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My 8 Year Old Doesn't Know His Alphabet

My 8 Year Old Doesn't Know His Alphabet

I own and operate a small school that is somewhat dream-like for families. Kids are sweet, families are involved. I couldn’t ask for better teachers or for a better staff.


And then the other day someone wanted to interview me about this precious little school. I was both honored and humbled. This wonderful man then posted some of the things I said and I realized he didn’t and couldn’t post it all.  

Here is what wasn’t revealed about me and this place:

I sometimes feel a wave of guilt that our school isn’t the norm and isn’t accessible to any who want or need it.  And then I worry that I’m being neglectful because I’m not supporting public education and my children aren’t exposed to much diversity in their classrooms. I wake up every day both loving my job while trying to walk through the guilt of knowing that my children’s experience is not like most others and that I hope I’m not protecting them from the trials of life that are what give them opportunities to grow.

And then I see it. Kids start making fun of my son because he doesn’t know his alphabet. He’s almost 9 years old. He should most definitely know it, but he struggles and always has. And I struggle all the time trying to teach my own. It’s a double whammy for this poor kid.

I stand back and watch him navigate this trial as he stands up and says he’s got to go to the bathroom. He sees me out of the corner of his eye and he starts crying. My heart is broken, but I am reminded that this is his journey and that even in this beautiful little place we have created, he will still have his trials. And, since I am there at this school, I have to see these trials in a way that most parents never do. The many trials kids go through at school are never heard about at home. I have to see them and I have to literally step back and watch it all unfold and hold myself together so that my children can learn how to do life without me hovering over them.  

It is so painful, but I realize that I didn’t create this school to protect my children from their journey. I created it because it seemed to be part of my journey. I created it for me and my children just happen to be mine and they don’t have the choice to go to “normal” school. And, although they may be protected from all those things people are fighting about in regards to what education should be or should not be, they will still have their own things to deal with – like a mom who neglected to make sure her son knew his alphabet.

What I did create was a space for him to learn that life is tough, even in the best of places. People are going to be mean no matter where you are, so take care of yourself. Get up and go to the bathroom. Cry. It’s all okay. And, his amazing teacher (not me), told him “hey – I see that you are hurt. Take all the time you need. You don’t have to come back to group until you’re ready.” And then two kids came up to him on their own and said they were sorry. The teacher didn’t stop and tell them to come back to group because it was “group time,” she let them do what they knew and felt was right.  And then I cried because I realized that there are not a lot of places in this world that let us take care of ourselves or let us have the space and freedom to do what is right without some sort of judgment.

Our education and life systems tell us that we have to hold it all together (a.k.a. not cry) all the time because not doing so ultimately leads to some sort of failure. Our education and life systems tell us that taking care of ourselves is to be put on the back burner. Our education and life systems hold us back from saying we are sorry for fear of judgment from those in authority. Our education and life systems tell us to know our alphabet at a certain age or you cannot move forward.

In that moment I realized that I needed to stop feeling guilty because what I really want for my children, and all children, is to know that life is hard, no matter where you are, but it is possible to create places that allow time and space to take care of ourselves. It is possible to create places where we can say we are sorry when we are and not have to question whether or not it is okay to do so because someone else thinks it’s not the best time.  And, finally, I want all children to know that if your mom who is a real deal teacher with a master’s degree and teaching certificate and runs a sort of school,  and she still somehow forgets to teach you a very fundamental academic lesson, she is so very sorry.

In all reality, I do want One Tree to be available to all, but I can’t create a space for everyone – no one can, but collectively we can create all sorts of places that allow the fundamental need to be able to take care of ourselves to be met.  We can collectively create spaces that say – yes, let’s learn the alphabet, but let’s learn so much more than that.

And when I say “I” created this space, I really have to say “we.” There would be no space created if the families and teachers and others didn’t show up. In all reality, I didn’t do anything. I just showed up, and so did all of you. I must thank you for that.  

P.S. Here is the link to the “story” here: More Than Meets The Eye     

Please like and follow this man’s page. He has created a place where people can be who they are, something else we all long for as human beings.  And, when my part says that One Tree is “a big experiment,” it truly is.  But isn’t all of life one big experiment?  

Thank you, dear parents, for letting your little ones be my guinea pigs. Thank you for your faith in me and in what we are doing, collectively.

* Originally posted on October 22, 2017 at

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