Are you a homeschool parent who needs to get a life? Take the test.

Spoiler alert: I think if you answer yes to any of these questions, you need to get a life.

Do you hide your life from people?

I do. I think what makes this blog good is everything personal. My wish is for you to love me and think I’m a parenting genius, but then I tell you stories about my life that pretty much preclude you thinking the latter, and probably the former as well.

So to avoid that, lately I have not been telling any stories. Like the one where I had to buy all new clothes because nothing fits because I’m gaining weight faster than a pig in a grain bin.

Or where I threw a jar of salsa across the room and it splattered everywhere and my son won’t shut up about it. Which son? The cello son,  because I threw it when I was screaming at him that I’m not driving to Chicago if he’s not going to practice. We could be talking about that in my house, but when you throw something, the throwing becomes the whole conversation.

I told them I’m sorry and there is never a reason to throw anything, and no one deserves that. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

Now every meal my son says, “Can I have some chips and salsa?”

And then both boys fall on the floor laughing.

So I don’t have any stories to tell you because they are all me being a bad parent. Even the story of going mulberry picking today. Green fields, cows following us through the pasture to our favorite mulberry tree.

But I forgot they stain and my son has a performance and now he will perform with purple fingers.

Do you preach to everyone? 

I preach. I just wrote a post on my other blog about how I’m too preachy on this blog. I didn’t want to talk about how I’m preachy here about homeschooling because what if I couldn’t stop being preachy? But I won’t tell stories about myself but I still want to be right, then what is left? I have to scream at you.

It’s the blog equivalent of throwing a jar of salsa.

I got into bed tonight and cuddled up to my husband and said, “Why did no one like my last post?”

“I can’t remember,” he said. “What was it about?”

“Oh. That’s not a good sign.”

“There was no story.”


“It was preachy.”


Kiss. Lights out. He falls asleep in ten seconds. I take half a Xanax, read five gardening magazines, take another half a Xanax and fall asleep.

Do you live through your kids?

You probably thought number three was going to be about how you shouldn’t need Xanax to go to sleep, right? I have to tell you that I slept way better when I was working a bazillion hours a week than now when I’m homeschooling. There is so much emotional baggage you can escape by working long hours. That’s what I miss most about work.

But anyway, taking Xanax to sleep is not a sign that you need to get a life. Not sleeping regular hours is a sign that you need to get a life. (Did you know that when you are operating on no sleep it’s like you’re drunk?)

Yesterday’s post was especially disappointing to me because I think it comes from me becoming more and more obsessed with the goals I have for my kids instead of goals for myself. I become unhinged and then I become preachy.

I think the opposite of living through my kids is finding the good in each moment with my kids instead of focusing on long-term outcomes to validate my decisions.

So, it is in that spirit that I share this video with you. It’s my son’s cello recital. He is eight years old, playing Adagio and Allegro from Marcello Sonata in E minor. I don’t know what will come of my son’s cello playing in the long run. But I love hearing him play right now.

44 replies
  1. Jennifer Jo
    Jennifer Jo says:

    I loved loved loved this post. Seriously. SO good.

    PS. I will never send you a jar of my precious homemade salsa. It’s too risky, me thinks. (falls on the floor laughing)

  2. Joy
    Joy says:

    I think that listening to your son play must make it all worthwhile. He’s amazing. He’s really blessed to have a Mom who is so supportive of him and his passions. Remember that when you are beating yourself up.

  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    Penelope – I hate that you hate your resiliency post. That was fascinating and insightful and really made me think about humans and the differences in us all. What makes people tick. I shared it with my mom who has struggled since the recession to find meaningful work. I shared it with my CEO as we are always thinking about the culture of our company and how we keep things going in the right direction.

    And while I’m here, I’d like to point out that being preachy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Seth Godin is preachy. Do you think he feels bad about it? Do you think the people who read his blog resent him for being preachy? No – that’s why they follow him. People come to your blog by choice. They want to hear from you. Not just stories about you.

