Monthly Archives: January 2020

Video Resources For Homeschool

Recently we’ve been using some youtube and other video sources, to do our homeschool. And surprisingly enough there are some great resources for parents and kids alike out there. So I thought that today I would share some of our favorites. I would say most of them are Elementary age appropriate, but there’s a lot out there if you just go looking for it.

Videos as Learning

We use videos to supplement our learning. My daughter goes to work with me. Most days we manage to get in all our activities (2-3 reading, 1-2 math, and some other special interest). However, some days that just isn’t possible. I may be getting phone calls out the wazoo or have other tasks that I just cannot ignore.

My boss is great for letting me have her at work with me and I definitely appreciate it, but if we don’t do homeschool while we’re here….the evening is a mess. I end up behind with cooking, cleaning, bedtime, and my own self care. None of which is a good plan. So usually, once (sometimes twice) a week we use videos as a part of our curriculum.

Some are dvds like our language learning series. Most are YouTube or amazon prime videos however. While I mostly plan on covering YouTube content here, I will give an honorable mention to a few other sources and shows we commonly use.

HomeSchool Pop

Homeschool Pop is a great channel with a ton of content. The creator is constantly adding to what he has as well. He covers animals, history, geography, and much more. His channel has been my absolute favorite for working with her. They are animated, simple, factual, and fairly engaging.

Just the other day we watched a series on civil rights and a few months ago we started watching their 50 states series. The 50 states series features a video for each state sharing a variety of facts and information from state flag and flower to a bit of history behind it.

Alpha Blocks

Alphablocks is a great series for any kiddos trying to learn their phonics and letters. Each character has their letter above their head as a part of their block and when they come together to form a word they sound it out one by one.

It’s great for young learners because its set up like a story. It’s playful, bright, colorful, and full of fun. My 5 year old still enjoys it and we often use it in our language arts program when I’m having a rough day at work. Best of all, she doesn’t even feel like its a part of homeschool.

Number Blocks

Number Blocks is just like Alpha blocks but about numbers and basic math. The characters look like those tiny blocks we used to piece together in base ten math at school. I haven’t watched as many of these with her, but what I have seen I like. We have used it a lot to work on skip counting and we used it when she was just learning her base numbers. Just like alpha blocks it is bright and colorful while telling a story.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

Cosmic Kids Yoga is great for an at home PE routine. This wonderfully fun young lady with fanciful backgrounds tells an interactive story to your children. Each pose contributing to the story. It’s great for short attention spans (most of the videos) and for engagement.

Most of the videos are 5-10 minutes long, though she does have a few that are as long as 30 minutes. A good deal of the stories involve made up characters for her own little yoga world. However, occasionally she does specials with the trolls, frozen, and other popular kids media. She also does seasonal activities and some other content. It’s great and best of all its free and fun. I can do it with her and get my exercise on.

PBS Kids

PBS has a good deal of educational video content. We love the Wild Krats, Peg + Cat, Dinosaur Train, Word Girl, Daniel Tiger, to name a few. She loves a lot more of them than I do. I do find some of the programming to be not as great as others. For example, in my personal opinion, Sesame Street today, is rather boring. And I’m not a big fan of Nature Cat either. However, all of their shows are educational to some extent whether it is science, morality, math, or other topics. They do have an app for on the go learning as well as many games.

Amazon Prime

If you already have Amazon Prime, you also have Prime Video. Which contains a number of documentaries. These are probably better for older elementary kids. They are nearly all live action which can be good depending on your kiddo and how long they will sit still. We’ve been watching a number of documentaries about the ocean and dinosaurs the last few months.

Benefits

I love supplementing our education with videos. When possible we can watch them together and discuss. If not she often comes to me with questions sparking conversations. It also gives me a bit of time to get something else done when I need to and her still get something education out of her tablet time. I prefer that to a whole lot of what is available for childhood entertainment today.

But I do still do my best to limit our video time because the research out there is saying its just not good for their little brains. But I hope this post helps you realize how many free (mostly) video options for supplementing your own homeschool curriculum.

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Signs Of Emotional Abuse

I’ve been talking recently about toxic family because of my own personal experiences. I’ve been trying to understand why someone would need to do those things or act that way and I ran across a list of signs of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is serious subject that isn’t afforded enough attention or education. It wasn’t until I was much older and saw other parental interactions that I realized how weird my childhood really was. From 2 AM trips to Walmart to appease my mother’s boredom to feeling more liker her sister or parent than her child, my childhood was weird. And while I know my mother was abused by her siblings (and her siblings friends) that doesn’t excuse the behavior. I mean my father came from an abusive family…and while a bit abrasive and brutally honest, he wasn’t abusive.

Such behavior can often fly under the radar. Which makes it even more important to see the signs. I can’t tell you how many people thought my parents were cool…only to get to know my mom and not want to come back over.

It wasn’t until I started looking for support that I started to understand what I wish I had seen so long ago. If you’re going through the same thing or think you might be, seek help. Life is hard enough without this weight upon your shoulders. You are worthy of love, support, and validation, no matter what they said or did or thought. And you’re not alone. There are facebook groups, community forums, and even live support groups.

