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moominmamma 07-01-2014 11:24 PM

July 2014 Unschooling Thread
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Anything goes here: ponderings, revelations, rants, projects, frustrations, learning and living ... post away!

SweetSilver 07-02-2014 08:36 AM

Pretty much spending most of the day out with the chickens, except to come in to watch TV for a short rest. 6 weeks to fair and the girls are getting excited as always. A lot of birthday parties that are taking us to the beach, backyard pools and bouncy houses, trampolines and balloon animals, and our first cultural foray into Chuck E. Cheese (with mixed reviews--fun but loud and overwhelming).

The beach was a blast, and it was an uncharacteristically sunny day (Washington Coast? Sun? Before July 4th?!?) and I left for home with a Northwest Tan (sunburn below the knees and on chest). The girls got to play with some of our older friends and made a new one. DD9 managed to stay through high tide. It's been hard for her to internalize that while individual waves are unpredictable, the tides can be mapped a year in advance or more. We did a "high 100" in celebration. Then 45 minutes after high tide, a sneaker wave threatened to destroy her victory. It surged several feet above the high tide mark and put her in panic mode. We did leave about 45 minutes later but I refused to leave while she was flipping out. She calmed down high up on the sand cliff. Good times. I don't know why we don't go more often, It's only about 1.5 hours' drive.

Today I had berry picking and nettle harvesting today, but I'm sick. Not sure, I might have a small bit of energy and the berries don't wait. I want to harvest the nettles for cordage like I learned to do once a few years ago. It was surprisingly easy, but time consuming, and it's easy to imagine how much work goes into traditional fishing nets. I had made a nettle bracelet from it, and now that's gone and I want to make more.

But today.... :sneeze ... I might end up watching a parade of videos, including That Darn Cat, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (some high cinema I found at the library :wink) and X-Men, Gilligan's Island and Mythbusters.

moominmamma 07-02-2014 10:24 AM

14 Attachment(s)
Canada Day yesterday. We didn't do much special. Took in some fireworks in the evening, and spent the day puttering around doing outside work. The girls took a sledgehammer to an old concrete slab we needed to get rid of and carted it away in bits. We've been working on chinking our little guest cabin. Dd20 will be back and using it in a week or so, and the exterior chinking got left a couple of years ago after I finished the interior. So we've been scrubbing the logs clean, pulling out the cotton (?!) batting that was used as chinking previously, installing backer bead, then using PermaChink and pointing it for a nice finish.

Fiona is still practicing up a storm to prepare for her music camp in early August. She is reading a fair bit. And math seems to be something she still wants to do every couple of days for about 20 minutes. There's a fair bit of cooking, lots of flips and flysprings on the trampoline and working on walkovers. She learned how to drive the mower-tractor the other day and enjoyed that.

I would love to know how to use nettles for cordage! How cool!


SweetSilver 07-02-2014 11:07 AM


Originally Posted by moominmamma (Post 17748874)
I would love to know how to use nettles for cordage! How cool!


I've heard both the fresh method and the dried. I was taught the dried. You separate the fiber from the chafe by slowly breaking the outer stem and pulling the fibers away from it carefully. Then you fold in half, or almost half, and start twisting the fibers together.

ETA: There are some videos on youtube. Most seem to start with a fresh nettle stem, but the way I was taught was dried stems that had been harvested in June-ish. It makes extracting the fibers very easy. Then you twist, fold in half, then just twist one side, twist it around, twist other side, etc., instead of twisting both sides and letting it twist together naturally. I was used to spinning yarn so I wasn't prepared for how easy it was to twist nettle fiber into usable cordage.

mckittre 07-03-2014 02:35 PM

Just got back from a 10 day wilderness backpacking/packrafting trip--the 3yo's first significant trip where she walked herself (as opposed to being carried). Lots of neat sights and experiences, even in that relatively short time. The 5yo got into learning and photographing all the wildflowers, and we had lots of long conversations on the trails (we almost never go where there are trails, but they are definitely nice for little kids) about all kinds of things, educational and otherwise. Mostly, I just love watching them play together outside.

I do wonder sometimes, since my family does a lot of this kind of thing, if the kids education will suffer at all from the lack of access to books and other materials when we're out there (often for months on end). No room to carry anything extra. I guess I hope that the learning experiences they do get out there will make up for it. I certainly learn a lot on every journey.

