Friday, May 31, 2013

Unschooling - Part Three...Chores

I can feel myself starting to have a paradigm shift towards unschooling as a lifestyle, not just a way of learning.  I can understand the way unschoolers view food, sleep and tv/computer time.  I get it.  I can see myself doing it.  I can see our family easily slipping into this way of life. (I still have to bring Mark to the other side though.) What I was having a hard time wrapping my head around was the chores aspect.  Unschoolers have a radical way of thinking about and looking at chores.  It goes completely against what I thought I believed.  I've been furiously reading everything I can find on Sandra Dodd's site and trust me, there is a lot.  But I couldn't bring myself to read the pages about chores. 

The way I see/saw it is that Finn and Tali are a part of this family and should therefore chip in and help.  They have been responsible for quite a few chores every week...changing the bathroom garbage can daily, (We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and the pipes in this very old city are not up to handling trash, so toilet paper needs to be deposited in garbage cans next to the toilet.) taking the dog out on the weekends when the downstairs tenents are here, washing the dishes, and folding and putting away the laundry.  For those chores they receive $3.00 a week.  In the states it would be more, but the cost of living is much cheaper in Ecuador.  In my mind I felt that this was a good deal. They learned responsibility, helped the family and were able to save their money if they chose to in order to purchase things that they wanted.  Right now they are both saving up for an Ipod Touch.  Tali has saved $58 and Finn, $32. 

I've also felt that pity party for myself.  "Why should I have to do everything?!"  I already do so shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc...  If the kids don't help me I will start to get resentful and that is not something I want to feel. 

But radical unschoolers see it differently. It is really hard to understand in just a paragraph or two so I'm not going to explain it here.  If you are interested in learning more about radical unschooling and chores, please read: 

Today I was reading along and finally came to a place in my heart that said to just go ahead and read the pages on chores.  I was afraid of what I would read.  But I did anyway.  And what I found was not at all what I thought I was going to find.  I think I really get it.  I think I understand and I think it is something I can do from a happy place. 

I am not one to take in information and process it for a long time.  I like to jump right in, so that's what I did today.  I decided to put into practice what I have been reading about chores.  Starting today.  Here's what happened.

Mark, Patrick and Amanda have been in Montanita learning how to scuba dive.  They are coming home today.  I gave Finn all week to clean up his playroom. The thing is filthy.  I just couldn't take it anymore!  He has been moaning and groaning about cleaning it and "okaying" me all week.  Well, its Friday and it still hasn't been done.  So, I decided to try radical unschooling.  After taking a nap I told myself that I would go in and clean the room.  I would not ask for help and I would do it with peace and love.  Since my back has been hurting all week I told myself that I would only do what I wanted to do.  I told myself that I didn't have to finish the whole thing today. 

The kids were on the computer when I went into the room with a garbage bag, broom and dustpan.  I sat down and starting picking up Legos.  Let me tell you, Finn has a boatload of Legos and they were scattered from one end of the room to the other sitting in little piles of dust.  Finn saw me and immediately came to help saying, "Mom, I'll help. You shouldn't have to do this all by yourself."  I told him that I didn't mind and if he wanted to keep playing Animal Jam he could.  But he stayed with me and we cleaned up everything together.  It took a long time and it wasn't easy for me because me back was really hurting, but we had a lot of fun listening to music, talking and laughing.  I really enjoyed myself and so did Finn.  Tali kept on playing Animal Jam.  She didn't invite herself to help and I didn't ask her to, which was perfectly okay. 

After finishing, the joy in Finn was enormous.  I was in the kitchen putting stuff away and he ran in and threw his arms around me thanking me.  I thanked him back.  It was a lovely moment. 

Finn hugging his playroom.

Every radical unschooling thing I try makes me more and more a believer.  I am so grateful to have the chance to be at home with my kids and to move our family to a more peaceful and loving place. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Corpus Christi

Tonight begins the Feast of Corpus Christi. 

