Sunday, June 26, 2011


My boys have never taken swimming lessons. Like most everything, I decided that I would let them learn how to swim on their own terms.

Both boys have life vests they generally wear in the pool. Lucas clings to his, and puts it on each and every time we go to the pool. Nico, however, discovered that he is tall enough to reach the bottom of the pool, in the shallow end, and has all but abandoned his life vest. I'm pretty sure he has only put it on once or twice this summer. He loves jumping in, seeing how long he can hold his breath for, and swimming along the wall. I still wouldn't really call him a swimmer, but he's slowly but surely getting there, completely on his own.

Tonight, I took the boys out to the pool for an hour or so after dinner. Once again, Nico's life vest lay along the edge of the pool, forgotten. I had no intention of going in the water, I was only going to sit and watch, and so I didn't bother to put on my own swim suit. I warned Nico that I would not be going in to rescue him, so he had better swim, or stay by the steps. Advice he promptly ignored.

The boys had brought out one of their green noodles to play with, and Nico left the safety of the steps, to try and reach the noodle. As he swam towards it, his movements kept pushing it farther and farther away. Nico made it to the middle of the pool, before realizing A) he was never going to catch the noodle, and B) he was too far from the steps (or edge) to make it back on his own.

What's a mother to do in that situation? My clothes are now hanging, dripping wet, on the porch.

Even though Nico couldn't make it back on his own, he did swim to the middle all by himself. Not too shabby for a beginner, with no formal training.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I'm Bored!!

I'm Bored!, is the mantra of most schooled kids during the summer months. After spending the rest of the year being told what to do every minute, of every day, they have no idea how to entertain themselves for those few short weeks of freedom during summer break.

I'm bored, is something I rarely (if ever) hear from my boys. They spend all day at home, jumping from various activities. They will spend a little time watching t.v., a little time playing video games, computer games, i-pod games. When they get tired of those things, their imaginations take over. They build stuff out of whatever they can get their hands on. Lucas is fond of stacking things from the kitchen, such as cereal boxes.

Last night when I returned home from class, the boys had pulled every pillow, cushion and blanket from the living room so they could build huge walls in their bedroom. The purpose of these walls were simply to be crashed into and knocked down, repeatedly.

It doesn't take huge sums of money, fancy toys, and weeks of summer camps to keep kids entertained. A few boxes, pillows and complete freedom to spend their time as they choose are all that's needed.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I love reading! I've loved to read since I was about ten or so, and I always hoped my children would love to read as much as I do (I inherited this love from my dad). Nico and Lucas are still a bit young, and who knows how much they will enjoy reading. Neither of them read on their own yet, and I hate reading out loud, so they haven't had a lot of experience with books. I have read a couple books to Nico, and he did really enjoyed it, so I'm not counting him out just yet.

Matthew on the other hand doesn't really like to read. I've tried (before realizing it was the wrong way to approach it) making him read during his summer vacations. He would do it, but he never really enjoyed it the way I do. Then I realized something important, that's made me change the way I feel about reading, and my children reading.

The reason I love to read is because I love stories. The possibilities are endless, and the characters are fascinating. A good book will make you feel like a part of the story. Like the characters are your best friends, or worst enemies. This is why I enjoy reading books part of a series. You really get to know the characters on a personal level. Harry Potter is not just the name of some guy in a book. He was my friend once upon a time.

The day I came to my realization, was the day I really listened to Matthew talking about one of his video games. He was talking about the characters in the game, much the same way I would talk about the characters in my books. They follow a story, much the same way as a book. The major difference is his stories are more interactive. He can change the story, rather than just following the story.

T.V. shows and movies also tell stories, and can make you fall in love with the characters. Anime is particularly fascinating for our family, and that is something we all enjoy together.

So what I realized, is that the things I love most about my books, can be found in many different places, and even if my children don't enjoy reading like I do, they can find other ways to gain the same experiences that I love so much.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Outside pressure

As unschoolers, my boys do not learn from me and me alone. They learn from everyone they come in contact with. All their family and friends. Their home-school group. The people they meet in the grocery store, or standing in line at the bank. Every interaction, every day results in learning for them. Not everyone is capable of seeing this learning for what it is, and that can result in unneeded pressure being put on the boys.

Take for instance their grandparents. Until very recently, they would babysit for me about once a week, for several hours. As it turns out they cannot look beyond the norm, and see how the boys learn through interaction instead of study. They would spend their time with their grandkids quizzing them, drilling them, and pressuring them which is counterproductive to how I want my boys to learn. Not only that, but they were quizzing, drilling and pressuring the boys on things that were above their level.

I was willing to look past all that (if that was how they wanted to spend their precious time with their grandkids, I wasn't going to stop them). But then the boys said something to me that made steam come out of me ears. "Grandma says we shouldn't be home-schooled because we aren't learning anything."

This all stemmed from them asking the boys what they were learning at home, and they both said they couldn't remember. Well color me surprised, a public schooled child would never give an answer like that!

To be honest, I'm not surprised they feel this way. From the very beginning they have been hinting that they disapprove of my home-schooling the boys. They would send me pamphlets from the local charter schools, and offer to let me use their home-address to put the boys in a 'better' district. And I'm fine with them disagreeing with my decision. They don't have to approve, they don't have to like my choices, but I do expect them to be respectful. The best way to be respectful is to address their questions, comments and concerns about the boys' education to me (the one whose making these decisions) instead of to my children. I don't see how that was asking too much, but apparently it was, since they refused.

They seem to think it's perfectly acceptable for them to put doubts in my boys' minds about the decisions I am making for them, and because of that they will be spending a lot less time with them. It's most unfortunate, because my kids could really learn a lot from their grandparents, if only they could relax and stop with the pressure and negativity.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What is the purpose of unschooling?

I like to tell people that for us, unschooling means I have no specific expectations for my boys. There is nothing they *have to*, *should*, *need to*, or *must* learn. I do not set goals for them, nor do I expect them to reach goals set by others (reading by age 5 for example).

So that begs the question, what do I expect them to get out of unschooling?

To be honest, I'm not really expecting anything. I hope they will come out on the other side with a strong sense of self. I hope they will be able to set goals for themselves, and find ways to achieve those goals. I hope that they will know what makes them happy in life, and find a way to maintain that happiness. I hope that they become strong, active members of their community, with a strong sense of family, friendship, love, and compassion.

In other words, I hope that my children grow up to be happy, healthy, productive members of society and I think unschooling is the straightest path to get them there.