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

Friday, October 30, 2015


Vacation. Was. Awesome.

I gotta be honest. I was a little afraid it wouldn't be. A few reasons why. The week preceding vacation I did so much preparation due to my OCD. I made detailed schedules - right down to the meal and price of the meal each of us planned to order at every restaurant.  I made sure everything that needed to be fixed or organized before we left-was.  I made a packing checklist and rewrote it 6 times.  Let's just say, I looked crazy.  I even bought a pad lock for my dog's crate and requested my dog sitters send me pics when they are put up.

Not on not that,  but I spent a lot of time prior to the trip feeling sorry for myself for not being pregnant.  I'm thinking now it was a good thing. I was happy to not worry about if I could do certain things the whole time.

The trip started rough. I had to check every light,  every outlet,  every door exactly 5 times. J got impatient.  But once we were off. And fed. The rest of the trip was smooth.

We started out with our traditional "all out" breakfast at Hardee's. Monster biscuits for everyone-including Sam.  That's what we get every year on the way to family reunion and any other big trip that is on Sunday.  (Otherwise,  we stop by Chick Fil A.)

The drive up was not too grueling. We stayed with one of Jessie's old co-workers/friend and his wife/their teenage daughter the first night. We visited, played with all their exotic pets (They have several: 3 kinkajus, 2 wild cat/house cat breeds which were interesting,  a bearded dragon,  a leopard gecko, and then of course like 4 dogs.)

Afterward we went up a mountain to a restaurant overhanging a cliff.  Called McCloud. Very fancy restaurant. The food was so so.  Nothing too special.  It was mostly the atmosphere. You could look it the long glass windows. Our trip was very foggy and drizzly. Our "hosts" kept apologizing about it,  but I thought the fog was beautiful. It was one reason we came down in late Fall and kept the vacation plans despite a little rain. On the way back down we saw several pretty leaf colors. It was a sight worth taking the time to see. Then we hiked a trail nearby their house that lead to a waterfall which was 3 large teirs. And if you count the smaller teirs that lead up to the top there had to of been around 10 or more.  S identified some trees and we took pictures of leaves to identify later. She enjoyed being on top of the waterfall. That is one of her favorite scenic locations.

We spent  the rest of the night goofing off and talking. We had planned to spend time in their hot tub and/our watch a movie in their awesome theatre room, but didn't get the chance. We went to bed around 11 and got up early on Monday.

Jessie's friend was the only one not scheduled to go to school or work.  He made us a huge breakfast. We left out around 11.

And got to the condo right in time.  Check in want until 4 but we got there early to dibs a fireplace room. (Only certain King suites had them.) We got the last one. And it was already ready! I booked 3 days and 2 nights in that baby so we got comfortable. Unloaded or things.  And then headed off to ride the trolley to the aquarium.  It was a neat experience for S, but we won't do that again.  Took to long to b get from one place to another.

She. Loved.  The Aquarium. S and I got homeschool pricing and J could have too, but the hotel had given us a coupon for a ticket to any Ripley's attraction for $1.00+tax.  So we only paid like $15 for all 3 of us. Also,  another "service" they had for homeschoolers was a souvenir book for free.  It had all kinds of work to do as you went through or at home. S chose to do it at home on her own time.  I have never seen her so enthralled at a place like that. She was so into it. She was reading the information herself and asking lots of questions. Instead of just looking. (This age is great!) And J is such a great teacher.  She learned a lot from him. Things the signs didn't include. She got to pet a shark and stingray and horse shoe crab. She could have picked it up but she freaked. She stuck her hand in water with little sucker fish. They also have tons of tanks you can crawl under and play in like you are in the tank.  She loved the tank with the conveyor belt running through it. She got to see the bottoms of the sharks.  We took pictures to look up some things we saw underneath that we didn't know about.

Once we left the aquarium,  we went for seafood at Bubba Gump's. From the movie Forrest Gump. It was so good.  Their fries were delicious. And J lived the gush puppies so much-he ordered a second order.

Then we walked the town.  Bought fudge.  S watched candy being made.  Moonshine Taffy. We bought a jar of that too.  :) All S really wanted was a lollipop. One of the medium sized.  Original rainbow lollipops. So we got her one.  She cherished it the whole time. Then we went to the Rock Shop. I had a collection of rocks growing up that I loved.  I had a few books on them.  I learned a little that way.  But mostly I just liked to sit a go through them. So that's what I did as a kid. I took S in there to share that love with her. And she fell in love too. Her absolute favorite were the pink Geodes. We bought her a small leather bag full of chipped off rock pieces that again-she wants to research.  She says rocks and gems are a new interest of hers. (Conviniently there was a Geology exhibit at the museum we went to on Wednesday.) Last stop was the Moonshine distillery for a tour and taste testing. We bought a jar of their orange moonshine that they only make once a year at football season. After that batch is gone, it isn't back for another year. So I picked it over Pumpkin.

