Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Confessions of an Unschooling Mother; Links on Education, Rethinking Traditional Methods of Learning to Read and Write

**If you read the first linked article you would see this is an example of age 4/5 proprioception...because it is drawn by a 71/2 year old boy who had constant fluid in his ear and infections up until age 5 (and the need to be in the Children's Hospital) as well as extreme visual problems we did not know about until age 3- it makes sense that his brain body awareness (and management for handling instructions ect.) is at a current age 4/5 level.  He also has multiple learning and low processing speed as well as a diagnosis including Dyspraxia, HOWEVER, he has an incredible mind that knows more information on the species and types of animals and inventions than I will ever be able to remember. He is also a little philosopher. That is his natural state and it's beautiful. Because of this, it is important NOT to force reading, writing, phonetics ect. until his brain body awareness have matched each other in complete 3D before moving on to other activities. It is important to strengthen instead with movement, imagination, considered and patient instruction, and meeting him where he is at.**

Sometimes I sit in bed panicking about my child’s preparation for this world. I wonder if I am being “wrong” in teaching methods. Every now and again, I see a child way younger than mine perform at a higher level. I actually celebrate them and their natural progress (or their uncanny ability to memorize and mimic which is also a celebration in it’s own right) but I also wonder, "Am I doing my child a disfavour?"

To be honest, it’s tough to be so against the grain in my schooling methods and beliefs. Many people make the vocal or silent judgement that I am failing my kids when my children do not reach certain milestones at certain ages. When it is found out my children are homeschooled, I have experienced random quizzes of math at grocery stores, strangers asking my kids how to spell basic words or  constant questions from family on what they have worked on (and of course measuring their schooling with traditional schooling mindsets.) 

There is a collective pressure to ACHIEVE, COMPETE and SUCCEED. Sometimes I get panicky before a dose of common sense sets in. One of my children is seven. He still draws stick figures at about an age 4 level, still can not write and does not read much. When he does read he astounds me with his knowledge of some BIG words but often he prefers to hear me read and he certainly does not understand phonetics - no matter how many times I attempted to teach them in my prior ignorance. 

His body awareness is still happening and he is still developing those neural pathways. I made the mistake of doing heavy occupational therapy with him last year only to find out months later that he was secretly bothered by it. He felt like he was dumb and different. I think OT can be good. We were doing a Handwriting with no tears program, and while it was good, it did not match him NOR was he needing to be at that level yet. It was a mistake of mine. Every child is so different, but from what I have read, if kids are left fairly naturally to imaginative play, education WILL happen more naturally and instruction can happen more around ages 7- 12 depending. 

I have realized watching him that he is his own type of brilliant. He has this moral integrity that can not be taught, massive amounts of energy, and a ton of love. He has profound thoughts when he decides to open up about them and his play is creative and sharing and only needs guidance at critical times of boredom or misbehaviour. He takes life and LIVES it and that more than anything, is where I want him to get his value from.

When I think hard upon it, I have no real concern about his future to be honest. I know HIS future will be HIS because that is who he IS. He will do anything he sets his mind to eventually- at his own pace. Of course, I still teach things but sometimes I see his peers mimic back words memorized or things accomplished (i.e. riding a bike which he was JUST ready for last summer even though his older brother was ready for a two wheeler at an early age) I start to doubt. 

Tonight I doubted yet again so I googled it and the first article that popped up to my question was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I honestly think it’s an excellent read for any mother or child because it explains the neural pathways and differences in learning and what our schools need to start changing:

Frankly, I was relieved reading the direct biological evidence to learning...and that the schools have it a bit wrong too. Yay for puppets, knitting, making, drawing, playing outside, sharing, reading TO him, and tons of free time to exercise those muscles that are still in development for him! I knew  from my prior Early Childhood Development studies that his pictures of people are about age 4 level (The article states that this shows he is about at that age for processing still.) One day that won’t be the case but for now he is his own delightful existence. I am savouring who he is NOW. Who knows what the future holds? Most likely he will move on eventually. Right now, this is my son whom I love, and while I will not stunt his growth purposefully, I will also not force it with memorization or continual practice…in time, everything has a time, and his may be longer in this regard, but there are so many beautiful things along the way.

