Freedom to Roam

Segues – A Benefit of Homeschooling
written by Irina Gallagher

It’s Monday again and, for the first time in several weeks, instead of squeezing school lessons haphazardly into our day, I spent a large portion of the weekend planning and writing out plans for each third grade lesson that we would finish during the first part of this week. My intention at the beginning the current school year was to plan more effectively than last year so that my daughter, who tends to be much more interested in her own projects than schoolwork (so say we all), can have more visual/list-based cues that could help her stay on task. My plan was working brilliantly until our family became so busy with Fall activities that I lost my planning momentum.

This week would be different. With my planning, I would get us back on track and regain our far gone momentum. During breakfast, we read a Social Studies lesson about Elissa (Dido) of Carthage that would be the starting point to a day’s worth of Social Studies lessons. Afterwards, we went on a walk in our neighborhood to diffuse the grumpy, snippy mood in which we all awoke. My daughter and I were trying to figure out what kind of daily rhythm would be most conducive to both the completion of school work and to time for her numerous personal projects. But, that short stroll changed all my fruitful planning without intending to do so.

We noticed that some native wildflowers had started blooming and this lead to the collection and plant identification of 7 different species of wildflowers in our neighborhood. The tiny blossoms and their gentle existence changed the course of our week. We spent the entire day looking through regional plant guides and making field notes and sketches of our native plants. This seemingly small segue is actually a huge part of homeschooling. This is ultimately the ability to roam; it is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling.


Dear Magical Girl

Written by Irina Gallagher

Magical Girl

My Dear Magical Girl,

Seven. How could this have happened so quickly? One moment you are crawling around the living room in search of board books to chew and the next you are devouring 100 page books on a daily basis. You are clever, imaginative, kind, talented, willful, passionate, funny, thoughtful, and wise. I could never give you a complete summation of all your wonderful qualities and certainly I couldn’t say all the things that I’m thankful for because of you, but here’s a very limited list:

Thank you showing me how precious time is.

Thank you for being, without a doubt, the most imaginative person I have ever met.

Thank you for being an amazing big sister and for having patience (most of the time), even when there is a little lion of a hurricane circling you.

Thank you for being kind and thoughtful to all creatures, no matter their size (though I know you prefer the smaller ones).

Thank you for making me want to be a better person.

Thank you for keeping me on my toes and my mind challenged on a daily basis. I’m hopeful this will help me keep some mental fortitude in the future. (You can take a day off here and there to let your mama and papa rest a little.)

Thank you for always inviting me on your adventures. I know I sometimes get crabby when changing your clothes to go out requires an accompanying otherworldly story line, but I truly appreciate you including me.

Thank you for sharing the stories from the books you’re reading. One of my favorite parts of the day is snuggling up with you before you fall asleep and hearing what Elmer, Lizzie, Gabby, Ernest, Prilla, Clementine, Turnip, and Gruffen have been up to.

Thank you for appreciating simple things.

Thank you for loving our reading time together. There’s nothing sweeter than cuddling up in the armchair with you and reading together. This will always feel to me like our own little home.

Thank you for being such a wonderful role model for our little lion (this does not include jumping on beds, climbing various pieces of furniture which ought not be climbed, or playing some very safety-questionable games, but I understand).

Thank you for your truly bright ideas. An astute inventor named Thomas Edison said, ”To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” You, my dear girl, have many great ideas. I cannot wait to see what’s next. (I would be ever so grateful if you could figure out a solution to slowing time a bit. If anyone could help me out with this, surely it’s you. Keep me posted on this please.)

Thank you for filling every room you enter will heart and magic.

But most of all, thank you for changing everything.

Happy Seven, my lovely girl.

Magical Girl

Whoa, Mama!

The overwhelming pressure of present-day motherhood
Written by Irina Gallagher

Muse of Discovery by sculptor Meg WhiteWord of warning, this isn’t meant to diminish the importance of parental caretakers as a whole, but to shed light on the roll of the primary caretaker, who, in the U.S. is still predominantly the mother.

There I was, sitting in a room full of moms and kids all clanking old kitchen apparatuses. It had been a particularly difficult week – the moon and its impending fullness and Mercury and its retrograde-ness did nothing to help. As I clinked my red plastic plates together, I was thinking about how overwhelmed, overworked, frustrated, exhausted (sure in a sense of little sleep, but more so in an energy-deficient sort of way), and maxed out I’ve been feeling lately. Finally, here at music class, surrounded by a bunch of toddlers, there was a moment of respite – not in a complete silence way, but in the “thank goodness there’s a chance for me to just sit and rest for a minute and not have to engage in conversation of any kind, not have to keep my small kid from falling into a sink full of dirty dishes while slipping off a step stool, not have to harp on my big kid to finish a five minute bit of school work which she somehow transforms into a draining forty-five minute task, not have to give my opinion on anything, and not have to keep people from yelling excitedly while jumping from bed to bed or rolling off the couch” sort of way. While this 3 minute kitchen music play-along break was nice, I was in a negative mood this particular morning and was dwelling on my own issues rather than actually savoring the moment.

As I was thinking of an onslaught of responsibilities, my focus returned to the class. I looked around the room and noticed that most of the moms seemed to be lost in a bit of a daze while banging their spoons against ice cube trays. I don’t think it’s farfetched to think that I was not the only one in the room feeling maxed out – from the mom who works six days a week while managing to homeschool her children to the new moms adjusting to their completely altered lives as parents to the moms who are steadily (dare I say courageously) keeping their shit together while bringing a second, third, or fourth kid into the family units – here we sit, quietly and collectively exhausted.


