Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Well, she has a mother

I know I post a lot about Chamille and her best friend, but it's so ever present in our lives. The daily frustrations and hurt feelings are a lot to go through. It's hard sometimes to just be happy when circumstances beyond your control continually bring you down.

Chamille is doing pretty well considering. It definitely impacts her well being though. The letter brigade is helping and I've heard from her mother that it has a huge impact on E. too. "Mother?", you say. Well, yes, she has a mother. Her mother hasn't been involved in her life for a number of years. I'm not sure of the circumstances. I've only heard the dad's side of the story, and given the source, I'm not so sure about the validity of anything said.

The last couple of weeks, I've been trying to find a way to contact E.'s mother to see if I could somehow circumvent the dad. I didn't know her name or where she was living, so it was impossible to find her. I had kind of given up on the idea, when she called me! I don't want to get in the middle of custody issues, but, I can at least meet her and Chamille and E. can hang out together for a bit when E. visits her mom. It will get back to the dad though, because the older daughter will tell him, mostly to spite her sister.

It turns out that the mom is equally concerned with what has been happening. She, like me, has no control or say so in the situation. What she sees and hears however, is a very unhappy child who hates her father with a passion that she can't even express, so it eats away at her and causes her a great deal of stress. I could have told her that! I'm sure E. is biting her nails again, something that her dad doesn't even notice that she does.

I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or not. I do know that the mom has been wanting to meet some of her kids' friends for a long time now, especially Chamille. Chamille has been wanting to meet E.'s mom as well, since she already knows she doesn't like the dad and stepmom.

I will tread lightly....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oh yeah, well I'll just go Harry Potter on your a**, OR, the Letter Brigade


















Remember those owl posts coming for Harry Potter, the first time, when Hogwarts was trying to invite him to school? Boy, that Uncle Vernon was in a bad way with all those letters.

Chamille and I would love to replicate that in real life. I would be pretty costly in the form of stamps. Chamille sent a letter to her best friend, which included a self adressed stamped envelope for returning a letter. This is in response to not being able to have any form of contact with her friend. Well, she's not allowed to call, or email, or visit. Her dad didn't say, no mail regular post, so there you go.

The first test letter was sent with no reply. We know, but the dad doesn't know we know, that he took the letter and wouldn't allow E. to read it. WOW! I was really hoping that she would be able to read a letter, that somehow it would prove to me that he had one ounce of decency in him. It's not as if the reality has shattered an image, I'm just always the optimist, hoping for the best!

Ok, so she couldn't read the letter, but that doesn't mean we can't send them and lots of them! It's interesting, because not that long ago Chamille and I were talking about handwriting skills. She feels that hers isn't all that great, however, I think it's fine and perfectly functional. I told her not to worry too much, because most writing done these days is typing, not by hand. Even I don't hand write much. I listed off the things that I've hand written, paying bills with checks, adding bills on paper, writing grocery lists, phone numbers, addresses, quick notes to myself, and writing addresses on envelopes. Now here we are writing letters and addresses on envelopes.

So, E. won't get to read them, but at least she will know that there is someone out there that really cares about her and her happiness. Chamille also decided to add funny little comments on the letters, like, "you can do it E., get those grades up." and "keep your chin up" and little positive things like that. We know the dad is going to open and read them, so we thought that might be kind of funny, with the added bonus that E. might accidentally see it and have a quick moment to smile. Here's for hoping!

So, now we just need to buy a bunch more stamps, as we are almost out already. Perhaps postcards would be cheaper! I'm going to look into that today. E. should be getting 2 letters in the mail today, and 2 tomorrow, and the next day will have quite a bit more, hee hee hee!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Banned Books

BANNED BOOKS???!!!

Do people really ban books?

That's what Chamille asked the last time we were at the library. Upstairs in the teen room there was a display of books that had been challenged at various libraries in Oregon.

Of course this proves my theory that everything forbidden is immediately more alluring than need be. Chamille was VERY interested in checking this out, this idea that there are books out there that have ideas and information that some adults don't want their kids getting access to.

She thoroughly looked through the books on the shelves and decided she'd like to try one. Chamille read her very first full length chapter book. I read it to. It was pretty good. Now she wants to find more books like it.

