Mary Magdalene… First Person Account

My name is Mary. Me and about a thousand other women. I think half of the women I know are named Mary. Herod the Great’s wife was named Marianne and it seems as if everyone wanted to name their baby girls after her.

But what’s really in a name? For most of my life, I heard my name said with shame. With contempt. With disgust. Whether that be my own voice in my head accusing me… Mary, you’re not good enough. Mary, you should be ashamed of yourself. Mary, you’re never going to be like the other women.   Or the whispers I heard from other people, sometimes with judgement, sometimes with pity – I hardly ever liked the sound of my own name.

Then I met him. I had heard about him. About his teachings that seemed so different than the other Rabbis. How he seemed to care about people that most of the religious leaders had given up on. His name, was Yeshua, which in Hebrew means “salvation”…I think you call him, Jesus. But nothing prepared me for my first encounter with this man.

When he looked at me – I felt like he saw something in me that I never seen in myself. I wasn’t even exactly sure what it is that he saw, but I felt seen and known in a way that I never had before. And before I could even open my mouth to speak to him, he commanded 7 demons to leave me. 7. Demons. 7 different ways that I had been haunted up until then. 7 different things that didn’t belong in me. That were other than Mary. In a sense, Jesus removed all of the things from my life that weren’t ME. He rid me of all of the things that were keeping me captive from being the Mary he created me to be. After they left me, I realized what he was seeing when he looked at me – He saw Mary. A Mary that was fully known and fully loved. A Mary that was capable. A Mary that was trustworthy. A Mary without shame or guilt or condemnation. From that moment forward, when He said my name, I believed who he saw in me. It was impossible not to.

After Yeshua made me who I was always meant to be, I hardly ever left his side. I wanted everyone to experience this kind of life-giving love and transformation. I wanted to do whatever it took to make sure that He was able to have as many encounters with as many people as possible. Most days I had no idea what was in store for us as we travelled and taught and served and healed. But those few years of my life were marked by daily reminders of how insane his love was for people.

Don’t get me wrong, there were struggles during those early days of ministry with Jesus. In case you don’t know, Judaism is mostly a boys club. Girls can’t become Rabbis or teach in the temple or even really pray out loud in a religious service. And when Rabbis spent time developing disciples, those disciples were NOT women. So you can imagine the comments and questions that came from some of the men that travelled with us. The funny thing is though, I never felt the need to defend myself. To prove that I was worthy of walking with Jesus. To show the boys that girls can play, too. Because I just knew that I was worthy to Him. That he believed in me. And that was enough. And eventually, that was enough for the other men as well.

It didn’t hurt that Jesus went out of his way to shatter what our society thought about women.

In our culture, men aren’t even supposed to greet women in public. But Jesus met with a Samaritan woman at a well and had a full conversation with her. He saw her real need for living water and led her gently to the truth with compassion.

And then, in a different city when the religious leaders tried to entice him to say that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned, Jesus was her shield. He told the men to cast stones if they were without sin. And after they all walked away, he told the woman that he didn’t condemn her either.

Jesus seemed determined to turn our ideas of what men and women were supposed to do on their head. To invite us into a deeper way of seeing and understanding our identity.

In fact, one time we were watching as Jesus was teaching thousands of people on a hillside.

And as it became time for them to eat, the disciples approached Jesus and asked for him to dismiss the crowd so they could go into the village to get food. But Jesus had a different idea. He took 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish and turned it into MORE than enough to feed the thousands and thousands of people gathered there that day. But the most amazing part to ME, was that after he broke the bread, he asked ALL of us to serve the food. Not just the women. And not because He was trying to demean the men – He was inviting them into the the miracle of service. The joy of hospitality. He wanted us ALL to experience the abundance of serving others out of his neverending supply.

Jesus changed the game. The rules were shattered. The players that normally were the stars were now on the sidelines. And those of us that didn’t think we were allowed to play, were handed the playbook.

So it shouldn’t have surprised us that the way he left the game was so dramatic. That instead of using the power we had witnessed to escape his sentence, he walked willingly to his execution. But for so many of his disciples, his status as a criminal was embarrassing to them. They didn’t want their reputations to be ruined by his shameful death on a Roman cross. But I had no reputation outside of Him. He WAS my reputation. So where else would I go, but at his feet as he suffered and died? I watched as he gave John to his mother, Mary and Mary to John. But I didn’t need Him to give me to someone else. I belonged to Him. And I knew that even as he breathed his last, that I would forever belong to Him.

