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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Relationship Exposed

 We met in highschool.

Of all places to meet.

I think 50% of marriages start in highschool. Depends who you ask.

But I am seeing another trend.

Most of them end.

Talking to a friend the other night who got married in highschool, I counted...32 marriages right out of highschool, within a year or two-over. All but two.  Mine and hers.  It saddens me.  It scares me a little too be honest.  When will ours end?  Are we next?  I asked my friend why she thinks J and I are still married. What did we do that made us so special?  I was the first in my class to get married. 10th grade.

Shouldn't I have been the first divorced, statistically speaking?

No judgement. We came close to a divorce once.  We were facing a great challenge in our marriage. What was done was already done.

Our second child had been aborted.

Now it was getting through all of it.

Through the bitterness I felt toward my Husband. The hate and disgust I carried. I loathed him with every fiber of my being.

As for my Husband, the burden of the guilt he was enduring was too much...It didn't help one bit that I did everything I could to show him how much I hated him at that time.

But I didn't know.

I didn't know he got up every morning for over a year after that day and he went to a job that made him miserable-feeling dead inside as he ran lines through buildings and cried about our Lucy when he thought no one was looking. That was his only time to himself. He couldn't come home to his wife who hated him and tell her he needed help. How was he to get through this without time to process? How did I expect him to comfort me at night as I cried if he was holding back tears himself?...

It was a struggle.

Both suffering with no one to lean on.

No one to tell.

So we began fighting. And that became or routine.

But I remember that day. The day I finally said it.

I told him I hated him and I never wanted him to talk to me again. I stormed out I left my 2 year old in the house with him as I hid beside my apartment building and cried. He called for me and I ignored him.  He drove around trying to find me and when he did, he got angry that I let him drag our daughter out in the cold like that just to find me 10 feet from our door.

I felt no remorse.

Served him right.

It wasn't until he said, "I want a divorce..."

That I realized

I Loved him.

I really did.  But now it was too late. And so I sat on a tiny picnic chair in my daughter's bedroom while she tried to wipe my tears, while handing me dress up jewelry as an attempt to make me feel better, and kissing on my "boo boos." But she couldn't kiss the ones on my heart.

The feeling I had radiated from my heart to the pit of my stomach. There's nothing like it. Like that pain you feel when the person you loved is being ripped away from you by your own hand. I was scared. Terrified to live my life without the only man I had ever been with. The man I really ever did Love.

It never escalated further. We both calmed down. But I wasn't going to let us go back to our old lives. I couldn't. I had to do something with this anger.

I went through a depression that December and January.  I spent a lot of my time on the Internet chatting on an abortion recovery forum.  So many other women...It seemed like once a week they would announce that a beloved member who was thought to be doing so well in their recovery had committed suicide.

I was determined not to let this tear my life apart.

I recovered.

And as part of my recovery,  I wrote my Husband a letter. I told him I was sorry.  That all this time I had been thinking of our child as my child and our loss as my loss. Our regrets as my regret. I assumed none of it effected him. But it did. I promised him I'd quit asking to talk until he was ready because I knew by the way that he acted he resented me too.

As he closed the letter, he said the words that would change how I felt about him forever. He said to me, "I don't hate you.  Did it ever occur to you the reason I ignore you and don't do anything when you yell and the reason I don't want to talk about it is because I know it is my fault and all I can feel is guilt? I am the man. I am not only here to protect you, but also my children. I failed. And I can't fix it.  I ruined your life and I took my child's."

The car ride was silent.

All this time I was thinking of him as this horrible monster. Incapable of human emotion or remorse. All this time he was just good at hiding it because we couldn't both be hurting at the same time. One of us had to be strong.

I'm crying right now thinking about it.  I almost threw or marriage away over an assumption. That was a tough time in our marriage. I found help.  He actually started talking about it some. And eventually he found help too. Although not to the level I did.  I learned I took a huge part in what happened and I had hated myself too for a time. I learned to forgive and not to blame.

That time in our lives, when we realized we did Love each other,  when we had to lean on each other, that is the foundation of our marriage.

It surprises me we made it through such a tough time because I don't think I really Loved my Husband in the beginning. I just eventually learned to Love my Husband over time.

