Monday, January 31, 2011

first day

So what did the first day of a brand-new school year look like in our house?

Well, it started slowly… 

with 

a sleep in (by a boy)

a cuddle with a kitten (by a girl)

and some breakfast.


And then…

the day revved right up. 


With some storywriting by my girl

and illustrations drawn on Paintbrush



and a replica of Mittens the Kitten 
made by my girl with pipecleaners



and many photos taken by my girl for a book she's planning





by which time a slow-waking, book-reading, breakfast munching boy and his very busy sister 
were ready to do some


Maths.

In the form of Life of Fred for my boy

and chatting about numbers for my girl

as well as a few good rounds of Zeus on the Loose for all of us.


The Maths left the kids a little bit wide-eyed and panicky at first. My boy who'd been learning a'plenty the past two months, thought he'd forgotten EVERYTHING about fractions. 
He (who's nearly done with Life of Fred: Fractions) tried the Bridge, panicked, and put himself back 14 whole chapters to revise. Then he took himself to bed. Then he brought himself back to his desk and wept a little. 

And I said, Hey. I think it's going to be okay. You've had a big break and you're feeling rusty. I totally know what that feels like. Wanna do this together? 

Well, the first couple of questions were like starting an engine which hasn't been turned over in a while.

The next few questions had him going, "Oh, yeah, that's right, I remember!"

And then…he was flying. 
I sat with him and we did two Bridges, to confirm he was running well, no engine trouble—all was checked and okay. At the end, he beamed. 

My girl thought the world was ending, just a little, when I asked about numbers bigger than 170.  But we just talked about them, talked our way up to 300 to see how the numbers traveled and how that felt. And we noticed that numbers bigger than 100 don't actually grow two heads then bite yours off. Kind of a relief! 

Zeus on the Loose was fun. Just that. 


Then it was time for 

ASTROMONDAY!

and space journals had to get title pages

and stickers on the front.



And we asked ourselves:  What IS Space? 

And the kids wrote their ideas down and we looked through some books and they wrote some more and we discovered that

Space and the Universe are actually just a little bit different. Who'd've thunk it? :)

And then all the delicious space books from the library had to be pored over for a long while!


THEN

it was time for lunch 

and  
time to swim.


Because it's super HOT here! Summer has come in with a beautiful bang! 
I love love love summer, even the baking days. 
Everyone else in my family sweats and says, "I can't wait for winter." 
I just take in the heat like a snake on a rock. Try to store it up for the cold months ahead. 


We did laps,

we played,

and my girl ate an apple beside the pool side as my boy and I frolicked.


And

THEN?


Well, we went to the library of course!

To research for this week's Fun Writing Challenge 


It was already 3.30 and I said, "Are you sure you want to do this now?"

"YES!" said the kids. "OF COURSE!" said the kids.

The writing challenge is this:

"If you could live anywhere other than Australia, where would you live and why? Do some research and write down some interesting information."

Well, that turned, via my enthusiastic kids, into: 
"I'm going to research Country X, write up my notes in a special notebook that I'll cover and when I'm done with this country, I'm going to do another one!"

Which means "This week's Fun Writing Challenge," may take us an indefinite, glorious, open-ended amount of time. Just as we like it. :)

So we went to the library and I introduced the kids to the Reference Section. The kids picked a country and they bent their heads over their notebooks and they wrote things down, right then and there. My girl is doing the U.K. and my boy, who is addicted to all things Italian, is doing—you guessed it—Italy!




And they were so happy.

… 

Oh,

you thought we were done?

That's crazytalk! Because


THEN

we zipped off to my son's first band practice

where he saw some great friends

and played timpani and the tom-toms 

and 

while my girl and I waited 

there was doodling on the grass with friends



and flying of paper aeroplanes with cats drawn all over them.


AND then,

we went home…

to cuddle kitten and cat, and feed the dog and draw some more, 

and read more and more about space on the couch



and have dinner.

Then a boy and his dad walked the dog  
as the sun set and the crickets and cicadas and buzzy things began to sing

and my girl drew
and I played with a kitten.

And

then…?


It was the end of a first day and an always day. 

A day the kids leapt at with both hands and 

with their whole

hearts.

A day they could dream about as they slept. 





Good night, all. Happy dreams!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

welcome!

Introducing the newest member of our family!

Mittens the Kitten.


Yes, she IS scrumptious


She belongs to my girl who
has been asking for a kitten for days and weeks and months and years

and who
FINALLY heard, 

"YES."

(Yeah… she broke us!)


My girl is so thrilled she can hardly stand it.

Who knew something so small could bring such joy?



Here's Mittens eating



Mittens playing




Mittens exploring 


and


Mittens drinking




I didn't catch her pooping (yet), so you have been spared! 



Mittens just got desexed so will be 
staying in my girl's room for the next week while she heals.


Then we will introduce her to the house, 

and to Cat No. 1, 

who has no clue…



and to Sweet Dog. 

I hope it'll all go well!




