Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thirteen MadLibs

This is a list of thirteen MadLib snippets from our home. In case you are not familiar with MadLibs, it is a word game . One player is the Reader who does not tell anyone what the written story is about. The Reader asks the other player(s) to give him/her words - an adjective, noun, verb, or whatever else the space calls for- to fill in the blanks of the story. Then the Reader reads the story to the other players when the blanks are filled in. It can be quite funny.

1.... When a bad guy attacks, her stomach turns into the size of a flea and shoots out a poison pineapple.

2.One time I dared my sticky little brother to stick five super spicy toilets in his belly for a full minute. Next time I'll dare him to put them in his brain instead.

3.My friend went to her concert and she brought a hot dog up on stage to smell with her. I'd give my right eye to be able to do that!

4.The crowd went wild and a big bulldog behind her started to juggle. She didn't win the big prize, but was awarded Smelliest in Show. We won a huge trophy shaped like a pretzel.

5.The star of the show was a goofy dolphin named Winky who could balance a TV on her mouth. Winky was really smart, and she could even cook.

6.My little sister's favorite TV show is Harvey the Dinosaur. It's about a big, smelly dinosaur who loves to fart and dance. My sister watches about 300 episodes a day.

7.They tell her they will give her a new camel to play with. But she is too busy fighting down San Francisco and French frying A-Rod.

8.Arnold is a weird warrior whose girlfriend has beeen kidnapped by an evil globe, played by Big Papi.

9.Then men from the Defense Department come and want to use her as a secret military broccolli.

10.Then it snows greedily for 50 days and the couple discovers the red place is haunted by the ghost of a dirty potty.

11.At this point there is a lot of flinging and farting, but before he can harm anyone he is killedby a stray parrot.

12.Pterosaurs had large, smelly wings with 600 claws on the ends that they used for gripping hot dogs. Pterosaurs came in 11 different sizes. Some only had a two-inch wingspan and looked like clowns.

13."Fire!" said the monster, clutching his humpadoop. "Eenatah," replied Major Zarnak cleverly and, getting back into his spaceship, he zipped back to his headquarters on the planet Happatoo.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sand Art

This video is a little long (9 minutes) but it was mesmerizing for me and I wanted to share it. It is a sand artist whose work is projected on a screen while he manipulates the sand into different pictures. If you've never seen it before, it's worth a look even if you just watch part of it. My kids liked it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Close the textbook and slowly step away from the kitchen table!!

The March '08 edition of Unschooling Voices will be hosted over at PoMoyemu. The optional topic question is:

What do you do, as an unschooling parent, when your child expresses an interest in a particular topic, and you don't know how to help them in a way that doesn't involve lesson plans and curriculum?

As an unschooling parent, lesson plans and formal curriculum do not drive our days. While we do have what I would call "schooly" resources in our ho
me - workbooks and such- they are probably the least- used materials we have.

This is a John Holt quote that is in place at my friend's blog, Be Here Now.
“What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out.”

-John Holt, Teach Your Own

When my kids develop an interest in something, it is an exciting opportunity to see where it takes us. The library is full of movies, audio books, instructional videos, CD-ROMS, and loads of BOOKS! Sometimes the curiousity is sated with a short explanation or a picture, and other times it is the beginning of a path that takes us to a different place. Museums, beaches, wooded trails, historical markers, restaurants...all these places and more are considered our curriculum materials.

An internet connection and a minivan connect us to thousands of resources. When I look at our traditional schoolish worksheets and activity pages, I like them for what they are. They can be a jumping off place, or they can concretize something I have trouble explaining, but standing alone they cannot compare to the rich opportunities that the wide world of unschooling offers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Alien Encounter

Today was a day of note.

