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Showing posts from January, 2021

Toddlers and Unschooling

I have now seen posts about ‘home education’ for three to seven year-olds. And, I’m guessing that people are now calling ‘kids are home during a pandemic and the school system has mandated that learning will happen remotely via the internet’ home education instead of homeschooling and maybe that’s going to help with the confusion, but in case it’s not, indulge me in describing what homeschooling looked like for the kids here between 0 and 3. First, it felt really weird, calling what we were doing homeschooling and even stranger still calling it unschooling, because, well, the kids were just living life. It wasn’t really ‘schooling’ at all. I constantly felt like a poser saying we were doing any kind of schooling. I mean, were we really schooling? The kids were just doing their thing while I was around. But looking back from here, it seems to me that what we were doing was the epitome of unschooling The kids were just doing their thing. As infants, they were hanging out in the baby wrap


 The gang—Daize, Towser, and Tawnse, all aliases, aged 9, 8, and just for  a little bit longer 5—have picked up a new skill in the pandemic. Disappearing into their surroundings.  Before you go there, no this isn’t a pandemic socialization piece. It’s not a learning loss and socialization piece either. This is a post about an honest to goodness new skill the gang has picked up. In  retrospect, I suppose it started with Towser years ago. Walking though a park near our home in San Francisco,  we realized that five year-old Towser was  just gone. We looked around for him a bit, but I had a feeling in my somewhat panicked gut that I knew where he was. We headed for the house. Sure enough he was sitting on the steps by the front door.  “Hey! I’ve been waiting for you!” Towser groused. “I just picked a different path through the forest when you weren’t looking. I wanted to see if I could sneak all the way home.” We talked a bit about  the  importance of knowing where he was and all that good

Fronted Adverbials, Unschooling, and The Importance of the Freedom to Learn

 Fronted adverbials have been a thing this week. A thing I didn’t even know existed until I saw  Anyone struggling with homeschooling should know that, despite having a PhD in Literature and having published 12 books, I only learned what a fronted adverbial was when my 8 year old's teacher said he doesn't use enough of them in his written work. — Dr. Carolyn Jess-Cooke/C.J. Cooke (@CJessCooke) January 13, 2021 The tweet caused a great deal of churn in both the self-led, traditional education, and parenting spaces. Much of it deserved, and yet… It’s also a really good way to illustrate that unschooling allows space for everyone. I hadn’t heard of fronted adverbials before, but as someone who writes—I’ve had one book published, not dozens, but still—and someone who enjoys plunking around with learning languages, I was secretly jazzed about the whole thing. Fifteen years ago, I found it was easier for me to learn languages if I knew what the different parts of English’s gramm

Idaho Works to Free Up Independent Kids and Their Parents

 This morning, while practicing my fronted adverbials, I came across this from Idaho Bill allowing free-range parenting, the "Reasonable Childhood Independence Act", introduced to Idaho House - would mean kids allowed to engage in independent activities, like walk to the park, won't be considered "neglected" — Dr. Jacqueline Kory-Westlund (@jacquelinekory) January 15, 2021 Which—as often as the kids here are out and about—sounds great to me. But, having read the bill’s text, I’m both excited, and concerned.  First, the details. The bill was proposed by Rep. Ron Nate. It is H0003, and it’s full text can be found on the Idaho Legislature web site at The purpose of the bill is to redefine the definition of negligence so that it does not include activities that kids typically perform independently of parents, (or at least activities that kids typical

Camping, Bedtimes, and Babies

Here’s a nice thing about camping against a mountain range; the sun goes down really, really early.  So it was that we found ourselves wandering back into the campsite from different directions, (the kids from the desert, my partner and I from a rock jutting out over a shallow ravine coming out of the mountains) at 3:30.  By 4:00, we’d started dinner, and our fire.  By 5:30, things were pretty dark, and pretty cold.  Half an hour later, my partner and I had climbed into our sleeping bags in our tent—the kids have a separate tent, remind me to tell you about how awesome that is for everyone another time—to read ebooks.  A half hour later at 6:30 PM, the gang, 9 year-old DAize, 8 year-old Towser, and 5 year-old Tawnse—climbed into their tent to call it a night. As much as camping physically exerts all of us in a really good way, the gang didn't instantly fall asleep. I know this, because the geography of our campsite created what’s a rather rare occurrence these days: our tent was on

What's an Unschooling Family To Do When a Kid says "Make Me Learn"?

 So, fellow unschooling folks, help me with a thing here, if you would, please? To me, one of the tenets of unschooling is that the people who are learning choose their method of learning. We’ve held to this over the years. For example, when the oldest kid, Daize—as always, an alias—who is now 9, thought that kindergarten in public school, might be her best way to learn, off she went. When she decided, four weeks later, that she had changed her mind, I spent the better part of a day taking public transit around San Francisco getting her unenrolled. So, like I say, we take this roll-your-own  aspect of unschooling seriously, but last week, the middle kid, aka Towser, aged 8, asked me a thing… He asked me to force him to read and write. And, what am I supposed to do with that? (This is where I need your help by the way.) Can Towser be forced when he doesn’t want to be forced? In a word, No! I know this because I learned it as part of my unschooling journey. Frankly, it would have been ea

