The Great Birth (of the Universe)

I love it when someone writes with passion, heart, depth, and poetry about natural and scientific phenomena and as such greatly enjoyed an essay by Brian Swimme in the book Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminist Philosophy. As an educator and a homeschooling mother (as well as a former homeschooler myself), I also appreciated his telling observation that (formal) education is a major cause of the “lobotomy” of which he writes: “…by the time they are done training us as leaders for our major institutions, we have only a sliver of our original minds still operative. What sliver is left? …the sliver chiseled to perfection for controlling, for distancing, for calculating, and for dominating. The rest has been sacrificed in the surgery of patriarchal initiation” (p. 16).

Since most children spend 12 years minimum steeped in this educational culture, is it any wonder that we find ourselves in our current social and political conditions? This surgery of which Swimme speaks leads to a mechanical conception of the operations, functioning, and majesty of the universe, meant to be analyzed rather than marveled over.

Rather than a Big Bang, the birth of the universe is much more aptly described in terms of a Big Birth: “Not bombs, not explosions, not abhorrence…a birthing moment, the Great Birth. To miss the reality of birth in these scientific facts is to miss everything. It is to sit at the heavily laden table and starve. For here is a great moment in human consciousness. Now for the first time in all of human history we have empirical and theoretical evidence of a reality that has been celebrated by primal people for millennia…the mathematics of this initial, singularity of space/time are not enough. We require song and festival and chanting and ritual and every manner of art so that we can establish an original and felt relationship with the universe…our universe is quite clearly a great swelling birthing event, but why was this hidden from the very discoverers of the primeval birth? The further truth of the universe was closed to them, because central regions of the mind were closed…I am sensitive to the charge that poetry [like this] is just an ‘addendum’–that what are real are the empirical facts, while the rest is commentary. On the contrary, what is true is that this universe is a stupendous birth process, an engendering reality…” (p. 19).

This is the kind of theapoetics that makes me swoon! What would our world, our culture, the way in which we give birth, and the way in which women are treated look like if we grew up with a Great Birth rather than a Big Bang?

Swimme continues: “From a single fireball the galaxies and stars were all woven. Out of a single molten planet the hummingbirds and pterodactyls and gray whales were all woven. What could be more obvious than this all-pervasive fact of cosmic and terrestrial weaving? Our of a single group of microorganisms, the Krebs cycle was woven, the convoluted human brain was woven, the Pali Canon was woven, all part of the radiant tapestry of being. Show us this weaving? Why, it is impossible to point to anything that does not show it, for this creative, interlacing energy envelops us entirely. Our lives in truth are nothing less than a further unfurling of this primordial ordering activity…Women are beings who know from the inside out what it is like to weave the Earth into a new human being” (p. 21, emphasis mine).

So, if the patriarchal initiation of modern education doesn’t do the job, what should we teach our children? “We will teach our children at a young age the central truth of everything: that this universe has been weaving itself into a world of beauty for 15 billion years, that everything has been waiting for their arrival, for they have a crucial if unknown role to play in this great epic of being. We will teach that their destinies and the destinies of the oak trees and all the peoples of Earth are wrapped together. That the same creativity suffusing the universe suffuses all of us, too, and that together we as a community of beings will fashion something as stupendous as the galaxies” (p. 22).

I believe this is ecofeminism in practice.

Bits of the month

I’m trying something new—a weekly (or monthly) wrap-up sort of post where I share bits and pieces that don’t warrant full posts and that allow me to share personal type things about homeschooling and so forth as well as just random thoughts and ideas and material for my personal memory archives. I’m inspired to do this by Molly Westerman’s always interesting links for thoughts posts and by a blog I stumbled across recently called The Holistic Homeschooler(she does a weekly “homeschool mother’s journal” post).

So…here goes…

What I’ve been up to

Me = grading papers and final exams. The last day of the session is today

What boys have been up to

They both enjoy playing Minecraft to an almost obsessive degree. This week they’ve been working on plans for programming mods for the game and setting up sort of mock worlds with things they’d like their mods to have. Lann worked on a Batman themed mod and Zander’s is about “hunchback zombies” (many of whom are holding cakes).

New dog Dagger!

They’ve been making movies for the last several months in a very dedicated manner that I’ve really enjoyed observing. Over 300 video clips have been filmed since this new project began. And, then, this week, the perhaps inevitable happened—they dropped and broke my camera. It was around $300, but I quickly realized that I didn’t have any grounds to be mad at them (despite the fact that they’d been carefully instructed to always keep the strap around their wrist and to be careful). When you give 8 and 5 year old’s free reign with a camera, breakage is definitely a possible side effect. I also try very hard to remember the people before things mantra. So, now their extensively movie making projects are on hold until we figure out a replacement. I’m thinking a low cost kid-friendly, video-capable camera and an adult camera might be the most logical plan.

They buzz with ideas constantly. Lann’s big project idea this week was for a virtual reality helmet. Mark and I both struggle with the balance between expressing interest in his ideas and offering reality checks. It can be extraordinarily exhausting, truly. The other thing they came up with is a cartoon strip about “Poo Log Dog.” This is based on their intense dislike of our new little dog, Dagger, who showed up skinny and starving last month and is now part of the family. I like him, which is a real shocker, because dogs are not my favorite. The boys are less enraptured.

We’re back to our no artificial colors experiment which seems to have a drastic impact on Z’s rage fits, Lann’s teasing, and their cooperation with each other. We’ve had days and days of happy playing, bright energetic faces and ideas, and very little discord or meltdowns.

I love this baby's eye view picture taken by my friend at the playgroup Valentine party last month.

What baby has been up to

Walking more and more—I think we’ve almost seen the last of the crawling baby and the funny little one foot on ground, one leg down scoot-drag-crawl.

Climbs up on couch and onto stepstool in bathroom

Walks unsupported outside

Loves outside—loves so very much.

Likes to do mischievous stuff on purpose and stare at person til they notice and then squeal/yell while staring in their eyes.

Makes addle, addle, addle sound with tongue. Still uses adorable, “hmmm?” question-intonation sound to ask for or about things. Says Dagger, dog, Daddy, dragon, and quite a few other things. Refuses to perform any of them on command.

Loves to spin! In hammock swing outside, on Sit n Spin toy, dancing with brother. (A long time ago, pre-kids, I went to a workshop on play therapy. One of the speakers maintained that you should never bounce or rock or jiggle a baby, because it predisposes them to become addicts later in life—i.e. they start to like the feeling of having a “scrambled brain” and seek out that stimulation. It is amazing how certain, seemingly small experiences can leave a powerful legacy that cast a shadow on happy moments!)

What Mark has been up to

The man is quite focused on his plans for an aquaponics system. Is drawing plans for the greenhouse and figuring out supplies to buy. Planning to take a week off soon to focus on building it. We’ve also been doing our work party with a group of four friends. We take turns working on each other’s homesteads on alternate weekends. It has been a really good, community-building experience.

