Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Call Me Mister Tea

In my opinion, teaching without tea is just 'ching. And what good is ching-ing. Honestly...

I like tea. A bit of an aficionado, really, but that couldn't matter less during our Twice/Thrice a Week Tea Time. These are moments during the week, usually mid-morning, where we choose a brew of peppermint or some other herbal-- i usually opt for an aged Pu Erh, Darjeeling, Formosan or Tulsi, sometimes Rooibos or a good Mate' though-- and take a seat in the front parlor. It' not unlikely to turn on an instrumental CD at this time.

With mugs in hand, we then start round-robin discussing what we've learned or observed recently. It's a nice little recapper to help things sink in a bit. Then we talk about what we're doing today and tomorrow, and where we'd like to go in our discoverings next.

I cannot tell you the value this has added, giving the kids a vested interest and crucial role in our learning. Responsibility, encouragement, teamwork and camaraderie are all tasty accompaniments to our drinks. Although a scone every now and then sure would hit the spot.

You should give it a try if you don't do something like this. It's something we really look forward to. And if tea isn't your cup of tea, we've also had success with Happy Hour-- I discourage the traditional alcoholic option though. Every now and then we do the same thing during an afternoon, complete with chips, salsa, Mexican sodas and Mariachi. Works just the same.

What... so we raise our family on Tex-Mex. Should've tried my chili last night. i'm usually not one to brag, but this batch was Mucho Good-o!

~Senor Padre

Monday, August 10, 2009

Admin-In-Service Day

It's back to school, for the teacher and staff. At least here, at home/unschool. And since I've no new faculty to necessitate ice-breakers and up-to-dates, it's straight to business. For me, that means sending the kids upstairs while I contemplate what to do in the next few...

First on my list to address is the concerns of our parent-- the other one-- who is moved by the children's comments of "why can't we be in normal school." You know, "like the ones on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel." The second-- and quite relevant-- point here being dismissed to its preface. A real bummer, since she is the sole financial investor to the institution.

To my good fortune, a slough of comments from every stranger we spoke with during our vacation last week sang Bel Canto praises to our mission and endeavor. The teacher and students have only to provide some sense of proof for the days' lessons. Not entirely as easy as a traditional report card or progress chart, but do-able. We do a handful of workbooks and online learning to provide such.

But the core to my system leans on the unquantifiable unschooling side. And upon this "In-Service" day, I ask myself why...

I confess to squirm in my seat a bit here. Like I said earlier, "blah blah unquantifiable blah..." During the regular school day I tend to dismiss that which gets in the way of eccentric and meaningful thought. But no can do, partner. Not without risking my own unwarranted institutionalization. It's something standard methods have trouble with measuring.

Anyone else in my clogs???

Can't wait for tomorrow's In-Service topic...

Monday, July 20, 2009

God bless the one who invented "sprinklers"

i really believe it was a divine revelation. a myriad of designs-- no matter, each inspired by God, Himself, no doubt.

sure... we have the community pool. but it fares itself a man-made, unimaginative sort. nothing to the glory that it "the sprinklers."

and who can deny the proximity... the memories... the pure and simpleness.......

not i.

besides, with the insane a/c bills, who could even notice a little extra water being expended...

again, not i.

Monday, July 6, 2009


why... it's all i'm asking.

one simple question.

one simple word...

but said word need a bit more. why, is it that any-and-every time i give praise regarding the children's behaviour, it is blatantly undone. i've noticed this with any-and-every time i do something nice, like buy them something or let them make a choice for the entire family, as well. the next action is invariably opposite.

i could suppose it is this "natural balance" thingy. or human nature. i subscribe less to an automatic jinxing. although, even the holiest of men, such as Moses or King David-- the "man after God's own heart," for St. Peter's sake!!!-- keep us company with such indiscretions.

i dunno... nonetheless, it makes me wanna do nice things much less, and guard my compliments from being spoken aloud.

but today, again, i will NOT say how pleased or perhaps indifferent even, i feel, with/without certain offspring bearing remote similarities of DNA-- or not-- of an encouraging and uplifting "sense of" co-existence.

of course, you didn't hear that from me...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Breaks (My Heart)

Selfishly, because we usually don't have all the crowds and lines doing our "normal" learning stuff like playgrounds, parks, zoos, museums, grocery stores and so forth. But moreso due to the prevailing reminder of how the masses have been completely turned off from learning. It's really sad.