They took his body away and wrapped it in linen, and laid in a tomb in a garden nearby. Mary and I followed Joseph, the good man that took care of his burial, to the tomb so we would know where his body was placed. They rolled a giant stone in front of the tomb and there was nothing left to do. It was fast approaching the beginning of the Sabbath, so we left the tomb to prepare spices for his body and to rest. I hated that we couldn’t do anything for his body that day. I just kept thinking of him laying there, uncared for, alone. But we were faithful to the commandment to rest quietly. Sometimes faithfulness is painful.

Before the sun even rose after the Sabbath, I returned to the garden where his body was laid. It would have been helpful to wait for the sunlight, but I couldn’t stand it. I carried the spices with me to make sure that his body was cared for, and I worried as I walked about that giant stone at the entrance of the tomb. How many people would it take to roll it away so I could get to him? But as I got closer to the tomb, I saw that the stone was already rolled away. Oh no. Someone beat me to him. Someone took his body. I needed help.

I ran as fast as I could to find John and Peter, to tell them what I had seen. I could barely catch my breath to tell them, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.” No sooner than those words left my mouth we were all in a dead sprint back to the garden. Adrenaline and shock kept my feet moving while my head was spinning. Disbelief gave way to anger. The Romans must have stolen him. Did they not shame him enough on that cross? Now they want to defile his body? Why couldn’t they leave the dead alone?

Peter and John started inspecting what was left inside of the tomb. But I knew he was gone. And my heart broke right there outside of that tomb. The anger had left me and all I felt was my heart shattering into a million pieces. I stood there and wept. Peter and John left me there. I couldn’t leave. Where would I go? This was the last place that I knew he was and I couldn’t walk away. As I wept, I leaned my head into the tomb. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I just needed to see inside. But instead of seeing just the burial linen, which is what John and Peter told me was there, there were two men in white inside. Thinking about it now, I probably should have been scared or surprised, but my sadness was so overwhelming that I didn’t even stop crying. The men looked at me and asked, “Woman, why do you weep?”

Thinking that maybe they could help me find him – I answered, “They took my Master and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” After I explained that to them, I turned around and saw another man standing outside of the tomb. He was probably the gardener or groundskeeper. I still couldn’t stop weeping. The man asked me, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

This was all beginning to feel like a cruel joke. Like children who hide your belongings and make you play a game to find them in order to get them back. Surely one of these men knew were my Jesus was. I was desperate and sad and frustrated. I begged the gardener, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

Then the man simply said, “Mary.”

It was Him. It was Jesus. The way he said my name was always different than the way anyone else said my name. I would recognize my name spoken by him anywhere. Think of the person that loves you the most – and hear in your mind how your name sounds coming out of their mouth. It’s different. You would recognize it anywhere. So even though it shouldn’t have made sense that I was talking to a dead man, I KNEW it was him. My despair changed in an instant to joy.

I turned toward him, dropped to my knees and exclaimed, “Rabbi!” The teacher was standing right in front of me!

Jesus answered me and said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”

It didn’t really hit me then, but I was the first one to see Jesus alive again. And not only did he appear to me there outside of the tomb, but he trusted me to tell everyone else about his resurrection. He believed in me to be the apostle to the apostles.

I didn’t want to leave him, but I also couldn’t wait to tell the others the incredible news. That he was alive! That death couldn’t hold him. That the stone had no choice but to roll away. That our mourning was OVER.

So I went. I found the men and told them that I had seen the Master! Of course they had a million questions, and I answered them all as best as I could. In that moment, I realized the fullness of my calling. That I would spend the rest of my life doing this exact same thing. Telling anyone that would listen that Jesus was alive.

We spent the rest of that Sunday talking about what his resurrection meant. Trying to decipher if he would finally become the political leader that so many of his disciples hoped he would be. We were hopeful for sure, but we were also incredibly scared. Scared that the Jewish leaders would think we stole and hid the body. Scared that they knew that he was alive and were coming for us as a way to silence the movement. So we met in a house that night and locked all of the doors to try and find some sense of safety. As we were talking in hushed tones, all of the sudden he appeared. Yeshua. Salvation. You won’t believe what the first thing out of his mouth was. It wasn’t, “I told you so!” or “I should have picked a more believing group of people.” or “Time for revenge.” It was, “Peace to you.”