Nazsmum 07-03-2014 02:51 PM

:nerd: Subbing

moominmamma 07-03-2014 09:33 PM

14 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by mckittre (Post 17752194)
I do wonder sometimes, since my family does a lot of this kind of thing, if the kids education will suffer at all from the lack of access to books and other materials when we're out there (often for months on end). No room to carry anything extra.

You're kidding, right? Real life learning trumps books a hundred times over. I mean, I suppose if you were in the bush for 10 months straight out of every 12, year after year, then maybe there would be some trade-offs. But two or three months here and there? Pish ... there's nothing they'll miss out on that won't be more than made up for during the three weeks you're subsequently home, and by the life-learning they'll be involved with when you're in the bush.

One thing that has amazed me with my unschoolers over the years that you may not have had the chance to witness quite so starkly yet is how kids will be away from something for months on end but are internally developing a latent capacity for huge leaps in mastery. I've seen it many times with all these supposedly linearly-acquired skills like math, and reading, violin-playing and so on. Kid hits some sort of motivational wall and loses interest in whatever it is and barely touches it, if at all, for six months. Then one day he says "I really feel like _____ again," gets busy and makes what is normally considered eight months of progress in the space of a couple of weeks. Makes your head spin.

Minds stay busy, kids keep learning, brains keep developing connections, even when there isn't daily opportunity to express the growth in particular areas. Then, when the opportunity shows up, you see these big bursts. You'll likely see one of your kids making steady progress in decoding primer-level text and worry that there won't be the opportunity to practice when you head out on a long back-country trip. And then you'll come back to town two months later, and your kid will sit down with a novel and read it cover to cover in three days flat.

Having said all that, when your kids are older and want to be able to take reading and reference material with them but you can't afford to pack the bulk and weight of books, I would highly recommend a little e-reader. My little Kobo Mini weighs in at less than 5 ounces and holds hundreds of books, and enough charge to keep me reading a couple of hours a day for a month or more. And it fits easily in a small Ziploc freezer bag.


Cassidy68 07-04-2014 06:47 PM

One thing that has amazed me with my unschoolers over the years that you may not have had the chance to witness quite so starkly yet is how kids will be away from something for months on end but are internally developing a latent capacity for huge leaps in mastery.


Oh yes, this! Absolutely. You'd think I'd be used to it but it just blows me away every time. Serious stealth learning happening. Sometimes when you least expect it.

healthy momma 07-04-2014 08:23 PM

We are spending a lot of time outdoors and particularly in out "orchard" (a bit less than a 1/4 of our 1 acre and has lots of small planted fruit trees) where we are working in natural playscape features. It is gorgeous out there this time of year with high grasses and lots of wildflowers. Right now I'm super excited because we are putting in something for ME. Yes, I get to have something for me to play with. Trying to do this more often and am really enjoying it. I am building an earth loom and am really close to having it finished so I can start the weaving. But I'm really enjoying the process of making it as well. I'll have to post a picture when it is finished. And maybe I'll add in some pics of the other parts as well. ;-)

moominmamma 07-04-2014 08:42 PM

14 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by healthy momma (Post 17754858)
I'll have to post a picture when it is finished. And maybe I'll add in some pics of the other parts as well. ;-)

Please!!! Can't wait!


rumi 07-05-2014 11:48 AM

McKittre, I would love to be as brave as you and do all those outdoor adventures and certainly whether my dd was learning would be the farthest question from my mind (I remind myself of Bush II) What I mean to say is that I would not doubt it in the least if anything I am worried these days by how little time we are able to spend outdoors and in different environments and how much we depend on books for learning what is generally categorizes as science / social studies.

Anyway …
dd is interested in law so we started getting books about Supreme Court cases.

I am feeling a little uncertain about how to approach the issues because they involve exposing her to the EVIL in the world … ah, an ongoing battle.

btw McKittre, are you still in the Yurt?

Nazsmum 07-05-2014 01:16 PM

Rumi-- Man in Black by Mark Levin is about the Supreme Court. Might want to take a look.

mckittre 07-05-2014 11:50 PM

Yes I'm still in the yurt. And yes, I probably shouldn't worry. :) I guess I'm still new at this, and still hearing all those voices in my head that say "read to your children every day, it's the absolute most important thing ever." Because isn't that the only advice that everyone seems to agree on? And my kids have been in a stretch of being relatively uninterested in being read to, even at home, so we don't manage every day here either. Of course they learn plenty while we're out (half from the environment, and half probably from the fact that both parents are available to talk with them for hours on end, every day, while we walk or paddle).

healthymomma, what is an earth loom? Sounds intriguing.

healthy momma 07-06-2014 05:01 AM

Mckittre, this is the post where I learned about Earth Looms.

