Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Good Stuff

Someone posted this on a thread (titled "Are we stuck?") on the alwayslearning yahoo list and it resonated with me because it expresses the sentiments I feel ring true about unschooling: "In addition to this time being short, and precious - you are building the foundation of natural learning in your home. Learning flows when needs are met, connections are strong, and kids can absolutely trust their parents, and know their parents are there for them. Some of the core values of natural learning are trust, support, joy, and freedom. You are putting up scaffolding for years and years of learning by the choices you make now. "

Pam Sorooshian commented on the post and then wrote:
"The time spent mothering and playing is not time away from real learning -not to be rushed through to get to "the good stuff" as some may think of it. It is essential to allow real learning and, really, to allowing the child to grow up as a whole, integrated human being.

Homeschoolers think a lot about learning - but they often focus on learning to read, write, do math, or learning science or history, etc. Unschoolers tend to take that kind of learning for granted, it happens along the way. Instead, as we get more and more into unschooling, we tend to focus on things like kindness and creativity and honesty - all those character traits that will determine "how" their learning will be used in their lives."
I loved what Pam wrote so much!  Her comments led me to think about various thoughts related to play in general and how play is connected to relationships, self-esteem and learning.

* Kids learn best when they are happy and engaged in something meaningful to them which is one reason why kids learn so much when they play. 

* If we truly believe that kids will learn from everything and learning is as natural as breathing, we can relax and enjoy ourselves even more without worrying if they are learning specifics that society thinks they should know by a certain age. (With homeschooling, people have the freedom to learn in their own time and way, like they did before school.)

* When kids grow up in a home where they feel good, they get used to "feeling good" as their norm. What a wonderful thing!  And having fun playing is a great way to feel good!

* Another thing that kids learn as we play with them is how relationships work. They get experience  figuring things out in the context of play between (parent and child and siblings). When we play with our kids, it builds positive connection, which is the most important thing to me!

*This brings me back to Pam's comments....when we care for, nurture and play with our children, we are building the foundation of a great relationship. We are in essence showing our kids that we care for them, they are worthy of our time, that they are loved, that we care to spend time with them and do things for them, that we care what they like to do and that what they want to do is important to us. All of this helps them feel like they are important to us. That makes them feel good and increases their self-esteem.

* And to go full circle again....when kids feel good in general, learning flows easier as they are not stressed or in a situation that requires their attention elsewhere and they can naturally focus on what it is they want to learn.

I know Pam alluded to "The good stuff" as being educational because that is what many homeschoolers or other people think (even though she thinks of it much differently).  To me, "the good stuff" is the loving and mothering and connections that forge a caring, trusting relationship. The educational stuff comes naturally and easily when all other needs are met as we follow our interests and doing educational things are part of our lives every day.  In addition, because I am around my children so much, converse with them throughout the day, know what they do and are interested in, notice many of the connections they make, and know them so well overall, I have an understanding of much of what they know (like most parents do of very young children who spend lots of time together).  

It is the time we choose to spend with our kids when they want and need us most that helps build a great foundation not only of love of each other, but of life and learning in general.  That good stuff helps build a good life!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Really Like My Husband and My Children - I have a great life!!

Makana really wanted tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner.  But we had no canned tomato soup, so I offerred to make her homemade tomato soup.  I usually can't remember which book the tomato soup recipe that I like is in, but tonight I easily found it.  I had to stop making it to help Kanoa for a while (nurse, diaper change, connection) and then set up the dvd player in the kitchen so I could cook and be close to him.  Threw in some laundry and began to chop onions and press garlic and add spices.  Only have skim cow's milk though.  Asked Li if he would still have the soup if I used that, he said he would prefer going to the store for rice milk.  Checked the time.  It was just about the time Jim might be leaving work.  Called him and he was willing to stop by the store on his way home.  He even made a list of what other things we needed and agreed to get them (as he is a great guy and knows it is much easier overall than taking the three younger kids with me, although we often do shop together).  So....we're waiting for him and will appreciate him not only working all day, but stopping on the way home too.  Thanks Wolfie, I love you!  And this is only one of the gazillion reasons why!! 

