Maybe you could try skiing. Helps us get through the winter. I see you're in Ohio...have you been to the UWG or UGO? This year the UWG moved to May, but last year it was in Feb. and sure nice to hang out there in the depths of the winter. Our local homeschool conference it the end of March which is still pretty crummy, but gives us something fun to look forward to when we've about had it w/winter.
I don't know what to title this and I do this every year, sorry - Page 2
My unschooling friends organize both of those. We went to UGO several years ago, but haven't been able to work it out since and the Kalahari thing is too overwhelming for my husband, really, aside from the fact that we really can't afford it right now. One day! :)
Not to shoot down all the suggestions! We're doing similar things here.
Edited by annakiss - 3/1/11 at 1:02pm
I tend to think that if I'm unhappy with what habits they're forming, it's sort of up to me to provide an alternative that's agreeable. I also just can't move to completely accept that things that I feel are genuine health issues are fully valid ways to spend one's time. I sort of just struggle with it. The games are here. The computers are here. And hell, I live in reality, where I enjoy that the kids are occupied and I don't have to entertain or deal with them sometimes.
That part. When my kids were toddlers, they were not really the entertain-me-mom kind that my friends had. I could pursue small goals, tried out a teeny home business, what have you. that was my template for parenting, the pattern we established that I fell into; feed them, rock them to sleep, and then get on with your own stuff. I have always assumed that, as older kids given the *freedom* to not be constrained by school nor by my imposed ideas of homeschooling and worksheets, that they'd wake up each day so excited to continue X endeavour they'd begun the day before. My role in all this is pretty non-existant. I saw us as friendly roommates who shared our interests and projects with each other over supper. Not me as camp counselor having to plan daily activities and rouse the campers and walk them through each step every single day "We're going to that park remember so you need to get dressed. What would you like to eat, how about bringing a snack too. Think about the weather might you want another layer?". It's SO tedious and my patience is crud. I know I don't *have* to do this, and I don't in general. But that means they get up whenever, stay in their pj's all day and alternate between video gaming and carton DVDs. And you know what, I would too, if I could, but I can't. Nt because I have chores to do. Because I'd get fat and lazy and be old before my time. There, I've said it. I *was* allowed to eat as I pleased and watch whatever I wanted whenever, as a kid. and I got fat and hardly left the house, except to go to the mall. as an adult i need to break these habits, and try constantly, month after month, for over a decade now, because the effect are not alright with me. What I eat depresses me, literaly, but it's tasty and I grew up eating it so bring it on. TV eats away at my sense of self and I have been known to game all night and then snap at the kids the next day. I'm not feeling super proud of all I am many days, and when I look back on my life this cycle has been there since I was less than 10. and all of it, IMO, surrounds the total lack of rules and restrictions I had in my life.
And yet I chose to parent my children the same way, because I was focussing on my experience in school, which was either boring or limiting, and socially disfunctional. I *knew* if I'd had my own time to pursue my interests, or heck find them, I'd have created great things. And so I chose to give my children that time. But I'm wondering if the difference is that even though I loathed school, I did have to go. I had to stop eating/watching TV/reading mysteries to leave the house and go to a building without food or screens and do something different while I was there. I'm putting huge piles of faith in the belief that if left to their own devices, my kids solitary pursuits of Starcraft and Spiderman will eventually spin off other avenues that will engage them and fill them with purpose and wonder. And that feels like a lot of faith to put in consumer products created to keep them interested in only said products ad naseum.
I think that unschooling is so far out of the norm, and raising kids is so difficult and all-consuming, it's impossible for me to always feel like I'm doing the right thing. In fact, it's almost impossible for me to know what the right thing is. There is so much subtle pressure to do things differently and really, I think it's all a gamble. We don't know how this is going to work out. That cuts across all parenting for all people, but nonetheless, I think being an unschooling mother means that I'm bearing the brunt of responsibility for these kids. And I just don't know what to do from day to day sometimes. And I do get worried sometimes about things like handwriting and being able to do standard math, though not usually about the math. It seems that it's far easier when they're little to not worry, which is sort of backwards from how I thought it would be. Yes!
