March 31, 2010

Teabonics

I know it's not nice to poke fun, but some people make it too easy.
For more misspellings and mangling of the English language visit the "Teabonics" Flickr page.

March 29, 2010

Big Day

I'll be finished with my grandma's estate by the end of the day today! Hooray! I'm signing tax papers this morning, then I'll send final checks to the beneficiaries, close the trust account, and voila! One huge load will be off my shoulders.

Remember how I said I was going to do a volunteer vacation with the money from the trust (my fee) and then I said I was going to save it for a trip to the Galapagos? Well, I'm back to the volunteering idea. I'm just more excited about that one. And for some reason Africa has been on my mind a lot lately, so I'm looking into a program that brings volunteers to Ghana for three weeks. It's through Global Volunteers. I think I'd go in January because I won't have any classes during the month of January. My fee from the trust only covers the three weeks while I'm there plus a little spending money (I took $3000 and the trip costs $2795). I'm going to make things to sell and put the proceeds in a "volunteer vacation" savings account. I need another $1500 for airfare and then I figure any profit I make beyond that, I'll donate to the Ghana Scholarship Fund. Good idea, eh? You could do it, too! And if I bring people with me I save $200 per person on my cost. So.....who wants to go to Ghana in January!? Anyone? I know, you need time to think about it. That's fine. Just let me know once you've made up your mind. (And say yes!)

In other news, my sister and her kids are coming to visit for a few days. They'll arrive tonight. (My niece, Cora, was packed and ready to go yesterday. We have big plans to make cupcakes while she's here.) So, today I'll be doing lots of cleaning. And possibly going to buy a rug from someone off Craigslist. Our floor is full of splinters and I don't want little Ezra (who is a crawling maven) to get splinters in his hands and knees. We'll see though. I'm not sure if I'll have time.

I've been pulling lots of weeds in the backyard lately, too. Only in the morning for an hour or so, but one of Jerry's friends is going to help me soon, so that'll be good because the weeds are almost as tall as I am and it's a bit overwhelming--literally.

Oh, I forgot the other good news! Warren is working for the next 8 weeks! Yippee!! He had a very long stretch without work (his last job ended before Thanksgiving--and that was a short one, too) and when we were in New York he was offered a job on the next Twilight movie. So that's what he's doing now. They're done shooting so they're working here in L.A. and he's fairly close to home, so that's nice. I can't wait to get that first paycheck! And the director he worked with on Aliens in the Attic might be starting something up at the end of summer, so if Warren could get a filler job for the summer, then he could work on another movie with the people he worked with in New Zealand and that would make him really happy because he loves those guys. So, keep your fingers crossed!

Oh, yes, and the other good news is that I'm doing very well in my classes! That's right. I got 100% on my first test and have received full marks for all of my assignments to date. It warms my heart when I see the teachers remarks ("Good work!" and "Well done.") on my homework. I'm a glutton for praise in any form, so this whole school and grading thing is right up my alley. Warren said he would grade me on keeping the house clean, too, if that would make me happy. Nice try. That would be like me signing up to take calculus and expecting an A. I know my limits.

Let's see. It's been a while since I posted and I want to catch you up on everything. What else has been happening? Last night was homeschool group "Mom's Night Out." We all dressed up in our finest and went to watch some male strippers then had a private pole dancing lesson. Just kidding. We went out for Thai food. It was very relaxing. I hosted a book club meeting earlier in the week, which was also fun. The book was good (Excellent Women by Barbara Pym) but didn't give us much to discuss. I recently finished Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle and wished we had chosen that one for book club–now that's a thought provoking book. I'm reading The Death of Why (recommended by Susan) right now. It certainly (though unintentionally) makes the case for unschooling.

Hmmm. I guess that's about it. I could write more, and I'd like to, really, because as soon as I stop writing I have to start cleaning. But, I do need to get the house ready for our guests. I hope I get an A for my effort.

March 25, 2010

At Last - NYC

So I started writing a post that explained what we did and all that. But Blogger's new photo upload tool is driving me absolutely MAAAADDDDD. I'm just going to leave everything as it is and let you look at the pictures. They're out of order and most have no explanations, but it'll still give you a little peek at our week.
Bye for now,
Colleen

The adventure began very early in the morning on Friday, March 12. Here we are (Jerry and me) on the plane at the crack of dawn.


We arrived at Terri and Sam's house on 218th Street (the Northernmost residential street in Manhattan) on Friday evening after a long cab ride in heavy rain and loads of traffic. Saturday morning, even though it was pouring rain and there were fierce winds, Terri and Sam and Hudson and Cyrus (their two boys) braved the weather ro take us site seeing. Naturally, our first stop was Nintendo World.