  4. Editormum
    Editormum says:

    Try cleaning your son’s stained fingers with hydrogen peroxide. I find that it gets a lot of organic stains out, so even though I’ve never tried it on mulberry-stained fingers, I feel fairly certain it will work.

    Another possibility is to make a paste of cornmeal and fresh lemon juice, spread it over the stained skin, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then wash well. I’ve used that to take out pomegranate stains from my fingers and nails.

    In any case, purple fingers or no, I hope your son does well at his performance!

    • mh
      mh says:

      toothpaste rubbed in and then washed off is how we get food coloring off fingers. Also works great for horrible smells. I’m going to try your hydrogen peroxide next time, but we don’t always have that around.

      There’s almost always toothpaste.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Haha! You stole my comment! I was also gonna add that he looked gigantic at the piano and was totally distracting… either he is like 7 feet tall or the piano was way low to the ground… it was awkward. Zehavi looked like a pro, I could listen to him play all day.

  5. Anne B.
    Anne B. says:

    Zehavi totally rocked that music. He’s a true artist and so good for an 8 year old – so let me tell you, Penelope, you’re doing things right!

  6. Anne B.
    Anne B. says:

    And . . . when he’s 10, think about sending him to Greenwood Music Camp –
    I spent my teenage years there playing chamber music and there is no place like it, in the quality of the chamber music experience and the relationships and the fun of it all. I would say almost everyone who was ever a camper there considers it heaven on earth, so to speak, formative in the best way, personally and musically.

  7. Liz Ness
    Liz Ness says:

    Oh, how I love cello and I loved hearing (and watching) your son play–so beautiful. Also, I’m so glad that you’re so you! =)

  8. karelys
    karelys says:

    What? I loved the last post!

    Plus I think everyone is used to you being preachy and we just take it as your personality trait. Like you want to be right so much. And even when you have AHA! moments of how it’s good to be humble and how people like humble people better….you still gotta be preachy. It’s like chocolate ice cream wanting to taste like lemon sorbet. You just can’t get away from yourself.

    And no one cares that much.

    Except other preachy people. So other Penelope’s.

    Anyway, I don’t have a real comment for good conversation so I’ll be back.

    PS. I feel like my life is dreamy right now. And I can’t sleep to save myself. I just kind of accepted it and figured that one day it’ll come back full circle. I’ll sleep well for about four days in a row then back to broken sleep for about two months. Rinse. Repeat.

  9. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    “My wish is for you to love me and think I’m a parenting genius”

    Well you rock and it is obvious you love your kids and try your best. No one is perfect.

  10. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Do you really fret that much when a post doesn’t get a certain level of visits or comments?

    Sure, when you tell stories about crazy moments in your life, people respond. Maybe it’s because we all have crazy moments that we don’t admit and we get a vicarious thrill because you do. But I don’t think you get your points across any better or worse when you do that than when you write a preachy post.

    I feel like you’ve been through a transition where you’ve gone from someone trying to figure this out and hoping to find people out there to share it with, to someone possessed of a viewpoint, to someone who really has researched this and knows a lot about it and has a lot of value to say. This blog really shows that evolution. Do you ever go back and just read your old posts? I do that with my blog. Seven years I’ve written it, much of that at three posts a week. Even the crappy posts are like my babies. And I can see my own evolutions in it, for the topics I write about. And I want people to love me, too, because of what I write. I mean, deep down. Logically I know that’s not going to happen, but I’m so grateful for my regular readers and I miss them when I don’t hear from them. So I start writing posts again of a type they’ve responded to in the past and sure enough there they all are again.

    Maybe this is just what having a blog is about.

  11. Lara M
    Lara M says:

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I am so happy. Zehavi was amazing. You are such a great Mom. Thanks Penelope!

  12. Liz
    Liz says:

    Are you still doing Ashtanga? You inspired me to get started. When I do Ashtanga consistently the weight just drops off and I feel so much better all around. I’m getting up early tomorrow to meet with a great teacher.

  13. Amy K.
    Amy K. says:

    “I think the opposite of living through my kids is finding the good in each moment with my kids instead of focusing on long-term outcomes to validate my decisions.”

