Friday, March 22, 2013

Did you really just ask me that?

Time for a few questions:

"Where is she from?".....

I think when the question is asked, and it has been asked a lot, people are assuming we are pursuing an international adoption.  This seems to be the general assumption when the topic of adoption comes up.  First thoughts for most people appear to lean toward international adoption.  Though intercountry adoption seems to dominate the media and appears to be the adoption choice du jour statistics compiled for the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption by Canada for 2009 states that of 1300 plus adoptions in Ontario about 300 were intercountry and over 1000 were domestic.

"Why would you want someone else's problem?"....

Thankfully this type of question, which is really a nasty statement of someone's misconception, hasn't been asked too much.   It has been asked. What exactly is the assumption here?  Children in foster care are all trouble makers?  Foster children are damaged or irreparable? Children in care are unmanageable, somehow unlovable?  Children in care all have special needs.  They are not all medically fragile, they do not all have  physical or neurological challenges. They do all have needs that are unique.  These children are not a problem, they did not choose to the life they were given.  They are certainly not at fault.

"Why was she taken from her mother?"....

I am usually an open book when people ask me questions, maybe to a probably to a fault.  When it comes to adoption it has been a bit of a challenge figuring out when to share and when it is okay to not answer.  It hasn't happened much but we have even been asked why she was removed from her birth family. To state it bluntly,  it is none of anyone's business and it certainly isn't my place to share a child's life story or trauma.  I  understand people are curious and their curiosity may seem benign, however this is a question that crosses the appropriateness line.

Don't be afraid to talk about adoption or ask questions about adoption, the more we talk the more misconceptions can be uncovered.  Be thoughtful when you ask someone about their experience with adoption whether they are a person who has been adopted, parents who have adopted or parents who have had their children be adopted.  Ask yourself first if the information you are asking is something you would want known if you were the one in their place. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Waters.....part 2

......Seamus wants to go to highschool.

The possibility of Seamus attending highschool has been a lightly discussed topic over the past year.  Struggling with finding other homeschoolers in our area and a break from sports left me wondering last year if maybe Seamus would be interested in highschool.  As last year progressed we were able to find some really cool families in our area to hang out with and have begun to sign up for different rec programs again.  Highschool as a way to meet people seemed to be less interesting.  I was starting to get pretty excited about unschooling through his teen years.  I thought it was great that he would be able to spend some time experiencing various jobs when his peers would need to be in school.  I was so curious to see what life adventures he would find in the coming years.

Seamus' thoughts on it have wavered with a strong lean toward staying home instead of enrolling.  As the grade 8 and parent night at the highschool approached last month we reopened the discussion and though Seamus said he was slightly curious he didn't think he was interested. One of Seamus' school friends is happy to be leaving the grade school atmosphere behind and has tried to encourage Seamus to join him in highschool.   Seamus is not easily swayed and felt his friend's reasons for wanting to go to highschool were not quite convincing and felt he wouldn't enroll.   We decided to go to the parent night just to hear what they had to say.  During the Principal's dry power point presentation Seamus seemed a little glossed over and bored.  As we followed the student guides around the school for a tour he seemed disinterested.  As we walked to the car at the end of the night I asked him what he thought of it all.  I expected a shrug and a claim that he was now sure he wasn't going to go to highschool.  His response instead was "I think I am going to do this".  WHAT??????

I was blown away.  He was sure he was going to take Drama and Shop as his electives and had absorbed everything,  even the information from the dry presentation.  He used the word 'electives'.  Double whammy, not only is my baby going to highschool but he is old enough to be picking 'electives'.  I knew then that it was not just his desire to hang out with his friend more.  He was excited about the courses he was presented with, drawn in by the atmosphere.  I didn't know how to feel about it.  I was sad, that I would be losing him to a system that I chose not to expose him to. I was excited that he was making this choice on his own and for his own reasons, which included meeting new people and wanting to be a part of something.

I am still not sure this is the right decision but I am curious to see where these new waters will guide him.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New waters ....part 1

Our unconventional schoolhouse has functioned differently through the years.  Early in our parenting we assumed our children would go to school. As we met more families who homeschooled it didn't take long before we thought we would give homeschooling a "try" during the year Seamus would have been in Junior Kindergarten.  Before that year came and went we knew that we would not pursue institutional schooling for the boys.

There were moments that we tried curriculum based learning but more than not we just lived.  I have bucked the term unschooling for a long time but in terms of a style that is what we have chosen.  WARNING: if you feel strongly about children learning in a structured setting and needing to be taught reading, writing and arithmetic......AND if those strong feelings will get you all worked up to the point of bashing us LOOK AWAY NOW.   

The boys have had no formal teaching other than the odd worksheet here and there.  We do not take natural learning opportunities and craft them into school lessons. They learned to read, count, add, multiply in their own time.  I am hesitant to say *on their own* because each may have been done with the support of a mentor or peer, but it was done in their own time within their life experiences. 

They are exposed to a variety of tools to explore the world but are not forced to use them.  We provide instruments: guitars, drums, ukuleles, keyboard and a mentor to guide them. We provide art supplies: sketch books, pens, pencils, clay, paint, cavnas, sewing supplies.  We provide mulit media tools: computers, gaming systems, cameras, movie making programs. We provide them books: fiction books, reference books, art books, comic books, audio books. And our unschooling lifestyle gives them the gift of time to use them.

We are not unique. There are a whole bunch of other families making this choice world wide.  It is not even new.  Before you wonder if you should pick up the phone and call Children's Aid because we are doing wrong by our children, who will never learn to live in the real world, how to take instruction from a boss or take a critique from a peer, CAS knows about us and in fact have entrusted us with a child to parent on their behalf and *GASP* are advocating our adoption of the child.