Homeschooling report

I finally did a Cartesian diver experiment (about buoyancy and air pressure) with the boys and it worked perfectly. While we did so, Alaina mashed her breakfast and a fruit leather into a cup of water.

I also signed them up for Studyladder. Jury is still out on whether this was a good plan. The graphics and style seem “primitive” in a way, like they were programmed in the late 90’s. However, I like it because they have math and science and counting in other languages, as well as reading. It seems much more comprehensive and full scale. Lann has also been wanting to work on his Click N Read Phonics lately and Zander has been doing Reading Eggs (still our favorite) and occasionally Starfall (we pay for the “more” version). Jumpstart we’ve let go, because even though it has really cool graphics and features, we can rarely get it to start up without crashing/freezing/or being generally frustrating.

I’ve been trying to find a good new book to read aloud to them. We keep reading the first chapter of various (free Kindle) books and then deciding we want something different.

This week (month) in blog news

I hit the 200,000 hit mark! That is pretty good for something that started out only intended for a local audience. I checked my annual stats too and noticed that in 2008 (my first full year of blogging), I had 8,000 hits during the entire year. Just this past week, my All that Matters is a Healthy Husband post had 8,000 hits by itself. ;-D Another new post that had a lot of shares and views was the Spontaneous Birth Reflex. I was happy to finally write it and also its related companion piece about the Rest and Be Thankful Stage of labor. My Honoring Miscarriage discussion and giveaway are still open too.

What’s on my mind

I am nearly speechless and also horrified about the current political obsession with contraception. This isn’t about birth control it is about woman control. I can’t stand it! And, I do not consider contraception to be a “women’s issue,” it is a human issue. Last time I checked, men participated in sex too. And, they too, desire a size of family that is compatible with their other needs (financial, personal, whatever). Likewise, many, many happily married, monogamous couples choose to use birth control and ; enjoy being able to have sex without procreating. It would be bizarre to characterize a man’s desire to be responsible for his own fertility as, “being paid to have sex all day.” It is equally bizarre to apply this claim to women.

In my work for my doctoral classes, I focus extensively on body politics, reproductive rights/politics, feminism, women’s rights, and personal autonomy as well as the historical and sociopolitical context of these issues. Since I live in a conservative area and have a “public” reputation to maintain, I shy away from addressing any of these subjects in depth here (I’m very googleable by students and prospective clients—heck, this blog was originally intended exclusively as a business tool for my local clients). However, in an ironic twist, that is exactly the kind of social control/inhibition/silencing/oppression of women that I am so passionate about addressing in my doctoral work. In fact, my dissertation is going to be about a thealogy of the body and how women’s bodies are the very terrain upon which patriarchal religious structures are built and maintained.

What I’m reading

I just finished reading The Hunger Games for book club—gobbled it up in a couple of hours—and I’m in the middle of the second one. I also finished reading Sisters Singing which is anthology of women’s prayers, blessings, songs, and readings. I read it over the course of several months in short segments during my daily meditation/altar time. I also finished reading Daughter of the Forest (also for book club) and Nobody Girl (don’t bother) and I am Woman by Rite: A Book of Women’s Rituals. I’m currently reading Peggy O’Mara’s Way Back Home collection of essays. The boys and I are listening to the sixth Harry Potter book on tape while in the car. I really love doing this! I less love realizing that by the time we finish we will have spent a minimum of 19 hours in the car. Whew. When I’m on my own I’m listening to Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce, one of my favorite childhood authors who wrote The Song of the Lioness Quartet, which is where I got Alaina’s name (I guess when I was approximately 12). I recently finished re-listening to Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich.

Articles I’ve enjoyed

Breastfeeding support: less is not more

What an awesome logo for the upcoming LLL of Illinois conference!

“I feel saddened by the alarming regularity at which women give up their desire to breastfeed because breastfeeding is not the ‘best’ way to feed babies. It’s the normal way. The idea that breastfeeding is somehow extraordinary persists because we live in a culture where very limited paternity leave is normal, where an expectation to continue cooking and cleaning and exercising and socialising in the post partum weeks and months is normal, and where a perception that unpaid work (especially if it is physical and monotonous) is pointless drudgery is normal.”

Breastfeeding – Does Science Mislead Parents & Professionals?

A clear majority of public opinion in the United States supports the view that ‘breastfeeding is healthier for babies’, yet substantially more than half of the surveyed population disagree that ‘feeding a baby formula instead of breastmilk increases the chances the baby will get sick’.

If exclusive breastfeeding was the norm against which other methods are measured, breastfeeding would not be ‘protective’ and breastfed infants would not enjoy ‘lower risks of ill health’; they would instead be referred to as ‘normal’, while formula fed infants are in fact ‘exposed’ to increased risk of poor health and development.

Also enjoyed this post from The Minimalists about turning off the internet at home. Since we live out of town and I work from home teaching online AND since it is super important to me to have a home based life, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to shut off the internet at home and drive into town to use it, but for a while after reading this article I fantasized about it.

And, this inspirational short post from Roots of She.

And, some pictures:


This heart-meltingly adorable sight met my eyes as I sneaked away from Alaina's napping self this week.


Tiny, independent nature girl!


Sweet sibling moment even though I lose crunchy points because they're watching a movie (it is Kipper though)


Yes, we have a michief-maker in the house!

I have about 14 others things I was going to include, but forgot about, such as the fact that we had our first local birth network meeting in February and I feel really good about it. But, now this post is terribly long and cumbersome anyway. I’m too wordy to do a bits and pieces type post, I guess! I thought it was going to be short and simple—instead it took several hours over the course of multiple days to get ready to post. Sheesh!


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

–Leonard Cohen, from “Anthem”

via A Meditation for the Weekend: How the Light Gets In – By Susan Cain.

Accidentally came across this quote via Facebook today and just loved it. It led me to the rest of Susan Cain’s website about introverts and her new book, Quiet.

During every session of my online class, I have my students take an online version of the classic Myers-Briggs personality inventory: Personality Type Explorer. Personally, I am an INFJ which is the result I also get when taking the paper version of the test as well as other online versions. So, it seems pretty consistent. I feel I am more accurately an “extroverted-introvert” (which isn’t a real category)—I really enjoy being around people and I’m friendly and social, but on the flip side I then feel very drained after people contact and need time alone to recharge. I find I am restored by being alone and drained by being with others (even though I like them!), hence my own self-labeling as “extroverted-introvert.” Though, of course, by definition it isn’t actually that extroverts “like people” and introverts don’t like people, it is a difference between whether they are fueled or drained by people contact. I’ve just observed that people seem to make an assumption that being introverted means someone is “shy” or “doesn’t like people,” so that’s why I choose extroverted-introvert for myself.

On the website above, I read Cain’s Manifesto, which contained these gems:

“1. There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers.”

