Category: Learning Disabilities

“Screen Time”

We get the “my kids are doing nothing but play video games/watch tv/look at a screen and I can’t stand it, what should I do?” question about once every week or so on our  (now huge) Christian unschooling Facebook group. It has become the norm. We are all kind of tired of it. Really. For many reasons. Mostly because we hear the fear, we know the paradigm shift hasn’t occurred yet, and  we know it will be a fight to get there, and that part is exhausting. The following is a recent response that I wrote while super-short on sleep 😀 but which ended up covering all the basics in one place.

Esther playing Sims.
Esther playing Sims.

To pull from something my dear friend Pam often points out; how much time is “nothing other than game on their PC/ds/Wii”. Do they get up to get a drink? Go to the bathroom? Eat something? Sleep? If they are doing those things then clarify. They are doing something other than just playing games. They are probably getting up. They may even jump around, do other things. They may spend a few minutes getting something, look something up, they may even go play with something else for a while, go outside, play together beside the tv, they are very likely doing something else too. We need to see those things and recognize that no, the child is not spending “all their time”, they are spending more time than we feel comfortable with.  When we start out with a generalization, it is really hard to get from the viewpoint of seeing it in a negative light to seeing “screens” as many different types of learning and internal things going on and the screen itself as just the media they are getting those things.

Rachel watching anime.
Rachel watching anime.

My husband spends the majority of his day in front of a screen. Working, playing, socializing. He does many different things and yes, he has always preferred doing things in front of a computer screen to elsewhere- there are just so many more things to do, it is a vast world full of many, many types of media in one place- no huge mess to clean up when he wants to play a game, he can write quickly and efficiently, read quickly and move between many different things to read, watch a movie, change the movie, and so on.  It is an amazing, miraculous thing that allows us to communicate with our friends across the world (he collaborates with people all across the US weekly on huge projects), work anywhere (he works with people from all across the globe) and so on. It is amazing that this technology is available in our lifetimes and our children get to learn the language of it now, easily, without fear.  Our kids are going to live in a world where much of their time is going to be in front of the computer. Some people won’t, but the vast majority will. They will use it for work, for play, for socialization, and as unschoolers we have the freedom to let them learn it right now, first hand, and be proficient at it. This is a huge boon compared to kids who are stuck in a classroom unable to look things up as they are interested. Our kids will be well prepared for the future, right now.

 “Technology is here to stay. So why would I choose to keep my kids illiterate in the language that they may need for the future? A half an hour a day does not give kids time to explore the land scape.” ~Aza Donnelly

That said, if you are still really uncomfortable with how much time they are spending, then you get off the computer (you are here, reading this, communicating with others, online) and do really cool things out where they will see. Things that they will love. You make things available that go with what they love on their games (you will probably have to get online to research those things). You find things that associate with what they are doing so there is a connection- if they are into a game that has an associated tv show or other media then there are probably lots of  products out there related to it- pick up a book connected with it, or some figurines, or whatever. If there is a website that has info about the game they are playing (hints, a walkthrough, a wiki- my kids learned to navigate the internet and read because they loved looking up info for their games) put it on your screen and show it to them. If the fact that they would be reading it on a screen bothers you, then you can often buy  a gamers guide but they do get expensive. Offer to help them create a database of the characters and their skills, or print up ones you find online for quick reference. Pick up a gaming magazine for kids, or a book about the collectibles or whatever. Find ways you can connect with the kids where they are, ask them about the games, the shows, whatever. Bring them healthy finger foods if you are worried about what they are eating or that they aren’t eating enough. Ask them about the game, what they are playing, the plot, the people in the games. Let them know you are thinking about them  and want to encourage their interests. Find some aspect you can understand and join them where they are.

Issac playing online with a friend.
Issac playing online with a friend.