Then we headed back for the night and played in the indoor water park which was completely empty!! Not only was it a weekday, but all the people we talked to around the town and at the hotel said everybody came a week too early for peak season. Last week was so packed you couldn't move your car and the colors were not completely in yet. Now the colors is in and the tourism had died down. We came on the perfect week. Inside they had 2 giant water slides,  a pool with a volleyball net, a pool with a fountain,  and a splash pad. Not to mention a hot tub. We played with S on the slides for an hour and then got in the hottub before leaving.  It was so relaxing. Just talking about it makes me sad it is over.

Then we went back up in the room, showered and all, started the fire up-which was romantic as all get out, decided we hated cable, turned it off, and went to bed. S slept on the sleeper sofa-which she loves doing. And we got the king bedroom. But of course we woke up cuddling with her in the middle of the bed. :)

The next morning we got up early. I made a big breakfast before Ziplining! We got a call from the place asking us if we still wanted to zipline in the rain. It was just sprinkling mostly and we would be covered by the trees so we said sure. When we got there they told us we were the only ones willing to keep our reservations that day. So it was just us in our "group" with 2 guides who were hilarious by the way.  We got geared up and headed out. I was so confident beforehand,  but after reading the waiver I got nervous. J went first.  S in the middle so that she would always be with at least one of us.  Then me. It was such a thrill!! It was pretty much beginners courses.  Only 50' off the ground.  And the ziplines weren't super long. Enough to make you want more.  We did 9 ziplines.  The guides would tease us and bounce us or send us back and have us slide again. One guide pushed me over the edge the first time because I was nervous to jump off. S was so brave! She loved it! She would just jump right off! S and I only got brave enough to let go and "fly," but J was flipping upside down! Oh man. We were so sad when it was over. But it was an experience worth having!  We bought our family ornament from their giftshop. And we couldn't stop talking about it the entire day.

We went for lunch at a BBQ place. I tried Philly Cheese Steak for the first time. Amazing! Then we went up on the mountain to hike but instead ended up on the motor trail by accident.  Which was still lovely!  The colors were astonishing!  We took tons of photos. S is now dead set on painting a scene we took a picture of that was drop dead gorgeous. So we are going to go over leaf techniques next week. We stopped at a little general store at the bottom of the mountain and bought a handmade puzzle to add to our coffee table collection, some homemade jalapeƱo jam,  some coloring books from the '70s for S and me, and some trail badges for S's Heritage Girls uniform-which is getting packed in already!

S feel asleep on the way back down the mountain and J and I got some alone time to talk about the mountains,  which was pretty nice. She woke up though when we stopped for doughnuts. A tradition it seems to be becoming for us.  (We used to do it when I was little.) And we bought hot chocolate.

Then we got back to the hotel and did it all over again. The slides were even more fun the second time around. And the bed felt even softer. I got to take a bath in a jetted tub! We had more time in front of the fire that night which was so cozy. And we slept like tranquilized lions.

Breakfast the next morning and I packed up and cleaned up. Our first stop was Bass Pro Shop.  J didn't find much. Although had he had $1,000 or so I'm sure he would have.  But S spent some of her birthday money on a toy she had been wanting.  A little boy we know sparked her interest in bugs before we left. He had a bug vacuum. So she got one at the store too. She can't wait to use it!

Then we headed to the McClung Museum of Natural History at UTK. Sam saw just a portion of the campus and couldn't believe it's size! We went in the museum and toured every section but paid special attention to the Egyptian section and the Geology section as well as the Tennessee History section where we learned a lot about the other side of the story about Indians. S loved seeing mummified animals and a sarcophagus. She learned a lot and recognized the names of the pharaohs. And I learned what the Rosetta Stone is! Always learning.  J gets absorbed in this stuff.  There is no telling what all he will remember. He reads every sign and takes in everything said in every video. We were there for 2 hours and still didn't cover everything.

When we left we were tired and a bit grumpy and considered heading home, but I'm glad we didn't.  We waited around for Ye Old Steak House to open-dinner only.  That was our big dinner day.  We ordered anything we wanted.  We both got the best steak I have ever eaten. The best fried pickles in the world. The best ranch I've ever had!  We even bought desert-homemade Hershey cake and ice cream-which was so good. There wasn't enough. Best place I've ever eaten. And the bill was only $103 after tax, tip, everything. And they even give you 2 free appetizers. Rolls. Which are so soft and warm.  And cheese dip to go with Captain crackers. Tasted like the cheese and crackers you eat in the little plastic packs as a kid. Simple. But yummy.