Case and point. We headed up to the old elementary we used to attend two and a half years ago. It was our EXPO teacher's last day before retirement, and we wanted to wish her well. She couldn't wait to start the next chapter! "Lynn" had taken a job with Lego-- Yeah, Lego; how cool is that-- after EXPO was taken outta of school. She was given the task of doing TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) math prep for the district. Bummer, because EXPO was the only "fun" subject a select number of kids had. Not a bummer was the huge box she filled up for us with learning games and cool math books!

That was awesome, but the handful of frustrated teachers and bored-to-coma students was curious. What are they moping for? Summer's here! Several shared the point that "yeah, but it hadn't started yet," or "so what... we just have to come back in August."

What an aspiration, eh? To learn by repetition to do what you're told, so that one day you won't be so discouraged when your work hours are increased, paycheck cut and hafta simply "do what you're told," some more...

I'm sorry. That's complaining, and negative issues already have too much spotlight. So, thank GOD we have a box full of even more cool stuff to be excited about. This I would wish on every kid!

Whoa!!! I almost forgot the best part! The part that mends this heart... When we left, it was with the 2nd grade girl struggling with math and my 1st grade boy unable to read. Now, after two years of playing, imagining, playing, watching movies, reading funny books and playing, I have a girl that's consumed with problem-solving games and puzzles, and a boy almost obsessive with characters, plots, scenes and settings of movies.

Heck-- We can't wait for the next day, let alone the whole summer!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Language Lesson

Communication really is key. Let's see if I can remember how they put it in my college speech class. I believe it goes something like this: Transmitter >>> Message >>> Receiver. 

Yeah. That's it. What I don't remember covering in that class was anything beyond that dynamic and the principles of persuasion.  Specifically the problem of perception. 

As a parent-- and in their defense, as children, too-- this problem is raised up all the time. And the real frustration is its independence from intention, rhyme or reason. Although making rhymes does seem to lessen the blows. 

You guys know what I'm talking about. It's like when you say, "we need to straighten the house and clean our rooms," but the response was closer to, "you guys go rearrange your messes and then feel free to do whatever you want while I come over here and play in my kitchen."

Am I crazy? Or was that the EXACT OPPOSITE of the message I was trying to send. And I know this whole time, both sides of the communication process are using English. So that's not the issue. 

I know this for a fact, because the French lessons we got from Nikowa-- Merci' by the way-- still leave all three of us scratching our heads and saying deux. (In English the sound is "duh.") Hey, I'm the one with German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, Gaelic, Esperanto and Klingon dictionaries on the shelf. And the answer's not in any of those either. I know. I've looked...

No. It's perception. And it takes a bunch of open minds on both sides to clear things up. Parents gotta see things through Darth Vader masks sometimes, walk around in tiny ballet shoes and tutus for a while. And kids hafta add to the end of every stupid request their folks make the phrase, "because I love you very much and I honestly feel this is the best way I can help you become happy, healthy, smart and strong."

Once we all realize we're all speaking the same language, the message makes sense.

So good luck and blessings with yours! And tot ziens voor nu, Meneer Papa (that was Dutch)

Thursday, April 30, 2009


(Wow!) What a wonderful day! Begins with some Van waffles, Griffin syrup and fresh blackberries from Sprouts. If you don't have a Sprouts near you, I am truly and deeply sorry. I think I've written about this farmers market type grocer. Love it. On Wednesdays it's everything from last week's sales flyer PLUS next week's. Cool! Thus the fresh blackberries-- 77 cents for a 6 oz box.

Blackberries are important to this story. This is the good non-EMF kind. Packs a wallop of Vitamins C and E, and loads of anti-oxidants. I like 'em because they remind me of picking those and wild berries as a kid at Grandmas. Like nature's little candies while we were outside playing... could just pop one in your mouth, and keep going.

