Unschooling: Living Without School; Living Free Range-Freedom to Learn What One Wants When One Wants

Friday, May 11, 2018


I began reading aloud to Big S when she was first conceived. From there, I never stopped.

I started reading, because I was always told that it was "good" for them. And I kept going after she turned "school age" as a natural extension of our homeschooling. After she began to read independently, I kept reading aloud because I told her I wouldn't stop just because she could read herself.

I'm glad I didnt.

I never realized what reading meant to us.

But as we lay next to each other in bed, curled up, reading our new book, "A Long Walk to Water," recommended by the author of the "Read Aloud Revival," I get it. As we lay together, looking at what it means to live in South Sudan, shedding tears for the reality of it and trying to decide what we can do about it, I get it.

When we have our own inside jokes about Frindles and Absolutely True Stories, I get it.

When we spend an hour in the pool, putting on our own play version of Narnia, laughing at the funny voices we both make, I get it.

As we reminis about the hours that we have spent together on the bed, in the floor, on the couch, the ground, the trampoline, the hammock...crying, laughing, getting angry, being confused, and being together, I get it.

Reading Aloud. It sounds so simple. But it is among one of the most important things I can do with my children. We can travel and we can learn about the world together. For no money. Just a little time.

I get it.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

What They Need to Know

So, seeing as we don't have a strict curriculum, as Samantha grows older, we are beginning to see a need to have  a list of things we do want her to know before she leaves the house. They aren't all academic. In fact, most of them are not. Many of them are character building, survival skills, and life management skill-which can also be academic. If she can learn those things, it will be a foundation for her to learn what she needs to learn in order for her to fill her calling from God, whatever that may be. Here is that list. I'm open to suggestions.

-Know Her Bible In Depth-In Progress
-How to be Compassionate-Check
-Patience-Half Check
-How to have Discernment-Ongoing (lol)
-How to Disagree (Without Arguing)-Ongoing
-How to Compromise-Check

-How to Build a Fire-In Progress
-How to Cook on a Fire
-How to Fish-In Progress
-How to Read a Map and Compass
-Basic Survival Skills (First Aid, Poisonous Plants, Etc.)
-How to Garden-In Progress (Every Spring)

Life Skills:
-Basic Math-In Progress
-How to Budget
-How to Balance a Checkbook
-How to File Taxes
-How to Invest
-How to Grocery Shop
-How to Meal Plan
-How to Cook-In Progress
-How to Choose a Husband!
-How to Speak Publicly-Check
-How to  Research (Including Using Duey Decimal System and Encyclopedias)

Friday, January 12, 2018

The New Year

Has it been a whole "semester" already? Where has the time gone? That cocoon is still sitting still in our butterfly pavilion. Will it ever emerge?


Maybe not.

Until then, we have been continuing our year with some more structured activities (of Samantha's choosing.) Last week she attended her first group Bible study-and did surprisingly well in a classroom setting. I don't know whether to beam with pride at the fact that, "despite unschooling," our daughter can still function in society as expected. Or should I cry because she is easily molded to fit the pattern, despite our best efforts to teach her how to stand out.

It is a drop off event. Class is too full. I decided to sit outide the door this week, unknown to Big S-until Baby Sister began laugh-screaming and running down the hallway while looking back to make sure I was running after her. Baby Sara. You are always seeking trouble. That is what I Love about you.

Anywho, after class, I expected to find out she was completely zoned the whole time, and quite possibly talked out of turn the entire class period. She, in fact, did not. She remembered all the important rules  as well as what she needed to do for homework. And even more to my surprise, she learned so much about the book of Daniel, and they only made it through verse 8! (She taught me some things and listen and  REMEMBERED when I tried to teach her some things I knew as well.)

We will be spending the rest of the week studying those first 8 verses, and after the first few days of homework, I can proudly say she is still initiating it and begging for more!

We have continued in her Master Books living math series. Unfortunately, because of Big S's struggle with numbers, we felt that we could not wait any later than 9 years old for it to "just click."

We are not reading any chapter books at the time. (We read 4 this Fall.) I felt we have enough reading to do already. But she does still read her Drew books on her own accord, and I wake her up with storybook.

She is super well adjusted and well rounded. She has a number of interests she is working on as well as leadership opportunities coming up, thanks to her gift of well....leadership.

What she is working on:

-Baking Business (She has gone from working on her baking skills to filling several orders, buying business cards, and investing in her own Kitchenaid with the profits. Next up. Printed menus.)

