Thursday, September 13, 2012

Unschooling...I'm unlearning

I have always been interested in unschooling. I have never been able to understand HOW to do it. I also felt that as an Afrikan woman that I wouldn't be able to ALLOW my children to learn this way, because of the very particular circumstances that our children grow up in. So I had a consultation.

My consultant is an unschooling mother of 6 from grown to 3yrs old (I think). She is a beautiful sista that has taught me A LOT about a lot. You can find her here and here. Well, I finally understood what it meant FOR US after my consultation. I also continued to grow in my understanding afterward as I was shown other things that were so simplistically obvious.

  1. Children learn like we do-When you find a subject that you are interested it normally becomes your focus. It's all you think about. Nothing else is important. You might look for pictures on Google images, stories in the library, and you might even sketch out pictures. You find that it is the single most important information focus in your life. That is the same way children think. If you try to make them do "subjects" when they have shown a clear interest in something else, you will find them being resistant. The best thing to do, in my newly formed opinion, is to fit the subjects into their already existing interests. The fact is that children like to learn, just like we do. Many times we just don't value what they value and because we are the authority figures we feel free to ignore their interests.    
  2. What they learn willingly, they retain. How much do you remember from your 12+ years of education. Even if you went to college, you probably only remember the things you learned in the classes that you enjoyed. For instance I remember science, psychology, philosophy, and 1 social studies class because of the way it was taught. Oh, and everything I learned in kindergarten which was how to color inside the lines, add and subtract, and be nice to my friends. The other day my son said, "Iya, when are you going to teach me to write in cursive?" I said, "Whenever you let me know that you are interested in writing in cursive." He expressed that he was interested and he has started his lessons. If I forget, he is remind me. I didn't bother him about it because has never been real big on writing anyway. Now he can write his name and he is SO PROUD. I am also so proud of him. :)
  3. There is nothing that they learn that is useless/unimportant. My daughter has taught me this lesson the hard way. She and I are just different. Right now she is walking around looking like she could be on the cover of a fashion magazine. She is so into image right now, so her interest follow that. EVERY SINGLE MORNING she does a facial. The facials are made from thing out of the kitchen, extremely healthy, AND they work! I didn't find it all that "educational", because I don't do facials. I wash my face with black soap, put 3 drops of jojoba oil on, and I'm ready to go. She shut me up when was able to run down the properties of each ingredient and why she chose to mix it the way she did. She made some concoction that actually made a pimple shrink noticeably. She got skills. I still cringe sometimes at the thought of her focus being skin, hair, make-up, fashion but I smile and move on. 
  4. I will still feel insecure sometimes. There are times when fear literally grips me. I fly into a panic, make everyone sit around the table, and memorize stuff and do worksheets. They are very patient with me, because they know the insanity is only temporary. My niece was supposed to go to pre-K. She wasn't able to go, because she was basically deemed to smart as the program apparently is need based. I have taught her somethings, but most of the time she is copying the older children because she is interested in what they are doing. 
  5. Their interest aren't always interesting to us. See #3 Simply put, your child is not you and they shouldn't strive to be you. You are seeing the world though adult eyes which, unless you have been very careful, see the world in a very boring blah way. Let them live find their own interest.
  6. They are not our opportunity to relive our lives. When I was younger I wanted to take piano and gymnastics. I didn't get to do either one for whatever reason. That doesn't mean that I can force my son to take gymnastics and my daughter to take piano. Let's say that when you were younger you were aesthetically challenged, so now you want to put your gorgeous little girl in beauty pageants even though she wants to play soccer. You are wrong. They are individuals.
  7. Unschooling does NOT mean unparenting. We have all seen parents standing their pretending that their child isn't acting possessed. We've all wanted to snatch them both and teach them better. Just because I don't want to control my child's interest DOES NOT mean that they don't need guidance. If my son is not "interested" in washing his tail or brushing his teach he is still going to do it. Why? Because bad hygiene impacts other people. Unschooling doesn't mean that you get to be your child's friend. It means that you guide rather than force. It means that you explain more than you say, "...because I said so." It means that you and your child ask each other lots of questions and have really cool discussions because you actually care what they think. 
  8. Don't be afraid to "help" them to experience new things. Sometimes your children will not want to try things that are new. They have only lived a short amount of time in this realm and so their knowledge is limited in some respect. There is a gardening program available. I have wanted one of my children to take it for the longest. Why? Because I like gardening of course. lol Well long story short I left them alone. because I knew it was really my interest and not theirs. When I work in the garden my son is the first one out there. He loves walking through the yard picking and eating whatever is growing. He even enjoyed it when we volunteered to help build a raised bed garden for a church. I still left it alone. The other day at an afterschool program he was offered an opportunity to participate in the program and he jumped at the chance and loved it! Apparently it just couldn't be my idea. lol The point is just level the door open. If they hate it, just make sure that they finish the duration of the program with the understanding that you finish what you start, but also understanding that they will not be required to repeat it. Also be sure to thank them for being open to it..
  9. If they don't like the new things they experience allow them to stop at the end of the agreed upon trial period. This is simple. Try it. If you don't like it, complete it and then you're done. This lesson teaches them to try new things without fear, but it also teaches them not to quit before they are finished. VERY important for life. 
  10. Enjoy your children. I realized early on that I didn't know my children well. I still remember the day that I realized that I actually LIKE them as people. Yea, big deal, so you love your children. We all do. Everybody doesn't LIKE their children. To like someone requires that you know them. You don't KNOW your children if y'all are apart for 6-8 hours a day. I know many people may disagree, and that's fine. Think about a typical schedule for a public school child. Get up around 6am, get dressed, eat breakfast, and catch the bus to school. If you ride to school you are probably doing last minute homework or listening to the radio. The child is at school for between 6-8 hours. If they ride the bus home that can be about an hour. When they get home there is homework, meal prep, eating, prepping for the next day, and then bed. How much of that time out of 24 hours did you get to spend having a real conversation with your child?
I know this was long, but I hope it was useful. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pics from our volunteer day!

