April 19, 2012

10 Days of Accidental Unschooling - Day 4: Learning From Life

New series coming soon... Looking forward to blogging it! #hsbloggers #homeschool

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a 10 day series on Accidental Unschooling. If you are OCD and want to start from the introduction or Part 1, hop to the bottom of this post and use the conveniently provided links!

I don't know where most of you are in your homeschool journey - just starting out, cruising along at 5+ years, or veteran moms bringing up yet another "set" behind the first (like me) - but I bet if you close your eyes and imagine your dream day, you have a picture of HOW that day would unfold. Like the Matrix (movie), I'm going to call that your residual homeschool self-image. Now, I want you to imagine instead, a typical day (like the day you had, say, yesterday)... and now imagine doing week upon week of consecutive days like your worst day - PLUS taking care of a toddler and a nursing baby. Just for good measure, add in an extra dose of teenage attitude, some emotional hormone flare ups, and carpet that looks like you are running a homeschool refugee camp.

A #LoFi momment - brought to you by my #blogmaffia boyz. They'll break my kneecaps if I try to sit down and check email. #gangsta #yo

So there you have it - your ideal, your norm, and your AWFUL. When you can stay somewhere in-between the ideal and the norm, you will be ENJOYING homeschooling. When you stay in the norm too long, have few ideal days, and too many AWFUL days, you're a NORMAL homeschooler - but you are in danger of burning out (and by the way, kids burn out, too). When you hover between norm and AWFUL; and your AWFUL becomes the new norm... you have a complete meltdown. Not a math meltdown, but a mommy meltdown. That's when you are in danger of throwing in the towel - or making your kids really hate school.

That's what happened to us.

I can tell you the equation for getting to the breaking point - even though it will look different for just about every family who ever gets there... here is what it was for us:

lists that were too long
high maintenance babies and toddlers (toys in the toilet, marker on the couch)
pregnancy and fatigue
puberty and hormones
illnesses and chronic undiagnosed pain requiring regular trips to the doctor
interruptions - schedules and routines broken
leaning on self rather than God
unrealistic expectations
being hurried and not planning ahead enough to avoid extra trips out
negative thinking or talking
teen 'tude
homeschool mom guilt
wasted or idle time

That's a great list for you to write down and pray about. A great checklist for you to go down daily to make sure you are not only covering those areas in prayer, but thinking of ways to creatively combat them rearing their ugly heads in your homeschool. Of course, if you have health troubles, are pregnant, or take care of babies, you can't control THOSE circumstances... but you can certainly seek advice and help in preparing your homeschooling to survive and thrive through those trials.

What happened to us is that I began to read in my despair. I went to every homeschool conference I could make it to (in Texas). I sought out prayer partners. I honestly talked with my husband and mom (who happens to be one of my biggest supporters). I sought out counsel for my daughter. I used my "free time" to narrow my focus down on planning ahead for school. I pulled back from as many extra commitments as I could to make extra room for priorities that were being put second or third. I prayed. A lot.

And then I made a conscious decision:

I decided to trust in something I couldn't see - and it felt a lot like faith. I decided to believe my friends who told me that all of life was learning... that I couldn't prevent my kids from learning if I wanted to... that even when I wasn't teaching them, they were learning on their own - and that God knew exactly what He was doing when He put them in my life, put these trails in my path, and allowed me to come to this very place of uncertainty. I decided to believe HE was in control of their education, not me.

BOY, that was a freeing moment. Even though I didn't ditch the lesson plans, I can honestly tell you that the amount of stress that I tossed could be felt by everyone in the entire family... down to the furry critters that use a litter box in the garage.

Caught her doodling instead of doing her math. #instadaily #illustration #drawing #manga #art

Suddenly, the drawings on the math pages were artwork. The book she was writing and researching for instead of doing her assigned history was a joint English Literature/Geography/History assignment. PE was happening every time my eldest decided to weed the yard and flower beds to blow of steam. The cookies he made - even though he didn't do his chores - were Home Ec. The help they gave me with the babies was Lifeskills and Child Development 101. The self-directed learning and living they were doing was all of the sudden harmonious and beautifully stress-free. I stepped back and felt like God opened my eyes to the "unschooling" going on all around us that I had frowned upon because it wasn't fitting my OCD, perfectionist lesson plan list. I gave myself a "get out of jail free" card for still being stuck in Egypt because life had elsewhere derailed.

Remember that sentence I left you a hint on yesterday? The one I said was important to today's post?

On more occasions than I care to admit, it left us just skimming by with the basics (and compared to our previous fun style, it left much wanting).

Yeah, that one. I'm here to tell you that if you do the "basics", and give your kids time to independently learn (not veg out on video games or watch comics all day), there's no limit to what your kid can learn to do - with or without YOUR instruction. I know this because I know other homeschool graduates whose parents have told me they went through years of wondering if they would ever get a fire under their butt to finish school. I know this because Jessica Hulcy told me that one year they built a house and barely did any formal instruction other than Math - and she was my homeschool, KONOS hero. I know this because my son knows more about the biological and geological world than most college graduates - and he learned it all by reading on his own. I know this because my daughter can cook as good as Pioneer Woman, can draw like a Disney Animator, and can write like no-body's business. And she gave me more trouble getting "school done" over the past two years than I would ever talk openly about on this blog.

And so I picked up my lesson plans with renewed enthusiasm and the brilliant idea of letting my kids follow their passions. I made my lessons and lists shorter and gave them room to blossom in the areas they wanted to learn. We started this new compromise - they gave me a little directed learning time, and I gave them more child-led, delight-based learning time.