After a Summer fling with him as teenagers, we felt madly in Love. Like nothing could stop us.  We spent every day together and spent the night at each other's houses frequently-unknown by our parents. (His Mom worked night shift and mine was oblivious or just didn't care one.) If we weren't together,  we were texting-back when texting cost 5 cents a text. We had to be careful how much we used. We had our little jokes like "I LU YOU" And "Ar!" "Random Text #3." He called me Britawi and I called him Puffs. Our song was "My Best Friend" by Tim McGraw. We were just as dramatic as most teenagers.  Talking about how the world was out to get us. How scaring or childhood was. And how we couldn't wait to graduate and get a life outside the prison they call the "Teen Years."

After 2 months together, we were "engaged." My Husband had sold his Magic the Gathering cards to get up the money to have his Mom order a ring for me out of an Avon magazine. Ha Ha How cheesy. It was the biggest, ugliest, gaudiest ring I ever saw,  but I loved it. And I still cherish it. Even with all the stones falling out of it.  Of course I have a new ring now.

His Mom dropped us off  at "our tree." The tree we used to meet at after school on half days so we could hide from his best friend-my boyfriend. (Wrong I know. I was just a kid. Can't change it now. ) That is where our relationship began and that is where he proposed to me and I said yes. One day it will be the place we get remarried and have a real wedding. Although the tree itself is gone now,  the property is still kept up.

Anywho, one day,  out of the blue, J asked if I wanted a Baby.  A Baby? A man who actually wanted a Baby? Oh yes, please!  Of course, as I wrote in this post,  I am not sure what made me say yes.  But I did.  And we didn't waste a moment.  I'm a planner so I got a binder and we started researching-everything. What we would need to buy for a baby. How to conceive. I learned a lot about ovulation. Fetal development.  Carrying for a child.  We decided on colleges. And jobs. And where we would live. (Didn't account for some things and ended up living with my Mom until she was one. But everything else turned out well.)

We were experiencing every teenager's dream.  Living with each other. Being together whenever we wanted. No rules about sex. No curfew.  We felt free and totally in love.  My Husband was supportive all through my pregnancy. He learned about development. Went to parenting classes with me. All my appointments. Worked 40 hours a week plus school. When I was in labor he was there for me.....

But we definitely had our share of challenges once she was born and endorphins and excitement wore off. Life was now split for me between school and family. And for him school, work, and family. It was tough.  We argued a lot about immaturity, lack of money, me nagging. Him playing to many video games.

We had left the honey moon stage.

And that's when I had to start learning to Love him when the hard times hit.

I remember the days where he would come home from work and go straight for his games. He wanted to play with S when it was convenient for him,  but he didn't even want to change a diaper. And me? Gosh. I was so naggy no wonder we didn't do much together. He wanted to go hiking. I got mad because "The baby" is too young." He wanted to swim?  "That cost $4!" And so on...

There was so much I realized I didn't l like about him. And so much he didn't like about me. I didn't like that he was kind of an ass to people sometimes. He didn't put up with crap. And I am one of those people who let's others get away with anything. Forgiveness is my motto. He didn't like that I stayed stressed and I was so uptight about money. He doesn't think budgets should exist. And so on...But slowly I realized these are the things that make us work so well together. We balance each other out.

We do. We have had several people tell us how well we play off each other. Even our banter sounds staged, it is so quick witted. We have a very traditional marriage. He works. I'm home. He brings in the money.  I care for the kid. I love what he hates and he loves what I hate. I enjoy cleaning and cooking and caregiving. My Husband hates tedious repetitive work like that.  He wants a challenge. He has to go out there and work. Personally, working for pay would kill me. I hate being told what to do. I want to pursue my own interests on my own time. This is us. It works for us.

But still. It is scary. You hear so much about people growing apart, taking different paths. Having different goals in life. Interests changing. Fortunately for us, as we go together, as our goals change,  they somehow have become the same. Moderate lifestyle. Helping him work toward employment from home and investing toward retirement.  Hoping one day to retire in an area with lots of nature surrounding it. Cabin would be preferable.  Fingers crossed we grow to be a couple of old people who still love to tube and hike.