Homeschooling for Nothing and Their Camping for Free

Yes, yes I do rip off Dire Straits almost every time I write about free stuff.  Let’s talk about camping! We camped this week. We’re incredibly lucky to be 15 miles from a campground that is deserted on weekdays, and to be able to work remotely from there.  We’d made a habit of doing this sort of thing, albeit further afield, before the pandemic. In Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, we hopped the 60 bus—on the bus system lovingly, and officially known as The Bus—from the airport, and two hours later hopped out on an ocean-front campground where we paid on the order of, maybe, seventeen dollars a night. Again, we lucked out with really good phone signal. Waking up at 3:30 as one is wont to do when they have kids, I managed to get a lot of work done there as well. Here in New Mexico, we’re paying seven dollars a night, or at least we were until last week. Next week... We’ll pay nothing. Why you ask? I’ll tell you! Because, fourth grade. “But wait”, I hear you say, “you unschool.”  And you

Meteors, Darkness, Kids, Dads and Every Day Life

Twelve meteors! I saw twelve meteors in the Quadrantids shower at the start of the week! I promised the 9 year old—Daize to regular readers; all the gang’s names are aliases—I’d wake her up if the meteor shower looked promising. I went outside on my own to check it out just before 4 AM. Sure enough, in just a few minutes, I saw four meteors. None of them were super impressive in and of themselves, but there were so many! I headed back in to wake up the kid.   While I was waking up Daize, her 5 year old—Tawnse in these pages—and 8 year old—Towser, as he’s sometimes known here—sibs woke up as well. I asked if they wanted to come watch  meteors. Tawnse was in. Towser decided he’d rather get a bit more sleep. A few minutes passed while jackets and snow boots were collected, then Daize, Tawnse, and I headed back outside. The kids sounded like miniature astronauts, their snow boots plodding down the sidewalk in the cold, clear, silence of the surrounding desert. I'll give her this, Tawns

What We Did With Our Summer and Spring and Fall and Part of the Winter

 You may have noticed the blog went fairly quiet this year. We didn’t quit unschooling with the pandemic, but our picture of unschooling sure did change a lot. I’ll write more about that soon, but first, let me point you at some of the thing we were doing while I wasn’t writing. The gang and I discovered a 1950’s radiosonde on the side of a mountain in New Mexico. We didn’t know what it was at first, but thanks to Dr. Alice Gorman, we were soon on our way to finding out via twitter @drspacejunk the kids and I found this half buried in the forest this morning. At first I thought remote weather station, but then it occurred to me white sand missile range is 60 miles away. Look like anything you've seen? 2nd picture is housing for first. — antigrav_kids (@thord_ee_r) March 25, 2020 Dr. Gorman introduced us to a nearby space archaeologist at New Mexico State University, and we were off and running. A month or so later, the whole thing was written up at De


 I maintain that as an unschooling parent, I don’t teach, I facilitate. I try really hard to live by those words. One of the reason is the fringe benefits I reap by not ‘teaching’. Let me stop here  for a moment to summarize ahead of time. The point I’d like to make is that you don’t have to know the things to help someone else learn the things. Even better, frequently I find myself learning very cool new things I didn’t know before. Unschooling works, and it benefits everyone! Everything else below is rambling about math. Here we go! The kids and I have been talking about number bases for a few years now. Starting off in base two arithmetic—binary. It was an easy way to look at concepts without worrying about memorization. The addition and multiplication tables for that base have only four entries a piece. There’s not too much you have to memorize when the only numbers you have to work with are one and zero. A few years into this odyssey, the kids and I started looking into raising nu

Kids, Gender Stereotypes, and Independence

My week in the education literature continues. Tracing through the references from the article I mentioned yesterday, I wound  up at Social Behaviors and Gender Differences Among Preschoolers: Implications for Science Activities To be fair, I did read through the entire article, but these two gems in the abstract caught my attention immediately: Findings indicate that the social behaviors of boys and girls were stereotypical and During free time, preference for same-gender peer interactions was observed The authors go on to discuss the aggressive, at times violent behavior of boys, and the generally more caring behavior of girls.  Per normal, these assertions run  contrary to my experiences. I believe the institution the kids are being studied in—public schools—can very easily instill these messages. I do not believe, however, that they have to be the norm. My most recent  experience with the concept that institutions can teach stereotypical gender behavior came almost two years ago at

Is there really such a thing as age-appropriate learning?

 I went perusing the education literature a few days back, and once again, I was struck with the thing. The thing I  always forget about between jaunts into the education literature world: The assertion that kids learn differently, than adults, and must therefore be especially catered to. I  don’t believe that  assertion to be true, but there it was again. An article asked me to accept that different age groups should  be exposed to  different aspects of nature—endangered species, activism, animals themselves—differently. I got the gist of what they meant, and they didn’t have a bad message: Research  has  substantiated  that  an empathy  with  and love  of  nature,  along  with  later positive  environmental behaviors  and attitudes,  grow  out  of  children’s  regular contact with  and play  in the  natural world. But that fact that I had to decode around age groups and grade levels was discouraging. I believe—and no, I don’t have any but anecdotal data regarding this—that we all lea

Kids and Stewardship

 Amy Martin, on twitter asked if there were good articles available about kids, free play, and young people servivng as stewards of the outdoors Any good book, article, journal recommendations please on outdoor learning in the early years, children’s autonomy and ownership of the outdoors and examples where children are recognised as environmental stewards..... ?🌲 — Amy Martin #BlackLivesMatter (@amyrozelmartin) December 31, 2020 Which kind of rocked for me, because it was an excuse to go look for things on Google Scholar. The kids heard me exclaim, "Thank God! A rabbit hole!!!" A few minutes later, I'd come up with an interesting article suggesting how kids might be made into better stewards, educated to be stewards, if you will. While I take umbrage with the article's insistence  that kids  must be taught a thing before they can do it—and yes, oh yes, I will write more about that  later—I was heartened by the sheer bulk of references,