Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mo science

Here's Morgan having a grand old time with her new "chemistry" set. Most of the "experiments" involved polymers that expanded in some fashion with the addition of water, some quickly, some slowly. The results looked like snow, jello, and less describable goos.

There was also an intriguing sand that had been treated with a water resistant coating. Rayan was interested in that one, and commented that it reminded him of the way water doesn't seem to "stick" to leaves. He probably learned more science wandering in and out of the kitchen that morning than he has all year in school.

Once we'd gone through the basic mixtures, Morgan wanted to explore some on her own. We had some of everything left over, so she had a good time making mixes of mixes and squishing everything together with her fingers. The last pic shows her trying to mold the resultant goo into shapes with an old block-sorter toy. That didn't work so well, but maybe she'd like to try it again with the new clay.

The Farm School at Home

Since we are in the process of getting registered with the Farm I thought I'd post some information about homeschooling in TN in general and The Farm in particular. TN has three different ways to register as a homeschooler. The first is with the local education agency and is really the simplest. Its free if you do it on time, and there's a minimum of requirements - attendance records, not exactly a stretch. That's been the plan for Mo, but there are complications with Rayan - those being that George has no high-school diploma, and he and I aren't married, so I'm not a "legal" guardian.

Option 2 is an "umbrella school" where basically a church provides the curriculum and we would follow it. Not for us, for obvious reasons. There are no Unitarian umbrella schools in TN, about the only "acceptable" option for us.

Option 3 is a variation on the umbrella school idea, where we would sign up with a "Private Church Related School" as a "satellite campus" - basically the school agrees to "hire" us as teachers and we become part of a private school. There are two of these that don't regulate what kind of curriculum we use, one requires a statement of Faith, the other a statement of Ethics, and we would, under other circumstances, go with that for conveniece. But now we don't have to!

The Farm in Summertown has been recognized by the state of TN as a bona-fide church related (option 3) school:

TheFarm School is operated by The Church of the Farm Religious Community andaccredited by the National Coalition of Alternative Community Schools(

and has set up a satellite campus program. No statement of anything, just send money. Very American of them, but don't tell them I said so ;) We were a little concerned when we saw the first-draft registration form, since it asked about the education of the parents and all that stuff we were trying to get away from! I contacted the person who is handling the satellite campus stuff and she assured me that they would sort it all out in the name of providing support for alternative families and, oh, what was the expression she used, something about alternative education, or maybe anti-authoritarian education....whatever. What happened was the board realized they wanted to do less paperwork and dropped all the educational and marital requirements for "parents" and are re-doing the form. As I said, Very American - just send money!

Anyway, here's their high-fallutin' mission statement an' all:

Vision & Mission

We envision a world where all people live in peace and harmony with each other and our planet. We are committed to helping our students become leaders towards a peaceful, just and ecologically sustainable world. We seek to help our students manifest a peaceful and harmonious world.

Educational Philosophy

At The Farm School students learn as they apply basic skills and content to real-world problems with a focus on peace, equality and sustainability. We use responsive curriculum to connect what our students learn to their and our community's needs, interests, experiences and values.

The Farm School @ Home services

The Farm School is a community school and homeschool resource center. We are very excited to be able to offer an alternative for homeschool families that, for whatever reason, are not comfortable registering with their Local Educational Agency (LEA) or with a denominational Church Related School(CRS). We require no statement of faith and are not interested in mandating curriculum or any other decisions. We believe in responsive education matched to the needs, interests and experiences of individual children. And we believe that the adults best able to negotiate curriculum with children are the adults spending time with those children on a daily basis.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It looks like this

Here's a pic of Rayan carving - he added in the lettering. Lots of fun. I have set up a separate blog just for him, but I still think of this as the "family blog", so it needed a shot of Rayan doing his new thing.
Things are going well, for the most part. He's cheerful and friendly and offers to help out.... I'm hoping that as long as we can keep following his lead in terms of interests, etc, that will continue, too. I'm encouraged, in that regard, by my reading on the unschooling forums - lots of stories of teens who aren't angry and rebellious. What a concept!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

First days of deschooling

Monday went famously well - it can't all be this good! Rayan was thrilled to be home, slept in, hung out, ate some chocolate-chip muffins I'd made - he's missed a lot of my baked breakfasts since he was having to leave so early. I found this big box that we'd been saving to make a playhouse with Morgan, and offered to let him spray-paint it, if he wanted. Well, he was just over the moon! Emptied his can of black paint in minutes, so after lunch we made a run to the store for more. He's still so shocked when I tell him I'll pay for things (buget willing). We also picked up some poster board for stencils.

Once we got back he added some red and blue details to the box - must get a pic of this for y'all - and then decided it was time to paint his skateboard. That's what he wanted stencils for. I'm used to making stencils for quilt stuff, so I showed him how I do it and how I use the copier to make things different sizes. What do they teach in these schools? I helped him cut the stencils and tape them to the board. Loads of fun.

It was so exciting to see him motivated - he's usually so passive. It gave me a great big surge of hope. He really can do things when he wants to - its just that school has left him wanting to do so little. He kept talking about all sorts of other things he could paint - clothes, the old fridge in the barn. He wants to paint the fence around the garden, but I think I'd like to see a design for that first. With the fence, the garden felt like an extra room to the house this year, so I'm leary of having it spray-painted just yet.

One of the things that made Monday work out so smoothly was Morgan. She watched movies in bed all morning and then got really involved in a project of her own as soon as we got home from the store, so I could give Rayan all the attention he needed. He's still pretty needy and uncertain in alot of ways. Morgan's much more autonomous.

Tuesday she came downstairs pretty early, so I had to do more "juggling" of kid needs and energy. Tricky stuff - the differences in the two kids make it easy to sort of overlook her, and I don't want to do that, for sure. At the same time, I don't want Rayan to feel like he's the "second best" kid, since he's the "step". Good thing I've been practicing juggling all summer.

Wednesday I worked at Barb's so George got to take the kids to the park and hang out with the homeschoolers. Everyone had fun - and Rayan learned to carve! That's a skateboarding term, folks! Its when you go around the sides of the bowl - okay, darnit, I'm going to have to figure out how to make hyperlinks so y'all can read about it in wikipedia or something, I'm not defining all these words for y'all!

I've set up another blog just for stuff about Rayan - mostly to provide some kind of documentation for his mom at this point, but if she mellows out, maybe it will even be interesting. We'll see about that.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Up to date at last!

Sorry for the string of copied posts from the message boards, folks! It's just been too overwhelming to try to keep track of things in more than one place at a time.

Good news! Amy said we could go ahead and homeschool and she would "step back from that". She did offer transportation to the Y, etc. So today (Monday) was our first official day of homeschooling. There are still some paperwork details to take care of - The Farm has its homeschool program set up, but haven't got their forms sorted out yet (dang hippies!). Jacki, who's coordinating the middle TN area says not to worry, we can always back-date the darn things. So that's fine.

Today was fabulous all 'round. I have a kind of long description of it, hand written, but I'm too tired, I'll post it tomorrow.

I'm planning on putting the blog address "out there" more in the unschooling community, since they've all been letting me cry on their shoulders, as it were, and now seem to want to keep up with details.

Nov 30

Re: Blended families - adding a step child to your family
--- In, "Melynda Laurent" wrote:
>> Has anyone added a step child who comes from a rigid, authoritarian
> home to their unschooing family? Or does anyone have any thoughts on
> how do do it?

