Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Crafty Little Entrepreneur: Market Day Booth!

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Unschooling: Give a Label a Hug

My parents never used the unschooling label. Weren't even aware that there was one.  Blissfully unaware I would say. I began researching homeschooling with my own children many years later and discovered that not only was there a LABEL for how we had lived and learned, but there was a plethora of GROUPS and BOOKS and ARTICLES! I was beyond thrilled. I was ecstatic.  So without looking before I leapt, I enthusiastically jumped into the online unschooling groups with both feet,

...and promptly got my feelings hurt and my nose bent way out of shape. Ouch.

This was not what I had thought I would find.  I was not looking for argument and debate. I was not looking to be questioned or grilled. I was not looking to have my every word dissected and over analyzed with such vigor and delight. I was not prepared.

All I had wanted was company.  Other like minded souls to share the journey with. But alas, I did not stay long enough back then to get to know anyone well enough to be able to look past my first impression. I skedaddled it out of there with my tail between my legs.

And I avoided using the label of unschooling like it was the plague.

I certainly didn't change anything we did or how we learned.  I just stuck to describing what we did as interest-led learning - saying that we took a more "relaxed" or "natural" approach. I was cautious. God forbid someone should think that what I had come across online was what WE did.

But we were unschoolers. UN-schoolers. Not embracing the label because of a bad first impression and a few extremes I saw within it didn't change who we were.  It just left me alone.

Don't get me wrong.  I had great homeschooling friends.  Wonderful friends that I had much in common with. But when conversations turned to more schoolish talk (curriculum, number of school days remaining, school work woes and frustrations), I just couldn't join in wholeheartedly - because that's not how we worked. It felt like I was holding something back.  Some part of me, an important part, wasn't being shared.  And I always worried that my obsessive passion for natural, real-life and interest-led learning was met with raised eyebrows and wrinkled noses. Crazy talk.

So we just did what we did.  Went about living our lives - out in the big, wide world.  On our own. Without a label. And we were happy.


But everywhere I turned, *unschooling* was there.  Every article I liked, every blog I enjoyed, every Facebook page that I found encouragement in.  Unschoolers, unschoolers, unschoolers.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get away from the label.

I asked myself, "why not just embrace it?".  There are extremes in everything but also a lovely balance to be found.  I had my balance, my confidence, so why did it matter if someone did it differently? Who cared what someone else thought? Variety is the spice of life and such stuff.  Ah, but my nose still stung just a tiny bit. So...back to, "who needs a label?".

Here's the truth...I did.

The more I looked, the more I saw the people all around me, embracing it with open arms. Unschooling newbies were throwing their arms joyfully around the label without hesitation. Even my younger sister with her little ones, OPENLY EMBRACING it.  It made me uncomfortable...and a tad jealous. And it was this that finally stretched me to the point that I went ahead and gave the label an awkward side-hug.

It was nice. :)

The more I embraced it, the more open I felt, the more comfortable I became. And then this funny thing happened...I found that the more I opened up and the more I shared, the more like minded people I connected with and got to know - online and in my own community!

While I love being challenged and stretched, I still don't like to argue, dissect or debate what and why we do what we do.  And I also still prefer a good snuggle with the phrase *interest-led learning*. It's how we learn. It fits us. It's comfortable. But over the past few months I've been openly giving the unschooling label a great big full-on hug!  Really, I think it needs it.

And so do I.

The Danger That Lurks Below: Dragonfly Nymphs in the Tadpole Pond

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tadpole Hunger Games

Before we left on vacation, we released the tree frog tadpoles we'd been raising into the sort of finished mini-pond we'd been working on out by our nature garden. (Finding a tadpole sitter seemed a tad ridiculous...even to me - though to be honest, the thought did cross my mind.) We got them all set up, tossed in some algae covered sticks & rocks, a bunch of boiled lettuce and left them in the hands of nature.

Upon our arrival home, all seemed well.  Curiously, there were not as many tadpoles in there as I seemed to remember releasing - but quite a few of them were almost froglets when we left so my assumption was that they simply hopped away. 

A day later, Libby (my nature loving, frog whispering daughter) came inside to tell me excitedly that we had a dragonfly nymph in our tadpole pond!

So cool! I went outside with her to check it out and there wasn't just one.  No.  There were 8 or 9 dragonfly nymphs of varying sizes creeping around on the bottom and sides of the pond. How so something so weird and incredibly creepy looking can transform into a beautiful dragonfly is simply amazing!

So...want to know what dragonfly nymphs eat??  That's right. 


We looked closer. Really looked.

The tadpoles in the pond appeared all fat and healthy but...the majority had bedraggled looking little tails (chewed on, shortened and some nearly missing) and they seemed to be keeping awfully still - not swimming around, mostly staying and floating near the surface or hiding under rocks.  And to top things off, near one of the edges there were the dismembered remains of one of our larger tree frog tadpoles.  

All 30 or so remaining tadpoles (out of over 50 that we had placed in there before our vacation) were  transferred out of the pond and back into their tadpole "nursery".  Minnows were fetched from the creek for the dragonfly nymphs to stalk, capture and nom on instead...which they promptly did. It was fascinating and slightly disturbing to watch. I shudder a bit to think of what our little tree frogs-to-be had to go through in the week we were gone, forced to deal with the situation we literally tossed them into. 

 Soon our remaining tadpoles will be tiny tree frogs and in due time will come face to face with the horrors and threats of the natural world. But not right now. Right now they're safe in their tadpole nursery, with all the boiled lettuce, strawberries, freeze dried blood worms, algae and bacon they can eat.

Right now, they're just not ready for the tadpole version of the Hunger Games...for the dangers that lurk below.

But when that time finally comes again...
well, may the odds be ever in their favor.

OHC Blog Carnival

Monday, August 12, 2013

Enjoy the Journey

We homeschooling moms are hard on ourselves.  We take an immense amount of pressure and expectations and pile them up squarely on our already over burdened shoulders. And not just our own expectations.  Oy, as if that wouldn't already be more than enough. No, we go ahead and take to heart the expectations of others. Their plan. Their expectations. Their path. We relinquish our power and choice, our freedom and flexibility.  We allow someone else's idea as to what path our children should be traveling to become a burden to us and take the joy out of our homeschool journey.

What we end up telling ourselves is that this is what must be done.  Plow through.  Carry on. Keep on keeping on. Fight the good fight. Just get through it. We MUST. Because this is the only path to reach the destination we desire for our children.  A path on which we must constantly push them through things that are difficult and uninteresting. Struggle through all the brush and bramble and thorns. This is the journey our children must
make in order to be all that we want them to be.

What we need to realize is that this is not the *only* path. 
There are many. 

I know the other trails may be less traveled and a bit difficult to see clearly at first.  But they are there. You have to take the time...time to really look.  And you must be brave enough to step off the path you've been on. Be mindful that the expectations of others (friends, family, schools, curricula) do not have to be YOURS.  You have the glorious freedom and flexibility to decide what path you and your children travel. Take that power back and enjoy a homeschooling journey that is not fraught with struggles, frustration, and resistance. 

The destination is the same...but the way is easy and light. Be brave. Change the path you're on and enjoy the journey. The view is fantastic!