Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Elizabeth

I have to admit I feel a little hinky posting my own interview. :) But hi there, I'm Elizabeth, and I am beyond delighted to be joining Kate in this project. I'm looking forward to helping give folks a glimpse into the incredibly diverse community of homeschoolers here in New Jersey. Kate has such a way of seeing the loveliest, most vibrant aspects of everything she looks at, and then showing those aspects to the world. I only hope my words can do her photos justice.

You can see a little more of Sarah's and my homeschooling journey at our journal: For peace comes dropping slow

What brought you to homeschooling?

When my daughter was 2 and a half, my husband and I started researching preschool options and early childhood educational theories. We were drawn to the work of Maria Montessori (especially her emphasis on mixed-age learning, independence & competence, and allowing kids to work independently and at their own pace), and considered a Montessori school. But we found the research arguing against early academic focus even more persuasive. David Elkind, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Rudolf Steiner (founder of the Waldorf schools -- although his work was more philosophical than research-based)... There is an astounding amount of evidence that schools' emphasis on earlier and earlier academic work is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing, that kids are neurologically, psychologically, and emotionally better off if we delay academic work until age 8 or so. Before that, kids should be learning the way children have always learned: through play and stories, games and songs -- the way kids did in the old-fashioned half-day kindergarten I attended, 35 years ago. There's plenty of time to learn how to sit still and do worksheets and fill in little circles with number two pencils when kids are older. Research shows they catch up with their peers quickly -- why spend 3 years practicing a skill when you can learn it faster if you start later?

We couldn't find any school that provided the environment we were looking for (Waldorf schools do delay academic work until 7 or 8, but they share with more mainstream schools the practice of forcing kids to do all the same activities at the same time, regardless of where the child's curiosity and passion might be engaged at the moment.). So we decided to do it ourselves at home, borrowing some Montessori approaches, some Waldorf approaches, some Enki resources. Mostly we played and sang and read together, took walks to the playground, did lots of pre-reading and pre-math games, and experimented to find a rhythm to the day and week, to see what worked best for Sarah. The plan was to homeschool until she was 7 or 8, and then find a Montessori school nearby.

The Universe, it turned out, had other plans. When Sarah was 6, we found ourselves involved with a democratic free school (a school in which the students are free to decide how they spent their days, free to follow their own interests and passions to choose what to learn and how, and in which the majority of the school rules are decided by democratic process: one school member, one vote), and my educational views were further transformed by the writings of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Chris Mercogliano, Matt Hern... I met so many curious, passionate, independent, empowered young people who had blossomed in an environment where they were trusted with the control of their own education, their own time, their own lives. That's what I want for my daughter.

We were involved with the school for 2 years, until it closed for financial reasons. Afterwards, there was no question but that we were going to continue homeschooling together. I dream of opening my own democratic free school down the road, when Sarah is high school aged, the two of us working on that grand project together, but who knows where our paths will take us?

What do you like about homeschooling?

Everything. Seriously. We started out for academic reasons, but we're constantly finding new things to love about homeschooling. I love the incredibly diverse but still tight-knit community -- the fact that Sarah has friends of all different ages and family backgrounds, that her friends include the adult women in our homeschool network, just as mine include a dozen homeschooled kids. Sarah has a community of intelligent, thoughtful, powerful women who carve out their own lives, confounding societal expectations left and right, modeling so many different ways to be in the world. She has friends as young as 3 and as old as... well, I was going to say 13, but that's only if I ignore all her grownup friends.

I love the freedom we have to spend our days however we want without having to work around a school schedule. We want to take a week off and drive to the midwest to see my sister? We can do that. Go visit my daughter's great-grandparents one afternoon a week and hear stories of what it was like to grow up during the depression, to be a young adult during WWII; stories of what her grandma was like as a girl, what I was like as a kid? We can do that, too. We volunteer one afternoon a week at a local grassroots organization. We go visit my parents in the Adirondacks for a week so Sarah can kayak and hike and have my dad teach her what the tracks of different animals look like or have my mom take her to the local theater. Our schooled friends rarely do anything like this during the school year -- they're always too exhausted from dealing with the onerous demands of the school schedule and the ridiculous amounts of homework.