Back to current events, though. It's the second visit of our new house cleaner. A kind friend we don't mind helping out for helping us out with all the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty domestic stuff I'm not very strong at. Truth is, the kitchen my domain. I can prep, cook, clean like a pro who works in one all day. Perhaps because I work in one all day, with 3 meals, a million snacks and an awesome island we like to hang out at, even when we're doing school stuff. Plus the cool Bunn coffeepot's in this room! But the dusting, mopping, remembering laundry... not my expertise. And we don't hafta burn a fun Saturday morning doing chores when we could be goofing off as a family. It's a win/win.

THEN, tonight I get to go catch up with my old college roomies/band buddies. One I see a few times a year. The other I've seen only twice in the last 16 years. We all still live pretty close to Denton-- where a lot of our history lies. And we'll meet at the square. I've blogged about this before too, only not on the homeschool blog, but the town is a great place to start up a chat with anyone-- young, old, wearing a tie or tattoo... everyone seems to get along. A wonderful backdrop for the occasion. So it'll be great! 

And finally, tomorrow, we have a guest lecturer, or fieldtrip guide. Basically, Mom's taking the day off for a 3 day weekend. All we know for sure is schools starts off-site at the bagel shop. Who knows after that what adventures lie in wait! I'm sure you'll hear about it soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

POST-logue, of the goat thang

The weekend was crazy... a few items stand out:

So far as the 12th annual Goat Cook-off is concerned, it went well. Perhaps too well. And by that I mean if you find yourself in Goldthwaite, Texas this time next year, with about a thousand pounds of goat meat on ya, you'll stand to make a moderate fortune. After about 11:00-- the shindig started at 10:00-- EVERYONE was outta goat meat. And for the next six hours hours, no less than 5000 people walked around craft and food booths asking if they had any... that's crazy.

Aside from that, we still had a farm to run. One with milk goats that needed addressing twice a day, nannies birthing, kids bottle-feeding, feed buying and distributing and hay-tossing. This particular weekend included rescueing a young one out of a feeding trough they were stuck in overnight, along with its being drenched in a day's worth panic excrement. Gross, yes. Not a real regular part of day-to-day living back in the burbs. Next time I blog about going down to the inlaws to help, someone comment to remind me not to wear my good clogs either. Okay?

At this time, I need to point out: This is no serious complaint. We all come home tired, hungry and incredibly appreciative of menial things. PLUS we've the benefit of the feelgood from helping loved ones. So much so, we're looking for a regular volunteer oportunity around town. Cool, huh? I lean towards the retirement homes and terminal wards. Wifey leans toward services. 

Sweet fodder for future blogs, I am sure...

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Really Boer'ing Weekend!

Anyone who knows me knows we have family with a goat farm, and we frequent visits to help out with things. All kinds of things. Things like milking, feeding, cleaning, building... ocassionally even birthing. Things that make us appreciate the little stuff like sleeping in one's own bed in their own room, jaunting down to the grocery store and back in 30 minutes, wearing clean shoes and not smelling like all kinds of nast. Stuff like that... 

"What's your point there, Todd?" I hear instinctively in my mind. And send out telepathic apologies to those which whom I've intrigued and then bored. Bear with me, please...

Well, this up and coming weekend is the grandparents Big One. The one where their little town, located smack dab on the bullseye of the middle of a Texas dartboard, holds its 12th Annual BBQ and Goat Cook-off & Arts and Crafts Fair. And it's a doozie! You see, Mills County is Meat Goat Capital of America! So this is kinda crucial.

All the vendors put their best foot forward for folks from-- well-- all over the world. That's right... the world. That's because we sheltered and blessed citizens here in the States hardly realize how much other nations depend on comodities such as "goat" for mere survival. It's crazy! Crazy and fun. For us, it's a real education of how countries like India, Africa, Mexico and others live day to day. That's awesome!

And furthermore, it's insight into farm-life, economy, responsibility and even humanity. I won't go into detail because the opportunity to explore stuff like this is pure gold! And I'm no 49'er... would rob anyone of such riches! Of course, my oldest on this weekend every year declared vegitarianism. So I annually remind her how I was a Veggie-tan for 4 years/Vegan for one, and how it doesn't mean we don't have to try and have a little protein to balance our diets--hers, a 80% sugar and starch diet. She tries a reluctant bite and says, "it's not terrible..." every year.

