Unschool Epiphany!

This is our second year of homeschooling, and I couldn’t  be happier with the way things are going. This year we have shifted from a more traditional curriculum-based homeschooling style, to unschooling/child-led learning. The more I have learned about the child-led learning process, the more excited I became to go for it and give it a shot. The hardest part of unschooling is worrying that your kids aren’t self-motivated enough to learn what they need to learn to be successful adults. This has been especially challenging for my husband, who was traditionally homeschooled. I have found myself whispering “unschooling!” to him whenever one of our kids is engaging in something educational according to their own free will. Slowly, he has started to see it for himself.

One of our biggest successes so far happened just a few days ago with my five year old, Ava. Ava has been showing a lot of interest in number lately. One of her favorite games is to count and sort her treats. She got a full size bag of M&Ms for Halloween, and I told her she could only eat half the bag. So I gave her a paper plate and had her sort her candies by color, then divide each color into two even piles, then put one pile back into the bag for later. She had more fun doing that, than she did eating the candy. This is what child-led learning is all about! She enjoyed the game so much, that she didn’t even realize she was learning, and has wanted to repeat it over and over again. I believe it was the game with the M&Ms, that led to her epiphany a few days ago.

All day, Ava kept asking me “What’s seven and four plussed together?” “What’s eight and free plussed together?”. The tricky part of unschooling, is knowing when to just give the answer, so as not to interrupt their train of thought and derail their creativity, and when to use the moment as an opportunity to teach them something new. Since Ava seemed persistent in her math quest, I chose to use that time to show her how to do addition on her own using our dry-erase board.  Similarly to the M&M game, I wrote out an addition problem horizontally on the white board, and then showed her how to draw small circles under each number (very M&M-like), and then count the circles all together. And whataya know, it just clicked! Seeing her so proud of herself was so fulfilling for me.

I think back to doing math homework with my oldest daughter, Kylie, when she was in public school, and how we would spend 45 minutes on one worksheet. We would go around and around until both our brains were melting from frustration; all because she wasn’t ready to learn it yet. Then, on the flip side, it took all of ten minutes to teach Ava how to add and she had it down pat. Having the option of waiting until my kids are ready to learn something, rather than trying to cram the information into their brains so they score well on their tests is worth its weight in gold. Knowing that my kids will learn what they’re meant to learn, when they’re meant to learn it, is even more valuable.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to homeschool your kids, I say do it! Life is too short to be constantly battling your kids to complete homework deemed necessary by someone else’s standards. For more info on unschooling/child-led learning, please click the links below.

The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Large Survey

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201202/the-benefits-unschooling-report-i-large-survey

“Unschooled” Kids Do Just Fine in College

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/unschooled-kids-have-few-problems-once-they-hit-college-180952613/?no-ist

This link has a whole slew of links to studies and info on homeschooling and unschooling.

http://www.johnholtgws.com/unschooling-research-and-support/

 

Barring Unvaxxed Kids From School is Pointless

One of the major fallacies with herd immunity is that people are under the impression that if you are vaccinated, you now live in a magical germ-repelling bubble. Just because you are vaccinated and cannot get sick from certain infectious diseases, does not protect those around you. People who are immune to the measles, for example, can still come into contact with the disease and carry it on their person, and spread it to other susceptible people. The measles can live for several hours on surfaces, hands and door knobs. Barring unvaccinated children from school, will not keep infectious diseases off the premises. Vaccines were designed to confer individual protection only. It’s like wearing a hazmat suit everywhere you go. It may protect you, but the outside of your suit is still going to be covered in germs. For this reason alone, it would appear that unvaccinated kids pose no bigger threat than everyone else, but that’s incorrect. Unvaccinated kids cannot spread what they do not have. Vaccinated kids on the other hand, will shed live viruses for several weeks after receiving a live virus vaccine. They can spread what they don’t have. If you have a classroom full of children and one of them is medically fragile, a few of them are unvaccinated and another handful just got caught up on their vaccines and are now actively shedding live viruses, who is putting whom at the greatest risk here? If the point of barring children with personal belief exemptions from school is to protect these hypothetical immunosupressed kids from infectious diseases, why would they allow recently vaccinated kids in school? Unvaccinated kids are not harbingers of disease. They are not born with these viruses inside of them. They would first have to come into contact with the disease, catch the disease and then expose others. Where is the most common place to come into contact with these diseases? Immigrants? Tourists? Or perhaps it’s the classroom full of recently vaccinated children?

My point is, germs are everywhere. They are not limited to a host. They are not limited to a school building. If we were to disallow unvaccinated kids from school, what about other public places? Unvaccinated kids go to the grocery store, church, playgrounds, Chuck E Cheese’s. Does the responsibility of protecting medically fragile children fall on the community? Or is that the responsibility of that child’s parents? If my child was medically fragile to the point that they could not be vaccinated (which very few are), then I would not want them in school, period. There are a lot more things out there that could kill an immunocompromised child than what we vaccinate for.

Not all immunocompromised children cannot be vaccinated. Most immunocompromised kids have either already been vaccinated, or have to temporarily delay certain live virus vaccines. These children are also under strict guidelines to avoid anyone who has recently been vaccinated with a live virus.

