My son Woody turned six in November of 2011. That would have been the kindergarten year for most kids, 180 days that mark the beginning of the school career. But Woody did his learning in the big, wide, beautiful world, without school being a part of it.

I'm Teresa Honey, and I kept this blog to document this time in my son's life, to share pictures and stories with far-away friends and relatives, and to add ours to the many stories of families living rich, engaging, loving lives with learning happening all the time and in many forms, totally inseparable from every other part of being human.

Here you'll find 180 or so learning moments recorded from August, 2011 to April, 2012 in the life of a 5-turned-6-year-old radically unschooled kid.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A wee break

We're taking a wee break until Thursday. But I think you'll be interested to see what we post after a few days away. Cheers, and happy Halloween!

43

Today, so far, has been bright with conversation.

On the way to pick up the milk this morning, I tuned into a conversation between the boys at this point:

W: No, duh-duh-duh. See how dog starts with that duh sound? That's a d. Dog starts with D.

F: Like our dogs at home? Brodie and Caddy?

W: No, all dogs. Not just our dogs at home.

F: And tigers.

W: No. Tiger is tuh-tuh-tuh. Tiger starts with T.

F: That's not right!

W: (frustated) Yes it is! It is right!

Me: Woody, you don't have to be angry about that. Fox is two. Two-year-olds see the world a little different.

W: But I'm telling him the right way!

Me: You saw things the wrong way when you were two, too. That's just what it's like to be two. You used to play board games the wrong way. You used to like to just collect all the pieces and then tell everyone you won. That was fun for you as a two year old. It's really OK.

W: Mom, we're not doing backstory here. We're doing right now.

Cheeky, right? I find that delightful. He lifted the phrase from Tangled. The disrespectful or rude stuff is not so delightful, but the holding-one's-own, I cheer. I'm sure there's something from my own childhood buried deep there, but I'm OK with that. I think it's much preferable for kids to be confident and to learn tact and respect than to be damaged and learn passive-aggression.

Another conversation was between him and the woman at the co-op customer service desk where they have a small terrarium of hermit crabs with painted shells. I only caught a bit of that one, as Fox prefers to walk rather than ride in the cart these days and I have to pay close attention to where he is and what he's doing. But I could tell that Woody was asking the woman about the crabs, and she opened up the terrarium to show him one, and she lifted a half-log to show him where another one was hiding. She asked if he wanted to hold one, and he smiled and declined. I can't be sure what he learned about crabs in that moment, but I saw that he was confident enough to walk up to the counter and ask a question, and that he got that question and others answered by someone who was willing to engage him.



And finally, I asked him to help me with a thank-you card to our across-the-street neighbor who works at our favorite bakery and who brought us a beautiful loaf of bread last night. I wrote on the inside, and he drew the picture. He delivered it to her with Daddy Honey, and told her all about "Spooky Fence for a Graveyard with Falling Bones." She was delighted.



Chatty days make it easy to feel great about homeschooling. You can pretty well check things off in your head while you're listening--learning letters, letter sounds, spelling, check. Learning about crustaceans--check. Learning about positive social interactions and a bit of social customs--check. It's good to remember this on doubtful days. Tuning in and just listening gives you a lot of information about what's going on in your kid's brain.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

43

Oh, today.

Today we spent all morning at the car dealership getting the car repaired. Luckily, the fix was covered by our extended warranty, but the weather was yuck, there was much glass and many bustling people about, which impinged some on our running around and making our own active fun, and the waiting room was not so engaging.  I wish I had thought ahead to pack some paper and pencils, a couple of books, or a snack, but I didn't. (I know some parents have the packing routine down, but I've always struggled with it. I may get better at it; something in me might "click" someday. I have days that are perfectly prepared-for, but I always default to a kind of survival-pack plus whatever forgotten surprises lie on the floor of the car.)



Since we were the only folks in the waiting area, we got the remote control to ourselves and watched episode after episode of Tom & Jerry--a favorite, other Looney Tunes, then a couple of Scooby Do's. We ogled the vending machine snacks. (All my change was in the car, inaccessible in the service area.) And we made three trips each to the water fountain and one trip together to the bathroom.

