Wednesday, November 30, 2011

YouTube surfing can be rather interesting.  I came across this one today, a speech from a young lady, Severn Suzuki, daughter of David Suzuki, environmental activist, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.  She was only 12 yet very fluently made her point. 

I hope my children will stand up for and speak up for what they believe in as fluently as Severn.

Best wishes
Jen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Where am I coming from?

I guess my recent post on unschooling was a bit strong.  It is something I feel pretty angry about.  So where is that coming from?

Let's give you some back ground.  My eldest was born when I was 27 years old, in my plan, just the right timing.  We had just bought a house and I was getting older and having a baby made me feel more settled. 

In my teen years I started to have an interest in natural therapies, in avoiding unnecessary medicines and in living in tune with the natural way of things.  This then shaped my future decisions.

When I had my first baby I wanted to avoid interventions (I did) and I wanted to breastfeed (I did).  I ended up co-sleeping my baby and when he was about 4 months old I started going to Nursing Mother's (now Australian Breastfeeding Association) meetings.  I volunteered as librarian and after reading a book about Nestle and its involvement in encouraging bottle feeding in undeveloped countries and the benefits of breastmilk I decided I would feed as long as possible.  I also read a William Sears book on attachment parenting.  It sounded great and I resolved to have a terrific relationship with my child so that we would work synergestically together.

What I didn't know is that Asperger Syndrome kids have attachment issues.  They don't do well with over stimulation, irregular routines, inconsistency in how things are done.  Being a mother to a young Aspie boy and trying to be use methods that work with "attached" kids was a very frustrating experience.  He would twist things to suit himself all the time.  He didn't have any interest in doing things to please me, like any well attached child "should", but only to please himself.  I felt like such a huge failure.  I hugged him lots (when he would let me, sensory overload issues), I gave him choices (especially when he was overwhelmed but Aspies shut down when overwhelmed), I didn't smack (maybe I got that right?), I co-slept and breastfed long-term, I didn't move more than 10 metres from his side for most of his first two years but he didn't respond in the way Dr Sears said he would.

So after a 2 day a week stint in day care to "help him get ready for school" from 2.25 to 3.25 years old I realised he was not "normal".  Getting anyone else to see it was not easy.  I started to think I was imagining things so I moved on to other "normal" activities for his age.  Resistance and stubborness became his standard response to anything I tried. 

I had met some homeschooling families by now and had been exposed to ACE and its workbooks (knew they wouldn't work at all), to Montessori and to natural learning.  We didn't have the money to buy Montessori materials or to put him into a local Montessori day care so I went with natural learning.  It is very hard to entice a kid who lives in his own world to listen to books or to watch videos or to do crafts on a topic he doesn't care about.  It was like pulling teeth to even find a topic he was interested in.

Over the next 4 years we moved 4 times, had 2 more babies and struggled with my dh not having full time work that was enough to meet our bills.  With the next children being "normal" I finally realised that life was easier as their mum, they listened, they learnt, they were loving.  I got my eldest his diagnosis, despite my GP not believing there were any issues and close freinds still not "seeing" it.  With that has come the realisation that I am the Mum, that this kid needs me to push him, that letting things flow naturally will leave him lacking in education.

If you wonder why this concerns me so please consider this.  My dh left school at 15 years old.  He had not even completed Year 9.  He thought he had enough education despite not having good marks (undiagnosed learning difficulties and possibly Aspie himself) and went to work.  Fast forward 15 years to when he wants to improve the life of our family and decides to go to University.  He couldn't do the work.  He has the smarts but not the skills to show them.  He has learnt everything he knows in a "natural" way as his interests led.  But it has not been enough.  He has struggled to do more later in life with his education without that strong foundation of skills.

I do not want my daughters-in-law to go through long periods of their DHs (my sons) being out of work, or my sons to have the disappointment of not being able to follow a dream due to a lack of education.

I owe my kids not only an interesting life with time to follow their passions and interests but also a good education in a structured manner that they may not appreciate receiving right now yet will bless them in the future.

I really feel that this "fashion" of allowing kids to follow their interests in learning is still too young to show its fruit.  In my opinion some good ol' fashioned book smarts will not harm them and has an awful lot more history to show that it has merit in educating our children so that they may lead fulfilling lives.

Hmm, might need to take a break from blogging soon unless everyone likes reading rants.  :-)

Best wishes
Jen

Friday, November 25, 2011

The latest news!

So we are getting a second car.  The Landcruiser that my dh had been wanting since forever has been a gas guzzler and with prices only going up it was time to consider a second vehicle for the everyday running around.  I have always found the Landcruiser to be, well... to be totally honest, absolutely useless for grocery shopping.  When you are shopping for 6 and would prefer to only go shopping once a fortnight the space in the rear is pitiful.  Even for a week it is a squeeze.

I am hoping to get an old Tarago/Spacia for myself.  I love the space inside and it will only be a 4 cyclinder so a lot better for running costs.

Unplugging from PCs and the other electronic entertainment devices has been working lots better here.  We are getting more school done but I think my teenager could do with firmer boundaries.  He is likely to quickly pop on my computer to play Minecraft if he gets an opportunity even if he has been told game over and to turn off the kids' computer.  Very frustrating!

I am finding that even if I have time off the computer that some days are still sluggish for me.  I think this may be due to not getting enough sleep and also due to bad snacking choices.  I am working on getting to bed earlier and will be making sure that there are some healthier snacks available with my next grocery shop.

