Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sorry


What do you say to your child when she tells you that learning is not fun?  I immediately had a multitude of reactions from “not everything can be fun” to “how can you say this -- we have fun every day” to “there are somethings you have to do just because you have to do them”.  Wisely, I said none of these things.  I asked her for her opinion.  What would she like to see that we are not doing?  No response.  Hmm.  

I considered the “fun” stuff to be the “extra-curricular” activities we do like Destination Imagination, co-op, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, basketball, etc.  I seem to have fallen back on my school way of thinking without even realizing it.  We have our “work” and they have their “specials”.  I am becoming more of a task master and less of a facilitator.  Ouch.  
I know that when I chillax (a word we use all the time in our house) and let the girls take charge of their learning, we all rejoice in our experience.  It is a constant give and take between giving them exposure to things I think are valuable (like map work which thankfully they enjoy) and letting them take the lead.  Over the past month I have been laying out work every morning, thinking that structure is a good thing.  They come downstairs to their math books, a few pages from their map/geography book,  and whatever else I think has been neglected lately.  I thought this was a good thing.....it set the parameters of the day, kept us moving along in history and science and ensured that I get my pay off of feeling like we have accomplished something.  
This week has shown me that I pushed too far and upset the balance between interest led learning and mom led learning.  I went back and re-read some of my posts where I felt we accomplished so much with great quality in the work.  Rarely did I assign.  I just encouraged.  Grace has not touched her powerpoint project.  Lilah has not touched her amazingly wonderful story.  Why?  They were so excited about these things.  Lilah used to spend hours writing.  Grace was tucked up on the couch surrounded by Daph and Jake typing and researching.  In this one project she was working on vitally important skills: research, typing, technology, reading, writing.  Lilah was writing a story with the intent to cast her friends as the characters and with my help, turn it into a movie.  Suddenly I decided that that photocopied page of mapwork and a history narration had to come first.  Why?  Why did I slip back into a way of thinking I thought I had left behind?
Letting go and trusting your children is hard.  
I believe in this educational lifestyle.  Homeschooling (for us at least) is not school at home.  It is providing my children exposure to a plethora of materials and experiences that will help them grow and develop.  Within this context, they are able to focus on their talents and develop their skills by following their interests.  That does not equal piles of work left on a table each morning.    I am so sorry girls.  I did not realize what I was doing until this week when it seemed like everything was falling apart.
Letting go of a fear to keep up is hard.
Perhaps it was because I have felt the pressure from many sides to examine “when my children are going back to school”.  I realize that many people hold the opinion that homeschooling through middle school and high school is hard.  It is.  But the rate of homeschooling is growing by 15% annually.  More and more opportunities for instruction in those areas that may be difficult (like lab sciences and advanced math) are popping up all over our state.  In fact, a newly formed homeschool coop is providing a high school level biology class that meets AP standards.  This is where my children can and will go should they continue on the path they are currently walking.  Perhaps this pressure led me to think that I had to change.  That I had to show that I was providing education in content areas similar to those covered in traditional schools.  Newsflash to myself.  The day I withdrew my children from public school I made a dramatic departure from providing my children a similar educational experience.
Letting children determine their own path can be frightening.
Whenever I get worried, I look back at this post.  This thread of exploration is still ongoing.  Grace is still learning about Clara Barton and President Lincoln.  She is interested in this period of our history and asked to watch a history video we have.  With Grace is is easier to trust that her path will cover all the content areas I wish for her to learn.  
Lilah is a bit harder to trust.  Not only is she younger, her path is not so clearly defined.  She has tossed around idea of becoming a singer and a chef.  She wants to be many things.  I want her to be many things.  But creating a curriculum around her wants is much harder.  She loves insects.  That is easy.  But how do I find things to strew her way about cooking, and singing?  That is harder.  In my imaginary crystal ball I see her as Carrie Bradshaw, living in a cool apartment or coop, typing away at a computer while wearing a very stylish ensemble, with hard copies of her books lining her shelves.  She has that kind of writing talent.  Yet the girl despises using capitals and periods.  Go figure.  She loves words and poetry and is known to read the dictionary for fun.  She does not see this for herself but I do.  She has many possibilities.  
This morning when Grace came downstairs she asked what she had to do today.  I told her at some point I would like to see math done.  Other than that she is on her own.  She can choose to do what she would like.  She gave me an odd look like she did not quite trust my words.  I realize the error I have made.  I realize that the fighting and arguing this week was not really about two sisters who don’t get along.  I thought it was.  But a conversation with my daughter on the way to basketball practice changed my perspective.  It made me see things in an entirely new light.  I strayed too far away from what I know to be true.  This is what I know:
  • For our family Homeschooling can work.
  • It is not always easy and it is not always fun.
  • We are constantly learning from each other.
  • Love will see us through.
  • Trust will propel us forward.


