We Hogabooms, after much discussion etc., are pleased to offer a full scholarship to the Life is Good Unschooling Conference here in Washington State, in May. Please read on about how you can support this – or apply for it.
In the AM, I took a few pictures of what was up. Planned to take a few more later in the day but this is what I got.
Nels wakes up and if he finds himself alone he usually comes and finds another person in a room, and falls asleep. He can sleep cuddled up next to someone, or on the floor, or here on the couch. Josie (lower-right) contemplates joining him.
Just part of a sketch my daughter made. She draws about fifty figures a day on average. I shit thee not.
I can’t remember what they were reading to one another, here. It’s pretty cool every morning they get to wake up and have a snuggly morning. Good stuff. No wonder they’re growing up so good.
After Nels ate breakfast, got dressed, & cleaned up, he spent some quality pet time:
A couple pictures for people who might get the impression I always have a tidy home. I think my home is tidy only about thirty percent of the time. In fact as of late it’s been messy because we had dog drama, then I had a very busy day, then I fell ill and am still recovering. Only the bare minimum of household work is getting done on my part, although of course the kids do their part with dishes, laundry, sweeping, and pet care.
At some point after these little snapshots we got busy as hell; mostly I was sewing up a difficult project – then Ralph and I had a Monday evening commitment. The days fly by, which is why it’s all the more important I practice mindfulness and meditation.
Thanksgiving, we had our four family members and one lovely dinner guest. Ralph and I made – all from scratch:
A Michigander-style 16 pound turkey
Mashed potatoes & gravy
Sauteed green beans
Roasted lemon asparagus
Celery & butter stuffing
Fresh cranberry-orange sauce
Waldorf salad (with pears, apples, sour cherries and spiced pecans)
A pumpkin pie (from fresh-roasted pumpkin)
A dark chocolate / coconut custard cream pie w/organic whipped cream
The grocery bill for all of this, including the dinner and foodstuffs from the day before, came to a little over ninety bucks. That is PRETTY GOOD shopping considering I am not much of a Financial Panther. I was pretty relaxed and had a great time doing the shopping – and yes, it was during one of those intense shopping-mart rushes, and I had both kids, and had to park a full block away. And I was just, enjoying myself. In fact it was one of those wonderful, so-glad-to-be-alive and in-the-moment experiences. And I was also thinking of all the women I saw in their hustling-ass for their families. We need to give women more credit.
(I wrote it in the comments for a previous post, but I gotta write more about it here):
Yesterday, after swim team practice, my daughter is approached by a girl about thirteen. The girl asks,
“Do you go to school?”
“No,” Phoenix answers.
“What is one plus one?” the kid challenges.
“Stop bothering me with silly questions,” Phoenix retorts.*
I DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS AT HOW AWESOME MY DAUGHTER IS. I just… I can’t tell you. When I was my daughter’s age I was guarded about everything. I vacillated between being authentic and badass and brash – then shrinking up out of fear. I had no method of coping for condescension – let alone something as elegant as Phoenix’s straight-forward call-out. I wanted to be good at everything and I wanted to be liked, and I was easily shamed, especially by someone bigger than me or with more authority. If it were me I would have probably answered, “Two,” and felt humiliated, and that humiliation would have turned to anger, and I wouldn’t have known what to do different next time. Phoenix is the calmest and most centered girl. I take virtually no credit except I continue to learn to get out of the way, and listen deeply and give her the nurture she needs.
What is it with unschooling coming up more lately? I trust it will die down again. It goes in spurts. You know, spurts where we get to live our life without being commented upon or outright harassed. I am not complaining. No really! It is just odd it’s been coming up. Like while this thing was happening to my daughter, someone was telling her father how good it is Phee is on the swim team: “Oh that’s good, get her out of the house. Get her some socialization!”
“In order to catch this monster sting ray, I was going to have to do something I’d never done before -”
” – dress as a Sexy Lady Ray!”
“The residents were finding enormous bullsharks in the place they least expected -”
“a HOT DOG CART!”
… and so on. Many giggles into the night until we got too sleepy to watch and fell asleep all cuddled-up like.
* my daughter tells me she and this girl are now friends.
