Browsing the archives for the Unschooling category.

Yard Selling with the girls

I am blessed, My kids, Uncategorized, Unschooling
I had a moment this weekend with Alex that made me realize just how awesome and grown up *sniff* she is. She went yard selling with me, Mom, my aunt Mel and my childhood BFF Elizabeth.
She asked for $10 of her money she’s been saving (the kid has more $ than I do most of the time!)  and Elizabeth gave her $5 as a late Bday present.
Alex took care of her money in her little purse she kept over her shoulder, shopped around,  asked questions, and very rarely paid full price because she always asked if they would take less.
She bought presents for just about everyone she knows. A picture frame that says “Me and my dad”  that she said she wanted to put a picture from one of her and her Daddy’s Valentines days dances. A doll for Cilly, a Gary plush toy for Jackson, and the last goes on.
What she bought for herself was a coin purse to organize her money better, a little cell phone that’s actually a calculator and a container of nail polish.
She never once acted like a child that I had to take care of.  More of a little girl who was out doing some shopping with the girls.
It was surreal.  I was shocked and happy and sad at the same time. When did she grow up??   I must have missed it.
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The kids and I are in love with one another – And Minecraft

Homeschooling, I am blessed, My kids, Parenting, Unschooling

I learned a new favorite saying from my friend and fellow veteran, unschooling/ homeschooling mom, Heidi:
“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow”

Along with “My hands are full but my heart is overflowing.” (thanks Maggie Mackay)

These two saying are basically my mothering style. I mess this up but this is the goal.

And yes, I’m feeling pretty emotional today because I’ve realized, my children have been at home with me 24/7 for 14 weeks and I have gotten over the hump. The only way I can explain what “hump” I mean is we’ve all had kids home all summer long and at the end of the summer you are so ready to be away from your kids. You are arguing, not getting along, etc. You are simply counting own the days to be separate from one another.  Well, with homeschooling, for me, I got to that point but didn’t send them to school and our relationships suffered, no learning was happening, and everyone was miserable.

This new approach to parenting and homeschooling has given me back my relationship with my kids. I don’t yell anymore! OK – I have a few times the last several weeks but this is a GREAT improvement to where we were.  They are not throwing fits. We are having fun together again. I am reveling in their joys, new explorations, hobbies and interests. They are my little BFF’s. I’m still their mother – make no mistake about that – but we are also happy to spend the day together.

Only if you walked this journey with me could you fully understand what I’m saying. Of course, I’ve always loved my children and they’ve always loved me.  I would have died for them at any stage of this process.  But, we have falling in love all over again with each other. I compare what happens to parents, (well what happened with ME, I can’t speak for others) is when you have that new baby it’s like a new boyfriend/girlfriend. You are so in love with them and find everything they do amazing. If they have a hobby or interest you learn to love it as well because if it brings your love joy, you love it.

Then you get married, the honeymoon phase is over, and you sort of get into a lull and your focus shifts just a bit. That football obsession you once thought was “cute” is now not quite so cool and gets in the way of the things you need him to do for YOU. You find yourself rolling your eyes when he excitedly talks about an amazing play he saw. Before long he no longer comes to you to share those moments because he feels you belittle it.

For my kids, this happened as well. Minecraft (right now) is their obsession. I didn’t know the first thing about this “silly” game.  I didn’t try to get it. But, after reading blogs, books, essays, and forums about unschooling/deschooling they ALL say the FIRST step is: “Just start enjoying life with your kids. If they are in to something GET INVOLVED IN IT WITH THEM. Don’t just allow them to play it, encourage it, play with them, help them find new information about this obsession, dive into it WITH THEM.” I took this to heart. I sat down with the kids one day as they were playing Minecraft and said, “Can I play with you guys?” They looked at me like I had grown three heads and then excitedly brought me a tablet and they talked over themselves trying to tell me what to do. We laughed together (well they laughed at me mostly 😉 ) and spent two hours on this “silly” game that I now LOVE! I get it now! And I didn’t play it with them with the “teacher” glasses. I just played it like a friend with them. OK, I can’t say I didn’t find myself every ONCE in a while thinking, “He just did math.” and then stopping myself. Just enjoy the game, the time, the laughter and the joy.

As soon as I post this blog I am going to join with my kids again. They are waiting patiently on either side of me laughing and talking and planning what they are doing. I can’t wait to join. The dishes are still in the sink and that’s so very OK with me.

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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… 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?

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Radical Unschooling…here we come (*drinks more wine)

Homeschooling, My kids, The Anti-super Mom, Unschooling

If you read my previous blog post you saw where I was having a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself over this whole homeschooling quandary in which I find myself.  Jackson has pretty much began to reject anything that can even remotely be called “educational.”  It’s like he can be doing something he really enjoys but when he catches even a whiff of  me trying to get him to learn something and he says, “Nope.  Not happening.”  For a woman who needs checklists and finds the curriculum EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE this is hell, for all of us.  I seriously would be OK to do like the curriculum teacher’s guide says and do the “Say the following to your child…..” type of teaching.  But, it doesn’t work.  Ever.  With any child.  OK – I have no idea what will work with someone else’s children nor do I have the inclination to give a rats anus but I do know, it doesn’t work with my children.

