Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Friday, December 5, 2008

November's Books

  • The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
  • The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay
  • The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Gospel of Judas, by Simon Mawer
  • The People of Sparks, by Jeanne Duprau
  • Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
  • Vermeer's Hat, by Timothy Brook

Friday, November 14, 2008

Well, summer is over. Fall has set in. This was a sign.

When the boats are in the garage and on the ceiling, it's official.

This morning the little ones crawled into bed with me. When the "cuddle" had turned into more of a "wrestle" I innocently mentioned "have you looked outside to see the weather?" Oh my! The excitement, the squeals!

This light dusting of snow was met with an instant search for snow pants and boots. As my husband got up our 4 year old chanted at him "Daddy it snowed! It snowed! I'm going out side! I knew it would snow. I'm putting on my mittens and my boots. It snowed! I'm going to play in the snow. Daddy it snowed! I'm going to make a snowman!"

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Interestingly I wrote this some time ago, and yet it is just as applicable today. How long ago I don't know, since I didn't date it. (Eye roll to self.) By the topics it must have been about 4 years ago! I'm posting it anyway because not only is it pertinent, but it's continuing timeliness is intriguing.

Balance is something I seem to find hard most the time. I'm one of those people who seem to throw themselves into something intensely for a while, and then do nothing for a while and then move on to something else. I can't keep my house clean and play with my kids. My garden grows full of weeds, then I threaten the roots of the desired plants by pulling all the over sized weeds that have grown up next to them. I ignore my houseplants until they wilt and then nearly drown them. It does evolve a certain amount of hardiness in the plants that survive, but I'm not sure it's the best method for children. I'm working on this--having the children is motivation, since they need consistency, and are consistently needy.

In their own way the children are also not consistent: They are clingy one day, independent the next, one day oatmeal cookies are wonderful, the next week, disgusting. Their interests change quickly also. Dinosaurs, electronic, airplanes, plants, gerbils, ... if I think I know what is their favorite topic for the moment I'm wrong. But there is one thing I can count on, their curiosity and enthusiasm. Is it their fault if I'm a step behind on the topic?

Without intention we seem to do “unit studies”. I don't design the studies, no outlines, designated projects or topics. But a video, commercial, or book might spark an interest that gets explored at the library. A pet might beget a project like the mini-pond in our front yard. A question about steam has lead to a discussion of the ideal gas law, Avogadro's Number and the history of chemistry, all supplemented by Internet searches. (It also postponed bedtime, which may have been the point!)

Maybe balance needs to be considered over a larger length of time. Maybe it isn't an absolute. A day or a week, or even a month isn't enough. We need years to look back and see if our lives were balanced enough.

October's books

  • New Moon, Stephanie Meyer
  • Odyssey of Mind Coaches Manuel
  • 101 Drama Games for Children by Paul Rooyackers
  • The Sprit of Play, by Dale N LeFevre
  • Fablehaven, Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull
  • Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris
  • Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
  • The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud
  • Snobs, by Julian Fellowes
  • The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Embracing all of life, even death

We've been pretty busy here. One of the things keeping me busy is that I've accepted a position helping with music in our children's worship services at church. This month we're working our way up to Dia De Los Muertos in November.

One of the songs we're singing is "Circle of the Sun". It's a great song about the life cycle, being born, living, and dying. I know that dying is a taboo subject for many people. It's certainly not talked about much in social situations. Yet, it is as important a part of our lives as birth. In our church we don't offer the comfort of a promised eternal salvation. We acknowledge and honor the many beliefs of world faith traditions, while respecting the independent search for truth of each individual.

I'm just singing with the kids, but here's what I'd say if I were speaking.

Who here was born? Ya? Me too!
Who has a family? Me too!
Who here is going to die? Me too!

Did I see that some of your hands didn't come up so quickly? Why? I know you're going to die. I'm going to die. We will all die, someday. You. Me. Everyone here. Everyone we've ever known.

It's normal to feel sad and lonely when someone we know or love dies. It's normal to feel worried and scared to think about your own death or that of those you care about. But I want to tell you something.

IT'S OK. Dying isn't the worst thing that happens to a person. Those who have died are beyond pain and sorrow. It's those people alive who suffer when a loved one dies. When someone we care about dies - we hurt. We can see that other people are hurting too. Hurting is scary. Sometimes we don't know if the hurt will ever stop. We can feel alone and isolated in our pain. So when someone dies it's up to us to reach out to other people -to offer comfort - to ASK for comfort. When death takes a loved one we need to acknowledge that loss. We also need to be present in our community. We need to experience the human condition together, acknowledge our vulnerability and take solace in the company of fellow travelers.

Let's celebrate death as one more part of our circle of life. Death will come to us all. Let's not ignore it. Let's play with it. Play tag with it! Let's have so much fun, love so many so hard, that when death finally catches us, breathless and laughing, we have no regrets that we're finally "it".

