Under Construction

I find blogging to be a great outlet for my thoughts. Not surprisingly, if you’ve spent any time around me at all you understand, I tend to be rather flighty and my internal dialogue is as well. But somehow, when I sit down to write, my thoughts line up in a nice organized line and march out one by one. It’s very clarifying!

Lately things have been a little harder to get out. My thoughts aren’t lining up…in fact, they’re running around and hiding.

I’ve got a lot under construction around here…the actual blog that will soon be shinier and newer (!); where we will be living–as our time in the RV is over for now; the kids and their changing focuses; and mostly–right now–myself. The energy I use to write our lives down in here is now being diverted into doing some seriously deep mental/emotional cleaning in my psyche. I spent a month doing that in a physical way and the shock waves to all that housecleaning on the outside has lent itself to a pretty dramatic housecleaning like that on the inside.

All that to say, I have very little to say. !!! My thoughts have gone to a place deeper than words. It’s like when I boil gnocchi, and those little potato balls of yumminess sink to the bottom of the pan. They’re only ready to be consumed when they float to the top after a few minutes, and can be scooped up easily. I’m just waiting for my thoughts to float on up.

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Name This Blog!

When Sassy turned 6, she decided to change her name to “Christina”. She forgot about it by the next day, so she’s still Sassy. But it got me thinking about the blog name I chose 4 years ago, when I started writing here. We were shifting from public school to homeschool, I was trying to figure out a way to educate all my kids at home, and Naturalist was a really sad empty shell of a girl. A light clicked on when I realized how much they learned and explored when our days were full of enthusiasm and play. Et voila…child’s play. Life should be lived like it’s child’s play!

I’m in the midst of getting my very own shiny domain name so I can switch this blog over to my very own shiny domain…so instead of being hosted by wordpress I’ll host it myself. I can dress the blog up with fancy schmancy bells and whistles and make it pretty, so I’m very excited about it! But I don’t have to stay ‘child’s play’, I can be whatever I want. I’m wondering, do I still like that name? Do I wish, like Sassy, that I could be called something else? And if so, what? All these questions have paralyzed me from moving any further on upgrading this thing! What’s in a name?! A whole lot of stress, apparently.

So, I’ll turn it over to you, who know me so well. What would you name this blog? Besides “Christina”, because Sassy’s already claimed it as her own. I’ll put it to a poll, with the two domain names that are available with ‘child’s play’, and then open it up to anything else. Just leave a suggestion in the comments. And if I chose your idea, I’ll drive out with all my kids in tow and we can have a pizza/Coldstone party! And if I really really like your house, we’ll all stay for a couple weeks! Yeah!

“Easy” Is Such A Relative Term…

I got a lot of feedback on the post I wrote about unschooling not being just for lazy people. I opined about how much easier my day would be if I could ship my kids out for 8 hours and just sit around eating ice cream sundaes all the time. I also supposed I would clean, too, and get a job….but who am I kidding? It’d be all ice cream and reading trashy magazines. But you can’t blame a girl for trying to look cool and more responsible on her own blog.

In a classic case of ‘the grass is always greener’, a few comments made me think about just what my life was like back when Naturalist and Golfer were in school 8 hours a day. Was it easy? Did I love it? Did I eat ice cream all day?

Uh, no. no, no, no, and NO.

And even though I am constantly working my tail end off keeping our unschooling environment as dynamic and creative as possible, I found the public school grind so. much. harder.

Probably because I was on someone else’s schedule. If one of the kids had an outrageous amount of homework to do one night, then we didn’t do things we’d planned and instead helped get the work done. Our mornings were spent rushing around trying to make it to the school bus on time instead of snuggling in bed until everyone was ready to face the day. My days were taken up in volunteering in classrooms, helping the teachers tow the line. Instead of playing games after dinner, we slaved over the homework that always made my kids cry. Instead of a continuation of a week well lived, our weekends were detox times when the kids would try to recover from one school week and rally for the next. They would shut down, not wanting to do anything else but just veg. All the trips we wanted to take had to be approved by the school or else we’d be in violation of the “10 allowed days of absences”. So we postponed or never took many family adventures. We didn’t read together until late at night, instead I had to enforce a rigid bedtime so everyone could get up in the morning for school.

It. was. exhausting. All the work, with none of the fun!!!

Unschooling. is. exhausting. A lot of work, but it feels like fun!

So, having to choose between the two, my heart is with unschooling. I smile more that way.

And it just now dawned on me, why can’t I have my ice cream and unschool too? Field trip to Coldstone, STAT!

