Thinking Woman’s Weblog

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Husband not bugging me about homeschooling! December 23, 2008

Filed under: unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 6:51 pm
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We unschool. We’ve always unschooled; I have been unschooling without realizing that’s what it was since my early 20s when I started to enjoy learning and began to actively pursue what interested me, becoming obsessed with some things and getting my fill, moving on, or keeping that passion for a long time.

I am not following a Waldorf philosophy, but when my older daughter was 2-3 1/2, we loved doing parent tot classes at a local Waldorf school and I did learn some things about it. One thing that really resonated with me is delaying reading on purpose.

As reading is one of those things that proves to the world that a child is learning, it was definitely bugging my husband that our 5, then 6, then 7 year old old could not read. For some reasons, adults like to put kids on the spot. Well, maybe they just do it to homeschooled kids to save the world or something. My gentle little soul came away from these quizzings shattered and in tears because she could not perform to their standard. I worked with her on suitable responses around the concept that she did not want to be quizzed. And I worked on her confidence that she’s eventually find reading a breeze. No, more; she’d clearly be an advanced reader.

It was important to me that she love reading, as I do. My husband doesn’t love reading. In fact, the first time he ever read a book purely for pleasure was when we were in our honeymoon phase. He’d never been around someone who read for fun. For a while, we frequented a local alternative/spiritual bookstore and he read quite a few books about some of his spiritual guides. But since becoming a dad, he’s given that up. Sadly, he gets most of his information from video and youtube nowadays. I have no patience to sit through a video; I’d much rather skim online but I guess this is one of those mars/venus things.

Perhaps since reading is not a joy for him, he was still of the mainstream philosophy about it; that a child should be reading by age 6. And yes, he definitely gets embarrassed when our kids can’t perform like trained monkeys in public. I’m the sensitive one but I don’t care about that.

Somewhere about a year ago, give or take, my daughter and I started to make progress. We had had some false starts with the stupid book we were using, Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Lessons. I say stupid because the authors of this book feel it’s important to include discipline (in the negative sense of the word) as an integral part of the teaching method. I don’t actually know much at all about teaching reading. But I do know a thing or two about discipline and the word means guidance, not bullying, demeaning, demoralizing, insulting, controlling. The books has specific artificial dialog that you are not to deviate from. Heck, it’s all those things I just mentioned towards the parents as well as the kids. I’m a rule follower so it took me a bit to find my own stride and use the basic method without all the nastiness. Other than the book being full of typos where it’s inconsistent with its own style, I also find it utterly foolish that each reading lesson concludes with a writing lesson. Again, I’m not a trained teacher, but my daughter had all sorts of issues learning to write and why on earth would you force a skill too early? The authors of the book think it’s suitable for 3 and 4 year olds and while I won’t deny that some children that age show proficiency for reading, the majority do not. And they do not seem to appreciate that bullying a child into struggling with a skill before it’s time will lead to a hatred of that skill. Some skills didn’t come to me until I was an adult and new ones come all the time. It’s a wonder I can manage to do anything with my body after the way I was meant to feel in school gym and yet I grew up to be an accomplished athlete as an adult.

We ignored the instructions and zipped through as many lessons each day as my daughter wanted. We did not make the lessons non-negotiable and at a certain time of day as the book suggested. I rarely brought it up but rather let my daughter ask for a lesson. If she wanted to do 5 lessons in a row and I was up for it, we did. Contrary to what the authors would have you believe, it is possible to learn to read on the child’s terms. We never finished that stupid book. Now I’m using the term stupid because of the irritating spelling methods. The book had some plan of using more phonetic spelling and then later, through some magic, the child would come to understand how English is actually spelled. Whatever. What’s happened for us is my daughter kept picking up books of different levels until one day, she was able to finish a book. Since that day, we’ve never done another lesson. She now reads a few books a week and is increasing in skills all the time.

Yes, I will use the foolish book to teach my younger daughter, but only because it’s already on my shelf.

