Is there a template for that? And other homeschooling questions.

I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. As a manager I get completely annoyed when I pay someone to do something and they don’t check online first to see if someone else has done it. You have to be doing something pretty special for there to be no examples that are similar to what you’re doing. So steal it. Start with whatever someone else has, and then customize it for yourself.

The world is full of templates if you look at it that way. Unfortunately school tells us that is plagiarism or cheating, but in the real world, it’s just being smart.

There are templates for resumes.

There are templates for how-to videos.

There are even templates for becoming a bestselling author.

The reason templates exist is to establish best practices. People make templates because they know what they are doing. Use them. Or at least take a look before you start something from scratch.

When I started homeschooling I looked for templates. I spent a lot of time on that. But I noticed is that the only templates we have for education are the national curricula, which assumes a teacher is somehow better than a parent. Or the Christian curricula which assumes a Christian is better than a non-Christian. And I was not going to feel good about using either of those templates.

I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. But when I have no choice, I can do it. But I think most of my journey in homeschooling has been recognizing that I’m doing okay without a template.

Here are some of the questions I’ve had to answer for myself:

What counts as homeschooling? 

I quickly realized that my vision of a one-room schoolhouse was not happening.  Even as a six-year-old my son wanted to clothes shop all the time, and he felt no purchase was complete without a photoshoot.

I took so many photos of our weekly trips to the GAP that I considered doing a weekly GAP photo on this blog. But then shopping trips stretched into hours because he made me document everything he tried on.

I worried I had created a monster.

I played homeschooler mind games. Like telling myself that with a tight budget he could learn some math. Or diversified clothing stores means diversified learning opportunities.

But it was positively freeing when I realized that loving to buy clothes is really typical of people with his personality type. (ESFP) And knowing a kid’s personality type makes parenting with confidence so much easier. After that, I didn’t feel like I was responsible for making him a clothes horse. That’s just part of who he is.

I came to the conclusion that if homeschooling is letting a kid choose how to explore the world, on their own terms, then weekly shopping trips to the GAP were an example of my own stellar parenting. And, besides, his attention to fashion helped him land a one-day apprenticeship with a pair of stylists.

Are other people as lonely as I am? 

This is a big question from homeschool parents. Because it’s not like homeschooling means hanging out in a commune with a bunch of other parents who think like you. It means getting your kids whatever they need (and deciding constantly on what it is that they need).

So yeah, homeschooling is lonely. But I was actually lonely when I was not homeschooling as well. I was lonely when I gave speeches all over the country. I was lonely when I had two full-time nannies. I was lonely off the farm. I was lonely on the farm. I think lonely people are just lonely.

I think there are people who would say homeschooling is not lonely, but they’d also say the rest of life is not lonely either. And they would be wrong. But that’s for another post.

Are my kids okay?

I don’t know. I do know, though, that my obsessive worrying is, in part, a problem with me being in bad relationships.

So I should stay away from bad relationships. Okay. I am going to do this.

Everything I own right now is still at the farm though. And the Farmer is done with me. And the kids. He sent me a text that said he’ll call the police if I come back. I didn’t know we wouldn’t be going back so I didn’t bring anything to Swarthmore. Now I think about the photos and the notes and the journals and everything else that I am not totally sure I’m going to be able to retrieve.

And suddenly the pictures I’ve been saving on my server for future posts are so valuable to me.

And I want them now, in a post, so I know they are here on my blog. Because this might be my template for showing myself that my kids are okay.



22 replies
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love this comment. Thank you, Lindsay. I have a lawyer. And I’m trying to not be anxious about it. Actually, you reminding me that there’s a template is remarkably calming.


  1. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    The hard thing one must learn to accept is that there are no guaranteed outcomes for our kids. Not with school. Not with homeschooling. While we offer what we can through parental guidance and our life experience, we can’t know the outcome until it happens when they are adults. All we can do is sort of gauge a trajectory and make adjustments. We have to learn to trust our kids and the choices they make. It’s true that there are lots of sacrifices that take place when we have kids, but it should not be to the detriment of our own lives. And that is what can be scary. The not knowing that everything will turn out ok.

