Tag: learning

“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.


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.


Intensive Care for the Christian Unschooler– this is a weekly meme (you post the questions to your blog each Wednesday that you are able, using one of the buttons here to link back to the CU blog, and hop over here and add your site to the linky at the bottom.)

“This week we want to…”…hmm, will have to ask the kids. We did what they really wanted (went to Moraine State Park, where they made friends with a family that is eerily similar to our own in all sorts of awesome ways. Also took Rach to the outlets and to Moraine yesterday– which she announced was the best day ever, though I guess today almost trumped it.

“The kids are…” happy and sunburnt. VERY sunburnt (though I am the worst)– apparently staying 3 hours past when we were going to leave might not have been such a great idea. 🙂 But it was worth it, see above.

“I am learning….” that I forgot how much sunburn hurts? And that maybe God is filling in my lack of leadership ability, maybe. I don’t WANNA lead. That I don’t have nearly enough time to write all the stuff I want to write about (SO much that needs written down), take care of the house, visit my grandma, AND do all the cool stuff I want to do with the kids. So, I really need to be praying for wisdom at any given moment so I am doing all things in His time. And I am learning that I forgot to take pictures today. I think I took like, 3. Sigh. And once again I am learning that YES God is taking care of us. I had to stop and get groceries on the way home and was really upset at how much they cost because we have bills to pay and car inspection. Got home and found almost that exact amount had been donated to us via Shamus’ blog. So whoever you are, THANK YOU!

“I am struggling with…” sunburn? Ow?

“This week is the first time….” I have taken the kids to Moraine alone. Don’t know why I never have, but I just didn’t. Didn’t occur to me how close it was.

Unschooling Life: A trip to the museum

On Sunday we celebrated Purim though not in the traditional way. There are no Messianic Jewish groups nearby and we don’t actually know anyone local who is Messianic in their thinking. So, when I heard about the free day at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum and remembered how the kids had been begging to go, I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate God’s quiet intervention in our lives. It worked out beautifully because I actually had gas in the van, we had visited my grandmother the previous evening (we usually visit on Sundays), and everything just fell into place.

We do have a membership for the Science Center and Art and Natural History Museum but it doesn’t include the Children’s Museum (despite including all the other big museums in Pittsburgh.) This is really funny because this museum is tiny and more expensive to join than any of the others– it only gives about 3 hours of entertainment versus the others where we can spend the whole day. It is, however, included if you come into Pittsburgh and have a science center membership so make sure to hit it if you do.

I was surprised at the lack of crowd (though it was a beautiful day and the zoo had a free for under 13 day as well– I suspect the zoo was a lot more crowded.) I found it interesting that the vast majority of children there were under 6. There were a few older kids but they mostly hung back and were there with littles. It was also interesting to watch the little s immediately become interested in whatever my bigger kids were doing and that my kids immediately began exploring everything, applying the knowledge they accumulated from my dad, general discussion, books (they love the Dangerous Book for Boys as well as pretty much any experiment book), and tv (mostly Myth Busters, Dirty Jobs, and Rough Science).
Heading to the entrance

I love this shot of the kids. Esther has been waiting a whole year to go back and has been excitedly asking when the next free day was so she ran ahead. Meanwhile Rach (wearing a Hello Kitty Barbarian hoodie) decided to hang back and spend some time with her little brother.

Falling Letters
And this is what Essie had been waiting for, above all the other things there. She spent a good half hour catching letters, which made for some very fun photos (yes, that is me with the camera).

Rachel and Issac exploring magnets in the Creativity Lab.

Magnetic sculpture

Rachel’s magnet sculpture ended up being posted at the museum’s Creativity Lab Blog here. (It is the second photo down.)

Issac, who adores his Snap Circuit sets and spends quite a bit of time playing with electricity loved attempting to make this electro magnet work.

While Issac and Rachel explored magnets in the garage Esther played with sound and wind.

After half an hour or so exploring magnets Issac and Rach climbed the net, tossed some parachutes and then played on the giant slide a bit.

The building area was what Rachel had waited a whole year to use. She loves to invent and build and couldn’t wait to start on the house sshe had designed in her head based on her experience last year. When she started this area was empty.
Within minutes she had help.
Lots of help.
When they were finally tired of that room we went next door to experiment with wind.
ant hill
We then had to head to the next favorite– the human ant hill, where Rachel was immediately overrun with littles again.
Issac found fish
In Mister Roger’s Neighborhood we found the fish tank.
The trolley
And the Neighborhood of Makebelieve.
castlenoisy stairs
We then headed up the very noisy stairs (they sigh, and ow, and make other noises as you walk up them.)
Young Children Only
In the nursery area (where we had to explore because there were BABIES!) we found this little teeter totter with the massage “Young Children Only” to which Rach replied, “That means we can use it forever,” and then insisted on a photo with it.

