Thursday, December 30, 2010

Opposites and Halves

The last couple days Lucas has been hooked on talking about opposites. It doesn't take long to cover all the obvious ones. Hot/cold; up/down; left/right; wet/dry; north/south; big/small; etc. After exhausting the easy ones, he started delving into the obscure. "What's the opposite of fire?" "What's the opposite of trees?" "What's the opposite of air?" "What's the opposite of metal?" "What's the opposite of a construction crane?" If I had planned a lesson on opposites for him, would I have included construction crane? Probably not. It's one of the great perks of letting him freely explore topics. He takes them in directions I never would consider on my own.

Nico was exploring halves today. "What is half of 100?" "What is half of 20?" What is half of 10?" "If 100 plus 100 is 200, than 100 is half of 200." Every day Nico is finding new ways to manipulate the numbers around him. It's such a joy to be able to watch and facilitate their education.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

What a phenomenal day!

It started for me about 8:30 am, when I woke up and found Nico hanging out in the living room by himself. I was amazed he hadn't touched a single present yet. Shortly after I came out, Nico starts to sort his presents from the pile, and puts each one on the couch. As he is doing this, he is taking wild guesses at what each one is. I just sat back and grinned, and enjoyed watching the magic through his eyes.

Although he was dying to, I told Nico he could not open the presents in his stocking until Lucas woke up. Nico kept going in and out of the room, trying to wake up his little brother. Finally, around 9 am, he succeeded and Lucas came out to the living room. They both began tearing paper wildly. After opening a few presents (calculator, math bingo game, scrabble slam card game) Nico says, "I think Santa is trying to make me smart". After opening a couple more (toothbrush and silly bandz) he says "These are boring, but I'm still glad I got them." Lucas basically got all the same things, with a few variations (hence the reason Nico had to wait) in his stocking.

The main presents could not be opened until the whole family was together, so I ducked into the kitchen to make some awesome cinnamon buns. Then a quick shower, and we were headed off to pick up Matthew.

Once our family was complete, we scooted over to see Gulliver's Travels in 3D (seeing a movie on Christmas has become a family tradition). I wasn't real impressed by the movie, although the boys enjoyed it. It was pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Jack Black movie. I was extremely impressed by the 3D graphics. I am one who gets motion sickness from video games, so I am surprised the new 3D movies do not cause the same effect.

Back at home, and the boys could finally open their gifts. Nico had already guessed what one of his presents was, and was super excited to find out he was correct. A new guitar for Nico, and a new electronic drum set for Lucas, and they now have the makings of a super awesome rock band. Nico loved the Knight Lucas picked out, and Lucas was thrilled to receive the Operation game from Nico.

Matthew had the biggest present, which was really five presents in one. An incredibly huge box, filled with newspapers and packing popcorn, which he was forbidden from dumping out. He had four of the five presents found in only five minutes, but twenty minutes later he was begging for help finding the last one. He enlisted both Nico and Lucas to climb in the box to search for it. Some time later, during his second trip into the box, Nico found the prize at the bottom. And that concluded the presents, or so they thought.

After all were settled down, Timmy pulled out a surprise present, hiding in our bedroom. It was addressed to the whole family, but we told the boys to unwrap it. See video.

Just after Daddy got the new Xbox hooked up, Grandma and Grandpa showed up, and the paper went flying once again. They stayed for a quick snack, but headed out just as I started preparing dinner. A lovely sirloin steak, baked sweet potatoes, and fresh steamed broccoli, with my mini-trifles for dessert. YUM! After dinner, a couple hours of Kinect play concluded our day.

I love Christmas, it is by far my favorite holiday, but I am so glad it only comes once a year. Now that's it's over, it's time to start preparing for next year. video

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Shopping

Last year I started taking the boys out one at a time to buy gifts for each other for Christmas. Today was our shopping day.

I love spending one on one time with each of the boys, even if it is just for 30 minutes. Lucas and I went to the store first. It's always such a pleasure being with Lucas alone, because he gets to shine. Whenever Nico is around, Lucas is quiet and reserved, as a result of always being hushed by his brother. Alone with Lucas, he is very talkative, and extremely silly. It's like you get to see a glimpse of the real Lucas, and I wish I could find a way to let him shine all the time.

Nico is Nico, whether other people are around or not. But, it's easier to deal with him one on one, because he has what he's always seeking; your undivided attention.