    I’m so sorry to hear about the latest text from your ex. He keeps setting the bar lower and lower. That is not a healthy relationship. I’m relieved you see that now, but I’m so sorry that it’s all unfolding this way for you.

    • pat sommer
      pat sommer says:

      No guarantees indeed.
      Telling myself that the memories we are making can never be taken away is my calming mantra.
      Telling my daughter that she can rely on her memories during inevitable future bad patches to remind her that her world can be good also comforts me because I won’t always be around to protect.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    My youngest son graduated high school on Saturday. I get the irony of mentioning that on a homeschooling blog.

    When his mom and I split up I lost nearly everything. My post-divorce home was nearly empty for years while I dug out of the financial pit I was in.

    It turned out I missed almost none of the possessions I lost. What I missed most was memories of my sons. Memories from the last four or five years of the marriage are largely lost to me, as those were the years where I experienced real trauma in that relationship. I’ve worked through the trauma in therapy but frankly have little interest in revisiting specific memories. But that means it’s hard to reach memories of my sons, too.

    Thank heavens for one roll of film I shot of them in about 2000 or 2001. They were 1 and 3, or maybe 2 and 4. They’re the only photos I have from my entire marriage. My ex was a pro photographer and did the rest of the picture-making, and refused to share our family photos with me. But these particular photos were just me and my sons goofing around in the yard and I’m so, so happy I have them.

    I shared some of those early photos plus photos from the rest of my sons’ childhoods on my blog this week. I’ve never shared photos of them like this before; I kept their lives private while they were children. But now, you can watch them grow up:

    When such a major relationship ends sometimes all you can do is move forward, deliberately making the best memories you can for you and your family. You can redeem your family through it.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for the link, Jim. If I had to compile all the comments you’ve made here, and summarize them, I’d say you are a master of reframing to move forward productively.


      • Jim Grey
        Jim Grey says:

        It was either reframe and move forward, or lose my mind. Allowing myself to lose my mind had its charms, believe it or not. But my sons needed me. I figured out how to reframe.

  3. Adrianne
    Adrianne says:

    I really appreciate the point about templates – the concept is so under-appreciated. There’s so much obsession about doing the thing that’s unique…but that discounts the value in learning from someone else’s experience and mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself. Also, if you’re still bent on being a rule-breaker: keep in mind that you can’t break any rules in the absence of knowing what they are in the first place. You can’t consciously color outside the line if you don’t know where the lines are in the first place.

  4. Cate
    Cate says:

    Penelope, my ex did call the police on me (I threw mud in his car in anger). They were very kind. It was marital property so I was within my rights. Not a fun memory but minor.

    In your situation, I think you will need to hire someone to go in and get your property. Hopefully the farmer will agree to this.

    I’m so sorry you are being treated this way, Penelope. You are a good person. What got me through the worst part of my marriage and divorce was my kids. They need you; they will never stop needing you. You and your boys are a team; you belong together. Be gentle with yourself and love yourself, because you are going through a trauma. Know you are not alone, despite feeling lonely. Are you in counseling? I suggest it. The best counselor for you right now is an older woman who is caring and kind. I hope you can give that to yourself. A hug to you. I am thinking of you and wishing you well as I go through a similar situation. You are not alone.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I’d recommend going with an officer to retrieve the belongings. Farmer can’t keep the stuff, and police escorts aren’t a big deal.
      Most of the cases they deal with daily are domestic incidences, anyway. They’ll keep it calm and be very understanding. Better to fly there, hire a mover and van, bring the police escort and get on your way. Put the stuff in a storage unit in Madison.

      • Bob
        Bob says:

        The Farmer claims (rightly or wrongly) that she owes him $35K. I doubt the cop will want to sort all that out.

        • Bos
          Bos says:

          The way the cop will not sort that out is like “So you say she owes you money? Okay. Prove that in court. Now is this here your makeup?”

