Monday, March 5, 2012

Life is short and precious.  This week our normal life went on hold to make way for remembering our grandpa.  My grandpa passed away this week and although it wasn't a shocking surprise it hurt nonetheless.
Some may say, well losing a grandparent isn't quite the same as losing a parent etc.  But I had a slightly different relationship which is very hard to define.  See, I am the product of a teenage mom and a deadbeat dad, so my grandfather stepped in a acted as protector and parental figure. So our relationship fell somewhere in the middle of those two things.  I had lived with my grandparents several times growing up for various reasons and even after my mom moved me to CA he and my grandma still made sure they saw us twice a year.  Shortly after I moved back to MI, my grandfather was moved back here as well, since his dementia was becoming more advanced and he was no longer able to adequately care for himself.    It was reassuring that for quite sometime he still knew who I was, granted the red hair is a bit of a dead give away.
So this week we mourned the loss.  This has been an interesting week with the kids because this is the first person they've lost that they have spent so much time with.  Both boys handled things very well, they were respectful and polite and not afraid to say when things were too much for them.
Clover on the other hand, had a very difficult time.  She was wonderful at being there for everyone who needed her.  Hopefully, as things progress this week back to normal she'll be able push through.
This week has made me realize just how much love is surrounding us all. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who We Are And How We Do It: Kid 01

Clover, who will be 15 shortly, is what I consider unschooled, although some may disagree on the proper terminology.  Another fitting term may be "child led".  Whatever the name it is about pursuing passions.   Having a child who is an old soul can be a difficult thing for outsiders to understand.  Clover, has never been her chronological age.  She's always been what I referred to as the "older little sister."  So finding her place in a cookie cutter type of world has been a challenge for us both.
She is a girl who likes to be challenged, but will kick and scream and refuse to do anything which she cannot see a logical purpose to. Clover logic means how something fits into the bigger picture and why its important in relation to people.  This is something that when it comes to traditional subjects I just plain suck at conveying to her.  While I see the abstract she needs to know how people will be affected, why they would be affected and how to ensure their happiness.  Not an easy thing for me when it comes to subjects like math...
So needless to say we have tried a few different approaches.  Clover's absolute favorite was when she was twelve she attended a co-op three days a week in the Malibu mountains overlooking the beach with a wonderful playwright as her instructor.  She really looks back on that short period of time as being magical.  There were three little girls that stuck to her like glue and that she loved dearly and a couple of boys her age who referred to her as "Hermione."  But like all good things it came to an end for many reasons, and I must admit that my bank account was very glad that it was over. 
After that she slowly moved into a more unschooly approach.  She has chosen which classes interest her and taken them.  This has led to following many rabbit trails, which sometimes are found to be exciting and other times lead to dead ends.  For example, she has tried several online classes which interested her.  The first was a class on evolution and although she liked the subject matter she found the format of the class to be something that was hard for her to connect to.  Then last fall she took two advanced literature classes that were taught in a different online format.  Even though she liked the projects and the teacher, she found the lack of face to face human connection to be a problem for her. 
Another experiment this year has been taking a few classes at the local high school.  Again, she signed up for things that interested her, which first semester happened to be Art and Spanish.  She ended up loving taking the classes, but realized she could never be at a high school for an entire day as following their arbitrary rules made it feel like she was in daycare. 
But along the way other rabbit trails led to exciting discoveries and the realization of the different levels of self motivation within her.  She has goals for herself that are outside of the normal box and I continue to encourage her by helping her identify the things she needs to do in her life to reach those goals.  Sometimes we hit bumps and then take a step back to figure out a different way of approaching something that is important to her.  One example was just recently she took a research paper writing class.  She hated the class because she felt no connection to why she needed to do it.  Even though she understood the logical need for it, since there was not an emotional connection she didn't put the type effort into it that she normally would have.  So after the class was over and she cooled off we came up with another way to get the same skills in away that made more sense to her. 
With Clover the biggest success is the ability to be aware of her own goals and progressing towards them.  Not being afraid to try out many different approaches until something works along the way.  But most importantly finding a way to have a human connection to something she is learning or undertaking is an incredibly important part of her process.  After all this is a girl with some amazing out of the ordinary goals for her life, its just my job to help her see that she can do them.

