About Me

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Late January--getting into our stride

Last week was so full, it felt like two weeks in one. Despite the extras of more-- doing a yoga demo for Constantine Middle School girls' group, bowling with friends, going out to lunch with another friend on another day, working around my doing Thai bodywork one afternoon, picking up our vacuum in Kalamazoo-- the kids got their work done.

Madelyn learned how to do reporting and composed a family newsletter. Nate had to contend with doing neat, correctly-spelled writing because I wouldn't give him a pass on the erratically-paged, semi-decipherable essay he wrote at first. He resisted; I put my head down and kept vacuuming (that's how I stay strong--by cleaning something). When a fifth grade neighbor saw Madelyn's writing project, he pronounced it, "Cool." She beamed.

For history, we watched a video about the human origins (National Geographic: The Human Family Tree). Madelyn said, "We have a HUGE family!" Some of it is a little dry and beyond their comprehension, but it's laying ground for big ideas. This is the stuff I had to wait until high school to see--if there was time and a reason to view it.

The kids are learning Judo; it  is teaching them self control and physical confidence, as well as some Japanese.  Madelyn can tick off 1 - 10 in Japanese, but still gets our address confused with our phone number (!?!?!?!?!?!)

The best --and sometimes worst-- part is being with them through every phase of every day. There are gems in the monotony, though, like when Nathan cautioned against my being anything "like a 20-ish mom who's concerned about fashion" because that's not "the kind of mom [he] wants to have." He would prefer I let him worry about what's cool.

What a relief.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Between strict and free

It seems to bite me back when I give the kids too much freedom. It goes from "freedom" to "anarchy" in one short walk in the snow.

They have a list on the fridge of what they are to do every day. I have stepped back to see how motivated they are to get through the "must-do" things. There's a lot of walking around the house, a lot of free-form conversation about whatever's interesting to them at the moment (all things Japanese and Pokemon are the phases of now).   When I rustle them up for a walk at ten a.m., only math has been done. 

Nate free associates about his friends and the ranking of these various friends in his esteem. When he arrives at the pinnacle friend, he suggests we "walk to his house"--as in TODAY. My weeks are so varied that I need to check a calendar to see what's up for each day, work-and appointment-wise. Visiting this most esteemed friend can't happen for, oh...several days. Maybe not until Saturday. This refusal puts him in a snit. 

When we get home, the snit has become a semi-rage and he's turning irrational. Then a thought dawns: he hasn't eaten yet, has he? 

I ask, and he snarls "NO!". Then he stomps to his room, shouting that he refuses to eat (!). 

This is where freedom turns sour. I mix a soy shake--lots of protein included, demand he remove the barricades, and proclaim that "I'm in charge" and that he will eat .
He is quiet. He drinks the shake, big eyes looking up at me over the blue glass rim. Within ten minutes, he's a rational person again. I explain about our calendar, reminding him that I offered over the last weekend to have over ANY friend he wanted--but he declined. 

"You can't do anything at anytime you want, Nate. That's not how the world works." You have to take your opportunities when you get them, and do your work whether you feel like it or not. 

So: one strike against unschooling and one point for domineering parenting. I heard a bit on NPR about  successful parents in limiting alcohol abuse:

"The parenting style that led to the lowest levels of problem drinking borrowed something from each of the extremes. From the strict parents: accountability and consequences for bad behavior. From the indulgent parents: warmth and support

Bahr says these parents tend to be more balanced.

In other words: tyranny leads to rebellion and laissez faire parenting leads to bad choices. You set the rules, and when they don't comply, you stick it to them. So perhaps this was a better day than it seemed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Since every other kid was off on MLK Jr. Day, we took off the usual subjects, too. However, we watched a BrainPop movie about MLK and were to look for some way to serve another on this day since Dr. King said: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" 

Nate tidied the living room in anticipation of my seeing a Thai Yoga client in the afternoon. He stacked books, cleared dishes, toys, and socks, folded blankets, and arranged the pillows symmetrically on the couch. 

On our morning mile walk/jog, the neighborhood dog ran out to meet us. He is a raggety, bug-eyed Shih Tzu named Samson who runs loose a lot, I've been told. (We first met him two weeks ago and thought him to be lost. We brought him home, fed him, and called a few people to inquire where he belonged. I found his owner--someone who seemed to consider a dog running loose as common as the wind blowing--and we returned him.) Samson followed us home, so we let him in again, fed and watered him, and let him stay an hour until we had to leave. When we pulled out of the garage, he emerged from the side yard and followed our car down the street, like: "Where we going?"

After my yoga class at the gym, Madelyn bought a fruit bar for herself and for her brother. 

In the evening we attended the MLK Jr. Service at Center Park Methodist--the church where Rob plays drums. It was our turn to host this annual event, and the speaker was a district something-or-other for the SW Michigan Methodist area. He was Southern-born Afri-American man, and he preached with cadences that echoes MLK Jr.'s style. The service lasted two hours, included about eight songs, and entailed a lot of high energy preaching and response. The kids held out better than usual--probably because the speaker paced and gestured and amplified his voice to emphasize his points. When he mentioned Jesus saying "What you do to the least of these, you do to me, " I nudged Nathan and whispered "Samson."