We were stuffed.  J did all the driving. He drove us home.  We pretty much listened to the music on the way back. S slept. We were worn out. Once we got home, I quickly unpacked. (I had a very efficient system so it only took like 5 minutes.) S watched a movie. And then we mixed some moonshine and Sprite. Per the distillery's recommendation. It tasted just like orange soda. And then J and I had some time together and eventually passed out.

I would say that was the best vacation we have ever had.  It was longer than we have ever had.  I want worried about the money.  And we did so many things that we have been wanting to do.  See the colors-which J requested last year while we visited (his first time) in August.  Ziplining. We love a good rush. Ate at some restaurants we have been wanting to try. We stayed in n the nicest place we have ever stated at on vacation. No arguing. S was great the whole time. So grown up.  We had a good balance. Nobody got left out.  (Occasionally S feels left out because she is the only kid there.) The weather was prefect.  Even though it rained a little, it just felt vacation. And for the first time ever I felt completely relaxed and refreshed when we returned home. (And sorrento the next day do absolutely nothing.)
We couldn't recreate that trip if we tried.  But we can have another trip-in December. :) It will just be a day trip. To hike and see the lights again.  This time we will hike Alum Cave trail. Eat Calhoun's as usual.  Ride around for lights. And eat Krispy Kreme! Memories I doubt S will ever forget.

I have hundreds of pictures but decided to spare anybody who reads this.

Waterfall in Jacksboro



Coming in for a Landing! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Life of an Unschooler (Tiny Vent Included)

Midsemester is here for most people. And I hear a lot about people's kids getting As and whatnot. And how they are switching over to a new unit and such.  Fieldtrips coming up.  Holiday parties. Etc. Which is all so exciting! Makes me want to have a turn to talk about what (and how) S is doing. Of course most people don't ask. They don't know how to ask.  So  they just dismiss the fact that she could be doing anything comparable because well, we unschool.  It's no secret. Everyone knows we don't do grades. We don't have class parties. And we don't sit down at the kitchen table to do required worksheets-ever.  So I guess they figure we aren't doing much except getting really good at picking our noses-especially my family. Although she did recently impress most nay sayers with her recent art gallery. They couldn't believe how much she knew about art styles, artists, techniques,  technology, art history. I mean actually knew, not just spit back out random facts. She told them how it applied to her.  Like how an artist inspired a painting or how a biography made her feel a certain way fir a painter. Only problem was-it want academic enough to make them think "unschooling works." She was happy with the turn out but I was a little upset we had several people say they would come that didn't. But that isn't uncommon. People make promises for Samantha all the time and then move her to the back burner. She is easily looked over. Especially since we are so extreme. Luckily she hasn't seemed to notice about the gallery.  Unfortunately she does about everything else. With all that said, no matter what form of education we choose, she is still my kid. And I'm always dying to tell people the exciting things we do like spending hours sitting on a trail while S sketches the creek and I birdwatch, telling her when I see something and together researching what it is. Or when we go to the pool and spend an entire day working on diving just because she feels like she can do better. OR like the puzzle we did yesterday called a family puzzle. Has 3 different sized pieces and we just spent a long day putting that together, listening to classical music, and just talking about life. That sort of thing. Most people think it is a waste of time. "I must not have enough to do." But those are important things to her and so they are to me. I'd rather spend my time doing those things than sitting under flurecent lighting and following a schedule all day. I think I know about two people who are genuinely interested in what we do and ask about her "schooling" regularly. That's because they are fascinated by unschooling. One just started moving that way herself. And the other one has a child who isn't "school age" yet. But they stay busy and so we just get to update each other when we see each other. I can't expect everyone to care about every little thing we do.  That's ridiculous. She's my kid and nobody cares about her like I do. (Except Hubby.  But he is a man. I tell him about our days and he listens, but he has had a long day at work himself and doesn't get jump up and down excited about what we did or put it on the list of things to try himself.) So, I must turn to my blog. Which is fine with me because writing is a passion and it is nice to write every little detail whether or not anyone cares what I have to say!  So.


That's us. And it's going great. I'm talking. Full on. Head first. No pressure. No required academics. No evil thought bubbles in the back of my head. Really no concern for her to learn x,y,z about History or Science. And it has caused such a major change in this house. I'm not the only one who sees it either.

Our weeks look like this....

The house is empty. We are always gone.