I don't know how that would go down in Sunday school. But it's what I believe, and what in essence I've told our own children. It doesn't make the pain of loss any better. I don't think it takes away the fear of death. But I do think that acknowledging the place of death in life honors our lives far more than ignoring it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September's books

  • City of Ember, by Jeanne Duprau
  • Feast of All Saints, by Anne Rice
  • The Worst is Over, by Judith Acosta & Judith Simon Prager
  • Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
  • Imaro, by Charles Saunders
  • The Greenman, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
  • Acheron, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • A Walk with Jane Austen, by Lori Smith
  • twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
  • Playful Parening, by Lawrence Cohen

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

August's Books

  • Endangered Minds, by Jane M. Healy
  • Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
  • First LEGO League Coaches' Handbook
  • Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields
  • Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austen
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers, by Amy Hollingsworth
  • Bad Attitude, by Sherri Kenyon

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's not just me, is it?

I've had some people tell me they don't know how I do it - three "good" boys, homeschooling, always being a good mom.... Well, I do have three boys and we do home school, but they're not always "good" and I'm pretty far sometimes from being a "good" mom.

I thought I'd share this so that those of you who think that some of us have it all together learn that we ALL have those days...

This morning I'm using the restroom (I'm right in the middle of things, of course.) and not quite able to get up, when I hear the escalating sounds of unhappy 3yo. I shout "USE YOUR WORDS" and try to hurry up - some things don't hurry. I hear the 3 yo old screaming his angry scream. Then I hear the unmistakable scream of an older kid in pain, it goes on and on.... Finally I'm scrambling up, washing at light speed, buttoning my pants w/ one hand, and running out the door.

The 3yo had bitten the 10 yo old hard enough to break the skin and leave a huge bruise. Both were angry and indignant, and mad at ME for using the toilet and not preventing this.

Some days you just can't win, or apparently, use the toilet.

It's Official

I have 3 Right Brained Boys.

I had my doubts about our youngest (3). He seems so verbal, so able (for his age) to process linear thinking... But now I know. He's a performer, a writer, and possible anarchist, in the making.

He's been listen to his 7yo brother and me read the Captain Underpants series together. This has inspired him to tie an old red pj top of mine around his neck, strip to his underwear and run around being Capt. U. This is well within the range of normal 3yo behavior, in my experience. But then...

But then, today, he came to me and said "Did you know Captain Underpants has an evil twin?"
Me "?"
Him "Yes. And when you take off your cape and your underwear, then you're the evil twin" and then he showed us Captain Underpants EVIL TWIN.

So now you know. Beware the evil twin. ;-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

July's Books

I'm quite sure that I read more than three books this month. Didn't I? Hmm.... maybe not.

Quite a Year for Plums, by Bailey White
The Little Country, by Charles de Lint
A Language Older than Words, by Derrick Jensen (OK, I didn't finish this one all the way. It was way too sad. True, and all the sadder for it.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

May and June Books

  • Tapping the Dream Tree, by Charles DeLint
  • A Song I Knew by Heart, by Bret Lott
  • Tomorrow, When the Way Began, by John Marsden
  • The Last Colony, by John Scalzi
  • House on the River, by Nessa Rapoport
  • A Different Kind of Teacher, by John Taylor Gatto
  • The Call to Brilliance, by Resa Steindel Brown
  • Real Life, edited by Grace Llewellyn
  • ADHD and the Nature of Self Control, by Russell A. Barkley
  • Peace is the Way, by Deepak Chopra
  • Quentins, by Mauve Binchy
  • The Well Adjusted Child, by Rachel Gathercole
  • Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret
Yes, there were more, some good children's books I pre-read, and I don't know what else. Hey, if I remembered, I'd have put it in. :-)


We're having a busy summer here. I'm behind in posting my books I know, I've read more than are currently listed, but not much more! :-)

I have my nephews with me for three weeks this summer. My brother is serving his second tour in Iraq right now, and my sister-in-law is working on her M.Ed., trying to finish up, since he is expected back this fall. She needed some to put in some extra work this summer, and also wanted her kids to have a chance to get to know their Colorado relatives, so all of us in CO are taking turns having them with us. My goodness are they a handful!

I have three boys of my own, ages 10, 7, & 3. My nephews are 10 & 8. That means I have 5 (!) boys with me 10 and under. I'm 5 feet tall, (when I'm not quite telling the truth ;-) ), so picture me surrounded by a pack of boys, 3 of them nearly as big as me. Boy, you should see the way folks cringe when we troop into a store! We get lots of attention. "Are they all yours?" :-D This one cracks me up, since the two nephews call me "Aunty April" pretty often, and VERY loudly. Also, their mom is black, so they look noticeably different than my kids. To be fair, we could be a blended or adoptive family. Still, what am I supposed to answer? It could be a personal question. Maybe I was free and loose with my affections! We've had some fun with it. My husband told someone "We've got a couple of rentals". I like to say "They're mine today." But sometimes I want to say "Why? Want to make me an offer?" "I'll take $5 for the noisy one."

