Whole Life Learning

I have recentlyWLLday7 been moving away from the generalized term “unschooling” or better describing our family as “radical unschooling.” I, quite honestly, have never truly loved this label. I truly love what it stand for, but not necessarily how it sounds. I almost would rather just say (and often do) that we are homeschoolers. Ok…. well… truthfully, even just writing that rubs me the wrong way. These labels that utilize the word “school” in them are what’s getting to me as of late. Not just recent, but a growing nagging since we began this endeavor a long long time ago. To the generalized public “homeschooling” is what’s known or at least slightly understood. And I don’t like the connotation that this word even brings about because it is such a gross misinterpretation of what our life is really like. And then to use the term unschooling, at the very least better describes our family based on what folks would read about this and then come to understand about our lives….. And yet even still, this term makes me think twice about it every time I’ve used it.

There is this growing realization, as our kids grow, as we begin to explain it more, that really it’s not at all about “school” as a construct. “School” as conceptualized way of “teaching” our kids. The “school” word really does not belong amongst our family description at all. There is nothing about our lives that represents what society knows in and of school. And the daily life and routine we cherish is so far from a “school” philosophy that attempting to use the term is just truly inaccurate in its entirety.

I’m coming to adopt the phrase Whole Life Learners… and/or Worldscholars. Seems to make much more sense to me…. to our lives…. our philosophy on life. There is no distinction on learning and life here. One big continuum. It has never ever made any sense to me to stop an amazing learning experience to point out to a child that they are “now using MATH!” And with this notion, everything we do is RICH with interest, passion, curiosity, wonder, love and relationships. Our journey is about the family unit. Nurturing our core. Nurturing each other. Supporting each of our passions. And enjoying the journeys together.

With that…. here’s a bunch of what we’ve been up to lately!

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Let’s start with a super duper 70-ish degree day. There was this very informative talk going on in the Rogers Park area about knowing your rights when you are stopped by a police officer. It was a great talk with video demonstration, professionals in the field, and open Q & A. The kids learned a ton and I felt it was so imperative considering the recent incident that we have all been through. Near the end of the talk, however, mama got itchin’ feet! It was 70 outside and we were just blocks from the lake! It was BEACH time! So we headed down to the lake and enjoyed an amazing late afternoon collecting sea glass and finding all that the winter waters had washed ashore. It was such a beautiful afternoon.

I have been trying to get back into our mama-kid date nights again. It’s been a long-standing tradition, probably going on 5 years now! Each kid gets a date with mama. It’s funny… with just how much time they all get to spend with me day in and day out…. that one-on-one time is so so so SO vitally important, needed, and loved. It’s a beautiful time to reconnect and be heard. And it’s always all about their personal choice of what they want their crazy mommy to do with them. We’ve been having some wonderful outings to the beach, the parks, the mall, a bite to eat, or anything really. It’s been really fun getting these back on the schedule since our last wee-one was born. It was very challenging getting out of the house at all. Baby C would go with often for us to keep them up. And then it became challenging because she hated the car. Things fell away for a bit, but now…. now she loves hanging with her crew and we can thoroughly enjoy them once again!

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This week held a new adventure. D had her Le Girls club this past week and we decided it would be a blast to try out some climbing! None of us had ever been and a few of the girls who came had not a ton of experience as well. New experiences all around! Since I was kinda “in charge” …. more like the adult go-to person for the girls, I thought it’d be fun to have the rest of our gang try out the climb. It was a HUGE hit. I was SO surprised how well everyone took to it. A new experience by the horns, so-to-speak. They just threw on those harnesses, listened to the guided tour lady’s instructions, and then hup to it! They were up that wall in no time. It was so great to see their bravery, their gumption. They did awesome!

The rest of the week brought about some new cooking endeavors. The three oldest kids are quite handy in the kitchen. They often jump in to cook a breakfast for the whole crew. K loves to do dinners once in a blue moon. S and D are big on our breakfast routines. But this week they ventured in to trying new recipes they had never done before. And… they were SO delicious and *completely* on their own. They did not ask for help and knew what they wanted to accomplish and did a fabulous job. Both of them doing each meal for their first time.

It was so much fun for them, and so much fun as a mama to see their self-pride.WLLday3 WLLday5

Ok, and another wonderful experience that had been fortunate enough to think to document was just the other day…. It was one of those moments where it felt like there was so much noise chaos in the house I might explode at any given moment. I suddenly jump up from where I am and start handing out assignments/jobs/duties/tasks….. The kids were at first laughing at me because they thought I was kidding. I have never (ever) told they had to do an assignment before the rest of their day could resume. This did, in the moment, feel like a complete joke, but hey…. at that very moment it broke the mass chaos noise in the house. It shifted the paradigm. It brought about new energy. And at that moment it was desperately needed. So I ran with this on-the-fly idea.

