Creating a Process-Folio

I recently read The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner. It was focused primarily on how to change and improve public education in order to foster true understanding (rather than the “teaching to the test” that goes on too much of the time). One of the concepts that I found really intriguing is that of “process-folios.”

Many unschoolers track their learning by creating yearly portfolios, which display some aspects of the subjects they’ve been studying. Often these consist of finished products such as artwork, reports, workbook pages and the like.

A process-folio, which focuses on a particular project, goes deeper. Here’s the idea. As you work on a project, you tend to generate papers and other items along the way. Save all of these for your process folio. They might be jotted notes, journal entries, first drafts, fabric swatches, feedback from colleagues or peers, photos, printed e-mails or other communications, doodles and drawings, lists of CDs or books that inspired you…whatever materials in some way contribute to or inform the final product or performance. In the book, Gardner related how students were encouraged to seek input from peers and teachers on their work while it was in progress, and to write journal entries about how the project was going. You should even hang onto ideas that proved to be a dead end or were changed along the way.

When you are finished with the project, compile this archive of items into a process-folio. You can then get an idea of your own creative process, find what worked and what didn’t, note what support you might seek out next time, and even discover inspirations for your next undertaking. You can also share your process-folio, if you choose, with project partners, colleagues or family members.

I think this is a great idea for unschoolers, and also for anyone working on creative projects. I plan to do this for all of my current creations, and I’ve already begun to compile in folders the printed drafts and notes I tend to hang onto anyway. Now that I think about it, maybe one of the reasons I’m so drawn to this idea is that I tend to be a pack rat when it comes to paperwork. Oh well, it’s good to put to new use the stacks of papers that clutter my desk and bookshelves!

We Are All Solitaries

I went and got my hair cut last night. I’ve been going to one of those places where you can walk in without an appointment and whoever is there will cut your hair. I like my hair short, and I’ve generally been happy with their work. Last night I got a really cool hairstylist (I’ll call her Alanna) and as we chatted, she told me she’s Wiccan. I told her I’m pagan, too, and asked her about her plans for Winter Solstice. She wasn’t sure. She said that she’d started out practicing Wicca with a good friend of hers, and her friend had moved away for a couple of years. In the meantime, Alanna hadn’t been celebrating the sabbats and esbats, or practicing her religion actively. She’d lost some of her former focus, now that her friend wasn’t physically near.

This got me thinking of how we can rely on interactions with others to fuel our spiritual life. Pagans, especially those who began their spiritual journey with a coven or circle, may feel like they’re not “really” being spiritually active if they aren’t doing ritual with a group of people on a regular basis. But ultimately, we’re all solitary practitioners. Each person’s relationship with the Divine is unique. When we get distracted from that, and seek connection solely through other people or customary modes and tools of worship, we can lose focus and feel disconnected. As the Charge of the Goddess says, “if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”

Alanna’s experience of missing the connection to her spirituality, but not pursuing it because she isn’t in a familiar setting with other people, rings true. I’ve felt it myself in the past, and hear echoes of it from pagan friends. I started out as a solitary pagan, and I’m currently feeling called to focus on that deep solo work, which for me is tied closely with my creativity and imagination. At the same time, I continue to reach out to my spiritual community through writing, Reiki, the creativity coven, hosting gatherings, and other means. As I change, my expressions of my path change too. I’m working on finding a balance of shared spirituality and going deeper into my calling as a writer. Something that works for me is my two co-writing projects. That way I can connect spiritually with others, and also feed my personal connection with the Divine. Obviously, each person’s needs and wants for community will be different. I guess it’s a matter of clarifying what those needs and wants are, and then finding positive ways to pursue them, both alone and in community.

Giving Thanks

I like to practice gratitude regularly. I feel really blessed, and I’m very thankful for all my family and friends and a lovely place to live, and creativity and abundance and health. Thank you Multiverse!!!

We had a fun time celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday. Fourteen of us gathered here. The company was terrific, the food was delicious, and there was a lot of laughter. The cooking and cleaning wasn’t too hard, either; our meal was in the evening this time, which I liked because it gave us more time to get ready. Plus I’m a night owl anyway. A few of us stayed up late and played cards, and giggled a lot.

Here’s the meal we had. This is the vegetarian portion; we also had meat for those who like it. Everything was homemade – even the bread for the stuffing! Quester taught BlackLion how to make bread on Wednesday.

stuffing (aka dressing, for those of you in the southern U.S.!)
mashed potatoes
butternut squash & apple bake
sweet potato pudding
green bean casserole
oatmeal rolls
cranberry relish (which BlackLion’s Mom made; it was awesome)

chocolate creamy pie with soy whipped cream (delicious)
apple pie
pumpkin turnovers

and the appetizers were nuts, olives, veggies, crackers and dip

It was a bountiful feast! I love it that most everyone cooks and seems to have fun doing it. We give my brother a break because he cooks for a living. He’s working today and wasn’t looking forward to how busy they’d be – his restaurant is right by a mall. Ick. I’m staying far away from those places today, just hanging out playing games with the kids. We’re enjoying some games that we just got, including Pente and Phase 10.

Weekend in the Life Of…

So, just what does a Starcat do on the weekends? Well, being a soccer Mom (not to mention basketball and other sports), I often attend a lot of games. Right now we’re in between sessions, so we didn’t have (much) sports-related activity this weekend.

Friday night I had dinner at Mom and Dad’s – they’d been watching the kids, and I went to pick them up and stayed for delicious soup and biscuits and pie. We had a good visit. I was feeling a bit under the weather (I caught a cold), so we went home and I rested and read Harry Potter to the kids. On the way home, we saw Holmes Comet!!! Very cool. Later that night I gave BlackLion a Tarot reading with my new (since my birthday in September) Mystic Faerie Tarot deck.

On Saturday I did more resting. Listened to some of the Pathway to Happiness material. This latest one was about acceptance, and is really useful. Read a bit, and hung out. Then we did grocery shopping, followed by a bunch of cooking: tempeh salad, fruit salad, vegan pumpkin pie (ElvenTiger had a craving) and, later in the evening, pad thai. Also cleaned some. Quester and I took Crow to his soccer team’s pizza party (see, I said not much sports stuff). Then worked on some cutout cards (collage-type cards that we make for Yule/Christmas), and ate dinner. We all played SkipBo after dinner.

Sunday morning I slept in, and stayed in bed for a while, just reading and doing some more cutout stuff. Did my morning meditation and Tarot cards. Played online a bit with the kids, taking a quiz about our learning styles. Then we all went over to BlackLion and Raven’s home and had lunch (leftover pad thai and pie) and helped them do some more moving in. We unpacked boxes and sorted out stuff, and just generally helped them make it more their own. The place is looking good! BlackLion and I need to organize his office space soon. We want to use it as a place to work on our book and other writing projects together.

We came back home and now I’m updating this blog, then we’re going over to Aunt Peg’s for the monthly family potluck. Yum! Quester made some garlic bread for the festivities. That should be fun. Then we’ll come home and read to the kids and the usual routine for bedtime and such, and perhaps I’ll even get some time for yoga.

So a full weekend, with fun and rest both included as well. And the bonus is, this is a short week at work! We’ll be hosting Thanksgiving for a big crew on Thursday. I like fall.

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!