Friday, October 28, 2011


I read somewhere yesterday on an unschooling site that unschooling does not have to mean no schedule. I think a lot of people, myself included, tend to assume that it meant an entirely free flowing day. But what it really means is that there is no scheduled Math time, Spelling time, Reading time, type of break down to the child's day. The belief is that the child is learning all the time. And not through traditional methods. It doesn't mean a child won't use a math book. But if they are, it's because they enjoy it and wish to use it.

Last night the girls and I talked about just a few key things of what they did yesterday.
These key words:
I read, I wrote, I cleaned, I created, I would like. And asked them in a casual non quiz conversational type of way about each.

Skylar (9):
I Read: Rainbow Valley and the words on the Hoarders show
I wrote: Card for Great Grandmom
I created: The card using stamps
I cleaned: Up the stamps (and did my chores)
I would like to: Learn to make friendship bracelets

For Summer (7)
I Read: Dark Day in the Deep Sea. Wii games: Baby game, Cooking Mama & We Cheer
I wrote: A card for Grandmother
I created: With stamps
I cleaned: I did my chores
I would like to:  Buy More Magic Treehouse books

This was a nice help to see what they might be interested in doing so I can make sure I can provide it / am providing it. Be that more Magic Treehouse books or a Friendship bracelet making kit. It's sort of like asking them their goals for the day but in a different approach. I knew they read while watching the show or playing the games since I knew reading was required. The reading they told me about was the books.

  • Today Skylar received a book on Ants from Amazon. I had ordered it for her b-day but it was a used copy and I was not happy with the condition in which it arrived so opted to offer it to her early. We cleaned the library cover and she dove right in. She read several chapters and looked up at me. And said, "Mom this is a great book". And while the other kids went to play later she opted to sit on the swings outside in the quiet and read. When she came in she told me all about what she read. I asked her on the fly if she wrote today. She giggled and said, can I write what I did today. Hey writing is writing : ). 
  • We did a lot of cleaning today. We had gotten behind over the week with our household tasks. Bry was snoring something awful so my sleep was not restful and the last thing I wanted to do was run around cleaning when I felt like I was running on fumes. So we all did the top floor and then after lunch we all did the bottom floor. 
  • The girls asked if they could pack away their summer clothes. We all hung out in their room while they did that. I helped them fold and re-arrange drawers. They played a sock match game. And we listened to some music (I sang, they giggled). We talked about a new person on The Fresh Beat Band TV show. So we looked up what happened to the former Marina. And they told me how they felt about the new one (not fond of her). That led into them wanting to know how old those actors are so we looked that up. And they thought it was comical that a person as old as my brother would be playing a guy named Twist or Shout on TV. 
  • We put a different kids table in our family room (where a coffee table would go for most families). They played there for quite a while with some of the "educational" stuff I have set up for the littles in cubbies in the family room. 
  • They watched the Backyardigans and I think one episode of the Fresh Beat Band but that's about all the TV they did today. No one really picked up a DS, Leapster or Iphone. Decklin like's playing his leapster before bed until he falls asleep. He is being given his own DS for either Christmas or birthday from my parents. 
  • Right now as I am typing, I hear them playing box ball. Using a box and a little basketball to play. 
  • I made some popcorn and they ate that in the loft while watching a Nick Jr show. 
  • Ember grabbed Green Eggs and Ham that she was planning to look at. I offered to read to her which made her happy. She loves her stories. We read the book together (she knows many of the words). She's two. And we read Goodnight Gorilla.   

So that was the bones of our day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Learning little snippets

As I go I am picking up little snippets that seem to be very informative:

  • The deschooling will take as long as it will take. If that means more TV watching, more video games, and days that look like just play, it's all part of the process. They won't want to watch TV all day over time. I'm reminded of a living example we had, when all the kids caught a pretty nasty cold, but passed it one at a time. They relaxed in front of the TV for a few days with pillows and blankets. But one by one each of them said eventually, gosh I am so sick of TV already. : ) The novelty of more TV access will wear off.                                                                          
Even though the kids haven't been in traditional school, they were still used to us having school in some fashion. Though the past year was just an hour requirement, it was a requirement I put on them, not all of it stuff they would have been drawn to if I gave them a choice of if/when or not at all.
    • Differences in the types of unschooling: This was good to come across because I needed some further explanation about it. So unschooling is joyful learning. Radical unschooling is joyful living and learning. So radical is a whole life approach. There are unschoolers who still have their kids do set chores, bedtimes, etc. And tend to confine free exploration and discovery to academics. Radical unschoolers extend unschooling principles into parenting. 

