Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Natural & Human History Walk

Today we walked over the highway and towards Fort Vancouver and the airfield... and we read about what we saw as we went! What could have been a mundane pedestrian overpass was instead linked to the National Historic Site of Fort Vancouver, and made into a natural and human history walk. Plants that are often stepped upon, or weeded out of private and public gardens are instead encouraged and labelled with informative signs, so that we can all learn the names, history, and uses of the flora we know so well. At viewpoints along the walk are names of the local First Nations groups, as well as historical paintings and descriptions of the history and use of the land and water below.

I was in favour of a National Park on Bowen Island, before, but this has given me a vision. If the park can include (say, along the dump-road, perhaps), some well-built, durable, and accurate signage (like the great sign at the causeway, currently) then it can be even more of a treasure for both islanders and visitors to learn about our own home in a way that I think most don't ever have the chance.

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference: Day 4: Goodbye

The end of the conference was today - there was a hang-out at the nearby park, time spent reaffirming connections with all of our new friends, sun soaked up for the first time since getting here. I did a couple more MAMA interviews, but other than that it was just a day to relax and assimilate our experience.

Somebody brought sidewalk chalk.
He drew the bridge.

Tomorrow will be a dark moon; a day of taking stock, checking out Portland a little bit, packing up the car again, etc. Then on Wednesday with the new moon and my brother's birthday we're off for a loooooong drive, and eventually to interview some Yurok native mothers down in California.

But first we have to wipe down our car and attach our new bumper stickers!!!

Goodbye wonderful friends!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference: Day 3

Part of the reason we're on this trip together is to find our beginning again. But a second beginning is never really the beginning again, is it? It's more like a renewal. Today we went to Jeff and Ginger Sabo's talk about partnership in unschooling. Specifically they talked about unschooling our spouses: how we can apply the same philosophy, compassion, and openness to our spouses. It was good to sit together, resting heads together, listening to two people who are on a similar journey to ours talk about how to make it work. We could only have benefited from this if we'd done enough work on ourselves to be able to understand the value of the discussion, and I guess we have, now. That's a good feeling, and this was a good thing to share before our intense family trip.

The drawbridge -- we took animation photos of this but it's going to take a loooong time to make the animation!

We also made some beautiful new friends. Spent a lot of time talking about homesteading, life, mothering, art, etc. Rhiannon made a friend named Rhiannon, and Tal says he liked most of the boys he met playing lego. There are people here from all over the States, as well as a few from Canada. Community. I went on about that yesterday, I know, so I won't continue...


The SuperMAMA concert had a pretty small audience, but seemed to be well-received by those who were there. A couple even went out part-way-through to bring their families in. But the best of all of course were the awesome unschooling musicians we encountered, here. One of our new friends is Rich McCloud, whose music is just soul-opening. Then in the evening there was a fabulous concert mostly by Amy Steinberg and Kimya Dawson. Totally impressed by the talent and intention of these people, but it's especially wonderful to me to come to this place where none of the art-making is just ego-driven; it's open. It's enriching. It's accepting. It's whole. It's for everybody. Here's the song we heard Rich sing last night:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference: Day 2

Markus and I took in a great talk by Kelly Lovejoy about unschooling tweens (we've recently realized that Tal is fast on his way to being a member of this illustrious group...). It was indeed very enlightening. Questions we didn't know we had yet were answered. We gained a bit of an understanding for why he is the way he is right now and some reassurance that, for tween unschoolers, who are sometimes disinterested and "boring" compared to their always-busy school-going compatriots -- this is just a needed lull while they figure out where they're going before the teen years. The teens at this conference are many and varied and ENGAGED. While Tal and some of the other 9-11-year olds (I'm guessing at ages, here) hides in his hoodie playing lego or reading for hours, or doing activities others are doing -- beside them, with only the occasional word exchanged, the teens create "people puddles" on the floor. They are expressing themselves in every conceivable way, some joining in with parents' discussions, and some being the socially vibrant creatures that they are. And it's really beautiful to see them for the most part accepted as an important and integral part of this community. Kelly talked about the probability that while parents may push the nest a bit at this stage, it's often a much needed cocooning stage for our tweens, and they may in fact need more of our help and attention than before -- and to trust that through this deeper connection they will not become dysfunctional adults, but that they are building their strong roots to grow into independent teens and adults. These are the things we think about abstractly, but to have her talk about them in terms of the specifics of our kids' behaviour right now made them more useful to us.

And those teens? THOSE TEENS! We had a family "Barefoot Boogie" in the evening, (a beautiful bonding moment for us, dancing and glow-stick-fighting with our kids and some of their new friends), followed by the teen prom. The teens came in every shape and colour, and pretty much shook the house. It was really amazing to see the inclusivity and connection, here. I'm sure there's plenty of disharmony that goes on beyond my radar, but on the whole it's obvious to me that these kids are a pretty accepting, open bunch of humans, and that is beautiful to see.