Well, my stepson (13) started living with its all a haze...three weeks ago? We're in the position of negotiating with mom about homeschooling *still*. Rayan's mom doesn't so much support him being here as "can't control him anymore" - so, yes, I guess you could say he's been in "an overly controlling family". We don't have the option of diving head-first into unschooling, but the current plan is to "take a break from school" the moment mom gives the go signal, and hopefully just stay on vacation. In the meantime we're trying to unschool everything but school, iykwim.

Since we already are unschooling Morgan, part of the way we're explaining things to Ray is to say "well, she gets to do it,why not you?" which seems to be blowing his mind a little, but he can totally see the logic there. We haven't sat him down and explained unschooling, though. We're just trying to say "Yes" as often as possible, and make the same kinds of friendly offers we do with Mo.

> I am wondering if we should
> throw him staight into the unschooling life style or should we keep
> him in school and let him norm to our family first?

We kind of thought that Ray being in school *might* make the transition easier. Now we're not so sure about that. Its not just that dealing with school is such a major hassle, its that Ray's not*here* so he's not really learning how our family really *is*. Last week was T'giving and before that he was suspended - so he was home for ten days straight. It was really great. Okay, sure, there were ups and downs, but with him here all day long it was sooooomuch easier for him to get a feel for the rhythem of the day. He started figuring out how to move in and out of Mo's very busy lifestyle. I started figuring out what he ate and how much and when to offer him things. We had some good conversations and I felt likeI was just starting to have some vague idea of what kinds of things he might be into. Then BLAMMO back to school again, and we never see him except when he's tired and PO'd.

How old is your dss? Does he want to stay in school or come homeright away? Does his mom support y'all's home/unschooling?
> he lives with his
> mom and step dad who do not even allow him to make his own toast

Expect to have to do a lot of offerring and reassuring as though for a much younger child: "do you want to get your own or would you rather I did it?" "would you like some help with that?" "Oh, yes,I'm happy to get that - you know you can get your own, if you want,too, you don't *have* to ask". I have to keep reminding myself that Ray doesn't necessarily have the skills Mo has (boiling water, using the microwave) and also that it may be overwhelming to expect him to learn those things right away.

Consider letting him have a "stash" of treats just for him - Ray really likes this, especially since he "gets" to keep it in his room (ooooooh aaaaaaah! food in the bedroom! next she'll say its okay to eat in front of the tv...) and/or doing some other nice, friendly,unschooly things to "welcome him to the family".Congratulations!

And later:

> having him with all the needs he will
> bring, beginning unschooling and a new baby seem really overwhelming
> and honestly, unfair to OUR family

One of the things I've been working on, personally, is thinking about Rayan as a member of my family. He's been a visitor for so long. This goes much deeper than remembering to make twice as much spaghetti or strew opportunities for an older, very different personality. I'm having to *learn* to think of my whole family differently - as Ray's family.

I can hear an earlier part of my process in your post - what's this going to do to *us*? I realized that Rayan moving in wasn't just a matter of giving him bedspace, I had to stop thinking of an Us that didn't include Him. That's hard. But its essential. If this *isn't* Rayan's family as much as Mo's then he is a second-class citizen in this house. He'll know that and it will create resentment.

OTOH, once I started working on thinking of Rayan as a part of "us",a big load of resentment fell away - on my part. He's not an interloper or a visitor. His wants and needs are just as much a part of my consideration as mine, Mo's, George's. I don't know how to *meet* them all, yet! but I can at least acknowledge, validate, and be open to possibilities.

> Thanks Meredith. You have some good insights into this.

I don't know how good they are, but they're fresh!

just a little snapshot of our lives - Nov 29

Re: Need Help -Principles/Rules and Sibling Rivalry
--- In, Amanda wrote:
>> Most days I realize that if I'd have said less, the day would've
>been better.

Sigh. I know what you mean. Last night, lying in bed sick, I had the chance to listen to my family and close friends interracting from the *outside* as it were. It was interesting to have that different perspective, completely separate from the emotional hoo-haa of five people trying to get along in a Very small space, four of them tired and hungry, one in the middle of her daily "energy spike". From the outside, it was easy to predict what was going to happen -uh oh, here it comes - ow! hey! no hitting! But I've been in the middle of that scene before and know how hard it is to be there and be concious of what's going on with Mo and help her negotiate the complexities of the moment when I'm tired and hungry and just as overwhelmed by the crowd in the kitchen as she is.

I'm proud of my family (friends included) though. No-one over-reacted, yelled, or tried to lecture Mo. George managed to coax her into the far corner of the living room to cool down (without turning it into a time-out) and then helped her get a snack and choose a computer game to play while the big people had dinner. It wasn't the "perfect" unschooling/ consensual-living scenario where everything gets worked out *before* someone is too overwhelmed - but it did get worked out and smoothed over.

I think one of the things that helped Alot was George treating the hitting as Mo's attempt to communicate her needs and responding to those needs, rather than focussing on the hitting itself. Once those needs were being recognized (even if not all of them were being met) she was able to start using her other tools to communicate.


Sunday, Nov 5

Well, he's here. I have two kids.There's still lots of, um, stuff to work through with his mom, so right now, unfortunately, he's staying in school. On the up side, he's happy to be here and we're happy to have him. He has also given me permission to mention him by name [on message boards]- he says he trusts me "not to say anything bad" about him. Poor guy. So welcome to my home: Rayan age 13. Loves skateboarding, computer games and heavy metal music.---Meredith (Mo 5, Rayan 13)

Nov 11
Re: arrival
--- In, Danielle Conger wrote:>
>>> How are things adjusting?

Well, the Good News is I've caught snippets of his phone conversations with his girlfriend where he's saying how much "better" it is to be at his dad's house - no yelling is the big selling point. Hooray! The less good news relates to his mom - she's out of town for a few weeks so we can't really communicate with her, but for now she wants him in school and his grades "kept up" or "she won't let us keep him". Nice. So we've been hassling with the darn school, which has included scrambling to find clothes, since his mom refused to send any with him. This could turn into a rant pretty quickly, so that's all I'll say on the subject.

On the unschooling side, I've been reminding George to "say yes" at every opportunity and suggesting that maybe we don't really need rules about the phone and computer. We have dial-up and just one line, so the two are directly related. There was one night of confusion with George saying "five more minutes on the phone!" and me asking "why?"but he quickly agreed that as long as we were all communicating our needs we could juggle in one more "user" without making arbitrary rules.

At the moment that means *we* are communicating *our* needs*to* him and trying to remember to ask him what his needs are. He's not used to have his needs be a factor in decision making.We're also trying to work him into the family logistics. Its pretty confusing at the moment - he's used to having no control at all, so we're discovering that (for now, at least) we have to be more proactive with him than we do with Morgan - asking him well in advance what his needs are in terms of food, clothing, supplies, personal hygeine.... I didn't realize teenage boys had such a love of hygeine products :0 I guess I've always hung out with a different kind of guy.

I guess the main thing for now is figuring out how to communicate with someone who has been dictated to - and is still being dictated to eight hours a day. Yuk. I told Jane (Powell) in a private email that I feel like the inverse of an "academic unschooler" - instead of unschooling*only* academics we're trying to unschool everything but.But he says he's happier. And really, its not like there have been any disasters. Just regular snafus, which I'm confident will smooth out with time.

