Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Well-Trained Mind vs. A Thomas Jefferson Education

I have had a few friends ask me in the past couple of years, "What do you think of The Well-Trained Mind"? And I didn't know, and so I finally got it at the library. And now I can say: "Not much." Any book that uses the word "should" that many times (probably in the thousands) has no place in my life! Seriously - are they kidding? It is worth skimming every few years, as a reference, though, IMO, though anyone who is prone to getting neurotic over "shoulds" (this would include almost every parent I know) might do well to avoid it altogether.

Anyway, I have a few choice quotes to discuss. But first! I have to say, having also just re-read A Thomas Jefferson Education (which I lamely reviewed here), that TJEd is a *much, much* better book. It is an inspirational book, instead of a shaming and anxiety-producing book. TJEd gives me a framework, or in my case, more of a backdrop for unschooling. The Well-Trained Mind requires you to force a lot of things on yourself and your kid and I can't see how anyone could actually follow the program outlined in the book without being totally anal and joyless.

So. . . The Well-Trained Mind is overdue at the library so here is what I am going to quickly comment on this quote from the book:

"The pattern widens and deepens as the student matures and learns. For example, a first grader listens to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. . . Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptions - Olivia Coolidge's The Trojan War, or Roger L. Green's The Tale of Troy. Four more years go by, and the ninth grader - faced with Homer's Iliad itself - plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What's to be scared of?"

I have included the above quote to contrast it with TJEd, which suggests that you always use the original, or classic version of every text to begin with. I like the TJEd idea, for sure. It makes intuitive sense. And also, I love the idea of reading a book to my kids first, and then as a special treat we get the video afterwards. But I am also intrigued by using the method above in certain cases - maybe like cases where *I* am scared to read something. . . like the Iliad. Which I know absolutely nothing about. So I got a kids' version at the library and we're going to read it and experiment with that approach. I think I will only be interested in using this step-by-step approach when it comes to very dense classics, because as a general rule I cannot stand "adaptations" for kids - usually I find them insulting to everyone's intelligence, and much less interesting, too.

Okay, and here's another quote I made a note of from A Well-Trained Mind:

"Every citizen in a democracy takes on responsibilities that were once reserved for the well-educated arisocratic segment of society. And every citizen, college-bound or not, should receive the type of education that will develop the life of the mind."

Ugh - there it is again - the word "should." It's an interesting point, though. But if I'm going to really believe in that, I am going to be a miserable person because that is most certainly NOT happening in America!

And here's another quote I marked:

"the study of art and music is a good late-afternoon or early-evening project."

See now I like it when people point out practical things like that. Late afternoon and early evening is such a bizarre time of day in U.S. society - there is always something off-kilter about it. Maybe if we start up the grill and get out the instruments, everything would fall into place. Seriously!

But here was something that annoyed me:

"Always begin with drawing, progress to painting, and finish up with modeling."

It annoys me because there is no evidence given as to why this should be so. Personally, I think modelling is a whole different ballgame altogether. It's in three dimensions. Why should anyone have to learn to draw something first before they pick up a piece of clay? Well, maybe I'm just bitter because I'm better at modelling than I am at drawing. If *only* I'd had someone force me to go through the steps of drawing, maybe I'd be better at it. Or. . . more likely. . . maybe I'd hate to draw?

In any case, A Thomas Jefferson Education is, in my humble opinion, a very superior book to A Well-Trained Mind. Because when I read it I got excited, and started reading classics right away - and because the author puts the responsibility of a good education on the parents educating themselves, and not forcing anything on their children. Which is the coolest thing ever.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Riverfront Living

Today, the Mississippi started to rise so high that if it goes up a couple more feet, we are going to have a very wet basement. How exciting! One of the few (IMO) perks of renting is that if that happens, it's only my problem to the extent that my stuff down there, which already smells like mildew, will have to be moved upstairs. I am also happy to report that the landlord took over the front room of the basement with his stuff (and that is the only room that doesn't smell like mildew) but his will be the first to get wet if the river continues going up!

Anyway, it's very exciting living on the edge of one of the biggest rivers in the world.

Last year, when I was in the depths of situational depression (which felt like regular depression, but as I suspected it went away when I changed my situation by moving), a fabulous friend of mine sent me an awesome book called The Power Path, which among other great tips on how to gain power, recommends first and foremost going to nature, because it says all shamen know that you go to something more powerful than yourself to get power. For example, the Mississippi River. And I *do* feel much more powerful (a.k.a. happy) since we moved here. The river feeds my soul.

Anyway, it also happens to be a great place to live for unschooler kids, who have no shortage of things to watch going up and down the river. Plus there is a public fishing dock in our front yard, and a very busy train track out back. And even a drawbridge, which goes up and down several times a day in the summer months, can be seen by the edge of the property.

I sure do wish I could post photos, but Ottar broke the camera again. :(

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Totally Harmonious Interactions

I got really sick of myself recently, noticing how I started telling people over a year ago that "my kids don't really get along anymore." Finally it occurred to me that I don't even know if that's true. So I started paying attention to how often they *do* get along (which is actually still almost always) and sort of informally timing how long the fighting episodes last (which it turns out are usually about 1-2 minutes each, unless I intervene by shouting and threatening, which makes them each last about 20 minutes, plus I end up feeling like a total psycho.)