I've seen something like this on a card once.  A couple of old wrinkly people in bathing suits laughing it up in the sun...I can only hope...If not,  we decided we would settle for a couple of rockers on the front porch and a good view.  Maybe a dog at our feet.  It's the simple things.  Attainable goals.

As for hobbies, I struggled with this one.  I've had to make it a conscious effort to love what he loves. As I said before, I tend to love what he hates and hate what he loves. And I will never love video games, aside from some Old School Mario, so outdoors it was. I'm glad I picked that to do with him. I truly enjoy it. And I'm double glad I let him convince me to invest in all that backpacking stuff last Summer. I feel like we are closer than ever when we are all our there in the wild and connecting through nature, looking at the same beauty together. Admiring the sunrise in a hammock hanging over the river. Or joking about the sounds the fire makes while his coffee hearts up over it.

We connect over little things like that. Like when we go to the Pumpkin Patch as a family in the Fall. Or vacation in the Spring. Celebrate holidays with family. Lazy Sundays where binge watch our new favorite series. Currently House MD. And slowly we have fallen even more in love. Real love. Not honey moon Love.  Or teenage Love. Or "might as well make the best of it" Love. Or Love that seems perfect because it had never been challenged.




Looking back, do I think we would still be together if we didn't have a child or hadn't gotten married so early? Probably not. He says the same. But we also both say we wouldn't change it.

I don't think it would have lasted in the beginning without the glue.  Why give it the effort if you don't have quite as much to lose? But we did. Single parenting. A child growing up in a broken home. Marriage failing. Divorce at a young age. It's all scary. Scarier than just sucking it up and working it all out.

A definite plus to this story is we never had to go through the award "meeting the parents" event because when we met we were just friends.  We never had to go through the "meeting the perfect mate" stage or worrying if we will ever meet "the one." Heck, we never even hit the dating scene.  He was my first real boyfriend. And I was his first girlfriend. Unsupervised dates and all.

Not to say that over the years I haven't found myself questioning why I am with him. When he does things like make fun of somebody. Or when I don't think he is being the greatest Dad. Because everybody knows I'm perfect. ;) Or when he acts like a normal 23 year old.  I think, "There must be a man or there who is more mature than this! " We went through a rough time a few years back when he took up drinking as his newest hobby. He was finally legal age and all he wanted to do on Saturday nights after work was invite his friends over to party. And he was getting into fights frequently in our home. I had never questioned our marriage more than I did in that time. Because now I truly loved him, but he wasn't being the man I loved.

But, just like everything else,  it ended.

And we worked through it.

Because there was nothing else we could do.

And over the several years of our marriage I realized why I am with him. He is an amazing man. Flaws and all. He is a man who cares deeply about children and about animals. A man who, like me, is a sucker for helping others. And although he isn't generally as open about trying to help,  his support of me alone speaks volumes.

I remember one year he came to support me while telling my testimony at the Pregnancy Center's Banquet, which by itself means so much to me. But there is more.  When it came time for pledge time,  I didn't hand in a paper. So he did instead. He said, "Give them the money. They need it. We have it. And this is what you are passionate about."

It's the small things that are big things. He wasn't trying to be noble.

I doubt he thinks I remember.  But those are the reasons I admire him.  Because he is humble. He Loves deeply. And cares secretly. (Oh, and he likes to cuddle.)

And he would literally do anything for me to make me happy. I see it over and over again in the big stuff.  He supported me telling our testimony even though he didn't want me to and it risked his reputation. He supported me when I asked for another baby (both times) even when he was apprehensive at first. He supported me when I asked him if we could basically sacrifice $10,000+ a year so I could continue to stay home and homeschool S after she turned school age.

And in the small things. Like the time he bought  me a storage case for my hard drive because he knew I wouldn't buy it and he knows my pictures mean the world to me. Or when he puts up with my crazy hippie ideas about life and suffers through the usage of my homemade soaps and toothpastes. And all he asks in return is for me to lay his clothes on the bed in the morning and make his hot tea when he gets home. Maybe even give him a Lavender massage before bed-if I am feeling nice. Oh, and to Love him the way he loves me.

