Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another quote, when all else fails

When I'm having One of Those Days, I think I'll just always paste quotes. That can be my secret code.

Although I do feel so much better after going to the network chiro!!

Anyway, here's something to munch on:

My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself. -George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2 Kids in a Car for 6 Days?

2 boys, ages 6 and 3, in a car for 6 days cross-country. What would you bring?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Today's Quote by Naomi Aldort

Unschooling quote of the day, from Naomi Aldort:

If children played all their childhood (I mean it), they would be ready for life. They would be emotionally strong (providing no other damage has been done), and would have all the basic skills to handle life. Our anxiety for children to know certain things at specific ages is an enormous obstacle to trusting and allowing their natural development. When children play, they are the only qualified authors of this magical process. It is rarely too late to acquire knowledge, but often it is dangerously too early and out of harmony with the internal journey of the child.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Actually, My Child won't Come to the Table because he's *Gifted*

The other day I had to escape to the library for a little "alone time," and the book selection was not too exciting. So, I headed over to the Education Section, which consisted of about 8 books, one of which was about "gifted kids." My kids will never be tested for giftedness, since they aren't in school, and what does it even mean, anyway? But I thought I'd browse through the book and see if it had any good tips.

It did! It said that one sign that your kid is gifted is that he will get so interested in something that he won't come to the dinner table when you call him!

I just thank The Lord that I now know that Ezra is not Oppositionally Defiant (another thing I could have him tested for), or the victim of some other horrible disorder I could look up in the DSM, when he just stays curled up on the couch reading Tintin, deaf to our pleas to come and eat his chili.

So now when my husband, my other son, and I sit at the dining room table with one empty chair, we smile to ourselves and exchange knowing glances.

(He's **gifted**!!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Know Soulemama's Secret

The adventure begins!

The careful collection of sticks.

Ezra shows off his stick-breaking abilities.

Nonie always accompanies us on our neighborhood outings!

This is the [very delayed - as today there is a blizzard outside our window!] first of a series of days wherein I pretend to be Soulemama. Why? Because everyone always says Soulemama makes them feel guilty and inadequate, and that they can't do that much cool stuff and have that much amazing fun with their kids.

Well, folks, I know her secret. And I will tell it to you.

The secret is the camera.

Ok, I have only a scruffy little cheap digital hardly-any-megapixel camera that is actually my husband's - and he takes it with him to work most days.

BUT. . .

Next time you're feeling blue, just try this: Take your kids out somewhere, and bring your camera along. Lonely? No. . . you can't be because you know that everything you are doing is now ART. And it will make you feel like SOMEBODY SPECIAL when you post about it on your blog. No matter if your kids are not wearing cute, handmade clothes. . . although all the better if they are! Of course you must make sure you are doing something outdoorsy and natural. . . or possibly, crafty.

Please notice how taking the pictures above totally changed my mood. The truth is, we went out "stick-finding" only because I thought I was going to lose my mind if I stayed in the house for one more second with my kids. But as soon as we got going and I made it into a photo safari, the whole thing became festive and even slightly hilarious.

Thank you, Soulemama, for raising my Vibe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Secret to Being in the House with Small Children!

Working w/modeling clay in July '09

Here's a post I wrote a few weeks ago, but forgot to publish. I have a tear in my eye as I reread it now, because those were the good old days, when I had all kinds of *new* projects to toss out on the table. This week we're down to wax sticks and a broken sewing machine (but at least they'd never seen the sewing machine!) And at least there's snow. . . Ottar spent a half hour yesterday sweeping off everything in the back yard with a kids' push broom (after seeing the neighbor man do it - *why* the neighbor was doing it, I have no idea. . .) And then he spent another half hour shoveling the front walk. A regular work horse he is! If only we can line up the projects.


Ah, finally it has been revealed to me! If I just always have an idea for the "next thing" to throw at Ottar, he is a completely manageable child at any hour of the day!

We finally moved the art cabinet upstairs so that it's right by the kitchen table (and switched the kitchen table to a littler IKEA one, which was previously housed in the carport - thus causing me to actually not feel totally cramped and crabby while we're doing projects) and now I can just run there and throw out some art supply and walk back to the food I'm burning. Or whatever.

Another great thing I am now finally doing is letting the kids take things apart, like last week Ottar took apart my broken hairdryer (with my help). This resulted in several new "toys" being discovered (as in, hair dryer parts), which include a "cell phone" (handle) a space gun (main body) a sieve, and a car grille, just off the top of my head.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Artistic Endeavours

We've finally been stepping it up around here as far as artwork goes - we even got the art cabinet moved up into the living room so that we can easily access all the art supplies (though we *really* need to get a lot more of them).

But first off, I forgot to publish pix of the jack-o-lanterns we made this year. We usually make them frantically at the last minute (and Kenny is rarely around, as he has no tradition of jack-o-lantern making as a family, which causes me distress every year. . . but oh well.)

Hmmm. . . I do not know how to embed a photo in a post - they will only show at the beginning. So, please see above for Ezra's Pirate Jack-o-Lantern with a wound on it's face, followed by the pumpkin face Ottar drew all by himself -- he says it's a baby, because it has no teeth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cute, Inspirational Article

Here's a cute article for anyone needing a little inspiration this day: "The Never-at-Home Homeschoolers" by Patricia Zaballos.

In our household, the most influential part of the essay was this quote: "Just as you should never wake a sleeping baby, never interrupt a reading child."

A comforting thing to keep in mind when your 6-year-old is so engrossed in reading Tintin that he can't even hear you telling him it's time to leave.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

About Time for an Update, No?

Here's what's going on around here, with the kids:

1. Ezra is waaaay into his Bunjinkan (Ninjutsu) class. He wants to take it twice a week instead of once, but we don't have a car the other day that the class is offered. He does practice on a daily basis, though, of his own accord. As I type, he is in the bedroom trying to give Ottar (3 yo) lessons.

2. The "Japan Unit" went O.K. - not as well as it could have, as it seemed to be too much dependent on me gathering things (without money), etc. We did do origami one day (but then lost all the paper), we read several awesome new children's books about Japan, and Ezra works almost every day on his Hiragana alphabet - either copying it, making up direct-translation words, (i.e. he just made me a sign that says "ma-ma"). Kenny was supposed to make a Japanese dinner with him or something, but apparently the Japanese fervor is not so infectious as to affect Papa Pyefeld. He muttered several times under his breath about it, but I have yet to see any wontons or sushi.

3. Ottar is obsessed with words, asking me all day long, "what does _____ mean?" Sometimes I feel like crying, if it's the end of the day and he asks me something complex, as in last week when he kept asking for increasingly precise definitions of 'deserve'.

