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I've been in school almost my entire life. I started preschool shortly before turning three, I started elementary school at age six, I followed the standard path through middle school and high school, and then went directly to college. After college I earned two Master's degrees and then a PhD. Even after that I didn't want to leave. I now teach at a university.

As you may have guessed by now, I love school. I'm good at school. I've learned a lot through school. So it comes as a surprise to some people that I have chosen not to send my kids to school. Instead, we've embraced the philosophy of unschooling.

Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that rejects the idea of replicating the school environment at home in favor of self-directed learning through living and engaging fully with the world.

Here are eight of the biggest reasons why we've chosen unschooling for our kids.

1. I want them to learn how to learn

In traditional schooling, there is a heavy emphasis on following directions. It starts in kindergarten and often continues through high school. Even in most college courses, the recipe for success is laid out for students: Do the assignments as directed and get an A. Congratulations. You've succeeded!

I can follow directions like a champ, which is one reason I did well in school. Give me an assignment and I will follow instructions to a T. Unfortunately, I've found that this skill is next to useless in the real world (aside from tax filing). It also becomes less and less useful as you progress in school. In fact, the further along I got in school, the more schooling began to resemble unschooling.

Once I started working on my dissertation, there were no more assignments to complete according to instructions. It was suddenly up to me to ask questions and then answer them. This was a big shift for me and I spent a couple of years floundering with lack of direction before figuring out how to handle self-directed learning. An unschooled person will have a huge advantage in this regard.

2. I want to raise leaders, thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs

Anyone can raise a future employee who shows up on time and does what he's told. It's a much bigger challenge to raise a future employer — the one with the vision and drive to make things happen in the world. Of course, my kids may not grow up to be business owners. That isn't the goal. The goal is to raise motivated thinkers who find a place they can put their passion to work, not just execute steps according to someone else's plan.

3. I've seen the power of being passionate about one's work

Academia is full of people who are passionate about their work. Really passionate. Not "I enjoy my job, but look forward to kicking back on the weekend" passionate. I know many people for whom their job is not only their job, but also their hobby and their life. These people are wildly successful, not just by traditional standards of having prestige and money, but also by the more important standard of loving what you do and looking forward to doing it every day.

4. I don't want them to be afraid of math

Unschooling parents are often asked, "How will you teach your children math?" The fact that this question pops up so frequently shows that many people believe math to be arcane form of knowledge that can't be obtained the same way that reading, writing, music, or biology is learned. I don't think that's true at all. I think the only thing that sets math apart is that people are afraid of it.

As a math major in college, I quickly got used to seeing pained looks on people's faces when I told them what I studied. Once I was doing my homework on an airplane when a flight attendant glanced over said, "Is that math? I hate math."

The school system is clearly doing a rather poor job at instilling a love of math in its students. Given the extremely strong correlation between loving a subject and learning it, I want to keep the love of math alive and well in our household.

5. It will prepare them better for college

Some unschooling families don't view college as a goal for their children. Some unschoolers start lucrative businesses, do apprenticeships, embark on their careers, or continue to educate themselves outside of institutions between the ages of 18 to 22 when many of their schooled peers are off to college.

I believe these are worthwhile ways to spend your time, but I also believe that college is a very valuable experience due to the wealth of opportunities it places at your fingertips. The key is to be prepared to make the most of those opportunities. In my experience, homeschooled students clearly understand that they are in charge of their own education and professors are merely there to act as facilitators. That's what it takes to be successful in college.

6. It will prepare them better for the workforce

When you were a kid, you were probably asked at some point what you wanted to be when you grew up. What did you answer? Social media coordinator? Canine and equine massage therapist? Birth photographer? Mobile app developer?

I suspect the answer was none of these, because some of these jobs didn't exist when we were kids. Others may have existed but were hidden from most of us.

We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years or even in 10 years. Traditional schooling prepares kids for today's jobs. Unschooling prepares them for future jobs.

7. They will know that preparing for college or the workforce isn't the point

Becoming a knowledgeable and productive adult citizen is important, but there's more to life that that. As someone who grew up as a "good student," I admittedly sometimes forgot to seek out fun and adventure and even put building meaningful human relationships on the back burner. I've been slowly unlearning that since becoming a parent.

The greatest beauty of unschooling lies in the time we have together as a family enjoying each other's company. We don't have homework battles, we have adventures together. We don't set an alarm clock, we sleep until we're not tired anymore. We don't leave early because it's a school night, we stay out late with friends. We don't just prepare for life, we live it now.

8.  I know that no one has all the answers

Being in the company of some very smart people on a regular basis quickly shows you how little you actually know. After a while, you realize this applies to everyone. No one knows everything. My kids ask me questions I don't know the answer to every single day. There is no shame in not knowing something. In fact, there is great value in realizing that you don't know something and then going to find out.