Recently we volunteered at a community church to help build some raised bed gardens. Here are the pics. I hope you enjoy them.

Home Away From Home

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I.Q. vs. Problem Solving

So, I was watching a youtube video by Mwalimu Baruti who is both an educator and activist among other things. He spoke a little about I.Q. (Rote Learning) and Problem Solving. After I got done denying that I hadn't taught my children problem solving skills, I really starting to think about the impact that a lack of problem solving skills could have.

Schools today believe in giving grades for participation, showing up to class, and having a positive attitude. When I was in school you were expected to do all of the aforementioned AND do you work and do it well. How do I know? Because I wasn't the best student. Academically I did pretty well. I had some rough patches, but they were either because of behavior or when I transitioned in to A.G. classes where I was actually required to work and study. I rarely participated unless I really liked the teacher. I would show up late until they started locking us out for being late, because then they would call my mother and that was a no-go. Most times my attitude was less than positive and I had a quick wit *read "smart mouth* and still do to this day. If I were in school right now, I probably would have been pushed through the system thanks to "No Child Left Behind".

All that to say that when we got a grade, we had earned it by doing the work. In math class I asked my teacher why I needed to take trigonometry and for the first time I was told that it would teach me to problem solve. Suddenly for me there was a shift. I still hated the math and she sucked as a teacher, but now I viewed it as a challenge and it wasn't so bad. Now, memorization is glorified and nobody cares if you are dumb as a rock. E.O.G.'s are proof of that. Many of our children won't even try to figure anything out. Rather than looking a word up, they want you to just tell them. Rather than trying to solve a math problem in different ways, they sit and stare at the page waiting for it to jump out at them. I also blame television and video games. I remember my Mama playing games with me, I would read VOLUNTARILY, and play with my dolls. My children think I'm mean because there are so many things that I don't allow. I see what it's doing to other people's children so, although we seem strange and strict to other people, I try to make a habit of paying attention to patterns. The same people who tell me that I am to strict and protective are the same ones who will say, "You're children are so respectful and mature. I wish my children were like that." TURN OFF THE TELEVISION. Stop letting other people tell you children what to think, how to act, and what's important.

I'm all of topic. I'm sorry. I was trying to get to my experience yesterday and today with teaching from a problem solving perspective. Long story short, since I done "talked" your ear off, both my children melted down at least once on both days. The root was SO CLEAR. They had assignments that required them to think, and I realized that I had been doing the work for them in some ways. I would rescue them rather than walk them through it after giving them a REAL chance to THINK about the different options to solve the problems. As I kept telling them to think about the problem before asking for help, they seemed to get used to it. I am so grateful for this lesson. I doesn't mean that I am taking a hands off approach either. Quite the opposite. It means that I am even more involved because there is much work to be done to undo the laziness that I have allowed to take root.

