Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thinking of coming back to unschooling

We ended up going back to more structured homeschooling as I was feeling under pressure from my parents and dh was starting to get a bit rocky and so I felt that we had to return to a structured homeschool.

I am realising that this was a mistake. I feel like I am under far more pressure now doing structured homeschooling than I ever was unschooling.

We will be moving back to England soon where I think it will be really much easier to unschool as we will have access to more resources such as library, zoos, parks etc. I plan on starting now though as we can get back to deschooling in the meantime.

My children have shown me that they do not need me to teach them. I am fortunate that my returning to structure has not quashed their love of learning. They are inquisitive about the world around them I need to quit being the teacher and facilitate their learning when required.

Wish me luck as we jump back on this merry go round.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Deschooling Myself

I think that the last few weeks I have really made some great progress in deschooling myself. I know that for unschooling to work for us I have to deschool myself as much as possible. The last 3 or 4 weeks have been great in helping me do that and see that the kids can learn so much from just living together.

I think what has helped is that we were on holiday in England for 2 weeks so that helped me to stop thinking that they should be doing something and worrying whether they were learning anything. We just had fun together as a family going to the local park and feeding the ducks and playing funny games together. Then when we got back we were all pretty tired after having our flight diverted to Istanbul so we didn't get much sleep.

My brother in law came back with us and stayed for a week and so we went for days in here in Cyprus taking him places. I was really proud of Ellie as the last time he came to stay she wouldn't talk to him or in front of him. This time there was no shutting her up. She was a little miss chatterbox and I was so proud of her as her selective mutism makes it so difficult for her to speak to people she doesn't really know and she's only met him twice before. I think that unschooling has really helped her with this. She is doing great.

Then this week I've had flu and been pretty much horizontal for much of this week. So I've just spent time watching the kids and observing them playing together and it was so nice. This is how it needs to be all the time. They are learning so much just from some of the little imaginative games they play. I want to treasure them playing together like this for as long as possible as Josh is 9 soon and he might not want to join in games with his sister for much longer.

They have also been helping Vic do the garden. When we got back from England we couldn't believe how much the weeds had grown since we had been away and we both hate gardening. Vic has made a start on clearing it and the kids wanted to help. Josh especially is really good at pulling the weeds up and he says he loves it. Ellie likes looking at the worms that they are unearthing and millipede's and she likes collecting different stones and tapping them to make 'music'.

I feel like these last few weeks we have really come a long way and that I don't need to worry if my kids are learning anything as they are learning all the time and I love watching them discover things for themselves.

I think I have at last let go of the schoolish 'should's and aught's' and am just enjoying watching them grow up happy. My role from now on is to be their facilitator, guide, librarian, whatever they need from me as and when they need it.

Me and Vic were talking last night about how great things are at the moment and how brilliant the kids are. They have grown so much closer since we began unschooling and Josh is very protective of Ellie. Ellie's tooth came out on Sunday night and so the tooth fairy left Ellie 3 euros but also left Josh 3 euros too so they'd have the same and he gave his 3 euros to Ellie as she's his 'best sister'. It was such a lovely thing to do and I was proud of him for doing that. They were so well behaved as well when we were delayed in Istanbul and lots of people came up to us and complemented us on our well behaved children but they are like that all the time now they are so good and we love them to bits and couldn't imagine life without them. I love being able to spend so much quality time with them now and I would miss out on all that if they were in school.

Latest Unschooling Voices out

Unschooling Voices 13 is out now at

Its great go and take a look!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Our nightmare flight to Cyprus via Istanbul

We were looking forward to getting home after our stay in England. Our British Airways flight departed on time from Manchester at 2.20pm and it all seemed to be a comfortable flight until an hour before we were due to land in Paphos.

You could tell from looking down the aisle that we had suddenly begun to descend quite steeply. I looked at my watch and could see that if we were going to land we were an hour early which would be impossible as it is a minimum of a 4 hour flight from the UK even with extremely good tail winds.

