Friday, December 31, 2010

The Flat Lady Takes Flight

Yesterday the Flat Lady got shipped. Literally. She's currently winging her way to our friends Sabrina, Kia, Rasmus, and Ilmi in Finland. We can't wait to see what she gets to do there in the winter. I'm sure it will be awesome. Safe travels, Flat Lady!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Busy Past Month

We are moved in and enjoying our new house. It has a hot tub, and we have had our unschooler friends and now neighbors over often to use it.

Homeschool Hot Tubbing Rocks
We made a long driving trip (2 days each way) to and from Kansas City just prior to the holidays to visit our family and friends there. It was good to see everyone, and enjoy some holiday time with them.

Skating in shoes on Papa Gary's frozen pond.

And then had a good and quiet Christmas here in our new house.

Zhara got an archery set for Christmas, and is loving it.

Thankfully, Adam taught archery at a summer camp for many years and is helping Zhara to learn more about the art.

Angus got a lot of tinker toys, and for a boy who loves him some building of all kind, it's been a good gift. Winnie got some new baby dolls, including some made by me, and a pram, and has enjoyed taking care of her babies. Most of our gifts were homemade this year, and that has been a nice touch.

We're currently planning for the new year. We are still planning on doing our fun day activities. The kids and I sat down yesterday and filled out the calendar for January with something different and cool each day. We had a couple of days we hadn't filled in at the end, so I suggested the kids go over to the large world map we have on the wall, close their eyes, and point. Angus got Australia. Zhara got Bolivia -- so we have Australia and Bolivia Day this coming month, too.

The other thing we're really excited about is our Flat Lady Experiment. It's similar to Flat Stanley, but with a twist. You can find our facebook page here. We made a flatish sewn doll (Zhara helped):

Then we put out a call to all of mama's mama friends worldwide to volunteer to host the Flat Lady for a visit. We asked the volunteers to take a photo of the Flat Lady in their town, near a landmark they live near, or just by a scenic byway, and then to include the photos either in the package or on the facebook page. Finally, they are to gather some information, souvenir, or other photos from their location, and then to include those within the manila envelope that the Flat Lady travels in, and send them on.

So far we have volunters from Finland, Canada, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. We're so excited. If you're interested in hosting the Flat Lady, send your address to my e-mail: , and I will put your name on the list. Eventually the Flat Lady will make her way back to us, with lots of photos and interesting information for us to peruse. And until then, the kids can follow along with her progress on the facebook page.

The Flat Lady herself

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Fall Day & Changes

I am not a religious person, but I was raised Episcopalian, and though I long ago fell away from the faith, I have always appreciated the words of Ecclesiastics, and later it's reinterpretations by Pete Seeger and The Byrds. It is one of those passages, that even the atheist in me finds incredibly moving and spiritual. When I do find spirituality, it is always in nature, and thus, perhaps this is why I am drawn to it so. In it we are told:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a
time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

It has always helped me as the seasons changed, as well as when my life has changed. Right now, our family faces both. We are, in the overused parlance, at a crossroads. Through no fault of our own, the house that we are renting in Utah is being sold, quickly. We could stay, could fight to try and stay in it with a different, and yet unknown owner, but we decided to take this as a sign that it was not meant for us to be in this house. We've never really felt at home in Lehi, or in this place. We started looking closer in to the city. We were under a short timeline, as the house is being sold on December 2nd. We worked very hard, and found a nice home to rent close to many of our Unschooling friends -- a house that seems, at least, to fit us much better. We applied and were approved for the home, and now I have set about a marathon packing. We are moving on November 20th, so as to be in the house before the holidays. It seems crazy, and most days right now, I feel out of my mind, but the kids are excited, as are the grown ups, and perhaps that is what is seeing us through.

We have been in an almost constant fugue of activity the past few days. So after a crazy morning, when Angus suggested we head for the park for a bit on this windy, and previously rainy/snowy day, we headed out.

We played at the park, and then wondered down to the pond for awhile. We stayed over an hour, probably longer than we should have, but nature called us, and we were unable to say no to it's siren's song, which is a much nicer tune than that of the scritch of packing tape.

The kids climbed, and ran, threw leaves, and dreamt of where to put fairy houses in the woods. The dogs splashed in the water and chased the ducks. It was a good break, and reminded me that we will get there.

This is our time now, and very soon, it will change and there will be another time for us to enjoy and move through. We cannot rush this moment, so as to reach the next faster without causing some problem that none of us really wish to face. I think the same is true for children.

I should be reminded of this lesson, and that passage from Ecclesiastics more often. Perhaps I would worry less about my kids, my home, and my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Building Fairy Houses

It was fairy house building day!

A few unschooling friends and I have started a kids' craft circle. We are meeting every other Friday. Today was our first get together. It was a huge success.

Twelve kids, four moms, tons of boxes and craft supplies, and hot glue guns -- can't go wrong with that combo.

We had a LOT of craft supplies. The kids were in heaven.

The kids did such an amazing job. All of them were incredibly creative.

