Holy Spirit Led Learning

We are an unschooling family. Although I grew up traditionally schooled,  I can look back and see that, even when I didn’t know anything about the term or that it even existed, I was always an unschooler at heart. If I had an interest, I explored it until my heart was content.  I have always loved learning, but I did not love school.

Before my oldest was 2 years old, I met a homeschool mom who I know God sent my way to set ablaze the path we were to take concerning my child(ren)’s education. Frankly, at that point, I dreaded the day I would have to officially send my child off to school.  We had so much fun learning together. I didn’t want to miss anything.

Unschooling was and is very natural for us.  After having lived it for almost 20 years now, I am definitely a believer.  A quick definition is that unschooling is simply child led learning.  It is gaining an education for a child that is fully centered around each child’s individual interests. I enjoy following and facilitating activities centered around what each of my children are interested in.  It makes for quite an adventurous life that one would be hard pressed to plan or duplicate.  For us, it is very much Holy Spirit centered and led as I know Holy Spirit is the one who keeps me abreast of what’s next for us.

This way of life is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for everyone, and certainly not for those who feel more comfortable following “the crowd”, doing what most everyone else is doing.  Child led learning can freak out such personality types, “How in the world will they ever learn to ______________!!!” There’s so many things one can insert in that blank, lol.  We are never without options for freaking out, I suppose.

Anyway, something interesting happened to us within the last week.  As I stopped to get water, not thinking of anything in particular, the Lord dropped 2 things in my spirit, my 2nd daughter Jenai (pronounced jen-ay) and a vocational-technical school nearby.

Here’s the thing.  My children have never attended school and I don’t know very much about schools here in Jersey as I grew up in DC.  When I received this download from my Abba, I said, “Ok, I’ll check it out.”  Jenai, like both of her parents, is all over the place with regards to interests and talents.  She sings, she draws, She makes video movies with dolls.  She is very handy around the house and loves to put together whatever comes in the house. She makes doll furniture and accessories and designs the set for her doll videos.  She builds things with cardboard boxes, like atm machines and vending machines that actually work.  She cooks, she does animation, dabbles in contortionism, loves doing nails, writes penpals making them pocket letters… You get the picture.  All over the place.

I talked with her about the school and explained that they offer a wide range of programs including green construction, animation, cosmetology, culinary arts and so much more.  She would be able to go for  2 hours each day, for whatever program she is interested in as a share time student and still be technically homeschooled.  I explained this to her, shared the website with her and let her know that she does not have to go if she isn’t interested.  I just felt led to check it out as I told Abba I would.

What was interesting for us, was that the school was having an orientation for students interested in attending in September and it turns out that Jenai is the exact age that they are ideally searching for.  Of course, Abba knew all this. I hurried and signed up for the orientation which was to be held days later. Interestingly enough, it was held on a day and at a time when we are typically not available, but that week, we were available.  God was up to something.  I told Jenai that we’d go and check it out.  At the very least, I told her that she would get resources to help her further her education outside of the school (impromptu prophesy, lol).  That happened and more.

While there, we did a 30 minute general information session, after which, we were given a folder that included a map of the building.  Each program was listed with classrooms where students and parents could go and get more information about as many programs as they chose.  I told Jenai to lead the way.  I wanted her to check out every area that was of interest to her.  I enjoyed following her lead and was happy that it was just the two of us. After attending 2 of them, we made our way to see the graphic design teacher.  My heart jumped with excitement as the teacher spoke. I knew this particular program would speak to Jenai’s heart more than the others had.

Not only did Jenai get information about the program there, but after telling the teacher a little about Jenai, she told us that industrial design is something that sounds right up Jenai’s alley.  She said that graphic design is a great foundation for industrial design.  She also told us about a nearby college that would accept credits from Jenai’s time at the school and those credits could go towards a degree in industrial design if she chooses to attend college.  She went on to invite Jenai to spend a day at the school next week to see what a day is like.

Between you and me, I am super excited.  My spirit is really excited for Jenai about it all.  I drove home to her that the Lord loves her so much that He would speak to me about her in this way.  She seems to be really excited too but whether she goes in the end or not, I am very happy that she knows God singled her out like this.  I am happy to have taken her somewhere, to look into things solely for her.

She’s funny, she said to me, “Man, the only drawback is that this is gonna mean I am no longer an unschooler, because I will technically go to school.”  I laughed and said, “Girl, this will make you an unschooler times two!! You will be going to school 2 hours a day, yes, but, you will be going to do something that is of interest to you, only because you choose to.”  That’s unschooling.

Re-Evaulating Our Way of Life

I tend to go on in life, doing what I feel led to do and don’t always pay much attention to what others think or say about how I do things but there are times I come across something that serves as a confirmation that I’m on the right track and I’m always grateful for those moments. A blog post from an adult who was unschooled had me thinking. Two particular points in her post struck a cord with me. One statement was that her mom was unnecessarily scared of messing up and afraid that her children wouldn’t get all they needed.

