The bedroom switch

Recently Adam moved out to a small apartment in our dive shop, freeing up a bedroom in our house. Since Eric will soon be 11 and Cassie will be turning 8, we figured it is time they each got their own room. So this weekend I worked on both room and finally have them all switched over. The bunk beds are a pain to move and so Cassie inherits the bunk beds. Eric had no bed, but luckily Dad just happened to bring home the extra couch from the dive shop, so it is temporarily his bed until a new one can be bought.

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With this new switcheroo I thought I’d post some pictures of the clean rooms.

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Cassie’s bed, with stuffed animals poised on a chair next to it.

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I love big closets, it gives more room to store their things in!

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Eric’s room. He wants posters to cover the pink walls! All the walls are pink in this house!

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The bookshelf is still full of Adams’ books. Eventually they will go wherever Adam chooses to go. Or Eric will inherit what Adam doesn’t want.

So far we are on day 2 of the switcheroo and Eric has rediscovered his love for lego, now that he has room to play it. The sound of rattling lego pieces in a bucket is a cheerful, productive sound. Though it can drive you crazy at times!

Cassie is enjoying her room too and our next step is to help her turn it into a girl’s room.

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Vocab Games

I used to be involved in a direct sales company, Simply Fun, that sold board games. I loved the idea of playing games as a family and stayed in long enough to get one of each kind of game they sell. I love all the games and if I were a better saleswoman, I could see this company doing well. Anyway, despite my enthusiasm for the games, my family pretty much ignored them. Until recently.

Cassie and Eric are finally at the age that games are appealing. So they sneak into my closet and take out a game to explore. Part of the appeal is the sneaking into mom’s closet I’m sure.

The latest game they’ve been playing is called Take Your Pick. It is a card game. Each card has two words on it. Usually opposite or contradictory in meaning. Like “Hot” and “cold”. Or “Indoors” or “Outdoors”. You are supposed to take three cards and think about the other person you are playing with. What would they choose? It’s kind of like a personality game where you try to analyze the other person’s personality. What do they like? Great game to play between brother and sister.

Cassie needs help reading some of the words and then thinking of a question related to the words to ask Eric. They both need help figuring out what some words mean. Great vocabulary builder for both of them, and Cassie is practicing her reading skills. She is getting much better and I predict she’ll be a full on reader by the time she is 8. A little later than our other 4, but you can see how the process is just so different for her. One thing I’ve observed is that when she is reading she does not look ahead to the other words, but actually stops on each word and ponders the meaning. Sometimes she begins to question the author of the story. Like this simple reader I found called “This is a Fish”. In the story where the kids see a whale at an aquarium, one character says, “that is a big fish”. Cassie paused in her reading to scold the book. “It’s a whale you stupid kid!”. Reading further, the other kids do correct the boy, minus the word “stupid”.

Other games played this week:

Take Four – Discovery Toys – a scrabble type game with letter tiles.

Ooga – Simply Fun – memory type game with dinosaur cards.

Breaking Down the House –  Simply Fun - dice game where you build a house by rolling dice. Three die alike and an earthquake strikes (the house falls down).

Psychonauts – playstation 2 video game

Lots of TV watching as we just got cable at the air station office. So far we aren’t directing their viewing too much…lots of iCarly and Nick cartoons so far. I also got a new DVD free in the mail from the History Channel – America, The story of Us. So we’ve been watching a bit of that a night. Along with a new hulu.com show we found….or an old show actually, Eerie Indiana – spooky stories told by a 12 year old kid about his weird town he lives in.

One thing to mention about my kids and their game playing. They sometimes ask me to tell them the rules. Once they get the basic concept down, though, then their own rules come into play. Rarely do they keep score. Eric used to have an issue with winning and losing (hated losing of course) which made playing games with him a nightmare a few years ago. So now, his rule always is, there is no keeping score. You just play for fun. And he loves to figure out the rule and do the opposite. And make that the new rule. Hard to explain. You’d have to see him in action. But thankfully Cassie agrees.

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Oh, Canada

Two weeks ago I took the two youngest kids half way around the world to visit my homeland, and their heritage, Canada. Our specific destination was Powell River, BC where my family lived. On the way we passed through Vancouver, my birthplace.

The journey there had much to be desired. But any travel long distance on planes with kids is stressful. It started out with good intentions, but reality is…..plane rides and waiting at airports for 9 hour layovers in a foreign country has a lot to be desired. However, Eric and Cassie tried to make the most of it. Here they are posing at the Osaka Airport. CIMG0016In Japan, the kids played hide and seek, rode around on the luggage car (with mom as driver), learned about Japanese Yen and foreign money exchange rates, sampled Japanese Ice cream and gum. By the time we arrived in Seattle, they were quite worn out!

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We had many adventures and I hope to be able to record them over the next few days. Stay tuned.

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Stephanie

Steph is going to audition for a part in Cinderella. She has been taking private lessons from a voice coach.

Rhea, her teacher, is young and friendly. We watched her give her recital when she graduated as a music major in opera. She stood alone on stage with only a piano in the corner for accompaniment. She sang in German, French, Italian and I believe, Swahili. So we know who we are getting for our daughter.

Rhea is gracious to give Stephanie extra lessons as we get close to audition time. Steph is going against people who have been in lessons since they were three. I hope she gets her part. She is working for it. If she does not, I hope she gets something. She really wants to learn this business.

We are also preparing for the turn-over of our new business on Sept 1. Steph will not be the main person in the store as I thought would be the case. She needs to be writing and sleeping. The people we are buying the business from are sharing their knowledge with us, so we are blessed. But Steph is misunderstood, or we are. She comes in late after writing all night and sleeping too much. So she is in trouble for wasting her time and we are in trouble for allowing it.

But again, how can we judge someone else’s journey if we don’t even know where that person is headed? The air shop business is not the end; it is the means to an end. The purpose of it is to create resources for us to follow up on our collective artistic promise. So Steph will NOT stop writing in order to become a scuba air tank filler. She fills air tanks so she can write and get voice lessons and fancy musical equipment and sleep all day if she wrote all night. If she writes 1000 words per day for 10 years, she WILL be a writer.

And we continue.

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When Do We Declare Success?

 

“Mission Accomplished!”

Remember the photo of President. Bush on a carrier with a banner announcing, “Mission Accomplished!” on the eve of five or so more years of combat? When can I (or we; the unschoolers), claim success, or alternately, when can our critics declare our defeat?

My dad was (still is, I suppose) opposed to homeschooling. He invested maybe 10 years of expensive education to become a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), so I don’t blame him for being kind of put out when our actions say, “It was all redundant. We don’t need experts to educate our kids. In fact we don’t even need adults, except for guidance and resources. Kids can teach themselves what they desire to know, and what they don’t desire to know, they won’t learn no matter what coercive technologies you develop and impose on them.” Whew. But that is what we say, right?

I asked him (ten years ago) what he would want to see. He replies something to the effect that he would want to see some fruit. Don’t think that was his word, but that was the idea. I didn’t follow up; I thought about it and I hope he did, too.

Some questions: What about other kids, ones in school, that are 11 years old? What “fruit” are they expected to display? My experience is teachers and staff make endless excuses even for 18 year olds, saying that they are not just miniature adults, but that they need time and guidance to become adults before they can be expected to reflect any positive character traits. So what is the difference? If kids are on a journey, then when do we grade them on their ‘arrival’? Or do we grade them on the journey itself? What about a kid who takes a different path? We declare him a failure because we can not be bothered to take the time to understand his motives, his plans and therefore his progress?

If success is the incremental achievement of a worthwhile goal or goals, then how can we judge someone else’s, most especially if we don’t know what their goal is?

What is the Goal, Anyway?

Of course, it is widely accepted that the goal is to get an education so you can get a good job so you can afford to get your kids a good education so they can get a good job so they can….

Yuck!

Hey, anyone seen this super-depressing movie called Revolutionary Road? (spoiler alert!)

