Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How it is today

It's been too long since I posted! 
Life.  Kids.  School.  Homeschool.  But mostly because FLL.

Seriously, why did I do this again?  Oh, yea, because Hot Dog begged me to find him a team, and then told me he really, really, REALLY wanted me to be his coach.   You know, like I did for his brothers.  Oh the guilt... so I did - find him a team, and agreed to  co-coach it.  Two weeks in he informed me he hated it and wanted to quit.  Lovely (not).  I had to explain the meaning of commitment, and team work, and sucking-it-up.

Now, today we are 3 days from our local tournament, piled high with extra practices, but we can see the end.  How bad is it that I'm hopeful this team won't go to state?  (not like that last team that I was convinced couldn't go to state, but did)

Homeschooling wise we're deeply enmeshed in FLL meetings, just barely eeking out time for our basic academics and lessons.   We've been so busy I honestly don't have any idea what next semester will look like.  Perhaps there will be a big gaping hole of time that Hot Dog and I will struggle to fill. (She says hopefully)  However, a friend has mentioned an underwater robotics program...

Both my older boys, Bit Boy and Lego Kid, are loving their respective schools.  Lego Kid is in the process of picking out his high school and planning for that next stage of his education, even while he's learning the basics of how to "do school" in his IB middle school.   Bit Boy has scheduled next semester, which will include repeating Calc I.  Not because he was failing but because he's set his sights on one of the most exclusive engineering schools in the USA and wants an solid A on his transcript for this core class.  (Welcome to the politics of college admissions.  Ugh)

One day last month I clocked 134 miles on my car's odometer.  134mi.  It was a Wed, which is our crazy day.  I didn't leave down, I was just being the taxi-mom getting 3 different kids to school, to lessons and home.  No wonder I'm tired and have no time. While Bit Boy bikes between his campuses, I still have some guilt around our fossil fuel use.

That guilt did not stop me from gratefully turning on our gas fireplace last week during our single digit highs, nor did it stop me from driving Bit Boy between his campuses one day (rather than him biking in the 9 degree frozen slush).  I accept that I am contradictory and am a work in progress.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How it used to be...

It's Saturday.  Such a lovely day, and today in particular shows me what I've been missing with two kids in school.

Bit Boy is constructing an art/computing project using computer bits purchased last month at our church's rummage sale. He hopes to have it done by the NoCo Maker Faire the first weekend in October.  Lego Kid and Hot Dog are down working on the new EV3 to build a chassis for an FLL robot for Hot Dog's team to test.  They're all happy, working together, making things, and learning without even realizing it.

It hasn't been like this for a while.  Bit Boy is carrying 12 college credits, including Calculus I.  He's being academically challenged for the first time since starting school.  "I might be a 'B' Mom" he told me with concern.  Lego Kid has been enjoying the social aspect of middle school, but has been overwhelmed with the volume of homework and writing.  "Mom, will it always be like this?  Will I have any time for myself before winter break?"  Hot Dog is missing his brothers, and feeling a combination of overwhelmed and bored with a schedule that includes lessons for violin and piano, 4 hrs of FLL practice/week, chess club, jujitsu and soccer.  He says he'd like to give up FLL, but since I'm the coach, and have no older kids around to take care of him if I'm not home, he'd have to come with me anyway.  He might as well participate.  I've been feeling super busy, not with my own stuff, which has taken a back seat this year, but just with my 'work' as a taxi driver for 3 kids all going in different directions.

It's nice to have this day at home, interrupted only by a much anticipated soccer game for Hot Dog.  We used to have days like this, one after the other.  I think my teens are happy to be in school, so I'm happy for them.  But, my oh my, homeschooling is sweet.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Maker Kids

On an homeschooling list a question came up today
"Can anyone recommend some ways for me to incorporate making/engineering into our at-home time? Engineering curriculum for young kids? Resources?"

Here was my response:
The NoCo Mini-Maker Faire in Loveland is Oct. 4-5, there'll be hands on activities there for the kids, plus lots of local folks with ideas and resources.
If you don't live in Colorado, look for a Maker Faire near you.
Make Magazine has lots of projects on line, some are great for kids.
If you can afford a subscription you'd probably get some use out of the paper magazine too.  There are many projects in each vol, and many of them accessible to the layman or kids.

