Tuesday, June 28

Socializing. Something that comes up in all types of homeschooling.
This one was asked in a large, international, radical/whole-life unschooling group:

Q. (my partner) thinks my kids are suffering socially.... ...My partner seems to think they need to socialize with friends a few hours every DAY.
What does this look like in your family?
A. My kids go through phases. Sometimes they really want to be with other kids, sometimes they'd rather stay home. We're lucky enough to have a park a block away and a school playground half a block away, as well as a town nice enough to walk around in, so my kids have never had a shortage of neighborhood contacts - they just prefer their homeschool friends. :)
We've also set up homeschool park day, soccer, baseball & kickball "teams" (just enough kids to have 2 teams to play against each other), Nerf battles, pot lucks, Field Day, etc. More often, my kids are asking me not to plan stuff, rather than saying they miss their friends. :)
The thing is (and this took me a long time to absorb), our childhoods were our own. Our kids will *never* have the same childhood that we had - and that's okay. Even if we set up house in the same location, even if we put them in school, even if we took the same vacations & sent them to the same camps. One, we're all different and get different things out of the same situation; Two, it is a different era - they have a different (however slight) society to grow up in, different technology, different t.v. shows, different music - and different *parents*. :)
Most people don't look back on their childhoods with regret about things they missed out on (unless they were in a seriously extreme situation), and most people remember (different) things fondly and generally remember a happy childhood - our kids will, too. Their childhood is their own and they will carry it in a special place in their hearts, no matter how different it may be from our own.

~ De Smith

Bits & Pieces - What is Unschooling

This was asked on a broad-local homeschool group. Answering this in a general, homeschooler-curious way is always difficult (for me, anyhow). There are so many nuances and intricacies that a Facebook Group-length answer just can't do it justice...
Q. Can someone please explain to me what unschooling is? Do you follow any structured curriculum?
A. Well, it's kind of hard to explain in a short comment, but basically, it is trusting in the natural process of learning. Just like we don't use a curriculum or special classes or lessons to teach our kids to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, feed themselves, etc., that idea that "it will happen when they're ready" extends into the school years. We live as if school didn't exist.
Not that it means walking away and leaving our kids to cope on their own. Just like their early years, we provide things they might be able to use (books, documentaries, experiments, games, clubs, our knowledge, etc.) to gain that knowledge they seek, but as each individual is unique and brains develop at their own pace, what works for 1 child won't necessarily (or likely) get the same results as the next child. We facilitate and support, but don't force, have requirements or point them in a specific direction, etc.
It is so much deeper than that, that I'm afraid I haven't done it justice, but I'm always happy to answer questions. :) I also have groups I can recommend, but all the groups I am familiar with are whole-life-based unschooling, rather than academic unschooling. Which, I'm still happy to pass along, if anyone is interested. :)

Bits & Pieces

Bits & Pieces

New thing I'm adding into the blog: bits I've written as I run across them again.

Maybe at some point, I'll compile them into a cohesive unit, maybe not. But at least I'll be able to find a good portion of them. Look for them under these labels: Bits & Pieces, quotes, ideas, solutions (and maybe others).

Feel free to comment, if you like, and you're welcome to share, as long as proper credit is given.

~ De Smith

Friday, April 1

Milestone, Signpost, Whatever

I'm not big on ages; never have been. It was clear from a young age that they didn't really mean much... People thought I was older when I was younger - probably because of my height. Ever since my early 20s, people have thought I was younger than I actually am. I had 2 ages I was interested in reaching: 16 to drive (until it became clear I wasn't allowed to get my licence until I was an adult and could get it myself) and 21 to drink everything (we could drink "low beer" at 19, but had to wait for everything else until we were 21). To a mild degree, I looked forward to 18 for my driver's licence, but other than that, 18 didn't mean much. After that, it didn't matter.

A lot of people have milestone ages for whatever reason... A younger friend anxiously awaited age 25, when her automobile insurance rates would go down. Another friend looked at 18 as a goal for "being an adult". Someone else was looking forward to 35.

