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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Those Dirty, Stinkin', Smelly Rotten, No Good Parents and Their Radical Unschooling

It's funny. One day, when S was only 2 years old, I was texting a friend about school options. "I bet you will end up homeschooling her," she said. I was offended, "No! I would never do that to her! She would miss out too much on all the cool stuff, field trips, buying ice cream at school, recess." Yah. Yah. Little did I know what all she would gain from homeschooling, but I learned. And I changed my entire perspective. Now she still gets fieldtrips.  She can still buy ice cream at lunch at my brother's school. (Or we can have lunch at home and go out for ice cream afterward.) And she sometimes gets recesses that last all day long, including some with her CHEA friends. So I should have done my research first. I admit.

Well, not long after I toured the elementary school I always dreamed for my child to attend, and was severely let down, I did start my research. It took one book and I was hooked. THIS was for our family. I started learning about all the different styles of homeschooling. So many! All the forms seemed acceptable to me, something to research and consider, except that wretched unschooling practice! What were those parents thinking? Chaos!

I could imagine it now, a family that had several, dirty, smelly kids, doing nothing all day except watching television and running wild. And since unschooling usually goes hand in hand with parenting styles, they must "unparent," and therefore there children must be horid brats, drains on society. They should go to jail for letting their children's brains rot. They don't deserve to be called homeschoolers!

Being that I was thoroughly convinced boxed curricilulums were for us, I went that July to our local curriculum fair to see all the pre fabricated curriculums and choose which would work best. I was going to find which the top one there was, and only that would be good enough for my beautiful daughter!

I went and listened intently to each of the seminars. I chose, "Starting to Homeschool," "Homeschooling ABCs," and "Christian Homeschooling." I took my notes and I learned all I could. There are two things I took away with me that day that I will always remember. 1. Children need at least 8 hours of play a day, with a majority of it being outdoor. (A Charlotte Mason representative advocating for a curriculum that didn't take a long day, as well as advocating for lots of time in nature.) and 2. Unit Studies were a good choice, exactly what we wanted.

So as soon as I got home that day, I started working on unit studies to do with my 2 year old. THIS was going to be fun! We spent one week on each topic, including recycling, weather, animals, climates, community helpers, etc. Each week we read books, completed an activity, did an art project, something in the kitchen, watched a video that was related to the topic, that sort of thing. After awhile I started loosening up and letting her choose the topics that she wanted and how long we studied them. Her first choice was butterflies. And what a blast that was because she WANTED to learn it. Thus, began our adventure to unschooling.

Unit Studies worked for years. I know she gained knowledge from them and had lots of fun. I am not sure, however, in what way all the formal work at such an early age effected her. Should I have allowed for more free play and not made it so much about learning formally? Or was that play for her as well as learning? And what would she have learned instead, had she been allowed to just play? Ha. Maybe I am over exaggerating the amount of formal work we did.

By the time she was 4, I was determined to be a relaxed homeschooler and just write out my own curriculum that we would follow loosely. "This is not exactly like unschooling. Unschooling is for lazy Moms. We are just extremely relaxed. You could call it unschooling, but it is not radical for sure." I was very confident in my choice and couldn't quit patting myself on the back for doing all my research early on.

It didn't become a fight until she turned 5. I couldn't stand the thought of Samantha being "behind." I couldn't stand the thought that people might think badly of us-because we are homeschoolers-if we didn't teach formally and only on her grade level. It was enough to drive a woman mad. And I took out my madness on S, forcing her to read easy readers every day and repeat math facts as fast as she could. (Not quite the relaxed schooling I had in mind.) I had heard of homeschool burnout before, but never had I thought it would come so soon. "If this is what homeschooled is about, I don't want any part of it," I thought. (And I'm sure S thought that too!) Of course that is a guilty thought no homeschooling Mom wants to admit she has had, but I had it. So we took a break and soon I realized how much she was learning while I was recooping.

And then my mind turned to those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good unschoolers and their blissful outlook on life. How they looked at everything with a new light and their children taught themselves things without fighting. They learned about real life things and not superficial stuff. No strict schedules to adhere to. No standards to follow. No forcing them to learn. But they were still learning! They were...free! I was jealous of those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good parents and their radical unschooling life. And I'd had it with mine, so for the next 6 months I struggled to adopt that lifestyle, once and for all. I became one of those dirty, stinkin', smelly, rotten, no good unschooling parents and I wouldn't have it any other way. (And neither would S!)

I recently posted this post featuring my last battle within. I hope anybody who visits my blog and is in need of unschooling encouragement, receives what they are needing. I know that in my times of doubt, it was good to get some reassurance from SOMEONE, even a stranger on the Internet, who has been there, done that, and won the war.

This is our story. What is yours?

Friday, June 27, 2014

The War Has Been Won

I am pretty sure everybody but my dear SIL, Brandi, is getting tired of reading me rant about unschooling, but that's okay. This is my rant space. And honestly, I expect this to be my last battle within. I have slowly been working on it, and I think we have reached the last battle...I won. I won...So I am going to rant or reason, if you will, just for a bit, then post an update on S. Feel free to skip rant.

I was rereading my most recent blog post on my argument for homeschool/unschool. I wanted to proof it, because what is the point in arguing she can get a great education that way if I look like I can't even spell. Quoting one of the paragraphs listed under, "How do you know your child will learn what they need to learn?" (a commonly asked question when people find out we stopped following the standards so rigidly. We would completely, but I have to know for her "grade placement on paper.") Anyway, here it is...

