About Me

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Slush fun

Nathan always says, "No." Unless it's plugged in or battery-run, he resists trying whatever I propose. So when I reminded him that we were going to learn how to make paper Wednesday afternoon, he moaned and fussed.

"Why didn't you WARN me?" he droned.

"I did. Many times. You tuned it out." It's a yogic practice to keep from throttling your own children on some days.

Madelyn was all for it--she'll try most anything as whatever is new intrigues her.

A few months ago, I did a Yoga Bodywork session in exchange for learning how to make paper. The client is an artist, was a museum curator and teacher, and does paper-making workshops at area colleges, art centers, etc. She has a barn studio and all the materials. She had tables set up under two trees, in the shade (because making paper in the sun dries the pulp too quickly), and she told us to come "ready to get wet" because making paper is a slushy business.

First she asked: "Who made the first paper?"

After a few guesses and a pause, Nate mumbled, "I'm lost."

Our teacher exclaimed, "You're right! It was the wasp." (Lucky mumble, Nate). She showed us an empty wasps' nest, pulling off a piece of the top layer, paper so thin you could see through it.

"You can use anything to make paper," she continued, "but it must be from a plant." Then she pointed to a bush by the house. "That's papyrus, what the Egyptians used for their paper. The Egyptians and Chinese were the first to make paper."
(We'll be doing Egypt for history in the fall and Ancient China in the spring. Perfect!)

We poured watery pulp into a frame with a screen at the bottom, lowered it into a water bath, and slooshed the pulp in the water. Pulling the frame straight up, the water drained out, and a layer of wet, even pulp remained. Carefully detaching and lifting off the frame, there lay a sheet of paper. To press out the water, we used shammies, wringing out the water repeatedly.

We cut flower petals and leaves from around the garden to add to subsequent batches, and our teacher had bins-upon-bins full of spices, glitter, grasses, dyes and dye-cuts. Nathan made a couple sheets and proceeded to pace around the yard. Madelyn made several more, doing "better than my high school kids," according to our instructor.

"If I lived here, I would make paper all the time," Madelyn said.

As we prepared to leave, Nathan thanked our host. "This was a lot more fun than I expected," he said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

There's no problem!

We started watching The Adventures of Ociee Nash (pronounced "oh-see"), a library movie. It had the trying-too-hard earnestness of a TV movie and a sentimental sweetness that made Nate squirm. It was too cute, not in a good way. After ten minutes, he whined, "This is not a good movie." Then he followed up with why:

"There's no problem! A story needs a problem and there's nothing."

The conflict was so softly peddled that you'd have to squeeze through all the lovey-sappy dialogue and utopic setting to find it. That's something we talked about months ago, for a writing assignment: every story needs character, a setting and a problem to solve. It stuck.

I let Nate retreat to his room, but Madelyn liked it so we kept on until bedtime. She doesn't mind lots of talking and meandering and a vague problem to solve. She's happy with fuzzy edges and soft lighting and blacktop paved streets in the supposed 1890s. (Shudder).

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Tao of Parenting

Last night, I intervened in a fight. Madelyn was baiting Nate about losing a race, and Nate was swallowing her line, defending himself bitterly. They had been coming home for the night, but when Madelyn got home before he did, she proclaimed that "it was a race, and I won." This had Nate in a fury.

After sending Madelyn to a bath, Nate and I talked for half an hour.

Rather, I talked, drawing out why he was so bothered by losing a contest in which he wasn't even engaged. Once I got him to see that comparing ourselves to others is a guarantee for strife, that being in a race or any contest is really about challenging yourself to work harder, not to "beat" someone else, his face lost its scowl.

Then I veered into the fact that being simply born--after generations of people--and being the result of one sperm and egg (with the potential of being a million other sperm), and being born whole and healthy is itself a miracle.

"Just your being born, and being the unique combination that you are makes you worthwhile. What you choose to do with this life is what makes you valuable. Being better than someone else doesn't make you good. You're already good. Getting whacked out about losing to someone else doesn't make you great; it proves you don't believe yourself to be any good UNLESS you beat someone."