DIY is designed for kids and has ideas and give them the opportunity to share what they've done.
Google ran an online summer Maker Camp
My kids liked project books (because we're ancient and homeschooled before the internet was such a big part of everything)
Some favorites were
the Usborne Science Activities books Vol 1-3
Making Things, by Ann Sayre Wiseman
Science Crafts for Kids by Gwen Diehn
and  book about making musical instruments by hand.. sorry can't find the name of ti.
Remember too that "engineers" are often also artists and musicians.  That need to create runs deep.  I found that my role was to show how to safely use/ access the materials and then to just get out of the way.
Have fun!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

May's Books

Yes.  Pride and Prejudice again.  I love that book.  Also, Firelord got me a game for Mother's Day (surprise, surprise) called "Marrying Mr. Darcy".  It's a surprisingly fun little game, and Lego Kid is enamored of it, which prompted him to read P&P.  Of course I had to read it with him.  I love that my tough, ripped 6-pack 13 year old boy is reading Austen.  It gives me hope for this world.  :-D

I've discovered BookBub, a service that sorts through all the free and low cost e-books from sellers like Barnes and Nobel, Amazon, Google, etc., and sends you notices of those that are recommended according to the preferences you set.  It's made my actual pile of library books shorter, and my virtual pile of books much higher.  Give it a shot at let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Look who Hot Dog found in the basement.

Instead of doing our normal academics we've spent out morning trying to figure out exactly what kind of bumble bee this is. 

We found several websites and decided that it is Bombus Morrisoni. 

We found lots of good sites:
Western Bumble Bee Guide
Mr. E's Mysterious Bees
bumble bee dot org

And now we are learning how to get bumble bees to nest in our yard. 

We love spring!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I was writing some long blog post about the intersection of "giftedness" and school, and how a "gifted" designation doesn't matter until you're in an institutional situation.  I was somehow going to artfully point out how schools are not great even for "average" kids ( I haven't met one, but I've heard they exist).  I was going to show (not tell) how unschooling, child-led schooling, and radical tolerance are the best way to let every learner discover what works best for them.  Sigh....

But, Stephanie ever at The Deep End did it first, and better.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Something's in the Air...

Something's in the air, and it's not just the sneezy pollen of springtime.

aside: Tree-sex is what Bit Boy calls pollen - I was going to correct him (his attitude, not his accuracy), but then I thought - he's right.  Pollen is tree-sex, and it's kind of funny that we breath it.  
Don't do that - agree with your teen - it just encourages them.  
Now he's calling our goose's eggs goose periods.   It kind of shines a different light on breakfast.

The last two days I've had long talks with 3 different people about education and homeschooling.  AND (drum roll) every single one of them was about how beneficial homeschooling is, despite the fact that all of the people I was talking to had kids in public schools, and 2 of the three are educational professionals.  I was sad they were not familiar with the works of John Holt, and happy that I could share his work as a resource for them.  I was pleased to find that they were familiar with the more recent writings of John Taylor Gatto.  These two touchstones could inform a lot more educators about where the future of education is going.

One thing all professional educators seem to know is that their profession is changing.  School has always been a mixed bag, a necessary evil, the attempt to make the best of a perceived necessity.  Standardized testing, class room management, and shifting parental and teacher roles have made public school a far different place than it once was - and even what it once was wasn't really all that stupendous.   Changing modes of communications - first books, and now the internet - have changed the roll of teachers.  Teachers are no longer the gate keepers to knowledge and skills.  Just about anything you want to learn to do has books, Youtube videos, several websites, and enthusiastic open source gurus waiting to help you.  Waiting to help you learn for free.  For. Free.

You don't have to pay for an education anymore.  You don't have to pass a test to get into the right class.  You don't have to be in the same country, much less the same room, as your teacher anymore.  The internet provides limitless access to the accumulated knowledge of the modern world.   Firelord taught himself to play Irish whistle using Youtube videos.  Bit Boy taught himself binary by reading an essay by Isaac Asimov.  Lego Kid is working through an online Python book.  I was looking for a welding teacher for Bit Boy last year and a friend who welds asked "Have you looked for some tutorials on Youtube?"  (Seriously.  I kinda didn't go there.  Something about the thought of my teen with a tube of flaming gas in his hand having only had a video tutorial for his training made me nervous.)

Today you can work at your own pace, whether that pace is quick or slow, focused or distracted.  You don't have to have anyone tell you whether you're ready or if what you want is appropriate for you.  You want to learn a new skill?  Do it.  Want to get better?  Practice.  There you go, now you know something new.  It's the ultimate education in a democratic meritocracy.

Is there a place for teachers in this new paradigm?  Is there a place for a brick and mortar school? 