My sluggish days also seem to coincide with mostly carb breakfasts.  I have some favourite egg meals and if I am having them more often for breakfast I can handle a carb morning tea without a crash later.  Some of my favaourite egg breakfasts are Country Breakfast Casserole, dinosaur eggs (Scotch Eggs?), Dutch Apple Baby, and Scrambled eggs with sausages/bacon and toast.

I have also learnt that if I have not done the preparation for the whole week that my days fall apart very quickly.  Our weekends have been busy so I thought I would create worksheets, photocopy pages and compile our lists on the fly during the week.  Not so easy!  I will be doing a lot, and I mean a lot, of printing, copying, stapling, writing and overall getting ready for school next week over this weekend.

Well, I guess that is it for now.  I haven't had much of a chance to drop by anyone's blogs so I hope you are all well.  Maybe once I have my "new" car I will be able to just sit back a little and look around, while printing pages of course!  lol

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, November 21, 2011

When unschooling doesn't work

I know there is a lot out there to suggest that child-led learning can be very good.  Here is how my experience went.

My eldest was an usual kid right from the get go.  I remember trying to get him interested in things, to have a passion like all the other little boys.  I borrowed tons of books on trucks, dinosaurs, building, etc but nothing bought a spark to his eyes.  Around 4 years old I tried to do a lot more hands on stuff with him.  I bought out all sorts of craft materials and worked along side him.  We each made a caterpillar out of an egg carton and decorated it.  His didn't even last an hour.  It wasn't what he wanted it to turn out like so he destroyed it.

He then struggled to learn to read or even remember lessons from one day to the next.  After reading Better Late than Early by the Moores I decided to back off and try unschooling, giving him time to follow his own interests.  By this stage I had a 5 year old and a 2 year old and we moved interstate. 

Again I encouraged lots of conversation about the world around us and yet he still was "numb", not overly interested in anything.  My 2 year old absorbed lots.  I guess there is a bright side. 

Add in 2 more babies, 2 interstate moves, big dramas in our family, unemployment, and still resisting lessons and I turned the television on.  I hate that I turned on the box but it is really hard to teach someone who fights you all the way.  On top of everything else going on in our lives I just couldn't handle those daily battles and feeling so useless when he couldn't/wouldn't learn.

For the last 3 years I have continued to try unschooling principles with my other children.  I can say that I don't think it worked in our family.  I know people say that children are very interested to learn but I feel like I have spent a whole lot of time trying to get a spark going where there was no want for it.

So since then my eldest has been diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome.  It explains a lot.  Now he does have a passion, Minecraft, and I use it as "bribery" to get him to do his regular school. 

The other boys are "behind".  I think that time left to themselves to learn in a child-led way has only led to brains that want entertaining, that don't know how to process and think.  Even with access to the library and me to answer questions they have not had as good an education as they could have had.

In my opinion a more structured learning method is better, at least as a foundation or kick off point.  If a parent is not leading, pushing even, it is easy for a child to develop lazy habits and not worry about the effort it takes to learn new things.

We are implementing more structure here, at least for morning lessons, and I will be limiting the television a lot more.  It might be a great source of information when you have the History Channel and National Geographic channels but it is only a resource, much like a book.  I have learned that knowing information is a lot different to using information and making connections between bits of information.  A teacher is needed for that purpose.   Kids, well at least my kids, don't do that on their own.

Am I the only one who failed unschooling? I know others who advocate strongly for it but I think that it takes a certain type of family to be successful at it.  Parents need to be passionate about things in their own lives, to be an example of life long learning; they need to be very involved with their kids and be totally on top of what their interests, strengths and weaknesses are; and they do need to give a little push here and there.  Totally child led can be a mistake in my book.


Well, off my soapbox now,
Jen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unplugging PC, plugging in brains

A couple of weeks ago I rescheduled our whole school year and decided that we really better get a bit more serious about this school thing if we wanted to have new fun things to learn the next school year.  Last week did not go to plan and over the weekend I started to panic a bit.  Funnily enough I read an article by Cindy Rushton about unplugging and then listened to an audio of hers called Procrastination Attack! Eat That Frog!.  (Check it out about half way down the page.)

Wow, I just realised that this life is it, my one and only, no second chances.  I need to get on with living my dreams, making them real.

So, this week - much better.  I have hardly used my computer, instead using paper and pencil, and surfing and visiting forums are minimal.  I have so much more time for doing school and keeping home. :-)

The boys are resisting change and sometimes I feel a lot like I am herding cats but we have been getting more school done and the house is not falling apart.  My days are still not perfect and I know the perfect days will be rare but to know that I am working towards my dream of a calm clean home with well-educated young men keeps me going.

I am also looking to working on a dream of a more personal nature.  I was learning to play guitar before my eldest was born.  In the new year I hope to give it another go.

Next week I am going to work on unplugging them from the TV.  Wish me luck!

Best wishes
Jen

Monday, November 7, 2011

Teaching to the Individual articles

The gentleman at Wisdom of the Hands posts mostly about woodworking but it is interesting how in these posts about class teaching vs individual teaching that he comes close to explaining what is my experience as a homeschool mum of 4 boys all at different stages in learning.

Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3



Keep reading.  He seems to be on a roll talking about Sloyd.  A very interesting way to think about education.

Best wishes
Jen
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