Adventures in Unschooling

Archive for November 2009

I had drafted this for Facebook but then I couldn’t bring myself to actually post it there. My husband’s family is on my Facebook and they are all Christian and most of them are pastors or missionaries etc. I didn’t want to call down that thunder! LOL.
 
So I am going to post it here. I have encouraged members of his family to check on this blog to get updates on our lives and to see pictures but they never find the time to check my blog. This always used to piss me off since they find time for other things that have less value than family but for once I am glad that I have a place to share this where they likely won’t see it.
 
My case:
 
The church used to teach people that the world was flat. Those who discovered it was not were hailed as liars and heretics. Hated by the church. God forbid we allow our people to accept the evidence right in front of them. No. Let’s just stick to scripture. Scripture with it’s many flaws, contradictions and brutal fables.

The same thing happens with evolution. I haven’t cared to look into it but there is a growing body of scientists who believe that the evidence of evolution is incontravertible. But there is no need to see that as a potential truth. I suppose it only makes sense to believe that God created Adam and Eve. And that their sons married women from a far away (where did those ladies come from I wonder?).

I don’t care either way. I don’t have the energy to invest in the past. I don’t care where we came from. It MAY make my life a smidge less meaningful to think I evolved from pond scum but all it means is that I can enjoy my life instead of worrying about angering some indignant creator. I used to feel guilty for walking on someone’s lawn or for having bad thoughts. Taking a creator, who judges and is bound to punish me, out of the equation allows me the freedom to be me. To have unrestricted thoughts and to obey laws and be nice to my neighbours simply because I want to be. Not because I am afraid not to be.

And I have a bit more to say about truth. We are all supposed to believe that God exhists in good faith because sometimes we get what we ask for. But I have to tell you that the thing I wanted most in the world (involved shielding someone from harm/sin) wasn’t granted to me. This isn’t like asking God to give you a pony, this is like God keeping someone safe.

I prayed every night for a year and I wasn’t rewarded. It would lead me to three possible conclusions: Prayer doesn’t matter. God doesn’t care. Or there is no God.

It took me six years but I have moved through all of them in that order. Why pray if God just does what he wants to do anyways? And if everything just plays itself out as it is supposed to do then what are the chances that there is no creator manipulating things?

And what is the purpose of still born children or people killed by war? I am sure those little ones burning in Christian Hell are so glad that God took them before they had a chance to be saved (I have read that book from cover to cover and didn’t find any reference to “the age of accountability).” I love how religion can exclude people even in death. How Christians can cope with their misfortunes by assuming that it is God’s will and that his infinite wisdom will see them through it without questioning wether or not there is even a creator.

They’ll say the evidence is all around us. I just see the work of nature. Random and unfair. For every beautiful flower there is an eel thing with a gazillion teeth and for every sunset there is a friggin’ mosquito! Nature is beautiful and butt ugly at the same time. As are humans.

And I see corporations dumping crap into our environment, and women being oppressed, and animals being inhumanely raised and slaughtered. And religions allow all of this to transpire. They apathetically allow the genocide (or general abuse) of children oversees while yelling hateful things at gays in their neighbourhood.

All over the world you see the work of religion. Ritual sacrifices, honour killings, suppression of free speech and truth, forbiding access to real knowledge lest people think actual truthful thoughts, women being raped and beaten, animals being tortured, children being bombed etc.

If the church really was the bride of Christ you’d think you’d feel this “Spirit of Christ.” Even once in a while. But instead the church functions as a bandaid. Offering a day of spiritual renewal (singing and praying) and then letting people get back to their TVs and Coca Colas. When I moved to Calgary I immediately started volunteering because that’s what Christians should do right? In all of my volunteer work I have never come across a Christian. I was pretty sure that Jesus called us to be a light, to love our neighbours, to help our enemies etc. Why aren’t they in their communities? I don’t know!