I'm posting more over at CL about specific issues, since they aren't really unschooling related. If anyone knows of a board they think would be a "good fit" for someone with my quirky situation I'll be grateful - or if anyone wants to email me off-list on this topic,that's fine, too.In the meantime, Y'all are my lifeline for the moments when I go into full-scale Catastrophic Thinking Mode - blaaaaahhhh his mom's going to abduct him and we'll never see him again and he'll turn into a serial killer and ufo's will land on our barn and steal the sawmill!!!!Okay, I feel better now.

---Meredith (they would have to be small ufos to land on our barn, so they couldn't fit the sawmill in their cargo area - the drill press,sure....)

Same day, another list:
A sort of ticklish subject has come up with my dss and I'm wondering if anyone has experience or input to offer. Dss injured his knee recently- not badly, but he's been limping. This evening when he came home from school he mentioned that a friend of his had kicked him in his hurt knee. I asked if they had been "horsing around" - Rayan's a pretty active guy and rough trade is pretty normal for him.
"Sort of. I'm N's personal punching bag." I wasn't quite sure how to take that.
"Are you okay with that?"
"Its okay, he's a big guy."
"Well, okay, but are you okay with it - you don't have to get hit if you don't want to."
He started explaining just "how big" the other guy was and I got the impression he was "excusing" the behavior. I didn't really push (I don't think) just reiterated that it was okay to play rough and even hit, as long as it was consensual. I was really trying not to over-react. His mom has a history of abusive relationships and has always "excused" abusive behavior right up to the point when she feels her life is actively threatened. So I'm concerned, but I don't know how to talk about this in a way that is respectful all around. Any thoughts?---Meredith (Mo 5, dss Ray 13)


Re: talking about abuse
> Some schools are very good about looking for (workable) solutions to

> bullying,
> and some just make the problem worse.

Oops, I should have been clearer about this. Its not happening at school, but at the other kid's house. This is why I'm expecially concerned - they are friends and I'm afraid that from Ray's perspective this is "normal behavior" between friends, to excuse non-consensual violence. As far as school is concerned, Ray is a "problem kid". I'm not sure they'd believe he was being victimized even if it happened on school property. We're planning on negotiating with his mom to remove him from school, but right now she still has custody so its her decision.

> If your son seems frightened about it you can even let him know
>that in the 'adult' world what is being done to him is illegal and
>that you can help him make it stop if he wants you to. Knowing he
>has backup might go a long way towards helping him feel it is
>something he can handle.

More fear from me, here. The father of his mom's second son hit him a couple times in ways that left bruises. Mom always blamed Ray -blamed him to the point that he believed it and describe the incident to *us* as though he was totally at fault. We offered to call the police on his behalf and he panicked - he's been told over and over that the police are Evil and will Take Him Away and force him to live with "Nasty Christians" (sorry, that's his mom's language).

> So I would ask my son "If you asked him to stop __fill in the
>blank__, would he stop?"

I like this phrasing. Its basically what I'm trying to find out. My impression at this point is that he's putting up with the behavior in order to retain the friend. I don't know what to do about that. I'm soooooo glad he's out of his mom's house and is getting a chance to see people who don't hit each other, scream at each other, verbally abuse each other as a matter of course.

I know Ican't "fix" Ray - that makes me sad sometimes, but I try to keep in mind that just seeing the way George and Mo and I all interact gives him another view of the world.He's feeling the difference already - I've overheard snippits in his evening phone-conversations with his girlfriend and he's telling her its *much* better at his dad's house. No yelling - that's a big deal to him. No fault-finding. He hasn't mentioned the lack of insults, but I'm sure that helps, too.---Meredith (Mo 5, dss Ray 13)

Big changes here!

Well, everything is topsy-turvey, here, for now. Rayan moved in with us the first week in November, which has meant a ton of shifts and adjustments. Rather than simply write about it here, I'm going to copy some of my posts from my favorite email lists. They give a pretty good idea of what has been going on. Note that these posts are all to unschooling boards, so there's going to be a particular "slant" to the them.

Here's the first post I wrote, way back when:

My stepson is coming to live with us. He's 13 and has been living with his mom for the past five years,visiting us alternate weekends, going to public school. Before that he lived and homeschooled with us four days a week - we weren't unschoolers, then. His mom is pretty controlling, and has decided she can't control him any longer, so he's "our problem". We've asked her to let him stay at her house for another week so we can get ready, but he may come as soon as Monday, if that's what she decides. We haven't even started talking about school/homeschool/unschooling. Its a big transition, and I'm more than a little nervous, to say the least! Its a big change for my family. My biggest fear is that his mom may decide to "involve herself" in our family to a much greater extent and/or demand that we provide some sort of ongoing proof of dss's "education".

Okay, I'm not going to go into "what if" mode.... I'm going to breathe and make yet another list of things that we really want to get done before our itty-bitty house suddenly has a teenager living in it full time. Just to complicate everything further, I have a quilt-show this weekend, in my studio, so our emergency backup plan(move him into my studio) can't be put in motion until After the show.Still breathing.Send me lots of calm energy, y'all. I'm needing it!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mo's xmas list

These are things Mo has either asked for directly or enjoyed playing with at someone's house:

Microscope including blank slides
Any kind of "how it works" or "what's inside" book
Marble mazes, especially the ones with gears
Tempera paints (we already have the no-spill cups)
Art supplies in general, but especially paint brushes and paper
Sculpey clay or equivalent
A fishing pole
A dragon costume

I'll update this as she mentions things - last update Nov 9.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Studio tour snippet

The studio tour is over and went well.

Okay, I'm sort of stressing over everything else in the world, but I really should take a moment to elaborate on that.

The tour went fabulously well. I had another artist sharing my studio - Brianna, a feltworker, who is also considering homeschooling. We got along famously and it was such a relief to have that gigantic space of mine Full! Wheew! In addition, Mirror set up a display table down in the barnyard with some wooden spoons and other craftwork he does. Having him down there kept "the menfolk" out of George's shop - last year we had a problem with them sneaking in to the closed shop and poking around - and gave him the opportunity to sell some stuff.

I sold a quilt that I've had sitting around for years and a handful of small things. George picked up a sawmilling job without even being here. Since I'm feeling flush, I'm going to take quilt money and go buy a trampoline. I had originally intended to use Morgan's prize money - oh, I should explain that, its kind of funny.

While we were out east we went on a "Shop Hop" with Jane - nine fabric stores in one day, if you can imagine. At each store we signed up for drawings etc - and signed Mo up, too. She was so excited! Well, Miss Thing won a sewing machine. I have to admit, my first reaction was "Morgan's Mother won a sewing machine!" but I'm happy to say I was rescued from my own avarice by the fact that its not a machine that's really all that great for quilting. Whew. So Jane offered to have Elena sell it on Ebay - and my Fabulous cousin is working on that. I planned to get a trampoline as Mo's "prize" and put the rest in savings. Now the whole schebang can go in savings (knock wood).

Anyway, the tour is over and went well. I may even do it again - it really was much less of a headache with another artist in the space and a "guard" on the shop.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

what o'clock is it? and other random acts of discovery

D'y'ever have moments when you're going along, just doing one of the things you do everyday, but at the same time looking at yourself from outside saying "hey, look at that!" ? I had one of those moments with Morgan the other day.

I was folding laundry and she was eating cereal. Out of the blue, she asked "what number is 5, 3, 1?" So I told her "five-hundred thirty one" and kept folding laundry.

