Behold the Power of Subtitles!

I am a geek.

I am a nerd.

I am a borderline otaku.

I love to escape reality and I love to challenge ideas and conceptions via fantastic scenarios. I love building worlds, I love realistic romance, I love watching/ reading characters develop slowly.

I raise my children in this manner as well, because it’s Awesome!

My seven year old son loves RPG video games. My five year old daughter could spend all her time with Legos or Minecraft. My four year old daughters favorite movie character is Darth Vader. My two year old daughter is in love with Dr. Who and recognizes the TARDIS instantly. … All because we, their parents love it too. My husband is an avid Gamer, manga reader, and computer tinkerer. I will watch a sci fi action packed cult classic over a trendy romantic comedy any day of the week and I often spend entire weekend evenings binge watching Anime in Japanese with English Subtitles.

It’s how we roll.

We don’t speak Japanese and I’ve never tried watching a show that wasn’t subtitled so Imagine my surprise, when visiting Washington DC last week, at my sudden understanding of a language that I have never tried to learn.

I have been actively trying to learn Spanish for almost 20 years. I think I have a mental block based on a combination of perfectionism and heritage. I’ve often been told (by native speakers) that I should be able to speak Spanish and that I have no excuse not to, which in turn makes speaking it badly socially unacceptable. I also tried to actively learn Latin and Ancient Greek in college. I was pretty decent with Latin but forgot most of it as soon as I stopped using it regularly. Ancient Greek… Let’s just say I never could remember that alphabet and u was lucky to scrape by with a D! This background made me think that I was just linguisticly challenged.

I thought that I would never be one of those people who could pick up another language. I also thought that the only way to learn a language was with a book and grammar lessons. However, my ideas are changing. I am beginning to realize that there are stages to learning a language.

1. You have to be able to recognize the language when it’s spoken. Even if you don’t understand what’s being said, the first step is to recognize what language your hearing. I can now sit in a room and pick out the differences between Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian. I can not fully understand what’s being said in those last three but I can tell which language is which.

2. Grasping the gist. The second phase of learning a new language is just being able to roughly understand a conversation. To understand the main idea even if you don’t know the meaning of every single word. I sometimes am at this level even when others are speaking English from another region or with a thick accent and I can do this with Japanese.

3. Understanding the spoken word. This is where I am with Spanish. You are able to roughly translate, understand complex conversations in a variety of dialects or accents and you feel comfortable with your comprehension.

4. Speaking in another language. At this point you are learning how to string together the words you have learned and put together coherent conversation (this can be as simple as my “name is” or as complex as describing how a refrigerator works). For some people 3 & 4 are interchangeable or happen at the same time. To each their own.

5. Writing. Once you have gotten comfortable to understand and speak casually then comes the task of learning actual grammar, rules, and proper constructs. I think this is why I’ve always had such a hard time with language classes. The writing and grammar portion is being taught alongside the introductions but there is no actual foundation in the language itself.

Unlike a child learning a first language (who spends a year just listening!) we expect a new learner to go from never having heard the language to speaking reading and writing simultaneously within three months. We do not look at breaking down the language, we do not try to introduce it, and we rarely hear other languages actually spoken.

That is why I felt like a failure when learning foreign languages. Yet here I am, eavesdropping on a family from Japan as they encourage and guide their children through a hands on craft project at a Museum in Washington DC. Sitting here, understanding the main gist of their conversation even though I have never taken a class or read a book with the intention of learning Japanese.

I lived in Japan for one year, I watch Anime in Japanese with English subtitles, and without realizing it, I have been learning Japanese, just like I learned Spanish and English as a kid.

I am in no way saying that lessons, software, or books are unnecessary. I believe that they are absolutely necessary for certain learners who want to be completely fluent eventually but they are not required to begin learning and they are not required for all learners. I would even go so far as to say they are not the most important thing you need to start learning a language.