Case in point:

Today was our first day back after our holiday 2 week break.  I attempted to “loosen up” my curriculum schedule.  Gave the kids the choice of what subjects they did and when and how.  I felt really proud that I was giving away some control but still felt that I had a hold of the reins.  Until Alex (my darling, always ready to please, happy-go-lucky angel) crumpled up her spelling list, threw it across the table, folded her arms and said, “I’m not doing this.”  And Jackson started his math worksheet, got 3 questions into it, put his pencil down and looked me in the eye with all the anger of Beelzebub himself and said, “I hate this.  Do you hear me?!  I. HATE.THIS!”  The shit storm that hit after these two incidents is something I would like to soon forget.

Today our local public schools were closed due to the extreme cold we are having.  If that had not been the case, I can not guarantee that I would not have loaded them up in my car, drove by the school and pushed them out as I rolled by.  It was that bad people.

Jim, God bless that man, told me to get them bundled up and he’d be by to get them to take a drive.  I was curious if he too was ready to drop them off for someone else to deal with but I kept my mouth shut.  He gave me a kiss ,took the kids and I didn’t hear from anyone for almost 2 hours.  I sat with my mother and vented and worried and freaked and moaned for the entire time saying things like, “I am quitting.  I can’t do this any more.”  “What am I doing wrong?”  “I’ve never failed at anything I wanted this badly.”  etc etc etc.  My dear mother listened to everything I had to say and encouraged me the best she could but, like everyone else, couldn’t really give me any ideas on what I could do to fix this pickle I found myself in.  The pickle of I WANT TO HOMESCHOOL SO BADLY and I AM FAILING MISERABLY AT IT.

When Jim got home with the kids I learned that he had taken them to a local doughnut shop (gee – thanks Dad – rewards for being hellions LOL) and talked with them explaining that “Mommy has quit.  She is throwing in the towel.”  And trying to get an idea of what was going on, why it wasn’t working etc.  At this little meeting he learned very little except that they desperately want to remain homeschooled and do not want to go to public school.  Outside of that, he had nothing.  Being the awesome partner he is he told me he will not allow me to homeschool under these conditions.  He understand, more than anyone else on this planet, that Jackson is not only a special needs child but also a force of nature that only the mightiest of souls could handle and Alex was beginning to find her “independent streak” and these two things combined would scare many-a man.  He believes I am smart, strong and able enough to do the job successfully but that at this current time, that is not happening so he was ready to pull the plug as well.

I cried for close to 3 hours coming to terms with the idea that I will be sending them off to school and admitting that something I so dearly want to do I simply am unable to do.  I got out of bed and sat in silence and prayed to Jesus for wisdom and guidance.  He knows my heart.  He knows my strengths.  He knows my weaknesses and also knows my children.  Then I posted on a local homeschool co-op we are members of asking for any advice from veteran, SUCCESSFUL homeschool mom’s could give me.  I got a lot of words of support and encouragement.  But, of course, no answers because that’s impossible.  This is my family, my children, and my problem.  I have to figure it out myself.

I came to the obvious conclusion that what I am doing is not working and therefore I need to do something different.  Radically different.  The most radically different method I could think of was unschooling.  So, I began researching.  This was not a new concept to me.  I had heard about this for a long time.  Honestly, I thought the unschooling famlies were nuts, freaks, off the grid hippies, and crazy liberals.  Sorry, but it’s true.  I really have to apologize for that little admission because I have friends who do or have unschooled but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it as being a viable option.  How can child lead learning result in anything but a 45 year old, unmotivated man child who plays W.o.W. while living in my basement?

I’ve been researching, reading blogs, reading testimonials, and learning exactly what is unschooling and envisioning my children doing this.   This young lady really hit the nail on the head with her answers to all the things I was thinking were reasons NOT to unschool.  She is a 19 year old woman who has unschooled herself and dang, she impressed me.  Could it be true that a human being will educate itself if given the opportunity, guidance, and the availability of information?  I think, knowing my children, their personalities, learning styles, IQ’s, my own drive to see them HAPPY (FIRST AND FOREMOST) and educated, it just might work!

So a decision has been made.

We will begin radically unschooling, effective immediately.  I have until August, when the public school reconvenes after summer break, to see if we can all agree that this is something that is sustainable and commendable.   I think that even if right now, this second, we stopped reading, or doing anything education wise they would still be at grade level when they returned to school in August so, this is the perfect time to try this.

I know my tendency will be to try to coerce the type, style, and way of learning that I know from public school.  I have read several times that where the unschooling model fails is when the parent tries to get too involved in what is being learned.  I will do my best to simply be a facilitator, to strew great books, movies, TV shows, links, and field trips around them.  Making them available…but  it will be up to them what they pick up, and what they don’t.  If they get an interest in something, I will do my best to encourage them, help them find more way to learn about that topic or interest and try hard not to limit things simply because it doesn’t fit in my trained public school box.  This will be hard as letting go of control is NEVER something I am comfortable with but I have to say I tried everything before I decide to stop.  Otherwise, my whole life I wonder, “What if.”

So, friends, family, and acquaintances – I would love it if you could pray for us, maybe encourage us and the no judging thing would be awesome but hey, I used to judge these whack jobs so I know that last one is a stretch.  I’ll meet you on the other side.  If on the other side I look like this I apologize. hippie

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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.