-Magic (Sam has a gift for showmanship. She likes to mix magic with a bit of comedy. She currently s two shows "booked" that she is practicing for. One at a nursing home in March and one at the library in April. (She put on a small show there at the Halloween party in October-duh-and some of the kids have asked when she will return!!! That made Big S feel pretty special.)

-Kitchen Science (The librarian recently asked if Sam wanted to reach a Kitchen Science class. (Told you we have lived at the library this year.) Sam is thinking "Disappearing Ink." She will be responsible for the communication with the library and all the planning, such as shopping and getting it on the calendar, and execution-teaching the class!!!

-Big S is still writing that book I mentioned in my last post, and doing well too. She is on page 100 already. (Some pages have pictures she drew.)

-Later in the year, after the Bible Study is complete, she will start tennis lessons.

-*Side Note: We spent some time last semester preparing for a spelling bee. She participated this week and did really well! But when it came to the 7th grade words, she was knocked out of the running. Darn. But I am still so proud!
Last semester she also completed a Flag badge with AHG as well as a badge that I planned and lead-BAKING! They are currently working on a My Style Badge that discusses fashion along with God's Word. And later this year is her Music Appreciation badge complete with a trip to Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry and tne Country Music Hall of Fame.

Little S has been working on her mischief making skills. That's going very well for her, might I say. We are-for the most part-adapted to her personality, and she is to ours. I just practice a responsive style of parenting and it keeps her calm as long as her actual needs are met. (Needs include cuddles.) She is still attending storytime and Parents as Teachers monthly. During the Bible Study we plan to start hitting up area playgrounds. And during AHG she just wonders around in the back of the room playing with the toys back there and occasionally walking around passing out kisses to the girls while they melt with admiration. She is also remarkably well adjusted (socially) considering her early months consisted of being held 24/7.

She is beginning to participate in learning activities. We have always read, but she is more intent now. And she tries to repeat words. She can say Mama, Dada, Sissy, Doggy, and Baby.

Later this year we also have some things coming up as a family-including a stay-cation (so we can save to go on a cruise next year), another, larger garden, a kitchen remodel, our normal camping/kayaking trips. I am not sure what else yet...

I don't even know what to call our style anymore. We just kind of go with what the year brings and don't focus too much on calling ourselves any one method. It causes too much stress. After all, we did a agree on minimalism this year. That means minimal stress too.

For those homeschooling friends of mine who read this...how is your year going?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Unschool Diaries

The year has begun. Does it ever end, really? No. But my letter of intent to the DOE says September 1st-August 31st. So I guess officially it has restarted.

Little S has calmed down, or maybe I'm just used to her shenanigans. We had to learn each other. My dishwasher and robot vacuum still help me keep a clean house. Motherhood still means Grocery Pick Up at Wal-Mart, but not necessarily crock pot dinners every night. I'm sure when the next one comes along, we will be right back to slow cooker meals. Because those are the stages of Mom life. 

Summer break meant swim team for is, so as opposed to sleeping in like school children across the country, we left the house earlier that any homeschooler ever should! 7 A.M. As in, Morning! There was still fog clouding my view as I made my way down to the pool. It meant 4 hour swim meets twice a week. Afternoons inside recovering from the early hours. Trips to the beach, reading in hammocks, camping, hiking, and kayaking on the weekends. It also brought fun activities like raising tadpoles, gardening (making homemade spaghetti sauce and pickles), vacationing, summer camp, etc. etc. 

