Privilege

A high school classmate of mine who also homeschools asked our group an important question:

“Question: How do you take part in bringing about equity in education as a homeschooling parent? Homeschooling is a privilege. I wonder how to wield that privilege in bringing fairness in public education. I would love to hear.”

I left the following response:

“Here’s what I’m able to do at this time:

  1. Vote for legislation that helps the public education system.
  2. Talk to local officials about policy changes that help and hurt.
  3. Get to know my neighborhood’s children, and be a resource for them.
  4. Share education ideas with the parents in my life, regardless of where their kids receive their education. Before I could afford to homeschool, I still took fifteen to twenty minutes a night with my daughter to work with her on a project, discuss something, or teach her a new skill.
  5. Encourage other people to do #1&2.”

privilege_quinn_dombrowskiThere was a time when I desperately wanted to homeschool, but as a single parent earning slightly more than minimum wage, there simply wasn’t a chance of it happening.  I probably wouldn’t have been too good at it back then, either (although I still feel rather inadequate as a homeschooling parent much of the time).  It seemed I’d never live my dream of homeschooling my children, but after a disastrous third grade year with a strict, unyielding teacher, and a good friend willing to help, we began this journey.  If I hadn’t become too sick to hold down a full-time job, I’d also have been unable to continue with our educational experiment and I wouldn’t be teaching literature in a small class each month (or soon to be teaching creative writing).

Privilege is a funny thing.  As one person pointed out, a privilege is either a right everyone should have, but not everyone does, or it’s a right no one should have, but some people do.  There was a time not so long ago when homeschooling was the norm, and a formal education for the few.

Despite homeschooling being a right to all citizens in the United States (with some varying laws attached depending on the state), the ability to support a family and homeschool is no longer attainable by all who wish it.  For far too many, there is only public school, and since standards vary by neighborhood (and its residence level of average income), the poorest are often the least able to obtain an adequate education no matter whether it takes place in the home or in a school. A lack of choice leaves many families feeling trapped in a system that doesn’t meet the needs of all its students.

If you’re reading this, then you’re likely already aware of these issues, and I’m preaching to the choir.  However, it doesn’t mean we homeschoolers should wring our hands or throw them into the air for our lack of involvement.  There are other ways to reach out to the schooled community, and while my current list of what I do is short, it’s a start.  Some other ideas include:

a. Becoming a tutor or educational resource for institutionalize students.

b. Engaging in schooled or community activities like youth outreach projects, PTA functions (check your school or district’a rules about participation), and other local functions.

c. Starting a summer camp, a week-long salon during breaks, or providing low cost workshops on topics of interest.

d. Creating a web list or forum for local educational and youth resources, and announcing it among both homeschool and formal schooled groups.

e. Becoming an educational advocate for children struggling in public school (look for them among friends, family, and neighbors), and help fight for their needs in accessing resources the public schools ought to provide.

Have some other ideas?  Please share them below.

 

 

Pick a Book!

Next year, I’ll be attending Norwescon 40 for the first time as a panelist.  One of the sessions I volunteered for is reading a book to children 3 – 5 years of age.  One book, plus a related craft project.  I’d originally been told I would need to make my selection by February, but since have been asked to turn in all of my panel decisions by December 15th.

I’ve narrowed it down to the following four beloved books:

norwesconbooks

Dragons Love Tacos
https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Love-Tacos-Adam…/…/0803736800

Children Make Terrible Pets
https://www.amazon.com/Children-Terrible-Starr…/…/0316015482

The Curious Garden
https://www.amazon.com/Curious-Garden-Peter-B…/…/0316015474/

Olivia
https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Ian-Falconer/dp/0689874723

Craft ideas so far: make a paper dragon, make your own terrible pet (puff balls and paper plates), plant seeds in mini pots, something with ribbons or coloring pages.

So, dear readers, what book should I pick?

What We’re Doing: Outstanding October and Unbelievable November

It’s been a while since my last update (apologies), let me tell you why …

wboctnov2016

 

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Our October was almost as busy as our November.  We had our emergency room appendicitis false alarm, my first full Reading Selections class, and a visit to Oxbow Farm’s harvest festival.  A dear friend came to spend a week with us as a house guest.  At the same time, I worked on a new story, and launched a Patreon page, even making an intro video and a reminder on Halloween. (Note: I’m really uncomfortable with seeing myself on video.  Still photos, sure, but videos?  Blech.)

