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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

64

Let me tell you, you will underestimate the extent of your six-year-old's action-movie cliche vocabulary until the moment you get him or her an R/C Cobra helicopter.

He is cracking me up playing with this thing. First of all, he can actually fly it, while Daddy Honey and I "demonstrated" crash landings before handing over the controls to Woody, thinking we likely had made a mistake and the thing would be too hard for him. I actually managed a liftoff and then flew full speed backwards into my own hands. Woody crashed once, but then pulled from the mysterious fibers of  being a seemingly innate skill for coordinating impossibly subtle and independent finger movements with the visual language of a hovering machine.

I am amazed. And I am laughing. This is what I am hearing as I see this little gray wasp buzzing around my house:

"Leave it to the Air Force!"

After a lovely take-off and hover: "That's how it's done, baby."

Before a launch from the countertop: "Let's see what this baby can do."

And my favorite, at the touch of a soft and perfect landing: "Now that was a hero's landing."

I am so tickled at his pride at having mastered this. He offered that he thinks he is so good at this because he is so good at video games. Maybe, I said. Whatever the wellspring, I haven't found it in myself. This might be the first of many, many, many things that come easily to Woody while I struggle. You wouldn't think that feels good, but it does.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

63

It was a gorgeous, cold, clear, sunny 6th birthday for Woody today!

Daddy Honey made him a Keva Plank robot to greet him with his first well-wish upon waking. (The robot was holding a sign that said Happy Birthday Woody, but somehow it disappeared before I photographed it...)


And Fox and I took him to breakfast at his favorite place, Little Bread Company, where he got a birthday cream puff on the house complete with rainbow candle.



And the rest of the day was spent being big and small, every bit of six years old but sometimes something else besides.






Monday, November 28, 2011

62

Brains and bodies are funny sometimes, and they don't always agree.

Insomniacs know this very, very well. Birthing mothers, too. I bet marathon runners and survivalists and people with severe illness are familiar with the brain-body disagreement, also. It's weird: your brain is utterly convinced of something, and yet, your body proceeds seemingly unaware of the nervous system's instructions. And vice versa: sometimes the body knows something indubitably but cannot, through various chemical and mechanical signals, sway the brain to recognize the reality.

Woody woke up last night to get a drink of water at 4 in the morning. He couldn't fall back asleep. As he lay there, under warm quilts, trying to relax, trying to be still, I recognized a familiar stubborn wakefulness. I get insomnia from time to time, mostly in short bouts of two or three nights, every few months. But this has never happened to him. I bet he would have laid there for an hour or so doing his best not to be a disturbance in the bed where Fox slept soundly and I laid with my eyes closed. And on other days, I might have asked of him to do just that. But last night, I did open my eyes. I remembered something. Six years ago today, November 28, also a Monday at around the same time of the morning, I went into labor with this very child. The labor would be long; he wouldn't be born until Tuesday night. But, that morning back in 2005, I woke up Daddy Honey, thrilled, anxious, and got ready to do the work of birthing my boy.



When I turned and looked at Woody, he turned to look at me. He was smiling. I asked him if he wanted to go watch TV with me. He did.

We watched a quiet hour of cartoons, first G.I. Joe and then Transformers, both the versions I watched with my little sister Kate on Saturday mornings when we were growing up in the '80s. He loved them. He remembered over a year ago back in Tallahassee having caught the last ten minutes of G.I. Joe on TV, and told me he had been wanting to see it again ever since.

At 5 a.m. or maybe 5:30, I told him I was ready to go back to bed. I went. He stayed up another ten or fifteen minutes, they turned off the TV and followed.



This morning, I feel not entirely unlike I did in those first few days after his birth: tired, but happy.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

61

They don't happen all that often, but when they do, I am so grateful: the real, relaxed, rambling one-on-one times.

I love, love, love sibling time, too. And I've said before that I think siblings and close cousins and dear best friends or other childhood "buddies" are among the most important relationships kids can have in their lives.

