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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Happened to Me?

I can't sleep. I'm overwhelmed. The house is a mess-working on a project. And I have a ton of stuff that needs to get done tomorrow. ... So I started praying. It always melts away my anxieties. But as I was praying I began crying. I remembered today was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And I got scared. I began begging God to keep my child healthy. Begging him for children to stop suffering from illness, trauma, and death. Begging him for Peace. I think of my S going through a traumatic experience. And the thought alone is too great to bear. What happened to me?

In highschool, well since I was really young, all the way up to the very moment J and I decided to have a baby, I never wanted to be a Mom. I wanted to be a lawyer. Or, toward the end, I wanted to be in the army. But I never wanted to get married and I certainly never wanted to be a Mom. I was my own person. I could get lost in hours of drill and mindless workouts in ROTC. I commanded and competed with every drill team they had. I got lost in research and debate. I knew my goals and I pursued them with a fiery passion. I kept my eye on the prize and got what I wanted. I was a true career woman headed down a true career path. (I have the dual seal, highest honors, top 25 in the class diploma to prove it.)

But when J asked me if I wanted a baby, I told him yes. I don't know why. Maybe I began romanticizing the idea of having a family just because it gave my life more meaning and purpose than I felt I had at that moment. (Highschool doesn't exactly fulfill some people.) Maybe I felt a need for control over my life. Maybe I just needed to be loved. I don't know. But I do know one thing. When I said yes, my life changed forever, for the better.

What happened to me after that was a slow, but inevitable change. I became a Mom. Three months after "trying," I became pregnant. Just three months. I was excited to have a child, but when she was born, I didn't have that overwhelming sense of falling in love most Moms have. My endorphins didn't hit overdrive like they should have. I did love her. But I didn't realize what it meant to have a child. I finished school and I loved my S the entire time. I loved holding her, rocking her to sleep, rubbing her cute baby body with lotion. I loved being a Mom.

But it wasn't until I started staying home that I really changed. I don't know why or what happened, but I changed. I began seeing my S in a different light. I began longing for all the things I felt like I had been missing. I can't quite put my finger on what I felt like I was missing, but something had been missing.

My first day as a stay at home Mom, I played with my daughter and connected with her on a level I never had before. We cooked with pretend food. Bathed a baby doll in her baby bath. Crawled around the house together on our hands and knees. Toddlers were certainly fun.

And as she grew, I watched her. We played cars. We played in the dirt. We dressed up. We had tea parties. We learned together.

And when S was 2, I decided to homeschool. And again, I saw parenting in a whole new light. At 4 we discovered purposeful parenting. Long story short, another light appeared.

And we still play cars and dolls. We read books and make silly You Tube videos. All the while I can't help but think that these are the moments I HAVE to savor most. They will be gone much too soon. Yesterday is but a memory. And tomorrow is no guarantee.

It is like God had been leading me through this whole parenting thing, telling me exactly what to do, what is next, because I never had that Mother instinct inside of me as a child. I never wanted to be a Mom...But...

I love my life. My family. Every busy moment. Every learning day. Every LAZY day. Every time I lay on the couch with them and snuggle or play games or even hike a trail.

To think I never wanted children. That my S wouldn't be here had my love stricken highschool sweetheart not uttered those fateful words. Never in a million years did I think I would be a Mom, let alone a Stay at Homeschool Mom. Never did I think that the most important time of the day for me would be the mornings when I wake up my sweet S and we snuggle up and read together. Never did I think that I would be married at 17 and still get butterflies when I receive a text from my Husband. Never did I think that I would be excited for 4:30 when I hear the phone ring and it is his "off work." Never did I think I would long for another sweet child. That I would be willing to suffer through every ounce of pain from labor, every minute of lost sleep, every moment of sore boobs. But every bit of this is true.

I worry though. My mind always worries that God will "punish" me for my past mistakes and I will lose my child before they are born. Or even lose them after I have had them and loved them and hugged them and raised them for a period of time. And even still I worry that I will someday lose my S. Maybe these are normal Mommy worries. Maybe these are not. But I do know one thing. God chose me, right now, to mother my living child and my lost child. And if I am hearing His Call correctly, a child that has yet to come.  He has changed me for the good. From textbooks to storybooks. From career driven to volunteering. From straight A student to Homeschool Mom. From hating the world to loving a child who is my world.

For 15 years I thought my path was something it was not. I was preparing for my future as a prominent professional woman, but nothing could have prepared me for the change that I was going to make over the next 7 years of my life. Amazing. Just 7 years. What a difference it can make.

What happened to me? Somewhere along the way, I fell in Love. With God. With my Husband. With being a Mom.

Just An Update

I have been a little down lately, thinking that I am failing S. I think I just need some encouragement and reassurance, so I checked out a book on Christian Unschooling from the library. I think it will be a little less radical than other unschool literature. It had good reviews, so fingers crossed. I pick it up tomorrow.

I do believe this semester will be a good one. We have had some warm days and have been getting a lot done. I finally exited my December depression and we have stopped doing our work in the bed. I am waking S up a little earlier, but not too early because she likes to stay up late and do art. (DH walked in there at 1 this morning and she was drawing pictures. Man, I am so glad God blessed us with an artist for a daughter.) Anywho, we have just been doing the usual winter stuff lately: reading lots of books, playing board games and computer games, baking, the usual library days and volunteering, gymnastics...

