Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Unschooling Isn’t Working For Every Subject

by Kristen Suzanne in homeschool, kids

Math tools for homeschooling

We homeschool our young daughter and subscribe to a general belief that unschooling is important. 

What is unschooling? 

As unschoolers, we don’t follow a specific curriculum, or really any curriculum at all. Our focus is learning as much as we can from living life. I find that especially important helpful fun during Kamea’s early years (for various reasons).

What does unschooling look like for us? Here are some good examples… 

  • Playing dolls with my daughter and using the opportunity to teach various life lessons and even business lessons as we play. 
  • My daughter would like to start her own business. This provides the perfect opportunity to teach business, math, communication, reading, writing, courage, etc. 
  • We love to cook. This allows knife skills, a little math, a bit of chemistry, some biology and more. We can talk about the nutrients in the food, from where the food hails, and all kinds of things. We can also teach history, art, and language through cooking. 
  • When we move abroad there are plenty of unschooling opportunities. We will learn, through just living, the epic lessons of what it’s like to be in another culture. We will learn social studies, maps, geography, history, art, food, language and so many things.
  • Using a passion of hers, like art, and finding ways to teach any (or all) other subjects through art or while she’s creating art. 

All sounds awesome, right? 

So that is what I’ve used as a guiding principle to how we approach education with our daughter. 

But, unschooling does not come without its own challenges for me. 

The hardest thing for me to effectively teach through unschooling is math. I can teach a little bit of math here and there, sneaking it in. We can play blackjack and she can familiarize herself with adding, or we can play the game Play Nines, which actually introduces negative numbers (that’s cool). In cooking, I can show her that 3 teaspoons makes up a tablespoon and give her a basic introduction to fractions. We play math games on her iPad, like the clever game DragonBox. She can learn a bit of geometry while drawing shapes. 

In spite of numbers and math seeming to be everywhere, my main challenge is we don’t get enough math regularly to reinforce what she’s learning. So much of math in the beginning is memorization and repetition via worksheets. While I don’t want her to sit down at a table with a worksheet and drill numbers, numbers, numbers, I want to expose her enough times to numbers and math so that she can remember it! 

And therein lies my challenge. 

I can’t seem to find enough ways to incorporate math in our daily lives which will satisfy my idea of what I hope she’s learning and have her giddy to do it. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I’m not creative enough. Maybe I’m just lazy or maybe I’m getting the whole “unschooling” thing wrong, but my instinct tells me to switch gears when it comes to facilitating Kamea’s learning of math. 

I think some unschooling proponents would say to not concern myself so much (and perhaps to not try so hard). She will learn what she needs to learn when she wants to learn it. I’m just not totally comfortable with that. Because, honestly, if I take a backseat with respect to math and let her learn it on her own, which in reality seems to be only little drips of math here and there … she is just not going to know a whole lot of math. And while I love the idea of her enjoying every topic she learns, perhaps that is not realistic, or if it is, it requires too much creativity on my part. 

Hmmmmmm.

Perhaps she could learn all of it later, as I’ve heard some unschoolers do. That doesn’t feel right either, because I think it would help her in other areas of learning to have a stronger math background. (Thinking out loud here … then again, if she’s doing these other things which require math she might get the math she needs.) 

Well, here is the beauty of homeschooling. 

Homeschooling education can be customized to whatever we want, whenever we want. We can start down one path spending whatever time we want on whichever subjects we want, and changing that later to spend more time on other subjects (or less) as we see fit. If something isn’t working, we can change course. 

It is really awesome and helpful to have such flexibility. 

So, although I champion unschooling methods most of the time for us, I feel it’s time to divert from it for math. 

Here’s what we’re doing now. 

