Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Creation Science lapbooks

For the past week, we have been working on creation science lapbooks and unit study from In the Hands of a Child. Taliesin and Nathanael have been having fun with them! I was surprised that Nathanael wrote the words in the last two pictures by himself ("No Fear" and "Do Not Be Afraid"). He was writing about the behemoth and leviathan.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Learn Nothing Day

Well, we failed miserably at this year's Learn Nothing Day. Darn it... we learned things. How could we? First thing this morning, Taliesin and Nathanael learned how to build a UFO at Lowe's. Then they had the nerve to build new inventions with their mini Legos and erector sets. It was just a failure.... Sigh... Guess it just goes to show learning happens whether we try or not. Oh, yes. Now I remember. That's what unschooling is all about. ;^)

This wasn't today. This was actually a beetle that Nathanael insisted we rescue from Wal-Mart's parking lot yesterday evening. He didn't want it to get squished. So we took him home so he could fly in our yard.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Money Man

One of Taliesin's favorite games is a game he invented called "money man." Whoever is playing takes turns being either the buyer or the cashier. The players buy items from around the house - toys, books, art, water bottles, chairs. Whatever looks good at the time. The cashier decides on the price. And the buyer counts out play money to buy the item. Eventually, everyone gets to be both the buyer and the cashier several times. Sometimes things can get interesting. For instance, last night a magnifying glass from the dollar store went for $200.99. Expensive, yes. But it's worth it to see Taliesin using his imagination and learning in his own way. (Now you can see why we use play money instead of real money - LOL). Some weeks we play this game daily. And Nathanael is even starting to get into this game.

It's amazing the things children will invent when we allow them to. Just think of how much less Taliesin and Nathanael would be learning if I sat them down with money worksheets and forced them to learn to count money.


Saturday, July 17, 2010


I found these posters at the dollar store today and fell in love with them. Whoever coined the phrase "Education is a journey, not a race" is nothing short of genius, in my humble opinion. All too often, education is viewed as a race - who can get "there" first is the winner. Where "there" is, I am not quite sure. True education is about the process. It does not matter who does what first.

When I saw this poster, I thought of unschooling. My sons' education is not about meeting grade level or passing a series of standardized tests. My sons' education is about, first and foremost, giving glory to God. What better way for them to give glory to God than to explore the interests and passions that He gave them? What better way for them to give glory to God than to use their talents? I've said before that Jesus was very specific about talents. If we do not use them, what we have been given will be taken away. Using those God-given talents is the best way to enjoy the educational journey.

Many unschoolers shy away from the word education, because of the way that it has been used - as a synonym for institutional learning. That is not the way I view this word. I view the word education as something that encompasses all of life. We can gain education so many ways. The journey never ends.

This second poster is awesome! I have blogged before about differences and how sometimes differences cause conflict, especially with children. I hope this poster will speak to others the way it spoke to me.

As an unschooler, I often am asked how I keep records for my sons. Since we do not really plan what we do - it's child-directed (except, of course, for the little bit of structured learning Taliesin requests) - how do we keep records in case they are needed? Well, I try to keep this blog for a type of educational records. But, of course, it often turns into opinion pieces about life (education), in general.
This top picture is of a chart that hangs on our playroom door. Each day, I write down generalizations of what Taliesin and Nathanael do each day. I include everything. After all, as I wrote above, education is life and life is education.
The picture below includes my teacher's journals. I write as often as I can in more detail about what we do and why. I fit those generalizations into categories (what schools call subjects). Sometimes it also includes some opinion pieces.
And, of course, since Taliesin and Nathanael have been getting more into lapbooks, these provide a good portfolio of some of their studies. (We just finished "mosquitoes" and "everyone has different abilities" and are getting reading to begin "spiders"). Right now, there is a plastic storage container full of finished lapbooks and a milk crate with those we're working on a little at a time. It is a little easier for me to keep records with lapbooks, something that I'm thankful for. But it is possible for unschoolers to keep good records with a little time invested.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Water Slide

Well, I did it tonight - the water slide I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. Before we left the water park this evening, Taliesin and I went down the slide. Taliesin went underwater and popped right back up. I went down and up and down and up and down and up. Finally, I made my way to the edge and walked to the steps. It was fun and exciting and terrifying to someone who has never done it before and is just learning to swim. Yeah, I will do it again next time.


Christian Unschoolers Group!

I am so excited to be a part of this group! Thank you, Lauren!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

What Is Unschooling?

There are so many different definitions of unschooling out there. And when one puts the adjective "Christian" in front of "unschooling," the definition becomes even more varied. There are those who believe that only radical unschoolers are true unschoolers. There are those who believe that relaxed homeschoolers are unschoolers. Then there are those who question how unschooling can be Christian at all.

Not to complicate matters more, but I am going to throw in "my" definition of Christian unschooling - or, in reality, what our Christian unschooling adventures "feel" like.

We began our homeschooling adventure four and a half years ago. Taliesin was three and was, at that time, receiving speech therapy through the public school system (home visits). This speech therapy kind of threw us into homeschooling sooner than we planned, because those from the public school system did not agree with homeschooling a child with special needs. So we began homeschooling in the only way I was familiar with - a traditional preschool program. We knew within a couple of months that this was not working, so I began exploring other options. Thanks to Home Education Magazine and some online groups; we began implementing child-directed methods.

