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.