Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ride Naked.....or Not

The weather really took a turn this weekend. I know we'll still get another heat wave before Fall arrives officially. I haven't harvested nearly enough tomatoes for this to actually be the end of summer weather. But today, I actually had to wear a sweatshirt.....all day. That's unsual.

For some, it would also be unusual to see a woman riding her bike down the street....completely naked. But not for us. You see, in our town, we have Naked Girl.

Naked girl moved here a few months back. Seems she feels very strongly about her right to be naked whenever and wherever she choses. Our town has some relatively relaxed nudity laws (breasts are fine, genitals are not), and she has come to relax those laws even further.

Some folks get all bent out of shape when they see Naked Girl, riding around in her birthday suit. Motorists honk, and holler, and wave, and shake their fists. I kinda think that's the response she's going for.

At the bus stop one day, an elderly woman went on and on to me about how careful we all had to be now that Naked Girl was around. "You just never know when she'll appear. How dare she! Next thing you know she'll be going to bed with men....right there on the street!" The woman glanced at my three children with a scowl. "How dare she!" Funny how a naked body equals "going to bed" in our part of the world.

Another time, while riding the bus, another rider shared her disapproval with me as Naked Girl passed us in the bike lane. "I mean, I don't mind so much. It really doesn't matter to me if she wants to be naked. I'm just sorry for you," she nodded toward my kids, and lowered her voice to a whisper. "At least I don't have to protect my children from her!"

The thought of protecting my children from Naked Girl never even entered my mind. I can think of a whole bunch of things I'd like to protect my children from, and nakedness is not one of them.

Violence, war, famine, disease, greasy fast food, drugs, sure...but nakedness? Really?

Now don't get me wrong, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather do than ride my bicycle naked (ouchie). Especially on a chilly day. But, hey, to each his own. Today, Naked Girl was on roller blades, and a friend rode the bike with the trailer holding the sign proclaiming "We're Naked!! Just like God made us!" Her friend's tan lines revealed her inexperience.

As I rode to the library, I passed them. Then they passed me. Then I passed them. Then, at the red light, Naked Girl nearly knocked me off my bike trying to stop on her blades. She looked cold. But happy.

I'm guessing that living life without school might have something to do with our lack of freak out energy toward public nudity. I suppose that the more time one spends in an environment where you always have to wear shoes, let alone clothes, the less comfortable one might be with a glimpse of the human natural. Ah well. In the meantime, I'm going to give up a little more gratitude that we've chosen a different way.

Be naked. Or not. But do ride your bike as often as possible. It's good for you, and good for the planet.

Shooting Stars, over at LWoS

The Life Without School Community Blog is running an old post of mine from this time last year. If you're not going back to school this week, you'll know what I'm talkin' about.

Happy Not-Back-to-School everyone.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bad Boys and Mean Girls

Our homeschool park day is always a good opportunity for me to do some thinking about this whole parenting thing. Earlier in the day, I had read one of Scott Noelle's daily e mails. In it, he challenged us to think about our tendency to want our kids to be "nice". He goes on to suggest that kids provide an excellent example of how to not stuff our feelings. As adults, many of us have learned how to hide our true feelings in a given situation in an effort to be socially acceptable. Nice people are easier to be around. Pleasant people generally don't push our buttons. When our kids act out their true feelings, it's often not very nice.

My son Charley is seven and a half. He has no trouble acting out his true feelings. When he's angry, you'll know it. When he thinks you're being unfair and he doesn't want to play with you, he is unafraid of letting you know just that. Being nice is not important to him. That's not to say he is never pleasant company. He is also thoughtful and curious. He can be joyful and carefree and adventurous. He is playful and courageous and sweet. But when he's mad or frustrated, look out.

What I struggle with, is navigating through the perceptions other adults I spend time with have about my son. So many parents feel the need to teach their kids how to be nice. When I'm feeling particularly anxious about Charley's behavior, I fall into the same habit. Coaching him through a nicer way; a kinder, gentler way of interacting with others. But when I find myself doing this, I'm left with a yucky feeling inside. It doesn't feel like it's serving Charley. It feels like it's serving me.

Maybe people will think I'm a better parent if they hear me tell Charley that he shouldn't call people names. Maybe so and so will have more respect for me if I tell Charley that "we don't say things like that in our house." Because, really, what's happening when these phrases jump out of my mouth, is that my feelings of insecurity and inadequecy are showing up in a big, big way.

I know that Charley knows how to be nice, just like I know that he knows his own name. No one needed to teach him how to be himself. He just is. And part of who he is, is a child who experiences life in a big, big way. Sometimes that experience is loud and annoying and hurtful. But I'm not convinced that I need to teach him how to do it differently.

