Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unschooling Voices August topic: Do you extend the principles of unschooling (trust, freedom, etc) into any other areas of your child's life?

I found this month's question to be an interesting one yet one I had never really thought about before. I suppose I could just answer with an unequivocal "yes" and be done with it, we don't just unschool "school" we live an unschooling lifestyle. But in the spirit of sharing, I will explain my "yes" in more detail! Be forewarned, this is definitely more of a ramble or stream of conciousness thing than a coherent article!

There are no bedtimes in our house. When you are tired you go to sleep and unless there is something that needs to be done early in the morning (like a demonstration at the county fair or a cool park program) you wake up whenever you want. Probably moreso than most of their "scheduled" counterparts, my kids are very aware of how much sleep their bodies need and are very rarely crabby from lack of sleep. The younger set still occassionally crash in the afternoon, in the car, on the couch or on my bed, to re-energize themselves for the rest of the day! Even Will, at 25 months old, will tell me when he is tired and wants to go to bed which differs from night to night. Take tonight for example, he came to me around 8:45 PM as I sat on the computer, took my hand and said, "go bed, boob, boobs", so I laid down with him, nursed him for about 15 minutes and he fell asleep. Who knows what time his request for bed may be tomorrow night!

Food...oh the joys of food. The kids are free to eat what they chose, when they chose to do so. I know their are many people out there that would think all that any child given this freedom would chose to eat would be candy, candy and more candy...and YES sometimes the choice is to eat candy, but more often the choice is something that most people put a higher nutritional value on. Soup, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, chicken, name it and my kids probably eat it. Well, except for Miss Emily who expresses her food freedom by eating a vegetarian diet. I have had people ask why I don't "make" her eat meat and all I can think to answer is "her body, her choice" because if they are asking the question that way you know they don't have the same trust in their kids that I do.

We do not limit or restrict tv. Some of the kids favorite shows are ones probably not things most of their peers are permitted to watch. Family Guy, The Simpsons, Seinfeld are some of our favorites...but the tv is just as likely to be tuned into a Nick cartoon, Court TV, or ESPN. They are not zoombies to the TV, because they know it will be there when they get back they willing chose to go outside and play, ride bikes, explore. I have never once had any of them say they don't want to do something because they are watching TV.

Music plays unedited and uncensored. My older two children often chose rap or hiphop, but I honestly find that the uncensored versions draw far less attention to the explicit language that is sometimes used. A pause or beep in the edited versions is much more likely to get my little ones attention and they will gladly fill in the missing word. Since the girls dance, music is almost always playing in the house and is always on in the car.

We haven't really reached the point where curfews are an issue. Typically my older two will go out together with friends and since none of their friends drive, an adult I trust is with them. On the occassions that they are not together and are with friends who have less supervision, I always love to hear the stories they tell upon their return. Brett has called us to pick him up, not because his friends were drinking, but because the adult in charge was drinking and planned to drive. He tells stories of his friends being drunk and smoking pot or of them smoking cigarrettes. It's not that I don't think my child could or would do such things, it is that I am observant enough (and experienced enough) to know if it happened and wouldn't pass judgement about it. I also trust that given our relationship that they would chose to tell me if they decided to experiment with alcohol, drugs or tobacco. The kids and I were talking one day about how some parents have their kids sign "contracts" that they won't ride with a friend who has been drinking or who is under the influence of drugs. We all laughed about it, my take on it is that if it takes me making my kids sign a piece of paper for them to know they can come to me unconditionally with anything then I haven't done my job as a parent and I must be living under some grand delusion that they would suddenly come to me when pressured by peers. OK, I am getting off topic here.....

As part of the family, everyone is expected to help with household tasks to some degree, but there is certainly no equal division of labor or assigned chores. There are times when I require that certain things be done before we leave the house, but it doesn't matter to me who does them. From the time they were little I would explain what things needed to be accomplished in order for us to be able to go out and do "whatever". If we are going to the waterpark for the day and need towels and lunches I will announce what things we need and typically the kids jump up and get it done, after all going out is more fun than hanging out at home. Now if they would only attack cleaning as joyfully...probably won't since they don't see me attack it with a joyful attitude!