Three hours of that. Waiting. Busying our minds. Zoning out, tuning back in, pacing, still waiting. Interestingly, though, one of the modern Looney Tunes episodes was about Bugs wigging out on energy drinks since his doctor told him to scale back his coffee drinking. Daffy and Porky finally stepped in when Bugs had rearranged the furniture in the whole house, decorated for Christmas in June, and was on the treadmill while talking on his cell phone while talking to them. Watching that while sitting fairly still and quiet in the waiting room was an interesting juxtaposition.

The energy of the morning and midday was subdued, quiet, more passive, a light blue-gray in hue. If I had had an A.A. Milne story to read aloud, it would have been the perfect time for it. But settled cozily in big black leather chairs watching cartoons together with the whirs and buzzes of mechanics' tools int he background had a sweetness to it, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

42

I'll make up for yesterday's dearth of pictures with a plethora today. I added a few new ones to the slideshow at right, too, which you can click on to see images larger and at the speed of your choosing.

Today we went back out to Richland Creek with Joy and her wee bairn. I love going back to enjoyable places over and over again, especially in good company. I think it establishes a sweet and comforting continuity of experience--across seasons, across circumstances, across moods, weather, and stages of life--which also allows for building-upon and connection-making.

For example, the last time we went to the creek, there was not a rotting deer carcass in the parking lot. This time, there was.

Joy noticed the deer had been hit by a car a few days before, and apparently someone pulled over to dress the carcass soon thereafter; there was the skull and rib cage, rotting in the sun and covered with flies, and then, further back in the tall grass, the hide and legs. We talked briefly about using meat rather than it going to waste, but surprisingly, the boys weren't so eager to talk about the body, and wanted to look at it only from the car window as we passed to park downwind. I'll offer this as another example of how clearly and easily most kids can draw the line between pretend killing, as in play, and real killing. (Also, I'd venture a guess that in the next couple of days, a deer hunting pretend-play scenario will comes up. This was Woody's first time seeing a dead body in such a state.)

Last time, we found a huge crayfish. This time, a frog who had lost his or her front leg.



Last time, we laid our blankets out on the smooth rocks and plunked stone after stone in the creek. This time, we sat on a wide, soft sandbar and made castles and cakes and signs in the sand.





What was the same was the careful hike down to the water, through tallest grasses and under delicate spiderwebs; splashing through the water and talk of the current, how it felt stronger against little legs when the creek was pressed through a more narrow space; watching out for snakes, especially among the warm rocks under the overpass; and looking carefully up, down, and all around. Joy's boy found this algae, which extended into the creek, and said it was like green brains squishing between his toes.



Fox was content this time, which meant that I could relax a bit into the two hours of open play that unfolded easily on the sand and in the water, in the intermitted drizzle and sunshine, and enjoy thought-provoking conversation and sharing a day so beautiful as this.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

41

It's hard for me to have people over for dinner. I have the merest bit of social anxiety when it comes to my own house; I have a hard time relaxing while others are here, I never think it's clean enough, and I always worry they're judging me (even though I'm only friends with lovely people who would never do that). Also, for hours and hours afterward, I replay every snippet of conversation, convinced that I said something hurtful or awkward or off-putting. It's exhausting, and not much fun.

But I have been pushing myself to the edge of that comfort level this past couple of years in order to forge and strengthen social connections that I really value, and to bring beloved and interesting people more fully into my kids' lives. Back in Tallahassee, I made it a more or less bimonthly thing, but I'm hoping to get to the point where I can do it monthly.

Tonight is our first dinner guest, our next-door neighbor Gabrielle. She is kind and clever and unassuming, which is a good way for me to start, and plus she is my neighbor. I have always wanted to be easy friends with my neighbors, though it didn't always work out that way.

But I have not a picture to show you. I couldn't pull it off: "Hey, uh, can I take a picture for my blog of you eating your lentils?"