Okay, this is one of Mo's new games, to fire off a string of numbers and have me tell her what it is. Its just something she does, almost exactly like when she was just wrapping her head around letters and sounds when she would give me strings of letters and want me to pronounce them. With the numbers, on this particular day, she started out adding digets to the end of the string "what's 5311, whats 53111?" and the little "teacher voice" in the back of my head said, okay, we're working on place value, here. Fine. I started writing the numbers down in dry-erase marker on the front of the microwave, which sits on top of the dryer (gotta love dry-erase pens!). Then she asked "what's 631, what's 731?" Okay, still working on place value, but in a different way. "What O'clock is that?" huh? I thought we were doing place value! I looked at the microwave in confusion and noticed the time: 1:37. I told her the time and she frowned at me.

I went and got the "practice clock" - its one where you move the minute hand and the hour hand moves, too. I set that to the same time as the digital on the microwave. In the past I've tried explaining that the numbers mean something different for the "big hand" but she hasn't been interested, so this time I offered to get my new watch to look at, too. Its analog and it has the minutes written in tiny little numbers around the outside (and its pink with lots of buckles, in case you wanted to know).

She looked at the watch and the clock and the microwave.
"I want to write two o'clock" she announced. I moved the laundry basket and handed her the dry-erase pen. She wrote 2 12 and then went and set the practice clock to the correct time, short hand pointing at the two, long hand to the 12.
"Well, this is how this clock will say it" it pointed to the microwave's clock and wrote 2:00 above it, saying "o'clock" as I wrote the zeros. "The dots tell us its a time."
"I want to write it again!" I handed back the pen. She wiped out all the numbers and wrote: 00:2 and next to it "too oclook" I pronounced the oclook for her so she could hear the "oo" and changed the second o to a c - which she made a joke about, but she's seen ck's plenty of times in books, and I know she's aware of that spelling convention. Her attention shifted to playing with words and sounds, another favorite game. Math lesson over.

The only thing - the only thing - at all out of the ordinary, was me having a little "moment". Mo and I were doing what we always do. I was just watching myself doing it, as if from the outside.

I've been reading about natural learning for years, now, and thought I'd "gotten" it. I thought it was all about teachable moments. But the more I actually do it, the more it seems like there really aren't any teachable moments. Mo just keeps on learning, and sometimes she involves me. I can turn that into a "teachable moment" but most of the time she actually seems to learn more, or derive a better understanding, if I don't try to do that. Offer up another tool or another tidbit of information, sure, but if she's not interested, let it alone. She'll come to it in her own way.

I've been rereading the section on "strewing" over at Sandra Dodd's site and came across this:
Its about learning and cognition, from the perspective of someone committed to discovery based learning at home. It reminds me of the online montessori course I took this spring - there was an assignment about "lesson expansions" or some such thing and I kept wishing I had a gigantic piece of paper to fill with circles and arrows and webs of connectivity rather than a computer screen. Homeschooling with Morgan looks alot like one of those diagrams - she doesn't so much go off on tangents as make lots and lots of different connections, and I never know where we're going to end up. Even when she's really focussed on one thing - and she's good at that! - she'll make some comment, or start singing to herself, or something, and I'll see her putting things together in a way I hadn't expected. Is that what they call "synergy", in the business world: one and one making three? That's what Mo's process looks like most days.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

administrative details

Okay, I have uploaded travel pix of our trip East, but since I started that post a couple weeks ago you'll have to scroll down past my little ramble on educational theory. Just so's ya know what's what. Sorry for the confusion.

accomplishment and choice

This is from one of the message boards I'm on - its pretty much a ramble on the subject of discovery-based learning, kind of a sample of "where I'm coming from" in terms of educational theory, right now:

--- "Rob Andersen"
>> My underlying point is that I feel that real accomplishment, that
> thought, effort and perseverance in what ever field, has a great
value. That
> is: facing the possibility of failure and achieving a goal has an
impact and
> the more difficult the struggle the more profound impact on a person.

My reply:

I think you make a great point here when you bring up "the possibility
of failure". One of the differences between "school-type" learning
and "natural learning" that John Holt talks about is that school prioritizes
success, whereas real life learning has a lot to do with failure - not
just in the sense of "we learn from our mistakes", but that a great
deal of learning arrises out of a willingness to take risks - a
*willingness* to fail or at least acheive less than total sucess.
What's amazing about this (from the school pov) is that this process
of risking failure in order to learn is filled with joy.

I think a big factor in this is choice. Because I didn't choose to do
outdoor activities and my input was never sought or encouraged, I
really had no means of feeling a sense of accomplishment. For me,
talking my family into doing something else (even just leaving me in
the car!) gave me a feeling of success.

This is one of the things that draws me to unschooling, the idea that
individuals are given the opportunity to decide *which* obstacles they
will tackle, *which* risks to take, be they physical, social,
intellectual, whatever. That's one of the challenges (one of the
risks, if you will) of unschooling - to attempt to think *beyond* our
own understanding of what is valuble and see what our children value,
especially when those values differ.

> the more difficult the struggle the more profound impact on a person.

I'm not disagreeing with the statement, just noting that choice is the
key issue. I'm in the process of designing and piecing quilts made of
curved shapes. Its the most challenging type of piecing - most
quilters don't try curves. They're just too dang hard. I love it. Love
the challenge of drawing something and then figuring out how to
actually make the impossible thing I've imagined.

This past week at the skate park I saw my kid do something she rarely
does - she "shushed" another kid. The other kid wanted to play. Mo
wanted to skate. She wanted to go down every ramp in the park, over
and over until she could do it without falling. I don't skate, but I
could relate to the passion, and the willingness to fall on her ass,
over and over, and the joy that came from doing it.

---Meredith (Mo 5)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Travel Pix

Well, its taken a little time to get them all uploaded, but here are a few of the pix from our travels to CT and RI. Aunty and Grandma Jan should both be pleased to learn that I have deleted the candids Mo took of y'all's backsides! The evidence is gone forever. Of course, I didn't even have the camera with me for the Really fun photo-op: Mo "teaching yoga" to Liz and Lynn - what a hoot that was! Thanks for being so accomodating!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Learning to Juggle

Okay, so I'm learning to juggle. Never done it before. I've tried and gotten to the 2ball thing but haven't been able to transition to 3. Mirror, at the Hollow, has taught juggling in the past and agreed to help me out. Okay, fine. I'm learning to juggle. My kid, of course, is going me one better and learning to pass clubs. Yeah. Here is the Mo Method for learing how to juggle:

Step one: locate professional juggler. Between the three faerie comms and visitors, this is the easy part. We are crawling with them.

Step two: when the juggler starts juggling (and they always do), run up with an abundance of excitement and jump up and down to get his/her attention. The juggler will throw something at you - jugglers find excited children totally irresitstable and -unless s/he is juggling something dangerous- will invariably toss an object to the child.

Step two and a half (optional): catch it

Step three: throw it back. Jugglers love this. They even seem to enjoy the fact that young, excited children aren't very acurate (like my spelling). They will play this game over and over and over.

That's it. The basic Mo Method. Its just a matter of her learning to catch, and she'll be passing balls and clubs. She'll probably be passing sickles and torches before she's done. Now we're talking about putting up a slack-line somewhere, so with that, juggling, and the trapeze (did I tell you we've been offered trapeze lessons this fall?) she'll be ready to go to circus camp in a couple years.

Seriously, though, my so-called "shy kid" astonished me at a party this summer by getting a juggler to pass clubs to her. She was out of her regular space and he was a complete stranger (and male, besides) - all things that generally will cause her to refuse to even make eye-contact. But There She Was! Talking happily to a wild hooligan with a bunch of clubs.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Not 5, no way.

