Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Driving Lessons, a Mom’s View from the Passenger’s Seat

My new entry is up at home/school/life. You can run right over and read the whole thing here.

I would like to say that after so many years of unschooling, it is easy now to trust, to embrace the sometimes jerky starts and stops, the sudden braking when you thought you were accelerating and vice versa. I would like to claim I have learned better, but I am still guilty of embracing those old straight roads of my past. I am tempted to say to my son, “Just let me take you there. I will do the hard part. I’ll keep driving; you just tell me where you want to go.”

Monday, December 01, 2014

Found in the Archives

"Back when I used to believe I was an alien..." my son said.

I was glad he brought it up, because I've often wondered what he remembers of the elaborate tales he used to tell us of the "planet he came from" before he joined us. He was in the 3-5 age range when he would tell these stories.

First, I had to ask if he actually believed he was an alien. 

He said, "Oh no. I just liked to imagine that I was and tell stories about it. But, I did used to think that when I closed my eyes and saw those green circles that it meant I was important and doing something really special to fulfill my destiny. Then I realized that’s just what you saw if you rubbed your eyes real hard. Now I think I’m important for other reasons.”

He wouldn't elaborate, but I was entertained.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Directions to Some Excellent Posts about Math

I need to take the time to sort my own thoughts and experiences with math, both for myself and for my children, but if you are unschooling (or homeschooling) -- which I assume you are if you have arrived here -- I highly recommend that you take the time to run (not walk) over to Laura Grace Weldon's blog and read...

1) Math Instruction versus Natural Math: Benezet's Example


2) The Benefits of Natural Math

Call that my linky-love for the week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Bedtime Free House

Last night the kids watched a movie after their dad and I went to bed. This is not unusual. The kids have been setting their own bedtimes since they were wee little. We've only had one rule from the beginning. If you are going to stay up late -- or at least past the point that other people in the house have begun to go to bed -- you just have to be respectful that others are sleeping. Staying up is fine. Keeping up people who would prefer to be sleeping is not.

I can barely recall maybe a handful of times when they were younger that I had to get up and say something to them about being too loud. Occasionally things would get rowdy when they had friends over, but even then, it seems like the kids were as likely to get things quieted down on their own as need my help.

The girls still share a room and it has only been since the oldest started college that I've heard grumbles between them about when the lights were turned out. The last time it came up, the oldest agreed that if she still had studying she wanted to do once her sister wanted to go to bed, she'd bring her stuff down to the kitchen table to work.

The only times I have made suggestions about bedtimes were when something was going on the next day that required us to be up and out of the house earlier than usual. And even then I always offered it as a suggestion. We have never had arguments about bedtime in our house. I have three teens that go to bed, most often, at what seems like fairly reasonable hours to me. They get up on their own. And they are pretty good at recognizing when they are sleep deprived and they take responsibility for fixing it.

Throughout this past summer, and it seems much of last winter, as well, the kids (often all 3 of them) joined my husband and I for our early morning walks, 3 days a week. This meant they were rolling out of bed at 5 am most mornings. Now I must admit here, that I had strongly encouraged each of them to find some physical activity that they enjoyed doing. As they'd gotten older, we were spending far less time at the park and playing outside. The recreation classes that they had once enjoyed participating in were no longer quite so plentiful for their age group. I admit, I was concerned that they were becoming couch slugs.

So we had given them a parental speech about maintaining an active lifestyle, and had told them that they could join us on morning walks until they figured out what they preferred to do. I was surprised, quite frankly, that it stuck. They, in fact, were quite often better about getting up and around in the morning than I was. Our morning walks became even more regular. For a long stretch while the weather was nice, we were walking 5 days a week!

This past week we've had morning temperatures in the single digits and head colds running through the ranks. The coordinated morning rise time has been disrupted. I'm starting my day with a few minutes of alone time. It feels like it has been many years since that has happened.

Last night, the kids stayed up and watched a movie. As I drifted off to sleep, I heard them talking and laughing. It must have been a scary movie. I woke up later to a shriek, followed by much louder talking and laughing. My husband set up in bed and called the kids in. They quieted immediately, and it was kind of funny to see them sheepishly gather in the doorway. Or maybe that was just a memory of days gone by. I am pretty adept at closing my eyes and drifting off again, but I heard the oldest one say, "I know. You're sleeping. We'll be quiet."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Raising Writers

My post on Raising Children Who Love to Write went up at home/school/life today. I had difficulty focusing that piece enough for a blog post. When it comes to the subject writing, I guess I can write and write and write!

The fun part in preparing that piece was going back to look at my notes on what the kids were doing over the years. I'm sharing some of those journal entries here.

Journal entries on writing…(ages added)

Middle Munchkin (age 3) started drawing stick people this week. These people have circle heads with stick bodies. Her drawings of people looked like balloons blowing in the wind, but the balloons had eyes, noses, and big smiles. She assured me they were people.


Munchkin #1 (age 4) tells me stories and I type them. I break the story into scenes and print the pages for her, with room for illustrations. We read the sentences together and she draws the pictures.


Munchkin Boy (age 6) says he doesn’t need to know how to write anything but his name. At this point, that’s the letter, K. “What if you need to write something else, like a grocery list?” I asked. He said I could write it for him.


Middle Munchkin (age 8) started writing a new Harry Potter story this week. She says she can barely read her handwriting from the one that she was working on last year.


Munchkin #1 (age 10) is still working on her story. She hasn’t asked me to read it in quite some time. Middle Munchkin, however, has been reading it and she loves it. In the car the other day, she said to Munckin #1, “It makes me feel like I’m watching it. It’s really good. I love it.”


