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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The School Experiment

"Get up, Babygirl. You have to get up. You have school today. What do you want to wear?"

I never thought I would hear myself say those words! But that is okay because she wasn't really being enrolled in school. We were trying The School Experiment. I have a brother who is in school whose teacher wanted my help with a party they were having that day. (I tend to be on the school property more than any of the other children's parents, so naturally she nabbed me when she could.)

"Why don't we come for the whole day?" I recommended. "It couldn't hurt. I am sure you need some extra hands. I will help out and Samantha can see what Brennon does all day." "Would you? That would be great!"

I wanted S to see what school was like. I know, based on the way we live, and how much she enjoys her freedom, she wouldn't like it. But I wanted to satisfy any curiosities she had just in case so that she didn't have "that wonder" of what school is like.

The night before I packed our lunches and made sure we knew where her shoes were. (My little free spirit hardly ever knows where her shoes are.) We had her go to bed early that night. Then, in the morning I got her and Jessie ready in the same fashion I would were she in school. I prepared for a full day at the school myself, just as I would again, if she went to school. (I had planned before deciding to homeschool that I would volunteer several times a week wherever they needed me just to stay involved in her education.)

I must admit, it was nowhere near as torturous as I thought it would be. Getting up a little early was pretty easy. Samantha woke up smoothly too. Jessie was another story, so I ended up cooking him breakfast and making the bed last minute. I didn't get the chance to sweep before we went out the door. (That bugged me a little.) The traffic wasn't terrible, but we were 2 minutes late, because well, I can be late to anything even if I think I am going to be early. Obviously, we are not made for that schedule, but I don't think we did too shabby.

The teacher introduced us and told the students I would be helping out today. My brother has several children in his class this year that were in his class last year and even the year before. I have grown to really love some of these children and adore how different each one of them is. I was very excited to get started.

She had be begin by reading the kids a book about opposites and helping them with a color, cut, and paste  worksheet. (Samantha also participated.) Side Note: One thing I did NOT like: An hour later most of the class was finished with their worksheet. There were still a few working that had to put it in a "Catch Up" folder. At that point, S had already finished with the entire day's work and the teacher appointed her as class helper and commented that she must be so fast because she was in 2nd grade and did this work last year. To which S replied, "No Ma'am. I am unschooled. I don't do woeksheets. And my Mom never taught me opposites because I never asked smd she trusts I will learn them naturally. I just know them. And I know my numbers." (She had finished their math work also which went over the number 10...) (Somebody listens to their Mom talk too much because she knows all aboyt unschoolung and the hows and whys that we do it.) I looked at Samantha in one of the back desks. She looked upset, so I asked her what was going on. "I'm BOOOOOOOORED!" So The teacher offered to let her look through a basket called Early Finishers Work which was a collection of voluntary worksheets and some coloring pages. Samantha thanked her and pulled me aside to ask for a pen and paper instead. I gave her one. Later on I lead a craft activity, pulling children back to the table while the teacher worked on numbers some more. Side Note: Another thing I do not like about this common core is that teachers are required to tell children what standards they are covering and what they must know in order to pass. She said, "At the end of the semester, you must know the numbers 1-30. And at the end of the year, you must be able to count to 120 or you will fail." I am all about telling a child what to expect and even WHY you are covering certain content, but to put that stress on a child? Off my soapbox, anyway...S and I then worked with some students who had an IEP and some who had special needs, one little boy who I highly adore. Even though he wasn't what people would consider a "well behaved" child and he did have a few episodes, there was something about this boy I loved. I met a little girl who reminds me of S. She is extremely creative and she loves learning about space. I asked her about the things she knows and why she loves space so much. We discussed that for awhile. And then she told me about her family and the things she has been through. It was a good feeling, working with children, and learning about them. What they enjoy and what they don't. What they have been through and who they want to be when they get older. I thought it was such as shame, as I watched the teacher scurrying around the room here and there, trying to get Little Johnny to sit down and Little Cindy to stop wiggling her hands, that she was so busy doing all the things that teachers are required to do, that these children will pass through her class and she may never know who they are. It isn't her fault. She is a great teacher. One of the best I have ever met, but she has to do what she has to do. And that doesn't always make allowance for time to sit down with each child and become emotionally or physically involved in their life.

They had a small celrbration for Eroc Carle. Thry watched The Hingry Caterpillar and ate popscicles. The end of the day came and a few of the children were sad I was leaving and not coming back for a few weeks. But I was happy because I got to bring one student home-My Favorite....My brother. ;)

Out of the Mouth of Babes: Samantha's words in school (now that she has experienced it.)

