Tuesday, June 30, 2009

10 honest things about me (meme)

Madeline tagged me for this tell-all mini-bio. Here ya go!

1. Death is an old friend; I look forward to it, although I’m not in a hurry to get there.

2. I have more friends than I admit to.

3. My best friend lives in New Orleans and I'm in Seattle. I'd like to hang out with him more often. I'd especially like to take a(nother) long sail with him, like maybe taking his boat from New Orleans to the Caribbean. Ahhhhhh!

4. Many of my/our friends are into vegetable gardening and even ranching-type stuff, at least things like having some chickens. I'm a city boy. That stuff creeps me out. CREEPS me out. Vegetables are in the vegetable section at the grocery and meat is in the meat section, in delightful, clean packages, too, not hanging from a hook as a blood-soaked carcass waiting to be butchered. It'll be a cold day in Hell (Dante's ninth level, as always, being the classic exception) before you see me gardening and we'll be scooping up pails of frozen oxygen to melt for our continued ability to breathe before you see me butchering an animal. I'll have a couple of nice, packaged, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thank you very much, Mr. Meat-counter Guy.

5. Observers tend to view me as brave, adventurous, and outgoing. Internally, I'm actually afraid of everything, especially other people. My chosen response to fear is to face it, therefore, I engage the thing I fear, which looks like "bravery."

6. I'd like to have a source of methaqualone (Quaaludes) so I could take a couple once in a while for fun. That would be my drug of choice over others I enjoy to a lesser extent, although a nicely-aged red wine is pretty good.

7. Belief in any sort of supernatural woo-woo befuddles me. Organized religion is obviously one of the biggies here but I do not exclude any form of magical thinking. Law of Attraction? Please! Gimme a break. Might as well join a cargo cult.

8. I'm a grammar fascist. We all mistype occasionally, me more than occasionally, and we get colloquial when chatting on the 'net. I accept that kinda thing. However, when I see execrable grammar, Greek syntax (or maybe it's Martian), phonics-inspired spelling of words or phrases which the user mispronounces (and therefore spells very strangely), etc., it makes me cringe. Big-time cringe.

9. I'm VERY nervous about playing music again in public with The Greybeards for the final dance at the Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference. I'm distinctly excited and delighted but I'm also nervous. I want it to be high-quality and extremely crowd-pleasing but I'm unsure of our ability to deliver that. We'll see.

10. I want to go into space. Desperately.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day maunders

On the SSUDs Yahoo!group, Ben challenged the group with this post:

Ben wrote:
>...I wish you all Happy Father's Day with a challenge to write
> something to the men in this group. There is no set topic, no set
> number of words, no set anything except to say what this day
> means to you.
> ...Celebrate your day with your children and take time to remember
> those special people in your lives who made you a father to begin
> with and who helped shape you as the father you are today.
> Peace -
> Ben

I took up that gauntlet with this reply, which I'm posting here for your consideration:


...snip meaningless intro...

My first thought on this day is about my dad, who just died this past January. He set me on the path to where I am and set an example greatly to be admired and emulated. No, he wasn't an unschooler. He was a somewhat traditional 50s dad; but within that context, he practiced many of the principles which we embody as unschoolers. He always listened. He thought before he spoke and said meaningful things, for which he established reasoned arguments. He was always respectful to me and my beliefs, even when we disagreed. I loved him and love him still and miss him intensely, especially today.

Despite an untraumatic, even pleasant, family upbringing, I was a broken child and young adult. I still am to some extent but I've healed over the years and my wife, my kids, and my unschooling "tribe" have helped me immensely in that. Moreso than years of expensive shrinks, although they did get me to a reasonable starting point.

Deciding to be a father was a very difficult thing for me. I thought of myself as broken and inept and imagined, and feared, just how terrible I'd be as a parent. I was desperately intimidated; but we did it anyway, mostly because I had infinite faith in Ronnie's ability to be a fabulous mom and help me be a (hopefully) competent dad.

