True Nature Meme

My true nature?

Doing a meme, explained below, I found this sentence, that supposedly tells me what is my true nature:

"She is a teacher - a really, really great teacher - and I am a radical unschooler, but we can still communicate deeply and honestly, even about learning."

It's from this post, about my sister.

Not bad - I do frequently find common ground with folks. I do like to communicate deeply and honestly. And I'm a radically unschooling mom, that's part of my true nature now.

Here's the meme, which I found at Ronnie's blog:


1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.


Not Back to School

Just a small note to say, I am SO SO glad we're unschoolers, and the boys aren't going "back to school" today.


I've been wanting to say that all day, and I didn't want to post on my facebook wall because many of my friends either teach or have kids in school. I know it's MY wall, but if you're my friend, I've invited you there, basically, and I don't need to be all in-your-face about how awesome it is that Seth's found unschoolers to game with on XBox Live, and Evan is sleeping in, and we're all home, together, and there won't be homework battles or getting-up-early battles, or long bus rides. I won't mention how cool it is that my kids can pee when they need to (without having to ask permission), get food when they want it, chew gum as much as they want, rest when they need to, read or watch TV or play games or cuddle or talk or daydream as they wish. On another day, besides back-to-school day, I may very well post some of that stuff.

But today, I'll just post it here.

Phew. (again) So grateful.


A Note to a Bowl

Dear Little Plastic Bowl,

Just a note to let you know, I have decided you are fine as you are.

Yes, you are stained, and yes I *could* clean you until you were discolored no more. I briefly considered scrubbing you with a Brillo pad, and leaving you to soak with bleach so you would be free of that red-orange hue.

Ah, but bowl, I have come up against my perfectionist tendencies before, and I know the crazy, Windex-streaked path that can lead down.

So, for today, I will let you be.

You still function perfectly well; you are everything a bowl needs to be - round, deep, the perfect size to hold soup and, apparently, Beefaroni. (Or maybe that's spaghetti leftovers.) You are one of the boys' favorites, and I'm sure you'll be with us for quite a while. You do not need to be perfectly clear to be well-loved. Your colorful sides will serve to remind us of meals happily eaten. And, if you were clear, you would be but one of a million bowls in homes and Wal-Mart Target department stores everywhere. But you, you are our bowl, and you are perfectly fine.

I know myself, and I would spend upwards of a half hour ridding you of every! last! spot! no matter what it took! to the exclusion of all else, while the rest of the dishes sat undone, dishwater growing cold, with me, irritated at interruptions to my single-minded quest. Instead, I'm doing the rest of the dishes, putting you all away cozy in your cabinets, and spending time with my guys.

I know you'll grow to appreciate your new/old look.


p.s. Tell your friend, the copper-bottomed pot, that our appointment with the Bon-Ami is canceled.


I'm That Mom

I'm that mom who is my children's friend.

Why? Because being their friend means I take their needs - and their wants! - seriously; I listen to them when they speak; if they seem out of sorts, I help them figure out what's wrong rather than blaming their feelings on moodiness or selfishness; I ask for their help but don't have expectations that they'll give it; I don't interrupt them - or I look for an appropriate time to - when they're busy doing something important to them.

I am my children's friend because if they have an interest I don't quite jibe with, I don't tell them it's stupid or ban it from our home, I celebrate their happiness with it. If they're slow getting ready to go somewhere, I see what I can do to help, I don't stand at the door and yell. I happily prepare meals for them, even if they could prepare it themselves, because I know it says "love" to them when I do so.

I am my children's friend because I give them space to explore their own values, I don't expect them to share mine. I don't tell them what they should eat, and I don't say things like, "There's no way you could be hungry!"

I am my children's friend because I am their mom.

Blogpost inspired by this post. And this one. edited to add: There are many links to other entries in comments on both of those links!


Unschooling Math

Image from xkcd.com

I just looked up a post I had written to unschooling basics a few months ago, about learning math, and liked what I had to say, so I'm reposting here!

I'd like to point out that more than likely, your daughters know how to "do math", they just don't know they know! It's nearly impossible to live a life and not do math. We *live* math every day, in every moment. As I'm sitting here, I see two windows in front of me. Each of those windows has a blind, and pulled halfway, I can see 19 slats on each blind. I have one computer screen in front of me, and the ratio of my screen size to my firefox window size is about 1: .75. I had to stop to count the slats, but by being here, sitting here and having open eyes and a fully functioning brain, I already *knew* that. Our brain takes in so much, all the time!

