Saturday, October 31, 2009

HOME school???

In our family, we usually say that we "unschool" or "learn naturally" or some other term....really, anything other than HOME schooling works for me. To me, as I've posted before, homeschooling implies sitting at a table at home and doing predetermined curriculum. For me, this is NOT the point of keeping my children out of school. I want them to live in this be a part of it...rather than learning about it from textbooks in or out of school! So, here is a little taste of our living and learning from the last week or so. Enjoy!

Looking for Wooly Bear caterpillars in the garden!

We spot a caterpillar!

Doing pumpkin activities with friends!

Hanging out at historical Valley Forge park. We attended a fabulous homeschool day there! We are so lucky to live in this very beautiful and historical area.

Valley Forge!

Climbing on a cannon at Valley Forge!

Leah playing her new "Penny Whistle" that she bought at VF.

Maddie creating a beautiful fairy home in the woods behind our house.

A fairy home created by our wonderful neighbor, Leslee. We helped adorn it with berries from the woods.

I feel so lucky to spend every day with my children! It is a wonderful journey. And, what a contrast to September....a month of missing Maddie daily and wondering what she was up to, a month of carting her back and forth to school and living by the clock, a month of being disgusted by what she was learning and how she was learning it. Enough of the negative! Our life is so positive! I love exploring this beautiful world with my family! Unschooling rocks!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Little John Holt Inspiration....

"Among the many things I have learned about children, learned by many, many years of hanging out with them, watching carefully what they do, and thinking about it, is that children are natural learners."
--John Holt "Learning All the Time"

Leah having a ball at the park! I was thinking about all of the parks that we spend time at throughout the year. As a child, we didn't go to a lot of parks, though I have great parents who took us lots of wonderful places. Upon thinking about it more, I realized that we probably didn't do the park thing because we were in school so much of the time. And, the playground at school is the one that I remember most.

I'm so glad that my kids have the joy of comparing parks. Today, when we arrived at our weekly park day, the kids exclaimed, "Oh, this is my FAVORITE park!" Cool!

Maddie writing down all kinds of information related to her "My Little Ponies." It's amazing how much my children write.....I believe because they are never forced to. Today, Maddie and Amelia wrote SO MUCH! And, all of it was important to them. In the words of Maddie today, "If you give her a Bath Make Shur that you do not get too much watar on her" (writing about Fluttershy).

Ben has been creating AMAZING castles lately! They are very beautiful and almost completely (or completely) symmetrical. What a wonderful way to "learn" about this important mathematical concept. And, so much more fun and natural than circling the symmetrical object on a worksheet. Go Ben!

Amelia reading a library book at our kitchen table. Reading is such a natural part of our day. It is also my favorite part of the day. In particular, I love reading before bed (with a flashlight) in my childrens' room. What a magical time and what adventures we go on! In the last month alone, we have been on the prairie for the book, "Skylark," and to England for a special book called, "Mandy." Now, we are traveling back to WWII with Molly, one of the American Girls.

Yesterday, as the kids and I were waiting for Maddie's tap class to be finished, we watched a 1st grader reading to his mom. Actually, he was reading in order to get an assignment done.....30 minutes of reading each night (ok, I was eavesdropping a's a small room, really!). So, the mom was typing something into her cell phone (oh, I can't stand this!) and he was "reading." Can that really be called reading??? Being forced to read something! Reading is wonderful, magical, an adventure....why should it be forced???? UGH!!!! I'm again so glad to have my children away from school, where they force kids to read! (enough of that soap box)

Let's finish with something positive from one of my favs....John Holt!

"Children learn from anything and everything they see. They learn wherever they are, not just in special learning places. They learn much more from things, natural or made, that are real and significant in the world in their own right and not just made in order to help children learn.........We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions.....and helping them explore the things they are most interested in."

--John Holt "Learning All the Time"

Rock on, John!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness...pass it on!

On the Radical Unschooling yahoo group, Dayna Martin mentioned that her family was trying to intentionally practice "Random Acts of Kindness." This inspired me to have a conversation with my young people and see what they thought. They were excited immediately! In the last few days, this has led to so much awareness of the beauty in others and the kindness that so many others bestow upon our family. Here is a partial list of the kindnesses that I have witnessed in the last few days....

*Maddie, Amelia, and Ben wrote letters to Bubbi (my grandmom who is fairly lonely), GG (my other grandmom) and my mom and dad. All were meant to pick up the spirits of those who will receive them!

*Wel brought pumpkins and warm apple cider to park day to share with us all. Thanks, Wel! This inspired Amelia to want to bake cookies to bring to park day next week. Pass it on...

*Leslee, our wonderful next door neighbor, arranged for the children and I to visit her friend, Jenny today. Jenny has chickens, sheep, a greenhouse, and many other wonderful things to share on her homestead. What a wonderful time chasing the black kitten, feeding the chickens, gathering eggs and Nasturtium seeds, touring the greenhouse, seeing the beehives, ......

*Last week, Leslee, who just retired from working in a school, took a few hours to really show the children and me around her property. She took so much time explaining so many wonderful things and we learned so much. She also said that we were welcome to roam around her meadow and woods whenever we wanted. Her passion for nature inspired us to create fairy homes for the rest of the afternoon!

*Amelia is having a bike rally to raise money for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). She created a flyer on the computer and wanted to make copies of it to distribute around our area. The man at the copy store this afternoon made her 50 copies at no charge because he thought it was amazing of her to do this, and he wanted to support her!

*Mike, my wonderful husband, who was always a doubter of unschooling (until Maddie and Amelia actually went to school) left me a fabulous, positive comment on my last post supporting our unschooling ways. Yeah!

Kindness is everywhere! And, when you start to really notice it, life becomes even more beautiful!

We are Back!

We are back! Back to "unschooling," back to living out our passions day after day, back to living together in joy, back to spending our days together....back to OUR basics.

After sending Maddie and Amelia to school this year, I quickly realized that I had made a mistake. No, I take that back. It wasn't a mistake. I had to see for myself what school would be like for them. Yet, it was full of all the things that I no longer believe in.....learning that is not meaningful, extrinsic rewards, a condescending attitude towards children (not that I ever believed in that), living our day by the clock (when to take and pick up), and a clear lack of FREEDOM, in every sense of the word.

It clearly was not the right place for my children!

So, now we are back to living each day filled with all of the important stuff of life........

Hours at the library finding treasures, followed by lots of reading!

Science experiments at the table totally thought up by Amelia! Testing to see what liquids will make pennies shine the most. Ben and Leah are in the background experimenting with their favorite....baking soda and vinegar. Volcano, anyone??? :)

Creating fairy homes in our yard on a beautiful autumn day. Enjoying nature!

Maddie's natural enthusiasm as she is explaining to me about a new project that she wants to try. She read about this in a book.....she is going to send a small stuffed animal to a pen pal in Maine who will then send it on to someone else, all the time writing about the animal's adventures. Cool!

My feet are now back on the ground. I feel confident knowing that I am doing the best thing for my children by keeping them home...... No, not home, but in the world.....EXPLORING our world everyday!