Sunday, October 30, 2011

Art Every Day Challenge

My latest hare brained scheme  is signing up the Art Every Day in November Challenge. Have you heard of it? I hadn't until just the other day, and after thinking about for a bit, I decided to go for it.

On one hand, the last thing that I probably need is another challenge. Like most people, I'm already spread thin and going in all kinds of different directions.

Between homeschooling my 2 kids, teaching classes to both junior high kids and pregnant couples (totally separate classes and students, thank God!)  attempting to keep up with my online writing class, starting an Etsy shop and trying to kick start a writing career, I could probably benefit more from focus than another challenge. (Did I mention that I'm also in the process of a DIY house remodel?)

I'm feeling both stretched and submerged by life already already. So, why would I sign up for something more? Well, a couple of reasons...

1) I believe challenge is good (especially when it is self motivated.)

2) So many responsibilities suck our creative energy, but this one actually encourages and nurtures it.

I know I'm not the only one who has things I'd really like to do, but seldom get around to because I'm either trying to be responsible, taking care of the wants and needs of someone else, or just wasting time on Facebook. I also know that I am happier when I create things on a regular basis, and hopefully this challenge will help me be more disciplined about it. How can I call myself an artsy mama if I am neglecting my own art?

I'll most likely bring my kids along part of the ride with me since we're a homeschooling family and that's just the way we roll. But, I'm also reserving part of the challenge as just for me. In other words, I'm not just going to seek out creative projects that I can do with them. In fact, that isn't even going to be my focus. Whenever I have something we can do together, that will be great, but in this case, my first priority will just be making sure that I do some art for myself every day.

It feels mildly selfish to say that, but I think that's just ingrained mother guilt. In my heart I'm pretty sure that modeling a creative mama is better than modeling a martyr mama. And, if past history is any indicator, they will likely be on board creating things too right alongside me. Whenever they see the adults in their lives doing things joyfully, they naturally want to join in.

So if anyone has any creative ideas you'd like to share, I could use the inspiration. I'd love mini projects for doing with or without children, but especially ones that don't take 5 years to finish, use a mess of toxic chemicals or $1000 in supplies. I'd also love to hear if anyone would like to join me on the challenge. It'll be fun!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Than One Way

I was recently found myself charge of hauling a rented minivan full of 6th - 8th grade kids five hours each way for a weekend camping and caving adventure. I tend to get myself into situations like this, which I think sound like fun, but most people seem to think they sound more like torture. We're probably both right.

I returned home with what appear to be new permanent laugh lines in my face, as well as some possible hearing damage. These kids cracked me up with their youthful goofiness, but somehow the volume of their voices got stuck around a million, which made the minivan beyond loud.At least they were funny

Of the eleven kids on the trip, mine were the only ones who don't happen to go to school. Some go to regular public schools, some go to an arts charter, and a couple go to a university preparatory school. It was enlightening on all sides to say the least, and we had the most amusing conversations about education and what exactly it means to homeschool.

Like many people, the kids seemed to have trouble wrapping their minds around the idea of not going to school. It's funny because even though the 11 kids came from 7 different schools, and yet they  hang out play music and games together with my kids a couple of days every week, it took them a few minutes to connect to the fact that we all have all sorts of connections that have nothing to do with school. Hopefully they see that you can have both friends and social lives without school- you just have to seek them.

Once they realized that we don't stay home and study alone all day, but we go to parks, museums, classes, beaches, trails and events in the community- basically all the things they would do on summer vacation- some of them became intrigued. When I told them that we learn about things that we want to and are interested in, and that we do it in real life ways like going on trips, one of them said (half jokingly, at least I hope) "But school is NOT supposed to be fun!"

I told them that I thought school, like life, should be fun as often as possible. Of course it can't always be, but it should be most of the time. I also mentioned that whether or not school was fun, learning can and should be.

It's a hard balance because on the one hand, I don't want to make it sound like it's all a big party full of games, although I do try to make it so as fun as I can. I also don't want to give the impression that our deal is so much better than theirs, even though I do think we have a pretty nice option. But, not everybody has the desire, motivation or means for a free thinking and learning lifestyle. It's definitely work on the parental end, and we make sacrifices, but it's also a really great way to live.