We just got back from taking them all camping up at Glendo. We brought our kayaks and sailing dingy too. It was very brave of all of us to do this. My nephews had never been camping. They came with their own gameboys and gamecube. They told me that they don't like to go outside. So our life style of hiking, camping, boating, etc,. is a bit ...ahem... new to them. We have never had 5 boys in our care, so that's pretty new to us. My oldest didn't help, what with talk of mountain lions and bears and rattle snakes. I could have strangled him when my nephews nervously broached the subject with me one bedtime and I realized the source of their mis-information. I was worried - you know how fast a camping trip can go downhill, even with experienced campers. Luckily we had no major mishaps, good weather, and lots of s'mores. The children all had a great time. I did too, something I'm trying to remember as I wade through the piles of smoky smelling laundry.

Well, ok, there was one mishap. But it didn't involve the kids. My husband took our sailing dingy out in a stiff breeze and tried a new maneuver on it. One can presume, since he came to shore on a power boat w/ the dingy in tow, that it could have gone better. Still, since there were no children with him at the time, he was wearing his PFD, and the power boaters didn't claim salvage rights, all was well in the end.

It's interesting how 5 nice boys which ,when taken individually, are each great kids, become a pack of misbehaving miscreants when spending any time at all together. I can't believe I had to explain why chanting "Bacon! Bacon!" loudly at a restaurant isn't ok, even if it is just a fast food place. Then there's the difference in socialization. My youngest has taken to copying his cousins' speech. "Ya, Riiiight" he says sarcastically. Aghhh!! I don't need that from a 3 year old.

But it does go the other way too. Being UU's my kids have a concern for the environment and took to picking up every bit of garbage they found at the park. It didn't take long before the cousins were helping and being taught which was recyclable and which wasn't. Unfortunately there was a lot of it, the 4th of July weekend having just passed. "Mama, lots of people must like this kind of soda" said my 7 yo holding up another empty Bud Light can. LOL!

Life with 5 boys is busy, noisy, exhausting, and, yes, fun. But I'm not sure I'll be doing it again any time soon!

Friday, June 13, 2008

On the road....with kids

My boys and I have done some long-ish road trips together. Given that we have 3 kids, still need car seats and boosters, and airports being what they are, we have found that driving when we can is a fun and economical way to travel, even including the cost and trouble of gas and hotels. We've come to look forward to our trips as special time together, as well as a way to get from point A to point B.

It helps to have a plan. Here's what has helped our family have a good time on the road.

Activities: Every kid has a pencil box of colored pencils and markers, sticky notes, tape, etc.. and a notebook of paper. If I need to push on when I don't think they'll want to, I keep a stash of crafts or toys to dispense as a bribe to get back in the car and keep going for a while, dollar toys, modeling wax (LOVE IT!), Wikki Stix, magic modeling clay (if you get white it's cheaper and then they can color it with their markers.), sticky notepads (great for making flip books), pipe cleaners, etc.. I tried beads once, that was a mess! Note: crayons will melt in a warm car, then leak through whatever they're in to find the lowest potential energy. Melted crayon does not come out of carpeting very well at all.

I also really like books on tape. I know a lot of families swear these days by portable DVD players and hand held gaming systems, but we haven't gone that route. What I really like about road trips is that we are all in one spot together sharing our experience for a good length of time. With DVD or electronic games, the driver isn't involved, and the kids don't interact with each other or the driver. With a book on tape we're all listening at the same time, sharing the experience. We stop it and talk about it, which is very fun. Also, because I have to turn it off when I need to concentrate, the kids tend to notice our surroundings and the traffic patterns more. They are actually helpful, being extra sets of eyes.

Food: We pack lots of healthy snacks and water, that way we don't eat junk and get grumpy and over-sugared because we were munchy when we stopped at the gas station. It also helps for any family where there are allergies or food issues. Rather than a gas station or fast food join, we tend to stop at the rest stops for snacks, picnic lunch, and running around when someone needs the toilet. We tend to feel like we really got a break when we play outside, which we don't get to do at commercial places. We'd rather eat McDonalds in the car and then have time to run and play when we find a park or rest stop.

Planning: Because I am the only adult, I'm doing all the driving myself. We stop at night, so I can sleep. I try to find hotels with swimming pools. I really like the AAA guides to help pick out places while on the road and then use the cellphone to call in a reservation - no hunting around a new town with a car full of fussy kids! (If you don't have a membership, you probably know someone who does and would be willing to lend you the books you'd need.) The novelty of swimming pools and cable TV makes the whole thing a great treat to the kids.

Stopping frequently is also helpful. On one leg of a journey my husband joined us, and so we didn't need to stop as often, or as soon. The kids really hated it! Taking a break every ~3 hrs and driving no more than 8hrs in a day really seem to work better for them. Driving at night while they slept might be an exception that would work.

In addition to designated rest stops, we have enjoyed visiting museums and sights along the way. With our membership to a local museum we get a list of reciprocal museums that we get into for free. We plan ahead to use as many of these for our rest/play stops as possible. We've had so much fun with this that the children now ask in advance what museums we'll be getting to see on our road trips.

