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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Free to Learn Free to Live: My Parenting Philosophy

I get a lot of shocked responses and stares from people when they hear about my parenting style. My philosophy isn't quite as exuberant is Dr Spock's, but rather more like the teachings of John Holt.

As most of my friends and family know, I believe children thrive the most in an environment where they are free, with the exception of a few things that NEED to know, to learn by their own devices. Academically, Samantha is currently covering reading, addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, electricity, oceans, United States Geography, and History of Indians-about to move on to Bible History/History of Christmas ("Story of," traditions of the past and of other countries, foods, meanings of symbols...) ALL of this by her own choice. With that being said, we do have what some consider dry spells, where we aren't covering anything specific. We just read chapter books, play games, go outside. Although the value of these things should never be underestimated. Not only is Sam processing all the information she was taught, but she is learning from those down times too. But I digress.

For the most part, we also use natural consequences to teach. This is the real eye widener right here. Yes, we do whip-in extreme cases. From the way I interpret it, the Bible tells us to do so. But I also believe that we, as adults learn naturally, and that it is also as effective for children. In my own experiences, my car motor recently blew because of a snapped timing belt that I refused to replace routinely due to cost...Which in turn cost us over $4,000.00. Guess who does ALL their routine maintenance now? This gal! As if that doesn't explain enough, let me give a small scale example. I decide to leave the house for gymnastics 20 minutes before. We are late. I learned to leave earlier.

The same goes for Samantha. We allow her to make most of her own choices. She chooses when to go to bed, if she wants to eat dinner-no snacks if she doesn't. She chooses what she wants to wear. One that really seems of concern to some is that we don't make her wear shoes. She didn't  wear shoes last year, except in the library (required by them if she wanted to go in-so she chose to wear them and go in) and few other exceptions where she wanted to. (She never got sick.) This year, however, she remembers that winter means cold weather. Cold weather plus no shoes equals cold feet. And cold feet equals painful. Some lessons take her longer than others, but the end result means she is being responsible in CHOOSING what she wants to do. ie To wear shoes outside in the winter-instead of doing it because she has to. She doesn't always wear shoes now. She doesn't feel she needs them inside or in the Summer, as long as she isn't on pavement. (I'm the same way.) There is so much more to this philosophy, but the end goal is to give children small choices while they are young so that they can make mature choices as they grow. The are more apt to choose to stay away from drugs or promiscuous sex. (It is a theory that teenage rebellion comes from being at an age where you are first able to make your own choices. Children become more aware that they control their own decisions and want to exercise that.) But it should begin so much sooner. And let me say, since we began this way of parenting about a year and a half or two years ago, the petty arguments have ceased. The days go by more peacefully and more enjoyable. This, I believe, is the product of having a Free Child.

Another thing we allow and encourage is the opportunity for Samantha to express herself. (Lots of people say we are hippies for this. Even Jessie calls me his little Hippie because I am more extreme then him in this form of parenting.) I believe this helps her to find who she is and learn how to control her emotions. With one restriction. "Do not hurt anyone or anything." So if she needs to stomp, by all means, Stomp! (She actually does it less now that she knows it doesn't phase us.) She can do that at any time she feels she needs to. She can scream-in her bedroom so she doesn't hurt anyone's ears...You get the picture. She can cry whenever she feels the need to. It can be for no reason at all. She has actually done this before, at random times. Once she cried because we went down a road damaged by the tornado. Because she knew people died from the tornado on that road. This opened up for more discussion about God, Love, Life and Death, something that we may not have had the opportunity to discuss had she not felt comfortable busting out into tears in front of me.

I like to think my child is a Free child. Free to learn. Free to live. Free to express her emotions. Free to express her opinions. Free to spend her time the way she wants. Free to be who she truly is.
It has been said to me more than once, "Well, she does her own thing anyway." Although some say this as a negative remark,  I don't find this offensive at all. It actually makes me smile and think of all the things she does-her own way, the Samantha way.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gymnastics Progress/Geography Fair

Sam has developed a real interest in gymnastics over the past few months. She has deemed it worthy of her time to practice at home-continually. She mastered her cartwheel in just 2 weeks! Then she moved on to the stall bars....She is fearless now. Next was head stands. She has made some huge strides in this and can now balance on her head with her knees on her elbows-starting positicon. She is also practicing her splits-so close!