This couple had a dream to go to Paris and find the husband’s “true vocation”--his dream. The world did its best to entice them away from the dream, offering tempting promises of a bigger house, a nicer car, a happier wife…

They let the world steal their dream. And it killed the woman, the wife who was supposed to be happy for the success. Well, we have always known we are different, and I thank this horrible movie for clarifying a few things:

I now know why other homeschoolers tend to misunderstand us and our methods: We went to Paris. Figuratively speaking, but yeah, we did. Our life is an adventure—for real. We do things and build our lives around things that are not just designed for long-term security. In fact, I believe from Bible verses in correct context, that spending your entire adult life working to provide financial stability and attempting to eliminate any possibility of financial discomfort, is the opposite of trusting God.

But there are some tradeoffs for our freewheeling lifestyle. My kids hardly have any friends here because most of the homeschooled kids we know are even more regimented and inflexible than schooled kids. And strangely enough, the parents are proud of it. (One mother wrote a scolding email to Colleen explaining that they literally do not have a five minute block that is unscheduled and available for discretionary use, like walking on the beach, which we do every day.) I’m still not sure if she was supposed to admire this or pray for them…

Other kids, school kids, are not allowed to play; they must do homework until bedtime. Again, not sure if I should admire that or pity it. So anyway, most of my kids’ socialization comes from adults, family members and online friends. (We may have to let Eric go to school ‘cause he loves to play with kids and nobody will play with him.)

We worked hard for many years to build a business that provides the flexibility we enjoy. But I could quit any time if God tells me to. I already left a successful career and moved half-way across the world to a place where my skills were mostly non-transferable. I suffered for it, but where are we promised that there would be no trouble in this world? We do have roots here, but God can pull them up any time He wants.

So these are just the facts, not an indictment of anything or anyone. And I know there are lots of other people who live the adventure. But this is about my family, and this is me putting down what I am thinking about what we are doing and how we are doing it! So here it is:

Trying to Understand Why

I guess most of us have a hard time separating our lives from the American religion of over-consumption. It all ties in together. We buy things we don’t really need, mostly to impress people we don’t necessarily like, so they will admire us. But we also know that if there is a glaring weakness evident, that is what people will talk about. That makes us want to shore up our defenses and be ready to cover up anything that may cause people to look askance at us.

School-at-Home vs. Unschool 

I think that may be why the majority of homeschoolers might as well be in school because they don’t take advantage of the flexibility that homeschool allows (at least from what we can see). Instead, it seems like they try to emulate the school in their home. That’s the major difference between unschoolers and school-at-homers. We are confident in what we do and do not feel a need to display our flight itinerary and progress to people who are looking for something to complain about. School-at-homers want to be sure they look and smell good because they know that the average parent sends their kids to school and that’s all they know. So if they don’t want to be misunderstood (by people who adhere to public school doctrine), they just make it look like they are doing the same thing that everyone knows and that way the path is pretty well paved and not too bumpy. In other words, emulating the school in your home is the path of least resistance.

And to keep on subject here (declaring success in homeschooling), the school-at-home people will do standardized testing to be sure they are on the right track, and also to show others that they are on the right track. This is to reassure the parents and also the community. We (my family) accept the trust and take responsibility for it, like a manager or steward is expected to do. Once in a while we explain what we’re doing, but mostly I am very glad we have a large “traditional” homeschooling group here and I am happy to let them be the face the community sees when they see homeschoolers. Because not even homeschoolers understand us; why would anyone else?

My Second Homeschool Graduate

One of our workers, a part-time guy who is a professional teacher, talked to me about Adam. Adam is the manager of the office that this teacher works out of, so Adam Smith is basically this guy’s boss. Well, the teacher guy said Adam is too quiet. He needs to get out of his shell.

Well, let’s see here. Adam is quiet. And when I was teaching in a classroom setting in a private high school, I wish some of the students knew when it was appropriate to be quiet. But they had zero self-control and so they talked and talked and of course swear words came out and I had to discipline them for it. So as a criticism of a person, or of our schooling style or of our parenting, that’s pretty thin.

Let me try this: I will make a small list of some of Adam’s positive and negative character traits. And then we will see what we got.

Adam is kind to people and animals.

He is organized and dislikes a mess.

He works the family business for a meager allowance, because he knows that after age 18, dad does not owe you a living.

He washes dishes and laundry.

He cares about accuracy and keeps the paperwork in order.

He is an excellent manager and keeps the office profitable.

He shares ideas and helps me develop profitable ones.

He is presentable and friendly to customers.

We can trust him with the business’ money.

He is frugal and sensible with his own money.

If he doesn’t know an answer, he does not give false information; he calls or looks it up.

He cares about his younger siblings and keeps them safe.

He teaches them.

He writes music we all love.

He stays out of our way and seldom asks for anything.

He does not complain about unfairness—ever.

No girl is pregnant because of him

He does not say bad words or take drugs or alcohol

We know where he is at night even though he is old enough to be on his own.

He has pledged to share his success with his family

He reads voraciously and writes beautifully, including perfect college-level essays

He can and does cook.

He is a very safe and correct driver.

He respects and obeys the laws (to which we are to be subjected according to scripture.)

He is respectful to his parents, even in anger.

He is interesting. Fascinating, in fact—If anyone cared enough to get to know him.

He is intelligent.

He is extremely flexible for our family’s sake.

He is in touch with his sensitive side.

He can cut the grass in 100 degree heat.

His siblings adore him so much they fear him as they don’t want to be displeasing to him.

I could go on and if this was your kid you could too. But maybe you get the point:

Anyone who has met or worked with Adam should know more about him than he is shy and too quiet. And if that’s all you take away, it’s your loss. Friends look for good things to say about their friends, and if you try, you can find plenty to be celebrate in any of your friends.

How to be Special

I have to tell this to well-meaning friends and relatives: If you want to critique, criticize or complain about our kids, our parenting, our style, our school, etc, take a number and get in line. This does NOT make you special. If you want to be special, understand your choices: You can love my kids or disapprove of them. Your choice. You decide if you want to invest in a relationship with these little-known relatives of yours. Or if you want to discard them and all the richness that friendship could bring, because you are disinclined to take the time to try to understand and maybe even have your eyes opened to something new…

Wisdom

One more thing before I close this chapter about the journey and when do we declare success, or failure in a child’s education: Revolutionary Road. Again. Ugly movie. But eye-opening. Very depressing for most, I can see why! To some extent, everyone sacrifices their dreams and goals for security and prestige, and justifies it by calling those spectral ideas “immature” and “unrealistic.”

But in the end, in the final analysis, what you have done with your days is what you have traded your life for.

Money? Security? Will that keep you alive? In a hundred years, we will all be dead; we have that in common!

Does Anyone Really Believe This?

In most serious discussions about homeschooling, people understand the basic premise. But in some discussions, where the truly uninitiated embarrass themselves with commentary, we hear that kids must go to school to learn intangible lessons, such as how to prepare for the real world of work, where your ability to deal successfully with nasty office politics will be your salvation, or to be able to understand a deadline and meet it, or to be prepared for the reality of getting up at 5:30 am to be at work by 7:00, five days a week for fifty or more years.

Wait a sec! You mean to tell me my kids need 12 years of training in order to be able to get up at 5:30 or whatever? Maybe the reason these poor kids need 12 years is to prepare themselves for the horror of emptiness that will be theirs if they subscribe to that program.  That’s what “going postal” is all about! They need years of being inured to the reality that their dreams must, and will, evaporate unless they are lucky enough to save enough money to enjoy a sliver of the original dream when they are over 70 years old and can retire and travel .

All that institutional training is to prepare them mentally and psychologically and spiritually for the reality that they will work a job they hate so they can make enough money to have everything that is advertised on TV so they can show the neighbors that they have the ability command more than their share of resources. Then they can declare “success”, while desperately trying to forget that there once was a dream…

Conclusion

I am very thankful to God for allowing me to have an adventurous life, and to have a family that, for the most part, agrees with it all and enjoys the adventure.