Ha HA Ha. No for real though. This year since S is so active we try to keep a *flexible* schedule for working out. Tuesday running. Wednesday swim. Thursday tennis. Friday bikes. Sometimes we do more. Sometimes less. Either way we either do it when we first get up or in the late afternoon to keep from cutting the day in half. The rest is up in the air

We no longer plan to do something - whatever "it" is at the table anymore. Unless we get bored and decide to do puzzles or play games. But definitely not 6 or 8 hours like we used to. If we have a project, we might read some books when we first get up. But I try to find interesting story type books to keep her engaged. That has helped with her Egypt project.  But we aren't doing a "written" project this year for History Fair. It is hands on. So mostly we are just reading occassionally. Watching You Tube videos in bed. Or going to museums like we are next week. To see a mummy! And then she will piece together a project. And continue any further study if she feels she wants to. We read other non related things all the time and have spent lots of time in the library this year. Which is neat because I'm seeing how this year she can spell the words she needs to search for books and she knows exactly where to go for her usual books like American Girl and Eric Carle, her new favorite. Her badges for Heritage Girls. It is pretty much all "field work." She is earning her cycling badge (among many others like travel and boating and running). We went and rode bikes today. Part of the requirement was to talk about safety and laws and such. We just did it in regular conversation while riding. I doubt she knew we were even discussing it for her badge.

All these things. The just plain living. The playing for hours on end. The time at home to do WHATEVER. To not have to turn everything into "clearly educational standards..."

The result? She loves learning EVEN MORE! I hear the words, "challenge myself" out of her mouth more times in a day than anything else. She says to her swim teacher, "Give me a harder swim stroke to try, please. I need the challenge!" I hear, "Oh! I should try to draw a bird this time. That is different AND challenging!" "Wouldn't it be a challenge if I taught myself to multiply?"

She is never reluctant to practice reading anymore. She just does it. Well, I wouldn't call it practicing reading. She didn't really need "practice" anymore.  I'd call it reading for pleasure. Or math even for that matter. She just does it randomly. Not computer games anymore. But while playing Pokemon with my brother. I can even hear her dividing. I can hear her saying things to me like, "Oh. You were in regular school for 13 years and college for 1 year. So you were in school for 14 years?? And doctors go for like 21 years?" Or frequently she will ask questions like, "How did you figure out how big the dog kennel is in your head? What do you do to find that out?" Etc. Etc. Us unschoolers know how that works. So I'm seeing her progress without constantly evaluating amd documenting. (Oh! It has been so nice not journaling this year!)

Her feet don't drag when something requires effort anymore. She used to shy away from helping me cook. Or carry in groceries. Or check the mail. That "laziness" has all disappeared and she is an eager beaver. If she wants lemonade, she looks up how to do it and she makes it. On her own. If she thinks her room is dirty, she cleans it. Whereas before, it wasn't worth the effort to her.

Not only all that, but her confidence is top notch! She always was happy to be an individual. She didn't care what people thought of her clothes. Her hair. Or the way she sang. But she consistently said she wasn't good at anything. Now she has time to find what she enjoys and to excel in it! Many hours the last few weeks have been spent drawing. And it shows. The emotion in her drawings. The effort. The textures are more evident. The tiny details. The content. The back story. So. Impressive. (And she writes words in her pictures. She used to not do that because again - she had to make the effort of spelling.) Many hours have been spent being active. Her coordination has really improved. And she has experienced a plethora of sports. She thinks she will enjoy staying active growing up  but she definitely doesn't want to lock herself down to 1 or 2 sports. Even though she may never master any of them,  she says she can't stand the thought that she might miss out on another fun activity.

Another thing we have recently enjoyed is opportunity without panic. Last week a friend called upset about having to take some strays she found in her neighborhood to the pound. "Bring them on over here." I was able to say without skipping a beat. They weren't interrupting anything that couldn't be set aside easily. So we spent the next 4 days focused on taking care of the puppies and finding them homes. S spent some time babysitting them outside and even inside in the basement. She learned about puppy behaviors. She learned how to handle it. She saw the interaction between our dogs and the puppies. She got attached and learned to say good bye. She learned a lot in those few days. And I doubt she will forget those dogs. And then today we left the house with a plan to ride bikes. We ran half an hour behind because we found what we thought was a Monarch butterfly on the ground and we wanted to study it. S drew pictures of it and even held it in her hand. First time holding a butterfly! Somebody on Facebook tlmentioned mimicry and how it was possibly a Viceroy. And why they look alike.  So we did our research. Again, she learned a more than I could describe. She thought it was one of the neatest experiences and I couldn't agree more.

Best part of all was I was not calculating inside my head how "This is Science. It counts." Or "Maybe we should bring some books with us to get some reading in too." "Oh no. We are running behind and won't make it home in time to study some more about Egypt." Nope. We just lived in the moment. After taking a million pictures of course.

I've never seen her happier or more involved in life and her interests. In fact, S now aspires to be an illustrator for coloring books. Interesting career choice. Very specific. She is already moving toward her goal. Working on a coloring book now. I. Like. It. Even if she does not end up being an artist of any kind, she will have gained experience. And she will have figured out she didn't want to do art long before she got stuck taking classes in college on something she doesn't enjoy.  So it's worth it.  Every single moment.  Is worth it.

New Skill.  Challenging Herself. Tossing a ball and catching it while hooping. 

