Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christian Unschooling

I've met with some strong opinions 
regarding Christianity and unschooling.
Many feel it's not possible to be a Christian
and Unschool. Some folks seem to feel
unschooling is not biblical. Our church
and the sermons of our Pastor actually
opened the unschooling door to us.
And then God pulled us right on through it.        

Jesus is our ultimate example of love and 
kindness, teaching by modeling. Mindful,
loving, respectful, unconditional parenting
follows the model Jesus set. Radical
unschooling follows the model Jesus set
before us. 

Here are some great writings that have 
gone into depth to address Christian
Unschooling quite wonderfully.: 








Join this facebook group for Christians Against
Corporal Punishment.  

Read on the blog, The Path Less Taken.

I think the links provided have great insight
and I hope you enjoy reading them over. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Facing Self Doubt

I have been talking with a fellow homeschooling Mom, also new to unschooling and a proud Mom to many. We were recently discussing the intense amount of "rules" that seem to be implied for unschooling to be a success. Edited 1/11/12: I think the reason many (myself included) felt overwhelmed is that we are/were looking for a clear "do this approach" and it doesn't exist in this type of learning. It's the glimpses of what others are doing that give the unschooling picture. And that can be overwhelming to have so many "ways" tossed at you. 
I hope anyone interested in pursuing natural learning, life learning, unschooling or whatever term folks prefer,  does not let the model of anyone else deter them from doing so. When we used Robinson curriculum we did it our own way. We used Robinson as our base and made it our own to suit our own needs. We did the same when using Sonlight, which was all planned out for us, and even then we used it how it best suited us. It would stand to reason that with a method like unschooling, which has no blue print to be followed to begin with that any parent would do the same.
edited 1/11/12: While I would still say that anyone can unschool. I would have to admit that there are some things that do not make one an unschooler. I used to say we had an unschooling bent. By my definition that was we had a smidge of Mom required work and the rest of the day the kids were free to do pursue their own interests. Compared to where we are now, that was not even a mile close to what it looks like here now. How it used to be, was not even close to unschooling. 

Family rhythm, flow, values are different for everyone.
Unschooling is not a pre-designed curriculum to follow. There are no teacher's guides or boxes that must be checked to be "following" the plan correctly.
I'm posting this not as an expert on unschooling by any means. But as someone who has found a very broad set of guidelines to a method which really just added confusion and frustration for me. edited 1/11/12: I see now that it's easy for an unschooler to say "you are not unschooling" because it's so crystal clear to them after they have experience doing it. 

"All John Holt meant to do with the word unschooling was to find a more expressive and expansive term than deschooling or homeschooling, both of which gave the impression of abolishing or creating miniature copies of conventional schooling in the home. Holt created the word unschooling to indicate that children can learn in significant ways that don't resemble school learning and that don't have to just take place at home." 
 -Pat Farenga

I read in a forum archive on unschooling, where one unschooling Mom said all learning can't be fun and the belief that is what unschooling is proves you're not an unschooler.
It is common sense that as children get older, everything won't be (giggly and silly) all the time. Of course they would seek to challenge themselves as they get older and may not use the word "fun" to describe every such challenge, but who's to say, maybe they just might. Fun will always be in play in some way though. Life should be joyful and fun! My husband and I have fun as adults. We play games, we laugh, dance, sing, he rocks out in his band, plays golf. My job as a stay at home Mom is fun, of course it doesn't mean I don't face challenges. As a paralegal my job was fun, and there were challenges. Bry's job as a police officer, though dangerous, is fun, not in the run and skip through the meadow type way, but it brings him joy to be able do the job he does. And enjoyment is having "fun".

Reading, researching and reading more are just my things. I have found that there does seem to be things that will lend better to unschooling or make the road easier as I've found in my research. Again even if you don't feel any of it. But just feel pulled to learn more. Don't be discouraged because you can do it.
Such as:

  • The belief that children learn through living their lives and yes through playing and having fun.
  • You do not feel a need to control the learning. 
  • You do not feel a need to control your children. 
  • You realize that it will be your way of thinking that has to change. You require "school" not them. 
  • The belief that humans are born to learn. It's the way God made us. To seek, to understand, to accomplish to pursue goals and dreams. To want to achieve! 
  • Belief that learning takes place all the time, not exclusively when following a set curriculum. 
  • You follow respectful / mindful parenting or aspire to be a gentle respectful parent and are willing to take the steps to be a respectful unconditional parent (which means showing love no matter what, highs, lows, success, defeat, your love stays the same constant). 
  • You realize you do not need to have set curriculum for learning to happen. Unless your kids choose to pull it off the shelf or you offer or "strew" it and they want to try it without any pressure. Much as you would offer a friend a drink when visiting your home. If they refuse you would not get angry, frustrated or be disappointed with them. The same should be said when strewing materials around. 
  • You trust that your kids will learn, without requiring proof in the form of tests, grades, scores or instant feedback of their learning. 
  • What you are doing may feel joyless and you are seeking a more peaceful and joyful way. 
  • You realize that we have them for so few years and you want to enjoy the ride and homeschool in a way that makes your partners in their learning, not the dictator. 
  • You want their learning time and memories of learning at home to be fun! 
  • You are fighting a child through tears to do a math page, fill in an english worksheet, and you realize that it's doing anything but cementing a good relationship with your child. 

There is no reason you cannot unschool if: 
  • You like to have structure/routines in your home. Everyone has some type of routine. It might be a day  you prefer for cleaning house, for doing laundry for running errands. 
  • You are a Christian. Yes, God is the ultimate unconditional parent. He waits, gives us time, welcomes us with open arms, despite our missteps on our way to him. But if you use God as a way to bully or guilt the kids into doing your will, that would be something important to get away from. 
  • Have a family with many children. 
  • Do not believe in unlimited access to TV, video games, etc.  You know what works best for your family and see how electronics effect your children. However I would add that "rules" and unschooling are somewhat at odds with one another. The "obey or face this consequence" type of rules are something which more than likely you will let go of in time. As someone who has done that myself, it's just a natural progression. Be willing to let go of your rules and restrictions on TV and video games over time. Let your children show you how they can shine when given the trust and the chance to set their own pace for these. 
  • Feel that God comes first, husband second and children third. Meaning you protect your time with your husband, that might mean putting the kids to bed early some nights. But a strong marriage is a wonderful model to give our children. 
Obviously I have not been in this for the long haul yet. But I feel it in my soul that natural learning is right for our family. 
Just the past two days so much great stuff has been going on. Maybe God was giving me affirmation when I was feeling weak. But I feel so renewed having been a part of such a wonderful few days. 
  • Skylar has been constructing all sorts of play structures with pattern blocks and math manipulatives. 
  • Summer pulled out the map of the US (from Sonlight I might add). And was laying on the floor talking to Skylar who was building nearby. They were talking about where Penpals and Grandparents lived in relation to us on the map and discussing how long it would take for each to get where and the weather in each place. 
  • Skylar read for several hours each day. 
  • Summer did flash cards and played math games on my Iphone. 
  • Decklin did a craft. He started to get upset when the girls didn't want to play but wanted to go do their flash cards or reading. I offered him a book of cut out crafts and he picked one. Summer came down while he was crafting and decided to make a Christmas tree craft and decorate it with stickers we had in my scrapbook cart. 
  • They did Christmas Tree and Christmas Wreath Crafts. 
  • I had been reading them a chapter book. Skylar liked it so much she read it twice on her own. And Summer then read it herself as well. 
  • They went to help us look at a house to see if it was the right one for us. 
  • Skylar helped Ember jump on the mini trampoline. 
  • Ember has potty trained herself. She's now wearing cloth pull ups, just in case. 
  • We spent our one on one time. 
  • Ember and Decklin have been creating with playdough. 
  • Summer and Decklin have been building with legos. 
  • We have all been playing Wii sports, Star Wars and some other fun games. 
  • My Grandmother sent a fantastic huge 5 book library of these big thick books on animals and insects. They came today and the kids all grabbed a book to look through. Skylar read us all interesting facts and she came upon them about from her book.