And recently S started swim classes! She has been so excited about them, and at the price they were offering them-less than $4 a class-I took the deal. And I signed my little brother up too. So every Wednesday is now library day. Then we go pick my brother up from school early and head to swim. (That's educational so it counts, right? lol) He was excited too and they both ended up in the same class, level 2. They are both doing so well. But I knew my brother would. I was a little concerned about S because she is generally terrified of leaning forward in the water. It took all we had to get her to trust the life jacket and lean forward so she could practice. But once she got in class, I guess she just forgot she was afraid. There were 4 other kids there. Maybe she didn't want to look like a lunatic. She allowed the teacher to help her lean forward and kick. And she even went under water-with goggles on, but hey, I still use goggles to go under. I can tell it will definitely be worth the money and time. Classes are 45 minutes long and she will have 10 classes and we will go from there to see if she wants more or if she wants to go forward with it and learn some higher level stuff. They accomplished a lot and I was very happy. It is all S and my brother have talked about since we left swim.

Here are some things we have coming up:

*Short vacation to Nashville. Woot! Some friends invited us to stay in their parent's time share, a very fancy condo. We leave Saturday and come back on Monday. We won't be doing anything super special, but S will get to see Nashville and the Grand Opry hotel. We will meet some new people. (Her parents are going.) And we will play games and eat, walk the town.

*Her CHEA Valentine Party is coming up. S always jokes about how cool homeschoolers are because they get to have skate parties for Valentines Day. They are renting out the whole rink again. The kids will make their own valentine boxes. Samantha wants to make a coconut. (She is crazy about the beach and cities.) So we are going to blow up a balloon and do a papermache coconut. Not sure what kind of Valentines she is getting yet. And then afterward, one of her CHEA friends, has a birthday party at Superfly, so she will be double partying that day.

*Garden is looking good. We have started some seeds in paper towels. S and J have been working on raised bed measurements. I have been talking to some farmers about getting some mushroom compost. Bought some more biodegradable pots. So progress is being made and it is only January.

The calendar is so booked between the Center, Gym, and Swim, but I think it will be a good, steady schedule for us. Tuesdays and Wednesdays might be out the door as far as time at home goes, but we are still learning A LOT those days. And we will have Thursday through Saturday at home, which does not leave enough time for either of us to get bored. (Saturday, however, is usually overtaken by a "playdate" or outing of some sort, so I would say we have every other Saturday at home. Oh, and I guess we have some CHEA stuff mostly on Fridays too, but that is in the afternoons.)

S has been learning so much. Although it seems we are hardly ever home, we make use of the time we do have, and afternoons and nights is when she does a lot of learning in solitude. We have been closing out our Victorian Era lessons and we are going to begin with the Great Depression next. S is excited to get started. We got the Kit American Girl Collection in yesterday. Of course gardening and hiking is our focus again this Spring. (She showed us the other day how much she remembers from our hiking and short bouts of caving from last spring. As we explored underneath a waterfall, she pointed out the stalagtites and calcium deposits. Talked about the effects the water was having on the rocks-erosion. All without being prompted. It was encouraging to know that those things meant enough to her for her to remember them.) She has also been self studying dogs of course. We are working on getting some games and such together for her math. A little lacking there. But it is hard to find good computer games now that work on the newer platforms. And art is still the head of the learning game. She has been studying fairies. I found lots of good books about the history of fairies and folklore. She has been drawing, painting, learning new techniques for sketching, making fashions, creating crazy inventions with stuff from recycling, reading books about illustrators and other artists. She has been learning to look up books up and find them per the library's system of sorting. She has been learning to swim. She has been learning to do one handed cartwheels and round offs in gymnastics. (I gotta say the round off is looking nice.) At the Center, she plays a lot lately. (Of course that is learning too.) I think she is getting tired of licking envelopes. I can't say I blame her, but when I tell her I have copies to make or holes to punch, as she puts it, "You don't have to ask this girl twice!" Wow. Those are just the things off the top of my head. Who knows what she has been learning while I am not looking? Who knows what she picks up as we play board games, as she plays Mario on the Wii U, as she plays with friends, as she watches You Tube videos. (Right now she is obsessed with the Disney Cars Toys Collection videos. Silly videos. But they are clean and they make her laugh, so who am I to judge.)

Well, this is us. An update for her journal. One day I will spend the hundreds of dollars in ink and paper that it costs to print these out. ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Unschool Blues

As an unschool Mom I sometimes look in the mirror and question myself..."What are you doing?" Fighting the mainstream can seem so inevitable. "What are you thinking?" It is always such a struggle to live like "there is no school." The sad truth is, school still exists very much and kids are still in it every day. How do you combat that? When you feel like learning through life is the greatest gift you could give your child. Spending all day learning to garden, sew, cook healthy meals, volunteer your life away, paint hundreds of pictures....only to be constantly reminded that those things "don't matter" until your child has all her subtraction facts memorized, which SHE DOESN'T. I just want to run screaming every time I am reminded of that. I tell myself over and over that those things are not the most important things.

