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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014-2015 UN School Year

Just lots of rambling today. Woke up early. No rants, however. :) This was written over a period of 3 days, so it is kind of everywhere.

This week I attended a local curriculum fair, as I do every year. But this year I went with SIL on Friday and attended a seminar there on essential oils with Suzette Saturday. Whereas I usually go alone.

I have so much to think about. We shopped around at several booths. I found a good deal on some Brain Games, origami paper (for strewing), a color wheel, etc. Just the sort of stuff you don't often run across on a trip to WalMart. Being that I wasn't looking for curriculum however, I made it a point to stop by the booths with unconventional topics such as the essential oils booth-lots of educating was done there, a booth about American Heritage Girls (a Christian Alternative to Girl Scouts), a "private/umbrella school" booth, which I will explain later, a Christian Healthcare Alternative Booth, which is a good thought, something to strongly consider, and several others.Gosh, there are so many fun activities and information being handed out of the fair. I successfully isolated my choices to focus on just a few, but how can you not just want to do it all?!

My two main considerations as connected to homeschool this year are: 1. Whether Samantha can join AHG. (She wants to!) and 2. Should we join the umbrella school?

I believe we will allow her to join AHG. She will benefit greatly from it. This I know. (We already filled out the paperwork.) It will only cost $100 for the year. (Next year will be less because there will be no need to purchase a uniform or book.) But they do everything from rock climbing and camping to cooking and fashion. I think it might really spark her interest in some things and be a great, less formal, group environment for S. She will stay in semi-private gymnastics as long as we can work out a time. My only real concern is spreading ourselves too thin. I already cut back to working from home twice a month for the Center. We go in every other week. And I only do nights on the weeks we have the Study, 16 weeks a year. As well as working from home in the Summer. However, I do go in any time they have a girl they need me to talk to. (TRYING to stay "all in" to this ministry and not put it on the back burner while homeschooling, but it can be hard.) I will be on the Board with CHEA this year, which is quite a job along with keeping up with all of Samantha's other CHEA outings. And then with gym and AHG for her, well, it is a lot. I don't see how people do it with multiple children. Very nervous about this, but I think it will be quite an adventure for her and I think the schedules will work out just fine....I hope. (Update: I recently found out it is a troupe for homeschoolers, so the times seem to work out perfect. Activities with Mom are in the day. Activities with Dad are after 7 so Dads who get off late can attend also!) I dread being one of those families always on the run, especially at night when Daddy is at home! I recently realized I really need to be there for him more. It works for some, but we enjoy our sit down time after all is calm and the day is ending. We have dinner together, talk, lounge on the couch, then eventually pass out all cuddled up. 3 Humans, 2 Dogs, and 2 Cats. Now that is the life!

Edit: I talked to the troupe leader yesterday and she told me some more details. Samantha will be a Tender Heart. They will do 6 units this year. 1. Living in the USA 2. Home Care and Repair-perfect since she is getting old enough to help with home projects 3. Crafts-self explanatory, hoping they will be more willing to allow creativity since they aren't so rigidly structured, but she always has the option to opt out. 4. Outdoor Skills-Uh, like, HER FAV! 5. My Style-This will be, I think, the one that is the most fun for her. The girls will get to design fashions, do hair and make up, and put on a fashion show for their parents!!! and 6. Young Meteorologist. Each unit contains a Christian message such as modesty for the fashion show, building a relationship with God through nature, etc. They make sure that they know WHY they are doing what they are doing and how we use it for God. I thought that was PERFECT! We are definitely allowing her to do it. (Update: Hold your horses, we have budgeted to put the money back, but we will see how the meeting goes. I am still a little nervous.) She is extremely excited. I just can't begin to explain the richness this will add to her life. (Side Note: The girls can put any badge they want on the back of their vest-because it is extra room. They just have to earn it at home. Samantha already has some state park badges they said she can put on there. And she picked out some others she wants to earn, like the sewing badge she saw online. The lady I spoke with at the fair said it is so neat to see the badges that each girl decides to earn at home because you can really see their personality shining through on the back of their vest, and I can already see that is so true!) What a perfect group for us! She will be in an environment where she can see WHY she is doing things FOR God. She will always have the option to do or not do something. Creativity is running rampant. And they always encourage families to participate, so it will all be family centered. (Also, one thing I like is that they do a lot of activities with the Trail Side boys-their version of the Boy Scouts, which this all came along when the whole morality issues arose with Girl/Boy Scouts popped up, but anyway, it makes me happy that she won't be completely separated by age and sex all the time.) I can't wait to meet some more homeschool families and see Samantha make new friends! This year will be building upon last year. So many new possibilities.

