Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Skype Playdates

Long-distance friendships... Skype to the rescue! I have been a non-Skype-user; actually I'm pretty much clueless about a lot of communication methods, these days. I prefer my rotary telephone and chatting over tea. But technology has a way of being there at the most opportune moments, and, well... this weekend has been one of those. Our dear globe-sailing friends (read their blog, here) have good internet access for a few days, so our kids are having a once-every-few-months playdate extravaganza.

It's 9:30PM? Sure you can Skype! You didn't feed the rats? Sure you can Skype! We were just about to leave? Sure you can Skype! Oh. And the phoning eachother "to make sure I still remember your number". It's a bit bizarre, in that gleeful, 8-year-old way, but it's so lovely, too.

So here are some of the Skype adventures our kids have been having these past few days.

Both the boys happen to have just acquired swords. So! Swordfighting by skype! Sisters got attacked in the process, but the new zombie-barbie prevailed in the end, of course...

Charades, anybody? One word. No. First word. One letter. No no no! There was a lot of confusion, which probably made the whole game much more entertaining.
And there was Skype Battleship with hand-drawn boards:

And of course a lovely music jam for the girls! Hunter on piano; Rhiannon on guitar... which ironically happens to be Hunter's grandfather's guitar!

And actually Rhiannon has a raging cold which would have forced the cancellation of any in-person playdate. But Skype doesn't transmit viruses!!

Winter Fire

Rhiannon made a lovely winter campfire this month, with mini-sausages for roasting!

Monday, January 21, 2013


I have sometimes posted my thoughts about the public school system, or (often) said or implied that I think unschooling is better than other options for raising or educating children. In posting these things, I have hurt many people who either teach or work in the public school system or who choose to send their children there. I understand that it feels like an attack to those who feel differently than I do. So this is where I apologize to those I've hurt, and explain my thoughts to those who want to understand where I'm coming from.

I'm sorry. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anybody's feelings, especially the feelings of those I care about.

I am not anti-school. Some of my closest family and friends both teach in and send their children to schools. My own mother and brother and step-mother are teachers, and I have often gone in to work in their schools and other schools, myself! And it's because of the teachers in my family that I know that most teachers teach from a place of deep caring and love for their students. They are good people, who give more than many other professionals give in both time and effort to do everything in their power for the communities they work in.

But it is my opinion that they work within a system that is far too big to be as individualized as children need, or as sensitive to the community and changing world as I would like it to be. I feel that teachers (including me, when I taught for public programs) spend too much time having to jump through regulatory hoops and fulfilling the demands of a system that does not necessarily serve all of its students. Teachers come up with ingenious ways of coping with the system; of reworking the system to better serve the kids, and of managing their time to do as much as they possibly can for the children in their care. But I still feel that the system, at its root, is incapable of serving my needs. This is not a comment on those who either want or need to work within the system, but it is my opinion. And because that is my opinion, I choose to unschool my own children, and to keep this blog as a means of communicating to others who seek support or inspiration on the same journey.

So if you are reading this blog, please know that these are my thoughts, and of course I understand that they are neither representative of everyone, nor interesting to everyone. And I respect your opinions, too, whatever they are.

The Good Life

The winter has been good to us, this year. Our lakes have become skate-able, and for some of us, this is one of the many definitions of joy

So today we drove out for the 7th straight day of skating. I think we've spent about 20 hours there in this past week, and I can see it on the children's glowing faces. 

When you find your community on a lake, sharing sticks and ice-chunk pucks, watching kids and adults take their first steps on frozen lake, and passing on the wisdom of how to keep safe -- this is what people mean when they say "the good life"!!

I am SO incredibly grateful for the life we have, the choices we've made, and the joy we know. And as we arrived this morning, people were at the lake playing with ice-chunks and inspecting the surface, and a couple of fathers brought their kids for a lake-ice experience!

Oh yeah! This is what skating feels like!

On the sunny days, before the skate-able parts were too roughed up, we could look down into the chilly lake to see the plant and insect life, and some other odd finds, like a step-ladder!
Ahhh... ice-tired. That gorgeous exhaustion that feels so incredibly happy!
Home for hot tea and some fireside activities.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Unschooling Looks Like At Our House

Some photos of our last month, in no particular order, just for those who wonder what we do all day...

