Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An hour in the life

Something got me thinking today about the little tiny details that creep into our lives just as we live them. I looked at my "Day in the Life" posts and realized that although they seem very detailed, they don't do the various and sundry unschooling moments justice. So for about an hour this afternoon I observed the details. It was a transitional hour between two activities for the kids, and not enough time to really get into an activity in much detail ... one of those fleeting hours where nothing much seems to happen, one that doesn't tend to get written into my memory. A lot actually happens, though, as it turns out:

Fiona noticed that the laundry airer isn't as heavy on the pulley coming down as going up... because the clothes are dry! She folded pants, along their line of symmetry. "The same on both sides," she said, making a neat fold.

Sophie helped Fiona practice on her new (real! not a box any more!) violin. Guided her bow-hold, helped her mimic the Twinkle Rhythms.

Fiona learned some names of the parts of her new violin. From Sophie.

Sophie learned that when the bridge on Fiona's violin shifts, the A and E strings go flat. We talked about why Fiona's bridge shifts so easily, while those on bigger violins don't (because the tension on the strings is lower, the strings being shorter but tuned to the same pitches).

Noah and Sophie worked on some invented origami patterns for a while. They had to do some problem-solving with planes and directions to figure out why their two figures were turning out differently when they were apparently doing the same things.

Erin looked through a newly arrived Latin book. We browsed through it together and decided to work on a little bit of the first chapter together this evening.

She read from "The Deluxe Transitive Vampire", a book about grammar.

We all watched a bit of a puppy training video and discussed why the puppies responded the way they did... trying to see the experience being portrayed through their canine eyes. The kids made observations about how this applied to our puppy Freya.

We discussed the difficulty inherent in having five self-motivated self-directed people co-existing all day long who all occasionally (but rarely at the same moment) want to do particular things together as a group. How can we make those collaborative ventures happen when we all have such difficulty making transitions? No brilliant solutions reached, but plenty of food for thought.

Noah and Sophie prepared a snack to take to art class.

Noah and I talked about how he felt about sharing a sketch he'd done this week with his art teacher. He'd rather not, though he's proud of it. We talked about his need for privacy when doing work that's important to him.

We talked about whether we wanted to give our surplus mat board to the art teacher. How much will we want to keep for bookbinding projects?


I suppose this is a typical hour. It's amazing how much happens when nothing's happening.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


When we started the kitchen renovation I had visions of involving the kids in the process, getting them to help install cabinets, mud drywall, paint and so on. They did a little of that, and a lot of adapting and contributing to coping with the mess and inconvenience, but it turns out that the most useful lesson may have been a metaphorical one.

"Sometimes," I told Erin today, "when you're in the middle of making some really nice changes to your house, the mess and chaos are almost overwhelming. Sometimes you wish you could just forget it and go back to the old way, but you realize that it'll be worth it, because the new kitchen or family room or deck or whatever is going to be great. It's just a fact of life with renovations... things get a lot worse while they're getting better.

"The same thing happens with the insides of kids (and adults too sometimes). They're growing up, maturing, becoming more responsible or more capable, preparing for a change for the better. But it's like their insides are renovating. It can be a big mess in there for a while.

"Sometimes it's easy to forget, or not realize, why the mess is there. Things inside you just stink, big-time. And it spills out, like with snits over borrowing Noah's Heelys. And it drives your mother nuts to have seen evidence of all this growing up but then to be hit with the metaphorical equivalent of washing dishes in the rain with a garden hose. Lousy stuff, stubbornness, irrational behaviour.

"Probably we both need to remember that you're in a process of renovating. It's going to be messy sometimes.

"Here... have a chocolate."

Things are better this evening between us.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Day in the Life -- Saturday again

Today we all had a lazy start to the day. Erin was up at 7 (late for her) and the rest of us around 9. Chuck installed his new weather monitoring system, so the kids were curious about that ... the barometer, the windspeed and wind direction measurements, the rain guage, humidity and temperature sensors, and how it uses all that information to "predict" weather. Very excited when it began raining a bit.

Then we (Chuck especially) did "Saturday" sorts of things, which is a bit of a coincidence (and only a coincidence) in that it actually is Saturday. Split and stacked firewood, cut down some overhanging limbs and burned them, split and stacked more firewood, did some laundry and hung it on the laundry airer, washed some dishes, organized some wardrobey stuff.