I actually finished it last night and my 17 month old and I wandered around collecting grasses and flowers to weave into it. Have a picture but now I have to figure out how to post it. Hmm.

healthy momma 07-06-2014 05:07 AM

3 Attachment(s)
Ah. I figured it out. One is obviously a close up of the loom and one shows it in context of the larger "orchard" and playscape area with our stepping logs in the background. Then a I threw in a closer look at the stepping logs with me and my big guy on them. :-)

SweetSilver 07-07-2014 09:47 AM

Ah, the little challenges to being the parent you want to be:

"Mom, you stay there while I bring you a million things one at a time and tell you all about them."

So I sit. This is so very important.

"OK, that's 989, 323. Just 989, 322 to go! Next one! This one is..."

:nut I sit. Maybe get a bit shifty. Where is my damn coffee? This is so very important.

"I call this one ________. She's number 910, 200. She's friends with number 911, 200. Remember her?"

Oh god, I don't. This. is. so. very. im. portant.

"Um, honey, how many more do we have to go? I have a week's worth of dishes piled up. Let me get the dishwasher loaded and a laundry load started and a snack and we can come back to this."

"But we are almost done! Only 899, 602!!!"

"Oh, honey, I've been listening to you for 3 weeks. I need a shower."

"Waaaah!! But it's so important!!!"

:dizzy "I can give you a few more minutes, but then it's my turn to get some chores done."

"Only 2 more days, mama, I promise! We are almost halfway through!"



SweetSilver 07-07-2014 09:55 AM

Little challenges #2:

"Mom, can I use my old toothbrush to clean the chickens' feet? They need a bath."

That's so cool. They are so passionate about their chickens and getting ready for fair. I feel so good about their self-direction.

"Of course. Go ahead."

Look at that. They've collected tub and water and some soap and they are learning handling and checking for parasites. We are such awesome unschoolers. This rocks!

Later that evening. I can't find my toothbrush. (Yup, you know where this is going.)

"Did I set my toothbrush down somewhere funny?"

"Has anyone sen my toothbrush?"

Finally it dawns on me. My new toothbrush, my brand-spanking new toothbrush, looks just like dd's old one.

"Oh, oops. Sorry!"


stormborn 07-07-2014 12:00 PM

Thanks for sharing the earthloom; I've been looking for something to soften up the ugly fence in our front yard-what a great idea!

Sweetsilver, at least she didn't put it back! "Why does my toothbrush taste funny? Hmmm"

SweetSilver 07-07-2014 05:11 PM


Originally Posted by stormborn (Post 17761626)

Sweetsilver, at least she didn't put it back! "Why does my toothbrush taste funny? Hmmm"

Ohmygod, I didn't think of that!

YES! So glad!

moominmamma 07-09-2014 11:26 PM

14 Attachment(s)
We made a trip to the nearest medium-sized city to pick up dd20. The two younger sisters wanted to come along (8 hours round-trip) but ds had to work so he stayed behind: he really hates road trips anyway. We went a few hours early and managed to buy ourselves a new yoga mat and shop for some summer clothes. Fiona has a heck of a time finding clothing she likes. Style-wise she's got pretty decent taste, but more in line with what a slightly artsy teenager might wear. She hates sequins and graphic tees and bright colours. Since she's only just grown into a girls' size 10, and since a small Walmart is just about the only store in a 3-hour radius that carries clothing in sizes 7 to 14, she's had a hard time. She orders online sometimes but it's expensive compared to what we would normally spend. While there wasn't much in the mall we went to in the city, she did find a few basics that didn't have bling and stupid slogans.

Then the next day we had to go for a full day of van-servicing in the small nearby city, so that meant another 3 hours of driving, and all day spent on foot. It was hot. I tend to be barefoot most of the time, but it was over 35 degrees with the asphalt and sidewalks much hotter, so even I had shoes on. Middle dd had a physiotherapy appointment, which included a neat explanation and demonstration with the model spine. We also stocked up on $500 of bulk food staples.

