There’s More Than One Way To Draw A Person

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A recent piece of artwork from Pterodactyl (4)

On my first day of art class in elementary school, I died a little inside.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal in retrospect, but at the time it was soul-crushing.

I was sitting at the long wooden table with my classmates, filled with excitement.  I already enjoyed drawing, coloring, and creating, so I figured this would be my favorite class.  Our first assignment was to fold a sheet of paper in half and draw a person on it.  No other directives or instructions, just draw a person.  Great.  I got this.  I took my time, paying attention to every detail.  Face.  Clothing.  Appendages.  Hair.  Yes!  What a work of art.  I sat in awe of my creation.

For the next half of the assignment, we were told to flip our papers over, and the teacher would now show us the correct way to draw a person.  Circles.  Rectangles.  Ovals.  Measuring.  Erasing.  Re-drawing.  Erasing.  Erasing.  (for some reason I could never get those blasted erasers to work, they just left gray smudges all over my paper).  We then opened up the paper, so we could see both drawings at the same time, and the teacher explained to us why and how our first drawing was rubbish, and the second drawing was phenomenal.

What would possess a person to make a career out of crushing children’s creativity?  And how boring would this planet be if we took these people seriously?  All four of my children love drawing, and each have their own unique style (and yes their own way of drawing a person!).  They also enjoy exploring new techniques, and learning different methods.  But I couldn’t imagine telling them that there is a right and wrong way of creatively expressing themselves.

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3 Reasons People Are Complaining About Your Parenting

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When our children were younger, we were very conscientious about their care.  They didn’t drink “Kool-Aid.”  We mixed their juice half and half with water.  There was not often candy in our house.  We didn’t have network or cable television, and they would occasionally watch something from our collection of age appropriate DVDs (and by age appropriate, I don’t necessarily mean G rated, Cartoons, or Disney movies, many of which are extremely confusing and traumatic for a very young child)  We weren’t denying them anything they were asking for, but simply not giving them anything that was potentially damaging to their health and happiness when they weren’t even asking for it.

For some reason, this upset people.  A chorus of “You can’t shelter them forever!” was constantly ringing in my ears.  A phrase that never made much sense to me, because all parents “shelter” their children to a certain extent.  You don’t sit your 3 year old down to watch hard core pornography.  You don’t offer your 5 year old a shot of vodka.  You don’t drop your 2 year old off on the outskirts of town and see if they can find their way home.  Oh, and then there was the story of so-and-so.  You remember s0-and-so, don’t you?  Their mother never allowed them to have such-and-such, and when they finally got ahold of it they were obsessed with it and never did anything else!  You don’t want your kid to be like so-and-so, do you?  People were also constantly trying to undermine our parenting decisions.  Thrusting spoonsful of ice cream toward my 8 month old daughter, or putting on movies they knew we wouldn’t want the kids watching.  In short, it was extreme disrespect for my children’s wellness, and extreme disrespect for my wife and I as parents.  Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing, so they had to correct it for us.

Well, some years and a few kids later, things have changed.  The kids are older, candy is inevitable, and we now have a TV with Netflix and a computer with the internet.  But one thing hasn’t changed, we are still upsetting people with the way we raise our children.  The problem now?  Too much freedom.  We don’t force them to dress a certain way, we let them eat when and what they would like, they do not have a fixed bedtime, they decide who they do and don’t want to hug and kiss, and we have no limits on screen time.

Why then, are people still upset?  Isn’t this what they wanted?  For us to stop sheltering our children and to stop being so “controlling”?  But that was never really the issue.  The issue was that we were doing something different.  We were going against the grain, and we still are.  That is a problem for three reasons:

1. By doing something different we must be implying that the way they raised their children was wrong.

2. They are jealous because they wanted to do something different, but gave in to pressure to maintain the status quo.

3.  Society has taught them to fear what they do not understand.

So, to all you different parents out there, I say be yourself, do what’s best for your family, and don’t listen for one second to the jerks who try to bring you down.  Your children will thank you, and you won’t have to ever wonder what would have happened if you had raised them the way you knew was right.

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The Dinosaur Family (Never Lose Your Dinosaur)

You may be surprised to find out that Dadosaurus Rex is more than just a catchy title of a insanely fabulous blog, it is also a lifestyle.  My family is proud to be a dinosaur family.  So, what does that mean exactly?  and why does it matter?  Lets take a look at some dino characteristics.

Dinosaurs are hard to ignore.

No one ever asks, “Hey, did you happen to see the stegosaurus that was standing behind us at the market?”  They don’t have to ask.  They know you saw it, because you were both quivering in awe of its majesty and greatness.  You were filled with a mixture of fear and confusion at the sight of the colossal beast .  When you meet a dinosaur, (should you survive) it is not likely an encounter you will soon forget.

Dinosaurs are big.

They are indeed “terrible lizards”, and you will know it when you see them.  Gargantuan, not always in mass, but in style and panache.  When a dinosaur is near, you can feel the earth shaking with each magnificent step.  But don’t let this intimidate you, they are ferociously friendly, and love meeting new creatures.

