School labels

The longer we're free of the school system, the more I see things differently. Like for example, the labels "gifted" and "learning disabled".

My two oldest had the "learning disabled" noose hung on them for many years while in school, even before the adoption. My youngest was the opposite..."advanced" was something I heard a lot from the teachers, when she was in school.

But disabled as compared to what? Gifted by whose standards?
Aren't they in fact just being themselves? Why does the school system think we all have to move through life at the same pace as others our own age?

I don't know anything about cars, except how to drive one. I don't know a Toyota from a Mazda, let alone all the different models. I don't know what a carborator looks like, I'm not sure what it's function is and I don't think I even spelled it correctly.
My son does though. He knows much more about how a car works than I do. He can look at most cars and tell what model it is and he knows the names of all the new cars that are coming out. He knows what the names of most car parts are and their function also. Does that make him gifted and me learning disabled?

My middle child knows a lot about horses. She knows how to ride them, feed them, groom them. She knows the names of the different breeds and is learning how to train them. Me? I know nothing about horses except that when I get to close to one, I sneeze. Is she gifted in horses? Am I learning disabled in horses?

Children are rewarded with the gifted label when they can learn within the way the schools are designed for them to learn. Children are degraded with the learning disabled label when they don't. That has nothing to do with the real world. When a school fails to teach a child they way that child needs to be taught, the child is labled a failure, when in actuality, the responsibility should be on the school.

If my youngest was still in school, she'd be beyond children her age, but is she gifted? No, she's just being herself. She's exactly where she should be, just being Jacqueline.
As a matter of fact, I'm thrilled for her that she'll never be labeled "gifted".
I would never want her to think that living down to (not living up to) a failing, broken down school system is what makes one "gifted".

I want my children to respect their individuality and go through life at their own pace, not being compared to others.

I'd like to share this post from Ren Allen. I had saved it from an unschooling board a couple of years back.

About the intelligences thing...I too, get sort of fuzzy brained trying to wrap my mind around certain math concepts. It is NOT one of my strengths for sure. But I am extremely artistic and creative. When I began truly unschooling it dawned on me that we often label kids "learning disabled" when they can not process math or reading/writing skills well. But if a person can not draw or paint that is just fine with everyone...it's just not "one of their talents". We label certain skills talents and others as necessary. I laughed and told a friend she must be learning disabled because she can not draw and I can! It was a joke but she got the point about how we label certain talents and promote them above others'. Not everyone needs much math....not everyone needs to be an incredible writer, we all have our unique path to follow....and on this path we have chosen ALL skills have value. Not just the academic ones..

Reason # 436 to take your kids out of school and get them into the real world! :-)

Condensed version posted on Helium

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Forbes article

Interesting atricle from Forbes magazine on MSNBC.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12409530/

Five reasons to skip college
Think a college education is key to a bright future?
Not so fast ...
April 23, 2006

NEW YORK - College is expensive. Four years at an elite university like Princeton or Harvard will set you back around $160,000.

That’s a lot of money, but consider the benefits: The professors, the coursework, the people you’ll meet and the invaluable experiences you’ll have. And, of course, the bottom line: You’ll earn more money afterward. In fact, on average, the holder of a four-year college degree will earn 62% more over their lifetimes than a typical high-school graduate. And that’s just on average. The return on investment for attending one of the nation’s 25 or so most selective colleges is far more impressive. Money well spent, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Although there is clearly a correlation between earnings and a four-year degree, a correlation isn’t the same thing as a cause. Economists like Robert Reischauer ruffled feathers several years ago by pointing out that talented, driven kids are more likely to go to college in the first place — that they succeed, in other words, because of their innate abilities, not because of their formal education. Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of a low paid college dropout.

In fact, more than a couple of billionaires never graduated from college. Larry Ellison, cofounder of database giant Oracle, dropped out of the University of Illinois and is now worth $16 billion. Fellow billionaire John Simplot, inventor of the frozen French fry, never even finished high school. Neither did Alan Gerry, who built the first cable television network in upstate New York and then sold it to Time Warner Cable for $2.8 billion.

In fact, there is plenty of evidence that what really matters is how smart you are, not where — or even if — you went to school. According to a number of studies, small differences in SAT scores, which you take before going to college, correlate with measurably higher incomes. And, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the lifetime income of high-school dropouts is directly associated with their scores on a battery of intelligence tests.

By this logic, the real economic value in a Princeton degree is not the vaunted Princeton education, but in signaling potential employers that you are smart enough to get into Princeton. Actually, attending the classes is irrelevant. A few years back, we even went so far as to speculate that an entrepreneur could build a healthy businesses by charging, say $16,000, to certify qualified high-school graduates as Ivy League material. (See: “Is Yale A Waste Of Money?”) College-skippers could invest the $144,000 savings and have a nice nest-egg built up by the time they are in their mid-30s. And they could use their formative years between 18 and 22 to learn an actual trade.

