Maybe If We Had Known That We Didn’t Know. . .

28 10 2011

This is headlined as “The Boomer Parent’s Lament”:

“Maybe if I knew that our children would be coming of age in an economy that would crush even the best and brightest among them, I would have cared a little less about their score on an advanced placement history test, and a little more about helping them find happiness in moments at the margin.”

UNSCHOOLING boomer parents though, knew this all along and we aren’t lamenting any such thing. Finding happiness in the moment and the margin AND smack-dab in the middle of the morning too, while everyone else was sweating yet another test — that was the whole program, the whole point, the whole power of our story.

Didn’t JJ just finish saying something like that? 😉

There was a book excerpt in the NYT Sunday magazine so stunning that I ordered the book online. I was waiting to read it before blogging anything about it but it’s been on my mind in every current conversation, now including this one. The book is “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and its professor author Daniel Kahneman was a 2002 Nobel laureate in economics.

The big point is that we humans tend to hold fast to (often false) confidence that we’re doing the right thing and that we can “know” what that is, even when we’re smart enough to SEE that we aren’t, and don’t, and can’t.

The Hazards of Confidence:

We rarely experienced doubt or conflicting impressions. . . [but] as it turned out, despite our certainty about the potential of individual candidates, our forecasts were largely useless.

The evidence was overwhelming. . . our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible. Our forecasts were better than blind guesses, but not by much.

What do you think about the right way to school kids and prepare them for quantifiable success? How confident are you that you’re right about that? 😉





Legos and Play Young-at-Heart, Young-at-Smart

5 08 2011

If you haven’t seen this yet and don’t realize what it is, go do your homework! And let your kids both little and big, help.

And when that gets you in the mood to think more about Legos and how we love them, you can go do reading for extra credit here and here.

Oh, and here and here too, geez, JJ is long-winded on the most esoteric topic! 😀

p.s. Young Son says this will confuse alien life about our nature . . .





What’s in a Name? Can You Hum a Few Bars?

16 07 2011

Remember Beetleness and Daffodility?

. . .sorting and naming the natural world is a universal, deep-seated and fundamental human activity, one we cannot afford to lose because it is essential to understanding the living world, and our place in it.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

THIS PROFUSION OF HUMMINGBIRDS is from the book “Kunstformen der Natur,” by Ernst Haeckel, 1900. The names of the birds, like Topaza pella, or crimson topaz (third from top), and Sparganura sappho, or red-tailed comet (with forked tail), seem as lush and elaborate as their coloration.

Taxonomy in my mind is power of story, more art than science. It means making meaning from human cognition and emotion, which regardless of how and whether we distinguish between them, together constitute the whole of our reality.

So I think (and feel) that taxonomy can’t be defined solely in terms of the “natural” world, as beauty apart from human thinking and feeling. Read the rest of this entry »





A Musical Theatre Unschooler’s Ode to Last Harry Potter Premiere

14 07 2011

I woke up this morning to discover — posted as a new note on his FaceBook page — what Young Son had been up to all night. Talk about flow! 🙂

As far as his mother knows, this is the first song parody he’s even tried to write, so it just astounds me.

He’s still asleep so for now I can only speculate how it came about. (When I checked just now, one of his Jim Dale-performed Harry Potter audiobooks was playing, as it has all night every night since he started putting together a premiere character costume and pre-purchased his ticket for tomorrow.)

He’s studying French with a private tutor, yet I wonder whether he noticed his parody particularly fits today as Bastille Day, set as it is to music from a French musical, his all-time favorite, Les Miserables.

For my part, I never imagined much less planned for Bastille Day to figure into our unschooling musically or any other way, even though it already has done, for both of them.

Young Son and Les Miserables power of story

Harry Potter power of story

You’ll appreciate this much more if you have the soaring Les Mis lyrics and rhythms in your head, which doubtless aren’t QUITE as deeply bred into everyone as in my house:

Okay? Did you play the video? Do you have a goose-bump or two? Then here we go, exactly as he wrote and posted it! [hush falls over the audience]

“Ode to the Harry Potter premiere”
by Young Son Ross on Thursday, July 14, 2011

(To the tune of “1 day more” from Les Miserables)

‎FAN #1: One day more, another day another costume piece, in this never ending wait to the release. The fans all seem to know it’s time, to buy tickets is not a crime, one day more.

