Thursday, December 2, 2010

Still THAT Mom

A while ago there was a meme called "I'm THAT Mom" and I wrote on it.  Today I was pleasantly reminded that I'm still THAT Mom.

I'm THAT mom who can see when her kids are becoming overwhelmed by this stimulating life.  Because I'm THAT mom, I altered our plans for a two-week whirlwind of fun and science and snow and history and travel and, and, and.... and instead, we wrapped up part one of what was to be a three part adventure and we came home.  We canceled part two and we're looking forward to part three.

I'm THAT mom who can see that her kids have a home that is comfortable and happy for them; a home they don't wish to 'escape'.  I've seen a lot of places and had a lot of experiences.  I know what great and wonderous things are out there and I want to share them with those I love, but I don't want to do it at the expense of those I love.

I'm THAT mom who is grateful every day that her children have a life they can live at their speed.  I'm THAT mom who knows we aren't in a race to learn it, see it, do it.  It is about the JOURNEY and sometimes that means not taking a journey at all.

Be true to yourself,

Monday, October 18, 2010

What is Unschooling?

I asked this question when I first heard the term.  I have been asked this question since we first started using the term.  I don't particularly care for the term.  I much prefer autodidact, but that's a word too few have heard and so I find I return to the more familiar "unschool".

Unschool is a term that came about in the era of the Uncola.  It doesn't so much describe what it IS as much as what it is NOT.  Unschool is NOT school.  It is "living as if school didn't exist".  I like that description, but since school DOES exist and everyone we've met so far is aware of school and understands its measures, it makes it difficult to understand what we mean when we say that we live "as if school didn't exist".

We have tried to explain it by asking the person to reflect back to "remember when you or your child was 3 and there was just LIVING and LEARNING", but the problem there is that for many people the holy grail of school was looming and they were prepping to be "successful" in school.  Many have already enrolled their child in some sort of PRE-school program by the age of 3 or even at 2.  So, it's hard for them to remember a time when they weren't preparing their child for school rather than for life.

We have also tried to explain it by asking the person to think about their life post-school, but the problem there is that many folks have had the joy of learning pushed to the recesses of their minds and they don't engage in a life of exploration and experience.  Instead, their lives are full of day-to-day chores and survival with the only "learning" being mandatory work-related training or going back to school to get a new degree for a new job or a promotion.

You see, it's difficult to explain what unschooling is when you're trying to explain one paradigm to someone from a life of a whole different paradigm.  There is a gap in understanding.

What our family means when we say that we unschool is that we don't learn "subjects" then try to integrate them into our lives.  We simply live and know that the subjects ARE being covered.  We don't, for instance, do worksheets with math problems like:

6 x .07 =

Instead, we are at the store in a town that has a 7% sales tax and we find a $6.00 book and look to see if the $6.50 we have in our pockets will cover the purchase.  Yep, it will AND we can buy the 5 cent Hershey's Kiss on the counter display and deposit the remaining coins in the Take a Penny, Leave a Penny cup.  THAT is REAL LIFE.  THAT is REAL MATH.  THAT is a normal event in life.  But, if you ask our children if they "do math", they will respond, "nah, we don't really do math" because our lives are not broken into subjects.  Our lives are simply our lives and learning occurs naturally...SO naturally, in fact, that we are hard pressed at the end of the day to regurgitate "what we learned".

We know that learning occurs from the most common and the most uncommon events.  We know that playing video games provides many opportunities that are often discounted.  We know that reading comic books and funny pages provide lessons in sociology, anthropology, humor, politics, finance, history, geography, vocabulary, grammar, and more.

We know that learning doesn't have to hurt.

Life is WONDERFUL (but not always) and it is perfectly okay to ENJOY IT!  Learning is EXCITING (but not always) and can lead you to all sorts of interesting places!

For years, I gave my husband almanacs as gifts.  He always delighted in them and would pour over them reading and comparing and laughing and learning about all sorts of really interesting (and sometimes boring) facts.  No one was making him do it.  He wasn't furthering his career.  He wasn't working toward a degree.  He was just interested in the world in which he lives and in learning about the changes from year to year.

School assumes a person is not a person.  School assumes a child is going to become a person.  School assumes that there will come a point when a child has reached personhood and no longer needs to learn.

