Unconventional Education

Almost every town has a Parks & Recreation department, right? And there are city and community events planned as well, like summer concerts and holiday celebrations. This stuff is a gold mine for private homeschoolers!

I recently picked up Yucca Valley’s Activity and Events Guide while I was at the library. It made me wish my kids were little again! You can find it online by clicking HERE or drop by the Library or Community Center to pick up a printed one.

When I opened it up I thought of all the subjects the events listed inside would cover, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. Private homeschooling in California can be cheap if you don’t buy a pre-made curriculum. Classes and events like these are a great way to offer the same subjects the public school’s offer but in a different way.

The Summer Music Festival is the first event I saw. Free live music all summer. Can you think of a better way to introduce your kids to some performing arts? Different styles of music. Live performance etiquette. They may find an instrument they’d like to learn to play or a new genre they love. When we’d go to concerts like this, I’d be looking up the music, where and when it came from, who was playing, etc. If they liked it, we’d usually find a CD for our collection. And there’s more music at “Chamber Music at the Museum” in June! This event does cost some money to attend, but you don’t hear classical music live much anymore. Pay up and support these folks! This could cover the subjects of music, performing arts, history, social studies, and math (music is totally math).

Earth Day celebration? Not much needs to be said about that! Science, social studies, a little history, all rolled into one day.

The Hi-Desert Nature Museum has an exhibit all about toys all summer. Yes, toys are education too! There’s some serious exploring to be done there! That’d be science, history, and even some language arts if you decide to write about it or read many of the signs and displays.

Dance classes, karate, yoga, there’s a ton of stuff to do that would cover P.E.

Did you know Yucca Valley has a Youth Commission? That sounds like a great way for a homeschooled kid to get involved in the town they live in. You may be raising the next mayor! Civics, economics, language arts…and social skills!

If you’re a little new to this homeschool idea you’re probably wondering how in the world do you document this type of learning, right? In the elementary years especially, tracking can be as easy as keeping a student calendar or a journal. At the end of the day, write about what you did that day. Take pictures and make a scrap book, blog, or just post it to Facebook. I urge you to write about daily activities even if you think you could never forget that glorious day. I’m looking back at my blog posts about my son’s activities from ten years ago wishing I had written more details! And many times I’ve looked back on the last weeks activities and thought it felt like we were laying around in the yard more than we really were. A look at my student calendar (the big notebook ones you find at Walmart or Target in September) showed that we were incredibly active after all!

One more thing, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or what time of year. And it doesn’t matter what grade your child is in. Like I’ve said before, institutions need grade levels, homeschoolers don’t. If a California history event comes up when your child is 6 or 12, go experience it and then maybe experience it again in a couple years! If it’s Saturday morning when you head to the science center or go hiking in the national park, it’s still education for a homeschooler! That’s what makes it so great. That’s what makes it ok if you spent a week vegging in front of movies with a bucket of popcorn. We are educating our kids year-round, 24/7…but that’s another post!

“Deschooling Society”

I’m currently reading Ivan Illich’s “Deschooling Society” and finding it a wonderful read. It was written in 1971 and so many of the things he wrote about are the same things people are complaining about today only now they are amplified by time. I wonder what he would think about the world today. He died in 2002, so I wonder if he knew about the small but steady growth of the unschooling movement? I’d like to read more about him and his later years after I’m done with this book. For now, I’ll leave you with a quote from the pages I read this morning.

“We permit the state to ascertain the universal educational deficiencies of its citizens and establish one specialized agency to treat them. We thus share in the delusion that we can distinguish between what is necessary education for others and what is not,…”

Our Kindergarten

I’ve been going through some old paperwork and photo files and came across pictures of my kids when we were just getting started with homeschooling. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we used to do for “school” back when my boys were elementary age, so it’s strange that I found those photos. Or is it? I thought I’d post here a bit about what Kinder was like at our house!

We had come across the idea of homeschooling while searching for private preschools. I found the California Homeschool Network and started reading. It just happened to be close to their annual conference, so my Grandpa and I went to check it out. I fell in love with the idea right then! So essentially, the boys have always been homeschooled.

Since Kindergarten isn’t mandatory in California, we decided to not enroll in any school and see how it went. If it went well, we’d continue to file as a private school and keep schooling that way. I’d say that year went pretty well! Do I change things? Yes! Our school always changes according to what is working and what is not. That’s the real beauty of homeschooling in the first place. Each child’s education is tailored to their individual needs. And even though I desperately wanted to play teacher at home, my boys weren’t having it. It wasn’t for them. I had to be honest about my own personality and theirs, and change things up. “School” has evolved over the last eleven years and it still is, but the underlying current is an “unschooling” style that has worked well for the whole family.

Here are some pictures of the first months of “school” at our house so you can get the idea!

When you start homeschooling one child, you start homeschooling the younger kids, too! No one wants to be left out. And you HAVE to have a “First Day of Kindergarten” picture!

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sept-6-034We had a playgroup of kids and Mom’s that came to our house every Monday for the last couple years. It wasn’t a homeschool group, just an evolved Mommy & Me group. Most of us weren’t planning on homeschooling but we didn’t want to send our kids to preschool, so we did this instead. It was wonderful for all of us. Even though only two of us really ended up homeschooling in the later years, we are all still great friends!

sept-6-001We spent a lot of time at the Regional Park in our area. It had a small zoo, loads of trails, a pond, a train, and several playgrounds. Since we lived in the city at the time, it was also a great place to escape the noise of the neighborhood and safely ride bikes!

sept-6-011We took very long walks here, climbed trees and rocks, brought sketchbooks and drew pictures of plants and animals, talked about and explored natural science, not to mention lots of picnics!

