The Minds of Homeschooled Kids

Homeschooled kids are so interesting to interact with. I enjoy talking with all kids, but I’ve found that with kids who are homeschooled, the barrier between kids and adults simply isn’t there. They are conversing with you as a fellow human being, they have curiosity about your ideas, and they assume that you’ll be interested in what they have to say. They are thoughtful and respectful of ideas, no matter whose.

I’m not just talking about the “prodigy” kids who are studying advanced math and writing their own operas at age 10. I’m talking about the way homeschooled kids explore the topics that interest them. The other night, my kids were playing video games at the home of their best friends. On the way home, they were telling me about the game and how it progressed. They collaborated with each other on remembering the sequence of events, and speculated on how things in the game might unfold based on the choices they could have made. The conversation soon evolved beyond video games (for which I was grateful!) and the bombs being used into a discussion of comets and meteorites, the types of metals they contain, and what could be made with them, both now and in the past. Homeschooled kids are genuinely interested in exploring the world around them, and conversation is an important part of that process.

In a way, homeschooled kids are akin to preschoolers, who haven’t yet entered the world of tests and cliques and correct answers. They ask a lot of questions, and allow themselves to be led off on interesting tangents. They may create lots of messes, as they jump from one project or game to another. I recently went to a friend’s house during the day, and she apologized for the mess. But to me, it looked like a rich and rewarding homeschool environment. Her older child was just sitting down with his dad to do a science project at the kitchen table, her younger child had blocks and games spread out over the living room floor, and there were books and artwork all around. The perfect place for exploring many facets of the kids’ world.

I think that kids who are allowed the space and time to explore their own interests and passions are not only receiving an education, but they are also becoming well-rounded and fascinating people. They will continue to interact with the world in creative ways, and their explorations will bring them joy throughout their lives. Here’s a related quote I ran across yesterday:

“Vocation happens when our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” – Frederich Buechner.

I also did some recent writing on unschooling for the Feline Dreamers website; check it out if you’re interested.

Thoughts About Eating

Over the past couple of days I’ve encountered three mentions of the movement to eat local foods. Apparently there is a challenge going on this month in Maine, where you can sign up to prepare and eat at least one meal of entirely local foods. Some people are doing it for Thanksgiving; an acquaintance of mine and her family were featured in the local newspaper. More of a challenge in New England in November than it might be in, say, California. I think it’s a cool thing. Focusing on sustainability, and eating foods that haven’t been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles using fossil fuels, is a good practice.

BlackLion has been interested in starting a garden next spring, and we’re planning to do that on the family land here. Our soil is very acidic, which is partly why our gardening project a couple of years ago didn’t really work. So we need to treat it with lime and manure this fall. He’s been talking to organic gardeners and doing a bit of research. I imagine we’ll get the kids involved, as part of their unschooling.

I’ve been eating a mostly vegan diet for quite a while now. It feels much better to me, both physically and emotionally, than when I ate more dairy and eggs (I’ve been vegetarian for years, though I did eat fish occasionally up until about 2 years ago). I think that everyone needs to figure out the food that makes the most sense for them personally, and also take into account where the food is coming from. Each body is different, and what works for one person might not work for the next person.

But I would urge everyone to be aware and conscious of what you’re choosing to put in your body. I like to bless the food before I eat it. We do a gratitude blessing at dinnertime as a family, and at lunch I have a little blessing I say. I think the energy with which the food is eaten (and prepared, for that matter) contributes to the nutrition and pleasure it provides.

Many people eat so automatically and without considering what value it brings to them, where it came from, or its impact on the environment as a whole. I’m glad that more of us are becoming aware of the fuel we choose to give our bodies. Even just the awareness that we do have a choice, for those of us fortunate enough to be able buy or grow the foods we want, is an important step.

I’m baaaaaack!!!

Hello there, readers. If there are any of you still out there. Heh heh heh. I’ve been choosing to do other things than write on this blog, obviously, over the past year. I’ve definitely been doing a lot of creative work, though.

