What Nino Read (November 2015 Update)

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Religion, History, Geography:

The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the World
On the Mayflower
If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution
Favorite Norse Myths
Thomas A. Edison (COFA)
Abner Doubleday (COFA)
If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
New Catholic Children’s Bible
The Great Wall of China
The Story of the Pony Express
The Revolutionary John Adams
The Story of the Statue of Liberty
Once Upon a Time Saints
The Monk Who Grew Prayer

Literature:

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma
The Moffats
26 Fairmount Avenue
The Story of Ferdinand
The Haunted Showboat
Flat Stanley
A Weekend with Wendell

Math:
Singapore Math 2A (Whoops! I did it again! Meant to get 1B and made a mistake >.< But he loves doing this book and isn't stumbling much 😛 ) Science:
Eyewitness Science: Light

Art:

The Ultimate Lego Book

Miscellaneous:

Trail Life USA Trailman’s Handbook
It’s Off to Camp, Charlie Brown


Notes:
– follows along at Mass using Magnifikid, about 75% of the time.
– can lead a decade of the Rosary
– always prompts me to pray at night before bed — his favorite “Angel of God” (besides the family Rosary which he joins in sometimes, sometimes not) plus Goodnight to Jesus, Mary and Joseph and his guardian angel.
– has questions about divorce 🙁
– I made the mistake of getting Book 2A of Singapore Math instead of 1B, but he really loves doing it and can do simple multiplication now, and has even asked that I prepare drills for him (he asked me to put a bunch of subtraction and addition problems he can solve, and I told him those were called “drills”)
– writes very well, but still need to practice lowercase letters as he keeps using uppercase for everything
– has written 700+ words so far for NaNoWriMo
– wants to go bowling for his 7th birthday, but just with family, no friends
– can cut his own nails
– crown popped out day after Halloween and had to see dentist to put it back on
– is quite diligent about brushing and flossing and washing his hands
– participates well when we do our family journaling
– still loves jokes and makes up his own, some really morbid ones 😛
– asked to have and bring his own journal to Mass, copying me (although, I take notes at homily, and he draws whatever, usually Father)
– wants to study ukulele
– asked for a Kiwi Crate re-subscription, so I signed him up again. he loves crafty stuff.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (Rethinking College 3)

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Our Declaration of Independence says life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are our God-given rights, and yet we make many choices today that seem to invalidate that claim. Our government isn’t exactly protecting these rights any more either, but that’s another topic for another day. For now, let’s talk about what this means for families and for education.

Most of us would agree when talking about college, careers, and life choices, that happiness/success would probably be found in the intersection of vocation/mission/calling, skill, passion, and affordability (college)/opportunity and marketability (jobs).

Taking for granted that college is an essential affects so much of our choices and the way we shepherd our children toward independence and adulthood.

And yet today in our colleges, we have hypersexualized and Academic and intellectual freedom are being squashed. neither are adjunct faculty. Student debt in this country is at a staggering 1.2 trillion dollars.

Where’s the liberty when one is a slave to debt? And what about the lives put on hold — including marriage and family — because of it? How can the youth become our future leaders and straighten our economic woes, when they can’t even get a grip on their finances?

Is college really all worth it?

Like many, I grew up hearing that you wouldn’t amount to much unless you got a college degree, at least. Our family is still somewhat entrenched in that thinking, though with one graduate, one in college, and one taking college courses for dual credit, we have so far not incurred debt, thank God. Our older kids have managed to get by with the little we had saved, some gift money from grandparents, and scholarships. Co-op jobs have helped a lot, too. We’ve shifted goals a bit such that going to a prestigious university isn’t a priority, and we’ve chosen to send them to local colleges/universities where they can still fulfill their calling, pursue their passion, work on skills they already have, and find jobs that incorporate those. We’re hoping to continue the debt-free plan with our two youngest.

We’re looking around at our children’s peers though, and while there are some who may be considered successful by the world’s standards, many are also floundering.

Building up our children’s fortitude is doable. As the parent of a young adult, I’m learning to stop giving advice when I’m not asked, to just listen and let her handle things her way. Though I often wish I could spare my child any suffering, there are hurts she’ll just have to go through on her own. The healing is hers as well. Figuring out her mission in life and becoming mature in her faith require a growing openness to the Cross. We want healthy adults who can stand on their own, so we take on the bittersweet task of letting go.