"I thought school was okay. I don't want to go. It seems kind of boring. I already knew what she was teaching and they did too. And it was boring stuff. I do not like worksheets. I really enjoyed recess. I got to play with Ava and be free like I love to be! The party was good. I liked watching the Hungry Caterpillar and eating popsicles. I didn't like the way the teachers talked to students. How come they get yelled at for moving in the line or for asking a question about the book she is reading?" (She was referring to a little boy who asked how old Eric Carle was when he published his first book. The teacher cut him off for talking while she was talking-because she monopolized the conversation and didn't ask for questions. I thought that it was a great question. And it would have been glossed over had I not looked it up on my phone and answered it at the end of Rug Time. I can see how questions are easily forgot though, and have to keep reminding myself that I have little idea how it is to be a main teacher in a class setting for a long period of time. So I explained to S that a classroom is big and that is how they manage it. You can't allow everybody to talk at once or the story will never be finished. It is just something they cannot help, unfortunately, and one of the reasons I prefer homeschool.) She made a few other comments last night. Can't remember the exact wording. (I typed the former comment as she spoke.) But she basically thanked me for homeschooling her. Said unsvhooling made her feel free to do her arty or go outside whenever she wanted. She asked what our next unit activity was. ;) She told me that she enjoyed helping to work with the IEP students and wants to do it again, but not for the entire day. I think that it would be a great experience for her. How many children at age 5 can say that they volunteer at a school a few times a month helping to teach other children? And lastly, she told me that we would have to make sure to come before lunch at recess time and play with the other kids-if they didn't lose recess that day. (Which is apparently very common and something I do not like. A FB friend commented on this yesterday and said my exact thoughts. Why are the schools punishing children for "misbehaving" by taking away their ability to play when that is what they NEED to fix the problem. Yes, prepare for a rant here! Because I am about to go on one.)

When I say "misbehaving" I mean that children are wiggling. They are clapping their hands. They are talking. They are looking up at the ceiling. They. Are. Bored. They. Need. Play. They don't need to sit so long all day at such a young age and be taught to be robots. Children need play. And I keep hearing from people that, "Oh yes. I agree. Children learn best through play!" But then these people want to take their idea of play, which is adult-directed activities which have an educational purpose to them and force children to participate in the activity, weather they want to or not. Play, first of all, is a voluntary thing, not something children are forced to do. PLAY, is one of the only things children have control over these days, and adults are trying to take over that too! PLAY, is where children learn to make their own rules, not be told the rules. It is where they learn to cooperate with each other, not be told by an adult how to resolve an issue, "Matthew. Say you are sorry and go move your clip down." "Sorry!" "Okay. That is better." What if he doesn't mean he is sorry? Huh? As adults, we do things wrong and we don't say sorry unless we want to. Apparently being forced to apologize and moving our clip down didn't teach us our lesson 20 years later. PLAY, is where children learn by soaking it up, not because there is an ulterior motive. Play is the one thing children do JUST BECAUSE. And I will be the first to admit I have had this obsession with "Is she learning?" So when my child plays I have been known to list things in my head that I think she is learning. But I still step back, and I allow it to happen, because children have been learning through play for years, even before school was invented. Children may not have been able to diagram a sentence or list their prepositions, but they knew how to live off the land. They knew how to heal themselves when they were sick-without having to run to CVS for some poison medication. They were close to their families. And by God they didn't need their parents to tell them how to do everything. Which is more important? Functioning on your own in life or being able to diagram a sentence but needing somebody else to tell you what to do every step of the way? I don't want a school or anywhere else for that matter micromanaging my child's life-and when you take away the one thing they have left-play-you are taking away their ONLY pure freedom. So then how do they learn all the importsnt life skills they need? That is why I give my child choices, lots of choices! She needs to learn how to make choices. She needs to know how to make small ones. ..What will I wear today? And she needs to learn to make big ones, "What should I do with my life?" These choices allow children control over their own lives which translates into less need for rebellion. It doesn't mean S trumps me. It means she has choices over most of HER life. There are certain things she can't do like stay home alone or play in the road-although she has always been smart enough not to. These things are illegal and dangerous. So within the limits of the law she has most freedoms, just like me. We have discussed some other things together and comes to a good compromise. TV. I oppose television. I loathe it. She wants to watch 30 minutes a day. Okay. Fine. 30 minutes. BUT Please do it after dark. That way the day is winding down anyway. Deal? It's a deal. S never argues about it. Although she occasionally asks for a movie and does not argue my answer. (Usually no on weekdays. Yes on weekends.). Children need play. Children need choices. Period. No excuses. Without play our future generations will lack the skills they need. That is not making up excuses or giving children a reason to be below average. That's the truth. Play+Chioces=Happy Successful Lives (And by successful I don't mean they have to go to college and work in an office. Only if they want to. But that rant is for another day. Perhaps soon.),

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Start Of This Unschool Season

Today has been a day...An amazingly, unbelievably, great day! As I stated before, we do not have a school year that starts and ends, aside from the dates (September 1st-August-September 31st) for paperwork's sake. But we do have changing seasons, and the last few years have looked like this:

Fallish (August-November): Lots of projects, unit studies, experiments, game playing, video clip watching, and field trips. Oh my! The fieldtrips, Apple Picking, Pumpkin Patch, Fall Festivals, anything unit study related-we are always itchy to get our year started, and of course any fieldtrips CHEA plans that we opt into-everybody in CHEA gets itchy to get their year started too so there is definitely a flood of fieldtrip opportunities.

