Whaaaat? A new post? October 7, 2009
Okay, I suck.
Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested in seeing the Learning Plan I devised for Bailey for the 2009-2010 “school” year. I don’t know if I did it right or not, but here it is anyway!
0. Being Present
Bailey is truly enjoying having autonomy over her life. She is learning about herself and the world around her by simply having as much time as she needs to do whatever she wants, and by having enough time to process what she has experienced.
1. Self Design
Bailey likes planning her days. She owns several calendars and clocks, and likes making charts for the family about chores, exercise, and healthy eating. She sometimes plans her outfits-down to the accessories-a week in advance. We use a pseudo-mnemonic device to remind her of what needs to be done at bedtime. (We call it “The P’s:” Pajamas, Potty, Polish (her teeth), Pets, and Plants.) I also intend to get Bailey to help me make meal plans and grocery lists.
Calendars, clocks, paper of all kinds, rulers, pens and other stationery. Cookbooks, internet sites and TV shows about cooking and organizing.
2. Wellness, Health, Physical Activity
Bailey prefers solo or small group fitness activities like Wii Fit, swimming, bike/scooter rides, and going for walks.
Bailey has most of what she needs for the above activities but may require a swim pass.
Bailey loves to read and generally goes through 2 or 3 chapter books per week. She likes humour and stories about girls her age. She recently discovered the Young Adult section at the library and is hoping to challenge herself with some titles from that section.
She almost always watches TV with the subtitles on because she likes to learn new words.
Bailey will continue to write stories, song lyrics, and poetry on the computer. She also wants to try her hand at stop-motion animation so would need to write a script for that. She also loves spelling and would like to try entering a spelling bee.
Dictionary, thesaurus, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” Canwest Canspell Spelling Bee study guide.
Bailey has expressed an interest in learning some Esperanto. She also likes it when I can tell her the French word for things as I have a background in French Immersion. She and I have also discussed learning the language of our people, the Nlha’7kapmx.
Esperanto: online courses
French: French-English dictionary
Nlha’7kapmx: try to find an elder willing to teach us, travel to Lytton for lessons.
4. Relational Skills
Bailey will continue to enjoy her friendships with the many adults in her life. She is fortunate to have so many people in her life who enjoy spending time with her and who want to share their talents with her.
She will also continue to play with her peers and work to make these encounters successful for all.
Bailey also enjoys discussing “life” with her parents, covering topics such as the value of being different, dealing with difficult people, and honing one’s leadership skills.
Family conversations, adult friends and mentors, Unitarian Universalist congregation.
As a family we like to study the late middle ages and early Renaissance period as we play in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). We attend SCA events including watching her stepdad at his swordfighting practice. We also read about the era and discuss what life must have been like back then. Bailey likes to compare how we play with the reality of the period (ie: most SCAers dress like the nobility whereas most people of the time were peasants).
Fellow SCA embers, library books, movies. Official SCA website, museum display.
Bailey is proud of her Nlha’7kapmx heritage and dances in the one Pow Wow per year that we try to attend (Lytton Rememberance Day powwow). She likes reading about legends, too, and I think she would love to hear stories from elders.
Friendship Centre, Relatives, library, “Donna Meets Coyote.”
Bailey loves to learn about where she is in the world and where other people are and other events happened. Maps fascinate her, and she loves to spend time exploring Google Earth.
Backroad Map Books
She would like to get an atlas, a globe, and possibly a topographical map.
Bailey lives in her head a lot of the time, and often shares profound observations about the world and herself with me. She also enjoys taking quizzes in magazines and writing in journals that have probing questions in them.
Discovery Girls Magazine, Journals such as her “My (Not-So) Perfect Life” book.
Bailey had math scared out of her from her years in public school so resists anything that reminds her of those days with claims that she is “bad at math.” Nevertheless, she doubles recipes, counts her allowance, plays chess, estimates tax, makes predictions, and measures things.
She will continue to do the above and is also looking forward to playing with some new resources (listed below) that I mentioned to her as possible Self-Design purchases.
She would like to try out an abacus as well as work with Cuisenaire Rods and expand our Lego collection. As a family we play board games and Bailey is open to the idea of trying a Dungeons & Dragons game.