This will help you connect with them and really get a feel for what they are getting out of all the things they do on that form of media, and maybe even why. And as they feel you are really trying and aren’t going to “take it away” and that you aren’t frowning about it at them, they will loosen their hold on it a bit and gradually they will start joining you in the cool things you are doing (not all), they will start looking at the books, playing with the associated toys or crafts, and so on. (Many of us have minecraft posters on the wall, or Pokemon, or Skylanders, or Terraria, and books, and action figures, stuffies, houses full of geek references.) Meeting them where they are will help you feel connection with them again (which is usually where the parents panic when they start feeling the kids are doing “nothing but screen things”.) It takes time for both sides, but it is like learning another language and our kids get to do it first-hand and be prepared for this changing world where screens are an everyday all the time part of our lives.

 

Math in Art

*I am a lazy blogger. Mind you I have been blogging off and on since 1999. Why yes, I had a blog on the original “Blogger”. I remember vividly making one, being so excited (I had a new baby and was one of the early “mom bloggers”), and then Blogger reset everything after a crash and I lost my blog. We all had to start over. Sigh. Anyway, point is nowadays I seldom have time to blog, what with working full time, having 3 teenagers, running the Christian Unschooling facebook group (nearly 2000 members now), and well, life. So you mostly get posts that are reposts of things I have written elsewhere, because, posts.


The following is in response to a new to unschooling mom asking how to make sure her passionate about art daughter was learning math. Obviously my post here is proof read, formatted properly, etc unlike the original post which I wrote on the fly. 😀

Family Portrait- Heather Young 2010
Family Portrait- Heather Young 2010

With art, math is more of a natural thing that happens and less of a “this is math” thing. If I try thinking of math while I draw/paint my brain actually stops doing the type of art I want to do and I get too analytical to do the more organic work I prefer. (I play a lot of logic/puzzle video games which use the math part of the brain when doing programming and very architectural drawings and tend to spend more time watching vibrant/visually stunning animes and movies and listening to music when painting- helps my brain get into the right mode to work). That said you do use math naturally as an artist and it develops as you develop. So this is more for the mom and whoever else is worried about the child learning math than for her.

Book Dragon- Heather Young 2013
Book Dragon- Heather Young 2013

You use a lot of math think to do perspective, scaling things for drawings- whether up or down, composition, layout, proportions, as well as anytime you work on a realistic drawing it is all in your head visual math. The only art I can think of that does not use math as a default would be doing complete abstract (and many abstract pieces are full of math). Anytime you are taking something real world and putting it on paper (including fantasy and manga style, but I am saying, anything you could build and see rather than abstract concepts) you are using an organic math in your head to decide where things go and how they fit and where the lines should go. Mostly it is because when God created the world He filled it with patterns and lines and you can’t draw without replicating those at least in part, and the more you do it and the better you get the more math you are actually using, whether you recognize it or not.

Dragon Daydreams- Heather Young 2013
Dragon Daydreams- Heather Young 2013

Nowadays I can actually see myself doing it, and my art is much better because of it, though when I was young, math made me panic and I had to “ignore” the fact that I was using it and rather intuit it to get it figured right. I still intuit it, but I also intuit most math in other things- if I think about numbers my brain switches them around (there is a name for it- it is called “dyscalculia”- makes doing bills extra interesting), but if I let myself not think about them and intuit the answer it is almost always right.

Beach House Portrait- Heather Young 2009
Beach House Portrait- Heather Young 2009

There is a big difference between conceptual math and arithmetic- arithmetic is 1+1 and people naturally get that stuff because we use clocks and money, bake and play games, and everything else in the real world that uses arithmetic every day. Art, on the other hand, uses a lot of conceptual math- the scientist/mathematician stuff that most people don’t think of as “math”, it is just another form of that. Seeing patterns and using them to know where to put lines and color and shape is much more conceptual than it is arithmetic . That said artists do also use basic arithmetic for figuring proportions and things in more complicated drawings and layout- think M.C. Escher type stuff.

St. Mary's Convent, Freeport, PA- Heather Young 2010
St. Mary’s Convent, Freeport, PA- Heather Young 2010

More on the difference between conceptual math and arithmetic here: http://www.christianunschooling.com/math-think/

Art Media series #2 ACEO- Heather Young 2012
Art Media series #2 ACEO- Heather Young 2012

Also, is you want to see where I am actually posting my art nowadays on a semi-regular basis you can visit my tumblr here: Pocket Lint of the Soul

Shamus’ Autoblography

Things are crazy busy around here but I wanted to hop on and point out (for those who don’t already read Shamus’ site– though I know most of you do) that Shamus has been writing an autobiography of sorts on his blog. A lot of it explains why we specifically unschool and how his particular view of the US education system formed through his own experiences as well as how we met (today’s post was about our first date.) You can find it here.

