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Do You Strew?

One thing I love about being a homeschooling parent is that there always seems to be a never-ending stream of homeschooling styles, concepts or ideas that you have yet to explore – and I am always on the lookout for new ideas. So, recently I stumbled across a term that is closely associated with unschooling – strewing. I was like… What. Is. That? It was kinda a DUH moment for me because it really is such a simple concept it should have occurred to me before. Aren’t the best ideas like that???!! Completely over my head apparently…

Strewing effectively boils down to leaving things out for your children that will draw their attention, and encourage exploration. Genius. We seriously have all kinds of cool things in our house that my children rarely mess with, and I think that the way I keep things tidily in their place is a deterring factor.

Here are a couple of links that can explain strewing better. I could take the time to write more, but why would I when I can pass you along to someone who has already done it for me. 😉

If You Strew It; They Will Come

Homeschool Strewing

So, I have been making a nightly effort to strew before I go to bed… and the results have been awesome. Every morning when we come downstairs for breakfast, my kids seem to feel drawn to things that I have left out.

 

Playdough2

Our playdough strew. I printed off a couple of playdough mats (links found here), put out some plastic animals, sea shells, rocks and feathers to go with the playdough, and they just went with it.

 

Strewing1

I pulled out all of our nature study stuff, and put it in a big basket that is now sitting on our fireplace. I’ve been laying out some of our rarely looked at books, and utilizing some of those easy/fun projects that I am forever pinning that I rarely actually work into our school day…

 

Strewing2

Like painting salt with colored water on black paper.

 

Not every strew has been a winner, but I can always try it again later. 🙂 I’ve been working on a Strewing board on Pintrest. Check it out!

 

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A good idea gone bad or just a bad idea?

I am, what I would call, a committed homeschooler. I knew I would be homeschooling from the time that Haden was a baby. I have rather strong feelings about homeschooling and the public school system. My kids have never gone to public school, and if I have my way, they never will. It would take some very serious life hurdles to get me to even consider it. Never say never, but that is how I feel. That is truth.

However….

I ran across the above quote from John Holt on a homeschooling Facebook page, and then subsequently ended up getting into a small online altercation with a woman that I am fairly convinced is a bit nutty. 😛 The quote, along with reader comments, has left my mind churning with this ideology that seems more and more prevalent over the past year. One, of which, I am not a fan.

I obviously have no great love for the public school system. Anyone that gets me talking, will hear an almost endless list of my issues. But, the idea that we should just get rid of compulsory public schooling altogether… really?? THAT is the genius solution to our education problem?

My thoughts are that not all children are so lucky to have parents as dedicated as the ones I am previleged to know, and for THOSE children the only form of positive guidance may come from school teachers. School may be the only chance they get in their young lives to be exposed to the possibilities that exist outside of their home life and their neighborhoods. That is a reality. It seems a bit naive to assume that taking away the compulsory public school system would benefit all children. Some would be irrevocably hurt.

[box] Am I missing something here? What are your thoughts? A good idea gone bad or just a bad idea?[/box]

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Failure is not fatal…

Despite my  struggles with homeschooling Haden earlier this year, and my apparent inability to cope well with unschooling, the past couple months Haden has seemed to work his way out of his “funk”, and has become enthusiastic about learning again. This probably won’t come as a shock to anyone who has kept up with everything, but now that Haden is being more flexible, we have been moving away from unschooling to the extent that we have been. I feel like we are learning from each other, learning the boundaries between taking on too much, letting some things go, and pushing through when needed, and I have started to differentiate between when those things are appropriate.

So yay for me! 😉

Our Tree of Courage. Don’t let the happiness of the moment fool ya though. About 30 seconds later, Haden snapped at me, I snapped back, he cried, we had to take a break from each other, and then we just went back at it later. 😛

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

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Nostalgic

I was feeling a bit nostalgic this evening while registering and printing out our reading log so that we can get started with the Six Flags Read to Succeed Program for this year. This time last year, we were in such a different place with our homeschooling. Haden actually enjoyed doing homeschool. We were starting our Willy Wonka Unit Study. We were still doing our Geography based cooking projects and doing Five in a Row Units. Homeschooling was fun. It is still fun. Some days. It is just different.

I guess I am still coping with the changes that we have made and I am just not catching onto it the way that I had hoped. 🙁 I feel thankful for the homeschool co-op classes because they help me feel like we are somewhat holding things together, even if that is just an illusion. After this long holiday break, I am glad we will be back at them tomorrow.

