Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Week in Our Lives.....

A week in Our Unschooling Lives (Abridged), April 11 - April 17, 2010

(AKA- the week that made Sandra Dodd tired!)

Sunday, April 11

Annalise set up a train track, and continued making watercolor paintings (she started on Saturday). She chose several to staple together to make a birthday book for Amma (my mother). First, though, I got pictures of the whole "gallery" laid out on our bed!

Meanwhile, Jeremiah set up the computer to play the new Pokemon online episodes he hadn't seen yet. He prefers to wake up more slowly than Lise, often by watching something.

Jeremiah, Annalise and I walked to my parents' (a few hundred yards on a rural road, so we had a chance to practice road safety). Observed water flow patterns from recent rain, and that the wild strawberries were starting to blossom along the roadside. looks like a bumper crop this year, and we will be keeping our eyes open!

Amma's birthday party. Kids enjoyed cake and ice cream, as well as playing with cousins Sam, 5.5, ad Nate, 3.5. Sam, Annalise, and I had a blast playing hide-and-seek outdoors. There was also tree-climbing and tag.

Kids were tired after we walked home, and spent the rest of the evening in free play. When Jim came home from work, we followed him to the car garage, where we dropped off his motorcycle. Then he returned with the car, and rode the bike back home - and for us, that was a lesson in logistics and problem-solving.

Monday, April 12

Once everyone was up and moving (I think it was noonish), we repeated the car and motorcycle process in reverse (Jim went with the bike, dropped it off, drove home to pick us up, then we all drove him back to get his bike and drop it home).

I was the off to a dentist appointment. Jeremiah enjoyed quiet indoors to watch America's Funniest home videos, PBS kids, and play DS. Jim and Annalise washed their bikes together in the driveway.

When I came home, minus a molar (I got to see it, and tried to bring it home, but NYS thinks my teeth, out of my mouth, are a biohazard, so I couldn't - note to self, bring CAMERA to next extraction!). I did manage to pry my sore mouth open enough to show them the gaping hole left behind, and we talked about sinuses, dry sockets, and the fragility of blood clots. Lise enjoyed studying the extra gauze I was sent home with.

It was a lovely spring day, so we all went outside. Jim and I settled into our swing, and the kids pursued a favorite pastime - asking us to custom design obstacle courses fro them to conquer together. When they tired of that, they played in the grass and flopped down beside us, and talk turned to food. Since we had been without a car most of the week before, and they had missed their beloved unschooling co-op day, we decided to take them to Pizza Hut.

On the way, we spotted a heron on the Mechanicville Reservoir, and managed to get a quick picture of it before it flew off. It was dusk, and we had to look closely to see him at all. Luckily, he is visible in the picture!

At the restaurant, the kids enjoyed making their own salads, the claw game, and the toy vending machines. Annalise was particularly thrilled with her tiny food items, which she says she can use to play restaurant (also the perfect size fro her dollhouse). Jeremiah loves to study the claw machine as he uses it, because he is determined to figure out how to win a prize from it - a physics puzzle with a reward he hoped to pass on to his sister, once he unravels it.

Dinner was delicious, and fun, with Bakugan ball hijinks (they are magnetic), and lots of interaction between the kids and the staff who clearly found them amusing! Afterward, we walked over to the nearby Price Chopper, and grabbed a few things we'd need before Tuesday's weekly shopping. The kids and i looked and dreamed about birthday cakes while Jim snuck off and pick up a prearranged surprise which we enjoyed once home - ice cream and cones.

Tuesday, April 13

The early part of the day saw the kids egaged in outdoor play. I worked on mowing, and Jim on assorted yard tasks, while the kids swung and had an ongoing galactic Pokemon adventure and played school (which apparently involves a good deal of sand play and giggling!).

The kids made several contributions to our shopping list, then got bathed and had their hair detagled in preparation for Daddy Night, when they go out with Jim and I have the house to myself for a few quiet hours. They spent a good deal of time at the Waterford-Halfmoon school playground, then movedon to Chuck E. Cheese;s (quiet on Tuesday evenings!), before doing the grocery shopping together. Both children, in addition to requesting items on the list, make choices on produce items and snack items. Both also understand the meaning of having a budget, and are willing to wait or use their own money for items that don't fit the spending plan.

Wednesday, April 14

It was a beautiful week, weather-wise, and the kids began another day with PBS Kids and lots of outdoor play. My friend Mary just closed her family day care to move on to new adventures, and offered us the last things she hoped to clear out. we combined this with a playdate with her children, Elsie, 8, and Christopher, 6. Elsie and Jeremiah have been friends since before either could walk, and it is always interesting to see how their friendship evolves. This time, Jeremiah was generous and shared his DS, explaining things so that Elsie could get the most out of her playtime.

