Monday, June 30, 2008

Finally Ready to Open...

I have finally finished getting my etsy shop online! It was a somewhat difficult task and as I add more items, I am definitely going to use the kids' help for measuring and sorting and organizing.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. I recently decided to sell a large collection of copper and copper clad items. I think there are around 200 items total, but since they are scattered around a bit at the moment, I am not sure of the exact number. This past week Diana took photos of 19 of these items, and I started posting them on etsy. I have a huge number of jello molds. Most of them are selling for $5. If you want to check them out visit Copper Clad Treasures .

Here are a few things that I have listed so far...


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ending in Good Things

I was reading something someone had written on an unschooling email list, and it got me to thinking about endings. You hear people talking all the time about living in the moment - making this moment, and of course, the very next moment, as good as it can be. That is a very good thing of course! Sometimes though it can be useful to think in terms of endings.

I can think of so many examples, and I want to write all of them down, but I will stick to a simple one. You make dinner. Maybe it takes a lot of time, and you think it is special, and you know it is nutritious and tasty to you. You sit down at the dinner table as a family. One of your kids looks at the food askance and asks if he can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some baby carrots with ranch dressing (things that he likes and knows you have.) You could use your power to try to make your child sit at the table and eat what he is served which most likely ends with the kid not eating anything. What is the ending? The kid is hungry. Dinner was unpleasant. There is a lot of tension in the house. Now let's say you say, "Sure, go ahead and help yourself." Everyone else starts eating, and the kid who made the different dinner comes in a few minutes. What is the ending? Everyone is fed. You had a pleasant family dinner. Maybe you have leftovers of something you think is tasty and can have for lunch the next day. Your kid feels heard and loved.

There are so many moments I ruin by trying to control my kids. I am so much better than I was 10 years ago, but it is still a process for me. It is so different than what mainstream parenting specialists preach. It works though. I have seen it over and over again. I change my behavior patterns to less controlling, and my kids improve on their own because it is what they want for themselves. Now I think I will not only think about the moments but the endings. How many happy endings have I ruined by my trying to control? I want my children (and me too!) to have lives full of happy endings!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Math

My fifteen year old son Antonio has never used a math curriculum. He has had questions answered, and things explained but he has never done a math workbook or worked through a math textbook or had arithmetic methods taught to him in a sequential, consistent manner.

My son Antonio is great with numbers.

Today he was working on the programming for a new video game. He wanted the gun that he was designing to fire on the diagonals. He was talking it over with me showing me what he was doing. Antonio loves to discuss his programming! Sometimes it is difficult for the rest of us to sustain an interest though because it is very much his passion. He said that the place the gun would be firing would be 45 degree and then he'd have to add 90 to get each of the other angles so it'd be 135, 225, and 315. He wasn't writing anything down...and he only paused a second after each calculation in his head. He didn't use an algorithm. He could just picture how the numbers related to each other and knew the answers.

I know there are other people like Ant, but in my experience tutoring highschoolers in math, they seemed few and far between. Although most schools now struggle to incorporate "number sense" into their curriculums, number sense is not something that can be taught. It is something that is acquired by living in the real world and using numbers when it is necessary in ways that are useful or interesting. Curriculums are good at helping kids learn algorithms...things like how to "rename" (what use to be called carrying and borrowing) and patterns and tricks to make arithmetic in workbooks easier. With the advent of inexpensive, widely available calculators, knowing how to do arithmetic easily isn't even as important as it once was. But the real truth is, that kids who naturally acquire number sense will be able to do arithmetic and apply what they are doing to the real world much better than if they memorize some algorithms.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Transexuality, Homosexuality, & Freedom in Children

Today online, I was introduced to Kenneth Zucker and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. It seems that if you have a child who is exhibiting activities that seem inappropriate to his or her gender, you can take that child to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and have him or her treated.

What form does this treatment take? Well, to begin with, Zucker feels that if your child is participating in behavior that he sees as atypical for its gender, then there must be something wrong with the mother. (Sound familiar? It is easy to remember a time when autism was blamed on the mother.) So the mother has to learn to be a better (read more strict) parent.