We didn't have a birthday party for Morgan. She was adamant that she didn't want a birthday, doesn't want to be 5 at all. She'll just wait another year and then turn 6. George says she's 4 and 2/2. Okay.

We went to a general August bday party up on Short Mountain, and that was fine. One of the guys got a pink unicorn stick-pony that he offered to Mo. She was delighted and has been composing a thank you/ bday card for him. It amazes me how many words she can spell on her own, now.

I've uploaded the pic of the Owl and Pussycat quilt. I'm really happy with it and am working on more in a similar style. I was sooooo reluctant to do the competition thing at all, but doing this quilt has really sparked some ideas for me. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me to use fairy tales, fables and myths as subject matter. Go figure. Anyway, right now I'm working on a piece with a heron and frogs (looking for the fable, its here somewhere), the Crow and Pitcher, and the Tortoise and Hare. Plus the big green thing with the three kids and the bubbles. I've given up any expectation of having finished pieces for sale at the Studio Tour - if I can have a bunch of really exciting things in progress that will be fine. Especially if I can get some decent commissions.

Oh, I also had this wild idea the other day of a use for one of the partially finished quilt tops I have on hand. I thought, well, I can quilt it really simply - just a grid or something - and then slash through the middle, tack the cut ends back and have Another quilt underneath. Maybe even "wrapping" onto the backs of the folded-back bits - as if one quilt were sort of exploding out of another. I'll have to think hard about this one. It sounds like a lot of fun or a royal pain in the ass. Maybe both. Hmmmmm.

We're starting to get ready to go out of town again - this time East! I'm looking forward to seeing Jane and Jan, in particular. Morgan got so excited about the idea the other night she packed her suitcase. I'm still at the doing laudry and making lists stage.

The heat is really doing a number on me this year. I sort of fell apart at one point. Stressing out over money doesn't help either. The new AC is helping alot. Interestingly, the other thing that is helping is for me to take a vitamin before going to bed. I usually take them in the morning, but I've been so lethargic this summer! The worst has been falling into bed early and then sleeping late - I kept missing the cool parts of the day. But if I take a vitamin at night I wake up by 6 and can get stuff done in the cool. Its just the opposite of what I'd always been told about vitamins - which is that they don't do any good at all if taken at night. So much for expert advice.

Speaking of.... I've been hanging out alot on some of the unschooling message boards, and thinking about archiving some of my better posts here. I've been a little nervous about that - y'all are getting used to the idea of us homeschooling (I think) but some of the unschooling stuff is pretty radical. OTOH, most of my "better posts" include anecdotes about Morgan. We'll see. I'm going to go through my files and see what I have saved, anyway.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My goodness, I've fallen behind, haven't I? We've been such social butterflies, lately, I hardly recognize us. Parties and gatherings and get-togethers.... Well, really the big thing is Mo and I have been spending more time than ever up at the Pumpkin Hollow community. Its been sooooooo hot, and they have the pool - so we have gone up every day and some days twice! to play in the water and cool off. They have more shade over their house, too, which means even hanging out on the porch is better than being in our own house. Phew!

We've all (Mo, George and I) gotten a lot closer to two of the residents there: Shiloh and Mirror. George has been enjoying playing music with them (mostly Shiloh, pictured above - dangitall I forgot to rotate it, but you get the idea) and we've been cooking dinner for each other. Its nice to have regular company at our house - I actually have some motivation to clean, and even managed to get rid of the huge pile of junk that had taken over our dining table. "So this must be the dining room...."

The pix above are both inside the new shop extension - its really coming along nicely. Now we're fantasizing about a house extension. Morgan has started sleeping downstairs by herself off and on. She really wants to keep one of the kittens, and I think George is sweet on the idea, too. He's pretty cuddley - the kitten, I mean, although George is pretty dang cuddley himself. That means only the two black kittens to get rid of - Morgan has finally agreed that that's a good idea. We'd better get on the ball while they're still little and cute. I should also get on the ball about cleaning out Morgan's room upstairs. It kind of got to the "disaster" point in terms of cleanliness (or rather, lack thereof) and I just haven't had the Oomph to deal with it. It has a lot of wasps and spiders - those fat juicy spiders that the wasps just love. Yes, its that time of year, again, when you don't want to startle the wasps - not for fear of a sting, but b/c they drop the icky anaesthetized spider on the floor, bed, pizza, whatever they happen to be flying over. Yummy.

Morgan's galpal, Savannah, turned six a couple weeks ago so her mom and I have been chatting alot about legal stuff in regards to homeschooling. Six is when you have to start reporting to the state, in TN. There's a law that kids attending public school can't go straight into first grade - kindergarden is now mandetory. Considering that only K teachers need any more than a bare-bones teaching certificate, that's probably the best year of education a lot of kids will get in this state. Anyway, we have both been wondering if that meant we had to sign up our six year olds (I'm not reporting until next year) as gradeK the first year. Lots of homeschoolers do this anyway as a way of dealing with the mandatory testing issue - kids basically get an extra year to get ready. Then, if you really want to buck the system, you can also have your kids "skip" a grade - say, 5th grade, when the testing is done. Very popular. Don't know if we'll go there or not. Mo's reading at approximately a first grade level already, so I'm not exacty worried. If I get so PO'd at the state of TN that I don't want Mo tested at all (at this point I'm not sure what the harm would be, at least she'd get experience with standardized testing) I'll do what Luann is doing and use an "Umbrella School". No testing at all if you go that route. Just fill out their attendence forms instead of the state's. Incidentally, we discovered the law only applies to public school, not private or home. Its only an issue if you try to enroll a kid in public school for first grade - if you try to enroll directly into second they'll test the kid, but not for first. Dontcha love bureaucracy?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mo Artwork

I couldn't resist putting up some of Mo's latest - she seems to be having an explosion of artistry. This house is one of my favorites - she's drawn an entire "village" worth - all very colorful and fun. I'm tempted to use them as patterns for quilt blocks. We'll see how that goes. The other is a Shopping list, carefully detailing the colors of gumballs she would like to buy. You can see where she has written the words: red, purple, blue, pink, orange. She needed help spelling purple and orange, but the rest was all on her own.

Friday, June 30, 2006

art with animals

Morgan has been enjoying reading to the kittens and also photographing them - both areas where kitten cooperation is not always guaranteed! So far no kittens have been (seriously) harmed in the process. Here's one of her pix, and also one of her reading - the amorphous black mass on the chair is a pile of kittens.

Today Mo made play-dough, basically by herself, although I prompted her a little with reading the recipe. This evening, there not being enough to make a giraffe (she got the head, neck and body, but only three legs) she decided to sculpt a kitten. They are much smaller, she explained to me, so there would be enough "clay". Its so humid that even though we had a decent consistency dough this am by evening it was nearly the consistency of pudding. Not the best material for sculpture, but she did manage to create a reasonable kitten before it melted. We'll try again tomorrow.

Our other animal art adventure this evening involved salamanders. I'm not sure what promted this - oh, I am informed that one of Mo's coloring books has a salamander and she wanted to know what color they are. George offered to look the subject up on the computer, and found a site with lots of pix of different kinds of salamanders, Mo selected one to use as a template. Once she had the critter colored in - George was still browsing the site, it was nearly dinner time, after all - she wanted to look at more, and found this guy with the black polka-dots on a red suit.

