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Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Our oldest just turned 5 years old. This brings to the surface a whole lot of thoughts and feelings that have been inching their way up over the last several years. Since we are unschooling, it doesn’t change our lives in the way it would if she was heading off to kindergarten at the end of the summer. But, I do feel some pressure that I didn’t feel when my kids were all pre-school aged.

This fall, I will need to file with the state. I don’t think this will be much of a problem. Although the official nature of filling out and filing forms adds a tiny bit to the pressure.

Now, whenever someone asks how old my children are, I will either have to figure out another way of answering this question or we’re bound to have the kindergarten related questions rain down. I saw a little bit of this after our oldest turned four. Its just like all the other questions and comments that strangers make in front of your children that you wish they’d keep to themselves. How many times can a child hear that their parents must have their hands full before thinking they must be a burden? How many times does a child need to hear how excited they must be that they are going to be in kindergarten soon before they start believing that that’s where they belong? Just wondering out loud, online.

A lot of the pressure is self-inflicted. I can feel my neck crane to see what it is that everyone else is doing.

What are those 5-year-olds learning? Are they reading? Is my 5-year-old at their level? “Do you want to read another Bob book, honey?” How much of the alphabet does my 3-year-old really know? Are those 18-month-olds as advanced as mine?

It always makes me sick when I find myself doing this. So, I shut myself up and steal myself against my own wandering mind. I get out a book on something I am interested in and I try really hard to lose myself in it, usually failing. Because what I really want to know is will they all aprove?

And, then, I remind myself that they will never all aprove and that’s when I go back to feeling relief that we are doing exactly what we believe (based on the facts set before us and those that we have spent years seeking out and will continue researching) is best for each of our children as individuals.

Then, I feel calm for a moment. And I practice my labor breathing (which is as much for other stages of parenting as it is for the very beginning) as I listen to the kids happily lost in what is most interesting to them in this very moment.

I think all of this “pressure” will end up for good in that it will shift my focus for a while. I’m sure over the next few months and maybe the rest of the year, my “currently reading” list will be comprised of more education and parenting related books again. Its always nice to go back to topics after a little break, the subject having had time for rumination. I have a few on my shelf that I plan on getting to when my interest shifts.

Any reading suggestions?

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Last spring we took our first real RV trip, ending up as far north as San Francisco. While we were there, the girls and I visited the CuriOdyssey Museum at Coyote Point. One of our favorite exhibits was the magnetic gear wall. 

My husband came across this video over the weekend on gears showing the kinds of movements and timing you can get with different shapes.

Well, the video has sort of renewed my interest in gears and I’d like to have something for us to play with here at home. Based on their interest while at the museum last year, I think the girls would have fun with them for a while too. I’ve seen these refrigerator magnet gears in a shop once, but what I really want to do is make something ourselves. I’m contemplating making one with peg board from the hardware store at some point. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do this, but its on my mind and I’ll let you know if we come up with anything.

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Just because we don’t do “school” doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the things that have been made for school. Come September, all the larger discount stores have dollar workbooks for various subjects that the girls love to play with. Maybe its the opportunity to use dry erase markers or maybe it has more to do with the little pictures of objects for each letter that they enjoy. Either way, they get very excited about them and our 4yo loves to trace the letters. Last year she enjoyed tracing and writing printed letters and this year she meticulously traced a page of cursive letters. We laughed at how the ‘Q’ looked like a 2 (so silly!) and then she drew a heart and her name and another heart and her sister’s name. Our 2yo wrote an upside down uppercase ‘A’ an an ‘H’ (that ‘H’ may have been upside down too). She’s written them right-side up for a little while, but has recently switched to writing a lot of her letters upside down. We tried out several of the picnic tables and a bench or two while we were on a walk one morning at Pinecrest Lake.