The Gift Giving Question

Written by Irina Gallagher

Non-permanentIt’s Thanksgiving week here in the States, the official beginning to the holiday season. Finally, the weather has chilled delivering a festive feeling. Like every year, we’ll be celebrating all that we have to be thankful for by spending time with family. And then, if the biggest retailers have their way, we will be rushing out to spend all the money we have (or don’t have) on tons of useless clutter that we don’t really need on Black Friday. This afternoon I heard an advertisement on the radio that Toys R Us – which on a regular day is basically a sensory overload command station – will be opening their doors at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. So make sure you shove that turkey in your mouth very quickly so you don’t miss the deals. I would rather pay someone not to take part in any of this Black Friday shenanigans, especially at Toys R Us. But it’s all in the name of showing the people that we care about them with loads of stuff, right? The more stuff the better, they tell us.


Dear Sweet Little Lion

Written by Irina Gallagher

IMG_20141201_221529 (2)Dear sweet little Lion,

Somehow, two years have passed in the blink of an eye. You have made an astounding impression on our family. You have brought joy to every person who has met you with your exuberant and kind nature. We are so very, very happy that you chose us. There are a million things I have to thank you for, but here are just a few:

Thank you for teaching me to value time. I mean really. value. time.

Thank you for always making me feel wanted and needed.

Thank you for the 729 nights in a row (yes, that’s an exact number) that you let only me put you to sleep at night. Even the bedtimes that lasted for two and a half hours and caused me to storm out of the room in search of an alcoholic beverage (for myself, not for you – though that may have helped as well). I’m sure you remember some of these times, one was just last week.


The Toy-Free Family Room

Mission to Minimize: Action Phase II
Written by Irina Gallagher


Insanity. Absolute insanity. Every day. I can’t fathom how we lived before with every toy housed in the open family room space. Sure, there were bins for organization. The musical instruments here, the blocks there, stuffed animals over here. Everything was in reach. Everything was on the floor. It took about 30 minutes every night to put all this stuff in order. At the end of the day, every single toy in the house was strewn about the room. Yes, yes, we tried to abide by the “put this away first before you get a new toy out.” Lets just say that it wasn’t hugely successful. It was maddening.

We decided to minimize. Instead of keeping 8 bins of toys in accessible cabinets, we would only leave 2 bins out containing assorted objects. It was definitely a step in the right direction, but how was it that at the end of the day, there were toys still all over the floor despite the fact that they had only been played with for a grand total of 5 minutes collectively? It was still too much. Somehow, even this reduction wasn’t enough.


Magic Reading Hour

Written by Irina Gallagher


We are nestled on the couch in the dark, my girl and I. The curtains are drawn as we sit down to read in the evening, our book illuminated by a little black book light. I have just come out from cozily putting our wee one to sleep after reading with him. Evening reading time has been consistently my favorite part of the day for the past six years. This is my happy place. There is a sense of other-worldliness in this gentle moment; we are transported not only in story but also in heart. No matter what kind of a day we have had, we are at this tranquil moment, completely at peace. I treasure this time every single night as I snuggle with my babies. This reading rhythm of ours is more than six years in the making. It has grown and evolved along with the kids.


Creatures of Magic

Written by Irina Gallagher

magic_girlThere are two creatures that live in this house who possess an element of magic. Their luminous energies are brighter than the sun. Their essence belongs somewhere in the land of unicorns and griffins, not in the human world. They are much too fascinating to be mere mortals.

One comes from distant lands. She is a sorcerer, a wanderer, an enchanted being akin to a chameleon who transforms herself as quickly as a light flickers. Just as quickly, new worlds appear and new languages are created in her presence. She is a warrior, constantly battling for the good of mankind. She is inquisitive, tenacious, and passionate. Her zeal in all the endeavors which she creates for herself could fuel the world.

He is light. He holds in his hands an unadulterated spirit. He is but a wee explorer in our scope, but his spirit says that he has existed for infinitely longer than we realize, for when he sees photographs of his ancestors, there is a clear familiarity in his eyes. He carries a mystical power to erase all your woes with a single all-encompassing embrace. His embrace is the strongest, most accurate portrayal of the boundless love and kindness which live in his heart.

They have but one vulnerability; they are growing amongst us humans. In order for their enchanted magic to survive as long as possible, their imaginations must not be stifled. They must not be tarnished by the complexities of the pedestrian human world. Their spirits should not be dimmed by accounts of modern calamities. These magical creatures must not be overwhelmed by the excess of superfluous material objects which has come to be a human habit. They simply need less of our world to preserve more of theirs. And their world is not material.

The Family Bedroom

Why after years of sleeping separate from our 5-year-old, we made the transition back to a family bedroom.
Written by Irina Gallagher

Family BedroomEvery time I see someone publish an account of their life as a co-sleeping family, the comment threads are plastered with one concern. Over and over and over again. Sex. People are very concerned about sex and where it’s happening. So, let me just assure you from the beginning, that as a co-sleeping family, all the sex that is being had by the exhausted parents of young children is not in the bedroom. Okay? Now you can focus.

When you picture a family bedroom which might include children that are older than about 2, what is your vision? Are you picturing a commune of some kind? Or maybe Charlie’s poverty-stricken family from Willy Wonka all huddled up in bed together? (That Wonka bed looks really cozy to me, by the way, but that’s beside the point). Those are really the most popular options, right? The family is probably either completely impoverished or living in a commune somewhere. But here’s another option: some of us just like co-sleeping.