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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So I Get It...But

So I get it...I have my own views and everybody has their own views. Nobody would have the views they do if they thought they were wrong. Not everybody is underinformed or doesn't do their research. In fact, many people do their research, but there are so many differing opinions and "studies" out there, we just have to choose what to believe based on what our gut tells us and what our own experiences are or even religious backgrounds.

What offends me, however, is when someone thinks I get my goodies from watching my child suffer just because I believe in letting fevers run their course and using natural/herbal remedies. I was already teetering on the edge of not taking Samantha back to the doctor. In fact, we stopped taking her for well check ups, as I was tired of having them pushing vaccines, and it seems like a scam to have regular visits if you ask me. (Seeing as they were surprised that I feed S healthy foods, and almost made it sound as if I were being extreme in not letting her eat sugary cereals. Yah-she doesn't even know what Fruit Loops are. Anyway, that tells me that doctors are in the business of medicine. Of "getting you better when you are sick", not keeping you healthy beforehand or afterward.) N-E-Way, after today we are done. In the past we had a doctor who was totally supportive of our views and didn't question them, but today I had a doctor look at me and say, "That's stupid. Silver? How can putting precious metals in a child's body be healthy? What's next, gold?" And when I explained to him what colloidal silver was, he scoffed and said, "Bring her back in a few days when she is still sick and we will get her some real medicine." Um. Excuse me? Does he not know that silver was used for centuries? As a doctor, he should know what the main antibiotic used for hundreds of years is and how it works!" And another thing that tells me, since he doesn't know, they must not be learning anything about old medicines. They are learning about pharmaceuticals and that is just sad. We will no longer go to a place that can be paid off, a place that doesn't care about my child or her health, but about money and status.

So my question is, mostly, why is it okay for someone to say, "We go to McDonalds every night for dinner." That is totally fine. But if I say something like, "We only allow whole, healthy foods except on special occasions when I'd hate for her to be left out." that is just extreme. You know what is extreme? The health crisis in America! Why is okay for someone to say, "I just ate a whole bag of Oreos. They were double stuffed. So GOOD!" But if I say, "We made some homemade brownies today. They were delicious. I finally found some healthier M and M alternatives at Earth Fare to put in them." I am "showing off" or "stuck up." Why does that make sense? Why is it okay for someone to give antibiotics to their kid, knowing the many many potential side effects, but if I say we want to use Silver, I am neglectful and a bad Mom, and I am just being stuck up? WHAT???!!! Urg. I so just need to vent.

As I stated before, everyone sees things differently. I don't know many people who have all the same beliefs that I do, which is okay, that doesn't make either of us worse or better than the other. But I should not have to worry about DFACS being called every time I mention something about my parenting style, which comes as natural to me as it does any other parent, just because I don't do things the same way everybody else does! It's ridiculous. I am going to lose my cool if another person say something to me inferring that I don't care about my child because I do such n such. MER!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cloud Nine

I am totally on Cloud Nine right now! I have THE perfect Hubby! Just when I don't think he is romantic enough-not his personality-he always does something small or says something small that means more to me than 2 dozen roses and a candle lit dinner. Ha. Like the other day we were watching Fast and Furious 6. It showed the lives of each person. Some were partying. Some were traveling. One guy was in the front yard of his house talking to his wife and playing with his kid, and my Husband said, "That's where I would be." Sometimes, because he is so adventurous, and we try to adventure with him-within our physical limits, I feel like we hold him back. So I said, "Really?!" To which he replied, "Yah. I don't want to party or sleep around. I'd rather be at home with my family." I melted. He was so nonchalant, like it should have been so obvious that is how he felt. He wasn't TRYING to be sweet, but he has no idea how much that meant to me to hear that.

