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these were the sticky-ribbons my family chose to add on to my name badge for the homeschooling conference. all attendees were expected to wear these purple shoe-laced placards around our necks all weekend to identify ourselves as folks who are allowed into the magic walls of all that was hsc. “first timer” was purple, “runs with scissors” black. jason chose for himself “first timer” and “insignificant other”. this is very far from the truth, but he loved how it validated his place in-line in the realm of my finite ability to attend the needs of others. this is a never ending joke between us, so he found his choice hysterical – and i agree it was the only one for him to chose given his sense of humor and unending flexibility. the girls both chose “princess” and viv added “glory” to hers, while ida chose “celebrate diversity” – appropriately a rainbowed ribbon. a very fun thing to do upon entry and immediately got us into the vibe of what was in store for us. immediately our fears of all that might be present at a conference full of homeschoolers from up and down the state began to lessen.

we walked into the main auditorium to listen to the introductory key-note speaker…we sat down in the back at the long tables where the girls were able to set up with their paper and pencils, or if they chose roam around and turn cartwheels. the woman speaking was quinn cummings. we had not planned on a morning of stand-up comedy, but that is what we got. she succeeded at breaking all the barriers down and bringing all of it into a laughing light. afterall, homeschooling is about having a good time, right? we all laughed together about all of the common difficulties we face as homeschool parents: no alone time, critical notions from others (how will your children get socialized? how will they get into college? how will they get a job? i could never do that….how do you do that? are you insane?, etc) , challenging our own ideas of what education looks like – de-schooling ourselves, family dynamics – how several individuals learn to live together and respect one another without harming one another, etc…. she also talked about her own personal story and how they came to decide to home school. all very fascinating and fun to listen to. i especially liked her response to “so, how did you write a book while you were homeschooling?” her answer was simple – she was an insomniac – i loved this for many reasons. she was not offering a formula for “how you too can lead a life like mine” – in fact not one person did this the whole conference. the parents who decided to share simply offered their story for what it was – a story. the whole idea is that you can figure it out on your own – the important thing is that all members of the family are considered equal and empowered to live and learn as they wish – including the parents. the main principal being safety. it was all of our job together to keep each other safe. everyone learning to acknowledge the needs of the others and make time and space for all of it. the rest was an experiment in progress – a shared journey.

(to be continued…i just reread this beginning of this post which i wrote almost a month ago! i realize it might be another month before i write out the rest of our hsc experience which was full and lovely, so i will post this intro now!)

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last night at capoeira a friend asked me this question. i am starting to recognize it as the most frequent question i am asked whenever i run into a friend.

i usually say something non specific and all encompassing like, “well, my days are hard to define. we usually wake up with no plan and at the end of the day we have some books that were read, an animal we researched, a person we looked up, many drawings or paintings we made, words that were written and of course many questions were answered (or thought about?). the girls play a lot. we see friends. we take walks and bike rides. we eat a few times both out and at home and in the evening they are into watching avatar: the last airbender. funny enough, jason and i are into it too.”

here i will try again to answer as best i can, more generally, more specifically…hah!

once we made the decision to not go to school, i signed up for a class on each day and left fridays for social stuff. the classes were noted in a previous post: trapeze in spanish, science at the exploratorium, capoeira 2x (viv and ida’s classes on different days) and then friday was free. the week ended up being quite busy and very social actually!

quickly i realized this was a mistake. after the first week it became clear we were right back into the same power struggles to leave the house as when we were getting ready to leave for school. the girls continually wanted to “stay home”. they were even avoiding playdates! it was when i finally gave into this desire that i started to understand what was going on. when you read about a child’s development you remember that they are still growing their little minds and bodies. the adult world, especially here in the city, is a little intense. i think if we had a huge field in our backyard the girls would want to be outside exploring more. i do not doubt as the world at large becomes more of a draw for them we will venture out beyond the neighborhood more.

