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Showing posts from July, 2018

Monkey Bars (What Unschoolers Do Instead of School)

This week I’d like to talk about what the gang does while they’re not in a classroom setting, (because they’re almost never in a classroom setting).  I’ll describe one thing they’ve been up to each day, and share what makes me so ridiculously proud about the their daily activities that I just giggle.  So, without further ado: Monkey Bars!


Five year-old No. Two hit a monkey bar milestone today!  He rocketed past one bar at a time grabs straight up to traversing the two bars at a time!  As if that wasn’t enough he then mastered turning around to go the other direction when he got to the end—another thing he’s never done before.  Watching him in his striped shirt, pink tights, and hiking boots with his shock of almost white hair bobbing back and forth as he swung like a pendulum preparing to hit not the next bar, but two bars over, made me grin from ear to ear!  My grin mirrored his as he pulled off his new acrobatic feat.

I love that unschooling allows the gang the time and freedom to p…

Don't Ban Straws (At least not that way)

Wanna know what I have yet to succeed at as a parent?  Teaching kids to drink through straws.  All of the gang here—7 y.o No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, and 3 y.o. No. Three—learned how to drink from cups immediately after they were weaned with the exception of an intermittent bottle or two.  Sure, there were spills on the table, yeah, occasionally a cup without a lid was knocked to the floor, but much like my quest for the kids to walk with me everywhere rather than resorting to a stroller, we just kept on plugging along.  Consequently, when the kids do try to use straws, straws brought to them by people who really did mean well, it’s been a disaster.  To them, straws clearly work in the same fashion as cups: grasp it with your math, tilt your head and the cup back, and, and, disaster!  For the occasional cup that has a lid perhaps there’s only a small leak.  For cups with open tops… whoops!  There went the whole drink into the lap.

As a result, I hate straws, I hate the decorative little…

Coming Too High

“Watch me!  Watch me!”

The bicycle rack seemed innocent enough in its simplicity, three metal tubes about the width of flag poles that had been bent into flat bottomed ‘U’s which were then inverted so their legs could be bolted to the concrete below leaving the flat bottom for bicycles to lean against.  The rack was innocent alright, but the gang had attacked it anyway.  Now, having suitably pacified the beleaguered bike rack, they were all demanding attention.  Each of them had turned upside down supported only by their hands, their legs lying flat back across their bodies, feet beyond their heads.  The older two, seven year-old No. One and five year-old No. Two had started seated on the horizontal cross bar, then swung themselves back hanging on with their hands.  The youngest, three year-old No. Three stood about head level with the cross bar, so she started from below, squatted down a bit, took hold of the bar, swung her feet up to it, and finally laid her legs back along her tors…

Three Conquered the Cliff!

The gang has been remarkably chill this week; they’re working with each other instead of squabbling; they’re taking time to make big decisions, weighing out the pros and cons; occasional disappointment have been taken in stride; and at bedtime, they’ve zonked right out every night.  Trying to figure out the secret of their success, I asked my partner what she thought.  Her immediate response: “They went camping last weekend.”

Even though I don’t’ have copious amounts of data to back me up, I think the camping hypothesis is exactly right.  Our camping trips look far more like the free-range, unschooling ideal we shoot for than our everyday life does.  The kids are responsible for almost all of the logistics: they know the bus route to get to the campsite; they carry their own stuff; they setup the tent.  They also get to engage in far more independent, sometimes risky play.  The campground is theirs to wander around as they please.  On our hikes, they routinely range out from a quarter…

Chess and Emotional Learning Leaps

After listening to a talk at one of our local libraries yesterday, five year-old No. 2 and three year-old No. Three asked to stop into the adjoining chess room for a game before they headed back out.  In the past, Three has usually devolved into tears upon losing her first piece, so I figured the game would be quick.  "Sure, you can play until somebody screams." was my answer.

Much to my surprise, Three and Two had matured immensely over the last few months!  Not too long into the game, Three did in fact lose a pawn.  It was no big deal though, she kept right on playing!  Two quickly remastered how all the pieces moved, and then started helping Three.

Even more surprising, Three started telling me about his strategy of bringing his pawns out while leaving his queen, a bishop, and all the pawns in front of them behind to 'protect that guy', (that'd be the king).  He'd internalized what his mom had shown him months earlier and was now putting it to use.  He ha…

Unschooling Parents Don't (Actually won't) Do Anything

I hear it a lot on the internets, “Unschooling parents are a bunch of people who don’t do anything for their kids.”  Only occasionally is that statement true.  I’m here to point out though, that even when it is true it’s slightly inaccurate in it’s wording; it’s not that us unschooling parents don’t do anything, it’s that occasionally we won’t do anything, and when we won’t, it’s one of the best teaching techniques out there.

Five year-old No. 2 has been quite clear with us, he’s not interested in being taught much of anything.  Counting?  Not really interested.  Reading?  Yeah, he’ll stand there, and listen to what you tell him the words are, but you can’t make him look at the letters.  He’s going to learn when he wants to learn.

He does, however, love books  He flips through them page after page checking out the pictures, sometimes making up the stories for himself.  He also loves being able to do most things his older sib, 7 year-old No. 1 can do, (with the the exception of readin…

Summer Camp Saunter

The summer’s started to feel slow.  It’s not really slow, with the kids going to camps and on adventures though, we’re not spending as much time together as we did in the Spring, so even though we’re busier, the pace is slow.  The lazy warmth of the rare San Francisco summer sunny day is adding to the feeling.  Things will get done when they get done, only camp arrivals and pickups set milestones in our daily schedules at this point.



In this summer saunter, I find my subconscious figuring out more things to do with the gang, things to learn, things to experience, things to relish as we plunge into their newness.  And yet, there is nothing to be done, because there’s no one to do it with.  Our opportunities for learning, exploring, and meeting will return soon enough.  Camp season only lasts five or six weeks, then we’ll be back to the ins and outs, strewing and exploring.  It seems like I should be doing more; I’m ever so slowly convincing myself that a little drowsy break in the mids…

Do Screens Hamper Socialization?

Screens in public… do kids need them?  I suppose a screen per kid could have led to a more blissful early childhood for my partner and I with us maybe having conversations at dinner, perhaps getting chores done more quickly, but I’ll never know.  We lucked out.  Early on, we had no way to provide the kids with screens.  We were poor grad students so buying the kids a screen of their own was out of the question.  In retrospect, our lack of screens provided more opportunities than it took away.



Yeah, we did miss going out to eat for the first six months or so, (we couldn’t eat out all that much on our budget anyway).  Here’s the thing though.  As the first kid learned to sit up on her own and learned to crawl, all of our problems started to fade.  When we went out she involved herself with us, the condiments, her silverware, her napkin, her food, and ours.  She quit screaming.  Not all together, and not all alt once, but over time she tapered it off.  Other things began to happen as we…