My challenge-- and gift to you-- is "Check It Out For Yourself!" As a sidenote, I was gonna throw CIOFY (pronounced "see-o-fie") in there, but somehow sounded too cliche and "el stupido." Sorry... 

Oh, and as for the title? Boer is a classification of meat goats. Tee hee.

By the way... if you happen to be around Goldthwaite, Texas next weekend... make sure you find me. I'm related to "The Longs." Ask anyone...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

i'm gonna live to be a hundred and three!

Maybe just shy. No matter, " 'cause I'm no fool..."

Does anyone else feel that certain anxieties of parenting/schooling is cutting short our very lives? It worries me sometimes, in my selfish thoughts. I mean, we all know for a fact that stress is the number one killer. Nothing else comes close. To boot, nothing I've even heard about comes close to the pressure of raising and education children to their fullest potential

To add pressure, we have to model it to give our gang a reasonable chance of learning it. But here's where the "hundred and three" (a quote I picked up from Jiminy) part comes in: As we claw and strive to provide the best possible for our kids, we grow... we enhance ourselves. It's been said that a teacher learns far more by way of preparation than what they end up "teaching." It's one of those side benefits we homeschool educators quickly learn the benefits of.

But I encourage you guys to take full adavantage of this. What we strive for is ultimately the Big Picture for our little "loves." And what we avail ourselves to, is nothing less than a total reformation of the TEACHER, as well. And this fulfillment is a breath of fresh air, if you allow it. A life-giving, chunk of inspiration we can use to enrich not just our kiddos, but ourselves and the world around us.

So be that kinda "full" today, and breathe it in! Besides, if our kids end up wanting what they had growing up, we can count on being solicited to schooling our grands and great-grands as well! 

Blessing to us all! ~Mister Dad

Friday, March 13, 2009


Do you guys ever get that way? Being a homeschool parent has to be the one way to get paid even less than a public school teacher. But that's not my REAL issue, here. It's this one:

My kiddos wanna raise in their allowance. 

"You see, Dad," I'm being told, "toys just aren't as cheap as way-back when you were a kid."

Way-back? They're not trying to appeal by flattery, are they. But I do hear their point. An average action figure runs $10. And playsets smaller than my Omega-3 caps, range all the way up to a $20!

They already feel the pinch ravaging through a box of vanilla wafers. You see, they've cut the quantity and thickness down over the last few years. The once 20 oz box's been cut to 15 and then 12 before dwindling down to the current 10.78...

Modern economics is a tough lesson for us grown-ups, too. So I'm trying to be sensitive to the kids' request. One of the biggest obstacles I notice is overcoming this mentality, even for adults. When life was sweet in the pocket, we spent a ton on whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it. That's a hard habit to break, let alone not pass down. But like my wife and I learning the way to do more with less, we approach Bear and Jay's problem creatively.

We have shelves and buckets of rather forgotten and somewhat forlorn toys. "To think outside the toybox, how can use what we have in a fresh and fun kinda way?" I pose...

"Is this another recycling lesson, Dad?"

"Dudes... we can just give it all away to someone who WILL choose to have fun--"

"No no no, that's okay! We get your point!" they chime in, grabbing Barbie and superhero clothes. Next I see them walk over to the vat of stuffed animals... "Dad look! My bear with the stretchy arms looks good in plaid!"

And they're missing in playland a full work day. One can learn a lot from a Webkinz in a princess gown...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Recent Field Trip

This is one we take several times every year. The grandparents often can use help on their goat farm, about a four hour drive away. It's a "five" if you include the frequent u-turns back home within the first 10 minutes for forgotten items. Of course this time, I remembered not packing the camera after mile 25-- too far along to retrieve, so you will hafta use your imagination when prompted. I'm not worried. You're a creative bunch...

The Journey

It begins with piling into a cute little Mazda 5. Fun, because it has three rows of seating but still zippy. We pack two grown-ups in the front-- stands to reason-- two kids, in the not-so-far back-- they love it-- and all the loot in-between. A pair of poodles roam, one settling down at the adult passenger's floorboard, and the other changing laps and shoulders. He's our pup, and we think he has ADHD. (Imagine, if you will, a picture of a cream-colored miniature poodle with short hair and an Einstein mop and mustache on his face. Cute dog. Not real smart, though.)

