Showing posts with label unschooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unschooling. Show all posts

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Back To Work, Normal Things

One of the things I was taught growing up was simple: check my car's oil. I was also taught how to change the oil (and spark plugs). 

I take this a step further and I teach my children too. Every gas tank fill up, one kid gets to pump gas and the other gets to check the oil. They both wash windows and help clean the car up of any trash.

This task is important. Why? Why check the oil if I have no leak?

Well, this is not as obvious.

If I pop the hood open as often as that, I get to know the engine. What it is supposed to smell like. What it looks like. What the sounds are. If I am paying attention? I may spot a problem well before I become an evening news item, a burning carcass of a minivan on a rural Iowa highway. Not that I know of anyone that has happened to. Cough cough.

Seriously though, I have been able to spot issues before they become major expensive or dangerous problems. Bonus, good habits and routine keep my car cleaner than most moms I know. Every tank fill up, instead of standing there looking bored while the gas flows down the hose, I clean out the empty water bottles and discarded apple cores. Gah, I hate apple cores. I love that my kids eat them though. Better than twinkie wrappers, yeah?

My point is, now, when my breaking heart sometimes wants to give in to the chaos, little details like this make the day stay on course. Making my bed in the morning, keeping the spaces around me a little bit extra tidy and sparkly, helps calm the inner mess. The nagging that I failed at my own life, that broken home is now my reality (more on that next post), these things creep up on me and to meet them on the battle field, I come armed with Dawn dish soap and a Norwex cloth (not to be used together, no worries.....).

Back to the blog post at hand.....

To check the oil, find the oil stick. On my cruiser it is labelled with words. Sometime they are not. If it isn't super obvious, check your owner's manual.

Alright, now, pull it out, wipe it down clean with a paper towel, insert it back in and pull out again. Now you can get a reading.

Mine was half full.  It gets that way after 7 fill ups or so. The mechanic says not to worry, but to add oil when it gets below the 1/2 mark. Be careful to never put too much in though. The hash marks on the stick are where the line needs to be, somewhere in that range is good. Less is bad, more is bad.

So I needed to add just a little.

My oil cap is labelled with words on the cruiser. One past vehicle I owned it wasn't. That vehicle may have once had windshield washer fluid accidentally put where oil goes. Or vice versa. I don't remember. That wasn't the highway fire though (that wasn't me, y'all).

Anyway, be careful unscrewing the cap. It can be hot or dirty or both. Don't lose it either. Seriously. It is an important piece of your vehicle.

Add a little at a time and repeat the process for checking the level. One time on my old Volvo I added too much and the gasket cap broke. That's the kind of thing that too much oil can cause. That, luckily, was a 5$ fix. Not all things that can go wrong are that easy or cheap.

Screw it on carefully too, when you are done.

I then take a good look at everything else, wiper fluid on my car is obvious without touching it, but power steering and transmission fluids can be checked too (though I don't as often as oil).

The last step is a walk around, visual check of the tires and a peak underneath. If you can see anything leaking, make note of it.

Cars are expensive investments. They need to be taken care of. I have found that this habit is easy to put in place, get my kids involved it, and it makes driving nicer too. Clean cars just make for better travel, in my opinion. 

Before I was even allowed to learn to drive I had to know how to: change tires, change oil, and identify basic parts of the engine. Oh, and clock in 2,000 miles once I was learning to drive, before I could get a license. I had to parallel park. I had to spin circles in an icy parking lot to learn how to recover from a spin out on slick roads. I had to learn to read maps and navigate. I had to know how to pop a clutch (function of driving a 71 Beetle with a bad starter.....) and how to jump start a dead battery (love those old VW's)....

These are things anyone taking a heavy metal killing machine out on public roads at high speeds should know how to do.

If you don't? Fix that. It is important.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Full of Wonders

The world is so big. I used to think this was a childhood thing. That the world was as wide and as big as all I could see from my highest tree swing. It's bigger. So much bigger. It gets bigger everyday.

We spent the day at the Science Center exploring. The girls know what to expect, go right to their favourites, but is all pretty new to him. We avoided it mostly when he was little because of germs and vaccination season (shedding), and flu season. Now, I think, we can navigate the place on a not busy weekday and also he's over the whole licking things phase (I think/hope).