We headed upstairs to the water area, where the kids quickly went from this to this:
getting soaked and making friends
Where they made friends with the only other older kids willing to play and got thoroughly soaked.
getting soaked and making friends
The making friends was the best part– I loved watching them quickly find like minded kids to play with without being shy (unlike myself and their dad at their ages.)
drying off
Sure it meant plenty of this and this:
drying off
But it also meant they had someone to hang out with the rest of our visit which made my extroverted oldest very, very happy.
clock pendullum
For those who went to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum as a child, the pendulum clock is still there and Issac quickly found it and had to explore it.

paper making

Meanwhile his sisters were having fun in the art room with their new friend, making paper

painting, and print making.
Issac wanted nothing to do with the art room (which he feels he can do readily enough at home while he really wanted to go to the Attic or “the sideways room” as he calls it.
And Rach went back to build in the Garage with her friend.
Esther, on the other hand, went into full performance mode which meant I got tons of incredible photos of her playing with the slow motion camera.
Many Esthers
Where she and her new friend spent a lot of time twisting, twirling
and doing the robot dance.
In the attic are all sorts of cool illusions, from optical to sound, to shadow, and gravity. Here the kids play with sound.


Mr. Roger's front porch
Finally they posed for some photos on Mr. Roger’s front porch swing.
Then on the actual front porch swing (which is HUGE).
Then because it was a beautiful day they posed for some more rather silly photos on the way to the car.



Click here to see the rest of the photos.


I believe all the craziness might possibly be over for the time being.  I can finally slow down and relax.

My brother’s graduation party and the visit with my other brother and his wife are over.  It went well though it was hot, hot, hot outside.  We are talking absolutely melting.

Esther’s performing arts camp is over.  She loved it, did well with the final performance (which I will share if I can figure out how to deal with the movie transfer).  We have found that it was “fun” for her but definitely not a passion.  She loved every minute, wants to do it again, but didn’t spend all her time practicing, memorizing lines, etc.  Getting her to tell us about what she liked and didn’t like is like pulling teeth.  It isn’t that she doesn’t want to talk about it, she has just already moved on to the next thing (mostly relaxing and reading lots of books now that the chaos is over.)  When asked if she wants to be in the the next musical she said absolutely yes, knowing all the work it takes. So, we will see where this takes us.

Rachel’s piano lessons are going well.  She loves it and we found out that the new best friend Essie made at camp has a mother who teaches piano and has openings for the fall.  So, when Des goes back to school Rach will start taking “real” lessons (as in cost an exorbitant amount of money for a half hour lesson.)  Oh and Rach has now indicated that she wants to be called Ray.  Si in the future when I say Ray I mean our eldest.  If only I could remember to call her that.

So now, as we recover from all the busy-ness, I am spending lots of time reading (mostly James’ graduation presents that I have yet to give him because I intend to read them all first since we share books anyway.)  I want to review all of them, so far they are awesome.  In the meantime the kids and I are compiling a list of homeschooler/unschooler friendly books over at the Facebook Christian Unschooler page.  Eventually we will put on the CU site but this is good for now.

I have had tons of posts floating around my head but no time to write and even now my brain has lost all the posts in just trying to get a little bit organized.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.  We are getting to that place where we are looking forward to school starting so we can go to all the cool places we like and not deal with crowds.

I am also working on my big art project that we want to publish in the fall.  Most of the work is currently in my head, because that is how I work.

We are also purging the house of stuff everyone has outgrown.  I have a HUGE bushel of shoes for the thrift shop–the kids grew out of all the shoes I got them last month.  Sigh.  I have a brand new, worn once, pair of size 1.5 black boys high top shoes that I really hope bless some kid because my boy suddenly wears a 2.5/3.

The kids and I are also preparing for a trip east and then south to visit friends in Eastern PA and then Virginia.  If you live in Eastern PA or Virginia and want a visit let me know and we can see if we can hook up.

