This blog by children's book author Melissa Wiley originally appeared at ClubMom.com. All posts and comments have been moved here, to this archive. Comments are still open, so feel free to chime in. For new posts, please visit www.melissawiley.com.
I guess it started with an episode of The Pink Panther. That blue aardvark must have put the song in my head: I found myself humming an old Sesame Street tune. I couldn't remember more than the first line. I'm an aardvark, and I'm proud...
On the YouTube page, there was a link to the clip where the orange is rolling around the kitchen, and stuff flies out of drawers to become its face: the rubber-band mouth, the mop hair. Naturally, the second the orange has a complete face, it sings an aria from Carmen. That's what fruit secretly lives for, you know: the chance to perform opera. Every orange is a secret diva.
(Speaking of YouTube, Sandra Dodd has just posted a page with clips of an Animaniacs geography song. The words are the names of every country in the world. One clip shows the countries on a map; the other shows flags. Cool! Other neat stuff on that page too.)
Last summer's series on day planners for moms continues to be one of my highest search-engine traffic draws. I'm gearing up for another set of reviews, but in the meantime (and more importantly), I'd like your input. My wonderful (and dearly missed) Virginia pal, Sarah of Herding Turtles, suggested I ask my readers the following question: Which planner did you wind up using this past year, and—here's the pertinent question—are you still using it?
I think the inspiration for this little brainstorm was the book, Confessions of an Organized Housewife (which book, by the way, caused my friend Lisa to about die with laughter when she spotted it on my shelf, half hidden behind a flower vase, three hair barrettes, and an old disposable camera, while helping me pack for the move).
The author of that book talks about kitchen organization, and storing items commonly used together in one place, instead of, say, measuring cups in cabinet X and measuring spoons in drawer Y. Makes more sense to keep your measuring cups and spoons together along with the electric beaters, your favorite mixing bowl, and possibly the baking powder.
I thought that was a great idea and promptly took her advice (some six or seven years ago).
Later it occurred to me to use that grouping technique for the lunch-prep items my kids and I use almost every single day. I got a plastic basket for the pantry, and that's where we keep the peanut butter (creamy and crunchy), honey, and a loaf of bread. It's much easier to pull out that one basket than to have the kids rummaging through the pantry for the various items.
Today's writing time went to a discussion below the "Shoes that Fit" post. A longtime reader asks some intriguing questions, and I have addressed some of them in the comments. I'll tackle her other questions in a future post. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts!
What I have found very frustrating over the years, both in daily life
and on the internet, is the divisiveness and judgmental behavior that
are so often created -- either deliberately or inadvertently -- by
subscribing to specific labels. It is very important, I have found, not
to underestimate a label's ability to shut people out, while at the
same time locking others in.
This is part of a (much) longer response to the comments on my "Lovely, Lovely Low Tide" post. I thought this part of my comment was relevant to the ongoing discussion here:
I am certainly not perfect
and I try show my warts and all on this blog. I am constantly pondering
and working with questions, and I wonder sometimes if that makes me
seem inconsistent, like people must be wondering if I'm ever going to
pick a lane! I am comfortable, though, with who I am (my favorite John
Paul II quote was, "Families, be who you are!"), and who I am is
someone who likes to mull over a wide range of ideas and see what
WORKS. For me, for us, for my kids, my husband, in our unique and
I sometimes do feel an urge to "belong" to one school of thought or
another, to find that label that fits me perfectly. As I said in my
original Tidal Learning post, I couldn't find the label, so I made one
up. It's useful mainly as a way of answering people's questions when I
meet a new homeschooler.
I have written elsewhere about how some part of me seems to stick out
of every niche I enjoy visiting (and that is probably true for most
people). I'm a pro-life Democrat, for Pete's sake! Sort of. Ha!—I
don't even fit THAT label across the board.
But still there is that desire to find the perfect label. There are
times I read Charlotte Mason and think: She makes so much sense! I want
to be a whole-hog CMer! And other times when I read Sandra Dodd and
think YES, I grok that, I'm an unschooler! But the reality is, I have
places where my understanding doesn't completely line up with either CM
*or* radical unschooling. And that's fine. I can still learn from both
schools (unschools?) of thought, and identify with aspects of each.
One area I'm keenly interested in is the balance between a rich
unschooling environment (the kind of environment & relationships
Sandra describes so vividly in her book and site) and the logistical challenges
of raising a big family, especially with my special-needs son. When
you've got big kids and babies in the same house, all with their own
(sometimes conflicting) needs, you're probably going to have to make
compromises somewhere. Tia, that's the issue you seemed to be exploring
in your post on Always Learning—-how your need for a clean, uncluttered
space seems to you a valid need that benefits the whole family, and how
you feel able to maintain that without shortchanging your children of
your time or attention. It seems like a good question to explore, but
is perhaps a bit out of context on that particular list. And I saw that
the reactions of experienced radical unschoolers there were coming out
of a sense of concern that your vision of it being possible to maintain
a tidy home while unschooling might make newbies feel like failures if
they can't pull that off.