I love how much family time we have. Right now we "play school" for a couple hours most weekday mornings. After that, if she isn't signed up for a homeschool class or activity that afternoon, we go to the library or visit with friends or work in the garden or bake together in the kitchen. Or we go visit her dad for lunch. When he gets home from work they play math games he made up for her, or watch cartoons, or read together. One day a week he comes home early from work to take her to a weekly card game get-together.

What challenges have you faced?

Early in our homeschooling years, we were pretty isolated. It didn't occur to me to look online for local homeschool mailing lists, and our closest homeschool friends were 45 minutes away. But then one far-away homeschooling friend introduced me to a local homeschool mom, who introduced me to 2 other homeschool moms and told me where to find yet more of them, and before long we were in the midst of 3 different, but overlapping, homeschool communities.

Other than that... No challenges, really. My parents (retired NYC teachers) are incredibly supportive of our decision to homeschool, and everyone else in the family is pretty supportive, although I think a few of them think we're nuts for doing it. :) Sarah loves homeschooling, I love homeschooling her. Living on one income can be pretty tough, and sometimes I miss working outside the home, but my volunteer work and the homeschool classes I occasionally teach give me a lot of the same satisfaction and validation that a full-time job did, and the financial sacrifices are totally worth it. (ah, okay, and one other challenge -- resisting the temptation to overbook ourselves because there are just so many awesome things to do)

Any surprises?
How easy it is, maybe? How many other homeschoolers there are?

What was your own school experience like?

I loved school and I did well. I went to a public elementary school in Queens. Because I was so shy in kindergarten they thought I was struggling with the schoolwork, so they put me in one of the less-advanced first grade classes. I dealt with my boredom by becoming even more dreamy and imaginitive than I already was -- I finished my work before anyone else in the class, and then spent the rest of the time daydreaming. They quickly caught on, and put me in the "top class" from there on in -- where I was much less bored, although I still got my desk moved on a regular basis because I kept talking with my neighbors when we were done with our work. In 6th grade I was in an experimental class in a middle school specializing in music and art -- other than math and reading, for which we were broken up by academic level, we learned almost everything else through creative projects done in small groups (putting together a newspaper from ancient mesopotamia, directing a play about Theseus, and so on) and had virtually no homework. I loved that year, although I was too shy to tell the teacher that the math group I'd been assigned to was too easy for me -- and so, when it was time to prepare for the exams for the specialized NYC high schools, my dad taught me pre-algebra and algebra at home at night.

Seventh through Twelth grades I attended an academically rigorous specialized public high school in Manhattan. I loved it, and I was pretty good at it, although I was rarely an A student. I didn't see the point of working harder than it took to get a B -- except in math, or on a term paper, both of which I both loved and tended to excel at. I loved being surrounded by people who loved words and ideas, people who were curious and intellectual and who dreamed big dreams. But I got to college and had no idea how to organize my time, or how to figure out what I wanted to do with my life -- I was very good at the academic stuff, very good at doing what I was told, but had no idea how to be a person out in the world, and it took me many years to find my own voice, and to become strong enough to use it.

How would you describe your homeschooling style?

Indescribable. :) I find labels more oppressive than helpful, for the most part -- no matter what you say you are, there are always people who are all too happy to tell you you're doing it wrong, or who'll judge you based on that label without bothering to get to know you. I also find that getting invested in a label can get in the way of making the best choices for yourself and your family -- if you find people you really like who use the same label you've been using, it can be really tempting to want to stay part of the club, even when your instincts start calling you in a different direction. Sometimes I say we're eclectic, or child-led, or unschooly, but really, the best way to describe it is Responsive. I check in with Sarah on a regular basis about what we're doing and how it's working for her, and I respond based on my knowledge of her temperament, her strengths and challenges, and the needs of the moment.

