As many of you know, tomorrow is 4/20. Yep, yep. I would like to share how I will be celebrating, although it might be different than you think.
Two months ago tomorrow, one of the greatest men I’ve ever known passed away. He was not just my husband’s boss, he was his mentor and friend – someone both of us would always seek out for advice. Out of respect for his privacy (and his family’s) I’ll just call him H.
In honor of his memory, I’ve decided to make a few changes in my life, starting tomorrow.
Take more pictures with friends
When I make mistakes (and I make A LOT), instead of dwelling on them, I choose to learn from them. One of the few regrets I have is not having pictures of us together with H. I found pictures of his wife and daughter, but none with him. It really would have been comforting to be able to look back on pictures, so this is something I’m going to fix in the future. While I’m fairly consistent about taking pictures OF my kids, I rarely take pictures of me WITH them. From now on, no matter how important (or unimportant) the event, if I’m with my friends or family, we will be taking pictures together! So if you know me IRL, just be prepared for that.
Random Acts of Kindness
H and his wife are the most selfless, loving people I know. Period. They have helped us so much, and we’ll never be able to repay their generosity. The best thing I know to do is pass a little bit of that love on to others. So I have decided that my kids and I will be participating in Random Acts of Kindness (or RAKs) at least once a week. For our very first RAK, we’re decorating bookmarks today with positive messages. Tomorrow we will leave them inside books at a local library. Hopefully, they will brighten someone’s day! I’ll have a follow-up post soon about different RAK’s that we’ve tried or plan to try (easy, cheap options that are introvert-friendly).
This one is a biggie for me. I’m terrible at even the simple “thank you” notes you’re supposed to write when someone gives you a gift at a baby shower or birthday party. What I plan to do – at least once a month, but hopefully more often – is pick a friend or family member and write an actual letter detailing why I am glad I have them in my life. When we knew H was really sick, I wrote him a letter trying to explain our gratitude for everything he had done for us. I was told his wife was able to read it to him before he passed, and I believe they both appreciated it. I only wish I had sent it sooner. I want to make sure the people in my life know how much I appreciate them. I plan on encouraging my kids to do the same as well.
So whether you already have plans for 4/20 or you weren’t planning on celebrating at all, I hope you will join us in at least one of these activities, to celebrate the life of this incredible man. If you do, please let me know about it! I would love to feature some of your own stories and pictures in my blog.
When we first began our homeschooling journey, we started off going the traditional school-at-home route – a dedicated homeschool space with student desks, tons of curricula, extra worksheets, science projects, research papers, the whole nine yards. At one point, each kid even had their own backpack with school supplies. Don’t ask me why. As the years went by and we ALL began to get burned out, I slowly switched over to unschooling. (The “how” and “why” behind the switch will be a topic for another post.)
So what IS unschooling? Honestly, it looks different for every family. There are a wide variety of unschoolers, from “relaxed” homeschoolers all the way to radical unschoolers.
For a general definition, Wikipedia sums it up nicely:
“Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child.”
So what does unschooling look like for US? What do we do all day? I’ve organized this post by the tools we use, instead of subjects, as many of the subjects overlap in each thing we do.
Yes, we do use curriculum every now and then, but ONLY when requested by the kiddos. Currently, the only curriculum we’re using is Math Mammoth, specifically the Light Blue series. The kids love that it’s not a textbook (they enjoy worksheets, for some reason), and it’s easy for them to understand. There is a short explanation for each concept then practice questions. Once they have mastered that topic, they’re encouraged to go on to the next. It’s not too repetitive and great for their short attention spans. There are tests and quizzes included, but we generally do not use those. Even if you aren’t into homeschooling, it’s a great supplement.
As I mentioned earlier, my kids LOVE worksheets, so I try to keep several workbooks handy. For the littles, I mostly use the School Zone BIG Workbooks, and the older kids enjoy the Spectrum workbooks. Everything is covered at their own pace. One day, they may sit down and finish 10 pages, and then completely ignore the workbook for an entire week. I never push them.
