philosophy, not that i am an expert.
The below is a continuation of my previous post. It was too long so, I broke it up into two posts realizing the second half became another topic; practical applications and learning philosophies.
Notes on This week:
a new fascination with Science and String Theory:
Once my kids saw me spending time watching a three part series by PBS called, “The Elegant Universe” they wanted to watch it also, and it was received very well by them. I don’t think I would have understood these concepts till age 30+ and I certainly wasn’t exposed to these fascinating theories till I was an adult. We borrowed library books from the recommended Science books list of the Well Trained Mind and they picked out some on Physics on their own.
“It’s amazing where the human mind goes when it’s not being led.” Jennifer Head, published in Life Learning Magazine.
Dd(14) a voracious reader, has never been that interested in Science or History and Math was a struggle. Once she was not forced (as in public, charter, and online school at home) to learn certain subjects, in a pre-established time table, she became interested in them on her own. Ok well, she tolerates my enthusiasm for History. And I am shaking my head in disbelief now that I can say there is little to no resistance in Math. She does it on her own from books I have bought and from the library to fun websites online and lessons on Khanacademy.org. Best of all, she likes it! She understands. Math, the hated subject, the struggle for YEARS, she can test herself, find discrepancies, review and master it all on her own. I am delighted and proud of her. It is hard to believe that MATH could have caused SO much problem in our relationship and the harmony of our home, because of an arbitrary time table and the pressure of others!
She was able to stop caring that certain family members didn’t approve or support her decision to leave public school, they even took away travel to see family. They made it clear she would not receive gifts or plane tickets as long as she didn’t return to school with proof of grades. I however, took longer to stop caring. smh….me caring what they thought and how it affected my daughter actually affected my daughter MORE because of my stress and pressure on her for her to perform. Once we made it just about learning, I stopped caring how it looked to them, and KNEW I was doing the right thing FOR HER, she came out of her shell and was able to blossom. May Allah keep me on this path and not let me forget what I have learned, or regress.
“Our Lord! condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; help us against those who stand against faith.” (286)
Appreciation of historical fiction:
As a public school attendee (didn’t graduate but got my GED in 11th and went to college) a passionate reader, with decades of independent study of a vast array of books, I am astounded I was never introduced nor had discovered the genre historical fiction. I didn’t even know it existed! How is that possible?! However, every book store owner within a ten mile radius has been happy to fill the gap with many suggested books. You know how it is, when you learn about something you see it everywhere when actually, it was always there but because it was unfamiliar it didn’t “register” and you took no notice.
So I have been able to pick many up, including kids historical fiction at sidewalk sales or thrift stores. I have even read some “children’s” books under historical fiction myself but I give them historical fiction for what they are learning at the time. We sometimes watch movies for the period or person they are studying as well.
Ds(10) continues building all forms of swings in the yard and has plenty of outdoor play. I try to squelch the mom desire to tell him, “you’re gonna get hurt” or “you’re too high in that tree” or command “wear knee pads when you ride your skateboard”. Believe me, when he insists upon something i know will have consequences but i allow him to do it, the lesson is learned much better on his own with ‘natural consequences’. He didn’t wear long pants when skateboarding, he skinned his knee. I never had to tell him to wear long pants again.
It was the same with walking through the woods; i suggested pants because he would get itchy/scratched, he wouldn’t so i let it go. He took an immediate shower upon arriving home with vigorous comments which i refrained from an “i told you so’ and he wears thick pants through the woods now.
I approach with the same attitude such as wearing a coat/jacket, (the cold) wearing tennis shoes instead of sandals and wearing socks. He complains now all his shoes smell. I refuse to buy him more because i asked he wear socks. So now, he knows he must hand wash his shoes by himself. He knows he must do this so he can bear wearing his shoes! I will not wash his shoes for him or save him from what he chose to do. Once I feel he is being responsible or he saves up his allowance, he will get another pair of shoes.