So without further ado, here are some “signs” of an abusive parent we need to be aware of:

1. Withholding or Making a Child “Earn” Necessities

Parents who intentionally or not deprive or make their children earn their basic needs are abusive. Making a child feel guilty or like they have to earn things like the roof over their head, food, or clothing is wrong. It’s one thing to remind a child of whose house and rules you’re under. It’s another to make them fear that they could lose it over petty squabbles.

2. “Parentification” or Enmeshment

“Parentification,” also known as “covert incest” or enmeshment, describes a “too close for comfort” relationship between a parent and child where boundaries are blurred. The child can end up feeling less like a child. They end up becoming the emotional support for the adult instead. More like a sibling, parent, or lover of their parent instead of their child.

Someone who grows up with parentification can find it hard to keep that boundary with their own child or with others. They don’t tend to have good relationship boundaries because of the lack of boundaries in their childhood relationships.

This is one of a few of these that really gets to me. I can remember over and over again my mother competing with me for resources then turning around and asking me to be her support system. Especially during the few times in which my father was unwilling to enable her. And when we were competing for resources from my father like children she always had to one up me, putting us deeper in debt…even over school supplies and clothing. It went so far as her telling me that it was my duty to take care of her no matter what the circumstance.

3. Favoring One Child Over Another

In many of the support groups I’ve been visiting recently two terms are used. The Golden Child and the Scapegoat. It’s easy to see which serves which function. But in an abusive relationship involving siblings a parent can choose one child that can do no wrong and another who can do no right. We see this often in crime serials.

It’s damaging for both children however. the Golden Child grows up with an inflated sense of self which may become deflated when they enter the real world (harming their self esteem). The other child starts with a deflated sense of self esteem and may never recover or struggle to believe they are worthy of anything better.

I would make an argument that this can still occur in single child households as well. Many of those in the support groups I follow find this to be the case after they have their first child. In the abusive parent’s eyes the grandchild can do no wrong and is pitted against their parent, putting that relationship at a strain so that the emotionally abusive parents can get whatever it is they get out of this type of interaction.

This can also take the form of pitting a child (or other family members against each other. Which only serves to reinforce the lie that love has to be earned instead of freely and unconditionally given. My father and I would often be pitted against each other. Looking back, I realize that she was trying to keep us both at each other (intentionally or not) so that she could more easily get her way.

4. Incessant Teasing/Humiliation

There is a difference between teasing and humiliation and abuse. It’s one thing to gently tease your child for a silly remark. It’s another to call them out or call them names in front of an audience. It can be a fine line as well. Making this sign particularly hard to call out.

5. Denying a Child Privacy

When you deny a child age appropriate privacy it does destroy their ability to trust others. While not entirely avoidable, growing up (until we moved) My room was either a pass through to my parents room…or had no door and was connected to the living room. I had no place where I could go and have my time to process or work things out. I’m not saying this was intentional abuse, but there are parents who would do this intentionally. This also includes invasions of privacy like reading a child’s diary.

In my mind this also includes not allowing a child to assert their boundaries. For example, one day the Valkyrie told me she wanted to get dressed by herself. So I helped her pick out her clothes and then left the room and allowed her to do her thing. She let me know if there was a problem and we all went on about our day.

If a child is old enough to do that by themselves, then I don’t think we have the right as parents to infringe on that privacy unless they abuse it in some way. Ignoring their right to privacy teaches them that they don’t deserve to assert their needs and that their boundaries will not be respected.

6. Threatening Physical Violence (Even Without Intent To Act On It)

I never personally experienced this one, but it terrifies me. I cannot imagine how unsafe a child might feel in that environment. Even if its never happened I would be terrified that one day it could.

7. Using Religion to Shame a Child

We’ve all heard stories of parents who have used religion against their children. It’s sad. It gives spirituality such a bad rap, even when the problem is the individual, and not the faith. I sometimes wonder if this may be one of many reasons people turn from established faiths. In addition, this form of emotional abuse can break a child’s ability to have that spiritual connection, whatever path they may choose.

Religion can be a beautiful thing for many families, but in some cases can be twisted and used as an instrument of shame and condemnation. Using religion to shame a child (as opposed to lovingly pointing them to spiritual values) can be damaging because in many religions, God is a father figure. This implies that not only is the biological parent ashamed of you, but so is the ultimate father of the universe.

8. Emotional Neglect or Being Absent

Abuse can be less about what a parent does and more about what they don’t do. I can relate to this article from Scary Mommy about neglect. And its tricky as she says, because its not active, its passive. It’s not something you see. It happens when your mom doesn’t keep her stuff together enough to make dinner. It was common at my house that I wouldn’t get dinner till 8 or later because mom supposedly couldn’t get up and do that. I don’t know for sure one way or the other, she was ill to some extent, but I question that now.

I understand her description of going numb when someone yells at me, or when someone ignores me because they are having a bad day. Of not knowing how to respond or what is expected of me. And if I feel that the interaction was bad, it morphs into fear, anger or shame, just as she describes. With me desperately trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong or what is wrong with me as a person. The withdrawal despite logically knowing that my suspicions are likely unfounded.

