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?

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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