Ideally, doing math is really just putting what you already know down in words and symbols. It's using a specific language to express the *idea* of math. Unfortunately, schools have caused people to believe that math IS the symbols, which couldn't be farther from the truth. Unschooling allows kids the time and space to take in all of this beautiful math, all around us, in their own way. They are LIVING math, by being alive, and being allowed the time to process what they live. It all comes together, eventually, what they live and the language used to express it. We don't have to rush the language part, the abstract portion of it. Just be alive. Do stuff. Take time to just BE, and breathe, and dream. Watch the dust motes in a sunbeam - the number of them, how they play around each other. It can make music, if you let it! That's ALL math. You don't have to count the dust particles - just watch them, your brain will KNOW how many there are. You don't have to access the part of your brain that knows, to benefit.
What I've seen in my own kids is that when the need or desire is there for formal math notation learning, that part can happen very quickly, because they've been given the space for math to be a living, real thing in their life, not just symbols on a page. It doesn't have to look like math-in-school to BE math. Math is quantity, and space, and the relationships therein. You can't escape it. You don't have to turn real-life things into a "math lesson" for them to live it. Trust that their brains ARE learning it. IF the kids are interested, and curious, absolutely explore that interest, but don't feel like they're missing it if they don't do things that school would call math.
Oh, I looked it up because Peter Gray is looking for stories of real-life math learning. If you have some, you can let him know!


Three Books

Just in time for hibernating for the winter, I'm offering my reviews and recommendations for three books - books which, if I were able, I'd buy for every reading person I know. These are books I want to thrust in front of people: Read this! Read this! You must read this! No, really - you must! You. will. love. it.

Up first

Wherever Waters Flow: a Lifelong Love Affair With Wild Rivers by Doug Woodward

I admit I first bought this book because Doug is an unschooling Dad. I missed his book reading while at an unschooling gathering, but figured I wanted to support an unschooler, so before the end of the campout, I purchased a copy. Hmm... kayaking? Not for me. I don't like to be wet and cold, wet undies make me cranky, and I don't like the thought of hurtling through rapids in a lightweight craft that could decide to dump me out at any minute. But, you know... I like Doug pretty well. That night, I couldn't sleep, so I picked up the book, angling it in my hands to catch the shaft of moonlight coming in the window of the cabin. I figured a few paragraphs should be enough to put me out. Two hours, and many contortions to keep moonlight on page later, I reluctantly put the book down to get some sleep.

Woodward, known as one of the founding fathers of kayaking in the Southeast, lured me in with his stories of seemingly impossible survival, and his obvious love for the water he writes about. Stories of building kayaks in the basement, trying new waterways, and being enthralled with it all. His love and gentle spirit shine through the book, making the book more than the sum of its stories... though the stories are plentiful!

Stories of helping the crew of Deliverance find the right spots and film the whitewater scenes in that movie - and ending up as a stunt double. Woodward writes, ""James Dickey changed my life. I met him only once." Doesn't that make you want to read more?

Stories of teaching Jimmy Carter to kayak, stories of first descents, and indeed, stories of friends lost to the river. This is a beautiful, beautiful book. When I finished, I immediately turned to the first page so I could begin it again. This is me, holding this book out to you, saying, "Read it! Read it! Really!"

Who should get this book: Any water enthusiasts - kayaking, canoeing, swimming - or anyone who's ever even tried. Anyone who enjoys rivers for any reason. Any fan of the movie or book Deliverance, or fan of James Dickey. Any nature-lovers. Unschoolers, or homeschoolers. Anyone interested in living off the grid. Anyone who loves a good story. You.

Second book

Dixie Lullaby: a Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South by Mark Kemp

Another book that took me by surprise! I had read a few reviews, and I was a little interested because I was familiar with Mark's writing, but... it sounded like a music geek's book to me, not a book that I'd be overly taken by. But from the first page of the preface, where Kemp details learning about the desegregation of his elementary school, I could not put this book down. A harmonious weaving of the political that is personal and the music that sings to the heart of both, Dixie Lullaby took me on a ride through the 60s and 70s as seen through Kemp's childhood reminiscences and the perspective that adulthood brings, on through the 80s & 90s to the early 2000s.

Finding correlations and relationship between his own view of the South, and the music that was made here, I was struck the entire time I was reading it by Mark's heartfelt love for both. Mark has a fine, fine mind and way of thinking that even someone not familiar with this music will appreciate. He successfully intertwines his own story of using and recovery, and making peace with his father into the narrative.

If I could, I would sit in your living room and read this book aloud to you. It is beautiful. Halfway through, I started making myself slow down, so the book could last longer. It's that good. I didn't want it to be over!