9. Showing Love Conditionally

Unconditional love is fundamental to a child learning they are wanted and loved…even if they make mistakes. Conditional love causes children to struggle with perfectionism, self esteem, and abandonment issues. It is not the same as a moment you pull away to calm down before talking to your child, especially if you make sure they know they are loved before doing so.

10. Using a Child to “Get Back” at the Other Parent

It is completely unfair to put a child in the middle of an argument or to use them as a tool for leverage. While usually associated with divorce, there are parents who do this on a regular basis. An abusive parent may use a child to get information or secrets about another parent or to poison them against them. Forcing them to choose a side. You become a pawn in their games.

11. Accepting Nothing Short of Perfection

No one is perfect. We especially cannot expect a child to be perfect. Perfectionist expectations only teach children that love is based on performance…which isn’t true. A study done in Singapore found that perfectionistic “helicopter parents” can make children excessively self-critical and undermine their confidence and self-belief.

12. “Guilt-Tripping”

Guilt Trips are another one of those triggering memories for me. Anytime my mother didn’t get her way, she was prone to make me feel guilty about something. When I wanted to move out I wasn’t being a dedicated daughter. I was taking her granddaughter away from her. When I took a trip to recharge I was abandoning my daughter (despite leaving her the ex’s parents house) and I obviously didn’t care.

And I have a hard time with healthy boundaries because of this. To quote the Mighty, it manipulates the power inequality between a parent and a child. It is unfair and exploitive.

Being “guilt-tripped” by an authority figure like a parent can cause real damage, often making it hard for a child to assert healthy boundaries in adulthood. It’s abusive because it uses the power inequality between a parent and child in a way the child often doesn’t realize is unfair and exploitative. It causes you to deny yourself things that you may deserve, or at least want. It can lead to anxiety, depression, fear, and stress, among other things.

13. Victim-hood and Blaming

I went through a very angry phase. I was unable to take responsibility for my actions and often saw myself as the victim. These are things I learned from my mother. She was never at fault for her own poor health choices and the way others treated her (even when she brought it on herself). And it was a hard habit to break. I like to think I’m mostly there now, but especially when I’m feeling worthless or self critical I can fall back into the victimhood side of the equation in the very least.

No parent is right all the time nor is it fair to blame a child for things that go wrong…especially if they are things they cannot control. I think back to all the times she talked about how she got disabled. Things like “Yeah, I got disabled having my daughter.” She always phrased it like that. She might elaborate and blame the doctor as well, but those were always the first words out of her mouth. Damaging words that made me concerned to have my own children and made me feel an obligation to take care of her. No matter how awful she treated me.

14. Refusing Communication

Children should always be allowed to communicate their fears and needs. I worry that I am guilty of this sometimes. That it is something that has seeped over from my own damaged past. When a child is not at least heard and acknowledged, they don’t feel safe. It makes them even more fragile. Though we also have to teach our children to express their emotions appropriately.

15. Verbal Abuse or Ridicule as “Discipline”

Words have power as I often tell my hypnosis clients. Sticks and stones definitely break bones, but words can hurt too. Especially if the person inflicting the damage is a parent.  In a study examining whether childhood verbal abuse increased the risk for developing personality disorders (PDs), it was found that childhood verbal abuse may contribute to development of some kinds of PDs and other co-occuring psychiatric disorders.

16. Telling a Child to “Stop Crying” or Calling Them “Too Sensitive”

Feelings are okay. And it is okay to be a sensitive child. I know my valkyrie gets upset easily and we’ve made an effort to grow our collection of coping tools. We have our volatile moments of course where we are in public and I have to put a stop to unacceptable behavior, but I attempt to be careful about doing so.

We have to make a point of making sure our children know when they overact that its not the emotion itself that is bad or good. It’s their reaction. The way they handle it. And we have to help them develop good coping skills. Something I struggle with concerning my own little one as I didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) have all the coping skills I need. We never want our children to feel that their emotions are not valid or that everything they do is an over reaction.

17. Stealing or Taking the Money a Child Earned

Parents are not entitled to the things their children have earned. I had a friend who went through this in college with her mom. Until she opened a new account her mom would constantly take money out of hers anytime things got tough or she needed cigarettes. When you take from your children it teaches them that they owe their parents for raising them. Which is not something we should be instilling in our children. We should hope that we did a good enough job that they will want to and be able to help us when we need them to be there.

18. Making Your Child Who You Want Them to Be vs. Who They Want to Be

While this should be self explanatory…I feel like a see or hear about this a lot. A relationship with a parent becomes toxic when a parent tries to force their child to be something they are not. All in the name of helping them realize their potential. Having your true identity rejected can lead to poor self esteem and perfectionism.

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School, Children & Socialization

Socialization

I get a lot of questions about socialization and my choice to homeschool. From friends and family to other homeschoolers. We all worry that our kids will not get socialized. We’ve all heard of the stereotype of the home schooled kid. They’re supposed to be these weird introverts. And I’m sure there is a reason that was once the case (and may still be in some areas), but most of the homeschool kids I’ve met are fairly well adjusted. Some behave even better than the kids we run into when we’re out and about.

