Tag Archives: unschooling

what we’ve been up to

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we’ve finally gotten the learning village off the ground and running, and i’m quite proud of how things have been going!

here’s what we did in february:

feb 11–valentine’s day party
feb 17–1st origami club meeting
feb 23–1st bird walk
feb 25–savemart center tour

and in march, things picked up even more:

mar 4–art lab
mar 8–meyer’s farms water bank & wildlife project field trip
mar 9–weather class with kev from KMPH
mar 11–1st group games
mar 17–origami club
mar 23–bird walk
mar 25–children’s museum of the sierra and king vintage museum field trips

throw into the mix the non TLV activities: the SCICON salamander trip in feb, our monthly art club that we go to at this wonderful lady’s house who does monthly art for a very affordable rate, with like 10-12 different projects for the kids to free-flow through (usually with a seasonal theme), the mardi gras parade in the tower in feb and the spring egg fest at the discovery center in march…and we’ve been VERY BUSY!

a lot of the events/activities have been documented with photos uploaded to TLV’s shutterfly site, though i still have some recent pics i need to upload. i also upload our family pics of nonTLV activities on our family shutterfly site.

here’s what we have coming up in april for TLV:

if you’d like to see info on any of our TLV activities ahead of time, you can find them on our google calendar, posted to our website.

and mix in there lots of playdates with friends, at least once if not 2 and 3 times weekly for hours at a time…since i feel very strongly about the value of imaginative play and friendships…particularly in the importance (which i think is just crucial) of my children having at least one very close (“best”) friendship…i make sure that our our friends are very much a part of our daily lives. it helps that most of them are also members of the learning village now, and so participate in our monthly TLV activities as well.

things are really going really well! i have lots more things i’m working on (always).  including getting back on track with the story of the world, vol 2. we finished vol 1 awhile ago, and started vol 2 but got offtrack. so in preparation for the next part of the book, i have been listening with the kids to the early chapters of the book that we listened to before, to refresh our memories, and gathered a ton of books from the library on australian aboriginals and new zealand maori in preparation for chapter 10 on the land down under. got some really neat books!

i LOVE LOVE LOVE our public library system! i usually take 2 and 3 trips to the library every single week…sometimes with the kids, sometimes without…each of us has our own card and we often have all 3 max’d out. (you can check out 25 items per account…so that can be up to 75 library items in our house at any given time!) i check out tons of books of every topic…regularly go to different libraries to browse the shelves (politi, fig garden, cedar-clinton, clovis, woodward park…we LOVE going to different libraries to find new things on the shelves), regularly find ideas for specific books to look up or topics to find books on from reading blogs and facebook pages or from talking to friends or from topics that interest me or the children…but not just books…i check out all kinds of videos (especially educational ones, but also classics and modern fun ones) and music all the time as well…we’re currently listening to Iran: Persian Classical Music, and i also have sitting right next to me, cds from eastern europe, china, and a cd called “cairo to casablanca”, as well as the monkees, shawn colvin, and tracy chapman…i am constantly exposing my kids to all sorts of music from all sorts of genres and cultures.  i particularly like to bring home showtunes or artists that i want my kids familiar with (hence, the monkees, whom i love…and i’m going to get some carpenters next time…also frank sinatra, bing crosby, dean martin, elvis, etc…all sorts of greats)

we are all about books over here. i LOVE that i can research on the net, including the library’s own website (& order the books to be sent to our library for us!) for ideas as they come to me…as my kids show an interest in things (such as the origami obsession maeven has had for the past few months…i actually have found some really cute pictures books with an origami theme, in addition to all the books on folding instructions…still trying to find something on the history of origami & japanese culture), or on topics that i would like to introduce them to.

there’s all sorts of fabulous things in the kids nonfiction section that we regularly check out…especially science books and documentaries (in our library, they have them side-by-side on the shelves). my kids LOVE documentaries! we watch probably 5-10 documentaries every month, at LEAST. because we also watch nova and nature on PBS regularly.