The kids spent some early afternoon IM'ing their friends (they're now hooked up not only with each other but with two teenaged friends, both excellent kids). They took photos of each other, some silly, some not, with the digital camera and resized them and used them as their personal photos on MSN. They had fun figuring out how to transfer files and images on MSN. Erin took a picture of Noah into PaintShopPro and turned his skin yellow and gave him a green spotted rash.

Noah and Sophie worked together glueing up the Viking longship model from Noah's birthday gift. They really enjoyed this. They also spent a long time with the posters of Viking life and mythology and the map of Viking lands / conquests / explorations. Noah put this up on his bedroom wall and then found a world map to mount above it; he was pleased that he was able to compare the two maps and understand what he was seeing.

Some unschooling friends of ours run a café and were selling off their summer supply of gourmet gelato in a 2 for 1 sale this weekend, so we hopped in the van and headed down there and browsed at the café and socialized with them and others who came in and out for a while. Noah was wearing and showing off his new Heelys and Erin had a seriously huge fit of Heely Envy and refused to come into the café. Every once in a while I forget how incredibly stubborn, spirited and tenacious she is -- and then we have a day like this to remind me. She wanted to wear Noah's Heelys when we arrived at the café and he had every right to wear them. She wouldn't budge on it, even though Noah offered many concessions, and so she hunkered down in the back seat of the van, hiding under a blanket, crying and yelling rudely at anyone who attempted to talk to her, and didn't come out from 2:00 until 7 pm (at which point it was dark and cold and she was very hungry). Although she rarely has meltdowns these days (maturity works wonders!), the severity -- a five-hour tantrum, in essence -- is typical for her.

With our lump of black fury in the back of the van, we drove by the community garden to check on our plots and harvest some tomatoes. Then home and parked Erin in the carport. I went out to our home garden and dug up the rest of the potatoes and jerusalem artichokes. The three younger, good-humoured kids played with the Viking longship and then played SodaConstructor for a while.

I went out to the minivan in the carport, taking Erin a candle, when we were ready to sit down for our late supper. She was a little surly, but ready to come inside. She cheered up once it was clear we were all willing to let the whole incident pass without comment. She ate all her supper (a rarity) and we all had left over birthday cake for dessert.

She practised piano for a long time after supper, sight-reading through anything interesting she could find. Her sight-reading skills astonish me. She can sight-read almost fluently right up to her current playing level (i.e. the easier Chopin Waltzes and Schubert Scherzos and even wild atonal stuff by people like Aleksina Louie and Robert Starer). Noah had his turn at the piano; his playing has taken a huge leap in the past month and he is really enjoying his newfound sense of competence. He worked pretty hard on some fussy details. I complimented him on some musical details he'd thrown in on his own (ritards, crescendos and the like) and for once he seemed pleased to hear my positive feedback. The kids did their violin/viola practising after being given the choice of practising or dishes. Dh and I did the dishes together, which was nice. But I didn't hear the violin/viola practising. It turned out Noah was practising without his sheet music, while his assignment this week had been specifically to use the music to sort out and memorize the bowings of his concerto movement. Oops. Tomorrow I will be sure to practice with him to get him back on track. Sometimes he's diligent and responsible on his own, but sometimes he needs a nudge or a reminder.

Fiona and I unloaded the laundry airer. The kids put their laundry away. I'm finally through the backlog of vacation laundry! It takes quite a while when it's raining outside and I have to wait for a load of laundry to dry indoors before pushing another load through.

We read aloud. After we finished our three chapters from two books, Erin went off to do her journal writing and reading-aloud-quietly-to-herself routine while Noah and Sophie and I had an informal family meeting. We talked about maybe setting aside evening time for independent reading, about starting to read aloud and discuss again chapters from Stephen Law's "Philosophy Files" (a.k.a. "Philosophy Rocks" in the US), about investigating semi-private swim lessons, about whether the kids can afford to buy a domain for their hypothetical Euwy World website, about whether they miss spending their before-bed time doing math at the kitchen table while sipping hot chocolate (they do!), about whether we should pay for a library membership in Nelson ... and other stuff.

Three millimetres of rain had fallen by bedtime. Wind is negligible from the northeast. Temperature: 5.2 degrees Celsius. Barometer is steady. Still, I checked the internet weather forecast to be sure: it says precipitation should stop this evening and it will be partly cloudy tomorrow. Good news -- it's Harvest Festival!