Dinosaurs are often misunderstood.

It is a sad fact, and it is painful to admit, but the world isn’t exactly crawling with dinosaurs.  Because of this, there is a lot about dinosaurs that the average citizen may not understand.  This results in rumors, lies, confusion, and fear.  The best thing you can do to avoid all this is go straight to the source, and ask a dino.  Dinosaurs aren’t shy, and they are perfectly willing to patiently answer your questions.  Stay and chat long enough, and you will find that you and the humungous reptile have become fast friends.

Dinosaurs are diverse.

At present over 700 different species of dinosaurs have been identified and named. However palaeontologists believe that there are many more new and different dinosaur species still to be discovered. ~The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester

Dinosaurs are not cookie cutter creatures.  They don’t break the mold – They pulverize it.  Each one is unique and unashamed.  Why should they be afraid to be themselves?  There is no need to conform, compare, or compete.  (Because of this, it is good to get to know Dinosaurs on an individual basis, what is true of one may not be true of another.)

The Dinosaur lives within you.

Somewhere, deep inside, you can feel it.  There is a roar that is longing to blast through your jowls.  There are times you just can’t resist the urge to stomp.

Pump your massive clawed fists in the air, and let it out.  Let the world know you are a dinosaur, and you are not going to hide it anymore.

“Never lose your dinosaur”

Now please enjoy this video clip  and get on with your bad dinosaur self.  (BE WARNED: There is a small bit of questionable language!)

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My Kids Are Better Teachers Than I Could Ever Hope To Be

10257268_768654803153707_6684229888910505074_oChildren.  Kids.  The next generation.  Progeny.  Offspring.  The genetic mashup of you and your partner.  The little people who completely change your life, who completely change you.  Children.

I am in absolute awe of my children.  For as long as I have known them, they have been teaching me, and helping me grow as a person.  I owe them a debt that I can never repay, and I am deeply grateful to them.

As they were growing inside of their mother, locked away where I couldn’t see, they taught me that there are some things I cannot control.  When they decided to break free, and join us on the outside, they helped me to see what an amazing person my wife is; and what it is like to care for someone who offered you nothing in return.  As I changed diaper, after diaper, after diaper, after diaper, My intestinal fortitude increased dramatically, and as the urine splashed me, an unsuspecting new father, I learned to change those diapers with lighting ninja speed.  When I was waiting anxiously for the next milestone, they taught me to be patient, that life is not a contest, and that everyone learns at their own pace.

Soon they began walking, and talking.  they taught me to watch, and they taught me to listen.  I learned that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.  I learned the number for poison control.  I learned to follow my instincts, and ignore the critics, to do what is best for my family.

And as they grew older, they showed me how to play, sing, dance, and laugh without being ashamed.  They modeled creativity, and originality.  They taught me that its okay to make a mess, and that most things come out in the wash.  I learned to love what they loved, only because they loved it.  They taught me sacrifice, and over and over they taught me unconditional love.  They showed me that I have something to live for, that I matter, and that I am needed.

Every time I hear those little voices saying, “Will you play with me,” or “Can you get me a glass of water.”  When I find a sandwich in the couch.  When I am at my wits end, I try to remember how much they have taught me, and how much they have given me, and what my life would be without them.

Oh, and they taught me to play Minecraft.

Looking back at the person I used to be, I can’t believe I have made it this far.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  Thank you kids.  Thank you.  I love you.

Harnessing Homeschool Fears

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As a dad* who has chosen not to send his kids to school, my children’s future is always on my mind.  Will they be successful?  Will they be happy?  Will they be ashamed?  Will they want to homeschool their kids?  Will they regret being homeschooled?  I know that homeschooling was the right choice for my family, and I believe that homeschooling is the best choice for most any family, but I still have plenty of room for doubt, and that is a good thing.

If my children turn out illiterate, ignorant, or worse, I cannot blame bad teachers.  I cannot blame stingy tax-payers who refuse to fund better schools.  I cannot blame politicians who care only for standardized test scores.  I cannot blame bullies, I cannot blame behavioral specialists, I cannot blame the lunch lady.  I cannot be irate that my child was not in the gifted program, or complain that they should have been in the remedial program.  I cannot be outraged that they cut band or art.  I cannot say that someone else has robbed my child of their education, their childhood, or their future.  If something goes wrong I cannot blame anyone.  Anyone, that is, except myself.

Because of this, I have a drive and motivation that I would not have if I was counting on someone else to educate my child.  I am always re-evaluating my approaches, reading articles, asking questions on forums, asking the kids for feedback, and trying any means possible to improve the educational experience my children receive.   I have a much more vested interest in my children than any teacher ever could.  Being directly involved in the lives of my children is one of the many reasons I choose to homeschool.

*I’m writing this from my perspective, but we mustn’t forget my lovely wife.  Just know that any time I say “I” I really mean “we.”

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My 4 Year Old’s Bucket List

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Here is one from the archives (March of last year).  Made me smile.