In my heart, I know that all the things she is learning will benefit her more than being able to do math quickly, but in my mind, from what I have been indoctrinated to believe....I feel like she will fail, miserably, if I don't make her learn it NOW! Forget allowing her brain to develop. She needs to know it now. There are these constant screams in my head. Telling me she will resent me forever if we don't "do school." The other one tells me that she will resent me if we DO! I just wish I knew which one was right.

I can usually ward off those thoughts. I can see her growing rapidly as she ages. I see her vocabulary widening by the second! She asks me what words mean all the time. And she is constantly using words I have never heard her say before. She is reading without my assistance. She is curious about the world. She wants to know how it works, how God made it, what it used to be like, and what it is like now-in other countries. She constantly researches her own questions and tells ME the answer. She functions SO well in society, volunteering, talking to other adults, taking part in day to day actions and errands. She is intensely involved in her own interests: mostly art. But she dabbles in other things, gymnastics, about to start swim. She has been studying fairies. What more can I ask for?

So what is holding me back? Well, she doesn't understand math. And I don't mean "Boo Hoo. We never practiced math facts and I expect her to have them memorized by now even without practice." No. I mean, she doesn't GET math. She doesn't understand the concept of numbers. And I am not sure if that is something that can be taught. Am I failing her? Or am I just expecting her to be and know too much? Place value. Why is it so hard to grasp? Is it harder than understanding the mystery books she has been devouring lately? She has always struggled with numbers. She can count. She can add. She can subtract. But she can't WRITE the big numbers out. What is that you say? Write 65? 56. Write 200. 102. I can see the logic in writing 102. However, incorrect is incorrect. How do you teach concepts that involved writing when she can't put brain to paper? It isn't like she doesn't try. I try and try to teach her because she asks me to teach her a certain concept. But she can't grasp it because she can't make that bridge! So I am at a loss as to what to do.

SIL  suggested basically, in a round about way, get her some more math tools. Of course they will be completely optional. But maybe it would help. A really good workbook for practice. A computer game that teaches a wide array of subjects. But I am not going to push it. A large part of me truly believes her mind is not developed enough to grasp numbers. It will be one day, but in the mean time, all I am doing is forcing her to hate math. I keep reminding myself that she would just be in Kindergarten this year. She isn't behind and so what if she is. She excels in so many areas!

Math IS hard. (Not that I have ever told her that.) Although I used to love math, I can see how forward and backward it is. When adding, you line the numbers up. You add them smallest number to biggest. Then you read it biggest to smallest. And don't forget place holders. Gosh, those can be so hard to understand.

I get it. I really do. But I'm stressin'. I KNOW in my heart that God showed us unschooling for Samantha. And I have seen wonders through it. I have seen her pick an interest and take off to the moon and beyond with it. Even when I think we are having a lazy week and not doing much learning, not really focusing on anything in particular, she never ceases to amaze me with a new skill or improvement in something. But somewhere inside of me I worry. I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Of course I think no matter what we do, I would always struggle. If she were in school I would struggle with all the time we spend apart. All the time she could be doing other things. If we did "School In a Box" I would wonder if it were all really benefitting her. And with unschool I worry because I don't know the difference between troubles and distaste for a subject. And where to draw the line and say, "We really DO need to learn this." So see, it is all always a battle because we want what is the best for our children. And sometimes that choice seems to clear, such a "no-brainer," and other times it seems like maybe it could go both ways.

Here is what I will leave myself with. A little reminder, two actually:

You can't unschool and expect the same results you get in school. You unschool because you want different results.

Give her mind time to grow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Love History!

In highschool I loved all subjects....EXCEPT-History! English was easy. Although I didn't enjoy being told what to read, I got my jollies from writing. And grammar rules were a breeze. After 13 years of it, I knew them pretty well. Math was self explanatory. I enjoy numbers and playing with them. After taking Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, II, and III, essentially all the same, I had a good grasp. Well, until I left highschool that is. Then I forgot most of it. Science was a blast, especially Chemistry (math based) and anatomy. (The body is SO fascinating!) I even liked JROTC, computer class, Early Childhood Education, the list goes on. (Of course I chose those classes.) But when it came to History, I LOATHED History. History was a thorn in my butt! Oh. If I could have done away with History. The way it was taught. Not linear. And my brain had the hardest time making connections. Memorizing dates and battles. Ugh. I literally left school with no knowledge of History aside from a few famous names.

I had given up all hope in knowing the time difference between the Great Depression and the Haulocaust. Or were the simultaneous? See? I still don't know. I hated History anyway. So who cared? The most I had ever learned about History was outside of school. Reading the American Girl Kit Kitridge books. Now THAT made History interesting! A girl. My age. Growing up in a different time. So much more detail than the paragraph about it in my school textbook! I ate the books up and now I at least have a solid basis for what the Depression was about. Alas, I still did not enjoy History in any way, shape, or form, unless I was reading American Girl.

My Hubby is a huge History buff, so my obvious ignorance in that area I believe made him question why he married me sometimes. I couldn't quite grasp why History made no sense to me. Maybe because I can't interconnect time periods and locations easily. Maybe because my lack of interest, whatever the reason...Those days are behind me.

