Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Coolest Thing Ever when you're standing in the kitchen late at night cutting up strawberries, because you and the kids picked about a million pounds of them and you need to get them in the freezer. Your kids are waiting patiently for you to finish so you can sit together and read a chapter book, your nightly ritual. This month it's a re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, before the movie comes out. They decide to take turns reading it out loud to you while you work.

It's one of those moments when you realize everything has clicked. I mean, I knew my kids were both avid readers because, well, they read all the time! But they rarely read out loud, especially this kind of book. M. will read all kinds of non-fiction to me (his latest is a Mythbusters book from the library Don't Try This At Home that he finds fascinating), especially over the breakfast table, and Miss. A. will read me little picture books about cute fuzzy things until the cows come home. But to hear each of them reading aloud from Harry Potter was just really something. They've both done it - made that transition from halting sounder-outer to easy reader to picture books to this! I know it's been said in so many ways on so many websites and lists and unschooling blogs, but it's wonderful to watch reading happen organically and naturally and beautifully.

I had the privilege of talking with a couple of twin toddlers yesterday. At almost two, they were in those beginning phases of language where one must purse up the lips and screw up the face with concentration to form the word "ball". The excitement when I understood and said "yes, I see your ball!" was wonderful to see. It reminded me that it's really all the same. We can make learning so difficult. We can wrap it up in packages of educationalese, we can quantify it and try to measure it, define it and parcel it out into subjects and time slots. But it's really no different. It's all about trying, failing, succeeding, and trying some more. With love and encouragement, learning always happens.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Day Like Italy

Almost all of our classes are done (with the exception of ongoing stuff like karate and violin) and the warm summer weather is here. We've been re-adjusting our daily routine to coincide with the best times to be outdoors. I headed out to pick cherries first thing in the morning while it was still cool, and the kids worked off some debt (yard work pays well around here) and then they set to work on "Kiddyville" which is a series of "houses" or shelters down in the woods by the creek.

M. worked for quite some time on building Miss A. a new home, making a lean-to and then covering it with branches. Once he showed it to her, she moved right in and made herself at home. The kids and their friends each have a home down there, so I'm trying to clear out the newly-sprouting blackberries as much as I can so that they can run around and play. It's cool and shady there through a lot of the day, so it's a nice spot for them.

After we got some lunch, we decided to come inside during the hottest hours of the day from about 2:00 to 5:00. Our projector is set up in the cool, dark basement, so we can go down there and lounge around and watch movies while the sun roasts outside. We had a mid-afternoon lunch in the coolness of the house and ate cherries until we just about burst. Then in the evening, we headed out for a walk to the store and a very late light dinner, as well as some more outdoor time while it was cooling down. One of the neighbor kids was here until 10:00 when it was finally dark.

Taking advantage of the natural rhythm of the summertime weather feels so wonderful. It's like all the day is aligned just perfectly. Miss A. said "We're having a day like Italy!". We have been discussing taking a bicycling trip to Italy in 2008, and had been talking about how in many places there they still have a siesta time as they do in Spain, where we went a couple of years ago. In fact, we totally got caught by the siesta hours when we visited the city of Burgos, because we didn't have any food with us and everything was closing down. We ended up going by a little cafe and getting some pasta to go, but they didn't have any plastic silverware like they would here in America. I guess most people take it home or someplace else that they can eat with their own silverware. So we ended up eating pasta in a park with our fingers like the American barbarians that we were. It was November and bitterly cold, too. Next time we're in a country that has a siesta time, we'll be better prepared. In fact, we'll have lots of practice at it by then!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Like Sand Through the Hourglass...

I had the disconcerting experience last night of going to watch a dance recital and seeing a boy that M. used to play with (like play as in build sandcastles and vroom trucks and all that kind of boy play) up on stage dancing Salsa with a girl and flinging her over his knee in a sultry kind of way. This kid is now somewhere over six feet tall, a smooth dancer and can hardly be referred to as a boy anymore. Yet he's only 3.5 years older than M.! At going-on-11, M.has morphed into a fast-growing weed with a ever-huskier voice that seems to mostly say variations on "I'm hungry, mom". He grew an inch in the last six weeks. Could it be so very far away that he too will be six feet tall and twirling teenage girls in red dresses? It seems impossible, yet when I watched his former playmate on stage, it just seemed like a blink of an eye ago that they had Hot Wheels cars and Bionicles all over the driveway. Some days it still seems like I have a young boy, zooming spaceships or excitedly telling me about his Pokemon cards. On another day, he's far too cool to drink from my pink water bottle ("humiliating" is the latest descriptive word for such actions).

Couple all of this with watching Miss Diva onstage in her snazzy jazzy dance costume doing her routine and looking just way too grown up (yet flashing me her jack-o-lantern missing-toothed smile afterwards) and you've got a season of awe-inspiring growth going on. Just about every day I am shocked by something one or both of them does that just seems so much older than the day before. Might be the way they answer the phone, the way they hang out together on the couch and chat or read books next to each other, the phrases they use that are less childlike than what they might've said a day, a week, or a month ago. It's both beautiful and utterly frightening to see them changing so quickly before my eyes. I guess I was prepared for this in the early years when milestones come fast and furious. But sometime in the last few years I got lulled by the fact that they seemed reasonably the same from one day to the next. I think though that we've hit another one of those times when growth and change comes quickly and catches me off-guard.

At least the lazy summer days are finally upon us, we can spend plenty of time just relaxing and enjoying each others' company. We finally got a digital video camera, so at least I can capture some of what they are like in this moment on film (when I can wrestle the camera away from M., who seems to delight in making "Garden Roller Coaster" movies, where the camera zooms sickeningly around the yard, or movies in which his little sister is some kind of roaring monster).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Gone Missing

It's been the usual end-of-term craziness around here. One would think an unschooling family wouldn't be so affected by the school calendar, but the rest of the world hinges on it too. All of the recitals like karate, dance class, violin, all seem to get piled at the end of the school year so the last two weeks have been very busy. The kids and my husband all graduated to gold belts in karate, their first colored belt and a very exciting experience! Miss A. had her violin and dance performances, and I'm sure I'll be putting up photos at some point.

Right now, I'm almost dead in the water for photos or writing because my computer went belly-up. Of all the files on a computer to become corrupted, your system files are the ones you really don't want to lose. I'm going to have to get a whole new hard drive, and then see what can be salvaged from my old one, if anything. I did have most of it backed up (photos, writing, etc.) but all the little fiddly details like notes, calendar, email are lost. And my email address book, which is a big loss especially. I hadn't realized how much my computer was my work center for our unschooling lives, even little things like checking what library books we have out were quickly done with links saved on my computer and library card numbers already entered in. Everything has to be redone.

So if I don't blog a whole lot for the next week or so, it's because I'm using borrowed time on everyone else's computers. And no photos, that's a horrifying prospect for me! But we'll plunge on into the first few lazy weeks of summer and enjoy the time off (the kids generally cut down dramatically on classes and activities in the summer, so we can camp and hang out more.)