Saturday, August 27, 2005

New Blog Site

I'm moving the blog to the Live Free Learn Free site. See you there!

-Shana

Friday, August 26, 2005

One Family at a Time

There are more and more unschooling blogs out there. Maybe because there are more and more unschoolers. I don't know this for a fact - nobody keeps a log of the number of unschoolers - but it certainly seems that way to me. The e-lists are growing. The number of books on unschooling is increasing. More and more people seem to be coming into discussions with an already fairly clear idea of what unschooling entails. This is wonderful!

I remember that spark, that a-ha! moment, when I first read about unschooling. Kenzie was little - maybe 2.5 or 3. I had stumbled upon the phrase "attachment parenting" somewhere, and, after realizing that this was basically what I had been doing for the past few years, I began searching for AP sites on the Internet. It wasn't long before I came across the word "unschooling," which led me to a few articles written by John Holt. I remember thinking, "Duh," after reading only the most rudimentary definition (if it can be called that) of unschooling - that kids learn best when they are interested in learning, when they pursue learning on their own, in their own time. I knew this. Of course I knew this. I had seen it in my own life over and over. It made perfect sense. Within 10 seconds, I had made up my mind: Kenzie and I would be unschoolers. I searched the Internet for more information, joined a discussion list, bought a few books off eBay, and excitedly turned the possibilities over and over in my mind.

Several years later, it's not something I think about in such an excited way anymore. It's simply the way we live our lives. In the beginning, it was amazing to contemplate the idea that Kenzie wouldn't actually have to attend school. Now, I can't even imagine him in school. Heck, I can't quite remember how I got through school, myself. Unschooling is, for us, normal. It's schooling that's foreign. What would it be like to have to wake Kenzie up early so he could catch the bus? Or nag him about his homework? Or have parent-teacher meetings? Or contemplate Ritalin? Or worry about the TAKS test (mandated by NCLB)? What would it be like to live with a child who spent such a huge part of his life in a prison-like place where he wasn't allowed to speak or even go to the bathroom without first asking permission; where brand names were the end-all, be-all; where age segregation, socio-economic segregation, and even racial segregation were the order of the day; where cliques ruled; where people who hardly knew him tracked and graded him? What would my child be like? Who would he become? I can't imagine.... I don't want to imagine....

In any case, more people seem to be discovering unschooling. Thank goodness. Once the general public understands that homeschooling can be more than little desks and a big chalkboard in the dining room where Mom is the teacher and Dad is the principal (spelled P-A-L because the principal is your pal - nevermind that most principals are the ones doing the paddling) - once unschooling gains some well-deserved respect - then we will be a huge step closer to true educational choice. It's not a choice if you don't know about it. But, because unschooling is spreading into more and more communities, it's only a matter of time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Rethinking Education

We're gearing up for the Rethinking Education conference Labor Day weekend. It will be my first unschooling conference, and I'll be hosting a workshop/roundtable discussion on entrepreneuring unschoolers. I'll be the first to admit, I don't have a heck of a lot of know-how about most of the businesses homeschooling families enter into. I know the magazine - what it took to get here, the ins and outs of publishing, etc. - but that's about it. But, I'm researching. And, since I'm mearly a facilitator, I don't need to be an expert in all areas of entrepreneurship. I'll bring my own experiences into the discussion, as well as what I've found out in my reasearch. I'll most likely bring in a handout or two, as well. Should be an interesting afternoon.

Also, Friday evening, I'll have a table at which I can sell the magazine. I'm not sure how the conference is set up, but hopefully I won't be stuck in a little room somewhere. We'll see. I'll have magazines with me throughout the conference, so conference goers should be able to recognize me. There are so many wonderful unschooling families I've talked with only via email, and it would be wonderful to actually meet some of them in person.

I'm looking forward to seeing Peter Kowalke's Grown Without Schooling documentary. It's something I've been meaning to watch for a few years, now, so I hope that the workshop and the documentary don't overlap (he discusses the documentary in his LFLF article about college here). I'm also interested in hearing Pat Farenga talk about knowing John Holt, and I can't wait to see Holt's 1981 Phil Donahue appearance. Unfortunately, Linda Dobson won't be speaking until Sunday, and in order to get Terry back to work in time, we'll have to miss it. Oh, well. Can't have it all....