  • I found a great book that teaches math in a most quirky and entertaining way: The Life of Fred series. We’ve gone through one book in the series, and she likes it enough that we’ll continue. I have to reiterate that it is so quirky and weird it’s almost addictive, strangely, at least for me. I’m eager to see what results we’ll get because it is so… weird. 
  • We are using Khan Academy on her iPad. 
  • We are playing another math-centered game online, Prodigy, and she loves that game. 
  • Plus all the other unschooling math tricks I mentioned above such as finding ways to incorporate math-speak frequently. “Ok, Kamea, we’re 38 miles from Nana’s house. When we’ve traveled 30 of those miles, how many are left?” OR “You have $6 and want to buy a $20 toy. How much more do you need?” OR “5349 to the third power equals what?” <– just kidding.

Perhaps after she gets some fundamentals we will shift gears and go back to an unschooled approach with math. I really don’t know what the future has in store for us for any subjects.

I love it all though. I love homeschooling, I love the freedom and flexibility we have, and I love the opportunity I have to be with my daughter all day. 

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The Book, The New Global Student, Lit A Fire Under My Ass

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, kamea, kids, Kristen Suzanne, travel

This book inspired me to move abroad… sooner than later.

Image credit

I bought the book, The New Global Student, to inspire my family’s future travels around the world. I don’t recall how I came to know of the book, but when I read the description, I knew it was destined to be in my library.

From Amazon.com 

In 2005, Maya Frost and her husband sold everything and left their suburban American lifestyle behind in order to have an adventure abroad. The tricky part: they had to shepherd their four teenage daughters through high school and into college. This hilarious and conspiratorial how-to handbook describes the affordable, accessible, and stunningly advantageous options they stumbled upon that any American student can leverage to get an outrageously relevant global education. 

Sounds good, eh? 

It is, though I didn’t devour the book in one sitting. Actually, I started and stopped the book a few times over the past year (or two?).

I guess I didn’t feel a need to rush through it, seeing as my daughter was only five years old at the time. I figured I had a while before I would take action on anything I was reading. Not only that, I didn’t see the reality that we’d be moving abroad any time soon, because, like, THAT seemed a daunting idea… so why rush reading through the book? I could take my time.

As I was reading it one day, however, I wanted to share some of it with my husband, Greg. So I did that. We were driving to my mom’s which was about 45 minutes from our home and I started reading some of the really cool things I’d highlighted. As expected, he loved what I was reading to him, and his excitement served to inspire my continuing the book. 

Over the following weeks, I read the book at a faster clip. It became more and more exciting, as I imagined the life we could give Kamea… helping her become  The New Global Student. Wow, the advantages were numerous and awesome. 

So. Yesterday, I wrote that we’d always known we would travel the world. Honestly, though, I never knew when that would be. I really didn’t know how to make it happen. It seemed like a dream. It was a dream I felt would come true, but I didn’t know when “someday” would be. 

I mean… how does one just up and travel the world or move to another country?

The New Global Student was enticing me with fun stories of families traveling all over the world (many of whom didn’t even homeschool, by the way). Still… while I was reading it, I didn’t really make a connection of how I could relate to the stories I was reading. For example, I read about families selling their houses, cars, and/or businesses. They sold belongings, got rid of tons of stuff, and then had money to move somewhere else in the world. One family even bought a sail boat and took to the oceans for their epic adventure (turns out that’s a thing). 

Well, I didn’t have a business to sell. I didn’t have a house to sell either. I didn’t want to buy a boat (Greg gets seasick.) 

Hmmm… I just kept reading the book, figuring that someday we’d figure it out.

At the end of the book the lightbulb came on for me. At this point, the author’s husband chimed in and itemized the savings and expenses the family incurred while living in Mexico. I was blown away by the savings and cost of living that was possible. The book also illuminated the notion that any age is a good age to start (with respect to kids), emphasizing that younger is good and totally doable!

I salivated at how much money we could save living in Mexico (or other parts of the world). Savings plus the obvious awesomeness of immersing ourselves in other cultures, learning languages, and helping Kamea be a Global Student was just too good of an opportunity for which to wait. 

Turns out I wouldn’t have to… I realized that since we rent our condo, there would come a time when the lease ends and we won’t be obligated to pay that rent anymore. (Um, duh, Kristen. Why hadn’t I thought of this before now??) At that point, we could sell belongings (not a whole lot since I embrace minimalism these days), including cars. We could donate stuff. We could put anything leftover into storage (um, hello mom!).