I am so very proud of Sam. Not just for making so much progress, but also for practicing, spending time and energy to get better at something she enjoys as opposed to just expecting it to happen. Next semester will be interesting as she works more on the trampoline and improving on the pedestals.

Side Note: Sam's CHEA Group is having a Geography Fair in February. (As well as a Science Fair in the Spring.) Anyway, all ages are encouraged to participate, so I asked Sam if she wanted to. She said yes! She chose Oceans, and we are going to start on her project after the holidays. She can do pretty much anything she wants. We just need to do a tri board with any information/pictures we want to include. She can bring in experiments she has done. Pictures she has taken. She can bake a native food-if she had chosen a country. She can even do a presentation or demonstrate part of a native language she has learned. Anything is allowed. I can't wait to see where this leads us. This is exactly the motivation we need to get going again with Oceans.

Geography Fair Update: It has been 2 days since I wrote this. Today I discussed the fair further with Sam. She wants to write a report to go along with her triboard and read it to the judges! She also requested to write it with ink and quill like the early explorers! So I said, "Can do! I'll get in it!" Anything that gets her excited about reading and writing. :) 

Saturday, November 23, 2013


"Wouldn't it be great if I could spend two nights with you, Sam?"

"Yah, that would be amazing. Wasn't it funny when we slept in each others sleeping bags?"

"Yah. That was my favorite part. Will you should me again how to do that?"

These are the words I heard from two small children in the room next to me as I read my book, Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days,.(Two children who are now doing each others make up to get ready to put on a show for me before we give the dog a bath....or bake. They haven't decided which yet.) God has sent us an amazing family to become friends with. A family quite different from ours, but so very much alike in many ways. The Weaver Family. A homeschooling family with 6 kids. Age wise, yes, they are older, doesn't seem to uncommon for us. They have lived more, traveled more, and were together a long time before having kids. But we can relate together, laugh together, and learn from each other.

Sam made friends with Rachel at the picnic this September. And then Suzette, being as outgoing as she is, scheduled a playdate the next week. And joined gymnastics...They have been inseparable ever since. They have so much in common, personalitywise. They are both tenderhearted, timid, agreeable little girls. No arguing here. All I heard all day was, "I'll help you clean." Or "We can play whatever YOU want." "No. It's okay. Whatever YOU want." Etc. Etc. Interestwise, they both love gymnastics and art. And they just...relate.

Anyway, my Husband met Mike, Suzette's Husband, at the CHEA Thanksgiving Feast last Thursday. They hit it off. We have grown close very fast. We do movie night at their house now from time to time. We go to special events together and the girls even spent part of the last holiday-Halloween there. I'm so glad we found "couple friends" that we have a lot in common with who have kids Sam can play with and really enjoys playing with. It has been such a Blessing to find such a support system and be a support system for somebody else. (They just moved to the area.)

On another note, this week has been a busy week with CHEA. We attended two big events this week, Audubon Acres and the CHEA Thanksgiving Feast.

Audubon Acres was an awesome experience. They always have something going on, including a bunch of home school classes. This week they had Pioneer Days. A bunch of volunteer families got together and "acted out" life in the Pioneer Days. They talked about the games of that time. And since each center had hands on activity, the kids got to play the games if they wanted. One area showed how they cooked. And the kids got to taste corn cakes. Yummy! We toured a cabin. Washed laundry the way they used to. Sharpened an axe. Dyed cloth with coffee and talked about other natural dyes the Pioneers used. They shucked corn. And tried cider. It was a great day. Sam got to play with her friend, Julia. And at the end we met to collaborate on the Christmas party. Afterward we went home. Sam was so cold she wanted to take a warm bath and play with her toys. Nap time followed for us. It was such a productive, memorable, fun day.