She's the third pet we've bought from the RSPCA. Those guys do an amazing job. Today, we saw the staff farewelling a gorgeous dog—they were just delighted that he'd found a home. And our tiny kitten was handed over so lovingly…

I always leave there in awe of the job they do with such little funding, in the face of the hard reality that not all pets can be rehoused. I leave filled with the energy that comes from all the Doing Good and Doing Right that goes on there every single day. My girl wants to volunteer there when she turns 15. I think that's a pretty fine dream. I can't wait to volunteer with her.

.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the flip side

This blogpost by Amida, made me laugh!

I love sideways thinking. I love the idea there is always another way to look at things. I love thinking one thing, then making myself walk around my thought to see the other side.

I call it "looking for the Flip Side."

I think it's so important not to be bound by one-sided thoughts. Twenty five percent off a jacket could be the cost and it COULD be the jacket (see above blogpost!). A rainy day that stops you going out is a day that helps you to stay in! A lost opportunity to go to the Netherlands is the gained opportunity to stay in Australia as a family and have my son participate in an awesome music festival.

You know those cool pictures you find in logic puzzle books sometimes? Like, Do you see a vase, or a face? I used to spend ages sitting there, seeing the vase, then making myself see the face. Then a vase again. Then the face. I loved the idea that both thoughts, both views existed inside the same picture.



I do that with so many things. But I remember when I began to do it often and do it mindfully.

It began in the middle of my darkest days, years ago, when most times I carried an invisible cloud around me. Things that went wrong or felt bad were my fault—I believed I caused them. My child not sleeping? My fault. Me not sleeping? My fault. I'd go out and feel everything deeply and hard. I'd worry. I sometimes found myself impossible to bear. I felt like people could look in and see just how fragile everything about me was, and find me impossible to bear too.

Something happened to change that view. It wasn't one thing. It was a conscious choice, over time, to think of the flip side. It was a conscious choice to say to myself:

"Hang on. Is there another way to see this? Another way that doesn't involve the twin feelings of Sorrow and Self Blame?"

"Huh?" said hollowed-out me.

"There is. There IS another way to see this," said my therapist, and my managing depression class, and my reading, and the me who was elbowing her way to the front saying, CHOOSE JOY.

"Huh?" said overwhelmed, insomniac and unhinged me.

Patient sigh, sighed Flip Side me. "What I mean to say is:

Perhaps you aren't sleeping because the chemical composition of your brain right now is totally low in seratonin.

Perhaps your little boy isn't sleeping because he has a lot of thoughts to think and he'll sleep when he's good and ready.

Perhaps that person at play group is being short with you because she's having a bad day. Perhaps she's near tears and needs you to show her kindness right now. 


Perhaps when people are cranky it's because they need to use the loo.



Perhaps when you make a mistake it's just a mistake.

Perhaps when someone hurts you, it's because of their issues not yours. Perhaps they need compassion.

Perhaps if you miss out on something, it's because there are other good, fine things to do.

Perhaps the glass isn't half empty, or any empty. Perhaps, there are other things you can fill the glass with.

Perhaps if you look outside and all around yourself, there's a good chance the bad stuff is not your fault.

Perhaps the bad stuff is actually not your stuff to carry.

Perhaps it's not even bad stuff. It's just stuff.

Hey: The stuff that brings you joy is just there.

There's another, bigger way to see."


Oh? said the grabbing-a-lifeline me


Yes, said Flip Side me.



Now, when I experience something that makes me disappointed or downright sad
or makes me feel hurt or angry
or seems difficult
or leaves me feeling tangled, I sit with my thoughts for a while.
It's so tempting, so easy to stay in the one view of hurt, sad, confused, or undecided.

But then I wander, or march, or drag myself around to the Flip Side.

I need to see what's on offer there. What I have instead of what I haven't.


And I say, Oh.

The view from here is incredible. Look at the open spaces! Look at the colours.

Hmmm, I don't like it so much here. I prefer the other side. It's cosy there—there I can wallow. Can't we go back?

Wait a minute…do you see that? Look! And that? Look at how the light hits. It's possible that it makes sense for someone to be here. It's possible that it's beautiful/interesting/understandable/joyful on this side too. Look again—is that a bluebird?



The flip side means that when I talk about something with my kids, and it's something that isn't "2 + 2 is 4" or "Yes, that's definitely a broom," I often point out the flip side.
(Or SIDES, because some things are infinite in the way they can be seen! Like a room of mirrors or a kaliedoscope, always changing, the colours bright.)

Like Australia Day, or religion, or why people choose to do things we don't understand. Like why people might like to eat mushrooms when the kids think they're gross!

Like, actively seeking joy in a moment you're reluctant to experience. Like going to the beach when you just don't want to or are scared, finding yourself boogie boarding that wave, and feeling indestructible afterwards.



The flip side, for me, means looking for the joy.

The flip side, for me, means finding what IS over what ISN'T.



And the flip side of cloud?

Ah. Such amazing, extraordinary colours!

I'm so glad I looked.




Wednesday, January 26, 2011

things I want to share…



Tonight I feel like sharing some of the things I'm reading, 
thinking about,
open to,
and reflecting on.

I guess I'm inviting you to go on a walk with me through my thoughts…
care to come?



