Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why It's Critical You Trust Your Children

Check out this great website on ways to improve your connection to your children and for them to improve their connection to themselves. 

Why It's Critical You Trust Your Children
"Giving them freedom to make their own decisions is what's allowed them to remain connected to their inner guidance, instead of them shifting their focus outward, to what others tell them. 

The only person who will always be with them, whom they can always count on is themselves. 

Therefore, I've seen it as my job as a parent to nurture and strengthen THAT relationship above any other.

Trusting my daughters to make their own decisions while they still lived with me allowed them to develop their experience while I still had influence on them, and could still give them my opinion and feedback."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Growing Up

Within the last two months, we’ve had big changes in our home.   My oldest turned 18 and not only got his first official job but will also start college in the fall, and my baby turned 16 and is now the proud owner of an Illinois driver’s license.  All of these big changes have created a need in me to reflect on my role in my family’s life.

My background before kids was as a 5th grade elementary teacher.  I taught a class that was slightly over 80% low income and in need of English as a Second Language services.  I absolutely loved my job.  I worked with innovative teachers and principals who genuinely cared about the success of our students.  As a young teacher at the time, I learned from my students.  I observed what was and wasn’t working for them in the classroom and knew early on that when I finally had children of my own, I would provide some sort of alternative education.  I just never imaged it would be as alternative or good as it turned out.

By the time my oldest was two years old, we had moved 700 miles away from my hometown and family.   While this was definitely a difficult time for me, it was also a time for me to become dependent on my own beliefs as a parent.   I was already tandem/extended nursing both kids and we shared a family bed which seemed so out there at the time.  I began to think about my son going away to school in only a few short years.  I wasn’t ready for that.  I liked having him home with me.   I loved watching him explore his surroundings.   It was in those early years that I learned the most valuable lesson I have learned to date and it has guided me through most of my parenting/life experiences – follow your heart.   Sometimes I have let myself slide into what others felt was right, but my heart always protested until I finally listened.    My heart lead me to make decisions that were different from other families, but so very right for ours.  

I keep getting this overwhelming feeling of joy when I think about our journey together.   While I have worked part-time as an adult ESL teacher since my daughter was three, my kids have always either been with  my husband or me.   We have both been so fortunate to be a part of their lives.  I think about all the mornings we woke up and chose to stay in our pajamas all day, the days we got up and decided to explore the backyard, go swimming, make blanket tents, cook together, or snuggle up and reread favorite books.   I got to participate in all of that!

I am going to admit that being a mom to a teenage girl has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  It has challenged me to find new ways to remain calm, to set limits, to let go of limits, and to remember that I helped create a strong minded person and with that comes struggles.  The truth is some days I feel like I have failed as a mother .  I find that listening to my heart is a struggle because it often differs with what my daughters mind/heart is telling her.  Then out of the blue, my daughter comes home and asks me to hug her.   She occasionally wakes me up at night because she needs to talk.  We’ve had long talks sitting in Starbucks parking lot.  It’s with these situations that I quickly forget my insecurities of being a failure as a mom to a teenager and know I have done my job well.   She recently gave me a huge complement.   Her friends told her she has the best mom because I am not strict, but I am always there for her.  It’s true. I don’t believe in setting tons of rules.   I expect respect which might include texting me if coming home later than planned, but overall, I always go back to my original philosophy when I started unschooling, “Trust them.  They have triggers within themselves that will always do what is best for who they are.”   I always told my kids as they were growing up, “You know your body best.”   They do.  When a person learns to believe in what their own body is telling them, they learn to listen to their own needs.   It may seem like their choices are a mistake, but it may also be the exact learning experience they need to have.  My job is not to tell them what is right or wrong for their individual self, but to guide them to listen to their own voice and be a sounding board for them as they figure out what that voice is telling them. 

 We have spent our lifetime together following a path that was right for our family.  It went against what most mainstream and even at times unschooling families were doing, but it always felt right to us.  The last few years I have watched my two children transition from unschoolers to school kids.   There were a few small bumps in the road, but overall, they have found where they belong.   They have both always been good at listening to their individual hearts and know their own bodies well, my greatest gift to them.

