Thursday, March 26, 2009

I would like to make an announcement

Ottar has stopped peeing on everything.

One day I just realized he hadn't done it in a while. Now that the phase is over, I think it was kind of a cute little phase - very memorable and surely we'll all laugh about it when we're much older.


Ezra learned to tie a knot today! It was very exciting for him. He was *really* excited to pick out a present for his cousin, Nicholas, who turns 6 today. He really wanted to get him a plastic rocket set from the Science Museum, which he was sure Nicholas really wanted. But once we got to the gift shop there, he wasn't too excited about the selection of rocket and astronaut toys that were within our spending range, so he opted to get Nicholas a huge wall poster, instead. It shows dozens of rockets (drawn) with information about each.

When we got home Ezra really wanted to get started wrapping the present. I was glad because he has not been too interested in learning to cut, and handles the scissors awkwardly. But he cut a nice long piece of wrapping paper and we taped it around the poster, and then he wanted to tie a cloth ribbon on. He worked very hard at "getting" the knot - whereas in the past he has just tried once and lost interest. It was nice that it was all about the inspiration of wanting to wrap Nicholas's present. When he got it tied on his own (I had to show him two or three times), he was so proud and ran around looking for other things to tie around the house. He also called Papa, who was in Las Vegas, just to tell him. (Even though he had for some reason not felt like talking on the phone to Papa since he left several days ago). It was a monumental event!

Ezra has also really picked up on reading and has started reading books to Ottar, which is so cute. They just sit on the couch together and enjoy books. I'm starting to notice a big leap in the amount of free time I have, and I haven't made the adjustment yet - it still seems too good to be true!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Continuum Concept

What you see here is a photo of my favorite book.

It's not an unschooling book - it's more like a renegade anthropology book.

But anyway, the "continuum concept" described within is the backbone of my educational philosophy. And that backbone is a belief that children do not really learn by being taught. They learn by observation, experience, and just teaching themselves whatever interests them.

It was through discussing The Continuum Concept that I came to meet many unschoolers.

It also just so happens that the book has many brilliant insights into the psychology of humanity and childrearing as well!

I think that anyone who is interested in unschooling, or even interested in people, would do themselves a serious favor by reading this book. The problem is I get so emotional about it that I can't explain it! But here is some good information about it:

Please note that one of my fave authors, John Holt, is quoted on the cover as saying, "If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book."

I'm not sure if there is time anymore for this book to save the world, but so far it's done a great job of saving thousands of families!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Parents & Kids

"It's painful to think that we know what's best for our children. It's hopeless."

Well, there it is, the most confounding Byron Katie quote ever. But it's so true, and yet I have not accepted it, as anyone could see by watching me live.

Anyway, I try to keep this in mind when I'm thinking Ezra is making the wrong choice by waiting in the car instead of coming in somewhere, or when he would rather stay inside than go outside to play, or when he is dying to watch a space shuttle video on YouTube. And I feel like he's watched too many already.

But, of course I really have no idea who he is going to become.

A few years ago, when I was depressed and had been for a long time, the thought suddenly popped into my head, "I could be a cartoonist!" In that moment, my entire life up to that point suddenly made sense. Suddenly all the "struggle" and the seemingly pointless winding path I had taken was explained. I even got to be proud that I spent 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in junior high and high school doodling, daydreaming, and passing notes. Why, that is *just* what a cartoonist would do!

So often I think, we will look back on all of these things and realize that Ezra knew what was best for himself. Or, at least that's what Byron Katie would say, I think.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nature Deficit. . .

I will admit that the thing I worry most about as an urban unschooler is "Nature Deficit Disorder." Of course, if my kids went to the public school here, or any school in the city, they'd have the same problem! But then I could blame it on somebody else, to some degree. Aaah, isn't that just the luxury of having kids in school? But I digress.

One thing that makes me really sad is that my kids have no attachment to any natural place, really. When I was little I assumed that where I lived would always be mine, and would always be as natural as it was. Well. . . at least until my Rude Awakening at age 6, when we moved away from our 5.5-acre home to a new home on the lake. Not that I'm complaining about moving to the lake! But my older sister and I had a hard adjustment. Years later the land that was ours became a housing development, with 5 or 6 houses on the same lot that our house had stood on alone. Interestingly, someone fought to have our house moved (it had been the original house of Peter Gideon, "inventor" of the Wealthy Apple) and so it still stands down the hill from where it had been when I was living in it.