That is all.

Unschooling Revelation

I just walked in and saw my son watching Beakman’s World. Instead of getting upset that he was “just sitting there”, I had a revelation.

He was watching a movie that he wanted to watch and therefore gleaning as much as he could from it. (Unlike when someone makes you watch something and part of your brain is thinking about all the stuff it would rather be doing.) So here he was, learning, just like he usually is, whether he is playing a video game, watching a movie, playing with Legos, whatever. So essentially what he was doing was educational.

In the past I, like a lot of moms, would have gotten upset because I want to make him be useful. I’m trying to prepare the house for Sabbath, I’m hurting, and I need help.

Here is the thing. People pack their children off to school, every school day, for 7 hours (and if they have a long bus ride like I did, 8 or 9 hours.) There they sit and do many educational things all day that do not engage them. For the most part, they don’t really care about these things and ask why they have to learn them. In between those 20 minute educational lectures/lessons (I am generalizing here– when I was teaching some lessons were as short as 10 minutes, others were up to an hour long) they stand in line, get out books and put them away, get a drink, eat lunch, take electives where they have to take out and put away, wait for their classmates to finish their work, do extra busy work that is there for classroom management not for actual education, spend a few minutes talking to friends while waiting in line or during recess, get shushed, corrected, and so on. They take tests to prove that they remember what the teacher told them, wait for others to finish their tests, loose pencils/books/etc, spend time finding all of those lost items, and all sorts of other activities that are not beneficial to the adults at home and may or may not be educational. The wasted time in a school room is an issue teachers know well and which we are taught in our classroom management classes.

Start the year with review of last year. Then learn something new. Then review that thing. Then take time to study that thing. (I hope you haven’t mastered the subject, because there’s nothing else to do in the classroom right now.) Then finally take a test about the thing. Then forget about the thing and move on to a new thing. Even on rare days when new information is imparted, it’s usually teaching for the test, not teach the subject for the purposes of knowledge and understanding. We were told to expect about 20-30 minutes of actual new content being taught and the rest of the day being remedial and managing the class. Half an hour of learning. Out of eight.

Now a classically homeschooled kid has a lot more time at home (when they aren’t running to outside things like sports and dance classes– lots of time in the car for those). The parents spend much of their home time planning, organizing, teaching, and keeping the child on task (and anyone who has done classical homeschool can tell you that that takes a TON of energy, though of course it depends on the kid.) So let’s say the child spends 4 hours doing book work. (Some do much more, some do much less.) They may or may not be interested in what they are being taught and some are learning a lot more than others. For those who aren’t learning then there is repetition and practice and the parent trying to find new ways to teach the lesson. During that time the child is being taught by the parent, which means the parent is pulled away from the other things the parent could be doing. On a good day everything goes smoothly and everyone finishes their work with no tears. On a bad day…well. When we were more classical most days were bad days. The rest of the day is often taken with chores and outside activities though they certainly get more downtime to explore their own interests.

The thing is, in both of those situations the child is only expected to be doing educational activities for much of the day (including all those extracurricular activities) and that child may or may not be getting anything out of ANY of those educational opportunities. Yet here I am with a child who is actively learning regardless of what he is doing because he is full engaged in what he is doing. He’s doing it because he IS interested and wants to learn more about it, and I am going to complain because he is JUST watching TV? Meanwhile, if he were sitting in a class he’d likely be doing a time-sink worksheet that exists only to slow down the faster kids and keep them busy while the slow kids catch up. Is that really better than television?

How messed up my thinking has been. I had forgotten the point was to see him learning, to look for the learning going on instead of keeping my own personal servant. I should point out here that he had already spent quite a bit of time helping me today and he often does helpful things out of love instead of being coerced, just like I do things to serve him, out of love. It is so easy to forget all the helpful things that he does do when I notice him sitting there “doing nothing” while I am busy.