It may sound harsh holding him accountable for his choices but it’s working with him. I can be kind but firm, understanding and forgiving without being lenient. Consistency is the key. Alternatively, I say “yes” much more often than I use to, and it has made a world of difference for both of them: in their mood, their attitude while improving our connection. mA
My children are mostly fearless, which i now see the benefits of. Wrong way to end a sentence:) I feel the advantages of allowing them to be more independent and to make their own choices outweigh the risks. For the most part, they’ve learned to respect and listen to me because they found out through natural consequences that i was right:)
Watching home videos, i found surprisingly i used to be a very permissive parent, from toddler to ten. That extreme wasn’t healthy either. Mentioning the above examples is important for me not because I feel i am right about how i approach it and others are not, but because i had begun to coerce my children in every little thing. I ‘lost’ control and that was how i dealt it. i am controlling by nature, i think. Perhaps that is a modern woman thing?
I have learned forcing a child may work temporarily and give a parent momentary relief but in the long run, is NOT a solution.
So i don’t force but It’s not that i allow my son to be dangerous either. I allow him to be a child and a boy. The protective mom gene kicks in and you worry and nag, forgetting your own childhood. I had to remember I roamed miles away from home and i was fine. Of course, it was a different time.
Seriously, I look back in wonder and know God protected me. I grew up in the country and yes, none of us locked our doors but we had rattlesnakes and spiders, coyotes and once a mountain lion on the loose. I lived. I got lost several times and had to climb the nearest hilltop to see my neighborhood. When i got hurt, i walked home. I wasn’t a cryer or attention seeker. Ironic, because i was in public school.
Growing up in the country I realize now i was free to choose how i spent my spare time. I also had personal relationships with my neighbors, knew the ins and outs of their houses, along with their pets, gardens and projects. I learned more from family, adults and elderly neighbors, than I ever did from my school-age friends. I also loved nature, watched wildlife, followed the creeks, and knew all the deer trails like the back of my hand.
My best memories were of my childhood and i want my kids to have the same, not cooped-up in classrooms without windows, separated from the real world and nature. I never want them to check the clock a million times, watching the hands on the clock, waiting that agonizing last hour of school till the bell rings and they’re set free.
While this is what i want for them and was they best for them these last few years, i have always been open to what THEY wanted. They have both attended school, and when my daughter was in 5th grade, it was her decision to return to homeschooling. Now she has chosen to attend high school and will start in August this year, God willing.
My kids aren’t instilled with the prevalent ‘stranger danger’ attitude, which enables them to have wonderful conversations with adults. My son has a personal relationship with our mail lady and knows everyone on our street. He goes for walks with our Hispanic neighbor who has three little girls and no sons. Both my kids want to learn Spanish to speak to him without relying on his girls to translate!
Of course because i am a hoarder of books, i’ve got a couple books on learning Spanish and even a textbook as well. Dd picks them up at her leisure but prefers the faster method of videos online. I’m helping her with flashcards and vocabulary. I understand more Spanish than I can speak, so it’s a refresher for me and we can learn together;)
In regards to safety and other adults my kids have been instructed on what constitutes danger and what is and is not acceptable, al hamdulilah. May Allah protect and guide my children, grant me patience and wisdom. Ameen
Dd shares animal husbandry and breeding tips with our corner neighbors who breed guinea pigs. She has considered, discussed and planned a leaf raking business with her friend down the street. Believe it or not, she is an introvert but look how she benefits without school.
Socialization in school is a joke. My introvert shines now, a word i would have never used before to describe her, she was just sullen. Shines in real life: without pressures, constraints, limitations, inflexible staged curricula, deadlines, stress, fear of fitting in, the list goes on. She enrolled in karate. Yes, I nudged her but i promised if she took ONE introductory class she didn’t have to continue but she liked it. She is self motivated and confident in a way she never was in public school. The only motivation i remember is her wanting to be on time because she was severely embarrassed when late!
“Growing without schooling” has it’s challenges and i won’t say it’s always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel but then almost every day I am reminded of why I home school. Not just from seeing all the negatives of current educational trends and modern culture but I love the ‘light bulb’ moments when my kids ‘get’ something or when they overcome a challenge. I admire how many ideas and interests they have when i don’t make them follow a list of learning objectives or a hard structure curricula. I revel in the joy of just being together. What has been the most amazing of this journey is NOT how much I was able to ‘impart knowledge’ to them, but how much they have taught me.
Muhammad, peace be upon him, always thought the best of people and they responded to that. He always had a smile for them and they strove to please him. When he was displeased he didn’t yell or become angry. He wasn’t critical but reprimanded adults and children gently, without embarrassing them. He was the best example and REMAINS the best to emulate. I am reminded of this constantly the more I learn of his sunnah, parenting, and modern psychology.
