Friday, February 23, 2007

Passing of the Junk(torch)

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.
"I've been thinking," he said, "I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone." "The Wise Woman's Stone" Author Unknown

I wanna be like this wise woman! Able to have no hang ups about letting go! We have been trying to be voluntarily simple for the last several years but it is hard to get rid of certain "things". So far I've tossed/donated mostly clothing, a few toys and furniture items, certainly not "treasures". I've got tons of books that need to go. Why is it so hard to get rid of a book?

At least my stuff doesn't multiply in dark corners like my mother-in-laws junk(above is just the tiniest tip of her iceberg). We are pretty good about not bringing in new stuff, it is just getting the old thinned out that's a hold up now. Maybe our stuff is a reminder that people are multi-faceted, not flat planes. Maybe our homes reflect that. I would at least like to be able to use my closet shelves for shoes instead of the assortment of goodies that occupy them now. Someday.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Half Circle(or 180 degrees)....

I Taught Them All
I have taught high school for 10 years. During that time, I have given assignments, among others, to a murderer, an evangelist, a pugilist, a thief, and an imbecile.
The murderer was a quiet little boy who sat on the front seat and regarded me with pale blue eyes; the evangelist, easily the most popular boy in school, had the lead in the junior play; the pugilist lounged by the window and let loose at intervals a raucous laugh that startled even the geraniums; the thief was a gay-hearted Lothario with a song on his lips; and the imbecile, a soft-eyed little animal seeking the shadows.
The murderer awaits death in the state penitentiary; the evangelist has lain a year now in the village churchyard; the pugilist lost an eye in a brawl in Hong Kong; the thief, by standing on tiptoe, can see the windows of my room from the county jail; and the once gentle-eyed little moron beats his head against a padded wall in the state asylum.
All of these pupils once sat in my room, sat and looked at me gravely across worn brown desks. I must have been a great help to those pupils--I taught them the rhyming scheme of the Elizabethan sonnet and how to diagram a complex sentence.~Naomi White 1937

Today's blog could also be called Polar Opposite because of the differences in how my children are educated and the way my husband and I were. My 20-year reunion was last summer. I was able to attend one event, really that was enough. I learned that some of my classmates are doctors, some have been in jail. Some have been married many times, some have lost children. Finding this quote from a teacher made me wonder how many of them are still influenced by what happened to them in school, what they really think about their school experience. Spring Hill School was not my favorite place, in fact I hated it most of the time. The classes were boring and pointless, the kids were cliquish and mean, and the politics were disgusting.

Even though I was one of the "smartest" in my class(one of those who made 99th percentile scores on all those silly standardized tests), I was unwilling to jump through the political hoops to be a part of that elite group of "Who's Who", it was all so fake and meaningless to me. My goal in high school was to NEVER, EVER, take a book home from school, unless it was something I wanted to read(like my biology or literature books), and by-God I didn't!!

Merely to stuff the child with a lot of information, making him pass examinations, is the most unintelligent form of education. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

We Are Unschoolers

The term evokes such a negative connotation, something we are *not* doing rather than what we *are* doing. Mark and I have come to understand, through our own life experiences, that learning is a natural process that begins at birth and lasts a lifetime. Our kids gain understanding through real-life situations, educational videos, television shows, hands-on projects, music, the internet, and books of course. Whatever interests they pursue are decidedly not labeled as "subjects". Because we aren't under the constraints of a government education we can enjoy a rich and varied learning experience rather than race through subjects that must be "learned"(memorized) for a state test. A public school(or private) setting doesn't allow for natural abilities or interests; everyone must remain on the same page at the same time. Unschooling allows the kids the time and freedom to study what interests them and allows me, as a facilitator, to make learning the basics as painless as possible.

Not many people "get" unschooling. Some are downright hostile to the idea, even those who embrace homeschooling. Here is my response to a friend's questions about unschooling:

Patsy wrote: "I know you believe in "unschooling" and I'm just you have a set curriculum? How do you know that your children are learning everything they need to know? Do you have assessment tests periodically? I mean sometimes even in life situations we don't learn everything we need to my opinion. I'd be worried that my kids weren't getting it all and then when taking the SAT to get into college they'd do horrible."

"No, we don't use a set(I am assuming you mean traditional) curriculum. We have over 2,000 books at our disposal, plus the library if we can't find what we want here. Our books include college textbooks, other adult-level books, McGraw-Hill(and other) workbooks, Childcraft and Worldbook Encyclopedia, National Geographic(Smithsonian, Newsweek, Cat Fancy, and other) mags, story books, fact books, phonics-based readers, sight-word based readers, dictionaries, thesaurus, Eyewitness, Usborne, DK, and on and on and on.... I have six bookshelves that are bulging at the seams!! We also have access to the Internet so we look up things that interest us on a daily basis, and music, cable tv for educational shows, videos and so forth.

I know what they know because they are with me 24/7 or very nearly! My kids don't leave at 7am and come home at 4pm just to spend another 1-3 hours on homework. I am with them, *actively* with them actually, and I am able to facilitate or help with whatever problem/topic/question comes up. We spend lots of time discussing topics they bring up and some that I introduce.

