30 August 2010

Ode to the Public Library

I have read lots of bits and blurbs by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and loads of other unschooly-types, but I have never actually read an unschooling book in its entirety. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

Lo and behold, our library system is even more impressive than I could have imagined. Not only was every John Holt book that I searched for available (along with Gatto and The Teenage Liberation Handbook), I was able to request them for free (the libraries in Australia charged for the priviledge) and I received them within a couple of days. And I did it all online. AND they sent me emails to tell me when they were in!

There's more. Nate has discovered Calvin and Hobbes comics (which are so funny and intelligent and so perfectly illustrate why homeschooling is completely awesome, or would be for poor Calvin - I want to adopt him by the way), and he loves them. Today I was reading some to him, and he said to me, "Can I read this one?" And then he read it out loud to me. Wow.

True story: as I was writing that last paragraph, Nate came into the room saying, "Can you believe we finished all of those Calvin and Hobbes books?" So we reserved 6 more online. Just now. I LOVE the library.

Another tidbit of library awesomeness: the librarians are so awesomely helpful. I stopped in today to grab a few books about the brain and dreams and the subconscious for Nate (this is his newest interest - Why on Earth do we dream? Why does the brain do that? Is it like brain exercise? Or does it all mean something?). I didn't know quite what to search for. Turns out Dewey placed dreams and brains in the same part of the system and they were neighbors. Makes complete sense. Unfortunately, all of the books in the junior section were very elementary and anatomically based, and the ones in the adult non-fiction were more about dream analysis or brain training. He needs something written by a nerdy neurologist. You know, the guy who is so fascinated by the brain that he can't sleep at night wondering how it works. I'll have to do some online searching to find just the right thing. Until then we'll look at cross-sections I guess, which is pretty interesting too.

I'm after unschooling book recommendations! Please comment and let me know your favorites. Don't leave me hanging. I might even do some reviews here!

26 August 2010

Up

I wanted to write this post earlier today but I'm only just getting to it. And now I am decidedly sleepy and fairly grumpy. So it feels a bit hypocritical. But I'm not gonna let that stop me!! Maybe writing it can get me back into that place I was at earlier today. We'll see. Here goes.

Why all the hatin'? Why all the negativity? It seems like the vast majority of people I am aquainted with spend a huge amount of time complaining about their job and their spouse and their kids and their fat arse and office gossip and the stinky smell of mass transit and their lack of and their over-abundance of and and and, ad infinitum.

So you don't like it? Change it. Really. It IS that easy.

Here's what you have going for you (most likely, if you are reading this):

- Unlike 80% of the world's population, you have a solid roof over your head that you can count on to be there, every night.
- You are part of the 33% of people who can read and write. That is a big effing deal.
- You are in the lucky not-quite-half of people that aren't suffering from malnutrition or even starvation. Your food issues are, at worst, that you are overfeeding yourself. You'll live.
- One third of the people that share this planet with you don't have access to a safe water supply.

Can we have a bit of perspective, people? A bit of optimism maybe? A bit of acknowledgment of how blessed we are? Life really isn't that bad.

And if it is, if it really is terrible, change it. If quitting your soul-sucking job means you'll have to sell your house, then love the crap out of your mom's guest bedroom or your friend's couch while you start earning money doing something that actually *fulfills* you. It isn't work if you're doing what you love, and if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing then the money will follow. Ask any of those Law of Attraction gurus.

Afraid of change? I hear you. Maybe don't make any huge changes then. Maybe just work on your own paradigm. Maaaayyyybe just take a teeny tiny bit of responsibility for where you are in your life. Perhaps choose to focus on the good stuff. It really is that easy. Watch. "I just read The Red Tent (again) and the men in those days had multiple wives and they all slept in tents and got water from the well and the women were subservient and there were slaves and when they wanted to eat they had to make everything from scratch so when there was a famine they went hungry. Yikes. What an incredible life I have, sitting here on my red couch, blogging, drinking wine (that I didn't have to make myself), my three beautiful healthy children sound asleep upstairs. I'm safe and warm. I'm loved. I have an extra few pounds to get me through that next famine, hehe. Life Is Good."

This isn't how I envisioned this post at all. I was going to write about all of the qualities I admire, hoping to attract them my way: optimism, passion, compassion, joy, energy, earnestness (my favorite, I wish everyone was just plain earnest all the time), honesty, connection, humor, love, sincerity, drive. I wish that people were more connected to each other, more honest, more willing to share their feelings without awkwardness, without letting their fear of rejection get in the way. Without fear of judgment.

On a side note, I think judgment should have another "e" in it, judgement. The "dgm" combination is just so, I don't know, in your face.

Focus... flagging. Must... go to bed.

That's all. I'm out.