The early years were tough but I definitely had that instant gestalt the moment our eldest, MJ, popped out. Same with Chloe when she arrived. They were mine and I was theirs and that was infinite and eternal. We always leaned in the unschoolish direction with attachment parenting, family bed, etc.; but we were fumbling around a lot, too. As we discovered the principles of unschooling and waded deeper and deeper into that ocean, things improved more and more.

Just as unschooling is, for us, more of a weltanschauung than merely an educational philosophy, being a father is more than just having children. To me, it means being a husband and partner to my exquisite wife, Ronnie. We're a team. It certainly means being a father to my girls. We're a team. The four of us together comprise another variant on the team theme.

Being a father also means participating in, and belonging to, the world around me and not just sitting quietly, being an observer. I have learned from my family and blossomed within my own inner geography as much as the kids have blossomed and grown into the wide world around them. As with most kinds of growth, it's difficult to see the changes on a daily or short-term basis. It's when you look back over a longer period that you really see, and are amazed by, the amount of growth that has happened.

My critical observation in that context for this Father's Day is that it was just this year that I finally looked at myself and my place in our family and decided that I really was no longer a broken thing, limping through life, hoping to simply make it to death without fucking up incredibly badly. I had been that very thing once upon a time; but objectively, it had been a LONG time since I had actually been that sad creature. It was only inside my own self-image that that entity still existed. My wife and children had healed me and I didn't even realize it.

So, this Father's Day, I am thankful to be the husband of Ronnie, father of MJ and Chloe, and a functional member of a nonpareil family. They are the ones who made me a father, not only in the limited, dictionary-level meaning of the word but also in the broader context of being a fellow traveller with them on the Great Road of Life.

Like T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland, I began in the dolorous state of "April is the cruellest month" and expected to be J. Alfred Prufrock but wound up back at the end of The Wasteland in the peace which surpasseth all understanding: "Shantih, shantih, shantih!" Who'd'a thunk it?

How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A little blues for youse

Once upon a time (sometime during Winter2004/Spring2005 to be more precise), Ronnie was doing a contract at Microsoft and having some difficulties with some coworkers. I felt moved to write a blues tune for her. It was when we had our exchange student, Chiara, here; so the three girls (Chloe, MJ, and Chiara) are the backup singers on this little ditty. We recorded it on the crappy computer mike, with my OLD guitar, affectionately called "the canoe paddle," and emailed it to her. She was amused, which was the point.

And now, for your amusement, the Technicolor Tech Writer Blues.

I recently rediscovered this on a "lost" CD, that's why you're getting stuck listening to it now.

The new family look. (wink)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meet Wolfgang

Once the spending starts, it's like a snowball. Because I have a new guitar, OF COURSE I need a new amp. Here's Wolfgang:

Fender Princeton 65. I've always loved Fender amps and I got a great deal on this guy on craigslist. 65 loud watts of Fender power. Not adequate to even be heard as part of the BHD but good enough for me here and now, even in a good-sized space, like, say, for instance, the ballroom at Good Vibrations.

Monday, June 08, 2009

New and improved: the UNschooling Meme!

New Improved UNschooling set, by Linda Wyatt:

1. Original question: What time do you get up? Unschooling version: What sleep schedules do people in your house have? Do you all have fairly similar schedules, or not? Are you the kind of people who wish things were open 24/7?
We all tend to be nightowls in somewhat varying degrees. Chloe is the one who most often is up all night, waking in the afternoon. When she was very little and first learned the word "nocturnal," she declared herself to be "noc-noc" because she could be up in the day, too, if she wanted. "Diurnal" sounded too much like being killed in a men's public bathroom so she simply avoided that word. (Just kidding.)
I always want things to be open 24/7/365. The internet has made shopping and research pretty convenient that way. But why do Washington (state) bars close at 2 am? Bars CLOSING!? That, I'll never understand.

