Archive for the ‘Unschooling’ Category

Our 5yo is obsessed with cats.

When my husband and I got married, I almost had a NO-pets clause put into our vows.

Somehow, having children obsessed with animals is weakening my resolve.

At the moment, they still have to settle for playing cats, kittens and Magic-Cat all…day…long.

I’ve been told that most unschooling households include pets.

I still don’t know if I am capable of being happy in a house with pets.

But, I am





Yesterday, a cat showed up in our backyard and then wandered into the house. How do I stop imagining fleas every time I sit on the rug?

She named it Rosalee. It only stayed for a half hour or so, but they were so happy.

I felt a panic rise up in me every time it came close and I stared it down, because I remember hearing on one of the dozens of cat documentaries we’ve watched that cats will approach people who don’t pay attention to it and avoid people who are too friendly or stare.

I stared hard.

They absolutely insist that I watch these Magic-Cat shows. And every time I do, my heart softens and I start imaging our life with a cat.

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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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We’ve been sick now for almost two weeks. Its been rough at times, but we’ve found plenty to keep us busy. On the toughest days when we’ve been stuck mostly on the couch and in bed that has included quite a bit of Dora, Diego and Bob the Builder. I’m trying to be okay with that.

We’ve also played dress up. Here is our 4yo in one of daddy’s old beanies, bunny ears, finger-less gloves, with a tutu (off camera) and a flower tail (also off camera). She’s also fully accessorized, as you can see. I think she was combining Christmas, Easter and Halloween into one outfit.

Our 2yo has set up several picnics over the last couple weeks. She is very fastidious about it and guards her set up from her siblings even though they are invited to her party. She’s very particular about what they touch and what they “eat.” She remembers exactly where something goes if someone, say a 1yo who’s learned to tease, snatches an item without permission.

After beginning this painting, I found our 2yo sitting on the floor in the playroom with her head between her knees. I asked her what was wrong and she answered, “I can’t paint anything lovely.” I asked her if she wanted to come try again and walked with her back to the craft table where we sat down, got a fresh paper and tried a different brush. She ended up being much happier with her second, third and fourth attempts.

She wants to give these to specific people for Christmas.

This is how I kept sane with paints. I was even able to place another sheet of wax paper over the remaining paint and save it for the next time (which was later that day and then again the next day). We had a lot of fun discussing and trying out how to combine colors to create new colors.

The girls like to use the barstools for their pretend cages. Lately we’ve been on a Dirty Jobs kick in the evenings and their favorite episode has been one where Mike Rowe visits an animal sanctuary with kangaroos, camels and lemurs. There has been a lot of lemur activity and a lot of lemur questions around our place this week.

We’ve also decorated and redecorated the tree, made several batches of scones, made giant snow flakes, read many books, danced quite a lot of stories, wrapped gifts, learned how to spell new words. Of course, the list would have been longer if we weren’t so sick, but life can still be full during these down times.

We’ve taken care of each other over the last couple weeks. Yes, these girls even take care of me by bringing me water when I cough even though I’ve never asked them to do this. They pat my head when I’m laying down. They share their favorite blankets with me. They hang up their art to cheer me up. 

We’ve also had a lot of practice being kind even though we don’t feel well. Sometimes that is hard to do even for adults. But we’re learning and practicing and getting better at it.

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Its late, maybe 11pm. It would be nice if she were in bed already as she usually is. She begs daddy to let her type. He sets his computer up for her. She types “m-o-m” and asks, “did I type ‘mommy’?” When she asks him how to spell a word, he spells it for her and she types it one finger at a time. When she discovers typing with two fingers at once, we smile. When she asks us to sound out her creations, we oblige. When we head off to bed, she suddenly decides she’d like to do the same.

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2 legs + 2 legs + 2 arms + 2 more arms equals…

“We’re a squid-octopus!”

Today we went to the tot lot by the pier. We hung out there longer than I used to last. Much longer. After our first trip across the U.S. I came to appreciate playgrounds in a way I never thought I would.

The earth movers are still pushing one side of the beach to the other. While this work goes on we can’t play on the actual beach during the day…just near it. 

The baby isn’t much of a baby anymore. She’s growing up.

We met a few new friends. The girls met a 5yo who lent them her shovels. When she asked for them back in order to lend them to another child my girls gave them back with long faces.

I met a family with an 8mo who moved to town a few months back. A few minutes after a brief outburst from our otherwise happy and busy 2yo, the wife asked what we do for discipline and specifically whether or not we spank. Based on the way she said it and the other things we talked about, I was fairly certain that she was pro-spanking even though I have no idea if she’s spanked her 8mo. I explained that we try to avoid punitive discipline as well as reward/praise discipline techniques and use other methods that don’t decrease intrinsic motivation. We also discussed, briefly, using discussions with older children and redirection with babies. I’m not sure that I was the greatest voice for non-violent/unconditional/attachement based parenting, but at least I didn’t change the subject.

After our new friends left, my 4yo started hopping around making claw prints as she went.

“What kind of frog am I? I lived when the dinosaurs lived!”

“I don’t know.” I didn’t know.

“I’m a Paleobatrachus!” Thank you Dinosaur Train.

Soon, they began making trails that led to t-rex, alligator and paleobatrachus tracks. Its nice to know they are remembering our recent field trip across America and specifically the stop at Dinosaur Valley State Park which was one of my personal favorites.

After hanging out at the playground we headed up to the pier to say to Slick who is not a seal (as the sign says) because he has ears. 

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To our 4yo, camping means bead collecting. Someone must have broken a necklace (or two) in one of the campsites we stayed in at Yosemite over the summer. We kept finding bright colored beads for days. A bright green bead even ended up in my nephew’s nose and had to be fished out by a doctor at the local clinic with a specialized object-in-nostril extracting tool.

When we went up to Pinecrest Lake last week, our daughter let us know before we got there that she planned on collecting more beads. To my surprise, we did end up finding a handful of actual beads, but we also found a whole lot of these small round, brightly colored balls. I think they must be from some sort of pellet gun or something. 

Despite our warnings, on our last night at Pinecrest, our 2yo somehow managed to get one of these little bead-ball things in her nose. Fortunately it didn’t make its way too deep and we were able to suck it out ourselves with a clean flexible sippy-cup straw.

Along with beads and tiny balls, we also found a lot of quarters, dimes, pennies and nickles and our 2yo was fascinated by the little round cap gun “rings” she kept finding. Each of the girls had their own little zippered pouch in which to keep their collections.

So far this “collecting” has been taking place solely on RV trips, but I imagine this sort of  collection saving will start happening more often at parks and the beach. 

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