Thursday, August 29, 2013

Funky Family Homeschooling


I've met some truly cool people who homeschool their children in unique ways.  As homeschoolers, we do what WORKS with and for our children, regardless of the social convention of our choices.  

Please meet my friendShona. Shona is an Aussie mom, married to a Kiwi, now homeschooling her eight year old son, Hadley.  She has older children who are now on their own and independent.  Shona has a small business called Funky Fabrix, a shop that sells unique fabrics.  Shona's business employs her daughter, which is cool.

I am simply COPY and PASTING her response to my questions because I think that her words are perfect!

Shona, Please tell me about your lifestyle and how it supports homeschooling.

I have 4 children, 3 grown up and independent, and one 8 year old Hadley.  We homeschool Hadley, who is on the Spectrum.  We have been homeschooling for about a year now.

We have always been addicted to travel, and have spent the last 10 years traveling as much as time and money allows, but now with the freedom of homeschooling we can extend our travels even further. It means we are not restricted by holiday times or by a timetable.  We have an online business so we are lucky enough to still generate a modest income while we are away.

At the moment we are spending 4 months in New Zealand.  It was intended to be a more permanent move, but it hasn't quite worked out like that, but that is ok, we like to go with the flow.
We are quite spontaneous people so we never plan too far ahead, if an opportunity arises to travel we take it.  It is like an addiction.  We would sell our house if we had to, just to travel!  I did not make my first overseas trip til I was 35 so I have a lot of ground to make up!  We have been to New Zealand 16 times in the last 9 years, to Europe 3 times, the US twice, and a few Asian countries as well. We are also just as happy jumping into our car and driving somewhere to do a bit of fossicking or just to discover a new little town.  

One of the things I do love about travel is watching how it educates our son.  I was once told by his year one teacher that she had never met a child with such a broad general knowledge.  He positively thrives when we travel.  I know most children on the Spectrum need routine, but to Hadley, travel is his routine.  You can never teach a child what they can learn whilst traveling.  There is no better education.  

What is your homeschooling style?

Sapphire Fossicking
Our homeschool style - I would say we don't actually have a style as such.  I guess it is more driven by Hadley's interests.  I am a strong believer in encouraging and nurturing a child's passion.  Most people call those passions obsessions (with children on the Spectrum).  I prefer to consider them passions.  Encouragement of these passions not only makes for one happy boy, it means one day he will get to turn his passion into his career and life and maybe achieve amazing things.  How do we do this?  At the moment he loves birds.  We make every opportunity here in NZ to go bird watching.  We take photos, we talk about the birds we see, we write a blog.  Hadley has over 20 books on NZ birds, both new and vintage.  He reads them from cover to cover.  He knows way more than I do.  He can identify any species, he can tell me about each bird, where they live, if they are native, what they eat…….I mean everything.  

Architecture Walk
I still try to stick to the basics with Maths and English and we use Curriculum books for both subjects but otherwise we don't use any set books or follow any curriculum.  All our conversation are teaching Hadley.  I studied Architecture, so when we arrive in a new town we will drive around and look at the buildings, we will date the buildings, talk about the Architecture style, we will look up the history of the town or city we are in.  In almost every conversation we have, we are all learning new things from each other.  His father does the same with his interests and areas of knowledge.  I am extremely lucky in that, homeschooling for us, is a joint effort between Jason (my husband) and myself.  

Hadley is an avid reader.  He heads straight to the adult non-fiction section in book stores now.  He will read almost any book you put in his hands.  He really does just teach himself.  He has told me he likes to collect facts and knowledge.  There really is no need to teach him a lot.  He does it all himself.  I am very blessed to have a child with such a thirst for knowledge.  It does make homeschooling very easy for us.   

Traveling so much makes it essential to pare your materials down to the essentials.
What do you consider essential?