Happy travels!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Audio Resources

Of the many resources we use for our homeschooling, one of the most flexible and fun are audio books and lectures. We listen in the car as we run our errands, or on car trips. We also listen at home as we do chores or crafts. We have found just about all of these through our library although some, as you can see, are on-line resources.

Check out the material from The Teaching Company. They have college level lectures on CD and DVD for just about anything you can think of. My kids have enjoyed the lectures "How to Listen to and Understand... Music" series. (We discovered the hard way that we should have skipped the plot reviews of the operas, they were a bit... graphic - at least for our sensitive kids. Oops.) For the most part the kids seem to absorb far more than I would have expected. It's amazing how little the language needs to change for the younger set to know just what you mean.

Another audio series we have enjoyed is from Recorded Books (itself a resource to investigate for favorite books), called the Modern Scholar. Don't miss anything by Prof. Micheal D.C. Drout. We've listened to his "History of the English Language" as well as "Way With Words: Writing, Rhetoric, and the Art of Persuasion". We've enjoyed other titles there as well. See what peaks your interest.

Blackstone Audio Books has an enjoyable recording of Puck of Pook's Hill, by Rudyard Kipling, that sparked an interest in history at our house.

Radio Lovers has had some great shows that Grandma and Grandpa might remember. We enjoyed listening to the adventures of Cinnamon Bear last December. Other on-line listening has come from favorite public radio show podcasts. The Splendid Table and NPR are two favorites.

Currently we're enjoying listening to Susan Wise Bauer's "The Story of the World" series, read by Jim Weiss (himself an excellent creator and teller of stories). We have found some small errors, for example, llamas were beasts of burden in South America, not Nepal - that would be yaks. So, as with anything, it can be helpful to be ready to stop the story and talk about what you're hearing (or reading). Don't miss the great reading lists in SWB's The Well Trained Mind. Many of the books and stories there are classics and also available in audio form.

It's a mistake to over look adult non-fiction for family listening. Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", as read by the author was enjoyed by all of us.

Something special you can do for your child is to create a recording of you reading a favorite story, poem, meditation, or singing songs. I've recorded some meditations from "Star Bright Meditations" for my husband to play for the children when I'm away for an upcoming family wedding. I used Audacity to record directly onto the computer, which has so far been pretty easy and intuitive. This has been a lot less frustrating than the time I recorded all of one of the Moongobble books, just to have a toddler mangle the tape.

I'm sure I'm missing a favorite, Even as I write I'm remembering so much, Harry Potter on our way up to the mountains, My Side of the Mountain on our way to Texas, and "Bard of the Middle Ages: the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer" on the way to the Renaissance Festival. Sigh... :-)

Happy listening!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

April's Books

  • Running wit Scissors, by Augusten Borroughs
  • Look Me in the Eye, by John Elder Robinson
  • Interred with Their Bones, by Jennifer Lee Carrell
  • Evolution's End, by Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • A Thousand Names for Joy, by Byron Katie
  • Loving What Is, by Byron Katie
  • Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
  • The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi
  • Listening from the Heart of Silence, by John J. Prendergast & G. Kenneth Bradford
  • The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand
  • Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days, by Judith Viorst
  • And the Skylark Sings With Me, by David H. Albert
  • Marley & Me, by John Grogan
  • A Choosen Faith, by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church
  • The Biz Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

Friday, April 25, 2008

Homeschooling Science

At a homeschooling information meeting I organized someone asked “What about science?” “How can a student learn science at home?”

I rambled a bit about the Discovery Center, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, books, experiments and on-line resources. But here's what I wished I had said.

Science is a method. The scientific method allows us a way to know our world, to make discoveries that are testable. Science isn't just what you find in a book of facts. That book of facts is great, but it's just the information we've learned using science. To really understand science you have to practice the scientific method and experience the power of it's application.

That can be done anywhere, anytime. Perception and wonder are a great start. Notice what is around you. Wonder how it got there, what it does, why it does that, how it does that. Observe. Make a guess (hypothesize) and test your guess against reality. Wonder and notice some more.

That said, it does help to have information to fill in the blanks.

Some books that we've liked:

DK EyeWitness books

Usborne Book of Science Activities (v1-3)

Science Crafts for Kids (this one is great!)

Making Things (more artsy, but uses basic principles you can highlight)

Also look for books about inventions, mistakes that worked, how things work... etc.

Don't forget that children's play is their "work". Science is naturally fascinating.
Here are some sources for toys that reinforce scientific principles
Edmund Scientific

American Science and Surplus

Museum Tour Catalog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So many books...

A quick run down of some of this month's books.

Favorites so far are the Scalzi books and Robinson and Burroughs books.

Scalzi is just fun! I'm enjoying coming home to some science fiction.

Look me in the Eye and Running with Scissors are books written by brothers about their very different, fascinating, illuminating, and scary, childhoods. I didn't find anything shocking in it, but I wonder what folks who had a normal childhood would think of them. Hey, anyone out there have a normal childhood?

