On the Christian Unschooling Facebook group we get weekly requests for unschooling podcasts, especially ones from a Christian perspective. My team has been trying for ages to find time and energy to get together and make a proper podcast. We ideally would like to make a group one using our admin team. But it just hasn’t happened. We all are working or going to school and there is no way we can fit a regular (or even irregular) meeting time in our already busy schedules.
Enter the (Christian) Unschool Carpool podcast. I drive to the university 35 minutes away several time a day. Sometimes I have my charge in the car (5 yr old A, who is lovely and sweet and super fun and loves my cell phone full of games for her to play.) But the rest of the time I am on my own. This means lots and lots of audio books…. BUT it also means I have plenty of time to record in a relatively quiet (aside from traffic noises) environment. It also means no script. Which means I ramble. Because that is what I do. I would do it even if I HAD a script. But since I am driving the same long straight road day in and day out I have this nice long boring stretch of road where I can drive and talk at my phone about the questions people have asked about unschooling, radical unschooling, Christian unschooling, and all the other stuff people ask over and over again.
Obviously this is not nearly as interesting as a conversational podcast (which I did record with the kids on an hour drive to Pittsburgh and which was very, very fun) but it is a start. And if it works then my co-admins can answer the same questions and then, when we find time, we can record some together. At least we hope so.
This first podcast is available as both an mp3 and as an ogg (and I will also try to upload it to my youtube channel for people who prefer that but for right now we will try it this way.) Eventually I will upload it somewhere that works for rss but this is a start. It isn’t perfect. I don’t have time for a lot of editing and I am just learning to use the audio editor so please forgive the weird cuts (I pause a lot when I am talking on a good day and while recording… I pause more so I was playing with removing them) and the sounds of traffic.
This podcast is the first, obviously and therefore basically an intro. A “how we ended up unschooling in the first place, and how we ended up becoming radical unschoolers” type story. It is a story of us, as a family, and how we got where we are. How God brought us here, because He most certainly did. (Did I mention rambling? Yeah.)
We get the “my kids are doing nothing but play video games/watch tv/look at a screen and I can’t stand it, what should I do?” question about once every week or so on our (now huge) Christian unschooling Facebook group. It has become the norm. We are all kind of tired of it. Really. For many reasons. Mostly because we hear the fear, we know the paradigm shift hasn’t occurred yet, and we know it will be a fight to get there, and that part is exhausting. The following is a recent response that I wrote while super-short on sleep 😀 but which ended up covering all the basics in one place.
To pull from something my dear friend Pam often points out; how much time is “nothing other than game on their PC/ds/Wii”. Do they get up to get a drink? Go to the bathroom? Eat something? Sleep? If they are doing those things then clarify. They are doing something other than just playing games. They are probably getting up. They may even jump around, do other things. They may spend a few minutes getting something, look something up, they may even go play with something else for a while, go outside, play together beside the tv, they are very likely doing something else too. We need to see those things and recognize that no, the child is not spending “all their time”, they are spending more time than we feel comfortable with.When we start out with a generalization, it is really hard to get from the viewpoint of seeing it in a negative light to seeing “screens” as many different types of learning and internal things going on and the screen itself as just the media they are getting those things.
My husband spends the majority of his day in front of a screen. Working, playing, socializing. He does many different things and yes, he has always preferred doing things in front of a computer screen to elsewhere- there are just so many more things to do, it is a vast world full of many, many types of media in one place- no huge mess to clean up when he wants to play a game, he can write quickly and efficiently, read quickly and move between many different things to read, watch a movie, change the movie, and so on. It is an amazing, miraculous thing that allows us to communicate with our friends across the world (he collaborates with people all across the US weekly on huge projects), work anywhere (he works with people from all across the globe) and so on. It is amazing that this technology is available in our lifetimes and our children get to learn the language of it now, easily, without fear. Our kids are going to live in a world where much of their time is going to be in front of the computer. Some people won’t, but the vast majority will. They will use it for work, for play, for socialization, and as unschoolers we have the freedom to let them learn it right now, first hand, and be proficient at it. This is a huge boon compared to kids who are stuck in a classroom unable to look things up as they are interested. Our kids will be well prepared for the future, right now.
