Saturday, April 22, 2006

April 22

Yesterday we met with our local unschooler's group.They were a fine bunch! I liked them very much. They are all bright, exceptional women. There were six families including us. Some of them also belong to a club called "Project Wild", ( )which is an earth-friendly, eco-responsible theory for teaching and encouraging children to respect and cherish the earth and its inhabitants. I think we will attempt to go soon, maybe in a few weeks, as I have said, we are out of classes for the moment. Teri made it clear yesterday that it was very laid back and open. So we shall see. It sounds like something that my family would enjoy very much! Definitely in the future, if not immediately.
We have also been invited to a friend's house in Tooele for a knitting circle, which I would also love, but this month I don't have my materials, and I hope to get the truck's door fixed this week.
There is also swimming day at Fairmont Park, once a week, and skate days twice a month at the roller rink, alternative Fridays (from skate days) are Eastside Park days, and the Littles group plans to have hikes pretty regularly this spring and summer.I also bought a membership for Trev and I to Red Butte Gardens, (the theme this year is dinos! woohoo!), and we also get to go to the Eccles Dinosaur Park for free with our garden membership this year. Yay!
I think many of us are getting together at Liberty Park this year for outdoor swim days, for a walk then swim. There is tons to do there. Tiny amusement park, water play, playground, Tracy Aviary, much to entertain there.
Tuesdays we have playgroup. Unstructured.We have lots to do, and lots of friends to do it with! (But what about socialization? : ) )
This summer promises to be very fun-filled.
Eric is taking off work the week of Trevy's birthday, and we are going out to Dinosaur Land in Vernal.We have never been, and I think it will be really cool to see real fossils still-in-the-ground.
I told Trev that the whole town loves dinosaurs, that they are everywhere. He is very excited.
Don't know why I am going on and on about this stuff today, other than it is a magnificent spring day, high of like 74 today, so thinking and feeling spring and summer! (Three or four days ago there was a high temp of 42!)
Anyway, I'm done for now, and will be back soon.
Wishing you well, Steph

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

April 19

Well, today was much easier. T was open to suggestions of healthy foods, of course he woke up with "Can I have a green popsicle?" and I said "Oh yes, you may have one after lunch!" It didn't escallate, he accepted it and moved on.
He was agreeable and helpful today.I am tired and going to snuggle on the couch with dh and T.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

April 18

Grrr. Having trouble with T in the food department. Wasn't I just saying how much and often he chooses healthy foods? Not the last three days! Ever since the Easter Bunny came it's popsicles, jellybeans, chocolate, and that's about it! I told him I didn't like his choices, and he needed to consider eating healthy foods too, or Iwas going to have to take his choice away.
I know this is the wrong way to handle it, and I suppose if I let him eat complete junk food for three days he would come around. That's probably what I should do, let him have his way until he either gets completely sick of candy (or just sick) or eats it all! : ) The thing is .... I am really cranky tonight, and now I am wondering if it's because I have fought with him over this stupid issue today. I get mad, I take away his choice, he gets sassy and feels disrespected, disrespects me in return, I get mad at the way he talks to me, I yell at him to not yell at me... round and round and round we go...
Do you spose we could be in a cycle? A circle? I really need to pay attention and notice if when I am kind and patient if my child is "more agreeable". What I mean is, do I truly find him more loving and sweet when I am in good humor, or am I just more amiable and tolerant? I certainly notice beastly behavior when I am feeling beastly.
Do you suppose kindness and respect beget kindness and respect? huh. Wouldn't that be a novelty?

On the upside! I am inheriting my Papa's digital camera, I sent him a note asking about what to look for because I was shopping for one, and he informed me that he didn't use his hardly ever, and wanted to upgrade, so I could take his off his hands (his throw around one, not his professional one). The price was reasonable : ) so I agreed! Yay! So soon we will have pics up of my angels. If I can ever figure out how to work it.
One of the purposes of this blog is to sort of take note of our unschooling journey, so I will be glad to take pics of "ordinary life magic" as I like to call it.

Anyway. I am ready for bed, and there is a little boy and dh snuggling on the couch without me, so I think I will gather them up and point them to my bedroom.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

On Radical Unschooling

The name "Radical Unschooling" can seem a bit terrefying. Another name for it is "Whole Life Unschooling". What this means is... just as you trust your child's ability to learn and seek, so do you trust them to make the correct choices for themselves in the entirety of their lives.This is not to say that unschooling is unparenting. It's really quite the opposite. It's extremely involved parenting. Mindful parenting. Paying attention to everything-you-do-and-say parenting. Unschooling parents view themselves as the facilitators, not teachers. I believe that no one can ever "teach" anyone anything. To me teaching means standing over someone literally pounding facts into their head, and it has about as much permanence and use.
Memorized facts are released out of the mind either immediately after a institutional-type test, or as soon as they are no longer used.
Things that are discovered have a much more lasting and illuminating effect. I think we would all agree that figuring something out for yourself has much greater impact than hearing someone tell us about it in words we don't understand.
Lots of people believe that children must be controlled or they will simply spin off the earth (or somehow destroy it). Radical Unschoolers believe that if children are not controlled they will better learn to control themselves.