Byron Katie's books are her self-found form of Zen. Interesting, possibly useful, but I have the same problem with them that I've had with other Buddhist perspectives. Excessive detachment seems too often to lead to a remarkable lack of compassion. In addition, "loving what is" seems to me to discourage individuals and societies to investigate positive change. Like so much, when taken to the extreme, this ideal becomes dysfunctional. I don't want to live in her world.

Ayn Rand...well, there she is. Again. Thought I might find something new but, sadly, did not. Again with the extremism and lack of compassion. Not to mention, except here I am mentioning it, there are flaws in the Objectivism logic than any first year philosophy student could point out. I don't want to live in her world either.

Listening from the Heart of Silence, and Evolution's End, are both a little woo-woo for me. They have grains of truth, helpful ideas, but use garbly-gook to bind themselves together. I found myself wishing they had had exceptionally critical and thoughtful editors to help them better present their ideas and clear their thoughts and language. Bet you wish I had that too, eh?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

John Gatto, Live!

Last night my husband and I got to attend a lecture at UNC by John Gatto. We braved blustery April snow to get there and I thought it was well worth it.
He spoke very much like how Underground History reads.  That is, brilliant concepts backed up by evidence and facts, but windy and not necessarily well organized.  He had many interesting digressions, but it wasn't always clear where he was going with his meandering.   I thought Dumbing Us Down was more concise and better edited than An Underground History of American Education.  I had hopes that Weapons of Mass Instruction would get a ruthless editor, but if last night was chapt. 2, then probably not.  If his message were refined, it could get a broader audience.  

As it is, I worry that he comes off as a crack pot conspiracy theorist, impressed with his own verbiage. The truth of his message is lost due to it's presentation. Still, while I didn't hear anything new and thought my husband would have wanted to leave at intermission, not having read Gattos' stuff, he wanted to stay and hear more.

Here are a few highlights of the talk that I picked up on. I wish I had brought paper and taken notes. (What was I thinking?)

I liked the description of "Open Source Learning" (or Open Source Education) - taking learning from everything and everyone. (like "Learning all the time" by John Holt)

His take on creating a consumer culture vs the producer culture that we started out as back when America was just colonists rang true.

His ideas on independence and "adding value" to your life and the lives and world around you as a way to success inspired some ideas I'd like to include in our homeschooling.

He saw a change in the perception of the teen years as an extended childhood in modern culture as compared to young adulthood (in the past).

He accurately described testing and grading as a social construct that encourages comparisons and competition between people, as well as creating the idea that people can/should be valued by their scores - and the damage it does to people who actually believe their value is determined by tests and ranking.

He exposed the false promises of schooling - that you will learn what you need to know to be successful in your life in a classroom. I was told that if a certain level of education was reached, employment was virtually guaranteed, yet I know so many un- or under-employed people with advanced degrees. In reality what makes a person successful is rarely a piece of paper (degree or test scores).

He did define success, rather exclusively, as financial or social prominence. I think because those are measurements of success that we can all understand, where as other measurements of success might be harder to define and see. Also, truth be told, financial independence allows one to do as one chooses, and gives one power/freedom in modern society, both of which are things most people would choose for themselves and their children.

More troubling he pointed out a connection with UU's revered David Starr Jordan. I'll need to do some research to see if I agree with his take on this, but so far, I'm afraid Gatto might have it right again (Jordan was a supporter of eugenics). People are products of their times, both good and bad.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Disease-ifying the human condition

I was able to surprise my husband this morning by proving that "Oppositional Defiant Disorder" was an actual clinical diagnosis and not something I made up to describe the behavior of our strong willed and intense 6 year old. From the site : "Many children with ODD will respond to the positive parenting techniques." LOL! So is the problem with the kid, the parent, expectations, ... ?

It's tempting to generalize difficult situations and people into some sort of disorder. Slap on a label and prescribe a drug and you're done. It's a lot more time and energy consuming to address the underlying issues. Drugs and labels can be useful. They do have a place, but only after careful consideration, and only after ensuring that the environment is as healthy as possible.

Here are some websites about the kids that others are so quick to label.
The Explorer Webstar: The Positive Side of ADD
Strong Willed or Dreamer?
Highly Sensitive Checklist
Apple Stars (blog)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

March's Books

  • Taken, by Edward Bloor
  • A Choosen Faith, by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church
  • Gone to Texas, Preacher series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
  • The Tipping Point, by Malcom Gladwell
  • The Average Human, by Ellen Toby-Potter
  • Out of Our Minds, by Ken Robinson
  • Tithe, by Holly Black
  • Learning Outside the Lines, by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole
  • The Good German, by Joseph Kanon
  • The Healing Heart - Families, by Allison M. Cox and David H. Albert
  • In Their Own Way, by Thomas Armstrong
  • Ethics for the New Millennium, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Empire of Ivory, by Naomi Novik
  • A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver Van DeMille

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Disfunctional person or environment?

Found this article on ADHD, Diet and Exercise. It's about a miracle cure a young adult had of his ADHD when he improved he diet and got LOTS of exercise. He went off his meds cold turkey and is doing great, so long as he runs 3-6 miles a day.

