Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LIFE is Good Fear Presentation footnotes.

The truth is that my presentation on Fear and unschoooling did not go as well as I wanted. It WAS very heartfelt. I personally felt that I had a breakthrough in preparing for the event. I am so grateful for my fear, because it brought me to unschooling.

I believe I did express the core of my message, which is that unschooling - principles and practice - has the answer to all fears, either directly about our parenting and children, or by giving us tools in life to deal with our other general fears. I said that but lacked enough specific examples to make my talk as relevant and interesting as it will be next time I present it. Hindsight is awesome!

However I do have some footnote links to the information online and the books that I mentioned during the talk as having been helpful to me in my journey into unschooling and away from fear.

The Books I Recommend:

The first book was such a strong school critique, it put so much fear into me that I became convinced that keeping Jayn out of school would be by far better than schooling her. Like I said in my talk, be sure to read both!

How Children Fail and How Children Learn by John Holt

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

These are the classic "How To" texts of unschooling.
Parenting a Free Child by Rue Kream
The Unprocessed Child by Valerie Fitzenreiter
The Big Book by Sandra Dodd

The strategies for happiness recommended in this book, especially the idea of "baskets", are where unschooling parents start with all their children regardless of temperament.

The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene

These books are additional resources that support the tenets of unschooling.

Everything Bad is Good For You by Stephen Johnson
Scattered by Gabor Maté (It was the author rather than the topic that was recommended to me. His writing is really about promoting attachment between parents and kids.)

Don't wait until you kid is a teen - read this when he or she is about 8 or 9. When I proposed this during my talk there was a general ripple of agreement.

Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach by Mira Kirshenbaum & Charles Foster.

(Again a book that supports the principles espoused by unschooling, that unschoolers prioritize their relationships with their kids. Just ignore all the schooly example scenarios; you will have your own challenging life events, I assure you.)

Other writing I forgot to mention that also made me afraid to put Jayn in school and risk the ruin of her beautiful spirit:

The Underground History of American Education and The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher by John Taylor Gatto

The Aware Baby by Aletha Solter

An unschooly book, one family's story, that made me fear that I could never do enough (but don't worry, I could and you can too) :

And the Skylark Sings With Me by David Alpert.

My research about Fear led me to these articles on Psychology Today:

The (Only) Five Basic Fears
Fear Vs Anxiety
From Fearless to Frightened
Anger Problems: A Smoke Screen for Fear-Shame Phobia
A Fear Busting Formula You Can Remember
Overcoming Phobias: 6 Important Principles

There is more on the site there, but I realized as I read these articles and studies, that there is no strategy for dealing with fears that I had not already read about or heard expressed {usually with greater clarity} by the long time real, fully committed unschoolers who continue to write and speak about Radical Unschooling.

Here is where I get most of my help in my own unschooling journey:
Always Learning Yahoo Group
Radical Unschooling Info Facebook Group

Very new folk might also consider reading at the Unschooling Basics Yahoo Group archives.

Join these Yahoo groups and search the archives for your question. I promise you it has been asked before.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Still Unpacking.

See my pear tree outside the window?
  Well here we are in our new home. It's fantastic. All we keep saying to one another is how excited we are.

We have been sleeping here for a little over a week, and I still have tons of boxes to unpack and organize. We have brought all the things we wanted from our apartment, as well as emptied our storage unit.

Immediately we asked ourselves why on earth we spent money storing some of these old fashioned (but not old enough to be cool) things for so many years. We have sent much of the furniture to be sold in our upcoming estate sale. Sadly our wool rug was infested and utterly destroyed. Into the trash it went.

But the beautiful leather furniture (above) from James' dad is looking wonderful, especially as I re-condition each piece. Will it fit? Maybe. Maybe I will get the tree lit this week. Maybe I will finish painting my old bookshelves white.

I have mentioned in the past that I don't like drills or wasted motion. So I'm working slowly to put things, especially in the kitchen, where they should live. My greatest desire right now is for an organized, efficient, ergonomic kitchen. And a pantry. My pantry cupboard is still only half assembled. But it's going to be awesome.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Home schoolers compared to general population Infographic.

I don't really have any where else to store this infographic, but I like it a lot. Meanwhile please note that despite being the fastest growing educational choice, the number of kids home schooling is still relatively tiny - around 4% of the school aged population. Most telling stat: how little difference the level of parental education apparently makes in the test scores of home schooled kids.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jayn's Last Dance Recital with Penny


This time it really is the end of an era. Jayn's beloved dance teacher announced today at the 32nd Annual Recital that she is retiring. Today was the last recital at Dance With Penny, Jayn's tenth.