We spent the day runnning full speed ahead through life and everything. CAVES! SNAKES! STARS! OOOOOOH LEGOS! ROCKET SHIP! Everything was good and better and wonderful.

Pretty much. That's our life these days.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Touchy Subject of Touch

I do not make my children hug or kiss people they don't want to. I don't make them hug their friends after a fight to make up. I don't make them accept it when other people want to hug them. I early on taught them to say, "This is my body. I don't want to be touched/tickled/picked up."

They are the sentient occupants inside that mammalian machine we call a body, they are the owners of their flesh. Just as I don't like unwanted touch, even affectionate touch, especially affectionate touch sometimes, I don't expect them to allow it when they don't want it either.

It is called consent. This is how we teach it. This is how we model it.

Sometimes I have to walk the walk and that means when an adult thrusts a toddler at me for a hug and that toddler does not know me.....I have to step back. I always explain that I am a stranger to that child and forcing affection from a stranger is not acceptable. It is dangerous.

Wait, what if you are a relative? No. That part does not matter. In fact, it may even matter more. The majority of abuse and sexual abuse is committed by adults related or known to the child! Being related by family does not entitle affection. Teaching children that it is? Oh, that is so scary. If I am a stranger to that child, I keep my distance. If the child offers me affection while I am still a stranger? I gently redirect and look them in the eye and remind them that I am a stranger.

You see, it is also my body. I get to choose when I am touched too. People I don't know touching me does not feel good to me, even handshakes between strangers makes me uncomfortable though I see it as a necessity of fitting in to our community. Touch can be healing but it can also be destructive and invasive.

When a child says no, let's all respect that. As a community, let us also take a minute to think about how we touch others and what kind of lesson we are teaching our babies.

I am also going to make the jump here into discipline. When a child is struck with a hand or object (spanking) that is also an unwanted touch. When a loved one does it? Is that the message we want them to learn? That violence from someone who loves you is acceptable? That they have no say over their body at that moment, and it is because they have done wrong and you love them? No. No.



Touch should be loving. Touch should be welcome. Touch should be from people they trust and know.

So, when my relatives went all a flutter because I stepped back from a toddler niece who I have only seen maybe 5 times in her life and four of those times were when she was a newborn, and she was not asking for affection on her own but being ordered to and physically picked up and thrust at me for a hug? This is why I stepped back. I said at the time, I am a stranger to her at her mother's choice. Let's all respect that choice and not teach her she has to give affection to strangers.

There is a history of sexual molestation and violence in our family. I am not about to take part in a cultural norm that grooms children to give affection to people they don't know or to trust people just because they are related to them.

I will not back down from this. I will not shut up about it either. Respect our children's bodies and minds and let them choose who they give affection to AND model for them appropriate affection.

What? You thought the feminism label on the blog was the silent undertone? Hardly. I am the mother of two bright and beautiful girls and a lovely boy. Consent is one of the most valuable lessons there is. Hug your children today, give them a million kisses, tickle them until they can't stand it.....but when they say, enough, no, stop!......listen and let go. When they hesitate to hug an aunt they have never met, don't force them to. When they act or even say they are uncomfortable around a certain cousin, let them follow their gut and keep their distance. Do not let people who are known child abusers babysit just because they will do it for free.

Let us do better by our children and really teach them consent.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

What We Already Are

When I became a mother for the first time, no one said to me, "Hey, that's nice, but you are not a mother yet, maybe someday." No, I was a mother because I was doing it.

Today I was reflecting on something that I noticed with the amazing group of women that surround and support me and how they treat my daughter, who is often with me when I see them. They take her seriously as an artist. She won't someday be an artist maybe. She IS. She is because she is doing it. She is because she loves it. She is because it makes her happy and she cannot imagine a life without making art. She is 9 and she doesn't have to wait to grow up  to be something. She is.

Holly is a dancer. She works hard to learn more and practise her skills, but she goes to the studio, trains, and at the end of the year will perform on stage. She doesn't have to wait to think she will someday be something. She IS. She is 5.

Isaac? He loves trains and toys and running and painting. Right now he is loving just being with us and doing what we do. Soon enough he will share with us what he loves and we will nurture it. 

