Monday, March 29, 2010

An Unexamined Life. No One is Going to Pin That One on Us.

According to Wikiquotes, Socrates, who gave us permission to navel gaze endlessly if all we happen to know is this one liner, "An unexamined life is not worth living", did not actually write the idea down. Born well before the days of blogging, Socrates instead traipsed around asking questions until he had a little band of followers. After his death, one of these followers, Plato, took on the job of creating a written record of some of the things Socrates had said.

I started thinking about that famous one liner because I'm not very satisfied with the last few posts I've made. This feeling of dissatisfaction is partly rooted in how long it takes me to spew out my ideas, or snotty questions to Thing Two, and in how little time there is in the day if I don't actually focus on doing the things which are so far in the back of my mind that they've actually fallen into the little hole filled with dustballs and important papers.

It seems important to me to keep a recorded conversation going here at Nowhere, and at the same time learn how to give the worldly important things, like filling out a bunch of long overdue tax returns, their due. Maybe I need a schedule, and more self-discipline.

I certainly need to review a lot of the information I have stored away in my brain, such as items from the collection of pithy sayings which are useful to pull out from time to time. But often I don't know much about who said them, or the context in which they were said. Luckily we now have our outboard brains. I'm sure trying to find the book of quotations which probably exists somewhere in the house, would have taken much longer than typing "an unexamined" into the top of Chrome and having the rest of the phrase pop up for my surfing pleasure.

It was interesting to take a romp round a few sites, reading up on Socrates, because so much of western culture refers back to ancient Greece and the conversations which began there. Seeing a painting of the death of Socrates, painted by one of the artists we studied in, I have to admit I'm confused by this, 19th century art history?... reminded me of how much there is to know about yesterday if the art of today is going to make sense.

Well, maybe not of today, are any rappers rapping about Socrates or Plato? Am I ready to recognize rap as art? Heck, I can't even remember if I took one art history course or two... ah, two, and Jacques Louis David would have been in 18th century, that makes more sense. Whew, the brain isn't completely mush. I will forgive myself for the confusion on the grounds that the themes and the references are so intertwined... which is part of my point on why I hope Thing Two will actually read the information I've linked to.

That's about it for examining my life for this morning. We are supposed to be at the riding stables in an hour and 35 minutes and the rider is still sleeping. I go to bed with good intentions of going walking to start the day and wake up unwilling to do battle to raise sleeping beauty, or to leave the fire unstarted. Must come up with a better plan! One that requires no enforcement!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oh, Do Tell, Thing Two!

How very interesting!  What's the story? Who was involved in the study of these topics? What have you learned about each of the topics you list? When did you learn these things? Where did you study these skills?  Why did you choose to learn these particular skills? How did you learn each new thing? Have you studied grammar or proofreading at all?

What have you learned about schedules? Have you prepared a schedule for next week? What about for the April to June term? How are you coming along with that schedule? How's your report coming for the end of this term? What do you think you want to tell the Department of Education about your progress?

How do you evaluate your progress? If you abandoned the goals for this term that were on the original schedule, did you replace them with another goal? Maybe you did, but you didn't articulate it yet. I think that would be a bit like planning a grand journey without choosing a destination. I'm pretty familiar with that journey myself.

As for the library, what have you learned from the books you have been reading? What have you been reading? We have seen that you have provided a link to the Redwall series. Been reading anything else? What is it about the books you have been reading that has engaged you?

Are there specific books you want to find at the library, or do you just want to go fishing there?

What have you learned about gardening? Do you have an interest in gardening? Is it your own?

Okay, okay, I'll stop with the questions. I got up on the wrong side of grumpy. I worry about you. I see that you want to take the reins, it's a natural thing. And I see that we are easier in each other's company lately but I feel that you are not being well served by your time at home, we let things slide. You keep reminding me that you got expelled from home school as if that gives you leave to just wander through the days, exploring amazing things, like what good tops thumbtacks are and whether you can manipulate their path across the kitchen table by blowing on them... all good clean fun,

But, what if you need more than a wander through life? We don't even walk anymore. For me, it seems as if what you have learned about schedules is how to avoid following them! We have never discussed your being expelled and tried to resolve the issues that got us there. Time to read Summerhill, or just check out their site.