If you want to read one of the most beautiful and inspiring insights into education and unschooling I have ever read, please go to Stephanie's lovely blogpost:


If ever in the future I wonder what I'm doing, where I'm going, and why (which may be often!), I'm going to go back and read this post.

It makes my heart full…  and it All-Through-My-Body resonates, like a piano wire, trembling.



My kids have updated their blogs! My boy did some exploring, and my girl has news to share… :) I can't wait for her news to come to our house!



I love living in Australia. I'm so happy I'm an Australian.

But, boy, I wish they'd change the date we celebrate our National holiday.

credit
credit
It's the date that, 223 years ago, white people came and declared the country to be Terra Nullius—unsettled, uninhabited, and therefore claimable in its entirety by another nation…it was the beginning of an impossibly dark time for the indigenous people. It's the date many have come to call Invasion Day, and many others call Survival Day.

We've talked a LOT about all this today, on Australia Day. We've talked about what people celebrate on this day, and what people mourn. We've talked through both sides of the argument… and I hope the kids have really thought about today with open minds and hearts, with a sense of something bigger than themselves.

(Here's some info, if you feel like thinking on it some more: Ozday1, Ozday2)



My friend Jennifer's blog FourSeeds never seems to go up in my blogroll. I wish I could figure out why!

She's awesome and writes regularly. I thought I'd mention her here, because I find her words just inspiring…



Finally, this:



and,

this 




because I love them and want to share them with you!




Hope you're all having a beautiful night, or a beautiful day, or
perhaps

some time in between…

in that moment 

before it is

either?



Thanks so much 

for coming on my thoughtwalk 

with me!

:)



Monday, January 24, 2011

so many questions

There are so many questions flying through our house!

If they were critters, they'd be tiny, irridescent fireflies, zooming through the air, ricocheting off the walls, filling the rooms with laser light.

They come and buzz me, do fly-bys like in Top Gun, or those airshows people go stand in fields to see.

Coloured smoke trails through the house. It's an amazing show! Did you see that one? That one? And that question's doing loop-the-loops!!

Awesome.

Why do cows have iron?
Does anything eat humans?
How do they make computer games?
What does this cartoon mean?
How does the battery get in there?
What does supple mean?
How does your phone store so much information?!
What do bats eat?
What's quilling?

Each question gets some kind of answer, or an attempt at one. Sometimes we go straight to the mighty Google, from which all answers come :) Sometimes we look it up in a book. And sometimes—often times—I have a go at explaining first.

So why do cows have iron?

I say, "Cows have iron because animals have iron in their blood (even us!). Red meat has iron 'cos it has blood in it and therefore, people who eat red meat get iron. Ta Da!"
"I don't want to eat red meat," says my girl.
"Well, me neither. So you should probably eat your broccoli. That's got iron in it too."

Then my daughter asks, "So, we have iron in us?"
"Yes," I say.
"Does anything eat humans?"
"Sure! Sharks eat us," chimes in my boy.
"And polar bears do," says I.
"Really?"
"Yup!"

Which leads to a long talk about polar bears and how my kids would hide from one if it chased them, and how polar bears are maybe endangered because the whole climate change, melting-polar-icecap thing is affecting their habitat.

"Mum?" says my girl.
"Yeah?"
…"What's a habitat?"


This is just one of our typical dinner conversations!


None of it was Googled or verified with a secondary source (and I know my red meat theory could've done with some serious fact checking!). But sometimes our talking is just that—we're exploring ideas, and my random and haphazard answers are enough.


But the other night, when my son asked about the Theory of Relativity, and I started to come up with some garbled explanation, I realised almost immediately that I was…gasp!…WRONG.

So I doubled back quicktime.

I said, "Actually, I don't think that's right AT ALL."

I said, "Shall we look it up, and see what it really is?"

My son's one question led to an awesome exploration of Einstein's Theory, watching youtube videos, talking talking talking—even days later—about motion and light and time. It was very cool.




Now sometimes,
maybe, just maybe…


I over-explain. Don't know why I think that. Just a hunch.


Like, when my son asked recently what a cartoon meant, I didn't have to Google it; I already knew the answer. So, I went into a long, long explanation. I got right into it!  Because the cartoon touched on lots of issues—all Meaning of Life, Big Picture stuff—and I love stuff like that. I totally rambled on.

I'm not sure if my son actually listened to the whole answer, but I sure had a great time!

Later that night, my son asked me what a word meant in his book. I told him the meaning, then went on this lovely talk-walk, where I gave examples, said sentences with the word in it, and so on and so forth.

My boy nodded politely and when I was done, he thanked me. Then he said, "Mum,  sometimes when I ask what a word means and you tell me, I get the meaning really quickly. Like you explain a little bit, and then I get the rest of the meaning from the sentence in the book."

"Oh, yeah?" I said. "That's great!"

"But, Mum, then you keep talking." He smiled a little apologetically. "You actually explain it a lot more than you need to."

"Oh. Huh." I paused, reflected. Then smiled. "Well, I guess that's 'cos I just love words!"

"Yeah, you do. I think you're like a Living Dictionary." Big grin.

"Cool!" Big grin back. "I love dictionaries!"

