Learning from our Kids

Tina Bragdon:

When my kids were little and interested in the computer from a young age I would have never thought we would be where we are now. For example, dd has come across South Park episodes on youtube lately, and dd and ds like watching Pewdiepie's play by plays, and the old me would have cringed at that...I grew up with a very religious/restrictive/censoring upbringing. What helped me relax was focusing on our relationship with each other and fostering GENUINE interest in each others' interests (not feigning interest in order to "check up on what you are watching"), and an atmosphere of openess. If we could be open with each other, I trusted that they would have no need to sneak around, they would know I am their partner, and would feel safe to come to me if there was something they saw that disturbed them. I can see how that has created a more conducive atmosphere for learning. And, I am amazed what there is to be found to discuss in things like South Park!

Sandra Dodd, February 20, 2014:

HUGE PRAISE for Muller Optical at 9000 Menaul in Albuquerque. I have custom bifocals—half the glass is "computer" distance, and the top half is distance (driving, watching a movie, taking photos).

I broke the frame, right in the middle, at 7:45 this morning. I need to leave for Australia in eight days. They're only about a mile from me, and I checked the webpage. 8:30 on weekdays. I was there. They had one set of frames just like mine right on the display. At 8:45, I had the same lenses in new frames, for $40 labor, because I bought a warranty on the frames 360 days ago.

Mr. Muller, the owner, fixed them himself, and was as sweet as anyone could be about the whole thing.

Partly I'm lucky that I bought a warranty and that they had my frames. Partly the company is wonderful and I'm glad to live so near.

Next week's unschooling chat is going to be about what we learned from our children.

I wouldn't have known about Muller Optical, but when Holly wanted prescription sunglass lenses put into some sunglasses she already owned, she found them and got those. She still has them years later (and extra frames because she bought three pairs of those big plastic frames when a store was going out of business).

Thank you Holly!

Thank you Muller Optical!

Mr. Muller is (was, in early 2020) still there, but has sold his business to Casey Optical Too. Holly and I both got new glasses there in 2019.

Frank Maier:
LIFE is Good 2014 poems

So, my friend (and Hot Backup Chick extraordinaire) Robin had this fabulous idea for parents to write snippets about what they've learned from their kids as they've unschooled through the years. The snippets would be anonymous and randomly posted/distributed. In the ensuing conversation, the concept of writing these snippets as poetry (or doggerel) came up. Challenge accepted. I can write bad poetry like anybody's business….

Without further ado or explanation, here they are.

DD1 poems

DD1 - 01 (2014)

I’m “dad,” soi disant Duke of Metaphor,
Not like the Duke of Earl. Oh my, no.
But the dad of DD1, child of grace and more,
Seeker of “Who,” “What,” and “How do we know…”

What can a Duke learn from a DD?
A Duke is a superior being.
A DD is an ingenue, a newbie;
A Duke’s experienced, long-knowing, far-seeing.

Ah, but Dukes get old and set in their way;
They think they know all that’s worth knowing.
The Lady, Ducal offspring, retorts with a “Nay.”
Her knowledge is a fresh Zephyr blowing.

An old Duke, if he’s wise, can learn a new trick,
If he’s not too stubbornly shut.
A young Lady can share, through the old Duke’s thick brick,
Her bright info to the balding grey nut.

DD1 – 02 (2014)

I listened to doo-wop and second-line style.
I liked R&B and rock ‘n’ roll power.
I faded at disco but returned in a while.
Punk and/or rap? I was done in an hour.

Pop was too treacle, no matter the time.
New Wave too affected, it just left me cold.
As for the Big 80s, some percentage was fine.
But Reggae, ah! Reggae so bright and so bold!

Then sweet DD1 shakabukued my head,
Dragged me out of my rut and onto the groove.
“Don’t be such a fuddy; it’s like you were dead.
Give this track a listen and watch your butt *move*.”

So I changed my brain entrance from CLOSED right to OPEN.
Uncalcified my music tastebuds and tried a new song.
Not so amazingly, some tunes were smokin’.
I *like* these new artists, my rejection was wrong.

DD1 - 03 (2014)

I lived in the past. I lived in the future. I lived in my own fantasy.
DD1 lived in NOW at every point in her life, her process was so unlike me.
She remembered the past, she certainly did, and though deep thoughts of the future;
But her actual life is based in the present and living like that, well, it suits her.

My dissatisfaction with my classic approach was a thing of which I was aware.
Dredging muck from the past as a daily repast was a meal for which I did not care.
Dreading a future of what evils might come was surely a waste of emotion,
Like living near Phoenix, not the bird but the desert, and fearing the depths of the ocean.

So I thought that, perhaps, I could give it a try and be here more than then, if, or daydreams,
Not a natural fit for a person like me, and an act more complex than it seems.
But instant, complete success just ain’t real. What’s important is that you must try.
And success, like beauty, is a thing which, at root, is defined by the beholder’s eye.

