Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Double Digits

I've been a mom for a decade now. Our son just turned ten yesterday, which seems like an impossibility considering he was a small chubby-cheeked toddler only yesterday, and a nursing babe-in-arms the day before. He and I went out for dinner and a movie together, he chose "Click" which ended up being perfect because it's about family, life passing by quickly, and the choices we make. Also, it's a time travel movie, and he loves those. We had a lot of good after-movie conversation about all of it. It made me really appreciate the many choices we have made along the parenting path of the last 10 years. In retrospect, the time a baby spends in-arms, or the time a toddler spends nursing, or a young child sharing your bed just seems to go so quickly. And I'm glad I didn't push him away from any of those things sooner than he was ready for. I'm grateful that we have the gift of time together that unschooling brings - hours upon hours and days upon days. I love that we know each other's taste in movies, clothes, books - that we are truly friends, in addition to being parent and child. I'm happy that he is such an awesome person to hang out with. He's got a crazy sense of humor, an ear for a funny pun or turn of phrase, a lot of interests that I share, and a generous and kind spirit that is amazing to watch blossom. He's also a ten year old boy, of course, with all that comes with that. His voice just started cracking occasionally, and my mom can now wear his outgrown shoes, but girls are still friends and nothing more. I'm looking forward to what the next decade will bring, and wishing for it to go by slowly enough to relish and remember all the days.

Happy Birthday Son!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Unschooling Through Hardship

These are the times that try a mom's soul, a couple of weeks of misfortune that started with me severely twisting my ankle (leading me to appreciate how helpful my kids can be when I'm laid up on the couch), then progressed to a truly awful day in which three of my kids' pet chickens were killed in front of them by a rogue dog (see my post When Bad Things Happen to Good Chickens on my urban farm blog) and then two days later, I was stung repeatedly on the face by a hornet and ended up with my eyes swelled shut, looking like someone had inflated my head. Through all the miserable days and misfortune, unschooling is a blessing and a balm.

It's a blessing because there's nowhere we have to be and nothing we absolutely have to be doing. When things go bad, we can hunker down together and just hang on for dear life. We're used to doing things for each other, and pitching in as a family, so in tough times, we tend to pull together. Our unschooling friends came together to help us mourn and bury chickens, to take my kids so I could rest, to bring me over to their house on a day when my face was so swollen that I not only couldn't walk around or do anything, I couldn't even read or watch TV or in any way entertain myself in my misery. When things got better, we escaped with friends to the beach for a mid-week retreat from sadness and pain.

On the good days, it's easy to appreciate all of the blessings that unschooling brings to our lives. But I've found that on the bad days, the life we've chosen is even more crucially important. Today, I'm grateful for my kids, my spouse, our friends, and our wonderfully free unschooling life together. And here's to a better week!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Someone Else's Rock

We went on this fabulous 6-day camping trip last week to the John Day Fossil Beds with some friends. Other than it being hot, Really Hot, and dusty, Really Dusty (I didn't have a dirty clothes bag when I got home, I had a filthy clothes bag) and having to keep my poor ancient dog covered with cold wet towels so he didn't expire, we had a great time. We went to lots of sites where fossils have been found, on interpretive trails, and to the cool new museum/interpretive center/research center opened last year.

Along the way, my kids picked up rocks. Lots of rocks. This is nothing new. I've puffed uphill on my bicycle on my way home before, only to discover as I unloaded my panniers that I was carrying an extra 20 pounds or so of various stones from wherever we were exploring that day. This time, though, the rocks had a lesson for me about unschooling.

In one rock-hunting break, my son had picked up a lovely little lump of brown rock, which looked like nothing exciting to my unstudied eye. We added it to his collection in the car. Later, he had it out at the campsite, just turning it over in his hands. A woman camped across the way came over, and she had picked up some truly gorgeous agates on her hike that morning. She gave some to the kids. I was oohing and aahing over them, but my son just passed them on. I asked him why he didn't want to keep any of them, since they were so beautiful. His answer? "Because I didn't find them. The rocks I find are special to me and I remember where I found them and what makes them special. That rock might be special to her, but not to me because I didn't discover it."

And that's really it in a nutshell, isn't it? Learning that comes to us, that is discovered or uncovered or pursued by us, is meaningful. Learning that comes from outside, while perhaps more beautiful or impressive, is still just someone else's rock.