Unschooling embraces the person right exactly where they are whether they are 4 or 40, 7 or 70, toddler or teen.  We are ALL living and learning.  Learning CAN occur at all hours, in all places, through many means.  Unschooling depends on the idea that their is an innate DESIRE to learn.

We are not worried about who or what we or our children will become.  We are interested in providing a rich, diverse, eclectic environment in which we can all pursue our interests and encourage each other.

Still have questions?  Just ask and I'll keep editing!

Monday, August 30, 2010

My how I've changed!

Tonight (late) I was all set for a bit of computer time while watching some Travel Channel when our son came down to perform a bit of card magic.  He is just learning and trying to rush through the mastery process, but I'm game.  Later, when I thought I was "done" being Mom for the night our daughter "chatted" me to look at an eBay item.  I stopped what I was doing and checked it out for her, gave her my opinion and went about my business.  She "chatted" me again about another item when she was outbid.  The *old* me would have responded, "Go to bed.  This is *my* time to return email, play games, surf the web and you keep interrupting.  Why are you still up?"  The *new* me responded, "I love you...I'll look at it."  A few minutes later she was playing with Skype and wanted to try transferring a call...guess who received the transfer.  Shortly after that another IM asking me to check out a status update so she could test a new *trick* she found. 

I'm not even a little annoyed at these interruptions.  Instead, I am tickled that our son is interested in learning magic and that he wants me to be part of that.  I love that our daughter is seeking information and input.  I'm glad that they *want* me to be such an involved part of their lives.  I'm happy that not only is she not embarrassed to transfer her BFF's call to me, but her BFF is comfortable enough to be transferred to me.  I am proud that my little girl is in command of the technology before her and isn't afraid to play with it and try new things.  I'm glad that our son is exploring a variety of interests.

I am delighted with the life we have and the *new* me!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I am THAT mom!

This is my first foray into a blog carnival.  Flo Gascon wrote a simple blog and Ronnie Sundance Maier ran with the idea by opening a blog carnival.  Enjoy!

I am THAT mom!  I am the mom who gets excited at the opportunity to blog about momming (yes, I made up a word) and read about other moms, but who puts her own desires aside because she has "the BEST computer" and the kids want to use it for Treasure Isle, Skype, Hogwarts Online, and any number of other activities.

I am THAT mom!  The one who can't seem to get started on this blog because one child wants to talk and one wants me to harvest his fruit on Treasure Isle (the third is off with Daddy).

I am THAT mom!  The one who wakes up to the sounds, faces, and snuggles of her children.  Who tells her children how much she loves them.

I am THAT mom!  The mom who brings in the money and calls the plumber and repairs what she can, but can't cook or sew or braid hair.

I am THAT mom!  The mom who will blog more about just WHAT kind of mom she is....when her children don't need her attention or want her computer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


My children and I are visiting my parents this week and my brother is also visiting.  (My husband stayed home to recover from three solid weeks of camp and an out of state field trip.)  I encouraged each of them to read my blogs.  I'm not sure if that was a good idea, but it felt right so I went with it.  That's been more my custom these days...if it feels right, do it.  Notice I did NOT say "if it feels GOOD, do it" because that's a whole other matter that can lead to all kinds of trouble.  But following what feels right is usually a good way to live and has opened me up to a much happier life.

I'm not sure if they would want to be included in my blog and I don't want to write about specific people outside of the ones who live in my least not on a regular basis as characters in the sitcom of our life...but tonight I'll make an exception because I am here.

My parents are my friends.  They weren't always my friends and they engaged in traditional parenting including public school for my brother and I.  We had chores (some of which still don't make sense to me) and rules and limitations and expectations.  We had something in our home that a lot of my friends didn't have, though.  ((I'm changing from "we" to "me" now because I think it's presumptuous to speak on my brother's behalf.))  My parents listened.  They asked questions and gave answers to my questions. They provided lots of opportunities.  They encouraged and supported my dreams.  Even as an adult, they are interested in what is interesting to me.  I spent years being frustrated by what I viewed as a lack of involvement in my children's lives, but I've come to realize it's because they are more "conversational".  Now that the kids are old enough to engage in conversation and express their interests and thoughts, my parents are more than happy to engage in their lives.  The "quiet observer" role which often accompanies those first 5 years just weren't their strong suit.  I still share my life with my parents and I think that speaks highly of who they were to me in my formative years.  I know plenty of people who see their relatives a couple or handful of times each year and it's an obligation they endure.  I am happy that our visits have increased and we all look forward to them.  I am not the same kind of mother that my mother was.  I am not the same kind of parent that my father was.  In some ways I'm not as good and in some ways I'm better.  I can't be the same kind of parent because my children are not the same as I was.  My parenting, hopefully, is right for my children.

