Thursday, March 23, 2006

Public School and Voting

I received an email today from a friend whose kids go to PS. Her son is in K this year and is enthusiastic about learning and loves going every day. He gets excited about the bus ride, lunch time, recess but also about all the new things he's learning.

I taught at a dayschool for 5 years. Most of those years I was an aide but I did teach the pre-pre-K class for three year olds for a year and a half. Those kids also were exuberant about school and learning. But we know that by the time they hit middle school, they're complaining and dragging their feet. When does that change occur and why?

I remember my own experiences in school: at one point, it was no longer cool to ask questions and be a know-it-all. When did that change take place? Somewhere around 1st or 2nd grade for me. I suppressed my curiosity in order to fit in with my peers. Peer pressure isn't only for sex and covers all aspects of living. We know it why do we continue to put massive groups of same aged kids together to learn?

I realize not everyone has the opportunity to homeschool their kids. I realize that our family has been given this gift of free learning from God and we don't take it lightly. However, a vast amount of my tax money goes towards public schools and therefore, it is still my concern, regardless if my kids attend or not.

My DH has instilled the importance of voting in me. Growing up, politics were a major source of family quarrels and I did everything I could to ignore my civics class and history classes and stayed out of political conversations. In this respect, I find myself very uneducated. But I do make a point to attend each election, no matter how small it seems. And I make school votes in the frame of mind that my kids might attend one day, all the while hoping they don't because I see so many blatent problems. We all see them. How many of us have been asking, nay shouting, for school reform? How many 20/20 specials have we watched with our mouths gaping open in shock...or sadder, nodding in agreement that we've seen those horrors with our own eyes?

My thoughts are wild and random this morning so I suppose I'll step down from my "Homeschoolers need to vote too!" soapbox.

Abbreviations I use

(To be updated as needed)
DH - Dear Husband
3yJ - 3 year old daughter, named J
5yL - 5 year old son, named L
1yM - 1 year old daughter, named M
PS - Public School
K - Kindergarten

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Day In The Life...

So many things to write about today. What a great Day In The Life of An Unschooling Family...and I'll miss a lot because I'm sick and going to try to make this quick before I collapse on the couch waiting for DH to come home.

The morning started off with Dh taking 3yJ to her first dental appointment. Her being *just barely* 3 years old limited her re-telling of the experience but she was quite excited about her new toothbrush and sugar free candy and bouncy ball and oh yes, "Mr. Thirsty" - that straw shaped thing that sucks your cheek off. ;)

The kids were very excited about playing in the snow. Dh got them some snow in a bowl to play with before he left for work. Unfortunately, the kids didn't realize it was to share so I quickly remedied that by sending J out for another bowl of snow. They played with it for a bit and then I brought out the markers and they had fun drawing on the snow. That started to wear off after a while and I got out my measuring spoons and cups and they had fun packing the snow in all sorts of things. Then 5yL started talking about science experiments so we put a lump in one of my measuring cups and tried to guess how much liquid it would make when it melted. We guessed it'd be just over one cup. We also got out my new digital kitchen scale and weighed it. After 10 minutes, L was ready for it to be melted so I stuck it in the microwave and we watched it melt. We were right - it was just over a cup of liquid and the water weighed the same as the snow. Of course, L wanted to know if we put more snow in the water, would it turn back into snow? That led to an interesting discussion about snow and weather. They also patted the snow down into a cookie sheet and used cookie cutters to make snow cookies.

After lunch, they decided to go play outside in the snow. With my pneumonia, I could only watch from the window with 1yM, leaving strict "don't go near the street" rules in their heads. We live on a cul-de-sac so it's a safer area than some but I don't take chances. At one point, I saw J run down the driveway, trying to chase birds in the cul-de-sac. I was getting ready to open the door and stop her when I saw L run past her, stop and hold his arm out so she couldn't run past him. He's a great big brother and is always looking out for her. :) They played for a while *just* out of sight but I could see them every minute or so as they moved around. They were by the trailer that DH uses for hauling compost or the lawn mower, etc. When they came in about 30 minutes later, I asked them what they were doing by the trailer. L said, "Oh, we were just cleaning the snow off the tail lights and the rest of the trailer so it wouldn't freeze."