A Bend in the Road

We are entering a new stage in our life.  Up until now we have very deliberately avoided multiple external engagements.  Since we are home all the time we try to live loosely, avoiding things that insist on our time.  However, we have now, to borrow from Anne, come to a bend in the road that we can’t quite see around but since God is involved and giving us peace we know that this is a good bend and at the very least will be interesting.
Carnegie Science Center
Recently we have made several observations.  One major one involves Esther who, it has suddenly occurred to us, loves the stage.  And when I say loves the stage I mean she adores all of the performing arts and especially being in front of a crowd.  The thing about that is that she didn’t know there was anything special about the fact that when at VBS and everyone is embarrassed at having to do very silly movements and sing an even sillier song in front everyone she happily puts her whole heart it into it, belting out the words and doing the actions perfectly.  And there are many other similar moments that we finally put together before we asked her if studying the performing arts or trying out for a play would be something she would be interested in.  She was surprised that there was even something like that out there available to her.  But she also hates being busy and likes to spend lots of time reading and with her siblings so we decided to have her attend a one week, morning only camp where they will be writing a story and lyrics for a musical, and learning basic dancing, acting, and singing to see whether she would really like to continue and if she has the talent to do it.  This will mean waking early each morning for our sleep in till noon child and me spending my mornings taking her to and from the lessons.
Carnegie Science Center
Another revelation and potential change is that our 12 year old has been watching what God is doing in her life, exploring the desires He has given her, and decided to try out some and see what she finds out.  First off is piano.  She passionately wants to learn piano and has taught herself some of the basics, enough that she feels she needs someone who knows better than I to encourage her forward.  And so she has asked the daughter of a friend of mine who plays beautifully to help her learn.  And we have decided that if she proves that she will follow through  and if God provides the money then she can take lessons in the fall when our friend goes back to college.
Next is that she wants a job (babysitting), or two (delivering newspapers).  Now it is pretty tricky for a 12 year old girl to find a job but she has two leads as of this morning.  A friend of mine (another daughter of the same friend) delivers newspapers–lots of them, and knows the manager so said she would ask about local to us routes.  She also has two boys Esther and Issac’s age and offered right off to have Rachel stay with them while she is out delivering papers.  Of course this means more driving on my part (I like driving but not constantly and I have taken on more work projects and would prefer to be home working by my hubby.)
A friend, who has kids who have always gone and gone and gone gave me some pointers, especially since both activities are in the same general location which means I can take some of her suggestions for things to do while I wait, and I always have a book and not enough time to read it, so that is something else.  But it is interesting to watch them grow and change and finally solidify some of their desires, or at least find ways to test them to see if that is really what they want.

Rhythm to our days

Our family does not live by a schedule in any way shape or form.  None of us like them– our whole family gets horribly stressed with a schedule.  I know there are people out there who NEED a list or schedule, who thrive if they know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, next week. We are not those people. Knowing I have to do something at a specific time next week stresses me out for the whole time preceding that activity and I find it impossible to focus on the other things I need to get done in that time.

However, we do seek patterns, rhythms that help us discern what comes next depending on the season we are in.  The times change as does the order but there is a general idea in everyone’s head as to what is likely to happen on any given day.

A lot of our rhythm focuses on my husband and where he is in his odd 26 hour day wake/sleep cycle.  When he is sleeping from 4am to 12pm our rhythm as a family is different than when he is sleeping from 4pm to 12am.  It also focuses on how many hours he is working.  When he is working 40 hr weeks (almost never) our family rhythm is different than when he is working 60 or 80 hr weeks (as he has been for the last 12 months.)
There are also certain elements that are always included in our family rhythm while others are seasonal.  Always included of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack.  Always included is a daily reading of the Bible as a family.  Those are givens though sometimes breakfast is the big meal while in other seasons snack is and in some seasons we read just 1 chapter of the Bible quickly with little discussion and others we read many and discuss every few seconds of reading.  Of course one other given is sleep.  We all need a lot of sleep (with the RA I need about 10 hrs) so sleep is always a given.  On a weekly basis our rhythm nearly always includes a trip to the library, a trip to my grandmother’s (1/2 hr drive away and takes most of the afternoon evening), a trip to the thrift shop (or three), an hour of everyone cleaning up the house so that we can all move without stumbling on things left behind, and a trip to the grocery store.

Right now we are in a season and look to be shifting to a new one because of changes in weather and hubby’s sleep and changes in which days he has “off” (from his programming job so he can work on his writing which is his other job–he only takes 1 day off completely a week– Saturday which he jealously guards).  It is also changing because I am working about 20+ hours a week on various projects.
For the past week our rhythm has included me making all meals (because of re-instituting the Candida diet), driving to the pond to swim twice a day (because the afternoons are way too hot and one hour swimming in the morning and one in the evening have been working well for the kids), a quiet time in the afternoon so I can work and run errands because the kids are worn out after all that swimming, and  an evening reading of the Bible before we head back to the pond.