No utopia awaits them on this earth, but if they know to take recourse first and foremost in prayer, Scripture and the Sacraments, they (and we parents) can find peace even in the midst of chaos. When they’ve learned to listen to God’s voice and align their will with His, they can make mistakes here and there without doing major damage to themselves or others.

When it comes to debt however, being completely hands-off is folly, especially since that’s the path so many have fallen on before.

There are new and interesting (lower-cost) programs out there, like Praxis. For Catholics, there’s Via Nova (undergrad) and St. John Institute (graduate). (I am looking for others, so please do leave a comment if you have suggestions.) Trade schools and apprenticeships deserve a serious/second look. And of course, there are online degrees available, though I don’t yet know much about them to make a judgment one way or another.

College demands that students learn time management, get along with a greater diversity of people, get used to professors and teaching styles, adjust to living away from home and family. The college experience is taxing enough without the additional concerns of crippling debt, among others. No wonder so many are on the verge of mental and emotional breakdowns.

There are practical and spiritual reasons for taking the road less traveled. Instead of feeding the current system which in many ways isn’t working anymore, perhaps we can help our children approach that intersection of vocation-passion-skill-affordability with greater intention and purpose, by looking beyond the dominant paradigm. Whether our young adults choose to attend traditional university or not, whether or not they choose to work for someone or start their own businesses, neither college nor career should become totalizing environments that enslave their time and their pockets, and devour their very lives. Our bodies may need feeding, but so do our souls.

Helicopter Parenting, Hypersexualization and College Readiness (Rethinking College 2)

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In my previous post, I suggested that perhaps college is no longer the best way to prepare our children for life and career, but while hypersexualized youth is a big problem, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to our young people’s cavalier attitude towards sex, there are a host of other problems that signify a real need for parents to sit up and pay attention, and find ways to reverse this trend.

Instead of college being the final springboard that will propel them to adulthood, our universities are becoming giant centers for babysitting whiny crybabies. Of course, psychological problems are not to be taken lightly or dismissed, and many are wounded, need medical care, and all the compassion that we as a community should provide. But it’s also clear that many things are now taken to extremes. As one Internet meme cheekily points out, “And one day for no particular reason we became offended by everything.”

There has to be a way to distinguish what will truly affect someone’s health and daily functioning, and what is simply part of life not being fair. A mature adult won’t see the latter as a stumbling block, but simply something to ignore or work through. Besides this, we also need to ask whether things are being censored to protect people from real harm, or to inhibit serious thought.

We know that the liberal arts are essential to education, and that the job of teachers is to liberate minds, not capture them. The combination of censorship plus indoctrination does not help students, and if all they’re doing is graduating from high school group-think to college group-think, then the whole purpose of education is defeated.

The Christian student who thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman truly believes that. The Jewish student who thinks Israel is a great country really believes that. And to my mind, stopping people from expressing things they truly believe is outrageous, an unspeakable offence against democracy, especially at a university, where ideas are meant to flow and crash and battle it out. – From Brendan O’Neill, Political Correctness is Killing Freedom of Speech

Even comedy on campus has taken a hit. The ability to relate, to laugh at oneself, to find humor in the absurd, to face the realities of life and not give in to despair — these are signs of maturity. Exposing young people to adult situations and problems, especially sex-related ones, coupled with the failure to teach them appropriate coping skills, is doing them more harm than good.

Overparenting or helicopter parenting seems to be a huge factor, but juxtapose that with the hypersexualization problem and the facts don’t quite add up. These kids are overparented AND YET hypersexualized?

My theory is that our current crop of college kids have been overparented in certain areas, and underparented in others, especially with regards to sex education. The Tax Foundation tells us that America has become a nation of dual-income working couples — the figures have hovered around 70% since the late ’80s. Since parents spend much of their days working, there is little time left for helping children navigate those tricky sexuality issues, so essential to their identity and well-being, especially around the pre-teen and teen years. Emotional connections in the home are necessary for those types of conversations to happen, and therefore not as easily achievable for parents with toxic work schedules. Instead, the overparenting is directed toward the measurable: schoolwork, grades, college plans.

Add to all that the perfectionism, materialism and commodification that afflict our society these days, the general view of education as product-not-process, and we end up with infantilized, risk-averse escapists who can’t handle what the world throws at them. While other factors — peers, the economy, personality, media exposure — play a role, our life/work decisions and how we parent our kids are areas we can work on to effect changes.