But these days, my kids are at the age where they're definitely more tuned in to being "different." In this scenario, we were definitely a different family from the others. I hope in the short term they can see that all the families are different really, and that there are pros and cons to every choice. In the log run, I hope they will retain their autonomy, and make choices based on what's best overall, not what everyone else does. When they are grown, I hope they'll realize that just because so many other adults spend most of their lives in mind numbing work they don't like, doesn't mean they have to do that also.

There's definitely more than one way to go through life, but as far as we know, we only get this one chance at it. We might as well enjoy the ride as much as we can.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Different CSI

It seems like when it rains, it pours, and this fall, it has been pouring down awesome opportunities for my kids. After winning scholarships to an amazing Science camp this past summer, they both became interested in the CSI program. Not CSI as in Crime Scene Investigations, which might actually appeal to my Boy Child, but I'm fairly sure Girl Child would raise her eyebrows and decline such an opportunity. I'm talking about CSI as in Community Science Interns.

This CSI is a program for junior high and high school aged kids where they get to be involved in all sorts of hands on science, conducting experiments, communicating with real scientists, leading groups of younger kids on filed trips, and all sorts of cool stuff.

One big appeal is the enthusiasm of the group leader. I had the chance to write about him for North State Parent Magazine, and to learn more about his work with kids. (This assignment is one of my favorite writing gigs, as I get paid to chat with inspiring people who are doing great things for kids.) His excitement about science is certainly contagious. He's just as energetic as the kids, if not more so, but he also has a wealth of knowledge on all kinds of science.

There's also all his techie gear. At the camp last summer, the kids got to play, I mean work, with iPad 2s. I hadn't even played with one yet, and they were making movies that are being turned into community service announcements. They also get to run shows on the planetariums dome and experiment with all sorts of stuff. Living in the country, we lean more towards natural science at home, so the immersion in technology is awesome.

Sometimes they meet at our local planetarium, sometimes in museums or out in the field, and sometimes at the community college science lab (which they think is super cool.) 

This past week, my kids did presentations on their favorite science topics -marine life and how science improves sports. Incorporating the kids' interests was definitely a smart move- they see the value in their contributions and the ways science connects to everyday things.

The down side is that the program starts really early. It's geared towards homeschoolers since it happens in the middle of a school day (and technically before we would generally start our day.) I know we aren't the only homeschoolers who shun early morning activities- I probably just complain more than most. I mean, it's not the primary reason we homeschool, but avoiding morning rushing is definitely high on the list of benefits.

Still, it's only a couple of times a month, and if gets the kids on a conference call with someone from NASA or to the chance to build some giant robotic Lego sculpture with a grown up who is just as excited about it as they are, we can handle it. A little rushing around is worth it for the kids to hang out and learn with adults who are doing work that they love, and are willing to share it with young people.

I'm sure the internships will someday look great on college applications, but I really think that spending time with people who have jobs they are passionate about, and realizing that work can be exciting rather than dreaded is probably one of the most important things the kids can learn from the experience.
For  look at the CSI program, and its fearless leader, check out my article here.
And I'd love to hear about cool happenings with kids in your area!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Death of a Laptop

This isn't the first time this has happened to me, but it is still painful every time. My dear, beloved laptop appears to be on her deathbed.

A few years ago, her predecessor came to an unpleasant end when a tree outside our home was hit by lightning. The electrical charge traveled down the tree, and to the wire electric fence that surrounds our pastures (an effort to keep goats in, and coyotes out.) Apparently, it was quite a spark. When it reached the wooden post at our gate, it caused it to ignite. We weren't home at the time, but by some crazy stroke of luck, a neighbor happened to drive by and her son noticed our fence post smoking. She put it out with the water bottles she found in her families car. I love my neighbors.

The tree and the fence post were goners, and tragically, so were a number of electrical things that were plugged in at our house. This included our telephones, answering machine, and two computers, one of which was my former dear laptop.