Essential materials - books!  Access to a library, second hand book stores and new ones.  Access to the internet is essential for us too.  I often need to google something if Hadley asks questions.  His questions and knowledge are now often way beyond my scope.  That is scary considering he is only 8 years old!  We also believe travel is essential to his homeschooling too.   

If you could simplify your life, how would you do it?

To simply our life?  It really is not simple enough for us yet.  We do hope to sell up in Brisbane and live on some land, to remove a mortgage from our life and be free to travel the world whenever we want.  We are not materialistic people.  We don't need a fancy car, house or clothes.  We are happy with the basics of life.  I think being self employed, whilst hard financially in this economic climate, has been one of the most freeing things we have done.  It can be stressful but it is very liberating.  I think one of the ways to simplify your life is to stop worrying about what other people think.  It means they do not come into the equations when you are making decisions for your family.  I find that simplifies things a lot and means I am free to choose what we do and when we do it.  Leaving the schooling system has helped achieve that as well.

Hadley in Paris
Shona's eldest daughters, Kitty and Bella (and Kitty)

My sincerest THANKS to Shona for sharing her life with me today.
The decisions that her family makes are inspiring to me, the freedom and the dedication to her child's needs are truly refreshing.  To pick up your family and your life and to actually TRAVEL, as so many of us think of doing, is such a brave move. 
Thanks, Shona!

I am working with another friend of mine to share her family's unique homeschool lifestyle with you.  She is a very thinking and caring woman and she is aware that her words offer a unique perspective into the circle of her family and her home.  She is taking her time and choosing her words carefully.  But stay tuned, because they are very cool people.
I am motivated, moved and enriched by the journeys of these wonderful families and I hope that you are too!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:  Passion Fruit and Chloe
Or you may like: 
I am a Homeschool Mom 

Or:  Not Very Average 
Or you may enjoy reading:  Getting it Right 
Or check out this one:  Baby, I was Born this Way 
Or try this one:  Habits for a Happy Homeschool

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Being Vulnerable

To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact,
you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I believe in loving fully, laughing loudly, and feeling deeply. It has not always been wise or safe or sensible to be this person who has the freedom to love so very richly. I used to live a life where colors were muted, sound was discordant, meals were bland, and relationships were provisional.

But time and therapy have made me a fully-loving person! Time and good therapy have allowed this person inside of me to self-actualize.

What about my children and their self-actualizing? What about Elizabeth who wants to be a super star on the stage, a film actor, Broadway, and an author? What about the strong desire for love in her life; that urge that is bound to bring her heartbreak as well as bringing her true love one day? What of that dream of living in London with her best friends and making amazing, unique, and vital lives for themselves? What about those parts of her that fear and fret and that make it difficult to become all that she dreams of?

And John has told me that he wants to "make a difference in the world one person at a time." And I think he will...

Tonight my daughter wrote music and lyrics for a new song...and the song truly blew me away. The lyrics contained heart ache and pain, struggles with me, longing for love, desires for maturity and for wings, confusion about the future, and, finally, hope. It truly brought tears to my eyes, with all of that vulnerability and beauty and hopefulness...

Elizabeth has been thinking about her future a great deal lately. While sitting with her pen and paper, guitar, or computer, she will look up at me and say What will I do with my life?, thereby letting me in on where here thoughts are roaming. And I must answer I don't know. But the questions are there. The future is becoming real to her. Her heart is speaking...  And, in her quiet way, she is singing with confidence...

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:   
Her Face 
Reminding Me, The Parent of a Challenging Teen 
 Everybody Hurts

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Do You Do All Day?

atheist blog atheist homeschool
The question usually comes from the parent of a public school child. I know what school looks like. It is nice and structured and scheduled, nice bells regularly chiming every fifty minutes, boxes of exciting and brightly-colored materials on the shelves, handmade crafts swinging in the breeze from paper clips attached to the light fixtures over head, monthly new bulletin boards, permission slips and dress codes, and SRAs to keep you busy when you finish your work before everyone else.

