Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Enjoying Workbooks

It is often assumed that unschoolers like us avoid workbooks.  I understand why, workbooks are very "schooly" in a lot of ways, but I think the intent is really key.  Are the workbooks to be enjoyed at the will of the child?  Or are they required by the parent?  Is the child able to set them down at any point if they tire of them?  These are the questions that make all the difference.

Today Dani has gone though at least a dozen pages from her "preschool" workbook.  I purchased this particular book sometime last year because it looked fun.  Colorful.  Lots of "circle this" and "draw a line from here to here" sort of activies.She did all of two pages at the time and the workbook was otherwise forgotten.  No matter!  It went in the activity/art cabinet with all the other coloring and activity books.

This morning she picked up a jumbo coloring and activity book I had picked up at a thriftstore (it was unused and in fine shape for 25 cents) and did a dozen or so connect-the-dot pages til she ran into a word-scramble.  The scramble was beyond her (yeah, she's not-quite-4 and cannot spell "lioness"...not surprised at all!), but she got me to make dotted line letters she could trace of the words.  When she was done with that and asking for more it seemed like the perfect time to dig out that workbook! 

So far, she can't get enough of it!  Is she learning anything from it?  Probably.  Does that matter? Nope!  The point is she's having fun.  She's doing something she enjoys and is probably learning something from it in the process.  I'm not forcing her or trying to turn it into a teachable moment, I'm letting it be what it is: a curious child who likes doing activities on paper.

Do unschoolers use workbooks?  Absolutely!  Do all unschoolers use them?  No, it varies from child to child and day to day.  One child in your family may love them and use them all the time because they choose to...and their sibling may never even thumb through one.  I have no idea if Dani will ever pick it up again after today, but knowing her it's likely she will keep at it for a few days longer (I may have to print out more sheets to keep up with demand!) before finding something else that interests her.  She did the same with coloring last month (to the point that she wore out a set of markers in the process). 

This is all her.  That's the whole point. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And This Is How Math Happens

This morning Aaron was helping Dani getting some breakfast.  He asked her how many slices of cheese she would like.  She asked for 3.  When he put only 2 pieces on her plate she said that she needed 1 more.  Then he asked how many slices of ham she would like.  She said 6 and tried to hold up 6 fingers, but realized she only had 5 fingers on one hand.  So then she held up 4 fingers instead.  He gave her 3 pieces and asked if that was enough and she said no, she needed 1 more. 

These are not concepts we have pushed.  These are concepts that come up in daily life and she is picking up on them.  Between daily life and all the various games that involve math, I think she's going to be just fine.  :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Unschooling & Meat-Eating Vegetarians

We've all heard it before: "Labels are for soup cans, not people!"  People like to argue about labels and how terrible they are.  I agree to a certain point.  Labels like "goth" and "prep" are just obnoxious and have little use anywhere other than highschool...and even in highschool their existence is hardly beneficial.  It's usually just a way for one group of people to exclude and ridicule another group of people.  Once you reach adulthood, most of those labels start to fall away...but a few others rise up and take their place.  See the following:

I am an Attachment Parent.  I do not mind this label.  It's accurate and clues people in to how we live our lives without having to run off a list of all my beliefs.  Sure, not all Attachment Parents are the same...far from it!  The label is useful, however, because it lets us know immediately that the person it is applied to is probably at least supportive of things like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, natural birth, etc. even if they themselves don't do those things personally.

I am also a Geek.  I do not mind this label either.  It's accurate and clues people into what sort of interests I have without me having to list off each one.  Sure, not all Geeks are the same...far from it!  The label is useful, however, because it lets us know immediately that the person it is applied to is probably at least aware of franchises like Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Lord of The Rings, Zelda, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. even if they themselves aren't into them personally.

See my point?

Terms like Unschooling and Radical Unschooling are the same way.  When someone says they are an Unschooler, that is supposed to let me know a little bit about their views or at least what they are supportive and/or aware of.  The problem is, however, that so many people misuse the term that it makes that difficult.  Meanwhile people get angry and defensive whenever someone dares to say "that's not unschooling" and we get into fights about label-policing and such.  Why is this?  What is so wrong about defining unschooling and not being afraid to point out when someone is mistaken?