Early Winter-ish (Through the Holidays): Lots of Holiday History, baking, and celebrating-shopping, parties, visiting family, carrying out family traditions. Last year we learned a lot about the Indians and Columbus around Thanksgiving. And around Christmas we learned a lot about old traditions and the Bible. This year S wants to learn about Pocahontas and more about how America came to be.

Late Winter-ish (January-Early March): Okay. By now we are tired of this cold weather, but alas, we will do what we have to. We have lots of projects for CHEA fairs. We pick back up on some of our unit studies from before the holidays. TONS of reading living books, because frankly, it is too cold to get out of the freaking bed, so we use this as an excuse to sit around all day and cuddle. This also includes some computer time between books. And, I'll be the first to admit, the occasional nap. Okay, more like every day nap. I am starting to think we are part bear....

Springtime (March-May): Lots of playing outdoors, even if that means carrying a large blanket outside, laying it out on the driveway, and playing board games until the sun comes around the house and starts burning our backs. Spring also means that we step over the threshold of the front door again to venture out to the playgrounds and creeks and explore all the wildlife that has begun to emerge! We start our garden and begin planning for the warm weather, so many things to do! We wind down some of our studies, although we never exactly put a definite end on them. There is always an opportunity to fuel the fire again. We make sure to savory the weekly trips to the library, because Summer is coming and that means my little brother will be joining our Unschool!

Summer: Summertime is extremely relaxed. If it wasn't all about play before, it is now. We spend our days playing in the water or on the trampoline. We go to some of the local water sources. We take trips to the library every week. And gotta have that downtime with TWO of them, so on the computer it is for both of them-30 minutes MINIMUM! No televisions on during the daytime hours. (Of course that is a year-round rule, but I occasionally slip in the colder months.) And Summer ALWAYS means Monday trips with Hubby to the beach or CAMPING! (This year it has been backpacking in the woods, camping in the wilderness, and finding new hobbies such as bouldering, caving, or searching out Historical spots!)

This Fall I would like to add in a few things. We will definitely be taking our bikes to the Battle Field regularly now that we have a bike rack to tote them on. Nature rides will very be nice in the cool weather. Camping will also extend into the Fall-between other activities like her birthday and all the Festivals. (Hubby is into Festivals this year and S wants to go to some Art related ones, so it looks like we will be a Festival Family this season!)

So anyway, back to today. Today has been a great day! I was determined for us both to enjoy our first day back into our Fall rhythm, and boy did we both! We started out the day reading in the bed until she was ready to really wake up-just one book's worth. We went to the kitchen for some granola and S and I carried on our new tradition of writing each other notes on the board every morning and reading them out loud. Then we went to play on the trampoline for a few minutes before S almost died from a lack of oxygen because she was doing so many flips and then we came inside to do an experiment. (S is studying caves, because she loves to cave with her Daddy.) So we did an experiment to see how stalactites and stalagmites are formed. This somehow lead to her wanting to bake a cake. (However, I have to save what ingredients I have for her birthday cake Sunday.) So we decided to do use Playdough, seeing as she just wanted to practice some of the decorating skills she learned from Nerdy Nummies. I opted for "Minecraft Cookies" and she opted for princesses. Rather than put her dolls in the Playdough though, she attached my Minecraft cookie heads to her dresses. Wa La! Magnificent! Lunchtime. I am determined not to waste time between activities this year. Even sweeping can get us both sidetracked and waste a lot of time, so we went with some Civil War uniform books to look at while I cooked lunch. This lead to lots of questions about military ranking and watching a video about the Emancipation Proclamation, per her request. Which THEN lead to watching a documentary on the History Channel called "Stealing Lincolns Body." (It popped up on the YouTube list for what to watch next.) I was completely oblivious to the fact this crime ever took place. The documentary went on to detail the happenings of his assassination, some fun facts about his life, his embalming, the history of embalming, and his burial. (We made it 30 minutes in. We stopped at this point because S said she wanted to finish it another day.) However, we both learned lots of facts-double checked our sources, and she asked many questions from What is assassination? to Why do they embalm people? Man, at that point we were tired, but we were avoiding napping. (I guess being at home all day will take it out of you.) So we tried our hand at knitting and found that we need to double check that we are doing this right before we continue! WHEW! And at this point we were only a little over half way through the day. Dinner is 2 hours away now and she will help cook, so she started to play with some dolls and her kitchen while I read. Then decided to start a photo diary for her Memory Book. Afterward, she went on to play on her iPod while I did some research and started to type this.

Tomorrow we will trek to the library for the first time by ourselves since May, but since we are missing my brother and his school is right down the road, we will probably go eat lunch with him too.

It never ceases to amaze me that we wake up almost every morning without a plan, but always find something to fill the day and make it productive, weather it we do art, study History, or just play games. The coming weeks will be very busy with gymnastics, volunteering, clubs, and field trips. So we will definitely be enjoying our days at home. I'd like to do some origami at some point and paint with Nature. She seems enthusiastic about trying these things and I think it will help widen her perspective of art.

