Starting Over

Well, there is an old saying that goes something like, “No matter where you go, there you are” and that couldn’t be more appropriate for our life right now.  We never imagined the twists and turns our life would take when we began our homeschooling journey in 2007.  We have tried many, many things along the way yet I always find myself coming back to roost in the same spot – unschooling.  We are not radical unschoolers as we do have the boys using some online courses for math and language arts but, for the most part, we allow the boys the freedom to follow their passions and assist them along the way.

The idea of letting go of all things schooly is hardest for me and my husband.  When you spend your life in school, being told that school is the only way to achieve success in your life, it is really hard to totally turn your back on it and trust in a child’s inherent interest in the world around them to teach them.  Even in the face of seeing our boys learn without school, we experience periods of fear that we’re doing something wrong which causes me to write up lesson plans, purchase textbooks, and study what they would be learning in their grade at school.  We went through a period like that recently which was brought on by my youngest announcing that he wanted to go to school this year.  Well, immediately I began to panic because, although both boys are incredibly smart and have a wealth of knowledge, there are plenty of conventional things they don’t know.  Ryan’s desire to go to school was short-lived but the panic within me remained for quite a while.  In fact, until today, I wasn’t ready to let go.

Then, while I was cruising my Facebook newsfeed, one of my unschooling friends posted a link to an article that radically changed my perspective.  It was a Jerry Maguire moment for me, or perhaps a Dead Poets Society moment.  Whatever movie it relates to, it made me change the way I plan to approach our daily living.  If you would like to read the article, you can do so here:

After reading that, the boys and I sat down and made a list of all the things that interested them and it included everything from going to the zoo, to studying American inventions, to the American Revolution, to how do manufacturers make the color blue if it’s one of the primary colors.  It is a fun list and I’m looking forward to spending the time going through it together with them.  That is one thing that I have been doing “wrong” for a while now.  I haven’t been connected with my kids at all and that is going to change.  It has already changed.  But for a long time, I was content to let them do their own thing as long as it didn’t interfere with me doing my own thing.  I forgot that one of the most important things about unschooling is dropping what you’re doing when your kids come to you with something they want to do or ask you.  Obviously, sometimes you have to choose to keep doing what you’re working on but many times, I opted to put them off because I just plain didn’t feel like exerting the effort to look up something for them.  And for that I feel quite ashamed.  In spite of that, they did learn a lot this past year and I’m grateful.  But from now on, we’re going to be traveling this road together and we’d love to have you along for company.  :)






I think I might actually cry.

Tears of joy that is! Our lives have gone through a lot of changes over the last several months, not the least of which has been how we homeschool with the boys. For a long time, we were unschooling and that worked out so well for us and brought us to where we are today. Both boys are amazing people and have impressed us with the knowledge they have gained without the use of textbooks to guide them. In fact, Iain and Ryan have both expressed an interest in doing more schooly-type work so I have been trying to find the *right* thing for them to do. It was not easy but I think I have found something that is a good way to segue back into that school world. A book report!

I knew this would be a challenge because the only books Iain likes to read are graphic novels based on video games like Legend of Zelda and Pokemon. There’s nothing wrong with reading these books, reading is reading, but for the book report, I did want both boys to challenge themselves and read something that was more of a chapter book. So off we went to Barnes and Noble and Iain and Ryan were given the task of finding a chapter book that would interest them. Iain ended up choosing a book called, “The Chocolate Touch” and Ryan chose, “Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery“. I didn’t doubt that Ryan would be able to handle this task because reading comes a bit easier for him than it does for Iain. But this morning, I was pleasantly surprised by a conversation I had with Iain while he ate breakfast.

