Five years of running

I run. Come rain or snow or slush or all three, I run. I have no particular goals. I have no races planned, I don’t track my mileage any more, nor do I measure my pace or keep track of how often I run barefoot, or how many days a week I run. I’d guess that on average this winter I’ve run about 5k a day, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes not at all. But usually I run.

It was almost exactly five years ago that I started making time to run. I’ve done a Half Marathon, a few 5 and 10k races, a Marathon and a couple of 25k trail races. I’ve usually placed pretty well, in the top 25% in my age-and-gender group, sometimes higher. But this year I don’t think I’ll be doing any organized runs or races at all. That’s just the way it’s worked out: there’s not much happening in the region, and what is available is at impossible times for me. Nor do I feel like spending hundreds of dollars, working out countless family-oriented logistical considerations and travelling hundreds of kilometres in order to test myself against someone else’s timer and a bunch of strangers.

I’ve had my share of injuries, that’s for sure. I suppose that’s the price I pay for jumping into running at age 45 after fifteen years of not doing any such thing. The first year I had a mysterious deep hip pain that kept me from running and carrying heavy objects for almost three months and then miraculously resolved. A year later I hurt my foot scrabbling about barefoot (not running) and had to quit running for a couple of months to let it heal. And the then I developed a waxing and waning discomfort in the area of my left achilles tendon that has kept up ever since.

A bunch of numbers that mean something or other.

I have never really been able to figure out what’s going on in my ankle, because it didn’t behave a lot like a tendinitis or a bursitis. So I finally sought out a physiotherapist with a special (barefoot-friendly) interest in running biomechanics. She found a few little things in my biomechanics that needed work (my left hip abductors were much weaker than the right, which was weird but consistent), and I had a lot of mobility loss in my ankle as a result of two years of favouring it. Eventually after a bit of bewilderment she decided I was possibly suffering from a tarsal tunnel impingement, sort of like the ankle equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome. Whether she was right or not, the active release therapy she did helped a bit, the prescribed exercises drastically increased my strength in some of the stabilizing muscles, the ankle problems are currently mild and manageable, and they no longer seem to be significantly aggravated by running. So that’s good. I still hurt a bit sometimes, but it doesn’t seem likely that I’m doing damage by continuing to run on an occasionally sore ankle.

Ink’nBurn pretend-denim-jean capris and butterfly camisole. So nice!

These days the stuff I use to run is as follows:

  • minimalist footwear most of the time: New Balance Minimus Trail shoes or Xero Shoes Sensori huaraches. Otherwise, if weather and terrain promise to be kind, bare feet.
  • my Fitbit Flex, because I like the feedback I get about overall activity level throughout a complete 24 hour day
  • For clothing, typically stuff from Lululemon and Ink’n'Burn. Most people are familiar with Lulu, but I think I like INB even better. Such amazing designs, with all the clever tech features I like. Neither are cheap.

That’s all. No GPS, no stopwatch, no iPod or earbuds, no heart rate monitor. Not unless I’m on the treadmill.

Would you run here?

Speaking of the treadmill, I’m so grateful for it. It’s boring as heck, especially situated where it is against a wall and a door in the dark basement, crowded in from all sides by paint cans, home repair stuff, Chuck’s various hoarded things, old sports gear and the bokashi bins. But I feel crappy when I don’t get to run, and on days when it’s too late or too gross or too complicated to get outside for a run, it’s a great substitute. I also think that being able to do ten- or fifteen-minute runs two or three times a day has really helped my ankle improve this winter.  Running outside is just a big enough production in winter to make it best-suited to runs of 30 minutes or longer.

Where am I going from here? Well, nowhere, really. I’m just going to keep running, doing what feels right from day to day. I definitely want to explore more of the amazing terrain in this area, whether by running, hiking or camping. And I want to continue to be able to move myself over long distances under my own steam, inspired by the wisdom of this quote from Born to Run:

“You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running.”

