Jokes by Levi

What did the ice cream say when the banana asked when it could come over?
Only on a sundae!

What does a drama king wear to bed?

What do you call a swashbuckling rat?
A pi-rat!

What do you call a shoe that has a problem?
An is-shoe! (An issue)

What do you call a video game that you play with more than one person?
A "we!"

What do you call it when someone listens in on Christmas Eve?

And one contributed by a friend:
What's brown and sticky?
A stick!

Levi called me into his room saying, "Oliver's a quarterback." Oliver was on the bed on his tummy with 4 quarters on his back.

What does a crocodile say when it wants to be a rooster?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Screen Time

As a family (and especially as parents), we have talked a lot about "screen time" which, in our house, includes TV, video games, hand-held games and the computer. This is a tough subject partly because our reference point is limited. Twenty years ago when my husband and I were in college, the world was on the beginning edge of personal computer use. As college students, we learned how to word process at hulking terminals in the cold basement of a building while time sharing on a mainframe. Commands for formatting had to be put in at the beginning of each paragraph. I think ".p" was the command required to start a new paragraph. It was basic!

After you were done typing, you sent your document into the print queue. You came back the next day to find it printed out on paper that still had the feed tape with holes on the sides. There was no spell check or grammer check. If you spotted an error on the printed page, it was a whole bunch of trouble to have your document retrieved for corrections.

When my husband and I were talking recently about the kid's use of electronic media, he started out with, "Well, when we were kids . . . ." Unfortunately this is like referring to the dinosaur age to make a modern-day decision. As kids, we had children's programming in the early morning and from 3-5 in the afternoon, weekend cartoons and the occasional family show in the evening like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and Hee Haw. (Ah, I date myself.)

We have not stopped electronic media from coming into our home, an impractical approach in my opinion. Electronic use for entertainment and work are a large part of our world. I do want my kids to learn to use it and learn to make their own judgements about how it fits into their lives. But I find that it also affects our life as a family. And thus comes the rub. Electronic entertainment is alluring, exciting. It's also easy as a default option as to how to spend one's time and that's what concerns me. I get uncomfortable when my kids roll out of bed and immediately head for the computer or hand-held video game day after day. I'm concerned that they've stopped making active decisions about how to spend their time and are on automatic.

I know that I have to be careful of the same draw to my own computer. I don't use it to play games, but it would be fair to say that checking my email holds huge appeal! If I'm feeling disconnected or bored, it's easy to sit in front of the screen instead of being more active in finding something to do or connecting with my kids. It's also a good way to avoid any dreaded chores!

We've recently decided to have one screen-free day a week. And I must say, I love it. The energy in the house is different, the kids are calmer and more peaceful and so am I. I see them using their creativity and imaginations in ways that just don't happen when they're plugged in. We had a screen-free day yesterday. It was the kind of day I love--rainy and cold and a good day to stay home in your pj's. We started the morning with reading several Magic School Bus stories at breakfast and then moved on to our Crayon Hearts project (see our previous post) which took most of the morning. After lunch the kids drifted away upstairs to their rooms. They called me up to look at what they'd made--each had forts in their bedrooms that they had built out of mattresses (yes, off the beds), blankets, pillows, books and toys baskets.

I later found them in Oliver's room surrounded by books, Levi sometimes reading to Oliver. They pulled out old toys--things as simple as balls and stuffed animals. The listened to music and poetry and stories on CD. These things simply don't happen on days when they stay connected to electronics.

There are lots of dire predictions about the effects of electronic media on children, the formation of their brains, and how it affects physical activity. In this new territory, it will take the passage of time to see if any of these fears are borne out. I certainly don't know the answer. But I do know what my intuition tells me and what I observe in my house. What it tells me is that searching for a balance between use of electronics and other activities is important. I don't want me or my kids to be reluctant to go more than 10 feet from an electrical outlet or out of range of a wireless connection!

Balance is one of the principles I try to parent by and it serves us well in deciding what foods to eat (how much junk vs. how much "good stuff"), how late to stay up, how much to play with friends and how much to stay home. It's the idea of everything in moderation. For now, moderation is the path we've chosen. We have limited screen time to 2 hours daily, 3 on the weekends. And we have talked about having our weekday screentime start after 3pm. This leaves us the daytime when we're fresh for learning activities, projects, time with friends.

