Tuesday, January 16, 2018

STEM unschooling

K is on a roll.  Excited about her Psych course, that she started today.  Learning Python (told me she downloaded the software for it onto her computer and is going to work with a friend on it after dinner).  Thinking about which Bio course to take and then thinking that she might not have the time to take another hvcc course if she's talking Coursera's neuroscience course.  But since she has to finish Bio first (which would probably be in the fall) there is plenty of time to think about it.

Don't forget that all of my attempts at actually teaching her Math and Science in High School have been less than stellar successes.  She learns what calls her, and figures out a way that interests her.

I still have to register her for SAT/ACT.  Then I'm going to have to put together a transcript. 

She asked me to remind her when her Psych course started and asked me to buy the textbook today.  At thirteen (and fourteen) (and maybe fifteen) I kind of worried about her academic motivation.  Today she's on fire.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Konmari and a Vision for the Space

My basement is a disaster.  No matter how I try to organize it, I have trouble.  My original goal, 7 years ago, was that I can clean it up in under 20 minutes.  I have been able to keep that up.  When I was a child, cleaning up our play area was an overwhelming task that I could never manage.  Having a limited amount of items in the space and having just a few categories of types of toys, each one with a designated area, makes cleanup manageable for me.  The boys don't put things into their designates spaces (balls, weapons, dressup, arts and crafts, legos, cars, etc) but they can clear the floor when they want to.  My spare fridge is down there and I walk through the space every few days if not a few times a day.  In one of the organization books I read, I was told to finish three sentences:

I want peace via...
It will feel nice in the home when...
I'm organized enough when...

In filling out these sentences, I discovered that I feel strongly about walking through my space without having to navigate around or over things.  It unconsciously upsets me to have to do that.  So in addition to trying to set things up so that they aren't left in the floor or in my way, I started picking things up that are in my path so I'm not spending the say walking around them or over them, and becoming more and more cranky because of something I'm not even consciously aware of.

With #konmari, the first thing you do is visualize how you want your home to be.  How it looks, how it feels, what kind of atmosphere you want to create.  (I actually never really did this room by room; I was more of a remove-the-negative "don't be a hoarder" that I didn't think beyond that, which may be why I'm stumbling a bit in the upkeep.)  This visualization helps because even if every item in the space brings joy, if I still have too many items, the overall space won't bring me joy.  And it's a useful way to help me figure out how to set up the space.

Back to the basement.  I'm finding opposing goals and that's causing--well, I can't blame the chaos in the basement on conflicting goals, can I?

The A&C bin always hangs out. They amass objects. I have no idea how to organize their project ingredients
I like being able to clean up.  I was trying to figure out a way to make the play area manageable, and I asked E what his vision for the space was.  He said: I'd really love a room where you would never, ever make us clean up.

They asked for stuffing to make things. Now they want more stuffing so they can fill the room with stuffing and hide things in it.
I want to be the kind of fun mom who lets this kind of thing happen.  I really do.  But in my experience, trying to be the fun mom who lets this kind of thing happen ends up with me accidentally turning into a monster mom who is actually not okay with space looking like this.  And that's no fun for anyone.

Do I work on this and try to become more intentional about letting the kids have the space they want?  Do I accept my emotional needs and be a role model for boundaries and realistic communication?

There are no right or wrong answers here.  (Except I always try to stick to my Hippocratic oath of parenting: First Do No Harm.)

Do they play better when they have empty space?  They seem to have fun down there.  When we had company, the boys did cheerfully spend a couple of hours cleaning up.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

11th grade science

So K got an A in her college Russian course, and will be taking Psych this coming semester.  She wants to take neuroscience.  Bio is a prereq.  We have been doing Bio on and off over the years, and as she recounted what topics she learned already, I realized we had done a decent amount.  Not enough for neuro, though.  So I looked through some options online and sent her three possibilities of college level Bio that she can get through herself.  Coursera has a free neuro class that looks exactly like what she wants, but it suggests Bio first. I'm curious if she will actually get through an entire Bio course.  Or maybe she'll find the parts she like.  Or maybe she'll find the parts that she needs for neuro. 

When I think about college and the possibility that it will be very boring for K, I wonder if she might not be better off pursuing a more autodidactic approach to college.  She still has a few years to figure it out.  She is planning on taking SATs and ACTs this summer.  And probably applying to college in the fall.  But it makes sense to think about options other than college, since she loves learning and it would be a pity to not enjoy college-level learning.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Last night we went to Dave & Buster's for Elazar's siyum.  He finished Mishna Maseches Megilla.  (And Jack listened to a lot of it, too.)  Ari learns with them on early Shabbos Friday Nights. 