I have heard this phrase more times than I can count—“you think too much.” While often said with a teasing air, it is also tinged with a touch of shaming. Once, several years ago, I mentioned feeling “too busy” to an acquaintance. She responded with, “it is good to be busy, then you don’t have time to think.” I was stunned by the concept then and I remain stunned by it now—no time to think? What kind of life would that be?! Sounds hellish to me. When I begin feeling like I have no time to think or that I don’t have enough space in my own head, that is my personal cue that I need to make life changes. While I can “overthink” things or ruminate in pointless and self-berating ways, most of the time I really enjoy my own company. I like time to think and I love time spent in my own head. It is a pretty interesting and fun place to be. And, for me then, writing is thought made visible. (This brings me to Cain’s third point in her manifesto was: “3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”)

And, finally, her fifth point appealed to the homeschooler in me:

“5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.”

(I love the casual acknowledgement that a primary purpose of government school is to provide publicly funded day care while parents are at work.)

My own kids love being home best of all (actually, they may love visiting my parents’ even better!). They always have each other for company though. I do not know if I’ve ever fully expressed how very much I love having this pair of boys. It is phenomenal. They pretty much play with each other from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Day in and day out each spends with his best buddy, his brother. Last weekend we had a family wide meltdown over something pretty silly, but the whole family ended up yelling about it and Lann ended up in his room for a while because the boys needed to be separated (besides being best buddies, they each have a “signature” behavior that leads to some challenges—L’s is to tease/taunt and then laugh in a horrible mocking way when Z gets upset, and Z’s is to throw massive “rage fits” that involve physical attacks). Z kept begging and begging for Lann to be able to come out of his room (L wanted to stay in because he was really upset and crying and mad) and then said to us, “you don’t understand, I HAVE to be with my BROTHER!” While it is an unfortunate example because of the family wide meltdown context, it was very telling about the depth and quality of their relationship and I just feel extraordinarily fortunate that they like each other so very much and are such an integrated and committed unit.

wearing their signature skeleton sweatshirts of awesomeness

This experience with a pair of brothers is one of the things that makes me want to have just one more baby—so A has a chance to have that intense sibling connection too. Of course, there are no guarantees that she would bond that well with a younger sibling—it could be a sibling rivalry torture fest that drives me screaming from my home with no scrap of time left to think. And, I know it is extremely ridiculous to plan to have kids to be friends for other kids (how would that hypothetical other baby feel to know that it was only born to be a buddy for someone else?!) And, of course, she has her two big brothers to be her friends. The boys are such a tight pair though and are enough older than she is that I don’t think she’ll ever be on the true friend level with either of them.

Okay, so I started on one topic and ended somewhere totally different. Ah, well.

My Tribe!

This is perhaps the most long-overdue post in the history of my blog. Several years ago, The Feminist Breeder wrote a post in which she answered the question, “how do I do it?” I’ve lost the link for her original post, but the gist of her answer was, not alone.  She also asked readers to consider who makes up their parenting tribe—who helps them hold it all together. So, I immediately knew that I needed to write about my parents. My original tribe of birth as well as a very significant part of my present-day tribe. Maybe I haven’t written it because I don’t like to feel dependent on other people. I like to feel like I can do everything on my own and that I don’t ever need help. That isn’t true, obviously. (It also isn’t healthy.) So, one of the ways in which I get it all done (which, of course, is actually another post, because I NEVER actually “get it all done”!) is because of my wonderful, amazing, helpful, altogether incredible mom and dad.

I feel in a somewhat unusual situation in that I’m a “second generation” attachment parent. My mom was a homebirthing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and homeschooling mother before there was even really a name for many of the concepts of gentle parenting, let alone an overarching parenting “philosophy” or, dare I say, dogma surrounding the ideas. (In some ways, I feel like that has added a complication to my own parenting journey—while many parents joyfully discover attachment parenting and then grow into it with the thrill of having found the right fit for their families, I chose attachment parenting before ever having children of my own and thus instead of growing into it, sometimes had to fall from the pedestal of imagined ideals or the pre-conceived ideas I had about what a great, attached mother I was going to be. Again, a subject for another post!)

Anyway, my mom’s own parenting past means I’ve never once had to deal with any kinds of comments questioning my own parenting—she would never dream of asking why I have homebirths or homeschool or when my baby is going to wean. Big grandparenting score right out of the gate! 🙂 Also, they live one mile away. That means my kids get to go visit their grandparents almost every day and I get two hours on my own to do all of my own work. Go ahead and swoon with envy. It is okay. If I didn’t have these two hours (sometimes closer to three), I don’t know how I would do it. I work in my online classes, I grade papers, I write blog posts, I write articles, I work on books, I write assignments in my own doctoral classes. I feel happy and “productive” when the kids come back home and they’re happy too. My parents also will babysit at other times if I need them (for example, having an LLL meeting or a birth class in town). My kids adore them. I don’t know what they would do without them either. It makes me so full of joy to know that my kids have other adults  in their lives who love them almost as much as I love them (maybe the same—my dad told me recently that he had no idea he would love his grandkids as much as he loves his own kids).

My dad and my boys

My mom and my girl

Anyway, here’s to my tribe! I love you. I need you. And, I thank you.


Natural Learners

As long as I have homeschooling on the brain lately, I want to quickly share some things I had saved in my drafts folder. This will most likely be my last homeschooling post for a while and I’ll return to my usual topics!

Quite some time ago (pre-children), I wrote the following in response to a 2001 Time magazine article about homeschooling that bemoaned both that homeschooled children were “not allowed to have a childhood”  (forced to be miniature adults and grow up too soon) and that they somehow also “miss out on learning ‘real world’ skills” (in school) such as conflict resolution that will benefit them in adulthood. In the article, a strong statement was made that I’ve never forgotten that riding the school bus is a valuable and important part of growing up and imparts irreplaceable life lessons summarily denied to poor, deprived homeschoolers. (Luckily for my social and personal development as a complete human being, I did get to ride a school bus to our local Vacation Bible School each year for a number of years.)

Truly, is there anything inherently valuable about things like riding the school bus? I lived my childhood and it was rich and full in a way that is impossible to create when you spend 8-9 hours per day institutionalized. Why is sitting at a desk, artificially grouped with children all your own age, being spoonfed information, and restricted from developing your own personality and preferences (i.e. everyone must learn algebra), what childhood “should” be? Why do so many adults go through crises as adults that involve having to “find themselves” and develop their “true selves”? I would hypothesize that is because they never got to explore themselves and their identities in childhood, which is actually the ideal time for such growth and development. Government schooling is somehow seen as the better way for children to spend childhood instead of letting children develop, grow, and learn in the actual world in which they will live as adults.

I also had saved a quote about natural learners from the book, Providence, by Daniel Quinn. Quinn is the author best known for his philosophical novel Ishmael, which I read as a young teenager. I remember considering it to be a life changing and fascinating read, but it has been a LONG time since I read it—my primary memory of it is how he challenges the very human conception that we are the “end” result of evolution. That’s it, evolution has finished, we’re here now. Anyway, Providence was less illuminating/interesting. It was primarily an autobiography with an emphasis on how the author developed Ishmael (which went through more than 6 versions over a period of like 13 years) as well as an exploration of his religious development (which includes some time spent in a monastery and ends with animism).