Now here comes Fall. I love Fall homeschooling. With all the sleeping I did in my last few months of pregnancy last year, I forgot all the fun things Fall homeschooling brings. Fall means Heritage Girls begins again. I am co-leading those sweet girls this year. Prayers much appreciated. This year we added infant story time at the library into the mix. They even have monthly homeschool kitchen science and tween programs like guitar lessons. We are at the library so much this year. I also recently looked at some improv classes for Big S. We sha'll see where that goes. Church on Sundays. Of course our regular family outings, which are slowly transforming into trips to the Apple orchard and pumpkin patch. And I try to make sure we rotate weekly afternoon play dates with friends. Can't neglect time with friends. Play is learning too. Speaking of that, we are home most days.  I feel so strongly that Little S needs that time to drag toys around and climb on top of the dog and dance and read books and destroy the house morning, noon, and night. She needs time to play in the kiddie pool on the porch and roll in the grass out front. And Big S needs time to write in her own chapter book (which is almost done!), bake cakes and cookies and breads to practice for her business. She needs time to play toys (baby dolls mostly), crochet, edit videos, put together stop motions, and read her Nancy Drew books. Quiet time is a must these days. Besides Sara sleeping, I need it. I get to read my Bible and pray, do a Bible study I am working on, read my books-Volume 2 of Story of the World (Don't laugh. I feel like I need to relearn History! It is so beneficial in my understanding of the Bible too.) and Trial and Triumph (full of stories on church history and martyrs over the years.) Big S uses the time to read her books and pray. (She doesn't spend as much time with God as I would like, but I don't want to force it. It is her relationship and her time to manage. I just try to lead by example and pray that her eagerness to be near to God frequently througout the days grows as she grows.) It is a nice time of day anyhow. 
Together we have agreed on minimalism in our "school" this year. In the mornings I read her awake with the Gutenburg book on insects. fNights-if she feels like it-she does a small math lesson on her own in a book called Master Books Living Math. To be honest, if She frequently turned it down, I would probably coerce her to do it. She needs to know math and the struggle is real for her. Learning through life is not clicking just yet.  She seems to enjoy it though. It's super simple. She reads a story about a family on a mission trip and how they use math in their every day life. It periodically introduces a new concept and then builds on it. Stories are a page long with 5 or so practice problems. And once a week we do a Bible study in the afternoons-just her and I. That's a good time to connect too. 
Our insect book recently inspired a trip to the park to look for bugs. We pulled into the parking lot and Sam instantly asked to go see the webs in the trees. They turned out to be webworm nests!! Neither of us have seen inside one before. We watched them for about an hour and researched them...We looked in the water. Found lily pads. Watched the ants crawl underneath the outdoor blanket we were sitting on. I walked next to the creek, turned over a rock, and found something I never in my life will probably see again. I brought it to Big S. It was a caterpillar in the process of forming its cocoon!!!! On a rock!!!! We could actually see it moving around in there. We just stared in awe-for a long time. By time we got home, the cocoon was fully formed and you couldn't see inside at all. We put it in our "butterfly pavillion." Can't wait to see what kind of moth it is. It was just the refresher I needed. To remind me why we homeschool/unschool. Everything I listed-the quiet time, reading together, counting kayaking as school, all of it is why. But those day trips to explore outdoors (and play on the playground afterwards of course!) Those are my favorite days. I look forward to more as Little S grows older and can help-an extra set of eyes never hurts. 

Side Note: We have made some ventures for Little S too, including a trip the the Creative Discovery Museum and a trip to a park that is wheelchair accessible. I love it because it is perfect for babies and toddlers-low to the ground with ramps and lots of slats, no stairs. There was also a pond nearby. We found lots of Dragon flies-which are freakish creatures by the way! And we saw a spider spinning its web with its hundreds of newly hatched babies close by. 

Big S recently turned 9. She is half grown according to the US government. Where has the time gone? We live life slowly, but it has gone by so fast. I guess we will just keep spending our time watching the bugs and hoping it will slow down.

Lighting Drawing-She drew hair on the back of the paper. 

Old School Play-Who needs toys?

Infant Storytime

We didn't try to make the eclipse educational, but it looks like she learned something. "Eclipse Stages" 

You can still see the caterpillar at this point. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Unschool Tags

This is why #unschoolingrules!

I was reading Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling, and one of her essays had tags that described a day (because there in no typical day) in unschooling. You just put down a list of words that could be that day.

I thought it would be cool to do. I thought it would make me feel better about what all we get done in a week vs. a day. (We have embraced unschooling like never before this year!) And it did. I just started where I was at. I didn't pick one of our "better weeks." I just did the week starting on the day I read the chapter. I actually only remembered to capture 6 days worth of "tags," and I can't for the life of me remember day 7. Here is what I got:

Lemonade Stands, Making Change, and International Adoption, Church, Adoption, Shopping for Dog, Hidden Trails, Bamboo, Cranes, and New Plants, Building Hammock Stands, Caring for Sister, Trampolines, and Playing with Friends Outside, Dogs Socializing, Walk in the Park, Hammocks, Singing, Reading, Chiropractors, Praising God, and Leveling Up at Heritage Girls,
Gardening, Bridge to Teribithia, Math, Binge Reading Bridge to Teribithia,
Board Games, Books, Billions and Trillions, and Dolls.

What about You? Any other unscoolers out there willing to take the challenge?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Just when I think I have it, I don't. I have never felt more defeated. 99% of the time I feel like I am running on fumes, even when Hubby is home to help me.

She is such a high needs baby. She wants me all the time already. And she nurses every hour and a half. (I've already had my milk supply and nutrients checked.) It is a comfort thing. She doesn't like her car seat because she isn't around me. Big sister tries to interact and keep her happy, but it only works 50% of the time. And even then, she can only be held off for so long.