Then Toys R US on Times Square. We saw the library. We stopped for lunch.
And by that time we were soaked to the bone so we went back to Terri and Sam's for some hot tea, dry clothes and dinner.

The next day, Sunday, was the big day--the release of the new Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver games. Oh, and Warren's birthday. We got to Nintendo World about 15 minutes before opening. So did a few other people.

We lined up with the rest of the Pokemaniacs.




No one complained about the rain, though. There was too much excitement about the games.

When they opened they moved the line inside. It snaked around the bottom floor, up the stairs and around the top floor. We waited in line for about an hour before Jerry finally made it to the counter and got his games.

And this cool (free!) Pokemon bag.

My friend Gabbi and her daughter, Siena, met us at the store. They took the train in from Connecticut. We spent the day wandering around the city with them. Naturally, we went to Toys R Us. Again. Here we are just outside the store.



March 20, 2010

Home Again

We're back from our trip to New York! It was fabulous. The Nintendo World Store was everything Jerry had imagined (minus one floor), I was so happy to see my old (and one new!) friends, and Warren was able to spend his birthday exploring the Big Apple. I can't write a full post about it yet because the pictures haven't been downloaded, but I just wanted to say we're back. You should have a full report of our time away by Monday.

In the meantime, check out this TED Talk:
Gaming Can Make a Better World

March 10, 2010

Unschooling 101

Someone who stumbled upon my blog recently e-mailed me with some questions about unschooling. She said my response was really helpful and gave her a lot to think about, so I thought I'd turn the e-mail into a blog post. She would like to start unschooling but has some doubts. This is what I told her:

On watching television

To be honest, my son spends way more time in front of a screen than I would like. The best way I've found to look at the situation is to imagine that instead of spending time watching TV, for example, he is reading (something I value over TV watching). That usually changes my feelings. Also, I try to remind myself that he may be getting something that I'm not even aware of by watching a cartoon or playing a game. And it may end up being a big plus if he ends up in the animation business or if he ends up designing video games (which is what he wants to do). I do try to draw him into other occupations, but in the end if he wants to watch TV or play a video game I respect that. And I do my best to look for the good in the choices he makes.

You can find plenty of studies that rail against television but there are some that don't find it to have a negative effect. Read some of those and see what you think. Just open your mind a little more. I always remind myself that when rock 'n' roll first came out people thought it was really bad for kids. In fact, I think of video games as the rock 'n' roll of our time. :)

On valuing your child's interest vs. allowing
You should always strive toward valuing. Because that implies acceptance and even a certain amount of joy. Allow implies restrictions. It feels a little negative. But sometimes you're going to have negative feeling about things your kids are into. There's no getting around it--especially in the beginning! I'd say just to ask yourself why you have those negative feelings (and really dig deep!) and see if they make sense.

On sleep & arbitrary limits
Jerry has been setting his own bedtime for almost three years now (started at 12, I think) and he's just started staying up really late. It bugs my husband (a lot) and I'm not crazy about it because I see a lot less of him, but as long as Jerry can still do the things he needs to do during the day I'm trying to let it be (though I don't always succeed).

One thing I would say is to make sure, when you do set limits or make rules (on anything--not just bed time), that they are not arbitrary. Really ask yourself "why?" And if you find your answer is "because it's just not done" or something along those lines, dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions. You may find that the things you thought were important are actually kind of arbitrary. If we had to be someplace early in the morning I would probably feel getting to bed at a certain time is not arbitrary, but for now Jerry doesn't have to be anywhere until 1 so he can go to bed at 2 or even 4 and still get a full night's sleep.

On the importance of commitment, discipline and structure
I guess the question to ask yourself is who is making the commitment and are they doing it because it's important to them or because it's important to someone else. And, I think discipline comes with a real interest in something. Sure, you need to discipline yourself to wash your dishes and put your clothes away, but if you're interested in eating off a clean dish or having clean unwrinkled clothes you'll muster up the discipline when you need it. So, I don't really think discipline needs to be taught or a structure needs to be imposed.

On starting to unschool
If you're thinking you want to ease into unschooling, but you're unsure, I'd suggest that you just start saying yes more. That's all you need to do for now. Just see how it goes from there.

Required reading for beginners
I really like Tammy Takahshi's book Deschooling Gently. She's an unschooler but she's pretty middle of the road and she blazes her own trail. She's not caught up in trying to unschool the "right" way. She's doing what works for her family and encourages others to do the same. Her approach is a good way to ease into unschooling and it may or may not lead you to radical unschooling. So, that would be a good place to start. And, of course, read Sandra Dodd's web site and the Joyfully Rejoicing site.