What would you call the thing we are doing? I came up with the term "Accidental Unschooling", but what we are really doing is just LIVING and learning together - doing what works each day. I don't turn my nose up at any style of educating that is blessing a child and honoring God. The longer I have homeschooled, the more I find that I will never have an answer for those that ask, "What's the best way to do... (insert homeschool related question here)." The best way to homeschool is the way God leads you to do it. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
- - - -

Tomorrow I'll share a more clear picture of what paragraph 1 (my best, norm, and worst) are. Those of you who like to hear "a day in the life" type homeschool posts will enjoy the next one. See you then!

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. - Attributed to Carl Bard
- - - - - -
Below are links to the rest of the series so it's easier to navigate for those that surf in after the fact. There is also a handy button on my sidebar to bring you back to this series later, should you want to read at leisure.

Introduction to this series
Day 1: Not So Super
Day 2: Morphing Methods
Day 3: Out of the Box
Day 4: Learning From Life
Day 5: Grace is for Homeschoolers
Day 6: Taste and See
Day 7: Grease and Sugar
Day 8: Carschooling and Fieldtripping
Day 9: Reading to Succeed
Day 10

Be sure to join me each day. I'll be giving away a prize to a random winner in my comments section on these posts. Each comment counts as one entry. I love comments! Even if I don't have time to answer every comment or email, I cherish them and enjoy getting to know my fellow homeschooling moms.

This post is a part of the 10 Days of... Series at iHomeschoolNetwork. Check out the other amazing homeschool bloggers who are participating in the writing challenge by visiting the landing page there.

Thanks for joining me!

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Karen said...

This is the BEST post ever! I have been fighting a battle with myself about more Interest Led, less lesson plans for years. This year I have let go a bit. Now you have inspired me! Can't wait to read more.

Carri said...

I am so enjoying your series and am excited to read the rest. My only complaint will be that it will end! I am very appreciative of what you have offered and it is giving me what I needed to hear.

I have been wanting to unschool (closely to it anyway) and have felt guilt over it. Thank you so much for showing that God is the designer and I need to let Him design our days.


Angel said...

I really enjoyed this post, since I have had many of the same experiences. It always amazes me how much my kids learn seemingly by osmosis -- even during our hardest times -- and maybe even because of our hardest times.

Whit said...

I love your list to focus on and pray over to avoid the burnout! I am going to take several of those things and write them down where they are clearly visible to me. I learned rather quickly this year that the OCD control issues I was having, we're just hurting us all. As I lean back a little more, J continues to grow a little more. I love your story of getting to this place in homeschool! I think you are helping lots of us, both new and old at it

Aadel Bussinger said...

I loved this! Although- there are days that my kids do veg out all day and watch tv and play computer games. Those games taught my middle daughter to read and my oldest to draw comics and learn about animation. I see nothing different about a video game than vegging out and reading a book all day- I tend to do both of those sometimes too.

These posts are right up my alley!

Belinda Letchford said...

I love that drawing on the math page. I also completely relate!! My daughter is much more interested in her artwork than her math - but she perseveres!

It is amazing isn't it when we look back and see how well their passions do educated them. And the variety in one family. My son is a history buff, my daughter a professional orgraniser! We watch with wonder where their passions will take them.

Unknown said...

Thought-provoking post.
You hit me right where I'm at(ouch!)
Thank You!
Looking forward to the glimpses into your days, all 3 types of days.

dmauton said...

Awesome... so totally enjoying this series. :)

Rebecca said...

Heather, I remember the first time I read your blog...a few days later, I sent you an email....and you responded. I've missed reading you lately...being busy in my own world. I'm thankful this series brought me back. I need your knowledge, wisdom and peace...I'm finding..it..little by little making my list shorter, so theirs can grow longer. Thank you!

Misty said...

I started reading your blog a few months ago, and I truly love it! You write beautifully, and continue to remind me to keep my eyes, heart, and prayers on Him.

I am starting my first year of homeschooling this next year. I will have my oldest (14) at a private christian school, and my two girls (10 and 4), and my one year old son home with me. I feel anxious, and lost on how to homeschool. I know that the Lord will guide me along the way. Hey, He's led me to you which is already helping.

I really liked your post today, and the reminder that the kids will be learning, even though it might not be what I plan for the day. I even teared up reading the part about baking cookies, and it being home ec, and that helping with the babies was lifeskills. Thank you for participating in the "10 Days"! I'm learning a lot!

~~Audrey O.~~ said...

Keep talking, as I'm still reading. :) We did ABSOLUTELY NO "schooling" today. My child hasn't been "into" school lately, so I let him off "easy" and he helped me clean the house ALL day. I then thought "this MUST be good enough for SOME TYPE of learning credit right?" I feel like I am on the right track in continuing to follow in your footsteps, and am GREATLY looking forward to the rest of the days here. Thanks so much for your time in putting this together. :)

janeen said...

your words are very encouraging. It sounds like you have been in my home! I have a baby and toddler into everything, a teenage daughter with the teen 'tude and 3 more boys that are rough, loud and risky. Life never goes according to my carefully scheduled day :)

Christine said...

I have been homeschooling for 15 years. I have been experiencing burn out in a big way this year. Oh the doubts that want to barge in... I know in my head everything you wrote today, BUT it helps to hear someone else say it. THANKS for the encouragement. Now to get my senior graduated and onto the next stage in life. :)

Tracy @ Hall of Fame Moms said...

You've got some tried and true homeschooling wisdom (from experience!)I do believe! Thank you for sharing your journey. Your daughter's artwork is amazing!

Mary Prather said...

Your comments really resonated with me today....and gave me hope. Thank you :-)

Michelle said...

That first picture cracks me up! Glad to have found your blog. I always feel like I have to say I "kind of" homeschool because we don't do a lot of school-ish stuff. Nice to see unschooling at work. Thanks!



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