Side Note: I also did some research, trying to find some art related resources for S to take advantage of, without killing her creativity. I found an art festival that is coming up soon, and a Beautiful area in downtown Chattanooga called the Bluff View Art District. It looks majestic and is filled with galleries and artistic scenery. Most things are free. I plan to take S there in the coming weeks and take her to lunch in the District during the day. I think it will be good quality time where I can show interest in something she has a passion for. Oh wait, that is every day, but this will be an extra special day. ;)

I Love Home/Unschooling! It is the best decision we could have ever made, and while we don't enjoy EVERY minute of it, (Like last week when S wanted to try worksheets, but she took over an hour to do just one because she was bored and kept getting distracted...Yah. Those days.) we DO enjoy most of it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

62 Reasons Why We Homeschool

Today  is the first day of school in my area. I got a nervous feeling last night, thinking about how this is DD's first completely legal year. I even freak for a moment, thinking I need to enroll her before CPS comes knocking down my door claiming I don't teach her. Then I came to my senses this morning when I woke up to thunder. Rain was pouring from the sky. The entire bottom fell out. I looked over at my 5 year old sleeping right next to me, and I thought, "THIS is why we homeschool." So I thought just for fun, while I am taking a break from cleaning and DH and DD are lounging together, I would make a list of reasons why we homeschool/why we love homeschool. Some are just silly reasons, others more serious, but altogether, they make up the reason we homeschool.

1. I want to see S learn. I want to see the fire in her eyes and feel the passion in her heart as she studies the things she is most interested in.

2. S wants me to be there to experience those things with her too.

3. We are not morning people. Waking up at 6 and 7 in the morning is reserved for very special occasions like the annual family reunion or vacation.

4. We get to pick the style of learning that suites our child best and adjust and mix it up as needed. We currently use a mixture of unschooling, Charlotte Mason style, and unit studies.

5. We can go on field trips any time, any day. We take advantage of that regularly.

6. Homeschool activities are much cheaper. (We pay $200 a year for gymnastics. And many of her clubs are $25.00 a year.)

7. We can have playdates any time of day. (Daytime usually works best for us.)

8. S can study whatever interests her.

9. S and I can both wear night clothes on lazy days, which we can have any day. (We are having one of those today. DH is off work, and as I mentioned previously, the rain is pouring outside.)

10. No homework. (Well, it is all homework I guess, but it is all by choice too.)

11. We don't have to work around school schedules.

12. We can go to Pump It Up throughout the school year when there is almost nobody there.

13. We get first dibs on the best books at the library because we are always there.

14. Homeschool discounts, Baby! (The Ripleys museums offer the best homeschool discount I have seen by far! $6.99 tickets for adults and children, all day, every day.)

15. S can watch all aspects of life at home. She gets to see my daily cleaning, while she either helps or plays. She gets helps cook every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (These are all things I would be doing while she is in school.)

16. We don't have to buy a TON of Back To School supplies and clothes.

17. We can go on vacation during the school year while hotels are cheaper and the destination areas are dead.

18. Our weeks run Tuesday through Saturday because DH is off Sunday and Monday.

19. We can add rock climbing to the curriculum.

20. No car rider lines.

21. We have lunch together every day.

22. I have a good excuse to spend money on educational toys and games.

23. S can build relationships with people that she would never meet otherwise because I would do all my errands while she is at school.

24. S can go to bed whenever she wants. (Part of our unschool philosophy.)

25. DH and I get to make all the discipline choices.

26. No textbooks.

27. Every day is completely different.

28. S is around an array of children every day that are different ages, not just hers age.

29. It strengthens my relationship with my daughter.

30. In the Winter we can spend the day under the blankets, sipping on homemade hot chocolate and reading all the lastest books we have checked out from the library.

31. We don't have to pay for private school.

32. I know all of S's friends personally as well as their parents.

33. No rote learning, only creative learning and ideas here.

34. No preparing for standardized tests. (She will have to test, but we never have to reveal the results to the school board and it does NOT decide weather she passes or not.)

35. S can learn to read on her own time.

36. Lowest Student:Teacher ratio there is.

37. S can practice math problems while dancing around the room.

38. I know about any negative influences my child is around and can remove her from the situation if it becomes too much from her.

39. No cafeteria lunches, only organic!

40. I can teach her freely about Jesus.

41. No worries about what teacher S gets. We already know, every year, it will be ME!

42. No worries about bullying.

43. S will never have to worry about being compared. (I used to do this to her, even when she wasn't in school. Now I know it is not worth it. Children learn different things at different rates, and that is okay. She may be ahead in art, but behind in math.)

44. She gets to be a kid even longer! (Kids are being forced to grow up and learn more and more these days. I have learned to be more lax with S and allow her to be small while she is small.)

45. S can practice her art ALL DAY!

46. I can tell my child the truth about sex (and even Santa) without having to worry if she will blurt it out in from of a bunch of kids whose parents may not be ready for them to know.