“Technology is here to stay. So why would I choose to keep my kids illiterate in the language that they may need for the future? A half an hour a day does not give kids time to explore the land scape.” ~Aza Donnelly
That said, if you are still really uncomfortable with how much time they are spending, then you get off the computer (you are here, reading this, communicating with others, online) and do really cool things out where they will see. Things that they will love. You make things available that go with what they love on their games (you will probably have to get online to research those things). You find things that associate with what they are doing so there is a connection- if they are into a game that has an associated tv show or other media then there are probably lots of products out there related to it- pick up a book connected with it, or some figurines, or whatever. If there is a website that has info about the game they are playing (hints, a walkthrough, a wiki- my kids learned to navigate the internet and read because they loved looking up info for their games) put it on your screen and show it to them. If the fact that they would be reading it on a screen bothers you, then you can often buy a gamers guide but they do get expensive. Offer to help them create a database of the characters and their skills, or print up ones you find online for quick reference. Pick up a gaming magazine for kids, or a book about the collectibles or whatever. Find ways you can connect with the kids where they are, ask them about the games, the shows, whatever. Bring them healthy finger foods if you are worried about what they are eating or that they aren’t eating enough. Ask them about the game, what they are playing, the plot, the people in the games. Let them know you are thinking about them and want to encourage their interests. Find some aspect you can understand and join them where they are.
This will help you connect with them and really get a feel for what they are getting out of all the things they do on that form of media, and maybe even why. And as they feel you are really trying and aren’t going to “take it away” and that you aren’t frowning about it at them, they will loosen their hold on it a bit and gradually they will start joining you in the cool things you are doing (not all), they will start looking at the books, playing with the associated toys or crafts, and so on. (Many of us have minecraft posters on the wall, or Pokemon, or Skylanders, or Terraria, and books, and action figures, stuffies, houses full of geek references.) Meeting them where they are will help you feel connection with them again (which is usually where the parents panic when they start feeling the kids are doing “nothing but screen things”.) It takes time for both sides, but it is like learning another language and our kids get to do it first-hand and be prepared for this changing world where screens are an everyday all the time part of our lives.
*I am a lazy blogger. Mind you I have been blogging off and on since 1999. Why yes, I had a blog on the original “Blogger”. I remember vividly making one, being so excited (I had a new baby and was one of the early “mom bloggers”), and then Blogger reset everything after a crash and I lost my blog. We all had to start over. Sigh. Anyway, point is nowadays I seldom have time to blog, what with working full time, having 3 teenagers, running the Christian Unschooling facebook group (nearly 2000 members now), and well, life. So you mostly get posts that are reposts of things I have written elsewhere, because, posts.
The following is in response to a new to unschooling mom asking how to make sure her passionate about art daughter was learning math. Obviously my post here is proof read, formatted properly, etc unlike the original post which I wrote on the fly. 😀
With art, math is more of a natural thing that happens and less of a “this is math” thing. If I try thinking of math while I draw/paint my brain actually stops doing the type of art I want to do and I get too analytical to do the more organic work I prefer. (I play a lot of logic/puzzle video games which use the math part of the brain when doing programming and very architectural drawings and tend to spend more time watching vibrant/visually stunning animes and movies and listening to music when painting- helps my brain get into the right mode to work). That said you do use math naturally as an artist and it develops as you develop. So this is more for the mom and whoever else is worried about the child learning math than for her.
