Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ben Hewitt vs. Jessie and Susan Wise Bauer with a little Tom Hodgkinson

If you know me, you know our homeschooling style varies as often as the weather.

Oh and by the way, if this post seems to have no order or to be random, whatever. It is more for me and I don't want to sit around editing it forever so someone else will understand...

I do not have homeschooling figured out, clearly. Maybe what I do have figured out is that home is best because we can change.

I have very different kids (as do we all) and my first child just tends to do well with a classical style. She would do well with any style to be honest. She is truly interested in everything. The entire world interests her. For this reason, unschooling fits her perfectly as well.

Naia, my second oldest is VERY different. She hates sitting down with workbooks, but she does love for me to read to her. So that is what I do. Now what school can do this? Not one! We are individuals and we deserve to be treated as such.

 I remember becoming actually mad when I was around 20 or so that I was not told so many things (corporations taking advantage of me, the CIA doing awful things, governments controlling minds, I read a lot of Noam Chomsky lol). As parents, perhaps we should expose kids to as much as possible and then let them take it from there. No I am not going to read Chomsky to the kids for bed. Do not simply let them find their own interests because there is so much waiting to be known. We have to act as a guide.


I am not telling anyone what is right by the way, just writing to understand what I think and find my own way.

For most of my time staying home with the kids, I would call us unschoolers. We had a brief spell with the classical style when Eaden turned 6 and then picked it up again when I started homeschooling a friend's child and needed more structure. We no longer homeschool that friend and so find ourselves becoming unschoolers once again.

The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie and Susan Wise Bauer

I have really and honestly been trying to figure out what ever drew me to the classical style of homeschooling.

"She could recite multiplication tables, lists of linking verbs, dates, presidents, and Latin declensions."

Huh? Who cares.

"We kept science notebooks and time lines so that we could organize her growing knowledge of facts into logical and chronilogical order."

I like this.

"Do I want my child to be like his peers? Or do I want my child to rise above them?"

Unhealthy competition. Let's bring each other up instead of rising above.

"I was surrounded by eighteen year olds who coudn't write, didn't want to read, and couldn't reason."

I also see this a lot and perhaps by following a classical style I felt comforted that my children would not turn out this way. However, I think this is mostly the result of public and private school education. Becoming lost in the masses.

"Our education was language-centered, not image-centered; we read and listened and wrote, but we rarely watched."

This attracted me.

"Systematic study allows the student to join...the ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages."

I wanted this.

"Your job, during the elementary years, is to supply the knowledge and skills that will allow your child to overflow with creativity as his mind matures."

"There's nothing wrong with self-expression, but when self-expression pushes the accumulation of knowledge offstage, something's out of balance."

This made sense to me and really appealed to me because I feel this is what I went through. In college, I always felt that things were not right. Iwould go into the wilderness and just be alone. I did not enjoy society. But I didn't know why. I did not have enough information to make sense of the world and why I felt the way I did.

"A student who has always been encouraged to look inside himself may not develop a frame of reference, a sense of how his ideas measure up against the thoughts and beliefs of others."

Exactly.

"Your number one goal should be to have your child reading fluently when she startes first-grade work."

The classical style, in my opinion, often goes overboard. I did not mind following it because it still only takes Eaden about 3 hours per day to finish the work. This is not the case with all children though.

I think the authors know what they are talking about and a lot of their ideas are right on, but I also think that this style will not always produce a love of learning and it is certainly not a natural learning style. We could still follow my daughter's passions but were also trying to quickly squeeze in grammar or reading comprehension which was a drag.

Home Grown by: Ben Hewitt

"...while we are socialized to believe that our children's lives should be constantly expanding into new horizons and opportunities, could it be that we are ignoring (or simply ignorant of) the value of having their world contract?"

Something to really think about.

"...it is selfish and possibly even dangerous to desire particular outcomes for our children."

To me, this can go both ways. For example, Ben wants his children to be connected to the land and provides him with the opportunities to make this so. What if, when they grow up, they become mad at him for not exposing them to more of the "modern" world. I was the opposite as a kid. I got mad at school and society for not telling me "the truth" and for taking advantage of me. I read No Logo by Naomi Klein and was pissed.

"We are forever attempting to engineer our children's lives..."

Even Ben is doing this I think. Not in the way most American parents do, but he is still doing it. I am not putting him down. I would live the same way if I could and I hope to one day.