Cute, eh? Definately an outfit I would wear. So she snatched up pencil and paper and proceeded to draw - I just had to share.

She needed help coloring in some of the leaves - there are so many! - but otherwise its a Mo original. I love both the mid-ribs on the leaves and the smile on the salamander.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Beautiful day in the holler

Summer solstice was this week so our merry neighbors, the Pumpkin Hollow Community, had their annual celebration starting mid week and lasting through the weekend. Lots of fun fun fun! Actually, this was also my work-week at the Morningside food buying club, so I wasn't able to really "attend" in the sense of hanging out there all the darn time. That worked well for me, none-the-less. I burn out on parties pretty quickly. So I alternated working and fest-ting.

Highlights of the fun included a swimming trip to a local state rec area, where Mo had an absolutely wonderful time swimming and playing in the lake with a bunch of people she didn't know or barely knew. That was exciting for me to see. One of the neighborly Pumpkins, Shiloh, has been building a nice little friendship with Mo. About a month ago we were up there helping clear out their spring and the two hit it off big time. Shiloh is fairly quiet, not in-yer-face at all, which is just right for Morgan, and they were soon neck deep in the (empty) old catch-basin, scrubbing slime off the walls together - a perfect job for a little kid - and having a blast. Since then they have captured fireflies together, played "monster" and generally hung out. So, once I pooped out at the lake Shiloh was into paddling around after Mo and they ended up across the water from me with a group of festies, two of them kids but mostly adults, singing and playing together. Very nice to see.

Other fun stuff: the ubiquitous mud bath, for which one of our local potters donated some old clay, so my skin and hair are feeling really soft today, much singing of Shiloh's new songs, drinking various home-brews ala Mirror, Viva's Indian dinner, and various adults-only activities in the barn....

Today I'm home doing catch-up housekeeping and Laundry! Phew. It hasn't rained for awhile so we had started to conserve water by not doing laundry at home, but it poured something fierce the other day (boy am I glad I wasn't camping) and our tank is overflowing, so awashing we will go! I'm caught up on necessaries and onto odds and ends - like winter stuff that can get packed away as soon as its washed.

And of course, drinking white wine - this summer's favorite is Pinot Grigiot. The wine class I took voted it "easy to drink too much of". Goes great with housework, blogging and fried summer squash. Yummm.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Trip to WI

Wouldn't ya know, I go away for a week and it takes me a week to recover. Well, I did have some catching up to do, I suppose. Some of the Pumkin Hollow Comm neighbors came down and kept my garden tidy for me, which was a good thing. The weeds outside the garden are pretty fierce already. Onions and garlic were ready to harvest, though, and lots of peas. Just starting to have basil and summer squash. No tomatoes yet. I've got my eye on those. First fried green tomatoes of the season should be coming soon! Yummmmmm.

Y'all can see a bit of what Morgan was up to on this trip. Lora and Mike have a great big yard that was perfect for kid-play. No sandbox, but some nice dirt and freshly mown grass to play in. Fun, fun, fun. Mo took a liking to Mike right away - pretty unusual for her - and they got to play together a couple times, although he had to work for the most part. Lora's unemployed right now, which meant we got to hang out all week long. Woooo Hooooo! I just love hanging out with Lora. Morgan enjoyed playing with her, too, mostly with the help of feathered cat toys. I hope the cats had a good time.

We kept things pretty low-key, for the most part. Did some shopping - Lora took me to a place called "Dig-n-save". Ooooooh. Aaaaaaahh. It was wonderful. Among other things I found an old-fashioned scooter for Mo - the wheels on the new ones are so tiny I've been afraid they'd just stick on our half-step-up-from-gravel road. This one has larger, bike-style wheels. Needs new tires, but hopefully that won't be a problem. Mike and Lora picked up a bike for Mo at a yardsale before we got there, so she was able to learn to pedal it around on their patio (she's really struggled doing it on our yicky little road) which was a big thrill. That came home, too. I'm so glad we took the truck! Boy, was it packed coming home. We made a dressform, too, Lora and I. Which is to say, she made the dress form. I stood still while she wrapped me in duct-tape. It seems to have survived the trip home okay.

Starting to think about the trip East, now. I'm still kicking around different ideas - like maybe coming after Labor day instead of in August. I'm also considering making some stops on the way to visit friends I've made online. We'll see about that. Anyone have a preference for beginning of Aug vs September? I'm really leaning toward September, the more I think about it. Kids will be back in school by then, but the weather will still be good enough for some fun trips - Mo has a request for a beach, and maybe a zoo and it would be nice to not have to fight the summer crowds. Lemme know what you think, Grandma Jan and Aunty Jane!

Glad to be home for now.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

on the road

We drove from Dismal to Michigan City, IN yesterday. Not too bad a trip - it took us about 9 hours all told. Mo's a fabulous road-tripper. We bought a bunch of new coloring books, mazes, and dot-to-dots for the trip, and I packed a whole bunch of her books - pretty much anything I've seen her reading on her own, so she could read in the truck. She was cool with that, and driving the truck (a late decision, the fuel injector on the car is being weird) let her sit next to me and be able to reach all her books and snacks by herself. Made for a fairly smooth trip.

We had one little rough spot where I hit some traffic and she wanted me to look at something. I snarled and snapped and Mo proceeded (once she'd cooled off a little) to draw a picture of herself with a big frown on her face and a giant red X. Pretty clear message, there. Lately Mo and George have been talking about anger-management, which is very interesting. He had kind of a blow-up with his saw mill several weeks ago and did a lot of yelling before he cooled off, and apparantly it caught Mo's attention in a big way, so that she actually asked him about it. So they've been chatting on the subject of how they can deal with anger and frustration. There was a small incident last week where Mo was frustrated with a computer game and went and pet the kittens for awhile to calm herself down before going and turning the computer off. Its just fascinating to watch her working on this.

We're taking a day to chill out at my dad's house before heading up to WI and my friend Lora's house. It's been nice and mellow for the most part. There are two other kids here, Jake and Aaron - I'm not sure their exact ages, but Jake's a couple years older and Aaron a couple years younger than Mo, I believe. The kids have gotten along really well (for the most part). They've all been pretty wired to have a new kid to play with - in Mo's case two!

My fabulous dad (hi!) got a portable dvd player for us! Wooo Hooo! I'm very excited. If necessary I can tuck Mo out of the way at Lora's house with a movie while we all hang out being weird grown-ups, plus it will be handy in the car, plus other travel adventures... And! it will be handy for visiting up at the Pumpkin Hollow community. We've started going up there for dinner on a more regular basis, but I've been reluctant to bring Mo too terribly often as adult dinners can be long, dull affairs from her perspective. Now I have more options. Thanks, Dad.

Monday, May 29, 2006

cat pix

Here are some pix. My phone-hook-up is not cooperating well enough for more:
So, for starters we have the pix of "Mama Lumpy-Shiver," as she is now called, having her kittens with Mo and George in attendence. Mama was a stray kitten Mo and I brought home about a year ago who just loves Morgan to bits, despite Mo's attempts to love her to bits (ahem!). Anyway, Mama was just thrilled to have her humans on hand - even came running to check on Mo when she tripped on the way to the bathroom and cried a little. It was cute. The cat let Mo and George handle the babies as soon as they had dried off. Mo was thrilled. I think George was, too.