Yes, but it's a very different role than before - or perhaps it's a very old role.   We admire those who do what we want to do, people who make things, who have useful skills.  We  still benefit from mentors.  We still like to hang out with people who have similar interests and abilities.  We are still social animals and so there is still a place for something we might call a "school."  But it's a very different place than what we think of school today.  It's not a place you are forced to go and told what to do once you're there.  It's a place you may choose to go (or not) and where there are people who have intellectual and physical resources you wish to access.   I see the future of school in Maker Spaces, Hacker Spaces, libraries and the Sudbury model.

Some would argue that you still need a college degree to get a good job, a real job.  For the moment that is still mostly true.  To be a physician, a lawyer, and most types of an engineer, yes, you still need a degree.  However, there are signs that the value of a degree is lower than it has been for generations.  And signs that the lack of a degree is not the hindrance it used to be.

Becoming a teacher in the future will mean first following your own passion, and if your own passion excites another enough for them to ask "how do you do that?!?"  then, and only then, will you have the opportunity to be a teacher.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April's Books

Ya.  That's more like it.  Finally a month where I got some reading in.   I got a wild hair and looked up best time-travel books and movies, so now I have a couple of nice lists to work from.  And of course I'm always game for reading about health, mental or physical, AND we're going to the Maker Faire (!!!) so I've been reading about that too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That Awkward Stage

I'm at an awkward parenting stage.  (Well, I'm pretty much always awkward - parenting or otherwise)  This is one of those times when I'm constantly questioning myself and my decisions.

Bit Boy at almost 16 seems nearly independent - making his own schedule, making (pretty good) choices, and generally acting like he's nearly an adult.  Is it appropriate to let him be so independent?  I think so, I think it's good for him to make decisions and live with the consequences - especially since they're fairly non-lethal at this point.  But I feel guilty for it to be so easy to parent him right now.  (Dear Universe, please don't take this as a challenge)

Hot Dog is an impish 9 year old, thrilled with his soccer team (undefeated, thank you very much Coach Joe!), his various lessons and classes, and generally a happy kid.  I worry that I don't give my youngest all the attention that he deserves, but I comfort myself with Firleord.  He was the 5th and last kid in his family.  I think his parents were tired by the time he came and they basically let him alone.  He turned out pretty damn good.

Lego Kid ....  is a bundle of contradictions.  He wants to go to school next year, but not leave the house today - or ever. He wants me to make him do things, but he doesn't want to do anything.  We unschooled until he was 11, at which point he told me "You're too easy on me.  You should make me do things."  So I asked him what I should make him do, we made a list, and now I "make" him do it.  ( I'm confused.  Is it still unschooling if it's at his request?)  He gets mad at me if he doesn't get his academics done, but resents when I make him do them.  I suppose I need to remember that he's 13.  This isn't personal.  If it's this hard for me to deal with him, how much harder is it for him to deal with himself?

But... it does make it more challenging for me to know what the right thing to do is.  My parenting philosophy has always been radical - I treat my children as rational people who know themselves better than I know them and so should have a fair say in their lives.

I have to admit that sometimes it's a mistake to assume they are rational, and that this may be one of those times.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Windy memories

This morning as the wind howls, I found myself in the most unusual position of having a wee bit of time to myself.  After doing a couple of chores and surfing Facebook, I checked on the blogs of a couple of favorite friends - and realized how very long it had been since we'd all hung out together.  I have happy memories of times at the river and parks, splashing, talking, laughing.  It wasn't really so long ago.

Friendships, and life, seem to go in phases.  You don't always know that you're in a phase, and often don't realize when you're leaving it, but in retrospect it can be very clear.  That time in my life with little babies and toddlers - gone.  Most of those friends have long moved on.  That space of time early in our homeschooling career when we found our local homeschooling group, hung out at the library and local parks, and had actual free time - faded away.  That sturdy time of solid homeschooling, when all three boys were close enough together to do pretty  much the same thing, when our schedule was our own to plan, when we had 2 other homeschooling families with kids about the same age who became as close as cousins to us, that's gone now too.

We're in a new stage, but I'm too close to really see the whole of it yet.  My 3 boys are going in different directions, all at once.   Bit Boy is a straight "A" high school/college student.  In the fall he'll be taking 16 credit hours.  While he isn't unkind to his brothers, he rarely has time for them.  Although he is helpful when asked, participates in the family when requested, he is very much independent now. (Well, except for needing rides everywhere...sigh...)  Lego Kid's voice keeps creeping lower as he campaigns to go to the last year of middle school starting next fall.  He still plays with Hot Dog, but less often and with less patience than before.  I can see he's getting his wings ready for some test flights.  Hot Dog has finally found a couple of things all his own (soccer and violin, especially soccer) and is still happy to homeschool.  I'm grateful for that, but I wonder how long it can last when his brothers are away in school all day.  His best bud has decided to go to school next year too.  With me needing to transport his brothers we won't be able to slip down to Denver or up to the mountains for all those fun field trips that are one of the huge benefits of homeschooling.  I would love to keep homeschooling him as long as possible, so I guess I'll need to find a new rhythm there too.