I wanted to throw the article out there for support in case you ever lay in bed panicked like I did, or become discouraged at what our world titles “progress.” (Or if you are concerned that I am doing him a disfavour- if that is the case it is even more crucial that you consider the research behind my methods which I have dedicated hours to. There will be mistakes in this and consequences like anything in life but also many benefits and they are what I am willing to live with.) 

My community of friends and family have also helped form some of my conclusions either by agreement or disagreement. I have observed carefully both fully grown adults of the school system and homeschooling system and both types of children currently. The conclusions I have come to suit MY life, and my children...but the biggest factor has been observing the fact that in adulthood, the most content, loving people are the ones who have learned how to BE in the now, regardless of circumstance or knowledge or talent. Yes, those factors play a part in existence, but a balanced life is mainly about attitude and presence.

Sometimes even when you know what you are about, you need to be supported once again, or inspired. Ignore anything that can not enhance your personal story. We each have different stories and traditional schooling also has many benefits and delights! Yet, if your child is in the current system, and seeming to be “behind” consider these articles and remember that brain development has it’s own place. Often the ones who seem ahead in the early years do not necessarily stay ahead in adulthood. Life is about attitude, morals, choices, and mindsets. It’s about feeling worthy and giving worthiness…it’s about love…and if your child is excelling in any of those areas, you really do not have to spend the night fretting over milestones or accomplishments. Even those who accomplish little can still BE…and in BEING we BECOME love and that love can not help but garner love and find ways to LIVE.

For more on this topic a few of my favourite resources are (links in Author's name):
  • Kids: How Biology and Culture shape the way we Raise Young Children- Meredith Small
  • Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World- Ben Hewitt
  • The Magical Child- Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • http://benhewitt.net/2015/03/16/at-its-exit/
  • http://benhewitt.net/2015/03/10/its-not-like-you-were-interested/

    *For more great articles and quotes see this Pin board: https://www.pinterest.com/KAlluraMarie/unschooling-and-articles/

    Disclaimer: There are MANY ways to educate. I understand the innate privilege of being able to CHOOSE how to educate my children and also to have the privilege of staying at home to do so. As I have mentioned in a previous post- we are under the poverty line and while I would not consider us poor- we are definitely privileged and blessed but we are not at a place of FULL stability either. We are careful. My husband works in Construction which enables him to work less hours for more money and we value our family time. We are glad we invested in his Journeyman even though it came at great cost to us. We are honoured that he has the physical capability to work hard at a job that is one of the most dangerous jobs to do everyday. Everything comes with sacrifices, and our ability to live  on less hours of work for him came at a cost- but a cost we are willing to pay. We have had many circumstances work to our advantage (like being able to get a mortgage at age 24 with the company my husband was in construction with at the time) and in that regard, the decisions we have made and the people who have guided us- have mostly been ones that have given us a higher quality of life than what it seems we should be able to afford. We ARE privileged and we have also worked hard to make good decisions and use our gifts and support system. It's a balance. Many people say they cannot afford to home school, but being slightly under the poverty line, WE HAVE and we find it more cost effective then having me work or sending them to school. It depends on the situation and there are ways to work it out. THAT SAID, I live in an amazingly supportive place with a beautiful provincial policy on homeschooling. I love Canada and it enables me to have some privilege of freedom. I am speaking from a place of privilege. I understand MANY do not have this privilege I have. I believe the school systems desperately need to change. Please read the article sourced below and the books and links above to see the steps on how to do this. It starts with our mentalities as a society.

     Quote from article below "So what do my students need, then? Access to the same funding, opportunities, and “exceptions” afforded to privileged, affluent students.
    They need a society and educational system designed to actually meet their needs, instead of a society that passes laws to keep them constantly underfoot and an educational system designed to test them to death and tell them how they are inadequate instead of educating them."

Another post similar to this is:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015, How to start the New Year, Beating January Blues, New Years expectations and Goals- Why I don't have them.

The new year often goes unmarked for our family. Sometimes I am still awake at midnight and I hear the fireworks of the neighbours and their cheers. I smile slightly but have no inclination to get out of my comphy bed. I love that they want to celebrate. I also appreciate those who make resolutions or words they want to live by. There have been certain years where we set the clocks back and and at 8:00 pretended to count down with our kids. It was fun when our attempt at some sort of festivity happened, but in general most of our New Years Eves are pretty ordinary.