Right now we are in a state of flux.  Hubby’s sleep has shifted again, I have work to get done, the weather has cooled a bit so that an afternoon swim is probably the best choice, we would like to fit a trip to one of the Pittsburgh museums in on a weekly or at least biweekly basis, Rachel is going to be working on piano with a friends daughter, and Essie wants to go to a performing arts camp next week (I am praying they have an opening–have to call today and find out), and the kids are settling into the Candida diet and getting comfortable so I don’t have to fix their every meal.  It will be interesting to find the next pattern, to see the next rhythm.
Already the kids are staying up later and sleeping in longer so they have more time with Daddy while he is awake but I happen to know there is a game on his computer that ONLY works on his computer that we are all aching to play and that some of the time he is asleep is going to be spent playing it.  Already they are asking less to go to the pond for a swim and instead are spending lots and lots of time drawing or playing with Legos (Issac is trying to design a robot that utilizes water in its design– inspired by Falling Waters and a water works plant that has a huge built in waterfall on the side on the way to the Science Center.)  The girls are spending a lot of time playing with friends on Build-a-bear and Skype and reading.

And so we will see where it leads and what God has planned for us next.  Regardless, it won’t be boring which is great because I hate too much repetition and adore change and the good Lord knew that when He gave me this wonderful, ever changing family.

Its a post!

Look at me, sitting here, writing a blog post! YAH ME!

No, I have not been in the mood to actually share anything for some time. Instead we have been busy doing and being, and living.  So what have we been doing?

Mr. Shamus Awesomepants

*Working.  A lot. Shamus is working 60 to 80 hr weeks trying to keep afloat.  I am taking on (and getting) more painting commissions.  The kids have been helping by attempting to keep the house in some semblance of order.  We are trying to catch up on all the bills that didn’t get paid when we waited an extra 2 quarters for a rather large quarterly check that didn’t come.  We may still lose our house as fall out from that time but we are working hard trying to deal with the situation.

Part of this means that I have a rather large project coming up very quickly that I am VERY excited about but am not sure if I can really talk about yet.  I am very excited about it and if it all works out then in the end I will have my art work on a published card game. In fact, if it does work out then I am going to be sending you all that direction to try to get you to buy said card game because I will be getting a cut of the proceeds and it will REALLY help both our family, and the family I am working with, out.  And the game really looks fun and I get to do all the artwork for it, which is big, but very exciting.  (We just finally worked out the details, I think, and I should be able to start the work on it soon.)  And in this I ask for prayer since it means I will be working off and on on it through the summer (hoping to publish in the fall) and I am really praying that my RA keeps out of the way so I can focus on painting.  I also have lots of little projects trickling in here and there that are helping us out and which are rather fun to do.  In other words, God is providing.  It is a lot of work (the lottery would be SO MUCH EASIER) but we are getting to do what we love.

*Healing.  A lot. Between heartache and physical ache it has been a rough year so far.  We have slowly been healing.  God has been working on our hearts.  For me personally there have been many things that he has had to do heart surgery on.

One of the things He used was  John and Stasi Eldredge’s new book Love and War, which I REALLY need to do a review on (got a preview copy).  First let me say it is awesome!!!!!  There is something for you regardless of where you are in your marriage and just because one part doesn’t apply other parts will.  Also it helped me deal with some other, non-marriage related stuff that I needed to deal with (as have 3 absolutely wonderful friends who have been praying through with me.)

Alameda Park 2010
Rachel up a tree

Also, the girls have been dealing with some heart issues, and today they joined me in beginning Stasi Eldredge’s study guide of Captivating.  I need to get back a hold of the original book but for now the study guide is working out just right to discuss with a 10 and a 12 year old girl.  We are dealing with all the stuff that comes with being that age and all the changes and it was really good for Rach to realize she is NOT alone in this.

And on to the physical healing.  My RA has been bad this year, as has Rachel’s, plus she has had several SJS episodes (one of which triggered the death of a brand new molar– tomorrow we get to go get a root canal at a specialist.  — Please be praying that Rach will do well, that they will not need antibiotics, that it will go smoothly, and that our insurance will cover it.)