and from the library i always stock up on lots of good quality picture books, for both kids, along with the nonfiction books on just about any subject you can imagine…besides the fabulous science books, i have found biographies on historical figures, books detailing math concepts in a fun picture book format, books that play with words and teach about grammar concepts and even punctuation! been picking up poetry and riddle books lately for maeven, and always have a quality chapter book that we are reading together (we both LOVE me reading to her, so we do it constantly…went through probably 5 or 6 chapter books just in the past 2 months!)

and i keep picking up chapter books for her to read to herself, either that she’s requested or that i saw or heard about that i think she’d be interested in. they don’t always appeal to her (like she got the entire borrowers series when we went to woodward park recently, and she really was interested in them but once we got home, she never felt like picking them up so we ended up returning them after her not even opening them. she’ll probably go back to them again later…this isn’t unusual for her.) but many do. she goes through spurts of reading, just like me. she’ll eat up a dozen books in one month and another month she might crack open one. its really varies.

for writing…i used to give maeven copywork, but lately she just writes stuff on her own pretty regularly, so i have been holding off and seeing what she’s creating. she writes books and notes to us quite a lot actually. she makes her own lists and loves to type as well. she made this really neat bird book where she details info and pictures (drawn by her) of a variety of different bird species.

we are getting into birds again, because of our bird walks, and my kids regularly point out different birds as we are out and about. tyren (at 4 and a half) has even been known to say “mom, look,  a mourning dove!’ or “look! a blue jay!” (to which maeven will correct him, “actually, its a scrub jay”, LOL! that’s my girl!)  we got really excited when we saw the great egret in our backyard recently, and maeven and i were just beside ourselves with joy over discovery a rufous sided towhee outside the learning village! (same day we also saw 2 flickers in the same area! VERY exciting!)

and we have been regularly watching our mama mourning dove outside our family bedroom window, where adam has set up a camera to video tape the comings and goings. discovered them when i looked out last week and saw daddy bird going back and forth bringing nest material to mama dove. she’s got a nest in there and we are itching to check it out but want to wait a little to give her time to get really comfortable. just went and checked and she’s still there, cute little thing. 🙂

so that, my friends, is this family’s version of unschooling/eclectic homeschooling in a nutshell! despite some misconceptions, there’s nothing lazy or unthinking about it. every day, every week, there is a LOT of thought and reading and research put into most of the things we do. i doubt my husband even has much of an idea of what all i do for our kids every single week. i have spent a tremendous amount of time reading and researching and constantly continue to do so.  probably always will. i want my children’s lives to be incredibly rich and fulfilling. i think through everything and yet we still are able to kind of go where the wind (aka, our interests and drives) blow us. i doubt myself constantly and yet still find myself proud of much of what we do. and detailing it out like this helps me see that we really ARE doing stuff! it often happens so naturally to the point that i don’t always feel like we’re doing much. but man, we really are!

there’s more, i’m sure, but right now i need to go shower…and i’ve rambled on long enough.

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language arts a-la unschooling :)

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maeven is very into emailing people these days. i use zoobuh for her because its very cheap (i think it ends up being $1/month, but you pay a year in advance) and very kid friendly and safe. another plus is that you can configure it to send an email to the parent anytime the child receives or sends an email. way cool.

so i just got a copy of this that she sent out today:

Hi thea! my mom just got The Double Daring Book For Girls in the mail! if you have not read  it yet, you should! i got The Pocket Daring Book For Girls for christmas and i started reading, it and i loved it and now i have The Double Daring Book For Girls and i know i’ll love it too! maeven.

how cute is that? i got this book in the mail and she’s so excited about it she goes and writes one of her best friends about it. i love it! 🙂  i believe the only word she asked for help spelling in that was christmas. she’s coming along nicely,  i think. 🙂

just furthers my belief that anything initiated entirely by the child and driven by their own desires is MOUNTAINS more valuable than any forced learning. 🙂

this is a child that just months ago had a very difficult time spelling just about anything. and less than a year ago wasn’t even reading all that well. fast forward past many hours of playing computer games and reading/writing emails and reading/writing her own stories and chapter books and letters to family members and keeping a journal (occasionally) and we have a child that has really grown in her reading and writing abilities exponentially all of her own volition!

proud mama? you bet!

