Friday, July 24, 2015

Piggy Backing on a Previous Post

I posted before about letting our children be their own people. Craftymama has been reading this book about What every parent should know about schools - and I read a chapter of it last night, and was not surprised, but reaffirmed in a lot of things that were mentioned.

One of the quotes that stood out to me was:

"Our lack of trust in our children points to something even deeper - our over-identification with them. "My child is an extension of myself. If they look bad, I look bad. Their performance is a reflection of my parenting""

We don't trust our children, as a society, to pick their own direction, their own educational paths, their own activities - if any. Instead, we thrust them into a building for 8 hours a day for forced education on facts that don't really matter to them, that they will never use, and will forget as soon as it's not needed anymore.

When they do poorly at school, we are embarrassed to tell our family, we shame our children, we may even blame ourselves for not pushing them hard enough, not spending enough time on homework or goodness knows what other reason we, as parents, will find to blame ourselves for. When they do well, we sing their praises - we tell people, we congratulate them - whether or not their good performance was indicative of actual effort or merely luck. We teach them, by our own reactions, that their value as both a student and as a person comes when they perform to a certain set of standards and give the answers that are expected. Their worth as individuals should not come down to whether or not they can regurgitate information onto a sheet of paper, their worth as a person should come down to more intrinsic values (kindness, empathy, compassion, honesty etc) and children cannot and will not learn that if they are not given the opportunity to.

I trust my children to learn these values. I also trust them to fail - which is something very personal I hope to touch on soon here. I trust them to learn the things they need to learn to succeed in life. They are their own people, they are not extensions of me. I may guide them, I may assist them, I may nurture them - but at the end of the day they have to be able to stand on their own two feet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Education Reformation

A few months back I posted THIS entry about letting my kids be their own people, letting them develop their own interests and personality, and being proud of whoever they are and whoever they become.

A way we are honoring that commitment to our children is by an education style known as Unschooling. It is something that appealed to me back when K was little, but after meeting Craftymama, and the chaos of having so many kids, we didn't think we could do it. Craftymama had always been into the Waldorf style of learning and after seeing the kindergartens I was sold on it too. I should have taken more stock of the grades program - because that wouldn't have sat right with me. Every child, however, should have the experience of a waldorf kindergarten. Not necessarily in a waldorf school - but the environment of being made to feel important, not less than, developing strength and confidence and imagination - it was a wonderful experience, and I am genuinely sad that we pulled LittleR a year early and that J won't get to go at all.

However, once we got to the grades, all the things that I hated about school began popping up. They even did for Craftymama who wasn't sold on the idea of unschooling when I first proposed it back when we were friends all that time ago, Initially we just pulled BigR out of school and Craftymama attempted waldorf homeschooling him - they were both miserable. Slowly, almost organically, it grew into more unschooling. I will admit, I was nervous. She was so against it before, and to now see her embracing it felt...well...I don't know how it felt, but I was nervous for it's success.

So what is unschooling? Wikipedia tells me that, technically:

"Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including playhousehold responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child."

For example, one of BigR's first educational breakthroughs came in the form of a book he put together all about Egypt. He practiced his writing, he learned history, he learned about different cultures - all because he wanted to - there was no force, no coercion - it was pure interest.

When it comes down to it and you really think about it, all the most vital and important skills children have learned have not been forced or coerced out of them. They learned how to suck, whether from bottle or breast on their own. They learned how to roll over, how to crawl, and then how to walk - simply because they had a drive to, a need to. They learn a language, their first language, purely by imitation - on their own. Learning happens organically. By sending our children to school, where learning is something that is forced upon them, we are teaching them that learning, that education, has to happen within the confines of a crowded room, during the hours of 8:30-3:30 5 days a week. By instilling in them a love of learning, we are showing them that this learning can happen anywhere, at any time, from any one. There doesn't need to be a prescribed teacher, a perceived God of knowledge who holds our children's futures in their hand. We can direct our own futures. We are in charge of our own education.

