Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on May 1, 2009 at 11:36 AM

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. — Einstein



Comment by Mary on May 1, 2009 at 01:29 PM

That could be a life-changing statement for so many people. Many people I know and, more often than I care to admit, I spend life seeking comfort and luxury and spend life without purpose. What a great lesson to instill in our children early on.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 1, 2009 at 02:04 PM

if you imagine a life with comfort and luxury but nothing to be enthusiastic about … the opposite immediately establishes its appeal.

this ties in to what we were saying in last week’s open thread — that when we start focusing on school as a ticket to a job/career/salary/belongings, we miss the point that the chief pleasures of life don’t have anything to do with those things (unless you are lucky enough to love your job and find your life’s work there).

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 1, 2009 at 02:05 PM

candy posted a great item to the forum that i want to share here:

Garden As Project-Based Learning

I just thought I'd share, since we are so very busy with our garden this time of year, that a vegetable garden is superb project-based learning.

First off, there's the composting that has been going on all year round. My boys love to take jugs of veggie scraps out to the compost - and whenever it rains, they collect as many worms as they can find and relocate them to the compost. Then, when time comes - they get to see compost in action when we till it into the soil. We even left part of the garden WITHOUT adding any compost.. so we can compare.

We've also decided to grow a few of our tomato plants upside down to compare the tomato output with our ground dwelling tomatoes.

The boys helped Daddy build the green bean house for the bean vines to grow up. They help sprout the seeds, plant the plants, water them and to pick the veggies & fruits when they are ripe. They also learn to save the seeds from certain plants of ours so we can grow them next year. They learn to troubleshoot ways to keep the rabbits out of the garden. They choose seeds to try... and this year, oldest plans to sell some of his veggies at a veggie stand which will help with money math. But, it's also helped him develop an understanding of advertising & promotions- as he has come up with lots of ideas to draw customers.

They will bring the learning experience into the home when we start cooking and canning our produce. They love to cook. They witness the cycle of life first hand. It's an amazing experience that offers new learning every year as we constantly expand and improve on our gardening skills and garden.

the garden attracts bugs, lizards, birds, and animals to sneak up on... to watch.. to photograph and ask questions about. They can track rabbits to find out just how the critters are getting into the yard.

The garden is one of the most valuable learning experiences we have, here. It's awesome!

-- Candy

Comment by Dawn on May 1, 2009 at 02:46 PM

When I read this I instantly thought of the experience we had in school where coloring in the lines, making "cookie cutter" art and learning arbitrary facts was more important than allowing her to explore those things she was so enthusiastic about!
Lots to think about here as an adult... finding that balance between wants and needs. Sometimes comfort is not such a good thing... getting out of my comfort zone this past year has created so many more possibilities and new ideas!

Candy's garden project sounds wonderful! Can't wait to get to a place were we can have a big garden again! Pots will have to do for this summer!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on May 1, 2009 at 04:33 PM

I loved reading about Candy's garden project! We have one too, and it's been really fun for us to track the development of the plants and count the blossoms and then see how many turn into fruit. Jeff started a compost bin, which Annika loves. So fun!

I think the desire for comfort is difficult to break out of. I know I have a hard time with it. However, it's a great thought for us as we're preparing for our road trip - that it's okay to "rough it" a bit and not bring along everything that makes us comfortable and happy.

