Collaborative Incubation: The Un-unschooling

“All who have meditated on the arIMG_8895t of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”

IMG_8608Aristotle

Unschooling can be so nebulous. It can morph into an extension of parenting, characterized by the idea that kids should be trusted to grow up without arbitrary boundaries and punitive policies. Free to learn, grow, discover, fail, love and choose how they want to spend their time. One principle that guides me is ‘structure time, not content,” (read more about the 7 Keys to Leadership Education here) and this helps keep things moving forward but at their own pace. I love that. Is there more to it? Is there a process of phases where at some point a student moves from de-schooling to unschooling to something? Or a process within unschooling that takes a student through a transformation? I’m familiar with Kelly Lovejoy’s 2004 Stages of Unschooling. The stages of unschooling are fine and well, but what I’m looking for are “phases of education” within the concept of unschooling – this is what I am seeking. I’m told time and again there is no such movement in unschooling. You just simply are unschooling (whether you are in Stage I, II or III according to Lovejoy), and your navigation through the education process is mapped out individually, according to interest, paced out by the student. #mindblown

messSounds great for my one, five and six-year-olds, but what about later? Even the basics of a good story will include a beginning, middle and an end, right? Why not assume that the educational process will have phases? Even when your body is physically learning (like an athlete learning a sport) there are stages (cognitive, associative, autonomous). The principle behind unschooling is that a child will not absorb information or learn  effectively when  coerced to do so. This is certainly true for my kids right now. Uninteresting concepts get no love, but if I can tie physics to skateboarding I have a good 5-7 minutes to work with! As long as I am thinking creatively and always trying to parallel their interests with enriching, educational experiences we are all happy. However, at some point they will need to create or follow a framework to dig deep. They will need resources, mentors, process, and rigor to feel like they are progressing toward mastery (of what, will be up to them). A transition from one phase to another. They will need to connect the dots, even the dots they don’t find particularly fascinating or interesting. One of my favorite bloggers, Lori Pickert, makes a good case for rigor with regard to the older unschooler to avoid burnout or rejection of unschooling altogether in this post. Here’s the segment that rings true in my mind:

Left to their own devices, not knowing how to take their learning further, many will just coast along, not knowing they are paddling around in water that’s infinitely deep. -Lori Pickert. Project-Based Homeschooling

Ironically, she is totally slamming the doubts I’m actually having. It turns out,  “unschooling” is too rigid a label for what we do, and plan to do in the future. This makes me laugh because “unschooling” is supposed to be totally free-form. However, anyone who has sought advice from a group of self-proclaimed unschoolers might walk away feeling less than worthy, depending on who’s dispensing the rhetoric. I feel like the admission that we will transition through phases distances us from unschooling, as presently defined. Maybe I’m wrong. While I ponder the idea, I’m examining these phases in my mind.

boards1Back when David was recording music, he made a living guiding bands from the beginning stages of a concept album to a finished product. During this process he was an intrinsic part of the creative process, but predominantly in a role as guide. He would influence decision making and offer his informed opinion, but in the end it was the band IMG_9566making the record. He was sought out for his commitment to a project, and while other producers would run sessions that seemed to live & die by the clock (charging per hour), David would work on a project-by-project basis. Sometimes he was a producer, sometimes he was a teacher, or a psychologist or a babysitter. He had to adapt to circumstances and lead eclectic groups of young lads through the phases of constructing an epic work of musical art: the concept album. He called this process “collaborative incubation” and basically breaks down into 3 stages:

SQUID!

SQUID!

1. pre-production

  • understanding individuals (psychology)
  • setting boundaries (what is sacred to each person)
  • seek to understand needs and roles
  • set expectations
  • study raw material; develop opinions on how production can assist
  • develop template tracks and agree on tempos
  • Plan pace and style of tracking for each contributor
  • arrange resources for session

2. production

  • focus on comfort for talent
  • win trust by demonstrating mastery of tools
  • set expectations
  • disconnecting artists from technical/critical thought
  • emotional content delivery (genuine passion is most important)

    playing with words

    playing with words

  • repetition of weak segments
  • positive exposure to experimentation

solder3. post-production

  • composite editing
  • mixing takes into cohesive tracks
  • mixing tracks into cohesive cuts
  • mastering cuts into cohesive album

Independent of the content of the phases, I see so many parallels in different “phases of learning” with regard to these different homeschool styles:

Traditional: elementary, middle & high school

Just Looking

Just Looking

Trivium: grammar, logic, rhetoric

Classical: memorization, argumentation, self-expression

Leadership: core, scholar, depth

Since “unschooling” lacks any resemblance to these styles containing phases, I’m going to distance our approach to education from “unschooling” and and write my own charter. Collaborative Incubation: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. The facets of the educational process of Collaborative Incubation can be loosely based on the recording process of the same name. When this dawned on me I was really inspired to look more closely at the connection.

P.E.M.D.A.S. group and the birdfeeders made by kids

P.E.M.D.A.S. group and the birdfeeders made by kids

We are currently in pre-production. Pre-production, as a philosophical approach to education as I see it, seeks to engage these fundamentals:

  • love of learning
  • difference between right and wrong
  • concepts of true and false
  • building and maintaining personal relationships (how to be a good friend, a good person)
  • enjoyment of stories
  • decisionmaking
  • computers, basic navigating of technology
  • family values and culture
  • personal identity: who are we, and what do we stand for?

    Dax graduates from Level 1 Swim Class

    Dax graduates from Level 1 Swim Class

  • personal accountability
  • responsibility
  • value of free play and free time
Chillin' at The Thinkery

Chillin’ at The Thinkery

I’m not sure how long this phase will last, or how exactly we will know when this phase comes to an end. I am assuming it will be age 9 or 10. All I know is that the success of later phases are completely reliant upon the success and completion of pre-production. Notice how the goals of this phase don’t include academic milestones or mastery of any kind of (adult) work. This is about self-discovery, self-determination, calibrating their internal compass, and most of all, it’s about modeling behavior we as parents wish to

Books are cool

Books are Cool

see in our kids.

Sure, we keep schedules relatively full of tools for academic learning (we read aloud, math in the real world, ask questions, seek answers, visit museums, check out books from the library, engage in group learning with our science class, talk about ancient Egyptians and early societies, educational games, etc.) but there is no requirement to drill information in. No curriculum with a schedule, no flashcards, no testing, no memorization, no narration/dictation/summarization, blah blah blah. We are star-gazing, though not yet memorizing constellations and names of interstellar moons. Strangely enough, both my kids happen to be reading and are able to comprehend basic math. GRAVY! This is pre-production.

Computer Games are Cool

Computer Games are Cool

Production will come once the kids are ready to dive deeper into topics and discover the connections between the information they have been taking in. This is where formal classes might be taken, and more structure can be provided. This, I envision, as being the “middle and high school” years for traditional school. I think this is

It Floats!