These limitations are not without conflict even though we came up with them and agreed to them as a family. I don't like being the nag. I'm working with the kids to find ways that they can manage their own screen time withhout me in the middle.

There's a whole wide world out there to see and experience. My hope for each of us is that we'll keep our eyes open and not let one form of interacting with the world consume us. Electronics have value--they offer opportunities for learning, connection with others, and just plain old fun. But I also value learning that comes from a walk in the woods, a face-to-face conversation, or a hands-on experience.

I'll be logging off now to go play with the kids!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You are Cordially Invited . . .

I posted not long ago that my boys weren't "crafty" but I'm finding it really isn't true. It's just that they need to be invited in. I am learning the fine and subtle art of inviting. Our very old edition of The American Heritage Dictionary gives this as one of the three definitions of the word "invitation": An allurement, enticement, or attraction. And that's exactly what the boys often need to pique their interest in something.

We did a fun Valentine craft this morning called Crayon Hearts (thanks to my friend, Lyssa, and her love of Martha Stewart for his idea). Now, if I had said, "Come on, let's make Valentines," they would have looked at me like I had two heads and had just suggested that they eat slugs, given me a suspicious "no thank you" and run furiously in the other direction. Instead, I said nothing. I got the supplies out, put them all on the dining room table and set to work.

"What are you doing?" Oliver asked.

"I'm going to put shavings of the crayons on this paper and then melt it with the iron, " I told him. Suspicious look.

"I don't want to do that."


A few minutes went by and Levi got interested. "Hey, I want to do that!" We were off and running. We all had a great time and have some beautiful Valentine hearts for our friends and family from our project.

The thing is that an invitation has to be just that, a "would you like to come?" with no penalty for RSVPing "no." As with most of us, being forced to do something doesn't sit well and inspires resistence. I find this to be especially true with kids. If your invitation is really a trick to get them to do something, they'll be quick to smell a rat and will resist. But if your invitation is a true opening of the heart, a temptation to their interest, a welcome without a trick behind it, they'll probably come in. They may still say no. They truly may not be interested. That is the time to let them go. Maybe they have an invitation for you.

To find this project, go to and search for Crayon Hearts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Travel Weary

Having my husband out-of-town for a week severely tests the limits of my endurance. I do find a sort of rhythm but by the time he returns, worn out himself and not able to provide much immediate relief, I am on some sort of exhausted auto-pilot.

Something has to give and what gives first is the state of my house which, with kids home all day and projects constantly going on, is compromised anyway. Finally with some night hours to myself, I've started digging out. I just found a pot holder in Levi's room (?!). I finally folded a load of laundry that has been in the dryer for several days. It's the one I had to wash over again b/c it stayed wet in the washer so long, it smelled bad. Arrrggghh. There's still a pile of paper--books, coupons, magazines--on the stairs, ever growing and waiting to be taken upstairs and put away. The dining room table has turned into my office holding bills, papers that will remind me to make some phone calls, my calendar and a half-knitted pair of mittens.

On the floor behind me is a tipped-over globe, two rapper-snappers (what?), one half of a stick that I used for a math demonstration today, a book about the earth opened to "Earthquakes and seismology," a broken and used up tape dispenser, a coloring pad, various parts to transforming toys, a binder clip and my favorite ink pen.

These are the other things that factored into the week. My husband went on a business trip to Europe, took his car keys, and accidentally left the car seats locked in his car. This was how his week away started for me. I couldn't find the connection cord for my iPod/computer connection and so couldn't load This American Life onto it. It may not sound like a big problem to you but my housework was absolute drudgery and I thought I could get through it if I had something interesting to listen to.

As a bit of relief, I took the kids out one night to a casual restaurant that I'd been wanting to try. It was fun--except for the 2 consecutive times that Oliver spilled his absolutely full cup of lemonade all over the table, himself and me. Last night I made a meal that the kids love--Swedish meatballs. This required some effort on my part but it was worth it for a meal we'd all enjoy. They sat down, looked at the food, both said, "I'm not hungry," took 3 bites and asked to be excused from the table. I did take the time to enjoy my meal and a taste of wine but with a traveling husband and excused-from-the-table kids, conversation was spare and my dinner ended relatively quickly too.