Comment by estea on May 1, 2009 at 05:43 PM

i've always loved that quote - one of my faves of his.

it's so important to me that my kids know they are not on the planet to be entertained. they are here to make the world a better place, and one of the main reasons i homeschool is my desire for them to tap into what they LOVE as soon as they can, and then search for ways they can someday make a living doing what they were born to do :)

i want a green bean house! we are late with the garden this year - - - we've had so much rain in kansas.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 1, 2009 at 07:15 PM

dawn, yes! so often in school, your interest or enthusiasm aren’t required. and if you are enthusiastic, you’re just throwing up obstacles to them rushing through the planned curriculum.

agree completely about getting out of one’s comfort zone!

sarah, that’s one of the chief reasons i love camping. it draws my attention to the moment at hand; everything else falls away. it’s obvious how little you need to get by, because you are doing without luxuries, and you see how wonderful the simplest things can be.

e, me too re: the quote. and he has a lot of good ones.

and — me, too, also re: wanting to give my children a chance to discover what they love to do through hs’ing. homeschooling, to me, is a chance to celebrate life *now* — by giving us more time together and giving them more time to be occupied doing things that are worthwhile and meaningful — and the future — because they are starting early to explore who they are, what they can do, and how they can contribute to the world.

Comment by Candy Cook on May 1, 2009 at 09:51 PM

You can see a photo of last year's green bean house, here:

You can also look at some other pictures of last years garden. I haven't taken many this year yet, cause it's all still pretty small. But, the green bean house is going to be fantastic this year. We have about 40-50 plants and when you go inside, it's a outdoor shower.. with green bean vines as the "shower curtain."

I will be adding lots of photos of the garden and stuff.. and some of our upcoming projects (including the upside down tomatoes which go in this weekend...) on my blog:

Comment by Thimbleina on May 2, 2009 at 07:55 AM

So true this quote, comfort and luxury are a forever changing target and you will always want more than you have making you unhappy that you never achive your target and even if you do consider that you have then what do you do from there.

How can you not be happy without having something to be enthusiastic about? It is an excellent life lesson to teach our children by imitation. If we model this ourselves as in the vegetable gardening and the children see our enthusiasm then it is infectious and they cannot fail to follow with their own projects that interest them. We need to help guide them in this pursuit carefully and not be overbearing.

My daughter at the moment is studying the Great Fire of London and is so enthusiastic about it, she can give you allsorts of facts about it as it is something she loves, she has a great joie de vivre about her and is so alive and vivacious when she has a subject she loves, what more could she want in life than studying the things that she loves and make her feel like she does at the moment. I don't want for her to be looking for the unattainable all her life.

Have a great weekend

Comment by Louise on May 2, 2009 at 12:13 PM

I am a latecomer to this blog and have just sat down and read and read - Lori I love what you are doing, as I also love what I know of the project approach and Reggio emilia but I have trouble translating these ideas into authentic curriculum in a preschool group - I feel that I need to learn some skills like how to foster discussion that provokes wondering - that a big area of need for me - but also how to then pick up on interests without imposing a teacher-planned activity - I appreciate what you say about questions - and I keep on coming back to that as the first step but do you have any suggestions for a group situation where the children have always PLAYED and I have encouraged that as they learn so much through it, but some, esp boys, do not want to submit to anything structured that might develop - so I have to use not so gentle persuasion - now it's time that we did such and such...if you or anyone reading this has some suggestions, I would be so grateful.
Louise in Victoria, Australia.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 2, 2009 at 12:21 PM

candy, you brought back memories of the time we made a gorgeous tunnel of trellis at the school and planted birdhouse gourds all around it — within a few weeks it was a fantastic tunnel of green with benches inside and the children loved it! and then … the garden spiders moved in. there must have been a hundred of them. the children still loved it; the teachers wouldn’t go anywhere near it. :^D and *then* the gourds grew — and their weight collapsed the metal trellises. talk about a learning experience!

thimblelina — so, so true about the moving target! whereas if you have something you love to do, you will always be immersed in it. and if you love learning (and by that i mean — you are comfortable with having not yet mastered something), you will always be happy as you are striving.

agree completely about modeling this for our children; as you know, it’s something we’ve spoken about here often! when parents are so concerned with having their children complete all of these magical steps to a well-paying career and don’t (or can’t) model what it means to live a happy life…

that joie de vivre from working on something that really captivates you is an important part of what i love about this type of learning — it really engages all of you. not just your brain, but your heart. and you can pour all of yourself into it — no matter what your specific talents or interests. rather than having to fit your square peg into school’s round hole to fulfill their requirements, it is a curriculum perfectly designed to bring out your best while defining your challenge points.

