Sunday, June 28, 2009

As we become more immersed in an unschooling lifestyle it becomes more of a challenge for me to write about our experiences as they pertain to education. This is because all of our experiences are educational and it is becoming impossible for me to seperate our school life from the rest of our lives. Fabulous news for life, not so fabulous for writing inspiration, lol. I can tell you a few tidbits from our week...

Monopoly: Here and Now is one of the newer versions of the game, updated for todays times. Gone is the old classic car, replaced by a Prius. The railroads on the board are now airports. And the money, oh the money. They've added a couple of zeros to everything so now the smallest bills are $100 and the larges are $5 million. This was a great way for Kya to practice place value this week. She needs some more practice but I think we'll play without Jace. He said he was annoyed at how long it took for her to figure out the values of the money and make change but I think it was perhaps that he lost to his little sister. ;-)

Jace made his first trip to the driving range this week. It was HOT but he had fun anyway. We've had no luck finding a golf tutor but have decided to make the trips to the driving range a weekly outing. One person stopped to give him a tip on his swing while we were there so perhaps just hanging out in the right place will open up a new opportunity. If not he still gets some great practice and has fun too.

Kya had a first of her own yesterday. We went to the ballet to see Cinderella. She had a great time although wasn't quite as enamored with it by the end of the third act as she was at the first. It was an experience and she had fun though, she wants to go back but not right away, lol. It's funny how things that you think they will love are met with tepid reviews. This is why these experiences are so essential- how else will they discover their passions without going out into the world to see for themselves?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This week it got hot. Really, really hot. My kids wanted to play in the small pool we have but it kept losing water. We finally got all of the holes patched today, three altogether, but Friday was hot and water was needed. We don't have a sprinkler anymore; the old one broke and we just never replaced it. So, my kids came up with a plan. As you can see from the pictures below their imaginations are not only in tact but thriving. This solution to the lack of water was accomplished completely on their own, they tried a few things first before hitting the right combination to really have some fun but they were determined. They solved the issue of a constant and scattered spray, positioning it just right for maximum fun and the unexpected (for them at least) need to keep the tape as dry as possible so it would remain sticky. I don't know what I enjoyed more: their creativity, their perseverance, their teamwork or their giggles (well, okay giggles win every time but the others were running neck and neck). :-)

I think the most amazing thing about all of this is that somehow the state considers this activity less important than learning the multiplication tables or how to build a circuit. Don't get me wrong, math and science ARE important, just not MORE important than creativity. I can think of no other ability that is more needed in every aspect of life than the ability to be a creative problem solver. And yet this is overlooked in most school curriculums as well as the requirements for what constitutes important and required learning for homeschoolers. It simply doesn't fit into a "core" subject- which is how, according to state guidelines, the majority of our "school" time is supposed to be spent.

I looked up core: the basic or innermost part, the essence. The skills learned on a hot afternoon by working together toward a common goal are something that can just simply not be taught- it can only be learned through experience and reinforced by the pleasure gained from the fruits of those efforts. What could be more basic or essential than that?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We are in full on game design mode. This little book that I spent about $20 on is the best investment I've made since we started homeschooling. I've lifted time restrictions on the computer so he has time to really dive in. The agreement is that this is okay as long as he stays his sunny self and the storm clouds don't come out, so far so good. I am somewhat amazed at the depth of the book and truly amazed at how quickly he has picked up the skills. He's been designing flash games online for a while but this is a whole new skill set; one that will be valuable even if he grows up and doesn't turn out to be a video game designer (as most 10 year old boys dream... but hey, someone is making all those games they keep trying to sell me).

I read once that the dreams we have as children speak to our soul and who we are really meant to be. As I watched him today, alternating between quiet focus and excited joy as he figured out something new I remembered another time I saw this. When he was very small, about 4 or 5 years old he started making up his own games using the pieces of our board games. They had rules, a goal, clear winners and were usually more fun than the original games. We would use Monopoly money, the Sorry pawns and the board from Candyland and have a whole new adventure. I was amazed then and I'm amazed now, not only by his imagination and determination but also that he is so constant in his pursuits despite the winding path we took to get here. He still loves doing it his way instead of just playing the game everyone else is playing. I realize as I'm typing this that this is the reason I was led to unschooling; so he (all of really but this story is about him) can make his own rules and have a better life than the one that usually comes in the box.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We got Wii Fit this week. I already love the yoga exercises and especially the exercises that help me find my center of balance. I have been walking around out of balance for who knows how long without even realizing it. A subtle shift in my posture and a redistribution of my weight so I'm not putting to much pressure on one side has made a huge difference in how I feel. I was already pretty close to centered but not quite so people watching me stand or walk would probably not notice a difference but it is there and I notice. This is also true of our shift in how we unschool.

