Friday, August 22, 2014

Unschooling Update

While our friends who are enrolled in independent study charter schools are diving back into their homeschool studies for the school year, things are not much different than the summer time has been for my family. This year we are filing independently and I am allowing the kids absolute freedom to pursue what interests them.

For G-pie (the 12 year old) this means make-up tutorials on YouTube and a recent blossoming desire to become a YouTube personality. Her favorite is https://www.youtube.com/user/C0OK1EMONSTER. Yesterday we spent the better part of an hour watching snippets she had selected to share her passion with me. Last week I asked her to give me an overview of all the channels she is subscribed to and what she likes about them so we can start planning her channel. She worked for several hours and filled 6 notebook pages and then came and said we'd have to split up the footage she wanted to show you in our next 5 one-on-one's. She had 5 hours of YouTube videos to share with me. I am really excited to share this journey with her. She also wants to learn to play the violin and join a rockclimbing class. She is excited about the first board meeting of the year with our 4-H Club. She is the Recreation Leader.

My 6 year old, J-cakes, has decided she needs to know how to read. So we are starting a fun weekly class with a few of her friends to explore reading in playful and low pressure ways. She is also interested but withholding judgment about the Magic Tree House book club I am running for Learning Barefoot, my homeschool enrichment program. She mostly wants to do make-up with big sister, but I see her most often drifting away after the make-up is applied to play pretend, talking to herself and including her little siblings as players in her highly imaginative dramas.


Processing a little mama guilt over not being able to do any one-on-one's with her in a couple weeks, but at least Sugar Daddy got his in while G-pie and I were seeing The Giver on a double mommy/daughter date. She loves the beach, so we have undertaken a big project- to walk the OC coastline (not all at once). We started in Seal Beach a couple weeks ago- we didn't make it very far.







The older girls have been watching several episodes of Full House daily as well, it makes me nostalgic and surprised at what great parenting those men modeled. They will also be attending yoga and continuing their fabulous Herbal Studies class.



















{Insert deep breath} My 4 year old, C-dough, is into Rabbids Invasion, Spongebob Squarepants, Wallykazaam, Wild Kratts and Octonaughts. He loves cereal and would eat it at every meal if we could keep it in stock. He loves sandplay and dirt and seeing friends. He wants to make playdough or goop or oobleck every day. He has always allowed his bigger sisters to apply make-up (sometimes monster faces) and dress him up and he is starting to act a little silly and embarrassed when he comes to show me. I am curious about this. He is learning to recognize how his emotions make him react physically (especially to his baby sister).

C-Dough knows his alphabet and can count to 20. He loves abcmouse.com and plays daily for 20-60 minutes. I am trying to find more time to sit with him to enjoy his interests and hoping to find a way for him to do what he keeps asking to do- build a robot. And just now he came running in to tell me the new Dora and Friends was on and he was super excited to watch it. He is also getting very good at pretend play, even directing the show with M-cube when she allows it. {I am aware that many believe that the effects of so much media on a child this age is detrimental, I am trusting that the large amount of outside play and sibling interaction he gets throughout the day is balancing that.}


The middles are enjoying the "busy bags" I have been making them for when I am trying to get work done. They both approach them so differently and usually end up working together to make them even more interesting than I imagined.



Lastly, my baby girl, M-cube. She is the picture of a perfect two year old. She is completely adorable and totally "terrible"- often in the same moment. She screams piteously when her baby doll won't sit up the way she wants her to. She laughs gleefully when I do "This Little Piggie" and she always says, "other one, mama". She sings little made up songs all day. She loves to snuggle mama. She is fearless and courageous on the tallest of play structures. She is independent and explores to the furthest boundaries she can when we are out and about. She sleeps erratically and hates to nap. She can count to 10 and has a HUGE vocabulary. She has finally accepted another grown up into her circle, and I am so grateful to me dear friend mrscave08. I am hoping to get more involved in Signing Time with her, she really loves the music and knows a lot of signs.



Then there is me. How am I "unschooling" myself, you ask? Well I will tell you- I am Learning Barefoot, as always. Just keeping on moving in the direction that feels right. An incredible balancing act and something that requires much yoga.

This coming "school year" (while we are choosing to unschool, my kids enjoy the traditions and milestone markers that we weave in, both seasonal observances and cultural happenings). I am feeling like my work is pulling me away from my kids, I am exploring options and letting go of what doesn't work with ease and gratitude. I plan to deepen my practice of yoga and keep working on my other passion - food management, preservation and cooking with my CSA basket from www.abundantharvestorganics.com.