You've had cabin fever and started talking about boarding school, so of course I started thinking about it too, about what you are missing out on by being here with an adult instead of in a gang of kids. About the potential that you have ways of learning that you need to know more about, so that you can develop strategies to achieve what you want, whenever you decide what that is.

The weather is taking a break from being cold windy and damp and I'm going outside to work on cutting down the huge rose hedge, the hedge I planted. So easy it was, just drove branches in the ground from the rosebush that was getting too large below the kitchen window.

The rosebush with the sweet little white blossoms in summer that fill the air with a lovely scent for a few days each summer. The rosebush with small hips the partridge and waxwings like to lunch on. The rosebush my dear Aunt Jean gave me, as a little slip in a  coke bottle, with the words "You can't kill this."

I gave it a good try, leaving it in the coke bottle, on the kitchen windowsill for the better of the summer, while I tried to work out where to plant it. Yeah, it took me a long time to figure out the code. Beware of plants you can't kill. Habits can be invasive too. What habits do I want to change in myself? I'll think about that while I work on the rosebush project.

Learning, yes.

Hiya! Its Thing Two!  In the time that I've been homeschooling I've learned a lot about stuff that might not learned in regular school. I've learned alot about woodworking, and schedule making. I learned that starting in the middle doesn't work. Gardening and building and listening. Getting along with people. And getting a job done sooner rather than later can save you alot of work.

I've also started a small series of drawings. The Nervous Knight was inspired by some shoes, long and metal and pointy. I've drawn the knight from the front and back holding out his sword and shield. Imagine walking up to fight a dragon. Brr.

I've also got some major cabin fever, brought on by the bad weather meaning I cant go outside and nothing new to read. VOTE FOR LIBRARY! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Connections, You Say? Invasive Weeds, Kids, and Parenting? Time to Draw the Lines!

Here's my chance to amaze you all with just how slowly I do figure things out. I've probably read everything I'm about to say in some parenting book or article at some point, and more than likely, unless you are still a young, not-yet-a-parent type person, so have you.

The key points on why invasive weeds and kids are similar:
  • Recognize the innate beauty of your weeds and your children.
  • Not all plants have to be roses to smell sweet.
  • Not all kids have to be interested in the same things you are to be interesting.
  • Appreciating the positive qualities of both weeds and children vastly improves the relationship.
  • There's a lot of talk about control, cooperation is more effective. Either way, thinking is required.
  • Research and observation, trial and error, practice, practice and practice some more.
So, with my tansy, the tansy of my dreams when I read the seed catalogue, it was going to be a lovely, unusual herb and we were going to be "blessed" with a lack of ants. It is not unusual anymore, at least not within about 400 feet of my house, rough guess, with some clumps appearing well down the road. Absence of ants is not a good thing, except in the sugar bowl or at a picnic. Wanting to please my mother brought about unintended results. I have been frustrated by the existence of tansy in my garden. If there is a parent out there unwilling to admit the temporary insanity of frustration with beloved children, please speak up, I want to gaze in amazement at you and your kids.

Last December when I was writing up the schedule for this term I kept asking Thing Two, so what about this, shall we do that? She kept picking up her head from whatever novel she was absorbed in, and saying some version of  "sure, sounds great!" I kept thinking about all the interesting things we would be doing and how the learning this term would set us up for the April to June term. I pictured us getting to the end of March, round about now, and being busy planning how she was going to set up her market garden business over the summer. Doing garden plans, spreadsheets, costing out seeds and working out how much time it would take to plant, maintain, harvest and take to the tailgate market in town. Looking at prices of vegetables and working out what she might expect to earn, and how much she might have to pay in costs.