So, I will tell you that Woody had wonderful fun with her. It's obvious she finds him terrifically amusing. She giggled profusely at his gruesome description of how he, as a zombie, would go about decapitating her. And for his part, he could hardly wait for her to finish a sentence before jumping in with something else to tell her or show her. There was more than one occasion for me to remind Woody that "excuse me" was considered by most to be more polite than "hey!" when trying to get someone's attention, and once, when he came in with a real, loaded Nerf gun and shot one foam bullet over our heads into the kitchen, I told him how unsettling that was, and he didn't do it again.

When she went home, still smiling, he said, "Well that was nice, wasn't it?" So I'll call it a success.

Here's to a new tradition, a monthly or more frequent invitation to new friends to share time and food with us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

40

Some days are so big and rich and full of new and interesting experiences that we need a day or two afterward when not much happens, when there is plenty of open time to think and remember and let our minds wander and wonder. Yesterday was one of those full days. I don't have any pictures of the morning, but while I was at church Daddy Honey took the boys to the square to run around and eat cinnamon-roll halves and play pretend restaurant, school, and Battle of the Bulge. When they picked me up, we went to Devil's Den State Park, which was very near as perfect as a state park can be. (I stole that line from their website. They just come right out and say that to you, which is forgivable since it's true.)














I was unprepared for Woody's fearlessness. He scampered easily up and down rocky crags, with and without shoes. He ran ahead of us on the steep and sometimes narrow trail and waited patiently by himself while we slowly caught up with two-year-old paced Fox. He stopped to really notice what was around him: the colors and textures of rocks, the changing states of trees, the range of crow songss, and the best places to hide to be able to jump out and surprise us. He talked to other hikers, informing them of what he found ahead and what game he was presently playing. 

I did not know this is what it would be like to be his mother in this moment, to be running to catch up with and then staring in awe at my independent, brave, careful, thoughtful, confident child. But there he was, utterly at home on the side of a mountain in his own skin. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

39

Today we went to the Puppets in the Park festival. We had the windows open as we pulled up, and when Woody could hear the emcee, he began to protest. He wanted nothing to do with a festival. There didn't seem to be all that many people around, the entertainment seemed a little unorganized, and people were sitting, not doing.



But we hung around the park long enough for him to warm up to it and to wander over on his own. At first he played in the creek behind the festival. Then he played on the hill in front of the festival. (See him and Daddy Honey on the hill above.) Then he poked around near the giant puppets, who were scheduled to be paraded around later in the day.



Finally, he sat down to watch a juggler who made him laugh with funny jokes and perfect timing. He wasn't even that skilled of a juggler, but Woody liked it all the more.

                                                                                         

   

It's such good stuff, when our kids laugh. We know how humor works, on an objective level: there is a surprising or unexpected mental connection made between two unrelated things, and our physical response is to smile or laugh. It's a constant among our species, and yet, it is so personal, and so real, and so damn beautiful. It is that which is open to newness inside of us, what compels us to feel and show delight, for our own health and the health of the tribe to which we belong. It is the prism that breaks us open to show every color we carry around with us.

I am so making one of these. Cardboard and bamboo shoots.

If our kids are laughing real laughter (not nervous, uncomfortable laughter), then they are open. Their minds and hearts are open. They will remember what they think and see and feel and do in those moments. Those moments are hardwired differently in the brain. It's the good stuff.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

38



Here is Woody this afternoon sitting on top of our car with a beat-up wooden pistol I bought him last year. Just after I took this shot, our next door neighbor, a woman in her 40s who we are just getting to know, and who I think we are going to like a lot, came out of her house. Woody aimed at her and made a crack sound. She played along, but then asked him, half-joking, "Hey, why are you always trying to kill me?" He paused. The question missed the mark, and he wasn't sure how to respond. He's not trying to kill her. He's trying to play with her. Why? Because he likes connecting with people, and playing is what kids do to learn about the world. When kids play guns, the game is shoot and be shot, get up and play again.