I have found a few things that seem like they will be cool for us. maybe they're just things that I deem necessary though. The thing is, I mean, really, the thing is that I get the sense sometimes that there is more that my children deserve in order to be well-rounded intellectually and in order to find the things that are meaningful and benefit the world and make them happy and all of that. And I don't just mean some arbitrary thing that was decided on by school boards based on an industrial model. I mean, they deserve cultural opportunities and time in nature and good literature and so on and so forth. Those things to me make up a good life. And I know they're not me, but I am responsible for them. I made them. And I can get them to these things some, but I have to motivate everyone to get out of the house, to sit and to read, to play a game, to do something fun. I find that the best work happens in groups. They do the best, most creative stuff on their own when they're with other children. I have ideas about how to create some of that, to both give them space and opportunities and decrease arguing and whining and my own frustration and terror about what they're doing/what they're not doing which usually causes the arguing and whining. It's all a struggle to get up and go though sometimes. I have trouble, now and then, feeling like what I'm doing and thinking and working on is actually good and worthwhile. Especially when I get weighed down with lots of errands and tasks of keeping up with our life. It makes it hard for me to focus on the children when I'm needing to clean or take everyone to the doctor or whathaveyou. I feel like that happens a lot. Sigh.
That is what I cannot figure out. I have these kids who are occupied most of the day staring at a screen, and yet the basic tasks of feeding them and cleaning that up before it's time to do it again and in between calling the electric company or organising homeschooler's swimming lessons means the day flies by and I feel like no one has accomplished anything.
When I was a young feminist I recall reading "The Women's Room" by Marilyn French. it was about a suburban housewife who kept index cards of daly chres and monhly chores etc and filed her empty days with maintaining a tidy house and cooking for her kids. And it poked holes in this reality (she ends up divorced, finds college and free-love and is reborn. Her kids are shocked). And I vowed never to fall into that trap of being CEO of my home and life in that way. I had bigger dreams that somehow managed to include homeschooling and dancing in off Broadway musicals and being a doctor, the married aspect being undecided. and I feel like that perspective of looking down on uber-organisation and so forth has hampered my parenting. That I am an unschooler, don't expect me to have a plan for the day, I'm going to follow my children's lead each morning and build our day around their interests. And every unsch. parent I know who's child is a gamer finds they game 24/7 unless you talk to them about goals and balance. And we've had those chats, in which I somehow manage to make my kids feel bad about gaming so much, when that is never my goal nor my perspective. But their request and the only solution we've ever come up with is that I agree to support their desire to game less and remind them each day of the plans they made the day before, of their desire to game less and do X as well. But that requires me being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not tiring of the daily, hourly reminding required to get them to follow their pursuits from the day before. And I'm just not that camp counsellor that it seems they need. And so I keep trying to put them in a class or something because they'll do what the instructor asks of them. Yes it's interests they've agreed to, but the point is once there they do the activities, they engage and smile and laugh (and learn). One child wants to learn the electric guitar, which DH owns and plays. but he is so overwhelmed with running his own business and is exhausted each day, that even thinking about creating a lesson/practice schedule for he and DD is futile, we know we'll try for a week and hate it it and then stop.THAT is it right there. We *could* meet our kids needs but we're too tired to. We both think having routines and schedules is actually what we all need, in these younger years, but our personalities and sleep needs/schedules and on and on are not gelling with that idea. I almost feel like we philosphically are unschoolers, but in practice, with us as parents, it is not creating what we think we want and what we know our kids want. Maybe it's winter, it's dark and cold, we're tired. but I think a big part is also that screens occupy them and we are too tired to pull them away from them. And habits are being formed, for all of us.
I could not journal our day nor participate in the 'what did your US do today?" thread because what we do is next to nothing, unless they're in a class. The only learning on their part is Mom's too tired or to busy folding laundry/on the phone/baking bread to engage with me, I'll go back to Starcraft. I've already spent 2+ years trying to alter my diet, try meds, exercise, whatever, to remedy my own issues. While I did all that they played games. See what I'm saying? I'm pressing submit now before I start deleting.
I feel like I did talk to her about it - I remember that she wanted to do drama after school and we called the high school before her "freshman year" and asked about the possibility of her participating in after school stuff, and they said she would need to be taking at least 2 classes, and she said never mind. And we did actually sign up for the virtual school that year, although only for 2 or 3 classes, and after 4 days or so she decided it was really stupid and left. She points out that at 13 or 14 she didn't really understand the choice and I was so biased against high school that she didn't really consider it.
So, whew. I dunno. I feel like some of this is panic over going to fulltime college next fall, and her feeling that everyone knows stuff she doesn't. And that's probably true, although I've offered to sit down with her and help her with that, but she says she doesn't learn well from me, only from classes. I also think, though, that she feels like the other kids know a lot more than they really do. She's worried about writing papers, for example, because she hasn't written many of them... but every freshman at my top tier university takes a college writing class their first semester, so it's not like they all come in as pros. I've read their papers, too, and though by the time they're juniors and seniors most are good writers, on average they're no better than Rain is, really. She's worried about powerpoints and oral presentations, too... but again, I've seen hers, and they're on-par with the students at my university, too.