Playing with chemicals.  You know.  Your average ordinary day. 

Touring a bakery with AHG Friends

For dogs. Need I say more. 

Show N Sell for AHG. Poor Sam. Not fond of group photos. She never knows where to stand. But she enjoyed herself.  Made some sales and a few new friends.  

Under the water.  Being a beast at swimming.  

She was being a statue at Boo at the Zoo

A recent quick portrait she drew.  Her eyes are getting better. 

Watching the Machine Engrave the Pet ID Tags

Running with the Dog

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Never Pregnant

I never am. Unless of course I am in my dream. Which is like every night.  And then of course I always wake up.  I used to wake up sad. Now I'm just starting to get angry. We just hit ANOTHER year anniversary of "trying." I have done SO. MUCH. this year.  I have put in a lot of research. No. Not Internet forums. Books!  Real books.  I've tried 8 different supplements. And while all of them are working, I guess they either take a lot of time or they aren't working enough. (And yes. I know they are working because when I first started taking them I didn't tell J. To be honest, I was pretty embarrassed it had come to that and I new he would feel bad. Anyhow,  let's just say he noticed some difference and asked about it.)

I've cut down the supplements to the ones that seem to work the best and they are working. VERY well.  Especially the ones I just started taking.  Two months on them and I don't ever feel sick anymore. I'm never in pain.  In fact, it's the reason why I was total convinced this month that I was pregant. I HAD to be! I never cramped. I wasn't tired. My boobs didn't even hurt...Until my temp. started dropping. Now I know.  Even if by some miracle I were pregnant, it wouldn't stick. I'm not even going to test.

I've gotten to the point where I don't even consider testing early anymore. I just wait it out.  I can't stand negative signs. I generally don't even convince myself that I am. I don't waste my time Google-ing those "am I pregnant" questions anymore. In fact, "the two week" wait isn't even torture like it used to be. Which sounds good, but not really. I've pretty much given up. I was so positive. So sure it was going to happen soon. The dream I had at the beginning of the year. We found a name. I had everything I needed. The supplements were working...I'm on my last string of hope. These next 3-4 months on Serrapeptase will be a game changer or a deal breaker. But I'm at the point I don't want to play the game anymore. I'm getting angry and this is what I want to say.

Fine! I was willing to give it ALL up for a baby.  For another family member.
My body.  My time. My sanity.

I won't spend the next 9 months sleeping all day and throwing up the few hours I'm awake. Or bitching at my Husband because my hormones are going crazy. Waking up in the night crying because I don't know why. Gaining pounds by the minute.  Watching new stretch marks form on my body every passing day. Leaking Good knows what from my boobs. And getting sick to my stomach when my Husband mentions sex.  Having my daughter walk up the hill to get our mail because I don't waddle fast enough. Trying to squeeze in behind the wheel of the car. Worrying because you can put your belly in a carseat. Being left out of everything because everyone around you is afraid for the baby if you sneeze wrong. And I definitely won't be spending another 29 hours in labor praying for it to end so I can just meet her...

But instead,  I'll just keep my body! I love wearing size 2 and 3. And I like being able to wear cute little skirts with tight tanktops. I like my cutesy coats and workout clothes. I may have stretch marks,  but nobody else knows that when I'm walking around in my new Abercrombie dress.

I'll keep my time.  I like my sleep. I'll continue to sleep all night. Wake up refreshed. I don't even need a nap in the day anymore-ever. I like cooking dinner without someone at my leg. I like visiting with friends without having to chase a toddler. I like sitting down with my Husband at night and having time to rub his feet and watch an episode of NCIS before bed. I like my alone time with S. I like volunteering and having her help as opposed to telling her to stay in one room with her toys. I like being able to pick up and do what she wants. We both like bird watching in peace. And you know what,  I like my down time for puzzles and reading. How will I do that when I'm carting 2 to activities or entertaining and educating 2 all day?

I'm looking forward to our vacation. So fine.  I won't be able to tell J at our fancy dinner night like I wanted.  Whatever.  I enjoy it when it is just the 3 of us and I know I will this time too. At least I won't have to worry about whether or not I can zipline or sample the moonshine or get in the hot tub! I'll get to have fun either way. At least I won't be puking on my way up the trail or worrying about if it's too strenuous.

And you know what,  I'll keep my money too! You know how much more it will be to eat out and go on vacation and such? Especially since S will be a preteen or even teen by time we'd have to start buying its own meals or paying admission to places. And what about Christmas?  Birthdays?  Pictures? Educational supplies? Buying just because? Or paying for activities? Heck, you know how much money we saved on cloth diaper detergent over the last 3 years?!

