Sunday, December 20, 2009


a note: this is more of a journal entry, rather than something that is well-organized or engaging. Mostly "this is where my head is right now" notes to myself.

Something interesting has happened.
The other day I visited Homeschooling Is Freedom, scrolled down a bit, and because Pam Sarooshian was in it, I decided to watch a minute of the video that was made of the 2009 Homeschool Association of California Conference.
The Very Interesting Thing happened at in the name of John Bennett. (If you only have time for this part, push play and then drag it to about 13:17, and he'll be on in just a second.)

Sometimes it just happens that way.
Sometimes no matter how much I think that I'm able to stop, and step outside of something (like a rigid idea that looks like "our days need to include straight-forward -obvious- math"), and evaluate something for itself, by myself (ie think for myself)..... sometimes it takes someone like John Bennett to clear the fog for me.
What I mean is... there aren't a lot of "just because" 's in my world. We don't do science projects "because we should have a firm grasp on Newton's third", we do them because they're fun and interesting. I don't have Trevelyn sit down and write "because (according to some) he should be able to write easily and neatly", but rather he does it in freedom and as he needs... or not. Sitting down to write spelling words seems silly - we've never once done a spelling quiz, and he spells with accuracy. I didn't teach the children to read... Trev did that on his own, and Maddie has begun her explorations, and looks to be processing and learning in the same ways.
I've said before that to me a great day is full of "Explore", "Create", and "Discover". That's pretty much all I could want.
And I'm pretty comfortable with our laid-back approach to mathematics.
I mean, we have Jedi Math for the leapster. Math 1-2. MathBlaster. JumpStart cd's. The Allowance Game. Trev counts money. He rounds numbers. We listen to Multiplication Vacation - and love it. We bake. He has a pretty firm grasp on fractions. We play games with the cuisenaire rods. So it's not something totally outside our realm... but... there's still been something there that feels like - not looks like, on the outside, you understand, but feels like (in my head)- "are we doing enough math?"
Never once have I asked myself "Why do we need to learn Math?"
Never once did I question it.
I guess that I've always just thought that it was so Big - like reading - that it was just a given.
Mathematics is the language of numbers, and it's something that floats in the air around our heads... therefore it's something that needs to be understood in order to make sense of the world.
But never did I consider that past a particular point - past division and multiplication and percentages and knowing how to add fractions that don't have a common denominator - that the point was to teach the mind how to process in an expansive way. And I would even say in a uniform way.
So. I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. John Bennett.

"We're still teaching it because in life we need the kind of reasoning that we develop through the teaching of mathematics. So mathematics is just a medium to develop the logical thinking - the analytical thinking, the inductive reasoning, the deductive reasoning...
So I've asked myself over the years, "Why am I teaching this?" For this thinking.
So... can we do it better?
Can we do it differently?"

[enters unschooling.]