No wonder non-homeschool parents can't wrap their heads around what we could possibly be doing all day! No, I don't go use the mimeograph machine. I haven't used cardboard carrels around the kids as they work  No paste smells. No raising hands to answer questions. No alphabet stapled above the chalkboard. No behavior grading in the corner of the chalkboard. No rubric to consider. Homeschoolers have no state standards and no test to teach to. 

So what does that leave?  
Well, everything.

We read and write and listen to music and talk to people and travel and explore and ask questions and keep our brains and our bodies active. If you were a bug on the wall of one hundred different homeschooling families you would discover one hundred different ways to homeschool, one hundred different answers to the question What did you do today?

This question, what do you do all day, simple as it sounds, is actually a very loaded question. It suggests that the stereotypes are true. That kids are bored. That husbands don't help. That teens are naturally to be distanced from. That Mom is carrying the burden. It implies that children would have no idea what to do with their time if someone didn't organize it. It gives very little value to doing nothing. It also suggests that the day looming ahead of you with absolutely nothing planned is a thing to fear.

I've had my doubts, my tears, my fears about homeschooling. At any one time our homeschooling includes about as much freedom as each of us can handle that day. And it always come back to remembering that forcing information and lessons on a child does very little to actually educate that child. I personally spent over eighteen years as a student in school myself and there is SO MUCH that I don't remember, that I never really understood, or that I simply didn't need in life. I think of the many stories that each of us have about how awful our school years were. I think of the drudgery and tedium. I remember the reasons why we chose this lifestyle.

I think of myself being an excellent essay writer and test taker, but having absolutely no lasting knowledge from many years of schooling. I think about the misery of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I think about how grateful I am that there is absolutely no need to force-fit my children into a system that is not welcoming to uniqueness, kindness, open hearts, introversion, or creativity. I think of how the freedom to make choices each day opens up doors that we are often surprised to discover. I think of how boredom always puts the onus of activity on the bored. Without plans and schedules, we manage to create wealth, depth, and breadth many days.

So what DO we do?  We homeschool.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:   
Some Days Suck 
How Do I Homeschool? 
A Typical Day 
You Must be SO Patient 
Advice from Expert Homeschoolers

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Am I Doing Enough?


We seem to be "on hold" so much.  Moving, visiting, traveling, visiting, traveling....
Do I mean it when I say that our lives are education enough?
We haven't had a single lesson in months.  Am I satisfied with being de facto unschoolers?

As high school years move quickly past for Elizabeth, and as high school looms before us with John, I find myself in that place where a parent starts to doubt.  Maybe fear is more accurate.

On the jetty at Wellington Point QLD
Recently Elizabeth and I were looking at courses offered at our excellent local community college in St. Louis.  That type of college offers classes to SIXTEEN year olds.  And the classes that they offer are all of those courses to prepare a student for college.  Intro to Algebra, Composition, Intro to Biology, etc.  And I realized that once she takes two or three terms of those courses, she will be totally prepped for college.  Seriously.  All of those courses that I feared her missing were right there, available, affordable, and ready to get her up to speed in just a few short courses.

John and Ziggy at a recent party that we attended
So, if you are a high schooling homeschooler, check out what is offered to the dually-enrolled homeschooler at your community college.  (Being dually-enrolled means that a student is both a homeschooler and taking courses at a participating community college.) I think you will find that your teen will be totally up-to-speed for college after a couple of terms of these zero-level classes.  Check them out.

After reading the offerings at our local campus we were PSYCHED.

As for John, he is far more interested in traditional learning:  lectures, reading, documentaries, textbooks, etc.  I don't worry so much about him being ready, but I am still thrilled in knowing that the community colleges have our backs.


Or you may enjoy reading:   
Thirteen Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Homeschooling When I Got Started

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Disadvantages of Homeschooling

disadvantages of homeschooling negatives against homeschooling criticism homeschool is weird
I've been thinking about the things that appeal to readers of my blog AND I've been thinking about ways to get more readers to my blog.  Let me explain why.

