Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Being Barefoot

After an emotion filled day with Sylvia practicing Inner Bonding and Connecting Within, I have been able to move through the last few days with a sense of wonder. It has been interesting to me how committed I am to using the process to adapt to my demanding world.

It's a powerful magic. Opening to my inner guidance (a force that I believe has the highest and best interests in mind for my well being) allows me to calmly accept the wisdom that my connection to the divine assures me is solidly aligned with the natural order of things.

Being fully me in every moment I am am able, is the greatest expression of life that I can offer.

Stepping outside to listen to the birds is all it took this morning. Have you noticed your local crew- I love the stories my children and I concoct about the large, vocal bluebird- he is the neighborhood sheriff, who keeps our cat in line, protecting the birds on his beat from the imminent canine threat.

There is so much to learn from just being, here, now in places that vibrate with life and offer mysteries untold. No need for plans, lessons, the builders of the future will map out their own journey, the experiences had will provide the data to learn from...

Everything always comes back to learning for me, "how" the human mind processes it's experiences.

What a lucky mama am I to spend my days pondering such things and loving such beings.


















Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unschooling Advice

Ok kids... and adults... and humans of all kinds... people!

We all learn the same. We observe, we experiment, we reconsider, we formulate our opinions, we test our theories, we fail, we succeed, we repeat... life happens along the way.

What if the life happening part was the important stuff?

What if you took a moment to savor the peppery flavor of the perfectly cooked steak your husband prepared? What if you told him thank you, and gave him a long lingering kiss?

Can you imagine being excited about your life? Creating moments that thrill you?

Don't wait for it- make it happen. Do the things that you imagine you would like- and wait breahlessly for the reality... enjoy the messy experience of being alive... let your life happen.

Sometimes it will feel fantastic, other times a bit drastic- but my advice as a mother of four wonderful human beings (cool to be a creature that earns bragging rights just for procreating) is: jump in, bounce as high as you can and always breathe deep as you land softly, exactly where you are supposed to be.

P.S.Do things that require gloves. Be your beautiful self. Stop and greet the trees.













Thursday, September 11, 2014

Healing Days

This "school year" has been interesting, as I practice balancing my own desire to plan, organize and connect homeschoolers of all types, with my passionate belief in an "unschooling" style of learning for my own children.

Today I find myself frustrated, irritated and hot. It is a hot day and half the foursome are feeling under the weather. I lost my temper a little bit ago and I am processing the guilty ickies as quickly as possible. I am not feeling 100% myself. I desperately need time alone to replenish and refresh my inner child's need for loving mama attention.

All four of the sweeties are also in need of some focused love and tender care. I have been busy with work and volunteering. Both of these pursuits are also "for my kids", but I find that they don't really care about that when I need to keep putting them off to handle details that seem urgent and important to me.

The thing I am wondering about how to do better is this: am I leaving them to their own devices too often? There is so much else for me to do in each day, and while I respond to their requests, trying to keep myself available, they seem bored. They want to do things with me, but not the things I need to do. Primarily the keeping of our magical cottage - cleansing the copious amounts of clothing and sorting & storing the stacks of stuff, and fending for and fixing the feed that fills and fits into both our budget and our busy-ness. 

It is feeling difficult to be in the moment with them, because not only do I have so much else to do, but I don't really want to do what they are asking me to do. Times 4. Not that I never want to, but lately I am feeling like the moment I start to do something that needs to be done- anything at all- somebody interrupts me. They may just need to know how to spell a word, or want to know where a toy is, but sometimes they need my full attention to discuss, or help to do, something that feels urgent and important to them. 

There are many, many times a day when I hear screaming and suspend my attention for a moment, waiting to see if someone is mad, sad, hurt or just pretending to be one of those things... my nerves are totally frazzled. I am in total reactive mode and I am not sure how to move into "being in the now" mode. The thoughts that come to mind feel controlling, directive and impatient.

Reading back over this post I see the issue. 

It's right there in bold letters. That simple sentence. I desperately need time alone to replenish and refresh my inner child's need for loving mama attention.

All these other issues are just the stories I tell, the words I use, to try to express that feeling.

