Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Nature and Outdoors, Parenting, poetry, Travel, Unschooling

Zero, Zilch, and Zestiness: #atozchallenge for April 30, 2017

 Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

Today’s Poetry Type:

ZaniLa Rhyme

    Two siblings explore their connection to the other...sweetly, and with smiles.
    Two siblings explore their connection to the other…sweetly, and with smiles.

Zeroing In

When you see zero, what does it mean?

Is it a void to your mind?

An absence, null. What makes a life dull?

A cruel lack, the deficit unkind?

 

But what if zilch amounts to much more –

Potential waiting to fill?

What makes a life dull? An absence null.

The void contains vastness, if we’re still.

 

We know the richness of unfilled time

The zestiness freedom brings.

An absence, null, that makes a life dull?

No! Inspiration with graceful wings!

We got lost on our way to The Wild Center of the Adirondack Museum in Tupper Lake, New York.  We found this bit of historical reality we weren't expecting.
We got lost on our way to The Wild Center of the Adirondack Museum in Tupper Lake, New York.  We found this bit of historical reality we weren’t expecting.

There’s a lot of “no” in my kids’ lives. No school, no curriculum, no chores, no rules, no punishment….does that mean that nothing is being learned, or tried, or explored?

If you’ve been here before, I suspect you’ve already got an idea about that. If you interacted with one or both of my kids in person, you’d know for sure…

Zero enforced education doesn’t equate to “zero learning.”

We decided to make the most of  lost opportunity, and went instead to Lake George, where Lise made friends with a hansom horse.
We decided to make the most of  lost opportunity, and went instead to Lake George, where Lise made friends with a hansom horse.

What it means is that they have the free time to devote to their own pursuits. Sometimes these are avid and obviously rich in learning. Other times, it’s so subtle no one besides them might see what exactly it is they’re doing.

Something that seems increasingly absent as kids are in school, after care, extracurriculars and enrichment, is the time and space just to BE – to dream or stare into space or meditate or watch the clouds. It’s the time to hug, to sing and dance, to explore new ideas, to play…

Lise at play - learning history and creating stories while dressing up at the Albany Institute of History and Art.
Lise at play – learning history and creating stories while dressing up at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

To learn who they are, and how the world is, and how those fit together.

These aren’t generally part of a school curriculum. Many things that can’t be quantified aren’t. And giving the children in school too much free time can lead to “distraction” and “disruption.” A lot of school depends upon adequate crowd control – with an adult in charge, and the kids acquiescent to that authority structure.

My kids may never become great order-takers. But, so far, neither seems inclined to live a life based on taking orders. They have a moral sense of right and wrong that’s been nurtured with discussion and experience, an awareness of the rule of law, and the time to work out how that applies to them… and, to me, these are more valuable gifts. Of that, I have zero doubt.

Can you think of a time when nothing turned out to be something amazing?

Are you open to what lies within the oval of a zero?

Zero is NOT the number of other Z posts!  By now, you know what to do – click here, or on the icon below, to zip right on over to the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge Highway one last time.

Well, that’s it!  
 

This is the final post on my April calendar, and the last letter in the alphabet, too.  But this isn’t the end of the #atozchallenge. There will be a reflections post, so stay tuned!

After our Lake George adventure, we stopped at a favorite playground. Lise, at 9, enjoyed playing with a spiral structure.
After our Lake George adventure, we stopped at a favorite playground. Lise, at 9, enjoyed playing with a spiral structure.
Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling

You Never Know: #atozchallenge for April 29, 2017

 Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

Today’s Poetry Type:

(Random Pick): Lannet: except it’s got two extra lines! 

 

    You’re Drowning…

    Sometimes in life you don’t know what is next

    When the sailing seemed smooth, the rapids sweep

    you away flailing to sharp rocky drops

    Plummeting, no one hears your frantic cries

    You’re drowning in deep trouble; you might die.

    You realize the truth you couldn’t see

    It’s possible to be your own hero.

    Easier if you’ve lived in swift waters

    Of thought, desire, and possibility.

    Why do we live this life of rich freedom?

    It’s our way of making our children strong.

