Thursday, April 29, 2010


When we moved to Costa Rica my daughter and I always joked about her hubby's "inscinctos". He could tell if someone was going to try and take his backpack, or had bad intentions. Of course his instinctos kind of failed him when he got his bike ripped off in the middle of the day in downtown Heredia. Parked it outside the store and took my granddaughter in with him to check on something. Looked out the window and there was his bike riding away down the street, under some crazy thief.

I had the instinct that we were supposed to go to the beach yesterday, and I am really glad we went. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we three girlies got to enjoy some girlie time, besides the texting which makes me really crazy of course.

We took off bright and early and I almost changed my mind because it was pretty cloudy. We went for it and got on the 9:00 bus to Jaco. Teeny will never forgive me though. She ended up across the aisle from the gay guys making out all the way there and behind the barfing guy that dropped his barf bag and it splashed on her foot LOL! Other than that it was a great bus trip. Oh yeah and they do not take the Super Highway on the bus. Too many stops in between I suppose. So it is still a two hour bus trip to get there.

Once there we went to Mega Super and loaded up on picnic food and found a nice shady spot at the beach. Man if I was a surfer the waves would have been perfect! Since I am a swimmer I just played around in the shallow and stayed away from all the surf boards flying around. Do you get the idea there were lots of surfers? There were tons!

Baby ended up making a new friend. A little local boy who was just as daring as she about the waves. They were getting pretty roughed up and trying to outdo each other on the daring scale. I just stood ready to grab them if they got pulled out. The poor boy took a pretty good roll and ended up with a bleeding back from the rocks.

Ah yes the rocks. We have renamed Jaco, Rocko! The rocks were so bad where we were. We were not down by the "tourist" area just because we were too lazy to walk down there. We stayed up north where all the rocks are.

For the last hour baby made friends with two little girls that spoke English. That was such a treat for her to be able to play with friends who spoke English it did my heart good. I was sad to leave, but alas we had a bus to catch for home. Thank goodness we did not get the same seats near the same people on the way home!

The minute that bus rolled out baby laid down and crashed all the way home. As we were getting off the bus I heard the gringo behind us say to his buddy," that little girl slept all the way here."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unschooling Adventures

I believe that I have the best of both worlds here in Costa Rica. Last week we decided we would take a day and spend it at the beach this week. Low and behold got a call from the teacher saying there would be no school today or tomorrow. How is that for service? I am still waiting for baby to give the words, "I don't want to go to school anymore."

I read with interest the story about the woman in NY who let her 9 yr.ride the subway by himself. I could not really see what all the hubaloo was about. When we moved to Costa Rica we walked all over the dang country. My daughter was 13 and would walk about a mile or two on her own to school. My son was 16 and took a bus ride cross country to meet up with some friends who were spending time at the beach for spring break.

Sometimes I think I am just too trusting. But then I look and realize that I am really just not afraid. My kids have for the most part faced some pretty scary situations and come out pretty tough for it. They have learned Spanish and could wander all over Central and South America if they so chose to. A couple have been to Hondurus and one lives there now with her family.

The realities are they are as safe here as anywhere if they keep their heads on and their eyes open. Like I have told the story before of my 21 yr old who got his cell phone taken at gunpoint. He had too much to drink and was not in the right place at the right time. There are rules to teach you kids if you are going to set them lose on the streets.

We took a family with us to Nicaragua one time to show them how to do a border crossing. It was the only time we have ever had any problems and they were all because this family was so dang gringo! Now I am gringo, blue eyed, blond dreaded gringo all the way. But they had a ton of luggage, number one nono, and they were dressed in their traveling best, number two nono, and they had really expensive backpacks number three nono.

To say we stuck out like walking targets is an understatement. The guy swore he got pickpocketed, he did get ripped off by the guys changing money, and they got stopped by the border cops. This was just on the way in! We were just shaking our heads in awe. I had told them before we went, travel light, wear less expensive clothing, and take dollars not colones. They did not listen to one word I said and they paid the price.