    What brought us to unschooling

    I've been a part of homeschool forums online for many years now. I have always enjoyed learning and sharing with other homeschoolers despite the differences in our homeschooling methods. Over time I have begun to feel less able to relate to curriculum switches and conversations about what to use for what subject. Not that I have any judgement one way or another on how anyone else homeschools of course. But I know I have changed over time. I remember when we first decided to homeschool. I was good with the laws but I had no idea what to cover or how to cover it, mind you my child was two at the time. Present time me would say "Lady you are crazy for thinking of what you need to cover with a two year old." But past time me was all new to it and felt I needed something for everything. I found a good compromise by using Sonlight. It was cuddle up and read (but covered all the "subjects" I was worried over). Present time me would not make the same purchase. As the years have gone by I feel more confident in marching to our own drummer. So much so that I have tossed any type of English/Language Arts off our radar. They will learn what they learn as they need to. I long ago tossed the "history" and "science" requirements out of here. As I'm feeling very confident that they've gotten all that from reading and exploring. A very natural progression seems to be pulling me toward an unschooling frame of mind.

    This is not a radical overnight change but a gradual change over the years.  

    There have been a few things I have yet to be able to fully change my thinking on and some I've always done just what felt right. 

    Bible ~
    God's word is really at the top of my list of knowledge I feel compelled to share with my children but the approach I use is not as in a "bible curriculum" it's treasured times as a family. Ways in which we do this: Through conversations about how to put the sermon from church into practice in our lives. We love attending church together. It is something we all look forward to very much. Our church is like a party, a celebration of God and our faith in him. We download songs the band plays into our Itunes library so we can rock out to the songs at home and when we zip around town. The kids play church at home, our Pastor really is easy for the kids to connect with. We bake for our local police officers (who are co-workers of my husband). We read Jesus Calling together and have family prayer time. We read a fun animal devotion book which makes the kids want to look up the animals we read about on you tube after we're done reading. Then we have fun doing that as long as they wish. Animals we find always turn up others they want to investigate so we tend to really spend a good bit of time having fun with this. We have a prayer journal that the kids are free to fill in or not. And we take family walks and spend time in the backyard admiring God's creation. Watching the ants he made, smelling the roses in our back yard, gathering leaves, observing all kinds of little critters.
    We make donations to causes that have special meaning to us. 

    ~ Grammar, Spelling, vocabulary ~
    I have not covered these with my kids. Just what they get they get has been my line of thinking. From what they read, to when they write, to others they hear speak.

    Now here are the areas I need to unplug from traditional thinking: 

    ~ Math ~ 
    As a non mathy person this is the area that really has been hard for me to sit back and watch happen on it's own. Skylar was using Life Of Fred but she's come to a point where she feels it's boring her. My first thought was, well to bad, plug on because you need to have math. But then I was thinking um... really.... but why should I make her plug on when she's feeling this way about it. Summer was loving a math workbook. But she said now she doesn't like it. Again my feeling was, to bad, plug on.
    But I've found myself looking at all the fun things that encompass math around our house without it being something I pre-plan and put on the "schedule" or force. That has been a huge confidence booster, allowing me to say to them, to set it aside and that I'd leave it on the shelf if they want it again. If not, no big deal. This is huge for me, quaking in my boots huge because math scares me LOL. Maybe it's hearing so many say, "they need to have those facts down pat or they will never be able to do x,y and z really has done a number on me. Regardless I'm committed to not making my hang ups my kids hang ups.

    ~ Writing ~
    I always ask my children to write because I felt that, free writing is the best way to become good at writing. But free writing is not quite accurate as I haven't sat back and given them the choice of writing or not writing, only of what they write. So cross Mom requested writing off the list. And my new attitude is write if you want or when a situation calls for it (like when helping write the menu plan or grocery list, or responding to a penpal letter, writing a thank you note, etc.)