I CU

I CUWe have a new weekly meme up at the Christian Unschooling site called I CU.  The following are the statements/questions for everyone to fill in (or if you are feeling really inspired share a photo for each:)):


This week we want to…
honestly I don’t know.  My brain is so tired from trying to get the CU site in order, update the theme, get the groups on Facebook organized (and combined) and just keeping up with everything plus the GAPS diet (which is going fine but which I really need to come up with some meals for) and all the other stuff, well, the kids have been really doing their own thing because I have been busy.  Right now most of the stuff that is happening is external.  My grandmother just moved to an assisted living place not far from us which means I am spending a lot of time running errands for her and visiting (we have always gone once a week because she lived half an hour away now she is only 10 minutes away.)  That combined with the new Facebook groups, several sites I am working on for clients, the CU site, and taking care of the house and food stuff (all learning curves) and I am brain dead.  (Shamus is writing his book again, which is AWESOME but it means I have less help as he needs to focus when writing.

The kids are working on different projects.  Rachel and Esther are working on essays for a contest over at Gaming Angels to win a scholarship to National Computer Camp— both of them desperately want to win.  Rachel has spent the last couple days working on it and we are all pretty excited to see how far she has come with her writing– she actually had 900 words and needs to get it down to 500-600.  Oooo, and Issac has found a series of books he LOVES and is willing to help me read (he reads the first page of the chapter, I read the rest).  It is really adorable (though there have been a few things that I skip– like using God as a swear word.  Sigh.)  But the really awesome thing is not only is he asking me to read aloud to him nightly but he is finally asking for “just one more chapter” which my little engineer never does.  So that is pretty exciting.

I am learning Hebrew, how out of website ideas I am (working on the CU site and my brain is dead), a new technique for sketching out my paintings.  I am also learning how to get regular meals going for the GAPS diet because I keep forgetting due to all the other work I am doing.

I am struggling with change, people, and fears.  In general I like change but sometimes it makes me uncomfortable:

For instance, right now we are dealing with the very real possibility of losing our house but we don’t know and maybe God will step in and provide yet again (as He has throughout this whole time we have been living off what He provides– and He HAS provided, everything but the mortgage.)  And it is really the potential change combined with fear and not knowing that is getting to me.  So, I need to be leaning on Him here instead of trying to solve the problem on my own (which almost never works.)

Sometimes change makes me disappointed:

Like today when I realized my husband was, after a frustrating day of not getting work on his book done due to interruptions, up all night writing which means a new change of rhythm for the household.  Every month or so we have to adjust to a new rhythm and we had just gotten comfortable in this one and had hoped it would last. So I am sad knowing the kids are disappointed (less time with Daddy when he is working all night and sleeping all day) and that their sleep is going to shift so they can get more time with him, not to mention it will ruin potentially plans already made, especially if it shifts anymore (unlike most he finds it impossible to stay up for something and be coherent unless his body is doing the shifting– so more fear as I realize he might miss Rachel’s piano recital after all– which will devastate her.  SO, changing subject before I think of more fears…..

People.  I am currently angry at several people (and not liking them very much) because I feel they have been unreasonable, which makes me want to avoid them.  I am praying about this because first, these people do tend to suck the life out of me and even when we are on good terms I come away drained.  

This week is the first time…. Rachel has written something long and been willing to really go back and edit multiple times so she can get it right.  I am so proud of her.  Keeping in mind that she is severely dyslexic and this is the first time she has willingly submitted to editing and has done multiple drafts.  In fact she was up early , all excited because she wanted her daddy to help her edit.

So, having written all this I realize just how overwhelmed I am and I hadn’t even realized it.  And no wonder, really.  On the other hand, I need to hand all the worries over to God (really) and STOP IT.  Just STOP IT.

Now, its your turn. And when you do I CU on your blog, link up so we can all be in it together.


Lazy

So, I have gotten lazy about this wole posting thing–why bother when that little program will auto post my tweets–which I do automatically anyway (must. share. all . thoughts. with. the . world.)

Things have slowed a bit but I am bit burned out now, and still have several sites to do, and got Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility and therefore am spending large swaths of time seated in front of the tv being virtually productive.Add to that (and the reason I got it in fact) that my RA is acting up–lovely crazy weather and hormones and being virtually productive is safer and less likely to trigger a full flare-up than being REALLY productive, well, that’s my excuse anyway.  This laziness (and continued lack of car) is also keeping the photo taking bug at bay.  Except for this:

The crazy weather we have been having brought on a full arch rainbow, which was pretty awesome.  Also awesome is that my son has been listening to Frank Peretti’s Wild and Wacky World each evenign and had just been listening to the story of Noah and it finally clicked about the rainbow.

More clicking going on:

  • Esther who has dyscalculia (dyslexia for math) and is math phobic finally “got” double digit addition and wanted to tell the world about it:  you can read her take here. She has also been posting about some other revelations.
  • Rachel has realized that she is an audio learner (which is why she can remember things she hears and why she likes books on cd.)  She has begun doing an audio journal on her laptop, and writing a really clever story that way.
  • Issac is recognizing words without knowing it and keeps surprising himself by reading things.  He has also discovered multiplication (not on paper but real world.)
  • Issac’s new favorite toy is boxes.  Shoeboxes, cereal boxes, cracker boxes, packing boxes, you name it.  He is spending most of his free time building with a pile of them in the living room.

Games We Play: Board Games

This is part 2 of a series (you can find the first here).  In this post I share our favorite board games and how we have adapted these games to be more educational or more suited to different ages, not to mention some games we would love to get a hold of.

First, the games.  I linked to them on Amazon.com so you can see what I am talking about.  There are lots more that we have and even more great games available that we don’t happen to have.

Now I will get into how we have adapted each one for different ages.  KEep in mind our kids are 2 years apart each so they have spent most of their lives at slightly different stages but close enough in age that they all wanted to play.  We have had other junior games  like Hi-ho Cherrio but these are ones that we have had for ages and have played since they were small.

  • Scrabble: When they were learning their letters we would get this out and play letter recognition–you can use it for go fish style games as well as making words and copying words.  Later we played so that the younger kids got points for making small words or even just attempting to sound it out, even if it was wrong.  Now we play for real though we seldom keep score.
  • Boggle: The same goes for this one.  Those letter dice are awesome for new readers.  Usually when I play with the kids I switch all the letters so they are facing the youngest and play upside down.  The new reader is allowed to make 2 and 3 letter words and gets extra points for spelling correctly.  I only make 4 letter words and up or take half the points for each.
  • Number Rings: This game is AWESOME for the math challenged.  My 7 year old figured out how to do multiplication because of it.  With younger kids I allow them to figure out whichever number instead of having to attach the numbers to the previous ones.  We also fudge a bit on being allowed to put rings on other players numbers and removing them.  The rules on this are very adaptable, and even come with multiple ways to play.
  • Uno: This one is easy for even young players to get and is great for learning numbers and colors as well as right and left.
  • Monopoly:Okay, I HATE monopoly, always have, but my kids love it.  They did have monopoly junior but moved quickly to the regular version.  We usually cut this one short, and give the younger ones help with money.
  • Blokus: LOVE this one.  This one has tons of adaptions in the rules and can be played in groups as well.  My son was able to play this game easily from the start and occasionally even beat his older sisters.  It can also be played individually, which makes it a nice whenever game that works on visual perception.  It can also be used for learning colors.
  • Scategories: This one is good to play with those who can already write and read but we have often played it in pairs so that the non readers can play as well.
  • Perpetual Notion: Another that requires reading.  This one gets the imagination moving.
  • Stare: A fun game our neighbor got the kids.  I believe she bought them the junior edition so I have not tried the grown up version.  Great for visual memory and can easily be adapted (the grownup can adapt the question to the child’s age level.)
  • Blink: Haven’t tried it yet but the kids have been playing and love it–another memory type game.
  • Whiz Kids:  I couldn’t find a link to this but we LOVE this game.  You can also play it without cards.  Someone names a type of thing and then the others try to come up with as many of that type as possible–simila rto scttergories but no writing so good for the car.
  • Trivia games: any will do.  We love playing well worded trivia games, especially in the car.  (I HATE poorly worded ones–ones wher ethe answer isn’t necessarily the only answer to the question.)  We have several that someone will read while we are in the car and someone else will try to answer.
  • Dice: Dice are awesome!  You can use them for all sorts of games.  Sometimes we take a pile , role them, and see who can come up with the highest number by adding subtracting, multiplying, dividing.  Other times we just do one sort of math with them.  Still other times we do a story telling kind of game, like D&D and use the dice to figure out the results of various situations.  When my son was younger he would play with them and tell me the numbers.  You can also use dice to figure out which passage to read or which workbook page to do.  Very fun way of making things random.  We have also used blank dice and used them to make other games.