I guess I am declaring success to be the adventure itself. I give us a passing grade.

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Teaching Time

Cassie can tell time. On a real clock, not a digital one. Most people would read that statement and say “no big deal, isn’t this a basic that all kindergartner’s can do?” Truth is, it hasn’t been something I have thought to teach her formally. Whenever she asks what time it is, I’ll do one of two things, depending on what I’m doing at the time. When busy doing something else, I’ll just glance at the time and say “it’s two fifteen” or maybe I’ll say “it’s quarter after two”.

Most of the time an answer like that really has no meaning for a child. What she really wants to know is When is dad coming home, or how much longer before I can eat something again? I

f I have time I may look at the clock and say “well the little hand is on the two so that means it’s two something. The big hand tells us how many minutes past two o’clock it is. Each number represents 5 minutes, so if the big hand is on the 3, then we count 5, 10, 15 so it is 2:15.” If I’m really in the mood to impart some wisdom I’ll take it a step further and go through the quadrants on the clock face to explain why 2:15 is the same as quarter after two.

Little lessons like that happen in our daily conversation and I don’t think of them as “school” but more like “life lessons”. I see no need to sit with her and do worksheets of clock faces, having her draw hands and numbers to depict different times.  I’ve seen entire math workbooks delegated to teaching time. She listens to my 5 minute “lectures” and goes about her daily business. Next time she wants to know the time, she’ll look at the clock and see if she can figure it out, then ask me “is it five thirty now?” to see if she is correct. And yup, she is!

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Melon Marker Studios

You’ve heard it mentioned. You’ve seen the beginning pictures. Well, here it is in various stages of construction. Melon Marker Studios and Cassie’s Clubhouse. Eric is the owner and creative genius behind MMS and Cassie is CEO of CC. Each kid has their own entrance that we hope to paint respective signs on this week.

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Busy Summer

It has been a busy summer. I could just say we are taking the summer off, and that would be a good excuse for not updating the journal, but a kid’s love of learning never takes a break.

So we carry on and try to remember to quantify things. We know we are accountable to raise kids who are educated and productive. So far the powers that be wisely trust us to do so in a manner that is appropriate for our family and our community. So this journal is a formality and an experiment. All the same, I will try to keep up from now on.

We almost finished Melon Marker Studios, but rain came and now I have to re-think the roof. And re-install a roof. Our garden is flourishing with eggplant and cherry tomatoes, a couple of pretty useless vegetables when it comes to feeding a family. But Cassie and I have fun harvesting our bounty. She likes knowing she helped grow it.

Eric is working on creating his own video games in a DIY game factory cartridge we bought him. He asked for it because his big brother Adam recommended it. It has kept him occupied with creative pursuit and problem solving activities all summer. He has read some, but mostly works on his DSi.

A few days ago, he was suspiciously chipper in the early morning—6:30 early—and it turns out he was quite proud to have stayed awake all night working on DIY video games: one with zombies that gnaw on your head if you are too slow, another called Pancake Lake, and so on.

Stephanie has lately taken a break from the dive shop while they sell all their stuff and get ready to leave. We are going to at least get a couple of scuba sets so we can dive together. The rest of the time she does mysterious things I don’t quite understand. She reads and laughs at the computer. During the last couple of weeks, she has been working with her graphics pad. Yesterday she explained: One of her on-line friends, a RPG gaming buddy, won a contest and got a self publishing package. She never used it, and it was about to expire, when she gave it to her friend; her other friend, who is the one that Stephanie writes with during all hours of the night, on account of her friend is many time zones away and must, of course, attend school. So Steph and her writing buddy decided to collect some of their RPG stories and publish a book. The other girl is to compile the text, and Steph will draw the cover art. That is what she has been doing all week. The finished work is totally free-hand. I like it.

Adam has been writing songs. I enjoy the songs so much, I have a hard time not making a fool of myself trying to force people to listen. Sometimes when I listen to his songs in the car, I think I’m listening to Moody Blues or Pink Floyd. Other times it sounds like children’s music, but pleasant in its own way, and then I’m listening to a blistering electric guitar solo or a dramatic trumpet piece. The music certainly defies classification, and is always a joy to listen to. I am happy to protect and nurture his gift of music and thank God that he was not subjected to the withering meanness of school. How many delicate gifts are crushed in the name of conformity? It pains me to think of it.

I have a suspicion that in ten or twenty years, that gift will be well-developed and will bring pleasure to many.

Cassie can read words and communicates through notes. That’s fun, and a good demonstration of how reading and writing are part of life and it’s much better to know how to participate! So she is gradually improving. We have an occasional lesson, but she mostly learns by spending time with Stephanie and Eric, reading the commentary on video game screens and reading labels, posters and signs.

I am sure I missed some important educational thing, so I will clean up my mess later.

Les

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What's up this week

We've all been doing a lot of independent learning this week. Even mom and dad.

Colleen (me) has been working on  getting certified on Stampin' Up's new MDS - My Design Studio. A computer based program for online scrapbooking, card making, calendars and so much more. I'm amazed at what i learned this program can do. I've tried other scrapbooking software, and though I can see the potential, I found myself enjoying the hands on aspect of scrapbooking instead of the digital version. Since I do spend a lot of time on computers most people would assume I'd like digital scrapbooking. MDS did peak my interest in giving this form of creativity a chance. And one of the great things I learned this program can do is interactive scrapbook pages! I can create a movie, download an audio file, or upload a hidden picture into "hot spots" on a scrapbook  or calendar page and share that on blogs, email or CD/DVD! So off to do more unschooling on this aspect this week.

Stephanie has been diligently working on the cover art of a book she is co-authoring with another young lady in the states. They have been communicating online for the past two years in a fan fiction forum. The girls had a deadline to meet today and I sure hope they made it! I don't know all the details on this one, but will be excited to see the finished project!

Adam's music has been passed along to some "influential" people. Or so we hope. Kind of vague, but just sharing it with people who were hope can lead us to those who can help get Adam noticed. I've been wanting to share some of it here but until we get a full set copyrighted we have decided to keep it limited to who has copies. This stuff is too good. Adrian Belew would be proud of how he influenced this boy indirectly.

Eric has been, well, being Eric this week. He decided he would reach a goal he's had since he was 3 or 4. To stay up all night until morning. Without sleeping even for a few minutes. Well, apparently he fulfilled this goal last week Thursday (Friday morning) and greeted me chipperly at 7am to inform me as I staggered out of bed. Like one of my online friend said, "who said unschoolers can't set and reach goals?" It's made for an interesting rest of the week as it took him a few days to re-adjust his schedule. In the meantime he has also been diligently working on his new Wario Ware DYI - Do it Yourself game for his DSi. You basically make little video game levels and then play them. Great for Eric and his creative imagination.

Cassie has been astounding us with pictures of kissing hedgehogs - Amy and Sonic to be exact. Her doodle can be found here. Her artistic skill is astounding me as she moves purposefully  and boldly forward in her drawings. She has this very unique style that is all her own, and her ability to portray expressions and movement are amazing. She has also been thoroughly enjoying a color by number books she found (Christmas stocking stuffer) and can be seen quietly coloring at the kitchen table.

Our family has just acquired an old Wurlitzer spinet piano. So last night I hauled out the music books and gave Cassie a basic lesson in the names of the piano keys and how to read the notes of the music staff. She is very interested and with the books we have, I think I can teach her enough to let her go off on her own. Hopefully we'll be getting a friend to tune it soon, but for now it actually works pretty well. I'm even dusting off my music books and plan to practice a few church songs so that I can be a backup when our small music team is out. It will take a lot of practice as I am rusty!

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Some Pics

Life has been full. It is hard to keep on top of documenting what we do each day. I try to at least photograph some of the more memorable events. So thought I’d share some pictures.