When we first started homeschooling full-time again after being involved with the school, we spent a year being very unschooly. Going to the library a lot and just following her interests of the moment -- maybe spending a week reading about butterflies, or going through all the Magic Treehouse books we could find. Then, after being home long enough that we started getting a sense of what we wanted our days and weeks to feel like, we shifted into being more Waldorfy again -- focusing on the rhythms of the day and alternating between expansive and contracted activities. As she became a little more academically and emotionally mature, we found ourselves shifting to a more structured approach -- picking 2 or 3 themes for each month and planning readings and activities around those themes. Right now we're even more structured than that, because of a conversation we had about feeling too rushed by our monthly themes. Together we've designed a semester-long curriculum, including World History (starting with the Big Bang), Spanish, Science (earth science, focused on weather and Nature Study), Mythology and Comparative Religion (reading myths and reading about religious celebrations around the world), Geography (studying maps of the cultures we were reading about, and also creating and studying local maps), and an approach to math that includes project-based work and reading about the history of math and mathematicians. I'm inspired by Charlotte Mason to focus on living books (narrative books instead of text books, and books written by a single author who's passionate about the subject) and to use narration (giving an overview of what she just read, either verbally or using some kind of art or craft) to help Sarah process what she's learning.

What is the homeschooling community like in your area?

I'm in Northeast Jersey. We're part of a few small, private groups of 3-12 families who get together regularly for playdates or educational activities (a 6 week lego science group, once a month geography club, etc.). We're also part of a few larger groups -- some informal mailing lists, one formal co-op -- who share resources and ideas, organize field trips and clubs and activities. There are certainly some religious homeschoolers (that is, those who are homeschooling for primarily religious reasons -- lots of secular homeschoolers are religious, too), but I think the vast majority of local homeschoolers are secular. I notice more unschoolers here than among the homeschoolers I know from Central Jersey, who seem to be a little more structured on average.

Describe your day.

We tweak our daily rhythms on a regular basis. Right now, I get up around 8 and have an hour to myself, to have tea and go online. Then I get Sarah up and we have Dance Time -- we put on music and dance anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on how soon we have to be out of the house. We have breakfast and tidy up a bit. Then most days we play school: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we do world history, spanish, and nature study or geography; Tuesdays and Thursdays we study weather, mythology, and math. I'll read her a chapter from one book, then she'll do a narration, then she'll read to herself for a bit, and maybe we'll listen to Coffee Break Espanol together or she'll work on a project. Then we do some independent work -- sitting side by side at the table, each working on our own schoolwork.

After we play school, we might dance more (we take 3 or 4 dance breaks throughout the day, or we'll add a short walk to our errands if we're out of the house for the afternoon). Then we have lunch, quiet time (just a few minutes to meditate or doze), and then our afternoon adventure. In the fall and spring our afternoons are very busy -- playdates with friends, our volunteer work with GSE, homeschool bowling, homeschool soccer, maybe a trip to see my grandparents or a field trip to a museum. The Fall and Spring are also when Sarah's most likely to have various classes or be meeting once a month for geography or music group. In the summer and winter, our afternoons are more likely to involve baking or crafting at home, or a trip to the library, with the occasional playdate thrown in.

When her dad gets home, he and Sarah spend some time playing math games or reading together while I make dinner. After dinner we tidy up together, then play board games or watch a movie.

What are your aspirations for homeschooling?

I want Sarah to understand that she has an immense amount of power, and not to give it up easily or without careful consideration. She has the power to make her life almost anything she wants it to be. She never needs to do anything just because it's "normal" or expected. I want her to question things, to think for herself, to know how to listen to her gut, to her spirit. I want her to have a strong voice, a clear sense of herself, who she is and what she needs. I want her to be curious, passionate, compassionate.

I think the purpose of education is to prepare the student to craft her own life -- it should prepare her for whatever she wants to do next (including college or a career but also a balanced life full of hobbies, friends, a spiritual practice, the ability to balance a checkbook and change a tire...), it should prepare her to be an informed and active citizen of the country and the world, and it should prepare her to take her place in the ongoing cultural conversations of curious, enthusiastic, informed people.

Do you have any tips, tricks or resources that you would like to share?

Oh wow. What a big question. Let me start with a tip: Trust yourself, trust your child, trust the innate drive of humans to learn, investigate, invent, explore. Don't get intimidated by edu-speak. Don't get intimidated by how much there is to learn -- let yourself get swept away by the joy and excitement of that, instead. There's *so much* to learn. No one can learn everything in a year, or twelve years, or a lifetime. There's so much to see, so much to learn, so much to do -- just pick something your child loves, something that lights her up, and get started. Oh, and ask lots of questions! Reach out to your local homeschoolers, ask your librarians about awesome books and interesting local events, go to funky little museums and ask the staff questions (we got into the best conversation ever with a historian working at one of Washington's HQs when he overheard us wondering aloud how they'd learned that the rooms had been used for different purposes from what had originally been assumed). People love to answer questions, and you can learn so much that way!