As for why I have been thinking about what appeals to my readers, the site that hosts my blog offers various metrics and statistics about many aspects of my personal blog including which browsers readers use to access my blog, countries of readers, which blog posts are the most popular, and search keywords that bring readers here.

One of the keyword groups that bring the most people here is when someone searches for the phrase
Disadvantages of Homeschooling.  That's why I used that for my title today.  *wink*  These metrics are also how I know what people tend to look for when they arrive here.

Why would I care?  Well, not to pander to the middle-of-the-roaders and not to convince naysayers.  I care because I dislike the stereotypes out there.  The stereotypes of weird homeschooler, the stereotype of rudderless atheist, and the stereotype that we parents are powerless and confused. 

Some would say that my blog is TMI.  And I would agree some of the time!  But I am out and open deliberately.  It is in my personality to be very authentic and open.  Sometimes this is... AAAAAWKWARD!  But it is also in my personality to encourage, support, and guide people on their own paths.  I need to put my own struggle and vulnerability out there so that it becomes OK to struggle and feel vulnerable.

I can't help it!!!!!!!!  LOL

But my point is that I do, sometimes, look for ways to get my blog out there more.  I put my blog posts on Pinterest, I use links, I put those little share it buttons on each post.  Why?  Because I really enjoy this blog.  I tend to rant, muse, get distracted, ramble...   But I think I would have appreciated a blog and contact with other humans back in the early days of homeschooling, of being a new parent, and of being an atheist.  Now I would LOVE a blog about parenting teens with respect.

Oh yes!  If you are here for the disadvantages of homeschooling, I have a few posts on this blog.  If you're looking for that, you will find it here

If you enjoyed this post, try:  
Defending Homeschool 
Homeschooling and Socialization 
Do You Know Why I Started Blogging? 
Homeschool Myths Busted
Dear Christian Readers of my Blog

Can I Rebel Now?

challenging children, parenting a teen
I have had some of the best conversations with my daughter lately. She is 16 and has her eye on the future. A great deal of her online time has been in researching colleges and other institutions of learning about the dramatic arts. She has some rather grand plans for herself and I'm thrilled to see her efforts to learn more about what is available in the world. I'm not ready to dive head-first into the nearest cool-looking pool, but I'm willing to hang around a bit to see how the water is.

As a parent, I would have to describe myself as quite permissive. Several years ago, after lots of thinking, Jerry and I decided to allow the kids to say ANYTHING, to use any word at any time.

Yes you read that right. We were condoning the right to use of the F bomb, other crude language, denigrating words. Anything. With the understanding that they know that people do judge them (as well as judging us) for the words that come out of their mouths. We gave our permission to speak freely along with the knowledge that people learn a great deal about a person by what they say and how they say it. Our belief is that all of these choices and consequences of these choices are all opportunities to learn. 

If you decide to be this permissive you have to be prepared to hear some stuff come out of their mouths!!! A few words have stopped me in my tracks but I can honestly say that I wouldn't change our decisions in this area at all. We have many, many ongoing conversations about decisions that are made within this very permissive atmosphere.

Additionally, my daughter has come up against some very odd situations. She has found absolutely nothing that shocks me or that I don't want her to experience.

  • "Mom, I'm going goth!"  GREAT, I love the dark eyes, here's some eye shadow!
  • "Mom, I'm going to spike the drinks at my next party!"  HERE, try some vodka in your Coke to see if you really like it.
  • "Mom, I'm going to try pot."  HEY, I know someone who can make us some brownies, should I give him a call?
  • "Mom, I'm running away!HERE, you'll need a few bucks.
  • "Mom, I'm going to sneak out my bedroom window!"  You need to be in the front bedroom with the better windows then! 
  • "Mom, I'm wearing these fishnets!"  COOL, you look adorable!
  • "Mom, I'm going out with this twenty year old guy."   YAY, I've always liked him!
  • "Mom, seriously, fuck you!"  VERY appropriate use of that one! You're right, I sucked just now. Sorry about that.
  • "Mom, I like girls."  GOOD for you for coming out, Honey!
  • "Mom, I've decided to have sex."  OK, let's go get you some condoms.

