Big Messes and Big Fun!

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This story starts off with telling everyone that I mopped my floors a few days ago. Now that might not sound like anything to write home about, but let me be honest, it doesn’t happen often at all. I have a running joke about the reason I don’t mop my floors is because the universe sees it as a challenge to make it dirtier than before within a day. Just ask the full jar of elderberry syrup that crashed onto my sparkling white floors several years ago, just mere hours after mopping. That was the last straw 🤣.

So my floors are mopped with their biannual cleaning, inevitably that same night my toddler dumps an entire pound of very finely ground pink salt all over the place. That’s not even what this is about because I laughed at predictable situation.

The real story is about today. Winter (4 years old) found this dinosaur excavation kit in the playroom closet. The kids were gifted a few of these kits last year, and the bigger kids had done theirs. I knew two things from their experience:

1. The clay dust from these kits get everywhere.

2. It is actually quite difficult to get the little dinosaur and the bones out. It took the big kids several attempts over days, lots of muscle power, and then I think they even gave up on some of it.

I put down a table cloth to catch the clay that I’m betting will be minimal because I’m thinking to myself, “He will probably try for a few minutes before realizing that it’s going to take a long time and then just find something else to do”.

Now I don’t know why I suffered from such delusional thinking. Some traits are absolutely certain about Winter: He loves and thrives on any messy experience. He’s a sensory input seeker to the max. Also, there is very little that can stand in his way once he’s set his mind to something. For one brief moment, I thought maybe he was done. He asked for my help excavating, then his older brothers, the tablecloth was sliding and was abandoned (uh oh!), then his tool broke. He was frustrated for a second but quickly recovered.

I found him some leftover tools from the other kits, and then he invited his little brother to try too. This was so adorable, I made a conscious decision to not even mind the table cloth and accepted this was going to be messy.

This is where the real fun begins. Recognizing that he wasn’t going to be able to uncover everything, he formulated a new plan. Water! I helped him fill a bowl full, and by the time I turned around he had moved to the floor.

At this moment I took a few big breaths and remembered wise words from a Facebook friend, that I’ve seen around unschooling circles about a clean room being a blank canvas. I looked at the joy on his face, I admired his problem solving skills and determination, and then I chose to let go of any anxiety over the mess.

He chatted with me while I wiped down the door and opposite wall (I needed to find something to keep my hands busy while I was staying close). Every single time he found a new bone he ran over to show it to me with so much exuberant pride in his voice. He talked me through every step of his plan, and worked away. When he was finished he told me he must be an archeologist.

When all was said and done, I put him in the bath, put the toddler on my back, and grabbed the broom and steam mop. The floor was absolutely covered as one would guess.

Just one side of the floor

It took me about ten minutes to sweep and mop over this mess (it’s not spotless but that wasn’t a goal). Unusually, I found myself smiling while I mopped. Every time I found a spot with a big chunk of clay left, I visualized his smile on whatever bone was pulled from that piece. I genuinely felt my own joy cleaning up this mess that had filled him with so much happiness while it was being made. Ten minutes was absolutely worth everything this brought to us, our connection, his spirit. It was worth so much more without a doubt.

He is now diligently cleaning out the holes with a toothpick so we can work together to fit the bones into a dinosaur.

Mess often triggers my anxiety, and I do sometimes use that as a reason to say no. I am intentionally working on that trigger, because although I want to consider my needs too, these kids aren’t responsible for fulfilling my needs. It’s my work to figure out why this bothers me, and come up with a plan that works for all of us. Mess is inevitable with kids anyway, and Winter isn’t living his best life without fulfilling his need to touch, expire, create, and make messes.

Future messy activities will still bother me, but maybe a little bit less each time I move through the experience consciously.

How kids melt your heart

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So I’m taking a super quick shower, when I hear knocking at the door. I can tell it’s my 4 year old, but I can’t make out his words. I yell “Go ask Papa, I’ll be out in a minute.”

He comes back a second time, and I still can’t understand what he’s saying. Honestly, I’m feeling a little annoyed that he has escaped his Papa’s notice and is banging at the door. The thought of “Can’t you just leave me alone for ten minutes?” is what passes through my mind. I take a breath and turn off the water when this paper slips under the door, followed by a little giggle.