Then today I was so tickled by another comment Hubby made. We were discussing some things that went on in a public school I visited today. I mentioned I felt like they were robbing the children of some amazing sensory experiences. Just things here and there. Things I notice that not many people think about. We talked about how sensory experiences are such an important part of childhood, and that lead to "school in a box" homeschooling, which works for some people, don't get me wrong, but it isn't for us. Hubby made a comment about how he didn't see the point in it. (Which, initially that is what he WANTED me to do to make sure she "learns everything she needs to learn." I see why people homeschool using a curriculum as opposed to sending them to school. It is about one on one, going their pace, adjusting the curriculum, picking the curriculum, taking less time, BEING THERE to see your child learn...But anyway...) He told me if I did that, he would have just told me Samantha needed to go to school instead because it is the same thing-even though it really isn't. Then. He. Said. "I like what you do with her. She learns a lot and she actually gets to actually be a kid!" I almost died. Again, he doesn't realize how much those comments mean to me, and maybe I read into it more than I should, but that tells he that he thinks highly of the way I parent, which is something I don't take lightly. I do everything I can to understand what it is like to be a child and to be MY child. And I want to make childhood something enjoyable for her. Something she will look back and say, "That is how I want MY child to grow up." Gosh, today was a good day. Nothing is going to get me down. 

I love my Husband. God put us together so that we could grow together and change together. So that I could bring out another side of him and he could bring out another side of me. I can hear God's calling for our future, faintly, but it is something big. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Free Range

Free range parenting is just one of those things I was very unsure of it working until I saw it happen.

Free range parenting, basically allowing your child many of the freedoms other kids do not have-no bedtimes, limits on computer or food, etc, is a form of parenting a very small percentage of parents adopt, for varies reasons, but generally speaking, because it is said we can't trust children. "They wouldn't be able to control themselves." And because of the lack of popularity for this parenting style, it is said that it must not work.

As an extension of our unschooling, I began to give it a try little by little. When S was small we didn't enforce a bedtime. It is my personal belief that children know when they are tired just newborns as well as adults do. (Not sure what happens after babyhood and before adulthood that makes many believe we lack that ability to know when we are tired...)  Just as adults do when they reach the big "1-8" do, children  may binge the first few weeks that the new freedom is given to them, but quickly they learn that you need sleep to function. S goes to bed anywhere between 7 o'clock at night (rare) to 11 o'clock (most common) and sometimes even 2 in the morning. (Usually nights we are campung or out with friends.) I was very thankful for our unschooling lifestyle the other night when friends invited us over for a bonfire and smores at 11 o'clock at night and we didn't return until 1 to 2 AM. S enjoyed playing with her friends and eating smores around the fire, a general memory she might always have, something she would have missed out on had she needed to be in bed by 8 or 9.

Over the years we have loosened up and offered many other freedoms such as playing on the computer anytime she needs down time, picking out her clothes, choosing what she wants to study, making the choice of activities and co-ops she wants to participate in.

I have two major limits, one which I will never loosen up on: Television. Television, in my opinion is an evil. I don't want it running in the background while she plays. I don't want her watching the same Disney movies on repeat. I don't want her picking up the trash that is broadcasted. We do not have cable. We have Netflix which we watch documentaries on from time to time. And she is allowed to watch movies on ocassion, usually days that have been extremely active and busy and she wants to fall asleep to a movie, but it must be a movie she has not seen recently. Then of course sleepovers and other special ocassions. I am very strict about television, because even hearing unschooling parents talk about not putting limits on TV makes me uneasy. They also say their child binge watches from time to time-as in once a week or every other week and they "leave it running" but "don't pay attention to it." I will not allow that in my house. It just doesn't work for us. The TV is hardly ever flipped on. But I do realize if ai ban it completely, well, there will be adverse effects.