thank you!

hi louse :^)

what you need to do is spend some time documenting *what* the children are playing at — what are they building in the block area? what imaginary games are they playing in the classroom and outside?

look for a small group of two or three children who have an intense interest. it is *they* who will pull in the rest of the children; you won’t have to gently persuade!

look for a project topic that you believe will either have enough general interest to appeal to most of the children *or* enough spread to offer many different entry points. you don’t want anything overly specific or too esoteric.

as an example, we did a very successful project that began with three boys who were obsessed (in the best sense of the word) with a book in the preschool library about dolphins and whales. the project grew from there, and the children eventually studied fishing equipment, boats, all fish (ocean and lake) and sea mammals, water, diving equipment, and on and on. representations were numerous and included a whole stage full of models that the children would “swim” through while wearing the scuba equipment they had made!

the three boys at the beginning, once they were given special attention, exploded in their work. they shared it with their classmates — *this* is how you get a whole group involved.

we *never* required project work of our preschoolers; everything they did was self-motivated. if you have children share their work with each other in your class meetings, and if you support their different ideas, they will *want* to work on the project, to be a part of it.

play is a natural part of project work. of course, the children spent part of each day playing at non-project-related things, but they also played at their project — playing with their clay models on the rug, making block buildings to house them; playing pretend with the models and representations they had made (fishing, diving, traveling in their child-size boat they’d made, etc.); acting out skits related to things they’d learned. through play, they reinforced everything they learned, and they also uncovered questions they had (which is why it is important to document their play!).

rather than asking boys to submit to structured learning, you need to turn it around so that you are offering yourself up as a trusted resource to provide what they need — materials, space, permission to build, etc.

please feel free to come back with more questions, and please let me know how it goes!

Comment by Candy Cook on May 2, 2009 at 12:40 PM

Lori - Last year, our green bean house did cave in. We had used bamboo poles and garden stakes to make it. It couldn't support the weight of the full grown plants. But, that was great, too. It gave the boys a strong sense of responsibility... they were the only ones who could walk through it, and even they had to bend down a bit inside of it. We would have to crawl in there to get the beans inside. LOL This year, we are using 2x4 framing and wire fencing to support the house.. instead of the stakes, bamboo and strings. Learning experience, indeed. I want my outdoor shower LOL.

Another thing my son does, is sell seeds. We generally get a LOT of green bean seeds and he sells them as "Magic Beans." That was his idea. Some folks paid him $2 for a package. That's pretty darn good, considering those folks that paid him the most never have gardens LOLOL

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 2, 2009 at 01:13 PM

the kids did love the cave-in!! :^)

i saw an absolutely gorgeous morning glory tunnel — it was made of steel and not in an ordinary trellis shape — more of a gentle curve. just gorgeous. i think about trying to replicate that if i could figure out similar supports!

the magic bean business idea is awesome — lol. there’s no salesman like a cute kid salesman!

we packaged and sold (and gave away ;^) sunflower seeds one year at school and my 4yo’s bright idea was to color them with markers and then market them as Star Wars themed seeds. lolol

