Wrapped in the Scottish Flag

15 07 2009

Leaving for Shakespeare camp yesterday, Young Son got a mysterious package stamped “Royal Mail” and inside, its (suspiciously book-like) contents were brightly wrapped in the Scottish flag, with a tag in his sister’s handwriting — don’t open until your birthday. Weeks of anticipation!

The flag is called the Saltire, a heraldic white martyr’s cross, in this case for St. Andrew, on a blue background. It’s one of the three flags combined together with the UK and Northern Ireland flags, that make the Union Jack, which hadn’t occurred to me before but makes perfect sense.

Flags_of_the_Union_Jack scot uk norireland

He’s thrilled. Me too though it’s not for me, and I had nothing to do with it. Having older kids is so great. At least these unschooled, unpunished, unchurched kids growing into such delightful and GOOD young adults, who actually like each other, and us, and themselves, enough to have plenty of affection left for the rest of the world. . .

And it took me back when they were little, how the box and wrapping could be a big part of the fun. . . Young Son is saving the box with its cool red stamp, and in his scotophile’s mind, the flag might as well be the present itself. 🙂

UDPATE: Just found a frankly fun post about the re-branding of the Saltire, and whether brightening its background shade of blue makes the flag less masculine but more appealing to women — but surely we women are attracted by “the masculine” more than most men are?? 😉

And as I listen to woman of color Sonia Sotomayor being raked over the conservative coals by an exclusive club of hot-red, not-blue, not-so-bright-white men of pervasive privilege wrapping their piety in a flag more like the Confederate battle flag than the State of the Union, white male conservatives who seem to think everything is all about them and THEIR right-ful martyr’s cross (except of course how our culture got so skewed toward their kind in the first place), and that appealing to half the population of the human race is a shocking and dangerous idea, this makes me chuckle. How about you?



11 responses

15 07 2009

my cats would LOVE that box

16 07 2009

That’s so nice of her! What a great sister — you (and what I read of your kids) tempts me to unschool like nothing else! Must analyze Alpha’s control-freak personality and find the right way to present the approach to him.

Also, Shakespeare camp? I’m so jealous I could just spit! Where was that when I was a kid?

16 07 2009

These two points are connected, I’d say. We’ve lived in a university town with wonderful un-school learning opportunities and our own curious, engaged minds enjoying that life, the intellectual life, liberty and pursuit of happiness inherent in summer fun, for the whole family, year-round.

Maybe that would be a way to present it to your DH at some point, as year-round summer camp, exploring whatever the kids are most excited about signing up for in any given season, with you as their professional camp counselor?

I’ll bet you and your kids are living much the same way already, where you are now. Unschooling as a philosophy works best in practice when you don’t make a big “thing” out of it as if it were a job or institutional program enrollment. You just live day to day with the people you love in the fullest, most joyous, engaged ways you can, without focusing so much on future preparation. The only day a toddler or five-year-old or ten-year-old or Favorite Daughter in Europe has in which to think and learn and love, is today. So make this one day full and fun and fascinating for them, with them, because you love them and want them to feel the world is a wonderful place and to have everything they need and to be happy and human NOW — and then celebrate having had another great day together, period. 🙂

And that’s what the future will become.
DH and I were both oldest children, which means we each were reared as little adults, the responsible ones, the role models, had a lot of academic achievement pressure on us and constant “delayed gratification” conditioning — between us probably enough to choke off all love of learning in our kids, if we hadn’t tempered it. We did well in school and by traditional measures, lived up to all the expectations, but looking back the best things we read and learned and became, weren’t forced or centrally planned out or controlled or chosen for us. The real learning was serendipitous, almost IN SPITE OF school. And it’s accelerated rather than stopped since we’ve been beyond school.

Ooh, there’s another idea for dads, especially skeptic/humanist dads. Frame unschooling as better than schools because it’s unconstrained by false education. Beyond School, just as Dale’s unconstrained-by-religion blog is Beyond Belief?

I grew up in a traditional southern university town myself, while DH grew up in both university and cultural center Boston. His family were liberal blue-collar Catholic Kennedy Democrats, mine were conservative methodist Eisenhower/Goldwater Air Force officers and community volunteers. For both of our families, School was EVERYTHING! (It was Authority and Institution and Rules, to structure all our efforts, reward merit, keep order.)

So I don’t think any of them (including our own younger selves) would have accepted the idea of unschooling over traditional academic achievement, and even now, I’m not sure DH thinks about how we’ve lived with our kids the same way I do. He’s more, um, linear? Hard-nosed? Competitive? Cynical? And he still worries about math, especially after FavD’s experience with it in college.

But I think any dad in awe of his babies’ developmental stages and then comfortable in constructive chaos after a few years loving his own little kids and not hitting them or yelling all the time about how noisy and messy they are, etc — can ease into school-aged unschooling as the logical continuation of a wonderful lifestyle.

I’m rambling but there’s so much more about unschooling — oh, and I’ll try to do a post about Shakespeare camp later today.

The Story of Homeschool Truth: Time We Learned Our Lesson?