Throughout the year, I will inevitably come to a point where I question if we’re doing enough, if the kids are learning enough. This usually happens every few months or so. To make myself feel better, I created our own unschooly journal with several activities for them to complete each month. It’s nothing that’s required or graded, but it’s fun for them to look back on, and it helps me feel like we’re “doing” something.
Besides their math books and workbooks, we also spend a lot of time reading, independently and out loud. What’s great is that you can learn about pretty much any subject through reading, print or online.
Unfortunately, my 8 year old Space Baby is terrified of libraries, so until we can move past that, we’re stuck with the books we have, ones we can borrow from friends, and those we’re able to buy. I am so grateful for Half Priced Books. We love to take our old books and trade them in. It’s also fun to pick up new-to-us books at garage sales.
We used to think my now 11 year old, Sparrow, hated to read. Then I finally realized it wasn’t reading she hated, but the books we were trying to force feed her. Once we started unschooling, she started to pick out what SHE liked, and she finally started to enjoy reading.
One comment I hear all the time is: “If it were up to my kids, they would just play video games or watch TV all day!” Well, some days, my kids do that, too. But guess what? My youngest learned his colors, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet from watching YouTube videos. Two of my children learned to read by playing Minecraft. One of my kids learned how to tell time from an internet game. And all of my kids have absorbed so much information from watching TV shows or documentaries. And they have retained that information far better than when I was trying the school-at-home approach. It’s been pretty incredible to witness.
In addition to everything else we do, I also like to teach the kids “life lessons” (which is really just a nice way to say “chores”). While I still don’t FORCE my kids to participate in chores, I am a bit stricter about it than other topics. When I was young, I was never really taught how to live on my own and ended up learning the hard way. Besides, with four kids, I can use all the help I can get! We are currently working on cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, and laundry. Just the basics.
Of course, the biggest question asked of all homeschoolers, not just those who unschool…
“What about socialization?”
I could go on and on about this one… First of all, my kids are pretty introverted and solitary, like their parents. So in general, they prefer limited social interaction. They do have many friends, however and we try to host frequent play dates, either at our home or at a nearby park. We’re also members of a few homeschool groups who plan different field trips and other social activities.
At various points, the kids have been in involved in sports, dance, drill team, science fair, gymnastics, art classes, drama, Girl Scouts, and piano lessons. There are even homeschool options for prom and graduation, although we’re not at that point yet. In other words, there are plenty of social activities for homeschoolers who are into that sort of thing.
I understand that unschooling isn’t for everybody, but it definitely works for us. I plan to write several more posts on the subject, so if you have any questions you would like me to address, let me know! If you have advice for other homeschoolers or unschoolers you would like to share, please post those in the comments, too.
Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. Honestly, I was afraid we were going to have to move again! Our youngest, Yoshi, had a terrible rash and we were convinced he was allergic to my in-law’s dog and cat. (We have three dogs ourselves, but they mostly stay outside.) After a quick trip to the family doctor, we discovered in addition to his allergies, he also had a sinus infection and some kind of virus! Poor guy. He’s had lots of medicine and is feeling better now, thanks to our amazing doctor. So looks like we’re able to stay a bit longer.
In case you haven’t read my other posts, here’s a quick recap: My husband and I and our four kids are currently living with my in-laws. All 8 of us are sharing a 4 bed/2 bath house, with approximately 1800 square feet. It’s a far cry from what we’re used to, but we’re making it work. We’ve been here over three weeks now and living comfortably.
I decided to document our living situation with pictures and brief descriptions, mostly for memories. But who knows, maybe there are some ideas in here someone else can use.
The first thing we did was get rid of most of our stuff BEFORE moving. I’m talking at least 80%. We went through each room, one by one, and decided what we absolutely needed to keep. We boxed up items we thought we wanted, but wouldn’t need right away. We’ve been going through those a little at a time, deciding what’s really worth keeping & what we should sell/donate.
