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.

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There are powerful people around us all the time. People who either help us create the next part of our life story in a powerfully positive way or people who help us rehash our old story. Relationships are about the potential of the next part of your story. Through your relationships you become more of who you are. Much of the juice of life comes from interactions with others too. Different teachers and mentors come into our lives through our relationships. Even as we live our lives and have our experiences, we can maintain a fundamental view of others as people with the potential to connect meaningfully with us. Through times of connection, we all learn something new about ourselves.

It’s human nature to look to others to make us feel good. One of the best feelings ever happens when we look into someone’s eyes as we laugh with them. It’s so easy to appreciate the moment when that happens. But remember, no one else is responsible for how you feel. Would you even want them to be? I don’t care to be that dependent on anyone. I don’t control how others feel and no one but me is responsible for how I feel. Remember that. Maybe it will help you as it has me. We all can steer our emotions in a direction that feels good. To do so, we must monitor what we are thinking about and focusing on and exercise intention and discipline in that regard.

You are worthy, and your perspective is valid. You have a unique point of view and it matters. You matter, whether anyone else recognizes that in any moment or not. Do not be dependent on other people’s opinion of you for your own happiness. That being said, strive to make appreciation the whole point of your interaction with others. That appreciation will strengthen you, even though at first glance it might feel like something you are doing for someone else.

Your Surprising Responsibility

Of course, you can see the benefit of everyone being happy. You can certainly focus on how you would feel if everyone were happy. You can even intentionally notice happy people. You cannot, however, assist a single person to feel different unless he or she allows it.

You have the best chance of enjoying your relationships if you focus on one main priority: Your number one responsibility is to feel good. Feeling good is powerful. That is the place you must start for improved relationships. You are a positive influence and a force for good when you feel good. You will bring people up all around you when you are feeling good, and people will benefit from being around your positive energy. But remember, they are not your priority. They can, and likely will, come up to meet you at your higher vibe. That’s superb, but it must not be the main priority. Put on your own oxygen mask first!

You can be an example of a person who focuses on the positive as you go through your life feeling good and in your personal power more often than not. You can act on your inspiration. You can send positive vibes to people who are unhappy. You can intend a better life for them. You can trust in their ability to find happiness the same as can for yourself. You can know that it’s possible for all people to find their way to some happiness at some point. You can help others notice something positive to focus on if they choose to cooperate but remember you are not responsible for how others feel.

Feeling good is a natural way of being. You feel bad by focusing on something that makes you feel bad. Now that you know this secret to a good life, take notice when you are feeling bad and intentionally change your focus.

Let Them Create

When we blame others as the reason for our unhappiness, we can quickly lose empathy for them. Once that happens, we subconsciously give ourselves permission to treat them badly, or just generally have a negative vibe concerning them, and a cycle of negativity begins. This is not a good foundation for enjoyable relationships or connection with others.

Instead, realize that other people are simply having a different emotional experience, and that is to be expected. Everyone is coming from unique perspectives. We all have challenges that take time to recognize and to learn from. Instead of pointing out the idiocy you see in others, change your focus. Don’t comment on it under your breath or encourage others to focus on something negative. Free yourself up to focus on something you do like. That is the beginning of something powerful.

We can learn to be more patient with ourselves and with others.

You can’t change others, but you can change your thoughts and feelings about them. You must clearly understand that you cannot control how others feel. Why would you want to? Don’t push against them when you can be doing something so much more beneficial to yourself. When you release them to their own creations, you free yourself up to focus on yours. There is no more joy in this world than focusing on what you want and creating it.

Control Your Focus

It is imperative to be disciplined about where we focus in order to have satisfying relationships.

Don’t let your mind wander to those things that you find annoying about them at the moment. Instead, cut them a break. Have a general statement at the ready when you begin to go off in a negative direction about someone. Say to yourself, “I’m sure they’re doing their best,” or “Easy does it, focus elsewhere.” The important thing is to release yourself from going on a long dialog about how they suck.

Control your focus to feel good. It’s the only thing you do have control of. You can’t control others or at-the-moment situations you find yourself in, but you can control what you think about and give your attention to.

You can create a new and improved experience with people you consider yourself “stuck” with too. Just start a new habit of appreciating their strengths. Notice and remember what you liked about them when you first met them. Get clear on what you want to see in them. What you like about them. Look for the smallest indication of it and truly appreciate it.