Oh and my point when I started this post is that my husband has never once “helpfully” suggested sending my kids to school since he saw progress with reading. When he saw her sounding out words and making progress, he was cool and has been ever since. He used to say, if I had any issue at all or the kids acted “naughty”, just send them to school. I felt so unsupported when he said that; he’s my partner in parenting and it was awful to not have him fully on the same page about homeschooling. The irony is that the teensy issues we were having would be nothing compared to me and him trying to get our kids to bed early and up, dressed and out of the house on time. I seriously think that would be the end of us if we had that school deadline as the only motivation.


Syllables November 21, 2008

Filed under: social interaction,unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 5:42 pm
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Today, my daughter and I were singing together. My older daughter. For whatever reason, my younger daughter has always hated music and, until recently, freaked out if she heard us singing. She is finally starting to allow us to sing and play music, which is a huge relief as my older daughter and I used to sing all the time. We need more of that joy!

My younger daughter is, so far, sadly, distinctly untalented when it comes to producing music; no sense of rhythm, timing, nor melody. I had read in the Music Together information that any child, if exposed to music before age five, would be musical; that there was no such thing as tone deaf. I beg to differ.

Well anyway, whenever I hear a four syllable word with the right kind of rhythm, I start singing this funny little song. For example, “Phenomena” has me instantly singing “Do do do-do-do”.

I didn’t actually learn this song from The Muppets Show. I learned it from a college buddy who burst out in song with the “Do do do do” version I now know. I’ve noticed over the years that other words besides “phenomena” trigger this. Today, we were playing around with it and my older daughter was trying to do what I was doing; to come up with other words or phrases that would work. For example, she suggested “sandy beach”. I explained that no, it wouldn’t work because it only has three syllables, but “a sandy beach” would work.

Then we were off on learning about syllables. I do admit to feeling an occasional overwhelming sense of guilt that she doesn’t know this stuff by now, but then I push that aside. There is no need to know any certain thing by any certain age; she’ll get there in the order that happens for us.

Yes, it is time to dig more deeply into both English and Math, but as we have hit hurdles with concepts such as syllables in the past, the timing was obviously not right. Before, she would sound out a word as though she were trying to say it, like an early reader was. Well heck, she was an early reader. So she could get all sorts of extra syllables in there! Today, I tried a different approach. Rather than boring her with the technical definition of a syllable, I just looked around the room, named things while breaking the word distinctly into syllables and counting on my fingers, and waited while my girls repeated. (Isn’t it just so cool that the younger child joins in?)

After a while of this, I thought she had it. I quizzed her on a few and mostly she got it. When she got one wrong, I said it back to her in a sentence. To her “san-dee-bee-cha”, I replied, “Shall we go to a sandy beacha or a rocky beacha?” which resulted in howls of laughter, thank goodness. She really is quite sensitive to criticism so it is somewhat of an art to correct her without hurting her feelings. My younger daughter then went off on “beacha” and had herself a good little chuckle.

In the end, I think she got the concept of how to break a word into syllables and how to come up with four syllable words or phrases. I didn’t belabor the point and we were off singing again.


Frogs November 20, 2008

Filed under: unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 12:21 am

So yesterday when I was digging in that pile of twigs that was supposed to have been wood chips, I came across a frog. I am mystified as to how that critter got in there. It was pretty big and it was really in there! Everything had gone through a shredder and there were no pieces the size of that frog so I just can’t believe little froggie survived the shredder. But froggie was so deeply in there and it took me some work to get to that point and then free froggie completely. I know nothing about frogs. Do they dig their way into warm piles of sticks? I wouldn’t have thought so. Perhaps froggie was sitting in the truck when the sticks started piling up and just got caught. Well froggie wasn’t saying much so I can only guess.

I called my girls over to have a look and of course they were all about trying to save the froggie. First my little one got a small bucket of water from our pool (I didn’t think they should use the chlorinated water from the hose so I had her go around to the pool for more natural water). The froggie didn’t look so very life like but then again, froggie had been stuck in a wood pile for about 5 days.

