He’s almost there

You may have noticed that since all the personal changes behind the scenes, Ron usually updates on the weekend. Well, this time he was either busy, running errands or snuggling. That’s important work, you know. 😉 He did ask me to mention that he’s almost got the computer “over there” set up and connected to the online world. I’ll leave it to him to describe the fun he’s had.

An unheard voice

A week ago Joanne posted Unschooling Voices #1. The question for the July edition was, “How did you and your family come to unschooling?” Because of the schedule I’ve been running, I didn’t have the opportunity to answer the question in time for the July edition. But I do think it is a question worth answering. Before I get to that…

The optional August question is, “Do you extend the principles of unschooling (trust, freedom, etc) into any other areas of your child’s life?”. (Details on submitting blog posts)

The simple explanation of how our family came to unschooling is that it was all a matter of time. But that doesn’t really say very much. TBH, I have known for years that there was a single moment at which I stepped onto the path that through many twists, turns and dead ends eventually lead to unschooling.

A little over 10 years ago, our oldest was in his third year of school. At the time, we were still somewhat following a school-at-home program. He was doing math that he had originally learned two years before. In the course of helping him with it, I came to the startling realization that even though he knew how to do the math, he had no idea as to why he was doing it beyond that was the way it was done. What I wanted to say next was some estimate of how long it took me to get over that. I spent about 5 minutes thinking about it. I have a sneaky suspicion that I haven’t gotten over it and that I probably never will. In any event, I spent the next week or two helping him understand why we borrow when we subtract.

I could write pages and pages describing hundreds of things that happened between then and now. I can summarize it somewhat tangentally. All of my teenage children are excellent at math because the only interest I had in teaching them was that they understood what it was for, what purpose it served and why it works the way it does. If you ask them a question that involves math it is unlikely that any of them will reach for a pencil in paper. They do math in their head. If you are wondering what approach we used in planning and adjusting over the years, the simple version would be that if it didn’t work, we threw it out. No preconceived idea/assumption or ‘proven method’ was exempt from the possibility that it was erroneous.

There are times, of course, when most of us second guess ourselves. But unschooling is not something about which I second guess. When you are standing on the side of the road in the dark and your child is tangled up in a bent up mountain bike describing the symptoms of his injuries, you don’t have alot of time to decide what is important. What you think about in the hours and days that follow define that for you. Speaking from experience, whether your child can list off the political leaders of your country through history is not important. Being able to compose a paper conforming to APA standards does not make or break a life (and is, in fact, worthless to you in a situation like that). Given the amount of the typical child’s life that is invested in school, I believe our society has a serious priority problem.

IMHO: Rote learning is worthless. Sitting a child at a desk and giving him or her a sheet of math questions to do which serves no purpose to the child beyond proving to you that that the child is capable (or demonstrating that in those circumstances he or she can’t or chooses not to) is a hideous offense to another life which is every bit as valuable as your own.

In refering to the accident above, I hope I haven’t suggested that prior to it we spent alot of time second guessing what we were doing because that wasn’t the case. There are things that come along in life which are gateposts from which there is no turning back.

(For readers who have joined since we started this blog, in the Fall of 2004, because of the glare of headlights from oncoming traffic, Addison hit a washout on the shoulder of the road, flipped his mountain bike and broke 4 vertabrae in his neck.)

Busy weekend

For those outside of Canada, today was Canada Day which means that this is a long weekend for us. I’ve also taken a day’s vacation and will not be going back to work until Tuesday evening. A few months ago we decided that this weekend we would sand the floor in one of the bedrooms.

When we bought the house, one of the bedroom floors had been stripped sown to the hardwood (maple) and refinished. In the other 3 bedrooms, the wood floors were covered with carpet and under the carpet were the hard tiles that were all the rage 30-40 years ago. Two years ago, after we had removed the tiles from a second bedroom, I sanded the floor with a drum sander and refinished it with a clear urethane. Like many houses built a century ago in this area, while all the floors downstairs were hardwood, only some of the bedrooms have hardwood floors.

Although I’m not certain, I believe that this bedroom floor is hemlock. Over the last few weeks, we have worked away at getting the floor ready to sand. Here is a pic of the floor before I started sanding it today (click for full size):

Ready for sanding

And here is how far I got today:

Partially sanded

In the long run, I’m not particularly looking to remove all of the finish that’s on the floor. Softwood floors look really nice if they are stained or painted. So, that is what we will be doing with this floor. None the less, I expect that this would look spectacular if it were sanded down and a clear finish applied.


One of the things I forgot about mentioning over the weekend is that I shared a plane with someone who is (moderately) rich and famous. Now, I expect he is much more famous than he is rich. While politicians make well above average salaries, politics usually doesn’t turn them into millionaires.

At various times, in her blog, Andrea has mentioned I have the knack for running into people I know while I’m travelling. On Friday, when the boarding call came for the flight back to NB, I immediately recognized the person who stepped into line 2 people in front of me. Frank McKenna has most recently held the prestigeous position of Canadian Ambassador to the US. “(Frank) won the largest electoral victory in Canadian history in 1987 when his party won every seat in the (New Brunswick) legislature.” (wikipedia)

Now what made that a somewhat memorable event is that in passing through boarding security you have to show photo id. The airline agent looked at him, then at the photo id and boarding pass and then asked him if he was McKenna. Because my seat was further back in the plane I ended up standing by his seat waiting for the person in front of me. He looked up at me and I asked him (with somewhat of a wry grin), “So, is it a good thing when they do recognize you…or, when they don’t recognize you?” He laughed and nodded assent to the second.