We have approached learning differently than most, that does not mean it is less or more, just different.  I have struggled with the difference, worried about the difference, and finally embraced the difference. We were prepared and excited to unschool the boys into their teen years and looked forward to seeing where that would take them.  Imagine my surprise when Seamus announced he was going to attend highschool in the fall............. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gamer art for the ages

Our boys are 'gamers'.  They love video games, they love to talk about video games, and they love reading about video games.  This means that we have a lot of gaming magazines laying around the house.  I don't like clutter (though my house seems like it is getting more so with each passing month).  When the cringes started coming out at the mention of culling the magazine stash Chris had a great idea.  He thought the boys might be more willing to part with the magazines if they could hold on to some of the memories that came from them.  He had the boys cut out their favourite photos of games and meaningful gaming 'stuff' from the magazines to create a collage they could hang in their room.   He suggested this project months back.  Enthusiastic cutting ensued and then it sat and sat and sat in my living room just collecting dust.  Today I 'encouraged' them to finish up their project and here is their fantastic result.

Cut cut cut the pictures out

Cheap poster frame with mat

Arrange first layer and then add more important pictures into top layers.  Make sure to have some pictures overlap the mat for more dimension

Finished product ready to hang

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More than one way to get to 4

2 + 2 = 4......... simple right? 
The boys overheard a conversation between adults regarding the teaching of music.  Actually they heard a conversation about a conversation.  One professional believed there were certain criteria that needed to be met to teach music properly.  More specifically he felt that in his business he wanted music taught one way. I presume a classical method though I am not familiar enough with how that works to say for sure.  I do know that it was a structured method.  In wanting his business to be run a specific way he chose to end a partnership with another teacher who used a different approach.  In this professional's explanation he stated that 2 + 2 = 4;  it cannot be anything else and it could not be argued. In essence he may have been saying that to teach music is methodical not liberal. Obviously or hopefully the professional understands there is more than one way but is arguing his desire for the one way to be taught in his school. It was not long or particularly heated discussion in fact I really didn't think the boys were listening.

Fast forward a day or so and the boys come to me after obviously having discussed something that bothered them.  They approached me asking if I remember the conversation and begin to offer their views which go as such:

"Mom, remember the thing about 2 + 2 = 4 and how there is only one way to teach music, well 2 + 2 = 4 but so does 1 + 3 and 4 + 0 and even 6 - 2."  I smiled (beamed would be a more accurate description) and agreed they made an interesting argument.  To take that further (2 + 2) = (1  + 3) or (2 + 2) = (6 - 2) which all equal 4 but approached in different ways.

I am grateful for the mentors who see beyond 2 + 2 = 4.  Thank you for your passion and creativity and inspiration.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nature at our door step

Summer's finds are knocking at our front door.  

Chris found this moth in our drive way trying to survive (or as we have learned in doing some research, finishing his life cycle).  He picked it up and put it on the porch thinking it may just needed safe place to rest for a bit.  A few days later the moth was dead with its wings spread wide open in perfect condition.  What a beautiful gift it left for us.  I was lucky enough to have a shadow box frame available for the boys to pin the moth and hang for us to appreciate.

A sparrow also kindly built it's nest in our ornamental weeping willow right off our porch.  The boys were able to get up close to see the wee baby and unhatched egg that occupied it.  One day while they were watching quietly the baby bird jumped out of its nest and hit the ground. They were mortified, deciding to help it back up into its safe home.  Within moments the baby bird jumped out again.  Worried that it would be eaten by our porch snake or the neighbours cat Liam kept putting the wee thing back in its nest.  Finally I suggested that maybe the bird was tyring to learn to leave its nest. With reluctance they let it be.  Shortly the wee bird was at the end of our drive way a good 75 feet away hopping around trying to find its 'wings'.  What an amazing experience to have been blessed to see.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What is in a name?

Liam approached me a few weeks back with an interest in changing his name.  Yep his first name, the one we gave him with much thought and debate.  Chris and I have two of the most common names of the 70s.  I didn't go a single year in school without another Jennifer in my class and usually there were at least 4 of us.  In choosing our children's names we decided to go less common. Seamus is not too different but certainly he is not likely to meet too many in his life, Eoin is a pretty common name with a less common spelling.  The name Liam though has become quite popular and if he were in school he would no doubt be the one of a few "Liams".  His issue though is not that his name is too common or not common enough but because he likes the other name better. 

What name does he want, you ask?  He would like to use the name William. Wait let me rewrite that in case you miss it, Wil-LIAM. I am not sure how putting the "Wil" infront of "Liam" makes it better but he feels that it suits his personality better.  Maybe it sounds older to him?  Being older is something that has been his focus since he was wee.  We used to joke that we had a 2 year old teenager.  Liam has always wanted to be beyond his years.  William definitely sound 'older' than Liam. 

So what do you do when your child wants a different name? ...........Are you waiting for an answer?  No that was a question, I am asking you!  What do you do when your child wants to change his name?  I can't figure it out.

Chris has tried this past week to fill Liam's request and has called him "William" a number of times.  It just sounds weird. I have tried but goodness I can't say it feels right.  We have done a lot of talking about what a name means over the past couple years in terms of adoption and how important birth or given names are to a child's identity and here our child by birth is wanting to shed the name we gave him and identify with something else.  

I am pretty sure it won't last long but we are doing our best to help him try it on for a while. If he had asked us to call him "George" or "Dustin" or anything other than a longer form of his given name we would have balked a bit more about the name change no doubt.  I think it is time though to pull out a book that we have called "Josephina Hates Her Name" by Diana Engel.  Maybe together we can figure out what's in a name.