Who wasn't threatened as a child by the specter of "The Starving Children In Africa" and what were we American kids supposed to do about them? I didn't know then and I don't know now. But I have news for you. Children in Africa are also threatened to eat well, by their parents, because of the starving children in Africa. Only, these starving children are in residence. Not in theory but actually. So for instance, you're five and you're sitting with your Mum eating. Later that day when you go to town, you will see the starving ones.
Does that give you pause? It did me. I've been hearing about these hungry kids for so long, I suppose I had unconsciously mentally morphed them into hungry ghosts, hoped they were a myth, figured they grew up already, or actually had quit thinking of them at all.
Our friends from South Africa, Russel and Elsje, are spending the weekend with us. Its been wonderful fun. They took us out last night for an Italian dinner and we reciprocated in a coffee shop down the street with Italian gelato. (Wow, we're getting mighty multicultural for our little podunk redneck town.) After we were finished eating (so much), strolling, laughing, and enjoying the Christmas lights which were quite charming, we got in the car to go home. Looking back I saw Elsje's unfinished gelato cup perched delicately and cleanly near the inner rim of the trash can.
Its a habit of her's left over from childhood in Namibia. She used to carefully leave the second half of her drink on but not in the trash. Just in case, for The Starving Children to find. Because she could actually see them. I listened to her talking about her chocolate drinks in Namibia in silence as I drove home in the dark, feeling very full, very happy, very lucky. And humbled.
My boy checked out "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" by Edgar Allan Poe. This morning he bundled up, perched himself in the hammock, and swayed there reading out loud to himself, the cat, the chickens, and our old dog who was full of saucy chill-inspired wrangle and was running in playful circles in the yard. What's remarkable about this, other than the fact that it was 38* outside, was that Poe is hard for him. He's having to work hard to read Poe. Poe is a challenge. The first real language challenge this kid has encountered in a long time. I admire him for meeting it and I like his style.
Academics constantly fret over perception. Worrying worse than any character ever imagined by Poe, that children won't comprehend what they read. Which is obviously not an issue with unschoolers. Children who are free don't read what they don't understand, any more than I would pour over text in Sanskrit. Unless they are pushing themselves. And if left to themselves, they will push out and up in their own time. No need to test. They teach themselves to mastery. A phrase for which I am thankful.
I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e. e. cummings
I started the day with a good cry. Because of the link my husband posted in response to "Good morning, son." He sat patiently next to me on the couch in silence while I cried. The coffee between us quietly steaming. I tried to blog about these morning tears, the why of them. I've been told fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and still in my life I have rushed. But I see now, I can't articulate it any better than Ben Folds. I do love these quirky shy creative strong men in my life. Like few others, if the truth be known.
Today we are Thanksgiving shopping, cleaning linens, thinking about silver service and center pieces. And I'm doing all this for my children. For their sense of connectedness to tradition. Its really not the meal which grounds us, so much as all the ritual preparation. The rhythm of it, the subtle way the house will warm and open to the beginning of winter with these celebrations, and coziness overtakes us. These holidays are a fine good hearted way to end the year. And I know I'd never go to such efforts without the force of tradition. So every year I'm surprised to relearn the meaning, the blessing, and the connection of it all.
Last weekend we tucked the garden into sleep under deep leafy blankets and thick plats of straw. The yard is raked and mostly pruned. The chicken's house thoroughly gone through and refreshed with new shavings. I love to find eggs in pristine egg boxes, a downy feather here and there. The hens are molting and cutting back on their laying which is natural. But we are still getting precious two eggs a day which I have carefully horded.
I need nine of them to make our new favorite cake, named for my son in honor of his 13th birthday. Nine eggs! Its a lemon pound cake beyond all reason and gone to an ancient wonderful place mostly long forgotten. I actually don't like pound cake, or more specifically, modern pound cake. But he wanted lemon pound cake and I found a recipe in the American Heritage Cookbook. Like I said, its a whole 'nother thing unto itself. And our new family tradition for the fall-idays. Nine free ranged grass grazed bug filled chicken eggs make a cake the color of the first penetrating rays of sun hitting Pan's elemental flute as he pipes in the swaying fall reeds. Seriously y'all, this cake, like the holidays kept in perspective, is totally worth it all.