I am not the first to say this either. Immersion language learning is well known as the most effective way to learn a new language but for some reason I never considered watching something with subtitles as a part of the immersion process. I never once considered that my fun, mindless activity would be my gateway to something as awesome as learning a new language and I certainly never believed that I could learn so much. I want to encourage others out there who may have believed the lie that they too couldn’t learn other languages because they couldn’t afford the classes or because they were not good at studying. Sometimes we just have to have fun and allow learning to happen naturally!

So before you spend hundreds of dollars on a language system, get on YouTube or Google and get used to hearing the language you want to learn. Then find movies or tv shows with subtitles in that language (they really exist in most languages!) and have fun. Listen to the music, watch a play and do things that get you comfortable with regularly hearing… Then start the formal work. After you can pick it out of a crowd.

Maybe this is just my unschooling philosophy at play but the truth is that it works. That is why we watch movies that we have memorized in Spanish as a family…even my non-readers know what words come next and then begin to associate Spanish words for the words they already know. This is why we list to Spanish music in the house. It is my fault that my children are not already fluent in Spanish but I plan on remedying that problem. I want them to speak the language of our heritage proudly and so my children are learning more and more all the time. Then one day, once they get comfortable with the two languages, we will add a third and they too will start watching Anime with subtitles.


Because subtitles can be totally awesome!beholdthepowerofsubtitiles.jpg


A Do Nothing Day

Everyone needs down time.


As an Unschooling Mom of Gifted Kids who usually drive learning of their own accord, I sometimes forget this. I worry that I’m not doing enough. I worry that I’m not challenging them enough. I worry that I am holding them back.

I forget that just because my 7 year old can read The Hobbit (and enjoys when I read it to him) doesn’t mean that he always wants to be reading at that level. Sometimes the only thing he wants to pick up is Click Clack Moo.

Just because my 5 year old enjoys learning about ancient peoples and is usually entranced with their lives doesn’t mean that sometimes she just wants to play Minecraft and watch Peep in the Big Wide World or Pokemon.

We Unschool so our days are very relaxed compared to those of others but in our house teachable moments and learning is an everyday activity. It’s how we live our lives. Not just Monday through Friday, not just during certain hours. Holidays, weekends… every single day is a school day. Yet even then there are periods of intense learning followed with periods of completely random acts.

Gifted Kids, Gifted adults… We enjoy learning. It’s an obsession. It’s a part of who we are and yet even for us there are times when we want to do nothing and learn nothing. There are times when no one cares if the moment is “teachable” and no one wants to ask or answer why. ¬†Sometimes we just need to watch TV and not analyze the character development or the interpersonal relationships. Sometimes we want to play video games for the pure sake of playing video games, or play outside just to have fun. We need to do things that do not require any thinking.

I know this because I need it too. There are times when I don’t want to read college textbooks for fun and instead I find a handful of young adult Sci-fi/Fantasy novels and I loose myself to other worlds. I will read manga from the time my kids fall asleep to the moment they wake up. I know this and do this for myself but I often forget that my kids need this too, because we learn through everyday life and actions I forget that they need breaks too.

Of course not everyone looses themselves in the same way but there is always something. Something that a person does that is mindless, unorganized, and would otherwise be considered a waste of time and yet they love it.

I think we all need these activities.

We need these breaks from ourselves. Little breaks from our own inner dialogue to help us clear our mind.

Before the advent of modern technology human beings had the ability to do nothing. To sit in silence. To think without thinking about thinking. I believe that many of us have lost that ability. We have lost the ability to do nothing and in exchange we have found activities that become mindless. We need that time of nothingness, of mindlessness. I believe that it is an integral part of the learning and growth process.


take the course this is all just my own personal way of looking at things, but I have discovered that during these cycles of nothingness or mindlessness our brains are subconsciously processing the vast amounts of information that we bombard ourselves with regularly. Once fully processed and organized internally we then transform the information into a part of ourselves. Usually this all happens completely unconsciously. We don’t think about how we internalize information and ideas unless they radically challenge us to think differently. So how do we internalize our everyday lives if we are not consciously thinking about our everyday lives and actions? I believe that we do this through down time.

I discovered this while watching my children play.