While he was writing his book, he worked in educational publishing and I appreciated his remarks about education:

One of the great, persistent myths of education in our culture is that children become reluctant learners as they grow older. In fact, what they become reluctant about it going to school, where they’re bullied, regimented, bored silly, and very effectively prevented from learning…We know what works for children up to the age where we ship them off to school: Let them be around you, pay attention to them, talk to them, give them access to as much as you can, let them try things, and that’s it. They take care of the rest. You don’t have to strap small children down and teach them to speak, all you have to do is talk to them. You don’t have to give them crawling lessons or walking lessons or running lessons. You don’t have to spend an hour a day showing them how to bang two pots together; they’ll figure that out all by themselves–if you give them access to the pots. Nothing magical happens at the age of five to render this process obsolete or invalid.

Homeschooling Today (Part 2 of 2)

So, after my extremely long “ghosts of homeschooling past” post, it is time for my follow-up post about what homeschooling looks like for me today. My boys are only 8 and 5 and if there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that how our daily lives look will change many times. I truly believe that children’s play is children’s “work” and the best thing we can do for them is allow them ample space and opportunity for play. I believe in life learning and playful learning and that we are learning all the time, not just when “doing school.” I also believe that most people are “meant” to live home-based lives, spending a good deal of time in the company of their personal “tribe” and in their own homes (or those of people close to them), rather than in institutional settings (whether that setting be a schoolplace or workplace—as a companion to this thought though, I also feel like adults are also “meant” to spend time each day on “work” that is not parenting, whether it be grinding corn, or something else).

So right now, our daily “structure” looks like this:

  • 8:00, wake up—day feels bright and full of promise!
  • Boys play Minecraft on computer or play with toys in living room or draw. A favorite is these amazingly awesome complex map-type drawings using newsprint paper on a roll (see pictures below). They also draw comic books and write stories.
  • I do yoga
  • I fix breakfast and we all eat
  • Boys continue playing whether on Minecraft or outside or with toys, or draw or play sort of acted-out-video-game-adventure-type-storylines
  • I work on my online class or grades papers/homework or prepares materials for the week’s classes—sometimes with “bonus time” (if Alaina keeps sleeping), writes blog post or works on lessons from own doctoral program.
  • Around 11:00ish, Alaina wakes up. Boys run to play with her. She is wiggly and smiling and “look, world! I’m BAAACK!”
  • Do things like listen to radio and dance together (today, it was Madonna, which the boys said was “laser tag music!” so we then danced/listened and played laser tag. Alaina was in pouch and I held the target and ran around with it to add an extra level of challenge while boys battled it out and attempted to also shoot the target).
  • Do some household chores with Alaina in pouch.
  • Go outside to let out chickens, play, swing on swings. When weather is nice in fall, go into the woods by big rocks to play and explore.
  • Make lunch and eat. (Boys draw or play while I fix it. Alaina rides in pouch and supervises or plays on floor with boys.) Today I also made four loaves of pumpkin bread for our work co-op this weekend with Zander stirring/measuring and Alaina supervising, while Lann drew plans for “jet shoes” he would like to invent.
  • Do school with boys. This consists of a combination of options from:
  1. Reading Eggs
  2. Starfall (we pay for the “more” version)
  3. Jumpstart
  4. Leapster K and First Grade
  5. ClicknRead Phonics
  6. Videos from Harry Kindergarten
  7. In the past, we have also used Dreambox & Time4Learning
  8. I also have approximately 499 educational bookmarks on my computer that we do an assortment of things with.
  9. I get the Clickschooling daily email which often has something good to check out.

Recently, we’ve been doing reading and math worksheets from their Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills workbooks every day. We stop as soon as they say they are bored and don’t want to do anymore, because I don’t believe in setting up an atmosphere where “learning” equals bad. Every day, they also each read me one new Bob Book for reading practice. Z reads the early reading ones and L is into the first grade series. I am crossing my fingers hopefully that Z will learn to read more quickly than L has learned. Just this year, reading has finally clicked for L, but he still isn’t exactly proficient or fluent in reading skill. Since I, personally, learned to read so early, this is really hard for me to deal with.

  • Sometimes we don’t make it to school before Alaina goes down for nap at about 1:30. So, sometimes we do that after I get back up from lying down with her. Sometimes they watch an episode of something they are interested in on Netflix while I’m putting her down for nap.
  • At about 2:30, boys go to visit my parents at their house. While there, they—surprise!—play some more.
  • If the stars are well aligned, Alaina naps while boys I gone and I frantically work on all tasks I imagined doing in the morning, while also feeling guilty about trying to finish my blog post rather than visit with my mom when she comes to get the boys.
  • Once a week we go to homeschool playgroup and we do other homeschool events as they arise like bowling, skating, plays/shows at the university, occasional field trips, pumpkin patch, etc.
  • Alaina wakes from nap and we snuggle and nurse and play and I marvel at her fundamental awesomeness.
  • Boys return and I start trying to work on dinner (usually with Alaina in pouch). Sometimes while visiting with my mom (who plays with Alaina while I cook).
  • Mark gets home from work at close to 6:00.
  • I lament briefly about all the tasks I thought I would complete that I didn’t get finished.
  • Berate self for complaining and for whining at Mark when he has just gotten home, rather than be delightful company.
  • Finish dinner and eat. While eating, we usually do “high-low” of the day—each take turn saying our “low point” and “high point” from the day.
  • Clean up dinner and go outside for our evening walk. Boys ride bikes and are extremely loud and Mark and I try to talk over them.
  • Boys shower, brush teeth and I read to them from our current book and then snuggle them until they go to sleep (Mark gets Alaina in her PJs, pottied, and teeth brushed, and sometimes a bath).
  • Lament a little more about what I still haven’t gotten done.
  • Watch Netflix with Mark in bed while nursing Alaina to sleep.
  • Feel dismayed at pile of laundry still needing to be put away.
  • Imagine hopping up and whirling through the house in a blaze of productivity, but decide going to sleep makes more sense.
  • Review things I expected myself to get done—such as working on books, completing massive projects, writing dozens of blog posts, doing dozens of school assignments, etc. Feel vague sense of failure about the day—never having “caught up” or gotten “finished.” Feel guilty about times I snapped or said, “just a MINUTE!” or didn’t stop what I was doing to look.
  • Wonder why I forget to include, “sustaining life of small, wonderful person” on my list of “accomplishments” for the day.
  • Berate self for not being nicer to self. Berate self for berating self for not being nicer to self.
  • Vow that tomorrow will be a “better day.” Vow to be more patient, more responsive, more mindful, more spiritual, more attentive, more cheerful, more delightful, more zen-like, more inner-peace-full, more better. Berate self for always making same vow. Briefly berate self for self-beratement.
  • Feel bad for not spending more rose-smelling time or time snuggling with my husband or visiting with my mom. Remind self to be generous with self. Retain secret sense of certainty that it is possible to get everything done tomorrow.
  • Read my current book (or books) until I’m almost falling asleep (around midnight).
  • Nurse baby much of night.
  • Wake up full of awesome and ready to do it again!