Her pause was brief. When he did not answer, she played along again for a moment or two, then smiled and said goodbye, got in her car and drove away.

This was one of the better exchanges he's had while playing guns. I have other stories that aren't so innocuous, that are startling in their violence against kids in the name of teaching peace. Those might come up in the next 142 posts. It's likely. My kid plays guns a lot.

So, we've had a lot of experience dealing with different reactions to gun play. Most men get it. At parties and potlucks, the dads often play along. There was one young guy who worked in the produce section at our food co-op in Tallahassee who used to hide behind the display stands and play guns with Woody as I wound the cart around picking up fruits and vegetables. It was terrific. I wrote a comment card about it.

Women often have a hard time with it. Their reactions are sometimes out of sync with the play. They are uncomfortable. They make comments they don't usually make. There's an edge sometimes to what they say. They point out his favorite subject of play as an oddity: "Wow! He sure does love guns, huh?" (But do we say this with other topics? "Gee whiz, she sure does love the sandbox!" "Wow, he really loves dinosaurs." "She is obsessed with hop-scotch! Haha!") A couple of mothers have ignored Woody's attempt at engagement entirely and walked away, or shepherded their own kids somewhere else on the playground.

It seems to me that these women fear real violence so much that it makes them irrational. They see it where it is not. They see it in cork guns and gun shapes bitten out of sandwiches and finger pistols. They label that particular play violence and justify to themselves a cold or unkind reaction. At its most benign level, this means that they miss an opportunity to connect with a particular child when the play du jour is shoot-'em-up. But on a more serious level, when these women themselves are mothers or have a great influence on the life of a young child, usually but now always a little boy, their discomfort speaks:

Violence is everywhere, even in your toys, even in your head, kid, even when you don't know it, and I'm afraid of you

This is damage. This is real violence. This is willfully warping little boys' minds into distrusting themselves and the world. We don't have to do it. We can examine and exorcise our own demons and not release them into our children. We can shoot back, play dead, or change the game in a friendly way (such as by becoming bullet-proof, bomb-proof, and laser-proof giant robots, which require surreptitious reprogramming to be stopped from crushing all the government buildings in our cities). We can tell our sisters-in-law and our friends and the mothers of our kids' friends that our kids are trying to play with them. We can suggest ways they may want to play back. Or we can take them out to lunch and practice satisfying and realistic dying sounds together for the next time our little Liams and Olivers and Valeries and Ezras want to take down the bad guys with their pretend pistols and make the world right again.

This picture was taken by my friend Candice while Woody and her son, Arlo, were playing World War II in a ditch at the park a couple of weeks back. 



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

37

I read the sweetest thing today on Scott Noelle's Daily Groove, a daily parenting pep-talk via email. It was called "The Trickle Down Theory of Human Kindness," and said that among people who highly value kindness,

"Adults appreciate and support the delight of adolescents,
  who delight in the joy of prepubescents,
    who enjoy entertaining younger children,
      who love to carry babies and play with toddlers."



This was contrasted to our own mainstream, modern culture of which, he says,


"Adults in our culture often *fear* adolescents,
 who call prepubescents "dweebs,"
  who disparagingly call younger children "babies,"

   who compete with real babies for love and attention."


And I thought about this today because I had planned for us to do an activity aimed at kids younger than Woody. It was a story time and pumpkin hunt at the botanical gardens. Any kids were welcome to attend, but these 10 a.m.-type events are usually most heavily attended by the 2-3 year olds with some younger and a very few older. Last night, when I told him about it, I mentioned the probable age break-down casually. 


Honestly, I fully thought he was going to tell me he'd rather not go, that it was baby stuff, or maybe he'd act noncommittal about it because he sensed it wasn't cool. I felt that keenly as a kid; hanging out with the younger kids was a social no-no. It meant you didn't have enough friends your own age, and that came with a huge stigma. He asked if we would be able to search for pumpkins together, and I said yes, so he said great. He wanted to go.