Since the end of October, I’ve been working hard on the third annual Flash Dash Challenge.  Instead of participating in NaNoWriMo (I have plenty of novel projects in various stages of drafts) the past three years, I’ve set myself a goal of writing a new piece of flash fiction every day for a month.  In 2014, I only wrote about a dozen stories.  In 2015, I wrote about two dozen.  This year, I’m going for all thirty stories.  (Thus far, I have sixteen stories for sixteen days).

My son and I have been working on understanding autumn, eggs, our bodies and senses, and we’re heading into American legends and Native Americans.  He recently made a new friend through the library, and we’ve been meeting weekly for play dates.  My daughter’s dating a wonderful young woman, and enjoying her classes, especially the Japanese.  At this point, I think she’ll have a solid B for the quarter, though I’m hoping she’ll swing an A- in at least one of them.  This past weekend, we spent a couple of hours on a dreary afternoon at the Reptile Zoo, petting turtles and a baby alligator, meeting snakes, tortoises, spiders, frogs, and two rather large alligators, Barnabus and Basker, the former of whom was particularly keen on watching my son and I together.  (I’m fairly certain my son was just the right size for a feast.)

Quick tip for Running Start families: We didn’t realize this until it was too late (I swear I don’t recall anyone telling us in the three or four meetings we had with advisors), but the paperwork from the district we’re to take in for each quarter to the college’s Running Start office needs to be in as much as two weeks before registration opens for the new quarter.  So, although the Dragon should be able to register for Winter, she can’t until her paperwork is processed (late because we didn’t realize).  From now on, I’m getting it done two weeks in advance, so she can enjoy priority registration and not miss her preferred classes.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

41cm1mfx5el-_sx342_bo1204203200_My daughter hasn’t been reading much outside of her school books and fanfiction, but she recommended the book Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, which is part of her Psychology curriculum.  Though it’s poetry, she said it reads like prose, and puts readers into the shoes of an African American woman, making her experiences relatable to most.

While I’ve been working through rather mature graphic novel series (e.g. The Preacher (big ol’ trigger warnings for this series), Bitch Planetand Saga), my son and I have finished reading books about autumn and books about eggs (and those who lay them).  I’ll post more about the books in the latter category, because we came across some amazing materials!

where-s-the-elephantOne book outside our preschool lessons worth noting is Where’s the Elephant?  While it appears to be a simply drawn and colorful book of seek and find a la Where’s Waldo?, it proves to be a more striking message young children can understand about deforestation and city sprawl.  It doesn’t feel at all soapboxy or preachy, but not knowing what it was about as I was reading it, I had that encroaching sense of dread when I figured out what was going on in the book.  Thankfully, my just enjoyed finding the elephant and his friends among the trees.

 

WHAT WE’RE EATING

One thing that’s been a big comfort through the fall is making a simple side dish alongside almost any seasonal vegetables and meats.  It’s worked well with salmon, squash, Brussels sprouts, sausages, chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and so on.

What is it?

Sage Rice

2 c. short grain brown rice
3c. chicken broth or stock*
2 tsp. sage
pinch of salt
ground black pepper (optional)

Combine ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Turn down to low, cover and simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes.  Serve on the side or beneath the vegetables and/or meats.  Excellent with a mushroom white wine sauce.

*If you’re vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend mushroom broth as opposed to vegetable broth to give it an earthier body and flavor.

Preschool Books about the Human Body

We’ve wrapped up our human body unit for the season, and as I’d said in a previous post, I overdid the materials.  After a couple of weeks wading through lots and lots and LOTS of books (at least three dozen), here are the ones we liked the most.

0064435962_intFrom Head to Toe by Eric Carle – Not only is it a Carle book with his classic, distinctive style of art, it also encourages children to answer the question, “Can you ___?” by acting it out with their bodies.  Every movement is followed by, “I can do it!”  This is a message I definitely want to sink in with my son, who often claims he can’t do simple things he’d already conquered.

My Bodyworks by Jane Schoenberg – Loved the movement inspiring lyrics of this book of body songs.

Human Body by Dan Green – Though this book is intended for older children, our family loves this series of books, and owns all of the ones related to Chemistry and Physics from my daughter’s middle school years.  The content is frank, the pictures are cute, and you can choose what parts of it you wish to share as you go.

1dd301fa720fdfdf5a0dae8851760cdb-w2041xHere Are My Hands by Bill Martin – A simple, colorful book of diverse children excited about all their body parts can do for them from hands to feet and beyond.

