Role Reversal

I am a stay at home mom. For many people, that simple statement conjures up their own vision of who I am and what I do. Generally speaking, the idea of a 1950’s housewife pops into their head. I know this based on comments made by some of my husband’s coworkers and relatives over the years. It’s true that my husband goes off to work and that I stay at home….or not, depending on where our unschooling journeys take us. However, that is where any similarity ends.

Photo by fishermansdaughter (Flickr)

I don’t stay home because it is expected of me. That would be a joke in this day and age where most families are dual income. Neither do I stay home because I lack education or knowledge. I am an intelligent woman and happen to possess multiple degrees. It is my choice to stay home with my children.

 
Before my husband and I were married, we discussed how we would raise our future, and hopeful, children. It was important to both of us to have a parent stay home with the kids. While we didn’t know how it would look at the time, we also knew we wanted to homeschool.
 
I stay at home with my children, but I am not the stereotypical little woman supporting her husband as he goes off to work in the world. That isn’t to say that I am unsupportive of him, but the focus in that scenario is all wrong for our family. Our focus is on raising our children the way we believe is best for our family. In that endeavor, my husband plays the supporting role by working outside the home, enabling us to have a parent at home with the kids and making our unschooling lifestyle easier.
 
When all is said and done, my husband and I remain partners, working toward our collective goal of raising our children and enjoying life together.

Playful Learning

I recently read Mariah Bruehl’s new book, Playful Learning. The book contains some lovely photographs, and the concept of playful learning in itself, while not a new one, is worth speaking of. Play is an important part of learning, not only for children but also for adults. When we pursue education and learning by choice and persuant to our individual interests, we are much more perceptive to learning.

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder

However, after reading the book, I was left wondering with what purpose it was written. The author mentions that following a child’s interest is optimal and then goes on about how to insert one’s own agenda into their child’s interests. She hits briefly on multiple topics without fully developing any of them, skipping from organization, to various educational subjects, to playing a poor psychologist.

It also in unclear to what audience she is writing. Bruehl, a former teacher, is clearly enamored with the idea of institutionalized schooling. However, this book would have the most appeal to those families who take a school-at-home approach to homeschooling their preschool and kindergarten age children, in contrast to play based early childhood education. There are some redeeming suggested activities and brief suggested book lists, but all of them have been covered in other, more informative books.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Shambala Publications.

The Little Things in Life

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo by Mads Boedker

Somehow, in our infinite adult wisdom, we tend to forget about the little things. We worry about what we’ll be doing next week, next month, next year, next decade. Did we leave the iron on? We use our cell phones to connect to the internet when away from home and our computers. Did we forget any details in planning the perfect holiday get together? Time flies and we wonder where it went.

 
Children remind us to take a step back and enjoy life. With them, we can find ourselves watching a ladybug for an hour, or holding our heads in the breeze as it brings the scent of spring. We remember to enjoy the feel of the soft yarn and the way dry leaves crackle when we jump on them. We can sit back and enjoy the single moment, for really, that may be all we have and it would be a pity to waste time worrying about stains on clothing when we could be having the fun that made them.
 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)

framed wall art…

When my daughter was two years old, she drew on the wall with a pencil. It was actually a pretty cool drawing. We took a picture of it before she helped me wash the wall off.

There is something appealing about drawing on the wall, though. It’s a different experience drawing on a vertical surface as opposed to a horizontal one. That’s when I occassionally began taping up big pieces of paper on the wall for a creative outlet. The kids get to draw on the walls without actually drawing on the walls.

A couple of months ago, as I was taping up a big piece of paper, I decided to try something different. I drew frames of all different sizes and styles on the paper. My daughter walked in while I was doing it and sat watching. Then she raced off to get her brothers. The kids ran in, excited to fill in the frames.

They each seemed to like a different type of frame. My three year old began drawing on the medium sized frames, carefully picking cooridanting colors from his drawings to go on the frames. My daughter was drawn to the very small frames, experiemneting with pictures in different colors. However, my oldest surprised me the most. He wasn’t very interested in arts or crafts when he was younger. It has only been in the last two to three years that has has started to do them at all. He picked out each frame, contemplating what would go best. He actually spent the most time, drawing various landscapes and portraits, and of course, naming and signing each one.

a computer for the kids…

Photo from FreeFoto.com

Technology has changed a lot since I was a kid. My computer use prior to college mainly consisted of typing reports, writing stories, and excel sheets. I didn’t have an e-mail account until undergrad, when the internet still seemed rather new (at least to me). It definitey wasn’t like it is now.

Computers are a part of our daily lives. We use them to look up recipes, store our photos, stay connected with friends and family, and so much more. It only stands to reason that in a world which utilizes computers so much, our children would be computer literate. While our children are off playing, reading, or interacting with us a lot, they also like to play computer games or type their own stories at times.

Last year we began to discuss the possibility of getting a computer for our children some day. There were no concrete plans. It was all theoretical.

I had an old Dell laptop. It was a good computer that was falling apart. Apparently, unbeknownst to us when we originally purchased it, the model was destined to have hinge issues. The hinges broke, leaving only the wires to hold the screen to the computer. Searching for new hinges left us with websites written half-way in English with questionable policies. Dell wanted $160 just to look at the computer and no local companies would touch it. My normally decluttering self refused to let go of it, though. After all, it was a good computer; it just needed a little work. It sat on top of a bookcase in our office for a couple of years, waiting for the day it would have life again.

This year I suggested to my husband that we pay the money to Dell to have the laptop fixed as a Yule gift for our children. While he originally agreed, he balked at paying Dell more money to fix a problem that was their fault to begin with and pointed out that they would most likely find other issues they deemed needed fixed and which would require more money. I hit the internet again and this time I got lucky.