"The more freedom and autonomy I allow my children to follow their passions and to learn on their own terms, the more passionate and eager to learn they become."

True, but are they aware of other potential passions? Should he try to expose them to more of what they don't know is out there?

"We allow ourselves to become swept into the river of extracurricular activities and expanded opportunities....the hours and days spent scurrying and hurrying, too pressed for time to simply sit and enjoy the spectacle of a setting sun or the warm wetness of a July rain shower."

Couldn't agree more.

"Penny and I believe in presence, not praise. We are here to support and facilitate, but not to cajole and manipulate, through either threat or incentive. The boys' unhampered curiosity is incentive enough. The learning is its own reward."

"...with every choice we make, with every action we take, we are shaping the world. Our world."

"I wonder to what extent our children's reactions are learned, rather than innate. Is it possible that the only difference between a child who plays in the rain and one who does not is that the latter has been taught to avoid the rain?"

Yes! Especially true with kids and bugs.

"It seemed to us that nearly everyone we knew was always running to one event or another, rushing through dinner to get to practice or lesson, or even eating in the car."

Yes! Slow down! It's ridiculous.

"Increasingly [childhood] is disappearing into the pixelated screens of the innumerable digital devices that already dominate the adult world, and are rapidly encroaching on childhood."

I totally agree. However, I do feel that kids should be allowed to play games every once in a while so they understand what they are not missing. My children, when given a little nudge (why don't y'all go make mud pies, build a town with blocks, play in the coop, etc.), will almost always leave the computer or tv. We do not live on land or else they would be outside all of the time without a doubt. So Santa brought board games and building toys, art supplies, etc. They have not once asked to watch tv and I have yet to see one get on the computer. They realize it is a waste of their time and that realization is important.

"In the home many parents today, in implicit acceptance of the school-centric model, define themselves as teachers of their children. They look for 'teaching moments,' buy educational toys, and 'play' and talk with the children in ways designed to impart specific lessons."

Hmmm.

"We've always encouraged them to question what they are told."

Perhaps this seems like an obvious thing to do, but maybe it is that simple.

"Many parents aren't all that accustomed to being patient and present for their kids anymore, if only because they're simply not given the opportunity to be patient and present. Jobs get in the way. School gets in the way. After-school activities get in the way."

Maybe this is all the kids need to prevent what I went through.

"It has always bothered me to see how some parents chase their children away from productive jobs."

Me too!

"I might finally be learning to let go. To let my boys saw and hammer. To let them negotiate and argue and yell. To let them screw up and start over and screw up again. To let them bleed and to let them stop their bleeding. To let them follow the spark of an idea and see where it takes them."

I have always pretty much done this to the astonishment of most people around me. Maybe I got into the habit after reading some of Tom Hodgkinson's books (The Idle Parent and The Freedom Manifesto). The kids got this haha!

"What do my children need most from me? The answer is humbling: They need me to let them be."

"We shortchange our children's sense of responsibility and confidence by 'protecting' them from the tools and activities that build these very qualities."

"When you take responsibility from a child, he becomes less responsible. And as he becomes less responsible, he is granted less and less responsibility."

Yes!

"...we are often freer than we might otherwise believe."

People don't want to listen to me or believe me when I tell them this.

"How many of these things would I have learned if Penny and I had sent them out of our lives for eight or more hours each day? How many would I have learned if I'd sent myself out of their lives for eight or more hours each day, if we had not chosen to commit ourselves to this piece of land, to this way of life? We do not allow our children to learn at home simply so we can learn from them. Such a thing would be selfish. But in allowing them the freedom to learn as they grow, an unanticipated and beautiful thing has happened: We have allowed ourselves the same freedom."

I am so thankful I let my inner feelings guide me and chose to quit my job and stay home after my 3rd child, Taven, was born. My husband and I did not think he made enough money (then $27,000 a year before taxes on a contract job with no benefits) to support us but we did it anyway. Again, Tom Hodgkinson's advice (I was a librarian in a public library and came across his book, but had never heard of him) to "forget your pension and get a life" gave me the courage to take the risk. Without a doubt, the risk had its reward. We are very happy and are now trying to figure out how to move onto some land.

"Unschooling is not about the discovery of any particular body of knowledge. It is about the discovery of self."


"Turn off the Internet news, the television news, the radio news, and the print news. Turn it all off. Do this because there is nothing in the news-no matter how tragic and unsettling it may be-that truly matters in the here and now of your life. Do this because any emotional energy you expend fretting about news that doesn't truly matter in the here and now of your life is not energy you have to expend on the things that actually do matter."