4. Ezra is also still a voracious Tintin reader. I cannot stop him, though I am worried because the print is so tiny, and he will read it for hours on end. I am amazed by the amount of vocabulary and geography he has learned from these books!

4. Guns, guns, guns! Ezra can now identify just about any firearm by sight, and also explain how it works, what it is for, and the materials it is made from. In yet another attempt to draw myself in to his world (because I am so NOT interested in guns), I started looking stuff up on the History Detectives website last night, and I think that if we watch some of those videos together, we may have found some common ground!

What I've been Obsessing Over this Week

I reread John Holt's How Children Fail last week, and it sure is a different book when you have a school-aged child! Last time I read it, I only had a baby.

Last time I read it, I was slightly scandalized, but this time I read it, I was not only totally scandalized, but also appalled, horrified, and enraged. You know why? Because this book was written in 1960 (updated in 1980 - when it was *much* improved by the author's added comments.) And yet, so far as I can tell, it isn't included in the teacher trainings anywhere in this country. PLEASE tell me if I'm wrong about this! I did as much web research as I could. . . but the truth is I don't think any teacher program could withstand including it. Because I think they would lose 100% of their enrollees . . . I think.

Of course, I am also wondering if this information has been somehow synthesized into a more recent work. . . though it seems to me that the book in its entirety is uncondensable, since it's the progression of one man's understanding of children.

I would love for someone who is a teacher to read this book and tell me if it can be interpreted any other way. I do so want someone to take me up on this challenge, and the one presented in an earlier post, which was for anyone with kids in school to read a few books off my reading list (right hand bar of blog) and then not want to pull their kids out of school. I really want to know if there are other people's brains that can work that differently from mine. Am I insane?

As T.S. Eliot says:
I should really like to think there's something wrong with me —
Because, if there isn't then there's something wrong,
Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
With the world itself — and that's much more frightening!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Dark Side of Me

So, I put that post up yesterday, about reward and punishment, because it's something I really need to work on. With all the stress of moving, unpacking, moving to a new town, and feeling quite isolated (something is happening with my planets right now, my new astrologist told me, that is associated with "incarceration."* I had to really laugh about that one!) . . . [what just happened to my sentence?] . . . I've had a short temper some days (aahh. . . and my astrologist also told me it's time to get back into kickboxing!!) . . . and my first response, when I'm tense, is to immediately look for some sort of threat or punishment - not the typical things like "time-out," spanking, or taking away priviledges, but things like, "If you don't stop fighting over that, I'm going to take it away," or when I'm really out to lunch I say really crazy things, like I did this morning, such as, "If you're going to argue with each other, I might as well send you to school - that's why people send their kids to school - because they argue with each other and the parents don't want them around!"

Uhhh. . . yes, I really said that. And it didn't faze them because they've heard it before. Luckily they don't believe me that I'll do it. (And don't you love how I set school up as a punishment? So healthy.) Of course, there are many, many people who send their kids to school for that exact reason (many of them are my friends, and they have told me as much). But I am not proud of these moments. *Sigh*

Unschooling IS dreamy. Oh yes, it is! But parenting isn't always. And two boys fighting over which side of the window is going to be opened, so that they can jump four feet down onto the couch - all while I'm trying to email on that couch? No. Not dreamy at all.

Funny I just made a rule for myself last week: No more computer use between the hours of 8:30 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. And here I am at 10:40 A.M. blogging about the trouble I had while emailing 20 minutes ago. Hmmmm. . .

And yet, why would I want to make rules for myself anyway, when they diminish responsibility?

*For the record, he would probably not have told me this if I hadn't begged him to tell me about what an amateur astrologer friend had told me, which was that I was going into a period of "isolation." My new astrologer had instead said something like "a period of contemplation" or something like that. And as you can see, this is already true. What a contemplative post!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Reward and Punishment"

Here is a little section of The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents - A New Interpretation by William Martin. Lovely to contemplate. . . maybe with a cup of tea.


Be careful of rules for your children.
Rules diminish responsibility.
Be careful of rewards for your children.
Rewards diminish self-esteem.
Be careful of punishments for your children.
Punishments diminish trust.

Let lessons be imposed
by the nature of things,
not by your own agendas
or your own needs.
Integrity will replace rules.
Contentment will replace striving.
Spirituality will replace religion.
Songs will replace arguments.
Dances will replace battles.

Don't tell me this is overly simple.
Perhaps the most courageous act
of any parent's life
will be that moment
when, even though it breaks your heart,
you stand aside
and let your children
take the natural consequences
of their actions.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Awesome Idea for Thanksgiving - Get to Work!

Last year I started what is to become a yearly ritual for me: doing the "Egyptian Writing Ritual" out of Sarah Susanka's book, The Not So Big Life. I am still energized by the four days of writing I put in before New Year's last year.

Now my friend in L.A. has just sent me a blog post from one of her yoga teachers, where she outlines a counter-intuitive Thanksgiving activity dreamed up by the Dalai Lama, and included in his newest book. I am totally taken with this idea, and plan to do something about it. It's called "Count Your Sufferings," and it is designed to help you realize that suffering is mostly in the mind - that is, it feels like suffering because of your reactions. What is suffering to one person might be considered a "challenge" to another. In some cases it might even be considered a blessing by someone else. Think about it!

Enjoy! And I hope I remember to post about it after the holiday, to let you know how it went for us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quote Break Again

"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."

– John Taylor Gatto

Monday, November 16, 2009

Counting Money

I have to admit we use a lot of plastic in front of our kids - "money" is something they find lying on the floor in the form of coins, to stuff into the slots in the coffee table.

It occurred to me the other day that maybe Ezra didn't know the denominations of coins (which he would, if we ever used them - he goes everywhere with us). He did not know the value of a nickel or a dime. I think I told him how much they were, but I'm sure he forgot because he wasn't interested - it was my question, not his.

But then the boy across the street told him he'd gotten a $3 cap gun at Walmart (oh joy!) and it occurred to Ezra that maybe all those pennies and random, valueless coins might add up to $3.

It was sad for me to be witnessing his exuberance for learning about money with the twin shadows of weaponry and Wal-Mart hanging over us. But whatever, right? He stacked up all his quarters and declared that he actually had SIX dollars. I pointed out that he actually had more (how I wish I hadn't felt compelled to do this!). So he asked me how much dimes and nickels are, and then we made stacks of those. He did all the addition in his own head, and figured out he had $7.95, plus eight extra pennies. After a while he figured out how to add the pennies in, too, and triumphantly shouted, "I have eight dollars and three cents!"