But there is something about being an attention-generous adult's one and only youngin' to mind that is special.

So while Daddy Honey and Fox gave the dogs their first bath in Arkansas (don't do the math on that because it will embarrass me; just know that I know it had been too long!), Woody and I walked to the library, just the two of us. Woody had been asking this week that we do more crafts together, and I tried to play it cool, but my heart fairly sprouted wings when he said this, so I've been looking out for opportunities for us to make this trip to peruse the craft books and read some others beside.

It was cold and wet. We haven't yet acclimated to the weather or even dressing for the weather, so I had on a flimsy rayon skirt and Woody had on shorts and we passed a lady downtown who actually hooted at us and joked about us having visions of Florida.

If she only knew...

The library was warm and downright jovial with lighted trees around every corner and poinsettias on every desk.

We read story books in the comfy alcove, then we found the craft section and plopped down with laps full of books to figure out which one's we'd be taking home, somewhat limited by the fact that I'd be carrying the knapsack that mile. We stayed until the last, leaving two minutes to closing (which stressed Woody out a little bit, especially when he saw the big metal gate already half-closed at the entrance; they are not subtle about rules and regulations at this library.).


It was wonderful. We talked about sea creatures and machines and the four elements and felt. I could listen with my full brain when Woody talked, not having to absentmindedly "uh-huh" him while I scanned the room for his fast and wily younger brother. We could sit quietly side by side, then compare books without someone trying to wrench one from our hands or rip the page if we didn't respond quickly enough. Walking home together, there was no rush but the cold. We held hands and joked about getting mist on our eyeballs. We waited casually, confidently as traffic passed.We jumped from white stripe to white stripe in the crosswalks.  

Days with younger kids--or maybe I should say our younger kid--are not as relaxed or accommodating of quieter pursuits. They are more diverse than focused, more energetic than thoughtful, more open than purposeful. They have a beauty to them that is all about being two.

This afternoon was about being on the doorstep of six, and I'm glad I was the one who got to walk him there.

Friday, November 25, 2011

60

December's coming right on up, and I do love an Advent calender, so I thought I'd make one out of fabric with pockets for poems and ornaments and goodies and such. A Google search for "DIY Advent calender" turned up plenty of good ideas, but in the end, I decided to just kind of wing it using the scrap fabric and embroidery floss, both of which I have plenty. Tonight was the big night of breaking out the sewing machine to sew the pockets onto the background. Woody wanted to push the foot pedal while I guided the fabric through, but that made me a little nervous, so he was the one to snip the threads.


He asked a lot of questions I couldn't really answer about how the machine worked, such as how the pedal makes the needle go up and down. I did my best with them, but thought we might go to a sewing machine repair shop in the next couple of weeks to watch and see how things get done. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

59

Thanksgiving!

We did a little Thanksgiving lunch with just our family, roasting a stuffed bird and eating it along with some steamed broccoli. Then we headed up to the Unitarian church to eat a meal of many-dished splendor along with 30 or so fellow congregants and friends. This was a Good Idea. We fixed enough to have it smell like Thanksgiving at our house, but we didn't spend a fortune and we didn't have to cook 10 different things for four people who would only be hungry enough for a couple of bites of each anyway.



Woody got his feelings hurt, briefly, when a little girl scolded him for kicking her during a game of catch-the-robber. I wasn't watching when it happened, but by Woody's reaction it seemed as if it wasn't intended to hurt her. He was surprised by her anger, and tried to explain to her the kick's purpose. (He's an explainer, this kid.) She stalked off, mad, and he looked up at me (I had by then moved closer to be on hand to offer assistance) and I thought at first he might cry. But he didn't. He had an internal moment, then he kind of quietly skirted the ongoing game, joining in a bit later when the dust had settled in his mind.



