Unschooling Field Notes 1

We are five months into our unschooling journey, and life is much improved. Dare I say superb. The freedom I feel in each day is refreshing. Our schedule has totally opened up, and we are all experiencing more free time as well as an abundance of quality time together. The learning going on with no effort at all to plan for it is just astounding. They are leading the way, and I love it.

At first, it felt like long tentacles from a ginormous black octopus were beginning to recoil away. Those tentacles threaded into cracks and crevices throughout our lives. They were dragging us down. As they receded, we discovered the ability to breath unrestrained again just like summertime. We feel the freedom and creativity of being ourselves and simply enjoying life with no deadlines or schedules except the ones we set for ourselves. We are enjoying realization of a whole new existence where we are calling the shots. It is, quite simply, liberating.

Still, at the edge of my consciousness is a somewhat annoying persistent thought about the upcoming proof of progress we must file with the school administration by August. Sometimes I catch myself imagining that black octopus is just bidding time to pounce and wrap us all up again. I know it sounds dramatic, and I know it’s just a fearful thought, one that I consciously I kick out. Many times I’ve soothed myself away from the scary idea that we’ll be challenged for trying to get away with something and then be required to justify ourselves. It seems like a ridiculous thought since previous generations have won the fight for the right to homeschool for many of us.

Lucky for us in Virginia it seems pretty easy to homeschool. The trickiest part seems to be proving educational progress annually. There are a couple of ways outlined as options to demonstrate educational growth and progress. Families can do good enough on a nationally normed standardized test of their choice (place in or above the fourth stanine) or have an evaluation letter from a qualified individual (a licensed teacher or someone with a master’s degree). If progress is not found to be good enough, the homeschooling family gets a year of probation to continue homeschooling then try again next year to prove adequate progress. If progress is still not good enough, there will be intervention and the kids will have to go back to school. I have been advised by local homeschooling gurus to “just test out” because they say it is the easiest and most objective way to jump through the required hoops. I have a problem with that because standardized testing is one reason I wanted out of the school system. Also, having done more traditional homeschool with my son in the past I know how quickly learning time turns to rote memorization and uninspired lectures while running through a checklist of what to learn so as to do well on the test…a frustrating waste of time for me and my kids to be sure.

So I have settled into the idea that we will show progress with a letter that I write reporting on the progress of each of my kids for this first year. The reason I can write the report is because I have a master’s degree and regulations do not stipulate that the evaluator cannot be the child’s parent. This seems a bit risky but I’m sure it will all work out. After all, I am with them all day every day being continually astounded by their questions and creative ways of thinking. As a supplement to the report, I am also keeping an Evernote portfolio about each kid and their interests and activities throughout the year. Those Evernote portfolios will likely become their portfolio blogs as they advance. The kids are very interested in building their own portfolios already. They love that we are collecting photos, videos, links, and audio recordings of what they are focusing on and creating. So do I. The portfolios will serve a purpose similar to a scrapbook too. The kids enjoy looking back at what they’ve done even now, and it solidifies their learning as they do so.

Notice an Intuitive Message

There are many ways your intuition can get a message to you. You will start to pick them up once you’ve learned to quiet your mental chatter.

  • You might notice a certain song gets stuck in your head out of nowhere.
  • When listening to music you might notice some words seem to get highlighted then that connect you to an idea about a problem you’ve focused on recently.
  • You might notice images brought into focus. The image might connect you straight to an answer you’ve been seeking.
  • Someone who speaks to you could say certain words that bridge a connection for you.
  • You might feel a tingle in your body that lets you know an idea is resonating.

Look for these types of signs and don’t be afraid to say to yourself, “I note the emphasis on blah right now…what does that mean?” Sometimes your intuition will supply the answer.

You can even develop a standard vocabulary with your intuition. If this idea appeals to you, I suggest you have a standard way to record what you learn in a journal. Develop signals for “yes” and “no” to use for follow up questions. For example, ask your intuition to warm-up or stimulate your right hand for a yes answer and warm-up or stimulate your left hand for a no answer. If you know astrology or tarot cards, those images can be useful as pieces of your intuitive language too. You can also use colors, or rhythms, or scenes from movies. Whatever works for you!

Intuition is subtle and quick. The importance of learning to quiet the energy diverting mental chatter cannot be over-emphasized so definitely start there. Intuition is often delivered in the form of a feeling. So pay attention to how you are feeling at any given moment especially if you are looking for an intuitive connection.