** This post was written February 7th.  I was unsure if it would be posted on the blog.  After reading a friend's blog in which she shared very similar emotions, I decided to post it.  I am happy to report that things in our home have gone back to our version of normal.  


Monday, February 27, 2012

Joy


This weekend Grace had a chance to spread a bit of joy.  Her piano teacher arranged for four of her students to play at an assisted living facility.   Grace is never one to turn down an opportunity to perform!  The piano was set in the rehabilitation floor common room.  The residents enjoyed an ice cream social while the children played.  It touched me deeply.


My baby played Fur Elise flawlessly (at least to my untrained ears).  She said she did make a mistake but I reassured her that her audience could have cared less.  Her music and her presence brought her listeners joy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Signs


Yesterday during my walk around New Haven, I ventured into a store that was so visually powerful my first words were, I need to take pictures.  There were vintage posters of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.  In every nook and cranny there were tiny statues of every Indian God you can think of.  There were bumper stickers that I would never ever imagine putting on my car but I enjoyed reading all the same.  Incense was burning, music was playing and my senses were overloaded with joy.
All I could think about was Instagram.  The pictures would be amazing.  Apparently I missed the sign that said not to use cell phones in the store and no picture taking was allowed.  Unknowingly I was about to break to rules.  Focusing on a bronze Buddha, my finger was just about to hit the shutter button when the man behind the counter bellowed “No camera’s allowed!”.  Actually, he did not bellow, but my brain interpreted it that way.  Sorry!  Didn’t see the sign.  Didn’t get the message.  
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?”
FIve Man Electrican Band
No big deal right?  Just put away the camera and move on.  Only to me it was a big deal.  I felt bad.  Like I did something wrong.  You know that feeling?  I hate it.  Sometimes I obsess over it.  I can recall moments of my childhood vividly 30 years later when I broke a rule and was publicly reprimanded.  Like when I was lying on the playground face down, arm bent in an unnatural way and the only voice I heard was that of a snotty fifth grader pronouncing that I (mearly a third grader) was not even supposed to be on that side of the playground (reserved for the upper grades).  This is what I remember!  
It got me thinking about our children and how they must feel when they are reprimanded, scolded or embarrassed in public (or private).  The glorious moment that they may have been immersed in will be forever ruined.  Years ago  I took my niece to an art museum and she leaned in just a tad too close to a painting and the docent scolded her.  She was not going to touch it.  She was simply drawn to it like a moth to a flame.  She needed to see it closer to see the brush strokes and wonder at the artist’s ability.  I am curious if she remembers that moment and if that became the focal point of the day in her memory replacing the joy and wonder.  I think some people have an easier time letting go of the negativity and focusing on the joy.  I wish I were more like those people.
In my daughter’s old school the students are made to sit alongside the fence at recess if they did not finish an assignment in class or worse yet, forgot to bring in homework or have their homework journal signed by a parent.  Every day at least 5 children would sit along the fence watching their peers play, knowing that they were being singled out, humiliated publicly for a very minor infraction.  It has been three years and my daughter still talks about the one time she was “on the fence”.  (I did try to no avail to have this punitive, demeaning policy stopped.  I was not successful but I was very clear that my child would never be sent to the fence again.)  
This is not what I want for my children to remember.  Rules are a part of our life.  There are written rules like those we must learn to obtain a driver’s license and there are unwritten rules like knowing how close to stand next to someone before you invade there personal space.  Rules are a necessary part of life.  But how we enforce those rules is entirely up to us.  We can scold or we can guide.  We can speak with a kind voice or we can bellow.  We can soothe or we can scream.  We are in control of our own behavior and what we choose will affect the lives of those around us.
I am going to keep the memory of this experience close to my heart so the next time I lose my patience or raise my voice in frustration, I will stop and think how the beautiful little person in front of me may be feeling and what memories she may be storing away in her brain.   I will ask myself, is this what I want her to remember?  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Marble Run

