17 Jan

How we recorded our learning whilst travelling

Often when travelling I think about our moments and experiences and whether I feel they provide some kind of value to my family.  The value for us often shines through the photos I take.  We tend to take experiences in.  Learn as much about them as we can through discussions, maps and reading/researching.

If you ask our boys what they learned on our trip to the US, they’ll shrug their shoulders and say ‘I don’t know’.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t learn anything though!

I love the fact that the most memorable and most amount of learning happens in between all the hard work and never really in the areas that we had planned for.  There are moments that catch us by surprise which are often the most special, eye opening, character building and fabulous learning experiences out there.

On our recent trip to NYC and then toward North Carolina, I captured some highlights.
The food! Tasty, big American food!

NYPD – New York Pizza Delivery :)

A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

Being the youngest but best at sitting on the corner of the couch with your legs wide open.

Standing on a block, even though you are scared.

Pretending to be The Statue of Liberty, even with a grumpy face.

“I’m the Statue of Liberty!” A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

Having a birthday in NYC is pretty cool!

Birthday boy, the mother and batbaby

A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

Running around a fountain.  Not just any run. A race. A fair race accommodating everyone’s capabilities.

  Love this. Racing the fair way :) #homeschool #homeschooling #unschool #unschooling   A video posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

Building the Empire State Building in Minecraft.  Researching. Learning. Talking and discussing how it should be built. No picture for that, so a selfie instead :)

My conclusion – #nyc at rush hour is nuts A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

Our sudden enjoyment and love for NYPD. Also known now, to us, as the New York Pizza Delivery.

  Watch out everyone! #nypd #nyc #nypdbaby   A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

A very boring and tedious moment turns into a bit of fun.

Codie models Gap clothing 😉 #slowmo #gapkids #unschooling #unschool #homeschooling #homeschool #nyc A video posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

How you can still smile and laugh even when you are homesick.

  You can’t tell, but my boy has been homesick for a while now.   A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

How beautiful a bit of autumn falling leaves can be.

Falling leaves

A video posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

12 Dec

Being Acutely Aware In Unschooling

Unschooling, free range learning, child led learning.  Whatever you may call it.  Well, it’s really not rocket science.  Yet, all too often, it seems to baffle people.

The bestest thing ever about unschooling is that we keep things simple.  Do what feels right.  Follow our feelings, interests and where the fun is. Of course there is research and theory about this and we believe in it (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it).  Some people don’t seem to understand this.

One example of a massive benefit of unschooling is what I call being ‘acutely aware’ of my family needs.

For example, I know:

  • when they are struggling
  • when something sparks them with interest
  • what they are good at
  • when they are bored
  • what they need to become better at
  • exactly where they are and how to decide what to do next
  • when they are feeling good, or not
  • when they succeed or fail
  • what will make them feel better or worse

Then based on examples like the above, we can make decisions (together) about what to do next.

You see, it’s not rocket science.  It kind of feels like common sense with a very human touch.  Very few people will get to know the people in my family the way I do.  And as unschoolers we are able to take the time to really tune in, focus and determine what each of our children really needs.

It’s really not something that can be replicated (easily) in schools.  They don’t really have the resources and time it takes to make real human connections and trust.  How can a teacher with 30 kids in a classroom be acutely aware of each child’s needs?

30 Nov

My Kid Teaches Me My Own Tricks

I’m talking about this website with my son.  The plans I have.  As an individual. As a team.  And how I’ve been unable to keep it going and growing as much as I would have liked.

He then tells me all the things that I know I should be doing.  The consistency of creating. The focus. The content. The marketing. The branding. Etc.

I let him ramble on for a few minutes.

And it dawns on me.  That we’ve been teaching him all of this stuff.  He’s soaking it up and applying what we teach him to his own projects.  Then he is showing me that he understands by trying to teach it all back to me :)

He probably knows more than the average 12 year old kid on the topic of web and YouTube building, but that’s not the point.  When he talks about it, his eyes light up. He is completely engaged in the things he is doing.  It is great to see him struggle and grow through some thing he really enjoys.