Today Fiona mentioned being very interested in genetics so we talked about Mendel, and how he and Darwin were theorizing simultaneously but without knowing about each others' work, and how Watson and Crick's DNA discovery brought everything together. She was captivated. I found a PBS series about genetics but she didn't feel like watching it yet.

She is helping out at the week-long Music Explorers program being run through the summer arts umbrella again this year: the instructor asked her back because she was such an asset last year. (She came in the first morning as a guest to demonstrate her violin to the 3-to-5-year-olds, and they loved her so much she never left.) So she's been invited in as a volunteer and she just loves it. Today she stayed for an extra 15 minutes because when the parents came to pick their kids up, each one wanted to show their parent how Fiona had "taught" them to play the violin. "How could I say no to that?!" she said. She had brought a small sized violin and helped each kid position it properly and then make a few sounds. The kids just eat this stuff up, especially coming from a Big Kid.

Today we braved the lake (okay: I'm not brave, I was in a wetsuit, but the kids went in uninsulated). And then we found that some of the early southern-exposed cherries were ripe and picked a few quarts. There will be pie tomorrow, I've no doubt. A big pail of organic shortening was in yesterday's bulk food purchase for exactly that reason.

I'm still trying to find a window of opportunity for some time to myself. I had hoped it would work out for right about now, but I'd forgotten Fiona would likely be asked to do the Music program. Next week is the dance program, so I need to be around then too. (The kids can, if necessary, get back and forth from our little village on foot or by bike. It takes about 40 minutes, but the arts stuff is in the next town over and that adds another 45 minutes. Not really great for an 11-year-old to have to travel more than an hour on foot twice a day to volunteer -- or worse, to dance for 5 hours!) So I'm hoping to get away for 3-4 days mid-month to do a self-powered circle tour of our area. That's often the hottest part of the summer but I can use the early mornings and evenings. My plan is to kayak the 27 km from our village to the southern end of the lake, then run the flat trail from there to the end of the valley (about 50k), then run the roads that connect to valley to the east (another almost 50k), pick up my road bike at a friend's place a bike home over the pass that connects the two valleys at their north ends (75k). I think it'll take 3-4 days. I've been dreaming of this for a long time, and since I don't have a trail race challenge scheduled any time this year, I thought this would be a fun substitute. There are a few cafés, motels and B&Bs along the way, even at place along the trail section, and so I'll need to carry next to nothing: water filtration gear, my phone and a debit card, plus a partial change of clothes. I think it'll be one of the hardest physical challenges I've ever done. I've run marathons, but this day after day thing will be tough because I know I'll be hurting a lot from the beginning of Day 2 onwards. Fingers crossed that I find the time to see if I can conquer the challenge.


Mazamet 07-10-2014 06:44 PM

The weather is really nice now. We go to the park again, as we did last summer, where DS6 plays with the neighbourhood kids and the moms (and some dads) find shade and chat. During the evening we go to another park to play soccer with DS. He's inspired by the World Cup. We like this time of year as the neighbourhood seems more alive and people reconnect.

starling&diesel 07-10-2014 10:23 PM

Erin, you're good. Totally good. Carry on, my friend. Carry on.

starling&diesel 07-10-2014 10:42 PM

I'm watching -- with interest -- the choices folks are making as our fellow homeschool famiies' 5-year-olds hit school age. In BC you can register as a homeschooler (full parental responsibility, no reporting, no supports/resources) or you can enrol as a 'distributed learner,' which comes in a myriad of styles and forms, but in essence you have a Learning Consultant (school board teacher available for support/resources) and you get money to spend on approved educational items ($600), and sometimes a B & M school to attend 1- or 2 days a weeks, and you need to report in accordance to PLOs.
Anyway, it's interesting to see everyone's choices, and to talk about how they're deciding what to do.
We're registering as homeschoolers, which means we'll just keep doing what we've been doing.
DD5 is still into insects, viruses, bacteria, germs, and body science. And reading. Lots and lots of reading.
DS2 is passionate about tools, construction, motors, and machines.
DD is into Louis Pasteur at the moment, as she digs deeper into her interest in sickness and disease.
DS is into going on 'digger dates' where we watch construction sites for hours and hours. He's gotten to know many of the local crews, in fact.

We've been doing a lot of camping over the last couple of months (in our new-to-us tent trailer!), and are looking forward to folk fest, more camping, then family music camp, then visiting family, then NBTS camp, a trip to Ottawa for more family visiting in September, and then perhaps a month or so on the road to go visit DP when she'll (likely) be in Saskatoon for 6 weeks starting in October.