The next day was the Thanksgiving Feast. It was held at night to give the Dads the opportunity to be there too if they work during the day. Jessie, to be honest, was very skeptical. (I have drug him to one too many formal events for my speeches and he was afraid he would feel inferior at this "formal dinner.") But in fact, it was not formal at all. (I tried to tell them that.) It was just a bunch of different families from all backgrounds with all different lifestyles sitting together, eating, and laughing. Jessie felt more laid back after a few of the Dads came up and talked to him. And Sam ran off as soon as Rachel arrived. She ended up sitting at a table with them. (They have a big family so they needed their own table.) I watched her joke and play from the other side of the room. It was bitter sweet. I didn't mind giving her that time though. She deserved it. She was having fun. And I have her all day. I helped with set up and clean up, talked to other Moms I hadn't seen since the picnic, and got together with some others to discuss the Christmas party progress. It was a great night. As usual, it was a very welcoming environment. The food was great. (Potluck) And we got to know others better. We are always the last to leave an event. And we stayed after with another family (the Weavers) for an hour talking in the parking lot. That's when my Husband got to know Mike better. And the kids played in the area while Suzette and I talked about holiday lesson plans. (Also a fun one.) We left, and my Husband said he now knew that relaxed, warm feeling that I always feel after get togethers. This group has been such a Blessing to us.

We dove head first into home school this year, leaving the preschool days as mere memories. I didn't think much would change for us, since we are doing things the way we always have, but they did. It's a whole new chapter with all new people and things to do. I can't believe those days are gone. The days of PAT. The days of no obligation to the school system. The days of not being super busy. This season has brought new friends, new places, new views on life, and a deeper understanding of some things.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


My Husband had been my main Homeschooling support system for the last 3 years. And even though he listened to me about my fears, inadequacies, and the good times too. Even though he said, "Yes, you can home school and I will support you." And he understood Sam is receiving a very individualized education, he still wasn't 100% there. He stood up for us when friends or family said Sam would be under educated or weird. He stood up for homeschooling when people said it was wrong. But a part of him, still worried. The schooled part of Jessie made him think, "Will she be weird, unsocialized, or lonely?" This fear of mine was assuaged by my first book about homeschooling back when Sam was two. And though I read sections aloud and have repeated things for years, he still doubted. He had to see for himself.
I posted before about how we Get Involved. Samantha sees her friends so often and she is unrestricted in her play for the most part. In gymnastics she listens to her teachers. But while she waits her then she watches the intermediate class and her and her friends try to practice some of the stuff the higher level girls do. They are allowed to talk too, as long as they know what to do on their turn. Playdates, group parties/gatherings, sleepovers...All unrestricted play. Sam has so many friends. Everywhere she goes. Many live down the road. Walking distance. (Not her alone of course.) Together they practice gymnastics. (Most of them are also in gym. Some in her class.) They play pretend. Play games.
Tell stories. Listen to music. Explore. And sometimes teach each other math facts or reading. They really enjoy teaching each other what they learned that day. So much goes on around her friends. (And since she doesn't have any siblings, we might as well get ready for it now. Her friends will be at our house all the time. She always wants a friend with her lately, which is fine. I understand her need for company closer to her age.)
Anyway, Tangent Woman will stop now. What was I saying?
Oh yes, My Husband told me at dinner today a friend of his brought it up that homeschooling makes it hard to socialize. (We have had problems with this friend always putting homeschool down, even in front of Samantha.) Jessie said he really thought about it, and he told him that, while he used to agree, he completely disagrees now. He said Sam is making friends everywhere she goes. Left and right she is having people over it going out with them. She has kids spending the night on week nights! Gasp! (It is easier for our schedule to have kids over on week nights because of Hubby's schedule.) He said he knew then homeschooling was right. He looked me right in the eye and said, "We'd homeschool again in a heartbeat."
I have been longing to hear those words for years. I mean, he is a huge support. Giving me the okay. Allowing me to do it. Teaching Sam. Listening to me get excited and worry and get angry at times. Being the sole bread winner. Even though a second check might make things easier-financially. But I have never heard him say something like THAT. He is not only supportive, as usual. He is now aboard the homeschool train. He went from, "No. Absolutely not!" To "Maybe." To, "Whatever you want to do." Now...this. it's a Glorious day in the Mays house as I skip around grinning from ear to ear. "It took 3 years, but all in good time!"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Works For Us

I realize this tends to be a reoccurring theme in my posts, but nobody reads this really. It is more of an electronic journal. And on the off chance you happen to this-"thus is the life of a Homeschooling Mom."

