Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unschooling Tools: Television

A cozy nest 

A little over a year ago we didn't watch television or movies except for the occasional family movie night maybe once a month. Lyle would bring the tv up from the basement and we'd hook it up for the night, and afterward it would go back in the basement. At the time Josh was in preschool at the local Waldorf school, and we'd never been much for tv in the first place so it seemed like a good idea at the time. And honestly, we were quite happy that way at the time.

We had planned on unschooling from an academic perspective from the time Josh was very young. Preschool was not part of our plans (just a temporary detour, never meant to be more than that) and we had no intention of him continuing at the Waldorf school or any other school (this is all a long story for another time), but for us at the time unschooling was about education and not about parenting or the way we lived together as a family. Now that seems nonsensical, but that was where we were at one year ago. Then last April we went to a radical unschooling conference and started shifting toward this different way of living and partnering with our children. With that came the relaxations of limits we had placed on many things, including food, computers, video games, and television/movies.

So here we are a year later and the kids watch as much tv (or videos) as they like. We don't actually have a television subscription right now, but we have found we can pretty much find any show we want online somewhere or through our library. We rent newer movies through Redbox. Most of the time our kids prefer to watch the same things over and over so DVDs and youtube seem to be the primary way we view television these days.

 Chillin' in a hotel room 

For us it looks like this:
  • Winnie the Pooh -- The new one that came out in 2011 was the first movie Lucy ever saw in the theater and it cracked her up.
  • Lego movies like Ninjago and Clutch Powers
  • The Muppets (old and new movies)
  • Spirit (a dreamworks animated movie about a wild mustang)
  • Curious George (the movie and episodes online)
  • Wild Kratts
  • My Little Pony -- This is a huge huge HUGE favorite around here. We have watched every episode from their two Friendship is Magic seasons multiple times. At first I was kinda eh about it, but honestly after watching a few episodes Lyle and I found that we really enjoyed it as well. Seriously!
  • Ruby Gloom -- If you haven't seen this, try it! It is a cartoon from a few years ago and it is entertaining for us adults as well as the kids. I love the intro song and the kids love doing the different character dances along with it. 
  • Looney Tunes and other old cartoon clips -- Recently we've started watching a few old cartoon clips like Animaniacs, Chip and Dale, and Looney tunes on youtube and the kids love them.
  • The "Buddies" movies (Treasure Buddies, Space Buddies, etc.) -- What can I say, these movie people know what they are doing. My kids love talking puppies. Lyle and I laugh at these movies because honestly, they are pretty ridiculous. But the kids love them and it is fun to see them smile and laugh and get so excited over them. 
  • Up -- We all love this movie. It makes me cry. Love it.
  • Tangled -- This is another big favorite of both of the kids. We have watched this more times than you would think possible, and I really don't mind it at all.
There are lots of other movies and videos they have seen, but these seems to be the long-standing favorites along with some of their newer favorites that we've watched recently. Right now we have the Disney animated Robin Hood and Cheaper by the Dozen (the new one) checked out from the library, but we haven't watched either one. That seems to happen a lot. We'll check out a stack of movies from the library and only wind up watching one or two of them before we have to take them back.

I have to laugh a little looking at the two photos above, both of which I took specifically to have a photo to go along with this post. My kids rarely look like this while watching movies. For us, television doesn't seem to be a very sedentary experience. For the first photo, I actually asked them to sit still for a minute so I could snap the photo. I kept trying to get a photo but at least one of them was always a blur, which is a familiar sight around here. Most of the time they are jumping up and down and running around the room, playing with others things as they watch, jumping from the couch to the beanbag or spinning around on the floor. Honestly, I think reading tends to be a far more sedentary activity around here (though even then, Josh tends to hop around as I read to him).  We often snuggle up on the couch together to watch, and more often than not Lyle and I find ourselves having trouble hearing or paying attention to the movie because there is too much other activity and noise in the room (they don't seem to stay snuggled up for long!). Anyway, that is just a little observation from our personal experience. I know a lot of people talk about tv like it turns kids into zombies who can't drag their eyes away from the screen, and that just hasn't been our experience since we stopped placing limits on television.