I walked along the toy aisle with each of the boys, and of course they both had to stop and push every demo button in the store. They both wanted to pick out the most awesome toy ever for their brother, which made me very proud. Lucas picked a black knight on a horse for Nico, and Nico picked the game Operation for Lucas. I think both boys will be happy come Christmas morning. Nico insisted on hiding Lucas's present until Christmas morning, so he wouldn't even be able to guess that it was a game. He wants it to be a complete surprise.

Last year the boys told each other before Christmas what they had picked out. This year I think they will do better at keeping the secret. For one, they only have to hold out for two more days, versus last years two weeks. Also, they have clever cover stories. If asked, Lucas will tell Nico that he bought him Ice, and Nico will tell Lucas he bought him a Nerf gun.

Woo-Hoo, only two more days until Christmas. I think I'm probably more excited than the boys.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Public Spaces


I took the boys to a Christmas Party at the park this morning, with some of our home-school friends. All in all it was a wonderful party, but Nico had trouble getting along with some of the other kids.

See, Nico and some of the kids from our group made this super, awesome fort out of tree branches and moss. It was off to the side of the park, out of sight from the picnic tables where I and most of the other adults were spending our time. Nico worked really hard on the fort, and was really proud of what he had done. There was a door, and sleeping quarters for everyone who wanted a place to stay.

Then come along the kids from a small private school across the street. The first group of kids to come over were pretty nice, and didn't really bother our group too much. (Although one boy in our group ended up in tears because he wanted to play with these new kids, however they were instructed by their teacher not to play with anyone outside their class!? Such great social skills those kids are learning, eh!) After about 20 minutes, the first group leaves, and along comes group number two.

The first thing these kids in group two did, was tear down Nico's fort. Nico, understandably, was furious. In tears, completely red-faced, wanting to go over to yell and scream at all of them. I felt his pain. He had been working on that fort for over two hours, just to have them come tear it all down. But I can't condone fighting. I made him stop and take some deep breaths. I tried to explain to him that this was a public park, and nothing here actually belongs to him. Yes it was incredibly rude of those other kids to tear down his hard work, but there was really nothing we could do about it.

After a few minutes of talking him down, Nico was able to rejoin the fun. He is still peeved about the incident, but thankfully was able to enjoy the remainder of the party.

Side Note: Pictured above, check out Lucas and one of his new friends on their home-made seesaw. My kids were being all kinds of creative today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

That dreaded four letter word...

MATH What did you think I was going to talk about?

I read an interesting article the other day, presented in Life Learning Magazine about how unschoolers learn math. The article really resonated with me, since I have witnessed, first hand, just how it happens.

When Nico was five, I was on my way to work, but I needed to get the boys some lunch and drop them off with their grandparents first. I was headed to BK, and Nico said he wanted some burger shots. I wanted to get him the kids meal, but he was insisting on the adult meal. I thought that would be too much food for him, but he said "It's only three twos, Mommy."

Hmm, it's only three twos. Immediately I thought multiplication, but he's only five. Surely he can't be ready to start multiplying. Especially since he has had almost no formal math lessons. So I asked him, "How many is three twos?" to which he promptly replied "Six". Maybe it's a fluke? Maybe he only knows from seeing the burger shots before? So I asked another one. "How many is five twos?" A moments thought, and then "Ten". I asked another, and another, and he was able to go as high as five fives is twenty five.

Unlike the mother in the article, I didn't have to ask Nico how he was getting the answer. Although he was trying to murmur under his breath, I could hear him counting out the answers. Much like the boy in the article, Nico too uses a rhythmic pattern to determine the answer. 123, 456, 789 three threes is nine.

I was amazed at how easily he seemed to grasp the concept. Since then, I have had no fears about how or when my boys will pick up math skills. Math really is all around us, and they are learning far faster on their own than I could have ever imagined.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Football

For those who don't know me well, I am a Tampa Bay fan. I was born a Tampa Bay fan, and I'll die a Tampa Bay fan. There's just no if, ands, or buts about it.

The first game of this season that I was able to watch at home was against Carolina. After I turned on the game, Lucas walks into the room and says "Go blue team!" To which I replied, "No, no. The red team are the Bucs, the blue team are the Panthers. I want the Bucs to win."

Well, of course my children are very independent, and capable of thinking for themselves. Lucas didn't want to root for the Bucs because they were wearing red, and the Panthers were wearing blue, and well see, blue is his favorite color.