It wasn't until the last few months was I able to let go of my ill feelings toward school taught History and realize there is a whole rich world of History from a different point of view. They say winners write History. And well, we weren't there, so we don't know. But that is the cool part. We can listen to both sides and see which we believe. (And we don't always agree.) We read Historical Living Books. We watch documentaries. We work on a time line. We draw pictures and pin them to different locations on the map. We bake period foods. We make History something tangible, something fun.

I have taken a deep interest in Abraham Lincoln. Could be because of S's recent obsession with the Civil War. Could be because he is just a well known figure from History. I think it is because of a documentary we watched called, "Stealing Lincoln's Body." It showed History from a whole different perspective. The stuff we were never told about. I just remember he had played a part in the whole slavery process. But to know his body was stolen? Now that is cool. I don't care who you are.

After watching that and viewing a film at the Chickamauga Battle Field and a documentary on Lincoln's early years in politics, I learned that he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I learned it put the South in an uproar. I learned WHY he was against slavery. I learned that he was challenged to a duel because of his slander toward other politics. I learned why Booth assassinated him. I learned....that there is so much more to History than what we hear. And it is worth learning about. Nothing gets my goodies going like a good 'ol fashioned two sided story.

Gosh, I love History....Now THAT'S a first!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Getting Out of the Rat Race

While writing my previous post where I mentioned forcing S to do math while she was young, a floodgate of memories opened. It really made me start thinking, "What have I done?"

Then, as if God were speaking to me himself, a friend of mine told me a story the other day. She said her daughter is in Heritage Girls, a Christian Girl Scouts group. They receive service stars for serving 5 hours community service outside the group. She was so excited that her daughter was going to get a star. I mean, come on, how many other kids were going to have 5 hours under their belt? That'll show them when her daughter is the only one up there with a star...Then she heard these words, "Rubby Sue receives NINE service stars for her work in the community this Fall." 45 hours? In 4 months? On top of her schoolwork?! She couldn't believe her ears. They needed to step up their game if they wanted to beat-

It hit her like an 18 wheeler truck. This isn't a competition. Children's lives are not a race. That's one reason why we chose homeschooling to begin with. So we can just be ourselves and our kids can be themselves and not worry about the imaginary race so many people seem to be running. But it is everywhere we go. We have to continually resist the temptation to join in.

And she is right. So many years I have tried to resist joining the race, yet I have this amazing sense of accomplishment when we "out do someone." Is that wrong? Sure it is. But most of us feel that way. Doesn't make it right. Just means if you bash me or think bad of me because I said it "out loud", chances are you get the same feeling too. Think about it. That sense of pride you feel when YOUR child has the "the best looking project in the room." Even though you *may* have taken over just a teensy bit. The project instructions stated that parents were allowed to help. Doesn't controlling almost every aspect of the project count? It doesn't hurt to tell them that the head can't go next to the tail on their turtle Valentine box. It doesn't hurt to tell them that they need to trace a picture of the globe instead of drawing their own interpretation so their Geography Fair project looks nice and neat and presentable. Or does it? You know that feeling you get when your child can recite all the states like the back of their hand and the other child couldn't even tell you what a state is? (Of course their child can probably build their own Minecraft mod and well, yours can't. But never mind that.) You get that over inflated sense of pride while lying to yourself about how far ahead your child must be. Better than all other children IN THE WORLD! (Ok. Maybe not quite that far.) You know that smug feeling you get when you talk about all the raw foods your family eats and how much your children just LOVE fruit. And chores. They love doing their chores. You never even have to ask! Well, I think I have made my point. It isn't right. But we do it because we have this inherent need to be better than others, which, once we make it to motherhood, kinda transfers to our children, and we want them to be better than other people's kids because, well, they are our children. And that just has disaster written all over it....

This feeling of wanting to be better also does the opposite. It doesn't just give us pride, it also gives us an over inflated sense of being a failure when the other Mom talks about how she makes her own detergent (which you gave up on a year ago). Or when the other Mom's child can read better than yours, add better than yours, subtract better than yours. "Little Johnny can tell you all about the Chinese culture and traditions." You forget all the things your child knows that makes them unique. And you go home to innocent little Susie and you start drilling her on those math facts or practicing those easy readers-yea, we have been there. I think all of last school year we battled with that.

And where do we get? Is there ever an end? Oh wait, isn't that why it is called a rat race? I do believe the definition of rat race is "an exhausting, competitive routine."Accurate. It is in mommy groups, corporate jobs, NON-corporate jobs, schools, HOMEschools, between friends, between family members. It. Never. Ends. So how do we get out?

Well, I am not sure. So why did I write this post? Aren't I usually the all knowing Unschooling Mommy who has only been doing it for 3 years? Not really. But I like to think I have all the answers. Guess that is the rat in me. Honestly though, I wrote this post to remind MYSELF that my child is an AMAZING child. And so is everyone else's! The thing that makes them amazing is that they are all so unique. One of the Heritage Girl leaders was telling me one day that they girls are allowed to earn any of the badges that they want at home. And most of them do. They can purchase the badges and put them on the back of their vest. And it is so neat because you can tell a lot about their unique personalities. Samantha likes art. Brianna likes cooking. Andrea likes the outdoors. And Rubby Sue likes volunteering. How great that God made them all so different so that they can all contribute to this world in a different way. So why do we think it is okay to put ourselves and our families in a box and constantly compare them to other families?