    While they still have their parents to lean on.

    They can navigate rapids and shallows

    Rivers of joy, sorrow’s bitter oceans

    It’s learning only learned in the living.

    Strong oar and rudder to steer them to shore.

                                           Self-controlled falling selfie.
                                           Self-controlled falling selfie.

    You never know what life might bring.

    None of us do.

    Once, I was pregnant, about to give birth to our second child. It had been a textbook pregnancy, and my water broke four days before my due date…and that began a slow-motion trip to limbo that lasted until our 12 day old son died in my husband’s arms in a neonatal intensive care unit.

    Never saw it coming. No way to prepare in advance for the death of a baby all the textbooks said should have been perfectly healthy. No way to prepare our children for the fact that they will always have a brother who died as a newborn, before our daughter was even born.

    That’s a rather dire example, but a valid one. In all kinds of ways, large and small, life brings the unexpected. And, in ways large and small, my kids are preparing for that, everyday.

    How?

    By having lives that already embrace the “you never knows.” They aren’t in a classroom, being given predetermined assignments, lab exercises, projects, and research papers, the same as a couple of dozen other kids in the class. Their lives are more fluid, more in keeping with the rhythm of their growth. They have a great deal of freedom to determine the course of those lives, and the backup of two parents who can offer guidance and support. Every day, they live “you never know” lives, in safe ways, and that prepares them to do it on their own.

    Do you feel your childhood you navigate the challenges life presents?

    If you’re a parent, can you think of ways to better prepare your children for the uncertainties of their futures?

    Yes, I know. You want more y posts…so you can click here, or the icon below, and you’ll be zipped over onto the  Blogging From A-Z April Challenge highway!

    And, can you believe it? Tomorrow is April 30, and time for our Z post….and then, there’s no more …that’s right. Zero….zilch….but will that be all there is to it? Stop on by and see!

               Standing tall and with confidence, taking her time-delayed selfie!
               Standing tall and with confidence, taking her time-delayed selfie!
    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling, writing, Writing Sample

    Growth, Gains and Gaps: #atozchallenge for April 8, 2017

    Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

    Today’s Poetry Type:

    Gra Reformata

     

    Gaps We Don’t Mind

    “Mind the gap”, the British say.

    Don’t fall into the space between

    Tomorrow and today.

     

    But what if gaps are possibilities?

    And offer more than continuities?

     

    What if growth happens that way?

    In the spaces left unseen?

    In scraps and simple bits of play?

     

    And what if gaps are possibilities?

    And offer more than continuities?
     

    Learning each and every day

    Isn’t usually tidy or clean.

    It doesn’t to a timetable stay.

     

    And what if gaps are possibilities?

    And offer more than continuities?

     

    Gains and growth along the way

    No need for college or a dean

    We simply learn as we may.

     

    We see the gaps as possibilities.

    They offer more than continuities.

     

    “Mind the gap”, the British say.

    Don’t fall into the space between

    Tomorrow and today.

     

    But to us the gap is unmolded clay.

    Such potential in the space between

    What we learn tomorrow and ask today,
    We wouldn’t have it any other way.

                                        Boyo and his seven year old gap!
                                        Boyo and his seven year old gap!

    I’d like to say I came up with the idea of connecting “Mind the Gaps”  to unschooling, but I’d be lying if I did. I first heard it from Vickie Bergman at (Demand Euphoria) at the Northeast Unschooling Conference, when Jeremiah and I attended her presentation.

    I hadn’t expected him to stay and pay attention through the hour-long talk. He was not quite 12, and there were a lot of other things he could be doing: games, arts, friends, food, and things to buy, not to mention cable in our room that was way better than what we have at home (he was very motivated by Cartoon Network, particularly Total Drama Island).

    But he stayed, and paid attention, and we discussed what we learned several times after that. It was the point at which I first noticed him reaching for adult levels of understanding.

                        Midnight Marshmallow Toothpick engineering!
                        Midnight Marshmallow Toothpick engineering!