That's why I am with him. He makes me happy and I make him happy. We make each other whole. What more reason does there need to be? Why do I need to know why we have made it so far? There is nothing special about us. We just are. We are just two people who both were determined to MAKE it work, despite the odds being stacked against us.

Almost a decade together and we are still working at things. But just like when we were teenagers, when I find us, just the two of us together in a room, I still want to make it last Forever.

The silence.

The time together.

The connection.


Last year I thought I loved him more than I ever could.  And this year I love him more than last. It scares me to death to Love someone that much knowing any minute could be my last with him.  He could leave me. I may lose it one day and leave him for some unforeseeable circumstances. He could die. I could die. But it is worth it, ever minute.

The First Photo of Us-At Our Tree-As Friends 
Trying to add some pictures that show the essence of our teenage relationship. This was my sad attempt at Puppy Eyes and actually let those work....

Hi, Being Silly

Right After We Got Engaged-At Our Tree

Us On Our Anniversary-At Our Tree-I was very pregnant in this picture. 

Us Being Silly

Still Silly-We are very silly. 

Our First Date-At the Ringgold Pool
After Samantha Was Born-Excuse the paleness. I had lost a lot of blood. 

Saying Our Vows

After Our Wedding

The "Reception" Him Being Silly Again

I really enjoy these pictures. We frequent downtown as a dating spot for us. We walk the bridge and talk about stuff a little deeper than the daily things. Apparently we really enjoy this dog at the end of the bridge, because we keep taking pictures with it. This was taken after we had been married for a year. 

3 Years. 

This was last Summer after being married for almost 4 years, living together for 7. 

This is a date we went on within the last 6 months. He is always making me laugh so this is perfect. 

Our Trip to Lynchburg, our first overnight to ourselves. I Love the angle I was able to capture this picture without him knowing. 
The other morning we woke up to snow on the ground. J requested that we just lay in silence and watch the snow through the window.  That was one of my favorite times together. 

This is what we saw. 

Our First Professional Picture Together...And Every Year After...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Progress, Progress, Progress

Man, last week was nuts. I feel like we were only home to eat and sleep. It started out with a weekend retreat at a church. Then our regular busy Tuesday and Wednesday and then Valentine parties all day on Thursday. Playdates on Friday. Family visiting all weekend. Whew! I just prayed for it to SLOW DOWN this week! Then the snow came, and since Georgia freaks when the temps drop below freezing or flurries come from the sky, everything is called off and I am able to breathe!

I sat back and realized-even amidst all that running around (although all educational, but not a lot of processing time or time for me to see the learning at work) S had begun reading. No No. I don't mean reading like she has been doing where she stared out recognizing words that were not just in books. Or the kind of reading like an easy reader, or in our case since we don't really do easy readers, a chapter book where she can read about 75% of the words and I read the other 25%. Or the kind of reading where one page takes her 10 minutes. But real reading. Like we sat down to play a game of Go Fish and she picks up the instructions and aloud, at a steady pace she says, "The object of the game is for..." I was stunned, but I have learned not to say a word to her. The rest of the night she talked about what a great reader she was and I agreed. She was feeling confident, but she is easily embarassed and I didn't want to do that to her! That was the last thing I wanted to do. The next night we had a stack of books and I picked one up to read. (Asking her to read is usually a struggle so I always wait for her to volunteer. She usually pulls back anytime she makes progress. I guess because she doesn't want me to expect too much of her. So I definitely didn't expect what came next.) She said, "No! No! I want to read everything tonight. I am a great reader!" And she did. Just like nothing. She struggled with her Dr. Seuss books a little. (I generally don't like Dr. Seuss. I just picked some up since we are going to see the musical next week.) Most words aren't real words and they are some serious tongue twisters in Fox in Socks," but she barreled through. She didn't complain and she finished 61 pages in that book alone! She couldn't get enough. She said, "Another! Can we go to the library tomorrow and get more?" I was exhausted. By then it was 11 o'clock. To be honest, I didn't want to hear anymore books. But that is her prime time so she kept going. Then she went to her room and read to herself. She was up all night gobbling up books. And then of course after that doing her nightly drawing time. I can't keep up with that girl sometimes. She takes things she loves and she runs wild with them. But I definitely couldn't be more proud. I have helped her build a foundation one small bit at a time for years-since she was TWO! And sometimes it was discouraging when she hit a road block since she was so young to process something, but most of the time very rewarding for both of us. Now we have completely broken the barrier. She is reading 100% independently. Although she still may get stuck on a word, what kid doesn't? Now that she has a higher level of confidence in herself, she is wanting to get her own book from the library to read at night after I read to her. (I promised her I would never stop reading to her just because she can read.) She already has her "Cat Diaries" she loves, so that will suffice until the roads clear back up. Library day is certainly my favorite day lately. Watching her get so excited about books. Man, that is where all the knowledge lies. That is the foundation of unschooling. And now she can access it on her own-if she needs to. Between that and You Tube (Ha Ha) and the ability to decipher fact from fiction, the knowledge of the World is hers for the taking! Man, I am too excited. This growing up thing is 10% sad, 90% awesome! Now we can focus soley on whatever she wants to learn without me panicking. I am no longer concerned about the fact that schools exist at all because I realize how little knowledge I truly have about the world I live in. And I attended school for 13 years. Who knew the sun doesn't set, but that the horizon rises? I never made that connection. Western culture is deceiving. Not on that tangent now though. I am on a bragging streak.