FAN #2: I will not live until that day, the day when it all ends forever

Read the rest of this entry »





Spring Sprang Sprung! Doctor JJ’s Kids Bustin’ Out All Over

29 05 2011

Our spring showed color early and has been full to bursting since then, with performance, celebration, commencement, remembrance and rites of passage.
And hats.

(This will surely sound like one of those insipid Christmas letters listing stuff about a family you never see IRL, so feel free to skip it or make snarky comments — in the privacy of your own home.) 😉

Maybe the garden metaphor is less fitting than fireworks, or rocket launches. But there have been plenty of flowers, on hats and in centerpieces, on stage and on campus and filling our home. I suppose the season started with Favorite Daughter’s acceptance to grad school and her 21st birthday, clinching a job at the campus music library, apartment hunting for that first momentous move out on her own (she’s lived at home through university) all while sustaining her unbroken streak on the president’s list to lock up her perfect career GPA with a Phi Beta Kappa key.

St. Patrick’s Day was a whole week for both FavD and Young Son, an Irish stepdance marathon of performances for schools indoors and out, for nursing homes and assisted living centers and at two different citywide festivals. Thanks to unschooling, on the actual day Young Son was able to start at nine in the morning and dance straight through until almost ten that night.

Young Son's St Patrick's Day meant dancing for two and then some

I know how much he danced and how much energy it must have taken because I went everywhere with him; I was worn out even though I got to sit the whole time. 🙂

Meanwhile, rehearsals for their latest community theatre musical “CURTAINS” took up most weeknights and Saturdays through March and April, for both kids. (Favorite Daughter was dance captain.)

Curtains Can Can-Can! Favorite Daughter on far left

Young Son front and center

This time the show rehearsed in a vacant mall storefront, filling the atrium far and wide with song and dance, delighting mall-crawlers from all directions — mostly from Barnes and Noble and the sports superstore but also the little kid ride-for-a-quarter machines — whose stopped-in-their-tracks surprise was good fun to watch from a bench nearby while waiting to chauffeur one or both Ross kids to whatever awaited their attention next.

Curtains rehearsing in mall storefront: FavD in blue skirt, Young Son's right half on far right

Young Son took up another wind instrument this spring, in addition to the great highland bagpipes, hornpipes, penny whistles and baritone vocals he enjoys so much: the alto saxophone. MY alto saxophone to be precise. We found yet another tailor-made mentor/private teacher, a world-traveled former US Army Band professional saxophonist who’s now A.B.D. (all but dissertation) at the local university and has his own studio and instrument workshop at home.

Oh, and FavD quite unexpectedly acquired a new costume de rigueur as of April 20, perfectly suited to her scholarly librarian life: her first pair of glasses, which like Young Son, she wears all the time and looks somehow more like herself with, than without. 🙂

On the heels of that bespectacling, Read the rest of this entry »





JJ is Christmas Present, Young Son is Fezziwig!

14 12 2010

Someone (write Lynn if you’re cross!) was silly enough to demand pictures of Scrooge:the Musical, so . . .





Why Unschooling Is Literally the Pro-Life Choice

7 12 2010

A study of choral singers done by [UC Irvine] illustrates just how powerful putting it all out there can be. When the singers in the Pacific Chorale did rehearsals, researchers Robert Beck and Thomas Cesario found that a protein essential to fighting disease, immunoglobulin A, increased 150 percent.

So the act of singing itself had a powerful effect on well-being. But it gets better: The protein soared 240 percent during live performances.

Benefits rise in direct proportion to how much passion you put into the singing. Hum along in self-consciousness or boredom and you don’t get the benefit the comes when you let it fly. This is such a great metaphor for the role passion plays in unleashing an extraordinary life.

. . .The life intelligence skill that overcomes time urgency and bottom-line mentality is the pursuit of competence, a drive for internal mastery, learning — not to show anyone else — that allows you to build enough facility to turn activities into passions and optimal experiences.

. . .You’re the entertainment director. If you don’t direct the show, somebody else will, and that’s not going to cut it with your core psychological needs.





Bah, Humbug!

1 12 2010

Here’s what Young Son and I have been busy with, for him too busy to finish Dracula so he can start on Julius Caesar and for me, too busy to blog much lately.

(At least it’s Christmasy!)