That was pretty exciting, and I didn't do anything but answer his questions. I did offer to get a pen and paper for him to add, but he didn't want it. I don't know where he learned how to add in his head anyway - but somehow he figures it out when he really wants to know the answer.

What could be more inspirational than knowing that you could actually almost buy THREE cap guns??

Mr. Claus and my Mainstream Christmas Magic

Since I've already gotten requests for "ideas for what to get the kids this year," and the neighbors have already busted out their plastic nativity scenes, I decided it's high time for me to dig up this old email I wrote to a group list I was on a few years ago when the question of how to handle Santa came up. Here it is, (now slightly edited for clarity) circa 2005, I think. . .


The idea of Santa as a "deception" was a new one to me when I first came across it on an internet website a few years ago. That way of looking at it didn't "resonate" with me but I spent time thinking and talking about it, and Ezra was a baby at the time, so I figured I had a while.

I always loved having Santa as a child and I was probably the last child to give up all hope. I was still clinging to the 1% chance that he could be real when my third grade teacher prefaced a lecture by saying, "You guys are all too old to believe in Santa, right?" and everyone laughed. (Except me!) but I wasn't the least bit angry with my parents - I was just sad that the world was not as magical as I had wanted it to be.

In any case, I was wondering why my sisters and I never felt "deceived," and then a friend of mine lent me a book called Joyful Parenting which had a chapter about Christmas. That chapter explained exactly how I remember Santa being handled in my family - like a *game*. I think that is why I have no issues about it. . . Nobody ever outright lied to me about anything. My dad, especially, would say things like, "Geez, those must be Santa's ashy footprints there on the carpet by the fireplace!" etc. - it was all very playful.

Also my parents never told me that those Santas at shopping malls, etc. were real, like many parents do. They would tell me they were just people pretending to be Santa or something like, "Those must just be Santa's helpers."

As it happens, my husband is Jewish, and the first year we were married he demanded that we have no tree and he even refused to let me listen to Christmas music while he was around. He has gradually softened, and this year Ezra was three and a half, and my husband suddenly did a 180 and became obsessed with all things Christmas. He decided he really wanted to have Santa for his son because he only got to have Santa as a child for *one* year, after he begged his mother to allow it. (Note: he grew up in Minneapolis where Jews are scarce, so he was one of the only kids who didn't get visited by Santa). And the next year his mom told him there was no Santa, and he was devastated. To this day he still harasses her for "ruining Santa for him" - he really wanted a magical childhood, too.

(Speaking of magical, I also feel good about doing Santa because of my ties to the Waldorf community and also because of reading Magical Child, by Joseph Chilton Pearce.)

Also, at our house Santa has always used plain colored tissue paper, and we are trying to do simple gifts that are wooden or look handmade (so no "Made in China" stickers on the bottom!) My friend Mary also told me that with her kids, they wrap glitter up in all the presents from Santa, and it falls out like "fairy dust" as the gifts are opened. I love that idea!

(I am, however, totally against the "You only get presents if you're good" threat. (A.K.A. "you'd better watch out, you'd better not cry.")). (Where do the periods go in that sentence?)

I should also add that the "game" of Santa in my family never stopped. We did it all through my teens and 20s and we got gifts for my dad, too, and we'd always say things like "Hey, how did Santa's elves get a framed photo of me at graduation?" or "Hmmm. . . I guess Santa was shopping in Norway this year, too - just like YOU, Dad!" Maybe we're just dorks, but it's fun.

As far as Christmas being too mainstream, I just do what I can to make it how I like it, and I concentrate on rebelling against society in ways that don't have to do with anybody's joy.


Thank God I was able to unearth that. . . I'm much too lazy to write about it all over again now!

I suppose I could add, though, that now that Ezra is 6-1/2, we do a lot more of saying things like, "Hmmm. . . I don't know. What do you think?"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quote Break

Time out for a quote. I just love quotes! Here's John Holt again:

“True learning – learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning — can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

J-A-P-A-N Spells Relief!

Aaahhhhhhhhhh. . . . a little bit of respite from all the weaponry talk! Because of his interest in ninjas, Ezra has told me he wants to learn to "write Japanese." Online I found the Hiragana alphabet, which he insisted I handwrite out for him, and he's been spending the afternoon making lawn signs that say things like "Halt!" and "Sign Your Name Here." It has something to do with ninjas. He's using the alphabet phonetically (as much as is possible), which I think is a great way to learn it!

John Taylor Gatto Always Gives Me the Chills!

I just got this Michael Mendizza/John Taylor Gatto interview in my inbox. A great read, especially for those who have not yet taken the opportunity to read Gatto's revolutionary books such as Dumbing Us Down, A Different Kind of Teacher, and The Underground History of American Education.

Unfortunately the interview is *horribly* edited (note that he even spelled Gatto's last name wrong!!). Grrrrr.

Anyway, here's my favorite Gatto quote from it, which comes right after he is explaining how he won New York State Teacher of the Year, something he says only happened because they never asked him how his students achieved such amazing things (since then, they always ask), because, for example, he was allowing kids to not attend class. Which totally cracks me up.

The [school] system imposes certain boundaries, certain restrictions, by simply demanding attendance twelve or more years. Imagine all the 'real life' experiences young people might have during that time. And the money - imagine if all the money that went into salaries, buildings, and books were given to families to invest in these experiences. When you really see what is taking place - you become a saboteur.

Okay, I take it back - that is not my favorite quote from it - there are too many to count. Read it! Let's discuss! I'm so excited!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Schooling: The Hidden Agenda

I think I forgot to mention that another one of our first inspirations to unschool came after I read the novel Ishmael and became a Daniel Quinn fan back when Ezra was a baby. We read his awesome essay entitled "Schooling: The Hidden Agenda," and it sealed the deal!

It's a real winner, even with husbands who won't read, and often even with public school teachers!

I hope you will read it and let me know what you think.

Ottar broke the camera

Shockingly, Ottar broke the only digital camera we had, which was a cheap one my husband was bringing to work almost every day anyway. Now there really is no hope for this blog!! What to do?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Family Volunteering? Hmmm.

I have a friend who is thinking about volunteering abroad for a year, because her husband is jobless, she hates her job, and they can't afford their rent. She thought, "might as well do something crazy."

I got really excited for her and started researching options for her. Then I realized *I* want to do it. Chances are pretty good we'll be in the same situation next year! Not to be negative - but hey, this could be my chance to live in Latin America with my kids - though I'd been thinking of doing it about 10 years from now.

I'm still researching options, but for now I found this interesting article about preparing for the possibility.