So, is it a miracle cure? Sure, if you believe there was actually something wrong with him in the first place. From my perspective, his environment and life style were out of sync with his physical needs. When he found the balance that worked for him he didn't suddenly have an ADHD cure. He just found what he needs to be healthy.

What's sick is our modern lifestyle. Refined foods like white sugar and flour are ubiquitous. Natural and whole foods are expensive. Children are confined to small indoor spaces, made to sit quietly at desks for most of their day. Many adults are chained to desk work on a daily basis. Just to get enough exercise to maintain basic health people PAY MONEY for the right to exercise at gyms. What's up with that?!? Most of us don't spend even an hour in natural light in a day. This isn't how we evolved to live.

We evolved to move our bodies regularly, to be in the sunshine daily, and to eat foods whose origins don't have to be guessed at. Books like "The Edison Trait" and "Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World" tell us that what we call ADHD is really just another way to live in the world, a way that has served us well in the past and is still valuable today.

Let's stop calling people dysfunctional if, when you improve their environment, they are not dysfunctional. Let's notice the environmental damage that so injures these folks, and let's appreciate them for being our canaries in the coal mine of modern life.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Homeschooling on line

I have a lot of favorite homeschooling websites. Here are a few.

There's Google of course, as in "I don't know how many vertebrae a bird has, let's Google it." (Different species of birds have different numbers of vertebrae! Who knew?) I don't even want to think about how many google searches a day we average!

When I'm helping new homeschoolers, I always point them at Home Education Magazine's website, and remind them to check out the getting started page.

Then there's the International Children's Digital Library. How cool is that?

Living Math has been a wonderful resource for us. I only wish I had a larger book allowance (both space and money) because some of the books recommended here are hard to get through our local library.

Then there's the BBC school website. My oldest (9) has enjoyed playing some of the games on this site, most notably Dance Mat Typing.

These are just a few of our favorites. What are yours?

As a little aside: I do limit the amount of time the children have to play on the computer, even if the game is educational. I find that more than ~30 min. of screen time tends to lead to poor behavior. Also, for at least one of my kids, the draw of the computer is so great that all other activities will be pushed aside and forgotten if computer time is unlimited. So much for unschooling, eh? Every family has to work out what is best for them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Catching up

I've been reading, but not posting. Kids, holidays, and other family stuff seem to interfere with my book and talking addiction. Sigh.... ;-)

So what I have a read recently...

I have to say that I wasted a couple of hours on the first book of the graphic novel Preacher series. It sounded interesting, and I've enjoyed comics and graphic novels before. (Check out Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi) Whatever worth there was in the story was totally overwhelmed by the graphic violence depicted in the pictures. Not for me. "Gone to Texas" is of those things I wished I'd never seen, because the images are stuck in my mind now. Which I suppose says something about the artist, and about me, but YUCK! I found it reading the online comic Unshelved. Unshelved is well worth spending some time on, and I did, which is another reason I haven't written much recently!

When I finished the most recent book in the Temaire series by Naomi Novak, I rushed to the computer to put the next book on hold. Sadly it won't be out until July of this year, and only in hardback then. While I can order it in advance from Amazon, I can't put it on hold at the library yet. Oh, the frustration!!! This is why I try never to read a series that isn't completed. If you liked Eragon and/or the Patrick O'Brian series, don't miss the writing of Naomi Novak!

Finished A Thomas Jefferson Education. Well worth the time, tho' I don't agree with all of it. Neither do the Objectivists, but I don't agree with them either. I did find it interesting that not only do we (accidentally) follow the authors model of mentor/student and discussion, but that I've also got a pretty good start on their adult recommended reading lists, and my boys on their kids lists. HA! Bet you didn't know you could do Classical Education with unschooling.

Also finished and want to comment on The Tipping Point, and The Average Human, which I read in tandem. Reading many books at a time often gives me some interesting (and sometimes strange) insights.

But for now that will have to wait. I'm going to go sleep off my Easter Dinner.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

February's books

  • The Short Bus, a Journey Beyond Normal, by Jonathan Mooney
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 1 The Field Guide, by DiTerlizzi and Black
  • The Seven Deadly Virtues, by Forrest Church
  • Kingdom of Children, by Mitchell L. Stevens
  • The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrota
  • Devil May Cry, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Dark Side of the Moon, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • The Teenage Liberation Handbook, by Grace Llewellyn
  • A Thomas Jefferson Education, by Oliver Van DeMille
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, by Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clarification on book lists.

So, for all two of you who read this, I'm going to clarify my rules for my lists "What I'm reading" and "What's on my shelf".

See last night a certain friend told me I couldn't possibly have read or been reading all those books because she knew for a fact that one of the books on the list I didn't actually have in my possession at the time she read the list. (She knew that 'cause I was desperately begging for it, but that's another story.) The insinuation being that there might be other books on the list I wasn't actually reading, hadn't read, and, might never read. Because NOBODY, I'm told, could read all that in a month.

