Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rosh Chodesh: Head of the Month

I decided to start being more intentional about observing Rosh Chodesh (first day or "head" of the month), since it often flies by without me even noticing.  I made a calendar page for the kids that has the Gregorian calendar and the Biblical calendar overlapping for this month.  We also made a moon out of construction paper and colored a tiny sliver that indicates what we can see of the new moon.  I'm late on it for this month, which is Shevat.  It started on the evening of January 25th. 

While I was searching for things for us to do to celebrate, I found a few interesting things and I wanted to share them. 

I don't know anything about this website, and I don't agree with his use of "Gentile believers," but this page seems to sum it up nicely.  It gives all the Bible verses that speak of Rosh Chodesh.     

For us ladies, I thought this page about women and Rosh Chodesh was interesting, given our biology and inherent connection with the moon. 

I also found this worship dance to a song called Rosh Chodesh.  It's a really easy one, great for beginners and kids!

The Wikipedia page for each month has a list of things that happened, from the Bible and other historical sources, on each day of the month.  This month is Shevat

Most of the dates it gives to observe mark the death of various Rabbi's, but a few Biblical things stuck out to me: 

Moses began the review of the Torah on the first day of Shevat.
On Shevat 23 was the war on the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 19-21
On Shevat 24 Zachariah gave his prophecy. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

To Train Up A Child

You may have noticed the "Why Not Train A Child" button on the side of my blog.  If not, let me draw your attention to it now and to the issue it represents.  The book To Train Up A Child, written by Micheal Pearl is, simply put, a child abuse manual.  In the book, he tells parents to use a plumbing supply line to beat their children into submission, starting as young as 6 months old, and claims that this is Biblical advise.  Several children have died as a result of their parents following the methods in this book.  I could go on, but thanks to the work of Linda at Why Not Train A Child, I can just send you there where many bloggers have covered the book in depth.

Please take the time to read the information on her site, if you are not already familiar with this book.  Then if you are outraged, there is something you can do!  Here is the facebook page of the petition to Amazon asking them to stop selling this book.  Here is the petition itself.  And the blog of the woman who started the petition.  The purpose of the petition is to pressure Amazon to stop selling the book (and other similar books), so that it will not be so readily available to parents who are desperately seeking godly answers and might fall into this very ungodly trap.  Hopefully, it will also encourage them to look into WHY they can't find the book easily, and perhaps they will stumble across better information in the process. 

You may find that there are some people who do not support the book, but also don't support the petition.  They believe that this is censorship and that free speech should apply to anything, even the promotion of child abuse.  And they are right!  The government has NO place censoring this book.  This petition, however, is asking a PRIVATE business to stop selling it, because it violates the business's own policy of what they will carry.  This is Amazon customers informing Amazon of their demands.  It's no different than a customer speaking with the owner of a local bookstore about their choice to carry a book that is dangerous and reprehensible.

Please sign the petition!  And please spread the word via your blog or facebook page!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Random Cuteness

A few weeks ago, D was riding his bike and almost hit this dog when it ran into the street.  She's a Queensland Heeler puppy- very sweet, very cute..... and chews on everything of course.  I originally objected, but the puppy dog eyes (belonging to the kids and husband) won me over.  So now I have four children, and this one is more work than the other three combined.  Her name is Smokey. 

E loves to take pictures and she got this one of Z. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Testing a Hypothesis

Yesterday E was playing with this slime we made, and she said that she was doing a test.  I asked her what she was testing, and she said that if she held the slime up and hit it with the knife, she wanted to see if it would go to the left or the right.  "Like on Mythbusters!  They test things."

I said that she was right.  They do experiments.  She said, "No they test things."  So I explained that is what an experiment is- testing a hypothesis.  I gave her some examples.

Then she said "My hypothesis is that if I hold the slime up, it will be easy to cut."  Then she did it and said, "And it's true!"

She did a few other tests to see of the slime would fall one way or the other, and if it was easier to cut with a steak knife or a butter knife. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Would You Let Her Quit?

E is in a local musical theater production called Best of Broadway.  After she was selected from the auditions, someone asked me "What if she wants to quit?  What if she doesn't feel like going to rehearsal one day?  Would you just let her quit?"

This person asked me this, because she has heard me voice my opinion on forcing kids to do things in which they are not interested.  So she wondered if E lost interest, what was I going to do?