My girls and a bunch of their friends signed up for a class at the Eli Whitney Museum.  The purpose of the class was to construct a marble run.  I thought that this class would tie in nicely to Grace’s interest in physics concepts (remember her Rube Goldberg co-op project?) and give Lilah an introduction to physics.   The more the girls know about physics, the better able they will be to apply their knowledge to the construction challenges they will face in their Destination Imagination challenges.  It was a win/win.  They get educational concepts presented in an entertaining environment and I get a day out in New Haven with my friends!  
In the end I ended up having a better day than the girls.  Lilah’s quote was “I am glad I went, but I did not like it.”  Grace felt the rules imposed by the counselors were arbitrary and meaningless.  Especially the “no running outside rule”.  Seriously?  
Finished projects:



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DI Drawings


Lilah's DI project has required homework....a word that is not often used in our house anymore.  There has been movie watching (documentaries) and Brain Pop viewing (all science) and book referencing (Lilah’s art books).  
I often wonder what type of student Lilah would be if she remained in school.  She (like her Mama) is a major procrastinator. Her homework was to have three pictures completed her her meeting the next day.  At 10:00pm she was found tucked away in her room, fairy lights twinkling, desk lamp glowing, drawing.  She was completely at peace and told me to go to bed ahead of her.  She would turn the light out when she was ready.  
She finished her homework, went to bed very late, and got up early (with no fuss) to attend her practice.
Here is a sampling of the children's art that will be used for their project.  Sorry that I can’t tell you more.  It is top secret.  Stay tuned for more updates......




Grace is also in the midst of a very different DI project.  Her project has involved the use of workshop tools, a tutorial on Garage Band, artwork, trips to the library, history books, writing, and videography.  Unfortunately I do not have access to her practices to take pictures.  A post about her project will be coming soon......

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DI Daze


I wanted to write this post last night but my eyes were bleary and could not focus on the computer screen.  This Mama needed sleep.  At 8:00pm we had just returned home from 10 hours spent at DI (Destination Imagination) Practice for Lilah’s team.  
Luckily, DI is my favorite (and my girls’ favorite) activity we are involved in.  The commitment required for practices, training, and travel time requires that you love it.  Otherwise you could not invest the amount of time it takes for your child to see a concept to completion.  
“Destination ImagiNation, Inc. is an extraordinary non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Every year, we reach 125,000 students across the U.S. and in more than 30 countries. Destination ImagiNation, our core program, is an educational program in which student teams solve open-ended Challenges and present their solutions at Tournaments. Teams are tested to think on their feet, work together and devise original solutions that satisfy the requirements of the Challenges. Participants gain more than just basic knowledge and skills—they learn to unleash their imaginations and take unique approaches to problem solving.”
                                                       www.idodi.org

Lilah’s team is working on a project that is community service oriented.  I am going to save the details for later, until the State Tournament in March is over.  I will say that her team has a fabulous project.  To meet the requirements they have to identify a need in their community.  They have to create a project to address the need.  They can and should contact community partners for help and information.  They must create a brochure to explain the need and how and why they are helping.  They must create a presentation to educate the Assessors about their project.  The final project is presented in 8 minutes or less to a large audience.  Should their team win, they will continue on to the Global Finals held every year in Knoxville, Tennessee.  This has been Lilah’s goal since joining the team.  She desperately wants to make it to Knoxville.  



Parents and Team Managers cannot provide solutions or even ideas to the team.  We can however, help them with the skills they need to implement their ideas.  Yesterday one of the Moms who is an expert in Information Technology, held a workshop on how to use the software program Pages.  We all have Mac kids, so they had their own version of a Mac Lab!