I also found the umbrella private school intriguing. Georgia does not allow them. We would have to "move to TN." But the jist is once you join their "school," you become a satellite campus. They allow their "satellite campuses" to choose their own "curriculum," or in our case write out a goals report with a few sentences on how we expect to achieve that goal. It does NOT require approval. Just for records. (I do this anyway for my records.) And at that point we are no longer accountable by the School Board. No questioning. No standardized testing! Nothing. They will keep our records and she will graduate through them. (Although, we may not take that route in high school.) Either way, free of the pressure to test her and free from the state's laws, I believe it would be of great benefit! It is $75.00 a year, so maybe in 3rd grade when they begin becoming more rigid.....Just some thoughts.

I am looking forward to the first board meeting of the year, this Monday. (Which is today. I wrote this Saturday night.) I have learned my position as Secretary so hopefully that goes well. I am looking forward to building some more of a relationship with some of the ladies of CHEA, and the opportunity for Samantha to see her CHEA friends more often and to see me being involved in her life...I submit her letter of intent soon and will complete her Progress Report and Goals Report. My! There is so much to add!

Update: The Board meeting went well. It was  lot of activity to keep up with, being that it was the beginning of the year and we had to have the meeting indoors because of the rain. But it was nice getting together with everyone and bouncing ideas off each other. I typed the Minutes the night of. Waiting on approval for my first draft. There are lots of things we have planned this year, including maybe a trip caving, which Samantha has been dying to do with Jessie. I can't believe we are going on our second yea of "official homeschooling." Where does time go?

Samantha is looking forward to Homeschool Day at McKay, the End of Summer Pool Party and Not Back to School Picnic. Gymnastics starting back. AHG starting...All this coming up right around the corner...

Once my brother goes back to school we are going on vacation...I am sure she will learn a lot while we are there. When we get back home we will continue doing some of the things that slowed down or went on pause while I had him. She is really into her art still...no slowing down there. She still takes hours in the day to loom things, Creeper keychains for Daddy. Bracelets for friends. Drawing is what she does in all her spare time. And of course sewing which has really picked up now that we know how to use the machine. And then the two things that slowed down, the Civil War Study and How Things Work, we will pick back up. I plan to start back with our Clara Barton book and a trip to the local Old Stone Church, which was a military hospital. I'd also like to think of a big something to do for How Things Work.

My. Things have changed. This year we all know what to expect. This year we are not new. S has friends. I have friends. And to think last year we were both so on edge. This year we have our rhythm down. I feel confident in unschooling. And S is enjoying living and learning through life!

Thursday, July 17, 2014


One thing about unschooling that you must learn if you plan to unschool is: There is VALUE in EVERYTHING. Everything. Now, as children, most of us were taught that we must learn certain things in a certain way and if we didn't, we were not learning. In fact, more often than not, if it was something of true interest to us, it was "not learning." And if it was, it was not as important enough to warrant putting off "other learning" until we have satisfied ourselves in our search. However, that simply is not true.

When I explain to somebody what unschooling is, I generally get the reply,"Um. So basically we unschool too" Then, this is what trips me up..."AND my kid goes to school, so that means they are twice as smart?" Well, yes and no. Yes, everybody can unschool. No. I don't think that makes your kids or my kid smarter. Personally, for my child, I believe that the extensive amount of time she is allowed in order to pursue and deal with the five items listed below, is of great benefit to her and her personal growth. So yes, unschooling-in part-is just living life and constantly helping a child to look up answers to their questions, facilitating their interests, etc. But the amount of time a child has to do these things and the amount of time a parent is willing to give to be there and support these things, which takes patience...My, oh my, does it take patience....the more a child will benefit from the unschooling lifestyle.

There are five areas that I would like to address, a few of them which are not even in the slightest considered learning to most.

Personal Interests-This should be a given. I preach it all the time. Personal interests lead to real, intense, meaningful learning. When a child studies something that is of value to them, they will receive more out of it. When a child's interest in art, fashion, airplane models, animals, government, etc is allowed to blossom to the FULLEST extent possible, that is when they really flourish. There is no begging a child to explore their interests like you would possibly have to beg them to do their reading worksheet. In fact, more often than not you have to peel them away from what they are doing to eat or maybe to attend a social event. (Of course that is where being careful not to overschedule comes in, at least for our family.) My S has recently taken an interest in all aspects of art. She could sew for 10 hours a day if she wanted to. When designing clothes, she generally starts out on a designing website, gets some ideas and generating drafts. Then she will sketch and write out notes. Maybe watch some videos. After all that she will begin to draw and cut. This teaches her patience, patterns, symmetry, measuring, art, perseverance, reading and writing, technology, home economics...I could go on. Not to mention what she get from the item she made, weather it is caring for others by giving things you make away. (She aspires to make her own fashions and donate them to people without clothing.) It could be a doll she made that she plays pretend with-lots of value. And all this from a "lazy, uneducational day" of sewing. But....I digress.