So, there you have it! Often things are just a matter of perception.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another Great Unschooling Book Rec!

Well, I've done it again - I've finished another great unschooling book. This one I stumbled upon in the library - I had never heard of it before. It's called Child's Work: Taking Children's Choices Seriously by Nancy Wallace, who was a close personal friend of John Holt's. It is basically a beautifully written account of one family's experience with unschooling two very talented children. But besides that it is chock full of great insights for the general public! Here are some choice quotes (I copied about 50 of them out of the book, but here are some of my faves):

. . . any time we decide to teach our children the things we are sure they can't learn from experience in the real world, we not only remove them from the very world they are trying so hard to understand, by creating artificial learning situations for them, but we imply that they are incompetent learners and need to rely on our greater expertise and knowledge in order to learn properly.


By reading within whole contexts, [my children] guessed at strange words in order to make sense of phrases and sentences. I know a nine-year-old girl who can read books like Stuart Little fluently, but still can't read random lists of words out of context with any degree of accuracy. (Hence, the school considers her unable to read because she does so poorly on their reading placement test, which is exactly that: random lists of words.)


Children who, as John Holt put it, "observe, wonder, find, or make and then test the answers to the questions they ask themselves" have no conscious sense of "wrong" because like scientists, they are involved in a continual process of moving closer towards what is right - of defining and redefining their views of the world.


Children lose interest in us as teachers as soon as we make ourselves mere passive conveyors of knowledge, like most teachers in school, who try not to reveal their own personal biases and passions for fear of unduly influencing their students and preventing them from learning to think objectively. But children want us to reveal ourselves to them. Just as important, they want and need to be able to reveal their own feelings, ideas, and personal biases to us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not Back to School!

It's been a crazy summer, and I saw lots of yellow school buses out today. However, since we're NOT going back to school, our summer does not officially end until September 23! Just one of the many advantages of unschooling. . . plus we get to buy any "school supplies" and clothes after they've all been marked down. Joy!

In any case, I just love this time of year because I get so excited to think about various classes we can all take. On the menu (but not ordered yet) for fall are ninja classes for Ezra, Jiu Jitsu for Ezra and Papa, maybe "open build" art and science classes for both kids, swimming lessons for both kids, yoga for Mama (and hopefully kickboxing, too), possibly some Japanese tutoring for Ezra, and we shall see what else. Just waiting for that big paycheck to come in. . . the one we've been waiting for for weeks.

Right now Ezra, who is 7, is still really into martial arts. He's also teaching himself Japanese. Right now he's using a CD/book called Teach Me More. . . Japanese and he is in love with it! Both kids have also requested that I get them the Spanish version from the library. Ezra has also morphed over the spring and summer from being somewhat obsessed with The Civil War and guns, to moving on to submarines, and now he has expanded to be obsessed with World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spends many hours every day drawing and building battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. He is also on a Jesse James kick and he and Ottar spent an entire afternoon last week re-enacting his death.

What I'm trying to work out now is creating a more structured life. As many of you avid fans may recall, I tried doing a schedule last winter (read here). Well, that crashed and burned immediately. I think it is because it was not the kind of thing that is true to my nature. In fact my whole life was untrue to my nature. But now that we're living on the river and close to the Twin Cities, let me start that over. That will be my topic for tomorrow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Another Great Gatto Quote!

I've been indulging myself and reading John Taylor Gatto stuff for the past hour. And I just came upon this gem from an article in Natural Life magazine:

Does going to school matter if it uses up the time you need to start a business, to learn to grow vegetables, to explore the world or make a dress? Or if it takes away time to love your family? What matters in a good life?
-John Taylor Gatto

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Nice Explanation of Unschooling

Recently a relative asked me to explain the difference between homeschooling and unschooling. After I explained it, she still wasn't totally satisfied, but maybe wasn't sure why, so I told her I'd look around for some articles.

Here's a good one I found at the site of the Family Unschoolers Network. It explains the history of the terminology as well as the differences. With a slight bias towards unschooling, I suppose, but hey, I'm totally biased, too.

Robert Louis Stevenson Quote

"Youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other in both mind and body; to try the manners of different nations; to hear the chimes at midnight; to see sunrise in town and country; to be converted at a revival; to circumnavigate the metaphysics, write halting verses, run a mile to see a fire, and wait all day in the theatre to applaud 'Hernani'."

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lame Crafts

One thing I occasionally feel guilty about is that my kids are not having the quintessential American experience of getting to make silly, adult-led craft projects. Thank God, though, the local library was making these popsicle-stick birds one day while we were there, so that Ottar got to take pride in helping assemble an already-cut-out feather mass, an ice cream stick, a pre-colored cheerio (the librarian painted it before we got there) and 2 googley eyes.

It's things like these that my kids are going to look back on and think, "Wow, was that ever meaningful!" I'm sure of it.

It's pretty cute, though. I have to admit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Ezra really wanted to take a blacksmithing class, but we missed the fall session at the local folk school. Finally we were able to get in to a class this spring that was actually meant for older kids, but the instructor, Robert, was willing to let Ezra take the class as long as I signed up, too, which I have to say I was overjoyed about. And for half price!