We went along to Elsie's softball practice, where Lise met several other little girls in her age range, and spent a good deal of time rolling down the hillsides with them. Jeremiah, meanwhile, was blissfully included in the conversation and DS play of Pat and Jack, both 11. He's known them for years, but he's always been "too little" to really register on their radar as an equal, until now. Jack and Miah, especially hit it off, and exchanged games and plans for future play. Jeremiah was also inspired to dso a bit of writing during a PictoChat (which somehow links up two DS systems so that the users can trade pictures and messages).

We came home and went through the things Mary had given us, with both kids sorting through to keep what they wanted, stow their new treasures, and helping me to bag up the rest and prepare for Live and Learn Co-op, which meets on Thursdays, roughly 11:30am - 2:30 pm.

Thursday, April 14

Our unschooling Co-op day. we were up earlier than normal, to get clean and detangled for our day. Then off to join our great group of unschooling friends, and enjoy the communal snacks, lot of free play both inside and out, some composing onn the piano for noth kids, a game of Vampires and werewolves conceived and overseen by the teens, Echo, Andrea, and Emily.

Both children had the opportunity to observe, ask questions about, and have a turn using a manual wool carding machine to turn raw dyed wool into swaths smooth enough for next week's felted wool ball project.

It should be noted that all activities at Live and Learn are optional; each child decides how much or little they wish to participate.

Jeremiah brought his new matchbox scenes and a couple of cars to share, and soon had three other boys to play with him. Annalise brought her Littlest Pet Shop and a set of felt dress-up cats. We also brought along a PlayHut space shuttle - all of these were hits with children from toddlers through younger tweens. Lise very carefully cleared all the smallest play pieces when toddlers Sara and Logan began to play, "so that they won't choke."

Jeremiah and his closest friend, Ethan, wanted to get together at a playground, so we agreed on one, then set out to do our weekly credit union errand. annalise collected her allowance; Jeremiah has decided to keep his "in an account" until he has $36 (6 weeks' allowance, for him). he is making plans on what to do with his lump sum, and he and I calculated together whe he will have it, and marked the calendar accordingly.

After the playground, we returned home to find a note on the door from Social Services, requesting a meeting with us to discuss"a referral for a family". It was Jeremiah who found the note (Lise and I having stayed in the car to listen to the end of a Paul Simon song), and so I had to explain it to them both in the driveway (which I don't think I handled as well as I might have; I was scared!). It was already after office hours, and so I could not even call their office. So the usually mellow hours after our day out turned into a cleaning frenzy (we hadn't been home much, so things were more than a bit chaotic from all our comings and goings). The anxiety over what Friday would bring caused Annalise to have her first nighttime accident in about a year.

Friday, April 16

Our plans (made two weeks before), had been to go to Journey Through The Body on Firday, to perhaps meet Bob Kovachick, the local meteorologist who is Jeremiah's longtime favorite. However, we instead found ourselves meeting with a social worker from Child Protective Services, which was a very different type of education, and not one we enjoyed.

The children were accused of "doing nothing but watching TV and playing video games all day every day," with Jim and I, by association, being accused of what amounts to educational neglect. The case worker had already called the school - yes, we are compliance with NYS homeschooling laws.

Annalise is not old enough for compulsory attendance (also doesn't care as much for TV or video games as she does many other things). Jeremiah does enjoy a good deal of television, as well as playing games (the ones he chooses tend to be physics oriented or long-range missions, usually involving gathering points, skills, and missions along the way to success. Favorites include Pokemon, The Hobbit, Animal Crossing, Dogzz, Madagascar, and Crayon Physics.
He learns a great deal from his games, perseverance and problem solving not least among them, and also learns from many other activities and experiences.

We answered many questions that had little to do with our educational choices, a few t
hat did, and the children learned that people they do not know can come into our happy, busy home and be in charge, simply because someone called a telephone number. In truth, we seldom have company, and there is more evidence on this blog and in other public forums (not to mention in this week's activities) to prove the richness of their lives than anyone could have personally gathered to the contrary. Jim lost an hour of prep time on a busy Friday night (he is a chef; Friday is a big deal), and we needed to change our plans and the flow of our lives to deal with what I am certain was a complaint that had much more to do with hostility than a real issue.