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that as soon as he speaks something it just IS. I learned that about him during our very first encounter when he commanded those demons to leave me.  After he pronounced peace in that room, peace immediately fell over all of us in a time that we were frightened for our very lives. And then he repeated it, “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Though there were a couple of dozen people in that room, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. Not just because he had a way of looking straight into your soul, but because he had already sent me from the garden. I believed that the call on my life was from him and empowered by him.

After that first day of his resurrection, Jesus appeared to us several times over the next 40 days. It was almost as if he was transitioning us from an every day walk with him to his departure back to the Father. Like a child leaving home, he wanted us to have roots AND wings. To walk in confidence dependence on Him, even when he wasn’t physically present.

The very last time we saw him, he made us promise to stay in Jerusalem in order to receive the Holy Spirit. I had no idea at all what that meant. Was this something literal or another parable like so many he had told before. Maybe the Holy Spirit was going to come as a baby like Jesus did. Maybe the Holy Spirit would come down like a dove like when the Master was baptized. We all stood staring into the sky as our healer was taken up into the clouds and disappeared from our sight.

No sooner than he was out of our sight, two men in white robes appeared and said to us, “You Galileans! – why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly – and mysteriously – as he left.”

We returned to Jerusalem from that hillside and went immediately to the upper room we had been using as a meeting space. We decided right then and there that we were all in this for good. No turning back. And there wasn’t one single moment that the men doubted that the women would be with them in ministry. They had seen Jesus include us for 3 years and it felt natural for them to mimic the Teacher. We talked and planned and debated about where to go from there. As you can imagine we all had our own opinions about how to get through to people to tell them about Yeshua.

But I have to tell you what happened yesterday.

It was the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is the Jewish Festival of Weeks which commemorates God’s giving of the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai. We were all gathered together to celebrate when without a warming there was a sound like a strong wind. The kind of wind that shakes your windows and blows open any doors left unsecure. The wind came through the entire building we were in and all of the sudden everyone started speaking at once.

I couldn’t understand what anyone else was saying, but for some reason, I knew that in the language I was speaking I was proclaiming all of the works of God. We were all talking at once and must have sounded crazy! There were many Jews in Jerusalem at the time who had travelled there from all over for the Feast. When they heard the noise coming from our meeting place, they came running to where we were. When they got there, they were all dumbfounded. They each heard their own language being spoken, one right after another.

They said to one another, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various native languages?” Their heads were spinning and because they couldn’t make sense of any of it, they thought we were drunk!

Peter spoke up (I know, shocker), and told the people gathered that we weren’t drunk but were in the middle of fulfilling a prophesy from the book of Joel.

 

God said

“In the last days

I will pour out my Spirit

On every kind of people

Your sons will prophesy,

Also your DAUGHTERS.

 

Did you catch that?

 

When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit

On those who serve me, men and WOMEN both.

 

And there we were. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. Both the men AND the women. On the day meant to celebrate the law, Jesus turned it all on its head by sending His Spirit. On a day where we were supposed to be recalling all of the commandments, God was showing us a new way to follow him.

So it’s not difficult to know where to go from here…

I will walk in the Spirit of God as he leads me to tell everyone about Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. I will ask God each day for fresh manna – just enough for that day, and trust that He will take care of my tomorrows.

And I won’t doubt for one second that I’m able to do this work. I have confidence in my calling because he said my name. I’ve since learned that Mary means “the wished for child” and Magdalene means “tower”. I am so thankful to be named Mary now. He has called me and named me, I am the Wished for Tower and my name will forever be buried and raised to life in His.

 

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The 20 Year Battle…

I’m tired you guys. I haven’t written here in a while, but I feel like I need to for my own sanity today. I’ve been pretty discouraged about my migraine situation lately and writing is cathartic for me. So here I am.

