Adventures in Unschooling

Archive for January 2009

I am just learning about how schools are structured and the result that these pillars have on childhood and adult behavious. So I am not an expert of the topic but I can share some of the pitfalls of schooling and how they have affected my husband and I differently.

I loved school and loved to please. I remember that in elementary school I loved my teachers and worked hard to be the “recognized” student.

I derived a great sense of self-worth from my test scores and thought myself above the rest when I obtained scholarships and recognition. Then I hit the real world.

I grew up in a small town with tumbleweeds blowing in the streets. Well, when I was in college I saw a pedestrian light at an intersection and I was puzzled for a moment. My parents had never given me any real life experience…I mean, aside from livestock related issues.

Those issues I was not shielded from. I have even delivered baby animals myself and have had to help my dad dump dead stock on the other side of the field.

When I got into the real world I was stuuuupid! A magazine editor had to reducate me. He taught me how to draw conclusions from bits of information. How to question what I was told and how to think for myself. I am greatly indebted to this one person. I think I am a bright person now. I think I am because I know I am, not because other people tell me or because I have the test scores to prove it.

I heard a story of another person from my school. He was in my extended circle of friends. He was valedictorian and the top student in all of his classes. When he went to University he found himself starting to struggle. This devastated him. He dropped out of school and pursued something completely different.

I feel that school had damaged me by encouraging the notion that my self-worth and chance at a future was based on my grades.

My husband’s issue was somewhat the same. He didn’t care for school and scored poorly. He will always remember the time that a teacher sneered at him and asked him why he was in his class.

Luckily, I was strong enough to seek to re-educate myself and I continued to love reading and learning on my own throughout my schooling and after it. My husband did not. He is now just learning about the pleasure you can derive from reading. He reads daily but it too him 25 years to get there.

He, like many boys, was bored by the irrelevant content material. He skipped class and flunked courses. He came out of school with the notion that he was dumb. His teachers, peers and siblings treated him that way. He became part of the working class. What else is a dumb boy to do?

Now he has rediscovered his self worth and is seeking a career that truly interests him. It’s hard work but he’ll get there. I know he will.

In other words: The school system is set up in a way that views the way that children learn to be the same. Be it girls, boys, intellectual, hands-on, active, sedentary, cooperative and non-cooperative. The school operates one way and the students are expected to follow suit. If they don’t, like my husband, then they fail their courses and are doomed to become part of the working class and die poor.

In essence, they are teaching children to fall into line. Those who obey are rewarded with good grades and a future. Those who disobey are punished with bad grades and a less profitable future. They are teaching children to be drones, to be passive and to obey their governments and uphold their authority. That is dangerous in a democracy.

For example, in school, there is no reward for abstract thought. If you do not regurgitate the answers given to you by your teacher you will not pass. There is no room for honest discussion. The attitude is, “you may be right, but if you don’t answer the right way, your grades will suffer.” This is where standardized tests are so wrong.

The system maintains that there is a right way to interpret historical events and a right way to interpret Shakespeare. Where in the curriculum is there space for individual thought?

For example, I remember discussions on WWII. How it started etc. When I was doing my own research into that recently, I discovered that Hitler’s armament was funded for by American bankers. Doesn’t that rewrite our history a bit? Doesn’t that make the Americans look a bit less like heroes? Doesn’t that change our perspective on why wars start and who benefits from them?

Do you think that that was accidentally left out of the social studies curriculum?

Or in biology they still use these Darwinian drawings of different species in the early embryo stage. I read that those are widely discredited (as being fakes) even in the evolutionary circles. Yet these drawings are still in our textbooks.

Or in science.  How satisfying can it be to see a yellow liquid turn blue if you know that that’s what it is supposed to do?

I remember one assignment that I did find fulfilling. The assignment was to build a bridge (based on a real one) using only glue and drinking straws. The bridge that held the most weight would win top grade. This self directed building taught me a lot about strengthening support beams and building structures. There is so little of this in school.

This system is very much totalitarian. Sigh…

Anyways,

Some fun stuff now.

I made some bean bags and play clothes for my kids with felt.

I have been wanting to make them a pirate hat and maybe a knight’s hat. We’ll see how much is left over after the pirate hat.

This is fun for them and for me!

The most common response to people hearing the news that we plan on homeschooling is about kids not learning to socialize. Krista from http://this-inspired-life.blogspot.com/ stated in her post yesterday that it took her 18 years to unlearn this “socialization.” Which is basically, if she had similar experiences to myself, bullying.

