Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Part III

Another Halloween party; this time G decided to be a ballerina and we experimented with different makeup for the Wicked Witch of the West. The doughnut picture is from a fun game. We also had fun trick or treating, though keeping track of them amongst the masses of kids out proved challenging. K is "speedy" and charges ahead; the ballerina was more careful on steep and sometimes wet stairs. All was good, though, and we had fun.

Halloween Part II

At a dance party at Mommy's school/work:

G with Glenda the Good Witch, then telling K excitedly, "look! There's Glenda the Good Witch!"

Charles won the hula hoop contest and he and the girls were finalists in the dance contest. Fun was had by all!


Photos from a fabulous party. The wicked witch of the west, a princess, and the construction of a very tall mummy....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Webs sparkle with dew
Lovely jewels lit by the sun
Happy smiles of awe.

We're still in Japan, not quite on to Tanzania yet, despite our trip to the library yesterday....)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Theater Arts Class Performance

K had a great time; the final performance was a song and dance from a modern version of "Song of the South's" "zip-a-dee-do-dah." Acting, singing, various related exercises, and lots of fun.

I didn't think much of the teacher (she always seemed unhappy and I saw her behave viciously toward another parent), but that's another story and my rudeness tolerance is less than most.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monterey Bay Aquarium Homeschool Day

Excitement after touching the bat rays; G;s hand reaching toward awesome-looking jelly fish; participating in an author event and follow up activities about happiness; an otter, the kelp forest; a tired G asleep in front of the kelp forest.

The author had suggested asking "the happiest person you know" what makes him or her happy. So I began by asking the girls, "who is the happiest person you know?" K answered, "me!" Asked for second and third place winners, she indicated that G and then I are the runners up for happiest. Now that is a measure of success!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Singing in the Rain!

After watching a clip on a friend's blog, the girls were again inspired to dance in the rain after mass. Joy!

First Grade Religious Education

Decorating a t-shirt to remind us of Jesus' presence in the room (it will go on a chair left empty for Christ). All of the kids wrote their names on the back, a semi-formal commitment to respectful behavior in class...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Country Day - Japan

A rich and interesting day! We heard presentations on how to be a samurai, Japanese drumming, sumo wrestling, the architecture of a suspension bridge twice as long as the Golden Gate, haiku poetry, the Shinto religion, and a form of poetry that predates haiku. K made daruma dolls (pictured at the bottom) and explained how we did so in her presentation; next time, she wants to do a PowerPoint like so many of her friends! The food was amazing, those who wore costumes were gorgeous and cute, and even the littlest kids paid respectful attention to all of the presenters. I didn't think Country Day could get better than India day had been, but somehow this topped even that! Kids went home with fans and scrolls, which they decorated and made themselves. So many families contributed to make this a success and we are so appreciative of all!

Nature Day with Road Schoolers

This was an added bonus to a fun morning in a gorgeous setting; getting to meet a family of road schoolers, who live in a fifth-wheel vehicle and travel around the country working and educating. A wonderful family and fun to hear of their adventures!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meaning and Life; Journeys of Purpose

This is another interesting article, written as a speech to Stanford freshmen, encouraging them to seek meaning in their lives, to loosen the bonds of expectations in order to find their purpose. The comments are interesting too; the first set interpreted his speech as a "choose poetry and poverty over a career and pension" and argued that he was unrealistic. Later comments seemed to apply the interpretation I gathered, which was that the search for purposeful work is a worthy one and that traditional definitions of success as typically understood can be shallow and unfulfilling.

Put differently, his challenge reminded me of 22 year olds I met when traveling in Europe. They were going through the motions, having their "European experience" because it was the thing to do post-graduation; some of them even thought that they were being innovative because they were following everyone else to the sites mentioned in Rick Steeve's "Backdoor" series. But they were surrounded by other 22 year old Americans. They were going to Zurich for a day "to see the Alps" even though you can't really experience the Alps in a single day, nor can you really see them from Zurich. They thought it bizarre and daring that "at my age" I was still doing such things. (I was 26!)

