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.