"Here is a thought. Given a supportive, loving environment, children learn all they need to know before school age without or with minimal assistance. They learn to walk, talk, and sometimes sing their ABCs or even read. Until the last few years, preschools were seen as unnecessary. Children were simply allowed to play...until age 5 when they go to school...until age 18...Then after age 18 we leave them on their own to decide what they want to do in life. They need to learn what is necessesary for their career of choice, weather it be in the medical profession, technical profession, a skilled trade, or even a stay at home mom. They learn to be married, have children, travel, whatever it is they want to do, but they learn it by choice and they find the resources or they learn on their own. What happens between the ages of 5 and 18 that makes us not trust children to learn what they need to learn?"

And then it hit me...What is it exactly that school was preparing me for? What is it that I needed to know for my future that it took 13 years to learn it? Why is it that teachers could never answer the question, "When will I need this later on?" You could argue that you need it for college, but in all honesty, you learn the exact same things IN college. Why learn them twice? You don't take Algebra III as your first math class in college. No, you have pre reqs., and those consist of Algebra I and Algebra II. And really there isn't much prior knowledge required. All the explanations are right there in the text, as long as you have knowledge of very basic math. Not to mention, that only a percentage of people go to college because they WANT to go to college. Many don't want to disappoint family or they just go because that is "the next step." And most of those people don't even graduate, despite all their former schooling. So why are we ALL learning the same stuff? Interesting thought."

Not convinced? I wasn't either. So I continued to read and saw the list of things we do after we graduate. Some go to college. But whatever they do, they prepare for a career, weather it is conventional career, an entrepreneurial career, or staying at home career. They have to learn skills, skills we weren't taught in school. Many people learn it without coercion because it is something they want. Many learn without formal teaching. They research and they DO. I have learned how to be a stay at home Mom. I have learned ALL about homeschooling. I have learned SO MUCH about gardening. I have even done all the research about backpacking, which we enjoy so much. I have learned what gear to pack, and how. I know what areas you can camp and how far in we should hike, what we need around us in order to make the hike/camp easier. And the list could go on about that. I have learned about couponing and bargain finding. I have learned to cook. Not to mention I have learned about alternative medicines. And I am still learning...Okay. I will stop there. You get the picture. So I am thinking. Thinking. What did I learn in school that helped me to get where I am today? What were the pre reqs. if you will, to learning these things. Reading. Basic math. Hm. Now I am stumped. But I learned those things in Kindergarten and 1st grade. I could have taught myself that stuff, with maybe some parental guidance. So where does that leave me? Pissed. That's where. What was I doing all that time? What do I even remember that has helped me throughout the last 5 years? And aren't I going to slowly forget it as I grow older? I have met many people who tell me, "Oh. I haven't been in school for 10 years, I don't remember." But what? I was in school for 13! What do you mean I won't remember any of it in 5 more years?

Okay. So I realize that what I have been preaching this whole time makes even more sense than it used to. Allow children to play. Allow them to explore while they are young and they will learn. They will learn from each other. They will learn by listening to adult conversation. They will learn by seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, DOING. Children will take interest in things and just go with them. And they may not go on that subject very long, but it will stick with them or it will lead them to a new interest. And before you know it, they have obtained all the necessary skills, on their own, to do whatever it is they want to do. One day they may not be reading. And the next they might be gobbling up a book on "How To Draw." Then next thing you know their artistic abilities are soaring. Next think you know they have started their own business selling their drawings and learning about money in order to do that. Then they move on to 3-D models, which sparks an interest in engineering. And then they spend the next year day in and day out, building towns out of model clay. Then they play Roller Coaster Tycoon or Minecraft on the computer sun up to sun down. And then a friend tells them about CAD. So they begin designing things on there. Then as a teenager they get an internship somewhere and that is their life career now. They are happy. They get to work from home and follow their passion at the same time that they can be with their family (assuming that is what this particular child wants in life. Maybe he just wants to travel, and working from home allows it. That would be good too.)  Whew! That was a lot, but that is how it should be. I know. I have watched my child go through the beginning steps over the past year. She was practicing drawing. And one moment she couldn't read. Then next moment she could and she was soaring through those How To books. Then she got on the computer and messed around on Minecraft. I just ordered Roller Coaster Tycoon for her...wonder what is next...

My heart has been telling my mind for over a year that unschooling is right for us. Unschooling does not mean her life will be ruined. But I keep hearing that tiny voice inside my head...Her name is Society...and it kept saying, "You are a lazy Mom." "Your child will fail." "You are ruining her forever!" But as this "school year" draws to a close, I have completely stomped that fire out. Now all that is left is a few embers, but I don't expect them to catch flame again anytime soon. For I have made the connection from my heart to my mind that this is the life we will live, and we will live it guilt free. (Who knew writing that letter would help me to convince myself? Ha! Too funny.)