As a family we are learning much about how to compromise and collaborate, it naturally follows respectful communication and honoring each other's desires and feelings; allowing each of our 6 family members the space and support they need to process their growth spurts, as they develop through phases and stages.

We are blessed to have our happy little magical cottage to call home. We are grateful for our community of family style learners. We are ecstatic to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and to be exposed to so many opportunities to explore the world. This is going to be our best homeschool year ever.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Wonder of Rabbit Holes

Being a "homeschool" mom for the past 7 years I thought I understood child-led, or interest based, learning. I delighted in watching the synapses fire as one of my four little darlings discovered something new or figured out how things in their environment worked. We lived in a constant state of wonder and we were curious about everything. And as each child has joined our happy little tribe, we have gotten curiouser and curiouser.

In California to "homeschool" you basically either belong to a (publicly funded) charter school and follow a course of independent study or you become a Private School and design your own educational approach. We have always belonged to a charter school and my kids have done "well" according to certain measures- you know, like standardized tests and approval ratings from family and friends. But I don't want to raise people pleasers or test takers. I want to raise thinking, feeling, connected humans. The way I have been doing it wasn't quite right.

The charter school is sort of like The Matrix in my mind. It is a construct that is pre-programmed and when you enter it you can be traced by any government agent. It is dependent on the belief that the system is working.

Last weekend I realized I was still searching, I knew the answer was out there. I had a scary panic attack, (while trying to "prove" in a concise learning log, what I as their mother was fully confident of) that made me open my eyes a bit wider. Charter schools require a learning log every 20 days, showing new learning in each subject. But I know -without having to provide a worksheet sample - that my 4 kids are all doing great according to each of their own learning styles.

Previously doubting and wary family members have now conceded that my kids are well adjusted, smart and they have peer relationships and know how to find their way in a group. They are also comfortable talking to other adults and they don't rebel against authority because they don't feel their freedom is threatened by it. Because I worked very hard to absorb the stress that our modern system of schooling places on children- basically I became Morpheus and was piloting our Nebuchadnezzar as close to the surface as possible.

The problem was, this was taking it's toll on ME! My focus was constantly on them. My life revolved around their activities and my "free" time was spent gathering resources and information or tracking and recording what they are doing for some elusive "permanent record" that the state says they need. This was not a lifestyle they were eager to imitate and any mom knows kids learn all the most important stuff through imitation- walking, talking, eating, pontificating...

With all the wonderful sources of education available, along with our family's decision to live in a consciously committed community- and constant, frequent advances in the fields of technology, we have found it easier and easier to find ways to learn what we need to know. We have also realized that when you need to know something you learn it fast.

For example my 12 year old didn't read until she was 8. I spent a lot of time reading to her, so she didn't need to. Then she discovered a book series all her friends were reading, and they began to create their play based on these stories. All the kids in our groups used these books as the manual- if there were disagreements they didn't come to us, they went back to the book to solve the discrepancy. She was reading 4 grade levels ahead within 6 months. She resisted memorizing times tables until she got fascinated with working long division problems and needed to multiply frequently.

We don't even know what the world we are preparing them to inhabit will look like. Our kids need to know *how* to learn, our schools teach what they think children should learn.

We have decided that next year we will file independently and unplug from the Matrix. We will "unschool". But first we will "deschool" and then we will ALL continue living, loving, laughing and learning together- without school. We will follow our interests, pursue our passions and be involved in doing- appreciating that when the world is your classroom, learning happens.

Already I have noticed a subtle paradigm shift: I am feeling more relaxed and focused on the tasks in front of me. I quit Facebook (how I stayed connected to the "homeschool scene") because I want to model slow living. I can trust that my kids are invested in what interests them (that's what kids do!)- and they are motivated to learn far more (and more quickly) than any lesson plan could ever account for.

We will continue to explore the deliciousness of this lifestyle, which many attribute to the "father of the modern homeschooling movement", John Holt. Not even a parent himself, he could clearly see that compulsory schooling wasn't working and as a superintendent of schools he was able to observe How Children Learn, How Children Fail and what to do Instead of Education (the titles of three of his books).

If you wonder why you see more and more small people out and about, doing awesome and amazing things, and you think you might be interested in taking charge of your children's education I encourage you to read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. But be prepared, it is like choosing the red pill.