25 August 2010

Lyrics

The other day, Maya and I were sitting on the couch, listening to some music. A song came on that she likes, and she said, "Listen to this one." So I listened. And she said, "Listen to the words."

It reminded me of all of the times I have tried to share an awesome song with somebody who listened absentmindedly for a few seconds to a few bars and said, "Oh, that's nice." She wanted me to really hear the song.

I love that she really listens. We have that in common.

Planetarium

Yesterday Nate and I used our new OMSI membership for the first time to take in a couple of shows at the planetarium. We were joined by our space nerd friend who wowed Nate with some of the spacey apps on his iPhone as we waited for the first show to start.

There was hardly anyone there, so we were able to pick out the best seats (as advised by the doorman) under the domed ceiling.

First up:



"Learn about the interesting stories of the constellations and others in this live presentation in OMSI's Kendall Planetarium. It is not just stars everyone can see in the night sky—planets, constellations, zodiac, shooting stars and satellites are all there if you know when and where to look. Navigate by the stars and discover how you can become a backyard astronomer."

It was awesome. Our current local night sky was illuminated above us. The presenter used a laser pointer and zoom to point out different features of the night sky - planets, constellations (with a graphic overlay to show how an abstract grouping of stars can become, for example, a swan), stars of all different sizes and ages. She briefly explained how Polaris is used in navigation which I found interesting - how many thousands of people have looked upon and relied on that star to find their ways across oceans and unfamiliar lands? - the thought of which brings me to cartography which I have always found so fascinating considering the historical absence of the tools we rely on today. She told a few constellation stories and showed how a lot of the characters from the same stories are in the same area of the sky which proves those ancient Greeks spent a lot of time looking up towards their gods.

We liked the first show so much that we decided to stay on for the next one, Journey to the Stars. Here is the trailer:



This one was great as well. The graphics had me a bit motion sick at times which was kind of awesome. Nate let out a few audible "whoa"s as we zoomed through the universe towards interesting stars and nebulae and clusters and galaxies. The narrator (Whoopi Goldberg) talked about the life cycle of our own sun and at that point I was really grateful to have not brought Maya - it stresses her out to consider the sun engulfing the Earth, and she isn't comforted by the assurance that we'll all be long gone by then.

There is currently an Einstein exhibit going on at OMSI, so I can see us returning in the very near future.

24 August 2010

Angry school rant

Forgive me for making an unoriginal argument, but doesn't it occur to the average parent that perhaps their children's curriculums are padded to keep the school days nice and long? Readying our kids for their future careers not by what they are actually learning, but by dumbing them down, killing their inquisitiveness, and institutionalizing them so that they will "happily" sit behind a desk for 8 hours a day?

I love this article by Daniel Quinn. I read it years ago, and I just reminded myself of it. If you're dubious about homeschooling, please read it.

So I was walking home the other day and a dude on a bike asked me about the townhouses we live in (are they nice, any available, great location, etc). I raved appropriately and mentioned that I love being so close to the library because of my kids. He asked what schools service this area. I told him I have no idea. Him: What, your kids don't go to school? Me: No, we homeschool. Him: Unmasked shock and annoyance. But you're going to send them to school sometime, right? Me: I don't know, this is working out pretty great for us. If they ever want to go to school, we'll address it then. Him: Exasperation and confusion, eye rolling at my eccentricity.

On the outside I tend to maintain the zen mother fa├žade, shrugging off the judgement and pity that is directed at me and my poor, unsocialized kids. Sometimes I'm judging right back. Sometimes I don't care, it doesn't bother me because I know I'm doing the right thing for them.

But sometimes I get really angry! I want to scream, "Do you even know what your child is being taught in school?!" They are being taught not to question authority (no fun when you're smarter than your teacher and you know it). They are being taught to sit still so that they can spend the rest of their lives sitting still. They are being taught to follow the curriculum, not their own interests. They are being taught to play well with others, as long as those others are from the same socioeconomic background and are the same age. They are being taught that boys play boy games and girls play girl games and first graders are babies and sixth graders are bullies. They are being taught that if they plan on being "different", they had better bloody well have a strong enough character to not let it bother them that they are going to be made fun of constantly until they either graduate or drop out. Hope they can withstand the pressure and not end up committing suicide or killing multiple classmates and teachers in a violent rampage.

And *I'm* the crazy one for *not* sending my kids to school?

Now I'm not saying that all parents who send their kids to school are complete suckers. I know a lot of parents who have examined the issue very closely and intelligently and decided for various reasons that school is their best option. And I know a lot of kids who have chosen to go to school even though their parents know everything that I know and would prefer (and have tried to persuade) them to stay home. Some kids are strong enough to get through school intact. More power to 'em. It is some people's idea of hell on Earth to stay home with their kids all day every day. I know a lot of women who think it is degrading to be expected to be a homemaker while the partner is out "in the world", doing intelligent adult stuff. Personally, I can't imagine a more important profession than raising conscious, aware, intelligent, thoughtful human beings.