My journey with migraines started when I was 16 or 17. At least, that’s when I saw my first neurologist. He put me on preventative medication that seemed to work decently through college. For the most part, for the first ten years or so, I could manage my migraines with preventative medication, abortive meds like Imitrex, and NSAIDS like Excedrin.

They started to pick up in frequency and duration in my late 20s and early 30s and for the last 5 or so years they have been almost daily.

Here are all of the things I have tried, in no particular order:

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(the above picture is only the things I could gather in 3 minutes and haven’t thrown away)

  • preventative medications (probably close to 15 different medications including beta blockers, anti-depressants, seizure medications, and muscle relaxers)
  • cutting out caffeine
  • acupuncture
  • various supplements including magnesium, feverfew, vitamin B, plexus, flaxseed, probiotics, etc.
  • cutting out gluten
  • massage
  • essential oils
  • cutting out dairy
  • using menthol in my body wash
  • cryotherapy
  • expensive eye drops
  • yoga
  • cutting out alcohol
  • the Cefaly band (electric impulses to the trigeminal nerve)
  • ketogenic diet
  • CBD oil
  • wearing a mouth guard (day and night)
  • craniosacral therapy (they “moved” the skull bones to allow for better swishing of my spinal fluid)
  • applied kinesiology (this one was super crazy)
  • physical therapy
  • wearing red sunglasses (this is a thing I promise)
  • drinking lemon juice and Himalayan salt (also a thing)
  • and the latest attempt – the Omega Procedure

During the trial of the Omega procedure (about a week) I was experiencing about 50% relief from the duration of the migraines. So we decided to move forward with the permanent procedure. Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped as much as it did in the trial. So I went down to Atlanta last month to visit a naturopath who took me off of all the good things (gluten, dairy, potatoes, corn, red meat, pork, carrots). I’ve been on that diet now for 3 or 4 weeks and taking his supplements. The rest of my body feels better, but my head still SUCKS.

Today I am going to see a neurofeedback specialist here in Memphis. I’ll be honest and say I’m feeling a little desperate for some answers and hope right now. I basically function in the spaces between debilitating headaches and those windows continue to shrink. I try not to let myself get too sad about it for too long, but last night I kind of had a breakdown. I’m just tired of missing so much with my family, my friendships, my life.

I literally have a headache almost 24/7 these days. It just varies in intensity and sometimes location. I have learned how to still be present and show up despite pain, but it’s getting harder honestly. I remind myself constantly that I am still VERY blessed and a “good day” doesn’t have to be pain free. But man, I’m ready for some days where I’m not constantly chasing pain management or figuring out exit plans if it gets too intense. It would be nice to make plans and be able to really look forward to them, not anticipating or worrying about migraines and the nausea that often accompanies them.  I told John last night that I kind of feel like a prisoner lately. I need parole. Desperately.

Thank you for listening and reading praying and asking and showing up. If this journey has shown me anything it’s that I have an unbelievable tribe that loves me well. Migraines are relentless, but so are my people.

When My Dad Died

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My dad died 9 years ago today. Sometimes it feels like that was just a few weeks ago, sometimes an entire lifetime seems to have passed. I’ve never shared much about those days and weeks leading up to his death publicly, but with my Mom having a stroke 2 weeks ago and my anxiety super high the last few days, my nerves are raw and I feel like writing is the thing to do.

When I think back on the 3 weeks between when Charis was born and when we buried my Dad, it’s not the pure insanity of it all that dominates my thoughts, it’s actually just the opposite. My Dad’s death was totally unexpected and the timing was terrible (I mean when is the timing of DYING actually good…it seems Death doesn’t really care about closure or schedules or newborns). I was barely home from the hospital with a brand new baby and a fresh c-section incision when we all packed up and drove to Dallas to be with my Dad in the hospital. When we got there, he was already in a coma with a very bleak prognosis. And since I was fresh out of surgery, I wasn’t allowed to drive myself. Which meant I was basically bumming rides off of anyone and everyone that would take me to see him during his visiting hours. He never met my daughter since babies weren’t allowed in the ICU. And we drove back to Memphis on a Sunday morning, unsure of how long he would remain in a coma, and he died that afternoon.