I also want to write that I love Katie so much....she is such a wonderful, fun, bright, cheerful person almost all the time!  I love her attitude and who she is - a truly good person, a delight and a sunny person who lifts others up by her very energy and spirit!  It makes me feel so good that she is doing the things in life that make her feel good and has friends who make her laugh and that she enjoys spending time with.  I once read a snippet of a book written by a man who wrote about his experience having teenagers who got so busy it seemed that they were hardly ever home.  Then after his kids had moved out, he realized how they did still live at home when they were sort of using it like a base from where they took their adventures as when they truly weren't living there, he didn't find any evidence of them being around like socks and things and dishes and such and he really missed that and them.  Reading that made me feel sad for him and was a good reminder to appreciate the time that my kids do spend with me and are living at home.  And when I do have a moment where I wish something was put back in it's place, I remember this man and what he felt and it helps to bring me back to what is important and what I can appreciate now.  Once I feel grateful for evidence that those I love live here, I am feeling like I have my priorities straight again.

I do have moments though where I get off track.  Example of Wolfie helping me remember what is important: I took Katie and Zach to the ice skating rink a couple weeks ago.  It was Zach's first time skating.  Katie took her skates with her.  When I brought them home, she had left them in the back of the van.  No big deal, but I really like to keep the van clear in the back so I can put groceries and such in it (okay....I love things organized too!).  A day or so went by and I put them in the mudroom right on the stairs so she could easily spot them and hopefully take them upstairs and put them back in her closet on the ice skate pile.  Well, they sat there for days (and I didn't remember to ask her to take them up as it wasn't high on my list of things to do, but was something I did want put back eventually).  One morning I was saying goodbye to Jim in the mudroom and made a comment about the skates still sitting there.  Jim said "She has alot going on.  Remember when you were fourteen."  His comments reminded me that she does have a whole 'nother world going on and this was not anything important to get bothered by.  In fact, it was easy for me to simply bring the skates up to the skate pile and be grateful for her being alive and having so many other things that she is interested in.  I smiled and thanked Jim for saying that and he said "Yeah, well don't ask me at night when I'm tired!"  lol!  Love that we can be there for each other like this! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Update on Katie in High School (9th grade)

Katie is enjoying school still.  It is still a bit hard to get up so early (and to get to sleep knowing you want to wake up early), but she does that as well as make her own lunch (she wants to make it right before she leaves so it doesn't get soggy), gather what she needs, and get to where she needs to get to by an early time.  Guess it is worth it to her.  When you want to do something, you can usually find a way to do it.

Honors English is her favorite class and she is proud of herself for getting high marks in it.  She likes her other classes too and has a nice time when she gets to eat with her friends or when she is in the same classes as them.  She has found that some people are really nice and friendly, and others aren't as kind and are not worth her time.  Overall though, her experience so far has been very positive. 

Many days there are hours of homework, though she gets much of it done in school during "independent study" time.  She wonders why it is called Independent Study because students Must do homework during that period and therefore thinks it should be called "Homework."   

Last night, a call from the school was sent to all of the student's homes because bath salts (drugs) were found in the school.  Jim and I are not happy about this as these kind of drugs are way more dangerous than something like marijuana.  The school has decided to implement a program that incorporates dogs to sniff out drugs because of that and the many drug related offenses that have occurred so far this year.   School is not a safe place in Jim's and my opinion, especially when kids who don't want to be there are there and bringing drugs to school.
10/29/2011 - Today Katie got a new cell phone (her old one broke and she was without one for a few weeks).  She was so excited because she said she could now text while she was in school so she wouldn't be bored.  She went on to say that while she enjoyed most classes (all except health) and felt she was learning in some classes, in others she felt bored because she already knew what was being taught.  This especially was true for algebra.  Interesting that this was the one subject that she fretted about knowing and even though she picked up some algebra books at the beginning of last year because she wanted to learn it, she has never had any formal math (except for a very brief period when I was occasionally asking her to work on handwriting and some math problems back in 2004 or 2005).  Also, she said her math teacher separated her and Zach because they talked too much.  Katie said that this happenned even though their conversations were about math.  Now she feels kind of lonely sitting alone in algebra.   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nice Day...

We just got in from a walk out to Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse (all six of us) and a stop at the ice cream place downtown (second day we went for half price ice cream!).  Makana was getting ready for a shower and said, "This was the best day ever!  I can't wait to do it again!"  Love that!  Just told Jim what she said and he said she just told me the same thing a few minutes ago!  :)

Oh, and the three older kids did Mad Libs in the car and it was so nice to hear their voices and laughter.  Nice being all together. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Makana adding it all up....

