Yes, my kids are in public school this year. I have finally stopped crying about it.

(tl;dr version at the bottom) It was such an incredibly difficult decision for both me and my husband. We have so many strong convictions about homeschooling, it felt like we’d failed when we couldn’t figure out how to make it work this year. Especially since a huge part of the reason I walked away from one job opportunity into this one was so that I could continue working from home and thereby continue putting my kids first and homeschooling.


The original work plan

But life has a way of kicking you in the shorts. That is, it likes to take your best laid plans and poop all over them. The plan when I took this position with Sun Tail Mermaid was this: I’d help design a new line of mermaid tails, and I’d design and invent a new monofin swim flipper. We’d develop and launch these products and then my role with the company would move to a much more removed, super part time position, eventually backing out of the picture 100%.

SIDEBAR: There’s this misconception out there, even among family members, that I OWN Sun Tails. I don’t! I own a share of the company — that was just part of the hiring deal — but I’m not the head honcho. I do retain the rights to my monofin design and could even sell or license the rights if the right opportunity came along, but within the company, I am just a designer (graphic design and product design), and thank goodness. I have enough stress as it is without the entire success of the business resting on my shoulders.

Anyway, that timeline has NOT gone according to plan. It has taken ten times the amount of time we thought it would to test and perfect the products, and we’ve had all kinds of manufacturing hiccups and bumps along the way. I held out hope until just a few weeks before school was going to be starting that I’d be able to get everything done to that point where I could back out of the picture and return to homeschooling, but it just didn’t work out.

I cried a lot.

We found a charter school where all the kids could go to the same building. It’s smaller, and we hoped that would make for less culture shock. I had all kinds of worries — though I had tried very hard to make sure my kids were operating at and above grade levels, I’d have these nightmares where they’d go to school and get yelled at for being dumb homeschoolers who didn’t know how to raise their hands or ask before going to the bathroom.

My bad dreams were a waste, because they’re doing great. They love it, actually. All of them. It hurts my feelings a little bit :) But mostly I’m really thankful, because it’s just what we have to do this year (and maybe next?); I’m very glad they aren’t miserable.

The Myth of Free Time

A weird thing I keep hearing is, “Oooh, isn’t it nice to have all that free time?” And I’m like, “Huh? Where is this free time? Did I not fill out the right form? Did it get waylaid en route to my door?” Putting the kids in school didn’t help my schedule at all, in fact it made it a lot more difficult. I knew they’d be miserable (as they were last year) with me cramming in homeschooling around my demanding work schedule, so putting them in school was 110% for them. In no way has it resulted in some magical 8 hour workday I’d have if I worked in an office and they were in an after school care program or something (their school does not have one). They’re happy, but all the things I feared about a public school lifestyle are true.

For YEARS people have said, “Oh you’re so brave/awesome/patient for being a homeschooling mom! I could never! I don’t know how you do it!” And I’d roll my eyes so hard they’d stick to the back of my head. Because give me a break. Homeschooling is easy compared to this! Lazy! Relaxed! We wake up when we want to. We eat breakfast at a leisurely, non-frantic pace. There is no morning shouting over backpacks or misplaced lunch bags. There are no early morning freak outs about the level of the gas tank in the car or the fact that we ran out of bread or peanut butter and no one noticed the day before when I could have gone to the store without making everyone late.

During the years when I did not *have* to work, the actual homeschooling (school type work stuff, grammar, math, etc.) of four kids took up only a few hours of our day. We had the rest of the day to explore nature, hike, go to museums, watch movies that corresponded with our studies, read piles of wonderful books, spend time at the library, enroll in co-op classes, and do science projects. Oh the free time I had then! I had time for small side businesses and projects, time to read and relax on my own while kids played! I’d stretch out on a blanket at the park, or we’d enjoy the lake shore or swimming pools while everyone else was in school. Sigh. I miss those days. I miss that life.

