Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Time Passing, Passing Time

The project on the kitchen counter right now is root beer. Munchkin boy has been talking about Ginger Bugs and fermentation and he filled the house, this past weekend, with a smell that carried me back to Boothill Museum in Dodge City where you could take a seat at the bar and order a sarsaparilla.

The project on the kitchen table involves black spray paint, old photo frames that now look shiny and new, and covers of classic books. Munchkin #1 has been redecorating her room again, inspired by the recent library book sale.

My projects include putting together a proof of Meadowlark's second book, and beginning the edits for Meadowlark's third book. If all goes as planned, we will have five books published by the end of the year (4 of them 2015). That's a good year, I think, for a start.

This past weekend we three at-home-bodies had a Harry Potter movie marathon party, but we only made it through the first two movies. That's a lot of movie watching, even for a rainy Sunday. We've had a lot of rain this past week. The nights have been cool enough we've had to kick the heater back on to get up and about in the mornings.

We've heard from the travelers a few times. When they call at night (our morning) they sound exhausted -- good exhausted. When they call in the morning (our night) they sound raring to go. They've moved, via bullet train, from Beijing to Xi'an. Those two locations are now permanently etched in my mental map of the world.

Tonight we will attend a play at the university, As You Like It. We are eagerly anticipating our trip to the airport to pick up the travelers. It will be good to have us all crowded into one location again!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Two Family Members Short

I'm feeling very much like our German Shepherd, counting family members, worried that some of us are missing. This has been her routine since the beginning of time with us. If anyone is missing, she paces the house, nudging each of us with her nose as if trying to ascertain whether or not she is losing it, or if there really is someone missing.

Nancy (the German Shepherd) seems a bit sad that her boy is gone (that would be my hubby = her boy). She is spending lots of time sleeping on the floor by his side of the bed. It's only been three days and she's stopped counting. She's simply depressed. There is no doubt. They aren't anywhere. She's checked the whole house.

Middle Munchkin and the Hubby, off on their Grand Adventure.

I, however, have turned toward my daughter's bedroom door at least once each day. Sometimes it's a question I want to ask her. Sometimes I just want to see her smiling face. "Come out of your room," I almost say, before I remember that she's off on her Grand Adventure. I am not depressed in the least. I can look at the calendar. I understand that they are coming back. My job is to simply come to terms with my moment. I am not adventuring this round, just eagerly awaiting their return and their stories!

The Grand Adventure is a 16th year event in our house. Our oldest planned her trip to England and Scotland in 2012 (and I got to go with her!). Middle Munchkin is now in China with her dad! I love to travel, and I've spent most of my life wishing I could travel outside of the US, as well. My kids kind of prompted me to stop wishing. It's about planning. It's about deciding what is important and making it happen.

This trip to China will mean that our kitchen doesn't get the new flooring it needs this year. Our second bathroom may never happen. Our "new" car is a 1999, one year newer than the "old" one. I still dream about those things from time to time, but when I think of the stories she is going to tell when she gets back from this trip, I don't mind the old car, or sharing a bathroom with 4 other people, or having a crappy looking kitchen floor covered with a "temporary" linoleum we put down several years ago to hide what needed replaced.

Life is about experiences. Dreaming is only fun when dreams come true. We have the power to make our dreams come true. I hope my children grow up believing that above all else.


Friday, April 10, 2015

April Entry at home/school/life

Sorting through Subjects in an Everything-is-Connected Manner of Homeschooling is the title of my April entry at home/school/life. Here's a bit:

Our family takes an “everything is connected” approach to life, but some people prefer to break the world into subjects, perhaps for the sake of being thorough (or because the setting of school requires it of them). It gives you more of a checklist approach to life. Have we done our math today? Have we practiced reading? Have we learned to spell a few words today? Have we spent some time with nature, making sure we are learning about the way of the world? Have we contemplated cultures, people, or methods of governing?
These are all things we encounter daily, and the flow of life naturally takes us there.
Coming from a subject-oriented education myself, I found it surprisingly hard to turn it into words my nine-year-old, unschooled kid could relate to.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Family Project: Let's Make a Movie!