Think About School

Do you know what I remember about school? Here’s just a short list of my childhood school year memories:

  • Sitting a lot.
  • Being told to be quiet.
  • Either being ahead and bored or behind and not being able to get the help I needed/wanted.
  • Very little time to play (except for maybe kindergarten).
  • Other children’s parents getting mad about my parents giving me information appropriate to me at that age ( I did share it and maybe??? that was bad???)
  • Lots of repetitive busy work.
  • Work and test where you were required to know multiple ways when one that worked for me would have sufficed.
  • Lack of variety in terms of teaching methods.
  • And often being told that factual information my parents gave me was wrong….despite evidence to the contrary.

School Variety

In addition schools vary from state to state, county to county, even from block to block. Take a look at Indy….our neighborhoods are not clearly defined. You can be walking and be in a good neighborhood only to find yourself in a bad one a block or two down and then back in another few blocks. The same is very true of our schools (which are nearly all poorly rated). And not all of us can afford a private school or tutors to supplement our children’s education.

Every school handles bullying differently as well. I can personally attest to this. We moved because of bullying and the approach at my second school was drastically different. They put a stop to it….while the first school enabled the child to continue his tyrannical rule against a few kids. From no tolerance schools who penalize children for defending themselves to schools who just say kids will be kids, bullying is a big problem in our school system.

In addition, depending on your city different politics get brought into the classroom…where they have no place. For example, I’m an avid LGBTQ+ supporter, but I can’t get behind teaching our children about transgender issues prior to say middle school or high school…and even then only if the parents are comfortable with it as well.

Parental Controls

Which leads me to parental control over the child. When you send a kid to school you essentially lose control over what indoctrination, moral teaching, and socialization that child has. For one third of that kids day. That’s a big responsibility in my mind. One that, in the hands of the wrong person, could be a nightmare.

I’ll give you an extreme example. In second grade I had a teacher of the kids will be kids approach to bullying. She told me I just needed to toughen up. When I started to have fits over behaviors she ignored (hitting, throwing, awful name calling) instead of having a conversation, she choose to punish me for getting upset! Or making me write lines about how being bullied was no reason to cry or be upset! Again extreme example, but that kind of stuff still happens today.

And from what I see of most kids these days…the teachers aren’t given much power to do their job. I have a friend who was teaching secondary education (Math) in Tennessee . He had a problem kid who constantly upended class. After a point, the school refused to let him send the kid to the office or inschool detention despite disruptive behaviors. In fact, he was accused of harm to the child for stopping him from enacting violence on another child! While these things do not happen at these extremes everywhere, nearly every teacher I know admits that there is a defecit of power in controlling the classroom behaviors of their students.

But, Kids Need Kids Right?

Everyone seems to think that the only way to socialize children is with kids…but that’s not true. There are many ways to socialize children. While I want to make sure my child has time to play with her peers, I also have to worry about the behaviors of those peers.

In addition, socialization is far more than just hanging out with your peers. Think to after you graduated high school. How much of your social interaction after that was solely with your peers? Mine already wasn’t mostly with my peers. I had friends who had just started high school my senior year. In college I had friends from social groups outside the school who were at least two decades older than me. Or at work. How often do you interact solely with people your age? You don’t.

Behaviors

And lets talk about the behaviors of those kids at school. It’s like the sterile environment where we force kids to act against their nature. There is something to be said for getting a kid to sit still and conditioning them to a work ethic…but I don’t feel that school did that for me. Morality and teachings from my parents were far beneficial to me in reaching those ends.

I cannot tell you how many times we’ve been out and about and seen that child whose parents simply do not make them mind. It’s not all of them by any means, but you know that kid. The kid who can get away with throwing a fit in a walmart or the kid who screams bloody murder in the McDonald’s play place…

I don’t want my kid to learn that. Or act like that. And they learn that through interactions with children who haven’t been raised that way. The Valkyrie has a few friends from various activities who fit this bill. It isn’t that they are bad kids, but I no longer leave her at their house because I don’t want to have to correct the behaviors later. Its far more effective if you can correct them in the moment.

And its not like I watch her like a hawk. One or both of them bring a behavioral issue to me and they know that no matter how frustrated they may be afterwards, I tend towards fairness no matter who has done what. There is also a respect that grows from that fairness (with most of the kiddos I’m describing).

Socialization Happens Everywhere

The truth is that socialization happens everywhere. And it happens far more effectively with diversity of thought, age, and experience. We spend time with Pagans and Christians. We are in cub scouts and go to at least one or two other children based social activities.

Freya talks with adults at my work. She and I talk on the way there and the way home. We talk about whatever she wants to most of the time unless I have something specific to talk to her about. She’s only five and while our conversations are far from Ivy Leauge we still learn from each other.

And she gets socialized every time we go out. Or when she goes with me to a function. She can see and enact social norms. She has her points she struggles with but she is getting socialized. The biggest problem she has right now is that she doesn’t understand why kids are sometimes mean. She just doesn’t. And if I’m being entirely honest, neither did I as a child, and I went to public school. And of course, she always wants to spend more time with her peers, but its okay if she gets socialization from other spectrums as well as far as I’m concerned. That is not to mention the poor quality of socialization I saw in the public school in the 90s (me), the early 2000s (my cousin) and the stories I hear today.

