There was a great question posted on one of my unschooling groups last weekand I thought it was a good prompt. It inspired me to write my first post of 2014:
For unschooling parents with children still in the house, would you mind sharing the different ways you supported your child(ren)'s learning today? Not a typical day. Just today.
For me the thoughts swirling were not just about what I (and others) did on one particular day to support Marisol and Gerry, but all of the choices we had made in the months and years leading up to each day that make our life possible.
We are in Florida visiting my parents. (Just the kids and I - Mike was supposed to come for the first part of our visit, but we have a sick kitty so he ended up staying home.) So labeling these days "typical" may seem strange. And yet, once (or sometimes twice) per year, these are our typical days for a week or two. And actually, this is kind of how our life is - there really *aren't* typical days.
The day I was thinking about these things was a beautiful, sunny day - though a bit chillier than we were hoping for. Marisol loves being at her Grandparents' house and by lunchtime had already exclaimed it was "the best day ever!" What prompted this declaration? She and her grandma went on a golf cart ride to go play shuffleboard. She beat grandma 94-89. I know there was writing on the chalk board and math involved in keeping score. But mostly it was just a great time with her beloved grandma.
After she felt the water in the pool. Even though the air temperature was about 60 degrees the water felt so warm she wanted to swim! (The pools are heated and kept at about 80-82 degrees). When they got back from their shuffle board game Gerry and I were still playing wii games. She grabbed swim stuff and went back with both grandparents this time.
Gerry agreed to play one more level on Super Mario bros. and then take a ride on the "fire truck" golf cart (it's red - his favorite color!) So we went over to the pool and ended up "playing" shuffle board too. I wrote our names on the board with chalk where Gerry told me to, I explained the rule for not walking on the court (even with tiny bare feet!), and we talked about points. We compared -10 to the purple stars on Mario Party 9 because those make you lose mini-stars. We were only out for a little while before he was ready to go back home, but it was great to soak up some sunshine and see Marisol swimming even for a few minutes.
Right now it is a lot easier for me to "support" Marisol. She is more adventurous and independent than she has ever been. She is eating a wide variety of foods and *wants* to eat healthy. She loves being with her Grandparents and Aunt will easily do things and go places with them - more and more without me (although, she still wants and needs me sometimes too - I am actually very grateful for that). She's really interested in learning to read (because she LOVES books!) and she wants to know how.
Gerry is a different story. My mantra right now is "He'll only be 4 for one year." (Thank you AGAIN Sandra Dodd!) Everything is just a little bit difficult right now - he's itchy but refuses lotion. (Add it to the list of thins we do once he's asleep!) Because of this he won't wear shoes. Correction - he tries but must take them off almost immediately because his feet itch! He has not had shoes on yet on this vacation - including the whole plane ride here. His attire right now is shorts and T-shirts - not just in Florida, but at home too - even when it's freezing outside. (T-shirts and shorts = less itchy) He seems to be limiting his food choices more all the time instead of expanding them. His favorite food is strawberry shortcake ice cream bars and he eats many - usually until the box is gone. His passion is video games and we play for hours every day together. There are so many cool and awesome things about this fact - and I plan on writing about them soon - but while we're in Florida it is a challenge to find a balance that is respectful of all of our needs. Because I want to get outside and enjoy the Florida sun and also do things with my family - and they do too! So we are slowly finding ways to do this - and I am also being very flexible and savoring even small breaks from video games (which I luckily love! The video games I mean - but also the short breaks ;-) Sometimes when he is upset he screams very angrily at me.
In spite of these challenges he and I are closer than ever. We laugh and cuddle every day. I do not question decisions I've made in the past or am currently making. I never feel the need to punish or yell at him. Even when he screams at me I am able to feel love in my heart. Of course there are times when I feel irritated or wish things were easier in the moment - but I never wish *he* were different. He is stretching me and I am growing, learning lessons over that I thought I had learned already.
So here is a list of all the things I am grateful for and choices we have made, both recently and over the years, all of which support Marisol and Gerry as they learn and grow, and also nourish our family relationships.
1) I am grateful that I stumbled across the term "unschooling" almost 6 years ago and that it piqued my interest. I am so glad that this discovery led to hours and hours of reading and learning.
2) I fully embrace philosophically not artificially limiting screen time or food choices. I also love myself when my what I practice is not completely in line with my philosophy (ie hiding the strawberry icecreams in the freezer) because I know that I am human and not perfect and I know that I am growing and learning all the time from my kids.
3) I usually remember to keep relationships as my guiding light for every decision we make. Of course this includes my children, but also my husband, parents, sister, friends and other loved ones. We are NOT always on the same page - even (especially?) about those things listed in #2 - but because we (usually) have open communication we navigate each day with as much love and respect as we can. I'm learning to let go of my expectations, not just of my kids, but of others. I really and truly believe we are all doing our best each day.
Choosing to homeschool makes these wonderful Florida days possible for my family. We are not limited to school vacations or schedules. A supportive husband makes homeshooling financially possible and unschooling successfully possible. Skype and smart phones make time away from him bearable. Loving grandparents make it possible for us to spend many hours playing video games without harsh judgement. A fun Aunt brings joy to my daughter's life. Some days are still difficult - usually when I'm tired and/or lose perspective and/or get sick of learning the same lessons over and over and feel like, "what the heck, haven't I reached Nirvana yet??"
But one thing I *am* getting better at all the time is taking a longer view and seeing the bigger picture. I know our visit here next year will likely look different than this year's. I know that if I have a "blah" day, a perfectly sparkly and vibrant one is right around the corner. I know that I am going to miss 4 years old and the joy on Gerry's face at this moment in time (because it will likely look a little different tomorrow). I know that before long he will be playing video games for hours WITHOUT me and I will be delivering trays of food and asking if I can join him. I'm remembering that all of the little things that stress me are likely to look like "nothing" very soon and that the big things that matter will remain the same.
What does a typical day look like for your family? Or if you are like us and don't really have a "typical" day - pick a recent day that stood out and tell me why. What are ways you are supporting your unique child(ren) today?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.