Ever since, Mo has been vigilant about making sure Mama Lumpy is spending plenty of "quality time" with her babies. She likes to hunt out the poor cat whenever she sneaks away to have a little down-time and plunk her right back in the cardboard box with the kittens. It was driving me nuts at first, but I have since seen George do the exact same thing, so I'm letting it go.

Thanks to all this feeding, the kittens are growing and George and I have been trading some rough humor about how big they need to be to feed to Killian (our charming corn snake) and whether it might not be the most cost-effective way to keep him fed. He's in his somewhat frantic spring mode, right at the moment, so I'm not sure he'll eat anything at all.
Naturally, Morgan has drawn endless pictures of cat with kittens ever since the big event. Somewhere I have one that says "one cat and four kittens makes five". Great. Now they are math-manipulatives. I hope this doesn't mean we need 100 of them! Counting to 100 is her latest passion - with occasional forays into the thousands just for fun, it seems.

new links

Lots of new posts this weekend!

I'm learning more about this blog-thingy every day, it seems. One thing I have just learned is that if I post something I've been working on as a draft for awhile it posts based on the date I started it - hasn't really been an issue, yet, but I'll have to keep an eye out for that in the future - I have a few things floating around as drafts right now. If something ends up posting "out of order" as it were, I'll try to let y'all know. I'm definately going to have to try it once a couple months go by and there are "archives" just to see how that works.Hmmmmm.

Anyway, I've also figured out how to add links. For starters I put up some basic homeschool stuff in case anyone is interested. I should probably put my website there, but it hasn't been updated in over a year, and I don't really know what to do about that. Hmmm. If y'all want me to link to any of y'all's personal blogs or websites, let me know.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

running in circles, as usual

Morgan's cat had kittens a week ago (sunday)! Four little cuties. I've been trying to get pix up all week to no avail. *&^%@! computers!
As soon as I get the darn things to load, I will tell more cute kid and kitten stories.

I've been running in circles all week, it seems. Nothing has gone 100% right unless it has been something completely spontaneous. All planned activities have gone awry. Just one of those weeks.

I'm starting to get ready to go up to WI with Mo next week, stopping to visit my dad on the way up. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm nervous, too. We didn't go anywhere last year so I feel like I'm out of practice travelling and visiting and all. I ordered a bunch of books for Mo for the trip - mazes and hidden pictures and several coloring books. I've been fantasizing about getting a portable DVD player, but I don't think the budget will support that even with my tax return. I still want to go out east later in the summer - probably the beginning of August. I've been trying to get my gf, Luann, to schedule her trip to Maine at the same time so I can ride with her and share the driving, but she's not sure she'll have the money to go anywhere - her house and camper got totally smashed by baseball-size hail a month ago and the insurance isn't wanting to pay as much as she would like. We'll see. Maybe I can find a nice Faerie with a driver's liscence who doesn't feel like hitchhiking.....

Okay, I'm rambling. Its past my bedtime.

Friday, May 26, 2006

five love langs links

Just for fun, I'm posting a link to a short test for these.
It doesn't give an overview of the languages, though.

This one gives a brief overview as pertains to children (same one I posted elsewhere):

Here's one pertaining to adult relationships/marriage:

Just thought I'd put it all in one place.----Meredith

montessori stuff: socialization w/o punishment

Dealing with Mo in social situations has really forced me to think about rewards and punishments from a different angle. Generally, when adults speak to Mo she looks away, hides her face and refuses to answer. The usual responses to this kind of behavior have always seemed very punitive to me - I was "the shy kid", and I definately felt punished, shamed, by the condescending "oh, she's just shy" comments. Even worse were the attempts to "draw me out" - those were like some kind of torture. On top of it all, the constant reinforcement of my in-ability prevented me from actually learning social skills. It was only living in community that I discovered that I was not "socially backward" and started to grow. So when Mo started showing signs of the same sorts of tendency, I struggled to find a different way of reacting.
The first time I read The Montessori Method I knew I had found what I was looking for. Scanning my marginal notes in chapter 5 I find a big YES! scrawled next to this passage:
The child, because of the peculiar characteristics of helplessness with which he is born, and because of his qualities as a social individual is circumscribed by bonds which limit his activity.
An educational method that shall have liberty as its basis must intervene to help the child to a conquest of these various obstacles. In other words, his training must be such as shall help him to diminish, in a rational manner, the social bonds which limit his activity.
Little by little, as the child grows in such an atmosphere, his spontaneous manifestations will become more clear, with the clearness of truth, revealing his nature. For all these reasons, the first form of educational intervention must tend to lead the child toward independence.
From: The Montessori Method (1912) by Maria Montessori, translated by Anne Everett George. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912. pp.95.
This describes so well my experience. With Mo I have been working to do as Dr Montessori suggests - to lead her toward independence, rather than demanding performance and shackling her with "social bonds". Below are a couple of anecdotes that I hope will demonstrate how this looks in real life.
The other day our new neighbor came by to introduce himself and while chatting he asked Morgan a question. I don't recall the precise question, only that it was atypically respectful for an adult speaking to a young child - for example, "how do you like living here?" as opposed to "how old are you?". Morgan looked away and didn't answer. Generally in this sort of situation I would wait a moment -long enough for her to answer if she chose, but not too long - and then return to the conversation or change the subject. No explanation to the other adult - because I remember what those explanations "felt like" hearing them as a child. What impressed me about this gentleman was his reaction: he imediately appologized to Mo in the most natural way possible, saying: "I didn't mean to put you on the spot there, you don't have to answer me." It was exactly the kind of thing one would say to another adult if one suddenly realized one had asked a rather inappropriate question. We (adults) returned to our conversation. Less than five minutes later Morgan had become a part of the conversation, too, in such a seamless and natural way that I can't even remember the details. She joined the conversation the way anyone would - a word here, a comment there, until we were all chatting away merrily. Given the liberty to behave normally, rather than being shamed for how "abnormal" her reaction was, she was able to express a "spontaneous manifestation" of the propper social forms.
A few days later an incident occured in the library that sharply contrasted, for me, the difference between the Montessori ideal and "traditional" education.
Morgan was sitting in the young-childrens' section of the library looking at books when another child approached. This girl was perhaps a year or two older, and clearly a school-child. What struck me most was her furtiveness. She practically snuck up to Mo, glanced at her out of the corner of her eyes but sat down within touching distance. Mo imediately looked up and said "Hi, my name is Morgan. Would you like to look at some books with me?" Picture-perfect friendly social behavior (and in the appropriate low tones for a library, this mom was very impressed!). The other girl responded tentatively and with a minute the two were chatting quietly about books and characters, reading passages to each other - you couldn't have imagined a better example of how we would all like children to behave with regard to reading.
Suddenly the girl's mother swooped down: "What are you doing here? These books are for babies! Stop talking and go pick out a book from the big-kid section!" The child slunk away, head down, her joy in the library diminished. It was shocking. I'm sure the other mom had the best intentions in the world, but she had not observed the girls' interaction and saw only misbehavior, which she corrected sharply.
It got me thinking about the word homeschoolers usually flinch at: socialization. The girl was being "socialized" by certain standards. She had been told to pick out a book, so spontaneous social activity was inadmissible. It didn't matter that she was socializing about literature - probably the other parent would not have believed such a thing possible. Children socialize about games and toys, not books and reading - they have to be "taught" to discuss literature, they certainly don't do it spontaneously (the common wisdom). Since Morgan is not being socialized in this manner she is Free to develop genuine relationships on a wide variety of topics. Because she was surrounded by books, it was natural for her to engage in a discussion of childrens' literature with another person. It would not have occurred to her to discuss her favorite toy in such an environment - to her it would have seemed inappropriate.
Morgan has the libery to behave spontaneously in social situations, and as Montessori describes above, I am slowly seeing her social behavior become "clear, with the clearness of truth." She is increasingly aware of social forms and conventions, as I hope these examples also show, but she is unhampered by restrictions or punishments. Its inspiring just watching her sometimes!
---Meredith (Morgan 4.5)

