Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Okay, yes. Its not as if listening to Beethoven once makes you an intelligent person---even if you were insightful and creatively penetrated the experience from the beginning. Its the arc of these moments that matter, and the combined sum.

Yesterday, for instance. I spent about 3 hours online defining unschooling with a group of mothers who've been homeschooling a long time. It would be fair to call our meeting a serious and intense focus group, as if Obama had asked us for a professional working definition. Because we are badass like that. And also because we take our jobs seriously. And because we are all interested. It was a great conversation. But after 3 hours on the computer, I was fried. I needed to get outside and I wanted to be with my kids.

So I made them take a walk with me. I'm an unschooling rule breaker, but we might have guessed I would break even my own rules, of course. Yes, I basically forced them. Its top of the season right now and the trees are banging and the air is perfect and its been way too long since we all walked together. Walking together was standard procedure in the early years. The dogs about flat lost their minds with happiness from the get go.

We walked and it was spectacular. No one could pretend to be unhappy to be there. We visited "root ball" who is looking very small these days. The clear cut field is starting to heal and offered an unexpectedly lovely long view. We saw unusual lichen. We went off trail. We discovered mullein! I paused and gave a brief herbal seminar, explaining the importance of the herb, where and how it grows, and two really cool uses for it. We passed around a leaf. I mean, you have to touch it. Its so memorably furry. And we jumped some deer.

An interesting thing happened in my brain when we jumped the deer. I've been....unusually worried...about bears this year. So my first thought was, bear. Everything slowed and I realized, even though I had not been aware of paying attention at all, I knew where each dog was even though I could not see them. And I became very aware of where the kids were, next to me. We all stopped instantly and turned in the same direction. H said, "Dogs." I, already, strangely, knowing where the dogs were said, "No. Deer." And up they jumped. My God, they make a commotion. Its a kind of thrashing with its own signature sound. The kids will know it from now on.

As we walked H mentioned he's been reading Plato and Socrates. He talked about Socrates' theory of the dualistic nature of reality and how that might relate to reincarnation. He says the ancient philosophers are interesting and "actually pretty cool." And I thought, Huh. Wow. So that's what you're thinking about these days.

Blue eyes for miles, Pretty as a peach
Glorious kind and always on the time never far out of reach
Tomorrow's on its way
And there's always new songs to sing
Glorious kind and always on time, Pearls on a string  ~Ryan Adams


That song always makes me think of R. These days are like pearls on a string. When you get miraculous small glimpses into who the kids are and what they spend their time doing, you feel very okay about unschooling. Sure, they waste as much time on video games as the rest of us. But gems are in the mix, and plenty of them. It all totals something fine and worthy and full of love.

Have a listen: Pearls On A String

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Grandpa Tom breezed through town for an oh-so-short visit this weekend. He looks absolutely fantastic! We so wished he could have stayed for a longer more relaxed visit. It was great to see him.

When people who love the kids, but are distant, show up for a visit there is always the moment when The Question is asked: So, what are you doing these days? I don't think the kids feel this as anything other than a normal query. And I probably project tons of feelings over the moment unnecessarily. But let's be honest. What are they doing? People want to know. Because children, especially teenagers, should be really really busy learning tons of fascinating things, right? And all these fascinating things should be easy to classify, quantify, and present. Right? I mean, school does that and we all think of it as a normal way for children to live, with their list of projected and current achievements in hand.

Imagine if adults lived under the same expectation. That's kind of funny. And what are YOU doing these days, hum? Schlepping the paycheck, as always. Washing the laundry. Zoning out in front of a screen for endless days. Consuming more than you create? What we all do.

What are the kids doing? When they answer, and they always give the very most demure answers possible, I am usually cringing inside. The most common answer is probably, "Oh, nothing." Yeah, that's exactly what the evil-grand-step-fairy is waiting to hear: The kids are doing nothing.

You get a fuller picture hanging out with them. On the way to another teen social club meeting (they are endless), I learned that R heard Beethoven for the first time last week. She was on the top bunk in her brother's room with her head hanging over the side, backwards. (Because that's how all students learn, right?) Her brother, apparently, has Beethoven in his music queue. Which was news to me, in the first place. He played it for her. And tears rose in her eyes and as she denied actual crying, she said, "But its about a Lone Wolf, a sad lonely wolf, all alone..." And they laughed.