Our Blood by Charlotte Guillain – My son selected this himself.  The book contains clear, textbook styled explanations with photographs about blood and its purpose in the body.  We read it three times.

Inside your outside! by Tish Rabe – Tish Rabe uses familiar Seuss characters to look inside the human body and explain how organs work.  A little weird, a lot of rhyming, and not quite Seuss, but definitely eye-catching for a Seuss-obsessed preschooler.

We all move by Rebecca Rissman – Another photographic book containing a diverse selection of people engaging in varied activities.

51b2bt78qaol-_sx258_bo1204203200_Busy body book by Lizzy Rockwell – I love the art in this book.  Lots of color, lots of kids, all celebrating their bodies.  There’s more text than Here Are My Hands, but it has a similar feel to it.

Foot book by Dr. Seuss – Oh, the joys of feet, as told by Seuss.

Teeth by Sneed B. Collard – Not entirely about human bodies, but a great book full of colorful sketches of animals (including humans) and their teeth, contains some good beginner information.

In addition to reading all of these books (and many more):

We sang songs that involve movement each day, like “Head, Shoulders Knees, and Toes,” and “The Hokey Pokey.”

We watched a Sesame Street video called “Happy, Healthy Monsters,” which proved to be mostly jumping and watching funny sketches, rather than actually moving our bodies.

We made paper organs and added them to a paper body, using a large sheet of rolled drawing paper (from IKEA).  I wanted my son to lie on the paper so I could trace an outline of his body, but he was convinced the marker would hurt (even after touching it to my finger and then his), so he laid next to the paper, and I made a hasty approximation of his body and size.

Then we used various colors of construction paper.  I drew rough shapes of the organs in the approximate size they’d be in his body, and he used safety scissors to cut around the shapes.  He cut through his brain, his kidneys, and his lungs, but tape made it all better.  Our Little Fox paper model had a brain, two blue eyes, lungs, a heart, kidneys, a stomach, liver, pancreas, diaphragm, gallbladder, large and small intestines with appendix, and spleen.  As we placed them into the body shape on the paper, we discussed what each one did.  I kept the systems together, so we could talk about the body in small bursts.  We did brain and eyes first, then lungs, heart, and diaphragm, and finally the digestive system.  Here are a couple of the models I used (found on Google Image Search) to help remind me where to put everything:

543a264bf4a7d2f212262838cf73d606human20body

Quick Update: Books, Students, and Life

BOOKS

61ewc29wj8lAs part of our exploration of the human body, I selected a lot of materials.  Far too many materials, really, but one book I really enjoyed using is called My Bodyworks, which is filled with song lyrics (CD included) for songs about different aspects of the body.  Many of these songs encourage movement while singing, and the end of the book has details about the human body as a reminder to the content of the song lyrics.  I haven’t played the CD yet (I’m afraid to, given the frequent disappointment or annoyance I have with for-kids music collections), but reading the lyrics to my son as I would poetry, and engaging our bodies in some of them was a lot of fun.  We’ll be hanging on to this one for a while.

 

STUDENTS

My new students and I had our second meeting, which involved their first projects and detailed discussions of our readings.  The readings were hard, most of them weren’t able to finish “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and one couldn’t get through “The Lottery.”

I apologized and admitted the selections were a bit of a cruel test.  The first four were among some of my absolute favorites.  Ones I think everyone should read, and three of them are hard.  Emotionally brutal.  I shared with them the story of my experience taking a class at university titled “The Anthropology of Rock and Roll.”  I didn’t go into too many details, but on the first day, our professor played videos of a particular rock star renowned for his grotesqueries — he was violent, gross, brutal, repugnant, and did vile acts on stage for attention and to cause a visceral response to his art. The professor said, if we could get through the first day and still want to come back, the rest would be easy, and he was right.

While these stories were difficult reads for sensitive souls, my students proved themselves.  The projects were insightful, diverse in ideas, and all showed they grasped the readings well.  One wrote an essay analyzing their choice in “The Lady or the Tiger?”  Another wrote a poem about “The Lottery.”  One baked “puppy biscuits” inspired by the grocery list in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and related to the main character’s rich imaginative life amidst banality.  Another baked a social experiment to life, making one person choose what another would get to eat, knowing one was a “lady,” and another a “tiger.”  And the fifth student pulled out a box with two doors.  They’d used straws, tape, brads, cardboard, and hand-drawn pictures to create an ever-changing box of chance, since the options could be changed at will by the student before the next person chose a door.

