The 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge

For 2014 I took part in a 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge on Instagram. The basic premise is that you take and post a picture every day for a year of something for which you are grateful and tag it with #365grateful or #365gratitude. It has been a great reminder of the many blessings I have.

Amazingly enough, I haven’t missed a single day this year (knock wood!). Even on days that I felt like crap with a migraine I’ve found something for which I am thankful. There’s so much for me to appreciate in my life, even on the hard days.

It’s been an eye-opening experience and looking back at the photos I’ve shared over the past year, it’s been super cool to see how much we’ve done as a family. Ya know how some days you feel like you don’t ever do anything? Or maybe that’s just me. But anyway, seeing all of the pictures I’ve shared over the past year, specifically part of the 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge, has made me realize just how much we do.

Over the past year, we’ve taken several trips — a weekend getaway to Estes Park, a few days trip to Moab, a week-long trip to Crested Butte, an overnight camping trip with friends and a week-long trip to the Los Angeles-area, where we went dolphin-watching and spent a lot of time at the beach. We attended ComicCon in Denver dressed as characters from Adventure Time. We also saw Ellie Goulding in concert at Red Rocks and attended the Folks Festival in Lyons.

Estes Park trip, January 2014  Moab - May 2014

On the gondola at Mount Crested Butte - July 2014  Crested Butte - July 2014

California - October 2014  Dolphin watching - Oct. 2014

Adventure Time for ComicCon  At Folks Fest 2014

The kids have been involved in many activities including: farm school, parkour classes, art classes, ice skating, sledding, trips to the Denver Zoo and Denver Botanic Gardens, horseback riding, entering exhibits in the county fair, lots of time with friends, weekly park days, reading books, hiking, playing lots of board games and computer games (Minecraft FTW!), raising baby chicks, doing lemonade stands, and swimming – lots of swimming. The kids also learned to ride bikes this year which meant some family bike rides as well.

Ava's self-portrait  Julian- parkour  Horseback riding  At Blue Mesa Lake

 

Bike riding

I ran a handful of races — including a 5K with my mom, two 10Ks and a 1/3 marathon — and accrued numerous miles in my running shoes. I also attended the first annual ShiftCon — an eco blogging conference and spent many hours in my garden.

Running in Moab  Chickens in the garden

Jody got a new Jeep and we did some off-roading as a family. We also all went paddle boarding for the first time at Jody’s company picnic over the summer at Boulder Reservoir.

Jody's new Jeep  Paddle boarding at Boulder Res

In other words, when I wasn’t blogging much all year, I was doing other things and taking LOTS of pictures (and posting them on my new favorite way to document our lives – IG!). :)

It’s been fun to look back at all of the pictures and I’m not only grateful for all of the memories made, but for the fact that I documented so many of them. I’m thinking of getting a photo book printed of many of this year’s Instagram pics. Anyone have an app or site for that purpose they know and love?

While I can’t say I’m going to commit to doing another 365 Photo Challenge, I do, however, plan to continue to take and post lots of pictures of our day-to-day activities and adventures in 2015. I’m looking forward to many adventures and things for which to be grateful in the year ahead! Follow me on Instagram. I’m @crunchygoddess.

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My Unschooling Interview on Mile High Mamas

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A few weeks ago, I was honored to be interviewed about my family’s experiences with unschooling for the popular Denver-based blog, Mile High Mamas. In honor of back-to-school time, Mile High Mamas ran a three-part series featuring some non-traditional schooling methods including homeschooling, unschooling and a post about charter schools.

If you ever wanted to know more about how the kids and I go about our unschooling lives, what drew me to unschooling, my thoughts on getting into college, and my favorite things about unschooling, I encourage you to read my interview.

Have more questions for me about unschooling? Leave a comment and I may address them in a future post.

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Talking about Unschooling with Barb Lundgren

Barb Lundgren

I recently had the opportunity to attend a free talk about unschooling by Barb Lundgren, a mother to three (now) adult unschoolers. Barb is also the founder of the Rethinking Everything Conference and the editor of Home Education Magazine, devoted entirely to unschooling.

The talk was at the co-housing community of Nyland in Lafayette, Colo., and was facilitated by Leslie Potter of Pure Joy Parenting.

Barb Lundgren and Leslie Potter

I took some notes and would like to share a little bit about what I took away from the evening. It may seem a little disjointed, but I just wanted to put these thoughts “out there” for anyone who is interested in learning more about unschooling and/or how children raised with unschooling might “turn out.” Some of my thoughts which expand on Barb’s may be interspersed.

