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

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

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