Unschooling Today 3/21/2017

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The baby woke up super early this morning, so I spent most of the early morning hours cuddling him. He went back to sleep for a late morning nap, and Elijah woke up. By the time I got up from the baby, it was more like brunch time. I was in the mood to make something special for the kids and decided on pancakes. I mixed them up while the kids played on the tablets together. Elijah then got upset that I didn’t invite him to help make pancakes (oops!), so I asked him to help me flip the pancakes. He was happy to have a job and we got to it! We all enjoyed them!

Hailey started spouting off dinosaur facts. I didn’t know most of them. I never knew there was a dinosaur that swallowed stones to aid in digestion. So strange. After telling me a couple dozen random facts, she showed me where she had learned them on her tablet.

The kids got busy playing and I got some housework done. Hailey brought to me a little project she had been working on with some twisty ties.

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She loves these things. She grabs a bunch at the store and makes shapes and letters with them all the time.

I made some late lunch. Grandma stopped by with a treat for the kids and a quick chat. Grandma is always a big deal around here.

The weather was so nice, I definitely wanted to get outside. I asked the kids if they would like to go for a walk. Hailey came up with a great idea. She wanted to make a list of things to look for on our walk. She said it was like a scavenger hunt. She had me help her spell some words as she wrote them down.

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We set off with our lists and bags to collect the items. We walked around spotting interesting items, and marking off our lists for about an hour. It felt good to be outside. So happy spring is here.

Back at home, Winter laid down for a quick nap while I got dinner on. Elijah played the Wii, and Hailey played in her room. Papa got home and played with the kids. My brother came by for a few minutes and we all chatted with him.

After eating, Papa read books with the kids while I did some yoga and Pilates. I have been trying to exercise more regularly. The kids are watching a show now as we all wind down for the night.

Feel free to share about your day in the comments.

Honesty and forgiveness and childism

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Today we took the kids to a local nature play area and hiking trail. They played in the play area for about an hour, building their house of sticks, and enjoying some fresh air. After we were all played out, we headed to the trail for an easy, kid friendly hike.

Hiking with kids is always an interesting adventure. Sometimes they are really into it. They immediately start noticing their surroundings, pointing out animals or unique plants, asking questions, or running ahead to play. Other times, they start complaining about the walk only a short while into it. Today, it was a mix of both. Elijah (4 years old) got his feelings hurt pretty early on, and he wasn’t easily cheering up. He asked me to hold him. Winter (17 months) was happily toddling along, so it was easy for me to pick up Elijah. When it was clear he needed some extra cuddles after a few minutes, I told him I needed to put him in the carrier on my back. He liked that and all was good.

We stopped for a short rest break. Elijah was still on my back while I sat down. Hailey (6.5) was sitting close to me, Winter was playing behind in the dirt, and my husband was checking something on my new boots. All of a sudden Hailey was screaming crying. It all happened very fast, but I heard a rock swish by and quickly realized that someone had thrown a rock and it had hit Hailey in the eye. She was almost inconsolably (understandably). All of attention was focused on her until she was calmer. Then I asked what happened. She didn’t know. I asked if Elijah threw the rock and he said no. I felt bad that the baby had grabbed the rock and tossed it without me noticing. He can be pretty rough in his curious toddler way. He is definitely in a throwing phase. I had been watching him, but my attention had turned to my then bare feet as hubby looked at my boot.

Winter was completely oblivious to all of it, as he sat digging up dirt. There was not much to do at that point. Prevention is really the key with that age, and the time for that had passed so I sat and comforted Hailey. All this happened in about 5 minutes. All of a sudden Elijah tapped me on the shoulder. He said “Mommy, actually I threw the rock.” I was surprised at his confession, seemingly out of nowhere. I asked him why he threw the rock. He tried to explain where he meant to throw it, and he didn’t mean to hit his sister. I don’t know if he really meant to throw it somewhere else, or if he didn’t think through how it would feel to be hit with a rock, or maybe he thought he couldn’t reach her and he wanted her attention. His face was full of worry for his sister. I pointed out her bruise beneath her eye, and explained that this is what happens when rocks hit people It is very dangerous and not a game. I said if he wanted to throw rocks, I could help him find a place to throw them away from people. He told Hailey how sorry he was (not coerced from me).

Hailey seemed to calm down more, knowing what had happened. We decided it would be best to head back. After a few thoughtful moments, Hailey stopped and said “Elijah, I am really proud of you for telling the truth about throwing the rock.” I was proud of that too, because admitting mistakes is not easy, even for adults.