The speech (or my interpretation of it) represents a challenge to the mindset that accepts success as defined in very narrow terms. It also addresses the lack of creativity and innovation described in the Newsweek article I cited yesterday. At a speech last week at our "Distinguished Speaker" series, Umang Gupta was asked about the fact that too many business schools churn out middle managers, not leaders. His answer was that corporations need middle managers and while true, I'd add that the advice to the Stanford freshmen still hold true since even the most traditional choice is a better choice when informed by reflection and authentic discernment.

My curiosity about those who have achieved meaning in their lives drove my own dissertation research. In my work, I gathered data from people engaged in different passions; some that are inherently based in poverty (a priest) and others that fall into the complete opposite spectrum (a philanthropist with family wealth). Most fell happily in the middle. What I learned didn't box people into a "money is evil" paradigm, nor did it promote the arts over a solid civil service job. Rather, my research revealed that in order to find meaning, people search for it; that meaning is individually designed according to each person's unique purpose; that seeing oneself holistically (career, hobbies, relationships) is part of that success; and that focusing on helping others and adopting an intentionally disciplined spiritual practice is essential.

Some of the comments focused on happiness, which carries relative importance. I am beginning to understand that happiness cannot be a motivation, as it is too fleeting a concept. A book I read recently (and have mentioned before) told a story that demonstrates this. When the author asked her grandmother whether her life, which had included a long struggle with poverty on a farm, had been happy, her grandmother dismissed the question. She said that happiness isn't even relevant to how she judges success; rather than focusing there, she asks herself if she has done the right thing. Out of that answer, happiness, satisfaction, and meaning inform her personal judgment about her life. There is something so simple and yet so truthful about this idea....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy drawings

I love these little guys. The one on the left in the group picture is Daddy, so identified by his tie. I'm no psychologist, but I think the fact that they are all grinning is telling. In any case, they make me happy....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

These are a few (more) of my favorite things...

Girls lost in giggles and hats made in girls' club.... (hum along to the tune of the song of the same name from "The Sound of Music....") Oh yes... the giggling girl does have a pirate patch on her forehead. What could be more a cause for giggles than playing pirates with friends and the best sort of treasure chest (the kind filled with candy!)

Abuela Goes to the Philippines

Click here for an update on her status. She's working in the Philippines with a team from Rotoplast who are on a two week mission to do plastic surgery operations, mostly on children with cleft lips or cleft palates. The web site is updated daily and it has been fun to get a glimpse of her work without having to wait for her to come home.

The picture was taken the day before she left; one last story from Abuela to hold them for a few weeks....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More homeschooling questions.

MSNBC did a report on homeschooling recently; parts of it represented shoddy reporting of handy stereotypes, but most of it was favorable. Still, the ignorance about homeschooling continues to confound me. OK, so a few people homeschool in isolation, which can presumably create problems. However, using this possibility as a foundation for understanding homeschooling is like beginning an assessment of traditional schools with the expectation that children will be bullied into their graves in that environment. Both likely happen (if we are to believe media reports), but both experiences are too rare to provide a basis for broad discussion about the choices they represent.

With that in mind, here are a few more misperceptions to put to rest:

· Homeschooled children are always with their parents. FALSE. While a primary reason for homeschooling is the genuine affection we feel for each other and the joy we take in each other’s company, our kids’ homeschool is rather more like an abbreviated version of the college experience. Our kids take a variety of classes, some with us, some without us. We choose the instructors and monitor the learning and the environment, seeing ourselves in an administration role. We remain their primary teachers, but certainly not their only ones.