“Oh, what is this?” I ask through the door.
“I made you a picture.”
“What does it say?”
“It says I love you Mommy”.

These kids have the biggest hearts I tell ya. I instantly felt all annoyance slip away.

Embracing who you are

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A few days ago we were out at a public event. There was a few kids around ages 6-14. My daughter was having a good chat about pokemon with a girl around her age (9) and a young teenage boy. They were all having a good time, when the boy commented something along the lines of “you’re allowed to like that stuff right now, but wait until middle school and the kids will tease you for it so you have to stop.”

My heart felt so heavy for him, and past young me who didn’t feel confident embracing who I was, and for all the kids that have felt this immense pressure to be someone else, and to not stand out. My daughter stared blankly at him, confused. My 7 year old son piped up “We get to like what we want”.

I’m 31 and just now coming back around to rocking my “weird” interests. I feel no more shame in being different or being labeled a nerd or whatever else. I am so thankful to not put my kids in an environment that discourages them to be themselves, to find what they like, to change their minds when they want to. No race to be the best, most popular, or the most on top of the ever changing trends.

A Super Important Mission

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Winter (4 years old) was having a tough afternoon. He was overtired and probably hungry looking back on it. He was on full on wild feral mode.

I was trying to put away groceries and start dinner when the eggs I just got at the store dropped and the majority broke. I absolutely need eggs and was frustrated. I sent my husband back to the store to grab some, but he had to take Winter. No way I’d be able to cook dinner with Winter’s state and Dexter while he was gone.

Knowing they were in for a tough trip, I tried to think of a way to set the trip up for success. I pulled Winter to the side and whispered “I have a super secret mission for you.” He was immediately intrigued. I continued, “At the grocery today I forgot something very important that you asked me to put on our list. I forgot Rainbow Ice cream.”

The day before, he had suddenly brought up the Superman ice cream he had eaten at a firefighters fundraiser back in August. He talked about it all day, so I had added some to my list.

Back to our conversation, I told him” Rainbow ice cream isn’t so easy to find sometimes. It’s like a super mission. Do you want to go to the store and help Papa?” His eyes filled with excitement as he started talking about the ice cream again. He was ready to accept his mission. He quickly cooperated in a manner he wasn’t capable of a few minutes before.

I thought the job was done there. I knew they now had their best chance for a smooth trip. But of course, life is rarely like that. I get a panicked text from my husband saying the store doesn’t have any rainbow ice cream like he wants. Thinking in my feet, I tell him to offer rainbow sherbet. That too was quickly rejected. “Superman ice cream has all the colors! ” Winter would say. Mission failed. I told hubby to tell him we would search for a store that carried it this week.

I thought that was that, until I called a few minutes later to see if they were on their way home. Mark and Winter had not accepted their mission defeat so easily however, and they were at a second store. Surprised, I wished them luck.

I finished dinner and served everyone at home, and set plates aside for Mark and Winter. They walked in the door, rainbow ice cream in hand after THREE stores. Winter ran to me to tell me he had completed his mission, and helped Papa not to forget what he came to the store for too!

I’ve never purchased a bucket of ice cream like this for our home before. We usually go for more homemade ice cream, but I looked at it and thought about how hard my husband worked to make sure Winter got it. I think about how determined Winter was to get it, and how having a goal turned his mood around. I am thankful that I bent down and offered that connection to him amidst the chaos and frustration I was feeling, and likely he was feeling too.

Unschooling today 12/3/2019

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After a busy day out at one of our favorite children museums yesterday, we all needed a relax and play around the house day. We had a slow morning wakeup, chatting and watching Llama Llama.

I had to run my oldest to a quick appointment, while the youngest 3 played with Papa. When I got him I made a quick lunch and laid the baby down for a nap. I watched some funny tik tok videos with my daughter. Then Elijah wanted to play Exploding Kittens. It was our first time, but we got it down pretty fast. It was a hit!

This game was a bit over my 4 year olds head, so when the baby woke up I offered to play his choice of game with him. We played headbands. He pretended not to cheat 🤣.

The kids great grandpa stopped by to drop off a belated birthday present and cupcakes. The kids excitedly all showed him their favorite things and chatted.

