12 Notes From Our Deschooling Process

We’ve been home schooling for close to 2 years now.  And it is only recently (past 6 months) that I feel we can say we’ve gone in, through and out the end of that deschooling period.  Deschooling being the time the kids need to get out of the rhythm and system of school and adapt to a new way of life, of home education, or in our case – unschooling. Deschooling came (in our case) with many tumbles!

I felt like it was one of those things that when you are in the process of deschooling you are never quite sure whether it has been ‘done’ yet.  Often I would ask myself ‘are they deschooled yet? or is this just the way it is going to be forever…?’  I would then send myself into a panic!.

I can now confidently say, that the kids are deschooled.  Whoop! Our eldest in particular has been through massive changed.  About 6 months ago it was like a light switched and he really started taking control of what he wants to do and be.  It’s so incredibly amazing to see and be part of the change – to see his confidence grow, to be engaged in what he is doing and most importantly he is one happy boy!

But here is the thing – I had prepared myself mentally for deschooling the kids, but I didn’t consider how much of an impact it would have on me (and my husband).

For them to deschool, we had to do the same too.  Here are some notes from what we have discovered:

1 – We spent several months doing things that we thought would be good and we thought we would enjoy, but in the end it just made things worse.

2 – We let go massively with rules, then pulled in the reigns a bit when the kids indicated that they wanted support to achieve the change they wanted.

3 – We all choose what we want to do on a daily basis, but it’s not a free for all.  Just like my work needs to fit around my kids stuff, the kids stuff has to fit around everyone elses needs.  We normally talk about what is happening/agreeable on a daily and weekly perspective.

4 – We’ve achieved that ‘enlightenment’ stage where we know that kids can moderate themselves and not spend all day in front of a screen.  We don’t see screen time as a bad thing, we believe there just needs to be some balance. Given the support and opportunities they make great things and decisions!

5 – We have all learned to listen to each other’s needs better.  I feel this has been a massive change from the parent’s perspective – I feel that as a society adults really aren’t very good at listening to their kids. We have proper conversations and talk about things.  If anyone says no, it means no and we should all respect and try to understand the reasoning.  If anyone needs any help to do something then we use it as an opportunity to talk about the needs and the impact it may or may not have on all of us.

6 – We don’t really say ‘no’ to the kids anymore.  We might say it in a roundabout way at times, but it always seems to involve a discussion and their agreement.  For example, they eat what they like.  So rather than say no to ‘unhealthy food’ we give them options of better food.  They usually go for the ‘better food’.

7 – We live as equals.  We are increasingly conscious that kids are great imitators.  They are often a reflection of how the people in their environment behave – siblings, parents, family and friends.  We try to lead by example. The kids are more than happy to point out when they think something is unfair.  I am likewise happy to do the same thing in their direction.

8 – We are all allowed to make mistakes. We are all getting better forgiving each other when we haven’t ‘behaved in an ideal way’.

9 – We all have needs that aren’t always equal.

10 – We achieve more when we work as a team.  The kids have really picked up on this.  For example, they see how much it helps me or my husband when they help out with chores in the house.  The result is that it frees up our time and puts us in a better mood to help them do stuff they want.

11 – Us, the parents, have stopped worrying or comparing them to anyone else.  They are who they are.  They are learning constantly, without a curriculum.  They are doing pretty awesome, we don’t need any tests to prove that.  They say we are awesome too, sometimes ;)

12 – We focus only on the things we really want to do and forget everything else.  There is only so much time in the day and not really any room for stressing out to get cram in as much as we can.

One of the best things, for me personally, is that I feel like I have become a much better mother.  I am happy we are on this journey, but really wish we had started it earlier!

Unschooling FTW

Ben took a bit of convincing to take out of school.

I use to ask him every couple of weeks how he felt about homeschooling and whether he preferred it over going to school.  For the first six months (de-schooling) he use to shrug his shoulders and say ‘I don’t know’.

It was a turning point for all of us after the 6 month mark when he said he preferred homeschooling.

And today he said to me (as we were passing a bunch of school kids), “I don’t understand why kids go to school.”

He’s one happy boy at the moment and clearly appreciates homeschooling, not just from the comment above, but his general behaviour/attitude is pretty awesome.

Good times!

Not all times are good/easy.  It’s worth writing down about the good and the bad!