For, in truth, most professions — journalism, software engineering, sales, and trading stocks to name but a few — depend far more on “on-the-job” education than on classroom learning. Until relatively recently, lawyers, architects and pharmacists learned their trade through apprenticeship, not through higher education.

Certainly some jobs — medical doctors and university professors — require formal education. But many do not, and between the Internet and an excellent public library system, most Americans can learn pretty much anything for a nominal fee. By all means, go to college if you want the “university experience,” but don’t spend all that cash just on the assumption that it will lead you to a higher-paying job.

1. You'll be losing four working years.
There's an opportunity cost associated with going to college: Not only will you lose the money you'll have spent on tuition, you'll also be out the amount of money that you could have made if you'd worked during those four years. And if your family isn't wealthy enough to pay for your education on their own, you'll also owe a hefty amount in interest payments for your student loans. Perhaps more importantly, with four years of experience on your resume, you’ll be far better off when looking for work than the average 22-year-old college graduate

2. You won't necessarily earn less money. College grads earn an average 62% more over the course of their careers than high school grads. But economist Robert Reischauer of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., argues that those numbers are skewed by the fact that smarter kids are more likely to go to college in the first place. In other words, the profitability of higher education is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

3. In fact, you could probably make more money if you invested your tuition.
Put $160,000--the approximate cost of a Harvard education--into municipal bonds that pay a conservative 5%, and you'll have saved more than $500,000 in 30 years. That's far more than the average college grad will accumulate in the same amount of time.

4. You don't need to be in a classroom in order to learn something. Truly motivated learners can teach themselves almost anything with a couple of books and an Internet connection. Want to learn a hands-on skill or trade? Consider an apprenticeship.

5. Plenty of other people did fine Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Quentin Tarantino, David Geffen, and Thomas Edison, among others, never graduated from college. Peter Jennings and John D. Rockefeller never finished high school.

I found this article interesting because as the mother of unschoolers, I want my children to know that they don't have to follow mainstream thinking to be successful in life. College can be wonderful, if you go into it with the knowledge that it's not an automatic ticket to a high paying job. I want my kids to go to college, if they want to, not because they think they have to. And, being former foster kids, they get free college anywhere in this state.

I personally know at least six people (more if I think about it), who spent a few years and several thousand dollars in college tuition, only to be doing something other than than what they went to college for.

I don't want that for my kids. I want them to be able to think outside the box so that there are more opportunities for them to choose from.
I didn't go to college and I ran my own business in New York City, for seven years.
My husband didn't go to college and he earns enough money to support a family of five (plus 2 pets) on one salary.

And for the record, I love reason #4. That's common knowledge among homeschoolers. Nice to know that Forbes agrees with us. :-)


Resiliency in children

Have you ever heard someone say, or said it yourself, that "kids are resilient"? Meaning that they can go through truama and stress and be able to bounce back and learn to adjust?
I've always disliked blanket statements about any group of people but this one has irked me ever since I adopted my kids and it's been on my mind for a while now.

In our adoption case workers office, there was a poster that read:

"Behavior is the language of a childs emotion".

That's how they show us...we have to understand and listen to their language.
They use behavior...not words.

Some kids isolate themselves, withdraw and stuff their feelings down.
They may try to hurt themselves.
Other kids may become violent and try to hurt others.
Some may become needy and afraid to be alone.
Others become the "perfect" child, wanting to please others and needing approval.
There are so many behaviors that a child may use to express their emotions.

Using my two oldest children as an example, they were traumatized several times throughout their lives.
My son "adjusted" to his trauma by keeping all this emotions stuffed down and when they came to close to the surface, he would hurt himself. During the past two years, we've tried to give him better ways to handle his strong emotions and at the same time, create an atmosphere where he can heal.

My daughter (the older one) "adjusted" by becoming emotionally needy and very controlling. She hurt others the way she had been hurt. During the past two years, we've had to be very consistant with her, always keeping our word and following through with promises. This has enabled her to slowly build up trust in us.

Make no mistake about it, they were not being resilient. They were hurting and they were learning to suppress their emotions and distrust others.

It's easy to just casually say "Oh, they'll get over it, kids can adjust". It's an easy way out. It takes the responsibilty off us, as parents and as a society, to take them, and their feelings, seriously.
When we take their hurt and pain seriously, when we give them the space, time and support to heal, then they can start to "bounce back". But if never given that chance, it can lead to more severe issues later on in their life.

"Behavior is the language of a childs emotion".


Our Adoption Story: Pt. 5

Part one is here
Here's part two
Part three
This is part four

Here is a post from the Forever Parents board dated 9/30/03, the date our placement officially ended.