I’ve called people on it all the time and it hasn’t changed people’s perpectives at all. You may hate your boss or watch porn when no one is looking but that’s OK…for you! But don’t be gay, or Liberal (or worse NDP), or vegetarian. They’ll say you are welcome (to be rehabilitated) but no one will talk to you. My old Care Group leader accused me of talking about my diet too much. I don’t remember a single time that I talked about it that wasn’t spurred by a question from her. She was obssessed with my diet! It was always, “why don’t you eat meat again?”

And of course Christians say that the individual sins and you can’t judge the church or God that way but I see this coming from the church as a whole.

I am reminded of the genocides in Native Residential Schools. Those were committed by the church! Not just Christians. The Church!!!

And they’ll vote for Christians even if they are evil, murderous assholes. That’s the church. They support each other. Even if they are ALL wrong. Case in point: The Catholic Church has been covering the asses (even giving assylum) to priest accused of child molestation. I am sure Jesus would have to say something about that.

Then people use the “word” to guilt you into doing stuff. Like singing in public. “God doesn’t care about how you sing…so won’t you lead the service on Sunday?” Excuse me? People look at me weird when I would decline singing in public. We are supposed to have gifts and singing isn’t mine. So I am supposed to sing in public because God wants me to worship him! I can worship in the pews too. And if I asked everyone to join me in interpretive dance during the service how many of them would argue that that is not their calling? Why must they be so manipulative? I don’t see them giving their coats to the needy either. Maybe I am being unfair. But the most generous and accepting people (save for one) I know have all been non-Christians. What’s the deal? Those called to love fail miserably and those who have no moral obligation to do so do it much more effectively. Boggles the mind.

Anyways, this is just a tip of the iceberg of my thoughts from the past two years. I may update this when I feel more calm and my thoughts are more composed.

 
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I only have about eight days left of work. It could be an extra day or two but not likely any more than that.  I will be back to parenting full-time in no time!

We also found out that my husband got this well-paying short term contract starting in January and that allows me to take the rest of December off guilt free.

And boy do I have plans. My husband and I plan on sleeping, cuddling, reading, going sledding, and spending time playing games etc. as a family. How great is this December going to be!

It’ll also allow me to get caught up on sewing projects, scrapbooking, painting and baking.

I can’t wait to be part of my children’s learning again. It is so hard to find the patience, energy and time while juggling a full-time job. It will be nicer for them to get back into a regular routine around the house (one that doesn’t involve waking them up and getting them dressed so that their Daddy can drive me to work).

Yay for sleeping in! Yay for craft time and regular blogging! Yay for homemade bread! Yay for me time!

I am just thrilled, thrilled, thrilled!

And the boys will be too since Trey asks me every single morning if I can stay home that day.

I found this blog and I wanted to share it with you. It has a lot of great ideas to share. I have to admit that lately my posts have been iffy. I haven’t had a lot of time to get my own thoughts straight in my own head. I feel like it’s all been pouring out of me “stream-of-conciousness” style.
Anyways, here it is:

http://www.unschoolingblog.com/

Yeah I know…I got overzealous with the posts this weekend. But back to business:

By its very nature it is virtually indefinable. But for our family it means allowing our children to learn at their own pace, in their own way, in their space. They will learn to read when they are ready not when someone decides they should know this. It is learning by living. It is unstructured so that it can allow maximum time for reading, doing and reflection.

WHY DO WE UNSCHOOL?

SOCIALIZATION:

We unschool because we want our children to be socialized. Not in the way that schooled children are socialized by their peers (who are all at the same level of maturity or immaturity) and by their teachers (who are authoritative figures who spend their time classifying children into varying degrees of smart and unsmart).  But rather by being with adults. They learn to be validated by adults and they also learn to be with a kid with their friends. They develop a truly rounded personality.

For example: A child wants to learn about building musical instruments. The best course of action would be to bring him to the library to research his subject. Then he could try to find someone who builds instruments and do some volunteer work in his shop for some tutoring in this subject of interest. In this task alone he learns about music, math, construction, perhaps running a business. What if the world was your teacher?

JOY OF LEARNING

We unschool because we want our children to love learning. We want them to love reading. But kids quickly dislike reading or learning once they enter school. What can make reading a good book a miserable experience? Well, someone that tells you how you should interpret scenes, characters and events could do it. So could being asked to write reports and being told that your ideas aren’t good enough. Or worse, you might not like the book at all and be forced to do these things. 

