Standing Tall or Copping Out

Today there was an unamed and unlinked (at least here) carnival posted. At least one of the posts features in the carnival had objectionable content. One author who had also contributed a post to the carnival asked to have their post removed. The owner of the blog where the carnival was hosted contacted the coordinator of the carnival to get permission to remove the link from their own blog.

Other readers objected in the comments of the carnival to the link to the objectionable post. The owner of the blog where the carnival was posted replied in the comments:

I have no control over whose blog entries are in this Carnival

christine: That is a cop out. The terms of service of that blog service clearly state that the owner of the blog is responsible for the content. And, you agreed to those terms. You are responsible for every single letter and every single link. I realize that you did not write the other post and based on what else I see in your blog, you don’t agree with it. But you linked to it.

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace..


This week would be the week for another unschooling carnival. For this carnival I’m asking you to consider writing a post (and leaving a comment on this one) about one of two subjects:

  1. Unschooling feels, sounds or appears like a good philosophy to follow, but ________ prevent me (or make me hesitant to) follow through with it.
  2. Unschooling my child(ren) has enabled me to see ________

If you can spare the time to write a post on one of those 2 subjects, it would be great. Both subjects would allow us to share the 2 sides of the coin and perhaps we can help one another see our way through one difficulty or another.

Chatting & Creativity

Before I get into the subject of tonight’s post, I must confess I feel the urge to talk a bit about the past. Shortly after we started this site, I briefly recounted our history of homeschooling. The thing I wanted to remind you of is that we were not always unschoolers. All 3 of the older children started out with an out of the box curriculum. So, many of the things I talk about are lessons that have been learned the hard way. Probably the main reason I am able to write with the surety that I do is that I’ve already tried the alternative. But, the main reason I take the time to write is to share our experience, so that anyone reading will not be as alone in this as we were for many years. And that, in the last few years, I’ve come to realize that the experts really know very little about what they are talking about in many instances.

Since I’ve been away during the week, Andrea and I have been using Google Chat to talk at night to allow for longer (and more convenient) conversations and save on long distance charges. In the first week, occasionally, Andrea would send a message for Emma. But the next week, Emma wanted to sit on Andrea’s knee and watch. The first thing you know, I’m getting messages typed by Emma. Some of them are something like ‘asfadflkfdj;sdlfndmcn,smcniowafhewoude’, others resemble things she would say. One of those is ’emmatodade’ (Emma to Daddy) followed by ‘iloveyou’. And once, she sent me a ‘fune’ (funny) in reply to something I sent her. Since then, she has taken to counting with me, ‘12345678910’ and then I say ’11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20′. Then she giggles hysterically.

This week she did, ‘123456789100’. When I got home last night she wanted to know if I thought it was funny that she ended with one hundred. That’s the number we count to when I’m tucking her in for the night (she always has to say 100). She has also caught onto a number of the ascii ‘smiley’s that the chat turns into a graphic. Of these, her favourite is <3 which rotates counter-clockwise and into a heart. What Andrea did this week was set her up with her own profile on a second computer so she can chat with me on her own. She loves it. Mom is close by if she needs help, but otherwise, she can do it independently.

I realize that circumstances have created a situation which has heightened the interest in learning something. I’m sure the experts would argue that the chatting doesn’t support unschooling because of the extenuating circumstances. But, that couldn’t be further than the truth. This is a perfect illustration of both how and why unschooling does work. The how is really simple. If children are interested in something, they will invest the time and energy into learning it. The whole point of unschooling is that if children are interested they can and will learn. If you eliminate all the situations in a child’s life which heighten his or her interest in learning what you are likely to be left with is, …well, something pretty much like a classroom.

The second half of the title relates to Emma’s growing investment in creativity. To step back in history again, we had abandoned alot of the structured element of the older children’s education by the time Emma was born. The transformation I went through involved me realizing that alot of the things that I had formerly assumed about children were not necessarily true. Having been graced with her, I had (and have) an opportunity to discover and learn about children. And so, I’ve done a great deal of observing and making mental notes. One of the things I’ve watched along the way is the development of her ability to exercise her creativity.