If I could go back, there, there being when S was younger, especially her really early years when I wrote out schedules that included "Your Baby Can Read" and "Physical Therapy Time"....there are things I would change. Looking back I can appreciate that I was able to spend so much time with her, to see her learning and having fun too. I remember how she would beg for her favorite book-"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" again-again! And she would laugh and point to the letters and repeat the parts she remembered. I recall doing "nature walks" in our own back yard. When she was just 3. She would pick up leaves and put them in her little basket. She would giggle as she dug in the dirt and found worms and I would tell her a little about them. We would walk around the neighborhood across the street and she would ask questions. I would answer. (Her questions required a lot less Googling back then.) We had fun. And she learned. My did she learn! In fact, that is the way she should have learned the whole time. But when it came to "the basics," the colors, the shapes, the numbers I just went crazy. I set up a school calendar on a bulletin board when she was just 2 years old. I told her the date every day. I had a special worksheet we did and an informational video or something to go along with that theme...And now, I can't help but regret. I would change all those times that I held flashcards in her face. All the times that I sat out the counting bears and told her to count them or sort them out. To me, I was just being a good Mom. I was doing what any good Mom would do-getting her ahead of the game. But I wasn't doing what was best MY child like I thoughtI was. I was teaching her that the rat race is a way of life that you can't escape. If you can't beat them, join them, and make sure you are faster!

But when we chose to unschool we said we were going to get away from that. We were going to set aside all that we had learned and start anew. If we haven't escaped that way of life, we aren't doing it right. We need to reevaluate, and fast! Something for me to ponder...

No Math

About a week ago I posted all our "unschool plans" kinda an oxy moron....for the beginning of the year. Of course it is totally okay to have plans, but those plans are always flexible. Extremely flexible.

I was talking to my dear Hubby a day or two after I wrote up my plans. I told him I dreaded subtraction. Samantha doesn't like it. She doesn't want to learn the facts. His reply? "Doesn't she know HOW to subtract?" "Yes." "Then don't do it."

So it was decided. We are skipping math this semester. Because that is how us no-schoolers roll. Makes me sound like a bad parent doesn't it? Yea. It does. Go ahead and say it. That's okay. For those of you who see things from my perspective, you know why we are doing it this way. But seriously, what is she truly learning when I force feed her math facts and make her regurgitate them on the spot just because I want my friends to see how fast she is or because I want to make sure she is "up to par" with other kids? She is learning to hate math even worse than she does now. (Truth is, I think she only hates math because I messed up when she was little. At 2 years old, she was better with letters than she was with numbers. When her PAT teacher would come to the house, she would bring math games instead of reading because "She does enough reading with you. She doesn't like math because she isn't good at it. She needs to start doing more math." So, after that, I began talking all about how Samantha isn't good at math. "She doesn't like math. She needs to work on math more." Then I would try to force her to learn more about math. So sad when I look back because I remember trying to make her count bears and do flashcards with numbers because I was worried she would get behind-at 2 and 3 years old! I would get so frustrated and think that she was playing me. But she wasn't. She has a terrible time getting ahead of herself and that can be a real problem when you are doing math. To this day she still messes up when she counts. So relentless practice doesn't even help in this situation. It makes it worse. What I should have been saying to others in front of her was this. "Samantha loves to read. We love to focus on her strengths and what she enjoys." And to her I should have said, "Oh! Math is so fun! I love to count, but if you prefer to read, that is great too!" But I didn't. And the more she realized math came hard to her, the more I forced it upon her, the more frustrated she got. And some days she would be in tears.

Does it teach S she doesn't have to do things just because she throws a fit? I don't think so. (She never threw a fit to begin with.) I think it teaches her that I am attentive to what she needs. Her mind isn't ready for it. Besides, why does she need to be so fast right now? She isn't a computer. She needs to be taking this time as a child to practice thinking for herself. Besides, in a few years she will have more experience with numbers and adding in her own head will become cake. Just like doing Algebra in my head is cake now. Granted, numbers are my specialty, so she may never get that far, but addition and subtraction-absolutely. Without a doubt in my mind. I know 100% that forcing her to do math will do infinite more damage than her not knowing her math facts at barely 6 years old. She is supposed to just now be in Kindergarten for Heaven's Sake! And another point, if she has as hard of a time in math the rest of her life as she does now, she obviously won't choice a career path that requires it. And if she does, well, at least there is some motivation to learn it!

For now we will just focus on what pertains to our own lives. I am currently deciding what I want to learn about. S is still engrossed in her art. And J is still engrossed in his coding. I'd say a little off the path of the new "common core." ;) But learning all the same.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I recently read a post on Sandra Dodd's website called "Communicating." It is a post about doing two things at once. Taking the time you wouldn't be doing anything: riding in a car, building blocks, learning on a truck-and using that time as an open forum for communication. With no strings attached. No agenda. Just open discussion.

This is a big part of our life as unschoolers. We ride in the car-a lot. And we will probably continue to ride in the car a lot for their rest of our homeschool lives. There is always some place to volunteer, some errand to run, an activity to attend. And library day is back before you know it. We use this time to build a relationship. To learn. To talk about anything and everything. And while some days it is just S talking on and on about her friends and the newest My Little Pony episode, which is fine...other days it is about goals, theories, and curiosities. And that is where it gets deep and we really get to know each other. Where we bounce ideas around, debate, and try to understand the other's point of view. This is one of my favorite parts of being a Mom. This relationship building.