Games We Play: About games and learning

This is part 1 of a series.  In this post I explain why we play games and how we play them so that kids don’t kill each other because they are loosing. I will also talk about how we adapted games to suit different age levels and how our games have changed as the kids have grown.Future posts in this series will give more specific games, ways we have played them, and the educational benefit of each.

Everyone was talking about games yesterday, which got me thinking about our favorites.  We play a lot of games around here–video games, board games, computer games, physical games, word games, you name it.  Games are a big part of an unschooling lifestyle and we, despite being a non-competitive family, love games.

We have found that games are the perfect prompt when nothing else will get a kid moving in the right direction.  When boredom hits it is time for a game.  A long car ride or a visit to the doctors office means it is time for a game.  A quiet evening or a rainy afternoon is time for a game.  Games are what happen when we have a guest, or when someone is away from home, when we are out of movies, or when we are waiting in line.  A question, more often than not, is enough to prompt a game.  Because we don’t do traditional school the kids think of questions as games.

“How do you spell…..?”

“Can you find….?”

“How do they make….?”

“Why do you think….?”

Occasionally a statement will start it.

“Nibble, nibble little ___________, who’s been nibbling on my ____________?”

“I have ____ _____and I need ____, how many more do I need?”

“I spy with my little eye something ______  .”

Sometimes the game is a simple question answer game, sometimes a game is on the computer, on the Wii, verbal, physical, a board game, a scavenger hunt, whatever suits the moment.  And almost always, the game gets adjusted to suit our needs.  Very seldom do we play strictly by the rules and  often (much to the consternation of my mother-in-law) the rules get tossed completely.  Games of Scrabble degrade into a crossword game of how many words can we make fit on the board.  Games of toss degrade into how far away can I get and still catch the football.  Even video games degrade into a game of pretend (Mario has spent more time being a brother to someone else than looking for Sunshine sprites) or games of dress-up (my kids have designed numerous superheroes for City of Heroes though they have never played the game.) More often than not it starts when someone playing a traditional game says “what if” and we all try to see what the results will be.  Sure it means that we don’t remember the original rules for most games but we get to adapt and create and learn all sorts of things we wouldn’t be learning if we stuck to the rules.

When the kids were younger we adapted every game so that it was simpler to play (we didn’t buy Jr. editions because those are usually boring but we simplified the rules so each child could play and enjoy themselves).  We also found that usually it is better NOT to keep score.  Yes, we keep score when we play with grownups but if we are playing ourselves we don’t.  Instead we focus on having fun and coming up with ways to make the game better.

If we do keep score then we use handicap or allow those who are at a different stage of learning to have different rules so the game is less frustrating.  When we play word games then the non-reader (or early reader) gets points for recognizing or spelling any real words instead of 3 letter words (like in Boggle).  If they are very new readers then they get a partial point just for finding a word even if it isn’t spelled quite right–I correct their spelling so they know next time but they get a half point for trying to find a word.  As they learn they get less of a cushion and are expected to do it right.  Now that I have all readers with only one new reader we play more by the original rules without much frustration.

My goal is for them to love the games without being frustrated at not having the knowledge or understanding to actually play. We find that by adapting the games to each child’s needs  they still enjoy playing even if they are not very good at it, and the bonus is that as they play and we adapt the rules they get better at the game until they get to the point where they can actually play the game for real.

Unschooling Question: What about math and the other boring stuff they need?