Does this mean that our kids play all day? Well mostly, yes. However, there is a wide spread belief that a large part of learning occurs through play. There are also important, non 'educational' benefits to play as well - they learn cooperation, problem solving skills, group dynamics, conflict resolution and a whole host of other skills that are essential to being an adult. However, they also learn. They learn what they are interested in. They each have different styles - BigR is meticulous and wants to be perfect at something before going onto the next. K jumps around from subject to subject, not really mastering anything but gathering a huge abundance of information about a lot of things. M and LittleR are still little - they have interests, but they are short lived. They are working on reading, and writing - but we don't make them sit at the table and do it all day. They ask Craftymama to make out copy sheets, or read lines from books for them to copy. M is really into Star Wars, I have been learning a lot about Wookies and Han Solo through this.

That's the other important thing. We are not afraid to say "I don't know" to our children. That phrase is a door opening to a whole new subset of knowledge and possibilities for both us and our kids. When we have to go on google and look something up - they learn and we learn. We are showing them that this process never stops. It is never too late to learn something new.

Is this adventure a bit scary? Well yes. We are throwing our complete trust in the education of our children into the children themselves. But there is empowerment in that. Empowerment for them to take control of their own lives. It is a different road, but we certainly aren't alone, there are a lot of unschoolers, radical unschoolers, democratic schoolers, and free schoolers out there - all holding a common child led belief.

If we don't let kids take some control of their lives, their bodies, and their minds now - who are we to thrust that upon them at 18? What skills have we given them when they hit that magical age that will equip them to deal with being adult and being self sufficient and self motivating. It is our job to prepare them. That's why we have chosen unschooling - because we feel it prepares them the best, and gives them the best chance at a happy and successful future.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What a month!

This month has been a whirlwind! I mean, June is already a busy month what with both R's birthdays...but this one takes the cake.

I would like to write more about the kids' education plans, and I hopefully will - but for now..just the bare bones.

At the beginning of June we lost our second car. We had already lost old crappy, and then the cradle on the white car rusted out and was shot. It would have been over two grand to fix it and the car isn't worth that much. It was crushed into a cube. My amazing work has been allowing me to use their extra car, but we were still without a way to get glassman to work. So..he went to live with his dad and rode a bike to work every morning. He would come home on weekends to see everyone. It was awful. All the kids, especially J missed him terribly. All the kids made him something for Father's day - it was adorable.

On June 10th, Big R celebrated his 9th birthday.
This is how I remember Big R. This is what he looked like when I first met him. Obsessed with cars, strong believer in gnomes and magic, silly, and just a joy to be around. Nearly immediately after meeting him I began to be around him and part of his upbringing every day. By the time he was 3.5 I was living with him, and becoming his mii mii. I will never forget the first time he called me that. I cried. I feel honoured that he has accepted me and loves me the way he does.
This is Big R on his birthday. Cars are boring. He has no time for 'boring adults.' He got an Ipod Shuffle as a gift and he likes listening to it and drowning everyone out. He still plays pretend every once in a while, and he still really wants to believe in magic. He is a very intelligent, very quiet boy. He is very sensitive and very in tune with his emotions. He feels strongly. He is growing up. It's scary and amazing to be part of that process.

Little R's birthday was on the 24th, but inbetween these two days some things happened. So, we our lease was originally up on June 15th, the landlord agreed to extend it to the 30th because the little kids weren't done school until the 19th. On the 23rd, Craftymama is in contact with me because the landlord is there freaking out and yelling at her. She is having a panic attack so I leave work and come home wherein the landlord and I get into an argument. He demands that we leave immediately. He calls me liar. Accuses me of a bunch of things. Threatens me with jail. I no longer felt safe in the house and neither did craftymama. So...we got a truck. We called glassman home from work and we started packing. My employers showed up with 3 trucks and 3 men to help us as well as dinner. I cried from their generosity. We loaded up a moving truck and a pick up truck in 5 hours and were done. The truck was stored at another friend's farm, with the pick up truck stuff in storage there until we could grab it. We then went to craftymama's dad's trailer and stayed there for a night before they told us to use their house and they would stay at the trailer.

