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!



Flop.

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