Wednesday, January 16, 2008

unschooling lesson 1

in the car on the way home from the zoo:
- Mama, I'm the little baby monkey with the orange hair, and you are the black mama monkey...
- Ok... would you like a slice of dried mango?
- Do monkeys like dried mango?

i must confess that up until now, when faced with the buckets of questions regularly and casually emptied over my head by my favourite girl, i have tended to answer, at random, one of the following:
'of course they do!'
'of course they don't!'
'i don't know... what do you think?' (and then not listen to the answer...)

but now there is unschooling. and i am learning all the time. so i thought about it, and figured that they probably do. like dried mango slices.

- Mama, my favourite colour is pink. do monkeys like pink too?
- ...i don't know. i don't know that monkeys know about colour. but i'll tell you what: we can find out...

(in case you're interested, it turns out that our monkey is Old World, which means it can probably see pink. if it had been New World, however, it would probably only be able to see blues and greens, unless it was a night monkey, in which case, it would have had black and white vision) (incidentally, this sheds no light (of any colour) on the question of whether this particular monkey liked pink)

her own yoga


(imagine a picture of my face shyly peeking from behind a curtain-like object. some avoiding of eye-contact. some shuffling of feet)

...i've been away. having a fit. a major paradigmatic overhaul. it is very difficult to imagine that two weeks ago, my biggest source of anxiety was a list of new year resolutions. sometime between now and then, new shit has come to light. Isabelle tried going to school. i tried Isabelle going to school. Isabelle going to school didn't agree with either of us. so i resurrected a vague memory, an instinct, a stirring in the gut, something i had put away a long time ago, just in case i might one day grow big enough to fit into it. homeschooling. unschooling. amazing stuff. the alternative, the other option.

within two days, in a whirlwind of excitement, fear and trepidation, with some really good deep connected moments thrown in, i

a) cancelled Isabelle's school subscription
b) signed her up for a dance class
c) found and made contact with a mailinglist for local homeschooling mums
d) talked on the phone for at least 17 hours
e) talked off the phone for at least as many
f) told my parents-in-law
g) dealt (with varying degrees of compassion and understanding) with three major howling sessions with Isabelle, who has so far been brain-washed that she believes if she does not go to school (that place that gives her nightly nightmares and nettle-rash, not to mention diarrhea), she will not be 4 years old anymore.
h) read, read, and read some more.
i) moved from despair and loss to triumph and strength. and back. a few times. 'treating those two impostors just the same', i.e. lying low and waiting for the wind to change.
j) came up with a list of 'advantages of homeschooling from the perspective of a four-year old' (you get to go to bed when you are tired, not when we say you should, you don't have to do stuff you don't like (she is taking this one very literally indeed), you get to do 'ballet' and 'turnen', you get to learn to embroider, you have more time to play with the goat (should you have a goat))
k) told my mum.
l) came up with a list of interesting people who were home-schooled (Pippi Langkous, Pluk, Aaagje, the children of Bolderburen, Mowgli (and Shanti), etc.)
m) declared myself insane. repeatedly.
n) declared myself utterly sane. repeatedly.
o) had many nightmares. only some of them at night (she will learn nothing, ever, she will blame me, she will be a social pariah, she will hate me for the rest of her life).
p) reassured myself in the morning with the realization that all of the items under (o) have just as much (if not more) chance of happening if i do send her to school.
q) found out that the Netherlands are crazy where homeschooling is concerned, so that i'll have to brave the Law as well as public (and private) opinion.
r) found out that my friends were not lying when they said 'i will stand by you no matter what'.
s) found out my husband really is my best friend.
t) shamelessly bought new books.

so here we are. wobbly, slightly fuzzy, but here. the first morning. the world is new. it is ours. this is the most learning i will ever do. and i am as ready as i'll ever be.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


my son only has two basic facial expressions. whenever he sees something (animal, vegetable, mineral), he is surprised. very surprised.

and then, after a while, he is pleased.

can you get more zen than that? the very essence of a meditative life, of a life lived in the moment: see everything as if for the first time. accept it completely and unconditionally. i have a grand master on the premises. now only the learning to do (which for some reason always amounts to more than having a master on the premises).

(more zen news: received fantastic gift in the mail from fantastic friend. timing of gift also fantastic as have just completed 40-day 'interestingly challenging' arm meditation for burning out inner anger. unfortunately, while trying to pick up an (empty) box of christmas decorations this morning, i strained my back and have been lying flat ever since. providing me with much opportunity to read the booklet, but none to sit and meditate. patience. patience. more learning to do)

Thursday, January 03, 2008


this is the spot where my computer used to be. but more on that later.

early january is here: good old new year resolutions time. previously, i mean in my former, un-enlightened un-self-knowledgeable life, i would have had many such resolutions lined up, all ready to go. change your life completely in one day, i.e. January 1st. have your life collapse straight back into its former shape, i.e. January 5th. yes... beautiful though they were, they did not last long, those new year resolutions of yonder years... so this year i thought a bit harder (i know i promised not to do that anymore, but it's a nasty habit) and looked back a bit longer.

and saw that in fact, in 2007, i successfully and seemingly painlessly acquired some fantastic new habits (daily yoga, daily meditation, almost daily cold shower, almost daily writing in my journal, regular walking, etc.). the 40 days thing. you saw it coming, right?

so, 2008 has approximately 360 days (they tell me). that's 9 times 40 days. that's 9 habits to acquire or lose. taking my time to build each one before moving on to the next. and allowing empty spaces for some of them to appear in the course of the year. in the disorder and so far, we have:

1) a regular writing practice (not journal-writing, not dream-recording, but proper non-belly-button-staring- fiction-or-non-fiction writing)(i think every day for 40 days, and then maybe reduce to 5 times a week, so i can breathe from time to time);

2) no more sugar. that's it. cold turkey. without return. the end of the sugar addiction (you wouldn't believe it now, but once upon a time, it was olives and crackers that got me out of bed at night, but now, oh... chocolates, chocolates, how i shall miss you...);

3) reduced computer-time (i've noticed that this one pops up regularly on people's resolution lists this year) (resolution lists that i have glimpsed using the computer, haha) (anyway, the idea is to reduce non-work-related computer time to three uninterrupted slices of 45 minutes a week) (as opposed to the usual 'wait, honey, mama is just going to check ONE little thing on the computer...' only to emerge google-eyed two hours later to find an exploded household and neglected wailing babes...);

(in the context of (1) and (3) i moved my computer from its former position at the heart of the living-room to the icy cold reaches of Marc's room upstairs. the old school-desk it used to pollute is now officially my writing space. see above.)

4) reduce my use of cell phone to bear necessities (... the simple bear necessities...), i.e. being stuck alone on a dark road at night in the middle of b.f.nowhere with a flat tyre and a broken leg OR being in my bath and wanting Marc who is sitting on the couch downstairs to make and bring me a cup of tea (just kidding...); the jury is still out on whether sms is legal, but in any case, at all times when not used, cell must be switched off;

5) no more meat. yes, i am finally ready to go vegetarian level 1;

6) no more manipulating of my children, i.e. out with all bribes and threats (if i manage this one for 40 days, i will officially crown myself mum of the year);

there, that leaves three empty slots for brilliant ideas to occur as we go. and now onwards ho! which one should i start with? meat? nah... too hard in the middle of winter... sugar? nah... even harder in the middle of winter... writing? nah... too cramped from cold in the middle of winter... ...