Another typical unschooling-defamation piece makes its way into my Tweetstream. I was inspired to make a little something I will picture in my mind every time this happens. Call it my personal moment of Zen.
This little bit of Photoshoppery has nothing to do with unschooling. It has everything to do with being awesome. For instance how awesomely I LOL every time I read or hear some other persnickety, tired-out, anti-child, parent-dissing pearl-clutching screed recommending enforced child-class institutionalization.
In other news: I wrote a new post at UB, but it’s kinda grouchy, fair warning. I had a good day today though, honestly.
Swimming. Ralph loses sunglasses in lake, mounts a rescue mission.
Hutch continues to keep his priorities clear (shown with my mom’s dog, Tuck).
A benefit of an unschooling life. You vacation any time. No one else is around. You can hang out in your underwear, like Phoenix here, outdoors in the sunlight. Or perhaps you can be a bit NAUGHTY & choose the practical ensemble of STARKERS NAKED with a dangerously oversize life vest (all photos of my children published with their permission, P.S.).
In other news, I still have SuperShero Hair.
I posted a for-sale hat at Homesewn, thanks to my friend E.
Mural-sitting for my mother, who needs someone to watch over the manlift. I don’t get it as supposedly someone has to be there, but there is no training required or documentation. ANYhoo let’s just wait it out, she’ll be done in a few days.
Ladyfriend & perhaps future sisterwife hsofia posted her presentation of Unschooling as a Life Hack; she used a few photos of ours. Professional, human, warm and wonderful!
A few of my Twitter followers asked that I elucidate on “ten lists” I’d turned out recently. Here goes with the eighth installment of my first list: “Things That Make Parenting Easier”, based off my ten-plus years being a devoted and hard-working parent. I hope you find it helpful. That is the only point of this post. To help those who could use it.
Each post will have a picture from my life, my day, when I wrote the post. A picture from this evening: my kids horsing around, skateboarding and fortune-telling. At far right you can see the corner of our rental’s porch, covered in some kind of outdoor carpet and inundated with enough cat piss to be seriously disgusting. Oh and by the way, this is many hours of play today; my children love each other very much.
This post may seem redundant. After all, I wrote a bit a couple days ago about what kinds of parenting I’ll be glad to reflect on, and what I might be less glad to remember. I have a few more words about keeping parenting in perspective.
Our children are the authors of their own lives. Once we know that, and commit to helping them, we can stop letting our minds be run by “experts” and stop letting every magazine article or parenting guru or next-door-neighbor invoke our insecurity. It doesn’t take a particularly organized, well-groomed, college-educated, perfectly-devoted, etc. etc. mother (or parent or carer) to know what one’s child needs. Sometimes their needs baffle us, or frighten us. Sometimes they are screaming and we don’t know why. Sometimes we sense they are unhappy, deeply so, maybe for days or months on end. As they get older it can get scarier. Maybe they’re cutting themselves or showing signs of very troubled relationships or drug or alcohol use.
The day we throw up our hands and pretend we don’t have a right and a responsibility to help them is the day we let them and ourselves down, profoundly. Sadly, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. I’m not saying you have to be perfect – please, PLEASE read my whole many-year blog if you want to see Imperfection in action – I’m saying that there are always mentors, there is always prayer and meditation (if you are earnest and don’t find it objectionable), there is always community to help. Have a bad day? Cool. What do I do with my bad day? These days, for a little while at least, I’ve been able to forgive myself and dust off my knees and get going. I operate not out of self-pity, fear, and anger, but out of gratitude, humor, and some degree of humilty. String a few days together like that and this parenting thing can become a joy no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
I have the privilege of living in a home with my children and being able to give them my time. My time and my unconditional love are job #1. They will have plenty of adversity in their life and I am not frightened of it. My job is not to shield them unnecessarily; but also, not to organize the adversity for them. It is sad how many parents and carers are locked into doing just that.
I’m a bit hesitant to post a list several parents assembled on the ways we organize adversity for our children: “How To Screw Up Unschooling”. The list is helpful enough; but one thing I know is that parents often beat themselves up very badly and sometimes don’t even know they’re doing it. Parents expect themselves to be so-called “perfect” parents (mothers are pressured a great deal especially) and again, may not even know they’re doing it. The list – which is not at all confined to those who identify as “unschooling” or pro-unschooling – can be used as a series of life-changing opportunities. If you like, print it out without looking at it and have someone else slice it up into stack of slips. Work on each little scrap of paper for a week. Go easy. Be kind. Prepare to have your mind blown. It’s that fun.