I can't say I'm totally reassured about the changes that my kids will go through in their teen years, but this day, to me, was extremely comforting. With not a whole lot of experienced unschoolers around as examples, it's easy to become worried about our choices. Being here is something like a big sign being held up to us: IT WILL BE MORE THAN OK: IT WILL BE GOOD!!!

Of course, there was more than that. While I was interviewing a mother, Markus took the kids to the farmers' market up the road, and there were also some fabulous kids' workshops at the conference... much more photographable than our parental ponderings:

Animal Clinic! Rhiannon had been looking forward to this since we saw it in the program a couple of months ago. She brought Woofbomb specifically so he could be bandaged up at this clinic. Here he is being weighed.

Hula-hoop making!

Hula-hoop using!

Rhiannon's Daring Book for Girls recommends knee-hooping. Apparently it's very difficult!

LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference: Day 1 (and a half)

Yeah we're back! In the US of A!

...which apparently means TV's in the hotel room! This is a completely faked pose. The TV was not on. The kids were just so hyped to be on our big trip that they started "goofing out" as Rhiannon calls it, with the remote control!
Homecoming Away

We left home at 5:50AM on Thursday, and arrived at the conference at about dinner time. Exhausted and a little cranky from the MANY wrong turns we made trying to find the right exits from the freeway, we suddenly found ourselves in a parking lot well-populated with decorated cars. Most had a plethora of bumper stickers, and some had other decorations, or recently-painted declarations of joy and unschooling. We had the collective feeling of fitting in. It was beautiful.

Then we walked into the conference centre lobby. Kids of all ages and colours (I include not only skin colours but much more vibrant hair, paint, and clothing colours, as well) lay sprawled out in various heaps and entanglements around the floor, walked around holding hands, and plied their wares of bracelets, crafts, bumper-stickers, greeting cards, and free hugs. It was a bit like the Vancouver Folk Society retreats that we love so much, but with 70% children, and a lot less music. There was a feeling of certainty that we were accepted.

Day 1
On Friday, we hopped around to various talks, circle chats and funshops, passing each other in the hallways (by far not the only family to be making use of little walkie-talkies), and a little bewildered and frazzled with the amount of information to absorb. Among the things we participated in were the Film Festival, Lego-building, Bionicle-building, Geocaching (there is a new travel-bug coming to Bowen, as a consequence), Theare Improv Games, Button-Making, Balloon-Sculpting, and Dads' Circle Chats and panels. I ran a MAMA Conversation, and arranged some interviews for later, too.

The greatest thing about this conference is the feeling of acceptance and diversity. A scan of the audience of the talent show, which was the biggest event of the weekend, so far, would show humans quite evenly distributed from the ages of newborn to grandparents (not many seniors, though), with hair-styles of every shape and colour imaginable, political leanings towards various extremes and in between, pacifists and military people, people with and without children, and families of many different educational philosophies. We are not the only people with a painted car, nor Rhiannon the only child who carries around a baby, nor Tal the only boy with long hair, nor the only poeple from BC. (In fact, Markus ran into someone he attended UVic with, at the button-making funshop!) But what is common in all of us seems to be that we are engaged in our lives and dreams, and in our children's lives. As simple as that sounds, it's a fabulous thing to have in common!

We think it's interesting to watch the bridge over the Columbia River go up and down. Interesting, too, that the main coastal artery (the I5) seems to stop even for a single lovely sailboat to pass by, underneath. Beautiful!

Glad to Be Where We Are
At the talent show, a couple got up and sang "We are Different", which apparently had been introduced at an earlier conference, and (just like everyone aged 2-60-something who got up on stage) received great applause and audience participation. When we went out into the community, however, things changed, a little. The further we got away from the conference and milling unschoolers, the less we fit in, and the more we felt like outsiders, partly because of our Canadian-ness and partly because we are "different". And suddenly that didn't seem like such an OK thing. This reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do; to live in a community rich with arts and diversity, acceptance and engaged people. Bowen is really quite unique in the world, and although we may be happy to have found such a concentration of "our people", here, we're also lucky to live in such a place, most days of the year.

(I'll add photos to this post when I get a chance to take them off the camera!!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tir-na-nOg: The land of perpetual youth...

...where Angus Og dreams the dream that inspires life for the rest of us.

Taliesin and Rhiannon have been attending Tir-na-nOg Theatre School on Bowen Island this year, and have both just finished their year-end plays. Taliesin played a few roles, including a Bionicle, Numero Uno, and a word-seller in the Phantom Tollbooth; Rhiannon played Aslan, a deer, and a villager in Narnia. They both adored their classes, and were proud to pieces about their performances. (Yes -- that includes Tali, who maintains his longtime conviction that he doesn`t perform... but has created an exception for Tir-na-nOg, now.)