I am in the car for an hour every day thanks to J being in early morning seminary this year and the distance from our house to seminary and their school. We’re in the car longer if we are waiting at the school for someone to get done with band or orchestra (not worth it to go home and come back). I realize that’s not true for everyone. If they were attending the public schools in our neighborhood things would be simpler. But again, their school felt like the best choice for them, and they agreed. We toured many and this one won hands down.

THE HOMEWORK. I can’t even. We have like, five minutes together (this is what it feels like) to eat and relax, spend time together… but it’s eaten up, stolen, by homework. Homework is the devil. I hate it so much. It is so difficult to keep every kid’s class requirements straight, and papers get lost from their lockers to home. I didn’t have this much homework as a kid. I get that teachers think it reinforces concepts, I get that they don’t have enough time to devote to everything in class even though they have my kid for the bulk of each day. I get that national standards force teachers to ‘teach for the test’ and are under a lot of pressure and some of that spills over into homework. I get it. I just hate it, that’s all. I’m allowed to hate it. Me hating it shouldn’t make any teachers out there feel attacked, they do their best, I know (and I love my kids’ teachers, they are super). It just is what it is: life sucking, time robbing, evening ruining, satanic devil homework from hell. #iampronetohyperbole

We are not even going to discuss the volunteer time at the school that is required and asked of me. I have no idea how I am supposed to fit this into my life. How do parents who work at offices fit this in? Do they take vacation time? A sick day? I don’t get it. I know why the school wants it, B loves it when he has reading buddies come to his class (upper classmen or volunteer parents) and I wish I could be there, but I just can’t. Plus there are fundraisers and parent meetings and Managebac training… it just feels like this whole LIFE. And while you might be all, “Holy cow, homeschooling moms are super amazing / intimidating / crazy / masochists.” I’m all, “You’re all insane, you have no idea. Homeschooling is CALM. This is full of crazy. I am dying. Send life preserver. Drowning. Halp.”

Disclaimer: I fully admit to being a whiny pants baby who hates certain types of change (namely the type that requires stuff from me). For many, public school is just a have-to, ain’t no way around it kind of decision. Because work. Because single parent. Because life. Because socioeconomic status. Because homeschooling is weird and out there and unknown and therefore scary; or impossible or eschewed because of any number of other valid reasons.

tl;dr: The back and forth and the homework really cuts into my work time, but this was a solution for the kids, not me. I just have to deal. I have to work with what I have, work more effectively and productively. It’s hard. I don’t have time for a lot of the things I’d like to do (like do more stuff with this house at a quicker pace, for example). But I am happy the kids are happy. And that’s no small thing.

Homeschooling while working from home full time

This past school year was a new adventure for us in homeschooling. With my husband working full time outside the home, and me working full time in it… juggling kids and school was quite a trick. Towards the last part of our second semester, we finally landed sort of accidentally into a good routine. My oldest, J, thought it would be fun to do a ‘day in the life’ type photolog. We didn’t get all the photos we would have liked, but I suppose what we got gives you a good idea of what our days looked like before school let out.

A Day in the Life

6:00am: I had to become a morning person.

IMG_3079 copy

If you’re a long time reader you’ll know that I have always struggled with mornings. Getting up this early, this regularly would NOT have worked for me in the past. But one of my doctors was finally able to get my cortisol levels back in line and it is WILD. I’m still on hydrocortizone, but we’re getting to the point where I will be able to wean off of it. My eyes pop open around the same time every morning (without an alarm!!!) and I am no longer able to make myself sleep in. Even if I’ve had a rough night. It’s basically miraculous. And it saved my butt this year.

Mornings are still rough for me on the whole (eg: if I have to go somewhere early, it can bring on an episode) but mornings at home are easier to manage.

6:00 – 7:00am I had to make a little quiet time for myself before anyone else was up. I had to forbid myself from even looking at my inbox of phone messages until after I’d had this time to myself or I would lose my mind.