Don't ask me who would let me volunteer with a four-year-old! But you never know.

If anyone out there knows of any foreign volunteer organizations that are totally awesome and ethical, *and* allow you to bring your kids, let me know!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Freakin Out

Ah, now I see. I was just told that *everyone* has a nervous breakdown when they move to this town. I feel so much better now. And how nice of everyone here to ignore me during my time of pain, so that I could get the full effects of feeling isolated, confused, and in despair!

Now, of course, the question is, what am I going to do now? I do not know, so I've turned as usual to some good friends, some inspiration from nature, and some author pals. Today I shall quote Mr. Eckhart Tolle, master of the Present Moment, who I have been reading this morning.

Before [Banzan] became a great Zen master, he spent many years in the pursuit of enlightenment, but it eluded him. Then one day, as he was walking in the marketplace, he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer. "Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer. And the butcher replied, "Every piece of meat I have is the best. There is no piece of meat here that is not the best." Upon hearing this, Banzan became enlightened.

So, that's my strategy for the week - to think of every second of my present situation as if it were one of those pieces of meat. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The New Phase: Toy Guns

Photo by Leo Kim

If not previously mentioned, Ezra has moved on to a self-prescribed Gun Unit. He knows more about guns than I ever thought possible. He knows about their triggers, mechanisms, ammunition, etc.

I thought there was nothing less interesting to me than rockets. But I was wrong! Guns. . . I am *so* not interested in them. And yet Ezra gives me mini-lectures about them daily.

There are days when he seems a little nutty. But I just found a photo album of "Peaceful Kids with Toy Guns" on Sandra Dodd's website. And it makes me feel better!

Anyway, luckily this interest has other branches. He is now very interested in the Civil War (something I just claimed I wouldn't teach him about for years. . . oh well.) He really wants to become a hunter now, and kill his own food. And also he has decided that instead of an aerospace engineer, he now wants to become an inventor. He invents dozens of guns every day (and then either explains them to me verbally, or draws them out and tells me to ask him questions about them.)

So, I'm just hoping the Gun Phase will be no longer lived than the Rocket Phase. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why We Unschool - Part II (or: Born to Learn)

Ottar (at 11 mo.) taking in the world around him!

Well, I received a complaint about my previous explanation of why we unschool. I thought it was pretty good, myself. But I guess I'll try to be a little more thorough.

I was inspired to give a better explanation by the woman who does the blog Unschool Days, which I wrote about this summer. Here is the link to her explanation of why *she* is an unschooler. It's an excellent explanation, and I already posted that link this summer, too.

However, I went through a semi-rabid anti-school phase a few years ago (due to reflecting upon my own educational experiences - my kids have never been to school or preschool), and there are many, many excellent books, essays, and YouTube videos about what is wrong with schools. Now I really just prefer to focus on what is so cool about "lifelong learning" (another euphemism for unschooling) because why fight against something when you can just forge ahead happily? The school system is falling apart on its own, and almost everyone can see that anyway. I love that people continue to expose the underlying creepiness in the public school system, and in the idea of school in general. I will continue to provide links and share books and essays, but I don't feel like going into exhaustive detail myself.

In any case, my favorite explanation of why we are unschooling is because there is so much inspiration in life. The minute my first son was born, he was taking in so much information. He was a very alert baby, watching the world, absorbing information, etc. He didn't need anybody to teach him anything - he just needed to be provided with rich experiences, such as lots of social settings, lots of quiet time in nature, lots of places and spaces to play, lots of sensory experiences, lots of carrying, lots of love, etc.

I had already decided to unschool him before he was a year old, as previously mentioned. And last fall when it came time for lots of other five-year-olds to start kindergarten, it really struck me how ridiculous it seemed to use kindergarten as anything other than a day-care (for working parents) because he was so clearly able to learn everything he needed to know just by living life.

I do tend to tell people in sort of a flip way, "I don't teach him anything, he just teaches himself." But what I really mean is that I tell him the answers when he asks me questions, I help facilitate his learning by looking for resources that support his interests, and I bring a lot of my own interests and values into his life by living my life and including him in it, or by purposely bringing things into his life that I value.

Whew! There, have I explained it well enough now?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Day at the Park with Papa!

Kenny found this awesome rock-climbing park today, in the next town over. I am soooo excited! I love rock-climbing and allowing kids to climb on real, genuine natural rocks instead of those plastic ones that are all the rage these days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Hiking, I Hope.

This fall, I'm trying to put a little structure in my life. And also, make up for the fact that we didn't get the woodsy-acreage rental we were hoping for. So, we're going to go once a week to Kickapoo Valley Reserve, (which, interestingly, I just found out is a proposed "Dark Sky Preserve Site"!) and hike the trails. Last week we went to check it out and did a mile loop. Ezra was not thrilled (he likes to hike with other kids) but in case nobody joins us in the future, I got a great little list of tips for hiking with kids from an Appalachian Trail site.

The Results are In!

All of my blog fans (me) agree that I need a digital camera - right away!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Rocket Legacy

I was just looking for a post I thought I'd published, about what the Rocket Phase of Ezra's caused to set in motion. But I can't find it, so even if it's here somewhere, I think I'll recap. Ezra claims he's "done with rockets," though he still uses his Nerf rocket launcher, and still says he wants to go to Cape Canaveral. I think he still wants to be a Rocket Scientist, too, though I haven't asked him lately. These days he's all about weaponry and self-defense.

In any case, the rocket phase started with YouTube, as previously posted. From that, he got into model rockets, memorized every Space Shuttle ever launches, developed an interest in Florida, learned a lot about planets/astronomy, learned countdowns in four or five languages, and developed a slight interest in whichever country was launching (for example, Japan or India). He also memorized about 20 countdowns, along with the static, background noise, accents, mistakes, etc.!

He also set up his Rocket Party (see post) and planned an entire 2-3 hour event with guests, snacks, Q & A, and lots of artwork.

Oh, and his drawing really took off!! With his Doodle Pro last summer ('08) he drew thousands of space shuttles just on our one-month camping trip. He also drew many with marker, and became an *excellent* drawing artist, in mine and many other people's opinions. He had many drawings up at the St. Paul Art Crawl, and he had his own painting booth out in the hall for the event, painting rockets for a crowd!

He also participated in the A-Z Gallery Art Show - he entered a drawing of Atlantis, I think.

He learned a lot about chemistry and physics by asking friends and relatives about rocket fuel, propulsion, etc.

He has been saving up change he finds around the house, to help us pay for a trip to Cape Canaveral.