Consider the following:

Say you are a Vegetarian.  You live in an area where there aren't a lot of people like you, so you turn to the internet for support and information.  You find a Vegetarian discussion group online and join.  Finally!  Some like-minded people!  Recipes you can actually use!  People who don't behave like you have two-heads!

Now someone else joins this same group.  They introduce themselves as "Vegetarian...except I eat chicken".  Wait....what?  You're confused.  Maybe a little annoyed.  You wonder why this person seems to have misunderstood what a Vegetarian is.  Now, had this same person joined and introduced themselves at someone who "Only eats white-meat, but enjoys Vegetarian cooking", there would be no confusion.

If that person joined in on discussions about Vegetarian cooking, posted recipes that were or had instructions on how to make them meat-free, or asked for help with substituting meat-free proteins in their favorite chicken-salad, nobody would mind that person at all.

However, if that person is constantly talking about non-Vegetarian cooking, posting chicken recipes with no alternatives offered, or suggesting poultry when someone else is asking for protein options....well...that is not going to be okay!

Now imagine if the Vegetarian forum was overrun with lots of people who are confused about what Vegetarianism is while insisting that they are Vegetarian.  If half the posts are about eating meat would you even consider it a Vegetarian forum anymore?  Then you have to consider the inevitable drama.  Topics discussing the ethics of eating meat would just turn into fights.  You're either going to have to not discuss it at all, or constantly be trying to smooth over hurt feelings.  So much for support!

As an Unschooler, I see similar things happen in what are supposed to be Unschooling discussion groups.  I'm looking for support and understanding.  I assume other people are too.  When someone says they're an Unschooler and asks for advice, I offer Unschooling advice.  Seems simple enough.

On one such occasion I was involved in a discussion on a Facebook thread in a group for both Homeschoolers and Unschoolers.  The poster said they were an Unschooler and asked how to get their child to quit fighting his book-work.  Okay...now I'm a bit confused.  I suggest she forget the bookwork entirely.  The response I get is an angry statement of "I don't think it's too much to ask that he sit down and do this much written work each week!"  Thing is she didn't want Unschooling advice at all.  She said she did, but clearly missed the memo about what Unschooling is....so my advice didn't suit what she wanted to hear.  Had she said she was a Relaxed-Homeschooler I wouldn't have even bothered to comment.  I would have left it to the other Relaxed-Homeschoolers or Homeschoolers in general to offer advice.  Nobody had to get angry or defensive had the correct label been applied.

In the Unschooling world you see it all the time: "We Unschooling....except for math/reading/science/whatever".  Well, in that case, you aren't Unschooling.  You're a Relaxed-Homeschooler.  There is nothing wrong with that!  I have no issue with it at all...but be honest about it.  There is no shame in being a Relaxed-Homeschooler....but a Relaxed-Homeschooler insisting they are something that they are not isn't helpful to me or anyone else.  It makes it difficult for others to interact with you, if confuses outsiders who don't understand the in-and-outs of the home-education world, and it makes it more difficult for Unschoolers to find actually like-minded people.

So here are some simple definitions for you:

Homeschoolers do school at home.
Relaxed-Homeschoolers do some school at home and follow their children's lead in some educational areas.
Unschoolers follow their children's lead in all educational areas.
Radical Unschoolers follow their children's lead in all areas of daily life.

Now go read Idzie's Unschooling Is Not Relaxed Homeschooling because she is awesome.  Fin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

7 Snippets From Unschooling - Birthdays, learning, & interwebs

Unschooling Blog Hop | Homeschool Blog Hop

Back again for another 7 Snippets! 

