Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Today is an "extra" day, so why not go back and write about something that was in danger of being missed this month?


I took this picture at the very beginning of the month, when Carbon made this awesome origami alien. He used directions in the book Planet Origami: Cosmic Paperfolding for Kids, and he did it at a friend's house while she was watching the kids for me.

His interest in origami continues, and he is pushing the 4H group we just joined to do the origami project. He's also experimented a bit with giant origami, using rolls of brown paper that I have at work.

Folding is Fun!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

too much homework!

For me, not for the kids.


Here is a random picture from Friday's fieldtrip day, just because I hate to post a dry complaining post without some kind of a picture, but what picture would I take of myself trying to concentrate and get a big paper written? I guess I could take a picture of my laptop screen ...

I'm trying to make myself complete the 10 page paper on Humanism and natural religion that is due by Friday for my UU History course. Problem is, I'm interrupted all the time and distracted, and just lacking in focus or time to get this done. I've been back here in the bedroom all evening, hiding from the family, and when I just emerged Carbon said "Mommy come hug me - I thought you didn't love me anymore". Puhleaze - I've been unavailable for less than two hours, and he wants to make me feel all guilty about it.

But seriously - just who thought it was a good idea to pursue continuing education while working full time and being a full-time homeschooling mom?

Oh right. That fool was me.

Edited to add:

I found a picture for this post. Trying to work, and the little dog jumping all over me.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Another view of homeschooling

And here is another view of the debate on homeschooling, from the Atlantic.


A random picture from our homeschool life. :)

Is Homeschooling Anti-Progressive?

This recent article written for Slate Magazine says it is. Dana Goldstein writes indignantly about progressive, middle-class, well-educated parents pulling their children out of public schools for either private-school options or to homeschool or unschool them, and says that it is an illiberal trend: "It is rooted in distrust of the public sphere, in class privilege, and in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large."

I bristle a bit at the argument that having time for your children is class privilege. Yes, class privilege makes it easier - doesn't it kind of make everything easier? - but I am a product of a family that homeschooled despite the need for both parents to make an income. My mother ran a large home daycare for the 15 years that she was home and attending to my and my brother's educations. It wasn't easy, it wasn't ideal (we couldn't go out of the house for field trips or to homeschool cooperative classes, etc), but it was still Amazing and she made it work. We learned a lot of great lessons about business, work ethic, etc. from that learning environment. And we were allowed to follow our own interests and grow organically. Later, after my parents divorced when my youngest sister was just 3 years old, my mother still managed to homeschool the last two children as a single mother living well below the poverty line. She made it work.

I'm another example of working-homeschool mother, and I'm holding down a full-time job while also being uber-involved and homeschooling my children. Yes, it is a rare and precious find to get a job like mine, but still. And there are plenty of families living simpler lives and choosing a sort of voluntary poverty in order to homeschool their children.

Goldstein also writes that by pulling our kids out, we are hurting all children: "Nor can we allow homeschoolers to believe their choice impacts only their own offspring. Although the national school-reform debate is fixated on standardized testing and “teacher quality”—indeed, the uptick in secular homeschooling may be, in part, a backlash against thisnarrow education agenda—a growing body of research suggests “peer effects” have a large impact on student achievement. Low-income kids earn higher test scores when they attend school alongside middle-class kids, while the test scores of privileged children are impervious to the influence of less-privileged peers. So when college-educated parents pull their kids out of public schools, whether for private school or homeschooling, they make it harder for less-advantaged children to thrive."

Having been in public schools as a teacher, I really just can't quite buy this argument. I simply don't believe that if I put my 8 year old son with his love of fashion design and stuffed animals into a diverse 3rd grade public school classroom, that his influence would sway the kids toward a greater acceptance of mixed gender-roles and a prolonged childhood of play.

Peer-influence is real. But underlying the individuals involved is a system, and individuals act in the way that the system enables them to act. In an authoritarian system that was designed on the industrial production model, the kids will act a certain way. If you want to change how the peer influence is, you can't just throw the kids of liberal, well-educated parents into the mix and expect that to change things.

I object to a system that treats children like parts to be manufactured and standardized. Yes, the reality is that there are many many families in America who cannot homeschool their children. For them, I passionately hope the system changes. But you can't convince me I should sacrifice my own children, or my own family lifestyle, or that it would even make any difference if I did.

And even if public school was amazing (and I'm sure some are!) and even if there are plenty of people who have been well-served by their public educations (I'm sure there are!), I grew up with homeschooling and I Love it. This lifestyle is so wonderful, so positive and loving, so free and healthy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musings on Mud Season


I hate this mud. Since we moved, we are living with a lot more mud ... a feature of living with a lot less poured concrete.