Not that I know it all or anything. Let's just say I have done that crossing a whole lot of times! Now my 16 yr. old it talking about a bus trip to Hondurus. 15 hours on the bus, three border crossings and a pretty crazy neighborhood there. Will I let her go? Heck yeah she will have a blast! I am hoping she can get her friend to go with her, but if not I will put her on the bus, her sister will meet her at the other end. And in between? Good thing she speaks good Spanish. My son did the trip without any Spanish and he did great.

He did get pickpocketed at one of the border crossings. Again bad choice. He wandered off from the bus to have a smoke and a bum asked him for a cigarette. He handed him one and the few limpuras he had left from Hondurus. A couple of minutes later he was standing there and a whole group of people brushed past him. He immediately went for his pocket only to discover his border crossing money was gone.

Turning to the crowd he yelled some profanity and told them to give him his money back.The bum who he had just helped out came over, walked up to this chick put his hand out and she handed him my sons money! Now that was street smarts there. Making friends never hurts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Excuses

It is the technological era. Every kid knows how to use a computer. Maybe all they can do is paint, and email and chat, but they know how to use a computer to find information. In this day and age is there any excuse not to take your child out of school?

There have been so many people, literally thousands upon thousands to keep their kids out of school. They have proven that these children can and do get along quite well with their peers as well as the rest of the planet, most of the times better!

"Ah", though they say, "your children will not be socialized". Now that is enough to scare the desire right on out of you. Your thoughts turn to Edward Sizzor Hands and other really scary home schooled kids. You begin to doubt yourself and think that maybe you really are not cut out to do this and maybe the teacher that spent four years in college partying their brains out,could do a better job. After all they have a (drumroll please) CERTIFICATE!

Holy cow how can you possibly compete with that?

Ah the answer is staring you right in the face, the almighty internet.
Want an activity to do on a rainy afternoon with the kids? look here
Want a great science experiment to do with the kids? look here
Want to connect with some other desperate homeschoolers? look here

Those are just the tip of the ice berg. There are so many resources available to us that we only need take the time to look. I find homeschooling my youngers so much more fun with all the world available to us at our fingertips.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Closer to Unschooling Baby

I have been letting Baby call the shots on her schooling. I am trying to trust her to make the right choice about what she really needs at this point in her life. She has been great so far. She goes to school about three or four days a week. I do have her decide the night before so that on the three early school days she is not just staying home because she would rather sleep.

Yesterday when we were walking home from school she mentioned that she did not have very many friends at school. I asked her how many she has. She counted three on her fingers and said the other kids don't really play with her.

She has had to contend with racism in a big way, as well as the language barrier. Her Spanish is pretty good, but the older the kids get the more they want someone with better Spanish they can converse with.

There is also a new girl in her class that she is really afraid of. She has not had any run ins with her, but I think she is afraid the little girl is going to come after her next. This little girl sounds like a piece of work. Screams and eats in the classroom and takes other people's stuff.

Today baby got the infamous stomach ache that she had last year. I suggested that maybe we should not go to school today, and miracle of miracles she was healed. She also announced that she thought she should stay home tomorrow and sleep late. This afternoon her teacher called to tell us there is no school tomorrow.

Here if the teacher has an appointment or something they cancel class for the day. So far since we started school in Feb. we have yet to have a full week of classes, fine with us. Since they only go for five hours a day it is really amazing they learn anything.

We did figure out they teach them to read by sight. The reading book we bought teaches them two words at a time. They memorize the words and move on. Maybe that works better with Spanish I don't know. I do know baby certainly prefers it as that is how she does her English reading lessons also. For her it is much less work to memorize than it is to sound out words.

Looks like a pool day for us tomorrow for sure! And then off to check out the gymnastics gym and see if that is something she wants to try. We have checked out dance, too boring, music, too boring and now gymnastics. She does love skating so we will go do that next week. This is too fun.

