About Me

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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Monday, November 29, 2010

...leave them alone and they'll come home...

...dragging their backpacks behind them.

Nathan woke up this morning and said, "Mom, can I stay home today?"

I told him that if he takes the necessary letters to school and cleans out his desk, he can stay home tomorrow--for good.

His new teacher is a young man --a rare thing-- and Nate likes him a lot, but hearing me read John Taylor Gatto (JTG) excerpts, and knowing that he *could* be pursuing his own interests was more alluring than worksheets and busy work.

So today he learns how to let go and leap.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Days 5&6 -- A greyish, lazy weekend

The day after Thanksgiving, the only productive thing we did was getting the oil changed. The kids watched toons; I read more John Taylor Gatto (A Different Kind of Teacher -- essays). We talked in the evening about something Gatto says are two defining charactertics: What you will NOT do and what you actively choose to do.

Today is Saturday, and after teaching a yoga class, I offered a walk with any takers. Nate came along and spent the whole brisk two miles telling me about nuances of his favorite Saturday morning cartoon (Dragon something-or-other). When I asked what he would do *if* he didn't have to go to school on Monday (hint hint), he said: "I'd eat breakfast and probably sit around and think for a while."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 4 --It's a holiday; have you LEARNED anything?

Nate, despite not officially homeschooling, had to learn to make waffles on Thanksgiving morning. He asked for them; I said, "If you really want them, you'll learn to make them." He learned:

  • How to read a cookbook index to find the waffles page ("This takes so much longer than just typing it into the computer!")
  • How to measure milk into 3/4 cup when we don't have a 3/4 cup (only 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1).
  • How to pour and level flour (don't tap it down!)
  • What baking powder is: "No, it's not the same thing as flour. It just looks like it."
  • How to "make a well" into dry ingredients. He created his own method, using a wooden spoon like a drill.
  • How to stir a batter "until just combined" and what lumpy batter looks like (even Dad asked, "Is this OK, Ma?").
  • How to measure 2/3 cup without a 2/3 cup.
  • How to pump the manual spray pump to grease the waffle iron.
 Madelyn continued helping with Thanksgiving prep. She cut the bread for the stuffing into 1/2" squares. We used the ruler to measure and cut a guide-slice (to be used as a template for cutting the remainder). Later we learned that cooking stuffing and stirring it every so often turns it into a sticky, stiff mess. The stuffing was not good this year. My dad advised we "toast the bread the night before." Ah. I won't stir it next time, either. We all learned something today.

After dinner, we played Apples to Apples and Scattergories. The kids played, too (and had to learn to keep up--these were the grown-up versions, not the simplified, kid-versions).

The best and then hardest lessons of all came in the evening. We wanted to see the movie "Tangled," but Madelyn wanted to stay home and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving again this week. At the last moment, she changed her mind. It was a marvelous movie--one we would all see again. She learned that taking a chance can be a great thing.

During the movie, however, aunt Becca had shared popcorn and Madelyn overdid it. It's the Thanksgiving lesson we all have had: overindulgence. Madelyn went to bed with a bellyache (not the nervous kind).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What *really* started it

Here is a list of what led us to quit school and "drop in" to our real lives:

We have met several people who homeschooled, and they are a self-sufficient, ecclectic bunch--people who made me realize how dependent I was on someone to tell me when/where/how to start. They just dove in.

When I taught college composition, the best students were homeschoolers.

The most accomplished and attentive players on Nate's soccer team are homeschoolers; this brought me in contact with a couple of moms who illustrated "what it's like" and cracked me open to the notion--perhaps proximity breeds curiosity and motivation.

John Taylor Gatto.  When I was in college, one of his essays was in my college composition textbook. I was impressed that a former public school teacher would passionately denounce the institution in which he was raised and had worked for a lifetime. While researching homeschooling, I found his name again. Using interlibrary loan, I requested more of his work. After dinner every night for a week, I read a chapter of Dumbing Us Down to my husband, Rob. He wasn't certain about homeschooling, but he nodded throughout each chapter, recognizing his own frustrations in school even more than I.

Practicality: My husband works in manufacturing, and if he changes jobs it will likely be off-shift. If the kids are home, he can see them regardless of when he works.

For their health: Madelyn missed 6.5 school days before we decided she would quit. 1.5 of those days were nervous bellyaches (plus many more on school mornings that I coached her to ignore so she wouldn't be absent). The other days missed were due to classroom viruses: colds, diarrhea, and an earache.

Further on health: school lunches are mushy convenience foods, designed to meet a calorie requirement. They are hastily served and must be scarfed down for the child to be done "in time" for the next group of kids to come to the trough. I ate with my kids several times and barely had time to finish (and I didn't talk). Then there's the breakfast offered "free" (and without my permission): Cocoa Puff Cereal Bars and Go-gurt yogurt tubes. I looked up the sugar content and, for each item, it surpasses a candy bar. There's a "No Sugar" policy at their school. Irony or ignorance?

The last straw:
Reading The Teenage Liberation Handbook ( by Grace Llewelyn), was like taking off a heavy flannel face mask. She introduced me to trusting my own kids. I had not realized how many little ways I mistrusted them: whether they were acting "right" or learning "enough" (even being in school) or whether they were "wasting time." Realizing this inner dialogue and letting it go lifted me out of impatience and annoyance with my kids. It's no wonder people say they "could never homeschool."  I had felt the same way. I didn't trust them to become decent humans without my managing (or silently judging) them continuously.

We were waiting until Christmas to start because it seemed a logical stopping point. Then we moved it to after Thanksgiving. My daughter, however, was begging to stop now. She was teary-eyed before school each day. Our imposing an arbitrary, later date was one more way of not trusting her lead.

The Friday before her last week, she said: "Mom, do I have to go to school today?"

I had already informed her teacher and principal.

I replied, "Really? No. You don't." Her face softened like she had just heard a life-saving prognosis. For her, I think that is what is was. She went to school for the last time on Monday (see the post "Starting It").

We are home for good: home-based and home for our own good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Starting it

My daughter quit school on Monday. We went in together, sorted though her desk, and left within ten minutes. Her teacher advised her not to "be lazy."

This is what she did her first day:
She played in the mud under the backyard swing and brushed our outdoor cat, "May". It was a balmy day (60 degrees) and damp. It was unusual weather for mid-November in Michigan, and I like to see "signs" when they're convenient. I took it as a marker for a new kind of life.
She learned to "Google" and looked up why cats have tails.
She wrote in a notebook. I don't know what she wrote. We all watched "Searching for Bobby Fisher."

Tuesday (2nd day):

She made her own scrambled eggs on the stove; she drew pictures, learned what Jupiter was made of (Google w/help from me); she asked how half a dozen words were spelled (for her journal?); she watched an hour of "Potter Puppet Pals" on YouTube (the songs are carved in my short term memory),  she learned to use the food processor and we did prep work for Thanksgiving's homemade stuffing; she accompanied me to a spiritual discussion group--and drew the whole time; we discussed what a "hobo" is; she read the comics and TV section of a newspaper while I cleaned an office, she read picture books at bedtime.

Wednesday (3rd day):

Made scrambled eggs; watched another hour of Potter Puppet Pals, went to the gym while I taught yoga (I don't know what they did in the kid's room, but she and her brother were laughing before I got out of range); played some Monopoly with her brother and a grown-up friend while I cleaned; rubbed, chased, and loved-on the dog of said-friend; went to ballet. It's not yet dinner. Who knows what will come next?