I told Elazar to prepare a small speech and I saw him writing points down on a piece of paper and practicing/reviewing.  When we all got into the car, he delivered it.  It was two points, neither of them from Megilla; just two halachos he remembered. 

Then Ari asked the boys some questions from the Mishna.  They didn't remember most of those.  It got me thinking about testing and how to craft a test that would actually reflect what they learned and what they know.  Luckily, we could tell at the time of learning how engaged they were and if they were understanding it.  The goal of learning is, yes, the information.  But also the enjoyment, the bonding time, the experience of Torah She'Ba'al Peh, the sense of how mishna is structured, the Oral Law, how to analyze, how to think, and who knows what else.

We asked what he wanted to do for his siyum.  I thought it would be a restaurant or a visit to the candy store, but he wanted Dave & Busters.  It was difficult to wait ALL the way til Wednesday (half price day), but we celebrated with arcade games.  Everyone who lives at home came.  A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Unschooling spelling

3rd grader just asked 1st grader how to spell "simulator" and 1st grader spelled it out for him.

(Kids learn at their own rates.  5th grader couldn't read very much until age 8.  I just asked 5th grader if he could spell simulator and he can't yet.)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the baby and toddler years

I was slicing mushrooms this afternoon to put into a braised meat with sauteed mushrooms and wine sauce for shabbos.  I remembered the years when I bought sliced mushrooms, because I had no time to slice mushrooms.  I wanted salad but I had no time to make salad (or was too exhausted) and cutting romaine lettuce (let alone additional vegetables) was beyond me.  I drank hot chocolate instead of cappuccino because it takes me six minutes to make a cappuccino and I never had 6 consecutive minutes.  Hot chocolate was 2 minutes in the microwave.  One time I decided to make meatballs (not sure what I was thinking) and had my hands deep in chopped meat when the baby needed to be fed.  Now what?  (I've been since advised--rubber gloves.)

Now slicing mushrooms is a luxury.  Making a cappuccino is a luxury.  Sitting and catching my breath is a luxury. 

Homeschooling without babies and toddlers is very different than homeschooling with babies and toddlers.  Most years kind of sink into the abyss of no sleep and intense childcare.  My experienced homeschooler friend told me that you lose a year of homeschooling every time you have a baby.  But it seemed to me I lost at least a partial year being pregnant (being so nauseous I lay on the couch for 4 months) (and in my case, having a lot of miscarriages and bedrest--though homeschooling while on bedrest was actually not too bad.  Feeding them was impossible.  But getting them to drag their books over to the bed and learn?  Utterly manageable), and then the sleepless year of baby.  And what about those families who have babies year after year?  Then some of the children grow up and if every year was a lost year, did they get educated?

In secular homeschool circles, they don't talk much about this.  I've found the Christian homeschoolers have similar issues.  A lot of those years were a blur for me.

Nothing to do with post. They made these from clay and love to play with them. Figured I'd stick them here so I can look back on this one day and remember how much they loved playing with toys they made with their own efforts.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Every day is vacation when you unschool

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This was a funny one.  Since we are unschoolers, and I've often mentioned that every day is like a Sunday or vacation day, this is our every day!  Haha.  Also no Santa.  And no early bedtime, since I've somehow lost the grip on bedtime and it's around 10:30pm these days.

We actually don't have a tremendous amount of fighting these days (As long as I don't try to leave the house with them.  Still building up to that trip to the Museum of Natural History with K and the boys that I think we might be ready for this year).  I was trying to decide if it was because we homeschool and we have lots of time together and the days are relaxed and peaceful, or because we are just lucky based on the different developmental levels that they haven't been fighting so much.  I think b.
For example, 6yo just shrieked that 10yo should stop singing.  And 10yo did.  And there was no physical eruption of violence.  Weird, right?

I note that there is no dinner on this list.  Just like my house!  I have actually been thinking that I have to set up some type of dinner plan.  What I used to do with the girls was have them tell me 5 meals they were willing to eat for dinner and then I would either have them available or actually make them.  Jack is getting hungry every night (I know, shocker--but since my other kids eat like birds or live on lebens or make their own food this is an adjustment) and asking for 2nd and 3rd dinners.  I'm wondering if it's time to move out of wacky macs and pizza bagels and over to real people food.