Which led to me talking about how much I loved dictionaries. :)

I'm not sure how long my son listened. He's very polite, but at some point, I think he returned to his book.


MY POINT IS.



We have so many questions flying through our house!

I love them. I love their little zippy selves. I love how they come flying at me, any time, any where, any how.

They build our homeschool, build our conversations, build who we are as a family.

Ah…where would we be without them?


Which is another question!

For another time, perhaps? I should probably let you get back to your reading!




Saturday, January 22, 2011

my kind of day

Today was a

'Wake to find your husband gave up and slept in a kid's bed 'cos you were scrunched too tightly between your kid and him so had your knee in his back all night'… kind of day.

Today was a

'Decide, with your husband, to devote an entire room to beds beds and even more beds!'

kind of day.


Today was a

'Discover in moving beds in and around, how dirty the windows are and decide to clean them,'

kind of day.


And a

'While taking out windows to clean them, discover how dirty the screen is and take it out to clean too,'

kind of day.


And, a

'While taking out the screen to clean it, punch a hole with a screwdriver through the netting so that you have to go and buy more netting to replace it'

kind of day.


Today was a

'Discover how cool a room looks when it is literally wall-to-wall bed!'

and a

'Find your room looks cosy with butterfly curtains on the cupboards and kids' paintings on the wall'


kind of day!



Today was a

'Delight your kids by saying they can fly paper airplanes out of a screenless window!'

kind of day.



Today was a

wash the dog and clean windows and replace netting and turn a room into a true BEDroom and delight your kids and have a nap and continue to organise writers workshop and have dinner and go see a magical concert at your husband's work

kind of day.


And, a

see baby birds being fed by their mother


and

watch bats fly through dusklight

and see how the ocean readies itself for sleep

from the hill

at your husband's work


while


your children write stories and draw comics and drink hot chocolate





all the time listening

to music

as it wafts out into the darkening night

and red light spreads over the lawn



kind of day.


Today,

was a

record the music and the croaking of the night critters

and have your girl come up, her feet going pat pat pat in the dark,

and whisper to you, so sweetly…

"Are you taking photos of the bats?"

kind of

Day.






Yeah.



It was

my kind

of

day.

:)







Friday, January 21, 2011

a day…

wake to the feel of my girl touching my arm
turning and she's smiling

right into my eyes



chickens at the back door, where's breakfast?

padding out over still damp grass to feed them

they cluck and follow, cluck and follow


hanging clothes on the line, bare feet on still damp grass

soft brown moth on a clothes peg

cicadas whirring

birds calling to each other, tree to tree to tree


eggs for my boy for breakfast
make him a lunch like longago school time

then he's gone all day, helping out at Robocamp




back home and

my girl saying, don't look! as she does another writing project

at her beloved desk.



dog splayed out on the cool tile floor

cat in a box


smoothies and books
my girl says, well that's our whole summer holidays right there!







wandering the garden


 
it's lovely out here


quick visit from my mum, just popping in and she's always ready to listen, read, share.
so beautiful to me


quick visit to two girls we've missed all summer—they've been sick with whooping cough
my girl when she sees them—her face lit with love
sitting on a rug in the sun
hearing all the stories they've written while waiting to get better
it's never long enough when we're with them


now we're

picking up my boy
he's in a crowd of boys
circled around a bunch of legorobots having a sumo challenge
all the boys laughing


and when we get home


my girl goes to her desk
my boy goes to his book


and mum, what's plight mean? (my girl who's writing) What's an anecdote? (my boy entranced by Nanny Piggins) What does bodily mean? (my girl) What's the Theory of Relativity? (my boy)

so we go to the computer and watch YouTube videos on Einstein's Theory of General and Special Relativity. yeah. we do, and my brain starts to go 'round and 'round trying to understand.

asking my boy, "Are you getting this?"
"Yeah," he says. (Like, Yeah, Mum, of course I am, aren't you?)

then it's

pancakes for dinner
made with extra eggs and dolloped with homemade, just-this-minute-made strawberry jam

except my boy has to have a heaping plate of pasta and lentil bolognese first
then a big ol' pancake for dessert


and it's time for a walk

sunset walk with the dog—old dog—plodding behind
happy happy

across the park, sun gone behind the mountain, clouds spinning gold

racing kids—who's first to the soccer posts?
bolting across just shorn grass
Oh, I think I've sprained my leg running too hard, could I have sprained my leg, mum?
how about a hopping race along the cricket pitch? says my boy


home and showers and reading reading reading reading
and Dad's coming home tonight!
(5 days away is too long)
and deciding who's going to sleep where on the big family bed and it's getting late

and his lights come down the driveway and the kids,
bouncing on the bed like toddlers,
Dad! Dad! Come upstairs!

And cuddles and more cuddles
and goodnight

and time on the couch with just my husband
hearing about his week at jazz camp and all the stories

and then
warm milk and honey
to try and quiet my mind
and tell it:

you can stop planning and thinking, just for a little while,
just for a time

Pause and reflect
on these small moments

as you have been,
already,
all day,

stopping and noting and holding close and taking photographs with your mind

embracing each small thing

that has built this day,

with Reverence.






