Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Parenting Manifesto

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I was reading on the Parents Beyond Belief website when I came upon a blog post by Tessa Tinney of the blog called Raising a  Skeptic. In that post Tessa takes some time to create a parenting manifesto of what she intends and promises to be and do for her children as they grow.

I like it that she took that time to put into words her parenting purpose. I want to do this. Here is my similar piece. I am writing this piece before reading Tessa's version of it so that I do not use her words at all; any similarities are serendipity.

To My Children:

I promise to model kindness, acceptance, community, a "can-do" attitude, and how to believe in yourself.  I promise to make every effort to instill a love of world justice in you.  A focus on ethical awareness and social justice is key in creating a peaceful world.

I promise to support and encourage the person that you are, without attempting to change the kernel of you.  By loving your individuality, I believe you will grow to pass love and acceptance on to the world around you.
I promise to help you remember to value the difficult times as learning opportunities.  Seeds of success are sown in darkness and doubt.  I believe your successes and your pride and sense of self will come from the struggle.  While I promise to offer you every advantage I have at my disposal, I promise to not make your life too easy or too comfortable.

I promise to show you honesty and authenticity in all things.
I promise to remind you every single day that each day is your day.  That this very moment is here and now and to make the most of it!  And even more, remember that this moment, it is necessary to embrace it, do your best in this crystal moment.  Whether it means apologizing, rebuilding, renewing, resting, or something else, this is the only moment.  So avoid hurting others.
I promise to teach you the power of word, thought, and intention.  
I will always tell you the truth.  I will, to the best of my ability, show you all sides of an issue and show you how to see issues as transparently as possible.  I will show you my love of learning, researching, gaining a better understanding, and critical thinking.
I promise to introduce you to as many "truths" as we can come across.  To show you that the many cultures and customs around the world hold meaning and value.  And most importantly to realize that people are beautiful and enigmatic and valuable and inherently good.
I will always be on your side.  I will always love you with a depth and breadth that still overwhelms me.  And I promise to continue improving myself for my own benefit and for yours as well.

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Friday, April 26, 2013



Angela Wade, posting on the community blog site Mindful Homeschooler was talking about their unschooling experiences and she referred to it as accidental homeschooling.  I think we are accidental unschoolers too.  I didn't really plan on unschooling, it just happened.

I do do some lessons, occasionally, but I find that they do fine on their own with some "strewing" or with my introducing things to them that I am finding interesting or reading about at the moment.
I am a reader and one of my favorite things to read is "National Geographic" magazine and website.  My son frequently asks me "What are you reading in National Geographic, Mom?" ...and we're off!

I like the word strewing.  I didn't know that there was a word for it!  I'll bet we all do a bit of strewing now and then.  Around this room I notice some strewn things, a set of Horrible Science magazines that I picked up for a song, some paisley and doodle "coloring" books, embroidery kits, Games magazine, Science magazine, cook books, a book called How Things Work, educational games, etc...  I know!  Homeschoolers aren't the only strewers.  My parents were strewers, however unintentionally.  Dad read lots of magazines that I was forever picking up to read, my favorites being Popular Science and Popular Mechanic.

Just yesterday I saw Bonobo paging through a National Geographic and, later, ask some fairly good questions about the subject matter.  Questions that showed he had discovered some ethical dilemmas in the subject matter (so-called de-extinction of creatures that have gone extinct within the last century or so).  Strewn materials that informed and engaged him.  And the neat thing is that I knew it right away, that he had discovered that material!  That is one thing that is satisfying about homeschooling:  the feedback is almost instantaneous!

Do you strew?
Are you an unschooler?
If so, could you explain your theory a bit?
If not, what do you think about unschooling?


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bonobo and a Grammar Nazi

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The other day we were driving along and my son had a point to make. He started the conversation with “Mom, you’re a grammar Nazi, right?”

