Monday, October 22, 2007

Eight Years of Asa

She's been a dynamo since Day One. Well, really from Day Zero as I know when I was carrying her that this was one active little child. I wrote in her journal at six months that she loved animals and music and was already clapping rythms. In looking back through eight years of photographs, the patterns were clear. She's almost always with someone, finding pictures of her by herself are rare. In so many, she's accompanied by her big brother - what a blessing to have him! In others she's with friends and family. If she's not with another person, she's with an animal - there are photos of her with newts, snails, frogs, chickens, lizards, turtles, horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits.... the list goes on. And if none of the above is true, she's playing music or dancing. She's eight years old now - still a whirlwind of music and dance and movement and love for people and animals. Happy Birthday to my peach!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Things That Make You Go Ahhhhhhhhhh

This morning, my daughter was feeling a little bit sick. I came upstairs to find that Mackenzie had installed her in a nest of pillows surrounded by his favorite stuffed animals, using his Nintendo DS. He had brought her a stack of magazines, and then came downstairs to prepare breakfast and bring it up to her. Now she's in his room and he's letting her use his Gamecube and has found her favorite movies for her to watch.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Okay To Be Smart!

On long journeys, my kids like to play something they call "The History Game", where we ask each other questions from history - could be dinosaurs or the Civil War - and it's always a fun conversation. So at a museum gift shop last week I bought a box of History Quiz cards for each of the fifty U.S. states. I thought it would be fun to introduce some facts that maybe none of us know. It probably speaks to the fact that I came out of a schooled environment that I didn't even notice the slogan across the top of the box said in bold letters "It's Okay to Be Smart!" It was my kids who asked me what the heck that was supposed to mean. They were baffled. Of course it's okay to be smart, isn't it? Why would someone state that?

It's sometimes difficult to explain to them the mindset that comes out of schooling. The competitiveness, set up by grading and calling on students for answers that pervades everything. By the end of the first week of any class, everyone knows who the "smart kids" are. It's even harder to explain the need for those kids to not want to stand out from the crowd, to try and dumb themselves down a bit just to fit in better and not get picked on as much. Who wants to be the "know-it-all", "nerd", or "geek" when you could be "cool" or "popular" instead? This also comes up when we watch mainstream movies. If the movie has kids in it, there's almost always a scene of some sort of teasing or bullying at school. We just watched the wonderful "Bridge to Terabithia" which we all loved. But when I was a kid reading the book I don't even remember the scenes of the bully at school, yet to my kids they really stand out, and seem strange. It's not a part of their universe and never has been, so they don't understand why people always act that way in movies and books. Yet it's so endemic in our culture that I don't think most people even notice how pervasive it is. Like the slogan on the box of history cards, which didn't even register with me. I've ceased to notice how absurd such statements really are. Thank heavens my kids haven't!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What I've Got To Say About Unschooling

Well, I have a lot to say about unschooling. About how it works, what it's like on a day-to-day basis, how it lets me connect with my kids in amazing ways, expands my own universe, sometimes blows my mind. I think of these great posts I could be writing about it, but these days we're just too caught up in the day to day living of unschooling for me to have much time left over to type anything up.

For the next two months especially, I won't have all that much time to be writing about it. You see, the kids asked me to coach their Lego Robotics team this year. You know, I have to say it feels pretty damned good to hear your (11 year old) kid excitedly telling his friends on the phone "Yeah, and my mom's going to coach the team, isn't that cool?". Wow, that just makes my day. But it's a big thing to bite off - I essentially have eight weeks or about 16 practices to help 7 kids ranging from 8 - 14 years old to come together to create a robot, program it to perform 10 complex tasks in under 3 minutes, create a research project, document it, present it to the community, and get ready to enter the robotics competition. So far, the team has been great. I absolutely love this age of kids - one minute they are all seriousness, and so focused on creating their robot, debating the merits of this or that kind of attachment or part. The next minute, they're playing on the trampoline in some sort of incredibly imaginative game. They're so full of energy and creativity. I'm really lucky to get to be a part of it all.

What My Kids Have To Say About Unschooling

Asa: "I love my life!"
Mackenzie: "Unschooling is the greatest thing on earth. Well, maybe except for hippos."