Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back to bedtime! (Sort of )

Okay, I know it isn't very radical of me but I can't go on with my kids not having a bedtime. I've waffled a bit on this issue but it has come to a point where I'm taking off my radical unschooler hat and saying that the living room and all screens are off limits for kiddos after 10 pm. There are a few reasons I'm doing this.

1) The kids are staying up very late and sleeping very late. This issue is compounded by the fact that they like to sleep in the living room and therefore when they are sleeping until 11:00 am then I have to either be very quiet which means I can't do things like clean the kitchen or vacuum OR I go ahead and do what I need to do and they wake up cranky. Neither of these choices creates harmony in our household and I don't see a way to fix it with the current sleeping situation.

2) We can't make plans for anything that happens in the morning because they are too tired to wake up and can't simply go to bed early the night before an outing because their body clocks can't make the adjustment. We have missed several activities in which they've expressed interest because they couldn't get out of bed on time to get ready and attend.

3) I truly need time to unwind at the end of the day. Time to read, go online or watch what I want on tv. I don't have a room of my own to do this in. The only place I have is the living room and if children are in it then I don't get this time. This may seem selfish but I spend nearly every waking moment with my children, we have clear rules that people can't enter their bedrooms without knocking first, they both have free use of both the tv and the computer during the day. I don't think it is selfish for me to ask for the same consideration for a few hours that they receive all day.

4) I am insisting that this is no screen time because when Jace is allowed to stay up as late as he wants to play video games he plays for hours beyond tired and we still don't get a good start to the day. Furthermore when he plays video games late into the night he often can't fall asleep on his own and will wake us up so he can sleep in our bed. He is too big to sleep in our bed; not because he's too old but because he is physically too big for us to get quality sleep. When his want to play video games (which he has unlimited access to during the day) interferes with our need for sleep it requires intervention.

The reasonable solution for all of this is that they go to bed at 10:00; a time that we've discussed and agreed upon based on all of our wants and needs, not an arbitrary number pulled out of the air. They don't have to go to sleep at this time but they will do activities that can be done in bed such as reading, drawing, writing, playing with small toys, etc. They have to sleep in their bedrooms with the exception of Friday night; if they want to sleep together in the living this one night then their father and I will agree to be quiet in that area until they naturally awaken.

At first I thought this wasn't a very unschooly thing of me to do and I'm sure there are some who still think that. However, I feel good about the way we've handled this situation that was becoming a problem. We've discussed the reasons this is becoming an issue and worked together for solutions that meet everyone's needs. This is what consensual living is all about. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meteor Shower

We stayed up late last night to view the meteor shower. It was one of the best things we've ever done and I highly recommend it to everyone who has the opportunity. We watched movies, played games, and chatted until about 1 AM when we headed outside with our blankets. We stretched out on the deck and laid back to wait for the show.

It took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the dark and it was a little chilly so were snuggling under the blankets as we watched more and more stores appear before our eyes. We found the big dipper, the little dipper and the north star (the only constellations I've ever really been able to make out) while we waited. I saw the first meteor and even though the kids didn't see it they were excited to know they were out there. They started asking lots of questions about comets, meteors, stars, the speed of light, and more. I told them about seeing Halley's comet pass by earth when I was a little girl, about the earth's orbit taking us through its debris annually, why they are called "shooting stars" when they aren't really, that some of the light we see are from stars that no longer exist (Kya had a hard time wrapping her brain around that one!), and just anything and everything they asked that I knew the answer to.

All of that was great, they learned a lot but the best moment came when Jace, who was snuggled in by my side, looked up at me and said, "This is the best night ever!" I really hope this is a memory they keep forever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

As many of you know I leaned into unschooling. The idea intrigued me but also frightened me. As time has passed I have seen the blessing of peace, creativity, inquisitiveness, and authenticity come into our lives. At first I said I wasn't radical but now I think I am. We don't have bedtimes, don't have restrictions on how we spend our time (unless our choices begin to infringe on the happiness and well-being of others), heck we don't even have set meal times as we are all learning to eat according to our bodies cues and not the clock. So if I'm going to call myself a "radical" unschooler then I have to think about what that truly means.

The word radical come from the Latin word for root. We are going back to our roots and parenting from this radical place of instinct and presence. To those who criticize and say we need to go back to basics I say we are.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Teachable Moments

Jace has been curious about numbers lately. We've spent some time exploring Roman numerals and prime numbers and he has a good grasp of both. Roman numerals came to his attention due to a poster he spotted. He wrote out one through ten and quickly decoded what I, V, and X symbolize as well as how to determine the order of the symbols for addition and subtraction; he also deduced that he needed to use as few symbols as possible. He then asked me if there were more symbols so I told him the ones I could remember and he started writing out large numbers such as the year everyone in our family was born. When that got boring he asked me to create arithmetic problems to solve. This went on for about half an hour until he grew tired of it and found something else to do.

I'm not sure what sparked the question about prime numbers. He was watching TV and looking at a magazine when he asked so one of them must have used the term and he was curious. I explained what it meant and we had a brief conversation about 2 being the only even prime number and why. He listed a few out loud, testing himself to make sure he understood. A few days later in the car he wanted to know if prime numbers were infinite. I said yes and he thought it was very cool that a infinitely large number could be prime.

Both of these instances are perfect examples of unschooling at its best. Jace came to me with an interest sparked by something offhand and both times, although I was busy, I stopped and took the time to help him understand what he was asking. We followed the natural course of the conversation. If I had waited until I wasn't busy I think the interest would have evaporated, it was important to him IN THAT MOMENT and because I was able to make myself available to answer his questions and expand on the ideas he was able to learn. This is not to say that I never have to say I'm busy and can't help but I try very hard to do that as little as possible. I ask myself, "Do I really have to finish this now or do I just want to?"

I do admit this is frustrating at times. Both of my kids ask lots of questions about books, TV and movies. When I am absorbed in something and have to keep pausing to explain things that are happening I sometimes get irritated. However, I remind myself that asking questions is ultimately a good thing that I don't want to discourage so I try to be patient with the endless questions and answer them as best I can. This is especially important with Kya because media is what stirs her inquisitive nature the most. Jace is curious about any and everything while Kya tends to be a little more zen, accepting things around her as they are. However, books, TV and movies, especially documentaries, raise lots of questions for her so I try to be patient. Even if it means that it takes twice as long to get through something as it normally would.

Unschooling for us is about teachable moments and one of the most important things I've learned that we have to take those moments as they come, not as we wish they would.