I don’t know many people who read for pleasure. My husband adores immersing himself in books but it took him a long time to re-train himself to see reading as pleasure instead of work. He hated school work and it affected his overall enjoyment of learning. This, sadly, is the norm. Especially among males. 

Homework is another big crime against the joy of learning. Not only do you have to endure the drudgery of school during the day but you have to take it home with you as well. When is a child supposed to have time to read for themselves or to enjoy the company of different kinds of people?

In an unschooled scenario, a child would read what they like and learn about what they like. So they may spend a year obsessing about Trojans. How pleased I would be!

In that year they would get a chance to learn about government, economics, training and war strategy, culture and currency. What would you learn if you have all of the time in the world?

TO RESPECT THEM

To think we must teach children to learn and live in our world is cruel and arrogant. Children deserve more respect. They learned how to walk, talk and play all without our careful instruction. My son is learning about time and addition all on his own. He is four years old.

Children are incredibly bright and capable. They could certainly use us as guides. People who help them locate people and resources but they don’t need us telling them what they need to know. They know what they need to know.

I trust my kids to grow as they are supposed to and I will be there when they need help.

TO GIVE THEM CHOICES

If they should want to go to school I would never stand in their way but if they want to stay home I will always be available to facilitate their learning. What are children supposed to learn from always being told where to stand or sit, what to read, how to read, what to think and how to think it. I think we do a great favour to our children by saying that we trust them to make a good decision on their own.

If you are interested in the experience of some other families there are many great Unschooling blogs. I also love this book: Homeschooling our Children Unschooling Ourselves. It’s from the perspective of a school teacher who decided school wouldn’t be right for her children.

 For more information on Unschooling try some of John Holts’ books including Teach Your Own or Dumbing Us Down by John Gatto.

I have been thinking about this post for a long time and I haven’t known where to put my musings on this subject. I didn’t think it was terribly unschooling related…that is until I realized how much more deschooling I have to do in this area. Plus I figured that any homeschooling families would know about one income families and tighter budgets.

Why do we buy? I think we have a need that we don’t see fulfilled in more constructive ways. I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t know if it’s a competitive behaviour (keeping up with the Jonese) or if it’s a taught behaviour or what.

But I know when I get depressed or bored or whatever I want to shop. I buy things I don’t need. Like skirts I can’t wear for six months out of the year or scarves that I never really wear. I spend too much money on movies (we don’t have cable so we figure we can buy the odd movie or TV season on DVD) and books. I probably have about twenty unread books in my library. Thanks to access to a library I have trained myself to search there first and that have saved me lots of dough. At least I can test drive the book before committing to paying for it. I love amazon for the better deals but I do like being able to read, hold, touch, look at a book before committing to it.

I have lots more thinking and deschooling to do in this area. Trying to convince my husband that we don’t need this or that is hard work. And sometimes I like having nice things too. I also care about the example we are setting for our kids about the value of money. And it would be nice to have a savings account instead of a shelf of DVDs.

One thing we have implemented is a cash flow system. We deposit and withdraw all of our money at the bank and keep our debit cards hidden. The plan is that as we see ourselves running out of cash we will become more prudent with our spending and more aware of how much we spend. I am also going to start implementing a money envelope system so that we aren’t inadvertently spending our gas money on food or swimming or whatever.

Our first month we would simply go withdraw more money when we ran out. This was an epic FAIL! We seem to be doing better this month but this month is a tricky one because it involves  Christmas shopping. We’ll get it figured out soon.

The long term plan is that we can make a difference with our money. If you are spending it on less things you can afford to buy a better quality one. I loathe shopping at Wal Mart but sometimes you just need your dollar to stretch further.

I am half-way through a book called Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. I think it should really be called How We Buy. It doesn’t talk about the deep psychological reasons why be buy but rather how presentation and proper design can inspire people  to spend more in a store.