This wouldn't have been so bad except for almost immediately facing the slimy noodle pot and colander the noodles were drained in, the messy skillet, the dishwasher full of clean dishes to be put away--and all without the distraction of This American Life. Oh woe is me!

I've been assuring myself that a cluttered house is a sign of active minds!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kind Acts

We've been trying to do some community service projects as a family but I find it hard to find things the kids will be interested in and/or not disturbed by at this age. I've recently found a project I can participate in and show the kids the kinds of things that can be done.

There's a program called Afghans for Afghans ( that distributes hand-knitted or crocheted blankets, hats, mittens, sweaters, socks, vests, and other clothing items to families in Afghanistan. This has been fun for me because I can indulge in knitting without wondering what in the world we're going to do with another hat.

In my photo, I am holding a 10" x 10" square that I knitted. It will be combined with other same-sized squares to make a blanket that is 30" by 40". The other is a photo of a toddler size mitten I've just finished. L & O really like these so at some point I'll do some for them too.

At the yarn store, I saw pegged rings that can be used to knit. I've never used one before but it looks like it would be something the kids could do--if they are interested, which is the tricky part. I'd like to get one to see if they'd do it but I'm reluctant to buy something that has a big likelihood of going into the craft-projects-abandoned pile.

I have craft-reluctant boys, a fact that I have been very slow to get over. One year I (and, yes, it was totally I) thought it would be fun to hand-make Valentines. This was when L was still in school so it required making about 20. He was game--for about the first 5 and then he told me I could do the rest! What I get for foisting a Valentine craft on him.

At Thanksgiving this year, I pulled out a book of holiday crafts and very eagerly offered a turkey craft. "No thanks, I made one of those last year," L told me! That was the end of that. O mostly declines crafts too and most often skipped them when that were offered in preschool. I'm slowly learning that the crafts that will get done around here will be ones that I take full and sole responsibility for!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dangerous Activities for Kids

Below is the link to an interesting video about kids and learning. It is from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website. See for more.

The introduction to the video on the TED site is as follows: "Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, talks about our new wave of overprotected kids--and spells out 5 (and really, he's got 6) dangerous things you should let your kids do. Allowing kids the freedom to explore, he says, will make them stronger, smarter and actually safer."

I have often wondered, in light of the lack of safety precautions in our own childhoods, how we all lived to adulthood! When we were kids, there were no car seats, blind-cord cases, outlet protectors or bike helmets. No waist straps on grocery carts, carousels or high chairs. No protectors to keep kids from turning the knobs on the stove. The list goes on and on. We ran about the neighborhood and local creek for hours without anyone knowing exactly where we were. There's no doubt that some of these gadgets and precautions saved lives but, as Tulley points out, perhaps some of our precautions actually keep us from educating our children about certain things. He proposes that experience with certain elements like fire (I know--gasp!)help our children be safer around these things. His line of thinking was enlightening for me. It's helpful for me to recognize that protection from something isn't necessarily the best route to safety. The route to competency is "doing." Watching something for initial instruction can be helpful but most of us don't really "get" it until we've had a chance to try it for ourselves.

A lot of us have come to homeschooling with exactly this kind of thinking, with the understanding that learning done in a "real world" context is the most meaningful. Tulley reminds us that the same is true for things that scare parents.

Watch what Tully has to say and see what you think:

The TED website is interesting and worth a look. You can view a number of lectures from TED conferences.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

If You Give A 60 Year Old Man A Banjo . . .

My dad, for as long as I can remember, has wanted to play the banjo. I remember one being around our house when I was a small child but mostly it stood leaning in a corner and I plucked at it every now and then. And then it disappeared.

About 5 or 6 years ago, we spent some time with my dad and the banjo came up again. My husband and I decided to buy one for him, send it to him and see what happened. So we did . . . and here's what happened.

If you give a 60 year old man a banjo, he'll want to learn to play it.
When he starts to learn to play it, he'll need a teacher.
When he finds a teacher, he'll spend lots of time playing the same licks over and over again.
When he plays the same thing over and over again, he'll get good at it.
When he gets good at it, he'll make a solo debut at his Cider Party.
When he makes his debut, he'll want to go public.
When he goes public, he'll put a video on You Tube.
When he puts a video on You Tub, he'll email it to you.
When he emails it to you, you'll email it to all your friends and put it on your blog.
When he sees himself on your blog, he'll want to play his banjo.