If these kids aren’t amazing, then I must not understand the definition of the word.  I love, love, love them, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with at our next meeting after they’ve sunk their minds into some Halloween treats.

 
LIFE

Amidst all the chaos, house and car woes, and the endless cycle of chores, Daughter scored well on her first Japanese test, my son is starting to recover from his unexplained viral infection, I started a Patreon account.  Come November 1st, I’ll be taking the Flash Dash Challenge again, writing one flash fiction piece a day for thirty days, AND it looks like I’ll be a panelist and presenting my debut novel at Norwescon 40.  I’m “nervcited” (my daughter’s term).

What We’re Doing: Sliding Through September

sept2016wbPhew!  This post is much later than I’d planned.  September, while it contained a nice birthday outing to Golden Gardens in celebration of my thirty-eighth, wasn’t exactly a pleasant month on the whole.  It had major ups and downs for our family, and some of those downs are leaking into October.

My car required repairs.  First an oil change, then a timing belt, then calipers and brakes, and there’s still another problem yet to be fixed, so I’m only driving in town for the time being.  My partner’s car needs new brakes, too!  We haven’t been able to turn on our heat yet because of duct and furnace problems, so we’re walking around the house in sweaters and socks and dragging blankets behind us.  We’re also preparing the house for an appraiser, because my partner wishes to refinance, and it’s going to take a lot of work.

Meanwhile, my daughter has officially completed a week and a half of college, and has already made several new friends.  She’s gone out with another friend the past couple of weekends (one of my other students), and is planning on attending her first dance soon!  Because of all of the issues with the house and the cars, my son and I are struggling to establish a new routine, but at least I finally got him to participate with me when singing “head, shoulders, knees, and toes,” and even the “Hokey Pokey.”  It’s a huge improvement, and it seems for now, while things are rather off-balance, half of our home preschool involves cuddling, and a good quarter is dancing, story time, and taking a long time with meals.

 

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daughter is learning Japanese, College Success, Psychology, and the Magic of Friendship.  She’s also learning how to balance school work, friend time, family time, chores, fitness, and personal time in ways she didn’t grasp while homeschooling.  Overall, I’m proud of how she’s been adjusting to this major shift in her routine.

mybabiessept2016

Son is learning about the Human Body, though I put so many materials on hold at the library, we’ll probably be studying it for a couple of weeks.  Of course, we had a couple of field trips to both Urgent Care and two Emergency Rooms we’d not planned for: first he stuffed his fingers into the hinge of the front passenger door of my car at the library, right before I shut it to put him in his car seat.  Yowch! Thankfully, nothing broke in that cramped space, and despite some ugly bruising, he’ll be ok in the long-term.  Then a couple of days later, we ended up at the ER because he was in pain and acting unusual, and the nurse hotline said to bring him in.  After an IV and ultrasound, we were transferred by ambulance (that was exciting for him) to Children’s where they did another ultrasound and though the experience was more painful for him, they were on the whole, far more gentle with him than the prior hospital.  And they had kids’ movies he could dial in from his bed.  We were sent home at 3am.  Not appendicitis, but rather a virus that was causing his distress, possibly contracted at the Urgent Care a few days before.  Which is great, because none of his symptoms suggested his appendix was inflamed, but his blood tests might have.

30thlabyrinth

For my birthday, we went to Golden Gardens to commune with the water and the sand and the ducks and turtles, too.  Friends met us there an hour after I texted.  It was spontaneous and perfect.  Two days before that, the kids and I went to see the 30th anniversary showing of Labyrinth, which is dear to my heart.  I saw it at eight years old for my birthday then, and a year later, David Bowie sang to me when I was falling asleep at his Glass Spider Tour concert.  Getting to take my kids to see it on the big screen was a wonderful experience.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

As Mabon passed and the hint of October approached, we stumbled across a number of good books dealing with death and magic.  The highlights among them include:

the_garden_of_abdul_gasazi_van_allsburg_book_coverThe Garden of  Abdul Gasazi by Chris van Allsburg features exquisite illustrations in ink, and follows a boy and his unruly dog into the garden of a magician — a garden where dogs are not allowed.  Subtle, magical, beautiful.