On the way out of the trail, a woman passing by asked Hailey why she wasn’t walking and having me carry her (why is this her business?). Hailey said “My brother accidentally hit me with a rock so I was sad and Mommy is holding me.” The woman rolled her eyes and said “Oh yeah an accident, I’m sure”. That really rubbed me the wrong way. Here was this interaction that she had no idea about, but yet she was assuming such negative intent, even given the information that it was not intentional. I can’t imagine a stranger having the same reaction if I was limping and she had asked what happened and I said “My husband accidentally bumped into me on the trail and I fell”. I really do not understand why someones mind goes to the worst possible scenario with these little people. And really, even if it had been on purpose, she had no insight to what occurred. This was probably a situation that was best for others to stay out of.

Overall, I think some important things came out of a hurtful accident. I am really proud of how both my kids handled themselves. I am most proud of the empathy they are both learning.

 

Play can turn it around

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Often, it is very difficult to get the kids ready and out the door. Even when they want to go somewhere, they lose focus while getting ready, wiggle while we try to help them put clothes on, etc. Sometimes, this causes frustration for Papa and I, and that can lead to a not so great start to our outing.
 
Once I start down the cycle of feeling like I am in a battle with the kids, it is hard to pull out of that and before I know it we are locked in a pattern of me demanding something while they resist it (Like get in your car seat and buckle right now etc.). No one likes being bossed around and really, it is not how we want to parent. I believe we operate best, and feel the best, when we come from a place of partnership.
 
So today, I was in the kitchen cleaning up while Papa was trying to get Elijah (4) dressed and he was distracted and wiggling around. I sensed the all familiar pattern, but today, two words popped into my brain. Playful parenting. I read a book about that years back, and still try to incorporate many of the techniques from it. Whenever I turn a situation into an opportunity of play, it almost always makes the day better. The kids have fun, we connect, and they usually are more cooperative afterwards.
 
I ran into the living room and said “who wants to play Simon says?” The kids immediately got excited. So I started giving Simon’s orders. There were lots of silly animal noises, and body movements, but there were also “Simon says lift you foot into your pants leg”, or “put your socks on.” They were laughing and were suddenly happy to get ready in the game. Then they each took turns being Simon.
 
Everyone had fun. I spent some special play time with the kids. As a bonus, they got ready in record time and were happy to do it. There is no negative demanding cycle to break out of as we start our day either; in fact, it is quite the opposite. We are feeling connected and like a team.
 
So next time, before you engage in a power struggle, try to think of a way to play that everyone will enjoy.

My Unschooler has learned to read and what we did today!

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Today the kids woke up earlier than usual, which means the grown ups at a sleepier start than we prefer. Papa and I sat around drinking coffee, talking about his new job that starts next week, and finalizing our Thanksgiving menu (that we are actually cooking on Saturday).

The big kids were busy playing together. I am not actually sure what they were playing there for a while, but they were happy and getting along. The baby was walking around getting into this or that.

It was time to start getting ready for the grocery store. I walked into the room where I heard the kids. Hailey was reading Elijah a book. Some parts she had memorized I am sure, but many other words she was sounding out or already knew. I was really surprised. I knew she had been reading more and more, but she had not quite been ready to show what she had learned yet. When she finished up she was so excited.

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We all got ready. While I was getting ready, Elijah asked if I wanted him to tell me a story. He told me a version of Jack and the Beanstalk where the Princess saves the day at first, but then the Giant comes back and terrorizes again until Jack is finally not afraid to stop him. I loved the creativity. A few months ago he would not have been able to be that coherent with a story.

We headed out the door. Hailey asked to bring some books in the car too. The kids stayed in the car with their Papa at the first store. We stopped and got some pizza for lunch. Then we headed to the nest store.

Hailey asked to read me a book in the car. This was a new book that she hadn’t had read to her yet. She read almost the entire thing with only some help on some longer words. It was a decent sized book too. I can officially say that she has learned how to read. We are really proud of her. Unschoolers can learn how to read with no lessons!

Hailey was asking some questions about different punctuation in the book. She had never noticed commas or quotation marks before. We talked about what they were and tried to think of some more examples.

At the last store we talked a lot about what we would be making for our big dinner. The kids helped me find the ingredients. Then they were making up silly rhymes. Elijah has just been learning what rhymes are this week from a library book we picked up that he really liked. So he kept coming up with rhymes and repeating some he had heard before.

On the way home Hailey said that she was a story store and would sell us a story for a quarter. So I gave her a quarter and she made up a brand new story for me on the spot. Then Papa gave her a quarter and she gave him a story too.

We got home and unloaded the groceries. Elijah asked me to put some face paint on him really quick. He is some kind of Pokemon superhero apparently.