Believe in those around you. Believe in the best of them to see more of it. Do the same for yourself, and do that first! Every accomplishment and thing of beauty comes about because somebody believed in somebody.

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Stress is a normal part of life. Still, like anything else, too much can be harmful to not only our mental faculties but also our physical health. It is important that we reduce and control the amount of stress in our lives.

The basic foundation of minimizing the harmful effects of stress is to eat good feeling food, move and stretch the body regularly, and adhere to a good sleep routine that leaves you well-rested. You must figure out how best to fit your unique needs in these areas. When you do, this important foundation will keep your body more robust and healthy despite stress.

Learning to let your mind free of stresses and worries is also an important stress buster. Meditation and quiet contemplation are two methods of reducing stress. If you’re not into meditation, spend a half hour or so each night reading a good book in a comfortable chair or take up an enjoyable hobby. Anything that distracts you from the concerns of the day and allows you a chance to decompress can be a worthwhile activity.

Go for a walk in the park or get a pet. Get a dog and take the dog for a walk in the park. A walk outdoors in the fresh air can do wonders for reducing stress, as can a companion animal. It likely wouldn’t hurt to combine the two if you’re so inclined.

Play games. Card games. Board games. Video games. Whatever floats your boat. You could also try puzzles. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together may be a good way to spend your time. It’s hard to worry about work when you’re trying to find a matching piece! Or, do a crossword puzzle, word find, or sudoku.

If you’re artistic, you could paint, draw, or even just doodle. You could try needle crafts, sand art, sculpture, wood carving, sewing or whatever suits your interests.

Take time to listen to music or watch television. Take an evening and go out for dinner and a movie. See a play. Go to a sporting event.

The important thing is to take some time out for yourself. Find something that works for you and remember to take time to do it. Relaxing and recharging are important!

Practice Being Organized

We all face some amount of stress in our lives. Some stress is caused by situations beyond our control, making it all the more important to do what we can to reduce stress in the circumstances we do control.

One thing within our control is our level of organization.

While on the face of it, organization may seem to have little to do with stress levels, a lack of organization will prove otherwise in a stressful situation.

If you’re under pressure to find an item in a stressful situation, imagine how much more stressed you will become when you cannot locate it.

As you shuffle through papers, folders and drawers, your frantic searching may cause further disorganization, setting the stage for a later repeat of the situation. If instead, you can quickly locate what you need when you need it, your stress levels will be lower than they might otherwise be.

Naturally, the first step is to do a thorough cleaning, eliminating clutter and organizing everything that is needed.

  • Make sure you organize everything in a manner that makes sense for you, using a system you will remember and stick with.
  • Once you get organized, stay organized.
  • Each day, set aside a few minutes to get your work area back in order.

Ideally and when practical, follow a pattern where you handle each item only once. For example, when you get a new document or piece of mail, read it and then act on it, file it, or recycle it. Eliminate the “I’ll do it later” items as much as possible. Too often, later never comes because of other more pressing needs. Additionally, you won’t suffer the stress of seeing a growing stack of “I’ll do it later” items sitting on your desk. You can better focus on the job at hand rather than being frustrated by the amount of work left to do.

Being better organized will not eliminate stress, but it can help keep it at reduced levels. Plus, it makes for a better and easier home and workplace, so there is no downside. Get organized and reap the benefits of increasing your productivity and reducing your stress level.

Remember to Breathe

Feeling a little stress is a normal part of the working day but when stress gets to be too much it can affect your judgment causing you to make rash decisions. Or, it can affect you physically causing tension in your muscles, increased heart rate, or aches and pains.

The key is to keep stress at a manageable level. One way to do this is with a simple breathing exercise.

  • Sit still in a relaxed position with your back straight.
  • Clear your mind as much as possible.
  • Breathe in slowly, for a deep breath.
  • Hold, but only as long as is comfortable.
  • Breathe out slowly.
  • Hold.
  • Breathe in.
  • Hold.
  • Breathe out.
  • Hold.

Repeat often. Take a few seconds here and there. Use a simple breathing exercise on a regular basis to help lower your stress level.

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The Perspective Movie

I get to experience.
I get to pick my favorites.
I get to create.

She gets to experience.
She gets to pick her favorites.
She gets to create.

He gets to experience.
He gets to pick his favorites.
He gets to create.

They get to experience.
They get to pick their favorites.
They get to create.

But most importantly to me…

I get to experience.
I get to pick my favorites.
I get to create.

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