    ~ Reading ~
    I have a list of reading that I wanted my kids to work through based on the Robinson curriculum, in their own timetable of course. I have required at least a half hour per day of them reading. Skylar loves to read, so her reading time is bliss and she does it long after the rest of the house has drifted off to dream land. Summer is just not a fan lately. She's the one always asking, "Is 30 minutes up yet?".  We have tons of books and magazines. Over 600 free books on the kids kindles. If they want to read them, they are there. They read during board games, Wii games, DS games, Iphone app games, when penpals or family writes to them, when we are driving about the city, and a host of other times reading just pops up in the course of life. So in this light, I'm just not going to force the issue with Summer. She wants to read more beyond what she does, great, if not, I'm okay with that. I am going to be taking the "strewing" it about attitude as I think this will be nice for her. I'm thinking she might enjoy comic books so I thought I'd pick some up. If she wants to read them great, if not, no biggie, I know someone else in the house will get joy from them if she doesn't (my son or myself of course would enjoy them : ). She loves Magic Treehouse so I'm on a mission to collect the rest of the books she has expressed wishing to own from the series and maybe another series I came across that is similar in the writing style that appeals to her but Christian based. 
    With Skylar, her thirst for reading amazes me. She has told me reading is her true joy, her passion (she is 9 as I write this). She spent money she was gifted to buy three Ruth Fielding books that we could not find free for her kindle. She said the expense was worth it because she had to know what happened to Ruth. : )

    Today the girls and I talked about "no school" for the next few weeks. I explained to them that they didn't have to pull out their schedule and do the check off the list thing, no Life of Fred, no math workbook, no writing unless they wanted to. (Are you picturing the huge smiles that lit up their faces?  : ) I told them we don't even have to use the word school anymore if they don't want : ).  (I honestly don't know why I started using that word at home anyway?) 

    They did give me a "list" of things they plan on doing over the next week (just because they want to):

    Skylar would like to: 
    Play We Cheer
    Read, Get to the next Ann book (she's reading the Ann of Green Gables series)
    Do a puzzle
    Play some games on the Iphone
    Watch PBS kids
    Play Barbies
    Go on walks
    Write to penpals
    Play outside
    Read the bible
    Go to church 
    Write in journal 

    Summer would like to:
    Play Barbies
    Make funnel cakes
    Read Magic Treehouse books
    Play Nintendo DS and Iphone games
    Write stories
    Ride scooter 

    What are your goals for today ?

    Something I've noticed in my research is that in some unschool circles they are very vocal about things an unschooler doesn't do. Rules really for unschooling, which seem like an oxymoron to me. Anyway I think you just do what feels right. That's all I can do, what feels right for my children. It may mean keeping bedtimes and chores because that works for our family. 
    Another thing I had trouble finding was what they actually do, beyond "The kids learn what they want to learn". Some Moms need more of a starting step, something concrete to get them on their way. (um I'm some of the Moms LOL)

    I came across this FAQ at this website:  it has an article by Carol Burris called What is this thing called unschooling?  In her article Ms. Burris says she would start each day over breakfast asking her children:
    "What are your goals for today? What's the most important thing that we should get to?" That sort of sets the tone of our unschooling and of our day. What we do each day comes from the children as much as possible. "
    I think this one bit of advice is a fantastic concrete step for anyone to follow on this journey. Maybe if you're reading this and thought of unschooling, it'd be of help : ).

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Some neat reads I came across

    Last night in bed I was reading on Sandra Dodd's website.
    She is a radical unschooler. She has a fantastic website set up that covers anything under the sun.

    Here are some direct links to some great reads:
    Barbie   I loved the directions on fixing Barbie hair. How fun to do with the girls. I look forward to trying this with them soon.

    If I let him... This is a collection she put together of fallacies.

    Here is an article this one by Pam Sorooshian. It talks about how unschooling is not child led learning.

    My 4 year old's "schooling"

    This is a copy and paste from an internet forum I posted it on. I copied it and have added a few things that are more applicable since I'm posting them here on my blog. 

