Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Connecting...the gumdrops

We have had a rash of good days. Flowy days. Days of connecting. And then we didn't. I have been thinking a lot of how we do things around here - the girls have some good friends here who had their first day in public school (in grades one and five) on Monday (followed by 2 snow days!), and it has stirred things a bit for us. The girls don't usually wonder too much about what goes on across the street at the elementary school, except to wonder if anyone brought pocket change for our bake sale or to lament that they are all inside on a beautiful spring day when we are in the woods. But it's normal to wonder why you're not "getting" to do what your friend is doing, never mind that you'd be in a different grade and only get to wave in her direction before and after school - they of course don't realize that. They also don't really get that you go to school every day. Every day. All day. Not when you feel like it or when you have nothing better to do. Anyway - I'm stirring it up here way more than necessary, but of course it makes me process things; I'm a muller. Then - thank heavens! - a day happened that encapsulated what I want for us on a more regular basis. In a nutshell, it went like this: we got up, things were buzzing from the start. Eliza had another story she wanted to write, and throughout the day she completed it and happily added punctuation as I read it through with her ("full stop!"). Ani decided to read our kids' cookbook and delighted that she could read enough of the words to match up with the pictures and figure out the "experiments" (all right, so recipes around here are often experiments). Eliza has been working on figuring out a second part to a song on the piano, so she spent a while noodling around until it sounded right to her. Move on to the girls reading through Ask, a new magazine Eliza is getting - this issue is all about ice (it's awesome - ice art, the ice man...), and she was actually reading parts of it to Ani and then wanted help from me on a bit that explains how ice happens. Suddenly we are playing a game - I'm turning up the heat on the stove and they're water molecules that are turning to steam and running around flailing their gaseous arms, and then I'm taking them off the stove and letting them cool to their liquid form and then I'm sticking them in the freezer - it was quick but fun and then they wanted to experiment to see how long it takes ice to become steam, and could they melt ice cubes on the stove? Run to the kitchen to heat 3 ice cubes and time how long it takes (2 minutes 37 seconds) to melt and how much longer to boil and release steam (8 more seconds)...and on and on this day went. And all it required of me was that I Be Here - available - and that I be willing to GO! All of this - which took about ten minutes total, then on to the next thing - I could have put into a little lesson, as I have in the past. Read a couple of books with them about water and ice, explain the little game to them, lead them through an experiment - and it all would have gone so much differently. As in poorly. I could have *required* that Eliza write a story about X,Y,Z, I could have put playing the piano on a list of things to do that day. The response would not have been positive. Yes, I can introduce them to new things, I can offer, but really, they are not there unless they are interested and engaged, and if I can be here and be available then we are going to have more of these days.

So. What about when your head is somewhere else, your mood is down the toilet and you're not feeling all that great? Those days happen around here, oh, about every three weeks or so. And then what? Well, I can only speak to today. Two things worked for us today (oh, the bickering! oh, the sassiness! oh, the attitude and the death stares!! really? at seven??) - going outside to sled - wheeeeeeeee! - and looking to my fellow bloggers for a little inspiration (Mom in Madison and OrdinaryLifeMagic). They never, and I really mean never, let me down...


Merry said...

How many of those yummy gumdrops got eaten?!!! I love the creations and the spontaneous way the girls declared the run of the day! Looks like you've lost another hat, Deb!

Stephanie said...

Wull that's certainly a lovely thing to hear!

I absolutely love days like this - when the babes are so engaged and excited, and all I can do is hang on for the ride!

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I've been just watching, (that's not to say that I don't regularly make offerings and feel happy with doing so - just as we talk about things and play games that Maddie and Trev initiate. It doesn't matter who started it, the Joy for the individuals and for the family is what matters) and how I wish people could just... See.
Particularly when you want it (days, experiences) to look and feel like stardust, and it seems more like a nasty bout with the flu.
Unschooling is hard work, it's true - it's difficult to quiet down The Worries sometimes (but not when you look at the objective and arbitrariness of the System) and it does require Being Here and being available.
I read a snippet on a homeschool Mama's blog a couple of months ago (not anyone I have read before or since) something like "We're not unschoolers... I just don't have that kind of energy!" and it made me smile. :)
The thing is - it is exhausting at first, but then you just get used to it, and it becomes the norm.
It's like the first time you spend four-and-a-half hours at a park. You think "holymoly! Wow. Yay, Me! What a nice Mama thing to do... to let the babies play for four-and-a-half hours!"
And you go home exhausted (but fulfilled), and stay at home for four days to recover :).... and then a year later it's the norm. It's just what you Do.

And you start leaving the water colors on the lower shelves where they can be easily accessed, and you make sure you always have food coloring, and you throw a couple of boxes of jello for experiments or play into your cart every two or three months, and your start remembering at night what your child asked that you didn't look up that day and you put that on your mental list for tomorrow...
and there you have it.

Did I get totally off track??? I suspect that I did. What was the question?

It does take off on its own. Magnificently, sometimes.
My husband says it (the system, or tears at the kitchen table) is because people like to jump through hoops... our family is more like "leave the arena altogether." :)

Stacy (Mama-Om) said...

Hello dear Debbie <3

Sigh... I have been tired the last couple of days... just tired and that is when I want to be alone and that is when my kids want me all the more. When I'm not centered/grounded, they come after me, and we get into a running-away loop.

But, unlike a year ago, when I would have been in total despair and blackness about "my inability to be home with my kids or provide them with what they need," right now I feel more contemplative. Like, yeah, I'm still figuring out how to do "it" on the days when I'm tired. How can accept these days as part of the overall rhythm? How can I create a habit of acceptance but also a habit of turning these days around, of finding connection that is nourishing and real?

I still don't know, or maybe I do know. :)

Love you,

P.S. I didn't want my amazement at your ice day to get lost in the shuffle. Those days are absolutely magical!