Speaking of progress, I mentioned before that her math improved once we put her in a non stress environment. It is continuing to improve. (I do believe also in part to her age.) But she is more willing to do any sort of math, even though she knows it is math, because she knows she is not always being gauged. (I do believe she would have serious test anxiety if she were in school.)

Another area of progress: her art gallery. She has so many plans that she is carrying out. She wants to make a sign to put above the door and write Open on a chalk board sign I have. She wants to put out cheese blocks and possibly make more Petit Fours for hour derves. She is going to have a Painting section, Drawing, Clay, Lego, Sewing, and I can't even remember what else. She has finished her paintings and framed them all. She cleared off my entry way table and displayed them nicely. She has made a few drawings specifically for the gallery, but has some older drawings that she likes and wants to display. We are out of frames, so we are not sure how we will display them. She has made her clay statues, but still wants to paint them. She has made several Lego buildings, some of her own creative mind, others from instruction. And we are currently working on sewing. She has a cat outfit she made. A pillow. An (almost) no sew skirt that she made for a doll about the size of a Barbie. And in progress is a skirt for her Our Generation (18") doll. Of course she still has to make the tickets and all so it will definitely be awhile before she opens her gallery, probably Spring, but I am leaving it up to her. All I have requested that she doesn't rush through just to get it done and opened and she has done well about that. (She has a habit of jumping ahead of herself, but we are always learning each other and one thing I have learned to help her is that making lists helps. That way she can see each step and then she will slow herself down.) I truly think this will be a great project to her. It gives her something constructive to devote her time to and she will see an end result which I know will make her feel more confident about her art and give her more motivation to move forward.

All I have left to say at this point is UNSCHOOLING ROCKS! Even if we decide in 10 years that it isn't working anymore and we want to switch, I will never regret that we did it in the past. She has learned so much and come so far.  And our relationship with each other is never hindered by the burden of forced work "for the sake of learning." But we truly connect when we both get excited about each others passions.

Side Note: Speaking of passions, Samantha has had a burning desire to feed the hungry for almost a year now. So much so that she has used her own allowance to buy food for a food bank. And the bad mother in me has been putting off letting her volunteer because we "just have so much going on." But that has changed. I realize nothing is more important than allowing her to pursue what God has called her to do. So I found a place down the road that will allow her to volunteer even at her age, without me if she wishes, but I will probably stay. They said they love homeschoolers and that (because she is homeschooled) she can help with pretty much anything, aside from paperwork. They even said once we start working more with money they can put her on the cash register in the thrift shop part of the pantry. What a Blessing FOR US! That she can do what she is passionate about while also learning and they are super relaxed about coming in whenever we want and about her age and all. I think this will be a great place for her. A place she can help others with what she feels her service is. A place where she can learn a lot of life's basics, and build relationships in the community. They said there are some other homeschoolers throughout the week but a lot of older people that adore children that will just love on her and take her under her wing. Yes! Bingo! A mentor! This is what unschool is all about.