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Check out Stephanie's post on Unschooling Tools: Television.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unschooling Tools: Math

Math is everywhere, and it is so much more than problems and equations and fractions. It is every day real life stuff, and not just when it comes baking and money. Sure we have conversations about fractions over poached eggs (gotta make sure everyone gets enough eggs!). And we sort and count money (gotta buy legos!). And we measure ingredients and check to see how tall we are or how much we weigh and we count to make sure that all the children are accounted for (just kidding, not too hard to keep track of the two of them...most of the time!). And. And. And.

Math is everywhere, every day stuff. Most of the time we don't even have to think about it in order to "do" it.

patterns and things

There is math in patterns and shapes and designs.

 at play 

There is math in blocks and measuring and in scribbling (don't believe me? check out this video by Vi Hart).

 legos 

There is math in diagrams and instructions and lego bumps.

 legos 

There is sorting and spatial awareness and lots of counting when we play with legos (ahem, math again).

 hanging out with the chickens 

There is math in chickens too! Are they all in the coop? "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, twelve, fourteen, three, four, nineteen." For the record, we have six chickens but maybe Lucy wants a few more. There is math in counting their eggs (and in dropping them on occasion, subtraction happens!).

 Everything is OUT of the bucket 

There is math in music. And I just had to post a picture of Joshua as a baby, so there ya go.

 Abstract Art 

There is math in patterns and colors and sorting and matching and there is math in playing. 

 helping daddy 

There is math in turning wrenches. There is lots of math in the garage. I know because I am always tripping over it (just poking at Lyle a bit!).

 marble run fun 

There is math in marble runs, in their angles and speeds and in marble races.


nature exchange 


There is math in nature. It is in the sorting and collecting of it, in the shape of it, in the spirals and ridges and the texture of  it all.

stashbusting dishcloth cotton

There is a LOT of math in knitting, and I'm not just talking about counting stitches either. Patterns and charts and making everything line up and fit together and produce something wearable and usable. Taking a single strand of string and somehow making a series of loops and knots in order to create a flat piece of fabric. Or taking that flat fabric and somehow twisting and turning things about, combining stitches or adding stitches or picking up stitches in order to make that flat piece of fabric become a shape that wraps around a body or foot or head.  It is order. It is chaos. It is math, always math. This is a kind of math I actually know something about, and I know it best in my hands, without even thinking about it most of the time. But my hands remember it, and they use it whenever they get the chance.

 spin #2

There is math in spinning too. It is in the treadles and the wheel and the drive band and the whorl and the flyer and the bobbin and the break band. It is in the drafting and the plying and in the whirring of the wheel.

And when I start to think of math this way, it isn't a problem or an equation anymore. It is a meditation. It is connectedness. It is everything, in everything. Math.

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Check out Stephanie's Post on  Unschooling Tools: Math Play.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Unschooling Tools: Games

I am super late to this party, but Stephanie of Ordinary Life Magic started a series on "Unschooling Tools" back in February. I loved reading her posts and all the links from her readers (often scouring posts multiple times and making note of things that I thought might be interesting to Joshua and Lucy). So here I am, finally getting around to sharing a bit about some of the every day "tools" we have around the house to make life interesting and fun. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or discussion in any way, just a glimpse of some of the things our family enjoys. I highly recommend checking out Stephanie's post on Games, and following the links at the end of the post as well.

We are big game fans around here--board games, card games, video games (though that is a huge category of its own). Most of the time Lucy prefers flipping over the board and scattering pieces under the couch, which is probably our biggest challenge when it comes to playing games. Joshua would love to sit down and play board or card games throughout the day, but it can be hard to find ways to make sure everyone is happy and occupied.  It helps if Lucy has her own dice to roll at will. It is also easier if she is napping (hey, just being honest here!).