One of the things I’ve done with Emma has been respond to her motor skills being unable to keep up with her creativity differently than I did with the older children. When they got upset that they couldn’t do something because of a lack of coordination or fine motor skills, we used to try to comfort them by telling them it was ok. With Emma, what I’ve done is hug/hold her and ask her if she’d like me to help her. Sometimes she accepts and sometimes she refuses. The thing is, whether you are 2, 5, 10 or 50, when you can’t do something you really want to do, it’s not ok, it’s frustrating. I don’t want to give the impression that I think she is more creative than the older kids. But, that I think responding in a different way has allowed me to be more involved in her creativity and she is more willing to allow me to help her by hurdles.

Having said that, this week she made a car out of a cardboard box. Essentially, she drew alot of the details found in a car on appropriate locations on the box including a rearview mirror. In the rearview mirror you can see the sun, an ice cream stand and a car parked in front of the stand (because the driver is buying ice cream). It has an ignition and keys, a gas tank with fill cap, gauges and controls, etc. It’s very elaborate. She put alot of time into it. At the same time, you can tell it’s the artwork of a child.

When I was teaching at the college, this was the time of year where I taught the first year students their first language specific programming course. Likely, in the last few weeks, I would have discussed the course workload (very heavy compared to the other courses they had) and that the reality they were up against was that programming was like riding a bike. You can watch all the videos about riding bikes that you want and you can talk about bikes all you want, but you will never learn to ride a bike that way. The way to learn to ride a bike is to get on one and ride it. And that’s what creativity is like. It’s learned and developed through exercising it.

That’s one of the reasons I’m not really a fan of alot of early educational materials. Many of the materials out there in common use are intended to develop ‘skills’ but provide very little exercise outside of that. An example of that is a colouring book. The only real creativity involved in colouring a predrawn picture is choosing the colours. (We don’t prevent her from having such things. We just don’t limit her to those.) I guess what I want to say is that, wanting children to be able to produce a picture that looks as though it could have been done by an adult is a poor excuse for depriving them of the opportunity to develop the ability to create a picture they can call their own. I would rather be able to sincerely faun over 10,000 real drawings that undeniably show the development of real talent, imagination and expression than the best of the colouring competitions.

Jung Typology Profile

Tim at Making It Up is responsible for this post 🙂

We discussed the Jung Profile in my first Adult Ed course. I always find these things interesting whether or not I agree with them. Of course, I’d love to dig into the guts of the thing and see how it scores. Since I can’t do that, I’ll just tell you that I profiled as a Counselor Idealist (iNFj). What do you think? Does it fit me or not?

You can try for your own profile here.

12 Keys to homeschooling

Witin the next month or so, we’ll be celebrating our 12th anniversary of homeschooling. Last week Andrea and I discussed the possibility of doing he said/she said posts in recognition of Valentine’s Day. We wanted to reflect back on things we learned over the years. I thought to myself, ‘Surely I can come up with one significant thing that I’ve learned for each year of homeschooling.’ I’m not going to present these in the order in which they were learned. I’d rather present them in what I consider to be the order of importance.

There are an abundance of ‘keys to’ books out there. So, I’m expecting that everyone in familiar with the ‘keys to’ concept. In a way, you can look at my list as a set of morals. In presenting these, I recognize that I won’t be telling you anything that has not been told before.

  1. When you wake up each day, before you get out of bed, forgive your children, in advance, for anything that they might do during the day. Don’t be discouraged if in the course of your day you fail to keep your original intent. Tomorrow is a new day in which a fresh start can be made.
  2. Love unconditionally.
  3. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. You were a child once.
  4. Listen to your children.
  5. Trust your children.
  6. Don’t underrate your children.
  7. Don’t control. Set an example instead.
  8. Don’t be afraid to tell your children you were wrong.
  9. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’
  10. Reinvent the wheel. You may get a new wheel.
  11. Look forward to experiencing new things.
  12. Every invention is the result of someone going where no one has gone before.