I feel so lucky that we haven't really had an issue finding "homes" for us. I hear so much about homeschoolers going through several support groups before finding one for them. Or about going to several places to volunteer before finding what they want to do. I put in a lot of research before we actually try things out, but I think part of it is just that I feel a pull to certain places that we should be. Heck, even the college Samantha takes lessons at is perfect because it is all daytime and SUPER affordable. Can't beat that. I am very thankful for our easy transition into this lifestyle. Of course there are struggles, but seeing the fruits of all that work has certain paid off.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Academics Come Last

Growing up, I went to public school. The place where 30% of the kids wanted to be there and struggled to do their best-me included. And the other 70% didn't. They didn't want to be there. And they didn't want to try. I could've easily been one of the 70% who actually took more effort to scrape by barely than it took to just do the work. (By this I mean the ones who actually tried to sleep in class instead of doing work. Or the ones who made a big scene about how stupid the work was. Or the ones who spent their days in the office rolling their eyes at the administration as they scolded them for whatever it was they did that day. Of course this is the extreme end of the 70%. But nevertheless, if could have easily been me.) Because my Mom didn't care. Not in the neglectful, passed out on the couch with a beer in her hand instead of helping me with my homework kind of way. Not in the "I had to walk to school again because she spent the night at some random guy's house after a trip to the bar last night." But in the, "I understand. I was a kid once. And although I really enjoyed school and I loved learning, I realize that school isn't always learning and learning doesn't always mean school. And oh yea...ACADEMICS AREN'T EVERYTHING." She got it. She didn't just say this. She lived it. She understood that people are their own person. And school wasn't everything in life. She just wanted us to do the best we could and that is all she asked. Of course she was less critical than I who had this burning desire to please. To be on time to school every day, never miss a day, even when she offered "mental health" days. And of course I cried when I got my first B+ the semester after my parents got divorced. I saw school as something that added value to my life. And it did at the time. I will never deny that I enjoyed school as a child. But I do wonder how much richness would have been added to my life had I not been in school. Maybe a lot. Maybe nothing because I am not sure my Mom would know where to start. Either way, that isn't the point here. The point here is that academics are not life.

In the past I have felt so alone in this mindset. The only other ones I have heard with this opinion are other self-proclaimed unschoolers. I figured we were the only ones who knew this golden truth. But as I talk to more and more people, mostly homeschoolers, but also some parents whose children are in school too, they state they know academics are not everything like schools want to portray.

Is it more important for my child to know her addition facts or to serve others? Or in my friend's case, is it more important for adopted daughter who is struggling to socialize with others and control her anger that stems from her past to spend her time learning about Abraham Lincoln or is it important for her to learn to sort out her emotions and deal with them so that she can start to character build and become a productive member in society, even if she is only vaguely familiar with Abe Lincoln? (I mean, living in America, I think even those who never formally learned about Lincoln are at least familiar with his face on the penny.) Is it more important for my friend's teenager to spend her time starting her own business and practicing her art to get a portfolio ready for art college, or should she be spending her time in depth learning Physics?

We all, at varying levels, recognize that we need to learn to read and write and maybe have some knowledge about how things work now and how the world has worked in the past, but we also recognize that children are individual. And what they want to learn and do-even if it is playing-is just as important if not more than those academics. So maybe those were two more missing puzzle pieces: 1. Support of others who GET IT-even if they are not unschoolers. and 2. I needed to hear those words. Academics are not as important. Instead of thinking, "What if she doesn't learn all her academics through her interests?" I need to say, "She won't. And that's okay. Because academics just are not as important as the real life experiences and knowledge she is gaining IN PLACE OF these things.

Monday, February 9, 2015

My Weird Homeschooler

My daughter's favorite reply to other people's snide comments about her differences is, "It's because I am homeschooled."

To be honest, in the beginning my  Husband and I were really worried about how S would handle the constant scrutiny and "opinions" from others about being homeschooled. She is a sensitive child, so there is no telling how she will handle a situation sometimes. (Usually with tears.) SO, we did what any other good parent would do, and we made fun of her from the start.

