Thursday, September 16, 2010

Co-oping vs Karin's 'unschooling' style

I've been wrestling with how I 'fit in' with the whole home schooling style etc. For four years (I think) I schooled with a friend and changed most of my ideals of how I school my own kids. I did that to 'please' the school group. It did help my children though it probably isn't what I would have done myself. On the flip side, how I do things is not what the other mom is comfortable with either. Through all of that and working with a different style, I have figured out what an unschooler I am. I am happiest if I don't beat myself up for not recreating 'school' in my house or with others. I am happiest if I can take each day and be glad for what I have gotten done that day. I missed having time to just read to the kids. I missed my freedom to can with the kids without having an anxiety attack trying to please a locked in schedule. I am SUCH a people pleaser. Our family has a 'style'. When my kids are exhausted because they have been working, it is because they're exhausted from working. They were not 'making excuses'. There are only so many hours in the day and I can not crush my children's spirit because there is not enough of them to go around to play the 'keep everyone impressed with our ability' game. I crushed myself making excuses for the boys especially. I don't regret the time I spent co-oping, but this free spirit woman must figure something else out. Dear husband reminds me that the kids ARE learning when I lament losing school time and how very few people even know what it means to prepare their own food or even work. Keeping a balance of course is the trick then but without bookish time, they still are learning. Thanks Charley.

My kids are amazing. We are giving up schoolish things today to work together on salsa and tomato sauce for the good of the family. I do not can anymore. They do all the work. Benjamin and Stefan even help. These kids know how to help. I was listening to Erik 'play' with Evan this morning sweetly. He read him a little book and patiently carried him around while I quick mopped up the latest mess from..........canning! Now Erik and Matthew are in the kitchen singing along to a Beatles song and truly working together without fighting. Stefan chirped at me the other night that he couldn't wait to get bigger so he could help dad with the boards. (Stacking wood) If the kids are not being bookish, they are totally independent workers in the cooking and canning realm. It is the first thing older people notice about my kids when working with them and they can not cease telling me what good and faithful workers they are and what a rare thing it is today to find kids who know how to work without griping. Then my kids have bunches of fun getting to know these older people on a different level and enjoy listening to their stories and having conversations with them. Erik has learned a lot about Vietnam from his painting and scraping boss the last few weeks. He has learned more than I ever did in school about that war and he never had to crack of book. Scott can not cease talking about what a wonderful boy he is. I guess Erik gets an A+ in that class!

So bottom line I do not regret the last four years. My kids will miss their friends and I will miss my friend too and her kids but as it has been said before, family dynamics change etc so 'things' change. Not co-oping seemed to just happen. I am regrouping and digging up the stuff I used to do with the older kids which is more my style and just trying to do my best with them and be satisfied without them resenting 'school'. Sounds like a plan. I am also going to look for opportunities to do fun things as a family like mini-vacations or going to retreats etc. I usually enjoy those times too and the younger set have missed out on that part of mommy culture. It will all be okay.

My kids know how to play too. I am hoping to spend Friday afternoons just doing some fun things together. I want to renew my Fernwood membership and spend many a Friday hiking the trails there. I love that place. I couldn't do much of that while we were co-oping as we couldn't keep up with the meals, laundry, and I hadn't a clue what they were supposed to do in their classes for the energy it took to find out. I would make a terrible public school mommy.

So.......I need to learn to be content with changes in dynamics. I need to also find social opportunities and things to look forward to for my younger kids who are used to seeing their buds several times a week. I've always loved how my kids love spending time with each other (most of the time) so there are some friends right there. Looking for opportunities to bond with their neighbors and do things with them comes to mind too. There is a sweet little girl down the road who has some sort of disability, though minor, which I am sure leaves her isolated. We just started having Cecilia and her get together a few times the last month and have Charlene the wonder 80 something year old neighbor to thank for that. She has been doing ceramics with the girls. I am looking for more opportunities for them as Cecilia doesn't 'notice' anything different and just sees her as a nice girl near by to spend time with. So she too is learning from that experience and it is great to witness.

So, I will try not to fight the artist and non-traditional schooler I am and learn to just do what I know how to. The last four years were certainly good for my kids but I need to relearn who I was before and go on from here. Silly me. I think too much and love what I have too little. Sigh.


  1. I really appreciate what you have to say here. It's very reassuring to me. <3

  2. Sounds like a great plan! If you ever need a hiking buddy give me a call, I've really been wanting to do that more with my kids and I've never been to Fernwood:)

  3. Well hey! Maybe I will have time to come play in Ft. Wayne some time soon. I definitely need a tutorial on the wrap. When is that baby wearing 'conference' or whatever it is called? Might have to come.

  4. Anita - yes. It could be another day of the week too. Which day would be good for you next week?

  5. That bit about making your own food? Yeah. It changes everything.

    And that other bit about being a bad public school mom? That's on the list of why we don't send our kids to school. The strain of school on our family would be way more than the strain of homeschooling.