    Will my kids enter adulthood with the same knowledge base they’d have, if they were in school? Not a chance. Am I concerned about that – about the gaps in what they know? Not anymore. After all, a gap today doesn’t mean a gap forever. If they choose to fill them, they can do that when they’ve got the need or desire to do so.

    You see, there are always gaps. It’s just that the ones schooling creates are so endemic they tend to seem like the air – unavoidable, and maybe even necessary. For sure, they’re socially accepted as a normal part of a child’s life.

    A schooled child can’t know the level of freedom my children do – there are always boundaries imposed by the school schedule, the classwork, the homework, the things that need to be done to get ready for school, or ready for bed so they can be rested for school.

    In the gaps lies actual freedom – to have days that stretch into a lifetime of choosing how they will spend their time. Given this freedom from age 7, at 11, my Cartoon Network loving son could choose to forgo the charms of Total Drama for an hour, and sit in a conference room, attentively listening to and learning from a talk intended for parents, but where he was equally welcome.

    Sometimes, there’s magic in the gaps – and there’s always potential.

    Got gaps in your growing collection of G posts?  Gee, you must know what to do by now – click this link, or the icon below, and go for a ride on the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge gondola!

    Have you encountered gaps in your school education?

    How did you fill them?

    Tomorrow is a “dark day” here in #atozchallenge-land, but here’s your invitatio to join me on Monday, April 17 for a bit of a historical hangout. =)

                                         And, just like that, he's fifteen!
                                         And, just like that, he’s fifteen!
    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling, writing, Writing Sample

    Freedom from “F’s”: #atozchallenge for April 7, 2017

    Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

    Today’s Poetry Type:

    Florette

     

    Failure is a Possibility

    I’ve never tried to write this way

    This is a brand new poem today

    It’s possible that I will fail

    As clumsy rhymes stumble and flail success away

     

    What happens if I don’t succeed?

    Is winning such a burning need?

    Why must we always make the grade?

    Let our creativity fade like shriveled seed?

     

    Don’t rate ideas with a letter

    Where B is good, A is better

    And to get an F brings much woe

    When we don’t risk, we never know or unfetter!

     Another kind of “f” word: Thursday afternoon flying at a local arm, rather than being in a classroom.

    One of the most notable differences between our unschooling life and a more traditional school environment is this:

    We don’t grade our children, and they aren’t in competition with others to “get good grades”  and prove themselves better than the others – in other words, the striving to be at “the head of the class.”

    You might be wondering how we know they’re learning, if we don’t grade them. Are they falling behind? Do they know what they’re “supposed to” at their ages?

    We value learning as it naturally occurs in a rich and varied environment. Instead of a classful of students, and a teacher who needs to let parents know how well those students are doing, how they’re “measuring up” with their peers, there’s just….a family.

                                         Love Yourself by Annalise, age 9.
                                         Love Yourself by Annalise, age 9.

    We don’t have a class full or a teacher here. We have two parents, and two children. We live together in one small house; we enjoy each other, talk with each other, play games and watch shows, shop and go to museums and plays and parties together.

    I don’t need grades to tell me that they’re learning, growing, becoming more sophisticated and capable. It’s evident in their projects, passions, conversation, play…it’s everywhere, readily seen.

    With no fear of getting “a bad grade” or “an F,” they’re far more open to learning and innovating,  to seeking out more information,  for taking chances and indulging their inquisitiveness.  

    More, they haven’t absorbed an “us vs. them” mentality; they’re far more likely to collaborate than compete. They tend more toward the concept of ubuntu), where everyone benefits.

    I feel like that’s a better thing, here in our family, and in the wider world, too – and a big part of that is not demanding that our kids “make the grade.”

    Are grades important to you?
    Can you think of other ways to assess learning?

    Feeling ready for more non-failing F posts? Well, by now, you probably know what to do – take the entrance ramp onto the  Blogging From A-Z April Challenge Freeway – click this link, or the icon below.

    And remember to find us again tomorrow, when we will “mind the gap” – or maybe not!

               Exploring Architectural Balance at the New York State Museum.
               Exploring Architectural Balance at the New York State Museum.
    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling, writing, Writing Sample

    Exuberantly Exploring Everything: #AtoZChallenge for April 6, 2017

    Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

    Today’s Poetry Type:

    Epulaeryu

     

    On Today’s Menu? Everything!

