Thoughts on Unschooling

September 3, 2017 at 9:09 pm

I spent several days this weekend listening to speakers and chatting with other moms at the Free to Be Unschooling Conference here in Phoenix at a really beautiful hotel.

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I attended the conference because I got a discounted rate through being part of the Arizona Homeschool Theater Group and because I’ve been interested in learning more about unschooling ever since I started homeschooling a few years ago. My objective was to try to figure out if unschooling was something that would be a good fit for our family. I have loved reading a lot of John Holt’s writings, and he is the one who sort of started the unschooling movement. I attended with a friend and her sister, so we spent a lot of time talking and processing everything throughout the conference. Below you’ll find some of my thoughts about the conference and the things I learned about unschooling.

4 Questions to Ask about Our Children’s Futures

February 19, 2017 at 6:10 pm

A friend of mine has been dealing with some intense challenges with her son’s school. Her sweet but very active 5-year-old son has been suspended three times in the past three weeks. I’m tempted to say he was suspended for rule infractions that could fit under the umbrella of “being a 5-year-old.” Most American kindergarteners are expected to sit still, stand still, be quiet, stay in line, and generally avoid typical 5-year-old behavior at all times. So sad.

While American kindergarteners are denied their one short recess for small infractions, kindergarteners in Finland are given as many as four free-play breaks between classes because “educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves . . . executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too” (Source). Professor Howard Gardner, from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, gave this advice for improving American schools: “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States” (Source).

All of this has me thinking a lot about what really matters and what will really prepare my children for the actual future they will be living in. My research and my gut agree that what is being taught in most American schools is insufficient for and even opposed to what our children will actually need in the future. For what it’s worth, here are some questions I feel we should be thinking about.

4 questions to ask

What I Learned from Our First Year of Homeschool

May 28, 2016 at 2:35 am

Last night I was reading John Holt’s Teach Your Own before bed, wishing it wasn’t a library book so I could highlight my favorite passages. Instead I kept ripping up a piece of paper to mark the parts I loved. It seemed there was something on every page. This might be a book I need to own. I’ll share some John Holt quotes in this post, in part because I want to have them written down somewhere to refer back to.

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This blogpost has been writing itself in my head for several weeks now. But it never felt like the school year was complete for the same reason that it never feels like the school day is complete. Homeschooling never ends because children are always learning. We have “school” plans that extend throughout the summer. It seems sort of strange to even define grade levels now. I can see how they will all bleed together as we simply incorporate “school” into our lives year-round. But since the traditional school year has ended for the local kids, I suppose I can write this blogpost now.

Hopeschool: Stop Motion Merriment

April 15, 2016 at 5:02 am

Hopeschool Logo

While perusing Pinterest for homeschool ideas earlier this week, I stumbled on a Teachers Pay Teachers file utilizing the free app Stop Motion Studio. My kids love making movies, so I knew they would be uber-excited about this project. For the past few days, my 12-year-old has become a stop-motion-movie-making machine. Their first project was inspired by the Pinterest Pin I found. It outlines how to make a stop-motion movie showing the phases of the moon.

Hopeschool

February 20, 2016 at 8:36 am

A few weeks ago someone in a homeschool facebook group asked if other families had given their schools a name. Apparently some states require this, but Arizona doesn’t. Even so, I thought it was a great idea. So I asked my kids what we should name our homeschool.

We started throwing names around, and I can’t remember which clever kid came up with it, but as soon as it was spoken aloud it was a winner. Hopeschool it is. I wanted to make a cute logo to go with it as well, and we agreed on a bird nest theme since I associate Hope with birds. Also… because I like alliteration, I decided to add Haven ’cause that’s what I hope our home/nest will always be. Here’s the graphic I put together with a pic from the public domain.

Hopeschool Logo

Five Things for Friday: 5 Weeks Edition

January 29, 2016 at 8:55 am

Friday

It has been 5 weeks now since Baby Hope joined our family earthside. Today also marks my first full 5-day work week flying solo (during the day) as a mom of 5 kids. Five is apparently the number of the day. Seems fitting to do a “5 things” post for the occasion.

Six Things for Sunday: Postpartum Edition

January 18, 2016 at 1:11 am

Copy of six things for sunday

We’re now over 3 weeks post-birth, and it’s been a simultaneously intense and relaxing time. All I’ve really done since Christmas is eat, sleep, nurse, and cuddle my baby. Here are six things that have been on my mind as I have stared at that cute new little face in my family…

Six Things for Sunday

December 7, 2015 at 12:04 am

six things for sunday

I feel like life is both speeding up and slowing down at the same time. This week I will be 36 weeks pregnant, and I can feel myself moving into a sort of dream-like liminal space as my baby’s birth approaches. At the same time, life is so busy that the days fly by, and I don’t feel ready to walk through the doorway into the life where I’m a mom of five and waking up every few hours to feed a baby. But walking through that doorway isn’t really optional, so here I go. In other news… here are six things that have been on my mind these days…

Tinker Crate Review

November 18, 2015 at 6:27 am

Back in September, before we had even pulled our kids out of school, I started perusing homeschool stuff on Pinterest. I think that’s where I first heard about Tinker Crate. After we officially started homeschooling, I spent even more time on Pinterest adding things to my “Homeschooling” board. Truly I don’t know how anyone did homeschool before Pinterest. There are so many amazing and free resources out there. Thank you, interwebs! I love that we can all have access to and benefit from the ingenious ideas of people all over the world. I knew that I wanted our homeschool experience to include lots of hands-on learning, so I knew Tinker Crate was something I wanted to “pin” for future reference.

tinkercrateBasically, Tinker Crate offers a monthly subscription for hands-on learning projects for kids. The company creating these projects has crates for several age groups: Koala Crate (for ages 3-4) and Kiwi Crate (for ages 5-8). Tinker Crate (science, technology, and engineering projects) and Doodle Crate (arts and crafts projects) are for ages 9-16+. These kits are great for anyone, not just homeschoolers. (p.s. They didn’t ask me to do this review. One of my FB friends did.)

