Conundrum

I haven’t told you about the teenager yet. After much begging, pleading and crying last year about wanting to go to school like other kids, we enrolled her in a part-time middle school program at a charter school.  In about a week, Pia will start 8th grade, going to school 3 days a week. We thought it was a good compromise. True child-led learning means you do whatever the child wants. And this is no doubt what she wanted. But then my whole paradigm shifted. Now what to do!? We are in quite a conundrum.  She is hearing about my new “way” of homeschooling this year. She is going back and forth now on what she wants. She wants to give it a month to see how it goes and I think that is very wise of her. No one has to convince me to pull her out if that is what we think is best.

In the meantime, she has been thinking a lot about what it is that interests her and what she would like to spend her time doing.  She loves make up. She recently made some make-up of her own, of which I get to enjoy the spoils. She made a lip plumper/softener and a concealer. The start of some self-directed learning. She also read Moby Dick in it’s entirety, because her dad told her to. Okay, that’s not at all self-directed, but she loved it.

As for the boys, over the last week we all have enjoyed reading Harry Potter together, watching the movies Chasing Mavericks and Heaven is for Real. We have learned about recycling, whales, why bees are going extinct, how to escape from quicksand (because you never know when you’ll be wandering in a desert and happen upon some quicksand) and testicles (which we discovered Z was calling “sockets” and we should really tell him the real name for that body part). But the BIG project for the week was the fort the boys built with dad. They each drew up a plan with measurements. They took a trip to Lowe’s. They built it to look like a modern box, because we all wish we could live in a real one some day. For now, this will have to do.

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And they were super excited to sleep outside in it. SO excited that apparently they were wandering around the yard until the middle of the night. But really, how could I be mad at that when I woke up to this?

 

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Next comes the paint.

 

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Learning All the Time

Now that I’ve put it out there, I have had many people ask me what Unschooling is.  It’s hard to explain because it means different things to different people and one family’s way of doing things is completely different from another’s.

If I had to sum it up in a few words, it is living your everyday life with the understanding that children learn in their own way, on their own time, and when it has meaning to them.  Just like they learned to walk and talk, they will want to learn things in relation to their world and be like the adults of this world.  That is the basic idea.

Our kids got a really bum deal their first years of life.  The effects of past trauma and neglect are undeniably evident.  Continuing to try and force them to conform to a system that says they have to know “this information” at “this time,” or there is something wrong with them, is ridiculous.  All it has done is discourage them, and make them feel stupid.  My youngest son literally yelled at least a couple hundred times this year, “I’m the stupidest kid!”  Unfortunately, I was the one pushing him and forcing him to do more than he wanted or probably could even handle.

As I continue to read and learn more about it (because it has meaning to me) and let go of all I have ever thought about school and life, I can see so clearly how my homeschool road has led here.  I was already practically there, just somehow missed that it was okay to let go.  Our kids are still going to be alright.  I can see this more now than I ever could see it trying everything else.  So right now, for us, it just means we are living our life and learning all the time.  On their time.

What does Unschooling look like?  It looks like Sunday.  In August.  The boys decided they wanted to try to fix a broken TV we had in the garage. They each looked online for information about fixing the problem and then got to work!

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They took it apart (I mean completely apart) and then put it back together again.  That in itself is beyond my knowledge and amazing to me!

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Dad got in the act at the end, for safety reasons, to test it out (I’m picturing explosion here).  When they plugged it in, he told them if it worked, they could have it in their room.  It didn’t work, but it did turn on! Hello??  I never could have done that!  Of course, they want to keep trying.  I’ll keep you posted on whether they end up with a TV in their room.

Summer’s Journey

Has it really been almost a year since I last posted? Hard to believe!  I started this blog to put to words the crazy, wonderful, beautiful and even ugly moments of our adoption journey. I wanted to keep it light and humorous. But all of those moments got in the way of posting. And I wasn’t always feeling light and humorous.

We are a home schooling family. I’m somewhat of a veteran, going on 6 years and spanning experience from preschool to the end of middle school.  I’ve been on a constant search to find the key that would unlock my children’s learning potential. I’ve probably tried every curriculum out there, every multi-sensory tip and trick, and read more books and web sites than I can count. I’ve dragged the kids to learning centers, occupational therapists, co-ops, enrichment classes and charter school special ed teachers. Still, this school year ended early, in a fiery crash of tantrums, tears, confusion and fighting. And I’m not just talking about the kids! I have never worked harder than this year, yet got NOWHERE.

“Well then, stop home schooling,” you might say. The problem though, I’m discovering, is not the home part. It’s the school part. My kids do not fit into the traditional school model.  AND I’M FINALLY OKAY WITH THAT!  That’s why I’m going do the exact opposite by doing what people call Unschooling. Now don’t freak out. It’s also referred to as Child -Led Learning, Natural Learning, Democratic Learning, and Free Range Learning.  If one of those terms seems easier to swallow, then you’ll understand what I’m getting at. For now I will just say that after many weeks of dreading a new school year in my mind, the still small voice in my head said, “Unschool.”   I knew nothing about it, so I started to investigate.  It makes sense to me. Still, it seems a radical idea, which is why this blog will now serve as a starting point to process my thoughts and keep a journal of sorts.

So, The Sticky Mommy blog is changing.  I am on a new journey I wish to record for my own sake, and for anyone else who is interested in us, or the topics that surround us. Those being adoption, foster care, Jesus, home schooling, special needs and anything else related to just being a parent and a family.  Ironically, I haven’t found much information on unschooling kids like mine, so maybe I can also help someone along the way.