I have to admit, I guess I am.  It's hard, at times, being a grammar Nazi because if I go back and reread a blog post or a FB post, I am mortified when I find that it reads awkwardly or even, as in one case, says the opposite of what I meant!  I frequently type "now" instead of "not".

Grammar and spelling and punctuation and rhetoric all mean something to me. I'm proud to say that my kids use all of that internetspeak and I don't even FLINCH when I read odd/phonetic spelling or BRB or ROFLMAO. I may cringe a little though...

While reading novels, I almost always find grammatical or spelling errors and I think how mortifying it would be to me to have a book of mine out there with misspellings! I AM mortified by my own memes with misspellings.

My daughter is quite a grammarian, but imagine my chagrin at reading Bonobo's writing. His spelling is appalling. And my husband comforts him by saying, "Don't worry!  I can't spell either!"
AAAAAACK. So that I don't shame him, I've had to change what I deem important as I read materials written by Bonobo. He gets so embarrassed and frustrated when handwriting. He gets frustrated when typing too, but not as much. He's very sensitive to anything he deems "criticism" instead of support...just as I do.

I struggle to adjust my expectations to his ability level but I need to keep challenging him. He's twelve; I believe he needs to be able to type and to put his thoughts onto paper. With a computer he has the benefit of Spellcheck and other apps to assist with writing...  But he still gets very frustrated, almost to the point of tears. At times I have transcribed his words. When I do this, I can see good writing structure and grammar, some necessary basics for good writing.

Also, Happy Earth Day!

What do you do to help your child with handwriting and such? Do you have a child who abhors picking up a pencil or a pen? (a stylus, yes.  a pencil, no.) What other strategies are out there for this challenge?  Is it a "boy thing" or not?


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Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Top of the World

Our family is in the middle of our excellent adventure of living in Australia.

Do you think that living in another country is a good homeschooling adventure?

We find ourselves in places and doing things that simply change our lives. From the ground up.

We did another of those things again today.

Mount Tamborine is one of the local mountains, maybe an hour away. It is 550 meters above sea level. The name does not refer to the musical tamborine; it is a name from the aboriginal fathers from this area who lived here for thousands of years and Tamborine is a fairly loose phonetic spelling of the aboriginal word meaning "wild lime."  

This one little mountain contains some of the most beautiful sights in the world! Set in the Hinterlands, an area known for several extensive mountain ranges in the Gold Coast area of Queensland, this area is protected as a national park. From this mountain top we could see for so many miles in an almost 360 degree unobstructed circle that we could see ocean and mountain from one spot, including the gorgeous scenic rim mountain range that Mount Tamborine is a part of:  a beautiful, ancient range built by volcanoes in eons past. Surfer's Paradise in the distance looked like some distant ...paradise. It was spectacular!!!

Approaching the mountain, climbing some steep hills, our car chugging along, as the view grew and grew into such beauty we had to stop on the side of the road just to take it in! (I am originally from "The Prairie State" and this type of elevation turns me into a Fan Girl!) Driving through a cool little antique and shop area on the crest of the mountain, we stopped for some fudge and some unique shopping. Don't laugh, but I bought some rocks. Also, I'm coming back sans kids one day just to traipse through the shops! 
Maybe with Just the Girls...

The Adventure Continues

Looking at the map we picked up from the tourist center, the closest waterfall to us was Curtis Falls, just a short bush walk away. Curtis Falls is one of the minor falls of the area, but even a minor fall is better than none!

Through the eucalyptus and gum trees, we could hear the rush of the creek below, promising us something, keeping us moving. Strangler Figs live up to their names here. The basalt rock walls at the pool at the base of the falls made it a cool and damp place to be...perfect for the platypus that live there! A colony of glow worms also calls this spot "home". Standing on the wooden platform built for observing, we enjoyed the rush of the water and the shadow of the bush. Many places along the creek, we saw peaceful spots for sitting and creek watching. This place was pristine!

