Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A New Year...

Well, I have to officially start our new school year some time. It might as well be yesterday. I meant to start in June, but I was too busy doing things with my kids to actually keep records. That's sort of the irony of the situation. In order to take the time to jump throught the state mandated hoops, I have to not be working with my kids and facilitating their learning. I can either read another book to Abby OR I can take the time to document the 15 books I just finished reading to her. Ahh - record keeping - because I just don't have enough to do in one day...

Anyway, as for our first day of school, it went something like this:

Abby had stayed the night at a friend's house the night before, and pretty much spent the whole day there. Apparently, while she was there, she talked on the phone with another girl who couldn't believe Abby is just four. Later that night she made up stories and watched movies. She discovered The Pink Panther cartoons on Netflix and learned that some times you can tell a complete story without words.

Toby set off on his European adventure. He was a great bundle of anxiety for most of the morning, complete with lack of appetite, nausea, crying, complaining, etc. However, once he learned he was going to be sitting next to his buddy, he suddenly perked up, and almost went throught the security gate without saying goodbye. He learned about air travel, airport security, jet lag and how time zones really work, and how to pack for an over seas trip.

Trevor endured the airport for a little longer than he could tolerate, but later agreed it was worth it in order to get to go to Discovery Place. He thoroughly enjoyed the exibit on marine archeology. However, he was less than tolerant of people who stood in front of him when he was trying to watch the documentary on the recovery of the SS Republic. Afterwards, he told me that it would be cool to work for Odyssey Marine. Now as I'm sitting here, I'm wondering if he made the connection between this company and one of his favorite works of literature. I'll have to put that one on my list of topics to discuss with Trevor. He'll think it is pretty cool when I tell him about it. Anyway, I digress....

Elsewhere in Discovery place, Trevor explored all kinds of simple machines and explored the circus exibit. After waiting in line for over half an hour, he finally was able to get a harness for the tight rope. However, when he climbed the stairs the woman at the top marched him right back down. She claimed he wasn't old enough to walk the tight rope. The minimum age is seven. Trevor will be nine next month. She claimed he couldn't possibly be over seven because he didn't know what grade his is in. I think she felt a little silly after I explained that he isn't in any grade. After I explained to Trevor that she wanted to ask him some questions to be sure he is able to communicate well enough to maintian his safety on the tight rope, he relaxed a little bit. Up until this point, he was a bit confused about why he was not yet walking across that wire in the sky. The woman then went on to ask him what his favorite school subject is - yet another question he could not answer. After a bit more stumbling, she finally came across an appropriate question: "What do you like to do all day?" Trevor responded by explaining his favorite video game. When it finally became clear to him that this lady would never be able to grasp the intricacies of Heroes V, he finally ended with "It's complicated."

In the end, Trevor did get to walk the tight rope, and he enjoyed it immensely. Through the experience, and even now in retrospect, I am still trying to wrap my head around the irony of the situation. My son can recount the plot line of Homer's Odyssey. He can classify levers by type. He understands the role of pistons in an internal combustion engine. He knows what a cartouche is. Yet, some random stranger made a judgement of his maturity and communication skills based on a few banal questions about school. There is now one more person out there who is convinced homeschooling is a bad idea because she didn't know how to ask the right questions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


per⋅son⋅a⋅ble [pur-suh-nuh-buhl]
1. of pleasing personal appearance; handsome or comely; attractive.
2. having an agreeable or pleasing personality; affable; amiable; sociable.

A few days ago, Abby had a friend over for a play date. She was being especially nice to her guest, and I commented on how nice she was being. She looked up at me with a very sincere expression and told me "I enjoy being personable."

I'm not really sure where she learned the word. It's not one I use. I guess I'll just chalk it up to Pinky Dinky Doo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A perfect evening...

This evening after Abby finished dance class, she and I stopped by the recycling center. She was quite pleased with herself as she helped me sort our recyclables into the correct bins.

Once we completed our sorting, we headed over to Lowe's to pick up some variegated liriope. It seems luck was with us tonight, because the racks of clearance plants were packed full. In addition to the six liriope we chose, we also brought home one indian hawthorn, two yellow jasmine, one petunia, two heather, and four columbine. We already had three lavender plants at home that needed to go in the ground. At six o'clock in the evening Abby and I began our race with the sun to get 19 plants in the ground before dark.

While we were playing in the dirt, Trevor decided to grace us with his presence. After admiring the four plants we had already placed in the ground, he decided his super soaker water gun would be the best way to water these new plants. He soon became my taskmaster as he urged me to "dig faster" and "hurry up and get that plant in the ground" because each plant I finished was a new plant he could blast with water. During his over-zealous watering spree, he managed to spray me in the face with a blast of cold water. He quickly acquired a pair of shoes so he could change to a position that did not include me in his line of sight.

As soon as Abby realized I needed a water hose to water the new plants, she immediately ran upstairs and woke her daddy up (who is working third shift this week) so he could get a hose for me. After I placed the sprinkler on the hose it did not take long for Abby and Trevor to start playing in the water. Their mirth bubbled over as they ran and bounced through the muddy flower bed in the spring twilight. The sun finally won the race, and I had to admit defeat less than halfway through our planting frenzy.

After cleaning the tools and children, we had a tasty dinner of tortellini. By this time it was 10pm and time to see Charles off to work. Trevor remained outside in the driveway performing a bit of impromptu martial arts choreography which included a six foot long stalk of bamboo that I did not want in the house, as he had been dismayed to discover earlier.

