Educational Activities, and learning what’s right for us.

I’m not sure yet what form Owen’s early education will take. As a family, we haven’t decided. We’ll see how options pan out in the next year or so. Our kid is 3 1/2, we’ll need to make the kindergarten decision within the next year. But I’m not leaning toward public school kindergarten or elementary in its current state, and our private school options aren’t better.

That’s basically not related to what follows below, just an intro because I haven’t discussed our school plans here much at all.

But I’m leaning this way –>

Recently on one of facebook’s more conservative homeschooling pages, someone who’s homeschooling a kindergartener posted that he’d had surgery and missed a week of school. She wondered how she could make sure he doesn’t get behind.

I honestly felt a bit ill reading that. Poor kid can’t slack off a week for surgery? From homeschool? Even if she’s in a state that requires record-keeping of educational activities and a minimum hours per year of “learning,” she can call a trip to the kids’ science museum three hours of science, and baking cookies together an hour of math and science, and reading books before bed half an hour of literacy. Because it is.

We’re not radical unschooly here, but I lean unschooly with very flexible-eclectic-as-desired mixed in. I like the idea of paying attention to where he could stand some foundational learning and first strewing (making materials and opportunities available for him to choose from) and then perhaps suggesting or requiring activities and classes to fill things in. I don’t think it’s best for every kid, but I think it’s probably best for most, when it comes to willful, creative kids whose bouncing off the walls is best managed by breaking down walls to begin with.

I don’t want to train him, I want to raise and educate him. I want him to see learning as fascinating and indispensable, not a chore. For some kids, a “brick and mortar” (wood and steel frame with stucco, here) school with teachers and desks and stoplight behavior lists are probably the best way to make that happen. For my willful, very bouncy, spirited kid, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. He and the teachers will drive each other bugnuts.


Viewing sunspots. (L-R: Casey, Owen, Scott Hildreth)

tattoos: things I sometimes forget about my distant past, and then am reminded

For a couple of years, I lived in a house with a bunch of other people (it started as 4, but became 7 as roommates’ friends needed places to live, we just pared the rent down for each and never told the absentee landlord). One was an Air Force pilot and dealt meth (which we called crank) on the side. One drove heavy equipment for CalTrans all summer and smoked pot and watched pirated cable all winter. One was a psych nurse who seemed constantly paranoid and freaked out. One of them took apart a tattoo gun to see how it worked, then built his own using a slot car motor as the motor and a heavy guitar string (which he dipped in ink) as the needle. He was a decent sketch artist but spent a fair bit of time helping his friends control the infections after he inked them.

This video reminded me of watching him work, though it’s a damn sight more professional.

We finally all had to leave the house when the pilot, who was responsible for getting rent in cash to the landlord, who lived near the air force base, stopped on his way there to buy some crank in hope of selling it to double his money (he never used it, just “invested”), and was busted. Because he’d been on his way to some training thingie in Texas, he was just gone, and we all assumed he was still at training and had paid the landlord, until we got a “pay or vacate” notice mid-month. We vacated.

this is me kicking and screaming, and it’s not even time yet

A friend of mine wrote a book, not long ago. It’s doing reasonably well. Every so often I do searches for it to see if there are any interesting reviews for it that he might like to see. (Not necessarily good, or bad, but interesting.)

Last night I read, in one post about it, a comment from someone else that I found confusing. I sent it to my husband, and to our friend, said author. We puzzled. This morning I re-read, googled the name mentioned in the comment, and said, “Oh. He’s saying that this guy, a friend of his, whom he mentioned died, and when he made a video farewell to this guy, he read this one page from your book as part of the farewell. That’s sweet.”

Then I started reading more about this guy who died.

He died loved, too young, not wanting to be alone through that process, with kids he didn’t want to leave,

I didn’t realize before I had a kid, before I had so much love in my life, how badly I do not want to die young.

My mom died young, my sister did, both of them younger than I am now.

I’m not terrified of dying young, it’s not like it’s a daily worry. (It was worse for awhile in my mid-late forties, parallel to when my mom and sister died.) But it’s not a chronic anxiety.

Reading things like this, though, makes me really dislike diseases and accidents that take folks away from loved ones and young children and joy, and want to hang on as long as I can, into tired old age.


Bringing preschool to us

I have in mind a blog post that will need to be organized and careful, and perhaps in parts, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s about how I think Owen will be best served, at least until he’s 6 or 7 (and then we’ll see, beyond), and I want to break down the details, like where we’d fit on the radical unschooling vs rigorous boxed curriculum continuum (neither end, but leaning toward the former) and how I need to get my shit together enough to present it to other parents (and other concerned people/relatives, though they don’t actually have a say) in such a way that it works for Owen and me, and our four-person family as a whole, while making sure he’s “learning” visibly in such a way that it’s clear whatever way we are doing it is working.