So today I turned on the Bucs game, and Lucas asks how come the Panthers aren't on? I said I'm sure they are, but they're not playing against the Bucs today. He was disappointed, because he wanted to cheer for his blue team again. I don't know where I went wrong with that one? Imagine, a Panthers fan living right here in my own house. For shame!!

Stop and Think

At what age can kids stop and think about how their actions make other people feel?

I'm trying to get Nico to stop and think about how his actions make his brother feel. He picks at his brother all day long. He constantly puts him down, calls him stupid, and excludes him when he plays. Lucas on the other hand, loves his brother to pieces, and just takes it in stride.

Take this morning for example. Nico wanted to play rough, but Lucas didn't. So Nico tells Lucas he's going into the bedroom to build a submarine, and since Lucas didn't want to play he couldn't come in. Of course Lucas wanted to go in, but Nico said no. Lucas stayed in the living room, and about ten minutes later Nico comes out to tell him the submarine was done.

I had to stop him. I asked, "Why did you come out here to tell Lucas the submarine was done? Was it because you are inviting him in? Or was it because you wanted him to get upset because he couldn't go in?" Of course Lucas still wasn't allowed in the submarine, but Nico insisted he wasn't trying to make his brother upset. So what was the point in telling him it was done? Nico didn't have an answer.

I tried to explain to him that his actions affect how other people feel, and he needs to be aware of that. I asked how he would feel if other people treated him the way he treats his brother, which did no good at all. Nico said he would just get over it, which is absolutely true. Nico doesn't hold on to his feelings. Sometimes they explode out of him, but once they're out, they're out and he lets them go. It's actually one of the really good things about Nico, he doesn't hold grudges. He can be angry one second, and happy the next.

So how do I get him to see that not everyone is capable of shrugging things off? Lucas doesn't help the situation any. He too, doesn't really hold on to his feelings, so it's hard to get Nico to stop and see how upset Lucas gets. In all honesty, it probably bothers me a whole lot more than it bothers Lucas. Hmm, I just don't know. Maybe I should just stay out of it, and let them work it out. It's just hard to sit back and see Lucas get walked all over. I want him to stand up for himself, but instead he just enables his brother. What's a mother to do?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Over used words or phrases

Are my kids the only ones that find a word or phrase they like, and over use the hell out of it?

Of course they both were infected with the 'WHY?' bug early on, and that one doesn't really bother me very much. I like that they ask why, and are so curious about the world around them. Dare I say, I encourage them to ask why. But there are some peculiar phrases they have latched onto, and use every chance they get (whether it makes sense or not).

Nico really likes the word apparently. Apparently, he likes it a lot, since he apparently uses it in every sentence. I guess he thinks everything should be readily apparent, even though some things I have no way of knowing with out asking. Apparently that doesn't stop him from thinking I should have known the answer. Apparently I should be a mind reader.

Right, is another word that gets over used by Nico. You can't have a conversation with him with out hearing it at-least 100 times (not an exaggeration). It's like he needs constant affirmation, so at the end of every sentence he adds Right?! Sometimes all I hear is "Blah blah blah blah, Right Mommy?!"

Lucas, in particular, has picked up an odd phrase, and I'm not sure where he got it from. It creeps into his sentences at the weirdest times. Usually it goes something like this. "Mommy I want some, let me just say, milk." Or how about, "I would like to go to the, let me just say, park." I haven't the faintest clue where 'let me just say' came from, or why he likes to slip it into the middle of his sentences like that.

I like that my kids have a diverse vocabulary, and get excited about learning and using new words. It's great that they explore their language and how to use it. Soon enough they will start using a new word or phrase that catches their fancy. I can't wait to hear what comes out of their mouths next.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bowling and Independence

We went to the bowling alley the other night, and the boys got to bowl. This was their second time bowling. Nico did pretty well, bowling an 85 his first game and a 60 something his second game. Lucas still had a hard time with the weight of the ball; he needed a lot of help.

I love that my boys are now old enough that they don't need to be watched every second. After they were done with their two games, I was still bowling on the other lane, and was able to send them over to the arcade to play. They knew where to find me, if I was needed, and I was able to check on them every few minutes. They didn't have any money to play the games, but they love watching others play, and climbing on the equipment.