Bam. We could take this dream of living abroad and make it happen when our lease is up. 

I know this sounds silly, but it just never dawned on me that we could simply not renew the lease. The veil had been lifted. The light was turned on. I could see our worldschooling path before my eyes.

At this point, I closed the book, having finished it, and called Greg into the bedroom.

The topic of living abroad was not new to us, as I’d just been reading him The New Global Student a few weeks prior. But, when I told him that we could actually do it when our condo’s lease ended, I think I took him by surprise. I filled him in on the details, and told him about some areas in Mexico where we could begin our adventure… and the wheels began turning in his head.

Now, mind you, he wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement (yet) like I was; but, truthfully, I’d had a whole hour to chew on it before I told him. :)

He raised a few questions about whether he could transfer his work successfully to a laptop only. He already works from home, and I told him we absolutely could (exciting details on that for another blog post). However, to make it easier on him, the lease wasn’t going to end for a good long while. We had time to figure it out and make it work.

The fire was lit under my ass… my deep dive into living abroad research began. Expat life is within reach.

It’s been about three months since that conversation in our bedroom, after I finished reading The New Global Student. I’ve gone from knowing nothing (other than it was possible somehow to do this because clearly other people are doing it) to knowing quite a bit about the how, when, where, and why for our adventure. 

I’ll share in the next post what I’m learning with my deep dive of research.

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Friday, April 22nd, 2016

My 5 Year Old Teaching You How to Meditate

by Kristen Suzanne in kamea, kids, Meditation
My little girl. :)

My little girl. :)

My five year old daughter, Kamea, was visiting my mom for the night, and they surprised me with this video that she made about “how to meditate.” Glad to know that all of my meditating is rubbing off on her.


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Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Surviving the Holidays. Seriously Good Tips. Plus Recipes.

A 2014 Drambuie Christmas Toast with my husband.

Drambuie would “not” be in the healthy category (I don’t think). “BUT IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!”

 

I’m sharing with you some key holiday survival tips. What do I mean survive?

Well, basically, some tips to help feel well during the holidays by not eating too crappy. It’s easy to succumb to the excuse “It’s the holidays” and make it a free-for-all, right? (Guilty.) But when we let our hair down too many times and go crackers (that’s another way to say “cray-cray”) then, sadly, we welcome a weaker immune system and lower energy. Sigh. Am I a buzz kill already?

No! I’m not! I promise.

We still need to have fun. After all, “It’s the holidays!”

Here are few tips to help you survive.

Read More »

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Sunday, October 18th, 2015

A Hospital Tour For Those Planning Home Birth

by Kristen Suzanne in kamea, kids, Kristen Suzanne, Motherhood, pregnancy
Questions to ask a hospital on a hospital birth tour.

Questions to ask a hospital on a hospital birth tour.

No. I’m not currently pregnant.

But, as I wrote in a post recently that talked about all about breastfeeding, I’m sharing some other posts from my old Green Mommy Blog. This is another one… taking a tour of a hospital even though I originally had planned a home birth for my daughter.

Well. As some of you know, I did end up in the hospital for the delivery of Kamea, but it wasn’t the local one I toured. 

Here we go….

Read More »

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Friday, July 17th, 2015

(Recipe) Honey n Granola Frozen Greek Yogurt: A Summer Breakfast

by Kristen Suzanne in honey, ice cream, kids, MCT oil, recipe, Vitamix
Honey n Granola Frozen Yogurt. Breakfast? Sure!

Honey n Granola Frozen Greek Yogurt. Breakfast? Sure!

Boy O’ Boy do I have a treat for you today. I’ve taken the great combination of (grass-fed) yogurt and (paleo) granola, and made it a frozen yogurt treat.

Read More »

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Monday, April 27th, 2015

Kid-Friendly Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Herbs, and Banana

Eggs Herbs Banana. Who knew?!

