Thursday, October 23, 2014

Will Unschooled Kids Ever Choose to Do Anything Unpleasant?

People wonder if unschooled kids would ever choose to do something unpleasant, that they don't particularly want to do, but that needs to be done.  I have a story from a few days ago that might be encouraging to anyone wondering this.

E is 8 (9 in December) and she's had a few pet sitting jobs in the past.  She had one all of last week taking care of a chicken and two cats.  The cats pooped on the couch, and we saw it this morning.  She was grossed out and gagging, but without hesitation asked me to help her find something to clean it up.  She cleaned it up thoroughly.  I don't think it crossed her mind to do otherwise, because she is very happy to have the job and to be known as being responsible enough to get these jobs. 

She also offered to give L some of the money she earned, because her sister was her "assistant."  And when I was talking to the woman at the music academy (not really an academy, just a program for kids to learn to play instruments put on by the local symphony) about a payment plan for the one time registration fee for the violin classes the girls asked for, E offered to use some of her pet sitting money to pay for it.   

This is the result of her never having had any chores (though she often willingly helps out), and of her having a dog who I usually clean up after without complaint.  The result of giving her spending money with no strings attached.  Also the result of being willing to get all the kids (four of them) dressed and out the door twice a day for the last week to drive her to this job, joyfully, often singing as we go.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"I don't sing."

Today, E and L had auditions for a local musical theater production.  This is E's 4th year and L's 2nd year doing this show, which is several songs from a variety of different Broadway shows each year. 

For the auditions, the kids can sing something as simple as "Happy Birthday" or any song of their own choosing.  If they want a solo part, they are encouraged to audition with the song they want to sing solo in the show.

So E choose Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better from Annie Get Your Gun which is one of the songs they are doing in the show this year, and will somehow be modifying it for multiple kids solos.  It has a male and female part, so I said I'd do the male part with her for the audition. 

I have not sang in front of an audience since I was about 10 years old and would occasionally sing at church.  I don't consider myself a singer.  I do sing to the kids, but my voice makes my babies cry.  It must be something they get used to with time, since my kids can tolerate it as they get older and even ask me to sing with/to them.  Still, I was more than happy to put myself out there in front of a few judges to help E out.  Plus, I've been having a lot of fun practicing it with her.

After we did her song, one of the judges exclaimed that I should audition too!  The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh, no, I don't sing!"

I was just thinking the other day about how I am usually up for learning anything new and I hope that is a trait I pass on to my kids.  They just started violin lessons, and without making a conscious decision that I was going to learn too, I found myself practicing the warm up they learned in class, and looking up how to play an easy song online. 

My struggle with becoming an expert at anything has never been feeling incapable of learning a skill, but rather that I feel confident that I could learn just about anything and therefore the possibilities are endless.  Choosing something to devote myself to takes time away from the other thousand things I could be learning. 

I often say to the kids, "I don't know how, but we can find out." 

I would most definitely do this show if I wasn't going to be helping two kids with hair, makeup and costumes, and if I had more childcare available for Z and A.  It would be fun!  I did drama in high school and loved it, especially improv, even though I'm not particularly spontaneous or funny.  My bits may not have been the most entertaining for the audience, but I had fun!  This show is more singing and dancing than acting, but *I know I'd learn something new* and have fun doing it, thus the appeal. 

So why say "I don't sing," and shut down the director's compliment?  Well, because in our society, that's what you do.  I see it all the time- people are afraid to be proud of the things at which they excel, and even more hesitant to give consideration to the possibility that they just might be capable of doing something they've never done before.  I don't really believe that "I don't (or can't or can't learn to) sing," but that's what one says to be politely self-depreciating.   

I realized that if I hope to pass this trait on to my kids, I can't respond that way.  I could have just said, "Thank you!" or "Maybe some day I will," or "Not this year, but that would be fun!" 

When I'm gone, I want my children to say, "She never said 'I don't know how,' but said 'I haven't learned how yet." 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peas and Anger

I'm going to write about food, but this is not really about food, so bear with me.

If we're at a formal dinner with people we barely know, we wouldn't mention if we didn't like the food.

If we're at a more casual dinner with acquaintances, we still probably wouldn't mention it, but if the hostess noticed we weren't eating the pork, we'd tell her why.

If we're at dinner with good friends, we might gently mention that it was a little heavy on the salt.  We'd talk about favorite cookbooks and recipes, and how we feel so much better with a daily smoothie.  One of us would discover that the other really dislikes tomatoes, and she'd file that information away in her mind and try to never serve tomatoes to that friend again, out of love.

If we're at a dinner with very close friends or family, we'd already know who doesn't eat spinach and who absolutely loves green beans.  My mom is very good at this.  When my parents and my sister and her husband and six kids and me and my husband and four kids all get together, my mom is the one who can come up with a meal plan.  She takes into account the kid who doesn't like mayo, the one who won't eat tomatoes and the one who hardly eats anything at all.  She reads ingredient labels for the ones with sensitivities.  She thinks up meals where everyone can pick and choose their own ingredients or she comes up with an alternative for the odd person out.  She remembers so many family member's preferences, it blows me away. 

Why can't we do the same with emotions, love languages, and the way we speak to one another?

I've learned a lot of healthier communication skills in the last few years, but I hardly ever get a chance to practice them.  Most of the people in my life don't say anything if I have offended them.  If I know I was out of line, I'll take the initiative to go apologize, but if I don't know, I don't know.

It's like serving someone you love the same food over and over that they don't like, but they never tell you they don't like it.  You'd much rather them just tell you, then find them slipping it under the table to the dog.

Sometimes I try to tell the people in my life that I don't like what they are serving.  Sometimes I've reverted back to childhood habits of throwing it on the floor and spitting it out and stomping away from the table.  But then I apologize and go back and try again.  For some people, discussing food (emotions) is off the table.

It's much easier for my kids.  If they hurt each other, they are much quicker with an apology.  They learn from what they did.  Their relationship is closer after one has blundered and apologized and been forgiven.  They know each other better.  They can say, "I'm sad," or "I'm hurt," or "I'm angry."  I've worked really hard to make our home a safe place to say those things.

They get my best efforts in communication.  With my children, I've learned how to say "I'm sorry," without qualifiers or excuses.  I've learned how to say "I felt sad when you did that," without laying on a guilt trip.  I mess those up to sometimes, but I'm getting better. 

But with others in my life, it's more difficult, because they don't speak the language, and I'm still learning with a long way to go.

I imagine a world or at least a close circle where we could say "When you did that, I felt angry, because I need to be respected," as easily as we say, "I wasn't fond of the soup, because I don't like peas."


Monday, October 13, 2014

Playing Piano

I showed Z how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and a few days later I walked in the room and she was playing it.  I grabbed the camera and asked her to do it again.

Fabric Crafts

The girls spent several days making arm warmers, wrist warmers, finger warmers, and collages with scraps of fabric.  They mostly did it with a hot glue gun, though there was also some sewing. They learned how to put a strip of elastic in a seam and did some measuring.  
Friend's face blocked out since I don't know if her parents are ok with her photo being on a public blog.


We made a sundial yesterday.  It's just a piece of plywood with a nail in it.  Each hour we went out and marked where the shadow landed. 

Celebrating Sukkot

This was taken the first night of Sukkot or the Feast of Booths. 
We moved a few months ago, and the lady who lived here before us left the enclosed porch a disgusting mess.  It took me three and a half hours to clean it up, even with my mom here to hold the baby and keep the other kids occupied.  But I got it done just in time for Sukkot!  Now the enclosed porch is serving as a Sukkah.