Posted in Running | 1 Comment

Shibori

Inspired by the introduction to shibori that Fiona got at her homeschoolers’ art class, I began sewing and tying a couple of dozen squares of cotton fabric to do my own experiment with the technique. I started this in July of 2012 and then set it aside, about two-thirds completed. I recently dug it out, finishing sewing and tying the last few squares, and then did the dyeing. It was so exciting to pull out the threads I had tied almost two years ago, not remembering what I’d had in mind at the time, not knowing what designs and patterns I’d used.

Shibori is an old Japanese resist technique for fabric dyeing. It was originally developed by peasants who hadn’t the means to purchase woven patterned fabric. Traditionally indigo dye is used. In my case I have an idea for a quilt sashed with various washes of indigo-dyed recycled denim, punctuated by bright eye-catching squares of various shibori patterns, so I chose a deep red for the dyeing. I will probably regret my choice of denim, because of its heavy weight and the technical problems that will create when piecing a quilt top, but I suppose if it ends up feeling impossible I can buy some chambray and use that instead.

There are numerous shibori stitching, folding and tying patterns. I gleaned some of my ideas from the internet, and invented or adapted others. Perhaps the quilt top will take another couple of years to come together, but I’ve had a lot of fun already and feel really satisfied with the results.

Posted in Creativity, Fibre arts | 1 Comment

Courtesy of the wayback machine

The other night I was looking for some content from my personal website back in the late 1990s that someone had requested. It was two computers ago, hosted on a different ISP, and long gone from my files. But I found it, courtesy of the Wayback Machine at archive.org, and while I was there I found a series of blog-like webpages from 2001 that I had built to document our road trip to the Yukon. I’ve copied and pasted that series of posts into this blog and back-dated them to thirteen years ago so that they fit chronologically into this blog. If you’re interested, you can read them starting here.

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Creative Arts vs. Pure Sciences

It feels like things are starting to fall into place for Noah. He’s in his final year of high school, and hadn’t until recently been terribly forthcoming or taken much initiative concerning his plans for the future. Part of that was no doubt due to the delightfully flexible but exceptionally vague school he attends: there wasn’t a lot of clear direction coming from there. And of course Noah has never been renowned for his pro-active decision-making ability. But also there was the fact that his interests and abilities straddle both the arts and sciences in ways that don’t necessarily lend themselves to tidy categorization within post-secondary programs.

What does he want to do? He’d like to combine all his musical and design skills with his computer software and coding passions. He wouldn’t fit well into a university Computer Science program because although he’s pretty good at high school math, the heavy load of advanced math courses typically required for CompSci degrees would be a buzz-kill for him. On the other hand, the straight-up art and music programs, although they usually offer a few courses in digital media as options, are typically set up for students whose primary aim is to hone their artistic skills: their starting point is an audition or art portfolio. Regardless of which one he chose the supporting courses extend deeper into the realm of “artist” or “mathematician” than Noah wants to go. What he wants do at university is continue the unique work he’s been doing on his own time during the past six or eight years: to synthesize his artistic and info-tech interests, to find the overlap, the middle ground, the connections between the two.

It’s a brilliant set of skills and interests to combine. He’s an amazing logician when it comes to the logic of computer programs, but he also has an amazing ability to think creatively, to integrate, to envision, to synthesize. The skill set he’s building is amazingly well-suited to what the world will need over the next few decades. Yet in post-secondary education, there’s still this divide between the creative arts and the hard sciences like math, physics and computer programming.

During their last couple of years, students at his school are required to do three one-week “career exploration” placements. Noah did one week working in computer repair and a second week auditing digital media courses at a nearby community college. Then, for his third week he got a mentorship placement with a self-emplyed web-design guy in a nearby community.

This latter week proved to be incredibly rich. His mentor just happens to be a musician as well as a tech guy. Noah was asked to bring his viola (equipped with the electronic transducer he got for Christmas) and MIDI keyboard, and be prepared to do some musical improvisation, and work on logo design and web-design projects, and learn how to manage a DAW (digital audio workstation) and go for hikes, and attend work meetings at cafés, and do some web photography, and hang out and jam and edit music tracks …

And it was perfect. When I came to pick him up at the end of the first day, his mentor said “I’m not sure I’m ready to give him back yet.” That set the tone for the week. On the last night Noah stayed until deep into the evening. He came home with not only a bunch of new tools and tricks, but a clear understanding that it is possible to be gainfully employed doing the sorts of things that he loves, and a game-plan for enhancing his particular combination of skills through post-secondary learning.

He found himself a program that unites his interests: it’s a BSc program in “Interactive Arts and Technology” at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, BC. Areas of focus include programming, interactive systems, media arts and design. He came home from his work experience week, took the plunge to apply, and received an offer of acceptance in the mail two business days later. Considering the mail normally takes three days from the Lower Mainland, that was pretty fast! He had hoped for the support of a university residence, but although this downtown campus doesn’t have that option, he’s still pretty set on the program. Honestly, it’s the best fit of anything we’ve found by far. And he toured the campus and audited a class a year and a half ago during a school trip, and was completely entranced by the challenge and the intensity of what he saw.

Here are a few little tastes of what he’s been up to musically recently.

Posted in Creativity, Moving on, Music education, Videos | 1 Comment

Owl encounter

We heard that an injured owl had been found semi-conscious being mobbed by crows in the parking lot of our local grocery store. It had been whisked away and left with Rob, who, along with his wife Linda, is a bit of a birder. So we dropped by the café Rob runs to see if we could have a look. The owl was being kept quiet and warm elsewhere while Rob tried to figure out what to do with it. It turned out that the Orphan WildLife (OWL) rehab centre on the coast was willing to take the owl, and that transport had been arranged through the Trail airport, but that someone was needed to take the owl there for a 4 pm flight.

Having already planned to swing through Castlegar at about 5 pm to find Fiona some dance wear on our way to gymnastics, we volunteered to go a couple of hours early and drive the 25 minutes out of our way to drop the owl off.

He was a great horned fellow, alive and thumping around a little bit in his closed box, but mostly seeming quiet. We were warned that these guys have nasty talons and a grip strength of up to 300 psi, and so not to open the box under any circumstances. We loaded him into the back of the van and headed out. We didn’t get to really look at him, since he was all enclosed, but I did push my iPhone through the breathing hole and take this picture. All puffed up from stress, shying away from the light of my phone. I left him alone after seeing that. Poor guy. But beautiful!

When we arrived in Trail we were surprised to find a local friend waiting for her own medical transport on the same flight. They departed together.

After they left we spent a few minutes updating Rob and Linda, and the veterinary clinic that had offered to overnight the bird if there hadn’t been room for him on the flight, and the OWL Rehab centre, whose volunteers were amazingly helpful and efficient and were already en route to meet him at the other end.

Then we bought dance shoes, tights and leotard (very exciting!) and went to gymnastics.

Although our friend did well with her surgery, we found out a few days later that the owl did not fare so well. He was vastly underweight due to a broken leg that had presumably been preventing him from hunting for some time. He did begin eating well, but an xray revealed that his leg was shattered beyond repair, so he had to be euthanized. A lot of people did their best to help, but it just wasn’t to be.

If you’re in the Lower Mainland, I’m told that the OWL Rehab Centre has excellent educational tours. That will be one of our stops the next time we’re in the neighbourhood.

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Dance

When I watched Fiona’s participation in the high school dance elective before Christmas I realized that her persistent desire to get involved in some sort of dance class needed to be brought to fruition. With her gymnastics class now on a different day from the middle kids’ choir rehearsal she had been enjoying spending choir day at home alone, but she enthusiastically traded that privilege for a couple of dance classes. So she’s now making [at least] two trips a week to Nelson.