Since our kids are six and two, most of these games are geared toward the younger set. I think we have a few board games like Monopoly and Life down in the basement, from our pre-kids days. I'm sure they will eventually migrate upstairs and find their place among the other board games once our kids are a little older.


games games games


Count Your Chickens - This is a cute cooperative game where you help round up all the chicks before mama gets back to the coop. Since it is cooperative, there is only one game piece and everyone works together, so it makes it a little easier to play this with very little ones.

Camp - Josh loves this game. It is neat because the questions have different difficulty levels and there are a lot of fun facts about animals and other outdoorsy themed topics.

The Ladybug Game - This is another simple game that is great for younger kids.

Fancy Nancy Hide & Peek Game - The major appeal of this game is that it is set up like a little dollhouse, so it can be fun to play with in other ways as well.

Trouble - What kid doesn't love popping the trouble bubble!

Great States Jr. - I'll be honest, I don't like this game. I find it soooo boring. Josh started playing it with the kids next door, and since they have outgrown the game they gave it to him. We haven't played it in months and months, though Lucy likes pulling it out to play with the timer. Josh did learn a lot about different states, and he enjoys it so I don't mind playing it with him...but I also don't mind having LOTS of other games to choose from so we don't wind up playing that one over and over.
(underneath that is a big USA floor puzzle)

Blokus (to go) - I got the travel version because I thought a two-player version would be easier for us to start out with. I really love this game. Sometimes Lyle and I play when the kids are both asleep. Josh is also really good at this game and often beats me even though I am honestly trying to win!

Magikus and Le Monstre Magma - These are Lego board games, more on them below, but in general I do recommend the Lego board games.

There is also a clock game, a memory card game (Life on Earth, very cute illustrations), Cadoo, Apple Letters, and a few other games tossed in there. The box on the right is Shut The Box, which is a fun dice/adding game and the rolled up paper above it is a game we made up involving legos (based on this idea).

Some of Lucy's favorite games are in there too, though they are hard to see in the photo. We have Connect 4, mancala, and a set of Dominoes. She's two, so most of the time these games are more manipulatives for her to play with than anything else. Lyle and I used to play the Mexican Train version of Dominoes but I'm not sure that we have a complete set anymore! I do tend to find dominoes all over the house (just like the legos!).  She loves playing mancala though. Our game mostly consists of randomly moving little stones around the board and saying, "Your turn," and, "my turn now!" I have to say, it is actually a lot of fun to play this way with her, and so cute to hear her talking about turns and counting randomly as she drops stones on the board.

games games games

Joshua loves the Lego board games. Most of the smaller games (in the white boxes) are very simple, which is good thing for us at this point in time. They also have interesting pieces so if the game itself loses its luster in time, they will find a home in the larger lego box for building. I have even found some of their games at Marshalls, and at the end of the year some of them went on clearance so I found some of  them as low as $3-4. Heroica is one of Joshua's favorites and it is definitely a more involved game. I think he loves setting it up even more than he loves playing it (though he loves playing it too). Again, it has really interesting pieces and I definitely recommend the Lego board games in general to anyone who loves Legos.

the ladybug game

I heard about The Ladybug Game when Shel first posted about the Unschooling Tools series, and the next time I walked into our local consignment store, there it was!

 working on her puzzle

I figured I might as well include jigsaw puzzles in with board games. We have quite a few smaller puzzles around. I seem to find them in dollar bins a lot and Lucy especially seems to like them. I have great memories of doing really complicated jigsaw puzzles with my mom so I am looking forward to a day when we can have a huge puzzle laid out on the kitchen table for days at a time. For now we'll stick to the 24 piecers though!

We also love card games. Josh likes Go Fish and I recently taught him War (which he renamed Card Battle, an improvement in my opinion). Lyle and I love Cribbage and Euchre (ahem, anyone local to us know how to play? It has been years since we had anyone to play Euchre with). I played a ton of card games when I was 12+ (summer camp!), so hopefully I'll be able to remember some of them when Josh and Lucy are a little older.