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Hailey is playing the wii and Papa is helping her beat a big bad boss. Elijah is eating a smoothie popsicle. The baby is getting into stuff he isn’t supposed to and trying to eat crayons.

Please feel free to share about your day in the comments.

The Day After Election Day

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I will be honest and admit this day started off a bit rough for me, at least internally. It was the morning after a rough election night. I am a very sensitive person, I easily feel anxious or worry, and I react strongly to hate. I am not trying to get political, but I will say that I felt quite a shock that it seemed so many in our country are still choosing hate in their attitudes. I truly felt like I was grieving for my idea of what I want our world to be. I knew there were some people who had bigoted views, but I supposed I overestimated the progress that has been made.

Anyway, I was feeling emotional and posting on social media about it. Soaking up my like-minded friend’s feelings added to mine was too much. I felt overwhelmed and recognized that it was not a healthy though path for myself. I knew at that point, I could easily fall into a hole of complaining all day and commiserating with peers. Luckily, a few very loving posts helped me decided to put a stop to it right then. I wrote up a quick thought on my Facebook page and personal wall.

“I’m not going to allow the realization that our country is more racist and bigoted than I thought, to stop me from focusing on my children. I can’t let it distract me from showing them love, because that is how best to shape the next generation. I choose love.

And as my friend said, if you build a wall, I will teach my children how to tear it down.”

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I want to focus on these people

Then I shut it off. I stayed off social media for the rest of my day. I decided that today would be a good day and I would show my babies some extra love and attention. I told my husband my feelings and what I wanted to do and he agreed that would be good for me. I immediately started engaging the kids in a conversation and we laughed and chatted about one silly thing or another from there.

I cleaned up while the kids ate food in the kitchen, us chatting the whole time. Then I asked Hailey if she wanted us to show her how to play some card games. She was super excited to learn. First we showed the kids slapjack. Papa had to help Elijah play, because he couldn’t quite get flipping the cards down, so they became a team. After playing that we played war for a bit. Hailey won that.

I made some popcorn and the kids debated on which movie they should watch. I let them work it out, not by themselves, but I was more a facilitator and a guide. While they watched, I challenged Papa to a card game. We had no played cards just the two of us in a long while. We played a few games of Rummy and it was a lot of fun. I forgot how much I enjoyed playing cards with him.

The kids came in after the movie and asked to play some more. I needed to lay the baby down for a nap, so Papa took over playing Uno with them while I laid him down. I came out while he slept and started dinner. The kids were laughing and super into the game. Papa looked like he was having fun too.

We ate dinner together as a family at the table. We talked about our day, about a game Hailey and Elijah had made up, and about whatever else came up. I cleaned up a bit and the kids asked for ice cream. They are eating that now, loudly talking about something in their game. Soon we will cuddle and read books.

I think I needed this day. I needed to see that I can still chose to love and focus on my children despite my uncertainty of the future. I needed take back my control over my emotions. I know what I stand for and what I want to pass down to my children and I know that I must model it. I can’t promise that each day I will be as successful at pulling myself away from the worry, but I have to try. I must try to not let myself get sucked into the worry, the hateful posts, the arguing. Even when it is hard, I chose love.

 

If she were at school

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The other day we were playing at the park with friends. I had walked away from the playground with the baby for a few minutes, when Hailey came running to find me. She was feeling sad and wanted to tell me what had happened. I was expecting something along the lines of a disagreement with her brother, or a skinned knee. Instead, it ended up being a hurt that included a life lesson.

Before I walked to the other side of the lot with the baby, I had been watching Hailey go down a piece of playground equipment that worked like an elevator. Kids stepped on the platform and held onto the handles and it went down. It went up, only when they stepped off. Another girl and her Mother were watching. The girl expressed her desire to go down it, but stated that she was scared. Her mother tried it to show her how it worked. She was still afraid. Hailey started talking with the girl and found out that she was 9 years old. Hailey showed her how she could go down on it and explained how it worked and how it wasn’t so scary after all. When I walked away, the girl was still very interested, but adamant that this was too frightening to try.

Hailey explained to me “I said something trying to help that girl not feel scared so she could try it. She really wanted to try and was afraid. I was just trying to help but then her Mom told me I was being mean. I wasn’t. I just wanted to help.”

“You look sad. It seems like it really upset you when the Mom said you were mean. Do you want to tell me what you said to her to help her not feel so scared?” At first she didn’t want to tell me. I could tell that she was feeling quite anxious. I bent down and looked her in the eyes, “Hailey, you do not have to tell me what happened if you are not ready. But, I am not mad at you. I hear you say you were trying to do a nice thing and I believe you. I know you were not being mean and I am here to listen if you want to talk about it.”

