The kids spent their morning exploring the backyard, collecting things to put in their nature collection, while I enjoyed my coffee and everything bagel. It was one of those kinds of morning, the good kind, where everything is going just right.

Haden starts yelling, “Mama! Mama! Come here! We found a spider web on the swing and it is BEAUTIFUL!”

So, I go outside to see this spider, that really had built a very beautiful orb web on one of our swings. The sun was hitting it just right, so that it glistened in the light, and you could see a rainbow in it. Very beautiful. The part that made this even cooler, was that we recently read a book called, How the first rainbow was made: an American Indian tale, a book Haden just happened to randomly pick up at the library. The story ended with the “Man in the Sky” creating rainbows so that the people would know that the long rains were ending, but he also gifted spiders with rainbows for their webs.

So we talked again about that story, about legends and myths, and people finding ways to explain the things they did not understand. It was one of those moments, in homeschooling, where you start to see all those little pieces coming together.

Although, the day started BEAUTIFULLY, those of you on Facebook know I was hiding in my bathroom by this afternoon, so that sums up how I felt by the end of it. 😛


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Plant a Tree

Haden and I ventured out together for a community service project today! In collaboration with Trees Atlanta, our Give and Learn homeschool group went to plant trees! It was a lot of fun. And a lot of work!
Before planting, we read the book Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson.  The book was about Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan woman who won the 2004 Noble Peace Prize. She was  known for many great things but one of them was her efforts in environmental conservation and planting trees. 🙂 It was a great story with beautiful illustrations.

We also talked about the many reason why trees are important and good to have around.

I think Haden and I planted almost 10 trees today!
You can join Trees Atlanta on Saturdays and volunteer your time by helping with tree planting and forest restoration projects now that planting season has begun. 🙂
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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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Relieving some of the pressure…

I must decompress. You ever have that feeling where you feel so overwhelmed that your whole body feels like it is under pressure or something. That is how I feel and I honestly can’t even peg down where the feeling is spawning from. I guess it is just the day to day, too much to do that I am definitely feeling today. Sometimes when I have days like this I start to think every day is like this. Then I think about all the things I need to do and that I can’t possibly cope with every day being so full. I spaz myself out. So I am trying to take nice deep breathes and not think too far down the road about ALL the things I have to do. The amazing thing to me is that I have cut back SO much in the 2 areas that have eaten up a lot of my time in the past and apparently I am just filling them back up with something else although I can’t really say what those things are…
Tomorrow is our last day of co-op until Winter term begins in January and I am excited and sad about our last class day. There is a part of me that looks forward to getting my lazy Wednesday mornings back. I seriously almost had myself convinced to sign up to teach again next term and luckily forced myself to step away from the computer. I really think it is for the best. Michael says that I am just as much of a work-a-holic as he is because I can’t seem to stop taking stuff on, even though I perpetually complain about having too much to do. 😛 Apparently that is the only way I know how to function.
I will be starting school in January too and I really have no idea how much of my time that is going to take up or realistically how well I will cope with being back in school after 10 years. So I am gonna try to keep things light until I get into the swing of things. I talked with both my advisor and my enrollment coach within the past 2 days, so everything is starting to feel REAL. Registration for classes will open up after Thanksgiving and I just have a couple things to take care of in the mean time so that I will be all set.
The kids are having a Halloween party on Friday, which is really just an excuse to have a big playdate with a theme. 😛 Haden is very excited though. I guess he would be since he requested a Halloween party almost immediately after his birthday party ended. LOL I think Addison is going to dress up as a fairy for the party. Who knows what Haden will pick. His only firm costume choice right now is that he will be a vampire for the Halloween party and Trick or Treating at Laura’s house next week. Fangs, blood and black hair. He is super pumped.
We also have a Halloween party after co-op tomorrow, although I am not sure if we will manage to stay for much of it. Last minute change of plans because my MIL is sick, means Cheeky Girl is going to co-op with us. Hopefully she will be well behaved and won’t give me any troubles while I have to teach. I am going to let the kids wear costumes to class regardless of weather we get to stay after or not though. I’m dressing Cheeky as Wonder Woman.  There is a whole lot of Partyin’ in my immediate future.
I need to go pack tomorrow’s lunch and then maybe I will do some reading….

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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Sometimes Things Will Be Chaotic… and That IS Ok.

I have recently been working a lot on trying to let go of my “control” over things. Over life and especially over my children. The more I work on it the more I have started to realize that the idea of “control”, isn’t really attainable. It is this thing that I strive for, always failing or tricking myself into believing I have it until someone proves me wrong. It is exhausting trying to keep things within those barriers that I have set for myself. 

Drinking my morning coffee, chowing down on a bagel and surfing through Facebook, I decided to read this blog post that someone had shared. Here is an excert from it that really resonated with me.

Your days will sometimes be chaotic; your way of homeschooling will not match anyone else’s no matter what dogma you decide to follow; your days will not look like what you envision and hope for in your minds’ eye. But it will be okay – if you respect your children’s individual needs and development, trust yourself and the process, and above all say yes every day to this adventure you have decided to undertake.”

The blog is about homeschooling in specific but some of what she said, to me really plays into things I need to let go of in my every day life too, not just in homeschooling. Although now, my children and homeschooling seem to encompass a HUGE expanse in my world view.

My new mantra may just become…. Sometimes things will be chaotic and that is ok. Trust yourself and embrace every day as an adventure. 
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Back to Homeschool

Today was our first day back at homeschool after taking a month long break that I had not originally planned to take. My game plan for school has been to do school all year round and just take breaks when we need them but not usually for more than a week at a time. This summer did not go exactly as I planned though… 😛 Maybe next summer will be different or maybe I will again fall into a summer funk of just not wanting to do much at all. I guess one of the really awesome things about homeschool is that I can do whatever the hell I want!

We kicked our come back off with having a little “party”. I let Haden pick out a cake yesterday for the party, which in the end was actually Spiderman cupcakes. He pre-decided that he wanted to learn to play Monopoly Junior at this party and I also broke out one of those bottles of grape juice that look like wine bottles. It was all very exciting.

We started this week out with review on numbers and practicing counting. He is doing awesome with counting but we really need some work on number recognition. I plan to do just review stuff for the next couple weeks and finish out some pages from his BrainQuest Pre-K workbook. I want to start Kindergarten stuff the last week of August unless I feel like we are good to go before then.

On that note, my lesson plans for Kindergarten are going SO well. I am pretty darn proud of myself for getting organized. Lets just hope I can hold it together once some of the new school year excitement has worn off. This was a big part of why I decided to let GBN go this year, so that I can dedicate more of my time to my children and to their schooling. I don’t want to be half-assing this. I have almost finished my first 3 weeks of lesson plans, there are just some minor details I need to work out. Once I have gotten through the first week, I will re-evaluate things and see what I need to be doing different going forward. Hopefully all will go well. Now I need to figure out a fun idea for tomorrow….