What does any of this have to do with homeschooling? It's a testament to life learning, the idea that we are learning all the time and that it is NEVER TOO LATE! Such is the title of John Holt's memoir of learning to play the cello at age 40 with no previous musical background. Holt became an accomplished player.

Recognized for his understanding of children's natural orientation to learning, Holt is the father of homeschooling and unschooling or child-led learning. He later turned his attention to adult learning and showed us that the same natural curiosity and passion exist in adults but sometimes it gets buried the myth that to acquire expertise at a sport, musical instrument or career, one must start early. So often we have been told "you can't" and unfortunately, we believe it. So watch the living proof that if you give an adult a banjo, he can and will learn how to play it! Yea, Dad!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Black Hole of Time and Attention

I'm here to tell you about a heretofore undocumented but well-known-to-moms phenomenon. It is called the Black Hole of Time and Attention. This black hole sucks time into itself right when it is most needed. It is soley responsible for moms being unable to get their children out of the house in what most of us would view as a reasonable amount of time.

I've been observing carefully and taking meticulous notes and, finally, I can publish the scientific results of my study. Here's what happens: The moment a parents says, "It's time to get your shoes and socks on," the Black Hole opens up and sucks in 1/2 of the time that has been alloted to get ready or 20 minutes, which ever is greater. Actually, a parent just has to think about getting the kids out the door and, slllluuuuurrrrppppppp, into the Black Hole it goes, never to be seen again.

The second force of this Hole is to derail your children's attention away from putting on shoes, socks and coats and toward every and any thing having nothing to do with the aforementioned activities. Suddenly children have a dying need to fight with their brother, get a snack (despite the earlier chance to do so), complete an earlier abandoned Pokemon card game, have their doorknob turned around so the lock is on the inside to get away from said brother, find a missing Gameboy cartridge, and ask if we can make play dough.

All these years you thought it was you! Relax--it's a force of nature. And no one has discovered the opposing force yet.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Funky Toy--The Bilibo

These are great toys! As described in The Hearthsong catalog:

"What is a Bilibo? An award-winning, incredibly versatile toy designed to engage a child's imagination. Children love Bilibo to rock in, spin in, sit on (or in), wear, and peek through. The brainchild of toymakers and child development experts in Switzerland, the recyclable high-density polyethylene toy (bucket/doll bed/sled/boat) offers children unlimited play value, and a chance to personalize the pace and practice of their play."

It looks a bit like a funky and over-sized mixing bowl that can be used "right side up" or "upside down" though which is which definitely depends on your point of view. I love toys like this. It doesn't immediately suggest what should be done with it, leaving room for the imagination.

Since ours arrived this afternoon, the kids have used them to spin in, rock, balance on top of in various stances and while catching bean bags. They have also been used as helmets, turtle's backs, large bellies, rear-ends and heads, as soup pots and baking pans.

I'm interested to see what will happen if we encourage Oliver to use it as a rocker or spinner when we watch a movie. He doesn't sit still for long while watching, jumps around the room, on and off of the furniture, and runs in and out of the room. Distracting to those of us who watch in the more conventional style! Maybe his Bilibo will provided him with movable seating that allows him to move without jumping around.

A note of caution: one can make oneself quite dizzy while spinning in one which we found out the hard way. Levi is prone to motion sickness after getting dizzy. His spinning definitely turned his stomach! Oliver, on the other hand, could spin all day!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Learning All the Time . . .

Important to understanding and trusting unschooling is the knowlege that kids (and we!) are learning all the time. You can't stop it--although there are certainly ways to get in the way of peoples' learning. One of the great pleasures of unschooling is to be with my children and to see their learning unfold in organic ways.

They are so adept at picking up new skills. We got a Wii video game system for Christmas. The kids have quickly become masters at the set-up and working of it, filling us in on things we never knew even though we had at least peeked at the manual. I see this ability in them with most of what they do. Watching them explore, I realise that they do it with an abandon and confidence about "fiddling" that was dampened in me long ago. They go along merrily poking buttons and icons without worrying that they are going to do something wrong. I go about it with hesitation, afraid I will do something wrong. Their strategy usually proves more enlightening than mine!