So there was a contest held locally for short movies/films. The hubby was intrigued, and next thing I now, he's talking to the kids about joining him for a project. We were unable to participate in the actual contest, but we did spend a weekend putting together our own movie, trying to follow the same guidelines just to see if it was something we could do. Who knew that you could spent 6 or 7 hours to get 35 minutes of recorded video that results in 3 minutes of completed film?

Without further ado, I bring you our family's first foray into video making and editing. We have a lot to learn, but we did have fun.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

St. James Day -- A Day in the Life

I've been reading day-in-the-life farm pieces and was inspired. I used to journal our days frequently when the kids were little. It feels a lot harder to do these days! Since I selected, St. James Day, however, it is an unusual day to document. It is something of a ritual, a family holiday, bowing to the basketball enthused portion of our family (and extended family)...

6:00am: The hubby and I rolled out of bed for our morning walk. Munchkin Boy joined us. We are currently walking a 2-mile route to the university and back.

Conversation on the walk:
  • The state of Kansas government (depressing), school funding, and the status of homeschooling laws in our state
  • Virulent expansion, Japanese history, and China constructing islands
  • Munchkin Boy told us about his Groundhog Day moment while playing Fallout 3
7:00am: Munchkin Boy and I tag-teamed the dishes/dish drainer. Everyone made breakfast individually. Munchkin Boy looked up Dagen H on wikipedia (the day traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left to the right).

7:40am: Hubby and Munchkin Boy discuss umlauts. Quote of the day: "Let me make up some German words for you." This leads to a lengthy discussion about the German language, hubby's background in language study. Munckin #1 joins us.

8:00am: MB watches The Co-Optional Lounge where they were playing a table top game simulator.

8:30am: I leave MB with the task of preparing 7-layer dip for our gathering with friends this afternoon. I leave instructions for Middle Munchkin to collect and clean out our cooler (to carry food to the gathering).

Munchkin #1, Hubby and I leave the house in three different vehicles. We are headed for the same location, but have plans to leave separately.

8:40am: M1 sends a thank you note for a scholarship she will receive next school year. I then help her find some documents she needs for an application. (This requires a trip home. I had put them in a safe place! I hate when I do that...)

9:15am: I get a call from hubby that there are people at the market office who are waiting to meet with me. I have just place hands on the above-mentioned documents, so I rush back to the office. After the market meeting, I work on billing for hubby's office until it's time to go.

10:45am: Hubby and I lock up the office and head home. We are gathering at a friend's house for St. James Day and must leave by 10am to get there on time.

10:50am: Arrive home to find the kids ready to go (not Munchkin #1, she has decided to attend her classes and enjoy the rest of her day at home alone.

11:25am: We are on the road. I can't explain it. Even though everyone was ready, it seems to take a while to get into the car and on the road.

Conversation for the car ride:

  • Who am I kidding, it is St. James Day and there is a game during the drive. The car ride is spent listening to basketball.
12:55am: Arrive at our destination, perfectly on time for the 1ish start time of our St. James Day party. We are joined by four of our "community dinner" families... kind of an intentional set of gatherings that grew from our once full and active homeschool playdate group.

What follows is several hours of good conversation, a taco bar meal, and folks watching basketball games on television. The kids play board games, some actual basketball in the driveway, and alternate hanging out with the talkers and the television watchers. They are older and there certainly aren't as many kids joining us this St. James Day as there have been in the past, but in many ways this afternoon is just like old times.

6pm(?) or something after: We say our goodbyes and make the long drive home again.