Anyway, it was really fun. A full day, and after our preliminary projects, Ezra let it be known that he would be really disappointed if he didn't come away with a dagger, like the one his friend and "faux cousin," Luka, had made in the same class the year before. So, Robert quickly showed us how to make a dagger and we both worked together on the project. In the end we made one that will eventually have a carved wooden handle, though Ezra loves his dagger so much that now he says he doesn't want one, but I'm sure he'll change his mind someday. I highly recommend this art form and this folk school - it was a great experience for us both, and I hope to do more blacksmithing in the future. Oh, I forgot to mention I made my own "S" hook, and I am very proud of it. Mine is the super fancy one just above of the dagger in the first photo (and *so* sorry these photos are in reverse order - one of these days I will remember how to upload photos correctly.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ottar's first cartoon!

Ah! All this talk of family business and then finally my dream comes true where I am sitting and cartooning productively at a table *with my kids*. . . after all these years. Both the kids made amazing cartoons, but Ezra's is too big to scan (it's a story of him shooting Nerf guns with his friend Cody, very much influenced by Tintin). Anyway. . . hopefully a family cartooning business is in the works. . . but if not, we have plenty of other family business ideas up our sleeves, too.

Anyway, seeing as Ottar is only 3-1/2, I think we've got some real talent on our hands, if I do say so myself. Personally, I think he's already surpassed me.

And I'll post more of Ezra's work soon!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good Morning America - Unschoolers Respond

So I admit I've been under a rock for 2 weeks, but for those who were horrified by the Good Morning America piece on April 19, here's a nice list of response links collected by the Blog of the Zombie Princess.

Home School to Home Business?

I'm also wondering if anyone out there has ever listened to this 14-CD set called Home School to Home Business? or anything else like it? I am dying to set up a *family-run* home business, and would love to get my hands on some inspirational information!

Out of a Rut

I haven't posted much lately - things got even more chaotic for a while there, and Kenny went out of town for a long time and took the computer, and all kinds of other things.

The good news is that we have decided that we are not moving to the farm town where Kenny has been working. The neutral news is that we have no idea where we're going next, or when, or what either of us will be doing or what kind of place we'll be living in.

Hopefully this will be a big turning point in our lives - the point at which we finally got on board and started doing all the things we love to do, but have been putting off because we were too busy waiting for something else.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Awesome Book! By David Albert

Well, after 6 years or more of being on this "unschooling journey" (with my child - before that I was on one with myself, but I didn't know it yet) I have finally been introduced to David Albert's book Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery.

Thanks to my sister, who has only been homeschooling for a few months.

I do not know how come none of my friends know about this book - or why the ones who do never mentioned it, but I must say it is a must-read!!

Very inspirational and funny. And it manages to be hard-hitting (doesn't beat around the bush about the government or the history of schools) while also being totally entertaining and fairly light-hearted.

I'm in a hurry, as usual. And those of you who know me know how I hate to review books in any useful way. I can just say, READ THIS BOOK!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Unschooling in Small Towns

Well, thankfully I had a revelation lately, one day when chatting with a new friend of mine, and we got to chatting about various towns in the Midwest that might be better for unschooling in, and Ashland, Wisconsin came up. Now I know that moving to Ashland would not solve all my problems, but a lightbulb when off in my head - aha! That is what is missing from my life! Outdoor recreation people/activities! And we've been looking at land for about 10 years, my husband and I, and we've almost exclusively looked in Southern WI and MN, because that is where he has been thinking he'd like to live, because there is great visibility for storm-watching, and there is no Lake Superior (one of my favorite things in the world) to "mess up" the weather.

So we went up to Ashland last weekend, just to see if I would feel more comfortable there, and the city itself definitely could use a little beautification, though not too much more than the one I'm in (Viroqua). But the exciting thing was that there were BIKE TRAILS. And there is a giant lake!! And a REAL COFFEE SHOP!!! Wow!!! And ads up for drumming, martial arts, outdoor recreation for children, and various other things I can't remember. But they were exciting.

Anyway, my revelation is that if I'm not going to be in a big city, I need to be in a town that at least offers the kinds of things I am passionate about. Duh, right? Well, I guess I didn't realize how un-passionate the rest of the U.S. population is about things like public gathering spaces and outdoor recreation. Thank God I have now seen the light. Now to figure out what I'm going to do about it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Frugality Fun!

Lots of unschoolers are living below, at, or just above the poverty level. Today I stumbled upon this fascinating site, meant for law students. Good tips! And it's helping me set up e-commerce on my (other) website, too!

Monday, March 22, 2010

5 Dangerous Things you should let your Kids Do

Did I already post this? Well, in case not, here it is (sorry, I'm in a hurry!)

It's a TED video of "5 Dangerous Things you Should Let your Kids Do" from his book (?) called 50 Dangerous Things. . .

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thank God for Spring!!

Hallelujah, spring is here! Suddenly everyone is coming out of their cocoons. If I didn't have so many things and people to remind me, I could almost forget that this winter was one of the most abominable periods of my life. And everyone else - people I barely even know - keep saying "that was a LONG winter!" even though it wasn't even that long - a few years ago (or was it last year) the winter went on until April!