When they play they act out the things they have learned. I listen to their conversations and hear them using a lesson taught earlier in the week or month. It is how I know they are learning without the use of assessments.This happens all the time, it’s part of our “school” but I have also noticed that during times of nothingness the play changes. They no longer pretend using facts and learned ideas. Instead their play becomes more subdued. Less imagination, less action, less talking all while having more messes, more fights, and more relational subject matter.

After a good week or two we all slowly go back to wanting to learn, wanting to think and do. We return to our naturally intense state and as if a switch has been flipped understanding flows naturally. It’s like we are cleaning the slate and preparing ourselves for new learning…like defraging a computer.

We need this time. It’s not a waste of time. We need to embrace this, regardless of our lifestyles. Regardless of if you homeschool or do traditional school. Regardless of if you stay at home or work. Regardless of if you are insanely busy or not. We all need to do nothing once in a while.

Embrace it.

Take the time to have …adonothingday.jpg

Growing Up

She was in her mid twenties. She stood before a class of thirty 15 & 16 year olds, visibly pregnant. I don’t remember her name. I don’t remember what she looked like or how she dressed. I don’t even remember the topic or how the subject came up in our Honors World History class. Nevertheless she asked the class.
“If any of you are brave enough, would you share your deepest fear?”

I raised my hand.
I answered.

It wasn’t your typical teenage fear. Classmates looked at me differently. She was visibly taken aback before responding. “That’s a double edge sword.”

She’s right. It was.

My biggest fear at 16 was that when I grew up I would forget what it feels like to be young. Part of me was afraid of growing up, I’m still afraid of growing up. I am still afraid that I haven’t actually grown up, maybe I’m just a teen trapped in an adults body and with adult responsibility. That is until I’m near teens, than I just feel old. However, this fear goes even deeper than the normal fear of growing up.

It is a fear of forgetting the feel of youth. The way it feels when your awkwardly trying to talk to a crush. The silly giggles that are exchanged between girls. The pain of your break up even though it only lasted two weeks. The agony of homework. The annoyance of being talked down to just because your a kid. The fun of playing outside. The absolute joy of a day off.

I was afraid that I would turn into that adult that minimized and trivialized my children’s emotions because of their age and immaturity. I hated when grow ups would say “aww puppy love”, what made it puppy love? ¬†Looking back now, I can see how important all of those early relationships were. They taught me to give, to communicate, to love unconditionally… they taught me so much.

I used to think, a lot, and dwell on my thoughts…I still do. In some ways I’m still growing up. In fact, I am still growing up. I’m still learning from relationships. I’m still afraid of forgetting how now feels. Although, unlike my earlier assumptions, growing up isn’t something that you achieve. We claim that kids have “grown up” but the truth is that they have just grown further and they will continue to grow.

Growing up isn’t a destination. There is no magical age that you hit and suddenly feel grown up. The same goes for the memories and feelings. You never know whats going to stand out in your memory or what feelings you will never forget until your looking backwards. That’s why it’s a double edged sword.

It can be wonderful to remember all of those feelings when in comes to your interactions with younger people, but if you let your fear take over then you begin to dwell on the past, making the present less memorable.

We never stop growing up but we can stop moving forward… and thats another fear for another post.

I’m no longer afraid of forgetting how being young feels.

I don’t need to feel afraid because I can look back and remember.

I do remember how it feels to be 6, or 11, or 15, or 22 but I also get to enjoy how it feels to be now.

I’m still just growing up.



As I drove to piano lessons today the beauty that surrounded me was awe inspiring.

Thick purple and grey colored clouds spread out over a valley as spectrums of pink and orange were painted in the remnants of the Sunrise. Pale blues flowed like water through the outer edges of the giant puffs of cotton. The sun completely hidden but its presence evidenced by giant beams of light shining through the wall of clouds. Twenty to thirty beams of various sizes finding their way haphazardly through the blankets of purple and grey.

Below this glorious sky was a valley formed from three rolling hills. Each hill a menagerie of colors. The remnants of summers leaves nearby burning yellows, reds, oranges, and all intermixed with pockets of Winter evergreen. Like flames flickering in the wind the colors away and move over the landscape.