DD1 – 04 (2014)

From the time they were small our daughters shared all, had us read every syllable written.
Then came a sea change, privacy viper, how strange, DD1 had been fatally bitten.
Although just a tween, she wrote scene after scene of a virtuoso novel - complete.
To her sister, she read every night in their bed; but her parents’ desire, she’d defeat.

In our V-berth we sat, strained our ears to hear that new chapter which she had just done.
From the stern berth came giggles and we assumed wiggles, as they enjoyed their sisterly fun.
But we heard ne’er a line, just a tease time to time, as we floated in our sea-borne home
O’er blues rich and poor, on the deep or near shore, she wrote and she read as we’d roam.

Her manuscript she’d embiggen and the wind in the riggin’ sang the songs of Aeolus to us
As each evening drew nigh and Nyx ruled the sky, they’d retreat to their cabin, no fuss.
They did read; and their woop, heard from bowsprit to poop, left us lonely old parents sore puzzled,
Alone with no notion, flotsam on Mother Ocean, we languished without them… and nuzzled.

Her privacy earned, our lesson we learned, each person deserves to make choices
Of what they will share, either when or e’en ne’er, to make public or private their voices.
Yes, parents must learn that respect is to earn; it’s not something power can force.
Crews must work together, whatever the weather, for a family cruise to hold course.

DD2 poems
DD2 – 01 (2014)

Lively sprite of Persephone, the greening shoot,
DD2, Princess of the night, fair daughter of Nyx.
Internal, external, quiet, loud, wolfing from cap to boot
Throwing fact spaghetti onto the wall, grinning when good stuff sticks.

The wanderer, a planetary child of Ancient Greece, astral seeker,
Searching, scouting, questing, delving, ferreting occult knowledge
Fiercer than Atilla; alternately, than pre-mutagen Scylla, meeker.
Young enough, old enough, unschooled enough, now in the universe of college.

Spanning the arc from Planck Epoch to zero Kelvin entropy
Or a vacuum metastability event. Who can name the final affair?
Travelling from the Id to the Unified Field Theory of “Me”
Learning, thinking, synthesizing, just breathing the air.

DD2 – 02 (2014)

Fear was my mentor, pervading my life,
All-encompassing, behind and before.
Hiding, withdrawing, avoiding all strife
Seeking peace, I asked for no more.

Then I watched DD2, eyes and heart open wide,
First lying, then crawling, with wonder;
And there she was—vertical!—living life at full stride,
Tearing my tenebrous worldview asunder.

Each new, simple thing she perceived with such pleasure;
The joy it could bring was sublime.
A plain, young Spring lawn was her national treasure;
And I found that her joy became mine.

And O! how she grew, each new adventure a feast,
Becoming a doe, no mere fawn.
No more a Bethlehemic rough slouching beast,
I followed into her new dawn.

DD2 – 03 (2014)

So many questions, year after year. So much knowledge to gain.
A voracious daughter was sweet DD2, most anxious to fill up her brain.
For me, growing up, failure deemed unacceptable, I became Encyclopedia Dad;
But no one knows all, and I had to accept that not every failure was bad.

Oh, the pain and the guilt to admit, “I don’t know.” to my fresh sapling, seeking to know.
“Encyclopedia Dad” was a construct of the past, an artifact who needed to go.
Realization came, like Apollo’s bright dawn, that her life, unlike my youth, was real.
Not a contest for grades or performance on tests, only seeking for its own appeal.

“Failure” - a word I was taught to detest, a lamentable place, quite near Hell;
But failure and error and mistakes, it turns out, are learning modes which are actually swell.
Encyclopedia Dad, a Frankensteinian freak, created by outre social pressure
Could retire forever, useful no more. Now dad and DD2 learn for pleasure.

DD2 – 04 (2014)

Manga. A word quite unknown to me, its meaning was clearly unclear.
What a strange style of art, oddball narrative flow, a genre assuredly queer.
It seemed like a comic, at best - graphic novel, but of quite a curious kind.
Comics, I liked. Graphic novels, ok. But Manga’s charm escaped my mind.

DD2, oh so gently, took pity on me, introduced me to various forms.
Varietal manga, in myriad styles, she led me to accept its charms.
Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist, too, and Naruto! Well, who could forget?
So many kinds! O who would have thought? But, it seemed that we weren’t done yet.

“Hentai,” she said. Introduced a new word, something I hadn’t yet heard.
She expounded a bit and my brain almost quit. It sounded completely absurd.
But who am I to judge others’ taste or scorn their version of porn?
I buried my prejudice in a full deep-six grave. A fresh appreciation was born.

My child, a sophisticate I had to accept, as I worked to digest this new thought.
I pushed my old psyche to a brand new zeitgeist. The effort with tension was fraught.
A person’s a person, no matter how small. Or how big or how old or how young.
Once I surpassed my Precambrian mind, I knew that my song was full sung.

—Frank Maier, all eight poems,
from his blogpost LIFE is Good 2014 poems

Wonder Deschooling Being your child's partner

Transcript of a chat on the topic of Learning from Our Kids