It just shits me to no end when people don't question their choices and blindly go along with what society says they should be doing. And then judge ME for making an unpopular choice. Why don't people think for themselves? Why don't they consider what they are doing? Why blindly follow?

Oh yeah. They went to school.

23 August 2010

Unschooling in action

Nate isn't a huge fan of writing, and he isn't a fluent reader yet. He finds it really hard. I have gone through stages of pushing him (hoping that he would get past some barrier and suddenly get it) and completely ignoring it (hoping it would just happen one day like in all of the unschooling stories I have read). Now I'm just following his lead with a few well-placed nudges.

He loves cooking, so I picked up a few children's cookbooks last time I was at the library by myself (ahhh luxury...). He delved right in, and because it's a topic he's interested in, he's actually putting forth the effort to read the recipes that accompany the tastiest looking foods.

This morning he picked three recipes he wanted to make, like, right then. I told him that we didn't have all of the ingredients and we would have to go to the store to pick them up. Right. Focus on. He got a piece of paper and started making a shopping list. Reading the recipes, working out what we already have and in what quantities, and writing down what we need to buy. Total focus. No frustration. No boredom.

"Aha" moment.

20 August 2010

All praise Maya, queen of Sick.

Maya woke up with a tummy ache today and was not at all interested in breakfast, except for a bit of smoothie. She was a bit emotional, but nothing huge. Then at noonish she was yawning a lot, so I asked if she wanted to lie down on the couch for awhile and have a rest. (Who wouldn't? You seen that couch? I'm in lurve.) She did, she joined Eli who was already sleeping there, and she fell right asleep. Unusual, and I finally realized that she wasn't well. I am, factually, the least observant person in the world.

After she woke up, she stayed on the couch for most of the rest of the day, even having another nap later in the afternoon (which isn't only unusual, but completely unheard of). She didn't eat, she didn't drink, she didn't go to the bathroom.

In the evening, she watched Swan Lake (the 1968 Kirov production) and started to look a bit sleepy again. I brought down her pajamas for her and helped her change. Now this is a person who likes to follow procedure - she doesn't like to skip a meal (even if we graze all day and none of the rest of us is hungry), she doesn't like to fall asleep fully dressed (even if she's in the car and we carry her up to bed) - so I asked her what she would like me to do if she fell asleep on the couch. Should I carry her up to bed? Should I wake her up for any reason? She thought it a bit silly that I would consider putting her in bed without having had her teeth brushed, so I suggested that we go upstairs, brush her teeth, then come back downstairs and she could cuddle up on the couch with the lights dimmed and fall asleep watching the ballet. She agreed. So upstairs we went, brushed teeth, went potty, etc. Since her bed was right there, I asked her if she would just rather go to sleep in bed since we're already upstairs, and she said, "Yeah, I think I should."

This little girl, this one who just turned five a few weeks ago, is so amazingly in tune with her body. She didn't complain once, all day long, except when I was urging her to eat her breakfast and not listening to her telling me that her stomach was hurting her (still learning here). Her body was using its energy to fight off whatever it's fighting off and didn't need that extra digestive load. She slept a lot because she was burning through a lot of healing energy and she needed the sleep.

Damn, this girl is awesome. Hooray for listening to our bodies. She's a major inspiration to me.

I hope she feels better tomorrow!

Who you be

I've been thinking about how awesome it is to just be able to BE who you are. You know? Sounds so simple, but imagine it not even occurring to you to have to try to be something or some way? Imagine not even having a clue about all of these societal "rules". Imagine not feeling the need to fit into a category, like "I am totally emo so I can't possibly like that new Miley Cyrus song or delight at the taste of a fresh strawberry, that just doesn't fit."

And equally important, imagine not rebelling against these rules by trying to be "different", going out of your way to make the opposite choice of the majority, just for the sake of going against the grain. That isn't being true to yourself either. That is still painting a picture of yourself based on society, on everyone else, on those "rules" we profess to hate.

I've always been really aware of the mainstream and the right wing and all of the dogma and hate and bullshit that goes along with trying to fit into that mold. But now that I'm older and wiser, I can see it everywhere, on both sides (as if there are only two sides, but you know what I mean). I would never go on a feminist forum and mention how much I love being taken care of. I would never talk to the whole foods community about the joy of the Wendy's frosty. I don't talk about how much I love Costco with my anti-multinational friends.