Teeny spent the day at the pool with our student. They have hit it off well and been enjoying hanging out until our student heads to Nicaragua to work for awhile. Seeing that she was also a unschooler I think that helps them get along better. In fact the majority of our students have been home or unschoolers. Cool beans!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unschooling Then and Now

Thirty years ago I was about six months pregnant with baby numero uno. We had just met a friend in Texas where we were living who exposed us to all kinds of really cool stuff. The first one was home birthing, and it was like the first in a long line of dominoes.

Once we started studying about home birthing we became convinced that we needed to step up our nutrition. Hubby had been a vegetarian before we got married, so slipping back into that life style was not a problem for him or me. I did not ever really like meat anyway, so no sacrifice on my part.

Of course once you fall into the rabbit hole of nutrition it is a hole that you will pretty much stay in forever, and we have.

Next came our discovery of home schooling. We knew when we read about it it was something we wanted for our children. The book "School Can Wait" by Raymond Moore was the first book we read and I loved it. It just resonated with me to my core and I knew this was something I would do.

When we told people about it they would laugh and say, "yeah just wait until they get old enough to go to school, you will change your minds". I didn't but hubby did, many times in fact.

People were pretty negative with us back in the day, but now it is amazing how different people are toward the whole homeschool topic. I should clarify that, they were accepting in the U.S. Here in Costa Rica they are not at all accepting, in fact they think we are crazy.

It is like the early days of homeschooling our older kids, only now we are dealing with it all over again with the younger kids. It is just not really accepted here because once again it is not understood. In the U.S. there has been enough publicity to make it understood, but not here. I guess once again we will be the pioneers and expose people to a new idea that they have never heard of and maybe open some minds.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mainstream Media's Attempt to Understand Unschooling

If you are a "homeschooler", you have no problems. In fact most people will look very kindly on you and think you are a saint or something. They will ask what curriculum you use and how many hours a day you all put in, and how many support groups you belong to. All this makes you very acceptable to them and to the educational world as a whole.

But whoa, tell them you are an unschooler and you will be slammed. Try this one on for size. This incredibly brave family did something I could never do.

They put themselves on the chopping block. And in a big way. I was so impressed with the parents as well as the teens in their answers and very confident responses. My children have always been a little more like me, a closet unschooler.

In fact I have always told people that we homeschool. When I was asked all the above questions I would tell them about all the curriculum that we had sitting home on the shelf collecting dust, and all the groups that we hadn't seen in years due to the fact we were busy living!

As for the hours put in? Why of course every waking hour is spent learning in our family!

Friday, April 16, 2010


When is a good time to get children doing chores? We have had them start as soon as they can walk, all the way up to never doing chores. Some could argue and fight so much better that we could not begin to have enough energy to get them to do them.

I think the best method that worked for our family was that they were all assigned a room. In the morning before breakfast they had to make sure their room was cleaned and swept or vacuumed. In the evening they had to do another quick clean before dinner time.

That seemed to work best for our family. Yes we tried chore charts, awards, rewards, you name it. The only thing that really worked was just, get your assigned room clean everyday. Less arguments and I don't forget who has what chore, works great.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teenagers and Jobs

Our children have always had part=time jobs. The reasoning is they want cell phones and they want to drive, so the jobs finance their cell phones as well as their car insurance. Our current teenager does not need car insurance, we don't even have a car. But she does "need" a cell phone. And of course there is the iPod, that is another necessity these days.

Today she went for an interview at the "flower" place out by the airport. I still have not decided if it is a good thing or not. It is a call center, so it is not like it will be hard work for her. The problem is that it is a full-time job. Like she would have to go to work every single day.

Her siblings have assured me it will not last. Who would work full-time if they did not have to? I finally came to an agreement with her that she could work until she replaced the stolen cell phone and her broken iPod. After that we will be out of the country for a month anyway, so she will be done.