It Floats!

where there’s more practice at mastering an area of focus. David is most interested in developing the kids’ appetites for music composition around age 9 or 10; the beginning or transition to this phase. The arts, writing, performance, debate, sports (please not football, please not football), all those things that we aren’t really pushing right now; these things will take center stage in Production. In addition, I really plan to hand off much of the mentor role and take a more supportive role. David will likely become more involved in the day-to-day shaping of this phase, and I’m looking very forward to that! This is where we hope to instill leadership and real problem-solving capabilities. There is something to this quote from John Adams that solidifies the need for rigor and rubric in a “Production” phase:

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” -John Adams

This doesn't last long

This doesn’t last long

The Production phase will look something like this:

Sitting with friends on a quiet afternoon

Sitting with friends on a quiet afternoon

  • contributing to the team by studying, learning, helping
  • more distinct roles & responsibilities
  • goals more clearly set and outlined
  • more intense study, formal classes
We Love the Windsor Park Library!

We Love the Windsor Park Library!

Post-Production then, is basically continuing education. College, trade school, sojourn,

We like to "camp"

We like to “camp”

sabbatical, or whatever they use as a time of drilling down deep into knowledge. This is the phase I have the least vision about, because I see the kids as adults at this point. They will do what I am continuing to do myself. Read, discover, fill in gaps, listen to mentors, and apply their knowledge and skills in some way. There will be no shrink-wrapped final product like the CD made at the end of a recording session, but there will be a more defined, professional education that connects those dots and prepares them for all the twists, turns and transitions in life.IMG_7210

Readers Theater

Readers Theater

Maybe I’ll write more thoroughly on an upcoming transition to Production once I figure out what it looks like, exactly, for these dudes. If I examine my own life and my own stages of education, I don’t think I really hit production until college, and maybe I’m still in post-production. Do we ever stop learning? Thanks for reading!

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“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.” ~ Alfie Kohn

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My Last Baby

I knew this day would come. I thought of it the day you were born. As the doctors stood over me, bright lights shining on my body, numb from the chest down, I knew that time was about to take a freefall to the night before your first birthday.  I didn’t imagine this moment with my first baby – I was in the moment, holding him. My second baby was born in a whirlwind of chaos and terror, and my focus was on the questions, “Is he breathing?” and “Is he alive?” rather than the question, “How fast will his first birthday show up at my door?”

However, when my last baby was born I thought of this. My tiny, chunky, squishy baby had only so many days of snuggling like a little warm ball under my chin, upon my chest. I knew it and I have held you close, Remy, every day knowing this day was just beyond the horizon. Here it is. My one-year-old is here. Your smile has more and more teeth, your laugh has more of a voice, your eyes have more wisdom and your hugs- I can’t even describe those hugs. You’re running now, dancing, drawing, reveling and living life with ferocity! I am getting to know a cleverer version of you with each new day. And just like that, my last baby is a memory.

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Posted in Beautiful Things | 3 Comments

Two Important Articles

It has taken me DAYS to plow through these two insightful articles. Instead of back-to-school shopping, we are opting out again. Thanks to the crafters of these works for helping to put into words why our family evaluates, reevaluates and makes this decision together year after year.

This resignation letter from a first year public school teacher

This comparative analysis of learning that happens in kids around the world

 

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MOONCHILD

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“We can see that there is no difference between living and learning, that living is learning, that it is impossible, and misleading, and harmful to think of them as being separate. We say to children, ‘you come to school to learn.’ We say to each other [educators], ‘our job is to teach children to learn.’ But the children have been learning, all the time, for all of their lives before they met us. What is more, they are very likely to be much better at learning than most of us who plan to teach them something.” – John Holt

There’s something incredibly awesome about spring. I don’t have a truly favorite season, but I’m starting to think spring is it, even though it’s too cold to swim. This year I’m doing some major Spring Cleaning, and I don’t mean my house (though, it’s obvious I need to do some of that too). I’m talking about Resolutions. I’m making Spring Resolutions. Here are a few of them:

  1. Trim the Fat
    Some things just aren’t necessary. For example, my baby is now 8 months old and I probably don’t need to be comfortable wearing maternity shorts right now. So, yes, I’mIMG_4671 working on that without uttering the “D” word because I don’t have the time or energy to focus on a diet calorie count or the like. I’m resolving to move more and indulge less. That’s all I can promise but I’m promising that. You know what else is not necessary? CEDAR PARK. I hate driving to Cedar Park. Don’t get me wrong – I love Cedar Park. Just like the name IMG_4256would have you believe, it’s filled with wide open spaces, great parks & pools and nice people. Lots of homeschoolers and lots to do. Very tempting to drive the 25 miles join in on a rewarding 2-hour activity. After driving up there regularly for Monday Co-op for a full semester I have to say, I quit. Love the place – hate the drive. Gotta save my gas money and time in the car. Plus, Remy hates the drive more than I do.
    Finally, budget. We are ‘mission critical’ in that I tend to burn through any unspent or extra money, and I need to be saving rather than spending. This means I need to plan more carefully and think more critically about what we eat, what we buy (at Target, mostly) and such. Yada yada yada money blah.
  2. Find a Routine and Develop Those Habits
    I’m terrible at routines. I know they aren’t good in large doses and I don’t want my kids to feel like they can’t breathe if their routine is disrupted, but if I’m going to meet all the commitments I’m making, I have to have some kind of routine, even if I can only loosely follow it. I need a goal. Most people my age would probably read this and think ‘duh; you’re just now figuring this out?’ to which I say yes. Yes, I am. I’m going to start with morning routines and evening routines, and try to fold those into our weekly scheduled events. Then attempt to expand on those and juggle other weekly & monthly tasks and do them regularly. Then maybe figure out how to schedule and assign chores to the boys, and harder still, enforce those chores. Not my forte. Especially with a mobile, busy baby cruising around. As impossible as it sounds, it has to happen.
  3. Accept the Facts
    Sometimes I feel like I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I’m trying to be an effective person. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, homemaker, teacher, sister, caregiver, in-law, friend, consumer, patron, volunteer, acquaintance, fellow group member, and several other personas. I can’t do everything and be everything to everyone all the time. I can’t keep biting off more than I can chew at the expense of those whom I prioritize. I read somewhere to never let that which matters most be at the mercy of that which matters least. No idea who coined that, but I assure you it wasn’t me! So, I’m trying to make an effort to regroup, focus and devote energy to that which matters most.
  4. Seasons Change
    If at any time it becomes clear that something’s not working, we will make a change. I’m not making long-term plans here. Just seeing what is working for the family right now. This is working so far, and beautifully.

Those are my resolutions. I am going to attempt to stick to them this year!