My body and health are both high maintenance these days. If I skip this time for yoga and meditation, it would really wreak havoc in my system. My stress levels would go through the roof and episodes would start up again. This hour every morning keeps me grounded and feeling like I am in control.

7:00am: Wake up the kids.


This was new for all of us, and not particularly easy on anyone. As homeschoolers (with a night-owl mom) we always took our days at our own pace before, maybe not starting school until 10 or 11am. But in order for me to have a good block of work time, we had to get started earlier. It didn’t take long for everyone to adjust to earlier bedtimes and earlier mornings, but it was painful for a while.

7:00 – 7:30am: Get ready.


It helped with the entire day if I was able to get fully dressed and ready before we got embroiled in school and work. I didn’t always, sometimes I’d be in yoga pants at 6pm, but I can tell a difference in how the day goes if I get ready early on. Same went for the kids. Getting them ready for the day helped us all get in the mindset that we had things to do.


We created some extra incentive – if they could be done with all of their school stuff and chores by a certain time period they’d get more time on their electronic devices. If they dragged their feet and did not get finished with school work until later in the day, they lost all electronic device time. That was incredibly motivating for them and worked really well.

7:30 – 10:00am: Breakfast and school.


We made breakfast and everyone would get started on their school stuff.


My three older kids are very independent at this point (they were grades 3, 5, and 7 this year) and don’t need me as much. I spend the hours after breakfast helping B get through his Kindergarten work, and doing the things with the kids that required my involvement like spelling, science, and unlocking devices for Xtramath or Teaching Textbooks.

10:00am: Mom “goes” to work.


My business hours start at 10am and this is the part that would probably not work if someone was homeschooling a gaggle of little ones. The baby monitor acts like an intercom. It allows me to hear what’s going on — if any altercations erupt or if someone is being obnoxious I can deal with it, but it helps to have older kids who are responsible and you know, past the era of spreading peanut butter all over the sofa.

The big kids finish up on their own after I go upstairs to work, and bring their work to me so I can check it. If they need to fix anything, they do it right there near me. After school is all finished, they do their chores.

12:00pm: Lunch break.

(This is where we fell off the wagon and don’t have as many photos.)

I tear myself away (it is SO hard once I’m in the work head-space) and join everyone for lunch. I check in with them on school, make sure everything got done. Chores have usually started by now.

The whole house (except for my room and bathroom) is split up into sections for each kid, so as long as they do their chores the house gets a decent tidying up every day. We do a deep clean not on a schedule, just when it’s needed, and usually on a Saturday. They are usually done with their chores by 1pm and have the rest of the afternoon free. They can walk to the park, play their screen time, play games, read, whatever.

1:00pm – 5:00pm: Mom works, kids play.


This part worked amazingly well. I’ve never been a hover parent, so my kids know how to play and entertain themselves, and they love to read. It got a little boring for them sometimes, but I usually got four hours of uninterrupted work time here. Not always though. Sometimes it was one of those days where everyone was listless or one kid was just being ornery to everyone and causing problems, or other things interrupted me like doctor appointments or running kids to and fro for dance and scouts and stuff like that.

When neighborhood kids were home from school and done with their homework they’d start showing up and my kids would disappear outside to play.

5:00pm: Dinner and clocking out.


The most difficult part of my day right here, well not the desert beach picture, that’s great, but clocking out. It’s just so hard to tear myself away and then make myself turn it all off and not come back to it after dinner. Sometimes I had to to come back in the evenings to work, but I tried really hard not to. Once the weather got nice we’d drive to a park or something to get me physically away from work and make a more tangible break at the end of the day.

8:00pm: Bedtime.

I love our night time routine. It’s so nice to have family time that doesn’t have anything to do with school, work, or chores. We gather in N & K’s room, read scriptures, say prayers, and then I read a few chapters from whatever book we’re reading together. B. usually likes to be tucked in after prayers, and then I read a bit longer to the older kids. I try to be in bed with lights and devices off by 10:30pm so I could wake up and do it all over again.

