Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Writing on the - Sidewalk

As you've seen, I've been wondering a bit about our more traditional methods of late.
I haven't felt any guilt or shame about doing it, as I haven't been insistent or domineering, and I've wanted to experiment with what is inspiring to him, while maintaining our partnership.
We haven't done any reading lately, but we've stayed busy with jokes, Star Wars, talking about evaporation, making our Pinwheels for Peace, discussing death (ie how nothing ever dies, it just changes form), imaginary play, visiting cousins, and visiting the children's museum.
But, the last few days, he is reading tons! Just on his own, he is sounding out words. Cereal boxes, the calendar, all sorts of things.
While I was fixing supper a few minutes ago, he put some letters together on the fridge. " 'g'. 'a'. Ga!" and off we went. I started making words for him to read. He probably did about 25? And then I pulled together 'and' and he read that, and then we added a 'h' in front of it, and he read 'hand'. It was so cool to see him initiate it. A couple of the letters he faltered over, as we have not done them in several days, and he asked me what the sound was, and I told him. After we were done, he headed off to the living room to put in Leap's Letters. I'm not sure if it was my "N, the 'n' says 'nnn'....Not now, not next week, not never!" that prompted him to put in the dvd, I don't know, or if he wanted a refresher course, or what.
But he put it in, and a few minutes later he heads out the front door to write a huge capital H on our sidewalk with chalk. He wanted to show me, so I went out there, and I of course was properly impressed! It is his first letter. We've practiced a tiny bit, but I wasn't sure if he was wanting to, or not. And then while I was out there oohing over his H, he wanted to know how to write a lower case h, and a lower case a, and capital B, and on we went.
We came inside, and I got out the magnet board, which is dry erase on the other side, and some erasable markers, and told him he could draw letters to his hearts content, and I would take the picture. He did for a while, but kept erasing it, and I didn't get a picture of the letters, only of him writing.

I've been wondering if I can rightly call myself an unschooler, as I've been doing some initiating, and we've been practicing reading, but after seeing Trevelyn reading things, just for his own satisfaction tells me that he is wanting to, and ready for reading. I see that the things we've been doing lately have been inspiring to him. He's picking up everything, and saying "what shape is this? Right! a diamond!" and what shape is this? and so on.
Life is pretty marvelous.

My family is in the living room, snuggling in, and watching Star Wars (one of them). I'm going to go join them.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

School, Cleaning, and Treats

First of all I suppose I'll address the school issue. I realize the flavor of much of our learning lately has been that of school.
It's not that I find dissatisfaction, or incompleteness in unschooling. I'm just trying to find my way. For quite a while, I was just letting Trev roam at will, explore at will, and often he was very active. He'd get out his LeapPad, or watch Magic School Bus, or dinosaur documentaries, or choose one of a few other activities. And while these things he was certainly learning from, they were sort of always the same things. He wasn't venturing on his own to other things.
Though we were doing outside activities, it was just seeming that he was sort of "stuck".
Of course, at that time, everywhere you looked it is time for "Back to School". I started feeling dissatisfied with the way things were going. Like I wasn't doing a good job of exposing him, and us, to new and different learning possibilities.
I was also worrying a bit about math, as sometimes he gets numbers mixed up.
As I said, I've had my eyes on Cuisenaire Rods for quite some time, and finally decided to go buy them, and while there, picked up a couple other math treasures.
I've really enjoyed playing around with them. Building, stacking, counting, etc.
I started noticing immediately that Trev was enjoying the different things we were doing. I got out the magnetic board, and the letters, and we started practicing reading, also. Now while it's true that he doesn't initiate the reading practices, he certainly does not object to them. Almost always it's just a matter of "Do you wanna practice reading for a few minutes on the couch with me?"
While sometimes I do cajole a bit more... ie will you?, I back off if he is not interested. I know of course that this does not follow unschooling strictly, but as I said, currently I am experimenting.
He is truly blossoming right now. It is my intent to figure out how much is enough, and stimulating, and encouraging to him, and what is not. Of course, going too far with it is unacceptable. Even a bit too far is unacceptable to me. (The reason it's unacceptable, of course, is because I don't want to quash his love of learning, and make it something to be dreaded.)
What I mean is, it is my goal for him to blossom, and nothing else. It is not my goal to teach him to be able to sit still for an hour-and-a-half while doing lessons. It is not my intention to make him love, like, or even tolerate lectures. It is not my goal to teach him to focus. It is not my intent to make him into a desirable school student.
My motive is to keep my son's mind and desire to learn active. To provide tools for him that aid him in becoming himself, and the grandest version of himself.
Currently, our lives seem very full and rich. I am hopeful that I will continue to learn how to draw interesting things into our lives that facilitate our learning. For now, my ways seem to me a bit conventional, but as I am just starting to learn how to do it, I am hopeful that I will continue to grow in my methods.