8. Living Skills
Preparing food for the family continues to be a joy for Bailey. She is looking forward to helping with meal planning and grocery budgeting.
Numerous cookbooks and recipes found online and in magazines. A friend has offered to teach her how to make bread from scratch. Grandpa makes sourdough bread.
Bailey is adept at quickly finding information online, knows not to believe everything she reads, and to consider the source of her information. In addition, her typing speed is increasing as she writes stories.
She may wish to try Mavis Beacon typing and may require printing supplies.
Despite her fear, Bailey is interested in learning about insects. She appreciates seeing creatures up close. She also likes feeding birds at our feeder.
A magnifying glass and microscope would help Bailey see more detail.
She will continue to feed the local birds and learn to identify them with the help of Field Guides.
Bailey is interested in exploring the stars, and wants to know more about the sun and planets in our solar system.
A telescope would help her see further.
Books and posters.
We are fortunate to have the Big Little Science Centre, a hands-on science museum, here in town. Bailey also likes going to the Wildlife Park, the petting zoo, and to Grandpa’s garden and city gardens.
The places listed above as well as (hopefully) some museums in Vancouver.
Bailey is fascinated by “Rube Goldberg” devices and often tries to make them herself. She likes simple machines, too. She also loves watching shows on TV like Mythbusters and How It’s Made. She is intrigued by chemical reactions, and loves making volcanoes, milk kaleidoscopes, and slime.
Kitchen ingredients, books, internet, TV. She would like to add a marble roller coaster set to her Rube Goldberg collection as well as some more pulleys and wooden blocks.
Bailey loves drawing and designing, painting, and sculpting.
Sketch books, coloured pencils and pens, paints, charcoal, playdough.
Bailey likes to tinker with musical instruments but is not necessarily interested in formal lessons at this time. She has a guitar and a recorder, and wants a harmonica, small xylophone, and possibly a keyboard. She also loves to sing.
Musical instruments, microphone, CDs.
Bailey has been bitten by the acting bug and would like to try to find some work on TV and in film. She is also interested in behind-the-scenes work, especially stop-motion animation.
Performances at home for her family and/or recorded for others on our camcorder. Using our digital camera and some video editing software to make movies.
Bailey enjoys attending services at the Unitarian Universalist fellowship. She likes discussing controversial topics and seeing where she stands on the issue (for example, vegetariansim). As a family we like to visit the Mediation Labyrinth located in a local park.
Children’s program at UU fellowship, discussions with family. Books, TV, internet.
12. Global Ecology
Bailey has a big heart and wants to contribute to her community and the world. She participates in the Heifer Project through UU fellowship and will volunteer some time at Christmas to the Christmas Amalgamated program.
UU Fellowship, discussion with family. Books, TV, internet.
Free For All April 19, 2009
I am so fortunate to be able to stay home full-time with Bailey and (soon) our new baby. And thanks to Employment Insurance (EI), I’m able to stay home for another year yet.
Steve, however, is stuck working 40 hours a week. He says that it is worth it for him to see us so happy, but I can’t help wishing that we could all experience this full-time freedom. When my EI runs out in April 2010 I, too, will need to find another source of income.
We have some debts that must be taken care of. We’re not terrible with money, but we’re not great either, and we sometimes fall into the “gotta-have-it” trap. If we were completely debt-free we could live on as little as $1800-$2500/month. The lower amount is with a (very) generous grocery budget if we stay in our current tiny apartment. The larger amount is if we move into a 3 bedroom condo.
I could go back to university. It’s fully paid for and I get a living allowance. The thing is, I can’t figure out an end goal. What I really want to do with my life is raise my family in freedom. Sure, it would be nice to live in a mansion, drive a sports car, and travel in style all over the world. Honestly, though, I’d rather live in a small home, have a decent car, travel on a budget, and have my freedom.
Clearly, we need to make a plan. Eventually, I’d love to see us both at home as much as possible. I am confident that we will figure this out!
This picture was taken two years ago. It’s still one of my favourites!
Feeling The Fear March 24, 2009
It is nearly 3:00 a.m. as I write this, so please excuse any errors!
I just finished a very intense cry. Trying not to give TMI, it all started with a loving gesture from my husband. Somehow it triggered a stress response in me, and I couldn’t get my body to let go of the tension. My breathing was shallow, and my whole body was tensed up as though I was getting ready for flight or fight. Poor Steve was on the verge of falling asleep, but I asked begged him to stay awake.
