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

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What will we do today, Sami?

I know I say it all the time, but it is insane to me how we can wake up so many mornings and not know what we are doing that day. And yet, those are the days where we get the most done. I mean I have literally been asked what I have planned for the day and I'll say, "Well, right now I'm cleaning. But once Samantha gets up I'll ask her. Who knows?"

Like the other day. With the Math. I never would have expected when I woke up that morning that math would click with her that day! And the coolest part is to see how one thing leads into another. A book about zero leading into practicing double digit addition???

Later that night I remembered a series of books a friend told me about at our last Board Meeting. They were called "Life of Fred." It is actually considered a curriculum, but they are just math novels.  Nothing else. There are no hidden agendas and very little work, of which is totally optional anyway. And it connects math to everyday life....If it isn't something she will use on a regular basis, I don't think she needs to learn it until she encounters it. Say, for a job. But enough before I go on a tangent. Relax unschooling amigos, don't get your panties in a wad. I didn't run off and buy it because another formal Homeschool Mom said she needed to learn math from a book. I bought it because she researched it with me and asked for it. But I got a Hella deal so even if it does end up sitting on the shelf, who cares? Maybe the next one will enjoy it. Maybe not. But we can sell it for more if we wanted to.

I want to celebrate her new love of math with her. I want to support her. She now says it is her favorite "subject." (We try not to segregate learning like that, but I guess that's the way our society works. And we were raised that way. So she does know schools have subjects.) She has been practicing on the computer the last few days. And can't wait to get her books.

When we went to bed that night we had no clue what we would do the next morning.

It's funny. One thing into another.

The next morning came. She woke up and I had to do errands real quick. I asked her in the car what she wanted to do. She wasn't quite sure. I said, "You can work on your gallery, yard art, play toys, read, board games..." "Card games?" I told her yes. Then she proceeded to make up a game called "Yard Art." She begins tell me the rules that didn't make a who lot of sense....I stopped her and told her that made up games are for her and her friends. I don't play them.

Bad. I know.

But that is one thing that rubs me wrong.

Then I realized that I was slowly on my way to killing her self confidence and creativity.


I hung my head. What was the advice I read in a recent essay? If a child has the need to throw things, don't tell him not to throw. He isn't being a brat. He has a need. Meet that need. Buy him things that are for throwing. And teach him the appropriate time to throw.


"Sam...How about we make a boardgame?" And THAT was it from there. She was flowing with ideas. Some big. Some small. Mostly big. She wants a pop up game where you pull an arrow and out something pops. Etc Etc. I leave those ideas up to her. I wouldn't know where to start. However,  we work well together though because I can help her slow down and see the whole project in steps. Wheras, she only sees the big picture.

We got a lot done today.  She decided on a game with an art theme.  It will be called Master Painters. It is a board game. We have the perfect box for it. And a piece of cardboard for the board. She settled on a layout. The object is to collect 5 paintings so you can get into art school. (You make your own "paintings" which are drawings and the art school accepts you based on them.) She started making cards. There will be action cards and cards with facts about at and artists. It will be made of mostly recycled materials some "that's what at is about." And she has already thought about what the pieces will be and where to put the directions.

 I have to say,  it is a good activity. Makes you think and plan. Get creative. And Most importantly it has her excited.

And to think, this morning we had no idea what we were going to do...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Math Makes Cents

Ha Ha. Get it. Play on words there, people. Because math and money go hand in hand....he he....okay. No? Well I tried.

Anywhos. As I posted previously, the last few weeks have been rough. But it is funny how the smallest things make everything seem alright. It makes it all worth it. And I wonder why I ever day dreamed of Samantha being in school!

Today started like any other home day. S asked me to read to her some of the books she checked out at the library yesterday. So I did. We read Ponies.  And Christmas Cub. Kit. Boxcar Children.  And, well, sneaky me. I snuck a sneaky book in there. About Math. My intentions were well. I wanted it to be used as a fun storybook. But thought it could possibly be a catalyst for her. It was worth a shot as long as I wasn't forcing it.

The title of the book was,  "A Place for Zero." She struggles. My does she struggle in math. Since she was 2 and learning to count, she would skip the number 15. Altogether. Just skip it. And to this day she struggles to tell you what a 15 looks like. She will say 13 is 31. And 105 is 150. (She is not sure how to treat the zero. And that was the point of the book.  To explain zero.) Also, as she learned addition, we (both) tried to show her easier,  faster ways to add in her head. (She had a,problem with skipping fingers while using her hands.) I've said it before. It seems to be our Go To plan. We stopped.  And my Husband didn't like it.  Not one bit. But he supported it because he understood...WHAT GOOD WILL IT DO TO FORCE HER TO LEARN SOMETHING SHE APPARENTLY CAN'T UNDERSTAND?  It isn't just that she doesn't get a certain method. She doesn't get numbers period. She isn't doing it for attention.  She isn't playing dumb.  It started when she was little and had been a source of anxiety for her ever sense. So we relaxed.  Let that anxiety fall away.  Let her brain develop.

