The Country Mystique

Beautiful Fruit Orchard

For years now, I’ve been wanting to move to the country where neighbors are just out of sight, there is no traffic, and there is open space for the soul!

At this point in my travels I’ve had a revelation.  I love the idea of growing my own food, but there are things I would rather spend my time doing.  There are things I want to paint, and things I want to write.  There are online communities I want to create and foster and imbue with life and energy. there are projects uncountable I want to undertake with my kids, and travels to avail myself of with my husband.

At this moment I want a home that will be most fulfilling for childrearing and for my children themselves.  I want cozy and beautiful but not time intensive. I want busy but not hectic.  I want every one of us to be pursuing our passions.  I want us not tied up with house and yard maintenance, farming or cooking or cleaning.  All of those things are good, but when they come at the expense of what you are meant to be doing, the joy of them will rot and life becomes a drudgery.

I want to live close enough to town that we don’t have to drive to get there.  And I want it to be a town I LOVE.

I want dance classes and flute lessons for Ada.  I want lots of friends–the wonderful, forever, deep-down kind of friends, not mere acquaintances and nice neighbors.  And I want my kids to be able to walk to their friends’ houses, and the library, and beautiful parks or creeks, or woods.

I want local farms to buy from or trade with, and for my kids to spend time on.

I want stunning scenery as a backdrop to my life.

I want the kind of culture that is full of theatre troops and homeschool entrepreneurships. Surprising people with varied experiences and conclusions, and new ideas and great, glowing projects that rip across your day or your life with the tremendous energy of their ingenuity.  I want diversity and trades, and people to apprentice with.

I’m not describing country life…

I want alternative design and alternative energy. I want sustainability and self-sufficiency. I want the time, money and energy not spent on a mortgage and utilities to be available for crafting and art, for trading with or buying from local artisans, for soul food, and theatre and classes, bright ideas and daring endeavors!

Don’t let anyone say wanting is not a valuable pasttime.  It proves the world contains beautiful possibilities and it fuels the human intellect.  It is both the reason for and the result of our imaginations. Don’t forget to ask yourself what you want.

Dedicated to Amanda, who is invited to join me anytime.  Remember when we had this written on our dormroom wall?

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

Petrified Wood

7 year old discovering petrified wood in Arizona

In Arizona, Ada and I were thrilled to find both Kokopelli and petrified wood.  If you don’t have time for the Petrified Forest, don’t worry.  The stuff is everywhere and how cool is it that trees from the Triassic Period were preserved all this time by Nature for us to marvel at or study (depending on your inclination) today and tomorrow, too?

These trees must have been submerged in water or mud before they deteriorated.  The individual cells deteriorated anyway, leaving hollow husks that filled with mineral rich water and when the water evaporated, the minerals hardened in the tree-cells so that now we have rocks that are also trees.  I can hardly stand it, it’s so cool!

By the way, the brown color of the tree cells is replaced with whatever color is the predominant color of the mineral that took it’s place.  Iron is red, for example. Calcium is white.  Some of the trees contain veritable rainbows–shocking color revealed at the slice like a geode!

petrified tree stumps

colors in petrified wood

Boston

David Rosenfield in Boston MA

Boston was fantastic. The city has a strong and endearing personality and we quite fancied each other. Firstly, these New England cities are not really built for Rvs. The lanes are skinny, the quarters cramped, little parking, few lots, low clearance underpasses, one way streets up and down steep hills with the parked cars on either side threatening at every moment to encroach upon the bit of pavement in between which calls itself a driving lane. Side mirrors beware!

Yet do-able. David drove us to Cambridge the first day and we found a parking spot on the street right away. But after a dead battery, the discovery that AAA in Massachuesetts does not cover Recreational Vehicles (and what’s the point of having a membership that doesn’t cover an RV if an RV is your only vehicle?), paying out of our very slim pocket for a jump start, hurrying up and waiting for the tow truck to arrive to do the jump start so we can then drive Benny to an AutoZone to charge up our batteries before they close in—yikes, 12 minutes!

After all that, and nightfall, David was soured on Boston. Please, I say, we have to at least see where the police and the traffic made way for ducklings! And, sucker for good literature that he is, David agreed and drove us to the Boston Public Gardens and we loved Boston!

Again, we found street parking. It took driving up and down the streets for a few minutes but when we found it, it was just across the street from the entrance with the ducklings—the very corner illustrated in the book. So we enjoyed our day, and drove quite a ways out to find a Kmart we could park in that night because Boston is not the sort of place to have stores with big parking lots and when we did pause in the big parking lot of the grocery store we patronized, signs were posted limiting our stay to two hours, and only because we were customers.

And, while Boston was do-able, we decided to take a bus the next day. We left Benny at Kmart in the prestigious company of Rihanna’s tourbus which had also found refuge in this outskirt of Boston after her performance in the city the night before. And the rest of us hopped a bus into Boston and hopped off in the historical district. It may be worth noting that this was our first family bus ride.

parking with Rihanna
parking with Rihanna

We gave ourselves a tour of sites with historical significance, listened in on some tour guides, read some gravestones, and ate lunch on the grass. A well dressed, older couple were full and gave their last piece of pizza to us and we took it (David and Annabelle split it). How is this different, David wondered, from when the scuzzy guy at a concert offered us the rest of his popcorn and we declined? It just was different, that’s all.