Questions-As I mentioned earlier, questions are an important part of unschooling and the main way that young children learn, along with exploring. Most all adults would agree that we understand that children have lots of questions and they can learn very much from having them answered, but are we answering those questions? That is where the patience comes in. Hearing all the "whys" and "hows" can be enough to drive you mad after just one day. We may decide to tune out or we may turn on auto pilot and say, "I don't know." more often than we say, "Let's look it up." or "Well, from what I have learned about _____, I believe the answer is _____" Er, maybe not so robotic, but you get the picture. I keep a running list in S's track book (records I need to keep for the state just in case.) of questions she has asked and discussions that we have. This week so far we have talked about cats and dogs, what a secretary is, what a certification is, grain fed vs. grass fed,  colloidal silver, how computers work-as well as seeing the inside components of one and helping to put it together, how to use a Dictionary, instrumental music, and perspective....I could go on but that is just the things I have remembered to write down in the last 3 days. (Our weeks start on Tuesday.) The point is, we are really missing out when we are not answering our children's questions to the best of our abilities, or at the very least assisting them in looking it up. Children are not only opening up opportunities for discussion that leads to learning, but when we have these conversations we are practicing for more serious conversations as our children grow. "Mom, why do people do drugs?" was a recent question S asked me. We had a discussion about it and I hope that my lack of reluctance to discuss it will lead to her confidence in the fact that she can discuss anything with me as she gets older. I want to keep those questions coming! What a day it will be when you can have a deep philosophical conversation with your child. The learning, the connection...It all gives me goose bumps to think about. But we must carry on before I get carried away...

Free Play-Free play can be one of those things that parents struggle with. I know I have! Aren't they too old to play ALL DAY? What are they really learning? Most of us see the value in playing when a child is very young and they are playing pretend or when an older child has turned their play into  an "academically related hobby," such as playing with army men, leading to an interest in the military and reenacting famous battles.
But what about when they are outside playing with friends? If you have spent a lot of time observing your child's play, even if it is just through the window, you know that when children play together they are learning to work as a team. They are learning to make their own rules because adults aren't there to make them for them. Children get creative. There is nobody there to tell them the guidelines of the game or what to play, so how about we adjust them to each player, be it on ability or age, or whatever. Children are making compromises. Children are learning how to make each other happy, how to settle arguments, take care of younger children in the group and how to keep up with the older ones. They are learning skills from each other. They are being children and learning through life's experiences, which is what they are best at.
What about when they are playing the same toys over and over? Littlest Pet Shoppes are high on S's list. But honestly, what good can come from that? I used to roll my eyes when she would drag out the big box of pets instead of her globe or tangrams. But as I listened to her play, I realized that she is learning. She is saying things along the lines of, *in a high pitched, British dog voice* "Well, if we need 5 dogs, but I only have 2, I need 3 more! So which dogs to choose?" And the storytelling alone, let us not forget that! All writers start out telling elaborate stories! And not only is she practicing those academic sorts of things, but she is learning problem solving. What do you do when the cat steals the cookies from the cookie jar? Do the dogs eat her, throw her out of the house, sit down and talk to her? What is the outcome? There are so many more benefits to free play that you can find just by a Google search. Or, there are several books on children's play including two that I recommend, Free to Learn and Children's Play.

Building Sand Castles-It is the little things in life that matter. Building sand castles is one of those things. Watching grass grow is just one other. In order to successfully unschool we must see the significance in these things too. Even the "menial" things like taking one of those plastic poppers and popping it over and over are things that have value to children. And when something has value to a child that means it is adding something to his or her life. Children will do things until they are satisfied they have had enough, and who are we to tell them when they have had enough? S will sit for hours just humming. I always wonder, "What is she getting from that? Should I tell her to go find something to do? What is she benefiting so much from it that she will sit and do it for hours?" Must be something, even if I don't see it. Maybe she needs it to calm herself. Maybe she enjoys music just that much. Maybe she is getting ideas for a symphony. ;) Of course, then again, maybe not....Could just be boredom....

