Monday, July 27, 2009

Back into the swing of things

So, back here already. I was hoping O would make the right choice. School seems to have the worst effect on him. He just got himself convinced that he is stupid, that he was far behind and doomed to failure.

So, now we're 100% sure we're hsing, O is already bouncing back to his old self. He's currently playing an online text adventure game of Hamlet, amusing himself with trying to kill anachronous plot elements. We also did some Wiki-surfing, discovering to both our delights that the text that Shakespeare based Hamlet on was writing by Saxo Grammaticus, the hand's down possesor of the greatest name in history, at least in the history of Danish chroniclers. Seriously, does that not sound that best, most pretentious heavy metal band or what?

Down to business, a bit, I managed to get O to make a few decisions on curriculum. We'll be sticking with Math-U-See, and he even wants to get the honours book to go along with it. Tells a lot about why O hasn't succeeded well at school that he got excited over "more word problems."

Along with MUS, we'll be rejoining History Odyssey, that I picked up for O in grade 9, but we never got very far with then. Ancients is still not turning his crank, largely because there's not enough military and economic history in it for him (hint #2 that O is not really suitable for a public education, lol), but he's really excited about Middle Ages, quote from him when I read through the outline for him "Those are all the cool Empires!" He's especially looking forward to doing work on the Mughal Empire, and the assignment on tracking the spread of the Black Death with known trade routes of the time. He loves that kind of stuff.

This spring, while he was not doing photocopied worksheets of character studies and reading short stories written solely for high school english anthologies, what he was doing was reading everything he could on Swine Flu, and tracking media coverage of the flu against death rates and GDP's. You know. For fun. (hint #3, lol.)

So O seems happier than he's been for ages, he's getting out of the house, hanging out with friends, helping out around the house, reading, programming, and debating (everything, with anyone, online or IRL, who will debate back.) I was pretty worried about him for a while there, but so glad to have him back now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Return

I may be back here after all.  This school year has been an unmitigated disaster.  The enthusiastic young teacher lasted all of one month before being fired.  The self-directed program has devolved into worksheets and workshops.  I warned ds before the program started that it`s not likely to stay as free and self-directed as it was presented for very long, bureaucrats get very, very nervous with anything new or different, but even I was surprised with how quickly it got crappy.  

Ds says he`s 97% sure he wants to hs again this coming year.  I`m just crossing my fingers against the other 3%.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sliding into fall

It just seems like the summer never really started for us, and now we're planning school and fall activities.

Yup, that's right, school (brrr.) O has decided to take a spot offered him at a model school program being developed at a nearby university. It's an environmental science-oriented, but supposed to be largely self-directed program for gifted, non-traditional students. The non-traditional aims at students who come from low-income, inner city, single parent or aboriginal families, and since he hits all 4 criteria, coupled with the kind of self-directed work he's been doing on his own for years, the school is drooling to recruit him.

They will have access to the high school program that has been run by this uni for years, all the labs, profs and resources of a small, but major university, plus grant money up the wazoo. They will only take in 20 students per year, so have put in grant applications to get each student a Mac Book, something that may have helped sell O on the program, plus funding and support for self-directed studies. The teacher hired for the program is very excited at O's Japanese obsession and wants O to teach him any Japanese words and phrases he's learned.

I've had too many experiences with self-directed learning programs with gov't funding to really believe it will be the program they are telling us it is. But O wants to go, wants to have more structure, wants to get out of the house, wants to guarantee acceptance at the university of his choice (as opposed to finding our way through a very uncharted unschooling-to-university route here in Mb.) So here's where we are. A totally unschooled teen who is choosing to attend formal school, take formal extra-curricular classes (bass guitar and Japanese language classes.) Who woulda thunk it? Especially considering this is a kid who, up until a year or two ago, didn't really want to go anywhere that would require pants, let alone a studious effort (for the record, he went out in shorts, not the Full Monty, we got over that phase years ago.)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weekend plans

O is still sleeping off the trip, or is it just the regular teenage boy stuff that has him sleeping 16 hours a day? Since I've been working so much, and O's been sleeping so much, we haven't had a whole lot of time together. This is a long weekend in Canada, and, as the new guy at work, of course I'm working the crappiest shifts, so I'm really looking forward to Monday when we can go out for the evening together. O wants to see The Dark Knight, hope it's as good as the hype, then we're going to check out a new Portuguese place called O Tacho. O loves Portuguese food, at least what he's had of it so far, thick chorizo and bean stews, squid as many ways as possible. Really, I think he should have been born a Mediterranean fisherman, he loves loves loves every Mediterranean cuisine he's tried so far.

I stayed up a bit late with O yesterday, to squeeze in some precious time together. He gave me a quick crash course in Japanese honorifics again, explaining why it's so hard to directly translate the term Mrs. into Japanese (san is the generic term used, but is gender neutral.)