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Experiential Homeschooling ;)

It seems that I may have finally worked past my feelings of stress and unease in regards to homeschooling and Haden. Within the past couple weeks I have really been seeing Haden grow into himself as an unschooler and I am starting to feel as if… Dare I say it? I am not ruining him. That he really will learn without me planning it all out for him and if I give him the freedom… he will thrive in his independence.

It makes me smile to see him get excited about things he finds interesting. To ask questions about EVERYTHING. To repeat something that we talked about some time before.

My children today have alternated between making a fort out of all our couch cushions and blankets. Repeatedly jumped from a mattress onto a mattress topper like a million times out in the garage. Explored trying to get up on high objects and jumping. Jumped over each other and on each other. Played outside. Dug in the dirt. Got way too messy for my tastes. 😛  Looked at pictures of superheroes on the internet. Looked through birth books at pictures. Listened to music and danced. And they fought!  I swear I spend half of my day refereeing between them.  I think the thing I appreciate most about homeschooling is the opportunity for togetherness. Strengthening our relationships and growing together, even when that means not getting along sometimes.

Snuggling on the couch earlier while Addison drank some boobie milk, I talked with Haden about being thankful. I told Haden that I was thankful for him and Addison because I love them and they keep my life interesting. I told him that if Addison could talk I think she would say she is thankful for boobie milk. 😛 I asked him what he is thankful for and he said, “Love.”

Recently there has been a couple of really great pieces on Unschooling in mainstream media. I am always happy to see anything about homeschooling in a positive light, so I thought I would share them.

Clip One
Clip Two

I was chatting with my friend Stephanie the other night, about unschooling and she has coined the term Experiential Homeschooling as a substitute for unschooling. Experiential by definition means “based on observation and experience”.  I happen to think that is a perfect description for how I would like to see our homeschooling years play out. I find that there is stigma now around unschooling which has been put in place by more radical unschooling families. Even many homeschoolers seems to have a poor opinion of unschooling and most of this seems to be put in place by people taking something that is supposed to be a good thing and perhaps taking it too far. Of course that is just my opinion but I will say that I don’t particulary like being associated with that stigma.

So we thought using the term Experiential Homeschooler has a nice ring to it. Easier than saying I am unschoolerish? 😛

On that note, how awesome is the traveling unschool bus??!! I showed the clip to Michael and we both really love the idea of being able to do something like that. It would be great if life worked out to make that a possibility for us in a few years.

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I’m Making The Rules NOW

A follow up on my Until further notice… NO MORE SCHOOL blog post that I did in another blog….
In the world of homeschool we are still doing nothing. Haden seems much happier, which for now is what I need. I have managed to try and “sneak” things in as I see the opportunity but I feel like I really suck at this not having a plan thing. I am trying to put what he needs above what I need on this though. It is tough. It sucks. My hope is that with more time I will adjust and all will be good.”

I wanted to add more to that, so I will start from there. In an attempt to try and embrace unschooling I decided to read another unschooling book to hopefully help pump me up about it and renew some enthusiasm. I have read a couple in the past. The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School and   The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom. Both very good books but at the time I just could never see myself being an unschooler even though I liked much of the philosophy. I don’t think I ever really let myself take it all in. 


Actually, let me back track. Lets go back to the very beginning. Haden must have been about a month old when I first thought about homeschooling. I more mentioned it to Michael in a joking way because I was so enamored with motherhood that I didn’t like the thought of Haden ever being away from me for extended amounts of time. Just mentioning it though was all it took to spark my interest. So began my researching and the realization that there were MANY good reasons to homeschool. So it was decided. From that point on I was a hardcore supporter of homeschooling and very much against the idea of ever sending Haden or any future children into “the system”.


So here is where I will mention my first mistake. I think the very first one I made was getting too excited about my future as a homeschooling mother. Thinking about what curriculum I would use when he was old enough to school, having pretty much “decided” how I wanted to homeschool long before it was relevant. I had it all planned out before Haden was one. Of course as soon as I could justify doing so, I started doing preschool with Haden. Trying to inspire learning through play and other activities. None of this is particularly bad. I think it was more my motivation behind my actions that started my problems.