Like anyone else, unschooling parents don't have all of the answers, but we ask a lot of questions and we dig deep, past common assumptions and social norms. I can't think of a better example of a true education than that.

This was originally published on Pocketful of Pebbles.

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Babies come with a lot of stuff. And when you're out and about, a roomy, comfy diaper bag is the place for everything you need to be prepared for whatever the day throws your way. But is a cute, trendy diaper bag that doesn't scream, well... DIAPER BAG, too much to ask? It's not, mamas.

We've rounded up our favorite diaper bags that don't actually look like diaper bags, but instead like the cute, super stylish bags you might have carried before the days of finding crushed up puffs at the bottom of your purse.

These bags prove you can get the job done, mama—and look darn good while doing it.

Freshly Picked City Pack

Freshly Picked City Pack

This simple, modern backpack can easily take you from a day at work to dinner with the kiddos. We love the hardware details, the lightweight design, and the hidden back pocket.

$150

Vogshow Waterproof Bag

Vogshow Waterproof Diaper Bag

A sleek look, plus a padded laptop compartment, anti-theft and insulated pockets and magnetic buttons instead of zippers. 🙌

$34.99

Skip Hop Travel Bag

Skip Hop Travel Bag

With a large zippered main compartment, there's plenty of room to keep all of the things. We love the adjustable straps—you can wear as a backpack, cross-body, messenger bag, or attach to the stroller.

$99.99

Companion Quilted Backpack

companion quilted backpack diaper bag

Are you off to sit on the beach for a few hours, or taking your toddlers to the zoo? No one will be the wiser, mamas. We love the quilted look, padded straps, and roomy interior.

$178

Mommore Diaper Backpack

Mommore Diaper Backpack

With a water resistant exterior, wet clothes pocket and a main compartment that completely opens up, you'll love having this to tote around.

$34.99

JJ Cole Brookmont

JJ Cole Cognac Diaper Bag

As stunning as it is functional. It has 15 pockets and a removable liner on the inside so you can easily clean up messes in no time.

$99.99

Little Unicorn Boardwalk Tote

If you're looking to keep things simple + stylish, mamas, this is the bag for you. It's versatile, functional, and will get tons of use well past the diaper days.

$69.95

Presidio Vegan Leather Diaper Tote

Presidio Vegan Leather Diaper Tote

This stunning tote would make the perfect on-the-go bag. It comes with a changing page and a couple pockets on the inside to keep everything organized. Don't forget to personalize it!

$99

Ticent Tote

Ticent Diaper Bag

With nearly 500 reviews, this one has incredible ratings. It offers multiple pockets, including an insulated one for snacks or bottles. The waterproof cotton material is ideal for those inevitable spills.

$30.99

Fawn Design Original

Stylish and versatile, this bag can be worn as a cross body or as a backpack. It's roomy without being bulky, and has a total of 10 pockets for awesome storage.

$159.99

Skip Hop Greenwich Backpack

No one would ever know this bag is packed full of baby's items. 😉

$69.99

Rosie Pope Highbury Hill

Highbury Hill Diaper Backpack

If you're looking to up your style, this chic backpack will help you get there. Lots of inner pockets and zippered compartments make it simple to organize your stuff, and the top flap and wide opening make for quick + easy accessibility.

$159.99

Babymel Robyn

Babymel Robyn Diaper Backpack

We love everything about this effortlessly stylish faux leather backpack. It's easy to wipe down, converts to a cross body bag, and even comes with a changing pad and drawstring bottle holder.

$90

Petunia Pickle Bottom Pathway

Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Tote

This two-tone canvas bag could not be prettier. We love that it easily stands upright when set down, and that it's super functional as a diaper bag yet super stylish as an everyday purse.

$159

Skip Hop Duo

Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag

The timeless stripes on this 11-pocket bag means it will never go out of style, and the durable cotton canvas means it will stand up to years of use.

$70

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Frustrations and emotions were at an all time high for both us. I was worried that my lack of patience would get the best of me, leaving her feeling let down and frustrated with me on her new journey of becoming a “big girl." And selfishly, I was tired of washing wet underwear. For her part, my daughter was tired of being asked for the hundredth time if she needed to use the potty.

We both were feeling a little defeated in this new adventure.

I have found too often as a mother that I expect my child to respond new things, like to potty training, as fast and as close to the last blog post, book or opinion I heard or read. What I have learned is that no two children are alike and the moment I release my expectations for where mine should or should not be, we are both brought back to peace and patience.

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So maybe a break was all we needed to start fresh the next day. We headed to our favorite spot by the lake and had a picnic. My daughter munched on popcorn and chatted away about the weather and pinecones, and listened for the sounds of helicopters—which you hear quite often living on an aviation military base.

Sometimes in the daily struggles of motherhood I have noticed that I can forget who I am and the strength we possess as mothers. It may not come easily at first, but I grow with each new day. Even potty training—this mundane human activity that is emotional and (quite literally) messy, teaches me much about the meaning and purpose of motherhood.

