Category Archives: Radical Unschooling

If you don’t stop then you can’t….

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As a child, it was not uncommon to hear some form of “if you don’t stop that you can’t do this”.  It could be “If you don’t stop crying you can’t [insert fun activity]”, or “if you don’t stop aggravating then you will have to sit in time out”, often “If you don’t change your attitude than you can’t go to that place you want to go”. Etc., etc., you get the point.

These threats were often given in angry whispers while in pubic or on the way to our destination. Public “misbehavior” was a big trigger for my mom. There was no thought given to what need may be inspiring the undesired behavior. No connecting grumpiness to hunger or tiredness. No considering that I may be struggling with anxiety about something (I have dealt with this since I was a child), or having some over-stimulation related to sensory issues (something I now know about myself). No thought to what had happened before we left, such as a disappointment or argument with a sibling. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom very much. I know that she was doing the best she could as a young mom. She did what she knew, and I was always loved.

Kids are often held to a higher standard than adults. Not allowed to show too much emotion in public, not given the benefit of the doubt, or some extra grace for an off day. I know that is how I was raised, and sometimes that old tape start playing in my head and I don’t even realize it. Words come out of my mouth, and immediately upon hearing myself say them I know it isn’t right. Those words don’t represent who I want to be as a parent. Instead, they represent things said to me in the past, things I may have internalized.

As I progress on this journey towards gentle parenting, I am getting better at catching myself before I say the words that flash in my head. I used to always say them and then apologize and say what I wanted to say (whether that be right away or after some further reflection). But now, more times than not, I catch myself right as they start to come out and I take a moment to breathe and rethink what I want to say, who I want to be in that moment.

Sometimes, I start to say those old words and by the time my logical brain has caught up with me, I am halfway through a thought and then quickly try to turn that very sentence around into something else. This happened the other day. We were on the way to a local amusement park. The kids were excited to be going again. We purchased season passes and this was our second visit. My oldest was being grumpier than usual though. She kept snapping impatiently, and was feeling sensitive very easily. I knew she was tired, as she woke up early in anticipation, and she fell asleep for the last 20 minutes of the hour drive.

While we were organizing all our stuff, getting our water bottles in the bag, and putting the toddler shoes back on again, she was just really in a tough mood. I could feel my frustration building because I knew this was supposed to be a fun day, and I worked hard to prepare for it. Not only that, it was mine and my husband’s anniversary so in some illogical way I wanted the day to be smooth and lovely. The old tape turned on in my head and I heard myself say “If you can’t calm down and enjoy your day you can sit out while your brothers ride the rides with your Papa.” I knew instantly that this wasn’t a fix, or would it do anything for our relationship, so I got down on my knees to make eye contact and took her hand. “What I mean is, if you are having a tough time that is okay. I know you didn’t get as much sleep as you normally do. You can just take my hand and I will sit with you until you feel calmer. You can ride rides when you are ready, and I will help you until then.” I could almost feel the relieve in her body. Her breathing slowed, and she relaxed into my body for a hug and said, “Okay Mom”.

That wasn’t the end of her rough times. She had skipped most of breakfast and didn’t eat what I packed in the van, so I had to really encourage her to eat something for some energy. Everyone quickly finished their snack but her, she needed some extra time. So, they went to a nearby ride while I sat with her and waited. She nibbled slowly and then when she was ready she told me. Then we enjoyed the rest of our day.

I am not even close to where I want to be as a parent. I am trying and I tell myself that if I do better today than I did yesterday most of the time, then that is progress. Rewiring our brains to a new way of being, a whole new perspective, a new form of communication isn’t easy. But it is worth it, so so worth it. It matters.

Unschooling Today 6/2/2017

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We closed on our house one week ago today. We moved 6 days ago. Most things are still in boxes, or scattered around in an unorganized manner. I am doing my best to gain a resemblance of our typical routine back. Unpacking and maintaining a connection with kids is challenging. It means I have to take it slower than I’d like. I have to live amidst the chaos a little while longer, so I have more time with them.  Elijah wanted me to

We had breakfast outside today. We have been doing this most mornings. I love that the weather is finally cooperating and we now have a space for this to happen. It starts our morning off from a good place. Elijah then wanted me to help him draw hearts with chalk.  We talked about our new house number, and how all the houses have numbers and that is how the mail carriers knows which house our mail goes to.

The kids asked for ice cream and I made them some in waffle cone bowls. They ate outside, while the toddler napped. I worked a bit on unpacking and laundry. We had lunch and played Headbandz. The kids also played Guess Who. The toddler “played” with some flashcards he found in a box.

I sorted through some clothes a friend picked up for us at a local swap. I showed the kids their new things and they both immediately changed into their favorite pick. Elijah played with Lego’s for a bit and Hailey on her DS.

I remembered that Elijah had been asking to make Jell-o and I bought the stuff for it at the store a few days before. So we went into the kitchen and whipped that up. Hailey picked hers to stay in a bowl to set so she can just scoop it out. Elijah picked our heart shaped gummy holder to make his into heart shapes. They are excited for it to set up and eat it.