Today it all started when S said, "Look, Mom, we just crossed the Tennessee state line. Why is that exit 1B?" She inquired. I answered. And then that answer lead to discussion about different states. Which lead to discussion about moving to another state (as an adult). Which lead to talk about travel. Which lead to talk about one day exploring the ocean to look for tropical fish. Which lead to discussing tropical fish. Then handing my phone over to S for her to look up photos and videos on tropical fish and relay the information to me...Whew! What a conversation.

Although our family dinners and car rides are open forums for discussion-and highly utilized, we tend to unconsciously try to fill the silence with meaningless chatter during game play or while working on our Nature Study, etc. I am thinking maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't. Maybe we should let the silence flow and see where it leads us. Maybe we should get out that zen garden or those tangram blocks, those idea sparkers and conversation starters, and see where it leads us. May lead to more silence, and reflection. May lead to a deep discussion about the Great Wall of China while playing with clay. (Once S started a conversation about the Statue of Liberty while playing Play Doh.)

Conversation is the key thatcopen's Pandora's box of endless learning possibilities. That's a key I never want to lose.

Well curiosity got the best if me as I realized I didn't quite know what Pandora's Box was. So I looked it up. Interesting myth. Deserves more research. I'd love to give Greek Mythology a whirl....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Unschool As A Family

It is a lazy Monday afternoon. I see us living as a family, free of schooling. J is off work on Mondays so we slept in, but not too late. We know if we sleep too late the day will pass us by. So we cuddle for awhile and talk about our dreams, which ironically were about the same thing (relationship building-one of my favorite parts of the day) and then get up when we aren't tired anymore. I care for the animals and start our breakfast/Hubby's coffee....not because anybody tells me too, but because IF I want animals, THEN I need to feed them and water them to keep them alive. IF I want breakfast, THEN I need to cook it. I like the IF/THEN way of seeing things...

Speaking of IF/THEN, right about the time I finish J's coffee, he walks in the kitchen. He begins talking about some mods he brought up on his computer just now. He is a gamer, but he doesn't just game, he delves deeper into the coding in the games. He likes to play with them and modify them. He likes to find glitches and cheats and solve puzzles that aren't vital to beating the game. He likes to create his own missions and try extra hard for the achievements. He likes to take gaming to the next level. Back to the mods. He tells me about some of the ones he found that help you with lock pick easier. Or the mods that add a whole extra area to the map. He starts to wonder. "You know what would be cool? If I could make a mod to take my songs from Spotify and have them play through the game. But it would have to stop when someone starts speaking on the game." As much as I love an opportunity to learn, I couldn't resist. "How would you code that?" He leans back against the counter as I add sugar to his coffee. "Well, I'd have to bring up the game coding. Depends what type they use, but if you are looking at Java, I believe it would be "IF (insert coding for the initiation of talking.) Then Pause. Then IF (insert coding for the termination of talking) THEN Play....No No. Maybe it is IF-ELSE. I'd have to look that up. I have some more reading to do in my COMP-TIA book today. I will look it up after I finish that."

He leans against the back window and takes a sip of his coffee. "Next week I will buy some machetes so we can get that land cleared out and start a garden. I'll ask Chris to help me and I'll give him some potatoes in the Fall." "Maybe we can grow enough and trade them for some eggs. But I am not sure that you are going to get the land cultivated early enough." "I'll do raised bed this year and see how it goes. We have rocky soil." "Okay. And I'll get a list going and see which plants, out of the ones you want to grow, are companion plants." "Thanks. I'll start doing the math to see how many cubic feet of soil we need. I'll talk to Samantha and see if she wants to help again this year. Maybe if we work together we will get better results. Last year was a disaster!" "Gee. Thanks!"

That was just this morning BEFORE S even woke up. She was up late last night playing in some kinetic sand. Then she watched some videos on art, did some drawing, played some video games. Talk about problem solving. She started to get stressed and was stuck on a problem for awhile, so she laid down to watch a movie and passed out around 2 AM.

J and I enjoyed some down time while she slept. I decided to do some research on Women's Suffrage, sparked by mine and S's reading of the Samantha American Girl books. I never knew that the Women's Rights movement started at the beginning of the 1900s! I also learned a few fun facts, like DC's creation of Wonder Woman was due to the Women's Rights movement and was created by a woman psychologist. Interesting. Then I went on to write this. And later I will employ Samantha, if she wants, to help me paint my latest Pinterest project-a pallet couch.

Samantha is finally up and moving around. She got her own lunch and saw that I was typing this on J's computer. She asked J how he fixed it and he told her about drivers. (All he needed was to get the computer to stay on long enough to download them.) She was so excited that we are up to 3 computers again. So she sat down with her lunch and went to town on the Macbook. She is currently playing some reading games.

Productive day. Not all days are, but most days are something like this. Some days involve hiking, which we may still do later today. Some days are lazy days, but even then they involve some kind of learning. Lately we have enjoyed watching the show House, which we have been known to do all day on a rainy day. But I will tell you one thing, we learn a LOT from House. Of course we don't take things for what they are on the television. If we are interested in a new disease they mention, we pause it and bring it up on our phones. The same thing with shows we have watched in the past like Dexter-police work and Walking Dead-survival methods.