The captain came over the tannoy system and asked for a senior member of the cabin crew to go to the cockpit urgently and I started to panic a bit then. I don’t mind flying once we are up there but I hate take off and landing and the fact that we seemed to be getting ready to land made me worry that we were going to crash. It wasn’t helped by the woman in front of me having a full blown panic attack as the stewardess announced that we had to put on our seatbelts as we would shortly be landing and we all knew that we were no where near Cyprus.

One of the stewardesses was trying to tell the lady in front that we were landing in Cyprus and that the tail winds had helped speed our journey which we knew was not true and whilst she was trying to reassure the lady in front of me it came over the tannoy that the plane was being diverted because of an ‘incapacitated pilot.’

I started to panic a bit more as they then lit the emergency exit signs up over the wing in front of us so I was convinced that we had a mechanical error but they didn’t want to cause panic. It was really hard trying to stay calm as I was sat next to the kids when I felt like panicing and crying. I told Joshua and Ellie to put their things away back in our hand baggage by our feet and tightened their seatbelts.

There was a very tense atmosphere on board and Ellie kept asking if we were going to crash and I was trying to reassure her that everything was ok when inside I felt like crying but couldn’t as I didn’t want to worry the kids.

Vic was brilliant holding my hand and letting me squeeze his hand so tight it was going white as I was really scared. He still has the nail marks I was squeezing his hand so much.

We had a bit of a bumpy landing but were so relieved to be on the ground we all applauded the Captain for landing safely. We didn’t know where we were but were told to wait on the plane for a few minutes as paramedics would be boarding the plane to see to the co-pilot. We were eventually allowed to leave the plane and were put onto buses to be taken into the airport terminal.

It wasn’t until we were in the terminal building we found out we were in Istanbul, Turkey which for going to Cyprus is the worst possible place to land as Cyprus is a divided island after Turkey invaded it and the Greek Cypriots that lived on that side of the island were forced to leave their homes and flee to the other side of the island. As a result you cannot fly from Turkey to Southern Cyprus (Greek side of the island). You can only fly to Ercan in Northern Cyprus (Turkish side) and then you have to get a bus down to Paphos which would be a 3 and a half hour drive at least.

We were left waiting just inside the doors of the terminal building for 2 hours before we were moved into the departure lounge where we were at least able to buy a drink and sit down. (22 euros for 5 cokes – ridiculous!). After a further 2 hours we were told that we would be taken to a hotel for a night but first we had to pass through passport control and to do that we would each need to pay 15 euros for a visa. Everyone made a stand as it was not our choice to be in Turkey and we didn’t want to be there and as it was an emergency that caused us to land there in the first place we should be given exemption of paying this due to our special circumstances.

After another 30 minutes of waiting to hear about the visas they waived the fee and we then had to go through passport control. I asked the man not to stamp our passports as it can cause problems getting into Cyprus if you have a Turkish stamp on your passport but he said he had to (others in a different queue didn’t have theirs stamped).

Eventually we were taken to collect our suitcases and then went out to get in the minibuses that were taking us to a hotel. Me and the kids got on the minibus expecting Vic and his brother to be able to join us once they had put the cases on. The driver started putting other people on and it was full so Josh got upset as he didn’t want to leave his dad behind. Eventually Vic and his brother managed to get in our minibus. We were taken the short ride to the hotel which I have to say was a lovely 4* hotel and maybe in different circumstances I might have been happy to be there but all we really wanted to do was go home.

After checking in we were told that food and drink would be provided in the dining room. It was now 2am and we had landed at 8pm so we were tired but not able to sleep as we still didn’t know when we would be getting home to Cyprus.

We had dinner and then got the kids settled who were absolutely brilliant throughout it all. I got an hour’s sleep but it was hard to rest as by then we had heard the news that the 43 year old co-pilot of our plane had suffered a heart attack and died and that it was his son’s fifth birthday the next day and his kids were the same age as my kids so I couldn’t stop thinking about how awful that was.