Kenzie and Terry decided they would rather spend the weekend visiting DFW museums and such. They've chosen the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and they're trying to decide between the Ft. Worth Zoo or the museums at Fair Park (The Science Place, the Dalls Zoo's Aquarium, and the Dallas Museum of Natural History, as well as many others). In any case, I know they'll have a blast. They don't usually spend much time alone together, so this will be a special trip for them. And, I'll be able to focus solely on the conference, itself. I'm a very hands-on parent, and I know I'd be spending a good deal of time in the kids' area, missing most of the speakers.

If anyone reading this will be attending Friday or Saturday, drop me a line. I'd love to meet you!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Woodstock

VH1Classic has been playing a Woodstock marathon all weekend. This, I think, is my fifth time watching it in two days. Well, mostly, it's been on in the background, though I take a break from whatever I'm doing to watch my favorites (and I have lots of favorites).

When I was a kid, my parents bought the movie on vhs. Through the years, I watched it dozens of times, wishing I had been there, wishing it were 1969. I was the town's token hippie in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I took comfort in the interviews with concert goers, the interesting fashions, the music, and the peacefulness of it all.

I still take comfort in it today. It reminds me of my childhood like almost nothing else can. I've found that I had memorized every line, every inflection, and the movie gives me a warm feeling, even now. Over the years, I've seen Joan Baez, CSN&Y, Arlo, and others in concert. I've found people with whom I connect. I've settled into myself. But, it still makes me smile to watch John Sebastian forget lyrics or Stephen Stills tell the audience he and the rest of CSNY were "scared s***less." I still love to see Richie Haven's long fingers and Joan Baez's face light up when she touches her pregnant belly, and I can't help but grin while watching the mud sliders.

I grew up with this music, and I embraced it as my own. How can a kid rebel against The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, CSN&Y, Dylan, Joni Mitchell? I'm fairly certain the only way would include listening to Tom Jones - something I wasn't remotely prepared to do. So, I've ended up with a modified version of my parents' tastes.

I wonder what sort of music Kenzie will end up being passionate about. He can often be heard humming "Mrs. Robinson" around the house, and he used to have small crushes on Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin, and Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek. Still, though, he was enamored with Elton John for a time, mostly because of the showy costumes, I think (and his appearance on The Muppet Show). I've never been a big Elton John fan, but I've learned to appreciate him. Kenzie also enjoys the song "1985" by Bowling for Soup. He hears it on the local alternative station, and I have to keep myself from visably cringing each time he begins singing it. I knew those guys. After much begging on their part, I finally gave them a pitty appearance at the coffeeshop I owned about eight years ago. All their songs sounded alike, and I just wasn't impressed. Sigh.... Yes, these are the people they nominate for Grammies.

Anyway, singing is one of Kenzie's passions, and in that way, he's much like I am. He sings for hours at a time. In fact, he's singing right now, along with Sly and the Family Stone. Yes, my little one is singing "I Want to Take You Higher." He sings all day long, sometimes making up his own tunes, almost always making up his own lyrics. I can't wait to see what lyrics he adds to the "...Higher" tune over the next few days....

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yellowjacket

Kenzie was stung this evening by a yellow jacket. Twice. He and his friend were going from house to house asking neighbors if they'd like the newspapers in their yard to be recycled when he ran into the little sucker on someone's porch. He sprinted home screaming . Luckily, we had insect sting wipes in the first aid kit, Neosporin with pain relief, bandaids and children's ibuprofen. He was very brave - much braver than I would have been.

We had been worried that he might be allergic to yellowjackets and wasps like his father, but it appears (thank goodness) that he isn't. Just some redness and very mild swelling. I've never been stung by anything more than a fire ant, and I've never actually seen a sting on another person, so I asked Terry to make sure everything looked normal. He assured me that it did.