Inside my home. In my very own kitchen. A girl. A real live little girly girl, came into my house and she stayed for a while. She is a friend of my youngest boy, but she has moved away and was back for a visit.She sat. She colored. She quietly nibbled at at a a time. She drew me a picture and it wasn't my birthday and I did not ask. She danced. She did not once shout or run or tell me loudly how badly she had to go to the bathroom. Legos did not morph into weapons, and I was not asked to feign death. She made houses and animals. She giggled. She did not wrestle. She walked all the way down the stairs, stepping on each step. When her grandfather came to pick her up, she came downstairs, quietly put on her own clean WHITE coat with faux fur trim, her pink rain boots, and gathered all her own things. As she waved goodbye, I refrained from pathetically begging her to stay. Then she was gone. For just a couple of hours I was transported into a world of princesses and pink and rows of magic marker flowers.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Elusive diversity

One of the constant issues on my mind as a mother who is trying to provide a rich learning environment for her kids is, what about diversity?? It is easy for me to find resources for my kids. We enjoy mseum memberships and we live within easy walking distance to our incredible library. We have homeschool friends and athletic activities. We have a reliable vehicle that can take us wherever we want to go. We lead a pretty full life. Except...we do not have much contact with people of color or different ethnicities. We live in a very homogenous town in a very homogenous part of the state, in a very homogenous part of our country. I try to put concerted effort into geting my kids out of our town and to places where not everyone looks like them. I want them to hear different languages, see different clothing, and to develop at least an awareness of how big the world is outside of our white town. Moving to a more diverse town is not economically feasible for us right now, and a move to a city would not suit me.

Unschooling does give us the freedom to get out of our town more often and to explore the different nooks and crannies beyond the familiar. I see my kids notice yalmulkes and burkhas and saris. I watch them try platanos, pho, and curried rice. We listen to samplings of different music. When it is better weather, we are more apt to use the subway or the commuter train to get into and to move around the city. During our outings and after we return home, I try to encourage conversations about all that we've seen. Much of what they notice goes far beyond the walls of any museum.

I am hoping that they will feel comfortable moving around in the larger world when they get older. I am hoping that they will feel able to relate to people who are different from them. I am hoping they will develop awareness and compassion for those who are less fortunate. I hope that the freedom of unschooling allows me to show them a bigger world beyond the segregated society we live in here. Exposing them to math, science, history...all the traditional school subjetcs..that's easy. Those concepts and opportunities are everywhere. Helping them to become citizens of the world is perhaps a more daunting issue for me.

Opportunities for friendships with children from different racial or ethnic backgrounds are extremely limited. A few of their friends are adoptees from foreign countries, and those adoptive families do discuss and incorporate the culture of their child's birth country into family life. Sometimes we attend organized trip for homeschoolers outside of our area, but even these groups are not racially or culturally diverse. As my kids grow, I hope to continue finding opportunities for us to enrich our lives with people and places that are more reflective of the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

13 favorite couples, real and imagined

1.Catherine and Heathcliff

This was my first read that got me out of my tween girl novel stage. Goodbye Ingalls family, hello passion.

2.Sonny and Cher

I remember getting to stay up and watch their variety show. I loved when they brought out Chastity at the end and sang "I Got You Babe" to her. The DJ played this song when my husband and I cut the cake at our wedding.

3.Jack and Ennis

Passion, tears, angst, and more passion...and more tears. They were fabulous, I'm used to it.

4.Maddie and David

Clever sexual tension and decent acting considering they didn't really like each other.

5.Torvill and Dean

I thought my parents might send me to bed early when these two got going. Be still my awakening heart.

6.Ellen and Portia

They seem so comfortable together and without all the typical Hollywood drama.

7.Guido and Dora

This movie took my breath away. Their love was deep and enduring against all odds.

8.Han and Leia

Kind of like David and Maddie with the tension, but without so much talking.

9.Abigail and John

These two knew how to write a decent love letter to each other. And they were friends

10.Harold and Maude
Quirky love, where you really get to be your own odd self and still be adored.

11.Cliff and Claire

Their arguments were a little too healthy, but I liked how they shared responsibility.

12.Marie and Pierre

I imagine these two brilliant scientists really understood each other in a way nobody else could.

13.Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

I think these two probably benefitted from some brief, but intense couples therapy in order to iron out their communication issues, but then they went on to live happily ever after. We all need a little help sometimes, but its worth it.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Flattery will get you everywhere

First, I would like to thank Holly over at Unschool Days for bestowing me the honor of an Excellent Blog Award. I can only hope live up to such a distinction. I just started blogging regularly, so it was really nice to be noticed by her; in between tooling around Paris with her lovely daughter, of course.