L had a lot of fun with his new flip flap math book during rest time while the girls were napping. L is a spirited child and needs his alone time during the day. So when the girls go down for naps, he goes to his room to read or play Legos or something else relatively quiet. He seems to recharge during that alone time and when we're on family vacation and around each other all day with no breaks, you can really see the difference. He was asking me math problems during dinner and correcting me when I guessed wrong. We've gotten a lot of great math ideas recently from we're just using book titles for now. ;)

L wanted me to be a knight and he was the King and he wanted us to fight the bad guys together. I pointed out that usually the kings don't fight. He informed me that he wasn't that kind of king. ;)

Dh went to a hockey game tonight (a very rare occurance as he's not a sports fan at all but it was a company freebie and they had a great box) and Grammie stopped by with Chinese take-out in the nick of time. L was excited to show her his new Transformer toys. J begged for several stories to be read while M just wanted to play peek-a-boo with her. And of course, a short game of The World Is Coming To An End.

So today we did quite a few math things, read several stories, discussed science (snow and weather), had art class (drawing on and sculpting snow), music (The kids love to sing - and they do so almost every day), geography and even a little history. All with no curriculum while I have pneumonia and am coughing up my lungs. Almost makes me wonder why so many moms tell me they "aren't creative enough" to homeschool.

Why Unschooling?

Someone recently asked, "Why Unschooling?"

I have been asking myself lately how I came upon unschooling. I can't remember. Dh has always been pro-homeschooling but knew it was me who'd have to do most of the work so he left it up to me. My mom has taught pre-K for 20+ yrs and I taught preschool for a couple years too...and worked as an aide in the preschool for 5yrs. I was thoroughly entrenched. ;) I hated school when I was a student. No, hate isn't strong enough of a word...detested? There were many reasons, some good and some not so good. I wasn't sold on homeschooling though. So I said what the other people say when they really don't understand homeschooling, "I would worry that he'd miss the socialization". Somehow (and I really don't remember how or why), I started looking into homeschooling. I knew the thought of standing over my kids at the kitchen table, baby in one arm, a pointing finger in the other, threatening them to finish that worksheet...'or else!' was completely unappealing to me. I suppose I'm a realist. Image I knew that picture everyone has of overly cooperative, smiling, well dressed and mannered kids doing their work quietly and asking interesting questions of me was not going to happen. ;) Somewhere I stumbled across unschooling. I read a few books, read many websites, tried to grasp the idea. I thought about my own learning through life...when did I learn the fastest and easiest? Sign language class.
I took a signing class through the college over the summer when I was 15yrs old. Technically too young to attend, I snuck in. ;) I loved every single moment of it and it came in really handy that next fall...the first deaf person to attend our high school and I was the only student out of 2000 who could sign. We became best friends. ;)

I got stuck on some thoughts about unschooling where I didn't totally agree...maybe discipline...or food/tv issues. But I finally stepped back and said, "Hey, I like this big concept...we can tweak it to fit our family needs". So I'm somewhere inbetween hard-core unschoolers and school-at-homers. This is how my kids have learned from birth - why change it now? Who says they have to have formal education? I'm no dumb bunny and I don't need to be a genius today to teach my kids how to add and subtract. If they ever want to learn, say, physics...I'll find a resource for them (maybe a co-op or pre-college course) or perhaps have DH help them with it. But for now, what's stopping me? Dh is stoked on the idea of unschooling and has been onboard since I first mentioned it to him. He immediately started thinking about how different his life might have been if he'd been allowed to learn this way. Instead, we both learned how to play the school game and get A's. And while Dh retained all of it and then some, *I* just learned how to get by without really learning or remembering any of it. Study the chapter for the test, take the test, forget about the chapter. Repeat for 12 years and go to college and repeat some more.

Well, that's the semi-short answer anyway. ;) So I read about unschooling a lot. The Unschooling Handbook. Holt has great books that talk about learning styles. And John Taylor Gatto (NY teacher for 40?yrs and teacher of the year) talks about how bad the education system is and why schools were created in the first place (quite eye-opening for me). The book Christian Unschooling was a great read! I have found many Christian homeschoolers and many unschoolers but finding Christian Unschoolers seems a hard thing to do.