Kenzie's watching television and eating a late dinner. He seems amazingly fine with it all.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Neurotic Dog

Oscar the Happy Dog has a tendency to fixate on things. If he loses a toy under a piece of furniture, he will spend hours trying to retrieve it. He also has irrational fears. For a few years now, he's been afraid of his water bowl. He knows he has to drink, so he gathers his courage, stands as far away as possible, and cautiously drinks as quickly as he can. And even then, his legs tremble, and he often has to jerk away several times and start over. Changing the bowl doesn't work. Changing the bowl's location doesn't work. Nobody knows why he's so afraid of drinking water.

Over the past few days, he's developed a new fear: leaving the bedroom. He'll sit at the doorway and whine for an hour. He can get about two steps out, but that's it. Then, he's frozen. I can coax him out, but this morning when I did so, he was so anxious, he peed as he crossed that threshold. Poor guy. Why this new fear? I'm clueless. Strangely, he can walk into the bedroom just fine. It's only walking the other way that frightens him....

He's a fun dog, though - more energetic than most, and a great lover of the game of fetch. He even catches things in mid-air most of the time. He loves to play with Kenzie, and he follows me from room to room. He looks exactly like a giant dachshund, and you can read every emotion on his face. He and Alaska (or "Laska"), our other wonderful mutt, get along fabulously.

Now, if I could only convince him that nothing bad will happen when he leaves the bedroom....



Kenzie and Oscar a few years ago (both a bit bigger, now).

Monday, August 08, 2005

Jumping In

I guess I've just needed lots of projects recently in order to stay sane. I go through phases like that from time to time. And, since Kenzie got a Gameboy this week (for the most part, he's been playing Pokemon: "I may be a mere child," I just heard him say to the screen, "but my Pokemon are pretty strong"), I've spent most of my time working on the LFLF website. The subscription page is finally what I want it to be, and there are sample articles for each of the back issues. Instead of "Buy Now" buttons, there are "Add to Cart" buttons and such. Much more user-friendly.

When I started the magazine, I didn't know a thing about Dreamweaver. Or Photoshop. Or Pagemaker. I didn't know magazine layout. Or editor protocol. I didn't know anything about advertising. Or graphic design. Really, I just jumped in, blindly. I learned "on the job," so to speak. Some things Terry understood well - the programs, layout and design, etc. He taught me what he could, and I took over from there. He still designs the covers, and he draws the cartoons, but I do everything else. If someone had told me I'd be designing and publishing a website and magazine on my own, I'd have laughed. These weren't skills I thought I had.

However, the experience mirrors my belief in unschooling. Instead of studying website design and magazine publishing just in case I might want to pursue this path, I first developed an interest, then a passion. I dove in and decided what needed to be done. Then, I found knowledgable people, bought books, searched out information on the Internet. and figured the rest out on my own. I learned because I'm interested and I have a need to know.

I'm still working on it. Dreamweaver tables are simply not my thing. But, I've come a long way, and I have shiny, new webpages to prove it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Indoor Jungle Gym

Well, the group is off to a strong start! Over 100 members and 30 messages in just a few days. Though the resources pages at the website have taken a lot of work, it's so thrilling to see it all come together.

The inside-the-house part of the air conditoner is leaking, and I have no idea why. I've set up a large bowl underneath it, and if I can't figure out the problem by tomorrow, I'll have to notify the landlords - something I hate doing. Because I'm a very private person, renting is not an enjoyable experience for me. I hate letting landlords poke around my place.... Yes, I know it's their place, too, but it just feels so invasive.

On a happier note, it finally did rain. Several days, in fact. After almost a month without a drop, it was so refreshing! Plants stopped drooping, people seemed more content, and the sound of thunder was just splendid! Hopefully, we'll get a bit more this week....

Kenzie has been using the stair-stepper as a jungle gym. This machine is monsterous - big and white and made up of lots of sturdy metal bars and a rounded platic area just big enough to stand on. Yes, it's ugly, but it's fun! He's been climbing all over it and jumping off, over and over, in as many ways as he can come up with. Because we bought it used for $20, and because this thing was built solidly and simply,
I'm certainly not worried about it getting rickety. And Kenzie's having a blast!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

New Unschooling Resources Group

I have just created a Yahoo group for the discussion of cool unschooling resources. After searching and searching, I was unable to find a place that gathered together all the most interesting games, books, websites, toys, movies, manipulatives, and whatnots for unschoolers. Every resource group I found (and there were only a few) were for general homeschoolers - not unschoolers. And, most of those lists had been dead for quite a while, taken over by His Royal Spamminess.

