Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quiet in the Sierras

The California Sierras where we live are never predictable as far as weather goes. Last week it was HOT, like going straight into mid-summer. Over the weekend the temperature dropped sharply and we got several inches of rain. This week it has been sunny and bright, but cool and windy — almost perfect spring weather.

We went on a long family walk around our neighborhood. Kevin put Patrick, 3, in the “bunny suit” which is what Aidan used to call the child backpack for some reason. Aidan went in his purple stroller which Kevin told Sean to push, trying to get him in training for the coming football season. The stroller wheelchair probably weighs close to 40 pounds and Aidan weighs a bit over 40 and our neighborhood is all up and down hill, so it was a workout but Sean, 13 and tall as his father, didn’t seem to be bothered. In fact, lots of the time he was jogging while pushing. We probably went 2-3 miles in all — we were gone for 50 minutes. Patrick fell asleep in the bunny suit and I fell asleep after we got back!

Paddy was playing a Land Before Time preschool computer game for a couple of hours yesterday. He got pretty good at matching common shapes and other simple readiness activities. Plus, he is excellent at maneuvering his way through a screen. The other day he downloaded a picture from the internet, put it in the photo editor and made some scribbles on it all by himself.

After dinner I took Aidan outside for a while and Sean came out to chat a bit, mostly about sports. In the evening Liam, Sean and Kieron played an extended game of Monopoly, Paddy fell asleep early and I played with Aidan for a while with his magnetic letters and his bank robot and some pennies.

I didn’t see much of Brendan or Clare yesterday. They were writing things in their rooms, I think. The movie-making activity seems to have subsided. Clare says they need a videotape and some black cloth. We live so far out of town that getting things like that takes logistics and cash because of today’s gas prices. We live 60 miles away from the nearest Walmart and our Suburban eats up fuel to the tune of 15 miles per gallon. Do the math: going shopping comes with a surcharge of almost $25 dollars, shocking as that seems! There’s a local market but just the basics, no fabric or electronic gear beyond the very minimum (Kodak disposable cameras, batteries and the like).

Unschooling question of the day: Does it contradict unschooling principles to require math, or in fact to require anything? Context: Last year when I deschooled, I still assigned math and Latin vocabulary, chores and a bit of reading, and put limits on video game time. A couple of months ago I let the math and Latin go, and experimented with letting go of limits on movie watching and video game time.

The result: all the older kids down to Paddy will play video games and watch movies, but in the context of a lot of other things they do in a day. But Paddy would rather play computer games and the gamecube than anything else. This makes me uncomfortable…

And I am still missing the math and language. Sigh…. I waited until almost summer to drop those two things because I KNEW it would be difficult. All last year I worked through my “deschooling” discomfort by calling the interim a sabbatical. But I knew that letting go of the math and grammar would be even harder, so I figured that waiting until summer — traditionally a lower-key, activity-oriented time — would work in my favor.

Maybe I will start a “math thinking” page and try to see the math in ordinary life, in order to deal with my concerns in this area. I think that because I actually enjoyed rote math in my school days, I have trouble “unschooling” my thinking in this area. My mom would get us math workbooks in the summer for car trips. I LIKED those. But my kids don’t seem to : (. So I need to find a different approach.

No comments: