Blogging about music, family life, the outdoors, unschooling and everything else

for more than a quarter century


Over the past few years the focus of my blog (well, it’s arguable whether it has any focus at all) has moved away from the specifics of what my children are up to. That’s been the natural result of them growing up and becoming their own people, and my feeling that I want to honour their independence and autonomy by not broadcasting details of their daily lives.

But this week I feel like I need to post an update, if only for the extended family. My kids … they’re just doing so well! So many awesome things are happening!

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.17.04 Fiona played beautifully at the music festival. She’s shown such incredible growth this year on the violin. She loves what her new teacher has helped her learn. She’s practicing much more regularly and her musicianship is really beginning to blossom. She will be performing ‘Aus der Heimat’ by Smetana tomorrow on the big stage at the Highlights Concert and has been selected for the Provincial Festival.

She also rocked her way through her first couple of Grade 10 academic courses. She finished Math 10 (Foundations and PreCalculus) half a year early with a nice solid A grade. She’s poised to finish Science 10 soon with similar grades and has another couple of online courses that she aims to complete before June. So she’ll enter a split Grade 10/11 program in the fall. We’re waiting on acceptance of her transfer into the big-ish high school in Nelson and course selection, hopefully within the next few days. She has grown into a young person with so much confidence and maturity that I think she’ll easily fit in with classes containing students 2-3 years older; I’ll be surprised if any of them will suspect she’s only 13.

U8Coyl9PSophie has already got her graduation diploma but is knocking off a extra few courses and exams to round out her high school career. She got accepted into her Engineering program of choice, complete with a glowing hand-written letter of welcome. I’m not sure if they do that with all offers, but this letter was very specific in referring to her unique background and exceptional personal strengths, and she was, after all, invited to the “future leaders in engineering” reception with the Dean and Other People Who Matter when she attended the open house there last November. So she’ll be in Vancouver in the fall, will have plenty of friends (and a sibling) nearby and is already connecting with people in the program. And the icing on the cake is that she has already had a couple of years of experience with many of the less tangible challenges of transitioning to university life. Having lived in Nelson largely unsupervised during the past two years, she already knows how to manage her own travel, cooking, social life, study schedule, shopping, relationship boundaries, self-advocacy with teachers, paperwork and so on without support or structure from her parents.

footer-siat-1 Noah is in his 2nd year at Simon Fraser University and has won his way through the tough slog of the monster second-year Design course and the nasty computer-oriented math course. He is now enjoying digging deeper into the more specialized computer-oriented learning and electronic design. This semester he designed an electronic glove that could be used to translate American Sign Language into written or spoken language and earned 100% on the project. He is looking at co-op education opportunities, has a healthy social life and an ongoing obsessive love for his chosen field, so he’s in a really good place I think.

75989_300Erin spent the latter half of February on an audition tour for grad school programs. She then returned to Montreal to finish out her last semester and wait for offers. She was accepted at a few great schools. It came right down to the wire for her with rumours on Decision Day of a possible last-minute offer from Yale. New England Conservatory was her first choice and she had received a nice big scholarship offer as well as an assured spot with a teacher she liked, but Yale, where she was wait-listed, was a close second and would be much more affordable. But the deadline loomed and in the end NEC won out. So, hey… Boston! Not too shabby!




3 responses to “Accomplishments”

  1. Rain Avatar

    What a lovely update! Congratulations to you all!! I’ve been following you and your amazing children for over 9 years now, and never stop being inspired! I’m sure you’ve written many times about self-motivation, but I would love to hear more about it as it seems to me that you have raised a house full of kids who are not only self-motivated, but also driven to excellence. My son is, sadly, cursed by parents who are neither. While our life-model is, no doubt, doing him a great disservice, that doesn’t mean that we are not interested in providing him with opportunities to break out of the family mold. I’m wondering if you would comment on ways underachieving parents might support self-motivation and encourage high aspirations for their kids?

    1. Miranda Avatar

      Hi Rain, I am hesitant to take credit for cleverly shaping my kids into the people they have become. Nor do I think Chuck and I have been paragons of high achievement in terms of modelling this for the kids. Much of whom they are is the result of inborn aspects of temperament and neurological wiring. And their environment is a case of bumbling parenting happening to, more by accident than intent, be a pretty good fit for who they already were. We’re weird parents; we were lucky to end up with kids who were weird in a way that matched what did pretty well.

      That being said if I had to give advice based on what I think we got right with these kids, I guess I would distill it down to one word: trust. By this I mean that when my kids are behaving in ways that confound, annoy or disappoint me, my inclination is to trust that they are doing the best they can with the tools they have, and that there is some valid reason for what they are doing. To explain with some examples of times I’ve trusted my kids when others might have not: when Erin retreated into her bedroom for a year and a half during adolescence, when Noah spent upwards of 12 hours a day messing about with computer-game modding, when Sophie announced out of the blue at age 12 that she needed to go to school the next year, when Fiona asked to start dance and said she needed to take a break from violin… or even the messier stuff, like when Noah got in trouble for misbehaviour on a school trip, or when 13-year-old Erin threw a mortifying hormonal hissy fit that ruined a family outing. What I always tried to do was understand or make peace with what was going on internally for them and support them in managing it well, rather than rushing in to punish or control.

      So if computer gaming was that important to Noah that he was spending most of his waking hours at it, I figured it must doing something valid and important for him. I tried to take an interest in what he was learning, where the challenge and appeal was, and provide him with tools that would help him dig deeper into it. Rather than setting limits on computer time, I tried to help him recognize what it means to balance physical and emotional health, relationships and responsibilities with a sedentary solitary passion.

      Similarly, during that 18 months that Erin spent in her bedroom being surly and not doing anything much, I tried my very best to accept that for her, adolescence was a near-literal process of metamorphosis that required some crucial cocoon time, that the introspection and mental and emotional exploration she was likely going through was for her an important process that was best taken as far as she wanted. I did my best to respect this fallow time; while I offered direct support (that was generally refused) and various other options that I thought might draw her out a bit (ditto), these were offers not expectations.

      So yeah … in a nutshell, notice what they’re doing and support it graciously and generously, even if you don’t understand it.

      One other little idea I’ve got a lot of inspiration from over the years concerns the two very different ways we can have expectations for our kids. You can use the word ‘expect’ in the sense of “I expect you to clean your room before dinner time.” This is a short-term, specific expectation with the implication of control over someone else. But you can also use it in the sense of “I expect the sun will rise tomorrow.” This is a statement based on your optimistic belief in the inevitability of an outcome. I hold high expectations for my kids, but I try to make sure they’re mostly Sunrise Expectations. “She is a great kid, so I expect that she will find her path one way or another” or “I expect that he will be able to accomplish pretty much anything he wants to if he is committed and works hard.” Or even just “I expect it’ll all work well in the end.”

      1. Rain Avatar

        Thank you so much for taking the time for this thoughtful and humble reply, but I can’t help but see you as someone who has achieved great things! You have created a rich life of inquiry and beauty for yourself and your children in a deliciously remote place – all the while, making classical music and strings teaching available and engaging to children who might otherwise never encounter it (not to mention the fact that you’re mountain marathon training!) I can’t help but believe that the devoted practices, determination and love of learning that you model in your daily life hasn’t had a profound influence.

        I so appreciate your perspective. Especially around behaviors that we, as parents, don’t understand. I will keep your response close and read it often as I try to navigate the tricky years ahead.

        I wish you the very best at your marathon and look forward to hearing all about it (I do hope it’s somewhere flat and at low altitude :-)!

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