We left some furniture in The Big House to help with staging, and we left a few “garage sale” items in the garage. We only brought the essentials with us to my in-laws. We are very fortunate that we’ve been able to take over a good portion of the house – two bedrooms, one bathroom, one room that used to be a covered patio, and a screened-in porch. In this post, I’m only covering our master bedroom and the shared bathroom.
Hubby and I are actually in the smallest room of the house, so we have to save as much space as possible. The bed we’re sharing is a full size to help save space.
1. I found this tall, skinny shelf hanging on the wall and we moved it to the side of the bed to use as our nightstand. The room is so tiny, this is really all that could fit here. It works pretty well though! Each shelf is iPhone-sized so it’s the perfect place to charge our phones overnight.
2. This entertainment center also houses all our underwear. Yep, that’s what’s in those boxes. We don’t have room for an actual dresser in the room. We had one, but it was so close to the bed, it wasn’t really functional. With this shelf here instead, we can actually move around the room! And everything fits quite nicely.
3. Our closet is pretty pitiful and not very organized, but hey, it works. My clothes are on the left (currently just t-shirts and sweat pants, until I am able to work again) and Hubby’s are on the right. We have our Very Important Papers on top, next to some completely useless vacuum storage bags. Seriously, do not get those. Our jackets and my purse are hanging on a hook on the closet door, which we never close. Oh, and the laundry sorter – that things is AWESOME! We have one in every bedroom.
4. This small desk was actually an end table in the living room. My mother-in-law graciously gave it up so I could use it as my vanity. By the way, that little cardboard box inside the drawer, on the right, is actually a tissue box cut in half. I’m so crafty.
The gray box on the bottom left is what most people would have in their junk drawer. I call it my what-the-heck-is-this-and-why-is-it-here box. Obviously, it’s mostly Hubby’s stuff. The brown box on top houses my straightener and curling iron for the super rare occasions I need to be presentable.
5. This is my side of the bed. Don’t you love my totally stable nightstand? I made it all by myself so I had to show it off.
It’s definitely an adventure going from four bathrooms to just one, but we’re making it work. The kids have been incredibly helpful, keeping things as neat and tidy as possible. Seriously, would you believe FOUR kids share this bathroom??
1. We bought this new shower head soon after we moved in. Before, I had to practically do a backbend to wash my hair, and Hubby had to sit on the floor of the tub! This shower head is about 4-5 inches taller, so it helped quite a bit. I also love the shelf in the window. It’s very convenient for storing our shampoos & soaps. Definitely something I want in the next house.
2. To make the shower more comfortable, my father-in-law got us one of those curved shower curtain rods. It’s like magic. It’s definitely a splurge item (I think around $30 or $40), but it was worth it for us. I also appreciate having an extra towel rack in the shower, although at first I thought it was a weird place to put it. With six people using this shower frequently, we are always running out of space to dry our towels. Maybe we can install an additional towel rack or two this week.
3. These are the cabinets under the sink. Not much to look at, but everything fits. Top left is all our extra shampoos, soaps, and such. Top right is our stash of toilet paper on top of a wire shelf we brought from The Big House. Underneath that is a few extra supplies.
4. We’re using the shelves above the toilet that we already there. I was able to find three small boxes for me and my two eldest to use for make-up, deodorant, moisturizer, etc. Hubby’s things are in the gray bag. I don’t even look in there, so who knows what it contains.
5. My tray of cups is my favorite thing about this room. Before, the toothbrushes & toothpaste were just everywhere (drawers, countertops, boxes on the shelf, etc.) and I wanted them all to have a home. I had seen some DIY project with mason jars, but I wanted to use what we already had available. My mother-in-law had this tray in the bathroom with decorations in it, and I got the idea that I could use it somehow. Then I remembered my sister gave me a set of glasses for Christmas that was missing a glass, and the box was just sitting in the garage. So I just arranged six glasses, put our respective toothbrushes & toothpaste in each one and *poof* so organized! It’s really convenient and doesn’t take up as much room as I thought it would.
6. Nothing really fun about the drawers in the bathroom, but here they are just in case you were curious.
Whew! So that’s it for those two rooms. Next up will be the kids’ rooms, including a special play room!