I have children ranging in age from 4 to 12, but I wanted the projects to be challenging for the older kids, and I felt like my building-all-the-time 6-year-old was beyond what the Kiwi Crate offered. So, after finding a Pinterest coupon code for 30% off my first order, I went ahead and took the Tinker Crate plunge. Since then we have received two Tinker Crate projects in the mail.

Grieving Her Lost Twin

November 2, 2015 at 3:00 am

Only you know the truth about your own history, because it is kept within the cellular memory in your body. -Peter Bourquin

February will mark five years since my youngest daughter’s birth. It will also mark five years since I learned that my daughter was very likely sharing my womb with a twin for a brief time. We don’t hear much about the vanishing twin phenomenon, but it’s actually fairly common. It is likely that one out of every ten people is actually a womb twin survivor. And 21-30% of pregnancies that begin with multiple fetuses result in a vanished twin. I didn’t know about my daughter’s twin until a few days after her birth, and until a few days ago my daughter was not consciously aware of him.

It started with a homeschool discussion about how babies are born. We watched some cool YouTube computer animation videos of the conception, pregnancy, and birth process. We looked at some books. I answered the many questions my kids had. One of the diagrams we looked at showed a picture of a placenta. My son wanted to know more about it. This led to pulling out pictures I had taken of his and his younger sister’s placentas. And then pulling the frozen placentas out of the freezer (where they still await a meaningful commemorative tree-planting or something). Then things got a little intense.

Five Things for Friday: 2nd Edition

October 24, 2015 at 12:50 am

About three weeks ago I wrote my first “Five Things for Friday” post. Time for another quintuplet of randomness, I think. 

Friday

Thing 1

I learned a fun fact about kissing and breastfeeding this past week. Many of you probably saw this on facebook, but I want to share it again here just in case. It’s rare that the word awesome is applied to something that is truly awe-inspiring, but this really is:

kissingbabyKissing your baby changes your breast milk. Did you know that the undeniable urge to cover your baby in kisses serves a biological purpose? When a mother kisses her baby, she samples the pathogens on baby’s face, which then travel to mom’s lymphatic system. Mom’s body then creates antibodies to fight those pathogens, which baby receives through breast milk. What?! Amazing, right? (quoted from 10 Things You Might Not Know About Breastfeeding)

I learned something similar related to nipples and “baby backwash” a couple of months ago. Katie Hinde, a biologist, associate professor, and blogger at Mammals Suck… Milk! shared these fascinating details with Angela Garbes for her breastmilk post on The Stranger:

According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. . . . If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection (Source).

Is Play the Cure?

October 12, 2015 at 12:12 am

Over the past few weeks, I have devoured Peter Gray’s Free to Learn, a book recommended by one of my readers. Gray is a psychology research professor at Boston College, author, blogger, and a parent. I added that last title because parenthood has a huge impact on how people view children and education. This point was made almost humorous in The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn who cited example after example of teachers who revised their homework policies after their own children began bringing homework home. This particular passage is underlined and surrounded by stars in my copy of Kohn’s book:

“Now that I’m a parent myself,” one fourth grade teacher in North Carolina said, “I realize they have lives at home” (The Homework Myth, p. 23).

freetolearnHa ha! I realize they have lives at home. Cracks me up every time. So it was important to me that Free to Learn‘s author Peter Gray was a father himself in addition to being an “expert.” In fact, the first words of his book come straight out of one of his most painful challenges as a fatherthe day his nine-year-old son told him to “Go to hell” as they sat in the school principal’s office. Gray explained:

We were there to present a united front, to tell Scott in no uncertain terms that he must attend school and must do there whatever he was told by his teachers to do. We each sternly said our piece, and then Scott, looking squarely at us all, said the words that stopped me in my tracks (p. ix).

Both Gray and his wife immediately began to cry, and in that moment they both knew what they had to do. They pulled him out of the school, and “not just from that school but from anything that was anything like that school” (p. x). Free to Learn presents educational history and research through the lens of Gray’s own experience as a father striving to provide his son with a learning environment suited to his needs.

Five Things for Friday: Ch-ch-ch-changes Edition

October 2, 2015 at 7:45 am

My friend Heather used to write a “Five Things for Friday” post on her blog every week. I always loved those posts. Anyway… I felt like writing one of my own this week since I have lots of stuff I want to tell you beautiful people but not enough time to devote a whole blogpost to each subject. I don’t know that I will do this every week like Heather did, but maybe every few weeks or so? Here goes…

5thingsonfriday

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