Friday, August 30, 2013

If children spend most of their childhood in school, they will become institutionalized. School is an institution, like it or not. To suggest children can spend 6 hours a day, every weekday for the majority of their lives, in school and not become institutionalized borders on magical thinking. It simply follows that committing to an institution is going to result in institutionalization. 

Saying this to school parents gets a very chilly response. I don't know why. If you choose an institution, aren't you asking for institutionalization? Is that not the goal? That is, in fact, what schools are paid to do and they do a great a job of it. Harm isn't implied, but cultural norms are created. We don't notice institutionalization so much when we are all equally steeped. But that doesn't mean it isn't happening. 

Profound institutionalization won't be true for every schooled child, of course. Parents who put their kids in school, but who maintain authority above the school system, seem to raise kids sheltered from the darker side of the lessons schools teach. Every child is homeschooled, after all. And homeschool is its own form of indoctrination. I think one important difference is that home indoctrinates love first and on a fairly consistent continuum. 

Love is antithetical to abandonment. A lot of children never get over this earliest of cultural dichotomies, when their parents hand them over, body and soul, to bureaucracy. We all love our kids. Be that as it may, commitment to an institution is going to result in institutionalization, in a fairly consistent way. I've known parents so dedicated to the institution of school, so institutionalized themselves, so full of the Koolaid, they bring it home, even into homeschooling. That's just sad. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth...Schools as we know them today are a product of history, not of research into how children learn."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

 I realize this is perfectly obvious to everyone else. But I'm still quite stunned by the suddenness of it. 
 There are no babies here. There really aren't even any children here. 
The ballroom dancing class has morphed into a quarterly event. The whole thing has just been so dang awesomely cool, I can hardly tell you. Watching theses young ladies and gentlemen unwind the formality and reconfigure it to modern times, seeing them lose themselves in the structure to discover something casual, artistic, and fun. Watching them have fun! Its the best. I love to see them have fun!
 And that dress, y'all? $3.50 at the thrift shop! Oh yeah!
My husband designs learning spaces professionally. So its kind of funny, how long it took us to reconsider and reconfigure our dining room. We've held it separate and clung to the myth of family dinners there for 7 years. But its most used as creative space. Even after I decided to officially creatify the area, it still took me another week to turn to my husband and ask him for advice.

The first thing I noticed, after manifesting official creative space, is that artists are private. We all like to have our work out, in process. But no one wants to answer questions about it. Everyone, I think almost universally, wants the time and space to do what they want to do without being pestered by questions or even by too much observation. (Varied levels of gaze and observation may be one of the most stifling things about institutional school.)

So I've got a drawing going. My daughter has a skirt going. My husband is writing music in there, hooking up his looper to the amp in the corner. Musicians gather in there and move furniture around. This is all good. But it requires a certain amount of grace and good manners to share creative space. People who understand the growth of buildings (did you know buildings have their own life and growth?) can look at what is happening in the room and see a need for different kinds of furniture. And a need to organize all the stuff in a way to enhance feelings of both privacy and collaboration.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Editing would help. Writing then rewriting drafts would help. Admitting the problem is the first step. There is some powerfully bad writing on this and my old blog. There. I have seen it and I said it.

The quality of the writing has never been the point. Showing up. Noticing. Being available.
These are the points.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

 The space is working its magic. 

We've ditched our dining room. We eat on the couch, holding plates to our faces and I like it that way. Though, this is not meant as advice. And may suggest my own continuing social dissolution. At a restaurant this past weekend, under duress, I actually held my plate to my chest as I ate. In my defense, we were sitting on an outdoor patio. And after a few bites shame impelled me to put the plate back on the table. (See, Brother, I do have some shame!) But that did happened and I won't deny it.

Table manners aside, the point is art. Our dining room is being converted into creative space. Yesterday we emptied the art drawers and put all supplies in view down the middle of the table. Paper is out. FOUR different sets of watercolors were discovered and sorted. A need for new colored pencils was noticed. Plans are to bring in a set of shelves to hold fabric and notions in view.

The quilt decorating the space formerly understood to be for dining, is coming down in favor of wall sized space for inspiration--I may cover it in cork, or the wall itself may become an easel. Its big enough to hold an entire sheet of plywood as a canvas. And I've had a hankering to paint BIG for a long time now. Which may or may not happen.