47. Freedom to work at S's pace.

48. I can kiss my child's face any time of day.

49. S will not regularly be taught things that we do not believe in, like "Stranger Danger."

50. I do not have to undo any indoctrinating that the public schools have done.

51. S is always allowed to ask questions, especially, "WHY?"

52. I get S during her "good hours," not her tired after school hours.

53. I believe God called us to homeschool and be 100% in our child's raising AND education.

54. No worries about school shootings. (I know that shootings can happen anywhere, but it absolutely terrifies me to think that I wouldn't be there to protect my child in that situation.)

55. The way we homeschool makes learning as natural as breathing.

56. No report cards.

57. We can spend time with family members any time we want, especially since Grandpa is usually in town on the week days.

58. Vacations count as field trips. And going to the grocery store counts as a hands on experience.

59. S will not get lost in the crowd.

60. I know what S does every day. I don't get the standard, "Nothing." response when I ask her what she learned at school.

61. Some people say, "Sure. Act high and mighty, but the only reason you homeschool or can bare to be around your child more than a half the day is because you only have one." Well, yes. That is the reason, but not in the way you think. One of the main reasons I chose to homeschool is because I do have an only child, my only living child, and the only child we have been able to have in the last 6 years, and I cannot bare to miss a moment more with my only living child than I already have with my child I never got a moment with. I want to treasure every second. Experience every high. Help her through every low. And back off when she needs some space. I want to take it all in, because we may never get to do this again.

And lastly, when I asked S why she is glad we homeschool, she said,

"Because I get to be with you and learn with you every single day."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Rhythm

As I stated in my last post, unschoolers may not have a rigid schedule, but in our unschool we do have a daily rhythm. It changes with the season. This Summer it was much more relaxed, filled with lots of water time, playdates, and naps (because the heat). But with my brother back in school and everyone in learning mode, S is ready to go back to the way things were, reading, experimenting, adventuring, and playing games together, just us. Here is what our days will look like: (Tuesday is the beginning of our week.)

Tuesday: Volunteer, Weekly Gymnastics, Weekly Art Co-Op

Wednesday: Home Day

Thursday: Monthly Nature Club Nature Club and Home Day

Friday: Library Day and Weekly CHEA Playdates/Field Trips

Saturday: Home Day

Sunday: Family Day

Monday: Family Day and Monthly Board Meetings

Family Day is our day to do things as a Family. (Uh-Duh.) This Fall that includes bike riding in the Chicamauga Battle Field, Hiking, Rock Climbing, and Caving on Pigeon Mountain or Caving anywhere else the Grotto goes, Bouldering at Tennessee Bouldering Auority, Bon Fires, and seasonal fun like Pumping Patches and Apple Picking....Oh. Fall will be fun! (Science Galore!)

Our Home Days and mornings at home I'd like to make time for reading our living books-starting with a Biography on Clara Barton, when S first wakes up, Nature Study, early in the morning. Maybe in the evenings as the weather cools down. And Pilates, at least twice a week for 20 minutes. I'd like for S to see me active a few times a week aside from our weekend adventures. And with that and her gymnastics, she will get lots of exercise too.

S still has her interest in art. She has a few goals, to finish her loom Creeper, learn to knit-from a book we bought with supplies, and learn origami. She is always practicing drawing and painting. And she is still in the process if making barefoot sandals with her art co-op.

Unit Studies: Art Field Trip-Hunter Art Museum, Civil War Field Trip-Old Stone Church, Caves Field Trip-Ruby Falls, How Things Work Field Trip-Need Suggestions

These are just for before the holidays. Once Thanksgiving rolls around S said she would like to study more about Columbus again. (We may go into early American History also.) And we will read a Biography on Columbus.

Books (Currently Reading): Clara Barton Biography, Thomas Edison Biography, Baby Sitters Club Little Sisters, and Samantha Learns a Lessons.

I am also in the process of reading a book with lots of resources. (I am determined to find new resources every year.) Here is what I have found. For Science: meetthegreens.com A cute site that teaches about the importance of helping the environment and staying healthy ourselves. Math: I found the idea to start checking out fun math story books. I am putting some on hold to get them to start rolling in and then I am hoping to start getting one or two a week to read and discuss. I found some on word problems, fractions, and multiplication. Geography: Drawing maps. Seems so simple, really. Now that Samantha is pretty familiar with the map of the US and a globe, I want to start teaching her more about different maps such as population growth maps, climate maps, maps of the terrain (physical features), or even simple road maps. I think every week I will make it a point to print different maps out and strew them about for her to look over, and maybe ask about at some point. But at any rate, it will be something she will see and recognize later on. Eventually, as the maps compile, we may make a folder, like a little homemade book for her to read to reference. Art: YouTube will continue to be our #1 go to site for all things Art. (And History, and Science...and everything.) S has a few channels she has subscribed to, including the famous Nerdy Nummies that she found while searching for Frozen Cake Decorating Ideas. She also enjoys the How It's Made Channel, which includes many, many episodes of...you guessed it...How It's Made!These are the ideas that I really enjoyed, things I had never thought of before, that I don't think will be too "in your face" for her. (Future Use, when DD is older: ducksters.com)

Anywho, these are some more ideas going through my head, because once we get back from vacation, everything will go back to a Fall schedule and I. Can't. Wait!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Two Common Unschooling Misconceptions

August. August. Not only the time of year where most children go back to school, but also the time of year where we are asked a lot of questions and we hear a lot of comments about the way we school. Since this is my place of venting, I figure I will do that...Right Now.