And when it comes down to it...did you teach your kid to crawl? Did you teach her to talk? Did you send her to school to learn how to put a fork into her mouth or walk up the stairs? Learning is so much like steps. You wait forever to hear that first "mama"...then a few other words show up one by one. And one day, you realize they're talking in sentences. How did that happen? You modeled it. They learned that speaking in sentences and more clearly helped them get what they wanted/needed. And they learned to speak. No matter how many hours you spent saying, "Say 'mama'", they did it when they were good and ready, right?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Spring!!

Happy Spring!! While I was in school, the first day of spring was always the 21st but it's changed now to the 20th so I suppose winter is getting shorter. Image

What a day we had today! Grammie has a Scholastic book fair going on at her school and we decided to go up and take a look. We came home with some great finds. 5yL found a book on March of the Penguins and a Lego Knights Kingdom. 3yJ grabbed a cute one about baby and mother animals cuddling up to go to sleep and Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick. L also found a 'bug vacuum' and was really excited about it. But after we looked it over, we decided it really wasn't strong enough to pick up any bugs we could think of and we have several bug cages at home. So we left it there. But he was equally excited when he saw a booklet with about 10 different model planes in it to put together, called Wild Wings. These were very simple almost styrofoam planes but he had a lot of fun putting them together and sharing them with J. And I found a really neat Flip Flap Math Book that I'll leave lying around to see what happens. Image As an example, it has a picture of 5 ducks then a big + sign, then a picture of 3 ducks and a big = sign with a ? When you pull the tab, it changes the ducks and question mark to the numerals 5+3=8. It covers addition and subtraction and I'm sure J will find some help identifying numerals as well.

I've been getting progressively sicker for a week now and have decided it's at least bronchitis so I made an appt to see my dr in the afternoon. Turns out it is pneumonia instead. The thing that keeps me going back to my particular dr is that he gives me freebies every time. And it's not that it's free so much (though as a SAHM with 3 kids, we appreciate anything given freely!) but the simple fact that I don't have to lug the kids all the way to the pharmacy that my insurance covers, 20 minutes away, and back again while coughing my lungs up. As always, he gave me enough samples of antibiotic to see me through the pneumonia (I hope!!). I suppose the next few days will be spent in bed. This is always good because I have lots of reading to catch up on.Image While in the exam room waiting for my doctor, the kids became very interested in the posters and models in the room. L read several "maps" of the human body and showed me the gallbladder I had removed, how long the intestines are and were DH's spleen used to be. He also was quite absorbed in a chart that explained some kind of cell degeneration that was over my interest level. Then he joined J looking at models of the shoulder and heart. He explained to J that the white parts were bone or cartilage, the red was muscle and the rubbery green parts were the tendons. J encouraged him on with, "that's yucky!" and "ewww". The heart model opened up and they got to examine the heart valves and identify several different sections of the heart before the doctor arrived. It was so fun to watch all this learning going on even while I was too sick to care. Sometimes waiting isn't such a bad thing.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patricks Day!!

Happy St. Patricks Day!

I had to look up a story about St. Patrick because, after all my years in school and Sunday School, I knew absolutely nothing about him. I thought St. Patricks Day was a silly holiday for Irish people and we teased about their folklore of little green men (no, not THOSE little green men) and four leaf clovers. It was quite an interesting read. It was also fun explaining it to the kids.

3yJ woke up from nap with pink eye. Lovely. I have no idea where she picked that up and the peds office was closed because she had a late nap. So I had to juggle his after-call service and Walgreens to get some meds. This was, of course, a great opportunity to discuss germs again and what contagious means. Image

I made my mom's traditional corned beef and cabbage and I found a great recipe for Irish Soda Bread (the last one I tried wasn't good at all!). Grammie brought over shamrock cookies for dessert.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The March

Ahhh...Spring Has Sprung!! Yes, I know it's another week away yet but I just know spring is here. Why, you ask? No, it's not the flowering daffodils in the front garden. No, it's not the absence of winter coats every time we go outside. No, it's not the returning of daily walks around the subdivision. The reason I know it's spring is that the kids have begun their yearly "Kill The Ants" game.