This year has been a tough one for me.  I hope to get back on track to what this unschool.me space was supposed to be.  And lots of what I’d like to share are things around what we do.

I hope you will all get to know our life that bit better.  Stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to our updates!

28 Nov

The Path We Choose

I have this idea where we will end up. And I definitely know where we don’t want to be.

The thing is there is no clear path. I feel the world changing all the time. I feel myself and my desires constantly changing. Throw in a few kids and a husband and you can imagine the constant change.

It feels to me that the world is built on paths that we are directed to take. The paths are clean, tidy and easy to view. They are paths where our natural instinct is to follow them. They are paths that we do not own. Often made to look shinier than they seem.

The best paths are the ones we carve out ourselves.

They are rough, undefined and forever changing.

They are judged and questioned constantly. Outsiders will often sceptically laugh and mock them.

We are constantly experimenting, succeeding and failing. We are not failures though!

And it’s tough. We do things differently that are often not easy. We are constantly questioning and dealing with our biases and demons.

We are consciously and constantly changing. And change is bloody hard.

But as unschoolers we understand that it’s a journey. We find joy and learning through our paths, not someone else’s.

Whilst it seems really tough at times, we truly appreciate and have gratitude for the life we are living. The idea and fear of following a path that is not ours is what keeps pushing and driving us forward.  They may not be shiny or of gold, but they are ours!

Onwards!

24 Nov

Refining What Unschooling Means For Us

Whole Sherry Family Selfie

A photo posted by Rosie Sherry (@rosiesherry) on

We officially started on our unschooling journey almost 3 years ago.  We had been mulling on the idea for quite a long while before that, but didn’t feel brave enough until then.  It’s been quite a journey.  And I can quite confidently say we will never go back to our ‘schooling ways’.

Whilst I always knew that our unschooling journey would have unschooling elements for us (the parents), what I didn’t really anticipate is the extent to which we would be unschooled ourselves.

We (the parents) have had to deschool too and develop our own understanding of how our lives as an active learning family should be.  I haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked about it and we’ve all had ‘interesting’ experiences and challenges along the way.

It’s tough. Experimental. Forever changing.

It’s incredibly clear that we are all going through the unschooling process.  Which for us is not focused on school in any kind of way (I feel like we’ve recently let go of one of the last remaining things of a schooling approach, more on that later, but it has to do with maths).  It’s about living our life detached from societal pressures and expectations.  Supporting each other in any way possible.  Trying to live in harmony, ha ha!  Defining ourselves what we believe is important to get by in life. We are all learning all the time, on our own terms.  We are constantly redefining our lives, needs, expectations and goals.

A common theme is that we strive for freedom in every aspect of our lives.  Freedom to spend time with the kids. Freedom to work.  Freedom to choose where to spend our energy. Freedom to experiment and play. Freedom to decide what works for us. And letting go of all the things that try to define and hold us back.

For us, it doesn’t mean we get to do what we want all the time.  It’s more of a case of finding the balance, between all of us.  There is important work to do.  Time together and play is also important. But these things can be combined where, for example – work feels like play :) (but I am not implying play is the opposite of work).

Balance is key for us.  Lack of it is what tends to cause problems.  And our life before totally lacked balance, which we know in hindsight was generally bad for us.

So unschooling for us means:

  • freedom
  • balance
  • work
  • play

For all the family. Together.

This is really a bit of a brain dump and reflection.  This year has been wonderful, but tough.  I’d really like to get back into my desire to write and refine more about what unschooling is via our journey.

21 Oct

Of Course Unschoolers Have Rules!

There’s this perception that unschoolers live some kind of wild life of chaos.  Without boundaries and rules.  Sometimes people peeping in from the outside believe that the foolish parents are letting the kids are making all the decisions.