Once she was gone, Jim had to leave almost at once, leaving us all still agitated by the experience. In order to try to restore our sense of normalcy and peace, I decided it was time to enact the idea I'd had on Wednesday night. I began the process of shifting the purposes of most of our front rooms, because traditional layouts don't seem to fit our needs (we had a dining room that we don't eat in, and a living room that was too stuffed with things to be comfortable.) The children helped me sort through books, deciding which to put away in a bin for a while, and which to keep readily available (we have a LOT of books!), and enjoyed watching the new layouts begin to unfold as they decompressed from the visit (the caseworker was rather rude to them, although I don't believe she meant to be. She simply was too focused on doing her job to really interact with the children beyond her script, and Jeremiah and Annalise are more accustomed by far to adults who listen to them, talk with them, and find them interesting. They enjoy adults who interact with them as PEOPLE, and do not enjoy nearly so much those who insist on interacting with them condescendingly, as CHILDREN who are lesser beings, somehow.

We had a good deal of conversation, throughout the night, and Jeremiah stated that he was trying to "drive her away". I explained that the sweetness he started out with might have worked better, and he thought about that and agreed.

The one surprising thing about the experience was that Jeremiah revealed to the caseworker that he is afraid of the person he suspects of filing the report,which he saw as an attack, because he loves learning, and loves learning through his games, and feels that these things were threatened to a point where maybe his parents couldn't protect his right to them. He has known there were homeschooling laws, and we've talked about CPS and that sometimes homeschoolers have issues with them, by virtue of making a choice that is not mainstream, but I don't believe it was truly real to him, until now. We will be helping him deal with these big feelings for a while, I think.

We had some much-needed family time after Jim got home, and finally collapsed into bed, exhausted.

Saturday, April 17

We were all still very emotionally drained from Friday's jarring interruption of our daily lives, but the kids and I love Journey Through the Body (I don't think we've missed this event one time since Jeremiah was a toddler.). It's only held for two days a year, and Annalise's fascination with anatomy has only grown stronger over the last year, and now extends to a lot more than intestines. So, although we were all feeling more than a little tired and cranky, we decided that we weren't going to let any unpleasantness interfere with our lives this day.

Buying shoes was a poor judgment call, but Miah's laces were constantly dragging, and there were too many people around the mall where the exhibits are to feel safe, so we'd already decided to get him a pair that didn't need to be tied. At first, he was cranky and impossible to please and Lise was chafing to "PLEASE let me try on some shoes" (she adores shoes, and always has!), and I was headachy and miserable and ready to pack it in and drive 20 miles home......

Then Miah found a perfect pair of plain black Velcro sneakers that fit so well he declared, "I am never ever taking these off my feet!" If I'd just remembered he's a minimalist before trying to get him interested in the fancier styles... =) Then it was over to find the perfect ballerina flats to suit Annalise's need for something soft, pretty, unique, and functional. She explored several options, and finally settled on a faux-patent pair that shaded from hot to light pink, and sport not only Velcro buckles, but also flowers with "gem" centers.

Wearing their prizes, we grouchily went out into the mall to begin out tour of the human body with kidneys, intestines, and the skeletal system. Bones saved the day as Annalise lingered lovingly over individual bones, naming more than I thought she could, then moved on to the skeleton, shaking his hand and tapping his toes while Jeremiah got in a few slides on the skeleton slide (he likes bones, too, but for Lise it's clearly a passion).

We took a bit of a break to wander through the mall...they seem to put the exhibits somewhere different each year, and this year most of them were in a store that had closed. It was OK, though, because we discovered that his mall had not only a popcorn vending machine where you can watch your corn pop, but also a hurricane booth! We watched two 11-12yo girls get blown around by a 78.3 mph wind. Miah wanted to do it, but not alone, I had a gaping hole in my mouth, and i was quite sure that much wind would be too much for Lise, who is a bit afraid of big wind. So we decided to put it off until a better time. And we saw a sign for the new Shrek movie. Jeremiah read it, walked on about 30 feet, stopped dead, and said, "It's not OGRE till it's OGRE! Now I get it!" I don't think he's caught on to that type of wordplay before.

Finally located the rest of the exhibits. The kids poked at a realistic brain model, did brain puzzles, saw a defibrillator, assessed their cardiovascular disease risk (low), got weighed and measured, saw how much sugar and fat are in assorted food items, and Lise got to poke around at a real cow's heart. Jeremiah enjoyed the freedom of roaming a bit by himself, speaking to assorted volunteers, even asking oe gentleman to draw him a map to the water fountain, which he then used to find it. We had dinner at Friendly's (diner-style food, but fabulous ice cream!), and burned off some energy at the play area. The kids got popcorn from the machine despite an unfairly grumpy mom, and we finished the outing with a trip to the music store to explore some pianos(including observing the insides, playing, pedal exploration).

We left just in time to drive to Schuylerville and pick up Jim after work...he doesn't like to ride his motorcycle in the rain. It was a long, full day, and we were all happy once we were home again! =)

Snuggling, tickling, conversation, and television filled the hours till sleep.