School Hasn’t Always Looked Like This

So I have been researching schooling for a while now. It started with these old school house books my father has from the late 1800s. He gave them to me when we started home school. Which got me looking into school facts. And many of them support homeschooling.

For example, did you know that in 1844 45% of all children were schooled at home by their parents or tutors. Not all states had free public schools before 1870.

If we look at the history of schooling in this country alone…we were founded in the 1776. We had homeschooling and school options in some areas for 142 years before schooling became compulsory through elementary in 1918. Those schools By 1977 parents began to question that logic due to a variety of problems. And by 1993 homeschooling was legal again in all 50 states. With a growth rate of 7% per year.

And the growth rate of homeschooling due to these problems are huge. And they are not just social, educational, or political. Public schools are just a mess. With funding taken away from the arts while money is poured into sports above even actual academic education in some schools. It’s my personal opinion that schools should not get to put more money into football or basketball, nor should the fine arts be diminished when some of the money divested into sports (which are equally important for different reasons) could be more evenly distributed into the other areas.

Academic Success

In terms of results, on average, home schooled kids test in the 87th percentile. That means that they score better than 87 percent of the students tested.

My Final Thoughts

I’m not saying public school is bad. I also understand that some people have no choice. I do not say this to make anyone feel bad. But I refuse to continue to listen to people who tell me that my kid cannot survive without the low quality socialization children receive in school

I think the benefits outweigh the risks. Is she going to be a little different than her peers? Maybe. It’s possible, but that could be the case even if she went to school. That was my perception and experience in school. I was always the weird kid just because my beliefs and moral center was different. That didn’t make me bad or wrong. Heck it didn’t even mean, in many cases, that I went against common social norms. It just meant that I was different…something I cherish now.

Ultimately, I have to boil down the benefits of homeschool socialization to the following (courtesy of Time4Learning):

  • Shorter school days allow more time to work on hobbies
  • No negative peer influences
  • No bullying
  • Many opportunities to interact  with people of all ages and situations
  • More real-world experiences for practicing social skills
  • Develop into confident adults with a healthy self-esteem

And yes, it does take more effort in many ways, but I’m willing to do that. I will always worry that my kid doesn’t get enough time with other kiddos…but then I hear that kid screaming at the McDonalds or throwing a fit in the Walmart and as horrible as it is….I know that isn’t going to be my kid.

Just find a co-op or join some extra cirriculars. It doesn’t have to cost much. You can even volunteer somewhere or get social interaction at the Y (you may qualify for a discounted membership). There are plenty of free opportunities out there if you just look online. Especially if you live in a larger city.

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Reading Spotlight: 10 Leaders Who Changed The World

I want to start a new series today where I highlight some of the books we’re working through. This week we’re reading 10 leaders who changed the world. In our case I’m reading it to the little one, but it still might be good for some of you with older kiddos.

Now I bought mine from the library so you may be able to check it out. If not, here is the Amazon link for it as well. From what I saw when I looked it up a few days ago its about $6 dollars new.

Disclaimer

Now before we get started…I am in no way affilated with Amazon at this time. Nor the author of this book. This review of literature is intended solely to share a potential resource for other home school families. I make no money off the links or sharing this source. That said…lets get started.

Who?

The book features the following leaders who have changed the world:

  • Moohandas Ghandi
  • Winston Churchill
  • Charles de Gaulle
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Mo Zedong
  • Joseph Stalin
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Fidel Castro
  • Nelson Mandela
  • And others

What?

What makes this a good book you ask? Well its simple. First it has a lot of pictures. It’s drawn in a comic book style, but its not a comic book. Each page has a few paragraphs and each figure has 4-6 pages regarding their background. Each image is really engaging even for myself as an adult.

Second, its simple. It keeps to the basic facts (without gruesume detail) of what they did without too much moral implication of whether it was right or wrong. This has allowed myself and the little one to have great discussions about the actions of these people good or bad. It also leaves it very open to use with other sources.

Third, it covers information I’ve never heard about each of these individuals. Which I think is neat and important. For example I never knew that Ghandi went to law school in England. Or that it helped him learn that he enjoyed a simpler lifestyle.

Conclusion

Check out this book. I think your kids will like it and it can provoke a good deal of discussion. It’s engaging, pretty to look at and good for middle to late elementary school readers.

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Toxic Parents: Identification & Action

Recently I’ve been talking about the caregiving relationship turning toxic. There are many reasons why this can happen. Today I thought it might be beneficial to talk about how or why this can happen as well as how to identify a toxic relationship with your parent.

When Elders Turn On You

So what causes an elder to start abusing their caregiver?

Safety

The easiest answer is that you are a known quality and they feel safe with you. Which is great except for when it turns toxic. We went through this with my father not long after he had his stroke. He was kinder to the aides who were there the least than to his own family. He just was afraid of letting them see his weaknesses after the stroke (being the proud man he is).