The importance of music is apparent in your household, from the inclusion of song in your daily rhythm to the belting out of tunes during random parts of your day. How important do you think it is to share your passions with your child (in this case, music being an obvious one of yours)?

What a great question! I love that the singing stood out to you, because most of the time I don't even notice we're doing it. Music is definitely a passion of mine, but it is also such a central part of my heritage that I don't even notice how deeply and broadly it's woven into my life. When I sing with Sarah, I'm singing the songs my mom sang to me and my sister when we had trouble falling sleep at night, the songs my dad sang as he bounced me on his knee when I was even smaller than Sarah or whistled while he drove me to the train in the morning, the songs my grandma sang as we worked together in her backyard after school. The songs my sister and I tossed back and forth on long road trips in the summer, and the songs I sang to myself as I walked down city streets at lunchtime as a high school student. Each song has a story, a memory attached to it. Sharing this music with Sarah is one way of passing that heritage down to her.

But, also, yes, it's a way to include her in a passion of mine. I think it's incredibly important that parents let their kids see them passionately engaged in some hobby or interest -- not so much to pass down that *specific* hobby, but to model for kids a rich, vibrant life that consists of more than work, chores, and TV watching. Maybe music won't be one of Sarah's passions (although I admit I'll be surprised if that's the case), but I want her to fill her life with passions of her own, whatever they might be.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Introducing Elizabeth and Sarah

Wow! it's been a year and a half since my visit with Elizabeth and Sarah. As my good luck would have it, Elizabeth approached me recently with a gentle nudge to reactivate this blog and with an offer to help in any way. Over dinner in Montclair, we chatted about the blog's future and about what parts we can play in it as well as in the larger homeschool community. With the yummy food in our bellies and full conversations in our souls we parted ways after a quick summary of our plans, she scrawling into her notebook and I swyping into my Evernote. Here begins a new chapter. I'm not sure I can express how immensely grateful I am to now have a partner in this project! From now on, this blog will benefit from Elizabeth's smarts, writing skills, activist roots, and much more!

Let's get to meeting the lovely Elizabeth and her daughter Sarah. When you see the pics of the two lovelies cuddled beneath blankets please try to imagine the crisp cold of late winter and not the hot, heavy air of today's late summer!

You'll notice when you enter their home the lists, drawings, artwork, and quotes posted on the walls. Amongst them, is this poster, their "daily rhythm." They use it as a loose guideline, following it about 50% of the time.

I arrived during breakfast. With Joe at home for the beginning of a week's vacation, I could feel Elizabeth's excitement and anticipation. We chatted for a bit before he left to take his mother grocery shopping. Elizabeth and Sarah then settled down for their daily rhythm, beginning with song. One of the things that struck me throughout the day was the obvious love and the deep respect they have for each other. I adored how their hands sought each other's throughout the singing, reading, and cuddling.

Reading. They each chose a book to read. Sarah picked Magic School Bus while Elizabeth chose Howard Zinn's History. Elizabeth reads both aloud (Magic School Bus in full and a chapter from the Zinn book):

So much fun learning the differences between parts of speech with Mad Libs:

Card making together. Sarah creates a thank you note with glue, paper hearts, stamps and pencils while Elizabeth works on her own card:

Snack prep:


Expansive Play. While Sarah plays quietly, Elizabeth practices bass:

I headed home just after Joe returned. Sarah was looking forward to an afternoon playing math games with her dad. Many thanks to Sarah, Joe, and Elizabeth for welcoming me into their home. You inspired me so much with your daily rhythm and with the overall peacefulness of your homeschoooling life. 

An album devoted to their inspirational wall posts and art:

Wall Posts and Art

Monday, January 25, 2010

Interview With Angela

I've added a new feature to this baby blog: interviews! Here I've begun by asking Angela specifically about marriage equality before moving on to homeschooling in general. Angela is in her first year of homeschooling. Many thanks, Angela, for sharing your story:)

Why is marriage equality important to you?

