Sunday, February 2, 2014

Beginnings in Unschooling

We thought we'd give a quick update on how things went this last month.  We had decided to go the unschooling route prior to Thanksgiving, but we found that we needed some time to relax into it, to deschool if you will.  Of course the kids did a lot of playing (and still do) and we tried to mostly observe and think about what it would mean for our family to implement some of these new found ideas.

We try to follow the wisdom of Sandra Dodd, "read a little, try a little, wait a little, watch."  Or as we Mormons are fond of saying, "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30 and Isaiah 28:10).

So we decided to get a little more serious about education in our home after New Year's (but don't tell our kids...).  Looking back, we have noticed that Anne has started to explore ideas on her own and loves her independence.  These past few weeks she has taken to saying how grown up she is.

Anne is into sewing.  She began sewing at the beginning of the school year, but after seeing a Christmas bag at church that she wanted to make, she has been hooked.  She already knew the basics of knot tying and stitching and she made several small projects, all on her own with no help or push from us.  She repaired anything she could find (patched her jeans, restitched my travel pillow that had a small hole, Lucy's ripped blanket, ...).  Then she started trying to make things that she saw in picture books she was reading, like a wallet.  We had ordered an introductory hand sewing book at Christmas that was on backorder.  It came a few weeks ago and has fueled her enthusiasm.  We now have several small pillows and some stuffed toys.  (Randy was even encouraged to get in on the sewing and made a sweet stuffed monster.)

Now, it was tempting to jump in and want to help her improve on her designs.  I mean, nothing was hemmed.  But we praised her up and down and we are waiting for her to see how she can improve.  And don't get us wrong, her projects have been good enough for her younger siblings to enjoy playing and sleeping with.

Since our primary goals for education are that they learn how to learn and love learning, we are encouraged by her behavior with sewing.  She is self motivated and largely figuring things out on her own, and she loves it! Right now we are not concerned with the subject of study as much as the enthusiasm for study, whatever it may be.

Of course there is a lot more than sewing going on with our family, but we'll leave those for another post.

Best meme suggestion gets a pretend prize!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Coming Out

That's right.  We've said it.  We are coming out of school and into a new way of thinking.  Our new obsession is how to best approach the education of our children.  We have been thinking about this off and on for years, but since we started preparations for homeschooling we have put a lot of serious thought into the subject.  We have made the decision to go the "unschooling" route.

What is unschooling, you may be asking?  This from Wikipedia:  
Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolerslearn through their natural life experiences including playgame play, householdresponsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in maximizing the education of each unique child.

This post is not about bagging on the traditional school model.  It is about providing you with enough background information to understand where we are coming from so we can have an intelligent conversation about it if you are interested. And we hope you are.

When we started looking into different homeschooling philosophies this last summer we decided to think about what was most important to us.  Before studying the many philosophies out there, we came to the conclusion that the most important thing we wanted our kids to learn from school was how to learn.  We also wanted them to love learning.  If they have that we are confident they will succeed.

This has been a long journey.  Before I (Randy) gave "unschooling" any serious study I thought this approach was for lazy parents who were being irresponsible.  And with my superficial understanding of the philosophy, of course I would come to that conclusion.  However, I have had an about face.  

I am a very curious individual and I love learning.  Interestingly, I don't think I would have recognized this characteristic in myself until after leaving High School.  I am one who gets obsessed about something and wants to eat and drink it for a while.  There has been (and still exists in most cases) backcountry sledding, cello, statistics, reliability, math, physics, biology, shoe design, wood working, cooking, T'ai Chi, full body alignment, etc.  I have discovered that there simply isn't time to do everything and one has to learn how to prioritize their interests to accomplish the means that they are most interested in.  When someone forces me to learn something it turns sour quickly.  I have come to the realization that almost everything  I have learned that is worthwhile has happened outside of classes.  Don't get me wrong, classes have their place.  I am proud of the M.S. in statistics I earned at Iowa State University and it was probably the only setting where I could have learned what I did.  But the process would not have been worthwhile if I had not been personally invested.  I knew that it was up to me to succeed and I learned a lot because I was willing to do what it took to succeed.  For example, when I found I wasn't up to speed on matrices and linear algebra, I watched lectures from MIT on youtube (which are great, if you're really interested) and talked with other students about it. 

(Megan now)  From the beginning it was a matter of prayer.  I was trying to decide what curriculum to choose for my daughters.  When I first began, it was an overwhelming task.  I mean, that is a huge decision!!  I was confident that we would be guided to something good for our family.  But I kept thinking, "What I choose for them is probably going to impact their whole lives! Yikes!" (Too much like Satan's plan.)

It may have started about that same time that I came to the conclusion that every person has a unique education--even the kids that go to the same schools and have the same classes.  Not a great revelation, I admit, but I had never thought about it in this light. There were holes in my education that weren't there for others.  Yet on the other hand, I had learned some things that other people hadn't.  It was a great realization that there is no ONE curriculum that fits all.  And that was a relief--and a worry.  Am I going to have to taylor this to each child??  This was going to be tricky.  