K was given the assignment to write two pages about he could “better shut his mouth.” You’re probably chuckling right now, but yes, I very seriously asked him to do this. He too laughed at me till he realized I was serious. He has this gross habit of butting his nose into absolutely every single conversation. And often to not say anything very kind or productive. It’s a habit I’d like him to be grossly aware of, and begin to shift. Of course his immediate response is that I’m reiterating his opinion “never matters.” However, the furthest from the truth…. AND…. after having him write this paper, I do think we FINALLY see eye-to-eye on this subject matter! He was so insanely articulate about the subject. He truly had so many heartfelt things to say about this habit and his siblings/family. It was SO great that I suggested the “assignment” was not complete until he read it to his sibs. They needed to hear these words…. from him… in *his* voice. It was quite beautiful.

D was given the assignment to write about how to be a nicer person, which then evolved ultimately into “how to love myself better.” She has been struggling with esteem as of late and it’s truly challenging as a mother to see your young girl struggle so much and (a) have no idea how or where this impact is coming from, but (b) also struggle with how to shift that paradigm with her. Because ultimately, if she did feel better within, she’d be treating sibs better outside of herself. So it all needs to start from the inside. She did write this very sweet little diddy about it and I was proud that she finally did it. She spent a good hour complaining about the fact that I was “making” her do this assignment. And she torn lots of paper in the process. But when we shifted the topic of the paper and she removed herself from the room to do it, she came back with something very warm and sweet. She did not want to share it with anyone just yet, and this kind of upset K because he felt it was unfair that he had to read his and she didn’t. Perhaps a double standard on my part…. I question that decision. But still feel, deep down that subject matter was the imperative decision maker here. If her’s reflected sibs in a way they *needed* to hear her words, then may I would have felt differently. But her subject matter was extremely personal. His was involving the world around him, and I felt the sibs that are most affected by it should be pervvy to that info. (I’m sure it’s still a double standard…. I’m working on that one within and sure it will resolve.)

It’s one thing I have learned being a mom….. The kids totally appreciate me learning things as well. I make mistakes and they may call me on things, and I may say, “you know…. you are right. I did that wrong.” …. or “I reacted wrongly.”….. or…. “You have a very good point here. Let’s change that.” They honor my journey as well and they feel safe telling me such. It’s quite beautiful as I become more accustom!

OK…. so because of SAID INCIDENT we’ve been through… the last few weeks have been pretty hearty, heafty, rough on the nerves. The wee-ones go to the bathroom in pairs, and won’t go in closets or kitchen alone. Especially worse in the dark of the night, but even prevalent during the days as well. So…. their assignment was to draw everything they were scared of or about. S & M drew these really awesome pictures and explained everything about them to me. They said what they were worried about and what in the pictures was scary. They talked about what they felt would happen when they entered the bathroom alone, etc. After we chatted that through and felt it had completed itself in the process, I then asked them to draw over those pictures. I asked them to think of ways in which they could feel safe and secure again in their home. So they took their markers and started making all kinds of great marks all over the paper. They talked about evil spirits and how they needed to go away, and that they were not going to be scared anymore.

At the end of it all, they handed them to me and asked me what they should do with them now. I was kind of thinking to myself… “well, hmmm….. This is not exactly the kind of artwork you pin up on the wall!!! The constant reminder = NO GOOD!” So…. I thought…. well… we have been into smudging lately…. let’s SMUDGE THEM! So I tell them we are going to light them up and send the spirits away. We crinkle them and crunch them. The process of mushing them all up was quite a satisfying step as well. And then I get the lighter and we have a little pow-wow right there in the middle of the living room. The blow and swoosh the evil spirits right out the window. It was such an awesome experience because the older kids got to see just how powerful this experience has a grip on the little ones. The little ones got to gain some control over these fears they are carrying. And together we *all* decided that this can happen as much and as often as *they* would like it too.

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The kids then asked me why I had done this “assignment” thing with them. 😉
Well… I tell them quite honestly… “At first… it was just a way to get you all to be quiet! But then…. LOOK at this! As this idea evolved in my head and you guys were willing to embrace it, it became such a beautiful thing!” We all got into this discussion about how this process shifted the energy and the tone of what was happening in the room. It brought them to open-minded and a sense of calm for some time. They listened to each other and explored themselves. It was such a great afternoon! Something I will for sure bring out of my back pocket again sometime in the future!

And the grand finale…. S finished up his rocket. He is SO pumped to try this thing out. It was (in part) the instigation of his new BOOM club! He’s longing to make more friends and along that mission we are going to BLOW THINGS UP! 😉

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