We had a conversation about using spellcheck on the computer. Munchkin #1 (age 10) asked if I thought it was okay for her to use spellcheck to correct her work. I said, “Absolutely, it’s a tool and you should learn to use it!” Then she told me she did use it, but it felt a bit like cheating. I find it interesting that she uses a word that I so strongly associate with school and school work. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about cheating before, though I suppose she’s come across the idea in other places, television and conversations with friends.


Munchkin Boy's handwriting (age 11) is not neat, but his spelling is superb and he can get his point across. When he types, I would say his composition is well beyond his years. He’s slack on things like capitalization and punctuation. He says taking the time to capitalize slows him down too much.
 Munchkin Boy (age 12) won first place in the 2013 Kansas Book Festival Contest. He entered an essay about Kansas stereotypes. His entry was titled, "Why do people think Kansas is flat in the first place?" It’s hard to admit that he’s getting paid more for writing than I am!


Middle Munchkin (age 13) continues her obsession with learning to write with her left hand. I can hardly tell the difference now if she writes with the left or the right. She sometimes practices mirror writing, as well -- both hands writing at the same time in opposite directions!


Munchkin #1 (age 15) is keeping a journal. She doesn’t share it with me, but I know that she is writing in it pretty much daily. She says this is one of the things she most enjoys about our current routine. Together we have been working on the mechanics of writing. Most of the time, this is me providing paragraphs of text that she edits. Sometimes we use worksheets we find online, but I enjoy creating my own. She does very well at this. She will usually pick out every single error, from punctuation to spelling.


I found out yesterday that Middle Munchkin (age 15) signed up for one of those Coursera courses. For a couple of weeks now she has been taking a beginning college composition class. I had no idea. I don’t know how I missed it. When I asked her about it, she said, “You sent us that link and said there might be some stuff there we’d be interested in. I really want to learn to write well, so I signed up for it.”


Munchkin #1 (age 18) asked me to review a paper she had written for her honors composition class this morning. It was a last-minute request for a quick review before she submitted the piece to her instructor. I found one misspelled word (a word spelled correctly, but not the word she was going for). I suggested she rein in her frequent use of semicolons. “I know,” she said. “I just really love semicolons.”


Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Seamstress

Middle Munchkin sews. She's very good at it. Some days it spooks me, how good she is, because she reminds me sooooo much of my mother (the grandmother that she never knew). My mom was an incredible seamstress. She made a lot of my clothes when I was a kid. Most of them, in fact, until I was probably 7 or so. She made ALL of my dressy clothes, including prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and eventually my wedding dress.

Technically, I learned to sew as a kid. Mom sent me to a neighbor to take lessons one year because she was not happy with the progress I was making under her tutelage. My memory of sewing lessons is that the woman had a machine you ran with your knee rather than a foot pedal. It kept sticking and the machine would take off crazily stitching across my fabric. I think the neighbor thought I was a reckless seamstress. She didn't seem to believe me that the knee-thing was sticking. I think, perhaps, she thought I was trying to get out of sewing lessons.

Middle Munchkin started sewing in 4-H, and for the first three or four years she worked with a woman here in town who is incredibly generous with her resources and time. She sewed at home, as well, and when my dad caught on to her interest he bought her a very nice sewing machine at an auction. I remember the first thing she made at home without her sewing mentor because I mustered all the patience I have in the world and I sat with her and helped her read the pattern.

Reading patterns can be hard. They aren't always well written and often skip steps. I'm pretty sure they are written, more often than not, by non-native English speakers... or maybe even translated by computer programs without any human editing.

Good instructions or not, sewing has always made me tense. I find it stressful. Even helping... just in the form of reading the pattern... made me occasionally want to bang my head against the table, but I managed to get through it (and really, I was just reading... she was doing all of the really nerve-wracking stuff). Middle Munchkin just kept sewing... and kept sewing... and I was so relieved when she no longer needed my help reading patterns.

She eventually started creating patterns of her own.

At 16, my daughter is an amazing, accomplished seamstress. I'm pretty sure her skill is equal to my mother's, and I have no way to explain it except that she is given the gift of being allowed to embrace her flow.

Flow is something I've learned a lot about as an adult (as a writer, and in many of the day-to-day activities that fill my time). I spent several years of my adult life, in fact, reclaiming the ability to simply slip into this state of being, most often of creating something, any time that I am so moved. I don't find flow in sewing, but my daughter does. When she is involved in a project, she sometimes spends most of the hours of the day working on it. There have been weeks where very little else was accomplished.

This week, I watched my daughter take her scissors to someone's wedding dress! The very thought absolutely tied me up in knots inside, but Miss Middle Munchkin was calm, cool, and confident. It was a "simple" adjustment (she assures me), turning a zippered back to a corset back. She worked quickly, and the result was beautiful.

I think one reason this sticks with me is that my mom, who was the most talented seamstress I knew before my daughter, was always nervous about taking on important occasion projects, like wedding dresses. In fact, she mostly refused, except when it came to her daughters and, eventually, daughters-in-law. Too much pressure, she once told me. What if she messed something up?

Sewing is something Middle Munchkin has always had the power to chose or leave behind. She chooses how much, how involved, how many drafts she is going to create before tackling the final project. She's had the benefit of a mentor whom she will occasionally still go to if she has a question, but she is just as likely to Google for help these days, or simply keep reworking a piece until she gets exactly what she wants from it.

I think about Mom often when I watch my daughter sew, and I imagine how much fun she would have had coming up with projects to work on with this grandchild. It feels to me like something they share, even though they never knew each other.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Now Blogging at Home / School / Life

Be sure to check out Home / School / Life Magazine where I am now a member of the blog team. I look forward to posting monthly notes there about life with teen/young adult unschoolers.

I still plan to write here, as well. More frequently, perhaps?