In spite of all of the crazy, my mind finds these other moments, these supernatural moments, when I start to remember those weeks. I remember thinking of the verse in Psalms that says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”. At the time I would hardly call my Dad a saint, but I needed to find that verse. I picked up this random Bible that I found at Half Price while I was there and the translation happened to read, “The death of the one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight”. The one that belongs to Him. I wept over those pages as I felt God saying that my Dad was His. That it didn’t matter if his life looked saintly or not, because he belonged.

I remember my friend’s mom driving me to the hospital and asking if she could come in and pray over my dad. She read Scripture to him and prayed and a single tear ran down his otherwise unresponsive face. I couldn’t even pretend to keep it together.

And I remember being at my Dad’s funeral, in some random town in Mississippi that he wanted to be buried in with a toddler and a newborn and family that I hadn’t seen since I was little and looking up to see my best friend Erin walk through the doors to the funeral home. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to find someone to watch her littles or to even find that tiny town, but she showed up. She just showed up. I’ll never forget that moment seeing her come through those doors as long as I live. It’s honestly the perfect picture of friendship to me. She loved me enough not to even ask if I wanted her there, she just came. She played with Jac and held Charis and was THERE during one of the hardest days of my life. For that reason, if Erin ever wants to rob a bank, I wouldn’t hesitate driving the getaway car. I’d probably even take the blame and do her time in the Big House for her. She means that much to me.

I miss my Dad. I miss baking with him. I miss watching him dance all weird in the living room. I miss his stories about his grandmother. I miss his affection for stemware (you read that right). But I can confidently say that he belonged to God, not to me. And when I see him again, I’ll show him pictures of my babies and we’ll laugh about how nerdy Jac is, how certifiable Charis is, how flighty Abigail is and how rotten Jones is. And I kind of think he’ll already know but act like he doesn’t so I can tell stories. And then we’ll make seven thousand pies and pair them with the perfect glassware. Until then…

Homeschooling – One Week In

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A lot of people have been asking with baited breath, sort of scared of the answer, “So….how’s it going?” I’m happy to report that, for the most part, okayish. This whole experience is a pretty steep learning curve, with most of the learning happening with ME.

Things I’ve learned so far:

  • The more prepared I am, the better the day goes for all of us
  • It’s hard to find time to prepare
  • Field trip opportunities are EVERYWHERE, this is exciting
  • Opportunities to complain are ALSO everywhere, this is not so exciting
  • I am more patient than I ever thought and less patient than I ever thought, often in the same day
  • Curriculum is mostly SUGGESTIONS – right?
  • My kids aren’t as smart as I thought they were
  • My kids are smarter than I thought they were
  • I actually like hanging out with my kids when they aren’t whining or fighting
  • This is about 20% of the day – and I’ll take it for now
  • Feeding kids is a full time job, but I also hated packing lunches so maybe I just wish these kids didn’t need food. Or clean clothes while we’re at it.
  • Having a supportive husband (and roommate) is a non-negotiable. If he wasn’t on board I would feel like a lone ranger. A lone ranger with a tic and a box of wine at noon.
  • The teacher gifts that I used to give out WERE NOT ENOUGH. People, thank your teachers, and often – they do this with twenty students that they don’t even get to claim on their taxes. This deserves gifts and praise. Lots of it.
  • Flexibility is everything. Don’t like that book? There are about a million other options. Need a day to catch up? Teacher inservices are perfectly acceptable. Need to get out of the house? Field trips don’t require permission slips here.

I hope the kids are learning SOMETHING. I really do. But I have to remind myself that their academic education isn’t even why we’re doing this. They needed a break from the go go go and the testing. We all needed a year to reconnect as a family. I needed time to help build their character. And John needed someone else to learn to do a load of laundry around here. If just a few of those things get done by May, I’d call it a win.

An Ode To TCAP (and other standardized testing catastrophes)

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All across Tennessee, starting in the early spring semester, schools stop being schools and instead turn into TCAP factories. Recess starts getting skipped, PE turns into TCAP review time, social studies becomes non-existent, and teachers and children start developing physical symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Jac, who is one of the highest performing kids in his class, came home early from school with headaches and nausea on at least 5 separate occasions. He’s 10.
Charis would come home crying because her pre-test scores were not high enough.
(Not to mention the culture of crazy rewards and exclusions that essentially disclose what are supposed to be confidential scores to students. These “incentives” inevitably lead to shame and self-labeling by children not old enough to understand how little these tests really matter to their long term success.)