While homeschooling itself isn’t a solution for everyone, I’ve seen a few things that have worked in our family as well as others’:

Homeschoolers are often accused of micromanaging our children’s lives, and I’ll agree that it’s a reasonable view from someone on the outside looking in. But my observation is that if we homeschoolers do tend to micromanage anything, it’s not so much WHAT happens to our children as it is HOW they respond. Our conversations on parenting usually involve detailed advice on how to handle and correct attitudes and behavior: rudeness, impatience, and irritability, to name a few. Focusing on these things allows us to build character, and it is character that young people need so much of these days, and that will get them through life’s difficulties and challenges.

While we cannot protect our children from the pain or suffering that life inevitably brings, we can teach them, and model for them, that feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, sad, lonely, anxious, don’t have to be debilitating or permanent conditions. Our children need to develop autonomy not only materially, but emotionally as well. Planning and preparing well for college and life demands that we give this even more attention than we do courses or tuition.

More next time, including college cost, vocation, intellectual freedom, and college alternatives to consider.

College and Hypersexualized Kids (Rethinking College 1)

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We send our kids to college because we want them to become positive contributors to society. To do that, they need to reach a certain level of maturity in the different areas of their lives, sexuality being only one of them. But in many colleges and universities today, sexuality issues seem to outweigh everything else. The imbalance adversely affects the campus milieu, making these places less conducive to learning and growth, and I’ve started to question their value in producing healthy, well-adjusted young adults.

In a university where most everything is sexualized, much of the vocabulary needed to define unacceptable sexual behavior is lost, and what remains are the umbrella terms “rape” and “rape culture“.

Rape is a heinous crime, but while each act of rape is ultimately the rapist’s responsibility, we cannot just look away and pretend we didn’t help build the culture where it occurs. Surveying the landscape and seeing all these damaged souls, one can’t help but wonder if college is still the best avenue to prepare for life and career.

One college has had to put up a safe room to protect students, a solution that would be largely unnecessary were college students unscathed from past sexual experiences.

The time to teach our kids self-preservation is while they’re little, not after they’ve played Russian roulette with their mental, emotional, and physical health. The stories of casual sex + alcohol in college are becoming all too ubiquitous, yet still we shrug our shoulders and say, “Kids will be kids.” Our society continues to operate on the assumption that young people’s health is simply about being “disease- and pregnancy-free”. But such an assumption leaves young people vulnerable, and once the damage is done, no sanitized, “bias-free” language can possibly protect them. Trauma will be processed by the brain, with or without triggers.

The hypersexualization of children led us here. This isn’t solely a religious concern. We conservatives are often derided for espousing morality, modesty and chastity, but it’s clear that teaching the opposite has negatively impacted our youth’s mental and emotional health. When dating, courtship, and marriage were tethered to morality, consent contracts would have been seen as ridiculous and unnecessary, because injudicious sexual behavior simply wasn’t the norm.

Here lies the difference between ideology and truth: Truth prepares and protects. Ideology leaves one unprepared and unprotected.

When we talk about human sexuality, we often end up in arguments centering on contraceptive use or access to abortion, when the essential word in that phrase is HUMAN. Compartmentalizing lessons on sex and seeing our sexuality as something that can be encapsulated within the “safety” message, takes away our focus on what’s key. Until we are able to see the truth about human sexuality, we will forever be stuck addressing symptoms of ill health, and pretending that our young adults are perfectly fine, despite evidence to the contrary.

Increasingly I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to quit university/college. Call it exercising the Benedict Option if you like. It’s not that different from the decision to opt out and homeschool when our children were younger. We have found, to our great delight, that we are indeed capable of educating our children at home, and grow adults who are fully in touch with what it means to be human. Finding alternative options for college/university could be the next logical step if we want to build and strengthen life and coping skills beyond the college experience.

More next time.

Related reading:
The Coddling of the American Mind
The Neglected Heart: The Emotional Dangers of Premature Sexual Involvement
Unprotected, by Dr. Miriam Grossman
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality

Our Homeschooling Story, Part 1

Homeschooling in 2001
Homeschooling in 2001

[Reposting from something I wrote in 2013.]

This blog post is being written in response to a request from our dear friends E&C, who are embarking on a new journey to homeschool their children.  I thought it was an opportune time to answer their questions on beginning homeschooling by telling our own homeschooling story.

