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.)