This is the second year since we've been in this house (going on 6 years now) that we've had ants inside. I could hypothesize that the kids are at that 'eating while trolling' age and leaving crumbs everywhere. I could also guess that my housecleaning skills have gotten progressively worse - and while this theory makes good sense, I fail to believe it. ;) I could also blame the neighbors who uprooted their whole yard this last year and put in a hot tub and new landscaping. But I suppose it just comes down to luck - we've been lucky the previous 4 years.

Yesterday DH brought home some ant traps. 5yL vividly remembers (as he always does) how they work...and even gave a dissertation to the grocery store lady..."Daddy put down some ant traps and they'll come in and take the food and then take the poison back to their anthill and kill them all!"

The kids spent literally all day running around, shoes in hand, banging on the floor. "There's another one, J! Get it!" "Wuuuuuke....nudder one!" Grammie stopped by on her way home from work and asked L how he'd feel if he were an ant and somebody wanted to squish him. He didn't miss a beat..."I wouldn't care because I'd be an ant."

I on the other hand, exploring OAMC, spent the majority of the day cooking. I cooked up two meals of Heavenly Chicken, a ton of twice baked potatoes, three meals of Baked Ziti and some sloppy joe mix - this all got frozen for later use. I had to stop at that point because all my dishes were dirtied and I was tuckered out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

New Toys!

First thing this morning, 5yL asked to count his piggy bank money. He counted up all his paper money and I helped him with the coins. He had $15 and some change. He immediately wanted to run to Toys R Us to look for two Transformers - Starscream and Landmine. This brought up a such a conversation! First we talked about different stores carrying different products and discussed some economics such as Walmart and Target seem to be cheaper than TRU and we might want to look there first. We used their websites to see if we could tell if they even carried those particular transformers but their sites left a little to be desired in that category. He finally decided that Target has a bigger section of Transformers than Walmart so we looked at Target first. They didn't have the two he wanted so we went on to TRU to look. We found Starscream but he was almost $50. L decided on another one instead of waiting to see if he could find Landmine elsewhere. Then we found a deal there - if he spent $15 in Transformers, he got an additional $6 transformer free. So he got a great deal and ended up with 3 new transformers. He had his toys picked out within 10 minutes and was ready to leave.

3yJ also had $15 left from her birthday to spend and wanted to get something. So she started looking. We looked at stuffed animals, legos, baby dolls, Barbie-type dolls, bikes, kids furniture, Transformers, Power Rangers and even a few 'baby toys'. 45 minutes later, she had finally decided on a new Playdough set. They were also running a deal - if she spent $10, she got a smaller set of Playdough free.

So the kids were both extremely happy, J has $5 left to put in her bank and I discovered something...women are definitely born with the shopping skill. Image

Sunday, March 12, 2006


We had guests this weekend...a HS friend of DH's. Their little boy came with them and we had several life lessons in sharing and being a good host and being patient. ;)

We also made a trip to Walmart. There I got a nice cabinet - like the old metal utility cabinets but this is oak and heavy. First off, it's a great place to put our globes that have never had a good home yet. ;) Secondly, I'm going to spend tomorrow filling it with the kids supplies - this is a cabinet for them. Playdough (if I'm really brave), paper, crayons, pens, stencils, colored paper, craft items, scissors, puzzles, etc. We placed it in the dining room so they have easy access and don't have to ask us everyday for these items. It's great because the doors will keep the baby out too. :) I'm looking forward to filling it.

For *my* unschooling, I've been exploring cooking methods lately. I just finished a two week course of OAMC (once a month cooking) and find that I really REALLY liked it. Even though I love to cook, meals I can just thaw and warm give me more time to devote to side dishes and finishing touches. I no longer have that 5 o'clock stare into the fridge, wondering what I'm making for dinner that night. I need to make the next few weeks menu and go shopping.

Dh found an S hook yesterday to hang my new nonstick griddle pan. I've been having a hard time finding a good place to keep it where it won't get scratched up and now it hangs over the side of my cabinets above my kitchen sink. Looks a little country-ish but I'm willing to live with it because it has a safe place.