There are two extremely common misconceptions about unschooling. I know them all too well because for the longest time I bought into these misconceptions. They irk me now, however, to hear the constant questioning and bashing. I never had the nerve to question or bash anybody specifically though, but some people are ballsy. I don't know why it bothers me really. It shouldn't. Who do I owe answers to but God? With that said, before I begin my ranting and raving, here are those two things:

Un-Schedules: I hear a lot about how "unschoolers don't adhere to schedules." And while it may be true that  most unschoolers do not adhere to a STRICT schedule, most unschoolers do have a daily rhythm. (There will always be those that make us look bad. You've got a few bad apples in every group.)

I would have to try very hard to keep S off somewhat of a schedule. Children naturally lean toward schedules. Even without a bedtime, S goes to be between 11 and midnight every night. (Her body is on a night owl schedule, and that is okay. She gets to sleep in later than most kids do in the morning.) She eats around the same times every day. It really depends if we are out doing something or if we are really engrossed in a project, but for the most part, she does eat around the same times every day, simple because those are the times her body is hungry. Schedules, are naturally occurring. And as an unschooler, I am all about naturally occurring. So while we, as unschoolers, do not adhere to a strict, "Must be here at 2. Then here at 3. Then here at 5" schedule, we will always have a rhythm. So common misconception Part 1 of 2, explained. Unschoolers have rhythms, not schedules.

To add, I simply would like to ask, for those people who think that this is bad, why? Because our schedules may very 30 minutes or an hour every day? Because we allow time to sleep in if you went to bed later than usual or we allow extra time before starting dinner to finish building that super cool model of the Huntsville Space Station? Because we don't over schedule and make sure every minute is so full there is no room to budge? I don't understand. Please enlighten me.

Part 2 of 2. I also hear a lot of questions about, "How can unschool be good for a child when later on in life they will experience deadlines?" *Looks Around* Are you talking to me? Again, deadlines are a naturally occurring part of life, I understand. I really do. Children must know how to meet deadlines. If they work for a corporate office their boss will not stand for reports to pile up and deadlines to constantly be missed. If you work for yourself, well, your business won't last long if you can't make sure things are done in a timely manner. And by goodness if you are a stay at home Mom you have GOT to know how to set deadlines for yourself, because with nobody there to tell you the dishes need to be done my 8 o'clock at night, things will start piling up quick! But again, I would have to try really hard to keep S away from deadlines altogether. We have simple deadlines for things like turning in our library books. Hate to see those fines accruing because when you check out 50 to 100 books at a time like us, 20 cents per book per day really adds up! We have deadlines for projects at the Geography Fair and the Science Fair. If we didn't get it done, we couldn't participate. What a pity that would be! S would soon learn her lesson that being left out is not work it. We constantly experience "time deadlines" when we have to be at gym at a certain time or a a CHEA event.

Deadlines, Deadlines Everywhere! We must be modelers of the behaviors we expect. We must guide them while they are young, but also teach them to work at their own steady rhythm. It take some people longer than others. How much I must stress that everyone is different. I am naturally a fast person. If you have a task you need done by Monday, give it to me. I can't stand having things to do on my plate, so I will get it done the minute it is assigned, and thoroughly. (The Center loves me for this quality.) However, my Husband is slower. He needs time to mull things over. Even worse, he procrastinates. And *gasp* he even went to school where deadlines and due dates are running rampant! But the job gets done because pressure causes him to act, and to act well. Temperament. That is the key. We must learn to work under all conditions and with our own temperament. What better way to learn how we work best than to have full control of the situation and experiment? So now that I have rambled and ranted a bit, Part 2 of 2 explained. Deadlines DO exist, even in an unschool environment.

Every Day Living: Some people, a lot of people, seem to think that unschooling is a random collection of "every day living," mostly a collection of doing chores with intermittent playing and arguing, just making it through life barely, picking up random facts and tossing them to kids. And waiting for exciting things to come our way. "Tra-La-La-La-La Sha'll we sit and watch the news and wait to see if something interesting comes on that we can discuss? Then I can throw some random facts your way and hope that you care." Nope. Definitely not. Unschool life is something explainable. We don't sit and pick our noses while other kids sit in their desks at school picking theirs. We make it a point to live our lives richly. We make it a point to explore outside, because seeing a bug in a textbook does not compare to viewing a colony of carpenter ants through a magnifying glass. Or finding animal skeletons and taking them home to add to our Nature Collection. (Don't worry. We wash our hands with Colloidal Silver afterward. Ha Ha Ha.) We make it a point to read books with rich text, vocabulary, visual details, Historical backgrounds, and the like. How better to learn about History than to read the real diary or autobiography of someone? How better to learn to read than to read REAL books, to read more than, "The cat sat by the bat." S despised those Level 1 readers, as she should. She said, "Nobody talks like that. I'm not stupid." She skipped them altogether and now she is reading for real, despite the fact we did not actively practice level by level. We make it a point to do math daily, the way we would use it in real life, not a book. We make it a point to have something that is important to ourselves. For S, right now, that is sewing. For me, right now, it is gardening. For DH, right now, it is his newly build desktop that he tinkers with daily. And we share in each others interests. It opens our eyes to new things. And then, this is what gets people's goats. We DO make it a point to live randomly. Yes. We make it a point to live a life exposed to different people and many different things. We make it a point to connect things to other things, like rock climbing to physics and perspective, to give things a real world view and not isolate facts. We hope that maybe it'll spark an interest. Or maybe she will simply remember it because it meant something to her at the time. If not, well...some things just slip through the cracks. ;)