I notice deaths and births in our social circles.  In my own family now we are in a phase of looming deaths as my grandparents generation approaches their 90's and our own children are as yet too young for the rounds marriages and births to start.  That makes me all the more grateful when I see the babies of young friends in life, or even on the social networks. 

Melancholy - that's this morning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Soccer Mom?

Well.  He went and did it.  Hot Dog (9yo) has made me a soccer mom. 

First, last fall he and Lego Kid begged for soccer, well after the start of the recreational season (of course).  I found a local class for beginners and signed them up for that instead.  That was enough for Lego Kid, but not for Hot Dog.  I got a "get out of jail free" card with winter.  Really, who can play soccer in the winter?  (Shush you 3 on 3 indoor players.  Gawd.  Look at me talking all soccer-y now.)

But, with spring upon us, I had no more excuses.  It was soccer season, and he really, really, REALLY wanted to play soccer - on a team, with other kids, and against other kids.  Lord have mercy.  I let him.  I signed him up, surprised at how affordable soccer is.  $95 for 2 practices and 1 game a week for 8 weeks.  That works out to just over $1/hr of soccer.  Wait.  That's 3x/week of soccer, for 8 weeks.  That's a lot of soccer I'll be driving to.  A lot of late dinners and early morning games.  (Somebody needs to saint me here)

Oh, and it's not so cheap as I thought.  It turns out that kids don't play shirts and skins, you need to buy a league jersey.  And a size 4 ball (we have a size 5, not good enough), and cleats (really?  Yes.), and soccer socks, to go over the soccer shin guards (well, those really are a good idea), and then of course Hot Dog really wanted special soccer shorts to go with it all.

He had his first practice last night and he LOVED it.  Hot Dog is incredibly fit, thin, and active.  Good thing, because not only is he tiny (at 9yo, size 8 is loose on him) but he has asthma.  Staying fit and keeping his lung capacity large will help him physically and mentally.

sigh.... so now he has jujitsu once a week, soccer 3x/wk, instrument lessons 2x/wk, and will have pottery 1x/wk for 5 weeks this spring.  I'm tired just reading that.

Remember when I said I would never be one of those parents who let their kids and family get over scheduled?  ya, it's some weird sort of cosmic justice.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Enjoying a bit of warmth

I love Colorado.  Yes, there was a time when I was a teen that I dreamed of nothing better than leaving it, moving to Paris to play cello in an attic, or to California to lay and the beach and be "discovered". (Hey, little pudgy Latina's have dreams too ya know. )  And yes, Firelord and I used to talk about selling it all and sailing away, or at least moving to the coast.  We've put down roots now, while future grandchildren might lure us from here, we're in Colorado for the duration.

Still, there are other beautiful places in the world, and it's lovely to visit them.  This week we're in Texas. We spend a night with friends in Sherman, and I have to say, north Texas is lovely in March.  The pear trees are blooming and the air smells of sweet pine and flowers.  Now we're in College Station for Texas A & M's Physics festival.  The air is so warm!  Colorado is below freezing, but here, everytime I step outside I'm shocked by the caress of almost tropical breezes.  Ahh....

The physics festival is just getting started, but last night's speaker was fascinating.  Firelord commented that he finally understood why we couldn't tell how big the universe is, and Lego Kid discovered that it's ok to not understand about Dark Matter and Dark Energy, since the best physicists in the world are a bit stumped too.

The hobbit in me misses home, even before I've left it.  But this place is pretty nice too.  :-)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

January - February books

Great books this month.  Frankl is a classic, and if you haven't read it, you must.  You really must.  Ariely is always interesting, and Amen was a new find for me.  World War Z was unexpectedly good - a perfect example of why I love my book groups!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Oct - Dec books

Really?  I didn't keep track of my books for 3 months?  Good grief.  What was I thinking?  Not much about my private reading, I guess.

I was busy with 4 kids, 2 of whom were in school, 2 of whom have started the testing process for 2E stuff, 1 who is discovering that he likes to do his own thing and not just tag along with his older brothers, and 1 who went on to his next host home just after the new year.

  • Non-Violence, the History of a Dangerous Idea, by Mark Kurlansky
  • The Book of Geese, by Dave Holderread
  • The Ender Games series by Orson Scott Card (yes, a re-read inspired by the movie coming out)
  • I have no idea anymore of what else I read in the last 3 months... sorry.