Frustration

A change in your mental status is frustrating. It makes it harder to do the things you used to do. It’s also scary. This is another one we temporarily went through with my father. He was (and sometimes still is) so frustrated that he would often get angry when we tried to help him. Sometimes he just needed to be reminded that we weren’t the enemy and only trying to help. This can be a temporary or permanent reason behind a potentially toxic parent.

Predisposition

Your parent may have just been toxic before. Sometimes this is noticeable, but I’ve found that most emotional abuse is far more subtle. Often outsiders will not even see it unless they are spending a lot of time with your family. My boyfriend had trouble pinpointing it for nearly two years. He knew something was off but couldn’t figure out if it was intentional, abusive, or what. We’re still not sure if its intentional, but her behavior looking back now was definitely abusive at worst or manipulative at best.

How to Cope with an Abusive Elder

The most effective and simple answer when it comes to a loved ones abuse it to remove yourself from the situation. However, that isn’t always possible. We love those we care for and there may be no one else willing or able to assist. In my case I’m an only daughter. My half sister could take care of dad, but then he’d have to move across the country to California.

A mix of hope, love, fear, obligation and guilt typically compel the primary caregiver to continue seeing to their loved one’s needs. But to make that relationship work there has to be clear boundaries or it becomes untenable and both parties will leave with hurt feelings. The caregiver has to balance the needs of their loved on with their own well being.

What Can You Do?

The good news is that there is a number of things you can do. Some of them easier than others. The absolute first thing you should do is take a step back. Find some sort of respite care through your local aged and disabled organization or a friend. Get a break even if its a weekend. So that you can clear your head and take a look at whether this is something you can manage, change, or have to walk away from. Make sure that before you take your break you talk with the person you care for. Make it clear that you are doing your best. And that if that isn’t enough then someone else may have to take over.

Other articles that I’ve read say to follow through unless you see an immediate change in behavior, but having been in and out of the healthcare field from both sides, I don’t agree with this advice. If you have a parent that has a personality trait making them toxic they can manage to manipulate you into thinking they’ve changed until the next blow up. Which has been a reoccuring theme with my mother for most of my life.

The Nuclear Option

The nuclear option is to leave. It’s not something I suggest lightly, hence calling it nuclear. However, there are some people that no matter how much counseling, boundary setting, detachment, or respite care, will continue to act toxic. It is unfortunate but true. Continuing to provide hands on care for someone who refuses to respect or cooperate with you will ultimate you jeopardize your health and well being.

It hurts and its hard, but trust me this can be for the best if you’ve gone through every other option. I’m not saying to just drop them off at the nearest home either. I had to place mom somewhere due to an emergency situation, but we spent a good three months going through other nursing homes and assisted living facilities, before finding a group home with adult day services that we like. She didn’t, but I knew they would be good to her there. And they were for the four months she chose to stay before moving in with her sister up north.

Regardless, it is very important to know when to get out. Whether you feel you’ve been roped into doing this for them or do it out of love, you have to take care of yourself first. Or you are no good to anyone else. Finding a good fit in a facility is difficult but will give you the assurance that they will get the assistance that they need while allowing you to choose your amount of interaction with them and their care. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometimes it is the best option.

But The Guilt

The complaint I had with the entire process the guilt I felt. I was raised to believe that you do everything to help and protect your family. Even at a cost to yourself, but that isn’t entirely true.

Yes, I do feel that you have an obligation to do everything within your power to help your family. To hold your end of the obligation. Especially if your parents went to bat for you. But not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. Nor does everyone have the time or resources to do so. It is okay to get the best professional help possible if your assistance comes at the cost of other family members and your own well being. As was the case here.

My mother was toxic. She undermined all my efforts to help her in the ways the doctor prescribed. She undermined all my efforts to save money for an emergency or to pay off their debts. My mother made it impossible for my father’s health to improve. She refused to turn off the tv at night (volume set at 50+) so that my kiddo could go to bed at a reasonable time. Heck, some nights she even riled her up right before bed! My personal experience with a toxic parent had her keeping me so stressed that it was easy for her to manipulate me into putting myself more in debt for her own benefit and detriment (in terms of eating bad food and ignoring doctors orders).

This may not be the case in your instance, but if the care of your family member is risking the well being of your kiddo, your relationship, or another loved one, then you also have an obligation to those people. We cannot let our family dysfunction get in the way especially of a child’s well being. The self harm attempt (albeit attention seeking) that my mother engaged in, was my final straw. I could no longer expose my little Valkyrie to her behaviors and even mentioning moving out had made it significantly worse.

It’s Your Choice

I learned the hard way that enabling my mother as a means to get her off my back was a bad decision. One she had been using on my father for a long, long time. It only makes things worse. The same goes for just giving in for any other reason. This process is still teaching me that I matter and that my feelings are important as well. Something I didn’t get growing up. You count in this equation too and you always have options. I made a choice to focus on protecting and caring for my daughter and father who were willing to work with me rather than against me. You have the right to make that or any other choice for yourself as well.

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Why I No Longer Use Worksheets

I’ve been revamping my home school efforts for 2020. I’ve been thinking about it for most of her kindergarten year now. I tried a few curriculum, which I may review later, but I just wasn’t happy with what we were doing.

