Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy 13th Birthday Alex!

We now officially have a teenager in the house! It is hard for me to describe the joy and happiness that Alex brings to our lives. Alex's wish for today was to spend the day with the family, go to a movie, and plan out the meals for the day. We started the day off with presents. Sophie's gift was a handmade card along with offering to milk the cow this morning so Alex could have the morning off. Max's gift was Pokemon Explorers of Darkness for his DS. Ella made Alex 6 handmade cards...because she loves him so much. John and I got Alex Raving Rabbids for the Wii, along with an extra remote and nunchuck. We had homemade pancakes, eggs from our chickens, and local pasture raised bacon for breakfast. Alex and John then went for 9 holes of golf. For lunch, Alex had planned on gazpacho and garbanzo bean salad. We were then off to the movies. John had to stay home to milk the cow, and when we went to the theater, I had the wrong time for Horton Hears a Who at the dollar movie. We missed it and decided to go to another theater. Sophie, Ella, Max and I were going to see Indiana Jones while Alex went to see Iron Man. Alex was rather sad that he was going to see the movie by himself, but none of the other kids wanted to see Iron Man, and they didn't feel comfortable going by themselves if I went with Alex. As we were about to go in, Max said he wanted to go in with Alex, because he didn't want Alex to be alone for his special birthday movie. Max can be very sensitive to movies, and had really not wanted to see Iron Man, so this was huge for him. Alex was so happy. It truly meant the world to him that Max did that just for him. After the movie we came home to hamburgers on the grill, more bacon, baked beans, and apple crumble for dessert. I can't imagine a more perfect day for a such a fabulous person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Old Friends, New Friends, Red Friends, Blue Friends

I was totally inspired by Kelly's Imagination Tribe weekend. Basically, she arranged for a group of unschooling grown-ups to hang out for the weekend at a cabin exploring and sharing art. Madeline and I both planned on attending, but realized it was too far and came at a very busy time in our lives. We were both so disappointed when we had to cancel, that when the opportunity presented itself to have an impromptu ladies get-away, we decided to focus at least some of our time on the creative process. Four of us, all mothers to at least one young child, gathered at my house for a bit of time away from the loving, nurturing energy of being moms. We're not all unschoolers, and found that the differences between us inspired incredible conversation and food for thought. We did spend some time on various creative endeavors, but the weekend was really more about women communing together over good food, good wine, and good conversation. Oh yeah, and milking the cow. So for Shanna and Madeline, my old friends, and Claudia, my new friend, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for a very cool and memorable weekend. Our connections are deeper and our community is stronger by taking the time to be together.

Beautiful Ladies

For the past 10 weeks, I had the privilege of teaching some amazing women the art of Tribal Belly Dance. I am always honored to dance with women when they put their heart and souls into learning something so new to them. Belly dance can mean many different things to people. For me, it is a powerful catalyst for women to come together, supporting each other, helping each other, learning from each other, all in a way that provides for everyone the chance to move their bodies, sweat a little, and challenge themselves. This class in particular was very special to me, as it marked the beginning of my participation in a dance community that will include many different forms of dance. As the culmination of our class, we had a performance for all the loved ones and friends of the dancers to have a glimpse of what they've been working on so hard. The women I worked with absolutely amazed me. Not only were they stunningly beautiful, but they were strong, and confident, and I felt so joyful watching them own their dance. They gave me the okay to post their picture on my blog.

Ladies: Here's to you! Cheers!

Mother's Day

As this day comes to an end

You will always be my special friend


You are as beautiful as a rose
You smell like Pie

Monday, May 12, 2008

Project 365: May 10, 2008 Day 33 "Six Word Memoir Title"

Madeline tagged me.

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.

2. Post it on your blog.

3. Link to the person that tagged you.

4. Tag five more blogs.

The Ever-Evolving Melinda - Because I feel like I am continually changing, evolving, and remaking myself into lots of cool things.

Sorry I'm not going to tag 5 more people! However, I have done things just because they looked cool, even though I wasn't tagged for it. So, If you feel like it, go for it!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Project 365: May 9, 2008 Day 32 "Rock City"

This year for Christmas, John and I each gave the kids a coupon for doing a special something...alone. John's gift to Ella was to take her to Rock City. Although it is one of the more well known tourist attractions in the area, we have yet to go as a family. Ella chose the pictures she wanted on the blog.

