Carry Your Childhood With You.

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” –Tom Stoppard

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”

I read somewhere that one of the best workouts a new mom (to, say, a 7-9 month old) can do is lay on the floor and mimic her baby’s movements. Twisting, lifting, turning, straining, balancing, and generally flailing around is great for core muscles that have been stretched and neglected in the 9 months of pregnancy.

I remember, after I had Naturalist, the first time I realized I had no core muscle strength. I think I was trying to pull myself up from laying down by doing a sit up, and I didn’t sit up. I didn’t even sit. Or go up. I continued to lay there while willing any muscle in my abs to work even a little bit.

My arm strength had improved due to hauling around baby, carrier, diaper bag, and the other 45 pounds of stuff one needs while traveling with a newborn. My leg strength was off the charts due to endless hours walking around trying to calm down the rather restless Naturalist. But my core was sadly neglected.

I don’t think this core workout stops at physical strength, and I think mimicking our kids can give us an even bigger emotional workout.

If our core muscles need exercise to remain strong, our core happiness needs a childlike wonder to keep it going.

My goal is to jump out of bed with all the enthusiasm of my 6 year old. To become involved as deeply in something I’m interested in as my 13 year old. To play as hard and as long at something as my 10 year old does at basketball.

To do this, I have to sit back and make an effort to learn how to do this from them. Mimic their way of being. Not take myself so seriously and just go ahead and take a big flying leap off a high dive, even though it scares the crap out of me. Participate in a footrace, even though I might lose. (and I did.) Focus on the one thing in front of me instead of letting my mind wander to the 3048304598 things I’m worried about. Laugh deeply. Spaz out. Get on a bike and just ride. Eat desert before dinner every once in a while. Get some ice cream from the ice cream man.

Summer brings with it endless opportunities to let our kids share with us how to bring some of that priceless childhood back into our lives.

Advertisements

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream” Contest! and Give Away!

I am sooooo excited to welcome summer back into my life! I get a big energetic kick anytime a new season comes into town, but summer has a little extra oomph to it.

Don’t be fooled by all my beach/summerish/pool pictures I’ve been taking since moving to So. Cal. in February:

give me a sign.

Even though this may feel like an endless summer, I remember that not too long ago I was dealing with this:

simple abundance

So….welcome Summer!!!

To kick off Summer 2010, I’m holding a contest. I’ve been mulling it over ever since I declared that if my kids went to public school I’d do nothing but eat ice cream every day while they were there. And then after a poorly worded ending sentence, many of you wanted to know if I were going to pay for everyone to take a trip to Coldstone, on me. And while I can’t afford to do that, I CAN afford to get one gift certificate and send it to someone!

So here it is…the contest…

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream”
*************
In our overly standardized, hyperfocused on ‘normal’, one-size-fits-all society (*ahem*Ireallymeanpublicschool*ahem*) let’s celebrate how different and unique we all are by embracing our personal ice cream choices. Each of my kids creates such a different bowl of ice cream greatness that so totally reflects who they are! And that should be embraced and encouraged!

How boring would life be if we could only make our ice cream sundaes one way? With only pre-approved flavors and only predetermined topping combinations? And yet, that’s what our schools have become, and in so many ways that’s what our society has become. Summer is the perfect time to let loose and get a little crazy. Forget normal, forget safe, forget playing by the rules….go out there and let your kids (and yourself!) create something wild for your ice cream sundae.

Post your “recipe” as a comment here…each recipe gets one vote. Enter as many as you want! And then after the kids and I have tried each one personally, we’ll randomly select a name and send that person a Coldstone gift card. Or, if there’s no Coldstone, how about a Baskin Robbins one?

So, for example, here’s our recipes. We went to a yogurt shop (already, breaking the “ice cream” rules! But we’re unschoolers! That’s how we roll!) and Sassy put in mint yogurt with snickers, blueberries, gummi bears, and raspberries:

game-117

I did a mix of chocolate, mint, raspberry, and cheesecake yogurt topped with snickers, blueberries, raspberries, and dark chocolate fudge.

game-118

Voila! Two recipes, I’d then get two chances to win. And even more chances if I put down Naturalist and Golfer’s recipes, but they weren’t with us that day.

So there you go.

Fight “The Man”
who tells us normal is good
who brings us overstandardization
and scoffs at individuality,

By making your own ice cream sundae
However you want it,
And encouraging your kids to do the same,

Share the recipe here
and maybe win
a gift certificate
for more ice cream!

