Sunday, June 30, 2013

Puking in Trash Cans: How Will They Ever Learn To Do Things That Aren't Fun?

There is a question frequently asked about unschooling: how on earth will these children ever learn that life isn't all fun and that there are things they just have to do, even if they're not interested in it? I hear this a lot lately for some odd reason. So I thought I would share a few examples from my almost 15 year old daughter's life. 

We are not morning people. At all. Especially my oldest. We tend to stay up late and we get up late. And yet, she will plan her night and rise early (ugh, too early for me) in order to get ready for her summer job - walking fields picking up huge rocks for a local farmer. 4 to 5 hours a day of hard work when they call her in. Monotonous work. Dirty work. And that farmer pays her and the other rock picking teens pretty darn well. :)

I also watch this daughter of mine push herself beyond what I'd think her humanly capable - for basketball. Camps, practices, games, conditioning, training, summer leagues, tournaments, back to back games. In my opinion, anything that brings me to the point puking repeatedly into a trash can in front of a bunch of people is NOT on my immediate to-do list. 

As we enter the high school years, I am so proud of her as she begins to focus on her plans for the future. She has no clear idea of what she wants to do yet other than play basketball at the college level, but she is partnering with me and making sure she has all her bases covered. I truly admire the diligence she is showing in this area. 
People make this assumption that years of forced schooling is necessary in order for kids to grow up and take their place in society. That without it, they just won't be able to function. They won't be prepared. Pish posh and a big load of hooey! They will grow up just fine. They will seek out jobs and careers in their fields of interest and meet goals to achieve that along the way. Even if it's not fun or interesting. 

And when it comes right down to it, they'll work whatever montonous, mind numbing, physically challenging jobs they need to in order to achieve their goals...but here's a key factor - someone will pay them MONEY to do it. Nobody pays you to drudge your way through hours and hours of uninteresting, arbitrary schoolwork. Hmmmm...maybe that's where the schools should try putting their money. :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's a Tadpole Eat Tadpole World

Yep. It's a tadpole eat tadpole world.

Our tadpole population has seen a mysterious and steady decrease as of late. I've been wondering if the bizarre looking water bug dwelling in one of the containers has been eating them, so today I took some time to catch him and get him out of there. But the horror I observed instead was shocking...

The bigger tree frog tadpoles swimming around the top will pause every now and then and oh so very gently nibble on another tadpole's tail. If the nibble-ee gets easily offended and swims vigorously away, all is good.

If the nibble-ee does NOT get easily offended and swim away, the nibble-er goes ahead and takes another nibble. And another. And another. Very soon one or two more of the larger tree frog tadpoles join him and sadly, that's all she wrote for the nibble-ee. :(

I went ahead and took the biggest tree frog tadpoles out and put them in an isolation tank...I mean, set them up with their own private and quite lovely habitat.  I also relocated to another container all the toad tadpoles and the tiniest of the tree frog tadpoles as well.  And per someone's sage advice I added some cooked bacon to all the containers - which seems to be helping a little.

Moral of the story and life lessons learned:

#1. If someone nibbles on you, get away from them super quick! Be annoyed, act offended, because your very life may depend on it.

#2. Apparently bacon tastes like tadpole.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Charlotte Mason Method: Adding Rhythm and Routine

I have heard it said that it's not possible to "unschool" the Charlotte Mason method. How they're two completely different educational philosophies. One is inherently structured and the other...well, inherently not so much.  Polar opposites.  

Well, I would politely beg to differ. :)

We have been combining the two quite successfully for over 8 years now - longer, if you count the time I had no "label" for what we already naturally did.  I have found that for us, there are a great many aspects of the Charlotte Mason method that are a good fit for our family. These ideas, activities and experiences help to add rhythm and routine to our days, weeks and months. 