With the help of a wonderful friend who has her finger on the pulse of the dance scene in Nelson, we were able to get Fiona inserted into a ballet class and a jazz class that seem to be meeting her needs beautifully. She joined Ballet Level 4, which is mostly 9 and 10-year-olds. She has since turned 11, but because she’s an absolute beginner, she’s feeling challenged amongst a class of slightly younger girls, the majority of whom have been doing ballet for a couple of years or more. She’s picking things up incredibly quickly, and I suspect by next year she’ll be “caught up” with her age-group.

The jazz class is a larger group with a wider range of ages and abilities. It’s super fun and again fitting her very well.

I have no idea where this will go, but she seems very committed and enthusiastic. There’s still the possibility that there will be a local extra-curricular high school dance group for her to join, and I think she’d love doing that as well. I have a lurking fear that her dance interests may continue to grow, and will not always be quite so convenient to fit into an already-planned week. But as always we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m the mom who drove one of her other kids 8 hours each way for violin lessons, after all.

She continues to enjoy the greater challenge of her current gymnastics class. She had a non-competitive meet last weekend and was actually ticked off that her adjudications were just full of kudos, rather than giving her hard feedback on things she could improve. She loves uneven parallel bars is doing particularly well with this apparatus. Perhaps if Sophie is going to require us to rent an apartment in Nelson next year, Fiona could work it out to get more than one gymnastics class a week.

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365 in 2014

A few of Fiona’s January photos, some from the iPod, some from the Sony.

Fiona has been interested in photography for a while, but in the past month or two she’s become more active and intentional in learning more about it and improving her skills. She’s been reading on-line and from books about composition, depth of field, shutter speed, negative space, ISO and so on. And with her iPod she’s been having lots of fun editing photos and using various filters.

The state of photography these days is pretty amazing. I recall when I was her age saving money for months for an instamatic 110 camera with fixed shutter speed and no flash, and then carefully planning every precious shot, waiting weeks to fill my 24-exposure film and then paying more money to have it processed in order to learn a little more from experience. Point, shoot, wait, spend money, maybe learn something. The learning curve was incredibly slow.

These days while the complex intricacies of photography are far more available, the opportunities to learn about them have multiplied a thousand-fold. Take a picture, look at it right away, for free, adjust, reshoot, repeat and over and over. Got a problem you think adjusting the white balance or mid-tone hue might fix? Google a tutorial and try it out. You can climb the learning curve in no time! Combine that advantage with a pretty good natural eye for design and you’ve got a kid who can learn to shoot awesome pictures at age 10.

The new Sony NEX-6. Coffee mug shown for size comparison (we don’t normally put drinks on the piano!).

And now… we’ve bought a new camera. The Nikon D50 we’d purchased when she was a baby was upgraded to a mirrorless compact-interchangeable-lens camera. Now I’m every bit as stoked about photography as she is. Compared to the Nikon it’s tiny; it fits nicely in the palm for one-handed shooting and with the standard 15-50mm lens it will easily tuck into a running backpack. The quality of the photos is amazing and it’s incredibly smart. It arrived last week and we’ve only just begun to explore its capabilities, but already the photos we’re getting are so gratifying.

We’ve joined a Facebook group challenge to take a photo a day during 2014. She has her album and I have mine. When we go out together and shoot the same subject with the same camera we sometimes have to bargain over who gets to post to their album from that series, but it’s a good-natured collaboration and we’re having a lot of fun. She really does have a great eye, and it’s going to be very fun to see how her photography evolves as the year rolls on.

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In the cherry tree

The same cherry tree that Fiona’s picking the fruit from: Sophie is climbing amongst its tangled branches. I love our local school. The teachers and staff are fabulous: interesting, passionate people with wonderful talents and the best interests of their students at heart. The school is tiny — about forty high schoolers, and a similar number in K-6. The small size leads to amazing amounts of flexibility and individualization. In both philosophy and practicality the school is open-minded, community-spirited and characterized by integrity and common sense.