I have been an active proponent of gay rights in general since college. Why? Not sure. I've certainly had many dear friends over the years who just happen to be gay, but mostly I think it just seems like the right thing to do. My parents did a good job of raising my sisters and me to believe that bigotry in any form is wrong, and discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation is no different than discriminating against someone for the color of their skin, their religion, their gender ...

I consider marriage equality to be a matter of both civil rights and separation of Church and State, and as such I believe firmly that this isn't a "gay issue," it affects us all. We are denying one group of citizens rights which are extended to another based on the beliefs of one religion over another. And once I heard a state senator say "I am Catholic, so I vote no" (paraphrased, but that's the gist) during the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I became even more concerned that a dangerous precedent was being set. If we allow religion into our laws in this instance, what's to keep it out in another? It's also dangerous to allow the majority to vote on the rights of the minority.

Is it important for you that your children be involved?

Hmmm ... It's not so important to me the they "be involved" as it is that they see that I think it's important and valuable to stand up for what I believe in. Even when it's inconvenient, uncomfortable, or unpopular.

I get more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of "indoctrinating" my children. I am careful not to make sweeping statements about party affiliation or that may make it seem like I think people with different ideas are ignorant or mean-spirited ... I'm sure they will one day have ideas and beliefs that I disagree with ... but at the same time I talk about my values and beliefs very openly with my children, and I answer any questions they have honestly.

With this issue in particular, because of where we live and the synagogue to which we belong, my kids are surrounded by families headed up by same-sex couples. There is nothing remarkable about it to them. So when I told them that I wanted to go to Trenton to rally in support of our friends' rights to get married the same way their father and I are, they were mostly just surprised that they weren't already married and that anyone would think it reasonable to try and stop them.

Were they in school, I don't know that I would have pulled them out to go. But they are home with me, and part of my educational philosophy is that learning comes from life, so off we went to Trenton.

What brought you to homeschooling? 

I never planned to homeschool. My oldest two kids started preschool at 2 1/2 and I had just done the happy dance as I signed Miriam up for the "Two-Day Twos" program to start in the Fall ... and just days later I started thinking the homeschooling might be the way to go for Joseph, my oldest, in particular. He was absolutely miserable at school, and this was in a "good" school and with a teacher to whom he was very attached.

In all he missed 25 days of school, was late 19 (with most of those being days that he was dragging his feet getting out the door because he didn't want to go) and I wasn't even given an accounting of the number of days the nurse called me to pick him up early because he'd bounced into her office enough times that she knew he just needed to go home. If you look at his first grade report card, there was a steady decline in both behavior and attitude over the course of the year. And he was so miserable at school that it spilled over into life at home: homework was a nightmare; he fought with his sister; he flew into an angry rage at the slightest redirection ...

I detailed the whole, torturous "should we, shouldn't we?" decision-making process here:

What do you like about homeschooling?

For starters, I have my boy back. I once again have a little boy who is enthusiastic and excited about learning new things. That's not the little boy I had by the middle of last year, and certainly not by the end. And I think the kids' relationship with each other is stronger for it. It's hard to know what to attribute to another year of maturity, but they play better and laugh harder now than they ever have. And because Joseph is happier, we are all happier.

I also like the freedom we have to do what we want, when we want, and on our own schedule. We live right around the corner from the school, and there's something extra cozy about being tucked warmly inside, letting the kids wake up and get going at their own paces ... and hearing the cars pulling in and out as parents make that mad morning dash to get their kids to school before the bell rings.

And I keep laughing at myself for thinking that Hannah's current ear infection is an example of what makes homeschooling so great. She had croup last week and started complaining that her ear hurt Wednesday morning. It's a secondary infection, so she's no danger to anyone. But were she in school and I was called to come get her, that likely would have set the "no miracle recoveries rule" into effect -- i.e. "If you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick too ______. -- and all afternoon activities would have been canceled.

This sounds sort of ridiculous to me, even as I say it: but because we're homeschooling I didn't have to worry about what "message" I was giving her, and instead just focused on working to keep her comfortable and letting her try to do what she felt able to do. And wouldn't you know that she managed to rally for both the nature walk at the Great Swamp, as well as for gymnastics class!