Last night, I sent both of them up to bed to wind down with their books and by the time Sean and I got upstairs, they were both asleep with bookmarks denoting the last pages they read in their books. This morning when Iain got up, one of the first things he told me was how awesome his book is! He said he is about 25% of the way through it and really likes it so far. When Ryan got up, he told a similar tale. For me, a person who used to LOVE to pass the time by reading a book this was music to my ears. I was incredibly nervous about having them work on a project like this but now, it feels like it was a good move. I cannot begin to tell you the emotions I felt upon hearing Iain tell me how funny his book is or when Ryan said he wants to get the other books in the Bunnicula series. Sometimes, I do think kids need a little push to try something new. If they try it and don’t like it, that’s fine, but you’ll never know if you don’t at least try.

Hope all is well in your world!!!!

It has been way too long

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written a post here since May. Incredible! I feel as though my life has just gone crazy in the last several months and I barely have time to think let alone come up with a post. But it’s important to maintain a record so I will try and fill in the blanks!

Over the summer, we joined up with the neighborhood pool. I was hesitant to do it at first because it seemed like a big chunk of change to spend on something but in the end, it was money well spent. The boys took to the water in a way that truly surprised me. Within days they were both swimming and doing really well. Soon they were going off the low-dive, and then the high-dive! It was really amazing to see them accomplish these things totally on their own, simply because it was important to them to do so. Another great thing about going to the pool was, it allowed them to meet and play with lots of other children. They met some pretty great kids, and some not so great but, there was one relationship that really intrigued me. TOwards the end of the summer, we started going in the evening to avoid the intense heat and the crowds. There weren’t many children there at that time but it was ok because the boys were OBSESSED with the diving board and would go off it so many times in a row that the lifeguards would ask them to take a break!! Anyway, there was another family who came in the evenings and they had a son and daughter, twins. The boy had some form of autism that really kept him from speaking. He was 12 or 13 but only had the vocabulary of a very small child, say around 1 or 2. He would swim though, like a fish, and loved being in the water. We knew when he was there because he had some very distinctive yells and whoops that he would make while he was in the pool having a good time. For whatever reason, Iain decided he wanted to be that boys friend and so he set about trying to make that happen. Over the course of several days, Iain would approach Josh and would talk to him, somehow innately understanding that Josh couldn’t communicate in the same way, and Iain didn’t give up. Josh’s sister explained to Iain and Ryan that her brother was a special needs child, although Ryan told me that Josh HAD special needs, which I thought was cute. Anyway, Iain and Ryan both looked forward to seeing Josh in the evenings and playing and splashing with him until it was time to go home. One evening, Josh’s mom came up to me and told me how Josh’s therapist said they had seen a real change in Josh’s behavior and she was so happy about his friendship with Iain. We ended up meeting them in the evenings for the rest of the summer and my boys were so sad on the last day of the pool season. Josh’s mom hugged my boys and thanked them for befriending Josh. I was surprised that my boys actively sought out someone that others would avoid because his special needs might make them uncomfortable. Honestly, I was uncomfortable around Josh only because I had no idea how to interact with him. But Iain and Ryan found a way and made a friend and it was a beautiful thing.

Also over the summer, we took several trips. We took the boys on their first jaunt to NYC and had an absolute blast! We visited the Statue of Liberty, the Natural History Museum, the Empire State Bldg, and Toy Tokyo (which was their fave). THe weather was rainy while we were there but we managed to get out and about and partake in some of NY’s finest tourist attractions, even a carriage ride through Central Park.

We squeezed in a trip to visit our family in PA, which is always fun. AND we went to Disney World in September. We really enjoyed that trip, too, but have decided to try and go somewhere else next year. We think the boys are ready to visit places that might not be considered kid-centric. They really enjoyed NYC so much and we were surprised at the things they wanted to do.

Right now, we’re gearing up for the holidays. Both of the boys are hip to the fact that Santa isn’t real and we’ve really been enjoying getting ready for Christmas as a result. I can’t believe it’s almost here and that 2009 is drawing to an end. I hope that you have had a wonderful year and that this holiday season finds you and your family happy and healthy. Happy Holidays!!