Chamille never did finish reading the last Harry Potter book. I'm anxious to discuss it with her, but I'm waiting patiently until she reads it or we get the cd from the library to listen to.

I'm in the middle of reading Stargirl to Chamille and she loves it. It's such a wonderful book with cool ideas and thoughts and visual images. I just found out that there is a sequel, so now I've got to make another trip to the library to get it and perhaps some other books.

A while back, I was considering subscribing to a mail order movie rental like netflix or cafedvd, but I've decided to utilize the library for a bit to see what we can find there. We've watched some really cool movies lately. You can learn sooooo much from watching movies.

I think the next set of movies are going to be 1960's related. Chamille has had a sudden interest in that time period. We've recently watched movies that relate to the earlier part of that century, ones that talk about WWI and the depression and other aspects of US and world history, including fashion and hair styles. So, now we are going to fast forward a bit and skip over that nasty WWII, actually we've been there/done that kind of, and onward to The Beatles and John Lennon and other 60's related stuff, that I'm sure will include fashion and hair styles.

The next trip to the library will include some 60's movies, sequels, and some more banned books.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Control based relationships with our kids... Careful, this could be a bit of a rant!

I consider myself a partner with my kids. We are on the same team and work together to get what we want in our lives. I don't think this could be possible if I were to implement control in any form over their lives.

There are all kinds of control based relationships, some of them really icky, like how my daughter's best friend has with her father. Some of them are subtle, like coersion, giving children choices like do this or do this (enter really yucky thing). Both of them are control. Control comes in many forms, but none of it is healthy to building strong relationships.

As adults we can recognize this with other adults, and partners, but what about kids? So many adults don't even consider how control is really unhealthy to kids. Why are so many adults dealing with control based relationships as adults? Hmmmmm, I wonder.... If so many kids are growing up with control implemented in their lives, surely that is what they learn in regards to dealing with others. Perhaps they don't grow up to control other adults, but I'd be willing to bet they learn to do that to their own kids.

When you unschool, first you get rid of the idea that one must "teach" a child in order for them to learn. That is the very first step to unschool, although some people come to the idea through attatchment parenting. When you really examine the idea of forced learning and natural learning, it comes to the idea that one person cannot really get another person to learn something, it has to come from within the learner. Sometimes kids want to please the adults in their lives and regurgitate ideas that make them appear to be learning the things the adults want them to be learning. That idea goes against how real learning actually happens. Real learning comes from the internal desire and motivation of a person that wants to know something because it is relevant to their lives.

When someone is choosing to home educate their children, they decide what their kids need to know based on their own ideas of what is important. When someone chooses to unschool, they let go of those ideas that parents know what exactly a child needs to learn. For each person that will look different because all kids are different and all families are different and all people live in different communities, have different incomes and influences, and talents. What does look the same, is that there is a deep form of trust that is formed by this idea of partnership.

Yes, I'm talking about control again...

If a parent decides to unschool and let a child follow their passions, they help them along the way by offering up activities and ideas that help to feed that passion. If a parent trusts a child that much and acts like their teammate to meet a common goal, then where is there a place in that lifestyle for control?

I haven't found a place for that. If you really trust your children to make good decisions and learn from their mistakes in a positive healthy way, then the parents really need to back off and work hard to NOT control the lives of their children. That includes, when a person sleeps, eats, what they eat, what they watch on tv and for how long, how long they play video games, and how much they chat online with their friends. If a child finds these things to be valuable, and if a child needs to eat a cookie at midnight, then that should be a choice freely available to the child. If it's not, why?

It always comes down to the "WHY?" question. So many parents justify their need for control of their children. Even some unschooling parents want to justify their need to control some aspect of their children's lives. They say things like, "Well, you don't know my child and he really needs me to tell him that he has to stop playing video games, because if I don't he will play all day and then be cranky, and I just can't have him behaving in this way."

Do people even consider that this kind of reaction of a child, to be cranky towards a parent, is directly related to the feeling of being controlled? Nobody likes to be controlled, NOBODY!!!!! You show me one person who does like it and I may change my mind, but for now I will stand by what I say. I may not know other people's particular child, but I do have a pretty good idea of the nature of children and people in general. Children are constantly belittled and demeaned in our culture. How did we ever get to this place in our world? It starts with the small things, like honoring a child's need to have that cookie right now, even when dinner is ready in ten minutes. Is it going to kill them to eat HFCS or PHVO or (gasp) white sugar, or whatever offending item that a parent has deemed unfit for the good of the child, or that it will spoil their appetite?