Things I envision our daily life including, but that rarely manifest:

  • Drumming and musical instrument fun
  • Handwork
  • Family games
  • Making small animals out of moldable beeswax
  • Meditation and other peaceful, contemplative spiritually-oriented practices in perfect harmony with all children participating
  • Wool and wood toycrafting
  • Nifty Waldorfish or paganish seasonal cycles of learning coolness of all kinds
  • Relaxing on back deck porch swing with cup of tea

My friend, Hope, has a great blog post about what homeschoolers “do” every day, which seems to be the number one question of mothers who are thinking about homeschooling their own children.

Here are some pictures of what our lives look like during the day:


Toys set up for adventure...

Tricky moves

Playgroup at park!

Baby with laundry backdrop...

Harry Potter Quidditch Match "trick" photography...

More "trick" photography (note large drawings in progress on floor )

Big drawing/map...

This is the kind of energy that flows through our house every day!

Lann took this picture--notice Mark, A, and I in background at stove

Worn out and time for bed!

My awesome is a little tarnished by this time of night, but I'm still here!

I’m really, really, really grateful that I have two boys who are such good friends for each other!

My Homeschooling Life Story (Part 1 of 2)

I remind my students that in order to effectively help others, it is important to "know your story" and that felt relevant for this post about my homeschooling story

As I mentioned several posts ago, I’ve received some requests to write more about homeschooling. I realized I’m a little stumped on the direction to take, realizing that I used a lot of my “homeschool philosophy” type of energy up writing papers on the subject in college and that I also don’t feel like I have any “how to” advice to give about homeschooling either. Nor can I really figure out how to write a “how we structure our day” type post either, because our days frequently look very different and change based on the needs of the day and the people. These things said, I also don’t mean to suggest in any way that I’ve got it all figured out, I just don’t spend a lot of time thinking about homeschooling. I mentioned it to my mom and she suggested that people might just be interested in my own experiences, both from my childhood and then currently, with my own kids. So, that’s what I’ve decided to offer in this series of two posts. No philosophy, theories, or advice, just my own narrative about being a homeschooled kid who grew up to homeschool her own kids.

My own homeschooling story/saga is such an integrated part of my past, or my life story, that it has barely occurred to me that people might be interested to hear it. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t be. This is LONG post and who knows if anyone will even make it until the end! I do think I am in a fairly unique position as an adult former homeschooler. I know almost no one else who was homeschooled throughout the childhood and teenage years, never setting foot in a formal school until entering college. Did I mention its long? Be warned!


I have three younger siblings and my mom homeschooled all of us. At the time, we considered ourselves “unschoolers” but I feel like that label has evolved to encompass a more developed philosophy and set of beliefs than it did when I was a kid. To my mom it meant that we homeschooled without curriculum and that learning in the house was primarily child-led/child-directed, with Mom’s primary purpose to make quality resources available to us and to answer questions. My mom has a degree in early childhood education, which always gave her a little additional credibility in the eyes of casual questioners or people wondering if you were “allowed” to homeschool. As a kid, I truly felt like my mom homeschooled because she enjoyed our company so much that she couldn’t stand to have us away from her all day at school. It wasn’t until adulthood that I fully realized that she probably could have used the “break” school would have provided, but she homeschooled us because of her own convictions that it was in our best interest and that the public school system was a “broken” one to which she was philosophically opposed. As a teenager, I did catch on to some of these convictions and would passionately advocate for homeschooling when encountering those who would express skepticism or doubt (this is what I mean about having “used up” this energy already).

My dominant memories of my childhood years consist mainly of playing with my sister, reading, and having my mom make things for us. My youngest siblings are 9 and 11 years younger than I am and do not feature prominently in my childhood memories. My other sister is 22 months younger than I am and our lives together are so inextricably linked that I rarely speak about my childhood without using the pronoun “we.” We spent so much time playing. It was the bulk of our day really, just playing with each other. We were each other’s best friend. We played outside, we played with toys, we made toys, and played some more. We had neighbors (loosely speaking—within five miles from us) who were also homeschoolers and we saw and played with them frequently as well (and, grew up to be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings). With our friends, we often played house, restaurant and yes, school. We made all kinds of worksheets for our dolls and I was always the teacher. At home, we sometimes did worksheets with mom. Almost every year she bought “Super Workbooks” for us (i.e. “My Third Grade Super Workbook”) and we’d start off with a bang with her saying that this was the year when we were really going to buckle down and do school every day. This usually lasted a couple of weeks and we’d be back to our freeform, playing days with occasional bursts of workbooks as we expressed interest in them. We had old-fashioned readers like Dick & Jane that were always fun to read, as well as lots of other schoolbooks in addition to the Super Workbooks. These were always available to us on the bookshelf if we wanted them.  I learned to read when I was three and have been a voracious reader ever since. We would go to the library once a week and I would check out every new book they had.

Because of my tendency to read until my eyes glazed over, my mom eventually limited me to reading two books a day (full-length “chapter books” such as Trixie Belden—favorites of mine when I was about 6). I literally read every single book in the children and youth sections at both local libraries. A lot of my learning truly came from fiction. I still feel like my most long-lasting lessons about history came from American Girl books! We also used to get all kinds of educational magazines. Mom also read to us every night until we were in our early teens, usually book series like Narnia. We were in 4-H for many years and did all kinds of projects through 4-H, went to summer camp, and eventually participated in their many leadership-opportunity programs. I’ve never forgotten the mock trial of the ethically and morally complicated case of Nancy Cruzan we participated in at the state Capitol building through the 4-H civic leadership program I took part in. We belonged to the local homeschool support group and regularly went to homeschool bowling, skating, and other events. My mom also did a “craft club” for girls and we would get together and make craft projects every week. We also had lots of sleepovers.

Unlike many other homeschoolers of the time, we did not homeschool for religious reasons and in fact were not religious at all. I felt a barrier throughout my childhood in relating authentically to other people because I was not religious—it felt like something I needed to play close to the chest and keep “secret.” Many of my friends were fundamentalist Christians, which was not compatible with my own burgeoning sense of social justice and women’s rights. My own self-identification as a feminist was my first taste of activism and my first involvement with a “cause” (other than homeschooling). I had many experiences with my homeschooled peers that left a very bad taste in my mouth towards religion, primarily religious attitudes toward women, to the extent that I maintained a knee-jerk almost anti-religious response to any discussion of religious or spiritual issues until I was close to 30. As a child and teenager, I came to feel like being religious and being feminist were fundamentally incompatible and I chose feminism. I truly did not know that someone could be religious or Christian without being frighteningly fundamentalist about it. It wasn’t until much, much later that I discovered that are a lot of “normal Christians” in the world (including “normal homeschooling Christians”).