    Yes, absolutely. Focusing on long-term outcomes, especially in an attempt to validate one’s decisions, is exhausting. And anxiety-producing. I try, with varying amounts of success, to just be in the moment with my kids.

    Yes, you’re preachy, but mostly preaching to the choir, right?

  14. Julia
    Julia says:

    Listening to Zehavi’s performance was a great way to start the morning! Thanks for sharing.

    • Julia
      Julia says:

      Also I was thinking about this: “I think the opposite of living through my kids is finding the good in each moment with my kids instead of focusing on long-term outcomes to validate my decisions.”

      I’m as fanatical about my schooling choices as you are about homeschooling, and sometimes I have to just admit that it’s not anything to do with my child’s goals or future, but about enjoying these moments now. I confessed that out loud to someone just recently, so it’s nice to see echoed here.

  15. Robin
    Robin says:

    It’s fine to have stained purple fingers while giving a cello performance. He’s a kid.

    And I found your previous post about resilience encouraging and comforting. Thank you.

    • Zelllie
      Zelllie says:

      I agree! Let’s get priorities straight!! Fresh berries in the season of childhood is more meaningful and lasting than the “problem” of purple stains in one performance.

  16. mh
    mh says:

    We have been making a long cross-country trip, and your resiliency post is what we have been discussing nearly every leg of the trip. Good, thoughtful conversation, and the homeschooled kids have ideas of their own.

    Anyway, this has been a summer of great posts from you. Great cello video. I’d post one of my kid whittling and smoothing a walking stick out of a branch he found in the forest, but it would need heavy editing.

    Hope everyone has an INTERESTING summer of camaraderie and memories. I’ll be following your posts, P, but focused on getting all family members to next destination. Catch you all in September or so.

    ps — just read book by Matt Kibbe called “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff” with a section on freedom in educating the next generation that starts with the sentence “Parents know the educational needs of their children best.” Good stuff.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Hope you have a great trip! We just got back from one and it was great to be able to, on the fly, download books from the library to my phone to play through the car. But Christopher Plummer does NOT make a very good Alice for Alice in Wonderland. And he is even worse for Through the Looking Glass.

      For a resiliency video, I would post my daughter insisting that she was a kitten who was going to sleep in a box that night. We did not have an appropriate box, so she asked me to make a pretend one for her. I waved my hands in the direction of her room and said “There!” She said, “No. I want you to really pretend to make a pretend box.” I thought and said, “Why don’t you pretend I am really pretending to make it?” Long pause…”Okay!” Way to roll with punches, eh?

      Maybe you could post an avatar of the stick?

      • mh
        mh says:

        Christopher Plummer, le sigh.

        Everybody else was into Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird), but for me it was Christopher Plummer.

        Until it was Sean Connery.


  17. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    P, regarding not liking the last post, are you talking about the career blog post or the last homeschool post? I liked both!

  18. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    OK I don’t have a segue from the post but seemed a good a place as any to share.

    So following on from your blogging course, I wrote a work blog post which I used as an abstract to get a speaking slot at my industry conference. That much you know.

    So that was last week and I spent the week leading up to the talk so stressed out and anxious and very very snappy (but no salsa jars to hand) By the hours beforehand I felt like a basketcase and about the only thing that made it better was spilling milk on my dress minutes before the talk. And then I did it. And it went so well, better than I dared hope. And I’m so happy and have been basking in my glory all week.

    And I want to do it again one day, though I just can’t imagine how without the kicking and screaming beforehand.

  19. karenloe
    karenloe says:

    I think that, because I blog, I have been guilty of preaching. But I recently started blogging less YAY-HOMESCHOOLY stuff and more stuff about parenting secularly and being the best person I could be and other musings of that ilk.

    I guess I’ve moved forward with homeschooling AND with blogging.