Update On S: Now it is update time. S has been spending so much time playing lately! I watch my brother on school breaks and that gives her plenty of opportunity for unstructured, unsupervised play! I can hear them playing accross the house. (Of course she doesn't realize that.) I can hear them making up games and negotiating rules, trying to keep each other happy. They argue and they figure out solutions. They imagine and play different roles. They innovate together. Most recently they came in to request use of one of my baskets I use for decoration. I did not question, as I could see the creative juices flowing. They headed straight outside and collected all sorts of natural materials to construct a fairy house. They problem solved when they couldn't get the roof right. They preplanned all the extras they wanted to add, then estimated how many of each material they would need to make it just right. At one point S estimated 5 rocks, then said, "I think we need 6, so we are 1 short." I let it be known, at the point where they put the play on pause and said to me, "We can't figure out what to use as sleeping bags." that I had a sewing machine with plenty of scrap fabric. We spent the rest of the day learning to sew fairy clothes and pillows, which sparked my interest in attempting another pillow case dress for S, which is going very well! We used the popcorn popper to make some popcorn, which they always love watching and seeing "how it works," and then they had me pretend I was doing a tutorial on how to make a pillowcase dress. They sat through the whole thing and listened intently. Their interest in learning to use the sewing machine peaked after being allowed to play with it in another room, free to do whatever they wanted with it. I told them if they learned to hand sew well I would teach them the machine. The have been practicing ever sense....It has been a great Summer, the best so far. A good balance between unsupervised play and time together. Time inside and time outside. Time going fun place and exploring and down time. Through all this unstructured (more so than usual) daily learning, S has mastered reading books on her own, reading menus, signs, anything with text really. Money and value has clicked for her. Fractions have clicked for her. Her art has improved. Her understanding of her world has improved. And all the way, it has been fun. 

Speaking of fun, we are about half way through Summer break. Most people are about to start preparing for "Back to School" shopping and finding out classes, and in about 6 short weeks, classes in my area will be back in session. Last year we took S to WalMart to "school shop," but quickly found the expenses add up and aren't really worth it for things you aren't going to use. So we may take her to get some art supplies, but for the most part, pencil cases, folders, and the like are wasteful for us. We get 95% of our books from the library, but may take her to McKays to buy some for fun. Last year I also bought academic board games, which will grow with her from US Geography to World Geography, from addition and subtraction, to multiplication, division, fractions, all the way up to Algebra. So no need for more. THIS YEAR, I am collection old computer games for her! Older games were fun. They did focus SOLEY on memorizing, but playing, having fun, and truly understanding and problem solving. So J bought Roller Coaster Tycoon and I am also going to buy Freddi Fish, ZOombinis, Oregon Trail if I can find it, maybe some Reader Rabbit if I can remember the ones I played...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This year is going to be great. 

Side Note: I have been adding to her progress report all year-for my files. Oh my! The things we have done, seen, and learned this year! Unbelievable! I cannot finish it until September 1st. (The school year starts September 1st-August 31st for us. So I have to wait to finish it.) I will post it when I am done. It is so hard to believe, after all we have done this year and all she knows, that this Fall would be her first year in school. She would JUST be in Kindergarten! I can't even imagine his things would change for us. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

For People Who Speak Out of Ignorance

Before reading, it must be said, this was not written toward anybody in particular, only as something I can pull out of my purse in the case that someone hounds me about how we school. I understand the concern, but I am tired from attempting to defend it. With that said, I am defending homeschooled for MY family. Not yours. Not the neighbors. Not for anybody else but us. Everyone has their reasons for choosing what they choose, and as long as it works for your family, I applaud you for choosing something that works. That is all...

I have prepared this list in an event, such as this one, where I am asked to defend our reasoning for homeschool, I can supply this as opposed to debating all night long. Once you read the list and finish your research, I will gladly get back with you to answer any questions. Thank You.

Why We Homeschool:

Aside from typical reasons most people homeschool, ie the fact that there is much less wasted time, keeping children away from peer pressure, the schedules don't work right with our family, etc. etc. Here are our deeper reasons for homeschooling-otherwise the list would go on all day:

  • We homeschool for many reasons, but the first of those reasons is that our view of education is much different than that of most people. To us, education is a lifelong adventure. But also, education is NOT the typical grammar and quick math facts. An education is what you obtain through learning. Learning is something you do everywhere, all the time. An education is what makes you a well rounded person. A person who can research their own interests. A person who knows what they are talking about, not just rambling off facts they picked up somewhere. A well rounded person knows that they shouldn't believe everything they see, hear, or read, and knows how to decide for themselves what to think. A well rounded person is a happy person who does not just go with the day to day flow of mass society because they are told to. They are innovators, they are risk takers, they are entrepreneurs, even in a non conventional sense. A well rounded person has been many places, talked to many people, and experienced many things. Homeschooling allows the time and energy for these sorts of things. Homeschooling makes it easy to spend an entire week preparing a Lemonade Stand. It allows for a trip to the Appalachian Trail for 2 weeks DURING the school year. It allows for practicing a new skill from sun up to sun down without interruption. Homeschool is essentially-Freedom. 
  • As an extension of my last point, homeschooling, especially the style we use, commonly called Unschooling, allows for a deeper level of thinking. Unschooling allows a child to dive into their interests as long as they want to. Being in the real world and learning from it gives them a true appreciation for nature, art, history, science, the list goes on. For an example, you can visit this link to my blog: http://immahomeschoolingmama.blogspot.com/2014/05/dear-samantha-i-was-brought-to-tears.html?showComment=1403515682574#c3435599635442357220

