About Me

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reverting forward

Winds scatter snow like static pulls dust, and I am waiting for the kids to come home from school.

They went back. 

I feel obliged to return and tell lingering subscribers what has kept me away so long and why our Home For Good became Home for a While.

My mom died. Well, first she was seriously ill -- on top of her myriad health problems that bloomed and grew over the past ten years. She would falter, recover somewhat, find relief in one infection or ailment only to have the cure bring other problems. 

This time she did not recover. She was in-hospital about six weeks. What was bad cascaded into worse, which turned dire. Her body was shutting down. We were left with removing life support or keeping her in limbo a la machine. We chose what she had made clear in kitchen table conversations: "Don't let me live like that." 

Amid the pull of working and homeschooling and a constant drag of "what's happening to Mom?" I left the kids more and more on their honor to do assignments. They didn't do as much or *all* as I instructed.  I wept and railed at them for being untrustworthy. My son suggested he try middle school. He presented this idea as a way to be helpful. "Then you won't have so much to do," he offered.  It was obvious I was out of my depth.

He went through testing to see if he would place. I cautioned him, "They may put you back a grade." The school said he would be fine in his current grade. He began mid February and never faltered. He has made nothing but A's ever since. He has been placed in advanced math. He loves the camaraderie of other kids "like me." He thrives on the recognition of other adults, whether on the cross country team, at library workshops, or in class.

My daughter was intrigued at the idea of middle school. A different teacher every hour? Art class every day? You get to eat salad at lunch? 

She returned to elementary school in the new school year, to prepare for middle school-to-come. She has a teacher she adores, a gifted young woman who is a natural with the chaos and drama of 5th grade.  Her classroom feels more like a club you'd want to join than a chore. She brings props and dresses up; she counsels without belittling. Bonus: the teacher was home-schooled. I worried about getting scolded for taking my kids out. No chance there.

Social studies has become the new favorite subject, and the structure is precisely what my daughter needs. It was what I had so much trouble providing with my other obligations.  

Our bond didn't break. We still read together at night; I was the parent assistant on my son's cross country team; I went to the capitol with my daughter's class. We don't spend all day together, but the space --in my mind, in my house-- has let me expand my own profession without feeling guilt for taking time from them. 

My kids are not one bit "behind" from having left school. The hassles of home discipline have been traded with counseling on friend drama or sympathy for how loud and distracting a classroom can be. We have yet found the ideal situation. It's something most people--kids and adults--are driven to find. 

We know ourselves better for the experience, though. It was all part of our education.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tribe of four

kids dancing at part

My daughter, M, has just a few good friends. One girl is a full three years younger, but they play as equals. They giggle like mad when they're together. They are in the same dance class and always opt for each other as partner when a dance move requires two bodies.

This friend is not homeschooling, but she is part of a community that sets her apart, a culture that's in the minority. She, her family and her tight community strive to preserve this identity. They don't just pay homage to it like the eyedropper-full Irish who go green on St. Pat's Day or my husband's increasingly watered-down Italian family who love garlic and all, but are otherwise integrated.

This group has a language, a traditional dress, customary music, etc. They hold education classes to continue teaching the young ones. It has been my only glimpse into what an Old World neighborhood would have been like when America was less homogenized.

The friend's name has a pronunciation that everyone "out here" turns into something else. Imagine the name "Mar-TI-nez" (Martinez) pronounced (oh, shudder) Martin-EZ. This girl rolls with it, though. She's not expecting everyone to get it.

My M. uses the proper pronunciation. I learned from the mother how to say the name. That's how M. learned it.

"My dance class makes fun of me for saying (friend's) name that way," M. says. "Even the teacher does."
(She repeats their phrasing, which exaggerates the vowel change).

There's a lesson in this. Give me a second...

"Do you want to say it like everyone else, or do you want to say it the way you know is right?"

"The right way."

"Okay. This is a good thing, you know." (Quizzical eyebrows from M.) "This is a chance for you to do what you know is right even though everyone else, including the person in charge, is doing it another way."

I let her think on that and comb my mind for possible complications...Ah!

"Did (your friend) ask you to say her name like everyone else?"
"So what would you rather do?"
"Say her name the right way."

I can't claim a single heritage. This is a household of European mutts. However, in homeschooling, there's a definite clan, a way-we-do-things that is not diluted by spending most of our days apart. It's a small thing, but I am pleased M. would rather stand out and get a little ribbing than relent and go along with the class. She'll get support from her tribe (us) and experience facing off against a crowd that wants--in a gentle, teasing way-- conformity.

I hope this builds resistance for future times when the teasing is less gentle and the crowd more imposing than a gaggle of girls in tights.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

My bi-polar homeschool


Some days...some weeks...the larger share of some months, I have such doubts about continuing to homeschool. I want to stop feeling the oscillations of delight and failure, like this teeter-toter on which I am tied by choosing this life.

It's tiring, this ride.

On the high side, there's spontaneous learning. We drove home from my mom's in a merest suggestion of snow. The remaining week called for above freezing temps. The Dad and  I recall Novembers full of snow and Decembers were definitely snowier than we've seen recently. My son goes from content to irate when I comment on "global warming." He gets irrational.
"We are never sledding AGAIN!" he bleats. Winter is ruined. It will never recover.

