Four Years Ago Today

Ireland’s fourth birthday

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Four years ago today, I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, Ireland. The years have passed by way too quickly, but she is as much a joy today as she was the day she was born.

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Happy Birthday, my beautiful angel!!

An Unschooling Novice’s Approach to, Well, Unschooling

Our typical unschooled day

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     Are you one of those people, like me, who loves to read about how other people homeschool? Maybe you’re someone who loves to talk about your approach to homeschooling, also like me. Today I’m writing about our approach to our latest journey, unschooling.
     As I’m sure you know, every day is different, and, especially since we’ve just transitioned from eclectic homeschooling to self-directed learning, we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Our Typical Unschooled Day

8:00- Breakfast- usually something simple; I’ll be the first to admit that our meals are more about convenience. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to cook something from scratch everyday for twelve people.

9:00- Chores- Since we do these a few times a day, it only takes about 20 minutes to get things done.

9:20- From this point on until lunchtime, the children are free to do what they want. Like my husband, my children are all technology fanatics, so our morning looks something like this-

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At first this really bothered me, but after I stopped stressing about it and actually paid attention to what they were doing, I realized that they’re learning far more than I ever imagined.

Minecraft- geometry, logic, learning step-by-step how such things as glass and steel are made

Ruzzle- spelling, vocabulary

Scribblenaut- spelling, vocabulary, science, history

-Leap Pad Learning Tablets- well, that’s kind of obvious

They will sometimes do other activities during this time, such as their math. I know many unschoolers don’t formally teach math, but living within PA homeschool laws makes me too nervous to skip it. My younger kids- 8 yrs. old on down have a choice about whether or not they’ll do it. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t. At this age, it’s very easy to incorporate math into everyday learning.

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My 9, 12, &, 13 year-olds are all required to do their math everyday at their own pace. Incidentally, besides my 14 year-old, these are the children who must be evaluated every year, so the documentation is so important.

12:00- Lunch- again, usually something simple

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1:00- Family reading

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Starting at 1:00, we have what I call ”Media Blackout”. Until 4:00, no electronics are permitted, unless they’re researching something or watching tutorials. While they do learn through media, I think it’s so important to do hands-on activities. During this time is when you’ll see what I consider the good stuff.

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3:00- Chores

4:00- Supper

6:30- Bathtimes

8:00- Bedtime and Bible story for the kids 6 & under
       – Bible reading with the older children followed by silent reading

9:00- 8 & 9 year olds go to bed; my three oldest go to bed whenever they want, as long as they’re quiet.

You may have noticed I didn’t address my 14 yr. old much. This is because her approach is different, again, because of compliance with homeschool laws, and, honestly, by her own choice. I’ll address this in a later post.

What’s your day like?

Linking up with
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http://ourbusyhomeschool.com/in-my-homeschool-sharing-what-works-linky-week-7/#comment-9403

Five Things I Learned from My Kids Yesterday

What have you learned from your kids today?

Sometimes I think know that I learn as much from my kids as they learn from me. This is my list of five things I learned just yesterday!

1. I’m pretty terrible at
     play dough creations. My kids
     are all artists. Believe me,
      they don’t get it from me.

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This is my, um, zebra.
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This is my son’s. See the difference?

2. It’s okay to go with the flow.
     I’ve always been a rigid follower
     of schedules. I used to have
     charts of all kinds taped
      everywhere throughout the
      house. It drove my husband
      crazy. The schedules have since
       come down, but this is what
       goes through my head:
       Breakfast- 8, Chores- 9, Get
        Dressed- 9:30, etc. Yesterday
        my adult son stopped by
        unexpectedly, and while my
        other kids were having a
         blast with him, all I kept
         thinking was, We should be
         reading Little House on the
         Prairie right now. We never
         plotted those countries in the
         atlas. Chores should have
         started already. After
         watching them for a while,
         though, it finally hit me that
         these things are not that
         important, and I was at
         peace.

3. Exercise can be fun. This is
     something I’ve forgotten, but
     it’s actually pretty pathetic
     because I used to be a dance
     teacher. Listening to my kids
     outside yesterday playing Simon
     Says, Sharks and Minnows, and
     soccer reminded me of that.

4. Minecraft and Ruzzle are not
     the only electronic games of
     value. I discreetly rolled my
      eyes when my son told me he
      downloaded yet another game,
      until he started asking me
      questions about sea creatures,
      dinosaurs, and the
      government. I asked him what
      he needed this for; it was his
      new game.

5. Take time to play. My kids are
     so active, and they’re always
     playing, playing, playing. I took
     their cue yesterday and played
     play dough, Memory, and
     Apples to Apples; I had a blast!
     While it is important to get
     things done, especially with
     such a large family, it’s equally
     important to have fun and live
     life!

What have you learned from your kids today?

Linking up with:

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

    

Linking up with

http://www.thepebblepond.com/2014/01/random-5-on-friday-january-10th.html?m=1

Some Days Are Tough

If every day were beautiful, would we see the beauty in each day?

