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😛. 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.

Unschooling today 10/22/16

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Today we got out the door a bit smoother than usual. I think that was because Hailey woke up much earlier than usual. She said her dream woke her up. I had made a pot of oatmeal at Elijah’s request, so we all ate and headed out the door.

We went to a super neat event. It was called Human2fest. It focused on meditation, mindfulness, yoga, art, wellness, and holistic care in general. This is right up my alley! We mostly hung out in the kid’s area. The kids made some art pieces. Elijah worked on painting the outline of his hand, for a project the art coordinator is going to make. It will be a collaboration of all the kids hands who made one.

They had a kid’s yoga class. This was so much fun. Hailey loves yoga and often watches yoga YouTube videos. The teacher of the class was laid back, gentle, silly, and patient. Some parts I even did right with them. They did yoga, a yoga story, all crawled through a downward dog tunnel, and said positive affirmations about themselves.

 

We walked around and checked out the booths. Hailey asked to have a sample at the Indian Food truck. This is a big girl for my girl. She has always had trouble trying new things, and has been intimidated by foods that do not look just right. But she really enjoyed her sample so we bought a plate for her and Elijah to share. They played at the playground area for a few and then we headed out.

We let the baby nap in the car on the way to meet up with a group to do a pumpkin themed activity. We read a pumpkin story, had a snack, and then took a short walk to find little pumpkins hid throughout the trail.

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On the way out of the trail, Papa and Elijah threw some leaves off the bridge into the river and watched them float down the stream.

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We then headed home. The kids took a bath. We might do a movie night before bed.

 

What did you do today?

Our unschooling day 10/12/16

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Trying to keep up the momentum of write all the things so here is what our today looked like. We took it slow and easy this morning. When we were ready we got dressed and headed out the door. Papa needed some quiet time at the house to study for a test he needs to take for a technical certificate, so I made plans to meet up with friends at a park with the kids.

The kids played for hours. The park is one of our favorites and they all had a great time. They played with fresh walnuts that were fallen (and some fell right before our eyes and luckily didn’t hit anyone). Elijah and his best friend pretended to cook with them and have a restaurant. They also used them as balls, and rolled them down the slide. His hands are now walnut stained color despite washing them a few times.

The kids played in the creek a bit. They all enjoyed wading in the water, but got more wet than we had originally planned for.

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Hailey said they found a frog or two. Her best friend caught a little fish in a bucket. We all took a look and she let it go.

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Winter and his best baby friend threw rocks into the creek.

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We all bring snacks and share them so there is always that. Lots of the normal park type play as well. After about 3.5 hours we headed home to change wet shoes and clothes, have another quick snack, pick up Papa, and run out to the store to grab some things on sale.

Back at home was dinner. Then the kids took a long bath and played in the bath water. We read books before Elijah went to bed, and Hailey is still up hanging with me. That about sums up our day. Feel free to share about your day in the comments!

Our Unschooling day 10/11/16

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This morning we woke up and decided we wanted to make pumpkin waffles. I love that our relaxed schedule means that we can have a more elaborate breakfast when we feel like it. After breakfast, we all got dressed and ready and headed out to enjoy the beautiful day. We decided to head somewhere we could go hiking and the kids could play at the nature play area they love.

The kids set right to work finishing a house made of sticks and getting involved in an imaginary game they created. They played for about 40 minutes. Elijah built a large “stove” out of logs.

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Papa was busy playing too. He used a big stick as a lever to raise a log back onto two other logs that used to hold it. Then he built a little obstacle course.

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The last leg of the course was a bit shaky. Hailey took it upon herself to see if she could figure out a way to make it more stable.

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After some trial and error, her and Papa figured out a way together to get it the way they wanted and we took turns trying it out. Winter was having fun too. He noticed a tree had a large hole and was sticking things into it to see what would happen.

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After the play we went for our hike. The kids ran ahead and played as Pokemon characters for most of the hike.

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We stopped to take a snack break at our favorite area of the hike. This area is known as the Osage Orange tunnel and it is so neat looking.

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The hike was finished soon after and we headed home to finish the dinner that I had started earlier before we left. Hailey tagged along with me to our local Le Leche League meeting.

We came home and Elijah and I played superheroes for a few minutes. Of course he was the superhero and I was the bad guy who he had to “defeat up” (that is what he says instead of beat up). He picked out the book “Green Eggs and Ham” for me to read before going to sleep. Hailey is relaxing with a show in her room before the rest of us will head to bed.

How was your day? Feel free to share in the comments.