Cassie is learning to communicate via writing to us. She has always had her “moods” and sometimes just doesn’t want to talk. I remember as a toddler I’d be trying to figure out what she wanted for lunch by her body language when I suggested something to her. Now, if she is hungry she will take out an item (like a can of soup) and write on a piece of paper. “Can I HAV –>” with arrow pointing at the can. Here is a picture she drew with note, to let us know she wanted the lollipop Les had bought her as a treat.

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I love this stage in the reading/writing development of children. Cassie may be entering it a little later than my other children, but I can see the same stages being negotiated and, from past experience, know that the writing stage she is portraying will quickly bring her into the world of reading and writing. 

Cassie may be behind in her reading and writing, but her drawing is far beyond her age level.

sonicThis is a drawing that Cassie started this evening around 6pm when we got home from town. She admits that it is a “doodle” page. She worked on this on and off until around 9pm, taking breaks to watch me cook dinner and learn how to make home made macaroni and cheese (complete with butter roux to start); eat dinner; and do some painting on Melon Marker Studios.

mms This is the beginning stages of Melon Marker Studios (hereafter known as MMS). The walls and doors are finished now and inside is painted red and outside is painted green stripes. I will post more pictures tomorrow when I can take some in the daylight. Les has made this with a small chainsaw, drill set, and staple gun. And lots of input and help from the kids.

And finally our garden is starting to pay off. Here are the beginnings of my cucumber patch

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And here are the first fruits of the patch!

cucumbers

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Summer Learning

We have been so busy lately we have not been keeping up with our record keeping or any other blogs.

So here is what we have been doing:

Clubhouse: Cassie and Eric are working with me to build a clubhouse out of 2x4’s and plywood. They are learning about tools, doing things in order, measuring, and a thousand other lessons. There is also the important lesson of “imagine it, plan it, work the plan and watch your dream become reality. This is such an important lesson for our family and our kid’s education. It started as an idea and they watched and helped as it became a reality.

Reading: Cassie is reading more and also writing notes. Writing to communicate is a milestone. She still gets flustered at pages of words, but can read short messages quite confidently. Eric plays a lot of video games, but he knows he needs to take a break and read daily. He usually has a few books going at any given time. Stephanie reads every day and also plays video games that require reading. She has really got Eric into Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney. He is interested in a career in law at this point.

Games: Eric likes his new game Wario DIY (Do it Yourself). It is a game that lets you make up your own mini-game and create and play it. He loves anything that helps him create instead of just enjoying others’ creations. He loves Scribblenaughts, powder game, flipnotes, and now Wario’s DIY. He is excited to show me his newest game and I am excited to see it!

Math: I have been putting math questions to the kids whenever I can, which is every day. I get them to think of how to formulate a math question so they can use a formula to get the answer. Eric is getting more confident in his math skills as he finds he has the ability to think things through and get the correct answer. He needs confidence boosters.

We are learning places (tens ones and hundreds) at the same time as the basic concepts of subtraction, addition, multiplication and division. Eric is behind in math so it works out real good that Cassie is learning things and Eric can get his remedial learning done by tapping into her lesson, thereby allowing him to learn without embarrassment. He is ahead of her in some conceptual areas, but they are really close in terms of math ability. Some of the problems we do in our heads as we drive, and some are done with paper and pencil as I show them the places and try to present carrying without hurting their heads or mine. Sometimes I would like to turn them over to a math tutor. That could still happen—later.

Stephanie still dives and learns about running the spearfishing shop while we wait for word from the bank. We have business discussions and strategy sessions. I value her input and she will have some influence in decisions if we end up running the store.  She has plans to play paintball with youth group on Saturday.

She and I have conversations about history, literature, music, science, current events, math and other relevant subjects. I am deliberate about asking her things we have talked about to test her comprehension and retention. I guess she retains about 80% of what I teach her and the remaining 20% she needs a nudge. But she remembers theories and concepts especially well. So some facts fall between the cracks, but the ideas are rooted in fertile soil. 

Life goes on and learning is not segregated from living and doing.

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Jack and the “Pea” Stalk

As part of our get healthy kick we’ve been planting vegetables. It makes sense to try to grow our own, rather than pay for sub standard vegetables that go bad two days after you get them home.
So we have planted tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, eggplant, dillweed, swiss chard, peppers (red mildly hot ones), and two pea plants. The pea plants were started in pots in my office. And actually are still there. The cantaloupe we planted around the same time was moved home and is quietly taking over its corner of the garden. But my two lone pea plants were growing very slowly. Apparently beans grow well on Guam but peas need cooler temperatures. We tried putting them outside but they wilted fast and almost died. So I’ve been coaxing them along in the front window of my classroom.
Last week both plants grew a yellow flower. I was very excited, because flowers mean fruit (or in this case, vegetable). And today, there was a pea pod! I snapped a few pictures with my iphone and this is what came out.
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Looks to me like the top of the bean stalk with the giant’s castle up on the hill in the background. I can just imagine Jack poking his head out of the ground as he climbs that “pea” stalk!
Cassie and Eric have been actively involved in our gardening adventures. They helped me pick out seeds at K-mart. They’ve gone with dad to the Dept. of Agriculture to buy tomato and pepper plants. They’ve accompanied us to Home Depot for soil and other gardening supplies. They’ve helped dig and plant and water the plants. When it comes harvest time, they are eager to reap the harvest. So far we’ve been able to eat cherry tomatoes and eggplant. But it looks like peas are on their way!

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Spelunking

On Friday we went with my good friend Bernie and another homeschooling family for a hike to Talafofo Caves. These caves are located on the highway up from route 4, heading into the village of Talafofo. We parked our cars in the grassy parking area, donned our backpacks with water bottles and snacks, grabbed our walking sticks and started hiking. I was a bit nervous because of my knees. Would I be able to climb the rocks? Would I be able to go down steep hills? It turned out to be not that difficult of a hike. My knees survived. it was hot though and next time I attempt this I would wear a hat, bring more water and take more rests!

Cassie is a little trooper and had a great time climbing through the caves, going into dark scary holes and out the other side. Eric did well too, but opted not to hike through the 3rd cave (I too had to opt out as the way down looked too steep for me). This apparently was the best cave of all. Perhaps next time we do this hike I’ll brave it! There were three caves we visited and one look out point where we saw a WWII marker, indicating that this was a spot that either the Japanese or the Americans used as a look out point.

One of the things I really appreciated about this hike was seeing the wide variety of jungle vegetation. We saw many wild mandarin orange trees, several wild papaya and avocado trees and another native fruit tree that bore a nut like fruit that resembled a mango.

Here is a photo album of our adventure hike!

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Eric about to enter the Cave….

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The view from the top of the cliff. Ms. Bernie, Cassie and friend Adrian.

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Cool rock formations and freaky vines.

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Cassie climbs through the cave!~

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Cassie’s Adventures in Reading

Cassandra took a huge leap into reading yesterday.

I had made a book with stories about our pets. Each chapter was about six sentences about a different cat. The book was lost for some time and we were trying to get her to read age-appropriate material that is also her reading level, which is currently quite a bit lower than her interest/maturity level. (That’s the biggest problem I see with late readers; most of the easy readers are for 4 and 5 year-olds, not seven or eight.) Well, we found the book. I opened it and Cassie jumped up onto my lap and started to read.

She read the first story and even got the word dangerous without tripping. There were some other tough words that no longer intimidate her. The second story was about a cat named Pineapple, who was tragically struck down by a car speeding through our village last week. So Cassie enjoyed reading about Pineapple as a memorial. Eric joined in for this part. (Pineapple was his pet and his friend.) The word Pineapple was repeated. And here is where Cassie made a quantum leap. She had just read “Pineapple” and the next sentence started with the same word. So I told her. I said, “Look. This word is the same as the one you just read. So you do not need to sound it all out and figure out what the letters spell. All you got to do is remember what this word looks like.”