So that brings me to my kids. I love how much they are themselves. Just the essence of them. I love that Nate's favorite outfit is head to toe rainbow tie-dye, and he wouldn't even have a clue what the word hippy means. I love that rambunctious Eli's favorite pajamas involve Tinkerbell and lacey edges. And as a woman, I can really appreciate that Maya has no preconceptions that a girl should be weaker or slower or quieter or daintier or shorter or thinner. She loves Disney princesses and yes, I found disappointing at first, I'll admit it, because it didn't fit into MY parenting category. That, of course, has nothing to do with her. She is what she is. They all are.

18 August 2010

Maya took this of herself and I love it:



This morning we walked over to Village Home to pay for our membership and the kids' classes. It is crazy close. Awesome. Maya said this morning, "I wish we could just start our classes NOW." I don't blame you, kid.

It's a pretty good thing we've got going on.

17 August 2010

Music at the library

Today our library hosted Greta Pedersen, a local musician with a literacy slant, lots of songs with word play and such. It was aimed for 1-5 year olds so I was thinking Nate might get a bit bored, forgetting who he was for just a moment and thinking by numbers. I was wrong. He totally loved it and participated in everything without caring that he was the oldest kid there. I love that about him.

And just because we're talking about Nate, here is my current favorite picture of him:



Awwww. I love that kid.

She brought along a beautiful Appalachian dulcimer:



and played "Cat Goes Fiddle-I-Fee" or "Bought Me A Cat", not sure of the title. But we have been enjoying lots of folk CDs from the library and that song was on one of them, so it was fun to recognize it.

She was great and the kids (and parents) loved her!
Finally, some pictures of our place, now that we have furniture! The walls are bare - our stuff is still en route from Australia so we should have some pictures to hang up in about three weeks. Use your imagination.

Here is our spacious, full-of-natural-light kitchen that overlooks a city block of community garden:



Our brand new awesome red couch. Eli is a testament to its comfiness:



Nick hard at work (about to upload these photos for me!) in our computer room:



View of aforementioned community garden from the computer room. The library is visible (brick building behind the big tree in the upper right corner) and the park with the fountains next to the farmers market (well, you can see the patch of grass and some flowering plants in the upper left):



Nate and Maya's domain:



Our ginormous bedroom with the bathroom through that door on the right and the walk in closet to the left:



After getting the couch and the two little ottomans (that double as storage cubes and tables), it finally feels complete! I love home.

13 August 2010

Preparations

Tomorrow is our housewarming party. We haven't had a huge response so it might be a very quiet day. Nevertheless, I want to have everything looking all beautiful and perfect.

So where's our couch??

We found an awesome red sectional couch that was marked down from $999 to $699. Then it was $499, and an additional 10% off. Now that 10% has turned into 20%, so we're looking at $400 for a $999 couch. But the couch isn't in stock, and we keep hearing that it will be Wednesday, now Friday, now Monday, now "the middle of the week", and now the official answer is "Friday night or Saturday morning." Geez, I sure hope so! It would be very nice to actually have our couch before our housewarming party.

11 August 2010

Classes

This morning was the registration for the place the kids will be taking some classes this fall. Nate chose organic gardening, cooking, science labs, chess club, and lego club. Maya chose "animal junction" (an animal-inspired song and storytime for littlies), knitting, science explorations, science labs, and lego club. Eli can tag along for animal junction and lego club, and there is a play room too if that's what he wants to do. In addition, they'll take a few classes through Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District: ballet for Maya, gymnastics for Nate, and a sibling dance class for Maya and Eli which Maya's ballet teacher recommended after seeing Eli's interest in Maya's ballet class.

Hardly a stressful, academic schedule, but it is a whole lot of structure compared to what we're used to. I'm hoping that their enthusiasm for their chosen classes sticks around once the fall term starts. I so don't want them to feel burned out at all. I can't imagine that they would. What they'll be doing sounds like a dream - I would LOVE to take a bunch of interesting electives at a community college. Their classes are Monday through Thursday, and nobody ever has more than 2 classes (each class is an hour) a day. The earliest start is 10:15. The campus is two blocks away which is so awesome - I love walking where we need to go, not having to pack food, not having to anticipate what we might need so that I can pack the car up appropriately. In Sydney, we were at least 40 minutes from any sort of homeschool outing, so it's such a difference to be so close to the action. I love it.

02 August 2010

Home!

We have moved! We found a townhouse, two blocks away from the Beaverton Library, two blocks away from the Village Home Education Resource Center, two blocks from the spectacular Beaverton Farmers Market. It is unreal. We have been very, very busy. Shopping, furnishing, Ikea-ing, list-making, building, Goodwilling, Freecycling, stair-walking (we have three levels!), designing, dreaming.

I feel so excited that after 8 months of limbo (travelling and staying with wonderful, generous friends and family), we are finally in our own place. Now I'm planning a housewarming party.

Ahhhh. Life is good.