He talked about how the "black and white thing" is old news, how the challenge now is to integrate with Hispanics, Muslims, and the homosexual communities. This impressed me as it brings MLK's message into present times rather than lingering over the 50s and 60s Civil Rights, as if we're all fine now.

There was a lot of hand-shaking and hugging afterward, and we ate a light snack. If we ever stop going to Center Park--if Lyne is transferred, say-- I'll go to a black church just for the energy and warmth. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The TP of time rolls on.

I have CD-ROMs for the kids' history and science; however, the history one is lacking in visual aids thus far. It wants us to "talk about" the importance of the past and what a historian does. I love history, but YAWN. So to illustrate the abstraction of The Past, I took a roll of toilet paper and, with a marker, drew a 12-piece "pie" on the end. Each piece of the pie was a month.

"This is the year, and it goes around. You will often see time stretched out like this [pull end of roll and extend a flat piece of TP here], but it can also be thought of as going around, making layers as it goes. The Vikings were around about a thousand turns ago. Madelyn's has been with us almost eight turns."

"What's the hole in the middle?" Madelyn asks.

"The Big Bang," (Other answers could include "God" or "The Void".)

We talked about "bias," how each person remembers differently. Each of us was here last year for Madelyn's birthday, but my version of that day is not her version nor is it like Nate's version. To illustrate bias, I found a link to the Chicago Fire of 1871. The CD-ROM prompted this example, but it was all wordy, so I found another site with crackling fire sound effects and a changing map that shows how the fire had spread.

Sensational destruction aside, our lesson for the day was how the fire started. Apparently, no one knows for certain, but Mrs. O'Leary and her cow get the popular credit. One site said the reporter who got the by-line made up the cow part  to make his account interesting. There are several theories about the fire's origin--party-goers, flaming debris from space, Mrs. O'Leary herself (not the cow). Despite not knowing the facts, the *truth*  is that some people's claims are taken as fact. Mind your assumptions; watch your opinionated tongue. It could make history and destroy a reputation.

What was the "true" story of Madelyn's birthday party? Mine? Nate's? Hers? We all saw a different side of it--that's what. Same for history.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The coincidences that count

In December, I wrote how Madelyn had found a new favorite movie. The characters in "How to Train Your Dragon" are Vikings, so I have made a few attempts to learn/teach about this culture while the student has something to relate it to (versus when you learn stuff helter-skelter without interest or connection).

Let me give props to interlibrary loan. I love it; I use it; and if any institution were to inherit my estate, it would be the library. I found and borrowed a BBC video about the Vikings--at a reasonable 60+ minutes running time. It was in one of our history lessons for this week--and for Madelyn's sake.

Last week, for our winter break, we watched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Today, I was looking up what inspired Tolkien and found references to Finnish poetry. He learned Finnish just to read these old myths/epic poems.

While we sat in dim light watching the Viking movie, the narrator spoke of the "giants, dwarves and dragons" of Viking lore. The Vikings were all about their stories--telling them for generations and then finally writing them down (the sagas). BTW, a "saga" means "it was said" or "what was said." The Vikings come from the same Northern countries that generated the stories Tolkien read that inspired his own stories.

Nathan turned to me as the actors rushed the screen with their swords, wearing their helmets and tunics, and said, "Mom, this could be out of Lord of the Rings." When the camera spanned Iceland and Greenland from a bird's view (more a helicopter, but not as poetic), I thought--that's Middle Earth come true: waterfalls, green rolling plains, volcanoes and icebergs.

The coincidence of our pursuing Vikings and having watched LOTR--and that they intersect-- is why I wanted to homeschool. We can make and observe and pursue these connections. This is where it counts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

So it begins.

Our first day of actual-schooling was a success. The kids have checklists on the fridge of their morning chores, their subjects, and a "housework" box, too. They can select a chore for the day from another list. (Is it not obvious that I like lists?)

We did writing, reading, math, and science. We took a mile walk, too. Once their lists were all checked, they had free time. Nate lost his temper and broke a pencil, so he had to repay the pencil by doing another housework job. A website I have found useful is the Charlotte Mason blog. The free e-books about "How to Start Homeschooling," "Smooth and Easy Days", and "Masterly Inactivity" are readable in one sitting. Look to the right margin for those titles.

In summary, the kids learned how to write a detailed letter, how to hyphenate on the syllable, what "awe" and "awesome" mean and how they are over the top in describing everyday objects, how to solve for an unknown (yes, algebra on Day 1), that there are three kinds of muscles in the body, and that losing one's temper has consequences; also, arguing takes up more of your free time than cooperating.

It has been good.

Tangentially, having good toys comes in handy when the kids act out. A few days ago, Nate lost his Macbook  when he swatted his sister. Being a boy driven by gadgetry, he dug out his hand held gamer, the DS. For Christmas he received a Scrabble-type game: Bookworm. This game not only kept  his attention, but it taught him new words. He typed in the letters "S O U" and it told him a "sou" is a type of French coin worth a small amount. There's learning happening, here! There's spelling (!) and vocabulary (!) and hand-eye coordination as he tries to build words before the time expires. Homeschooling sure is swell when it works without my even trying.