We were first introduced to the concept of homeschooling via a business venture that we were involved in.  We attended a conference and one of the speakers was a multi-millionaire couple who had homeschooled their kids.  The kids were all grown and had successful businesses of their own.  We got out of that business years ago, but thank God every day that we stumbled upon the homeschooling lifestyle because of it. Some of the things we learned:

Lesson #1.  A formal education isn’t a prerequisite for success in life.

At the time our child was enrolled at a delightful preschool run by our alma mater. WUNS utilized the Reggio-Emilia approach and we saw that our child really flourished in that environment.  At the time, Reggio-Emilia wasn’t as widespread as it is today.

Lesson #2.  A child flourishes when he/she is allowed to explore personal interests and when we don’t put limits on his/her learning.  The project approach is an excellent way for children to learn, although it’s only one of many.

After preschool we looked for a kindergarten school that offered a similar program, but the only one we found was unaffordable to us.  After our oldest child graduated from preschool, we were “forced” to put her in parochial school because that’s what we could afford and what was convenient.  We pulled her out after a month, for various reasons, mostly academic.  After the Reggio experience, their program just wasn’t good enough.

Lesson #3.  Educators need to pay attention to a child’s learning style, capacity, current skillset. There is no such thing as one-program-fits-all when it comes to learning. 

All this time I had been researching about homeschooling more.  The very first homeschooling book I read was the Colfaxes’ Homeschooling for Excellence — this family homeschooled their boys, three of whom eventually made it to Harvard.  I also read several homeschooling classics from the library:

Lesson #4.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  There are many who have paved the way before you, with great results.  Trust their experience and example, and trust your instincts as a parent.

I culled information from several secular and Catholic homeschooling groups on America Online and put together my first curriculum that way.  We joined a local Catholic homeschooling group, but it just wasn’t a good fit for us at the time so we quit going after the first couple of meetings.

Lesson #5.  You don’t need a homeschooling group to homeschool your child.  (I say this because I’ve heard people say, “But I don’t know anyone around me who homeschools.” Don’t let that be a hindrance. This is clarified farther in Part 2.)

At the time, we were still very much of the persuasion that all we needed to find was a good school district to live in and our worries could be put to rest.  So when we moved to Texas in 1998 for my husband’s job, and we found out that the school district was considered exemplary, we went ahead and put her in public school.

Just ten months after moving to Texas, his company decided to merge with another, and we were to be moved to Minnesota, which we didn’t want to do.  So the hubby interviewed with several companies, and one worked out — which meant a move to Ohio.  The move put us in a great, multi-awarded school district once again, so we put our daughter again in public school.

I kept up with both homeschooling and public schooling trends, and from time to time would wonder whether we should go back to homeschooling.  In the interim, the Columbine shooting happened.  We were also beginning to question certain elements of the public school system.  Our daughter was part of the gifted program, but every now and then a niggle of doubt would cross my mind if this was indeed the best fit for her.  I felt as a mom that it was both challenging and not challenging enough for my child.  On the one hand, she got to do things that the “regular” students didn’t, but there still seemed to be limits to what she could accomplish and many of the rewards associated with the program struck me as forced and artificial.

Lesson #6.  External rewards usually aren’t the best way to motivate children to learn.

We moved to Pennsylvania on assignment in 2001, and decided that since our daughter would have moved to a new school anyway, going back to homeschooling wasn’t going to be that much of an adjustment for her.  Boy, were we wrong about that!

I had continued to do research into homeschooling through the years, but still thought myself unprepared to design our own curriculum for 5th grade.  Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind was published in 1999 and I had read it cover to cover, but it overwhelmed me more than anything.  We were also expecting our fourth child, and along with the move and two children ages 5 and under, it was all just too much for me.  We decided to enroll her at Angelicum for the year, just to see how it will go.

What followed next — our first year back homeschooling — we will always remember as “The Nightmare Year”.  She had been used to the public school schedule and demanded that we “do school at home”, i.e., a set time for each subject, lunch time, snack time, play time, etc.  Learning that homeschooling was a LIFESTYLE and not a PROGRAM was difficult for her and for me.  Between cooking and cleaning and changing diapers and grocery shopping and laundry, we had to figure out how learning was going to happen.  It helped that by that time I had found an awesome online support group and shortly after, a local one.

#Lesson 7.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not a program.  It is woven in the every day, in family, in faith.  It is not limited by place or season.

Part 2 is here.