I personally find it much more harmful to the psyche of a child to tell them "no" and that their wants and needs are not valued, and that the parent's idea is better and more valuable. It makes kids feel less powerful. I want my kids to feel empowered and valuable. I want them to feel that they can do anything, I will not be their stumbling block!

It all counts! Everything has value and can be learned from. Kids who have the trust and freedom to explore their world in a safe and comfortable environment will do so. I find that kids WANT to do the right thing, they want to be healthy and comfortable and smart and they want to have fun doing all those things. Why wouldn't they, that is just something that many parents project onto their kids, this idea that all that is hard and needs to be shoved down their throats.

Again, it all counts! When you take away the box, there is a whole world out there for kids to explore and learn from. As a parent we can take our kids out of the "school" box, but then come home and put them in a box of another kind, a parent contolled box of "can't" and "shouldn't" and "for your own good".

Here's a good link to check out:

how children really react to control

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Is TV addictive?... and other thoughts on media control

This little quote was taken from a message board then I answered it:

>
> I believe that TV is addictive and as such it should be treated with
> care. Most parents would not allow their children unending access to
> other addictive substances. I was addicted as a child.

A lot of studies say TV is addictive. Frankly I just don't see that being true. My kids have free access to the TV and free access to the remote control to turn it off. Currently my 13 year old doesn't watch much TV and my 6 year old does. It isn't or hasn't always been that way. My older daughter used to watch a lot of tv and my younger daughter used to hate watching tv.

They watch it when they want to watch it, just like I do, just like my husband does. TV, just like everything else in the world has good things and bad things in it. If you want to see it as an art form, it is a reflection of reality and vice versa.

A lot of people homeschool to shelter their kids, protect them from the world and the views of others. That is not why we homeschool. I don't want my kids to be isolated from the culture that we live in. Wether I like it or not isn't the issue in regards to tv, the issue is that it IS a part if our culture and a reflection of it and vice versa, just like books and art and science and math and everything else in the world.

Why would I want to limit access to such a powerful tool? If I were to choose a curriculum to teach my kids, it would be equally limiting and yet somehow not cover nearly the expanse of topics and ideas that are presented in tv and other media. My kids might actually get a better more rounded education if I forced them to watch movies and tv to learn about the world. There is not a single aspect of life that isn't in a movie or tv show or video game somewhere.

It really helps to unschool, to see the value in ALL things! But back to addiction and what it is and isn't. While I do believe things can be addictive without chemical dependency, I think behavioral addiction is a phenomenon that is caused by other factors that involve a feeling of lack of control. Which isn't anything like chemical dependency. People can be addicted to books in the same manner. Perhaps people do this to escape the reality that they live in. Again that is about control, to escape a reality that they have no apparent control over.

Control is what we are talking about right? As parents we try to or try not to control what our kids are exposed to or not. A kid that is NOT controlled is going to behave very differently in regards to how they handle media. Just like someone else posted earlier about the time limits/control over her son's video game playing, and how her son counts down the minutes and hours until that time arrives. You can gaurantee that he will NOT miss that time alottment. You can gaurantee that he will pass on just about everything else to make sure that he gets in his video gaming. You gaurantee that he will play video games. Wouldn't it be better to just let someone play video games and watch tv until they are done and then freely move on to other things?

While your kids are freely watching tv, movies, and playing games or chatting on the internet, try to see what they are seeing in it, what they are learning from it, what the value is of it. Look at it in an ubiased way. Then, if you still see that they aren't doing these things because they enjoy it, find something that they do enjoy and offer that up instead. It's about choices and the availability of them and access to them. If someone would rather watch tv, movies, and playing games or chatting on the internet than whatever else you are proposing, then either it wasn't very interesting, or what they are doing is clearly very valuable.

Why do parents, generally, like to minimize what kids find valuable? I remember when my older daughter was young, she loved Pokemon, really loved it. I remember sooooo many parents trashing Pokemon, calling it a phase, it will pass, commending the teachers for banning it from school, etc, etc. I couldn't even imagine doing that to something that my daughter clearly loved and was interested in, it would be like a good friend trashing my hobbies and personal interests. I don't think I'd stay friends with a friend like that.