Anyway, things are looking up. We still have no idea where we'll live or what we'll do with ourselves, but at least the kids are playing outside for long stretches of the day, and the sky is blue and the birds are singing and there are actually other children PLAYING on our block!!!

Please everyone hold me to this: I *must* find a way to travel for at *least* 2 months of next winter, especially if I am still in Southwestern Wisconsin! Don't let me forget!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Be Creative Together"

This is a picture of Ezra being creative *by himself*

Have you read If The Buddha Married? Well, if not, run out and get yourself a copy.

I was copying quotes out of it yesterday (one of my fave passtimes, now that I am having to get all my books from the library, and so I can't UNDERLINE, which is my most *fave* of all my fave passtimes - almost), and I came across this strange little chapter called Be Creative Together. I think maybe the author forgot it was there, because it was so profound, and yet she didn't elaborate on it at all, and I got the sense that it just came out of her pen through Divine Inspiration, but that just then the telephone must have rung. Oh well! In any case, I think it applies so very much to marriage, but also to being with your children. So I am going to share it with you, because that's the kind of person I am:

"When we set aside our egos and take on a project together, we enter into a process of creating something together that grows from the best of both of us. If it's an actual project - adding a porch, starting a garden, decorating a living room - we brainstorm all the possibilities or keep our mind on the shared goal. We build on each other's ideas. The conversation might include phrases such as: "Here's an idea." "What if we did this?" "Well, maybe if we combined these two ideas." It is the push and pull of ideas erupting and building on each other that help us to create something better than either of us could have done alone. "If you can join together in the "us" place, knowing that being creative together is more important than anyone being right or winning, you can add spark to your relationship. It doesn't matter if every leaf is raked perfectly, or if the dessert is a flop, or whether or not the new rosebush eventually looks like the picture on the package - it's that the two of you joined in stretching, exploring, and joining together to bring new life to the ordinary tasks of everyday living."

I think the reason this really struck me is because my husband and I have been doing a lot of collaborating on creative ideas in the past few weeks, and that process is creating a totally different relationship. I can see the same thing unfolding with my kids as I spend more time working alongside them, with no computer. And so I very much look forward to the group endeavours that are simmering on several burners right now.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Metamorphosis! And my Useful Children!

Nobody can say that this Dr. Seuss-type drawing by Ottar isn't pure genius!

Just look at the competency level of these kids! Please note screwdriver and broken CD player - Ezra was taking it apart when he was suddenly stricken with a craving for grilled cheese. Amazing!


Well, besides the anti-computer revolution, more changes are happening like crazy. February was a month of transformation. . . I *knew* it was coming, because I consulted my tarot deck.

Anyway, more details later (I know, I always say that, but nobody calls me on it!), but in the meantime, I have to say that it has become increasingly clear to me that this stay-at-home-mom thing is no longer working for me. After a few neurotic fits where I considered (threatened?) to not only move away but also to start working full time (I am *still* fantasizing about a temp-to-perm job I had at a DT Minneapolis law firm. . . OMG it sounds so dreamy to me now - just mindless drudgery all day long, but surrounded by intelligent people - and they had a nice lunchroom, and gave overtime and paid like $14 an hour!) I have settled on instead focusing on figuring out how to put my "family business" plans into high gear.

What family business, you ask? Well . . . there are so many to choose from. But if you have an idea for me, throw it in the hat. I can't let any secrets out just yet. But something really dynamic needs to happen, and quickly, because I refuse to go through another winter like this! Plus, I've got two able-bodied children just hanging around all day long (not much to do in the winter in this town) and the older one is very talented at drawing, writing, and reading, and has a hankering to get a paper route. And the younger one is also very talented at drawing, though his drawings are hard to interpret as of yet. But he has buckloads of energy and some excellent organizational skills!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Computerless Bliss!

A tearjerking photo from the nirvanic, internet-free days of yore

Okay, forget all the other stuff I wrote about schedules, computers, youtube, etc. I have finally found the answer to all my problems! And I mean all my problems. Here it is: I set the parental controls on myself. Now I can't use the computer between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day of the week, unless my husband and children are gone.

What this really means is I can use the computer about 5 minutes a week, unless my husband and children are gone.

My husband and children are never gone. Except today, because my dad and his girlfriend are in town. Which is why I'm able to deliver this life-changing post to you.

Of course there are drawbacks. . . getting behind on my blog, not being able to even pretend to work on my website. . . but the family harmony has been restored back to 2007 levels! Back when we had no internet hookup in our home. Those were the days!

I suggest you try this, too. It's bliss. Hardly an angry word has been spoken in our house. Hardly a child has been clobbered by his brother. Hardly a thing has broken!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Quote!

Okay, this one is not because I'm losing my mind. It's actually because I have little computer access, and I'm so tired, I feel like I'm going to cry.

"In the words of the Albany Free School, if you aren't making it up as you go along, you aren't doing it right."
-John Taylor Gatto

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Take Back Your Education"

Here is a very good article which synopsizes quite a bit of John Taylor Gatto's basic message! It's from Yes! Magazine. Sorry I have no other commentary right now - our family is being ravaged by a very unpleasant illness. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Free Range Kids

How many of you have checked out the book or the website Free Range Kids? It's excellent!