The boys really love that little bit of freedom and independence. Since I've never been the type to hover, I know my boys can solve their own problems. I also know, when faced with problems that are too big for them, they don't hesitate to ask for help. They aren't the type to bully other kids, nor are they the type to stand by and let other kids bully them. I am confident that they can interact, in a public space, with other kids, on their own, and have a wonderful experience, despite the fact they haven't been properly socialized in a school.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good to have them home!

The boys are back in town!

It's easy to tell because the volume in my house has raised to an alarming level again. The house is filled with conversations, arguments, laughter and tears. It's only been two days, but already I can't wait to get to work for some quiet, me time.

They've definitely grown and matured in the two months they were away, but they are exactly the same as I remember. Nico, forever seeking the spotlight; stubborn as a mule and can't go a full minute with out making some kind of sound. Already I've been furiously frustrated with him, and yet all I want to do is smother him in hugs and kisses. Lucas is still silly beyond measure, and so sweet. He has developed a little bit of a back bone, and isn't quite so content to let his brother push him to the side.

No matter how loud the house gets, how frustrated and tired I get, I am ecstatic to have my boys home again. The hugs, kisses and snuggles, are worth every headache!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

5 more days

Five more days until the chaos returns. It will mark the end of a 52 day trip for the boys. Nico is no stranger to long trips away. In fact, for him, this was the second long trip this year. Back in March he went to Taiwan with his other grandparents for two months.

For Lucas, this was his first time spending more than one night away from me. At first, I was a little concerned, since he is generally pretty clingy to me. He proved to be every bit as independent as his brother, though.

The boys are having a fabulous time, and really getting to know themselves, and their grandparents. I have come to the conclusion that it is a wonderful thing my kids can so easily be apart from me and their dad. I want them to be strong individuals, who know they have the love and support of those around them, while mainly relying on their inner strengths. It is not healthy to become too dependent on any one person, or people, in ones life. I may not always be around, and I feel a lot better knowing that they can be happy with out me.

With all that said, this trip has been a whole lot harder on me, than I ever anticipated. I think I have come to rely too much on my boys. I have missed them, oh how I have missed them. But I have also missed the friends that we've made together. If it weren't for my boys, I wouldn't have but one or two friends. Because of them I have met so many wonderful people, and I can't wait to start getting out of the house on a regular basis again.

Trips like this are great for the boys, but they're also good for me. I've realized that I need to start pursuing my own passions again (if only I could figure out what those passions are!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is normal?

The other day while talking with my mom about my boys, I made a comment about how they don't really have rules at home. Her reply, "Well that's pretty obvious!" kind of shocked me. Here I thought my boys were normal, fairly well-behaved four and six year olds. Obviously I've missed something, so I later asked if she could elaborate.

What exactly makes it obvious that they don't have rules at home? Well, she has to tell them repeatedly not to run in the house. They don't follow directions with out first asking why?. They run off in the grocery store.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like pretty normal four and six year old behaviors to me. I mean, does anyone know a six year old boy who doesn't have to be reminded of some things a million times? And, why shouldn't they ask why? I am not raising boys who blindly follow authority. They have every right to know and understand why something is expected of them.

To give my mom some credit, she did admit that their behavior is likely to be normal, but since she hasn't been around such young children in some time, she isn't the best judge of what normal is. And, she doesn't have a whole lot of experience with boys, since she raised all girls. However, she did remark that she thinks the boys need rules and boundaries.

Take the grocery store for example. My response to the boys running off in the grocery store is not to bring them with me. She seems to think if they never come with me, they will never learn how to act appropriately in a grocery store. I beg to differ. First off, I can't always make it to the store with out them, so they do get exposure to it. Second, does she really think they will go their whole lives running in stores. Just because they are not mature enough now, doesn't mean they will never get there.

I recently read an essay, House Rules by: Anna M. Brown over at Consensual-Living.com. Ms. Brown came across a family that had five pages of house rules written out, along with punishments should the rules be broken. Every moment of these children's lives were mapped out for them in dos and don'ts, with punishment, fear, and intimidation used to force compliance. She asked the question, "How can you find *who you are*, in that type of environment?"

I feel my job, as a mother, is to love, support, and guide my children until they no longer need me. My job is not to dictate who they are, or how they should spend their time. I parent with that in mind. When I tell them "Don't play in the street." it is not a rule, it is advice I am passing along to them. There is no fear of punishment. No intimidation. No forced compliance.