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more unschooling thoughts

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a long time ago i started to get comfortable with the idea that there wasn’t any specific schedule of topics and skills that my children needed to learn at certain times. i’ve been comfortable with this idea, for the most part, for awhile…but i still find myself susceptible to the fears of whether my child is learning enough…whether she’s learning the same things as other kids her age…whether she’s as smart as other kids her age. and feeling to blame if she’s not up to the level of others her age.

this is so silly, i know. it really is, particularly when i remember that i am homeschooling, among many other reasons, so that we can have our own schedule of learning. and not be stuck with someone else’s idea of what MY child should know, when.

thank heavens that my brain tends to come back to my original thoughts eventually…regardless of how many times i stray from my path and doubt myself, i still keep coming back to this wonderful feeling that really i can just relax…that i KNOW that the public schools have absolutely ridiculous ideas about what children should know, when.

i mean, for pete’s sake, they have children doing in kindergarten now, what only  30-40yrs ago we weren’t doing til 1st and 2nd grade! and why? because their method of “education” is so ridiculously flawed that they have to buy themselves more time to cram more stuff in because it doesn’t stick. which is just ludicrous because now they have children far too young learning things they shouldn’t even be thinking about yet! teaching preschoolers, and maybe even kindergarteners, to read is just silly!

i’m not saying that its not possible. of course there are children that learn to read and write at 4 and 5. what i’m saying is that the average child, in my mind,  shouldn’t.

i strongly believe kids up to 4 or 5 (and maybe even later!) shouldn’t even think about more than just enjoying all the fun of giggling with friends and making mud pies and painting their hands and spinning in circles!!

i just have to hold that thought when i waiver.

lately, with all the thinking i’ve been doing about unschooling…i’ve been really feeling better about maeven’s education. i do know that i need to still take an active role in things…and i do, and i intend to even do more…but i’m feeling really good about relaxing more about how things are going and to just let things be much more natural and relaxed. really, its been a wonderful relief!

she IS learning, and learning all the time…and she’s proving to me every day how much more efficiently she can learn when its self-guided.

that’s not to say that i think there’s anything evil in teaching children. i still think that there’s no harm in it when the child is interested in the subject matter. i spend a lot of time on any given day explaining all sorts of things to my children. i am happy to be their teacher, and i think there’s nothing wrong with that.

and i don’t subscribe to the thought that all that my children learn should be completely of their own volition. they simply do not have the life experience to  know what’s out there to even explore! of course, i DO agree they learn best when it’s self-driven…but i see no harm in providing opportunities for them to explore topics that they might not otherwise have run into.

anyway, my brain needs a rest and my son finally fell asleep…so its mommy’s toontown time now! 🙂

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no-forced learning, aka unschooling

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i posted this a couple days ago at my main blog, and realized i should have posted it here, on my homeschooling blog. oh well, its both places now. 🙂

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i’ve been doing a LOT of thinking about education again since listening to some radio shows about it…i’ve mentioned them in a few posts recently, i believe (i never can remember what i’ve written after i’ve written them)…

i just was thinking some more about it…i don’t know where i’ll end up or what adventures we’ll still have in homeschooling…but i tend to go with what feels right and good, and steer away from things that don’t feel right or good. forcing my child to do anything “educational”, against their protests, just doesn’t feel right or good to me. i’m not putting value on anyone else for their educational practices…just stating how it feels to me.

one of the big reasons (out of about a thousand different reasons) that i chose to homeschool is that i wanted to ensure that learning was fun for my kids. i’m not saying that every single thing has to be a hoot and a holler…i mean, it has to be enjoyable. i read somewhere (forgive me if i’m repeating myself here…dain bramage, remember, LOL!) that whether or not you retain info can be dependent upon your mood at the time you are “learning”. therefore, if you are in a good mood, with positive emotions going through you (not necessarily pure delight, but not negative)…you are much more likely to understand and retain the information. Whereas, if you are in a fowl/negative mood (i.e. throwing a tantrum or fighting it tooth and nail), when you are presented with the information, it just isn’t going to stick. how could it? i mean really!

