Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mamie's garden

We are finally back home after 18 500 km! What an exciting summer we just had! And it looks like there will be an exciting winter ahead too! Stay tune for more details soon!

We stayed with my mom for a few days when we came back and the girls helped her clean her beautiful garden.

Nous sommes finalement de retour après 18 500 km! Quel superbe été nous avons passé! Et je crois bien que l'hiver le sera lui aussi! Plus de détails à venir bientôt!

Nous avons habité chez ma mère quelques jours à notre arrivée et les filles l'ont aidé à nettoyer son beau jardin.

Friday, August 27, 2010

True freedom and some thoughts on unschooling

We found that beautiful beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Michigan. The girls stripped naked and jumped in the water! It was beautiful to watch them play, totally free, so beautiful, so unaware of anything else but their play. There was not an once of consciousness of their body image (and so it should be at that age!!). Soon enough, they will be commenting on their thighs, breasts, weight... but for now, it is wonderful to see the real freedom that belongs to childhood. I wish it could last forever.

Nous avons découvert cette jolie plage au milieu de nulle part au Michigan. Les filles se sont aussitôt déshabillées et elles ont sauté dans l'eau! C'était si beau de les voir jouer, totalement libres, si belles, si inconscientes de rien d'autre sauf de leur jeu. Il n'y avait pas une once de conscience de leurs corps (et c'est ainsi que ça devrait être à cet âge!!). Bientôt (trop tôt), elles feront des commentaires sur leurs cuisses, leurs seins, leur poids... mais pour l'instant, c'est si beau de constater la vraie liberté de l'enfance. Si seulement ça pouvait durer toujours.

And here are two great articles on unschooling and homeschooling (learning to let go) that I hope you will take the time to read. They go very well together and are such a great explanation of what we are trying to achieve... I am not an unschooler, but I believe that as homeschoolers, we have a lot to learn from unschoolers, as Sarah Baldwin points out in the second article (link below the first article). Please leave your comments below.

Et voici deux excellents articles sur l'apprentissage libre et l'école à la maison (apprendre à lâcher prise) que j'espère que vous prendrez le temps de lire (surtout vous, chers grands-parents!). Ils vont très bien ensemble et constituent une bonne explication de ce que nous tentons d'accomplir... Je ne suis pas une unschooler, mais je crois qu'en tant que familles qui faisons l'école à la maison, nous avons beaucoup à apprendre des unschoolers, comme Sarah Baldwin le mentionne dans le deuxième article (voir le lien sous le premier article). S.v.p. laissez vos commentaires ci-dessous.

From www.naturalchild.org

What is Unschooling?
by Earl Stevens

"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge,
not knowledge in pursuit of the child."

