Those “Crazy” Unschoolers

I realize I am probably one of maybe 100,000+ people who are going to blog about this today, but what can I say?…OCCASIONALLY I fit in with the crowd. 

If you even vaguely keep your ear to the grindstone of the homeschooling world, you probably heard about the Good Morning America story this morning on unschoolers.  I actually watched it in real time because a friend called to let me know it was coming on.  So I got ready to watch.  I even called in Uber to watch with me.

And we sat there excitedly waiting – – in awe that they were doing a feature piece on unschooling on morning television! Then, our awe slowly turned to confusion, and then basically to disgust as we realized that not only were they profiling the two most radically “unschooled” families in the universe, but that they were actually generalizing that all unschoolers looked like that.  Even worse, the commentators decided to drop out honey-soaked judgmental condescensions every chance they got.  (“well-meaning”, “crazy” (thanks George!), “playing hooky”)

What bugged me the most was that the piece really had very little to do with unschooling at all.  I’m guessing GMA edited out all the parts where the parents outlined the benefits of this form of education, the parts where they quoted liberally from Holt, and the parts where they show the children actually able to put two sentences together that make some semblance of intelligent sense.  At least I HOPE they edited out those parts.

Instead, they decided to focus on the ridiculousness of parents who don’t really make their children do chores, or have house rules, or even attend to personal hygiene.  If that’s the case, then I don’t know what the big deal is.  It’s basically just natural selection at that point, right?  The universe is bound to weed out those whose teeth fall out before they are 12 anyway, and leave behind the strong, publicly educated children who eat the healthy foods from the school cafeteria and ALWAYS follow the rules.  It will all work out in the end.

GMA is doing a follow-up on this story tomorrow where all the crazed teachers whose egos this story threatens can call in and ask questions of these model parents.  I’m going to sleep well tonight knowing that these two will be speaking for me and all my unschooling friends as they field questions about the legal and societal implications of their decisions. 

You know those teachers who have been out of work since the economic downturn?  The ones who have been struggling to find some meaning in their life since their time in the classroom?  The ones who have time to sit around and watch GMA in the mornings while they scan the want-ads. Whatcha wanna bet they may have just found a cause they can all rally around and start campaigning against in their spare time??

Maybe I Can Practice While I Vacuum

Believe me, I understand how vomitous it is to read yet another blog post by someone saying how busy they are.

But I am seriously, no-holds-barred, barely-can-find-time-to-take-a-shower, ready-to-run-screaming-down-the-street kind of busy right now. 

So please forgive me for my bloggy neglect. 

j0283975 And to ADD to the busyness I am seriously thinking of taking up the harmonica.  I have no idea why.  I just want to.  My dad played a little, and maybe I’m just having missing-my-daddy issues.  But the harmonica looks like so much dang fun to play. 

On the downside, I’ve never really been able to get proficient in playing any other instrument.  Five years of piano lessons gave me the ability to plunk through a few elementary-age songs fairly well.  That is the height of my expertise.

To make it even worse, I have several family members who can pick up any musical instrument and make it bend to their will immediately. 

Stupid gene selection!! 

We have a neighbor who sits out on her back deck every night and plays the Native American flute.  Won’t it be cool when I just chime in with my harmonica out of the blue one evening???!!!  It’s almost worth it to learn just for that moment alone.

But the most positive side effect of all?  My boys will see that you are NEVER too old to let your interests lead you toward learning.  Golly, I love unschooling!!

Beyond the Ditto…Why We Homeschool

The other day I wimped out and lazed my way through the topic of why we homeschool by basically just “ditto”-ing Pioneer Woman’s terrific post on the subject.  But today, I’m feeling a slight pinch more wordy and thought I would follow up with an actual post for those of you who just might be wondering.

I certainly didn’t start out as a slighty-tech-crazed, work-at-home, mom with a pseudo-unschooling bent.  Far from it.  That has all been a LONG and convoluted process.  In fact, as the child of two former classroom teachers I had nothing but chalkboard fantasies for my offspring.

I pictured myself attending PTA meetings (do they still HAVE those??), being a homeroom volunteer, and bringing cupcakes to all my kids friends on their birthdays (I KNOW they don’t still have that!!)  I was ready to embrace the 180 day routine – – lock, stock and barrel.  UNTIL…

The spring before Uber started kindergarten he began having tics – – just mild ones like sniffing too much and scrunching his shoulders up, and chewing on his shirt collar.  And then the day after his five year vaccinations (don’t get me started!!!!) the tics became suddenly violent, and were joined by dystonia and choreiform movements.  Suddenly our little guy was unable to eat by himself, walk in a straight line, or even talk intelligibly. 

Our pediatrician sent us to the state childrens hospital where Uber was diagnosed with “Sydenham’s Chorea,” an autoimmune disorder.  He was in the hospital for about five days, and then in occupational, speech, and physical therapy for a full two years after.  It left him permanently with both motor and vocal tics, and a later diagnosis of “Tourette Syndrome.” 