Once home, hubby and I enjoy listening as the kids catch up. I think Munchkin #1 may have missed us a bit. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sharing My Experiences with Unlimited Screen Time

My latest post for Home/School/Life has been up since Monday and is getting many shares. I expected it to hit home with a lot of homeschooling parents, and among those who unschool especially. I've been pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I've gotten from outside the homeschool community. Colored, as it may be, by the fact that many are people who know my kids personally and can attest to the fact that they are decent, upstanding, contributing members of society.

Received my first negative response to it today, which was clearly a gut reaction, probably not even someone who fully read the piece. Honestly, I'm a little surprised it took so long. I'm going to take it as a sign that I'm finally starting to speak out enough. If I'm getting enough attention to reach beyond the obvious cheerleaders and folks who are looking for discussion and ideas, I'm putting my time to better use than when I was just talking about it all to myself.

Here's the link, and here's the teaser.

"...our family ended up taking a little different path. My desk soon had two computers. My kids had the option of working alongside me, or going out to play, or doing any of the myriad of activities they spent their time doing, pretty much any time and for as long as they wished. My kids reached for a keyboard and a mouse probably as often as they reached for building blocks and crayons."

And this would be a good time to add that if you haven't checked out what Home/School/Life has to offer, you should check it out now. It's a beautifully constructed, very thoughtful little e-magazine with a growing audience of thoughtful, seeking parents who seem to be truly interested in the exchange of ideas and in supporting each other in this journey (raising kids/growing as parents/whatever you want to call it).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Family Night

A Family Night Game, created by my son. It was a fairly
complex nation-building type of game, and we enjoyed it, 
(though we did end the evening by giving him feedback and 
ideas for improving the game). I think we will be 
playing it again.
 One unfortunate side effect of homeschooling is that since you (the parent) spend a lot of time immersed in hands-on activities with your kids, you sometimes forget to make time for ... well, "non-productive" time with your kids.

I'm not sure that's exactly what I'm trying to say...

We have three kids, fairly close in age. For many years I was the primary parent at home, and then for several years, my husband and I kind of juggled a half and half schedule. One of us was always with the kids (clearly, not always AT home), and both of us were working and/or pursuing a law degree (him), for instance. Whatever the schedule, we kept in mind that our decision to keep our kids at home remain central to the way we spent our time as a family.

As the kids got older, the schedule gradually grew more complex and involved to manage. We aren't the go-go-go family that I often see in others, though sometimes it feels like it. We spend a lot of time coordinating schedules, especially now that each of the kids has their own agendas and activities. I have to admit to occasionally longing for those blissful days with three little ones who were more or less content to travel in a pack to whatever it was we were doing for the day.

More than once in this journey, however, my husband and I have stopped and said, "Wait a minute. When is the last time we just all hung out together?"

We've often had rituals we've called "family time" as the kids were growing up. My oldest and I were talking just this week about the time we used to spend with Grandma Jo when my oldest was little. Every Friday we would take the kids to Grandma Jo's apartment along with a pepperoni pizza. She had confessed to my husband once that she missed going out for pizza. That was a family time ritual that we carried on for several years, but it passed all too quickly.

We've kept "date nights" with the kids, both individually and together over the years. I have to say of all the time I spend with my children, my favorite moments often come from this time we have set aside just to hang out together, play together, and visit.

Currently, for the last 3-4 years perhaps, we have had a standing weekday date with the family, at the moment it is Wednesday evenings. This time was originally dubbed "no [electronic] media" night, though over time it has evolved and we've been known to incorporate movies, television, and video games into the evening. Last week we went to a play at the university. The two weeks before, we gathered at the kitchen table and worked on collages, a kind of inspirational art night.

One evening we spent playing GeoGuesser on our brand new, big screen television. Often we will play board or card games. We spent a few months last year playing Dungeons and Dragons. The range of activities is fairly wide and our commitment to keeping an evening free on the calendar has remained fairly strong.

It is true that every moment is an opportunity, and sometimes the best opportunities appear when you stop trying to make sure your time is productive and full. Good for individuals to remember, and good for families, too.

Take some time to just hang out this week. No pressure. No schedule. Just time together.