And in conclusion, I am thinking I should change my RSVP from a Maybe to a Yes for this splendid event: http://www.connectingwithin.com/conscious-mothering/conscious-mothering-mini-retreat-series/ 

Happy Thursday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Unschooling Update

While our friends who are enrolled in independent study charter schools are diving back into their homeschool studies for the school year, things are not much different than the summer time has been for my family. This year we are filing independently and I am allowing the kids absolute freedom to pursue what interests them.

For G-pie (the 12 year old) this means make-up tutorials on YouTube and a recent blossoming desire to become a YouTube personality. Her favorite is https://www.youtube.com/user/C0OK1EMONSTER. Yesterday we spent the better part of an hour watching snippets she had selected to share her passion with me. Last week I asked her to give me an overview of all the channels she is subscribed to and what she likes about them so we can start planning her channel. She worked for several hours and filled 6 notebook pages and then came and said we'd have to split up the footage she wanted to show you in our next 5 one-on-one's. She had 5 hours of YouTube videos to share with me. I am really excited to share this journey with her. She also wants to learn to play the violin and join a rockclimbing class. She is excited about the first board meeting of the year with our 4-H Club. She is the Recreation Leader.

My 6 year old, J-cakes, has decided she needs to know how to read. So we are starting a fun weekly class with a few of her friends to explore reading in playful and low pressure ways. She is also interested but withholding judgment about the Magic Tree House book club I am running for Learning Barefoot, my homeschool enrichment program. She mostly wants to do make-up with big sister, but I see her most often drifting away after the make-up is applied to play pretend, talking to herself and including her little siblings as players in her highly imaginative dramas.


Processing a little mama guilt over not being able to do any one-on-one's with her in a couple weeks, but at least Sugar Daddy got his in while G-pie and I were seeing The Giver on a double mommy/daughter date. She loves the beach, so we have undertaken a big project- to walk the OC coastline (not all at once). We started in Seal Beach a couple weeks ago- we didn't make it very far.







The older girls have been watching several episodes of Full House daily as well, it makes me nostalgic and surprised at what great parenting those men modeled. They will also be attending yoga and continuing their fabulous Herbal Studies class.



















{Insert deep breath} My 4 year old, C-dough, is into Rabbids Invasion, Spongebob Squarepants, Wallykazaam, Wild Kratts and Octonaughts. He loves cereal and would eat it at every meal if we could keep it in stock. He loves sandplay and dirt and seeing friends. He wants to make playdough or goop or oobleck every day. He has always allowed his bigger sisters to apply make-up (sometimes monster faces) and dress him up and he is starting to act a little silly and embarrassed when he comes to show me. I am curious about this. He is learning to recognize how his emotions make him react physically (especially to his baby sister).

C-Dough knows his alphabet and can count to 20. He loves abcmouse.com and plays daily for 20-60 minutes. I am trying to find more time to sit with him to enjoy his interests and hoping to find a way for him to do what he keeps asking to do- build a robot. And just now he came running in to tell me the new Dora and Friends was on and he was super excited to watch it. He is also getting very good at pretend play, even directing the show with M-cube when she allows it. {I am aware that many believe that the effects of so much media on a child this age is detrimental, I am trusting that the large amount of outside play and sibling interaction he gets throughout the day is balancing that.}


The middles are enjoying the "busy bags" I have been making them for when I am trying to get work done. They both approach them so differently and usually end up working together to make them even more interesting than I imagined.



Lastly, my baby girl, M-cube. She is the picture of a perfect two year old. She is completely adorable and totally "terrible"- often in the same moment. She screams piteously when her baby doll won't sit up the way she wants her to. She laughs gleefully when I do "This Little Piggie" and she always says, "other one, mama". She sings little made up songs all day. She loves to snuggle mama. She is fearless and courageous on the tallest of play structures. She is independent and explores to the furthest boundaries she can when we are out and about. She sleeps erratically and hates to nap. She can count to 10 and has a HUGE vocabulary. She has finally accepted another grown up into her circle, and I am so grateful to me dear friend mrscave08. I am hoping to get more involved in Signing Time with her, she really loves the music and knows a lot of signs.