     Why is it always that the days that I’ve gotten little to no sleep are the days when everything else goes off kilter? It’s my own fault, really- the no sleep part, I mean. We ran out of decaf coffee yesterday, so I proceeded to drink regular All. Day. Long. So I guess I was asking for it when the baby awoke at 3:20 am, and I was never able to fall back asleep.
     The day didn’t start off so bad, really. Ireland (3) was awake at the crack of dawn, as usual. She wasn’t particularly crabby, so we just cuddled and watched TV until the other early risers filed downstairs.
     Breakfast came and went with no particular problems, but that’s pretty much when the peace ended. Sometimes I think that the kids pick the days when I’m obviously exhausted to pick fights and bicker the most.
     Little spats over sharing play dough colors, copycatting, and name-calling ensued. The baby was crabby because she’s teething, and I just couldn’t seem to get the house in order. I was still jumpy from the caffeine overload yesterday, but I managed to get through the morning in one piece without having a meltdown.
     Finally, things seemed to calm down. It was a beautiful day, so the kids went outside to play while I got some much needed quiet. Until our oldest son, Brendan, stopped by unexpectedly. That’s when everything fell apart.
     As I mentioned in another post, Brendan is a 5 yr. old trapped in a 20 yr. old’s body. He has a gift of getting the kids wound up more than anything else can. I had little ones running through the house and jumping on him, kids being flipped over his shoulders, and the noise. The noise. And while all this was going on, I was on the phone with his bank to sort out an issue with a missing debit card. (Hence, the reason for his visit.)
     After he left, and the kids calmed down, I was more at peace than I had been all day. Sure, the family reading didn’t get done today, and we didn’t get to plot various countries on a map that we had planned to do. The house was a bit messy, and my husband was due to be home soon, but that was okay because I realized something today. If every day were perfect, we might overlook little blessings like these-

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Little blessings that happened amidst the chaos of the day.
     If every day were beautiful, would we see the beauty in each day?

What blessings have you encountered today?

Linking up with
A Mama’s Story

Raising Homemakers

http://proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com/2014/01/wise-woman-linkup_15.html?m=1

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http://www.joyfocusedlearning.com/2014/01/anything-goes-link-up-10.html?m=1

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Unschooling- Week 1 Photo Review

Here’s a recap of our week in photos.

     Our first week of unschooling after five years of either traditional or eclectic homeschool has ended. So what did we do? Here’s a recap of our week in photos.

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Lots of modeling clay and playdough creations

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Puzzles galore!

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Some new hair colors

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Painting

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Making baking clay

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Lots of science experiments- the first picture shows a static electricity experiment in which you rub a plastic spoon on your hair and use it to attract pepper on a plate; the second and third were egg experiments my son got off YouTube (although we had done the second one before). In the second egg experiment, you light a piece of paper on fire, drop it into a bottle, then quickly put a peeled, hard-boiled egg on top. The flame creates a vacuum which sucks the egg in.

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That’s Devin hiding behind Lifepac Science!

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And lots of this!

What have you done this week?

Linking up with:

http://www.amamasstory.com/search/label/Our%20Days%20Homeschool%20Link-up

http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/

Weekend Review: Our First Week of Unschooling

Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.

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     We’ve officially completed our first full week of unschooling, and I’ll tell you what… John Holt wasn’t kidding when he said you’ve got to trust that your kids will learn because,honestly, it’s not so apparent.
     If I could give anyone considering unschooling advice, even though we’re new at it, I would tell them not to compare themselves to those phenomenal examples of unschoolers right from the get-go. It’s going to take time for your kids to get used to the fact that they’re in charge of their education. Chances are, your children will not build a rocket with parts from the junkyard, fueled with cow manure. They will not write and professionally publish a novel while painting a portrait that would put Da Vinci to shame. At least, not right away. 🙂
     Progress will happen in baby steps, and sometimes you may wonder if they’re learning at all, but, believe me. They are. I’m going to be honest and say that I’m writing this as much to myself as to you. Trust me, I’ve had my doubts this week. I’ve seen a lot of Minecraft activity and Ruzzle this week- more than I expected. Just when I started to stress over this fact, I overheard my son, Dillon, talking about how glass is formed. I asked him where he learned that, and he replied, ”Minecraft.” as if it should have been obvious to me. Minecraft,, duh!  That alleviated my fears a little bit and reminded me. Trust.
     Admittedly, I did end up giving them a little nudge, explaining to them what they already knew- that they will be evaluated at the end of the year, and while I know they’re learning, the school district may not look upon pure Minecraft learning too kindly.
     So what did we accomplish this week, besides lots of Minecraft?? Actually, more than it seemed. Lots of clay and play dough creations graced our home this week.

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Dillon made baking clay and made a volcano, which he plans to paint and erupt. He may also research volcanoes- how they’re formed or where they’re most abundant. We did several science experiments involving the big bang theory, static electricity,

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light waves, carbon dioxide, and even eggs!