His kindergarten year was spent mostly in therapists office, so homeschooling was sort of a “given.”  But as I worked one on one with him – – despite all the incredible physical challenges he was having to overcome daily – – the kid was eating up knowledge as fast as I could dish it out. (like I said, this was long before my understanding of “interest-led learning, when I thought you still had to spoon-feed education to children).  By the end of what would have been his kindergarten year, he was reading on a fourth grade level, was doing second grade math, and writing full paragraphs. 

The next year, I was quite hesitant about sending my ticcing little brainiac back to a regular classroom.  I had to think long and hard about what we would do for first grade. You would think that I would have been completely convinced about homeschooling and its benefits by this time, but socialized education was in the very fiber of my upbringing and it was going to take some more convincing before I was ready to completely chuck my yellow bus fantasies…


Where the Wired Things Are

So I thought I would give you an update on our unschooling adventure and how that’s going.  As you can guess, even our unschooling tends toward the techie. 

Uber is busily learning Java and studying artificial intelligence.  He’s also considering joining a local group that meets regularly to discuss how Linux can take over the world. 

H-T is writing a book.  I KNOW!! I WAS SO EXCITED TOO!! Until I realized the book is based on the life of a video game character.  But hey, he’s WRITING A BOOK.  Beggars will NOT be choosers in this house.  And anyway, the book is actually pretty darn good so far.  I’m actually invested enough to care about this video game persona! 

Other, slightly non-techie pursuits include their music lessons Canterbury Tales, Woodcut 1484(Uber’s taking piano and H-T’s taking guitar), we’re reading through the Canterbury Tales (thanks to Holly!) and studying a bit of Medieval History, and they are also getting ready to take part in Drama Club, where the spring play happens to be Robin Hood – – how serendipitous!  They also are both doing well with their math studies, which Uber takes on, and H-T uses Time4Learning

Overall, this has been an amazingly successful experiment, so far.  I don’t think I could have done it when the boys were in their elementary years…but interest-led learning is SO VERY PERFECT for the middle and high school years!!

Awww…They’re Human Again

Parthenon from west

Image via Wikipedia

So yesterday, I gave into the whine that had been building up, and gave it free rein.

But today, I have been privileged to sit on the sidelines and watch and listen as my two wonderful young men have made their plans for learning today.  Thanks to the suggestion of Stone-Age Techie, we have begun to read aloud the first in the Percy Jackson series to supplement Uber’s current interest in Ancient Greek culture.

This read-aloud has led to a natural interest on H-T’s part in Ancient Greece as well – – especially the different gods and their attributes. So, the boys have added a documentary on Ancient Greece to the Instant Watch queue on Netflix.  Then, together (yes I said TOGETHER), they have decided to watch that documentary over the network, on our new BluRay player.

Then, as I have sat hear quietly eavesdropping from the bedroom, my two free-form scholars have begun watching and making the most awesome comments back and forth about things like airborne illnesses, Sparta, and the Coliseum.  It is a beautiful thing to listen to!

So I think at least PART of the prescription for the illness that is teenage-dom must be taking charge of one’s own education.  Perhaps it meets some of the cravings for independence that are so common at that age.  Whatever the reason, I’m feeling pretty doggone happy about this educational experiment.

For today, I have my young men back.  And I have unschooling to thank.


p.s. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to head back to Monday’s Topsy-Techie birthday giveaway to enter for a chance to win the Martha Stewart cake decorating kit!


So… It Looks Like I Owe Someone Some Money Now

That’s right.  Someone has actually nominated Topsy-Techie in this year’s Homeschool Blog Awards for the category of “Best Unschooling Blog”.  I even get a button!!


Of course I never know about these things until its almost too late, but thanks to one of my gal-pals who IM’d me tonight, I found out in time to be able to grovel and beg and humiliate myself enough to actually ask you to vote for me

That’s right…a contest I didn’t even know I was in until 15 minutes ago, now has my competitive “ire” up.  I blame it on Firefly Mom.  She created this monster by taunting me with her fieldtrip bragging.  Now I’m like a bull who has seen the red cape.  I’m out for blood, baby.

So I’m not sure who to thank for this lovely honor, but I figure I owe you big time.  So whatever the prize is for winning this thing…if I get it, you’re entitled to half.

What’s that you say?  There is no prize??

Oh, in that case, you can have the whole thing.

Are You a Buccaneer Scholar?

I see those hands.

We are pretty proud of our doesn’t-fit-in-the-box kind of learning, aren’t we?  Knowing that no matter how much someone tells us “how” to do it, we are probably always going to forge our own path and create our own techniques.  (cue self-satisfied smiles)

I LOVE being a buccaneer…well, except for the fact that I don’t look good in an eye patch.

Other than that, though, I’m so excited to be going on this brand new unschooling adventure this year.  I get almost giddy watching my oldest son make incredible leaps and bounds in his programming skills, and seeing my youngest son take risks and try out chemistry experiments completely on his own! 

It’s thrilling, I tell you!

You know who would probably agree with me?  James Bach.  If you don’t know who James is, it’s time to get with the program, because James actually COINED the phrase “Buccaneer Scholar,” and has even written a great new book called Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar, which describes how he found success in a highly technical field without the benefit or burden of a conventional education.