I know this is a Blog about my dearest S, but I wanted to make a post about all of us, particularly J and I because I want to emphasize that no matter your age, there is SO much learning to be done! At S's age, it is mostly about play. Playing games. Playing toys. Playing with friends. You can learn problem solving. You can learn about cooperating, following rules, adding, subtracting, reading...And in S's case, things like roller skating, which she hopes to be good at by this coming up Valentine Party. (Her friends, the Weaver's, are teaching her.) Oh. And it is about reading. Lots of reading. You can never be 100% sure weather the scientific "facts" and History (written by the winners) is accurate, but if you know how to read and research, then you can look it up and decide what you believe. And if you can't decide what you believe, at least you know about the different sides of the story.

Everything we learn in this house-everything we TRULY learn-is all for fun. Things we want to know. Even if it is things we HAVE to know, like reading, in order to learn the things we want to learn for fun, it is all by choice. It is all individualized, based on what will do us good at that time, what we need in our lives. And the coolest part is that we can bounce it off each other and share what we know. We can truly become involved in each other's interests, which broadens our knowledge. When DH tells me about coding, I may not know all he knows, but it makes more sense to me than it did last night. When I tell J and S about the newest antihistamine oil blend that I found, they understand oils a little better. J asked me the other day to explain how colloidal silver works again. And now he has a better understanding of how his medicines work in his body. And when Samantha hears all about these things, she learns more than just what interests hers. But I think what benefits her most is sharing what interests her. When you teach what you know, you learn it better. And when you are sometimes the teacher and sometimes the student, you learn how to take on both roles-how to learn and how to be taught.

Here is a short list of our current deepest interests:

Samantha: Toys-duh, Art, Early 1900s, Historical Wars, and all American Girl Books, Animals, California

Jessie: Gardening, Computer Coding and Hardware, Video Games, Survival and Guns (He likes to study up on this with a friend.)

Me: Organic Medicines and Essential Oils, Conception and Pregnancy-done tons of research on this lately, Cooking-New Recipes, Pallet Projects, Writing/Blogging

Life as an unschool family is sometimes stressful, mostly when I create the stress and pull back on my own beliefs because everybody tells me how insane I am, but the more I let go, the easier it gets. The more I can see progress in all of us, progress in our relationships. Progress in our ability to learn and our ability to lead ourselves and others. Now time to go learn to use my new paint gun!

UPDATE: And now it is *near* the end of the day. We will all probably lay down around 11 since Hubby has work tomorrow. We spent our day on separate projects. S helped some with the paint gun, but it was a pain to figure out so she lost interest. She jumped on her trampoline and practiced gymnastics. She did some Pilates on a workout mat outside. She went through the recycling and picked out an empty bottle of St. John's Wart. Got out paper, A hole punch. A green oil pastel. And started making "her own medicine like Mommy." She drew pictures of the family and told stories with them. And learned to use the new camera we got for Christmas so she could take photos of her drawings. J cleaned out his work van. Then came inside and played his games and worked on some more coding. I worked on my pallet couch and got a few pallets finished. Came inside and made dinner. Learned how to better slice the potatoes for making french fries and worked on finding a new recipe for fry seasoning. Dinner was spent discussing solar power and how watches are made. (S brought up the topic. She is a curious child.) I picked up some groceries. Cleaned house so I don't have to tomorrow. (S has a playdate with a new friend from CHEA.) And then J moped around about how he didn't get a birthday cake. Never mind the fact he had a 3 course meal and then some last night on his actual birthday. He requested that I make one and S decorate it. (She loves decorating cakes thanks to her favorite You Tube Channel, Nerdy Nummies.) So I found a recipe and that is what we did. S learned how to make a two layer cake and was able to use her icing tips for the 3rd time. She is improving no doubt. Cake is done now and we are eating it, The rest of the night will be spent relaxing. I'm sure we will watch House after baths. S might lose interest and play instead. Then reading, talking. saying our prayers, and going to bed. I'll be ready for sleep as soon as 11 o'clock rolls around!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Purposeful Parenting Changed My Life

I have been practicing Purposeful Parenting for some time now, around the time we decided to unschool-so about 2 or 2-1/2 years now. There are good days and bad days.  I definitely have bad days and fall short on many occassions. But it has been a work in progress.

I recently started reading a series of articles on Sandra Dodd's unschooling website and ran across another method used in Purposeful Patenting that I always found quite silly when I heard it mentioned.

Values, but....no rules? Who ever heard of such a thing? Then something she said rang true. It was something along the lines of this....Rules externally motivate us through fear, threats, or punishment to blindly obey orders. Values internally motivate us to think about the difference between right and wrong. For example, S used to have a problem with pushing her Uncle when he made her mad. Now, instead of having to remember the rule "No hitting" and assuming pushing does count, she asks herself 2 questions. Would God like what I am about to do? Am I hurting or helping?

