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Bad News, Travels, and Unschooling

February 12, 2009

The Bad News

John is really, really sick. A few days ago he finally went to the doctor and got a diagnosis — diverticulitis. He is more or less on bed rest and can only eat clear broth, and there are a lot of painkillers involved.

We’re pretty much hibernating and skipping all activities, except for Sarah’s high school classes


The kids and I had a good visit with my dad last weekend. We also got to see three good friends, including Franny, Dad’s girlfriend. We spent one morning at Goose Creek State Park and took a nature walk, with some other folks, in the wetlands. The weather was glorious. It went well except that … umm … someone got lost on a trail with her five-year-old. There’s always one putz like that in every crowd, right?


The kids and I are launching into unschooling, but John is not on board with it. “That won’t work — if they don’t want to learn math, they won’t learn math.” (Sweetie, these are OUR kids. If they don’t want to learn something, there’s no way in hell they’re going to learn it anyway). I simply responded “Well, we’re taking a break from math.” That’ll do for now — we can have this conversation when he’s well, right?

In delving into unschooling, my thinking is on the same trajectory as Jove, based on her thoughtful post on the importance of being busy. I am giving myself permission not to burn the midnight oil getting my own work done so I’m free to “do school” with my own kids during the day. I hope we’re evolving into a new way of being, where they do their own work freely and I do mine. It’s not ALL going to be parallel play, mind you, because guided participation and collaboration is important. But I am done with trying to run the show for everybody, while pushing my own work aside.

Trishy is still going strong with wanting to do curricular stuff. All those things the older kids would never get into — like “units” and “notebooking” — I can get those things out of my system now! 😀 I guess it’s a collaborative process. I’m following her lead in how she wants to learn, but I’m introducing the activities. It’s been fun! I have links to the three literature units (based on picture books for little ones) we’ve done so far — under “Our Kindergarten” — in my pages. Or here they are:

James is just busy being James. Since we started unschooling, I’ve been encouraging him to do all sorts of interesting, enriching things. His default response is “No, thanks.” It’s mostly Hotwheels and video games with him.

He has been on a jag with listening to the Wolf Brother series. He is listening to the whole series for the third time. Yesterday he came to me and asked me to listen to the series with him. So we’re doing that. I guess that’ll be “our” thing, for now.

I need to make peace with the whole business of limits on video games and T.V. But I’m going to save that discussion for another post. But I realized today — beyond any doubt — that I’m asea with that issue. James asked me to let him play a video game this morning. I said “no.” He asked to watch a movie. I said “no — I want you to spend the morning doing something non-electronic.” Next thing we knew, I had him on my laptop. *LOL* I was helping him with his page on the Radical Unschoolers Network. He was practicing writing and spelling, you see.

I have no problem with the concept of limits on electronic entertainment, though I freely admit the way we’re doing it is not working right now. (More on that later) But the only message here seems to have been, “I want you doing something non-electronic, unless it’s something that I deem important.” This is not the route into successful unschooling.

Sarah is still writing movie reviews. She admitted a weakness in her reviews is that she’s better at summarizing plots than in offering in-depth critiques. I don’t know if she sees the parallel, but her high school English teacher seems to guiding the class toward moving beyond summarizing novels (the old book report model) and toward more substantial literary analysis. Moving from narrating and describing to doing more analytical, evaluative thinking and writing is a BIG developmental shift. And I guess this is about the age it happens. Let the record reflect that I’m just observing and encouraging, not telling her what I think she should do. What a paragon of restraint I am! 😛

I asked her today whether she still likes school. She answered “It’s O.K.” She got some satisfaction out of telling me that high school Honors English is not as big a deal as I’d thought it would be. Apparently she was in a small minority, yesterday, in that she had completed part of her homework assignment. Today, the class was told to improvise skits using the people described in The Diary of Anne Frank. The other students in her group took some of the residents of the Secret Annex into the present so they could play Guitar Hero. Gifted, college-bound high school students who don’t seem to take their studies seriously? I’m amazed. 😛

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