I think the reason I have been reflecting on my role as a mom is because I know the life we have known is changing and while it is exciting, it is also new and I’m figuring out my place in this new relationship.   I see less and less of both kids.  They still both need me, but when and how varies from day to day.    I am in the process of figuring out my new role as mom and as I always have done, want to excel at it.  I have been a lucky momma to have been a part of so many of my children’s life experiences and look forward to many more.  My heart has lead me well. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day "Art"

Every year when I walk by this classroom on my February Sunday walks, I think two things.  One,  "I am so glad my kids were home when they were young and didn't have to complete 'art' like this.  Instead they had paints, glitter, construction paper, markers, cards, etc and they created whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. It always looked unique and personal to who they were.  These look very generic."  Second, I think,"I am glad I no longer teach elementary school.  While I always tried to stray away from this type of 'art', I found myself looking up in disgust one year when I realized I had asked all of my students to make the same nutcrackers for Christmas, only adding a few of their own touches.  I claimed it was a 'following directions' activity.  It wasn't.  It was a way to make sure everyone had half way descent art to hang on the wall, everyone used the same materials, and everyone finished appropriately at the same time.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How Do You Know They Will Learn?

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because homeschooling moms can't notice everything.

My experience as a teacher has for the most part been with immigrants who have come to this country with very limited first language education. First, I was a 5th grade teacher in a school with mostly limited English speaking students.  Their years in school were often hit or miss.  As an adult education teacher, the average number of years in school for my students is about seven with some coming with absolutely no school education.

As I started on my journey with unschooling, I asked myself how the education of my children would differ from those of my students who have had very little formal schooling.  Would they experience the same gaps in education in they weren't formally educated?  Would they struggle to learn if it came later in life?  It didn't take long for me to discover that wasn't going to happen. Although we had decided to not formerly educate our children with everyday lessons, reading and writing would be a part of their daily lives.  They saw reading and writing to be as normal as any other part of their daily lives which was/is not the case for many of my students.

I have saved many papers over the years that my children have drawn or written for me.   As young as two years old they were writing notes to me (scribbled of course, but pretending is often the first step).  They saw at that early age that writing had a place in their lives.  When my daughter started doing a lot of writing, she had no interest in using periods, commas, or any other type of punctuation.  I didn't push it.  Then one day she wanted to submit a story to American Girl magazine.  I mentioned the night before that we might want to go through and add some punctuation to make it easier for them to read.  I woke up the next morning to an almost perfectly written paper complete with punctuation.  She knew how to use punctuation, she just wasn't ready to put the time in with them.

As my daughter completed her first year of public school this year, reading and writing were her strengths.  Her English teacher told me she is a strong student.  I kind of giggle to myself when I hear this because despite never formerly teaching her reading, writing, or grammar, this is where she succeeds the most.  Instead of formal lessons, I exposed her to a lot of books.  I often read aloud to her and her brother (who is also a great writer with a lot of very opinionated beliefs that I am encouraging him to get in writing).   I listened to her excitedly tell me about books she read the night before.  I read myself and shared the plot of stories I was reading.  I shared articles I read online as if she and her brother were my peers.  Most importantly though, I allowed both kids to set their own time schedule for when they were ready to add more to their knowledge base.

How do we know our kids will learn?  We read to them, listen to them, and share with them.

Other posts on writing you might enjoy:
Enthusiasm for Writing
Spark the Writing
Rules ofWriting Not Taught, but Still Learned
Unschooling and Planning

Friday, May 10, 2013

Keep At It! Find the Small Things Happening Around You

I always thought of my children's education this way.  When the time was right, they would learn what they needed to learn.  Amazingly, it works, especially when you believe it 100%.

