Monday, October 22, 2007

Rule #2: Be Where You Are

For a few years now, we’ve been creating a set of rules for our family to live by. I originally thought they would be good for teaching Ada simple lessons, but these rules are turning out to be great touchstones for all of us. As trite or silly as it seems, it’s nice to be able to just repeat a simple phrase to yourself when you’re a bit overwhelmed. If nothing else, the rules remind us of some basics, and it’s nice to know we, as family, all share the same “code.”
Lately, I find myself recalling our second rule, which is the rather Zen-like, “Be where you are.” Simple enough in theory, but hard to do in practice.

I recite that most to myself when I notice I’m worried about the ever-increasing “to do” list, or when I get into spiral of “It will be great when…”

And it will be great when I…
Clean the kitchen floor
Finish Esme’s quilt
Sort the last year’s photos
Lose 30 pounds
Wash the front windows
Refinish the studio stairs

One big problem with waiting for things to be great later is that once these goals are actually done, nothing really changes. That's not to say I shouldn't set goals--it's just to say I shouldn't set my happiness on them.

So forget the “will be great.” It is great right now. And now. And now. Each moment is great, and full, and in it I have enough. I have to remind myself of that from time to time, and it helps me to focus on what is at hand. Plans are good. But noticing what I have, and what we are right now is good, too. So here’s to Rule Number 2 and focusing on the moment.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Latest great reads: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

You know you’ve got a great book when you have to stop every chapter or so to exclaim aloud “Wow! This is so good!” (Yes, I am that much of a geek--not only because I actually do this, but also because I admit to doing it.) The World Without Us is just one of these books. And whether you’re a geek or not, you will certainly find something new and interesting in Weisman’s research. Essentially, this is a look at what the Earth might be like if humans were to, well—leave. It asks the question, “How big a footprint do we as humans really leave on the Earth?” And I was surprised a bit by the answer he proposes.
While the title might imply some sci-fi take on doomsday, this is pure non-fiction. I saw it at Barnes and Noble filed in the nature section, but I would say it goes beyond a discussion of ecology-it’s also a look at history and geography, oceanography, and sociology. If you are even marginally interested in the “natural world,” you should take a look at this one. It’s well-written in the best way, which is to say it’s not only good research, but it’s also engaging. I had a hard time setting it down. Page turning non-fiction? Indeed.

It’s going on my shelf next to Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, another absorbing and provoking read—and one that had me exclaiming aloud many times last summer.

What's on your shelf? I'm always eager to find new things to read!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

School at home

We are well underway at our "home" school. We started formally devoting most of our day to kindergarten-level schoolwork in July, and it's great so far. Ada is now starting to read on her own, and we are through our first two sets of Kumon math (an excellent program for anyone--check out their website).

We get a lot of questions about why we are doing this, and the main answer for us is that it works for Ada, and it works with our family right now. I spend a great deal of time with her one-on-one, and I think that is going to make a big difference in how fast she picks up certain things.

And not least of all our reasons for home schooling is how much fun it is to do "lessons" with her (most of the time!). In addition to the usual kindergarten requisites of handwriting and phonics, we do lots of other things, too. Some of our favorites include reading about early American history, doing projects with leaves and tree identification, and making a story journal with illustrations.

I love watching Ada accomplish so much. She is taking some real pride in her achievements.

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