Then there is me. How am I "unschooling" myself, you ask? Well I will tell you- I am Learning Barefoot, as always. Just keeping on moving in the direction that feels right. An incredible balancing act and something that requires much yoga.

This coming "school year" (while we are choosing to unschool, my kids enjoy the traditions and milestone markers that we weave in, both seasonal observances and cultural happenings). I am feeling like my work is pulling me away from my kids, I am exploring options and letting go of what doesn't work with ease and gratitude. I plan to deepen my practice of yoga and keep working on my other passion - food management, preservation and cooking with my CSA basket from www.abundantharvestorganics.com.


As a family we are learning much about how to compromise and collaborate, it naturally follows respectful communication and honoring each other's desires and feelings; allowing each of our 6 family members the space and support they need to process their growth spurts, as they develop through phases and stages.

We are blessed to have our happy little magical cottage to call home. We are grateful for our community of family style learners. We are ecstatic to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and to be exposed to so many opportunities to explore the world. This is going to be our best homeschool year ever.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Wonder of Rabbit Holes

Being a "homeschool" mom for the past 7 years I thought I understood child-led, or interest based, learning. I delighted in watching the synapses fire as one of my four little darlings discovered something new or figured out how things in their environment worked. We lived in a constant state of wonder and we were curious about everything. And as each child has joined our happy little tribe, we have gotten curiouser and curiouser.

In California to "homeschool" you basically either belong to a (publicly funded) charter school and follow a course of independent study or you become a Private School and design your own educational approach. We have always belonged to a charter school and my kids have done "well" according to certain measures- you know, like standardized tests and approval ratings from family and friends. But I don't want to raise people pleasers or test takers. I want to raise thinking, feeling, connected humans. The way I have been doing it wasn't quite right.

The charter school is sort of like The Matrix in my mind. It is a construct that is pre-programmed and when you enter it you can be traced by any government agent. It is dependent on the belief that the system is working.

Last weekend I realized I was still searching, I knew the answer was out there. I had a scary panic attack, (while trying to "prove" in a concise learning log, what I as their mother was fully confident of) that made me open my eyes a bit wider. Charter schools require a learning log every 20 days, showing new learning in each subject. But I know -without having to provide a worksheet sample - that my 4 kids are all doing great according to each of their own learning styles.

Previously doubting and wary family members have now conceded that my kids are well adjusted, smart and they have peer relationships and know how to find their way in a group. They are also comfortable talking to other adults and they don't rebel against authority because they don't feel their freedom is threatened by it. Because I worked very hard to absorb the stress that our modern system of schooling places on children- basically I became Morpheus and was piloting our Nebuchadnezzar as close to the surface as possible.

The problem was, this was taking it's toll on ME! My focus was constantly on them. My life revolved around their activities and my "free" time was spent gathering resources and information or tracking and recording what they are doing for some elusive "permanent record" that the state says they need. This was not a lifestyle they were eager to imitate and any mom knows kids learn all the most important stuff through imitation- walking, talking, eating, pontificating...

With all the wonderful sources of education available, along with our family's decision to live in a consciously committed community- and constant, frequent advances in the fields of technology, we have found it easier and easier to find ways to learn what we need to know. We have also realized that when you need to know something you learn it fast.

For example my 12 year old didn't read until she was 8. I spent a lot of time reading to her, so she didn't need to. Then she discovered a book series all her friends were reading, and they began to create their play based on these stories. All the kids in our groups used these books as the manual- if there were disagreements they didn't come to us, they went back to the book to solve the discrepancy. She was reading 4 grade levels ahead within 6 months. She resisted memorizing times tables until she got fascinated with working long division problems and needed to multiply frequently.

We don't even know what the world we are preparing them to inhabit will look like. Our kids need to know *how* to learn, our schools teach what they think children should learn.

We have decided that next year we will file independently and unplug from the Matrix. We will "unschool". But first we will "deschool" and then we will ALL continue living, loving, laughing and learning together- without school. We will follow our interests, pursue our passions and be involved in doing- appreciating that when the world is your classroom, learning happens.

Already I have noticed a subtle paradigm shift: I am feeling more relaxed and focused on the tasks in front of me. I quit Facebook (how I stayed connected to the "homeschool scene") because I want to model slow living. I can trust that my kids are invested in what interests them (that's what kids do!)- and they are motivated to learn far more (and more quickly) than any lesson plan could ever account for.