Yay for summer!

Unschooling::Not Just For Lazy People!

Guess what I love more than Junior Mints at movies?
If you said the beach, you’d be close, but wrong.
What I really love is to read the comments people post on my blog.
At first, it was because the only people who read my blog were family, and they’re always the nicest!
Then, it was friends and family, which grew to other blogging homeschoolers, friends, and family…and everyone was so nice!
Now, it’s all of that plus an added bonus of people who are not unschoolers, friends, or family…and they call it how they see it. It’s not always kind, but is always always entertaining!

For instance, Chris, aka The Book Guy wondered, after I blogged about Unschooling Myself:

So, um, the moral of the story is that it was hard, so you gave up and now have no plan. You’ve turned your children’s lives upside down, but it’s okay, because now you have less stress and aren’t as afraid? Did you do the unschooling for your childrens future’s are because you wanted to make your life easier?

So, first, I laughed and laughed. The last part…about unschooling to make my life easier?! Let me just state for the record, I’ve never worked harder than I have since unschooling.

Easier is letting a third party make decisions for my kids. Easy is sending them away somewhere for 7 hours so I get some down time. Easy is leading an unexamined life. Easy is doing things my way rather than taking time to listen and collaborate with other people. Easy is trusting someone else to provide my children with what they say will be skills for the future rather than tackling that job with my kids.

I know from experience, “easy” is telling a kid “No!” and using strict discipline to keep them in line with the rules. Harder? Ditching hard and fast rules in favor of principles, and using examples and discussions to help guide kids to self reliance and self discipline.

I guarantee that if I wanted an easier life, I would have kept them in public school! Sometimes, I think about what my life would look like if I’d done so. They would all be away from me for 8 hours a day–probably more if you factor in after school stuff and sports.

8 hours! To myself!!!! What would I do?! For starters, whatever I wanted. Probably get a job. That would be the responsible thing to do. Or I could just clean the house all day. That would make more sense if I still had my house. Maybe I’d go back to school for a Masters Degree. Perhaps I’d work at a coffee shop and become a poetry reading hipster. Ice cream would be involved in some way, I know that much. Fudgy ice cream in a waffle cone, I’d eat one every day.

Instead, I’m here doing the unschooling thing. Chris isn’t the only one to wonder if I’m doing this for an easy life. Since moving to California, other peeps have accused me of being on a long term vacation. It must be all the beach/pool/hiking/sightseeing we’re doing. Hello, people! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…there’s a lot of learning in the play going on!

Amy, a lovely bloggy lady all the way in Maine, found this quote: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~~Seth Godin

So, that’s what we’re about. Living life, learning as much as we can from it. Going out into the world, exploring, discovering, talking, interacting, traveling, asking, wondering, making, sharing, walking, running, swimming, studying, watching.

It’s freaking exhausting!

I’ve never seen a bunch of harder working parents than those that unschool. Without a curriculum or any standardization to fall back on, they do their darndest to provide activities and experiences that will help their kids learn and grow. This means being involved in the community, online, with other unschooling/homeschooling groups, and tuned in to both their kids needs and the resources available to help fill that.

Exhausting! And also loads of fun. Much more fun than eating fudgy ice cream in a waffle cone every day.

I have a theory, that people who get upset with our lifestyle and claim it’s because I don’t want to do any work or that it is making my kids ignorant, are actually upset with themselves, and their lives. These people were told that learning was a monotonous experience done between four walls and at a desk. They suffered through 10+ years like that. To see kids out in the world, exuberant, learning while living….well, sometimes it’s too much to take. It’s like pulling back the curtain and finding out that the wizard of Oz is really just a salesman from Kansas.

Unschooling myself.

On the path from public schooling to homeschooling to, finally, unschooling, I realized that what started out as a chance to educate my kids became a chance to reeducate myself.

It started when I read the “Principles of Unschooling” by Pam Sorooshian, who completely rocked my world. And what was my world at that time? It included ideas like my kids needed me to be in control over their lives so that I could make them responsible, orderly, respectful, productive adults. There was a great deal of fear, too. Fear about them not becoming any of those things. Fear about their failure, in all aspects of life…and my own for that matter. Fear about none of us being good enough. Fear for the future, and fear of the unknown. I don’t think I’m alone in this, because prescriptions for medications treating depression/anxiety has gone through the roof.