Aside from those, I am also trying to decipher our homeschool style. Starting out, I loved the idea of Charlotte Mason and “The Well-Trained Mind.” I didn’t like all the rigor and memorization work so early on. It’s also heavy on the religious influence, which isn’t my cup of tea, and the required reading didn’t seem to interest the kids. They prefer “twaddle.” I like a lot about Waldorf, but my kids thrive on media and technology. I liked the idea of Montessori, but it was so very counter to my own thinking I felt like I was just pretending all the time. Plus, my kids don’t enjoy crafts and gentle play. Not a good fit. Unit Studies are great for science, but I never can seem to stick to the program. I will omit the stuff that doesn’t seem interesting (to the kids) or skip over concepts altogether that I know they will master later. The best science experiments seem to happen outside while on a hike with our nature group, or the kids find something in the yard they want to learn more about. If it’s a waste of time or feels like busywork I’m simply not going to make them sit and do it. This is <partly> why we rejected the school system altogether. For some reason I’ve been fighting the idea that we are just true blue unschoolers in disguise. It’s still a leap of faith for me, and I cling to some level of prescribed curriculum even though I’ve seen that it doesn’t really work for my kids if I use it as intended. In case the term “unschooling” is foreign to you, dear reader, please have a look-see at this article for a more in-depth explanation of the concept. Here’s a good, brief synopsis of unschooling, taken from an excerpt of a John Holt book:

“<Unschooling> is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning. Lately, the term “unschooling” has come to be associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn’t use a fixed curriculum. When pressed, I define unschooling as allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require you, the parent, to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an “on demand” basis, if at all. This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work.”

This is how I feel sometimes when I tell someone I think we are unschooling.

This is how I feel sometimes when I tell someone I think we are unschooling.

Basically, it’s what we’ve been doing all along. I have zero interest in simply replicating school at home. Once, in weak moment, I considered enrolling in K-12 because I was sure that I made a lousy teacher. That moment came when Dax asked me to explain to him more simply what exactly water is. I gave the typical “layman’s” explanation of molecules and such, but by the time I got the video pulled up and all the info in the world he could have, he had already lost interest and moved on to something else. I reasoned, ‘if he had had a real teacher, he would have received a satisfactory answer.’  Then it was brought to my attention that a very good friend/homeschooling mom I knew had ended up in truancy court after trying K-12, which requires an immense amount of tedious time spent in front of a computer. So glad I didn’t act on my fear, although that fear kept gnawing.

Last week I had a conversation with a brilliant woman (also a pediatrician) who has successfully unschooled her 4 (now grown and/or teenaged) children. She reminded me that my kids are still young and I was looking at the water question situation the wrong way. The important part of that scene was not my answer, but his question. His curiosity. Right now my answer was enough. Later on down the line he will be able and motivated to find answers himself, and I won’t be the one fueling his curiosity about water molecules and such. The light bulb went on. He is SIX. He’s just starting out.

So, no, I don’t want to enroll in a virtual school or online learning other than general information-based sites, math facts games, and enrichment. We learn as we go, sometimes with a planned activity and sometimes not. Whether they will ace a state-mandated standardized test bears no consequence at this point in their lives. I will touch on this year’s plan later in the post, and none of it involves following a particular

Learning about Pollock

Learning about Pollock

prescribed curriculum to the letter. I think we are unschoolers, but I’m not looking closely enough at what that means or following all the flowcharts so maybe we don’t actually fit (because yes, my kids practice handwriting and I consult curriculum to find the best ways to illustrate some math concepts). I don’t think “unschooling” is completely without rubric. We are not

Kidoku

Kidoku

following one curriculum and most, if not all, of their actual learning is self-directed and self-motivated. I just provide the material if it’s not right there at the moment. So maybe we are “eclectic” rather than “unschooler,” but I feel like if I keep going in this direction (tossing boxes and boxes of the workbooks I bought last year onto my front porch and posting ‘FREE STUFF’ on the AAH list) we will be radical unschoolers in a matter of months. Here is another article I enjoyed about the “M” word (math) that usually follows any exploration of unschooling, from an outside perspective. I feel like I’m still looking at unschooling from an outside perspective, because I haven’t committed to it in real time. I believe in it, I’m convinced that it’s our path, and I’ve actually seen it work. The kids respond to the natural process of learning, and they do not enjoy prescribed curriculum and artificially reproducing learning on worksheets. All I have to do is realize that I’m already putting it into practice and go with it. Going back to my pictorial reference to The Neverending Story, I’m like Bastian in the attic scene, sitting there reading the book screaming, “I have to keep my feet on the ground!”

Jace sharing his pick for "cool games" show & tell. He picked "Spot It"

Jace sharing his pick for “cool games” show & tell. He picked “Spot It”

So, moving forward, what’s the plan? Here are the things we have on the horizon:

Remy loves books!

Remy loves books!

We will be operating on a year-round schedule! Summer breaks make no sense for us, as in Texas there’s little to do and see in the summertime that doesn’t involve a pool. Camping, sightseeing and exploring are more thoroughly enjoyed in the fall and spring, so that’s when we will plan our vacations. The summer can be spent learning new things indoors at museums, reading, visiting the library and doing activities with our groups or swimming in one of the numerous pools around town.

To my amazement, we were accepted into AAH Friday Co-op for the fall, which is a huge deal to me because I adore many of the people there already, and it’s such a fantastic group of kids. Dax met a boy at a playground full of children one afternoon, and he immediately connected with that one kid. They played so well for 2 hours and Dax was sad to say goodbye. When we showed up for Demo Day at co-op in May, Dax was thrilled to see that the friend he made that day on the playground was there at co-op! Jace and Dax have a few friends there already from another playgroup we had attended in South Austin. I know several parents there, and overall it’s a very supportive and positive community. Plus it’s just 12 minutes away! We’re stoked. Co-op will start the first week of September.

IMG_4296We still participate in our Tuesday group, Little Texas Homeschoolers. Science group meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month, we try something new every 3rd Tuesday, and gather throughout the week for fun events that come up. Our annual IMG_0160Valentine’s Day party was a success and we have had several purely social gatherings that provide a great outlet for me and fun times with friends for the kids. The group feels very “grassroots” and we have lofty plans to keep our kids together as they grow. I’m so

Dax & Emma

Dax & Emma

happy to have these people to share this journey with! I have started hosting a monthly book club with this group and if I can get my act together I would like to post recaps here!

Wednesdays are reserved for our nature group, Austin Families in IMG_5219Nature. We venture out into state parks, county parks, city parks, private parks, greenbelts, hiking trails and whatever else sounds like fun. We complete challenges, make things, learn things and get our bodies moving out in nature so we can see what’s going on in the world.

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We have several camping trips planned for the fall: Inks Lake, Garner State Park and Lost Maples (which might become Canyon of the Eagles if we can’t nail down some sites soon!). It’s a great group and the kids really enjoy each other. There’s something going on with the mamas, though, because lately we’ve all been having babies or announcing we are going to have another baby! Baby Boom 2014!

Thursdays are reserved for P.E. and we have been keeping up with swim lessons at Nitro.