After realizing that we were out of balance and that I wasn't really holding up my end of the deal as facilitator I started making subtle shifts and redistributing things in our approach to life and learning. We simply had too much down time. This is very important, don't get me wrong, but we were getting too much of a good thing. I had been struggling because I didn't want to make them start doing meaningless tasks that would make me feel better but not really benefit them in the long run. So, I just continued reading (mostly Sandra Dodd), observing, meditating, searching, praying, waiting. I tried visualizing the kind of day I wanted but I couldn't. I realized it was because it wasn't just my day to visualize, it also belonged to the kids and I can't plan their perfect day. Instead I started visualizing what I wanted FOR my kids instead of what I wanted FROM them. Ultimately I want them to be happy, everything else is a bonus. So, the next logical question was what makes them happy?
I started plugging through the day looking for these glimpses of happiness and looking through photo albums to see when they were both happiest. Patterns began to emerge for each of them and I knew that if I truly wanted my role to be guide and facilitator then I was going to have to find ways to bring more of the things that bring them joy into their daily lives.

Much like my posture and gait the shift is subtle. If you spent a week with us last month and a week with us now you might notice a few things but it wouldn't seem like much, but for me it feels monumental. For Jace we've ordered books about game design and downloaded software to go with it. We're looking for someone to give him golf lessons. We also still make sure he has plenty of downtime because he gets overwhelmed without it. Kya continues her dance classes and we're taking her to the ballet in a few weeks. We've also cleaned up the easel that has been packed away and got some paints for her to explore with. They also both got new math workbooks this week.

In my rebellion against school I've resisted workbooks and I still don't think they NEED these books or even that they will necessarily learn all of the skills presented. However, with distance between myself and school I can now see them for what they are; a RESOURCE so when they approach something in life they have something to refer back to. They have used these particular books before and loved them; when I was at the bookstore I remembered that Jace finished the previous one on his own in about two days because it was such fun. I brought it home and this time he hasn't shown much interest in it but that's okay, it will be there if he wants it and if not we'll pass it along. Kya started hers she likes my help with it and it is really a lot of fun to do together because I get to see how she reasons through things.

So, there you have it, a subtle change in our center of balance. It feels really great.

p.s. I may or may not get to "Snapshot Sunday" today. I am trying to catch up with my self guided online photography class and I'd just rather take pictures of other things today- sorry, not doing something just because it's "assigned" (even if I gave myself the assingment) is part of my unschooling personality I suppose! :-)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I have believed for as long as I can remember that the secret to life is balance. The balance of understanding others pain without allowing them to take advantage of you. The balance of living in the moment and still planning for the future. The balance of having enough without depriving yourself or overindulging. The balance of taking care of others without forgetting yourself. The balance of pursuing dreams while remembering the responsibilities of reality. The balance of being open to other's ideas and still standing firm in your own. In all of life there are extremes and in my experience a full life doesn't exist on either end of the spectrum. Perhaps this is what teenage rebellion is all about, jumping out of one extreme into the other. As we mature we find the right balance of the two extremes and we have to find it on our own. Life isn't a math lesson, there is no absolute zero; we all must find our own place of balance. I think all of life is pursuit of the perfect balance so I don't think any of us can ever find it completely; I do think I'm much closer than I was a decade ago. Hopefully the next decade will bring me even closer.

I've received many quizzical looks when I talk about the balance of life, I usually just drop it because people don't seem to understand what I mean. Since everyone's journey is different it didn't seem like something I needed to discuss or find someone to commiserate with in order to achieve for myself. But imagine my pleasant surprise the other day when discussing unschooling with a friend she mentioned balance. *waves to Karen* And she even went on to say that she thought balance was important in all of life. Well color me happy, I'm not the only one.

This led me on a pursuit of balance in our unschooling journey. Up to this point we've been deschooling a lot. I have shed most of the ideas about learning and education that I spent a great deal of time and money developing. I have come to see dance as equal to math (though I doubt I'll ever get to a point that I see anything as equal to reading but I digress). I get it now. But wait, I still feel off balance.