I know that is a totally lame review, but I have never claimed to be a non-lame reviewer! Actually I haven't read the book yet, but I get posts from the website, which are always scandalous and usually make me extremely glad I'm raising my kids counterculturally.

Oh, and here's a good one about gun play, which I know is a popular topic amongst almost everyone I know (and around my house). It's called "Do toy guns turn kids into killers?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hot, Steaming Meatloaf

It's not every day that I actually make something that Ezra says he loves. In fact, it's not even every day that I cook anything tolerable, or unburnt, for that matter.

But on Monday night, Ezra took one bite of his meatloaf and said, "Mmmm! Good meatloaf!" And then he said, "This is the best meatloaf I've ever had."

That's saying a lot, because meatloaf is one of the only things I ever make.

So, because I am a kindhearted person, I am going to share this amazing recipe. Actually, I think meatloaf is a really creepy concept. But, you know, if you use good beef, it's pretty healthy.

EZRA'S FAVORITE MEATLOAF (total time, about 1 hr. 45 minutes)

1-1/2 lbs. grassfed ground beef

1 c. water

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. dried ground sage

1/2 tsp. salt or more if it's coarse-ground

1/2 tsp. ground dry mustard

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large egg

3 slices sprouted multigrain bread, torn into small pieces

1 leftover overcooked fried egg, finely chopped

2 large kale leaves, destemmed, chopped into eensy weensy tiny tiny little bits
1/3-1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything together and put in an ungreased loaf pan with a meat thermometer in center. Bake uncovered 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. until thermometer reads 160.
Serves 6.

Wow, I am so domestic!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Waiting. . .

Here's something that is not dreamy about unschooling: Not knowing where you are going to live six months from now. Especially when you've already moved so many times since your first child was born, that you've lost track.

Once again we find ourselves waiting to hear about a potential job for my husband. . . and the clock is ticking, and it always takes longer than I am told it will. . .

It's hard to really settle in to an apartment or a house or a community when you have no idea how long you'll be able to stay!

Very annoying!

Although, on the bright side, at least I don't have to keep pulling my kids out of schools! That would be even more annoying! So I guess this is pretty dreamy after all. In a relative sort of way.

But not really.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Conference Notes

Though I did not remember to take pictures at the unschooling conference,
I did find on my computer this photo of some people at another conference, which had a few similarities to the one in Madison

I didn't do enough to explain the Madison Unschooling Conference in yesterday's post, so here are a few quotes/thoughts I scribbled on my notepad there*:

-watch The Harlem Globetrotters to see an example of adults engaging in pure play.
-standardized testing industry is an 80 billion dollar empire.
-epidemic of diabetes in this country being blamed on food, but media is not covering the other main cause, which is immobilization (which occurs most of the day in schools).
-schools are the creators (along with the fast-food industry, etc.) of the diabetes epidemic
-book recommendation: Strangers in the Land
-Find out what people want. Then either give it to them cheaper or of better quality. Or be the only one.
-Look up his former student, B.J. Cummings
-small, private airfields - sometimes the pilots there will let you ride for free, just to have someone to talk to.
-John Taylor Gatto put kids back into the community doing what kids did before WWII - "adding value."
-Previous to WWII, kids were expected to make their own pocket money by age 7, usually doing things older people didn't want to do. These days this is considered child abuse.
-re: teenagers obsessed with video games: "If he loves video games, why not incorporate him into the video game industry. Designing video games, etc. Courses at the university. Video games are the largest single profit-making source in the media industry.
-read Dan Greenberg books
-Question from workshop participant: "Why do parents get worried about very intense non-academic pursuits?" JTG says there is no such thing as a non-academic pursuit.
-On the topic of "educational conspiracy" - JTG says, these people are/were not evil. But people have been conditioned, on purpose, and by "brilliant thinkers," for over 100 years, to "think down blind alleys." These people are not evil - they just believe what Calvin, Spinoza, etc., say, which is that you're dangerous. They spoke openly about it, though.
-Horace Mann, in a diary in 1845: "break the bonds of the working class." Or something like that.
-In a school setting where kids are in the back of the room copying out of comic books, JTG would go back and watch what the kids were doing and say "do you think you're copying that comic book?" Bring up something about what they're doing: "I notice all the characters in the panels - but in the comic books, the arms and legs stick out, and the panels are all of different sizes." Told student to take a week out of school, go to the library, and sit in a pile of 20 books at a time, in order to learn how to do it the way the professionals do - Where does the paper come from? What's the best comic book? What about foreign comics?
-Comic books - jobs in graphic arts are very well paid and the artists don't have to wear a coat and tie!
-Question from a workshop participant - How did you get away with not getting caught for the way you were teaching? JTG: wore pinstripes, volunteered for horrible jobs like lunchroom monitor, and pretended to be a "stickler" for discipline. Threw the scent off for long enough to try things and find out if they worked. He also visited homes: "If I don't know the parents I'm not going to know the kids."
-Advice: Look for opportunities. Then you can draw liasons/ligatures between casual interests and things that those interests might develop into in the future. Parents have been so excluded from "cooking a new life." That is poison. Parents become unpaid assistants of the classroom teacher.
-More advice to teachers: Start with projects that will make the school look good. Say, "A group of parents has approached me and said. . . . and I think it's a good idea!" Also, work through assistant principals because 75% of them won't survive.
-Colonial aristocrats used to teach their children, "If you can't draw what you're seeing, then you haven't seen what you think you're looking at."
-Get the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
-On JTG's documentary film project - guy in charge says, "It's useless to make a small documentary because it will only be watched by the True Believers."
-Watch this movie: High School
-our economy depends on continuous warfare. Our economy can't survive without it.
-look up Penn-Gillette - read book.