Things We Do: Minecraft Weekend Away

I’m trying to get into the habit of logging some of the things we do.  Often this is through photos as I tend to be snapping pictures during the things we do.

We went to a Minecraft Home Ed Weekend away up in Cumbria over the weekend.  We had much fun.  There were sessions for the parents and the kids.  It was really nice being around likeminded people.  I particularly noted the relaxed and flexible approach with the kids – especially when the were immersed in Minecraft whilst talks/instructions were happening.  Often they were asked to nod their heads to ask if they understood something, and the kids did.

I plan to write more about the Minecraft things we are up to in another post, for now here are some snapshots of our weekend away.

We broke down on the M4, almost half way through our journey. Our car died. Got towed home. We luckily managed to get a hire car.

The kids immersed in Minecraft stuff…

There were some non-screen based activities too. A hamabead sword. Plus several talks for kids and parents.

We got outside too. The event was in Morland (Cumbria), a lovely part of the country.

Practice What You Preach

Parents are really bad at practicing what we preach.  Myself included.

We have all these great ideas that we believe would bring such enjoyment, learning and fulfilment to our children’s lives, yet all too often we like to sit back whilst they get on with the *stuff*.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and through unschooling have been trying to make changes to our lifestyle to maximise happiness and practise what I preach.

Screen time

I’ve come to realise that I actually feel pretty good about my boys spending alot of time on the screen/games.  They become so immersed in it, have so much fun and they do learn lots from what they are doing.  How can I possibly take that away from them?  After all, I play games sometimes.  But I do more work on screens than games and to me this is just the equivalent of games.

They play alot of Minecraft, though we got an Xbox One recently so they’ve been spending some time on that too.  We have a few iPads in the house too, the use of those are a bit more sporadic and perhaps more relevant for long car journeys.  We guide them alot on the things they are doing are try to support and guide them in a direction that they want to be heading in.  I need to share more about the stuff that they are up to on Minecraft.  It’s certainly going in interesting directions.  More on that in another blog post.

Health and Exercise

This is perhaps one of our hardest and most time consuming challenges.  As a family we are committed and believe it is right that we are a physically active.   I get lots of comments saying things like ‘gosh, 3 boys.  That must be hard work!’.

And yes it is. But I am grateful for it.  Especially more recently where I am really trying to practice what I preach with regards to physical activity.  I’m currently on a road to becoming (super) fit.  I feel I’ve neglected my personal fitness for the past 10-15 years (I’m 35) and it’s vital that I get back into shape.

Part of this is me doing my own exercise regiment (I’ve started running recently), but another part of it is ensuring that (especially in this good weather) that we get out every single day and do something together.  My boys aren’t really up for classes so it’s really down to my husband and I to ensure that we all get our fair share of physical exercise.  To be honest, it ends up being better and cheaper for us that we all do they exercise/activities.  Sometimes it’s trips to the park, they scoot and play about, I do my playground exercise. Sometimes it’s a long walk. Or a bike ride. Or a trip to the beach. Or to the skate park where I participate on my rollerblades and they scoot or rollerblade.  Sometimes we split up the activities – I’ll go to the park whilst my husband and the boys go for a cycle.

For Aaron and Ben we need to get better at just kicking them out to go to the park by themselves.  We haven’t pushed that too much mostly because we’ve been enjoying doing the exercise with them.

Letting Go

I’ve increasingly been letting go and do not force my boys to do anything they are not up for.  Our main rule these days is that as long as we get our physical exercise for the day and we live in the same timezone then I’m quite happy letting them choose how else they want to spend their time.

We talk a lot about their ideas, thoughts and plans (there is a lot of learning happening when we talk!).  And out of habit they always come to us and ask if it is ok to do x or y.  I have no issue letting them know if I feel there is a lack of balance in what they are doing and rather than enforcing that they stop doing something we tend to compromise.

I’m constantly trying to come up with ideas of things to do and will seed those about in rosie ways.  Some things stick, others don’t.  We keep experimenting and discovering what it is that works for us as individuals and as a family as a whole.

We all have things we want to do, the trick is to try to make them all happen.  As the kids are learning, sometimes that means they need to do things that they would prefer not to do (like cleaning up, helping out, playing with their little brother).

I have better things to do than monitor every little thing they do (plus I would hate it if someone monitored everything I did to ensure I was learning!), but I am very confident they get a good balance of learning and life opportunities.

Love unschooling…!