This year the high school end of the school moved to a new instructional model for academics with primacy given to Independent Directed Learning. This approach to academics is combined with electives, many of which are done as Immersion Weeks where students take time away from regular schooling to do nothing but the elective topic of the week. The academics are largely self-paced with the work done independently from textbooks or computers during numerous study-hall-like blocks. These are punctuated by weekly or biweekly Seminars which are a chance for occasional group projects, discussions, labs or more traditional teaching.

Unfortunately the school’s tiny size and remoteness create limitations for a certain kind of student. Sophie is that kind of student. While she is very adept at the organizational and self-teaching skills needed for independent work, she is beginning to want for the sense of learning community that she would get in a larger school. She’s nominally in Grade 10, though her academics are pretty much all Grade 11 courses, and the classroom groupings include Grade 10, 11 and 12 students. For this year she does have some others working at her level amongst the Grade 12 students, but they’ll be graduating next spring, and her fellow Grade 11′s are mostly in applied-stream courses. So after this year she’ll essentially be in a classroom of one.

A classroom of one worked well for Erin, because she was challenged and engaged by everything she was doing outside of school. She was busily practicing violin for hours a day, travelling extensively for her violin and piano lessons, working part-time, travelling abroad. If some of her school courses were done independently that only worked in her favour because it gave her the flexibility to work on her own time wherever she happened to be. Noah has done fine in the same school partly because he’s more of a lone wolf by nature, and partly because the demographics were different for him: he was swept along during his Grade 10 and 11 years by a lovely cohort of bright and highly motivated older students who created an intellectually vibrant environment in his classes. With just a year to go following their departure last spring, he’s managing to keep himself going — and he does have a few quirky but interesting Grade 12 peers.

For Sophie independent learning in a classroom of one would be fine if she had just a year to go after this year’s grads leave, but she needs to complete two more years of school after this spring. She’s only just turned 15, so is in no rush to graduate, but it does make one wonder exactly how she’ll fill her final two years. Her core academics will be easily completed next year.

 

Being academically accelerated offers the advantage of being able to broaden out a bit and challenge oneself with a range of enrichment options during the final couple of years. The problem is that Sophie’s school doesn’t even offer some of the courses that are considered basic high school fodder (French, Calculus, English Lit., Geography and Physics, for example), let alone fancy academic electives like Law, Latin or Psychology. And the non-academic electives tend to be introductory courses considered suitable for the Grade 7 and 8 students, with a bit of differentiation for older students. They were great for Sophie when she was younger, but three or four years later the same type of introductory Drama or Foods course is not going to optimally enrich her education, especially not when she’s taking the course for the third or fourth time. It’s true that she can access a wide variety of courses on-line, but already most of her course-work is independent in format.

Sophie seems bound for a post-secondary career in the sciences; she is a very high achiever, especially given her acceleration. She wants challenge, she wants a richly academic high school education, and she wants to be amongst a community of fellow-learners who are similarly engaged in their learning. She feels rather miserable when she contemplates her prospects at the local school once the current Grade 12′s graduate.

And so we are beginning to look at alternatives for her last two years. Obviously homeschooling would be an option, but she is the sort of person who prefers the straight and narrow course to university. Having dedicated more than two years already to the high school pathway, and basically liking the structure and community that a school can and should provide, reverting to unschooling isn’t her preference. We’ve talked about international travel, and the costs, and the academic unknowns, and her age. We’ve thought about whether she could live with relatives elsewhere. No easy answers present themselves. A nearby school looks like it could give her the right environment, but it’s only nearby in the rural Canadian sense of the word and it would require her to live away from home during the week. Still, that possibility is at the top of the list right now.

I love our school, and somehow it feels dreadfully disloyal to consider pulling Sophie from their roster to place her in a different school. Especially while they’re offering Fiona such a feast of perks and accommodations. Enrolment is declining, and several Grade 10s and 11s have already left for larger schools elsewhere. But I guess we’ll flee this cherry tree for another if Sophie’s social and educational happiness depends on it.

Posted in School | 5 Comments

Snow sculpture

I am in awe of this guy, created one night over a period of five our six hours by the light of headlamps, by Sophie and Noah and a friend.