Cry, Heart, but Never Break by Glen Ringtved focuses on four children raised by a grandmother who lays dying upstairs In her bed.  Death appears at the door and sits with them at the kitchen table.  As they play him with coffee, hoping to dissuade him from taking their beloved grandmother, Death tells them a tale about four children named Sorrow, Grief, Joy, and Delight.  It’s an excellent, gentle, humbling tale for young ones dealing with grief and loss.

The Dead Bird by Margaret Brown Wise unsettled me, but my son liked it.  It’s a simple tale like her other books, with art ahead of its time.  A handful of children find a dead bird and bury it.  Not much to it, but in the telling of the story, I found some absence in the words, that perhaps might be found instead within.

Skeletons for Dinner by Margery Cuyler is a silly romp with a cute skeleton who misunderstands and invitation by a coven of witches for dinner.  There’s a lesson here in making assumptions.  Excellent for both our human body unit AND in preparation for Samhain.

51ewu-9sril-_sx329_bo1204203200_Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente is this great author’s latest novel.  Like much of her work it’s luscious and complex and the opposite of condescending.  Valente expects that those who choose her work are intelligent and willing to follow along unknown paths on fantastical journeys, and allow the details to unfold in their own time.  Her work always reads as poetry, and Radiance is no exception.  I’m still in the middle of it, not yet having come to understand the full film at play on the screen in my mind, but wanting to plunge further.  Not your standard space drama.  Not your standard anything.  If you want to read something outside tired tropes, and engage your mind in a feast of delights, pick this — or any of her work* — up as soon as you can.

*[Recommend: Deathless for adults who want a linear fairy tale, The Orphan’s Tales for those who enjoy stories within stories, and The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making for children and the young at heart.]

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

In September, we finished the miniseries Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.  I checked out the book at the library, and it might just have War & Peace beat for largest novel.  We also watched the first two seasons of Dharma & Greg before daughter started college, didn’t quite finish Crash Course: Economics, and watched all of Over the Garden Wall, which I thought would be too creepy for my son, but he loved it.

 

WHAT WE’RE EATING

Since my new, amazing, informative goddess of a naturopath has suggested I go four to six weeks without dairy, I’ve been reinventing some of my standard recipes to accommodate the change.  Our salmon tacos, for instance, currently don’t feature my usual crema recipe, so to get a multidimensional flavor from my tacos, I roasted some green peppers (about 2 stars worth of heat) in the toaster oven, pan fried my salmon in my homemade chili powder blend plus garlic and lime, and warmed up the tortillas.  When I filled them, I added avocado, greens sprouts, roasted peppers (for adults, not for our kids who don’t like them), tomatillo salsa, and Cholula.  Served in thick corn tortillas, with purple roasted potatoes, sauteed pepper greens (cook them like spinach with garlic and olive oil), and roasted red cabbage on the side.

Yes, I missed my crema, and yes a proscription against dairy meant I was dreaming of warming cheese between two tortillas and using THAT for the tacos (mulitas style), but I enjoyed the flavor nevertheless. If I had thin tortillas, it wouldn’t have worked; the heat would have overwhelmed the rest, but I was quite happy with the results.  No pictures — they were gobbled down too quickly!

Reading Selections Renewed

Excited and nervous, I welcomed six new students to Reading Selections, five of whom are entirely new to me.  It’s a full class, and I’m over the moon to introduce them to the short readings I love most.  There’s a full range of ages and personalities, though I think all of us are on the introversion side of the spectrum.  After the first run of these classes, I’ve organized the readings to have more solid themes, and better thought out flow from month to month and piece to piece.

For a long while, I worried there would only be two students, which while still feasible, doesn’t allow for as many perspectives to add to the richness of the discussion.

Though many of the selections have changed or shifted position, the first month of the first year of literary shorts remains the same as the first time I ran these courses:

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
  • The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin

Give our introductory discussions, getting to know a bit about one another, I’m quite certain these young people will surprise me with a wide variety of projects and perspectives, even among the siblings participating.  My most fervent wish for this class is to be a good guide and resource to them, to help them flourish, and find magic within the words they’re reading.  I remain nervous, yet the excitement builds.

My biggest obstacle right now is technical.  The cost of even self service copies has become a joke, and to print a full year of selections at a shop would cost over $40 per packet.   Thus, to be practical and economical, I’m stocking up on printer ink.  My little printer can’t do hundreds of pages a minute, especially double sided, but it’ll be worth it in the long run to do it the more tedious way.  The selections are laid out for the full three years, now all I need to do is compile and print them.