We watched some of Frozen next, while the two oldest played Roblox together. While I started dinner, Elijah wanted to start a lego kit he got for his birthday yesterday. He out the whole thing together by his self. He was super proud. It only took him about an hour for the 207 piece sea submarine robot. Winter played with our other legos alongside him.

I made a snack dinner and some hot cocoa. The boys played with legos for a while longer, now playing together. Neon came out to chat with me and then played with the baby for a bit.

I’m finishing the night watching some gacha videos with my daughter. I’m about ready to lay down with the yougest ones. That sums up our day.

Unschooling today 11/18/2019.

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Today started off by watching puffin rock with my boys. This is my 4 years olds new favorite morning show. After breakfast Elijah (6) put minecraft tip videos on the TV. Neon (9) joined us. I sat on the floor with the youngest two and we played dinosaurs then created with magnet shapes. Dexter then had me name the animals in his first words book about 1000 times.

The boys and I headed outside, while sis opted to stay inside. They rode in the jeep, swung, played in the wet sand, and hit things with sticks.

I laid the baby down for a nap. When I was able to slip away, I made us all snacks and we had a floor picnic. We turned in the movie Klaus from Netflix. I loved this new take on a Christmas movie. Super cute! All the kids enjoyed it too. Dexter woke up about half way through and joined us.

We all tried a new fruit that the big kids asked for at the store. It was red pomelo. None of us liked it, but we pretended we did when Papa came home so we could trick him into trying it too 🤣. He agreed with us.

We all chatted about a silly video that auto played. Then practiced our lid Latin 😜.

Neon and Elijah went off to play for a bit while I cleaned up. Elijah came out and joined us and asked to watch Creeped Out, a kids anthology series on Netflix. We watched a few episodes together, pausing to predict things. Papa came home and watched an episode with us.

I made some quick dinner out of leftovers and we had our pick of ice cream. Neon wanted some alone time to draw and watch videos. Elijah will likely have me read him some books before he winds down.

That sums up our day!

A low key day

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Today was a super laid back, low-key day. I really needed a day like that too. I’ve been exhausted, husband’s been working late, kids were sick, depression was flaring, and the burnout was real. I haven’t felt at my best, and I certainly haven’t been as present and mindful as I hope to be. These past few weeks have just felt like so much work. I don’t want life, but especially life with my family, to feel that way. It’s almost always a sign that I’m running on empty and need some extra love and support.So back to our low-key day. We started with breakfast and chatting. The baby slept in (which is rare) until breakfast was ready. After eating, the boys started building with blocks.Neon woke up and mentioned she was craving scones. She ate a bowl of cereal as a snack, and Winter and I baked up a batch of scones.We all snacked on the scones. Neon and Elijah started playing roblox. I turned on some kid friendly scary Netflix shows. Winter and I watched one. A week or so ago, Winter saw a video talking about how popcorn comes from corn. He was fascinated. I had picked up this popping corn cob from Trader Joe’s to show him. We popped it up and examined the corn that was still on the cob. It was so fascinating to the kids. The popcorn tasted different than it too.We watched some more Halloween specials. Winter wanted to tell spooky stories next. The big kids role played some more on various games. Then the two yougest painted with water, while I did a few dishes.It was dinner time before long. After dinner the oldest went to watch videos on the projector, taking turns picking one each. Papa worked on painting our door a bit more while I laid the youngest down. That about sums it up.

Our Unschooling Day 9/23/2019

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It’s the first day of autumn! This is the majority of my household’s favorite season, so lots of excitement here today. We are ready for the weather to cool off, leaves to change, and fall traditions to start. I decided today would be a good day to share what our unschooling day looks like.

First thing this morning Elijah wanted to show Winter how to play a game on the Switch. Winter doesn’t quite get it yet, but he’s learning and having fun trying.

We had breakfast while watching some YouTube. The boys played a game that got a little rough, so we had some cuddles. Then I read a book to them. The baby started giving hugs on demand, which was pretty cute.

We headed outside for some fresh air and they did some chalk drawing.

They drew on themselves, pretending it was wounds from bites and scratches delivered by jungle animals.

Elijah told him to say “Panked ya!”

Back inside for snack while I laued down the baby for a nap. Elijah played some Roblox, Winter watxhed some more YouTube, and I started waking up Neon. While I get her breakfast ready, I clean up a bit.

We made Naan pizzas for lunch. Winter asked to play with the magnet shapes while we ate. Elijah started playing with them too.

