The Great Bedroom Swap… and Unschooling

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks in our home. It took us about 3 weeks of doggedly following our set Oak Meadow curriculum before we admitted that it’s really not us and started investigating the ideals behind unschooling. Now that’s a concept I can get behind… and we’ve learned a lot more since we’ve let go of the idea that we have to sit down and “do school” every day at the same time, and just let the days take us where it will. I know I’ve learned a lot about myself, and have done a lot of soul-searching about what our goals are, and the best way to meet those goals. I’ve had to let go of control… and I do like to be in control. I am finding that we’re all doing quite well without me calling every shot (shocker, I know), and I’m feeling calmer and more relaxed as I learn to trust the girls’ instincts and decisions.

The big girls each received a Kindle, as a kind of “now that we’re homeschooling” gift, and they’ve been reading even more than before. Our local library has a lot of e-books available to borrow, and we’ve gotten a ton of use from our free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I’m pretty sure we’ll keep that subscription – with something like 800,000 titles to borrow, it seems well worth $9.99/month.

We’ve been attending homeschool park days each week, and we’re all enjoying meeting new people and having somewhere to be outside of our usual errands and appointments.

Homeschool Unschool Park Days

Another big change we’ve made is our environment… the Great Bedroom Swap! There’s a bit of a back story here…

When we lived in our little basement apartment a few years ago, David and I slept in our living room so that the girls could share the single small bedroom. From there we moved in with friends in Texas, where we slept on separate sofas, then a hotel room, where we slept 3 feet from the girls. By the time we moved into our current apartment, we were thrilled to be able to take the larger of the two bedrooms. We set up our bed, admired all of the space we had, and finally felt like real grown-ups.

The thing is, the girls keep getting bigger, and older, as kids tend do… and they’ve outgrown their bedroom. They both have big, beautiful personalities, which don’t fit so well squeezed into a 10 x 12-foot space. Meanwhile, David and I hardly spend any time in our bedroom, preferring to hang out in the living room most of the time. I guess we just never got used to having that much space of our own, so it wasn’t that hard to give it up.

Well, emotionally and mentally, it wasn’t that hard to give up. Physically… man, it took forever. We had boxes in our closet that hadn’t been unpacked since we’d moved into this apartment almost three years ago. The girls had a huge collection of stuff in their closets — things that were probably very important when they were brought into the closet, but have since lost their sparkle and been pushed to a pile on the floor. It was a lot to go through and sort into piles of Trash, Donate, and Keep. 

There was a lot of stuff in the Donate pile. We’ve stocked at least a few entire shelves at our local Goodwill in the past three weeks.

In the end, both rooms look great and suit all of us better than they did before. David has been spending way too many nights on the couch in the past few months, as Katie has gotten bigger and taken up more of our bed. Katie’s crib is now pushed up against my side of the bed, so we’re still co-sleeping, but now I have a little more space to call my own at night, and David has happily rejoined me in our bed.

Addah wanted a loft bed for her side of their room, so she’s sleeping up high now, with her desk and bookshelves below. She’s created a cozy little nook for herself, complete with a divider curtain made from last year’s Halloween costume tutu, which allows her to stay up later than Lakin, who prefers an earlier bedtime.

Lakin chose a regular twin bed, which we built for her — our first hand-built project, and definitely worthy of its own blog post. Her bed will be painted a deep midnight blue and decorated with silver stars. She has a desk for her laptop, as well as a cozy nook of her own in the walk-in closet: a comfy pink chair and her trunk of her most special books and journals. 

Great Bedroom Swap

We’re all pretty happy with the changes we’ve made. Our little bedroom feels like more like “us” somehow, where the big bedroom always felt just a little too big. The girls are bickering less and laughing more, which does my heart so much good and makes me wish we’d done this from Day 1 in this apartment.

So, lots of changes… but good changes, important changes… changes that make us a stronger and happier family.

Homeschool: The World Is Our Classroom

Homeschool Books

When my older girls were very little, I planned to homeschool them, at least up through elementary school. I figured I’d put them into school in 6th or 7th grade, and they’d have “normal” middle and high school experiences. Well, as fate would have it, I was a newly single mom when it was time for Lakin to enter kindergarten, and I needed to go to work, so she went into public school, and Addah went into a Montessori preschool.

From there, I just assumed we’d stick with public school until the girls graduated and went on to college. As time has gone on though, more and more signs have pointed toward homeschool as a very viable option again. Lakin’s medical issues have made it clear that she does much better in a one-on-one educational setting, as opposed to a large classroom setting. When we started researching homeschool for Lakin, Addah became very interested and asked if I could homeschool her as well.

 “Sure,” I said, “why not?”

We’re fortunate to live in a state that makes life pretty easy for homeschooling families. In South Carolina, we are considered “third option” homeschoolers, which means that we’re signed up under a homeschool accountability group, we agree to teach the four main subjects of English, Math, Social Studies, and Science, students must attend 180 days of school, and we keep records to prove these things. Within just a few days of making the final decision to bring Addah home for school, we had her paperwork done, a curriculum ordered, and her withdrawn from school.

I wasn’t worried about my ability to teach her what she needs to know, especially given a curriculum to follow. My concern was for her music classes, as she had signed up for band this year to learn the flute. I can sing, and I can read music, but I cannot play the flute (or any other instrument, sadly). It turns out that she wasn’t enjoying the flute as much as she could have been, because she wasn’t meshing very well with the teacher. We agreed that we would seek out an extracurricular music class, and in the meantime, she continues to practice at home.

Deciding on a curriculum to use was a little daunting, to say the least. There are so many options, and it all depends on what kind of educational style you’re interested in. Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling… oh my! We finally settled on Oak Meadow, a progressive and experiential Waldorf-based homeschooling curriculum. I love that it’s flexible and encourages artistic expression. I love that it focuses on project-based learning. I love that it fosters great communication skills, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. I love that it’s all laid out for us, but in such a way that we can drive the lesson in a way that fits our needs. Really, I couldn’t be happier with Oak Meadow for our family.

We’re about 5 weeks into our homeschooling adventure right now, and I don’t know that we’ll ever look back at public school. Addah is thriving in her lessons and seems so much happier and relaxed than she did before. Lakin is still enrolled in her virtual charter school program for the moment, because it’s the best fit for her needs right now, but the plan is to homeschool her as well, once her current program ends.

Our most frequently asked question has been “what are you going to do about socialization?”. It turns out that there’s a whole network of families who homeschool tweens and teens in our area, and we’ve had to pick and choose events and activities, so as not to be over-scheduled. Addah’s getting more socialization now than she did when she was in public school.

I feel empowered, and I believe Addah does too, by taking her education into our own hands. We’ll keep reevaluating as time goes on, to make sure we’re meeting her needs and accomplishing our goals, but for now we’re happy with the path we’re on. It’s exciting and refreshing having the world as our classroom, and it’s much less scary than I thought it would be.

Homeschool Books