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As a homeschooling parent, I learn at least as much as I teach.

I don’t mean that in some fuzzy “the kids teach me so much just by being themselves” way. Yes, the kids constantly pull me back to the magic of the beginner’s mind, and I learn about myself and the world that way.

But I mean something more direct. I’ve learned to homeschool myself. Like a lot of people, especially nerds, I grew up very reliant on academic systems to teach me new skills and grant me permission to use them. After grad school, when I wanted to learn something – how to knit, to do yoga, to speak Spanish – I would sign up for a class.

Homeschooling has freed me from that pattern. I want to learn to sew now, so I talked to a friend who sews and she’s agreed to give me a few lessons at her house. I’m learning Spanish from my husband, who’s a native speaker. I’m letting my garden teach me how to grow food in it.

I learn more by doing than by reading, these days. This style of learning is sometimes faster and sometimes slower than doing it in a classroom. But it’s “stickier”, what I learn stays with me.

On the downside, there’s a dangerous lack of depth and diversity that can occur when we only learn from our own experiences. I try to counter that by continuing to read a lot, but it’s one of my biggest concerns about homeschooling in general.

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Today’s dinner ends with Rio running out of the room in a rage because we did not serve burritos with orange cheese, and running back in a few minutes later holding her arm straight out next to her face.

“Look, Mom! Look! What am I?”

“I dunno. Hurt?”

“No! I’m an elephant!”

She waves her arm/trunk about a little more and then suddenly leaps back and becomes a tiger. Hands up like claws, growly growly growl.

Martin and I laugh and applaud. Serena stares at us with a cautious, hopeful, curious look. She raises both hands to her face, turns the palms outward and curls the fingers. They look more like flowers than claws.

“Rar. Rar! Rar?” she says tenatively.

She is the smallest, cutest tiger I never imagined.

Serena has never, to my knowledge, pretended to be anything other than a little girl before. After being a tiny, awkward tiger, she followed her sister in being a tiny awkward kitten, and a tiny awkward dog, and a tiny awkward penguin. But every once in awhile she’d stand up, eyes gleaming, raise those little flower-claws and chirp, “Rar!” in her tiny, cute voice.

Tomorrow I will read Tiger Flower to her. And she will probably love it, because she’s not a baby anymore. She’s a very small girl, who can pretend to be a tiger.

Credo Mobile has a great offer which ends at midnight March 31. They will a) buy out your current contract and b) give you 10% off your cell phone service for the next two years.

What makes Credo Mobile unique is that they exist to use corporate power to promote social justice. According to their site, they have donated over $60 million dollars to groups like Doctors Without Borders and Greenpeace. They also send action alerts with every phone bill, offering customers an opportunity to get involved with the causes they support through letter-writing, phone calls and additional donations.

Their plans and prices are competitive with all the major players. They piggyback on Sprint’s network, so their service will be as good (or bad) as Sprint’s in your area.

I’ve had their service before, and found it wonderful. I’d recommend this deal to anyone not tied to their current carrier for reasons other than a contract (like, say, you have an iPhone, which won’t work on their network).

Even if you don’t want to switch providers, knowing about this deal can help you. When I learned about it this afternoon, I called Verizon and told them about it. They were willing to drop my phone bill 20% to keep me as a customer.

The kids and I went out a few days ago to turn over some soil and plant our peas and beans. To our amazement, our garden already has Stuff growing in it. Edible Stuff!

Ah, the joy of perennials. While we were inside whiling away the winter hours on art projects, last year’s sleepy plants have perked back up. The strawberries are lifting their wilted leaves and starting to grow, and the chives were ready to cut for our dinner salad.

chives

mud bucket

Last month, I presided over the creation of a large bucket of mud with my homeschooling coop. I threw a couple of towels on the floor, gave each kid a wooden spoon and a few dried disks of soil mixture that came in a science kit Jen dropped off for us, and we went crazy with it. For, like, hours.

