Posted in Uncategorized

Not Your Average Unschoolers

We are not radical unschoolers. If you know, or have an idea of what unschooling is, chances are whatever it is you’re thinking of, isn’t us.

I’ve read most of the radical unschooling books, I’ve also read my fair share of many other types of homeschooling books. On a scale of one to 100, one being traditional schoolers, and 100 being radical unschoolers, we are like… an 80.

 

Not Your Average Unschoolers (1)

Radical unschooling extends to parenting. Out of all the things that could separate us from other unschoolers with a bold line, this is it. While we do give our children a lot of grace and space to make their own decisions, we have limits and their actions have parent-determined consequences.

I think one of the biggest examples of how our parenting slightly reflects radical unschooling but then dramatically differs is words we allow the kids to use. “Bad words” became a topic about a year ago. The kids were pushing boundaries, asking what words were okay to say and which were not. Words like heck, crap, sucks, and even the ones they”d only sound out, “shhh-iiiii.”

Herman and I both agree that “bad words” are just words. Jesus wouldn’t have scolded someone for saying “sh*t” because it wouldn’t have even been a thing. He probably would have though they’d sneezed. They made the decision that words that get a wow factor when they hear them from others aren’t words they’d ever say. (At least for now.) But words like heck, crap, and sucks (like, “oh, that sucks!”) weren’t bad, and we’re okay with that.

However, we have a very strict policy that if an adult ever corrects them they’re not to argue that we allow them to say it, just apologize and try to never say it around them again. We also ask them not to say words like that during co-op, play dates, or while participating in clubs because not every parent agrees those words aren’t bad, and we all agree they’d never want to be the one to get someone else in trouble for teaching them a new (bad) word. The novelty of those words wore off quickly and none of them use them anymore. The most controversial things they say are, “shoot” and, “see you later, hater.”

There are just some things I feel more comfortable teaching my children in a “sit down and listen for ten minutes” environment, and then there’s other things that I don’t think a special song, or curriculum is needed for them to learn something organically. You’d be surprised the things your children learn when you step back and allow them to lead.

Hayden has always been a traditional learner. So, during the short time span we ALL unschooled fully, he was bored, and sometimes felt lost when it came to finding something else to learn about. He’s a sponge and absorbs so much all the time, but for some reason the freedom to choose when and what to learn about overwhelmed him. He’s done an online curriculum since. So, not everyone in our home unschools.

We also:

-Have screen time limits because we notice hard-to-handle behavior and  bad moods when we don’t. Yes, we’ve tried before.

-Have strict rules when in stores or unfamiliar places because I don’t trust strangers or that the kids won’t push boundaries in public settings. The golden rule for stores is “one hand on the cart at all times,” and we remind them when they do let go and try to roam (Because they’re still kids and need reminding.) that, “if I cannot reach out and touch you, I cannot prevent someone from grabbing you and running away.”

-Have some sort of almost daily lesson. We do drop it if we are going to be gone all day, or if the weather is nice and we don’t stay indoors. Perks of almost-unschooling.

-Don’t force reading. I think this is the most controversial thing we do, and also the thing that makes us resemble unschoolers the most. We work on letter recognition, counting, letter sounds, and sometimes blends, but there are not tests, grades, and required memorization. We do make exceptions, though. Like, Gabriella was diagnosed with Dyslexia. Her doctor was super cool about it, and told us that unless we had plans to put her in school, to go slow. Allow her to take her time learning and use resources that best work for her and that a large number of school children are discouraged by their dyslexia because of peer disapproval and rushed education, and she’s lucky not to have those issues. She’ll be starting a program called All About Reading soon, though it’ll be on her time and not rushed.

So, while my kids aren’t free to do as they please all day everyday, they do have more freedom than most. I kinda wish I could coin a term that works better with how we live, but for now unschooling it is.

What are your opinions on unschooling?

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Posted in home education

To the New Homeschooling Mama

Today I saw a woman who encouraged me during my first “holy guacamole, what did I get myself into?” day of homeschooling. I had, at the time, four kids under the age of six. I was maybe two months in after pulling Gabriella and Hayden from school. A sweet friend of mine told us about a homeschooling day at the library. It was our first time attending any type of homeschooling event.

It was one of those morning I just muscled through to get us up and out the door. I wasn’t feeling amazing and had lost a baby just a month before. I was irritable, hot, (Because October in Texas is still hot.) and worried about how my kids would behave. Would they decided to redecorate the bookshelves? Would the sit and listen, or would they get up and show off their track skills?

I was acutely aware of every little move and noise they made. All of the other kids were able to sit through the story! None of the other kids had to use the bathroom three times! Ryder was still just a toddler and wanted to touch everything, and didn’t understand how to use a quiet voice. Lylah was three, and didn’t care at all about anything that was going on.

I just wanted to “fit in”! This was possibly the new community I would become a part of, and even though the kids were just being kids, and not doing anything out of line, I was frustrated. And hot. I remember being hot.

The truth is, my kids probably weren’t being as ‘bad’ as I remember.

Halfway through the activities the whole group got up to move to the other side of the library to use the tables  and I used the shuffle to duck out. I, as discretely as possible, (which is not at all with four small children.) snuck out the side exit.

Before we could even make it into the parking lot my friend and the sweet, sweet woman I had just met caught me. I was doing everything possible to hold back the tears of frustration that were swimming in my eyes, and trying to remind myself of all the reasons why we chose to pull the kids in the first place.

My friend sympathized with me, and asked me to come back in and the amazing woman I’d just met touched my shoulder and told me the kids were fine. That they weren’t disturbing anyone, and things weren’t as bad as they seemed to me. She told me that when she saw me walk through the door with my hoard of small children that the Lord had told her to pray for me and to encourage me on my journey.

 

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I honestly don’t remember if we went back in. I think we did, but that was kind of a turning point for me. It was the moment I realized that my homeschooling (turned unschooling) journey wouldn’t ever look like another. That having other mama’s to turn to when things get rough, or just for random conversation to fill your cup is important. And being able to admit that you’re having a rough day is just as important.

Just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean it’s time to ship your kids off to school. It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the job. You love being a mother, but you don’t love having a bad day. That doesn’t make you a bad mom. Same for homeschooling. One bad day does not define your journey.

Bringing your kids home after being apart from them is something that’s not often talked about. Being with anyone all day every day, after spending hours apart is challenging. I even have moments of frustration with my husband when he stays home from work for an extended weekend or holiday. (Haha, no judging!)

If you’re new to homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your kids out of school to keep them home, find your people. You will need them. And please know, you are not alone. Your kids are not as wild as you think, and if this is what the Lord has called you to do, you’ve made the right decision.

We always tell our kids no one is perfect, but sometimes forget that includes us. We’re not perfect parents, spouses, or friends. We can correct our kids until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day they’re still just kids. Tiny people trying to find their way. And, if they’re new to being home with you all day, there’s a chance it’s going to be a challenge for them too.

The subtle changes can be just as hard to navigate as that first leap of faith. But you can, and will make it. The point is, give yourself grace and find others who do as well. ❤