I was bullied because I was the new kid in an endless string of small schools (my parents moved a lot!). Bullied because I was defenseless because I didn’t have a network of friends dating back to playschool like all the other kids. Bullied for being different and bullied for not having fancy, designer clothes.

Is this really the socialization critics are talking about? Kids are ruthless. A fairly popular friend of mine once told me that he used to be bullied constantly. I was surprised since that certainly wasn’t the case now. I asked him, “really?” And he laughed. He said that they bullied him up until he hit his growth spurt and shooted way past them in height.

Now he was too big to be picked on. The other kids were afraid of getting their butts kicked if they started up with him.

This is awful! This is animal behaviour.

Homeschooled kids, especially unschooled kids develop more compassion for others. They are more mature because they spend much more of their time in the company of adults: parents, librarians, sport coaches etc.

They become more rounded and they excel in every area of their lives. Homeschooled kids tend to do better in post secondary and probably draw much more fulfillment from their future careers.

And as I mentioned in my previous posts, the kids who unschooled had a much better self awareness than the schooled kids. Maybe it’s because they drew their fulfillment from the wonderful things they have accomplished rather than the opinion of their teachers or their place in the pecking order.

 

dsc03966On another note: Yesterday we made raspberry scones. Yum yum yum.  

 

 And played with modeling clay. This is Trey’s rabbit.

 

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I found this on someone else’s blog and thought I would do it myself:

1. I was born in Quebec (Drummondville).
2. I spent most of my life in Alberta.
3. I hate Edmonton.
4. I wish I lived in a small house on a small plot of land and had a large garden with apple trees, raspberry bushes and strawberry patches.
5. I love being a mama.
6. I have two boys and one daughter.
7. I recycle.
8. I am vegetarian. I want to be vegan but I can’t give up the cheese and butter.
9. I think plastic will be the end of us all and I am trying to replace ALL of my plastic stuff.
10. I was married at 19.
11. This year we’ll celebrate our sixth year anniversary.
12. That will also mark six years together.
13. We had known each other for seven weeks when we got married.
14. He is the best husband I could ask for and I am more in love with him every day.
15. I have always wanted kids.
16. It has always been my ambition to raise my own kids.
17. My mom was a stay-at-home mom.
18. I have always known that I would home school.
19. We are unschoolers.
20. I don’t use products in my hair. Well, maybe three times a year.
21. I use only natural products.
22. I don’t believe in Global Warming but I still care deeply about the environment.
23. I have one tattoo and I hate it.
24. I am the black sheep in my family and so is my hubby in is.
25. I breastfed all three of my kids on demand.
26. I was not breastfed.
27. We co-sleep with our baby.
28. We never let our baby “cry it out. I also feel sorry for babies on “schedules.”
29. We both wear our baby in the sling.
30. I feel sorry for the kids who have to cry all alone in their cribs.
31. I am very sensitive to artificial scents.
32. I hate it when someone smokes close to me or my kids
33. I hate wearing socks and shoes…even in the winter.
34. My first birth was a hospital birth.
35. I hated it.
36. My second was a home water birth.
37. I loved it.
38. My third was a waterbirth in a midwife operated birth centre.
39. I loved it even more.
40. I loved birthing in water.
41. We don’t take our kids or ourselves to the Doc for no reason.
42. I throw away their prescriptions. I use their diagnoses and then find a home remedy for the problem.
43. We don’t vaccinate.
44. I love to cook.
45. I like bland food. I think of it as actually tasting the food instead adulterating it too much with salt and seasonings.
46. I make most of our food “from scratch.”
47. I don’t like eating white flour or processed food.
48. OK, that’s not true. I love crap food but I feel guilty if I eat it.
49. I bake bread every few days. It’s half whole wheat, half whole grain.
50. I am trying to lose weight
51. I love to sew.
52. So does my husband.
53. We rarely use patterns (too cheap to spend money on paper).
54. Sometimes I tear old clothes apart to use them as patterns.
55. I love taking pictures
56. I love crafts.
57. I like scrapbooking. I think that that is probably my only “normal” hobby.
58. I love drawing. I use charcoal, conte, soft pastel and oil pastel.
59. I want to learn to paint with oils.
60. I let my kids watch way more movies than I’d like.
61. I love fruit. I would eat just fruit if I could.
62. I can’t get enough of Chocolate Silk.
63. I try to fill my kid’s playroom with natural materials and fibres.
64. I am addicted to books. I read, read, read. But I also love buying books, even if I don’t read them.
65. I generally dislike most people. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I feel misunderstood.
66. I don’t go to church.
67. We used to for years but we just don’t buy it anymore. It’s elitist and inconsistent and the people seldom practise what they preach.
68. I love the earth but I hate being cold or too hot. So I tend to stay inside too much.
69. I like playing sports with my husband.
70. I used to live for rock climbing.
71. Now I can never get away or find money.
72. I hate it when mothers say they HAVE to work. You CHOOSE to work. If I lived in your big ass house and had two SUVs I’d HAVE to work too. I live in a trailer because I CHOOSE to be home with my kids.
73. We have fostered dogs in the past but I don’t think we will anymore. They share sicknesses with our dogs, bite our kids and chew their toys.
74. We have a cat we rescued. I love him and hate him. I’d like to pass him on to someone but no one wants to take him off our hands.
75. I don’t listen to the radio or watch TV.
76. I hate commercials but I love movie previews.
77. I miss really good sushi.
78. The avocado sushi I make is only OK.
79. I love chocolate. But only dark chocolate. And only the good stuff not the Nestle crap.
80. I hate large corporations but I shop at them because I am cheap.
81. I hate governments but what can I do?
82. I love dancing.
83. I love music.
84. I love learning.
85. I love going out.
86. My parents are still together.
87. I think midwives are so wonderful.
88. It frustrates me when people blow their money on crap and tell me they’re broke.
89. It frustrates me that I do the same thing!
90. I love authentic ethnic foods.
91. I will try almost anything once.
92. My husband needs a little convincing but he is trying very hard!
93. It bugs me when people structure their kids’ playtimes.
94. It bugs me when people don’t let their kids move, touch or climb on things. How else do they get to learn.
95. I wish I could keep up with my housecleaning.
96. I hate it when people won’t give things away but try to sell everything. How greedy can you get? I donate everything!
97. I don’t believe in Karma but I sure hope it’s real.
98. I don’t think I am a particularly kind person. I try to be and used to be. I guess the city does that to people.
99. I give myself to people easily but I don’t give second chances.
100. I suppose that’s why I have so few friends.