Well, there you go. Hopefully there is something in there for everyone!

*Please keep in mind that these are just my notes, and I urge you to do your own research on their validity.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Madison Unschooling Conference!

I accidentally forgot to take a picture yesterday, but Kenny and I attended the Madison Unschooling Conference, with Special Guest John Taylor Gatto. It was great. John Taylor Gatto was amazing. I already was a great admirer after reading his books Dumbing Us Down, A Different Kind of Teacher, and The Underground History of American Education, but now I'm an even bigger fan because he was so much more interesting and funny in person than I expected him to be.

Above is a picture of his newest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, which I have not yet read, and was going to buy at the conference, but they ran out before I nabbed one. I'm sure it's excellent because almost everything this man says is mind-blowing.

Besides that, it was nice to just be in a beautiful venue with a huge group of very like-minded people, eating delicious food and socializing. Kenny also got a lot out of attending a lecture on play by Allison McKee (he was slightly weirded out that it was actually a long lecture on play, but whatever). And I attended a very bizarre workshop on "Wholemovement" by Bradford Hansen-Smith. I really had no idea what he was talking about until the end, when I realized he was teaching us how to fold ordinary paper plates into **amazing** shapes. Now I wish I'd gotten one of his books to work on with my kids, but here it is in case *you* would like to. I'll never look at a paper plate the same way again. That's for sure.

Anyone who knows me knows how I hate to explain things. But hopefully I'll be writing more about what I learned at the conference soon.

Oh, and here is my favorite quote that I copied off the wall there:

The opposite of play is not work. It's depression.
-Brian Sutton-Smith, contemporary American folklorist

Friday, February 12, 2010

Get National Velvet!

A couple of weeks ago we finally watched the National Velvet CD I got at the thrift store for a Christmas present for the kids.

They saw the cover and actually refused to watch it for over a month, but then they became obsessed with it and wanted to watch it over and over.

Besides being a great story and having famous actors (Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, and Angela Lansbury), it also has an excellent parental role model in it - the mother, actress Anne Revere, who actually won an Oscar for her performance.

So rarely do I watch anything at all, but when I do, I even more rarely see people modeling the kind of parent I'd love to be. So I highly recommend getting National Velvet and then going around like I do, saying to myself, "What would Velvet's mother say in this situation?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Writing Projects

Well, never mind all that Parental Controls stuff for now.

I don't think I've written about all the books Ezra has written, and I would like to scan in some of them, but our scanner is not working. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, in the past 3 days I transcribed 2 books for him. The first was called "Gangster Busters" and the second was "Night of the Maverick." These two he dictated, I wrote down, and then he illustrated them. They are secret fantasy stories, where a boy named Jim shoots his baby brother repeatedly with a Nerf dart gun. Then "the neighborhood bully" comes over and he shoots him with "ballpoint darts" and he bleeds, passes out, tries to attack Jim again, and then passes out again. At first I was totally horrified, and I told him that was the last book I was going to transcribe for him if they're going to be all violent and gorey! But then I felt better last night when I was listening to a Naomi Aldort CD, and she was talking about how she often does counseling with kids where she has them draw a picture of their anger, or act it out with dolls, etc.. And so, I guess if Ezra wants to act out his vengeance at his brother and "bullies" on paper, I think that's a pretty good choice.

Today he started a book called "The Wrath of Jim," but this one he is writing all by himself, because a couple days ago he told me he couldn't write the books himself because he didn't know lowercase letters. !!! So today I wrote down the alphabet for him in lowercase letters, and was about to do the whole lame school thing where you make the dotted lines to copy, etc., but he was totally weirded out by that, and just started writing his book and looking back at the letters for reference. Duh!! Why on EARTH do they make kids copy those letters over and over for half a year??? All they have to do is WANT to write something, and then they will figure out how to do it. Apparently. At least *this* kid. . . and I'm sure I was the same way. I hated all that letter tracing and copying as a kid.

Anyway, he wrote the entire book by himself today while Ottar and I went for a jog around the cemetary. I have not yet read it, because he has to put the finishing touches on the last page. But I am excited! He is currently taking a break for a bath with his little brother. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Uh. . .

Damn! I just posted that and then realized I'd never checked to see if the Nerf gun videos really were blocked. . . and they aren't!

This is so tragic.

And now I won't even be able to read this post, because I just swore.

