Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Every season brings new opportunities to our lives. In fall, it is often new activities starting up. Our family tends to keep the spring and summer open and easygoing, but for fall and winter when the rains set in, we like to be busy and active.

This year, the kids and I have started taking Karate together. A local dojo has put together a homeschooling class for parents and kids, and it is proving to be really great. Our sensei is a homeschooling mom of seven who is both fun and tough, and very respectful and encouraging to the kids. The hour whizzes by so quickly and we get to all have fun and learn this stuff together.

Both kids are also involved in a Lego robotics team. The woman leading the team is just excellent at fostering good communications and respect between the kids (and she mostly defers to her son on the questions of robotics), so that it's more than just figuring out how to move a robot around a course, but how to really work together to accomplish goals.

As a new homeschooling mom, many years ago, one thing that worried me is that my children wouldn't have the automatic exposure to other adults who would inspire them with their own passions. In school, I had a 5th grade teacher who built a darkroom out of a janitor's closet and ignited my lifelong passion for photography. In 7th grade, a teacher helped me get my ham radio license. Now, years of unschooling down the road, I can see that my children get these same opportunities with other wonderful adults, and best of all I get to be there to experience it with them. Also, they are protected from having to deal with adults who would destroy their spirits and crush curiousity (that same photography-loving 5th grade teacher publicly humiliated me many times over, and a swim coach in school almost destroyed my love of swimming forever). They only get the good stuff. It's like picking the best chocolates out of a box and not having to eat the ones you don't like. Even taking a bite out of one or two and putting them aside if they are not tasty.

So this fall, I am grateful for the wonderful, enthusiastic, child-respecting people who have come into our lives to grace us with their passions.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

First Day of (Un)School Pictures

Well, they don't have freshly scrubbed faces, new outfits, sharpened pencils, or matching lunchboxes and backpacks, but here they are on the first day of the school's official year (hence, the first day we can go to the beach and find it totally empty). With friends (human and furry):

Friday, September 15, 2006

And They Call It Homeschooling?

For many people, Fall is a time for slowing down, a time for introspection, for coming indoors and centering. It sounds beautiful, peaceful, inviting. But it's not my reality. For Fall is the time when all of the new homeschool activities start up, and we take up the reins of old activities put on hiatus for the summer. Summer is a time for camping, for unscheduled trips to the beach, mountains, rivers, deserts, parks, playgrounds, blackberry bushes, and bike paths. So we tend not to schedule much of anything in the summer. But Fall in the Pacific Northwest of the USA is when the rains arrive, and my active, engaged kids start to go a little nutty (as do I). So it's a great time to be engaged in lots of interesting and exciting things.

However, this year we may have gone more than a little overboard. Let's see: karate, robotics team, dance, horseback riding, violin, soccer, a theatrical performance and rehearsal schedule, ice skating, writer's group, and gymnastics. And that's just the kids' schedules. I'm supposed to be training for Ironman Florida in early November, and this is supposed to be my "peak month" (read: 2 - 5 hours of training a day). Hah!

I know many unschoolers eschew classes. "Kids can learn anything and everything at home!" "Dancing in the living room is just as wonderful as dancing in a class!" "You don't need teachers and classes and fees and lessons." Yes. I agree! Totally! However, my kids don't. Yes, my daughter dances in the living room almost constantly. But there is still something completely and totally engaging to her about learning a routine with a dozen other girls her age, then polishing it up as they move toward performance days, then getting costumes and makeup and hair and going out on a big stage with the music and a huge audience and doing this amazing coordinated routine all together (that's her, front and center, even if you can't see her mile-wide-smile from this angle in the wings).

A big ditto for my son and robotics. He loves to play with his Lego Mindstorms at home, but the idea of being on a team to face the Lego First League challenges together is very engaging for him (and a cool little side-benefit is that he talked his little sis' into joining the team and now they program the robotics stuff together!) So, a schlepping I go, and there's much less "home" in "homeschooling" than there was in the summer. I'm getting used to taking my running shoes along with me, so if there's a time where I'm just twiddling my thumbs on the sidelines, I head out the door to explore the neighborhood on foot. And the kids each have a ton of books stacked up that they want to read with me, so if the other sibling is occupied in an activity, we always have plenty of reading time together. Still, a part of me longs for the easygoing relaxed days when my PocketPC is not constantly beeping a new reminder at me. I'm sure sometime after the confluence of Divagirl's ballet production, their Robotics team competition, and my Ironman (all of which happen in a 4-week timeframe), we will all let our collective breath out a little. Until then, better call me on my cell phone, because I'm sure not at home.