Darling Daughter holds her hand up indicating stop: "Mom just let me live in my teen fantasy." This from the same girl who was, earlier in the week, heard to say: "For the record, I'm holding back a bunch of sass right now."
We went to a music recital this weekend. Dear Girl's bff was playing the piano and singing. So our whole family got cleaned up and were in attendance on the front row. Its been a long time since I went to a recital.
I love all the children my children love, of course. I feel maternal about them, almost like they were mine. And for that afternoon, I felt maternal about every kid brave enough to perform. Most adults aren't that brave. We forget this, how hard it really is. Few adults willingly put themselves in gut churning situations where their own creative force is brought to bear. But children are braver, even as they are more tender. Imagine their courage. Oh, I was so proud of them.
My husband is a professional musician and for a while considered making music his career. We spent a lot of time listening to live music, not just his own, while we were dating. All the time we weren't hiking, drinking coffee or beer, cooking the most divine food, or bird watching was spent watching live music. We saw nearly all the important or interesting music touring in the '90s. Then we had kids... What was the last show we saw? I was so pregnant with our son I nearly did not fit between the rows. I fit between the elbow rests but my stomach was almost touching the seat in front of me. To hear Bobby McFerrin sing Ave Maria. Oh my.
......we interrupt this post for McFerrin surfing on youface......
The thing about live music is you are captive. You must not get up and walk around or jibber jabber. Sit still for the experience. Something few adults require of themselves these days --as much as we talk about wishing we could sit down. We rarely sit still. And actual listening? Well, listening is even rarer. Stillness and listening are your contribution. Performance is your guide. What happens when stillness listening and performance arrive together is called presence.
Which is where children live more often than adults, in the present moment. So it does not matter if they qualify as professional musicians, as talented, or even as what we might call good. They arrive in the present moment bearing the force of their spirits and creativity with absolute honesty. At one point I heard my husband whisper to himself, "Oh, I LOVE this." I knew just what he meant. I felt all my blood vessels relax. And I felt as I have felt sometimes in Meeting with Quakers or meditation.
Halfway through the show Molly, who was littlest after all, balked. She wasn't ready. So much more then, the triumph, when the whole of her 43 inches arrived on stage to close the show with her 43 seconds of time at the piano. I tell you, recitals are priceless, free, and you can find God there. Go Molly!
To finish the story of our excellent day in the big city, we return to Special Collections. There were many notes with signatures on display. Mostly requests for monetary support from the university for various worthy causes through history. Two stood out for me. First, Albert Einstein. His cause is still relevent, as perhaps its failing. Time will tell eventually........
And Helen Keller. Wow. She signed using one finger running under the letters to keep them straight. And in pencil to keep her finger clean. Her cause is current as well. Sigh.
As Darling Husband pointed out, the whole display also makes a good unit study on how to write a letter.
We found unexpected beauty all over the city yesterday. I regret I did not get a picture of the corner design store with the gorgeously lit front windows flanked by a bubble machine which kept an almost subtle stream of bubbles floating around the corner of the brick building past the sparkly glass windows with their twinkly lights and delicious colors. The effect was that of looking into a snow globe or a Dickensian memory, wrong as that sounds. It was the opposite of garish, looking almost old fashioned. How could one trite trick, a bubble machine, create such an effect? It was the motion in the scene, maybe? Strangely charming. As were the unexpected alleyways given to art.
As the sun set, thoughts turned to dinner, which was delicious. Which led directly to thoughts of that most quintessential city desert. From, of course, a bakery dedicated primarily to them. Cheese Cakes!
The Special Collections librarian pulled this curiosity for us, "After Water Aerobics" by Louis Morrison. Part book and part machine, you crank a handle and read the story as it travels past on a conveyor belt. This and the preceding book, "Grandmother's Closet", most captivated us. I woke up thinking of story boards that might best suit each style of book. Of course, the kids would land on far more creative ideas than mine. Maybe we'll follow through on this project after the holidays?
Each little character was created with a hand carved stamp, so the whole thing can be mass produced. I KNOW, right?!! (And FINALLY, I found the macro button on my camera.)