- George Bernard Shaw

It is very satisfying for parents to see their children in pursuit of knowledge. It is natural and healthy for the children, and in the first few years of life, the pursuit goes on during every waking hour. But after a few short years, most kids go to school. The schools also want to see children in pursuit of knowledge, but the schools want them to pursue mainly the school's knowledge and devote twelve years of life to doing so.
In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award (1990), John Gatto said, "Schools were designed by Horace Mann ... and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population." In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.
The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don't like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don't like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this - even with polite and cooperative children - by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.
The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum - not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known - but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge.
But despite the differences between the school environment and the home, many parents begin homeschooling under the impression that it can be pursued only by following some variation of the traditional public school curriculum in the home. Preoccupied with the idea of "equivalent education", state and local education officials assume that we must share their educational goals and that we homeschool simply because we don't want our children to be inside their buildings. Textbook and curriculum publishing companies go to great lengths to assure us that we must buy their products if we expect our children to be properly educated. As if this were not enough, there are national, state, and local support organizations that have practically adopted the use of the traditional curriculum and the school-in-the-home image of homeschooling as a de facto membership requirement. In the midst of all this, it can be difficult for a new homeschooling family to think that an alternative approach is possible. One alternative approach is "unschooling", also known as "natural learning", "experience-based learning", or "independent learning". Several weeks ago, when our homeschooling support group announced a gathering to discuss unschooling, we thought a dozen or so people might attend, but more than 100 adults and children showed up. For three hours, parents and some of the children took turns talking about their homeschooling experiences and about unschooling. Many people said afterward that they left the meeting feeling reinforced and exhilarated - not because anybody told them what to do or gave them a magic formula - but because they grew more secure in making these decisions for themselves. Sharing ideas about this topic left them feeling empowered.
Before I talk about what I think unschooling is, I must talk about what it isn't. Unschooling isn't a recipe, and therefore it can't be explained in recipe terms. It is impossible to give unschooling directions for people to follow so that it can be tried for a week or so to see if it works. Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do.
Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school.
Then what is unschooling? I can't speak for every person who uses the term, but I can talk about my own experiences. Our son has never had an academic lesson, has never been told to read or to learn mathematics, science, or history. Nobody has told him about phonics. He has never taken a test or been asked to study or memorize anything. When people ask, "What do you do?" My answer is that we follow our interests - and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music - all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as "subjects".
A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can't buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, "doing real things" invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.
While few of us get out of bed in the morning in the mood for a "learning experience", I hope that all of us get up feeling in the mood for life. Children always do so - unless they are ill or life has been made overly stressful or confusing for them. Sometimes the problem for the parent is that it can be difficult to determine if anything important is actually going on. It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.
Parents come to our unschooling discussions with many questions about fulfilling state requirements. They ask: "How do unschoolers explain themselves to the state when they fill out the paperwork every year?", "If you don't use a curriculum, what do you say?" and "What about required record-keeping?" To my knowledge, unschoolers have had no problems with our state department of education over matters of this kind. This is a time when even many public school educators are moving away from the traditional curriculum, and are seeking alternatives to fragmented learning and drudgery.
When I fill out the paperwork required for homeschooling in our state, I briefly describe, in the space provided, what we are currently doing, and the general intent of what we plan to do for the coming year. I don't include long lists of books or describe any of the step-by-step skills associated with a curriculum. For example, under English/Language Arts, I mentioned that our son's favorite "subject" is the English language. I said a few words about our family library. I mentioned that our son reads a great deal and uses our computer for whatever writing he happens to do. I concluded that, "Since he already does so well on his own, we have decided not to introduce language skills as a subject to be studied. It seems to make more sense for us to leave him to his own continuing success."
Unschooling is a unique opportunity for each family to do whatever makes sense for the growth and development of their children. If we have a reason for using a curriculum and traditional school materials, we are free to use them. They are not a universally necessary or required component of unschooling, either educationally or legally.
Allowing curriculums, textbooks, and tests to be the defining, driving force behind the education of a child is a hindrance in the home as much as in the school - not only because it interferes with learning, but because it interferes with trust. As I have mentioned, even educators are beginning to question the pre-planned, year-long curriculum as an out-dated, 19th century educational system. There is no reason that families should be less flexible and innovative than schools.
Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's mentor and friend, said:
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily". Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.
Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around.

And the other article I mentionned is this one.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The road

:: The smoke from the BC forest fires is still in the air in Saskatchewan... and makes for the most amazing sunsets ::
:: La fumée des feux de forêts de C.-B. est encore dans l'air en Saskatchewan... et crée les plus beaux couchers de soleil ::

:: Thai food in Medicine Hat ::
:: Resto thai à Medicine Hat ::

Friday, August 20, 2010

The smoky rockies and Winlaw

Because of the forest fires in BC, we hardly saw anything on our drive through the icefield highway...

À cause des feux de forêt en Colombie-Britannique, nous n'avons pas vu grand chose en conduisant sur l'autoroute des champs de glace...

:: Mt. Robson ::

:: Everything pretty much looked like that... ::
:: Tout avait pas mal l'air de ceci... ::

:: We sure saw lots of bugs though! ::
:: Nous avons vu pas mal de bibittes par contre! ::

:: A beach near Revelstoke ::
:: Une plage près de Revelstoke ::

:: Looking at maps with papa ::
:: Regarder des cartes routières avec papa ::

We came all the way down here to see some good friends (instead of cutting through Edmonton) who lives in Winlaw. It was so good to connect with them. And they truly found their little paradise.

Nous sommes venus jusque dans le sud de la C.-B. pour visiter de bons amis (au lieu de couper par Edmonton) qui habite à Winlaw, dans la vallée de la Slocan (à 45 au N-O de Nelson). Ce fut vraiment très agréable de les voir. Et ils ont vraiment trouvé leur petit coin de paradis.