5yL wants to count the money in his piggy bank and buy a new Transformer. We'll work on that tomorrow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The World Is Coming To An End

It's 10am and L has already placed a call to Dh at work to ask him what state his character is moving to today – California. ;)

5yL and 3yJ and I played the map game for a while around lunchtime. And as soon as Grammie came to visit, L very quickly explained his game called, “The World Is Coming To An End” and showed Grammie her piece (a mini transformer) and told her she had to start in Cuba and move from state to state. He was glad to have someone else to show his ‘new game’ to. ;)

Grammie does storytime at the dayschool where she works. And as a special treat, she brings over that week's storytime supplies and does it one more time for the kids. They always look forward to it and are a little disappointed when she arrives sans stories. Tonight's treat was all about oppossums.

Being unschoolers, we have discussed math subjects but have yet to sit down and discuss operators. L came downstairs from naptime (he rarely sleeps but usually uses the time to play with Legos, Transformers, read and sometimes even draw a bit), calling me Mei-Ying. [This is the character I'm assigned when he plays Indiana Jones.] He brought me a scrap of paper and told me that I had to decipher the code so we could find the treasure. He had scrawled out a great looking 7 + 8 = and then he even placed a square box where I should put the answer. This was a bit shocking to me because he has never had a math worksheet shown to him. He's played with the calculator some and I'm assuming that's where he picked it up. When I figured out the code, he double-checked my work and told me I was correct and we were able to find another treasure for the museum!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Maps, the Science Experiment

J had gymnastics today. Before class, we went to the local office supply store and looked for maps. They had some great ones. I got one of the US, World, Money and a smaller one that had US on one side, World on the other but it also had time zones and populations, etc. that could be interesting to view as well.

Grammie took the day off for a dr’s appt so we invited her to lunch after gymnastics. We met at Long John Silvers and had a nice lunch, followed by a trip to the library. I came out with about 20 books (I finally had to cut the kids and myself off) and came home for for late naps.

Before dinner, I layered the table with tablecloth, maps, clear vinyl. I didn’t mention it at all to anyone. As I set L’s plate down, he was looking at the money poster. He says excitedly, “Mommy, one is an L, upside down”. It took me a few seconds to realize he was saying that the number 1 looks like an upside down L. I agreed and went on to fix my own plate. 5yL and 3yJ were very interested in the maps and asked questions about it. L had the US map and J had the World Map. We have a large square table. It sits very high and we use 2 bar-stool height chairs on each of the 4 sides. It’s an unusual table that we purchased last year and I simply adore it. I sat next to J and Dh sat next to L, with 1yM in-between the adults. J and I talked about where our friends live and where we’ve been, etc. We talked about our trip to Canada in May ‘04 and that our friends who visited this last summer live in Australia. I showed her where Uncle D went to pick up their adopted daughter – “She was so very special that he had to go all the way across the world to find her and bring her back to join their family!” J can now show me where Lily lives (Australia), where her cousin was born (Nepal), where we live (US) and where Canada and Russia are. L, on the other hand, started to make a game out of it. First he recognized a few states. He could tell us right away where our state was. He got very excited when he saw there was a state named after Indiana Jones. ;) We talked about the different states we’ve visited or that we have/had family in. Then L said he was going to Indiana. He got one of his small transformers (a helicopter) and put it on Indiana. DH played along and picked a state too. They jumped around from state to state and L said he was eating food in each state to keep his player strong (thanks, digital games!). He got upset when Dh jumped into his state because Dh would eat up all the food. Then Dh started getting a little schooley – “I’m going to the state north of Cuba”. They played that for a little while and then it was bedtime. It was quite a learning adventure and more interesting than anything I ever did in school myself regarding geography.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I read an article written by an unschooler about strewing, which I find essential in unschooling. She puts maps under a clear vinyl tablecloth to facilitate learning. I think that’s a fantastic idea and talked it over with DH while he was driving back to work from a lunch seminar. He added that it would be neat to use dry erase markers on it as well to illustrate or mark directions for trips, etc. I find that I’m bored with schoolish maps myself and am looking for something a little different (as always). ;)

I ran to Walmart tonight and purchased a cheap cloth tablecloth (to protect the wood table from the vinyl) and a clear vinyl overlay.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Books we've read

(M) - Matthew, (R) - Rose, (J) - Jade, (L) - Linnae, followed by their ages, for my tracking purposes

# Carlotta's Kittens (R5)
# Robin Hood (M7)
# Treasure Island (M7)
# Catwings (R5)
# Robinson Crusoe (M7)
# Lord Of The Rings Series (M7)
# Hop On Pop (R4)