2e Tuesday::Look Ma! No Spelling Lessons!

I have the advantage, being an unschooler, of trying radical things that the rest of the public wouldn’t dream of doing. Like, not having any spelling lessons in our day. At all. Anyone who has spent time with their child working on endless spelling tests, spelling workbooks, spelling drills, and countless spelling induced temper tantrums has fantasized about doing just that. Spelling curriculum is the bane of many school kids and parents existence. However, spelling is one of the foundations of the school system. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic…and spelling is a huge part of writing.

It’s such a big part of writing that it causes panic attacks to think about not having spelling as a part of the school day. Even when we left public school and homeschooled, I found spelling curriculum so I could import the spelling test pain into our lives every day. No one was forcing me to, it was in my control, and I bought in to the idea that if we don’t make our kids write random words down 10 times a day for a week, then they won’t ever learn to spell. And then they won’t write coherently. And then they won’t give a good application to colleges, which will lead to them not getting into school, which means unemployment, which means a horrible life full of grief and misery.

I, actually, am a fantastic speller. I found proof in my basement of doom that in 5th grade, I was at a high school spelling level. I have, like, a photographic memory for words. Which is weird because otherwise, my mind is a sieve. Things come in and flow out almost instantaneously, which accounts for my childlike glee. I feel like I see things for the first time no matter how often I’ve heard or read or seen it. Except words. They stick in there like they have velcro on the back of them. I’m like a wordy Rainman!

To me, every spelling mistake that I come across in my day leaps out at me like a scream. I previously supposed that spelling errors were the sign of a weak mind. Because spelling was so easy for me, I figured that it was easy for everyone…so how lazy could you be to not spell something when you could just see it in your mind.

Well, along came Naturalist. And to put it clearly I’ll do an analogy… Naturalist :: spelling : Me :: staying organized. It was confusing because I knew she didn’t have a weak mind, but she also couldn’t spell. Hell, she couldn’t even use vowels in her words. And this was in 3rd grade.

We discovered that Dyslexia had a lot to do with her spelling mistakes, so for a while when we homeschooled I thought that meant that I just had to make her practice and drill even harder. This was wrong. Let me repeat, THIS WAS WRONG. As wrong as suggesting that a person in a wheelchair just needs to get out of the wheelchair and try walking more often.

If you have a kid with either a learning difference like Dyslexia or is extremely right brained, let go of the spelling lists. I only say that because I’ve done just that, and in 2 years I’ve seen a remarkable difference (for the better!) in everyone’s spelling. Here’s what we do, and why it works:

1. Encourage passion and interest! For Naturalist, this interest was on birds and wolves. Any interest will lead into some form of expression. For her, she would write novels, biographies, and comics about birds and wolves.

2. Encourage internet use! There are ways to safely protect you and your child from negative scary internet-y things, so take those steps and use it. Naturalist would use the internet to search on birds and wolves to eventually find the words that she needed to use in her chosen forms of expressions. Because it was important to her, she would remember the spellings much easier.

3. Encourage more internet use! Naturalist is on a variety of chat rooms and forums like Spore, Indigo Forum, Dyscalculia Forum, Deviant Art, etc. Again, use caution and common sense and discuss proper internet safety measures with your kids, and then let them go. Using words to communicate to other people is a huge incentive to write correctly. And on those forums, usually someone else will correct the spelling in a reply, and this provides a concrete example to follow. It’s important to get ideas across, so these corrections are remembered much easier.

4. Encourage computer use. Spell check on the computer is fabulous!

5. Allow them to ask you how to spell words without answering back, “Look it up!”. Don’t do it. Just spell the word, as many times as they ask, as much as you can.

6. Trust that your kids want to be competent spellers and will find a way to do so when left to their own passions. Really trust this. Especially with a kid with LD who also is gifted who also is right brained. For instance, Naturalist cannot use a dictionary. It’s so hard for her. But this is what she does: She reads books. She remembers words on a page that she doesn’t know how to spell. Later, when she’s writing or drawing or needs to use that word, she remembers what page she saw it on and goes to that specific book to copy the word down properly. So, to get it straight, in her mind it’s easier to remember every word on a page of every book she’s ever read than to use a dictionary. It boggles the mind, does it not? But that’s how she rolls. Not being forced to “do” spelling, she’s come up with a way to spell words properly. Not for a grade, not for a test, not for a teacher, but because she just WANTS TO. She wants to take control of her dyslexia and prove that she can do things in spite of it. She wants people to understand her. She doesn’t like the slow spell check process of having to stop and figure a word out all the time, so she remembers better.

