Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What they do...

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately, and I have noticed that a lot of new unschoolers are listing activities that their kids are doing and then breaking them down into schooly sort of stuff. Some are doing it because they still see the world as broken up into subjects. Others are doing it because there state requires very specific records, and they are worried that they will forget too many things. Anyways...I thought I would do it today! Just for fun 'cause that is how I am!

What they did today...

Lia - attended Red Grammer concert (music, social studies, social skills), baked cookies (math, science, home economics), worked through problems with siblings (social skills), cared for pets (science, responsibility), watched Ever After (literature, listening, social studies), rollerbladed on edge of road (phys. ed., pedestrian safety), watched CSI (science, general problem solving), drawing (art), did laundry (home economics, math)

Josie - rested a lot because she is getting over a cold + discussion about cold (science, health), did a lot of cooking (science, math, home economics), read lots of The Moon by Night (literature), attended Red Grammar concert (music, social studies, social skills)

Esme - wrote blog posts (writing, typing), socialized through various forums and IM'ing on the internet (social skills, writing, typing, computer skills), drew and did graphic things in PSP on the computer (art, computer skills), decided what she would have for breakfast and lunch and prepared her food herself (home economics, health, decision making skills) , participated in PPGZ roleplay online (social skills, creativity) , listened to a wide assortment of music online (music)

Antonio - designed and built an 8 axis joystick type controller out of legos and a rubber band (math, engineering), took apart an old laptop and figured out what all the parts were and how they compare to parts in our laptop that we use now (engineering, math), build a microphone for Diana's computer out of things he found in his room (engineering), experimented with electricity and various parts (math, science), played bits and pieces of various video games (problem solving), vacuumed + did laundry (home economics), took care of pets (science, developing responsibility), discussed the development of computers and computer advancements and how it affects society (science, social studies)

Of course, everyday is different. Today JoAnn and Lia were somewhat ill and not doing as much as usual. It was Esme's computer day, and she wasn't sharing! It was very rainy. You get the idea...tomorrow will be a different day, but this one was good too! Oh! Also, I of course don't see everything that they do...so this isn't all of it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Here's an unschooling friendly article if anyone is interested.

How Children Learn: classic of human, kid-centered learning

Book Review - Meet the Austins

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle was the first book published in the Austin family series which also includes The Moon by Night, The Twenty-Four Days before Christmas, The Young Unicorns, A Ring of Endless Light, Troubling a Star, and the short story, "An Austin Family Christmas." Although Meet the Austins was published in 1960, I never read the book as a child. I did read a lot of other L'Engle books including the Murry family series and the Camilla books, but somehow or other the Austin books never caught my eye. I first read the Austin books as an adult in my 20's rather haphazardy without regard to chronological order or the order of publication but just whatever I happened to see on the library shelves first. Recently I decided to reread the series in the order of publication.

I remember Meet the Austins as an easy read about a loving family that pretty much gets things right as they live their lives in the world with its typical ups and downs. I was not an unschooler when I read it before, and I didn't have such a well defined life philosophy as I do now. I am happy to say that I still think the book is a good read and definitely suitable for "modern youth."

Although the book was published in 1960, there is nothing in this book to "date" it. I quite honestly could have been reading a book about children in the 21st century. OK, there are no computers or cell phones, but I have read lots of books recently that do not make mention of modern technology. The book has long chapters, and although it is not difficult to read, the flow does not mimic most of the popular novels currently being published targeting 4-6th graders. Those who are use to short, snappy chapters and to-the-point sentences, might need to get use to the longer attention span required for an older book.

Now onto the story. The book is really good. It is about a family with four kids aged 4-15 living in the country. They take in a fifth child whose parents have both died until other arrangement can be made for her. Her personality does not blend easily into the family, and the primary plot of the novel is her and the family's adaptation to the situation. Themes include the importance of love, consistency, and safety in our lives; and the importance of diversity/nonconformity in society.

How did the book mesh with my life philosophy? Well, the parents spank their kids. I would not spank my kids. I do understand the theory behind spanking though, and I do not think it is any worse than other punishment like time outs as long as it is carried out in a thoughtful manner. My point is that one shouldn't punish their kids at all. The parents use a few other methods of punishment that turn me off too, like making their kids spend time away from the family when they have done something wrong and not letting the siblings comfort each other. There is also an overriding sense in the book that crying is a bad thing to do. I cry a lot, and it is not at all bad for me. (If I didn't cry, I would be likely to do worse things.)

In spite of the parenting techniques exhibited in the book, the children are well loved, well adjusted, and for the most part happy. The book definitely has a "good family" feel. The kids' interactions with each other are very loving, ideal even. They are still realistic though; the siblings occasionally get angry at each other and make mistakes.

As in all of L'Engle's books that I remember, there is a bit of spiritual underflow in this book. L'Engle was very spiritual herself and a member of the Episcopalian church. The spirituality is not of the "hit you over the head" with theology type though, but more a clear belief that God is in charge and that he will take care of us and make sure that everything is OK in the end. I feel that the spirituality in this book would not offend anyone, and if anyone disagreed with the statements made, it would be a good discussion starter about spiritual beliefs. Having said that, in this particular book, I think there is too much religion to make it a "the whole class" has to read book in a public school environment although having it as a part of a classroom library would be great.

I would recommend this book to my children. It could lead to great discussions about families, parenting, and spirituality.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Blog!

I started blogging with a weight loss blog, and I have long thought of doing another. I have been playing with it for awhile watching to see which direction it goes, and now I present:

Not Your Typical Weight Loss Blog


Meals are a weird control issue for me. Food is the hardest thing for me to unschool. It was the last thing to go, and even now, I struggle with it regularly. See there have been times in both my childhood and my adult life that I have gone hungry. There were times in the past when my children went hungry. You would think then that I would want my kids to have a large assortment of food to choose from that they can eat whenever they want (the unschooling ideal.) In reality, I feel the need to be absolutely sure that we have all the food necessary every day for regular meals and snacks, and then to parcel in out in careful portions so that everyone has their needs met.

Note, I don't do this, but a part of me wants to!

When we lived at Kennedy Square, I use to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner nearly everyday and serve them at the table. By the time, I switched to unschooling food, the kids were pretty happy with the situation, and the unschooling mostly took the form of asking them if they wanted anything in particular when I went to the store and keeping things they could snack on around for when in between meal hunger struck.

Here things are feeling hard for me lately. I have been feeling that I don't have enough time for everything. Lately breakfast has been a free for all and sometimes lunch too. To be honest, more often than not lunch too. This leads to a messy kitchen and food confusion! I haven't even been writing weekly meal plans for dinner lately! Luckily I have the kind of mind that tends to organize things so I basically have the dinners planned in my head, and they have tended to be quick and easy, but it would be nice for the rest of the family to be able to see what I have in mind in advance.

I know that controlling all the food is the wrong way to go. Ideally, I'd like the kids to get their own breakfast and clean up after themselves. I'd like to have lunch and dinner planned in advance and make lunch for the family myself, and have the kids who are interested in making dinner (Josie and Lia definitely maybe Es, Ant isn't as interested in cooking as he use to be) make dinner and clean up after themselves. They have expressed interest in doing this, but it seems like so much work to get everything set up.

I just need to let go of my perfectionist ideals and let things flow more.