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AH-HAH! I didn’t tell her to memorize this important word. She gets scared by that. No, I just said that she knows what this word looks like so she always knows what Pineapple looks like. In this case, the word was in the paragraph above, and on the same page. But the concept of sight words means she doesn’t have to decode every word she reads.

I explained that when we (as in the rest of us) read, we do not sound words out—we know what the words say. Just like a face. I actually used this example: When you see Stephanie, you don’t have to think to yourself, “Let’s see, it’s a girl, and she looks kind of like her mom and you can see her dad in the eyes and chin. Her hair is like her mom’s. And add it all up to figure out it must be Stephanie.” No! You just look at her and know who she is, ‘cause you know her!

In this way we know words. I don’t try to learn how to memorize faces, I just get used to the ones I see the most and know who they are. Words are the same. Sometimes you have to figure it out, but the more you read, the more of these words become your friends and they are easy to recognize.

From then on, she read four more stories and was able to refer back to repeated words and also realized she has a stable of sight words, more than she knew!

As she read story after story, she needed help with the occasional word that would elude her. One word was “friend”. The vowels are confusing. I told her that the word friend is like a friend; you know that friend without thinking about it. So be sure you know your “friend”. Then next time you see the word, you will recognize your friend. And Eric pointed out that Pineapple was his friend and we recognized both the word and the cat.

Sight words are the short-cut she always wanted. Spelling it out is too hard, but memorizing is also too hard. So recognizing old friends is the way to go! Cassie will very soon be reading books. I am delighted to announce this unschooling victory.

A kind of funny story: When Kevin was about 2 or 3, he was reading words. He made us explain letters and their sounds to him. He ate up books. So soon he was reading the books by himself. He would hold the book, look at the pages and read the words. He knew exactly which words were on which page and he read the entire book in this manner. Colleen’s mom was not as impressed as we were.

“He has simply memorized the story,” she said, “That’s not reading, its just memorizing.”

We knew better than to argue, but as I just pointed out, sight words are the secret weapon of reading. If you look at a page and you know what words are on it, or you look at a sentence and you know what the words are, if you look at a word and you know what word it is, then you are reading. Isn’t that what reading is?

Kev had to learn phonics to help him with words he did not yet know, so he was motivated to learn phonics after his sight words dried up. This happened when he desired to read something that mom and dad had not yet read to him.

So I figure that each beginner reader has a different ratio of sight words to sound-‘em-out words, but if the person knows what the word says, she is reading. Kevin had to learn phonics to supplement the gaps left with sight words. Cassie had to be taught that it’s OK to have a few sight words so you don’t have to sound out everything! They both read. And their reading is a function of their desire to read, end of story.

I think reading should be taught in the home before a kid goes to school. That would save billions. Oh wait, that’s not the intent of school is it? School is about convincing the average parent that only professionals are able to do these things and that’s why we have to give billions to the system and all these jobs for textbook writers and DI salesmen and teachers and many many layers of administration and blahhh….

If it were about teaching kids to read, all they gotta do is read this blog. But my guess is they are too busy trying to figure out how to convince the taxpayers we need more money to figure out how to teach kids to read…..

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Learning Business

We have been teaching our kids business. Most school teachers like to interest the kids or at least let them know there is a potential use for this info (whatever it is, such as math or history) in their future employment at their job.

We assume our kids will see that a job is nice, but your employer has too much control over your life and the quality of that life. And so many people think self-employment is risky!

Everything we teach at our homeschool is presented in the context of business, not necessarily working to build someone else’s business.

So our kids learn what profit is and they learn to analyze business activities to determine if they are worthwhile. Not just in terms of profit, but in the area of human compassion and help.

They learn to value and protect an idea, because they know ideas are the raw material from which reality is made.

I am teaching my kids that people are more important than money. Maybe if business owners put some soul into their business activities, we can make the world a better place instead of just taking resources.

So many people seem to think that life is a contest to see who can personally command the most resources. If you can control so much resources that other people have to do without, then you are a success! I have a list of items that I wrote during the economic collapse of 2008. I have been sharing these ideas with my kids and I will share them below. I have been looking for an opportunity to publicize these ideas, and since i have been sharing them with my children, this is the forum for my Namaste Economics lesson.

Business people: Reduce costs, but avoid laying off employees as knee-jerk reaction.

Anyone can cut costs by slashing payroll, but if you think about it, your business is hurting because of a depressed economy. Layoffs make it worse. Like throwing gasoline on the fire. Try to keep your people working, but let them know they need to appreciate their job and work with you to be profitable. This is the time to be honest with your employees. If you are raking in profit and lay off workers so you can enjoy even more profits, you are a greedy scum and deserve to go our of business. Let employees know your financial situation and let them know you care about them and their families. Share the work and keep everyone working. This--not a government stimulus--will trickle down to the economy.


Go for free advertising. Do the Wave. Get a mascot. Use signs. Increased open hours. Friendly service and phone conversations.

Create added value-- Web site. Give your customers freebies. Free information keeps people coming back until they are ready to spend money at your establishment.


Workers: be honest. Dishonesty is grounds for termination. All other things equal, character will win the day.

Be early and not late. Let your boss know you like your job. Do not complain. Look for opportunities to make your boss more money. Your job is contingent on the profitability of the company, so look at things from management perspective and be flexible.
If you just want money for yourself and complain about the boss and policies, you will be a liability to the company. If you are flexible and let your boss know you are available to do whatever it takes to keep the business in profit, you will be an indispensable asset.


The fact is, everybody's time just became worth less. So everyone must be willing to work harder and longer to survive the quicksand economy. Teach this to your kids. High school kids will be hard pressed to find work because retirees are not leaving their jobs 'cause they lost their retirement savings. Teach them work ethic and other good character.

That concludes the notes I wrote in late 2008. Since then, I have put these things into practice, both as a business owner and as an employee at my wedding job. Both opportunities have proved the validity of my advice.

We did a website for driver ed that started as community service and ended up extremely profitable and also makes us very visible and credible. This post is about our homeschool. This is what my kids are learning from their parents. As I have said before:

To those who think I am doing my kids a disservice because they need a “schooling” experience to learn how to get a job and keep one, I respond that we will be OK; your kids can work for mine. At least if they do, they will be working for a fair and moral employer.

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Mock Trials

As you know, my children are very interested in trials and court room proceedings, thanks to Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney games. So when I heard that this week was Law week on Guam and that there would be a series of Mock Trials happening at the court house, I told the kids. All  three or my unschoolers were excited about the opportunity to witness a “real” trial in progress.

The Mock trials are put on by various public and private elementary and middle schools on Guam. And who is on trial? Fairy Tale characters.  Stephanie really wanted to come but tonight was youth group, which she also really looks forward to.

So I took Cassie and Eric to the court house and we went through the metal detector. A poster showed us the various trials taking place and which court room to head to. I gave the kids the choice of cases and they picked The Three Bears vs. Gold E. Locks  - The bear family was suing Golidlocks for having bad manners. Eric felt a better suit would have been for property damage.  I mean, really, how do you sue someone for having bad manners?

This particular trial was put on by 2nd graders from St. Anthony’s Catholic School. The kids did a great job in their trial. Cassie loved watching it, and I'm sure in her mind she was thinking about how well she could have done in the job. She was quick to point out discrepancies in the testimony and Eric and her were both disappointed that the attorneys did not do any cross examinations. Both felt Goldilocks should have been found guilty of the crime of bad manners, but more importantly property damage.

Tomorrow we plan to return and see if we can catch a murder trial. Perhaps the people vs. Dorothy Gale for 2nd degree murder of the wicked witch of the west. Steph will be able to join us.

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Mock trial pics from The People vs. Dorothy Gale 

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Cassandra’s Struggle with Reading

Cassie is still working on her reading. Funny how it is such a phenomenon, this reading. So many professionals and programs and innovations and money money money spent on teaching American kids to read. And we are so worried about when they learn to read; as if they will permanently miss out on information if they start late. As if the information will no longer be available.