The next day --the very next day-- I am leafing through National Geographic for photographs to use in our Roman mosaics. There's an article about one family and their attempt to make a difference in energy use.  I read most of this aloud as the kids snip and sort papers.

We learn the greatest use of energy is heating one's home. We learn that running a push mower for an hour spews out as much exhaust as running eleven cars; running a riding mower for an hour is equal to running thirty-four (34!) cars.

"Imagine them all lined up on that road," I say, pointing out the window. "Thirty four cars running an hour just for the neighbor to mow his and our lawn."

There's no snow tantrum today. We talk about a concern with facts and guidance. I didn't decide to preach about energy use; it came up as part of life. These are my favorite moments. These kids are going to be fine in life. I just know it.

Then there's the low side, when I become entrenched in "learning" with a capital "L" -- for the sake of keeping up, seeming well-rounded, meeting Core Standards and all that rot. Our schedule gets skewed because we're staying up too late. We don't check off all the items on my list-o-subjects. It's evening, dark already, and I am back home and available to round them up and direct Learning again.

They're not having it.

I call to them. No one answers.
I walk down the hall and confront them. "Let's do history."
Groans and grimaces.

It comes down to either forcing them to pay homage to me for the sake of pleasing my schedule/staying on track/being educated enough, or letting it go for another day. I am more inclined to let it go, and I hate myself for it.

I watch The Great Courses Lectures on my own, taking notes. The girl curls up next to me with Calvin and Hobbes. The boy  is clicking through his YouTube subscriptions. I am failing them; I just know it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Autumn wrap up pics

You mean the year's almost gone? (Really: it was a Starbucks Cake-Pop thing, gone in two bites)
The kit was purchased, but the decorating was all by hand.

So pleased!
Early morning creation:
our outdoor cat, May
(pencil and marker)

Early November excursion to the old campus for pizza and football. 
Every Friday night: Chinese painting class.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween '12

Halloween "science" was making cat and spider deviled eggs.

All design work done by the girl; mom did the utilitarian boiling/peeling/mashing.

 If you know who this is, you're a Pokemon aficionado.  It's "Red" holding a hand-painted Pokeball. The hat and shirt came from the resale store, doctored up with white and red acrylic paint.

 She didn't want to be a "cutsie" bat. She wanted to look like a REAL bat. Minus the pastel sneakers, it's as close as we could get.

The fangs were not comfortable for trick or treating, but they make for a good photo.

The girl's stuffed bats dining on shot glasses of "blood." (Ketchup in water)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

If you're not failing, there's something wrong

I read Teaching Minds a few weeks ago. Here's how it altered my thinking:

Forcing learning is impossible.We can go through the motions, but if you are teaching something separate from a genuine goal, it's a mimicry of learning.
"It is not possible to teach/train students to do things that are not in line with who they are as people...much of what we try to teach in school and train for in companies is an attempt to alter behavior."

Further, we learn processes, not subjects. We learn how to evaluate, describe, plan, negotiate. Separating history from science from psychology misrepresents the layers within a situation or problem.

Teachers--those bastions of society-- are flawed fact delivery services. We need to rebuild with Mentors: those who encourage and ask questions that are not easily answered (like True/False). Mentors "get students to understand the world better and enhance their capabilities. Neither happens through a teacher telling a student anything."

"If a child grows up in a world where questions are expected and long-held beliefs can be abandoned because of new evidence, he will seek [challenging, new] interactions. But growing up with adults as knowing everything and no one's beliefs are questioned will = mindless, dull behavior" (p. 103).

Rather than tell someone what to do, ask,
 "What do you think happened?"
"What could you do differently?"
My favorite slam against bureaucracy is when the author, Roger Schank, distills a page full of chewy, abstract education goals into bubbly swallow:
An effective education means learning:  1. How to be a critic 2. How to respect some and copy others 3. How to know where you fit 4. How to take action 5. How to think (develop questions, seek answers, don't assume the answers come from where you expect).

Finally -- failure. There must be lots of failure.  Failure is anathema in schools, which is pitiful. The way to change behavior--to learn-- is to find what is not working. "Intelligent people respond, when they are confused or when a long-held belief is challenged, with a request for evidence...allowing for the possibility that they are wrong and wanting to know more."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rainbow Cake Unschooling

Monday's lesson : layered cake

What lessons come with making cake?

  • Crack and separate eggs.
  • Divvy cake batter between three pans. You can't eyeball it; you must use a measuring cup and --like siblings require--keep it even.
  • Decide to make our own food coloring or go with the artificial (issues of food safety vs appearance and taste).
  • Level a cake layer after it comes out all puffed on top.
  • Mix butter-cream frosting from a recipe.
  • Experiment with frosting tips and find that butter-cream goes soft quickly. It needs to be chilled to make textured designs.
  • Improvise frosting flavoring when the vanilla is used up for the first batch. (Almond flavored the 2nd batch)
  • Experience that cake, delicious as it is, leaves one with a sugar hangover.