Milestone. Not my favorite word for this kind of thing. One, it isn't really set in stone - it is only part of you for a year. As the definition has it, after reaching a certain age, there really isn't a stage of development or really any significant change, other than what an individual puts into it. "Signpost" is really more accurate in my book: it's just a bit of information that flashes by as you zoom through life. It isn't like most folks are looking to get off at the next exit after a certain signpost: it's just (insignificant) data.

Our society pulls certain numbers out as milestone birthdays: 1, 2, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 40, 50, 62, 80, 100... Fifty seems to be a major one, though... That "half a lifetime" signpost, as our lifespan has gotten to the point where it isn't unheard of for someone to live to 100 years of age. Time to break out the black "over the hill" paraphernalia, gag gifts and old jokes. Whatever. It is mildly entertaining, but for something that so many hold up to be so significant, you'd think there would be more substance and pomp to the thing.

For me, 50 was more of a "get it out of the way" kind of thing. It was annoying to have that "looming" ahead in society's headlights and while it was a small bit of a "hey, I made it this far!" kind of feeling, mostly I just wanted it behind me, so I could get past all the "The Big Five Oh!" and other comments and jokes. It is fun, to an extent, but just like all the "Fool" jokes over the last 50 years, it gets tiresome.

Youth has much time on its hands... vast numbers of years to look forward to... little experience behind... Like many, I spent a good deal of my youth planning (read: fantasizing) about the future and what that would look like. I had semi-goals career-wise. I wasn't much interested in a career, once I'd put the idea of teaching behind me, because whatever it was was going to be interrupted by my big goal: being a mom and having kids.

Okay, I was raised in the '70s, with lots of ideas of women's lib and doors opening up to possibilities for females; I was raised by fairly progressive parents - especially older parents (they were in their late 20's when I was their firstborn) - who did a pretty good job of instilling in me the ideas that I could do what I wanted, regardless of gender. I had many career ideas over the years, from vet to machinist to fashion designer to auto mechanic to model/spokesperson, but through it all I wanted to be a Mom.

I had picked out 7 or 8 names for my kids (the father's wishes and preferences never even entered my thought process), decided how far apart in age they'd be, had hopes for which one would be born in which order and what their interests and personalities would be like. Seriously. I planned out in my head little scenarios where they'd have troubles and I'd brilliantly come up with a solution or punishment or whatever it was that the situation required - and let me tell you, fantasy Mom was Awesome! I rarely ever failed, and when I did, it was just an opportunity for me to be human and to be gracious about my failure. :: grin :: Oh, youth... ! ...I think there was just some inner writer in me that just couldn't put the character development into a workable, readable story in black-and-white. :: grin ::  But, I digress.

When our oldest was born (on my birthday), I'm fond of saying that I "tried to hold out for a few hours" until after midnight (he was born at 10:45 pm), so he'd have his own birthday, but that he apparently had other ideas. I was concerned he'd be resentful to share a birthday with his mom. Other than that, *Best* birthday present *ever*. :: heart :: But what I didn't realize at the time was that my birthday had almost ceased to exist. Not that it was a big deal, because as long as there is cake, birthdays aren't really big on my list, anyhow. There are other holidays with much more oomph than my birthday that I look forward to.

Five years ago was our 25th anniversary. Kind of big, more of a milestone kind of thing for me - definitely moreso than a birthday. Because things have changed financially in the last 6-8 years, my hopes for a big-ish party/celebration fell to the wayside. I was a little disappointed, but the goal was the important part; learning to live with someone else and merge our lives together and *keep* it that way for 25 years is a success in itself - the party would just have been icing.

In high school, I had 2 other close friends that are still friends today. One of them had a big party for her 50th earlier this year and it was pretty cool to see the friends & family who came to help her celebrate. There was fun and laughter and camaraderie and FOOD - yummy, yummy food! - a lot of music, a little dancing, old friends to catch up with, friends' kids to be shocked by their astounding growth. It was nice. It was at about that point that I started feeling a little blue about 50. We did not have the funds for a party - not that it would be right/fair, since Dave didn't get one in November, anyhow - especially with a 17th birthday to plan for our oldest!  Try explaining that to feelings, though. Still, I have so much, where others don't and I can be sad for a moment (or two... or three... ) and move on.