"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

For me and mine, I am happy that we have decided to go deeper into the rabbit hole. We look forward to all the characters that we will meet on our journey... all the merry unbirthdays, all the Mad Hatter tea parties, and to following the white rabbit, wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The voyage continues... Captain's log, Stardate 2013.10.23

The middle schooler has decided that school is sort of a waste of time. There are things she has learned from being there though. She likes the consistency of friendships and the continuity of following a suggested course of study. She likes deadlines and designated time for things. She likes pleasing others by achieving things.

She would like more time to pursue independent interests or work with small groups on projects they found exciting. She would like the freedom to go play when the work was done instead of feeling like they are being given "busy work" to fill the time remaining in a class period.

We like that she is motivated and excited to learn again, that she is discovering new ideas and being a part of a larger group that shares an exciting purpose. We like that the atmosphere is safe, small and community driven. I like the routine and rhythm it brings to our family.

Not to say we are for sure done with IVA. G-pie wants to finish the trimester for sure. We are going to take some time tomorrow to go over her body of work, the pros & cons and spend a little time in meditation "feeling" for the best answer. Then this weekend Sugar Daddy and I will talk about it.

What she really, really wants is a hybrid. 4 days a week (10-2 is what she proposed- then I suggested maybe only 3 days with a 4th dedicated to field trips/ nature hikes and community service type action). With enough kids that they still get to switch classes, play PE games and have a student government. She also wants "real teachers" (she said it's fine if they are moms, just not *me* teaching everything). And when it comes to "teaching" we both liked that the teachers at IVA are more like "thought & discussion guides", we believe without the "public charter" aspect they could be that way even more.

So I am looking into it. I am looking for a location. Again. Still. I guess I always sort of am. :)

[Star maps reveal no indication of habitable planets nearby. Origin and purpose of the cube still unknown.]

My personal goal is to find a place where we can occupy 4 rooms with school age kids, have a preschool/ nursery for little sibs and an office or resource room where homeschool moms can come prepare & plan- print stuff, have meetings to discuss collaborative learning opportunities, share materials and motivation; and it would ideal to also have a large meeting room to have community focused seasonal celebrations, special speakers to support us all and focus on family style fun!

If you know of such a place or want your child to attend it, let me know. We aim for starting in January. Ideally we would have 6-8 kids in the Kinder- 2nd group and 10-12 children in the 3rd-5th group and 24-30 in the 6-8th group. 40-50 kids total (plus of course the little sibs). We would need moms to volunteer to be a thought & discussion guide (helping the kids identify common goals, work through communication glitches and set their plans to accomplish projects together) and other moms to head up administrative, fundraising and membership details.

This would not be a child led, nor a parent led program but a community driven, "tribal" or "village" learning experience- democratic, but with accountability and a participation requirement element would have to be discussed (interestingly this is something that is very important to G-pie- she said when everyone is free to decide if they feel like doing something on any given day the chances of the group getting anything done is slim; but if those who are interested are committed to being involved in the group's plan and influencing the project with their own ideas they will appreciate the expectation of attendance).

Now for the real question- cost and how to pay for it. Finances (fundraising?) would be for the location, materials and any experts we want to hire.

Sometimes I feel like my thoughts on education for my kids are more like notes in a captains log- we are star trekking across the universe, always going forward 'cause we can't find reverse, and we often find ourselves saying "beam me up" and "danger will robinson" and more than once I have felt like Gwen Demarco- "I have one job on this lousy ship [and sometimes it feels like] it is stupid, but I am gonna do it!"




Friday, August 16, 2013

The Universe is Perfect and things always work out for me...

My life is charmed. I am surrounded by wonderful magic and magical wonders!
And... it appears that I can manifest an even better life. That there is indeed a great power in my words and that I have the ability to overcome fear- which just leads to anger... which leads to hate... and then on to suffering...



Words. Great power have they. 
People* have said that "a way with words", have I.

More and more I am discovering what that means. Today I manifested the best, easiest outcome to a problem that I could imagine. I did not waste any time envisioning "the" solution I wanted. I merely accepted that it would be stress-free, pain-free and easy. Then on about my merry day I went, leaving my amazing children with my lovely mother in law- knowing all would be well.

The other day, all did not feel well.