Coming from the traditional school system, I could definitely identify. Coming from that and unschooling has got to be just about the equivalent of the similarities of love and complete apathy. It’s tough. I breathe easy though. I see myself in a different place these days. That fear is just not here any longer. I trust them and God to know what they need, when they need it and how they need to go about getting it. I’m here to facilitate their efforts, helping them in any way they need.

The second point she made was that the one thing she felt her mom did wrong was to try to be there all the time. I could relate to that too and again I breathed a sigh of relief because I’ve pulled back from hovering a long time ago. About 4 years ago I pulled back big time and wrote a book and started a business. I must say, my girls (and my husband and I) have flourished. They have benefited immensely from my branching off, pursuing things outside of them and their father. As a result of my business endeavors, my girls know more about natural birth than most adults (let alone their peers) and have acquired skills that can make them some $$$. Although I’m sure they exist, I don’t know very many (any actually) children who can make herbal medicines, vinegars, salves, toothpowder, lotions, soaps, hair rinses, lip balms and other herbal products. I definitely don’t know any other 7 year old’s who could explain and carry out the process of encapsulating a placenta but my girls can and it’s because of me doing my own thing. Because Kate wrote about these things, it offered an opportunity of self- evaluation and what better way to really know if I’m on the right track? I went to my experts- my children!

I told my girls about the blog post and I turned it all on them asking them what they thought. I asked my girls about their fears and if they felt I was not around enough since I don’t hover anymore.

They have no fear. They don’t feel that they need to compete with anyone at all. My oldest (13 next week) said that if she needs to know something it’s as simple as finding a way to learn it and doing it. This is a child who at around 6 or 7 played outside with a (traditionally schooled) friend. The friend asked her a multiplication problem and she didn’t know the answer. The friend then said, “See, you’re not learning anything in that homeschool of yours.” My daughter asked her what the answer to the problem was and the girl told her and my daughter replied, “Now I know the answer, and I didn’t have to sit in school all day to learn it.”

When I asked them if they thought I wasn’t around enough, they said everything’s fine. They also said that if they needed me and I was in my room or somewhere else in the house, they’ll either call me to come to them or simply come to me. They know where I am and that I’m available and that’s enough.

It feels great to have these confirmations along the way and not have to wait until they’re adults to know that I’m heading in the right direction with them.

Finding My Way Back to Unschooling… Again

Ok, so to some extent, I excuse myself because I think I’d be remiss to completely ignore everything that comes my way but I’ve allowed myself to get sucked in again and I’m now confessing my transgressions, lol.

Curriculum *sigh*… As an unschooler, I’m not against it per se, I’m more against using it when the children aren’t interested in it as I believe they won’t get very much from it at all thus wasting everyone’s time- not to mention the $$$ being wasted.SmileyCentral.com

Ok so here’s what I did. I went to my friends house (who also homeschools) and she pulled out different curricula she uses or has used for different subjects and I got caught up in a few of them.

See, I love all things grammar- English, language arts, whatever you call it- I love it. I picked up Simply Grammar and Easy Grammar and fell hard for both. I smiled as I looked through them both fantasizing about how my girls would love both and thoroughly enjoy completing them.

So, I went home and ordered both real cheap. When they came I was so excited. It was like Christmas was here and I was finally able to open my presents.

I sat down with my 6 year old and we went through the first lesson together. As we did it I had a multitude of thoughts swirling through my head. Thoughts like, “Why are we doing this? She already knows this! This is really boring and pointless! Now I understand why so many of my homeschooling counterparts are often so stressed and depressed about their homeschooling! I can’t imagine doing this every day! Is she even getting anything from this?! Wait, my oldest has an awesome grasp on this subject and she’s not done anything like this, so why do we need this again? I’ll have to ask my daughter what she thinks about this book later.”

All this and more swirled in my mind as we completed the first lesson. Later on, I asked my daughter if she enjoyed it and her reply was, “Uhhh, not really. It was kind of boring. Can we not do that again?” Then she went on to say, “I’d like to practice writing my lowercase letters. Can we do that instead?”

Leave it to a child to reel you back in. From time to time, I forget that my children are trustworthy and really do know what they need to learn and when they are ready to learn it.

So, we regrouped, re focused (well I did anyway, as they never strayed, lol!), and went to 2 different libraries and came home with the following:
The Magic School Bus videos, about 16 “You Wouldn’t Want to Be A” (really cool history series) books, a book about Roman numerals, one about telling time, “Play and Find Out About the Human Body”, and 2 Richard Scarry videos for the baby that cover ABC’s and 123’s.
And, when I stopped trying to “teach” them I found my 6 year old and 2 year old drawing on a chalk board together with the older showing the baby how to draw a person. Then I looked over just in time to find my oldest licking her plate after eating the lasagna she and my 6 year old made (from scratch). She was also surrounded by her Bible and my book she’s been reading, “Bad Girls of the Bible”. She said she’s comparing the stories in the book to what’s in the Bible.

It feels great to see them pave their own way and learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. I love helping them with that. I can rest easy knowing that all they are learning, they are also retaining because it’s not something I or anyone else prescribed for them, it’s important to them. This is what unschooling is about for us- delight driven, child led learning. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.