At the end of her essay, Ms. Brown suggests five simple house rules to replace the five pages she found earlier. These are the only rules I would ever consider incorporating into our family.

Trust yourself and your intuition.

Pursue your passions with abandon with the knowledge that you are supported and loved.

Ask for help when you need it.

Express your needs and trust that they will be met.

Live, Love, Learn

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Things



I didn't send my boys 1200 miles away just so I could get a much needed break. Mostly I did it for my mom (she needed the company), but also for all those wonderful things they could experience being some place new. Here are 10 things they have done/seen/learned so far.

1. Took a ferry boat across the Mississippi. Yes this is something we could have done the many times I have driven the boys to visit my parents, but I never thought much about it.

2. Making home-made noodles. I just don't have the patients or equipment to do this at home.

3. Experience small town life. We live in the city, and there are a lot of perks that go along with that. But there are drawbacks too, and I'm glad my boys get to see how simple life in a small town can be.

4. Visiting the Hulston Mill. My dad is in charge of restoring it, so they have been spending a lot of time there.

5. Building a damn. They wanted to do this at home, but we don't have any streams around here they could use. Luckily, there is a perfect little stream running behind the Mill.

6. Lunch in St. Louis with their cousins. They usually only get to see their cousins once a year, but since they were so close they arranged a day visit.

7. Building a birdhouse. My dad is something of a wood worker, and has this awesome shop set up. He gave Nico some spare pieces of wood and nails, and let him build the roof to a birdhouse. Lucas gave up quickly, after smashing his thumb a couple times with the hammer.

8. Learning to sew. Well, Nico learned to sew, after a tear developed in one of his stuffed toys. He found he enjoyed it, and continued on to sew a pillow.

9. Discontinuing bad habits. Lucas has successfully stopped sucking his thumb, thanks to some helpful advice from his Bushia (Bushia is Polish for grandmother).

10. On a walk to the park, they saw a deer hanging in some one's front yard, half way through the process of being skinned. They walked over to take a closer look, and Nico now knows what the inside of a deer looks like. This is something they would have never seen here in the city.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Strange Habits

One of the best parts of having children is that you get to pass along all those peculiar habits you've developed over the years. When other people seem to enjoy them too, they start to seem less strange. You can say, "See, I'm not the only one who likes...."

I suppose, like most people, I have many habits that others might find a bit odd. One of them is that I cannot eat plain vanilla ice cream. I have to have something else in it. Usually hot fudge and peanuts, or a mountain of crushed Oreo cookies. But when none of that is available, I have a go to solution. Just add milk and stir.

I know what you're thinking. Milkshake! And essentially yes, but really it's more like a Milk Float. I scoop the vanilla ice cream into a cup, add milk, stir by hand, and then eat it with my spoon, instead of sipping with a straw. (If you're thinking about trying it, here's a side note: You can't use a bowl to add milk to ice cream, because as you stir, the milk will slosh up and out the sides, and you'll end up wearing more than you eat.)

So last weekend, we ran out of peanuts and I couldn't have my ice cream the way I really like it. Tim, knowing all my wacky ways and loving me anyways, made me one of my cups and brought it out to me. Matthew sees it, and gets curious. "Why are eating ice cream out of a cup?", he asked with that you're totally freaking me out look on his face. After explaining my quirky custom, he is intrigued and decided to try it too.

Fast forward to this weekend. After dinner last night, the words ice cream are spoken aloud. Matthew rushes into the kitchen to request his in a cup with milk. SUCCESS!! That's one peculiar, wacky, strange, quirky, and slightly odd habit that has been successfully passed down to the next generation.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Learning from Others


One of the things I love most about free-schooling*, is that my boys can learn from anyone. Currently they are off visiting their grandparents in Missouri. They've been gone more than three weeks, and have another four weeks before returning home. Most people I talk with say they can't imagine spending that much time away from their kids, and I will freely admit I've been falling deeper and deeper into depression with out the lights of my life being around. But I refuse to let my own needs hold back my children. I want them to explore this wide world, whether I am by their side or not. I know they are in wonderful, loving, capable hands. And they are learning things there, that I couldn't offer them here.