2. Original question: What do your children wear to school?Unschooling version: Do you know any good sources for great stuff to wear? Some examples: vests with lots of pockets, good boots, lightweight jackets with a sleeve pocket for pens, comfortable cotton tees with interesting designs. Anything you have that you love that other people might not know about?
Well, I'm a shorts and T-shirt with a pair of Crocs kinda guy, so my couture is pretty generically obtained. For more specialized wear, I love R.E.I.

3. Original question: What curriculum have you tried and hated? What have you tried and loved?Unschooling version: Any good references to suggest? Websites, catalogs, whatever? Any that you have found that tend to be suggested by folks, that you really didn't find useful? Favorite books?
There's a math site I like: cut-the-knot
Generally, I enjoy the serendipitous learning of just Googling a phrase and seeing what resources appear.
Yes, books are a favorite of mine.

4. Original question: Who is your most inspirational homeschooling role model?Unschooling version: How did you decide to unschool? Do you have any good sources of info to share? Anyone in particular who helped you make this choice?
Ronnie and I came to unschooling from different processes which converged through our continuing discussion about educational philosophy from the very beginning of our decision to be parents. I read Holt and others starting in the 60s. Ronnie connected online with the "first generation" unschoolers. Eventually, those two different paths braided together into what we're doing as a family.

5. Original question: Abeka, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or Classical?Unschooling version: What kinds of ways do your family members learn about stuff these days?
Well, I'm tempted to say that we find out about things from the world around us. Then, when we decide a particular thing is interesting, we pursue knowledge of that thing in whatever ways seem appropriate: Internet, apprenticeship, networking (although I dislike the usual context of that word), etc.

6. Original question: Favorite response to “What about socialization?”Unschooling version: How do you talk to people who ask clueless questions about unschooling? Any favorite stories? Suggestions for dealing with family members who are fearful or critical?
This question conjures up a StarTrek moment for me. Spock has been brought back to life and Bones asks him about death. Spock replies that they have no shared experience of knowledge to have a worthwhile discussion. Bones incredulously asks if he hasta die to discuss death. Spock blandly responds, "Of course."
I have a layered approach for this question, more in the interest of not wasting my own time than from any philosophical imperative. For casual questioners, I simply say that it's like unit studies and the kids concentrate on a topic and explore all the components that go into it. For people who genuinely want more info, I'll talk a little bit about coercion vs. autodidacticism and recommend that they read Holt or some of the now-prolific 'net resources. Choice is a big concept for me.

7. Original question: Favorite subject?Unschooling version: What are you guys up to these days? What are you doing that is so terrific that you think others should hear about it?
I'm a little, just a little, uncomfortable with the context of the second part this question, not just here, but in general. Why should we be doing something so terrific that others MUST hear about it? It (slightly) implies that unschoolers are superior beings who are doing superior things in superior ways. We're just regular folks doing regular things, mostly. Sometimes we do unusual things in unusual ways, but that's just how *we* are. The core thing we're doing that's so wonderful that others MUST hear about it is that we're having fun with our kids, living our lives without wasting our precious time bending to societal expectations which are poorly conceived or often even flat-out dumbass dunderheaded.
For the first, simple question, we are, variously: Writing, drawing, reading, travelling, talking to and hanging with friends, playing music, planning some rock climbing and camping, contemplating a SCUBA trip to the Caymans, and proving that 1=0:
1. (n+1)^2=n^2+2n+1 basic algebra
2. (n+1)^2-(2n+1)=n^2 Euclid's common notation
3. (n+1)^2-(2n+1)-n(2n+1)==n^2-n(2n+1) Euclid again
4. (n+1)^2-(n+1)(2n+1)=n^2-n(2n+1) ordinary factoring
5. (n+1)^2-(n+1)(2n+1)+(2n+1)^2/4=n^2-n(2n+1)+(2n+1)^2/4 Euclid again
6. [(n+1)-(2n+1)/2]^2=[n=(2n+1)/2]^2 basic algebra
7. (n+1)-(2n+1)/2=n-(2n+1)/2 square root of both sides
8. n+1=n Euclid again
Therefore, 1=0 inevitable deduction
(FYI, step 7 is the "cheat." It's an inaccurate use of square roots.)
Fun, huh? We party HARD at the Maier house!