I told her that, first of all, E and I would be having a discussion about commitments, and we did.  I told E what was going to be expected of her, how many days a week she would be rehearsing and I showed her on the calendar how long the rehearsals would last and when the show would take place.  I told her that if she wanted to do this, she needed to commit to doing every rehearsal.  I explained that the people who direct the show chose people from the auditions who they think will do a good job in their part, and that they are depending on each person to do their part.  If people don't show up or don't what they are supposed to do, it could ruin the show or at the very least inconvenience the directors and other actors.

E saw the show last March, so she knew somewhat what to expect the final production would look like.  When she saw it last year, she said "I want to do that!  I want to be on the stage!" and she waited for 7 months for the auditions for this year's show to roll around.  She was excited to do the auditions and be in the play.

She didn't know, however, exactly what the rehearsals would be like.  For the first rehearsal, our day worked out in such a way that we had to get there an hour early and the girls spent that time running around and playing.  It was 6 pm when the rehearsal started and she was tired.  I tried to get her to spend a few minutes taking some deep breaths and getting centered before it started, but she wouldn't.  We were all in a small room that echoed every noise and the music was LOUD.  She got totally overwhelmed with the noise after already feeling tired and out of sorts.  She tried to participate, but we had to leave the room several times for her to pull herself together.

I gave her some Rescue Remedy and let her leave the room when she needed to, but I also reminded her that this was part of practicing for the final production that she wanted to do.  I told her that I didn't think every rehearsal would be like this and that once she got into the swing of things that it would probably be easier.

The next day we were talking about it and I said, "If you don't want to do this, it's ok.  But it seems like you want to do this, but you were overwhelmed and tired last night."  She agreed that was the case.  I said, "Let's come up with some ideas that will make the next rehearsal easier so you don't feel so overwhelmed."

She agreed that just knowing what to expect the next time- the loud music and many people- would be helpful.  She was totally surprised by that the first time.  We talked about getting centered before the rehearsal started, bringing Rescue Remedy, making sure she ate immediately beforehand, bringing a water bottle, and being well rested.

We have implemented those ideas, and she has now done 5 rehearsals, and she enjoys them.  There are times in between songs for her to talk and play with new friends, and they just started adding dance choreography to the singing which she likes.  It is hard work, but so far, it is worth it to her.   Before the last rehearsal, she asked me if she could skip it because she was a little sick.  I reminded her that if she didn't do the rehearsals, she wouldn't be able to be in the play.  She said ok, and by the time it was over, she didn't want to leave!

So would I let her quit if she changed her mind?  The simple answer is yes!  I mean, seriously, all ethics and parenting philosophy aside, how DO you force a child to be in a play?  Threaten to spank them if they don't sing?  Ground them from doing anything else if they don't smile big enough?  How does one justify making a child's life miserable to try to teach them to never quit?  To me that just says "My reputation is more important than your happiness" or "I think you're such a lazy worthless bum that you'd never do anything worthwhile if I didn't force you."  

Fortunately, there is a lot of distance between forcing a child to do something in which they are not interested, and shrugging your shoulders and letting them quit when they say they don't feel like doing it today.  That distance includes:

Not forcing them to start things in which they aren't interested in the first place.

Giving them a clear picture of what will be expected and then leaving the choice up to them.

Explaining what team work means and that there are people depending on them.

Not putting a child who is too young to understand those concepts in that position.

Supporting them by providing the practical things and the emotional help they need to continue.

Ultimately, I want my children to remember that I did everything in my power to support their interests and to encourage them in the things they enjoy even when those things were hard.  I also want them to remember that no activity was more important than our relationship, and that I was supportive of them stopping an activity that they felt, for whatever reason, was no longer beneficial to them.  

The play is in March, so stay tuned for pictures!  


Monday, January 23, 2012

Birds and Thank You Notes

A few recent natural learning moments:

A few days ago, as E and I were snuggling in bed after having just woken up, she said, "Mom, are eagles nocturnal like owls?"  She was suddenly, for no apparent reason, interested in eagles and owls and asked me a ton of questions.  So we looked them up.  We read that eagles are raptors and hunt for their food, as opposed to scavengers who find dead things.  I told her how the Bald Eagle is a symbol of America.  On a website about owls, she recognized the Barn Owl and the Snowy Owl from the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole.  We looked for a website that might have a game or something for kids to learn about birds.  Unfortunately, all we could find is one that used information about birds to teach spelling and reading.  She played on it for a few minutes and L enjoyed the puzzles on the site, but it wasn't really what we were looking for.  If anyone knows about a site for kids about birds, please share it!

