Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just Regular Days...

I haven't written in a while--not much to say. We are getting through the days of March without much excitement. The weather has been cold, far too cold to call it spring, but yet the occasional warm day means the snow is slowly (veeeerrrryyyyy sllooooooowwwlly) making its way out of our yard. The road is clear, so bike riding has begun (on days when it is warm enough to be out) and our favorite running spot at the university is nearly clear. (Right now we have a short loop and look forward to the snow being off the longer loop--surely by the time we return from FL!)

Erin is deeply involved in her Egypt unit and has made a book of gods, clay amulets, maps, stories, drawings...and is hoping to make a "life-size" pyramid (don't think so, kid!).

Megan is at that incredibly exciting time in an early-readers life where she is actually reading words and stringing them together to form the sentences. She can read the funnies in the morning, sounding out each word carefully and then putting them all together. I love love love the look on her face when it all comes together and makes sense. It just amazes me how wired the human brain is to learn and how great it is when it all falls into place. Awesome.

Evan is just cute. He has so many more words and expressions...he is priceless. I love listening to him "read" stories to his babies.

Despite the cold and the apparently unending gray of winter, spring will come! (And even if it doesn't, the kids and I are going to FL in a few weeks anyway, so who cares???)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring In Maine

So this morning we looked outside and saw this:

Evan said, "Mama! Look! There is snow on that tree and that table and that garden and Sophie's tree and the slide and that tree.... Oh no, Mama! Let's go wipe it off."

Happy Spring, indeed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yet Another Ramble....*

I have a friend who I have been thinking a lot about lately. I'm not sure why she has been so prominent in my thoughts recently, but she has. This friend is a few months out from her loss, a dear baby boy who died at 17 weeks gestation. And do you know what I've been thinking about? I've been thinking about how she is going about her days with a smile and laugh and working hard to enjoy her three living boys, her wonderful husband, and her supportive homeschooling community. I've been thinking that I know what she is going through, as she goes through the motions, a few months out, when people around her no longer mention her loss. The people who love her so much don't talk about it because there isn't anything left to say. They did all the right things; brought the meals, helped with the memorial...and now there is nothing left. Obviously they would be there for her if she needed it, but no longer do they expect that this missing baby will be a part of the conversation. No longer is the missing one part of their every thought. But he is still a part of her every thought. This, I know. And I need to be clear--these friends of hers are not, in anyway, being mean or cruel or thoughtless for not mentioning him. They truly, truly aren't. Every single one of them (myself included) would drop everything and come running if she were to ask...but she has mostly stopped asking. Because there is nothing anyone can do to help her right now.

And so she goes about her day with this ball and chain clamped to her heart. Can you see it? And while in the beginning people were lining up outside her door with offers to help carry it, time has gone on and life is moving forward. People don't mean to, but they have to put it down to do their own heavy lifting. Soccer practice, a dentist appointment, a sick child, a husband needing clean socks.... Before you know it, my friend is left holding this weight by herself. And again, none of us who have gone through this fault anyone for leaving us holding it. It is ours to carry and the last thing we want you to do is take it away from us. But, my friend, I know that sigh. The one that escapes you as your living children hustle out the door to enjoy the first day of spring and you are alone in the house for a brief moment of quiet. Smiling at those you pass, you don't talk about it, but I know that you know that it is there. Getting kids through the grocery store, cheering them on at a game, helping with schoolwork...all these things take priority and you have become skilled at carrying this weight without complaint, without expecting help. It is, after all, yours to carry.

I don't know why I'm writing this right now. I don't know why I have been thinking about this so much. I guess it is because I want her to know that I see it--I see that heavy weight she is carrying so carefully through her day and I want her to know I know exactly how it feels. I know what it takes to breathe deeply, pick up that weight and start your day. I know what it is like to grab a few precious seconds in a shower to simply cry at the huge unfairness of the universe and then get out and love your living children because they are there for you to love. I know what it means to have someone ask, "How many kids do you have?" and feel like you've just been kicked in the gut. I know how much that, even now, you would love a day to simply cry. I know what you carry, my friend, and I guess I just wanted to tell you that.