If it works with other kids and mine or i read it online, surely it’s in the sunnah, i find. :)
In life and education i must give my kids a balance of freedom and expectation of responsibility while trusting and listening. I just don’t feel I can go wrong with that. and God knows best.
I’d like to acknowledge a few women whose words, stories, blogs or comments online have inspired me. While i may not fully agree with anarchist beliefs or a ‘radical unschooling lifestyle’ these mothers are no less pioneers in the unschooling movement and to restoring children’s dignity and rights. When it comes to their children’s growth, learning and meeting each individual child’s needs these ladies are inspirational. With wise words, sound advice and much experience, they are a comfort for moms and a breath of fresh air in the mainstream ‘unattached parenting’ trends.
I’ve noticed a gradual shift from the unnatural parenting norms, to a more intuitive, thoughtful and sensitive way, thankfully. I feel this is partially due to these women’s contributions whose passion and advocacy for all children led the natural parenting movement. I hope many more parents and educators adopt the natural, respectful and individualized way of allowing kids the freedom to learn and grow on their own terms.
I am indebted to these women whether I spoke to them or did not have the pleasure of meeting them. Keep up the good work *and remember you will never go wrong by putting your kids first:)
Listed fairly chronologically:
Paved my way (furthest back):
Contributors of Mothering magazine
Lisa Russell, writer. Current home: http://www.gypsymom.com/ my inspiration originally at http://mrshannigan.wordpress.com/
Carol Pavliska, homeschooling conference speaker, blogger. http://sardinesinacan.blogspot.com/
Learned more (way back):
Home Education magazine (snail mail subscriptions still available but digital is cheaper)
Life Learning Magazine (when still in tree wasting, shiny pages and lovely holding form) The void will never be filled *sob*
http://www.lifelearningmagazine.com/ digital is quite cheap, still a treat:)
Sandra Dodd, unschooling advocate. http://sandradodd.com
Wendy Priesnitz editor/creator several magazines. Champion for parents and kids everywhere.
Finally and continuing:
Grace Llewellyn, educator and author. Her groundbreaking “Teenage Liberation Handbook” had me adamantly shaking my head in agreement with her descriptions of school and learning yet disbelief over her thorough grasp of the problems and issues of modern kids trapped in compulsory schooling. I wish i’d had this book at the age of ten!
Astra Taylor, film maker and writer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM-DtE6mkeU
Idzie Desmarais ‘unschooled’ adult and writer. I discovered her blog, a delight. One of the few i subscribe to and read consistently http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.com/
Dayna Martin, author, speaker. http://thesparklingmartins.blogspot.com/
Some of the smartest advise i’ve seen and best dialogue i’ve heard
I met the father and son at a speaking engagement. Scheduled speeches are free, materials may be purchased.
I found myself in jaw-dropping awe listening to their common sense, non emotional approach to parenting. They had me spellbound with their candor and stories, both humorous and serious. I believe some of the CD’s are worth the cost, and i rarely promote any product. They give dynamic advice, immediately applicable. Many American families would be healed if they applied the techniques taught through celebrate calm. However, most of what they teach is also in the hadeeth of our Prophet, the athaar(narrations) of the sahabah and sayings of the scholars. Listening to the founder speak was a
kick in the *ss wonderful reminder for me.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn (Dr. Peter Gray)
Awakened** and Increased my understanding:
Last but not least, what i call ‘the two Johns'; their names must be known and their words heard: John Holt and John Taylor Gatto. Without Holt, there could not have been Gatto.
John Holt, teacher and writer, the premiere founder of home education, some say the father of it and finally the unschooling method. John Gatto, an impassioned educator and former teacher making waves:)
I hope he continues to open more minds to our modern educational system, motivating educators and parents.
For our children and our future we must work to create change through open forums, grassroots effort and even legislation. If that cannot be attained we can make the intention and change it with our hearts, our minds and our hands within our own families and those we know. Above all, don’t stay silent, share what you’ve learned and what you know with others so we can collectively raise the next generation mindfully, with tolerance and purpose.
*a mom has to have ‘me’ time also!
** Allah is the All Aware, the Opener and Awakener. He, glory be to Him, Alone is the Best of Planners, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Owner of the Day of Judgment.