The seed of realization that we weren't quite there yet was planted when I read Guerilla Learning. I quoted in a previous post the idea that true freedom isn't the freedom to do nothing or to follow every whim but the freedom to commit to something. This idea has been bouncing around with me since I first read it. Then today, sparked by the conversation about balance I decided to see what some unschoolers I admire had to say on the topic. Sandra Dodd actually had an article about balance that summed it up beautifully. You can read the full article here.

I see now that the reason the last month or so hasn't felt good is because I've been out of balance. School, rigid schedules, checklists, textbooks, etc. weren't right for us but in turning away from those things I had gone to the other extreme. I don't really regret it because I think it was part of the deschooling process for us. I had A LOT of deschooling to do because as a former public school teacher I was much more enmeshed with the school culture than most. It was a little like the first party my parents let me go to... I had to get really really drunk to understand that I could push my parents limits but only so far without really regretting it. I think rebelling against school was kind of like that teenage rebellion against my parents and just like then I may have had to go to far to understand what "too far" really was. Time to sober up.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Snapshot Sunday

I have found myself looking forward to Sunday just so I could play this little game tumbling around the blogosphere. This is partly because I have a very nice new DSLR camera and if I could have taken a picture of it I would have included it in last weeks obsessions. But its more than camera obsession, the camera is helping me see the ordinary pieces of life in new and extraordinary ways and I like the idea of taking the time to pull the pieces of that together and tell a small story about our lives.

I still like the idea of having a theme, some weeks that may not work out but for now its the direction I'm flowing for Snapshot Sunday. This weeks theme is The Day After: Remains of Kya's 9th Birthday. As you can see, I hadn't cleaned up much when I took these shots, maybe I'll get to that today.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Well, my dad went back to work which meant that Jace had no choice but to go to playgroup this week and to tag along on a playdate Kya had. Playgroup was a big success, the playdate had an incident but was overall a good day.

Playgroup was at the park but Jace brought along his DS and a book to read so he didn't have to get out of the car if he didn't want to (and so he could return to the car if he felt overwhelmed). Neither was needed. :) He played well with others, made friends with some of the boys who were new to playgroup, came to me only once because he was feeling upset and I only had to go to him once because he was upsetting Kya. He left talking about how much fun he'd had and was feeling good about going back. All in all a very good day.

The playdate was much the same; getting along with everyone, not getting overly upset over minor things, etc. He did overreact once when he couldn't get into the house and he shoved the door open knocking down the child who was playfully holding the door closed on the other side... not his finest moment, an overreaction that could have been avoided and quite embarrassing as a mama but thankfully no one was seriously hurt. He was able to talk calmly about it after and we were able to think about ways he should have handled it.

He's come a long way and even though he's far from perfect I'm oh so proud of (and releived by to be perfectly honest) the progress he's made. I beleive with my whole heart that this progress is in large part to unschooling. He feels more in control of his life, knows that his opinions matter and isn't being pushed by the adults in his life (teachers, parents, coaches) to change himself to fit their needs. At first I worried that giving him this much power would make his temper and frustration issues worse but it has been quite the opposite. He is empowered to take charge of things that truly matter in his life such as when, how and what he learn as well as how he will spend the majority of his time. He also knows that no one is going to try to take his power to choose these things away and therefore has little need to prove how powerful is to himself or anyone else.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Snapshot Sunday- Obsessions

Okay, I'm a day late getting the pictures up but I did take them yesterday! If you want to participate in Snapshot Sunday click on the title to take you to "The Napping House" for the rules and links to some other blogs that participate. :)

This is our first snapshot Sunday post and I found myself just walking around the house aimlessly taking pictures and I had lots to share~ so, I decided to have a theme to help me narrow it down. This week I'm focusing on our current obsessions, enjoy!

Lego's has become a shared obsession as Jace has pulled Kya into it since he has aquired so many block people. This is an arena that they have used for various things including: a basketball game, circus, and a concert.

Barbie's don't need to wait for December~ Kya's have been celebrating Christmas for a while now.

The outside of the clubhouse has been finished for a while but this weekend was all about finishing the interior. It now has insulation, walls, carpeting, a light and an outlet. The kids are ecstatic and planning lots of sleepovers.

Jace is golf crazy! I may need to find a driving range soon to keep my yard from becoming one giant divot.

Technically the swings are part of the clubhouse but they enjoy them so much that I thought they deserved their own picture in the obsession themed post. I love watching them and listening to them while they are on the swings. Even cooking supper isn't so bad with the windows open and the sound of them talking and laughing drifting in.