Monday, May 22, 2006


This past Sunday, Morgan's cat "Lumpy-Shiver" had four kittens. It was a day of high excitement for Mo, as you can imagine! The day began with the cat trailing around after Morgan, meowing for no apparent reason. She would let Mo pick her up and cuddle her for a minute, then want to get down and wander around the house for awhile, then she'd be back meowing... George and I finally decided she was in labor and he bustled around in proper daddy-fashion finding a cardboard box while Mo went and pillaged the rag collection for bedding. The cat got the idea immediately - apparently cats are genetically wired to have their babies in cardboard boxes, because she climbed right in and got down to business. Morgan and George spent the day with Lumpy, watching the kitties being born. They were both delighted.

Anyone need a cat?

Today (Monday) Morgan has been ever-so-solicitous of "Mamma Lumpy" and her babies, reading them stories, writing and singing little songs to them and scolding Lumpy whenever the babies cry and she doesn't immediately come running. This has all been going on in the "guest room" (actually, I think it would be better termed a "guest closet", but I don't want to scare y'all away). The weather has been icky (still), so I'm glad Mo has something to occupy her, but she has been getting a bit antsy. George had a few errands to run today and took her along, but I can tell she needs to do some running and climbing. Hopefully the rain will abate for a day or two and she can work off some energy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What that kid is up to

Here are some of Morgan's recent projects. This is "A happy mommy turtle full of eggs," according to Mo. She has been very interested in eggs and things that lay them. A couple weeks ago the creek was full of frogs, first singing (Loudly! spring is NOT quiet in the country, let me tell ya!) and then stacked one on top of the other -which makes them much easier for a curious little person to catch! So naturally we have been observing the frog life-cycle. Right now we have a fish-tank full of tadpoles that she checks several times a day to see if they have grown legs yet. Today our turtle (Rex, alive and well after three winters!) is swimming in their tank and we are wondering if he eats tadpoles. There are certainly plenty, if he does.

The map is another of Mo's creations - she periodically draws maps of things, usually when we are getting ready to go somewere. She drew a long map of "the way to the pet store" on a roll of clear contact paper - unfortunately she used a "dry erase" pen, and it.... well, erased when she rolled it up! But this map is in magic marker on a very large sheet of paper - its Pumpkin Hollow Road, of course! Mo and I are standing next to our house (I don't know where George was, that day). At one end of the road is the all-important Trampoline. Almost at the other end is something right in the middle of the road itself - that's a trailer that got stuck one day, blocking the entire road and part of the creek for hours. I guess it made an impression on her.

She's a big fan of goats in general and this story in particular and decided to write the title on her chalkboard. She's terribly self-motivated. I use a Montessori technique when she wants to know how to write a word - writing it out on a slip of paper for her. She's pretty "aware" of phonics - for a long time she loved to write "nonsense" words and ask us to pronounce them for her (still does, but now she corrects our pronounciation!), which I think was her private method for learning about letters and sounds. I haven't pushed it, don't ask her to "sound things out" or anything, although I will pronounce words very clearly when writing them for her and comment on irregularities. This week she started writing short phrases with a mix of words she asked me to write and words she remembered - oh! I finally get to be "Mom" if only on paper! "Meredith", I have been told, has too many letters. Fine by me. The dot-things in between the letters are deliberate - a pretty common technique some young kids use to indicate spaces. Mostly she seems to use them if the words are very close together.

I got this dress form when the fabric store I was working at closed (the Big cutting counter in the background, too) - its more for display than actual sewing, but it has a nice cloth cover that Mo likes to sew things onto. Another of my little Montessori-isms is to give her "real tools" - for sewing projects I let her use my scissors and real needles. She's very careful and serious when she sews - measuring things before cutting them and holding both the needle and scissors correctly. Occasionally we sew together on the machine, too, with her pushing the pedal and me doing the "feeding". She's good at anticipating when to slow down and stop, but doesn't feel up to handling the fabric as well as the pedal, yet. She has a hammer and saw, too, but also has George's tendency to just leave things wherever (I, of course, would never do such a thing!)*g*.

I've been studying a lot of Montessori theory, lately, some of which is pretty radical. I had assumed Monessori was just for pre-school, but it goes right on up through high-school. Not very many of those around - you're lucky to find an elemetary school. Its pretty impressive, all based around the idea of kids as autonomous learners, working in collaboration with others (kids and adults). Fun stuff. I'm taking a course on-line at the moment and have been amazed at how much of her research (from over 100 yrs ago!) into learning is being validated by modern brain research. Of course, unlike Piaget (don't get me started!) she had a decent sample space - hundreds of kids from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I've also been happy to discover that a lot of the "materials" associated with Montessori learning are designed to allow a classroom to mimic an enriched home environment - not a problem for me. The science stuff, especially, is something we do almost entirely hands-on - like our froggy friends, but also periodic "experiments". I found a site called "How to Teach Science" which has a lot of interesting ideas for implementing math and science learning into the early years. Mostly stuff I have been doing already, but I did put up a Periodic Table (next to our 100s chart) for reference. We've even used it a few times already.

We don't register for homeschool until next year, but I definately feel like we're "doing it" already. Mo's reading more and more on her own, writing, counting to 1000, basic operations (add, subtract, fractions) up to about 12, general science, practical life, grace and courtesy (more Montessori stuff). Homeschool group meets fridays at the park, play-date with her buddy Savannah (another hs'er, and one that's definately Morgan's speed) on saturdays, regular visits to the guys at Morningwood Farm, which wants her to design some letterhead for them.... we keep busy, that's for sure.

I know eveyone worries about the "socialization" thing, but I've been researching this subject for almost six years now, and even the NEA is starting to admit that homeschooled kids are Not behind socially and actually seem to have comparable to better self-esteem. Frankly, having met more hs'ers and watching the differences between hs and ps kids (that's homeschool and public school) I have been noticing that hs kids are more willing to accept new kids into a group and are also better at introducing themselves to new people, tend to be more polite, and seem better at sharing and group problem solving- skills I'm definately interested in promoting in Morgan. She's really very good with other kids - very socially ept, that is, and also with adults who treat her like a person. Adults who speak in that silly "poodle voice" or start off by demanding personal information (how old are you!) she doesn't speak to, and that's fine with me.

Woops, got off on a rant, there. With big age 5 coming up we're starting to get that question, and of course everyone has to say something about socialization until I just want to scream. If any of Y'all actually want to do some research of your own, fine by me. Here's a place to start:

Great big site with a zillion links and resources.

A note about "comments" before I go, since there has been some confusion (by me as well): to post a comment, click the word "comments" at the end of this post. I believe it is in green and has a number next to it. Apparently the "invitation" I sent out was to be able to post on the blog, so those of you who have figured that out will be deleted (well, really, all of you will be deleted, but only 2 of you are likely to notice anything). When you post a "comment" I get an email telling me what you said, and it gets recorded here on the blog. If you want to read others' comments, click that little green word. Tha's all fer now!