Just like picturing the tansy as a plant that stayed where I put it and did what it said it would do, I pictured her researching cultures and creating dioramas and little posters and booklets and presenting these to, say a nice little group of folks we'd invite over. I pictured us beating her math demons into submission and improving my ability to read French with guidance from her demanding ear. I could go on about my imaginary three months.

The point is though, that imagination, useful as it is, does not actually move us from an idea to a finished product unless we have truly embraced the desire for that product and are willing to put in the planning and put down the distractions and haul or dance ourselves through all the steps between the glowing perfect imaginary X and the real X. I'm going to let you think about that for a while and go back to doing other real world projects. Projects that will help Thing Two be able to do the things she is interested in doing, and which I know I will enjoy as much, or more than I enjoy the feeling of great wealth I experience raking up my unexpected bounty from those few tansy seeds planted so long ago. 

May Thing Two's willingness to speak her own desires and tell her own stories increase with each passing day, and with each passing day may she realize that making decisions to please her mother, or anyone else, is sometimes a generous gift, but one which must be made with great caution, lest in her anxiety to please others,  the thread of her own great weaving become entangled in a thorn bush of confusion. For each of us, in whatever garden we live, it must be our own, and while we share its abundance and its care with others, still we must remember and ponder this: "The best fertilizer is the footsteps of the gardener."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harvesting Weeds --Thing One is Growing Up.

Weeds have a bad rep. Some folks see a "weed" and move straight to strategies aimed at "getting rid" of what are really just native plants, or sometimes garden escapes, or accidental imports, without considering the properties of the actual plant in question. What can it tell us about itself, or about the habitat it occupies? Is it edible? Does it serve a purpose in relation to other plants or insects, or wildlife? Separated from its reputation can it be appreciated for its determination, brilliance of colour, sweetness of scent?

There's a connection here to parenting and to home schooling that is sometimes not any more obvious to me as a home schooling parent than the beauty of a dandelion is to someone who wants a perfect green lawn. I've never wanted a perfect green lawn, but I have had the experience of imagining how things would be if they were "perfect". Just check back to my original post if you wonder how often "perfect" is imagined around here. Or see this one to see how much faith I put in things like schedules to achieve the perfect life of learning and growing.

Are you laughing yet? Because if you have been touching base here in Nowhere at all this term, you know that no dioramas have been made, we haven't raved about our days speaking French to each other and the thing I view as the absolute basic first step to a perfect day, getting out the door at 7:15 am for an invigorating, healthful, enjoyable walk filled with great Mother and Daughter moments, fell by the wayside right after the wonderful green dress episode.

Here it is, almost the end of term and although we've been learning like crazy, it hasn't been much about our predictions. So much for the lawn seed of life. Now on to the invasive species. Years ago when the nuclear family I was learning the role of mother in moved to Nowhere and I started poring over the seed catalogue, I was thrilled by the description of tansy as a plant which was grown around houses to deter ants.

At the time this area was entirely tansy free and I had never laid eyes on the plant. I had, however, heard my mother's views on ants. She did not discuss their versatility or their wide distribution on the planet, although I will credit her with some statements of wonder regarding their social organization. Most of her views were of the same type as our hypothetical dandelion hater, focused on human/ant conflict. She worried about ants in the pantry. She worried about ants turning the house into a pile of sawdust. I looked forward to pleasing her by rendering her summer home ant free. I ordered tansy seed.

Tansy seeds are a bit like dust, not the bunny kind under the big chair, the mote kind you see floating in sunlight. They don't look at all like the promise of a sunflower seed or a bean. Definitely not the seed you sprout in cups with a room full of kids in primary. As far as gardening went, at that point in my life I was a kid in primary. I barely knew my alphabet. I was reading, but not necessarily comprehending that in some contexts "easy to grow" is code for "will out compete anything". When the tansy sprouted I was delighted. Something so totally unseedlike, so fragile in appearance, had actually turned into a plant! I rejoiced.