After a few moments and a big sigh, “Okay, I went down the elevator thing, and then I said I did it and so can you. I am 6 and you are 9, so I know you can do it because you are bigger than me. It can be less scary for you because you are older. Then the Mom said that I was being mean.”

We talked all about it. We talked about how she was trying to encourage another kid and why it might be that what she said was taken the wrong way. We talked about how it feels to have someone misinterpret your words, we talked about good intentions. We talked about fears and how they do not necessarily change with age. She seemed to feel noticeably better after working through it all with me. She happily ran off to play some more.

I felt good about the exchange, but I kept mulling it over. After a few days, I was left with thoughts about how different that could have gone. What if she had been away at school when something similar could have happened? Who would she have talked to? How would she have handled the rest of the day with that weighing on her? Would she have remembered it well enough to bring it up with me when I picked her up? When would be the next opportunity to help her through that life lesson if we had missed that chance?

If she was at school she would not be able to come to me with these grievances throughout the day. They would build up, add up one on top of the other, until she exploded, likely seemingly out of nowhere about nothing in particular, and I would have no idea why. Teachers do not have the time or resources to listen to these issues for each student each time they come up. That is just not possible, even if it were in their job description.

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I wouldn’t be able to walk her through life’s little teachable moments while she was at school. I wouldn’t be able to offer empathy or comfort, validate her, or share my personal experiences. I wouldn’t be able to talk her through seeing other people’s perspectives or plan for what to do next time. I wouldn’t know that she had worked through it enough or watch her apply what she learned the next time.

I would miss very real opportunities to navigate through actual life problems. For what purpose? So, she can be in a classroom supposedly preparing for life? Real life is here, right now. We live in it every day, not some artificial version of it. Real life is not in a classroom, it is in our homes, the park, the store, the library, while visiting friends and relatives.

I don’t need to send her away for hours every day and cross my fingers that somehow we will have enough time after school, in between homework and structed activities, to practice life skills and talk through her emotions. Instead we are with each other all day, trying new experiences, living life, modeling communication skills, listening to frustrations as they come, and practicing problem solving. Life is our school, and she doesn’t have to do it without me.

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Eat the candy!

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We didn’t control the amount of candy that the kids ate this year. We put it all in a big bowl and the bowl sits in our living room, on top of the TV stand (out of the baby’s reach because he would eat the paper, stick pieces down the vent, and feed chocolate to the dogs!). The only thing I asked was please only take a few pieces at a time into another room (so candy didn’t get left out for the baby to find- see above), and let’s please try to throw our wrappers away. I also put a small trash bag next to the bowl and there is one in almost every room for convenience.

The first night was the big pig out. We all ate what we wanted, but honestly looking at the trash gathered, it was not as much as I thought it would be. The next few days, the kids would eat a handful or two at a time and then none for a few hours. The parents would eat a piece or two when they wanted. It slowly decreased. There was no pressure here, no guilt thrown their way. I didn’t hope that they would stop eating it, or give any looks whenever they grabbed another piece. At one time, Hailey mentioned her tummy not feeling so hot and I suggested ‘Hmmm…. I noticed you haven’t eaten much yet today, but some candy, maybe your tummy needs something more filling”, and offered to make her a snack. No pressure or shame attached.

There was much discussion of Facebook about parentings taking a set amount of their kids candy to eat for themselves. I will be honest and say that both Papa and myself joked about it with the kids, and with friends while we were trick or treating. The kids laughed right along with us though. I never realized that there was this a prevailing attitude of control surrounding how much candy the parents got to eat. I did not have to force my kids to share with me. They were happy to share their loot with us. As a matter of fact, the day after Halloween, Hailey set up a pretend tea party and picked out a few of my favorite pieces for me as the dessert. Abundance creates generosity. At this point, after everyone has had their favorites, some candy was tried and found to not be liked, and they have offered some to anyone who has come over, there is not much left.

This is not just for Halloween though. We live like this all year. The kids are excited about candy because it tastes good, but they are not desperate for it. There is no internal struggle for them to eat as much candy as they can before I take it away, so they stuff themselves to full to eat anything else. We try to create an atmosphere where food is food, and everyone has a say in what they eat in when all the time. Food is not good or bad, and there is no set things they must eat each day. They are always allowed to ask for what they want and I try to make it happen. The kids are still snacking out their favorite foods as well. I have sliced lots of apples, and peeled plenty of oranges. I have made chicken, eggs, and oatmeal.