It's rather ordinary the first half of the drive, a giant racetrack and municipal airport serve as the only interesting scenes. But around Thurber/Mingus, it get's interesting. The tiny town has an enormous smoke stack on the north, left over from something, and an intriguing castle on a hill to the south. Then, we get into the top part of hill country and quite scenic part of the trip. (Can you picture Hogwarts with dragons circling above? It's nothing like that. More of a towerless sand castle-shaped restaurant. Still cool though.)

Right off the bat we can see a wind farm with two dozen turbines towering over 400 feet each. (Unbelievable, even if I did photograph it.) For the following hour and a half we pass alongside a steady view of small hills, a few small towns and we're there at the farm.

Like I said, We're There

Upon immediate arrival, the kids have the unique pleasure of experiencing the miracle of goat birth. More disgusting than awe-inspiring to watch in real life, though. That made for 30 new Boers and 10 new milk goats this go-round. Plus another 20, mostly Alpines and Saanens, are on the way. We were there primarily to help with the additional feeding and milking, and we needed to move some pens around. 

Of course the wind made things a real challenge. It was straight outta the Wizard of Oz, I even thought I saw someone pedaling a bike in mid-air. Conditions like that really sap the enengy, but we knew we could count on a hardy meal when we were done. (Imagine Thanksgiving, every day; drumstick in one hand, corncob the other...)

The next morning we got up for more of the same, only less wind. Whew! Sat down for another big spread. This one, a heaping of eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, deer sausage, biscuits and gravy. Sure we were all glad to help, but it's this meal that always makes the work worth while. Thankfully, we packed up before it, too, because we could hardly budge from having such full tummies. (Pictured here are a couple giant beachballs, and their dogs.) We then waddle to the car, stuff ourselves inside and return home.

And even though the field was covered in goat poo, we look forward to another trip back. (Visualize a typical family of four, wearing dirty boots and smiles. Then thank God that mental pictures have no odors...)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


and somewhat, overload...
truth is, we've had a sheer stupid number of insightful blogs whom've-- whoa... say that again;d sounds cool, eh-- massive contributions of cold-hard-stuff or contributions or subtle influences to our day-to-day stuff. so forgive me for not scrumiging re-hashed nutriments... but credit belongs to those who have earned it.
and hate to sound like an LP, but, see side links... you'll be moved, i am sure.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Magnificent OPASA!

Opasa. Opasa... 
Opasa....... OPASA! 

Doesn't it even just sound like something intriguingly ominous or, oh I dunno, magnificent perhaps? It is for my kiddos. We can be done with the day, enjoying a relaxed dinner-- eating out, even-- and it comes up. They can't wait for a visit from the Opasa. Heck, I believe they brought it up at the family Christmas Eve party. It's that exciting to them!

Do I have your attention now? That's how I introduced it to them, as well. For a good 10 days I let them know Opasa was coming... Then it was about to be here... Finally, I revealed that it was all theirs! It was our cue how well interest-led learning would end up working. Opasa is really O.P.A.S.A.- our Ongoing Project And Special Assignment. And they love it. 

When we struggled with a slough of worksheets and curriculums, the Opasa stuck. They chose it, although we helped with suggestion or assisted whenever needed. My little girl started writing a book. My son invented a line of paper toys. They'd disappear for hours. Of course, we're still holding our breath for a "we'd love to study different methods of maintaining our bedrooms and toyroom, please--" GASP!!! Alright, let's just try crossing our fingers.

Since then, we've had studies in superheroes, guitar, ballet, nutrition/exercise, Pokemon and believe it or not I've even helped out with some J-pop assignments. We're about to embark on an in-depth cinema and screenwriting period. Gonna be cool, even for the dear ol' teacher...