Probably some of the friction comes in the different definitions people
have of unschooling. I try to consistently use "radical unschooling"
when describing the lifestyle Sandra speaks of, which incorporates an
approach to parenting that believes kids grow up happier and nicer if
there aren't constant conflicts with parents over chores, TV, and so
forth; and that the way to avoid that kind of tension is to relax
control in those and other areas.
While I find much to learn from in that vision of parenting, I cannot
say it totally lines up with mine. I'm completely on board with "say
yes as often as possible"—but I also see myself as the leader of this
crew of kids and am comfortable with the notion of parents being in authority
over their children. I don't see authority as a bad thing or
necessarily meaning there will be friction and discontented children.
But I digress. I was saying that as I understand it, "radical
unschooling" has a specific meaning, and some discussions are not going
to be relevant in a radical unschooling context.
Just plain "unschooling" is a tricky term, because to some it means
radical unschooling, and to others it means "kids growing up without
'doing school' either in a schoolhouse or at home"—without necessarily
applying to *parenting* style. You'll find, then, families who consider
themselves unschoolers but where the parents have an authoritative (not
the same as *authoritarian*, and I credit Jeanne Faulconer for writing
a post years ago that first made that distinction clear to me)
parenting style. That probably best describes how Scott and I are
raising our kids. So while I have great respect for people like Sandra
who have, by all accounts, raised some fabulous, considerate,
compassionate, respectful, nice kids according to the parenting
principles that accompany radical unschooling, I'm coming from another
perspective, one informed by my Catholicism (the only label that truly
fits me across the board), my experience, my husband's viewpoints, and
the temperaments and needs of our specific children.
So yes, I think you can be both an authoritative parent and an
unschooler, and there are unschooling discussion lists where it might
be interesting to have that discussion, but I would naturally expect the
experienced & happy radical unschoolers to speak up with strong
arguments from their perspective. And if they all disagreed with my
opinion, I'd have to say, well, I went to the vegetarian banquet
looking for hamburger recipes!
Still, I love to hear the RU perspective, with its emphasis on JOY.
Joyful parent/child relationships, joyful person/learning
relationships, peace and delight and harmony in the home and with the
world. It's a refreshing vision—invigorating, I think is the word I
used in my Low Tide post. Sandra's work truly refreshes and empowers
me, and I would hate to discourage anyone from encountering it, even if
I'm not a radical unschooler myself.
One insight I had about myself during this current re-immersion in
Sandra's website & list is that I was able to put my finger on why
our foray into pure CM method this past winter/spring fell flat after
six weeks, so that I found myself—for the first time in our
homeschooling experience—with a roomful of discontented kids.
(Discontented with our learning experiences, I mean. They have
certainly all been discontented before, like whenever I cook dinner.)
The realization that
came to me via my rethinking Sandra's philosophy is that what was
different about our High Tide time this winter was that always before,
while we may have been taking an excursion aboard the S.S. Charlotte
Mason, I was captain of the ship, adjusting our course as needed, and
pulling into port for refreshment or exploration as my young sailors
required. This time around, I turned the ship's wheel over to Cap'n
Mason herself—and much as I love her captain's logs, she doesn't know
my crew the way I do. After six weeks, they were ready to mutiny.
So I am back where I belong: comfortable in my own shoes. I'm a Tidal
Homeschooler, and it works for us, makes for fun times with my happy,
pleasant children. But it was the Radical Unschoolers who taught me
this lesson, and I will continue to enjoy learning from their
perspective— just as I learn from the pure Charlotte Mason folks and
the Real Learners and the classical-ed people and the Waldorf folks. I
really, really like to learn. So do my kids, so I'm content to "be who
As a final note, it occurred to me there might be others out there
interested in exploring this concept of Tidal Homeschooling, so I have
created a group for that purpose. I encourage you all to join me there!
The posts on these pages originally appeared at The Lilting House, my ClubMom blog about home education, fun learning resources, and special needs children.
When I decided it was time to wrap up my work at ClubMom, I moved all the Lilting House posts and comments to this archive. Comments are still open, so feel free to chime in on any post that interests you. I love to hear what my readers have to say!
These days I am doing all my new posting (including on many Lilting House topics) at my primary blog, Here in the Bonny Glen. There you will find posts about my books, other people's books, my family, home education, and many other topics.