In our unschooling journey, my view of reading has evolved. I have always been a book lover. I remember waiting anxiously for the next book-of-the-month club arrival in the mail when I was about 10 years old. I used to peruse my grandmother's bookshelves everytime I visited and couldn't wait to see what new books she might have. Even now, I have to keep myself in check from spending too much money in bookstores. So naturally, I wanted to share that love of books and reading with my children.

In our first year of homeschooling (we weren't unschooling, yet), I told my then 10 year old son that I wanted him to always have a book that he was reading. He could choose whatever he wanted, and take as long as he wanted for each book, but I wanted him to keep reading. In one year he read 20 books! I was amazed, and so was he. He stated that he actually liked reading. However, after that, I no longer required him to read books, and I don't think he's read one in it's entirety since.

What has happened though, is that I learned that reading isn't THE key to learning, and reading from books isn't the only reading that counts. My son has learned so much in the last 5 years that it tires me to even think about trying to summarize it. He and I both read on-line much more than in books now, as well as magazines, and manuals, and other practical guides.

Also in that first year of homeschooling, my 5 year old daughter learned to read. She learned what sounds each letter made, and then with us reading to her every night, and some Bob Books, she was well on her way. During this past year, she has REALLY enjoyed the Captain Underpants series by Dave Pilkey. In fact, she has read every book in the series 5 times! One day when she was home on the couch with a fever, she decided to see if she could read them all in that day. She did. I have soooo many other books waiting for her to discover. I was beginning to worry we would never move on. Yes, she loves books, but only the same ones over and over! But thankfully, we saw the new Nancy Drew movie a week or so ago, and when I mentioned that they have a whole series of books about Nancy and her mysteries, my daughter was intrigued. I picked up a few at the library, and now she's read 5 books in the series already. Good-bye Captain Underpants, Hello Nancy Drew!

Now my 7 year old son is still figuring out how to read. He knows the letter sounds and knows lots of words by sight from the computer, video game play, and everyday life. He is also able to sound out some words and figure them out. But, because he has cousins the around the same age who are reading more already, the questions are starting to come. Like, "Is he showing any more interest in reading?" "How's he doing with the reading?" "Have you been working on reading with him?"

I am so grateful that I know better than to worry in response to such inquiries. I know my son. I know he is learning every day. I see it. I know the tool of reading will be in his tool belt as soon as he is ready to pick it up. It's not something I can just hand to him and say, "take it." The best part is as he's learning, he's having fun. He's able to try things out whenever he feels like it, stop when he feels like it, read whatever he wants, without any pressure at all. He has such a great sense of humor about it all too. If he sounds something out, and it sounds funny to him, he'll laugh and say it again and tell us all. That's the kind of mistake that would lead to correction and shame in a school setting. I hope my son keeps his sense of joy and humor intact when it comes to reading and all learning. As long as we unschool, I think that's entirely possible.


Language Arts

I bet you think of high school or college english classes when you hear "language arts", right? Well, I'm talking about something totally different. I'm talking about how this amazing artist explores and expands the boundaries between language and art. Her name is Nina Katchadourian and she's done some wonderfullly inventive things with language arts. In 2001, she had a "Talking Popcorn" exhibit, in which a microphone attached to a morse code machine and special computer program translated all the "pops" of the popcorn into language. The bags of popcorn were displayed with their corresponding "narratives". The first word of the popcorn was bronzed like a pair of baby shoes. It was "we". :)

Another of Katchadourian's language related projects is "Sorted Books", which is an ongoing project that she began in 1993. It consists of many different stacks of books from many collections, public and private, creatively arranged by title in clusters. They say something about the entire library as a whole, and are quite clever, often humorous. I was inspired to try my own.

There are many more thought provoking works at Katchadourian's site, or if you're lucky enough maybe you can see some of them in person. She has works displayed on both coasts of the U.S. as well as abroad! Look, listen, enjoy, be inspired!


The Name/Blame Game

Right now, doctors are deliberating on whether or not to include a create a new diagnosis, Video Game Addiction. Yes, I'm serious. You can read more about it in this article which warns of all the dangers, such as "teens holing up in their rooms, ignoring friends, family, even food and a shower, while grades plummet and belligerence soars." Not surprisingly, much of the focus is on the risk to children and teens.

You may say that there are some who cannot function at all because of their "addictions", but I disagree. There is more to it than that. There is an underlying cause which leads some to choose their addictive activity above all others. It might be depression, frustration, need for control, among many other things. Maybe there are too many frustrated children and teens, seeking some sense of control and joy in their life, and video games are one of the ways they find it. Maybe for some with a homelife so unhappy the video games become "like" an addiction. But true addiction is a physiological state, caused by substances taken into the body, not by things outside of the body.

This is an opportunity for people to look deeper and see why are there so many unhappy children and teens, not what new label can we give them. Wake up people! Give your children the respect they deserve and stop treating them like projects to complete. They are whole already. If you need a project, look at yourself. We all have need of self-improvement, don't we? Or maybe we need a new label. As Dr. Brody, head of a TV and media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, stated, " You could make lots of behavioral things into addictions. Why stop at video gaming? Why not Blackberries, cell phones, or other irritating habits?"


The Natural Beauty Created by Laura Breitman

I LOVE this woman's creations. I especially like her landscapes. I was first drawn to the colors, the nature, the undisturbed peacefulness I saw in the scenes. When I realized that her pictures were all collages, I was even more in awe. If I ever get to see her work in person, it will be a wish come true.

Here's a glimpse. You can see her portfolio at her site here.

(click image to see it larger)

In the Thick of It In the Thick of It , Detail



We had such fun searching for dinosaurs the other day at the McKee Botanical Gardens. Following the map was like following a treasure map. The kids were running along the paths from one dinosaur to the next. Seeing the dinosaurs in such a natural setting added so much to the experience. They were very realistic, as scientifically accurate as possible, and made by a master in his field. Here's a peek at what we saw.