Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The concept of Evolution is tough for most adults to grasp, so trying to explain it to a five and seven year old isn't exactly easy. They can grasp some of the more specific aspects of it, but the general concept, as a whole, still causes confusion.

Nico once argued with me for days when he asked who the first person was, and I told him there was no first person. Populations evolve, not individuals. He just couldn't wrap his head around that concept. Tonight, Lucas asked me how all the people in the world were born, when in the past there were no mommies and daddies to make babies (i.e. before people evolved). I didn't think I could adequately explain it with out help, so I pulled one of their books out to help.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters does a fantastic job of explaining how life evolved, in a simple way for children to understand. We read the book together, stopping along the way to discuss various aspects of evolution. I was rather surprised by the tough questions the boys asked along the way; such as Nico asking how the first cells got into the oceans to begin with.

During our conversation about evolution we also touched on abiogenesis, embryology, climatology, cell theory, just to name a few. The boys couldn't stop talking over each other, eager to discuss the many questions popping into their heads. After we put the book down, we went to youtube.com and watched some videos on how embryo's grow and develop from a single cell, into multicellular organisms.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finding a job and/or going to college

The other day Timmy and I were discussing life after unschooling for the boys. Specifically how they would go about getting a job or getting into college/trade school without a diploma. Our discussion turned into a bit of an argument (one of only a few that we've ever had). Here's why...

Timmy dropped out of high school when he found out he would have to repeat his senior year for only two elective credits. He had moved to Florida from Virginia, and the requirements for graduation were different. He wanted to apply for a job at Disney, but they wouldn't hire him with out a diploma or equivalence (GED). So he went and got his GED. He later applied to a tech school for Automotive and A/C, to which he had to provide his GED and take an entrance exam.

So during our discussion, he insisted that if the boys don't get a high school diploma, they will have to get a GED in order to work or apply to college, to which I disagreed.

I have spent countless hours online researching and reading about how unschoolers handle these types of things. (It's not like I've arbitrarily chosen this path without doing any research, and I'm just hoping for the best.) I may not personally know any grown unschoolers, but I feel like I do since I read their blogs regularly. This is what I was trying to get across to him.

When the boys go to apply for a job/college/trade school, where it asks for the high school information all they need to write is HOME-SCHOOL. They could even check that they have a diploma, depending on how old they are and if I have issued them one (because yes I can issue them one). Timmy tried to argue that wouldn't be good enough, because the people would have no idea if they actually did anything at home. To which I replied "Then they will take the entrance exams. The same entrance exams that all public, private, and GED students take anyways."

Timmy still feels that employers like Disney, will not accept anything other than a high school diploma or GED, and just writing home-school will not suffice. Otherwise he wouldn't have had to get his GED. But the difference is, he wasn't home-schooled, so he couldn't have written that, he had no choice but to get the GED.

Furthermore, I was not arguing that I was against the boys going that route, if that's what it takes to get them a job, or accepted into the school they wish to attend. If it comes right down to it, and the employer or school says you have to have a GED, they can go get it. But I don't think that's very likely. It's a whole different environment now than it was 20 years ago when Timmy left high school. And it's getting more and more home-school friendly by the year. In ten years, it's not likely the boys will face too much discrimination due to their home-schooled background.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


It's so interesting watching my two boys. They live in the same home, have the same parents, and pretty much do everything together day in and day out. Yet they each have completely different perspectives.

Nico is all about the big picture. He sees things as a whole, and doesn't care much about the details. He is very logical and passionate.

Lucas is all about the details. He seeks out patterns and is more emotional and sensitive.

They tend to argue, a lot! They just don't seem to understand how two people can look at the same thing, and each see something unique. I feel like I am constantly telling them both that what is true for one, may not be true for all. It's a difficult concept to grasp (one most adults are still struggling with).

Some day I hope they are able to really understand each other. Being able to share the world through someone else's perspective can open up new wonders, that may be missed on your own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shadow puppets, plays on words, questions explored

Lately Nico has been obsessed with shadow puppets. Anytime there is a light source available, he can't help but make shapes fly across the wall. His shadow puppets mostly consist of birds, a butterfly, and a dog. But he's getting better and better each time.