That’s it! We sure are glad school is out. I probably switched tenses a lot above (no time to proofread) as our schedule now is similar and we’re doing a lot of the same things. Without school stuff to worry about it feels a lot less stressful, though. I won’t lie to you and say this was easy, it wasn’t, but I do recognize that being able to work from home and homeschool my kids makes for a very privileged life all the same.

I’m not sure what this coming fall will look like. We’re in the process of packing up our little Wyoming rental here for a big move to Utah. Sun Tails is growing and life is very, very busy.

Being authentic

When I finally decided to take a leap and head up Sun Tail Mermaid, my business partner and I initially structured the operating agreements so that my identity could remain hidden. Not because we thought we were doing anything wrong, but because I didn’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable for anyone that knew both myself and the individuals involved with the other company.

Sensitive Species

But, as I’ve mentioned, it was soon apparent that we’d need to patent my monofin. But how to do it? Could you patent a product in the name of a company? Yes, but the inventor’s name was required by law to be on the documents. Documents which would eventually be public. Couldn’t we patent it in someone else’s name? Sell them the idea, but retain the rights? Too risky, and pretty unconventional besides. My patent attorney was baffled. Never, ever, had she come across any inventor not wanting their name up in the big lights, so to speak.

Yes, well, how do you do? My name is Jessica and I want the spotlight exactly zero.

We were also discovering it would be more challenging to launch a business without even being able to utilize our own personal and professional networks. Coming out of the closet, so to speak, was becoming more and more important.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it all created quite the existential crisis.

Panic button

This is navel gazing at it’s finest, you guys. But here goes.

I was rather loud and obnoxious and spotlight-loving in high school. I was in the drama club, for crying out loud; where the goal was, to literally be on a stage under a spotlight. It makes my throat close up to even talk about it now.

And my friends and I regularly did really stupid attention-grabby things. Amber and I would rig our backpacks to split, and then have an ocean of tampons and maxi-pads spill from the slit in the middle of the hallway, then kneel scraping them up and shoving them back in, acting embarrassed and purposefully bonking into people and generally causing havoc. Or we’d spray our crotches with water before we went on stage to make an announcement at an assembly.

spartans cheerleader

I might on-purpose tuck a long stream of toilet paper into my panties and let it trail behind me in the crowded school halls like it had gotten stuck there whilst in the loo. Sheelagh gave me a fart machine from Spencer’s Gifts in the mall, and I’d let it rip during a history exam, then watch gleefully as students hastily scooted their desks away from my person, disrupting the class and annoying the teacher.

After more idiotic antics at college, I moved away and became involved with a manipulative freak-show of a human being. To put it bluntly and succinctly, it was a scary, twisted, nightmare of an abusive relationship and when I finally emerged three years later, I felt like an empty shell.

My high school years seemed horrifying from this new, broken vantage point. More so, I think, than most, because I was so over the top. I mean, who isn’t at least vaguely embarrassed by their teen years? But I’d gone from one extreme to the other and couldn’t tell where I was supposed to land. I wasn’t comfortable with the pre-nightmare persona, and had no idea who I was post-nightmare either. It seemed the only answer was to clam up and observe.

This clamming up became quite a comfortable place to be.

Go away, I'm introverting

Twenty years later, I was sitting in my little office contemplating what, exactly, I was so afraid of. My health, after steadily improving had taken a nose dive as I tried to gird my loins for the mermaid-out-of-the-closeting. I’d burst into tears trying to put my real name on Facebook. I couldn’t do it.

I finally faced the fact that some of this old, moldy baggage was still mucking about in my heart and brain spaces.

This was alarming. I am not one who enjoys lying on a psychiatrist’s couch marinating in the past (no offense to those of you who do). I had no desire whatsoever to contemplate endlessly, my formative years and analyze them under a microscope in order to sort out what might have led to what, and why I now identified so strongly as a quivering, little brown church mouse.