Teachers of Today

The teachers of today have changed.

Teachers are everywhere in every form.  Teachers are not just those people found in schools, colleges and universities.  I encourage you to look around and find the teachers that exist within our world.

I am a teacher. I teach my boys about life.  How to live according to how we believe is a good way to live.   They learn a lot from me.  I pass on what I know when they are interested.

Their computer are teachers too.  As are the many games they play.

The stranger on YouTube is an amazing teacher too.

Books can teach a thing or two as well.  Not just the words, but the process of reading and discovering too.

My iPad is a teacher to my 2 year old – the current theme are numbers and letters.

A trip to a shop becomes and education.

And we soon discover that a forest, a falling leaf or a trip to the beach can teach us wonderful things too.

All of these things (and many more!) are our teachers.  Once we realise this as a society, then the sooner we can let go of our obsession that only ‘qualified teachers’ can tell us what we need to know.

Unsubscribing

I realise what I’ve been doing recently is slowly unsubscribing ourselves from *things*.  Really this is unschooling ourselves as a family from everything that we don’t need, but I kind of like the term unsubscribing.  Maybe more people will understand what I mean when I use this term.

As a society we are overwhelmed.  There is so much to deal with and we think it is all important and essential – yet often it is only until we unsubscribe that we realise life is better.

Those that live in the tech space will recognise this with information overload through email, news, marketing, apps, etc whilst forever keeping your skills up to date or face being out of the loop (unemployable) within 12 months (or people like to make you believe).

There is overload at home too. So much to mange. Household. Food. Money. Bills. Schedules for each person of the family.  Places to be. Errands to run. Mouths to feed.

And there’s the world of business too.  I’ve seen it too many times…people building businesses in the wrong way because they are subscribing what others are telling them to do. Push for sales. Go for growth. Take on that office. Employ people. Borrow money. Take investment.  Whatever it is – there is so much pressure to ruin business by subscribing to something for the benefit of someone else.

Then everywhere we go there are people overloading our lives. Get this. Or that.  On the streets. In cabs. Buses. TV. Marketing. Adverts. In your face, constantly.

This is nothing new.

But there are things we subscribe to without thinking (too much) about it either. Schools as an education. A job. Work till you retire. Pensions. Commutes. Government (and therefore societal) standards. Parental and society expectations. A mortgage…

…and a dream that is not really yours.

I can’t help but feel that when we are born we are all automatically subscribed to this stuff.  We get pressured and spammed to follow life through how others (typically society/government) think we should live our life.

We are not given the time and the space to discover who we are and how we can become happy individuals.  We are pushed through this wheel.  We get churned as numbers. Thinking we have to continue through it, but little do most people know that there is an unsubscribe button.

We’ve been unsubscribing. You could too!

Unsubscribe today.!

Playground Fitness

[I published this last year on another blog, but have been doing some tidying up and feel it is better placed here].

codieandiI’m a mother of 3 boys, currently aged 2, 8 and 10.  I now home school them too.  This means my personal free time is usually very limited – this doesn’t stop me wanting that ever elusive balanced life.

I’m no role model, but I want to have a balanced life. Get back into my old jeans. Get fit enough. Eat good, real and mostly unprocessed food.  Whilst raising a family and making a living alongside my husband.

My 3rd son took a toll on my body.  I always suffered during pregnancy with SPD, but my 3rd was the worst.  I could barely walk for half of my pregnancy.  It was painful.  I thought it would all go away post birth, but no.  Whilst I could walk, it was often painful. Short walks and simple trips into town were hard work, full of hurt and they left me knackered.  Chiropractors visits were helpful, but the results never lasted.  I knew deep in my heart that I needed regular exercise to help me get better.

It was hard to get started because anything faster than a walk really hurt my hips.  I truly felt like I had the hips of an old woman :(

As my youngest was approaching 2 years I decided I need to take action.  There had been some improvements, but for goodness sake – 2 years of SPD was driving me nuts. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and get in shape.  I started by running.  Over a course of a month I worked up to running for 30 minutes – I didn’t manage more than 5 minutes on my first attempt.  I was so proud of myself!  For me this is great progress!

But then life got busy and I struggled to find the time to do the running on my own.  I didn’t stop exercising though.  I was making sure I did things with my son(s) 2-3 times per week.  It has been a mixture of playing tennis, basketball, football, rollerblading and hanging down the skate park.  My main focus was to keep my body moving.