You use a lot of math think to do perspective, scaling things for drawings- whether up or down, composition, layout, proportions, as well as anytime you work on a realistic drawing it is all in your head visual math. The only art I can think of that does not use math as a default would be doing complete abstract (and many abstract pieces are full of math). Anytime you are taking something real world and putting it on paper (including fantasy and manga style, but I am saying, anything you could build and see rather than abstract concepts) you are using an organic math in your head to decide where things go and how they fit and where the lines should go. Mostly it is because when God created the world He filled it with patterns and lines and you can’t draw without replicating those at least in part, and the more you do it and the better you get the more math you are actually using, whether you recognize it or not.
Nowadays I can actually see myself doing it, and my art is much better because of it, though when I was young, math made me panic and I had to “ignore” the fact that I was using it and rather intuit it to get it figured right. I still intuit it, but I also intuit most math in other things- if I think about numbers my brain switches them around (there is a name for it- it is called “dyscalculia”- makes doing bills extra interesting), but if I let myself not think about them and intuit the answer it is almost always right.
There is a big difference between conceptual math and arithmetic- arithmetic is 1+1 and people naturally get that stuff because we use clocks and money, bake and play games, and everything else in the real world that uses arithmetic every day. Art, on the other hand, uses a lot of conceptual math- the scientist/mathematician stuff that most people don’t think of as “math”, it is just another form of that. Seeing patterns and using them to know where to put lines and color and shape is much more conceptual than it is arithmetic . That said artists do also use basic arithmetic for figuring proportions and things in more complicated drawings and layout- think M.C. Escher type stuff.
*I wrote this in my Christian unschooling group in response to a young mom with a 15 month old wondering if she would ever have time to do all the things she wanted to, to learn all the things she was interested in learning. It occurred to me that she is not alone. I remember being that young mom wondering if I would ever get a full nights sleep let alone be able to do things I was interested in, things that weren’t just about my family. And how were all these super moms doing it all?
This is just a season. Everything in its seasons. Pregnancy is a season. New baby is a season. Toddler is a season. There was a season of me stuck at home in a new town with hubby gone all day, pregnant and with a toddler. We had a season of 3 kids under 5- all in diapers at least part of the time. A season where one child was constantly in and out of the hospital. Several seasons where I was too sick to get out of bed. We have also had seasons of going all the time. Of passionately learning new things- I have learned a little of several languages (Not a natural language person so it is more osmosis for me- watching a lot of tv in that language and just exposing myself to it). Learning to cook for food allergies. Learning natural remedies and cheap healthy foods. Learning wild crafting and herbal-ism. Learning how to be a homemaker. Writing a book. Editing and publishing my own and my husband’s books. Marketing books and art. Learning to code html and php. Hosting and maintaining websites for myself and others. Blogging. Reading the Bible through multiple times and really studying it. Researching pretty much everything. Running several websites and Faecbook groups. Learning to fix things myself and then doing it. Working for an antique appraiser. Working as a caretaker for an elderly woman. Taking care of my own grandparents.
I have been married 17 years now. I have a nearly 16 yr old, a 14 yr old, and a 12 year old. There have been many many seasons. There are many seasons to come. I have no idea what will come next. Some of the seasons rotate around my children. Others around other friends or family members. Some mostly around myself.
The biggest trick is learning to focus on the here and now- to do the next thing and not worry about the other stuff, but also knowing this IS just a season so you can enjoy it fully. You can keep your goals in mind, you can have a list, the list will change. Your passions will change.
One of the wonderful things about unschooling is that passion for learning in YOU will encourage the passion for learning in your children so when you hit a season where you can you do- you study and research and learn. And when you hit a new season you do what you need to do for that one. And you build on all that stuff that you have learned and are able to learn and grow more and it benefits your kids as you do so.