When we got there, it was just as I suspected. Many kids right around Fox's age. One other 4 year old. No other kids older. I was prepared for a bailout. When we were released from the story to go find the pumpkins, I brought up the idea of finding just one pumpkin each for him and Fox to be sure that there were enough for all the kids. He was totally fine with that. He found two right away, and had fun playing I-Spy for the other pumpkins, but not picking them up. He pointed one out to a 2-year old girl who seemed a little overwhelmed by it all but who was aching for a little squash of her own to carry around. 






As the crowd thinned, we played a while at the pond. He pressed with ever increasing force on the lily pads, and we talked about surface tension (which just so happens to be my favorite property of liquids), and we did a few little experiments with how much force applied to the lily pad would break the surface tension, how where the force was applied would change things, and what rested on top of the water and what did not. 


When we were the last ones at the garden and all the other mothers (no daddies this time) had moved on with their day, I told him he could do the challenge level and see if he could find the pumpkins so sneaky that no one else found them. I expected he'd find another one or two. He found ten. So, he kept five and re-hid five for other kids who were just then coming up the sidewalk, and who didn't know there had been a pumpkin hunt an hour before. He could hardly talk through his own giggling delight, trying to tell the other kids what was waiting for them.






I was worried he would think of the pumpkin hunt as somehow beneath him, but instead, he plugged in in a way that was meaningful and fun for him. He really, truly delighted in other kids finding their pumpkins. He was really happy to be the one to have hidden those five for the next kids to come.  I don't know if it's a kindness thing, or an easy-going personality thing, or the result of not being in a class with 20 other 5-year-old kids, and thus, not thinking there is something intrinsically different about being 4 or 6. But I wish I'd had it. I wish the other kids I went to school with had had it. It makes it a lot nicer to be with other people when they're just other people, not more or less.

Monday, October 17, 2011

36




Yesterday the boys really began to notice the Halloween decorations around town, and Woody lamented the fact that we'd gotten rid of most of ours before we moved. (And now that I think about it, why did we? How much room would our package of polyester spiderweb and a couple of plastic pumpkins have taken up? I blame that decision on the stress of the moment.)

So, today began with the mission to "make our house look spooky." I had a few craft projects in mind, but Woody asked specifically for the spider web stuff, so we went to the dollar store looking for it. No dice. But! We did find packages of plastic severed fingers and four-packs of small plastic skeletons. The boys were excited. On the way home, we talked about the word sever, meaning to cut or separate from the whole, and about how fingers go about getting severed. (Big knives, axes, and saws were things he thought of.)

Back at home we opened everything up. Fox wanted to take his skeletons apart, so we talked about the pelvis as the legs came out of socket, and we talked about the abdominal cavity where most of the organs are, and of course, the rib cage and skull and spine. Back to the severed fingers, we talked about phalanges and metacarpals, bones of the fingers and hands.



And then! This was my favorite part. Then, the boys started just playing around with the bones of the skeletons. Woody made this fence out of a couple of legs and arms and skulls.



I suddenly remembered a woman whose story captured Daddy Honey's imagination while he was working on the Florida Memory Project: Aunt Aggie, an African American former slave who grew vegetables and made tinctures to sell in Lake City, Florida, and who made a boneyard garden that became a tourist attraction in the early part of the 20th century. So we looked through those pictures online and talked about art, and the impulse to create, and how some artists are trained, and others, such as Aunt Aggie, are not, and how nice it is that anybody, anywhere can make art with what they have available to them.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

35

Fox, on the left, is having a day. Because of a brief miscommunication between Daddy Honey and me, he was separated from us at the farmers market today for about 15 seconds. It was plenty long enough for him to register our absence and for the deep, deep, panicked worry to set in. I saw it on his face when I bent down to pick him up. (Oddly enough, two minutes after this happened, we saw a little boy about his age who really had lost his parents, and he was trying to cross the street, and we went and brought him back to the information booth, where his dad just then found him. That little boy was really, really upset, too, and didn't pick his head up off his mom's shoulder for a good ten minutes afterward.) Since then, there has been a lot of yelling and crying at our house. It reminds me of the Ernest Hemingway story, "A Day's Wait," about the little boy thinks he is dying, and is trying to be brave, but when he finds out he is not dying, all those feelings burst open.