Nurturing a child is the critical point here. If we tell them, That's nice, but it doesn't mean anything significant. Move along. How will they ever really believe that they could ever be anything? I suffer that now, not sure if I can call myself a writer or a poet even though I do both and have even been published! Maybe it is because I don't really feel all grown up and so much importance was placed on being grown up before one could really be anything at all.

Holly wants to be a pilot too and a construction worker. She already builds things. She LOVES aircraft of all kind. You will never catch me doubting what any of my children are capable of. Not ever. Watch them fly!

The kids are also farmers, right by our side doing work that they love, hard work. They earn the credit for this work that most just dismiss the value of because of their age alone. That is so problematic. Children can and want to do meaningful work and my children do.

I will continue to be their biggest fan, encourage them to dream and see possibilities with every turn. I will carefully tend their imagination and help turn their dreams into reality. That is how we homeschool and how we parent. It goes beyond that though, it doesn't stop at my children. More and more, I have found myself cheering on and encouraging others, children and adults, to believe in their own possibilities. Who says that it is too late? Seriously? Who? If you want to do it, give it a try. Progress measured in inches is still progress.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Can you take the step and call yourself that now?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Update for Farm and Homeschooling

This week is crammed packed with peaches. Chad graduated from his year long training. Isaac started dancing. Holly began her yearly peach cleanse.......ha! We had farm visitors two of the days, picked berries. Lily caught her first all on her own fish. Staying busy on the farm!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Preface/Background to Our Chinese Unit Study, Unschool Style, plus an introduction to newbies to "strewing".....

We homeschool. We unschool as a philosophical approach. For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it is like Montessori without the large class management of other people's children aspect.

Our classroom is our home, our farm, our community- you get the idea. Our home is filled with books, seriously thousands of books. No less than three bookcases hold "kid" books, the rest are all over- history, science, literature, classics, antiques, newest editions, science fiction. We love books.

In our dining room, at kid level, I have art supplies. I do keep the higher quality paints and inks up high but only so Zap doesn't eat them and Holly doesn't take up Interior decorating- again. They can have them down when they ask, just not when I am in the shower or on the phone. You know? This.

I have a whole huge bookcase with kid history, math, and reading books. Whole curricula..

"Hold up, lady, you just said you unschool!" Yes I did. That doesn't mean we don't learn things or enjoy using books. We all do. Especially me.

That's where something called strewing comes into play. Strewing is where we make available items of interest and leave them in accessible places to be found and explored at will.

So I thought about how we will handle school this year, since I am going back to work away from home a couple days a week and fall is pretty busy with deliveries and craziness of farm stuff. My kids have been begging to learn more about China, love Chinese food, music, and art. We've also fielded some questions from them about why we don't buy Made in China products (we actually do though), especially packaged food and art supplies (which end up as food unintentionally toddler style). A really negative bias has crept up in our whole culture regarding products from China, mostly from teh massive lead poisoning issues that have happened. Plus we like to buy local, as local as possible in all things. But that doesn't mean we have to bash a whole culture, you know?

And I realized too that I know very little about China. I mean, I have seen Mulan a million times with the kids, and I know I like crab Rangoon, and I can point to China on the map....and that's about it really.

So what better way to organize our lives and learning than to have mama learn some more about China? And that's how we'll do this, I will learn and do projects and if they are interested then they can too. I plan on creating a syllabus, with books and supplies provided for each mini lesson, here on the blog, in case anyone wants to replicate what we are doing. Label will be China, Dragons, and Yummies.

A brief summary of items we will cover in the groupings:

Art: watercolor, calligraphy, kite making, origami, paper making
Culture: Tea ceremonies, religion, etiquette, medicine, agriculture, puppetry
History: Time lines
Geography and cooking are paired. We'll study regional cuisines and cook them every week, in reference to regions and types of ingredients. Food can really be a good way to teach other aspects of culture. Plus, YUMMY. Oh, and animals. Geography=animals to my kids. Maybe a zoo trip.
Science: inventions, building, medicine, agriculture, earthquakes
Math: fractions in cooking, calculating for science, abacus, money measuring, weighing
Reading: stories and books from China, about China, writing to a pen pal, writing messages in cards, creating fortune cookie messages, calligraphy
Dragons. My kids like dragons a lot.
Chinese New Year and holidays.
We plan on attending the Asian Festival here this year too.