We can do that to our kids too. We can see the value in things they love and foster a relationship that draws on that, or we can minimize the things they love and find value in and we set ourselves up for and adversarial relationship. Personally I want the first option, and if finding the value in tv, movies, video games and internet usage and whatever else is what it takes, then that is what I do.

Friday, October 05, 2007

To school or not to school; Revisited

After much debating and thinking and discussing, Chamille has decided to hold off on trying out school and give another effort at making some friends in another way.

She came to me one day about 2 weeks ago and informed me that she wanted to go to school. It's her choice of course. It is natural that she'd be curious about it, as she's never been and it's such a huge part of our culture.

The largest reason was for finding and making friends and seeing her best friend more frequently. She hasn't been able to see E. for a while now because there is always some excuse or another coming from the dad about why she's unavailable. The last time E. came over I had to pick her up with the car because her dad told her that it wasn't ok to walk here. So I drove the 3 blocks and picked her up.

While she was visiting, E. and Chamille decided to walk over to the minimart about 2 blocks away. It was about 6:20 when Chamille came home by herself. I knew that E. had to be back home at 6:30, so I was expecting them back at our house any minute. Chamille was really upset when she came home and informed me that E.'s dad showed up at the minimart in his car, made his daughter get in it and drove away with not so much as a bat of an eye towards Chamille. I guess he was really mad about his daughter being at the minimart, but I can't imagine why, because the girls have been walking over there on many occasions over the last year.

What really upset me was that he left Chamille there all by herself without any regard to her safety or well being. I always prefer the buddy system, although, on occasion she has taken the dog on a walk without another person with her. She had to walk home by herself, not a huge deal since it's only about 2 blocks away, but not cool that she was just left there.

I considered calling the dad about 20 minutes after they were supposed to be back and asking him if Chamille and E. were at his house since they were supposed to be home and hadn't shown up. I didn't, but I thought about it. It would've made him have to explain himself and his complete disregard for my child.

I just can't even talk to that man. The longer this relationship goes on, the worse he gets. I am no longer comfortable with Chamille even going over to their house even if she were invited. If the parent in charge over there doesn't consider my daughter's safety, then she shouldn't be going over there at all. I feel really badly for Chamille. I've discussed all of this with her and she agrees that she doesn't ever want to go over there, because she's really uncomfortable with the way her friend's dad treats her and his own daughter.

E. is grounded again so it's not likely that Chamille will get to see her anytime soon. It's an indefinite grounding, where she has to "get her grades up" and isn't allowed to see any of her friends (as if she has any other than Chamille) until she does. It's all very vague and I'm sure that it has everything to do with previous events and his continuous undermining of their relationship. He even changed his mind again and said that E. isn't allowed to sleep over here. I found out about that about a week ago. I guess it doesn't matter anyway since E. is grounded for life, or so it seems.

I feel so badly for the girls, but there really isn't anything I can do about it. It's all about control with him and right now he's doing a great job of controlling the whole situation. There is really nothing I can do accept validate Chamille's hurt feelings and the huge sense of loss and upset that she has over all of this.

So, Chamille considered going to school to be near her friend and maybe have a few moments with her throughout the day. The catch is that they are not the same grade/age, and there is no gaurantee that they would be in the same house, lunch period, classes, etc. They could be in a situation where they don't see each other at all during the day.

We took a walk over to the school on a weekend and peeked into all of the windows. The way the school is set up, is repetitive hallways, converging on a circular entry way. By the last set of hallways, Chamille says, "I don't need to look in those windows, it will look the same as all the other ones.". I looked and she was right. The hallways looked sterile and bare, with the occasional school slogan posted on a designated board. Even the art room was sterile and bare. We talked and walked and looked.

The next day she told me that she'd like to give it another go at finding friends outside of school. I'm trying, but it's really hard. All these local homeschool boards have people that insist there is a really great teen community, but we can't seem to find it or anyone who has kids involved.

For now though, I'm glad that she's not in school, but she needs some friends! Friends that are free to go and do stuff like hang out at the mall and go on walks and bike rides and all that good stuff.