So the next day, the 24th, is Little R's and Craftymama's birthdays.
This is my squishy. She was short and she was small and she was loud. She grounded me and brought me more into myself. Her birth was amazing and powerful and an experience that I will hold onto for as long as I can. She nursed and wanted to be with me - all the time.
Now she is my Little R. She is still short. She is still loud, and she still wants to be with me and near me all the time. She follows me around. She is feisty and she has opinions (especially about bananas). Her currency is cookies, she loves cookies. She is her own unique weird person now. She says weird one liners that I also hope I will be able to store away and remember as she gets older. 

This is also craftymama who celebrated her birthday on the same day. She is an amazing mother to our children, and an amazingly beautiful woman. I cherish every moment I get to spend with her, and she has helped me and supported me so so much over the past years. She is stronger than even she realizes. We fit - and its wonderful. 

So, we were going to go back to the house to clean, but the landlord has forbidden us from going on the property. He made accusation of theft and called the RCMP. He refuses to return the security deposit and has told us we owe him money for utilities but won't show us the bills. He also has our mail. I am not sure what happened. A week before this happened he had talked to the landlord of our new house and given us a glowing review and said he was sad lose us, and then a week later this happened. I'm thinking something has happened in his personal life and he is taking it out on us. I am trying to have compassion, and trying not to feel angry - but its hard. 

So we lived at Craftymama's dad's for 3 days and then our new landlord let us move in early to the new house - thankfully. So we did that on the 27th. Glassman and I unloaded the truck, we set it up. We are just missing the stuff from storage as I need a pickup truck to grab that stuff.

It's wonderful to be back in Nanaimo. We're home. This is where we should be. It sucks that I am commuting to work every day - but I love my job and I work for amazing people, and I know in my heart that my home and my family are in Nanaimo. 

It's been a whirlwind of a month between birthdays, cars, and houses. But I have been surrounded by amazing people who have held me and lifted me through all of this. The world continues to show me that it is a good place, even when I am in my darkest of times. It continues to provide me with examples true human compassion and empathy. I just need to remember all these things. 

Life is starting over - again. We are here. We are adjusting. We are home. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Maybe have found a house!

So we think - maybe - just maybe - we have found a house!

It's in glassman and my old stomping grounds of Harewood, so where we grew up. Its got 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and an unfinished basement that we are planning on finishing. It's right across the street from a forested park and about a 5 minute walk from a big forested and swimming hole area with trails and everything. It really is a good house, as good as we could expect to find - given the size of our family and our credit history. It is a bit more money than I was hoping to spend but as Craftymama has pointed out, housing prices just keep going up and I can't expect to pay what I did 5 years ago.

We have a move date of the end of June. Craftymama has already started packing boxes - her goal is a box a day. Glassman and I are already lamenting at having load and unload all the things. We also need to find some living room furniture as we sold all of that when we moved into this house because it came partially furnished. We also need to get a desk and a computer that works because my work has said that they will allow me to work from home sometimes, so I need to be able to do that in a space where I won't be disturbed by the children.

Speaking of the children. M and LittleR will be pulled from the Waldorf School which kind of makes me sad as I wanted LittleR to finish the two years of kindergarten, but after having been home a few days as they were getting ready for school I see the stress that it causes and it isn't working for anyone, especially LittleR.

We will be following an unschooling type of education. This is akin to free learning. That is education that is not forced or coerced. Already, K has taught herself how to fluently read and she is working her way through numerous doctor and nurse books - as that's where her interest currently lie. M is also starting to read of his own interest. It a break from mainstream, but then, everything I seem to do in life is a break from mainstream.