What challenges have you faced?

Bouts of self doubt and low energy, here and there, but they have thankfully been short lived. Finding a community -- both online and in real life -- has certainly helped both. Though, boy, I tell you, it sometimes feels like dating, and that can be an energy drain in and of itself! (-;

Any surprises?

It has been much easier to spend so much time with my kids than I thought it would be!

What was your own school experience like?

I loved kindergarten, third grade, and the three years I spent at a tiny private school (5th-7th grades), but outside of that I spent most of my energy doing just enough to get the grades I thought would keep me out of trouble with my parents. There were teachers here and there that I really liked and classes or subjects that I enjoyed, but as an overall experience, I mostly was getting in trouble for daydreaming and socializing when I should have been paying attention and felt like school was a boring intrusion into my life. I sometimes wonder why the desire to homeschool did not come more naturally.

How would you describe your homeschooling style?

Loosey-goosey? I knew from the start that, with Joseph in particular (and, quite frankly, me!), doing "school at home" was not the way to go. It would have brought the torture he was feeling in the classroom and the battles we were having over homework to our whole day. And while I agree with "unschooling" as an educational philosophy, I'm not sure that I fit in with the "radical unschoolers" as they seem to self-define. Though I don't think "eclectic" fits either because I'm not pulling a little from here and a little from there, and there are no mandates about working on multiplication tables or handwriting.

I guess I'm just striving to do what seems to work best at the moment and trying not to worry about labels and getting caught up in what a "true" ______ homeschooler would do, while always being open to learning from others and adapting as our needs and desires change.

What is the homeschooling community like in your area?

This is our first year homeschooling, so I'm still learning about the community in our area, but so far it's been a great group to meet and get to know. There is a great state-wide unschooling e-mail list, and I've connected with many of the families there in real life. There's also a local outings list that, if I so desired, could keep me hopping all day every day. We have monthly homeschool days at the local libraries in both adjacent towns, and I've connected with several families there -- unschooling, eclectic, and school-at-homers -- for park days and play dates.

Describe your day.

Every day is different. I made a conscious decision when we started homeschooling not to over schedule. I wanted to take it slowly and get to know my kids and their natural rhythms and predilections. I feared we could all burn out before we started if I had us running here and there for one activity after another. I decided to take our homeschooling a few months at a time and reevaluate and adjust as I felt necessary and made a pact with myself not to beat myself up over worries about what we have accomplished or not.

Up until now there has been absolutely no structure outside of our weekly get together with friends and one class for each child. I have recently decided that, with my personality and lack of internal clock, we would all benefit from a little bit of gentle structure to our weeks, so that is what I'm working on now. Our classes (gymnastics for both Joseph and Hannah, and dancing for Hannah) fall in the evenings, so it really gives us the whole week to parse out. I want to have a weekly library day and a weekly "adventure" day for museums and other outings. I've just purchased the Handbook of a Nature Study and want to use it as a jump off for exploring nature a little more. In my head it feels both good and stifling to think about setting out the materials for one art project and one science project each week, but I'm going to give it a try and will be open to the idea that that might need to be dialed back a bit! I have a few other ideas. It will be a work in progress, I'm sure. I just feel like it might help in the "strewing" department.

What are your aspirations for homeschooling?

To listen to my kids, to remain open and flexible, and to keep at it as long as it's working for us.

Do you have any tips, tricks or resources that you would like to share?

Just to do what feels right for you and your kids, to trust them to show you how they want to learn things, and to not be afraid to make the jump to homeschooling if you are on the fence.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Speaking Out

In early December, a bill supporting same-sex marriage worked its way through the New Jersey legislature. There was hope it would pass before the newly elected governor Christopher Christie, who promised a veto, took office. It was when the bill cleared the senate committee and seemed headed for a vote that I first noticed the flurry of activity in my own homeschooling community. Facebook proved an amazing tool, as many friends kept each other up to date of the bill's progress and of their volunteer effort to support the cause. One friend organized a get-together to make signs, to write letters, and to learn the ins and outs of phoning senators. Another spent hours at a local Garden State Equality office. Rally dates were posted, photos, and links. I was impressed with the drive of these amazing mamas and especially awed with the ones traveliing down to the state house in Trenton with young children. This was surely a part of homeschooling life calling out to be documented! When the next rally day approached, I shot an email to a few families asking if I might tag along with one. Angela promptly responded with enthusiasm. Many thanks to this amazing woman and her three children, Joseph (age 7), Hanna (age 5), and Miriam (age 2). Here is their story.