BlackLion and I started the Feline Dreamers website, which is worth checking out and has lots of cool articles. We’re also writing a book, which is really exciting and is a big focus for my writing. A dear friend and I are writing a vegan pagan cookbook – we don’t have a website for it yet but we will before too long, and I’ll link to it when it’s up. It’s fun inventing and perfecting recipes and writing them down; it’s something I’ve just been learning about over this past year. I’ve also been keeping up with journal writing, and have been writing poetry sporadically. I received a djembe in May and have done a bit of drumming off and on. I’m still writing the Starcat’s Corner column for the EarthTides newsletter (it’s been 10 years now, wow!), and for the past year BlackLion and I have been writing a Faerie Tidings column for the same publication. We’ve also been published in Faerie Nation magazine, and have plans to submit articles to PanGaia and possibly other publications.

I also started a brand-new creativity coven that is meeting each Full Moon (get in touch with me if you live in southern Maine and are interested in being a part of it). I’ve been giving Reiki sessions, which has been really rewarding. I went through some health challenges over the late-summer and early fall; I’m feeling better now and have gotten back to my yoga practice, which was neglected for a while.

The young ones are doing well. Crow is doing soccer and basketball and writing and reading and video games. ElvenTiger is knitting and doing art and did soccer this fall and is constantly making up songs and imagination games. Mystic Quickpaw is a year and a half old and is fun and loving. Huzzah is our old-man cat and is slowing down quite a bit, especially as cold weather comes in. Star dog is having fun doing her canine thing.

Quester is focused on writing new songs with the latest incarnation of Freakwitch. He and Raven are spending a lot of time together and seem to be having fun. BlackLion is, as mentioned above, working on a lot of writing, and he’s also making a transition in terms of becoming self-employed and pursuing his bliss.

That’s the update. Now back to our regularly scheduled study of the Multiverse!

Wannabe Drummer

I’m sitting here typing and listening to Freakwitch practicing in the basement. I wanna be a drummer! I need to somehow make it a priority (i.e. find the money) to get the djembe I’ve been talking about getting for months. B. is going to give me some lessons. And my Mom is going to learn, too – we both want to get a drum soon. I really like B.’s drumming, both kit and doumbek. And I just feel like I have a natural affinity for rhythms and beats. That’s always what I follow the most when I’m dancing. Sure, I groove to the melody, but the rhythm always calls to me. Ah well, for now I’m just a wannabe!

What to do with Strong Emotions

I’ve been feeling a lot of strong emotions lately, and trying to figure out what to do with them. Ideally, it’s best to feel the emotion fully in the moment, and let it flow through you, not becoming attached to it. Sometimes, though, I’m in a situation where it’s not appropriate to cry or show anger, such as in the workplace. In that case, I tend to supress the feeling, but then find that I do have to deal with it sooner or later, and sometimes it has grown bigger in the interim.

The emotions that I have the most trouble with are ones that are essentially reactions to other people’s strong emotions. I am an empath, and when someone around me is feeling something very strongly, I tend to pick up on it and either share the feeling, or blame myself for it in some way, which can cause other emotions to arise. Usually if it’s a situation that makes me upset, I can let go of it pretty quickly. But dealing with others’ feelings is more difficult.

In the past I tended to process my emotions internally, in my head or in a journal, rather than speaking out loud about them with others. More recently I’ve been in situations where I’ve been doing a lot of verbal processing, which has been both good and bad. Good, in that I can get ideas and new perspectives from talking with friends. Bad, in that it tends to tire me out very quickly. And it can also be a burden on the friends.

So now I’m trying to find a good balance for all of this. To be open and honest with those I love, without overburdening them with my emotions. To process things internally, without hanging onto them in an unhealthy way. To express my emotions authentically as they come up, but not let them control me. As I write this, it seems to me that what I’m working with is a basic aspect of being human, and learning to be a better person.