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Frozen lakes

It happened in 2007 and again in 2011. The lakes at the summits froze solid and thick before the snow started really flying. For a precious couple of days we had the world’s most beautiful ice rinks at our disposal.

And this year it happened again, to both nearby lakes. The lake to the east is upon an little-travelled road. Although small it has the most spectacular scenery and is typically completely empty. The ice there was flat and clear, and if not entirely smooth it was certainly smooth enough to be enjoyably skate-able.

Fiona and I spent a terrific part of one morning exploring it from end to end, peering through the dark ice at the suspended ecosystem below, photographing amazing hoar crystals and carving long S’s across the surface. Sophie had wanted to skate with us, but school and her unrelenting roster of after-school commitments got in the way. “There are a few truly awesome homeschooling perks,” I told Fiona. “This is one of them.”

“Yay!” she exclaimed. “This totally makes up for me not having any friends!” She was saying it for comic effect: she definitely understands all sides of the ‘socially isolated homeschooler’ issue, and recognizes that not only is she not particularly isolated, but going to school full-time wouldn’t answer to her social needs anyway. She’s just got that dry sense of humour. But it made the stark lonely photos we took kind of poignant.

Sophie of course still wanted to skate and fortunately the clear cold weather held for a couple more days. We heard through the local grapevine that the ice surface on the lake to the north was just as clear of snow and even smoother. So on Friday I picked her up after school and we headed out as quickly as we could, arriving about 10 minutes before sunset. This lake is bigger: almost 5 km from end to end. As we had been told, the ice quality was absolutely fantastic. There wasn’t a ripple or bubble anywhere. There was about a centimetre of fluffy snow covering the surface, and more was gently falling, but we soon realized that there was absolutely no need to be concerned about the quality of the ice surface beneath the snow. It was pristine. Glassy. Perfect.

We’re not great skaters by any stretch. The older kids had a few lessons on the local curling rink years ago when they were little tikes. I learned to skate more or less alongside them, having only skated a few times as a child myself. We’ve had a small backyard rink a few times in past winters, but really we’re novices. Still, despite our middling skills and basic form, on the magical surface of that huge lake we knew we needed to skate for all we were worth. We needed to skate the whole lake, even if dark fell.

We did a total of about 9 kilometres. The skiff of snow amplified the lingering late dusk. It took us almost an hour to do the circuit. Sophie, wearing Erin’s old skates, was nurturing along some impressive blisters, but she didn’t care. We just kept going. We skated around islands. We skirted the shore. We traced knife-like marks with our skate blades wherever we pleased. We listened to the curious hollow thud of each others’ skates making contact with an immense and resonant sheet of crystalline water. By the time we finished it was so dark we could barely find our boots and our parking spot.

That night the temperature rose to zero and the ice was ruined for the year by a temporarily stodgy layer of snow that got fused to the ice. The magic was over, for this year at least.

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Tea tree

We are an entire family of tea-drinkers but it was Fiona’s idea to make an advent tea tree. We actually ended up stretching it from December 1st to New Year’s Day in order to allow Erin to be included a bit more, as she won’t make it home until the 20th at best. We included many of our David’s Tea favourites, some home-made knockoffs, and some of our other home-made or commercially purchased favourites.

Our tea list: Chocolate Chili Chai, White Tiger, Belgian Chocolate Rooibos, Emerald cloud, Jasmine, Earl Grey, Nettle-hibiscus & rosehip, Mint, Chamomile, Coffee chai, Forever nuts, Citron oolong, Saigon chai, genmaicha, rooibos lavender, orange pekoe, bengal spice, Love tea #7, Spiced fig, Blueberry jam, Rose petals with orange peel & white tea, Countess of Seville, Cinnamon heart, Buttered rum, Two hills chai, Teddy bear dreams, Roo danvilla, Alpine punch (apple cranberry mulling spice), Blooming tea, citrus chamomile, Chocolate spice.