Now about the cleaning thing.
I said on OLM that I've been trying to get Trev to clean his room. Now most people wouldn't even ask why this would be an important issue (they view it as the child's responsibility, something he must do "because I said so".) But to someone who subscribes to an organic learning way of life, it's a big deal. I've mentioned cleaning and chores a few times on this blog, so you probably know my feelings on the subject.
Add my desire to let everyone in my home be free to my need for neatness and organization, and you have a bit of a problem.
There are a couple of things I have problems with. First, when his room is a mess, he doesn't find as much enjoyment playing in there. I don't believe his quality of play is as good. He'll avoid his room, and watch television or something. Secondly, I find that he (our whole family does it, actually, which I find unacceptable) steps on things that have been left on the floor, or tosses things over his shoulder uncaringly, and I find that nonchalant behavior deplorable.
It's not intentional, it's out of total disregard. I have a need for my family to respect our home, it's members, and our possessions. Our things should not be viewed as the most important things in our lives, of course, but they are tools, and do provide us with enjoyment and entertainment (big smirky grin, and as far as I'm concerned, should be put in their proper place when not in use!).
The absolutely best way to handle it would be to voice my concerns and needs to my family, and then to ask for their help when I was feeling like I couldn't do it all on my own. The problem with that is, I would be cleaning for ten hours each and every day. And while I do find satisfaction in a clean house, there are also many other ways that I like to spend my time. And I don't want my son to think I never have fun, I only work, and I care more about a clean house than playing with him. Ultimately, I would just like everyone to pick up after themselves, and I'd do the actual cleaning. I can't quite seem to get into a perfect groove, where I can do it all. (play downstairs, clean house, work on the pc, change diapers, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have sit-down learning time, game time, make cookie time, etc.) sigh. I guess I'll keep trying!
My friend Rebecca, who also unschools, has a sort of standing rule in her house that old projects (not ongoing ones) need to be put away before new ones are started. I like this policy. There is also the Fly Lady's way of doing it, which is everyone cleans like mad for 15 minutes a day. That might be okay for some, but it would have to be an hour-and-a-half for me. I can't stand pretend cleaning, it doesn't seem clean to me unless the bathroom has been gone over with spray and a wet cloth, the living room has been entirely dusted, the kitchen is sanitary, and everything smells good and is shiny. There is also the whistle-blowing every two hours time-to-clean-up method. Don't think that would work for us. What would you do if you're in the middle of something? Cleaning up projects is a much more realistic way to do it for my family. I don't know why we're all in this habit of leaving things around when we're done with them. Wonder if we can be mended? hmmm. Think we'll try that for a while. It's certainly a preventative way to do things, which is usually a good thing...

Along this same line, I said on OLM that I was very impressed yesterday that Trev cleaned his entire room (crayons, marbles, little tiny toys, legos, books, everything), putting everything where it goes (different boxes and baskets) and then vaccuumed his room by himself. I was so impressed that I told him he could pick out a treat on our venture out yesterday.
Now, I didn't do this as a sort of bribe, or reward. It wasn't that I was so "thankful" that I felt a reward was in order.
But to see him do all of that sorting and cleaning all by himself was sort of a rite of passage, I thought. He did it without any input from me. He knew where everything went (ha! unlike his father, who still -after 16 years - doesn't put the dishes in the correct place!) and put them away all by himself. It was sort of grown up. Something inside him just kicked in gear, and he got the job done. I know it's probably semantics, but the treat was, for me, a celebration of a milestone, not a reward for cleaning.
I'll probably have a talk with him about it tonight when we get home.