The main thing (or things)
The main thing is to avoid arbitrary limits. And say yes as much as possible. And look for the joy in everything. And treat your kids the way you would treat any other adult. But allow yourself to take baby steps. It's a big paradigm shift--this whole unschooling thing. But once the shift has happened you'll never go back!

What if it doesn't take?
Even if you find unschooling isn't right for your family in the end, you'll still be much better off than you were by virtue of the fact that you will have asked yourself questions and really thought about the way you treat your children, the limits you set and whether or not they make any sense. So you might as well give it a try!

Rule Number One

Don't start a new blog while you're on vacation. You may think you have time to post to a new blog, in addition to posting to your old one and going to school and being a wife, mother, friend, volunteer, part-time writer, world traveler and informed citizen. But, you don't. It only feels like you do because you're on vacation. Not that any of you would do something so ridiculous. Some people just don't think. They get all excited about an idea and they run with it all willy nilly before asking themselves if they will be able to follow through. Silly people.

Well, now that I've got that little public service announcement out of the way, let me catch you up on what's been going on around here. In a word--lots! We leave for New York on Friday morning. Yippee! And guess what?! I'm finally going to meet Holly from Unschool Days. I'm so excited! We're going to spend a day at the zoo together with the kids. I'm also going to meet up with a friend from elementary school who I haven't seen in 30 years (gotta love Facebook). And, of course, we're staying with one of my very best friends in the whole wide world (even though she abandoned me and moved across the country), Terri, and I'll get to see my other good friend (who also abandoned me), Gabbi. If you're sensing abandonment issues here you're very perceptive. I'm a glutton for punishment, though. I have a knack for falling in love with people about two years before they decide to move very far away (Zefra!).

We'll be in New York for Warren's birthday, but I already got him a gift--a heavy bag. I found one on craigslist and luckily the people I bought it from had a truck so they brought it to our house and helped me sneak it into the garage (while Warren was working in the office). So it was a nice surprise (though I had a hard time luring him into the garage and even then I had to point it out to him--and it's huge!). So he's been taking his aggression out on the heavy bag and getting a good workout to boot.

Jerry's XBox has the dreaded red rings, so we may have to send it in to be fixed. It still works intermittently, though so we were able to play some Halo last night before I went to bed. It was my first try and I got killed every 30 seconds. I did manage to kill Jerry once, though, when he put his avatar right in front of me and said, "Aim at my head! My head! No, that's my chest!" My favorite quote of the game was also from Jerry: "Nik! Stop killing my mom. I'm still teaching her to use the controls!" Halo lends itself to memorable lines.

I've been really busy (as you might have guessed since I've completely neglected my blog). It turns out that taking two classes is a lot of work. I love it though. I love, love, love going to school. And this week in particular has been crazy. I'm trying to finish my assignments before we leave so I won't need to take them with me. I also need to write an article for the newspaper (that picture of the teacher made it onto the cover, by the way!), take Jerry to the doctor's, clean the house, and take Patsy to my friend Jeff's house. Speaking of friends, I've had one of those fabulous weeks when I get to see a lot of friends. It hardly ever happens. On Sunday I took some pictures for my friend, Edward, who needed headshots. Handsome, eh? (And he's available, ladies!)
On Monday I went to visit a special library at the Natural History Museum for a class assignment and ran into our friend Michael (he works there) so we had lunch together. Then on Tuesday I met my friend Lisa, who I hardly ever get to see even though she now lives 15 minutes from my house, for coffee. And then tomorrow I get to see my friend Jeff because I'm taking Patsy down to stay with him and his dog, Sophie, for the week. I love weeks like this because they remind me that I actually do have friends within easy driving distance.

Oh, the other exciting news, which I may have already mentioned, is that plans for the LIFE is Good buddy system are well under way. I'm so excited to be able to take part in some of the planning and organizing this year and I hope the buddy system makes being a new conference goer easier and more enjoyable (i.e. less lonely) for people. I'm counting down the days until May 27!

Well, it's 8:30 now and I think I'd better hit the books before I have to wake Jerry up for his appointment. The reading is the one thing I'm not so crazy about with taking these library classes. I mean, how much can a person say about working in a library? It turns out they can say a lot. And they can say the same thing. Over. And over. And over. And most of it's just common sense, anyway. Still, if I want that A (and do I ever!) I have to do the reading. So....here I go.