Record keeping for life learners

Record Keeping for Unschoolers by Sarch McGrath

Unschooling Record Keeping at Leaping from the box (free)

Learning Happens (free)

A record of the learning lifestyle by Notgrass

Unschooling a Lifestyle of Learning

Today I had the pleasure to read the book by Sarah McGrath: Unschooling A Lifestyle of Learning. Her tone is very gentle. She does not have the "It must be done this way or it's not unschooling" type of tone to her book. She encourages that each family find their own niche. 

Her definition of unschooling is Living and learning without the limitations of school. Essentially a life with unlimited possibilities. Learning by doing, wondering, and figuring things out.

Something that I really appreciated about her book was the alternative terms for unschooling, which I think more accurately do describe what unschooling is. Naturally putting the "un" in front of schooling and it makes people wrongly assume there is unlearning or no learning going on.  
The alternative terms for the unschooling style of learning:  
Life learners, Natural learning, Self-directed, interest-driven, delight-driven, whole life, and natural learning.

Key unschooling points she makes:
We all learn all the time.
All learning has value.
We learn best by our own motivation, in our own ways.
Effective learning need not cause difficulty or unpleasantness (if you've have a child crying over math or phonics, but you believe they should push on, this might resonate with you). 
Play provides a perfectly valid mode of learning.
An unschooling parent does not teach but helps children learn.


She talks about how they don't have rules but lots guidance in their home. How her children look to her as a "natural authority" because of the life experience she has. 
She has a nice chapter on Unschooling and Anarchy, learning styles and even homeschooling styles. She gives sample unschooling course of studies, and record keeping which would be a great help to someone in a state that requires documentation. There is a nice resource section. And she even publishes a Spiral bound unschooling journal with writing prompts for record keeping. 


What she had to say about how much interest and concern random people express for unschooling children:
"Just as you cannot teach unreceptive children, you cannot reach unreceptive adults. You need not defend your choices or prove yourself or your children.
Fears arise from things we don't understand, things we have little or no knowledge of or experience with. The majority of people in Western culture attended school and many believe children need school to grow into competent adults. They haven't imagined any other way."

In Sandra Dodd's book she refers to an Unschooling Nest. Ms. McGrath refers to this as the unschooling environment. She encourages the uniqueness of each family and that the environment be unique as well. Enriching the environment essentially. She goes on to say, this does not mean spending tons of money. It could mean putting out art supplies, setting up the computer in a safe way for the child to visit websites, having access to music instruments, sewing and craft materials, books, games, or whatever interests your child specifically.

One idea she shared that I really loved was to set up a blog that is only for my children to access. And use that as their internet home page. From there is where they will access the websites Mom and parent have picked together to save there. 
We have picked up Kindle Fire's for each of the girls for Christmas but we had concern over how we were going to make them child safe. Her suggestion was read in perfect time for us to address this. They each have regular kindles already but those are so slow and no web surfing is even worth the wait, but with the fire that would be an option and something we wanted to be safe with. Of course I know some might question why we'd get these for our kids. One reason being, they love using our Iphones to play games, and together we look things up. But them using our phones is not always possible. And really the price was wonderful for what the fire offers. So many great apps that can be shared from device to device and not to mention books and music. 


I do wish this was the first unschooling book I'd read. I'd highly recommend it be the first read to anyone looking into the unschooling, life learning, natural learning methodology. I do think it answers any question I've had being new to this myself. 


Happy Homeschooling. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Structure

Here is our daily learning Routine for the kids which has evolved from the one we first put together which had just four of five things. This is for the older two who like to cover everything on the list most days. Of course as with anything that's not always realistic but my kids love a good old checklist so this is what they asked to have on it. And the definitions are what they used to describe each item.

___Read Something
___Write Something
___Created/Made something
___Got some fresh air/sunshine
___Played a game with the family
___Played a DS/Wii game
___Used Math
___Watched some TV
___Read to younger sibling
___Prayed and said Thanks to God
___Daily chores

Definitions:

Reading:
Directions on games
Penpal letters
Books / magazines / catalogs
Street signs
Words on TV shows / movies

Writing:
Letters / emails
journals
stories
lists
restaurant and other game play

Creativity:
Anything from building with blocks, setting up Barbie houses, car raceways, crafting, setting up instruments for church band, using varying art materials, craft kits, varying games

Fresh air / outside:
Play on swings
Family walks
Ride scooters
pick flowers / play in yard

Used Math:
Divide things up
count things
baking
sorting laundry
following the calendar
doing puzzles
playing board games / ds / leapster / wii / Iphone games
Life of Fred / math workbooks on shelf


They also came up with a daily routine for themselves. As far as what flow they'd like their days to take.

Skylar:
Wake at 8 AM (this is a loft goal for her)
Take shower
Do chores
Eat breakfast
Tidy from breakfast
Play
Lunch
Reading 2 hours
Writing Wed and Friday
Play
Eat dinner
Watch TV
Get in bed at 10 PM
Read until 10:30 PM



Summer:
Wake at 8 AM
Chores
Shower
Breakfast
Breakfast tidy up
Play
Lunch
Clean up
CLE Flash cards (she said these are fun) and some pages of Explode the code (she also said these are fun)
Play with Decklin while Skylar reads
Dinner
Watch TV
Get in bed the same time as Skylar


This is an addition as of 5/3/12 to answer the questions that Red Kitchen had shared in the comments section below:

Obviously I am far from an unschooling expert but I will take a shot at addressing your concerns based on my understanding of unschooling.
I'd also highly recommend reading at Joyce Fetteroll's site, which is www.joyfullyrejoycing.com . She has such a wealth of info there and covers such a broad range of questions that anyone new to the concept of unschooling has wondered about.

1) My older children are 9 &; 11, and they are used to schooling with Sonlight (which I know you're familiar with.) I don't know if we can "let it go." But, of course, they might choose to do it anyway, so then it wouldn't be a factor. ;)
My response: When you say let it go, I'm assuming you mean just tossing it all?
What I'd say is approach it differently. If your kids really enjoy Sonlight then it will not get tossed. But being willing to let them decide would be the key. I would suggest doing the summer vacation approach, which is just giving the kids off all the school work you had been doing prior. I'd also suggest you jot down in a notebook or journal for yourself what things they do in that time off without evaluating if it's “educational” or not. This will help you see what they enjoy doing, what they are interested in, what types of rabbit trails they want to go down. If you are in the middle of a book they like, ask them if they'd like you to read it to them maybe before bed or in the morning., minus the Sonlight guide of page number splits or discussion questions. Be okay with them saying no and not showing an interest. Strew or sprinkle the Sonlight books about where the kids can reach for them but be okay if they never grab for them. Places to sprinkle them might be in a basket near a bed, sofa, on a coffee table, in the bathroom : ).