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“…and you take one away, how many do you have?” On our way to the Getty Museum today, our 4yo was teaching our 2yo some basic subtraction. We also spent the drive predicting what kinds of things we would see at the museum. The most surprising of which was, “snakes!” This was made by our 2yo who happened to be quite correct. We saw a surprising number of snakes, mostly in sculpture.

We met my husband’s sister in the parking lot and rode the tram up to the museum together. Before we boarded the tram a friendly guide told us we would “have to visit the Family Room.” She said it as if that’s the place where we were suppose to go if we brought young kids with us. She was very adamant. I took it as a suggestion until we got upstairs and the “advice” was repeated several more times with the heavy implication that that was where we should really be spending our time at the museum if we had small kids with us.

We all loved the portrait of Jeanne Kefer by Fernand Khnopff. We left with both a refrigerator magnet and a print of this one. The point of the visit was to see the Impressionists. Our 4yo’s favorite was the Irises (yes, she’s brining home the fridge magnet).

The girls held Auntie’s hand for the majority of the visit. They never once touched anything that they were not suppose to touch. I made sure to gain permission before taking photos. A little while later, I missed the sign that said no photos in the Paris rooms. I was scolded for taking a photo there and profusely apologized.

My 2yo ran about 6 feet in front of the stroller and I was informed by the guide-gaurd that she wasn’t allowed to run around and that she would need to be held. So, she sat down in the stroller and that was that. We were again informed that there was a Family Room where we “could take the children.”

Our 2yo was very excited to find a painting with a reindeer. She was quite sure that it was a reindeer and not a bull. It had horns. Everyone knows that horns equal reindeer, right?

It was a warm day, hot really, so instead of eating out on the grass in the sun as we had first planned on doing, we decided to eat at the tables. In the shade it was quite pleasant. We’d brought provolone and salami from the Italian deli in town. Even the baby joined in the feast. She’s enjoying putting that tooth to use.

After lunch, we went to find the Family Room. As we entered the foyer, a man quickly set a large sign in front of us and said, “oh no, you cannot enter now. We are full. A class just came in. I would give them 15 minutes or so. You will have to wait outside.” So we went out to the fountain near the entrance to the Family Room and waited. Family after family was turned down so that the school class could play in the Space for Families (I’m not kidding, this is what they call it).

We waited for about 15 minutes. We waited longer than any of the other families, but the class didn’t leave after 15 minutes and the baby was getting tired of us standing still, so we decided to visit the wing with Italian paintings and artifacts. Afterwards we went back to the Family Room/Space for Families and were welcomed inside and then once again quickly stopped. We were told we would have to leave the stroller outside.

The baby was asleep and I had two bags I wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving with the stroller, so we decided we would not be able to do the Family Room this time. Next time we come to the Getty we will try to get to this earlier in the day. It was at this point that I thought of pointing out that they should probably change the name to Children’s Room, because Family Room is not very fitting.

It was a nice day overall, but I was a little disappointed in how everyone seemed to treat us because we had small children with us. I certainly saw quite a few of the school children get a lot closer to touching the actual exhibits than our girls. Maybe it was just a fluke day. I hope so, because I plan on bringing the kids back on a regular basis.

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I don’t know, I guess when people have asked if our oldest is in preschool yet I’ve figured that my, “well, we are planning on homeschooling” would be enough of an answer.  Apparently its not though. People often still want to know why that would have anything to do with us not sending our kids to preschool.

According to the statistics, children who attend preschool are more likely to learn to read, they tend to read better, they are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.  They are also less likely to need public assistance and be incarcerated as adults.

I can see how people who have heard these statistics and think that these particular achievements are the definition of success (or at least see them as important milestones for a successful life) can think, why in the world would you not send your child to preschool. (I can’t keep myself from pointing out that most of these folks aren’t having babies in January, changing their surnames to names that start with the letter ‘A,’ or only having first-born children. All of which would also give their children a leg-up academically and fiscally.) But, I can see how they would think that even if you are planning on homeschooling, it might be a good idea to send your children to an institutionalized preschool if you want them to succeed in life at least in these areas.