    Something you see online a lot is homeschoolers asking what to do with preschoolers. When I see that now I cringe a bit : ). But many years back I was the one pondering that same concern. I have learned a lot during our years homeschooling. I can see it as I look back over our years. I do not have any regrets. Everything we have or haven't done has led us right here. God has always put us where he wanted us to be. : )

    So back to Decklin. With him I have never done anything formal. I did "write up a preschool plan to use with him" but never made it past a few days of it. : ) It's here in the links on the sidebar.  He and my 2 year old, Ember,  I'd say for the most part have been unschooled all along.  This without any actual decision on my part to do that, just happened naturally, which maybe is the best way. My approach with my younger two has been completely different from when my older two were similar ages.

    Reflecting on how things have been for my younger two has helped me a lot in moving to complete unschooling. So with that in mind I'm much farther in than I originally would have thought : ). But my mind still needs to unlearn some things I'd been doing with my olders.

    So for Decklin, who will be 5 in December. 
    • I read to him some days, some days I don't. 
    • He brings me Alphaphonics some days and says "I want to learn to read Mom" and some days he doesn't. 
    •  He learned his "phonics" from playing Starfall on no specific schedule and only as he asked to use it over the past two years. 
    • We play games at least once a week. Sequence, Toy Story Yatzee and things of that nature. 
    • He plays the Wii with his big sisters on a regular basis and all types of free play, anything they come up with really. 
    • He enjoys some PBS kids shows and Nick Jr shows. We watch Shows like Top Chef, Chopped and other shows of that nature. 
    • He loves Dinosaurs from learning about them on TV and loves talking about them. So much so that we are getting him some books about them since he doesn't have any yet. 
    • He plays Iphone games, DS games and Leapster Games. 
    • He looks at piles of books and plays with the "educational" things we have set up on the shelf in our family room when he wants. I say educational in quotes because really, they are just fun things I put together for the kids to use and they learn while using them. But them being educational or not was not a priority, just that they are fun. 
    • He enjoys looking at cookbooks with rich pictures in them and plans feasts from what he sees. Big sister is a huge cookbook fan so this is something he learned from her. 
    • He loves hitting golf balls with his Dad and they do that often. He asks my husband to take him to the range or into our self made golf practice area. He likes to sit and watch golf with Dad (not sure how LOL) but he enjoys it. 
    • Our little guy has an amazing imagination, so much so that we always ask him if we can live in his imagination. He finds the odds and ends and plays with them in such creative ways. The older kids and I often stop and take notice. We can't help but  comment, about how creative he is. 
    If I had done say Sonlight with him (which is what I did with my older girls at this age), I really would not have covered things he has covered on his own out of following his own interests just living his life. More likely than not, I would have just taken time away from him doing what he was doing and gotten in his way. Don't get me wrong, Sonlight is fantastic of course : ). 

    What's new pussycat?

    Oh my goodness it's been a great few days around here.
    Things the kids and I have been doing really have been amazing. Each day that goes by I feel God whispering encouragement in my ear.

    It was a huge pain to go to another blog to post what's going on so I'm just sticking with this one. Here is a cliffs notes version of our first week unschooling.
    I don't think I said before but should say now that this was not an over night change. It has been a gradual over time progression. The Lord leads us where he wants us in his timing. I'm just happy to be wherever it is he wants me to be.

