About Melissa Camara Wilkins

Melissa Camara Wilkins is a homeschooling mom of six in Southern California. She writes about being who you were made to be and letting go of the rest.

How to homeschool through the holidays (without going crazy)

homeschooling-holidaysWritten by Melissa Camara Wilkins

There’s a question that comes up for me every holiday season. It’s one of those important philosophical questions, right up there with, “What is the meaning of life?” and “Who moved my cheese?”

It’s this: How, when you are already a busy homeschooling parent, do you add in all kinds of holiday fun without going a little crazy in the process?

I can’t claim to steer completely clear of “a little bit crazy” territory, but I do have a few practices that help.

I really believe the secret to doing it all is that you don’t. You don’t even try. I’m pretty sure that’s how to keep things merry-and-not-miserable, too: you don’t do it all. You do less.

That’s how you and I can enjoy homeschooling and holidaying, both at the same time. We’re not going to do all the things. We’re not even going to pretend to do all the things. We’re going to do the things that are best for our own families, and we’re going to let go of the rest.

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How we change with the seasons—without a school calendar

Changing with the seasons

Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins.

For a long time, we didn’t really mark the changing seasons in our family. Without a traditional school calendar to follow, or any obvious signs in nature (we live in Southern California—it’s pretty much all sun, all the time), our days looked more or less the same all year round.

I always wanted to note the turn of the seasons somehow. I liked the idea of having rituals that our kids would remember and look forward to—but it seemed like one more (impossible) thing to add into our days.

Between reading aloud and making sandwiches and playing board games and riding scooters and investigating the migratory patterns of monarchs and resolving conflicts and walking to the park and tidying up before bed, there didn’t seem to be a lot of time for a maypole to celebrate spring or a candle walk on the winter solstice.

But it’s really hard to reflect on where you’ve been and how much you’ve grown when one week bleeds into the next, on and on forever. I didn’t want our days to be lost in the swirling vortex of time, and I didn’t want to create a family culture of always-on, without regular markers to guide us. At the same time, I still had small children.

Yes, I wanted the maypole, but I needed something simpler.
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Write your own permission slip

Write your own permission slip.Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is the scent of possibility. I stand by that. A sheaf of blank paper, piles of sticky notes: these are the things dreams are made of. Doesn’t everyone love school supplies? (Please say yes.)

I am keeping an eye out for new markers, but in the meantime the supply I’m really stocking up on is permission slips.

A permission slip, really?

“Permission slips?” you might ask. “Those little papers that say, Yes, my child has permission to ride the bus. Yes, my child has permission to pet the goats. Yes, my child has permission to visit the bakery/factory/power plant for educational purposes? That is not even a school supply.”

Oh, but it is! (And never mind the thing about the goats, that isn’t relevant here.)

A permission slip says, “Hey, this thing that you were not sure was okay? It is okay. It is definitely, totally, completely, okay.”

It isn’t an excuse or a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s a way of saying, “I’m not going to do things the usual way. Here’s what I have decided to do instead.”

And before we jump into this next season, I think we might need to write some for ourselves.

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3 steps to a simpler summer

3 Steps to a Simpler SummerWritten by Melissa Camara Wilkins

A couple of my friends have been talking about how few summers we have with our kids, and how to make the most of them.

I say helpful things, like, “oh,” and, “hmm,” and “Eighteen! It’s not a very big number, is it?” This is code for “this conversation is making me so anxious that I may break out in hives at any time.”

It’s not that I am trying not to notice how fast my kids are growing up (though that is probably true).

It’s just that there are so many good ways to spend a summer. Should we go for summer camp or summer reading? Block party or beach bonfire? Water slides or water balloons? Roller coasters or roller skates? Field trips or museum trips or road trips or trips to grandma’s house?

And if I skip it all in favor of free play, will the only thing my kids remember be how they sang “I’m bo-ored” all summer long?
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3 tips for finding good books fast

3 Tips For Finding Good Books
Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins

A few months ago I met with some friends for a Let’s All Talk About Parenting Night.

A “parenting mastermind group,” if you will. Or “an excuse to troubleshoot over tall glasses of lemonade.” Either way.

We met in the evening, so we had to figure out what to do about food. Should we assign dishes? Sign up to bring stuff? This was actually more effort than anyone wanted to spend, so we decided to all just bring something. Anything.

We ended up with the aforementioned lemonade, but also wine and cheese and fruit and crackers, veggies and hummus, a couple of salads, a pasta dish, and something chocolate.

Everyone brought their own best thing. We put all our offerings together, and we had a feast.

I think life is like that, too. I have something to offer, you have something to offer.

Our gifts may be wholly unrelated to salad and chocolate, but we’re each holding something we can share with our families and with our world.
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