Whitewater PC, a new company started by former employees of MPC/Gateway, had the hinges we needed. For under $20, including shipping, we had new hinges at our house in less than a week. My husband spent some time and had the computer put back together in under an hour. We ended up giving it to the kids. Our Yule this year will be all handmade and inexpensive. The computer, however, will be an added homeschooling/unschooling resource for our children for some time to come – well worth $20.

life learning…

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We’re all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Before we were married, we made the decision that someday when we had kids, we would homeschool. At the time, we weren’t exactly certain what that would look like. When we eventually had children, we seemed to have stumbled into unschooling, sometimes referred to as life learning.

It’s a different concept for many. In fact, I think it falls into the category of one of those concepts you just don’t understand unless it clicks with you. When our oldest was three, we were involved in a small homeschool group with other families with young children who planned to homeschool. The thought was that our children would grow up knowing other children who wouldn’t go off to school at age five.

Over time, we realized that our families had different needs. Our family wanted less structure than the group had, whereas some of the other families wanted more structure. One mother in particular seemed to find our unschooling philosophy offensive. She stated, in a superior tone, that she was having conversations with her children all day and couldn’t refrain from teaching them, as it was such a part of their lives. I replied that I could understand not wanting to change something that was such a part of a family’s life.

We have cool conversations with our kids throughout the day. We do projects with them and read books together. We go fun places. Our children are learning all of the time. The difference is a bit of a paradigm shift for many from the idea of teaching to that of learning. When we teach, we decide what another person should know. When we facilitate learning, we support another person in their quest for knowledge. Just as my husband and I pursue subjects we are interested in and learn, so do our children. It would be rather impossible to go through life without learning. Our children are continually learning through life.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

homemade play dough…

My children enjoy playing with Play-Doh. My three year old especially likes it. For the past year, he played with Play-Doh while his older brother and sister were in gymnastics class. It has a tendency to dry out, though, depsite carefully putting it away. I had been purchasing Play-Doh on sale. Then I decided to try my hand at making my own.

Homemade Play Dough

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablesoon oil
  • coloring and scents of choice

Mix all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat, continually stirring. Eventually it will begin to clump together. When it all stays in a ball, it is finished. The resulting play dough is a softer, more elastic version of the commercial concoction. My children enjoy using it.

I’ve been using Kool-Aid packets to color and scent the play dough. It works very well, although we’ll have to try some food coloring in order to get a nice blue.

free homeschool identification card…

You can print out a free educator’s i.d. at the Homeschool Buyer’s Coop. Insert your information and photo into their easy to use template,and you are set. You can print out your own copy for free or pay for them to mail you a PVC version for $6.95. In years past, I’ve printed one out without any issues. However, after having it questioned by a store this year, I think I’ll be ordering a PVC version.

not-back-to-school luau…

I was in charge of planning the Not-Back-to-School Luau for a local homeschool group. We kept it pretty low key. We rented out the lodge at a local nature center – nature activities conveniently provided. Everyone brought a dish to share and one of the fathers was in charge of grilling hot dogs. We had outdoor games to play at leisure and various crafts: Make Your Own Leis (yarn, cut straws, and tissue paper flowers), Luau Tattoos (go on with water), Make Your Own Surfboard Bookmarks, Make Your Own Wave (water/oil density bottles made in repurposed disposable water bottles), and a table of goodies such as Luau Fun bandz, stickers, key chains, sunglasses, and flower leis.

We made grass skirts for the food tables out of a large roll of donated green paper. Then we made repurposed palm tree table toppers for all of the tables where people would be eating. Oddly enough, these were widely popular and people were taking them home. My children had fun helping me make these. They were completely recycled, using empty paper towel rolls, empty green soda bottles, brown paper from packages (I now have the song from The Sound of Music going through my head), and beans that were used at a previous sensory class to weigh them down. I had forgotten how much fun sensory tubs are for my kids. We’ll be making a new table to hold a tub – to go out in the garage.

Something happened to the cookie cake I made the day before the event. So, right before the luau I was left to make another. I think it turned out better. It was definitely gobbled up.

I have to thank my husband for all his wonderful support with set up and clean up for the party. I won’t plan another one anytime soon.

school supplies…

School supply sales are going on at stores across the country. As unschoolers, we aren’t required to purchase a minimum 4 boxes of facial tissue, 20 #2 yellow pencils,10 colored folders, and so on. However, being the frugal (my husband is coughing and saying tight wad as he reads this) mom that I am, I’m not adverse to taking advantage of sales. After all, my kids use crayons and glue. They like to write various thoughts and projects in composition books. I sometimes even find some nice stocking stuffers for Yule.

The smell of the marketed Back to School section of the local store is a bit intoxicating to me. I used to wonder if my children were perhaps missing out on something, as they don’t seem to get the same thrill as I remember from that smell. Then I began to watch the parents as they hurried kids through the section, while we took our time looking at things, thinking if there was a project that an item might come in handy for. The parents were rushed and harried. There was no reminiscing smell for them.

That was when it hit me. That smell represents new beginnings and new possibilities to me. A new box of crayons was cherished. My special pencil or pen allowed me to write when the new school year turned out to be just as disappointing as the previous, unchallenging one.

My children aren’t missing out on anything. They aren’t looking forward to a new beginning because they are always looking forward to life. I enjoy being able to sit back with my children, purchasing some new supplies, and looking forward to the rest of the world going back to school. Once again we will be able to go places without hoards of kids in matching T-shirts being herded by a couple of underpaid teenagers. We’ll go on living and learning as always. When I need a reminder when some of those doubts start to creep in, I’ll pull out a new box of crayons and smell it.