During class Mama K and I chillaxed in our friend’s home where we helped ourselves to tea, coffee, and hot cocoa.  We chatted for hours rarely interrupted by the siblings who were tucked away on the third floor deeply engaged in play.  It was blissful. 
The workshop began at 9:30 am.  There were short breaks for play and lunch but these kids worked until about 2:00!  Then they were so fired up that they immediately segued into working on the actual project.  Energy flowed as these children brainstormed ideas and made telephone calls to organizations without a script to read.  Emails were sent in rapid succession asking for assistance.   What should have been the end of our day turned into the beginning of a new adventure.
The team has a budget of $120 for any products used in the final presentation.  To create their project, many items are needed which called for a trip to the art store.  After a quick dinner at an organic pizza shoppe, 2 adults and 6 children entered the art store at 5:30 pm.  The siblings were tired.  They had a long day as well.  To keep the peace we found a quiet spot where we could download Sid the Science Kid on YouTube.  The team members shopped.  And shopped.  And shopped.



Our day ended when we pulled into our driveway at 7:45pm.  We had left the house at 9:00am.  Tired does not describe how I felt.  I told my girls I was done for the day.  I turned by heat blanket up to high, crawled into bed only to get up to give each of my girls a kiss goodnight.  Sleep was much deserved.  
Today we do it again.  Team practice from 12:00-3:00.  I am very curious to see how many hours they log on this project between now and the end of March.  When passion fuels the journey, the hours are like specks of sand.  They simply fall through your hands too quickly to count.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moments to Veg

Karen suggested that I start a new site dedicated to my journey towards becoming vegetarian.  I love the comments from my last post -- they have helped me to set the framework of my next step.  I have been vegetarian for three days!  I am still defining what that means.  I feel if I strictly label myself, then should I stray, and have a real burger rather than a veggie burger, I am setting myself up for failure.  My goal is to be the healthiest me as possible and that involves not eating meat right now.  


I am playing around with a new site, Moments to Veg, which will feature the food choices I make, along with their recipes.  I am using dynamic views to help you quickly find a meal based on the picture of the finished product! 


I would love your feedback.  My goal is for this site to become a place where we can share our own personal food journey.


Friday, February 17, 2012

To Be or Not To Be...

I was asked yesterday if I was a vegetarian and I really wanted to answer yes.  Yes I am.  But I am not.  What I am is a person who has drastically reduced the quantity of meat that I consume.  But I am left questioning why I wanted to answer yes to that question.  
Over the past two years my life has completely evolved in terms of my food choices.  Rather than rewrite what I have written about here before, to sum it up, reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and watching Food Inc. changed my life.  I can no longer look at meat the same way.  Unless it is farm raised, grass fed (which is very hard to find and even harder to afford) I don’t want any part of it.  I refuse out of solidarity with the animals who live their lives in pathetic conditions, unhealthy and unhappy.  Why would I want to contribute to the propagation of this inhumane industry?  Why would I want to eat meat from a sick animal?  Why would I want to raise my own inflammation levels through the digestion of this meat?  Bottom line is that I just don’t.  
I don’t miss eating meat.  If I am out with friends or as a family, I will choose a home-made veggie burger over a cheeseburger any day.  In fact, I discovered that the veggie burger at Five Guys (not a burger, but veggies and cheese on a roll) is very good!  I am on a quest to find the best veggie burger.  So far my vote goes to a small vegetarian restaurant in New Milford.





I am able to get my protein elsewhere.  I regularly eat eggs and beans.  My favorite breakfast is two eggs and refried pinto beans with salsa.  My favorite lunch is Sami’s bakery’s millet lavash bread used as a tortilla with black beans, muenster cheese, spinach and corn layered in between.  I still have my green smoothies as often as possible - with my goal being every day.  I have learned how to make a great veggie burger with both lentil and chickpea.  I drink my coffee with more milk.  When I make a meal with meat for the girls, I choose antibiotic free/hormone free meat always.  For me,  I load up on more veggies sprayed with Bragg’s Amino Acids and my favorite jasmine rice.  It requires a bit more thought but I enjoy finding and cooking new recipes.


