Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unschooling Life

Unschooling takes you places. Wonderful places. This place happens to be Lane Stadium, located in Blacksburg, VA. We are die-hard Hokie fans and Lane Stadium is the Hokie's home field. This was the boys' first trip there. They didn't get to go inside, but wandering around outside a bit was just fine.

I had always intended to write a lot more about homecshooling and our journey on that path on this blog. After all, it is a big part of our lives, so how could I rightly leave it off? But a couple things happened.

First - when you tell people, or when they find out that you're homeschooling your kids
it's like you've just walked into a giant mine field. Things can quickly turn into a nearly literal war zone. You're bombarded with questions wanting (sometimes demanding) to know every detail of every aspect of their education. Whether it pertains to them in the current measure of time is irrelevant. What are you going to do about trigonometry??? What about this? What about that? HOW are you teaching them? What makes you think you're qualified to teach them?

I realize that often these are asked out of simple curiosity. If you tell someone you just managed to fly from tree-top to tree-top you're likely going to get asked why. But, as too many homeschoolers can & will attest to, too often these questions are asked too snidely. Condescending, judging, like vultures trying to pick you apart.

What makes it a war-zone is the attempt to stand one's ground and not put the other person's choices regarding their child's education down. It is very difficult to say why you think school is a bad idea for your child but perfectly ok for another child. MINE FIELD!! Add that you unschool and you get a double or triple mine field because even homeschoolers have been known to turn on each other.

Now you know why I've been silent. I just haven't wanted to deal with it, with the drama. But this is my blog and damnit, I'm going to talk about the things that are going on in my life, in OUR lives. And unschooling is a big part of that. So, here it goes. (And, fair warning, I usually don't delete comments but if you bring drama that I don't care for here .. I will delete your comment.)

Overall Unschool Lesson #1: It all begins with Sit/Stay

We happened to have gotten a new puppy this Summer (yes this relates, just hang in there) and so he went to puppy obedience class at the end of Summer/beginning of Fall. There is something we learned there that I haven't been able to shake out of my head, and I think this is a good thing. The instructor told us repeatedly "It all begins with the sit/stay command. If you can't get 'em to do the sit/stay you can't move on to anything else." And so, this has become a mantra for now. For schooling, for growing. For moving our lives into the child-centric model to the model where they orbit around us (parent-centric?).

Tristan & Pre-School:

This year Tristan has started pre-school. Unschooled pre-school, only measured with any sort of formal significance (that anyone from the "outside world" -- ha ha, that's a joke people) coming from the fact that he goes to Storytime at the library once a week. We're blessed in Salem to have such a wonderful public library.

One of the biggest goals of pre-school for Tristan though is learning to dress himself. He takes longer than most grown women who are trying to put on their faces and do their hair. He usually leaves his room, where he is supposed to be getting dressed, to come find me and talk to me at every .. single .. possible .. conceivable stage of undressing and dressing. This is usually followed by a scream/whine when Foster is "near him" and then the derailing to where he wants me to dress him. I've told in no uncertain terms that if he wants to go to kindergarten then he simply must learn to dress himself. Those are the rules. The Sit/Stay.

Shannon & 1st Grade:
Shannon is now in 1st grade. He goes to homeschool gym class at the YMCA and loves it, though I don't care for the instructors. I haven't taken him out yet though. I'm there while he's in class, so I'm .. well, there. And he loves it.
His reading is amazing, almost too good. Math hasn't clicked yet. We're still working on it, very gently showing him how things can add up. He can get it a little bit, but it hasn't clicked. We're not worried. I'd like to work with him on learning money, if only I can get myself organized and ahead of the game enough to get there.
What I've really been impressed with him about this year is his empathy and caring for others. When my uncle died in August we took the boys to the burial. Shannon was upset, but I think it was more because he saw everyone else upset and that bothered him. At Halloween he wanted to color pictures to pass out to all the trick-or-treaters (we wound up making special goodie bags for friends). Thanksgiving comes around and there he is with a stack of paper and a tote of crayons, drawing & coloring hand-turkeys for everyone .. writing their names on them and then folding them up just so, so that they had to be opened just the way he wanted them to be, and giving them away.

Then there are the rules and things they learn together. For instance, while Justin was putting in my dreadlocks Saturday evening we put the movie Elf in the dvd player. The boys saw the dinner scene where Buddy puts maple syrup on spaghetti and drinks an entire 2-liter of soda & then they saw the breakfast scene where he eats plain spaghetti noodles topped with marshmallows, m&m's, various syrups, pop-tarts, and likely more sugary stuff. Both boys commented (without our prompting!) that he wasn't eating very healthy!! I was proud.

They know where their food comes from because they go with me/us to pick it up from the farm. They see the baby piglets, then the larger pigs, then the pork. Shannon infamously welcomed Thanksgiving guests into our house a couple years back with the very enthusiastic greeting of "Come in! Would you like to see our dead turkey??" He then proceeded, during dinner no less, to explain how the turkey came to be dinner. How they killed it, how they processed it. Even though he hadn't actually been there he knew the steps.

Not all the things they learn together are related to food though. They've recently been allowed to start riding their bikes/scooters/tricycles down to the playground when we go. We live on a VERY, VERY busy street so this is a bigger deal than it may sound otherwise. They started having to ride near me, stay close to me. When they do that successfully I start to let them ride ahead a bit. Never out of sight, but a bit of freedom none the less.

And there are more things. Shannon has become rather responsible for pooper-scooping the backyard. No small task considering Foster is an English Mastiff. He wanted the responsibility, we have it to him.

We hung a coat rack on the back of one of the closet doors in the room. They're now responsible for hanging up their coats properly. There is also now a shoe rack with a shelf for each of them where their shoes are supposed to go. That one isn't going as smoothly as the coat rack, but they'll get the hang of it. And there are more things, so many more things, things I just can't think of right now.

And I know some of you will read this and think that it has absolutely nothing to do with their education and schooling. This is where I will, politely, disagree with you. Tristan is 4 years old and Shannon is almost 7. We're still in the Sit/Stay commands. From the number of grown "adults" (that word is used very loosely) who still live at home or who can't support themselves properly, I'd say that a lot of kids could've benefited from some more Sit/Stay lessons.

But this is our life. I am proud of it. I am proud of my boys. So far, this unschooling journey is a good one.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I love this. I so wish I had homeschooled my boys. I wish it every day. On the getting dressed thing, I just read this this morning. This blog is so great. She puts on a song the kids like and tells them they have to be dressed (plus brush teeth or whatever the routine is at that time) before the song ends. It works for her. She has a ton of ideas and I actually thought of you while I was reading her blog.