Part of getting the award is to pass it on to others whom I think are excellent. There are so many blogs that I gain insight, laughter, and knowledge from, and most of them already have this friendly award. So, I have decided to pass it on to those who I have most recently come across in the blogosphere. Some, like me, are new, others not, but they have all come to my attention just over the last couple of months.

1. Be Here Now. Kelli is someone I am happy to know IRL. She and her lovely musical family are a pleasure to be around.

2. Full Body Transplant, written by a teacher in Miami who seems to enjoy his job, life, and hobbies.

3.Throwing Marshmallows. She had me at her photo post about the joy of homeschooling boys.

4. The Flatland Chronicles is written by a Floridian Brit with the best voice this side of the puddle.

5. Life without School is a great place to get varying perspectives on child-led learning.

6.Kim at Relaxed Homeskool has a blog brimming with humor and great writing about unschooling.

7. The Minnesota Matron makes me think and laugh, and she has the best Cinderella story this side of Disney.

My other "E"s go to the rest of my blogroll. Most of them very deservedly already have their "E"s.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why We Unschool (Part II)

Making the decision to homeschool our son at the end of first grade was not the hardest part of this change. The hardest part was telling our families and close friends that we were veering off the main road on our own journey.

It is hard to veer off the main path. My mom, the retired schoolteacher, wanted to grab the wheel. I knew that she didn't want to control us, but she was afraid we might get lost. We talked, and over time she became more reassured about our decision. We had a map that showed us how to get back to the main road anytime. Some friends were a little miffed. A couple of them took our decision to homeschool as a judgement of their journey. Some couldn't understand why I would want to get off of this seemingly flat, smooth well-marked road. Was I just deciding to be contrary and different? Was I being elitist? No. And no.

While it felt like most of the other parents were on the main road toward the holy grail - COLLEGE! CAREER! SUCCESS!! - we decided to take a scenic route and focus on the journey, wherever it lead. If we focus on having a joyful, fulfilling journey, how can we not end up in the right place eventually?

Most importantly, our son expressed some relief when we talked to him about staying home. I remember feeling honored by his trust in us. As long as he would still be able to see his friends, he was happy to leave school behind. School was not a bad experience for him, but he did not flourish there. His teachers often remarked about how quiet and compliant he was . This pleased them, but it worried me. It was almost as if he was holding his breath all day, because when he came home he would often unleash his aggression and anxiety at me and his younger brothers. Keeping him home was going to be good for all of us.

Serendipity had it that the summer after our decision to homeschool, the Live and Learn Conference was taking place about a half hour from my house. I knew nothing about unschooling, but I casually walked in with my kids on that Friday, asking if I could register at the door. I told two conference divas at the check-in that I found about about the event on the internet two days before and I was interested in checking it out. *Blink* *Blink* Was I aware that this was a national conference and that people had been planning for months, travelled from all across the US to attend? *Blink* *Blink* They let me register.

So, as luck would have it I got to listen to a keynote speech from Ann Oman, another session with Sandra Dodd, and yet another with Valerie Fitzenreiter. I was immediately immersed in a sea of happy unschoolers and I knew I was in the right place. Looking back, I don't know how long it would have taken me to come to unschooling without this conference at my back door, but I know we were spared the struggles of school-at-home and the cost of many unnecessary curriculum materials because of that weekend.

Four years later, I can honestly say that I only wish we had pulled him out sooner. Family and friends have evolved along with us, and I cannot remember the last time someone said something unsupportive to me. My mom still worries, but she also listens and she is respectful of us. She and my dad have enjoyed their opportunity to spend extra time with the boys, taking them places, visiting for the day, being with them. My in-laws do not share their thoughts about what we do. I sense their concern, but there is no dialogue. That's fine. I hope they are seeing that the boys are growing, learning, and enjoying their lives without school. I couldn't be more confident that they are.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mission accomplished

I found this over at Warts and All.

Very cool video of I guess what I would call group performance art at Grand Central Station.

Thirteen Things I'm looking forward to

1….A glimpse of sun. It has been raining, sleeting, or snowing here since Monday.

2..Playing one of my son's lengthy strategy board games this weekend. He always beats me mercilessly.