Ha Ha Ha Ha. No seriously though, we did...So she grew up learning that when people say things like, "You are really odd," it is something to laugh about, as she knows, it is a positive thing. When people say something about her crazy sense of style, she says, "It's because I'm homeschooled." When people comment on her going to bed late and waking up late, "It's because I'm homeschooled." When somebody stares at her because she busts out singing like nobody is watching her, "What? I'm homeschooled!"

It is a running joke at our house that when we started homeschooling S, we all became "weird homeschoolers." (We definitely have our quirks. J is a nerd in every sense of the word. And I am "one of those Moms" who gets excited to swap recipes and talk all about the essential oil seminar coming up.) We like it that way though.

When I watch S spending her days doing what she enjoys-putting in 4 grueling hours decorating a Valentine box, making Play Doh clothes for her dolls, volunteering, drawing pictures and preparing for an "art gallery," hiking...all the while singing and walking around and getting out energy, being her weird homeschooled self...I smile. I think, I don't know what I would do if she were not a "weird, unsocialized, homeschooler."

And that is why nothing makes me smile more when she takes pride in her "label" and says, with a giant smile on her face, "Yep! I do. Because I am homeschooled!"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Series of Saturdays

I once heard unschooling described as living life like a series of Saturdays. I never did like that description because it made it sound like all you do is lay around and watch TV. And to me, unschooling didn't mean laying around all the time waiting to get bored enough to do something productive.

After my recent struggle with teaching vs. "not teaching" math and a very lazy Saturday, however, I finally get what that means. Actually, by lazy Saturday I am referring to a Sunday, because that is the first day of the weekend for us. Hubby and I were most definitely being lazy as we became engrossed in a season of House M.D. We have been watching only at night before going to sleep, but that rainy Sunday got the best of us and we couldn't unglue ourselves from the bed.

S, however, being left to her own devices, was actually productive, without my direction to play math games or practice her reading. She started out the day by drawing, of course. Then she played some games on the computer: some math, some reading, some just plain fun that actually had a small amount of math and reading mixed in. She played on the Wii Pad making avatars for each member of the family, trying to make each character look like that person with their favorite color clothing, asking how to spell their names, typing, and reading the directions and titles for each of the Mario levels. Then she napped. (Hey, gotta have SOME lazy time on a day off.) Afterward, she played with her toys, telling stories and creating new scenes. She read one of her new favorites series of books called Cat Diaries. She is still kinda slow at it, so I am not even sure that she finished a whole chapter, but I did hear her reading aloud in the next room and she read for awhile. She drew some more pictures. Made things from Play Doh. Watched some You Tube videos on How It's Made. (She can tell you how everything is made. And if she can't, she looks it up, and after watching it once or twice, she can tell you the whole process!) She looked through a book about fairies we checked out of the library and worked on her newest project, a Fairy House. I don't remember what else she did. But I know we read together that afternoon. Ate dinner as a family. And she probably watched a movie before passing out that night.

I was finally convinced that I could let go-completely, and she would be okay. In fact, she would be more than okay. She would excel. Sure, if she did the same thing every day for years, she might not learn much, but after awhile her interests would shift. She would probably get bored of playing Mario. She will eventually finish the book she was reading and move on to another. And every time we have a family dinner, we will probably talk about something different, be in current events, working out, eating healthy, camping...

I have seen that happen over the last few weeks since I started letting go completely. Tuesdays and Wednesdays we are not home at all. And that is automatic learning all day. Tuesdays volunteering and gymnastics. Wednesday library, errands, swim class. The rest of the week is OURS! And the days go like this: We spend the daytime together in the living room. I made one of the new popular pallet couches with two twin sized mattresses, which is perfect because there is so much room to work on projects. We can stretch out and play games, even if the dogs are laying on it. I can use a whole mattress to do laundry while she lays out to draw or work on something on the other side. And it is wide enough that we can really have room for everything without a back cushion hindering us. (We can move the back pillows.) Anyway, back on track. We spend the days together either there or at the kitchen table. And as soon as S wakes up, I don't suggest we "play games" or "read" anymore. Although, she enjoys our daily ritual of reading when she first wakes up, so we do generally read for awhile in her bed, usually American Girl or her series or Cat Diaries. When we are done, she gets up and goes about her day. Her first activity is usually drawing. Then she goes on, asking to play games or playing with her toys. Somewhere throughout the day, I get sidetracked. My Dad calls. I get the dishes going. Etc. During that time, Samantha usually picks up the Wii Pad and brushes up on her gaming skills. Good break. Like having recess I guess. Today I am not feeling well and neither is she, so she is on the Wii and she started adding-voluntarily! She didn't even need to do it for the game. She was just curious. (Word problems, which mean true understanding if she can apply them correctly, which she did.) She said, "Look! Daddy has 6 flags for the Worlds he has defeated. But there are 8 worlds, so it looks like he needs 2 more to beat the game! Of course I encouraged that. Unschooling isn't total neglect. Gosh. She was proud of herself, so it made her feel confident enough (despite my earlier *horrible* comments to people that she was "bad" at math) to continue on. "Oh wait, and over here, it looks like he needs 3 more because he has 5 on this one." Bingo! She's got it. Subtraction, in a no stress environment, is coming to her as easy as spelling her own name!