We typically don’t practice interviewing very often yet each interview we do have is pretty important. Here are three quick tips for interview preparation.

Tip 1 – It is best to think of an interview as a two-way discussion. Yes, often a stressful discussion but remember not only are they checking you out, you are checking them out. In fact, one of the most important actions you can take to prepare for an upcoming interview is to research the company. It is easier than ever to get on the internet, enter a search word and come up with relevant information. Most companies have a web page of their own where you can read up on company history and recent press releases. Be thinking about questions you can ask during the interview as well. Make relevant observations about what is going on with the company and ask your interviewer to comment. You may also want to consider asking some questions like the following.

  • Is this a newly created position?
  • What do you think is the most important thing for a new hire to understand about this position? This company? Or this department?
  • Why did the previous person leave this position?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the new hire?

Tip 2 – Another good way to prepare for the interview is to put together 3-5 well thought out power stories and a couple lessons learned stories. Power stories are your stories about times that you solved problems or had a positive impact in your work. Keep your power stories in a notebook in Evernote and save them forever! These stories are very important to think about in advance of the interview for responses to behavioral interviewing questions which are used very often by skilled interviewers. Behavioral interview questions are ones that ask you to describe times in the past when you solved this or that type of problem. A good format for the stories is to describe the problem, describe the action you took, then describe the result. This is called the PAR technique for Problem, Action, Result. Once you write these stories out, list in the margin the characteristics these stories demonstrate. Then you have ready answers for some questions like “Tell me about a time when _____?” or “What is your biggest strength and why?” Don’t forget to rehearse your answers out loud. It is best to have someone ask you the questions in order to practice most effectively.

Tip 3 – One often overlooked key to good interviewing to have clear starts and stops to your questions and answers. This helps to set a good rhythm for the discussion. It also demonstrates your ability to be concise and listen to others. Don’t be afraid of a few seconds of silence after you finish your answer. A good interviewer will use silence as a tool to get you to rattle on about stuff you did not intend to reveal. Also, silence is an important tool for you to learn use as well, especially come negotiation time.

On Interviewing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To learn even more about strategies for job interviewing, I highly recommend the books by Carole Martin, The Interview Coach. A great one to start with is Boost Your Interview IQ.

How to Capture Ideas

one light bulb on, rest offOnce captured, an idea is available to you for future reference and further reflection, and to combine with other appealing ideas.

You capture an idea by bookmarking it, putting it in your social media streams, journaling it, sending yourself an email or voicemail, or using your digital recorder. However you decide to capture ideas, establish your system and use it religiously. Then be sure to review and revise your ideas regularly.

My favorite way to capture ideas is Evernote.com. With it, you can mingle audio recording, web page links, photos, and your written words together in an organized and searchable way that is fully digital. What I do is keep a pen and notebook handy for quick notes when I’m not at my computer then transfer to Evernote and mark off the journal pages once the content has been entered. I also have the Android App on my phone so I can get to my notes anytime. I love the new Moleskine notebook made to be used with Evernote. It is called the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook.

You will not believe the increased effectiveness of your self-development endeavors as a result of getting clear on how to capture your ideas.

Focusing Games

SHOW NOTES:

How often do you sit to focus for a few seconds on how you like to feel? It’s a powerful skill to be fully present in the moment focusing on what you like. It has so much creative potential! In this podcast, Stevie shares some games that can help you build momentum for more of what you like. What you focus on is important. Controlling your headspace is important. Feeling good is important! Make it a daily habit to focus on how you want to feel. Use little games like the ones shared in this podcast and find yourself in the flow more often, feeling pretty good more often, and just generally enjoying life more.

SHOW NOTES:

Stevie describes what intuition is and isn’t from her point-of-view, what intuition feels like, and a way to begin to enhance the connection to your own intuition.

Listen in as Stevie is interviewed by Shahrzad Arasteh, a holistic career counselor out of Baltimore, Maryland. Shahrzad brought many career development experts together in a unique project to create the book Nourish Your Career. Check out her website at NourishYourCareer.com to hear top tips from other featured contributors to the book as well.

Interview 1 – Shahrzad asks me to give my top tips for job search and career development.

We venture into topics like:

  • personal career development as an inherently selfish process
  • the benefits of keeping a career portfolio and tips on how to do it
  • how to better endure the job search process which often runs longer than expected.

If you enjoyed this interview (Shahrzad is a great interviewer!), listen to our second interview about using intuition in your career.