Being that it is our first "official" year, we are meeting all different types of families in Sam's home school groups for the first time. It truly is a melting pot. We have met families with all different lifestyles-stay at home moms or dads. Families where both parents work. Adoptive families. Families with one child. Families with six. Families of all races, backgrounds, and "economic classes." Families that use a variety of different teaching methods.....I have encountered families who adhere to a strict "school" schedule. They do all the core subjects. Piano. Violin. PE. Even recess. I have met some who are more lax. They get their "school done." But at the bare minimums and play or cook or work on projects the rest of the day. They use their text books and work books and barrel their way through until lunch when they stop. Some don't stop until 4 or 5 o'clock. I have met families who use online curriculums. And some that do unit studies. I have yet to meet any like us. We may never, but I think we will. Of course many families will allow the child led learning in some aspects, especially once the main subjects are completed.

Seeing other families and their cabinets upon cabinets full of curriculum makes me nervous. Of course I ask myself if I slacking as a Mom. And I go home and think about if we have done enough this week. It seems like I never remember what we do at home. All I can think if us "Well, we went to the Center. Then gym twice. And the library and play date on Friday. Man! We are always on the go." But that's not true. It's really not. And moments like these I am grateful for Facebook Timelines and my pictures. It shows me and reassured me that all we have done, even if it is not as conventional as others, we are learning and having fun.

I saw where we had baked pumpkin cookies-new recipe-completely from scratch. We played Chess and other board games. Computer games. We built a fire together as a family. Not to mention cooked Smores on it. Studied our Rooster who has decided to roost on the back porch where it isn't quite as windy. We used a loom to weave a pot holder. Collected State Quarters. Played with friends. Planned a Christmas party. Went on a field trip. Read. Grocery shopped. Practiced math facts in the car. Played with fractions. Answered questions about what certain words mean. Wrote a book. Started reading "Trumpet of the Swan." Drew in our nature journal. Watched videos of trumpeter swans and their cygnets. Learned words for different male/female animals. Went to church. Talked about God, death, bullies, and handling emotions. Went on a long nature walk. Talked about the History of holidays. We talk a lot. (We also started researching and planning on using some traditions from early Thanksgivings. Something we do every year.) And all that was just this half of the month. Maybe the cookies were the end of October, but you get the picture.

But really, with all the self questioning I go through almost daily, I always come to the same conclusion. In the end what works best for YOUR family may not work for another family. We get stuff done on a lax schedule because it us just-us. We can go with the flow and Sam likes the unschooling method, which works for me because she is always going something productive. And mixing in a little Charlotte Mason here and there doesn't hurt. Using Living Books. Drawing in a Nature Journal. That is all fun and games and cuddles and warm times for both if us. Maybe there are days when seemingly nothing gets done, and we tend to focus on those days. But all of us, homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike have those days. Always have. Always will. We just have to keep going and trust that God has lead us down the right path, which is always does if we listen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CHEA Christmas Party

This year Sam's groups have been going extremely well. Sam has made friends upon friends upon friends.

And I have made friends with the parents. (One of which I was able to enjoy a night out with recently-much needed break. She is so encouraging and full of great advice from a Christian perspective due to her years of experience being married, parenting, cooking, and especially homeschooling. Parenting is a whole different world when you home school. We don't deal with teachers and homework or bullies at school. We struggle with if we are teaching them enough, how and when do we get time for ourselves-to just be with God. And how do we help our children handle some of their problems-ie being made fun of for not being in "real school." Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Neither is better. Both are hard. Parenting is sometimes hard, and sometimes fun. But talking to someone in the same boat helps no matter where you are.)