On the way home, we stopped in the square to look at the lights and...




the camels! This is a very devout part of the world, and I guess camels say Christmas better than horses do. Woody thought their squishy feet were pretty cool. All the better to carry the Wise Men across the desert to the Baby, I said. (No, I didn't say that. But I did tell about the wide dispersing of the camel's weight across the sand so they didn't sink in with every step.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

58

Photo by Joy Berry


Today was generous with autumn hours
spent in sparkling sunshine
through mostly bare trees,
on a tall wedge of gray
and lichen-covered rock,
splashing through a swift, cold
spillway creek,
laying still in the season's own
crisped oak and maple leaves, and
looking for the top of the farthest, tallest tree,
missed in the early fading light
of November.





We met Joy and her two young trekkers and followed them down a winding rural road that led us out to Lake Wilson Park, a seldom-used 320-acre patch of woods just north of the man-made lake that was the city of Fayetteville's first source of drinking water. The drive prompted conversations about compasses and other means by which people navigate, including using landmarks and the angle of the sun; varieties of bovine, including cows with horns; bullfighting; Spanish word construction (picador, meaning one who pierces, matador, meaning one who kills); how cattle are killed and butchered in slaughterhouses, on small family farms, and using Kosher methods;  how blood flows through the body; why and how blood coagulates; and why cars get stuck on muddy roads.

Back at home, Woody and I retraced our journey using Google maps. Bodies of water are especially fun to follow using the satellite view.

The overhead view of the park, lake, tributary, and river led him to remember our set of binoculars, which he wanted first to bird watch (a lone mockingbird in our backyard, luckily, was game for his observation), then to test the focal distances of the lenses. We estimated the nearest distance to be about twenty feet, but the farthest distance was trickier. He tried to identify a single treetop that we could point to and guess at--200 feet, maybe? 300?--but he missed it when 4:50's sunset cast the whole treeline in a gray-brown blur.

We'll try again tomorrow, after turkey.




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

57

We made an unimpressive green tomato pie last night. The taste ended up being a little weird, but the making of it was fun. Woody and I made up a song about the pastry crust recipe, which we recorded with the laptop's webcam.



































Monday, November 21, 2011

56 (plus a couple of extras)


It's been rainy here for two days. Last night the winds and rains were as strong as the tropical storms we left in Florida. So, we've been playing inside and keeping our trips to a minimum. Moments such as the above have been plentiful, and I am feeling very grateful for siblings and what they bring to each other's lives.



Yesterday, we pulled out my 3' by 5' flag and Woody counted the stars and stripes to be sure there were fifty and thirteen respectively.


Last year, we got pints of cranberries from our CSA in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I would make it home from the pick-up with hardly half of them; Woody would just eat them right out of the bag. At the time, he said he liked how they popped like bombs in his mouth. This year, he still likes them, but we laughed trying to contain our sour faces. Our co-op sells them in a shallow water-filled bin that they call their cranberry bog. I told Woody about the real cranberry bogs in southern coastal New Jersey where his Nana grew up, some of the best in the world.


Friday night, we hiked up to the top of the hill where the confederate cemetery is. At the base of this sculpture are four cannons for each of the four regiments that fought here. Woody read their names: Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Missouri. 







Friday, November 18, 2011

55

Today we bought a small pack of origami paper at the metaphysical store where I was seeking incense-making resin. (Spoiler alert: the boys and I are making incense to give as gifts this year for the holiday.) On the way home, Woody wanted to hold the paper. He asked me where origami came from. I said Japan. He said that the writing on the package was in Japanese, and that there was a warming on there that he couldn't read. Why would you need a warning label on a package of paper, he wondered? My guess was it was for the plastic wrapping that held the paper. But looking at the picture, it could be a warning about paper cuts to the eye? I really don't know.



He made his very first origami creation on his own--a metal boat. The only part I did for him was turn it inside out at the end of the folding.



And then, the Battle of the Pacific followed.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

54

While I was making breakfast this morning, I looked up on YouTube a song I'm trying to learn for choir called Siyahamba. It's a lovely song. (Our choir is substituting the word "Love" for the word "God," if you happen to give it a listen.). It's partly in Zulu, and as Woody listened to it with me, he asked about it. I showed him on the shower curtain map where the Zulu people live and lived, and we looked up pictures of Zulus on the Internet. The late 19th-century and early 20th-century postcards were the most authentic pictures I could find on short notice.