Making gingerbread constructions (Tal made a sort of tower with candy-stained-glass windows and a candle inside; Rhiannon made a "tunnel" with a pond, ducks and just generally a whole lot of gingerbread activity going on. I made a little "Wizard's Hut" and campfire. Making gingerbread is a two-day process, with all the dough-making, baking, and creating with icing-glue. And then all the calamity and mending... It's a mess! But so fun, and you just never know what everyone will come out with, in the end!

Two friends of vastly different ages, enjoying some reading time.

Snow pillar and snow owl. Seize the moment, they did! This is the only "real" snow we've had, so far this year, so they made the best of it for the few hours it lasted!

Uh... Tal. Your room's getting pretty messy. Oh. Look at that. Aaaand... back to my other activities...
...and the other activities happened to be: Electrolysis experiments! Tal decided he wanted to make hydrogen (I think this is related to his desire to make an extremely powerful engine or rocket). Oh look at that stream of bubbles coming off his little carbon block!

Unfortunately, then it became blue, and we asked him to please look up what he's doing to be sure it's safe. Oh -- it turns out it's chlorine he's making! No more leaning over the container inquisitively!! The experiment was safely brought outside.

Rhiannon and her Pappa after the polar bear swim.

On the way home, one day. Those sticks are beaver-chewed sticks, which it seems our children and their friends now call cheeky-weeky sticks.

Cooking mini-sausages on Tal's tiny barbeque.

I have no idea what he was doing here, but I suspect Minecraft. Notice more mess. Unschooling is just messy. That's the way it is. I hope one of these days we get the balance of creating to cleaning a little better figured-out, though.

On the day Uncle(s) and Aunt moved into their new house, the kids and I spend the entire morning making cookies and snowflakes and window stars and a happy Welcome Home sign, and then spent hours stalking the new driveway for our chance to go secretly deposit the gifts and decorate the house. Unexpectedly, one of my favourite parts of the day was the long time we 3 spent holed up in our car, singing songs together and spying on the driveway, waiting for them to leave. We should spend a little more time in close confines with nothing to do but talk and sing!

How To Unschool - Part 2: Power Struggles

This is a follow-up to my previous post on the topic, and, in that vein, could be alternately titled:
While Letting Go of Control, Harness Your Power!

I subscribe to Jennifer Lehr's "Good Job", and Other Things You Shouldn't Say or Do. Recently she posted this incredibly thought-provoking gem:

"For a relationship to change in any significant way, he who holds the power must change."
— Dr. Thomas Gordon —

And here are my thoughts on the issue:

Power is Different from Control
Power can be intrinsic and benevolent; control implies a hierarchy that power does not. Free Online Dictionary defines:
Power     1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.
Control   1. To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct.

You Already Hold the Power
As parents, we hold inherent power in the family, which is why it's so important to relinquish the control, so that our children can have time to learn to harness their own power.

When we harness the power, we acknowledge that it's there, and we feel secure. We are also then secure about others' possession of power. In fact, we WANT them to have power, because when they feel secure, they are also supportive of us.

The power struggle is within. 
I think that we spend a lot of our time denying our own power; not taking responsibility for the things we actually are in control of, and often feeling regretful, spiteful, or jealous of the controls we perceive others to hold. This leaves us feeling vulnerable, weak, and devoid of our own intrinsic power. Maybe this comes of a misunderstanding of the differences between power and control.

At some point in my childhood, every single one of my four parents called each other "control freaks". It took me a long time to understand that the 4-way struggle I was witnessing, often played out through me, wasn't at all about me, or even about each other, but about the individuals in the divorced family, who were still struggling with their own inward power issues. They all had an unbelievable amount of power, as parents of their own children, and yet none of them felt secure in that power. I grew up adamant that I would not be controlled by other people, and consequently have had a very difficult time to recognize the benevolent nature of my true power. I have a difficult time supporting, encouraging and guiding my own children in an empowered way, without creating a control mechanism. This is my power struggle!

Rhiannon enjoys feeling her power in her long-awaited first Polar Bear Swim. This is something she's been wanting to do for years, and finally managed to achieve, last week.
Power is a state of mind
...and one that enables us to feel the security-of-self needed for compassionate and fulfilling cohabitation. Can you think of any greater gift than to empower our children with the same knowledge? With this state of mind, there is no hierarchy. Everything becomes possible for all.

Let's empower ourselves by letting go of control.