Unschoolers Are Unique

I cannot not and will not speak for others.  I will only speak for us.  Each unschooling family will have their own approach.  And much of what I write about comes from experience of unschooling for the past 2.5 years.

The thing with unschoolers is that we do things our own way.  There is no set way of doing stuff as we are all individuals.  It’s a constant exploration of understanding who we are and what we need.  What we do one year will not apply the next.  What we do with one child will not necessarily apply for another.

Finding The Rules That Work For Us

What we found, for us personally as a family, is that we initially let go of the rules. We let our kids explore options and make decisions for themselves.  Then as we learned to live and trust each other more (and better) we started creating rules that worked for us.

The reality, imho, is that we all live by rules.  The beauty of unschooling is that we tend to focus on the rules that work for us.  We question everything and define rules together.

So as examples, right now…

We don’t have specific bed times or start times.  Though our two youngest tend to have a routine of getting to bed between 7-9pm.

We don’t have limits on screen time.  Though we express our reasoning for a balanced life of screens, physical activity and work that needs to be done around the house/family.

We have a guideline that our older boys should ask if there is anything they can do to help before requesting their own free time.

We have rules about being quiet after our youngest children have gone to bed.

We have rules about always trying to be nice and respectful towards each other.

We make requests that the kids help with the kitchen and dining areas being tidied up after meal times.  Actually, we ask things to generally be tidied up.  It doesn’t always happen, but we have a guideline that it’s unfair if the parents have to do the tidying up all the time.

We express that us parents are only human. We have needs. We get tired too.  We have rules that we should be considerate of each other and our individual needs.

We have a rule that if people in our family smell or are dirty then they should have showers, if not for their benefit, for the benefit of others in the house!

Plenty of Rules!

So, you can see we have plenty of rules.  The difference is that these are rules that matter to us. Rules that we have created – through experience, discussion and collaboration.

The rules for other unschoolers will be different.

The result is that we are all happy to live by these rules.  And when they are broken there are no punishments, it’s more a case of understanding why the rules were broken and deciding whether to continue with the rules or use it as an opportunity to change things around.

 

23 May

Minimalism for Babies!

THEMINIMALISTBABYThree months ago our 4th child entered the world.  Our life has changed a lot since our 3rd child, 4 years ago.

We weren’t unschooling then. Nor were we living independent lives.  We hadn’t started thinking about minimalism at that point either.

Our (slow) journey towards minimalism has probably been going on for around 2 years now, shortly after we moved into our current house.  Despite it being a big house, we feel we are slowly moving towards our goal of living with less.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever be true minimalists, our aim is to own only what we need and use.  We have discarded of loads of stuff and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s hard with a family and we can’t be as minimalistic as we would truly like, but we are making positive steps forward and always looking to improve.

There have been no tears of the parting of items.  Our older boys have been quite happy to get rid of almost all their belongings.  This does not include their laptop or xBox though!

What You Really Need For The First Six Months

I thought it would be worth highlighting what we have bought and set up for our new baby and what we believe is all that is really needed (for us, at least):

  • about 10 baby vests
  • about 10 baby grows
  • car seat
  • nappies + wipes (started on disposables, but have just transitioned to cloth nappies)
  • changing mat
  • baby carrier
  • stroller
  • baby bouncing chair
  • mattress / floor bed
  • Ikea Leka baby gym – bought 2nd hand for £4 #win

We haven’t bought a cot. For sleeping the baby has her own room with a mattress on the floor, Montessori style. I currently sleep with her.

expeditminimalismNor do we have a changing table.  The top of a small Ikea Expedit will do and the 4 boxes that fit into the Expedit is all the space the baby will have to keep her belongings.  We currently have 3 of the boxes/shelves filled up:

  1. with her current sized clothes
  2. clothes that don’t fit her yet (mostly presents)
  3. nappies/wipes

I hope to keep this to 2 boxes in the future so that the two bottom shelves can be kept for suitable toys/activities as she grows.