I continued to rejoice for so many seasons, transplanting clumps of tansy here and there, giving clumps away, for so long that I can now, without a shadow of a doubt, give myself the slow learner award. Tansy grows and spreads so easily that some thirty years later, I can at last recognize that it is invasive. It has taught me a lot. Sadly, I didn't learn my lesson about invasive plants quite quickly enough. Angelica and I are currently doing battle in an area in front of the house, and some sort of mint family plant with a rather pretty pink blossom is threatening to out compete the tansy in the upper garden. I'm properly worried about both of them. And, I admit to having introduced both of them to my domain. Having the slow learner award seems to be challenging me to keep my standing.

There is more to tell, both about the positive qualities of tansy, and my progress in harmonious relations with Thing Two. Stay tuned. I'll be back, but now, it is spring. I'm going outside to harvest more tansy stalks. They are hollow and raked into heaps make good bases for compost heaps. They break down slowly and are useful between beds to provide dry footing and long lasting mulch. There's plenty of it, and it's free. Such abundance! I feel rich!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Report from Thing Two

Little birds are so trusting. I'm building a camp (as you previously heard) and I set up a bird feeder. Not your standard bird feeder , but an apple with peanut butter and sunflower seeds. The next day I had a most wonderful experience. Some chickadees had found the bird feeder! I stood by a maple tree across from them and watched. There was also a squirrel in the brush pile. Suddenly a gray jay decided he wanted some of the apple and swooped down to get it. The chickadees flew down onto the hammock. Then they flew right into the tree I  was leaning on! Not a foot away from me! That is a wonderful experience. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dum dee dum dum...

Thing One here, wondering if one of the people Thing Two is trying to make life easier for is me. "What were you thinking?!?!?!!!!" is actually a question I'd prefer to erase from my repertoire of questions asked of anyone, at least with the punctuation of disbelief and annoyance represented above. I do agree that humour can work, at the same time I recommend to anyone attempting to use humour to diffuse a tense situation, that it is important to read your audience carefully.

Thing Two got mighty glum yesterday when some of what she was trying to accomplish with the wonderful camp she is building in the maple grove just seemed to be more trouble than satisfaction. It was towards the end of a long sunny day and she had worked hard scouring the area of softwood beyond the maple grove for dead wood  to create a lean-to and dragging it back. I spent a lot of time as a kid making little structures in a swampy area behind our house, in among the skunk cabbage, in what I now realize must have been little clumps of alders. I remember how satisfying it is, the excitement: there are trees and you want a shelter, and with your hands, and your strength and most importantly, your imagination, you do it!

A dead alder is easy prey, but spruce are a lot tougher to persuade to break than alders. When she invited me over to view her work I was impressed with the sticks she had managed to wrest from the woods. They were pretty rough though. Dead spruce has lots of little sticky out stubs of old branches, waiting to poke someone in the head or eye. I suggested using the hammer to wallop off the eye pokers. While I was worrying about sticks and eyes, she was looking for materials to cover her framework.

There's a spruce I'm planning to cut because it is crowding the Jerusalem artichokes, and therefore fair game for boughs, so I offered the clippers to her to harvest the boughs. When she began weaving those into her framework, everything started to slide. She tried tying the poles together. She tried angry language. In the garden raking, I felt the magic slipping. Soon Thing Two stomped out, muttering angrily. The whole idea was going bust. Snack time, I thought, followed by, we had lunch, didn't we and what time is it anyway? She was not stopping to chat, in fact she might as well have been wearing  a big sticker on her forehead "I don't want to talk about it or fix it or even do it anymore."

Since I had suggested earlier that we go up to the alder thicket and do some trail maintenance to liberate alder poles for her construction, but had gotten absorbed in raking weeds in the garden and mulching paths, I was sad to see her abandon the lean-to project without having invited me to go trail clearing with her in the first place. Thing Two is so often busy in the woods, I hadn't really recognized that she was ready for poles until she had called me to admire what she had accomplished. Now, as I saw the look on her face I was sad. I  wished I had done the inviting and that we had gone off to the alder thicket sooner.