Who We Are And How We Do It: Kid 00

Yesterday afternoon I had the most wonderful time with my oldest Roran.  It was a simple afternoon spent hanging out at Barnes n Noble and doing other various errands.  But somehow the barrier that I imagine is between us seemed to have fallen and I felt really connected to him.  He is a 16 year old boy who naturally turns to his father for most forms of support, so to have a day where he and I could talk about all aspects of his life was a wonderful feeling.
It was ironic that the last post on my blog three years ago was dedicated to all the conflicted feelings I had about having a 13 year old and worrying that I was going to somehow mess him up and he in turn was going to drive me insane. But now I reflect on how our homeschool life changed as well as how he matured into an amazing person.
I truly believe one of the best things I did for my son was letting him go academically. I used to be a fairly eclectic homeschooler, which sometimes I still consider myself to an extent. The one thing I've always done is give each child the best fit for their individual personality, learning style etc. I started letting Roran unschool when he was 13.  Partly because I thought I would be sending him to High School and I wanted him to have a year of freedom before entering.  He even got accepted into a High School where he could focus on film which was his passion at the time.  But then we up and moved him completely across the country the summer before he would begin.  At this point I was still scared about screwing up High School and no longer having the huge amount of homeschooling support I had in CA I panicked and enrolled him in K12.  Obviously this lasted only 2 months.  Roran came to me and said, "Look I can't do this, I don't learn this way, nothing sticks, I need to go back to the way it was, I need to care about what I'm learning."
At this point I unenrolled him, sent all the books back and just let him be.  He was still enrolled in a few classes that interested him and continued to do math.  But at the time I truly thought he spent most of his days playing video games.  At the same time I really delved into learning as much as I could about unschooling.  Once we got around to the beginning of the next summer I once again began to fret about courses, curriculum etc.  even though in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't going to be a good fit.
Then one day my husband asked me if I had any idea what Roran had really been doing all year.  I told him how I just assumed he was wasting away time playing video games and I, of course, couldn't have been more wrong.  My husband proceeded to show me that Roran, on his own had in fact learned how to access the level design software in the video games and was creating his own levels in the games.  My husband then in turn showed the levels to his close friend who is a game developer, who in turn was shocked that a 15 year old had put together what he had.  This bit of letting go has led to amazing self motivation and realization for Roran.
This past year he has been relentlessly teaching himself industry standard software and working with a friend on developing a game from scratch.  This has led to him learning which aspects of development he wants to focus on and choosing to take classes that further his ability as a developer.  For example he takes a World Religion class with other homeschoolers so he can have a better understanding of deities for use in his storytelling, researched many psychological principles in order to understand how various lighting, colors and other things would effect a user in game.  He's also chosen a college to go to where he can study game design.  So he's taking community college classes that he knows will transfer so he can immerse himself in gaming when he transfers.
I could talk for ever about his academic pursuits, but in reality the most impressive thing to me is how he has transformed as a human being.  He is now extremely confident, adventurous, self reliant, kind, funny and thoughtful.  He may not look like what a many homeschoolers we come across (especially around here) look like from an academic stand point, but to me he is highly successful.  He may not be the best writer or be the best in math, but he is following who he is and what he is passionate about.  And for this I couldn't be prouder.  Every human has a different path in life and I am so thrilled that he is not afraid to follow his.
Roran sometimes likes to write a few blog posts about what he is developing here is the link:

Taking Stock And Starting From Scratch

After digging up my old blog from the depths of cyberspace, I realized its been almost three years since I've felt  compelled enough to share my journey through blogging.  It was a nice surprise to read the old posts and see exactly how things have changed with the kids and with myself.  It was so reassuring to see that there really is a rainbow on the other side.  So here is to starting all over again from scratch!