So my question, how is this hands off? How are we leaving our children on their own to explore when we are doing all we can to introduce new things and to guide them so that as they grow older they can guide themselves and just share in the victories with us? They become even more of a leader and we the followers, being there to mentor them when they want it. For those of you who accuse me of forcing my child to make her own way in this world, I ask you, how? As one PS Mom once said, "What's the problem? Sounds like she is more involved in her child's education that most of us parents these days, including myself. Even if the way she does it isn't conventional." I liked what I heard. Yes, I did. Because for once, somebody who didn't unschool, still understood. She understood that unschool IS in fact an education. It isn't sitting down and letting life pass us by and hoping that our children will soak up enough to live in this world.

Speaking of, I was talking to SIL the other day about how easy unschooling sounds, how simply simple it sounds. It sounds like you just have to kick your feet back and watch. While children will soak up a majority of the basics with little to no assistance, we still need to expose them to things and help them to follow their interest while they are young. You are never too young to have an interest. If, at 1, your child shows a love for music, why not expose them to different types of music and instruments? If your child, at 2, your child shows an interest in animals, why not check out books with all types of pictures and information? Why not go outside and explore? Go to a wildlife preservation? Why not do all you can so that a child views this as "everyday life?"

My LAST question, how is unschooling random or not true learning because it doesn't follow the same time table as the school systems? Because S learned a lot about life science last year while caring for chickens, dogs, seeing kittens born and caring for them, watching babies grow, seeing life cycles, learning about the Human Body, etc. instead of learning it is 5th grade like standards state, why does that make it any less credible. Why is it any less credible that my child learned about money last year, at 5, while sorting it, counting it, starting her own business, spending it, etc. instead of in 2nd grade like standards state? WHY, is it any less credible that my daughter is learning about the Victorian era and the Civil War era this year instead of learning what the each US symbol stands for, like most children her age. Why is it any less credible because she learned in a way that wasn't carefully planned and executed on worksheets or other non-real life instances? Who said that children needed to learn those things at those ages in that way that makes people think you can't have education without it? How have we come to view the world in such a way that we think children will never learn unless they are forced?

Lastly, here is a quote I came across tonight that was affirming:

"An education can not be boxed and sold, despite what others claim."

Friday, August 1, 2014

This. Is. Real.

It's August....August 2014, S is 5 years old, soon to be 6. This makes it so real. THIS is the year Samantha would HAVE to start school, real school, not pre-k. (I can't imagine her JUST starting Kindergarten!)

....I sent in her Letter of Intent for this year. (We submitted one last year too even though it wasn't required-simply for a Homeschooling Status Proof for discounts, groups, and activities.) This time I knew what I was doing as I filled out that tiny form online. Name. Age. Address. Signature. Submit. We aren't new to this anymore...Beforehand,  I researched the laws to see if they were updated. They were. Homeschoolers now qualify for HOPE Scholarship. :) The point is, however, I knew the whole process.

It's August. I am preparing to see my little brother off to school as the Summer Break comes to a close. He is sad. And I am sad with him. I'll miss our Summer Days together, playing games, swimming, jumping on the trampoline,  experimenting, taking trips to the library. He unschooled with us this Summer and he loved it. He learned so much too. He'll miss his friends. (He made friends with the brothers of Samantha's friends this Summer.) And we'll all miss each other. Luckily I get to stay involved, eat lunch with him, go to his holiday parties, field trips...but nothing compares to the Days of Summer.

If S were going to school we would be preparing to enter a world I know almost nothing about. I would have already registered her with the school board by now and been anxiously awaiting to see who her teacher is, not that I would know him or her. That would have been the first step. And being that next week is pay day for Hubby we would be school supply shopping Friday night, using a list provided by her teacher. Open house would be in a week. And I am sure we'd be struggling to get S on a strict school schedule before school started in 18 days!

Then. August. August 18th. Samantha would be standing in front of Ringgold Elementary School while I kissed her over and over and told her goodbye, that I would see her at lunch-"I promise." I'd probably spend the morning asking around the school to see if they needed my help. If they did, I'd hang out there to stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. Maybe staying involved at her school would make us both feel closer like it did my Mom and I when I was little. If not, if they didn't need me, I'd go home and curl up in a little ball to sulk-until lunchtime. I would have to drag myself out of bed at lunchtime to eat with her, at which point I'd probably check her out because I missed her. It's the first day. Who cares?