Eggs Herbs Banana. Who knew?!

Eggs are a big part of our house. Big. Huge.

Why? Ummm… TASTE! No, that’s not all…

They offer quality nutrition for the brain and bodylecithin, saturated fat, cholesterol, retinol (the good form for vitamin A for immunity, beautiful skin, and healthy eyes), omega fatty acids, vitamin e, and more. We only buy pasturer-raised eggs, because those hens are treated well and their eggs are more nutritious.

I’m glad that Kamea is a fan of scrambled eggs – her growing body benefits. She especially loves them when I mix stuff into them like today.

Read More »

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

My Latest Obsession – Organic Freeze Dried Blueberries. Light Crunchy Nutrition.

by Kristen Suzanne in blueberries, kamea, kids
My latest love: crunchy, light, nutritious, and delicious.

My latest love: crunchy, light, nutritious, and delicious.

These little freeze-dried wild blueberries (organic) are my latest obsession.

Here’s the backstory: We’ve been dabbling in the organic freeze-dried fruit options (berries, primarily) the past month, because Kamea (my 4 year old) really loves them. I can’t find any fault with them. They’re convenient, organic, don’t require thawing, and I’m guessing pretty nutritious (I’m presuming they retain some nutritional value after undergoing the freeze-dried process. If anyone knows any better, please advise – that said, they’re still a decent little snack).

We were buying a brand sold at Whole Foods Market, Just Tomatoes, which offers many different kinds of berries.  Kamea loves the Just Tomatoes – Cherries. But, their blueberries leave a bit to be desired. In my attempt to save money, by shopping on Amazon to restock the freeze-dried goodness, I stumbled upon these Nova Scotia freeze-dried wild blueberries. They’re not necessarily cheaper but they’re tastier.

Totally love at first bite.

For starters, they actually taste like blueberries. Almost better, the texture is light, airy, and delightful. My favorite part is when I stumble on a cluster of them in the bag. Mmmmmm yum. We are raving fans of this brand for freeze-dried organic blueberries.

Kamea eats these by the handful. My favorite way is in whole-fat, organic, grass-fed yogurt, as pictured above (I add raw almonds, too). They’d also be great on ice cream. Or, toss some on top of your next salad.

Such a good kiddo (and mama-on-the-go) snack. Go get some.

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Friday, February 20th, 2015

I Didn’t Expect This From Yoga

My yoga mat… ready to help me get flexible. Ommm.

My yoga mat… ready to help me get flexible. Ommm.

Unexpectedly, yoga has given me confidence… in the way I move.

Some backstory: As I have gotten a little bit older, I have become more protective in the way I move. I frequently make sure that my posture is proper and I make sure that I’m not mindlessly bending in positions that could cause an injury. You know how it is… digging toys out from under couches or constantly picking stuff up off the floor. 

A couple times I have bent over to pick up a doll and I tweaked my back. The tweak made life miserable for days. I now squat when picking up things, but there are many times I find myself in weird positions cleaning or carrying things or digging around cupboards. Or this(!)… I find that when I am getting my daughter out of her car seat (or strapping her into it) and tightening that belt while I’m in an awkward twist, I can’t help but think I’m perfectly primed for a tweak.

I lived life in such a way that I was a little guarded in my movements. I figured it came with the territory of getting older.

But something unexpected happened…

Read More »

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Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

How to Have a Real Food Foodie Road Trip – What to Pack!

A mini-van almost packed to the gills, ready to roll.

A mini-van almost packed to the gills, ready to roll.

We are a family who loves to travel, and our most recent epic road trip took us to Michigan. But, travel can wreak havoc on anyone’s best attempts to eat healthy. Not always. Check out my post below where I show how we traveled across the country while (almost exclusively) staying on our Real Food Foodie Lifestyle (i.e., we ate really healthy in spite of being on the road). It meant extra work, which isn’t always the thing you want to do after a day of being in the car, but I’m simply not willing to eat crap food which is most often what’s served in restaurants.

Read More »

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