Holding up the giant balancing rock

View from the top

The Needles Eye

Stone Walkway

Contemplating the suspended bridge

Going for it

Project 365: May 6, 2008 Day 31 "New Clothes"

Max received some "new" hand-me-downs from a friend. He hasn't taken the down vest or red sport shirt off...he loves the way he looks in them and keeps commenting on his cool new clothes...I love this kid!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Project 365: May 4, 2008 Day 30 "A Pefect Sunday on the Porch"

A Beautiful Sunday, Yummy Coffee, and Good Conversation

Project 365: May 3, 2008 Day 29 "Birding"

Since I didn't go out to do any actual birding, check out Madeline's blog for really great photos of the kids in birding action. My kids had a really great time. They may never reach Gillan's level of knowledge (which is immense!), but his enthusiasm for this hobby is contagious!

Taking a mid-day break
The Coot Club receiving their awards
The Dragon Loons receiving their awards

Project 365: May 2, 2008 Day 28 "Road Trip to Madeline's"

It was c-o-l-d in that water!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Project 365: May 1, 2008 Day 27 "How easy it is to forget"

We were watching tv the other day and saw an ad for Sylvan Learning Centers. A little confession...I worked at Sylvan for 2 years. I worked there before I discovered unschooling, when I was introduced to unschooling, and finally as I became an unschooler. I always look back on those 2 years as I emerged on the unschooling path as part of my epiphany.

When I started st Sylvan, I drank the kool-aid and bought into the idea that I was HELPING these poor kids. As I read more and more about unscholing, and decided we would unschool our own family, my time at Sylvan became torturous. It was so hard for me to go there and force these kids to do more absolutely meaningless work. The irony of the situation was that these kids who were going to Sylvan were going because they weren't succeeding in school. So here I was, doing MORE of what they weren't getting to begin with!!!I mostly tutored in Math, and quickly realized that memorizing facts and answering the odd questions #1-25 on page 50 from the math textbook was probably the worst way to understand mathematical concepts and the relationship of numbers and patterns in our world. And if you have to be told, at the end of the section, that you are now doing "critical thinking", it stands to reason you are quite possibly not thinking critically.

One child in particular helped me realize I could not participate in this lie any more. He was an eighth grader for the second time, and it was looking like he was not going to pass the third time around. He came to me for study skills. He was failing, it seems, because he refused to do any homework. He also slept in class. My job was to make him understand how this attitude would not serve him now or in the future. This kid was the epitome of what middle schoolers pick on. He was overweight, had some breathing issues, and was incredibly intelligent. Perfect fodder for the popular crowd at any middle school across the country. As I got to know him, I developed a deep respect for him and all that he was enduring. He slept in class because he did not need the instruction from the teachers to "get" the material and also to escape, for a while, the torment of his peers. He didn't do his homework because he made all A's, B's and C's on his tests which meant he "got" the material and could answer the questions posed. He did not see any reason why he should spend more of his time, aside from having to be in school all day anyway, when he knew the information! He was one of my last students before I quit, and I spent a good deal of time with him discussing the books he loved to read. I'd go through the motions with him, so he could get out of the stupid Sylvan program and get to spend some of the little time he had to himself doing what he wanted. After crossing the t's and dotting the i's, we'd talk. He was such a cool kid, really full of passion about the extremely complicated science fiction he read. One night, as we were closing up shop, this kid was waiting to be picked up. One of the other Sylvan teachers was closing up with me. She was a regular classroom teacher, and had been one for 15 years. She didn't know my student was in the waiting room, and she started talking about him. She said, "How can you stand to work with him. He smells bad and looks like a slob. No wonder he's failing. I would die if I had to work with him." Oh my god. I can't tell you how hurt I was by her comments. I can't tell you how badly I felt for my student who was sitting right there and heard her comments. I looked at her and said, "He's in the waiting room. He can hear you. And he is one of the smartest kids I've ever known. I love talking to him and enjoy his company." She was embarrassed, but not by what she said. She was only embarrassed that he had heard her. Pitiful. Knowing that her opinion was one of the dominant ones of "the system" made me cringe at the thought of this poor kid and what was in store for him the next 4-5 years of his life.

Okay, back to the present. This commercial we saw actually said, "Your child can lose up to 3 months of what they learned in school over the Summer. Bring them to Sylvan". What??!@!! You mean kids don't retain what they're forced to memorize in school???? Shock! Horror! Say it ain't so!!!!

This commercial brought back all of my memories. Bittersweet in that my experience at Sylvan was part of the catalyst that helped me understand how fundamentally wrong it all was. So this was a good thing. But my experience there also showed me the sadness of many kids' lives. I sure hope my student found his way out and to a life less ordinary.