A week ago Rach and I went to the library after her piano practice. She wanted to pick up some old favorite audio books to enjoy while she was drawing. When we got there we found that while working on the teen section of the library they had put all the audio books, all the manga and comic books, and about half the other YA books in storage. All that was available was a smattering of popular and “improving” print books. A whole library of space– room for a huge magazine room for adults, several computer rooms, several open rooms in the basement, a huge new music area, and plenty of other available spots and they had stored away the vast majority of things the young adults actually used instead of finding a place to leave them out while they worked- the project started in April and won’t be done until at least November. Rach was understandably frustrated. I was frustrated and angry at the lack of respect for young people (they had recently done similar work on other sections and never stored any of that away. This is an ongoing issue at this library- if it is for teens then it is easy to push aside.)
What made my blood boil was the response of the librarian we had questioned told Rach, “Just listen to some of the grown-up audio books,” then she looked at me and said, “She is just being a teenager.”
As if Rachel’s righteous frustration at not being able to get to the audio books she wanted because of the thoughtlessness of others was due to her age or hormones. Her genuine irritation at the situation and their treatment of teens was discounted as just being her age.
I want to take a moment and say that our children’s librarian is excellent and genuinely enjoys working with young adults as well as children. He brings in a lot of excellent books, audio books, comics/manga. He has introduced game days and movie nights for the young adults and made the library a natural hangout and friendly place for young people- but he can’t change attitudes. The other librarians as well as the majority of volunteers will quickly sweep aside the concerns of the younger generation, have been known to cancel activities for them for the sake of activities for older adults, and so on. This treatment is reprehensible but it is the comments that irritate the most.
This is something we run into everywhere. Not just at the library, at the store, at the Y, it is everywhere we go. Perfectly ordinary people who have never met either of my daughters automatically discount their very legitimate negative feelings when things go wrong or people treat them poorly as “being a teenager”. Yes, hormones do affect the way we feel- they act like a megaphone for our feelings, especially when we are in the worst of it, but that is just as true during menopause, during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy. I know the majority of the women I know would be very unhappy if their feelings were regularly discounted because of hormones. “Oh, ignore her, she is just pregnant.” “Oh, she is just cranky because of her period.” “Oh, she just is crying because of perimenopause.”
No. In general teenagers are the only part of our population who regularly have their feelings discounted because of the hormonal stuff going on in their bodies. Everyone else gets the benefit of the doubt.
I wonder how this older librarian or any of the other older ladies who have made “teenager” comments recently would feel if I referred to her regularly as middle aged or a “middle ager”. What if I discounted her feelings regularly because she is dealing with perimenopause. “Oh, you aren’t really upset because you are having a bad day and people are treating you like crap. It is just because you are perimenopausal.” I don’t think that would go over well. And if everyone was doing that to her, after a while she would become pretty sensitive to it.
Our society as a whole tends to treat both young adults and children as second class citizens. We push them to do this and that, to grow up as fast as possible, and then refuse to acknowledge their maturity until a single age when suddenly we expect them to be all grown up. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different. We all grow and learn and mature at different stages. We need to respect one another, recognizing that everyone, children and young adults included, are dealing with different things. We all have struggles. We all have frustrations. We all have good days and bad. And as our children grow, we can gradually help them work through the rough spots, encourage them in their strengths, and treat them from early on with respect, recognizing them as fellow human beings instead of second class citizens. I think if we did that we would find that the vast majority of what we call “teenager” behavior would be eliminated.
Oh, and we solved the problem with the library- I suggested Rach go ahead and order the audio books from all the other libraries in the system. Sure it will be inconvenient for the librarians. Sure it may take an extra day but maybe next time they will leave them out instead of storing them away.
Interviews continued. If you missed the first one: Jennifer over at Path Less Taken has been interviewing her kids. I did that several years ago with all three (here) so I decided to do it again and see how things had changed. I started with Rachel which is here, Essie here, and now Issac (who was the hardest to pin down– he doesn’t like to be put on the spot. His initial answer is always I don’t know, then when he thinks a bit he answers.)
1. What is something Mom always says to do?
Nice to meet you, Hungry. (In response to his constant “Moo-oomm, I’m hungry”)
2. What makes Mom happy?
If I make her tea or clean up the living room.