*Disclaimer: I realize that in real life we have "laws" but those laws also tend to be morally based-such as no stealing or killing-and nowhere near as strict as those inside our homes. As an adult I can cuss-if I want. I don't have to eat my greens or clean my plate if I choose not to. And I'm allowed to get angry and have a bad day. Unlike children who are *usually* punished when their emotions take control. (I have learned the only way S will know how to control her emotions is for me to get ahold of mine first. How can I expect her to know the difference in right and wrong emotional behaviors if I-the adult- can't model the proper way to show anger or sadness?) Anyway, I'm going off on a tangent....

The day after I read about values and principles I decided to see how it would work. Research. Then experiment. We sat down as a family and came up with our own values and questions to ask ourselves. (Below)

Value: (Spiritual) God First. Always. God's plan before our plan. God's time before our time. God's people before ourselves.

Is this what God wants? Would God approve of what I am about to do?
Am I listening to the devil?
Am I serving my God the best way I know how?

Value: (in conjunction with God's people being before ourselves) Treat others the way you think THEY want to be treated.
People are more important than things.

Questions: Can I put myself in their shoes?
Do I want to lose a relationship over this?
Am I hurting or helping?
What can I do to help?

Value: (Educational) Learning is Life. It is natural. Always be learning something. All learning is equal. Follow your interests. Be passionate about something. Be Yourself.

Have I learned something today?
Am I allowing learning to happen or am I hindering it?

Value: (Home) Houses are for living. Making a mess is good, as long as you clean it up because organization and cleanliness making living and learning easier.

Am I taking care of the house God Blessed me with?

Value: (Health) Our body is God's temple.

Is what I am doing or putting into my body healthy?

Value: (Personal) Be honest. Be caring. Love others. Be compassionate. Be respectful. Be a good listener.

Am I being the best person I can be?
Am I being completely honest or am I lying?

*This is not an unalterable list. It is is open for discussion an add on at all times in this house.

The results? I have seen an amazing improvement. Although none of us are perfect still, it has helped us in all aspects of our lives.

 For me, when I have tried to learn to "bite my tongue" in the past, I haven't been able to because I had no plan in place. Now I HAVE to pause to think every time I say something other than small talk. And even then, if I am about to say something about somebody who frustrated me or how angry I am at such 'n such for whatever, I Stop. And Think. "Will that hurt or help?" It has become a habit. It has become a good habit.

I see DH and DD's minds at work as well. I see S pausing more in the middle of her sentences. I see my Husband walk out if the room if he feels aggitated.

It has been such a great tool to use! And everybody was able to take part instead of us just imposing a list of rules or having unspoken ones like, "No spitting on people." and expecting her to know that it is wrong.

I think the people who came up with this have something here. Like they say, "Rules are meant to be broken." But if there are no rules, there is nothing to break. Going against your own morals and values is harder than going against somebody else's list of arbitrary limits.

Side Note: I have also extended the "Purposeful" lifestyle to my marriage. The longer we are together, happily married, I wonder, "How much longer until my marriage crumbles?" Negative outlook, I know, but everywhere I am I hear people talk about how marriage is miserable and how you are destined for disaster at some point. And it scares me to not know what lies ahead. I always judged the strength of our marriage based on the trials we have made it through. I considered it a major feat to make it through a teen pregnancy/relationship and to have made it through what happened with Lucy. But sometimes I wonder if that was not the worst of what is to come. I never can be sure. But I can do whatever it takes to keep a focus on my Husband and not lose him by become drowned out in my daily life. Of course I am tired when he gets home. I have spent the day cleaning, caring for 4 animals and a child. I've been "unschooling" all day with S. My brain is fried. And I still have to cook dinner, clean it up, take the doga out, clean the house, continue to care for S....you get the picture. Where is time for my Husband?

One of my good friends who has been married 15 years and has faced her share of marriage trials gave me some advice I will never forget. She told me that my Husband is the king of his home, right under God. He provides for his family and should be treated like royalty. (We have the same views as far as family structure and gender roles goes, so her advice really hit home for me.) No matter how grouchy my Hubby gets. No matter how tired I may be, I make it a point to do four things. 1. Rub his back. (My friend says she rubs her Husband's feet, but we do not do feet in this house...so...back it is.) My Husband loves a good back rub. So I made him a special lavendar/coconut oil lotion to help him sleep at night. If he has had an especially rough day I like to diffuse some lavendar and get my other oils out to give him a relaxing essential oil massage. He enjoys it and it makes him feel special. 2. Make sure he always has a drink. Right now in the winter, it is hot tea or coffee. I have found recipes for watermelon water and strawberry lemonade for the Summertime. Yum. He always appreciates being taken care of like that. (I don't care what anybody says about him being to needy and relying on me, it makes him happy and it makes me feel good to take care of him. Short rant over.) 3. I am there to fill any *Reasonable requests he has. 4. We spend time together. Whether S is asleep or awake has no bearing. We always lay down and watch something or talk for awhile before bed. And some days we go out as a family or on a date. Whatever we do, we make sire we get at least an hour together. There are 7 hours at night between him getting home and bed. I think I can make an hour of time. It has created a better bond between us. Although I know it won't be the answer to every problem we will ever face. A bond will at least make it easier. I have mindful about those 4 things for about the past 9 months but it didn't take long to see improvement.

Whether it is purposeful parenting or purposeful marriage, it is the key that opens the door to better relationships. It is mot definitely worthe the effort of being purposeful.