I grew up in an off-the-grid log cabin in the woods. We did not have a TV until I was 12 when we got a TV/VCR combo unit—it did not get any TV channels, but after that point we watched one movie per night.

High School

When I approached age 14, my parents gave me the choice of continuing to be homeschooled or to start high school. Several of my homeschooling friends started high school at this point and homeschooled boys in particular were hard to come by, many having been lured to public high school from desire to play organized sports. Those of us who remained actually organized our own homeschool basketball “team,” playing basketball together in local parks at least once a week. I opted to begin a homeschool correspondence program, American School, a (supposedly) college-prep high school program that offered an accredited diploma at the end. Any naysayers were quickly silenced to learn that the same accrediting body that accredited the local high school, also accredited the correspondence high school I attended.

During my early teenage years, I also remained very involved with 4-H, serving as president of my club, etc. I also joined an Explorers post, the co-ed, young adult version of Boy Scouts and this is where I ended up meeting the boy who would eventually become my husband. Through dating his public-schooled self, I ended up participating in all of those things that people express concern about homeschoolers “missing out on,” such as the prom. I cannot count the number of time people have asked, “but what about prom?!” when they hear that someone is homeschooled. After going to prom myself, I felt deeply sad that this experience was what some people apparently considered the pinnacle of their lives! My homeschooled-til-high-school friends were in band and another friend’s brother played football, so I went to many high school football and basketball games to watch them play, thus again not missing out on a classic high school experience. (I’m glad I didn’t need to spend 12 years in public school in order to earn these fabulous honors!)

I quickly discovered that I could complete my high school classes very quickly, sometimes completing an entire high school course during one weekend (of intensive work). My only challenging area was math and sometimes my mom and I both ended up crying over it as I struggled through algebra and geometry at the kitchen table. I started to toy with the notion of possibly completing high school in three years. As classes passed, I realized I could finish even more quickly than that, and in 1994, I received my high school diploma at age 15—14 months after having started the correspondence classes. Yes, I completed 4 years worth of high school work in slightly over a year! This really solidified for me that high school was likely a “waste of time” for everyone. After starting college, I was interviewed by the local paper and was asked if I felt like I had “missed anything” by not going to school like everyone else, I responded that I had missed out on “having been institutionalized.” I was dating my future husband at this time and his friends were extremely annoyed at my “snotty” attitude in this quote stating that I couldn’t know what high school was like, having never been there. They also said, “it isn’t an institution! It has windows and the lockers are painted different colors.” I rested my case.

While my parents and I debated about whether it made sense or not for me to start college so young, I really felt like I might as well be spending my time in college as in high school—if I could do it, why not start. So, at 15 1/2 I enrolled in a branch college to “get my feet wet.” My primary motivation for starting at this school rather than at the local university, was because the branch college did not require an ACT score to be admitted and I really, really did not want to take the ACT. I eventually took the GRE to get into graduate school and that remains the only standardized test I’ve ever taken.


I spent almost two years taking classes at the branch college until I had enough credit hours to transfer to the local university without an ACT score. I took College Algebra with trepidation, never having felt fully competent in math. I did successfully get an A in the class, but it involved literally hours of self-imposed practice problem solving at home sitting by the wood stove. I was a very enthusiastic and hard-working student, theorizing that I had so much energy for college because I hadn’t previously been “burned out” by high school. I earned all A’s at the branch school and continued to earn all A’s at the university to which I transferred, eventually graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. I was also the youngest graduate in the university’s history, finishing my bachelor’s degree at age 19 years and 13 days. I kept my age very private throughout college, only revealing my true age to a tiny handful of other students and then to a couple of my favorite professors in the two weeks before graduation. One classic moment was when a friend asked me to go to a bar after class to continue working on our group project. I said I couldn’t and he said, “why not? You’re 21, aren’t you?” I just said no, and he said, “22?” which I continue to find very amusing 😉 For all of those who worry about the “socialization” of homeschoolers, no one ever seemed to be able to identify me as a homeschooler or as overly young.

After it became clear that driving into town every day for classes and work no longer made a lot of sense, I lived in the dorm for one semester in my junior year and then moved into a small efficiency apartment when I was almost 18. I worked at the branch college I originally attended, which was a perfect job for me, allowing me to do all my homework and paper writing while at work. (I am now a professor at this same college!)

I was extremely obsessive about my grades, becoming almost panic-stricken at the thought of not getting an A in a class. Astronomy was my most horrible subject and I remember crying—wailing almost—certain that it was going to be the undoing of my 4.0. As it was, I calculated the exact score I needed to get on the final to manage a 90% in the class and I still remember the tension in my chest in going to look at the final grades on the professor’s door and seeing that, yes, I had received exactly that score on the final, not a single point over! I continued to date my only boyfriend throughout college and in July after I graduated we got married (we’ve been married for 13 years now). Immediately following college, I went on to graduate school and finished my master’s degree there at age 21, also with a perfect 4.0 GPA (though I’d been told by many people, including professors, that I’d have to lower my expectations of myself once I went to graduate school and that it would be a “bigger pond,” that didn’t end up being true). Again, I only revealed my age to a handful of people. At one point after being pushed into saying how old I was, my friend said, “wow! I would never have guessed. If someone had asked me, ‘is Molly 19 or 30,’ I would have said, ‘well, she looks young for 30.'” Even at the time, this struck me as mildly sad, like I had been “fast forwarded” through my adolescence.

Adult Reflections

My experienced as a homeschooled, now-adult taught me many things about education and about homeschooling. Primarily, I know from experience that it is not necessary to sit in desk all day. I also know that it is not necessary homeschool with a “school at home” mentality. Basically, children do pick up everything they need to know to be functional, socialized adults with access and opportunities. I always say I learned about the “real world” by living in it, rather than being closed up all day in an artificially age-segregated environment expressly modeled to serve the purposes of the Industrial Revolution, not human needs.

I do retain some sense of having been “fast forwarded,” in my life, but that isn’t really a bad thing (for example, now a 32, I have over 15 years of experience in my chosen field, rather than still “just starting out” as it seems to me like many thirty-something year olds are!). If I was starting all over again, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going to college that young, but nor would I recommend trying to prolong something that could be completed in less than four years.

