Friday, December 19, 2008

Rocket Party!

I can't believe I forgot to write about Ezra's Rocket Party, which he planned for months in advance. As the date neared, he whittled down his invite list to include only his maternal grandfather (Ba), his paternal grandmother (Bubbie), and his paternal Great Aunt Dorie. The rest of us were all excluded because only people who are willing to talk to him for hours and indulge him about rockets 100% of the time were allowed. I did get some photos at the end, though, because the coffee shop to which I was banished was holding a craft fair, and having no car I had nowhere to go but back to our own place.

The rocket party consisted of Ezra first showing his guests (Ba was in a meeting and unable to attend) his collection of best rocket/space shuttle/astronaut drawings, which were displayed on a string along the wall. Then he showed them some Youtube video clips of liftoffs and some photographs of space shuttles and rockets on the computer. Then there was a Q & A session where Ezra sat on a chair facing Bubbie and Dorie, while they sat on the couch and read him their questions (he had asked them to bring a list of questions). He answered each one as thoroughly as he could such questions as "Why was the B2 made?" and "What year was Apollo 11 built?"

I will post photos shortly!

A great time was had by all, of course. Next up: a rocket and space shuttle art show this spring!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Favorite Nature Center!

Here they are, my little unschoolers, who have just thrown many dozens of sticks out onto the pond at Dodge Nature Center. This is, of course, a natural lesson in physics!

More Inspiration!

Well, I am excited to report that I have just finished a cute little book of Byron Katie quotes, and, as expected, it's very supportive of unschoolery beliefs. Check it out. It's called Byron Katie on Parents and Children.

I also got another book recommended by my fellow unschooling blogger, Lisa: The Parent's Tao Te Ching. I can already tell it's going to be really inspirational about unschooling as well!

Well, I have been writing lots of posts and not publishing them because I'm not finished with them yet, but allow me to give a little update here.

Ezra has become very interested in asking me about multiplication, so I am getting him an abacus and some "math manipulatives" for the holidays. I was trying to figure out what kind of math manipulatives to get, and thought to ask Laurel up at the Waldorf-inspired toy store about it. She said Waldorf doesn't use math manipulatives, but they do use beanbags and Kapla blocks. So I am getting some Kapla blocks because I don't even know what you are supposed to do with math manipulatives, but I, myself, could have hours of fun playing with Kapla blocks! There are 200 in the set I'm getting, so that should be plenty to entertain Ezra with his math questions. Plus, he can build tall launch pads, which is probably what he'll do with it most of the time!

Every week we do "family movie night" on Wednesday nights because my husband doesn't get home until 10 p.m., and this week I got 4 episodes of "Lassie" at the library. They were awesome! It was a collection called "A Mother's Love". I highly recommend - I haven't had a t.v. since I moved out of my parents' house, so those of you with cable might not be so stricken if you often watch reruns of Beaver and Donna Reed or something, but it was so refreshing to see this woman with a totally barren kitchen, nothing to do but cook and stand by the door and wait for Lassie to come tell her someone was hurt, and with an ability to ask her son to do something and expect a quick "yes, mother!" in return. Aaaah, speaking of dreamy!

Anyway, we all enjoyed those very much. I especially liked how Timmy almost got mauled by a mountain lion and nobody batted an eye or said "don't go walking in the woods at night!"

Oh, and we finished Where The Red Fern Grows this week. I even got Ottar (2 yo) interested in listening to it. I do think it's the saddest book ever written! As soon as it was over Ezra said, "Can we read it over again right now?" But I have moved on.

This week is the mad rush for Christmas and Hanukkah gift-making. Ezra sewed his first little pillow with a rocket on it (got the idea from Soulemama's book, "The Creative Family"). He is also planning to make a little doll for his cousin Lizzy, and he's already made a flip book for his other cousin, and two t-shirts with rockets drawn on them for a cousin and someone else, and he is planning to decorate a t-shirt to look like an astronaut suit for his brother "so we can be astronauts together," he says. Ezra does continue to wear his NASA suit very frequently, and it's getting kind of scary looking, but whatever! He wore it yesterday when he went to the zoo with some extended family members!

I don't know if I mentioned he is now doing countdowns in Russian. He asked his uncle Mike to tell him, and write down, the numbers from 1-10 in Russian, and he now has it memorized. We couldn't find any Youtube video for liftoffs of the Russian Space Shuttle Buran, so he has just made up his own.

Well, I must be off to go do these art projects with him before Mr. Mischief wakes up!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Miscellaneous Learning Bits

Here is a post I wrote weeks ago, but forgot to finish. So it does re-cover some things I recently discussed, but it's in a different way.