9th St. BMX track

9th St. BMX track

Jace is not interested in pursuing swimming as a skill, but Dax is moving up the ranks quickly so we are sticking with it for now. They IMG_1692have also tried a local Parkour gym, and Dax has become very interested in BMX bikes (great). I think it’s time to get Jace involved in a sport of some kind that involves a ball and perhaps a bat, so we’ll see if I can find anything. We are skipping the XGames this year, but I can’t wait to take the boys to see the skateboarding events next year!

I am adding a “history” element to the mix for 2014-2015. I’m using Pandia Press’ “History Odyssey” (Ancient Times, level 1) as a guide. I like it because it’s not really a “curriculum” but a “study guide”. It gives a general timeline for what to cover but it’s only 1 lesson per week, and you can do a little every day, or only when the topic arises. It gives a book list and I pick up all the books at the library and take my time reading through them with the boys. I don’t know how realistic it is to follow the “classical” model of studying history, which is essentially chronologically, but obviously more in-depth as you get into the higher grades. I don’t have a better idea at this point. It basically goes like this:

1st grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade – Ancient History
2nd grade, 6th grade, and 10th grade – The Middle Ages
3rd grade, 7th grade, and 11th grade – Early Modern
4th grade, 8th grade, and 12th grade – Modern History

So, I’m reading this stuff with Dax and Jace comes along for the ride, though he is less interested in the Egyptians but will pose questions about the earth, dinosaurs, early humans, and things like that.

IMG_1371When we work on math, I’m drawing from a couple of different curricula. Dax is beyond the first 1/2 of 1st grade math, so I’m just picking and choosing from those lessons to fill in gaps. Lessons are pretty informal and usually take less than 20 minutes. We practice conceptsIMG_3621 wherever we see them in the real world, and Dax likes to explain things to Jace, which makes it pretty obvious to me that he’s grasping those concepts. Saxon is a very scripted, intense curriculum and I omit 80% of the lesson plans. The meeting books are basically busywork. I do improvised calendar work with the kids but we utilize the calendar as a way of getting our bearings for the week; to see what we’re going to do that day, what’s coming up that week, and look at what events have already passed. “Oh, that was one week ago today,” drives the point home in a way that artificially practicing on blank pages or coloring shapes and patterns or whatever can’t do. Totally unnecessary. Jace likes Saxon Math K because a lot of the “lessons” are just games to him. It uses a lot of shape cutouts, number cards and putting things in order, snap blocks and manipulatives. He loves that stuff. I have to hide it away when we’re done otherwise he will use them to construct guns and weapons. Everything is fun to Jace these days.

Dax enjoying some good "twaddle"

Dax enjoying some good “twaddle”

Reading is something I put most of my focus on. Reading is so important; more so than history, science and math facts right now.

Spiderman

Spiderman

If I can get Dax to sit and read I don’t even care what it is. I don’t know what his “reading level” is, but he enjoys reading and can read independently.  Jace is developing phonemic awareness and enjoys

ABC order

ABC order

writing letters free-hand, but is not ready for the Code books just yet. He enjoys being read to and likes to look through flash cards, so that’s the extent of the work I’m doing with him on reading. I’m thinking Dax would benefit from some spelling help, but not sure how to work that in. I’ve ordered “All About Spelling” and will give it a go and see if he enjoys it.

IMG_2574IMG_2623IMG_2603Recently the boys constructed a Faerie House from natural materials as part of an IMG_2642event at Zilker Botanical Gardens. Groups from all over Austin built fairy homes and they were placed on display throughout the gardens. It was a IMG_4016really fun project. We hiked through with our nature group and saw all the different homes that were constructed. Some were really elaborate!

OK, I have to stop writing before my entire weekend passes me by. Thanks for reading! More updates later!

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Posted in Homeschool | 6 Comments

Another Year Come and Gone

“Childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live, a child is living.”

-Professor T. Ripaldi

I can’t believe I did it again. Another 9+ months whizzed by with not a spare second for blogging. I feel like I blog the way I clean my house: it all piles up until I have to just buckle down and cover everything at once. I’m working on that, by the way. Thanks to Flylady I’m at least getting an idea of how to systematically tame an out-of-control household. Anyhoo, let’s see, where were we. Oh, yes:

IMG_8065SUMMER

This past summer was a fantastic mix of laziness, chaos, drama, hard work, and adventure. It seemed as though we were in a pool or on a wooded trail every day. If we couldn’t find a pool we just made a mud hole and jumped in it.

Redneck Swimming Pool

Redneck Swimming Pool

Dax kicked off the summer season by announcing that he really wanted a haircut. He was tired of people confusing him for a girl. I was disappointed, because he expressed that he liked his long hair, but he was made to feel like he had the “wrong” hair. I tried to explain that if people thought he looked like a girl that was their problem. That was their mistake. David did his best to drive that same point home. We support Dax in whatever appearance he chooses.

Nevertheless…IMG_9335So, he got a new do. Moving on: The kids started taking swim lessons at Nitro, and in 2 months they both made HUGE improvements. Dax became an independent swimmer, and advanced all the way to Station 9 in the two months we took lessons there. IMG_9754He came a long way from where he started: not even wanting to go under water. Jace is ready to get back to swim lessons, so if the budget allows we will get him enrolled this spring. He made tremendous strides as well, and by the end of the run he was doing the “starfish” which is holding his breath for 5 seconds and floating face down underwater with arms and legs outstretched. I burst into tears when he was finally able to get there. He worked so hard; as did those instructors (bless their hearts).

We played in Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, Bull Creek, Onion Creek, and several chlorinated pools around town. We also frequented the splash pads around town:

Butler Park

Butler Park

Butler Park, Pease Park, Brushy Creek Park up north – we went everywhere!

Swimming in the creek

Swimming in the creek

One of my favorite homeschool activities is our PEMDAS group. It’s basically a STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)

Our PEMDAS group meets monthly and investigates a scientific question or principle using experimentation and the Scientific Method. It’s all hands-on and the kids really enjoy it. The experiments we have done recently involved engineering and

Mary's didn't make it...

Mary’s didn’t make it…

chemistry.

Constructing the egg containers

Constructing the egg containers

A fun exploration of structural engineering utilized newspaper, cotton balls, spaghetti pasta (uncooked) and rubberbands to encase an egg which was then dropped from several different heights onto different types of ground. The kids got to make up their own contraption for encasing the egg but could only use those aforementioned materials

Mark dropping one of the contraptions

Mark dropping one of the contraptions

to do so. In the end there was only one winner, and her design involved a parachute, which slowed the fall and gently plopped the encased egg onto the hard ground. It was a success, and she was stoked to have found a winning method!

We also learned about “sublimation” and the various states of matter at another meeting. We applied those principles by making root beer and utilizing dry ice! In addition to the experiments and science talks, this group also meets regularly for field trips, park days and parties. We did a “Not Back to School” party in August where all the homeschool kids got to celebrate not having to go back to school! We played at a splash pad and mingled over the snacks and treats, rode bikes and played on a playscape. Charmed.