According to Wikipedia, the Feast of Corpus Christi is "is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasizes the joy of the institution of the Eucharist, which was observed on Holy Thursday in the somber atmosphere of the nearness of Good Friday."

I've also learned that, "Use of firecrackers has intangible traditional meaning and religious symbolism in Ecuadorian festivals and events." and
"Religious events are announced with firecrackers. This is a custom that goes back hundreds of years. So you will hear firecrackers at 5am and then very loud music blasting off speakers on top of a truck, followed by 50 people carrying candles and singing and a big statue of the Mother of all people (Pachamama)."

And, Question: Why are there so many candy/sweet tiendas surrounding the Cathedral during Corpus Christi?

Answer: Many years ago when the Spaniards first came, the Indigenous people were not allowed to attend the catholic church services inside the church. The Indigenous were unhappy about the discrimination. So when it was a period of fasting for the religious Catholics, the Indigenous people would stand outside the church with sweets to tempt the Spaniards.

I'm sorry, but I think that is sweet justice!

For the next seven nights there will be fireworks and music.  In December an old church caught fire from one of the globos.  Because of this there has been a ban on globos and rockets.  There was a back and forth with the fireworks, but it was finally decided today that the fireworks will go on.  Yay!  It would really harm the old traditions to not allow the fireworks.  I'm not sure we will go up there at night because it gets so crowded, but we'll see.

We walked up to El Centro with Fabi, the kid's Spanish teacher and our friend, to check out the initial festivities. 

(As an aside to address unschooling, I let the kids eat as much candy as they wanted.  When we got home they both wanted something healthy and filling to eat.)

Fabi and the kids.

We just missed the parade.

Vendors set up along the square.

How do you choose?

The little balls in front are lime, carrot, beet, pineapple, etc...
flavored sweets.

Do you think these would be tempting to the
fasting Catholics?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unschooling - Part Two...Monkey Platters!

My latest obsession has become unschooling.  Since my back went out on Monday I have had a ton of time to read to my heart's content about unschooling and I am having a blast.  Its funny because I am exhibiting the very process of unschooling as I READ about unschooling.  Meaning, I have found a topic that I am excited about and want to know more about and I can't stop reading and researching about.  :)  That's what happens to our kids.  They latch onto something they are interested in and do everything in their power to find out more about it, with me as their support.  That is when the learning happens!

People who are looking for information about Ecuador may be disappointed in my posts this week because there won't be much to tell.  We have reached our 11 month here.  One more month and it will be a year.  Incredible!  Time has flown, and now we are into the nitty gritty of just living and learning.  Or learning while living.  I'm sure we will have a lot more to say about our adventures, so keep tuning in, but you may want to tune out on this one.  Unless you are interested in unschooling in Ecuador, that is.  :)

This week as you know from my last post I have become interested in the food paradigm that goes along with unschooling.  Last week I took the kids shopping, gave them $15 each and waited to see what happened.  Finn bought bananas, strawberries, yogurt, hershey bars, a bottle of Fanta, a small bag of chocolates and slinkies.  Tali bought a cucumber, a loaf of bread, ham, hershey bars and a small bag of chocolate.  Pretty balanced I would say.  How proud they were going up to the counter and paying for their very own food!

Unschooling also explores refraining on putting limits on when and what children eat.  Unschooling parents believe that given the choice children are pretty smart and will choose what their bodies need.  I have read excerpt after excerpt of parents finding this to be true. They also believe that many of the eating disorders and obesity in our society today is because of the rules, regulations and guilt trips associated with food.  When children have access to as much candy (or any other food for that matter) as they want, whenever they want, it is found by unschooling parents that children balance themselves and eventually eat less candy than children who have limitations.  The children end up feeling that since it is always there, there is no need to gorge themselves.   I am interested in seeing where this takes us.

