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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Continual Thoughts

Being that I have constantly battled with this "first year everything must be perfect" syndrome, I am constantly having to rethink what I'm doing. I don't battle with it as much as some. No I haven't turned to desks, saying the pledge, or workbooks. But I feel like I am in this uphill battle against myself. One side of me wanting everybody to approve of what I do and to say, "She is at or above other kids." The other part of me saying, "What is truly important here? Her naming her math facts quicker than the other kids or her having a warm childhood filled with memories of playing outside and baking and going to fun places? Where is the balance?" I am having a hard time finding it with all this outside pressure. I keep resolving to say, "Forget what others think." But then I keep going back to that battle. So now here I am trying to find a good balance, a solution to not crawling back to pick up all those stones Satan puts in my sack.

What does Sam need to know?

Sam needs to know how to read, write, and do simple addition and subtraction. (We are also loosely working on Geography, but only as an extra since it is one of Sam's interest.) Science is required too.

How can I do this without being overbearing? Forcing her to do things she isn't getting much out of just so I can having something to show, something to write in my little lesson plan book?

Easy. We always play games, board games, computer games, apps. We own board games for all core areas. And even some that cover things like critical thinking, strategy, and statistics. Car games are our favorite. We like the "Guess Animal" game. We quiz each other on math facts. 

We read together. Reading covers all areas. I need to continue to build Sam's book collection so she has things to spark her interest. I should always be willing to take her on that extra trip to McKays or the library.

We even bring out some of the old school stuff like Mad Libs, Oregon Trail, and Magic School Bus, School House Rock, Bill Nye.

Hands on stuff is daily. We bake. We grocery shop. We dig in the dirt. Play with a tape measure.

Wow. All this comes so naturally. I guess I just needed a little mind refresher. Something to assure me she doesn't need to be forced to learn. Something to remind me why I liked the unschooling philosophy to begin with. I am going back and reading. Talking to other homeschoolers. Praying on what to do next. We keep going up and down. But it's a learning process. We have many more years of learning to go.

What do our days look like? How should they look?

Lately our days are all planned out for us. I feel like we gotta have SOMETHING to put in that darn lesson plan book-that I am about to throw out!

Tuesdays we have the Center and Gym. Also "reading day" where she reads me a book. Which frustrates her to know end that we have to do it right then.

Wednesday is experiments day, which I feel like is worthless to her. What is she truly learning when I TELL her, "It's time to study shells!" How much more would she gain if she chose to do it herself? Even if I just put it somewhere in her path so that she might initiate it herself. Then she has to focus on Math for part of the day or I freak, even knowing that she has been playing math games all week-on her own free will!

Thursday-MORE worthless experiments. "Let's mix oil and water to produce waves." While Sam is like, "Uh, yah, saw the waves at the ocean. This whole jar thing is just oil and water to me " Gymnastics. MORE forced reading.

Friday-Two Fridays a month are library day. Which is fun. No fight there. One is errand day and we go eat lunch with my brother. Fun too. And one is play date with her home school group. Also fun!

Saturday-The only "learning day" we both fully enjoy without one "fighting moment." And that is Game Day. It's not forced learning or busy work. It's something Sam loves to do and learns a lot from. We play State to State, SMath, Math War, Checkers, UNO. Computer games. LOTS of computer games. And so on. The list never ends. We Love games!

Although it seems to be a pretty busy, but well rounded schedule, there is something missing. One reason we chose to homeschool is the freedom in the schedule. But where is the freedom anymore? Where is the time for free play, building with blocks, playing outside, reading purely for enjoyment? Sure we still bake and she helps me cook dinner or plays with her blocks, but that is after "school time." 9AM-3PM It should not be separated like that. Learning is learning and you do it through reading, doing, and PLAYING. I need to quit looking at things in terms of. "Does Sam understand what I am teaching her right now?" And look at it in terms of, "Is this adding to her life?" If she spends her days reading. Playing with friends or by herself. Planting a garden with me. Cooking with me. Running real life errands with me. Adding up the grocery bill. Calculating sales. Making a shopping list. Helping out in her community. Learning about her community. Spending her days talking about recipes, seasonal foods, and holistic approaches to healing, just chatting with the locals. And going to church and learning the Bible. What more does she need? She'll be able to function more than adequately when she is out on her own because she will have been doing it for years.

So what should our days look like?

They should look like we are living and sustaining ourselves. Learning to care for ourselves, plants, and animals. How to care for others. We should be enjoying the holidays, learning why we celebrate them and how we should celebrate without giving into commercialism too much. Baking without having to "find the time between lessons." We need to be playing relentlessly. Putting together Legos. Pretending. Playing Paint on the computer. Getting out stacks of board games. Dumping all the art supplies on the table just to see what we can make of it all. Not following one pattern online. We should be outside in the grass, staring up at the clouds. Riding a bike, scooter, playing fetch with the dog, or helping Daddy work on his mower go kart. That is what childhood is about. Math and reading will come. Yes, they will be covered, but in a fun way. Not in a way that says, "Let's make this as dull and repetitive as possible because you just don't add or read fast enough for me." I will continue to fight my inner traditionally school self if it kills me. My child will receive what is best for her if it is the only important thing I leave behind in this world. She will grow up and say, "Mom did what was best for me despite what others said."

