digging deeply

i have been digging deeply in the past few weeks, looking ahead to the upcoming season in quinn’s educational journey (as well as my own) and trying to weave together a plan to meet all of our needs (for education, community, income to cover our bills, food, airfare to new york next spring). i think i have finally dug enough space in which to step back from the layers so i can try to absorb and synthesize what i have unearthed.

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topsoil: on the surface of my life right now, there is much that is working, and yet there are pieces that are not sustainable. such as being broke in spite of having three jobs and still somehow lacking time. i love the basic set up of being mama every day and seeing to my occupations without having to outsource child care, but the particulars of my schedule/commute/income could use some tweaking. i am doing several jobs, but unable to put my all into any one of them, i am not doing any one of them exceptionally well. turning in this most recent batch of compost, i am seeing lots of good results- some scraps turning to fertile “gold” but other pockets of stuff are not breaking down the way i might have hoped. so i have been spending some time analyzing what might be needed: maybe more oxygen, water, or a richer c:n ratio? these amendments may take the form of taking leave from yoga teaching; maybe consolidating hours for nannying to open up some days for other pursuits; i am thinking outside the box in terms of quinn’s education and where his and my paths may be able to overlap- consolidating the time we get to spend together, maximizing my involvement in his education, reducing the amount of commuting /expenses; and ultimately maximizing the amount of time i spend running my home and tending my garden.


also observable on the surface: grant-funded science jobs are at an extremely low ebb, and even if my heart was really still in it, i do not foresee a science job coming along for a few years. more acquaintances have been let go this funding cycle, a year since my own job ended, and hardly any positions have opened up, especially locally, where i plan to stay rooted. in addition, my nanny gig is going fine, but will not last forever, as one of my babies will go to preschool at some point, and the other moves away this fall.

subsoil: after five full years living in this community, i think i have a feel for how we fit in. now it is a matter of adjusting our situation so we are in the healthiest balance. less striving, more thriving.

our little homeschool group is planning to merge with the big local homeschool group. our small group made no secret of the fact that most of the members were christian families, however, maybe because we have become very good friends, they look past our lack of affiliation with their religion, and treat us like any other home educating family. in the big group, however, religious affiliation has traditionally been more of a thing. i have been game to try, hoping that my closer friends might form a buffer until the rest of the group gets to know us and lets go of whatever fears they may have about us eating their children’s souls. my name came up as a potential teacher for their fall biology co-op class but they are worried i might not be the best fit. (they think their kids will riot on hearing the e word, though i hadn’t even threatened to mention it; i think it would pale in comparison to the volcanic eruption they’d elicit from quinn if they told him the earth is only a few thousand years old and that dinosaur fossils were put in the ground by god to test his faith in the bible.) this doesn’t turn me off from the group, but it does give me one more reason to re-evaluate what  would be best for quinn’s education.


since i’m in manifesting-our-reality mode, i am reviewing my wish list for quinn’s education, checking it twice as it were, and if i could have everything i wanted for quinn’s educational experience, the truth is that christian homeschool group lacks some of the important things on the list. it’s definitely a place to find community and to teach quinn how to get along in a group; but my priorities are heavy on non-violent communication, collaborative problem-solving, and choice-driven learning. i would like to enrich our education where connection is valued above obedience, where spirituality is encouraged but not mandated. i will always hang with my christian peeps (god bless ‘em!), this is just about finding the best path to the education that’s right for our family. my sister-pals, who sometimes read my blog, have already heard me musing about all of this over hot pickle jars and they know our friendship goes waaaayyy beyond how we school our kids. for that matter, they know me well enough to probably have seen this coming before i did!

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another layer in the subsoil concerns a belief i internalized at some point during my life that i am not a teacher. in direct challenge to that belief: being requested to teach for homeschool co-op, teaching my beginning yoga class every tuesday, and a recent job posting that an acquaintance forwarded to me because of my science background and “because you’re such a kid person!” applying to be an after-school program director forced me to look back over my resume through the childcare/education lens and notice the way teaching has been woven through my entire career. i have not walked a direct path towards becoming a teacher, but there it is in bullet points: after school program, babysitting/nannying, teaching kids environmental science on historic schooners, guiding numerous interns through their first ever research experiences, heck i even handheld more than a handful of berkeley graduate students in wildlife ecology through the laboratory genetics component of their phd projects… the list goes on. i am trying to admit to myself that, in fact, i do teach.

Picture 038 i’m a pancake person, too.

my 3 letters of recommendation were all glowing reviews of what a great leader/teacher/kid person i am- i am apparently the only one surprised. it was an ego boost and a reality check for me. the universe seems to be conspiring to help me convince myself, turning it into less of a mystery to solve, and more of a process of simply opening my eyes to what is in front of me.

still, something about working for the public school system, while paying for my son to go to school somewhere else would go completely against what i think would make sense for us as a family, given my stated goals of being there for quinn’s education and being around for more of his upbringing than not (we already have the reality of splitting time with coparent, so in order to make the most of the time i have, school time becomes precious time). i did not get an interview for that job, but hypothetically trying on the idea of working long hours (9-6) in “the system” and being away from Quinn’s education almost entirely, so that I could afford tuition to send him where our hearts feel most aligned, was valuable.