From owlpages.com

Thank You Notes

Yesterday, we wrote thank you notes to family members and friends who had given us Hanukkah gifts.   E wrote the names on the fronts, wrote "thank you" and signed her name.  L decorated with pictures and glitter.  I wrote the words on a different piece of paper and E copied them.  By the third one, she wrote "thank" from memory, without looking at what I wrote and she was very excited about that.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

What I mean when I say "Radical Unschooling"

I've recently blogged about how even though we are radical unschoolers, I still make plans, and that I even have a schedule.  I've even mentioned workbooks and flashcards!  My intent was to address the idea that radical unschooling is complete chaos or totally "child-led."  On the flip side of that notion is the idea that unschooling is just anything in the world.  Some people claim they are unschooling their children during the summer break from school!  If that were, true than the word would be completely meaningless.

So for the sake of clarity, this is what I am talking about when I say we are radical unschoolers:

First of all, by the technical definition, I recognize that we may or may not be considered to be *really* unschooling yet.  Unschooling is a form of homeschooling and one is not homeschooling until they have made the choice to not put their child in school.  That choice can only be made once the child is "school aged" and my oldest child's birthday missed the cut off date for our state's compulsory attendance laws by one day.  This September, we will have to make the choice to either go through the process to legally homeschool, put her in school or be breaking the law.  Obviously, we have every intention of homeschooling, but we aren't, technically, there yet.  One could say, however, that "school aged" is when their child is expected to be in school by the cultural standard, which would be between ages 3 and 5 depending on the prevailing attitude of the sub-culture in which one lives.  By that definition, we are definitely homeschooling and therefore I could say we are technically unschooling as at least one of my children has passed that age.  As Sandra Dodd has said, there are no unschooling police who are going to come to your house and say you are doing it wrong or not really doing it.  But I like to be clear.

On the other hand, radical unschooling philosophy has immensely and directly impacted how I have parented my children.  Because it is as much a parenting philosophy and a way of life as it is an educational choice, I have used it to guide how I raise my children as toddlers and preschoolers.

I could say that because we are radical unschoolers, we don't have bedtimes, don't control food choices, don't control media, and don't use curriculum.  But unschooling isn't like converting to a religion that has a list of tenets you must follow.  There is no rule that says "Thou shalt not limit thy child's tv time."

Unschooling is about recognizing that children are always learning, and trusting that they know their own bodies and minds better than we ever can.  It is about trusting that given the opportunity and through some trial and error, they will learn what works best for them as individuals.  It's about supporting their interests and facilitating their exploration.  It's about doing the things that build relationships.  It's about living by principles of love, respect, and safety, rather than by rules.   

So on the one hand, unschooling is not a list of rules to follow.  On the other hand, it has to follow some philosophy as part of its definition, otherwise the word is meaningless and useless.  

I make choices in our lives that reflect that philosophy.  That extends to every part of our lives- sleep, food, media, and chores being the hotly debated and easily categorized ones.  It also extends to the things that I mentioned in the beginning like making plans, having a schedule, and using workbooks and flashcards.  Those things can *easily* be detrimental to unschooling if the parent is using them to control or because she is afraid her children won't learn without them.

For us, making plans are about doing things and going places as a part of creating a rich environment from which I trust my kids will learn.  These things are *optional* for my kids, not required.

Having a schedule is about ME moving through my days in a way that helps me accomplish the things I want to accomplish.  It's not about moving my kids through their days or controlling what they do.

I've mentioned workbooks and flashcards, but they are just games to my kids.  The flashcards are with the Monopoly, Uno, puzzles and other games and we *treat them the same way.*  The workbooks are with the coloring books and we treat those the same way.  Each one is one option among many of things to do.

If a person is unclear about their principles and their philosophy, than they can get confused thinking that either things like schedules and bed times are bad and should be avoided at all costs, OR that they can do them in a parent controlled way that is disrespectful to their children and still call it unschooling.

I don't claim to have the one and only undisputed definition of radical unschooling.  I think that should be left to the person who most likely coined the term and those who have grown unschooled kids.
I wanted to be clear, however, about what I am referring to when I refer to radical unschooling on this blog.