I would really like to find a way to follow my passion and become a funeral director but I feel I am too old. They are, usually, family businesses and you just grow up in the business. There aren't many 30 year olds, especially women, who are like, "hey! I'd like to work with the dead and bereaving families." It would be an uphill battle that I don't know that I am ready for. Craftymama is following her dream to open up her own free school, and is hoping to do so in September of 2016. She is already working on her speech to present at a meeting she is planning on hosting in Nanaimo.

We are, yet again, in an age of change. A relocation, a potential change in careers, a change in educational focus. Everything is on faith and trust. Faith and trust in eachother.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The World is a Good Place

I have had a lot of good happen to me recently.

On my birthday I got up early, grabbed some CD's and drove to Nanaimo to pick up my nephew, C. Of course I grabbed the largest coffee from starbucks first! Then we drove out to Qualicum to see my mom. I got a tour of her house, she has significantly redecorated. It looks great! There are nice touches of my grandparents in every corner while at the same time keeping true to my mom's style and charm - it is now her house after all. Also, I love the black front door - I want one!

Then we went out to this hippie store she had been talking about for awhile. C loved the toy busses and I got some pretty cool clothes - including new yoga shorts which is awesome! We then went to this great big thrift store in Parksville. It's 18000 square feet of thrifty goodness - I could have spent hours in there.

Then we went back to her place and had a fondue and the lovely wafer cake that always will remind me of my sister N's 16th birthday where I was snuck a piece upstairs in the middle of her party downstairs. My mom and I talked, shared stories about each other neither of us had every heard, and basically started a relationship as adults. We both have boundaries and we both need to respect those boundaries. I left happy.

On the drive home I blasted my music, drove a little too fast, had my sunglasses on and enjoyed the breeze through my windows.

As I pulled up to my driveway I saw about 10 cars and balloons. Craftymama had indeed planned a party. I will admit, I was angry at first. I drove in and was just shaking my head. Everyone was there! Work friends, friends from highschool, friends who just moved back into town, new friends from the kids' school. There was lost to eat, lots to drink and lots of catching up to do. I made the rounds and had a great visit with everyone. It was so wonderful to feel so loved and held on that day, a day which has traditionally not been very good for me. If these people, all of these people, from all stages of my life, were willing to come out and give up there time for a party for my birthday then I must have effected them in some way, they must care - it was truly a heart warming experience for me. I am sad my sister E and her family didn't come, or the couple of friends that couldn't make it. But I am so very happy with everyone who came out. I am also grateful to my kids and craftymama and glassman (whose birthday it also was) for doing this for me. I nearly cried.

The next day I had to drive the boys to Nanaimo to see cableman. On the way back I got a flat and for the life of could not find the tire jack. These two nice men offered to change my tire for me and helped me do it all. They didn't have to, they just did it out of the goodness of their heart. Those are the types of people I want my kids to be. I want them to help when they can - just because.

Later that day I was at Subway because I didn't have time to grocery shop and as I was about to pay another man walks in and returns $10 to the cashier because he was over paid in change. He didn't have to do that either, but he said he works in retail as well and knows how infuriating it can be to have your cash be out at the end of the day. He acted like of course he would return it.

The world is a good place - at the heart of it all. There are people who care. People who are honest. People who will help.

I strive to be one of those people.