This part of the mountain is known for the birding. Albert's Lyrebird can be heard calling, but we didn't spot any. The lyrebird is one of those birds that can mimic the sounds it hears. We learned about it from Sir David Attenborough! We did see dozens of bush turkeys though...

While on the trail leading to the falls, we saw an eight foot green snake. I forget what kind of snake. But this guy caused quite a stir! OH, it was called a carpenter snake we think...

Although we had never seen a waterfall before coming to Australia, we have become waterfall lovers. We have made plans of going on a waterfall odyssey that will take us through Maleny in the Glass House Mountains and other parts of Queensland to find these beauties of nature.

Three other magnificent waterfalls beacon on this mount...we will get to them one day - because we all decided:  We are coming back!!!!!!!

Bonobo, in silent contemplation 
While in the area we decided to drive up to a nearby scenic Beacon Lookout. To get to this outlook we passed a number of houses that cling to the mountain top and live in the grandeur of the view. We were surprised when we passed an old abandoned distillery way up there in the  mountains. From Beacon Outlook we could see for MILES!  erm...KILOMETERS! At this time of afternoon we were looking into the glare of the sun, yet still we were all in silent contemplation of the enormity of the scenic rim mountain range.

Why am I even trying to describe the view?
It was beyond description.

Still on the Mountain

While on the mountain we ran into some of our favorite people and friends and made plans to get together at the glow worm caves toward the end of the day.  So as afternoon wore on we made our way to this little gem of a locality.

If you don't know about glow worms, these little fellas live in very dark, wet caves in Australia and New Zealand only, living on the roof of the cave and secrete a sticky string of goo to capture their prey, little midges and flies that follow creeks into the cave. On our recent trip to New Zealand, we visited a small, little-known natural glow work cave in Waipu.

This little cave on Cedar Creek Estate on Tamborine is a man-made cave, designed to increase the population of glow worms so that their existence is ensured with encroaching human settlement and climate change.  

Again, indescribable. Our family was blown away by the constellations of glowing lights on the cave ceiling.

The trip down the mountain was treacherous and steep...and had some spectacular views! We then met our friends at an excellent seafood place in Ashmore:  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

What do you think?
Good homeschool experience?

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Your Life Has No Meaning

I remember as a kid having a conversation about "life's meaning" with my dad. Dad was raised a Catholic, and though he didn't practice the religion at that point, he carried the Catholic ethos with him through his life. He told me, with a certain fear in his voice, that our meaning of life was to get to Heaven. As a kid, Dad's fear of these larger issues really got to me. After that moment, I, too, was afraid.

It was that exact fear that kept me from questioning many things or from entertaining my many doubts for many years. 

Some of the questions that friends who are believers ask me, with a certain fear in their voice, are "But how can your life have any meaning?", "Isn't your life pointless," and "Why try? Isn't it just going to end anyway?" I know these are questions of fear and of seeking to avoid the feeling of "void" for them. I remember that fear vividly. My Christian friends insist that their faith provides them with a powerful sense of meaning and purpose and that they would be lost without it. I am generally content to take them at their word.

While I know I can never explain it adequately to them, my life is far more meaningful to me now than it was before becoming an atheist. As a Catholic, my "meaning" was all for the afterlife. My "meaning" wasn't even for this life! With my eyes on the afterlife prize, I was constantly missing today. Here. That which was before me. Because when a person is willing to believe in an afterlife, he becomes willing to sacrifice important things in this life. But that day I became an atheist, I realized that this life is the only life I get.  

THIS LIFE. This moment. These people. My decisions and my choices became far more meaningful. More care must be taken in this life to avoid causing pain and suffering. And when I became a parent, I began to see my place in it all. I am a part of a long line of LIFE longing for itself. My children, their children... 
All of those to follow come from me.

I believe that raising my children with good hearts, wise minds, and the desire to become better people will take them into the future. They and their children and their children's children are of me, will be descended from me.  