I run into this question often from friends, family members, forums, and even unschooling friends.  Many are fearful enough that their children won’t naturally attempt to learn things they deem boring or important (often both) that they specifically purchase a curriculum for just that subject–regardless of whether the child has shown interest in it.

Issac waiting for a boat ride at the pond, investigating the metal loop that holds the boat to the dock.

I know this question well because we also struggled with it, and it is why we have been so slow to trust God on this whole unschooling thing.  Our conversations with God have gone something like this:

Us: “God, we know you are leading us towards letting the kids follow their interests but are you sure you don’t want us to have SOME structure? ”

God: “Do you trust me?”

Us: “Well yes but we really think they need to learn how to do basic computation on paper and a bit of spelling, and well, there are a few more things we really feel they should know.”

God : “Do you trust me?”

Us: “Well yes, but what about the boring stuff?   What about the stuff they hated doing when we did school the old fashioned way?”

God: “Do you trust me?”

Us: “Well yeah, but, what about all those battles that happened because they HATED the very things you are telling us to trust you about?”

God: “Do you TRUST me?”

Us: “Well, yeah, well, pretty much. Okay, well, yes, we trust you.”

God: “Then let go and let me lead them. Love me, love each other, show them your love for me, talk about me with them, talk to them about your interests, talk to them about their interests,  I will take care of the rest.”

Us: “Um, okay, if you are sure.”

God: “Trust me.”

Issac, despite owning multiple car ramps, built new ones from boxes he found and cut up.

We are trusting Him and it has been amazing.  While the kids still turn up their noses at the books and activities that we used for “school” they gather huge quantities of resources that they have not used before; text books, curriculum, activity books, how to books, language courses, whatever (many things I think are desperately boring).  Not only are they taking them but they are using them.

Issac using the Shark mini vac my grasndma gave me to clean the ENTIRE downstairs floor, without being asked.
Issac using the Shark mini vac my grandma gave me to clean the ENTIRE downstairs floor, without being asked.

While cleaning the area we stored text books and workbooks the kids took ALL the educational books that they had not used for “school”  to their own rooms for further study–included in the books the kids secured are a high school math curriculum set which Rachel found fascinating and wanted for her own with promises of discussion of it with Daddy, several atlases and dictionaries in English AND Polish, numerous workbooks (Issac has been doing them at bedtime to fall asleep), lots and lots of blank notebooks for writing stories and comics in, lots of science books (which Esther confiscated and which I am finding everywhere–a sure sign she is reading them and leaving them where she finished them), word searches and other activity books, and a slew of other things I have forgotten.

Issac preparing to for a ride in the motor boat.

They are using those materials and others they have found around the house.  Rachel finished the first draft of her book and is waiting for me to finish her website before she edits it (she has decided that now that she can write by hand with no backwards letters and spelling mostly right she should learn to type.)  Esther wrote a short story and has been making me comic books ever since.  Then the kids each got a math kit (compass, ruler, etc.) from Target’s clearance back to school sale and started using them for drawing pictures and graphs and charts.  This prompted Rachel to get several math books on charts and graphs out of the nonfiction section at the library.  They started measuring everything in the house, including figuring out the area of the living room and hall so we could get laminate flooring.  They have been adding, subtracting, multiplying measurements.  Our household looks like “If You Give a Mouse  a Cookie” only with learning.

Issac building IKEA furniture

After that came the Polish curriculum I found at the thrift shop.  I spent a few months in Poland while in college and the kids love stories about that as well as about my grandmother’s Polish family.  I figured maybe I would use it to touch up on what I do remember.  Instead Rachel snatched it up and has been practicing ever since.  She has also  added the Rosetta Stone demo version of the Polish language lesson to her studies.  Esther has joined her in this study and they run around the house naming things in Polish.

  • Esther demonstrating her knowlesdge of boat safety.Esther demonstrating her knowledge of boat safety.
  • And this is just the tip of the iceburg.  There is so much more going on than I can even keep track of.  Discussions have included: Scotland and Gaelic, square roots and cube roots, how mortgages work and the snowball effect, natural disasters and what causes them physically, how wind works, spelling and word order, reading big words and finding their meanings, adding and multiplying fractions (while baking), determining cloud direction, and a multitude of other things.  All of it has been interest led–the kids are running with this freedom to learn and explore, and are learning many things that I think are horribly dull and boring (but don’t tell them I said that.)

