Thursday, May 17, 2012

For Joy!

Well, believe it or not, I am finally loving unschooling again and it turns out the reason why is that I moved back to the city.  I will hopefully start posting more again once I get my camera and computer situation figured out!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Unschooling vs. Reality

I've started telling strangers I'm a homeschooler. Why am I doing this? I guess because in the past year I've realized that the lifestyle I've been living isn't working, and I am desperate for more rhythm and structure, and the whole idea of having curriculum actually sounds like a relief. But what's funny is I know I could never really use curriculum, so what is my problem? I have no idea.

Anyway, the reactions I get to saying I'm a homeschooler are totally annoying, because the person always starts going on and on about curriculum packages and "when are you going to start?" and all this crazy stuff that you don't get into when you say you're an unschooler (usually when I said we were unschoolers I used to end up in an uplifting philosophical conversation about the way humans develop). But at least when I mumble something about dabbling in various kinds of curriculi (?) I don't have to betray the fact that I have been totally uninspired for the past year, as my life was dissassembled, brick by brick. And continues to be. So, stay tuned. I'm starting everything all over again, and it's sure to be a revolutionary fall one way or another.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Well-Trained Mind vs. A Thomas Jefferson Education

I have had a few friends ask me in the past couple of years, "What do you think of The Well-Trained Mind"? And I didn't know, and so I finally got it at the library. And now I can say: "Not much." Any book that uses the word "should" that many times (probably in the thousands) has no place in my life! Seriously - are they kidding? It is worth skimming every few years, as a reference, though, IMO, though anyone who is prone to getting neurotic over "shoulds" (this would include almost every parent I know) might do well to avoid it altogether.

Anyway, I have a few choice quotes to discuss. But first! I have to say, having also just re-read A Thomas Jefferson Education (which I lamely reviewed here), that TJEd is a *much, much* better book. It is an inspirational book, instead of a shaming and anxiety-producing book. TJEd gives me a framework, or in my case, more of a backdrop for unschooling. The Well-Trained Mind requires you to force a lot of things on yourself and your kid and I can't see how anyone could actually follow the program outlined in the book without being totally anal and joyless.

So. . . The Well-Trained Mind is overdue at the library so here is what I am going to quickly comment on this quote from the book:

"The pattern widens and deepens as the student matures and learns. For example, a first grader listens to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. . . Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptions - Olivia Coolidge's The Trojan War, or Roger L. Green's The Tale of Troy. Four more years go by, and the ninth grader - faced with Homer's Iliad itself - plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What's to be scared of?"

I have included the above quote to contrast it with TJEd, which suggests that you always use the original, or classic version of every text to begin with. I like the TJEd idea, for sure. It makes intuitive sense. And also, I love the idea of reading a book to my kids first, and then as a special treat we get the video afterwards. But I am also intrigued by using the method above in certain cases - maybe like cases where *I* am scared to read something. . . like the Iliad. Which I know absolutely nothing about. So I got a kids' version at the library and we're going to read it and experiment with that approach. I think I will only be interested in using this step-by-step approach when it comes to very dense classics, because as a general rule I cannot stand "adaptations" for kids - usually I find them insulting to everyone's intelligence, and much less interesting, too.

Okay, and here's another quote I made a note of from A Well-Trained Mind:

"Every citizen in a democracy takes on responsibilities that were once reserved for the well-educated arisocratic segment of society. And every citizen, college-bound or not, should receive the type of education that will develop the life of the mind."

Ugh - there it is again - the word "should." It's an interesting point, though. But if I'm going to really believe in that, I am going to be a miserable person because that is most certainly NOT happening in America!

And here's another quote I marked:

"the study of art and music is a good late-afternoon or early-evening project."

See now I like it when people point out practical things like that. Late afternoon and early evening is such a bizarre time of day in U.S. society - there is always something off-kilter about it. Maybe if we start up the grill and get out the instruments, everything would fall into place. Seriously!

But here was something that annoyed me:

"Always begin with drawing, progress to painting, and finish up with modeling."

It annoys me because there is no evidence given as to why this should be so. Personally, I think modelling is a whole different ballgame altogether. It's in three dimensions. Why should anyone have to learn to draw something first before they pick up a piece of clay? Well, maybe I'm just bitter because I'm better at modelling than I am at drawing. If *only* I'd had someone force me to go through the steps of drawing, maybe I'd be better at it. Or. . . more likely. . . maybe I'd hate to draw?

In any case, A Thomas Jefferson Education is, in my humble opinion, a very superior book to A Well-Trained Mind. Because when I read it I got excited, and started reading classics right away - and because the author puts the responsibility of a good education on the parents educating themselves, and not forcing anything on their children. Which is the coolest thing ever.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Riverfront Living

Today, the Mississippi started to rise so high that if it goes up a couple more feet, we are going to have a very wet basement. How exciting! One of the few (IMO) perks of renting is that if that happens, it's only my problem to the extent that my stuff down there, which already smells like mildew, will have to be moved upstairs. I am also happy to report that the landlord took over the front room of the basement with his stuff (and that is the only room that doesn't smell like mildew) but his will be the first to get wet if the river continues going up!