Alameda Park 2010
Rachel wading in the creek

Finally Rach  and I sat down and talked about what was triggering us having such a bad year and realized that we had totally fallen off the wagon regarding our eating, especially Rachel.  In the past we have found that going on the candida diet significantly reduces flare ups and Rach’s reactions.  And so she and I decided we needed to go back on the diet, and then the other two decided to join us, to varying degrees.  The down side of that is that it is tricky and expensive but if it helps our health then it is well worth it.  Already I have noticed a huge difference in Rachel’s attitude, mood swings, etc.

* Learning.  A lot.  There has been so much learning going on that I am finding it hard to keep track of it all.  Because the kids are autodidactic I often don’t even realize what all they have absorbed.  And lately it has been a nearly constant surprise.  We will be discussing something, anything, and they will say something about the topic that totally knocks me off my feet.  This happens regardless of topic.  One minute it is mathematical (out of the blue Issac informs me that 3 threes make 9 therefore 4 threes  make 12 and so on), historical (Esther randomly asks me what Thomas Jefferson did AFTER he wrote the Declaration of Independence then decides to go ask her sister because she probably knows), spelling (all three are suddenly writing, a lot, and spelling a lot of words corerctly that I didn’t realize they knew), reading (all three signed up for the library reading program and are reading the maximum # of books –not just for the prize but because they want to), etc.

Alameda Park 2010
"Cool!!! A dead crayfish!"

This morning Issac was watching me cook egg and was giggling and singing about how he loved science and how awesome it was that God gave us science to explore (this was brought on by seeing the hot air rise and make the egg bubble up).  All three LOVE Mythbusters but after watching so many time have started to point out all the things that they didn’t do and other ways they could have tested each myth.  We also continue to read the Bible daily (are finishing Job tonight and all three are actively discussing what is going on and are really interested in listening.)

Alameda Park 2010
"Look at this awesome dragonfly! It looks like it is changing colors!"
Alameda Park 2010
And this is the awesome dragonfly--Esther took this photo standing in the water holding my camera! GAH.

*Going.  A lot. This is the first summer in a long time that we a had a reliable vehicle.  This means we have been spending a lot of it leaving the house– to go swimming at the pond, to the park to wade in the creek, VBS, to visit Grandma, and hopefully soon to several other locations I have been wanting to them to get to see.  Hopefully we will take a day trip to the American side of Niagara Falls.  We also hope to go to several local national parks, orienteering, and finally to visit friends that the kids talk to online but seldom see in real life.  Add in my baby brother’s high school graduation, graduation party, other family parties, and boy are we busy for us.

VBS @ Whitestown Rd. Baptist Church 2010
Esther attempting to fly while Rach plays four square @ VBS.

*Growing.  A lot.  No kidding.  Rachel at 12 is now bigger than I am.  Esther at 10 is bigger than I was at 13.  Issac is nearly as big as Esther.  Gah.

Alameda Park 2010
Pretending to climb the tree and Rachel, or something.

*Playing.  A lot.  Board games, puzzles, books, games, swimming, wading, video games, pretend, you name it.  Currently the big project is the kids are planning a play with friends we hope to visit in August.  Oh, and now the kids suddenly discovered  the fun of a “photo shoot”.  When they got bored at the park I asked them to pose however they liked for a few photos (hoping to get a good one to use for a Christmas card this year).  It went on for over an hour as they ran from cool old structure to interesting rock, posing in all sorts of silly ways.  It was awesome.  Now they want to go places just to take funny photos.

Alameda Park 2010
Alameda Park 2010
Love my kids!

Life as We Know It

Yes, we still unschool.  Yes, it is still working.  Yes, we still both work from home though it has shifted even more from me working to Shamus working while I hang with the kids and keep the household running smooth so he can focus and be productive.  Yes, I still love our life and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Ice Skating

Shamus is working, a lot.  Things are financially stressful but that is another post (and one I have been pondering for a while but which may or may not actually get shared.  All I can say right now is that God is amazing and much more reliable than any paycheck.)  On that point I want to mention mint.com– if you are having a hard time seeing the big picture of your finances, suck at budgeting, or just like seeing everything in one place then it is well worth a look.  It is working great for this financially challenged family and being free helps.  We had recently discussed the possibility of me taking on  a part time job to fill in the current gaps, but various factors nipped that in the bud.  Mostly the fact that me being here facilitating the children’s learning is key (they would learn anyway but Shamus cannot field their constant questions AND write 3 comics a week, 3 articles a week, and do 30 hrs a week programming not to mention keep up on his blog and several side projects.)

