The School Bus Comes Early

Photo by Laurel Russwurm

The school bus comes early. At 6:30 AM, my children and I waved to the kids as they rode away on the bus. The buses began driving past our house again last week, and while we usually aren’t up to watch the early buses, we were today because we wanted to watch the sunrise and listen to the quiet of the day. Last week we were out at 11:30 PM to watch the stars.

Our schedule, or more appropriately pattern, usually isn’t quite so varied in such a short time. We typically fall into patterns, just as many families do. We encourage our children to listen to their bodies, which tend to get tired around the same time of day for a while before shifting to a new pattern. However, as unschoolers, we reserve a flexibility to our days that many families are not allotted. We can stay up late or get up early as we choose. And while we aren’t totally without any schedule, having appointments or attending field trips or activities which interest our family, for the most part, we are able to choose when we do those things and if it fits our needs.

And here I hear the cry from parents claiming  that we are setting our children up for failure when they are grown. Someday, our children will have to follow a schedule, get up at the same time everyday, and trudge to work like the rest of America. If it was mandated that adults be at jobs at a certain time, with no choice in the matter, they might have a point. However, I would argue that just because a person may have to be at work at 8 AM 15 years from now, it’s no reason to impose that schedule on a 5 year old.

There is no guarantee what hours my children might keep as adults. Perhaps they will choose to work a late shift, and yet no one claims that I should keep them up all night in order to acclimate them to such a schedule. Chances are that the position they choose will have some flexibility. Homeschoolers are more likely to be their own bosses, are more likely to go on to higher education and receive advanced degrees, and are more likely to be self-guided in these efforts.

As a mother staying with my children, my schedule does not dictate an adherence to a rigid schedule. My schedule prior to having children, working in a university setting, allowed flexibility with my hours, as does the job my husband currently has. Regardless, our choice of vocations is intrinsically tied to our hours, and we can therefore choose whether a position fits or not. It’s a choice not given to children on the way to school, whose waking and sleeping hours are not a reflection of what their bodies are telling them or what they are learning, but are dictated by a government based solely upon their age.

So, we wave to the kids on the bus and wish them a wonderful day, as we go on about our lives on our own schedule, whatever that may be to fit our needs. While those parents advocating strict adherence to schedules shake their heads at my apparent lack of structure, I smile, knowing my children, in their earnest quest for learning, are doing, and will do, quite fine in life.

The Unsocialized Homeschooler

You’ve heard about those people who homeschool their children…the ones who keep their children locked up in the basement at all hours of the day, removed from the dangers of other people and radical thoughts. You can tell these kids from the normal ones, the ones who attend public school, be their great lack of social skills, inability to work with people unlike themselves, and long jean skirts. The pale skin from lack of sunlight is another dead give-away.

Photo by Jason Meredith

We are homeschoolers. In fact, we are unschoolers.  Over the years we have met a lot of homeschooling families, and yet, I’ve yet to meet the stereotypical homeschooling family. Even in the Bible Belt, where we are currently located, with the great amount of religious homeschoolers (not to be confused with homeschoolers who are religious), I have yet to meet the stereotypical unsocialized homeschooler. I’m sure there are some out there, somewhere, just as there are many unsocialized public schooled children. I just haven’t met them yet.

And yet, for some reason, this myth continues to crop up. Most recently, it was given as a reason to utilize public school on a local AP board. Some of the parents wanted their children to socialize with others, to be exposed to different ethnicities and beliefs, and to learn how to deal with the world around them. Apparently, their solution is to box a bunch of 5 year olds from their neighborhood, a mostly homogenous make-up of white, middle class, Christian children up in a classroom with a single adult to oversee the scenario.

Public school is a valid option and is what works well for many families, but let’s be honest. If your reason for sending your child to school is so that s/he will experience the real world, you are misguided. The real world has a mix of religious and political beliefs. It has a mix of cultures and ethnicities. It has a mix of ages. No where else in the real world will you find 30 people working in the same room soley because their age and neighborhood dictates it.

My kids, while admittedly pale and freckled due to genetics, live in the real world everyday. They talk to people regardless of age, as age is not a defining factor to them. They have experiences with people of different beliefs and thoughts. They learn from others who have previous experience in various topics. When it comes to learning about how to behave in society, they aren’t learning from 30 other kids who have no more experience than they have.

The Write Start

Jennifer Hallisy, a pediatric occupational therapist, has written a wonderful resource for parents and early childhood educators entitled The Write Start. In an age of e-mail and texting, the focus on writing has shifted. However, encouraging our children to write gives them a freedom of expression not found elsewhere.

I wasn’t certain what to expect when I began reading the book. The fact that it was written by an OT gave me hope, but I prepared myself for an instructional guide of how to teach your child. Instead, I found a fantastic resource and was delighted with many of her projects.

The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories

Hallisy speaks of the importance of play in a developing child and how it affects current and future writing skills. While I could disagree with her statement of the right way to write, her execution of supporting children as they explore both writing and themselves is unquestionable. Throughout the book, she shares wonderful ways to support children in their writing adventures, gives insight into child development as it pertains to writing, and shares numerous fun activities and ways to incorporate writing into your home and lives to support the budding writer in your family.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy was provided by Shambala Publications.

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.