Anthony Esolen’s Life Under Compulsion

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This is my favorite time of year: it’s curriculum planning time! And Anthony Esolen’s new book came just in time as my 9th-grader-to-be and I discuss what we’re doing for Fall 2015. She’ll be joining a homeschooling co-op for the first time and picking her own courses, and I’m adding Life Under Compulsion to the mix.

I don’t know if Mr. Esolen expected his book to be used this way, but it will serve nicely as our “spine”. We could go on a hundred rabbit trails just with this one book, so it’s enough for a year or two of high school. There are lessons here in history, religion, civics, psychology and sociology, and of course language and literature. Just about the only thing we’ll need to add is math.

We started homeschooling because we wanted our children to have a real childhood. We wanted them to dream and play and sing, to think and to imagine, to see beauty where others don’t. We wanted them to get inspired by the past, to live fully in the present, and to make sound plans for their future. We wanted them to ponder a world beyond this world. In our 15th year of homeschooling, I do suffer every now and then from burnout, and this book reminded me of why we set out on this journey in the first place, and why we want to continue. Like Charlotte Mason’s books, this book is about education, yes, but more importantly it’s about life.

Anthony Esolen blesses us with his unclouded thinking and writing. He makes me look at situations, stories, including alarming current events, from angles I may not have considered before, minus the hysterics I often see even in serious cultural commentary. When you read this book, and I highly recommend it, you might find that almost every sentence gives you pause. I found myself noting down a lot, mostly things I want to discuss with my kids, and things they’ll need to discuss with their future kids.

Life Under Compulsion covers more ground than any psychology textbook I used in college. Mr. Esolen talks about the different compulsions society is out to convince us we live under, for which temporary quick-fixes are usually prescribed. Government and media talk about our youth’s most pressing problems incessantly, to the point that many of us have become numb and deaf, but seldom, if ever, do they address the roots of unrest and disease. The message our youth are sent even before they’re out of high school is that they can’t be trusted, and that it’s foolish to expect them to shoot for high standards of moral behavior. On top of that, our society creates so much noise and confusion, that this message dominates others, and anything to the contrary is deemed unacceptable and unhelpful.

The book gives us a glimpse of what freedom used to look like. It’s also a call to silence, to the sanctuary… like the bells up in the church tower when Liturgy is about to start. It makes us conscious of ultimate ends. There’s much that’s worthy of meditation here.

It talks about the unity that we find in prayer. At the same time, it also made want to weep for the greatness that was once America, and for the greatness that I often see hidden deep within men’s souls but that lie dormant, buried by years of brokenness.

Around p. 183, I was looking for the happy ending, somewhat similar to how I felt when I was reading Bonhoeffer. In that sense, Life Under Compulsion is not a satisfying read. It doesn’t promise that things will get easier, or that things will change back to the way they were. But it is not without hope, because redemption comes at the last, and Mr. Esolen reminds us to embrace the freedom that has already been won for us, at so great a price.


Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child comes out tomorrow. Buy it!!

Where I Get My Pro-Life News and Commentary

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A friend, Francis B., requested a list of my sources for pro-life news. So, in no particular order, my favorites:

General

Crisis Magazine
First Things
Catholic World Report
MercatorNet
NewAdvent.org
National Catholic Register

Abortion
Live Action News
Americans United for Life
Students for Life
National Right to Life News
Priests for Life Blog

Politics, Legislation, Religious Freedom
Susan B. Anthony List
Alliance Defending Freedom
American Center for Law and Justice
Judicial Watch
Catholic Vote

International
Turtle Bay and Beyond
Human Life International

Bioethics
Charlotte Lozier Institute
National Catholic Bioethics Center

Marriage and Family
National Organization for Marriage
Family Research Council
The Public Discourse
Ruth Institute Blog
United Families International

Education and Education-Related
Catholic Education Resource Center
Catholic Education Daily (from Cardinal Newman Society
Intercollegiate Review
Circe Institute

Conservative
The Heritage Foundation
Ethika Politika
American Thinker
PJ Media
Taki’s Magazine
The Imaginative Conservative
The American Spectator

Catholic
Ignatius Insight Scoop
Catholic News Agency
Catholic Herald
National Review Online
Sandro Magister
Touchstone
Catholic Culture
Women of Grace
PewSitter
What Does the Prayer Really Say?
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
Vatican News

and because sometimes, I just need a humorous take on all those:

Eye of the Tiber
Creative Minority Report
Curt Jester
Ironic Catholic
Catholic Memes (there’s a whole lot more on FB, plus Tumblr)

Two ways I organize my news sources:
Feedly
and when on Facebook, Lists, where I have lists for a) Pro-Life Leaders and Writers, b) Current Events, and c) my mom friends and other close friends who keep up with the same concerns.