Now, I know I'm not the first. In fact, much of my encouragement has been from other unschoolers who have done this kinda stuff for years. But if you're unfamiliar with or uncertain of project-base/interest-led learning, I hope this will ease the fright. After all, in our case, it's just a movie...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

i gotta say something... non-editorial-like, ya know?

firstly: i really feel like i gotta give props/hats off/credit to some of the wonderful encouragement i've received from some fellow-homeschoolers. in a big-big way, they touch the very lives of my two students. three, if you count myself. (thanks to you know who you are...)

may i direct your attention to the BLOGROLL, to the right side of the screen. if you are looking for answers to questions about learning at home, support, encouragement, etc. this is some really good stuff. my kids are proof of that. and my kids are amazing!

next, and here's my apology: i'm sorry for just tossing out ideas in a format you'd read on the pot outta Reader's Digest or the like. it was "put" out there, in the blogosphere, in eagerness to "advise with useful information," i did this because the stuff i got from the aforementioned was gold. but, like many of those, i shoulda just poured out my heart or just rant like i do in real life. but you deserve better. forgive me?

that's why you're the bomb. thanks...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Building Skills

I have been designing things and drawing for a quite while, now. Probably since I was my kids' ages. I still love it, reading Dwell type magazines and filling up the DVR with shows like Beyond the Box, Extreme Homes and Renovation Nation. 

It's fun to watch the kids scoot in when I pull out my box of notched popsicle sticks and start messing around with it. It's the same when I gently shove them aside so I can squeeze in and build a lego structure when they have their bin of it out, playing. Of course, last time I did that, though, I noticed a limit of resources. One can only do so much outta four or five little Lego sets. I should interupt to mention this limitation is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagination is as boundless as we chose. 

I used to tease little friends at the kids' old school that when I was their age, all I got for my birthday was a coathanger, one sock and a used bar of soap. It's all I really needed, too, because I was great at pretending... that, and I lived in a large dog house. All my toys had to fit in the shoebox I got on Christmas the year before. 

I usually got a "uhn-uuuh" or a "you're lyyying..." but they all knew it wasn't off by much. I praise kids for their creativity ALL the time. Turns into problem-solving skills most grown-ups just don't develop. Back to my point, though.

I wanted-- and my kiddos were totally supportive of-- a Lego-opolis! Well, at least a small neighborhood. So we hopped on eBay and Craiglist. Low and behold, a gal  10 minutes away was selling three sets and a mixed bin of 450 pieces more, $25. To boot, she gave us a big bucket of about 1500 more Megas & Duplos! Dang! THAT's what I'm talking about!

And THAT's been our math/geometry/pattern/sorting/fractions/art/drama lesson for the last week and a half. The kids even let me scoot in and make a tiny bungaloo. Had to use paper for the roof, and it didn't fit the style of the rest, but they were gracious nonetheless. Can you keep a secret? I snuck a pocketfull of pieces out for a rowboat. I'll slide it back in when they go downstairs for a snack. He he he...

Oh yeah. I should tell ya something else we found online you may or may not know about. The Lego website has a great 3D virtual designer you can use. It's free. Be careful, though. It has this cool button that prices out how much your creation would cost to order a customized box. And even though my kids don't know my credit card number, they're always checking the mail for us. So I never know if they've been filling out applications behind my back. Ehh, prob'ly not. Nevertheless, the online Lego builder is way cool!

Now, if your kids are too advanced for that, look at Google SketchUp. It's free, too. And I think it's a blast!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't Loose Your Marbles

...Use your marbles. Along with balls you can throw and catch. Ones you can kick. Bounce some. Roll them. Or try to juggle. Heck, we even watch TV on workout balls.

We love the ladderball Grandpa made us last summer. One of our favorite things to do is to invent or play unusual games with them.

We've done tennis ball golf-- Tolf-- into tumped over buckets. There's also this Balloon Bomb, where if it touches the ground you blow up. Pretty safe gameplay in the living room as well.

Our latest is croquet with a soccer ball-- Soccroquet, of course. Try Freeze Catch, where you have to throw it back however you catch it. Or Peanut Pong, since our kids don't drink beer or have peanut allergies. Footbag Bocce is great to play in a hallway.

And using a ball is beneficial as well. It's all incredible for engaging your mind as well as your muscles. In fact, these activities are synergistic in nature and increase our abilities to focus. Best of all, it's fun doing it.

Even as I type, I've got a game waiting for me. So I leave you with this "cheeseball" before I hop off, as encouragement to get out there, and have a ball!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

String Theory

Not the quantum kind, although I do enjoy a good physics books now and again. I am bit twisted that way.