O's also very happy to discover that his favorite bass tab sites are up and running again and has been busily practicing the theme to Tetris. I suspect that I will get tired of this long before he does. Next up, I'm assuming, will be the Mario Bros. theme song. I suspect, also, that the band he is forming will be an all-video game and anime theme song cover band. I guess there is a niche there somewhere, lol.

Friday, August 1, 2008

We're back!

I'm back online (turns out the puter just needed a good virus cleaning) and O's back from his long haul trip across 4 provinces and 4 states.

I'm working too much in the next few weeks to post a good long tale of the trip, but here's a short observation from O:

After seeing so many roadside shanties selling everything from apples to fish, O was a little non-plussed to see, dotting the highways outside of Seattle, small mom and pop, roadside latte and cappuchino shacks. Too funny.

Friday, July 18, 2008

'nother quick update

Still off the net, mostly, but hoping to have the comp up and running soon. I've been working too much to even miss my daily surfing time. O is currently in Victoria, attending a family wedding. This month we are learning how to function apart. Well, O isn't having much trouble, it's me who's learning how to be a single person again.

O is gone for another 2 weeks, taking a long road trip with the family. I'm staying home to work, with some yoga, shopping and writing time thrown in. I can't wait till O is back to show me what he picked up in BC (he was sooo looking forward to shopping in Chinatown in Vancouver and hitting the Japanese shops), and to talk about all the things he's done.

I went to my first Folk Fest alone, not nearly as dreary a time as I would expect, despite being the coldest, wettest Folk Fest in at least 20 years. Spent much time on the volunteer bus, but kept sitting down next to the Red Stick Ramblers, who played and drank the whole ride home, much fun.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quick update

Things have been chugging along nicely in the real world. Now that our puter is down, O and I have remembered that there actually is a real world out there. We've both been reading all those books we've been putting off for months, hanging out together more, and going Outside (I know, frightening though, but there's a whole world out there!)

O's gotten into a new anime big time, Code Geass, about an alternate future Japan that's been taken over by the evil empire of Britannia, and an exiled member of the Britannian royal family who leads a terrorist/rebel group. It's launched a lot of discussions about WWII, colonialism, and terrorism. Being anime, there's also an odd alien character who's a hot chick with an obsession for pizza. Shrug, I don't get it either.

O's mostly been busy lately decorating his room, getting ready for his trip this summer (he's opted to go on a road trip this July with my sister, instead of going to Folk Fest, so he'll be out of town for a month without me, sniff, sniff), and plugging away at his bass and his basic Japanese language books. He also announced the other night that he's going to start writing regularily (?!?!?!?) and wants to work at journalling daily (double ?!?!?!?!?). He's even mulling over having me go over his stories with him and teaching him a bit of basic writing stuff (ok, there aren't enough questions marks to express my shock and amazement at this, the last story he wrote he's never been willing to even show it to me.)

Football season is starting soon, sooner than O expected. His team starts practicing tomorrow night and has their first exhibition games at the end of this month. He's really regretting not hitting the gym all winter now. He's moved from the community club level to the midget league, much more competitive, especially at the club he's playing for, and it's going to be a bit of a shock to the system for him this month.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My poor 'puter

Having computer trouble, it's just seized up and died. Too much anime and manga I think. I'll be doing updates from work, when I can, until I can get the computer up and running again. I think we're going to need a whole new operating system, and probably an upgrade on the graphic card and cooling system, at least. Hopefully it won't take too long, but it's oddly nice to not be wired up for a while.

O has filled his days, formerly spent mostly online watching the aforementioned anime and mange, by buying more anime and manga. Big surprise, lol. He's decided, though, now that he's spending more time in his room with his friends, that he just can't stand the mess anymore and has vowed to pare his possesions down to what will fit in one medium-sized box. I sometimes don't know who this kid is anymore ;)

O's latest interest, actually, a interest re-ignited, is Go, a game he's been playing for a few years now, but he's recently decided to start playing a lot more and a lot more seriously. The American Go Association has some great resources for teaching Go, and O has decided he wants to put together some workshops to teach Go and maybe pick up a few playing partners. He's going to put on a few one day workshops for local people, and for hsers, and is looking into starting up a regular Go night at a local cafe/used bookstore.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oh how things have changed

Just been rereading the blog here. I didn't realize I've been doing this for over a year now, and I had kind of forgotten just how frustrated I was getting with O there for a while. We went through about a year where things were not great. Not bad, really, but I felt we were just kind of disconnected and I didn't quite know what to do with him, and how to parent him.

