homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

The weather is warm. Need I say more? We are outside so much these days that what time I do spend inside is usually taken up with those necessary daily chores and oh, ya know, sleep. But there is so much to catch up many things happening that deserve proper journaling. This week's "greatest hits" list:

Cayden's Second Birthday
It's such a cliche, but my baby is growing up far too fast. Not only in my own perspective, but he's hitting so many milestones at an earlier age than his brother. (Yeah, snark on myself in respect to the previous post, but now that I've noticed it, it's hard to NOT notice it.) He is just in such a hurry to keep up with Theo. The two of them are still friends more than rivals, which gives me so much joy. (Naturally, halfway through typing that previous sentence, they started screaming at each other. Alas.)

Theo's "Homework"
In response in part to his big brothers' nightly complaining, Theo announced "I have to do my homework." It was a big production. He sat himself down at the kitchen table with notebook, pencils, etc, and then proceeded to loudly scold me and Cayden for daring to make any sound, because "I can't think with all of your NOISE!" (Gee, wonder where he got that one.) Okay, so that was funny enough, but imagine my surprise when he showed me his "homework": a handwriting tablet with practice sheets for each letter, and samples completed on each page. Let's hear it for strewing! This thing has been in amongst the drawing tablets forever but never once suggested. He just picked it up on his own and decided to practice letters. This is also fun because once I'd taught him enough letters for T-H-E-O, he refused to entertain much more than that. He just didn't need it. Now all of a sudden he has a fire under him to learn the others. He has done his homework for the past three nights, and although he does it on his own, he will share it with me or ask for help on tricky letters. This is so, so cool.

Cayden Discovers Shadows
This was particularly fun. It was just the two of us, up with insomnia. The light from the living room cast a shadow on the carpet from his sippy cup. He touched it, looked puzzled, touched it again, and asked me about it. I moved the cup and showed him how the shadow moved with the cup. He giggled and giggled and giggled. And I sat back and watched his little wheels turn.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On Comparing

It occurred to me this morning that SecondKid has been speaking in intelligible, full sentences for quite a while now...and he's approaching his second birthday. FirstKid hit that milestone around the age of 2 1/2, in fact the same week that SecondKid was born, which is why I actually remember it ('cause Lord knows I haven't actually written in the baby books reliably!).

My first thought was, COOL. Go, SecondKid!

My second, immediate, thought was, COOL!! I didn't even make the connection until now. Go, Mom!

It's so hard NOT to compare your kids, once they're plural. Even if you try your darndest not to put any value judgment on those comparisons, it's still a very natural way for you to process your own observations. Ah, these are the ways in which my kids are the same: I wonder if all kids are like this? Ah, these are the ways in which my kids differ: I wonder what other configurations are out there? And in both cases: I wonder if I had any hand in this; e.g., the whole nature-vs.-nurture thing? Hm...

Okay, usually not that literal. But still. It's natural. I try not to hold any of the kids up as an example to be attained or avoided by the others, but I'm not going to lie and say I never compare them. It happens. I'm human.

So anyway.

The fact that it wasn't until well after the fact that I even mentally compared notes on that particular (and whoo-eee, exciting!) milestone makes me realize that I have been relaxed (okay, and busy) enough that I'm just enjoying SecondKid's development for its own merit. I didn't look at a calendar to see exactly how old he was on the exact day when he hit that milestone, nor did I intentionally dig back through my memory to see how my kids measured up against each other. I just smiled and got a kick out of the discourses he's been giving.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Day in the Life

It was a busy day. Playground in the morning...

Library around lunchtime...

And game preserve in the afternoon. Where we fed ourselves instead of the ducks,
built bridges,

and big brother tried to get a closeup picture using his legs instead of the zoom feature. :p

It was a good day.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What I meant. I think.

I recently posted an entry exploring why I feel a little uneasy about defining myself as a radical unschooler. A reader comment seemed to indicate at least mildly ruffled feathers out there, which gave me pause. Now, I hate the idea of having to justify my opinions when they were stated in a personal forum--where it is all about me exploring my thought processes, rather than perhaps a public discussion board where it might be construed more as a commentary on other members. All the same, I apologize for any offense that may have been taken, as it was not intentional.

I've been thinking about it a lot since then and while I still stand by my original thesis (I don't think that I am quite as radical as many others who have self-classified in this way) and am unapologetic about having said so (so, it's not right for me--I never said it wasn't right for anyone else)...I do feel a need, both for me and for any potential readers, to clarify a few things. And, I hope, to articulate my position a little better.

I have a lot fewer rules than most parents. To mainstreamers, I often appear positively laissez-faire. But I do have some (firm) rules and (looser) expectations. They are all clearly explained to my children any time they are called in to play, and they are always up for discussion, but the fact that they exist at all is quite forbidden in the minds of some who embrace the "radical" label. This is what I was trying to express when I used terms such as "universal permissiveness", which I *know* is judgmental (what was I thinking, and yes I am sorry). This, I feel, would make many in the community judge me unfavorably.

Next, I have been witness to a number of discussions within RU groups about boundaries and limits which reinforce the notion that they are to be avoided at all costs, lest you infringe on the freedom of the child. A nice notion, but I believe that if someone acting without boundaries/guidelines infringes upon the comfort or safety or wellbeing of another, then that is unfair to the Other.

I wholeheartedly agree that we should not arbitrarily consider the desires and preferences of an adult to naturally trump those of a child. But neither do I feel that embracing the reverse is a better solution. We do live in social groups, and harmony is easier if everyone gives at some point. It's my goal to learn, along with my children, how all of us can treat each other respectfully. I have read of many situations where people are frustrated with a certain behavior/action but practically martyr themselves, putting the child's needs above their own to such a degree that the parent (or sibling, or family) suffers. Situations in which someone is clearly deeply unhappy and yet is unwilling to consider other options out of a sense of guilt at abandoning an unyielding idea to which they have committed themselves--even if that idea is not working for them!

Perhaps the people who I've seen going through this are the ones who do not have a good understanding of radical unschooling, and I've gotten an unfair impression by taking them to represent the larger community. Perhaps it's just something with which I am not comfortable. At any rate, it was never my intention to suggest that anyone who does choose to do so is "wrong"; simply that it is not part of what our family is currently doing. And since that's another major area in which I seem to differ from the rest of the group, I again feel like I can't accurately define myself as a member.

I'll say it again; I think I'll stick with "eclectic". So much safer. Unfortunately vague, but at least honest. And it leaves plenty of wiggle room for changing my mind on the details as we gain perspective.

At the end of the day, I still see myself more aligned with radical unschooling than any other educational or parenting method I've come across. I'm sorry if I came off as critical of it simply because I don't agree with 100% of what I'm learning about it. All the same, I do hope that anyone reading this sees it for what it is intended to be--my own search for a group in which I fit, and not a negative blanket judgment of groups in which I don't.