We will continue to explore the deliciousness of this lifestyle, which many attribute to the "father of the modern homeschooling movement", John Holt. Not even a parent himself, he could clearly see that compulsory schooling wasn't working and as a superintendent of schools he was able to observe How Children Learn, How Children Fail and what to do Instead of Education (the titles of three of his books).

If you wonder why you see more and more small people out and about, doing awesome and amazing things, and you think you might be interested in taking charge of your children's education I encourage you to read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. But be prepared, it is like choosing the red pill.

"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

For me and mine, I am happy that we have decided to go deeper into the rabbit hole. We look forward to all the characters that we will meet on our journey... all the merry unbirthdays, all the Mad Hatter tea parties, and to following the white rabbit, wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The voyage continues... Captain's log, Stardate 2013.10.23

The middle schooler has decided that school is sort of a waste of time. There are things she has learned from being there though. She likes the consistency of friendships and the continuity of following a suggested course of study. She likes deadlines and designated time for things. She likes pleasing others by achieving things.

She would like more time to pursue independent interests or work with small groups on projects they found exciting. She would like the freedom to go play when the work was done instead of feeling like they are being given "busy work" to fill the time remaining in a class period.

We like that she is motivated and excited to learn again, that she is discovering new ideas and being a part of a larger group that shares an exciting purpose. We like that the atmosphere is safe, small and community driven. I like the routine and rhythm it brings to our family.

Not to say we are for sure done with IVA. G-pie wants to finish the trimester for sure. We are going to take some time tomorrow to go over her body of work, the pros & cons and spend a little time in meditation "feeling" for the best answer. Then this weekend Sugar Daddy and I will talk about it.

What she really, really wants is a hybrid. 4 days a week (10-2 is what she proposed- then I suggested maybe only 3 days with a 4th dedicated to field trips/ nature hikes and community service type action). With enough kids that they still get to switch classes, play PE games and have a student government. She also wants "real teachers" (she said it's fine if they are moms, just not *me* teaching everything). And when it comes to "teaching" we both liked that the teachers at IVA are more like "thought & discussion guides", we believe without the "public charter" aspect they could be that way even more.

So I am looking into it. I am looking for a location. Again. Still. I guess I always sort of am. :)

[Star maps reveal no indication of habitable planets nearby. Origin and purpose of the cube still unknown.]

My personal goal is to find a place where we can occupy 4 rooms with school age kids, have a preschool/ nursery for little sibs and an office or resource room where homeschool moms can come prepare & plan- print stuff, have meetings to discuss collaborative learning opportunities, share materials and motivation; and it would ideal to also have a large meeting room to have community focused seasonal celebrations, special speakers to support us all and focus on family style fun!

If you know of such a place or want your child to attend it, let me know. We aim for starting in January. Ideally we would have 6-8 kids in the Kinder- 2nd group and 10-12 children in the 3rd-5th group and 24-30 in the 6-8th group. 40-50 kids total (plus of course the little sibs). We would need moms to volunteer to be a thought & discussion guide (helping the kids identify common goals, work through communication glitches and set their plans to accomplish projects together) and other moms to head up administrative, fundraising and membership details.

This would not be a child led, nor a parent led program but a community driven, "tribal" or "village" learning experience- democratic, but with accountability and a participation requirement element would have to be discussed (interestingly this is something that is very important to G-pie- she said when everyone is free to decide if they feel like doing something on any given day the chances of the group getting anything done is slim; but if those who are interested are committed to being involved in the group's plan and influencing the project with their own ideas they will appreciate the expectation of attendance).

Now for the real question- cost and how to pay for it. Finances (fundraising?) would be for the location, materials and any experts we want to hire.

Sometimes I feel like my thoughts on education for my kids are more like notes in a captains log- we are star trekking across the universe, always going forward 'cause we can't find reverse, and we often find ourselves saying "beam me up" and "danger will robinson" and more than once I have felt like Gwen Demarco- "I have one job on this lousy ship [and sometimes it feels like] it is stupid, but I am gonna do it!"




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