Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Days of Igloo

Remember that igloo I posted about 2 days ago? 

Well here's an update.

Now it has three rooms.

This is what happens when you just let go...

Spend three days building with family and friends and get all exhausted and soaked and frozen ... get vehicles snowed in and have to have whole-family sleepovers (much to our mutual delight), and come out of it all totally pooped with chores undone but...

And when mothers roll in snow!


Whoosh! Bye bye, plans and intentions. 

Hello, adventure!

Squirt paint at snow!

Bliss out in cathedral-like stained-ice and snow-muted peace:

And have coloured snowball fights:





Rock on, beautiful people!

Cherish this beautiful world,

the time we have

and the joy we make, here.

Water Kefir!

Thanks to Lisa Marie Bhattacharya, I now know how to make water kefir!
I've been using raw unrefined sugar, homegrown raspberries (from my mother in law!), and some lovely kefir grains from Lisa Marie. :-)) YUM!!!!

Raspberries, sugar and kefir grains been sitting in water for 2 days.
It's bottling day!!

Put the kefir grains to rest and feed in their little jar of yum.

Strain out the used-up raspberries.

Bottle for a day to develop CO2.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Get an A: Create It!

Just when you think you've got it all figured out, everything turns on its head and you have to start figuring again...

Background on Our System
Unschooling homelearners in our area have two legal options: Register as homeschoolers under section 12 and receive no support or funding, or register as distance learners, get $600 per child allotment to use towards registered courses and/or supplies, receive the support of a program or advisor/teacher, and submit regular reports and grades to the ministry. We have so far gone with the latter option, because it's nice to use that extra money for the kids' activities, and also I like the accountability of being at least a little bit tied to the system. (Did I say that?!) I guess it's true. I dream of cutting loose onto section 12, but I'm afraid I'll mess up and not even notice it's happening...

So, anyway... about that grading. After grade 4 we have to start grading our children 3 times/year, in consultation with our teacher. And the grades have to have something to do with provincial learning outcomes (PLO's)! Truly! As you can imagine that leads to quite the creative workaround for us unschooling types, when trying to figure out how our big mish-mash of activities fits into the PLO's!

So... I painfully dig through the PLO listing, and make sure my kids are capable of most of the outcomes, and all of the suggested comments the teacher provides. I try not to involve my kids in this, unless they're interested, because I don't want them to start feeling competitive or inadequate. Then I show them the list of outcomes I've written in their reports and ask them if they think they deserve an A for each topic, or something lower.

In order to get an A, they need to do the following:
  • Be proficient in the suggested learning outcomes for their grade.
  • Get inspired and engaged about something that relates to each subject matter.
  • Have a little something to show for at least some of their efforts.

Something to Show
And that's where we're at right now. We're trying to get "something to show" on paper for their files at the school they're registered with... and it turned out we had one single whole day free before the end-of-term deadline, in which to accomplish this. We had big plans for this day: spend all day inside, reading about Haida Gwaii (because we're going there this summer!!!) and creating a giant map of it, with some kind of written work, as well. We had our supplies ready, and a bunch of resources, too. Markus had plans for work on the house. I had plans to organize part of the house. It was going to be a productive day.

And then it snowed!
Cancel all plans. There are priorities in life. And when snow is as rare as it is here, snow is one of them.

Rhiannon baked us some muffins (yet another exciting and delicious new recipe recorded only in her mind!), and then we went out to play! We had a minor panic when Markus lost his glasses during a snowball fight and we spent about 1/2 an hour sifting snow to find them. Then we decided to start work on a big igloo. We built, rolled, shoveled, packed and scraped all day (though I packed it in earlier than everybody else did), and ended up with an awesome two-room snow-block igloo.

And then we took our quiche down and ate dinner inside the cosy little second room. You can see Markus, here, peeking out from inside that second room, but this is a posed photo because there's just no room to take a photo in there.

While sitting just snugly with our empty bowls in there, not really wanting to go in, but having nothing else to do anymore, either, we agreed that this kind of an amazing day could not be had simply by spending money or going someplace exotic. It's really more about a state of mind: an appreciation of the presence of those we love and a willingness to drop everything and adventure.

But -- Those Grades!!!
What am I going to do with no paperwork done and two exhausted unschoolers frolicking gleefully in the snow, so pleased that we've all dropped our responsibilities!! I decided that Rhiannon could write down her recipe (so I can use it too!) and that would do for at least part of her file, and Tali could (with a bit of convincing, I admit) solve an argument we were having about the rate of increase of snowball size by simply measuring it and recording the data. He did!

There. Most of the day spent playing in the snow, written work done for files in just about an hour or so of that awesome day, and a late night piece of pie to finish. Last year's peaches from our own tree, and 8 rosy cheeks around the table.

That was an awesome day. Totally worth an A.

It's true that life is full of situations where we just have to accept somebody else's requirements. But a little creativity about fulfilling such requirements, and some effort made to fulfill them in a way that is both inspiring and engaging is both worth the A grade and worth the effort and time spent. We strive for opportunities to create A's in our lives. The A is the measure of fulfillment of our own expectations of ourselves, and of our spirit's fulfillment.