When you start researching homeschooling, you read all these accounts of how smart homeschooling children seem to be. And who doesn’t want their child to be smart? I had grand ideas of starting early with Haden but making it fun so that he could be an early reader like so many I have heard about. For every story I have heard where kids started reading at 4, I have heard just as many about kids not reading until 7 or older. All of that seems to fall with the range of normal, when it comes to homeschoolers. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted Haden to be on the earlier end of that curve. Because didn’t that mean that whatever I was doing was working? That homeschooling really is the best option?


Who defines my definition of smart? Not just mainstream society but some of homeschooling society as well. I am seriously getting tired of other people’s opinions defining my life. Obviously I am the only one that can control that and so that is the decision I have come to.


So searching around on Amazon I decided to try out this book, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education. It actually isn’t about unschooling as we think of it in the homeschool world. Just more about getting away from what we “think” education is supposed to be like when defined by our education system. I didn’t learn anything inherently new but it did serve to remind me of some things that I would do well not to forget.


Learn something because you need it or because you love it. This seems like a no brainer but it made me start to think about who defines what children “need” to know. I know many homeschoolers that base their curriculum choices and what they do each year around a set list of things that children that grade level “should” know at the end of the year. I know. I did it while preschooling Haden. What each child NEEDS to know is completely up to them. They will define the course of their lives and what information will be the most relevant for their future. 


Throughout life, everyone unschools most of the time. Most of the things we use in our adult lives, we learned through trial and error. Real life experiences or self-motivated self-study on something that interests us.


And a BIG one. There is no answer to how to educate a child. There may not be any answers. All I know is what is working right now. Who knows what will work next year or the year after that. What Addsion will be like as she grows and what I will need to change to be able to meet her needs.


All of this rambling to say that I am making my own rules now. I have lived my life in a very black and white type of manner for the past 4 years. Life isn’t black and white. There are not always definite rights and wrongs. Things in life are situational. I can plan every second of every day, if I want to try but I will spend every minute of those days feeling inadequate and never quite meeting my expectations. I’m just done with it.


I am giving myself the ok to hold one opinion about something RIGHT NOW and to be free to change my mind about it tomorrow. That doesn’t make me a hypocrite. It makes me an always growing person that is willing to admit that I am not always right. Mainly because I don’t think there really is a “right”. This blog mainly started out being about my feelings on my educational approaches with my children but I think it may have ended somewhere else…

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Until further notice… NO MORE SCHOOL

Here I sit finding myself in a place in life where everything feels like it is off. Personal things and too much stress have been making my household not tons of fun, and I think all of this is having a negative impact on Haden’s behavior. The past couple of weeks have been pretty painful when it comes to school. Trying to do any sort of pre-thought out activity has been met with resistance. Homeschooling, something that was supposed to be fun for us, has turned decidedly not.

When Haden was a baby I had all these wonderful visions of us learning just by living, and doing things that inspired learning through fun. Somewhere along the way I started to think too much about what he is learning. Is he learning enough? Does he know the things he needs to know? Apparently, my personality doesn’t allow for too much non-structure. Really, I could have a whole other blog post about how uptight and compulsive I am…

I thought for sure that we would be unschoolers, and then started to get worried that he wouldn’t possibly know the things he needed to know if I were an unschooler. I did even more reading on the philosophy, and found it really hard for me to feel like I could ever be a true unschooler. Listening to radical unschoolers talk about unschooling, and what you should or mostly should not be doing, did not sit well with me.

Ok… I am sort of rambling. Mostly cause I had SO many thoughts jumping around inside my head, and really I just needed to put them all out there somewhere, even if I don’t totally make sense to anyone else. So, I was looking at stuff from my Passion for Birth Seminar the other night, and I have these inspiration cards to aid me in teaching in a different way; a way that people will learn more and feel inspired. Telling is not teaching. Build confidence. Have fun. Be bold. It’s not what people know, it’s what people do. And possibly the most important one, (I think) – It’s not all about you!

If these things work best with adults, how should I really expect a child to respond well to being talked at all the time? To being told WHAT to do???

We had a deal breaker type of day on Monday. One of those really ugly days. That night I cried so much, I knew that things have got to change around here. Not just school stuff, but so much more. I feel like I am at a crossroads, and I am not totally sure where I will end up. I know one thing for sure though. I have to do better for my family than I have been, even if it means stepping way outside of what my comfort zones have been in the past. Those just aren’t working for me anymore.

Follow up post: I’m Making the Rules NOW