But today. It just clicked for her. Something hit home for her. After I read that book we went over double digit addition and how place value comes in. Carrying the 1s. I tried to make it more real to her so she would see WHY we need to add 2 digit numbers. She was going through the motions. But didn't quite get it. So we went over and over it. She didn't get frustrated. She said, "I Love math." Ha! I love math? Perfect! The wait was well worth it. At last she finally looked at me and said, "I like this. But it is hard for me. I want to learn more. But I have to go back and get better at my math facts first." Brilliant. She found a reason to learn it. She wants to know how to do things as quick as I do. How to figure things out. In order to do that, she must learn x, y, z. And she is on her way down that road.

I asked her what she wanted to help her practice. Worksheets. Board games. Computer games. She chose computer games. She jumped on fun4thebrain.com and practiced for 2 hours! And it clicked for her. She said, "Mom! I don't need to use my fingers. I can start with the bigger number and count up to the next number. 4 plus 6 is 6, 7, 8, 9, 10! Then she stayed remembering some facts.  And being able to do facts that added up to things like 15. And she wasn't intimidated by them! That's a major feat for her.

She got it. She finally got it. What a relief. She will still probably have a lifelong struggle with math. But at least she doesn't hate it. At least she sees the value in it. And at least her brain had time to develop to get to the point where it just made sense. She has jumped a major hurdle. Something that has plagued her.  Understanding numbers in general.  I'm proud of her.

And I'm proud of myself. I held back. I was panicking inside because everybody is ending their first grade year with a firm grasp on their math facts and place value. And I was constantly having to remind myself that things do not happen on a timeline. She is still a bit behind other kids her age math wise, but that's okay because she figured it out. She is loving it.

It is kinda weird to hear that the year is closing out for everyone. Of course our CHEA year is coming to a close. But we are still going stronger than ever. S has requested time to practice her math on the computer during the Summer. And her and my brother have both requested the library at least every other week. They want to swim. Explore outside. Go to the Greenway. Birdwatch. Camp. And all those other things. Science will be a focus this Summer. Hiking. Canoeing. Identifying plants and animals with her awesome new binoculars I got her at a yardsale.

Some days are major burnout.  When it seems that life is all about this event.  That experience.  These friends. Making sure we have intellectual conversations in the car....The good a gone day can do.  All the ground you can cover.  All the things you learn and enjoy....spontaneously.  Ah. It's worth it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All About Me

This week has been exceptionally hard. And it is weeks like these that I want to call it quits. Not because S. But because life happens and I feel like I'm having to deal with it instead of living it along side her.

Days like these I sit and think about what it would be like to be a stay at home mom while Samantha was in school. It sounds good in principle.

I already have my schedule planned out. Monday I would spend with Hubby since he is off. Tuesday I would spend the morning walking with some of my new Mommy friends. We would talk about our kids and how they are doing in school. Enjoy a few hours to ourselves. Then afterward, I would head off to the Center to volunteer. Wednesdays I would stay home and catch up on all my cleaning that I usually do in the mornings while S sleeps. It is a good errand day too.  And Thursdays I would volunteer at her school and eat lunch with her. Friday would be my free day. I'm sure she would have some school events. Or maybe I'd have extra cleaning to do. Somebody to meet up with. Or a project that needs to be done. Oh. The free time I would have....

But everything that I would miss. Sunday/Mondays there would be no camping. Tuesdays S would not be able to volunteer with me. Wednesdays we wouldn't have home days. AKA days were we can wake up and play games at home or take a last minute trip to the park to paint and study the Civil war. Thursdays I would miss the same. And Fridays we would not meet with CHEA. We would not have a miniature fieldtrip that we get to choose and post on the CHEA calendar. We would not have a Bird A Thon. Or History Fair. We would not have days where we get with friends to do lessons through building with Legos or other things the kids love. Sure, I could still take her to the library and we would do extra curriculars. But afternoons can be a bear. And weekends-FORGET ABOUT IT! And for what? To be able to go to a gym alone? Or eat breakfast with friends once a week?

