This year I’ve really started paying attention to the natural gifts and interests of my girls. My 13 year old loves everything artistic – singing, acting, writing and creating various works of art. My eight year old loves animals of all kinds. I know my parents were aware of my gifts and interests but how much time could I really spend pursuing them if I was in a classroom all day?

Today I consider myself an ecclectic homeschooler but more and more I’m becoming interested in unschooling. Tonight I spent over an hour sitting in Barnes and Noble reading The Unschooling Handbook . I’ll be honest and say that Unschooling makes me nervous. What about testing? Can they get into college if I Unschool? Will my youngest ever be more interested in learning than playing playstation? Does her computer game “Pet Vet” count as school? I’m sure all of these questions and more will be answered as I read through all the material about Unschooling.

I have to wonder why our world has become so enamored with college degrees if Unschooling really is the way to learn? I spent a lot of time during my college years learning stuff that had nothing to do with my major. I also used very little of what I learned in my professional career. My hope for my girls is that they really pursue a career in something they are passionate about. Homeschooling and especially Unschooling seems to be the best means to that end.

High Def Homeschooling

My husband has had his eye on an HD satellite dish for well over a year. I honestly don’t see that much difference between HD and standard definition so I was less than supportive. The installer came last Thursday and the first day was pretty stressful as we learned all the new features. I wasn’t impressed until my husband found the Discovery HD channel. The science and nature programs are excellent and my eight year old eats this stuff up. Tonight we snuggled together on the couch and learned about all the deserts on planet Earth. I could get books about deserts from the library or we could read about them in a text book but nothing compares to seeing the real thing in HD. I love that I can educate my kids while snuggling on the couch.

Been thinking

I’ve noticed lately how much my son is learning without me teaching him.  We’ve been busy, running around and hanging  out with friends – and somehow he has learned the days of the week.  It has me thinking that maybe as an educator these days it is not so important to be providing information as it is to monitor and regulate the information.   When the current education system was established the culture was predominately agricultural.  So if you wanted to learn 2+2 you had to go to the school house and have a educator teach you.  These days most children have heard and seen 2+2 since they were toddlers  -information is part of their surroundings.  Almost too much information and  some of it wrong at that.  My son has become very computer savvy already  – so he is learning a lot from the very cool educational sites out there.  But I also feel like part of educating him is to be aware of what he is learning and interacting with him on those things.  Still learning.

When not to praise

The last 2 decades have been full of  much effort to rebuild the self-esteems of our youth.  Lots of effort on praising and not criticizing our children.  I think as a rule this sounds good, but a recent article questions that hard and fast rule that all praise is a good thing.

New Yorker Magazine reporter Po Bronson questions the benefit of praising your child too much. Much of the findings are taken from studies done by psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia on New York students.

“When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.

Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.

In a similar way, we put our children in high-pressure environments, seeking out the best schools we can find, then we use the constant praise to soften the intensity of those environments. We expect so much of them, but we hide our expectations behind constant glowing praise. Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself.”

I like this idea of not putting too many value judgments on the work the children produce  – trusting them to embrace what they like and what they don’t.  This is one advantage of being in a home-school  environment – allowing children the time and the space to come to their own conclusions.   An interesting article to consider.

Curriculum help

I came across a site that reviews different curriculum. It’s not exhaustive but might be helpful if you are looking for a set curriculum to structure your day with. Here is the link.

Some qoutes I like

“But education -real education- is not something preformed on someone, nor is it something one gets. It is something one does for oneself. I generally prefer to use the word learning instead of education. Learning has an active feel to it, whereas education carries with it a sense of passivity.” Aaron Fabiel

“Very young children know what we often forget: the fun is in the doing.” Patricia Savage

“One of the delightful paradoxes of parenthood is that humility is the most responsible attitude one can have.  The parent and the child are born at the same time.  We are in process as much as the child.  We cannot know the answers to all the questions that will face us as parents upon the birth of our child. Indeed, we cannot even anticipate all the questions!  Likewise, we cannot know what kind of educational needs our child will have ten years down the line.”  Patricia Savage

Getting Involved

Call it science, earth science, or volunteerism, but it is easier to get your child involved with taking care of the earth. There are lots of great sites out there that give ideas on how to take better care of the earth that aren’t too time-consuming or expensive. Here is a good one to check out.


Is it common place to be incredibly clumsy when you are going through a growth spurt – well i am holding out hope that it is.  My son has become a walking train wreck….(don’t know how that works).  Last week I was taking a nap in the recliner and he came over to “hug” me – while the words “i love you mama” were coming out of his sweet little lips he had launched all is 50 lbs on my unsuspecting stomach.  Trying to catch my breathe and moving forward, because the recliner was launching me forward – he proceeded to punch me in the mouth.  Of course he didn’t mean to but I’m starting to get suspicious.  Yesterday He poked me in the eye with a tent pole -he wanted me to “see” what he was using as a sword -and again while I am trying to recover, he again projects himself at me hitting me in the head (and I am sure I was in the middle of saying some words that would make one thing to stay away).  And then just now he comes in for a hug -I flinched – and he still manages to head butt me.  That is no small head either.  Well if you don’t hear from me for a while I am trying to recover some brain functioning – or I am pinned under my sweet little four year old boy.

Using Computers for Home schooling

Computers: life-sucking machine or powerful tool? I have had a love-hate relationship with them since they became a household appliance – in some ways they seem to take us away from the real world and other ways they open up new worlds. Well I think like any resource it is how we use it.

I think I have mentioned that my 4 year old is a computer wiz – well I think so anyway. He has figured out more things on that computer in months than I have in years – and I have had classes! My mom raised the question that he was on sites that he wasn’t ready for – for instance a site that required reading and comprehension. I think this paragraph answers this question, “If given free access – not exposure – to computers, with as much help and assistance as is asked for, the child will show us what is appropriate and what is not. No child will work on something that is really too hard, too abstract, too boring, provided that he or she is free to leave the computer.” Fabi, The Computer as Convivial Tool. Of course this is talking about educationally appropriate not morally – precautions need to be in place to ensure they don’t venture into sites that would be inappropriate.

One thing that has heavily influenced my thinking about how much my kids are on the computer is that fact that more and more this is the primary tool being used in our society. So if I am thinking about how best to prepare for the workforce it would be a mastery of this tool. That said I still think they need to be “in the world”, interacting with people, being outside enjoying the natural world. But that will be left for another post.

Some free resources

One thing that makes home schooling so doable these days is the internet. There are so many resources out there – sometimes the problem is finding them. I have found it helpful to get on newsletter lists where people share what has been helpful for them. Here is a link that someone found that provides links to a ton of courses from different institutions.   Check out this site for everything online learning.