My brother, too, is visiting and I could write for days about him.  We were great friends at one time in our lives.  We were tolerant at another.  We were estranged at another.  We've been through all the phases, I suppose.  I like where we are now.  My brother is a big kid and loves to play with my children. Actually, as he gets older it seems harder for him, but he tries not to let that show to them.  He is one person in their life who is probably the absolute most genuine, accepting, non-judgemental, and completely loving with them.  I don't know if I have EVER heard him say NO to any of them.  My brother has no children of his own, yet I model my unschooling parent paradigm after him.  The way he completely embraces the needs of my children and stops whatever he is doing and pushes through (and tries to hide) his frustrations to be completely present for them is something of a marvel.  It's not just for the children though.  A sibling is unlike anyone else in your life.  We can recall things about each other that no one else can because no one else REALLY knew us when we were growing up.  I am glad, not just for the memories we share, but for the closeness that we chose to develop.  During our estrangement we saw each other for those obligatory family gatherings once or twice a year.  At one of those gatherings, I blew up in full mama lion fashion.  It was our tipping or cut bait....BE siblings and communicate and love and support each other or stop pretending out of some traditional sense of obligatory loyalty.  I am glad to say that my brother chose the first option and opened a dialogue that took years we are still working through.  It is worth it.  He is worth it.  Our relationship is worth it.  I believe we have all benefitted from it.  That first step was a doozy, but I sure am glad he took it!

These visits to see my parents and my brother are precious to me and I know they mean more than words can say to my children.  Maybe it would be different if they lived closer.  Maybe it would be different if they lived further away and we only visited yearly (or less).  But what we have right here, right now is just what I need and just what the kids need.

Be True To Yourself,

You don't have to agree

There was a time...not long ago...when I felt it was my job to convince others to see things my way, that if they only understood WHAT I was doing and WHY I was doing it that they would come to their senses and follow suit.  I lost many friends and ostracized a number of others because of that.  Well, call it age or wisdom or whatever you will....I don't have that need anymore.  Frankly, I hope YOU are doing what works for YOU and WE will do what works for US.  I no longer feel the need to convince or convert.  It's not that I'm less committed, just that I've been faced with far too many people who feel that it's THEIR job to convince and convert ME to do things THEIR way and I now understand what it must've felt like for all those years when I was the one on the "pushy" side.

So, there you have it.  Agree with me or don't agree with me.  Ask questions or don't.  The ball is in your court and I'm not coming over there after it.  Above all, though....

Be True To Yourself,

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sampler Platter vs. Buffet

Positive thinking and positive spinning is sort of a new thing for me.  I spent a lot of my life seeing the bad and stupid, focusing on negative aspects of situations.  Part of the reason for the title of this blog is that it forces me to post from a more positive point of view.  I'm glad for that.  It's not that I won't post about anything bad, just that I'll at least attempt to take the time to see another angle.

I was all set to post a blistering blog about O's trip to D.C. last week.  But, there's a way to tell you about the trip without sinking into the negative abyss.  I'll say this...O was excited about experiencing a buffet of what our nation's capital has to offer.  What she got instead was a sampler platter.  She was excited to have evening leadership workshops to really hone her leadership skills and learn some tact (she IS my daughter, remember, and tact isn't her strong suit).  What she got instead was "herding the heads" wherein they brought all the participants into one room to control the chaos before dispersing to their rooms for the night.  She hoped to bond with roommates who saw the world of possibilities and were there to learn.  What she got instead was two girls who were free of supervision for the first time and who acted like caged animals who had just been released into the wild.  She looked forward to teachers who were excited about the natural process of learning and who would help her get the most out of the trip!  What she got instead were adults who were rude and belittling to everyone under 18; who were more interested in schedules and count-offs than encouraging passion or identifying needs.