And my sanity.  I hold it dear to my heart. I always tell S that my bath time-where I blog, read, etc. is my sanity time. And she is old enough to understand. So I get at least one hour a day to sit and do whatever I want. Sometimes I may do some CHEA stuff like send some emails. Or some home stuff like work on a budget.  But it is still my "me" time I can do whatever I want with.  And you know another thing my 7 year old understand?  How to keep her mess in one room and how to clean up. How do you tell a one year old to confine themselves to one room if they want to play? You don't.  So unless I'm going to hire a maid, I gotta clean.  I like things so so and what is a toddler with no bedtime going to do?  Rip right through it all as I sit down to rest.

No arguing. No disagreements. No refereeing. No making sure not to play favorites.  No having to split a kids meal. No scheduling conflicts. No "fair."

So Yes. I have it easy folks. Looks like it will always be that way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Untainted Unschooling

We have quite a few (to say the least) unschooling skeptics among our friends and family. Too radical for most people I supposed. Although the more they see the way she learns, the more they actually seem impressed.

Set the stage: Midnight on Sunday night. Everybody in the living room. Our guest seems surprised that S is fully awake at this time. Playing on her new video game - Mario Maker. Building detailed levels she designed on her own. "Do you stay up this late often?" "Yep." I'm like, "Great. If they didn't think we were bad parents before, they will now. (Even though I don't see an issue with what she is doing - learning technology, Geometry, etc. I know most people just see red lights and think, "Lazy kid! Up at midnight on a screen!")

15 minutes later S picks up a project that she started the other day on her own accord. (Whew!) Pretend play at its finest. She had spent 3-1/2 hours "training our dogs" last Thursday (which involved clicker commands and playing tug of war with a double rope we bought for them.) She also cut out intricate medals for each dog and flags for those attending her event to buy. She made signs with prices. (I never tried to make it a lesson on which way the numbers face or how to draw a cent sign. She just knew. And occassionally asked questions while I cooked dinner.) She got out her pretend cash register, made tickets, and a ticket booth. She had a fake plastic phone to take calls on.

Fast forward to Sunday night:

As she announced the opening of her ticket sales,  she began answering calls from ALL OVER THE WORLD!  People wanting to see German Shepards and Collies at her show. She regretfully had to tell each caller that she could not fill their request at this performance but would keep it in mind for her next one. "There is always room for change." She sold me dog signs and gave me change for my dollar. Then it was time for the show. She introduced herself and the bark and wrestling commenced!

"Is this unschooling?" Our guest said jokingly. "At it's finest," I replied, "she came up with it all on her own."

I was beaming with pride. Our guest was surprised. And I could not have been happier. S was simply...playing. And yet she was coming up with these elaborately planned scenarios that taught her so much. This year has been nothing but reassurance that pure, untainted unschooling (aka play) can turn such amazing results. No freaking out anymore. At all. No panic if we don't do enough Science or reading.  No panic if she can't spell the word,  "please." Just calm. And peace.  Because I know without a doubt the things she learns on her own schedule will stick with her for years to come.

Update: The whole week, though a "normal" week for us this year went pretty well. We did our usual Heritage Girls.  The decorated cakes again for their badges. She learned about some new decorating tools. They announced that the next week (tomorrow) will be a field trip to a bakery to see how cakes are decorated.  And then at home she baked her own cake!  Out of apples we had picked that weekend. I showed her the recipe and double checked her work and she was spot on! All I did was check and clean.  She had swim.  Learning more diving. And tennis Thursday. As well as bike riding on Friday. Where she learned how to comfortably stand and ride! (This year is physical.) Per S's request, we bird watched for a few hours one day in the front yard. And identified a few birds accurately! We are going to be so ready this Spring for the Bird-A-Thon! We also did some experiments with her new chemicals she got for her birthday. Read half her Kit Mystery. (This one is slow going.) We began a documentary on Egypt but both lost interest. I figured she didn't get anything out of it until she was talking to my Mom Saturday telling her all about "this grass in Egypt that you can rub together and make strong rope that they used to build ships! And did you know they actually buried a ship with a dead king?" This all lead to a conversation about the water they found on Mars. Oh and Wednesday morning she learned how to fundraise. She raised quite a bit. Although she was nervous and did not like it one bit! Lastly - actually first and foremost - she played,  played played. Doll and Legos and Drawing pictures, and Littlest Pet Shops, and a shape sorter Noah's Ark. And with her doll house. And with her baby dolls.
This year has been laid back. We rarely sit at the table to work.  In fact,  as I said before,  it has been very active.  But there is airways time for discovery. Friday while riding bikes, we identified a caterpillar we found on the sidewalk. The field guide we bought last Spring has come in handy!
We have so much planned over the next few weeks. Our usual sports.  A show and sell for her fundraiser. A hike with AHG. A trip to the zoo. A trip to the pumpkin patch...VACATION! Which will result in MANY discoveries! I can't wait. We are down to less than 2 weeks now and every day we are closer. Although it seems like we are so excited for the next big happening, I don't want this year to end.  It seems we finally got it right. It's the perfect year. But next year will be different. Her age. Her needs. Her interests. All different.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


My Husband strikes most people as a typical redneck. Mm. I love it. Some people say underneath my "classy exterior" (love for boats, tennis, and table etiquette), I have a bit of a trashy side because man, do I love to see a man with messy hair and greased up clothes drink beer and talk with a southern accent.