Teach Our Girls to Dance (Boys Too)

The Spiritual Education of Little JJ — (read the comments too)

Whether it’s School or Church or Office culture, small-town or street culture etc. culture clashes and connections form the prism through which I see just about everything — where we came from and where we’re going, who we are, how humans live together, what teaches our children and defines us. Culture as crucible.

Or how about this? Culture is like our collective lizard brain, the inescapable one-third of human thinking and feeling that no matter how much we study and explain it with our higher order meta-brains, we can’t consciously change, channel or control it. Sometimes it saves us; sometimes it gets us killed. It always “is.”

I hope we’re all here (bumbling around experimenting online) as part of a nascent Thinking Culture that represents progress rather than devolution, human communities better for third-millennium individuals and communities than either Church or School as dominant institution, educationally superior to both my grandmother’s seamless homogeneity and Professor Putnam’s deeply mistrustful urban diversity and competition, demonstrably smarter and also more freely right-brained, more respectful of every individual yet better integrated as real community.

Well, I can dream can’t I? 🙂
Yes, because one long, hot summer with nothing to do, the culture taught me how.

16 07 2009

Two things about going “Beyond School” by a regular classroom teacher named Clay Burrell, for Beta and her DH and their young boys:

Part One

Part Two

17 07 2009

Wow, first of all, thanks for such an in-depth response! I think you’re right, we’re “unschooling” right now, we just don’t call it that. We are all simply trying to live life to its fullest, enjoying life in Europe for however long it lasts, and trying to soak as much of it in as possible. And enjoying simply “being” as well. Why change our methodology simply because Gamma turns six next February?

Ironically, Alpha’s getting a dose of “why traditional schooling methods aren’t always the best” right now. He’s taking an immersion French course, and although he’s probably the smartest person I know, he’s agonizing through it. It’s been far too long since he’s sat in a classroom. Questions about why things work the way they do, etc., aren’t welcomed. He’s having to move forward even though he doesn’t “get it” yet, and as a result he’s struggling more and more every day. He’d be farther ahead to be sitting home with me, working through at his own pace, asking questions and getting real answers.

So many great links in this as well! I’m having a reading field day! Thanks for the thoughtful response.

17 07 2009

Good example — schooled eventually or not, amazing cognitive capabilities develop before school age! Language is universally learned by children too young for school just being home with their families, exploring and experimenting. (Favorite Daughter is unschooling some French that way and enjoying it, like a clumsy “idiot child” as she put it.)

17 07 2009

Young Son’s Summer of Shakespeare is a five-week high school-aged camp, casting about 20 kids in a one-hour production of “Richard the Third.” Young Son is Richard, dividing scenes with a second Richard because there’s so much to learn so fast in that role, and also of course it’s the plum.

(Young Son gets the first scene, opening with “now is the winter of our discontent” and also gets the “my kingdom for a horse” line while his counterpart Richard gets to die in the end.) 😉

17 07 2009

Oh, Beta, you must find Dave Sedaris’ audio “Me Talk Pretty One Day” for Alpha, if you haven’t discovered it already. There’s probably a transcript online but you really have to hear it to get the full effect, I think. Hilarious, I mean falling down funny, true stories of him desperately trying to learn French because he fell in love with someone who summered in the south of France and was fixing up a chateau there.

Sedaris describes his experiences in NYC adult ed language classes and then goes on to the practical application of being in the French village on his own, trying to interact at the hardware store etc. I remember now that he says he gets a reputation as the “Village Idiot” which may be what FavD had in mind when she chose the phrase “idiot child” for her Belgium experience. (She’s a big Dave Sedaris fan . . .)

Here’s another blogger’s endorsement so you don’t just have to take MY word for it:

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” is still my favorite Sedaris piece. It describes his attempts to acclimate to a foreign culture; unfortunately for Sedaris (but fortunately for the audience), foreign languages do not come easily to our hero. His faux pas will leave you gasping for air, whether you read his words on the page or listen to him read aloud.

p.s. Humor is a sign of intellectual giftedness, you know! 😀

17 07 2009

I’ve heard of the book — I’ve got a vat of I-tunes gift cards; maybe I’ll make that my next purchase.

Also, I read FavD’s “idiot child” comments with a laugh — the people here are so like that! Everywhere I go, I find that if I only TRY to speak French, they are open and warm and accommodating. Everyone tells me how “wonderful” my French is, and how “proud” they are of me for learning it. When in reality I’m only getting about half of what they say! The French (and Walloons, as a matter of association by language) seem to have an unearned reputation for being aloof. Not at all. When they realize I CAN communicate with them, if only they slow down and simplify their sentences (ie. speak to me as if I was a third grader), nearly everyone is accommodating and delighted to further my education.

17 07 2009

I posted this link at your blog too, Beta. I listen to it over and over just because this little girl is so NOT an idiot child. 🙂

“And they got Chicken-Box!”

17 07 2009

Just got another overseas phone call. (It’s so exciting! I almost didn’t answer because caller ID read “out of area” and that’s usually a solicitation.) It’s late there but Favorite Daughter has arrived in Paris! They’re only staying overnight on this pass, on the way to Switzerland and then Rome, before swinging back for several days of La Tour de France and Le Louvre later in the month.

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