      What’s on the menu today?

      Exuberant play!

      A diet rich in everything

      Everywhere learning

      Taking time, learning from

      Everyone

      Wow!

                                    At A Midsummer Night's (Plushtache) Dream!
                                    At A Midsummer Night’s (Plushtache) Dream!

      What happens when the classroom is never part of the learning equation? When exuberant babies become exploring toddlers and beyond, growing and learning naturally?  When they aren’t moving from subject to subject, from school bus to desk back to bus and then homework and bedtime, so they can get up and do it all over again, day after day?

      Well, for one thing, that exuberance little kids take in learning new things doesn’t go away. When life isn’t split up into subjects, into things that “count” and others that don’t – everything, everyone, everywhere is a chance to learn.  

      And learn they do!  It’s as natural as breath, to them – a steady diet of things to explore  and get excited about.

      And me?

      I get to be a little part of it all, as I expedite their learning.

      That makes me pretty exuberant, too!

      What gets you excited?
      What about your kids?
      Is there something you can do today to embrace exuberance?

      Excited to explore more enticing E posts on the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge? Click this link, or the icon below!

      Stop by tomorrow and explore a life free of fear of….the letter F!

                                               Impromptu Equine Anatomy Lesson!  
                                               Impromptu Equine Anatomy Lesson!  
      Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling, Writing Sample

      Dabbling, Daring, and Delving Deeply: #AtoZChallenge for April 5, 2017

      Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

      Today’s Poetry Type:

      Duo-Rhyme

       

      Delving a Deeper Dare

      A dabbling, delving deeper dare

      Four lives spill over bright thought air

      What matter which new treasure sparks

      With each fresh thought energy arcs

      Neurons are firing blazing marks

      We read and write or stroll in parks

      Of past long-gone, history harks

      So many things learned in our larks

      It looks like play, this life we share

      Unless you see more purpose there.

                                     Most Adorable British Officer...EVER!
                                     Most Adorable British Officer…EVER!

      There’s no doubt: the way we learn here doesn’t look like school.

      It’s not intended to.

      Many people don’t know this, but American public school was devised as a way to remove children from the workforce until they became adults – and, at the same time, to train them for the factories and other forms of manual, unskilled labor the working classes were assumed to be best suited for.

      The goal was to condition them to for factory work  (hence the beginning and ending times that don’t mesh with what current science tells us about how much, and when, adolescents need to sleep), and the bells and structured schedule that mimic work schedules of the nineteenth century, when schooling became mandatory.

      It was also to give children the “right kind” of knowledge – enough that they could do the jobs employers wanted them for, but not so much that they might foment discord, or want to learn more than what the powers that be wanted them to have to be good, steady workers.

                                          Joyfully learning on the British lines!
                                          Joyfully learning on the British lines!

      That’s not what we want for our kids. We want them to be fascinated by life,  to understand that there’s depth and breadth beyond what can be held in books, that the people whose names survive in history were as real as they are – that they lived full lives, breathing, eating, drinking, loving, hating, burping and sleeping and making love and all the other parts of life.

      That took the kids and I to the Saratoga National Historical Park last September. This is aRevolutionary War battlefield, and, after a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we downloaded an audio tour on my phone, and set out on the 9 mile tour road – exploring American and British lines, fortifications, and a farm home used as headquarters.

      The narration brought the tour to life. As we hiked the rolling hills, we were reminded that the soldiers, mostly on foot, traversed these same hills, without the benefit of modern paved and maintained paths. Back then, the area was mostly wilderness – which is what made it a good place for the Colonial Army to attempt to hold the Hudson and prevent the British using it to cut off New York City, then the capital of the new nation.

      Yes, they might have gone on a school trip, since the Battlefield is in our hometown. But they couldn’t have had the leisure to do it on a September Saturday, with the entire afternoon and the first part of the evening given over to exploring in their own way and in their own time. Or, several years ago, to spend a few hours there on the Fourth of July  (schools aren’t open on Saturdays, or during the summer).