It is a delicate balancing act I find, between offering help and taking over a project. I'm trying hard to make sure Thing Two gets to be in charge of her projects. We had had a conversation about parallel play while I raked and she cut boughs. Sometimes, I told her, I think that's the stage I got stuck at. I like being around other people and working independently, but I really need to learn more team skills. Now, lighting my sadness was a little light bulb, shining on the many times when I had abandoned something I wanted to do, when just a little help might have made a difference. So, off I went, little bowsaw in hand, to get a pile of alders ready to haul back.

At the same time, I searched for some Y shaped alders strong enough to make a second support for the lean-to as the angle of the poles Thing Two had already put in place seemed to make the space created really smaller than a camp should be. Once I had dragged them back and started setting them up I came in the house to find Thing Two. She was a lump on the kitchen lounge, entirely under a quilt, iPod tuned to Wizards of Waverly Place. I nattered about the alders I had cut and asked her to come and see what we could set up.

After checking that all she had to do was walk as far as the camp, she came out without enthusiasm, in fact the pout was pretty impressive. I said, unsure of whether this was old crone magic think or something with a bit of research to back it up, that if she smiled, she'd feel better. Now that I see she is passing the suggestion along I've checked for my source, and yes, there is supporting research in this July 1989 New York Times article. No doubt there's new and different research now, but for the minute I'll go with this on the grounds that  if we believe smiling makes us feel better we're likely to improve!

Today our patch of glorious sunny weather is slowly clouding over, so there's a few things to rush off and do, like a major haul from the alder thicket of standing dead sticks to use as fire starter for the rest of the week. Incredibly Thing Two's boxes of fire starters from October have only just run out. Pretty impressive. Having those wonderful boxes of tinder and kindling ready under the bench made the winter easy. A pile of potential fire starter for next winter is growing in the maple grove as Thing Two makes her camp. I'm sure that it is camp gold, with a little work every day, she will have plenty of goods to barter for provisions when camping season is in full swing.

This morning when I dashed out to put up the hammock, I had one of those sense memory moments where your whole being briefly visits another time. My time travel took me to just such a spring like morning 50 years ago, when I must have been heading for the side of the road to wait for the  school bus and regretting all the hours of outdoor time I was about to give up. While I'm sure there were compensations in being around other kids, I don't think that I ever fully felt that school time, despite the things I enjoyed, was a good enough reason for going indoors on a spring day. Now, I'm off to enjoy the next few hours outdoors and see how well I can manage myself on the work expedition to the alder thicket.

Advice and Bill Cosby

Hi, its Thing Two, and I hope that this advice makes life easier for people. Diffusing tense moments with humor is a good way to stop a fight. For instance, when your mom says " What were you thinking?"  a good reply is " dumde dum de dum...".  Its also good to talk about stuff because to make stuff work, especially in homeschooling, you have to understand what everybody wants. Talk quietly and keep your expressions calm. When you smile, the chemicals in your brain make you feel happy. When you're grumpy and pouting (although it is sometimes fun) can just put more people in a bad mood and increase yours.

Also some funny stuff about parenting with Bill Cosby!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tempus fugit, so, yes, we've been having fun.

Always interesting to check on expressions you use readily. Time flies while you are having fun, in its Latin version actually translates according to Wikipedia, as "time flees" and the example given of the first use of the phrase is: "But meanwhile it flees: time flees irretrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail." Finding that quote pretty much stops me in my tracks on my plan to give you a detailed run down on what we have been doing for the last three busy weeks.

But love of detail is my game. After all, it goes with the packrat gene quite well. Still, since it is a gorgeous sunny day with a lovely warm breeze, I'm going to fight for brief. We spent the first week since our last post doing some major log jam removal in our house. Shifting bookshelves, taking down bits of wall, creating places to hang coats and jackets. Those were my goals, that and seeing the floor of the room Thing Two abandoned several years ago.

Here in Nowhere we live in a post and beam home built around 120 years ago, perhaps a bit more. Post and beam construction means that there are no supporting interior walls. Except for in the new addition, which is modern balloon frame construction with gyproc walls, all our walls and ceilings are wood. So if we want to put up a picture or a hook we just hammer or drill and hey presto, there it is. I have loved this feature of our home since I was a child because it gives me such a firm sense of being able to manipulate my environment to suit my whims.