He's also developing new aspects of his sense of humor. He's starting to appreciate plays on words. The other day, after drawing all over his face with markers, a lady stopped by our table at dinner to tell us how adorable the boys were. I looked at Nico and said he sure did draw a lot of attention to himself. He replied, "Yeah I do 'draw' attention to myself." He's also noticing when other people make a play on words. A cartoon this morning showed the biggest 'meat'eor, made out of a giant meatball. Nico laughed and laughed.

Last week, Lucas asked why your body leaned the opposite direction when going around a turn in the car. This lead to a great conversation about movement, motion, and inertia. Lucas also likes to ponder a lot of 'what ifs'. He comes up with these crazy scenarios and wonders what if that actually happened. For instance, "What if someone was stupid enough to drive on the wrong side of the road?" (All his what ifs involve stupid people for some reason.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's getting to be that time of year again...

The public/private schools are coming to a close. Shutting down for summer break. The parks and libraries are going to become over crowded for the duration of the summer. Parents will be trying to cram all those things they wish they could do the rest of the year, into just a few weeks. We'll be staying home more, avoiding the hordes of people. I like the quiet, calm of an empty weekday park, and I'll miss it until August.

Lately several of my friends with kids in public schools have been boasting about their child's achievements. Honor roll awards; reading and math awards; attendance awards; behavior awards. Awards aplenty. I admit I felt a slight pang of regret as I realized my boys will never receive such an award. They will never feel that moment of pride, standing in front of their entire class, grasping that piece of paper. (Nor will they ever feel the sting of humiliation of having not won an award, when all their friends have.) After all, those types of arbitrary achievements were a large part of my own childhood. I can't tell you how many honor roll awards I racked up in school.

But after allowing myself to feel regret, I moved past it to look at the bigger picture. It's not as though my boys never have moments they can be proud of. Every time they finish a project, or master a new skill, they beam with pride. As they grow and delve into more difficult areas of study, they will have opportunities to win real awards, that actually have meaning. School is not the only place to achieve success. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How painting has evolved.

My boys have had access to paints of some kind since they were just wee toddlers. For the most part, they are abstract painters. Splashing colors on paper with random sweeps of the brush is way more fun than trying to create something recognizable.

A year or two ago Nico started trying to make sense with his brush strokes. He painted a series of portraits, including a self portrait, of our entire family, which has been proudly displayed above my computer. He likes to paint flowers and rainbows for me as well.

This morning Lucas made the leap into structured painting. With his water colors paint set, he created a very colorful alien, with claws. Then decided to paint a person saying something, in a cave, but the cave turned out to be inside a monsters stomach. He used the paints to tell a story, something he has never done before. I always just give them the paint and paper, and let them go. I never try and structure their work, or give them guidelines, other than keep the paint on the paper.

From their very first fingerpaints, to their newest water color creations, I have always proudly framed and displayed their works of art through out our home. Nico once asked if he could put his stuff in an art gallery, and since I couldn't do that for him, I've turned our home into his own personal gallery (well one he shares with Lucas).

I enjoy painting as well. I'm not great at it, but I'm decent enough. One of the things I like to do is paint on glass around the house. It's easily removed, and I can change the painting as often as I like, so I'm not stuck looking at the same thing all the time. I do a lot of holiday, or seasonal images, and sometimes I paint things for the boys to enjoy. I recently took down my winter scene, and replaced it with a field of sunflowers, beside a duck pond, to brighten up the house a bit. Nico wanted to paint his own scene, so I allowed him to remove my Spy vs Spy, so he could use the sliding glass door as his canvas. He had his own vision of what he wanted to paint, so I gave him the paints, and left him alone. About an hour later I had this beautiful sunset painted on my glass.

Painting isn't a passion for any of us, but it's a casual hobby that we all share. Looking around my house I can see how their skills have evolved from the earliest finger paints to the complex sunset. I can't wait to see what they can create in another five years, ten years, twenty years, if they continue to develop their skills.