Circa 1925

Circa late 1800s


When he looked at the pictures, he asked about American Indians (I think the spears and domed houses were what made that leap in his mind), and we spent a little while talking about the Iroquois. I found this picture of the interior of a wigwam, and he asked about how they were built.



We happen to know a guy, Jeff Gottlieb, through a primitive skills gathering we sometimes attend who makes wigwams using all original methods and technology. Googling his name, I knew I'd be led to good information.

Woody saw the holes in the top and started talking about that being a way to make sure the smoke could escape and the buildings didn't burn down and the people didn't breathe too much smoke. I can't be sure if he was thinking of the dozen or so times that we went to the Apalachee Council House at the Mission San Luis while we lived in Tallahassee, and he had moved on already to playing settlers and Indians by the time that the connection came to my mind. But it was a nice series of moments of excitement in learning, making connections, and exploring new subjects together.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

53



I used our stay-at-home day to go through the toys to sort and clean them. The boys love it when I do this. It's as if they are seeing all their cool toys for the first time all over again. They pull out the most random stuff to play with, too; here, I have sorted big and little Legos, Playmobil sets, and wooden forest toys, and what Woody is doing is stuffing as many Nerf gun bullets as he can into MarbleWorks tubes in order to make towers full of people.



A friend of my mom gave this to my sister and I when we were younger, maybe 9 and 13? I loved it then, and my boys love it now. The house we live in has nice, flat tile floors, too, so it spins and spins and spins forever.


Today was a day of many books, too, since I was tidying the bookshelf. I have grown uncontrollably weepy since having children, and I got misty-eyed reading this part of Cactus Hotel where the 200-year-old Saguaro cactus "falls with a thud to the sandy floor" and "Its great thorny arms crumble in the crash."

I know. Cactuses. I cry at dying cactuses. 

And, since it was bone-chilly, windy, and gray out, and since we are still consuming many apples in this lovely autumn apple season, I made homemade apple sauce. This, the boys liked very much. It, plus a couple of bananas each, was pretty much dinner.


And on my way home from choir practice, I had to choose between Queen's "Somebody to Love" and the Beatles' "With a Little Help from my Friends" on competing radio stations. Woody would have appreciated my dilemma since, when both artists came on our Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Pandora station this afternoon, he was reminded of his deep fanship.

That was probably my favorite part of the day. We played pretend and danced to that station for a good hour this afternoon, being bandits and cowboys to Dylan, dancing to CSNY, singing to Van Morrison, and swaying and head-bobbing to the music in the background when our attentions were divided. 


While I was at church, the boys fell fast asleep, tuckered out by our previous busy days, probably, but also a stay-at-home day that was far from still.




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

52


I'm trying to quiet my mind and breathe. I'm breathing, but it's fast and shallow, and when my mind plops down in the emotional mudpits of frustration, disappointment, impatience, irritation, and overwhelm, I think I might actually be holding my breath for short moments. So I'm reminding myself frequently to breathe.

Here's what I can tell you: three big activities in two days is a lot for me, maybe a touch more than my nerves can easily handle. Woody, too, started giving hints at activity number 2 that he was less than enthused. By activity number 3, he was asking to stay home.

And had I been able to plan these activities, I would not have put all three in a 28-hour period, but I was trying to take advantage of rare and really cool things going on here and now.

So, 1) the Icelandic sheep farm with the secular homeschool group yesterday.

2) The university Band Extravaganza last night.





And 3) a tour of full-size replicas of the Columbus ships Nina and Pinta this afternoon with a nearby secular homeschooling group.






I was trying to keep my expectations about the events and the boys' receptiveness to the events realistic, dare I say open. It was a lot for us. I knew it would be. We usually average two activities a week. By the end of last night, I was weathering the  vicissitudes of the experiences less well than I wanted to.