Today, Sept. 30, marks the end of our 90 day "trial" with our kids. As the Grateful Dead say..."what a long, strange trip it's been".
Over the next 1-2 weeks, the state will sign a consent form that gives us the okay to proceed with the adoption and then we have to sign (with a notary) the adoption decree forms. Then our lawyer takes all that to court and gets us a date.
Keep your fingers crossed for a date before Christmas.

Our caseworker, Jennifer told us that we could have extended the placement if we wanted. If we needed more time to work things out or if we just wanted to take it slower. She was so supportive of us during the whole journey and did everything she could to help us and solve any issues we had.
Our lawyer called us and the date was set for Oct. 28, which happens to be Cimion's birthday. I told them I wasn't comfortable finalizing on his birthday and that I wanted another date. I felt that that date should stand all on it's own, not have to share with someone's birthday and visa versa. Cimion & Shawna seem to have emotional issues surrounding their birthdays to begin with. Plus, with the finalization coming up, they were anxious and stressed and I just felt it was better (and would be better in years to come) if we did it on seperate dates.
As soon as I said something though, I wanted to kick myself because what if they could only give me a date months away? They called me back and our new date was set for October 30 at 8:45 AM. *whew!*

As the days got closer, Shawna & Cimion became more and more emotional. Shawna was very moody and sad, crying over little things. Cimion started acting very defiant and not doing simple things that we asked him to. It was a very touchy time for all of us and I tried to not overwhelm them by talking about the finalization to much. We discussed exactly what would happen and what they could expect from that day in court. I stepped in when well meaning people would tell them "You must be so happy to be getting adopted! How lucky you are!!". I tried to explain that yes, a part of them was happy but a big part of them was scared and anxious and nervous.
It was an emotional roller coaster of a time.

Finalization Day:

We met Jennifer (their caseworker) & Sheila (their guardian ad litem) at the court house. Sheila had bought some helium congratulations balloons for the kids and it helped to give their minds something else to think about. While we were waiting, we met a mother who was there to finalize the adoption of a little boy, also from foster care. When she looked at the kids, she said "Is that Jackie?" I said yes and that we called her Jacqueline now. She told me that she had met her at one of the foster care picnics and she had a picture of Jacqueline dancing with her son. :-) She was so happy to see that they were getting adopted together and wished us well.

Jennifer and the kids waiting in the hallway for our turn to see the judge.

When it was our turn, we were told to sit at the table on the left, with our lawyer.

The kids and Sheila were told to sit at the table on the right. Jennifer sat behind them, in the first row of seats.

The first few minutes were spent going over names, dates, addresses, proof of termination of parental rights, etc. She asked us why we wanted to adopt and then why we wanted to adopt these children. She also spoke to the kids, although they were very quiet and not talkative at all. Shawna also wanted to legally change the spelling of her name from Chawna to Shawna so we took care of that besides changing their middle and last names.

Judge Gurrola handing down her descion:

We took a picture with her afterward and she asked us to send her a copy.

When we were all done, we took Jennifer & Sheila out to lunch.

*I'm trying to locate the picture*

After that, they had to go back to work and the five of us went back to the place we had first met, that little park off the Gulf of Mexico. It was so weird going back there as a family. We hung out for a while, talked and watched the men fishing. It was a beautiful, sunny day.

While we were there, we took a picture in the same positions and in the same spot as
the picture we took on the first day we met. It's great to see how we've changed!

Shawna took this picture of us:

After that we went to have their social security numbers changed. I suggest doing if you adopt a child that was removed due to abuse. It's just an extra measure of protection.

We went to visit our case worker Pat Matthews and gave her flowers. :-) She was such a big help to us and she was our biggest cheerleader throughout this.

Later on, we took my mother, Aunt Mary and cousin Maryanne out to celebrate. We went to our favorite low-key Chinese buffet and had a really nice, relaxing time. It was the end to a very emotional day.

*Last part coming soon*
*I've added some pictures to parts 2-4 today*

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Day Sixty Two

The 5th Unschooling Carnival has been posted here. As usual is a great mix of posts. Ron & Andrea are asking someone else to take it over so if you're interested, please contact them.


unschooling my children

Ron & Andrea over at atypicalhomeschool.net are asking unschoolers to answer these questions for the next Carnival of Unschooling. (A carnival is a collection of related blog posts).

1. Unschooling feels, sounds or appears like a good philosophy to follow, but ________ prevent me (or make me hesitant to) follow through with it.

2. Unschooling my child(ren) has enabled me to see ________

I guess the first question would be directed to those who are just starting out their unschooling journey, still thinking about it or have extreme circumstances where unschooling would not work.

Here's my answer to question #2. I changed the wording from "has enabled" to "is enabling" because it seems to fit me better.

