The Most Beautiful Days

Dear Family,

Big news around here:

Ben and Jeff just finished making a K'nex ferris wheel, inspired by
Ethan's model of same. Ethan is a ~10-year-old boy who lives across
the way, and Ben is pretty much in awe of him and his K'nex models
(spied through his living room window one day last month). Ethan
invited Ben in to see his ferris wheel on Wednesday, and then lent
Ben the instructions, which Jeff has been faithfully following.

Jem has learned how to "foof", which is the Amaral family technique
of blowing on hot food to cool it down before eating. Jem is so

And Then it was Fall

Dear Family,

As I mentioned, paw-paws, those tropical-seeming-yet-native-to-here
fruits, make you sick to your stomach if you eat them underripe.
Approximately ten people on the EcoVillage listserve instantly wrote
to tell me that, after I sent a question about the fruits. In
addition, all parts of the plant are toxic. But, people say, the
ripe fruit is so tasty! And nutritious!

So after waiting until our first paw-paw (from Cornell Orchards) got
soft yesterday, Jeff and I ventured a taste. Ben didn't think he'd
try it. It was definitely sweet and fruity and tropical-y, but it's

Life at EcoVillage

Dear Family,

I realize that days and weeks slip past, and meanwhile important
things are happening without you getting to see. So here's bulleted
list of some of the most noteworthy:

* Jem can now walk between six and ten steps at a time. Mostly he
crawls, but every so often he decides it's worth it to get on his
feet. Then he staggers like he's just gotten liqueured-up and
stepped off a horse. He's undaunted by his non-technical grasp of
the skill, however, and is very proud of himself.

* Ben went to see the Chinese Acrobats at the State Theatre with

Little Lila's Mama

by Sarabeth Matilsky

I had a major big-girl-crush on Jen. She talked about drugs and sex with me like I was an adult, and wore clothes only if they were comfortable. She came up with quick retorts when strangers commented on how thin she was. I knew her kidneys didn't work right. Once she told me, like it was no big deal, “The doctors said I wouldn't live past twenty-one. They don't know anything!” People thought Jen and I were sisters all the time—same dark eyes, dark hair, dark skin, and she _was_ tiny. Sometimes we'd pretend right along with them. Jen loved my family, especially my dad. (Hers left when she was four, and now she said she wanted a new one.)

Infant Potty Training

(Originally published in the Boston Parents' Paper)

by Sarabeth Matilsky

Babies can't use the toilet until they're at least 18 months, right? Not true, say a growing number of parents and experts. They practice a technique known as “elimination communication,” or “EC,” to help their babies (as young as newborn) eliminate in a potty or other receptacle.

Questioning Theories of Moss

(Originally published in "The Mother" magazine, March/April 2007)

-by Sarabeth Matilsky

I tried to be modest and discreet. After all, I didn't want the other parents to feel bad. They were always complaining about something or other, mumbling about “lack of sleep” and “discipline,” and they always seemed confused. And here I was, pregnant with my first child, and I already had it all figured out.

What is Education For?

(Originally published in "Life Learning Magazine," and now in "Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier," edited by Wendy Priesnitz .)

By Sarabeth Matilsky

If you're a homeschooler, you know the drill. "Do you know how to read?" strangers and friends inquire curiously. "How do you learn math? Do you have any friends?” There are the uncles who ask, “So, are you planning to work at McDonalds all your life?!” and the particularly mystified questioners who start with the basics: “How do you learn, anyway?”

Unschooling Is My Job

by Ruthe Friedner Matilsky

It isn’t easy being me.

For the last several weeks I have been telling people that I must be doing something wrong because “It was supposed to get easier.” Two of my five kids are out of the house, everyone’s way out of diapers, we sleep through the night and _they all know how to read_. So why am I so frazzled?

Sisters On Wheels

(published in “New Moon” magazine in March 2002)

by Sarabeth Matilsky

I’ll admit it: I used to be a couch potato. Up until 1996, when I was sixteen, my main interests were dance, piano, reading, and acting in plays. I was definitely not an exercise fanatic. Then, that summer of ‘96, I decided I wanted to go on an adventure. The following March, I set off alone from the coast of Virginia to ride 4,500+ miles to Oregon on my bike. Even a couch potato can change her ways!

A Crash Course in Earth Science

(Originally published in Growing Without Schooling magazine ~2001??)

by Sarabeth Matilsky

When I accepted a job working at an exhibit called “Prehistoric Worlds: Backyard Discoveries” at the Boston Museum of Science, I didn’t quite get the facts straight. My brain focused on the part of the job description that promised a chance to interact with museum guests--especially kids--in a non-coercive learning environment. The part I didn’t get was that, as an interpreter for an exhibit about fossils, I would have to be able to teach museum guests about dinosaurs and mammoths and mastodons. I knew nothing about fossils. I’d never gone through a dinosaur phase when I was little, so I’d never learned much about important periods of the earth’s history ending in “zoic.” On my first day on the job, I was hard-pressed to explain the difference between a mastodon and a mammoth, forget about the different between their BONES.

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