The following vignet is an example of how unschooling works, and why it is so cool. I am not a Radical Unschooler, but I fully understand the concept.
While I was cleaning out the car, N offered to help and pulled out his Gandalf staff from the back of the car. [insert link tomemorial day here] The kids decided that instead of the staff, they'd like to make another bird feeder (this will make our 8th feeder this spring).
I did nothing. I contributed little but encouragement while the two older children found supplies, fended off D, devised a plan and created their little bird stand. They staked their yard art and happily completed a project that required initiative, imagination, engineering and an understanding of animal behaviour. More experienced homechool Moms could probably add in a few more categories there, but I was happy with it. And this was just the 30 minute block of time before we left for our homeschool enrichment day out!
After that, we filled the rest of the feeders and made our way into Tacoma. We had a picnic lunch in the park next to the market, sucking down honey sticks and listening to some way-out-there, new-age harpist named Destyne singing for the entire time about living for today. Every song was about living in the now. She's obviously a big fan of living for today. Cause. She said it a lot. The kids soaked up the atmosphere but barely tolerated a picnic, as they knew we were really there for the free-Thursdays children's museum.
I set the kids loose in there and looked forward to some down time. The Tacoma Children's museum, while competent and visually appeallng, is probably the smallest children's museum I have ever seen. It is in effect one long shoebox with dividers for the discrete areas You can see the length of it and pretty much hear that far too. A few of the exhibits really rock and the kids love it, which is what matters. The part I like about it is that it's in the same building as my dh's job and there is only one way in and out.
Given this setup, I was confident I didn't need to hover to supervise the big kids, and I thought D would wander nicely on his own. Welllllllllllll.... almost. I did end up having to follow him around, and I did enjooy playing with him, but I was disappointed. I had brought skirezort's blanket to work, but I only got maybe 15 stitches in.
Frankly, this is what shames me: I was annoyed that I had to play with my son.
Other mothers were engaging their kids. Once upon a time I would not have even considered trying to shed a 17 month old. I saw the other mothers and they reminded me of well, ME before I had three. D has been a sweet, loving child but comparatively high maintenance when you consider his sleep issues. While he sleeps through the night now, he does it in our bed. At 17 mos, I am still nursing him to start the day at 5.30 am. If I am lucky, he'll go back to sleep, but that's a crap shoot.
It's obviously not D's fault that I am not engaged with my children the way I'd like to be; life is not very understanding of that. Lessons with G, N will be up our behinds. Pick a child, the others will use their sibling rivalry skills to interrupt. We have the garden to tend, the animals to feed, the house to clean and maintain. Life. Oh yes, that spouse thing. When deos one even have time for a conversation, much less intimacy or sex?
I simply don't know where I should get the energy to DO like I think is optimum for my kids. Further, I don't know whether I should do what I think is optimum. Am I over thinking it? Over reaching? I just don't know. Do I feel depression lurking because I am depressed, or simply because I am depleted? It doesn't take much to perk me up, so I don't think it is the big D. Factor in that children act like, well, children and you have some pretty high-energy dynamics going on in our household.
I will not give up on this. Nearly weekly I still marvel at their physical beauty, their athletic prowess, the creases of their smiles, the way their hair glints in the sun. I truly love being a mother. I love our specific little quirky family. I am grateful all the time, in stunned disbelief, that the life which started out as it did should have provided me with this amount of love and beauty. What I want is to have that feeling of wholeness and solidity that I envision when I think about our family. It will get there.
If I clean out the garage. :p