I truly have no idea what I'm doing here. She just cries SO MUCH. And the only thing that helps is Mom and the boob. We took her to the chiropractor to get adjusted today. Maybe that will help. She has been asleep in my arms ever since. That's another thing, she doesn't sleep without me. It would be different if I could just get 1 one hour nap a day from her, but I can't even get that.

I'm a good Mom, really. That's why I thought I'd be better at this. But she just needs SO much of me. And there are two other needy people in my life that need a lot of me too. I truly appreciate that my family loves me and feels attached to me. BUT it's physically and emotionally exhausting.

This last weekend we went on vacation t to an indoor water park. The whole time I was either nursing or passing the baby off in hopes that I could take Sam down one slide before she started screaming. And of course the whole time I was waiting to go down the slide, I was worrying about the person who was holding Sara-either my Mom or Jessie. I enjoyed vacation. The hot tub was nice, but I was needed the entire time by somebody.

On the way home, Sara screamed and screamed and screamed. She finally fell asleep for 20 minutes. Sam was already asleep, so I worried the entire time if Sara was breathing. I wouldn't have been too worried except that she worked herself up too much and threw up several times and choked. We kept having to pull over.

While she was sleeping, we exited. Almost home, at last....Then Sam woke up crying and panicking because she felt sick, which had a domino effect. The little one woke up screaming too.

Parenthood...I have never felt so lost, so defeated. Sara is so hard. I love her and I am so thankful for her, but I feel like I don't know how to be her Mom. And that is tough. These last 4 months have been the hardest 4 months of my life. I just hope it gets better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The New Norm...For Now

9:30: Wake Up Call, Eggs or Cereal for Breakfast-Bananadiets how busy we are.

By 10:30 We are fed, dressed, and the plants are watered.

Of course I have been up since 7:00 with Hubby. I sent him off, fed baby, showered, cleaned house or paid bills.

Then we just do what we want, usually a puzzle or reading Story of the World, Narnia, etc. One day we watched a documentary on child development. Yesterday we started her Science Fair project I am not one for schedules, but I do like a rhythm.

By 12 we are done and I get to enjoy Sara some. Then it is a big meal on the boob and down for a nap. Sam and I will usually have our quiet Bible during that time. But on pretty days, she is outside in nature exploring-which is where we probably where we were all day while we read and spent time together. I leave my bedroom window open so I can see and hear her.

Afternoons I work Wednesdays for a few hours and we have swim club on Thursday. So we have Friday and Saturday at home-usually. But Saturdays can be unpredictable, as they are weekends for everyone else. And with the weather getting prettier Sunday-Tuesday are for church, family/friend time, and trips to parks or soon...kayaking and camping again!

Oh, unschooling in the warm months is as good as it gets. The cold weather is a bummer and recovering from birth/getting used to a new baby during that time has been tough. But we have adjusted. We have met our new normal.

It had been a ride, but it has been a great year to truly immerse ourselves in learning while being laid back-guilt free.  I feel much more confident that our laid back approach will turn good results. Since last February when I was sick, to September and October where I was always tired and sleeping, she has grown and matured and taken charge of her own learning. She has expanding interests and she can find her own books. She asks a lot of questions and understands things better.

She has learned about child development from conception to 3 months. She saw the labor and birth of her sister. She has watched countless documentaries, her favorite being one on twins.  She has started a garden, we have, as a family. She has learned about the Exodus and the lineage of the Isrealites. She has learned about nomads and ancient Egyptians, gods and goddesses, the fertile crescent promised land, the seas in the middle east, mission trips, Togo, India, Paris...She has become immersed in a Pixar series about animation. She has participated in numerous volunteer projects like Feed My Starving Children. And on the "school side" she has perfected her single digit multiplication and division. And is 100% independant on her reading. And even finished 4 living books along with the classic, Narnia. And this is all without effort. This was...life. That is with us spending a lot of our home days just talking, relaxing, and playing. Or on my part the last few months, feeding and calming a crying baby.

Update: The older she gets, the more interests she has and there is a whole world of opportunities. And sometimes she has to choose one thing over another because they are at the same time or it costs too much to do both. This Summer she is joining swim team! Swim first thing in the morning, and night too-if we choose, and swim meets 1-2 times a week! Luckily it is only for 6 weeks! But it will get us out of the house early in the morning to enjoy the weather and Sara will get to swim for free every day too. Not top mention the exprience will be a great addition to add to her list. This year she will go to her first concert and her first drag race-and that is just in the next few months. Who knows what the reat of the year will bring and what interests will be sparked?