Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's Working

As part of living a mindful life, I like to assess every now and then what's working and what's not working. I don't want to get stuck in a rut of doing something one way just because it's easy or comfortable if it's not working out well for all the members of my family. I'm delving into this in the more personal areas of my life privately, but here I'll share the unschooling/parenting aspects.

WORKING: Food, tv, no bedtimes, cleaning and all of those major issues that people balk at when learning about radical unschooling. The way I handle these things has become so easy and natural now that I hardly even think about them.
I still think about nutrition when I shop and cook, but I don't stress about what they are eating. The only thing I am constantly aware of is E's corn allergy, but she is also very aware of it and we work together. I'm in the habit now of checking labels for corn, and other than the occasional slip up I just don't buy it. She has asked that if her daddy buys something with corn for himself that he will hide it so she's not tempted. Sometimes if she shops with me or if we are at someone else's house she will make the choice to eat corn and deal with how her body feels. I do encourage her not to and try to find other alternatives, but it's her body so the choice is ultimately hers. Besides her corn allergy, I just have an awareness in the back of my mind of what they have been eating and that triggers an occasional suggestion ("You've had a lot of cheese today, how about something with some fiber now so you don't get constipated.") but there's no stress or control associated with it.

It's just a non-issue. When we lived in Oregon, I was very aware of making lots of other options readily available, so that they were watching tv if they really wanted to, but not just out of boredom. Now we can't afford cable, but we get movies from the library ever week, occasionally get redbox movies and they can watch things online. And they do, but here we have a yard for the first time and L is at an age now where they can really play well together. So they play together, often outside, most of the day if we are home. Then we put a movie on in the evenings before bed. Movies still spark lots of good conversations and interests.

No bedtimes:
We have an easy going routine that I lead and they follow of dinner, clean up time, brushing teeth and then a movie or books. They don't always fall asleep in the same place (couch or recliner or my bed or theirs) or in the same way (in front of a movie, after reading books I sing, or we all just lay down) or at the same time (I shoot for somewhere between 8 and 10 depending on whether or not D is home for me to spend time with him, how tired I am, how badly I want to be alone, whether or not L got a nap, how tired they are acting), but it works. Falling asleep is almost always a happy, relaxed time.

This is another I lead and they follow thing. I set the example and get the ball rolling and they pitch in. We do a clean up time every evening and they do their part 9 out of 10 times. Well, I should say, E does. L doesn't quite as often, but she is more likely to help me during the day with laundry or cleaning the bathroom. E often cleans their room by herself with only verbal guidance from me. The last couple of days she has started washing dishes completely out of the blue.

Academic Learning:
I'm putting this is the working category, because they are learning a lot. E's birthday misses the cut off for compulsory school age by one day, so we do not have to be official until next year, which makes her technically a kindergartener. I don't use the arbitrary school standards as the benchmark for whether or not my kids are learning, but by next year, for legal purposes, I will have to be aware of them. If I were sending E to school, she would fit right in academically with first graders this year. However, I have been struggling with finding inspiration for things to do since we moved here. This town is simply not the bustling center of culture, art, music, and homeschooling activity that Portland is. And that leads into NOT WORKING:

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