Deciding that NOTHING was worth this kind of stress for my ELEMENTARY aged children, I inquired about opting them out. I was told by an administrator at Shelby County Schools that opting them out was essentially ILLEGAL in the state of Tennessee.

I’m sorry – are you saying as a parent I have NO options as to how my kid is being examined by the state?? I can choose to not vaccinate them against polio, but I can’t have them read a book instead of being tested for 3 days straight??

Moving past the obvious absurdity of forced, high-stakes testing for small children, let’s talk about the ridiculousness that surrounds the scoring and reporting of the TCAP results.

No Child Left Behind (most ironic name for a program ever, in my humble opinion) and Race to the Top initiatives have determined that the best way to evaluate and compensate teachers is based off of these types of high-stakes tests. Consider for one moment if YOUR job and livelihood was based off of THREE days of results from children that you’ve taught for a few months. God forbid that kid was having a bad day or misread the question (kids NEVER misread questions by the way).

So when the preliminary “quick scores” were finally released the day before school got out for the summer, my kids’ teachers were elated to see gains in their students’ scores. When I went to pick Jac up from his classroom, I asked his teachers if they were happy with the results since it seemed like the scores were great. Their response? “We THINK these scores are good.”

“What? How do you not know if these scores are good??”
“Well the state hasn’t released the proficiency and advanced cut offs for the year, yet.”
“Wait, these CHANGE every year?!?”
“Not always, we usually know the cut off before they release the scores. But they haven’t told us yet.”
“Didn’t they ALREADY bump up the proficiency cut off to 85 last year?? Surely it won’t go any higher than that??”
“Surely not.”

Then, the next day, the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan when the state announced that it had INDEED raised the cut off to 89 or NINETY depending on the grade and subject.

Would you like to see the nightmare of an explanation that the Tennessee Department of Education gave for this jump?

Here’s a “simple” vocabulary lesson first…
(click images to enlarge)

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And here is their mind-boggling explanation…

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Note: There is ZERO transparency into how these tests are scored and then subsequently adjusted after the fact. Only vague explanations about comparing the tests to previous years tests to determine if the questions were at the same level of difficulty. Does anyone else see the obvious problem with this type of comparison?? This would mean that if significant gains WERE made across the state, that the scores would then just be adjusted assuming that the questions were obviously too easy. What. The. F.

Even if this ISN’T why the proficiency cut off jumped up FIVE points, we’ll never really know the real reason. They keep these tests so secret and the methodology of scoring so elusive, that they become untouchable to anyone who starts to demand answers.

In an attempt to explain this fiasco, this letter was went out to school directors from Governor Haslam’s office offering an explanation for the confusion surrounding the scoring process.

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Yes, you read that right – our teachers, administrators and students are suffering because they had a CHANGE IN PERSONNEL. What other business in the country could get away with this type of behavior by saying they had a fire and hire??

So TCAP is a shit show. But some are saying, it’s not an issue because we will be using TNReady next year. Oh. My. Good. God. TNReady is going to be an even bigger nightmare, mark my words. Along with all of the issues mentioned already, they are adding fill-in-the-blanks on almost every question in order for students to TYPE AN EXPLANATION of how they got their answer.

Where do I start on this…. the fact that 8 year olds can’t type? Or that each test is going to have to be hand graded requiring some sort of objectivity that is impossible with thousands of graders? Or that the servers have crashed multiple times on test runs leaving children in tears because they lost their work? Not to mention the fact that a student who might be behind in language, but accelerated in math will be penalized on the math section because they struggle to put their thinking into words. What 8 year old do you know that can verbalize their problem solving process in one to two sentences?? What TWENTY EIGHT year old do you know that can do that??

Parents – educate yourself about these tests. We need an opt-out option like so many other states offer to their students. We need transparency in these grading processes. We need to advocate for our teachers who are working their tails off only to be told that the cut off scores are a moving target that won’t be revealed until the very end of May.

Something has to change.

Why We Are Unschooling…For the Most Part Anyways

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Over the past year, I’ve spent quite a lot of time reading and researching education methods for elementary aged children. I’ve read about learning styles, pedagogical schools of thought, curriculum options, how other countries operate their schools, and what seems to be working for our kids here in the U.S.

