Thursday, November 2, 2017

In Defense of Unschooling

Unschooling is this amazing concept of child-led learning.  There are posts all over the internet about it, so I won't go into a ton of detail about what it is other than this little paragraph:

Unschooling looks different in every family.  Some families go on a nature walk every day.  Some read a history book and then re-create it in Minecraft.  Some kids read at age 4.  Some don't read until they're 11.  Some teenagers take classes to further develop their skills or to prepare for college.  Others dive into volunteering or start their own businesses.  The biggest thing I've found that they all have in common, though, is a focus on the family relationships.  Learning is done at a more natural pace, as dictated by the child.*

*I don't believe that Unschooling is the same thing as Unparenting.  In the best families, there are reasonable limits and guidelines set for the functioning of every day.  The difference is that those limits are less often arbitrary as is often dictated by the school system.  It is the pace and, to some extent, the content of the learning that is dictated by the child's interest, not the running of everyday life.

It sounds hokey, to be sure, but here are some things I've learned from being an oldest child in an incredibly intelligent family, and then going on to raise 4 very intelligent children of my own:

1.  Learning happens most intently, and most intensely, when it is self-directed.
2.  Learning can and should happen every day, in all aspects and seasons of life.
3.  When learning is mandated, it sucks the joy out of the process for too high a percentage of people.
4.  There are gaps in every education. Every. Single. One.
5.  Deep interest in one subject can, and often does, branch out into interest in other subjects.
6.  When a person needs to learn information, or a skill, they can find a way to learn it.
7.  Relationships, especially strong family relationships, are more important than any degree.
8.  When a child feels a deep, trusting bond with a mentor, they are more likely to ask questions.
9.  Dragging a child through homework when they are not engaged is a great way to destroy relationships.
10.  Children learn as much by example as by any other method.  Is learning important to them?  Of course!  So learn!  And then, share your love of learning and the ways in which you are growing!  This magical formula will do wonders!
11.  My college degree was largely supplementary to the skills I have gained by simply living my life.

Unschooling looks ridiculous on paper.  I get that.

But consider this:

We all know the school system is broken.  Shattered.  Borderline abusive, despite the best efforts and intentions of all those connected to it.  It's been in existence for hundreds of years.  In those many years, there have been probably hundreds of thousands of teachers who have cared for and taught millions of students.  The vast majority of those teachers have cared deeply about their students.  In addition, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of politicians who have been doing their very best to shore up the holes inherent in any system.  They have funneled programs, initiatives, and money into this system, all with the intent of doing the very best they can for the children.

With all of that time and care and intention and money, the system is still vastly flawed and more closely resembles a prison than an institution of growth.

So, if I'm going to bring my children out of the system to educate them at home, why would I try to replicate the system that has so many more resources than I do and is, inevitably, better equipped to educate my kids than I am by that methodology?

If I'm going to keep them home, it makes a lot of sense to break away from the system entirely and do my very best to support and help my little people to grow into the very best versions of them that they could be, and to do so in the very most loving way possible.  That picture very rarely includes forcing a child to sit at a desk or table and crying while they fight with material they are not ready for, either mentally or emotionally.

So, I say, go with the flow!  Read them stories, give them dedicated time to write or draw, go on field trips, and answer as many of their questions as you can.  Expand your own mind, and invite them to stretch themselves.  If we ever dip into the realm of shaming, punishing, or forcing our kids to learn, we're missing the point.

It's all about the growth and the joy.  Oh, how I believe that!  Learning is all about growth and joy!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Nicest Alarm Ever

We all know the struggle.  That annoying beeping in the morning wrenches you from the cradle of a delicious sleep.  You roll over, slam your hand on the snooze button, and drift back into dreamland for "five more minutes."

Twenty minutes later, you drag yourself out of bed, promising that you'll shower tonight, or tomorrow morning when you'll be able to get up on time.

In an effort to alleviate this problem, we buy music alarm clocks, or alarms that don't shut off until you shoot the target across the room, or weight-activated alarm mats... have you guys seen these awesome variations online?  They're awesome.

Mostly, I've given up on getting up at any specific time.  I'm a SAHM.  I can do that.  My kids wake me up for the important stuff- like, "Stop it!  Stop touching me!  Mom, my two-year-old brother who loves me to pieces is breathing my air!"

But, there are those occasional mornings when I do need an alarm.  And so, knowing that I'll ignore it most of the time, I dutifully set the alarm on my phone.  I set it to ring with a quiet, gentle tone that will, hopefully, ease me out of the bliss of sleep.

The song starts quietly, building slowly to full volume- which is set to be at about half of the volume at which I normally listen to music.  (Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?)

Then, the music stops, interrupted by a calming, soothing voice.  "It's 8 am," she says.

Thank you for the information.  I appreciate it.

The music continues.  I mostly ignore it, except I know what's coming.  My inner grammar nazi claws its way through the haze of sleep, eager to avoid the travesty that's about to occur.

A minute later, the music stops again.  Again, that soothing voice, "It's 8-1 am," she informs me politely.  Not 8:01.  Not even eight-zero-one.  "It's 8-1 am."


Stop the madness!

The rest of me jolts awake.  I scramble for the button that will turn off my phone.  It's not that it's annoying... it's just so very very wrong!  And so, I am pulled out of sleep by a deep-seated need to right my world for the day.

It works every time.

I haven't made it past 8-2 am.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy Post

Hello, Friends!

This is just a happy little post to say:

Thank you for being my friends!

I just read through my last few posts, and realized they were all super angsty.  Apparently, I write more often when I'm upset.  Never fear!  Life is good!  I'm starting to come out of the "new mommy" phase... Baby girl is sleeping through the night, so I'm naturally feeling better.

Also, we have some fun things happening in our lives right now.

First off, I've discovered the Thomas Jefferson methodology of homeschooling, and I'm IN LOVE!  It's amazing.  It's beautiful.  It's so in line with how I think school should be.  I'll probably mix in elements of Montessori, Waldorf, and Charlotte Mason, but seriously, they're all about child-led education.  Our little family is more at peace than we've been for a long time.  That's important, I think.

Second, we're moving!  Aaaahhhh!  Right now, we're working on getting boxes packed up and hidden away so we can stage the house for pictures... so we can list it for sale this month.  Woohoo!  We don't know where we're going yet, but we know we need a place that has more space for our family and for my business.  Also, we're planning to build an indoor arena.  Hallelujah!

Anyway, I hope you're having a wonderful January!