:: Chris's dad was visiting from Germany and it was a real treat to spend some time with this fascinating man ::
:: Le père de Chris était en visite de l'Allemagne et ce fut un réel plaisir de passer du temps avec cet homme fascinant ::

:: Their backyard ::
:: Leur cour arrière ::

:: And the kids had such a good time together: this photo totally captures the essence of joy that was emanating from their play (click to enlarge). They were free and happy. ::
:: Et les enfants ont passé des moments incroyables ensemble : cette photo capture totalement l'essence de la joie qui émanait de leur jeu (cliquez dessus pour l'agrandir).Ils étaient libres et heureux. ::

:: And what to say about Winlaw beach? An incredible oasis of beauty and beautiful people ::
:: Et que dire de la plage de Winlaw? Un incroyable oasis de beauté et de belles personnes ::

We also came down here to visit with Kathy and Craig (and their beautiful children). I have started reading Kathy's blog 3 years ago and we have connected through the Waldorf forum. Kathy is also an amazing spinner from whom I bought wool on some occasions (she also makes the most beautiful dresses!). It was wonderful to meet with her and her family. She has such a magnetic energy. I feel totally in love with her!

Nous sommes aussi venus jusqu'ici pour rencontrer Kathy et Craig (et leur beaux enfants). J'ai commencé à lire le blogue de Kathy il y a 3 ans et nous avons connecté sur le forum Waldorf. Kathy est aussi une fileuse incroyable de qui j'ai acheté de la laine à quelques occasions (elle confectionne aussi de magnifiques robes). Ce fut incroyable de la rencontrer ainsi que sa famille. Elle a une énergie totalement magnétique. Je me sens vraiment connectée à elle!

Kathy lives in a beautiful stawbale house in Winlaw and I could totally see myself moving here! The community is amazing, alternative and open and the weather is gorgeous!

Kathy habite dans une superbe maison en balles de foin à Winlaw et je pourrais vraiment me voir déménager ici! La communauté est incroyable, alternative et ouverte et la température est magnifique!

Monday, August 16, 2010

On the road again...

:: Early morning on the shore of Muncho Lake, Northern BC. You can see the smoke from the forest fires in the background. We set up the tent pretty late at night and had the most wonderful show of shooting stars, laying in our sleeping bags beside the tent. ::

:: Réveil sur la rive du lac Muncho, au nord de la Colombie-Britannique. On peut apercevoir la fuméée des feux de forêt dans les montagnes au loin. Nous avons monté la tente tard la nuit précédente et nous avons eu un incroyable spectacle d'étoiles filantes, couchés dans nos sacs de couchage à côté de la tente. ::

:: One of many fairy garden created by the girls ::
:: Un des nombreux jardin de fées créés par les filles ::

:: Lunch along the Tetsa river ::
:: Dîner sur la rive de la rivière Tetsa ::

:: Bijoux Falls: a beautiful spot to stop and play ::
:: Chutes Bijoux: un superbe endroit pour arrêter et jouer ::

:: Sunset along the Buckinghorse river ::
:: Coucher de soleil le long de la rivière Buckinghorse ::

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The cabin life

We are spending the last of our stay in the Yukon in a beautiful little cabin in the woods without water, phone and Internet connexion. We are leaving on Friday morning and are ready for another two weeks on the road.

Nous passons la fin de notre séjour au Yukon dans une jolie petite cabane dans les bois sans eau courante, téléphone ni connexion internet. Nous quittons vendredi matin et nous sommes prêt pour un autre deux semaines sur la route.

:: With a beautiful fairy garden ::
:: Avec un joli jardin de fées ::

:: And familiar neighbors! ::
:: Et des voisins familiers! ::

And the perfect birthday for our friend Chris included :

Et l'anniversaire parfait pour notre ami Chris incluait :

:: An amazing cake made by an amazing woman ::
:: Un succulent gâteau confectionné par une femme extraordinaire ::

:: Music ::
:: De la musique ::

:: Lots of music ::
:: Beaucoup de musique ::

:: A wonderful spot ::
:: Un superbe endroit ::

:: And great friends ::
:: Et de bons amis ::

We started a little project for the road in our travel scrapbook. For each territory/province that we visit, we will make a drawing and a collage. Here is our work for the Yukon (I introduced the letter Y for Yukon, hidden in the mountains).

Nous avons commencé un petit projet pour la route dans notre cahier de voyage. Pour chaque territoire/province que l'on visite, nous ferons un dessin et un collage. Voici nos œuvres pour le Yukon (j'ai introduit la lettre Y pour Yukon, cachée dans les montagnes).

:: Mathilde's collage ::
:: Collage de Mathilde ::

:: Aïsha (a black bear with a salmon in his mouth, some Yukon fireweeds, the mountains and the northern lights ::
:: Aïsha (un ours noir avec un saumon dans la bouche, les épilobes du Yukon, les montagnes et les aurores boréales ::

:: Mara (un ours brun dans le fleuve, les montagnes et les étoiles la nuit) ::
:: Mara (a brown bear in the river, the mountains and stars at night) ::