It was a full, interesting, fun, but hard two days for all of us. I felt small joys when, with stress coursing through me, I helped instead of chastised, whispered instead of hissed, and asked instead of demanded. (I didn't catch every one, but most.) I made mistakes. I recovered. We recovered.

I want to be less like the stick that gets stuck going round and round in the river's whirlpool and more like the water in the current moving smoothly and steadily up, over, and around obstacles.

Woody said to me on the way home today, "You know that feeling when you think you feel mad, but you're not mad about anything, but you still have that feeling inside you?" Yes, I do know that feeling. I don't know the name for it--pent-up frustration, maybe? tension? leftover anxiety?--but I know that it's the source of much suffering.

Recover. Recovering. Recovery.

That's what tomorrow will be. I showed Woody where I wrote on the calender for tomorrow, "Stay home day." He was glad. He's planning on "playing for 10 hours straight."




Monday, November 14, 2011

51

We went to an Icelandic Sheep farm today. Woody was not enthusiastic about going, though he wasn't opposed to it, either. While he loves romping and playing in big, open places, animals aren't really his thing, and neither is fiber. But, I thought there would still be some fun to be had, and that he'd find some parts interesting. I packed a lunch I knew he'd like, and I had pistachios as car snacks, which went far toward establishing a good mood.


The trip was organized by a mama in the secular homeschooling group to which we belong. We don't do all of the group activities, but I am grateful for this laid-back group where people come together as suits them. This other mother lives on a farm, and one of her daughters wants to keep this kind of sheep. So, she was sharing the investigative experience by inviting others to attend the tour, too.

The cracks at the base of this outgoing fellow's horns are from sparring with the other yearling rams; it's mating season, and they get a little pushy with each other.

The sheep were lovely, compact, and beautifully fleeced. They were mostly very friendly, and the ones that weren't friendly just ran away when we came up. But Marilyn, the farmer, let us into their pens to pet and feed them. The kids got right down there with the sheep.





Except Woody. He did not much care for the close encounters. He collected rocks while the rest of us hung out with the yearling rams.


Fox was having a terrific time. He doesn't always like being outside, but he does love animals. He really, really loves animals.

About this time, when we went to the barn to visit with Dahlia the donkey and Blossom the Great Pyrenese, Woody started complaining about wanting to go home. I tried to help him see how much enjoyment Fox was getting out of the trip, and how we were doing a kindness to Fox by helping him get as much out of the experience as he could. He relaxed a little, though his grump persisted some, and we all went back to the farmhouse to see the products Marilyn gets from her sheep.


And it turns out, Fox loves soft fiber, too. This was one of several pelts she had. She had roving and yarns, too, as well as several garments and accessories knitted and woven from her sheep's beautiful wool.



There, to the left in the green chair, is the boy who is ready to leave.

As things were winding down, several of the kids asked to go see the chickens. Marilyn said it was OK, so the girls went hunting for eggs (they found two) and the boys played in the corn meal feeder. This was the perfect way for things to end.


Finally, taking an alternate route home, we stopped at a broke-down mill where some of the kids did some exploring. We borrowed the family expert, Daddy Honey, and this is what he found out:



“A prominent landmark in the Cane Hill area is the water-powered mill known variously as the Pyeatte-Moore Mill and the Moore-Buchanan Mill. Built during the 1830s, the mill was used to grind wheat for flour and corn for corn meal, to saw logs, and even to card wool. It appears to have been moved to its present location on Jordan Creek in 1902 and was used until the 1930s. The remains of the thirty-six-foot diameter draw wheel can still be seen, and the mill is in the process of being restored. “





Friday, November 11, 2011

50

11:11 11/11/11

I'm so glad we were talking about time and dates yesterday! The significance of the above string of 11's was known to Woody. I wish I would have thought ahead to be somewhere cool and peacey for Armistice Day. As it was, we were freshly out of pajamas, watching Dragon Ball Z Kai, and sharing the last six malt balls.

Here's to living in peace, creating peace at home, and sharing peace with others.