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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Unschooling Honesty

I have to be honest. I feel like as much as I talk unschooling up, I have to discuss all aspects. The good and the bad. Now that the doubt and anxiety have subsided, we are practicing full blown child - led learning. As much as we all love it and wouldn't change it, we got too comfortable and it took a toll on us as a family.

I've been sitting on this post for awhile. I spent the last few weeks in a slump. Mostly because this time of year brings on a mixture of depression and excitment. And I never know exactly what I'm feeling at a given moment. I already knew why I was feeling the way I was. But I was feeling something else too. And I want sure why I was feeling the way I did. I was feeling worthless. I was asking myself questions I never had in the past. How did I get here? How did I become that mom who brings Tang and some cans of corn in a bowl to the Thanksgiving potluck? How did I become the Mom whose child's hair is only half way brushed and who can't get it together enough to remember to bring TWO towels to swim class?

I wasn't the only one feeling stuck. J was feeling stuck in his job - still does unfortunately,  but we are working on fixing that. And S was just kind of treading along. I hear that happens sometimes when kids need a break or they are looking for something new to soak their interest. But it didn't help my anxiety.  My worthless feeling. My, "Oh! How did this happen?" feeling.

It's funny the way it was triggered. Right after we got back from vacation I was feeling renergized.  But then we spent the day after we got back watching television. And the day after that too. I know I'm not alone here. When things are one way for a day or two, it seems like they are always that way. Maybe I didn't get to spend time with my Husband Tuesday and Wednesday.  It feels like I NEVER see him.  Maybe S played all day and didn't read or do anything math of any kind. Then I think, "Gosh. She is SO lazy. She never does anything productive." When in reality none of that is true. But anyway, that was the catalyst. I haven't felt the same since.

For a week or two, it was just this constant worthless feeling I was having. Thinking maybe I'm doing something wrong. Then I realized I let myself get too comfortable in this whole, "just living life" thing. I was not living life to the fullest. I was living life to get by. I was spending time cleaning instead of diving into a good book with S. I was watching television at night with Hubby instead of sitting on the couch like we love doing after dinner and having long conversions and playing together.  (Ok. I'm also going to blame that on the time change.  It feels SO much later than it really is after dinner! Especially since J doesn't get off until dark.)
So I had to get myself "un"comfortable. I had to mix things up a bit. Something had to be done about the minimal effort I had been putting in lately. It just wasn't me. I am the woman who volunteers for everything. Who always has a plan. Who always wants to dress up and meet new people. Who gets excited about big events. And lately I could barely muster the energy to be excited about anything. I couldn't keep traveling the road I was. I had been down it before.  And I wasn't going to go back.

So first things first. I deleted my Facebook. At the very least throughout the holidays. Because seeing my newsfeed clogged up with baby pictures was not going to help me get through this time of year one bit. And the way to make sure I stayed away from it was to not have one at all. Deleted. Check.

Then I set my phone to only jingle when my Husband calls and texts. I leave my phone basically on silent and I check it periodically throughout the day. That keeps me off the phone and completelty focused. It is insane the amount of time I save. Folding clothes takes 1/4 of the time it usually does because there are no outside distractions.

I also started forcing myself to do more.  Making a list of things to do because I know myself and even as I start to travel down the road to becoming depressed,  if I have a list of things to do,  I won't let it go undone.  I began a long list of house remodeling projects. I've already washed the floors until they shined like new. Fixed the mailbox which has been missing the flag since we moved in. Put new sheets on the couch and trained the dogs to stay off the couch and on their bed. Fixed some odd and in things around the house. Clogged drains.  The cat bathroom. Etc. Next I'll be restaining the cabinets and painting the refrigerator like a chalkboard! The house already looks different and I already feel better!

I also made a list with S of things she wants to do and learn. And I make sure I'm doing those things with her in her walking hours and not scrubbing the floor while she sits beside me asking when we can go over guitar tabs.

My Husband, who knows how down I have been,  has been getting us out of the house more. Settimg up time to be with friends. We had a Halloween Party at a friend's house one night.  Movie night/potluck at our house another night. And a bonfire at a friend's house another night. S had friends at 2 of the 3 events so she got some time to play too.
DH also purchased me some Pyrex pans with an insulated bag AND hot/cold packs to take to potlucks!! Because he knew how worthless I was feeling about bringing cheap easy things in my old pots since cast iron is hard to transport. He helped me find Casserole recipes to start making. It seems so small but it is so huge to me because he knows how important it is to me to be "That Mom." I want S to look back and think of home cooked meals. I want her to remember that her Mom brought some of the best casseroles to her events.  I want her to think of our house as a warm place to be. Somewhere she was always comfortable.  I want her to remember Mom dressed nicely in her Summer dresses and workout clothes. Not in tshirts and stretchy pants like I have been wearing.  I want her to remember Mom who always had time to read her American Girl book with her before bed and not just the Mom who tucked her in when she found a good spot to pause the newest Netflix series she is watching. And those pans made me feel renewed. They made me feel like that Mom again. Like I can have the energy to do it all.