Moving on, our favorite thing to do is work on projects. When you are working toward a goal, you have something to show, and a stopping point (with an accomplishment) if you wish. (Like building a garden!) So we have been working on two projects. One is a new fairy house. S did her research on what fairies like. She made a list of natural materials to gather. She went outside and explored on a pretty day, and gathered most of what she needed. She measured out how big her stuff needed to be. She made another list, of things she wanted to make, like a clock. She was very clever with her use of resources to make a "clock" out of nature-which she labeled with a marker.
We are still working on it, but have set it aside for now to work on a new project. As Samantha and I were talking the other night, she was reminessing about how much she really enjoyed the art gallery we visited at the end of last year. She talked again about how much she wishes her art would be displayed in a gallery like that one day. And then she came up with an idea. "Let's make the house into an art gallery!" And we took off with ideas about how to make each room into a theme, what mediums to use, etc. S talked about making tickets for J and me and making a cash register and pretend desk. It was decided. We would start in the morning. Then my SIL had a great idea! Why doesn't she open her gallery to family and friends? S LOVED the idea, so she is making "VIP" tickets for everyone she is inviting. (We made a list.) Also made a list of mediums she wanted to use. Then we started with a book about how to draw with charcoals. She learned more about the medium, but got a little frustrated with the smearing. (Not to mention she was determined to draw a horse, and those are extremely difficult for beginners.) So we set it aside and moved on. She made some sketches-one of her best was of an angel. (She named the sketch, "Angel of Fun," very appropriate for an angel with a rainbow colored skirt. She asked me to teach her to write her name in cursive so she could sign her art. And tell her the date so she could start dating her art too. She made some clay miniature statues and will paint them once they dry. After that, she was worn out for the day. She still has so much to do, like make the tickets, money, cash register, paint pictures with different types of paint, etc. She is trying really hard and taking her time because she wants to impress the people who have never seen her art before. This, I believe, will most definitely go in the "top projects" pile. I am documenting with pictures and will keep updating.

When I am not working with Samantha, I have taken up a few new studies of my own aside from the Gardening and reading up on homeschooling. (I think it is important to see me doing my own reading and research so she will see that I am not just telling her to do it, but doing it myself voluntarily. Anyway, I am sure I have mentioned that before, but just wanted to stress what a difference it makes, especially in an unschool environment.) She sparked my interest in fairies, so I thought I would read a few novels with some accounts retold and information about the different types or fairies and theories, partially because it is interesting and I want to share her interests and partially  because I want to be able to relay some of the knowledge to her in terms she can understand. (It is even a hard read for me. The author is Irish.) I think the best of this is we can all play off of and explore each others interests. I am learning about computers and fairies. S is learning about gardening. And J learns everything we do because both share our interests constantly over dinner and in the car or while out doing something as a family. Gives us something to talk about and connect over besides the same old, "How was your day?"

I am learning one small bit at a time that letting go does not mean not getting involved, or laying on the couch watching TV like you would on a lazy Saturday. It just means that I don't have to cling to the scope and sequence established by others. I need to trust my child that she knows what is relevant to HER life and HER future and she will benefit greatly from that. She will go further than she ever would with somebody else telling her what she needs in her life. I truly believe that. Now that I have let go completely, I can't wait to see where this takes us.