Archive for the ‘Unschooling’ Category

freedom of thought The quote above was posted online through Life Learning Magazine and below is my response:

This attitude does not respect the child then, and why they may become frustrated, uncooperative, defiant, unresponsive, even vindictive. Why respect adults or elders when in his eyes, they have no concern for what he wants or likes? The child will model and reciprocate if the child is respected. He can then learn without limitations imposed on him and will be at ease and content.

Freedom to choose how to spend one’s time does this, but i am not speaking of a permissive environment with absolutely no rules, no right and wrong. Rather, when above all, he is treated nearly equal to an adult, he/she perceives to have autonomy and ownership over himself, he will not only take charge of his life learning but may accept total responsibility for his actions as well. This understanding has a profound effect on the Self.

I cannot tell you what this realization did for me in my late teens, that i could not continue to blame anyone else for my life as it was and the fact i was mainly responsible for my own misery due to my thoughtless, immature decisions. My life changed from that moment.

Above all, even if a child has the negative behaviors i listed: frustration, defiance, vindictiveness, in response to OTHERS controlling what he is allowed to learn, most every child still longs for approval.

I find this longing for approval and being appreciated to be universal and a great way to help that child learn and feel the best about himself, which has a domino effect in every sphere of his being: intellectual/cognitive, emotional/behavioral, spiritual, and perhaps even physical by relieving stress and anxiety. Only then is the child able to reach his full potential and develop his character. Character will set him up for success or failure the rest of his life. SOURCE: ” How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” Jul 2, 2013 by Paul Tough.


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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.

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…and a new start
homeschool last year

An Important distinction I made recently and lesson learned was to put Aqeedah and Quran first, academics second. I don’t just mean schedule-wise like lessons on religion first or Quranic memorization in the morning before academic subjects are covered I mean philosophically, practically and mentally first. Of course with learning everything is connected and can be experienced together but that’s a whole ‘nother post;)

Days I awake alert, pray, and began the day cheerfully reviewing our lesson plans and my to do list, the day goes smoothly, is productive and I accomplish the goals i set for myself and my children’s learning or activities for that day.

I realized for quite a while now those days are infrequent and in the past. Lately I felt little was accomplished and that our whole household was dragging through the day, starting later and later, not getting into the swing of things till the afternoon. I became frustrated meals were no longer on time or in a reasonable period (breakfast before 11, lunch before 3) I was annoyed their chores weren’t done, I had return to nagging and criticizing and by ‘asr, only a couple lessons had been finished.

That overwhelmed feeling became worse and worse: the house wasn’t the way I wanted it, the kids were starting the day too late, we weren’t getting enough done, in my opinion. And no, I’m not going to say the common revelation that unschoolers have was that we needed to slow down, de-school, have less schedule or structure or enjoy nature. Thank God, I have realized a lot of these and my children have shown me the error of my way that my idealized picture of a schoolroom complete with textbooks, desks and posters replicated in our house did not appeal to them nor yield much result. I mean, they go in there to get supplies or grab a book and read on the small, comfy IKEA couch or perhaps even play with our cockatiel but sitting at the antique desk I bought and letting me “teach” them…..no.

The word that comes to my mind is liberation. Once I was able to ‘let go’ of all the common, erroneous ideas of education and release my faulty way of thinking, my children and I were so much happier. Really, I am not trying to copy the word of the title from one of the most appreciated  and well written books in the history of education*…it is just the perfect word. To know something is to know it’s opposite and the opposite of liberation would be in my mind, slavery.

My mind was held captive to the idea that learning must be represented as a schoolroom in my house and that was the only way my children would learn. Silly, because that was not the way i was raised but it was how i was ‘schooled’.

Back to my original point, realizing the tone in our home had shifted from following interests, open discussions, and harmony to one of drudgery. That nice flow and balance we had that comes when you’re free to learn or pursue what you want, when you want, while still setting goals was gone.  Being carefree and the lightness in our chests but still feeling our time was well spent, meaningful…the positive charge exiting in our home was absent.

So I decided to forget worrying about the lesson plan and announced we would start the day by reading or memorizing Quran. It made a difference immediately. It wasn’t just in the kids attitudes and what they finished, it was MY mentality and demeanor changed. After all, the feeling in the home usually reflects the mom. I mean, the husband can set the tone and he is the leader but the mother is the the love, the example and the teacher.

What a relief! It’s not that I took charge and we got the house in order, or that our prayers were on time, but that I felt confident that if I put God first, everything would be all right. It goes without saying of course, the importance of fajr prayer offered at it’s prescribed time.
Once I began having them work on their surah memorization or having a short halaqa discussion, I stopped feeling that weight becoming heavier throughout the day; that familiar, nagging worry ceased. I knew if we began our school day right, in worship and remembrance of Him, subhana wa ta’ala, my children would learn whatever academics essential for their future.

When I experienced that certainty, that comfort, I relaxed, the scowl on my face replaced by a smile, and the light-heartedness returned. I rediscovered just the simple joy of being with my kids. Once again i felt the liberation.
Instead of dragging through the day, with that feeling of defeat by dinnertime, I was relishing each moment with my kids. New thoughts, more reflections, revelations how history, science and current news were all connected and explained through Quran and hadeeth, were easily discovered and shared among us. maa shaa Allah. There was less arguing, more play and camaraderie, and more wonder in the world around us.