Children are resilient. They shouldn’t have to be, but they are. Nevertheless, don’t let “children are resilient” be an excuse to continue ignoring that voice deep within that tells you how you are mistreating them, or how you are mistreating yourself (and therefore, them).
The real question is, are we resilient? Are we able to admit, “I’ve been doing _____ for a while now and I don’t want to do it any more.” That is the beginning of admitting we are faltering and being that much more open to asking someone for help. We are not the first person to be confronted with what seems like an impasse. Believe me, tangentially, as an alcoholic and a survivor, this process holds deep meaning. I can tell you that saying, “I’ve been doing _____ for a while now and I don’t want to do it any more” is a perfectly good start. Maybe you don’t know how you’ll ever change your reality, your habits, your circumstances. I’m here to tell you change is possible and the construct of No-Choice is an illusion and a choice in and of itself.
Admit where you’re living a way you no longer want to. Trust another human being and ask for help. You have only a better future to gain.
Before I forget. I wrote a piece about unschooling, and the many comments “skeptics” like to make. I hope you find it helpful.
Hot. Friends invited us to the River. Where we hid out. It was excellent.
NELS’ TEETH, I DIE EVERY TIME
A few pictures of a shy guy, my friend S. Whom I adore. My kids love him too. Kids are a good judge of a person.
My mom’s birthday. I made her a custom pincushion and got her flowers; then set up a surprise movie/dinner date complete with SUPER-SURPRISE birthday visit from my brother and his lady. Anyway here are the presents:
The local florist in Hoquiam is wonderful. Lucky to have some great businesses here.
Today The Atlantic features another post on radical unschooling. It is called “School’s Out Forever: Parents Who Don’t Believe in Education”. Despite the title (LE SIGH) It’s not the worst mainstream piece on unschooling I’ve seen (it’s sad I’m all jaded and shit! – but, my readers will remember recent history). ANYway I thought I’d publish my piece about the conference we attended. I’ll point out one thing: this is featured in the latest issue of Life Learning Magazine. They are a wonderful, independent publication and I’m grateful they find my work up to their caliber. I highly endorse them and hope you will support them.
My husband, two children, and I recently returned from our first-ever family-oriented convention: the Life is Good Unschooling Conference, traditionally held in May in the city of Vancouver, Washington, the United States. We didn’t have the financial capability for the registration fee, the hotel charge, and food on the road, so several months ago I asked blog readers if they’d financially assist. And assist they did, their aggregate donations funding the trip in full. I am – obviously – very grateful for this, and here I’d like to briefly mention a few reasons why.
My original desire to attend the conference was purely for the benefit of our two children. Full-stop. I knew they’d enjoy it (although I didn’t realize how much they would) but I didn’t have any particular expectations for my experience or that of my husband’s. Our position was similar to that of fellow life learning parent Amy Bradstreet, who wrote about her first unschooling conference two years ago:
Listen, I’ve never related much to the “find your tribe” mentality – yes, even when it comes to the so-called fringe activities or lifestyle choices that I sometimes believe I desperately need support for. The way I see it, the entire human race is my “tribe”, and if I’m looking for differences I’m cutting myself off from perceiving commonalities. Even though unschooling is considered by many a radical choice, the truth is schooling parents and carers are more similar to my husband and I than different. We genuinely want what’s best for our children, we seek out models and mentors to help us, we make mistakes and lose then find our way, and we can be plagued with distressing self-doubt sometimes (or, often).
So I don’t need a specific “tribe” to commit to unschooling, but even after this first experience I can relate several benefits from the Conference’s immersion environment.
One: bold and experienced mentorship. “Unschooling” (or life learning, or autodidactic education, or non-coercive parenting, et cetera) has been around a very long time, and some of the more passionate and brilliant minds of today are those attending conferences, giving talks, and writing books and magazine articles. This conference was stocked with attendees who had a lot to offer. I attended two sessions helmed by an always-unschooling parent who has four children aged thirty-three to nineteen – and I hung on this woman’s every word. I listened to the comments of another family who’d been featured in a frankly defaming way on a national television show (so in other words, had some experience with lots of public criticism). I got to watch grown children who’d been unschooled their whole lives, giving me future glimpses of potentiality for my now-tween children. Notably, in general the teens at the conference were more expressive and gentle, made more eye contact, and were imbued with more self-confidence than their schooled peers.