Things I have purchased so far:
  • A calligraphy set, a real one with ink and stone and hair brushes and bone chine dishes. Not expensive and yes, made in China.
  • Toy dragons. Yes I did.
  • Paper dragons to hang from the ceiling.
  • Real stainless steel chopsticks and bone china spoons
  • Cast iron tea service
  • Tea
  • Books on calligraphy, craft and building projects, books on Chinese history for kids, Chinese mask book
  • Pandora, Traditional Chinese station
  • Netflix, Wild China and Studio Gibli movies. Dress up clothes with Chinese theme.

We'll start this October 1st ish. Expect lots of cute pictures of kids doing stuff and cooking. These items are on the shelves and ready to explore. We already listen to the music every day. At the end of the week, we'll have lunch at the local Chinese buffet (yay rural Iowa!). We'll cook from the recipe books twice a week, maybe more at lunch time.

Each time we do an activity, I will post book and supply list with links to isbns, mostly because that is where I shopped for the stuff.  I'll also post a reflection on what worked, ect.

I'd love additional ideas to work in too.....and that's about all of it. The ideas of it all will unfold as we live it. The girls want to trade out our dining room table for a lower standing coffee table so we have to sit on pillows to eat meals. Is that even how people eat in China? Where did they get that idea?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Running Away

A recent meme floating around got me thinking. To be more specific, some of my friends entries got me thinking. It was about sports and running. 

When I was 7 my best friend in the whole world lived behind me, across a clothesline and an alley. We were separated by more than that at school and less than that at home. At school she was athletic and well liked, but not in the gifted program. I was small, picked last at everything, and thriving in the gifted program. These demarcations defined us on the playground. 

The thing was though, I was actually good at sports. Really good. I won the free throw competition for my age group in the 4th grade. I could out shoot the big kids in any game of HORSE or PIG and I was fast. I loved soccer and was an awesome goalie. When PE time came, I was picked last at everything and trailed behind the runners during laps. Why? I think it is obvious. Edited to add****For those who don't know me, I have always been really, really much smaller than my peers. As an adult I am only 4'9". I was also poor growing up and dressed funny. Ok, I still do. Sometimes I don't even bother to match socks and I always wear them inside out, seams are itchy!

Sage asked me why one day. I had beaten her in a long sprint to get to the swings at a park, and out of breath, she wondered why I didn't run like that at school. She just didn't understand. I loved school so much, but at recess I would sit at the fence and read books. I didn't have an answer for her then. 

When we moved away the next summer I had to give up sports because in Illinois the school charged a fee and required camps. My family was too poor to afford that just for a 5th grader to play after-school basketball. So all I was left with was riding my bike around the neighborhood and the humiliating sessions of school PE. I grew to hate sports. 

I still love to run and swim, but I loathe "working out", I will never jog, and the mere thought of going to a gym makes me want to vomit. We don't own a treadmill because the going joke is that we already pay (in taxes) for the public sidewalks plus you get the benefit of fresh air. If I have extra energy to spare, I use it to mop and vacuum and haul bins to storage. Yard work is awesome too. The thought of walking to nowhere seems silly.

And yet, I totally get the whole working out/sports drive. It feels good, it is alone time, and it is lovely to feel so perfectly human. I just can't run on demand. 

So that got me thinking about unschooling. I've mentioned before that I am a product of the public schools and also that I have unschooled myself my whole life. That duality is similar to my friendship with Sage. School was a refuge from my turbulent home life, but so was my own imagination. I could run like the wind when not confined, I devoured books, and loved the sunshine, but in school I did what I had to, excelled, but it was simply a way to spend time in between my other life. It changed how I viewed myself and changed how I found joy in things.

Lil'Bug loves her art classes. She is learning and working with mediums I cannot provide her here at home, but I can't help but notice that her creativity with her at home artwork has changed. It is not as free, not as expressive. Maybe that change would have happened naturally, but I can't help but wonder if the situation of sitting with peers and seeing what they are doing and coloring inside the lines on demand isn't changing her view of herself and her world, much like what happened with me and sports. 

Just thoughts......