Actually, it's only the 19th. The month isn't over. I suspect I'll add more books before it's March. There's an extra day in February this year, after all. Also, did you check out what some of those books were? Dude, 2 hours tops for Kenyon. Vampire romances are, like, a quickie. And don't ride me about romances. There's broccoli, rice, and chicken, then there's dessert. Romances are a cheap candy bar. Sometimes you just have to have one.

Thus I see the need for clarification.

"What I'm reading this month" is a list of, wait for it, what I'm reading this month. It's either books I plan on reading, have started reading, or have finished reading. I knew that I would read this book in question because it was for a book group I attend religiously, thus it made the list, even though I didn't own the book, was 4/6 on the library wait list for it, and after hitting 4 bookstores in town had to pay $25+ for the last copy the day before book group (that's that other story, I could have bored a library copy from a friend, but... oh, it's just complicated). At the beginning of the next month I will copy the list on to a post labeled, excitingly,"February's books". If I haven't finished the book, it will also be added to the current list. If I never started the book it will NOT be included in that post but listed to the current months list, or I will list it on the "On my shelf" list, newly created for this purpose.

The "On my shelf list" is literally a list of books I have waiting for me, but that I don't currently have any other relationship to. It includes books from the library that I may not give a thorough read, and books that I don't read per se, but do reference or browse on occasion. There's a few that I started, haven't finished, aren't actively trying to finish, but haven't quite given up on yet. It also includes, at the moment, some lovely thick Charles de Lint that I got from my sweet heart for my birthday months ago, but have been too busy to let myself indulge in. (Those I do seem to be evolving a relationship with, but I'm a little ambiguous about where we're going.) Also, having lived with this list for only a few minutes, I'm not sure what I'll do about those books that never seem to want to move on to some other list. I'm not into punishment. What would be a natural consequence for a book that refused to be read? I'll work on that.

I have to say, so far, my list of books is what I like most about this blog. I started it just to figure out blogging. I've done a couple of posts to help with that problem I have. (You know, where my mouth runs, but not much comes out, then later I think of something brilliant at 3 am? Please let me think I'm brilliant at 3 am, I've pretty much proved I'm not at any other hour.) But the list of books, (loving sigh here) the list of books. ... it's like putting my memory somewhere where outside my head. It's a list of friends and acquaintances I might otherwise forget the name of at a party, only to embarrass myself "Oh, we have met before". I can look at that title and remember the gentle midnight caress, the rough repartee, the hands held walking in the rain. I can be reminded of how great it was to start a book and discover that I loved it.
Or not, as the case may be.

The only thing better than an ongoing list of my book-affairs, would be a Netflix-like list for books. I would love to have an ever-increasing list of books I'm interested in, that I could place in order of my current enthusiasm, and have delivered when I'm done with what I'm working on right now. Wow, I'm melting at the thought.

Heart, Mind, Soul, and Sex

The most sex and least titillation I've ever read in a book, "The Abstinence Teacher" is hardly worth talking about. And yet...and yet...I keep thinking about it. Why wasn't it interesting? The characters were well modeled, the situations tense enough, the setting realistic. It did meander. It didn't have a coherent theme or moral. That might have been intentional in order to accent moral ambiguity. But that wasn't what kept it from feeling true and important.

Thinking about it, what it lacked is the same thing that the main character's first sex ed class lacked. Heart. Her class, which was factual, scientific, and comparatively rigorous, was replaced with a fear based abstinence program that shared the same deficiency. None of the sex acts described in this book (and there were plenty) involved the individuals thinking only of each other in a loving and kind way. (Save perhaps for those of the gay couple, which were only mentioned, but not actually in a scene.) None of the sexual relationships shown in this book involved people who were respectful and present with their partners.

A sex ed class can tell you the way the human body functions, what diseases it can suffer from, what physical consequences the act of reproduction can have. Using a program like OWL, it can encourage you to respect yourself and others as you make decisions about exploring your sexuality. This is useful information, most necessary. But it's not the end of what I want my children to know.

I want my children to know that sex is a powerful creative act that creates a bond between two people. Sex can change the world, and will change them. I want them to recognize the holy human beings that they share their bodies with and to care about that person in that moment as much as they care about themselves. I want them to recognize their place in the sacred space of the world and how sexuality is a way to connect to that.

There's nothing wrong with consensual adults playing barley break. The spirit revels in play as much as in prayer. What should always be remembered though, is the person one is playing with.

I would give my children a recognition of sex, not solely as reproduction, not just as a perfectly fine bodily function, but as a unique way of connecting two human spirits.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Interdependent Children

I've been reading "Kingdom of Children", which is a sociologists' report on homeschooling. In combination with the homeschooling info meeting I'm organizing this month, and an educational round table I'm presenting at in March, it's gotten me thinking about my educational and parenting philosophies. In our local inclusive homeschooling group I'd be considered "unschooling" in our local unschooling group, I'm not unschooly enough. Why is that and where do I fit?