I was surprised (and comforted) to read this because I have always felt this way but no one I have ever come across has agreed. I just do not feel the news is a true representation of the world as it is and it is therefore not relevant. We make our world and we should not allow the news to make it. For example, as a woman married to a black man with four mixed race children, I was once maybe a little scared to move to the country. I feared the confederate flag waving racists. However, it has become clear to me that the majority of people in this world are not racist. Wow! People are actually kind and nice and understanding and open. Who would have ever known after watching the news with all of the stories about horrible race relations and riots? The news is a lie. Most people are good. Trust in that.

So I'm not sure there was a point to this post. Just finding my way...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Merry Christmas

Although we have a simple life in comparison with the majority of Americans, we have not yet quite simplified our Christmas. 

I think it runs in my blood.

Since we were little, my dad has always gone over the top with Christmas lights.


And maybe I go a little overboard at our home.


My excuse is that my husband and I do not buy the kids anything throughout the year. Instead, I listen to what they repeatedly ask for and keep it in mind. Also, I do try to buy higher quality items that will last a long time. I know my excuses are not that great for someone who tries to keep things simple, but...


 Taven got a fishing pole and immediately wanted to use it. He was pretending in the living room and I heard him say "ugggghhh, I think I got some seaweed."


 Naia asks to paint on pretty much a daily basis so she got some nice watercolors and a little desk.


 All of the kids have wanted a bird feeder for the window that they can see from inside the house. They also received an insect hotel.


 Taven and Mirek got a football, and after getting hit in the nose, Taven decided it would be smart to wear his ninja turtle mask while playing catch.


Both Eaden and Taven have been asking for softball/baseball gloves and each received one.

Taven finally got a skateboard helmet.

We now have a legitimate game cabinet and a few new building toys.

Everyone wanted a kite and Santa delivered. We are now just waiting for that perfect windy day.

The kids got a nature study kit and binoculars to take on our nature walks. There were also ant farms and ladybug farms.

 Eaden received a lap loom and a monster tail loom.

Both girls received some items for their doll collection and a new outfit to wear.

On the day after Christmas, the oldest three decided to use some of the money they received from their grandparents and great grandma to go see Annie at the "big" movie theater. We only ever go to the dollar theater so it was a nice experience.


The best thing about Christmas? Spending time with family of course.

We get to see my niece Hannah who does not live nearby.

My sister and I were trying to get her to smile the whole time because it's just so darn cute.




 We also like to mess with the babies and teach them "tricks."



 Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Free Unstructured Play Outside

I have been trying to make it a point lately to get my kids outdoors for plenty of unstructured free play time. There is a wooded area near our house that we make a short hike to and then just set up camp. It is perfect because there are two pretty steep hills on either side for the kids to run down and two trails off into the woods as well. There is a perfect fallen tree for me to sit on and read.

No organized crafts, no organized sports, no pressure, no screens, no mommy playing with them. Just free unhurried time to be kids outside in a natural and interesting environment. They love it. I love it. Everyone gets along. It just doesn't get any better than that!

But first we had to visit our absolute favorite dogs (and pups) at the dairy farm.







 I had to tell Mirek that, despite their size, they are not horses.


 Into the woods.

















 And back home for my coffee stout.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Mostly Outside

We have done a lot since the last time I posted. We got a Christmas tree!


 In our part of Texas, the leaves really start to fall throughout December. Every day is spent outside. My neighbors probably want me to rake, but then the kids would complain that they are "bored."


 I always dream of a homestead, but I am thankful that my kids at least have our little space while most are confined within the four walls of a classroom.







Anything that we do at night is not recorded by my camera. I suppose I just have not mastered the art of night photography. 

See.




Whatever.

We went to Christmas in the Park at Sheldon Lake State Park during the LIGHT of day.

We started off with some Christmas crafts.





 Then off on our nature walk.

We saw a small alligator!





 Mirek decided, either because it looked a little bit like a corn dog or because the other kids persuaded him, that he would eat a cattail.


 Then he washed it down with water.


 And then, since he was wet, I had to carry him. If I did not wish to carry him, his legs failed to work.


 We climbed the observation tower...to break dance.



 It was windy.



 We had a picnic and I realized that everything takes on a new dimension of funny when up high in the sky.






 Back down to earth.






 Taven refuses to smile for pictures.


 The kids found a natural seesaw.