I feel like we are getting to know this group and getting involved has been an adventure, getting to know the board members and other members. Going to the play dates and field trips, just talking while we watch the kids play and discover from a distance. It has been amazing. Truly amazing.

One thing though, I like to instill in Sam is involvement, as I stated before in my post Community Involvement. So when they began asking for volunteers to help with the Christmas party, I jumped on it. Little did I know that they were going to ask me to plan it. "Me?! It's my first year!" "We need some fresh new ideas. It's easy. You'll be fine. You seem like you are organized and can do it." "Okay...If you say so."

Hours later searching on Pinterest for games. Making lists of what to buy. People to email. Others to call. Trying to get a location and days set up between the 4 of us.

Okay. Location/Date. Done.

We spent all afternoon yesterday at one of the board member's houses. We figured our she lives 1 mile down the road, as do most group members, so we trekked to her house to get the "Magic Christmas Box" full of supplies that everyone kept talking about. And Sam played with her 8 year old daughter while we planned and planned.

Okay. Meeting set up for next Wednesday after the field trip. Check.

Posting on the calendar. Delegated. Check.

We need games. We need decorations. Darn. I can't get the supplies until closer to time when we know who is signed up.

Well, good start. I guess we'll finish up Wednesday after I spend some more time on Pinterest looking for games.

It has been an experience. I have met many great women just in the past week. Sam has made new friends through this. And she sees the involvement. She sees me working hard at home. And soon she'll see the result.

I am glad I was "tricked" into planning this, as I put it. When my little brother started school my only thought as far as sadness goes was basically, "I'm sad I won't get to do like room Mom and PTO stuff, but it is worth it in the end to miss out on that but be here with her all the time." Now I get the best of both worlds. I get to plan parties for her group. Volunteer with her and the group. And in two years when they have people run for the board, you better believe I'm doing that too. That's even better than PTO. ;)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Homeschoolers and Community Involvement