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bedrock: clunk. yet another chance to re-examine my core values, goals and dreams and hopes for our family, my career, and quinn’s education; my heart is rooted in my role as mama/home educator. i no longer see myself as primarily a biologist, but as primarily a nurturer and facilitator of lifelong learning. i want to unschool/homeschool, but i never set out to do that all by myself in a vacuum. i want quinn to be part of a living, breathing, thriving group of learners. i think the newer realization is that i myself want to be part of that thriving organism.


i know i am not alone: a mama wanting to design the next phase of her life around her son’s upbringing and education, and  trying to figure out the best way to lay those foundations under my castles in the air.

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fossilized dino doo-doo: deposited alongside the bedrock, i find pockets of darker stuff that i am dislodging by doing all this digging, and they are not necessarily pretty. i have had some work to do in removing some of these bits of fossilized dino doo-doo (one of quinn’s new favorite sayings, thanks to the summer library program puppet show). in getting them out of the way, i can open up to the best solutions for this next season of our lives. i realized i had a bit of a chip on my shoulder resulting from a combination of the ugly past year or so with coparent (accusations and dhs involvement in our lives) and then the stuff with quinn leaving school last fall. i could pinpoint a moment that kept returning to mind, that happened during the meeting i had with quinn’s teacher about the problems at school. i concluded for a while that the moment bothered me because i was receiving pity instead of compassion for what our family was going through. the thing is, i can easily see now that while i did experience it as pity, her intention was more likely to show empathy, and i have a choice how i receive a message like that anyway, regardless of the speaker’s intention. for a time, it meant that some of the potential solutions for this next season were blocked off, because i assumed there was no way i would be wanted at a school when i have had so many “issues”. this pity party has taken me months to work through, but i am being compassionate with myself about that- to quote what she said in the first place, “i know a lot of families that are going through a lot of things, so i can say objectively that your family is going through a lot of things.” it really is no wonder that i projected pity- i was overwhelmed by the junk that was going on in my life,  and for a while i had to table the processing of it just to proceed with accomplishing daily tasks. you know, like having dhs hanging around as i was about to embark on a career of child-related enterprises: cloth diapering, yoga teaching, nannying.


there is yet more fossilized dino doo-doo to deal with, as i can sense that i carry quite a bit of dread concerning how to negotiate the upcoming school year(s) with coparent. i am putting my pickax to work and hope to chip away at whatever is holding up progress in that department… soon.

nuggets unearthed… all this excavation has uncovered some goodies. among them,  open doors that i didn’t notice before, growing trust in myself, inner knowledge that i am a teacher after all, and maybe most saliently, a more refined awareness of my goals. they don’t include a lengthy publication list in scientific journals, a phd, or even a very large income. they include time and space, room in my world to educate my child and also weed my garden and make a nice dinner for my honey; a comfort zone financially, without feeling fatigued. i am called to see to my child’s education and upbringing, before any other career i might choose to pursue.


detachment (in which the metaphor breaks down but i still have more to say)

there are likely a million different ways and time frames to arrive at the goals i have articulated, and although i have a zygote of an idea, i am also open to trusting the universe to open up ways i haven’t thought of, as it usually does.  this idea has to do with becoming a working part of quinn’s school, the one i believe in, the one where his teacher has the same values i do. though i am hopeful, i am trying not to be too attached to one particular outcome. my current zygote of an idea is also open to taking different forms, depending on how much support Quinn needs, or doesn’t, at school, how many days it works for him to be at school this coming year, how much i can contribute to the school, and at what rate OLS is ready to expand.

impermanence: to everything there is a season. i am also trying to be mindful that i am only really going to need to make a plan for the next season of life, not for the next 20 years. i will not know what next year is going to hold in store for us until next year comes along, so while i may have lots of ideas and goals, i know better than to think i have all the information i am going to eventually be working with.



being in my brain, mostly in the future, has been all-consuming and not necessarily health-promoting, and now my task is to get back to the present moment. enjoying summer that is now here in earnest on the coast: watching damp, sand-encrusted little boys frolick on the beach, eating hot dogs and sauerkraut for dinner, helping quinn set up his tent to camp out in our back yard, canning all manner of peach-related condiments, repressing my urge to plan and schedule quinn’s long list of unfinished projects into completion in the next 2 weeks, and instead letting him spend entire half hours in plow position on the bed, humming star wars theme music and being elsewhere in his mind, no doubt coming up with a dozen more projects to begin.

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1 comment to digging deeply

  • A Mom of 5 friend!

    I loved this long and wordy posting. It’s good to see you hash it all out in written form. I was thinking about pear picking and wishing for more time. Love ya!!

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