He got a huge package in the mail from a family friend who works for NASA - got tons of merchandise.

Pretending to be an astronaut was his favorite passtime for over a year. He had a space suit we found for $6 at the thrift store (see photo at bottom of blog). He wore it almost *every day*, and developed his acting and "hamming" skills. He also obviously attracted plenty of attention and got into *many* fascinating conversations with adults about space shuttles, space, etc..

More recently, he exchanged letters with Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy Space Center. He wrote Bob a letter that I think was about 4 pages (dictated). Bob also sent him all kinds of photos, stickers, etc. (Turns out Bob is the son of a couple my parents know).

He took a NASA class last spring. He was too young for the class, but they let him in because he was so enthusiastic. This also led him to take "Blow it Up!" - a class at the Science Museum of Minnesota this summer.

Oh, and also last winter he started saying he wanted to learn math "because you need math to be an aerospace engineer." So he started asking lots of math questions, and we got him a workbook.

He also got into some great music and movies that had to do with space. Two of his grandparents bought him "Hail, Columbia!" for the holidays last year, for example, and for a long time he was really into the song "Rocket Ship" and would go around the house singing it. Oh, and he also got really into the religious song "On Eagle's Wings" after watching a sad video about the Columbia explosion set to music.

Oh! And I almost forgot - he started learning to read by trying to read the names of the space shuttles, and needing to retype them into the box on YouTube.

That's all I can think of right now, on a very distracted Monday morning. But I think so far it's a great list - and it shows how one thing can lead to another if a child isn't distracted from going in whatever direction he chooses!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whole Child/Whole Parent Inspiration!

Here is an awesome quote I just came across in a book I just finished - Whole Child/Whole Parent by Polly Berrien Berends. It's a very good book, about 20 years old, I think, but it is occasionally *too* enlightened for my own comprehension level. However, I have gotten some fabulous ideas and inspirations from it.

For example, here's the essence of unschooling, right here, from p.129 (italics are in the original):

The learning child unconsciously assumes two things that are crucial to learning. The first assumption is that there is nothing standing between him and happiness but what he hasn't learned yet. At least for a while, he does not think that having or doing something else would be nicer. As long as he's learning he's happy. He lives to find out. The second assumption is that whatever comes along next is the next thing he needs to learn. He does not doubt the fulfilling nature of life. These two assumptions are crucial to receptivity. And receptivity is crucial to learning.

I think I will tattoo this on my forearm: "Whatever comes along next is the next thing I need to learn."

Just imagine not having lost that assumption! It's time for me to re-assume it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall, Revised

Alrighty then! It's official, we are *out* of the homeschool co-op classes for fall, and I have to admit to being a little relieved. For some reason it was starting to feel a little too school-y for me, anyway.

After I made my list yesterday, I asked Ezra what else he'd like to learn and after some discussion he said he wanted me to teach him some Spanish. (This came up because the class that was too full for him to get into included a Spanish class.)

I have to admit a part of me dreads this, but OTOH I've been feeling really angry at myself for letting my Spanish slide so badly for the last 8 years. So, we're off! I've decided to try and do Spanish tomorrow morning while we're waiting for the milk man.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Managing Fall Semester

Fall is the time of year when all the neurosis comes out in homeschooling families, in my experience. Suddenly you feel like you are supposed to be signing your kid up for a million activities, just like everyone else. Supposedly, anyway.

Well, I missed this frenzy period once again this year, because of moving around Labor Day.

We did get in on the local Homeschool Co-op startup, though, but we are currently in the position of deciding whether or not we will try to continue this fall, or wait until January, when a new semester begins. I am leaning towards waiting until January, due to the fact that bringing Ottar along has been way too challenging for my ability levels right now. And also Ezra was put in a class that is for 4.5-6 year olds, and he is going along with it but not enjoying it to the degree that he is willing to participate in it on his own (with me dropping him off). So, I am thinking of things we could do this fall as True Unschoolers!

Ezra did start "Little Ninjas" last week - a martial arts class. He's wanted to do martial arts for a long time, so I was very excited when I saw this class being offered.

The other things Ezra said he wanted to learn this fall are: archery, blacksmithing, and art.

I can't find him an art class so far, so I think we'll do that at home. And I also can't find a kids' archery class, but I am trying to figure something out. And there is at least a one-day blacksmithing workshop we've found that he can take with one of his parents.

As parents we have also decided to take the opportunity to look at Ezra's "first grade year" as a chance for us to gain some of the skills we are bitter that we never learned, ourselves! So, for this year we are going to work on a variety of skills as a family. Included among them, for the record:

-woodworking projects
-sewing lessons
-"handy" projects, such as fixing the screen Ottar just wrecked
-beekeeping workshop (I've always wanted to do this!)
-hunting skills (my husband is going to work on this with a friend)
-patio construction

Well, that's it for now! I just wanted to write some stuff down before I forgot. Once again, too bad I don't have a digital camera right now, to spruce up this barren post.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Counting Votes

photo by Leo Kim

Everyone say "aye" if you think it would be a good idea if I actually had a digital camera, so I don't have to cut and paste pics of my kids off other people's Facebook albums.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

So Help Me God

I will get *this* house organized. This is our fifth move since Ezra was born and I am ***done*** living a life of organizational misery. Especially since there is another move on the horizon . . . probably within a year or two.

Luckily, during my ill-fated attempt to actually be able to browse at the local library (only 3 blocks away, I think! If I actually go directly there instead of biking a mile out of the way looking for it.) I happened upon the above video in the kids' section, when I wasn't even looking for it! Divine intervention, for sure. Especially evident because I was unable to even attempt the 2nd floor adult section due to Ottar's need to run willy-nilly through the library, carrying one of those cool metal stools.

Anyway, I already almost cried several times during the video, and I'm only a little more than half done. This woman, Julie Morgenstern, is like an angel from heaven sent to save me from myself.

Of course I will keep this blog (and my other blog, Organizing Is Easy, I hope) updated on my amazing progress.

Also, I think that watching this video is a MUST for all homeschooling families. Really. Unless you are one of those people who has it all together, like Mariah.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Break Time

I'm sure at least one person out there is going NUTS wondering, "Why aren't there more posts on Unschooling is Dreamy lately?"

The reason is, we are trying to move.

We finally settled on a house last night, exactly 8 days before we are scheduled to leave Minnesota for Wisconsin. Now we just have to find a moving truck!

Here is a picture to tide everyone over while we are going through this upheaval.

Oh, whoops. It posted at the top. Oh well. It's a picture from our month-long camping trip last summer.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Awesome Video - Art or Physics or Chemistry?