Scrooge: the Musical at Quincy Music Theatre





Private Power of Story in Censorship

15 11 2010

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (subscription only)
“The Future of Free Speech”
By Tim Wu

Tim Wu is a professor of law at Columbia Law School. His new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, was just published by Knopf.

This is what speech management looks like in 2010. No one elected Facebook or YouTube, and neither one is beholden to the First Amendment. Nonetheless, it is their decisions that dictate, effectively, who gets heard.

What’s the answer? There is no easy answer. Monopolies like Google, Facebook, and Hollywood have certain advantages: That’s why they tend to come into existence. That means the American public needs to be aware of the dangers that private censors can pose to free speech.

The American Constitution was written to control abuses of power, but it didn’t account for the heavy concentration of private power that we see today.

And in the end, power is power, whether in private or public hands.

More snooking on censorship power of story:

School theatre and citizen censorship

Ideas are incombustible

More t-shirts and dress message stories, from stupid to dead serious this time

So we were saying censorship is a bad thing . . .

How the Oscars offended me today

Palin’s “Actual Responsibilities” as Madame Mayor

Ignorance makes the N-word Even Scarier Unspoken





What I Heard From Sanity and/or Fear Rally

31 10 2010

An echo.

“When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” Llike an echo of my own refrain as a new blogger at Culture Kitchen five years ago, urging (in a quite civil indoor voice!) some well-modulated post-partisan Sam Waterston Unity ’08 thinking and talking: Amplifying Our Differences

Amplified sound, in effect, may diminish rather than amplify our individualism, our audience, even our own ability to pay attention or care about all we’ve lost. . .

Should we care, if the heavy bass and deafening levels of powerful modern difference-amplifiers blow out everybody’s eardrums along with our will to live, and thus our chances for ever building any majority audience able to appreciate artistic, nuanced and truly innovative political theatre?

. . .Does it matter if we the people learn to prefer politics to problem-solving, screaming to singing, mass media to personal passion?

I wish the ralliers more luck with being heard now than I had then. America’s appetite and audience seem bigger now for subtle, intelligently designed sounds of sanity, so that’s something.

Maybe as usual I just peaked too soon? I’ve been straining to hear and understand for many years while guns were blazing and sirens shrieking, tuning in earnestly to years of FOX and right-rant radio, trying to figure it out.

It’s insidious. Amplification deafens you to the wrong thing! — by trying so hard to be intellectually curious, fair-minded, engaged and reasoning, I’ve been systematically deafened BY the loudest and craziest, FOR the loudest and craziest, TO all but the loudest and craziest! It feels like a lifetime ago that I could comfortably hear (or speak) real hope about America’s chances of restoring sanity.

So could my personal power of story be that I’ve paid a hubris price for going it alone without publisher or party, hoping I could individually trade off small damage to myself in return for contributing to the common good but failing miserably, like Dr. Jekyll experimenting on himself for good cause but becoming Mr. Hyde?

Halloween two days before a momentous election, is a better time than most, I guess, for ghostly fears to echo. I won’t scream it, but please. Vote.





Celebrating Power of Story in Books & Movies

25 10 2010

I was just poking around the PBS site because of the new Sherlock Holmes series that started airing last night.

Young Son is a huge fan of everything Holmesian and he’s put together a Sherlock Holmes costume for this Halloween (last year he was Inspector Javert from Les Miserables but that was more about the singing than the detecting, I think) — point being, they are both book characters. As I always say, our unschooling is mostly “power of story” and seeing the same characters and story in different interpretations is an important part of the learning and fun.

The website has a short video of the new young Holmes, who said it was on record that Holmes is the single most often re-interpreted literary character.

The exhibition items have not changed since they were first installed, and are now complemented by an interesting and nostalgic collection of television and film stills, featuring the famous actors who have played the Great Detective and his trusty sidekick, Watson, down the years.

I can’t vouch for Holmes holding the record, but it was interesting and while I was waiting for Young Son to wake up so I could show him, I was thinking we sort of have our own book club mentality around here, not formalized of course, but that’s what we talk about and how we have fun.

Anyway, all that led me to this and I thought I’d share — Read the rest of this entry »





JJ’s Vote: Musical Theatre as Very Model of Modern Meaning (in) General

16 10 2010

Toe-tapping cock of the snook to fellow “musical theatre as unschooling” mom Pam Sorooshian, for this: