Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Whole Life Learning - Unschooling - All The Details

Why we do what we do and what it actually is.
          We do not homeschool in the sense of "school at home" with our children. They were not pulled from public school so that we could force learning in ways we did not find to be benefiting our children.  We choose to take a more organic approach to learning with them. This is our homeschooling philosophy, whole life learning. We believe that children learn best when they are fully engaged and excited. You cannot force a child to get excited about a topic because you have some kind of need for them to learn said topic.
          Many children waste their time memorizing (not learning) facts to regurgitate them for tests only to forget them more quickly than it took to memorize them. We do not test our children. Testing is a system put into place for teachers to assess and gauge a child's learning because they cannot focus on each individual child in the way that a homeschooled child is attended to. I'm sure it is very helpful in a classroom setting for a teacher who has to keep track of all those children and also for parents who want to know how their children are doing based on a system of measure. But you see my kids do not need to be tested because they are learning in ways that tests simply cannot measure(more on that later....) and when they know something I know that they know. There is no use for tests aside from samples for end of year evaluation and test scores are not a great portfolio sample anyway. Project based samples are more thorough and have a better feel about them, with more creativity and personality involved.  
          We choose to unschool our children this means that they seek out things they are interested in and they learn because they are engaged in that particular topic. This is precisely how adults out of school and university learn. When you want to learn something new what do you do? Do you go sign up for a class because the only way to learn something new is by listening to lectures and taking tests? Or do you seek out the information you desire and the experiences required to fully understand the concept that you are curious about? I'm willing to bet that you consult with Google or a book store more often to learn new things than you realize and most certainly more often than you find yourself signing up for classes. Also, learning things in a class might be absolutely perfect for the way that you learn (there are different learning styles and this is important as well). In addition to classes being a great way to learn they can prevent you from making some big mistakes and also promote a healthy lifestyle such as with yoga or spinning. Classes that teach pottery making, homesteading skills, or how to quilt are also beneficial and a great way to establish a hobby and relationships with other people. You also learn much through conversations with other people and working together. You learn through trying new things. To stop learning is to stop living they are one and the same.
          Please note that unschooling our children does not mean we are hands off. If anything it is far more hands on. We present ideas to our children, topics they might like, and books they might enjoy reading or having read to them. Yes, even when they can read chapter books to themselves. Do you remember how comforting it was to be read to, to allow your mind to just fly away with the words, to close your eyes and day dream it all in your head? We're not stopping that around here and especially not at the expense of a child not realizing how much they love literature. We are "book people"(in that we love books, reading, libraries, book stores, you get the picture) and we want to share that with our children. We buy the tools to learn and seek out the experiences to facilitate their interests. They learn all the time. We talk about nutrition and budgeting when meals are involved. We round numbers to estimate the cost of the items in the shopping cart before we get to the check out. We talk to people we don't know and wish them well (and sometimes rude things come out of little mouths but this too offers the opportunity to learn and to improve). When talking about people we talk about culture and religion too. When we clean together and do home projects we instill responsibility in our children. I am in the process of making all of our craft and art supplies more accessible to them so that they can initiate their own activities and be able to clean up after themselves too(This stems from the fact that I love some of the Montessori approaches to home life and education.). I'm also planning some fun history submersion days in the new year that I think they will fully enjoy. They got an awesome microscope for Christmas along with a slide making kit and petri dishes. They received good for the environment soy crayon rocks and rubbing plates focused on botany and fossils. It is all about facilitating and making an amazing life for our children and anyone can do that!     
That thing I said about tests.        
          I mentioned that our children learn in ways that tests cannot measure and it is true. While a test can measure the level of comprehension attained through a story it cannot measure the personal influence. Short of assigning written essays that are more for defining writing and grammar ability than for establishing the impact of literature on a young student, these are the aspects that fall through the cracks in traditional schooling methods. Discussions directly with your young reader in which you're actively engaged and asking questions are a much better and more sincere way to really see through his eyes how much a story has impacted him.
          A test does not measure personal character. I don't know about anyone else but raising my children is far more about the kind of people they  are and much less about how quickly they can complete math problems. Kind of like The Tortoise and The Hare, as long as you're reaching the destination you need to be at. We spend time every day with our children working on life skills, how to treat others, and how to care for themselves. That last one is far more detailed than you'd think at first. It is important for children to be able to assess their needs on all levels; mental, physical and emotional health are all important parts of taking care of ourselves and children need our guidance. They also need to continuously work on building relationships with family, friends, and people in their communities. With that, it is imperative that they move towards establishing themselves within these groups. They need to know that their presence is always important and valued even as children. If we do not raise them to feel important now but suddenly dump it all onto their shoulders with expectations and a lack of instruction when they turn eighteen, what more can we expect, than for them to not know how to handle such responsibilities and social positions? Raising our children to be strong speakers, to have their own opinions, and to stand up for themselves is important to us. We do not request that they blindly follow our words because who's advice will they follow when we are not around? They have to learn to trust themselves and their judgment.