I also benefitted a great deal from the shared commonality of difficulties, framed in an unschooling context. We discussed how we sometimes felt alone, isolated, fearful, or “crazy” to have chosen unschooling. Surprise surprise, I am not the only parent who’s felt marginalized, mistrusted, and left out. I am also not the only parent who’s made mistakes and attempted lifestyle choices, large or small, that didn’t end up serving our best interests – while simultaneously lacking the support of those who understand and support an unschooling philosophy. Speaking about my experiences frankly while in a pro-unschooling environment? Priceless.
Third: the conference demystified some of the difficulties in what, living in a semi-rural area, I sometimes experience as a fragmented movement. As I joked to a childfree girlfriend once we returned home, unschoolers don’t seem to have that many controversies, really. Summing up: bedtimes, food, video games and/or television, and math. That’s all! (That’s not really it, but you might get my drift if you’ve been unschooling a while). And, news flash, those are hardly issues that schooling parents don’t struggle with! Seeing these difficulties reduced to only a handful of solvable situations was refreshing, and allowed me more space to consider what I want for my family. More than once I was reminded of the phrase: “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff.”
Meeting and talking with so many pro-feminist and anti-patriarchal fathers? Well… let’s just say my heart skipped a beat.
Finally, the conference provided me with a vision made real. I’ve long held that most of the social framings I’ve experienced (primarily white, west coast United States) are often profoundly adultist and kid-unfriendly. Children are age-segregated, institutionalized, coerced, talked over and about, denigrated, abused, distrusted, ignored, bossed and bullied, and under-supported. And a lot of this is considered not only our right but our cultural edict. At the Conference, with rare exception, we briefly lived in a different world entirely. Children were not merely tolerated, as so much of our culture seems to manage (or not), but were honored, assisted, helped, loved, and accepted. If a toddler ran down a hall people smiled and stepped aside. When teens grouped up in a hugging pile no one glared; we smiled. When a baby needed to nurse, people helped the baby’s mother get situated. Children and adults not related to one another spoke directly to one another, and not in the limited sentences I’m used to hearing (“What grade are you in?” “How’s school?”), but in terrifically more interesting ways.
In short, children and their carers weren’t treated as second-class citizens but just: citizens. And this vision bloomed throughout. As adults had set up this framework, in turn, many of the teens in this environment assisted and loved up on small children. And in turn the small children had already learned to respect their own voice and authenticity. You could see this in their demeanors, their agency, and the light in their eyes. They were not being forced to unlearn their own merit.
That’s a community, and a future, I can unabashedly align myself with.
Kelly Hogaboom is a wife to one, mother two two, and muse to … at least a dozen. She lives in rainy and lovely Hoquiam, Washington, huddled next door to her mother and living amongst all sorts of domestic pets. She enjoys B-movies, New Wave music (and new New Wave music), Mexican food, sewing, laughing, and snuggling her family and cats. You can read more about her experiences at Life is Good 2012 via her blog (https://kelly.hogaboom.org/?
First: a piece of mine, just published.
At bluemilk, the video for “Daddy Skills”. Which? Is awesome.
Some commentary on the different ways female vs. male bodies get treated, in the context of the Olympics.
One of the best interviews on public boners (or pseudo-boners) I’ve ever read.
On the ageism front: Hollywood & relating a bit to actual people’s actual problems. Yay!
The Radical Doula guide is out! Wow! I have a dream; raising enough to bring MZP to our community. Can you imagine?
Kristin Craig Lai tweeted me on an article on “invisible infirmities”. Very flattered; it’s a lovely piece.
Homemade graham crackers. I actually haven’t tried making these. But I’d like someone ELSE to bring me a batch.
Sylvia Plath’s drawings. Wonderful.
Someone sent this to me: Are you an emotional empath? Scary how many of the questions I answered Yes to (all but one and a half!).