I do think she's a perfectionist, and likes to know what to expect, and so this is throwing her for a loop and making her anxious. Also, she applied to 8 schools and we haven't heard from any yet but will hear from them all sometime this month, so it's a hard time.
On the other hand, she probably would have enjoyed a lot of high school. Where we live now the high schools are awful, but we could have chosen a different rental and she could have gone. I don't think it would have been as easy as she thinks, especially if she had taken college prep courses, and I think she would have had to do a lot more boring stuff than she thinks, but she's a natural leader and enjoys learning new things and taking on new challenges, so she would probably have done well and been happy. I think if I had known then that she was bound and determined to take the more traditional applying to college route that might have changed things, too... because I was open to lots of paths but she's set her sights on that one more and more strongly during the past few years.
I kind of think she did well and was generally happy with the path she took, too, but she thinks it was harder, and maybe it was. I alsothink she doesn't see herself as successful, and maybe in high school there would have been more opportunity for that. In a way I was recreating my own path, I guess - I dropped out of high school during my sophomore year and then went to community college and on to university, and for me it worked well. But, I'm not Rain, and she's not me, and as she pointed out, I had 9 and a half years of actual school first.
In retrospect I'm not sure how relevant this is, but here it is...
Aaaahhhh!!!! This is exactly what I'm terrified of.
Like your husband starting his own business, WCM, my husband has been doing a PhD program (with a crappy adviser) for the last 6-1/2 years. This makes him cranky and exhausted generally, and challenges our emotions on many levels. We've been having a really rough six months and I think that's really affecting our ability to cope and my ability to get through the day. I'm basically a wreck. I've been trying to change everything, to move forward, to let go of philosophical ideas about coercion (that I've never quite pinpointed into a real exact ethos) and just get through the day. Everything is immensely overwhelming right now though. It's too hard to be a camp counselor, as you described. I'm trying, I suppose, to piecemeal a life wherein some days are wasted and some days are productive. My younger son is a complete nightmare with the transitions though. He plainly refuses to like something ahead of time and wants to constantly be on the computer playing his games, despite our need to share things or his ability to usually have fun once we get to wherever I've contrived us to go.
I can't even get my thoughts on all of this together, really. I'm a bit like a CEO here, I guess, though I do take constant breaks and am not so uptight as to have little cards with daily chores and the like. Plus I'm not the only one cleaning. I have gained some compliance and help from my children. I think they do want to participate, it's just hard to always convince them that it's necessary. They're all willing once they get there. I wish there were a way I could see how all of what I'm doing is working. I wish there were a way to know what is right and what the long-term consequences of my choices were. As it stands right now, I'm in a place of doubting everything and doing very little and very much and trying and trying and failing miserably and really just muddling through the day to day. It's misery, really.
There's too many things to do in any given day - this has always been true - and right now, with misery and a fundamental re-working of the ways that I spend most of my time, I really just don't know where to start. My anxiety these days is utterly crushing. Maybe my real problem is mental health issues and not really a way of thinking about unschooling, but the intersection is very difficult and largely troubling. The tension between my children's education and my ability to cope or function is where all of this breaks down.
I don't know what I'm even talking about anymore. Forgive me! I'm going to hit post before I regret it...
Boy, if only we could hey? :)
But that's the thing. We can't. We make the best choices we can. For my mother that was sleep-training me, using punishment to try and control me, etc. And despite the damage I know some of her choices did, I don't hold it against her for one second. She made the best choices she could at the time, under her own unique circumstances, and the truth is kids are pretty resilient.
For all the talk around this forum about whether to step in and take over control of our kids' learning when things aren't going well, the one thing I think we're missing is that there IS no crystal ball. You're just as likely to stumble upon the solution that changes everything for the better, as you are to change things for the worse. And you won't know until the end, and then what? Therefore, if your kid comes to you in college and says "I wished you'd made me do Math" or "I wish you'd made me go to school" I don't think there is any good in beating oneself up or second-guessing.
I make the best choices I can, at this moment, based on what I believe in my heart to be best. If later I find out I was wrong, I hope I'll be wise enough to chalk it up to a lesson learned, and see that my children weren't irrevocably harmed because of it. It sounds like your life is overall chaotic, and I doubt that there is any magic solution to that, be it sending them to school, getting more "structured" in their learning, or whatever. Maybe there is some other aspect of your life you can change and only affect you so that you can feel like you are doing something and taking charge of things without risking negatively affecting your relationship with your kids.
I think, too, that a lot of things change when kids get to be 11-14 (earlier end of that for girls and later for boys, usually). There's a big development shift somewhere in there, and maybe I was slow in realizing how much was different. That probably has more to do with parenting a teen than unschooling per se...