. The moms talk about how they had to drive twenty or thirty mintues to get here. They ask me how long my drive was.

I say, “Two hours.” And I can feel tears coming. Because the driving is too much. I don’t think I can do it. I say, “I know this isn’t working. I’m coming up with a new plan. I have only been homeschooling a few months.”

The moms try to be supportive but I can tell they think I’m out of my mind.

I am scared to respond to emails on my iPhone because the moms are knitting and breastfeeding four-year-olds. It’s not a work-from-the-playground sort of group. And I want to fit in. So I stare into space.

The boys are running and screaming and they don’t slow down for an hour. Then they line up and appear to choose teams and pair off.

Then, on the floor, wrestling. Standing on each other, dragging each other by the feet, rolling around like new puppies in spring grass.

I say to the group of moms, “They could never do this in school.”

And another mom says, “Yeah, it takes all a teacher’s energy just to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

This is the moment, so far, when I have been most certain that my son does not belong in school.

Do you ever hear parents who send their kids to school talking about curriculum?

No. Right?

Do you know why? Because it doesn’t matter. If you use curriculum or you do not use curriculum, that is a very big question. Riverdale is a school that is following child-directed learning: no set curriculum. Most public schools are to-the-test learning: established curriculum. That is a huge difference. Beyond that, if the kid is doing well on the test, the curriculum doesn’t matter.

So why are homeschool parents obsessed with curriculum? It’s a red herring. There are huge, enormous questions for parents to be asking instead:

1. Why are we teaching to a test? My son visited my friend Melissa in Austin and they played in a gym all day. Is that better?

2. Is it a good model for girls to see moms making their life revolve around their kids? Should dads be more involved?

3. Should kids focus on learning languages and music? The benefits to learning these at a young age are huge.

Of course those are not the only three big questions, but those are three of the 300 questions that are way more important than choosing what curriculum you use.

I think parents use the choice as a way to bury their heads in research. As if that will somehow make them a “good” homeschool parent. But the more time you spend trying to figure out curriculum, the less time you are spending figuring out answers to really meaningful questions.

A friend sent me a link to a really fun set of photos — it’s Barbie and Ken’s wedding day. But the professional photographer, Beatrice de Guigne who did the photoshoot did it exactly how a real wedding would unfold in photos.

What’s great is that de Guigne successfully makes fun of the absurd pretend perfection of weddings and the cliched way we document it.

Where is that ironic commentary for homeschooling? Now that I’ve been homeschooling for a grand total of two months, I think I’ve read enough homeschooling blogs to be a critic of homeschooling blogs. So much of the homeschooling community presents the equivalent of perfect wedding photos without any of the irony.

Here are three kinds of homeschool blog posts that epitomize the lack of critical, public self-examination in the homeschooing community. Read more

I hid in the bathroom of a coffee shop today and cried. I am so bored. Please do not tell me to learn side-by-side with my kids. I do not want to learn what they want to learn. What about my own self-directed learning? Even the people who are the biggest die-hard fans of self-directed learning could not be forced to learn what their kids are learning.

My youngest son is fascinated by maps of the US. He branched off to state capitals. And now state slogans. I tried to tell myself it’s a way to learn how different areas of the country think of themselves. But really, my head is getting cluttered with the Evergreen State and the Show-Me State and everything I don’t want to learn.

How do I reconcile my need for self-directed learning with teaching my kids? I want to start a business. I have the business plan. I have a partner. I just don’t have the guts to try to add it to what’s already on my plate.

I am stuck between bored and overwhelmed. I guess I am overwhelmed with stuff that bores me.

My friend Melissa came to visit. She took this photo right before she left. It’s my son’s bedroom, empty, and when she showed it to me, I cried. The photo makes me think of the day in the future when my boys will be gone. I want to spend my days with them. And I want to not be bored. And everything makes me cry.

I have started dressing up. I wear make-up every day, I curl my hair sometimes after a bath. I make sure my jeans are clean and I stopped wearing the baggy ones. I dragged my son to a store with fun jewelry. And, I think, also, that I might buy $400 boots at Nordstrom. I want a pair that’s brown.

New York magazine wrote this week about why women are dressing up at work. Because pencil skirts are fun, of course. But also because now that women are out-earning men (in their 20s, before they have kids), women feel no compulsion to dress like men. Suits are out. Frills are in.

I go to Forever 21 and buy frills. I am too nervous to buy them at Nordstrom because I worry that if this is a passing passion, I will soon stop dressing up every day.

But I worry that I will start looking old and tired and overwhelmed by my kids. Because if you look that way, it’s a pretty fair chance that you are that way. And I want to have zing. I want to be excited in my head, and I think part of being excited in your head is showing it on your body. I think, really, that’s why women wear frills to work.

And I think that’s what I’ll tell my son next time he says, “Mom, are you putting on lipstick because the skateboard teacher is your boyfriend?”

I notice that lots of people use college admission as evidence that homeschooling works. Here’s an example of a mom who says college is proof of her homeschooling success.

This is shocking to me. While homeschooling is controversial, ditching college is much less controversial.

There are lists of wildly successful people who did not graduate college. The New York Times is publishing essays about how starting one’s own business is more important for lifelong success than going to college. And because of the insane costs associated with higher education, the topic of how useless college is has entered the political debate as well. Read more