Another major fallacy with eliminating personal belief exemptions, is that a significant part of the school population is being overlooked. Teacher and staff make up around 10-20% of the school population, but they are not required to disclose their vaccine status. You know, because that would be a violation of privacy. If these teachers are my age or older, they have had about a third or less of the shots our children are required to get. It makes no goddamn sense. I would be forced to homeschool my healthy child if she misses one DTaP booster, so that we don’t put the unhealthy unvaccinated medically fragile kid at risk, but Mrs. Katherine-Hepburn’s-Mother, the music teacher who has only had the oral polio vaccine half a century ago is cleared to enter the premises? I feel like I’m living in a strange, backwards world, where up is down, we wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people. Did anyone actually take the time to think this through at all? Demanding that other people risk their child’s health to potentially protect the health of another is both pointless and selfish. We are each responsible for our own child’s health. We do not have to poison our own bodies for the greater good. Discriminating against children who’s parent’s care enough about them to research what goes into their bodies, by barring those children from school is un-American. This is supposed to be a free country where we are granted the right to a free public education, as well as medical freedom. If we give up those things, what will we give up later on down the road? If your state is one of the many looking to eliminate personal belief exemptions, or is trying to gain more control over your rights as a parent, you need to stand up and let your voice be heard. Everyone should be opposed to government coercion regarding potentially dangerous medical procedures. These are our children and the government can fuck right off when it comes to how we raise them.

For more information on this subject, please read this amazing article from Immunologist Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD. http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/an-open-letter-to-legislators-currently-considering-vaccine-legislation-from-tetyana-obukhanych-phd-in-immunology/

We Homeschool, and You Can Too!

When my husband and I were first married, we had discussed homeschooling our children. Initially, I was on board to do this, but as Kylie, my oldest started nearing kindergarten age, I felt my confidence dwindle. Then there was Bailey to consider. Bailey is my second child, she’s absolutely gorgeous and funny, but she’s a bit of an asshole. Every family has that one person who has to do the opposite of what is expected of them at all times. If she were to act agreeable, I would think something was wrong. Bailey and her stubbornness, destroyed what was left of my confidence in my ability to teach my children, so after much consideration, I put them in public school.

Both the older girls did really well at public school during kindergarten and first grade. I was amazed at how quickly they were learning. Bailey’s stubborn attitude was improving exponentially, as well. They had amazing teachers, whom I kept in regular contact with via e-mail. I was so happy and relieved. The one unfortunate, but predictable downside to public school, was that they (mostly Kylie) KEPT getting sick. Like non-stop. And when Kylie gets sick, she gets really sick. She’s a puker. Bailey, on the other hand, is usually fine in two days. I figured this would happen, because they had never been in daycare or preschool, so all these germs were new to them. I figured it would settle down after first grade, but it didn’t. They kept getting sick. Over and over and over again, to the point that we were in violation of Oregon truancy laws. Which is extremely frustrating and unfair. I called the attendance counselor and she took it upon herself to chastise me for letting them miss so much school. She told me that they have kids going through Chemo who miss less school, and then went on to say that my kids should be there even if they have a low-grade fever. In what sort of backwards world am I considered the bad parent for keeping my kids home while they’re sick? If more parents followed my lead, there wouldn’t be so much sickness being passed around in the first place. (side note, if I were the parent of an immunocompromised child with cancer, I would be seriously annoyed with people using my child as a talking point. Somehow, it has become okay for people to be the voice of all kids with cancer, which I can imagine is highly offensive and frustrating to the parents of actual immunocompromised children. Support them, sure. But stop talking on their behalf.)

The other issues I started to notice, was that the math curriculum was moving very fast. Kylie started off third grade a little behind in math, so we worked very hard to get her caught up (Common Core had just been implemented). In the end, she did get the hang of it, but we had to put in hours and hours of work at home to keep her up to speed. It was crazy. It was very apparent to me, that she was just not quite ready for the math they were teaching her. If only there was a way for me to push that curriculum ahead a year….

Being chastised by the attendance counselor for my awesome parenting was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I made the final decision to homeschool the kids the next year. I was SO freaked out, though. What if I fail them? What if I neglect important information and they end up missing something important that they will need later in their lives? How can I homeschool, when I’m so unorganized and I suck at following a schedule? What if my chronic pain condition flares up to the point that I can’t function? How do I even homeschool?!!!! I’m sure every parent has dealt with these same fears and more, but let me tell you; It’s totally, like, whatever. That should be my homeschooling creed. I’ll hang a sign that says “Homeschooling: It’s Totally, Like, Whatever!”

My point is; Homeschooling is whatever you want it to be. I found some awesome free online curriculum called Easy Peasy at allinonehomeschool.com that works amazingly well for us. Because of my chronic pain condition, I don’t sleep well, so a lot of times the kids will be all done with their online work by the time I get up. Then we spend the rest of the day unschooling. Unschooling is basically child-led learning. The funny thing is, I was so freaked out about homeschooling in the first place, and I didn’t even realize that I had been doing it all along. Anytime one of my kids expresses an interest in something, I drop what I’m doing and we look it up. So if they ask “Do hippos have tails?” we google pictures of hippos and then we watch a couple videos and then we find out where they live and what they eat, and it usually ends with us watching some sort of animal giving birth because my kids are just as weird as I am. And as for Kylie’s math? I found a way to push it out a year; you just wait a year to do it and focus on strengthening the math knowledge you already have. It’s that simple. The kids and I choose what they learn, when they learn it and how they learn it. And we answer to no one!

As far as Bailey’s stubborn attitude goes, I will be doing some follow up posts on that. I’ve had amazing success with her by changing my parenting style from one of criticizing bad behaviors and punishing them, while rewarding good behaviors, to a more peaceful parenting style, where you take the time to understand what is motivating the child to act in a way that is not acceptable, and then give them the tools to deal with their feelings in a way that is acceptable. It has worked wonders with all of my kids, but the difference in Bailey has been huge!

Thank you for reading, and good luck with whatever form of schooling you may choose!