Monday, June 13, 2011

We Shine

Here I am blogging from the We Shine Unschooling Conference. I am also learning how to use Ant's CR-48. So far, so good, on both counts.

Yesterday I was a little bit overwhelmed with all the people. If there is a We Shine next year, I think I will be seeing if my family will agree to a slightly more isolated cabin/campsite. I can't shut out people I know or who know me very well, and I can't tolerate too much interaction. What I would really like is to hang out with a bunch of people who are having fun in such a way that I can just sit there and not say anything and still feel safe...until I want to say something. I realize that building those kinds of relationships takes time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things We've Explored This Week

Dr. Who
Google I/O 2011
The Best Ways to Hard Cook Eggs
Jazz Dance
World War II
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
New York City

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dealing with Differences

We are a family outside the box. We have same sex parents, we have mixed race children, we live in a very rural environment, we earn money in non-traditional ways, we live well below the poverty level set by the federal government, our children are unschooled, we are polyamorous & bisexual, we are religiously diverse and dabble in non-traditional religions.

At the same time, we don't really feel too different from any one else. I mean we all have our quirks, right? We also support each other. There are six of us here, and for the most part, we are a cohesive unit. Matter of fact, sometimes it is hard to remember that we are all individuals with some needs that vary from each other!

How do we deal with our differences? It is not always easy. First, we listen. We listen to each other well and try to deal with differences when the first hint that they exist occurs. We brainstorm. We work hard to think outside the box. If someone needs more space, we think: can we use our space differently? Non-traditionally? If someone needs more quiet, we think: when and how can this best occur in the context of our lives. Feeling poor? How can we best use the money we have to meet everyone's needs? How can we work together to earn more?

Sometimes there are roadblocks, but in the end, things always work out. I think people are often too quick to say that things are not possible. I think parents are often too quick to control. I do not like to hear my kids disagreeing, but in reality, they are usually better and quicker at figuring things out, if I do not participate. Matter of fact, when I do try to help, they often all end up laughing at me! (Which I will admit is my "last ditch" effort to relieve the tension of some arguments.)

Thinking outside the box in relation to our relationships with the individuals in our immediate families is one of the things at the foundation of unschooling. At unschooling gatherings that I have attended, there is a huge sense of peace. Parents are not engaging in power struggles with their children. It is funny too because other than the lack of power struggles things are about the same as at any gathering of families. There are not more children running wild. Parents actually seem calmer not more harassed. There is no obvious difference in the interactions at the events than that the parents don't try so hard to control. They listen to their kids and work things out in the same ways that one would work things out with a friend who they might be traveling with. They treat their kids with respect.

It is quite shocking after attending an unschooling event to be at the playground with traditional families and to see them in the store or at the beach. There will be so much screaming and crying, and it is just so unnecessary! Listen, work together. Yes there may be times that solutions are difficult or slow in coming (just like sometimes occurs with adult friends), but a feeling of respect between parents and children can create a foundation of a childhood (teenhood, young adulthood) spent in joyful companionship instead of angry control and resentment.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Sound of Music

Music has always been a big part of our family life. When the kids were little, Joe would listen to his funkadelic music, and I would listen to my old '80's tapes, and Emma and her toddler friends has a ton of kiddie music tapes with Raffi and the Sesame Street: In Harmony series being the favorites.

As they got older, I started listening to the radio and picking up some new CD's, and the kids would often be found dancing around me as I did housework, letting me know what songs they liked the best and enjoying the music to the fullest.

When Joe and I separated, I moved to the hood, and we discovered the joy that is hip-hop with its always dance-able beat and humorous lyrics, and the songs of the neighborhood became our family's anthem for joy in the midst of hardship and play in the midst of chaos. When I met Diana, we bonded over those same anthems. I once joked that Diana and I could never break up because it would just be too weird to be bursting into tears at the sound of Get Low by Lil Jon or Tipsy by J-Kwon.