That day I merely observed. I had no words a lot of the time. I tried not to use the ones that came immediately to mind- I allowed them to pass without judgment. It was "one of those days" that I used to call "hard" or "rough". It was fairly smooth, actually. I felt anger. I felt frustration. I breathed through it. I did yoga when I could (in a park in front of lots of people- badass rockstar mama don't care!). I felt pain. I felt fear. I chose to get on a swing with my littlest and chat about how spiderman got his superpowers with my little man. I observed my frustration and pain with fascination as it did not affect the way I interacted with anyone around me.

My words had such an impact on both blissful days- the words I chose, to create my reality, as well as the ones I allowed to pass silently through the processes of my mind- choosing to turn my attention to those who I love, while gracefully passing through moments of contrast.

Magical Spells
(aka power-filled phrases) that are supporting my peace-centered approach to life

Recently I have decided to release some things from my thought circles. After reading this delightful blog post I have been using the following phrase silently when I feel the need. "“I bless you. I release you. I set you free. I allow you to be you and me to be me.” http://bemorewithless.com/7-ways-to-simplify-your-life/

Another phrase, "That's not going to work for me." (and stop talking) from Take Time for Your Life: A Personal Coach's 7-Step Program for Creating the Life You Want is helping me reinforce my boundaries.

And "That's a great idea- would you put that together?" from my dear friend, Katherine. This one is great for the people pleaser in me.

It is refreshing and uplifting to be embracing an honestly simple life. I invite you to share anything that you are moved to- because I love to know that I have connected to others in the use of my magic.

*especially my mom! It is so nice to have one that believes in my superpower- "Hi Mom!"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fresh living

Thursday I picked up baby rainbow chard, collards, butter lettuce and the best avocados ever- grown with love by my friend in her Little Beach Homestead. Saturday my family and I lovingly prepared rosemary skewers and I delivered them to the Garden Angels Cooperative, where a team of volunteers sorted out the produce 9 others had brought and we came back a few hours later to a bag with a couple grapefruit, a tangerine, a baggie of sage, some muffins (notice the empty bag), a bunch of kale, lots of green onions (ideas on what to do with those, anyone- I use them in scrambled eggs and on rice and that's about the extent of my experience...) and a generous bag of kumquats. I don't even know how to eat those.

For the past week we have had bone broth in the crock-pot constantly going - I added a sprig of rosemary to one batch. Yum.
Now I have 9 jars, 3 trays of frozen cubes- plus I made

  • egg drop soup one morning, 
  • sauteed chard & avocado in bone broth another, 
  • tortilla soup for lunch one day, 
  • just a mug of broth with apple/avocado/almond salad, 
  • and then... classic vegetable soup last night (so easy- few handfuls out of the huge bag of frozen, organic mixed veggies from Costco, a jar of tomato sauce, 2 cloves garlic and a can of potatoes that someone gave me for some reason- just 'cause I wanted to use it up; threw it all in the last of the strained bone broth and let it simmer in the crockpot for an hour, sooooo good!) 
And all this from the bones of the 2 Rotisserie Chickens we served at May's 1st birthday last week (oh and of course, some Apple Cider Vinegar, carrots, celery and onion).

My middles are excited and involved and practicing cutting and G is learning about proper food storage and safety as Shawn and I discuss it, she has chimed in with questions and gone and looked stuff up, even!!

We also made 4 batches of orange oil cleaner from the peels the kids have carefully saved each time they eat a cutie- and that is frequent. And we have been saving other scraps for the worm bin and compost pile.

It feels so good to be connected to the foods we eat, to be using as much as possible from each source to be sharing with others, and supporting small local growers.

However- lest you think I am some sort of paleo, hippie, homeschool mama- I will quickly end this post as I share that my husband is pulling in the driveway with Carl's Jr...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bringing it back home...

The most incredible and exciting thing has happened. We will be moving the HOMEschool enrichment center into our own backyard. Literally. Through the generous support of an anonymous donor we will be able to build out the classroom and put in a front fence for the play area and make the modifications necessary to welcome our families into the next stage of Learning Barefoot.                                                                                   

My most strongly held reason for wanting to homeschool came from reading "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto. Institutional schooling is not something I believe in. It is my opinion that children learn best by modeling the behavior they see. This is totally being underscored as I watch my 2 littles observe and absorb everything their two older sibs (and we parents) do.

After watching The War On Kids and Waiting For Superman (both available to watch instantly on Netflix), it helped me define what I do stand for. What Learning Barefoot was created for. While I am not in favor of compulsory institutional education, I strongly support a consciously committed community educational environment- a place where kids can feel like they "belong". Don't we all want to be a part of something larger than our immediate family? A place where our traditions and cultural ideals are shared- or at the very minimum, fully accepted.

com·mu·ni·ty  
/kəˈmyo͞onitē/
  1. A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: "a community of nuns".
  2. All the people living in a particular area or place: "local communities".