8. Original question: Favorite field trip ever?Unschooling version: Been anywhere cool? Where? Have any stories to share about adventures you've had? I'd be especially interested in hearing about adventures to places that few people know about. Pictures, too.
This the one where I could go on and on and on…
When Chloe was still in diapers, we lived one Winter in a condo on the beach in Destin, FL. We've taken several long roadtrips around the Western US. In the context of obscure recommendations: Hovenweep National Monument was a delightful and rarely visited site. I like Estrella Sailport, near Phoenix, for flying gliders. We had a lovely 2-week sail in the Virgin Islands in 2001. Our most adventurous adventure was, of course, our 2005 planned Caribbean circumnavigation which turned into a hurricane-dodge-'em ride. Last year we visited Italy and Ireland. In general, we like to travel!

9. Original question: Best thing about homeschooling?Unschooling version: we can pretty much leave this one as-is. What have you found to be the most rewarding about how your family lives?Connectedness. My kids are not strangers whom I see for a coupla hours in the evenings after school. We have time together and we get to KNOW each other and interact in significant ways. My kids are FASCINATING people. It's amazing.

10. Original question: Sports, music, or art?Unschooling version: I still don't know where to go with this question. Care to share any interesting things you've done or are doing in any of these fields? Anything you've had time to delve into that you might not have if you were busy doing schoolwork?
Chloe does art most consistently in our household but MJ and Ronnie have been know to dabble also. I love and appreciate art but have no talent myself. We all love music and now have 4 guitars (2 acoustic, 1 acoustic-electric, and 1 electric), 1 bass (electric), 1 piano, 1 synthesizer, and a lotta drums around the house. (I think this count is accurate.) The girls have both dabbled in a variety of sports but haven't gotten intense about any one in particular. If MJ were in school, she wouldn't have had time to volunteer at the horse rescue place where she met and interacted with a variety of people, learned a lot of "real-life" job skills, and got to indulge her love of horses.

11. Original question: Beautiful script handwriting, or lightning fast accurate typing?Unschooling version: Don't know where to go with this question, either, since I don't really understand why it was even asked. Make something up.
Seems to me the root of this question comes from that belief that doing handwriting is important. Over the years I've seen lots of homeschoolers seriously discussing the hand-copying of Bible verses as a necessary root of learning. Or that being a good typist is a fallback job skill.
I spent a career in the context of language arts as a librarian, editor, indexer, and technical writer (and made some good money!) without being a competent typist.

12. Original question: Best one stop shopping for school books?Unschooling version: Best place to get books? Or other things, too, like some of those fabulous websites that have all sorts of really cool toys and equipment. Where do you find cool stuff?
Library. REI. Yachtworld. Aerotrader. BVI Yacht Charters. Etc.

13. Original question: One subject you didn’t get to this week:Unschooling version: What do you wish you had time for this week that you didn't fit in?
In the last few years, our time has been so occupied with doings and goings-on that I typically wish for more quiet time, maybe to read, maybe to just sit and think.

14. Original question: What will you do when you run out of kids to teach?Unschooling version: What ways have you found to continue your own learning? What kinds of things have you gotten interested in since having kids? Do you have any particular plans once fewer people live in your house, whenever that may be?
After I survived school, my desire for learning started to revive. Yes, it had been pretty well dimmed by schooling; but even school couldn't quench it. I've always loved to learn new stuff. Significant or trivial, it makes no difference.
When we're "empty-nesting," Ronnie and I will probably (continue to) travel a lot. I suspect one or both girls will still join us occasionally. Or frequently.

15. Original question: Ever give school books as holiday or Birthday gifts?Unschooling version: What's the best book gift you have ever given? Gotten?
Impossible question. Too many answers.