Parental Controls

A generic toucan photo. Because I do not have access to my own photographs now that I've set Parental Controls

Well, it's pretty funny, because I do not have full access to my own blog now that we've set "Parental Controls" on the computer.

(Note to all readers: if your kids have not yet discovered the internet, I highly recommend you set these *before* they do, and not 2 years later!)

Anyway, as previously mentioned dozens of times, Ezra is really into guns, and the YouTube stuff he was pulling up on "video day" was just a little bit too unnerving. I know, I know, I should be watching it with him. But you know what? We just don't have the same interests.

So anyway, the tragedy for him is that he can't see his fave Nerf gun reviews (which are actually pretty hilarious) or Nerf gun movie spoofs (which I find merely annoying.) But these basically amounted to him watching 90 minutes a week of Nerf gun commercials, and his entire life was being consumed. He was calling relatives every single day to tell them about a new gun he just *had* to have.

I know there are plenty of unschooler avocates for children having free reign over what they watch on computers, but please!! And especially in a town like this, where many kids probably watch three movies a year, and have no televisions (not that we have a television, either.)

Anyway, a peace has settled over me. I no longer have to worry that he'll accidentally click on beheadings, Tsunami death footage, pornography, etc. I just wish I'd set them before, but me being totally technologically challenged - I thought you had to order software to set them. Oh well!

I just **love** Naomi Aldort (previously mentioned on this blog, but Parental Controls have blocked my ability to search for it.) and lately I've been both rereading her book and listening to a 4-CD set I ordered. She is my hero because she just advocates "controlling the environment, not the child." So, I'm really working harder at controlling the environment. It makes the home a peaceful place to live. Not that I've achieved that yet, but we're on our way!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Taking Matters into my own Hands

Well, it seems that wherever I go, there is not what I want, and so I have to make it.

Since we just moved to a small town, there are many things that seem to me sorely lacking here. More on that later. But for now, I've decided that I have to incorporate into my schedule a free art class for some local unschoolers. I am going to do this on Tuesdays because Tuesdays are the middle day when my husband is gone, and they are also the days when for some reason, maybe because the Homeschool Co-op we decided *again* not to rejoin meets that day.

So, I've decided anyone who wants to can come to my multi-age class in our cramped kitchen. Or maybe in the basement? I'm going to do paper-mache, collage, decoupage, sock puppets. . . and . . . haven't thought of the other one yet.

Oh, and by the way, I'm hardly following that schedule at all! But it's nice to know I can. So far, I do fill the dishwasher every night and empty it every morning (previously I was anti-dishwasher). And I did tell the kids they're going outside today at 9:30! And they agreed. I'll be posting later about how that goes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What makes a Magical Childhood?

Playing in the leaves at Wildcat Mountain State Park last fall

Camping with unschooler friends on our month-long tour of Minnesota State Parks in June, 2008

With Bubbie on the North Shore in 2007

Ezri at Minnehaha Falls when he was only 2!

A couple of years ago I was on an unschooler chatlist where someone proposed the question, "Do you think your childhood was magical, and if so, what was magical about it?"

It was amazing - every person who responded said that what was magical was time spent in nature and/or time spent on vacations.

I love that!

On vacation, of course, time slows down - everyone can be "present" and you are *supposed* be hanging out together, being idle or having new experiences.

And in nature. . . well, it's just a universal experience that we need because of being human beings, having spent 99.9% of our history living in tribal situations, where being outdoors was the way of life.

When I think of the most magical experiences of *my* childhood, what immediately comes to mind are things like these:

-playing on the beach in the Gulf of Mexico
-riding horseback through Wyoming
-watching a thunderstorm roll in over Lake Minnetonka
-going over a waterfall on my butt at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
-climbing the tree in my front yard
-playing for hours by the lake
-snorkeling in Hawaii
-jumping over waves on the shore of Lake Superior
-playing on my dome climber jungle gym
-playing in mud puddles on our gravel driveway
-sitting by a campfire
-finding a "treasure buried by pirates" in the sand dunes
-listening to John Denver on the 8-track in my dad's boat
-water tubing with friends
-sledding, building snowmen and forts, and having snowball fights

Aah! There is one exception - I think that my Christmases seemed magical when I was a child, and those were neither outdoors nor vacations. But in a way they were - the fire in the fireplace and everyone gathered and slowed down, relaxed and having a great time - just like on vacation.

Isn't it interesting? I'd love to hear other people comment on what they think was magical about *their* childhoods.

I think that a lot of the reason that I'm so obsessed with going on vacation to "nature" places, getting my kids outdoors, and wanting rural property is all because of these kinds of memories.

But if other people have other kinds of magical childhood experiences, I'd like to hear those, too!

(Interestingly, I have just put this question to my 6.5 year-old and he says that his most magical memories are of Papa and me using magical means (magic leaf, magic wand) to make marshmallows appear in his hot chocolate. Hmmm!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Request! And "schedules"

I finally have a request! It's been months. A request to show you the schedule I mentioned in the day before yesterday's post.

I like to think of it as someone else's schedule - to me it's just a "back up plan" because I am horrified at the thought of having a scheduled life.

That being said, we followed it pretty well yesterday, with excellent results!