He talks about appealing displays and how to set up racks to pinball people through your store. How and where to keep baskets available so that people gather them and fill them etc. The book hasn’t been completely useless as a consumer. It did make me aware that my library keeps their spare grocery bags (from bringing books home) in the “Twilight Zone” (which is right at the entrance of the library) and that because they kept them so close to the entrance I had walked right past them without ever noticing they were there. There have been many a time I have juggled a large pile of books wishing I had a bag to take and there they were the whole time!

The few tips I am taking with me are that I should not automatically take a basket unless I know I need more items from that store than I can carry in my arms. I have seen this effect many times. I call it the Dollar Store effect. You grab a basket and start dumping stuff into it because everything is just a buck or two. But all of a sudden you have $24 worth of crap from China in your basket when all you had really intended to buy was a USB cable.

The other one I have learned it to frequent the lesser visited corners of the stores. In many stores this is where they hide the clearance rack. My local Micheals has a clearance rack hidden right by the knitting section. I have been going there for seven years and only noticed it six months ago. Those sneaks! The same with Wal Mart. They have a clearance section for baby sleepers etc. that went completely unoticed with my first two children because it was at the end of the isle hidden by the booster seats. I have picked up a few sleepers there for Anna for $4 a piece.

There are lots of ways that corporations try to get you to buy. One of these ways is  the packaging. They resort to wasteful packaging in bright colours and convenient sizes to get your to choose their product over a cheaper one.

You also see health claims (like vitamin water instead of a cheaper multivitamin) that don’t make sense. Do I care that sugar breakfast cereal has calcium added? No! I care about my kids getting whole foods. Most of our foods come in simple, boring packages. Like cans of beans or rolled oats. And that works for us. The ingredient lists are simple and wholesome. If you want super foods then read labels not slogans!

Just want to quickly say that I added pictures of that bowling set I spoke about in my post from a couple of weeks ago…if anyone was interested in seeing it.

I have been reading this unschooling book called Homeschooling our Children Unschooling Ourselves. The books is entirely about unschooling and not homeschooling so I am not sure why she chose that title but no matter, it is still a lovely, inspiring book.

She talks a lot about her experiences as a teacher in a public school and how she saw young children full of excitement become apathetic teens. It was disheartening for her to see how the things the teachers did smothered the love of learning in so many children. When it was time for her children to go to school she couldn’t bear to send them to school. She then began her journey into unschooling.

I was regalled by her stories of her children learning a wide diversity of topics to the kind of depths that school never allows. Her children are now roughly the age of my parents (so obviously she was involved in the very beginnings of the movement).

I have been so inspired by her doubts and her eventual success. There once was a time when she thought her daughter would never read. Within a few years from then her daughter was reading far beyond the level of other children her age. Awesome!

I have been thinking about how we plan let our children direct their own learning and how that applies to the rest of their lives. Specifically the potty training aspect of it.

My gut tells me that I should just back off and let them tell me when they are ready to stay dry but the other part of me feels like exploding every time I have to change my four year old’s diaper.

And of course, my three year old won’t potty train either. Why would he want to when his brother won’t do it?

I just feel so lost and alone with all of this. Sometimes I think about putting Trey in playschool just so the other kids can make fun of him for wetting his pants. That sounds horrible but my being patient and supportive hasn’t helped, neither has blowing up though.

I sure hope we get this over with soon. I have been fighting with him for over a year and I have been at the end of my tether for a long time. And he will stay dry all day when he feels like it so it seems 100% psychological. Ugh! Well there goes my good mood.

Anyways, I have a picture of the kids learning their letters and reading completely on their own. These are flashcards they received from a teacher family member. I thought, “what am I going to do with these since I don’t “teach” my kids?”

Well, I let them play with them and they spent about a half hour working on the reading the words in the back and learning the letters. What do they need me for?  🙂

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And the other day Trey came up to me with one of his magnetic fridge letters (the E) saying that the sun was making an E. And sure enough the sun was shinning through our window and forming a giant E on the wall.

A couple of months ago we let Trey have our old film camera. He has loved taking pictures and so when we had his film developed I thought he might like to scrapbook his pictures. Here are some of his scrapbook pages. I didn’t help him with any of this by the way.

