Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer Isn't Over

As I see my friends' children going back to school, and hear the sadness as the Mom's have empty houses, I am reminded of how truly blessed we are to be living this life.

It is a tradition, on the first day of public school, for homeschoolers across the world to celebrate going Not Back to School. During summer, streets are full of friends and summer people with whom our children play for all hours. Then, all of the sudden, they either go back to their winter homes, or are getting called in early to rest for the school day. Then the big yellow bus comes, and friends are gone for hours and hours! And when the bus FINALLY brings them back, they are hurried inside to do homework and have supper and take baths and prepare for the next early morning bus pick up...what an abrupt change! So, to celebrate freedom from all of that tedium, we go to the beach!!!

Tuesday was the first day of school in our district, and many others across Long Island. My kids went to Central Park to play with the NYC homeschoolers (and Tom Cruise and Suri!!); they had a blast exploring and soaking up the energy of the city.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had our celebration with our local group and Town Beach. It was one of the most perfect beach days we have had all year. The weather was gorgeous, the water was the perfect blend of calm and current, one of the boys found a sand shark, the kids took boat rides, but most of all, the group that gathered was delightful.

East End Homeschoolers was started to fill a need in my daughter's life. We had just moved, just pulled her from school we had 2 babies at home. I was not in a position to schlep all over the island taking her to 30 minutes classes that excluded toddlers and infants. EEHS began with just about 6 or 7 families, all with similar aged children and all from the same town! Now, the group has 50 families spanning all 5 East End towns and even a few choice families from Brookhaven. As the Dictator, er, leader of this group, I hand pick who gets in and who I think would not be a great fit for our group. Our perfect day yesterday reinforced for me the importance of this process. All of the families in our group are simply lovely! We do not all share the same beliefs, we educate in different ways and we come from different times and places. But there is no drama!!! Everyone is respectful, curious, nurturing and kind.

We had such an amazing time yesterday, we've decided to go Not Back to School again today! At a different park, on a different beach, probably with some different families...but I am certain it will be just as peaceful.

I love this life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer is for playing

Last night on the beach I had the great pleasure of chatting with several moms while our kids played volleyball. The group consisted of 3 homeschool Moms, 1 mom who's always homeschooled older son went to PHS this year and whose younger son remains homeschooled, and the last mom has 3 kids always PS'd. This is a lovely bunch of women who I respect greatly, and enjoy each time we are together.

I learned last night that High Schoolers have work to do over the summer! And, to me, it seemed like a lot. 3 novels and a paper. Now, when I was in school we started after Labor day and finished the first 3-5 days of June. I do not recall any mandatory summer reading and I am certain I never wrote a paper in the summer. Nowadays, the kids start school before Labor Day in some areas and don't finish till the 3ed or 4th week of June. That leaves roughly 8 weeks left to play, swim, enjoy the family, travel, explore.... I don't understand the need to assign required reading of 3 novels and a paper.

I tend to read lots of biographies, historical novels and cookbooks during the year. To me, summer screams for bad fiction, cheesy crime novels and an occasional cliche romance thrown in for good measure. Summer reading is carefree, light, non-substantial and fun!! Are we taking the joy of reading from our kids by telling them what they MUST read? I do make suggestions to my kids about noteworthy works, and sometimes they even follow my lead! But I can't imagine assigning a book to any of my kids and not only forcing them to read it, but making them write a paper about it as well!!! This is ludicrous to me.

More than anything, I hope to inspire my children, encourage a love of learning and show them that the journey is enough, the destination will be what it will. I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn alongside my babies and see their faces light up when they hit upon something interesting. I love this unschooling life, and I love my free summers!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smith's Unschool

I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to this thought at the moment, but it's
In the meantime, lazy unschooling Mama that I am, need to clean up from the cooking fest, switch the laundry, get to the bank, drop Blessing #1 @ riding, get Blessing #2 to golf, run into the post office, take Blessing #3 to gymnstics, pick #2 up from golf, pick-up the CSA, get #1 from riding, then come home to meet other unschoolers for supper....I dare someone to call us unsocialized...go ahead, I double dog dare you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

UNschooling for Dummies

I wasn't going to dignify the ridiculously biased GMA segment on Unschooling with a response. But the more I read the more furious it makes me! I have long held the belief that "News" in the traditional sense is worthless. Tuning into Larry King (on CNN mind you, News is right there in it's name for goodness sake) you end up with gossip rag fodder. Who cares about what unsavory women Tiger Wood's is screwing behind his wife's back or what misguided young actor overdosed. That may be newes for Entertainment channels, but if I am turning on the news, I want just that, news. I want the facts, not the opinions of the biased media.