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My husband has been making more and more of the kids toys these days. Last night he came home with these babies:

dsc03946The dark ones are made from Walnut and the lighter ones are hickory. He has access to scraps at the shop and so he can whip these up on his lunch and coffee break in no time.

I asked him to do this because the kids have a pile of cube blocks but they can’t seem to build anything but towers since the blocks are big enough to bridge across very well. This way they can build houses, roads, bridges, whatever.

 

dsc03709This was one of his Christmas projects for the kids’ stockings. It’s a lace up cheese. dsc03708I found a brown lace to replace the white one with and it sure stands out now.  And he made this teether for Anna. ->

My husband had an appointment last night and I didn’t want to spend another minute locked up in the house so I had him drop me off at the mall. I spent the evening browsing stores with my kids. I had to put Joel in a stroller to make this manageable. Anna was in the sling and Trey held the stroller.

We visited the Art Store and spent a small fortune on felt for making crowns etc., clay, clay tools, acrylic paint, oil pastels, Popsicle sticks and so on. 

I also found a few cute items for Anna on clearance at Baby Gap.

My last stop was Chapters. I am a book junky. Before I married I used to buy books for fun and not find the time to read most of them. Now I try to buy books only if I know that I will likely be using it as a reference guide later. If not I try to get it from the library. But I also know I need to start filling up my unschooling library for the kids. So I picked up a few jewels for that:

dsc03943I bet these will come handy in the next eighteen years. Especially the plants one. That one was the most expensive but it is fully illustrated and will be very well used once we go on our nature walks in the spring.

The knots book just looked like it would be fun for the boys. What boy doesn’t love tying knots?

I checked out The Unschooling Handbook from the library the other day. I found it interesting and wrapped it up in three days.

unschooling-handbookIt may have been too elementary for a seasoned unschooler but I still have much to learn and found the information therein comforting and inspiring.

I also love reading the excerpts from the parents of unschooled kids and even more so the excerpts from the kids. There was a real sense of self-awareness in these kids. They realize that they don’t fit in with the schooled kids but they don’t care too much. They know that they are doing something real and special. I think it is also a testimony of how independence and confidence can be built by letting kids learn and succeed and fail.