Throughout this time my hips got so much better.  This made me happy!  I still have a lot of work to do, but I know that what I am doing are having positive effects on my body.  I just need to keep it up and make it a habit.

I didn’t do exercise for a week and my hips started hurting again. :(

One morning I went to a playground with my 2 year old.  We were the first ones there or so I thought.  I spotted a man there working out, using the playground as his gym.  Now I’m sure I’ve seen this before, but something clicked in me.

“I should be doing that!” I said to myself.  Infact, why haven’t I seen other mothers doing this?  We’re always down the park, yet we all tend to stand and watch or sit, chatter and sip on coffee.

So I started working out at the playground (after the man left).  I ran. Did press ups. Played on the monkey bars. And did some tricep dips.  It was a proper work out, I even got hot and sweaty!  And my boy joined in with the squats and the running!  I can confirm that I run faster than him, but he squats much better than me.

I love this idea of working out at the playground and I’d love to make this a habit of mine.  I’ve done a bit of research and have come up with a list of exercises that can be done.  I’m not really going into detail about how to do each exercises, there is google for that.

Most times I go down the park now I make sure I have the right clothes and shoes to do some exercise.

Perhaps use this as a guide to build your own routine, that’s what I’m using it for. And just because I have mentioned something here it doesn’t mean I am quite fit enough to do them (yet)!

Running Exercises:

  • Run around the playground
  • Try a mixture of walking and running
  • Try quick sprints
  • Running on the spot
  • Running on the spot whilst lifting your legs up high in front

Monkey Bars:

  • Hang and hold
  • Hang and L Hold (life your legs up to be horizontal)
  • Swing across the monkey bars
  • Chin/pull ups
  • Hold your chin above the bars for 10-15 seconds
  • Hanging knee tuck – whilst hanging tuck your knees towards your chest
  • Hanging crunch – hang upside down, use your abs to pull your top body up

Bars:

  • Tricep dip
  • Assisted pull ups on a low bar (with body at a near horizontal angle, get under a bar and pull your body up whilst feet are touching the ground)
  • Can you do body planks on any low bars?
  • Press ups on bars

Swings:

  • Just swing!
  • Push ups with feet on swings
  • Hold on to swing with hands, lean back then pull yourself back towards swing
  • Try to do a plank with arms on swings, great for strength and balance
  • Suspension lunge – rest one foot behind the body on a swing and do a lunge
  • Swing crunch – feet on swing, hands on ground, crunch towards chest, repeat

Slides:

  • go up and down the slides!
  • lie on the slide and do a sit up (head at the bottom of the slide!)
  • run on the spot on the slide (whilst holding on the sides)

Open space:

  • Running as above.
  • Jump!
  • Jump and try to tuck knees towards chest
  • Legs: supported lunges, knee towards ground
  • Bring a jump rope, or play imaginary rope jumping!
  • Jumping jacks
  • Body squats
  • Hip extensions – lie flat, arms on the ground, lift hips up into the air and hold for a few seconds.
  • Hip rotations – standing up straight, lift leg up, then move out then down, then up and back around
  • Leg swings – swing leg back and forth
  • Side leg swings – swing each leg sideways
  • Spiderman steps – in a pushup position on the ground, bring one leg close to your hand then move back down. Repeat.
  • Are there any beams, low fences or barriers? Trying balancing on them.

Benches:

  • Step up on to benches, lifting the leg not on the bench towards your chest
  • Jump up onto benches
  • Press ups on benches (do at different heights according to your strength)
  • Reverse crunches – lie flat on bench, lift legs up towards chest
  • Straight leg reverse crunch – lie flat on bench, lift legs up until vertical

Things We Do: Pair Programming

My boys love computers, but my eldest is also keen on taking it further.  He’s been working through the Khan Academy programming course.  He gets stuck quite alot, so what we’ve started to do is work through the problems and activities together – also known as pair programming.

Last week we hooked his computer to the TV and we both took turns working through the problems.  It meant we could easily see what was going on. I think it helped that I’m not a programmer myself and he could see the things I was trying out to solve the problems.

It’s good fun! The best part for me is the working together bit.  I can really feel it strengthen our relationship – which is really what I was hoping for and expecting from unschooling in general, but I still feel like I need to be pinched when these connecting and special moments happen.

Unschooling FTW!