Why NOT School-For Our Family:

  • Reason #1: Schools are not individualized. There really is no argument there. No school can provide my child with the 1 on 1 attention, specialized "curriculum" that I can provide for her.
  • Reason #2: Worksheets. Enough said, but I must go on. Most worksheets are repetitive and they are busy work. Worksheets are mindless. And my child, personally, does not want to do them. 
  • Reason #3: Homework. Children are coming home with too much homework these days. I have seen it too many times. It is home from school. Homework. Extra curricular activities. Bath. Bed. And if I were going to have to help my child with homework every night, why not homeschool? 
  • Reason #4: Time. It goes back to the homework. Where is the time for things like playing outdoors, building mud pies and digging up worms? Where is the time to just play in your room for hours and hours? Where is time to see your friends outside of school? Or study the things that truly interest you? These are the things children truly benefit from. Weekends you say? No. No time on weekends. Most kids have ball practice or even more homework, maybe Mom and Dad have to run some errands Saturday or church all day Sunday. Trying to catch up on play can seem impossible for children. For us personally, our weekends are Sunday and Monday because my Husband's work schedule. Sundays we are always camping or out doing something fun, but if she were in school, we wouldn't be able to camp Sunday nights and honestly, she would probably have to be in bed by 8 or 9 which means we couldn't stay out late at the playground or with friends like we enjoy doing regularly. Sometimes we get home at midnight because we have just had a bonfire with some friends and their children. Some days we like to stay at the park until they kick us out. That's okay because there are no real time constraints. Freedom, like I said, freedom to truly experience life without all the hurrying that people do. 
  • Reason #5: Call me selfish, and many do, but I gave birth to my child and I want to raise her...100%. I don't want another person, her teacher, instilling their values in her. I do not want them telling her what to do or disciplining her because I am not there. I do not want a school dictating what she learns, how she learns it, and when she learns it. And I do not want them dictating our lives outside of school, which many schools attempt to do. I want to see her face light up when she finally gets something. I want to hear the joy in her voice when she talks about all the gardening and composting we have been doing the last few weeks. I want to feel the happiness she feels-with her-when she gets her drawings of dogs just right, to her liking. And it goes the other way, she wants me to be there for her 100%. To learn with her, be excited with her, be the person who gives her feedback, and walks beside her down the path she wants to go. Why would I deny my child that sense of love and security when it is so possible to attain? 
  • Reason #6: Religion. Go ahead and tell me...They have Christian private schools. But first, two things: If I am going to slave away at some job and spend my whole paycheck on tuition, why not just teach her myself? And two, we view religion in a non traditional way. I want her to ask questions. I want her to interpret the Bible For. Her. Self. I want her to connect with nature on a level that I never knew growing up, because this is the World God entrusted us with, and we need to know more about it than we do. How many schools are going to teach her to do that? 
  • Reason #7: Lastly, all that being said, schools just cannot provide us with what we need for our family, and I am not willing to sacrifice any of it when I can have it all. 
This is just a short list I have compiled, but there are many, many more (also briefly referenced in the Socialization section.). 

FAQs About Unschooling:

More often than questions about homeschooling itself, I get asked question about our style of homeschooling, unschooling. Here are a few questions we are commonly asked.

What is unschooling?:

Simply put, unschooling is a practice in which you throw out everything that doesn't work and use what does. Many times that means throwing out the textbooks and worksheets and getting down and dirty digging in the dirt for "ancient artifacts" or even spending the afternoon on the couch reading an entire chapter book about Clara Barton-together. Unschooling means allowing your child to lead so that they will love what they are learning, remember what they are learning, and pick up all the skills they need to continue learning as they grow. (This includes reading, researching, and making connections-things they spend many years teaching in schools, things that don't really need to be TAUGHT at all.)

Is it legal?

Of course it is! Georgia's state laws do not require a particular curriculum or style, just a requirement to cover the core subjects, which we do in a non formal way. We read books (reading), play computer games (math and reading), go to museums (history and science), parks (science), and do a variety of studies, experiments, and activities.

How do you know your child will learn everything they need to learn?

I don't. Because I don't know everything she will need to know as an adult. Most of us don't exit school knowing all we need to know for the future. We really only retain the basics. And the rest we learn as we go. Learning is a whole life venture, and we should learn what we want to learn so that we are enjoying ourselves and when it comes to something we need to learn, we will know how to learn it. As a child, I never learned to cook or garden in school or even at home. But now that I am a Mom who is interested in organic foods and health, I have had to set out and learn things on my own in my own time and in my own way. On a related note, Most of the things we learn in school are completely unecessary. When was the last time that you had to use your knowledge of prepositions that you went over in school...every...single...year? And say you have used that knowledge regularly, for your job, couldn't it be something that you learn later on, just like other job skills? Or how about your knowledge of the French and Indian War? Do you even remember all the details from those two paragraphs that your textbook had about it? Not everybody needs to know the same thing. So why attempt to group us all together under one curriculum? Each individual will need different skills for the future they choose. We can't possibly teach it all in schools. So why not just teach them how to obtain the information they need?

Why let your child choose what they learn? They won't learn if they don't have to. They would just watch TV and eat junk.