I find it's wonderful that my parents are so supportive of my educational choices. When telling their friends the boys were coming to visit, the first response, of course, was "What about school?" To which my mom proudly proclaimed, "They are home-schooled." When my aunt found out how long they would be staying, her response was "So you're doing home-school with them?" I love that my mom said, "Well they learn everyday." It's great that my mom and dad get a chance to see how learning can happen naturally. They had grand plans of things to do with the boys, but found that life got in the way. The first two weeks they didn't do anything planned, because the boys found their own ways to spend their time. Really, who could have planned that they would spend hours pounding nails into the porch, and loving every second of it? Or creating paper armies, and having a battle ensue across their living room floor? Things like that, just can't be planned.

I've often thought that my mom would have made a remarkable home-school mom, if only she had had the time, money, support, and confidence in herself to do it. I'm not sure if she ever thought it was an option for our family. I certainly never thought about it while I was growing up. But looking back, I can see how I learned more in the time spent with my family, than I ever did in the public schools I attended. I am grateful that I have loving, supportive parents, and that my children are getting the chance to know them.


*I came across the term free-schooling recently, and decided it's a more accurate way to describe what we do, as opposed to unschooling. I think when people hear the term unschooling, they assume no school or anti-school. Where as free-schooling is just how it sounds. My boys are free to school how ever, when ever, where ever they want. So from now on I will only be using the term free-schooling.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What if they want to go to school?


Got into a discussion with Tim tonight, and he said he thinks we should let the boys attend school, IF we move to a nice neighborhood, and IF they ask to go. I disagree, wholeheartedly.

Sure, I'd like to leave it up to them, and trust that they will make the right choice in the end. But I just can't see myself ever sending them off to school. Here's what I was trying to explain to Tim.

It's easy to follow the expected path in life. Most people find it very difficult to break out of the "norm". So difficult in fact, that they get offended when they see other people do it. But that's what I want for my boys. I want them to break away from the main path, and do the unexpected. Carve their own road, and live the lives that make them happy. By not attending school, so many other paths open up before them. They will have so much more time to follow their passions. Volunteer if they want. Go straight into the working world, or maybe even start their own businesses.

Tim is mostly concerned with the social aspects that will be lost, by not attending high school. I can agree that I spent way more time socializing in school than I ever did learning. But it's not as though they will be locked in the basement. They will have other social opportunities that will leave them with lasting memories.

Ok, so I know some might argue that by going to school they would be breaking away from the path I expect them to follow, and you'd be right. We could go round and round for hours, but in the end I just don't see how sitting in school, eight hours a day, can bring about anything except the most narrow view of the world. Unless my boys can come up with a compelling argument, I don't see myself ever consenting for them to enroll in school.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Personality

I heard an interesting article on the radio the other morning, while driving to work. It claimed that your personality by age six, will be your same basic personality for the remainder of your life. My first thought was, "No, please don't let that be true!".

Nico is six years old, and has some pretty frustrating personality traits. He is stubborn as a mule (some people may say he gets that from me). He never accepts no as an answer. He can't seem to ever keep himself from talking (definitely gets that from his daddy). He gets angry quickly, and then has trouble calming himself down. Lastly, he tends to carry around this smug sense of superiority. Like he is always right, and can do no wrong.

He does have some very positive personality traits as well. I do love his confidence in himself, I just wish he would internalize it a bit more, and realize he is not better than all those around him. If you ask Nico, he will tell you that he is mean and vicious, although I have never, in six years, seen him be vicious towards anyone, or anything. He is occasionally mean to his little brother, but that hardly qualifies. In fact, Nico is full of love and compassion. He is also creative, funny, inquisitive, and positively brilliant. You can almost see his mind glowing behind his eyes.

Like I said, at times he can be very frustrating to deal with. When things aren't going his way he is quick to start yelling, and all of a sudden I will find myself in a screaming match with a child. I do realize that I am the adult, and as such the one who should be in more control of her emotions. I let my own frustrations color my interactions with him, and I need to put a stop to it. My goal from now on is take more time to speak to him calmly. The louder and more frustrated he gets, the calmer and quieter I will become. I've been using this technique for the last two days now, and to my surprise, it's been working. If I can keep my own frustrations buried, I can get him to calm down much faster, even while disagreeing with him, or telling him no.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, after putting a lot of thought into it, I hope Nico's personality does stay the same. The good certainly outweighs the bad, and most of the things that frustrate me can be resolved in how I react to him. He is, after all, only six and as such still struggling to control those pesky emotions.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tadpoles and an Ant farm


That's what the boys and I did today.