I have not recorded so many things. People have started saying to me, "You will have to get him to start liking other things besides rockets." Then I start saying that he can learn about math, physics, etc. THROUGH rockets - and I point out that he has drawn literally thousands of space shuttles and rockets in the past several months, too. He is quite skilled!

But then these comments were gnawing away at me and I realized why: I was responding wrong. Because he *doesn't* only care about rockets. He asks me addition and multiplication questions all the time. Last night he was actually drilling *me* with multiplication tables. I have no idea why. And I don't even *know* my multiplication tables!

He also, as I said, loves art. He draws dozens of drawings daily, and he also frequently paints and has always been unusually adept (IMHO) at three dimensional art, like clay. (Gets it from his mama!)

He also loves to sing. He has been a performer since he was a baby. When he was about two he used to sing long songs like "The Cat Came Back" in the chiropractor's waiting room, much to the amusement of all the patients. One time he plopped down in the middle of a coffee shop right after a reading and sang it, too. He has a repertoire of about 20 or 30 songs - from The Sound of Music, to Ween, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, John Denver, lots of Christmas classics, lullabies, etc.

He also used to be really good at piano. He was a Suzuki student for over a year and was making excellent progress; however, he burnt out after about 10 months and I feel a little bit guilty because I think it was not the right approach for a 3-1/2-4-1/2 year old after all. It seemed like an excellent fit at the beginning, because he joyfully played almost every day. But once he got interested in drawing, he wanted to pull back and the Suzuki method does not allow that. So we got a little too obsessed with trying to get him to play, and he has hardly touched the piano now since last May. :( Hopefully he'll get back into it soon. But if not, I at least hope it helped to lay a foundation.

He is also writing all the time and asking questions about what things say, or how to spell them. He has memorized how to spell many useful words, such as "explosion" and "Endeavour" and "launch pad."

As stated earlier, we are usually engaged in reading a chapter book together at bedtime, and right now we are almost finished with Where The Red Fern Grows. Off the top of my head, other books I have read him include: Anne of Green Gables, The Yearling, My Side of the Mountain, The Tracker (most of it), Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Pippi Longstocking, and Harry Potter.

He is also learning more about real food than most U.S. kids. Though he is not too into cooking, he does occasionally join me. He prefers baking, which I don't do as much of these days. But he knows what animals all the meats come from, knows a lot more vegetables than I did at his age, and is familiar with all kinds of traditional foods such as kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut, all of which he has helped me make or has at least watched me make.

I guess I could go on and on. . . but I won't.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Speaking of Socializing. . .

Actually, I forgot to mention that if there is one thing I think we might be getting too much of, it's socializing! Because we live in a loft, and because Ottar likes to do so many *mischievous* things in the apartment, we go out every day. Some days we just run errands or something, but almost every day we meet other people to hang out with, or we at least go to a park where the kids play with other little kids they don't know, or they spend time with relatives. Even when we are at home, Ezra spends a minimum of an hour a day on the telephone (usually with his grandma, "Bubbie".)

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to go crazy with all the socializing, so the lack of it certainly isn't a concern of mine.

Oh! And of course we belong to 1.5 homeschooling/unschooling groups right now, and in the past we have been involved in various other organizations as well (Attachment Parenting International and La Leche League, off the top of my head).

Once a pediatrician told me - after Ezra happily chatted away with her, the nurse, and the office staff - that he would need to go to preschool "to learn to socialize." That was just about one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The most common question I and other homeschoolers get is, "how is your kid going to learn to socialize?" or "How will he have enough of a social life?"

It's pretty funny that most people instinctively know that the most important thing about going to school isn't LEARNING - it's socializing! Anyway.

The thing about school is that it actually helps create anti-social behavior. For instance, it creates "peer-centered" children, who can't look adults in the eye and who are obsessed with being accepted by one another. A great book on this topic is Hold On To Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate. I was horrified to see how much "peer orientation" affected me when I read The Diary of Anne Frank (on my own, in my post-graduate unschooling years!) and then referred back to my own diary from the age of fourteen. It was horrifying. While Anne wrote about the meaning of life, family relationships, learning, academics, her place in the world. . . I wrote things like "I wonder if Alex wants to be friends with us" and "______ is bugging me lately." Seriously, these were the most substantive entries of mine. It's because I, like most teenagers in the U.S., could not function until I got my social bearings, which was an ongoing project.