Darling Husband is a librarian. Today he arranged for one of the Special Collections librarians to pull some random cool stuff to show us. Our day was awesome. But I took so many pictures and we saw so many neat things knocking around in the big city --far far away from our daily rural life, that I'm going to have to break everything up into a few blog posts. To begin back in Special Collections: "Grandmother's Closet," pure book magic. The entire book is meant to be viewed at once, through the keyhole in the front cover. It was difficult to convey with photography. (At least for me.) But really cool to see. We want to make such a book of our own, one day.
If you aren't married to a librarian you might not know this. But all academic libraries have Special Collections, books and resources they never display. You can call and ask to see what they've got. I don't know why they never seem to say so, but most libraries even have staff just waiting to show off the collection. Today was so unexpectedly inspiring, I'm thinking of hitting up the next university down the road and taking a group of homeschoolers along for the ride.
Quote a local unschooler: "Just got finished working a thirteen hour day! I got a lot accomplished, it was great! Going to bed right now. G'night all!"
I love everything about unschooling. I love that my kids get to unschool.
Imagine loving the process of education. I mean, really truly LOVING it. Imagine the possibility that average childhood is wondrous, education exciting, families closely bonded, each day more new. Imagine a world where education is empowering rather than defeating. Imagine an education in smart and clever and creative rather than dull and bureaucratic and compulsive. Imagine fresh, revolutionary, unexpected, and independent.
Imagine your child with serious eyes, taking their work seriously, in control of meaning, believing their own work matters. Imagine a lot less strife and a lot more joy, children getting consistently smarter, continually apt to surprise.
Imagine that what you thought mattered does not matter. This has been my experience of unschooling. Didn't we all hope there was more? There is. And its not being taught in school.
Dear Daughter asked me, "What does English mean and why do they teach it in school if everyone already knows how to speak?'' I told her its the study of grammar, punctuation, how to write creatively and factually, how to read and speak well, how to think critically about classic and contemporary writing. She was silent a moment and I added, "And you are covering all of that by unschooling." She wondered if that included her blogging time. "Partly," was my answer.
The last roses are blooming in my yard. With a hard freeze expected in three nights. Sleep well, dear old heritage roses. Next year we promise to pick all your June Bugs off. Sweet dreams till then.
The color of this rose bush knocks me out, white outside fading to pink (how can white fade) with a mysterious peach tinge glowing from deep in the center. Its a consistent bloomer, a hearty shrub, makes lovely golden hips, and her smell is divine. Now's the time for planting if you've ever wanted your own antique heritage rose: The Antique Rose Emporium Sigh, that's one Texas place I'd love to revisit.
Its been super busy around our house this month. So I'd gotten behind reading my new favorite blog, Wovember. I kicked back on the couch tonight in my favorite flannel gown, nestled amongst all my glorious wool tree skirt shards and bobbles. Today's work with lime green felt trying to recreate, "Toothless," from the book, "How To Train Your Dragon," set aside for the night.
In the adjoining room, Darling Daughter sat quietly with a pot of indigo ink and a quill writing a letter to her friend. For fun. We will be picking up this friend for Spanish class tomorrow. Never mind such trifles and practicalities. A letter handwritten with love, ink, and a quill is what was wanted and she was hard at work. The house was quiet, warm, cozy. I think the men were playing MTG upstairs.
Imagine my surprise to find a blog post about a letter handwritten with love, indigo ink, and a quill. Concerning the mythic journey of a shepherd's crook, hand carved, balanced for the farmers hand as well as the neck of the sheep.
Ancient technology, the realization many older skills are sustainable where modern ways are not, the fecundity of past lifestyles mix with our modern lives of Plastic Fantastic, digitista, and all things instantaneous. What fascination, its almost living Steampunk, this hybrid mix.
“Other Side of the Mountain” ~ Jean George
“The Pioneer Woman, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels” ~ Ree Drummond
"Igraine the Brave" ~Cornelia Funke
“Charlotte’s Web” ~ E.B. White
“Amelia Rules” ~Jimmy Gownley
Many other "Amelia, Girl Genus" books ~J. Cownley
“The Manny Files” ~Christian Burch
"Inubaka" the series of manga
"Heir Apparent" ~Vivian Vande Velde
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" ~Jeff Kinney
"Kids Draw Anime" ~Christopher Hart
"Teens Cook Dessert" ~Megan and Jill Carle
"Winnie The Pooh" ~ A. A. Milne
"Sea of Monsters" ~ Rick Riordan