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!!