3 and 1-year portraits

First and foremost, my little boy is 1!!!  I cannot express how bizarre that is to me!  We celebrated his birthday recently with a smallish party at home.  He didn't get the whole gift thing, but he definitely enjoyed the cake!  Hubs is a bit of a food-geek so he went to about 6 different stores in search of Dutch-process cocoa powder.  Since then Oscar just seems so grown up.  He's pushing around cars, trying to stack some blocks, kicking/throwing/hitting balls, and dancing a bit too.  Where did the year go?!
Yeah...he liked it!
He enjoyed the new toys, but his sister pretty much did all the unwrapping.

I also finished Trouble's quilt...FINALLY!  Only took me over a year.
Bear enjoyed the new toys too.


D has a new pet of her very own!  It's a red Betta Fish named Lala.  So far poor Lala has already taken a spill....this afternoon Oz pulled the bowl over on himself.  I think Lala is going to be okay though...no thanks to his attempt to JUMP OUT OF MY HANDS during the rescue.  Between a mad dash, much swearing, and a plastic cup I got him back in water in time.  Yeah, he'll be located to a higher location in the future.
Lala the fish
We're enjoying the pool with Aunt Bonnie this summer.  I'm looking into swimming lessons for D.  She loves to jump in and isn't afraid to go under.  Oz also enjoys the water, though he's already too big for his float. lol

We've also been enjoying the kiddie pool in the front yard.  Lot of outside play going on in the nice weather, though I have a feeling it's going to be a bit too hot in the near future.
Daddy found a snail in the yard
Dani asked me about who lived on our planet which opened up a discussion about the solar system.  We picked up some books at the library about space, the moon, and how our ideas about the universe have changed over time.  I highly recommend Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System. It's perfect for her age!

One day Dani announced that she had put her shoes on the correct feet.  I asked her how she knew how to do that and she replied (in a very "DUH, mom!" sort of way): "I learned it!" I had to laugh.  She also learned how to do a roll all by herself AND....

...she is recognizing letters!  Recently we were watching Super Why and when they asked "what letter is this?" she called them out all on her own.  O.O I was shocked!  It's not something we focus on at all....but she picked up everything anyway.  She's going to be reading before I know it.  She's not even 4 yet.
Where did my baby go?!

So independent.

It's been about 2 years, but we have internet again.  Streaming is amazing!  We're awash in cartoons of our childhoods....plus all the awesome documentaries and such are great to have on hand.  We've got a laptop setup now for the kids so they can play games...which Dani can do without any help from me!  lol  She was thrilled to be able to play on Starfall and not have me fix it every few minutes (tethering our phones wasn't making for a very reliable connection).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

7 Snippets From Unschooling - Bikes, songs, and ninjas....oh my!

Unschooling Blog Hop | Homeschool Blog Hop

This week I'm joining in on the Snippets From Unschooling Link-up!

~ 1 ~

This week has been all about the bike and outside play!  The weather has been good besides a few storms and even downright HOT so the front yard is getting a lot of use.  I finally pulled out Dani's bike that we'd been saving for Spring.  It's a blue and yellow 12" bike I found for $15 on Craigslist.  Score!  It's a step up from her tricycle and I'm sure it won't be long before we're pulling off the training wheels.  lol  She also requested a basket for it so she could carry snacks and a drink on her rides.

We also tried out hopscotch for the first time

~ 2 ~

We visited the Teacher Store last week and Dani picked out a large purple magnifying glass.  We also got an ABC and wipe-off calendar poster for the dining room wall.  She checked out some of our seedlings, talked a little bit about how magnifying glasses work, and then she took it with her on a sleepover at Grandma's house.  I figured that would be a good purchase down the road.  She's also been asking me about time and the days of the week which is why I got the calendar and printed and laminated this clock game.

~ 3 ~

Dani started singing the ABC's in the car this afternoon!  She needs a little help starting off, but she's got the 2nd half down totally.  It's funny because we don't really sing that song around here much.  I assume she picked it up from TV (gasp!).  She was a little confused about B and V and asked me to tell her some words that started with those letters.  That helped clear it up for her. :)  She's also been playing games on Starfall a lot more.  She particularly likes their games for letter D and letter V.

