Monday, May 27, 2013

Tree Frogs and Tadpoles: A Rescue Mission

My 12 year old daughter is on a rescue mission.  While at her Nana and Papa's she discovered that their pool cover was home to probably close to a thousand teeny tiny tree frog tadpoles. 

She painstakingly transferred maybe 100 or so of them to containers. They are now enjoying their new home in my kitchen.

Isn't that where everybody keeps their tadpoles?? 

She also brought home 2 adult tree frogs who had been hanging out near the pool. We'll release them into our garden area where they'll be joined someday soon by a hundred or so mini-tree frogs.  Possibly more...since a second rescue mission is in the works before the pool cover comes off. 

What exactly does one do with a thousand baby tree frogs?? :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Rabbit Trail in Nature Photography.

My eldest daughter has a tendency to be fairly "selective" with her passions. She has lots of things she likes. Likes. Just likes. Sometimes she likes them a lot. But passions...?  Selective. :)

As a mom who is passionate about nature and in sharing that love with my children, imagine my joy when I noticed this daughter venturing down a rabbit trail in nature photography!

Looking back, the interest has been there for a while but the new trail being taken wasn't clearly visible. Not to me. Not even to her. 

This daughter of mine prefers to stick to the main path most of the time. She feels comfortable there. It takes something truly special to pique her interest enough to venture off that path. 

I am looking forward to following her down this rabbit trail...wherever it may lead her. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Unschooling Structure - Does Your Child Need More??

The best thing about unschooling is that it is custom fit for each individual child.  Their interests. Their skills. Their passions. Their talents. Their goals. Their needs. And yet, I continue to hear homeschooling parents say that while unschooling would work for one or some of their children, they have one in particular who needs more "structure" - craves it.  So, for that child, unschooling would not be a good fit - it just wouldn't work. Some have even "tried it out" for that kid. And found that without this needed "structure", they floundered - didn't know what to do with themselves.

Did I mention how unschooling is custom fit for each individual child?  :)

We have an image of the ideal unschooler inside our head. The inspired, creative children who seem to have idea after idea. They move effortlessly from one self-directed project to another - following their own path of rabbit trails. I have one of those children. I marvel at her. Just trying to keep up with her makes me tired. But honestly, most of the time what she needs from me is to be there to share ideas with, help her get the stuff she needs and get. out. of. her. way.  

But not all unschoolers work this way. Some children do need and appreciate more parental input. More ideas. More suggestions. More guidance and direction. More..."structure". 

My oldest has tended to be this way. She doesn't know where to start with things sometimes and appreciates having someone by her side to walk her through step by step. She requests it. Needs it. Someone to give suggestions. Remind her of her goals and timelines. Encourage her to focus. Nudge her more often. Even give a gentle push from time to time. She knows the ball is in her court - the choices are hers to make and she has veto power when it's not working. But she needs more in this area than her younger sister does.

A particular child's need for structure, for direction, does not necessarily have to mean prepared curriculum, workbooks and textbooks - though unfortunately, that tends to be how most parents interpret it. Sometimes a child simply needs a bit more parental involvement and guidance as they find their way, in their own way, on this unschooling journey.  

If your child needs more...give them what they need. That's precisely what unschooling is all about. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ebb and Flow: Finding Your Balance

There are two pervading myths out there when it comes to unschooling and interest-led learning. 

#1 is that in order for this learning lifestyle  to truly work, your children need to be magically inspired, self directed, super-duper creative learners all the time. From the moment they wake up till the moment they go to bed.  

Gotta say, that's not so much how it works at our house.  :)

There is a definite ebb and flow to interest-led learning. When a kid is in the flow, things look and feel awesome. Everything clicks. It all comes together. And it is indeed a magical experience to be part of. But when they're in an ebb...well, parental patience is indeed a virtue (and not one I apparently have an abundance of).

Which leads me to myth #2. This second myth would be that when our kids are going through an ebb, we parents stand off to the side and wait. Wait for all this awesome stuff to magically happen. We wait and watch and anxiously wring our hands and bite our nails - waiting for this flow to magically appear. 

Again, not so much how it happens at our house.  Lots of waiting, yes.  Sometimes, lots and lots. But for the right reasons.

Sometimes our children need downtime. They need to relax. Process. Think. Be. Other times, you need to be able to discern if things have simply gotten out of balance. 

Have you been gone from home too much? Involved in too many activities? Home too much? Not enough outside activities and experiences? Does there need to be more connecting, more talking, more involving, more inspiring?  Or perhaps less involvement and reminding on our part? Has the use of social media, tv and other electronic devices gotten out of balance? Become a passive fall-back activity? Is it taking the place of other activities, experiences and projects?

Flow cannot, should not be forced. (Big reminder to myself here.) But sometimes taking a closer look can show us where there's an imbalance in our lives.  Be mindful. Assess and evaluate each situation. Gently guide, inspire, discuss and encourage.  Give advice, support and loving reminders - perhaps even give a good firm nudge from time to time. 

In the ebb and flow of interest-led learning, we strive to find our balance. We struggle. We muck our way through - finding out what works and what doesn't. And somewhere in the process of finding that balance...we find the magic. 

A week of interest-led learning for a 9 year old boy...

Tracking tornadoes and storms.

Frog hunting at the creek.

Enjoying a good book. :)

WWII Re-Enactment.
Playing store.

The "money" game. 

Getting a pic taken with "General Patton"!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Homeschool "Attendance" - Look at the Learning

For all the homeschool moms stressing out and anxiously counting down the days till they've put in their 180 days and "school" is over...just call it now. :)

In schools, the 180 days of attendance is for funding purposes and all it really means is that the kids were "present" on a given day.  Translation - their butts were in the seat. It doesn't mean the kids were actually present...actively engaged and learning. 

We homeschoolers are blessed to be able to think past this limiting kind of "attendance". First of all, when are our children ever NOT present if we're counting just their physical presence?? I mean, really!?! ;)

Start keeping attendance for when your kids are actively engaged and learning...whether it looks like your idea of "school" or not. In fact, especially if not. :)  Learning does not stop on the weekends, it doesn't take summer breaks, it doesn't end at Christmas time. It's always there. Living life together, summer camps, nature walks, VBS, library programs, movies and documentaries, read aloud times, trips and vacations, sports, discussions and debates, family projects, passionately pursuing their interests, gifts and talents...these things count. Use them. 

We have this glorious freedom and flexibility. Let's not limit ourselves to what the schools have their hands bound by. We don't have to. Look instead at the real, authentic learning going on - not at "doing school". 

So...take that pressure off you and your kids. It's springtime. It's gorgeous out. Go have fun! :)