I laid next to Neon for a bit while she showed me some funny videos se liked. She then joined in on the magnet shape play too. They played for a couple of hours making up their own games with th shapes too.

We read this book the other day about witches making bone soup. They wanted to make the recipe in the back. I got the ingredients at the store this weekend so we could. We reread the book together.

The boys were so excited to help make it. They chopped veggies with me.

They took turns adding the ingredients to the pot, while we all some the phrases from the group. We pretended to add dragon wings, flies, and earthworms to the pot.

I whipped up some pumpkin and cauldron shaped biscuits to serve wth our soup. We ate it up. Two kids loved it, one said it was okay, and the last was satisfied with the tastes of each ingredient and a snack plate.

The rest of our night will probably be chatting and relaxing, maybe reading some books before bed.

How was your day?

Math doesn’t have to be scary.

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I’m in local and not at all local unschooling groups. A question that I often get asked, or see others ask is “How will they learn math?”. Those of us who have been through the school system, oftentimes see math as this scary thing. We can easily carry these feelings into adulthood.

We don’t seperate life into subjects. We learn from living, and it cannot be divided into “math” or “history”. Everything just sort of interweaves together. Many times, I can’t always see the connections, but they are there.

Back to math and numbers. My 6 year old has taken an interest in many things numbers this year. He is the kid that keeps a countdown of days until payday (minecraft map money time!) or the next birthday. If you say Grandma will be here in 15 minutes then he’s watching the clock and counting down the time. He wants to know how much things cost and how much money he needs, and why numbers are rounded up. $4.99 is called $5.

Last night, while laying in bed next to me he starts adding numbers again. “Mom, 5+5=10, 50+50=100, 500+500=1000, 5,000+5,000=10,000, 50,000+50,000=100,000, 500,000+500,000= 1,000,000, 50,000,000+50,000,000=100,000,000, 500,000,000+500,000,000=1,000,000,000.

We don’t call it math. It’s treated like every other interest. He loves figuring this stuff out. It’s on his timeline. It wouldn’t matter if he was 6 or 10 or however old. It might look like this, or it might be totally behind the scenes and I couldn’t “see” it. Each kid is different really. My 9 year old didn’t approach math this way. He isn’t approaching reading the same way she did. These journey’s are as unique as they are.

Following the Rabbit Trails of Conversation

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One of my favorite things about our unschooling days has to be the chats that evolve into unexpectedly deep conversations. We have the time to let one topic naturally lead into another, and end up on a rabbit trail that leads to new discoveries. I never know when this is going to happen; it isn’t something that can be contrived.

After one of these talks, it is interesting to reflect on what topics we touched. How can we start out talking about tea and end up exploring religion, geography, morality, drug addiction and thoughts on the afterlife? I come away from these conversations, not only with new ideas for me to consider, but with a greater understanding of the people my children are blossoming into.

This very thing happened today. I sat around the table drinking tea with the kids. One chat flowing into the next, almost seemlessly. I’m not directing it here, I have no agenda. I love seeing where this goes. I find it amazing to learn more about the values and opinions the children are developing. The topic of heaven and hell gets brought up, which religions believe this, what differences are there in each belief? What do you believe? Good and bad people? What makes someone good or bad? I watch as new ideas form as they talk through it. What starts out as black and white becomes more gray as they explore the possibilities outloud.

My oldest remembers an app that gives backstories of people and we are to sort them into heaven or hell. How do we decide? One person killed their countries leader, but that leader was a genocidal madman….not so simple. This person has lived a fairly simple life, but has battled drug addiction. “Mom why is it an addiction? Are you a bad person if you are on drugs?” I don’t present as having all the answers, just my own experiences. Each person from a different country, bringing up questions about where that is, or what’s going on there because that might influence the final decision.

I couldn’t have predicted this afternoon’s tea time would include these important conversations. I can’t even know all the learning and connections that were made, or what connections will be made in the future because of this one afternoon. What I can do is create a life that prioritizes the free time to have these spontaneous discussions. I can hold a non-judgmental attitude, encouraging my kids to examine their own thoughts around these ideas. I can let go of expectations of how these conversations will develop, letting them flow where they may. I can keep my own mind open, because I walk away from the chat processing new thoughts too.