Another thing about school is that it divides kids according to age. So people learn to get along only with people of the same age. In high school, this shifted slightly for my social group, but of course socializing with people from a different class (usually only one year older or one year younger) was really not that different from socializing with people from our own class - except that you're always constantly aware, "Hey, I'm hanging out with the class of '92 tonight." With homeschooling and unschooling, children hang out with people of all ages and are knowledgeable and comfortable with people of all ages. Isn't this a more *useful* type of socialization?

School also breaks up families - kids spend entire days without seeing siblings or parents. This might seem to be better because of "sibling rivalry," etc., but the truth is that there is much less, if any, sibling rivalry in homeschool families, and the parents and kids generally enjoy each other's company. Personally, I had no idea how to get along with my own family when I was little. We so rarely did it. If we were going to spend long stretches of time together, we always all invited friends and broke up our socializing along those lines.

One of my favorite things about unschooling is the cross-generational socializing. My kids spend plenty of time with kids who are much younger and much older, and they don't see any reason why kids who are five or ten years older wouldn't want to play with them. Once they are adults, they are going to have to be working and living alongside people of all ages, so this is an important thing that they won't have to try and learn later. Some people never learn it. In fact, most people I know never socialize with people more than a few years older or younger than them, as adults. It's too bad, because I'd rather hang out with people based on their personalities than their ages.

As far as having socializing opportunities, there are way too many here in the Twin Cities. I can't even figure out how to spend a day *without* socializing. There are so many people that we know, and half of my friends are homeschooling, so there is no shortage of people to hang out with. Besides that there are many Yahoo! homeschool activity groups, many support groups, many "play groups," etc. We participate in a whole bunch of things each month and there is quite a community. Not every area of the world has this, but I think with enough enthusiasm and ambition, something similar could be created anywhere that homeschooling is legal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UnSchool Pictures! . . . and The Call to Brilliance

My husband and I decided to join some other homeschoolers who were having a local professional photographer take "school photos" of their kids. We walked to the studio today and they had their photos taken against a white backdrop. They are actually more like senior portraits, because they are so much fancier than regular school photos, plus I got to choose my favorite of several, and I get to order however many I want from Shutterfly. Plus, I got to stand behind the photographer and wave my arms and make faces so that my kids would laugh.

Think about how many advantages this system has over just getting regular photos at school!

I don't even like school photos - I mean, I never know what to do with them when people give them to me. But we thought it would be fun to get those head shots every year so we can have a uniform kind of photo taken every year so we can see our kids' growth, etc.

My father-in-law usually hangs out with the kids on Tuesday mornings, so he accompanied us. On the way home we stopped at a coffee shop and he bought the kids hot cocoa. Then he came up and read books to Ezra while I wrote on my blog and Ottar (unbeknownst to me) emptied bottles of shampoo onto the bathroom floor and into the tub. Luckily he told on himself, as usual, and I was able to save a couple of bottles. Oops!

Then Ottar napped while Ezra spent the afternoon making rockets and launchpads out of legos and listening to Dr. Suess stories on CD. I used this time to voraciously tear through the book The Call to Brilliance, which I did indeed finish. It was very thought-provoking though I was already familiar with most of the information in the book. Basically it is a story of a woman who did a form of unschooling with her kids, and all three of them ended up in college by the time they were fourteen. Very inspirational, and recommended reading for anyone who feels panic at the thought of their kids not being able to go to college if they unschool. Maybe it makes more sense to worry that your kids will want to go too young? :)

Ezra has already decided that when he's 15 (or is it 13?) he wants the whole family to move down to Cape Canaveral (sp?) so that he can work for NASA. After reading this book, I don't really doubt that it can happen - I just have to prepare myself for the possibility!

A Thomas Jefferson Education?

I just devoured A Thomas Jefferson Education, which has been on my reading list for a long time. I can't remember who recommended it, but it seems to be in the style of John Taylor Gatto - that is, flaming liberals and flaming conservatives alike could really get into it. I will certainly end up taking it with a grain of salt once I have fully processed it (or at least I'm giving myself permission to do so), but right now I am all about it.

The main message of the book is that education must come from inspiration. Teachers must inspire their students, not just teach them. His prescription for parents or teachers is to read the classics, and then get interested enough in them and their relationship to life and to each other, to inspire their students (children) to get really excited about them, too. This, he says, will make the student into a "leader," a "statesman," and a Great Person. I can see how this is true. Unfortunately I have read only a few classics, really - and any of the ones I read in high school were a waste because I didn't understand how to approach literature at the time. Needless to say, literature classics were the only classics offered in my public high school. It never even occurred to me that there are "math classics" or "physics classics" until I read this book.