The one area in our lives that is probably the least "unschool-like" is sports. Here, I believe, that your choice only lies in deciding whether you want to play/participate in a sport or not. Once you chose to play, you must remain committed until the season (or session) is over. Ironically I have never had to give the "your team is depending on you" speech...most likely because I have always told them that once they decide to play that they will need to stick with it until the end. Now this isn't to say that I wouldn't pull them from a team in a heartbeat if I felt the situation was abusive, unsafe or destructive. If you are a frequent visitor, you know the girls dance competitively and that the boys play numerous sports, baseball, basketball and football. Since they chose to play, and continue to chose to play season after season, then I suppose even that can fall under "unschooling"...following ones passions and interests!

So that's the long way to get to my "yes"...hope it gave you a little insight!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Keeping toddlers busy!

These ideas came through on a homeschooling list that I am part of. Although I have no need to keep my toddlers "busy" while I am doing schoolwork with my older kids, I thought some of the ideas were good and could be used just to have fun! I believe that the key to playtime activities is to have them appeal to many age groups, of course what else would you expect from a mom of eight???

Here a few favorites that came through the list:

1. Providing bread dough, rolling pins, cookie cutters, etc. You can either use an easy recipe for bread dough or you can buy it frozen. Give them cinnamon and raisins or dried herbs for flavor and you have yummy (?) dinner rolls.

2. A bucket (usually an ice-cream bucket!) with warm soapy water and an old toothbrush to "clean"...whatever. In the warm months, it's often an outside activity. During other times of the year, they can scrub bathroom faucets, baseboards, or potatoes for dinner (minus the soap, of course!).

3. Turning chores into games! Delivery Trucks is a favorite for the little ones taking clean laundry to their proper places. (Unfortunately no matter how I try to disguise chores, the older ones catch on!) The kids are given a small plastic basket that is "loaded" with clothes (don't forget to make the appropriate sound effects), they are given a "destination" and they make their "delivery." Sometimes there are "accidents," but that's part of the game!

4. Many meals have been prepared while the "baby" took a bath in the kitchen sink. We have found even a two-year old with a couple inches of water in the sink while the faucet is trickling along with some measuring cups and spoons can keep them occupied for quite some time.

5. Play "Office." A little plastic basket, or an old purse is filled with "important papers" (i.e. junk mail). Throw in some "stamps," "stationery," and an old checkbook, and they're ready for business.

6. We have enjoyed and occupied toddlers with a rice container. (A gift from an Aunt)! We use a decent sized rectangular clear plastic bin with a lid. Fill it 1/2 way with rice and fun containers, a spoon, funnels, plastic animals, etc., It is dry and sweeps or vaccums up easily. Dry pasta or beans work well too. You can dye the rice with vinegar and food coloring and place a table cloth under the container for easier pick up. They play with it in the middle of the kitchen floor.

7. I put a few inches of water in a different tub occasionally for water play. Again in the middle of the kitchen floor with a bath towel near by!

8. We also like play dough with tools and cookie cutters.

9. Another favorite maybe for 3 year olds and up is to cut out pictures in magazines (animals) usually and paste them on to paper. We have made zillions of these free style colages through the years. Our 3 year old uses child safety scissors and cuts and cuts and recuts paper gluing it every which way.

10. Recipe for bubble solution (in a gallon jug)
2 cups Joy dishwashing detergent
6 cups water
3/4 cup Karo light syrup
Combine, shake, let settle four hours (Best results, use only Joy and Karo).
Have kids blow bubbles with plastic frozen juice container (ends removed) or use straws or plastic berry containers.

11. Ask your local appliance shop for a free refrigerator cardboard box (or box from other large appliance). Cut doors and windows in the box to make a playhouse. Allow kids to decorate it with crayons, markers or paint.

12. We have built pillow houses in our family room out of couch pillows, bed pillows and sheets which we drape over them and the family room furniture. In the winter, we have used the deck cushions set on their sides for "walls", covered them with a sheet and viola, A maze! They can bring their favorite stuffed animals into their house or whatever their imaginations can come up with. Our kids have played for hours on end in these.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sophie takes Bake-It Championship!