How does a crying jag fit in with trying to live in freedom? Well, I got through it! Instead of merely trying to soothe the uncomfortable feelings and make them go away as soon as possible, I went against my usual pattern and felt the feelings further. (I’m going to be annoyed by that phrase in the morning when my grammar-brain turns on, but for now I can deal with it.)
Backing up a little…
Earlier this evening, Steve and I went to the hospital to get a tour of the labour and delivery ward. We are planning to have this baby at home, but I want us to be prepared for any outcome. The tour lasted — I’m not kidding — 5 minutes, max. I wish I could say it was because they were very busy, but they weren’t. The nurse didn’t introduce herself to us or ask our names. She quickly showed us the front desk as we walked towards another room. She opened the door to the room and told us it was the room where they do an initial exam. Then we walked briskly to a labour and delivery room (which happened to be the same room Bailey was born in :) ). We got a quick glimpse, and then she brought us down a hall, explained briefly that we wouldn’t be guaranteed a private room post-partum, and sent us on our way. I wasn’t expecting to be allowed to touch anything or try out the bed or ask a ton of questions or anything but… wow.
The whole tour was so surreal and ludicrous that Steve and I weren’t even annoyed. In fact, we chose to see it as a clear sign that we are meant to have this baby at home. We actually giggled about it as we walked to the car.
Anyway, the impending birth has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think the tour brought it to the forefront. When I was feeling my feelings in bed tonight I realized just how scared I am about this birth. I have been trying to deny the fear, thinking it would go away, and superstitiously worried that by acknowledging the fears I would cause them to manifest. (That’s the part of The Secret that I don’t quite get yet).
I am really afraid! I am afraid of the labour pain. I am afraid of giving up control. I am afraid of ending up in the hospital. LOL, I am also afraid of not ending up in the hospital and having to birth this baby without painkillers! I am afraid that I’ll make too much noise. I am afraid that we won’t save up enough money in time. I am afraid of other people seeing me naked. I am afraid of the post-partum pain.
After I finished crying and let Steve go to sleep I realized that in addition to feeling afraid, I now felt very, very brave. And proud. And relieved. I made myself a cup of tea and decided to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind.
I faced the dragon tonight, and I am totally fine. Now I just need to stay honest with myself about my fears. I am reading Birthing From Within, and it is fantastic. I think my main task from now until baby’s birthday will be to make friends with the dragon.
How I Came To Be An Unschooling Mom March 15, 2009
I grew up questioning a lot of what our society considers normal and necessary. However, when Bailey was a baby I never questioned the fact that we would one day be separated while she went to school. I researched most of my parenting decisions, and really had been preparing for the job of mothering since I was still a child myself. However, I had never consciously questioned School. It was the big “must do.”
Looking back, I can see the roots of my journey to unschooling. My parents and two teachers in particular were probably my biggest childhood influences. My parents are very special to me. We may have looked like a typical — though bicultural — Canadian family, but the inside story was slightly different from the norm. Probably without knowing it, my parents taught me to think outside the box, to value individuality, and to question authority.
My Dad was a tremendous influence on me. He is brilliant, creative, and gentle. And he is never bored! All my life he has bounced from hobby to hobby, immersing himself in whatever caught his interest until he had mastered it or until he found something else that interested him more. He has explored geology, canoeing, woodworking, art history, photography, Photoshop, gardening, bread making, writing, computer programming, and painting, among others. He is currently teaching himself Italian and Greek. He reads voraciously, and has passed his love of books onto me.
Dad has always played devil’s advocate, and tends to be a bit of a pessimist. Those traits drive me crazy, but taught me to think for myself, and to think things through. They also taught me the value of optimism!
He grew up in railway stations on the Prairies. No, he wasn’t a hobo! His dad was a station master, and they got to live in the train station. He seems to have had a lot of freedom, and tells us stories of riding in the engine from one town to the next and back. He also tells stories of playing with gunpowder and blowing things up for fun.