2)Math...yikes!!! It scares the heck out of me to think about not doing it formally. I really don't have a problem with other "subjects" in unschooling, but math gets me! Of course since we've been using Saxon all along, they do know all of their basic facts and concepts and problem solving, etc. It just freaks me out to think that higher math won't be required...you know, like algebra, geometry, etc. But I know that if they choose to go to college, then they would choose to learn what is required. It's just that giving up that control is scary!
My response: Math scared me very much initially too. But I have been happily overwhelmed with the volume of math that comes up in daily life that I never paid mind to before. This has given me such confidence. And now I can't believe that I worried so much about math or that I spent so much money trying to find the right curriculum to teach it.
Here are some great links on math to read over:
http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/academics/math/speakingmath.html

I respect it so much that you realize that giving up your control of the situation is what is scary. But think of it this way. Trust in your children instead. Trust that you and the children as partners will explore so many more wonderful things if you trust in the process and put away the schoolish glasses.
And then also Sandra Dodd has a page on trust: http://sandradodd.com/trust


3) What if they choose to watch TV or play video games all day? And not even educational ones? What if that's all they want to do? I know that they would probably grow tired of it, but what if they don't?
My response: Here is a great quote from Joyce's website that I love:
“What if your husband controlled your book reading (or something you love to do)? What if he only let you read books that he thought were worthwhile (regardless of what you thought was enjoyable to you)? What if he only allowed you to read for a certain amount each day and you couldn't read 3 magazines in a row? What if you had the feeling he was watching and judging you every time you picked up something to read to make sure you were making a"worthwhile' choice?
What do you think you'd do if he gave you free rein (as well as no other responsibilities) on Saturdays?”

My kids go in waves with TV, just like with Barbie's. Some days we just want to cuddle under warm blankets, snack and watch some TV, other days they want to get lost in Barbie world and other days we have video game battles for hours. Last night we played Plants vs Zombies for hours. We all took turns, talked while playing, talked about the cost of the plants and planned out where we were going to place them. Video games for us are social times much of the time. But there are times when one of the kids just wants time to go play a video game alone as well because they just want some peace and quiet or they may choose to do something else entirely in the same room with the family who is playing on the gaming system.
When it comes to TV or gaming, I don't think their time would be better spent elsewhere. It's my job to make our home and our lives interesting so that there is plenty to choose from, like a buffet. If TV or video games are the only choices, that's not a great set up for unschooling. But I don't place a higher level of importance over anything else in the house
If a child has had TV or video game restrictions they are going to binge on it because they might not know if it will be controlled on them again. Not judging during this I think is key. Was key for us.
Skylar (10) and I sat one day and went through all our satellite channels and we made a list of the channel name and it's number for her as a reference and we taped that under the glass on our coffee table. This is good for her or Summer (8) who are not channel surfers but just like to go right to something specific. During the day I am there to help when/if they want to watch something. But at night the list comes in handy if they can't sleep and come down to have a snack and watch to watch TV while doing so.


4) This is a biggie, even though it shouldn't be: family &; friends. I know I should get over that, but it's easier said than done.
**You know, as I type, I realize my biggest issue is control. I am a perfectionist & a bit of a control freak, so I need help in that area. So, help! :)
My response:
If you unschool you just go on interacting as you are. No one else has to know really. And they'd only know if you offered it up. Yes, we homeschool is all I've ever said and what I still stay. Joyce has great advice here: http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/negative%20people/respondingtodoubters.html

Regarding the issues of control, Sandra Dodd has a great page on this: http://sandradodd.com/control

With control, I just try to treat my kids how I'd like to be treated. I am always a work in progress.... Always : ). And I have asked them to tell me if I'm slipping into grumpy or bossy Mom mode. 

Hope this is of some help. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

Sunday

  • We watched Star Wars. Decklin has been playing this on the Wii and really wanted to see this movie. 
  • Bry went golfing. 
  • We ordered Chinese as a late night snack. 
  • We tidied the house. 
  • Kids played with Bry, board games, Wii games, etc. 
  • We baked chocolate chip cookies. 
  • I know there was more but my mind is drawing a blank right now. 
  • Bry picked my brother up from the airport late at night. 

Monday:
  • Bry took Skylar for her blood draw. She wasn't feeling well after so she came home and put on her PJ's and lounged on my bed while Summer took a bath in the master bathroom. 
  • Skylar read on the sofa in her PJ's for awhile and tried to take a nap. 
  • Summer and I made lunch platters. 
  • Bry took Decklin out to the mall with him and to run some errands.
  • I played some Wii games with the kids. 
  • We pulled the Christmas decorations from the garage and grabbed the tree. 
  • We put up the Christmas tree and then the kids decorated it on their own (with Bry and I in the room listening to music and chatting with them). 
  • Skylar and Bry went to church. He said it was an amazing service. They told us all about it when they came home. They've been doing a series on Monsters and this last monster in the series was Cookie Monster. Our Pastor talked about being so into God, like Cookie Monster is with his cookies. Bry was pretty moved by the service. I look forward to listening to the podcast this evening. 
  • Skylar finished up reading about The Great Depression and a story about life on the Titanic. 
Tuesday

  • We cleaned the house. Did pet care, ate meals, this is our usual so I don't always jot that down in our days here on the blog. 
  • Decklin, Ember and I worked on de-breeding the garage. 
  • Decklin road his scooter and bike.
  • Ember played with Playdough. 
  • All the kids played zoo. 
  • Skylar used her new friendship bracelet loom. That was hard to figure out so we had to watch a video we found online to figure it out. 
  • Skylar told us what she read about the Great Depression. And I shared about my Grandfather living through it. 
  • We watched the Next Iron Chef America. 
  • We played games. 
  • Skylar read Christmas After All. 
  • We had a danceathon playing a new dancing game on the Wii. 
  • Decklin and I played some games together. 

Unconditional Parenting

I believe it was in The Unschooling Handbook where I came across the mention of unschooling being contagious. Reading that it could overflow into a whole life approach was foreign to me. I only intended it to be unschooling as it related to education. Unschooling as it relates to homeschooling alone is just the beginning of a fantastic life change. It's really almost impossible to not want to extend unschooling into the rest of your life. Life is unschooling, so how can the two not intersect and be one?
What I'm learning is that it's actually the parenting that opens the doors to what unschooling can really be. Once you dip your foot into the unschooling pool education wise, you want to learn more about the whole life radical aspect which seems almost in a way to be the yin to the yang in the unschooling lifestyle. If the parental love isn't unconditional then how can there be success with unschooling at all? To change the schooling without the parenting seems to be unbalanced. To have one change without the other now seems to be impossible. Sandra Dodd has mentioned, gradual change as an important step in unschooling. Too much to fast does not make for a smooth transition and can be overwhelming for parent and child. So part and parcel of that would be that the changes in parenting as part of the transition.
Sandra also makes mention of a controlling parent not being able to be an unschooler. I scoffed when I read that in her book. But you know what... Sandra is right. How can you unschool a child when you want to control them in any aspect? The two are such opposite ends of the spectrum.

The changes in parenting specifically, bring me to the book by Alfie Kohn called Unconditional Parenting. This is one of the must read books I've seen mentioned on unschooling blogs, lists, forums, etc. Having read it myself I can see why. It's a game changer. A parent cannot read this book without feeling inspired in their heart to change their parenting style. This book will touch you to tears and you'll aspire to be... well an unconditional parent in the true sense of the word. As I've been reflecting on my parenting. I've seen things in myself I never realized before or never stopped to notice. Things I'd describe by my own definition (not the author's) as broken, misguided and even foolish about my parenting. Things some “experts” have said are the way to train up our children, the right steps to take so to speak. Even when they are lacking in respect for these little blessings God has entrusted into our care and doing anything but strengthening the parent child relationship.
This is not a book about unschooling. But about loving your children in a way that shows them respect as the amazing humans God has created them to be. Become their partner in this life not the dictator.

When I first began researching Radical Unschooling. The Radical life views were quite overwhelming.
The thought of giving children choices of food, bedtimes, chores, etc. is a scary proposition for most parents. Most parents, but not all. Some parents are in on a secret that the rest of us haven't heard yet. This is what you will find it Mr. Kohn's book.