My children and I were sitting at home, looking at a raised relief map of Colorado.  My son, who is 4, asked, “Are those the Andes Mountains?” I explained to him that they were called the Rocky Mountains, and showed him on the globe where the Andes Mountains were.  “Can we Climb the Rocky Mountains?”

“Yes!  Of course we can,” I replied, “But it might be a while before we do.”

Later, we were putting together a jumbo United States puzzle.  Each state was a piece of the puzzle, and many of the states had pictures on them, showing what might be found in that state.  It was then my son informed me that he would like to go canoeing in Oregon, hug a cactus in Arizona, and visit some hay in Montana.

At 4 years old, my son is a little young to have a “Bucket List,” but I guess he is getting an early start.  It is such a pleasure to see his sense of adventure, and his eagerness to explore the world.  And who knows, maybe our next vacation will be to Arizona, and we can all hug a cactus.

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Ruining Socialization For The Rest Of Us

If you have homeschooled for more than a few minutes, someone has confronted you about the “Socialization” issue.  I will not bother re-hashing the same debate, because you can’t walk ten paces on the internet without running into it.

I would, however, like to point out that the more society relies on school to socialize children, the more scarce social opportunities become even for those of us who don’t.  As an unschooler, I am worried that my children may not have enough positive social experiences.  But that is not because they aren’t in school, its because so many others are.

  • Many of the young children (who would just make excellent playmates for our little ones) are locked up for the majority of the day
  • When the children are released, they are hesitant to make bonds with “outsiders” and are more comfortable playing with those who they already know.
  • Many adults are shocked (and even offended) at the sight of children during school hours.  So, instead of acknowledging our children, greeting them, and interacting with them, they recoil in fear and gasp “what the hell was that?” under their breath.
  • Adults who our children manage to get close to are not used to having wee ones taking an interest in whatever “adult task” they may be performing.  Instead of offering to show them how that tool works, they give a firm “Don’t play with that, its not a toy” and offer to turn on the television.

So, in a sense, all those people who want to know how you will socialize your kids have a legitimate concern (albeit misguided).  In a culture where the majority of the population is institutionalized from a very young age, there are not nearly so many social opportunities available.  Maybe if everyone homeschooled (or unschooled) their children, we could get back to socializing again, just like humanity did before public school arrived on the scene.

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Checkmate Dad! (Putting an end to my bias toward “Educational” activites)

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There was a time when I had a clear distinction in my mind between “Educational” and “Mindless” activities.  I even had a mental scale, or rating system that I used to determined which activities would be more or less educational.

When my children would chose an educational activity (Studying the globe for example) I would be filled with joy and satisfaction, knowing that they would soon be silencing my critics with their display of awesome knowledge.  When they chose a less educational activity (watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for example)  I would be filled with anxiety, fear, and disappointment.

One place where this mental dichotomy would manifest itself is our local library.  We would walk into the children’s department, and the first thing my children would see:  The computers.  “Why?”  I would think, “Why can’t they look at books?  That is what we are here for, maybe they would actually LEARN something!  Must they spend the entire trip on the computer EVERY time we come here?”

On one of these trips my son (aged 5 at the time) stumbled upon a chess game on the library computer.  He fell in love.  For the next 3 weeks everything was chess.  He watched instructional videos to learn the names of the pieces and how they move, he played chess on the kindle and on the computer at home, and EVERY time we went to the library.  He was chess obsessed, and he was getting pretty good at it.

Had I insisted that he stay off of the Library computer, and go pick out books, he never would have had the joy of finding something that he loved.   By steering our kids toward activities we believe to be more “educational” we may just be robbing them of an opportunity to find something they are passionate about.

At any rate, our beliefs about what is “educational” are made up prejudices, and we should do everything in our power to make sure our children participate in any activity they desire, without regard to our biased opinion.

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Are You Qualified to Teach Your Children?

Another re-post from my old blog:

When people find out that our children are home-schooled (Well, unschooled actually) They usually respond by shifting the conversation to a more comfortable topic, such as…well, anything but homeschooling.  However, when speaking to less timid folks, the conversation can quickly turn into an interrogation.

“Whats wrong with the schools in our community?”
“Didn’t you go to public school?”
“How will your children learn to socialize?”
“How will they learn to take instruction?”
“How will they learn discipline?”
“How will they get a job without a diploma?”

And then there is my personal favorite, “What makes you think you are qualified to teach your children?”

When I was first confronted with this question, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to answer it.  I came up with all kinds of legitimate answers, as well as finding statistics comparing the performance of home-schoolers to children taught in public school.  But no matter what answer I came up with, it still didn’t feel right.

I then realized something that has completely changed the way I look at my children’s education.  I am NOT qualified to teach them.  My critics were right all along, I do not have what it takes to educate my own children.  But the good news is, they are qualified to learn.  Every child has within them the capacity to learn from their surroundings, without school, without a curriculum, and without a teacher.  So maybe you don’t have a teaching degree, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your curious, and resourceful children from learning naturally, and with joy, on a daily basis.

“Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”   -Albert Einstein

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