Our little Sophie took first place at the Clermont County Fair in the Cupcake Division of the Bake-It competition. She won in the 8 and under division, and I believe she was the youngest contestant to enter anything. She picked out the design for her cupcakes all by herself (with help from the website) and decorated them completely by herself once her sister spread the frosting on them. Now mind you, I wouldn't have dared eaten one of them since she licked her fingers every time she put a chocolate chip or jelly bean on them. She was SO EXCITED when they called her name and gave her the trophy. She was just beaming and keeps talking about winning "1st place" and getting a RIBBON and a TROPHY! She is already talking about what she wants to bake for next year!

At the Winner's Circle for 4-H my friend Deanne and I noticed that there is a 4-H project called "Trapping Muskrats"....we both laughed and then admitted we had no idea what a muskrat looked like. We came to the conclusion that if you were the only one to enter the project it probably wouldn't matter if you captured a muskrat or a squirrel and wondered if the judge even knew what one looked like. So in the interest of self education, I thought I would find out.

I found a great page about them:

So now I have to figure out if I have ever seen one.....being a "city gal" I am starting to suspect that these may be what I thought were "beavers". I think maybe I should carry a field guide with me at all times.

Monday, July 24, 2006

4-H Demonstrations!

This year we learned that there was a demonstration competition that the kids could enter. Since both Hannah and Emily like being center stage they were eager to participate. Together they created a 6-12 minute demonstation on Lyrical Dance. They did a great job and showed such confidence. I would have never gotten up on stage in front of strangers at their age. They came in second place and were invited to take their demonstration to the State Fair. They have decided not to go because the stage at the State Fair is extremely small and will not lend well to them performing the routine that they choreographed. They had a great time and are already planning for next year. Grant has also decided that he will do a demonstration next year. How did I manage to raise children that are so self-assured and confident?

The 4-H educator even asked them to come back and dance for the Senior Citizens on Wednesday. You better bet my girls won't pass up another chance to dance on stage!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

2006 4-H Winner's Circle:

We have had so much fun with 4-H. This year has certainly been a learning experience, but the more we explore, the more we learn and the more fun we have. This year Emily entered 2 projects (genealogy and art), Hannah entered 1 project (Horseless Horse) and Grant entered 1 project (Collectibles). Emily took 2nd place in Art and 4th place in Genealogy; Hannah took 2nd place in Horseless Horse and Grant took 4th place in Collectibles (his friend Chris took 3rd place).
The kids are so excited about 4-H that they want to form their own club next year so that they have more of an opportunity to work with their friends on projects. Of course their ever scheming mother told them that if they form their own 4-H group that they need to come up with a name that would make them first alphabetically so that when we go to the winner circle they would call our cloverbuds (5-8 year olds) first so that they wouldn't have to stand around so long! So we just need to find something that comes before Agri-Maniacs...ROFL! It is too bad that 4-H participation is restricted by the state you live in, because we have cool friends
that don't live in Ohio! That's the only bummer about the whole plan!

We also had a blast with joining the shooting sports club this year. I can't believe that my kids have learned how to shoot rifles and handguns!

Hopefully we will have a whole lot more entered in the 2007 4-H competition. I don't know who is having more fun with this, me or the kids!

Monday, July 10, 2006


Ever since Melodie taught us to quilt last year we have been bitten by the quilting bug. Emily even made a quilt to show at the county fair.

We got together with our sewing group and worked on some more intricate quilt squares (all our finished quilts have just been basic square patchwork quilts). Sarah and Hannah are holding 12 inch squares, Emily added a border to hers so that it would be 14 1/2" like the sqaures we made last year. Emily and I both only need to complete one more sqare to complete the tops of our quilts.

Since we have mastered the basic square, next month we are going to make crazy quilts. I can't wait to see how they turn out!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

In the spirit of the 4th of July....

Click here: Could you pass the U.S. citizenship test? - Being an American -

OK, I'll admit it, I missed two questions. So how did you do?

The whole gang on the 4th of July!

Back row: Hannah and Emily
Front row: Grant, Sophie, Cade, Jacob, Brett holding Will (who refused to look at the camera)
In front: Louie
Sophie's 4 year pictures!

Unlike her baby brother, Sophie isn't the slightest bit camera shy. I was really happy with how these turned out for the most part....wish her shoes hadn't been near her head in some of the pictures, but I love her smile! Notice the bruise on her left arm? That is thanks to Will and his infamous teeth!