~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ take a picture of it instead

i only just finished posting about last month and it’s time for another one! in this season of dim lighting and puddles, it all feels like a big blur, but when i go back and look through, some gems shine through the murk.

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halloween, pokemon style.

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self knowledge, after karate practice one night: “mama, can you please get me some crab meat to eat, right now?” why, yes, son, i can. we live in a fishing port, luckily for you, and whatever micronutrients and minerals your growing body suddenly requires can be obtained. thanks for asking.


followed up by popcorn and a movie. screen time in moderation, of course!

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…and predominant screen use as a tool… for making his property cards, monster cards, and character cards for the dungeons and dragons monopoly game he recently created! (old trivial pursuit board from thrift store, 50 cents – didn’t have its cards anymore and was the perfect shape and size for monopoly.)


game making was big this month, and he created a farm animal board game for his friend, to whose birthday party he was the only boy and the only 8 year old invited. she was turning 4, and quinn did an awesome job tailoring the game to a level she and her peers could easily play (not needing to read or do any serious math, but including some basic counting skills). this has become our go-to birthday present, as it involves some thoughtfulness and creativity on quinn’s part, and not a lot of money (in this case, a thrift store purchase of an old pictionary game board for 50 cents.)

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this particular birthday party was like an art therapy immersion session, and quinn and i both got our hands in clay, and i got to do some painting, while he got to sink his hands into a bin full of jelly balls (those things intended for hydrating cut flowers that you can buy at the dollar store – fun sensory play).

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remembering our roots… quinn and i used to do far more hiking when we first got to this area, and he still fit in a baby carrier, but i can see what good self care it is for us to remember to make time for it now that we are older and busier. between the sunny days, my lighter work schedule, and being fairy dog mother this month, we managed quite a bit more outside time.

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writing his choose your own adventure angry birds story, self supplementing his learning all the time.


i do see occasional backpack evidence of writing occurring at school, which he was reluctant to do last year.


although i mostly have to rely on my dig through the archaeological backpack record to find out what is happening at school, i am now established as the science friday mentor for quinn’s class, and that one afternoon per week in his class has been a lot of fun, and a nice window into his daily experience. our unit on simple machines has been an adventure for us all, and i will write up more about the curriculum in a post of its own sometime soon, after the culmination of our unit in the school science fair. it has also inspired some home learning supplementing on the topic. he and i watched a few fun rube goldberg you tube videos, and quinn mentally devised a pulley system as an alternative method for meeting his responsibility to get his dirty dishes from table to sink.

honda rube goldberg ad using car parts

ok go music video rube goldberg awesomeness

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food preparation is still trending in the life of quinn, and he again made tacos, learned how to make his own french toast one morning, and helped me layer up a crock-pot lasagna.

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in other house work, he is learning how to operate the washer and dryer, and helping the laundry process along. he has been folding his karate uniform ever since he began karate lessons, because i laid out the expectation early on that he would be responsible for taking care of his gear, which has helped him with folding other clothes, and now he is working through the other steps of the process one by one – this one has never been a requirement, and still isn’t, but he contributes whenever he is around when it is taking place. i can understand, i also never minded laundry, especially folding warm clothes out of the dryer this time of year. he also did a great room clean-up when asked (and cajoled a little bit, and told i couldn’t fit myself into his room to play d and d with him until he made some room), and after taking pictures of the toys he didn’t want to put away, he put them away. we have some good organizational practices starting to take shape, such as quinn’s accordian file of lego instruction manuals that he has fully embraced and actually utilizes as intended. with quinn, and i suspect with many children, organizational skills seem to develop in direct relationship to interest level in the subject matter (his desk at school does not look quite as organized as his lego manuals or his pokemon card binder, let’s just say.)


on his way through the orange belt curriculum – second black tip.

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we also attended a big karate seminar in corvallis, and quinn got to learn directly from one of ed parker’s (founder of american kenpo) students, mr. sepulveda. he happens to have over 50 years of karate teaching experience and has something like a 9th degree black belt. the first two rows of students in the class were solid brown belts, and i could see that they knew this was not an opportunity to be missed. quinn seemed to sense that as well, and when it was announced in his regular class, he turned to me and whisper-begged to please please take him to it.

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there was an amazing student-teacher ratio in the room, with black belts milling about everywhere to adjust and comment on their positions as they practiced with a partner. then mr. sepulveda would capture the whole room’s attention again in his soft-spoken voice, and demonstrate the next step. i was so pleased to hear him share that he has never once needed to use his karate to defend himself outside the dojo; he felt it was important for the kids to know that.