Taking the relaxed, interest-led approach that we do, my focus is on my children - so what doesn't work for them, we simply don't do.  (Of course, I do need a little reminder of this from time to time.) But what the Charlotte Mason method offers up to me as an unschooling mother is continued inspiration and encouragement.

Inspiration to strive to create a learning atmosphere and a home environment full of ideas and experiences that feed the minds and the souls of my children. Encouragement that providing a real, living education is far more than is abundant. 

The Charlotte Mason method also helps balance us out. 

My children are loud. They are goofy. We love tv, movies, video games, ipods, laptops and all other "screens". My three children are also passionate about playing competitive sports...all. year. round.  During certain seasons of the year, our family spends an incredible amount of time in the van running from one afternoon/evening activity to the next.  

Which brings me back to dear Charlotte Mason and the idea of balance. 

Nature study. Tea time and yummy snacks. Journaling and lots of wonderful discussions and debates. Whole and living books. Coming together for family read aloud times. Providing a wide and generous education. Emphasizing deep connections to ideas, people and things. Handicrafts, art, music, museums, real, hands-on experiences, and living, breathing history. 

Ah. There's the balance. 

Small bits, in certain seasons, during certain phases, with a lovely atmosphere, and led by interest, purpose and need. 

It may not make us "structured" by any means. But it most certainly gives our cozily cluttered and slightly chaotic lives a little rhythm and routine. And that I find, suits us perfectly. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Unschooling Charlotte Mason

I consider our family to be interest-led learners - way over on the unschooling end of the spectrum. Learning for us is simply part of our lifestyle, not an isolated, scheduled "school" time.

That said, I will openly admit to being a Charlotte Mason method groupie. <3  

Whole and living books, handicrafts, nature study, family read aloud times, real-life, hands on learning, narration in the form of meaningful conversations and discussions and an emphasis on forming connections to and relationships with an abundance of interesting ideas, topics, people, things and experiences. *sigh* Truly makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy. 

The Charlotte Mason method may lose me with its implied schedule and structure, but the spirit of the approach has certainly captured my heart. 

So in my continuing search for more like-minded souls, I have started a new Facebook group - Unschooling Charlotte Mason. This is a group for unschoolers and interest-led learners who are interested in incorporating the lovely ideas of the Charlotte Mason method into their family's lifestyle of learning.

Unschooling...with a Charlotte Mason flair. :)

A Cloud of Tadpoles and a Toad Circus

Our family kind of has a thing for amphibians. Tree frogs, green frogs, leopard frogs, wood frogs and toads. We. Love. Them.  And every spring and summer we enthusiastically go froggin' on rainy nights, rescue potential amphibious road kill and seek out tiny tadpoles in creeks, ponds, ditches and pool covers. 

The other evening, my 12 year old daughter, Libby, and I stopped to gather some tadpoles at a little pond area that happens to be right next to a gas station/convenience store. One of the employees walking into work came over, curious what we were up to...Libby was barefoot, at least shin deep in the pond area and using a bowl to scoop up water as she searched for the little polliwogs.

The employee asked what we were doing and I held up our big gallon jar full of future toads and told her that we were collecting tadpoles. At this, there was an awkward pause. Her nose wrinkled a bit as she asked , "why???".  I had to bite back my gut response of an astonished, "why ever NOT, oh ye of little wonder?!?!".  Instead, I simply told her we homeschooled - this was science. That rather traditional (boring) explanation seemed to sit okay with her. 

A second employee specifically came outside after I had to go in the store to get a big cup for some egg clutches we found. Her curiosity got the better of her and she came outside wanting to know if the tadpoles were going to turn into frogs or toads. When I let her know they were toad tadpoles she got very excited. She proceeded to inform us that toads were extremely intelligent creatures, especially when compared to frogs. Apparently, she used to have a toad circus when she was younger and trained them all to do super awesome tricks like jumping through little tiny hoops. Even used them for a school project. 

Yep. It's always nice to meet someone in this world who is even quirkier than you are.