I'm not talking about the dippin', bigot, beer belly type redneck. I'm talking about the kind of redneck who has cut muscles and wears tshirts with classic cars on them. The type of redneck who talks a lot of smack with the guys but knows how to treat his lady - with good 'ol Southern charm. The traditional good 'ol boy that would pick up his gun in a second to save his family. And he knows he won't miss.The kind of redneck who physically puts dinner on the table with a shotgun and a gutting knife. One who enjoys working with his hands. On and off the clock. There is nothing I love me than seeing my man in the garage after a long day of work.

Somewhere in all this redneck contentment I realize there is more to my Husband than what everybody sees. He's a soft man. Most rednecks probably are to be honest.
And he communicates so well. He didn't used to, but I'm glad I waited it out. When we started trying to have another baby, it wasn't something we talked about much. It was just understood. But somewhere along the way he has caught baby fever, and he is always asking how my supplements are working and if we need to buy anything else, if he needs to do anything. He expresses his guilt to me openly about past mistakes instead of blurting them out in heated discussion. And he talks more in general.

But two of my very favorite things about him are these:

1. He loves to find hole in the wall restaurants to eat at. It is almost a hobby of ours. Yea. Seems insignificant. But in all honesty, that's just one of those things that keeps us glued to each other. So many conversations about life have been said between the walls of small country restaurants that so many people have never even heard of. So many laughs have been had between those walls too. For a person to be able to enjoy themselves the way he does in a small town atmosphere like that. A restaurant that uses those classic brown resin plates with the matching bowls to hold each of three sides they serve with your meal. A restaurant that's walls are litered with pictures of community members and gaudy tackle collections or watnots from the 70s...with no need for the finer things like dim lighting. (Florescent lighting will do, thank you.) Or having somebody wait on you hand and foot. (Order at the counter and seat yourself, please.) I don't know. It just says a lot about someone.

2. He is content in nature. We are taking a vacation this Fall to Gatlinburg. It was a somewhat last minute decision because we came across the extra money. But J has been wanting to see the Fall leaves  in Gatlinburg for a long time. That's almost like a dream for him. And he is so giddy with excitement because of the beautiful views we will have from the mountain while we zipline through the trees. I love that man.

Simple. He doesn't ask for much. He doesn't need much. He's a simple man. A redneck.

Side Note: Vacation is going to be awesome! We have never gone on a vacation for 3 days before. Only 1 night, 2 days. And we have never done so much for vacation either. Here are our plans:

Day One: Leave early. Grab breakfast. Check in at the....water park hotel! Go to the aquarium. (Homeschool pricing is only $7 a person including adults!) Then we are going to walk the town. Probably tour the moonshine distillery again. Shop a little. Have dinner. Go back to the hotel for the waterpark. :)

Day Two: Zipline early in the morning. Then head to Knoxville for UTK. They have a FREE museum there with an exhibit that includes tons of Egyptian artifacts. Samantha specifically asked to go to a museum with Egyptian artifacts and I figured there would be one in Knoxville. I found one. So why not knock it out while we are out there. Not to mention we were already driving to Knoxville for Ye Old Steak House for dinner! Hubby says they are pricey. But amazing. And we are saving on food by making breakfast and lunch at the hotel. Then we are going to go back to the condo and play in the water park. And then that night S is going to watch a movie while J and I get some time alone. (We were thinking of picking up some moonshine at the distillery to sip on. I never drink so it will be nice to have one night to have a glass or two.) And the hot tub is right outside the room so we can slip out and still have our eye on her.

Day Three: Check out of the hotel and head to the Smokies to hike the Alum Cave Trail. I read it has beautiful views in the Fall. We will probably spend all day out there. May bring a picnic lunch and then say goodbye to the Smokies around dinner time.

I'm so full of excitememt. We all are. Just a few more weeks until we can all get away and relax. It will be nice since we didn't get to decompress this Summer while camping. And I can't think of two people I'd rather be with than those two. They keep me in stitches. Things are more fun simply because they are there.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


"We are only actively involved in their education for a very short amount of time in their life," a friend said to me the other day.