Regarding whether kids need to learn to do X, Y, or Z at a certain age

Traditional parenting assumes there is a certain time for each thing to happen in a child’s life. Unschooling, on the other hand, relies heavily on TRUST. You have to trust that your children will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it.

  • It’s not uncommon for unschooled kids to learn to read later than kids who go to school. One of Barb’s sons didn’t learn to read until he was a teen. Once he did, however, he read the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice in about six weeks.
  • A boy attended a Sudbury School, where children are allowed do pursue whatever interests them. This boy was very interested in fishing and spent all of his time fishing and learning about fishing until he was 17. At age 17, his interests shifted. He left fishing behind and moved onto computers. He started his own computer software business and by age 21 sold it for $1 million.
  • John Holt, an educator and author who coined the term “unschooling” was asked, What do ALL kids need to know (in terms of academic measure)? His answer: Nothing.
  • This isn’t about academics, but is one of my own examples of kids learning to do something when they are ready. My kids were never interested in learning how to ride bikes. While many kids are on two wheels by age 5 or 6 or even 3 or 4, mine had no such interest. They rode their scooters and were plenty happy with them. Then all of a sudden this summer (at ages 7 and almost 10) they decided they wanted to learn to ride bikes. We got them each a bike (because they’d long outgrown the ones we got when we *thought* they’d learn to ride) and within about 5 minutes of my husband running up and down the street with them, they were doing it on their own. We’ve since gone for many a family bike ride.

Family bike ride
Like I said previously, unschooling is based on trust. It is about living life on our own terms. Barb said, “You have to believe your child is here to enjoy his life.”

Being free leads to responsibility and accountability.

On Control and Anger

The number one reason people experience anger is that they feel like they are being controlled. This applies to children as well as adults. Think about it this way: If someone (your spouse, for example) told you it was time to get off your computer and go to bed and you were in the middle of something that was important to you, how would that make you feel? You would want your spouse to support you, not tell you what to do when and how to live your life. Your child probably feels similarly. Try to put yourself in your child’s position. Think about how you would want to be treated. Perhaps there’s a way to talk about it kindly without demanding they follow your orders ASAP.

Irritation opens the door for communication. If one member of the family is doing something that bothers another, have a family meeting. Involve everybody. Discuss it. Come to consensual solutions.

On Video Games

Video gaming used to stress Barb when her children first started playing them, but then she made it into a challenge of sorts. Could she do better than the video game? She’d ask her kids questions like, “Who wants to go camping?” or say, “Let’s have a party.” That way she was still getting quality time with her kids.

If you miss your child because they are spending so much time on their computer, Xbox, etc., let them know. The next time they aren’t playing a game, tell them you miss them.

It may be reassuring to some parents that Barb’s kids no longer play video games or watch TV as adults, but they watched a lot of TV as teens. Of course that’s not to say that all kids will stop playing games or watching TV as adults.

On College

Because there is so much information available on the internet — between Google and YouTube, one can find the answer to most anything — the only reason college would be absolutely necessary is to become a traditional physician, an engineer or a lawyer.

Many unschoolers seek out entrepreneurial opportunities.

How Do Unschooled Kids Turn Out?

As mentioned previously, many unschoolers choose to forego college in pursuit of entrepreneurial opportunities.

In Barb’s case, one of her children is now a business owner, one is an organic farmer and one is the founder of a sustainable community. Barb pointed out to me, however, that it’s impossible to duplicate another’s unschooling experience. She said, “Unschooling is successful and deeply satisfying when deeply listening and connecting to one another. That will produce radically different experiences for each.”

Interested in learning about what other grown unschoolers are doing? The blog I’m Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write has a page called Unschooling Grows Up: A Collection of Interviews by grown unschoolers.

quote_Holt_made_to_learn

Final thoughts

Unschooling is based on TRUST. I can’t emphasize that enough.

You don’t have to feel secure in unschooling. You just need to “feel secure in loving your child.”

Barb’s book and website recommendations

  • Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo
  • Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently–Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage by Kyle Pruett, MD and Marsha Pruett, MD
  • Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill
  • Enjoy Parenting by Scott Noelle

More thoughts from Barb can be found here:

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Computer Programming for Kids

I recently heard from a homeschooling friend about this site called Code, which encourages people of all ages to learn computer science by completing an “Hour of Code.”

Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms.

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After a busy day of art and parkour classes, jumping on the trampoline, Minecraft, playing and more, my husband Jody and the kids sprawled out in the middle of the living room this evening and started working on it.

Ava was reluctant to start at first, but once she started, she loved it. She’s already completed 352 lines of code! After seeing some of her coding in action Ava declared it, “Epic!” She said her favorite part was the drawing.

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Julian did about 50 lines of code as well, but wasn’t as interested in it at this point as Ava and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of unschooling. He might want to do it now or later or never at all. He can decide.

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I think it’s awesome that this free program exists and gives kids as young as six and adults the opportunity to learn how to code. Both of my children are interested in creating mods on Minecraft (their favorite game) and this gives them an idea of what it might be like to do that someday.

If you or your kiddos want to get started learning how to code, check out Learn an Hour of Code: Tutorials for Beginners. I’m excited to get started on it myself as well!

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A Day In The Life: The Taste Test Challenge

Hey friends! I decided to start a new series on my blog to give you an idea of some of the things the kids and I do in our unschooling/life learning journey. It’s called “A Day In The Life” and this will be the first installment.

Yesterday Ava was watching YouTube (one of our favorite resources) videos from a group of girls who do different “challenges.” One of them was a “taste test” challenge, where one girl is blindfolded and the other gives her a variety of foods to eat and hopefully figure out what they are by taste alone.

photo1 (1)

Ava asked me to set up some foods for her to try, so I arranged several different things on a plate — a banana slice, carrot, piece of a hot dog, a pinto bean, pickle, a Cheerio, ketchup, a frozen blueberry, seaweed, a pistachio, barbecue sauce, mini chocolate chips, and some nutritional yeast.

Then I blindfolded her and then challenge began! I fed her them one by one and she figured out all 13 without a problem, although she made some faces for some of them and asked for a bowl to spit out the ketchup and barbecue sauce. Hehe.

Julian was next and he missed just two of them, but Ava had fun feeding them to him. Unlike Ava, Julian ate them all happily.

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I’ll need to think of some interesting/challenging foods to add to the mix for the next time, because I’m fairly certain the kids would happily play that game again. And again. And again.

Some other things the kids did that day include: playing Minecraft (which is pretty much a daily activity in this house) while talking with friends over Skype, playing with our week-old chicks (Peep! Peep!), rediscovering their old magnetic chore charts and set them back up with daily chores they want to complete, examining things with their new magnifying glasses, playing with make-up, smashing rocks in the yard, practicing parkour, and playing with Littlest Pet Shops. Although we never left the house other than to go into the backyard, it was a very full day.
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More Day In The Life posts sharing our activities and adventures will come in the weeks ahead.

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In his own time

One of the many things I enjoy about unschooling is that my kids get to work on a skill when they are ready, not at an arbitrary time when someone says they should.

Up until last summer, my son (who was six at the time) had shown no interest in drawing. This was in stark contrast to my daughter who has loved to draw since she was very young. I wasn’t really concerned about it, but one day when I was at the store I decided to pick up a few pads of drawing paper, crayons and markers to bring home and strew*, if you will.

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After arriving home with the supplies, I announced to the kids what I had bought and set the supplies out on the table. I honestly thought my daughter would dive right in, while my son Julian would shrug and go off to play Legos or Minecraft.

However, Julian came right up to the table, opened up the fresh new pad of paper and markers and immediately started drawing. And drawing. And drawing. He literally sat at the table for a good hour or two, filling each page with a new creation. And getting progressively better at his drawing.

He ended up filling the entire drawing pad with pictures that day, even turning much of it into a story which, when asked about it, he narrated aloud. He later said to me, “When I started this book, I wasn’t very good at drawing, but I got better and better.” And it’s true. He improved a lot that day. The beauty of it was that it was all at his own pace and in his own time. He was never asked to draw against his will before he was ready, therefore was never turned off to drawing.

I loved that he could see his improvement and that he took pride in his work.

Unschooling isn’t always easy — it involves so much trust — but it’s moments like this that reaffirm my decision to do it. I believe my kids will learn what they need to learn in their own time. It’s my job to trust them and help them along the way.

“All I am saying … can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt

*Strew: to place objects in the path of kids without any expectation, coercion, or force of use.

More about Strewing from other bloggers:

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