The GMA segment was edited beyond recognition, that poor family was crucified and Unschooling given an unfair portrayal. I have often said you can tell how much someone knows about homeschooling by their first question to you (or your kids) upon finding out that is your method of unstruction. If the first question is "What about socialization" than it is clear they have learned everything they think they know about homeschooling from Wife Swap.
Most of you dear readers I have the pleasure of knowing in real life. You have been to my home, you have met my children and you have seen our family in action. If you have had a 5 minute conversation with my 6 year old you probably have gone home to find a dictionary. Her vocabulary exceeds my own sometimes! My son's knowledge of geography and trivial minutiae is astounding, he can tell you facts about countries I didn't even know existed. Last night I was telling a friend (yes, we have lots of those!) that my oldest child diagrams sentences for fun. She finds it relaxing, and she enjoys Algebra they way other enjoy Sudoku or Crosswords.
Unschooling is a choice, and a lifestyle. The kids learn because they are curious. They are curious because they were born that way and they have not had their love of learning bored out of them by mundane repetition and memorization. They play and explore and discover new things because they have never been told they can't and they are not ridiculed or penalized for getting an answer different than what is historically accepted. They have beautiful social skills because they are in the world every day, in real situations with lots of different people. Because they have loving adults in their lives to model generosity and kindness, and they have never been bullied.

As loving parents we want to give our kids the best possible foundation to have a joy-filled, satisfying life. Unschooling is not unparenting; just because our life doesn't look like your doesn't make it crazy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I usually listen to NPR on my way home from work, but the sound of Diane Rehm's voice was grating on my nerves today so I dialed down one to HLN. The discussion was in regard to the above story, of a father in the middle of a divorce who had his daughter baptized in the Catholic Church despite a court order declaring the child to be raised in the Jewish faith.

All of the comments in the time I was listening were from callers appalled at the audacity of a judge to declare one religion over another. Maybe I am missing something, but I do not see this as a religious issue, nor do I see it as a Church vs State matter.

These parents entered into a LEGAL marriage contract, which they decided not to honor. They then petitioned the COURT for a LEGAL judgement of divorce. They were obviously unable to come to any amicable agreement, because when the mother was awarded custody she requested from the court (and was granted) permission to continue raising the child in the Jewish faith. By the way, during the course of the marriage the father converted to Judaism. He now says the conversion was not voluntary, which is ludicrous. It is my understanding that a Jewish conversion takes at minimum a year of instruction and interaction with a Rabbi. Did someone hold a gun to this man's head for an entire year to facilitate the conversion? Ridiculous.

What did these two talk about prior to marriage? He knew she was Jewish, she knew he was Catholic. It seems he was not practicing his Catholicism, which makes sense if he was willing to convert. It is all irrelevant to me, as I said, I do not believe this to be a religious issue. It's not as though the police busted in the door of a happy family and forcibly denied them the right to raise their child in the religion of their choice. The parents made the child's religion the court's decision by proving themselves incapable of reaching a peaceful resolution on their own. Religion is not a legal matter, divorce and child custody certainly are.

You don't get to pick and choose the issues in which the Court can direct your life, when you voluntarily put your life into the Court's hands. It's not OK to utilize the legal state of marriage when you want to be married, then tell the court to butt out when you want to break a legally binding contract. And another thing, Mr. Reyes (the father) apparently entered into a written contract with the mother when he signed a document agreeing that their daughter would continue to be raised in the Jewish faith. He was paying tuition for her Jewish pre-school, so it isn't as though he was unaware.

The issue, as I see it, is not that he baptized a Jewish daughter in the Catholic church. The crux of this matter is that he intentionally violated a Court Order. He also called in the media to watch him do it, which is not illegal, but is really stupid.

Can someone please explain to me how this is a religious matter? I really don't see it, but apparently am the only one in the country (or at least in the CNN listening audience) that holds such an opinion.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

UWWG here we come!!

We are getting geared up for the 3rd Annual UWWG; Unschoolers Winter Waterpark Gathering. Each year hundreds of Unschooling families from all over the world converge on the the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio for a week of fun. This year, the keynote speaker is John Taylor Gatto, and I have to say I am really excited to hear him speak.

We have met some wonderful families at this event, and it is wonderful to reunite with them in the bitter cold of winter. The warmth and sunshine of the indoor waterpark help too! This is a trip we look forward to all year, and we feel extremely blessed to be able to do it again.

This year we have decided to drive. In years past Kenny has not wanted to take too many days with both of us away from work, but he seems to be over that this year. We are leaving the house Saturday morning as early as every one's sleep schedule will accommodate. I am hoping for 7:30 or no later than 8:00. We will make a quick stop @ Bagel Lovers for road provisions and be on our way. The first leg of our trip will take us from home to Leesport, PA to Ozzy's Family Fun Center. There we will have lunch and let the kids blow off some steam in either the roller rink or the indoor play structure. Once we are fortified we will get back in the truck and head to Pittsburgh for the night. Sunday we plan to have breakfast on the strip and then make our way to the Pittsburgh Zoo. My baby boy is really into Polar Bears so this will be a special treat for him.

Sandusky is a short 2.5 hour drive from Pittsburgh, and we plan to spend Sunday to Thursday at the resort. There are some fabulous activities planned, including a winter carnival and lots of interesting funshops. The kids love to be surrounded with tons of friends, and since nearly the entire resort is booked with our group the parents can be assured someone always has their eye on their child. And the kids are always in a group, so the atmosphere is super relaxed.

We leave the resort on Thursday and I have no plan for our return journey. I want to stop at my mother's and visit with she and my sister. And I have every one's Christmas presents to deliver since we were unable to be together for the holiday.

All in all, this has the makings of another perfect family vacation. Wish you could join us!