homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Doing school, old-school

Theo found some crow feathers in the yard. Not an unusual thing. He asked about quill pens. And, being the geeky homeschooling mom that I am, I decided that We Can Do This.

First step: find out exactly how to cut a quill. I found a tute here and there online, but nothing as detailed and charming and informative as this "English Heritage" video. Love it. So, armed with a penknife (get it--PEN KNIFE--how did I never see *that* connection before?), I did my best novice job at cutting a tip onto the feathers. (Despite her advice, I did leave the barbs on. We decided it looked cooler, and we didn't think they particularly got in the way.)

What next? Ink! Well, according to the lady in the video, one can make ink from oak galls. So noted, and to be tried at some point in the future. But we wanted instant gratification instead of a long and potentially fruitless search, so we went instead with poke berries. Plentiful, ripe, and easy.

And then--writing!
I found it difficult to use at first. Calligraphy exists for a good reason--a classic quill only makes nice easy marks on the downstroke. Trying to draw the pen tip sideways makes a horrid scratching noise and uneven ink distribution. Downstroke, downstroke, downstroke. After a while of practicing, I was able to produce a relatively unembarrassing "Christopher" (Cayden's middle name), but alas--did not get a photo before the paper got rootbeer spilled on it. LOL

Theo's masterpiece:

Part of me wants to go full-out geek and make linen paper (and the oak-gall ink) and really authentic it up. But the kids were happy enough with this, and we all learned quite a bit and really enjoyed the experience.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We're not like that. Except when we are.

We're not school-at-home-ers. I don't sit my kids down with worksheets and assignments. I try to explain this to all well-meaning folks who insist on giving us workbooks anyway. Mind you, I'm not anti-workbook, but the kids are young and I want to hold off on any formal instruction (and all tedious busy-work) as long as possible. If they're a means to an end, fine. If they *are* the end, that seems a bit silly to me.

But I am also all about strewing. And being polite. So I accept the workbooks, and make sure they're available.

And for the past several days, both kids have insisted upon "doing their homework". Granted, Cayden is merely entranced by the idea of whiteboards (the eco-mama in me rejoices at whiteboard books!). But Theo has been diligently practicing his writing. Mostly numerals, although he will flip to the letters pages every now and again.

So, okay. We're workbook people. This week, anyway! ;)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And why aren't you in school...

I found this list of sarcastic answers to the question, as posed to homeschoolers. It's funny.

It also reminded me of a little bit of annoyance from yesterday. I took my children, who are 5 and 3, out to brunch. On a weekday. As we were getting out of the car, an elderly gentleman crossing the parking lot remarked, "Playing hooky today?"

At this point, only my three year old was visible. I am still trying to decide whether this guy was trying to be funny--either teasing my obviously too-young child or perhaps even me--or if he was actually being rude/accusing.

Either way, it rubbed me the wrong way. Now that Theo is getting older, I'm going to have to work on thickening my skin for such comments. Sigh.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Education = Employment = Happiness?

My eldest stepson recently applied for his first job. Because of his age and experience level and availability, it is a manual labor position, for minimum wage. And the comments are starting, from adults in the crowd. "Well, this will convince him to go to college!"

It will?

It's the same refrain that I heard for three summers during my own college years, when I worked on the production floor at a local manufacturing facility. "Now you see what awaits you if you don't have an education..."

I suppose some of the sentiment is wrapped up in economics. Most of the time, degree-required jobs pay significantly better than GED-accepted jobs. But I think it's more than that. I think that, as a society, we are still deeply mired in the 20th-century mindset that manual labor is menial labor. That working with one's hands is distasteful, and the route to success lies in getting an "education" and landing a high-paying, white-collar job.

I disagree. I've done both. And perhaps my experience has left me a bit jaded, but part of what I've learned along the way is that often, your education (unless you attend a technical school or complete a specific training or apprenticeship program) does not guarantee you the tools necessary to thrive in the workplace. What typically serves one best is an ability to learn new skills quickly, to adapt to change, to think creatively, and to relate well to people--especially keeping one's cool in emotional situations. I've written installation manuals with no prior engineering experience. I've updated my programming skills on the fly, as the situation required. I've seen people who got where they were by teaching themselves, by tinkering, or by being mentored by senior colleagues. And a constantly changing marketplace almost always means that whatever skills and knowledge you acquire now will likely be outdated in five years. Or one. Or instantly.

That's only one half of the equation: the notion that an education prepares you for employment. The other, more distressing, notion is that certain jobs are undesirable and only to be performed by the underqualified, underskilled, or unmotivated. A family I know still speaks with regret about their youngest son, who despite his solid job in a construction position which both feeds his family and uses his natural skills and abilities, is forevermore viewed as "the college dropout". At the risk of sounding like a platitude-spouting ninny, the world needs ditch diggers too. And frankly, I would much rather my children grow up to be happy and well-adjusted ditch diggers than unhappy executives, if that is where their desire lies.

Your job is what you DO. It doesn't have to be who you ARE. But if it is...let it be something, and someone, you'd be content/happy/proud to be. And as long as your bills are getting paid (and you aren't harming anyone!), let those who would judge reconsider just how success *should* be defined.