Can it be that having grown up in the city my whole life that I never realized that Late Winter/Early Spring could be called "Mud Season"?

Every time we go outside we get muddy. It's hard to arrive at work spotless, if I have to climb out of my car to open the gate to get off the property. We just weren't prepared for this, so we are tracking mud all over and making more work for me to do keeping the floors clean.

One of the reflections I read this week spoke directly to this (in fact it gave me the term Mud Season), and I thought:

yes, we are not just peacefully sleeping and will awake with lovely flowers in the spring. We are struggling, wallowing, wading through muck, trying to get to spring the hard way. And yet, it is the muck itself that later becomes the fertile source of the flowers, the joy, the hope. How to love the muck now? Or, if I can't love it, how do I accept it? I will struggle. Life will never be an endless summer, so how do I learn to ride gently through Mud Season?


Friday, February 24, 2012

The Reading Life


So many books, so little time!

Our read alouds have been:

Blackout by John Rocco. What happens when the power goes out in the city? Why, you can see the stars.

Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore. Everyone on the street thinks Sid is their cat, so they feed him. But really, he is going from house to house, getting six dinners a day.

There are so many groundhog books to read for Groundhog's Day, we couldn't get through them all! But we did read:

You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown is about an exuberant bear and her over-enthusiastic efforts to make friends.

When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant is a lovely description of a simpler life.

My Light by Molly Bang is all about the various ways we collect energy as electricity, and how it all comes from the sun originally.

We had a little Bernard Waber kick and read three of his books in one night:

We're also reading out loud a fun longer book: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

Theodosia is a fun heroine, sassy and smart, and she lives in a museum of antiquities, plagued by the curses on the old Egyptian artifacts ...

And the kids have gone through a few great audiobooks:

Miranda the Great (Hypatia LOVED this one)

Harriet the Spy (Carbon loved this one)

The Indian in the Cupboard (Carbon said it was "a bit boring at times" but it has inspired lots of play storylines here)

Everything on a Waffle (another favorite for Carbon)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Scrap Arts

This post is terribly behind, since we actually went to see ScrapArtsMusic weeks ago, but I've been meaning to post about how cool it was.

It wasn't good timing, because we had tickets for right after Hypatia's birthday party so we were all really tired, but the production was very cool. The local performing arts hall put up an exhibit of visual art made from scraps and recycled materials, and that was a great compliment to the music made with strange recycled materials.


Seeing the performance taught the kids that you don't have to have a drum set to do percussion music - and they have put on a few of their own ScrapMusic performances at home.

It's not easy to take the kids to see live Art - it can be expensive, we have to manage their behavior a lot, and sometimes they resist going and sitting still. We have to pick the right stuff for them to see, and that can be hard as well. But it was a huge part of my childhood to see live music and dance, and I want it to be a part of theirs too. It's hard to put a value on the Arts - that's probably why it's so hard to fund them in schools - but it's precisely because they are transcendent and priceless. Giving my children Art is like giving them Nature - how do you define that and how do you do that, but of course you must have it in a childhood.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent begins

The public library has supplied me with some lovely books for my Lenten reflections, and today I am sitting with the book Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season.


"Spring is the season that simultaneously calls us to celebration and to a sober sense of gratitude for the time that we have been given. The grace of renewal should lead to gratitude for the newness, and it should lead to an acute awareness of our need for renewal."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Schoolroom Re-Do

The pictures aren't great - one problem with the schoolroom is that it doesn't get a lot of light, and there are no overhead lights in there. We need to buy and install some track lighting on the ceiling, but until then ....


This is my new set up for our schoolroom. I realized the kids don't want to sit at a desk to do their work - they love round tables where we can all be working together. So I moved the desks to the edges, and brought in a round table. If you peek under the round table you see two boxes - they are super cool organizers that each kids has for their art supplies, pencils, scissors, paper, etc.


My husband had his desk out in the living room, and we moved it into the schoolroom instead. If he needs to work in the evening, he can go in there and shut the door.


Our big desk is still in there, but it may become more a project table. I'm about to cover it in seed starts, in fact.


The room has these built in bookshelves and a window seat bench, and I finally got some cushions ($20 at Goodwill for them all) so that it's nice to sit there. The kids love it.

I'm pretty stoked about the reorganization. My sewing stuff had to move out of the room, but I think this is going to be so much more inviting and useful for the kids - and maybe we'll manage to keep our dining room table clean and not always covered in school projects!