This is Zhara's. As soon as we got home she put it on the front porch for the fairies to make use of. It was the cutest thing. She's so excited.

The kids also had plenty of fun just playing, and making a mess out of Stephanie's house. Big thanks to Stephanie for letting the kids run wild, and have a great day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Musical Kids that Have Taught Me to Let Go

My kids like music. A lot. I suppose that isn't a big surprise. I like music. A lot. I always have. Sometimes my children's choice of music requires me to put on my best unschooling mom face and soldier on. I do not like Miley Cyrus. I do not like many of the Disney artists that my oldest daughter listens to. Not just because I don't care for their music, which I don't, but because I generally don't like the way they portray themselves to kids. I don't like that often they sexualize children. I don't like that they are often rude, mean, and demeaning in their programs. I don't like the culture of purchasing and consumption that they seem to promote to my kids. That said, my kids listen to them. And they watch their shows. They know how I feel about them. We talk about it often, especially if I hear some of the rudeness come out of my own children's mouths. We discuss that we are a peaceful household, and that an attitude like that is not promoting a peaceful place. That said, they watch it. They listen to it. They google it. For awhile, I think one could say that Zhara was obsessed with it. I generally only offer my opinion when asked for it.

But, and this is a big but, I have waited. I trusted, and I waited. My children are smart cookies. If they ask about how I feel about someone or their music, I share my opinion, but I don't push it. If they want to talk about or purchase products that these stars are promoting, then we discuss that. Why do they want to buy it? Does the child think it will actually make them like this star? Is it better because it has their face and picture on it? But if they persist, and we can afford it, we get it. There have been times that my children have been dissappointed because the product didn't do what they were promised it would do, but they learned it on their own, not because I told them it wouldn't work.

My musical children have taught me to let go of a lot. I want my children to be free thinkers, to enjoy music, and art, and books, and media of all kinds. I want them to speak their mind and form their own opinions. And the hardest part of all of this, is that often, in fact, very often, their opinions differ wildly from my own. I think this is hard for many parents. It really crosses all borders -- ideological, cultural, religious. If we value having our children be free-thinkers, though, we have to learn to let go. They will get there. Where they get may not be our ideal scenario for them, but if they got there themselves, then it is no doubt exactly where they should be. Being a free-thinker, and a well-rounded child, does not mean being dictated to, it means finding one's own path.

So it was on that note, that I waited. For a couple of years I have waited. I have listened to Miley Cyrus and her croonies drone from the radio and my computer. I have listened to Radio Disney, and heard my daughter talk at length about shows that I find annoying at best, but I waited, and I listened and I asked questions. And during that time, my oldest daughter because amazingly skilled at googling, and using Youtube. She learned how to research on Wikipedia and to spell better to be able to use the computer. Much of what she was googling and Youtubing was the music that I found difficult to even listen to, but she was growing.

One day, we found ourselves in the grocery store, and my younger son asked for some item because it had somebody's picture on it. Before I could even reach for it, Zhara pipes up with, "you know, it doesn't actually do what it did on the TV. They just say that so you'll buy it." "Oh," says Angus, "nevermind." And we passed on, and I stared in partial bewilderment that my children had gotten this on their own. I hadn't preached it. I hadn't said no. I had just waited. Occasionally, as unschooling parents we get a very tangible reminder that yes, unschooling most certainly works, but there is a lot of patience required for those ah-ha moments, and often a lot of uncertainty in the middle. I am not immune to wanting to control my children's actions. It is ingrained in us in our society, there is no way we could not be influenced by it, but unschooling is about letting that go, and trusting our children, about being their guide and co-pilot, not the one in control.

So having read this far, you will understand my excitement when a few nights ago as a family we were watching Glee's Rocky Horror Picture Show special. I explained the musical and movie to Zhara. She is newly-obsessed with zombies and all such things spooky and dark. So this was right up her alley. She danced and danced with wide-eyed wonder. She was enchanted. That night she spent hours downstairs listening to Rocky Horror and Glee's renditions of it on the computer. The next day, I gave her my old well-worn cd of Rocky Horror Picture Show from college. She was delighted and squirreled it happily away in her room. It's a step. A baby step, but a step.

I haven't heard the Disney folk for a couple of days. I have no allusions that they are gone, yet, but I suspect that Zhara is starting to get bored with the formulaic songs and pat endings of their songs and shows. I suspect that she is learning to move outside of her comfort zone music-wise. Maybe part of that comes from the fact that she is getting better at piano, and learning more songs and styles of music there. My children all love to sing and dance. We have a music room filled with instruments and there is rarely a time when someone is not playing something.

I suspect that they will each have a different path to music. Angus, has always seemed more in tune with my musical taste, but regardless, he will have to find his way, and he may have his own path of Justin Bieber or boy bands to get there, who knows. Only time will tell. I am proud to say that, as difficult as it is sometimes, my husband and I are stepping back and letting them find their own path. It is theirs afterall to walk. We will give our opinions when asked, and expose the kids to as many different artists and genres as we are able, but in the end, it is our children's lives to live, and not ours.