This is how I want to live. This is why we unschool.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Self Discovery: Patience

So I recently had an art show. See the remnants here, if you wish, but this post is not about the art show. This post is about learning. Me. Learning. Humility.

Ceramic sculpture by Heidi Roemer, Victoria, B.C.
I don't have a lot of patience. I frequently gnaw at my tethers, and tend to talk so much in my hurry to say the things that come to mind that I forget to listen, and frankly it takes a lot to fascinate me to the point of getting my rapt attention. But inside my own installation, where the art is to be found in the viewers' reactions, I'm all ears. People ask me what my intentions are; what my training and material choice is; what the stories behind the work are, and I usually tell them to go have a look for themselves and see what their own hearts see.

Some people look and some don't. Some come tell me what they think, and some leave in silence or with a quiet nod and thanks. Some participate in the show by adding their stories in writing, some by telling their stories to me, and some with silent tears. The guestbook is filled with kindnesses, and nobody leaves a negative note. But I know there are many people who are displeased -- offended, even. And I wish I could hear those people's thoughts. Some never even walk in the door.

But one man stayed. A retired judge. He walked all around the show, then sat on the bench by the door, waiting for his ride. He eventually told me he thought the work was awful. Unkind. Disgraceful. Ugly. And was I the artist?

I hesitated. "Yes."

Well he said he thought it was disrespectful to women. Why would I paint women so ugly when they're so beautiful? And I was stunned. Literally I was stunned into silence, because I honestly could not understand where he was coming from. He said I was such a nice young woman and he couldn't understand why I would paint women with so much hatred. I thought silently about how much love I'd felt while painting these things; how much joy in watching women participate in the show, but I didn't tell him. He literally shocked me into silence, and it was to my benefit. I kept on listening. He pulled a chocolate heart from his bag and gave it to me, saying that he carries them around to give to people to remind them that they are beautiful. This gesture was very strange to me, and I kept listening. Sometimes I wanted to defend my work, but I stopped myself. And eventually, after a very long time, he told me that the bald women in my paintings reminded him of the bodies at Buchenwald.

Wow. And that was the moment my stunned listening paid off. Not only did I realize that he was coming from an understanding I will never share, and that, like every other visitor to the gallery, he looks at it through his own life's lens, but I also realized that that long period of simply listening had been necessary not just for me to understand, but for him to come to an understanding of his feelings. That is something we know, I think, but something we (or at least I!) very rarely consciously consider. I need to talk to understand my feelings, too. But do I give others that chance? Rarely.

Listening is an art. I have been trying so hard to listen for so many years, and it is certainly a steep uphill climb for me. But in these past couple of weeks I have begun to see how many times my impatience has meant that my children are not heard; how many times I interpret their silence as an answer only because I didn't wait long enough; how many times I miss the boat because the call aboard was a long complicated story and I had stopped listening after the first whisper. I now see how many times my own fear of offending has meant that I tried to answer for people before allowing them the time to make their own conclusions and ask questions.

I talk a lot on this blog about fear: how unschooling is a journey through letting go of our own parental fears and trusting our children to live well. It is. And it never ends.

Back to what I learned from this art show, I watched my father make a parenting discovery, too. He came to see some of the work in my studio, before I installed it in the gallery, and had very little to say. It was clear he was uncomfortable, or at least not very interested. When the show opened he came to the gallery, and walked around awkwardly. So I prodded him about it. He told me he just doesn't consider this art. My fear of failure made me want to run away crying, but there were other people around so I stood and listened. He said it isn't something he'd like to hang on his wall. Why would I put something in a gallery that people wouldn't hang on their walls? He didn't think it would be well received. And on top of that I knew he was grappling with the fact that I was about to read some slightly alarming stories on the opening night in an open-front painted wedding dress with polyester pubic hair peeking out the front. I was afraid of embarrassing him. But I did it anyway. I did this strange costumed reading, and the 60 or so people in attendance seemed a bit stunned, but apparently some of them congratulated him.

The next day my Pappa walked down to my house and came in, only to tell me that people loved the show, and he was proud of me. "So what changed?" I asked him. And he told me he had been afraid, before the opening. Afraid for me.

And this is when I realized that the fear is never going to go away. Not ever. My children can be 38 years old and planning not-very-daring feats of social misconduct, and ... I will still be terrified for them.

Sometimes my heart is closed in a cage of fear. Maybe patience helps me listen. Maybe listening helps me hear the voices of my children, reassuring. And maybe this understanding can help me to have compassion for my own parents, who are still, after all, parenting too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Woman Story

This 10-minute meditation is based on the distilled results of my recent Woman Story installation.
Fullscreen it and enjoy!

I've also put together a book of this material. It's a bit longer and (I think) more wonderful than the video.
It's available from Blurb - just click the link below.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Parenting is Like Cooking

"Parenting is a lot like cooking. 
You follow a recipe if you don't feel confident. 
Once you do you use what you have in the 
cupboard and do what feels right. 
It's really a matter of paying attention."
~Lyn van Lidth de Jeude