Gosh, that does look a little negative, huh?  But here's the good stuff...

What she got from the experience is that D.C. is a wonderful place that she wants to explore.  Gettysburg is a powerful destination that brings a pause to your thoughts.  Mom is always available; even for midnight texting.  It feels really good to be supported in your passions.  Every experience has something of value if you look hard enough.  The drive from Atlanta to Washington isn't that bad if you're with people you really enjoy spending time with.  Middle School is NOTHING like seen on t.v..  Condescension, belittling, and threats are poor qualities in a person and do nothing to develop leadership.

So, it wasn't what she expected or hoped for.  It was worse than what she feared.  It was nonetheless an experience she will take with her for the rest of her life, an experience that will shape her thinking and her interaction with others.  It is now part of her history.  Would she do it again?  NO.  Would she do it over?  YES.  Every experience you have is part of who you are.  She really likes who she is and became more confident because of seeing so many sheep.

My personal opinion...if you receive anything from People to People, don't be sucked in to thinking it will be good just because it was started by a President.  We will never engage in another P2P event.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Membership has its privileges

My daughter asked, "Mom, will you join Hogwarts Online?"  My first thoughts were, "I don't want to do that.  I've never read the Harry Potter books.  I haven't seen the movies.  I'm not interested in fantasy.  And I'm busy with a million other things."  My first answer was, "Honey, I'd love to, but I don't know anything about Harry Potter."  She asked again the next day and received about the same response.  At the same time, my son was asking me to join Club Penguin.  I have no interest in pretending to be a penguin in a fictional town playing kid games and decorating an igloo.  I told him I thought he'd have more fun with some of the other kids we know who have Club Penguin accounts.  He asked again a few days later and received a similar response.  Then, one night, as I lay in bed in the stillness and quiet calm of the house I felt like I'd been jolted with lightning.  My eyes popped open and a smile spread across my face.  It was in that moment that I realized what a privilege my children were bestowing upon me ... or *attempting* to bestow upon me.  For those who need a refresher, I've included the definition of privilege.


[priv-uh-lij, priv-lij]  Show IPA noun, verb,-leged, -leg·ing.
a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most

How does this definition apply?  My children wanted me to have the benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.  We know plenty of families whose parent/child relationships are strained at best and our children are also very particular about who they spend their time with.  Yes, inviting me to join their worlds is definitely a benefit beyond the advantages of most.

So, the next morning when the kids came in for our usual morning snuggles, I asked them if they would help me register on Hogwarts and on Club Penguin.  They graciously agreed and have been patient with me as I learn how to be a Slytherin AND a secret agent penguin.  I have to admit that I enjoy both activities and am truly honored that my children like me enough to *want* to include me in their lives.  It IS a privilege and I will give it the respect it deserves.  I'm just glad I wasn't too late.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I considered changing my signature line on my Yahoo! account and went looking for quotes about time.  I looked for quotes about time because it seems to me that it is so oft overlooked.  People view time in many ways yet we know little about it.

Often people will say "time passes so quickly" and it strikes me that is a very passive way to consider time. Truly, one could say time stands still and *we* move quickly or perhaps slowly.  As you fall into bed or into your bedroll or nod off on the couch, do you consider the day behind you?  Do you consider that day was there in its entirety when you approached it and you moved through it?  Or do you consider that you are living and waves of days approach *you* and pass you by?

Stop.  Think about that.

Are *you* moving through life or is it moving around you?

I have noted throughout my life that some people are spectators in their own lives.  They have no plans or intentions or direction.  They do not control or even seem to attempt to understand their role in their own lives.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying you have to have everything planned out.  Perhaps your plan is to see where life leads and be ready for new opportunities.  That's still a plan.  It's still a decision.  It's still a sense of control and understanding of your role in your life.

So, I encourage you to be at minimum participatory in your life and at most decisive in its direction.  Above all....