Do you remember the etiquette tips for women in the 1960’s? You know, the ones where wives were expected to tailor their day and especially their evenings around making their man the king of the castle by doing things like keeping everything quiet (especially the kids!), cleaning up the clutter and making everything look presentable (especially yourself!), making him comfy, speaking when spoken too, and by all means stopping all the complaining! Not that there would be anything to complain about all that, of course. ( I sooo should have been born a 1960’s housewife! I’d be SO GOOD at it!)

Things have changed for wives and mothers since then, but I don’t see that the pressure has lessened up at all. If anything, it’s increased. Because back in the 60’s, it was acceptable to set your kids outside when they got home from school and let them run around like hooligans until suppertime without any direct supervision at all.

That’s not an option anymore. Now, we not only fry the bacon in the pan (some after bringing it home, too) but are expected to make our kids into uber geniuses by joining them up with every activity and sport and hobby possible. And if they do not become uber geniuses, and if they remain completely unremarkable compared to little suzy and jonny down the street, then who’s to blame? YOU are, if you’re the mom. Because obviously you’ve been slacking on your wonder woman duties.

Fear and performance anxiety are a package deal with kids nowdays. At least, it was with me. In no small part around education.

That fear intensified when I started homeschooling, because all of a sudden all the stress and responsibility was on my shoulders and there was no teacher to blame except for me. Thank goodness I found unschooling before I shriveled up into a little ball of stress.

Pam’s article on the principles of unschooling point out things like, ‘learning happens all the time’, ‘learning is fun!’, ‘learning is meaningful, often incidental’, ‘learning doesn’t need testing’, ‘learning has a basis in emotion and trust’.

It was hard to start trusting my kids ability to learn. Mostly because my fear of the future stopped it cold. It was hard to let go of all the stress and worry…again, fear blocked the path. The path of unschooling isn’t a sprint, though. It’s not a race to see who can finish a test first, or pass a grade, or write a long essay on what you’ve learned. It’s more like a marathon–endurance, commitment, easy pacing…not so much about how many steps you’re taking but a quiet understanding that if you keep the faith and keep putting one step in front of the other, you’ll reach the finish. In this case, ‘finish’ is a longer term goal than public education which defines finish as the end of a school term, year, or series of years. In unschooling speak, finishing is when you draw your last breath.

As I began to understand that, I loosened up with my attitudes on control and performance. I stopped making decisions based on fear of the unknown or of some future that may or may not happen. And then yadda yadda yadda, our lives were turned upside down with this move, and here I am! In an RV, without much of a plan for the next chunk of time.

But you know what? We’re all still learning, we’re all still living, we’re all still exploring and loving and wondering. And that’s been my education while unschooling myself. And a thousand other facts that make me stop and think, “I never heard THAT in school! It’s so interesting!”. But the most important thing is the idea that the most important time we have is right now, in the moment. So when I had a chance to go with my friend to get her a tattoo, I got myself one, too. It reminds me to live it, do it, start it, finish it, hope for it, believe in it, fix it, break it, embrace it, stay with it, move on from it, love it…all…now.

Live it, do it, start it, finish it, hope for it, believe in it, fix it, break it, embrace it, stay with it, move on from it, love it...

There’s no room for fear when you’re so busy living life in the moment!

Life is a classroom full of socialization.

Oh people! I’ve been doing laundry/cleaning out my minivan/sorting through piles of stuff, now that we’re back in California. I’ve always suspected that housework makes me lose brain cells, and tonight I have proof! Because I’ve been sitting here looking at a blank computer screen unable to put two words together, let alone a whole blog post!

Luckily, I know what makes me gain brain cells…Hubby’s chocolate lemon birthday cake! So hold on a sec. while I get me a slice…

Birthday cake love for Daddy

OK. It’s all good now. So, I received a comment on another post, and thought it was worth it’s very own special blog of it’s own. Jess asks:

I do not have an opinion about unschooling, I am sure it could be great sometimes and not so great other times, but I am curious about the social challenges?

I am confident that you would find all information you need online, but what about the social interaction for your kids? The situations where they are dealing with people very unlike themselves, and situation that one would actually like to avoid (such as bullying, group pressure, teasing etc) but that one – unfortunately – learn a lot from?

I guess my basic point is that your lifestyle seems very free and good, but how do you prepare/teach the kids about the harsher parts of life?

(Just curious, I am not criticizing!)

