I’m being punked right? Where are the cameras?

Homeschooling, Unschooling

The morning after the last blog post, I sat my children down on the couch and told them we needed to have a talk.  I had told them the day before the decision had been made:  Mommy is quitting homeschooling.  There was no talking to be done.  My mind could not be changed.  So, I could see the fear in their eyes as I was about to start talking.  They were waiting for the dreaded “back to public school” talk.  I started with, “Yesterday I told you Mommy is quitting homeschooling and that is still the case.”  They talked over one another about how they will do better, listen more, argue less, etc.  I told to quiet down and just listen.  As I began to explain to them what unschooling was, how our day, our lives, their education, our home would run I saw the hope, doubt and then confusion paint their faces.  Alex, my daughter (6), was just sort of staring at me.  Jackson (7) jumped up off the couch and had the biggest confused smile on his face.
When I finished my lecture, I asked them if they had any questions.  Alex said, “Um…..it sounds cool but….I don’t get it.  We learn when we play?”  Funny, since that’s the same thing most adults say when they first hear about unschooling (the same thing I thought).  Jackson’s question was, “Are you………..really sure you are ok with this?”  So funny because my son knows me.  Knows my need for structure and control in this house.  I explained to them that this is a learning process for all of us but that now we both share in the responsibility for making sure they get an education.  Also, (and this is something I tell anyone who is confused about my choice to unschool) unschooling does NOT mean unparenting.  Rules, a schedule, chores – all these things are still happening in this house.  We just don’t follow a schedule for when we learn.  There is no “ok, now we are going to sit down and do math” going on.  It’s life learning.  Because – that’s what it is!

Well, it’s day four of unschooling.  And – what is happening?  I am going to do my best to remember everything that has happened in the last four days that are what I see as indications that this is working for us but I know I’m missing things.  These are things I can actually see and noticed.  TOTALLY child-lead.  I’m certain what they have learned using this method will stay with them for the long haul.  It’s really quite insane that this is happening and I am almost convinced I’m being punked.  I DO NOT DILUTE MYSELF TO THINK THIS WILL HAPPEN EVERY DAY ALWAYS.  We will have our bad days I am 100% sure.  But, this is definitely a great first impression of unschooling!

Since that day the following things have happened:

  • The kids have read more in the last 3 days than they ever did when we when we were using a curriculum.  Jackson especially.  I went to the library on day one and got as many books and movies as my Large Utility tote and my back could handle.  Which turned out to be 27.  I just went through and picked up both nonfiction and fiction in areas of interest that I know they have and a few that I though they would like and some random others.  I then put them up on display around the living room.  Yes, it looks like we have a book store but it worked!  And we always have gone to the library at least once a week to get books but since I started using a curriculum and getting books in the “area of topic” that week and a few others their love of learning was stiffed.  Glad to report – IT’S BACK!0109142253

  • We are all in such better moods. I don’t need to explain this other than to say I love having my kids home with me once again.  We laugh more.  We hug more.  We are learning together.  There are no words to describe how profound, important and how much we needed this change.

  • Alex did her very own optical illusion “magic trick” from a (library) book she was reading completely on her own without any prompting or coercion from me.  She called me into the kitchen and said she wanted to show me a magic trick but that she needed a clear glass, a small piece of paper and something to cover the glass.  Then she told me to record her and post it on Facebook.  I had no idea what she was going to show me and I was dumbfounded at her doing this.  Not because she hasn’t always been creative and a camera ham.  It’s just that when we would do experiments from the curriculum she was not all that excited about them and I had sort of chalked it up to “science might not be her thing.”  I do not think that is the case.

  • Jackson wrote a complete correct sentence with correct spelling and punctuation completely without my prompting.  I know picture below might not impress anyone but you haven’t lived with us for the past several months.  This boy, like most, hates to write. But, he wrote about something he was interested in (I hate Spongebob but I think he’s here to stay).  He brought it to me to show me the picture he had drawn and when I saw the writing I seriously scanned the corners of the room for a hidden camera.  What is going on right now?!  A week ago I tried to get him to write a sentence about this long and there were tears, a fit, name calling and Jackson was upset too.  And the sentence never got gone.  And this was while I was drinking my coffee playing on Pinterst.  

  • 0109141400Alex learned she loves cartooning.  She read an adorable (library) book called “Adventures in Cartooning” and began creating her own comic book characters.  This was her first go at a scene but she told me about panels and “gutters” which evidently are the spaces between panels and how speech and thought bubbles work.  She hasn’t started actually working with panels yet but her “doodles” as she called them are really adorable :)  Will she return to it or was it a fleeting interest.  Time will tell.