When the kids finally tired of the mud (which made surprisingly little mess), we poured it into to the science kit. The kit is a window garden in which we are supposed to be able to see the roots of growing plants. We planted carrots, beets and radishes in it. Then the girls wrote labels for their sections, with little pictures of the veggies and the words spelled out.

The next day they could not stop checking on their garden, which was not doing anything the least bit interesting, so I got out the felt and we made felt gardens with little felt vegetables in them. The kids talked about all the foods they wanted to grow this summer, and another mom and I helped them cut out the shapes.

felt gardens

Now the little window garden has had a few weeks to take hold. The carrot and radish sprouts are doing great growing boldy up toward the sun with little thready white roots exploring the soil below. The beets never came up; we seem to be cultivating some kind of weird mold in their place. That’s science!

window garden

Rio’s favorite read these days is the Frog and Toad books, which I love because it was my favorite when I was her age.

Right now, we are both loving the chapter called “Cookies”, in which Toad bakes far too many cookies, and he and Frog have to figure out a way to stop eating them before they make themselves ill. After many false starts, and the consumption of many cookies, Frog gives the whole box of cookies to birds, who fly away with them.

It ends thusly:

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of willpower.”

“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Today at dinner, Rio wanted to know where we go when we die. She’s very interested in death lately. I keep telling myself, and all the other adults she’s freaking out with her questions about it, that this is a perfectly normal developmental stage for a kid her age (four going on thirty).

We had a long talk about the Summerlands, the fey island Reclaiming Witches tell stories about visiting between incarnations. We talked about what kind of fruit trees grow there, and the ancestors we can meet and talk with when we travel there at the end of our own lives.

Then Rio wanted to know if the Summerlands are Real. Not fairy-tale Real, but “really, really Real”. Normally I’d answer this with a standard line from my Waldorf training, “As real as real can be.”

But tonight she wanted more. She wanted an answer. I told her that I could tell her the stories about the Summerlands, but that she could only learn the truth about what happens after life by listening to her own spirit. We discussed some ways to do this: through music, dance, art, walking in nature.

Finally, she wanted to know where the Summerlands are. This whole conversation had the air of Mystery; one of those rare moments that get caught in the amber of memory when a kid asks an important question and listens with her whole self to the answers.

“The Summerlands are behind the Veil,” I said.

Rio laughed. “Pshaw, Mama. The Summerlands are in Outer Space! I know that!”

“Dada, how do you write ‘hell’?”

“Hell?”

“Yeah, ‘hell-a-kitty'”

Do you still have a transitional object from your own childhood? What sort of role does it play in your life now?

My answer:
I have the pillow I’ve slept on every night since I was two years old. As that sentence implies, it plays the same role in my life now that it did then. I sleep on it, and it makes me happy. The pillowcase has disintegrated a couple of times, and I’ve replaced it with the others from that set of sheets. I am coming to grips with the fact that the one I am using now, which is already worn through in several places, is the last one of it’s ilk.

It’s perhaps an act of magic then that a pillowcase my mother hand-embroidered during my childhood, from a different bedding set, randomly surfaced in my kitchen linens drawer last night while Mom was visiting. Thanks Fairies!

This question haunts me, and I suspect almost everyone who subscribes to a CSA. Now that my fairly-traded, locally-grown organic vegetables are in my house, by the bushel, what do I do with them?

Recently my friends and I have been playing a game of lettuce tag. Most of us belong to the same year-round CSA, and for a few weeks now we’ve all been desperately trying to give each other spare heads of lettuce. I admit that a few times I have made a green salad and taken it to a potluck, knowing full well no one would eat it. Anything to get that lettuce out of my house.

Catherine Price at Slate has a few good ideas if you want to take care of those veggies in your own kitchen.

I reiterate my commitment to slathering the dark green leafy stuff in olive oil, sprinkling it generously with salt, and baking it till it’s crispy. I have never seen a toddler cry for green veggies before. It is fast cheap and easy. My idea of a good time.

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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