If you haven’t read this book, you need to, and you might not even have to buy it because I am giving away a copy over at this month!!  (As well as other great giveaways).  So stop by and enter, or head to Amazon via my link if you need to get your hands on it immediately.

And then keep right on buccaneering out there in homeschool land, OK??

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Readin’, Writin’ and….Meditation??

As always, in a perfect ironic twist, I blog far less when I am teaching the Blog Writing Course.  Time is simply at a premium, I guess – – especially with 18 new bloggers to keep track of!

But the course is going well…even Uber is taking it this go-round! He is having SO much fun with this unschooling experiment.  In fact, I can’t believe the incentive he has taken toward his own education once I handed over the reigns.  I’ve been flabbergasted, to be

Currently, Uber is teaching himself lots of techie stuff (no surprise  there).  He is learning LINUX, networking and network administration, and database management.  Those, obviously, take up a lot of his time, but he is also making room for Ancient Greek History, blogging, healthy living and fitness, nature journaling, piano and Japanese.  He is also taking Geometry via, which he is really enjoying, btw, if you are ever looking for a cool high school level math curriculum!

H-T needs a slight bit more encouragement, but there is no lack of miracles for him either.  My son with dyslexia is reading like never before!  In fact, he isn’t waiting for the audio-books to arrive via the mail before starting in on new stuff.  Before, he would pick out his books from the library, or buy them, and then order the booksaccompanying audio-book from his Library of the Blind and Physically Handicapped membership.  This way, he had auditory support for following along with words and phrases that might be too difficult for him to tackle. 

No more.  His reading doesn’t wait for anything, these days.  He just grabs three or four books that pique his interest at the library, and next thing I know, he has worked through them.  It’s kind of freaking me out a bit, actually!

He still has his YouTube addiction, but he has been putting it toward worthy endeavors of late.  He has worked his way through an entire series on WWII, and is now studying the holocaust with equal interest.  His other current interests include drawing, meditation (he’s asked to turn his room into a zen room…if you have ideas or info on this, I’m all ears!), guitar, and American history.  And his biggest project of late was that he asked to be in charge of the Halloween decorating of the porch this year.  You can bet I’ll be posting pics of that when he is finished!  He’s still doing math via Time4Learning, as well.

Anyway, that’s my interest-led learning update for this week.  So far so good! 

Hopefully, I’ll find more time to update again in the very near future…

FreeForm Scholar

That’s the name Uber has given himself.  We came to the conclusion that we really dislike the term “unschooling”, and interest-led learning is kind of long and drawn out.  So Uber came up with “FreeForm Scholar,” which I personally adore.

The coolest part?  To commemorate, he has also begun a new blog by the same name where he will be relaying his freeform experiences with learning!!  You can check it out here. (And I’ve added it to my blogroll, as well.)  He has already added several posts, and he is going to be taking my Blogging 101 course as well, starting Monday!

I think it is beautiful that he isn’t afraid to call himself a “scholar.” 

One who learns.

Isn’t that awesome?  This is a kid, by the way, who is ALWAYS learning.  ALWAYS thinking.  ALWAYS processing. 

He is always teaching his mom a thing or two, as well.  So stop by his blog if you get a chance and encourage him onward and upward. 


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Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – Healthy Living

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic One of the subjects Uber is studying voraciously these days is healthy living.  You may remember how last Thanksgiving turned him into a vegetarian, cold-turkey.  (LOL – – I actually crack myself up sometimes!)  Well, apparently being an herbivore also makes you reevaluate all kinds of other areas of your life, too. Uber now takes morning jogs, lifts weights, and has cut way back on processed foods.

It’s enough to make a meat-eating, exercise-phobic, Twinkie-loving mom feel some serious guilt. So I’m hoping that this post will assuage it, so I don’t actually have to make any real changes to my lifestyle. 

Anyway, here are some terrific techie tools for learning about healthy living (in case your kids are weird like Uber and actually want to do something about it).

Learn To Be Healthy – Uber is working his way through the Teen section of this site.  It has an incredible selection of lessons, resources, and explorations for both kids and teens.

What kid doesn’t like Arthur?? This PBS favorite shares a whole unit of lessons on health education for kids at PBS Kids Arthur: Hooray for Health.

BAM! Body and Mind is a destination for 9 to 13 year olds designed to help them make the make healthy choices about things like food, physical activity, and peer pressure.

I love that there is a site specifically aimed at helping girls stay happy and healthy.  Check out

Get Body Smart is a site for more advanced students who want to delve a little deeper into anatomy and physiology.

Health isn’t all about the body.  The mind is equally important.  CopeCareDeal is a mental health site for teens.

Get Fit, Get Right includes documentary-style webisodes of real kids and teens and their struggles to live more healthy lifestyles.

Learning Games for Kids has a whole section of health-related games and activities.

Feeling healthier yet?  I know I am…I figure I burned just enough calories typing all that to earn myself a piece of pound cake!

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