Every so often, I go on Twitter to see what people are talking about, but I prefer getting my current events from the above.

I also like taking a peek at how the Catholic youth view their faith and current events from time to time, so I check out Catholic Tumblr blogs.

Note that many of these overlap in terms of the news they report/comment on. It goes without saying that I am not capable of reading all these sources every single day, so it just depends on what time I have. Sometimes I go on FB to catch up on news, sometimes I go on Feedly, other times I rely on friends and family to keep me informed. I try to not to overwhelm myself with too much input, especially during Lent. I process/digest things throughout the day — blogging and journaling helps at times — and when I feel that I’m inundated I shut things down and focus on prayer and family.

Hope that helps!

Unschooling Resources

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From the 4Real Forums:

What Is Unschooling?:

” We choose to live in ways that keep us conected and involved in each other’s day to day lives. ..We believe that learning will happen in its own time and is not more important than loving or hoping or laughing. We live without subjects, in a world where life is not separated into neat little pieces but instead swirls and flows together in ways we could never design….Our unschooling is our parenting is our life together.”

What Does Unschooling Look Like…

I just don’t believe that humans are unmotivated to do anything. I believe that often we’ve been told what to do for so long that we don’t even KNOW what we want to do or how to figure it out and that can take some time and experimentation. And that can be hard when we first begin unschooling because we have to “retrain” our own minds and belief about what education really is while watching our children do what appears to us as nothing.

Share Your Shattered Ideals

I have come to the conclusion that shattered ideals are what it’s all about. They are God’s curriculum for teaching us humility, knowledge of ourselves, and detachment. It is truly a painful process, and a long one as well.

From Leila’s post on Playing and Writing:

You provide the lessons in orthography, typing, word processing, copying, and dictation. You expose them to all the worthwhile forms of reading you can. Offer plenty of paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, play time, and printer time. Patiently wait until they have something to say. Encourage saying it. Enjoy! And that is the secret to laying the groundwork in young children for the skill of writing.

“In-Spite-of-Mom” Schooling

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A friend at our Catholic Filipino homeschooling forum asked, “What is unschooling?”

In years past I’ve shied away from answering this question because the pioneers already have, and I didn’t feel I had anything to contribute. Of course this was years ago at the Catholic Charlotte Mason Yahoogroup, and more recently at the 4Real Forums. If you’d like to learn from the people I’ve learned from, buy this book: A Little Way of Homeschooling; many of my favorite unschooling friends and their stories are featured in it.

Now that our two oldest children are juniors in college and high school, perhaps I do have a bit to say on unschooling. This won’t be a post on the nitty-gritty, but more of an explanation of our educational philosophy as it evolved. We didn’t start out with a goal to be unschoolers, so I can’t share in detail exactly what we’ve done, because the more apt term for it is “In-Spite-of-Mom” schooling.

Learning happened, and learning happens, sometimes because of something I did, but at least just as often or even more so, because of something I didn’t.

stayoutoftheway

When asked what our homeschooling approach was, I’ve always used the word eclectic because it was a safe all-encompassing word. But having homeschooled for almost 14 years total now, I look back and do see a pattern, which by the world’s standards is not a pretty one.

I am as much a perfectionist as I am a slacker, and through the years, I’ve swung from one end of the spectrum to the other. At times the swinging is slow and takes weeks, other times it’s insanity-inducing in its speed. I’m glad to say none of my children are in therapy (yet), so the damage may have been minimal.

hatedschool

I have tried, through the years, to analyze why I am the way I am, and why I “teach” the way I teach. Like Sigrid Undset, I hated school most of the time because of the way school worked. I still harbor some resentment over accusations I received about work that I produced that didn’t look like I produced it because it was “just too good” 😀 …. such as the 100+ page paper on scientists I did for English, which included the scientists’ life stories as well as hand-drawn illustrations for each. Or crochet work for which I received low grades because the teacher thought “No way she could have done that herself”, not bothering to find out that I had a mother who had crocheted well from her teens and who had taught me all her neat little tricks. Many other school experiences burned me, and by the time I graduated from college, I’d had enough of institutional learning and was wondering how my future children could be spared.

creative

Understanding my motivations stemming from the above experiences, I thought, was essential, so that I could become the teacher my children needed me to be. For those just starting out, it might help to define how you view the learning process and what kind of learning experiences you’d like your child to have. I didn’t quite have the answers when I began, but I did know what kind of experiences I DID NOT want the kids to have.