  •  0109140842 0109140856

  • They watched a 45 minute documentary on the history of computer games.  But….This was easy and I expected them to like it.  What I didn’t expect was after the video was over for us to sit and have a discussion about Japanese vs. American gameplay,  the inception of a cartoon character in a game and why that was so successful, the social backlash that video games got (and still get) from media and moms who say video games will warp a child’s mind, the amount of bravery and faith an entrepreneur has to have when starting a company especially when their product is a revolutionary technology people don’t understand, and the type of engineering degrees best for video game creators.   The thought they put into what they were saying and question they were asking are the quintessential ingredients to raw, unencumbered creativity and learning.  It was a moment I enjoyed and wanted to remember so it deserved a spot here.

  • We went swimming – TWICE!  And Alex conquered a challenge that has been out of her reach until today. She dove to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to retrieve a diving ring.  To see her struggle, listen intently to the lifeguard when he gave her a couple of tips, do a few false starts, then grit her teeth and come up with that ring was just one of those Mommy moments where you just are so happy for your child.  You know how she feels inside having conquered a fear and you are feeling it WITH her.  Joy, pure joy.

  • Jackson made good decisions in his Minecraft Homeschool class.  Yes, you read that right.  There is a Minecraft Homeschool out there and my son is in it.  Look into it.  We are about to wrap up our first week and so far I am extremely please with what the kids are getting out of it.  The quality of the instruction,  the organization of assignments, the monitoring they do, the topics – it’s all just done very well.  It’s not just a video game.  It’s learning about structures around the world and recreating them (This week – next week it’s ships through history).  It’s learning to share.  It’s speaking kindly to others in “Team Speak” where the children can talk to one another.   It’s learning spelling when chatting with members who aren’t in “Team Speak.”  It’s respecting the admins and game masters who are monitoring it.  It’s working together with teammates toward a common goal. It’s problem solving.  It’s making friends.  Resolving personality conflicts.  Taking constructive criticism from someone when they see a way to improve your monument.  Call me crazy but when he spent 3 hours on this yesterday and I could hear an see the things he was learning and could tick them off in my head as I saw what was happening and also hear the laughter in his voice I did not feel like I was ruining my child AT ALL!  Jackson has a hard time not just taking what he wants.  He is academically ahead of his peers but emotionally he’s very far behind.  He is still in the “mine” mindset and takes things he wants because, well, he wants them, with no regard to anyone else.  He got reported once for stealing another person’s house and locking other people’s chests.  We had a talk, I explained the consequences (getting kicked out of class if he keeps it up) and 3 days later he has yet to have anther report about bad behavior.  I’ve seen him struggle with his decisions as I am usually within ear and eye shot of him playing but I’ve seen him make the right choice time and time again.  I love me some Minecraft Homeschool.  (this is not a paid advertisement!)

So, as you can see – This is working for us so far.  I know my biggest hurtle will be my own fear and the competitive freak out in me that is going to happen when they do fall behind their peers for a while.  In my research about unschooling they all say that will happen initially because, for example, we won’t be memorizing times tables just because we are 9 years old.  We will do them when something they want to do will require they know how to multiply.  Then we will sit down and in a few days they will know it.  Instead of the months it takes in public school.  But, I am devoted to this method and I truly do think it will work.  I just have to remind myself of that when a neighborhood boy asks Jackson what 6X9 is and he doesn’t know and then looks at me disapprovingly LOL.  I’ll be doing all sort of inner dialog like, “He’s going to go home and tell his mom and they are all going to think we doing nothing around here but play video games and watch TV.”  But, I am going to have to deal with that day when it comes and know that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO WORK OUT.

One thing I know we will continue as far as “curriculum” is concerned, every morning to start our day with prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and read our Bible verse/study for that day.  I feel that is something we need to create a habit of doing, regardless of our homeschooling style.  :)  We all need some joy and grace to face the day, right?

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mom  •  Jan 10, 2014 @4:14 am

    You have some wonderful, Beautiful children, as do L.Love you.

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  • Why I Write this Stuff

    My children called me Bobby when they were toddlers due to not being able to prounounce "Mommy." They are now 7 and 8 years old and I am Mommy. But my real name is Mandy. I just do this so I can keep in touch with the REAL me. Being a Bobby is a dream I thought I may never realize and I do not take it for granted. I homeschool (more specifically unschool) my two children and it's easy to lose yourself in the tasts of the day. I just want to make sure that after 19 or so years have passed,and my kids have moved out, I'm not stuck looking in the mirror and squinting in hopes of seeing Mandy again.