This video is amazing. Only about a half an hour. You can get it from First Run Films. It's actually an art film, but the entire film is watching physics/chemistry as an installation. Here is a more clear definition of it from Wikipedia:

The Way Things Go (German: Der Lauf der Dinge) is a 1987 art film by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. It documents a long causal chain assembled of everyday objects, resembling a Rube Goldberg machine.

The machine is in a warehouse, about 100 feet long, and incorporates materials such as tires, trash bags, ladders, soap, oil drums, and gasoline. Fire and pyrotechnics are used as chemical triggers. The film is nearly 29 minutes, 45 seconds long, but some of that is waiting for something to burn, or slowly slide down a ramp.

The film evolved out of work the artists did on their earlier photography series, "Quiet afternoon," (German: Stiller Nachmittag) of 1984-1985. As the delicately unstable assemblages they constructed for the photos were apt to almost immediately collapse, they decided that they wanted to make use of this energy.[1] The film may also have been inspired by the video work of fellow Swiss artist, Roman Signer. The artists undoubtably saw his video work which was exhibited at the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1981.[2] Signer's videos often document objects performing simple actions that are the result of physical phenomena.

And here's a little video "teaser".

Anyway, this video is great entertainment for adults. However, it is rated G, and so I let my kids watch it. My 2-yo especially loves it - they get to watch one video every Wednesday and he always begs for it to be The Way Things Go.

Of course, it just so happens to be educational - but it's accidental, so it brings up questions about what the materials are, etc. without answering them (thank God). But it is quite an inspiration, IMO. Makes me want to go build my own weird obstacle-course/installation-type thing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unschooling-Friendly Zines

While supplies last, click on the image of Misfit Zine at the top of the blog to order your very own copy of my unschooler-friendly zine!

This zine has received rave reviews, but unfortunately, I have limited quantities left because I have decided to take my cartooning and writing to a new website I'm building, instead!

If you go to my etsy shop and see that my zines are gone, feel free to let me know and I can sell you some directly over email.


Oh, and P.S. let me know if you know of any other unschoolers who do blogs, please.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stress, Money, and Unschooling

Well, well, well. It seems that the "recession" is finally affecting us. Not only did my husband have to take an out-of-state job he is totally overqualified and underpaid for, but now he's got a 2-month space between jobs, is ineligible for unemployment, and we have no insurance and a son who likely has Lyme disease. With the upcoming move to Wisconsin almost upon us, I feel like quoting an excellent book I just read, called Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley:

It has been well documented that adversity ratchets up parents' levels of anxiety. Worries about being unemployed, about losing housing, about where the next meal is coming from do nothing good for parental care. To the contrary, the anxiety and depression that trying conditions induce tend to make parents harsh and inconsistent disciplinarians, even neglectful and abusive. (This is not to say that all parents who live in poverty, in illness, or in dangerous conditions react this way). This is precisely the kind of parenting that can enhance a child's stress reactivity, explains Meaney: "The anxiety of the parents is transmitted to the children." Being poor, jobless, or homeless induces a physiological stress response in adults, which is somehow transmitted to the children. Although that "Somehow" remains to be worked out in detail. Meaney's two decades of studies on how maternal behavior in rats influences the temperament of their offspring points in one direction: parental behavior may alter the expression of genes in their children. In this way, says Meaney, "the effects of poverty on emotional and intellectual development in children are mediated by the parent."

Really, I just like this quote because it makes me feel better because a. it makes me feel like it's NO WONDER I'm stressed and crabby with the kids sometimes. And b. it reminds me of why I have no interest in living hand-to-mouth anymore. That was okay for the last fifteen years, but I'm all done with that now, thank you.

Last summer we were homeless, somewhat voluntarily, but it wasn't until the last few weeks, when we really didn't know where we were going to go next, that we suspected it might be affecting the kids in a negative way. Of course so much depends on the perceptions of the parents. I intend to ride this "problem" out smoothly. I've got a good handle on the packing, and although we have not signed a lease for our new place, we have a good feeling about it. And it looks like I'll be going back to work one way or another, and that's okay, too. Kind of exciting, really.

I don't really feel like writing about unschooling today, because first and foremost on my mind is "how on earth are we going to pay rent?" But maybe that's an extracurricular lesson in itself. If I have a good attitude about it, I could even discuss it with my six-year-old. Having read Rich Dad, Poor Dad (with an open mind), I think it might be a fun activity for us to brainstorm ways to come up with the $3500 we think we will need over the next two months. Fun, fun, fun!

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Blog Won an AWARD!

I won an Honest Scrap Award!!

This is the first award I've won since the 1980s!

I got this award from writer Carrie Pomeroy, of Riding Shotgun and Play School fame! I am so honored!

This award is given to bloggers who:

1) write soul-bearingly, thus exposing themselves to possible ridicule
2) have blogs that are "brilliant" in either content or design


All recipients of the award are asked to list ten honest things about themselves. I think I can do that:

1. I named this blog Unschooling is Dreamy in order to manifest a dreamy life. At the time of its inception, we had just moved into our loft apartment after a summer of homelessness. It was hard enough to exist, but on top of that I had the sudden panic of "oh my god, I just realized I am totally responsible for my child's entire education - what have I DONE??"

Fortunately I quickly got over this, as soon as I realized every parent in the world actually has the same responsibility, ultimately. I'm just one of the lucky few who knows it.

So far, this blog has done its job of helping me keep on the straight and narrow with my positive unschooling thoughts.

2. Most of the time I have absolutely no idea why I am doing this blog. Sometimes when I'm driving in my car, I remember something I wrote on here and I am mortified. Then I come home and delete it. If I remember.

3. I have been paying the library about $100 per year in fines. I used to feel that at least this was a donation to charity; however I was just informed that it goes into a giant pool of taxpayer money, and probably goes to fund highways or something. And I don't even *like* highways.

4. I absolutely cannot stand it when someone hands me an eating utensil with a sticky handle.

5. I love hypocrisy. It just goes to show you how adorable people can be.

6. I also love Tootsie Rolls, candy corns, and Twizzlers. What these all have in common is that they are all solely made up of some kind of sugar, some kind of wax, and some kind of artificial color. Pure poison!

7. I hate having to read blogs online. I did a zine for 8 years because I love to work with actual real, tangible things. I miss zining already! But I don't miss doing all that work and losing money and having nobody read them.

8. My "what I could have been" career is a rock musician. And maybe also a Flamenco dancer. I have no talent or experience in either of these things in my "real life." But that's okay. I'm figuring it out.

9. I used to bite my toenails when I was little. Now my son does it, too. It really horrifies my husband, but actually I get a little misty, myself. He's a real chip off of me.