~ 4 ~

I am NOT musical....at all.  I enjoy music, but I never did more than dabble with a few instruments and I can't sing...but Aaron is very musical and so is my father.  Aaron plays bass, guitar, and trombone and can sing while my dad played banjo, a bit of piano, and clarinet.  The kids seem to take after them in that respect.  Oscar is starting to "dance" and seems to sing along ("Ahhhhhhh ahhhh ahhhh!") to music.  He is particularly fond of Mumford & Son.  Dani is constantly singing and making up songs of her own.  I've heard her singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider and I've Been Working On The Railroad by herself (she particularly likes the part about Dina in the kitchen) and she enjoys singing along with Fun.'s We Are Young in the car.  Other recent listens include Metallica, Moby, Madonna, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Spinnerette, and Basement Jaxx.  Yes, we are a pretty musically diverse household!

~ 5 ~

Socially we have been SUPER BUSY in the last week or so.  Friends, Unschool Group, random kids at the playground, cousins, Great Aunt Bonnie, Grandma...I swear we've played with a ton of people!  Oscar seems to be a social butterfly too...oh boy!  lol

He got to enjoy his cousin's cone, not the ice cream.

~ 6 ~
 This past week I got to explain internal combustion engines to Dani.   I'm a mechanic's daughter so I didn't even have to Google it!

~ 7 ~

As I mentioned before Aaron and I have been playing a lot of Star Munchkin and of course the kids want to join in.  Oscar likes to carry around a small jar of beans we keep for level counters and Dani wants to play too.  Sadly, it's just a bit beyond her ability at the moment, so while we let her help (she draws cards, hands out beans when we gain a level, etc.), I decided to get her a card game of her own to play.  It seems like anything besides Go Fish is for ages 7+....but at Target I happened across something called Fruit Ninja.  Apparently it's based on a mobile game, but I'd never heard of it before this.  It's pretty simple - You cut the deck and try to collect either 7 types of fruit OR 25 fruit total and can choose when to end your turn.  Each time you cut the deck you're taking a risk of drawing a bomb card and losing that turns fruit.  Green cards have less fruit and the least chance of bombs.  Yellow cards have more fruit and more bombs.  Red cards have the most fruit and also the most bombs.  You end up having to consider probability and strategy...plus there is counting and adding involved...oh and you're supposed to say "Hiya!" each time you cut the deck!  lol

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Unschool Homelife #1 - What we're up to lately

I think one of the things I see most online is people asking what unschoolers do...well, that varies.  A lot.  Here's a bit of what we're up to as of late:

 Dani has been on a major art-kick for the past month.  She very suddenly started painting figures and was coloring almost constantly.  She actually dried up an almost-new set of markers from use!  She has also creating robot pictures with foam sticker shapes.  Aaron did one robot with her and she copied it again and again almost exactly.  We also made some other animal robots (bunnies, cats).  Besides her artistic interests Dani also enjoys making up songs, pretending, dancing, cooking with us, reading books together, and watching for big "machines" when we're out driving.  Garbage trucks seem to be one of her favorites, currently.  Lots of big questions from her too!  Lately she's been curious about biology and the human body (blood and bones in particular as well as the reproductive system brought on by newly hatched chicks), weather (why is it raining NOW?), and geography (Dani and her friend Ella were very curious about the map and globe we keep at hand).  I've also been printing off and binding the free books from Progressive Phonics for her as well as letting her play games over at Starfall...then there are the dozens of books we read together on a daily basis...lol

A painting of Aunt Bonnie, complete with "fingers".

Aaron did the top left, Dani copied it again and again.

Oscar started walking.  He's into everything!  He loves to follow Dani around and explore the house.  Lately he's been doing more babbling and has finally started showing an interest in food....and water!  Water is his favorite, either to play with or to drink.
We've all been spending a lot of time outside since the weather has warmed up.  Dani and Oscar both enjoy the yard, playing in the dirt, and splashing in the pool  Bubbles have also been a big hit this spring.  I put together a mud-pie kitchen for them to mess with as well.