SweetSilver 07-11-2014 08:33 AM


Originally Posted by starling&diesel (Post 17799754)
I'm watching -- with interest -- the choices folks are making as our fellow homeschool famiies' 5-year-olds hit school age.

I was excited when this age came around, and then became increasingly depressed as more and more of my friends, who had been eager to homeschool at first, one by one decided to send their kids to school. Now none of our friends homeschools, which is rather surprising to me. :(

starling&diesel 07-11-2014 09:41 AM

Bingo, sweetsilver.
That is happening, although it was more pronounced last year (E is a January baby so many of her friends hit school age last September) when previously strident 'homeschool' parents made the choice to enrol their kids in brick-and-mortar schools. I am still surprised though, when people choose something so unaligned with what they've been aiming for, hoping for, planning on, and thinking about for SO LONG. I'm trying to come at it with curiosity this time around, rather than abject disappointment, which is really my natural reaction to 'losing' so many families. It's been a hard lesson in adjustment and friendship, and we've seen friends drift away into schooling culture.

starling&diesel 07-11-2014 09:42 AM

What do you think happened, SweetSilver? With your friends who were going to homeschool? I'm curious. Listening to our friends reason their way to school has been very interesting.

starling&diesel 07-11-2014 09:46 AM

Oh, and also interesting, is families that I assumed were very unschool-y choosing very 'school-y' options. That's been surprising too. We're not radical unschoolers by any means (DD is actually working on her JUMP math right now), but we're not school-at-home either. It's been interesting to see where folks are placing themselves on the homeschool/unschool spectrum. Turns out we're way out there compared with friends that are doing the distributed learning option which comes with curriculum, PLOs, and learning consultants. It feels a bit like when all the kids got selected into houses at Hogwarts. Anticipation, surprise, disappointment, and suddenly looking around the room to see who you'll be bunking with from now on. :wink:

SweetSilver 07-11-2014 09:59 AM

Various reasons. Personality clashes, a kid who wanted to go to school with her friend, finances, a defiant child with a parent who simply couldn't accept that her kid wouldn't write his name at 6yo.

In that case, the boy was particularly touchy to anything that smacked of school, and despite liking unschooling, her active approach was really quite different from that. Eventually he wouldn't even go for stuff that really would have been fun. He had hyper sensitive "agenda radar" long after the mom had let go of her agenda--at least mostly. She had a toddler as well and couldn't abide by her 6yo focusing on building stuff to the exclusion of basic skills. I didn't have her kids, but I don't think I would have bristled so much. She couldn't let go of it. In that case, school worked out well. He loved it, thrived, was proud of his work. He took up reading and writing and drawing and everyone is happier. I think they will keep with school because their finances are dismal and she needs to work. We'll see. He is asking to homeschool again, but I don't think it's because of any inherent problems with school yet. I think he craves the freedom again.

As for the friends at my girls' age, the choices are made. There are plenty of homeschoolers. But nobody nearby or with schedules that click. I do have some friends with younger children. One is headed to preschool, the other seems to be headed in the direction of homeschooling. However they will be moving to the city soon, and I wonder if it's because they want to have the option of better schools when the time comes.


I know some families amongst with older kids that unschool, but they are few and far between. I find it so surprising. But I will say that every one of these parents I've mentioned are highly active with their children's school. They are not the drop-off type parents, even though they've chosen the schooling path. That might make all the difference.

mckittre 07-11-2014 10:46 AM

Here, I'm heading into the certainty that my son will be the only homeschooler in town. Probably not technically true, since I think there are some much older children who use the school district's 'connections' program, but we don't know them. Of the 4 potential kindergarteners, one is going to kindergarten, one is moving to Hawaii and doing alternative kindergarten there, one might do another half year of preschool but is definitely schooling, and the other one is my kid. I do, similar to starling, have the option of signing up officially with one of the official state programs that has paperwork and money for supplies, etc... Which may not be as onerous as I think, but it seems far simpler just to do nothing at all (we don't even have to register, here).

SweetSilver 07-11-2014 11:44 AM

I'm not sure what options are available for trading some supervision for some cash. We used to have some of that in this state, but I know the state pulled back on some of it. I never thought I would want it, but at this point having a little bit of cash to throw at some materials sounds really nice.

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