Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Homeschool Space"

I have neglected this blog for a little too long. I have so many pics I want to post and stuff.

First, I have been working on a couple other things and wanted to "announce" them. I have a new blog, 365 days of Sparkle. I meant to post on it everyday, but it isn't turning out that way. I am also working on my photography, most of which gets posted at my deviant art site, but I haven't posted there lately either.

Okay, here are a couple pics of recent life in our house.

This is Lilly offering to do chores on her own (for chore wars).



The Girls, working with daddy on a wood project of his.


The little people on the trampoline that came and visited Lilly and I.

Marti showing of the loss of her 4th tooth

Our new "garden".


Also, I wrote this post on a message board that I frequent. Someone was asking for pics of how their homeschool space was organized. I put my revelations in red.

Well, we don't do "school-at-home" (we unschool) so I am not sure this will help you (everything is learning material in our house), but here are a few pics of my messy house, actually, just of the 2 main rooms downstairs and part of the bathroom.

In reality everything is "sprawled" all over our house, which bugs me a bit (the "everything has a place and everything in it's place" part of me), but sort of fits with our life. None of our "school stuff" is segregated into appropriate catergories because our lives aren't split up into subjects. We live the way we learn, we learn the way we live.

I didn't include the trampoline, sandbox and swingset out back, where they spend most of their warm days feeling the sand between their toes, learning about worms, climbing trees and jumping to their hearts content. I didn't include the front porch where we spend much time talking, playing in the rice box and have a mini garden planted (this is my first year doing a "garden" and a big thing in the backyard without a tiller was a bit intimidating to me).

I didn't include the upstairs either. Most of their "toys" are up there. Right now the hallway (which is a large open space, not a narrow typical hallway) is set up with barbie stuff galore. I was thinking the other day that my girls don't play with their toys enough. So, I set up their barbie stuff how I would have if I were going to play with it. I didn't even get halfway done when Lil was up there playing with me, and Marti wasn't far behind.

Their play food and dolly stuff is in Marti's room (which she asked for and slept in for about 2 weeks and is now back in our family bed). Their stuffed animals and dress up stuff are in my sewing room/photography studio. And we also have 3 shelves of books in our family bedroom.

So, in terms of helping you organize, I bet that I did sqat for that :lostit: , but it's what works for us at the moment (it's subject to change at mom's will and does *very* often).

So, here are my pics then. You'll have to forgive the state of the house. It needs a great many repairs and we are working on them slowly.





The Yellow arrow in this pic is pointing to something I forgot to photograph. This is the CD shelf. On top of the shelf are a couple baskets which have past mini pages (from the newspaper), flashcards, etc.




This is where we store library books


Audio/Visual area



Friday, April 18, 2008

Being taught proper English by an 8 year old.

I feel like I am getting behind now for some reason.

I wanted to share this story.
Today, while eating lunch as a family I said "we haven't 'ate' like this in a while" because we haven't been actually sitting down at the table and eating together lately. Marti (who will be 8 in July) said to me, "Mom, it's 'eaten' not 'ate'. This girl has been to 1/2 a year of preschool and 3 weeks of Kindergarten. We have never had success with a curriculum (I tried for 2 weeks in what would have been 1st grade and for 2 weeks at the beginning of this school year) and has *never* had an English lesson in her entire life!

Also, I wanted to thank all the patient people on the unschooling lists over the last 3 years. Today has been a "wow" day for me. I feel like Superman, "leaping tall buildings in a single bound" and stuff. Here are some of my random thoughts today.

About not having a car (a dilema we may be facing)...
DH and I have been back and forth on this issue. I think that maybe *not* having a car won't really be all that bad. He sees not having a car as a lack of freedom and independence.

Today I asked him what *not* having a car meant to him because I was tired of butting head with him. I wanted to know where he was coming from, not so I could change his mind, but so I could relate. He said things like "no freedom" and "no independance". He didn't want to have to rely on the others or the bus.

After he told me what it meant to him I told him that to me, not having a car *meant* freedom AND independence. Freedom from debt was of course the first thing I thought of. We have can save $140 per month not having a car, which at first can be partially used to pay off our debt. Since we only make $600-700 per month, that is a lot of money. Freedom from debt led to so much more. Freedom to be *able* to live on a part time job (currently reading How To Survive Without A Salary) and have the extra time to be with each other. The list goes on.

When I explained to him that in the past month we have been able to set back $110 (granted, it is to fix the car) he started to come over to the "dark side". I said, "Imagine what we could do with that money if we didn't have to spend it on fixing the car." I didn't set out to convince him. I set out to understand him.