You can sort of see how it was before in my old First Day of School post.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling drawn to Lent

This year I'm feeling powerfully drawn to some sort of Lenten practice. I have no Catholic background, and I've never had a Lenten practice before, but this year it just feels right to do something.

I don't want to misappropriate the traditions of another faith - and because I don't believe in the literal resurrection of Christ or in the doctrine of atonement, Lent has to mean something else to me. With all respect to Catholics, I am not "doing Lent" in the sense they would understand. When I read about Lenten practices, however, what I get is that it is about self-reflection, self-preparation, and embracing that which is most life-affirming and essentially true.

So, my Lenten practice is about pulling into myself a bit, finding what is essential, true, and life-affirming, and living with more intention and attention to that truth. It is spiritual spring cleaning.

It is not a self-improvement regimen, or a 40 day diet. I am planning on giving up sugar and meat for the 40 days, but not to lose weight or anything. I am giving them up because it is a sacrifice (the sugar) but mostly because it will turn my diet in a direction that feels more life-affirming and treads lighter on the planet.

Besides giving up those food items, I plan to spend time daily reflecting on intentional living, voluntary simplicity, and sustainable lifestyles. If I can also get my daily meditation/yoga practice going again, that would be a bonus. But primarily, I see myself wanting to strip away some of the distractions and materialisms of life, and find something more essential and more true.

I'm sure I'll be blogging as I go. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Breaking Ground

We have some Big Dreams for our gardens: tons of fresh produce to eat, herbs, berries, fruit, a big sprawling cottage-style flower garden with "magical" bits (the kids want fairy doors, statuary, a fountain, and more). We've been dreaming together and pinning ideas to our Pinterest board.

But in the meantime, you have to just start somewhere. You have to break ground.




Saturday, February 18, 2012

No More To Do Lists

I am living without To Do Lists.

Why? How? Say, What?

Those are some of the reactions I've had when I've told folks that I've tossed the To Do List.

Well, Why:

To Do Lists were adding to my general anxiety level. I couldn't turn off the mental To Do List, and I was obsessively keeping lists that were getting ridiculously long. So - if you have a simple and under-control To Do List, you probably don't need to chuck it. But mine was not a simple tool, but rather coming close to an obsession.


1. Routines. If you always empty out your inbox on Tuesdays, you don't have to put it on a list to remember to do it.

2. Do It Now. If you have something come up, just do it now so you don't have to put it on a list to do later. Answer that email now, make that phone call right away, etc.

3. Stage. Want to return that book to the library? Set it by the front door. Same with drycleaning, etc.

4. Send yourself a memo. So sometimes you can't do it right away. Rather than making a list (that I keep thinking about), I'm sending myself memos. An email, a post-it note where I will see it, or even a voice mail to myself. Once the memo is sent off, I stop thinking about it until I get to the routine time of going through my email/voicemail, or I encounter that post-it note to myself.

Say, What?

I'm not a radical anti-list activist. I still have lists: grocery lists, invitation lists, birthday lists. But I'm finding that the To Do List is not an essential tool. In fact, I was worried that I would start forgetting to do things, become sloppy, and unreliable. It hasn't really happened yet. I think I'm just as organized and efficient as before, or maybe even a bit better. And I'm doing it without a list. So when I'm done, I'm done. I'm not thinking about that list all the time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Checking in on my New Year's Goals


Signs of Spring are popping up here. I've just spent 30 Days focusing on Love on my blog, but there are, of course, lots of other things happening too. And it's been about a month and a half since my New Year's Goals - how am I doing?

The ultimate goal I have for myself is to Be Here Now. How present am I in my own life?

I also had five subgoals, to help me be more present:

  1. Morning Yoga
  2. Real Food
  3. Read More Real Books
  4. Enjoy Each Moment - Turn off the To Do Lists
  5. Less Multi-Tasking

1. I am not doing the morning yoga. If I could make myself wake up and get up even 30 minutes earlier, I could do it. So that's something to think about. If it's important, why won't I roll out of bed and do it? Maybe I should try to go to sleep earlier - except that late at night is the only quiet work time I get. Hmmmm.

2. I'm doing pretty well with the Real Food. Hopefully it will get even better as we move into the Fresh Food Seasons.

3. And I am reading more real books, and spending less time just reading the Digest version online. Of course, the books that I'm reading are all required reading for the RE Credentialing program, but they're still Real Books.

4. Turn Off the To Do Lists has actually been the most revolutionary notion. I am not keeping a To Do List! More about that tomorrow.