Every year of my childhood, we would go on a holiday for two weeks. I remember running through the woods, going on long hikes, learning about the forest. We also visited dams, museums, and big cities. I grew up with a great appreciation for British Columbia, because my Dad loves his adopted province so much. After each vacation he would compile all the photographs and his vacation journal into a family photo album. One summer we visited a lot of dams and locks. Weeks later as he worked on that year’s album, I remember him waking us up one night to tell us the title he had decided on: “Our Dam Holiday.” We still laugh about that one!
My Mom survived the Indian Residential School system, but was still hurting very badly as she parented us as best she could. Nevertheless, she forced herself into the mould of the stay-at-home mom, cleaning the house, leading Brownies, baking pies at Christmas, and always, always, putting family first.
Mom taught me that it was okay to be different, and also okay to play within the system when it suited us. She had another baby when I was 17, and watching her parent my sister has been profoundly healing for me. She has made some terrible mistakes in her parenting, but she has also struggled to heal herself at the same time. She readily admits to her mistakes, and constantly lets us all know that she loves us unconditionally. She uses those words, too, which is great. Written on birthday cards, spoken aloud to us, “I love you unconditionally.”
I had one terrible teacher in my life, several mediocre ones, and two great ones. The first was great, I suspect, because she was new. The class I was in was known throughout the district (I learned this later) as a “bad” class. I know that I was constantly picked on for being meek, different, “weird,” and I guess the bullying was not limited to peers. Halfway through the sixth grade our teacher had a nervous breakdown and quit! After Christmas, a gem of a teacher, Mlle. Boyd, graced us. When I think back now, I wonder how she felt. A brand-new teacher, her first full-time teaching position, and it is a class who recently caused a mental breakdown in an adult male.
I loved her. She saw me. She didn’t see the weird little girl who was too afraid to stand up for herself. She didn’t see me as a lazy underachiever. She saw me. She accepted me for the person I was, and she liked me!
I wanted desperately to please her. I tried my best on every assignment. It helped that our assignments were generally geared to our interests. I remember doing a report on our favourite animal. I remember doing a lot of art. I remember learning about people with different abilities, and meeting a blind woman who was in college. Mlle. Boyd had recently spent a year in France, and I fell in love with the country, resolving to travel there one day. Mlle. Boyd helped me to see a world outside of school.
The second great teacher I encountered was Mr. Kilby. I first heard of him in Grade 10, when someone pulled me out of English class to tell me about Advanced Directed Studies (A.D.S.). Mr. Kilby had designed the class especially for intelligent, underachieving students. There was no curriculum. The premise of the class was “time to do what you want to do.” And they wanted me!
Grade 11 came, and Mr. Kilby was even more amazing than I could have dreamed. He was mostly an English teacher, and I was lucky enough to have him for that class as well. Part of the décor in his room was a series of posters of poets. He had a small handwritten sign beside them: “These are pictures of some great poets. They’re all dead now.” Mr. Kilby was quirky, passionate, and treated us like the young adults we were. Almost all of us adored him. A popular film at the time was The Fisher King, and we all thought he looked like Robin Williams’ character. Another popular film was Dead Poet’s Society, and the parallels between Mr. Kilby and Mr. Keating (another Robin Williams character) were undeniable.
A.D.S. had two requirements. One was mandatory attendance at a camping retreat where we would all get to know one another. The other was some sort of project at the end of the year. Students in previous years had written poems, made films, and written research essays. The options were limitless, but we had to do something. We were allowed to leave the school grounds during class time if necessary, and Mr. Kilby would sign the required forms. We were allowed to go to the library during class. We were allowed to sit around and gossip during class.
Then the axe fell. Because there were so few people in A.D.S., the class was to be cancelled. After telling us the bad news, Mr. Kilby, visibly choked up, stepped into the hallway for a few minutes while we students sat in stunned silence. The year went on, and thankfully I was able to get into another one of his classes, World Religions, a fascinating class where we studied the beliefs and customs of religions from around the globe. At the end of the school year, the English 11 class decided to surprise Mr. Kilby by standing on our desks and saying “Captain, my Captain,” recreating a touching scene from Dead Poet’s Society. For the second time that year, I saw him get choked up.
In the 12th Grade, A.D.S. was brought back, only the admission requirements had to be loosened somewhat to include more students. It was still a magical class. In addition, I had two other classes with Mr. Kilby, Advanced English, and Advanced Literature. Mr. Kilby was working on his Master’s Degree at the time, and often told us that what we were doing in his class was very similar to the process he was going through.