Unschooling my children is enabling me to see that learning is everywhere. The more they are out of school, the more I see the curiosity and spark in their eyes.
Unschooling my children is enabling me to see that learning is fun and enjoyable. Learning is not filling in a bubble on a test. Learning is not being told to memorize a bunch of facts that they could very easily find, in a matter of minutes, online or in a book.
Unschooling my children is enabling me to see that their interests and passions are valid and important.
Unschooling my children is enabling me to see them...for all they are and all they can become.
Unschooling my children his enabling me to see that life really is for living and exploring and singing and creating and discovering and trying and doing and being.



I re-read a bit more of Guerrilla Learning by Grace Llewellyn this morning. She writes about what she considers to be the five "keys" Guerilla Learning. The first one is opportunity and this is what she says.

"Read. Write. Talk. Play music. See dance and theater and paintings. Read poetry, write poetry, get poetry refridgerator magnets. Spend time in nature. Build things. Go to meseums-and not as a "class trip", but for the love of things you find there. If you're not already doing these things, it's only because you've arranged your life so you don't have time and you've begun to believe that learning is something that happens not in life, but in school."

Using my 7 year old daughter as an example again....
We create lots of opportunities for her to explore her interest in space and the universe. She borrows videos and books from the library. I find interesting web sites for her. I buy space books (I buy both, good quality and up to date books and older ones at thrift stores) that she reads over and over again. She & Billy made a planet mobile for her room. We're planning a day trip to the
Kennedy Space Center. She watches space related shows on TV.

I think that the other side of this is creating opportunites even when a specific interest is not there. Like when I buy computer software and books on a very wide variey of topics and put them on the shelves (books) or in a basket (software) and let the kids know it's there. One that I bought was software on the Civil War. Cimion really enjoys it and it's led him to be interested in finding out more about that time period.

Later on in that chapter, Grace Llewellyn goes on to say,
"We want our kids to learn not what to think, but how to think. One way to increase your childrens chances of developing this skill is to give them real projects, (not academic exercises) where an outcome in the real world is intended and where the result, (not the assessment of an authority) is the ultimate judge of the projects success."

And then towards the end of the chapter,
"At the heart of Opportunity is Engagement. Stay passionate, involved and interested in life and in learning. Your enthusiasm will transfer to your kids."


Real Learning

My daughter Jacqueline (age 7) is self taught on the subject of space/the universe. She's interested in learning about the universe, because she's interested in the universe, and that interest has taken her in many directions.

I've been re-reading
Guerrilla Learning by Grace Llewellyn and I wanted to share this:

"Real learning requires meaning. Meaningless information can be memorized and repeated, but it's not learning. For information to have meaning, there must be meaningfull context for the information. That's why most people, unless they are really good at absorbing and retaining meaningless data, forget most of what they learned in school.
In school, subjects are artifically seperated from each other. It's as if schools believe that if you give kids one tree at a time, year after year, they will save them up and make a forest out of them. School can sap kids interest in learning, confuse them with so many meaningless "trees" that it may take years to recover and begin to see the "forest" again.
School can simply eat up so much of their time that there's none left for the real learning, for spontaneous exploration or free play. Instead of discovering their unique gifts and talents, many learn to see themselves as "disabled" if they don't keep up with the traditional school systems standards of measurement."

I love the tree analogy. School did that to my older two and it would have done that to Jacqueline, had I not taken her out. When I see my kids learning, really learning, it makes the artificialness of school much more obvious to me.


Day Fifty Eight

"Your kids don't go to school? What do you do with them?"

I get asked that question often. :-)
If someone asks me today I'll say "We went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards!." :-)

I went to their web site and signed up to coupons that they e-mailed me and we have a DQ only minutes from our house. My kids are still thrilled (even after a year of being home) at the thought of doing fun stuff during school hours so when I asked them if they wanted to go, they got all excited and told me I was the best mom in the world (which I am. LOL). We invited my mom to come also (she lives next door).

It was a beautiful morning (we went about 11:30) and we sat outside and had our Blizzards (actually, I didn't have one-I'm not a fan of soft ice cream). The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze and we saw a few butterflies fluttering around.



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Day Fifty Seven

We went to Silver Springs again the other day. Our season passes end in May and we already decided to get them again. The passes we get also cover Wild Waters, which is right next door to Silver Springs. SS is open year round but WW is open May-September.
This past Thursday we got together with
our homeschool group. We hadn't been there for quite a while so it was nice to see everybody. We met at a new park, which the kids loved! They had very a very cool playground and paths for skating. Cimion bought along his roller blades and went with some of the kids.

I'm on my way (after I get done here) to the library for their book sale. I love books, reading and buying so a book sale is something I totally enjoy. We have floor to ceiling book shelves in our family room and we're always buying new books and giving away (either to our homeschool group or the library) the ones we've outgrown. My three love reading! They each read for 2-3 hours a day (everyday!) totally on their own. I never ask them to read (except when I don't have my glasses and I need to read directions! LOl), it's just something they enjoy.