Be True To Yourself,

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our Unschool Journey

When our eldest began her education she was home.  She learned to walk, talk, eat, laugh (i.e. develop a sense of humor), read, write, color, build, puzzle, question, live, and love.  When she was four we sent her to pre-school.  Why?  Because she was four and "all" four-year-olds (around us) go to pre-school.  Right?  When she was five she went to kindergarten.  Why?  Because she was five and "all" five-year-olds (around us) go to kindergarten.  Right?

At some point during kindergarten, her teacher realized O was "exceptional" and was absorbing the curriculum as fast as it was presented.  Miss D saw how much O enjoyed learning and began treating her with great enthusiasm; giving her more and more advanced material as she saw how quickly and voraciously O was adapting.  Kindergarten was wonderful!  First Grade was NOT.  In first grade, students are to put aside their childish/childlike ways and start conforming to "the system".  O was boxed up with the other children only to learn what was scheduled to be taught that more.  She was no longer *allowed* to read books "above grade level"!  It was time to look for an alternative to what "everyone else" was doing.

We left school.

Kindergarten was great, so we'd go back to that model...provide her with information she was interested in learning and accelerate it at a pace she was comfortable.  It worked GREAT for a few weeks, then it seemed pointless.  At the rate she was accelerating she'd graduate at age 10, but wouldn't *know* anything.  It was time to look for an alternative to what "homeschoolers" were doing.

We left homeschool.

Umm, hmm...

We weren't really sure what we were doing at that point.  At least we weren't sure of the *label*.  We knew what we were doing.  We were giving O the freedom to read, watch, talk, and learn about what she was interested in exploring.  Flash forward five years to January 2010.  The Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering (UWWG) information was posted to a Georgia Homeschoolers list and we decided to attend.  By the way, "What's an unschooler?"  Well, we headed off to Sandusky, OH and found out what an unschooler is.  Actually, we learned that there is no black-and-white definition.  The simplest explanations I've heard are:

"Living as though school didn't exist."

"Following your passion."

"Learning through life rather than curriculum."

"Trusting that you (or your child) will find whatever you (they) need to know for whatever is important to you (them)."

"Learning what has value to you."

"Following rabbit holes."

By the second day of the conference we had a label to describe our educational philosophy.  We took a deep breath and started exploring the logic of what we were doing and how the trust we had in our children's academics could be applied to other areas of their lives.  When we returned home we sought out others who embraced the autodidactic philosophy (we don't care for the term unschool because it focuses on what we don't do instead of what we do).  We found that we are a limited breed here in Georgia with only a couple dozen families in the state who have found this label.  So, we sought the circuit and now enjoy traveling the country to attend unschool conferences.

We would love to talk with you more about our journey and/or yours.

Be True To Yourself,

LIFE is Good

We just returned from the LIFE is Good Conference in Vancouver, WA.  Vancouver is just across the Columbia River from Portland, OR (PDX) which is one of my favorite airports.  I love flying into PDX as a was less exciting as a passenger.  When you're a pilot you have this amazing view of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, and the beautiful Columbia River!  As a passenger, well, you have a cramped view of clouds because it is, after all, OR/WA and always cloudy.

The conference was spectacular!  It served as a fueling station for us.  It fueled our hearts, minds, and spirits.  We are autodidacts.  Some use the term "unschoolers", but I don't like that term.  I'm not a fan of negativity.  Oh, sure, I've succumbed to it throughout my life, but I'm not a *fan* of it and I try to avoid it when I can.  I prefer to focus on what we *do*, not on what we don't do.  We live freely and joyfully.  Some say they "follow their passion".  I can't say that just yet because we're discovering so many interests that we aren't focused on passions.  So, these conferences feed us.

Our hearts are fed by seeing so many families loving each other and others, by enjoying uninterrupted focus on ourselves and our family, by soaking up the love of our tribe.  Our minds are fed by amazing presentations, circle chats, random hallway conversations, recommendations of books and blogs, and thought bombs exploding throughout the weekend.  Our spirits are fed through meditation, yoga, and what The Dog Whisperer calls "calm submissive" wherein we allow ourselves to people watch and be energized by the spirit of others.

We are officially on the conference circuit.  LiG was our third conference of the year and we're excited to attend at least one more (NEUC).  I'm always looking for more conferences and opportunities to connect with our tribe, so feel welcome to comment if you know of others!

Be True To Yourself,