          A test cannot measure the passion they feel for topics that excite them. While a test can tell me that my child is remembering many facts and details about a particular topic it does not reveal to me how much she loves to learn about it. A test could easily mark the end of a learning endeavor and wouldn't it be a shame to cut her excitement short because a lesson simply ends here? Instead I will encourage and facilitate learning until her brain is satiated and she wants to move on to another topic. Which, guess what... might not happen right away! The level of learning my children experience from reading and enjoying the things that they love to learn about has been much more thorough than weeks of lessons on subjects that bore them. But, yes it does sometimes take time for them to become excited about a new topic when the last has passed out of their lives. Sometimes they say they want to know more about astronomy and change their minds just after you've printed pages of information and bought a telescope. I always trust that someone will get use from these dropped interests even if that person isn't any of us.
This is the way we live, please respect us.
          It is fairly apparent that unschooling isn't just about education but it is also about how we live. Maybe it is even more about how we live than it is about education. The way that we live allows for whole life learning. When asked about school our kids will often claim that we're not doing it, that they're not learning, or they will avoid the person quizzing them. When they honestly claim that they do not know something and then are told of this topics (*ah hem* arbitrary) "importance" but not in ways that are applicable to their current lives the entire conversation is pointless. Unless of course the goal is to confuse, intimidate, and belittle a child, in which case you've succeeded. I understand that others feel that they need to know that the children in their lives are doing well but that is their personal situation and one should use caution when coming from a place of fear or judgment. This means that often we push our ideals on others in ways that are not helpful but instead hurt others without our realizing it and there are better ways to communicate. Perhaps it would help everyone involved by asking questions like "What books are you reading?" or "What fascinates you most about the planet we live on?" or any number of other awesome questions for kids like:
"What would you like most about being a jelly fish?"
"What is your favorite animal? Why?"
"What do you like most about having dogs?"
"What are you good at?"
"What is the best thing about being a kid/(or the age they are now)?"
"What is the hardest thing you've ever had to do?"
"What is your favorite word? Why?"
          You can simply strike up conversations in almost the same ways you would with adults. You can share information that you think is interesting and see if they share in your interests. You can ask them their interests and see if you know anything about those topics that you could share with them. Sharing knowledge and experiences is wonderful. Over sharing and stressing the importance of topics in arbitrary ways is not conductive to a good relationship. Again, building good relationships is something that we're working on teaching our children about but also something that so many adults seem to skim over as though it lacks any kind of significance at all especially with those who are young and know not what they know.
More of that philosophy thing.    
          They learn from you/me/them/us(get it?), you learned from the people before you. This is how we all learn and change and grow and choose new things. You can help change cycles worth breaking; you can influence the next generation. You can "be the change" you wish to see, if you see a change worth making. If the parents of these children are working toward something different, something you may not quite understand, respect and an understanding attitude go a long way. Relatives and friends, help the people in your life to facilitate the life(whatever life that may be) they desire not the life you may think they should have or standards you thing they should be living up to.
          We're not radical in the sense of electronics and have set times for the entire family for use of electronics daily except for clearly educational uses/consulting Google for questions. I know, these are useful learning tools. But they are also time suckers so we choose to live more conscious of our electronic use by limiting it and establishing routines that help to balance all aspects of our lives.
What do we do all day?      
          We like to maintain a daily routine because it helps us all function. I have one child who likes to rise early, one who wakes with me, and one who wakes later than us all. We stager our morning activities, eat when we are hungry, and start our day in whatever way feels true to ourselves and what we need or need to get done. This does not mean we cannot get up and get out of the house when we need to be somewhere. This means that when we have morning plans we go to bed at the time that waking demands. In the mornings we read, write in journals, work on art, play board games, complete any fun/educational activities I have planned or they have requested, and sometimes watch educational films. We break these activities up with household responsibilities as they become apparent. Lunch is also served when our stomachs need it and with a range of options since we have different demands and expectations nutritionally. In the afternoon we clean up morning messes, start planned activities educational or otherwise, play outside, run errands, the kids sometimes play with friends, more reading happens, and playing with each other. Snacks are encouraged up until the time that dinner is cooking, then kids have to wait. After dinner the kids can use electronics for whatever they like, watch television, and taking turns playing video games. I have found that I like keeping a bedtime for myself and my kids understand that they each have different sleep needs and meet those needs accordingly. They go to bed between 10 and 11 and I go to bed around midnight.  This is what daily life looks like for us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just a Kid and her Xbox