I called to Eric, and had him come watch Mr. Bennett's bit with me.
Of course we had a big long discussion about homeschooling and unschooling.
It's kind of funny to me that Eric is still a tiny bit nervous at times about home education.
But, on the other hand, I can appreciate it, because it helps me to keep in mind where the common thought and opinion about it lies.
Thoughts like "I'll ruin her life!"
"What if I don't do it right?"
"What if we miss something important?"
My mind is so far past these thoughts or fears that I don't even consider them valid questions anymore. And as far as education goes (as in rote learning) - the only reason that children are taught to do things at particular points is because 1) most often that is initially where the natural inclination -developmentally- leans (such as beginning to write and draw at a particular age) so the system simply jumps on it and rolls with it, and 2) there is a schedule - a twelve year program- that must be adhered to. We have to get this "done" so that we can move on to the next.
And as far as I'm concerned... that's it. That's the reason for the arbitrariness.
Aside from that, as I've said before, it seems to me that school just is just an imitation of a life well lived.
I've watched my children enough, and flipped through enough workbooks and visited enough NEA curriculum pages to know what goes on in school.
Go into your local Teacher's shop. What will you find?
Well, you'll find stickers to attach to the top of worksheet pages, for one. "Good Job!"
You'll find lesson plans and worksheets about growing bean sprouts. Including black and white drawings of "this much dirt in the cup, then the seed, then this much dirt again.... how does it grow?" and you can draw a lovely garden on a piece of paper.
Or you can dig around in the backyard. And pick peppers off the vine.
In a math workbook you can draw a pizza with half pepperoni, 1/4 mushrooms, 1/2 olives, 3/4 cheese... or you can get out the flour and make your own dough and pie.
You can draw lines on a paper, grouping and sorting things together, or you can clean up toys and put them in the right boxes... and sort silverware into the drawer.
You can fill out worksheets or you can figure out time by listening to the world around you and asking Dad when he's coming home and figure out how many hours and minutes that means.
You can be taught to read by sitting down for "100 Easy Lessons" that may be quite painful for everyone, or you can learn to read by being read to and by wanting to know what dinosaur this is.
You can learn science by filling in the blank on a quiz, copied from a dry-as-dust textbook, or you can learn about microbes by digging in the compost and looking at things under the microscope.
You can create an owl out of uniform, pre-cut shapes (and be told where, exactly, they go, and be graded upon your precision - aka your ability to Follow Along and Do As You're Told)... or not.

"But this just fits our lives," says Eric. "This is who we are."
And my mind drifts to: If every mathematician were supported in his or her mind's processes... can you imagine? If every mechanic or engineer were recognized for operating as such... if every naturalist was given more books and time outside... if every Physicist encouraged instead of told she must be well-rounded... if every future Albert Einstein was smiled at in a knowing, accepting way instead of told "No! You must learn to tie your shoes, now... come away from that telescope!..."

We're not hoop jumpers. Never much cared for them. Or for the people doing the whistling and "c'mere boy, c'mere"-ing and bouncing of the hoops, for that matter.

So it's been particularly enlightening to process these thoughts after listening to Mr. Bennett.
Reminding - that is... the re-adjustment and re-evaluation of thoughts.

It's so nice to have one more of the foundation blocks firmly in place.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Don't you love when you can let your mind freely wander and work things through while scrubbin' the kitchen? This has to be done while everyone still sleeps, of course.

Lots of thoughts lately on my simpatico with little son. Lots of feelings like "we're not friends", "we're disconnected", etc.

Been thinking that the best way through (for me, I've discovered) is to stop focusing on "this is wrong", and start recognizing all the things that go right. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. One of my favorites - not only happens to be a philosophical and spiritual truth, but also a scientific one... as any quantum physicist will tell you.

So - the idea is to recognize the Love.

Then thoughts meander down to "I'm just not a very nurturing sort of person." (read: failure) This comes from the current disconnect, from the fact that I forget to water my houseplants, and that we don't do well with small pets in cages. (Maybe that one could be chalked up to the fact that I am so against things living in cages that subconsciously I decide they should be ultimately liberated.)

Thoughts drift to "I want my son to be happy."
The very next thought is
For his own sake, or for yours?
That stopped me for a minute.
For a while, the answer was mine.
I feel sad that we're disconnected. I feel sad that he shouts at me instead of communicating sometimes (when in these thoughts, it feels like Always, and never mind where he gets it from), I feel sad that he doesn't say "You're my best friend." So, yeah. It's a "for my sake" thing.

Is that really true? Your main reason for wanting him to feel happy is so that your relationship (your feelings) will be elevated?
I thought about that for a minute.
No, it isn't. My main reason for wanting his happiness, is because I want him to be happy. That's all. That's most important to me. I want him to be happy.


Then comes,
Well, it looks like you're pretty nurturing, after all.
Funny the things you're telling yourself.
What else are you telling yourself that isn't true?

I'm thinking on that one, now, as I finish these pots and pans....