Touching the Ancestors

As the Wheel of the Year winds down and the earth prepares to sleep, it’s time to turn our thoughts to Samhain. Traditionally, this is a holiday when pagans honor our ancestors and beloved dead, while the veil between the worlds is thin and the dark nights grow longer. Often this means cooking their favorite foods and setting a place for them at the Samhain feast. But what are some other ways to honor and connect with those who have crossed over?

If you have friends or family members who have passed away within the past few years, perhaps you wish to create something new to honor their memory. Writing a poem or song, embroidering a wall hanging, or building a rock garden are some examples of a creative tribute. Use your imagination, and as you work, focus on happy memories of times you spent with your loved one. If you like, charge your creation in sacred space, dedicating it to the spirit of the person it’s made for.

Another way to honor your ancestors is to find out new things about them. Ask your elders about people in your family or community you were too young to know or remember. You may discover many funny or poignant stories by asking questions and then sitting back and just listening. At a recent family gathering, I discovered that the cat symbol I have drawn since I was a kid (and which contributed to my choice of pagan name) came from times I spent drawing with my Mom’s favorite eccentric aunt, when I was really little. I’ll certainly be honoring Great Aunt Ruby as part of my Samhain ritual this year!

You can also, with a little research, discover something new about your family’s culture of origin. Go beyond the stereotypes of what it means to be of French or Celtic or African descent, perhaps unearthing an old song or folk tradition that you can use in your Samhain celebration. Or dig a bit deeper, and discover the reason *why* a particular custom or tradition was handed down as part of the culture’s lore.

Many of us also honor spiritual ancestors, who may or may not be blood-related. Who are those who went before, whose lives have brought meaning to your own? Women during the Burning Times? The anonymous “conductors” for the Underground Railroad? Native Americans who walked this land centuries ago? Find a way to honor them this Samhain, perhaps leaving an offering in the woods or garden. Find or create a piece of jewelry to wear as a tribute to them, or burn a candle on your altar in their memory, on the days leading up to Samhain.

There are many ways to honor our beloved dead. Samhain is an especially good time to do so, but it’s also important to remember them throughout the Wheel of the Year. Perhaps you could set up an altar or shrine of photographs and special items passed down from past generations. Or simply send them a prayer, song, or mental “thank you” when you think of them. By remembering our ancestors and paying tribute to them in some way, we continue the thread of love and magick woven through the tapestry of our lives, passing it along eventually to those who come after us, and continuing the legacy of our evolving spirituality. Blessed Be!

Don’t Read This Entry

Yes, this is one of those oh-wow-life-has-been-so-busy-I-haven’t-written-in-forever entires. Boring, I know. So, don’t read it. Move on to what’s next. Unless you really can’t help yourself.

The summer and early fall have been (obviously) quite busy and full. There were sad parts and happy parts and amazing things and painful things and fun times. The kids are both in soccer, and loving it as usual – Dryst got asked to be on a travel team and he’s really enjoying that. I’m actually thinking maybe I’ll join an adult soccer team myself. Weird, I know.

Mystic Quickpaw is now 6 months old and is so cute and wonderful!

I’ve been doing some writing here and there, and cultivating my creativity. A good friend and I are going to write a cookbook, which is exciting! I’ve been eating mostly vegan, which feels great.

Not sure what I’ve forgotten. And here’s the usual vow: I’ll try to be better about writing here. Really!

Gender Confusion

So, Matt took the cats to the vet for their checkup. I get this voicemail on my work machine (said in a laughing singsong voice): “Mystic is a boy!”

Stunned silence.

Er, OK…

Now we’re having a really challenging time trying not to say “she” and “her” and getting used to “he” and “him.” This poor cat won’t know what gender he is…especially once he’s old enough to get neutered.

Meow!

Barefoot Hiking

Last summer at a Reclaiming witch camp, I (re)discovered the joys of going barefoot. It was a very rainy week, and the terrain was hilly, rocky and muddy. Soon all three of the pairs of shoes I had brought (sandals, sneakers and hiking boots) were completely soaked through, and the notion of dry socks was a laughing matter. So, I decided to go barefoot. My studies that week were focused on connecting with nature and the divine, and I soon found that having my skin directly connected to the earth with each step was a profound experience. By the time I came home, I could hardly wear shoes at all. The chakras on the bottom of my feet were wide open and the energy between myself and Mother Earth was flowing freely.