This here has got to be one of my favorite pictures lately.

That is all.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Life Lately

So, here is a "life lately" post because I hear people kind of like them!

I've spend the last few weeks debating a haircut. The last one I had at the end of August left me feeling pretty terrible about myself. Too much was taken off, it was uneven, not blended correctly and basically not what I had asked for. I cried, more than once. I also promised myself that I would never, get my hair cut ever again. Not for the rest of my life until I was old and grey and not even if looked like an evil witch lady and scared children. Not even when it was long and making my face look like a llama's face, strange and elongated.  
I got my hair cut this week. Super short and I absolutely love it. I started telling myself things like, "Be brave" and "You'll look amazing, you have the right face for it, your ears are tiny" and "If your hair gets any longer you won't want to get it cut short, it could be years before you're motivated again". 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Discontent Midnight Musings

I said earlier that I believe you can love someone to the ends of the earth but at times still kind of want to push them off if you could or heave yourself over the edge. 
No matter how my day has gone when gazing at my sleeping children I feel rejuvenated. Awestruck, in love with who they are. I want to kiss their faces and hug their little bodies and wake them accidentally-on-purpose so that I might have a moment to apologize, if only for the things I was keeping to myself all along. To gain a minute more to appreciate them and show them my love when I was instead impatient. To just tell them how amazing they are.
But I realize, I need to forgive myself. Perfection was never my aim, just to give them my best. Which I will continue to aim for.

This applies even to the good days, when I sat and colored for fifteen minutes not thirty then I see a small child sleeping peacefully and I am discontent inside. I could have sat longer, played more, read on. I don't want to feel so dependant on tomorrows for having seen what I missed today.

This stuff... the stuff of life and love and trying so hard.
This has been brought to you by tapping thumbs and a mama snug in bed hoping her cell holds out long enough to post these ramblings.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bittersweet Farewell and Hello Again!

I've shared the following message on Facebook all week and for easy linking I'm sharing again like I said I would!
"I've decided that I will be walking away from Facebook until further notice. I have been feeling a tugging to step away for a little while now and I'm going to listen.
We have a home phone, no cell phone, texting our home phone will not be productive, message me for the number at which you can call me. I have an email address too,  and there is a chat option in there if you have gmail too.
I'm going to take more time to write and blog,  so you can check in on what's going on there(just subscribe, it's easy :) ).
We are also kind of on YouTube... I'm trying to get better at it.
Oh and instagram if you like pictures of food, homeschool things, rats and pitbulls @raelafaye
Also feel free to send me cool ideas on pinterest!
Happy Holidays  
eel free to link me to your accounts and blogs and awesome things. Emails and phone numbers too!"

The official "Dear John Letter" if you're curious mind is wondering ...