*sorry for the repetitiveness of this post...it really is just a ramble! And, my friend who knows who she is, if you would rather I take this down, let me know!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unschooling Ramble

I've been doing a lot of reading on unschooling this past year. I love the whole idea of letting my kid be a kid and following her interests. I will admit that I struggle with this sometimes, as many I know who also unschool have admitted to me as well. (Especially as our children get older and seem more out of tune, so to speak, with other kids their age.) Then, of course, there are the Radical Unschoolers, who have a whole following of their own. This group contains some people who are almost cult-like in their zeal to allow the child to choose absolutely everything in their lives, from clothes and food to education and bedtimes. I admire these people, who have such trust in their child's ability to always pick the right thing. I fully admit that I'm not there yet and that we are trying to decide how far "there" we will go. Take bedtime, for instance, I know without a doubt that my second would stay up really late if I let her. She would run herself into the ground--probably throwing a tantrum at the end, just because. As the parent, I choose to not let her do that. We get her into her pjs early, read to her for quite a long time, then tuck her in with a relaxing meditation CD. She goes to sleep easily and usually sleeps all night. None of it feels forced, coerced, or fixed, nor does it seem disingenuous with regard to her needs. So the fact that she doesn't necessarily have the freedom to choose her own bedtime doesn't feel "wrong" to us somehow. Radical Unschoolers would tell me I don't trust her to do what feels right in her body. And perhaps they are right...as the parent I have lived longer, have more experience in this area and I have definitely seen the results of letting her stay up too late. Trying to balance her needs and her freedom and independence can be a delicate balance, can't it? And should I feel guilty for not "allowing" this freedom? Because I don't...I feel like a responsible parent.

Food choice is another major area of discrepancy for Radical Unschoolers and regular unschoolers, like us. My kids have total freedom with anything in the house. Rarely do I ask them not to eat something at whatever time of the day...if it is in the house, it is fair game. The trick? I am very careful about what comes into our house. My husband and I are passionate about eating locally, organically, and growing our own when we can. We know our local farmers, get food from local markets and buying clubs and raw milk from a good, clean, local dairy. We have researched this topic a LOT. As a result, our kids have grown up able to appreciate limits on their food consumption. We have NEVER (and I truly mean NEVER) taken our kids to any fast food restaurants. Why? Because we have a major problem with how food is raised in this country and taking them to a restaurant like that would simply be telling them that yes, we talk about food and how important it is to know your food source, but just this once (or twice or however many times), we'll ignore that value and eat here. That gives such a HUGE mixed message to kids and I don't think it is fair. At some point in their lives, when they are older, they will be on a field trip or team sports trip or whatever, and the bus will stop at McDonald's for dinner. We know this. At that point, they will be more than welcome to choose what they want to do. If they ask us to pack them a dinner because they don't want to eat the food, we'll be more than happy to do that. If they ask us for money to buy something so they don't feel different from their peers, we'll do that as well. Because at that point, they will have the understanding they need to make their own choices. I know I'm going against all Radical Unschooling policy when I say that I just don't believe my 5yo has a good enough grasp of the complexities of the food system to make that choice right now. Of COURSE she would pick a McDonald's chicken nugget...they taste good. Duh...they are supposed to. They are marketed specifically for the 5yo...the chemicals have been tested especially for them! RUs tell me that if I don't give her the choice now, she'll "never" be able to make the choice later. Sorry, I just don't buy that. (It has a similar ring to the idea that if I don't wean my son, he'll "never" stop nursing. Again, I just don't buy that.)

So I guess I'm still floundering in this world of "regular" unschooling while being bombarded with messages about the positives of Radical unschooling. I mean, I think of the time my son, at age 5-months, did a face plant into my husband's ice cream cone. Until that moment he was exclusively breastfed, but apparently a little Moose Tracks ice cream was just want he wanted. Now, we had been fighting a dairy allergy for a while, but that aside, should I have just let him have it? Or would even RUs understand that 5-months is a little too young to make food choices? I say again, I'm stuck with what some say is my "need" to control the situation and what others would call my son's need to control what goes into his body (or my daughter's need for bedtime freedom, etc.)

Anyway, I know these are just the ramblings of a mom trying to make her way through this adventure of parenting and now homeschooling. At some point my kids will be adults...at that point I'll know if it worked or not, if my guidance was reasonable or if they are permanently messed up. But by then I'll probably be living in Hawaii, enjoying my retirement with ease. And a houseboy...I'll definitely have a houseboy who does the laundry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Auntie Amy's Gift Part 1 of many...

Here are a few images from our weekend of skiing. The first day was awesome and I was just having such a blast watching the kids on skis that I didn't take out the camera. The second day was so snowy and blustery that I didn't take out the camera (much--the shot of Megan skiing is on that day!) and then the last day was so wonderful that we were just all out enjoying it and again, usually forgot the camera. We did get some though, so enjoy.

Here we all are as high as we could get on the mountain that day (the tippy-top wasn't open due to wind, but we enjoyed a great view from where we were).

Who doesn't love a 2yo on skis for the first time?? They just don't get any cuter!

This kid was fearless...here she is on an intermediate slope in the middle of a blizzard. Just point her down the hill and off she goes!