    My kids are 17 and 13 now and we’ve just moved into such a different place…

  20. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Another great one! I am with you on wanting to shout from mountaintops about homeschooling, but you have to realize that not everyone WANTS to do it. It may be better, but if you’re not game, you’re not game. There’s no amount of convincing that will change that. In fact, if you are a person who needs a ladder to climb, what better place than school? And if that person is a parent, all the more reason to put your kids there. Everything is laid out for you. It’s like religion. A safe, comfortable, expected place.

  21. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one buying larger clothes and throwing things!

    We recently quit all music lessons due to lack of interest and virtually no practicing. And these are kids who were called “gifted” and who made it into exclusive master classes with the Romeros! *sigh*

  22. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    I think everyone who homeschools thinks it’s the best thing to do…it takes a lot of work being with kids all day when there’s an option to have free schooling. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.
    I think it’s also unpopular to say we think what we’re doing is the best option, because it makes other people dislike us–it’s not a humble thing to say out loud. No one likes judgement, obviously, so we don’t say those things.
    So…preaching. Of course I (we?) could all preach on this lifestyle-family decision we’ve made to those in our lives, we just choose to value the relationships over the debates.
    You have an education blog, specifically about homeschooling. You’re allowed, and paid, to preach about it (research, news stories, etc.). It’s a place for similar minds to congregate, learn, and talk. I don’t see that as needing a life. I see that more as stirring an interesting pot.
    Sarah M

  23. Nur Costa
    Nur Costa says:

    How honest and amazing you are. I loved this post.
    And I also loved the video of your son playing cello. that was wonderful to hear. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I wrote about you in my blog today ;)

  24. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Zehavi really is that good. Thanks for linking his video–I enjoyed hearing him.

    My 11 year old plays the violin pretty seriously. I’ve been to many performances. I’ve never heard a cellist play that precisely and yet also musically. He’s doing very well.

    And it’s a lot of work for you. You’re doing a great job.

  25. Wenda McMahan
    Wenda McMahan says:

    Oh, Penelope, Zehavi plays so beautifully and soulfully! My eyes are full of tears. Let the haters hate. You are real, you are brave, and you are smart. I love reading your blog.

  26. MBL
    MBL says:

    I’m typing with purple fingers. The mulberry tree across from our house has the best ones I have ever had. Not that that means a lot. We didn’t bother with a container since they were so delicious and, sadly, the mosquitoes were feasting right along with us…

    Zehavi’s playing is just wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Regarding the salsa story, as long as it is a stand out story and not the norm, it will just become part of charming family lore.

    As far as the mulberry story being an example of you being a bad parent…well, all kids should be so lucky.

  27. Shawna
    Shawna says:

    Your salsa story totally reminded me of the time my mom threw a shoe at me when I was a kid. She used to have a terrible temper but has mellowed greatly as she’s aged. We still joke about the shoe story all the time though! It’s a funny childhood memory now. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  28. Stephanie Thomas Berry
    Stephanie Thomas Berry says:

    I just LOVE, so much, that your boys ask for chips and salsa after such a parenting blunder. I think of it whenever I pull the salsa out of the fridge, and it makes the salsa taste better.

  29. Summer
    Summer says:

    Great post, and all so true. I been meaning to ask is your other son still going to public school? I’m homeschooling my 6 yr old, and just this past 6-7 ‘months she’s been begging me to try public school. I live in Las Vegas (where the public schools aren’t the greatest) but as I read your post about your guilt and questioning yourself on whether it’s ok to send your son and you finally did It made me see I’m not alone and my feelings are normal. I feel guilty as I’d I shouldn’t let her go yet the other side of my brain(the devil) lol is saying “oh just let her try it, she will,be fine she’s only 6 it’s an experience” so August 25th she starts 1st grade in public school and I am weary and excited all at once. Weary because public schools kinda make me nervous. I want my child to be taught from me, at our pace, and so on. Yet I also want her to have a learning experience even if it means she goes for a few weeks and I take her out and go back to homeschooling because she doesn’t like it. Although my daughter is very social, and competitive around others, and also enjoys being around lots of people so my gut for some reason says she’s going to love it. So my question to you is your other son still going to public school or if he’s not how did it go when he did try it out?

Comments are closed.