Now I am starting to think maybe not. She is 16 and a half, but she is a very young sixteen. My older daughter was a volunteer candy striper at the hospital at 15, got her CNA at 16 and was working everyday after work at the local assisted living center. She was an older 16 for sure.

In fact I can still remember she would drive our big old suburban to school, stay and work and get home late at night. Wow now that I think about it she was really different. In a really good way and boy do I appreciate it now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cell Phone Saga

And the cell phone saga continues. My really brave, really outspoken daughter is still working this cell phone thing to death. After we left off with her taking the police over to the guys house that she knew took it and he denied it we let it rest. Oh but not this girl. She is like a little bull dog, let her get a hold of you and man she will never, I mean nunca let go of you.

I am here to tell you these guys are going to rue the day they ever took this chicks cell phone. Yesterday she went up to them at the park and asked them how they liked having a cell phone with no chip in it, as we had it canceled. Then she asked them where they were going to get the thirty thousand, about sixty dollars, to go and free up the line. They just all gave her a really dumb look and shrugged.

Today, oh yeah it is still on. Those little creeps had the nerve to call her here at home and ask her if she would like to buy her cell phone back from them for forty thousand, or about eighty dollars! I could hear her yelling from my room as she told them to stick the cell phone where the sun don't shine. She asked them how in the heck they could ask her to pay for her own phone. They told her because of the embarrassment she caused them taking the police to their home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Are you kidding me? Please tell me this is a really big joke. As you can see she ain't laughing!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Give Me Six Minutes

You may be asking yourself, "why six minutes?" My reasoning it that this would be about the attention span of my six year old. Honest truth and I bet you would find the same thing with your child. They seem to be able to really put their whole heart and soul into something they really are not too interested in for about the length of time they are old.

This does not mean she cannot play a computer game for hours on end, which she can. It also does not mean she cannot take a shower for about an hour, which she does. It just means that she cannot really put forth
hard, concentrated effort for more than about six minutes.

For some reason I tend to forget this with subsequent children, but it really never changes. I see the same with my 16 yr. old. She can do her math pretty seriously for about 16 minutes. At around that time she has to get up and get a drink, make her some matte, or go to the bathroom. She will chat online for hours, but remember that is not concentrated, focused work.

It used to drive me crazy when my kids did this break thing. But I have been paying attention to it in myself. You know what? About 48 minutes is all I'm good for, if that!

As a side note, the cell phone that my teen gave a great chase for last week is now history. Yup got it ripped off at her "friends" house last night. I, not being the supportive oh I'm sorry mom that I am, reminded her that she was not supposed to be at that friends house anyway. She did not get any sympathy from us, which made her really mad. As she put it, madder than getting her cell phone ripped off.

She enlisted the help of our neighbor and had him drive her to the police station. They drove her to the guy's house, that she thought took the phone. He swore up and down that he did not have her cell phone, that it was two other guys. He even told the cops that these other two guys had taken his computer key as well as something else from him. I told her it was gone. She still went to meet a couple of friends today to try and beg them to give her phone back.

Her statement which I believe expressed the sentiments of all us living in Costa Rica were, "just because I live in Costa Rica does not mean I want to get ripped off". The people laugh at her and say "you are in Costa Rica, get used to it".

Monday, April 12, 2010


Did you know that in the morning when a child is fresh and wide awake they can read? Did you know that in the evening when they are tired and worn out they forget how to read? I should have remembered this fact when I decided that baby would show off her reading skills to her Dad. She started out all right, well she got the first three words. Then she started looking around, trying to guess her words and just basically getting tired of reading.

We just changed it to reading one page instead of two and Mom helped her out lots. It is so important that they have successful experiences and feel good about the whole reading ordeal. Believe me I have done it both ways, and the positive way is much superior to the yelling, threatening and guilting them into reading.