As always, I have to worry non-stop about every little thing, am I doing the right thing? Is homeschooling still the right choice for him? etc etc etc... I couldn't figure out if things really needed working on, or he was just going through a transitional phase. And of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I knew that the disconnect and not-quite-working-out kind of phase we were in together wouldn't last, but I do have to have my worries.

Looking back over the last year, it's amazing to me just how much maturing O has done. Ok, he still thinks "Monkey Butter" is the funniest combination of words possible in the English language, but in many (non-monkey related) ways, he really seems so much more mature and composed.

I used to worry a lot (a common theme here, you'll see) that O was a little too malleable, that I could too easily sway him to hold my opinions or see things my way, and that I had to be really careful not to impose my own will on him too much. I worried that he could change his mind so quickly and easily, and I worried about how I could teach him more constancy. Cause, you know, I don't really have enough to do, so I have to find parental worries.

Of course, again, I should have realized that inner strength and constancy isn't something that is taught, but is learned (and I'm learning that this goes for just about everything else.) He's become so much his own person, so quickly. He argues with me, backs up his opinions, sometimes sways me (and no, we don't only debate stuff like the great Han Solo/Boba Fett debate.) It really amazes me lately how much he knows his own mind and his self and how confident he is in both, in both large and small ways.

It's such a bittersweet joy for me, though, watching him in the final phases of his childhood. I really liked, nay, profoundly loved, having a little kid in my life. As far as I'm concerned, there is no "bad age" and each enfolding step in his development was fascinating and joyous for me. Unlike almost all my friends apparently, I loved the 2's and 3's (most of my mom buddies would never go back to the toddler years for any amount of money), but I love how completely in the moment and engaged with the world 2yos are. How seeing a squirrel could give O such incredible joy, how a construction site was possibly the most exciting thing ever!

I never looked forward to a time when he wouldn't be completely dependent on me. I never looked forward to daycare or school as "time off." I deeply loved our hsing time spent tramping the river trail, looking for raccoon tracks and water birds. I never found playing pirate or space man boring. And I am soooo not ready for this to come to an end.

But O is not dependent on me anymore, not really. He even has a job and his own money. He knows how to cook, clean and do the basics of taking care of himself (better than many adults I know.) And I've been fighting this a bit, I think. But I'm finding that, once again, when I let go of my expectations and my wants, and just engage with O and enjoy him, that I'm finding a much more subtle joy in mothering a teen.

Because, as much as he's a pretty independent, pretty confident, pretty self-contained person, he still does need me, in new and more challenging ways. And while it's been frustrating to work out this process, it's a whole new aspect of parenting opening up to me, challenging me to learn how to be his mom. And I love nothing more on earth than that.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

gotta love those Winnipeg anarchists

Spent the afternoon today at the Bike Dump, a free, volunteer run bike repair workshop. I fixed my bike up in a jiffy (all I needed from last year was a tweak on my seat, it kept tipping forward) but O's old bike (not all that old, I bought it at the start of last summer) is in a woeful state. One of the crank rods was bent, the crank itself was cracked, his seat is tippy and dangerous too, his back tire is bent, the gears don't really work and the brakes work too well.

O put about 3 hours into fixing the bike up well enough to ride today, while I did a quick snack shop at Sun Wah, a nearby Chinese grocery store (and one of my favorite places ever.) It didn't really work out too well for him, he and the Bike Dump volunteer got a new crank and rod on, but neglected to check the attachment hole before putting it all together, so O wound up riding home on a pedals that were at a 45 degree angle (or 135 degree angle, if you look at it the other way) rather than the standard, usable, 90 degrees. I thought he was going to throw the bike by the end of our ride home.

No big deal, though, since the Bike Dump has frames and cannibalized parts to put together a new bike for him later in the week. He needs a bigger bike than he's got right now, he's not freakishly big (6'2"), but his current bike, which has the largest mountain bike frame available (26") looks like a clown bike when he's on it right now. He's picked out another 26" frame, but it's a very sturdy ten speed frame, and with any luck, he'll be able to find a seat with a very, very long post next week, either at the Dump, or at a bike supply shop (we may have to pony up the dough for a new part), so it'll be more comfortable to ride.

The Bike Dump is part of an a loose anarchist collective that includes Mondragon, the Emma Goldman Grassroots centre, and Food not Bombs. And what a beautiful example of anarchism in action it is. The space is run by volunteers, runs on donations of both cash and supplies, there are volunteers available to help fix or build bikes, from mechanical experts, to people who've just learned how to change a tire and are eager to teach someone else their new skill. Tools and supplies are organized in freecycled bins and milk boxes, no one is in charge, everyone reminds everyone to put things back where they belong, jumps in to help out with a particularly frustrating repair.

I've had a few discussions over on MDC about the connection between unschooling and the punk anarchist DIY ethic, and this place was such a great example of the open sharing of skills, labour and supplies that I think typifies both worlds at their best.