          PT should be able to retrieve the things that are obviously hers. The Farmer may argue about some things, but this scenario is common enough this won’t be the cop’s first time. He can’t just hold her stuff hostage.

          Some things she can forget about short a court order. That fancy stove? She might have used it more, but it’s installed on his property. It’s his now. Odds are it was purchased on his credit cards anyway.

          Yes, she should go there. She should not go alone. She should bring friends and police. She should not bring the kids.

          I have been the friend in this situation. Ugly things will be said. And anything she doesn’t get in one pass … well, she won’t get a second one.

          Best of luck.

  5. Katie
    Katie says:

    Why do so many bad relationships culminate in the police being called, usually on the part of an abusive man against a woman? It sounds like a basic question, but can anyone answer me?

    My best guess is it’s like these men want to force the woman to deal with their psychological/emotional abuse without being able claim any sort of recourse. It’s essentially use of force and it’s disingenuous because often times the man is feigning more victimhood than is appropriate, if he should really be claiming any victimhood at all.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Police deal with domestic incidences on a daily basis. I was curious so I asked a passing officer what he deals with all day, ‘domestics’. Makes sense. They have seen everything, over and over. They know how to deal with these situations cleanly and clearly. They get called out in highly emotional situations, where either party could escalate or has already escalated to a crime such a assault or battery. The investigate, hear all sides, decide if a crime has been committed and go on their way. They also escort or preempt a highly emotional situation, such as P’s, as a means to keep the peace.
      Farmer is making a very weak threat and clearly doesn’t understand what he can and can’t do in this situation.

  6. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I love this post because I’m a firm believer that in today’s world, with an Internet connection you can learn how to do literally anything. A huge part of it is thanks to the availability of templates.

    I really liked this part of the post about your son interning as a stylist: “If you want to try to be a stylist, and you fail, there are no long-term ramifications. You just go do something else.” That is such a good fit for how ESFPs operate.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    When I read, don’t reinvent the wheel – steal it, I immediately thought of Steve Jobs. So when I searched “Steve Jobs steal”, there were many articles, images, and videos to chose from. And one of those articles included the following line from him – “Good artists copy, great artists steal” he continues, “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” I’ve heard it before but wanted to get it correct and repeat it here. Stealing great ideas goes much further than just the act of stealing. First, there are many great ideas out there so you have to decide which great idea you’re going to steal. Then it’s necessary to improve upon that great idea and make it your own for what works best for you. Everybody is stealing ideas to varying degrees and some people are better at it than others. Sometimes you find yourself reinventing the wheel which is okay as long as you know that’s what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Sometimes it makes sense to do so.
    Are your kids okay? As with any good mother, I don’t think you’ll ever stop asking yourself that question no matter their age. You’re giving them the tools for them to be successful as adults. I think they will turn out fine. And you’ll always be there for them.
    I think it would be in everybody’s best interest to resolve the disposition of your stuff at the farm as soon as possible. It doesn’t do anybody any good to drag this out any further. There’s nothing to be gained by it other than more anxiety and grief for both of you. It’s a mess now but I’m confident you’ll be able to navigate your way through it.

  8. Linda Brazier
    Linda Brazier says:

    Thank you, I home school my granddaugter and this fall will be 6 yrs now. We travel and we document everything we do and learn. My photos of my granddaughters adventures and lessons are more valuable to me in this journey with her is the most rewarding gift I’ve been given.

  9. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    As bad as things are today, they will get better. Life is an adventure, some days /weeks/months are far worse than others as you are now living.

    Sometimes we have to go through the worst in order to get to the best. Your kids are the number one priority and this is a learning experience for them, not all battles are worth winning and material objects are not worth physical or mental health. Material objects can be replaced.

    Success if anything is all about how quickly you react to failure, what lessons you learn from it and then what you do next! Surround yourself with people who want to see you grow. Don’t settle for less just because its available.

    The moment you make a decision to raise your standards, be prepared to have your circle get smaller.

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