Even in the tough years where I needed a word for the new year to inspire me to live the next, it felt false. It simply did not match my journey. The word would change within a month or two and I often felt that it was like giving a post title to a blog post that was not written yet. Some people write their titles first to get their story going. I have never been one of those people. It's not wrong. It just is not me. I need to write my story first and then give it a title as an afterthought. Or at times, if I do mark a new year it is usually my Birth Day...the start of an official new year for me. Even at those times, I am careful about my goals and write them loosely. Goals are important to a psyche but only if the goals are flexible and if they do not set the tone for our entire existence or give us our meaning.

I really used to struggle with expectations and do still at times, but in general, I have found that any expectation for a year can not possibly be met in the way I hope it will. Sometimes it is better, sometimes it is worse. I want to live in the NOW. I like to go to sleep on New Years like every other night and wake up to a fresh day of opportunity, heart ache and delight like every other day. Perhaps part of it is that I am an Aspie and prefer gradual transitions? Perhaps my idealism hopes that if I treat each day as a possibility- no more and no less- I can simply BE? Whatever the case, I feel I am healthier if I do not mark New Years.

There are other holidays I mark that others do not feel significance for. It really comes down to personality. I do not resent the go getters who party on New Years and make lists of ambitions. It simply is not me. I hope they do not resent that I like the night and new day to be as ordinary and extraordinary as it is every other day. I feel this way of mine prepares me more for the onslaught of messages that try to tell me that getting healthier, achieving status, getting money, being free or whatever will FINALLY make me feel better or have a good year. I have had health, status, money and freedom- immense privileges but with them I have also had sickness, insignificance, poverty and restriction and I have found that BEING through all of these has brought enrichment. In some of the privileges I learned and in some of the hardships I learned, but in ALL I WAS. I guess that is what I celebrate on New Years, but what I also try to celebrate each day when I wake up...that I am alive, that I am grateful for the breath I am breathing and will continue to choose at this moment, to make it what it IS.

Goals and expectations and words for the year are all fine in theory. In fact, I love reading some of my friend's posts on these mindful pursuits, but for my personal story they don't fit. I have struggled too much in the past with living up to an ideal I put in my mind. I have found the years I thought would be the best, turned out to be ordinary or the worst. I have found that the years set up to start horridly  have ended in beauty, and some years have just been really hard. But, if I really think upon it not EVERY moment was hard. I smiled at points. I became. I had some beauty. The years that have been beautiful in sum- have had tears and pain. We often forget about the multitude of moments that make up our years. Profound is in the day to day ordinary with no marked words of description to describe, yet the fact of Being brings out contentment. The things I want to hold close to my heart are already in it. What I want for who I am, is already inside.

This MOMENT, what I am now, clicking on my keyboard in my pjs, sore from physiotherapy, listening to my children chat while getting together their breakfast and hearing the morning traffic pass by my cold window...this moment is what I have. I chose to share it briefly with you, because I know I also have something to contribute to the conversation. Those who write goals and ambitions also have something to contribute ...and those who do nothing at all.

I suppose my point is that a party or an ordinary day on New Years is the perfect way to ring in the New Year...but it's only perfect if it suits you. If it makes you a better person, a more compassionate person, an ordinary person who sees ordinary as extraordinary or a person who thrives on existence- go for it!  If you are an introvert who likes to avoid all New Year's festivities and likes to lay low through the January Blues - embrace that. If you are an extrovert who prefers to party hard through the January Blues- embrace that. January is hard because of the weather, the post christmas bills or because of the way we agonize over the old and new year...What if beauty and life is just in the daily?

We are all hiding and exploring in our varied ways. Regardless we each have to face ourselves. It is better if we face ourselves with honesty and perception into who we really are instead of living an expectation or a word or a list of what we should be. Yet, if those lists and words truly show our soul- they are part of our experience too. BE what you need to BE because that is what is brave.

Happy Right NOW. Yes, we all need a will to try. But it can be moment to moment. May your right NOW be filled with all you need for the next minute. May you find contentment and beauty already. You are already standing on what you need. You ARE.
This is our family's theme song. Love it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP-73pinHbE&spfreload=10

I still love this song regardless...I also apply it to every day...Happy New Day:)