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Around the World in 150 Days

6 Mar

Yes, after a year, I am finally getting back to writing on this page. A lot has happened in the year behind me. We relocated to Europe, my father became terminally ill, we rushed back to the states, my father died, and now I am here. Again. I would almost say I’m back where I started except that everything is so different now; even though the location is the same, the attitude and feelings are not.

So, I look forward to sharing lots of thoughts and ideas again, but with a different heart and a different way to look at the world.

Coming next will be my evaluation of a book, Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin, which was recommended to me by a friend who knows of my obsessive passion for education. (and he still wants to be my friend! LOL)

So, into the future, I’m looking forward to it.

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Unschooling is hard and dangerous work

26 Feb

Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.

I love unschooling. But it is very hard sometimes. So often I want to jump in and try to manipulate the learning process. And every time I do that, learning stalls. It is hard to be patient and let my kids learn what they need to learn when they are ready to learn it.

Just recently my husband was talking to me about Pumpkin and how she needed to start working on her multiplication tables. Sure, she is at the age when they start learning it at school. So we picked up some books at the library and proceeded to instruct her. What a Stonewall Jackson she can be.

“I don’t want to.”

“I already read that book.”

“Why can’t I do [insert any other activity] instead?”

Bah. Headache followed frustration.

And really. Was this all necessary? I just recently talked to her Sunday School teacher. She had nothing but glowing praise for Pumpkin. How much better she was at reading than the other kids. How Pumpkin was able to look up Bible verses without any help, unlike the other kids. And how she noticed that Pumpkin went almost instantly from not reading at all to being almost totally independent.

We had the same frustrations with reading a couple of years ago that we are having with math now. We kept trying to MAKE her read. Kept trying to force it because we were afraid that she was somehow BEHIND. But once we left her alone and backed off, suddenly she started asking about reading books in the older kids section of the library. Suddenly she started talking to us about different books that she had read (that we didn’t even know she was reading!) Suddenly she was asking to look up more information on little tidbits that she had read here and there. (Like “Are there any reptiles that don’t lay eggs?”) Suddenly she was an independent reader. All without any headache, any effort, and distress. She became a reader because she wanted to and because she was ready for it.

This, for me, is the hardest part of unschooling. I want to be involved. I want to do something. I’ve got years of pedagogical experience. Come on! I’m important. You can’t learn without a teacher!

… or can you?

Knowledge is fixed in time, whereas, knowing is continual. Knowledge comes from a sourse, from an accumulation, from a conclusion, while knowing is a movement.”

“The additive process is merely a cultivation of memory which becomes mechanical. Learning is never cumulative; it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.”

~Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

11 TED talks for Parents listed on Christian Colleges and Universities Website

30 Sep

I was just directed to an interesting little site. It is a listing and resource for online higher education at a group of religious schools. The list is predominantly Christian, but I think they are trying to be as comprehensive as possible. So this is definitely a site that almost anyone could look into.

And their blog is fascinating. Articles of lists. What a neat concept. And that’s where I found the 11 TED talks for parents. Carl Honore and the “Slow Movement”; Gever Tulley and the Tinkering School; Ken Robinson and an educational revolution (I reviewed this video here on P&E); Laura Trice and the power of “Thank you”; Adora Svitak and what parents can learn from their kids; Kiran Bir Sethi and believing that “I can”; Cameron Herold and allowing entrepreneurship and experimenting in our kids’ lives; John Wooden and the true meaning of success; Stuart Brown and the importance of playing; Liz Coleman and exploring different interests and hobbies instead of focusing on one. It’s a jam-packed list!

The joy of learning you’re going to become a parent is usually followed by a panicked question: “Wait, how do I do this?” The parenting advice business is a big one, with thousands and thousands of available titles for parents to choose from; so many, in fact, that it can tough to know where to start. If you’re a young parent or an old hand looking for fresh advice, these talks from the TED conference might be able to help. They focus on parenting, relationships, and the best way to form and execute the kind of big-picture plans that are vital for parental success.

Read the rest of the article and watch the videos here…

My love/hate relationship with parenting forums

7 Apr

I’ve been spending a little bit of time at Circle of Moms lately. I don’t normally spend a lot of time on forums for several reasons, but it was linked to my Face Book account and several friends had sent me a link. So I checked it out.

Love Me

It’s got a cool layout, and is pretty easy to move around. This is important to me because I easily get lost in forums and that pisses me off and makes me not want to come back. Everything was relatively easy to set up.

Love Me Not

But hanging out in forums is such a time sucker! You can easily spend hours there chattering mindlessly or endlessly clicking on this and that. Then, before you know it, the day is gone and the “to do” list hasn’t even been touched.

Love Me

But hanging out with other people in similar situations is stimulating and encouraging. I get the chance to meet knew people with common goals and ideas and share thoughts with them. I was just telling my grandma the other day how great the computer was because I get to have friends on the other side of the planet and it’s easy to communicate with them!

Love Me Not

But sometimes the conversation turns to drivel. I’ve noticed this happens a lot on parenting forums. The endless nagging and complaining. It can take a lot of effort sometimes to wade through the muck to find one good friend. I enjoy conversation, but I really don’t think life is THAT complicated.

And I don’t enjoy hearing the same complaints (and suggestions) over and over and over again. Do some three year olds like to assert their independence. You betcha! Do they need to be medicated because they have ADHD. No way! (in fact, I don’t believe ADHD is as widespread as it appears. So we need to quit using that as an excuse.)

