Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Unschooling and the lack of measured progress

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Excited about caterpillars
It happens every time I travel, and it happened again this summer. Inevitably I rub up against people who make me start questioning if my kids are learning enough, or the right things.

Sometimes it's the traditionally homeschooling mom who proudly declares how many grade levels above the norm her kids tested.

Sometimes it's the well-meaning relatives who quiz my kids on math problems and spelling and state capitals.

I don't have anything concrete to boast about. I've got three loving, respectful, curious kids, but somehow that's not anything specific to point to.

Mikko keeps surprising me by being ten years old. How did that happen? People asked what grade the kids were going into, and I was astonished to calculate that he's going to be a fifth-grader. Fifth grade! He's nearly in (imaginary) junior high.

What do we have to show for it? He was slow to read. I had to unclench from expectations there and let him learn at his own pace. I intermittently fretted, read a lot about natural learning, worried about dyslexia, gave in to occasional bursts of worksheets and primers that annoyed and frustrated him. In the end, he was, as in all things, determinedly himself. Just the other day, he bemusedly remarked that once you learn to read, you can't turn it off, and your brain just reads everything that scrolls past it. Yup, I agreed, feeling that wave of relief that he had come this far, mostly on his own and despite my anxieties.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Happy Back to (Home)school!

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We enjoyed our annual trip to the bowling lanes
to celebrate our first day of (not) back to school.

For those counting, we're now in fifth grade,
first grade, and (un)preschool.
You can tell they're homeschoolers by their uniforms, hey?

I love me some rented shoes,
and I'm digging the silver toes
on this shiny new pair.

Yes, we once again had balls stuck
partway down because 
the kids rolled them so slowly.

But we don't go to be good at bowling.
We just have fun.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Wrong coast, wrong time: Feeling out of place at home

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Karsten getting the mail with Papa
We recently visited my parents in Massachusetts, and I surprised myself with the desire I felt to stay.

We moved to Seattle sixteen years ago. (Could that be right? Surely not. But math doesn't lie even if my memory of years passing does.)

Sam and I came off childhoods of regular motion, both of us moved from place to place at the whims of our fathers' employers. We thought we'd stay mobile as adults, but we hit the northwest coast and just felt instantly at home.

But I've struggled, particularly since having children, with the worry that we've chosen wrong, because our families are so far away, his in Michigan and mine near Boston. As our children and our parents react to time in the usual way by getting progressively older, I feel regret and the fear of all our time together slipping away with just these occasional visits, the empty spaces filled with Facebook photo uploads and texted jokes and messages.

When my firstborn was younger, I was a more defensive mother, and, in turn, my mother was more apt to offer advice and correction that caused me to chafe. We've both mellowed into our roles since then. She doesn't offer much direction or criticism anymore, and I don't think I'm always right.

So what was inconceivable several years ago — the thought of living near them peaceably in a way that didn't send our blood pressure jointly skyrocketing — is now a pleasant daydream. Living down the street from or across town or even in the same house as Nana and Papa. Just think of the free babysitting, the grandparent–grandkid cuddle times, the evenings we adults could while away playing euchre. And did I mention the free babysitting?

My mom keeps offering to build a mother-in-law addition on to their house. She points out cute real estate offerings near them. (The prices are just as uncute as here, but that's neither here nor there in daydream land.)

I keep smiling weakly and saying, Oh, I wish.

I wish.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hay, there: Fun at Remlinger Farms

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Every couple years, we score a Groupon to Remlinger Farms
and head out to Carnation, Washington, for some hay-based fun.

Do you see Alrik in the maze?

Helpful arrow provided.

Karsten two years ago and now:

That pudge!


Two years back, we did a video of our adventures:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pass along your eclipse glasses

Did you watch the solar eclipse with your kids? Were you in the path of totality? We made do here with 92%, and the kids thought it was pretty neato seeing the sun looking like the moon.

If you're wondering what to do with your solar eclipse glasses now that the next U.S. eclipse isn't for seven years, Astronomers Without Borders is collecting them to use in classrooms in South America and Asia for the eclipse there in 2019. The glasses generally expire after three years (you can check yours to see), so they may not be safe for you to save till your next eclipse. So give them a new life by passing them along to another eager kid!

You can find details at the Astronomers Without Borders donation page, and find a local collection point on their map.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parenting while owning a home business

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Sam and I have worked from home throughout our marriage: first telecommuting, and then owning our own online business of DVD sales. I wrote out our story in Working from home, Part 1 and Working from home, Part 2, if you want the background.

As we approached starting a family, we realized we wanted to continue to prioritize working together, but we knew it would take some sacrifices and shuffling to make working from home jibe with parenting small children.

Here are the pros and cons so far as we coparent and homeschool a ten-year-old, six-year-old, and two-year-old while running a family business for our income. This is from our experience and might not reflect your own if you already run a business or choose to begin one, but I hope it gives you some perspective on what it can be like.

Our Marriage

We started working from home by accident, but once we got going, we loved it. We had nine years together as a married couple before Mikko came along (well, he beat our anniversary by one day), and that was nine years of seeing each other nearly all day, every day. When we tell some people that, they groan or shudder, but we still really like the person we married! Now that we have kids and live in a(n increasingly) small(er) space, we've made the choice to separate more during the day so one or the other of us can have dedicated work time. We also rented a small and inexpensive work loft for storage and office space. So Sam and I don't see each other quite as much as before — but I'm guessing a whole lot more than most couples where one or both partners work outside the home. I totally understand why other couples would choose the work they do and know that not being together as much is a necessary evil in those cases, but I really do enjoy seeing Sam as much as possible and think it's helped keep our partnership strong.


When we were thinking of having kids, Sam and I knew we each wanted two things: to continue pursuing income and our passions, and to raise our kids. Having a family business has allowed us to divide those goals so we each get a share of both of them. We purposely chose this business in particular (after trying and discarding several others over the years) because it gave us the most income for the least amount of stress, leaving us time to share the parenting.