Second, the therapist meets with the child and tells the child that all sorts of bad things will happen to him/her if he/she keeps up this behavior. For example, a four year old might be told that no one will play with him if he brings a doll to school. This line of reasoning is repeated throughout therapy. If you do the things that make you happy, bad things will happen to you, and no one will like you.

The third step is probably the worst. The child is to no longer be allowed to do any of the things that the clinic deems inappropriate for their gender. A boy must give up any toys with even a remotely feminine cast. If he is in a group play situation, he must play only with other boys and only with boy toys. His hairstyle and clothing must be masculine. No pink or flowers may decorate his room. His parents must be consistent and punish any infractions.

It is so hard to imagine anyone doing this to their child! First of all, it is terribly stereotypical. Who is to say what is girl behavior and what is boy behavior? I know that statistically differences exist, but there are overlaps. There is no black and white in this area! We are all different! I can't imagine trying to draw a line between what is acceptable and what isn't.

Also, telling a child that doing the things that make him or her most happy is bad, is very likely to lead to mental health issues! Even if this so called therapy worked in preventing someone from growing up to be transgendered, it would be sure to lead to a whole host of other problems. As I am sure most of my readers know, I believe that everyone, including children, has a right to pursue joy. Punishing your child for being themselves and actively pursuing joy goes against so much that I am for!!!

We only have so many days in our lives. Every day counts. A day when you are three or a day when you are six or a day when you are fourteen. Childhood is not a time to prepare for adulthood, it is a time to live! Children die. It is sad, but it is a fact. Through the internet I know several families that have had children die. Many of these families were unschoolers. (Not because unschooling children are more likely to die, but because most of my online friends are unschoolers.) In those families, the children really had a chance to live life! They weren't forced to sit in a classroom and to do homework and put in situations where they felt bad. They lived with love and support seeking joy. I cannot imagine a parent telling their son that he had to give up his best friend (a girl) because he might grow up to want to be a girl...*is baffled*.

By Kenneth Zucker's own admittance, about 20% of the children who go through his program still grow up to want to change there gender. He claims this as an 80% success rate. I say that some of those 80% are now so confused they don't know what they want (and may be terrified of being themselves) and the others probably would have never had serious gender identity issues when they grew up anyways. There is also the chance that some of the 20% he doesn't claim to "cure" may have not grown up transgendered but are actively rebelling against so much control!

Oh! The whole reason I have been reading up on Zucker is that he has been nominated to lead a working group that will be revising the sexual identity and gender disorders section of the DSM-V. This poses a problem. If someone with his attitude is revising definitions of mental health disorders, we are likely to move back a bit in our progress in this area as a society as a whole. There is a petition online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/objection-to-dsm-v-committee-members-on-gender-identity-disorders if you want to formally protest this nomination. If you want more information, just google Kenneth Zucker.

Soak Up the Sun


Come visit Faerie Garden Fancies, our new etsy shop! Currently featuring a selection of polymer clay pins including summery suns...


Gods and Goddesses...


And Diana's signature bunnies! If you want something particular, we also take custom orders. Diana is doing custom designed banners for etsy shops and custom headers for blogs too. She will work with you to create the custom design you are looking for are looking for! If anyone is interested comment here, and I will tell you how to get in touch.

Currently all items are Diana's designs, but we are planning on expanding to include the whole family!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Disclaimer

After the last post, I find it necessary to post a disclaimer. When I said that the books on my booklist were suitable for 9-18 year olds in terms of readability and content, I didn't mean that every 9-18 year old would be able to read the books or that every 9-18 year old would be able to benefit from or enjoy the content of them. By readability, I meant that they were written simply and unpretentiously. Regardless of how well one reads, it is never easy to wade through wordy, twisting sentences that never seem to say anything. By being of appropriate topics, I meant that there was nothing that the majority would find overly adult. There is no graphic sexuality, and although violence is sometimes portrayed, it is within the context of events in the lives of children, and it is not written about in an unnecessarily graphic way.