Friday, May 22, 2015


  • Tomorrow is my 30th birthday. I am spending the majority of the day with my mother. I am worried, yes. Things haven't been the best between us. But we are both committed to working on that and are both doing the best we know how to do with each other. We are having a fondue and then I am going to check out a thrift store that I evidently used to love. 
  • Being 30 scares me. This isn't where I thought I would be. I am a lot of things I wish I wasn't, and I don't feel, in the sense of my success/worth as a person, that I am where I should be. I am right where I am supposed to be, I trust the universe with this (or am trying to), but it's hard not to feel like I have disappointed my younger self. I need to learn to trust myself more. That is my goal for 30 - to trust myself more, to follow my instincts, to follow my passions. 
  • My sister isn't talking to me. I am immensely sad and disappointed. I thought we were on track. I thought we were doing well. I was excited for the the future. I was excited to be close to someone from that part of my family. I don't know what I did. I don't know what happened. The silence pains me. 
  • Craftymama's parents continue to amaze me. Her mom sought out bikes for the all the kids to ride. Her dad accepts our lifestyle and loves all of us. I feel scared to feel as close to him as I do. I don't have an adult relationship with either of my parents: my dad died, and my mom and I haven't developed one yet. I feel like a traitor being closer to him than I am my own family. I worry about disappointing him. His acceptance of me, the girls, of glassman - of everything has just been so amazing. When we were out at the trailor last, his wife (craftymama's step mom) danced a slow dance with BigR and he danced one with K and the sight of that nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful. Family is important - whatever shape it takes, and whoever makes up your family - it's important. 
  • I am trying. I am flawed. I am not perfect. We all do the best we can. I cannot fault anyone else for my relationships with them, but I cannot simply fault myself. Relationships are a two way street. Perhaps this is how it needs to be right now. Perhaps I am meant to garner that familial support from those that did not help raise me - perhaps they are meant to teach me something. I can't be sure. I do know that I do not need toxicity or negativity in my life. I do that enough on my own. I will not apologize for being who I am - even if I don't know exactly who that is yet. I will treat everyone with respect, I will go into every interaction with love in my heart - but I will no longer be made to feel less than because of my choices. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Letting them be their own people

I have 5 kids. I have 5 kids who are not my slaves, not my mini me's, and not mine to control. They are their own people. They have their own thoughts, their own wants. The most important job I can do as a parent is to guide them to make smart choices, even if I would make a different choice. I must teach them and show them to have confidence in themselves, to believe in themselves, to have faith in themselves. I must teach them to listen to themselves and their own hearts and minds. I must also, unfortunately, be there for them when others do not care for their choices, or their wants. I must be a safe place for them to land when things don't go right. I must be open for them, I must accept them for who they are - even if what and who they are wasn't in my grand plan for them. My dreams for them don't need to come true in order for them to be successful. They are successful by being who they are.

BigR wants to be a bushman, he wants to survive off the land in the wilderness. He is learning all about what plants he can eat, and how to build shelters. If he grows up and does it and is happy - than I am happy for him. I want him to be happy. I'm sure no parent has a dream or a goal for their child to be a bushman, but - so what? We don't get to pick.

K wants to be a Doctor, Midwife, and a nurse. She is watching births, learning anatomy, and is practicing first aid. It's what she wants to pursue right now. If she does become those things, there is a whole slew of people who will deem her more successful than BigR...but why? Simply because it is more conventional. She will be successful if she follows her heart - regardless of where that takes her.

That being said...

K has dreads. She has been asking for them for 3 months. We debated, because, stereo-typically she is quite the girly girl and likes doing her hair and all that fun stuff. But she kept insisting. We went over that she would have to cut them out if she ever wanted them out. She thought about it and decided she did. So craftymama put them in. She is rocking them. I am worried what people are going to say to her. Everyone always comments on her red hair and how beautiful it is. It can still be beautiful in dreads. She loves them, they make her happy. She feels beautiful. That's all that matters. Not what other people think of her. We have had the conversation with her that some people may judge her or ask her why she did that to her hair. She seems okay with standing up for herself. But it's my job as a parent to stand up for her to. And I will.

I will stand up for all my kids. Because regardless of their hairstyles, their chosen careers, the educational paths they decide to take as we move forward - they are proudly, and without shame being themselves. That's all I want. They don't need to fit into anyone else's preconceived ideas for what they should or shouldn't be. I want them to be good, happy people.