So, we are all trying to be extra patient and kind with Fox today. In the picture, we are playing war. Woody first thought all the soldiers should be equally distributed among us, but when it became plain that Fox wasn't really in a state to offer any of his, Woody worked with what was left. He counted them at 24, asked me how many was half, which I told him, and then he counted 12 out for himself and gave me the rest. It turned out that I was a little handicapped with no mortar men and two binoculars-holding generals, so he traded a few pieces back and forth until he felt the weaponry was more evenly matched. 

But then, my entire army was exploded with one well-placed bomb before they'd even all been set up, so the battle was over and it was time for fish and chips lunch.

Friday, October 14, 2011

34



We were buying Daddy Honey's weekly supply of beer today (it's spiritually important to him that he have a Louisiana-made Abita beer in hand while watching LSU football on Saturday) when I overheard Woody telling Fox which flags represented which countries. He could identify Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Canada. You know where he learned this? TV and video games! He watched the winter Olympics with us last year on TV and plays World Cup Soccer on the computer, both of which feature countries' flags.

This felt like one of those tests of how far we could really take "learning is everywhere." Even in liquor stores? Yes! Even in liquor stores.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

33

With a half-tank of gas, we headed twenty minutes west to the little town of Prairie Grove, named after the big battle that saved Missouri from the Confederates (according to the text in the museum). Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park is impressive with many nicely preserved or redone buildings, weapons, photographs, and trails. 




Most battle sites we've been to consist mostly of a discursive plaque and a grassy hill that requires a lot of imagination. But we stayed four hours at this site and never wanted for things to do or see. It was a glorious day--cool wind, blue sky, warm sun, a few red and orange leaves here and there, soft grass full of husky black walnuts and big, thumpy acorns, and two boys in the best of moods.


Every bloomin' historic site, no matter how tangentially related to the Civil War, has got one of these cannons. There was even an Andy Griffith show about it.

And being a child who likes and seeks out military history, Woody has seen more cannons in his lifetime than probably most kids since the days of the Civil War itself. He loves firearms. The more powerful, the better. With this one, we got to talk about rifling, and how that bit of technology was a huge advantage for the Union troops since their shots went farther with more accuracy. He knows about diameter from barrels and shots. He gets the physics of explosives.


The "dog trot" house was a favorite. Woody thought it was crazy that people almost never used to let their dogs inside with them. We touched on vernacular architecture when we talked about this design being early air conditioning, drawing the breeze through the house to cool folks off.


I have come to realized that our best outings to places like this--historical sites, museums, science centers, art museums, "educational" places--happen when I take the boys' lead and really get into it myself. So, we don't rush. We explore or just hang out at certain spots until they want to move on. And I linger and take pictures of things I like while they play.  I read plaques when it seems appropriate or to be able to answer questions, and when I notice or discover things, I do share a lot of "Hey, wow! Look at this!" kind of comments, but I think any of us would do that anyway if we went somewhere new and neat with a friend. 

On the way out, I pilfered from the herb garden a handful of calendula seeds from spent flowers, which I hope to use to start a little flower garden in front of our house in the spring. 





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

32

Outside is gray, cloudy, and wet. Our trip to Pea Ridge National Military Park was put off. The offer to spend the morning at the library was declined. So, today, we're homeschooling mostly at home.

When I go to visit my mom, who often has a copy of Southern Living sitting out on the coffee table, I am moved to unkind comparisons of my own house to those in the magazine. (Why, why, why do I do this? Of all the things I've been able to release in my life, why do I still aspire to the funky, cohesive, chic, predictable, faux-relaxed environments that I likely will never be able to afford, no matter how sensible the writers tell me the $450 price tag on the upcycled side-table lamp is?)