Mitchell L. Stevens, in his book "Kingdom of Children", found a description of the two basic divisions he found in homeschooling: "heaven-based" and "earth-based". Heaven-based refers to Christian homeschoolers, who tend to use a hierarchical model for both organization and family life. Earth-based refers to inclusive homeschoolers, who tend to use a "consensus" based model for both organization and family life. I found the descriptions revealing, and his book insightful, if necessarily over generalized. Using his descriptions, again, I don't quite fit.

I'm also reading Forrest Church's "The Seven Deadly Virtues", and that has helped me see how and why I'm not quite in either category. I haven't finished processing it all yet. (I haven't even finished the Virtues book.) But I'm getting a sense that it has to do with how I weight the importance of the individual with that of the community.

Growing up in 20th century America, I was taught, and believed, that an individual should be independent, strong, and free. Certain factions of my family worked hard to socialize us that family was above all, including self. Given the destructive tendencies in that bit of family, I rejected their perspective. I grew wanting to be independent and free, wanting no part in the servitude I paid in my youth to my family.

As an older parent, I rediscovered servitude. :-) And community. And interdependence.

Now as I parent my own children, avoiding the land mines laid by my past, I discover and create new ones. Yes, I want them to be independent, strong, and free. Yet, I also want them to be compassionate, involved, and reliable. I want them to be aware of how they are tied into the community around them, and how their actions affect others. I don't want them to blindly place a community above their own survival, but I do want them to see that for the good of a community, individual sacrifices are sometimes necessary, that this can actually protect the individual from a greater loss.

In a healthy community individuality is respected and protected. In a healthy individual the good of the community is considered. If individuals are greatly restricted within a community, the society as a whole will eventually suffer, and disintegrate. If an individual cares only for himself, without a sense of responsibility to those he shares a community with, eventually the individual will suffer the loss of the community resources, and the loss of the community itself. The scale of this could vary. The individual could be a person, a family, a smaller community within a larger one. The community could be a family, a congregation, neighborhood, city, state, country, even the planet.

So as I homeschool our children I have an unsteady balance to strike - the drunken walk of interdependence. Yes they should be free to explore their world in the way that suits them best. They must also learn to consider the needs of those around them, and have respect for others. These two things often collide. There is only so much time in one day. Our resources are not without limit. We must learn to wait our turn, to share, to negotiate and compromise. There are times when health, safety, or general consideration, don't allow time or resources to use the consensus model to reach an agreement. Someone has to make a decision, and others must follow it.

Who am I to think I can expect that of my children? What am I thinking? Our leaders can't do that! Who am I to tell them that they can't always have what they want when they want it?

I'll tell you what I tell them.
"The mother. That's who I am."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Strawberry Economics

A dear friend (uncharacteristically) complained, asking "Why do strawberries have to be so expensive out of season?" "It's not fair that only rich people get strawberries in the winter!" I didn't have much of an answer for her. In my usual style, I'm not so brilliant off the cuff. After a little thought, here's my answer.

I'm pretty sympathetic to the desire for fresh fruit at all times. If you substituted sweet cherries for strawberries, I might be up in arms myself. ;-) We are lucky to live where it is possible to have fresh fruit and veggies year round, almost irregardless of the season. But, there is a price to pay for this, and not all the cost is financial.
(Can you tell I've been reading Kingsolvers "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?", well worth the time! )

There is a pretty clear reason strawberries and other fruit is more expensive out of season. There is less of it available locally, so supply and demand would easily explain the extra expense. In addition, most of the fresh produce we eat out of season is actually shipped in from elsewhere, where it is in season. So we are paying not only for the food, it's production, harvest, and packaging, we are also paying extra for fuel and man hours to ship it from whatever gorgeous, warm clime it grew in.

Indeed, the money we pay for our food is only a fraction of what the farmer and farm workers who worked so hard to grow it receive. If we want to support safe and healthy food production in our country, thus improve our local economy, our environment, our homeland security, and our own health, there are many things we can do. We can grow our own food, buy locally, use community supported agriculture, frequent farmers markets, and recognize that it is, indeed, a great treat to be able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables year around. (Ya, ya, again with the "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"! LOL You gotta read the book.)

I grow strawberries in our yard. There is nothing quite like the taste of a vine ripened, sun warmed, fresh picked, strawberry. I'd go pretty far to get one. I'm glad to have some right outside my door. Considering that berries are among the produce most treated with pesticides, growing your own, if possible, is a no brainer. Still, it's not completely without effort. After a day of weeding, mulching and picking, my back feels stiff and tired, my legs can get shaky. I'm lucky, I get to rest when I need to, and I can come and go as I please

Our family doesn't depend upon this physical labor for our livelihood. My gratitude goes out to those whose livelihoods include growing, harvesting and processing our produce.
Thank you for the food I eat, each and every day.

January's books

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, by Eleanor Roosevelt
Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik
The Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Decembers' Books

Quick Knits (Kids can do it!) by Judy Ann Sadler
Freedom and Necessity by Emma Bull and Steven Brust
His Majesty's Dragon by Kim Novak