We got up the next morning and there were lots of rumours going round about what was going to happen to us. We were told lots of different things including the possibility that we would have to return to the UK or that we would have to land in Ercan in Northern Cyprus and be bussed down to Paphos. Thankfully we were eventually told that a British Airways crew had been flown out and we would be picked up at 11am and our flight would depart at 2.15pm and go to Paphos. We were relieved that we were finally going to Paphos.
So we get to the airport and check in again. One thing that made me very uneasy though was that wherever we went around the airport it seemed as though the Turkish were either staring at Ellie or wanting to touch her arm or her head. It made me very nervous as she is blonde and I didn’t like them touching her and nor did she. I held her hand tightly all round the airport as I was so worried that someone would take her.

We went through to the departure lounge to find that our flight was delayed again. As we were going up the stairs to our plane a photographer was taking pictures of us all going on the plane and saw Ellie and started focusing in on her. It made us very uncomfortable and Ellie didn’t like it so Vic stood infront of her to shield her from it. We eventually left Istanbul at 4pm. We were then told that we would have to land in Rhodes and then turn round and take off again as you cannot fly from Turkey to Cyprus. Fortunately after we had begun our descent to land at Rhodes we were told that the pilot had arranged with Greek airspace so that we now didn’t have to land there.

I have never been so relieved to land in Paphos. I know that it was a medical emergency and we had to land in Istanbul but I do think that we should have been kept better informed of what was happening. No one from British Airways came to speak to us and we were basically dumped in Turkey and the Turkish authorities didn’t want to have to deal with us as we were wanting to go to Paphos. I think that things could have been handled a lot better by BA. I am so pleased to be home now though.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Enjoying our holiday

Having a lovely break. It was my Wedding Anniversary on Valentine's Day and Vic surprised me by booking a room at our favourite hotel. I had tried to book it a few weeks ago and was told they were full but Vic managed to get a cancellation so we had a lovely night away and the kids stayed with my mum and dad.

I've done far too much shopping. I just hope I can get it all in the cases to come back with us on Sunday.

The kids are enjoying spending time with family and getting us to buy them more toys. They play so nicely together. I can't remember the last time they argued. I love just watching them play together and make up games.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Had a wobbley couple of days!

I have struggled today with the fact that the kids have watched loads of tv and played their DS’s pretty constantly since Tuesday morning. It has really tested me to remain patient and trust that they will learn what they want and when they want.

I was on a real high at the end of last week and on Monday when they seemed to be learning themselves. They were really into Henry VIII and his wives and children but since Tuesday they haven’t done anymore. I am trying really hard not to interfere and wait for them to ask questions or want me to help them. I don’t think its helped that I’ve felt lousy yesterday and today and am trying to get the house tidied so maybe that’s put them off coming to me.

I think it will be easier from Sunday for the next 3 weeks as we will be back in Blackpool for 2 weeks and then my brother in law is flying back with us and staying here for a week so I will have lots to distract me from worrying if they are learning.

I think I have a lot of deschooling to do for me. I thought I was doing ok with it but sometimes it feels like its one step forward and two steps back.

One of the things I have loved about unschooling is that whilst they have been interested in Henry VIII they have learned so much in just a couple of days. They probably learned more in those few days than what they have in the 10 months of me trying to ‘teach’ them since they’ve been out of school.

I’ve been reading John Holt’s Teach Your Own whenever I feel an attack of the ‘wobbles’ and this has helped me a lot. I’ve just read chapter 7 on serious play and I think he is absolutely right about children learning through fantasy play. My two love making up games to role play together.

“We must also resist the equally great temptation to think that this part of children’s lives is less important than the parts where they are doing something “serious” – reading or writing, or doing schoolwork, or something that we want them to do – or to think that we can only allow them time for fantasy after all the important work is done, as we might give them a little piece of candy after a meal.”