I realize that kids learn to read at different ages and at different rates. My daughter Lia, who is 10, would not be able to read any of the books on the list with complete understanding although she might enjoy listening to some of them. Right now her reading consists mostly of Amber Brown books and books from the Cobblestreet Cousins series. She also enjoys long picture books on a variety of topics (although she sometimes asks an older sibling to read them to her) and nonfiction on topics of interest to her (preferably with plenty of excellent photographs or illustrations.) As an unschooler, I do not teach my children to read. I answer their questions and provide them with help and books when they ask for them (and sometimes strew things when they don't), but I don't force anything on them.

My kids learned to read a very diverse ages. Emma never had a time when she couldn't read...she just seemed to naturally learn while she was learning to speak. Antonio wasn't a fluent reader until he was about 12. Esme learned at the age of four, but took a few years to go from reading easy readers to adult literature, becoming fluent at about the age of 8. JoAnn just learned to read overnight at about the age of 10. One day she was struggling to read the simplest of things, and the next thing I knew she could read absolutely anything sometimes better than me! I had heard previously of unschoolers just learning how to read with no help nearly overnight, but JoAnn was the first time it happened to me! Lia is the youngest and has always had people available to read for her so reading hasn't been something she had needed much in her life. She just recently caught onto reading (about the last six months) and is progressing through various reading stages (which I can observe by noticing what she checks out from the library and chooses to read at home) at a fairly quick rate. I assume she also will be able to read anything before another year is up.

Probably Antonio and JoAnn presented best the two extremes of learning to read the natural way. Antonio has had speech and language problems most of his life, and he struggled as he learned to read bit by bit following his own instincts and asking lots of questions! As a four year old, he had an idea of how language was put together. To a certain extent, he knew "how" to read, but he wasn't very verbal and it was another 8 years before he could really read. Antonio can now read anything, but reading is definitely not his preferred method of receiving new information. Oddly enough, JoAnn is my other child with language and speech problems. (It runs in the family.) She is very quiet and shy though. I had no idea that she was even really interested in reading yet. She listened to books, and sometimes did "pre-reading" sorts of things like making up stories to go with picture books and memorizing easy readers and reading them to herself, but she never asked for help or for me to explain how it all worked. Obviously she was observing and learning quietly within herself in her own way. One day, when she was about 10, we were walking along, and she said to me, "Mom, before I went by signs, and I had no idea what they said. Now I know what they all say, and I don't have to try to read them, I just know!" I was so surprised at her observation. Not long after that, she was picking up absolutely everything to read including the adult books I had checked out for myself from the library.

So don't feel bad if your 9 year old can't read the books on my list! Always follow your child's lead. Pretty much every free, normally abled child learns to read as long as they have access to print, readers available to answer questions, and an honest need or desire. The reason school children so often don't learn to read well is because they are made to feel dumb and given the impression that reading is something terribly difficult to do. The same goes for topic. Each child is different in what he or she is willing and able to understand and handle. If you have a sensitive child, be available to discuss difficult things that they have read about with them. Support them and allow them to experience all the emotions that the literature leads too. You will not only be helping your child learn to read better and to grow in their worldview, but you will also be building your relationship which is the most important thing that you can do!

Books

I just finished reading a great book. It really had a huge affect on me, and I thought, "Everyone should read this!" The truth is there are no books that "everyone" should read. Some people don't enjoy reading very much, and can learn and be entertained better in other ways. Some books that might be really, really good in a life altering way to me just might not affect someone else the same way.

Of course, many kids go to school and are told what to read. With school and homework, these same kids often don't have much time or inclination to read for fun. (I realize this varies, but when my daughter Emma went to public school for 7th grade she basically stopped reading anything she didn't have to with the exception of Animorph and Babysitters' Club books. She is a big reader and always has been accept for that one year.)

I think schools often stagnate in their choices for required reading. They stick to a few classics. Maybe they already have the books on hand. Maybe the teacher doesn't want to read something new or write new lesson plans. It is also true that more recent books written for the 9-13 age group are more likely to deal with contraversial issues that teachers just might not want to have to discuss.