Ah. This is typical of people who have children who are formally schooled-in one way or the other-to say. "Children are not to be trusted." Well, that's because we take away their ability to make decisions. And we take away their love for learning. At the point where children have been told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, what to learn, and when to learn it for so long, they begin to need to be told. And they lose the motivation to do anything beyond what they are told.
Children learn from their parents. A typical child who sees their parent reading regularly for enjoyment will grow up receiving the message that reading is something we do for enjoyment. A child who sees a parent watching TV for 8 hours a day receives the message that watching TV is what we do all day. Children learn from what we do, not what we say. If we teach out children TRUE learning is fun. Children will KNOW learning is fun.
Here is a thought. Given a supportive, loving environment, children learn all they need to know before school age without or with minimal assistance. They learn to walk, talk, and sometimes sing their ABCs or even read. Until the last few years, preschools were seen as unnecessary. Children were simply allowed to play...until age 5 when they go to school...until age 18...Then after age 18 we leave them on their own to decide what they want to do in life. They need to learn what is necessesary for their career of choice, weather it be in the medical profession, technical profession, a skilled trade, or even a stay at home mom. They learn to be married, have children, travel, whatever it is they want to do, but they learn it by choice and they find the resources or they learn on their own. What happens between the ages of 5 and 18 that makes us not trust children to learn what they need to learn?

Why don't you FORCE your child to learn?

It's simple, you can't force ANYBODY to learn. If they don't want to learn, they won't. Many adults remember as a child memorizing those History facts for the test just long enough to regurgitate it on the paper so that they could get an A and make the parents and their teachers happy. So why fight and chance extinguishing that natural, fiery passion for learning when we can just wait until the child is ready and willing?

The "S" Word:

Much to most peoples' surprise, we homeschool FOR the socialization.

Socialization is defined as "the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society." Socialization is NOT the ability to conform, but the ability to interact and live in a world with a variety of different people from different cultures, with different ethnic backgrounds, with different belief systems, and different personalities. What better way to learn to do that than to spend your days out in the community volunteering, seeing friends, going to farmers markets and fruit stands, and just meeting others in our community everywhere we go?
When we look at socialization, we have to decide if the situation is positive or negative? Some situations that would be considered positive would be visiting with relatives and discussing the past, playing pretend at the playground with a friend, discussing with a local farmer the details on processing a cow. Some negative situations would include dealing with bullies, peer pressure, and being placed, without choice, in a large setting where children really aren't allowed to be themselves. While it is true that our children need to know these things go on in our world, they do NOT need to deal with it at the young age that they do. Children need solid foundations on how to deal with things-in our family's case, in a Godly manner-rather than lashing out or even closing up as a result of situations they are not ready for.
How can this POSITIVE socialization be properly attained inside of schools where passing notes and talking are generally not allowed, recesses are slowly being taken out of schools to prepare for "testing," which does not allow interaction, children oftentimes have assigned seats in the lunchroom and are told to talk quietly, if at all, and the only other time that children are allowed to talk is during group activities, which are not always daily, and when they are in a group, they are discussing the assignment? In these cases, children are not learning about each other's differences or similarities. They are not discussing their interests or having a deep intellectual conversation. They are not being social at all. Children are not social until after school hours, when they have time. If we can make friends outside of artificial environments, which we can, what is the issue with homeschooling and socialization?
For our family being around others of both sexes and all ages is extremely important. I do not want my child only playing with other children her age, as that is not what she will encounter in the "real world." She can connect with babies through caring for them. She can connect with children her age through play, learning how to make rules, work together, being the leader, and be lead. She can connect with older children who care for her. She can connect with adults when she has a common interest, such as her love for the Civil War, and she can learn about it from the adult in a non intimidating manner.

Before you ask...

Yes, our child does volunteer regularly in her community. She helps speak out for the Unborn. She sorts donations, files folders, counts money, and babysits younger children at a local pregnancy center. While there she encounters and interacts with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Yes, our child does partake in extra curriculars. She is in Homeschool Gym Kids twice a week, and is part of a support group where she takes field trips, has social get togethers, parties, and other activities that schools do. (So she is not missing out on the fun.)

Yes, my child has friends. She sees her friends regularly, and when they get together they play pretend, play games, go outside, and talk-just like other kids.

Yes, my child can function on a daily basis. She can talk to adults and children alike. It may take her a few minutes to warm up, but that is a personality trait, not a "weird homeschooler trait."

No, my child is not awkward. She wasn't awkward before she turned "school" age and I stayed home with her and there is nothing awkward about her now she is older.

There is so much to say, but I assume by now that my point has been made, I tried to answer what I believe are the most common concerns others have in the most respectful way possible. I appreciate your concern for my family, as most people have what they believe to be legitimate fears. As I said before, if you have any further questions, I will gladly discuss them with you, and thank you for taking the time to read them. If you are interested or know anybody interested in homeschooling, I have listed some Resources below:


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Homeschool Mom's Newfound Confidence

This last year of homeschooling has really increased my confidence as a not only a Mom, but a homeschool Mom. I have spent the last year battling with our choice to unschool and wondering if the things I do are really right for us when society tells us they are so wrong. Looking back to last September, I can see a change in my confidence.

I don't know what it is, maybe a mixture of things. Having a support group is also for Moms, not just the kids. And it has been a tremendous source of encouragement. Talking to other Moms and seeing that they all do different things different way. That we all slack off at times or do too much other times. We are constantly trying to find balance. And the way things are done is always changing.