I remember one day we had a substitute teacher who did not at all understand the spirit of the class. Looking back now it is hilarious. Back then, though, it was so frustrating to have to deal with this woman who entered into our zone and dared to tell us what to do! She made us (or tried to make us) sit quietly at our desks, refused to let us wander off to the library, and was terribly upset when we challenged her authority.
Mr. Kilby was honest with us. He told us about the trouble he had with administrators and fellow teachers. Many of his peers thought A.D.S. was simply a class for kids to goof off, and they refused to believe that we would do anything with our time, despite being proven wrong time and time again by previous classes of A.D.S. students.
These four people had the biggest influence on my decision to unschool, but the funny thing is that I am not sure any of them would have made that choice themselves. In fact, my teachers, who worked so hard within the public school system, might very well be horrified to learn that they influenced me in this way.
When I finally became a mother and watched my young daughter play, I began to despair about how school would change her, and change the magical relationship we shared. I remembered feeling so alone at school. I worried that she, too, would be bullied because she was different. My parents tell me I was a sunny, happy, outgoing baby. I don’t remember that, but I do remember being a sad, awkward, shy child. What happened in school wasn’t the sole cause of that change, but I believe it was a major contributing factor. I was unprepared for the cruelty of the other children. I was unprepared to deal with a system that viewed me not as an individual who (to the best of my knowledge) never participated in bullying besides being a target of it, but as part of a “bad” class. I was unprepared to deal with the mind-numbing boredom.
Slowly, I began to read online about homeschooling. I don’t remember when I first heard about unschooling, but it clicked with me immediately. Then Bailey’s dad and I broke up, we had a custody battle, and when things finally got resolved I was too scared to rock the boat. She ended up in school, and stayed there until the middle of Grade 4, when I finally felt I had the leverage to pull her out of school without fear of her Bio-dad’s wrath.
We are all deschooling now, Bailey, her stepfather, and me. It is hard to trust the process. It is hard to defend unschooling when I have no tangible proof that it is working. However, it is infinitely easier to live as though we are on vacation than it is to try to justify to my daughter why I would send her somewhere that I believe is harming her.
I am fortunate to have had such great teachers in my life, and I feel a great sense of peace with my decision.
Rabbit Hole Blog Day January 27, 2009
Saw this post on Boing Boing a couple weeks ago and thought it would be a good idea for me to try. So here goes. I was going to transcribe one of the stories I wrote when I was a teenager, but realized they would probably be better off read aloud in a Salon of Shame, lol. Instead, I’ll transcribe the first few paragraphs of the least horrible story I wrote back then, and then I’ll tell you about some of the others.
The Day of Death
It was a foggy, humid, mid-eastern morning. The heat seemed to rise from the pavement in swirls of tortured souls, begging for deliverance from the brutal sun. Swarms of the perspiring public strolled along sidewalks, dropping into air-conditioned stores for relief. Others sat on park benches in the shade, trying to end their hunger for a single, chilling breeze.
It was a day for short tempers. Passionate arguments broke out suddenly, and for trivial reasons. Old women visiting on porches in the suburbs quarrelled all day, their cackling voices carried down the street by the sunny, gray wind.
This was the day of death, and Death nodded, beginning his wait. Yes, the impending doom talked about for centuries was soon now. no longer would the radical street prophets be doubted.
Death drifted slowly over the earth, pausing every so often to whisper a solitary word into the air, to be heard by those who needed to hear it.
There you have it! The rest of that short story details what happens when animals go nutso en masse and begin to attack humanity for our environmental wrongdoings. Even the environmentalists are not spared, although they “were shown compassion and spared the merciless deaths used on the others. They passed away peacefully that night, and the animals watched them perish with what seemed almost like tears.”
I actually don’t know why I’ve hung on to these stories. Over the years I’ve managed to rid myself of most of the sentimental items from my childhood and adolescence, but I still have a few things. I’ve limited myself to one medium-sized box, and once in awhile I’ll take a trip down memory lane.