That said, I finally decided to create Unschooling Resources. I've also devoted several pages at the Live Free Learn Free website to listing the resources that members suggest. Here's the description from the Unschooling Resources group:

Found a great board game? Know when a cool show will be on? How about that awesome book your son just finished reading? Here's a place to share what you've found and to discover even more ways to feed your children's passions! Games (of all sorts), books, science equipment, websites, television shows, art supplies, toys, movies, math manipulatives, magazines, etc.... LOTS of etc!

Has your family developed a cool game using spoons, strawberry baskets and beanbags? Tell us about it! Found a great touring exhibit? Fallen in love with a comic book? Found the perfect crayon? Discovered a new science fiction series your daughter just can't get enough of? This is the place to post about it!

Also, if your child suddenly develops a passion for dinosaurs, astronomy, 1950s musicals, calculus, interior decorating, King Tut, Kiwi birds, dragons, or the Union army, this is the place to ask for resource suggestions!

What this group is NOT about: worksheets/workbooks, links to attendance sheets, gradebooks or planners, curriculum of any sort, discussions of home/unschooling theory, discussions of home/unschooling in general, advertising businesses, etc. There are many other lists devoted to these things.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Joy of a Cheap Science Kit

A week or so ago, I bought a Newton's Apple science kit (put out by Wild Goose) at a thrift store for a few dollars. I brought it out today, and Kenzie was intrigued. He was especially fond of mixing acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) as many times as he could. Amazingly, we'd never done that experiment before.

It was a cheap kit, but he enjoyed it thoroughly. The balloon car, the string and cup phone, the electromagnet, the fingerprint dusting - all of it. He was especially thrilled to own a test tube (plastic). Looks like I need to buy up a few real supplies from eBay. On a side note, I've been waiting to find a Magiscope for cheap, but after four years, I don't think it's going to happen. Maybe I should just bite the bullet....

Kenzie decided to pretend to be deaf, and then blind, today. We discussed sign language (we know a few random signs, and I can fingerspell), reading lips, and Braille (we have a Braille alphabet card that's quite cool. You can order one for free here or here).

Right now, he's listening to Eragon on tape. He's had the book for ages, but it must have seemed a bit daunting. Though he's read most of the Harry Potter series (he's on book 5), Eragon has been sitting on the shelf. But, when we found the book on tape at the library this morning, he grabbed it as quickly as he grabbed up several of Jeff Smith's Bone books. He's been in the bedroom with the door closed, holding his stuffed dragon, and listening for hours. An aside: The author of Eragon, Christopher Paolini, was a 15-year-old homeschooler when he began writing the book. You can listen to an interview with him (in which he discusses the book and his homeschooling) here.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Halloween in July

Garage saling today, Kenzie bought a few rubber bats, a pack of plastic spiders, some "spider web" stringy stuff, and a scary skeleton puppet. When he got it all home, he set it up, dressed himself in a witch costume, and sang Halloweeny songs for hours. And in bed tonight, he read several spooky books about ghosts and UFOs and haunted houses. He's counting down the days until Halloween, choosing his costume, and planning a party (that will end early so everyone can go Trick or Treating, of course).


Kenzie's first Trick or Treating

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No rain today

Nope. None. After being surrounded for several hours by wonderful storms, we stayed totally dry. Oh, well.

I sent out the magazines today. It took longer than I'd anticipated - over 20 hours' worth of work - folding, stapling, organizing, labeling, stamping.... My palms are bruised from pressing down on the saddle stapler again and again. By the end, I was putting both hands on the stapler and pushing down on top of them with my forehead; my hands hurt to much to press down that hard on their own. But, I finally finished. It's such a relief to have them out the door and on their way. It's a wonderful issue, and I'm proud of it, but assembling it always takes so much out of me. I've decided that I'll have the printers do the next issue in its entirety (instead of only the covers) and assemble it. Yes, it will cost more, but not as much as I'd feared. It's just that it's become a little overwhelming for me to do on my own (not that that's a bad thing, necessarily).
The house always falls apart, cleaning-wise, only adding to the stress-level, and Kenzie gets shortchanged.