Comment by Amy on May 2, 2009 at 10:02 PM

Oh, Einstein, I used to be enthusiastic about homeschooling! I still am, actually, but the reality is so far from what I'd hoped. My 7yo is so often at odds with us. I wonder if it's a stage? I really hope so. He has a very hard time with transitions (such as Daddy coming home in the evening) or any deviation from the normal, which extends even to the weekends: again, different because Daddy is here, I think. He has always been a high-strung kid and I've felt for years that he gets the majority of my energy, short-changing his siblings. Lately he's very hung up on "winning" and turns everything into a confrontation--a simple reminder to wash hands before dinner can turn into a prolonged temper tantrum. What does this have to do with homeschooling? It's exhausting having him here. I've tried to talk to him about what I need for homeschooling to work: a respectful and cooperative relationship. I will support what he wants to do to the best of my abilities, but I can't constantly be facing a struggle. The truth is, at this age, with three children and the 7yo the oldest, homeschooling is a tremendous amount of work. I *do* feel that I'm making sacrifices in order to do this, and I'm willing to do so, but at what point is it fair to ask a child to contribute? I hear other homeschoolers talk about the wonderful mutually respectful relationship they have with their children and I wonder what I'm doing wrong here.

Anyway, back to my original thought. I am so excited about homeschooling in theory. I am exhausted by it in reality.

Comment by Stacey on May 3, 2009 at 03:52 PM

So I'm going to ask a question this week that is sort of related to the quote. How do people refill themselves from all of this focus on someone (s) else? I just spent the past two days away with a friend at a Craft Fair where she had a table. There was something so wonderful about just spending time with another Mama without having to share my attention with a child. But that doesn't happen very often. So how do you all find ways to replenish yourselves?

My relating it to the quote is that for me I am excited about our life and learning and making and growing things.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 3, 2009 at 04:04 PM

i have always pursued my own interests, even when i had very little time when the boys were younger. now that they are getting older, i find i have plenty of time. they are so involved in their own interests and hobbies, we can work on our own things quite companionably.

having babies and young children is really consuming — of your time and your thoughts, your energy, etc. — but i can at least tell you that as they get older (my sons are now 9 and 12), you get your own life back but it’s even better because you can share it with them!

Comment by barbara on May 3, 2009 at 04:53 PM

what an excellent quote. just what i needed to read today :) hurrah for enthusiasm!

Comment by Amy on May 3, 2009 at 06:49 PM

Stacey, I used to replenish myself when the boys were in bed. We tend to stick to early bedtimes, and once they were settled, the rest of the night was mine. It really, really helped, and I would try to make sure I made the best use of that time. I found I could cut out fabric pieces during the day and sew them at night, for example. I made sure I had some replenishing projects to work on. I guess I'm saying we need to protect our time and make sure we're not wasting it. On days when I was so exhausted that I could only lie on the couch in the evening I'd feel the absence of my own creative time.

Now that the baby is here, that hasn't worked so well. I'm assuming it will get better as she gets a bit older. Of course, now my oldest has a slightly older bedtime, but I'm trying to be clear that at a certain time, he can read to himself or watch the Red Sox (if they're on) but I'm more or less off duty.

As my boys got older, as opportunities arose (like your friend's craft fair) I'd try to take advantage of them. Again, not so easy with the baby (who is nursing), but I will make sure to get back to that.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 3, 2009 at 07:38 PM

i used to read to the boys and then they would have another half hour to read to themselves in bed (with reading lights — main light off!). this gave me a half hour to putter around and do all those things that you need to do at the end of the day (that eat into your “fun” time). it worked as a good, relaxing transition for all of us. when their lights snapped off for real (1) they were ready to sleep and (2) i was ready to do something fun!

Comment by Barbara in NC on May 4, 2009 at 03:57 AM

I love all this gardening talk! I staked out a bean teepee this weekend (and for me it was an exercise in going outside my comfort zone because I had to get out the saw), and then made a cucumber tunnel with some wire fencing I'd used for trellising last year...even with nothing on it, Anna (4) discovered it today and crawled through (it's little, definitely child-sized) and positively crowed with delight. Talk about enthusiasm!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 4, 2009 at 01:43 PM

barbara, my favorite garden is one that has child-size delights in it :^)

maybe it will warm up here and dry out a little and i can start gardening, too!

