Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons Learned talk notes (from Life is Good)

After attending five Life is Good Unschooling conferences with Bret and the girls, and leading lots of circle chats and funshops, I was excited and honored to be one of the main presenters at this year's conference.  My topic was "Lessons Learned" and in it I shared how we came to unschooling, some thoughts about unschooling food, some of our favorite books, toys and crafting supplies, unschooling tv, and finishing with the top 10 lessons we've learned along the way.  Recordings of all of the conference talks will be available to purchase through the Unschooler's Emporium after the conference concludes.  I mentioned in the talk that I would post the books and toys I mentioned here on the blog, in case anyone wanted to find them.  So here they are... 

Best toys/craft supplies:
Kapla blocks
Pattern Blocks (Discount School Supply (DSS) $15 for 250)
Other pattern toys:   
dado cubes
“House of Cards”
Big chalk board
Colored masking tape (DSS - $29)
Die cut machine (Sizzix Big Kick – look for the 40% off coupon in your Sunday paper for Joann's or Michaels)
Hot glue guns
Glue stick trick -- use old phone books when you are doing glue projects – can get glue on the phone book page, then rip it out and have a new clean surface
Wiki Sticks (great for airplane trips, as they stick to the backs of seats or windows)
Legos (but first put a sheet or big cloth below them so you can easily pick them up
Dress up clothes 
Doctor kit
Face paint and washable markers
Paper shredder
Puzzles – especially like the GeoPuzzles – also read a great post by Sandra Dodd about how if you buy used puzzled and they’re missing a few pieces, so what?  They're still fun! 

Of course, board and card games, but there are just too many to list here...

Jan Hunt's Parenting Cards (pick a sample card -- “Children like kittens.”) 
Toys don’t have to cost a lot…Wired magazine – top 5 toys of all time:

Some of our favorite books are:

Jan Hunt’s The Natural Child:  Parenting from the Heart

 As Peggy O’Mara (from Mothering Magazine) says in the introduction “We ask how we can maintain order and harmony in the household without control, without punishment.  As Jan will so aptly teach, the household based on empathy, compassion and cooperation will have an inherent discipline that does not have to be enforced by punishment.  It is enforced by love.”

If you have littles, I can’t recommend this one enough:  Things to do With Toddlers and Twos (and More TTDWTAT).  They’re written by Karen Miller, originally published in the early 80s.  Tons of inexpensive ideas for sensory learning using things most people have around their houses. 

If you have slightly older kids, 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12 is a great resource for discovering the world around us.  Instead of listing specific places, it asks kids to visit places like a battlefield, backstage of a theater, an old folks home. 

Sandra Dodd’s books  (Moving a Puddle, which is a collection of essays, and the Big Book of Unschooling) and webpages.  I especially like her Just Add Light and Stir blog  – as it has very short daily reminders of ways to move towards unschooling, and a more peaceful family life.   I also like that she has quotes from lots of other experienced unschoolers, so you get to hear how different families have dealt with a variety of topics.

Another favorite book is Rue Kream’s Parenting a Free Child:  An Unschooled Life.  The question & answer format of the book makes it a really handy reference guide when you’re thinking about (or your in-laws are bugging you about) such questions as:  How do you ensure that your kids eat properly? Or Do you just let your kids do whatever they want?  Or Aren’t you afraid there will be gaps in your kids’ knowledge? 

Freedom Not License by A.S. Neill (who founded the Summerhill free school) is a little dated, but also has a Q&A format that makes it easy to find info on specific questions.  I love his concept that children (and we all!) should be able to make our own choices as long as they don’t negatively impact others around them.  His example is that at his school a child is free to go to lessons or stay away from them because that’s his own affair, but he’s not allowed to play a trumpet while others want to study or sleep. 

It ties in nicely with the idea that unschooling is not unparenting – it actually means being very involved with our kids and partnering with them.  To me, the concept of freedom, not license doesn’t mean that we let our kids run wild and do anything they want to do, but we help them learn how the world works, allowing them as much freedom as possible while not infringing on the rights of others.

Of course, read anything you can by John Holt – though if you’re just starting out I’d recommend  Learning All the Time.  It’s short! And it covers topics new unschoolers are frequently concerned about – such as how kids learn to read and write.

The book Imagine (Jonah Lehrer) I haven’t read his book yet, but I recently heard the author speaking about how ideas don't just magically happen, they come from making connections between things that haven't been there before.  With this in mind, I talked about using everyday objects or toys in new ways:

Playmobile with Playdough

 Canoe as wading pool
Canoe as clubhouse
Cooler as hot tub
Fishing pole as kite flyer
Umbrella, parachute and paddles as tent
Spelling with kapla blocks
Beds for jumping

 Finally, a quote from The Tao of Parenting by William Martin.  It says:
          It has been said by experts,
          “You must be consistent,
          or your children will be confused.”
          Who among us is consistent?
          Circumstances are always changing.
          Children become confused
          When parents become rigid,
          Holding rules above love.
          Be consistently flexible.
          Hold tight only to compassion.


hi, i'm kat. said...

taking notes! so perfect carolyn ;)i hope you speak next year too! xoxo

Carolyn said...

Hee hee...thanks Kat! :)