Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Vacation

Summer vacation officially started this week for all of the kids on our block. Since we basically unschool, the school calendar means little to us. But having the neighborhood kids home has certainly changed our days.

We are so very blessed to live on a block with a bunch of really great kids ranging from 13 on down to 17 months. These kids shatter all of our self-righteous homeschool stereotypes about public school kids. They're creative, kind, they know how to play with kids of all ages. They're really great kids. And, also shattering stereotypes, they're not over scheduled. With the exception of the one family with two parents working full time, the kids are home pretty much all day every day. And they play outside pretty much all day every day.

My kids run out the door after breakfast and I have to drag them in kicking and screaming for lunch and then again for dinner. It's awesome.

The kids are basically running their own summer camp. Today's mission was to catch a garden snake. As far as I know, they didn't actually make the catch, but they sure have had a lot of fun in the pursuit.

The other evening as I was making dinner I looked out my window and saw all 12 of the block's kids playing  in my backyard. A visiting grandma had wandered over to help supervise and as it got closer to dinner a few moms showed up chat and collect their children.

I love all of this. I do. But I have to admit, I kind of miss my kids! Especially my oldest. He's so darn self sufficient now at the ripe old age of 7, that I hardly see him at all. He did come in with a splinter today. That was a nice way to make me feel needed.

It gives me such hope when I look and see these kids playing and interacting the way they do. I see that it is possible for kids to be schooled in a variety of ways and come out great. I see that "kids these days" are intelligent, creative, kind, and respectful.

On the other hand, it makes me that much more thankful for the closeness that homeschool provides. I can't imagine what I'd be missing if my kids were away from me all day, every day, all year round.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Montessori at Home: Spice Smelling

When my oldest, now 7, was a baby, I was very excited about creating a Montessori atmosphere in my home. I love Montessori's philosophy and the beauty of Montessori materials. But at some point I realized that what many of Montessori's "practical life" and "sensory" activities are trying to replicate occur quite naturally in the home. Maria Montessori was working with institutionalized children who did not have the luxury of the rich learning environments found naturally in today's middle class American homes.

There's nothing wrong with creating Montessori materials for your home, but if you're short on time, trays, and baskets, don't feel like you're cheating your child. Just open your spice cabinet.

My 17 month old and I spent about 25 minutes smelling spices this morning.

Nice fine motor component - taking off the lid. 

 Mmmmmm. . . red pepper flakes

Mmmmm. . . rosemary

Putting the lid back on.

Here, Mom! You smell.

Sad because he spilled spices on his toes and he doesn't like the mess.

After a good 20 minutes he expanded the activity from smelling to dumping. He pulled out a measuring cup and started pouring spices into it. This is when I got tired of the activity. I wasn't in the mood to clean up a huge spice mess. Or to waste my spices. Plus I was tired of standing up. So we moved on.

Sometimes when I'm browsing Pinterest and all of the amazing mommy blogs, I start to feel like I should do more for my kids. My point in sharing this is to recognize the good stuff that happens spontaneously.

So tell me, what are some of your natural environment learning successes?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I may regret this . . .

I may regret this, and it's certainly off topic for this blog, but with all the broohaha over gay marriage/civil unions both locally and nationally, and with all of the Facebook updates I see from my friends on both sides of the issue, I just feel like I need to voice my opinion on the issue somewhere.

And I'm probably going to upset everyone of you.

Here's the thing. I believe the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage and sexuality. I believe that sex is perhaps God's most powerful gift to us. Through this intimate act of love we can join with God and actually be a part of the creation of an immortal soul. That's mind blowing really. What else can you do that results in the creation of something that will last for all of eternity? Because of the power of this act, God has asked us to observe guidelines regarding it's use. There's tons of stuff on the internet about this, if you care to read more, but I'm not here to convince you. I really don't care whether you agree with me or the Church. You're not going to change my mind, and I'm not trying to change yours.

Okay, so I take the very unpopular view that engaging in homosexual acts is a sin. Mind you I also believe that contraception and co-habiting are sins. Lots of things are sins. I commit sins every day. I don't think there's anything special about your sins or my sins. We're all sinners. All sin is bad. Again, unpopular views, but I'm just saying what I believe in case anyone cares. Which you probably don't. Which is fine.

But here's the thing. I really, really don't understand why my fellow Catholics are all up in a tizzy about the legal status of "gay marriage." I keep getting emails and Facebook messages about the armageddon-esque horrors about to be inflicted on our state because of the civil unions bill. Because the thing is, the state doesn't define marriage. God does. I'm not married because I have a piece of paper from the state of Colorado. I'm married because I took vows in front of God pledging to stand by my man 'til death do us part. Frankly, I'm annoyed that the Church required us to get a marriage license from the state. Because the state has nothing to do with making us married.

When we bought our house, there was some confusion in the paperwork because the woman we were buying it from was married to a man who was not yet legally divorced from his previous wife. But he'd presented a "get" to his former wife which, according to Jewish law, ended the marriage and made them each free to remarry. I truly admired that this couple placed God's law above man's law in their affairs.

I don't see what harm it causes if two adults receive the benefits available to married couples. There are laws that allow non-married heterosexual couples living "in sin" to receive these benefits and I don't see my fellow Catholics up in arms over this horrible celebration of sin. And if the state suddenly recognizes gay marriage, it doesn't make those marriages any more valid than they currently are.

I'm truly embarrassed by all of the hysteria over the "homosexual agenda." It seems to me if half of this energy was put into something really important - like finding ways to prevent the slaughter of unborn children - we'd all be a lot better off.