We wound around this idea several times, until I stopped and said, "I've been talking a lot. What do you want to say?"

His brow was smooth, eye serene. "I guess...I feel different. I'm not mad anymore."

Then I woke this morning and found this article, about the Tao way in parenting.
The Enlightened Parent: Who's in charge here?
It's about being a leader by not being forceful but supporting others to lead themselves. That's the sense I have from our talk last night--that Nate felt his own greatness.

His Nate-ness.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Learning by asking

It's 8:35. School's been in session for 35 minutes. Here are the questions that come:

During math (calendar): Why does Easter fall on a different day each year?
Because it comes on the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Why do people in Africa go naked? (Last night we watched the West African folk tale Kirikou and the Sorceress.)
 Because people decide what is acceptable in their own countries. The women in the story go topless, but their legs were always covered, did you notice? Whereas here, we show our legs but not our breasts. In other countries, women cover their faces when they go out. It all depends on what people decide is normal. Africa is not a country, you know. It's a continent full of countries.

Which is the largest continent?
Asia, then Africa, then North America, South America...

What is this lump in the dog's throat?
Probably his hyoid bone, like you have, that goes up and down when he swallows.

(Prompted by his math), How big is an ounce?
It's two tablespoons--thank you red-checkered cookbook--and also exactly one shot-glass full.

I segued into a discussion of why someone needs to know serving sizes--diabetics, for example. We talked about how foods raise your blood sugar and eating too-large servings of starches and sugars can overload the system. We talked about how some people get diabetes because of genetics and some get diabetes because of eating insulin-triggering foods for years on end and the body gets "worn out" and doesn't know how to handle the sugars. I told them how to eat (fiber, protein) and that their staying active helps the body work through whatever they eat. Now they're out on the swings. It's 9:04. 

People think children might "get behind" by being homeschooled. Bah. I defy the public school kids to learn so much in an hour.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer comes early

The week before I left for more Thai Yoga Bodywork training, we finished our  last science lesson before summer break (Intellego Unit Studies, The Human Body Vol 1).

They took two weeks off to accommodate my absence and my return (a couple days to unpack, re-group). Now we're in summer-mode and the only structured learning is math. They read, too--books of their choosing. The kids have been doing daily reading for a couple years, mostly to give them something to do while I cleaned houses in summer months. (Three hours of cartoons is too indulgent.)

While I was away, Nathan discovered a comic bookish cartoon: One Piece. It's in Japanese, so they have to read subtitles while watching episodes on YouTube. While at the library, Nate found a magazine of like-comics called  Shōnen manga (is a popular genre of Japanese comics, generally about action/fighting but often contains a sense of humor and strong growing friendship-bonds between the characters). The magazine has installments of "One Piece," and it was the first thing read out the weekly library haul. Although Nathan found it, Madelyn seems more enamored of it. While in the car last week, Madelyn relayed the following:

She had told a neighborhood friend about this infatuation with "One Piece" a Japanese show about pirates, and the girl told her she was "crazy" to like that "boy show." Madelyn said, "Mom, I told her I can like anything I want, and that boys can like girl stuff, too, like skirts and make-up."

She didn't say this to get my approval; she said this as a matter of fact, defending her right to like what she wants. It proves that being more on her own is better than the immersion of school and peer groups. She doesn't have to align herself with her friends for security. She is secure with us, at home, and can assert herself without fear.

Nathan celebrated a birthday and requested an unusual gift: to spend the night, by himself, with a friend who is exactly sixty years older than he. He loves her company, and she accepted the offer to take him.This is the same friend who taught him how to ante up in poker, play a version of cribbage, and introduced a kiddie-version of Scrabble (Bananagrams). In turn, he has tutored her in Pokemon and Mario Brothers online games.

Here is a lecture Rob and I watched, from TED.com:
Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong
I found it through a blog about unschooling, and it was striking to realize how we avoid being wrong or perceived by others as wrong--because being wrong is what makes humans innovate and create. Avoiding being wrong is stagnation. Take twenty minutes to watch/listen. You'll like it, (but I could be wrong).