Ice Skating

The kids are happily occupied talking to fellow unschooling friends on Skype and text chat, interacting on FamilyRUN, playing Build-a-Bear (their favorite game to play?  School–“except we know most of the answers already, but we get to learn new things too”.)  They are also occupied playing  Plants vs. Zombies, a lot.  Talk about an educational game that  you don’t realize is educational.  Essentially you could think of it as a fun way to learn financial planning and organizing your resources— of course you could say the same thing about Star Craft and other strategy games. At the pondDue to the snow, snow, and more snow they have been avoiding going outside (especially now that there is no ice to skate on).  The kids are also very involved in a new Lego Quest weekly challenge run  by a friend on Twitter.  Lego Quest carRachel is thrilled to have made friends who can talk when she can, Essie is reading her way through multiple series of books (having read all the Gregor the Underlander books in a week and moving on to several other series I can’t remember) , Issac is building all sorts of things and intent on beating Mario Galaxy on his own.  We are spending a lot of time listening to audio books together, playing games together, talking together.

At the pond
Picnic at the pond

Me?  Aside from all the cleaning and rearranging going on (lots of re-purposing and getting rid of which I find a quick way to beat the urge to go buy something new. )  Now that the website issues have been dealt with I have been free to work on painting (trying acrylics still.  It is interesting but maybe I am getting somewhere?)  I am doing less reading and spending time on the computer  (due to eyesight issues) and more listening to audio books which means I am being more productive– I feel like I need to be doing something if I am listening to audio books.  And since the cd player is in the kitchen and we are being VERY frugal in our meals I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning, rearranging, and baking.  Yesterday it was no-bake cookies (naturally sweetened, carob, peanut butter, coconut, and oatmeal), homemade granola bars (naturally sweetened with oatmeal, cranberries, peanut butter, cocoa nibs, coconut, flax seed), and lots and lots of bread dough.  The day before I chopped all the raw veggies in the house, making a nice salad mix and freezing the rest.  Oh, and I finished a painting–a commission by my sister-in-law for her employers. Watercolor

Unschooling Life: a trip to the science center

As part of Rachel’s birthday celebration this year we took a trip to the science center, braving the crowds for free day (which, praise the Lord, fell the day after Rachel’s b-day and had a lot to do with it being MLK day.) The kids adore the science center and have ever since a few years back when we managed to scrape together enough for a membership. Since that isn’t happening again anytime soon we took advantage of the free day despite the crowds. It was interesting to see how they responded to it after multiple years of unschooling (compared to when we had the membership and had more of an eclectic learning lifestyle which included an hour of sit-down work a day.)

Instead of going for all the big flashy exhibits that all the other kids wanted to do they went for things that really interested them, most of which had no lines, and no kids or just a few. There were things that they wanted to spend much more time on and couldn’t because of the other kids but those things they were willing to wait patiently for and then used them to the fullest while they had their turn. They have also decided that they really want to save up to get a membership again (especially since a membership means being able to go to the art museum as well–though parking is NOT free even with membership. Grrrr.)

Issac focused on the things he was interested in– most of them included building but really anything that caught his eye (most of which were things that nobody else was interested in– like the exhibit showing the inside of feet and various types of arches, the joint exhibit, how blood pumps, and what’s inside a baseball bat.) Issac has also retained his love of trains. While the girls looked at the robot exhibit (their favorite) he and I went through the train exhibit. He has a knack for seeing things and noticed many details that I missed.

Esther loves anything with animals, computers, reading, or fans. She loves doing the weather report (complete with teleprompter and hurricanes), spent as much time as she could in the wind tunnel, and read every computer screen she could get close to. She was the only kid willing to pet the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (it helped that she has been reading the Gregor series). She waited an hour in line at the sports works while her siblings and I wandered around just to spend 3 minutes jumping on the circus style trampoline and she was thrilled to death that she had done it (especially when the man in charge of it gave her an extra jump so she could finally do a flip.)

Rachel loved everything, except the fish tanks. She was disappointed that we didn’t get to go on the sub (she loves history and LOVES walking through the sub and asking all sorts of questions but with the crowds it would have been too much.) She also adored doing the stop motion camera movies and lots of the exhibits in the robot room.

All three insisted I get a photo of C3PO.

In general I was amazed at how much they actually took away from the experience, reading each description instead of running from item to item like most of the kids. They were focused and interested and quickly learned how each item worked and why instead of just interacting with each exhibit and moving on.