I mentioned to my teenage daughter what a pleasure she was to be around lately “I’m glad you noticed,” she retorted. I didn’t take offense, in fact the opposite. I could tell by her tone she appreciated my words but was hurt. I had betrayed her. After the long journey of discovery and realization that culminated in allowing her the freedom to learn on her own I had backtracked and returned to ‘do this, do that’… ‘why haven’t you…..

I do believe children should obey but I also believe adults should apologize to children when they are in the wrong and I try to do that. My wrong had been returning to the negative, hostile mom from the past instead of the positive, encouraging, and relaxed one as I was after my ‘enlightenment’. Instead of my usual need to make this into a lesson, with a minimum statement (lecture) responding to her, “I’m glad you noticed” I remained silent and just ‘took it’. I think that meant more to her than any admittance or promises I could have made. and Allah knows best.

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This is just a quick update that a favorite writer of mine Lisa Russell, has moved her site. Apparently, twice :p

You will recall her from the article I so blatantly stole (er…borrowed?) about the dreaded home school, unschooling topic…drum roll please….”Socialized” To be more accurate, the post was titled, “EVERYONE MUST READ THIS” caps mine, and went on to HER title, “No thank you we don’t believe in Socialization” which to be honest, i got off the San Antonio homeschool website that i have located somewhere. One of the funniest things Lisa ever said was something like, “as if only a dot stood between me and organized…ugg im getting that wrong. Lisa, please correct me if you will…  😀   i’ve had three hours of sleep and carschooled all day so please oblige meee…lol

*that reminds me, GOSH I WISH I”D been able to attend the unschooling conference, ugg that burned me!* I wanted to have a henna booth for the parents and facepaint the kids! and meet cool people from all over the US like me…i meant ppl like me, not cool (embarrassed)

ANYWAY, she was here: http://mrshannigan.wordpress.com/   then she went here: http://www.lisarussell.org/blog and  http://lisarussell.org /   finally (though not promised 🙂 and the road is paved and long,  excuse the pun} she arrived …yaayyy here : http://www.gypsymom.com/  Join her for her family’s new voyage unschooling, writing, learning all the time (our motto) having fun, being together and loving…in a small RV…driving cross country to the …unknown..whooooo. lol. Seriously. Go view it i swear you won’t regret it. She is funky, fun, insightful, disorganized (like me) and …has the most wonderful outlook, maa shaa Allah. I love her new post already about El Paso, Texas. Awesome. Really, i can’t think of another word besides that: awesome. Al hamdulilah. I have quoted her more times than I can count on my fb. (Shhh…it’s a secret)

If we all applied the Golden rule there would be no problems on this earth wa Allahu Alim. Similar is the Prophet Muhammad’s saying, “None of you is a believer until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself”  

The media and common (sorry) ignorant folk would have you believe Muslims are not tolerant that is NOT the case. I could go on and on but it’s midnight. Please a sis post daleel (evidence) for what i am saying I will inshAllah come back to this and edit the evidence.

Here it is again, to avoid confusion: www.gypsymom.com I listed the sites above not just my wacky humor ( i been called crazy, zany, hippy and gypsy in my life)and hyper…

but as well because there is still much benefit in her old sites. However make sure you visit her newest site first, it rocks!

First five sisters to check out her site get a free massage with aromatherapy with my signature Enlightened Touch products! Don’t worry if you live in SA the offer is still valid, i am traveling there soon inshAllah, massage table in tow!


Check out http://www.care2.com/  Largest site about living natural, newest discoveries in health and fitness, creating change, signing petitions and for animal lovers! And awesome site with the best weekly newsletter I’ve ever seen!

Also www.healthymuslim.com

Well, i guess thats it, shew! Did i spell that right? night! (Yes, sometimes i think in rhyme)

Wanna see my poetry? It’s under my notes. Add me here: http://facebook.com/leslie.eisenman

And my fb business page is much more up to date with health and helpful links for the Muslimah or anyone, maa shaAllah really…it also will have recent pictures of the massage room in my home. For those of you who don’t know, I am a licensed massage therapist. I also have a group one health and life insurance license in the state of Texas i passed the test when I was 19 al hamdulilah. The youngest one in the history of West Telemarketing. Don’t even get me started on that company! Everyone in San Antonio knows that! http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Heaven-and-Earth-Bodywork/173365312449?sk=info I went to ACC in Austin, Texas where I completed Medical Assisting.  Two years later my dream was realized when I graduated St. Phillip’s college in San Antonio. I received my certificate in Massage Therapy and passed the state of Texas exam shortly thereafter. On the first try. With flying colors. Did i mention I passed on the first try? lol   I love shiatsu, aromatherapy and am experienced in many other modalities, check out my website the freewebs one describes services and my mission for women of the world!

G’night facebook! oops i meant ..err  wordpressers?


Assalamou alaikom wa rahmatullah thanks so much for your kindness and visiting my site . JazakAllah khair.

*DOES  N*E*body know how to get wordpress to stop underlining homeschooling and unschooling? I like spelling it that way.

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