· Homeschooled children lack the benefits of diversity, however defined. AU CONTRAIRE. Our kids regularly take classes with children from a broad range of backgrounds: race/ethnicity, ability, economic, and more. Rejection of traditional schooling is not our primary reason for homeschooling; however, many homeschoolers have made this choice because they have found schools to be incapable of meeting needs of children who vary from the norm, however defined. Their deficit experience has become our blessing, as these families contribute in meaningful ways to our community and our educational experience. (Ironically, we hear this criticism in relation to our choice to homeschool, but we have never heard concern expressed with regard to the choice available to us to attend our local public schools, which represent almost none of the diversity that we seek.)

· The homeschool experience is not “the real world.” Well, that depends on how that is defined! It is obviously a different choice from the majority of the population. However, homeschooling can provide better preparation for the challenges and opportunities of adult life. Like adults, homeschooled learners aren’t confined to those born within 12 months of their own birthdays yet are exposed to numerous appropriate challenges that address their individual needs to prepare for adulthood. As one homeschooling mom said, “for most kids, their school is their world. For homeschooled kids, the world is their school.”

· Homeschooling is an opportunity available only to those who are economically privileged. Oh, does that assumption come with a winning lottery ticket? Ha! We wish! We do feel privileged and honored to be involved with our childrens' lives at this level. We are cognizant always of our appreciation for living in this country, where even the poorest experience privilege in many forms that too many billions around the world can only dream of. However, our choice comes with significant cost and sacrifices. We have given up possessions and experiences that most people in the Bay Area take for granted. We each work more than full time outside the home, juggling our schedules and eliminating much from our lives for this privilege. There are others in our circle of lovely families who do not struggle financially, but many more who have given up more than most people can imagine to do what is best for their children.

· Finally, a major misperception about homeschooling is that it is a choice that represents a criticism of public schools or those who choose to send their children to them. (Private school educators and parents don’t express as much defensiveness, regardless of their school’s performance.) To the contrary, our paradigm is a positive, creative, loving one; we have made our choices based on what we DO want; not that which we seek to avoid. In fact, comparisons only arise when we are confronted with criticism, which is usually quickly revealed as ignorance. (That isn't to say that we don't critically assess our options, just that our primary motivations don't arise from a deficit perspective.) Parenting Report recently published a more direct and humorous article that loosely addressed this comparison, though if asked I could say much more.

Quite frankly, we haven’t seen ANY disadvantages to homeschooling as an educational option. Rather, we’ve become deeply appreciative of the advantages. Every traditional educator will tell you that education requires more parental involvement and smaller class sizes; we accomplish that by establishing those essentials as a foundational paradigm.

A challenge related to the choice to homeschool is the emotional toil on parents, especially moms. Traditional educational options allow some emotional distance from its outcomes; parents can blame teachers and teachers can blame parents and administrators (all perhaps legitimately). Homeschooling parents must look to themselves, which is a vulnerable position to intentionally adopt. Of course, it is also a powerful perspective, so even our disadvantages have silver linings!

This relative disadvantage does not reflect on the outcomes, either academic, social, or emotional. We have yet to feel or hear of any criticism of the educational merits of this choice that is grounded in reality. Rather, we have been rewarded with success that is measured in ways both quantifiable (were we to value testing systems) and those that are holistic and based in the core values that we value as foundational for our children's future.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ornithologist-led Walk October

We're so lucky! Jacki arranged for ornithologist Amanda to again lead a walk for us. On the way down, we spotted many old friends and some new ones: turkey vulture, Anna's hummingbird, black phoebe, western scrub jay, stellar's jay, common raven, American robin, chestnut-backed chickadee, oak titmouse, bushtit, brown creeper, hermit thrush, spotted towhee, lesser goldfinch, and... a bit of a find since their population is on the decline, a white-tailed kite. A fun and informative day!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nature Day again...

The girls are watching a video monitor that is hooked up to an underwater camera, designed to observe activity in the creek. The ranger said that we might see otter, though we weren't so lucky....

The girls worked on a Junior Ranger 'quest,' which was basically a treasure-hunt for clues amongst the signs describing different elements of the natural history of the park. They did a great job and discovered the treasure at the end, secret codes and all! It was another gorgeous day and so wonderful just to be out together.