I felt good about the curriculum we started with but I knew that I would learn a lot this first year and possibly need to make some changes as we went along.  So here's the first change.  Unschooling. Interestingly, I have noticed that the process I went through to educate myself about unschooling is the way this philosophy proposes we allow our children to learn.  When they are the ones that want to know, they will learn it. And they will own it. Which gives me confidence in our next step.  Much less tricky than trying to do it for them, but still a lot of responsibility on me to expose them to all kinds of things and help them learn to learn.

(Together again) Once we were excited enough about what we were learning and wanted to act on it, we started talking about it with others.  We quickly found that it's not easy to talk about this subject since our new ideas are the opposite of what our culture currently accepts as education.  So we have decided to share with you some of the best of what we have read and watched.  If you are interested or worried about our children, we would love to talk to you about it... after you've done your homework.

Some assumptions up front (the mathematician can't help it).  We believe these apply to children just as much as they do to you and me.
- We are naturally curious
- No one likes to be bored
- Real learning cannot be forced or coerced 
- We choose to do hard things that interest us

A Mathematician’s Lament, essay by Paul Lockhart

How this type of philosophy fared in Matamoros, Mexico

Sudbury Valley School (est. 1968) stuff.  To me (Randy), the Sudbury Valley School model is the most ideal schooling system I can imagine right now. (Most articles from “Articles on the Following Subjects” were helpful)
- Videos linked here were interesting 
- Daniel Greenberg on Sudbury Valley School (it’s all good, but my favorite part is at about 28:00 - 32:00)
- Free at Last by Daniel Greenberg (book)

This study has been intertwined with an enlightening, fun, and fruitful gospel study on how our Father in Heaven teaches us.  How does he do it!? We encourage you to keep this and other gospel principles in mind as you read through these articles.  That's what we've been doing.  Trying to sift through the information to distinguish truth from error.  We began with the need to know something.

Are you still here?  This feels right for our family and we are going to go down this path.  We still don't know how it's going to work out exactly for us but we're excited to get started.  Heaven help us!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We are HERE! We are Here. We are Here!

Well, it is our first year of homeschool and we are enjoying it, so far!

We have a funny, enthusiastic kindergartener.
She wants to be a mathematician when she grows up.
Just like Dad.

And we also have a 2nd grader who knows how things work at school.
She's learning a lot of history and is pretty patient with me as I figure out how I want things to work.

Aren't they cute?

We have been pleasantly surprised with how well our garden did this year.  We actually harvested some of our red and orange peppers this year!!  We have also had more cherry tomatoes than even Lucy and Brig can eat. Lucy loves picking them whenever she has a chance.  We had enough tomatoes for 2 batches of salsa, jalapeƱos, sweet peas, zucchini and yellow squash, and as you can see, cantaloup.  Our most recent surprise was a delicious watermelon that we picked yesterday.  
It is funny how much satisfaction can come from growing things you can use.

The ducks like the handouts.

We have enjoyed learning about the lily pads at Longwood Gardens.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life with kids.

We have been busy these past few months.  Time goes too fast.  I can't believe my boy is 8 months old already!   He is so wonderful for me at church, it has been said in reference to Brig by several couples in our ward--expecting, and not yet expecting babies, "I want one of those."  He is a gem, what can I say.

We got a swing set!!  And within the week Anne finally figured out how to pump all by herself, and Ruby made some major improvement!  (hooray for me!)

The girls will preform his every command.  Or at least they compete to be his favorite jester.  Anything to make this guy laugh!

We went to Philadelphia to meet Uncle Cory and Aunt Jill.  It was so fun to see them!  It has been too long.  

Had to get a picture at the Rocky statue, even if it isn't very good.

And here's an Easter picture that snuck in there.
We had an awesome activity at church!!

At home, Lucy kept asking me why the doorbell was broken.  It wasn't until I was going through pictures later that I realized what she was talking about.

Campfires are the best!  It took Lucy a while to cook her hot dog, holding it way up there.

Did you know you can reach farther in the splits?  Well, at least Brigham can.

We had a passover dinner with some friends leading up to Easter.  It was fun to think more about the symbolism as we remembered the sacrifice of our Savior.

We are excited for the fruits of our garden!

One happy baby.

Hayride at Milburn Orchards.

To celebrate finishing The Book of Mormon as a family, we had a party.  Here are our bows and arrows that were not broken. 
 But some of them lost their spring.

Anne was chosen as a "Young Ambassador" again this year.  We are so proud of her hard work in school and her good citizenship.  
Would you believe those girls are in the same grade?
Anne had a great growth spurt this year too!
I guess she takes after me more than I thought.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The girls often play with towels of some sort on their heads.  This is Lucy with a towel-thingy on her head.  I wish I could see inside their heads and picture it as they imagine it.

Randy was sick last week and stayed home from work for a few days.  Anne had a snow day and the girls spent most of the day painting dad pictures to make him feel better :).

These are the bathrooms in the main conservatory at our family's favorite place, Longwood Gardens.  For some reason plants growing on the walls makes it feel cleaner.

Our wonderful home teacher told us he had some leftover trim that we could use to make shelves.  Randy jumped on it quickly and Bridger put two of these together.  We now finally have something on our walls.  We are so slow at decorating!  Thank you Bridger!

Saturday, December 29, 2012