Even rain doesn't stop us!

This year we've done a lot more with gardening.  We would really like to have our own crop of tomatoes to make plenty of Grandma Mary's famous salsa.  It's the best salsa I've ever had!  Dani helped me plant seeds and care for the saplings.  This week we will be putting them in the ground.  We've also been reading about plants and gardening.  I highly recommend Seed, Soil, Sun for a good kid-friendly book about how we grow food.
Newly sprouted.

A bit older and bigger here.
In general we've been doing a lot of stuff out in nature: collecting violets with friends to cook up some violet jelly, collecting shark eggs at the beach, and collecting eggs from our friend's chickens.

Our yard had more violets this year than I have ever seen!

Shark egg sacks from the ocean.

Amanda's chickens. She has newly hatched ones now too!

Speaking of friends...we've got a pretty busy social calendar.  Every 1st and 3rd Monday we meet up with other unschoolers at the park to play or the library if the weather is poor.  On Thursdays we can go to a Homeschool skate at the roller rink (Dani really likes skating!).  We also have a variety of regular playdates and activities we do with friends and family whenever we feel like it (Dani loves to go and do, so this is often).
I LOVE this photo of the girls together.  Ella & Dani have been friends since they were babies.

Dani took to skating really well

Then there's the adults in our home: Aaron and I both have been playing a lot of Munchkin to gear up for game-night with friends.  We've also been reading A Song of Ice & Fire (aka Game of Thrones) which has lead to looking up a number of medieval warfare terms (like "Trebuchet").  I've been doing a 52 book a year challenge, knitting, sewing and folding window stars.  Aaron has been grilling and cooking a lot.  Between America's Test Kitchen and Barbeque University there has been a lot of experimentation going on.

What is YOUR family up to?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Window Stars Revisited

I've posted about window stars before, but a recent purchase of an Origami Suncatcher kit (which I found in-store) has gotten me on a major paper-folding binge.  The instructions are for very simple stars, but they're still fun and beautiful...plus it comes with 60 pieces of very nice paper already cut into squares (which I much prefer to cutting from large rolled sheets!).  It even comes with a glue stick and a nice box to keep it all in.

One thing that has kept me from making tons of stars before now was the issue with paper.  Actual kite paper is hard to find.  You HAVE to order it.  Period.  Double sided origami paper holds it's color really well, but it isn't as transparent as I'd like (particularly if you're doing something intricate).  Tissue paper is delicate to work with, fades like no tomorrow, has to be cut down from large unwieldy sheets and, did I mention, it FADES LIKE NO TOMORROW (it's worth repeating)....but it's cheap and readily available.
Figure 28 from Window Stars made from the kit's paper
Which brings me to the paper that came in the kit - it's very nice, the color is even and bright and it seems to hold up well to the sun (so far).  The drawbacks being that I have no clue where to get it besides in the kit, it's a bit plasticity so it doesn't hold a crease or glue as well as other things, and it only comes in 6 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple).  I was going through it rather fast so I decided it was time to break down and order some kite paper.

Figure 21 from Window Stars made with Folia transparent origami paper
In my previous searches for a good (see "cheap") source for kite paper I heard mention of transparent origami paper.  I decided to revisit that avenue this time and it paid off: Folia Transparent Origami Paper  And the best part....IT CONTAINS 500 SHEETS!!!  Plenty of places carry it, but Supermart was the cheapest ($15!) and the shipping was also inexpensive and it came QUICK.  One of the reviews I read for it before I ordered complained that it was basically colored wax paper which is exactly what I needed.  I had gone so far as to look into how to make colored wax paper.  Yeah...screw that!  I don't have time for such things!  It comes in 10 colors: red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, blue, purple, pink, white, and brown. I may also order some plastic origami paper which I am guessing is probably very similar to the paper that came with the kit.
The view out my "knitting room" window
As for instructions I have Magical Window Stars, Window Stars, Making Folded Stars from Colored Papers, and Origami Suncatchers (kit).  If you're not ready to buy, here are some online tutorials:

GardenMama - A Tutorial For Waldorf Window Stars
Duo Fiberworks - Window Star tutorial
Arwen Art - Waldorf Window Stars / Tissue Paper Stars Tutorials
The Enchanted Tree - Folded Paper Butterflies, Flowers, & Dragonflies & Tissue Paper Hearts

Here are some more stars for your viewing pleasure:

5 Pointed Star from Magical Window Stars made from tissue paper

Pinwheel Star from Origami Suncatchers made with the kit's paper

Figure 23 from Window Stars made with the kit's paper

Our front door and a variety of stars from all 3 books as well as a few improvisations
Happy folding!

Monday, April 30, 2012

52 Books in 2012

This year I have been participating in the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.  While I am totally lost as far as what week fits into each date....I'm just keeping track of the number I've read so far.  I often read several books a week anyway!  Depends on if I have a series I'm into or not.

My Reads in 2012 
 (so far...)

1. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

2. The Plucker

3. Wicked

4. Leviathan

5. Bee Season

6. Behemoth

7. Goliath

8. Uglies

9. Pretties

10.Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

11. Specials

12. Extras

13. Kira Kira 

14. Club Dead

15. A Game of Thrones

16. A Clash of Kings

17. So Yesterday

18. Magyk

19. A Storm of Swords

20. A Feast for Crows

21. A Dance with Dragons

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Which Enough is ENOUGH

The next time a person questions our choice to educate our children outside of school I will tear one of their arms off and beat them about the head with it.  My husband says that isn't exactly a glowing example of homeschooling and proper socialization....but he later understood my passionate outburst.  You will too.
Almost my entire life I have been fielding questions about home education.  I've also heard the unfounded criticisms repeated again, and again, and again.....and AGAIN.  It gets old.  It really does.  The worst bit I've heard though is this:

"Homeschooling can be a cover for abuse!  If the child isn't in school there is nobody to know and intervene if the child is being abused/neglected at home!"

For the love of Pete....this is where I shake my head.  When I was 17-years-old I had dinner with my former boyfriend's parents for the first time...his stepfather grilled me about the possibility of homeschoolers being abused since he'd seen a news report about this one case I'd ever heard about.  Hardly good dinner conversation...did I mention he was an ass in general?  Yeah, he was.

Let me be clear: Are there abusive homschooling families?  Damn straight there are!  I don't know any personally, but I'm sure they do exist just like there are abusive families whose kids are enrolled in school.  School doesn't magically protect your child from harm....and why exactly is it that teachers and school staff are viewed as protection and parents are all viewed as potential abusers?!  Abuse takes place in school just like it can and does at home!

Which leads me to back to my episode with the tearing of limbs and beating about the head...we've all heard the stories and reports of abuses happening in school.  Bullying, abuse and molestation at the hand of other students as well as teachers and school staff....in fact I was reading a story about a teacher leaving his wife and own teen daughter to live with his just-turned-18 former student when I came across the following story:

3rd grade teacher feeds students his semen on cookies...

What. The. Fuck.

I was mortified!  And angry...not only because these horrible things happened to children, but because I am seen as a potential abuser for keeping my child out of school....yet this stuff happens!  Are people insane?!  Why are there any children left in schools?!  Between the bullying, poor educational outcomes, teachers sleeping with students, shootings, bomb threats, kids getting blowjobs in the back of class, special needs students being voted out of classes by their peers, lack of recess, children with allergies dying, an autistic boy being left on a bus for hours in the summer sun....and F-ing SEMEN COOKIES....WHY AREN'T WE RIOTING IN THE STREETS?!  This stuff should NOT be happening...and what galls me is that schools are assumed to be safe.  I'm the potential danger by not sending my child to one of those hell-holes....

How does that make sense?!  News flash: Schools aren't automatically safe. Nor will teachers always be able to help the children who are abused at home.

So I probably won't actually tear off an arm and use it as a club, BUT I will shove a laminated copy of that vile story into their hands and say "Read this.  I'll wait."