    • We had some cool discussions and hands on exploration of Gourds. Decklin learned some neat tidbits on them from PBS kids. 
    • Skylar shared her bee knowledge with us as we watched the bees on the bushes out front. 
    • We played games like Mother May I, Red Light Green Light and Simon Says.
    • We took family walks where the kids rode scooters stopping to look at bugs along the way.
    • We had a quick power outage and Decklin (4) read to us when the "please wait" message that they put up on the TV screen came back on. And then as the percentage was loaded on the screen the kids talked a bit amongst themselves about percentages and when it would work again at 100% and how much was needed to still get there (this kept changing so their responses to each other kept changing). 
    • Played some neat Iphone, Wii and DS games. 
    • Skylar read as much as she wished. 
    • Watched cooking shows, PBS and Nick Jr and some movies. 
    • Our dog was not well so the kids helped me take care of her.
    • We had some discussions about mental health issues in humans based off a show we had been watching. Proper animal care, animal abuse, etc., all came from that same show. 
    • We talked about some areas of human health comparing and contrasting differences in certain scenarios. And why people act and behave in certain ways. 
    • All the kids helped with some household things we had to take care of. 
    • We talked about varying animals while the kids played farm on the floor in the family room. They were especially interested if a person could break a zebra or not so we did some digging to find out about that. We also talked in depth about Lions and what the outcome would be of a Lion living on a farm as a cub and then as an adult. 
    • Decklin was playing with some bad guys and policemen on the floor and we talked about Dad's job and how the suspects behave. 
    • We did some holiday planning and discussed the gifts they wanted to give family members. 
    • Skylar wrote to a penpal. 
    • We talked about Sea Urchins. Skylar told us they are a kind of Starfish. We watched them being prepared on a cooking show. (ugh) : ) 
    • Over dessert one night we talked about the difference between ripe fruits and fruits that are not ripe. They did a touch and feel test of what the ripe berry verses non ripe berry felt like, looked like and tasted like. 
    • Ember watched Daddy play Guitar. 
    • We had our family prayer time, and our chit chat after as we always do.  
    • Summer and Skylar got to enjoy a late night cuddled in front of a good TV show.
    • We re-arranged furniture. 
    • I read to Ember. She has quite a sense of humor and was telling me jokes after. She and I watched a kids show that had singing and dancing and boy did she dance. So cute! And we watched Yo Gabba Gabba while she was working on her potty training. 
    • Used our Math-u-see blocks
    If you read my blog before you'll see that things like this are typical around here and I post about them from time to time. The only thing which changed was that we didn't do the 1/2 hour of seatwork and the 1/2 hour of reading. Did the kids still read? Absolutely but not because it was on a schedule.

    I think that's about the nuts and bolts of it.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Natural learning

    After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my husband. We have decided to go all in with natural learning. By all in, I mean today there will not be our usual 30 minutes of seatwork or 30 minutes of reading time for the kids that we've been doing.
    I've dabbled but still had some "control" and direction over my kids education. This really seems to be a natural evolution for us over time.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011


    I do not really use any formal grammar. We use Robinson which advocates copywork for younger children and then "essay" writing after that (which is essentially free writing).
    The combo of the copywork, reading high quality well written books and then the free writing is essentially it : ).
    But I know many folks who worry about grammar in some form or fashion and I came across these and they look like a fun way to cover grammar for those that prefer something to follow:

    The Giggly Guide to Grammar by Cathy Campbell

    Hot Fudge Monday: Tasty Ways to Teach Parts of Speech to Students Who Have a Hard Time Swallowing Anything to Do With Grammar. By Randy Larson

    Grammar Tales

    A book we have on hand here for the kids to read over is Grammar-land by M.L. Nesbitt
    (this is a free download via Gutenberg or you can buy a written copy of it through Amazon).

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Fall Nature Table


    Learning Moments

    Having the kids at home is such a huge treat for me as their mom.  It's hard to put into words how much of a blessing and true pleasure being able to homeschool them is, how effortless, natural  and comfortable home learning is for our family. To be able to share in so many special moments I'd miss otherwise is a true gift I am truly thankful for. 

    The other day we had one of those days where learning moments seemed to be jumping up and saying "take note of me". We started our day with breakfast then chores. Then the kids went outside to play and spotted some ants on the patio. All four of them sat and watched them forever. I had to watch too, as Skylar has made ants pretty much one of the most fascinating critters ever, since sharing about all she's read about them. She has us all so enthralled with them! 
    We fed them bread crumbs and watched as they began to pile up their food. A centipede shot across the patio while we were watching the ants and some friendly little pill bugs were at the party too.
    The kids picked leaves for our fall nature table and cut roses from the bushes for our dinner table.
    And no day is complete without a fun We Cheer game where even our little 2 year old is dancing around having a blast. 

    **I was just re-reading this post and to me this was a day of natural learning.