At park day, a younger child came over to the blanket where the moms were sitting, upset that Charley had insulted his weapon. I cringed. No one wants to be the parent of the child that is not being nice. I expressed that it sounded like Charley was feeling upset for some reason and that maybe leaving him alone for a while would be a good idea. I've spent a lot of time and energy in the past "talking things out" with my kids and their friends when one of them is struggling. I still think that this is often a good idea, but I'm beginning to think that what I would rather do is model an attitiude of detachment. We all seem to take everything so personally.

If Charley insults my weapon, it's really not about me......or my weapon. It's about Charley. We don't insult one another when we're feeling strong and confident and happy. Rather, our darker, negative emotions tend to rise up to the surface when we're feeling crummy inside.

One of the most insightful things I've heard lately is, "What other people say and do is a reflection upon them, not upon me." When I think about what I would like for my children to learn in this life, it's not how to stuff their feelings or how to change who you are so that others will like you. I would much prefer that my children learn that they do not have to be a victim of someone else's experience. If Fred is having a bad day and doesn't feel like playing, I don't have to take that on. As a good friend says, "It's not your dog, so don't walk it."

As the other moms and I talked about this issue at park day, we grappled with the implications of letting our kids learn their own lessons. One mom suggested that she felt it was important to help our kids understand that there are certain things that you just don't do or say in social situations. I'm not so sure. I think we may be selling our kids short by assuming that they can't figure this out for themselves.

I have felt the need in the past to explain to Charley that people don't like to be called names and that so and so may not want to play with him if he calls him an idiot (man, I hate that word). But Charley has experienced this on his own. He has seen the reaction that he gets from other kids (and their parents) when he explodes in anger. It's obvious that it makes people uncomfortable. More often than not, Charley doesn't really want to play either, and what he's actually looking for is a way out. He doesn't need me to show him how to be nicer. Rather, I think he's looking for support of another kind.

I've found that this support doesn't come in the moment. It comes later in the day, when the anger has cooled and no one else is around. That's when the heart to hearts happen and we are able to talk about "stuff". What I've learned from these talks is that Charley doesn't need me to teach him how to be nice. He needs me to accept him for who he is, and to not take it all so personally.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ahhhhhh...Vacation, at last.

It's hard to remember to do the regular, normal, everyday things when I'm on vacation. Sitting on the beach, swimming in the lake and reading my book are pretty much the priorities, but my head is full of thoughts and inspirations after last weekend's HSC conference.

It was a fantastic 4 four days, and I have so much to reflect upon. Meeting Colleen and Jerry from The New Unschooler was a huge highlight, as was my first official speaking gig on Sunday. I was terribly nervous going into it, but once I got started, it was hard to stop. Familiar faces in the audience (thansk Colleen, Molly and Gretchen) certainly helped remind me that I was going to be okay, and the feedback I got afterwards was amazingly positive. I did end up buying the audio CD (is that too weird?). I'm a little afraid to listen to it.

So much more to share, but the river calls.....Grandma wants a picture of all 5 grandkids before we leave to go rafting on the river......should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Off to Sacramento

We head out early tomorrow morning for the HSC Learning Wihout Limits conference. It is certainly one of the highlights of our year, and always reminds me of what it felt like to be a newbie discovering unschooling for the very first time. Now that six years have past and we have moved away from California, there are friends we only see once a year at this conference. We all look forward to the amazing connections with so many homeschooling families, the juicy chats by the pool, and the inspiring speakers and workshops.

I'm looking forward to meeting a fellow unschooling blogger. Colleen is a fantastic writer and does an amazing job sharing her experience as a new unschooler. I'm so glad we'll get to meet face to face!

I'll be presenting a session on Sunday called, "This Unschooling Life". I'm terribly nervous and can't remember what in the world I was thinking when I wrote my proposal. My sessions in past years have always been very hands-on family style learning stuff. This will be my first time sharing my experience as an unschooler to all adults! No cutsie games or crafts to hide behind.....accckkkk. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back Again

I've been just a little busy this month with raising three kids, launching a website for my soon-to-be non-profit, dealing with computer crashes (man, that sucked.......still sucks, actually), working, spending juicy, fabulous time with my sister and her kids, preparing to present next week at the HSC conference, and trying to relax (what's that?)and enjoy the summer.

Now that I have my computer back, I'm hoeful, I'll be able to spend more time sharing with ya'll the joys of this unschooling life.

Oh yeah......I've got a new post up over at the other Life Without School...check me out.