When Homeschool Becomes School

Some people are going to disagree and that is fine. This is not a condemnation of worksheets, just an opinion. Worksheets may work great with your kiddo. They may love the busy work, but looking back on school….that’s what I hate.

I think back to the things I disliked about school. And I realize that my daughter is a lot like me. Probably more like me than her daddy. Which is okay, but it really made me think about what we were doing and why.

For a while I was hung up on school standards and meeting them. Of doing anything to make sure that she was just like any other kid. But she’s not. She goes to school at home, she comes to work with me, and (though I may be biased), she’s sharp as a tack. Calling me out when I pull something silly or do something she knows isn’t quite right. Doing me proud. But those standards are arbitrary. And for the most part, she is exceeding them…with the exception of penmanship…which I’m not exactly worried about right now.

But I absolutely hated the busy work. Hated the seemingly twenty million pages of the same thing that was boring and tedious. I like that we get to play math games for our right start ciriculum. That we are learning patterns rather than memorizing. That it has minimal worksheets. And we are beginning to do the same thing for our reading lessons. Just this week we started playing games to begin to learn our first 100 sight words. Turning connect four and a fly swatter into learning tools. Playing board games to work on manners, and turn taking, and behavior….even math in some cases. We played a cooperative adult board game with some friends and used it to work on problem solving skills.

I like what we do better than what I did in school and I get to spend time with her. Time that, for the most part, she thinks is fun.

The Problem With Worksheets

My biggest problem with worksheets is that they are boring route learning. They don’t actually teach you the material or let you think and be creative. While we should be teaching our child to problem solve, we instead ask them to stay inside one limited box.

Now while it can be useful to think inside the box, its also useful to tear that sucker up and toss it in the trash sometimes. I’ve seem too many worksheets that entirely disagree with a rational answer or that have multiple answers. And while as a parent, you can mitigate that with your own personal judgement, its just not worth the extra time when you could be having fun engaging with your child instead.

Why force them into something they hate, when you can teach it with fun and wonder and whimsy. I get this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there are tons of resources out there if you aren’t creative enough to come up with your own games. I’ve found tons of free (or cheap) resources on Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest. There are also many other home school blogs or teachers blogs that you can find if you just type in what you are looking for. Many of them with printable so that all you have to do is print and go.

What Can I Do?

When I found myself divesting myself of worksheets, I tried to figure out what I was going to do. I’m creative, but I was still stuck inside that old box. I was still stuck in that box. And it was a very familiar box. I knew what to expect and how to do that, but we weren’t learning together. In addition, we were spending more time in animosity than in harmony.

If you find yourself in the homeschool worksheet rut, find a fun way to learn. Here are just a few ideas based on somethings we’ve done or will be doing soon:

Math

  • Check out Right Start Math. While it has some sit down learning it focuses on pattern recognition, games, and problem solving to learn rather than rote memorization.
  • The other game program we use is Math Seeds (which comes with a reading program called Reading Eggs) that goes through 2nd grade material.

Language Arts

  • I mentioned Reading Eggs above. It has an additional program called reading express (ages 7-9), though I am not thrilled with its spelling program.
  • Sight Words Swatting. I printed out the sight words we were working on (based on the Fry 100 list) and had her swat it with a fly swatter. She loves wacking those words.
  • Sight word bingo. Similar concept only they try to win a common bingo game by finding their words.
  • Sight word chutes and ladders. We took an old board and put post it notes with sight words on each square (making it easily customizable) and she had to identify the word when she landed on it.
  • Sight word connect four, where you identify a word to be able to place your chip in the game.

Science

  • We talk about simple chemistry when we cook (and yes I had to do some research to sort this out).
  • Science books from goodwill and amazon. These are not text books.
  • Stem Kits on topics that interest your kids. We got one on growing crystals recently.
  • Science fun has a number of cheap experiments you can do from home.

History

  • We will soon be starting on Castles and Knights so I got this book. It includes 50 hands on activities to teach kids about knights, castles, and the middle ages.
  • Play pretend. Let them imagine they are there. Last year we went to a child hero exhibit at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. The little one got to pretend she was Anne Frank. From choosing what we might take into hiding as a family to sneaking across a creaky floor.

These are just a few things we could do instead of worksheets. Don’t get me wrong. They have their place, but they aren’t fun and the kids just don’t want to do them. There are far better ways to engage our kids in the learning experience. Ways that make them want to learn and experience more. Which is exactly what we want. There are going to be times when they just don’t like what they are learning, but that doesn’t mean that we still cannot find some joy in it.

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What Happens When Your Care giving Relationship Turns Toxic.

toxic cargivers

Recently I posted about my own experience having a toxic parent and where I had to draw the line. Many of us are raised to think that we have this obligation…and that is fine. However, where do we draw the line? At what point can we say that enough is enough? When do you say that your care giving relationship is toxic?

The truth is that line varies. Each of us has our own tolerance level. Each of us have a different set of boundaries. However, there are things that we can be looking for and identifying when evaluating whether or not that line has been crossed. And we need to be looking. Otherwise we set ourselves up as caregivers (and family) for a world of hurt.