So while I cut out a few boards from one wall and moved them over parallel to what was left of that wall to create a clothes cupboard, I could hear Thing Two upstairs putting up shelves in her room and had the pleasure of knowing that instead of being in a classroom that belongs to everyone and thus can be manipulated by no one without a great deal of forward planning, she was able to make her space truly her own, and learn a few things about how wood behaves into the bargain. Since she has been spending plenty of time this past few months whittling and sawing, it all seemed to flow very sensibly.

We had a deadline for our projects, hers of emptying her room and mine of making better use of the downstairs common spaces, because, as we did in November, we were travelling to another part of the province to attend a gathering focused on the local food movement. That trip, visiting family, and stocking up at the farmers' market, devoured week two.

The gathering took place at Windhorse Farm and instead of time spent passively viewing power point presentations, it was another experience of growing together around conversations that matter. Spending a day with people who are passionate in their belief that access to locally grown food matters to all of us is a powerful mid-winter tonic.

Standing around a fire outdoors and going for a brief walk and meditation in the forest energized me and reconnected to me to some of what I learned on our first visit. Now when I reflect on that day or stand outside, I can hear in my mind Jim's calm voice suggesting that with our feet firmly planted on the forest floor we let our bodies sink into the earth, our breaths mingle with the breath of the forest, and our minds rest in space. It feels right to me. I particularly like the resonance of experiencing the starlit sky enveloping me when I remember to let my mind rest in space.

Just remembering to breathe deeply is always a great leap forward for me! The rest of that week I basked in the comfort of my role as Nana to two of my amazing grandchildren. There is nothing so wonderful as being in the presence of preschool children, when you know that they are cared for and loved as comprehensively as my eldest daughter and her wonderful husband care for this little boy and girl.

The effect of their love, and the nearly daily involvement of their grandpapa, is very evident in the way these kids move through life. At the same time, face it, kids are kids and their development demands a lot of testing of the limits! So, it is pretty wonderful to be Nana and to know that I am not responsible for the daily limit struggles. For me, what works in face of all that testing is a constant commitment to thinking on my feet and giving choices about everything.

It can be quite a trick to keep articulating choices to offer that are truly acceptable to you as an adult. Harder still sometimes, is sticking to the plan. The key is having an answer ready when the child says "I don't want to..." to both of the available choices. It is much easier for me as Nana than it ever has been for me as a mom, to remember what the next bit of the dialogue is. It is quite true, not only for children, but also for adults, that sometimes the available choices do not include something we really want to do. At that point, acknowledging the wish that things were different has to precede the statement that the choices are still the same. For me, this is usually the winning combination on moving forward with whatever project is at hand.

When Thing Two was about three I was finding life very heavy going as a single parent. I had rather too much on my plate for one thing: chronic low-grade depression, menopause following fast on the hormonal roller coaster ride of pregnancy, nursing and weaning, and an enormous new home based self-employment project. It was nuts. Looking back now, there are many choices I wish someone else had been able to lay out for me at the time. However, since I was in charge of outlining the available choices and had gotten my teeth sunk into one of the big ones with the strength of a madwoman on a merry-go-round, Thing Two had to toe the line on lots of day to day interactions. I suppose children often do, whatever choices the parents make about what they take on in life.

In the twenty-two intervening years between the birth of my middle daughter and the blessing that is Thing Two, a lot of my parental coping and management mechanisms had gotten rustier than old parts on an old car  in a maritime climate. Fortunately my sister, whose working life as Head Teacher in a nursery classroom in the UK, revolved around 3 and 4 year olds, was only a phone call away. Her knowledgeable support  gave me the life raft I needed.

Choices are meat and potatoes, or perhaps beans and rice, to her -- the essentials of good interaction between adults and children. Since I wasn't firing on many cylinders at the time, she gave me one, nearly all-purpose, mantra to cover the really sticky situations, like a three year old doing a cut and run in a parking lot. Or less dangerous, but still fully able to derail a day, getting up from whatever activity had peacefully engaged her the moment a business call was underway and beginning a loud go-nowhere conversation with a Thing One whose mind was working overtime to stay in adult business mode.