7. Get Scribblenauts!!!! For a visual, creative, right brained thinker, this game is the bees knees, and an amazing spelling facilitator. Basically, what you write down becomes part of the game, so spelling is important and words are introduced that they just remember because they need to use it.

Based around 2D side-scrolling action and word play, the premise of Scribblenauts is simple; quite literally, anything you write, you can use and reuse in the game. Players use the DS’ touch-screen and the in-game notepad/keyboard to help their character, Maxwell, as he moves throughout 220 increasingly difficult levels on his never-ending quest for the star-like “Starites.”

Attaining them requires Maxwell to solve spatially oriented puzzles. To do this players describe objects via the notepad/keyboard, which in turn appear on the game screen and facilitate the starite making its way to Maxwell. There are literally thousands of items in the game, both utilitarian like ladders, ropes, cars and buses, to the outlandish items, such as invisibility cloaks, pirates and black holes.

The game is all about experimentation, imagination and endless replay value as players open their minds to the nearly limitless possibilities that are sure to make Scribblenauts unlike any side-scrolling platformer they have ever played.

So, that’s our spelling suggestions. My kids haven’t done a spelling lesson in almost 3 years, and they’re better spellers because of it. Try it, you’ll see!

Birthday Party, Pulled Teeth and some R&R.

The past two weeks have left me exhausted! Not just physically, but mentally as well. Something about my baby turning any older just completely does me in. Last year, when she turned 5?! forgetaboutit. I ended up drowning my sorrows in leftover cake and ice cream. I know I should be happy, and I mostly am. How can I not when she yells excitedly to me “EVERYTHING!!!” when I ask her what she likes about being 6. But from a purely selfish standpoint, it’s hard to watch your blood, sweat, and tears slowly outsourcing themselves every year. Am I the only one with this kind of mommy angst?

The week before her birthday, Sassy lost her second tooth. (double whammy for my already angsty heart, but you already knew that)

Her first tooth was lost at the Staples Center after a big bite into a hamburger. This tooth was pulled out because it was keeping her from eating an apple.

Then her birthday came, and we did tons of this:

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Naturalist made her a birthday cake that deserves an entire post of it’s own, and the dance party was off the hook!

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve done our fair share of traveling around taking “educational field trips” (or, sightseeing…) and visiting friends in all corners of So. Cal. Mama needs a nap, which may explain the blogging hiatus I’ve got going on this past week. Either that, or I’m still suffering from the post-birthday cake sugar low lethargy.

6 Trips Around the Sun!

6 trips around the sun!

Now that she’s 6, she gets her own sub sandwich which ends 12 years of me sharing mine in all kinds of different combinations.

Now that she’s 6, she can come up with entirely new categories for things. Like, when at the pool last week she divided the swimmers there into groups of “people who it’s OK to see Mom’s boobs” and “people who it’s not OK to see Mom’s boobs.” It was OK for the girls and ladies to, NOT OK for the boys and dudes…something she announced very loudly when a poor man walked by to her loud “It is NOT OK for that man to see your boobs, mom, right?” I have no idea what goes on in that head of hers, but I have a feeling I have much more humiliation in store for me in Sassy’s 6th year here.

She still does not like for food to have parties in her tummy.

Her hair still tangles like nothing I’ve ever seen. She’s happy with the bob haircut–minimal brushing and tangling.

We’re off to hold the mother of all birthday celebrations today, you can join in by doing something amazing and fun in your own way!

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Here’s what 5 trips around the sun looked like.
Here’s what 4 trips around the sun looked like.

Golden Gate Bridge Phobia

Before I get to my gephyrophobia (Thanks, Amy, for the correct term for fear of bridges!) I just checked in on the blog with my iphone and started reading all the comments to the last one I posted about laziness (and lack thereof) and unschooling. I wish I could join in on the commenting party happening, but it’s hard to do over my stinkin’ iphone keypad. But when I get back, it’s so on! There were some really great points made and a lot of things were brought up that made me stop and think.

I’m not at my computer right now because I drove up to San Francisco to meet up with a fellow unschooling blogger, Tara from tara.mama.wendy

Tara.Mama.Wendy and I

It’s been great seeing her part of the world and watching her interact with her two adorable boys. Part of our night last night was driving in to the Mission District to eat dinner. I was excited about the eating part, but not so much about the driving over the Golden Gate Bridge part. It’s so terrifying!!! Especially when everyone in the car starts talking about traumatic bridge accidents and someone who is driving who shall remain nameless (Tara) starts pretending to go out of control. Hilarity ensues in the video…