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And we also set up our Christmas tree last week. Here is Joel DSC06728cwearing a stocking on his head.

Yup, they are excited all right. This is going to be a good Christmas.

I am constantly impressed by what our kids are learning. Trey used a surprisingly large word in proper context this week.

Anna is learning to walk and is already manipulating her brothers.

Joel is using his imagination more and more and Trey is expressing  more interest in reading. It’s amazing to see them grow.

 

When I found myself having to go back to work I defaulted to being an admin assistant. It pays better than reception work and you can have more sick days or whatever.

 I hadn’t planned on going back to work but my husband quit a very horrible job (which I told him he could as I was tired of seeing him be unhappy) and was unable to find anything that paid enough quickly enough. I was offered a decent contract and my husband stayed home with the kids and received Parental Benefits.

 Just six months prior to that day I would have been thrilled to go back to work as I was miserable at home. I kept thinking that being a stay-at-home mom was such a cruddy job as I had to deal with poopy pants, whining, crying, screaming, messes and tight budgets. But prior to me going back to work I had a change of heart and started to embrace being at home. We read more stories and walked to the park. We did crafts and I found time to exercise, bake and do other housekeeping tasks. I started to feel empowered in my new role and started to really embrace unschooling.

 Then it was back to work. I have been unhappy with this decision since the beginning. I don’t have time to make art or bake or clean anymore. My house is always messy so I never host people and I don’t have as much time to cook so I eat more processed food. Yuck! My husband is home with the kids but he isn’t a very devoted housecleaner/cook.

 But worst of all I just hate doing admin work. I hate doing the work no one else wants to do (like un-jamming printers I didn’t jam) or making reservations for meetings without nearly enough information. I get grumpy when I am bored like today (which happens infrequently but still) but I also resent people when they ask me to do yet another tedious task.

 I have spent a lot more time soul searching and I have learned more about my personality and why I feel the way I do.

 I am a True Colours Green. I am intellectual and I like to do meaningful work. I like to set my own schedule and don’t like doing things that don’t make sense (like having fourteen different people make edits to one spreadsheet!). I am short tempered and I don’t like people getting in my face. Or invading my space or overstepping their boundaries.

 I need to feel respected and I will tell you off if you disrespect me. One lady at my work will tell me to do something and then wonder why it’s that way. She manipulates her words in a way that makes it seem like she thinks this is my fault. I am constantly having to stop her in her tracks and reminder her that I only do as I am told and that any oversights or mistakes are not my fault. Like I go and alter her documents when she isn’t looking! The nerve!

 I am strong willed. I work hard and I get results…but I don’t like being told what to do.

 You can see how this makes me an unlikely candidate for admin work. I do it because I am qualified to do it, the work is in abundance and it pays well enough for now.

 But what makes me a bad admin assistant makes me a prime candidate for unschooling.

 I believe that no one should have authority over another and that nothing is as straight forward as people would have you believe.

 I challenge authority and social norms. I do things my own way.

 I don’t like structure in my life. Some day I clean but some days I don’t. Somedays we eat lunch at 11:00, some at noon and sometimes we eat at 2:00 pm. It depends were we are that day.

 I like adventure and I don’t like answering to people. I also don’t like being around people all of the time. Being around too many people is very draining for me. I like quiet times during the day to have my own thoughts.

 I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to leaving this corporate job and returning to my fun and games.

 It’s hard being home too. Sometimes I don’t feel like what I do at home is meaningful or constructive. But it is.

 Building a relationship with my kids and having fun is so important. And it is fun too.

 And the older my kids get the more fun we have learning together.

 I think when we stop and look at our personalities and acknowledge the good and the bad we start to learn more about why we like or dislike certain things or people. This helps us understand ourselves better and pace ourselves better.

 As I see how much I loathe being an employee I also see that I’d make an awful boss. I lack empathy and I have little tolerance for people who don’t follow my train of thought. I hate repeating myself etc.

 I would love to write. I really think I have the right personality for that: oddball loner who reads too much. My writing skills likely need some work though.

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