One idea that has taken off in the unschooling world is the idea of "monkey platters".  This is a plate or bowls containing "healthy" and "not-so-healthy" foods offered to children with love.  Whatever is in the house.  I decided to make my first monkey platter tonight.  It included a big bowl of popcorn, ham slices, banana chunks, strawberries, cucumber slices, pumpkin seeds and cheese cubes.  I called to the kids that I had made them a monkey platter.  They came running and were so excited to see it.  They asked me why I made it for them and I said because I love them.  They thanked me over and over.  It was pretty funny.  We don't have a lot of junk food in the house since I haven't gone shopping since I decided to do this.  Next time there will be more of that. 

Here is a link to Sandra Dodd's website about food:

Here is the page about Monkey Platters:

Here are my kids rejoicing and snacking on my first platter:

 What I am most surprised about is how quickly my attitudes towards food for myself are changing.  It is like a fresh breath of air is blowing through our house and sweeping out all of the worries and anxieties.  That has got to be a good thing.  :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Old post, but I thought I would put it out there anyway. It's Time to Party!

I haven't posted in awhile because we were just living the ordinary life.  Getting up to work out at The Zone Crossfit, going to Spanish class, teaching the kids, taking naps,cooking dinner and searching for the perfect farm.   Same old, same old.

But this past Saturday we were invited to a party at a Facebook friend's house.  Suzanne and her husband, Terry, live in Ricaurte, a little bit outside the city.  They have a beautiful home that was built for parties.  We met a lot of people that we have been conversing with on Facebook for the first time.  Everyone was in a festive mood and had a great time.  Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of music and lots of laughter.  We had a really nice time and hope to do it again soon.


I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about unschooling these past two weeks.  I started reading about it before we moved to Ecuador and I was intrigued, but once getting here I still felt like they needed to know the basics.  They were troopers and did what I asked, although for several weeks Finn gave me a horrible awful time.  We kept threatening school and he finally had an attitude adjustment, but as I look back over those weeks I wonder if we did more harm than good.

Last week I decided to ask them what they wanted to learn.  They made a list.  Some of the things included were swimming, cooking, sewing (for both of them) and learning a musical instrument.  They both said they wanted to continue Spanish lessons and that they enjoyed me teaching Math to them, so we decided to continue that. We dropped the Brain Pop, which they didn't like, but they continue to read books way above grade level on their own.   

There is a new school here starting in the fall that follows the unschooling principles.  Well, as much as a school can.  I have only emailed back and forth with the director a few times as he is in the states right now guiding a hundred or so kids in Yosemite.  I like what he says he is attempting to do, but it is expensive.  I want to meet with him when he gets back and see what his school is offering.  If it gives Finn and Tali a chance to be with other kids and to explore things that they love, then I'm in. 

What led me to this excited search into unschooling this time was a book recommended by the director of this new school called, The Teenage Liberation Handbook.  It is meant to be read by teenagers, but it really opened my eyes to a new way of looking at learning.  As I read I keep thinking about my niece who is miserable in high school right now.  I think that if she let herself become open to this idea of unschooling she would soar. 

Today I have been reading a blog of a radical unschooling mother.  She is one of the experts in radical unschooling and has been on many tv shows, including Oprah.  Nightly News calls her the UnNanny.  She has been to many family's homes helping them to transition into unschooling.  I have been afraid of even looking into radical unschooling. It just seemed too radical!  But, today I read a post about how she handles food in her home.  One of the things she does is give her children $15 and she allows them to pick out whatever food they want at the grocery store.  My immediate thought was, No Way! 

I started to think about how that would look and decided to experiment a little bit with Finn and Tali.  I told them that I would do the same...give them some money at the grocery store and they can pick out what they want.  They were so excited.  In my head I saw grocery carts with heaps of candy and chips. 

At lunch we started talking about what they were going to buy.  Tali said she would probably pick bread, meat and cucumbers.  Finn said he would love to get some peach yogurt.  He was so excited to get that yogurt because Mark always buys blackberry.  I didn't know he was really missing the peach.  He also said he would buy strawberries, bananas and milk to make more smoothies.  I was a bit surprised by their choices.  I wonder what will happen when we actually get to the store.  To be continued...