Thursday, January 20, 2011

decisions decisions

Okay, a Plan has been made for our Homeschool Land! How exciting! Woot!

Tonight, over dinner, a team meeting was had. Together, the kids and I nutted it out. Oh, it was hard work, filled with excited chatter, brainstorming, diagrams, rushing for scrap paper to write out ideas and finally, my son saying, "That looks good, Mum!"

Anyone want to know what was decided?

Oh, well…let me look at the Minutes here…written in triplicate…signed by all attending…stamped with the Royal Stamp…

or something like that :)


Our Plan goes a bit like this:


First thing: We're going to go to Outer Space for a while!

The kids decided Mondays are the day we'll devote to Space Travel, and the day shall be called (wait for it, wait for it):
A s t r o M o n d a y! 
(cue: cool reverb sound— dayday…day).

Nice name, hey. The kids also decided I should be the one to come up with fun activities and research for them to do, and they'll fill a notebook with all their findings. O-kay…Lucky for me, I have two friends who have just done a big unit on Space and I shall steal all their ideas and take all the credit. An awesome and deeply diabolical plan…! I plan for us to also get lots and lots of books out from the library, like we did when we were learning about Roman and Greek history. (That poor library shelf was empty by the time we were done).

Second thing: Tennis Day for One

My daughter is going to go off with her friends for a tennis day on Tuesdays—without my boy and without me! My son and I decided last year that it was too busy a day for us, so I was going to cancel the whole thing. But my girl SO so wanted to see her tennis buddies—she loves her friends, the classes, the coach, everything—and I finally realised she could have her day, and we didn't have to deprive her. My friend will come pick her up and whisk her half an hour south for the lessons (and a play, and lunch, and other adventures). My son will get to have his mellow Tuesday mornings, and we might just saunter off to the tennis court five minutes down the road and have a hit sometime too.

"Win Win," I think it's called?

Third thing: Maths   (No…! YES!)

My boy is going to do maths in the mornings, and my girl is going to try maths again. She actually wants to do it. Yeah. I didn't even have to talk her into it. Who'd've thunk it?

She's going to give MathsBuddy a go; it's an Australian on-line program that my son really likes and has talked quite a bit about. It explains things in simple, visual terms, doesn't have competitive or timed challenges (which my girl finds unbelievably stressful), is comprehensive and has had good reviews. My boy will do that program and Life of Fred. My girl will see how she goes. Fingers are crossed that she'll love it. Fingers are crossed that the fear of maths will dissipate, and eventually go Poof! (cue: sound of puff of smoke. Oh, that's kind  of a visual thing, isn't it…okay then, don't cue the sound.)


Fourth thing: English. (easy to plan…a tiny thing, really)

I'd suggested a long time ago that the kids might like to try writing non-fiction some time. Non-fiction? they asked. What is this thing you call non-fiction? Can it be anything but BORING?

Why, yes, it can be something other than Boring! I said. But they didn't really believe me :-)

Then, a few weeks ago, my son and I talked about writing little reports based on things he might read in the very good online magazine Youngzine. Yeah, he thought that would be cool.

And tonight…we decided I should come up with A Fun Writing Challenge for them every week: something non-fiction, something I'd totally surprise them with. I said, "It might be anything—are you up for that?"

"YES!" they both said, delighted. My boy decided I'd assign this mighty challenge on Mondays, and they'd have a week to do it in their own time. "We'll hand it in on Fridays," said my boy. Ah, he sure loves his schedules.

My boy also decided he'd do the next volume of the English workbook he used last year (which I bought and had them both do before embarking on the Grand Freedom Experiment). He said, "Well, it gets English over with." But he doesn't have to do it, and chooses to do it, so I say, Maybe he likes it, too. 

My girl is NOT going to do the English workbook!

My boy also wants to learn crazy complicated words and how to spell them. He wants to write down the dictionary definitions of the crazy complicated words in a spelling notebook (which we need to buy and he plans to cover). He also wanted a spelling test on Fridays, but my daughter put the kibosh on that one. "Too schooly!" she declared. ("Too right!" thought me)

Now, this is the part of the discussion where my girl raced off to get paper and write down all the words she didn't think she knew how to spell and wanted to learn. This is where I started talking about an easy way to remember how to spell disappear and disappoint.

And this is where my son said, "Yep! That looks good!" and wandered away from the table.

Meeting over!



So anyway…that's kind of the whole plan.

Yes, it is amazing! So complicated! So intricate! So comprehensive!

We think so too!


I also wrote down all the things we're booked in to do, on one sheet with the days in columns, so the kids had a visual of their week. And my girl got super excited about tennis day. And my boy saw all the music he would be doing and was very pleased.

Which makes it all good.

It makes us a team. In cahoots! It makes us Co-conspirators! Planners! Thinkers! Independent learners! Interest-led homeschoolers!

It makes us, Us.





AND on a side note…


One thing they didn't decide on, but I know they'll do and do always, is this:


read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read.

This is where most of their learning will come.

They'll read about Mars and Romans and Nanny Piggins and fairy tales and ancient Greek mathematicians. They'll read about fairies found under beds and cats who rescue people. They'll read about science and grammar and geography. 