One of the questions Mr. Kohn encourages us to ask ourselves in his book is ... “Are my everyday practices likely to help my children grow in the kind of people I'd like them to be?” He talks about how our reactions or how we handle a situation will make that outcome less likely. And encourages readers to ask themselves, “What should I be doing instead?”

He goes on to say that parenting should not be about overcoming our child's resistance to our requests. It's not an us verses them, get them to obey me type of mindset. He talks about avoiding the temptation to do what it takes to get our children to comply. This means not using things like rewards, praise, time outs or spankings to gain compliance. He has an amazing amount of statics and studies for those that like to have those as a reference point. And he offers other ways to relate to children using respect, kindness and unconditional love.

For myself this meant examining things I've done or beliefs I've held in regard to raising children. Looking at the way my parents parented me, the examples they set of how a parent does their job. Things I've done because it's what my model of parenting looked like. This reflection didn't start with reading this book. But it began many months back when I began seeing a Christian Therapist because I wanted to improve my parenting. Once I began seeing her and seeing how I parented my children I began to take notice of how my parents parented myself and my brother. What I began to notice were patterns I copied not because I wanted to, but because it was so ingrained in me that's how a Mother, family, etc. interacts.


Mr. Kohn has a great description of unconditional principles to help parents (He doesn't do rules or one size fits all type advice or provide scripts or the like.) He elaborates and explains what he means with these principles in the book, gives examples, etc. I've added just short snippets. These barely scratch the surface. I would encourage reading the book to really dive deeply, enjoy examples he shares and see yourself in the pages of this book. You will have those ah ha type moments as you read through the pages. And most of all you will not walk away from this book without feeling the need to change deep in your heart.
  1. Be reflective. (Figure out what may be driving your parenting style, be honest with your motives, reflect on how your parents modeled parenting.)
  2. Reconsider your requests. (Before searching for a method to get kids to do what we tell them reevaluate the value or necessity of the request.)
  3. Keep your eye on your long term goals. (How are you treating your child, does it line up with the long term goals?)
  4. Put the relationship first. (Being right isn't what matters. It matters very little if your children stiffen when you walk in the room.)
  5. Change how you see, not just how you act. (Be willing to see things through your child's eyes, not as actions of a child that need to be met with a consequence.)
  6. Respect. (Talk to your children the way you would a guest. No snide comments, no digs or insults, don't act as if adults are the center of the universe and children must revolve around them.)
  7. Be authentic. (Be real about your flaws, if you treat your child badly apologize to them, let them know adults are not perfect, we make mistakes, have bad moods, don't pretend to be flawless, how they see you navigate this is a model you provide for them.)
  8. Talk less, ask more. (Don't dictate to kids, don't list out their “faults”. Listen don't explain.)
  9. Keep their ages in mind.
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts. (Don't assume the worst of your child.)
  11. Don't stick to your no's unnecessarily. (Offer alternatives to “no”, say “yes” whenever possible. It won't result in spoiled kids. )
  12. Don't be rigid. (Be flexible and spontaneous, allow for off days in a child's mood, we all have them.)
  13. Don't be in a hurry. (Think about how much time you need to get a toddler ready, or a family of 6 in my case ready to go somewhere. Rushing makes parents moody and often times bossy. Allow more time to avoid this).

A change we made around here was how we view meal times. In Mr. Kohn's book he talks about parents forcing their children to eat at set times. Implementing punishments if they don't clear their plate, or eat x and y, or offering the enticement of dessert for eating something they find distasteful. With my babies they breast-fed on demand. With my toddlers they graze as they like. Gosh, it makes so much sense to offer that same option to eat or not eat to children of all ages. Eating only when we are hungry is something so valuable for adults. Think of all the issues with food that folks have in adult years. Why make food an issue for our children. Just let them eat because they are hungry. And give them choices of which foods to enjoy. My children don't all like the same things. In a perfect world offering each of them only what I know they like when they like it would be great. But finances and time do not make this a viable option. I would grow resentful if I were acting as personal chef on demand. And when you are feeding a family of six on a single income money does play a part. What we have done as I had blogged about previously, is the platter options which we read about on Demanding Euphoria, for all meals except dinners on the nights Bry is home to eat with us. This gives the kids varying foods to choose from. There is no nagging to eat or clear your plate. They eat what they like from the selection. All the options are foods using good ingredients. So though the kids are choosing what to eat, I'm not serving up food with questionable ingredients. I will add organic cookies, crackers and even organic candy to the platters.


Random Reflections: 
It bugs me when Summer leaves her wet towel on her bed. It's such a silly thing for me to pester her about. She may have a damp bed, or a damp towel the next time she goes to use it, but it's really not causing a hair of harm. It's not my bed. If it doesn't bother her it surely shouldn't bother me. I've been so good and not said a word about this wet towel. 

It's a bit of a pet peeve for me when the girls don't make their beds. This stems a bit from my own germ issues, cats walking in a litter box and then the thought of them laying on my pillow, yuck! So I always make our bed and the baby's bed. I've explained to them why I don't want to find a cat on my pillow. They understand my preference for my bed. But if a cat on a pillow doesn't bother the girls then it just shouldn't bother me in the least. I remember when I was a kid, having a cat on my pillow didn't bother me then either. And so there it is. No longer bugging them about something that doesn't need to fixed, they don't see it as broken. 

Skylar has a hard time sleeping at night. We used to insist she go to bed when the other kids did, especially to keep the peace with her sister, Summer, two years younger. She didn't have to sleep but could do anything in her bed, play quietly, read, etc. Upon reflection, that was a very unfair requirement we put in place. That was one of the first things we changed, not just with Skylar but with all the children. Just like if Bryon or I can't sleep, we know we have options to watch TV, grab a snack, do anything quietly that will not disturb the other family members who are sleeping. Now the kids all know that is open to them as well.

Decklin tends to have tantrums. When he gets upset, angry, frustrated, he lets us know it through tears. It's so much better to be a warm loving presence offering a hug instead of talking at him or getting annoyed with him or trying to ignoring the tantrum. Empathy and compassion go so much further. In those hard moments that loving hug means a lot.
The same can be said for Ember. She is now at the I don't need to nap stage. I'm fine with that. Even though it means she drifts off about 6 PM or so on the couch, so she does want to nap just not when I had previously preferred it : ). I know this means she will be up late into the night. It may mean I don't get that time at night to just veg alone when Bry's at work. But on the flip side, I get to enjoy cuddles and fun conversation with Ember so it's not as if I'm getting the short end of the stick by any means. These moments of a toddler who loves being in arms for cuddles won't last forever. I remind myself of that the moment I feel a bit of selfishness creep in.


One thing Mr. Kohn mentioned in the book is how some religions are about control and obedience. That's mentioned only in a short paragraph or two actually. I was raised with God being very separate from his human creation, not loving but vengeful, judgmental and something to live in fear of. Something was always missing from my life but it was not until a Pastor spoke to my heart that I realized it was God that was missing. This is the reason that it's important to me that my children never view God through those glasses. In our home, we have no rules or requirements to be followed to have an authentic relationship with God. No steps that must be walked in order to get into heaven. God loves us, accepts us and waits for us patiently with open arms, no matter what, he always loves us. I would consider it an unfair trick against my children to use God or fear of God as a weapon to change or encourage behaviors in them. He is a part of daily life, just like breathing. Just like the relationships we have with those we can see on a daily basis in our home, as do we have a relationship with God. I should love my children and accept them as God made them. God is the perfect example of unconditional love.