10. I believe that almost any problem can be solved by a long walk along the water's edge and a cup of coffee. Or alternately, a 90-minute yoga class and a couple of dirty Tanqueray martinis.

Also, I as an Honest Scrap recipient, I must pass the award on to other blogs . I therefore nominate Soulemama, which is an awesome crafts/family/photography/unschooler blog I check in with whenever I need a little inspiration. I think it's brilliant in content *and* design, and I also love how its author, Amanda Soule, is willing to so casually share so much of her family life with strangers.

I also nominate a new blog I found called Unschool Days, which has lots of bad-ass political unschooler attitude woven in and amongst the regular stuff. The best is her letter of resignation from a New Jersey school district.

And now, I'm off to bask in my own awesomeness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ceramics at Last

Well, after 6 years of being without a clay studio, I finally had to break down and let Ezra learn how to do ceramics from *someone else*. He asked to take a clay class, and I had really wanted to teach him myself, seeing as I have 27 years of clay experience under my belt. But was I really going to go dig out all those supplies in some relative's storage unit? Or drive the little breakables all the way to North Minneapolis to be fired? No, fortunately I was saved by Eileen Cohen, ceramist extraordinaire, who happens to live in the building next door and has many more credentials than even I have - which is a relief. I feel that Ezra is in good hands.

As an extra bonus, she gave him some clay to take home early, to "practice" and so I got to be the first one to show him how to make things, after all. First he wanted to do a tiny little mug (we had less than a pound of clay) and then he made a little cat sitting on a stool. Very cute! I feel fulfilled, and now Ezra gets to take a whole class from a real pro.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Being Happy vs. Being Right

The circus came to town last month - and parked right outside our window. I thought it would be really exciting to take the kids to Cirque du Soleil - after all, I've always wanted to go myself, and Ezra has been enrolled in circus classes off and on for a couple of years. (I admit I live vicariously through him - I wish I were a fire dancer!)

Once we saw that the tent was blocking our view of the Mississippi, however (and the view is one of the main reasons we moved into this apartment), and were informed that the music would be very loud, and would last 'til 10:30 p.m. almost every night for 8 weeks, and once we realized that they specially positioned the spotlights to shine right into our bedroom windows all night long. . . well, I thought maybe we should all get tickets for free.

My husband went to a meeting, where he was placated by some superior-types, and told that such a request "sounded reasonable." He was also told they'd adjust the lights.

But no such luck - we soon received word that all St. Paul "neighbors" would receive 50% off the tickets - even people who live far enough away that they are not affected by the noise, traffic, lighting, or view blockage. We had a few days to act on this discount deal. The days ticked by. I had been planning on writing a heartfelt letter to someone - but to whom?

Finally, I realized that holding out for my free tickets could take another month, drive me insane, and end up fruitless. Yes, it's true, I could work on manifesting the tickets, but I tried manifesting big things last summer and I just ended up homeless.

So, I decided I'd rather be Happy than Right. I just bought tickets for myself and my six-year-old. I feel guilty not taking my almost three-year-old, but the children's tickets are $29 each, even with the discount and not including the "shipping" fee (of emailing it to me) or whatever other surcharges they slap on there.

For this I will deprive myself of a haircut, a lot of coffee, and many other things. But I just had to go and see the circus. I might be a doormat, but at least I can look out the window for the next five weeks and have an association with a show, and not just a big, imposing tent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Toy Removal, The New Addiction

First we put a bunch of toys away in our new storage unit. Then I kept sending my husband over with more loads of them. Mind you, it's been 2 or 3 months and the kids haven't even noticed. Now we have so many fewer that we can actually keep them all picked up!! And I'm packing up even more. . . little by little we are returning to sanity and I think there is no coincidence. . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mama's Adventures

Hmmm. . . Just found this post in the Drafts.


Well, I already have so many requests for what to post on - but I have to begin somewhere.

I will post someday about the process of unschooling I've been going through since college.

But for now I'm going to describe what's been going on around the house lately - as far as me.

Last fall we moved into an artists' co-op. Partly, I must admit, we did this because the apartments are huge and gorgeous and you can ride bikes in them and hang swings and ladders from the ceiling. But mostly we did it because I felt like I needed to pull myself together as an artist, and the time was *ripe* - now or never, it seemed. And it has turned out to be an excellent decision - one we almost didn't make on account of our children "needing" a yard and a neighborhood, but now I can definitely see how this place, and the people in it, and the experiences they are having living downtown, are just as beneficial. Not to mention that I am *not* going insane, which I definitely would have otherwise.

Anyway, next month is the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl. We moved in just before the fall one, so I did not participate, though I easily could have, I now see! I decided to set some goals for myself for participating in the art crawl as a cartoonist and zinester. I have not participated in any art shows or sales (save one extremely depressing zine show) since before Ezra was born, and my medium was always clay - and now it's paper.

So, I've been sort of frantically trying to figure out what to make, how I'm going to get it done, and how I can possibly pull it off with a 7-year-old Mac, a semi-broken printer that was not meant for artwork reproduction, and a broken scanner (now replaced, thank God!)

The process of zine-making (especially my zine) is extremely time-consuming and crazymaking. And I'm trying out a lot of new "products" as well - t-shirts, matchbook notebooks, greeting cards, little cartoon books, blank books, and whatever else I can crank out before April 24. Fortunately I'm sharing my display space (a.k.a. our home) with my friend Brie from Viroqua - she is going to make "eco-friendly wearables" which will help fill the vast amount of space we have in here.

I feel so wistful. I am going crazy now. What happened? Well, the art crawl was not all that I had dreamed. Somehow the disappointment over not being able to get done what I wanted to get done (only ended up getting done an "almost-double issue" of my zine, and a little book about cats that was ill-received by everyone but ONE enlightened shopper. *Sigh*.

But we have just found out we are moving to Wisconsin. . . so, time to regroup and reassess! I am excited to decide what the next segment of my life will be about. The singleness of purpose (relatively speaking) since moving into this downtown co-op has been extremely invigorating. I can't wait to see what I'll move on to next!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Teaching *Oneself* to Read

I have a little bit to add about Ezra teaching himself to read this winter, through Tintin comics and Captain Underpants books. Some things I have observed are that he has hardly ever struggled to sound out a word and has asked few questions as he has gone along. This got me to thinking as I was chatting with a friend about it, that maybe with no pressure, no shame, and no degrading reading materials (as in "see Dick run"!) kids can just smoothly glide into reading, which means that all reading programs, curriculums, etc. are a bunch of "hooey" as some of my elders like to say.