    The girls often stay up in the evening working at their table, writing, reading, drawing, or in this case creating charts and graphs for the fun of it.
    The girls often stay up in the evening working at their table, writing, reading, drawing, or in this case creating charts and graphs for the fun of it.

    I think the problem, and the reason for the question in the first place, is found in ourselves and our perception of what is interesting or boring.  Any child that has been public schooled OR trained to think of school in those terms, will think that way as well–except for the odd geekling like my husband was, who at age 10, despite hating school,  spent hours and hours programming a friend’s TI because he wanted to, or like myself who at age 12 spent ALL my spare time reading and researching King Author or reading about whatever scientific thing I was currently interested in (though not what they were teaching in school.)

    School trains us to think that school things, including math and grammar, are boring.  The thing is that they are only boring if you are not, at that moment, interested in them.  When, for whatever reason, something peaks your interest you are off and running.  Sure YOU may not want to learn about rocks and gems, but I was passionately fond of studying them–until I had a lesson on them in school which promptly struck that off my list of interesting things until I was graduated from college and got talking to some kids who found a cool rock and wanted to know.

    Issac building a tunnel for his track.
    Issac building a tunnel for his track.

    So the question answers itself.  Don’t think of it as boring or hard stuff, talk about these things when you run into them.  Watch the kids cues.  Give them openings and opportunities.  If they show interest in something don’t get overly enthusiastic (that is one of those “school” things and will shut off that flow of imagination like nothing else), wait on them.  If you are just starting to move away from the “school” model it may take a while for them to jump in and take over.  Give them space.  Give them time to think of things without “school” or educational hanging over their head.  When you, as an adult, get interested in something you learn it because you want to, you don’t naturally think–“I am learning something, this is educational” you think, “This is cool.  I like this.”  Give your kids the same freedom, pray for wisdom, a lot, and let God open up their minds to multiple interests.  They may stick with something longer than you would expect or drop it in a matter of seconds.  Give them the freedom to do that (you would get nervous of showing interest in something if as soon as you did someone ran out and bought you EVERYTHING yo uneeded to do it–you want to test the waters first, see if it is for you–give your kids the same opportunity).  Find your own interests and passions and run with them.  The kids will learn to follow their passions from your example.  And with freedom to explore, resources at their fingertips, and the imagination and brain power God has provided them, they WILL learn–you won’t be able to stop them–even with the “boring stuff”.

    Daybook for June 2

    Hosted by The Simple Woman
    FOR TODAY Mon. June 2, 2008…
    Outside My Window…is SUN!  Wonderful, sweet, happy sunshine.  Yes, I am SO sick of the constant RAIN.
    I am thankful for..A few more finished paintings.  Coffee brewing, 10 and a half hours sleep (what is up with that?) time out with my husband yesterday, work to do, and that the kids are either still asleep (Rach) or playing quietly (the others), that the Wii has provided tons of entertainment and educational stuff but that the kids are still playing outside more than playing Wii.
    From the kitchen…I smell my coffee–almost ready.
    I am wearing…my long black Old Navy skirt with pockets (which is as common as jeans for me–it goes anywhere and has POCKETS), and a red t-shirt.
    I am creating…Page 5 of the bunny book, the background of another book, a website for a friend, a less chaotic household–I hope.
    I am going…to get some coffee–be right back.
    I am reading…Romans, C.S. Lewis letters, the Dick-King Smith books the girls got out of the library.
    I am hearing…whispers from upstairs, the air cleaner running, cars going by outside, myself typing.
    One of my favorite things…A Chinese teacup full of paintbrushes and another full of inking pens and pencils.
    A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:See if Rachel still needs a dentist appointment for the loose tooth that broke off instead of falling out–if it isn’t hurting and doesn’t look bad we need to wait because of her trouble with medication and her SJS.  If it is infected or hurting we need an appointment.  How come things like that ALWAYS happen on the weekend???  Otherwise cleaning, painting, and hopefully preparing for the yard sale and having it this weekend would be good.
    Here is picture thought I am sharing…