A friend of ours has a small pond in front of her house, filled with hundreds of tadpoles. She offered some to us, so we stopped by and picked up eight. We have a small round habitat where we can watch them grow and change. Later, that same habitat will be perfect for keeping a pet frog (assuming at-least one survives). I hope they all make it to adulthood, but I don't have a very good track record taking care of small pets. Hopefully this is one area where my boys will not follow my lead.

After lunch, we made our own ant farm. Using two small jars, one slightly smaller than the other, we went out into the yard and rounded up some ants. I'm a little concerned about the size of our ants. They were tiny, and so I'm not sure if we'll be able to see their tunnels. I figure we can give it a couple days, and if nothing happens, the boys and I can go hunt some larger ants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First Business


Earlier today, Nico decided he wanted to try and make some money. He brought a box outside, and some finger puppets, and thought he could entice our neighbors to pay $5 to see his puppet show. After a very brief amount of time, he gave up, saying no one wanted to see his show. (On a side note, I don't think he had actually planned out a show, so even if some one had stopped to watch, they probably would have asked for their money back after he failed to produce.)

He still wanted to make some money, and it was blisteringly hot outside, so he decided a lemonade stand was a better way to go. Out went the box, out went a pitcher of lemonade and some paper cups, and his shop was set up. He wanted to try and charge $5 a cup, I convinced him to start with $1 a cup, but warned him he may have a hard time getting people to pay even that much. Less than five minutes after walking out the door, he made his first sale, and his first dollar.

After about 20 minutes he came back in and asked if there were any snacks he might be able to sell, along with the lemonade. I had some spare boxes of raisins I said he could have, and suggested a price of $.50 per box, and some crackers, which he wanted to give away, to make people thirsty, so they would buy more lemonade. Smart kid.

After an hour he started becoming discouraged that people weren't walking past him, and some had told him no. I told him to be patient, and stick with it. He stayed out there almost three hours, and in the end he sold a total of three lemonades, and one box of raisins, and came home with $3.50. He was thrilled with himself.

This is his first business, soliciting our poor neighbors. I see myself as his financial backer, since I supplied the lemonade, cups, raisins and crackers. Tomorrow I may take him out to the store, and see if he wants to spend some of his money on some cookie dough, have him bake the cookies, and then try and sell them along with his lemonade. This way he will gain an appreciation for cost versus profit. How much is he willing to spend today, to make more money tomorrow? I think I will also suggest that he make a sign, displaying just how much the cookies and lemonade cost.

Although I feel bad for unleashing this on my neighbors, I can't help but look at all the wonderful lessons he is gaining from this experience. From social skills, to money handling, to business administration he will learn more in the few hours a day he spends on this project than he ever could sitting in a class room. Yeah for unschooling.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Is there such a thing as bad pretend play?

I ask because yesterday my boys were pretending to smoke. They were using the sticks from their tinkertoys, and pretending that they were cigarettes. They even made pretend lighters, and were pretend coughing.

At the time I didn't say anything to try and stop them. But I've since been wondering if there is such a thing as bad pretend play? If pretending to smoke will someday lead to them trying it for real, or will allowing them to pretend satisfy that curiosity, so they will never actually smoke?

I've since decided that so long as they keep things in the realm of pretend, I will not interfere.

Are there any pretend activities that you will not allow your children to engage in?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Who needs expensive costumes?

Not my boys.

Nico and Lucas spent all morning playing pirates. They don't have pirate costumes, but did that stop them? Of course not. You don't need expensive costumes when you have paper, tape and imagination.

Nico drew, colored and cut out a pirate hat, eye patch, shirt, parrot, peg leg, and hand hook. Then, using scotch tape, he taped them all over himself. Then he ran around the house shouting, "Have ye seen the white whale?". It was way cute.

Then they went off to their room so they could build a pirate ship out of tinker toys. What a fun filled morning.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What about Reading?

In the beginning I used to think that teaching my children to read was going to be my biggest hurdle in home-schooling. I bought into the hype that children needed to be taught, and couldn't possibly learn on their own. I even purchased a membership for an online phonics program, which my boys found boring. I never forced them do these lessons, but I encouraged (ok bribed) them into doing a few lessons here and there.