Jayn was 3 when she first started attending classes. It was touch and go for a minute as Jayn was NOT ready to separate. I spent the first year sitting on the floor of the studio below the mirror, so Jayn could run over and get a kissy as needed. By the end of the year I was sitting in the middle of the staircase.

Jayn's second year I sat downstairs, so that Jayn knew I was there and would run down and get a hug every now and then. After that I was able to stay in the car outside, and eventually I could run errands, or stay at the park around the corner with other moms and the kids would walk as a group with one supervisor, and come back after their hour was up. We often played at the park for a couple of hours afterwards.


For 11 years this once a week class, and some of the connected activities, like the park day we created for the families who all came on Tuesdays, has been the anchor of our week, and much of our life. For several years, I continued to make Tuesday outings for some of our group over summer, just so that we could keep up the rhythm.


In some ways it is now freeing. We couldn't move too far away from dance class. We couldn't plan road trips if we would miss classes at the wrong time (close to the recital especially). The only thing Jayn and I tended to have conflict over was working around her sleep schedule, especially when Penny urged her to get to more classes.

That was one crazy can can.

Jayn finds change tough. She doesn't know what she will do to keep fit. She fears that she will see less of her friends now that they won't meet every Monday, so I need to make that a priority. She feels like (rightly so) a huge part of her life will be missing. But there will be new opportunities, new interests, new passions - and plenty of wonderful memories.

June 15, 2013 Jayn and Penny

Friday, June 14, 2013

Affiliate links

Antique Chess Set
Antique Carved Chess Set - Ebony and Ivory
So you may notice some new tabs in grey at the top of the home page. One is a quick way to get to my newsletter sign up page, but the others are Affiliate Links - that is to say I get a tiny commission from purchases. I'm trying to monetize a little bit, without packing a ton of ads into my pages, and this way seems pretty unobtrusive.

These three things seemed to be links to actual products or useful information instead of pyramidal marketing schemes, and not super expensive. So click at your own risk, and if the products turn out to be interesting, please let me know. You will be happy to note that I refrained from including a "get a job" site with broken links, and avoided the...ahem..."dating tips" affiliate link.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Latest Time Budget iteration

It’s amazing to me that we are already in the middle of June. It feels like the year has barely begun. Maybe because I have barely begun several of the projects that I had planned for this year.

Deadlines are supposed to be an antidote to procrastination. Thing is, I’m not good with self-imposed deadlines. I feel a lack of urgency. 

Missed self-imposed deadlines have no consequences attached.

Therefore I have found that allotting time is more helpful.

There is a saying in the movie business - a “real” deadline costs money if it’s missed. Perhaps what I need is to consider what missing my own deadlines is costing me.

Money - I want to make money from my work - all my different work. I make more from dolls when I have a full inventory in my store. I came to a recent realization that if I want my businesses to be successful, I need to be professional and actually put in the hours AS IF I were working for someone else. Every day that I don’t work on a project is a day that I am not earning anything. Plus I risk missing opportunities.

Time - I hate to admit it, but I am getting older. I have so many ideas for screenplays, for stories, for Craft-It-Easy projects, for creativity coaching - if I put these things off I may run out of life time.

Efficiency - I have a view of myself as efficient at work, and I don’t like drills or wasted motion. I was always very organized in my theater work and movie jobs. My challenge has been bringing that same smoothness and ease into my work-at-home life. I often feel scattered and inefficient. I have much more trouble defining cause and effect, or structuring a time line at home.

Here’s my time budget at the moment.

I wanted to build in a 40 hour work week - although so far it’s been tough working around my home non-work responsibilities. The numbers are hours allotted to the activity.

4 x general Writing (and writing development)
4 x Creativity Blast writing and tweets

Tuesday & Wednesday
6 x Screenwriting
2 x Craft-It-Easy

4 x Writing (general, crafting, NLM)
2 x Craft-It-Easy
2 x Scrapbooking (Design team work)

4 x Design/Professional Development
4 x Art Doll design

I am trying here to allot time proportionally by importance - defined as longer term financial viability, as well as some urgency. I do owe a script re-write at the moment.

I have left the weekend for family fun, ongoing declutter (somewhat stalled by life and death intruding) and personal crafting. Last weekend I spent working on a gift doll (so not for sale - but she sure is nice).

We shall see. Big day of writing tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Creeping terror, and the damnable, frustrating waste of it all.

My mother-in-law passed away just before Christmas. She died at peace with her family including me. What she left behind however, her estate, is not peaceful but rather an enormous cacophony of stuff.