Tonight, Andrea, Emma and I went to do a bit of shopping. We ran into a woman (who is now retired) at the grocery store that I worked with 7 years ago. And there was a second lady shopping there who I met in the same time frame but, so far, I’ve been unable to remember where she worked. (I was doing contract work at the time and probably met 1000 people over a span of 5 years.)

Nice trip, glad to be home again

The trip was better than I expected (I’m not much of a travel for work traveller). It was definitely worthwhile from a work perspective. I got to meet a few people that heretofore I had only exchanged emails with. Also, on Wednesday night I met up with a long time internet friend. I have to say long time because I don’t remember when it was we had our first chat via the internet but I would expect it was at least 6 years ago.

Even though the trip went well, there is nothing like being home again. So, for tonight, I’ll post some pics of this week’s arrivals in the garden (hover to see description, click to see full size):

rugosa rose

mock orange blossoms

mock orange bush

HEM and stuff

The unschooling carnival is being promoted in the HEM Editor’s blog. Thanks Helen and Joanne.

In my little world, I’ve been working on getting Gentoo up and running. It does not come with an installer and it is preconfigured with a minimal configuration. It is bringing back memories from 15 years ago when I first started working with unix. I’ve been using up my evening mental energy on that. I took last night off (mostly) and went on a 2 hour drive to explore the countryside. Tonight I’m trying to catch up.

Next week I will be away from the internet for the week. I’m getting on a plane very early Monday morning and flying to Toronto. I will be there all week. I’m hoping to meet up with at least one homeschooling family while there.

I think I need a new camera

Last night I worked on some functionality for Homeschool Journal. Tonight, I’ll be finishing that off. Andrea and I are in process of compiling a comprehensive prioritized punch list of things to do for the site. So, I won’t be posting anything succinct here tonight. In lieu of that, one of the reasons I brought the camera with me this week was that I wanted to take some landscape shots. I got some good ones and some ok ones but before I show too many off, I’ll need to do some image editing.

Before Christmas, Andrea and I were looking at a 5.X megapixel camera which took incredible pictures. I’m really looking forward to the day when we get one. In the meanwhile, here is one of them that will give you the sense of the shot I was going for. Use your imagination to create a crisp image 😉

looking east

Virtual Tour

Andrea posted a virtual tour of the house in our online album. Click on the first image below to see all the images. I’ve been wanting to post some pictures anyway, but now that she did the tour, I have a good excuse 😉

This floor had hard tiles that were all the rage in the late 60’s or early 70’s. Over the last month I’ve removed most of them. The dark area at the back is a section where Meaghan has removed the paper/cardboard underlay that was put under the tiles. The foreground shows what is left of the adhesive & underlay after the tiles are removed. I’m planning on sanding and refinishing the floor (softwood) during the first weekend in July. This will be the second bedroom I’ve done.

Softwood Floor

The weekend before Mother’s Day, I transplanted 4 roses bushes to in front of the veranda. At the time, the leaves were just beginning to open. The 2 bushes in the middle are a rugosa rose that I split (deliberately) while transplanting it. The outer two are centifolia moss roses. There are 2 more rugosas and 4 more of the centifolia ones on the other side of the step and I have 2 & 4 respectively in large pots. I moved them to pots so that they would be ready to move in the middle of the summer if we were moving households.

Transplanted roses

A few years ago, I was at the nursery and the nicely arranged flower pots had a price tag of $30 or more. I decided to get a pair of nice pots and make the arrangements myself. Since then, every year, before Mother’s Day, we go and pick out what we are going to put in the pots that year. The 2 images below are the result of this year’s picks. Most of the plants were picked by the girls. On Mother’s Day, Andrea and I decided on the arrangements and transplanted them together. These flank the back door of the house which is the one we normally use to go in and out.

Mother's Day Arrangement

Mother's Day Arrangement


Today was a statutory holiday in Canada, so I am still home. Tomorrow morning we (Andrea & I) are leaving here around 7 to take Addison to the hospital in Moncton where he will have surgery on his eye. Once he has been admitted, I’ll be proceeding to Saint John where I’m working for all of this week. I’m expecting it to be my last trip there for this project (it’s where I’ve been going every 2 or 3 weeks). Andrea will be staying with him and be there when he gets moved to recovery. If all goes well, they will be home around supper time.

Unless I find an access center which is open in the evening, I will be away from the internet until Saturday. Andrea will post an update in her blog as soon as she has the time and more information to report.

Have a good week.

Mixed Bag

I’ve been away from the keyboard since the 2nd Homeschool Country Fair was opened. I haven’t had a chance to read the posts yet. Given the hour, I won’t be doing that tonight.

The last few weeks have been subject to a number of changes in plans. The next 2 weeks will continue that tradition. I was planning on being away again most of this week. Last week, I arranged to convert to trips into one. Instead of leaving here on Wednesday as I did last week, I’ll be away from the keyboard all of next week. One of the advantages is that I will be able to stay home until Tuesday morning (Monday is a holiday in Canada) since home is about the same distance from Saint John and as my office.

This week I’m going to be working at getting the apartment set up. I am also going to be working on a solution to the problem of preventing spam blogs at homeschool journal. Andrea and I had time to sort out what we wanted to do to deal with that situation. As an interim solution, I am going to re-enable sign-ups by invitation only (i.e. an existing hsj user has to send an invite to the email address that is going to be used as the owner of the new blog).

TBH, I’m going to do my best to get some writing done here. I have a lot of things on draft in the back of my head. But, depending on how my week goes I may not get to anymore than 1 or 2. Also, there were more than 300 entries when I opened my bloglines tonight. I managed to read about 1/3 of the entries. It is probably going to take a couple nights for me to catch up.