Thursday, January 19, 2017

Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes outed as an Unschooler!

As No. 1, our five year old, and I headed into town for a writing class yesterday, I presented her with her textbook for the class: Teacherless Writing by Peter Elbow.  She grinned from ear to ear, “I learned to write without a teacher!”  No. 1 recently found out that she’s ‘unschooled’.

She continued to check out her new book, as we lurched along the BART line into town.  I thought she was just excited to receive a new book, she soon let me in on the real cause of her thrill though.

“So, there’s a book I read called Calvin and Hobbes”

“I know that book.” I said.

“Right, well in the book, there’s a boy named Calvin, and he goes to school.  When he does, he usually has a piece of paper.  I have one of those.  He also has a pencil.  I have one of those.  He also sometimes has a book.  And now, I have a book!  And I'm going to a class!  I'm just like Calvin!!!”

To No. 1, Calvin & Hobbes is a ringing endorsement of classwork!  Could it be?  Could the little boy who arguably hates school the most serve as the poster-child for positive public school experiences?  I thought about it a bit, and it all made sense.  The view we're given into Calvin's schoolwork looks exactly like unschooling.  The class has been assigned to write a paper on George Washington, meanwhile, Calvin is stalwartly doing his own thing, drawing stories about dinosaurs or Spaceman Spiff.  Calvin is an unschooler!  He just doesn't know it.  Alas—and she seems perpetually perplexed by this—neither does his teacher.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What our Homeschooling Week Looks Like (pssst... we both work)

I have a secret:  we may be non-standard homeschoolers.  My wife and I both work full-time.  So far, everything is going swimmingly though.

We unschool, which for us means the kids choose their own interests, and then we help the kids run with them.  Our definition of unschooling isn't rigid though.  If we remember, the kids get things to work on in the morning like a few math problems, or tracing letters, or writing a few sentences.  Then, for the rest of the day, it's off to leverage the city as a school.

The kids have classes through Parks & Rec for a variety of things they're interested in like soccer, baking, and theater.  There are plenty of museums here in San Francisco.  They make science and art classes available for kids during the day.  Our bookstores and libraries have regular story times in multiple languages

Logistically, we're once again lucky to live in San Francisco.  Public transit is pervasive here, and all three kids are experts at riding the buses and trains.  We're also lucky to work with nannies that are brilliant, flexible, and who fill in for us while we're out at work.

We get involved during the week to the extent that we can.  Our weekly playground day usually runs late, so we get to stop by to hang out.  Sometimes our oldest, No. 1, tags along with me to work, she loves to read and work on art projects.  She also loves to explore and interact with people.  She knows most of the people at the locations where I work, so she gets to work on her people skills while we're out and about.  There are also homeschooling activities after work hours as well, including lectures and events around town, and running our errands, (the kids are all learning everywhere we go).

Then, on nights and on the weekends, we get to get fully into the routine, talking to them, filling in gaps with what we missed and what they wanted to learn about for the day.  Then it's off to bed for the next day.

We're loving all of this!  Is anyone else a non-standard homeschooler?  How's it working for you?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Value of Speaking Respectfully

Mom-person bolted across the street for the train.  If she got her foot in the door, we'd all get in.  If not, we'd stand out in the cold for another 20 minutes or so. 

 No. 1, our five year old, bolted with her.  She's big enough to keep up now, and did so admirably.  Her more frequent strides matched her mom's; she stayed right beside her; she was safe.  I'd picked up No.3, our youngest.  She was OK with the development, more bemused than anything else, but also safe.  Then, there was No. 2.  At three years old, he couldn't quite keep up with Mom-person.  She was three quarters of the way across the street before he thought to move.  I cringed.  We'd done this before.  I knew from experience that a few seconds delay could radically change the traffic situation.

Whereas there were no cars when mom-person leaped, there very well might be now.  For slow-twitch participants, like No. 2 and myself, the whole transaction required another scan of oncoming cars.  The issue was No. 2 didn't know that.  He crouched to leap, exactly as I knew he would.  I inhaled a fresh lungful of air preparing to resort to the technique I'd used every time before.  His legs began to uncoil into a powerful jump, I yelled in a forceful, determined voice, "Stop!"

Then, No. 2 and I played out a familiar routine exactly as we had dozens of times before.  He stopped.  He was safe.  As I scanned for cars, No. 2 screamed, and started to cry.  It's what I'd known would happen the instant I saw Mom-person leap for the train.  I'd cringed, accepted my fate, and kept everyone safe.

Later that night, lying in No. 2's bed for our good night snuggles, I asked him if he'd had a good day.  His response was characteristically honest, "No."  I asked why not, and No. 2 replied, "Dad, you made me cry."

"When I yelled at you at the train stop?" I asked.


"Do you know why I did it?" I asked.

"No," 2's plaintive voice came out of the darkness..

"I was worried you were going to get hit by a car I didn't know about.  I had to make sure you were safe.  I needed you to stop right away, so I yelled.  I'm sorry buddy."

I heard a small sniffle followed by "I don't like it when you yell.  It makes me sad."

"OK," I said, "let's work on a plan.  When Mom runs for buses or trains, you stay right with me.  I'll try to warn you before she's going to do it, but no matter what, you stay with me.  Then, next time, I won't have to yell.  Sound good?  Can you do that?"

"I can."

A few days later, standing across the street from our train, I could see what was likely to happen, and I calmly got No. 2's attention, "Mom's going to bolt.  You're going to hang with me right?  Then we'll catch her when I say it's safe, OK?"

"OK Dad."

Annnnnd, we haven't had a problem since, well, you know, not with that anyway.

I was inspired to share by the WSJ article by Jennifer Lehr, "The Wrong Way to Speak to Children".  Ms. Lehr suggests that parents speak respectfully to kids as if they were adults.  She has written an entire book on related subjects called Parentspeak.  It's due out in three days on January tenth.

The comments on Ms. Lehr's article are intense, and in both directions; a lot of parents love their children intensely.  I think that's good.  As for me, when I can remember to do it, and when the situation allows it, (obviously I don't always remember, and when I don't, the timing's not usually right either), talking with the kids in the way Ms. Lehr suggests opens up a new world, and makes life easier for all of us.  I get a window into what and how the kids think, and they get to see my perspective on why we do the things we do.  It's good; we're building a relationship... you know, just like grown-ups.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Excitement Builds Around the Wyoming Total Eclipse And General Relativity

In August, there will be a total eclipse of the sun visible over the United States.  No. 1 and her mom, our resident physics professor, turned out this diagram of starlight bending around the sun because the sun's mass curves space.  Can a general relativity experiment be far behind?

In other news, metallic ink pens do interesting things under photo filters.

The following day, this all inspired No. 1's derivative artwork :)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Shoes for Shooing

As No. 1 and I were walking down the sidewalk, I said, "So, if a noun is a thing, and a verb is a word about doing something, then what kind of word is run?"

"A verb!"

"OK, what kind of a word is boot?"

"A noun!  It's a thing."

"Cool, so what kind of a word is shoe?" I asked.

"A verb!"



I thought perhaps No. 1 was confusing an action with the thing she did it with, so I asked, "Verbs are actions right, so how do you figure?"

To which No 1 responded with a furrowed brow, in all seriousness, "Well, like when you want us to leave a room, you say, "Shoo!" and we leave.  So, shooing is doing something."