He was happy to have his mother back today. We played indoor tennis (with paddles and a Nerf-like (but harder) ball) for quite a while this evening. I think he's been craving our time alone together. Over the past few days, I haven't been as available as usual. And when I was, I was kinda stressed, truthfully. He's done his best, finding things to play on his own, reading, marking the movies to watch, and trying to keep himself entertained because he knows I'm swamped, but, I'm really, really looking forward to having the printers do the bulk of it next time.

I treated myself to a nice dinner tonight in celebration of finishing Live Free Learn Free's first year of publication. Farmer's cheese and whole wheat crackers, rainier cherries, white wine, and thin Swedish ginger snaps. Mmmm....

Rain Update

This is strange, but not overly surprising, somehow. For the past few hours, there have been storms - real storms - on every side of us - North, South, East and West. But here? Nothing. Not a drop. And, I don't mean these storms are miles and miles away. The dry area is a circle between five and ten miles in diameter. It's been this way all afternoon. Gray skies, crushing humidity, lightning all around us, and no rain. Sigh.... I have to go work on my dance, again.

Rain

We've finally had a few short showers this week. It seems we've gone months without rain. Monday, Kenzie played in an evening shower. He put on his bathing suit and danced around the yard, calling to me every few minutes where I stood on the porch.

"Look at this brook!"
"I see worms!"
"I can control water! Watch! Abracadabra!"

The neighbors, all watching from their porches and garages, gave us strange looks. That's not unusual, though. We've garnered plenty of strange looks since moving here last year.

Today, we had a three-minute shower. Well, sprinkle, really. Sigh.... My whole body feels dry... thirsty.... I could never survive in a desert.

My dream home? Well, someone I once knew said something about living on an Oregon Beach: "Your front door opens to an ocean, and your back door to a forest." Yes, that's what I want. A rocky, cool beach littered with sea glass and driftwood, and a forest with towering, green trees.

Sadly, the only beach I've ever visited was the Gulf of Mexico (and only once), and the only forests I've seen have been the pine trees of East Texas. Not to discount East Texas pines. I grew up in far North Texas, and the only trees were mesquites - overgrown Mexican bushes with thorns. Because that's all we had, we used to "climb" them, and I still have those small, round scars to prove it. Those pine trees were amazing to me. It was hard to believe anything could grow so tall....

In any case, I'm doing my rain dance tonight. First, I'll have to come up with one, of course. But, I'm aching for rain. Real rain. Huge drops splashing against windows. Lightning. Thunder. Darkness in the middle of the day. That's the kind of rain I dream of....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Losing and Finding

Last year, I lost a friend. Things just broke between us. I'm not someone who loses friends, really, and I've never quite made my peace with it. Probably, I never will. A big part of our six-or-so-year friendship was based on music, and when I hear something that this person would love, I feel guilty as all hell. Today, I discovered an amazing and utterly beautiful Graham Nash song from his first solo album. How I lived my life up to this point without this song astounds me. Music has a way of affecting me like few things can. A set of lyrics can bring tears again and again and again. Good harmonies cause a physical feeling like being on a roller coaster. Singing along often creates a ripple of shudders down my body, complete with goosebumps. Ask my mother, and she'd tell you this means I need to focus more on my guitar playing and songwriting. I should, I know. But, when I hear songs like this one - this simple, short song - I can't imagine being able to write anything even remotely comparable. Ever. It keeps me stagnant. Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, Jonatha Brooke - I could never write like these people (and so, so many others). The weight of their incredible talent is crushing when I'm sitting with a guitar in my lap and a pad of paper on the table.

Anyway, finding this song is something I would have shared with this person in an emphatic, rambling email. Since I couldn't write that, I'm writing this.