We only have our children under our direct care for a short time, and even though they may not like or appreciate it, we must help them learn to solve problems so that little by little they can help us to get out of this mess we are in. They are indeed our future and our hope and we must ensure that they are well equipped to fulfill their destinies.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Homeschooling: Still trying to find my way.

So, I thought at some point I was just going to know what I was doing with this whole homeschooling thing. 3+ years in, I still flounder and constantly change styles and ways of doing things. Today was a more structured day that was triggered by a change. My niece and nephew have returned, which is pretty cool, because I think I secretly missed having them around. lol

So today, we got started later than I wanted. I went for a walk this morning before my bonus babies arrived without my children. I realized during the walk that it is much more fun WITH my son and daughter than without. I got back home and the children were still in bed. I waited for them to get up and for my bonus babies to arrive. We started our family workout at 8:30ish. Everybody did some work before having an early lunch. DD did math, because she is working toward getting 2 grades ahead, DS was doing math because he needs to get "caught up" although I am don't really buy into the whole thing of them being on a particular level. I had BB1 working on writing her name and BB2 working on numbers using cards and beads. They both did VERY well. After that we read Masai & I, ZZZNG ZZZNG, and Leola and The Honey Bears. Now, it's nap time.

I like having a schedule, but it never goes the way it should. I think my failure at being able to keep a schedule makes it kind of easy to just throw the whole idea out of the window and unschool. I guess that's why I consider myself an eclectic homeschooler, because I do whatever I feel like, they feel like, or we need to do.

What will we do tomorrow? I'm thinking another structured day to try to keep everything moving, keep everyone off each other's nerves, and to see if it can be done. I guess this was just an update/vent. Either way, I'm glad to have my BB1 & BB2 back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Short Story of My Life

So, the other day I was in my local Walgreens which is a drugstore. I walked down the aisles looking for toothpaste, which is like a treasure hunt. They found it necessary to change the store around and now it's just illogical, but that's another story.

As usual I went down the clearance aisle and then the children's aisle. You know the one you try to avoid when you are actually with your children? I saw the game Monopoly and thought, "Now that would be fun!" I don't know why we didn't own it already. What can I teach with this game? I need to have an excuse to play during school because my husband is more of the school-at-home type while I'm more the do-your-reading-and-math-and-let's-play type. CAPITALISM!!! I can teach them about capitalism. That's the whole basis for Monopoly! I never even thought of it!

I picked up the game. I'm was all kinds of excited. When I got to the register, the cashier said, "Oh, you getting Monopoly huh? We have that game." I told her that I couldn't believe that I was just now, buying it. To that she says, "I know that's right. You gotta get something for your kids to do so they will leave you ALONE chile." I look at her kind of confused. It took me a second to remember that I used to feel the same way. My children used to seem like two little burdens to me too, but not now. Nope. I actually LIKE my children. I looked at her and said, "No. I want to play this game with them to teach them about capitalism." She looked a little confused and told me to have a good day. I thanked her and I thanked God for my growth in the area of loving AND liking my children.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What kind of homeschoolers are we?

There are all types of homeschooling families. From people who school at home with desks and strict curriculum to unschoolers (child-led learning). I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to homeschool and what type of homeschoolers we would be. I have always loved the concept of unschooling, but I have trust issues as far trusting my children to learn the "important" stuff on there own. Not to mention, my husband would be elated if I had desks set up in a little school room with set hours and assignments. My daughter enjoys more structure, while my son is more of a free spirit. Both are VERY smart, but they just learn in two different ways.

After much struggle I now understand that we are and eclectic family. What does that mean? It means that I don't fit neatly into any box or unbox. We do what we want, need, or feel. What do our days look like? Well they are never the same, but here is what we did today.

  • Everybody got up whenever they wanted, but it happened to be around the 7:00 hour. 
  • The children grabbed some fruit and water for breakfast.
  • We waited on a friend of mine to come over so we could exercise together. 
  • She was going to be late so we decided to walk a mile before she got here. 
  • We all worked out to the tabata timer while listening to Common's old CD.
  • Everybody showered.
  • Sunshine suggested pizza for lunch and we all agreed.
  • I did my prayers while my sun practiced with his flashcards.
  • When I finished my prayers, we went to the store to get stuff for the pizzas.
  • Came back home and made pizzas
  • Watching about 3 episodes of Electric Company right now
  • After that, the plan is to play a survival game, but we'll it goes because they have class tonight and I'm really sleepy