My skin has been considerably toughened on questions like this so I in no way took this as a criticism. In fact, for some strange reason, in the greater society mostly no one wants to deal with my children at all UNTIL they find out I home(un)school, and then all of a sudden they feel like it’s their job to make sure they inform me how to do my job to insure my kids are properly raised. To make sure my kids don’t grow up to become a drain on society at large. Or, as Juju pointed out during the interview of radical unschoolers for GMA, to make sure I’m not “handicapping” my children by not enrolling them in a public school.

I can’t speak for every unschooler, but I know what our experience has been and can share it from both sides of the coin…being in school and out of school.

In school, Naturalist was being socialized in a classroom of peers who were all her age. Aside from gender, the diversity was very little. One teacher with an aide all year long. Except for holidays and field trips, this was the group she spent every day with. What she learned there wasn’t positive. She learned to stay quiet so she wouldn’t get teased. She learned that being different from the group was bad. She learned that what other people told her was more important than what she felt inside. By the time she got to 4th grade, she was a shell of herself.

When we started unschooling, things turned around. We spent our days exploring the world around us. At 12 she was able to volunteer with a Vet and spend time around vet techs and their office staff. We also integrate ourselves into other homeschool groups, where the interaction is spread over different ages and abilities. We invite people into our home and lives that come from various backgrounds. We are constantly being exposed to life situations that challenge and engage us in so many different ways.

80110008

As far as bullying, group pressure, and teasing, I find that because my kids are growing up in a culture where that is NOT the norm, then they are more self assured and accept it much less than my oldest did when she was in school.

I’m finding that, as far as life experiences, both good and bad, making life the classroom is better than making a classroom life.

**********
related links:

A great article about socialization issues.

Process of socialization, an anthropological look at it. I find this quote completely fascinating:

Successful socialization can result in uniformity within a society. If all children receive the same socialization, it is likely that they will share the same beliefs and expectations. This fact has been a strong motivation for national governments around the world to standardize education and make it compulsory for all children. Deciding what things will be taught and how they are taught is a powerful political tool for controlling people. Those who internalize the norms of society are less likely to break the law or to want radical social changes.

Homeschooling and Socialization.

A continuation on socializing and homeschoolers.

Our Unschooling Life in Video.

The interest is still high over what exactly us freaky unschoolers are doing all day, thanks to the heightened media coverage the past week.

There’s not much I can say about the way it’s being portrayed on TV, but lots of us unschoolers are writing about our lives and what unschooling is to us and our kids in an effort to put another view of it into the public domain. There’s a great recap of blogs about unschooling, specifically in light of the GMA flap, over at Blog of the Zombie Princess.

Here’s a quick video of our unschooling year in 2008. Note that I titled it “Our HOMEschooling Life”–because back then I wasn’t out of the closet yet. I told everyone we were homeschooling because it was easier than trying to explain or defend unschooling. But here I am, 2 years later, flying my freak flag high over unschooling. It’s been brilliant for our family and my kids.

Our 2008 unschooling recap!

Places shown:
Devils Tower, Wy.
Mt. Rushmore, SD
Durango, Co.
Ft. Laramie, Wy.
the library
the zoo
Rocky Mountain National Park, Co.
Four Corners, Az., NM., UT., Co.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Co.
Arches National Park, Ut.
Mesa Verde National Park, Co.
and…our backyard.

*****************
Tonight I’m ditching the packing/cleaning of the weight around my neck otherwise known as my house, and going out with one of the best girlfriends ever. On a scale of 1-10 for sheer awesomeness, she’s a 20. And if she plays her cards right, we may end up with matching new tattoos before I leave…my first one ever!

Photo on 2010-04-22 at 18

Unschooling on GMA

I have no internet or TV, and have been outside the mainstream news for a while now, so didn’t realize there was a tiny segment about Radical Unschooling on GMA. You can watch the video here.

“Imagine No School, Parents Let Kids Go Free!” was the caption under most of the segment, which made me LOL. Oh no! Not free kids!!!!

I have received a bunch of emails and calls from friends and family all over the place, who know I unschool but haven’t really seen it in action until they watched the segment on TV. They were, understandably, freaked out. So, here’s my post to everyone, because I can’t answer every message personally!

First, I give a lot of credit to the family for opening up their doors like that. I was approached to have an article written about our family in a Boulder newspaper, and declined. Whenever you do something that is so different from the norm, everyone in the norm has a hard time wrapping their heads around it. Which is the case of this interview.