As our approach drifted further and further into the realm of unstructured learning, I did more research into how kids learn to read. I began to get more relaxed about it, and decided that I was ok with my boys learning to read on their own. Even if that meant they wouldn't be reading by age 5, 6, 7 or even 10. Their ability to read, or lack there of would not, after all, be hampering their learning in other ways.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you see things, I didn't get the opportunity to find out how this works with Nico. I sent him on a two month extended vacation, and while away his Great Aunt, and English teacher, took it upon herself to teach him how to read. She did daily lessons with him, using Hooked on Phonics. Am I proud that my boy can read? Yes! But he was already making strides in getting there on his own.

However, I still get to witness this development in action with Lucas. Even now, at four years old, I can see how he is processing information, which will make it possible for him to read on his own. He knows all his letters, and what sounds each should make. He asks how words are spelled, and points out writing and inquires about what it says. Nico, forever the show off, has taken to reading signs as we are stopped at lights while driving. Lucas will look at the signs, already knowing what they say since his brother just told him, and sound out the words on his own; slowly saying each sound as he looks at the letters. He wants to read, and is taking the actions necessary to help get himself there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Networking

Throughout high school and college, my teachers and professors tried to drill in me the importance of networking. Meeting new people, swapping contact information, and then actually keeping in touch periodically. But as an extremely shy and introverted person, I just couldn't bring myself to step out of my comfort zone. I had a very small group of friends, and found it difficult to introduce myself to new people.

All that changed when I had children, and began my home-schooling adventures.

Not long after I made the final decision to home-school, I put myself out there in a way I had never done before. I joined a home-school group thru meetup.com. I knew no-one in the group, and would be purposefully surrounding myself with strangers. I just kept telling myself "I'm doing this for the boys.", and forced myself to go.

Suddenly things blossomed. I met mothers who were also just beginning their home-school adventures. I met veteran home-schoolers who were willing to take the time to answer my questions, and quell my fears and uncertainties. I made friends, my boys made friends, and it opened our world to opportunities I didn't even know existed.

This past year my boys have attended plays and festivals; gone on field trips to places like a grocery store, fire station, post office and bowling alley. We've had holiday parties and field days. All made possible because I reached out to the home-school community, and others were there to reach back.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Question of the Week

Nico: Why do we only give our dog water to drink? How come he can't have milk or juice or soda?

Me: Well, let's think about this. If he were a wild dog, living on his own, what would he have available to drink?

Nico: Water

Me: So, water is what his body is used to, and if we start giving him other things it might make him sick.

Nico: And if he were in the wild, he would eat other animals and bones, and that's why you gave him the steak bone last night, right?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Television is not my Babysitter.

If you walk into our home, anytime during waking hours, the television will be turned on. Generally tuned to Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. You may, during certain times of the day, catch it on Animal Planet, or the Science Channel.

There are a lot of statistics regarding children and television. I've seen the studies, but I've also seen first hand how my children handle watching the boob tube.

Yes the telly is always on, but the chances of catching my boys statically watching, and doing nothing else is going to be slim. Often times the television is just providing background noise for their other activities.

If you haven't noticed, more and more information is being thrown around at people. Even billboards are turning into picture tubes, playing mini-commercials while you drive by. The information age is in full swing, and I think it's critical for children to learn how to tune out the unimportant, while at the same time being able to listen passively for things that pique their interest. This is what my boys practice daily.

Sure, they may spend the occasional hour mindlessly tuned in, but they spend far more time running, playing, drawing, writing, reading and engaging the people around them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who am I? and What do I have to say?


Hello All,

I am a newly stay at home mom, who has taken on the monumental task of home-schooling my two boys. After months of research, and many discussions with friends, family and my wonderful husband, I have decided to use no curriculum. That's right, we are what is now becoming commonly known as unschoolers.

My oldest son, Nico, is six years old. He is strong willed, stubborn, and loves to think he has won every argument. Currently he wants to grow up and become an animal doctor. In the past he has expressed a desire to be a construction worker or a painter. I think he has all the natural abilities to make one hell of a politician.

My youngest son, Lucas, is four years old. He is my go-with-the-flow child. There's just not much you can do to disrupt his contentment, unless you're Nico, then you'll find a way.

Occasionally I may make mention of my stepson, Matthew. He only stays with us part time, but has played a significant role in shaping his brothers' personalities.

My children are always encouraged to ask about and discuss any topic. We don't censor, dismiss, or try to bring things down to their level. I feel that if they didn't want an honest and complete answer, they would not have asked the question.

This is a place for me to come and chronicle our learning adventures. Join me, as my boys experience no school for life.