5. Less Multitasking is also doing OK. It turns out that it's more efficient to just focus on one task at a time and get it done quickly, rather than spin about like a distracted dervish. It's almost like meditation - if a thought arises that is not applicable to the task at hand, gently set it aside. If I'm working on the computer, I gently set it aside by shooting myself an email. If I'm elsewhere, I either put a voice memo to myself on my phone or write it on a post-it note. But I don't try to deal with it before I've finished the task at hand. And if Life (aka My Children) is just not letting me focus right now, it's better to stop, switch gears, and then come back later than it is to keep trying to multi-task.

So, overall I'm working on my goals still. Don't get me wrong - I'm overwhelmed and overworked right now, and I've taken too much on and it's not good for my mental health. But even while drowning, I am pretty present in the process of my day to day life. I wish I was present for a bit more peacefulness, and not so much stress and overwork, but nonetheless I'm staying pretty present to it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Know This Rose Will Open


I got this single rose for Valentine's Day, and I put it in the vase and just absent-mindedly set it above my kitchen sink. The next day, this image struck me - the rose, something special, right there amidst my everyday mundane. The kitchen sink, a place I stand at least three times a day, is not a glamorous or lovely place. But it's a good place, a part of my life's simple being.

I'm also reminded of that hymn:

I know this rose will open
I know my fears will burn away.
I know my soul will unfurl its wings.
I know this rose will open.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day (belated)

Happy Valentine's Day, in whatever way you celebrated it. Valentine's Day marks the end of the 30 Days of Love project that I've been blogging along to, and it's time to reflect on what the last 30 Days have meant to me.

  • It's been wonderful to keep the big picture in front of myself, by focusing on Love with a capitol "L". It's a lot easier to not sweat the small stuff when you are looking out with this perspective.
  • Love is a verb. It's a call to action. It's not something you just have, or get - it's an obligation that flows through us from the source of life, through our hearts, and then back out to the interdependent web of life.
  • We are all connected. We are all, ultimately, on human family. What increases the good for others, increases the good for me as well. And the reverse is true.
  • But Love as a feeling isn't enough. Yesterday I put on the Beetles song, "All You Need is Love", and my daughter was listening to that said "It's not true! You need food and stuff too!". True - Love is not enough if our other basic needs are not met. Love calls us to meet those other needs, for ourselves and others.

Monday, February 13, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 29

29! I can't believe this is almost over. It's been a lovely focus for me this last month, to blog about LOVE more than anything else. And I am Standing on the Side of Love.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

the ministry of administration



I just spent this weekend at a Renaissance Module (the continuing education trainings for UU Religious Educators) dedicated to Administration. I got some good ideas, some affirmations of things I'm already doing, some pushing to work on my growth edges - but most of all I got to be with colleagues. These are good people who do this work, and this is work that I love. I am blessed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 24

"One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love."


Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage licence. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.
― Retired Judge Vaughn Walker, ruling Prop. 8 unconstitutional

Speak Out for LGBT Equality

Post your favorite social justice/love quote in your Facebook status or Twitter update.

We dedicate this 30 Days of Love action to the struggle for justice and equality for LGBT people, and have pulled some quotes related to LGBT justice you can share via Facebook or Twitter.

Please add your own as well!

Ending marriage discrimination is just one element of our LGBT justice movement, but it is one that inspires great passion, since it focuses on love, commitment, and equality under the law.

So let’s amplify this decision by imparting why it speaks to our highest of ideals.

“No gov’t has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.” ~Rita Mae Brownocles

It's a great Day for Love. Washington State has passed a marriage equality law, which our governor will sign. Opponents may be planning a voter referendum, but it's still a great and exciting thing now.

The Prop 8 ruling that upholds its unconstitutional nature is also a great thing.

Love, people. How can we stand in the way of Love? No - we are Standing on the Side of Love.

It's Sweater Day!

To save a bit of energy and help our Mother Earth, today we are asked to all Turn Down the Heat - and instead Put On a Sweater!

There's a really cute website from the World Wildlife Fund for National Sweater Day.

Are you wearing a sweater?


A Book and a Craft


The PaperBag Princess has been a great launching point for lots of fun in my Storytellers class at church. Paper Bag costumes, paper bag puppets - so much fun!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 23


(my daughter, just because it's a cute picture)

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, why not send a card with a purpose? Send a Valentine to a Hero/Heroine of Love. I'd suggest that we might all want to send Valentine's to our legislators, and thank them/encourage them for standing up for marriage equality.

You can download and print a Standing on the Side of Love card template here.

handmade valentines

My homemade Valentines from a past year.


Last year's "All Part of the Human Heart" from our Valentine's Day service at church.