Photobucket

Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep
Sitting on Paul Revere's doorstep

Photobucket

Photobucket

Old North Church
Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Garden outside the Old North Church
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere
Ada and Annabelle with Paul Revere

Photobucket

Balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was Read
Boston first heard the Declaration of Independence read from this balcony. Can you imagine the chills running up and down their spines?
lunch on the grass in Boston
Ada took our picture

And after all that history, we were ready for the Boston Public Gardens again so we walked to the Gardens and David whisked out his guitar and busked in a thoroughfare while the rest of us played on the adjacent playground and a drizzle joined us. Then we made our way through the drizzle back to the bus stop where we rode the bus the wrong way to the end of the line and back again, safe and sound, to Benny. Rhianna was gone, but we spent a second night, hit Trader Joe’s in the morning, and bid adieu to Boston.

David Rosenfield busking at the Boston Public Gardens
David busking at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

playing at the Boston Public Gardens

Cincinnati Zoo

Thank you, John and Christal for the wonderful gift: tickets to the zoo!  Annabelle hasn’t been to a zoo since she was a baby and she LOVED it! We all loved it, but it was Annabelle’s first time seeing animals bigger that a pet–can you say rhinoceros?

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

And the best part? Ada found flowers named Serena (her best friend)!

Photobucket

Cincinnati with Family

Photobucket

The beautiful home that Jeff and Reda have made in Alexandria Kentucky is an oasis of peace, lovliness, and blooming flowers, conveniently located real darn close to our destination of Cincinnati Ohio.

After a series of Walmart hotels over the prior week, then a couple of hours driving through the serene bluegrass hills, we reached their house where we were so glad to see family and spend a most pleasant couple of nights and mornings, interspersed with days in the more hectic world of Cincinnati.

The first night was the best, when Jeff brought out his gigantic homemade telescope and a little step ladder so Ada could climb up to see what she could see: the rings of Saturn, for one, as well as stars and maybe solar systems.

Photobucket

Ada peers into space.

The next day and even occasionally now, a month later, she was overheard singing a song she wrote about the relative heat of various stars and informed me matter-of-factly that if our sun was the size of Beetlejuice, the Earth would be inside the sun!  And a few days after the telescoping session she drew this picture in chalk on driveway:
Photobucket

Here she is learning how a telescope works:
Photobucket

Thanks for having us, and feeding us, and keeping such a pretty place to be a rest stop on our travels!

Jeff and grand-neph (that rhymes)

Unschooling

“I guess my ideal educational system would be a society in which knowledge was widely free and widely and freely shared, and children were everywhere trusted, respected, safe, valued, and welcomed . . . I think practically anything we do to help is mostly going to be harmful except for very limited things – answering questions, showing people things if they ask you, being there as a kind of friendly, sympathetic companion if they have things to talk about, giving them comfort if they need that.” ~John Holt

My mother told me about a now-grown woman she met who was unschooled and seemed to have no knowledge of any subject but fashion magazines.  I told her that was very surprising and not like any unschooler I had heard of.  It was several minutes later in the conversation before I realized this woman wasn’t really unschooled–she was a product of the public school system and my mom was calling her unschooled as synonymous with “neglected education.”

But that’s the thing, I think the public school education is prone to neglect.  Those poor teachers have to lecture to 30 students at a time–of course some of them are neglected!  When you are unschooling, there is no neglect possible because you are not relying on a teacher to educate you.

Unschooling is the opposite.  Unschooling is, like the point of this blog, following passions.  And following passions is ALWAYS educational, regardless of age, time of day or year, or proximity to a schoolroom.  Following passions leads to deep understanding and CARING about a subject.  It leads to fascination with other subjects and an awareness of how different “subjects” fit together so snugly that sometimes the lines between are blurred and any attempt to partition them and teach them separately can be seen as ridiculous and futile.  When you are unschooling, you learn about the world, instead of subjects.

Why should a person choose to unschool?  Unschooling is a good choice if you are too busy with this fascinating world to take time out for education.

For example, maybe you need to sleep during school hours so you can stay up to watch the lunar eclipse.  As a parent, I have a role, but it is no more complicated than the kind of mindful parenting we all strive for whether our children go to school or not: attention, encouragement, sharing, and being willing to listen and learn from my children.

Read what some unschoolers have to say on the subject:

Why Unschool

Yes, I can Write!

And I really enjoyed this fun video addressing common homeschooling peeves (not specific to unschooling):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1z_zMtofvY&feature=related

As for the specific case of my six year old daughter, Ada, I pointed out to my mother that she already has interests and knowledge far surpassing the grown “unschooler” my mother described.  And my mother agreed.  It’s not because I or anyone else had a list of subjects that should be covered.   It’s because, living in this world as she does, she became interested in words, numbers, shapes, and sounds.  It’s because grandma told her that the direction North had shifted, and showed her pictures of Mount Rushmore.  It’s because we read books together that take place all over geography and history.  She doesn’t know that you are supposed to learn addition before subtraction, followed by multiplication, so she learned them all at once simply by understanding numbers (which happened because no one took her interest in numbers and made it a chore).  She doesn’t know that division is different from multiplication either.  And is it?  She was never taught her shapes or colors, but seems to have picked them up.  She was not introduced to classical music, yet her favorite song in the world is Dance of the Reed Flutes by Tchaikovsky.

My mother homeschooled me.  I know she is confident in homeschooling and biased against public schools.  I believe she is concerned about our unschooling because she knows I am busy cooking cleaning and keeping my kids safe, blogging and running a business.  She knows that my home is not one enrichment activity after another, that I am not spending the day sitting on the floor with my girls doing science experiments.  Yet somehow Ada knows about the life cycle of jellyfish and how fruit are produced.  Sure my goal is to spend more time with them, but in the meantime, Ada has not let my life interfere with her education in the least.  Which leads me to believe that life is one big enrichment activity whether I’m busy or not.  Either I’m doing something right, or it was never in my hands in the first place.