Like all moralists, I am not really telling you anything new. I’m just reminding you of things that other moralists have said for thousands of years. When I initially jotted down this list, I started to come up with explanations for each. But, as I write this, I don’t see that any explanation is necessary. And so, I offer none.

Carnival of Unschooling #3

A very small carnival this month, but some excellent reading therein.

First up, we have David, making the case for unschooling, which he does quite well, I might add. Loads of good stuff in the many comments as well.

This, and the events going on in our own lives, lead me to thinking about how wonderfully adaptive unschooling is. Just looking at a typical day from Joanne at A Day in our Lives you can see how unschooling doesn’t necessarily mean a day full of disorganized chaos. Even for a family of younger children, like at Patch of Puddles, you can see how their typical day (in pictures even) is at once similar but distinctly different, geared just for them.

Topic can be grabbed on the fly, as they occur, delved into with the child’s interests, with life. See specifically how Homeschooling Mami explores Black history month with her child, and how it is just a part of their lives, appreciating all their friends year round.

I admit, though, there is often a steep learning curve for the parents, as we navigate the uncharted waters. Over at Tricotomania, she talks about our need to plan for things and how sometimes we need to just let go.

The hard parts that go along with that are noted by Janine, on a day where she’s had to wear too many hats.

This gives me pause for reflection, and an urge to dig out an older post of mine from two whole years ago, Homeschooling and the ADD Mom, where I bemoan my sorry state and declare we just can’t unschool. But just look at how far we can come, what our children can do, if only we adapt our thinking and get out of their way.

Note: The Carnival of Unschooling has move to Unschooling Voices.

Understanding children

A few days, I told you about our upcoming adjustments. In a way, I had to tell you that news before I wrote this. And, to further introduce this post, if the title were separated from the post, the word understanding could be either a verb or an adjective. If it’s a verb, the title might suggest I’m setting out to offer insight into the nature of children. If it’s an adjective, I’m stating a quality or characteristic of children.

Occasionally, after the job interview was scheduled, and more frequently after I’d had the job interview, Andrea and I had many conversations trying to sort out some of the issues (perhaps plan ahead). And the older kids ask questions as well. Once I had the offer on Friday, the discussions became more concrete. On Monday night, Emma asked, ‘When we moved, would that be an event?’. Andrea asked her to explain,

Emma: Some of us will live in this house and some of us will live in another house.
Andrea: Really? Who’s going to live where?
Emma: Addison is going to live here. Emma & Sarah & Meaghan & Mommy & Daddy are going to live in our new house. And we are going to come back and visit Addison…

She went on to describe in a significant amount of detail the current plan insofar as it had been planned out. And then,

Andrea: How do you know all that?
Emma: I just listened.

You might think that while sitting beside Andrea and listening to this, I was stunned, surprised or amazed. Really, what I was thinking was how much our society, in general, underrates its children. I was a bit surprised because we hadn’t talked to her about any of it yet. And I hadn’t noticed that she was around very often when we were talking about it.

Emma is special to us, of course, as she ought to be. But, we do not believe that she is significantly more intelligent than most children her age. This sort of conversation is not unusual for her. I have 2 or 3 conversations a week with her like that one. Sometimes she talks about planets and outerspace, other times about human biology. In the last week or so, she has been trying to sort out a meaning for the word event. The question she asked before the move one was, “When I was born, was that an event?”

In addition to children’s programming, Emma enjoys watching home renovation shows and shows which show the process of making things (like ‘How’s that made?’ and ‘Unwrapped’). Almost on a daily basis she wants to look at, be read to and discuss adult books on history, biology, nature, picture this books (pictures made from small objects), and exploded diagrams.

With the background of the many conversations I’ve had with her, the conversation I described above prompted me to remember something from my own childhood that has nagged away in the background while always managing to elude me. The readers we had at school intended to teach us to read were boring. And if it weren’t for teaching my own children, I would never have figured out why.