Here's the disclaimer: they will also learn in places and situations where you really rather thay didn't. Today, at the office of a service provider we see weekly (and luckily have a good relationship with), Oliver went to get a drink of water from the water cooler which was out of my sight.

He came back with the report that, "My tummy was full so I poured the rest in that little thing on Ms. J's cooler. There's some on the floor."

I was pretty sure this wasn't the full report.

"What exactly did you do?"

He repeats his first report and I know that I have to go look.

The well below the spigots, designed to catch small amounts of water, was overflowing, water was cascading down the front and pooling on the carpet.

"What did you do, Oliver?" I asked him.

"I filled it up."

"Why?" I had to ask.

"It was just an experiment. I wanted to see what would happen."

Ah, yes. Learning all the time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Today's Spontaneous History Lesson--Toilets

Oliver woke me up this morning asking if there were toilets 100 years ago. A good question but one I had a hard time pondering without my eyes open yet. That question is the reason I have just spent the last 20 minutes searching Google and Wikipedia with things like "toilet + indoor + history."

According to, "By the mid-19th century, chamber pots and outhouses were still the only choices for the rich or poor in the large cities in Europe or America."

Sir John Harrington reportedly invented a toilet in 1596 for his relation, the Queen of England, but no evidence of it survivies. by the late 1800's patents for flush toilets existed in both England and the US. By 1920, building codes required toilets in newly constructed homes in the US but the use of the outhouse continued for many more years in older homes.

Now you know.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Baltimore Museum of Industry

Much of what we learn in the Upside Down (F)unschool comes from "doing, going and seeing." Today we went on a field trip at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, one of the few museums we'd yet to visit in Baltimore.

From their brochure: "Founded in 1977, the Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates the past, present and future innovations of Maryland industry and its people . . . . Museum activities help students connect what they learn in school with real world concepts about work, technology, industry and the economy."

In the Neighborhood

There were 2 parts to our tour today. During "In The Neighborhood," the kids got to experience work at various early 20th-century Baltimore neighborhood businesses. Each child had a job that they got to perform during the tour. We had a ship's captain, stevedore, baker, grocer, pharmacist and soda fountain owner, and oyster shucker. Last but not least, Levi was the banker and Oliver was the security guard at the bank.

The kids each had a collection of tokens at the beginning of the tour. As they went from business to business, they paid that businesses workers for their services. The kids learned about the differences between skilled and unskilled workers and how that effected their wages.

Their last stop was the bank where the kids deposited their tokens with Levi the Banker while Oliver stood guard. Each child received a bank book with their deposit amount in it.

City Builders

The second part of the tour was called "City Builders." Using a large map of the museum's neighborhood and paper patterns for various neighborhood buildings like the one's they had earlier done business in, the kids constructed a 3 dimensional neighborhood. Everyone got to bring their building home.

We saw a small part of the museum on our trip today. The museum holds many more exhibits that we didn't see today including a belt-driven machine shop, a blacksmith shop, an oyster cannery, a print shop, and a garment loft. We'll be back there soon--there's much more to see.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Both kids have an enduring and passionate interest in Pokemon. Slowly, we've accumulated Pokemon trading cards, Pokemon Gameboy and Nintendo DS cartridges, a printed Pokedex, multiple Pokemon chapter books and plush and plastic Pokemon characters.

Unable to help the kids when they got stuck and not understanding much about it, I got my own Nintendo Ds and Pokemon cartridge and learned to play. Learning to play not only gave me familiarity with the game but also gave me insight into all the things playing Pokemon was teaching them: indexing, alphabetizing, strategy and problem-solving, frustration tolerance, patience, and, equally important, pure fun.

These days, we vastly overlook the importance and usefulness of play. To say that something is "mere child's play" is to denigrate it. But play as a source to knowlege has long been recognized:

"What then is the right way of living? Life must be lived as play."
--Plato, Greek Philosopher (427-347 BCE)

Go play!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Kids' Theatre at the Imagination Stage

Today we saw a performance at the Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD. This venue offers great stage productions for children. Today's performance was called "Twice Upon A Time." It was a musical telling of The Lorax by Dr. Suess, followed by The Emperor's New Clothes.