Monday, February 6, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 22

Here is today's prompt from 30 Days of Love:

Dear Sara,

Prayers can take different forms. They can be addressed to a deity, an idea, for guidance, or simply to express your thoughts or emotions.

Today, I hope that you will consider writing a prayer, meditation, or mantra of your own, to start off this week’s National Standing on the Side of Love Month theme: Spread the Love.

Here is my prayer:

Spirit which connects all of existence, which I call Love,

may you be felt and heard and carried in hearts everywhere.

May every child feel cherished, safe, seen, and heard,

May every person know they are enough, just as they are,

May every elder feel respected and appreciated, and still wanted.

May the world itself, our Mother Earth, be cherished and sustained in love.

May compassion and peace unite us as one human family,

And may every heart sing a song of love.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Tea Party


The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"
"Come, we shall have some fun now!" thought Alice. "I'm glad they've begun asking riddles. — I believe I can guess that," she added aloud.
"Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?" said the March Hare.
"Exactly so," said Alice.
"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"
"You might just as well say," added the March Hare, "that 'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like'!"
"You might just as well say," added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, "that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!"
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 7)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Early Art

The earliest human art has been inspiring some art from my kids:




Besides gorgeous art books full of big pictures, we also have enjoyed:

and a Virtual Tour of Lascaux I found.

We did a lesson about cave paintings at church, for the exploration of earth-based faiths one class is doing, and for that lesson I had the kids paint inside cardboard boxes by flashlight - that was a huge hit. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me that day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

So if I wanted to keep following the 30 Days of Love schedule, I'd need to post about the Secure Communities act and immigration justice today - and that would be a good thing to post about. The youth group at my church has been exploring this issue, and they have been blown away by hearing from activists, immigrants, and through watching some powerful documentary films (they liked Mojados).

But, I'm a bit more excited about some other things today, which are also all about Love for me. One is that we're preparing for my daughter's 6th birthday, and she wanted an Alice in Wonderland party. So I've made her a "Princess of Hearts" (because she doesn't want to be the Queen, but rather the "younger girl who will someday be the Queen") dress with fabric and pattern that she picked out, and for my son I created a Mad Hatter hat (hot glued fabric and flowers and ribbon onto a St. Patrick's Day cardboard hat). They are soooo excited for this party.




And .... last night the state senate voted to approve the legalization of same-sex marriage in our state! Some of my friends went down to attend the Senate session (with their kids) and said the mood there was just jubilant. One of our Community Ministers popped into my office today at church to show me the hand-made Valentine's that another area UU church's children had made for the legislators, and she was about to go hand deliver to each office. The kids had cut hearts in half, glued them on the paper, and written "don't keep people apart" in between the two halves of the hearts. It was quite touching, and I hope those legislators appreciated getting them!

So I'm feeling like today is a Great Day for Love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 17

Today's prompt from Standing on the Side of Love:

Combating bullying is not simple, and has no easy fix. Bullying-related suicides, especially of LGBT-identified young people, have been prominent in the news cycles over the past couple of years.

I’m sure you know some of the oft-repeated statistics:

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds
LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
Nine out of 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment at school
Of course, bullying affects far more than just LGBT-identified young people. There are now increasing reports of Latino/a youth and Muslim youth being targeted. And sadly, many of us may have experienced bullying for a whole host of reasons, both as youngsters and as adults.

Our society's culture of bullying is a plague that has taken hold in our nation’s schools and finds its roots at the very seat of power—just look at some of the political campaign rhetoric.

So what can we do about bullying? Honestly, I think bullying is partly a phenomenon of over-crowded schools with over-burdened teachers and administrators, and a culture of competition rather than cooperation.

And it seems that one of the simplest ways to overcome the bully-mentality is the technique of cooperative learning. Why this is surprising - you assign diverse groups of kids to have to work together and collaborate to solve a common problem and they bond and come together - it really shouldn't be surprising. If we, as a society, cooperated a bit more and competed a bit less it would be a good thing.

Bullying is not a joke. And it's not OK. We, as a culture, need to make that clear.

30 Days of Love, Belated Day 16

Turn the Tide on Anti-LGBT Constitutional AmendmentsBoth Minnesota and North Carolina face ballot measures this year that attempt to enshrine anti-LGBT bigotry into state constitutions. We must put an end to the era of constitutional queer-bashing! Wherever you are in the country, sign up today to phone bank in the coming days or weeks to help beat back anti-LGBT initiatives in North Carolina and Minnesota. You can join in phone banking here.

But here in my state, we've got really good developments, and are waiting with baited breath as our state senate is debating legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. Fingers crossed!