I have taken on the task of managing the move, storage and organization of her many collections, in preparation for sale. It's a job that I can best do, as a service to my family, since I have no emotional attachment to her things, no fond childhood memories to revisit to slow down the job of wrapping and packing. There is a mountain of things from fine art, to decorative pieces and antiques, to ordinary household goods like the cookware from three different kitchens, to an endless supply of dark colored sweat pants and knit tops in a range of sizes.

Beverly collected. In her youth she collected Asian art and textiles from her travels, esoteric books and the fine art pieces of her artist friends. In her later years she collected catalogs, gems from cable shopping networks and boxed art notecards.

And a lot of her things are undeniably trash that she just wasn't able to release. I have placed hundreds of outdated catalogs from clothing and home decor stores into the recycling bin. Every small box, dish or basket has to be checked because lurking among paper detritus, used matches, cat treats and bottles of expired aspirin, will be a ruby ring or silver art deco hair pin. So many of her belongings are frustratingly damaged, including some of the decorative art pieces that otherwise would be of great value. So every tiny piece of wood or tin has to be examined and saved in case it is needed to repair something.

I have found boxes of garments, many new with the tags still on them, others stained and marred by scorch marks. The sizes range from Medium to 3XL. She kept vintage designer pieces and kimonos, which is great - but not everything was put away cleaned, which is not. She also kept ordinary contemporary clothes that no longer fit, rather than ever donate anything. Plus I have 10 old tube television sets, which may or may not work, but have to go to e-waste recyclers.

Much of what she saved over the years became part of what she considered her arts and crafts stash - beads, paper, interesting ephemera, shells (boxes and boxes of shells). But the sad thing is that in recent years, there is little evidence that she actually created, or at least completed, anything.

In her drawers and closets I found a few small half-formed beginnings of things - several items gathered in a dish, a beetle in a plastic box, a piece of gold wire almost wrapped around an antique bead pilfered from a beaded curtain. She kept supplies until they were beyond use, like paint tubes that had hardened, inks dried to a shadow, paper yellowed and crumbling. Then she bought more to suffer the same fate. It was as if she had many intentions but evidently little follow through in action.

It has been challenging to witness these dismaying twins of waste and lost opportunity. As a maker I too have a tendency to collect ephemera and materials. I keep things I like with the plans, oh yes the plans, to make art with them. But many of them sit for years. I have started to feel a kind of creeping panic, terror even, that I am becoming a hoarder without productivity.

I get some relief from my recent determination to organize my workspace. At least I know where everything is, in labeled boxes, which gives me a great advantage over my poor mother-in-law whose every drawer was a mish mash, and whose inability to find things among the stacks meant numerous repeat purchases. I surely don't want to die leaving a great challenging mess for my daughter to have to sort. I now believe that my recent purge was insufficient. Labeling and organizing (in her case piling and stacking) can also be tools of procrastination.

The other thing that disturbs me is the small scale of her work - and mine. I am a doll maker, so by definition sometimes my work is miniature - but that's not what I mean. I am speaking of the aesthetic value of the work. What disturbs me now is that I see, as a mirror, my tendency to dash out something small, and unimportant, because it is quicker to do, easier to set up. Small like a card or a flower pin, instead of moving forward on my larger scale - personally valuable and important - projects. It's fiddling around instead of diving in to the flow. Remember Covey's Time Management Matrix

I realized today that this scale issue has kept me focused on "crafting", instead of attacking my new business with gusto, or engaging with my next artistic goal of making large scale sculptures, or devoting real attention to my screenwriting. It's not only my personal satisfaction I am seeking, but also the idea of leaving a legacy of completed work.

Ironically writing for Natural Life Magazine hasn't helped. A while ago I wrote about my process of designing projects for the magazine (scroll down). Since my focus there is making crafts from recycled and upcycled materials, I have a tendency to hold on to stuff with the idea that it might become useful for the column, instead of simply looking in the recycling bin when I need something.

My mother-in-law lives in the memories of her family and friends, but passed away leaving only stuff as her public legacy. Some more special stuff, the family will claim as useful or meaningful; some stuff people will be glad to put to use; other stuff, being long unused, should have made its way back into circulation a long time ago.

I have a new determination - as soon as this ongoing estate disposal business concludes - to simplify my workspace, reduce the clutter of ideas by streamlining my plans, and ruthlessly eliminate those items I am holding on to non-specifically - just because they might be something one day. Gotta get rid of more of my old stuff.

Stay tuned for a de-stash - very soon.

Oh, and if you know anyone who wants a set of random antlers, let me know. We seem to have at least 20.