I marked our early years of homeschooling with an almost feverish drive to acquire books for the shelves, pictures and maps for the walls, science supplies to populate the countertops, art materials of every kind to fill the drawers. But honesty demands that I reveal how homeschooling looks like in our home, and I now have to admit it looks most like unschooling.

Charlotte Mason taught that learning was about making connections. So we’ve designed curricula and bought learning materials dutifully, every single year. But while I love designing curriculum and putting booklists together, I have to admit that I’ve failed too many times in terms of the actual TEACHING that one would expect happens in a homeschool. In other words, following the “rules” did happen, but when it did, it was mostly out of guilt 😀 .

Now that the results have made me a bit bolder, it can be told: We’re not strictly unschoolers, but there is a strong element of unschooling that runs through our days. At the beginning of each year, I come up with a highly detailed plan that often includes activities for each day, hour to hour. On paper is about as perfect as it will get, because from that point the learning pretty much belongs to the child. Books will be read, ideas discussed, questions answered. Every now and then I go into control freak mode and make demands, but for the most part learning happens organically in our home. Reading material is everywhere, any reasonable interest is pursued. But illnesses happen, travel is enjoyed, babies come. Meals had to be prepared and laundry folded; Mom went crazy for a few years trying to make money on the side by blogging; cookbook and sewing and knitting obsessions came and went. Life happens as we try to homeschool, and unschooling is the result.

At their ages, our kids pursue even more of their own interests, but their success in those areas can’t be attributed to anything I’ve done. The charge that we homeschoolers brainwash our children into becoming mini-me’s is even more hilarious now, considering how I HAVE tried to do that and yet it just has never worked for me.

brainwashed

Brainwashing doesn’t work in the homeschool because our children are not us. Perhaps if I had access to an instruction manual and brainwashing or torture devices, I’d be better at it. But all of us are born with an unquenchable desire for learning. As Catholics we believe that this is the way we’re made because we are ever on a journey, seeking the Ultimate Truth. My children are no different from me. I cannot stop them from learning even if I tried. They learn things that I have zero interest in and zero desire to teach. The 21-year-old, for instance, gets A’s in her Chemistry classes — I don’t even remember attempting to teach her Chemistry. The 16-year-old wants to be an engineering and political science major; that’s so far removed from MY own interests or aptitudes, it’s a wonder I haven’t embarrassed him yet with my ignorance in those areas.

Early on in our homeschooling I heard a beautiful quote: “Education is not about filling buckets; it’s about lighting fires.” Well, we did manage to light some, in spite of me. Those fires are still burning, and I have reason to think they’ll be lighting other fires.


“But wait! Where I can find the nitty gritty?” This might help. 🙂

Powerful Homily for Homeschoolers, Parents and Educators

from Fr. Bonaventure of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

To quote:

The education of children is a very delicate procedure. It is more delicate than the most highly trained neurosurgeon. For he only operates on matter, the brain, or the neurological system, or the spine. The teacher, the educator, operates on the very soul of the child, and so that education must be rooted in the education of Christ. It must be rooted in the Divine Technique; otherwise, we have missed the point. And we are falling for the trap. The most common form of idolatry in our day and age is the idolatry of success. My children must succeed. We have failed to realize that the only criteria for success is to hear these words at the end of our lives: “Come, Child, into the home that my father has prepared for you from the beginning.”

No one is required to be a billionaire…. and everyone is required to educate children in the way of Christ. And anytime we fight against Christ, we destroy the heart of our children. That energy that we become so impatient with that we see in a child is an energy given to them by God, and it is in need of formation, not destruction.

It is not in the personality we have received from God that determines our state. It is in whether that personality is sanctified under the mantle of grace so that the gifts God has given each and every one of us are given back to him through the intercession of His Mother and put at the disposal of mankind.

He also talks about allowing kids to veg out in front of the TV or video games, so that we are not burdened with actual parenting tasks. And asks us what would have happened to us if Christ had this attitude and treated us more as a burden.

Towards the end he talks about Joseph (the forgotten saint) and points to JPII’s Guardian of the Redeemer.

Powerful, timely homily. And so seldom heard from our pulpits.

Hat tip to Brenda at the forum.