The main reason I have to be wary, maybe of the idea of classics is that so many things I am interested in are considered new fields, and/or they are based, in my opinion, on wrong beliefs in the first place. For instance, the entire field of psychology is based on the idea that 20th century civilized subjects can be considered normal. I have yet to read Freud. . . but I have my own idea of what the real classic in psychology should be, and that is The Continuum Concept, or maybe something by Joseph Chilton Pearce. Or maybe even Rudolf Steiner?

Anyway, I like A Thomas Jefferson Education because it's very unschooler-y - based on the way people used to be educated back before school as we know it, which is a pretty new concept, even existed. Back when people used to be incredibly competent by the time they were twelve years old.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Onion Peels

Well, on a personal note, in my quest to find perfect happiness, I have made much progress lately. I just keep doing balances (Psych-K) and inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie) until I get over whatever comes up and bothers me. Last night I worked on a really big issue about my purpose in life - something that was blocking me from being able to enjoy being with my kids, or really from enjoying doing much of anything! What I had to do was release my "need" to really achieve something significant in life related to my creative talents.

What a relief! I awoke refreshed and relaxed (after having some strange symbolic dreams of me driving around in a blue 60s sportscar I got at the thrift store, which had also just been a donkey with a leg and an ear missing - I am quite sure this had something to do with the election (donkey, blue) but I haven't the faintest clue. . .)

Anyway, I was so busy today with spending time with a writer friend and her kids, and my son's NASA class, that I haven't had a chance to test out/bask in my newfound freedom. But I'm very excited! Next on my list is to release my "need" to own a lot of land for my kids to grow up on. This is quite essential because we are currently living in a loft and there isn't even a yard! This "need" has been eating me alive for five years. Can't wait to ditch it!

I must say, I don't know how anyone could unschool without the benefit of transformational psychology. The truth is I don't know of any unschoolers who don't use it!

By the way, about the election. . . I am SO EXCITED! Pinch me! Could this be America? Or is it Fairyland?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politics & Weather & Art

Ezra was learned a lot about the election this year. We have MPR in the background so often, especially because our iPod broke. He asks lots of questions about Bush and war and McCain and Obama. He made us a homemade Obama bumper sticker. It says OBAMA OBAMA OBAMA OBAMA. He fell asleep during the election results (in a friend's hotel) and on our way out we accidentally went to the Al Franken for Senate party, where everyone was celebrating the Obama victory! He woke up and I got to tell him amidst all the excitement, that Obama had won.

Ottar, who is just over 2, says "Who's talking?" when the radio is on. If I tell him the announcer's name he says "No! John A-Cain." He also says a lot, "Where's Barack Obama?"

I am really glad that my kids like politics because I was totally clueless at their age.

Also, did I meantion my husband is a meteorologist? So Ezra actually knows quite a bit about the weather - especially severe weather. Mostly he likes to think about rockets, though. Just now he is writing a book called "Rocky the Rockets Big Book of Explosions". Somehow he wrote all that himself! It is just going to be a picture book of many, many ways that Rocky explodes. He's been waiting to work on this for many days. He just got started after drawing the Delta 2 several times. He was drawing those in preparation for his "Rocket Lunch" rocket Q & A session he'll be hosting in a couple of weeks for some adult family members. This was all his idea and he has a very strict guest list consisting only of people who indulge him in rocket talk on a regular basis.

We've been talking about carving some wooden rockets, since his Made in China ones keep breaking. I just have to muster up the energy to embark upon a whole new art form when I feel so overwhelmed by all the ones I already know!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Books and Foreign Language

Ezra doesn't just like to launch toy rockets. He also likes to write stories about them. For his friend Bridger's birthday last week he wrote (dictated and illustrated) a book called "Bridger Rides the Space Shuttle Endeavour". He had also just finished a book called "Why Rockets and Space Shuttles are Powerful," and this week he is working on his "Rocky the Rocket" book, which has been gestating for many months. This book is going to show page after page of different ways that Rocky explodes. I can hardly wait! Rocky is very cute. He is blue and has eyes on each side of his point. He looks like a muppet.

Also tangental to Ezra's love of launches is his interest in understanding the shuttle launch language of India and Russia. He loves to imitate the Indian accent and wants to learn to do countdowns in Russian. He also knows a countdown in French.

Interestingly, his brother who is just a little over two years old, cannot count forward but can only count backward. He does it like this: TEN NINE EIGHT SEVEN SIX FIVE THREE TWO ONE LIF-OFF!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India's First Rocket Launch!

Today was an exciting day at our house even though we have not left the house all day! India launched their first moon-bound rocket today and Ezra found pix of it on the internet and drew it all day long. I must say it is one of the more attractive rockets, and the launchpad towers look really nice in a drawing.