My brother and sisters all did the same high school correspondence program, but paced themselves intentionally to finish later. They also all went to college and finished their bachelor’s degrees. I share this personal story for those of you who have wondering if homeschooling “works” and whether your kids will, indeed, grow into functional adult humans 🙂

I find it somewhat amusing that I’ve ended up in education as a career. I feel like my outlook was profoundly shaped by my homeschooled childhood and my students frequently express that I expect them to think in ways they’ve never thought before and that my assignments are not like anything they’ve experienced before, “I mean, you actually expect us to think.” (direct quote)

I have joked before, but am half-serious, that being unschooled “ruined” me for full-time employment. It did in the sense that I don’t think it is healthy for anyone—male, female, child, adult—to spend all day, every day doing the same thing at the same place. That is not how life is meant to be lived! I also feel like my childhood spent essentially doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, did have an impact on my experience of motherhood now, which not infrequently does not allow me to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and I chafe a little at those restrictions on my autonomy and all of my billions of ideas.

I also find it somewhat amusing that my life has taken a religious turn now, in that I am currently working on my doctoral degree (D.Min) in women’s spirituality. I also am the vice president of my very small UU church. I find myself very passionate about and absorbed in study of the divine feminine, the sacred feminine, women’s spirituality, feminist spirituality, and the Goddess. It took me a long time and some childhood religious “scars” to realize that there is a vast world out there beyond the dominant, patriarchal, Judeo-Christian lens and to discover that I connect to the women’s spirituality movement on a very deep and meaningful level.

Homeschooling My Own Kids

As I previously noted, homeschooling my own kids was a foregone conclusion for me. I literally cannot fathom the idea of sending them to public school. Please see Part 2 of this homeschooling post for more about what homeschooling looks like for us right now!

Success, Parenting, and Having Each Other’s Backs

Sometimes my day is made by receiving an email thanking me for putting into words what the reader has felt, but has not been able to express. These emails/comments make my writing worth it to me—to know that I’ve made a connection across the distance and touched someone else’s life. Likewise, sometimes I can best express what I’ve felt or thought by using the words of another’s writing, that’s why I’m a quotaholic. After a long conversation with good friends on a local homeschool list about peaceful parenting, which sort of evolved into a general discussion of parenting and parenting books and whether there is a right way and whether we really have that much influence over how our kids eventually turn out, I feel drawn to share some quotes from the book Inconsolable by Marrit Ingman. I previously wrote a short post about this book and made a (funny) quiz to go with it: What Kind of Mother Are You Quiz

Inconsolable  is a memoir of postpartum depression consisting mostly of semi-humorous vignettes excerpted from the author’s life with her young son (a colicky baby who has severe eczema and food allergies), mixed in with own wry observations about life. In the context of the conversation referenced above, I feel like sharing some quotes from her about parenthood/parenting styles in general and her comments about judging other people for making different parenting choices. As I’ve noted several times before, I struggle with an ongoing sense that I can somehow figure this out once and for all and be PERFECT at last. While I’m improving (! 😉 ), I think my parenting still tends to operate from the assumption that it is possible to be perfect and do everything right.

Here’s a quote I really identified with (minus the Guinness):

There’s a certain type of parent I see often–sometimes see it in myself–who is a success-oriented person from a middle-class background, well-taught (traditionally or through self-education) and accustomed to high praise. We’re used to getting a report card or a performance review every six weeks, we’re current with Big Ideas and prone to Big Discussions over pints of Guinness, and we throw ourselves into parenting with the same right-minded stamina with which we might compare graduate programs and scholarships. We educate ourselves about various theoretical orientations on the topic, read the works of champion scholars…memorize acronyms and slogans, and align ourselves with a ‘good match.’ We study rigorously, and our parenting is like a practicum. We analyze situations and apply theories; we fasten Snappis and gently redirect toddlers with great self-satisfaction, as if we are strutting for a review committee. We meet over coffee with study groups.

This is not necessarily lamentable. It’s good to be well read, to be prepared, to invest oneself in the new role of parent. It’s just not really about the kids is it? It’s about more than just wanting to be good at what you do; it’s about wanting to be the best. We’re parenting careerists. We want to be superstars. We want other people to praise us. We want props for holding off on the antibiotics for that ear infection, delaying solids just a little longer, for buying the organic crib sheets and the shampoo that’s made with kukui nuts harvested by the indigenous people of Brazil and imported by a woman-owned business. We go that one extra mile. We exceed expectations…Is this wrong? Again, not necessarily. It’s not wrong to have ambitions, to dream of home-sewn Halloween costumes (or ones we just “whipped up” because we’re so crafty) and slow food and perfect portraits and cooperative preschool.

But we have to remember that our standards of success, of happiness, of demonstrating our love for our children are inflated. We’ll never meet them. Our reach will always exceed our grasp.

An essay I wrote pondering some similar topics was published in the summer issue of Natural Life magazine. I’ve had a lot of articles published in a lot of different places and this is only the second time that I’ve received several emails from strangers thanking me for the article. I’ve received five emails like this during September, which has really touched my heart! I look forward to taking a look at the issue myself.

Back to Inconsolable regarding her unexpected cesarean:

So that was it. I’d failed. Well, close the book on this one. Nurse Rachet was probably stuffing a Nuk into the kid’s mouth or giving him a Happy Meal. Hooking him up to an IV of Kool-Aid. He’d have to grow up in an iron lung. Maybe the other kids would use him as third base. He’d call me ‘Mother,’ and I’d sign his college tuition checks while he snuggled with a rhesus monkey made of sheepskin.

I literally laughed out loud while reading that one 🙂

And then, finally:

Mothers of the world, we’ve got to have each other’s backs. Without working together, we literally cannot survive. Because we are divided—into ‘working’ and ‘stay-at-home’ parents, into ‘natural’ or ‘attachment parents’ and ‘mainstream’ parents–we remain marginalized as a group. We just haven’t noticed, because we’re too busy shooting each other down, trying to glean little nuggets of self-satisfaction from an enterprise that is still considered less significant than paid work…

Much as I strive to be accepting of everyone and to honor the dignity and worth of each human being (like a good human services pro!) I do see this tendency toward division sometimes sneaking out in myself—either in thought, or conversation, even though my heart truly lies in helping other women. In helping other mothers. This can’t be done through judgement or secret convictions of superiority!

At the end of my own Mindful Mama essay in Natural Life, I write:

Perhaps parenting authentically, from the heart, can’t be learned in a book or through application of a theory, but only
through being there and being aware – of both the beauty and the messiness. Perhaps it means a loosening of attachment to attachment parenting as a prescribed set of practices and beliefs. Perhaps it means being a more loving friend to my own imperfect self.

Sometimes I have more “figured out” than I give myself credit for…

Getting a C-Minus

Several years ago, I read a collection of essays called Sons & Mothers that I picked up at the book sale. I marked this quote from it to share:

“I also believe that C-minus is the top mark for motherhood. Each generation strives to build faster, cleaner planes, trains, and automobiles and to be better parents than their own. Without this margin for error, there can be no growth, no development” [as a species].

This is hard for me to swallow as a quintessential 4.0 overachiever student type. I like A’s dangit! 😉

On a related note, check out this wonderful post from my homeschooling friend that draws parallels between evolving technology and the not-evolving nature of education. It is just full of awesome.

