Beautiful Chaos

Finding adventure in the everyday
Browsing Unschooling

Why we do what we do: unschooling

February12

So, I’ve kind of dropped the ball on my series why we do what we do and the first installation of said series. But, here I am giving you the next part. Feels pretty risky continuing to let the world know just how different we are, and I think that’s why it’s been at least a month since I’ve given you any more details into our world. But, I prefer risk over safety, so here you go world. Enjoy.

The winter before Spunky turned 3 I started thinking about schools for her. One of the ones I liked had a preschool that started at 3 and if you didn’t get in at that level, chances of getting in for kindergarten were slim. I HATED the thought of sending her away everyday. Even if it was only for a few hours, it felt like MY job that I was giving to someone else. I felt like I wanted to be a major part of her discovering her world and finding her interests.

But I had a problem. What was in my head as homeschooling was NOT what I wanted. I didn’t want to take on a new role in her life that would cause more stress and division than there needed to be. I didn’t want to have to make her learn. So, I kept searching.
A friend mentioned looking into unschooling. What?!? It sounded super sketchy and totally made up. But as I read about it, as I let my mind open to the option, the more it fit with who we are.
When Travis was a freshman in high school he tried really hard at “school”. And he got C’s and D’s. So he stopped trying. Still C’s and D’s. As a freshman in college he tried really hard again. Same thing. I’d take a leap and say he didn’t learn much those 9 years except how much he could NOT do and get away with it.
I was the opposite. School was a piece of cake. I knew how to study and how to cram and I could ace a test any day of the week. But I learned very little as well. I know shockingly little about history, geography, political…stuff and science. But I got A’s and B’s in those classes. My brain is awesome at memorizing but if I wasn’t interested or it was too much information too fast, I didn’t actually learn.

Enter unschooling. As with everything we’ve been discovering on our journey towards oddball-ville changing our perspective of education and children in general is where I needed to start. Unschooling says that kids WANT to learn. Babies want to learn how to roll, crawl, walk, talk… And kids want to learn how to tie their shoes and ride their bike and read. Somewhere in childhood learning becomes a pain in the ass because people are making us do it and grading us on how well we did it. Someone is telling us what we need to learn and we are forced to comply or get bad grades that then follow us.

If someone did that to me right now, forced me to learn, I’d be furious. I don’t care about finance or mechanics or engineering and so making me learn it would be a waste of your time and mine. It just wouldn’t happen. You may be able to motivate me to get good grades by some sort of bribery, but I wouldn’t actually remember a thing if I didn’t care.

So unschooling trusts the child to have an intrinsic desire to learn and then let’s them do it. That’s it.

Last summer, Spunky said, “I want to learn to tie my shoe.” We spent an hour on it and she had it down. A week or less after that she said, “I’d like to learn to read.” Bam. We started working on it together in a way that made sense to her. And now, she’s reading. No fights. No forcing. No stress or pressure on her part to do well to please someone. She is having so much fun learning. She wants to get out her practice book and do some with me. Today, she said she wanted to do 4 “lessons”. She wants it and so she is going for it. All on her own.

That’s unschooling. Exposing her to things she may be interested in and letting it go if she isn’t. Trusting that she will want to understand grammer so she can write cards and letters that she loves to make people. She will want to learn fractions so she can cook on her own and feel SO big. She will want to learn history because the stories are our stories and she can take them in one at a time.

Schooling this way, for us, is the natural way for her to be discovering who God made her and how he wired her to see the world. She isn’t the same as Monkey and they will explore different things and learn in different ways. Their passions will be different and so it only makes sense for their educations to be different. I love their desire to learn and I never want to squish that or turn it into a chore. 12 years out of high school and I love learning again. At my own pace, about the things that set my heart on fire. I’m so grateful to allow them to discover what sets their hearts on fire and run after that.

A few unschooling/homeschooling things I’ve enjoyed recently:

An article about how we learn

www.nestinggypsy.com

Kid hacking education

Matt Walsh on Standardized Testing- he’s super blunt, but I kind of love it

Snapshot: a day

January26

I remember, when filling out Spunky’s baby book, a section for filling out what a typical day looked like. I also remember thinking that was an odd thing to write down since we were living it. But, alas, the writers of said baby book had done their market research and a section for remembering the every day does make sense. I did fill out that section, despite being unconvinced of its importance, however I didn’t fill it out in a way that makes much sense to me now. Bummer.

These days look a whole lot different than the days when it was just Spunky and me. I sure had a lot of free time those days, little did I know. And maybe, if God blesses us with more babies, I’ll look back at these days and think the same thing.

Our day starts between 6-7am when the big kids wake up. They then spend some time distracting chatting with Trav before he leaves for work. He turns on Wild Kratts for them before he leaves and I have until 8 to either catch up on lost sleep during the night, or wake up slowly and quietly. *this may be changing as I am realizing the power of a half hour out of bed: 1 basket of laundry, worship music and tea maybe?*

We do breakfast and occasionally (I’d like it to turn more regular) read Jesus calling for kids or Jesus story book Bible. Then I usually have to get baby down for first nap. The big kids play and go about their big kid business.