One of my closest friends I met in that group, and although I have only known her a year, she has become a spiritual mother to me. When I first met her, I could not believe that a 40 year old woman would want to hang out with a 21 year old. But I quickly learned homeschoolers don't care. ;) She has been a source of encouragement for me being a young Mom. She always talks up how amazing it is to have children very young, as God made our bodies able to reproduce and he chose to give us our children. She is the one who has encouraged me to talk to my Husband and let God lead the way on children. (Such a major stress off of me.) She is my source of encouragement in reading my Bible and understanding what God tells us. She has taught me ways to continually remind my child that God is the highest of all Kings and that she is a princess of the Almighty God. Samantha clings to those words. (Suzette has been such an amazing Christian influence on Samantha because she understands the true meaning of Trusting God.) She has encouraged me in my marriage, when we have problems, to just pray and ask God what he wants me to do. Because God has a plan, even when others may discourage. She recently gave me a women's devotional that she thought would help in times of need, and she is right. Such an amazing gift from a thoughtful woman. She is always teaching me knew recipes and about health. Giving me tips on homeschooling. All these words of wisdom and sources she has given me throughout the last year have really built me up. I just hope that I have been the friend to her that she has been to me. And maybe one day I will have the experience and wisdom to lead somebody. Side Note: A big plus is that all her 6 children have been a true blessing to Samantha. She gets along with all of them, from ages 1 to 13. Yes, I know most people view the age thing as a little weird, but homeschoolers are different. They generally don't grow up as fast. But don't get me on that rant. Anyway, Samantha has found out so much about herself through playing with her friends and receiving encouragement from them, because they go through many of the same things.)

I believe the second thing that has caused such a change in me is experience. I am by no means a veteran homeschooler who has put 3 kids through highschool and 2 through middle. But we have known we wanted to homeschool since S was 2, and I have been putting my all into it ever since. Researching, trying different teaching methods, talking to other people, going to seminars and fairs. And I believe now that we have experienced homeschooling in  a more official way, a less lonely way, we are more confident. We have experienced it in a way where we join groups, but not to many. A way where we get involved in our community and meet others. We have learned through many different styles. We are registered with the school. We have to do the paperwork and follow the "rules" like good Boys and Girls, but it has been so much more a Blessing than a pain. I feel like we know what we are doing. I don't have to constantly worry about how we do things, because I can see now that we are all truly different. My child has grown SO Much over the last year, academically, spiritually, and emotionally, and I have homeschool to thank for that. I no longer question myself day and night. I no longer am embarrassed to tell somebody, "She is a bit behind in memorizing her math facts. Her brain just isn't ready, and I won't force it until it is easy on her. But she is one heck of an artist!" You should see the looks I get when I compare the importance of art, her passion, to Math. And I say, "Yes, art is just as important as math, if not more important, because art is her passion." The wide eyes....Oh my. But that's okay. We all view education differently. I just know now that just because somebody views it differently than me does not make me wrong. It does not mean my child will fail. It means I am a Mom doing what I know is best for MY child, and nothing will change that. Not a stranger who tells me that I need to be more formal in my teaching. Not a friend who tells me my kid should go to school. Not even a fellow homeschooler who tells me that I MUST use the newest curriculum. No. I will follow HER lead. And keep my head held high as I try to change the world one person at a time.

Update: Preparing for my new position as Secretary on the Board. Should be an interedting new experience. I am meeting with last year's Secretary next week. And I  have a board meeting in July. Then I will be settled into my new position! Samantha also has a yearbook signing party tomorrow. Yearbooks are in. Yay! She can't wait to see what all the fuss in about. Ha. Homeschool goes year round. But that's okay. I like it that way.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Just wanted to take a moment and brag on myself. :) I feel really good right now. The last few years our diet has been changing from just eating "healthy", to "natural," then organic, scratch, local....mostly whole foods. In our house the way we eat is important. It can improve your quality of life tremendously. I can't describe the changes in health we have had just over the last few years. To name a few, we dropped some of the unhealthy weight. We don't feel sluggish or have stomach aches as often as we used to. People comment on how shiny our hair is. How smooth our skin feels. How healthy we look in general. If you choose carefully, food can stop allergies, take the edge off menstral cramps, or even heal diseases. Food is essentially medicine. And I want my daughter to know that and also know how to self sustain. Gardening can save more money than clipping coupons, and you have enough left over to give away! What better way to teach my daughter the importance of eating healthy and sustaining ourselves than to learn how to garden? I ordered seeds last Fall and spent all Summer planning how to execute my new organic garden! As soon as the calendar said I could, I began planting. Nothing....So I tried again. Nothing. I eventually ended up with a tiny, itty bitty sprout on a few things, but it quickly withered away. I was ready to give up. A friend of my Husband's took pity on me and sent him home with organic some plants he had already started. Sweet guy. But they mostly died aside from the peppers. *Sighs* I went ahead and transplanted the peppers into my upside down containers and planted my seed potatoes in burlap sacks, but didn't expect anything. While I was at it, I wrapped she seeds in paper towels and waited for them to sprout. Low and behold, THEY DID! I was patient and waited a few days to plant them in pots. And before I knew it, they had grown 3". Alongside my potatoes who had grown a whole foot! So not only do I have Peppers. I have potatoes. I have green bean bushes, bean bushes, and basil! Not bad for my first time!!!! (Parsley and tomatoes were the only thing I couldn't get to grow. They kept withering away. We are saving things like pumpkins and watermelons and fruit trees for when I get better at gardening.) Each morning we go out and care for them, water them if it hasn't rained. We pinch off the yellow leaves and any early flowering. We make sure it is all growing well and healthy, and so far, so good. I'm very proud of myself for sticking to it and making it so far! Can't wait to see what we will have to eat. Hubby and I have worked on storage in the attic this winter. And S and I began a compost so I can do a raised bed next Spring. That way we can grow onions, lettuce, and carrots. We have both learned so much just from the few things we have grown. One of these days we'll be experts.