Oliver felt afraid of some of the masks the actors wore so we spent the 2nd half of the show in the lobby eating cookies and playing Pass the Pigs. I have a travel edition of this game that I always keep in my backpack. It has provided lots of entertainment when we've found ourselves waiting.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Swimming today at one of our local indoor pools. A great way to burn off some energy when the cold weather keeps us inside.

For the first time, Oliver swam one pool length--25 yards--all by himself (with Adam close by as his spotter). When he finished, I cheered, "Wow! You did it!"

"Yea," he said, "and I didn't even drown!"

Friday, January 4, 2008

Journal of a New Unschooler

We started home schooling our 7 year-old son in mid-November 2007. My approach was relaxed but still, there was a curriculum. As part of our materials, I had chosen a phonics program that I had heard good things about—very interactive, lots of songs and games and play. BUT the other half of the program was worksheet driven. I knew I was in trouble during our 2nd week when I introduced the day’s worksheet only to have my son look and me and announce he had done 2 of those yesterday. Yikes! Yes, he had. And worksheets were just about all he had done in public kindergarten and a brief stint in 1st grade. I thought I would cry to see him bring another worksheet home from school so I understood his complaint.

I have to admit that when I first heard about unschooling, I thought it was nuts. Of course, my initial opinion was a poorly informed one that did not yet understand what unschooling really meant. But that was my starting point. As we ventured along in our home schooling, I begin to see myself resorting to things that I hadn’t liked when he was in school—coercion, bribery, rewards, etc., to get work done. I had started down the home schooling path to “un-do” school and found myself recreating “schooly” things at home. As I read more about home schooling, I kept coming across unschooling and increasing my understanding of it. I finally came to understand that unschooling was not benign neglect, not hands off, not throwing one’s children to the wind. Done in the spirit of true unschooling, it is actively following and supporting your children’s learning—on their timetable, in their style, for their reasons. So, I had the “ah ha!” moment and I felt giddy. I had seen the light—so why was I still so scared?

For those of us who were traditionally schooled (read: most of us), unschooling is still a leap of faith. We get it intellectually, understand the reasons that it makes sense, but few of us have experienced it ourselves or with others close to us. Hence the need for our own massive deschooling.

The Journey

We took a week-long trip at the beginning of May. Our return seemed like a good time to drop the curriculum and plunge right in. So we did. What follows are my thoughts as we make the transition to unschooling.

Day 1 - May 2007

I’ve read everything on earth about unschooling, child-lead learning, delight-driven learning, whatever you’d like to call it. It speaks to me, it makes intuitive sense to me—which works because my learning style is intuitive. What in the world will my logical husband think? I’m sort of afraid to bring it up because I’m not sure I can go backward in my thinking if he wanted me to—but I, of course, want his agreement and support.

Day 2

I’m giddy with feelings of delight and freedom at the thought of taking the unschooling path. I’ve been on two unschooling yahoo groups and am starting to see that this line of thinking will impact our whole lives. This way of living isn’t limited to “school hours” because school hours don’t exist. Life is learning, learning is life. Freeing and scary at the same time.

My husband and I talk about it and he’s open but cautious. His hesitations are the ones I had in the beginning. I’ve had so much more time and brain space to devote to learning about this and he’s playing catch-up. I have asked him to read Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee. This book, with it’s long view of an unschooling family, was pivotal in my “getting” what unschooling looked like. He’s willing but, with so little time for personal reading, I’m afraid he won’t read it.

Week 2

I’ve been spending lots of time on unschooling websites like Sandra Dodd’s and then following a million links from there. I’ve started to print articles for my husband. Usually they’re only a few pages. I put them in his “in” basket on the kitchen counter and he reads them as he makes his morning tea or eats his cereal. He hasn’t said I’m crazy yet! Now I need to stop reading and start unschooling!

Week 3

--Today is an at-home day as the kids have requested. They got up and immediately turned the TV on. I struggle with not limiting TV and computer time. I decide that today I am going to keep absolutely quiet on the subject and see what happens—but, oh it’s hard! They watch morning TV for about an hour then drift away to something else. Sometimes they also play a computer game. But I notice that they also eventually drift away from that too—and I haven’t said anything. I start to see a pattern over the day. They have some “screen time,” drift to something more active, come back to computer or TV and then drift away again.