Other kids
My girls have been playing with these other (public schooled) kids in the neighborhood. They aren't the most respectful kids in the world, but they are okay. Today, Lil and I made cookies shortly before the kids showed up (after school got out) so I thought I would send a few out to the kids. The kids scarfed them down and begged for more. I let them have another and told them we didn't have anymore (even though I really wanted to say we didn't have any more to share, dh would kill me if I gave them all away). They didn't say thank you. They asked for more. When I told them we had no more, they asked for milk. I told them we didn't have any (we have 1/2 a gallon and dh drinks *lots* of milk, especially with his cookies).

Finally they quit asking for things and I couldn't help but to grumble (to myself) about how ungrateful they had been. As I was grumbling, I got to thinking. Maybe they saw right through me. Maybe they knew we had more of this or that. Maybe they knew I wasn't sharing what I had with love. I was being stingy (because we don't have the extra money). Even now, when they are back and asking for more cookies, I am still being stingy. It's no wonder they weren't thankful.

On college (yes, I know my oldest is only 8-almost 8 I mean)
There was a post recently on a board I frequent (called Diaperswappers) about unschooling. Someone asked about how unschooling prepared kids for college. Here is my reply.

I provided a bunch of links, but then thought... Maybe she doesn't want to read all that so I pulled a few quotes out. I can't testify to the college question because my oldest is 8, but I trust her to do what is best for her. I can say that at this point, it doesn't look like she will follow a traditional college route. She wants to be a mom. She loves babies and she wants to be able to stay at home with them. That said, she has also expressed interest in being a homebirth midwife. We have a local midwife that teaches that outside the typical college setting. I do hear that most unschoolers who choose to go to college do great because that is in fact their choice and they haven't been stuffed full of curriculum for the past 13 years. I know that I had had plenty of curriculum by the time I graduated and chose to wait on college. I am 27 and still waiting because now I have kids. My kids won't be so full of "institutionalization" and curriculum that if they want to go to college they will succeed at a high level.

Then I quoted Joyce's website and found an article on about.com and one on nehn.org. I am so glad that I have you all to fall back on.

On Bananas
My youngest DD *loves* bananas! I *hate* finding banana peels all over the house so yesterday before I gave her a banana I peeled it for her and threw it away. No mess to clean up or get annoyed with later. Simple, huh? It's the simple things that count.

I think that will be it for now. See you next time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Feel the POWER

What an amazing day, and it isn't even 9 am (wow, it has taken me an hour to write this, due to breaking for breakfast and to put a movie in for Lilly).

First a little background. Unschooling doesn't always come easy to me. In fact, it doesn't often come easy to me. You would think it would come a little more easy than most because my mom came as close to unschooling (though she didn't know the term) as one could given her circumstances, but sadly, it doesn't.

Also, a bit on our current circumstances. I am an introvert, and do need time alone. In "good" times, I don't *need* a lot of alone time. In stressful times, I need more than I like to admit (or ask for). Currently, life is stressful.

~We are attempting to live on $600-700 per month (although we don't have rent or mortgage, but it's not as easy as it sounds, even given that).

~Our only car broke down 2 1/2 weeks ago. It's transmission related, but we don't know exactly what until this coming Thursday.

~Because our car is broke down, the girls and I have been having to stay home most of the time and I think "cabin fever" is running high, as we naturally love to be out and about.

~At the beginning of March (so the bill for February) we got a $650 electric bill (apparently they had only *estimated* for December and January, but they had estimated low so they tacked on the rest to that bill). Obviously, with only $669 of income in March we weren't able to pay it, so now we have the $625 (I did pay a little) shut off notice and another $300 bill for April (March's bill). To answer questions, yes, we are trying to get help with it and I am pretty sure we can, it's just a tad more difficult now that we don't have a car.

Those are the *main* things that are stressing me out, I think. And believe me, I know it could be worse (in 2002 we were living in a tent in my mom's backyard after our home was repo'd), but things are crazy stressful and life in general feels out of my control.

I should also add that we live in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the nation (aside from Puerto Rico) by a margin of 1.2%, so "go get a [better] job" is a lot harder than it sounds.

http://www.fxstreet.com/news/forex-news/article.aspx?StoryId=aea7fdc2-c8df-40a9-b1f5-f6d6c0055879 (Feb 2008 unemployment 7.2%)

Anyway, after all that babbling, I wanted to tell a story today about Power. Not like electric, but the kind of thing that you see most "business tycoon" type people craving and pursing until they become domineering, pompous prats.