So now that I have wrote it all out, I will print this. My goal for the week is to chuck the lesson plan book-I don't even need it anyway. And start doing some of the things I listed. We will play with toys. We will play outside. We will play games. We will Trick or Treat. We will bake a pumpkin pie-in the Morning! We will go to gymnastics and kill time afterward. We with start swimming at the pool again. We with stop by Rachael's house after gym and just play until we have to leave. We will play games in the car and joke around. We will have a good week.

Side Note: Speaking of a good week, and trying to make more time for play. Sam is going out Saturday morning with a friend. We are going to an organic farm for an after Halloween celebration. And then that afternoon after Hubby gets home, I am going out for a "Mom's Night Out." I mentioned to one of the Homeschool Moms in gymnastics that I think we missed the sign ups for CHEA Mom's Night Out. So we decided to have our own night out, just her and me. I also mentioned we like to try to find natural/organic or at least healthy restaurants to eat at, and so does her family. So we are eating at Fresh to Order. Then we are going to go shopping. I doubt I'll buy anything. (I doubt we shop in the same stores, but walking around the mall area should be fun.) And I think it will be a great opportunity to create a bond between one of Sam's best friend's Moms, and a fellow homeschooling Mom. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Learning House


I Love looking around the house at night. It looks cleaner in the dark. No sunlight to show the dust floating in the air or the pawprints on the hardwood that seem to always come back as soon as I finish mopping.

I realized the other night how much learning is always going on. Math problems and words written everywhere. The experiments on the counters. The History. (Dates that Daddy writes on the board for us to look up.) Books everywhere. Collections. Maps. Drawings. 

At any given time this stuff is spread throughout the house, in every room. Throughout the day there is always being something done. Exploring outside and in the community. Reading a book together in the bedroom. Playing a computer game in the living room. A board game at the Kitchen table. Or a hands on game in the hallway, such as the one we made called, "Name That State!" 

It's Our Learning House.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

When Homeschooling Becomes Stressful

Days like today are the not so good days. The days where I just want to lock myself in a room and cry. I Love that Sam and I get so much time together, and I would not trade it for anything. We wake up together. We spend all day together. And she even still sleeps in our bed. Most nights. We are always back and forth with it. She can go either way for the most part....

But from time to time there are those days, where all that time together just takes a toll on both of us. I used to go to the Center by myself so that I could have that one day a week kind of to myself. It was like working one day a week. It gave me a break and I had time to do something that I enjoy, aside from educating Samantha. Now I don't even have that because MIL doesn't watch her anymore. So I go to the Center and I have to do my "work" at the same time that I am saying, "Sweetie, we need to wait until after lunchtime to eat your snack. You just had breakfast." "Yes, Sam, you can play on the computer. Sure. Let me bring that website up for you while I am doing 30 other things.

And with all this more structured "schooling" happening, it is making things hard. I feel like she HAS to learn certain things by a certain time or people are going to start saying I don't teach her, so I know I am trying to over compensate, which I said I would never do because I know she is learning so many other things...But of course, it is hard to ignore that external pressures! And they are wearing me down. Which all that is causing Sam stress. And when she stresses, SHE STRESSES! (FOR EXAMPLE, DH was recently out of work for 2 weeks because he hurt is back at work. Just went back today. He got paid 2/3 of his pay check while he was off for workman's comp. which was barely enough to pay the bills. BUT, all the bills got paid. We just had to watch that we weren't spending. Samantha heard me mention ONE time that we couldn't go out to eat because of it, and she lost sleep for days! She cried in the car because she wanted to make sure the bills were paid and that we weren't going to lose the house-which was never even a concern for us, so I have no clue where that came from...She even tried to give us the money from her piggy bank!)

So with all that stress that she heaps upon herself, she hasn't been trying at all! She has been super dramatic about anything that takes even an ounce of effort. Especially with math and reading. She doesn't want to play games on the computer or read books. Which is extremely unusual for her. And I keep hearing, "Do we have to...?" She even asked me that when I told her we were taking her shopping with her birthday money. She had little interest at first in going to spend it the day after her party. She had fun when I took her, but she kept having moments where she was like, "Do I have to go look at the toys?" "I don't really want to pick. You tell me which I should get."

On the outside, I just keep smiling, trying to keep calm, and saying things like, "Yes, Sam. We need to read this book. The more you read, the better you will get." "Computer games are fun. I'm not sure why you wouldn't want to play. Let's try this new one." and "It's up to you, Sweetie. It's your money."

But inside my chest is hurting and my blood pressure is rising and I just want to yell, "Yes! And if you don't do your "work" or make up your mind or quit being lazy, or whatever else you are doing, I am going to enroll you in school where you will have a lot more work than you do here! And then we will see if you complain about what I want. I don't ask for much! I ask for you to read one independent book a week. I ask you to play a few math GAMES a week. We go over maps for like 15 minutes once a week. And then do FUN experiments, activities, and movies for a Science topic. That is all I ask! Why is that so hard?!!!!!"

I don't understand. I ask her the problem so that if I need to change something I can, and she just mumbles something about how she doesn't know. It's just "so and so" hurt her feelings last year. WHAT?! How can I level with that? I try to remember she is just 5, and maybe doesn't understand, and that is why I give her calm, understanding replies, but inside I am like, "???!!!!" What am I supposed to do? I know we will get over this hump, but until then, "URRRGGG!!!!"

Vent Over.