They'll read books and science magazines and online newspapers. They'll read characters' dialogue on Dragonfable and they'll read each other's stories. 

They'll read and talk about what they're reading and be inspired to write. They'll read out loud to me, just like my son is doing Right. This. Minute. 

They will read and need it as much as breathing. They are so lucky to love it. I'm so grateful they do. 



Freedom Experiment 2011

Life is getting busy.

I can feel Busy crouched close by; it's poised, flexing its muscles like a cat. It's waiting, waiting…

The school year is about to start . The stores are shouting "Back To School!" with notebooks and pencil cases, lunchboxes and folders piled in buckets at the shop fronts. Kids are lining up with their parents for school shoes, and uniforms, and the right colour socks.

It's coming. The schedule is about to start up again with a bang. My son is in THREE bands this year, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, plus he has piano lessons and drum lessons before band. The kids are both going to do art class on Thursday. There'll be writers workshop every second Friday. And I'm going to run another writers workshop for school kids on Tuesday afternoons.

Every single afternoon is booked.

PLUS…

We're starting pottery classes on Wednesday mornings.

PLUS…

Both kids want to continue tennis lessons. They want to learn Italian! They want to learn about space. They want to learn about rivers. They want to build wooden houses and my son wants to learn how to build a go-cart. They want to get out and swim and bike and hike and walk the dog! They want to write in their blogs. They want to do a Vincent Van Gogh project. They want to build balsa wood planes, make felt animals, learn to sew, play board games, knit, go to the library, read, do maths, learn about history, do science experiments, write stories, and…most importantly…play with their friends.

And I'm thinking, Yes, and Eek!

And, Yes, but When?

And, Yes… and How??

…and Eek!

Oh, I know it will be all right, but I don't know exactly how it will be all right, or when,

or whether everything will be all right only after I've been taken to a Home for the OverExtended.




Which means I'm awake at 4am. Dang!




And I wonder—this being the question that is rolling around inside my head—how to be truly Free when there is so much to do, and so much to fit in.

I (and we) want to say Yes to everything, but the reality is, there is only so much time in the day. When you want to do it ALL, things get forgotten, left in the wake of doing what's in front of you in that moment. Then all those wonderful ideas can end up like those random bits and bobs (you know, the single keys and lego pieces and business cards and tiny doll shoes) you lose to the black hole of kitchen drawers and ceramic bowls on the coffee table. They can end up dustmuddled and forgotten.

I don't want that to happen. Our Things We Want to Learn List rocks and I want to keep it found, not lost.

So I am drawn, again, to making a schedule.

I'm drawn to setting a time for learning the things the kids have said they want to learn.

I'm drawn to saying, What's our focus going to be today/this week/this month? and planning the days we want to Do X (and for x insert, "reading about the Romans," "building something from our Leonardo da Vinci project book," "playing tennis,""making balsa planes," "learning about rivers," "painting like Vincent Van Gogh.")

I'm drawn to making the mornings, and certain days (that we choose together), our study time, just us. For us to Do X, for my son to tick off his maths and english boxes (as he says he needs to do), for my girl to possibly find her way back to maths without fear. For us to get our teeth into all the lovely things on our Learning List.

I'm drawn to suggesting things. To being proactive and saying, Right-o, if we're agreed then let's learn about Space this week (or this month, or this term—space is big, don't you know?!). Saying, If we're agreed, let's play tennis this Wednesday afternoon, get books about Space from the library on Thursday, and go to the art gallery on Friday. Plan, together, so we know when we wake what's ahead.

I'm drawn to planning, in some form. Because that's a part of who I am, and who my kids are. Like me, they need the known as much as the unknown. Because otherwise I worry we'll forget—we'll be like little night critters dazzled by the light, flying only and always to the thing that is brightest and just ahead.



I love what is at the core of my (our) Freedom Experiment. The core being: Yes. Saying Yes to learning and doing and being and living—not according to anyone else's expectations but our own. To saying, I want to knit, and being Free to knit. To saying, Let's go for a walk on the beach and being Free to walk. To my kids saying, I want to learn this and this and this and THIS! And being Free to do all of it.

But the reality is, because my kids love to learn, and because our Freedom Experiment leads us to the Constant and Beautiful Yes, we end up needing to choose.

What to learn. What to say Yes to. When.


SO.

My Freedom Experiment last year was Letting Go. Finding my way to Yes.


This year, I want OUR Freedom Experiment to be:


truly experiencing the things we say Yes to. Giving real time to Yes.

Because I want us to learn with both hands. I want us to look closely, immerse ourselves; I want us to swim deeply, drink deeply, learn deeply. And when we're ready, to move on.



This is how I feel today, in the dim dawn hours,
as my kids sleep peacefully upstairs…

Open to Yes,

all my pores and
and heart and thoughts open.


Aware that Yes is infinite once you open yourself up to it. Aware that choosing is part of the journey.





Monday, January 17, 2011

rested


Someone (actually, Deb)

asked for a picture of our new set up,

our 'Hotel Us,'

our All Together

snugged up

sweetsleeping

arrangement.