As an adult educator, I work with many adults who had limited educational experiences during their lives.  By educational experiences I mean they weren't surrounded by parents, family, and community members that read, write, or speak well.  Due to that, they often feel defeated easily.  I keep encouraging them to keep at it.  Look for the small improvements they are making in their learning. I think the mistake we often make is looking at the big picture and feeling disappointed when our big goal hasn't been met.  Look for the small things that are happening with your children.  Those tiny accomplishments lead to great things!

Monday, May 6, 2013


In a few short weeks my teenagers will finish their first year of school ever. It has been a year of not just learning the rules of school, but adjusting our mindset.  Having been homeschoolers for so many years, we categorized all schooled kids as mean and competitive with no desire to learn on their own. Not true.  We also believed school curriculum to be a waste of time.  Not true. Some of it is of course, but a lot has been very interesting and helpful.   We also realized that schooled kids and teachers have many misconceptions about homeschooled kids.  Many  believe that homeschooled kids do not ever leave their homes and are not social beings. Not true.  My daughter has made sure to bust that myth!  There is also a sterotype that if homeschooled, you must be super smart.   Again, not true. Homeschoolers, just like schooled kids, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and intelligences.  This year we also learned that one of the things we like the most about school is it is dependable.  Each day it starts and ends at the same time and when you agree to be somewhere, you are there on time. This has been one of our favorite things about schooled kids.  They are dependable.  We also found that parents are very involved with their kids and take an active role in making sure they are safe, while giving them the freedom to grow and be who they are.    

At the beginning of this school year, we sent one very quiet child and one very social child.  At the end of the school year, they both have the same characteristics:  one quiet and one very social (maybe even more social, actually).  While we might not have sent homeschooled geniuses, we did send two people who were quite capable of accomplishing goals.  Both kids entered school excited to learn along with a desire to participate in the high school experience.  So many times this school year I have heard my daughter say, "I LOVE school."  As an unschooling momma, all I can do is be happy.  She followed the path that was right for her and she experienced success.  Did she have some tough days?  You bet!  As hard as that is to watch, I also know it is part of living life. After participating in both cross country and track this year, she has a close group of friends, but doesn't hesitate to also hang out with friends outside of her core group.  She attended dances, after school events, and more.  She worried about her grades and challenged herself to do well.   She took an experience and made the most of it.  She is already excited for what next year as a sophomore has to offer her.

My son chose to enter high school as a part-time junior.  He took two electives: woods and automotive   He was thrilled when both of his teachers commented individually that they know he homeschools and hopes his schedule works out next year to continue in their classes.  It will work.  In fact, with the help of a very caring counselor who has taken a special interest in helping Alexander and loves the fact that he homeschools, he will be taking four elective classes his senior year rather than two classes.  He will also be at school during lunch period which gives him a better chance to socialize.  

Our first year in the public school system has been good.  While there have been a few annoying teachers and students, both kids have found their peers and teachers to be very supportive and encouraging.  I agree.  The best part of our unschooling journey has been letting go of it when its time in our family ran out.  It took courage for all three of us to leave behind what once worked for us and find a new path that works for now.  I am very proud of us!

Sophia's fashion design teacher made class very relaxing.  Her goal was that the girls enjoy sewing.   This was her first project. 

And her second project.  The pants even have pockets.

Alexander made this table.  We are waiting on the glass for the top to arrive.  At both  parent teacher conferences, I spent the majority of time discussing homeschooling with Alexander's woods teacher.  He had so many great questions and a real interest and appreciation for homeschooling.  Plus, a very interesting life of his own that I loved learning about.  He clapped when I told him Alexander was there by choice and as long as he learned, he didn't care about grades.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Good Choice

Saturday morning I was at Sophia's high school at 4am to help out with her track team's lock-in.  What a great experience for me.  While I know going to school has been a perfect choice for Sophia, I just wanted to sit and soak up the feeling I had watching her.  She is at home when at school.  She loves the schedule, activities and social life.  I saw how she went to school in August not knowing one other person and now has a whole range of friendships.  At 4:30 am, I watched her run for 20 minutes and then head back over to enjoy all of the friends she has made who not only make her laugh, but inspire her to be more than she already is.