      Since neither of them have ever been to school, they don’t have a clear understanding of the gift of time and freedom to learn as they will. But their parents, both veterans of the public school system, do – and it’s priceless.

      Are you a dabbler, a delver, or both?

      If you have kids, what do they like to explore, and how do you make space and time for it?

      Do you dare to take a dip or a dive into other delightful D posts? Delve into some more stops on the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge by clicking on this link, or the icon below.

      Come back tomorrow for an exuberant exploration of…well, everything!

                                                    Throwing Shadows on History!  
                                                    Throwing Shadows on History!  
      Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling, writing, Writing Sample

      Borders, Boundaries, and Beyond: #AtoZChallenge for April 3, 2017

      Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

      Today’s Poetry Type:

      Blitz

       

      Fear Brings Control

      Limits imposed to control

      Limits inspired by fear

      Fear wriggles into cracks

      Fear of what lies beyond

      Beyond the limits of control

      Beyond where we can know

      Know what we don’t know

      Know they can learn more

      More than we will ever learn

      More than we can imagine

      Imagine we release them

      Imagine life as open books

      Books which offer freedom

      Books which melt boundaries

      Boundaries stop the flow

      Boundaries make new walls

      Walls they must push against

      Walls that hem them in

      In a place of control

      In a space of resistance

      Resistance breeds contempt

      Resistance creates friction

      Friction becomes tension

      Friction tenses into mistrust

      Mistrust changes learning

      Mistrust breeds contempt

      Contempt corrupts cooperation

      Contempt corrodes connections

      Connections are learning’s glue

      Connections are essential

      Essential for childrens’ growth

      Essential for expanding minds

      Minds untethered by boundaries

      Minds freed to spontaneity

      Spontaneity gives space for growth

      Spontaneity allows inventiveness

      Inventiveness brings new ideas

      Inventiveness spurs creativity

      Creativity makes a spark

      Creativity expands their lives

      Lives enriched by freedom

      Lives filled with adventure

      Adventure in their own home

      Adventure in the world beyond

      Beyond what we’ll ever know

      Beyond the limits of control

      Control can pull it all away

      Control builds high walls

      Walls

      Away

      On the American Revolutionary War lines, at the Saratoga Battlefield, September 2016.
      On the American Revolutionary War lines, at the Saratoga Battlefield, September 2016.

      When we began our unschooling journey, our children were 7 and 4 years old. I was raised in a family that was at best authoritarian, and at worst emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive. Needless to say, our decision to partner with our children, and to stop enforcing arbitrary rules and punishments, was neither popular nor understood by my relatives.

      “Children should be afraid of adults,” declared my father.

      “All teenagers rebel, even if only a little,” wrote my sister.

      But…

      When kids fear adults, it limits what they feel safe saying or doing where that adult is concerned. If they fear all adults, they can’t come to them in trust. Fear and trust are antithetical. If my children and others know they can trust me, they can come to me with big issues, mistakes, and their fears, knowing I’ll do what I can to help them.

      Many people see teens as “rebellious” by nature, but I don’t agree that all teens rebel. I’ve known dozens, and am parenting one, who do not.

      Rebellion requires something to push against.  

      When there are too many constraints on a young adult – because that’s what adolescents are –  they can’t do the essential work of becoming independent, and they have little choice but to rebel. When parents instead assist their fledgling adults in gaining that independence, building a strong foundation throughout childhood – there’s nothing there to resist!

      For us, with a fifteen year old son, and a daughter nearing her thirteenth birthday, artificial boundaries only inhibit our children’s ability to grow into strong, capable, self-possessed adults.

      Did you have artificial boundaries imposed on you, as a child?
      Did you rebel against them, even a little?
      Have you imposed boundaries with your own children?
      Are they working out, or adding stress?
      Is there a restriction you could lift or ease?

      You can find more bodacious and boundless B posts at other points along the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge. Click this link, or the icon below, and you’ll be beamed up without delay!

      This post is my Mindful Monday for this week. Find more mindfulness at Colleen Cheseboro’s A Mindful Journey. 

      Come on back tomorrow to celebrate Creative Chaos!