Then, on my birthday eve eve, a good friend (who'd been sick for a while) passed away. There are regrets there and complications of those regrets, but "Only the Good Die Young" has been playing in my head off and on since then. He was a kind, gentle soul who overcame a lot and was a great conversationalist. I *loved* exploring ideas with him and will miss those talks so much...

So, in the shower last night, I came up with an idea to make the most of what I could out of my birthday: my family & I would sit up together (whoever wanted to) and talk and plan my "fantasy birthday": what we'd do if money and logistics and normal "roadblocks" were no object. That would be fun! Then, at midnight, I'd head to bed with my youngest. As I got excited about this idea, I stared planning on what I might want to do first. There was an idea of a trip to a tropical local the night before, so I could wake up on a beach at sunrise after sleeping in to my heart's content (timeflow be damned! :: grin :: ) and a surprise party to wrap it up somewhere down the line, but then my friend popped up in my head and my need to be here to organize my oldest's celebration and I started thinking about the conflict he and I had been going through recently... Darn growing up and separating one's self from their parents, anyhow... Stupid nature. :~P And I thought, well, since we're doing this fantasy thing, I'll get the negative stuff out of the way, first! I'll wish for my friend to not just *not* die 2 days before my birthday, but instead, he'll make a miraculous recovery and live to 110! And then, my teen will come to me and say how much he appreciates me and all that I've done for him over the years and offer to focus on me this year on our birthday.... And, well, by that point, I was weeping in the shower. Happy fucking birthday. So, I went to bed, instead.

So, maybe it is peri-menopause. Maybe it is 50. Maybe I'm emotional because it is That Time of the Month. Maybe it is the hardship of the last few years. Maybe it is my juvenile childish immaturity rearing its head. Maybe it is a combination or all of those. Maybe it is something else. Next week, it'll all be behind me and I'll wonder at the extent of my upset and depression. Right now, it is the morning of my 50th birthday and I have tears running down my face with a heart full of sadness in a quiet house with no plans for myself for the day. I'll go read my birthday wishes on my wall in a little while and find some funny stuff on Facebook to smile and laugh at. I have a day of work & catching up on my craft show to look forward to tomorrow, so things will turn around here at some point. And it won't be too long until that signpost is behind me, with open road ahead to travel. But for now, in this moment, 50 sucks. And I didn't even see it coming. 

Wednesday, January 13

David Bowie ~ The quiet, subtle interweaving into our Self....

David Bowie ~ January 8, 1947 - January 10, 2016

I wasn't a "Fan". At least, not in the sense I think of the word: someone who follows the career closely, gathering what creative works by the artist that they can, has much knowledge of trivia and career and personal life facts, one who gets that special, glowing look in their eye when they talk about their favorite artist.

No, I wasn't a Fan, though I could suppose I could be considered a "fan", in the smallest sense of the word. Of course, I knew that his original name was "Jones", I liked just about any music of his I heard on the radio, in film, wherever. I quite enjoyed his look (and character interpretation) as Jareth, the Goblin King. I never collected his music, though I do have an album - the soundtrack of Labyrinth, being one of my favorite movies (though due almost entirely to the story line - not much because it was Bowie). I knew very little (before the 11th) about the numerous variations of Bowie... Pretty much Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie (unless you count Jareth) were all I knew. I'd heard him referred to as "The Thin White Duke", but before Monday, I had no idea it was a persona of his; I just assumed it was his stature and fairness of complexion with his quiet, demi-royal dignity that the name had come from. No clue about any of the rest: Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, Halloween Jack, et. al.

None of his songs (that I recall) were instant cause for me to raise the volume and cry, "This is my *favorite*!". I never desired to see him in concert. I didn't watch interviews with him or read stories about him, though I did see him perform a handful of times on television. I vaguely admired his uniqueness and the quiet way he stood firm in his manifestations and beliefs over the years. Though some of his personas were loud and colorful in their uniqueness, I was never aware of Bowie hauling them to the forefront as an example or trumpeting their stance... ...I could be quite wrong in my interpretation... as I said, I never Fangirled over Bowie... and his career began before I did much of my own delving into individual artists that suited me... The point being, he was not ever a big part of my life, not much of a blip in my awareness. Just another bit of background music in my life - so vague as to not even identify an era or decade.