This Fall has really put that into perspective for me. She is right. "Short amount of time" to me, means, about 10 years. After that, we are still involved with our children, but they really do most of the leading (I'm specifically referring to homeschooling.) I have seen friends whose kids work on their own schoolwork with minimal help around age 10. I have seen lots of unschooling and even regular homeschooling families whose kids pretty much initiate their own projects and keep the ball rolling. And I am seeing S in the very beginning stages of doing that....

I close my eyes and I think back to the infant days. 

"Water. Water." I say. "W...?" "Yes. Wa-ter," I feel the excitement rising in my throat. "Wa-der." "Yes! Water! Water! You said it! Water! Now...say, wet." 

Funny how now my 7 year old has an active vocabulary possibly more expansive than mine-thanks to Martha Speaks, but I take it for granted. I don't dote over her every syllable like I did when she was 1. Back then eating with a spoon was a major feat. 

And then there were the toddler years.

"One Two." "Wun. T-oooo." "Yes. Good. Now we have TWO gummy bears." 

I remember recording S the very first time she rote counted to 10. And the first time I heard her recite her A,B,Cs which was little more than a song to her. We spent many of our days sorting counting bears, listening to music and dancing, finger painting, collecting nature materials outside...napping. That's educational, right? ....zzzzzzz....

Three and four were interesting because we entered a whole new world I had never experienced before. She knew what learning was and she wanted to do it. Our very first project was raising butterflies. I will never forget that. The wonder in her eyes as she sat on the kitchen floor for hours just staring at these tiny little creatures so intently. Watching them grow before her eyes. Wondering how on Earth they would turn into a butterfly. 

"Mommy! Mommy! Come look! They are THIS BIG! They eated the WHOLE leaf!" 

We started unit studies the year she hit 3. As a sort of "preschool." I compiled a list of topics along with a cute-sy activity for each day of the week. Usually an art project, baking/cooking project, movie, hands on project, and book. I think it was something I partly did to "practice" for homeschooling. And partly something I did to keep me on my toes throughout the week. Couldn't be getting lazy. (Things were different back then. Learning was done totally for the sake of learning. Not because she was compulsory and had to. We are still trying to get back to that point.)

I remember picking trash up outside for our "Healthy Earth" unit. I remember making these little cut, paste, and color ladybugs for our "Animals" unit. Oh and reading, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" for our "Cause and Effect" unit. Another activity during that unit was to color on that Crayola music toy. When you colored on your paper, it played music and the tempo would change as your coloring speed changed. And one of my very favorite things we did together was our "Anti-Winter" protest. Where we dressed up in white dresses and spent the day inside doing Summer-like activities like eating popsicles and playing with the outdoor toys. I remember blowing bubbles in the bedroom. It was a silly day, but a Beautiful memory. 

Those days are gone now though. Replaced by the 5, 6, and 7 age. The age where she picks her own interests, because, you know, she is old enough for that now. And we spend the days doing meaningful and in depth activities like reading living chapter books, researching online, and applying the knowledge. Doing "non Pinterest" experiments as S puts it. And practicing to be something she thinks she might want to be when she grows up. 

It almost feels like those days are slipping away too. S is spending increasingly more time researching her own stuff. And she has a list of interests a mile long that she can partake in on her own. Listening to music. Drawing. Computer skills....

I'm trying to be hands on while knowing how to be hands off when I need to. We work together a LOT still. But there have been days here and there were the house seems so quiet. S is in her room working away on something. I can hear the A/C running and the dogs snoring as the minutes slowly pass by and I try to find some housework. A puzzle. Anything to keep these hands busy. My life has revolved around her for so long....I'm not sure what to do when I am alone. 

I'm trying to keep my mind busy too, praying to God that he would Bless me with the ability to experience it all again. The new walker. The new talker. The child who drawing a circle with four lines protruding from it and calls it a person. A child who doesn't know their alphabet. One that I can read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom too 100 times and they will never get bored. A toddler who doesn't grasp what a number is but will happily repeat as you count jellybeans into their little hands. 

"We're going on a bear hunt..." "We going on a bear hunt!" She echos. "We're gonna catch a big one!" She squeals with delight....

We have approximately 6,570 days with our children between birth and the age of 18. Doesn't seem like much. 

I shut my eyes and just remember. Bask in what we have had. And live for what we will have. It doesn't last forever.

Playing PlayDoh-She didn't even know how to use scissors back then! Oh the things she has learned!

Playing Music

Sorting Bears

Making Lemonade for Summer Studies

Back Before Art Was an Actual Talent of Hers That She Practiced

Shaving Cream Letters (Before she could read!)

Nursery Rhyme Study (Back when we did calendar also.)

Observing for Hours-In Her Underwear.

Seeing Our Babies Turn Into Butterflies
Sensory Activities

Digestive System Demonstration

Ocean Studies

Weather Unit Sensory Bath

SENSORY BATHS! Glow in the Dark-Space Study

Learning to Sew

Making Doll Furniture

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