Well,

here 'tis:





Exactly!  :)



And 


—who for weeks and weeks and weeks 

have been waking through the night

getting up in the night

not going to bed 'til 3am 'cos if sleep's not coming why go to bed—


have been sleeping.


Sleeping soundly.

Waking in the night

to find myself rocked back to slumber 

by the deep dreambreath of my children.


It feels like 

someone has poured nectar in

and I. 

have.

rested.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

if you've been watching

and trying to read this blog while I've been playing around with the background colours, I apologise!  I sure hope I haven't made you dizzy.

It's been kind of fun though, to fiddle. Maybe I should just make a new background every day and get some voting happening on Most Appealing, or Least Pukey. Or not?

Maybe I should get some voting happening on whether I should make a new background every day.

Maybe I should get some voting happening on whether I should get some voting happening…

Hmmm.



Or,

maybe I should go say good night to my beautiful children,

who are snuggled into Mum and Dad's room

with the big bed

all moved, another bed moved in,

and the bathroom cleaned (as promised…two jobs in a single day!)

The kids are so excited.


Bring on Hotel Us…


Yum.


ps And now I've come downstairs, looked at the background colours I picked, thought, "Blech," and returned everything to how it was before.

I think people call this Progress…?

Friday, January 14, 2011

closer

For whatever reason, my kids are needing me a bit more right now.

Is it because I've been feeling just a little low and a little overwhelmed? Caught up with the sorrow in Queensland, full of the rain, feeling just a little (or a lot) overtaken by how much there is to do in our house…? Then there is the coming year. How will it go? Will I still run my Freedom Experiment? Will I trust enough, to truly embrace what that means? Will I manage running two writing workshops? When will we fit in music classes now my son is in a third band and there's going to be pottery classes, and the kids want to learn Italian? What about helping the Lego League team get to Europe? Will my boy be all right when the team goes off without him? Will I be all right?

So much, too much is in my head…It feels a bit tangled and some days my brain feels fuzzy. Not always, but enough that I think the kids might be feeling it. Perhaps they want me closer because of it.

Or, perhaps it's got nothing to do with me and everything to do with the creepy shadow puppet show we saw in Sydney the other day. Where the dude thought it would be excellent kid entertainment for the shadow scientist to do a lobotomy with a big serrated shadow knife, and transfer his shadow brain to the open shadow head of someone else. Woohoo! Yay! Perfect entertainment for kids 5 and up. My kids have each told me about the nightmares they are having, and they are 8 and 10 years old.


ANYWAY. This post is not about all that.

(Really? Don't we all want to go down the path of "Oh, the world is so difficult!" today?

Well, I'm not sure about you, but I know I don't!)



This post is about something else.

It's about what to do when both your kids say, two, or three, or four nights in a row:

"Mum, I wish I could sleep with you tonight," and, "I always sleep better when I sleep with you and Dad," and "Why can't I sleep with you?"

I reply with all the things I think I'm supposed to say.

"You'll sleep better in your own bed. There's not enough room for both of you in our bed. I want to have my own space—you're too big! And I can't sleep in your bed with you because I'm too big and none of us will get any rest."

(And underneath there's that feeling of, "I mustn't let them sleep with me; they're too old! And what a slippery slope that'll be, what if they get used to it, and both want to sleep with us for years? What if they're 3000 years old and still here?!"
…Ah, such helpful what ifs…always so reassuring…)



Then I pause. And I think, and I ask myself:

What if I just said, Yes?

Why can't I say, Yes? Why can't they both sleep with us when they want to?


Oh…my inner voice is saying: There's not enough room!

Well then, why don't I turn the big bed sideways and put in a spare bed? Easy.



Oh…now my inner voice is saying: One family shouldn't sleep in the one room! That's crazy talk!!

Well, why not? When the kids want and you can and you are so privileged it's actually an option not a necessity and it makes so many people sleep better and feel so happy, then why not? 

Who made these rules we think we need to live by, anyway?

I know I didn't, but I still feel the need to adhere to them. 



So, okay. This is what I'm saying to myself now:

Our kids want to sleep with us, sometimes. When they have had a rattled day, when the dark is too big, when what they want is to hear another person breathing in the same room. When they can reach out and feel my hand, just. there. and know everything is going to be all right.

Doesn't everyone want that, some days, and sometimes?

It's a human instinct, something we've tried to logic out of ourselves, but it's always there. A need for closeness, a need for contact, connection. It's a beautiful thing.


Am I listening to me? Hello?

Well, actually, yes I am.


Which means,

I'm thinking now that I will say, Okay.


I'm thinking that instead of, or as well as, cleaning one bathroom…

I will turn one big bed around. I will get our spare bed from the study and put it next to our bed. I will say, "Hotel Us is open for visitors, if you want, when you want!"

Who knows what that will mean?



Well, I might think it's crazy tomorrow!

The kids might say, "Mum it's too bright! Too dark! Too hot! Too noisy 'cos Dad's snoring like a Wildebeast!" The kids might wriggle. They might kick me in the back. They might steal all the available space and my husband and I might end up dangling off the edges. We might be usurped and end up, each of us, in the kids' beds, in their rooms.

