Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spring has come to Guam

I never realized it before, but Guam actually has a “spring”. I don’t know why it has taken me 15 years to notice this. And maybe I’m wrong and there is more than one “season” like we are experiencing. What I’m specifically referring to is the abundance of flowers I’m seeing around Guam lately.


This I think is what as known as a “bird of paradise” though I may be wrong. I don’t claim to be a flower expert. Perhaps it is ginger.


These are bougainvilleas. We have several varieties growing in our garden. These are my favorite color.


This is a mix of a variegated white/purple bougainvillea and the purple (though it looks red here).


Even the weeds sport pretty pink flowers. This is a vine that grows all over the jungle, choking out other plants. But doing it very prettily.


I believe this is really the “bird of paradise”. That other one was ginger I’m fairly certain.


Though they look pink here, these are a lovely purple color and one of my favorite Guam flowers. Don’t ask me the name though!


Our first crop of cherry tomatoes, and the beginning of our vegetable garden.


And finally our lone Palm Tree in our front yard, just to prove we really are in the tropics.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Game

I’m not sure what they call it. It seemed to be a cross between Chess and Risk at first glance. When I came home from work tonight, Cassie and Eric were spread out on the floor intent on the game before them. It consisted of an interactive Around the World electronic game board ($10 K-mart special) and chess pieces. The chess pieces were situated on various countries on the World Map.

I watched for a while trying to figure out their game. Eric described it as a mixture of chess and RPG games. I watched as Russia attacked China and the children each took hold of their “pawn” and placed them in a line on the floor.

“I’m throwing a fire spear” said Cassie.

“I’m blocking your spear” Eric replied, with a whooshing sound affect attached. Serious thought prevailed as they both considered their next line of attack.

Apparently this game had been going on for the past hour. In the process, Cassie would ask what country her piece was on and occasionally push the button on the board to hear the country fact.

Geography facts are learned, imagination is used, and creativity abounds when kids are left to their own devices.

Monday, February 8, 2010

History, the unschooling way

Interestingly enough, history is being learned in my household via an anime comic. Specifically, Hetalia. Stephanie discovered Hetalia on one of her message boards and has downloaded and watched all the accompanying audio dramas and streaming anime videos. She has then, in turn, passed on her knowledge of WWI and WWII facts she has learned to her younger brother and sister, and to anyone else who will listen to her.

In the past few months she has learned more about the Allied and Axis countries and their different idiosyncrasies, than an entire social studies curriculum would have taught her. And what’s more, she has learned about the personalities in power at the time and how they influenced their countries to do what they did in these wars.

What is so wonderful is that she is not only learning history in a fun, interesting way, but she is retaining what she is learning. She is intrigued enough to do further research and to ask questions about events in history. And everything she learns she shares with her brothers and sisters.

Think about that for a moment. Would this happen if we had used a regular curriculum with her? Would she have felt inclined to share this with her younger siblings? I don’t think so. It is the very unique nature of this particular series that has intrigued her. And what has encouraged her to share with others.  So much more effective than pages of memorization and regurgitation of facts. What she is learning and passing down, becomes part of my children’s homeschooling repertoire. I love it that when I made pizza last night for dinner my kids were sharing facts about Italy with me that I never taught them! I was learning from them. How cool is that?

For more information on Hetalia and how you can use it in your unschooling journey see

Warning, mature themes and language in actual comics and shows.

Writing when Ready

In the past two weeks Eric has finally figured out how to write neatly and legibly. Or print actually. And to spell. He is 10. This is a boy who would not have done well with a printing/writing curriculum that required repetitive handwriting practice. He has always been a free thinker. Very artistic. He would only write in capital letters and had consistent letters and numbers that he reversed.

Because he has great recall of stories and wonderful comprehension I did not worry too much about his lack of hand writing skills. I learned to decipher his writing and to understand his creative spelling techniques. And I knew that when he was 20 he’d be able to write neatly enough for someone to read what he had written. And that he would be able to spell. And that he would no longer write his number 3 backwards. Because eventually it would all “click” for him.

Well, thankfully it happened long before he was 20. Today he spent an hour carefully writing out a title page, intro and first few pages of a story book. He used both upper and lower case letters. he used proper punctuation and he took extra care to use correct spelling, verifying with me when he was uncertain. All completely self initiated.