I've already said, I haven't been able to get much alone time lately. Usually my mom takes my girls every two weeks for a couple nights (I can just hear a lot of you say "LUCKY!" and yes, I know I am *very* blessed by this. It's the one thing that keeps me sane.) and that is enough time for me to rejuvanate. Two weeks ago, she had to work and this weekend she couldn't take them either. So, now I am faced with another 2 weeks of no alone time, which stresses me out even more.

I asked my SIL if she could take the girls for a couple hours this weekend to the park or something, but it's supposed to rain so it doesn't look like that is going to happen.

I asked my dh if he would take the girls to see a free movie today, but he would be out all day (with the having to ride the bus issue) with a movie *and* having to work. When he said no, the disappointment shone clearly on my face, I know it and I could see him worried about how I would handle it. Usually, especially in the past, I would blow up at him and everything would become his fault.

Instead, I went upstairs and brushed my teeth (I have also been known lately to take a shower). While brushing (and thinking I could really use a really high dose of patience today), a line from a movie came to me (forgive me, my brain works a lot in lines from movies, increasingly over the last ten years).

From Evan Almighty:
God is speaking to Joan Baxter, the main character's wife.

"Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other? "

So, I started thinking of the situation as an opportunity to be patient. Lilly had followed me upstairs and was talking to me, playing with the hair dryer, etc which was becoming increasingly annoying (the thought "Can't I just have 30 seconds alone!" screaming loudly *in my head*). I yelled at her, then apologized, put the hair dryer away and asked if she wanted to take a bath (her *favorite* thing to do). Then, I came downstairs and Rog was walking around trying to be helpful, but obviously thought he was walking on egg shells, expecting me to blow up at any moment.

Here is where the (think of Genie from Aladdin said in your best Robin Williams voice) *absolute power* comes in.

I asked him if he was going back to bed if he would please take the box [of cloth diapers] upstairs with him.

Seem silly? I basically gave him permission to go back to bed. I wasn't trying to be controlling. I don't think that the power is the fact that I controlled him, but in that I controlled me, and my response to the situation.

I think the trick was, I *wanted* him to go upstairs. I didn't say it so that when he walked away I could fume inside my head about how he should have wanted to sit here and talk to me.

Before, I would have started picking up the house, huffily, all the while yelling at him because I wasn't able to get my alone time.

The feeling was amazing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bus Ride

This is Roger, Amanda's husband, and I have a story about our 4-year-old, Lilly. First, there are two things that led up to the situation. The first is that our car stopped functioning two weeks ago, and getting around has been interesting to say the least. Our girls had their first bus ride ever last Wednesday as a result. The second thing that led to this situation is a shut off notice from the electric company. Amanda had been talking with our Case Worker had the Department of Human Services about help, and she had filled out an Emergency Application that she had printed off from the internet. Lilly and I took the bus to DHS to drop off this application. While we were there, since we had time and money, we had a snack and a couple drinks from the vending machines there. Lilly asked if we could make the trip again the next day. Later on, on the bus ride home, she asked me where the papers I had were. That's when I realized that she thought the whole trip was about having a snack together someplace new.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Car :(

So, we have been without a car now for nearly a week and a half. It has been different and a bit stressful, but all things considered I think we are handling it well. The first week was rough. The girls started fighting quite a bit and we realized that we needed to get out of the house every day to help with that. So far, so good.

Here are a couple pics from the last 10 days or so, then I have a bunch from yesterday.

Lilly helping me make laundry soap.


Lilly working on her masterpiece. This was so cute! I wish I had gotten a video.


This is a pic of a castle that Lilly made for her dad.


Yesterday was a big day for us. We decided to ride the metro bus downtown to the library (not the one we usually go to, a closer one actually). It was the girls' first ride on the bus (and my second!). We had fun, but we stayed out just a little too long. Lil had an issue getting off the bus because dad told her to follow me, and she wanted to stay by him. We were holding the bus up so I picked her up (as well as I could with other things in my hands), while she screamed then I carried her home (which was only across the street). We were all tired and went upstairs and fell asleep shortly after getting home.

Oh, we also did a science experiment before we left yesterday. So, here is the experiment. It is a little milk in the bottom of a container, then a couple drops of food coloring and finally you stick a toothpick in with a bit of dishsoap at the end.




Here are the girls' puppet shows at the library, well, Marti's isn't uploading, so here is just Lilly's.

At the park...




Feeding the ducks...



Riding the bus home...