Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ok, so I like Peter Gray's blog...

Here's his newest article...

Children Teach Themselves to Read

I'm really glad that more people are looking to natural learning rather than lock step teaching. People are born learning and thinking and they never stop! John Holt wrote a lot about it, and somewhere along the way, those ideas of open classrooms and such got shoved aside for more testing and more insertion of knowledge. As if someone can insert knowledge into another...

If a child can learn how to walk and talk, then they can certainly keep on learning all kinds of things in the same way, through observing and living in the world, doing the things that humans do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today I will leave you with this...

The Dramatic Rise of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: Is It Connected to the Decline in Play and Rise in Schooling?

It is from this blog called Freedom to Learn

"Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past fifty to seventy years. Today five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or an anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. This increased psychopathology is not the result of changed diagnostic criteria; it holds even when the measures and criteria are constant."

and later in the article...

"Anyone who looks honestly at the experiences of students at Sudbury model democratic schools and of unschoolers--where freedom, play, and self-directed exploration prevail--knows that there is another way. We don't need to drive kids crazy to educate them. Given freedom and opportunity, without coercion, young people educate themselves. They do so joyfully, and in the process they develop intrinsic values, personal self-control, and emotional wellbeing. That's the overriding message of the whole series of essays in this blog. It's time for society to take an honest look."

Friday, February 12, 2010

learning to read, just one story....

My oldest daughter, now 15, learned how to read real books for real reasons at the age of 11. Before that time everything she did led up to what she is and would become, same as now. Here's how that looked:

Chamille has always been interested in good stories. She's told more than a few yarns herself and all of her playtime consisted of elaborate stories. To feed her love of stories we watched many many movies and read many many books together. When I couldn't keep up, we checked out books on tape and cd from the library. Book for book, she had acquired far more than most of her school aged peers even though she hadn't read a single book on her own. Her vocabulary soared. She used and understood words, she could comprehend what she was hearing and discuss intelligently the content of many books.

During this time of elementary school years, my daughter wasn't in school, we homeschool, actually we are radical unschoolers but we typically don't use that term with non-homeschoolers. There was no pressure to read and read now to keep up with the rest of the class. When she wanted to know something she asked, when she couldn't read something she asked. At a certain age, when she knew she should be reading on her own because all the other kids were, she couldn't find books at her reading level that had any kind of merit for an actual story. They were books for the sake of reading and they had no draw for her. We, her parents, assured her that she'd read when she was ready and that everything counted, and we'd point out all the things she could read, like signs and simple words here and there. We even put up little sticky notes all over the place with the word of what the object it was stuck to, like mirror in the bathroom. So that everytime she looked in the mirror, she also saw the word "mirror".

Now, Chamille was also a huge video game player, for all kinds, handheld, computer and gaming console. She found Pokemon when she was really little and to this day still loves and plays it. Video games have a lot to read within the games. She found ToonTown, and online MMORPG with chat feature. That game over all games was the single most significant thing that helped my daughter learn to read. She started to see and remember words because she needed to in order to communicate with other players, her parents included. Bit by bit she gathered words and remembered them.

During this time and influenced by her love of Pokemon, she became drawn to anime and manga. When she felt like she could, at the age of 11, she picked up a manga book and read it from cover to cover, in typical Japanese fashion from back to front and right to left. That was huge for her! She realized at that moment that she knew enough words to string them together and read a full book. And the rest is history, as one might say. She reads mostly online, but she's read a lot of books too, and not just manga, but "real" books.

One of the best things that came out of allowing her to read at her own pace and on her own initiative, was that she owned the experience and through owning that experience she came to realize that if she could do that, she could learn anything. We have never pressured her to learn anything at all, ever, and because of that, her ability to learn has remained intact. She is bright and inquisitive and interested in the world around her.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

wow, it's exactly a week since my last post

So here goes! Margaux didn't go to her class today. We got all the way there and she changed her mind, so we came home. She's busy doing "nothing".