And after all of that reading and researching and observing in my own children – here’s what I’ve come up with:

Kids are natural learners. We just have a gift of robbing them of that joy with our tests and our homework and our memorization and our schedule and our arbitrary benchmarks.

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So we are unschooling next year. Detoxing if you will. (If you’re unfamiliar with this term, GO LEARN ABOUT IT! BAM – you’ve just been unschooled.)

And while I’ve equipped myself with resources to help them learn, I’ve decided I can’t do it for them. It’s something they have to do for themselves.

If you’re curious at all about how schools as we know them could become obsolete…these 22 minutes WILL NOT disappoint:

My hope for the next year is to find that drive in each kid to KNOW their world. To ask questions. To read. To think. To push themselves because they are CURIOUS, not because they are being forced. And I just get to be the encouraging Granny. (watch the talk for that reference)

I’m sure we’ll fumble our way through some of this, and I’m sure there will be days where no one in this house wants to learn, but I believe it’s the better choice for us – and one that will serve them well for the rest of their lives as learners.

P.S. I found that TED talk from a recommendation from my TEN YEAR OLD. I might just go ahead and graduate that one out of the Carroll Kid Academy to clear space for other students. I think I’m done there.

Why We’ve Decided to Homeschool Next Year…

So we have a big, maybe surprising announcment………………..no we’re not adopting Emily.
We’re homeschooling next year.
(Holy crap it’s out there. I don’t think I can go back on this now.)
I’ve had a few conversations here and there so I know this isn’t a surprise for everyone, but I wanted to take a few minutes and try to explain how we got here.
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The following are NOT reasons we are homeschooling…

  • Because I like denim jumpers
  • Because I want to
  • Because I don’t like the kids’ teachers
  • Because I miss my kids too much all day
  • Because religion

Reasons why we are…

  • Because we need a break.  A break from homework and the crazy testing and rush rush rush and the early mornings and the PTA and the fundraisers and the “projects” that end up being an assignment for me or Emily.
  • Because the kids need to learn some actual real life things like CLEANING THEIR FREAKING ROOM which we currently try to squeeze between the homework hour and the hurry-up-and-find-your-cleats hour. In all seriousness, I KNOW they are capable of way more than “Mom, can you pop this bag of popcorn for me?” I taught Charis to scramble eggs last week and she actually GOT UP AND MADE HERSELF BREAKFAST and didn’t burn the house down! I hope to transfer these skills to a complete breakfast-in-bed scenario for me in the very near future.
  • Because my kids need more time outside than the current 0-15 minute allotment given to them in school. I know they have a lot to fit into a school day, but even on days when recess isn’t taken from them for some sort of consequence (my LEAST favorite way to punish a student by the way), they are barely outside long enough to adjust their eyes before it’s time to go back inside. I’ve got a couple of wiggle worms that I can see dying slow chair-shaped deaths.
  • Because anything they could ever want to know about the world they can know in the time it takes to type in a google search. I really believe kids are natural learners and I can’t wait for them to have actual free time to explore their unique interests and curiosities.
  • Because we like to go. The Carrolls are ALWAYS up for a trip – whether it’s to Shelby Farms or Washington, D.C., there is a world out there only a tank of gas away that I want to explore with my kids before they realize I’m not cool enough to travel with.
In saying all of this, I’m only saying this is our plan for NEXT YEAR. Ok, who are we kidding – our plan for AUGUST. My kids might be back in school the first week of September if I lose my mind – which is a highly likely scenario.
There are some AWESOME school options in Memphis and we are excited about exploring those for each kiddo after this year is over. Jac will be moving onto middle school (WHAT) and the other kiddos might be back at Downtown. Who knows.
Things we will miss…
  • Relationships. Obviously with their friends, but also with their teachers and staff members who genuinely have my kids best interest at heart.
  • A quiet house during the week. Enough said.

I hope to write more on how I got to this decision – it didn’t come easily. I’ve been doing a ton of reading, researching, interviewing, praying, journaling, and talking with each kid to make sure that this was ACTUALLY going to be a good idea. I’m confident now in our decision and the kids are really excited, too.

But if you find me half naked on Poplar talking to myself…..now you’ll know why.