We bought a bulk pack of 4 1/2″ Christmas-themed quilting squares. Into the centre of each square we tucked a couple of tablespoons of loose tea wrapped in cling-wrap. With embroidery floss and a needle we sewed a quick circular drawstring at the top of the square and tied off the floss with a loop to hang the sachet from the tree. The tree is a little fir we harvested nearby. We have a larger tree in the living room; the tea tree is about a metre high and is just large enough for 32 sachets. No lights, nothing fancy: just the tea, ma’am.

Every evening we choose a sachet at random and make a pot of tea. We get out the antique teacups and saucers. We had five cups that we got from my mom and have added a sixth for Erin. We share out the pot and sit down and enjoy our tea for a few quiet minutes sometime in the evening. With some of us doing overnights in Nelson and late evenings by some of us here and there it hasn’t been possible to honour the ritual every night, but I think we’ve only completely missed one.

The only difficult part of the ritual is that when we all come to the dining table mid-evening the dog believes it’s supper time all over again and can’t figure out why she’s not getting her two scoops of kibble. Again.

Posted in Family Matters, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cherry-picking

We’ve enjoyed unprecedented flexibility and co-operation from our local school for many years. At first we were merely registered homeschoolers with no official school affiliation, yet we were welcome to attend special events, use the library and participate in assemblies and field trips. When Erin enrolled in high school they enthusiastically supported her unschooled learning, worked around her third-world travel, her out-of-town music commitments, her part-time job and her biweekly absences due to her Calgary violin lessons. Then the instant we became affiliated with a district-run DL (home-based learning support) program, a whole range of new possibilities were thrown open to us: homeschool art classes, part-time school attendance, participation in electives, grade advancement, loan of texts and tools and sports equipment, and so on.

I could be cynical and say that the school and district benefit from the funding they receive on Fiona’s behalf as long as they can keep us happily enrolled with them, so it’s in their best interest to be accommodating. But it’s not just that, I know it’s not just that. They really, genuinely, enthusiastically like supporting home-learning kids and their families. They have a big-hearted holistic view of education, one that includes home learning and all sorts of variations on it.

And thus, while I have occasional twinges of guilt, I am very happy about all the benefit Fiona is reaping from our relationship with the local public school and its DL program. Why the guilty twinges? Well, there’s no doubt we’re cherry-picking. She does all the things at school that interest, challenge and excite her, and she does none of the rest of it. Should that really be allowed? Surely if you’re going to do the cool stuff you should have to suck it up and deal with the rest of it too?

But no. She’s a unique, asynchronous kid with wide-ranging interests and abilities, and we’re primarily child-led home-based learners because she needs an education that makes sense for who she is. They’re getting full funding for her. They only directly administer part of her education. She’s getting something that suits her well, is enthusiastic and capable. How can there be anything wrong with supporting that?

Last spring we talked to the DL teacher about moving her declared grade level up a couple of years to better match the level she was at. He agreed that it would make his job of reporting on her learning easier and more meaningful, so she was “promoted” into Grade 7 this past fall. This has allowed her to take part in the Grade 7/8/9 math class, where she is rollicking through the Grade 9 curriculum ahead of schedule. And it has enabled her to enrol in any of the immersion-week electives for Grades 7 through 12 that happen to interest her. So far she has done Digital Film (November) and Dance (December). In addition because she is on the DL roster she gets to participate in the awesome homeschool art classes (this year including Fiona plus a lovely cluster of K-5 kids). And because she’s Grade 5 by age and size, she’s been welcomed to take part in the ski lessons and ski days offered to the K-6 school-kids.

Basically she’s doing the best/favourite/coolest parts of the elementary school, high school and homeschool programs. And spending the rest of her time hanging out and pursuing her interests at home and elsewhere: violin, gymnastics, sitting in front of the fire, messing around with cooking and photography, backpacking and trail-running, sleeping in, watching movies, reading in bed.