It wasn't until I recently re-read the book, "The Well Adjusted Child," that I realized how much our lives have changed as Sam has grown. (She was 2 when I read it the 1st time.) And also how involved in the Community Homeschoolers-at least my homeschooler-is.
I remember reading and thinking, "Um, wow, these people are either showing off or I'm slacking off. Maybe we should be more involved." Looking back, we were just as involved as any two year old should be. She went to dance and church every week and she was part of a Community Group called Parents As Teachers. That, I feel, is more than enough for a 2-year-old, but, as most newly decided homeschool Mom's feel, there was soon this guilt plaguing me. So I got a licence. (No, I didn't have a license until I was 19.)
And overtime, naturally, we got more involved. Socialization is one of the best parts. Yes, the "S" word. I never worry if DD will be "socialized" well enough. Without going into the facts, or my opinion, I know that positive socialization is not something DD will receive in school. It is something she will receive from being out in the community, talking to others, learning from others.
For our child, God has commanded us to homeschool. And I believe homeschool is more than "school at home" or "school in a box." After much searching, praying, and fighting myself, I believe it is about a life of natural learning. It is about learning whatever you can, whenever you can. And not even drawing a line of distinction between if what you are learning is "useful" ie Math, Science, Reading, S.S. related or "not useful" ie just playing for the sake of playing. Whatever she is doing, it is relevant to her life then, and that is how we adults live, isn't it? I feel like I have learned more about writing speeches, researching my interests such as homeschooling, gardening, and anything else I have put myself into the past 5 years, than I ever learned in school. So in order to live this life of free learning, for one, I must quit sectioning things off in my head and isolating them as one subject or another. And two, we must put ourselves out there.
No, we don't leave the house on Saturday. Hello, crowds. No thank you. But all week we are on the go. I think I carschool more than I homeschool. On the way to where we are going (usually 30-40 minutes apart) DD and I talk. We talk about God. We talk about the tornado damage we see. We talk about shadows. We play a game called "Guess the Animal." We do math facts. Make up stories. And then when we get where we are going, we continue to learn. Gymnastics. Recipes. Adding up the grocery bill. Making new friends who teach you to sled down a hill on cardboard the "proper way." Totally relevant to her child life. And if I wanted, I could call it Geometry because you have to get at a certain spot and slide at a certain angle, but there I go again....
There are 5 ways I want Samantha involved in our community. They are these:
Volunteering (Serving): Since I serve at a local Women's Center, it has been a natural extension of DD's life to help out ever since she can remember. She counts change donations, sorts and hangs clothes, makes copies. She even helps me speak at local churches
And since I have a tremendous amount of trust for this girl, I am able to leave her unattended. (In a safe environment, where she can get to an adult if she needs something. Chill, y'all.) I tell her this is THE most important thing she could do for God right now. I counsel women. Give them their options and encourage them to choose LIFE. I also counsel women who have chosen abortion and just need to find healing in God's Word. This is hard to do, focus, give the Living Truth, and cry with another woman who is scared, when you know you have a kid sitting in the room next to you that might be tempted to knock on the door and ask when we are leaving or decide she is bored. But she never does. She plays. Draws. Helps out wherever it is needed-like when they are watching a distraught client's baby, so Sam occupies them. She talks to the other women who work at the Center. She has built up quite a relationship with each if them. Mostly Amy. She likes to tell Amy about gymnastics. And Amy will tell Sam about God. To Samantha, adults are grown up children who also make mistakes, the same as her. They are not scary authority figures she shouldn't talk to. And I thank God she feels this way, because I think she should enjoy all ages. (Although in the beginning, I'll admit it freaked me out when anyone older than Sam talked to her. I thought they must either be a creeper or want something.) Anyway, I'm off track. The fact that I can leave her alone without her causing a disruption or misbehaving gives me 1. Enormous pride in my child's behavior and 2. It lets me know that God gave me a child with her temperament because "He knew the plans he had for me."
My point to all this being, through serving in her community regularly, Sam has learned 3 very important things. 1. She has learned to serve God. 2. She has learned her time is precious, and giving of your time is an amazing gift that can change someone's life Forever. And 3. She has formed close bonds with other Christian adults that can help guide her. I know those relationships will blossom and become a deeper as she grows. And 4. Not to mention all the office experience she will have. When she turns 18, she'll have 15 years experience. ;)
Church: Aside from serving God, she needs to Worship God in an encouraging environment. It doesn't have to be a big church with fancy get togethers. In fact, we go to a very small church where the people there, she has known for years. She was 1 when we started attending. And though we have grown, we might have 100 regular attenders-including children. We know pretty much everybody. DD is forming relationships with the kids, on the common ground that they want to learn more about God too. The teenagers, her teachers, because they are "feeding her," and the adults because they are doing the same. The kids are involved in most things. We don't have childcare for everything and I prefer it that way. Why stick them in a room and say, " You aren't old enough to help at the yardsale." Or whatever it is. Instead of letting them see us get involved and get excited about getting involved too? But going to church doesn't just mean showing up on Sunday to sing and do a lesson. It means helping out at events like the Big Give after the tornado. It means building those relationships with others so that you can build each other up. It means being a PART of the church. Not just being AT church. And I want her to understand that.
Activity: We also require Sam to be in an activity, to stay active and learning her particular interest, which right now seems to be gymnastics. And I doubt that will change any time soon. Sam has gymnastics twice a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our busy days. I like that she enjoy what she is learning, but again, community building. She is meeting others. Forming relationships with kids and adults. Some that may be lasting. Others not. We spend our time after gym going to the recycling center, walking the Greenway which is this Beautiful nature area with a duck pond, a creek, a giant wooden swing, all sorts of nature, going right through Collegedale. We go to the local playground. Shop at the thrift stores. We just enjoy ourselves. (We drive 14 miles one way. Why only stay for gym?)
Community Places/Events: I expect Sam to know about the "hot spots" and current events in her community, at least in Ringgold. When she was little, we always attended Catoosa Kids day and we began going to storytime at the library, so it was a natural extension to go to check out books, go to l library events, or anything else local they advertised on their board.
Of course I also want her to shop locally too, which I encourage by shopping locally myself. We are very well acquainted with the owner of the local fruit stand and the ladies at the local "junk shops." We do shop at Earth Fare too, but they sale local foods and they are about as local as you can get. We see the same people each time. It is a small enough store that people remember you when you come in and they have the time to talk to you while you wait on your meat to be packaged or while you check out. Plus, it is better environment to be in. No candy bars or profane tabloids at the checkout counters. No isles packed with unhealthy, artificial flavored and preservative filled foods. Natural care products. Just an all around healthy environment to be in, for the mind and the body...Here I am though getting off track again.
Other Homeschoolers: The last area I expect her to be involved in is with other homeschoolers. She already takes gymnastics with homeschoolers, but I like her to be in an unstructured setting where she can sit and talk or play, which is why we joined the local group, CHEA.
Recently...Well, yesterday, we had a group play date, and I never can believe it because every time we get together, it is exactly like what I read about in homeschool books for years. I always thought, "Home
school can't be this good." But it is. And I expect her to keep involved because the children in her group share a lot of the same interests and it keeps her from getting lonely during the school day, when she has friends who can meet during school hours or spend the night on a weekday. Not to mention the field trips and other learning experiences. Being involved with either homeschool groups also means she gets the inside on what is going in. Things she can participate in or places she can go. If this is the lifestyle she is going to grow up in, she needs to be well acquainted with it, and she is. I know she can't imagine her life being different.
AND since I believe in leading by example, I too get involved as much as possible, by volunteering, getting involved in church, talking to the Moms of her friends, setting up "play dates," and most recently volunteering to plan her homeschool Christmas party. (Which is exciting, but I'm a little nervous about all the work that will go into it.) It'll be a new experience though and I'm sure I won't regret it. I did it because I want to show her not to be scared to get out there. Even if you are scared because you are new, put yourself out there anyway or you might miss your chance.
Living a community centered life isn't as hard or as busy as people may think. Some things we only do once a month or maybe twice. Others weekly. But it is part of our living life and "schooling," so even with all that, I don't think we spend the 30+ hours a week that school requires.
Note: For us Community means our small town Ringgold and the surrounding areas, Collegedale and Dalton mainly. Both small areas. 
Through homeschooling, Sam has developed a close connection and love for her community. The places, the people. I have developed a closer bond with her as we get more and more involved together. And a deeper trust as she shows me she is more grown up than some people give a 5 year old credit for. These things-volunteering weekly, homeschool groups, all the 2 hour visits to the library, they just wouldn't be possible if she were in school. Community ties are so important to us. To BOTH of our growing minds. I can't believe all those years I missed out on living in my community. Endless possibilities. Close relationships. Things so many people miss out on when they are in a hurry. Something some people never care to have. But community is something I hold dearly. Closer than I ever have before. We are a group of people just relying on each other. And that's a Beautiful thing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living Life Unschooling