I also liked the list of references at the end of each chapter. I have taken note of the websites recommended and will be signing up for some of the newsletters soon.

I also took out another book:

500-ideas

The Ultimate Book of  Homeschooling ideas. I am not done looking at it. I am finding it interesting thus far and if the ideas are worth keeping I intend on buying this book.

I have also been looking at second hand store for books/dress up clothes.

I found Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. It’s the hardcover version with the old artwork (not the Disney crap) and large font.

I think that Trey may want to read it in a couple of years. I also found a couple more books for them.

I have also picked up some parenting books from the library. I am really trying to find a gentler way to discipline my kids. It’s so hard because they seem determined to thwart my every effort at being kind and reasonable.

Oh well…I’ll let you all know if I find something that seems like it’ll work.

We are all still under the weather but I don’t want to make that an excuse to not do anything. So this morning we read books, which was really hard with my hoarse voice but the boys actually asked and I certainly didn’t want to discourage that! I used a couple early reader books and asked Trey to read along with me. A start I think.

Then I was on the Crafty Crow website ( http://belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow/ ) and found some inspiration. So today we made a bird feeder with peanut butter and hamster seeds.

Let’s hope the birds find it soon.

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This was an opportunity to talk to Trey about birds. What they eat etc.

I was on someone’s blog today and I was looking at their childhood home. A tiny little thing in the woods. It made me remember how much we had wanted to build ourselves a little home completely powered by solar panels and heated by logs.

We co-sleep with our youngest and I would love to push two queens together and ALL sleep in the same room under a pile of blankets. Sigh…dreams.

I doubt we’ll ever get to build our dream home since my husband is trying to switch careers right now and when he does he’ll have to move every seven years or so. Bummer. But there’s no reason we can’t buy a small home. I just wanted to build so we could make it very well insulated and from eco-friendly woods and paints etc.

This morning I moved the computer from my hobby room into the kitchen. I was reading some unschooling resources and was inspired to get the kids started on the computer. The oldest is three and a half but I am hoping that as they learn to use it better they will desire to learn how to read so that they can better navigate.

Having another item, especially such a large one, in my kitchen is cluttering my house up even more but no one said that unschooling would be convenient.

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I am also turning the closed captioning on on all of their movies.

I have been trying to read to them more often but Trey, my eldest, has started saying that he doesn’t want me to read the books but rather, that he wants to read them himself. This seems like a break through except that he won’t even look at them. “Reading” to him is simply toting the book around. If I can get his brother to sit for a reading then Trey gets curious and joins us. So that is working for now. Hopefully I can get them more interested in books soon. The hubby and I both read for pleasure so we are doing the best we can to help them see this as a fun and fulfilling activity.

We do want to be very hands off as far as what and when they’ll learn but I am determined that they will learn to read and write properly. I know they will do it in their own time and I am not going to start teaching lessons but I am trying to offer as many opportunities for learning to read as I can.

The big struggle I am having right now is getting them to respect me. I have tried the gentle discipline and non-violent communication with them but that doesn’t stop the repeat behaviour. I get frustrated by the lack of respect and start raising my voice and putting them on time-outs or sending them to their rooms. Grrr! I hate it when I have to resort to this but I don’t what to do. I feel that I am super flexible about where and what they play with but I don’t tolerate them hitting each other with drum sticks or yelling at me!

The other thing is that my oldest has totally regressed as far as potty training. He was fully trained and picked it up very quickly (albeit it took forever to convince him to even try) and had about two accidents in six months. Then he decided that he didn’t want to anymore and has been wetting himself two to eight times a day! This has been going on for three months and I am tired of doing laundry every two days. It just burns me up. Has anyone ever had success dealing with this.

I have tried every strategy and I still can’t get him to be consistent. I know it’s not a medical problem because when we go to the mall or something he can go for hours without wetting himself. And the other day he went a full 24 hours.

Anyways, if anyone has any words of wisdom to offer (and I don’t want to hear the lame answers like, “maybe there was a transition” or “maybe he was learning a new skill” or something because we have already considered all these issues. I think it’s something I will just have to wait out but I don’t know how to deal with it until then. I don’t want to act like it’s acceptable to wet ourselves. And I find it embarrasing to go to people’s homes when I know he is likely to wet himself. I refuse to put him back in diapers.

Sometimes I feel like he uses wetting his pants as an excuse to change his clothes because he tends to pee way more often on the days that he has fresh laundry…who knows. 

Parenting…it’s not all giggles and tickles.