'Not' Back to School - Little Texas Homeschoolers Party

‘Not’ Back to School – Little Texas Homeschoolers Party

Campfire Group Visiting Mayfielf Park Trail

Campfire Group Visiting Mayfield Park Trail

We continued with our Camp Fire group, exploring trails and attempting all sorts of various crafting activities. Dax and Jace LOVE their Camp Fire friends, and I’m excited that our group is growing and branching out. There are so many

State of Nature

State of Nature

opportunities to explore nature in this town. Check out the Texas Nature Challenge and Austin Families in Nature for opportunities to get out and connect with the world around you.

Hiking some random trail

Hiking some random trail

We have a plan for upcoming camping trips (the next being sometime in March, which reminds me – I gotta reserve our site!!) and we are always finding new places to explore!

As far  as curriculum goes, Summer was fairly “relaxed”. I didn’t

Get to work, Jace!

Get to work, Jace!

start the math program I had intended to start on with Dax. We simply did not have time because there was just too much to do.

In mid-July, s**t got real.

It was time to move. We were ready to move on from our little house on the prairie and get a grown-up house, near the grown-up job. This was a pretty huge deal because we had lived in this house for 11 years. Our kids knew this as “home”, Did I have reservations about selling our homestead and moving?

HELL NO. Get me out of here.

FOR SALE

FOR SALE

So, we put the house on the market and after some drama it sold in about 2 weeks. Dax and Jace were really excited to move to a new house, though I think they were a little melancholy once it sank in. The good news is that after what seemed like an eternity, we

Last picture of boys at Rotunda

Last picture of boys at Rotunda

finally closed on the sale of our new house, about a week after we moved out of our old place.

My dear, sweet, talented hubby spent a lot of time and effort (along with my dear, sweet, talented sister-in-law who helped immensely) fixing up the bathroom and transforming much of this house into the beauty it is today. I just love our new place and it feels more like home than any house I’ve ever lived in (okay, no offense, Juniper Cove house of my childhood – nothing compares 2 U…).

Simultaneously, my little Jace turned 4. It was the same weekend we had the movers come empty our house. He didn’t get much of a party, but we did host our Thursday playgroup at the pool and kids brought presents and homemade cards and I made some terrible rainbow cupcakes

Happy Birthday, Jacey-Jace!

Happy Birthday, Jacey-Jace!

with all-natural food coloring (don’t ever, ever bother trying to make all-natural food coloring work for rainbow cupcakes). Jace had a great time at his party, and I think I only took one or two pictures because kids and water just make me nervous, and I wasn’t thinking with my “documentary” thinking cap that afternoon. Anyhoo, we had a repeat birthday celebration at my mom’s, as we usually do because Grandpa’s birthday is one day away from Jace’s. Good times. My baby turned 4. This can’t be happening.

Meanwhile, we moved. I was giddy-excited because we actually had movers to move the heavy stuff and David was spared the back-breaking two-man-lifts. He usually tries to do that kind of stuff himself – I think that’s part of the reason he has all the gray hair. I’m the other part of the reason for that but NEVERMIND! 🙂 Everything was falling into place. The pieces were coming together. I was beginning to have daily contractions. Things were dicey, but wonderful.

Busy Busy Airport!

Busy Busy Airport!

We decided to make one bedroom into an office/library/homeschool room, which is basically a constant work-in-progress. We got a small table that serves as the activity center and there the kids do everything from math work to painting – it’s truly multipurpose and I love it! By the end of summer, homeschooling had taken a back seat to a very fast-approaching deadline:20130902_131647. We had a baby due October 11th, and by August it was crunch time. We did very little in the way of education enrichment for several weeks, but that didn’t stop Dax from falling madly, deeply in love with a game called Chess. 20130828_173134He and Jace were gifted a very well-loved chess set from their Great Aunt Pip, whose grandsons used it extensively and also loved to play. I showed Dax some basic moves (I had to Google everything because I am NOT a chess person) and his appetite for playing this game became insatiable. Luckily there’s this wondrous group of people who are in something called a “chess club” and Dax really enjoyed going (AAH CHESS CLUB), as did Jace even though he

Chess Club

Chess Club

wasn’t interested in playing chess. Over the next couple of months Jace developed an appreciation for the game as well and the two play together regularly. The sad part is, now that we’ve been going to chess club for like 4 months, Dax is starting to wonder why he hasn’t won any matches. 🙂 I simply refuse to pay for private lessons. I mean, there’s plenty of time for that. I do worry, however, that by not getting him the guidance he really needs in the game he is going to lose interest. So, therein lies my dilemma. I keep telling myself it’s silly to worry too much about that stuff, but you know how the mom guilt is basically limitless.

Jace’s passion these days is reading books. “Reading” meaning, being read to. He loves the little Serendipity books, written by his Grandpa! His favorite so far is a book called “Buttermilk.” Buttermilk is a little bunny who is at the mercy of her own imagination, and the world gets pretty scary when the sun goes down and shadows get long. Eventually her

Grandpa Reads to Jace

Grandpa Reads to Jace

dear poppa bunny makes everything right in the world, and shows her (and my little Jace) that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I have probably read this book 485 times, and Jace never gets tired of it. I think it has helped him with his fear of dark, spooky corners in his room – but he is still kind of afraid of those things. Aren’t we all? I think I still am, sometimes. Summer transitioned silently into the next season, virtually unnoticed.

Some Trail Somewhere

Some Trail Somewhere

FALL

Baby Dragon Love

Baby Dragon Love

As we ventured into Autumn we started to get in a groove. This was much easier to do with all the space and comfort of our new house (can you tell I’m stoked about our new place?) which is much closer to many of the places we needed to go. Going to a birthday party meant

Birthday Party at Smudge Studios (Thanks, Willow!!)

Birthday Party at Smudge Studios (Thanks, Willow!!)

a 10 minute drive, not 35 minutes. We can make a last-minute decision to head to the Faulk library for a Lego event, or pick up that book that is always either on hold or checked out somewhere else. I’m just eternally grateful to be here.

Co-op Class

Co-op Class

We started attending a co-op class through Austin Monday Co-op, and the class was basically an “Around the World” theme. Each week the kids learned about a new country, and they learned the 7 continents. Not 6 continents or 8 – in the U.S. we all just agree that there are 7 continents, ok?? Ok. Moving on…

Story Time at Co-op

Story Time at Co-op

They did various crafts, read stories and worked in a group; something I really want them to be able to do on occasion. It was fun and the kids were all super nice. I volunteered for a month, and discovered that teaching and assisting with a pre-K/K-level class is completely EXHAUSTING. By the end of class I really needed a snack and a nap.

Camp Fire group, Northwest Park

Camp Fire group, Northwest Park

Fall was a wonderful time for our camp fire hikes and meetings. The leaves actually do change and fall in some places here (go figure) and we found different scenery to enjoy and leaf-centered crafts to do (or not do, if you’re Dax). We hit up lots of new trails and the kids were testing out new tree-climbing and trailblazing skills together. Fun and nerve-racking to watch.