With the kitchen clean and kids happy, I settled onto my porch swing with a cup of chai and the hardbound copy of Rilla of Ingleside I had acquired a few days earlier from our public library. It wasn't long before Abby joined me on the swing with her own book - Dora the Explorer Subtraction with a magic decoder to reveal the answers. When she tired of this, she brought out her Kumon Stick and Paste book. Time passed quickly and pleasantly as I cut and she glued on over twenty pages of her book. I was quite surprised to discover it was after midnight when Toby joined us outside to have a chat about Pokemon and other things of interest to him.

Soon it was one o'clock and Abby was starting to get frustrated with her gluing, so Toby and I helped her clean up her work, and I tucked her in bed while I reflected on the perfectness of this evening.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In Honor of Abby's Fourth Birthday...

I hope you enjoy watching Abby's life unfold as much as I have. Abby watched this video seven times the day I finished it, and she watches it in the car when we run errands, so I think it is safe to say she is pleased with her birthday present.

I had to compress the video file to fit within Blogger's 100mb limit, so I appologize for any audio/video quality issues.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Demolition Man

In our home learning tends to occur 24/7/365, and more often than not, our children learn many practical skills that are outside the scope of a traditional school program. This week was no exception.

The whole thing actually started yesterday as I was peeling wallpaper off the kitchen wall. Trevor joined in and scraped right along side.

After scraping for a while, we came across a small hole in the wall, so we decided to make it bigger.

Trevor really enjoyed the prospect of knocking down a wall, so today we decided he could go ahead and knock the whole thing down.
As he was working, Trevor repeatedly shouted, "Let's tear it down!" in his best rumbly voice. He informed me that he got this phrase from his new favorite show - Trick My Truck.

Trevor hammered and demolished to his heart's content. After knocking down the plaster, he started talking about knocking down the chimney that was hidden behind the wall. I had to chuckle when I heard Charles say, "Don't worry Trevor, I won't knock down the chimney without you." I wondered how many other eight year olds hear their dad say a phrase like that.

Today Trevor learned to safely take down a wall. On a future day he plans to help us put the new walls up. I wonder how many other children can list wall demolition and kitchen remodelling among the skills they learned in the third grade.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chore lists...

Charles called from work this morning to see how my day was going, as he usually does. I use the term morning loosely. It was actually just after noon, but we were all still in bed, so I'll call it morning.

I told him my plans for the day (remove wallpaper), and we talked about the two closets we plan to build upstairs, as well as a few other things that need to be done around our house. Apparently, Abby heard me talking about getting up and getting to work because I heard her little voice from her little mattress on the floor next to my bed. "Mommy, don't step on me."

By the time I was finished talking to Charles, Abby was ready to get up and get started with her day.

"Mommy let me tell you my chore list. Take a bath." She said this while holding the index finger of her left hand. "Eat." Middle finger. "Can we go to the zoo, mommy? 'Cause this one is go to the zoo." Ring finger. "Those are my chores for the day."

My kids see me make lists with my fingers almost daily. I do it when I go to the store. I do it when I pack. Most of all, I do it when I think about the things I want to accomplish in a day. They see this. They see me make goals for the day. They see that I don't always accomplish everything I set out to do. However, they mostly see that I am approaching my daily work with a positive attitude.

My chore list is a list of the work I want to do in a given day. Chores are not horrible things to be avoided. Instead, chores are those things you do because you want to do them in order to make your life a little bit better.

I'm happy to see my kids are getting this message.

Personal Rights

Trevor: Abby, please be quiet - I'm trying to sleep.

Abby: Mommy, tell Trevor I can sing however I want.

Me: Abby, your rights end where his begin. You can sing however you want in a different room. Trevor has the right to quiet.

Abby: No, he has the wrong to not be loud.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Studies show...

A few nights ago, as Toby, Charles, and I were watching television, a Stouffer's commercial came on that I found a bit perplexing. The commercial claimed that "studies show that children who eat dinner with their families are more likely to feel that their parents are proud of them." Of course, the commercial implies that if you cook Stouffer's meals for your kids it will boost their self esteem, which is completely ludicrous. The statement in this commercial also implies that if your family doesn't sit down at the table and eat dinner together you must be a bad parent.

Because of the causality implied in this statement, I wondered how eating together could possibly make a child think his parents are proud of him. I could see a correlation between the amount of time you spend with your children and the perception they have of your view of them, but I could not fathom the causation that this commercial implies. How can "my mom ate lasagna with me" possibly equal "my mom is proud of me"? Then it dawned on me - in a traditional family dinner is often the only time children spend with their parents.

In an unschooling family such as ours, where everyone eats what they want, when they want, it can be rather difficult for the whole family to eat the same thing at the same time. Our children are encouraged to self regulate their own food intake and listen to their bodies' signals. Requiring children to wait for meal times to eat and to eat at meal times even if they are not hungry often leads to obesity and/or eating disorders later in life.

I just polled my children to find out if they think I am proud of them. They all feel I am proud of them, and we did not eat dinner together tonight. I hope they know I am really proud of their decision making skills and independence of thought.

"Studies show..."
"Studies show anything," as Charles says.

And -
"Commercials are crap," Toby reminds me.

I guess he does listen to me after all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Teaching Mommy to Count

Tonight I decided to expand my knitting abilities beyond the basic garter stitch. I learned to knit over two months ago, and it was definitely time to progress. So I learned how to purl. This expanded my knitting repertoire considerably. I practiced a few rows of my trusty garter stitch. I followed this with my my newly learned stockinette stitch. Finally I was ready to attempt the rib stitch.

That's when it happened.

Abby was sitting beside me playing a computer game as I quietly counted under my breath: knit 1, knit 2, purl 1, purl 2, knit 1, knit 2, etc. After a short while, I started to notice that Abby was periodically saying "three" quietly under her breath. This went on for for a little while longer until Abby, in total exasperation, looked at me and said, "After two comes three, mommy."