I didn’t find anything spectacularly cringeworthy in the interview or the way the parents and children spoke about their lives. I did find the attitude of both Stephanopoulis and the lady interviewing them particularly dismissive, biased, and aloof. Which is not much different from what we get from everyday people on the street. Her questions in particular, and the comments from everyone who watched the show, show just how closed minded our public schools are making people. When you’ve been raised in a system of tests and ranked heirarchy and performance reviews and grades and forced curriculum, you get a bunch of people that think in a very small range. A range that feels that textbooks, tests, curriculum, and someone telling you what, when, how, and where to learn are the only ways to do so.

The parents and children gave her more respect than she gave them is the opinion I formed after watching the interview. Instead of asking them questions about how they live their lives, what their interests were, how the child led passions formed their day, what made them happy, how they got along in their family when they based it on trust and love rather than rules and discipline, what the kids wanted to do when they left the house and chose a career or trade…etc., etc., etc., the interviewer raked them over the coals for not doing things mainstream. Uh, that’s already been established, that’s the point of the interview! But she never asked them anything that had to do with their lives, she just focused on all the things they weren’t doing. A great opportunity was missed.

Her questions:
*focused on what they “regret” by not going to a “normal school”, emphasis on ‘normal’. As in, what everyone else does, as in, just like everyone else, as in, following along because everyone else is doing it. Is this really important? What about asking them what they gain by doing things so differently? What about wondering what opportunities they’ve had by going outside a classroom? Why negative instead of positive?

*yelled in exasperation when the oldest son answered her question by saying he didn’t really like what he did in school, “But you were 7! What do you know?!” AAAAAAAGHHHHHH. It’s called respect, and the lack of it towards kids in this segment killed me. Kids all through history have been hunting, working, building, learning, producing at this age. And now, all of a sudden in the 21st century America, they don’t know anything? Really?

*Pointed out school is for exposing kids to different things. I fail to see how sitting at a desk with a break for lunch and PE is exposing them to more than just letting them out into the world does, with an unrestricted access to whatever it is they are curious about at the moment (rather than waiting for the right grade/class).

*Tried to classify the daughter into a grade (why are grades so important, rather than life lessons or experiences?) and then pressed her on college readiness. As if college is the be all end all of a students life. Guess what? There are scores of college graduates out there, unemployed, totally screwed by this economy and the failed promise that a college degree creates more opportunity.

*Did she really suggest that creating a unique, empowering, outside of the mainstream experience for kids will really make them “handicapped”? Really? Is that the lesson schools are inadvertently teaching? There is only one way to do things. One right answer. One way to learn. Anything else=retarded. ???

*where was the follow up question about what the kids experiences and knowledge were that other people dont? Now that would make this a balanced interview. But no, the question was never asked. Because obviously, the only knowledge that’s important is what everyone is learning thanks to NCLB and the curriculum.

Really, the only important idea in this whole interview is that, guess what….unschooling is growing by leaps and bounds. And it’s growing as a direct opposition to this stifling, one size fits all, ‘normalizing’ pressure of NCLB.

Unschooling is radical. It goes against the grain of what we as a society have been taught about parenting and educating. I’m sure my family would come across just as poorly if we were followed by an interviewer with a closed mind like that. Secretly, I’m glad Hubby was traveling during the week when the kids and I started unschooling, because I don’t know if he would have been down with the radicalness of it. All he saw was the change in the kids when he saw them on the weekends. I told him we were trying a ‘new curriculum’, but didn’t say that curriculum was throwing out the curriculums and putting the kids in charge of their learning. I felt safe to tell him that when he commented, about 4 months into it, “whatever this new curriculum is, you should keep doing it. The kids are so tuned in and learning so much!”

And that’s about all I have to say about that. I love unschooling, I love the other unschoolers I get to hang out with, and unschooling is going to continue to grow the more pressure schools put on standardization and control. Because guess what? Every kid is outside a ‘norm’. No kid, and no adult, should ever want to be in a ‘norm’. We are all different, with our own interests, passions, and skills. We need to celebrate and encourage this kind of radical development rather than medicate and force kids to stay in a classroom that celebrates ‘mainstream normalcy.’

***********
In Colorado-moving-from-the-house-news, here’s a bulletin: moving sucks! yeah!

Photo on 2010-04-19 at 19

I’m getting a brief respite from it with my double peppermint hot chocolate and a little internet action.