As Em became a teen, she embraced all things pop culture, twisting and turning them and rocking them into something that was completely her own. We listened to Britney Spears so often that we developed a southern accent. Bedroom walls were adorned with Mary-Kate & Ashley, Lindsay Lohan, and N'sync. I still had my own favorites to listen to such as Evanescence and Smash Mouth, and the beat of the hood was always underneath filling out the soundtrack of our lives.

Now we are here in the country with a new crop of teens listening to music that they love. This would be K-pop and J-pop and touhou and C-pop. It is a bit further from my preferred tunes, but not disliked by me either. I am happy to have been exposed to pop music from around the world by these people who I love and share my life with.

Our big music tradition of the moment is to create a family CD for each season. We load it with mp3's so we fit a lot of music on those CD's. Listening to past CD's can evoke the feelings we had during events and road trips associated with that season. We are currently trying to whittle down our list to 80 or so songs for a Shine CD. The variety of music is awesome!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Today I realized that Paris and Nicole haven't visited us in a very long time, and it made me a little bit sad in my heart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Coming of Age

Lia and JoAnn have been participating in the Coming of Age program at a local UU church for the past 9 months. This Sunday, they will be presenting their credos (statements of belief) to the congregation. I am excited for them!

Esme is has two projects going on. She is finally tackling the drawing from life portion of her art school portfolio, and she is working on a series of drawings (not from life) that her sister commissioned for the nursery for her daughter (who is due near the end of August.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Passions

Things are busy here at Faerie Gardens. Although you can't necessarily tell it from the weather, we can all smell spring in the air!

I have been returning to my regular walks. I haven't taken a long walk yet, but I am going to soon! My next goal is to walk to the Super Wal-mart in Granby. It is about 4.5 miles from here. I will just go one way, calling Diana to pick me up when I get there. It will be my first really challenging walk, and I am excited to see how I do! I am also increasing my knowledge of ASL. I have some hearing loss, and as I get older, I worry about more. Having another way to communicate with people can only be an asset. Lia, Jo, and Es are learning too although at a slower rate.

Diana has been working a lot on her art and on Faerie Garden Fancies. She is eager to spend more time outside but is also not willing to until the weather is a bit better. I hope that is soon!

Ant as always is being a Renaissance man. His knowledge in so many different areas grows by leaps and bounds every day. I love how eclectic his conversation starters are. Today it was, "Mom, in the Googleplex..." I never know what he might be about to say when he comes out of his room to talk to me! In addition to his knowledge gathering, he has been crafting. His current project is making wrist straps and charms for hand held gaming systems. He is hoping to sell some of these when we go to the Shine Conference in June. Like Diana, he is eager for warmer weather so that he can be active out-of-doors more frequently!

Esme just spent a week in Wisconsin with her friend Allie! This trip which has been in the planning for over three years was a huge success! Not only did Es enjoy taking the train there and back (a 13 hour trip each way), she had a great time with Allie and got to meet a lot of Allie's friends. (I think they had sleep overs nearly every night!) She got to see some of Chicago and enjoy multiple trips to the mall, and eat lots of pancakes and poptarts.

Josie has been plagued with illness the past 6 weeks or so and is struggling to get healthy. This is giving the girls some set back with their dance practices for Shine. She is slowly but surely getting better but still spends a lot of time lying in bed reading or relaxing in a cozy chair and writing long stories on the computer. At her high energy times, she is often found in the kitchen cooking, her passion of the moment.

Lia is still a bundle of energy. She has recently taken up gymnastics, Arabic bellydance, and yoga. Sometimes she instructs her sisters in these activities, and she also makes a lot of videos. She still loves painting and sewing, and is always looking for new sewing projects. She is going to make herself a dress for the Shine dance, but she is trying to wait until it gets closer because she is worried her size might change. She also has a new interest in mathematics and is using Khan Academy and me as resources to learn some new things in that area.

The girls are already spending a lot more time outside, which is good for all of us who find the long winters a little wearing in this tiny trailer!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Lia has a new passion. It is sewing. Rarely a day goes by that she doesn't sew. Most of her sewing skills she has learned from watching tutorials online. She is really good and perseveres when she has difficulties. JoAnn is always asking her to make things for her or to modify her clothing. This is a huge praise because JoAnn is very particular about both her things and her clothes.