Anyway, it's very exciting living on the edge of one of the biggest rivers in the world.

Last year, when I was in the depths of situational depression (which felt like regular depression, but as I suspected it went away when I changed my situation by moving), a fabulous friend of mine sent me an awesome book called The Power Path, which among other great tips on how to gain power, recommends first and foremost going to nature, because it says all shamen know that you go to something more powerful than yourself to get power. For example, the Mississippi River. And I *do* feel much more powerful (a.k.a. happy) since we moved here. The river feeds my soul.

Anyway, it also happens to be a great place to live for unschooler kids, who have no shortage of things to watch going up and down the river. Plus there is a public fishing dock in our front yard, and a very busy train track out back. And even a drawbridge, which goes up and down several times a day in the summer months, can be seen by the edge of the property.

I sure do wish I could post photos, but Ottar broke the camera again. :(

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Totally Harmonious Interactions

I got really sick of myself recently, noticing how I started telling people over a year ago that "my kids don't really get along anymore." Finally it occurred to me that I don't even know if that's true. So I started paying attention to how often they *do* get along (which is actually still almost always) and sort of informally timing how long the fighting episodes last (which it turns out are usually about 1-2 minutes each, unless I intervene by shouting and threatening, which makes them each last about 20 minutes, plus I end up feeling like a total psycho.)

So, there you have it! Often things are just a matter of perception.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another Great Unschooling Book Rec!

Well, I've done it again - I've finished another great unschooling book. This one I stumbled upon in the library - I had never heard of it before. It's called Child's Work: Taking Children's Choices Seriously by Nancy Wallace, who was a close personal friend of John Holt's. It is basically a beautifully written account of one family's experience with unschooling two very talented children. But besides that it is chock full of great insights for the general public! Here are some choice quotes (I copied about 50 of them out of the book, but here are some of my faves):

. . . any time we decide to teach our children the things we are sure they can't learn from experience in the real world, we not only remove them from the very world they are trying so hard to understand, by creating artificial learning situations for them, but we imply that they are incompetent learners and need to rely on our greater expertise and knowledge in order to learn properly.


By reading within whole contexts, [my children] guessed at strange words in order to make sense of phrases and sentences. I know a nine-year-old girl who can read books like Stuart Little fluently, but still can't read random lists of words out of context with any degree of accuracy. (Hence, the school considers her unable to read because she does so poorly on their reading placement test, which is exactly that: random lists of words.)


Children who, as John Holt put it, "observe, wonder, find, or make and then test the answers to the questions they ask themselves" have no conscious sense of "wrong" because like scientists, they are involved in a continual process of moving closer towards what is right - of defining and redefining their views of the world.


Children lose interest in us as teachers as soon as we make ourselves mere passive conveyors of knowledge, like most teachers in school, who try not to reveal their own personal biases and passions for fear of unduly influencing their students and preventing them from learning to think objectively. But children want us to reveal ourselves to them. Just as important, they want and need to be able to reveal their own feelings, ideas, and personal biases to us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not Back to School!

It's been a crazy summer, and I saw lots of yellow school buses out today. However, since we're NOT going back to school, our summer does not officially end until September 23! Just one of the many advantages of unschooling. . . plus we get to buy any "school supplies" and clothes after they've all been marked down. Joy!

In any case, I just love this time of year because I get so excited to think about various classes we can all take. On the menu (but not ordered yet) for fall are ninja classes for Ezra, Jiu Jitsu for Ezra and Papa, maybe "open build" art and science classes for both kids, swimming lessons for both kids, yoga for Mama (and hopefully kickboxing, too), possibly some Japanese tutoring for Ezra, and we shall see what else. Just waiting for that big paycheck to come in. . . the one we've been waiting for for weeks.

Right now Ezra, who is 7, is still really into martial arts. He's also teaching himself Japanese. Right now he's using a CD/book called Teach Me More. . . Japanese and he is in love with it! Both kids have also requested that I get them the Spanish version from the library. Ezra has also morphed over the spring and summer from being somewhat obsessed with The Civil War and guns, to moving on to submarines, and now he has expanded to be obsessed with World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He spends many hours every day drawing and building battleships, submarines, and aircraft carriers. He is also on a Jesse James kick and he and Ottar spent an entire afternoon last week re-enacting his death.

What I'm trying to work out now is creating a more structured life. As many of you avid fans may recall, I tried doing a schedule last winter (read here). Well, that crashed and burned immediately. I think it is because it was not the kind of thing that is true to my nature. In fact my whole life was untrue to my nature. But now that we're living on the river and close to the Twin Cities, let me start that over. That will be my topic for tomorrow.