That is a really bad admission, but hey it is true. I have even been known to a little bop when they were learning the "ow" and "ou" sounds :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Friends

Baby is making new friends at school this year. One of the friends she has made lives real close to us. The most interesting part is her friend is Nica or Nicaraguan. We have found the Nica's to be very friendly here, and a little more apt to invite you into their lives and homes. Today we walked home a different way so baby could see where her friend lives. Turns out their family live in a little guard house on the property that the new Chinese department store is on. We like to take baby to the store so she can practice her Mandarin. There are many Chinese supers here that we have visited and met cool people for her to talk to.

We met one Chinese lady at a Chinese super around the corner that wanted baby to play with her daughter. Her daughter is a couple of years younger and they did not hit it off really well. The cool part was the Mom gave baby a beautiful Chinese dress before we left. Baby loves to wear it and looks like a princess.

Teeny is also doing a first for her this weekend. A whole group of kids from church and the neighborhood all went up into the mountains to do some camping tonight. I am thinking they are going to freeze, but we will see how it goes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Day Late....

Today baby started reading lessons at her school. I am frustrated because I really wanted to have her reading well in English before she began her Spanish reading. I guess it will just slow things down a bit, but at least she will have it down. She is getting very apprehensive about her teacher having to leave to have her baby. We will see how that goes.

Teeny actually worked for money today. We have been cracking down on her to work for her money instead of just asking and expecting it. She actually scrubbed all the tile floors in the house, which would be all the floors. She has also completed her time being demo dog for our massage student. She worked this afternoon doing reports on all the conference talks. Of course that was a bribe. Fill in all the reports of the talks from conference and get a new cell phone battery.

She has really enjoyed having our student here. They get along well and she gets to speak in English, I think sometimes she misses that.

Last night she received a real wake-up call, so to speak. Her and her fellow "band" members were sitting on the curb up the street. A black car with no plates drove by slowly and scoped them out. The car turned around when one of the other kids answered his cell phone, dumb move. All the others yelled at him and they all took off running when the car turned around to come back.

The kids all hid at the end of our street waiting for the car to leave. They did not leave, just parked and waited. In the meantime teeny has all the cell phones crammed into her boots, like they would not look there. The kids waited awhile and finally decided to make a run for our house. Right as Hannah reached in to unlock the gate the car came whipping by, they took off when they saw her come in the gate.

Her friends sprinted for the park and scrambled over the fence to hide out and wait until the guys got tired of waiting and left. After talking to the neighbor he said the police were looking for a black car but that it had not been out before midnight before and this was nine.

I have always said we would stay in Costa Rica as long as we felt it was safe to do so. When my 22 yr old got robbed at gun point for his cell phone in San Jose we could rationalize. It was after midnight, he was alone and talking on his cell phone downtown San Jose after drinking too much! This one I just can't quite ignore or blame on the kids.

Got some thinking to do for sure. In Central America they shoot kids for cell phones. A neighbor kid who was just right around the corner from us got shot in the chest and killed for his cell phone. He was 19 years old! Today my daughter wrote me from Hondurus that a 13 year old girl had been stabbed to death on the bus for her cell phone. As the economy gets worse the crime rate is spiraling. Like I said we have some thinking to do for sure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Order of Letters

After you have taught "M" I would begin on S. That is another fun one and you can use sssssnakes to help teach them how to make it. I forgot to mention when you are trying to help remember the M you can teach mountains. They have a good m begining and an "M" looks like a mountain. Likewise a S looks like a snake, which is what it starts with.

The next letter would be "B". That is another fun one and you can incorporate bubbles into that one. It kind of looks like a couple of bubbles yeah? After "B" we will begin working in some sight words the kids will need to know for reading simple books.

At this point they should be able to read mmmmm about something that looks good to eat. They should be able to say the "sss" sound when they see "s" in a book. The best thing for you to do is read to them. When you are reading let them make the begining sounds they know up to this point. If you are lucky they are starting to put things together and see how this letter thing works.