The other limit I had a hard time letting go of was limiting food. It was mostly a money issue. Eating organically on a $250 a month budget is a challenge to say the least. Not that S was starving. She is very healthy and has lots of excess energy, but she was not allowed to eat whenever she chose. I talked to Hubby and we decided we needed to allow it as an extension of our "you are responsible enough to make choices." So I sat down with S and we talked about what it means to truly be hungry. We talked about how sometimes we are thirsty or bored. How do we know the difference? S listened so very intently. But I still expected her to binge eat at first out of excitement for her new freedom. The deal is, eat what you want whenever you want, but it is all we can afford and it is more than enough, so when it's gone, it's gone.  I listed the snacks that were hers to eat whenever: Apple Sauce, Peanut Butter, Rabbit Crackers, one third of anything we have baked, which this morning was homemade breads-amish bread, a peanut butter loaf, and muffins. And the ones that were everybody's to share for when we start hitting the trail soon, probably this weekend: Pita Chips and Hummus-everyone's fave, Pretzels, and Bananas. And anything I have dehydrated or freeze dried to pack us.

She did Ah. Mazing. Amazing today. I am so very impressed. DD had a banana for breakfast this morning, some left over chicken and Pita Chips with Hummus for lunch, Rabbit Crackers which she portioned herself a very small handful for snack, and then she ate dinner with us, chicken, rice, and green beans. I am blown away. She is so responsible and I attribute it all to the fact she has been able to make her own choices since she was very small. I hear many parents of unschooled adults say their children never chose to do drugs or really rebel as teens because they had been taught to make good choices and live with the consequences if they made bad ones. I pray that is the case. I will make all the remarks from nay sayers and all the looks from older generations worth enduring. Come to think of it, it already is worth it, because while I'm pushing my buggy through the store joking with my 5 year old and teaching her, I see many other parents yelling at their kids to shut up, stand still, and arguing, non stop. I hate to see that because that's no way to live if that is common for them. (Maybe it isn't.) It used to be for us when Sam was a toddler and was constantly fighting for freedom. There was always that tension. Her needing to pulk away and me needing to control evetything. But now when there is a disagreement, there is no need to fight on either side. We can talk it out. Nobody feels attacked. Everybody is equal. And now that DH has seen the truth to this light, life goes a lot smoother.

I truly recommend giving free range parenting a try.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Field Day went great! Everything I had as a child, she had. They played 5 prize games: broad jump, hopping game, javelin, 30 yard dash, and sack race. She won a ribbon at every station. Three ribbons were 1st place, one 2nd place, and one 3rd place. They did some group games: marshmellow toss, over under sponge game, 3 legged and wheel barrow race, and parachute. We had lunch. And then the kids played for a long time.  Sam made a new friend, and played in a large group, which tells me she is becoming more comfortable at the big events. We returned home 5 hours later. She jabbered on in the car. Then as we walked in the house, she sat down, without a word, to draw, and passed out 10 minutes later. What a day.

Yesterday we had Homeschool Day and Lake Winnie. That has been one thing I have been looking forward to taking Sam to all year. (Samantha got excited too, but without knowing what it is, she didn't know exactly what to get excited about. She just knew I was excited.) Unfortunately, her best friend was not able to go. They were calling for rain all day, and so they decided not to chance wasting the money. The weather held up for us though. It rained a little on and off, for 30 seconds or so, enough to cool us off and to run off some of the crowd. ;) We took my little brother with us. He is a homeschooler-in the Summer. :) And she saw/talked to a few of her homeschool friends from Gymnastics and CHEA. Samantha had a blast. Luck for Samantha, she is right at 48 inches tall, which is the height you have to be to ride all the good rides. She was very brave and grown up. She tried every ride there, except 2 that you had to be 54". She even went one some in a different seat than us-so that she could sit with my brother. We rode all morning and she got to try a funnel cake. ;) Then we left around 3 for an early dinner at Logan's, and when we got back, all the school groups were gone. (It was CSTHEA Homeschool Day and Renaissance Day for some schools.) Many homeschoolers had gone home too because they had little ones who were tired or ready for dinner. It was empty. We were able to ride the rides without standing in line, over and over, all by ourselves. We must have gone on 25 rides by time they closed. (Walking took up some time.) We stayed until the very last ride shut down. It is definitely something we will go to next year. (The discounted price made it very affordable!) I figure we have another 3 years or so, based on her personality, before she starts running off by herself with her friends to ride without us, which scares me to death, but we better enjoy it while we can. Our school year officially ends soon and starts the next day, for paperwork's sake. Another round of exciting events, groups, and exploration. Onward!