3. What makes Mom sad?
I’m not sure.
4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Jokes or tickling.
5. What was your mom like as a child?
I don’t know, I forget.
6. How old is your mom?
7. How tall is your mom?
2 ft taller than I am. (a foot off– I am 1 ft taller.)
8. What is her favorite thing to do?
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?
I don’t know because I am usually asleep.
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
I have no idea.
11. What is your mom really good at?
12. What is your mom not very good at?
13. What does your mom do for a job?
14.What is your mom’s favorite food?
(Apparently I like salad a lot.:))
15.What makes you proud of your mom?
When you finish a painting.
16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
I don’t know.
17. What do you and your mom do together?
18. How are you and your mom the same?
We both make weird faces sometimes.
19. How are you and your mom different?
Your hair is longer.
20. How do you know your mom loves you?
You listen to what I am talking about.
21. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?
Um, to the computer.
(First kid who got this close to right– essentially unless I am taking a road trip my favorite place to go is “home”.:))
Things are crazy busy around here but I wanted to hop on and point out (for those who don’t already read Shamus’ site– though I know most of you do) that Shamus has been writing an autobiography of sorts on his blog. A lot of it explains why we specifically unschool and how his particular view of the US education system formed through his own experiences as well as how we met (today’s post was about our first date.) You can find it here.
We have been, for several months, gratefully living off the money we got back from the government (via paying our taxes) for which we have been very, very grateful. The problem is we knew it wouldn’t last. We didn’t go crazy and buy all sorts of things– except for stocking up on the things we had been out of for some time, getting a few things to replace broken other things (though not replacing all the broken appliances– well attempting to, but when the replacements also broke we just waited). So we are at that place. The place where we are back relying on Jehovah Jireh daily. The oldest isn’t too thrilled as she doesn’t like being uncomfortable at all but here we are. SO I thought I should share what all He has been doing (though I have been sharing daily on Facebook and on the CU group.)
When we realized how low we were getting we did the same thing we always do– avoided paying the bills. We are awful that way. Then we went to pay the bills and realized, wow, we really are low– too low to buy groceries. Okay, now what God? (I hate that we do that, but we both do, especially as it almost always happens when Shamus is sleeping during the day and we aren’t seeing each other except when one of us is falling asleep.
I helped a friend transfer her blog for fun and she sent us gift cards for a local restaurant– which is awesome and will provide a much needed date with Mr. Hubbypants (if our sleep EVER lines up again!)
The first thing that happened, immediately following paying bills is I started really analyzing the cost of GAPS foods and deciding what was most important. We then realized that trips to Broadrun farms were VERY important as raw milk, meat, and eggs are the cheapest nutrition for us. So, knowing we didn’t have the money we prayed that God would provide. And around the time that we HAD to leave I got money via paypal through the same friend who sent us the gift cards! Enough for everything we needed at the farm! YAH! (And thanks to my grandma I had enough gas to go!)
If you follow my husband at all you will know that he was finishing up his book, Libreoffice hiccuped and LOST 3 days of work– which was HUGE and he was devastated. Then a reader sent him a free gift of Word (the “good version–can’t remember which year). He was grateful but felt it wasn’t time to get back into it– which is fine because he works in his head like I do, THEN put sit on paper.
Because of that he suddenly got back into programming and started working on a game engine again– and is going at warp speed doing what he calls the best programming he has ever done. Which is awesome and I am excited to see where God takes that.
I have multiple jobs right now, all of which will help pay the bills in the coming month (some things due soon so that is awesome.)
Right after I had a huge panic attack about where the money would come from, God started putting everything into place. A friend sent us not only enough to renew our Science Center Membership (which he says we should do) but also added enough to pay some bills and keep us in food until these jobs pay. Praise the Lord–some stress relieved.
Another friend was doing a rummage sale at her church and told me to let her know what appliances we had that had died so she could watch for them. Then she offered to pick them up at the pre-sale (just for helpers) so I would get them. THEN when I tried to pay her she said no! So now we have all new small appliances to replace all our broken ones!