Extension of my last post: I forgot to mention another "friend" I have had to talk to lately about homeschooling, someone to bounce ideas and beliefs off of is my sister in law, Brandi, who has a 1,year old she is considering homeschooling. It's really neat having someone I'm already that close to to talk to, so I'm very surprised I forgot to mention her before.
On with my post...
I usually tend to get in a panic when Sam and I have days where I feel like nothing has been accomplished except errands maybe. Meal times. That sort of daily living stuff. Then I realize, well, that is life. It happens that way sometimes. And we don't always have to be doing something deemed educational or productive. We need down days, days where we sleep a little longer. Watch a bit more TV. Or maybe just color all day. Our bodies apparently are asking for that break.
And I look back on the previous days, weeks, or even months and I realize how much we have done. This Fall alone we have been enjoying time together as a family, celebrating Sam's 5th birthday, going apple picking, to the pumpkin patch, to the park. Sam has been improving SO MUCH in gymnastics. All she does some days is practice outside until she gets tired. Then she comes in to watch a gymnastics competition on the computer until she falls asleep. She has made new friends and she plays with them a lot. She talks with them. She is finding out more about who she is as an individual and as a friend. We have cooked together, baked together, shopped together. We have read together. We have studied the tree leaves together. We have gone on walks. We have looked at maps. We draw. We color. We listen to music. Sometimes we just talk. All of this. And more. This time that we are spending together, we are walking through life together, figuring out problems. Yes, she helps with problems. We act silly and laugh together. We do the mundane tasks that we have to do, but somehow they seem less mundane when we do them together.
And living life together, things seem like they are always changing, like there is no normal day. One minute it is the 3 of us. The next day we have a dog or a family member moves in. One day we are going to dance. Then she switches to gym. One day Sam is interested in Space. The next day it's Oceans. Sometimes we learn by reading and playing games. Sometimes I freak out and we write on the marker board and do calendar. But it is all neat, going back and looking at all the stages. Just waiting too see what life brings us next. It's just nice that we are able to "go with the flow" because we don't have this super duper strict schedule we have to adhere to. So if the church needs us to do something. Or the Center. Or maybe a family member gets sick, we are able to be there to deal with what life has for us. I realize I say this a lot, "We'll see what life brings next..." but I mean it. We just have to be there ready for what is next.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