Side Note: The last event of the year will be a yearbook signing party. This will be the first year for yearbooks, and Sam is stoked. They are affordable. They have tons of pictures from every event. And we will get to customize 4 pages just for her yearbook! More on that later.

My Girl and All Her Ribbons
My Little Nail Biter Ready for the 3 Legged Race

Her First Amusement Park Ride. She did great and didn't freak when she was high up!!

Samantha taking to one of her Gym Friends

My Silly Husband INSISTED that they ride on the kiddie ride, Frog Hopper. They looked at him like he was crazy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What's Up

Life has been good to us. The Beautiful weather has brought many new learning opportunities and chances to continue being involved. Ah. The World. It is a Beautiful place...Samantha has developed a strong love for art, sparked by a friend. Her friend, R, has a 12 year old sister who loves art and always teaches R her new techniques. And R shows Samantha all the new things she has learned. This got Samantha out of the "cut and dry, stick figures with standard clothes" kind of drawings and really opened some doors from her. This change was sudden, and now Samantha spends hours and hours on end drawing everything she sees. Her drawings have become intricate and detailed. All of her "characters" have names, back stories, and emotions. She depicts things she sees around her, from family interacting, to a game of football, sick people, to Civil War scenes.

Speaking of Civil War, Samantha has begun learning, by choice, about the Civil War. (It is amazing what the purchase of a $2.00 Civil War Reenactment set from a yard sale can do for a child!) She began with playing for several hours, first with just the horses, then with the soldiers, asking questions about which soldiers were which and where the Civil War took place. Amazing thing is, we have the Chickamauga Battle Field National Park practically in our back yard! Onward-This calls for a trip the museum! Per Samantha's request, of course. I wrote a letter to her here about the trip. It was unbelievable for her when she found out that the war, did in fact take place in our community. That the ground we are walking on is indeed historical. And this made it all more real to her, kindling her fire. Books are being shipped as I type. Soldiers are being set up into large brigades as she tried to reenact the war the way she thinks it all happened. Drawings of the Battle Field line the walls. Life as we know it has changed. Our house has been transformed into a war zone.

Coming up Samantha also has Field Day-her very first Field Day. I have already warned the board not to let me down on this one, as Field Day was the highlight of my school years, and I want Samantha to experience that excitement that I did. Of course she loves games, board games, group games, computer games, you name it. Friday is Homeschool Day at Lake Winnie! Woot Woot! Half price admission for homeschoolers! We are in! This will also be her very first trip to an amusement park. And measuring in at 4 foot 1 inches, she is able to ride every ride! She says she will be fearless, but this could go either way. As for non group related activities, we will be trekking to a local art museum downtown to see the 2014 exhibits. How I wish I could find a museum close by with all her favorite paintings by Van Gough and DaVinci. (Oh, yes! Samantha has been preparing to paint The Starry Night since I bought her a poster of it this weekend. She made a rough sketch and started preparing a large piece of cardboard, which we will tack on to her ceiling once she is done. It will be like looking up at the stars!)

The end of the CHEA year is coming up so fast. (Of course ours will keep going.) But how has this happened? Wasn't it just yesterday that we were joining CHEA and Samantha was making new friends? Now Samantha has built relationships and made best friends that she can't imagine life without. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were the newcomers? Now we have been to every holiday party and major annual event, know what to expect for next year, and will even be a part of it! In fact, we will be expected to welcome and guide others at the Annual Not Back to School Picnic. Not to mention, I received an email recently asking if I would like to serve on the board for 2014-2015. Yes, indeed! My dream! As Secretary, I will keep track of the Minutes, assist with event planning, be one of the go-to people for information. And will also be tag teaming responsibility for the Nature Club... Gee, where has the time gone?

Here are some pics of what we have been up to. At the bottom I posted pictures of her most recent drawings. I know that they are not museum quality, but I am very proud of the detail that she puts into each of her pieces.

