Folson Crue

(I wrote this post several weeks ago, but just getting around to adding all the pictures and publishing it).

There are so many references to the Foleys on this blog that I won't bother linking to them. They have become family to us since we met during our first stay in Hershey back in 2011. We do so many things together that it's become laborious to say "the Foley's and the Johnson's" so we refer to the 10 of us (including dogs) as "The Folsons." We use it for wait lists at restaurants and for reservations, and just in general conversation.

In all their glory

So our anniversary of meeting them three years ago was on February 22, 2011 (give or take a day or a week - Stacy will correct me in the comments if I'm wrong. Because I'm horrible, horrible, horrible, at remembering dates as can be attested to by all of you who have received birthday wishes from me on the wrong day, week, or even month. Why can I retain the names of all 17 members of Yes since 1968 as well as the release date for all 19 albums, their producers, road crew managers, and who wrote each of the gabillion songs, yet have trouble remembering anniversaries and birthdays? Yes, I suck). We know it's our anniversary because there was an INCH homeschool activity that day - one of the first we attended after settling in for a three month stay back then.

We talked a bit at the roller skating rink while the kids did their thing and realized we had A LOT in common. On our way out, they recommended a nearby Japanese place for lunch, but alas, couldn't join us because they had out-of-town company in tow. They've mentioned many times that they wish they could have/would have just went with us and spent the day. Us too.

So for our Folson anniversary, we decided to recreate the day, and right the wrong. We started with lunch at Tokyo Diner, the place they recommended that day. Much sushi was eaten. We went a little nuts.

After that, back to the same skating rink where we met. We stayed for about an hour.

Kate always looks out for Brennan like a big sister. He thinks she is the greatest person on the planet.

We even took a picture in the same booth where we first met.  

The Foley's have kind of sucked us into board gaming, and we really love all the new, creative games being published. After years of boredom with Clue and Monopoly, we've finally discovered a whole new world of strategy board gaming that's right up our alley. So as an anniversary gift, we made a Folson board game for them. Knowing we desperately need more recent family photos, they bought us a session with a local photographer that we are very impressed with. Can't wait!

The game board is comprised of pictures from various Folson trips, the player pieces have everyone's face on them, and the cards are all made up of locations where each of us have lived or traveled to at one time, as well as penalty and bonus cards from some of our shared experiences, and likes and dislikes. 

Full and skated-out, we headed back to our house to play the Folson game and a few others. 

It was getting late and we were hungry again (we're ALWAYS hungry), so we headed back to Hershey to eat unhealthy food at Red Robin, another favorite haunt of ours. It was great to just have a whole day together since we've all been so busy lately. We used to have days like this all the time when we lived here before or when we'd visit -meaning the Foley's would have to cram everything they put off into the next week. It's nice now not to have to pack everything in over a weekend, but days like this are much needed, and we had a great time just being together. We're so thankful for friends, that our kids get along, that we like some of the same things, tolerate each other's quirks, and enjoy each other's company. We feel often that the relationship is one-sided because they do so much to help us out when I'm in the hospital or having a bad week - Mark is always willing to pick up the boys for INCH activities, Stacy always invites them to come play so I can rest, and their home is still open to us even though we live here now. We appreciate them more than we can say. Our lives have become intertwined is so many ways. We cook for each other, give each other much-needed breaks from the day-to-day, date nights for the parents, play days for the kids...the list goes on and on. This time last year, our one wish was that we could live closer to them. Now we're here, six minutes away - and I'm receiving the best medical care of my life to boot. In the immortal words of Ross Gellar, "Everything's just WERKIN' OUT!" It really is. We are all FINE.

Out of the Darkness

All due respect to those for whom Cyber School works, I don't know how else to describe it. You might remember that I mentioned way back in July of last year that we were going to try it out in the fall. We did. We've come to two conclusions:

 1) The boys needed a taste of what "real" school is like. Living in Springfield, Mass was difficult for us, and they had largely escaped the loneliness by spending most days playing Minecraft. We think Minecraft is great, but the whole point of homeschooling is to give them things they can't get at a public school. Time creating in Minecraft is only one of those things, and we were all losing perspective. The amount of work, time, testing, and repetition in Cyber school helped us to get that back.  I think all of us, myself included, had begun to take our good fortune for granted. Many people would love to homeschool but can't for various reasons.It also gave me a break from building curriculum and cracking the whip, both of which I hate (more on that later)

2) Cyber isn't for us. Since moving to PA, we've found ourselves in a situation much like we had when we began homeschooling back in 2009. There are so many opportunities for the boys to learn and grow just from events and activities available in our area - things that in the end, we believe are far more valuable than tests or worksheets. The amount of time sucked up by Cyber kept us from participating in much of that. Now there's a vibe of anticipation here as we make lists of activities we'd like to seek out, things we want to learn, books we want to read, skills we want to acquire...it's nearly endless. We've known for a long time that people learn best by doing. So that's the plan - to do.

This approach is often known as "unschooling" - not because we don't "do" school, but because we attempt to remove the labels of "school" and "free time" and just replace them with real life. Life is school anyway, or it should be. It's the outcome of asking such questions as:

*Is it more important for a child to read about making spaghetti or to actually learn how to make spaghetti?

*Is it more valuable to read Huck Finn or Shakespeare, or to read a story in a lit textbook designed to help them pass a test at the end of the year?

*Do we want them to read fast, or to read books that will impact and challenge them? Likewise, do we want them to write fast, or be able to express themselves well on paper? 

*Will they learn more by doing money math on a worksheet or by helping to create a grocery budget, leading the way at the store, and learning to balance the checkbook?

*Which is better - days spent in a classroom surrounded only by humans of the same age, or the freedom to interact with people of all ages through volunteering, spending their own money, and taking part in community events? Which is true socialization?

*Is it more valuable to go to a string concert, silent movie, art class, science fair, cooking workshop, Renaissance Faire, and the library several times in a month by choice, or to be forced into choir class, typing, gym class, and have limited library access?

*Would you rather a child hear lectures for years about choosing a career about which they know very little, or have the time for hands-on experience mowing lawns, shoveling snow, volunteering, and talking to professional adults about what they do?

For us, the answers to all of this are a no-brainer. It will not be easy to get back to this mentality. I think the biggest challenge lies with Christie and myself - are we also willing to put down the "important" things we must get done in favor of watching documentaries together, reading a new book, attending a class or workshop, or involving the boys more in our day to day responsibilities? The first step is to challenge ourselves intellectually and lead by example.

It means real books over textbooks, doing instead of watching, pursuing interests deeply rather than gaining a shallow knowledge of everything we encounter, and yes, from time to time - good old fashioned pencil and paper for writing letters, working some math problems, and artwork. Because pencil and paper is also part of life.

This also means there will be more to report here, for those of you following our adventures. Thanks for being patient over the last 7 months. I promise to post more in the future because there will be more to post about.