Over time, as the weather grew colder and wetter, I forgot about going barefoot. During the winter, I resumed wearing socks and shoes, and wore slippers in the house so that my feet would stay warm. I ordered some new Birkenstocks online, thinking ahead to spring, not recalling the way my feet felt on the cool grass. Spring came, and it was rainy and cool, so I stayed with socks and close-toed shoes. But at last, the sun peeked through, and I started hiking.

Not wanting to get my new Birks muddy on a hike with Quester, I decided to take them off and put them in my backpack. Within moments, I could feel the energy of the forest more strongly: the trees breathing, the earth’s heartbeat, the life force of the moss and flowers, the humbling strength of the rocks. My awareness continued to expand as I walked, placing each foot as if in a moving meditation. As my consciousness shifted, colors seemed brighter, my love and joy for Quester seemed bigger, and I could feel the attention of the Goddess upon me. Barefoot hiking made a beautiful day even more magickal and meaningful.

Recently I was able to introduce a close friend of mine, B., to the pleasures of barefoot hiking. Getting past the initial discomfort of roots and sharp stones, he opened himself to the experience, as I had done at witch camp. I could see the shift in his consciousness as he allowed the direct connection with the earth to flow up through his feet. We also did some silent hiking, which again expanded our awareness of the energies surrounding us and connecting us. The cool mud soothed our feet, and we headed for low spots on the trail, rather than going around them. Flat rocks in the sun also became favorite spots for a moment of rest, and we picnicked with our feet in the stream, feeling ourselves fully open to all of the elements: the cold water, hot sun, soothing breeze, and patient rocks.

The reaction of the other hikers was interesting and amusing. Most people were incredulous that we would hike barefoot, and said things like “you must have really tough feet!” One woman said she “could never do that,” to which B. quipped, “sure you could, just take off your shoes.” A little girl told my friend intently “you have mud on your feet.” An older woman stopped us to tell us about a friend of hers who always hiked barefoot, and who had written a philosophical treatise about the benefits. That led me to do a little bit of research when I got home, and I found a cool website, Barefoot Hikers.org, that will give you more information if you’re interested.

Hiking has long been one of my favorite summer activities, and now it has taken on a new dimension, directly related to the energy work I’ve been doing. Go ahead and try it, with a friend or on your own. Or if you don’t hike, take a barefoot walk around your yard or a park. Open yourself to the loving energies of the earth, grounding and releasing with each deliberate step. Enjoy the warmth and aliveness of the earth at this vibrant time of the year.

Authentic Service

As I learn more about my fire and my will, and explore what it means to be fully myself, I’m finding an interesting balance between self and service to the community. In the past, I tended to err on the side of being a bit too focused on other people’s needs and desires, to the detriment (sometimes) of my own. That type of selflessness can backfire, because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can burn out and then not have any more energy to give, whether you like it or not (been there, done that).

On my new path, there are times when it feels like I’ve gone to the other extreme, being selfish to the exclusion of the needs of my family or friends. This has been pointed out to me a couple of times recently. And of course, that taps into my old pattern and I feel horrible about it, and start to question my new way of being in the world.

But, as my dear friend B. says, there is a middle path, that of ““self interest.” As I’m learning, this is a way of being that takes into account one’s own needs and desires, and pursues them in a way that is in sync with the needs and desires of loved ones and the greater community. It allows for service to community, but in a way that “feeds” one’s energy rather than drains it.

I can take the energy I get from doing what empowers me personally, and feed it back into helping others with their work. That way, everyone benefits. And I’m being more authentic in the world, by acknowledging and acting upon my own desires, exercising my will in a positive and sustainable way.

It’s still a work in progress, this new way of approaching my life. Feedback and suggestions are certainly welcome!