--Today I’m panicking. The kids are fighting about just about everything, they keep turning the TV on, I am restless and am having a hard time not suggesting more “appropriate” activities ( go outside, read a book, color, draw—anything where I can SEE that you are doing something!). I wonder if I can do this with little break from them. I am craving a quiet house and time to myself. But I know in my heart that I don’t want them back in school. I didn’t like what I saw there, my older son’s curiosity and love for learning were dying, and it wrecked our family life during the week. I repeat my mantra—have faith, trust your intuition, take the long view.

June 2007

--I’m playing a game with my 7 year old who does not “know” his multiplication tables. He has to figure out 4 x 5. I pause, ready to help him, when he says the answer is 20. I’m stunned. I ask him how he figured it out. He shows me how he counted to 20 by 5’s and it took 4 of them to get there. Wow—he just multiplied! I tuck this memory away to use against my next unschooling panic.

--We have appointments in the morning. Then the kids are desperate to go to Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t really want to go but it’s a Friday, school is still in session so we’ll have the place to ourselves and I really like to play skee ball. Plus, when I’m not playing with them, they’re occupied enough to allow me a few moments of reading. Can I do this? Is it really okay just to have fun while all those other kids are trapped at school? Shouldn’t we be doing something more—what?—worthwhile? I decide fun is worthwhile.

--I’m have trouble not evaluating what we do. We went to the library today and I realize that I feel some relief that we did something that has some traditional educational value. I don’t like this but I guess I’m not going to overcome 16 years of traditional education in a few months, no matter how much I believe in unschooling. But I do sometimes wish I could just excise a large part of my schooliness out!

--I’m still anxious over lifting controls over TV and computer time (we don’t have video games—yet!). The kids have mostly played a motocross game on the computer or watched TV for the last 2 days. Admittedly, today was rainy. But I feel myself getting tense and anxious over their “screen” time. It’s hard to bite my tongue. I’m not sure exactly what bothers me: the fact that they’re glued to the screen, the noise from the TV or computer, or my general anxiety over the popular view of screen time. I’m still prey to the prevailing belief that if they don’t go outside NOW, they’ll turn pasty white, become overweight and fail in life!

I realize two things regarding this: one, if they were sitting on the couch reading all day, I’d be less concerned; and, two, my experiment with giving them freedom over these things has been very short. I know that I need to take the long view and let their TV and computer focus run it’s course, to trust that those things will take their place among lots of other choices of things to do.

June 30, 2007

Feeling restless and bored, aimless. I’m doing the most deschooling of anyone. These blocks of time drop into my lap and I am unprepared. What were all those things I’ve been dying to do? At times I’m unsure whether to let the kids be or to try to insert something into our day. Lots of stay-at-home time lately which they seem happy with but I’m feeling bored. How to meet the needs of each of us? Especially when we have a total homebody, a semi-homebody and an always-ready-to-roll extrovert?

July 2007

Summer has arrived and schools are out, making it easier for me to unschool since all the other kids are "unschooling" too. Summer is about lots of swimming, playing on the slip-n-slide, watching movies when it's too hot outside

Hello and Welcome to the Upside Down (F)Unschool

Upside Down
Jack Johnson

Who's to say what's impossible?
Well they forget this world keeps spinning
And with each new day I can feel a change in everything

And as the surface breaks reflections fade
But in some ways they remain the same
And as my mind begins to spread its wings
There's no stopping curiosity

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I'll find the thing they say just can't be found
I'll share this love I find with everyone
We'll sing and dance to mother nature's songs
I don't want this feeling to go away

Who's to say I can't do everything?
Well I can try, and as I roll along I begin to find
Things aren't always just what they seem

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I'll find the things they say just can't be found
I'll share this love I find with everyone
We'll sing and dance to mother nature's songs

This world keeps spinning
And there's no time to waste
Well it all keeps spinning spinning
Round and round and upside down

Who's to say what's impossible and can't be found?
I don't want this feeling to go away

Please don't go away
Please don't go away
Please don't go away

Is this how it's supposed to be?
Is this how it's supposed to be? to hear "Upside Down"

We're turning "school" upside down. As a family, we have embarked on a journey of finding joy in our learning and joy in our everyday life. Join us on our "travels" as we explore our passions, dreams and the world--all upside down!