The larger point is, if you set it up, art is more likely. And art leads to more art. When the kids were small I kept art supplies (good ones, which matters) on full view arranged on shelves near our table. As they got older, our lives got more organized and art supplies migrated to chests of drawers. Which looks nice but has had the unfortunate affect of throttling impulse. Creativity doesn't want to bother with preamble and all its attendant uptight need to tidy after.

Creating space for creating. Its the new theme.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My old computer died. So I went to Walmart and bought a new one for $350--tax included. This new one is great. I haven't found anything it lacks, plus it has more features and is updated. Yes, Honey, I know you tried to tell me, for years. You were right. But the photography software is different. Still learning about it, let's test a few images, shall we?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Visiting Uncle Bob this weekend, we noticed a Granny Square quilt on the back of his rocker. He told the story of how his wife took it off a trash pile at a neighbor's house back in Illinois in the 1950s. The quilt was made in 1908, was considered old at the time, and was set to get tossed. My friend Belinda and I call this Textile Rescue. We are thinking about starting a foundation to support the cause.

Acrylic yarn has nearly destroyed afghans, coverlets, and throws for our entire generation. Brown and gold spun plastic knit in proportions that inspire feelings of shame, created fabric that squitches in a disturbing way when you squeeze it. We know we are supposed to treasure these proceeds of love and determination, this art. We understand we were meant to be warmed, but we've been left feeling cold. Its time to heal. Acrylic yarn is to blame, not the knitters, not the generation of blanket receivers who were supposed to feel grateful and warm, yet didn't, and certainly not the blankets themselves---sad eternal soldiers.

I had not even glanced at Uncle Bob's quilt. It was my husband who asked about it. Which might seem rather odd, as I'm the one who works with textiles, who sits with a string and sticks creating fabric to warm people I love. Textiles are my hobby and craft, I generally notice them. I suppose this is a testimony to the wound of acrylic. I've learned to skim past old wool-ish quilts, to avoid the pain.

I bent over Uncle Bob's quilt and lifted a corner. I buried my fingers in the loft of the wool. I noted no pilling in the fibers and no wear. Each tile was crisply shaped, the colors soft yet bright and distinct. Shetland wool, I whispered to myself, and untold years, hands, sheep, and soft sunny fields were suddenly known to me in a moment. Over a hundred years old, this quilt has been in open use on the back of a couch or chair for the last sixty three. We don't know how much it was used before that. Yet its in perfect condition. No threads have unraveled or yielded. This is why we treasure wool. This is the warmth, beauty, durability, sustainability, and even compostablity acrylic can never give.

Friday, August 16, 2013

 She said, "I really want a pair of these but they are super expensive, so...." 
And they look great. Better than I would have guessed. 
 There are issues. But I think it will do.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

We went to Target this afternoon just to get out of the house. People around here have been trading a cold and today we became officially done sitting around sniffling at each other.

In the car on the way, my daughter mentioned she was on Khan Academy before we left. I asked what she was studying and she replied, "math and American Civics---that's what I do when I get bored, I learn things." This is how unschooling works. Then the kids chatted awhile about the clunkiness of navigation on the site and how the math teacher is obsessed with drawing his apples and lemons.

Thank you Khan Academy! This mother has zero criticism and boundless gratitude for you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Here, Mom, this one is for you. Better? I think I looked like Ashlyn back then. And now I'm starting to look more and more like Big Mama. Or maybe Paw Paw? Anyway, I hope this helps you feel better. I never knew you worked in a burn unit. Love, Me
Remember this? You thought this was a toy from the 1970s. But no. This little machine is Gratitude. Take all of your pain, your fear, your angst, your dribbling, your displeasure, your laziness, your winter, your failure, your wrong. Take it all and mush it into the hole under the plunger. Now press that sucker as hard as you can. Watch what happens to the chem-dough, the boogers, the drool, the dead skin cells, and the dried bits mothers have a disturbing tendency to knead back in. Gratitude takes all of that and transforms it. Like magic. Thanks Hasbro! 