Most of the stories centre around the classic teenaged theme of tragic love, or celebrity love (or both). A humorous story that was co-written with my best friend details her pregnancy by Simon LeBon of Duran Duran and my engagement to Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue (oh, and my brief love affair with Jon Bon Jovi, who needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). Another story, handwritten on 7 loose-leaf pages with no paragraph breaks, tells of my subsequent marriage to Nikki Sixx and all the fun we had throwing wild parties. It was written when I was 13 and I am amused at my idea of ‘wild’ back then. There was some drinking, sure, but mostly we had indoor snowball fights with balled up paper.
The two longest stories involve both time travel and death. In one, I am magically transported back in time to 1979 where I meet, fall in love, and eventually die tragically with Randy Rhoads, who played guitar with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne. In the other, I am transported back in time to England in 1808 where I meet, become best friends for 11 years, fall in love, and eventually die tragically with Lord Byron, the womanizing romantic poet.
Another of my stories was written and illustrated in 1986 (when I was 12), but set in 2009. Apparently there is a horrible war taking place between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and a young boy who stepped into a time machine at Expo 86 convinces everyone to stop fighting, and then gets sent home after getting a tour of a typical home in 2009. Every room has a fax machine, the typical family’s computer has a CD-R drive and a laser printer, the phones are small enough to fit in your pocket (!), and there are “mini-computers that fit behind your 6 inch wide ties.” Oh, and don’t forget the bomb shelter attached to every home.
I think that’s enough Rabbit Hole Blogging for today! If there’s anyone out there reading this, leave me a link to your blog in the comments if you decide to do a Rabbit Hole Blog of your own.
Free! January 7, 2009
I did it! We did it!
I pulled Bailey out of school. It is still against her father’s wishes, but I tried my best to communicate with him. The e-mail I sent him went unanswered, and I asked him about it when he got to town for xmas. He said he didn’t receive it, so I gave him a heads up about it’s content, asked him to look for it, and told him I’d like for us to go for coffee to discuss it further. And then I never heard from him again except for when he visited briefly with Bailey, and he never brought it up. I coulda/shoulda brought it up myself I suppose, but I am tired of being the one pushing for open dialogue.
The two weeks she spent at home for xmas break were so relaxing, and it was so nice to have her around all the time. We got through a bout of head lice just days before xmas (sob) but learned all about the louse’s life cycle in the process.
Bailey got a hamster from us for xmas. We picked her up a few days after xmas, and Bailey named her Brownie…she’s black. She is the tamest, most social hamster I have ever seen! She sleeps in Bailey’s hands and in her shirt pocket. She perks up when we come near her cage, and appears to like us for more than our ability to provide food.
I have started a sister blog, So… what do you DO all day? where I plan to keep a record of what Bailey and I do on this new unschooling adventure. I’m doing it partly because I think it will be interesting to look back on all we’ve done, and partly so I have a record to save my ass on the off chance that Bailey’s father decides to take action against me. . . which given his past is highly unlikely.
In other news, I’ll be home with Bailey full-time now. As I’ve mentioned before I am pregnant and due in May. I wasn’t planning to go on maternity leave until April, but on New Year’s Eve I started having Braxton-Hicks contractions that lasted well over an hour, and weren’t relieved by anything. After a few days, my midwife told me that I likely have an irritable uterus, and that it would be best if I quit work early. I’m not on bed rest… just rest, lol. My boss has been much more understanding than I thought he would be, especially considering I am giving him next to no notice, and he doesn’t have the staff available to cover my shifts. I work one more shift, for 6 hours tomorrow and then I, too, will be free!
We are trying not to worry about the financial impact this will have on our family. I firmly believe that all will be okay. Ever since I saw The Secret I have been exploring the possibilities of positive thinking and visualization. Amazing things have already happened, so I just need to keep believing.
In closing, I want to revise something I said in my last post: “The teachers she’s had have been very kind, reasonable, gentle, understanding, and motivated to do their very best. But they all share the point of view that children belong in school, that you need to externally motivate children or else they’ll never learn, and that it is society’s duty to prepare children for the “real world,” which to them means university, a career, marriage, and the inevitability of taxes and death.” I shouldn’t have said that they all share a certain point of view. My best friend in the whole world is a teacher and I certainly don’t presume to know exactly what she believes about education. This has been bugging me since I re-read my last post, so I wanted to acknowledge it.