As I'd see my child off, I do believe she'd be nervous, scared even. She might make some friends. She is good at that, you know. But some of the other kids might think she is odd....we have raised her unconventionally. She'd like Science, but to be perfectly honest, she'd probably be bored in class. She is too old for Kindergarten. She would adjust eventually. I'm sure we would face some obstacles, as we do in everything. We'd overcome them though. I'd be scrambling to stay involved, maybe be the Room Mom or member of the PTO. That would be fun. :) I'd pick her up from car riders, although I loath those long lines! (I think I'd be the first one there every day.) Eventually I think we would...adjust. But would we all be happy? Guess I'll never know because...

It's August and we are not spending our time supply shopping or adjusting to sleep schedules. The vision I describe seems so far away, so...unreal that it actually seems as if it is someone else entirely. I am just feeling their emotions, and I don't like what I feel. It isn't natural. It isn't right.

I can't imagine life now without the things that we do. I can't imagine our day long trips to gymnastics-gone. I cherish our time together walking around campus, reading in the lobby, swimming in the pool, even running the track. I can't imagine life without CHEA now that we have made them part of our family. I can't imagine volunteering without her. Heck, I can't even imagine not being able to pick up and go to McKay or the library during the school day-WITH HER. It is so quiet and empty. We can wonder in different directions and both come back with piles upon piles of books. We like to read in the rocking chair in the kid's section. Then we play trains until it is time to run more errands or go home. These are the days we will both remember, always...Gosh, I just can't imagine. I praise God every chance I get for leading me to homeschooling. I thank God for my time with her. For the patience he has given me. (He has definitely equipped me for what he called me for.) For being able to choose the way S learns best. For all her CHEA friends who have really helped her grow in ways unimaginable this past year. I thank him for the lifestyle we are able to lead. I thank him because....

August 18th we will wake up early, but not for school. Waking up early is unusual for us, but vital if we want to get to the beach before lunch! At the beach we will build castles, dig up shells, talk about ocean animals. We will probably read some books and discuss why the sun can leave burns on your skin. We will take some historical tours in Savannah. Eat at a nice restaurant and look up the history of it. We will camp, build a fire, cook on it, probably check out some of the local fauna.We will live. And we will learn. Without school. Just like we do every single day.

We will be gone 5 days, 4 nights. And then we will return home.

The next few weeks will be filled with many things. As soon as we get back we have a Not Back To School Picnic and Pool Party, a trip (just S and me) to the Old Stone Church-It is related to the Civil War, which S is still interested in. S's art co-op will meet again. (Side Note At Bottom). We have birthday parties-one being hers, and an AHG Orientation. We have vegetables to harvest, chapter books to finish, art skills to polish, and dolls to sew. Fall will be coming up soon and we will have lots of baking to do, holiday History to study. Camping trips will come to a close, but caving trips and bike rides in the Battle Field will follow. New flowers. Changes in leaves-to add to the compost pile! New animal behaviors. The change in season always brings a change in life, but the best part of unschooling is it always brings new learning opportunities, 24 hours a day....7 days a week. 365 days a year.

It's August. And this is it. This is real. No turning back. We are saying "No" to school and "YES" to unschool. We are taking the road less traveled, but as I see the image of the mother and daughter in front of the school fading, I can't help but think how glad I am that this image, this "memory," will not be a part of our lives.

Side Note: While discussing possibilities of AHG with S, I tried to really convey to her that AHG is a big commitment, a 13 year commitment really. I mean, you could quit anytime, but it would he a sticky situation. A lot of time would go into AHG. And although it is well worth it I'm sure, I definitely wanted S to consider her options...I am currently reading a book, "Free Range Learning," that discusses extra curriculars in one section, which is what sparked my thoughts on all the other things she could choose. Then I had an idea. A CRAZY idea! An idea that I would always read about in the past and say, "Not us!" But we all know how that goes. So I threw the idea out there. S and I collaborated and before I knew it she was planning her very own art co-op! It is just a few friends right now. But everybody is welcome. All ages. Most of the kids in her co-op belong to our good friends, the Weavers, so we are holding co-op at their house right now. (We will start to rotate soon.) We decided everybody, kids and adults alike will take turns learning and mastering an art related skill and teaching it to the others.  It can be anything from sketching to clay making to hair dos! The oldest Weaver will be starting out the meetings by teaching a series of classes on looming and crocheting on the loom! She can make socks and hand warmers, necklaces and rings. But first they will do a mixture of looming and beading to make barefoot sandals, which are BEAUTIFUL! I am so happy for S that she is able to take leadership and do something she loves. She has had ideas sparking everywhere over the last week. Can't wait too what she has in store! This year is going to be even better than the last.

Just a few pictures for the road. ;)
Local Beach/Lake

Camping Trip to Little River

Caving with Daddy

Playing Games

Free Play-the most educational activity in the world. Army men and Littlest Pet Shoppes mesh really well, don't they? 
Making Pankcakes All Morning

Learning to Hand Sew

Fairy Dress
First Fairy House
Fairy House After Finding Out Fairies Like Nature Better Than Manmade Items

Picking Our Fabric for her Project