But I am cheered to know that I am in good company with my very full, very actively used, very seldom-in-a-state-of-tidy-completion house. I have learned that most homeschoolers live like this. One homeschooler, quoting another, put it this way:

We homeschool. We're home a lot. You can tell!

Quiet, tidy, Spartan spaces do help some folks with some kinds of learning and doing. Drawing, for me, is one of these. I like to draw on clean, cleared-off, well lit table tops. Cooking, too. Give me clear counter tops, and I can think straight and maybe make a meal.

But I have always been most comfortable at the homes of folks whose rooms--at least their common rooms--are really lived in. Give me a newspaper on the couch and a leggy houseplant that nobody could bear to prune and an afghan crocheted by a great-aunt and a rag rug that's soft underfoot and never entirely free of dog hair and the thrift-store Cubist painting that everybody asks about and a collection of shells from seashore journeys and a button box full to the brim and a photo album.

I want things to look at and talk about and touch and connect through.

That's how we learn. Educators use words such as recursive to describe learning, meaning it often doubles back on itself, and nonlinear, and process-based. But really, it's cluttered. It's jumbled. It can have an order to it, but not usually right away. The order comes after understanding, which is usually smack dab in the middle part of learning.

It makes sense, then, for a learning house to be, how shall we say...busy? Stimulating? Or we can just call a frog a frog and say that at many points during the day, it's probably messy? It's engaging, touchable and climbable, it elicits questions and stories and prompts wild imaginative scenarios and hosts magnificent moments of discovery.

Real Simple would balk at my aesthetic, to be sure (though I bet the editors would secretly be impressed at how many Legos I can fit in a Rubbermaid bin). But, if the goal is a house full of the unexpected, the intriguing, the accessible, interesting, odd, funny, and sometimes magical, well, I might just have the perfect place to play on a rainy day...






Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31

We were thwarted in our attempt to find sculpting clay today. The art supplies store within walking distance of our house doesn't sell it.  But, they did have cool ceramic skulls that we're going to try and make ourselves for Dia de los muertos.


And we did read an odd sign on the way home.


And we did play Scrabble after dinner with Daddy Honey, who is quite good at Scrabble, and who gets picked first for teams every time. (He was gracious enough, too, to allow me to play a Spanish word even though that's not really playing by the rules.)






Monday, October 10, 2011

30

I realized  I needed to slow down some in my posting or else my 180 days would whirl by far faster than the school year's, which is what I set out to approximate when I started the blog.

So, we might start taking the weekends off, or maybe a day or two here and there. We'll see.

Today we took our quart Mason jar full of coins up to the bank to get it collated and exchanged for cash. (I forgot to get a picture of it ahead of time. Just imagine a big, wide-mouth quart jar full of pennies, nickles, and dimes. Not quarters. We save quarters specially for parking and handing out to people at intersections.)

Woody guessed the jar held about $10. Pretty good guess, I thought. I went a bit higher at $12. Fox didn't venture a guess, but wanted a lollipop from each mug at each teller's window. I went with the distraction method on that one.

The teller dumped our jar into the bin where his hand is resting, and our coins fell into the appropriate bags below. (Not all that money came from our jar.) The machine wasn't quite as enchanting as I'd hoped. I was picturing something more Willy Wonka-ish.



Turns out we had $14.58, as well as an assortment of oddities. We have no idea where the foreign coins came from. The button was likely a Fox deposit, but the rocks are a great mystery. How did they get through the slit cut in the top of the lid, which, as far as I knew, had been screwed on tight for the last six months? The tellers said they get all kinds of weird things in coin jars. The scariest one, they said, was a live bullet!

We consider the coin jar to be "fun money," so we went to the dollar store for 1) a toy plane launcher, 2) a package of Halloween erasers, and 3) a huge 2X magnifying glass. With the rest of the money, we'll be going to the art supply store tomorrow for a bag of clay.


Friday, October 7, 2011

29

As one might have expected, Woody woke up this morning and asked that we not leave the house today. Today is Friday, which is our homeschool playgroup day. He has a couple of new little buddies--Kavi and Arlo (Arlo, as in Arlo Guthrie, and Woody, as in Woody Guthrie--his mom and I find it ever so amusing that they found each other in the world!)--whose company he adores, but I think he knew he wasn't quite ready for the attention the new haircut would probably draw.