I laid with Elijah and played a game with him on his tablet while Papa was installing a part into our air conditioner.We are about to dinner. I am hoping for an early night since we have had so many late nights and early mornings with the move.

What did you do today?

 

 

 

 

Unschooling Today 4/24/17

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Today is my Mom’s birthday, The kids woke up excited to celebrate her. After breakfast, the kids got to work on cards for Grandma. Hailey decided to turn her card into a book. She taped paper together and got to work. She wrote the first three pages on her own, trying her best to sound out the words and spell them on her own, and drawing pictures to go with it. Her hand grew tired, so she asked if I could write the rest while she told me what to write. When it was finished, it was a great book with a thoughtful story about a bee celebrating his birthday. My favorite part is when he went to a restaurant and ate pollen pizza pockets.

 

Next it was time to bake a cake. I knew I had the ingredients to bake a chocolate cake, but I had to figure out how to make it vegan and come up with a vegan frosting. My youngest is intolerant to both, and while we hope he grows out of it, we wanted him to enjoy cake today! So we looked up some recipes and got to work. Elijah loves to help me in the kitchen and quickly took his place as sous chef. We got the cake bake, and tweaked a frosting recipe to make it more to Grandma’s liking.

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We are in the process of buying a house, so I am starting to pack little by little. While the kids played, I packed a box and went through some junk drawers.

Papa came home shortly after. While I was outside drawing with chalk with Winter, Grandma arrived. The kids ran to show her the gifts they had made. Hailey was so excited for Grandma to read her book. Elijah explained his birthday picture he drew. Then we all went inside to sing happy birthday and eat cake! The cake turned out rich and chocolaty.

After Grandma left, I got dinner in the oven. Elijah was playing on his tablet and Hailey was looking for something to do. I asked her if she would like to help me with dishes and I got a excited “sure!”. I washed, she rinsed and dried. She said she was pretending we worked in a restaurant and we were the dishwashers.  She took on a Texan accent and complained about the boss. We got all the dishes washed together.

After dinner, Papa was studying, so I took the kids into the bedroom to read some new library books. I read one, then Hailey asked to read the next, and then she read the last one, while Elijah repeated the words so he felt like he was reading too. Then teeth got brushed and the littles ready for bed.

How was your day?

Unschooling Today 3/28/17

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I was ready for a slow paced day after our stressful surgery day yesterday. I made us breakfast. Elijah wanted to go outside. It is not uncommon for him to play on the porch without me, but Winter wasn’t having it. He wanted to be outside too! I normally would rather finish my coffee before headed outside, but I made the exception today and finished out there while they played.

Hailey wanted to find some music to listen to once we were all inside. She found an interesting video that combined music with “how to draw” type tutorials of Pikachu. She watched that and I did some housework.

Elijah was watching that Daniel Tiger episode where characters are sick. This apparently made him crave sick people food. He asked if I could make him toast, chicken noodle soup, and orange juice. I was surprised to find we had all those things. Of course , Elijah is not much of a soup person so he just ate the carrots out of it.

The kids played the  Wii while the baby napped. I helped them with a few level they were stuck on and exercised too.

Papa came home and chatted with everyone. The kids went back outside to play, and for Hailey to check on the birds nests she had made. I made some quick dinner.

Hailey built a nest for the birds and made some signs for them to see it.

After eating, we went to the store to grab some things. Hailey is now watching a movie and Elijah is doing his nightly cuddle with Papa before sleeping.

How was your day?

Getting creative.

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A big part of radical unschooling, for me, is finding a way to help the kids pursue their ideas. Sometimes these ideas are larger adventures, and sometimes their just small curiosities. I’m really learning lately, that even the small requests are a big deal, and I’m trying to find a way to say yes.

Sometimes saying yes is easy. Other times, the kids have ideas that seem impractical, impossible, or for some reason or another unable to be unaccomplished. Some ideas get talked about and thought out and the kids see the logical fallacy upon further reflection, some ideas get lived through only through imagination dream board style. This journey, however requires flexibility and creativity, and I’m trying to get better at that.

Hailey has been talking about having a camp out in the yard again. It has to been warm enough (or we don’t have the appropriate gear for the weather), and Papa has had some health issues that wouldn’t have made it possible this week. No Hailey, is the definition of creative, and never short of ideas. She came up with the idea of a living room camp out and was determined to make it happen tonight. However, her brother wasn’t feeling up to it, so we came up with a way to get the tent in her room and she is happy with the idea of sleeping in that as a bed alone. But they really wanted to roast marshmallows, and of course they came up with that idea at 8 pm, and we have no wood, and a wet ground and a fire just wasn’t happening. We talked about other similar treats that could meet that need. We decided on chocolate covered marshmallows instead. It was a big hit! This has led to a fun night.

I was sitting here thinking if we had just said “No we can’t camp out, it’s not possible, no we cant make a fire, sorry another time” and left it at that. The fun and yummy treats wouldn’t have happened. So be open, creative, and flexible and you can end up in some great places.

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.

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.

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!