Yup, I Drink The Kool-Aid. Want Some?

Sorry, I have to laugh at my own title.

Most of you know me in person, or at least fairly well through my blog, and may not have realized that I am a radical, hippy loving parent who allows my children to do whatever they want all day. Had you not noticed Carters unruly, hippy hair, I am sure you didn’t know I was a radical, extremist, indulgent parent. Maybe when his hair finally gets to full dreadlock stage it will be more apparent. Clearly I must work harder to make people realize that, yes, I am one of those. Now, if you met Tara and heard about her RV travels to sustainable farms or hung around Miranda long enough to discuss politics or, for heavens sake, curled up on a blanket with some organic veggies and light yoga stretching with Elizabeth you probably would have known about them. But me, I can see how I could have thrown you off the scent.

I think that is the thing about stereotypes. And the thing about meeting someone who doesn’t really fit them. How does a former public school teacher with a Masters degree in Education, with Republican tendencies, and fairly comfortable lifestyle start drinking the kool-aid?

It’s easy. You realize your family likes Kool-Aid better than anything else. That’s how.

Have I completely lost you? Sorry! Let me explain.

ABC did a story on an unschooling family. A VERY biased story on an unschooling family. The reporter goes so far as to call the children “feral”. It is clear that she wasn’t doing the story to educate people on what unschooling is. Her motive was clearly to out this terrible, horrible thing we unschooling parents are doing to our children and society.

Really?

Cause mainstream public education based on a model developed to create a society of factory workers is working out so well?

Cause I want my children to WANT to learn not HAVE to learn?

Cause I think that an underpaid full time substitute throwing worksheets at my kids just isn’t good enough?

Really?

Cause as someone who holds a Masters in Education I can’t distinguish good, educational philosophies and apply them to my own children?

I know, I am crazy. (just think…I am qualified to teach children, too)

Now, lets get a few things straight. I think that most teachers are fabulous. I know so many and my children have had the great fortune to be in many of their classes. But they have had bad teachers too. And sadly, a year of a bad teacher can ruin 5 years of great ones. I wasn’t willing to let my children be stuck in an educational setting I didn’t think was the best for them. I thought (and, sorry, have proof to back it up) that being home with me was a much better choice for them.

Instead of spouting numbers and theories I think I will do away with some common unschooling myths as they relate to me and my family.

Myth: Unschooling kids watch tv and play video games all day. OK, well, in truth, there are days that happens. Everyone’s mind needs a break sometime. Isn’t that what kids in brick and mortar schools have Sat and Sun, and Summer Break for? It’s just that our learning is much more out of the box than that. It isn’t on a set schedule. It happens in the smallest of moments and in the largest of venues. It happens when we are playing at the park and suddenly get a lesson in Native American folklore or sit down to watch a movie and get immersed in discussion of the German Resistance Movement. No, Carter cannot list the names of Presidents in order. He can, however, tell you in great detail about the lives of many of them. What is more important?

Myth: Unschoolers don’t use books, specifically textbooks. Are you kidding me? My house is full of books. We spend more money at Barnes and Noble than most classrooms do. When something interests my kiddos we go to the book store to get more information on it. We have that time and flexibility.  I don’t have to say “wait ’til the weekend”. We can strike while the iron is hot. I don’t use the library cause I tend to forget to return things on time.

Myth: Unschoolers don’t use curriculum. Bull on that one too. Connor spent this whole year doing K12′s curriculum.

Myth: Unschoolers don’t do chores. In this house they do. That is being part of a family and a community. Everyone has to help out to make things work. It is important that my children know they are capable of helping both themselves and others.

Which brings me to a point that I have to say, this is where most people do not understand the true, core value of unschooling. I really struggled with it at first too and it was the above mentioned friend, Elizabeth, who one day really put it into perspective for me:

Unschooling is honoring your child. Unschooling is allowing them the freedom and time necessary for your child to learn who he is and where he wants to be in life.Unschooling is giving your child a multitude of experiences and exposure to as many things in life as possible as they walk that journey of self discovery. Unschooling is putting things in their path that challenge them along the way but never dictating what road they choose to walk.

It takes an ungodly amount of patience, time and trust to let that unfold in your child. But it is so worth it because what you come out with on the other end is a child who knows himself, his world and his place in it. A child who is capable of setting their own goals and who has the desire and drive to achieve them.

So, getting back to using K12 curriculum for my unschooled oldest. Think that goes against unschooling? It doesn’t. K12 was a tool Connor needed to reach his goal of attending a certain private school this year. Back to that proof thing I mentioned….Connor placed in the top 10 kids out of over a thousand who applied. He had a goal, I supplied the tools, and he was able to make it work beautifully. More proof? He started his own company at 11 that is quite successful. Still more? Carter no longer takes any kinds of meds that he needed in school and loves to read and write.

I understand that many people fear that allowing a child to direct their own future and education is putting too much faith in such a young being but I don’t see it that way. I believe I am here to guide my children to become the best they can be. Not the best I want them to be. There is a big difference and if you understand that difference you may just be ready for a glass of kool-aid…grab a glass and watch this. It is 8 minutes long and fabulous! It even talks about a bacon boy with meat vision……..




*and before I get a bunch of comments from parents who have chosen other educational methods, I have no judgment on any choices. Lord knows I have tried most of them at one point or another. Each family, each child and each environment are unique. What works for me may not work for you and that is totally great. Your kids may be in the most awesome public school ever. I am really happy that is the case. It wasn’t for us so we chose differently. America was founded on the belief that we should all have choices…

Legend of the Cottonwood Tree Star

Today was our first park day with the homeschool group I agreed to take over here. The people were really nice, the kids very accepting of Carter, it is just that parks here are NOT accessible….grrrrr! In any case, it was a beautiful park with  hundreds of old cottonwood trees lining the river that the kids played in. Again, Carter couldn’t get down to the river area but this is how we learned something new. In an effort to include Carter some of the kids went out scouting for cottonwood twigs.

gfpstarstickDid you know that if you are very lucky and you snap a cottonwood tree twig right on the lines, you can find a star hiding inside? I grew up with cottonwoods all over Arizona and never knew this.

The group knew there was a Native American legend surrounding this little oddity of nature so when we came home we looked it up.

According to Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, they believed that this is where the stars in the sky come from. According to this legend, the wind sent them to the sky from the trees.  There is also another legend that the stars hide there during the day. The Lakota use the cottonwood tree as the ‘tree of life’ in their Sundance ceremony because of the star shape found in the pith.

You won’t see the star in every branch, if the twig is too green or too old, it won’t appear. It is a fun little hunt to try out with the kiddo’s next time you are out among cottonwoods. Just take your allergy meds before you go. My eyes are now itching like crazy!

Picture credit to: SPREE

Life Learners

We are making a visit to Las Vegas last week of this month. I am so excited I can hardly stand it! Besides the Luna’s  and the Lax’s, I really want to see the my unschoolin’ friends. I can’t believe how much they fed my soul and motivated me. I have a real yearning to just sit and talk and have the kids run free. I have been catching up on all of my old friends blogs today and I wanted to share with you all people who motivate me to be a peaceful, happy person and continue with unschooling when I am unsure of myself and my motivations.

Elizabeth-one of my all time favorite people. She is just so peaceful and cool!

Tara-when I grow up I want to be as good of a person to the Earth and others as Tara is.

Darlene-An absolute kick in the pants. That is all that needs to be said! I love her ability to make me laugh.

Amy-one of the wisest women I know. She turned me onto alot of the natural cures that have been helping my headaches and Carters leg. Her kids are some of the coolest I have ever met.

Stephanie-One of the best writers I love to read. Turned us onto a love of letterboxing.

Miranda-One of the most inspiring people I wish I had more time to learn from.

Hopefully, I will be able to connect with you all at the park but if not, I want you to know that reading your blogs helps me feel connected and grounded. I may not always comment but I do hold you all in my hearts!