I went upstairs this afternoon and they were playing in their room a game where Joshua is Henry VIII and Ellie is Anne Boleyn and he’s telling her off for having a girl and not a boy and shouting ‘Off with her head! I need a son!’

I feel much better this afternoon after hearing them playing nicely together. They haven’t watched hardly any tv today and have played with each other instead so am feeling less on tenter hooks.

Unschooling Diary of last few days

I have kept a sort of diary from Sunday to Wednesday just to see what we have done and it’s been interesting for me to read when I have had wobbley moments today as Sunday and Monday were really good days and helped me to see that they were learning. Tuesday and Wednesday were testing but I feel like we are through that now.

Sunday 3rd February
Got kids up at 9am, quick breakfast so we could take Vic to work. The kids decided that they wanted to go to Kid’s Club at the Hotel. They stayed there for 2 hours then came back and had made friend’s with a little boy so they played with him for a bit. Then it was time to go home. Got home and did lunch then Vic decided that the car urgently needed washing so he got started with that whilst I did washing up. The kids couldn’t resist joining in with the car wash and the whole thing turned into a water fight and they all came in looking like drowned rats. They got dried and changed and played upstairs together for an hour or so. Then they went outside with the skipping ropes and skipped up and down the drive for half an hour. When they had bored of that they came inside and sat watching tv for an hour before sitting at the dining table drawing pictures.

Josh decided to get the Usbourne Beginners Romans book and began copying from it. He wrote each word in a different colour felt tip. It kept him busy for a good hour. Ellie kicked Vic off the computer and played Zoombinis Maths Journey. They both love that game.

We had dinner then watched Dancing on Ice which the kids love. Then Josh went on the computer to play Zoombinis too. When he’d had enough he played Command and Conquer Generals. Ellie played Vic at chess and won!! Then they decided to go to bed around 11pm.

Monday 4th February
I got up at 9. Kids got up at 10. Joshua went straight back to writing about the Romans and Ellie sat outside with her feet in the pool. She wanted to get in but I said that she might find it too cold yet so she sat with her toes in and decided that it was too cold to go swimming in yet. It’ll be another 2 months or so before it will be warm enough to swim.

Then they had breakfast and Joshua decided to draw a lovely picture of Henry VIII.

He is really interested in Henry VIII and it is the first thing he has been really interested in for a while. He wanted me to read to him about Henry’s wives whilst he drew. Ellie wants to do whatever Josh does as she so wants to be like him so she joins in too and his enthusiasm for learning is infecting her too. I read a section on Henry from Tony Robinson’s Kings and Queens which they both really enjoyed.

Over the weekend I had sorted out some books that we had that mentioned Henry VIII and I left them strewn over the dining table before they got up this morning to catch their eye which worked well. We read some more ‘Terrible Tudors’ which they loved then they both coloured a picture of Catherine of Aragon.

It is amazing how much they have learned about the Tudors and Henry VIII without writing a single word about it. In the past when we’ve done projects on other things I got them to write tons about it but the writing hasn’t stayed with them as much as our conversations have. It is helping me to see that I don’t need written proof that they are learning.

I remember being taught about the Tudors at school when I was about 12 and being bored stiff and staring out the window daydreaming for most of each lesson. We were dictated to and had to write down what the teacher was saying each lesson and I don’t think I actually learned anything. I couldn’t have told you anything about the Tudor Kings and Queens yet Joshua and Ellie just reel off their names including the number at the end (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I). I am gobsmacked by how much they have learnt. I am enjoying learning with them and it is great to see them so interested in something. I need to be careful though to follow their lead as I know that if I start saying things like ‘let’s look at what they ate in Tudor times’ they would most certainly lose interest altogether.

They made their own lunch of Tuna Sandwiches for Ellie and Cheese Sandwiches for Joshua.