But I’m about to get into detail, and I don’t want to now, so I’ll stop that direction and go the direction i wanted to aim:

I got a kick in the pants that direction this week.
I’m really picky about preschools. I have spent years teaching in them, and have been lucky enough to have been mostly in those that are progressive, emphasizing child-directed learning, no structured curriculum, and a focus on helping children (and adults) learn about other people and the world in ways that work best for them.

Now I’m in a town where a school that calls itself “play-based” might have 30 minutes of outside time or 15 minutes of “free play” with blocks or toy cars between mandatory “centers” where kids put apple stickers on the outline of an A for 20 minutes. It’s so frustrating.

Finally, I found one, a new program, montessori-influenced with a lot of waldorf around the edges. Kids would spend most of their time outside. Academics, where they were there, were couched around real play, e.g. teachers helping kids figure out the counting with montessori tools while they were selling each other rocks at the edge of the digging dirt. It was 75% of perfect, and I could cope with the rest.

But this week they announced that for undisclosed reasons, one week before opening day they’d chosen not to open.

I’m sure their reasons are good, but I’m just tired of the process.

Owen is a monkey

So I’m taking it as a hint. Rather than fuss and put him in a school I don’t find awesome, I’ve emailed our local unschooling mailing list, where I often find announcements of park days or events that are too far away for us or focused on older children, and said I’d help organize something local to me, and also my kid wants to go play at the Children’s Discovery Museum with other kids, which pushes that age level down a bit as well.


Owen is learning all the time. He’s so curious. He craves learning. He also craves socialization, and he needs a lot of physical activity.

Owen, Casey : New Year's Day 2014 : Dry Creek Regional Park

I struggle sharing good physical activity with Owen because my rheumatoid autoimmune disease is in massive flare and walking’s hard, but I’ve redoubled my focus on dealing with that, because I’ve become avoidant (fatigue, after years of trying medications that don’t work for me) and I want to do better physically so I can do more with Owen. This will also allow me to be a homeschooling/unschooling resource for getting kids Owen’s age out and about and doing things together. He loves other children so much. It’s the only way I can be fair to him.

Once the weather gets wet (oh please please please weather, get wet) we can certainly invite kids here for art-and-movie days, or other kinds of play.

Rather than go look for preschool, we’ll bring preschool to us.

uhoh, ran out of contextual reasons for photos

physics it's that sidewalk chalk time of year Owen, Chabot Space and Science Center Untitled Untitled  cablecaradventureP1080602 polarity  Owen's photography career started with a tube. freight train

Now I want to live in a yurt

My family, eventually, wants to own a home. They’re expensive, around here, and we need to stay around here. We need four bedrooms, we need not to have a lot of stairs. We need rooms for dogs.

Then relevant to an entirely different discussion, my friend Sarah pointed me at yurts.

Now I have a plan:

I want maybe a quarter acre. I want four yurts, maybe five, smaller ones for bedrooms, bigger ones for a shared space for me and Owen (he says he’s happy to sleep in a loft) and and maybe a smaller warm cooking/socializing space. They can be on decks with big verandas, shared decks with partial roofs, or connected by causeways, etc. Depending on how functionally and financially sensible it seems, we can also use either yurt-space or wooden buildings for a workshop. These will need to be plumbed, wired, and with the various options we’d each need (like taller walls, insulation, proppable vent dome, and you know I’d get radiant floor heating) costs would add up, like maybe 10k-50k per building all told, but that’s still lots cheaper than building a house on property here.

Yurt, outside

The property would be the most expensive thing.

I wonder how easy it’d be to get permits.

I wonder the extent to which my family would be all for it.

That’s probably the biggest hurdle.


Headed for New England: What are we forgetting?

We used to run off to Boston regularly to see friends and have adventures, but haven’t been since Owen came along, and now we’re planning a trip in early autumn.

We’ve never made such a big trip with a kid! There are things we need to see: always the ducks, maybe the science museum, apple picking at Nashoba. But there’s a lot we don’t know about at all. We have maybe four days, which will be combined with socialization, down time, and a little driving in the general area in a triangle formed by Cape Cod, Bolton, and BOS.

And I’m making a shopping list (right here) of things we might need for the airplane, quiet times, for Owen to have something to focus on when needed.

What am I forgetting? What should we definitely see, what should we avoid, and what will we need to remember for the trip (red-eye both ways) that I’m completely forgetting? He’s 3, and though he’s super-active, he seems most interested in books and ideas and activities meant for kids in the 3-5 range.

me and the ducks
(Based on this photo, I calculate that we started our Boston visits nine years ago. I always visit the ducks. Always.)

maybe I should just cut my hair short

Earlier today I aimed a post at facebook, with hootsuite, and accidentally sent it here … but didn’t realize it until much later. So here’s this one-liner. Apologies. The link’s now spreading so I’ll leave it.

maybe I should just cut my hair short again and dye it pink/purple/blue RT @mactavish: Pride 2014