Makana and I were in the kitchen one evening last week and she asked me how many pennies were in a dollar bill.  I said one hundred.  She thought a moment and then said, "That means there is 10 hundred pennies in ten dollars, right?"  I said yes.  She said that sure is alot of pennies!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Windjammer Weekend, Camden ME 2011

First a visit with some pirates!
They gave the kids a coin each.
Kanoa wore his own pirate hat for the occassion, until it got too windy and we needed to put it in our bag for safekeeping.
Angelique, Lewis French and the Mary Day schooners (left to right)
On the Angelique
Li surprises Makana by sneaking onto the next ship when she isn't looking.
It is not this crowded in our town usually!  Wow!
Mom visited over the weekend! 
Love this view with Mt Battie in the background.
Check out my new wheels!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Come Boating in Belfast, Maine

The boathouse

We watched for a long time as they got ready

And looked for things in the water...found seaweed and little floating crab apples.

Makana was going to try and row too.  I was wondering how this would go.  Was she strong enough?

Makana ended up sitting next to Azure to enjoy the ride instead of row as she fell when her oar got stuck.  The tides were very strong this day and they had alot of trouble getting away from the dock.  Once they were out though, away they went.  They had a great time!  Makana and Azure loved sitting next to each other!  They got to sit next to Quinn and try rowing with her for a bit of time on the way back.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Choosing High School - First Full Day

Found this nice note this morning.

Katie went to school for her first official day of high school today and she enjoyed it very much.  She went yesterday, but it was a freshmen only half-day.  I was glad she wanted to tell me about her experience and her day.  She said that she likes some of her teachers and classes, but doesn't like Spanish 2 or Health.  She had been a little nervous about being a freshman as she heard people refer to them as "fresh meat" and heard that they aren't treated nicely by older students.  However, the students (both older and younger) she has met so far have been very nice. 

Last night was the evening parents could come to school and follow their child's schedule.  Jim went with Katie and got to meet the teachers and hear about five minutes of what each class was about.  The health teacher invited parents to come into any health class anytime.  Jim told Katie he'll save her a seat (wink). 

Some of the classes use no books at all, like science class.  The laptops aren't ready to be given out yet and Jim said that the school made it seem like this was a big deal - the kids would have to take notes.  He said that it seems like the schools have changed since we went. 

We do know one teacher at the school who teaches the fashion design and discovering foods classes.  She is so nice and I do hope Katie enjoys those classes. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Frog On Glass Door

This was a cool thing to see!  The underbelly of a frog!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Neuc, Sabbathday Shaker Village

8/26 - Our room at Neuc conf...what a mess!

We stayed one more night then we had planned at the conference (yeah!).  On our way home Saturday, we went to a portfolio review sesson (where I met some really nice families!) at Pinelands (which reminded me of Delicious Orchards in NJ a little bit) and then went to the Shaker Village that we had heard all about by listening to a cd.  The cd was called Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine, 1918 (Dear America Series) by Lois Lowry.  It was such a captivating cd that we loved to put it on the minute we got into the car and sometimes wished our car rides were longer just to hear more!  Here's a review of it online: 

We thought that we would take a tour of the Shaker Village, but when we found out that you could not leave the tour and that it is more of a serious, quiet tour mostly appropriate for those who can remain quiet and are older (like over 12 or something), we decided to take the self-guided tour instead.  I didn't get to read nearly as much as I had wished to because the kids needed us, especially Kanoa who was full of energy.  We did get some pics though.  Here they are.  And I do wish someday to return and take the tour - that is, if there are any Shaker's around then as there are only three left today and they all live in this village, "The Chosen Land."  Maybe some of the kids will be able to go on the tour at that later time too.  It would be so fun to share that experience with them.  Oh, I read part of a book called, "Chosen faith, Chosen Land : the untold story of America's 21st-century Shakers" by Jeannine Lauber.  It said in the book that the Ken Burns documentary had some errors in it including that the Shakers called God "Mother/Father God." The book said that they actually did just say God, not "Mother Father God" but that it is true that they did think of God as being both genders.

This photo reminds me of something Li said on 9/9/2011 and I am inserting it here.  As we were cooking in the kitchen, he said he likes to do many different things each day so he gets good at many things, like the Shakers did.  He said they were smart to do that and he wants to do that too.  He wondered if he would be good at whatever he does when he's older.  Then he said after some thought, "The Shakers are smart, but they don't rely on happiness. They need more happiness."