  








Maybe I am ready to answer that question with a yes.  Maybe I can give it a try....to live meat free for as long as it works for me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Walk to Remember

Have I mentioned how much I love Instagram?  I love it, love it, love it.


Last week we took a ride to visit our friend's new house.  They choose wisely.  Maybe it is because their home is filled with love and kindness.  Maybe it is because they poured their souls into the renovation.  Perhaps it is a bit of both, because this home brings joy and peace to the visitor.  It is a place I look forward to spending much time at.  


It was a lovely spring winter day and we took a walk along the train tracks (the once daily train had already passed by - this is NOT a commuter line) to play in a field with a stream. 


A perfect 50 degree winter day in Connecticut!











Wednesday, February 15, 2012

R.A.K. Day 3....


Monday was one of those days you wish you had a do-over button for.  It was not fun.  It was not happy.  It was hard.  There were tears.  Not every day is full of fun and adventure.  Some are full of questioning, wondering and evaluating.  Where we are, where we have come from, where we are going.  These are the days that you look for the moments; the true meaning of random acts of kindness.  
In the despair of this day, there were many.  Like when Grace made Lilah dinner because they both despised my chick pea veggie burgers (which were awesome for the record).  Or when Lilah cleaned off the table, picked the table cloth and put out some coffee table books.  Or when the girls let me take an hour long nap because I needed a break.   Or when the girls told me my banana bread was awesome.  Or when I went to crawl into bed, glad to rest my weary self, and pray that I would have the chance to do it over again tomorrow only better, and found these on our pillows.....



Love shared.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

R.A.K. Day 2...

Last week the children who attended our Valentine’s Day Party made cards for Veterans.  They were beautiful and I wish I had taken pictures......take my word for it.  They are lovely.
The cards were packed into an envelope along with a big bag of red, white and pink M&Ms.  We have a VFW in our town.  The parking lot was full of cars with Veteran license plates and Vietnam War stickers  The girls ran up, dropped the envelope into the mailbox, and raced back to the car unnoticed.



Love shared.

Monday, February 13, 2012

R.A.K. Day 1....


I love that my girls each have their own email account.  As I come across random bits of goodness, I forward them their way.  Some get completely ignored and some stick.  Like this link.  Did you know this week was Random Acts of Kindness Week?  Pay it forward people.  Share your love.  






































Day 1:  Cake.  Valentine's Day Cards.  Homemade frosting.  M&Ms.  Delivered to our elderly neighbors who are surrogate Great-Grandparents.  This is sharing love.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Be My Valentine

Some days are just so wonderfully amazing that they live on in our memory for a very long time.  Yesterday was one of those days.  It was a day when love collided head-first into community.  
Lilah threw one heck of a party for her closest friends.  All 20 of them!  This was the girls who in school had just one child that she could call her friend.     We are truly blessed to have these families in our lives.  They bring us joy, support, wisdom and laughter.  We have fun sharing time together.
We called this week our "February Vacation" week in order to devote the time necessary to prepare for such a momentous occasion.  
We cleaned:



We prepared:








We shopped and displayed:



And then we played!




















Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cake


A cake chosen with care.  
Baked with love. 
Decorated with glee.  
Shared with friends.  
Thank you Grace.  It sure was yummy!









Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Art Journaling


I would love to keep a journal like this:

For now I settle for my blog and the little bits of art journaling that I do with my Monday writing group.  My goal is to move these amazing girls away from the idea that their journal is for drawing and towards the idea that it can be a place where art and words merge and meld into something that is unique to the artist and writer.  


























The creative process is soothing.  When you are painting, or drawing or writing, your mind is very focused.  Those little distracting, annoying thoughts that pop up all the time are held at bay.  For 90 minutes it does not matter that the carpets need vacuuming or the laundry needs folding.  All that matters is that your words and ideas are transported from mind to paper in a way that is visually pleasing.  
















































I think the girls’ work is visually pleasing.  

Don't You Just Stay Home All Day?

It’s funny because last night at youth group some of the kids friends were discussing homeschooling and really truly felt that we stay home...