A few months ago I quit giving my son limits on his TV watching. Previously, I was concerned about it, I thought he was watching too much, worried that he was not learning enough, afraid his brain was going to melt, holding him up to the dreaded standard of his peers, and fearing that maybe he was lacking. Oh, and of course fearing that the televisoin would simply spontaneously combust from overuse.
Guess what? It didn't happen. Know what did? He started playing in his room first thing in the morning instead. He goes outside. He runs with Annabell (our Giant Saint Bernard). He wants to learn the letters on the computer.
Does he watch television? Oh, yes, he does. His current favorite is The Magic School Bus. He has learned about echolocation. (Bats using sound vibration to determine where the mosquitos are that they are wanting to eat.)
He has learned that (cough cough) "Mommy, bacteria is making me sick." That white blood cells eat bacteria, and that they shoot antibodies at the bacteria, also.
He has learned that water is permanent, and has three stages. Water, vapor, and ice. He knows that a water drop turns into gas (evaporation) and that it floats into the air and then joins with other vapor, making a cloud, then turns heavy and into rain again.
He knows that hawks are at the top of the food chain, and that grass is at the bottom of that one. That photoplankton is at the bottom of another, and that sharks are at the top of that one.
My son is bright, quick, kind, and loving. And he watches television. And he eats healthy foods. Another area of RU thought. That if given the choice, true choice, without recriminations, children will, in fact, quite often choose healthy foods. Granted, when we first get home from the store with a new box of popsicles, they are sorely on his mind and he is hardly unable to think of anything else, and he might eat one and then immediately ask for another. But after a quick non-lecturing reminder that healthy bodies need healthy foods too, he will remember the sugar snap peas that he was also very excited about.
The other day he actually came in and said "Mommy, I need some healthy vegetables!" I will admit that I am still new enough at this that I am often more pleased with our lives/choices than I should be. Soon I will take it for what it is - ordinary life magic, but for now it's special life magic.

Another area of RU thought is cleaning. I find it's best not to treat our "household chores" as chores. In more ways than one! First of all, I would never fight with my sweet son as I did when it was time for him to clean his room. Standing over him, pointing to something, "Right there! Pick that up, and put it where it goes!" "Now!"
This after two hours of "Clean up your room." "Pick up your dinosaurs." "Stack your books, and I'll put them away." Pick up your LeapPad and put it away." "Pick that up." "Hurry, friends are coming, and you only have another half hour!" or "You had better hurry, or we will not make it to the library!" Ugh. Let me tell you that those were not happy, loving, accepting, joyful moments. (hours.)
Secondly, I have changed the way I view cleaning. I see it as more of a ritual cleansing of the yuckies. Open the windows (I cannot tell you how happy I am that spring is here), letting the old air out, a cleansing breeze wafting through the door and windows, imagining bad feelings, frustrations, yelling, any yuckies being washed away as I clean. I now view cleaning as a joyful act, I truly and greatly appreciate a clean house, I want it clean, so I can function as a kind person, and so I clean it. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don't. But if I want it clean, then why shouldn't I be the one to clean it?
That is not to say that no one should be responsible for picking up anything. But mostly if I ask, "Hey, will you pick that up and take it to your room? I am really appreciating this clean house!" or some such thing it's amazing how helpful and kind every one is.

Rules are another biggie in RU thought. "You have to have rules!" most people believe. RU thought is that you don't. Rules are some arbitrary thing that are forced upon you without your consent. Rules are broken and bent.
Now "principles" are another thing entirely. Principles are something you live by because you believe in its intrinsic value. Because you believe it is the right thing to do.
A rule is "no hitting". Living by principle would be "Be kind to others."I try to help my children to understand natural consequences. It is something I want them to notice, how I believe we can all take responsibilities for our lives. I am a firm believer in natural law, and I try to show my children where their choices might lead them to an unhappy ending or to a circumstance that they may not like. "You might want to pick up your dinosaurs so the puppy doesn't eat them." sort of thing.
Our "rule" in our house is "Everyone has the right to feel safe, happy, and free." We try to make our decisions accordingly.