Sun Bathing and Reading-She has made yet another LEAP in her reading. 

Brennon's Spring Break-Visiting the Greenway

At the beginning of the month, Samantha participated in the annual GymMaster's Homeshow with her friends!

CHEA Fieldtrip to the New Station

Preparing Brownies for Lemonade Stand

First Lemonade Stand

Samantha was inspired to make a Playdough model of the Statue of Liberty. 
Making Traditional Pace Eggs for Easter

Spending Alone Time in Her Room Reading

Nature Study

We have been planting lots of plants, but in this picture she was seeing what would happen if she planted a popcorn kernel. 

Making Homemade Bread and Muffins!

Digging Dirt for Potato Grow Bags

First Meeting with the CHEA Nature Club
Samantha trying to improve her abilities with a "How To" Art Book

Sorting Change for the Center

Exploring the Chickamauga Battle Field

Replicating The Starry Night by Van Gogh
Camp Site

A Girl Skating and Thinking of Tennis


Football Game

First Starry Nigh Sketch
Pregnant Woman Getting an XRay and Her Daughter Waiting on Her

Incomplete Drawing of the Battle Field During the War
A Girl Going to the Hospital and Her Family Being Sad, Saying "I Love You"

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Letter to My Child-On Living a Life of Learning

Dear Samantha,

I was brought to tears today during one of our many Spring outings with Daddy. I was struck with awe and wonder as I watched you marvel at the world, asking questions, and trying to make sense if it all.

Your recent request to visit the Chickamauga Battlefield Museum-after my yard sale purchase of a Civil War Reenactment Set-sparked your interest-led to a day of priceless learning.

Sitting inside a small theatre, the 26 minute documentary began rolling. I saw your eyes get that twinkle as you sat, glued, wondering what would happen next. You lean over and ask, "That's Abraham Lincoln. I didn't know he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. What...well, nevermind, I'm sure the narrator will explain."

Awe on my behalf. I never believed a 5 year old would have an intense interest in something so significant in our country's history. "Hogwash," I said a year ago while reading a book on unschooling, "A five year old's mind is too shallow to ever care or think about such things, especially when left to their own devices. And even it it were true, their parents must be geniuses or something." But we gave unschooling a shot, and here I am, jaw to the floor watching as I see your mind working. On the edge of your seat, thirsty for more.
And afterward, the floodgate of questions opened. Daddy and I did as best we could to answer them ourselves and help you to look up the rest.

You lead us back to the museum where you informed us all about the things you had noticed in the movie that they had on display in the museum, "Mom, Dad. You see the horses pulling the wagons in this model? Well, I learned from the movie they used horses to pull their cannons too." (Something I apparently missed, but is true.) pointing out details on all the neatly aligned gun displays, listening to recorded presentations, and reading parts of the informational plaques to us. That was just the beginning.

We love to hike, so we have been building our stamina to start backing this summer. (We ordered super nice hammocks that will be here for our first trip next week, and we are learning about organic backpacking!) We walked along a trail and allowed you 100% freedom to roam and run. To stop when you felt like it. To draw on your sketch pad. And we watched. You explored. You noticed things. You ran past some things and you walked slowly by others, taking it all in. You stopped at a campsite in the woods, sat at the bench and went to work drawing a picture of the nature around you. And with such detail. Your artistic talents have truly blossomed since you started studying art and spending 4+ hours of the day drawing, coloring, and painting, as talents usually do when given the time to focus on them...Of course a 5 year old's legs and physical abilities will only take them so far, and then we must turn back. So that is what we did. We walked back, laughing and talking about future plans. You chimed in on several occasions talking about your preferences for backpacking snacks and the locations that we camp. We all bonded.

We finished off the day with a visit to the Coke Ovens-where you and Daddy did some "caving." And seven hours after leaving the house, we were home. What a day. I believe we all have a new connection with each other, with the Civil War, our community, and nature. Makes life worth living if you ask me.