Last friday, there was a chat and the general topic was doing "nothing" and what that looks like.

Since that talk I've been looking around at all the nothing we've been doing here lately, and rather than make a lengthy post, I'll make a list that barely tips the iceberg of all the nothingness.


baths, lots of them
-dolls, barbies, babies, and polly pocket and her boat that kind of floats
-foam letters that float and form a puzzle, lots of spelling and word play
-pretend kitchen
-bratz hair dye color mixing
-oils and soaps and how they mix
-making waves like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
-watching water spiral
-body suction on empty tubs
-water reflections and shadows
-seeing what floats and what doesn't
-holding one's breath and bravely dunking whole face in water
paper stuff
-Xena the warrior princess, so much to learn in that show I don't think I could list it all
-Scooby Doo, interesting that we were just looking at pyramids in a book and that was the first episode she watched
-Bones, she's able to see those yucky dead bodies now because during Halloween, she helped me make skeletons just like them
-The number 1 Ladie's Detective Agency, which led to one of our favorite books to look at together called 1000 Families
-The Replacements
-A Plumm Summer, all kinds of cool free kids, but heart breaking bad parents too
-other various random shows and movies that I can't remember
Eating and cooking
-she has made several things this week with very little help from me
-she's also cleaned up after herself on her own initiative
Legos (although hardly considered doing nothing)
-built the whole Harry Potter set we have with my help
-made a lego person without legs in a wheelchair
-made all kinds of vehicles
-counted in sets of 2's, 3's, and 4's
-Calvin and Hobbes
-Norman Rockwell picture anthology
-1000 families
-Curious George lift and flap book

I'm going to stop there... I could go on, and that's only the stuff that I SAW when she was hanging out with me. We haven't gotten out of the house much, but there's lots of learning going on.


-score keeping
-strategy guide lookups
-serious research
-money saving
-Criminal Minds
-South Park
-Law and Order
-various horror flicks
-always hair stuff going on
-redyes and bleaching
-cutting of her own and others
Computer (what isn't done on computer?)
-being a good friend, giving good advice
-scheduling time and walking and taking the bus
-talking with and being with her boyfriend
-meeting up with her friends at their school during lunch
-finding ways to be pleasant and kind to people she dislikes
-always crafty things going on
-dealing with the lull that artists sometimes get
-looking at a few artbooks and discussing what she likes and doesn't like about various artists and why. We really analyzed Vemeer, which she DOES like, but I didn't go into detail about the religious implications of women behaving badly, because surely if a work of art is to stand the test of time it will have meaning in modern context too.

Chamille's is a bit shorter in details, but still learning happening. She's been hanging out with her dad more lately because he's been giving her rides. I get little snippets of her life when she hangs out in the kitchen with me while I do the dishes, or late at night when she feels restless.

So what does doing NOTHING look like? Give your tales of nothing... or if you have no inclination to write about such things, maybe read about the idea here.

SEE the learning in EVERYTHING!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

the day before FRIDAY

Not that anything special is happening on Friday...

Margaux and I walked to her ooey gooey science class at the rec center 3 blocks away. It was her second class. It was raining and cold, but it was nice walking with Margaux. We got there late because Margaux wanted her babydoll ready to go with us. Some things are worth being late for a class!

She had fun, then we bundled up and walked home. We stopped at 7-11 which is almost half way and got some goodies and warmed our hands, because I forgot to pack gloves!

Then we came home and I made hot cocoa. Chamille heard the words hot cocoa and said "ooh I want some too" and Margaux shared her Pocky that she'd gotten at 7-11.

Earlier today, Chamille went over to Cyle's school and visited during lunch hours. I find it really amusing that she's done this more than a few times and nobody has questioned whether or not she should be there. She's not a very understated person, she really does stand out in a crowd. She even talked to the principal once!

All in all a very nice, and uneventful day, one in which my kitchen is clean, there are lots of leftovers, we all got out of the house and we can now snuggle up and watch tv and play with babies and blocks and surf the net.