Dance has been something she always had an interest in, but we had never found a way to make it happen for her. Although the average age in the Dance immersion week elective was probably 15, she seemed to fit in really well and loved it. The teacher raved about her focus, athleticism, musical smarts and enthusiasm. Another cherry, successfully picked. Here’s their end-of-week collaborative performance. Fiona is front and centre when the lights come up.

Posted in Creativity, School, Videos | 4 Comments

Garage: the end of the beginning

So far no gas, electrical or water lines have been accidentally cut. A few more trees will come down this afternoon.

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Trail-building

Armed with three hand-tools — a mattock, a rake and a saw — I have been gradually building a trail from our yard to the Galena Trail. For years I’ve been frustrated by the can’t-get-there-from-here dilemma that separates me from my favourite running trail. We planted a geocache down on the trail more than ten years ago, and the GPS co-ordinates proved what maps had led us to suspect: while it took 25 to 40 minutes to get to that point on the trail, it was only about 175 metres away as the crow flies.

The problem with getting to the trail more directly was two-fold: the grade, and the vegetation. The direct point-to-point grade was about 47%, which puts you somewhere in the realm of a black diamond or double-black-diamond ski run: definitely not the right way to build a trail. And of course trees, bushes and undergrowth had to be circumvented or moved. I ended up with a trail of about half a kilometre long with an average grade of more like 15%. Definitely hike-able both down and up.

It was a curiously addictive process. I would go out planning to spend 45 minutes touching something up and return to the house three hours later. There’s something about actually changing the landscape, of creating something useful out of nothing — well, not out of nothing, but out of nothing that looks like a road or a trail, nothing useful from a human locomotion standpoint. It was like having a superpower: I bisect the wilderness with roads, using my own two hands!

Next year I’ll get to work extending the switchbacks to allow it to be closer to bike-able. If it was manageable on a mountain bike, one could get to town quickly without needing to hit the highway at all.

I’m sure there will be places where the soil will settle and the edges of my trail will need shoring up. I’d love it wider in some places, even for hiking, and there will be oregon grape and wild rose and bedstraw and devil’s club to be tamed continually. But the route is laid out and for now it’s useable on foot. Meaning my favourite running trail is just four minutes away (eight huffing-and-puffing minutes on the way back).

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Garage: before

We’re building a garage. Well… no, more to the point: we’re having a garage built. An important procedural distinction, one which will likely ensure the timely and effective completion of the project.

The aging carport will come down. A year ago, expecting it to collapse under the weight of a fairly ordinary snow load, I enthusiastically parked the old minivan under it whenever I could, hoping for a catastrophic collapse that would crush the van. Alas, when spring rolled around, the carport was still standing, and the minivan still belonged to us.

Now we have a minivan I treasure. I have no desire to crush it. I do, however, have a desire to park close to the house, avoid hours of windshield-scraping, and have a place to store bicycles and skis and camping equipment. You’d think with all the sheds and shops we’d have ample storage space, but somehow that isn’t the case. Almost all that space is filled with Chuck’s tools and machines and workspace and materials and might-come-in-useful-someday stuff. So yeah, I’m actually looking forward to having a garage.

After we built the addition to our house back in 1997, the one that took us from four rooms to a dozen and gave us actual bedrooms for ourselves and our children, we realized we had almost no photos to remind us of what the house looked like before we so drastically altered it. We took pictures of the building process, but not of the “before.”

Will I miss the way the reverse grade inside the carport allows for the formation of unexpected downhill sheets of ice? The kind that encourages vehicles to continue to exercise the Newton’s First Law of Motion as one attempts to gently apply the brakes in order to cease movement before striking the end wall? Will I miss the impossibility of reversing up a sheet of said ice? Or the door-obstructing upright posts? The leaky roof that supposedly performs the duty of keeping our firewood seasoned and ready to burn? The endearing 2-foot cedar tree trunk that is integrated into the whole contraption in some sort of organic and semi-structural way? Will I miss the overstatement of the term “carport,” when it is in fact merely a “front-end port,” meaning that rear windshields still need to be shovelled off and scraped free of snow and ice? Probably not. But just in case, here are two photos.

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