It is a scene that is still new to me. Still awe inspiring. The warmth of the flames fills my heart even as the temperatures begin to drop.

I didn’t grow up in this. I am not dulled to the beauty. I am flabbergasted each and every time I drive down a wooded lane. EVERYTIME. Autumn is beautiful to me. Winter is beautiful to me. Spring is beautiful to me. Summer…well summer is whatever.

As military child bouncing from Navy base to Marine Corps base and back throughout my life I am used to California coastal life. I am used to tropical islands. I’m used to dessert heats. I can easily handle 120 degree summers, 40 degree mornings with 80 degree afternoons and 60 degree evenings. I sometimes take for granted smooth sandy beaches and crystal clear blue oceans.

What I love, more than anything is a foggy morning. A crisp breeze that steals my breath as it whips through me. The change that occurs every few months as the world around you transforms before your eyes.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of the other places. Places that others dream of visiting their whole lives. I do. I love walking along the beach. A sunset across an Arizona dessert in the spring is one of my favorite things in the world. However, it never steals my breath the way fall in the Northeast does.

There is something spectacularly fascinating about things that are different. Something that grabs our attention. At times that feeling is strongly negative and at others enticing.

Do I love Fall so much because it is different?

Is it because I’ve seen palm trees for most of my life that I do not find them appealing?

After living in Virginia for a few years my husband and I moved to Southern California.Everyone was so excited for us. Friends that have never been further east than the Appalachian Mountains or further south than North Carolina were overjoyed. My husband was excited too, having only lived there once before for three years. To me it was blah. Whatever. No big deal.

I was more excited about living near great Mexican Food and Carne Asada Fries than I was about the weather or environment. I grew up there. It was normal.

When I got there the familiarity washed over me and I loved it again but I sincerely missed having four seasons. When fall came and only one street had imported trees that changed colors with the season I made excuses to drive down that road. I pulled out my favorite hoodie and bought my first pair of boots. I think I wore those boots about six times before moving. As we were driving cross country we all watched the scenery change outside those filmy windows. From the deserts of the southwest to the rolling plains of the midwest and finally into the absolute beauty of Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland. When we made our way up into Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut to visit family I felt like I was home.

How weird is that?

Sure I was born on the East Coast and lived there for my first three years but after that I had only spent a few weeks in the summer, every other summer and three years as an adult living in that atmosphere…3 years and a few summers out of 30+ years of living elsewhere. Arizona feels like home too but in a different, nostalgic way. A home made up of memories and experiences but not necessarily I place a I need to go back to. Not at all like being in the Northeast. I feel at peace here. I can see myself living here long term. I can see myself raising my children in this environment. I can see us building an actual Home, not just occupying someone else’s house.

Retirement is close to us and maybe this idea of home is more on my mind lately, but it makes me wonder.

What is home? Some people talk about home in absolute terms and I don’t understand that. How can you just live in one place your whole life? I know thats the norm but I don’t get it.

Home has always been a sort of joke for me and all those little sayings just made it seem kind of stupid and sappy.

“Home is where your heart is”


“Home is where the Navy sends us”


“Home is where the Corps sends us”

When asked where I’m from I often reply that I am homeless. I am a military child and a Military spouse. I find comfort in the change of a new PCS. I begin to get antsy if we have lived in a single house for more than a year. I rearrange the furniture in my house almost quarterly.

The idea of a home, of an absolute location that never changes regardless of where you go or what you do scares the living daylights out of me! I don’t have anxiety over moving but retirement, living in one place, buying a house, having neighbors that don’t move yearly, having people that know your history…That terrifies me! Im talking nightmares and chills, terrifies me.

I am terrified of the idea of Home,

yet here I am feeling at home in a region I barely know.

Maybe it’s my sense of adventure.

Maybe, its that I’m older and have children.

Maybe I am just growing up but I’m begging to think,

That maybe I can get used to this…

Maybe its not such a big deal.

Maybe, I can learn to feel at home with the idea of HOME.