I hope that what I've shared has inspired another Mom to want to read Mr. Kohn's book. This is the kind of book every new or veteran parent should read.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friday and Saturday

  • Decklin and I are having a blast with Star Wars Lego on the Wii. We stayed up far to late playing it last night just because it was such a blast. 
  • We played Just Dance 3 which was so fun. And my arms and legs are so sore from it. Ember is so cute to watch as she does the dances. 
  • Friday was a day of cleaning and laundry with Barbie and Star Wars also in there as well.
  • Some of the kids played several board games with Bry yesterday and some Mario cart on the Wii when Skylar and I went to read for a few hours. Skylar is loving the Narnia Series and reading some Dear America books she received for her birthday. 
  • While Skylar and I were reading we played a bit of a joke on my brother who's house we were reading at. He's away and we moved some things like pictures from one place to the next, barstools to another part of the house. Just to joke with him. The reason being is that all my family knows how I love to re-arrange furniture and we joke about it all the time. He and I had been joking how one day he'd come home to me having moved all his furniture around. 
  • Decklin ran errands with me. He helped me pick out some Christmas gifts for the girls. We had some lunch out together. We went to Petco to get cat food and enjoyed looking at all the small animals, spiders, fish, and birds. And we went and got donuts for the family. 
  • Skylar and Summer did their chores, folded napkins and watched TV with Dad while  Decklin and I were out. 
  • We ordered some Chinese food after watching Guys Diners, Drive ins and Dives. That shows always makes us hungry. 
  • We watched some of the new Star Wars which none of us liked. And we can't wait to watch the original ones so Decklin can see the game we've been playing. 
  • I played Mario cart with Skylar. I am so terrible, but it's fun. We talked and joked.
  • Ember and I watched some Fresh Beat Band. She played Tea party with the girls. And read through piles of books. She played with a smacktalk app on my phone which she thinks is so funny. You talk to it and it repeats what you say in a cute tiny voice that is attached to one of four different kinds of animals that do the movement and have cute little mannerisms as they repeat your words.  
  • Summer did some make up artist designs with a kit she received  yesterday as a birthday gift from my Aunt. Skylar did some interior design with a kit she received. And both girls used a kit Summer had received which was shirt decorating. So last night while Deck and I were playing Star Wars they were on the floor doing that in the loft. These were gifts the girls had picked out from Mindware. 
  • We did family prayers and devotions. 
  • We've been looking at new houses. We are moving within the next two months. And the kids have been helping us decide on what they'd prefer in a new house. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
We were able to have Bry home with us for dinner. For many years we lived to far from his work area so he was unable to dine with us on holidays if he worked them.
This year it was a treat that he was able to go in late and have dinner with us and a good part of the day with us before heading off to work.

The kids and I had done the bulk of the cooking the day before. So Thanksgiving was a pretty easy day, just needing the turkey to be made and some finishing touches.

We started our day with pie for dessert. And had dinner around 2 PM or so.
After that the girls played Barbie's. And I played some Star Wars on the Wii with Decklin.
We watched the parade in the morning on TV. Ember was so excite to see the Fresh Beat Band in the parade. So that was fun.
The girls did their daily chores after breakfast.
We just enjoyed our day together. They did work on some Thanksgiving crafts. Hand print turkeys, and Ember cut paper strips. She loves cutting paper.
She also sat and looked at a pile of books and I read to her as well.
We did family prayers and devotions. And talked to my family long distance using Facetime on my Iphone.
I know there was more but my mind is drawing a blank right now.
But it was a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday and Wednesday

Here are the platter pictures I've snapped over the past few days:
This was a dinner platter from Monday night. It had unsalted peanuts, organic apple, clementine,  organic tortilla chips and two kinds of salsa, dill pickles, Non GMO cheese and avocado slices. 

This was a breakfast platter from Monday.
On it we had homemade banana bread, organic peanut butter cereal puffs,  orange smiles, organic turkey bacon and one other thing which is really escaping my tired mind at this very moment. 


Tuesday:

  • Decklin played with his army men on the bathroom floor while I was in the bath. Then he took a bath and played with his army men inside the bath. 
  • He and I had some nice conversations while I put my make up on while he was playing in the tub. 
  • Skylar helped me prepare breakfast platters and helped choose the items to go on them. 
  • I watched the Fresh Beat Band with Ember. She helped me to do some cleaning. 
  • The kids did their chores. 
  • They made goodbye gifts for my brother's ex-girlfriend who is moving to Germany in a few days. She came over to say goodbye and spent a good bit of the day and into evening here chatting with us. Having tea and dinner with us. We learned how horses get flown from place to place, the type of set up, the quarantine procedure, etc. It was all very interesting. Holy smokes it's costing her over 11,000 to ship her horse. 
  • The older girls played with their new dolls that they picked out as birthday gifts upstairs. 
  • Ember went between watching some Hi 5 (I picked up one of their DVD sets for her since she loves the Fresh Beat band so much and this is similar in format). And sitting on my lap to cuddle with me or chat a bit and off she'd run and lay on the couch and watch TV again. She also climbed onto the couch and took a nap on her own. Her using the potty is going fantastic! She is so proud of herself. 
  • Bry took Decklin to the golf and guitar stores. They were gone quite a while and had a nice day together. They brought home treats for everyone. 
  • I went to bed around 11:30 PM. Bry was up watching TV. Ember went to bed with me. But she was not tired so kept going downstairs to use the little potty and talk to her Dad. I quickly realized that I need to bring that potty up when we go to bed for the night. Duh. 
  • Skylar had some trouble winding down and didn't get to sleep until after midnight. She is burning through her Narnia books. 
  • We did prayers and devotions and prayed for a safe trip for our friend as she leaves on her travels.  
Wednesday:
  • The kids helped me make stuffed mushrooms, bake pies, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and homemade gravy using roasted veggies. 
  • We watched a special on the History of the US and they were talking about slavery. It touched emotional cords for us. I found myself crying much through the program and explaining why I was crying to my children. Skylar is appalled that a human could ever be treated in such a cruel way. And she commented often how horrible some humans can be to others. 
  • An advertisement for a Special about the Mayflower came on so they asked if I can tape that. Skylar talked about a book she read that was fiction but talked about the Mayflower. 
  • A commercial for the movie War horse came on a few times and boy each time I burst into tears. We looked up to see if there is a book and sure enough there is. So Skylar has asked to read it. 
  • We watched an episode of Castle and talked about PTSD. 
  • The girls played Barbies a bit and restaurant. 
  • Decklin and Summer played Star Wars on the Wii. 

Monday

Skylar asked for a breakfast platter for everyone so I made one up for the kids to share.

Monday was my bi-weekly shopping trip and this time Skylar was to be my partner in crime. She was excited to pick out the foods for our platter meals.
We didn't realize how busy it was going to be out but every store was packed. But we still had fun. We had lunch out together. At one point, Skylar asked why I was so nice.  I was wondering what I did different that made her comment about niceness. She went on to say that every time we go out to a store. If someone has only a few items I let them go ahead of us. It's not even something I think about, it's just automatic really so when she commented I had to think about why I do that. I thought it was nice that she noticed and appreciated that. She said it was nice the way the people were always so happy just by a simple gesture.
On our way home we picked ourselves up a dunkin donuts decaf coffee. Which was a disappointment because they didn't stir the sugar. Why on why didn't they stir the sugar. And since we were driving and had nothing to stir with, we just had to be patient and wait until we got home to stir our coffee.