We will buy stuff as she gets older, but we will consider whether it will really add value to our lives.  For example, a walker or a donut ring is next on our list this will help free up our arms, time and bring joy to our baby. Also, the baby gym we have is not really an essential, but our baby currently enjoys it and it gives my arms a break for a few minutes :)

The Minamlistic Rules We Are Trying To Stick To

As we become much more conscious consumers, we are trying to stick to rules to help us decide what and how to buy, they are:

  • We will buy 2nd hand where possible
  • We will buy high quality so someone else in the future can get use out of it too
  • In addition to the high quality aspect – where possible we will focus on simple wooden toys.  We are desperately trying to avoid (cheap) plastic.
  • We will not hold on to anything that will no longer be used.  For example, we have already given away our daughters first size clothing.
  • When we buy something it has to have a place to live – otherwise it doesn’t get tidied away and creates mess.

 

 

17 Apr

Changing The Words You Use

I put a lot of thought into how I communicate with my kids these days.  A new baby in the house also brings extra challenges.  I’m often stuck on the couch or bed feeding.  This means I can’t easily get up and speak to the kids if they are in another room.

However, when I know they are on their computers, I now often Skype them.  Normally it’s to request something – normally to fetch me something or turning their voices down!

Today I Skyped one of them “Can you close your door?” (They were being a bit loud and I didn’t want the baby to wake up).

They promptly closed the door with an unintentional bang.  That’s how they close doors.  They don’t try to be loud.  Just kids being kids.

My reaction was to mutter to myself and shake my head in annoyance.  Luckily the baby didn’t wake up.  But it did make me think how best to deal with the situation.

So I tried again later that day.  This time I changed one word “Can you gently close your door?”

And bingo. Quiet as mice, they closed the door.

Result!

10 Mar

When Kids Practice What You Preach

One of the things about unschooling is that we spend alot of time with our kids.  This means we talk alot.

The funny thing is, the way we talk now is like friends. Or even like adult to adult.  With a huge amount of respect for each other.

When that happens we all listen better. We are all in tune with what is important for each of us. We take on board what everyone is saying and use the bits we like best, as individuals or as a family.

As parents we have had different lives.  ‘Bad habits’ are harder to break.  It’s easier for the kids to build the right habits *if they want to*. <— that’s the key.

But where we are at now, is that our eldest, when it comes to food, practices what my husband and I preach a whole lot better than we do.

He eats better and has a stronger will to resist than we do.  We can’t make him eat the bad stuff and it has resorted to us fighting over the last carrots. Something I would never have imagined!

Go figure.

10 Mar

Stop Accepting Things As They Are

We all want to create our own path, but will it truly be our own if we accept things the way they are?

There are paths everywhere that others try to define for us.  Just look around, people everywhere trying to tell you what is best. What to eat. What to wear. When to wake up. What to read or watch.  What is acceptable, or not. What to study. When to study. How much you should know, or not. What to do with your life. When you are right, or wrong.

Anyone and everyone will happily give you advice.  But it is only you that has to live with it.  The more you follow what others say, the less you really know who you really are.

How many of your thoughts are really your own?

There is so much pressure these days to follow a path that someone else has defined. So much so, that we often forget that we can define our own and it doesn’t have to look anything that currently exists in this world.

When you define your own life; your own path; discover the things that you enjoy and start discovering how wrong everyone else is about you. That is when you start discovering who you are.

And like a true teenager you begin to care less and less about what the world has to think or say about you.  Because it doesn’t matter.

The sad truth today is that many of us don’t take the time to get to know ourselves. We’ll come up with excuses of why.  And keep trodding along the path that others have created for us. Often expecting to be given the time to find out, at some distant point in our lives.

The reality is it’s a rare thing to be truly given anything.  You need to take stuff when and where you can. (You can apologise later!).