What is the point of "see Dick run" anyway, except to convince you you can't read anything *real*?

My sister listened to Ezra reading Captain Underpants aloud to his cousin at a family reunion two weeks ago, and she came by and said, "He reads as well as *you*!" This was obviously a slight exaggeration, but it made me realize that he hasn't struggled at all. He just devours these cartoon books. He can figure out the "hard" words because of the context. Also, I read some of the books to him before he reread them on his own. I have heard of many, many unschooler kids starting to read voraciously through comic-book reading (mostly boys) and sometimes they don't start until they are teenagers, but when they do start they learn extremely quickly, usually without anyone realizing it, as Ezra did.

It all gets me to wondering about "learning disabilities" with reading. I am "lucky" by most people's standards, in that Ezra is an "early reader." (My husband and I were also reading before kindergarten, and we spend much of the day reading as adults, too, so I think it is hardwired into him). However, I was totally prepared for him to start reading at 11 (as Joseph Chilton Pearce recommends) or even later. (I suppose Ottar could be a late reader, though I am guessing he will read early, too, as everyone in our families has always seemed to.) In any case, I wonder if "learning disabilities" are not only just a result of trying to force all kids to read by age 8 (as many unschoolers/homeschoolers have asserted) but are also a result of pressuring kids to the point that they believe they are stupid, which makes reading seem harder than it really is. I can definitely see how this could happen, because I developed the belief that I was "stupid" about math when I was in eighth grade. I'd always been an "advanced" math student, but that year I had an uninspirational teacher, and was introduced to algebraic concepts that I could not connect with real life. I lost interest, and after that I never cared about, or was good at, math again. In high school I dropped out of precalculus after getting a "D" (even though I was a B+/A- student). Even now when people discuss most kinds of math, or algebraic concepts, my entire brain shuts down. I literally can *not* do the work.

So, my unsolicited advice to all unschooler/homeschooler parents is to never try to teach your kids to read, period. Just read things to them and leave all the books available to them, and eventually they will latch onto something that interests them enough that they will "have" to read in order to know more. For more inspiration on this subject, I often refer people to the book The Call to Brilliance, which is a book about an unschooler family with three kids all in their twenties at the time of the book's publication. All the kids are "successful" by U.S. standards, and none learned to read until 11 or 12 at the earliest. They were all in college by the time they were 15, if I remember correctly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Very Short Post about Pirates

Ezra and Ottar go through pirate phases. I regret that I do not have photos of the three-day phase Ezra was in last week, where he drew bloody bullet holes all over his and his brother's body.

But here's a photo of several weeks ago when they were out playing in the hall of our apartment building.

Indoor Gym

I think I mentioned a long time ago that my kids spend a lot of time doing gymnasium and circus activities in our loft apartment. This winter they did this for hours a day. As you can see from the photos, we have plenty of space! Unfortunately the fast-action setting on my film camera did not work, but I guess now at least you can see how *fast* they go. Ezra's favorite thing is to jump off the couch and swing across the apartment to the wall. Ottar here is pictured with one leg each through a ring. Then I push him really high, like he's on a swing at the playground, except his feet almost touch the ceiling lamp. Fun!!

By the way, that strange thing lying on the futon underneath the kids is a shark. Oh, and the rope ladder and rings are from IKEA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A YouTube Education

Okay, I admit it - somewhere along the line, to keep myself from going insane, I introduced Ezra to YouTube. Or actually, maybe my husband did it? Anyway, it was probably about a year ago and we were just discovering it ourselves. How much fun we all had looking up our favorite segments of Sesame Street and The Muppets!

Anyway, that's how Ezra got into rockets and space shuttles - one of us decided to show him a launch. I think it was me, and that I did it to keep him quiet while I tried to get his brother down for a nap.

Let me please explain that I am pretty much against children using computers. Oops! Well, never mind my values. . .

So, Ezra is a YouTube junkie, sort of. He got a little carried away, in our opinion, so we went down to one day a week (he chose Sundays) where he can watch YouTube on his own. It is of course tricky because there is some creepy stuff on there - porn mixed with children's content, swearing and incest inserted into Ezra's favorite Christmas video, etc. etc. But for the most part it's been a huge learning tool.

The cool thing is, when he is interested in something, he can obsess over it via youtube for months! Watching the same launch over and over again, for example. Or more recently, watching everything about The Wizard of Oz that is on there - his recent favorite was a school play from the 90's. The songs were unbearable to listen to from the kitchen, but he and his brother couldn't get enough. Yes, that's right, I admit that, too - sometimes Ottar sits around watching YouTube also. Because he usually doesn't nap! And we live in a huge open loft apartment. Oh well.

But the cool thing is, when he was asking me about kilns, I found him some footage. Then we watched a video about welding, and one about blacksmithing. Now he is really interested in all those things (FIRE).

When people tell me their kids aren't interested in anything specific, I wonder if it's just because they aren't let loose on YouTube.

Raising Hikers

Ottar loves to do everything without pants!

I am a little bit obsessed with making sure my kids bond with their Earth Matrix*, I will admit. And I am proud to say that in the past month they have often spent up to nine hours straight running around the Minneapolis or St. Paul parks or nature areas. Usually it's more like 5 or 6, but still - that's pretty crazy, I think.

Anyway, we also went up north over Memorial Day weekend - to Naniboujou Lodge where we have been going since I was about 14 years old. My dad planned a couple of hikes - one to Devil's Kettle, which is kind of like a waterfall but is maybe officially a gorge?? Hmmm. . . need to find that out. Anyway, the next day we did one of my favorite hikes, which is to Eagle Mountain, south of Grand Marais. All in all the kids (and their same-aged cousins) hiked seven miles over two days. I say, that is pretty impressive! I actually had to talk Ottar out of taking a fork in the path that would have led him another 12 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail (but oh, we do have big plans to hike that someday!).

Both of my kids are very at home in the woods or on a beach, etc., but especially Ottar, either because of his age or his temperament (or his proximity to the ground?) loves to stop and observe various things along the trail before moving on.

I guess maybe all that running around the parks during the day, and all the crazy, crazy biking they've also been doing (soon to be the subject of another post) has paid off because I think they now both have Legs of Steel.


*Bonding with the Earth Matrix is a concept I learned about in Joseph Chilton Pearce's Magical Child, one of my favorite books. He says first the child must bond with the Mother Matrix in the first year of life - or else! The second year is for bonding with the Earth Matrix - or else again! Very compelling, but too much to explain here. Interestingly he says it is often traditionally the father's job to help the child bond with the earth in the second year of life. :)