3..Having some of my kids' friends over today. They are a nice buffer after all this inside together time.

4..Finishing a blog post about unschooling. I have been overthinking it.

5..Having my husband bring me my coffee on Saturday morning while I laze in bed. He heats the milk, and sweetens it just right. This little ritual means everything to me. It's the little things, guys.

6..Listening to my son play the piano.

7..Spending some overdue alone time with my husband. Fingers are crossed about getting a babysitter.

8..Going to the library to get some new reads. My bedside stack is running low. Any ideas?

9..Making Valentines with the boys. They indulge me a bit here.

10..Planning the do-over for my parents' 50th anniversary debacle.

11..Getting in a good long walk/gab fest with a friend.

12..Buying my next pair of pants in the next smallest size. The exercise is working!

13..Sun, sun, and more sun. Did I mention that already?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Monday, February 04, 2008

Our Superbowl Sunday

So....they lost. The New England Patriots lost the Superbowl. Honestly, I don't really care as I am not a huge football fan, but my husband's disappointment was palpable. The boys and I consoled him, and this morning we declared it "Mopey Monday." Just a day to allow the loss to sink in so we can all move on. Congrats to any Giants fans out there. I never watch football, but I watched this and I could appreciate the craft of a well-played, well-matched game.

In order to take the edge off, and add some perspective, here are some photos of our pre-game festivities, when the possibility of a historical 19-0 season was spread out before us like a blanket of...of untouched guacamole.

I think the most consoling words I can think to offer my husband. The most compassion for this that I can muster, are these.:

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reclaiming the Birth Experience

Yesterday,I viewed a surprisingly poignant and jarring film about birth in the USA. Ricki Lake is the executive producer, which made me skeptical going into it, but the powerful images and footage of the birth experiences in the film speak for themselves. Afterwards there was a panel discussion, led by four midwives. I was moved by their dedication to women and their right to a non-medicalized birth. US women have become indoctrinated in the modern medical mindset which tells us that normal, healthy birth is something to be manipulated, numbed, and scheduled.

According to the movie, the US has the second highest rate of infant mortality among developed nations. In Europe and Japan, roughly 75% of births are attended by midwives, compared to only 2% in the US. In effect, by imposing the norm of medical intervention, pitocin drips, epidurals, and a skyrocketing rate of elective C-Sections, women are being robbed of one of the most unique and powerful of human experiences.

I remember being in labor with my boys, and amidst the increasing length and pain of the contractions I doubted my ability to give birth naturally. My midwife reminded me that I could, and she held my hand and she encouraged me. I was scared and distraught. When the miraculous moment came and my baby was born, the incredible flood of relief and triumph I felt was unlike anything I had ever felt before. The natural oxytocin that flooded my brain as my body responded freely and naturally to the birth, helped to bond me with my newborn, to love him and feed him and warm him. I would have bonded with him anyway, but I would have missed that feeling, and I think that feeling is important.

I know that not every woman can experience natural birth for a variety of reasons, but we are doing our sisters, daughters, our men, and ourselves an injustice by habitually accepting the notion that a healthy, normal birth is not compromised by medical interventions of a billion dollar birth industry. It is. I am grateful for the availability of high-level medical care. Doctors can perform miraculous life-saving interventions, but when they are not called for, get them out of the birth room.


At the end of the movie, the film-maker is transported to the hospital during labor after her midwife determines that her baby is presenting as breach. She has an emergency C-Section and mother and baby pull through.

Here is a link to the movie trailer. It will be publicly released on DVD this month.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Read All About It

The Carnival is Here!!

The Current Issue of Unschooling Voices, a blog carnival of posts related to unschooling is up. You never know who might be linked there.

Check it out!

Friday Fill-In

1. Once I was a springboard diver.
2. Being pampered is the only good part about being sick.
3. Today at home I ignored Mount McLaundry.
4. What's The Old Spice Girls tour all about?
5. If I make a mistake I try not to make it again.
6. When I woke up this morning, I thought it would be a good day to stay in and watch movies with the boys.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to my husband coming home, tomorrow my plans include going to the Ricki Lake movie about home birth with a LaLeche friend and Sunday, I want to get outside with my kids!