When I’m done with baby we play or craft or jump into whatever project they are into. This morning we cleaned the leftover playroom toys from yesterday and played cootie. Then we made covers for our art journals.

Baby wakes up sometime in there and plays with us or just near us. There tends to be lots of short bursts of nursing. I can’t keep him focused for long, but I’m okay with that too. He also likes to be moved around. Toys in one area only interest him for 10 minutes until he’s mad and wanting new scenery.

Then lunch and nap. I put baby to sleep first, then Monkey. I try to get the big brother asleep before 1. I have to lay with him to ensure napping. I’ve never tried the put-him-in-there-every-day-and-eventually-he’ll-nap method. It might work, but with touch being his love language, that half hour of snuggling while reading a book and falling asleep is worth it. If Big Baby wakes up while I’m with Monkey, then big sister comes in and takes care of him until I can get away. We have a system and it works for us!

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While I’m getting Monkey to sleep, Spunky is on her own. She sometimes plays games on the iPad, sometimes does crafts, sometimes does Legos.

Then when I come down, I’m all hers. We read Charlettes Web, do reading lessons, workbooks, puzzles, play Legos and craft. Whatever interests her that day. These days we’ve been drinking hot chocolate (almond milk and Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips warmed/melted on the stove, then made frothy in the vitamix!) while we work.

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Baby wakes up, Monkey wakes up and everyone needs fed. During all this, the baby goes from jumper to walker to kitchen floor to dining room floor to living room floor. He can’t move himself but sure gets tired of being in the same place for too long. He’ll be a happy guy when he can get around!

Monkey usually takes his turn on the iPad or computer while he wakes up.

We play and do whatever until 4 when we go into cleaning mode. Dishes, if I’ve gotten behind during the day, laundry and general tidying. Not much ACTUAL dirt cleaning takes place on a day to day basis. I won’t go into those details. You may not want to visit my house if I do.

 

Then dinner and Baby’s last nap. It’s such a bummer that those need to happen at the same time. The big kids are starving (they say) and if I keep baby awake then last nap creeps dangerously close to night and we have to party until midnight since his nap ended at 8. I’m still working that situation out. I’ve not nailed it yet.

We do bath, teeth, jammies, stories, favorite and least favorite parts of the day and prayer. Kids are in bed by 7/7:30. I try to write a bit, read a bit and spend some quality time with baby. We’re in bed by 9/9:30 if we can. And then, we start it all over!

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It’s easy for our days to feel simple and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but even though my world feels small, these little people have a really safe and secure world and that’s what I’m going for.

*ive just recently figured out how to add a “follow” button on my blog, however it’s a bit hard to find. Waaayyyyy at the bottom under the comment box. If you want, it’ll send you an email every time I post so you don’t miss a bit of our antics over here. Also, I’m trying to figure out how to add a “subscribe” button so I could send out more health related info via email. If you can either teach me how to do that or would be interested if I figured it out, leave a comment and let me know. I was about to say, “I don’t want to spend time figuring it out if no one is interested” but that’s a lie. I’m going to figure it out regardless. Someone will want it someday :)

Letting go

January22

Follow my blog with Bloglovin  Quick side note: I have to put this link in my blog for me to be able to “claim my blog” on my bloglovin app. Anyways, if you follow multiple blogs, this is a great app that makes it really easy to follow your favorite ones. 

I’ve been realizing these past few weeks that I need to become more selfless with my days. Not that the way I’ve been mothering isn’t selfless. We go on library trips and play dates, I read them books and help them with crafts, I play games and mediate their many squabbles. But I’m realizing I am still holding on to a lot.

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I’m still trying to squeeze some “me” time into every day, still trying to ensure that I get what I need. I’m saying “no” more than I’d care to admit and not diving in to their grand ideas like I want to. I’m still holding on to me and my preference and what I want. Afraid of what it will mean if I don’t protect my space.

Not that those things are bad. I don’t have to disappear as a person or totally neglect myself. I count as a valuable part of this little crew we have here, and my wants are right and worthy of attention.

But this. This staying home and allowing my kids to explore and learn means I need to be present. And not just present meaning I hear what they have to say, but that I set aside my agenda to help them build a fort. To read them a book. To watch YouTube videos on how crayons are made.

And I have to let go.

I have to let go of clean floors and vacuumed rugs and empty counters and spotless dishes. I have to let go of getting all the laundry clean and put away. I have to let go of house-wide tidiness and organization. I have to let go of solid chunks of writing time, text conversations with friends at any moment and fiction books that remind me the world is big and my story is bigger than these 4 walls. I have to trust God to provide the space he created me to need.

I have to embrace the chaos.