I just walked in and saw my son watching Beakman’s World. Instead of getting upset that he was “just sitting there”, I had a revelation.
He was watching a movie that he wanted to watch and therefore gleaning as much as he could from it. (Unlike when someone makes you watch something and part of your brain is thinking about all the stuff it would rather be doing.) So here he was, learning, just like he usually is, whether he is playing a video game, watching a movie, playing with Legos, whatever. So essentially what he was doing was educational.
In the past I, like a lot of moms, would have gotten upset because I want to make him be useful. I’m trying to prepare the house for Sabbath, I’m hurting, and I need help.
Here is the thing. People pack their children off to school, every school day, for 7 hours (and if they have a long bus ride like I did, 8 or 9 hours.) There they sit and do many educational things all day that do not engage them. For the most part, they don’t really care about these things and ask why they have to learn them. In between those 20 minute educational lectures/lessons (I am generalizing here– when I was teaching some lessons were as short as 10 minutes, others were up to an hour long) they stand in line, get out books and put them away, get a drink, eat lunch, take electives where they have to take out and put away, wait for their classmates to finish their work, do extra busy work that is there for classroom management not for actual education, spend a few minutes talking to friends while waiting in line or during recess, get shushed, corrected, and so on. They take tests to prove that they remember what the teacher told them, wait for others to finish their tests, loose pencils/books/etc, spend time finding all of those lost items, and all sorts of other activities that are not beneficial to the adults at home and may or may not be educational. The wasted time in a school room is an issue teachers know well and which we are taught in our classroom management classes.
Start the year with review of last year. Then learn something new. Then review that thing. Then take time to study that thing. (I hope you haven’t mastered the subject, because there’s nothing else to do in the classroom right now.) Then finally take a test about the thing. Then forget about the thing and move on to a new thing. Even on rare days when new information is imparted, it’s usually teaching for the test, not teach the subject for the purposes of knowledge and understanding. We were told to expect about 20-30 minutes of actual new content being taught and the rest of the day being remedial and managing the class. Half an hour of learning. Out of eight.
Now a classically homeschooled kid has a lot more time at home (when they aren’t running to outside things like sports and dance classes– lots of time in the car for those). The parents spend much of their home time planning, organizing, teaching, and keeping the child on task (and anyone who has done classical homeschool can tell you that that takes a TON of energy, though of course it depends on the kid.) So let’s say the child spends 4 hours doing book work. (Some do much more, some do much less.) They may or may not be interested in what they are being taught and some are learning a lot more than others. For those who aren’t learning then there is repetition and practice and the parent trying to find new ways to teach the lesson. During that time the child is being taught by the parent, which means the parent is pulled away from the other things the parent could be doing. On a good day everything goes smoothly and everyone finishes their work with no tears. On a bad day…well. When we were more classical most days were bad days. The rest of the day is often taken with chores and outside activities though they certainly get more downtime to explore their own interests.
The thing is, in both of those situations the child is only expected to be doing educational activities for much of the day (including all those extracurricular activities) and that child may or may not be getting anything out of ANY of those educational opportunities. Yet here I am with a child who is actively learning regardless of what he is doing because he is full engaged in what he is doing. He’s doing it because he IS interested and wants to learn more about it, and I am going to complain because he is JUST watching TV? Meanwhile, if he were sitting in a class he’d likely be doing a time-sink worksheet that exists only to slow down the faster kids and keep them busy while the slow kids catch up. Is that really better than television?
How messed up my thinking has been. I had forgotten the point was to see him learning, to look for the learning going on instead of keeping my own personal servant. I should point out here that he had already spent quite a bit of time helping me today and he often does helpful things out of love instead of being coerced, just like I do things to serve him, out of love. It is so easy to forget all the helpful things that he does do when I notice him sitting there “doing nothing” while I am busy.