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One thing that I’m glad we spent money on was a membership to the big Natural History Museum in LA. It was an hour (sometimes more) drive away but there was so much to do there. Some days we would spend hours in the children’s “hands-on” area. Some days we’d rush through all the mammals and dinosaurs, and then spend an hour looking at the bird exhibits. The best part about it was that the boys came to know that museum, and many others, as a place to play. It wasn’t boring for them. They knew there was a lot of very interesting stuff there and lots of great people that would answer any question they had.

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I remember walking behind them as they came into a giant domed room. My older son stopped in his tracks and was amazed by the ceiling and the sound of the room. They both dropped to the floor to get a better look and made loud and quiet sounds, listening to it echo off the walls and ceiling.

You can’t do this on a school field trip!

They spent several minutes lying there looking at the ceiling and then wanted to draw pictures like it when we got home.

Better than any toys you can purchase and have at home are ones that are available only when you’re at a certain place! The children’s section in museums is worth the cost of an annual membership every time!

sept-6-030So this is how our homeschooling journey began. There was no curriculum, no “school” time, no co-op. There was just me and the boys exploring the world around us while Dad was at work and then sharing it with him at the end of the day. Camping trips on weekends, weekly trips to the library, grocery shopping, amusement parks, stories before naps and bedtime, video games, and movies. That was it. It was a joyous time and a little nerve wracking. We were different. Everyone else was starting school. Kids were being dropped off and crying for Mom. Mom was crying to leave them behind. Kids were coming home with packets of notes and homework. Bedtimes and packed lunches. School clothes and buses. But mine weren’t. We were on, what felt like, a permanent summer vacation. We were happy. They seemed to be learning a lot every day. It was working. Why is everyone not doing this?

 

“World” Schooling?

I ran across this article over the weekend and saved it to read this morning. Have you ever come across someone’s words and been inspired, not because the concept was so novel but because they spoke words you wish you would have thought of? This was an article like that for me. This young girl is amazing! And we aren’t actually “world” schoolers in the sense that her family is. In my opinion, you don’t need to be. You can live and learn locally in a way that gives you a connection with the wider world. Setting our children aside in schools cuts them off from the bigger world and limits their view.  Having them at our side in our daily lives brings them closer. Spending our days experiencing the world around us brings them out into the world to learn more about it on their own terms.

Check it out and see if this lifestyle can enhance your family life, even if you can’t travel extensively.

“I go to school but it doesn’t have four walls. My school is the world!” by Reka Kaponay

 

A Blog and Facebook Group

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Sue Patterson’s! She has a wealth of information to share about getting started and keeping up with homeschooling regardless of your style.

And a new group has appeared on Facebook with thousands of members all sharing information and support about “unschooling”. It’s called Unschooling Mom2Mom and I’ve found some great questions and answers there lately!

The internet has made sharing information so much easier. If you’re having trouble or unsure about something, get on a large message board of some kind and ask questions. The answers are out there waiting for you to find them.

“Alternatives to School” Website

Alternatives to School has some wonderful articles to help you out of our current model of education in America and wrap your mind around this joyful concept of natural learning and where it can take you. It’s a good place to start looking into the ideas behind why people may want to leave the “school” model behind.

Today’s post, “Learning. It’s Not About Education.” by Laura Grace Weldon is one of those great pieces that can start people down this path of self-education. It’s also a good one to share with family members who may be very curious about why you’re not sending your kids to school. Here’s a quote from it to pique your interest!

“Children often ignore what they aren’t ready to learn only to return to the same concept later, comprehending it with ease and pleasure.  What they do is intrinsically tied to why they do it, because they know learning is purposeful. They are curious, motivated, and always pushing in the direction of mastery.”

 

The Game

Recently, a friend agreed to help my sons get better at motocross. He raced a lot when he was a kid and thought he could help them a bit on the track. Little did he know that he would be helping me as well.

It’s all a mind game.” Racing really is one of those mind game things. One of the biggest things holding you back may not be your skill, but you mindset, your fear; fear of failing, fear of the riders around you or that they are better than you are. Those riders probably think the same thing about you. If you think they are the best, you are probably closer to winning. It sounds so corny, doesn’t it? But it works. Confidence is the key to winning. You can’t go out there thinking you’re just going to finish and not fall and then end up winning no matter how great your skills are. Leave the gate feeling on top of the world and you’re more likely to get to the finish line first. It’s crazy.

As I was sitting under the awning of our RV in the pits, I started thinking to myself that this advice probably applies to me somehow. The thing that puts the most anxiety into our race weekend for me is not whether or not my boys will get hurt. It’s whether or not we should be there at all. Do we belong? Are we in the right place? What do these people think of us? Who’s the authority here? What are my qualifications for being here? What are the rules? This is me, but my sons don’t do this and they are so much happier. They read the website, they get what they need, and they jump in and do what everyone else is doing. This is what home education is all about, putting the “authority” in yourself, not others.

So I decided that day that I would play the “mind game” too. This is where we want to be and if someone has a problem with it they are welcome to say something, until then we will just keep doing what we’re doing. We belong there because we have the desire to race and that’s all the authority and qualification we need.

Once again on the home education journey, I’m taking a page from my sons’ book, I’m following their lead and seeing where it takes us. So far it’s been an amazing journey!