And my inner self is cringing and fighting and trying to rationalize having it my way. But I’ve been doing it my way, and there’s not enough time. There’s not enough time for all the cleaning, let alone cleaning AND playing. Cleaning, crafting, playing, napping, nursing, eating and learning (not that learning is a separate entity, but I’ll write more about that another day).

So, I’m hoping to do different. I know there will be moments during the day where my kids are off on their own adventure, sailing the seas on their bunk bed pirate ship, and I’ll get time for me. And maybe we’ll fall into a rhythm of 4:00 clean the house together time, before I go start dinner. But my priorities in our day have to change. And hopefully I can embrace the way we bumble through figuring out what it looks like for us. Because it will look different for us than others, so there really is no blueprint.

Wild Kratts

December11

Right now my big kids are into a show on PBS called Wild Kratts. They watch it first thing in the morning after Trav leaves for work. It is a cartoon about animals but full of facts. They walk away learning a lot about animals. More than I know. Here are a few of my favorite Wild Kratt moments.

A week or so ago we were reading a leftover Thanksgiving book about turkeys. The turkey in this book flew into the tree. Layla said, “Turkeys can’t fly. Only wild turkeys can fly.” Oh, okay. Good to know. Then a few days ago we were doing some workbook thing together and the question said, “Which animals fly?” She had a list of answers to choose from and she had birds and chickens left. She said, “American chickens can fly too!”

She also asked me the other day at breakfast if people had natural predators. Um…. It took me a minute but I got to the answer she was looking for.

I love seeing all of the different ways they learn. Even from a TV show.

Personalities

November26

I’ve been thinking about my Monkey a lot these days. He is stretching me in one million different ways. Some days I feel like he hears nothing I say ever. Some days I feel like he doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. And some days we have so many sweet moments I’m sure I must’ve been the cause of all the crazy ones.

But it’s in those hard days that I’m trying to figure out how to love HIM well. Being a mom to him is going to look so different than being a mom to Spunky. She thinks like me, reasons like me, views her world through the same lens. We get each other. But that boy? I can’t figure out how he thinks or reasons or views the world. All I know is that it’s so different from me. And I don’t want to squish it.
I don’t want to overlook his bent, the way God made him and try to fit him into this mold he was never made for. I don’t want to take away his fire and energy and life because I don’t understand it and it seems unruly and sometime ridiculous to me.
But what does that look like?
He would happily spend bedtime jumping off of the bed, throwing pillows and blankets and growling like a monster. If he got to choose, wrestling would be what he does with Big Baby all day long. And shopping at the store would mean having to use the intercom to find him. Every. Single. Time. So, obviously I can’t just let him do his own thing either.
Somehow in this all there is a balance. This mindful awareness of each situation and where it falls in 1) keeping him and others safe and 2) keeping his heart joyfilled and alive. And I’m not always sure what that balance looks like.
Maybe it looks like a family picture where his arms are blurry because he can’t stop moving. Maybe it looks like an abundance of patience when he continuously has bathroom accidents because he is oblivious to what he’s feeling in his body. Maybe it looks like letting him walk with me at the store with a gentle reminder that if he gets too far, he has to ride in the cart. Maybe I’m already doing it but it will never feel comfortable or like I’ve “arrived” because I am clueless as to where we are going. And just because I don’t get it, doesn’t mean I can’t encourage him to fly.
Update: I started writing this post last weekend and wouldn’t you know it, God has been giving me insight since then. A friend found this chart that made my brain spin. This is the information to help me understand my fun-loving boy so much better and be able to relate to him as such. (It also helps me understand why I get in a tizzy sometimes too!) Then, another friend was talking about her Myers Briggs personality, and I’m totally into that stuff. I took the test for me, and while reading through the different types, realized other ways that my little Monkey could be relating to the world. This has made me feel much less random in my relating and so much more conscious of what is happening in all of my kid’s heads.If you’re into this stuff like me, you should also take this survey which is more ministry related.

Oh, and if you’re interested I am a Determined, INFJ Apostle/Prophet. What are you?

Mornings

November20

I realized this morning how thankful I am for the slowness of our days. There are days where we have to go go go in the morning, but those are much more rare.

This year, Layla would have been in full day kindergarten. Our mornings would be more scheduled, more rushed and much more stressful for a mama of 3. My stress in the morning was not what made us decide to school the way we do, but man am I’m glad for the added benefit.
This morning I woke up at 7:30 to a tiny man poking me in the cheek with his thumb. As soon as he saw my eyes, a smile lit up his whole face. 10 minutes later, Spunky came over to join us, and Big Baby started exploring her face as well. 5 minutes after that, the final piece to our stay-at-home puzzle joined in the cuddling, face-poking start to our day.

We giggled, chatted and enjoyed each other’s company. We had time to love on each other and prepare our hearts for the coming day. 

This perfect picture of a morning certainly isn’t how it always goes. In fact, 7:30 is sleeping in for the older 2, who usually come in and wake me and the baby up after their Papa leaves, fighting about who’s turn it is on the iPad. But despite the rough mornings, I am thankful for the space that allows the sweet ones.