Comment by amyk on May 7, 2009 at 01:27 AM

Amy, I just wanted to say your 7 y.o. sounds kind of like my 7 y.o. and it is exhausting. She's very high-energy and strong-willed and always has been. This is our first year to h.s. and it has been exhausting (and I only have 2 kids currently!). I actually began to feel I wanted to send her to the charter school because I began to feel like she needed more structure than I could provide for her and that it might be better for our relationship. But looks like she might not be getting in unless someone in the class moves,and I don't really want to do the p.s. where she was again, so I'm thinking we'll continue to h.s. But I'm hopeful things will get easier. I just wanted to say that I can empathize, that with an intense child, homeschooling is intense and hard. It's definitely been a learning process this year. i feel like h.s. magnifies any issues that are there in your relationship with your kids. I did want to say that I found this book recently called transforming the difficult child and i've just been putting the things into practice the past couple of weeks, but I feel like things have been going a little better and that I feel better about our relationship, much more positive. I feel like relationship-wise we're turning a corner... I just wanted to share. And I hope that things get better. Your comment about how much you believe in h.s. in theory, but the practice.... I can relate!!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 7, 2009 at 01:35 PM

amyk, i think you are so right about homeschooling magnifying any relationship issues … because homeschooling really is *all about relationships*. it’s like you have to work on the foundation before you can begin to build a strategy for working together.

i know a lot of kids who leave public school to start homeschooling come to it with a significant amount of suspicion and trust issues — wondering how hs’ing is going to be different from public school, wondering how teacher-mom is going to be different from regular-mom, and etc.

thanks so much for sharing this!

Comment by Amy on May 7, 2009 at 02:19 PM

AmyK, thank you thank you THANK YOU for posting! Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one struggling. We, too, put in applications at the charter school. Basically they only have spots in the K year, and I don't want to do full-day K, but I put in an application for my older child for 1st and then again this year for 2nd. I figured if he got in we could investigate more, but if we didn't apply, we definitely wouldn't even have the option. So we put in an app for my younger son for K, too, just to see. Neither of them got in anyway. I don't want to send my older son to the local public school, and sometimes I do feel backed into a corner with homeschooling. On the other hand, I am still so excited by our options! I agree that this year has been a learning experience. It's the first year I tried anything more structured and I am still seeking that balance between structure and freedom, what works for him and me and everyone else in the family.

I've heard of the Nurtured Heart approach--I'm going to see if my library has a copy of that book. I admit I hate to label him "difficult" and I wish they'd call the book something else! Since he can read I'll have to hide it from him. As much as his tantrums frustrate me because it makes everything harder, they sadden me, too, because I can't imagine he's happy. He's *just like me* as a kid. Unfortunately that doesn't really give me any insight on what to do for him. But I do remind myself: I wasn't happy in school, and I think sending him to school might exacerbate everything.

And then of course there is the mother's mantra: This too shall pass.

Comment by amyk on May 11, 2009 at 01:09 AM

hey amy, i agree with your distaste for the title. i'm always hiding my copy too. but it has helped me feel more positive about our relationship and get less involved in the negative cycles and tantrums. ah, this motherhood thing is so hard sometimes! it's mother's day night, and i'm exhausted!! and about charter schools, don't you just ask yourself all the time... why can't all schools be charter schools? i wish so badly we had just lots of different kinds of small charter schools instead of the big public schools in the box. i just really believe we all need more educational choices. i wish all kids could have educations that allow them to think and learn more independently and freely and go outside alot and take lots of field trips. it's not fair that only 100-ish kids in our county or homeschoolers get this opportunity. it seems that obama supports charters. maybe one day, there will be more options...we just all need to be able to choose what is best for our kids... it would be nice. in the meantime, we'll keep on keeping on. and we'll keep on working on our relationship i guess too, like lori said, i still need to try to establish that trust.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 12, 2009 at 12:29 AM

wouldn’t it be great if we had a lot of small, specialized schools to choose from? schools with different goals and approaches? my.

Post new comment