Joshua said a really funny thing to me this afternoon, “I want to learn all this good stuff about Romans, Henry VIII, Castles, Tudors and lots of different things and its hard for me to decide what I want to learn about cos I want to learn about everything but my brain is so small I don’t know if I can fit everything I want into it! Sometimes it feels like my head is going to explode with all this great stuff whizzing round in it!” It’s great to see the passion for learning is back. I don’t think I have seen that since before he started school.

He also told me, “thanks for showing me that I can read. I thought that I couldn’t read but when I wanted you to read The Faraway Tree to me and Ellie you asked me if I could start reading the first couple of pages whilst you did the washing and I didn’t think I could do it but I tried and I could. Thanks mum.” That particular day a couple of weeks ago I ended up sat on the landing as he carried on reading to Ellie. He didn’t realize I was there until he had almost finished reading the chapter and he wondered onto the landing to look for me but still reading. Since then his confidence in reading has really improved and he has a much more positive attitude to reading.

After lunch Joshua wanted to read a couple more pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which he did really well. Then he played on his DS for half an hour whilst Ellie played in her room. Then Ellie came down and they both watched TV for an hour and a half until it was time to take Vic to work and then we went to the internet cafĂ© for half an hour just to check on our order for stock for our business. Ellie went on the Nick Jnr site and Josh played a Scooby Doo game online.

Then home for dinner. They watched tv for another hour and helped me tidy up. I don’t ask them to help but they normally help me once they see me tidying. Then they wanted me to read to them so they chose ‘The Orchard Book of Aesop's Fables’ and I read about 4 fables which they enjoyed. We were using this book for our school-at-home approach and normally I would have asked for a narration or for a picture from the story and asked them questions at the end but it was really nice to just read the stories and enjoy them as stories rather than as ‘schoolwork’.

Then I read them a few poems from ‘Read Me Out Loud!’ It has a poem for every day of the year and previously I had planned to read every poem to them on the correct date but we just dipped in and out of it picking ones that sounded fun. Vic rang for us to go and fetch him and probably helped save the kids from my terrible rendition of ‘Sing A Song Of Six Pence’. I was halfway through singing it extremely badly to them!

Fetched Vic then came home and relaxed in front of the TV. Then we watched a program called ‘Life In Cold Blood’ all about animals and the kids were fascinated by it. Ellie loves lizards so she loved watching the lizards and Iguanas. They often see lizards here in the garden but we haven’t seen any here for a month or two. They both went to bed around midnight.

Tuesday 5th February
The kids were already up and dressed by the time I came down at 9am and playing their DS’s. I had to go out for a few bits so they came with me to the Bank and then to choose a birthday card for Vic’s mum. When we came back Vic was up so he made us a lovely brunch and the kids watched TV. By 1pm they were still watching TV so I got the paints out and it was enough to tempt them away from the TV for a couple of hours and we all had fun painting and sticking.

Then they went back to their TV watching until it was time to take Vic to work. When we came home they helped me tidy up after tea and Ellie washed up (she loves washing up!). Then they went upstairs to play until it was time to fetch Vic. We came back and Joshua played ‘Command & Conquer Generals’ on the computer and Ellie played with her dolls. They went to bed around 11pm.

Wednesday 6th February
The kids were up before me again this morning. Josh was lying on the settee playing his DS and Ellie was watching TV. They pretty much stayed like that most of the day. I’ve been busy sorting out our spare room which has become a bit of a dumping ground ready for my brother in law coming to stay with us as soon as we get back from England. After lunch I asked if they wanted to go for a walk Josh wanted to stay and carry on playing his DS but Ellie came with me pushing her doll’s pram.

Josh has played his DS virtually all day and Ellie has spent most of the day either watching TV or watching Josh on his DS. It has been a very testing of us over the issue of screen time and I have had to tell myself quite a lot that it is just a phase and that tomorrow will be a better day.

They went to bed at around 11pm.