But I'm talking a different theory here. You see, from time to time, my kiddos get a little unraveled. They can't focus or follow directions very well. I have to lasso them in with something. Something they can really get wrapped up in for more than two minutes. So I rummaged through boxes in my closet and garage for an idea, and it hit me. A noose has thirteen loops right? Just kiddning. But being knotty could be nice.

So we pulled some strings, and gathered up enough for a Ropes Course. Not a real one like you see in trees-- bummer-- but several lessons in making knots, weaving, jump rope, knitting, string art and practicing guitar. We turn to doing our Ropes Course whenever we need to reel in a little learning or just want to get tangled up in a playful way. It's a great way to tie in focus and fun.

Oh, and for the "being knotty" part, these websites are great for learning different kinds. Check it out:
Animated Knots by Grog, and:
20-20 Site: How to Tie Knots

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Class De Jour... or De Année even

I've always admired these people who have managed to beautifully integrate math, English and sciences into an art-based curriculum. I remember finding online information about a charter school who does this kind of stuff. They're in Asheville, North Carolina. That would be nice, but back to my point: There's a lot of real life stuff that has this built-in integration going for it.

Not too long ago, in fact, education came from apprenticing trades or learning skills needed to keep the farm running, and such. That is to say, education happened by doing it, not being told about it. To many homeschoolers, I know this is nothing new. It's one of the distinct pleasures of the journey, getting to be a part of learning and involved hands-on with it.

And I'm not saying this next thing is anything that I invented. I've not even Googled it-- maybe I should, though-- but for me, it was an epiphany. I believe it was somewhere between fixing that 3rd snack of the day and prepping dinner, when I was asked by my kiddos if they could help. At first, I thought it was too complicated and slightly dangerous if you didn't know how to wield a knife correctly. Then the a-ha... They were really interested in it! And I had to stop cutting while the cogs sped up in my head. You see, I need these fingers-- all ten-- for future projects. Reading recipes, weighing, measuring, fractions, patterns, time management, writing notes, assessing calories and properties, reviewing supplies, evaluating costs, research, history, origins, enhancing skills... THIS IS SCHOOL, MAN! It's a full set of integrated subjects, put in savory bundle of learning! Education you can really sink your teeth into! Studies that would be absolutely devoured! Dude!

I almost cried when I though of reducing my kitchen hours to less than half-a-day. Perhaps have time to read a book. Or take a shower-- hold on. Let's not plan our retirement quite yet. There's a lot of work to be done. But if I document this well, it's a homeschool supplement that could really help a lot of people. In more ways than one.

Wish me lots of luck. And feel free to shoot me any yummy/healthy recipes you might wanna share...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Welcome Class...

... to the first day of homeschool," I recall telling my kids.

"My name is," I step over to the recent pair of newly purchased whiteboards, "M-i-s-t-e-r D-a-d. And I hope we can be really good friends this year, as we learn together."

"Ugh. Daaaad... Seriously," my 8 year old sassed.

"Why don't we just call you Mister Taylor like the kids from school did," said Jay, the youngest of the two.

"I'm just calling him Dad," Bear replied, "but he can still be the teacher."

I wanted to start the experience out on a lighter note, but from their reaction I saw this was indeed serious. So for the next year and a half, much of our learning was spent figuring out how to have fun, how to interact, how to make learning something interesting and worth retaining.

I had the advantage of previous employment as a lunchroom guy and playground guy at the kids' elementary. Between listening to teachers who felt that their hands were tied to the curriculum and watching all these kids get so much out of just by playing with each other, learning at home became very attractive. I had a second grade girl at the time who was bored to tears, and a first grade boy who's personality completely changed after being pulled from math/science skills--which he loved--to "reading retard" class. When it came time to withdraw, we had only kudos and support from the educators we knew there. Another good sign.

Now, as I assess things, my class is a good size, a workable ratio. As for Principal Mom, she makes sure we stay on learning more than field trips. To be honest, it's been the most difficult thing I've tried, next to... well, nothing. Plus, the paycheck has never been quite this petty. Then again, I don't have any withholding or social security to pay, thank God, and I'm up for teacher of the year for the second in a row. So there is a silverplated lining to it, after all.

Anyways, that's where it started. And following a bit of bumbling, juggling and drivelling over the last two years, I can finally write about it more clearly. Ergo, Said-Blog.

More soon...