Throughout the past four and a half years, we have implemented unschooling more and more. I have tried the radical approach - unschooling parenting approaches as well. While I totally respect parents who follow this approach; I have found that this was not the best approach for my family - especially after starting a childcare. I have to have rules set. Yes, children should help set those rules and should know the "whys" behind those rules. However, we do have rules, nonetheless. I have seen children in traditional systems that have no rules. I do not want that for my sons. I believe radical unschooling works for many because they are completely natural learners. When we decided to begin a childcare, socialization kicked in. There are children in childcare from all different environments. I naively thought respect comes naturally for everyone. In so many cases, it does not. It not only has to be modeled, it often has to be taught... and taught. When young children see others who do not have that respect, they will try themselves and, all too often, will copy - socialization at its worst. That is when I decided that I have to make rules of respect and require that they be followed. I guess that means I'm no longer a radical unschooler.

There are those who believe if a parent uses any type of "curriculum," this parent is no longer an unschooler. This type of belief works well for Nathanael. He prefers nature-based learning, building with Legos, making inventions, and conducting his own science experiments. However, for children like Taliesin, this is far from the case. Taliesin enjoys some structure. He loves the same things that Nathanael does; but he also enjoys unit studies and lapbooking. He loves Five in a Row and In the Hands of a Child. He even loves trying out the lesson plans I write for college. This is his choice, not something that I require. Am I, therefore, no longer unschooling because of Taliesin's growing into more structured learning? He has been bugging me all day to finish a mosquito lapbook he's been working on this week. Should I not allow him to do this because it is too "traditional"? Whatever the label or lack thereof, I cannot deny him his own way of learning.

Lastly, something that I have been struggling with is the idea that children should be allowed to develop their own spirituality - free from interference of the parents. I firmly believe that children will grow into their own spirituality. However, this does not mean that I will not teach them Christian beliefs and character education. There are fun ways to incorporate spiritual formation into children's lives. One of Nathanael's favorites is the Resurrection Eggs, often used at Easter time. Taliesin enjoys these as well, but he also loves - again - more traditional methods, including memorizing Scripture. Veggie Tales DVDs and cartoons on the life of Christ are also always hits here. As a Christian, I cannot allow an unschooling label to interfere with my Christian beliefs.

I have been reading a book called Christian Unschooling by Teri J. Brown. I am really enjoying it, because I can see myself in a lot of the stories. I believe in unschooling because I believe God created all of us with our own unique talents and interests (I, all too often, see children who have lost that God-given gift because of forced educational methods). I believe that children can direct their own learning. I also believe that we are to train our children in the ways of the Lord. I also believe that respect is essential - from both the parent and the child. Sometimes this can be taught by modeling alone. Sometimes it cannot.

As you can tell, I have been thinking a lot. I have a lot of mixed emotions. I just wanted to share some of those thoughts. Do I still consider us unschoolers? You can bet I do. I firmly believe in child-directed, natural, organic learning - whichever way a child chooses to learn.


Friday, July 2, 2010


This week, we have been discussing freedom a lot. We have discussed the importance of the words of the Declaration of Independence. We have discussed how so many people have been willing to die to ensure that we keep our freedom; and that these people deserve our thanks and respect. We have discussed what it really means when we salute the flag or sing our national anthem.

On Wednesday of this week, we did something unique for our freedom study for the 4th of July. We discussed that one God-given freedom that we all have is the freedom to be different than one another. We completed a fun activity from the In the Hands of a Child project pack "Everyone Has Different Abilities" that presented the idea that all of us do have different talents and interests.
This summer, I have quite a few children in childcare that are from public schools. And, as is natural, sometimes they do not understand the way Taliesin and Nathanael do things. They do not have to learn anything by a certain time. They do not have to memorize sight words or multiplication tables or feel pressured to learn in ways that do not fit their learning styles. And sometimes, despite my best explanations, Taliesin, especially feels different than the others. He does not want to change the way we do things. He has just the amount of structure he wants with using Five in a Row and lapbooks, plus our unschooling learning activities. He does not want to attend a traditional co-op. And he definitely does not want to go to a public school. (He considers them boring from what the other children have told him). But sometimes it is just so obvious that he feels different. When the others begin discussing what they "had" to do at school at one time or another, he has nothing to add to the conversation and usually goes off to play by himself. Not only this, but Taliesin does still have an imagination - something that many of the boys in my childcare that are his age do not use anymore. I, personally, believe that is a direct result of too much testing in schools - forcing children to take on stress and worry that they should not have to. But I could be wrong. But sometimes others do not know how to take the way Taliesin plays imaginatively.
Yesterday evening, something wonderful happened. There is a new city art program in Salina - Arty the art van travels from park to park, place to place, showing children how to do art projects other than drawing or paiting. Well, any readers know, this is right up Taliesin's alley. He loves art, and he loves to use his imagination. So we went to one of the events. Taliesin started a weaving project, and one of the organizers of the event (an art student at a local college) complimented him on his work. I had to brag a little on my little artist. I told her he started drawing when he was two - he drew a picture of a person and put on eyes and a nose and ears. He hasn't stopped since then. She looked at Taliesin and said, "You're a lot like me, then." Taliesin asked her how. She told him she started doing art when she was little, too, just like he had been doing. And now she is studying art in college and working as an artist. Then she started playing and using her imagination. She took pipe cleaners and showed him how to make a mustache. They made mustaches and used different voices for each mustache for quite some time. I have not seen Taliesin so happy in a long time. He literally began skipping around the park shelter. He would make something unique and run over and show it to this lady. She would compliment him, and he would skip around again. Once I even told him to settle down a little; and he informed me, "But mom, I am having fun." No matter how much Kelsey or I would tell him that it's okay to use his imagination or encourage his creativity, even if others do not understand; I think what he really needed was a stranger to tell him, to show him.
Before Taliesin and Nathanael left, the organizer took a picture of them with their artwork. I think she gained a life-long friend, and Taliesin gained his freedom - the freedom of truly being able to be different and knowing that it's okay.