LIVING JOYFULLY NEWSLETTER
Issue #5 | Dec 22, 2012
DECEMBER’S THEME: Unschooling and Extended Family
We’re coming up on the end of December and 2012. It feels cliché to say that the year sped by—more rightly I was busily and happily occupied as it passed at the same rate it always does. And busy is fun when you are choosing it. 🙂
Take a moment to touch base with yourself to check that you haven’t turned on the autopilot. Are you enjoying time with your family? That doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down a bustling family life, though that can be a nice part of the season. The key is, are you feeling connected and engaged? If not, take some time to make that a priority.
ON THE BLOG … this month
This month I talked about ways we can approach visits and relationships with extended family. My thoughts are based on my understanding of people and learning, which over the years has been largely informed by my understanding of unschooling.
Many of us are the lone unschooling family when our families of origin gather for holiday celebrations, birthdays, reunions etc. Because we are doing things differently, we are interesting—or at least a curiosity—so chances are relatives will ask questions. In this post I share some tips about answering those questions. I also talk about ways to set up visits to be enjoyable for everyone.
Where extended family is concerned, I think of my job as supporting my kids as they develop their own relationships with their relatives. Alongside that, I remember that this is my relatives’ journey too. They are discovering the kind of grandparent or aunt or uncle they want to be. I can help, not by trying to mold them into my vision of that relationship, but by helping them experience and explore their vision. What are some ways we can facilitate that?
I thought it might be helpful to dig a bit more into ways you can deal with relatives who are more insistent about their negative viewpoint of your lifestyle. In this post I share some ideas of things you might do to keep conversations about the ideas, not the people, and to connect over the many other topics outside education and parenting. And over time, without the pressure to come to agreement, even your negative relatives will see your children blossom with unschooling; they will see the beautiful relationships you have with your children in action. Show them what it’s about, don’t tell them.
LET’S TALK ABOUT … Traditions
One thing I do every year is quick re-evaluation of our traditions. How did they go last year? Are they still enjoyable? Can I think of any ways to add to them? What else might we enjoy doing? It reminds me that these are things I choose to do, so even if they take some work, I don’t feel like I’m a slave to an obligation but that I’m truly celebrating.
One tradition that I started the year the kids left school (2002) was a Christmas newsletter. Ours is called The Laricchia Chronicle. (If memory serves, I think “chronicle” was swirling around in our family lexicon at the time through Legend of Zelda video games, but don’t quote me!) The idea for the newsletter came about because I could see all the fun stuff and learning we were doing, but nobody in our extended families, or friends for that matter, had ever heard of homeschooling, let alone unschooling. It was a way to share some information about what we were up to, not only in anticipation of questions (and in answer to those we had already been asked), but also with those weren’t comfortable asking questions in the first place.
Here’s what I wrote as an intro to our very first edition:
“Well this year was quite an eventful year for our family! In March we made our biggest decision: to homeschool the kids. And we’re having a great time! Our philosophy is that learning does not happen only in a school building, at a desk, dispensed by a teacher. Learning happens anytime a person is engaged in thought or activity (that is to say, not sleeping!) and tons of learning happens by living life every day.”
From there I wrote, and now with the eleventh edition under my belt, continue to write, about some of the fun stuff that happens as we live life every day. Note that we decide what is fun—that is where the best learning is anyway! I haven’t used the newsletter as a place to point out what I thought might be impressive or convincing to the readers. I figured that would seem schooly, which is nowhere near our point and may well incite more questions than it answered. I write about the little details, snapshots of our lives, rather than an overview. That would read more like an itinerary and really wouldn’t show anyone much about our everyday living and learning.
Pulling out my trusty binder, here is some of the things I wrote about that first year (the kids were 10, 8, and 5):
- our Florida trip and the cool jellyfish we found on the beach and the fun we had at the art gallery (a 365 project of tea bag stains!);
- Joseph’s week at computer camp and his resulting Frogger game;
- hosting our summer visitors;
- the frog habitat the kids built at my Dad’s cottage (and the video we took of one of the frogs catching and eating a spider);
- the businesses in their ongoing Lego town;
- camping and hiking at my Mom’s with their cousins along with our first Harry Potter day;
- visiting museums and the aquarium in Chicago while tagging along on a business trip;
- and our love for our local Science Centre (empty in September!), along with visits to the zoo, the museum, and the nearby pioneer village which has very fond memories for us.
Plus we each have our own little section where we list our favourite movies, tv shows, books, activities, hobbies etc for the year. And pictures, of course. 🙂
Even though two of my three kids are no longer officially homeschooling (compulsory school age ends at 18 here), I still look forward to writing it each year!
LIVING JOYFULLY … with unschooling
There is just something about the dawning of a new year that often inspires us to take a fresh look at our lives and our goals. I love goals, but I’m not much of a fan of New Year’s resolutions. For me, they quickly morph into obligations. And things phrased as obligations short circuit the act of choice which is so important to me. Tell me I “have to” do something and you’ve just dumped a big bucket of yuck on me that I now need to mentally sort through before I can get to my real motivations: why I would want to do it. It’s similar to how expectations can weigh on our kids and interfere with their learning: they are outside influences that they then need to sort through to discover their own motivations.
When I want to do something I am excited and energetic, even if it is challenging and time-consuming. When I have to do something (even if it’s only me telling myself), it seems to drain all the energy out of me and I fight it until the last possible moment.
I’ve found goals are things I want to do, so I choose to do things to meet them. Yet often if I take it a step further, looking at my goals and deciding what I have to do to reach them and making resolutions based on those, I soon lose all enthusiasm. With goals, the actions I might take each day to meet them are more pliable—I have choices. I have little enthusiasm for a day filled with obligatory things to do. But for a list of goals I want to achieve? Even the mundane brings joy because the goal, the real reason for doing it, sits right in front of me.
Goals, plans, resolutions—you may or may not feel similarly. The important thing is that you understand yourself. There is no right or wrong way; there is the way that works best for you, and the understanding that that may change with time. And remember, it may be different again for your spouse and your kids. If you love resolutions but your kids balk at them, that’s okay. You can support them as they figure out how they like to anticipate life. And no matter how it turns out, you will each have learned some more about yourselves. 🙂
I will be taking the next couple weeks off to enjoy the holidays with my family. I wish you and your family a lovely holiday season!