Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crazy Times!

Sorry it has been so long since I have written. Our schedules have been quite crazy with visits, travels, getting kids to their activities, and now I'm starting a new job. Of course with all that going on, who has time to watch what the toddler is doing??

Don't call DHS just yet--I snapped the picture, got him down safely, and now the pantry door stays closed. He's fine, really!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It'll be okay....

I've been using this book of writing prompts for Erin. It has quotes from famous people and usually she likes what they say and enjoys writing her take on it. Lately though, she hasn't wanted to and has, instead, been finding her own quotes from the Lord of the Rings series (which is her current obsession...though obsession seems too mild a word right now!). Then today she didn't want to do her writing at all so I just let it go. She did, however, want to play this cool math game we have been doing (while sipping hot chocolate) and we finished off the day with her Arts and Kids which is a musical theater group she is part of on Tuesday and Thursday. As we were leaving that, I said to her, "Gosh! You are really working hard in there!"

"Yes, I am working hard," she said, "And I think the teachers know it too. Sometimes when they think I'm not looking, I see them throw gleeful glances my way."

Then when I got home tonight, she showed me a short story she had written about her life as a mid-evil peasant child and having to go fishing before breakfast and start the fire and all that stuff. (So much for skipping writing today!)

So while I've been spending a lot of time and energy lately on exactly how to homeschool this little piece of starlight that has landed in our family, it is clear to me that it hasn't bothered her at all. She's been too busy learning about cool stuff....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I don't want to parent out of fear. That is such an obvious statement but yet so many of us do this every single day. What are you talking about?? (Thanks for asking!) What I mean is the little things we do or don't do, allow or don't allow because we are afraid of what the future will bring. I don't mean things like not letting our toddler play in a busy street--fear for a child's absolute safety in a dangerous situation is different. I mean things like prematurely weaning a child because of the fear that if you don't do that, "they will nurse forever." (Anyone ever met a nursing adult? Teen? Preteen?) Or when people say they don't want to co-sleep because they are afraid that the child will "never" sleep on their own. (Again...anyone know any co-sleeping teens?) This is all fear-based parenting. Fear of the future is affecting your ability to meet your child's need today. Now, people who know me know that I nurse until the child is done, I co-sleep until the child is done, I do all those non-mainstream things to meet my children's needs. So, like my last post, I ask you--when does this or should this stop? Why should I stop meeting certain needs out of fear for the future?

Why am I forcing Erin to learn a certain subject at a certain time? Answer: because I'm afraid that if I don't, she will be different/a failure/unhappy...whatever the fear is at the moment. I have never approached my parenting from that perspective and yet I'm struggling to get the fear out of our homeschooling. Because, honestly, this feels different to me. Nursing until the child weans feels absolutely natural to me. And perhaps for someone who has been unschooling all their lives it doesn't feel any different at all. Maybe to them it feels just as natural as I feel for letting my toddler nurse anytime, anywhere. (And I know there are people who are not comfortable with that.) But here I am, thinking 15 years down the road and scared that if she doesn't do her three days a week of "official" math, she will end up a total failure or in jail or worse. Way to jump to conclusions, huh?

So the question becomes, which has a better chance of creating a happy, successful, (law abiding) citizen? Forcing math or letting her learn her own way? Is it somewhere in the middle? I just don't know....

I do know that leaves me with the same basic question I posted before...but my point is that I am more aware, now, of how some of these choices have been made out of fear and I simply don't want to do that. So I won't--starting now. Wish me luck.

I feel compelled to note that today, Erin did a homeschool science class, played for several hours at a local playground with a big group of homeschool friends, went to chess club and did more work on her middle ages weaponry. So it isn't like our days are in complete limbo as I mull this stuff over....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rambling Thoughts

What does it mean to be "authentically" happy? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as we continue our homeschooling journey with Erin. People ask me how we do it and right now I say we do a mix of curriculum and unschooling. We use a math curriculum (a Montessori-based method with manipulatives and games and things) and we use a writing prompt book for her to keep a writing journal. All the other stuff--her book journal, her unit-based stuff, her fieldtrips, her extra-curricular classes..all of that is completely her choice. Now true UNschooling advocates say that what we are doing is not really unschooling because there are certain things she doesn't have a say in. We aren't living every moment of every day in a state of just "being." We aren't always in the present because sometimes we think about the future too. People who are advocates of what is called Radical Unschooling firmly believe that children learn so much if you just let them be--be in the moment, follow their present line of thinking, let them learn with what they are interested in when they are interested in it. And I believe them. I see Evan learning and living so much in every day. New words, new actions, new experiences...he is changing right before our eyes and watching it is a constant reminder of how kids do NOT have to be forced to learn and grow and mature. I did not teach him to walk...his natural desire to learn and test his little legs did that. I guided him, held his hand, applauded his efforts, comforted his bumps...but I didn't teach him.