Now Ezra has just discovered sticking Halloween paraphrenalia in windows. First he drew a ghost, a witch, a pumpkin, and a V2 bomber to give to Tammy, who works in the apartment's office downstairs. She wants help decorating for Halloween on Friday. Then he realized he could draw things that I cut out and then we will tape them to the windows. He is very inspired, and suddenly drawing some things besides rockets!

Oh, and he's also making us Obama signs to hang in the window.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Exciting New Developments

Today Ezra made a new friend named Shelly. She is the librarian at the St. Paul Central Library, and she was so excited about him. She asked all about him and his family and wants him to come back and visit her whenever he can. She was so glad he was so fascinated with rockets and space shuttles, and she said her son, who is an undergraduate, is working on something having to do with space shuttle sealants. She helped Ezra get a pile of books all about things he already knows, I think!

To balance this madness, I got him a couple of books on CD - right now he is listening to a long chapter book about a pig. I also got 2 new DVDs for movie night. We've watched Pippi every week, and now we'll move on to a funny short movie about Johnny Appleseed and another one about Clementine.

I also got some Jewish holiday books because I have been feeling terrible that for the fifth year in a row I have ignored the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot. Next year I'll be prepared!

We had a nice urban walk to the library. Ezra especially loves the Don't Walk signs that have a countdown on them.

Ottar got an Elmo board book about manners, that he picked out all by himself. He was also VERY excited.

Yesterday we went to our second apple orchard this season, but this time we didn't pick apples. We had a hay ride and played in the sun, and the kids got to jump off a haystack. They drank real apple cider, too. There were monsters and ghosts and spiders in the woods for a Halloween theme, and when we got home Ottar said "Monsters under a bed." !!! I have no idea where he came up with that concept, because it has never occurred to Ezra all these years. Kenny assured him monsters only live in apple orchards (except Elmo) and then Ottar said "Angels coming." What?

In less than an hour we're off to Ezra's NASA Future Space Explorers class! While he's there, Ottar and I can play with balls in the gym (Ottar loves balls and we hardly ever think to play it with him).

The End.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

First time blogging about unschooling

Well, Ezra has been officially an unschooler for about exactly one month. He "should" have started kindergarten after Labor Day. We've been moving into our new place all that time, and we still have a lot to do, so it's been hard to keep up with thinking about him being an unschooler. But this fall he is in a class at the Art Academy, which he started today, which is an art program where they follow the apprenticeship model. He takes drawing this term and painting next term. So far he loves it! He is illustrating a children's book. Today he got to work on a drawing of a tornado and a rocket. All month he's been talking about rockets and space shuttles, of course, and watching launches on YouTube. He found a slideshow of the Columbia disaster and developed a love of the song "On Eagle's Wings".

He has been dabbling in piano though he quit Suzuki last spring after a year of it. He had been really enthusiastic and suddenly lost interest. But yesterday Kenny played background music while Ezra made up words about space shuttles to songs, and did countdowns to music. It was actually pretty cool!

This summer he discovered that what he wants to be when he grows up is called an aerospace engineer. He heard from someone that this requires knowledge of math, so in the past week he's been quizzing me in the car about addition and multiplication. He is also always wondering how many seconds are in a million years and things like that. It drives me nuts and I tell him to call Uncle Mike and ask him.

His space shuttle drawings have become more and more elaborate. He probably drew an average of 50 a day this summer on his Doodle Pro, but lately he's switched over to mostly markers and he's filled up 2 of *my* sketchbooks completely with them. His command of markers has improved amazingly. He even draws little astronauts and he will put the fin of one shuttle in front of something in the background. I think this is very advanced.

Yesterday he re-discovered watercolors and was doing space shuttles in watercolors.

He knows quite a bit about weather because of Kenny.

What other subjects are there? I just think he is already really well-rounded. The two things I want to make sure are available to him this year are any kinds of sports/recreation and also any kind of nature observation/study/play. I also may start brining him to the Zen center, or possibly to a church. We do celebrate the generic Christian and Jewish holidays, and every year I say I am going to celebrate Sukkot and then I don't. . .

Oh, yesterday we went to an orchard and he discovered he loved picking apples, playing tetherball, and holding baby chicks. He asked 3 times to return to hold the chicks and he had a favorite which he kept kissing. I was surprised because he hasn't shown much interest in animals in a long time. He said he is excited to have chickens someday. I told him it will be his job to collect the eggs.

Oh! He has written a few books but lately he wrote one called something like "Why Rockets and Space Shuttles Are Powerful". It is quite long and very scientific. He plans to illustrate it as soon as I write it or type it all out for him.

That's all I can manage to write for today!