Photography is not allowed during performances, so, for you, we had them each re-enact their biggest parts so we could post them on the blog. Rhiannon`s piece is her (Aslan`s) soliloquy to the animals, after creating the world, and Taliesin`s is his scene with his friend Ryan, where the brothers King Azaz (Ryan) and Numero Uno (Tal) argue over their beliefs until their father comes in to break up the fight. Since Tal and Ryan did this without the other actors, Ryan mimics the father, speaking, with his hand at the end!

Update - May 24: Today Taliesin and Rhiannon made gifts (Tal made a story and Rhiannon made a script for a play) to thank Jack and Julie. Please note that these are entirely of their own device. Tal asked me how to spell `thank`, I spelled it, and then explained that I thought it would be nicer if he just spelled things himself. The rest, including the spelling, ideas, thoughts and content, really do express our children`s love of their time with Jack and Julie. (Rhiannon never asked for help. She was finished her book before Tal finished his extensive decorations, which were, of course, what he started with. Unschooling cheer: I love to see how very different my kids` learning and creative styles are, but how they both manage to build what they need out of their own desires and inspirations.)

Click these to enlarge them; it makes it easier to read the pencil markings.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rhiannon Learned to Ride!!!

Rhiannon`s quick growth has made it difficult for her to learn to ride, mostly because she was so afraid of falling. She needed a few incentives, and she got them, this week:
--a bigger bike
--a basket for her baby Meme to join her on travels
--the promise of riding the Venice Beach boardwalk with her friend Hunter in June

Here is Tal delivering his newly-grown-out-of bike to her, complete with the basket he got for her, and the stages of learning to ride, afterwards.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deception Pass

First we crossed the first half of this two-span bridge. It`s impressive just as a bridge --

but then you look down.
And then you look more closely: It`s really very big!
There was camas growing everywhere,

and arbutus,

and beautiful steep hillsides covered with succulents and wild flowers!
And at the bottom there was a wonderful tidepool

with anemones, chitons, tube-worms, hermit crabs, fish, shellfish of many varieties, and even a pink sponge! The kids declared it better than the aquarium!
Then, back at the top before driving away, they also improved the sign, by adding a statue to it. :--)

Unschooling Family Adventure: Art Installation!!

We went to Port Townsend, WA, to install the MAMA Project at Fort Worden. It was our first trip family work-trip. We were hosted by some beautiful kindred spirits, Steve and Elaine, and, although we didn`t have much time to look around, we had a marvelous time, and came home feeling much richer in spirit.

We left on May 3rd, on the 5:30 ferry from home, were stopped, held up for an hour and searched at the border because the border agent said ``Why would you do art if you`re not making money!!`` Then we stopped in Burlington to pick up the donated wood for the stands (generously donated by Coast Lumber), and drove down Whidby Island to take the ferry to Port Townsend. We arrived at the installation space at 3, spent until very late at night setting up, while the kids entertained themselves very well and graciously.
Hello, USA!

Cutting the stand-components (it was extremely cold and windy out there on the balcony!)

First sheet to be hung, with the evening sun hitting it from behind.

The kids were EXTREMELY patient. They exhausted their supply of games & books soon, and just invented more...

...some of which were a bit difficult for adults to understand...
By 3PM the next day I had finished setting up the show (post about the MAMA Project, on my other blog, here)... (patient kids again), Markus worked remotely for the first 3 days from Steve and Elaine`s home, and then began the waiting for visitors. The promotion for the show was on the extreme minimalist side, and it took a loooong time for word of mouth to bring people in, so for the first 3 days I spend most of each day with the following as my view, while the kids explored the fort, together.

Then on the weekend things picked up and I became extremely busy, while Markus took the kids exploring. They had a fabulous time, and he`ll post about that shortly, since he`s the one with all the good photos from those days. The kids and Markus brought me beautiful flowers for the show, and on Sunday, which was Mothers` day, they showed up with, treasures, and a delicious lunch for me, too.

Then on Sunday evening, as soon as the show closed, we all got to work taking it down. It was a big job, but we worked hard, and managed to get it done sometime late at night (9, if my memory is correct). And when I say we worked hard, I mean everybody! The kids had incentive (getting out of there!) and really did their bit. It was the most enjoyable takedown I`ve done yet, working in joy and solidarity with my own kids.

...and then... we got up exceedingly early and went home.

Well not quite. We promised ourselves a beautiful adventure in Deception Pass on the way home, and that promise was fulfilled completely, as you`ll see in my next post (whenever I find time for it).

Goodbye, Port Townsend!

Hello Chetzemoka Ferry!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day!

This year we didn't have our own may celebration, but joined the Black Sheep's celebration in the cove. What a wonderful community we live in!!!

Hal an' tow!

Jolly tremelo!

We were up, long before the day-o!

To welcome in the summer!

To welcome in the May-O!

For Summer is a-comin' in an' winter's gone away -