My older daughter thought froggie wanted a swim so she brought out a wider, flatter container of water. Froggie was still not very impressed. I wondered if froggie wanted out so we built a little ramp of sticks. Froggie was still not impressed.

In the end, my older daughter took froggie down the street towards the little creek. It’s too overgrown to get very close so we have to hope that if froggie was wanting to find water, s/he managed to find the way.

My girls had so many questions about frogs and I knew so ridiculously little. This is yet another learning opportunity. I suspect we’ll be picking up a suitable book on our next trip to the library!


Yet another reason to homeschool September 18, 2008

Filed under: health,unplugging,unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 3:39 am

A recent study showed what happens to lab rats (poor things) when they are fed typical school lunches.

I don’t know why this should come as any great surprise. What stuns me is what people think is appropriate to feed children.

Avoiding school doesn’t mean we don’t get this kind of so-called food pushed at us on a regular basis. It shows up at parks, in classes, and at most social gatherings. It’s ridiculous. There is simply no reason to blindly continue with the Standard American Diet (SAD) of mostly crap and packaged food.


How to ruin reading September 10, 2008

Filed under: unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 7:43 pm

I started reading books at around 9 years old. Very quickly, I found myself addicted and staying up all night on weekends and summers to read into the wee hours. It was so much fun to get an armload of books at the library and see how fast I could finish them.

Then one day, I was having cookies with my next door neighbor, and elderly woman who always made me nervous. I suspect she was a retired teacher. She just seemed the type. When she found out I was reading, she told me that what I had to do was write up an index card for every book I read. She showed me how to do it and gave me a box to start. I was to put the title, author, and a brief synopsis on the card.

Did I ever do it? Even once? No. But the guilt! Oh, the guilt! For years after that, I felt I was cheating because I wasn’t doing this correctly.

This is a typical way well-intentioned adults steal the joy of something that ought to be done for the pure pleasure of it. Imagine if I had tasked her with the same thing? Well, who knows, maybe she is the type that would derive satisfaction from that. In fact, she might have been doing this her whole life.

But she presented it as the way to do things. Not something I might enjoy if the idea appealed. No. It was the way to read a book and Must Be Done.

My older daughter reads now. Not well, but she’s getting there. I let her choose what she wants to read and offer suggestions if she allows. I thought the early readers were the way to go; they must be. So I bought some and they lay collecting dust. Not wanting to take the joy out of reading for her, I chose not to nag her to read them. Then one day, she started taking down full length books and giving them a whirl. This is a girl who was still sounding words out. I was a bit concerned that she would get frustrated but she never did. She did quit all the books we had lying around because they were too advanced for her but we are finally finding books at the library that seem easy enough for her but compelling enough to finish. Not those contrived early readers that I’m sure sounded strange to her as she’s auditory and knows no one sounds like that in real life!


It’s time May 15, 2008

Filed under: birth,health,HSP/HSC,organic food,social interaction,unplugging,unschooling — Thinking Woman @ 3:03 pm

It is time to start sharing my raw truths with the world. I don’t take things lightly. It is not my nature. I am a Highly Sensitive Person and take time to reflect upon things. I have gradually, quietly, become quite radical over my lifetime, and expect to become more-so as time allows. Some of my interests are

  • natural birth and all the empowerment that goes with it
  • unschooling
  • spending time in nature
  • Highly Sensitive People and Highly Sensitive Children
  • unplugging from the grid to some degree but not to the point of obsessiveness
  • connecting deeply with people
  • improving life on a local level through small, simple acts
  • simplifying
  • helping future generations get more in touch with the best parts of being human
  • natural parenting
  • organic food
  • raw veganism
  • intentional living
  • reevaluating health care
  • politics
  • jealousy, vanity, friendships, trust, self-confidence

Perhaps I will get to write on all of these topics. That is the goal!