I have possibly given the impression that our home is an enchated cottage that never sees strife, conflict or yelling, -or filled with rotten, beastly children -but it isn't so. I am working (actively at moments, theoretically during others) on not yelling, and making my home as magical and beautiful as possible, but it is a challenge. There are a thousand things a day that topple my composure (the puppy peeing in the house, T screaming at Annabell to "Leave me alone!" M getting into something, muddy paw prints, diapers that need folding, fixing this or that, hungry babies, etc., but the point is that I am working on it, I am trying, I am giving it my best. Someday I shall have a completely (windows, walls, basement, gardens, toilets) clean house, I shall be master of my vocal chords, my responses will be cultured instead of reactionary, and I will have nothing to do for the afternoon except sit on my patio and contemplate the serenity that surrounds me. Thank goodness I do get those moments in flashes, it is what keeps me going. Aah bliss.

But for now they are only moments. They come often enough to keep me going, and are happy enough that I can see that I am on the right road for myself and my children.


"Those who have been required to memorize the world as it is will never create the world as it might be."Judith Groch

On Control

We were at class the other day and T was running and playing, and generally disrupting class (at this point, class was outside.)I was trying not to get upset, but I was pretty stressed about it. He would get up and run around, and I would say "Shall we go, or do you want to attend class?" He wanted to stay with his homeschool friends, but of course he wanted to play. It got to a point that I called him over, and he refused to come to me. I told him I wanted to talk with him, but still he refused.
Very upset at this point, my son was not listening to me, was not cooperating in class, was being disruptive, aggravating me, and I was feeling foolish, I took him (physically) aside and asked him what the deal was. We went to the car to have our talk. He told me that he didn't want to come to me because he was afraid I was going to be mad. My interpretation of this as his mother, and knowing my actions that day is "You might yell at me." "You might put me in time out. Again." "You might threaten that we have to go home. Again". "You are angry, shouting, frustrated, and just want to tell me that I may not have fun and run and play with my friends and enjoy this lovely spring day and so I am going to avoid you like the plague."
We have since told everyone that we will not be attending any more of our group classes. Not as punishment to my son, but to save our relationship. He is not ready to sit down with 12 other children and listen to instruction. Friends are for playing, laughing, chasing, tackling, shouting, running, helping, hugging, and loving. They are not for sitting next to in a circle and not interacting with.
In the last couple of weeks as I notice my own volatile emotions and reactions, I have wondered if it's not some sort of hyper-sensitivity. I cannot say that I am super sensitive to things all the time, but more often than not.Sometimes the clicking of a keyboard drives me nearly mad. Physically bothers my ears, it's so loud. Yesterday we went to lunch (3:00) and the music was making me really tense. Then when we were seated, the voice of the person behind me was just as bad. I had to re-group, I knew that if I didn't take a few deep breaths and get control of it, soon I would be consumed by it.E can feel a mild irritation, but his grunts and sighs nearly send me screaming from the room.
If my house is dirty I cannot feel any peace or tranquility. My nerves are raw, I am extremely short tempered, and physically exploding is just a hair's-breadth away at any given second.Anyway, this leaves me wondering if my son does not have some of the same sensitivity as I do.
He's always been a sweet, sensitive child, but as he has gotten older, I have sort of discounted it.
Discounted him?
Somewhere along the way I started behaving as if my child is an extension of myself, instead of a complete person unto himself. That he only exists as far as I think he exists. What the hell is that? I know that's not true. But my actions have been as if it is.I whole-heartedly believe in Radical Unschooling. I know with every thing I am that young children and babies are complete people, and that they should have the same rights to freedom, happiness, and life that we (as adults) do. Even if you don't believe in RU - I think we can all admit that childhood should be filled with magic, wonder, light, joy, and splendor. Children should be encouraged in their lives, (in the making of themselves) not told what to do and criticized, there is plenty of time for that in adulthood, if you so choose it.
When I remember to view life this way, and respect my child's life, I see him, and me, in a completely different light.T came to my husband and I as a complete person/spirit. It is not my duty or right to make him into what I think he should be. I don't have the right to change what he is, what he wants to be, and I don't get to choose for him what he might someday become.My job as his mother is to assist him. To support, uplift, encourage, protect, aid, facilitate, and love him.
I get to be the grown up, and sometimes remind him that grown-ups can understand and see things that children cannot, and we can foresee problems that might come up a bit better than the inexperienced.
I get to say "Hey, do you wanna play on the computer?" (reading, games, dinosaurs, coloring, whatever.)
I get to say "Want me to help you clean your room?"
I get to strew the path with interesting things.I get to make suggestions.I get to point things out so that we might learn from them.
I get to say "Hey, do you wanna....?"But I don't get to make the choice for him.