Oh, all these things and more MIGHT happen.

And they might not.

I say, Let's see!


Because tomorrow and the next second and the great big possible future are, all of them, different times from now. And I haven't lived any of them yet!




(oh, I donated to the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal today. It wasn't so hard to do…and it felt right all the way through to my bones.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

underwater

Here I am and we are, having our special family days, together and smiling so much and so often…

and not so far north

people are struggling terribly. Many have died or are missing. Our third largest city is under water. Practically a whole state is submerged.

The pictures and stories are extraordinary. The hardest ones, the ones that break my heart, are about the children.

I am so sorry for those who are suffering so much right now.




And somehow…

because our human spirit is so…well, what is it? … stubborn? tenacious? resilient? we keep on.

We say, Nup. We are not beaten.

From far away, we empathise and we grieve. We watch and send positive energy and clothes and money and love. We feel.

From close up, we are there as the water rises, and tie ropes to our bodies to rescue people from their cars. We help old people leave their homes and save animals from drowning. We sandbag and rescue and support. We feed and water and keep warm those without a home. We give and give and give.

We suffer and are broken and lost and then…

somehow, sometime…

we are found.




And when the water goes down? We will rebuild.


Because that is who we are.





Now, I think of the Pakistani flood victims of last year and how the situation seemed terrible, but so far away. 

This is how it often is, isn't it? You watch from far away and only as much of you as can bear it feels for those suffering. Some things are so terrible, your mind can only allow a certain amount in.

Today Australians have their own homes and towns underwater. And because it is so close, I feel it harder, see it clearer. 

So, with as much of me as I can bear, 

I feel for those suffering here, 

AND for everyone who suffered in Pakistan last year,

(AND, having seen the news coming out today, those in Brazil.)



I send love and positive energy to all those who are grieving and rebuilding. 

And I will give what I am in my power to give.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Updated! Holiday Show and Tell



Good morning, class! 

For today's Show and Tell, I have all sorts of news. In fact, anyone else wanting to share news today might have to wait 'til tomorrow. Yeah, I mean you in the back with the owl habitat diorama—Sit down, sister!





Today, for show and tell,

my 1st item of news 

is that

my boy's lego team was on t.v. tonight!


Howabout that? Kind of cool, huh?

The local news came to a fundraising booth the team had set up in a shopping mall. They filmed for ages, and my son wore one of his excellent fedoras for the event. When we watched it tonight, we got to see the team working the robot, the coach and kids getting interviewed, and… my boy's chin, and only his chin! It looked very handsome! (We also saw me and my girl in the background, which was ironic as we were totally trying to stay out of the way).

Anyway, it was great to see everyone on t.v. and have the kids' (and mentors') efforts recognised. The funny thing is, they didn't mention we were homeschoolers. Isn't that strange?

(UPDATE: I've now got youtube footage! Wow, I didn't know that would be possible, so thankyou, Clever Parent Who Did This. I love technology!)


If anyone wants to check out the team's website, here it is:



So…what do you think? Does anyone want to come to our robocamp? If you do—especially those in the US—I'll be very impressed!


(And I've been avoiding saying this out loud because then it'll be real…but we can't go with the team to compete in Europe. For lots of reasons, but ultimately it came down to the dates completely clashing with a major music festival my husband and his work will be hosting in June. We are disappointed… but so happy to be part of the team, to have been part of something as awesome as the tournament, and to now help the others fundraise. It's incredibly exciting, and I'm so proud of everyone.)



My 2nd piece of news is

that we have a new family band. 

This is BIG news!

May I introduce you to the members of the band?



Here's Angus. He plays a mean guitar…








 Moo is the bassist.

(Moo, who's a lion, thinks he's an elephant seal.
…… Best not to burst his bubble)








Silver plays a fine sax.



Growl and Peli work the trumpet and flute like pros








and Tigger does percussion with his mate Waffle.


  


Last but not least are Flops and
Lambie. Doing some fine work on trombone and keys.




Without further ado, 

I present


The Fuzzy Noodles




and their adoring audience!




(pause for rapturous applause)



The kids set this all up the other day while I was in another room (cleaning, I'll have you know). When I happened to walk in, Splotches the cat had just finished dancing. You can see her on the stage in front of the audience. A wombat (called IssaBiggaFattaWombat) had just been singing in a deep baritone, and when I caught him out, he got the giggles. :)

Yummy, aren't they?



The 3rd piece of news

is that in our holidays, just two days ago,

on a glorious sun-swamped day

we got to drive for thirty minutes to swim and play here




and for that I felt incredibly lucky.



Finally

(and I know I've taken up a lot of your time today, 
so thank you for your patience),

my 4th and most important piece of news

is that

yesterday I cleaned the top of a dresser and the top of one whole bathroom sink and sink area.

Wow—I know.

Pretty impressive, even if I say so myself!



Tomorrow's news

will hopefully see me cleaning just a BIT more of my house.

That is, if I'm going to succeed in FiPaWaFroRooRooMo.

Don't you think?




That's it from me for today.

Thank you for listening, class! 

:)