Baggage Dept

So I mulled things over. The then, the now, the in between. And thankfully with only a handful of phone calls to my lovely mother and without too much introspective headache, I realized something that is probably quite clear to you already — it was something I already knew on some level, but just hadn’t connected all the dots.

The crazy personality in high school was a form of armor, because of course it was. It was safer to construct the embarrassing situations myself rather than wait for one to come along and surprise me. I’d had too many rejections and mortifications in elementary school and junior high, so this way, I was in control. I laughed at everything (and I do mean everything) as a way to show that my status as misfit didn’t bother me. And if people didn’t like me, it didn’t matter, because I wasn’t being real with them anyway.

245/365 - Never let your guard down

It likely wasn’t much different than any other coming-of-age survival tactic, a variety of which I’m sure are regularly deployed in institutionalized learning environs the world over. From the goths layering on a thick coat of “I don’t care,” to the jocks with their hard, shiny veneer of toughness – we were, many of us, just shielding and protecting ourselves from the various horrors of high school (and life in general), no?

These were things I already knew. But what was a bit more of a revelation was the fact that I was still toting around some fairly heavy-duty armor in my grown-up late 30s. Only it was of a different sort. I know, right? Duh, everyone says.

Armor complete with a vast moat; thick, impenetrable walls of stone; and a drawbridge, tightly drawn. It’s a wonder how my small band of friends ever managed to survive the crocodiles and various man eating fishes to forge across and batter through.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

Recognizing this made for quite a significant paradigm shift. I wasn’t really all that afraid of potential feelings or sticky relationships, I was simply afraid to put myself out there; to be authentically me.

It was an uncomfortable thought to consider that my cozy, agoraphobic, hermity ways might not be entirely the true me. I decided if I deconstructed some of the bullet proof glass and bomb shelter walls that made up my comfort zone, I’d maybe find a happier, more self confident person inside. Or at least one unafraid to stand up and say, “Hey, I made something rad. I think you might like it. And if you don’t, that’s cool.”

Stuart Smalley would be so proud.

An ancient SNL skit for the uninitiated.  The inimitable Stuart Smalley.

After all, the painful years of youth are long since past, and certainly no one on Facebook (I finally braved it, thank you) gives a rat’s banana what I may have or mayn’t have been like over two decades ago.

Oy, the navel gazing has turned into outright belly button lint gathering*, so I’ll sum up. It turned out that merely discovering and acknowledging this whole armor wearing thing was more than half the battle. I am definitely, and authentically still very much an introvert, but I’m a braver and more courageous one, and I’m not ashamed to say this has been my theme song of late:

I promised no more to-be-continueds so I won’t say to be continued… I’ll just say that perhaps I’ll write more on this subject should the fancy strike, mayhap at some loosely defined appointment in the foggy future.

*Do not, I repeat, do not search Google images for belly button lint sculptures. I am going to need to vomit.

Last call for the Omnibus


I meant to post this yesterday, but I haven’t been feeling very well. For those of you waiting ’till the last minute I hope this reminder gets to you, as last year I had a few “Oh noes!” after it was over.

Until midnight tonight (Sunday) eastern-time, you can still download over 100 homeschool e-books for $25.

Sale is over, thank you!
[Read more…]

Instant Homeschool Library

The Homeschool Omnibus is here! What is that, you ask? Well. It’s a pretty sweet sale that only lasts a few days.


There are 94 brand new titles in the collection valued at over $545. The entire collection is available for only $25, but for a very limited time only. The sale ends just before midnight on August 24.


Why so cheap, ladies and gentlemen? Because we are all homeschooling parents. We know what it’s like to purchase the supplies, curricula, and helps we need each year. Plus, my very own Out of this World packet is included, and I really think you’ll have fun with it. My little packet is in good company, too. The planners alone are incredible!


I’ll send you my Discover Europe packet FREE when you purchase the Omnibus through my purchase link, just email me a copy of your sale receipt.

Sale is over, thanks all!

[Read more…]