Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our not so Silent Night. May your season brim with laughter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
I think that might have been the nicest Thanksgiving I've ever had. We ate, we drank, we recorded Christmas Carols with jingle bells in hand. The girls wrote and recorded a Thanksgiving Anthem. Uncle Stuart taught the kids how to safely open champagne; the kids had their first glass; they hated it. The food was average. The company was superior. We played password. Fortune cookie poems were a hit. The day was simply lovely and the weekend offers more of the same.


Last night we set the clocks back,
gaining an extra hour to sleep
or drink or read, and I walked
through the house changing the time
in the coffee maker, the stove,
the VCR, the thermostat,

then I went into the bathroom
to twist the dial of the scale
a few pounds lighter
and I moved the numbers down
on the blood pressure machine
so my wife won’t need as many pills,
then to the children’s rooms,
to erase the doorframe marks
and repencil them slightly lower,
not to the point we again would need
strollers or slings, just an inch or two,
to make these days last longer.

 ~Joe Mills "The Miraculous Turning"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Okay, yes. Its not as if listening to Beethoven once makes you an intelligent person---even if you were insightful and creatively penetrated the experience from the beginning. Its the arc of these moments that matter, and the combined sum.

Yesterday, for instance. I spent about 3 hours online defining unschooling with a group of mothers who've been homeschooling a long time. It would be fair to call our meeting a serious and intense focus group, as if Obama had asked us for a professional working definition. Because we are badass like that. And also because we take our jobs seriously. And because we are all interested. It was a great conversation. But after 3 hours on the computer, I was fried. I needed to get outside and I wanted to be with my kids.

So I made them take a walk with me. I'm an unschooling rule breaker, but we might have guessed I would break even my own rules, of course. Yes, I basically forced them. Its top of the season right now and the trees are banging and the air is perfect and its been way too long since we all walked together. Walking together was standard procedure in the early years. The dogs about flat lost their minds with happiness from the get go.

We walked and it was spectacular. No one could pretend to be unhappy to be there. We visited "root ball" who is looking very small these days. The clear cut field is starting to heal and offered an unexpectedly lovely long view. We saw unusual lichen. We went off trail. We discovered mullein! I paused and gave a brief herbal seminar, explaining the importance of the herb, where and how it grows, and two really cool uses for it. We passed around a leaf. I mean, you have to touch it. Its so memorably furry. And we jumped some deer.

An interesting thing happened in my brain when we jumped the deer. I've been....unusually worried...about bears this year. So my first thought was, bear. Everything slowed and I realized, even though I had not been aware of paying attention at all, I knew where each dog was even though I could not see them. And I became very aware of where the kids were, next to me. We all stopped instantly and turned in the same direction. H said, "Dogs." I, already, strangely, knowing where the dogs were said, "No. Deer." And up they jumped. My God, they make a commotion. Its a kind of thrashing with its own signature sound. The kids will know it from now on.

As we walked H mentioned he's been reading Plato and Socrates. He talked about Socrates' theory of the dualistic nature of reality and how that might relate to reincarnation. He says the ancient philosophers are interesting and "actually pretty cool." And I thought, Huh. Wow. So that's what you're thinking about these days.

Blue eyes for miles, Pretty as a peach
Glorious kind and always on the time never far out of reach
Tomorrow's on its way
And there's always new songs to sing
Glorious kind and always on time, Pearls on a string  ~Ryan Adams

That song always makes me think of R. These days are like pearls on a string. When you get miraculous small glimpses into who the kids are and what they spend their time doing, you feel very okay about unschooling. Sure, they waste as much time on video games as the rest of us. But gems are in the mix, and plenty of them. It all totals something fine and worthy and full of love.

Have a listen: Pearls On A String

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Grandpa Tom breezed through town for an oh-so-short visit this weekend. He looks absolutely fantastic! We so wished he could have stayed for a longer more relaxed visit. It was great to see him.

When people who love the kids, but are distant, show up for a visit there is always the moment when The Question is asked: So, what are you doing these days? I don't think the kids feel this as anything other than a normal query. And I probably project tons of feelings over the moment unnecessarily. But let's be honest. What are they doing? People want to know. Because children, especially teenagers, should be really really busy learning tons of fascinating things, right? And all these fascinating things should be easy to classify, quantify, and present. Right? I mean, school does that and we all think of it as a normal way for children to live, with their list of projected and current achievements in hand.

Imagine if adults lived under the same expectation. That's kind of funny. And what are YOU doing these days, hum? Schlepping the paycheck, as always. Washing the laundry. Zoning out in front of a screen for endless days. Consuming more than you create? What we all do.

What are the kids doing? When they answer, and they always give the very most demure answers possible, I am usually cringing inside. The most common answer is probably, "Oh, nothing." Yeah, that's exactly what the evil-grand-step-fairy is waiting to hear: The kids are doing nothing.

You get a fuller picture hanging out with them. On the way to another teen social club meeting (they are endless), I learned that R heard Beethoven for the first time last week. She was on the top bunk in her brother's room with her head hanging over the side, backwards. (Because that's how all students learn, right?) Her brother, apparently, has Beethoven in his music queue. Which was news to me, in the first place. He played it for her. And tears rose in her eyes and as she denied actual crying, she said, "But its about a Lone Wolf, a sad lonely wolf, all alone..." And they laughed.

And I thought, Wow. Huh. This is what they do all day. Explore, experience, process, associate, enjoy. Dare I say it? Learn. How do you grade that? You don't. How do you quantify that for a college application: Classical Music Appreciation 101. How do you show Grandpa Tom? Really, you don't. You just hope the kids are loved and appreciated for who they are, rather than for their list of current and future achievements. Just like all the rest of us human beings. (Grandpa Tom loves them a lot.)

Unschooling offers a rich life that fosters connectivity, complexity, and depth. Grades, not so much. Easily identifiable reportable classifiable official lessons? Not so much. At least, not in the way we've all been taught to think about growing intelligent children, and what's most important.