Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unschool/Homeschool and Why (for us)

I was just looking through unschool stuff on Youtube and Pinterest. I started to listen to one thing and thought, "Naw, I think I'll just kind of do this myself." Some stuff I love, but I think in my need to explain about why I chose to unschool and or homeschool my two youngest children I started to feel like I needed to fit in somewhere. I always say it's kind of a hippi-ish thing to do, but I don't think I need to be a hippie to unschool my kids. It's just how one of them learns best right now.

Last year I thought that I needed to do K12 because that would satisfy everyone else when they asked what I was teaching her. It seemed right to me so I didn't have to defend my point so much, but really it ended up being just like school and in the rush to try and get done before my older kids were out of school, I thought that a lot of retention was being lost or she really wasn't learning anything! And I felt like she was right back in public school, because we were going by their timeline with their curriculum. It just wasn't working.

At the end of the school year last year, well after we dropped out of K12, I talked to my daughter about homeschooling (that's what we call it, even though it's more of unschooling in nature) and how we have done things, but also letting her know that eventually we are going to have to go through the unpleasant stuff she doesn't want to listen to and learn about (math is usually the biggie) I told her something like, "People don't understand why and it bothers them and they worry your not going to learn anything" and her reply made me cry, "But we (she and her sister) are learning things". I didn't tell her that, I mostly try to conform to the idea that they aren't learning things, because she is behind in some things her peers are learning, and I am very critical of myself. But She is a good reader and she likes to learn about stuff, but just not be told it or force fed it because then she digs her heels in like no other and it's over. So in my prayerful pursuit of how to homeschool my child, my day to day feeling is not to push it with her. She'll learn things, more things in some areas, if I don't push it.

Now, we will have to be pulling out workbooks and find some creative ideas (so many pinned and bookmarked) for teaching some concepts. She's going on 10 so before this "school year" got started I talked to her at a neutral time, when she wouldn't feel the pressure, and explained that there are some things she just has to learn. She learns a lot on her own, but we would have to be more structured with a few things here and there and I really needed her to work with me and not fight me. I think eventually it's all going to get sorted. I feel in my heart that she is supposed to learn some things she can only learn here at home. Maybe that is just being nice to her sister- so far we are behind on sibling spat solving too, but I think that if I continue to do my best, be prayerful and listen to the Spirit and take the unschooling approach of stepping back and seeing what she learns, it's going to work out.

I hope that other parts of her life that I feel get neglected in a public school schedule will be enriched. The stuff that I felt that "if I only had more time with her we could work on this" when she was in regular school. It was a replay of life with my oldest, Lauren (who's now graduated and college bound next semester if all goes as planned) when she would have panic attacks in 2nd grade when I'd drop off her little brother to Kindergarten. The girl who LOVED school until she moved a few times in a few years, then it became this thing I dreaded to send her to and felt that someone else was telling me what I could and couldn't do with MY child. I HAD to keep her in school because that's what you are supposed to do. But every day it just got worse and worse and I wanted to feel like I had control of my kid and what I thought was best. She struggles with anxiety to this day and it was quite and obstacle even in middle school and high school.
With my younger one, Liberty, I wasn't even sure that we'd make it through first grade, but didn't want her to miss out on some fun things (and I was doing PTO photography stuff) so we stuck it out, even though she was begging me to homeschool by that time. But every day was torture for both she and I from sun up to sun down.

For years with Lib I tried to be tougher on her because I thought I had babied her too much, and I thought she must be the most manipulative toddler in the world (and at times sooo conflicted), but then I realized when she was in Kindergarten and had loving sweet ladies around her and they spoke kindly and were tender to her, that she was in fact very tender herself and I was breaking her heart the way I talked to her. The whole family struggled to be nice to her because everything with her was a battle. She never just did anything without a fight and was always sad and negative. I tried to do positive reinforcement, but it would be days before I could find any behavior to praise her for- I know that sounds horrible, but it was so true at the time, and even when I did find something she didn't remember she was even praised for it because she only saw the negative. (She also had this super sweet side to her and some people just didn't believe she could be so hard, but that's hard to imagine when a cute brown eyed little girl is snuggling in your lap)

As she began to be able to articulate her feelings through being in school and learning to talk about what was bothering her, that's when I started to realize something was up with this girl (I hadn't just spoiled her or ruined her) and forcing her was just not working. I started to see her as a child that had a tender heart and was sad because we were being so tough on her trying to make her grow up and be more responsible, trying to cut the apron strings a bit. It broke my heart to realize that. I remember a few times she talked about Jesus and wanting to be with him and I knew it was because she wanted that comfort she wasn't feeling.

First grade had some great things, good friends and a great teacher, but her teacher noticed that she was a roller coaster emotion kind of girl (her teacher had a roller coaster son so too, thankfully). She would be so happy, but by after lunch she was ready to tune out and she'd get sad or "sick" and want to come home unless their was something fun to look forward to and then she was happy again. Homework was just the worst thing ever. Mid year I talked to the counselor and told her we were doing homework for HOURS because it was such a battle and she recommended to the teacher that we cut back. Libby was understanding stuff, but it was a tearful event for both of us almost daily. I really thought I'd go crazy. Not to mention she didn't sleep. I thought being up early would help her go so sleep at night, something she struggled with forever, but I am a night owl so I probably had just gotten her into bad habits, right? But she could have had the longest day ever but we'd be up until one, me in her bed with her trying to get her to sleep enough that I could slip out of the room without her shooting into panic, and even that was after hours of just laying there. She'd just be awake. Now we've discovered a half a melatonin does wonders and I feel almost like she can have a regular bedtime, except we homeschool so it's not always so regular :) But WAY better!!!!
I got on antidepressants because I struggle with anxiety and depression, but hadn't been on anything for 10 years, just learned some coping things, and I prefer it that way because even if I am on stuff I am not better at the day to day stuff- it doesn't make me a better _____ fill in the blank. But I was really going crazy and it did help for about a year and a few other select times since, but it didn't help Libby get any better (no way am I medicating a girl that is okay unless you push her, at this age) So the answers to my prayers about my daughter, even though it wasn't going to be everyone's favorite answer,  was to keep her home.