"School at Homers" also often require certain books or at least books chosen from a parent or curriculum supplier's list. In the case of unschoolers, nothing might be required, but children still ask their parents for recommendations, and parents still bring things into the home to strew in case their children find them interesting.

In the spirit of helping out those who may feel led in some way to guide a child's reading, I have prepared a list of 10 books that I think are exceptional. All of these books had a huge affect on me, and I could highly recommend them to anyone. The list is far from complete. I only included books from series if they were excellent stand alone reads, and I limited myself to one from each author. I also stopped at 10. I will probably be adding more parts to this list in the future. Not all of these books were written for children, but all are appropriate both in readability and in topic for 9-18 year olds, although older kids might get more out of them. The list is in no particular order.

1. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
2. Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
3. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry
5. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
6. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
7. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
8. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
9. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nature Study

As spring turns into summer, opportunities to study nature increase. Here at Faerie Gardens there are so many interesting plants and animals to observe and learn about. I have seen more interesting bugs since we have lived here than in the whole rest of my life!

Yesterday, a weird beetle attached itself to my clothes. We still have not been able to identify it. It was at least an inch long with red flashes of color along each side and long, swooping antennae. It was some sort of long horned beetle but unfortunately our search ended there. While researching it, we found out about the Asian long horned beetle, an imported pest in our area that kills hardwood trees. I am quite sure that that is not what I saw (they have white spots all over their bodies and are a shiny black while mine had red markings and was a matte dark brownish-gray color.)

In addition to numerous bugs, we have been trying to identify all the caterpillars, moths, and butterflies that we have seen. I hang our laundry outside and recently a tent caterpillar actually built its cocoon on a pair of Diana's pants! It sort of grossed us out, but it was sort of cool too! Ant had a green and brown caterpillar in his bedroom this morning and took pics and then took it outside. Diana and the kids have been playing with millipedes. (They freak me out!)

I planted a sunflower garden, and I had some sprouts, but it seems they have died in the parching heat we have been experiencing lately. Since the earth is prepared I am going to plant something else there...maybe tomorrow! Our yard is full of an assortment of wildflowers including hawkweed, daisies, white clover, buttercups, cinquefoil, and others I can't identify. There are so many wild strawberries that the kids are picking a quart a day and not running out yet!

At the rear birdfeeder we have a male/female pair of indigo buntings visiting regularly as well as numerous chipping sparrows, chickadees, and goldfinches. One day we had 12 goldfinches at the feeder at once!!! Our platform feeder recently succumbed to a windstorm, but under the regular feeder we regularly see mourning doves and blue jays. Other visitors to the area have included brown headed cowbirds, cardinals, and a gray catbird. There is a flicker that likes to perch at the top of trees and cheep loudly! Woodpecker visitors have included the downy and the red-bellied. Diana saw a flock of turkeys in the woods, and of course, we have tons of robins and crows.

We have a new feeder in front but haven't seen any birds at it yet. When we first hung the other feeder it took awhile to get visitors so I am trying to be patient. Oh! Diana saw a hummingbird a couple of times too! We have see an occasional deer, but today the kids saw a baby deer, still with spots, in the woods. They came up on it so suddenly it startled them (and I am sure they startled it too!)

I am excited about our observations so far and look forward to seeing and learning about more new things this summer!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thoughts

We had been moving forward to get another computer (or two.) What we were really moving forward to though was a place where the kids wouldn't feel so frustrated because they weren't getting their need for computer time met.

Since Ant has got the PS2 online, he needs far less computer time! Sometimes your needs can be met in a way you don't anticipate.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Absolutely Awesome Unschooling Goodness!

For awhile now, Ant has wanted to get his PS2 online. There were lots of difficulties in our way, but for a long time we kept plugging away at overcoming them. Then the desire seemed to sort of fade, overcome by other desires. I forgot all about it! I don't know if Ant thought about it much or not, but he was busy with new interests - drawing & blogging at Deviant Art, playing with Devon, bikeriding, cosplay, etc.