therefore, i’ve always tried to back off if i get a negative reaction from my daughter when i’m trying some sort of lesson or activity with her. i’ve not always done this right away, i must admit…sometimes we end up with a battle of the wills…and then after we finally get away from the situation i realize there just wasn’t anything positive that came out of that.

oh sure, there probably will still be some tidbits of info that make it through…some new skills even…but how much damage am i doing to my child’s ability to love learning if i persist in this method of education. i wonder. i really don’t know the answer, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

just take a look at any public or private schooled kid. how many do any of us know that can honestly say they enjoy school? oh i’m sure they can be found, i’m not saying its impossible…but by and far, children HATE school! i did. my husband did, my mom did, my dad did…i’m pretty sure i’d be hard put to find anyone in my life that didn’t hate school. why? because school, as it exists currently in our mainstream form of education, isn’t enjoyable. it really isn’t.

therefore, if i’m going to take those same methods and apply them at home, a.k.a. “school at home”, then how am i doing anything different? well…sure i’ve taken out all the negative factors of the environment and the massive amounts of children, etc etc…that’s awesome, and i would say that a school-at-home homeschooler is definitely still better off than a public or private schooled child. (in a private school that uses the same methods) but what about that love of learning? perhaps this isn’t important to some people. its crucial to me.

because if you don’t enjoy learning, you will then not only not retain the info you are getting (which, if you don’t retain or understand it, what’s the point of even spending the time working on it?)…but you will tend to shy away from anything that even remotely resembles learning, in your every day life and later after school.

all this thinking is because i’m realizing that i am probably going to have to let go of more of the things that i have wanted to make work. the curriculums i chose (single-subject) for maeven are wonderful, but they just haven’t been working for us. she really is resisting anything forced. and i don’t want her to reject learning.

she’s such a bright and beautiful child, and i want to keep that spark alive in her…that spark of interest and love and joy in the things she’s able to pursue on her own…its really a beautiful thing. and i really feel like forcing her to do any “learning” against her will, is really a damper on that spark. i don’t want to extinguish that…

that’s what most schools do…you see the kids enter school just so excited to learn and within a matter of just a few years, that fire, that spark, is going out and then it eventually gets extinguished. i fear that using a “school-at-home” technique with maeven will do the same thing, and i don’t want to see that happen. that goes against why i’m doing this!

i’m not saying school-at-home doesn’t work for some families…i’m sure there are children who’s personalities are quite right for that method. they probably find a delight in it. but not maeven. she has started to sound like so many public schooled kids, groaning when i say we are going to do some lesson or whatever… getting grouchy when i push the issue. that’s not what i want. this is not a positive learning environment.

i asked her the other day what she thought about learning…you know what she said? she said she didn’t like it! that she didn’t like someone telling her she had to do this and that. wow, major important moment for me to hear that. she’s telling me that’s not working for her. she’s telling me that spark is in jeopardy when i force activities and lessons on her.

so then another day, not long after…i asked her about the story of the world stories…if she liked those? and if she would be happier if we skipped the map work? she was visibly relieved by the idea! she hated the map work! but she enjoys listening to the stories. so, we are now just listening to the stories…and i’ll continue to get books from the library out on whatever we are learning about in those stories, and we can casually read them. and instead of making her do the map work, i am going to just have us both take a look at a globe from time to time and find out where this area is that we are learning about…maybe even copy the map, but not do the mapwork, just look at it. and maybe she can pick out some activities from the activity book to do, if she thinks they look fun.

i’ll just keep offering her ideas of fun activities…but not force the issue. if she feels like it, great, if not, that’s fine too!

and she will continue to learn. she always does! i stopped doing copywork because she didn’t enjoy it. but now she is doing her own writing constantly. she is writing her own books, even a chapter book! and she writes letters to all of us all the time and she writes emails and types to her friends in toontown…and she started spelling words when talking to us…instead of saying her words, she’ll spell them…too funny. i am pretty sure that she would NOT be doing all this if i was forcing her to read/write, do spelling, etc, every day. it would take the joy out of doing those things, and she wouldn’t want to do them anymore unless she had to.

that’s not what i want.