Getting 3 kids out the door, 2 dogs prepped for a day on their own -- no easy task. So when I show up on Angela's doorstep one fine December morning I feel 1) a sense of relief that for once I'm not the mama in charge and 2) a wonderful happiness that I can lend a helping hand.

Yeppie, the new puppy, wants so strongly to come along on our adventure! Miriam looks on with a smile:

A laughing Joseph on our ride to the state house:

Fierce and highly charming mama with babe on back prepared to fight the fight! Not only did she make it to Trenton once but she and her three made the over-an-hour trip four times.

We've arrived at the state house, where Angela meets homeschool friends as well as her friend, Cantor Meredith Greenberg (one of the 120 clergy members from 19 different faiths that signed letters in support of marriage equality). While a school bus passes in the background, Hannah takes a real-life lesson in the art of civics:

What we thought was going to be a rally day turns into a lobby day. Rallying with a bunch of young kids? -- definitely, no problem! Lobbying quietly through the state house? Hmmm... This might be difficult. The kids do really well as their mama's ears stay tuned-in to the instructions/advice laid out by the marriage equality volunteers:

Angela receives her instructions. After much meandering around the state house (while the young ones increasingly lose stamina), she finds a senator, approaches and speaks to him! Wow, this moment puts me in pure awe. Would I have the bravery to approach a politician and tell him what I thought? Not so sure. And here she is doing just that with a 5 yr old in arms!

Back on the road again, the youngest falls into into a quick sleep. Angelic, yes?

What a a great, educational experience this was for me! It was wonderful getting to know Angela's kids and following them around on an adventure. Back at their house, they show me their room before I head home to my own crew. Hannah, at home:

Although marriage equality was voted down, the fight continues.

More photos, more story:
A Day in Trenton

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Cozy Sunday

What a joy it was, when I first put forth my idea for this photo project, to have Melody respond with enthusiasm and an eagerness to particpate. At the time, she and her boys were on an unschooling cruise where she was a featured speaker. I sat there so impressed with her willingness and how, new to this area, she leapt right in to her East Coast life, finding her way around in the various groups and classes and the community that this area has to offer. She herself was raised in three different countries and carries with her that sense of adventure. Until now, her boys have grown and been nurtured in the warmth of LA so it was a real pleasure for me to visit them on a cozy Sunday early in December, the day after our first snow (a small snowfall but, still, SNOW!). We laughed that I, who have grown up the East coast, have never been skiing but that she and her boys are quite familiar with the joys of it. I thought Mason’s skiing goggles were so cute and I want a pair for myself! So, please meet Melody and her three boys.

When I arrived at their house, the relaxed atmosphere of their household spoke for itself. The warmth invited me right in and Melody, in her slippers, made me the best cup of coffee ever. Her middle child, Mason, promptly fetched a bunch of artwork. It's obvious that he spends hours with his pencils and crayons, drawing inspiration from Pokemon, Star Wars, Avatar, mythology, and ancient animals. I paged through his notebooks and reveled in his pride of achievement and the pleasure he took in sharing it with me. In fact, we spent much of the day touching the surface of his various interests, his enthusiasm bubbling.

The eldest, Gabriel, dealt so patiently and generously with his youngest brother, sharing his snack and Nintendo. In his quiet way he invited me to see his room and, wow, what a great room! I observed him in his own space as he flipped through his bionicle/lego pamphelts and as he sat at his computer. He was showing me a piece of himself and the young, self-assured man he is to be.

The youngest, Ryker, peeked at me from time to time as he snuggled with his mama, played trains, or investigated and eventually went off for a nap. I love how his mama fell asleep with him while the boys and I spent some time in the snow.

More photos

Melody's blog

Friday, January 1, 2010


Welcome to my new photo blog!! I’m very excited to get started on this project. My goal is to share with you the many faces of homeschoolers. Cheers.