Today he was sitting here next to me at the PS2, and he screamed, "I'm online! I'm not quite sure how I did it...I wasn't even really trying...but I'm online!!!" He is so happy. He immediately spotted some people and started playing Tony Hawk American Wasteland with them. One of Ant's goals is to have more online friends, and he is so very happy right now!

Books - The Akhenaten Adventures

This series of books, about a pair of preteen twins, John and Phillipa, who discover they are djinn (genies) and need to adapt to a whole new society, new worldview, and new concepts of themselves while still dealing with all the trials and tribulations of those about to enter puberty, is written by P.B. Kerr (who wrote the Berlin Noir trilogy for adults as Philip Kerr as well as several other adult novels in the same genre.)

I recently finished the first three books in the series: The Akhenaten Adventure, The Blue Djinn of Babylon, and The Cobra King of Kathmandu. The books were good reads and interesting, introducing the djinn culture as well as introducing bits of the culture in Egypt, Iraq, and India. JoAnn has read the the first one (beat me to it), took a break to read a few other things, and is now reading the second. She really like them! At her recommendation, Es started the first one and has been reading it off and on for a couple of weeks.

I would recommend this series to kids that like series about fictional characters; magic, myth, & history; and preteens with magical abilities. It adds a new twist to the crop of Harry Potter wannabe reads out there, and you or your kids just might want to explore!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Family Fotoblog

For about the past month, Diana and I have been posting nearly daily photos in our new family fotoblog. You can check it out at Faerie Gardens Family Fotoblog.

I got the idea for the blog from an unschooling group I belong to. One of the members decided that she would rather be someone who didn't blog because she often felt compelled to think up interesting things to write and also both blogging and following others' blogs were taking up too much of her life energy. Then she heard about project 365, a blogging project in which participants take one photo each day for a year and post it. She thought that sounded like fun and along with her son created a blog to participate.

The project grew, and now there are over 30 families in the shine with unschooling project 365 blogring. Of course, we are all unschoolers so we don't follow the rules! Lots of people don't post everyday and that is perfectly fine. Lots of members post more than one picture and that is fine too. Because these are family blogs, anyone in the family can choose to take and post photos each day.

Participating is a lot of fun, and I have grown to love our blog. It is a low key way to keep us all looking at our life and celebrating the joy that is there!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Moving outside my comfort zone...

As my kids get older, I am continually challenged to move outside of my comfort zone both as a parent and as a person. I suppose it starts the first time one is out of your site. Maybe you decide your three year old can play with her blocks unattended in the livingroom while you cook in the kitchen. Maybe your four year old can play alone in the backyard.

The trust goes further as the years progress. Your seven year old wants to ride her bike alone around the block or to spend the night at a friend's house or to browse in the children's section of the library while you are perusing the adult fiction section in another part of the building. There comes a time when you need to let your child do something that makes you nervous, otherwise you will stifle them and make them feel powerless. I firmly believe that feeling powerless is the root of much of human negativity, rebelliousness, unhappiness, and even violence. I do not want my children to feel powerless, ever.

So I trust them. I might express concerns, but I listen to their counterarguments, and we continue to discuss until we come to a conclusion that we can both agree on. It isn't always easy, and it often involves stepping outside of my comfort zone. I am the one with years of hangups and insecurities ingrained into every part of me. I am the one who is most likely being irrational. Sometimes my children choose to honor my insecurities even when they are irrational, but I do not thrust my distrust upon them. I work to listen to "who they are", and allow them to be how they need to be.

It isn't only in the parenting arena that I am stretched. As my kids get older, moving into their teens, they have more needs that are best met outside the immediate family. Maybe not "best met", but perhaps just that is the most reasonable option. If my daughter wants experience with farm animals, and we are not set up to acquire any, it is quicker and easier for her to get this experience with another family. If my son wants to learn auto mechanics, the same situation applies. I am not naturally a social person, but to best meet my children's needs, I am pushed outside of my comfort zone seeking opportunities for them to branch out into the world beyond our family and fly.

Through all of this I grow. It is one of the best side effects of both parenting and unschooling. Growing with your children. Learning new things about yourself. Becoming more than you ever thought you could be.