But there is more. There are things to be learned, beauty to experience, good deeds to perform. There are people to love, land to steward, books to read, happiness to spread, laughter to laugh, and sunsets to experience. The beauty of this life is sublime and I have chosen to make the meaning of my life one of increasing and sharing that beauty, expanding truth and reason, and being the best person I can be in this life.

We have this unlikely life. I find that worth celebrating.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

En Zed

How can I possibly tell about New Zealand?
I thought about calling this post "The Land of Superlatives", but I admit it sounds kind of hokey. All I can say is that every single day we experienced something that was Spectacular.


We went from beach to cave to beach to buried village to waterfall to mountain top to geyser to Maori Village to The Shire to mountaintop to train ride to waterfall to beach to shops to mountaintop to beach...  

Our expectations were exceeded in every way!

When we arrived we picked up our RV. Our plan was to drive the RV to about six different places in our ten days in NZ. After seeing the reality of the terrain (mountainous) and seeing the limitations of driving, we decided to throw out our entire plan. Each evening we would discuss what we wanted to do the next day. That was our plan! And no matter where we were, no matter what we did, we always thought our day was amazing!

We prepared almost all of our meals in the RV, carried our laundry with us, took over 1200 pictures and 20 videos, bought tons of souvenirs, swam in cold waters, watched a gorgeous wedding on the beach, saw a village that had been completely covered by a century-old volcanic eruption, felt the splendor of a geyser, felt the warmth of the ground beneath our feet, heard the Maori sing the "Welcome" song, traveled up the mountain in a gondola, glided down the mountain on a luge (three times!), rode a train car through the countryside, swam in the shadow of a volcano called Mount Maunganui, tried delicious seafood, enjoyed the company of dozens of fellow travelers, bathed in the warm waters, swam beneath the Southern Cross, visited one museum, stargazed under gorgeous clear skies, trekked on pathways through tropical rainforests, stood at the foot of two thundering waterfalls (Bridal Veil Falls and Wairere Falls), visited a whare (Maori home), heard the glopping of boiling mud, collected shells of all sizes and shapes and colors, parked our RV on the beach and listened to the waves all night long, visited Bag End and had a pint at the Green Dragon Inn, explored rocky crags of magnificently rugged beaches, traveled light, spent fun time with Olivia and her family, found pink sea stars, uprooted crabs from their watery homes, watched ten breathtaking sunsets, experienced sublime sunrises, sang with seventies songs, saw a rainbow from one end of the bow to the other, drove in Auckland Rush Hour traffic twice, played cards with Deutsch backpackers, met people from nearly every continent, enjoyed a meal with Hannes and Bob, went into caves, sat with Americans in a heated sauna and talked of home, lived on "island time", played on remarkable natural stone mazes, drank tea in a rain shower, lingered just to see the beauty and grandeur of the view, went through about four boxes of Kleenex, wore the same clothes for days upon end, shopped with Kiwi dollars, met Liam and his dog Sophia, got brown in the sun, gathered in family hugs, met a person who lives less than two km away from our Brisbane home, raised our glasses to ourselves, soaked in the warm mineral springs, parked the RV on gravel made of seashells, drove in the rain, left The Doctor behind in the RV to nap, walked along the boardwalk of a bay, drove on one lane roads with sheer cliffs and air on one side in a gigantic RV with a left-hand stick shift, heard many stories from many wonderful "locals", went on long beach walks, played in the sand, found sand dollars and sea stars, went to the village shops, splashed in the waters of black sand shores, stood on a point where we could see a blue lake and a green lake side-by-side, respected the tribal lands, shared more time with Hannes and told him to call his mom back home in Stuttgart, heard the amazing song of the Tui bird, saw some sheep, didn't buy a single souvenir t-shirt or cap, walked hand-in-hand, wanted Jessica there every single day, thought of family and friends back home and wished we could share this with them, began to want to stay forever, and made memories that have made homes in our hearts.

I do hope YOU get to go to NZ one day, or to the NZ of  your heart.

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