We joined in on some fun field trips with our LTH group. The most fascinating to me being

Watching some fish eggs hatch

Watching some fish eggs hatch

the fish hatchery in San Marcos, TX. We all learned that many of the lakes and ponds in Texas are managed by the TX Dept of Wildlife and are actually stocked with fish bred at this fish hatchery. If you are into fishing you can find out when the lake is “re-stocked” and head out to fish the day after to increase your odds of catching a few fish!

Working on some letters

Working on some letters

Paint! Paint! Paint!

Paint! Paint! Paint!

By about this time I was getting less and less mobile. This pregnancy was definitely the hardest one yet, and my body was basically warning me to never, ever do this again. I won’t burden you, dear reader, with my list of pregnancy woes, but the point is I had to spend precious energy on things like organizing and chaos-control at home and less energy on exploring the world around us. The perk of that was Dax made leaps & bounds in his

Working Together

Working Together

PAINT paint paint PAINT!

PAINT paint paint PAINT!

reading skills, and Jace rediscovered his love for painting and art. We did more work on letters and and art in one month than I think was done all summer. Which, in my opinion, is fine. Those days leading up to my due date were like the roller coaster ratcheting up to the top of the impending downhill free-fall. On the afternoon of October 11, 2013 that moment arrived.

Baby Remy

Baby Remy

Remy Fox Dreesen came gracefully into the world at 1:00pm weighing in at 7lbs. 9oz. A repeat c-section, I never had a single experience of true labor, but I will definitely conclude that it was a very painful birth. Remy was lifted into the world by skilled hands, as were my other boys, and I’m content to know that he had a good experience in meeting the world. To me, that’s all that matters. He arrived, perfectly healthy.

The boys hunkering down

The boys hunkering down

The next several weeks were a blur of groggy love and foggy

Baby Snuggles

Baby Snuggles

memories. The endless utility of a newborn peppered with sparks of overwhelming love and joy. Coupled with sleep deprivation, and the re-discovering of baby routines and needs. I savored these days, hours, minutes. I know I won’t have any more of these times. Snuggling with my tiny baby who had no idea what this place really, truly was. Just a human gestating outside the womb through that 4th trimester – so precious. The big boys were also completely enamored. I kept waiting for some kind of “sibling

Dax and Remy

Dax and Remy

issues” or adjustment period to start. When was Jace going to regress and start peeing in his pants? When was Dax going to start asking me to send the baby back to the hospital? There

Day Sleepers

Day Sleepers

was none of that. It was storybook-love, even for these boys who have had my undivided attention for so long. Suddenly they didn’t have an all-access pass for help or attention from me. There was lots of “Shhh, Remy’s sleeping” and “not now I’m feeding Remy” and “please be careful around the baby” – all heeded with <mostly> unconditional acceptance. They cherish Remy, and love him as much as mom & dad do. It’s remarkable, and beautiful and all those things I’ve heard it would be.

The arrival of Remy essentially doomed our schedule to a series of rain checks and cancellations. We  paused quit co-op. We declined play dates and birthday parties, missed

Hold the Baby

Hold the Baby

all our hiking trips, skipped science, dropped out of chess, and basically put everything on hold. As in, we just wanted to lay around and hold the baby. Dax asked to hold him about 10 times a day. Daddy had to hold the baby after work. I had to hold and gaze at the baby for so long that poor Dax & Jace had to just play mind-numbing VIDEO GAMES for hours every day. It was… wonderful. “Winter” blurred into “whatever”. Hibernation, revitalization, meditation – Family. Yep, my blinders were on. I tuned out the news, the world, everything.

We did manage to celebrate some holidays. Remy’s first holiday,

Very Hungry Caterpillar (photo credit: Alison Eden)

Very Hungry Caterpillar (photo credit: Alison Eden)

obviously, was Halloween. He was the cutest caterpillar ever. I came to the realization that October is the best time to have a baby, because most people seem to check out for the remainder

Christmas!

Christmas!

of the year once the holidays hit, so it wasn’t too weird that the Dreesens just dropped off the map for awhile. We surfaced to attend a rockin’ Halloween party and trick-or-treat with the usual suspects. Christmas was the best one yet, and we had a great time seeing all our family. When New Years Eve came around I was sad to see 2013 go. We rang in the New Year with a croupy Jace, and I didn’t even make it to midnight before passing out with Remy around 9pm. All was well, however, because David came in at midnight and whispered “Happy New Year” and kissed me, then the baby. Haven’t missed a kiss since, like, 2001. Those kinds of things are so important to me.

So, here we are. hopefully at the tail end of all the ice storms and freezing temps of Q1 2014. Spring semester is underway and we have committed to the following activities/classes:

  • Austin Monday Co-op – Life Science class on Animals

    Number Bonds by Dax

    Number Bonds by Dax

  • PEMDAS
  • Soccer (informal, only occasional Tuesdays)
  • Camp Fire
  • Chess Club
  • Lego Robotics (Learning Fun 101)
  • Nitro Swim Class
  • Friday Field Trips with LTH

As far as curriculum, the boys are doing different things. Dax is still on “Explode The Code” book 1. He completed the primer books A,B and C. I’m sort of falling out of love with this phonics program, but we might as well finish it at this point. For math, I started Dax on Saxon K, but realized pretty quick that this was more Jace’s speed. Dax was ready

Jace loves his hidden picture puzzles

Jace loves his hidden picture puzzles

for higher level math concepts, so I dug through some used homeschool materials I bought from someone last year (a big box full of random stuff) and found a Singapore Math Primary Mathmatics 1A, complete with text, workbook and Teacher guide. SCORE! We’ve been using that for Dax and he’s on the subtraction unit at this point. Jace is getting through the K-level math with ease. There are a few things I have to go over from this book with Dax, like calendar facts, how to read a conventional clock, and basic things like that. Saxon is a great program, and I plan to transition Dax to the Saxon 1 after he completes this unit with Singapore.

That’s the most formal instruction I do with them. I don’t push writing with Jace. I am

Dax and his first "graphic" novel. It was about an alien invasion.

Dax and his first “graphic” novel. It was about an alien invasion.

pushing Dax a little with the writing only because I know he can do it, and often chooses not to apply himself. I keep our lessons brief, and try to limit the time to their attention span. When I lose their attention, we go do something else. Forcing them to sit and toil doesn’t inspire a love of learning at this age. They aren’t prepping for the SAT’s just yet, ya know?

Thanks for catching up on everything we’ve been up to! Now that the “new baby” fog is lifting, my blinders are coming off, we’re seeing some sunshine and stretching our legs. I look forward to the adventures that await us as a family of five.

For more information on homeschooling in Austin or any of the activities mentioned click the links on the right – it’s all there. Hope to see ya around.