Why, then, has his death hit me *SO* incredibly hard? Why do I feel it so deeply - to my bones? Why, 3 days later, is my soul still heavy, my heart aching, songs stuck - ear-worm style, but *deeper* - in my brain and gut? ~ * ~ I needed a break from the grief, several hours after finding out on January 11th about his death the day before, and went to take a nap. I was a little disturbed to wake, finding I'd tossed and turned with Bowie songs of all sorts (I hadn't listened to any - that's how deep my grief was) running through my restless sleep, images of his face looking at me in that deep, melancholy way he had, slowly fading in to each other in front of my eyes... I've never had anything like that happen before - even with people I'd known... Even with people I knew well and loved dearly... ~*~ I find it a small bit frightening and quite a lot baffling that his death, for one: has effected me so strongly, for two: that it is still effecting me so deeply this long after having heard.

I keep posing possibilities to myself: Was it his reinvention, making him seem like a "new" guy each time? Was it the shock factor - his unknown cancer struggle and seemingly-sudden death? I ruled out the massive flood of outpouring, because I'd found out in the wee hours of the morning, before most were awake and talking about it and sharing grief - otherwise, I'd likely have attributed it to that. Was it his ability to seem magical? Was it his aura of immortality, weighing heavily (for me) on Jareth? I recalled, as I struggled to define it, recently finding out about his marriage to Iman (I *really* was not a "Fan" - I had no clue he was even married.) and delving into some Google-searches and Wiki reading; I'd though, "Wow! He's almost 70... that must be why he's looking a little thin and drawn, but he's still rocking. Cool" - none of my usual back thoughts of only having a limited time left to enjoy his work as I often do with aging entertainers and artists. It didn't even cross my mind, oddly enough.  None of my possibilities really struck a chord with me.

I'd been a sort of Fan of Robin Williams, who also had an untimely, shocking death... I'd followed his career much more closely and actively sought out interviews and watched anything I could where I could enjoy any of his work. And as saddened as I was by his death, it was not nearly so deep or so encompassing of my "self". (Hence my concern.)

Maybe it was a combination of all those things and some not yet discovered or named. Maybe Bowie, in his quiet way, just managed to weave himself into the fabric of our lives more deeply and more indelibly than we knew - until he died.

I'm a little relived to keep reading, days later, of others who are baffled by the depth of their grief for this man. People - who normally don't do so - bursting into bawling fits at work because of a shared tribute... People who are curling up and nesting on couches with kleenex and a library of Bowie tunes.... People who are turning to social media to find pictures and tributes and shared favorite songs of others to mourn with. People who, like me, are baffled by the depth of their grief.

What is this strange, haunting magic Bowie has woven through our souls - not just in his home town or country of birth, but around the world? Before January 10th, the term "beloved" would never have come to my mind in describing Bowie... I'm not sure it would now... And yet...

Though I've listened to 2 of his songs from the new album (Lazarus and Blackstar), and yesterday, a couple of songs I hadn't heard before, I am not listening to my Bowie favorites - *especially* not Labyrinth music. I fear it will be my undoing. I've had tears streaming down my face for the better part of 3 days - I am pretty sure listening to any of "those" songs will be my undoing, and I will end up bawling. Maybe some day.

I find my kids (16 and 11) are completely unaffected, even though they are fans of Labyrinth, too... And know a little of Bowie's music from the radio and playing it repeatedly with their parents on Rock Band. Is it a generational thing? I don't know... I *do* know I feel like a little magic is gone from the world. As someone stated yesterday, that there is less color in the world, now - that it has returned to black and white with Bowie's passing.

Though my desire to know *why* eases with each new comment I read with someone else wondering why his passing has hit them so hard, I think I will always wonder (never to have my curiosity satisfied) why David Bowie's death has effected me (and others) so deeply and strongly.

The more tired I become, the less cohesive my thoughts are, so I will quit pondering for the night. Maybe I will ponder more at a later date, but for now I'll leave you with a link to my post on Facebook where I collected some of the things that moved me over the last few days and...                            
. ............