i want her to find the joy i finally did, years after school (YEARS) when i finally started to develop an interest again in learning things…learning them on my own, in my own time…i even enjoyed going back to college for a few classes…because i had been out of that grind for quite a few years, and had enough of a break to enjoy it the second time around. it would have been fully enjoyable to me if it hadn’t been for the assignments, papers and tests, though. i remember thinking that. that if i could just go and listen to the lectures (many of which i found fascinating) and not have to do all the busy work, i would have enjoyed the classes even more!

anyway, just doing lots of thinking on this lately and wanted to post my thoughts. its possible i may continue to change my mind and my views and continue to learn better things that work for me…for now, i’m really digging the idea of “no-forced learning.” it makes a lot of sense to me.

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Did I mention she’s writing?

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Good heavens but this child is making this stuff easy! Who needs copywork? My child is CONSTANTLY writing!

Why in the world would I force her to write stuff she doesn’t want to when she is writing us letters and writing her own stories and journal entries and even writing her own books! Like nearly every day!! I’m not kidding!

Not only that but she’s taken quite naturally to typing. I credit Toontown for this.  She’s obsessed with this game…and she has lots of friends on there now that she talks to daily. So she has to–get this–read, and write and TYPE!!

Even her spelling’s improving because if she spells something wrong, it turns red and won’t let her type it. Plus she’s asking me all the time how to spell things, so she’s getting a lot of practice.

All by her own initiative.

This just is making me think harder about unschooling. Especially since  the past 2 Thursdays, I have been listening to some excellent radio shows on unschooling. Gena Kirby has a wonderful radio show called “Progressive Parenting” (click on “about” and choose “radio show” from the popup menu)  that covers all sorts of parenting topics that are often outside the mainstream. I’ve been in contact with Gena since a friend of mine met her when she was planning to open her store “Mommy Matters” (it’s since been closed and is now only online). We have remained in contact over the years and connected in a variety of ways via our mutual interests and groups and such.

Gena emailed me a couple weeks ago because her guest that was lined up to talk about unschooling fell through and she wanted to know if I had any recommendations. I told her to see if Dayna Martin or Sandra Dodd could do it…figuring Dayna would be available, but Sandra as a backup choice. Dayna is a friend of mine that I met after she appeared on the Dr. Phil show, talking about unschooling…this was back when I was doing weekly chats with Mothering Magazine and they booked Dayna after her Dr. Phil appearance to do an unschooling chat with us. We did the chat and then Dayna and I stayed in touch on the phone and I think she’s just an amazing person. Listening to her recent radio shows with Gena, I am reminded of this and am very eager to reconnect and learn more about unschooling.

I’ve got a strong interest right now in unschooling because of listening to these past 2 week’s radio shows…I even sat down and took notes on one of them today. (I taped them both). It’s really inspiring to me!

I might type up some of what I really liked that they said later…right now it’s getting late.

All this is to say that my daughter is learning so much of her own volition! I LOVE it!

Oh and one last thing…I asked her yesterday what she thinks of learning. She said something like “oh, its ok…but mostly its boring.” I was a bit shocked and then asked her what was boring and she said something like “oh when someone tells me to do this and this…”

I got it. She doesn’t like forced learning anymore than the rest of us do. I got the impression from her that she was referring to my “assignments” that I’ve been trying to enforce with her lately…her “schoolwork” that I have been making her do (although not totally consistently). This was a strong message for me at just the right time. Having the topic of unschooling fresh on my mind…and a firm idea in my mind of what I strongly want for her…the love of learning…I’m determined to figure out a way to make learning fun for her again. Or maybe its just a matter of getting the terminology explained better because she really is learning all the time and she truly does enjoy it for the most part (I can see it in her eyes)…what she has got in her head right now is that learning and schoolwork are what Mommy makes her do that she doesn’t want to. And that’s not what I want for her.

I’m not saying that every single thing she ever learns has to be super fun…but there’s got to be a better way. I am determined to give my children the gift of that passion for learning that I have attained now, as an adult (long after the schools nearly killed it, but I was able to find it again on my own).

I think that maybe I can learn a lot from Dayna in the coming months. I’m excited to talk more to her about it! 🙂

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