I think that's it. I just wanted to write about some things that are going on with me and us, and the comment on the what's and why's.
I'll write again soon.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Starting School

It's been a long time since I've posted. But, I've been busy on the other one.
Let's see... Backyard Capers is up and running. It took up a while, but things are going smoothly for the moment.
Starting up the business and website took up huge amount of my time for a while. My house was neglected, along with my family. It made me feel bad about the way things were going. I felt like I was doing a really poor job of hsing. Even though we unschool, it's imperative to throw things out there, which I didn't really feel like I was doing.
Hearing and seeing "school starting" everywhere prompted me to get more organized in my home as well as with our time. Everyone is gathering curriculum, coops are forming, and families are getting ready to settle in for the fall and winter season.
It prompted me to get going, too.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were a couple of memorable events that happened lately. After a low point of feeling judged a bad mother, we went to Sam's barbecue a few days later.
There were several people there, hardly any of whom I knew. I pretty much kept to myself, and tended to my children. I didn't bring up hsing, or my children, or parenting, or anything. Trev is in love with Uncle Nate's Star Wars toys, and one of Sam's children brought them out for Trev to play with. We were just playing with them, and talking about them, just hanging out, and eating.
A while later, across the table was a discussion of nursing, and hospitals and universities, and a lady who runs a couple of daycares asked me if I had a child development degree. (choke sputter) "Me?!? No." "You're so good with kids, and you communicate so well with your son, talk with him so respectfully." "Oh. Well, I believe it's the right thing to do." Evidently one of the two also brought it up with Eric, I could hear him saying "Yeah, she knows what she's doing, reads... " ... I just heard a snippet. Later, he told me that was about me. Huh. Imagine that.
Then last week we were waiting in line at Penny's, we were buying fall clothes for Maddie and Trev, and Trev asked me what the "Line Forms Here" sign said, and we proceeded to sound out the words, l, i (which sometimes has the "I" sound, n, and so on. After we were done, the clerk said "Wow, you're so patient!"
Now I have been called a lot of things, and I don't think anyone has ever said that I am patient. Can you imagine? (I've always considered myself to be one of the most impatient persons on the planet.)
This did a couple of things for me. First, I of course discounted it. I didn't say it to her, but I thought, "It's not patience, it's what I do, we homeschool." and shrugged it off. But then I started thinking about it, and I thought, "Good grief. You have to have some semblance of patience to even want to homeschool, to practice it, to get through things without yelling at your children." Patience are also required for treating your children respectfully, and in guiding them gently each day.
So now I'm at this "Do you suppose it could be true?" place.
How would my life differ if I started viewing myself as gaining patience and tolerance? Surely it works the same as anything else. If you think or feel you are in lack of something, it of course manifests over and over again. Not only universally speaking, but if you are concentrating on things negative, you leave no room in your life for noticing the blessings. ie living in fear, coming from anger instead of love, always having a sense of lacking, etc.

So the last bit I've been keeping track of our hsing life on OLM, and have been loving it. It's why I started the blog in the first place; as unschoolers we don't keep records (ie grades and tests), so it's a great way for me to see how far we've come, and also lets family know what we're up to. On the down side, I had been feeling like all of our learning was from school stuff, and not living, and that was making me sort of sad. There is something so wonderful and exciting about learning so naturally. You have to really pay attention, and notice the magic.
And that's why I was sad, I think, my concentration was on recording and notice what more traditional "learning" we were doing, and not really noticing the "ordinary life magic". But then yesterday we had this great day, and I felt the scale shift into a more natural balance. It probably wasn't as bad as I made it out to be, and was probably really only a couple of days that there was a lack of magic, but it was still a worry. I love life learning! I love the exploration and learning. It's such a wondrous way to live your life each day.

Well, this post has been a hodge podge, and probably doesn't make any sense at all. The whole family is back here in the den as I have written this, hooping and hollering, chasing, wrestling with dogs, playing Homeward Bound, etc, so if I was able to put two words together well it will be a miracle.
For now I am going, and I shall write soon.
Much love, Steph