Who should get this book: Anyone raised in the 60s & 70s. Anyone from the South, or who knows someone from the South. Any fan of The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, R.E.M or Drive-By Truckers. Anyone who loves music of any kind. Fans of Rolling Stone, or Option. Anyone who's been moved by a song. Anyone affected by segregation or desegregation. You.

Last but not least

Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally by Patti Digh

Oh, where do I begin? I found Patti through her blog, 37 Days. I kept reading references to it on other blogs, until I finally clicked over, read my first post there, and was hooked. I became a fan. When I heard Patti was creating a book that included 37 of the essays from her blog, I immediately knew I wanted a copy. Her amazingly wondrous, moving, challenging essays in a form I could carry around with me? Sign me up!

I was so happy to get the book when it came out - and I found there were exercises after each essay, to help you take action to integrate the point of the writing. I have had friends tell me this book has changed their life. Knowing Patti, and reading her essays, has changed mine.

Patti's writing helps me to be present, fully present, with the people around me. In her preface, she writes that we'll learn "how to know what to care about, how to treat others around you (and yourself), what to question, how to love, what to stand up for, and why you should tell stories and listen to the stories of others." Her writing is personal and helps bring the sacred to the surface of nearly any exchange.

Call me, and I'll read an essay to you over the phone, and keep reading until my throat is dry and words won't come any more. Read. this. book!

Who should get this book: Anyone wishing to live more authentically. Anyone facing death. (and, let's face it, we all are) Anyone facing life. (ditto) Anyone going through a hard time. Anyone exceedingly happy. Anyone wishing to connect more. Anyone with friends, or family, or self. You.

This wasn't deliberate - I just noticed it! - but all three authors happen to be North Carolinians. Go, NC!! Let a little of our Carolina sunshine into your winter days, get these books, huddle under your covers, then let me know what you thought. I know you'll love them.


Now, What Did I Come In Here For?

I'm having a lot of trouble finding my words, lately. I wrote about something related before, in a joking way, but this is... a lot of the time, now.

I'm feeling such big things, and having deep reactions, and I know what I want to say... but the words don't come. I haven't written here, and there are many, many replies on unschooling email lists that I've wanted to write, and haven't been able to. Even on facebook, I start to update my status and the word that I need will be just out of reach. I can think of other words that start with that letter, or that end similarly. Sometimes I calmly wait until a substitute word floats its way to my mind, or sometimes I pull up thesaurus.com - starting from way, way out from where I want to be, 'cause that's as close as my mind will get, then circling in closer and closer through clicking on related words, narrowing it down, until: a-ha! That's it!

I'm mostly at peace with it; it is what it is. I am here, with whatever this space is of not finding the words I really want.

I was talking with my sister the other night, and we were joking about it (getting older!), and she said, it could be from lowered estrogen levels. Which makes sense, 'cause I remember those studies that said for every word that a man said, women said 3,000 words, or something like that. So a word-estrogen link makes sense to me.

It's taken me three days to write this post so far, off and on. I was commenting on someone's facebook status today, and it took about 5 minutes for the word "integrity" to come to me. I knew it started with an "i", and I could picture what I wanted, a wholeness...

And I'm so frustrated, 'cause I've wanted to write about being in recovery, no longer being in recovery, and Patti Digh's post today would be the perfect springboard for that - because of these words: "Sometimes I wonder how much we invest in our own woundedness when investing in our capacity for joy might be right at hand, just there, just on the other side of the glass." Because I stopped going to my 12-step group because I stopped believing I was broken, and that's where the groups met, at the broken places. No one in meetings saw me as whole, and OK. I want to meet with people with whom I can invest in our shared capacity for joy.

But I can't write about it, because the words are hiding from me.

I'll look into Estroven, which my sister told me about, and see if it's something I want to try. If I feel able, I'll do research on losing your words and what it might mean. (I'm also finding it difficult to read very much at a time.) I really, really wish I qualified for Medicaid, or yes, that we had a public option already.

I'll trust that I'm right where I'm supposed to be, for whatever reason, and work to see how I might not be here any more.

I'm wondering if, as a new me emerges, through life coaching, and looking inside, and growing - maybe this blog doesn't fit me any more? Maybe it's not the words, it's the container? I haven't tried writing too many other places, that might be something to look into.

Well, actually, yes I have tried, but I get frustrated and stop.

I also wonder, maybe I'm not supposed to be writing, I'm supposed to be doing. And be-ing.

I'll keep you posted, one way or another ~