The mantra? "Can you stop yourself, or does Mommy have to stop you?" Other versions: "Can you hold my hand, or does Mommy have to put the harness on?" "Can you stop yourself, or do you need some help?" I don't think many people hear those mantras as warm fuzzy moments of parenting, but the essential reasoning behind them makes a lot of sense to me. And for Thing Two and I, they worked.

Some days she chose to hold my hand, some days she chose to put on the harness. As her dislike of the harness grew stronger, along with her understanding of what the available choices in the parking lot or crowded mall were, she learned to stop herself from running away, eventually even without having to hold my hand.

Achieving what we want in life is only possible if we have self-discipline. Self-discipline is a learned skill, we don't pop out of the womb with it fully developed, any more than mothers welcome their newborns to their breasts fully equipped with all the skills to feed them successfully.

Using the "can you stop yourself or..." formula  with young children gives them a basic grounding in one of the key self-discipline skills. Learning, during the preschool years, to examine your choices before expressing yourself with direct action, is essential to getting along at every age, in our families and in our communities, whether we home school or not.

Stating the choice as "can you stop yourself or...?" or simply as "can you insert desired behaviour here or...?" works because it offers, in terms which a child can grasp, what action is required.  "Your brother is playing with the toy. Can you stop yourself from grabbing it, or do you need help? Or if this is the umpteenth time today the hand has shot for the other child's toy, " or do you need a time out?"  Both options are acceptable to the parent. While neither may be acceptable to the child at first, repeated use of the phrase gives the child a chance to put on the brakes and consider her next move.

It also gives the caregiver time to draw breath and offer more help. "You wish you it was your turn to play with the truck, so you can use words to ask your brother 'when is it going to be my turn?'" Combined with the magic of a timer, using these systems creates part of a process that gives children the tools they need to make good life choices.

My sister also gives the very useful example of the white elephant in the corner when speaking to young children, and I suspect to most people. Think of what you want and state that, rather than giving the negative solution. "Use words!" is a much more effective thing to gasp than "Don't hit!" The point of the white elephant is that as soon as you mention an elephant it tends to fill up the mind. Better not to reinforce an idea you suspect might be forming in the jungle of kid play by using a word describing any undesired behaviour. De-coding "don't" takes a lot more mental agility than translating the word "hit" into action. I guess I think of it this way. Feelings are our first language and action is speech. As parents and caregivers our role is to teach a second language, words, which give all the gradations of action that allow for civilized interaction.

It is always useful for me to think about the early language years, when along with all the excitement of first word, sentence and  disagreement, parenting seemed so overwhelming and yet manageable at the same time. Back in the sixties, researchers did a project with results so definitive that you would think whoever holds the purse strings on early education financing would be falling over in the rush to institute well funded early childhood education, both for parents and caregivers. My sister told me about the High Scope Project, long ago, but apparently I was thinking about something else at the time, like the abysmal failure of governments to move early childhood education to the top of the budget.

High Scope's central concept, the plan, do, review learning model  is one I want to focus on here in Nowhere.  I think that Thing Two and I could use it to tether our imaginations to some of our goals, assuming of course that that might be a good thing. I'd say that we need some practice on each of the steps, and well, this hasn't been a brief post, has it, so perhaps that timer has my name written all over it. Like so many things we learn, self-discipline, whenever we begin to learn it, requires practice. I guess I'm at the review stage of life, making a plan to do better.

Week three of our disappearance? Short version, we came home and our internet signal was lost in space. Without a phone it took a bit of time to make a plan with the service provider, but now we're up and running again and considering how much time we had for other pursuits during the four days we were out of the cloud. It is still sunny and I can hear the drum beating out in Camp Guokir, so I'm off to enjoy spring before it is even supposed to be here. And yes, daffodil shoots are up.