Interestingly enough, we also had "professionals" tell us that it was no good for Kevin to read so early (he started to read at age two!). So...if a kid starts later or earlier than her peers, there are all sorts of negative consequenses. At least that's what we are led to believe. If it weren't for that fear, everyone would know they can teach their own kids to read. And we couldn't have that, could we? So the system makes itself indespensible by filling us with a fear of teaching our own kids. But...Uh...if the public school is so good, why can't the average parent, who is public-schooled, feel confident in his/her ability to teach a six-year-old how to read? Thats worth thinking about for a  minute.

So, back to Cassie. She cuddled with me as I read a book to her. At first, I started on page one and asked her to start reading. She was pretty disgusted--this is a story that mom reads TO me, not one I read! But before I complied and took my turn as reader, I had her read a paragraph. She read the three sentences perfectly, although clearly irked about it. She mumbled and slurred, but SHE CAN READ!

We talked about it for a bit. She agreed that she can read words and sentences, but pages full of words intimidate her. That's what's been the hold-up all this time. Colleen taught her phonics and letter names and sounds long ago at school. She just never found the confidence to dive in and start swimming. She continues to want to stay in only up to her ankles. I am not sure where to go from here. She likes TV and video games. She insists that reading will be "boring". Steph and Eric are right on top of that one! They exclaim how much fun it is to read and write. They show her books she will love. They tell her about stories that are super-interesting. She asks what the story is about, and they say, "You have to read it to find out. I am not going to explain the whole story to you."

And writing is part of reading, at least to Eric and Stephanie. They both write as voraciously as they read. How can you make a cartoon and express your hilarious idea in art if you cannot even write the words or dialogue? I hope the bigger kids will solve the problem from here. Cassie can read, but she is intimidated by pages of text. That is the assessment. We take it from there.

If you are reading this, you are witnessing homeschooling at work. The confidence that even though we do not know exactly what the deal is, we are not worried because we do know that:

-Kids want to learn.

-Reading is simple decoding and is not that mysterious.

-Comprehension is not separate from reading.

-Each child can learn at her own pace and will turn out just fine. The only reason it is a problem in schools is the teachers need all the kids on the same page for their own convenience and for crowd control. You just can't have kids of all reading levels in the same classroom, but it's no problem in a homeschool environment.

We do not know exactly what to do next with Cassie; this is uncharted waters for us. All of our other kids read early, not late. But we know it will all work out fine.

How can we admit we don't know what to do next at the same time as we brag that we know it will all be good, and it will be good very soon? Each child is different. Each family is different. Each child grows up in an age of the family. Kevin was in kindrgarten when I was about 24 years old. Cassie was in K when I was 45. Big difference. Kevin did not have older siblings, Cassie has a houseful of older helpers, mentors and tormentors. So it really is case-by-case and what worked for one kid (or was a hassle), will be irrelevant for another child.

Maybe Cassie will not be much of a reader, maybe she will be our biggest reader. Either way, the decision will be hers, and external forces will not determine her level of literacy and her level of enjoyment in reading. And certainly, no professional with a program will be judging her, medicating her, grading her or comparing her. How and when she learned to read will be a matter for the history books, an academic exercise with no practical value except at family gatherings when we periodically review each child's history. That is the only context in which Cassie's late entry into the ranks of the readers and writers will ever matter--a family joke!

But what is next? Got to get her into fun books. Easy books are too young for her, so it may be a challenge to find easy readers at her interest level. That is the biggest challenge I see for late readers. She can read parts of the Wild, Wild World book about animals. She can read some stories on her DSi. I guess I will update this journal with her reading development. But today I get to announce that Cassie can read!

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Dad praises Steph

Yesterday Colleen reported Stephanie's credit toward industrial education.

She was quite impressed with the fact that Steph did the work so mom did not have to. I am impressed for a different reason.

A few weeks ago, I predicted that we would see a new confidence in Stephanie as her dive shop mentors teach and encourage her to do physical and mechanical things such as:

-Fill and repair scuba air tanks

-Change or jump a battery in a truck or van.

-change or tighten a belt on an engine or electric motor

-clean an engine part with special equipment and cleaning solution.

This is not a complete list by any means, but it is indicative of the kind of things she is learning. More important than the specific tasks she is learning is the confidence she now enjoys.

Just a couple of weeks ago, if I asked her to open the hood of my truck and check the battery connections to be sure they are tight enough, she would have given me an incredulous look like,"you actually expect me to figure out how to open a dirty greasy truck hood?!"

A few days ago, I asked her to help me jump-start one of the driving school cars. First, she did not give me a look--not any kind of blonde-chick look. Then, without being asked to, she went to the neighboring shop and borrowed jumper cables. Then she opened the hood of my truck and the car. I hooked up the cables to the truck and she helped with the other end. She learned how to jump a car, but more importantly, she attacked the task with absolute confidence and no hesitation.

This is happening in all kinds of ways. She is no longer intimidated by things that require tools and manipulation.

And I predicted this result. I keep carrying on about "self-imposed limitations" and I maintain that these unnecessary limitations are counterproductive and totally useless. I do believe Stephanie is beginning to realize I am right and it is better to be confident and competent than hesitant and fearful.

This new confidence in my daughter is far more impressive and important than the mere task of hooking up the stove; it is indicative of a much larger and more exciting trend. My beautiful delicate strawberry-blonde baby is becoming an industrial powerhouse!

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Stephanie the Mechanic

I was blessed today with a brand new stove. What a sweetie my hubby is. Actually, he’s also very practical as our current stove is a fire hazard waiting to happen. We’ve already had two electric fires on the stove and burned out two burners. I often get zapped while cooking on the front top burner if I’m using a metal fork on a metal pot. I learned quickly to use wooden spoons or silicone rubber ones.

So today i’m the proud owner of a new smooth top electric range. I remember my mom had one of the first ever of these types of stoves, back in the ‘70s. We were so retro I thought.

These stoves have come along way since the 70s. Ours is a cool speckled grey black cook top.

When Dad brought it home, we had to hook up the power cord so that we could plug it in. It didn’t come pre-installed. Stephanie, who recently has learned several new mechanical skills, promptly took charge and figured out how to hook the wires up. I was so proud of her. And thankful since I really didn’t want to be the one on the floor trying to put it together. I’m just getting too old for that.

But Steph came through for us and did so in a cheerful manner. My vegetarian chili was finished on our new stove (I had to start cooking it on the old one, then had it on pause while we made the transfer).

So now I can cook. Thanks Steph! She’s well onto earning herself some credits in Industrial Education. (Shop class) – back in Canada when i was in high school the girls took Home Ec and the boys took Industrial Ed. No gender stereotyping in our family!

Bugspray the Cat

I do not know where to draw the line between education, life and just plain fun. In our house, the lines are even blurrier than in most. We do what we do and look for ways to enrich whatever experiences come our way and to encourage the children in what they are most interested in and what they do best.

For Eric, it is definitely creative pursuits. He also enjoys pure learning and trying something difficult and getting it right. But his greatest strength is his imagination. His comics are getting better and a few have actually made me laugh out loud. The ability to do that could be worth a lifetime of income. So we encourage his art. He participates in some online forums where people share their art. One of them is Flipnote Hatena. Flipnotes are a game that comes with the Nintendo DSi. It’s like when you draw a cartoon on the corner of a notebook and on each page the character moves a bit. Flipping the pages creates a moving animation. This is done electronically and is a tool for kids to use to make their own animated cartoons.