Now I take my kids out to my dad's house on the lake (the home we moved to when I was 6) but it has been quite sanitized over time. Rich neighbors have cut down trees and brush and re-landscaped it specifically to look like "Cotswald, England" (I'm not kidding!). And nowadays my dad always says, "When I'm gone, they'll plow this house over and build a mansion."

Soooo, my kids can't even "attach" to his land, either.

My husband and I have been talking for some time about moving to the woods or something. I used to feel incredibly desperate about this - like I and my kids are experiencing deprivation every single day. I feel a little better now that I am loving my loft apartment so much, and also after chatting with my stepsister, who just got back from three years in Switzerland. She said everyone in Zurich just heads for the mountains to hike every weekend. So I try to use the Swiss as my model in this way - and we try to get the kids out to spend the day at a very natural-seeming place (like a nature center) a couple of times a week, if possible. We also head down to the Mississippi or to one of the many Twin Cities lakes whenever we can. Luckily there is a lot of urban beauty in Minnesota.

But I am still manifesting a house in the woods! There's just nothing like being able to walk right out your own door and commune with nature for hours on end.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Waldorf Model

Here and there I think I've been mentioning my soft spot for Waldorf Educational philosophy. The truth is that I probably disagree with as much of it as I agree with, but today I shall highlight some of the things I really appreciate about it.

1. I really like the Waldorf community's belief in keeping kids off computers and away from television and other mass media/advertising. I have been to two Waldorf-community-sponsored lectures specifically pertaining to media exposure - one was by Joseph Chilton Pearce, who is the amazing and honorable author of Magical Child, which was a book a Waldorfy person recommended I read while pregnant (and I am soooo glad!!) and the other was by Jane Healy, author of Failure to Connect. Both lectures were really, really good, and very convincing. Joseph Chilton Pearce talked a lot about the flash content of television and movies, and it's effect on the "old brain." Jane Healy talked a lot about why kids appear to be learning really well on computers when in fact they are not. I have yet to read her books but I think I will do so soon.

I will admit Ezra does use the computer from time to time, and he does watch movies twice a week, so we're not totally hard core about this. We don't have a t.v., though, so the kids aren't usually influenced by commericals or low-quality children's programming, at least.

2. I really like the Waldorf idea of children having few toys, and the ones they do have being simple and made of natural materials. However. . . this is more of an ideal than an actual practice in our house. We do have plenty of natural toys, and those are pretty much the only ones I buy (one notable exception being the Duplo legos I bought at the thrift store), but lots of other people have gotten Ezra plastic rockets made in China, and all kinds of other plastic and "unnatural" toys. We have gone back and forth on our feelings about this. In general we just have way too many toys! But I aspire to be more Waldorfy in this arena. On the other hand, the older my kids get, the more influence they are going to have over their relatives, with their desires for plastic! But they really don't see too many plastic toys, since we don't have a t.v.!

3. I love the "whole child" approach to Waldorf education. They learn a lot of subjects through music and art, including math, and they make sure they are using their bodies in all the ways that nature intended (as far as I know). I love that they teach handwork to little kids and consider fine motor skills to be a very important part of development. Rudolf Steiner, whose ideas Waldorf are based on, knew what was up as far as child development - at least as far as school-aged children go. (As for his child development beliefs about infants and toddlers, I have some bones to pick.)

Anyway, I think those are the main reasons I love to stay on the fringes of Waldorf culture. I must say that once I read The Continuum Concept, I could no longer accept Waldorf philosophy wholeheartedly (I was in their adult education/teacher training program at the time), and I have just dabbled in it ever since. Lots of great people involved in the community, though, and God knows I could use some of the skills that Waldorf-educated people possess! (And so could my kids!)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Fabulous Read!

This could quite possibly be my most favorite unschooling book ever: The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. At once scandalizing and extremely inspirational, it has to make you re-think your entire education. This is a great one for people without kids who are just curious about why people might homeschool, or people who want to do a little self-analysis. Though I was twice as old as the intended audience when I read it, I was totally liberated by this book!

Here's something tragic, though. . . they've re-done the bookjacket now so that it's more palatable to parents, apparently. This cover would *not* have attracted me - but it would have placated my mother if I'd had the courage, creativity and confidence to drop out of high school.
Of course, I guess the old one was sort of 80s. But. . . at least it looked rebellious.
Anyway, here's the new one. I do hope every single person in this country will read this amazing piece of literature.

I want to post some quotes from it, but for now I have to go to bed.