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Arianna made a lapbook on makeup- she’s been studying theatrical makeup. She also interviewed me and graced us with her cooking the other day. Caollin and London have spent time making play money and using their toy cash register/calculator to play store, and all the little ones from Caollin on down enjoy playing ”Little House on the Prairie”, our current family readaloud. We all also read independently everyday.
     My oldest daughter, Devin, has opted to continue on with her textbooks because she’s not too keen on change. That’s fine. I told her that unschooling is about child-directed learning- not a ban on textbooks. She does do other activities, as well. She loves star gazing and planet watching, she’s taking a flash animation class at the art school, and she’s just an extraordinarily creative girl.

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Devin’s latest hair color-just dyed yesterday

     All in all, I would consider this week a success. We didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, but I keep reminding myself. Baby steps. Trust. They will learn.

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How was your week?

Carnival of Homeschooling

Keeping a Clean(ish) House in the Midst of Chaos

”Clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.”

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     Raising and homeschooling ten children can make housekeeping a bit… well, difficult. While my house will never be featured on ”Better Homes and Gardens”, I can assure you, it is possible to have a house that would be presentable for company, even when people are home all the time!
     Here are a few tips that may help you keep your sanity.

Assign chores to your children- even little ones can help. All of my children down to my 5-year old have daily chores.
    
     Our Chore List

– 14 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the litter box, cleaning
    the classroom, and washing
     dishes on Su, W, and F

– 13 yr. old- responsible for
   cleaning the dining room and washing dishes on M, Th, and Sat.

– 12 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the kitchen, bathroom (it’s tiny), and dishes on M, T, and F

– 9 yr. old- responsible for the living room and dishes on Sa, Su, and W

– 8 yr. old- She is our ”floater.” She covers the others while they’re washing dishes and dishes on Tu and Th

– 6 yr. old- responsible for cleaning the upstairs hallway

– 5 yr. old- He does the odds and ends jobs, like carrying dirty laundry downstairs, cleaning the landing of the stairs (our family’s catchall), or helping others if their rooms are especially messy

While our 2 & 4 yr. old don’t have assigned chores, they always ask where they can help, so I’ll just give them little things, like wiping things down with a rag, to do.

Do cleaning in short spurts throughout the day. I find it makes things so much easier to clean for a few minutes several times a day, rather than waiting until the mess will take hours. We usually aim for 9 am, 3 pm (before my husband comes home from work), and  sometimes after dinner. Most of the time I will do the after dinner clean-up myself. These cleaning bouts usually only take 10-15 minutes each. The kids will usually straighten their bedrooms 30 minutes before bedtime.

Let your older kids help with cooking and laundry. Having 12 people in the house means a lot of cooking and a lot of laundry. My 3 oldest each have a scheduled day to do their own laundry (I still end up doing a lot of theirs myself), and, as of right now, they each make dinner once a month. My 12 yr. old will often cook more than that because she loves being in the kitchen.

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One of my daughter’s culinary creations

Have periodic ”deep cleaning” days. We honestly don’t do these very often (usually before holidays), but occasionally we will spend about 3-4 hours cleaning and organizing things that tend to get skipped. It’s like getting a clean slate. So refreshing.

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Photos from our November deep cleaning session

With all this being said, though, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that ”clean” does not have to mean ”perfect.” While it’s important to have a home that is tidy, having a goal of perfection, especially if you have children, is only going to take you away from the things that are truly important.

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A godly woman once said to me, ”What are your children going to remember when they grow up? How clean the house was, or how much you played with them?”

Visit http://raisinghomemakers.com for great tips on homemaking, cooking, and more!

Changes in the Air

Oh, how unexpectedly things can change; or, perhaps, how unexpectedly. For the past year I have immersed myself in blogs, books, and anything else I can find on unschooling. I’ve always felt drawn to it- drawn to the absolutely ironic simplicity of it. Children are natural learners. It’s so obvious. And yet, this method has always seemed like something I would only ever dream about, even long for.

As of last Friday, though, I’ve taken the plunge. We are officially unschooling. Why did it take me so long to do it? Maybe fear. Our state has notoriously strict homeschool laws. Maybe doubt- doubt that my kids would find productive things to do on their own. Perhaps the largest reason is control or loss of control. For 5 years I’ve been in charge of planning and facilitating my childrens education. Lessons plans, unit studies, language arts, math- everything was left for me to decide. And admittedly I do like to have control of things. I can blame the fact that I have 11 kids on my need for control. But in all honesty I was the girl in high school who actually used charts to decide what outfit she was going to wear. It’s just natural for me. I know God is in control. I do. I’m working on it.

Which brings me back to unschooling. I am no longer in charge of their curriculum. They are. That might sound risky, but I’m totally at peace with it. Will they learn? Absolutely. They will learn while they’re digging up slugs, snails, salamanders, and any other slimy critter in our backyard. They will learn as they research what these creatures eat and what type of spider they just discovered. They will learn while they’re fishing, making power bait, and catching crayfish at the creek. They will learn as they write reports and learn geography ON THEIR OWN.

What will they learn this year? Beyond confidence and independence, I have no idea. But I’m so excited to find out!