We keep them safe, but we don't shelter them from life. I may not like the life that some of these stars promote, but if I shelter my children from them even existing, I fear that not only would I be limiting my own kids' learning, I would be making that unknown thing even more absolutely enticing when it is, ultimately discovered.

Of course, who knows, perhaps sometime in the next few days, the kids may find a few cds on the kitchen table to explore. And if they happen to fall in love with the Beatles, or the Cure, then we're all better off for it, aren't we? :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Day at Home

Today we never left the house. Not for even one thing. This is rather unlike us, but the kids had kind of scratchy throats, and weren't interested in any outings, so we stuck close to home. We did all kinds of fun things, though.

According to our schedule, it was supposed to be super hero day, but we all sort of forfeitted that for some reason. It ended up being more of a building and learning day.

This morning, I snuck about the house collecting bits and bobs from junk draws, craft boxes, the garage, the recycling bin, anywhere I could think. Then we spent the morning, and into the afternoon creating robots. We all had fun doing it. I even made one. The idea originally came from my friend, Nat, and it rose back from the depths of my brain when I saw the article below in a Usborne Activity book I found at the library last week.

We spent hours working on them. It was a truly marvelous time.

Winnie, meticulously threading some beads.

Zhara made an entire family of robots. This is her working on the dad. Then she photographed and posted her creations on Facebook for her friends to see.

We used a lot of stuff.

When we were done, Zhara spent a lot of time photographing her robots with my phone. I showed her how to e-mail them to herself, save them to the computer, and put them up on facebook. She spent time on facebook chatting with her good friend, Layla. The facebook chatting is improving her spelling, I think. She still has to ask for the spellings of many words, but it doesn't seem like as many as before.

Angus and Winnie spent time working in their workbooks. This requires some explanation -- A few months ago we were in Costco and they saw a kindergarten readiness workbook, which they both asked for. So sometimes they get them out and work through some pages. Today they decided to do some matching games, dot-to-dot, money, and basic addition and writing numbers.

Angus, I think is feeling a little self-conscious because his best friend, Owen, is able to read and write quite well, and Angus isn't. I have assurred him that everyone gets those things at their own pace, but that if he wants help, we can work on it. I think that's what prompted the workbook work today. Angus spent so much of his very young years in intensive therapies. He was so far "behind" for so long. Of course, he's going to be slower at the traditional academic stuff, but I know he'll get there eventually. Sometimes it causes a mama to worry some, but I'm working hard to let that go.

Can't fail to mention the cup stacking. The kids got out all the Dixie cups from a box yesterday and started stacking. There have been many building variations since then, and they seem to be enjoying it, as is the puppy who is very much enjoying eating the stray Dixie cups.

Note the dog lurking under the table, waiting for wayward cups.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Circus Day

Last Monday was Circus Day. We read a circus picture book, made up our own midway games, and the kids pretended to be clowns, animal tamers, and acrobats. It was good fun. We even had a circus-inspired dinner of chili cheese dogs, popcorn, apples with carmel dip, and cotton candy. Yum!

The world's cutest clown.

An animal trainer dressed in animal print. Please disregard the pile of laundry in the background. :)

The members of the not-so-trained dog act.

The knock-down-the dinosaurs circus midway game.

Daddy played the game, and won this!

My acrobats.

Zhara, the clown.

Angus, the bear tamer.

A Halloween Outing

We headed to a local historic farm, Wheeler Farm, last Wednesday with our unschooling group. It was lots of fun, and was a great bonding experience for the moms. We rode the hay wagon, dressed in costume, petted animals, and played in a fun corn and straw maze. Sadly, it ended with a bang, in a bad way. One of our good friends, Stephanie, has a cracker jack 7 yo tree climber, Josh. He climbed way up in this amazing twisty tree that all the kids were playing on. Unfortunately, he lost his footing, fell almost 25 feet, and broke his arm and badly bruised his hip. As bad as the situation was, it did really solidify how close us mamas are becoming. We all pitched in, helped with the kids, drove Stephanie and Josh to the hospital, and watched Stephanie's other kids into the evening. It made me really proud to be part of a great group of kids and moms.

Jennifer's and my kids in their awesome costumes.

Angus, Eli, and Josh, pre-fall, in costume.

We spent a lot of time in the corn and hay maze.

Little girls on a tractor.

Gracie, Mary, Olivia, Zhara, and Sophie on the hayride.

It's a wagon full of unschoolers. Literally, we had the whole wagon!

Zhara, making herself comfy in the tree.

Josh's fateful climb up the tree.

While waiting for Jennifer to take Stephanie and Josh to the hospital, the kids passed the time by climbing in an open grave -- decorative only, thankfully.

Angus, back at Jennifer's house, entertaining Josh's sister, baby Lily, while they waited for their parents to leave the hospital. When in doubt, put a baby in a basket!

Winnie cooking herself at Ms. Jennifer's.

I am glad to report that Josh is now home and doing well. He'll soon have a hard cast that the kids can't wait to sign, and a great story to tell his grandkids some day.