Thankfully, a friend was able to retrieve the pictures and data on the computer, and I started over with my new baby. Like a lot of computers, my current laptop has always had a few quirks, but overall, I love the thing. I can't believe how addicted I am to spending time with her. The fact that she allows me to work in bed has added hours to my productivity. She affords me privacy, mobility and flexibility with my insomniac, night owl tendencies. Now, she appears to be dying, and I am crushed.

The signs have been there for a while. The fan humming at a pace that seems like it could start its own fire, and the heat coming from her- I should have known. But, the other day when I went to start her, she wouldn't cooperate. I got a blank screen with a tiny flashing cursor, which eventually (like after 5 minutes) said "operating system not found." I'm no techie, but that sounds bad.

So, I decided to restart a bazillion times. I googled possible solutions on my other computer, and attempted pushing assorted F keys while rebooting. My husband thought I was mumbling about F-ing keys, but I was referring to the actual F keys, like F2, F10 etc. Anyway, I managed to start her a few times and saved my pictures and documents, and was hopeful that all wold be OK, but I am back to the blank screen and my attempts at F keys caused her to beep loudly at me, alarm clock style. That really doesn't seem good.

It looks like I'll be taking her to a computer guy, and hoping for a favorable diagnosis. What will I do if she's dead? Yes, we have a "family computer" in a central location that I can use, but the fact that there are people all around is not all that conducive to writing for me. I like to write by myself and at odd hours. My bed is my favorite office with the front porch being a close second. My creative flow is stunted when people are milling about looking over my shoulder, and I can't be clicking away in the middle of the night out here keeping everyone awake. This is very scary indeed.

I just started my online writing class, and I just finished sewing 8 new hats that I wanted to list on Etsy, so I'll have to figure out something. If my writing here is scarce for a bit though, you'll know why.

Wish me luck.....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Relaxing Family Yoga.... Well....Not Really

For those who are up for considering something new and relaxing with your kids...something like say, yoga...well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel I should warn you- yoga with children may not turn out to be relaxing in the least. Amusing probably, but relaxing....well not so much.

I've done yoga myself on and off for years, and I always feel great afterward, especially when I practice regularly. My body feels all stretchy and relaxed and my mind feels clear and peaceful- these are great things to share with kids right? That's what I thought when I had my harebrained idea of the week- to implement a regular yoga time with my kids.

One of my offspring in particular is a bundle of energy and could occasionally use some help in the focus department, so I especially looked forward to introducing him to yoga. The other is pretty mellow on her own, but when exposed to Crazy Child, it rubs off slightly.

Anyway, I found the most wonderful yoga instructor on You Tube- a woman named Esther. I first came across her "Happy Morning Yoga" and loved it. I am still not sure if it's the actual yoga, or just her calming voice, but I was smiling in no time.

Esther has yoga for just about any occasion too- Feeling sluggish? Have a headache or cramps? Insomnia? Are you a runner? Want to lose weight? Whatever your issue you want to deal with, she has a handy little search tab, and I've been able to find videos for just about any occasion (although sometimes you have to phrase it more than one way to find what you want and make sure you're searching her Yogatic channel to get her videos, not all of You Tube, or you might end up with some random bikini clad bouncy person)
Anyway, I'm attempting to implement Relaxing Family Yoga, although so far, it hasn't been all that relaxing...ok, not at all. Perhaps eventually, Mr. Wiggle Kid will actually listen to what Esther is saying and not just flail himself into some crazy pretzel position. Perhaps someday they won't both randomly burst into giggles when we are supposed to be focusing on our breath. Yeah....maybe. In the meantime, I am getting two kinds of yoga- relaxing on my own, and entertaining with my kids. And, I'm convincing myself that they are somehow organically absorbing something valuable and learning by osmosis.

Another bonus- not that we're ever short of things that count as PE in our happy little homeschool, but this does add some variety to the mix. So, if you're looking for something lovely to try for yourself, or something fun to do with your family, I would highly recommend Esther. Her free videos are awesome! But if your kids are anything like mine, it might not be very peaceful.