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.

 

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.

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A friend of mine gave me a “magic” face cream that’s supposed to change my life in 5 days. I’m up for anything that will slow the inevitable wrinkles and sags that I see creeping up, so I eagerly took the sample home to give it a try. She told me to make sure I take a “before” picture in good lighting of my freshly washed face. I was a little sheepish about involving my husband J.R. n this. After almost 20 years it’s wise to maintain a  little mystery in the marriage. So the other night when he was out with Mia, I took my opportunity. Surely one of the boys could take a quick picture of my face with the large screen of the iPad. I called Z into the brightly lit bathroom first. This seemed like the right choice, as he’s about a millimeter less squirrelly than A at night. I told him exactly what to do. Get my whole face in the middle of the screen, as close up as he can.  Click one. I take a look. It’s just the side of my face, mostly my chin and neck. Click two. This time the angle is too low. Click three. Out of focus. C’mon! Okay, try again. Click four, five….eight. All ridiculously no good. I frustratingly call in Angel. He’s older, why didn’t I just pick him first? Of course he can take a simple picture. SEVEN TRIES LATER, with me even taking a shot of HIM so he could see exactly how I wanted it, turned out nothing but out of focus, crazy sideways angles. Fail. Never mind. I’ll figure it out another time. Which was exactly the next day when J.R. took the picture.

Saturday’s Darndest Things

It was mostly a regular Saturday, with the bonus of a friend staying from L.A. who has come to mean a lot to us. He was with his adorable 2-year-old daughter while his wife was at a Women’s Conference. In the morning as we woke up, Angel asked him what a women’s conference was, and he told him it was where women get together and pray and learn about God. A responded coyly with, “Ohhh, that is like sooo weird….”
We had a lot of fun talking, playing with the kids, walking the beach, and of course eating together. That evening our friend left and the kids were put to bed shortly after. A while had passed when Z, our resident comedian, topped off the night by asking if he could come out from his bed and show us something. It’s one of his regular stall tactics, but this time instead of displaying his usual lego contraption, he got in front of us and proudly turned his back for us to see. Then he pulled down his underwear and revealed one large orange sticker on each butt cheek, exclaiming, “Look! I have stickers on my butt!!” Now that is sooo weird….

Radio Wars

Z. 6 years old. Sits in the very back of the mini-van. Mom. Forty-something years old, sits in the drivers seat of said van. Hallelujah. Song by Heather Williams comes on the Sirius station. Mom turns it up. It’s one of those songs that moves her to raise hands in praise, even in the car. Z, who because of past abuse has to control any and all situations, orders mom to turn the song down. Mom, just as determined to be in control, tells him she loves the song and if he doesn’t want to hear it he can plug his ears. Wrong? Maybe. But she’s been dealing with his controlling nature 24/7 for four and a half years now and is not about to let him tell her at what level she has to keep the radio. Both dug in their heels. Mom singing Hallelujah with passion. Z screaming continuously that she must turn it down, or off, or listen to him. And since she wasn’t, he was just going to ruin it by trying to scream over it. So, for 3 minutes and 59 seconds, mom exuberantly (o.k. maybe somewhat obnoxiously) sang and praised the Lord, and Z screamed his voice raspy. Pia and Al sat trapped, in the middle, silent and wide-eyed, just hoping the whole thing would end. It did end, finally, and mom turned it down, but she had stood her ground. And then the very next day while in the van again, Z barked out from the back like the ringmaster he thinks he is, “Hey mom! You can turn up this stupid song. Turn up this dumb song. I want you to turn it up!” Somehow…he still thinks he’s in control of that volume knob.