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“Where do you go to school? What grade are you in?” they ask my little man.

“I don’t GO to school. I UNschool.”

You can imagine the looks he gets. To our son, the style of schooling, or the option of traditional brick and mortar versus homeschooling and all the iterations therein, are as conversation-worthy as discussing the style of one’s underwear.

We have options. What we were wearing at one point in our lives might not be what we choose to wear now. On the other hand, many of us grew up wearing one style, only to find that there’s something new and improved out there; something that embraces our birth shape; enhances our natural assets; provides a layer of protection between our special bits and the rest of our armor.

We don’t question other people’s choices. We just accept that people have come to these decisions after trial and error. Some folks stick to what was presented to them the day they moved out of diapers, while others have ventured away from conventional and found their version of underwear mecca.

And so it was with our little man. We set off on the tighty whities of educational paths. My husband and I followed the most traveled and most familiar path to us as former school-goers and now parents. We have both met society’s expectation of us, so certainly there was no need to question this decision – or so we thought.

Our spirited little human, on the other hand, is quite the visionary. Convention was never going to be his path. Surely I set him up for a life of questioning, of options. The choices were many right out of the gate – cloth diapers, all-in-ones, wool, disposables, commando… Hell, his precious bits knew more textile variety than Dolce and Gabbana.

Articulate, chatty, and extremely inquisitive, our son made it clear that he wanted to be an active participant in his education. When you’re four or five, however, you don’t get a say. An authority presents information deemed important and relevant. Some kids are more than happy to open their wee birdie mouths wide and take it all in. Others all but purse their lips. Reading, autography, and testing, supersede playtime and emotional development.

Two months into kindergarten were 60 days too many for our little sparrow. He did not take a liking to sitting, nor to being silenced at every question. He had many questions. He still does and I want him to ask every single one.

My homeschool experiment

Like so many who are new to homeschooling, I found the options overwhelming – online schooling, boxed curriculum, unit studies, classical schooling, eclectic homeschooling, radical unschooling and the list goes on. I was nervous that I would deprive my child of opportunities to learn, so I researched online schooling programs, i.e. public school online. I wanted guardrails. I didn’t know if I could DO this on my own. I finally landed on something that felt safe and secure and traditionally untraditional. I waited several weeks for all of our educational materials to arrive.

When the big brown boxes hit our doorstep, I dug into them like I’d just discovered King Tut’s tomb. I had sweet visions of orderly teaching sessions; an engaged, angelic, little boy eager to learn. We’re reading “One Fish, Two Fish,” sprinting through workbook pages, making volcanos like nobody’s business. Week one – a success. I’ve totally got this. The novelty keeps the dream alive for a few months, weeks if I’m being honest.

Stubborn and steadfast, I dragged my poor child to the “classroom” table where we both painstakingly moved through “lessons.” This was miserable, for both of us. I finished up the homeschool year and I cursed it. I was no longer relieved that I didn’t have to drop my son off at school. I was stressed and anxious at a complete loss as to how I should move forward. I hated that this was what we needed to do. And yes, NEEDED to do. I am persistent. I will not give up. I will find a better way.

Year two

I researched curriculum and attempted to figure out how my son learns. But I still didn’t feel confident about my ability to teach. I signed up for an online charter school, where I could select the curriculum and have it paid for. I figured I needed some accountability to ensure that we both stayed on track and if I didn’t have this all dialed in, at least I’d be learning on my tax-paying dollars. Check-ins and weekly updates would surely be a key to our success. 

The DVD art classes that I was so excited to watch and do were of little interest to my son. Every kid does art in school and likes it, right? We went from five subjects down to two (math and reading), down to, “Houston, we have a problem.”

I kept the online-school-at-home dream on life support for a few more months and then the Universe stepped in as she does. Employment opportunities brought our family to a new state and I had to gracefully bow out of our on online charter school. Thank you Universe. Hugs and kisses to you.

I loaded our school books and art supplies back into big brown boxes and never unpacked them.

Unschooling was the answer

This is how unschooling seduced me. I stepped away from the classroom, curriculum, and everything I had been led to believe was the way children learn. I looked at my son and realized that he has been learning since birth. He knows how to question and explore the world and I know how to follow his lead and expose him to new information. I look at his interests, his passions, and I nurture them. I am a resource librarian and I chart these unfamiliar waters with him.

We embrace curiosity; we learn where to find information and we grow ever more excited by the choices that we have every day. No longer is it time to “do math.” No one subject lives in isolation anyway. It depends on the context that surrounds it. Fortunately, the world provides plenty of context. Learning happens; teaching is secondary.

I trust that we are all born learners. Unschooling is the path we are on today. The kitchen table, no longer home to workbooks and lessons of the week, is once again cluttered with the stuff of childhood and, if I’m lucky, take-out Thai food once in a while.

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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

Day Designer

The Day Designer is great for staying on top of your super-packed days—and doing it in style. You can keep track of goals for your personal and work life...


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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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