So it was a day at home. We--and I do mean we, as Woody can do this as well as I can--put up the tent in the backyard and played in, out, and around it well into the afternoon. The scenarios mostly featured zombies--zombies versus police officers, zombies running errands for the zombie queen, zombies sharing popcorn and watching favorite movies in the tent in 3-D.



I like this part of homeschooling, the part that's wide as the sky and adaptable to nurture many needs. Not quite feeling up for the world? Let's stay home. Better yet, let's put up our cozy backyard home! Feeling inspired by monsters? Go with it; give everybody a part to play. Don't want to stop for lunch? We'll grab some fruit now and make sandwiches later. Tired? Take a snooze on the sun-warmed couch.


I could have pressed the issue of going to homeschool playgroup. I could have tried to talk him into it, used his friends as leverage, and made the point that he's going to have to get used to the idea that people are going to notice his haircut, so might as well start right away.

But that felt off.


There are plenty of times in our lives that circumstances beyond our control push us toward actions that are uncomfortable for us. But I think we are happier when we get a say in it. Maybe "get back in the saddle" has its place, but it's probably a pretty narrow place. Most of the time, I think it's far better to give ourselves--or anybody else--the kindness of friendship and time to heal, to regroup, to find our feet again. I think the other side of the "get back in the saddle" coin might be "be gentle with yourself," and in my own life, I've liked the results of the latter much better.

In deference to his sensitivity, the two or so dozen times today that I wanted to rub his sweet little head and tell him how much I liked his haircut and how glad I was that he was my little boy, I refrained. (But I did let those mama feelings stir in my heart, and we did have a pretty terrific day.)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

28

We hadn't cut Woody's hair since winter of last year, at his request. He doesn't like to be fussed with much, and hair cutting and brushing require fussing. When I saw the way things were going, I told him about hair knotting up, and how dreadlocks can't easily be brushed out, but usually have to be cut out. I told him to let me know if he wanted my help with it.

Well, tonight, he asked me to cut it. He did it in his circuitous way that let me know he had mixed feelings about it, so I played it cool and followed his lead.

He told me he didn't like the feel of the dreads. They were soft, he said, but he didn't like his hair to feel that kind of soft. So, I set the camp chair out in the back yard and got my scissors. The cutting itself was uneventful. No ear snips or anything like that. He was antsy, but I'm pretty quick and did a solid job.



I knew better than to make a big deal about it. He is the kid who wants you not to notice anything new or different about him, but rather wait until he brings it up, if he brings it up, which he probably won't.

But 2 1/2-year-old little brothers are guileless wild cards in this situation. Fox walked out into the yard and the first thing he said was, "You look like a boy! An other little boy!"

(Daddy Honey walked out just as I was about to take this picture, and I think he made a surprised face at Woody, which was not appreciated.)

Woody, I knew, was already fighting feeling self-conscious, and embarrassed, and also, if I had to guess, sad and regretful about cutting it in the first place. So with this comment, all the big, hard feelings welled up and spilled out. He scowled and grit his teeth. He climbed into my lap, then pushed me away. He covered my mouth with his hands when I tried to talk to him, but then pulled my arms around him to hold him tighter. He pushed hard to keep the tears from falling, and when that failed, he buried his face in my shirt.

Finally, I suggested we take a walk in the dark where no one could see his new haircut. He said OK. We walked around three or four blocks, long enough, he thought, for dad and Fox to forget about his haircut. But just in case, as we approached the house, he whispered to get Joshua's attention through the open window and told him that he had "felt a little unconscious about what Fox said," and that he was going to "sneak in so Fox wouldn't notice."



Fox's biscuit with molasses was a fine diversion, and a bath and the Power Puff Girls smoothed out the last snaggy bits of emotion, though they might be raw for a day or two and close to the surface.