Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The one thing every homeschool mom yearns for is a little bit of alone time. If only we had some time to ourselves, why we'd be reading great books, quilting, knitting, we'd have a sparkling clean house. We'd be reading that book in a smartly decorated room, cuddled under a homemade afghan while enjoying an uninterrupted cup of tea. It is the ultimate fantasy of life without kids underfoot.

Here's the bizarre thing. With one child out of the house and the other done with all his outside activities for the school year, I'm finding I have hours each day to do with as I please - and I can't figure out what the heck to do with myself. If I spend time reading or working on a quilt, then I feel guilty about the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and the piles of laundry waiting to be put away. If I spend time cleaning I resent that I'm using my free time on that instead of doing something interesting. I even am questioning the homeschool time I spend with my youngest, as if somehow that isn't a worthwhile use of my time either. I have this luxury yet am paralyzed with the worry that I am not using it wisely!!

It seems I'm at a loss without deadlines and young people needing my immediate attention. And I'm stunned that after 24 years of marriage and 18 years of parenthood, I still find it hard to fathom how much time it really takes to keep a house running smoothly -- the laundry, the groceries, the dust bunnies, the piles of stuff.


So much for blogging deep and profound insights into homeschooling. I have to empty the dishwasher now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The joys of car schooling

Homeschooling high school is, and this is a glaring understatement, a lot of work. More work than the earlier years because it really matters and it is the last chance for cementing skills and imparting wisdom before your kids fly the coop. I find older teens to be interesting young adults, but they still don't necessarily LOVE every subject, don't greet each school day with heart-felt enthusiasm. They still don't give me all the praise I am due for creating such brilliant courses of study for them.

The 4 day car trip I had with my son last weekend turned out to be a wonderful break from the worries and pressures of high school. It reminded me of the old days when learning was a simple, natural and unrushed endeavor, and it was a relief to see that meaningful learning, without assignments and expectations, can still happen with a teen.

I could have insisted we listen during the drive to a work from his world history and literature syllabus, but instead we listened to a book he had been impatient for me to read, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He talked about what he liked about the book, I talked about what I didn't like, we talked about Libertarians, and utopia and current politics. We compared the book to Dune, he compared it to Starship Troopers and told me not to read that one based on the things I disliked about this one. It was relaxing yet engaging and the hours passed quickly.

We also went on a couple of organized tours. Neither was really planned to connect to this year's science or history, they were just interesting and available. One was a behind the scenes tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was quite interesting -- we could have spent another hour with that docent. The other was at the beach where the Elephant Seals hang out in the winter. That was quite amazing, and my son surprised me with some random knowledge of the physiology of the animals.

Part of me wishes we could school like this for the rest of high school. I'm a former unschooler who only planned for math during the early elementary grades, otherwise everything was learned simply through exploring the world via books, videos or being out in the world. My kids thrived with this set up, yet they adapted and thrived as things became more formal and structured. I guess it was a good reminder for me that it is still worthwhile to spend some unstructured time outside of our routine, that simply sharing books can be more edifying than dissecting great works. And with the high school years passing by so quickly, we definitely need to make time for a few more of these excursions.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Car Schooling

My 14yo and I spent the last 4 days together in northern California. We went up there for a robotics tournament in San Jose, but one of the unexpected pleasures of the trip was simply driving past all the happy California cows. It looks like Ireland or New Zealand, but the green hills are in California after a winter of El Nino rains.

We spent a day at the Monterey Aquarium, both in the exhibit halls and behind the scenes on a tour. We were delighted earlier in the day, though, to spot an otter or two out in the ocean just off the bluffs. This guy kept bobbing on his back, disappearing to get more food, then popping back up on his back and eating. Another happy, laid back California critter

The most interesting part of our trip was the naturalist led tour around the elephant seals of Ano Nuevo State Beach. Talk about your laid back creatures. They are slugs from the time they are born!

The above group are a bunch of pups called "weaners" because they have been weaned. Their mothers nurse them for about 4 weeks then take off. The little weaners hang out for another 2 months then get hungry enough to head out to the ocean and start feeding. Nobody protects them from predators or clumsy 1 ton bulls who sometimes flatten them. No one teaches them to hunt or swim -- they just hang out. The wild El Nino storms swept about a third of them away last month.

But aren't they cute?!!

The bulls definitely get a little weird looking, like some sci-fi creature from another planet, and they are only capable of galumphing along on the beach for a short stretch before they collapse for a rest. This one wanted to join our little tour group!

Elephant Seals were thought to be extinct back in the late 1800s as they had been killed for their blubbler. It was much easier to hunt the slug like seals on the beach than the big whales in the open ocean. A small group somehow survived and started reproducing and today a couple thousand return to Ano Nuevo beach each winter to give birth and mate, and again in the spring to molt. There are new colonies also forming on beaches further south along the California coast.

But the Elephant Seals seem unimpressed with their history and small gene pool.
The bulls in particular seem eager to loudly proclaim their awesomeness to the world!!