Just keep pushing that plunger. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ken Robinson: How To Escape Education's Death Valley

If you have kids, if you are a teacher, or if you vote Republican this 20 minute clip is worthwhile. Plus, its funny. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In other news, mind you don't accidentally nixtamalize the morning's oatmeal. Nothing good happens.

Friday, August 9, 2013

While we are on the subject of recipes, get some sour cream and cocoa powder. Mix it up. Smear it on your face and let it sit for thirty minutes. Best. Facial. Ever. Thanks to my daughter for the recipe.

The masa was fine. But I need a grain mill. Our old cuisenart can't quite get the job done.
 We are going to try this nixtamalization thing again. This time with the proper ingredients and a great youtu-torial. Youtube is school for the modern age.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Children,

When I was a child I believed in God. In fact, when I was six I woke one morning with a memory of what I had been before I was born. I had been a piece of wind and it was a wonderful experience. I'm happy to share that memory with you anytime. My thought that morning, and still today, is that what I had--my windiness--was no dream. It was a memory. I understand this sounds pretty nutty--my mother thinks she was a piece of wind. But there it is. As I grew up, I began to doubt the existence of God. It seems like most intelligent people doubt. No one in my family believed. Except my Grandparents. And they were Grandparents. By which I mean, old, odd, and seemingly inconsequential. Furthermore, a lot of what the church does and says has always struck me as false. And that sense of falseness is still true for me, right up to this very moment.

As a teenager I noticed that intelligent people are often open minded. In my twenties I went on a small private and rather lazy quest for open mindedness. Which led to me to study, among other things such as midwifery, meditation. Few studies have been as important or helpful to me. I urge to you consider the benefit of training your mind somehow. Through rigorous academia, through dedicated meditation practice, or through a strict artistic pursuit. What ever you choose, choose at least one. Improve your mind. You'll never regret it. Of all of those, meditation is the easiest and most practically helpful, in my opinion.

A lot of intelligent open minded people often begin, over time, to notice that more seems to be happening in life than what is patently obvious and concrete. Something mystic seems to be at work here. I believe it is a force of Love we call God.

Once I accepted the idea that there is a loving force at work in the universe we can call God, I began to see that the construct of church is a well intended system people use to strengthen their spiritual open mindedness for the betterment of everyone. Humans are flawed and bungling. We get stuff wrong in a chronic way. Creating a system for trying to do a better job of getting something--anything--right is okay by me. Even though we can anticipate that system will be as flawed and bungling as humans generally are.

George Fox taught that all people have direct access to God. Which is why Quakers meet in silence. Of the few churches I've encountered, The Society of Friends, makes the most sense to me. My understanding of George Fox, God, Love, Quakers, and church is grossly limited and flawed. But my faith in God is not. My need to improve is considerable. And my decision to sit with Quakers is, personally, a relief.

Plenty of intelligent open minded people do not agree anything mystic is happening in life. And that is okay too. You kids are not required to agree with me or your father on matters spiritual or intellectual. You are only required to be honest and considerate and true to yourselves.

I love you both,


Monday, August 5, 2013

Here is a new project from a fabulously talented artist. But also, does this not favor my daughter a lot?!
I put the quail babies in a box with a towel for a lid and drove them up the street. I set them free in the power line at the top of the hill. The power line is buffeted on the left by a stand of pines which runs the length of a nice hay field. The area is far from any domestic cats and has minimal human contact.
 It was difficult to say goodbye. But they have wings and are ready to fledge. Several will fly today for the first time in their hopefully long lives. All of them will run and graze and touch the earth, at least.
It was kind of moving to let them go. I thought about keeping two breeding pairs and one day I still might. I understand how to raise quail now, and I see the possibilities. But I let them all go. A bunch of them will die. If they all make it a whole day, that would be lovely. If any live to reproduce, I'll consider the project a wild success. (Sorry for the pun.) Quail are prolific because of their naturally high mortality. And these are at the obvious disadvantage of all orphans. But they are strong and in a great habitat.
 I stood here and listened to them call each other. The woods filled with their tiny chorus. My goal is to walk past this area one day and hear Bobwhite sing his name. This is possible.
 Good great luck to you, dear tiny brave little ones. We are grateful for getting to know you.