IMG_0013

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So Far, So Good!

IMG_7461Wow! I can’t believe it’s already May, and I haven’t posted anything since 2012! So much has been happening and so much change is on the horizon for us – I’ve had less than zero blog time lately. Luckily, my amazing hubby has taken the boys for the day as a Mother’s Day gift to me, so I am taking the opportunity to sit, relax, reflect and write. I’ll start with a recap of some significant events over the past few months.

Worst December Ever
olive
In December 2012 my then-18-month-old niece was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer.  By the time the aggressive tumor in her right eye was discovered she had lost all vision in that eye, and drastic steps had to be taken to save her life. I can’t even put into words what our family went through, in terms of emotional turmoil and pure fear. We were all in complete shock over how fast everything moved from discovering something was wrong to processing the required treatment: enucleation. oliveIf you don’t know what that procedure is you can Google it.

My niece, Olive, is a kind-hearted, hard-headed, sweet, beautiful, inquisitive little spirit and she endured all the trauma of this process with strength. I’m awestruck by her. I can’t even begin to imagine the suffering that Jess and Robert (her mom & dad) endured, but the long story short is she is now cancer free and we are gearing up to celebrate her 2nd birthday next month. Jessica has started a blog about the ordeal in hopes of helping other families dealing with Retinoblastoma. When her site goes live I’ll link to it here.

20130512-165013.jpg

Olive is doing great these days

xmas1Both my husband and Jessica had birthdays the week we learned of Olive’s condition, so xmas3neither of them even wanted to think about celebrating anything. Christmas came and the kids had a great time. We had a good Christmas, considering.

January
IMG_6679
The highlight of January was Dax turning the big five-oh! I still can’t believe my baby is five. He’s an incredible help now – I really think turning 5 was the Magic Transition. He is so helpful and he really wants to do right by everyone. Dax is obsessed with The Power Rangers Samurai and idolizes Jayden, the Red Ranger. He loves to show off his Samurai moves and karate kick & chop any stationary object (doors, appliances, bath tub, car tire, etc.). We are going to try out a martial arts class this summer, just to see IMG_6773IMG_6558if it’s something he wants to really learn about or just play for fun. He loves to climb any tree he can find, and he also loves making “snacks” which is basically combining several unappetizing ingredients together in a bowl and adding some kind of liquid, lots of sugar that David uses for his morning coffee, and then stirring it all together and soaking it in the fridge until he forgets about it.

Here he is making a "snack"

Here he is making a “snack”

xmas2

Jace

Jace has been changing and growing every day, quite literally. He has been having severe growing pains in his legs at night, and he has outgrown almost all his 3T clothes! He loves baseball-type activities, role play games of hunting monsters and bad guys, and sparring with swords and light sabers. My favorite thing about Jace right now is that he’s totally in this “I love you” phase. I think he tells me that he loves me 700 times a day. This is like a night and day difference from this time last year when I could seldom get a hug from the kid!

Jace making a heart-shaped bird feeder at Camp Fire group gathering

Jace making a heart-shaped bird feeder at a Camp Fire group gathering

February
Speaking of affection, I simply adore our Thursday homeschool play group. We have found the most amazing group of kids and parents, and I absolutely cherish all of them. In

Valentine's Day Party with South Austin Homeschool Playgroup

Valentine’s Day Party with South Austin Homeschool Playgroup

February we got together for a Valentine’s Day party and everyone got a big bag of special Valentines cards, all unique and adorable. The boys were thrilled, and I was ecstatic to be a part of that group.

In February we also made the trip to Missouri to visit my dad and his side of the family. It was great to see the kids play in 6 inches of snow, and also visit “the farm” – a place dear to me that has changed very little since my childhood.

Snow Man

Snow Man

We visited my 108-year-old Grandma and stayed with my Aunt

Science Center, St. Louis,MO

Science Center, St. Louis,MO

Anna Lynn and Uncle Lynn. I’m extremely grateful for that visit because since our visit both my Grandma and my Uncle Lynn have passed away. We visited the Science Center, the Museum of Western Expansion, the Arch, and saw the IMG_8169childhood home of Mark Twain (and the infamous Tom Sawyer fence!).

Inner Space Cavern

Inner Space Cavern

Also in February we joined our Little Texas Homeschoolers group on a trip to Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown. Thank goodness my mom came with me. I have no idea how I could’ve managed that without her. The kids had a blast, and we enjoyed the tour of the cavern.

As if February couldn’t get any crazier, I came down with the flu, suffered a case of walking pneumonia, and also found out some pretty heavy news!

IMG_7717
We’re expecting a baby in October! My head was spinning from about mid-February until mid-March, when I finally came out of the fog of all my various illnesses. It’s hard to be excited about being pregnant when you’ve just been hit with a stomach bug, at the same time as your two kids! Everyone’s excited and happy about the news, including me now that it’s sunk in and I’m not sick anymore. We’ve had a series of tests done and now at 18 weeks I can say the baby is perfectly healthy in there. So far, so good!

March
March was fun because we were able to get back in the swing of park days and hanging out with friends. Some of our favorite parks to visit in Austin:

Circle C Park

Windmill Run

Windmill Run

Dick Nichols Park
Windmill Run

Nature Science Center

Nature Science Center

Rollingwood Park
Zilker Park
Austin Nature Science Center
Springwoods Park
Play for All Abilities (Round Rock)
Mueller Lake Park

Mueller Lake

Mueller Lake

Mary Moore Seabright Park
Bull Creek Park

Bull Creek

Bull Creek

All these parks are great for just spending the afternoon just playing and having a picnic lunch. March was full of birthday parties and park days, and basically I’m considering the whole first quarter of the year to be our Summer Vacation, since we’re about to ramp it up with the curriculum this summer, for real.

April
The best part about April was the camping trip we went on with our Camp Fire group! Six IMG_7909families set up sites at McKinney Falls State Park and we had the greatest time just starting fires (er, watching them get started by someone – I didn’t start any) and eating potluck dinner, roasting marshmallows, hiking, swimming and watching the kids run wild like feral children. It was a fantastic trip and I swear I slept better out there then I usually do in my own bed. I can’t wait for the next trip with this group!

Also in April I turned 36, but nevermind that!

What’s Next?

We’re officially starting a homeschool curriculum for Dax this summer, so I’m trying to iron out some kind of morning schedule, which we’ve never really had. I go back and forth on our homeschooling “philosophy” and to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out their learning styles. Jace is very drawn to the computer, but I’m not being too serious about the effectiveness of his screen-time academics. He’s obsessed with ABCmouse.com, and

Jace listens to a song on ABCmouse.com

Jace listens to a song on ABCmouse.com

thankfully, it’s just fun for him. He’s 3 years old; I’m not worried about curriculum at this point. I’m thrilled that he can count as high as he can and he likes to ask about how words are spelled – I’m not even going to make that seem like work for him!