And I thought, Wow. Huh. This is what they do all day. Explore, experience, process, associate, enjoy. Dare I say it? Learn. How do you grade that? You don't. How do you quantify that for a college application: Classical Music Appreciation 101. How do you show Grandpa Tom? Really, you don't. You just hope the kids are loved and appreciated for who they are, rather than for their list of current and future achievements. Just like all the rest of us human beings. (Grandpa Tom loves them a lot.)

Unschooling offers a rich life that fosters connectivity, complexity, and depth. Grades, not so much. Easily identifiable reportable classifiable official lessons? Not so much. At least, not in the way we've all been taught to think about growing intelligent children, and what's most important.

Friday, October 31, 2014

When the kids were toddlers and my husband finished his graduate degree and scored a permanent job we moved to Texas and bought a house. Real estate in Texas is dead cheap---because no one wants to live there. And that was a great thing for us because, despite the fancy degree and awesome job, we were broke. But because the kids were very little and we had a new home I decided to splurge on Halloween decorations. I went all out, spent more than $100. Which was absurd. But over the years has proven to have been worth it. I bought a lighted haunted house with movable characters, the famous Bony Macaroni who H slept with for a year, an iron candelabra, a corpse that pops out of a casket and screams, a ghost, some feathered ravens, some rats, and Clanker Kitty!

Clanker kitty was awesome. She was made of black steel and had rocking horse feet that moved with the slightest breeze and she clanked. Loudly. And she was big, as tall as R was then. She was so awesome and good at her job of setting a frightening tone that R wouldn't walk past her. Nor the cats. Nor the dogs. It turns out, we had to get rid of Clanker Kitty. But we still have all the rest and we get them out every October.

Except this year. This is the first year H doesn't want to trick or treat and, incidentally, we didn't get the decorations out because the entrance to the attic is blocked by shelving. Moving the shelves...it just wasn't a priority. I guess everyone is getting older and distracted by other things.

But do we ever get too old to celebrate? Let's hope not. R saved us. When I walked in the kitchen this morning to make a cup of coffee before work, I found these ghosts. Excellent! Now we're proper. Thanks R. I love you and I love all the small things you do to remind us how to live. xoxo

Monday, October 27, 2014

This kid asked for components so he could build his own computer, for his birthday. 
So that's what he got. And that's what he did.
Happy Birthday, kid. We love you so much! 
Good work you did, building the computer. Its banging, as well.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Quotes from veteran unschooling mothers chatting online together :

"Been unschooling these kids for a long time now. Just gotta say, I'm BLOWN AWAY by how well its all worked out."

"Yes, I'm weepy and sad that it's gone by and I want to do it again but relax this time. Because unschooling was SO easy, and so okay, and now that I got that, she's almost gone" 

"I'm pretty happy with how my kids have turned out. They are all employed. They're in good relationships, solid, except for Sam, and that's okay because he's busy learning things and knows he's not ready for that yet - that shows maturity too. But I know, because I do remember, even though the memories are fading, I know I lost sleep worrying. Was I doing enough (Yes). Would they be as prepared as their peers (More so). Would they be outcasts (They were the most popular kids that never went to school). Do they need a HS diploma.(Sometimes). Would they be able to relate to people who didn't have the same educational opportunities (i.e. public schoolers from this podunk place) (Not always. They have as much tolerance as I do for ignorance). Would they hate me. (Sometimes). All in all, my kids are by far more successful, both career-wise and relationship-wise, than I was as their ages. They are doing more things right, sooner. Is it because they were unschooled? I absolutely believe so."

"It's amazing how smart you can be when there aren't dozens of adults analyzing you and measuring your intelligence against arbitrary standards." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


This article, dear children, is true down to the last word. It perfectly describes my recent dilemma at work, as well as the solution. Have I ever tried to talk myself out of behavior created problems? Yep. Did it work? Nope. Its wrong. 

This is right--in terms of business, friendships, families, and romances:

What are some consequences of low trust, and high trust?

In low-trust environments, you'll see low morale, disengagement and a lack of commitment. You'll also see people manipulating, distorting facts and withholding information. There will be resistance to new ideas, bad-mouthing, finger-pointing, overpromising, underdelivering and, often, tension and fear. Everything will take longer to do and everything will cost more.

The converse in high-trust cultures is equally true. When the trust goes up in an organization, the speed will go up and costs will come down. Your ability to collaborate goes up, as does your ability to attract, retain and engage people. When trust goes up, you’ll see people sharing information, not afraid to make mistakes, more creativity, higher accountability and greater energy and satisfaction. When you move the needle on trust, you move all kinds of other needles with it.