it seems that viv (and ida) are happy to explore their inner worlds here at the house and in the backyard. a walk around the neighborhood is sufficient or a park visit or a bookstore exploration or just people watching on the corner. unschooling allows me to get back into my inner world as well which i have been missing a lot lately. reading, drawing, writing, etc… the structure will grow as they do i am sure. no doubt there will be ideas to pursue and plans to act out. i am noticing we move at the perfect speed for us. four days a week there are three people and it requires communication to make sure all needs are met. three days a week there are four of us – jason has sat, sun and mon with us. more negotiations!

i think the other major factor in the girl’s wanting to stay home during the week, is that when their dad is home, he is a big adventurer and loves to go hither and yon – all over the bay area really. saturday, sunday and monday you might find all four of us (or the three of them) down at the beach or up on san bruno mountain or on mount tam or in the east bay or in china town or even just downtown. jason likes to be on the move. so i think when tuesday rolls around, the three of us are ready for some serious down time.

unschooling just feels natural to us at this time. if the girls are hungry i encourage them to fend for themselves or ask me to help them prepare what they are in the mood for. usually i am the main cook. though earlier today they got smoked salmon, carrots and cucumber out of the fridge and ate them straight. now, it is 3 o clock and they are hungry again – they got cranberries out of the cupboard, i am warming up some miso and boiling water for some bowtie pasta. it won’t be long before they can do all of this on their own!

we walked around the block today in the rain. talked about how weather encourages different things – both going out and staying in are enjoyable in the rain. the light is different in the rain. people are in a hurry in the rain. people duck into bookstores in the rain – we did that and enjoyed two books illustrated by maurice sendak and written by sesle joslin – what do you say, dear? and what do you do, dear? they stomped in puddles and played with their umbrellas letting some rain drops hit their heads and some land on their tongues.

a lot of letting go is involved. whenever i ask myself what it is we are doing, i hesitate and wonder if it is because i am bored or directionless myself in that moment. then i try my best to not get too frustrated with the sensation and try to redirect myself. often when i feel this, the girls are completely engaged with something and i try and take it as a sign that it is time for me to do something for myself. that way, when they are ready to engage, so am i. or hopefully? there are moments when i want my alone time to continue, and this is where i have to practice both setting limits and being flexible. i am human and lose my cool and act like an animal too, but i am trying to be a good example now and again. i think it is important for them to know i am not perfect and that i do not know everything and that i am growing too.

they both still take a capoeira class once a week. they both still love it. viv still takes trapeze in spanish on mondays.

i am trying to go to yoga once a week and stretch every day. sometimes with success. some weeks with none.

oh right, social stuff! well, we are lucky that we have a lot of amazing people in our life. a day usually doesn’t go by without a visit to someone’s house or people visiting here. some are adults, many are kids, and really it is hard to keep up with making sure they get quality time instead of too many people at a time. when people express concern that the girls will not be properly socialized i have to giggle. these girls have plenty of friends. playdates several times a week and then on the weekend they are lucky to be exposed to our adult friends, some who have kids and some who don’t. that is one thing that city living provides – a lot of different people doing different things with their life. i feel a little guilty that ida doesn’t have many friends her same age, but that is the plight of the little sister. i am sure this will change with time. she is only four years old.

some recent happenings…

we made our halloween costumes. it took an entire day. ida was princess mononoke and i was her giant white wolf. viv was nausicaa – princess of the valley of the wind. jason was the comet that flew over the mission.

we marched in the day of the dead procession here in the mission. viv painted her own face – jason and i collaborated on ida’s. many good friends marched with us.

we also made a teepee on our garage roof out of bamboo clippings that were abandoned in the alley.

our cat passed away recently. we buried him under our fire pit in the backyard. in his honor, ida has been making many drawings of him on the iphone.

we ate apples on san bruno mountain.

how’s that for a ramble?!

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i like pretty much everything she has to say:

“The optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. ”

“The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.”

“If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business.”

“If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside.”

“Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of overparenting than an unhappy parent. One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”

 

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