Is it really necessary for ALL first graders to learn the parts of a flower? What if my child had an obsession with space exploration or reptiles at that age and I skipped teaching parts of a flower that year? They'd fail it on the test but would it mean they aren't capable of learning? What if they never learn the parts of a flower? Can you recall them? I know I have to think pretty hard about it and am probably missing some of them. People also have natural leanings, mine happens to be more toward creativity and understanding people than mathematics. Homeschooling allows for diversity in learning styles and developing strengths rather than the hurry up and "learn it for the test" thing that happens in PSS.

As far as tests go, I don't believe in standardized testing for homeschoolers unless there is a need for the parent or child to know exactly where they are grade-wise. Standardized tests usually follow a state mandated curriculum or course of study so for a homeschooler to take it seems pointless. I know at least a dozen un/homeschooled young teens going to colleges without having taken a GED or SAT in various parts of the country, some as young as 14 years of age. Colleges are more and more accepting of homeschoolers and most homeschoolers are scoring way up there on their SATs anyway.

So here we sit, on the edge of the circle, exactly across from the schooling experience of our youth. It is a wonderful place to be!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do Nothing Day...

Well, almost nothing anyway. We got up early(ok, about 8:30-9:30ish) and went grocery shopping. Everyone has food now, thank goodness!

I checked my list of things to do this week and found that I got 2 of them done! One was to find a few crafts to do with plaster of paris for our homeschool group, the other was something equally easy. The 4 remaining tasks are less appealing to me so who knows when they'll get done. Probably when I am well. So, since I'm shucking chores, this afternoon will be spent fondling yarny things. More specifically, I'll be assessing my purses to see what needs finished on them. Here's one I made for the girls' friend Sid.
Boy has church tonight and the girls want to rent a movie. Debating what to do for dinner. I forgot to get mushrooms for pizzas tonight but we have everything else. Just don't know. Maybe we'll have leftover taco stuff.
Tomorrow our homeschool group is going to the local art museum and then to a park for a sack lunch/park day thing. We won't be doing the craft I found this time but hopefully next week we can.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Do I Have To?

There are a lot of things I don't want to do today. I've got laundry, sweeping the kitchen, bathrooms, bedroom decluttering, cleaning the guinea pig cages, shopping.... The list goes on and on. btw, it was tacos last night.

When we arrived home in late January from our vacation to North Carolina I figured that month was blown as far as any "New Years" resolutions were concerned. My plan was to start fresh in February and use the last week to come up with goals that I'd like to see accomplished in the next few months. Things like lining all my crocheted purses, sorting through numerous piles of crap in my bedroom, kitchen and living room, organizing my fabrics and yarns, cutting out a few quilts, starting some healthier exercise/eating habits, etc., etc. I did manage a manic quilt-making session where I cut and pieced a Turning Twenty Again sofa quilt.
Then we got strep throat and all my plans went out the window. Ryan and I had it the last week of January, the girls got sick the first full week of February. Now we're all recovered from that lovely illness only to be stricken with the common cold! The kids have had a milder version, thank goodness, but I'm now in the "cough up a lung" phase.

Since most of February has passed in a illness-induced haze, I've decided to start my "New Year" on March 1st. I still have most of the afore mentioned tasks but have thought of several more while sitting here typing. Including finishing the painted headboard for the girls room, moving Ryan's coaches locker to his room, finishing his curtains, quilting 14 MayMoms wall hangings, the list grows by the minute. Of course, blipping through the back of my mind is the fact that my 92 year old grandpa is not long for this world. He has several things going on, including renal failure, small strokes, and possible Parkinson's disease, and is growing more feeble by the day. Also blipping is the vacation we're taking in late March. Mark has a conference to attend in San Antonio so the rest of us are going along to see the sights. Our hotel is near the riverwalk so there will be lots to do. These blips seem to be heading towards each other at a faster and faster pace. Not that I'd be heartbroken if we missed out on SA but I *really* don't want to go to Oklahoma. My brother is leaving in mid-March for a 7-month hiking trek up the Appalachian Trail. My parents have already discussed it and they won't call him in if he's on the trail already. I don't think our SA trip would get us out of it.

Ok, back to today. My bedroom clutter is calling, the kidlets are enjoying the warm sunshine on the trampoline so it looks like the store will be postponed.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I Have a Blog!!!

This is my first post in my blog!! Hoooray!!!! A few things about this blog. I'm not talented enough, nor do I have the time to make this one of those delightfully funny, insightful blogs. It is strictly a place for me to collect my thoughts. My orange notebook works well for this too but it is easier for me to type than hand-write. I will be posting observations, essays, to-do lists, gripes, dreams, project ideas and so forth. Anything goes!

So, for today:

I have a nasty, nasty cold. The kids have a milder version of it. Mark had it last week. In spite of that, we did YARD WORK today. Mark raked and bagged 7 bags of leaves in the front yard and the kids and I filled 3 bags(leaf bags) with pine cones. What fun. I took Daisy and Buttertub out and hooked them to a tree with a long rope. They seemed to enjoy it except that B-tub is 10 times stronger than Daisy and would drag her all over the yard. Buttercup(her real name) is a 7 month old black lab, Daisy is a 3 year old black border collie mix.
Other than Mark dropping a limb on Ryan's head, Mark nearly falling off a ladder, and me getting my limb remover stuck in a tree, we had an uneventful yard work experience.

Now for dinner. I have about 1.5 lbs of ground beef(a rarity trust me- I only buy it every 5-6 months because Ryan loves it), some onions, tortillas, cheese and so forth. I also have tomato sauce and pasta. What to do, what to do.