Potty training has taught me a huge lesson on patience. Patience to be present, to pay attention to what is right in front of me. To be encouraging, to not rush the process, to not place expectations on timing or play the comparison game we often play as mothers.

Patience is needed in every area of parenting and potty training is just one way where we can see as parents where our patience is wearing thin.

I have found that it's when I come from a place of patience and presence that I can then glean wisdom from those messy, mundane, time-consuming tasks of potty training, and find that the waiting, sitting and hours of time spent in the bathroom gives me an opportunity to be present in my child's world.

Whether it be the grocery line, a traffic jam, or cleaning up wet bedding, I learn the art and joy in the small and big moments in motherhood. Giving our children space to fail and try it again as many times as it takes encourages them that they too can cultivate the gift of patience in there own tiny lives.

My daughter speaks to me everyday, inviting growth that sometimes feels really hard and frustrating, she provokes patience to be felt and sensed through every minute of the day. And for this I am grateful. Because to truly live and be present in my child's world means “I learn from her, and she learns from me." Even in potty training.

Our children have so much to offer to who we are as individuals and they have so much to teach us. In fact, I have come to live for these exhausting, beautiful, and downright messy moments in time. When I push myself to embrace them, rather than just find them frustrating, I stretch and grow and evolve. I become the mother I hope to be.

And to you mama, whether in the midst of sleepless newborn nights or toddler tornados or the midst of potty training, may you find strength as a mother, as a wife, and as a person to let go of any expectations or judgements you place upon yourself.

May love and gratitude fill our hearts and peace be with all of us on the journey that motherhood is.

Life

A good kid's winter coat needs to do a few basic things really well: be incredibly warm, water-resistant, easy to clean and a classic style so it can look good bundled over any other clothing they're wearing. For this reason, I usually avoid coats with heavy branding or patterns so that any winter outfit I put my son in "goes" with his jacket.

Primary is always one of my go-to brands for their super simple classic styling, so I was happy to see that Primary is currently having a sale on their solid-colored and high-quality winter gear. This kid's winter puffer coat caught my eye because it's on a steep discount (more than 50% off!), fits all my criteria above and even has a few bonus features I didn't know I needed but now totally love.

Kid’s winter puffer coat

I'm loving this jacket because it's fleece-lined, has thumbholes (so helpful in making sure my toddler doesn't lose his gloves) and comes with an "I belong to" ID label so that his coat won't get mixed up in the sea of other winter jackets at pre-school. Plus, it comes in six great colors and has a five-star rating.

As one reviewer put it, "This coat prompted my first review because it's perfect! Warm enough without being restrictive, easy zipper for my 5-year-old to manage himself and easy to clean! He loves the thumb holes!"

Originally $68.00

$29.50
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Mamas expecting babies this month are a special bunch—and not just because it's statistically unique to have a birthday during the shortest month of the year.

Science shows babies born in February already have advantages with everything from physical growth to creativity to even presidential elections. (It's no coincidence that President's Day is this month!)

Here are six reasons why February birthdays are so special:

1. They may be bound for the NBA

According to a 2006 study from Harvard researchers that examined data from 21,000 children around the world (including the southern hemisphere), those born in February were taller and weighed more at the age of 7 than their friends who were born during other times of the year. (Further proof: Michael Jordan celebrates his birthday on February 17.)

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2. Or on their way to a doctorate

The same study also showed winter-born babies performed best in a series of intelligence tests. As the researchers concluded, “The overall pattern of findings is that winter/spring babies are both 'bigger' on the anthropometric variables and 'smarter' on the selected neurocognitive variables."

3. They also have artsy sides

February babies are either born under the Aquarius or Pisces star signs—which are linked to the traits of originality and creativity. But even if you aren't one for astrology, a study complied from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics found that people born in February are more likely to be artists.

4. Which may set them up for stardom

Speaking of the zodiac, one study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found a disproportionate number of celebrities claim the Aquarius star sign. That includes everyone from Bob Marley to Jennifer Aniston to Shakira. It's also one of the most popular star signs for American presidents—including Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Ronald Reagan (February 6).

5. Or, at least, satisfying careers

But don't feel bad for babies born in the latter half of the month: A survey from CareerBuilder.com found Pisces adults were among the “most satisfied" with their jobs. (They also have legs up on the competition if they ever find their way into a presidential election.)

6. They may have the rarest birthday of all

Babies on their way this year are out of luck. But, come 2020, a special group of newborns will have the distinction of being born on Leap Day, February 29. Sure, they won't get to mark their birthday for another four years, but they do get a prime pick of perks when that day does roll back around!

Snuggle up with that newborn while you can, mama. Once your February baby gets going, they'll be hard to stop.

[Originally published February 2, 2018]

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