I have not had to use an expensive writing or spelling curriculum with him to have this happen. I allowed nature to take its course. Provided him with the material and encouragement when necessary. Stoked his creative genius with appropriate books and drawing tools. And as maturity level was reached he blossomed. By the time he is 13, I am sure there will be no sign that he used to write his “k”’s backwards or could only write in all capitals.

This is what I love about unschooling. I firmly believe that with a mind and talent like Eric’s that a traditional school method would have severely limited his creative genius. As it is he has been allowed to grow in the areas that he wanted to grow in, and when he realized that having others understand his writing, and that writing was just another form of drawing, it all has come together for him and “clicked”.

Today he asked me, “Mom what is your favorite letter to draw? I like ‘g’ and even ‘d’ is pretty cool too.” I had to quickly print out the alphabet and informed him I’m partial to "'f, j and q”. Try it and tell me what your favorite letter is!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Saga of the iPhone

I wanted to title this post “My Horrible, No Good, Rotten, Very Bad Day” but in retrospect I realize it really wasn’t so bad. And there was a good lesson learned.

It started last night when two of my cats decided to have a battle royale that careened across the kitchen table, where I had put my barely one month old iPhone a few minutes before.  And proceeded to knock over a bottle of bubble mix that Cassie had been playing with earlier. It was only a small bottle, one of those $0.99 ones that hold barely an ounce of the stuff.  No one noticed at first but maybe 10 minutes later Cassie noticed my phone in the puddle of liquid. I quickly wiped it off and prayed that it still worked. It did, but the screen had a weird streak through it and the sound wouldn’t work. But other than that….unfortunately I didn’t turn it off right away and continued to fiddle with it. Then it wouldn’t turn off so I put it in a container of rice like it was suggested on several websites.

Morning time and the phone was very dead. I hoped it just needed charging so took it into town and plugged it in for an hour. But still no deal so  I headed over to the phone company. After waiting almost an hour, the tech guy assured me it was water damage and not covered so I had to buy a new phone. Except they didn’t have any and I had to head over to their other branch. An hour later I finally get to talk to a sales rep where I am told I can no longer purchase a phone for the great $99.95 deal but had to pay the replacement cost of $539.95! I did some quick math in my head and realized that if I canceled my contract (which I had been advised on purchase a month ago was a HUGE mistake) and realized it would cost me more to cancel the contract than to buy the phone.  So I reluctantly handed over my credit card…only to be told that it had expired (though the exp. date clearly on the card was for 3/10). AT this point I’m beginning to wonder what I did to anger God? Was it because I didn’t go to church on Sunday? I’m sorry I wanted a day off! I promise never to do THAT again!

Well, as it turns out we had had a good weekend at the driving school, pulling in triple the amount we usually do. So I was able to pay cash for the phone. Or at least debit card instead of credit card.

So why didn’t the credit card work? Turns out the bank had issued me a new credit card since mine was expiring in 2 months and it produced some kind of glitch in their system that caused my current card to come up expired just for this one day. The bank actually called me to apologize for the inconvenience.

So what did I learn from all this? Well, for one, though I prayed for God to fix my phone, He answered my prayer in a completely different way. Not only did He provide the funds for the phone, but He also prevented me from going further into debt over this little fiasco.

Now I would have preferred to do something else with our extra money. I had plans on sending some to a needy friend and I’ve been wanting to send money to our older son as well. I can still do this, just not as much as I had originally planned.

Could God have prevented what happened? I like to think so. But perhaps not. It was after all, just rambunctious kittens, and my misfortune to put my phone down on a table in our house. I should have known better. If it wasn’t bubble mix, it might have been stale coffee, or a forgotten glass of water. The fact is I need to be more responsible. Isn’t this something we want to teach our children?

Oh and I was pretty peeved at the phone company for '”scamming” me in this way. But then my husband pointed out that these really are $500 phones. I had just originally got a great discount. Can you imagine if everyone went into the phone company, bought a phone, pretend to lose it, buy another one for the great discount and then sell their first one for a profit? It would be a potential nightmare.

So to the nice man who was so kind and patient with a very frustrated lady today, sorry for my behavior this afternoon. You were just doing your job.

The irony of it all is the cat’s name is Applesauce.