Dear Facebook,
I'd tell you it was me not you, but I'd be lying. It is you. You see, I have a problem. A very real problem, a need for information. And as we both know, there is better information than what you're bringing to this relationship. I am a compulsive reader you should know by now. With my clicking habits what they are, good or bad, happy or sad, if there is something to be read, I'm clicking. I'm learning so much but some days I'm uncontrollably sad and irritable. I'm angry with you and angry with myself. I wonder if I am wasting valuable passion and energy.
I have a love hate relationship with you. Oh the people I have met, the wonderful beautiful people! The people with their ideas and passions that make my soul happy for knowing them. Seeing their dreams unfold fills my heart with love. Getting to share in their joy through you, Facebook, has been great.
But now I have to focus on myself and my family. I have to write more and feel and dream. I have to make magic and share wonder. I have to stop being distracted and using my precious energy on whatever whims you carry me away on. I'm holding myself accountable and walking away.
Maybe it isn't you at all, maybe it is me. And that, old friend, that's ok too.

I look forward to spending more time writing. Let me know you're here now and then with a comment.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mothering Is In My Bones

Today, being a homemaker, a stay at home wife and mother is not a luxury  most experience. But in and of itself it is also a sacrifice of sorts. It is a blessing as well to stay home and raise children, to take care of the home, and to devote one's life in such ways. 

A woman must sacrifice an income, an entire career in most cases, in order to stay home with her children. This too has an impact on the entire family. She has to be secure enough in her decision not to doubt herself. She has to trust that being a stay at home mother is not going to negatively impact the lives of her husband and children. When she is unsure, well she has to build herself back up or risk falling due to her own undoing.

A woman who can choose to stay home with her children also puts an enormous amount of pressure on herself to do her very best. Anything less than her best would be an insult and a waste of being at home, she will perceive it this way. She is unquestionably hard on herself and feeling under the weather often leads to feelings of worthlessness . It is hard for her to accept that some days she will be less than her best albeit still her best in that moment and under those circumstances. Oh the circumstances there will be. She will devote more of herself to being her best than she will even realize.
When urged to do something for herself away from home she won't have any idea what that could be because everything she loves is under one roof. The people she loves to be with the activities she enjoys the most. Even the quiet corners of her home are more desirable than any coffee shop or library. When she wants to go to the library she will want to take the ones she loves. She wants them to enjoy the opportunity it offers. When she wants to go out for coffee she will want to do so with her husband. When the time comes that she wants to set out alone and do something for herself, she won't need to be encouraged to do so and God help you if you try to stop her, she will just need an able bodied partner to kiss goodbye as she walks out the door.

At the end of the day she knows that doing anything else no matter how worldly, luxurious, or desirable would change the life that she has built. She would not be the same and neither would her children. She would have different memories, different goals, and different relationships. Perhaps that would be ok too. Perhaps it would be an equally wonderful life. But this is the life she has and wants; this stay at home wife and mother life is what she was called to do. She knows this with every beat of her heart and dream in her soul.

This is my truth anyway. Some days I feel inadequate for the task I'm so obviously blessed to have. Some days I feel like I am doing my family an injustice by not providing more financial security and opportunity. Some days also turn into weeks at times when I don't remember to build myself back up or confess my fears and worries with someone who cares about me. When I don't surround myself with the kind of support that I need from my husband, trusted friends, or through spiritual outlets I easily fall into a void. When I sit down with my thoughts and feelings I find that I'm doing my very best. I'm doing what is in my heart to do; mothering is in my bones. Maybe I'll go to work one day the future is unpredictable. I have passions that inspire me, my life is not all housework and raising children.  Well, some days it is and that's great too. I know that this time is fleeting and this is not the time for me personally to pursue anything else but I don't want to do anything else. Forcing myself to pursue dreams that I haven't even had yet would equate with "keeping up with the Joneses" and would be for the wrong reasons. I would not be able to live with that kind of regret. I will never regret spending these years with my children. But I know I would regret the alternative.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Quotes In Passing

Yesterday I said, "I want everything I do to be deliberate. I won't be passive or fearful or controlling. My state of mind will be clear, compassionate, trusting, and most of all deliberate. I want to live purposefully and confidently. That is what I will do."
This is exactly how I try to live.
In a world that is growing more fearful daily I seem to be the silly one.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Goodbye Jabby Bras!

When you grow up its the small things (I'm so punny, you'll see...) that matter most.
Like new underwear and bras that don't jab you.