Eric recently has been very interested in getting random people to comment. I guess he wants to see what it takes to get people to comment. It’s not easy to get readers to look at what you do and be bothered to write something. It is an inexact science and I don’t know the secret. In some forums, you just go around saying nice things to people and they come back and say nice things to you. I saw that on one writing site. Someone had a Thanksgiving poem with each line starting with a  letter in the word Thanksgiving. I can never remember what those are called, but I did them in second grade. So I was less than impressed when I saw this author had dozens of comments after only a few hours. “T” is for the niceness of the day. “H” is for how am I gonna thaw this bird in only four hours. “A” is for and I don’t even like turkey, and on like that…

So Eric has been trying to involve his readers. He has tried a couple of strategies, but his most successful is Bugspray the Cat. Bugspray is not even an animated cat. He has one page with a very nice pic of a splotchy cat and the words wrap around the cat: “Here is Bugspray the cat. You can send him toys, water and food. If he does not get enough, he will die.”

So those who want to participate can not just write comments, but can participate. I thought for sure he copied the idea from somewhere. But he says no. And one of his commenters said, “cute and original! Here is some stuff for Bugspray.” And there was a painstakingly hand-drawn picture of a water bottle labeled H2O and a bowl of food decorated with little fishes. Also a mouse toy and what looked like fish crackers.

He has nine comments after two days. He has collected for Bugspray: one smashed bug (with the comment “here you go”), a dumptruck load of cat food (“by all means, Bugspray will  never die!”), a personalized food bowl with built-in water dish and a couple of toys, and many other nice items, each drawn by hand by people who took time to play Eric’s game he made up. This kind of creativity floors me. I can’t believe he built a game that people like to play and they invest quite a bit of time in drawing stuff for Bugspray the cat.

Eric told me last night that he just likes to make other people write the word Bugspray. He laughs when he sees he made someone write bugspray. Now I laugh too. If I were given an assignment to get random strangers to write the word bugspray in a public forum, I don’t know if I could. But Eric assigned it to himself and it’s working!

I was going to write about naming animals. We have always had fun naming animals.  Now we got mamma cat named Pillage (her littermates were Pirate, Pilfer, Plague, oh, and Plunder). Her kittens are Pumpkin, Pandemic (guess who thought that one up) Parachute, and Popcorn. Sometimes we fight over the names. Our previous litter, now grown, was Applesauce (destroyer of iphones), Pineapple, Soy Sauce and Efflie, short for efflorescence.

It’s all lots of fun and we think of names for animals we don’t have. Like Ginger and Sesame. Or Namikuji.

The little kids are reading the Wild Wild World book with hundreds of paragraphs about animals. Eric says Cassie wants to learn to read so she can read that book. And she can read many of the articles now. Sometimes our most fun times are also our most productive times.

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What We’ve been up to this week

This last week has been very educational for both children and parents.
Cassie and Eric have been to Underwater World twice in 3 days. They are looking in books to learn more about some of the fish and sharks they saw and also research about sharks they do not get to see at the aquarium, such as Great Whites.

Eric is teaching Cassie to use Wikipedia, of all things.
Eric says, "I should use Wikipedia more to find out things instead of always asking you, dad."
Cassie said,"I will be using Wikipedia a lot when I learn how to read.”

She spends time reading with her mommy, but still lacks confidence in reading. The two little kids have been caught together reading a book about animals. There are lots of pictures and a series of Q & A about the animals. When they are in the mood, they retain just about everything they read in this book. Eric reads to Cassie and it's so cute!

Eric has been asking me a lot of questions about history and science. He is learning a lot, but it's useless to try to recount it all. That would be more work than answering all the questions the kids ask! He uses Stephanie as a resource. She helps him look things up, answers some of his questions and gives him her editorial commentary on things. They all help each other, but to them, they are not sharing resources, they are just having fun. (Shouldn't that be illegal? Having fun while learning?)

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Steph earned her PADI open water scuba diving certification this week. She has completed 5 dives and will begin advanced training this weekend. She is also learning to run the business, which is a dive shop and spear fishing shop. PICT0853
In addition, the instructors there are acting as mentors and tutors for her. Dr. Richard is a Vietnam combat veteran and Navy Seal as well as a Medical Doctor. Winnie is a certified teacher who would rather dive than waste time trying to teach school. Both of these teachers are serious about their role in Steph's education. She had fun playing chess and dominos with her dive instructors in between dives and customers and filling tanks with compressed air. We are thrilled with this opportunity for her to learn from these people, both of whom are global people with tons of life experiences and immense stores of knowledge.

Dr. Richard showed us his dog tag with a bullet hole right through it. It is on a chain with the smashed bullet that tumbled through his flesh when he got shot three times during his last day in the jungle. You can read about those things, but you cannot see the real thing and hear it from the mouth of the wounded veteran if you are stuck in a classroom with 29 kids your age and a certified teacher, or even at the kitchen table doing math worksheets with your homeschooled siblings. Too many activities, instigated for the purpose of making sure everyone knows you are out there being socialized, can preclude the possibility of taking time to fully enjoy and learn from this kind of impromptu meeting. Combat veterans do not always want to talk; you cannot just make an appointment for them to open up. It must be the right timing and the right people. They will not expose their inner demons and scarring memories to someone who is not interested or to someone who is morbidly interested.

When I meet a combat veteran, I listen respectfully and let them know I am open. They often take advantage of this openness and I am sure it is therapeutic for them. I know it is a uniquely powerful experience for me and, sometimes, my kids.

Can you imagine inviting this guy to speak to a classroom of kids about his experiences in battle? Nope. Ain't gonna happen. Unschooling may have weaknesses; I am certain our critics are keeping score, but  I know our style of education opens doors of opportunity other can only dream of. And if they do not dream of it, that's too bad; it means the ability to even think of possibilities has been crushed by a slavish adherence to a school mentality.

I have listened to several veterans from various wars tell their tales. I could write a book about these men. I am honored to know them, to hear their stories, and to perhaps help them release a little of the pressure.

Hey, I am still getting an education, too. When I stop learning, how am I going to tell my kids to keep learning?

So there is some info about our week of unschooling. Good luck matching that with a program or curriculum!

Geography

Geography happens every time we walk down the hallway to the bathroom. This map of the world is a political map, showing borders. We discussed the way place names change and so do borders.


I showed them where ice caps are and where the driest deserts are. We talked about deserts that are not just hot and sandy, but are deserts for different reasons, like it's so cold nothing can grow.


A map can be a very interesting thing--hiding secrets and information about people and places. My younger children are starting to be interested in what life is like for people in other places. Now they know our day-to-day reality is not anywhere near what I call the "Global Mean", and they wonder what we should do to make the world more fair. If there is such a thing.

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We are soon entering into election season on Guam, so this year we will be paying attention to politics and elections.


Yesterday I had "class" with the younger kids for several hours if we count the 4 separate times we hung out together and I answered their questions. We covered more than a day's worth of interesting Q&A.
Eric and I had lunch at the SDA vegetarian restaurant.
We also bought some vegetarian staples, such as textured vegetable protein stuff, which looks and feels like ground meat for tacos and other recipes that involve ground beef. We also got veggie-based soup bouillon and some macadamia nut butter. We are really opening our minds to new foods. Eric ate an "egg" sandwich with no eggs. He really liked it!
We had a big ol' discussion about food and nutrition and related subjects. We bought a cookbook and looked at which recipes we could make with what we have at home. Our new vegetarian lifestyle is a major learning opportunity.

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Diving and Driving, He Said

Steph has a few projects on her plate. Right now she is going to the dive shop next door every day. She is learning how to run the dive shop and the spear-fishing store. Our family is attempting to buy this business so the owner can retire to his home in the States.
Whether the money happens or not, we are learning how to run this particular business. I (Dad) am going there to get training whenever I can, but I am so busy...
So Stephanie goes there every day. If we do buy the shop, she will be the one who knows how to sell the spear guns, how to sell the scuba equipment, how to deal with agents--everything.
She is also reading the PADI book (so am I) so we can both be divers. We really need to both be dive masters, but one step at a time. So we are going to take dive classes and lessons.
She was interested in a leadership conference for homeschool teens, but now she realizes that her dive shop adventure will bring the same results but with profit instead of expense.
In addition, Steph is about to learn to drive. She will be 15-1/2 very soon and her parents are both driving instructors, so this will be an opportunity to create a video series. Steph is interested in voice acting and singing, so this will test her ability to do her thing on camera. We have not cheated; she has never been behind the wheel. The videos will be an authentic record of a dad teaching his daughter to drive.
Anyone can see that these activities and priorities will keep her busy. But she is still writing and drawing every day. She is a busy girl and will be learning some valuable lessons as these weeks go by.

