Saturday, November 30, 2013

The work at Goathenge continues. Tomorrow, I think, the tin roof goes up!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pie, a better way

First of all, salt your crust well. No one wants a pasty tasting crust. Plus, if your crust is salty enough, you don't need as much sugar in your pie.

1 can pumpkin
two eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup, heaping, sour cream
salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger to taste

Blend well and bake at 350 till done, about an hour

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CC, I was so disturbed by that woman's question, I had to write out a response for myself. Thanks for rethinking pedagogy with me. It would be a lot more lonely without you.

The pleasure of reading is the pleasure of reading, no matter what age you come to it. Also, there is no age limit on board books. I have four of them in my kitchen and they still get read from time to time.

The idea that its somehow a loss for a child to skip the board book stage, illustrates that the timeline and curriculum of institutional education is arbitrary. Having been raised in this arbitrary system, we've been taught faith in the system through implication. And so, come to feel that reading a board book at age 5 is pertinent, follows something important, leads to something important: Next we study clocks. Next we study the bean in the cup. Next we study a book with pages. Next is New Math. And on and on and on. But this is nothing more than a well intended poorly written fairytale.

Its easy to understand how backwards the system is when you look at someone like Richard Feynman. As a young child he studied advanced (according to the timeline and curriculum of industrial education) abstract ideas about physics through observation and experimentation. I think he simply got very comfortable wrestling with large unknown questions. Curiosity coupled with imagination and  permission to wonder and question were the basis of his early education, in a completely free form way. All of which was nurtured and supported by his father.  No one told that kid he had to begin with simple ideas and move in a long slow progression of simple ideas, through 13 years, until he was ready to tackle complexity much later as an adult.

Homeschooling parents witness complex learning, out of line, frequently. Not everyone is going to be a genius, like Feynman. But most kids are ready for the good stuff early. Life is the good stuff and not dependent on a slow approach.
I cry every. single. time.

Da winter comes wi da cauld an snaw,
Hush-a-baa-baa, my peerie flooer,
Lang Wullie is löin ahint da door.
Da mares dey böl an da kye come heem,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Speaking of best buddies...
Here's my boy and his best friend. These two understand each other and have a strange wonderful simpatico. Which makes a mother's heart glad. She's a smart one. Thanks to my girl for the picture.

For an unschooled kid, growing up is a process of collecting interesting skills as you proceed from one idea, fascination, or hobby to the next. With each addition you become more complex and interesting. You are collecting yourself.

Of course, this is true for everyone. We are all always collecting ourselves. But unschoolers have more time and a lot broader range of choices in the process. I think its important to be conscious that your education is a series of choices resulting in the collection of yourself.

Successful Critical Thinking Strategies
Critical Thinking, 9 Steps

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I asked my daughter if she wanted to make marshmallows with me in the kitchen. She said yes but asked if we could, "wait til after I do my math and stuff?" Yes on the waiting. That afternoon I asked if she would like to watch an episode of our trashy romantic program on the television. She paused and sighed a bit at my persistent slackitude. "Yes, but maybe after I finish this book?"

That evening I was sitting next to my son on a bench waiting for a table for dinner. (Okay, I DID  cook a full hot square meal. But it went very wrong. We had to go out. I'm not totally slack. Sheesh.) I asked what he spent his day doing---other than walking with me and his sister in the woods. He listed: practiced my handwriting, math, music study and "not that much reading." Not that much for him is more than most.

This is unschooling, what comes of internal motivation for our own reasons. No grades. No arguing. No stress. Just learning. Mostly in pajamas.

It turns out, homemade marshmallows are fun and yummy. But don't mix half of them with flecks of crushed peppermint. Because eventually the peppermint starts to drool. And its really not good when your food drools back at you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Orcs are near. They move through facebook. This, nasty orcses.

I am angry at someone. Our relationship is old and deep and the anger between us is more intractable than usual. Looking at the basic math of our relationship, I am right and this person is wrong. The situation is far from simple, but this person's perspective will evolve over time. One day this person will gasp, will stand as if struck by lightening, and will call me to apologize. Maybe. I've already forgiven this person. I see the depth and breadth of the thing between us, including my faults. I have compassion and clarity and generosity about what happened and about this person.

But I also have this anger. I thought having compassion, clarity, and generosity would fix my anger. I thought time would fix my anger (its been several years.) I thought simply wiping the slate clean and showing up with love would fix my anger. Nope. All of these things help. But I'm still angry.

Facebook is where my anger shows up. If I were less experienced, I wouldn't see this for what it is: passive aggression. I see this person on facebook and I la la la want to chime in. Oh such love, so funny, cuteness to find. What larks we can share, until I start fingering my knives.

Our nervous systems are not fictional, can not be denied. What's wrong can not be pretended away, logic-ed away, cast away. Anger is real. I thought I had to look away from this person to protect myself. It turns out, I have to look away to protect this other person.

Still, glimpsing a tap root of passive aggression is a gift.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I said, "And that, children, should be good food for thought."
My daughter replied from the back seat with a deep dark slow ominous voice, "I Eat Your Thoughts."

Pretty funny. Can anyone guess what they are thinking in this moment?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I've just realized there are a whole bunch of young teenagers in the world who are not familiar with The Far Side. Awesome! We've been laughing all evening. I'm on a mission to accentuate the positive. Revisiting old comics you may have forgotten about is just the thing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My husband took the day off and went with us to The Tempest yesterday morning.  In our local theater the stage is floor level with the entrance. Stepping through the inner doors of the lobby, patrons are face to face with the stage and move up to find their seats. By tremendous luck, I happened to turn and look at my daughter's face the moment we walked through those inner doors. Had I looked left I would have seen my son's shoulder. Probably not much of a reaction to be found there. But I randomly happened to look right. We all know stages are fluid malleable spaces, we expect them to transform with each show. But the first time you see the change and maybe every time after, in a smaller way, is a magic moment. I was there. I got to see that moment in my daughter's eyes. It was made of light and wonder.