Another thing I did.  I became rededicated to my volunteer positions.  I had been quite lazy since we didn't have a Save One study this Fall. Many Tuesdays I will call in to the Center and say,  "Send me something to work on at home." And I just input data which isn'ttheladybut meaningful. They never use it. Or I will go to the CHEA board meetings and forget all about the upcoming events until the next time I have to make an agenda. I've been slowly slipping into these habits since August. And that simply is not me! So I've revamped my plan to retrain for intakes at the Center until our next study starts. I've prepared my next speech for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  And I've signed us all up to Walk For Life in April.  I've been making more CHEA lists and making sure it all gets done. Made sure to keep up to date with everything going on within the group. And made sure that I'm doing my part too. And I recently took on a position as Parent Volunteer with Heritage Girls.  That was a long hard decision.  S asked me to start volunteering after I spent a day helping out in her class.  She couldn't quit thanking me for being in there.  It melted my heart that it meant something to her to have me help out.  But I was torn because generally DH and I use Tuesday as a date night any chance we get.  And I didn't want to clog up Tuesdays and ruin any chance we get for a date. One of her leaders talked me through it.  She said she can't wait for me to volunteer.  She knows I will be one of those Moms willing to do anything.  BUT she doesn't want me before I'm ready. No volunteering because "that's just what you do." All in or not.  She wanted me to pray and talk to J and ask him to help me set the limits so that the troop doesn't overstep their bounds. What a huge weight off me to know that I won't be taken advantage of. I talked with S. This year I'm going to help out. But not in class. I will help with the things I find to be the most meaningful for her.  Like the service projects-one of the main reasons she joined.  And then the overnight stuff like Forts and Floats and AHG camp mostly because I know right now she won't do those things without me. I want to be there. I want to set that example. But I don't need to lead everything. Overload leads to burnout which is what I experienced earlier this month. I needed a refresher. And I didn't realize that until I got that vacation. That break.  I was still.  And it was nice.

It has been about a week since I did these things and I have never felt better. I think it is one of the best decisions I have made by far. I finally feel....present in reality. I have figured out what I am doing again. What direction I am heading. I only have a few questions still. Like conception or adoption mainly.  But I'll have my answer in a matter of months.  And that will be a huge relief too.

As for S, the activity is picking back up for her. She has started learning to play guitar! Which her interest was sparked while watching some of our friends play one night at a party and then subsequently at church. (The party was neat because she learned a little about guitar and one woman taught her about the Turkish culture. Another man who was in the military taught her some words in another language.) The people there ate her up because of her intense interest in what they had to say. It renewed her need for one on one interaction with adults who want to teach her and have a relationship with her so I called up the ONE member of my family who has an interest in spending time with S regularly and teaching her.  My MIL. After Thanksgiving she is going to spend a few hours every other week with her and learn more about crocheting or listen to stories about my Husband's Dad who passed away while my Husband was 9. We will either use that time for a date.  Or I will do it on a work day for J and spend some time working on something at home or going to the store. Doesn't matter really what I do.  I just know she needs that time to connect with family. And she doesn't get it much. Not from a lack of effort on our part.

So I got to rambling, but anyway, she has learned so much. After she told me she was interested in guitar, I knew we had to get one so she could even find out if she really wanted to stick with it  It's kinda hard to learn without one. But I'm not just going to dump money on every fleeting interest she has. So I made a list of things for her to learn to show her dedication. She had to find a way to get the information herself so I knew she was serious. She looked up You Tube videos mostly and also put some books on hold at the library. She had to learn simple things like the string numbering system, what note each string makes when it is open, fret numbering, reading tabs, holding a pick, etc. And once she did those things, she put in half the money ($15 to make sure it was worth her money to her and not just ours) and we ordered her a guitar. A cheap one. Gets knocked out of tune constantly. But it is made out of real wood and somewhat sturdy. It came in Monday and she spent the night after dinner just strumming it and getting to know it. Tuesday we had some time to do video lessons in a series I found on You Tube. Very basic. Review of what she had already learned but she wanted to go through every video lesson. And yesterday she started practicing tabs so that her fingers can get to know where each string and fret is. Her and J practiced more after dinner and he downloaded an app on cords for them to play with.