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Diving And Driving, She Said

(My DH and I both wrote about the same thing this week for our journal. So thought I’d post both with a “He said/She said” theme)

Well, Stephanie is officially 15 1/2 as of today. Which means she is finally eligible to get her learner's permit. I was teasing her this week that she would have to sit through my class this week in order for me to certify her. Teasing, because there are times when she teaches students who come through our door, tests them, etc. so she already knows all there is to know about the classroom material. She will probably be going in to schedule her written test soon. Her dad wants to take this opportunity to create a video series on how to teach your teen to drive, using Stephanie as a guinea pig. So all of her driving lessons (or most of them anyway) will be video taped. And then used for our website. Should be fun.


The other thing that she has been doing this week is learning how to run a Dive shop. Yes, that is Dive not Drive. In the same commercial complex as our driving school is a dive shop that is for sale. My entrepreneurial husband is very interested in partnering with a friend to purchase this shop. It still remains to be seen whether we can secure the finances to do so....but in the meantime the owner wants to train us to do the business. Since Stephanie is the one with the most time on her hands, she has been going over there for several hours a day learning to fill scuba tanks with air, learning about spear fishing and spear guns, learning about masks, fins, snorkels and other diving gear, and eventually she will also be taking dive classes and learning how to dive. And then learning how to teach someone how to dive. Les will be doing the same. We'd like Adam to learn too, but he is reluctant about the diving part. As am I.

So great unschooling opportunities for Steph right now. She really wanted to go to that Homeschooling conference in Oregon - but realizes that what she is doing right now is similar in that she is learning how to run a business and new skills too. And not as expensive either!

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Curriculum

I stopped by the annual GHSA curriculum fair today. This was the first year in well over 10 that I haven’t had some kind of display or table to tend to. Because this years’ fair was so early in the year, and interest seemed a little lacking, I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into manning a table this year. And it was very relaxing to be able to stop in and look around and just listen and talk to other homeschooling moms about what they use with their children.

Lots of talk on grammar and spelling. This seems to be a big concern with most homeschoolers. What is the best grammar program to use? What do you use for spelling? How do you get your child to write?

Coming home I pondered these questions and wondered what people would think about our methods or what curriculum we use.

When I arrived home I found Stephanie reading to Cassie and Eric from Eric’s DSi, where they were playing one of the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games. Eric is reading along with Stephanie and Cassie is watching and trying to follow along as best as she can. I count this as their “reading curriculum”.

Yesterday in the car, Eric was reading through a Flipnote he had downloaded and was pointing out to me all the spelling errors he found in it. He told me the misspelled word and then spelled the correct word for me. Cassie listened and soaked up this information too. I’m sure that if I ask her how to spell “stair” she will have the correct spelling. This I count as their “spelling curriculum”.

At the office, Cassie and Eric both have a thick stack of papers stapled together into a “book”. Both of them have been writing and drawing in their books throughout the week. Eric has several stick figure comics happening and Cassie draws pictures and then puts titles to her pages. This is their “writing curriculum”.

As for Stephanie, she writes an average of 2,000 words per day on various forums, fan fictions sites, and on her collaborative story she is working on. Included in this writing is a lot of reading and of course spelling and grammar just go hand in hand with this all. It is my firm belief that spelling and grammar should not be taught as separate subjects but are a part of the whole “language arts” subject that also includes reading and writing. To separate these essential tools of reading and writing out of the program and treat them as a separate subject does a disservice to the English language. It really is all one.

So back at the fair, I smiled and nodded and asked or answered the appropriate questions. Pretended interest in these curricula and kept my money in my pocket. Yes there are good programs out there. And yes they are valuable for homeschoolers to use. But necessary? Not really.

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Reading Time

One of my homeschool resource library patrons returned a book today along with a Language 1 book from Abeka. Now I’ve always liked Abeka workbooks as a great assessment tool for your kids. Every once in a while we’ll pick up one for our kids and have them go through and make sure they have learned what they need for the appropriate grade level.

Cassie technically should be in grade 2, based on my having had her go through a K5 program at ECA when I taught the elementary class 2 years ago. She was 4, turning 5 at the time. in Canada that would be old enough to enter kindergarten, but for Guam she would have had to wait another year because of her November birthday. And because of our schooling methods I don’t really do “grades”.

So anyway, I brought home the book and Cassie proceeded to go through the first 20 lessons in about 1/2 hr of study. She needs help remembering the phonics rules for long vowel sounds but is getting it. Stephanie helped at the end.

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Learning Games and more

For the past few days the “rude” flu has been passing through our family. Cassie had it first on Monday/Tuesday. Then Eric on Wednesday. I succumbed on Thursday. And it hit Dad and Adam on Friday. We suspect Steph may have felt it on Sunday/Monday. The girls seem to have gotten it less harshly than the boys. Anyway, here are a few observations of learning activities that took place while we all weren’t at 100%.

Take 4: This is a game I got from Discovery Toys when I used to be a distributor. There are letter tiles and individual  gridded game boards. And cards with 4 letter words on. The idea is you draw cards and try to make the word on the card with your tiles. The person who makes the most words wins. Cassie and Eric played a version of this, evidenced by the tiles strewn around.

Eye to Eye: This game I purchased as a consultant for Simply Fun, a great direct sales game company. I love the games from there, but alas, am not a good salesperson. Anyway, the premise of the game is you read a card with a subject line like “things that are green” and you are to write down three things that are green. The idea is to think alike or “eye to eye” in order to avoid points. Of course when my kids play it they score based on how unique their answers are. Eric and Cassie played this with Eric picking cards that interested him and then they would draw their answers, rather than write the words. Appealed to both of their artistic nature and got Cassie off the hook of having to know how to read. (she won’t be able to fool us for long as we keep catching her reading…).

Cooking: Cassie now eagerly pulls up a chair to the stove to watch whatever I am cooking for dinner. If I can give her a task to do to help it totally thrills her. We’ve been trying to eat less meat and more vegetables, so tonight I made vegetable soup. I used a can of tomato basil soup as my base, with added onions, celery, garlic, red, yellow and green pepper, carrots (which Cassie helped peel) and frozen corn. I also added in a box of wild rice mix and a can of stewed tomatoes. Lots of salt and pepper and chili powder for flavor and spice. Well, maybe not lots of salt.I do try to be modest with that. photo(3) Art. Tonight while dinner was simmering. Cassie started working on an art project. She found some construction paper that Les had cleverly “strewn” in her path (he put it on a new shelf we have in our living room). She decided to make a picture of a night sky with moon, stars and a lone tree Most kids would have started with a black piece of paper and then added the cutout shapes to the picture. But Cassie did a silhouette cutout of the tree and grass on the black and then placed a green piece of paper behind. She than added in the brown tree trunk for added dimension. And glued on the moon and stars to the black night sky.

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Accountability

We have decided to start this journal to keep track of our children's life lessons learned in our homeschool journey. We believe that as parents we are accountable for our own children's education. It is up to us to make sure we prepare them to be active and responsible citizens, not a drain on society. So this blog will be a place where we can share our daily lessons and activities that we incorporate into our homeschool.


About Me

Colleen
Mother to 9 children, 5 on earth and 4 in heaven. Married for 32 years.
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Unschooling is learning as you live life. All of life involves learning. This is what we "teach" our children.

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