Homeschooling & Feminism

Though I spent my entire childhood as a homeschooler and my own children are also homeschooled, I find I rarely have the urge to write about it. Homeschooling for my own children felt like a “given” to me—I didn’t feel like doing any reading or soul-searching about making the decision, as it had been made in my mind before ever even becoming pregnant with our first child. Indeed, the decision was made when I was a child myself. When I had been married for about two years, I remember telling a friend that maybe I wanted to wait a little longer than many people do to have children after getting married, because once I had them, I knew I was in it for the “long haul.” There was no, “well, after they’re five, then I’ll have six hours a day to myself.” I knew without a doubt that once I had kids it was going to be a 24/7, 365 gig. She said, “well, you don’t have to homeschool you know. You always have a choice.” I said, “you know. I really don’t have a choice.” And, while I do know that in truth one always has choices, homeschooling was a completely foregone conclusion for me. (Breastfeeding was the same way—I didn’t “choose” between feeding methods, I was born to be a breastfeeding mother. There wasn’t a choice about it for me in my mind—much like if someone had asked me whether I was going to go with “artificial blood” or regular blood in my own body! Hmm, thanks, I’ll take what my body makes of its own accord!) Another Molly at the blog first the egg asked a couple of weeks ago for input about homeschooling and feminism—i.e. where are the homeschooling feminist mothers. I raised my virtual hand, but said I don’t really write about it and she essentially said, “get started.” I’m surprised by how many good “nuggets” exist at my old blog, just languishing and waiting to be mined into new blog posts here and I discovered that I had, in fact, done a little writing about homeschooling there. So, with minor modification, here are some thoughts about homeschooling and feminism…as primarily separate topics though, not intertwined…

Natural Life magazine often has good articles about homeschooling. A couple of years ago, I enjoyed one called “Education is Not Something That’s Done to You” and it addresses the (false) assumption that learning “can and should be produced in people.” It addresses the assumption that children won’t learn on their own, but must be made to learn by being kept in confinement with others their own age day in and day out. She notes that even homeschoolers often fall into the trap of thinking education must be “done to” children. I marked the conclusion to share: “What we should not do is create new schools—be they charter schools, private schools, or home schools—which perpetuate old assumptions of how children learn or who controls children’s learning.” I have to remind myself of this sometimes—if I start to feel like my own children “should” be doing something specific, or think “most 5 year olds can XYZ…” or if someone asks my boys if they’re getting ready to go back to school or remarks on how “is your mommy or your daddy your teacher,” that I reject that system—why would I try to use its values to define our experiences?

The other article I enjoyed in the same issue is  The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rocks the Boat: Life learning as the ultimate feminist act. In it, the author quotes social commentator Susan Maushart as asserting that “motherhood needs to be at the center of human society, from which all social and economic life should spin. Society needs to ‘acknowledge that bearing and raising children is not some pesky, peripheral activity we engage in, but the whole point,’…Warehousing kids in daycare or school so mothers can get on with what they see as their real lives is not part of that vision, but we need to find ways to ensure economic security for women of all classes, and extend the vision to include fathers as well.”

While thinking about feminism and homeschooling, I had an epiphany while facilitating a series of women’s spirituality classes. The theme of one week’s session was “womanpower.” A point was emphasized several times during this class that in feminism the view of power is different. A patriarchal view of power is that of “power over” or control over—you have power, someone else doesn’t. You can use your power to control others, or to take their power away, etc. A feminist view of power is of cooperation—“power with” as well as inner power. When you have inner power, you do not need power over someone else. A hierarchical version of power falls away and is unnecessary. I reflected on the times I have heard women say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and how I’ve always *boggled* at that. How can you NOT be a feminist, I’d wonder. Now, I think it is because of a misinterpretation of values—an interpretation that views feminism as wanting to “take over” or to “dominate” men or to prove that “women are better than men.” This is flaw in understanding—using a worldview rooted in “power over” concepts, instead of a totally different worldview or a reinvention of how society operates/what it’s values are. My epiphany is that this is just like homeschooling—you can’t use the “lens” of public school to understand homeschooling and you can’t use the “lens” of patriarchy to understand feminism. These different lenses are why you feel like you are banging your head against something when you speak to someone who is coming from a fundamental misinterpretation of the values at work. Feminism and homeschooling both involve alternate value systems to that of mainstream society and a revisioning of social structures into new kinds of systems (healthier ones).

Another issue of Natural Life had an interesting article about free schools called U of Free. Some points I liked: “most come with the free school philosophy of solely pursuing an interest, rather than for a degree or other recognition of knowledge. They resist the consumer-driven mentality sweeping traditional schools, where students vie for exam hints and quick solutions to get to the next step, with their ultimate goal being an exit out – their graduation. At Anarchist U, the students are all about learning itself. Without the pressure of exams and marks, students can relax and savor their learning moments.”

And on the same topic: “In his classes at U of T, he encounters a chorus of students whose sing-song refrain ‘is this on the exam?’ puts his pedagogical ideals out of tune. The classroom conductor laments that these U of T students are looking for a quick study guide ‘because they need the credit from my class to get the piece of paper.’ Instead of enjoying the educational experience, his students are disengaged, shrewdly seeking the quickest route out of the system.”

I struggle to cope with this in teaching college classes—I want to work with people who are excited to learn, not people who are trying to just get the grade and get out. I see this as the whole point of homeschooling/unschooling—to create a way of life that involves learning for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic ones. This was very much true for me as a homeschooler and I carried it over into college—I didn’t understand why people were there for other reasons than to learn. It didn’t make any sense to me to hear someone recommend a class because it was an “easy A” (but had a teacher who was so boring and so pointless as to make you wish to be unconscious under a rock rather than listen to him any longer). What is the point of an easy A?! Hello! It also didn’t make sense to me to have to take classes that I wasn’t interested in (and I did have to do this), but I made the best of them by studying the stuff and trying to get it/like it. Someone at our craft camp one year expressed surprise that I was “self-taught” at the classes I was teaching—“so, you just learned this by teaching yourself?” Yes, I did! Why? Because I like to learn stuff—no one has to make me do it or show me how! I study and learn things all of the time, because I like it. I’m a very self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-directed person and credit that to my homeschooled/unschooled background (thanks, Mom!). I long while ago a heard a friend say about herself that if, “no one is making me do it, I won’t do it/learn it.” I thought that was incredibly sad as well as incredibly telling about the drawbacks of our current social methods of education as something that is “done to” people, rather than a self-directed process.

Pulling my two seemingly disparate subjects back together, I return to Wendy Priesnitz’ article in which she says this: “In short, schools – and society in general – treat children the way women don’t want to be treated. They don’t trust children to control their own lives, to keep themselves safe, and to make their own decisions. In this way, feminism and life learning are one and the same because they trust people to take the paths that suit them best. ” (emphasis mine)

Isn’t that just delicious?


Two pictures from our lives this morning:

Artists at work!

Pensively patting