As summer winds down, I feel a sense of freedom from the weight I felt earlier when thinking about “Back to School.”  We aren’t going back to school.  We’ve been learning every day this summer and will just continue to do so. Let the journey continue.

Tread Lightly

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We’re treading in teenage waters. Never has that been clearer than since we’ve started our 5th year of home school.  Suddenly our usually sweet, agreeable, cheery daughter has become grumpy, snippy and elusive.  Yesterday there were tears.  She desperately wants to go to public school.

We started home schooling three years into this, and continue to home school to bond as a family: Period.  It wasn’t so we could wear skirts and study creation, although those things may be nice. It was because we wanted to make up for the years lost as a family who didn’t raise their children from infancy and heal the ramifications of the years before us.  If only she could understand that.  But all she wants is to go to public school, because that’s what other teenagers do.

When did she start becoming independent? When did she stop buying all my rhetoric and agreeing with every thought I had? I consider us blessed that we had any time like that, considering at 6, when she came home to us, she let us know she was in charge. God willing though, she allowed herself to become a daughter and buy in to all that we did.

No matter how or when it happens, it is hard to accept when you’re child has ideas that are different from what you know is best for them. It is even harder to move them off of those ideas when they have no experience or life lessons behind them.

So for now, the conversation about school remains open and Pia strives for independence; for ideas that are hers alone. Which is probably why at lunch today she said it was a “temptation” to want to eat the dog food. We tried to sway her away from the idea, but when she insisted, J.R. told her to go ahead. She triumphantly got a piece from the garage for herself, and one for Z, who will pretty much do anything. Popping it into her mouth, she proclaimed, “It’s delicious,” with a smirk on her face. Suddenly her face turned wide-eyed with a look of horror, as she got up from the table and dashed to the bathroom. Maybe it wasn’t a good time, but we took the opportunity anyway to point out that maybe she should listen to us once in a while.  Z, well, he remained un-phased and kept on eating his lunch.

Potty Mouth

Let’s just get this straight. I am a girl. I am the youngest of 3, and my only brother was 8 years older than me. I do not understand boy humor. The words poopy, toot, fart, diarrhea, buttcrack or penis are not at all funny to me. Nor do I enjoy hearing A and Z repeat these words over and over to each other like they’re doing a performance at the Comedy Store, followed by outbursts of uncontrollable laughter. My husband tells me it’s, “just boy stuff.” Well, that’s fine, if they want to do it, they can do it out of my earshot. Not in the car where I am held captive. Not at the table when I am trying to eat food, and not when they are supposed to be quiet and going to sleep. And it seems the more I try to correct it, the funnier the words become to them. I would like to believe my boys will soon, or maybe eventually grow out of this…but I think I have to face the grim reality that my husband is often the one who gets them going. And then my hopes were really dashed on Easter when they talked to their “papa” on the phone and his first words were shout outs of poopy, and a continuation of other words. All my hard work undone. “Fart!”

Dirty Laundry

After posting a Facebook status about how much I hate folding bottom sheets, I got to thinking about our whole laundry situation. The amount of laundry we have in this house is ri-DI-culous. Who would have thought three little people could be the cause of such an enormous pile of dirty things? Before kids I could do all the laundry in a few loads on a Saturday. NOW? If I go one day without doing SOME laundry it causes a backup. And if I ever do manage to actually completely wash everything, a few hours later the pile is there again. Why do we need this many clothes? And it’s not just clothes, but then there’s all this other stuff. Coats, sheets, blankets and bath towels. Dish towels, throw rugs, kids shoes, and stuffed animals the dog has chewed. Something has to be done about this! So I’ve decided to lighten my load (pun intended). I am no longer going to fold bottom sheets. On the advice of a friend on Facebook, I am going to remove the sheets from the bed, wash them, and then return them back to the bed in which they came. I am also through sorting laundry. I will only stuff things in one Super load, no matter the color or fabric. If something doesn’t make it, we didn’t need it anyway. I will not pre-treat. If the stain doesn’t come out I will throw it in the trash. One less thing to wash. And something we’ve done all along, that I’m going to continue, is never fold the kids clothes. They each have a “clean bin” and “dirty bin.” No frustration from finding all the clothes you just folded thrown around on the floor because a kid was looking for something specific. This system is easy for them and easy for you. So, if you feel the same way, then you too should get out from under the mass of dirty laundry and free yourselves!

I Am “The Stuff Holder”

When I decided to become a mom, I had no idea I had also signed up to be everyone’s “stuff holder.”  It didn’t happen immediately, but more a gradual thing.  Like today in church, as my husband handed me his bulletin to hold, when I already had my own bulletin, I very willingly took it.  Then, as if I had had a severe allergic reaction to it, I swiftly chucked it back at him saying, “I don’t want this! And when did I become the “stuff holder” for everybody?”  Everywhere we go, my kids insist on bringing nonsense items, toys, gadgets, and seemingly important documents from their inane activities throughout the day, and inevitably they end up handing them to ME when something far more exciting or interesting captures their interest.  And I’m just as much to blame…I take whatever it is and dutifully jam it in my purse, until finally my large black sack of leather is weighing down one side of me as though I have some kind of spinal injury. Well, today I declare I am no longer the “stuff holder!” No more will I accept Matchbox cars, flimsy Sunday school crafts, and already chewed gum.  No more used Kleenex’s, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and American Girl doll accessories.  I’m done…finished, that’s it….so kid’s, don’t even think about handing me those Lego’s!