Here is what I have written down on a scrap of paper:

7-8 a.m. - get dressed, make beds, empty dishwasher, put away breakfast dishes, coffee/tea, partially clean bathroom

8:00 - breakfast

8:30 - brush hair/teeth, clean kitchen, put in laundry

9:00 - outside every day (field trip, outing, play in yard, etc.)

11:30 - home, cook lunch/play

12-12:30 - dishes, dry laundry

1-4 - next outside time ("while I'm cleaning, you go outside.") And other homeschooler stuff.

5:00 - dinner

6-?? - chaos.


Now that I look at this, I realize I hardly followed it at all - but what a comfort it is to have around, like an old, senile grandma sitting around in a rocking chair. Or something.

The only reason I was willing to consider a schedule of any kind is because I finally met someone who seems enough like me that I can look at her and say, "if *she* can do this, I can do this, too, and NOT turn into a robot." Yes, it's true - the rest of you all who have schedules remind me of robots.

Anyway, really I just made sure to get my kids outside yesterday as early as possible, and I said to the one who likes to wear his p.j.s all day long, "You've gotta get your clothes on before breakfast today!" Then I said, "You've gotta comb your hair before you go to the vet!" (That was their errand after playing around outside.)

I don't follow any of the other things, either, now that I think about it.

I did put some laundry in yesterday, though, and I felt like Somebody Organized. And I also even cleaned the bathroom sink before bed. Now that's really something.

This is all a great example of how having a schedule can be useful even if you don't use it. I just knew it was there, and so I had support. I also told my husband about it and he was mildly intrigued. I said before I left to go write at the coffee shop, "If you can't figure out what to do, just look at the schedule, and see if it looks good."

Next on my list of Life Goals is to make a pictoral chart with the kids, with all these things on it (modified slightly for our family. For example, we'll have to put "Call Bubbie" after breakfast time, and also add some time for Ottar to be squished daily under a couch cushion - something he requires to keep him from pushing the Learning Tower down the basement steps again.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Only a month late on these Florida Pix

In December we drove down to Florida because we had free lodgings in the panhandle, on St. George Island. It was amazing! Has to be one of the best places ever to take your kids, if you're me!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cabin Fever No More - I Hope

Recently I copied down my new friend Rachel's entire daily schedule for myself - she's an unschooler, too, and has kids the same age. She claims the schedule is the answer to all our problems. Basically I just glance at the schedule and think, "Maybe I should do THAT now." And then I try half-heartedly and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.

But today I decided that I'm going to stick with it because Bad Things happen when I don't haul the kids outside in the morning.

Let it be known that my children and I will heretofore go out and do something every morning, come hell or high water!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In case anyone's wondering

What happened to me? I went out of town again. And now that I'm back, Dear Husband is taking the computer away from me for four days. So I can't record any of our goings-on. Which is actually fine, because I'm mostly just hyper-focused on trying to get rid of fleas. Seriously.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ezra Won a Bike!

Here are photos of Ezra on the bike he won in December at the holiday raffle! (As usual, I'm over a month behind on uploading photos to the computer b/c I have no idea how to do it.)

It was a very exciting event, this bike-winning, because he biked over to the raffle on his little purple bike he's had since he was 3. As we walked along behind, his papa and I were discussing how it really is getting ridiculously small for him. And then he won this crazy BMX bike. It's a little too big, and the purple bike, which he immediately bequeathed to his little brother, is also to big for him, but hopefully they'll grow into them by spring.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Combining Things

Ottar loves to combine things. Every day he asks me things like "What would happen if I mixed orange juice with goat milk?" And very often he experiments and discovers things that he decides are delicious, but which would make me retch.

He also likes to combine non-food items, such as roller skates and bicycling, as seen above (pix finally uploaded from early last month.)

Most parents would probably try to stop this amazing experience from ever occurring, but let me tell you, Ottar and Papa actually had a great ride!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Great Reason to Unschool

One thing I have heard many people say is that they don't want to keep their kids out of school because they think that they don't have enough skills, etc. that they can pass on to their kids.

Never mind that they probably don't have any because they spent so much time in school themselves.

Days like today, when my husband has taken the 3-yo to the "big city" for a shopping trip are days when I get to have the honor and priviledge of learning how to do things I have absolutely no idea how to do (and no interest in doing, really.) Because Ezra asked me to help him make a "holdster" for his cap gun. So we've been cutting burlap and I've been helping him sew it together with pink embroidery thread (the only kind I could find in my maddeningly overstuffed/disorganized art cabinet).

As I said to him while trying to sew a button on it, "I really have no idea how to do this, so we're learning together."

You know what I would say if he were in school? I would probably say, "Oh, I'm sure you'll learn that next year." Or something. I know I really would say that, because I *could*. Of course for him to learn sewing, we'd have to send him to Waldorf school (one of our previous top choices anyway.) But this is so much cheaper, and more fulfilling.

Soon, I hope, we will have learned to do everything together that I have wished I had known how to do my whole life. We sure have a ways to go, though. One of these days I'll make a list of all my incompetencies, for all to see.

Pictures soon!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

And a cold day. So I found this great link:

"Things to do without leaving the house" from The Idler website, which is soon to become my favorite place to hang out (while still at home.)