And all the running that goes along with it. Early morning wake up. And drop off. Gotta be there on time for pick up. And make sure to have homework done by this date. And permission slips with money by this time. Dont forget they need to order a tshirt. And Tuesday is the talent show! Send $2. I'm sure it would be draining. It is not all it sounds like it would be. I'm sure.

But the last few weeks, mainly the last 3 days, have just been rough. And I feel like the devil is trying to get me down. He IS trying to get me down. And the grass is always greener...I won't let him. Better things are coming and I'm choosing to keep positive. I keep watering my plants. And taking care of things that need to be done before S wakes up. Even though I would love nothing more than some sleep! And I clean the house the best I can. And cover my eyes when I begin to see the imperfections. I keep allowing Samantha to spend her days as she pleases, knowing collectively, she is still experiencing so much. But inside I feel like there is always something to do. Always something that still could be cleaned better. I wish I didn't have to worry about her education. Sometimes I wish I had another teacher to share the burden. But I know I don't really mean that.

I love having that "burden." I know that will make me all the more proud as Samantha grows. For us, there is no specific graduation date. There is no end to education. So I will eternally delight in the fact that she is learning and growing now and in the future.

In fact, I love having that burden so much - the burden of education AND socialization-that I have been serving in ever area I can for her homeschool support group over the last 2 years. I started out small. Christmas party. And slowly, I got involved in everything. Even if it means playing the small part like putting out the table cloths. Or bringing the bottled waters. I've planned this and that. And the next thing I knew I was on the Board of Directors.

This year, I served as Secretary.  I really enjoyed writing out the Minutes. And typing them up and sending them for approval. Yea. I am a tedious person.

Although I started helping out to give my support for S-and will continue to do so by planning events I know she woukd enjoy and learn from...To be honest, the Board is for me. That's right. I said it. It is how I keep my sanity. Having something to do that I enjoy. I enjoy order. Total and complete structure. By choice - we do not have that rigid structure in our homeschool. I do that for S though.  Not for me.  She is an artist. Everywhere with her ideas. And she does not thrive on structure like I do but I have to have it.  I crave it.  And the Board is how I get my fix. Not only does the Board provide structure for me. It also provides a chance for me to spend time with friends. I'm bad about focusing on "what needs to be done" all the time. Here is x, y, z. If it isn't in my regular schedule, I have a hard time accommodating. I have a hard time making time to go see friends for myself because S needs to see her friends. Hubby needs me. We need a home day to work on projects. I have work for the Center. I haven't read my Bible in 3 days. I'm planning a CHEA field trip. Dinner needs to be cooked. There is this long list. And unless there is a way to trick my mind into taking that break to be with friends,  I won't do it. So there you have it. Time with friends. (Everybody always gets on to me for that. And I mean everybody. It isn't something I do on purpose. There is always just SO MUCH to be done!!!!)

So this year I was elected to be CHEA President. And. I. Took. It. Why would I take it if there is always so much to be done? I took it for myself. That's right. I took it because I like having things to do. I like having work. I don't work full time. So I always have to get my fix of "feeling productive" (aside the fact of you know, raising and educating a child)-I have to get that feeling somewhere else. I totally get what people mean when they say they HAVE to work but my heart was torn between being home with my S  and going to college and finding a professional job. This is a way that I can have the best of both worlds and I'm going to take it.

I have to admit, I have never had full say before. At our last meeting where our former president passed the baton, I asked her when our next board meeting would take place and if we were doing the Back to School picnic in August or September...."That's all up to you now," she said. That's when it hit me. I'm a little nervous. But more excited. All these things that needs to be planned. All the things that need to be done. I'm in Heaven.

She packed me down with things like the mailbox key and Field Day supplies, old yearbooks, CHEA'S sound system....and there is more she will give me later. But I don't mind. We meet again in June to go over all my duties. And I can't wait. I am just bursting. I know that I will make a good president. Call me conceited. But it's true. I'm an organized type A personality that will juggle my focus between several projects at once and still get them done. The only place I think-er, I know I will struggle is conflict. I don't want to solve conflict between people. Luckily there is very little of that in our group. And absolutely no drama in the 2 years we have been in.

Wow. Speaking of. I can't believe we are going on our 3rd year of homeschooling. 3rd year. I can't even describe the leaps and bounds S has made. Watching her in the library today excited about her new American Girl books. Reading the description to herself.  This girl has come a long way from the S who fought with me to read a leveled reader. And this Mama has changed, a lot too!!

Anyway,  wish me luck!  I'M GOING TO BE PRESIDENT!!!!