I've battled a lot of guilt and tried to "duplicate the classroom" which just doesn't work for homeschool if you ask me, because that's the benefit, or hindrance, it's not a classroom. You can't sit and recite times tables with the class. It doesn't have that same echo effect that made it stick in my 4th grade head. It's not very sing song-y I guess. And really, if you are home, it's no big deal to lay on your bed and read, or be in your pj's.
I have battled trying to be what I think others think I should be for my daughter, and how I think others will think I should handle her, but through many other things in our lives, as well as listening to my feelings about homeschooling Liberty,  I am learning to trust myself to receive answers to prayers and trust in the Lord. And the other week I was pondering why I am supposed to be doing this- what are they going to learn from me? Then I realized if I think of anything I want my kids to learn from me, what I want them to learn the most is to be worthy of and listen to the Holy Ghost, and trust the Lord's timeline. The rest just doesn't even compare, not times tables or what a paragraph is (because I really stink at that one as you can probably tell- because it's all one big long thought in my head) not any of it.

I know it's my job now to teach as much as I can about grammar and spelling etc., but I think we pick that stuff up as we read too. So much in life that we actually know we just learned by doing and experiencing and talking and observing. The things I studied for tests were forgotten after the test was about a week past, maybe a little longer for some stuff. The things I loved or was taught by someone who just relayed information about something they loved, was the stuff that stuck with me. I mean, who is really Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Not at random facts, not if you ask me. But I can tell you random facts that I learned myself! I can explain a lot of things to my kids that I learned in school, but as they are happening around us. And what an age we live in that we can find so much information with a few clicks of the mouse! Just Google it- isn't that what we all do?

So many educational games, Libby loves and some game with lunch lab or something in the name. If I tell her she can be on the computer if it's educational that's a lot of times where she goes, and Poptropica brings up lots of literary and historical characters that we can talk about too. And she loves Netflix for a lot of really great PBS shows too- Wild Krats and Martha Speaks and Word Girl and Arthur. Emrie loves Dinosaur Train and I am trying to get her to watch Super Why more too, but she likes lots of good things too. They also love "Ponies" so that's a battle sometimes, and to watch Avenger cartoons with Tennyson, and recently Power Rangers for Libby because of the discussion around the house of Lauren meeting the Original Black Ranger at Comic Con and Tennyson's influence- they have a great connection, he and Lib. Oh, and Lauren, Tennyson and Ivy are a great example of how fun books can be and I think Libby is starting to believe them.
It started out very loosy goosy, but it's starting to be more structured in that they know certain amount of stuff they choose will be more educational, but educational doesn't have to mean not fun. We are working it out, and we'll bring in the work books soon I think once I am more settled and as I get acclimated to what I want to accomplish, taking into account my own anxieties and way of doing things.

I do a lot better when I am not worried about what everyone else is thinking for sure though, and I am working on that one. It's weird because I really don't care quite a bit about what people think. Like, I know this is where my little girls are supposed to be. Whether or not I want to sit and explain my reasoning and detail our lesson plans is another story- because I don't- it's no one's business, especially if your questions are out of doubt for my choice, rather than being curious but supportive. When I get questions about it I start to doubt because I feel like I am being doubted, which in turn makes me worry that I got my personal revelation wrong, but then I remember I've probably prayed about it way more than the people asking so I tell myself to not worry about it and remember how clear it's been and how many times when I tried to push because I was worried about being productive enough, that the reminder came that I need to calm down and back off. In time it will all be clear.
Really it's what is right for our family situation. And however anyone else does their homeschool/unschool (or any school really) is their family decision too and I will take the stuff I like from what I learn, but I don't have to feel like I have to be any certain way to fit into this role- at least, I hope I don't get that way. It's a daily journey we are taking and we can decide the directions when we get to another street.

I really believe there have been selective people along the way that have helped me, given me direction through their example and opinions and I am so thankful for that and recognize it, but I catch myself thinking sometimes that I need to do other stuff that isn't me, like them. I caught myself tonight, but my path is my own and it's spiritual and private, and I hope that I can figure out a way to explain that to people who ask questions. I don't think anyone means to offend, it's just such a different thing still (although becoming more popular) so I try not to be offended, but sometimes it makes me feel bad and doubt my abilities, but I am deferring to a higher source for help so I will trust that it will all work out over time and we'll figure out even more what works for us. Maybe writing this will be helpful. Maybe I'll just direct traffic here for answers :) But I am thankful for where I am at right now. And I am grateful for my kids and husband being supportive, and for the girls working with me as we attempt teaching Emrie how to read, eventually- this is the first time I have taken on that- I do good with a lot of things, but don't have much confidence in teaching someone to read- mostly because I have to get them to hold still first! But we'll have an adventure I am sure! With Emrie it's always an adventure!

Here's to another year of homeschool!


  1. Jeanne,
    Thanks so much for posting this. I can relate in so many ways. I homeschooled my son for his second grade year. I felt pressure from others that he wasn't getting enough socialization and that it was more "normal" to go to traditional school. He went back to school for his third grade year and he was miserable. He genuinely learns better at home. I'm sure teachers would love to teach each child in the manner that he/she learns best but it's just not practical with huge classes of kids with different learning styles. My daughter loves school so she goes to school. My son loves home school so that's what we do. You reinforced to me that all that matters is what works for us. You are awesome!