Community is still largely defined as being a geographic term, although in many societies, and with the increasingly easy ability to come together from within larger areas, some have started to segregate themselves into "like-minded" groups. As an eclectic homeschooler, I share opinions with many of them- even the ones who strongly oppose each other.

It seems that without a unifying purpose (not merely a belief system), the "ties that bind" are rarely tight enough to keep a tribe together and when someone acts out of alignment with the group, they aren't exactly ex-communicated (usually) but they are less frequently included or invited to shared events. The whole inclusive/ exclusive battle has lots of grey areas depending on how connected you are. 

One mama told me "there aren't any cliques, we are just closer friends" -it felt okay to communicate/ vent/ manipulate the group from within that inner circle to "protect their kids from outer influences". Fine for them, perhaps a little harder for the families who have kids that have connected to the kids of those mamas, who don't care about minor differences in parenting style as long as all parties are willing to love through any conflicts.

Learning Barefoot is a place that supports ALL family style learning and education methods. Our primary purpose is to provide a safe, welcoming, resource filled environment where adults and kids are actively engaged in interesting pursuits- alleviating the need for the constant discussion of "how" and providing a planned "what". As facilitators we do things alongside the kids, with their interests, ideas and insight always encouraged. If they aren't feeling like being in the "group", there is a quiet reading/ writing/ meditation corner where they are welcome to wander if they feel the need.

We do not require participation- our program is designed to facilitate friendships and connection. We recognize that sometimes when kids share an exciting discovery they will want to find out what else they might also share an interest in- so if in the middle of science two kids start talking about comic books, it's OK with us. However for the sake of the other kids who may still want to continue exploring the scientific principles being displayed, we will invite them to move to another area (or if possible include everyone in the new "rabbit trail" and skillfully bring it back around to at least a bit of closure on the original topic - modeling a very valuable leadership skill- keeping a meeting on task). 

We are now able to be sure that our program will be in a place where we can truly embrace our family's style of learning. And from what the kids currently in our program tell us, they would really like some of the "trappings" of "school"- just because they are curious and it sounds cool. We are not trying to recreate a "school at home" experience, merely listen to the things kids really want- like lockers, lunch tables and lots of games to play.

The community we hope to build will be a mix of cultures, traditions, methods and means- just like any good melting pot. We will ask only that families respect each other, communicate quickly and openly and accept that there will be times when we all act out of alignment. 

Grace. Joy. Chance. May. 

Our kids names and the foundation our "philosophy"...
Everyone needs grace
All are entitled to seek joy
We encourage taking a chance
All may do what they like to do (as long as it doesn't interfere or distract others from doing their thing- and should it, our first question will always be "Can I help sort this out?").


Shawn and I love creating, gardening and musical movement- his artistic abilities and passion for science combined with my love of language and fascination with social studies, weave together into a tapestry that is colorful, eclectic and a bit eccentric!

We invite you to experience Learning Barefoot. April 1st. No fooling.

A brand new (much bigger) meeting room. A back yard for science, herbal studies, composting and gardening and a front yard for playing, running, jumping- a nice long concrete area for trikes, chalk, hopscotch. A mini "stage" for performing al fresco and lots and lots of love.

We will be able to add back into our schedule:
  • Toddler "Paint, Paste & Pour"
  • Baby & Toddler Signing Classes 
  • Family Style Backyard Science






Three additional facilitators will bring 
  • Music
  • Lego Engineering 
  • a foreign language (French or Spanish- maybe both!)
Our two beloved new friends will continue with us
  • Julie's Herbal Studies will now be held in a more conducive environment 
  • Jenn's Holistic Kids Classes include Nutrition, Laughing Yoga, Self Expression - Writing or Arts & Crafts

And of course we will continue offering our core programs- 
  • Science
  • Drawing
  • Video Production
  • Readers Theater
  • Magic Treehouse Bookclub
  • and our cornerstone Enrichment Program (which includes Science & Geography) 
Last but certainly not least we will happily keep our Social Activities running...

  • Glee Group
  • Lapbooking Lounge
  • Passion for Fasion
  • Newspaper Staff
  



Finally our members will be happy to hear that their membership now includes even more and we will be sharing those changes at our parent meetings in Mid March.




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