School readers are written within the confines of a vocabulary that children are expected to be able to learn and read and write on a test. And my 5 year old’s conversational vocabulary far exceeds anything I would expect any 5 year old to be able to recognize and remember in print. Nor would I expect that all children have a vocabulary which includes uterus, crankshaft, pendulum, archeology or many other words which have occupied the interests of my children at age 5.

I took a break in writing this to read Emma her bedtime stories for the night. I realized that in my head this was turning into a rant. I didn’t want to do that tonight.

The socialization question

Carolyn has done yet another fine piece of writing regarding the question every homeschooler gets asked. Here’s a sample:

“How will your child learn to deal with bullies?”

A homeschooled child learns to see bullying for exactly what it is: unacceptable behavior. Homeschooled students do not grow up in the constant shadow of bullies, and do not become accustomed to kowtowing to them.

Guerrilla Learning

When I was working and coming home for lunch, Andrea and I normally reserved meal times for conversation whether it was with her or among the whole family. Alot of the time we would catch up on how our morning or afternoon had gone. Since I’ve been home alot more, Andrea has been reading at lunch. Often when she’s reading something and finds something she thinks I’ll like, she reads it out loud. If I’m reading, I do the same. I think we both enjoy reading aloud and being read to. There is also having the comfort of having someone to share a good thought with.Over the weekend she read 2 things to me at one meal. The first one was:

People learn to write well not by studying grammar, sentence structure, and spelling but by reading good writing and trying to imitate it. Reading and writing are inextricably linked…

There are few things that come along that feel better than having someone who is considered an expert say something you have been telling people for years. Oddly, this fits so well with a quote from Finding Forrester:

Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always so much better that those we write for others?

I think at least a partial answer to that is in the fact that often when we write for others, our first concern is with grammar, sentence structure and spelling. When we write for ourselves, we have something we want to express. And, the technicalities of writing take a back seat to what we need/want to say.

For many, blogging offers the opportunity through both reading and writing to discover the knack of writing well. It will only take a few months of reading to discover the type of writing one likes to read. From there, when writing in ones own blog, the tendency to frame things the way one likes to read them will naturally develop. Formality and structure are secondary.

The second thing Andrea read was:

Teach your children to listen carefully and to speak thoughtfully. The best way to teach this is to listen carefully and speak thoughtfully to your children, from the time they are babies. It’s never too late to begin this practice. (emphasis mine) … Above all, listen, listen, and listen to your kids. (emphasis autor)

When I did the home ed workshop last year, listening to and responding to your children was one of the primary messages I wanted to convey to the audience. In an effort to summarize that workshop, I may have reduced the significance of that point. I did not leave it out entirely, though.

The fifth chapter is called ‘Demonstration’. Its statement was, ‘Those who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow.’ Has anyone ever told you they couldn’t homeschool because their children won’t listen to them? Even though I really had no idea what impact it would have on my children, I can remember back in the days when the older three were going to turn 6, 3, 1. Every day, when I got home from work, there they would be just inside the door, all talking to me at once (including the noises of someone who crawled there), and telling me what was important to them in their day. At 17, 14, 12 and 4 they still ‘check in’.

When I elaborated on this point in the workshop, I asked how would you expect children to listen if you don’t listen to them. Children who are listened to and taken seriously, will listen and take you seriously. The only leadership skill worth having is setting an example. It is the only form of leadership which exists in our absence.

While this was sitting on draft, Carlotta wrote (in part)

I respect the choices of my child because he is a human being. What quality about him means that he should only be viewed as something that only lives fully in the future? I do not believe that there is any vastly different quality in children that distinguishes them from adults…

and Clare wrote (in part)

I have only had 2.5years experience of being a mother, but I can say most definitely that respecting my child’s choices and needs is easy, enjoyable, relatively unstressful etc. etc. It makes for a toddler who respects other people and who don’t have tantrums here there and everywhere.

What more needs to be said?