Dax is ready for more challenging stuff. He couldn’t possibly care less about ABCmouse.com, or any other online learning tool (Time4Learning was a yawn as well). He needs more face-to-face interaction and encouragement. We are getting

Writing Thank-You Notes

Writing Thank-You Notes

through Book B of the Explode the Code primer (Get Set for the Code) and I just received our Summer project: Saxon Math level K. I’m confident that he can breeze through at least half of these lessons, so I’m being ambitious and we’ll try to get through it over the summer. My goal is to be ready for first-grade curriculum by the fall. I can tell already what won’t work for us: Waldorf (I guess I

Painting

Painting

won’t be buying Oak Meadow), Christian-based curriculum such as Abeka, Sonlight, and most Charlotte Mason resources. I say most Charlotte Mason because I think I’ve found a happy balance that we might start in the Fall called Build Your Library. It seems like everything I love about the Charlotte Mason approach but without the religious aspects. I’m searching for more reviews but unfortunately it’s fairly new and not much out there in the way of input. I’m also a fan of Critical Thinking Co, and we’re considering Calvert for the upcoming grades but not at this point. So, those ideas plus lots of BOB books, and “twaddle” reading are what I hope to work on with Dax in the coming months. Maybe I’ll scrap all that jazz and we’ll just keep ‘unschooling’. Who knows. For now, everything is so far, so good!

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Six Impossible Things

impossible_burr_11. I went to school from the time I was 5 until age 22 and managed to learn very little about world history, government, or economics.

ImpossibleI mean, I learned what I needed to remember to pass my quiz/test/course/grade. I remember my goal of senior year government class was to learn how to get out of a traffic ticket, which didn’t happen. My government teacher failed to spark an interest in anything more than that, so I memorized what I needed for that quiz/test and nothing more. I  learned how to guess, how to manipulate my teachers, and I had a lot of good times along the way. However, I am just now learning how much I don’t know. I’m making up for lost time, and it’s amazing what’s out there. Check out my links to various learning sites on the right side of the screen. If you feel like you have it all figured out and there’s nothing left to learn, I guess you won’t find anything of value in this blog. Congratulations to you!

2. My kids will learn to read, write, navigate math, explore science and dissect history without my expert mastery of these topics.IMG_6270

I’m not a historian, or algebra expert, or professionally-trained reading expert. My 4-year-old is starting to read and my 3-year-old is on his way because, like all children, they are programmed to learn. I’m there to help them on their journey, and guide them. They have a vast network of support and encouragement to help them with what they are already busy learning. Welcome to The Information Age! This is a wonderful time to be a child – especially in Austin, TX – where culture, literacy, art, history, science, engineering, naturalism and more are all available for exploration just outside our front door, or through our cyber windows. All we have to do is make the effort, and give our kids the opportunity to partake. I will continue to strive to get them the best mentors and the best sources for learning material but the momentum will have to originate in them.

“Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” – Plato

IMG_37973. My kids will be creative, physically fit, and will learn the difference between fantasy and reality despite the fact that they play video games.

My kids play together on their various mobile devices, and often times their dad will join in and lead them on some sort of mission. They have become nimble in the virtual environment, and they have learned how to work together and help each other in these worlds (Minecraft, Rift, etc.). We don’t play overly violent games, especially military combat games like Call of Duty or Black Ops. I have strong opinions about the direction IMG_4340our military has gone with regard to civilian casualties, and when we hear those numbers of innocent people (women, children, elderly) killed and dismissed with a shrug it astounds me. I hope my kids never play games that desensitize in that way. Though, yes, I’m okay with them clubbing pixelated, boxy, green-faced zombies because guess what? Zombies aren’t real. Monsters aren’t real. I like that my 4-year-old is not afraid of imaginary things.

4. My kids will learn how to camp without the freaking Boy Scouts.

IMG_2620The boy scouts have recently (since the original posting of this blog entry) revoked their policy of disallowing gay youth from joining their organization. The refuse to allow gay mothers and fathers (did you know, gay people can be parents too??!! Go figure) to participate, which irritates me. I thought “no girls allowed” was a stupid rule when I was 7 years old, and my opinion hasn’t changed much. Fortunately, we have found a group called “Camp Fire USA” which has a local chapter in Austin. I think their core values are preferable to the Boy Scouts code of *ethics*. From the Camp Fire Balcones chapter website:campfire

  • We believe that children and youth are our most precious resources.
  • We believe in an approach to youth development that builds assets and empowers individuals.
  • We believe that the best youth development occurs in small groups where children and youth are actively involved in creating their own learning.
  • We are committed to coeducation, providing opportunities for boys, girls and families to develop together.
  • We provide caring, trained mentors to work with children and youth.
  • We are inclusive, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity.
  • We respect and celebrate nature.
  • We foster leadership, engaging children and youth to give service and make decisions in a democratic society.
  • We provide safe, fun and nurturing environments for children and youth.
  • We enrich parents’ and other adults’ lives by expanding their skills and encouraging them to share their talents and build relationships with children and youth.
  • We respond to community needs with our programs and expertise.
  • We advocate on behalf of children, youth and families

5. My kids are not, and will not, be sheltered from awkward or painful social interactions.IMG_2010

Dax has already had his heart broken by his first crush, they both have witnessed and experienced bullying and I have already consoled some hurt feelings. There will be unavoidable turmoil in their social lives just as readily available as in public school. IMG_1902I don’t jump in and tell them how to navigate every social situation, nor do I encourage them to come tattling to me every time someone lets their mean flag fly (except in situations where someone is in real danger, but I digress). They are learning how to deal with all kinds of personality types and all kinds of situations. The good news is, all relationships are voluntary at this stage and parents are at least kept informed as to what is going on. The kids have plenty of space to grow their own relationships.

6. My kids will make friends.

Homeschool Halloween Park Day - Learning without Limits

Homeschool Halloween Park Day

No, they might not be surrounded by several hundred kids at any given moment, but they have friends. They have favorite friends. They choose the people they want to spend theirIMG_6148 time with, and for better or worse the relationships don’t have to continue unless both people want to keep the friendship. My kids have found common ground with other kids – some their age some not, and have built solid friendships based on similar interests rather than sitting next to them randomly in a class segregated by age.

Next year we plan on buying and moving into a house several miles away from where we live now, and I’m hopeful to find some

Our Wednesday Playgroup

Our Wednesday Playgroup

neighborhood kids for my boys to befriend and play with. When I was 6 or 7 I met a girl, a year older than I was, who lived down the street and we became best friends. I also became very close to a pair of sisters (two years older and 1 year younger) who lived a few houses down, and none of these girls were my age. I didn’t see any of them during the school day although we were all in the same building, but we managed to form a lifelong bond that exists to this day. It’s simply not true that my kids will miss out on friends because they won’t be going to school. They will have their own experience, not necessarily the experience you or I had. They will choose their own friends, and those friends will choose them for a friend as well.

this can't be possible, can it?

this can’t be possible, can it?

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