Potato Plants and Bean Bushes

Flowering Potatoes

Bean and Green Bean Bushes

Pepper Plant

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wouldn't Trade the World

On our way to the camp site yesterday my Husband and I had a little heart to heart about his thoughts on staying home. Although he wants me home and couldn't live without me staying home, he says  "It isn't stressful. It's pure freedom. Bliss. The perfect life. No responsibilities. Doesnt compare to working as far as stress goes." That hurt. (Was just discussing this the other day with a fellow homeschool Mom.) Men think staying home is the easy way out. They think we are slacking off if the laundry is behind one load. Or dinner is done at 5:15 instead if 5:00. That think they could run the roost better than we do. My Hubby complains sometimes because we eat the same meals every month. ONCE A MONTH! (I have tried to explain to him how many people eat the same meals every WEEK.) He complains that I don't do the laundry all in the same day instead of 1-2 loads today. (My friend and I got a good laugh out if that!)

How do you make a man understand that it is impossible to clean and fold laundry in one day unless that is all I do. But I still have to juggle laundry, cleaning, homeschooling, taking care of him, the kid, and dogs, volunteering, being involved in the community heavily, and other household duties such as paying the bills, meal planning, and grocery shopping. Whew! If you stay at home the RIGHT way, it's a lot. And it CAN be stressful. And you won't ALWAYS be 100%. Jist like people arent always 100% at work. Some days you are sick. Some weeks are filled with play dates, homeschooled events, library trips, and lots of preparation for Bible Study. Some weeks the laundry gets done...last minute. There may be a load that sits in the drier a day or two. And OCASSIONALLY dinner may be "fend for yourself." But most days everybody is up, dressed, fed, happy, and taught. The house is clean. The laundry is folded on time. And dinner is done by five. Organic. Homemade. Whole food. Complete with a meat and two sides. Because that is my passion. Caring for my house and my family and others in my community. I thirst for the kinds of relationships the community brings. And I hunger to show my daughter that way of life. It's a LOT of work. And it IS stressful.

I always ask myself, "Is she learning enough?" "I think I should sweep the floors again." "Has she seen her friends enough this week?" "Is dinner good enough, healthy enough?' "Has she learned a lot about God this week?" "Have I been a good influence? The type of Mom I strive to be."

As much as I sound like I'm complaining, I enjoy what I do. Just like my Husband enjoys what he does. And that takes a lot of the BAD stress out of it.

There are SO many positives. Let me start with the big one. TIME. I'm juggling the house and its duties, but that's it. My main focus is my family (house). I have time to play Legos. Relax and take a nature walk. Read books with her for hours on end, even if it means starting dinner a little late. And that all goes with....Homeschooling! Another big plus! My job centers around going to the library to find exciting new books and feed her love of learning. Going on field trips to the News Station, a Butterfly Garden, or Museum. Playing board games that teach counting money or reading maps. But the best part of my job-BY FAR-is the weekends. My Husband gets Sunday/Monday off and since S is not in school, we are free to do what we want, on the weekdays, when nobody is out. We have been camping a lot lately. Sunday nights to Monday. The swimming holes are free and clear to teach her to swim. We can explore the entire day on clear trails. And the first come, first serve deep woods campsites are never filled on Sunday nights. Not to mention, my Hubby can take vaca whenever and we are free to go. No working around 3 schedules!!!

So yes. I love my job. But. It is stressful. It is WORK. But it is worth it. To hear my daughter read her first words. To see her face light up when we explore her favorite things. To support her love of learning in a nonconventional way. To have time to prepare an extravagant dinner every night. To be there when my Husband gets off work. And have time to prepare his breakfast.  I have the best job in the entire work-for me. I wake up in the mornings and can't wait for ANOTHER day of caring for others. But don't tell me it isn't work, because taking on all aspects of a child's life and future and caring for other people 24/7/365 is a HUGE responsibility. And nobody will ever convince me otherwise.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

I'm Okay With It

I keep thinking more and more about Samantha getting older. (Party planning, I believe does that to the best of us.) I thought this year might bother me more than most. It seems to bother everyone else. I hear a lot of sadness because it isn't their first year of "school. They are starting to be more aware. They are reaching the age of reason...And then I found that I was actually excited for another year older. I usually am. I try to think about what is to come rather than what we will be leaving behind. But then I began thinking, like I should never do. And I realized...

Gone are the days of rocking a Lavendar scented baby to sleep. Gone are the days of learning to speak. Gone are the days of 2 year old tea parties. And gone are the days of Curious Buddies. Gone are the days of sensory paintings and baby fat. Gone are the days of her "first time in dance." Gone are the days of a 1, 2, 3, and 4 year old. And soon gone will be the days of a 5 year old.