You really want to succeed as a parent – provide love and support when they ask for it; back off and let them live their own life when they can; teach them the tools they need when they need it; and RELAX and let life happen. Life is a blessing to us all.

Love Me

All in all though. I like the opportunity to meet new people. Especially since there are so few UNSCHOOLING, ALL NATURAL/ORGANIC/WHOLE FOOD EATING, ORGANIC CHURCH MEETING, BREASTFEEDING ADVOCATES and FREEDOM LOVING (all rolled into one) people out there.

Shucks, I think we’re the only home schooling family in my little bitty town. And nobody around here knows about raw milk and grassfed beef. Some days I feel like I’m constantly on my soap box. Finding a group of like-minded people online gives me the opportunity to learn from someone else’s experience instead of always being the teacher.

I want to work with children

6 Apr

This is the mantra of many teachers and would be teachers (and, I’m sure, a whole host of other well-meaning adults seeking a profession full of meaning and purpose). It was even what I said and thought when I began my teaching career.

But I soon came to learn that this idea seemed a bit backwards. I often wondered at my sudden change in views on my teaching career. And now I understand why.

I just got done reading a passage in Teach Your Own by John Holt and had to rush to my computer to write it down and share it with you. It totally sums up what I have been puzzling over since I quit professional teaching.

The other day a young person wrote me saying, “I want to work with children.” Such letters come often. They make me want to say, “What you really mean is, you want to work on children. You want to do things to them, or for them–wonderful things, no doubt–which you think will help them. What’s more, you want to do these things whether the children want them done or not. What makes you think they need you so much? If you really want to work with children, then why not find some work worth doing, work you believe in for its own sake, and then find a way to make it possible for children–if they want to–to do that work with you.

The difference is cruical. The reason my work with the leaves and worms [he tells this story in the preceeding paragraphs] was interesting and exciting to those boys was precisely that it was my work, something I was doing for my good, not theirs.  It was not some sort of “project” that I had cooked up because I thought they might be interested in it. I wasn’t out there raking up leaves in the hope that some children might see me and want to join in. I never asked them to help, never even hinted; they insisted on helping me. All I did for them–which may be more than many adults might have done–was to say that if they really wanted that much to help me, then they could. Which is exactly the choice I would like to see the adult world offer to all children.

I really can’t say it better than that. It is exactly why unschooling works so well. It is exactly why, once we let our children “help” us, we realize they are much more competent and capable than we had ever given them credit. This is exactly why we should just do what we need to do in our lives and let our children be as involved in our daily activities as they want to be.

Kids and chores – the never ending battle to get things done

11 Dec

three-year old sweeping

When is a child too young to start helping out around the house?

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

four-year old measuring pet food

Well, naturally, that depends on the child. But my observation is, if they are old enough to ask if they can help, they are old enough for you to let them help. The key here is that you, as the parent, need to LET them. Oftentimes, we would rather just get it done. It takes too long to watch them struggle through it, we don’t like having to clean up the mess that follows in the wake of their “cleaning”, and they might break something.

fourteen-year old washing dishes

seven-year old shredding cheese

After having four kids the amount of housekeeping required to sustain even the barest minimum of cleanliness consumed almost all of my time. That’s four kids, one husband, myself, and numerous pets (at the moment, one dog and one cat, but we have had as many as two dogs, two cats, and a pair of birds all at the same time).  And why should I be the only one cleaning up after the masses, afterall, I’m not the only one making a mess. So the new regime began – even for the youngest.

three-year old cleaning lint trap

three-year old helping with the laundry

One could make the argument that learning such menial tasks as laundry, cleaning, and washing is counter productive to successful living. This could be hired-out work. Most wealthy and successful people rarely spend their time on housekeeping but hire someone else instead so that their own time and energy can be focused elsewhere. But I firmly believe that everyone should have a basic understand of how to do such menial tasks. At the very least it fosters respect for the work entailed (would you belittle and abuse your housekeeper if you truly understood how difficult the work was). And if you are in dire straights, at least you now how to keep your shirt clean. Taking care of chores is also a great way to foster independence, strengthen self-confidence, and encourage pride in a job well done.

youngest "supervising" the seven-year old cleaning the litter

master "chef" in training

The nice thing about starting out early is that eventually the kids reach a level of proficiency that requires very little oversight and correction. Plus, with so many of them, they help each other out and teach each other.

I finally drew up a little chore chart. But we rarely ever use it because they have already been trained on what needs to be done. The chore chart merely acts as a reminder so that they are able to double check their work.

chore chart

youngest “supervising” the seven-year old cleaning the litter

Home Ec 101 hosting a give-away of the new Bissell Pro Light

10 Dec

Home Ec 101 is an awesome site. Heather’s articles are full of wit and lots of solid and practical information. I’ve been a fan for a long time. And now she’s giving away a new Bissell Pro Light vacuum cleaner. I know if you’re like me, you’ve got kids to clean up after, and it’s a never-ending job. Every new school/art project seems to make the BIGGEST mess all over my floor. I’m still cleaning up dried play clay. Now, this can help make things easier.

So, head on over to her site and check it out. Then follow her instructions and enter the contest. (I’m not hosting the give-away! I’m just sharing the LOVE)