S is also working on a book inspired by her Love for Eric Carle and his illustration style. We spent a good chunk of the day today doing one of our favorite things-being at the library. She spent an hour on her book. She already wrote the story a week or so ago and started the first page.  She finished the first page and the fourth page. (She skipped 2 and 3 because she had ideas for 4.) She talked about how she would love to read her book at storytime for the library.  And she would really love to have her book published. So we looked up how to get published and found a company that specifically published children's books. She is working really hard on this book using so many techniques and I'd love nothing more than to see her achieve her goal. Although I prepared her for set backs. (No failure.) One she got tired of working on her book, we read every Eric Carle book we could get our hands on. Including some we had never read before. She also mentioned Bill Martin (since he and Carle were close) so we read some of his.  And we're surprised when we realized he wrote "Chica Chica Boom Boom," one of her very favorite books as a toddler.

So things are moving along quite nicely again despite decisions we still need to start making. But but it is a start.

A few other things...

Last Saturday I forced myself out of the house (Yes, on a Saturday.  I need to get
used to it for AHG.) I took S to an event I booked in the Spring. Digging for plant fossils with the Chattanooga Nature Center. That was interesting. We drove all the way to Rising Fawn GA to an old coal mine and the kids got to look for fossils and keep them too. There were fossils everywhere. All they had to do was bend over and pick one up. They weren't quite as cool as say, dinosaur bones. And the common ones-bark Fossils were like whatever snore zzzz. But the ones with leaves and ferns were awesome! S got a whole beach bucket full and one SUPER neat fossil. She cherishes them. She did some research on them and asked lots of questions. They are still sitting out waiting for us to clean some of them off and see what is behind the dirt. It was a great experience. Something new and definitely worth the trip. (Oh and I didn't realize it at the time I signed up, but it was free since we are Members of the Nature Center. That was a neat perk.)

Anyway, she recently passed her swim test. On to level 4 permanently. She was very pleased with herself. Level 4 is to build their stamina and learn professional swim techniques - not just staying above water and swimming a few feet. I expect that S will have to repeat Level 4 since she only takes class one day a week-unless we spend all Summer doing lap swims-which we may if she wants to. Either way, after Level 4 she can join swim club IF she chooses. (Or she can go to Level 5 and Level 6 instead). Either is alright with me. If she moves forward in levels it'll be the same. The cost of Swim Club is the same as lessons. Which are super affordable. And she can still do one day a week if she chooses. It is 2 hours long. The first hour is spent practicing. The second hour is spent competing within the college. So nothing too competitive. (S is not the competitive type.) And it's nothing that just takes an unrealistic amount of time. But she has awhile before she has to decide.

And lastly, while I was going through that slump, my Dearest Husband started to panic. "What if S's math is lacking?" (Even though he is the one who told me to cut math until she was 8 or 9 since she was struggling.) But to appease him, I found a website with fraction games. J called in while I was setting her up with the game about to explain. She didn't want to wait so she took over. We had never formally covered fractions. Only while cooking or riding bikes ("We have finished 3/4 of the laps we need to go 2 miles." That sort of thing. Just mentioning them in passing.) But she impressed me!  She was able to identify the fractions, like matching 1/4 to the circle divided in 4 and filed in one section.  She was able to match the words to the fractions. And she could tell you if something was equally divided or not.  I asked her some questions because I wanted to make sure she understood them. I asked her why we use fractions. What they stand for. Even gave her word problems. No struggle. That was easy. Speaking of math, I have some multiplication and division games.  We have touched on both a bit. She knows what multiplication is and how to do it. We skip count all the time for fun on the way to Heritage Girls. But I will definitely wait until next year to practice it with her MORE - IF she even needs help with the concept. She keeps surprising me by knowing things by time we get around to them. She has standardized testing the year after next when she is almost 9. Bleh. It'll click for her though. She'll get it. She already pretty much does. Numbers are really starting to make sense to her and I am thankful we put it off. But I figure of I wait another year until she is the actual age she would test if she were in school, she will handle it better

While we are talking of academics, just a side note: Having a fluent reader is AWESOME!  She can do so much now.  She understands her world better because she is seeing words everywhere and doesn't need me to tell her everything that is going on!

Next week S is going to earn her swim badge and it is Thanksgiving. Wednesday we will cook all day with my Dad. Thursday we celebrate. We have already been preparing for Christmas. I wrapped gifts. Made some burlap garland. We will do some Christmas baking soon. Ah. It feels good to be back again and more focused than ever.  Maybe I should go back to a dumb phone.

Pictures Below: Page 1 of Her Book, Guitar, Sam with her HUGE Fern Fossil, Sam at her History Fair-Mummiftimg her doll, one of my new Casserole recipes-Chicken and Rice, the Kitchen Floor Before and After.

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