If you are planning to teach your children that learning takes place in the classroom with a teacher and a textbook or occasionally in a library with a book or on a special occasion in a museum with an instructor, well, I guess that it makes sense that preschool would condition those that take part to be better equipped to handle their time in school (whether its the dining room table or the more popular classroom). I can totally see why you would want to give them a head start, a leg up, and a preview of the next 13 years of their life and how that might be beneficial. But, what if you are not planning on ever teaching your children that the classroom (or dining room table) is the place for learning?

Why would I want to condition my children to believe these things?

To be fair. I’m not telling everyone who asks this question that we are planning on unschooling.  I don’t feel that it is necessary for strangers at the playground to know this about us. It is easier to say we are homeschooling or that we are going to be homeschooling and that we do pre-school-y things all the time at home. We are reading to them, getting them excited about learning, taking them places they are interested in and introducing them to all sorts of things that they might find fascinating and want to explore more in the coming years. Our (rather shy) 4yo’s current favorite thing to do when we go new places is to meet and make new friends. We let them (and encourage our kids to) develop relationships with all the people in their lives and not just the 2 and 4 year olds we know. We are carefully helping them develop the social skills that their personalities and ages need to navigate several social situations and environments.

We love our un(pre)school life and look forward to learning so many things in the years to come in a natural, organic sort of way. I love the fact that our kids won’t have to de-school themselves as much as I have had to do. I love that they can keep learning everywhere and that they don’t have to spend these precious preschool years learning how to learn in a classroom. I guess not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship.  I’m not teaching them that anyone else is in charge of their education. I’m not teaching them that raising your hand, standing in line, coloring on the “correct” side of the worksheet are all necessary skills to learning new things. Although not sending my kids to preschool is a form of censorship, its really all about freedom. Its censoring out people and systems that want to give these little people lifetimes of educational censorship.

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Okay, so I’ve been seeing these around and I recently read a great recommendation for these Bob Books. While I was walking around Burlingame this past week, I stopped into a bookstore and picked up the first set (not the alphabet set, but the first reading set). When we got back to the RV, our 2yo decided she was going to take a nap, so it was a great opportunity to break out these mini books with our 4yo. The girls had actually already dumped them all out so it was more a matter of finding the first in the set and asking our 4yo if she wanted to read it. We opened it up and looked at the letters it was introducing and sounded out the first word. We kept going and sounded out and read the whole thing. It took less than 10 minutes and she was so excited to have read a whole book with my help. I’m looking forward to having more time to play with these and see her excitement for reading continue. So far, I’d have to say I am pleased with the purchase.

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Before our first daughter was born, people were already asking if we were planning to homeschool.  I’m not sure if the plan for a child’s education is a common baby shower topic, but for me it was.  Its probably primarily because I was homeschooled as a child and people wondered if I’d follow in my parents’ footsteps.

My answer back then to the “are you going to homeschool” inquiries was usually a simple and upbeat “probably.”  If the conversation went further, I might have explained that I was still trying to figure out my educational philosophy.

So, I spent the last few years reading and thinking and asking and finding some of the answers to a whole bunch of questions. Like: What does it mean to get an education? Why is an education important? How do kids learn? How did I learn best? Why did my husband excel at school? What does he want our kids to know? What do I want them to know? What styles and philosophies of education mesh with our parenting styles and philosophies? How important is it to treat each child as an individual? Oh, and so many more questions.  There might have been a thousand other questions.  Each question could be a full post or multiple posts in some cases and maybe they eventually will be.  Although, there are already a lot of books, articles and blog posts out there that eloquently attempt to answer some of those questions.

I’ll skip ahead to say that at this stage, with that first baby now a 4yo, and a 2yo and a 7mo here too, we are still planning on homeschooling.  But more specifically we are planning on unschooling. This blog is intended to chronicle all that pertains on this particular journey.

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