What Do You Mean?

While I haven’t been posting here, I have been talking to a lot of caregivers and other abuse victims in online chats and support groups. As well as friends and family who had had to go through some of these things with their own loved ones. And the stories are awful.

While I cannot share examples I have been given due to promises of confidentiality, I am willing to share my own.

So I posted the gist of what happened to me. If you haven’t read that update you can find it here. The short (er) version of this is that my mother made a series of decisions that made it untenable for her to continue living with us. It also made the rest of us emotionally and physically unsafe. Especially after she chose to team up with her crazy sister. I had to choose the safety of my father, the little one, and myself over her. Not an easy decision, or one made lightly.

What Happened?

So I’m going to break this down into categories and describe what happened an its impact. Because there was a lot.

Financial

The biggest hit was financial. For as much as I had worked to prepare financially for losing one of my parents income or moving out, we got hit hard. There were not only costs for facilities and changes and covering everyone’s needs, but we were doing it with less money.

I was being paid to care for my mother through an agency. When she left the home, I lost my full time pay, plus had additional costs. I ended up racking up another 600-1500 in debt on my credit card between the beginning of August and the end of 2019

And even after my mother burned her bridges and took all her money from the household….we had more complications.

Paperwork

This next part is still partially financial, but was a huge mess.

So in addition to our financial crisis I had to protect my father’s finances from my mother. I had to create a new bank account, move his SSI, move his retirement payments, all while preventing her from getting a hold of the bank account. Not because she didn’t have a right to it, but because she (and her sister) is historically known for mismanaging money and I didn’t want to be liable for any of that.

I also had to forward her mail and find her documents. Which she promptly lost after receiving. I had to nullify the POA….a lot of which cost time and/or money we did not have.

Emotional

This all caused a lot of stress on my family and those around me. I had my aunt blasting falsehoods (an attention seeking effort to get her way) all over Facebook. I was fending off family who did not have a complete story. Stressing my father out. Telling my child I was an awful person. It was bad. We got to the point that we had to block some of them on social media.

It also messed with the kiddo and my father. My little warrior went through another bout with night terrors, fear of sleeping alone in her room, and behaviors due to all the chaos being created by the situation.

For myself and my father it has been hard seeing my mother turn her back on our family due to her own poor choices. It was hard to decide to this and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some level of guilt and frustration over this. It freaked us all out to make this decision, but it came down to one simple thing…what was best for the kiddo (as well as everyone else in the houses) sanity.

Frustration

And we are still not done. We still have things to give her. We’re going to set a deadline with firm boundaries…something I am concerned about. I fear either her or her sister coming to the house, it gives me massive anxiety and it upsets my father who is hurt by her choices.

Now What?

And I’m sure there are more consequences to come. But it is hard. And not many people realize this is a possibility if your relationship with the person you are caring for becomes toxic. The best thing you can do is find a way out. Which is why over the next several weeks I’ll be posting articles about how to identify these toxic relationships (vs healthy ones) and the tools you have to get help if you find yourself in the same situation.

If you are there, either reading this not realizing it (as I did for a few years) or already eyes wide open…you are not alone. Find support. There are groups online and on social media where you can share your story and see what others have done to combat their own fears and situations.

Nor am I telling you to just drop the people you care for. That’s not what this is about. This is about protecting yourself as a caregiver from potential abuse. We hear more stories about caregivers abusing their elder parents. However, the opposite can be just as true and we don’t tell those stories.

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Update 1/16/20

Welcome back to Wyrd Mama. I’ve been gone for a bit. Life got hectic. So I thought I would give the short run down.

Things got really bad with my caregiving duties last year. It nearly financially and romantically ruined me. I found out my mother was a narcissist or borderline (I can’t get a straight answer as to which it is).

I was attempting to move out and continue to be the caregiver to both parents when my mother started to loose her marbles. Putting herself in the psych ward over self harm attention seeking behaviors (with my Valkyrie in the other room).

We decided enough was enough and went through several living situations before putting her in a group home…where she promptly decided to move in with her even crazier sister. We are now no contact due to a series of toxic interactions that were damaging to not only myself and the little one, but to my dad who she is also targeting.

Its Not All Bad

For as bad as all that sounds it has been really good for myself and my family. As much as I hate to see my mother pushing herself downhill there comes a point where you can no longer harm yourself or the rest of your family to fulfill an obligation. It sucks to have to choose between two or more family members, but such is life.

What’s New

My little Valkyrie’s behaviors have gotten better (mostly fits) and we were finally able to get a consistent home schedule going with my mom out of the house. My dad is sleeping better and his health has improved dramatically since she left in August. I’m less stressed unless she (or worse her sister) calls.

So, with all that said, the plan is to be back with a new post at least biweekly. I plan on featuring a few new things such as how to tell when your care giving relationship has gone toxic and what to do about it. There’s just not enough information out there for us caregivers.

I also want to focus on fun homeschooling stuff to do with your kiddos. Maybe showcase some of my diy and family stuff. I’m not sure, but I want to start posting again now that my life is a bit more in order.

Let me know if there’s anything you want to see or any questions you’d like asked.

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