If you read my post months ago on food freedom, you know that I have held some very strong beliefs about food in the past. I have struggled with over controlling myself and others. I have let food induce many negative feelings in myself and let it stress me out to a unhealthy point honestly. Yet, I have felt so little stress this Halloween, and it has shown me how far I have come on my journey. It feels good to choose joy, to choose peace.

Unschooling Today 11/1/16

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The day after Halloween! I was a little nervous on how moods would be today from staying up later than usual, and basically replacing dinner with candy :P. We took it very slow and easy this mornings and early afternoon. We hung around, snacked on candy, and watched a new show on Netflix that Hailey discovered last night. We talked a bit about what shooting stars actually are. I picked up the house a bit, and got dinner marinating.

Grandma stopped by to say hello, which always makes everyone smile. We each visited with her for a few minutes. The baby took a nap and then we all got dressed. Today was a beautiful day, and I wanted to get out and get some fresh air. I don’t know how many more days we will have that are warm and sunny, so we should soak it up!

The kids immediately started playing a game together. They were birds and needed to build a nest. They collected rocks, sticks, and leaves. They played like this for well over an hour. Winter wondered around, sometimes following them; other times investigating sticks and random objects he could find.

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Hailey told me she named each one of the rocks based on what it looked like. This one was named Moon Rock because she said it resembled the surface of the moon.

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She also was grouping her rocks. Here she had them grouped into sets of three. When I commented that she grouped them she answered “Yep, right now I have nine”. Real world math and multiplication there.

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After playing for a while longer, we took a short walk and I finally caught my first Charmander on Pokemon-go!. We were getting hungry so we headed home. I cooked us up the dinner I had started earlier while Elijah played a computer game and Hailey watched her new show.

I just finished playing a game with the boys, who can be very rough and tumble and I am a little sore. Elijah was an alligator and Winter was determined to tackle everything. I got them settled down eventually with books for Elijah and nummies (our word for breastfeeding) for Winter.

Please feel free to share your day in the comments!

 

Our unschooling day 10/25/16

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Today was a stay around the house sort of day. I made some pumpkin bread for us. I love Trader Joe’s canned pumpkin out of all that I have tried. The bread was a big hit. Then Grandma came over to visit the kids, have a cup of coffee, and chat.

While the baby was napping, the kids and I decided to put together a chocolate cookie haunted house kit that I picked up from the store. This was trickier than it looked, but we figured it out. The kids had fun decorating, putting on/eating the candy, and expressing some of their creativity.

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After lunch, I noticed that Hailey had frozen some water in a kid’s size bowl in the freezer. I pulled it out and her and Elijah both tried to eat it. I do not what it is about kids and ice, but it seems to fascinate them. I went to nurse the baby when Hailey called me back in to check out her “science experiment”. She had placed a piece of finned metal under the ice to see what would happen. To their surprise the ice had started to melt faster and was indented in the shape of the fins of the metal. They both got a kick out of that.

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I had been working on roasted veggie spaghetti for a while, and when it was done I nervously served up the kids. Hailey has recently began trying many new foods, but usually she has many reservations when things taste different. Luckily, she loved the pasta and I loved that she got some extra veggies. I told Elijah it was veggie spaghetti like they served on Daniel Tiger.

The kids have been acting out pac man characters for a while now. We will read books and settle down soon.

How was your day?

Working out their problems.

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The older kids were playing a game. Suddenly, they were strongly disagreeing on how the came should be played. I almost handled it in a not so gentle way. I almost stepped in and told them to play different games. Instead I repeated what was going on.
 
“You both want to be a dragon in this game. Each of you says there can only be one dragon.”
 
At first they just agreed with my statement, aggravated about the whole situation. Each saying why they should be the dragon. This would have been my usual spot to try to get them to take turns, play a different game, or do it one or the other ways. I am working on not taking sides. I am working on them learning how to solve their problems with each other. I am not stepping out completely and letting them “work it out” as some would say. I am still apart of this. I am working on helping them problem solve with each other, with my guidance so that each person feels heard and safe. It is not easy for me. I have to take some big breaths. Fighting is a trigger for me.
 
“You really want the game to go this certain way, only one dragon, but both of you want to be the dragon so much.”
 
I doubt myself. Stepping in and “putting my foot down” would be faster. This is not who I want to be. This does not teach life skills, communication, compromise, negotiation.
 
“I know!”, Hailey exclaims. “We can be a two headed dragon. That way we both can be a dragon, but there is only one dragon all together.” Elijah agrees. He is happy with this situation. I am impressed by the creative idea. I would not have thought about that solution. I would not have seen the problem solving if I had stepped in and dished out a solution.