So back to Erin.... At what point do you try to impose some level of standard on a child? Why do I trust Evan to learn what he wants when he wants it and not Erin? Should there ever be a point where you try to impose someone else's standards? (Unschooling advocates would argue that there should not be.) Example: Erin claims she "hates" math...when in fact it is simply because nothing up to this point has been the least bit challenging for her. Now that she is getting into parts that are making her think a bit, it is like pulling teeth to get her to try, try and try again. So should I force it? Get into a battle with her over it each time "math class" comes around? Should I let it go and try again in a few weeks? Should I let it go completely? Will she learn math simply by following her dreams? Does she even have to learn math? (And before you jump up and down yelling "YES! Of course she does!" I want to know what math she needs to learn that she wouldn't learn on her own if she wanted to know it--like she knows fractions pretty well from cooking, she is learning rhythm and music, she can add and subtract, likes grouping and is trying to figure out does she specifically need to know about My Dear Aunt Sally in order to be happy in this life? And if it has to be forced on her, is it worth it?) How much of this is a result of thinking that was programmed into me from my own school experiences? How much time do I spend doing Geometry proofs now?? (Sorry, Mr. Luk!) What about that whole thing about trusting her to learn? Because she loves to learn stuff...just not necessarily the stuff that so many people and schools say she should be learning right now.

So then what about trusting her choices for how she spends her time? I mean, the day after we go to a library, you can just forget anything you wanted to accomplish--she will be reading all day. And I do mean ALL day. Is this a bad thing? Unschooling advocates say no--let her decide how she wants to spend her day. Me? I have a hard time seeing her sitting and doing nothing but reading. I mean, I wouldn't let her watch TV all day either--even educational TV--because you have to do more than just sit all the time. Am I right? Or am I imposing too many limits on her because she isn't matching my idea of what should be happening?

Just to be clear, I am NOT trying to train her for school right now. I am not interested in molding her to a public school model and forcing traits onto her that will make her successful if she ever decides to go to school. If she wants to go to school later in life, her desire to be there will be a big factor in helping her transition. I'm not worried about that. So what am I worried about? That is the question...what exactly do I want her to learn so badly that I'm willing to fight with her about it? Is it vital that she learn about polar regions? Or is it vital that she learn to sit and listen? Which one? Is it neither? What do I say to people who want to know what we are doing? And, on a more basic level, if we aren't doing "school" then how do we fill our days? Because cool, although seemingly random, science experiments and such can only take up so much time. Then what?

Add to this her need for a bit more structure in her life and you have one confused Mama! Her need for structure makes me want to schedule out her hours of the day so that she knows what is coming and what to expect...but if I plan a unit and she decides that isn't what she wants to do, then what?

So that's what I've been thinking about. I'd love your opinion on the subject...especially if you homeschool and especially if you unschool and even more especially if have unschooled for a number of years. I'm curious how it all works...because I'm definitely all about being in the "now" and being present with my kids. AND (not "but"), I worry about their future. What can I say--I'm a mom!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today Erin went on a geology fieldtrip with Chris. When they came home, Erin immediately began to sort through about 50 pounds of rocks that she had brought back. As she was doing that, Chris told me about her day spent rock-hopping the Maine coast with a bunch of geologists. "Did she learn anything?" I asked. He shrugged noncommittally, "I don't know, she was just going all day, not really stopping to listen." (Let's face it, she is 7 and she was with a bunch of professional geologists. *I* don't usually listen on those trips either!)

"Here, Mom!" Erin yelled as she took a beautiful black, white and red rock from the bag, "This one is for you! I liked it because of the feldspars in it. See? This is the feldspar and the white around it is because it cooled at a different temperature." (pause, pulling out another rock) "And look at this one--see the different color? Same mineral, different temperature. Oh, and I was able to identify some areas in the rocks today with different veins and tell which layers came first based on which veins were crossed over. I'm getting pretty good at that, I tell ya!"

Chris and I looked at each other..."Never mind," he said, "I guess she was listening!"

I think I may have lost this child to the geologists. Later, I taught Megan to say, "Whatever, Dad, they are just rocks!"