  • While Skylar and I were shopping. Bry took the other kids for a nice long walk an and then made them lunch. They played some board games.
  • The house was a bit messy when I came in and Bry apologized for not doing any cleaning (he usuallly does the dishes and tidies up the kitchen when I'm grocery shopping). I'd rather he enjoys the kids than worries about a mess. : ) So I was happy they had some fun. 
  • The girls played Barbies.
  • Skylar and I went to church. It was a wonderful service! It was about monsters. Yes monsters. And this week's monster was Frankenstein. Skylar wants to read the book. She said it was wonderful the way the Pastor told the story. At the end of the service they told us about a toy drive they are doing. It's for children at a local public school located in the lowest income part of town. They do not get any gifts for Christmas. Our church had sponsored the 3rd grade students and would like to give them two presents each. They told us they preferred we pick up card games, puzzles or board games. Things the kids could share with their siblings or parents in play. After service we went and shopped for about 17 items and then came home and gift wrapped them. Skylar said it made her feel good to be able to do something nice for a child that would otherwise not have a toy for Christmas. 
  • We told the rest of the family about the service when we got home. And as is part of our family routine, we did prayers and devotions together. 
  • The kids played. Bry and I talked about unschooling and how he was feeling about it. And if he had a feeling one way or another. We talked about deschooling especially as it relates to us as the parents. And he said though it's odd to get used to. He totally trusts me to do what is right for the kids. We also talked about goals we have as parents. And agreed to keep each other accountable on them. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday

Today we tried the food platter idea that I read about on Demanding Euphoria. I love the idea of letting kids choose foods and eating when they are hungry. I eat when I'm hungry and letting kids do the same seems a great suggestion. I used to love to eat things like cheese, crackers and grapes or from a selection of veggies and dip or shrimp butter and bread cubes in my teens and into adulthood before I had children. Many nights before we had kids Bry and I would have things like a huge nacho dip for dinner.
: )

I originally wasn't going to be here for lunch so I thought I'd put something together so Bry wouldn't have to worry about making lunch for the kids. And since I had just been on her blog of course a platter seemed to be something great to try.
On the lunch platter they had almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, non GMO whole grain crackers, organic tortilla chips, organic chocolate chips, non GMO cheese cubed, organic chicken cubes, and orange smilies. They asked for seconds on some items.

Later in the day for a snack, I put out some banana bread on a platter for anyone that was hungry.

I made chicken in the crockpot with sweet potatoes but none of the kids seemed amped up to try it.  I went ahead and put a platter together for them and they were happy to give that a try.
On the dinner platter they had finger sandwiches of PB & Organic grape jelly on whole wheat non GMO bread, Organic chicken and non GMO cheese on whole wheat non GMO bread, olives, baby pickled corn, celery with Peanut butter, banana bread, raisins and cranberries and sliced up organic apples. I used cookie cutters to make the mini sandwiches.
Again everything went and the kids said they were happily full.
What I found most interesting about this was that Skylar who has always been a picky eater was thrilled to sit and have a choice of items. And she ate the little sandwiches because she said they were just to cute not to eat them.
Meal time has been a struggle with her many times. And today was just so easy, so effortless meal wise. No one complained, everyone ate happily.
Skylar ate fruits today and veggies. I was so thrilled with that!
Another nice plus was the lack of tons of dishes needing washing after meals.

So let's see, what was the rest of the day like:

  • I did the girls morning routines for them while they were sleeping. I seemed to be in a cleaning mood today so I ran with it. 
  • They played a lot with Barbies, balloons and beans (we have tons of dry beans in containers that they play with - not that we eat, but just for sorting, etc.). They played restaurant. And we played Cook Wars together on the Wii. That is a great family game. We have a lot of fun with that one. (this game also had math problems in it). 
  • The girls made suggestions of foods they'd like to eat this week. And helped me plan our Thanksgiving meal. 
  • Decklin played a balloon game with Bry. 
  • We had tea. 
  • Skylar read some of the Narnia series. 
  • The kids watched some Nick Jr while eating. 

I stumbled across a fantastic blog

It's called Demand Euphoria. Though she's no longer blogging. She has some wonderful writings on her blog.

Here are some of my favorites:
Did you Kiss Your Baby with that Mouth?
Ten steps to kinder gentler parenting
Ten ways to confuse a child
Ten more ways to confuse a child 
And I love her beautiful platters that her kids eat from (I used to do something similar for Skylar using an ice cube tray when she was my only. And she would just nibble on that as she wished). This blog has inspired me to make meals fun. Skylar and I are sitting down to make our meal plan today (she's my helper this grocery trip).

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

What we've been up to:

Wednesday:

  • Skylar and I went to pick up her birthday cake. We also grabbed a treat to share with the family after lunch on Wednesday. 
  • We tidied up the house. 
  • Decklin played Mario Cart on the Wii. 
  • Summer played Great Fairy Rescue (a new game she picked out) on her DS. 
  • We watched Cars 2 but the rented DVD froze and was not playable after a time, so that was the end of that. 
  • Skylar picked out for us to watch A Little Princess staring Shirley Temple. She read the book and I had mentioned when we went to get her cake that I thought they had a movie made from the book on Netflix. That was a really great movie. But she told us all about how it was different than the book and why she preferred the book. We talked about how the books are usually always better than the movie. 
  • Skylar took a nap. 
Thursday:
  • Happy Birthday Skylar! 
  • We sang and had birthday cake for breakfast. Then she opened her presents. 
  • My brother came over for cake and gave her a present. 
  • She talked on the phone to my parents. 
  • Earlier in the week she had spent a birthday gift card on Amazon and one of the things she picked out was a Monster High doll that she had seen in a magazine. When her new doll arrived she and the kids went and played Barbie's. My brother had given her a new doll also. 
  • We watched part of a special on the Amazon that Skylar picked out. 
  • My brother played Mario cart with the kids. 
  • We ordered Chinese food for lunch as a special surprise. 
  • Prayers and devotions. 
  • Summer watched some TV with me and the younger kids (Skylar was reading). 
  • Skylar received the Narnia gift set of books from my Mom and Dad as one of her gifts and the first night she was near done book one. 
  • I played Salon Superstar on the DS with the kids. That is a super fun game! 
  • We played Lego Star wars on the Wii. 
  • We had more cake again and then more Chinese food. 
  • Skylar stayed up to hang out with Bry when he got home. They played Sum Swamp and talked. 
Friday:
  • I read to Decklin, Summer and Ember. (Skylar was sleeping)
  • Sky and I watched the Mentalist. 
  • Decklin played with safair horses, dinosaurs, babies and fairy dolls. 
  • We tidied up. 
  • Decklin cleaned his bedroom. 
  • Em took a nap. 
  • Skylar read more in the Narnia series. 
  • The kids played Lego Stars on the Wii. 
  • We changed all the sheets, a joint effort, everyone helping. And we cleaned upstairs. 
  • Ember and I watched some Fresh Beat Band. 
  • Kids and I played some DS games together. 
  • Prayers and devotions. 
Saturday:
  • Girls did their morning routines. 
  • Bry surprised us with donuts after he dropped my brother off at the airport. 
  • I ran some errands. 
  • Kids unloaded the dishwasher without any grumbling. 
  • Played games with balloons. 
  • Decklin played with his army men in the bathroom while I took a bath. He played next to the tub on the floor. 
  • Skylar read a lot of her Narnia books. 
  • Decklin played Star wars lego game with Bry. And everyone played Mario Cart together. 
  • Decklin and Summer played some DS games. 
  • I did prayers with Ember and put her to bed early. 
  • Skylar and I brainstormed a new schedule that would work better for her sleep wise since she has medicine to take 12 hours apart and she is a night owl. So we are trying noon and midnight. 
  • We watched Cars 2 (I rented it again, not broken this time). Decklin lost interest and didn't care for it as much as Cars. 
  • Summer read to Decklin and they sat on her bed playing DS games together. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday and Tuesday

Monday:

  • We did chores. 
  • Ate some of Summer's left over birthday cake for breakfast. 
  • The girls got their hair curled while we watched The Next Iron Chef.
  • The girls got dressed in their new outfits that my Mom sent them. 
  • We went to one of our favorite restaurants and had a nice lunch/early dinner with my brother. 
  • We took some fun and silly pictures outside the restaurant. 
  • Skylar, Summer and Decklin tried a new steak dish, poblano chicken enchiladas and green corn tamales. 
  • We had homemade ice cream for dessert. 
  • When we came home the kids played for a bit. And then got ready for church. 
  • We went to church with my brother. 
  • Did family prayers and devotions and talked about the church sermon. 
  • The older girls played Queens and Deck Played Mario Cart. 
  • Skylar read A Little Princess. 
  • Summer played Cheer We Go and Wedding Dash on her DS. 
  • Summer woke up at 5:30 AM unable to sleep and watched some Nick Jr until she fell back to sleep. 
Tuesday:
  • We did prayers as a family before Bry left for work.
  • Had a family brunch.
  • Did chores and Ember watched the Fresh Beat Band. 
  • Watched Arthur (which I don't care for) and Curious George
  • Had some snacks
  • They played Queens
  • Summer received some of her birthday gifts that she spent a gift card on at Amazon. One of the items was The Great Fairy Rescue for her DS. Which she played for a bit. 
  • Skylar did some shopping on Amazon to spend her gift card (with help of course). She picked out a neat DS game called My House or Our house where you get to design your own house. She loves the show Property Brothers so this seemed like a fun game for her interests in houses and home design. 
  • The 3 younger kids played with the Handwriting without tears roll a dough set I had dug out of a box and put on the shelf in the family room. (Of course when I dug it out the dough that came with it fell and broke all over the garage, grrrr.) But I added some non hardening modeling clay for them to use. 
  • I read Ember and Decklin some of the Eloise Wilkin Stories and Go Dog Go.
  • Skylar read Cinderella to Ember. 
  • We read Devotions. 
  • Skylar, Summer and I stayed up late talking. 
  • Ember did a great job on the potty all day long! Yay Ember! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday:

  • Summer and Decklin played Mario Cart, Cars and We Cheer.
  • Summer went with Bry to pick up her birthday cake. They also went to Petsmart and looked at the animals. 
  • Summer shopped with me on Amazon spending a gift card she received. She budgeted her money and spent accordingly. 
  • The kids went for a walk with Bry. 
  • We cleaned the house / did our daily routines. 
  • Skylar also shopped on Amazon spending a gift card she received. She made a lot of comments on what she felt was to much for an item and what she felt was reasonable. 
  • We found a Caterpillar, held it gently and everyone gave it a gentle pet. Skylar suggested with take a picture so we could figure out what it was. We tried to do that last night but so far no luck.
  • Skylar finished reading The Secret Garden and is now reading A Little Princess. 
  • We did family prayers. 
Sunday:
Happy Birthday Summer!!!
  • We made funnel cake for breakfast. 
  • Decklin and Summer played Mario Cart on the Wii. 
  • Summer opened her presents. My brother came over and my parents watched her open gifts via facetime on his Ipad. 
  • The girls played Barbies (Summer got a new one she wanted to play with). Decklin played Mario cart instead. 
  • We made Shrinky dink jewelry and shrinky dink insects. 
  • Did a quick clean up. 
  • My brother joined us for dinner and after we had birthday cake. 
  • The kids and I played a new game Summer received for Wii, called Cook Wars. We had a lot of fun. 
  • They watched a kids movie and played gift shop. 
  • We read a new book Decklin received by Ken Ham called Dinosaurs for Kids. Decklin especially loved this book. As soon as he opened it he got out his little dinosaurs and started matching them up to the book. I read the book to myself cover to cover. It was a real page turner. 
  • The little ones sat at the table and used fancy craft scissors to cut paper. This is one of their favorite things lately. 
  • Skylar read in bed and played a new DS game Summer received. 
  • Summer played one of her new DS games and read one of her new Magic Treehouse books. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday and Friday

Thursday:
  • Kids played with their wooden castles and playmobil people. 
  • Played cars on the Wii. Decklin is getting great at steering around the track. 
  • Played with Safari insects (these are toys : )
  • Summer and Ember separated toy gourds (that I picked up at the dollar store) into baking cups. 
  • Did their chores. 
  • The older girls wrote to penpals and Great Grandmom.
  • Decklin and Ember built with legos.
  • We played with the smack talk app on my Iphone. 
  • Skylar read Ember a story. And on her own she read The Secret Garden. 
  • Summer read Decklin a story.
  • We did family prayers and devotions. 
  • After the littles went to sleep the girls and I played Uno for a while and then watched the Iron Chef Halloween special (Summer fell asleep while we were watching this). Bry stopped home during his lunch to chat with us a bit which was a nice surprise. 
Friday:
  • Skylar helped me do some holiday shopping for Summer and Decklin. And helped me look through catalogs of things they told her they liked. She helped me gift wrap Summer's birthday gifts. She read The Secret Garden. 
  • Summer helped me wrap Skylar's birthday gifts and did essentially all the wrapping on her own.  Ember helped by handing Summer tape strips. 
  • After we wrapped presents they made a treasure map out of some of the paper and a telescope out of the empty roll.
  • Summer read to the little ones while they took a bath. 
  • Summer and Decklin played Cars on the Wii and actual little hot wheels cars. 
  • I brought home some Potato head toys that I grabbed on sale today. So they played with those for a while. 
  • The girls changed their sheets and helped take the sheets off the beds of the little ones. And we did 
  • Ember cut up paper scraps. 
  • The kids watched Sid the Science Kid and Word World. 
  • Decklin looked at The Bug Book and played dinosaurs at the table. 
  • Decklin and Ember played trains. Ember cleaned up the trains all by herself. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday

Today we:
  • Watched Chopped over breakfast. 
  • The kids played some Wii Games.
  • We did some cleaning and laundry. 
  • The kids made some paper dolls.
  • They played police and bad guys. 
  • Hide and seek and some other games. 
  • Read and/or looked at books. 
  • Looked at a book all about bugs all together with the older kids reading to the little ones. 
  • Prayers and devotions. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Birthday week is approaching

We have a birthday week celebration for Skylar and Summer. Their birthdays are just 5 days apart. So it's usually a week where we do fun things.
This year is a bit different since we are not schooling as we had been and instead of days off, it's more a continuation of our regular days with special birthday things thrown in for celebration.

I picked up some fun craft stuff for their actual birthday's since they each like crafting so much. We are going out to a family lunch to celebrate for them on Monday the 14th.
On Summer's birthday I picked up some Shrinky dink jewelry kits for us to do. For Skylar's we are going to make paper bead jewelry. Bry will be home for Summer's birthday but not for Skylar's which falls on his workday.
We might do so some clay stuff on Summer's birthday too since Bry will be home for that.
Summer requested a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. And Skylar asked for a bundt cake, red velvet with cream cheese frosting.

I downloaded Summer this Happy Birthday song (which you can download for free if they have your Child's name). That should be a fun way to wake up : ).
For Skylar I downloaded her the birthday song by Captain Zoom. I had that as a little kid (it was a little thin tiny plastic record that you put quarters on) and loved listening to it. Again should be something funny to wake up to. I put both songs on my Iphone in my Ipod.  I didn't want to get the kids the same song because that would kind of take away from it I think.