Or maybe you just know you're old when you squeal with excitement when you see your package of bras and underwear is on the front porch under your mail box.This could be true. I'm not ashamed.

They are sitting on the porch in mail packaging because when you know what you want and where you'll get it and exactly what size you need. There is very little reason to go to the mall unless your spontaneously shopping. You see now, you start getting more practical with age. 

But this feels like Christmas! I absolutely love Aerie lingerie. I highly recommend Aerie to all my lady friends who's breasts we talk about to each other... you know those friends!  :)

I'm a small busted lady and it is important to find the right bra for such a small job. Because lets face it, ladies with small breasts struggle to find a bra that grabs onto those little babies and holds them tightly where they need to be. The right bras allow a woman to buy the right kinds of clothing for her body type.

Bras make us feel great through to the bitter end. When you're standing there over the trash can, broken worn down bra in hand and it is time for a final goodbye, you wonder to yourself many things. Maybe I can keep this jabby bra for days when I'm in the garden sweating. What if I run out of bras and have nothing to wear and there is an emergency and I need to be wearing a bra for it... it could happen... right?

So here you have it... and I will eternally want more.
Realizing I could have arranged these to look like a funky rainbow... until next time...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Summer Vacation for the Homeschool Mom!

I smell summer! We are nearing the end of our "homeschool year". I feel like a summer vacation is just as much for me as it is for my kids! Anyone else? Because honestly I cannot wait!!!

Summer vacation for myself as a homeschool mom means:

  • Reading books and not remembering to write down the author and title for a book log.
  • I'm going to stop to smell the flowers without using words like photosynthesis or noting plant adaptations.
  • I will mix batter and make cookies and not ask a child to come read measurements but to just lick the bowl!
  • I will request boogers go in tissue and not call it health class. hahaha
  • I will not divide up natural learning into subjects that I can log because I won't have to.
  • We will paint and construct without wondering if it is math class or if it is art.
  • We will garden without worrying about science lessons or health.

Homeschooling in Pennsylvania comes with a plethora of paperwork and second guessing on my part. I am constantly wondering if I am doing enough. If I am missing something. I overdid it this year. It is our first year homeschooling and I would rather have back up documentation than too little documented.

I think I am more nervous since we didn't purchase a curriculum and we like to improvise and change our minds as we go along.Nothing stood out to me and I really didn't know my kids various learning styles and needs.
As eager as I am to get started sifting through their interests for the fall and making book lists I am forcing myself to get these portfolios completed, evaluations done, letter of intent filed, and take a break too! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vitamix Tomato Soup

After making the Messy Veggie Lasagna I had a couple cups of tomato sauce left over.

I had mentioned that I would love to try making homemade tomato soup just a few days before that and so that's what I did.

Tomato Sauce
1 (28oz) Can Plum Tomatoes with Basil
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. Oregano
Garlic Powder - to taste
Onion Powder - to taste

Then I added:
1/2 c. milk 2%
1/2 c. half and half

Since the sauce was still very warm I just gave it a quick blend and it was warm throughout.
It was probably the best tomato soup I've ever had.
Although, I'm not sure I've ever had homemade tomato soup before.

I should add that my husband who was never fond of tomato soup really enjoyed this. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Nature Box!


I love Nature Box!
This is what I received in my first box!

These Pistachio Power Clusters arrived instead of
 Pear Praline Crunch Granola .... and they are a big hit with my husband!
 The Apple Orchards Granola is so moist and delicious I eat it right out of the bag.
 Cranberry Jubilee is also quite delicious!

The Citrus Chipotle Chickpeas were a bit spicy but I think they are good for what they are. As I have never been a big fan of chickpeas I wasn't expecting much. I am considering blending some into a powder to bread things in. Maybe some cauliflower or chicken!
These would also be good on flavor coordinated salad.

Somehow I failed to take a picture of the Granny Smith Apples I received. They were so very good! No sugar, nothing added, just apples!

Here are all my little munch time soldiers ready to battle hunger!

Not getting paid for this review either.
I just LOVE food and think everyone should have access to great information about fantastic products.

Box review for month two coming soon!