16. Original question: Better late or early (delay formal education at home, or start as young as possible?)Unschooling version: Are there some things you find you prefer a class structure for? What alternatives have you found for learning things most people think can only happen in a class? Do different members of your family have different learning styles, and if so, can you tell me a little about that and how it has affected how you do things?
I've always (since age 10, anyway) done sword-related martial arts, starting with European fencing in New Orleans, then kendo and iaido in Seattle. These only exist in a structured, "class" environment, although, interestingly, the classic Japanese mode does NOT use "teaching." One is supposed to simply watch the sensei and LEARN how to do it. So, it's unschoolish in a very structured, "class-ish" way, although in most American dojos, the sensei does provide "instruction."
Aside from that, a class structure may be useful for teachers and/or bureaucrats but not so much for students/learners.
All of us in this family have fairly similar learning styles, conveniently. That does streamline the process for us.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

[Lame] Homeschool meme

Taken from Sandra's FaceBook:

[Disclaimer added Sunday at midday: The [lame] tag describing this meme in no way implies that lameness is, in and of itself, inherently endemic to things done by Sandra Dodd, whether originated or passed on by her. So Sandra, is that sufficient? Will you now get your team of lawyers to stop calling and knocking on my door. They woke me up!]

The subjects:

1. What time do you get up?
Usually 10ish but on any given day something else might be going on. Chloe is often awake on the PM shift. MJ varies.

2. What do your children wear to [UN!]school?
I thought this was a homeschooling quiz! We wear what Fergus calls "life clothes," [That phrase was actually first used by Marty Dodd with Fergus in Corvallis, Or.!] sometimes know as pajamas. Or shorts. Or whatever we feel like wearing. I usually at least put on some underwear before I come downstairs from my room. Otherwise the girls, if they're up, make rude noises at me.

3. What curriculum have you tried and hated? What have you tried and loved?
Curriculum? We ain't got no curriculum. We don't need no curriculum! I don't have to show you any stinkin' curriculum!

4. Who is your most inspirational homeschooling role model?
MJ and Chloe.

5. Abeka, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or Classical?

6. Favorite response to “What about socialization?”
My favorite response is: How's your wife and my kids?
But seriously, folks, Chloe recently flew home from Atlanta (and, Boy!, are her arms tired!); she was visiting friends there. We drove to the San Francisco Bay area over the Christmas holidays to visit friends there. Friends from England stayed with us just before the LIFE is Good conference. We hung out with several hundred friends at the conference itself. Etc. ad nauseum.

7. Favorite subject?

8. Favorite field trip ever?
Each of our big trips has been a unique experience. Hell, even our little trips are interesting experiences. Favorite trip is like picking favorite daughter.

9. Best thing about homeschooling?
Independence from the schedule and structure of "normal" society.

10. Sports, music, or art?
Yes, thank you.

11. Beautiful script handwriting or lightning fast accurate typing?
Neither fucking one. My penmanship is shit and my typing is only marginally better and pretty slow. Oh, you mean the kids? I dunno. Who cares?

12. Best one-stop shopping for school books?
Again, I thought this was a homeschooling meme. I'm doing a strikethrough on "school." Now, I can answer. Library. And: Amazon, used book stores, new book stores, et al.

13. One subject you didn’t get to this week:
I always use a subject with my verbs. Otherwise, they get lonely. Verbs are just so fucking needy.

14. What will you do when you run out of kids to teach?
My kids, my wife, and I will never stop learning, sometimes separately, sometimes together, sometimes in interesting combinations with others. Learning is eternal.

15. Ever give school books as holiday or birthday gifts?
Do I look like an asshole? Don't answer that. I have given interesting books as presents.

16. Better late or early (delay formal education at home, or start as young as possible?)
No "formal education" ever, thank you very much.

Learning and playing together. That's how we roll.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Say hello to my little friend!

I was totally self-indulgent today. Meet Marty.

He's an Ibanez GAX70 in a beautiful rich red.