The problem we are having right now is with learning to read in English and Spanish at the same time. They are a little later to teach reading here in CR, but baby is learning her vowels at her school and keeps getting them confused with English vowels. I just have to keep reminding her, yes that is in Spanish, but we are learning to read in English right now. She is getting it, just a little slower than she would if everyone around here was speaking English.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

II Teaching Reading

After the first five weeks now you all are rolling along on those vowels. Next step would be to throw in some fun consonants. I usually begin with M. That is a really fun one to teach, as it can be a word into itself. For example the first day we may go out for a yummy treat to eat. As we are eating I say "MMMM, this is so good". That is their first exposure to beginning sounds of words. Usually we only spend two or three days on the consonant sounds.

Day one we would make an art project with the "M". Again be creative and use something you both love. It could even be pretzels shaped like an "M" if you both like cooking.

Day two would be cutting out pictures of "M" words. Try to make very obvious ones that have lots of m sound.

Day three would be sounding out a list of words with all the vowels following "m". The really cool thing is you can say they are reading at this point. All you have to do is have them take a picture of someone eating something yummy and write "MMMMMM" underneath it as the caption. That introduces the kids to the idea that all sounds go together to make a word that actually means something.

They will not just click at this point, that takes may hours of them reading before they actually get this concept. If any of your children have ADD as one of ours did, pretty bad in fact, you may have to change things up a bit.

With our son he did not get reading until he was well into six. In fact it did not click for him until he started piano lessons. Something about reading the music finally did for him what reading practice could not seem to do.

Again take your time, they will get it eventually!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Teaching Reading

I have lots of people ask me how to teach reading to their children, so thought I would give a step by step guide this week. You don't have to have anything fancy, in fact you can make all your own supplies and not buy a single thing.

The first step will be teaching them to recognize the sounds of the letters. Start with the vowels. AEIOU should be the first sounds they learn. I don't teach them the long vowels until they have learned all the sounds. Just the short vowels to start with.

How to do this?

The first week will be A week. Monday I would make a collage with a big and little A. They could make a noodle collage, or even just multi colored paper torn into small pieces glued onto the big and little a. Or make a bean collage, we have done that one.

Tuesday I would let them make a A necklace. Help them draw and cut out a big and little A and string it on a necklace. Of course all the time you are saying A and talking about different words that begin with the sound.

Wednesday I would take a bunch of old newspapers or magazines and cut out all the A words you can find and put them in their A booklet.

Thursday I would have them color a picture of A and several items that begin with A.

Friday I would have them practice writing big and little A's in their A notebook on lined paper.

By the end of the week they will know A. The next week go to E and so on until after five weeks they will know their vowels. I will give you some tips for the following weeks manana.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Well we have ruled out the medical profession for the teen and it is a maybe for baby. When my back freaked out and spasmed last night both of them were a little put out at being woke up by Mom screaming and crying. Baby I can understand as I was crawling over her to get to her dad so he could make the pain go away or just knock me out or something. Ah the joys of the family bed!

When I got a little shocky, covered with sweat and spacey teen asked me to close my eyes because it was "freaking her out". O.k. bedside manner a complete wash. She is out tonight auditioning for the rock band she wants to sing with. One of the boys dad's was apparently famous for winning a guitar contest in Argentina. That is enough to make you famous in Costa Rica by the way. So when they found out she sings, and she speaks English, which is what they sing in they were really excited.

She did say she would have to get a t-shirt that say's "I am famous in Costa Rica". One of the great things about being raised in a small country.

The customs kind of get the best of us sometimes also. Teen decided it would be a funny April Fools joke (which baby calls "apricot day") to post on facebook that she had been to the doc and was having a beautiful girl. She even posted an ultrasound pic with it. The problem came when all her friends from Costa Rica started leaving comments and congratulating her. One was her ex-boyfriend's cousin. Now she is trying to figure out how to explain it to all of them. She figured she would tell them her brother wrote it!