Earlier today I was telling Elizabeth about writing this blog post and she laughingly reminded me Don't forget to mention the time you spiked my Coke!  Or how you try setting me up with boys!

I'm honestly not pulling the reverse psychology thing. It's just that I've lived a fairly colorful life and I feel that I have learned so much from my mistakes. And, in Elizabeth's favor, she has a mother around to bail her out, help her out, help her in any way, and mostly to process things with. I didn't. Also, I hope that she learns from this that she can be anything, do anything, go anywhere, and I will support her in any way I can. And I truly believe that all things are learning experiences. All behaviors are choices.

And I don't mind telling you, she hasn't run away, used alcohol or pot, become a lesbian (Not that there's anything wrong with that), sneaked out the window with boys, gone out in public in questionable clothing, or do much of anything without telling me first! I figure, when she really wants to rebel, she won't warn me first.

I guess nothing takes the fun out of "goth" 
like having your mom buy you cute tops and black eye liner.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:   
Are Homeschoolers Weird
I am a Buzz Kil

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Validation and Suggestion

I have been seriously busy for the last month or so, so my blogging has been sporadic at best. I'll get back to it soon.

Is there anything that you, as my blog reader, enjoy reading about OR that you would like to see me write about? I am open to suggestions.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I am a Buzz Kill

challenging children, raising teens
I'm SOOOOO confused.
I really wish I was a person who could always figure out the right thing to do...
Elizabeth and I have been having many conversations lately about a high school that she is interested in.  Not just any school, a particular school.  
In Australia.  
In Victoria.  
In Melbourne.

A little history:  my daughter has not wanted to do any lessons, much less go to school, in...well, ever.  She is the child that purposefully fell through the cracks.  She is the kid who would do nothing asked of her.  She is the teen who no one can tell anything to.  But, she has to go to this ONE school or else I have ruined her life.

And before you ask, NO, she has never visited Melbourne, Victoria, OR the school.  But she is, tonight, ready to make a two-year commitment to the school and to living with another host family for the next two years.

She insists she is using practical criteria to make this decision but has none to show for it.  Furthermore, I am nothing but a big old buzz kill and spirit killer.

Lucky for her, one of her grandparents gives her 110% support to this plan!

...NOT helpful!  Just makes me look UNsupportive.

While Elizabeth has never been a terrific and motivated student while here under our roof, she is very bright.  I know that she is very capable.  I am delighted that she is lending a hand to her own life goals.  I have been looking forward to these years when she could be attending our local community college here in 
St. Louis as a dually-enrolled student.  (homeschool and community college)  I just KNOW that, with the intro courses available to her, she could be up-to-date on all of her math and language courses in a semester or two.  In fact, her going to the local community college has been our working plan for quite awhile now.

Of course I know that it is her life, on my dime.

Sarah, Elizabeth, and Lindsey
Being in Brisbane has thrown a delaying wrench into the plan and I know that she is chomping at the bit a bit.  I am very willing to explore as many options as possible to get her into something that challenges and energizes her, but, NO, I am not honestly willing to consider sending her to a school in Melbourne at this point...  

For one thing, we won't be in Brisbane for much longer, a few months.  For another thing, she hasn't looked at a single other school except for this one.  And for a third thing, this school is one she heard of because a current singing heart-throb graduated from there.  She is so NOT practical.
I dunno...  Has anybody got some wisdom out there?????

OK, rant over and I feel way better and less confused.  LOL

GREETINGS to my readers in Sweden!