Birthday week is always a good time. : )

Tuesday

Today we:
  • Watched some specials on King Tut, Nefertiti and an the Giant Python. 
  • Played We Cheer and Cars (we just got a replacement remote for the Wii for one that was lost in the great unknown. I'm sure will turn up now that it's been replaced). 
  • Built with pattern blocks at the table. 
  • Decklin played with his little dinosaurs. 
  • Had some discussions about they varying types of berries that sprang from the kids eating grapes with lunch. (which they were pretending were berries)
  • We did family devotions and prayers. 
  • Skylar shared with us more she has learned about ants. 
  • We did family chores. The girls cleaned their room and the loft and brought laundry down for washing. 
  • Played with paper dolls. 
  • Skylar read in bed. 

101 Reasons Why I'm an Unschooler

The book 101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler by PS Pirro.
I read this in a day on my kindle but it comes as a regular book also. It's set up as the title describes. With 101 reasons broken down in easy to read number format of why the author opted to unschool her children. She has a blog which can be found here.
I think that anyone with kids in traditional school system or who would like to unschool or homeschool in any fashion, would find great insight in this book. The lay out is just very reader friendly.
She is very upfront in the intro that this book details her specific reasons for unschooling. Readers may or may not feel a kinship to all her reasons.


Some of the things I jotted down from this book which I found especially interesting:

Reason 34:
Learning is a natural process. What we gravitate toward is a function of our native curiosity. We keep on learning as long as we remain curious.

"School" undermines native curiosity when it privileges it's own curriculum and timetable over the interests and desires of the student. The message being, the subject of their curiosity is less important than the programmed lesson of the day.

Reason 35:
For a choice to be truly free, one must always be able to refuse to choose. If you can't opt out, it's coercion not choice.

Reason #37:
No one outside of school reads textbooks. People outside of school read real books.

And here are additional notes I took while reading:
  • Unschooling puts the responsibility for creating a satisfying life squarely where it belongs, in the hands of the one living it. 
  • Living differently always requires more thought than living just like everyone else. (this has to be one of my most favorite quotes!)
  • Conventional thinking assumes there is a time and a place for learning. Unschoolers know that learning happens always and everywhere. She goes on to say..... Conventional thinkers assume children must be forced to learn. Unschoolers know that children are unstoppable learners all on their own.
  • She even talks about some famous unschoolers which I found interesting. 
Definitely a book I'd recommend. Not a how to book but if you want a quick read to ignite your interest in unschooling it's a good one to get you started.

    The unschooling Handbook

    I just finished re-reading The Unschooling Handbook by Author Mary Griffith. I read it the first time a few months back but sort of in a skimming fashion, not a true sit and really absorb the material. So after having read it "the right way" verses skimming. I have to say, what a fantastic book! Anything I've wondered about unschooling has clearly been covered in this book. For anyone else looking into unschooling I highly recommend it. If you wondered how an older child could unschool, she covers it. If you wondered how do you know they are learning, she covers that too. Definitely a great book to add to a homeschool Mom's library.

    The book covers:

    • What is unschooling and how it effectively works. 
    • Resources (some great tips in this book, I even found a great series of books I'd not heard of before to add to our library for Skylar). But there is great reading suggestions for Mom and Dad too. 
    • Having a home with TV or No TV. 
    • How can you tell if they are learning via unschooling. 
    • Examples of unschoolers days, sort of like their typical days. And a bit on how to document if you have a state that requires documentation. Information was shared by 34 unschooling families. Even those with strict state reporting.  
    • How things like reading, writing, math, science, history and the Arts are learned by unschoolers. 
    • Changes as the kids grow older, lots of high schoolers are unschooled. 
    • It has tidbits from unschooled kids shared through out which are always interesting to read. 
    • Coping with doubts and challenges as the unschooling parent. Sort of like when you let any doubt creep in an question yourself, or well well meaning folks make you second guess yourself. 

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Monday

    • Today was a grocery shopping day. It was Summer's turn to accompany me. We got sushi for lunch and she picked out some treats to bring home. And we chit chatted along the way. She was curious about Japan and we talked about that a bit. She did the check out with the self scan at one of the grocery stores in our travels. We looked at some toys in one of the stores and she gave me feedback on what she thought the other kids would enjoy and what she would enjoy. 
    • While Summer and I were shopping, Bry cleaned the house, did the dishes, vacuumed up and downstairs and the steps. He watched some dinosaur programs with the other kids and they chit chatted. And the kids played at the little tikes table with some of the items from the shelf in the family room, like the pattern blocks, dinosaurs, frog counters, etc. (If the items are in sight they get used often and switching the items on the shelf from time to time keeps things new). 
    • When we came back from the store the kids helped me unload the groceries. 
    • Ember is potty training herself so Bry said she did great with that while I was gone. (She treats herself to GMO free licorice after she uses the potty or a few organic chocolate chips). 
    • We watched Hocus Pocus tonight. Then after dinner we went to church with my brother. 
    • After church we came home did family prayers and then had dessert. The kids went to play together for a bit before going to bed. 
    • Skylar's reading pattern is pretty consistent each night; her bible, devotions, prayer journal, and some of the Robinson books. 

    A lovely Sunday

    Today was a crisp cool fall day. Bry went golfing until early evening. The kids and I stayed inside and enjoyed the day. The kids spent almost the entire day in the family room with me.
    What we did today:

    • Watched some Noggin.
    • Some of the kids played with a farm set on the family room floor. 
    • All the kids tried on Christmas outfits my parents sent them. 
    • The older girls went shopping with my Mom long distance over the internet picking out winter coats that they liked. Technology makes it so fun to be able to do things like this (smile). 
    • The older girls made jewelry from a kit we had on the shelf. 
    • Decklin and Ember painted magnets from a kit. And then they used bingo markers to paint pictures and to stamp on their art aprons. 
    • Decklin used the markers after painting as action figures and had a grand old time doing that. 
    • We watched a few shows on Green Planet called Pre-historic. Which sprung into some conversations and observations and play. 
    • They advertised some shows that are about Jesus coming up on Tuesday and Summer and Skylar asked if we could watch them. I set the DVR to tape them. 
    • The older girls used some pattern blocks (you know those ones in varying shapes like the ones that come with a Saxon math kit). They built all kinds of neat things with them. 
    • Because we were watching Dinosaurs on TV one of the kids grabbed Decklin his safari toob of Dinosaurs and he used those to attack the playmobil people the girls were using. 
    • We watched the next Iron Chef show that has a lot of our favorite chefs on it. 
    • The older three played memory with Dad while I put Ember to bed. 
    • We did family prayers. 
    • Skylar read her bible, devotions, a few other books she had placed on her bed for evening reading. 
    • Monday is Summer's day out with me grocery shopping and having lunch so she wanted to go to sleep early. 

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    So what's been doing

    Things are going really well. I knew going into this that it was me that needed to change not my kids. Change my way of thinking that is. I've just been immersing myself in reading about unschooling and learning a lot.

    Over here, it's daily life as usual really. Some days look just like play, other days may seem to have things shout out "educationese" than others,  like crafting, and writing. It may be boring for anyone following along, seeing our days tend to look the same.
    Things that are still covered are reading, writing and math, just maybe not everyday and maybe not in a traditional sense.

    • Today the girls wrote to some family members. Summer loves making paper dolls so she made one to send along to Great Grandmom with her letter. We talked about a game she wants to make for Ember out of paper dolls which is a matching by color game. She'd like to do that for her for Christmas.
    • Skylar wrote a letter also and is looking at catalogs right now of games and crafts, etc.  She's still been reading a ton of the Robinson books. She really just loves those. We looked up some information because of questions she had about some of the world wars as it related to specific countries. (She learned about the wars from reading her enjoyable books). 
    • We watched some TV together. 
    • Played some Think Fun games (which are some of the coolest games). 
    • We looked at some catalogs that came in the mail. One was full of all types of neat kits so the girls took time marking things that interested them. Skylar wants to get some rock and gem kits. And Summer wants some things that relate to fashion design.