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when the class finished, a whole bunch of junior black belts came out on the mat and began warming up for their chevron testing, and we were just in awe (and i had everybody was kung-fu fighting playing on my mental soundtrack. those kids were fast as lightning!) he got to see some amazing things and be immersed in a whole different studio’s culture (a much bigger, more echo-y one!) and i feel sure it was time well spent.

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then quinn and i went out to a restaurant we haven’t been to in years, the laughing planet, and quinn remembered it from the dinosaurs on the table. many of them have gone extinct, and this one was missing some digits and part of its tail, but he adopted it to our counter seating area immediately upon entering the restaurant.


he took some pictures to remember the evening by…


pachycephalosaurus, he assures me. i did not google it to confirm, i trust my personal dinosaur expert.


he really wanted to bring the menu home with us. i used the “how about we take a picture of it, instead” technique, just like for the toys.

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we took an amazing walk on a saturday afternoon in one of our local state parks, because quinn told me he wanted to hike in a forest next to a beach. he had a certain one in mind, and this wasn’t the one, so the first minute of the hike was a bit bumpy, with him threatening not to come along, but he did, and soon we were back at the car gathering essentials needed for a more extensive hike: a bag for pinecone gathering, a pencil and paper for making an inventory. there was puppy walking (and running) fun, tree climbing, parking in the middle of the trail to make an inventory of mushrooms and rattlesnake plantain (actually an orchid). there was sensory sand therapy, rolling down the dunes whole-body style, like any boy who needs his neurons reorganized on a sunny day.

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because everyone likes to do multiple digit addition in their heads while they are hiking…

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the very next day it was still gorgeous, we were still puppy-sitting, and we lucked out and showed up at another favorite beach just before low tide. tidepooling and seal watching…

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speaking of reflecting, i have been thinking back on the educational priorities i outlined for quinn, goodness! was it already three years ago? what prompted me to write them in the first place was debating with my coparent whether quinn should go to our living school or attend public school, and once written, i felt that my priority list would be met in a much more comprehensive way by ols. now that quinn is a few months into public school, and we have our two years of ols experience to compare to, i feel i was correct in that assessment. at ols, i did not feel any of the items on the list were lacking. i will say that i have been pleasantly surprised with public school that more of the list items are not lacking, as i anticipated. probably the biggest things that stand out are the rewards system and external motivators i covered in priorities 8 and 9, and those do seem to be a part of public school culture. and yet, there is far less “grading” than i had feared; there is more testing, however, than i could have even guessed, but the kids don’t seem to have a sense of how they performed on the testing, they just arrive in whatever leveled classroom they were assigned to. interestingly, while quinn reacted very positively to the “class rewards” and “golden ruler” carrots that were dangled at the start of the school year, and these were the things he reported about most early on, i do think he has been learning without the rewards system long enough to have a pretty solid grasp of learning for the sake of learning (and not to obtain rewards). to the school’s credit, the rewards are for respectful and cooperative behavior, not learning goals. so they must be hip to the fact that rewards systems for learning backfires heavily. alas, i fear that respectful and cooperative behavior can suffer the same backfiring when motivated extrinsically, but here we are.

i am pleasantly surprised in the sense of belonging quinn feels (priority 3), the connection he feels to his teachers (priority 2), and even some age integration (priority 12; based on skill level, quinn hangs out with 10 year olds on a daily basis for part of his day. there are no younger kids in this school, as it spans grades 3-5 only).

i would of course like to see much more emergent/constructivist curriculum (priority 6, see also 5 and 7), i’d like to be rid of all of the testing, i’d sure love for there to be more arts, and generally more choice built in to his days. i knew there would be drawbacks, and i knew we would need to continue to supplement in all of these areas at home. i am currently relieved it is just supplementing, and not triage or damage control that we face. this definitely made it easier to embrace my recent extension of funding on my job, something we are of course very thankful for, given our upcoming house buying adventure. i was pleased with the time frame of the current leg of funding, because it meant i could reassess around when quinn had attended a full semester of school, and if something drastic needed to change, that could have happened. i feel a little weird about accepting this status quo, because i am not generally a settler for mediocrity. still, upon reassessing, there are no major fires to put out, and this is working for the time being.

obviously the supplementing and strewing will continue…

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so that was our month. culminating in a puppy snuggle pile!

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