It isn't her getting older per se, that makes me sad. It is the thought of, "How much longer will she lay on the trampoline and read books with me or run around as fast as she can to catch those little lightening bugs? How much longer will she let me hold her until she falls asleep? How much longer will she kiss me on the lips or run up to me in front of her friends and say, "I Love You!" I realize that keeping her young while she is still young will prolong it. Luckily she doesn't have that, "You are embarrassing me." response yet. And she still wants to cuddle and look at the starts. But for how long?

I have prayed and prayed to have a close relationship with my only living child. I can't imagine being closer to her. When something is wrong, she will sit in my lap and cry for as long as she needs to cry. If she is excited, I am the first to know. She wants me to be close to all her friends. And she wants me to partake in all of her interests. I am her rock. I am her critic for her art work. I am her partner in exploration-when B isn't here of course. I am her Mom. And I pray that even as she reaches her teenage years, though they will be rocky, I pray that we will stay close.

I don't believe that is just wishful thinking. I don't know any homeschool Moms in our community that have major relationship problems with their teens. not that there are none that don't. I don't believe that is only possible in homeschooling. (It can go both ways.) I just believe that some of the characteristics of homeschooling make things easier. In some forms of homeschooling, the fight for freedom is not as big a deal. The struggle for time isn't. And largely, I believe it depends on the Mother also. I know that no matter how angry I got with my Mom as a teenager, had she asked me to go outside with her and read a book or look at the starts, I would have done it. I was hungry for that attention, and I can't help but wonder, "What if we, as parents, are pushing our kids away sooner and sooner in anticipation of "the teen years," trying to lessen the pain, and in all reality, we are the ones causing it?" Something for me to think on, but I have another 8 years, so that will give me some time. I wonder what 6 will bring. I am sure it will allow for rocking to sleep and kisses on the lips, even if they aren't in front of her friends. I am excited for deeper conversations, which have already begun. And also for her confidence to grow. She is no longer the new kid in gym or "first year in homeschool" or "just learning to reading." She is well on her road into all of these things, and I think that will bring a new found confidence in her along with many changes in her personality. We will see.

Side Note: I just hope she always keeps her love for art. She is so good at it. She took a break for awhile. I believe she was feeling discouraged in whatever new skills she was trying. I felt myself being pulled to tell her what I thought of her art, in all honesty. So I sat down next to her first thing in the morning last week and I told her about how proud I was. How beautiful and meaningful her drawings are. And how much work I can tell she has put into her art. I've said it all the time, but maybe she never heard me before then. Her eyes filled with tears and she went directly to work on a new Nature Piece. I can tell art is one of her passions, everything about it. Maybe she was feeling discouraged, and that was all she needed to hear, because she hasn't put down her pencil since.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Reading Program:Why We Don't Do It

Summer brings a plethora of activities meant to keep children busy and/or learning during the Summer. This can be good and bad. Schedules are packed to the brim in order to make the best of the weeks off of school. And many children are offered incentives to continue to learn on top of other activities Summer brings. I get strange looks from parents when I say that we do not force our daughter to go to camp, and that we don't always take advantages of Summer opportunities, especially Summer reading, and here is why.

1. Summer reading is a system where children are rewarded for the number of books they can read by the end of the break. They are promised tickets to a Braves game or a Certificate or maybe a free coupon for pizza. Some kind of reward, for the number of books that they can "read" throughout the Summer. The problem with this is, I do not want my child learning that reading is a "job" that is to be rewarded. I don't want her receiving the message that reading is something that we don't do for pleasure, rather something we have to do, so we must provide a reason for someone to want to do it.

2. When your goal is to read 50 books at the end of 10 weeks, you may reach that, but are you really comprehending what you read? For older children at our library, the goal is 25 or more chapter books for the second category. And 50 or more for the first. Chapter books? That's 2-1/2 to 5 per week. I'll admit, there are some ferocious speed readers out there, but far to many kids are not.

3. My third reason is I would rather my child spend her Summer days lounging about on the trampoline or exploring the woods for an unknown species of spiders, or drawing a map to where there could possibly be dinosaur fossils in the backyard than worrying about "work." Winter is for reading. Don't get me wrong, we still do lots of reading in the Summer, at nightfall when we sit on the trampoline and watch fireflies pass fly all around us. Or even on a rainy day. And we still take plenty of trips to the library, providing numerous opportunities to check out 50 books or more on whatever the topic of interest may be. (This time it was Gymnastics, Backpacking, and Pirates.) But I am less concerned with their ability to speed read the books than her excitement about exploring each page, look at each picture, and take in everything they read.

Many people believe that we are denying our child some of the "simple joys" of childhood, but in fact, we are just providing her different joys. S has no interest in the Summer Program because it is never something that was made a big deal to her, and as she herself states, "I'd rather read E.B. White books, but I can't read those fast."

During Summer we still have lots of childhood fun. We camp and learn about nature. We go to the beach and learn how to swim and build giant sand castles. We explore outside together with just a pair of binoculars or maybe a magnifying glass. We lay inside when it is raining and draw pictures or research something new. How It's Made is one of our favorites. Sometimes we may even go out in the rain in jump in giant puddles, a childhood classic. Our Summers are packed to, just in a very different way. :)