I have prayed for this since things began changing for Sam. Since her friends started going off to school and they would all talk to her about class parties and homework, recess and circle time, things she really knew nothing about. I have been waiting for this since the parents' of her friends started talking about dropping off/picking the kids up, meetings, and other school related things. I longed for a friend for Sam. And a fellow Homeschooling Mom for me. I wanted Sam to have a friend who would say to Sam, "Yah! I am homeschooled too! Yesterday Mom was teaching us how birds fly!" or a Mom who would say things like, "Of course we will be at the fieldtrip next week. Maybe we can meet for lunch afterward!"

It seemed like that day would never come. It would be impossible to fit into this group that has already been journeying through homeschooling together for so many years. They are comfortable in their own group. To them, it would be another year of new members. So how do these new members push their way in?

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Sam made a close friend in an instant. People have been talking to us left and right at every meeting we have been to. And everyone is so willing to set up play dates, swap numbers, or talk about "school" while the kids run around doing their own thing.

Samantha's gets to see her new "best friend," Rachael at least twice a week lately. (Rachael is the little girl she met at the Not Back to School Picnic.) Rachael also joined Sam's gymnastics class, and they are in the same group. She has 5 brothers and sisters from 9 months to 12 years old, and they all love having Samantha over to play. (Samantha loves them too.) This makes Sam so very happy and she doesn't ever feel alone now. She'll say, "Mommy, I can't believe that they are homeschooled too! I didn't know other kids were homeschooled with their Mommies." I think it makes her happier, I am sure it does, knowing she isn't alone. Because nobody wants to be alone.

Side Note: I went out with Suzette, Rachael's Mom tonight, and it was a nice night away. We went to Fresh to Order for dinner and then the mall to walk around and talk. We were out for 5 hours just talking about everything from family to homeschooling to cooking and the Bible. It was nice gaining some insight from someone with the same general beliefs and interests as me. It was a much needed, very refreshing night. I feel like we will get along just fine, despite my initial nervousness about telling her my age. (We actually did talk about it, and she said she didn't have a problem with it. She knew when we started talking that I was younger just from the way I looked.) In fact, when we went in stores to shop for clothes, she tried to help me pick some out based on the kind of clothes she buys for her daughter. It was like shopping with my Mom. In a good way. And I was able to help her too because I have awesome taste of course.

Of course we talked about getting the kids together again, maybe even the Husbands. (We'll see about that.) Friday is our CHEA Group Playdate on Cardboard Hill. Can't wait to see what the kids think of that.

I am home now. Put Sam to bed. I am ready and refreshed for tomorrow knowing that we won't be going it alone anymore.