Before being called to take our seats, waiting in the lobby under a sign for our local homeschool group, we ran into a friend who was there with her Drama Appreciation class from one of the local community colleges. She had arranged a tour of the building after the show and asked if our tiny group would like to tag along. We did. It was awesome getting to weave through the labyrinth of floors and hallways up, down, around, behind, and under the stage. We were only sad we did not get to go into the costume production room---too many folks hard at work in there. And we weren't allowed onto the actual stage because it was full of techies washing the floor for the next performance.

As per our new tradition, we went to the local Inn for lunch after. That building opened for business in 1924. Its as charming and cozy a place as you can ever hope to find. The food is superb. I have memories there from early childhood. And I love knowing, no matter what else changes, we can always stop in to eat and commune with something enduring and good. Kind of like Grandma's house but for the community.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Tempest

Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet, with my nobler reason 'gainst my fury
Do I take part; the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance.

 ~ Prospero, act iv scene i

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My son finished Driver's Ed classes yesterday. He is glad for the information and to be one step closer to legal driving. After he completes driver's training on the road with his instructor, he will be legal to drive with (for) me and his father for the next year. That's great. We are all excited. He did well.

The class was run at our local high school--which is an excellent facility. The school has a good reputation, is beautiful (even if it does "smell like suffering"), and you can't help but feel impressed walking through the halls seeing the kid's work on display. Apparently, kids in high school are learning about DNA and the exchange of ATP through mitochondria. I didn't learn about ATP until Biology 101 in college. I noticed projects indicating a deep exploration of psychology, and a wood/shop class I would love to enroll in myself. All very impressive.

The driving course was 6 weeks long, meeting four afternoons a week. During that time there were three teacher work days. The school had to communicate with me directly, four times. Three times were bungled in miscommunication on the part of the school. One of those times the miscommunication was mine, because I was flustered at being confronted by an armed guard in a school hallway.

Most homeschoolers wonder if their education is inferior  and worry about what they might be missing in school. My kids have been taunted by schooled kids: "You don't learn anything; I'm in school learning math!" On a more subtle level, there is pervasive worry surrounding homeschoolers, from parents, grandparent's, and society in general. To have carried those feelings and then take a walk through the system briefly, surrounded by all the grand impressiveness of the institution, might invoke a moment of reflection.

My son was especially worried about the final exam. I told him to try and relax before the exam and to also pause during the exam to breathe and relax. I told him he would do better if he could relax and also that the test would be much easier than he was expecting. All of which turned out to be true. How did I know? It was the first test he's ever taken. I love that the results of the first test he ever took mattered to only one person: himself. Sometimes in life we are tested and the test matters.

The instructor asked my son if he was one of those semester homeschoolers or a yearly schooler? My son didn't know the answer, which worried him. The question suggested a correct answer, the not-knowing of which implied something stupid. He told me he understood his education was his own responsibility, he could see what the school wanted him to see about the education of student's in that institution, and if he could not even say what kind of school he was in, was his school not inferior? He was worried about all of this before the exam.

After class was over, I told him the same stuff I have been saying on these blogs for years. The thing the institution does consistently well is look impressive. Schools don't really know what makes children intelligent nor how to best maximize that tendency toward intelligence. If you carefully separate every choice the school could control about what my son saw there from what actually happened to my son while enrolled, you glimpse the truth. The class was mediocre. The instructor was what we might politely call uninspired or more to the point, lazy. The information was simple, overblown, conveyed in the most boring way possible, over too much time. The exam was easy for my son. He could have read the manual and aced the exam. Most kids could. Yet, if we made a presentation of Driver's Ed and hung it in the hallway, it would look really good. Vocational and artistic training are where schools shine: theater, shop, sports. All of which are considered secondary to academic training.

Most homeschoolers tend to go through a phase in early adulthood, between 16 and 20, where they fear they aren't competitive with their peers. They step onto campus and are, perhaps, a bit staggered by the load and maybe also by the weight of the system. But by 25 most will tell you they are grateful they were homeschooled. After proving themselves, they see the institution just doesn't matter that much. There isn't anything in basic college classes you can't catch up to very quickly with a bit hard work---and you should be there for hard work. What kind of homschooler are you? A kind so apart from what is happening institutionally, there isn't a simple answer for the question. The kind whose parents emphasized neurological complexity, basic skills, and love over collections of facts on posters.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Looking forward to a live production of The Tempest this week!

Friday, November 8, 2013

“It was hard to feel the remotest sympathy for any of the different fools she'd been. As opposed to the fool she was being now. People hang on to that one, she thought: the fool they are right now.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver 

She liked it. Now I get to reread it. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A young vet told me my dog is old, today. You know what? Fuck off. My dog is not old, you are just young. Go get some perspective and come back later.

Yeah okay, maybe I didn't take it so well. I love that dog.

The thing I've been thinking is that we never really know who all loves us. For instance, I love my brother who lives in New England. I think of him, oh, dailyish. There really isn't more to the story. I've noticed we tend to habituate negative assumptions. But that doesn't mean those assumptions are true. All evidence to the contrary, we are each probably loved a lot more than we know.

Friday, November 1, 2013