Boredom-This is a big one. S has recently been dealing with this. It is Summertime and there are no twice weekly trips to gym or other "organized CHEA activities." So she must learn to fill her time with other things. I remember as a child I got bored a lot...a lot, especially as I got older and "playing" wasn't exactly my forte. But when I was bored I learned to occupy myself. I learned that I don't need others to keep me occupied. I got creative. I would make things. I would re-arrange my room or go through my photos and make a collage. I developed interests in things like politics and the works of Poe and Shakespeare. (Unfortunately my interest waned after awhile, as I had not developed the intellectual patience or understanding to delve deeply enough to understand those things.) I also had a book called "Amelia's Boredom Survival Guide." This book gave me many ideas, even silly ideas. Even though I was getting ideas from somewhere else, I was tweaking them to make other activities. I was finding that there are things to do and each of those things held value for me, even if they didn't for somebody else. Boredom is also a good sign because it means that children have down time which is an important chance for free play to take place, interests to be found, and creativity to flourish. And most important of all, it gives children the chance to build sand castles....for hours.

I understand that this may not be what some people are looking for. Maybe some people want to hear that children can learn all they need to know about the Three R's just through the things I listed. (Well, they can learn all they need to know, but not all of what the schools say they need to know. Generally, children will not learn about coordinate planes through their play, but there is a chance, and if they need it, they WILL learn it.) The way we must look at it is not only seeing the value IN everything, but the value OF everything. We must say, these things teach x, y, z. And also, x is just as important as z. X, being problem solving, z being reading. Everything has value. And everything we learn is valuable.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Just Rambling

Just a little rambling about our Summer. It has been a great Summer so far, the best yet.

Yesterday, for the 4th of July we were invited to a friend's house to have a cookout and do a few fireworks for the kids. They know how to do a cookout! Peanuts, hummus with tortillas fried in coconut oil, spinach and strawberry salad...(I just ate the strawberries), burgers....yum. And watermelon for dessert. We brought watermelon-Earth Fare had a huge sale on them so we brought a few. We talked, laughed, ate, all that good adult stuff while the kids played. I got my feet detoxed, which was nice. So gross to see everything that came out. And Samantha got to walk around the neighborhood with her friends. (She has never done that before, but I was glad she got a taste of the 70's. I hope she does a little more often.) It's the little things, okay? The kids got a little Chemistry lesson with the Snakes, typical homeschoolers. And then we shot off the night time fireworks. My Hubby and hers got along really well, like they have the last few times they got together. Of course, they are both into computers, so that was a good conversation sparker. It was a nice night. We plan to have them over for a movie night (projector screen outside) soon. We were out until 12:30-they are night owls too. Then we took my brother home and passed out. It is nice to have a few sets of couple friends to do things with, each one adds a little something to your life, and hopefully you can add a little something to theirs.

Speaking of friends and foot baths, Suzette has opened my eyes to a whole new world of health I never realized was there. As much as I like the idea of detoxing through foods I never knew you could do it in a foot bath! You wouldn't believe the stuff that comes out of you! But I don't have several hundred dollars to buy a footbath for regular use, so I found a homemade foot bath that many people swear works just the same! All it is is positive and negative charges being sent through your body. Just like a silver generator, which we also need, charges sent through rods. So as opposed to spending all that money on fancy machines, we are going to make our own homemade machines. I will post if all goes well!

This lazy Summer has sparked my interest in several things other than alternative health. S and I have been sewing like mad women! I rather enjoy doing it by hand and would really like to learn to use my small machine and make S some more clothes. (My most recent pillowcase dress turned oyt great!) This Summer had also been an experience in gardening for the both of us. We have little potatoes now and our pepper plants are flowering all over the place! It has brought my attention to the fact that organic doesn't always mean super healthy. Whole foods hold what we need. So we have been on a venture to get S to try new foods so we can change our diet to a more whole food approach. It has been more challenging for me than for her I think. I do not like fruits and only a few vegetables. I have been having to train myself to overcome textures. S has been great about it. She has tried peanuts, hummus, chick peas, oranges, and banana smoothie, which she loved all of those. Pineapples and blue berries, not as much. But that's okay. She tried them and that is what counts. We have had such success with this new approach we are taking. I'm very proud of her! I'm hoping we can replace ice cream nights with smoothie nights and special candy days with nuts or something. Of course I realize we need to enjoy ourselves and maybe junk it up once in awhile, but the less we do it, the better.

Well, better get to bed. We need to leave early tomorrow. Camping. We have been camping a lot this Summer, every other weekend, going different places from Alabama to Dahlonega and soon South Carolina. Samantha has had the chance to learn about wildlife and plants. She has seen waterfalls and heard sounds she has never heard before. She has helped to research backpacking products and knows what each one is for and how to use it. She enjoys our adventures and never can wait to see where we go next. It is a nice family activity, like a regular relaxing vacation. Totally worth the investment! Something I think we will all enjoy for year to come.

Will picture post soon.