Unschooling and schooling all at once?

Never heard of that before, have you? No, me neither. But that might be the only chance we have to unschool our kids in this country. Unfortunately we have Compulsory School Attendance over here, so unschooling and any other form of Home Education is considered illegal.

I already told you a little about that.

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So what are our options? I mean realistically? Do I want to go to jail for not being willing to public school my kids? Do I want to be financially ruined? Do I want to lose custody? No, I don’t. Do I want to fight the system? Yes, I do. Am I willing to do harm to my children because I want to fight the system? No, I most definitely am not.

So here we go. There is no real solution to this, is there?

Well, maybe there is. Maybe there is something we can do without being prosecuted by the state. Maybe we just have to be really REALLY creative. Let’s see. How about looking for a school that works with an alternative curriculum? Without giving grades? Without forcing students to repeat a year if they didn’t satisfy all expectations?

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The good thing is: There are schools like this. They are still schools, so they are not what I’m dreaming of. BUT my kids could just learn as freely as possible – in this country. They don’t feel like doing their homework but do something more interesting instead? Great – since there are no grades there are no bad consequences to this and I could let them do as they like without doing harm to them. They can take almost full responsibility for their educational choices that way.

And they can learn as free as possible.

OK, I’m not going to sugar-coat this: I hate that idea. I want to unschool my kids. I want them to learn at home, in the garden, at the beach, in a local library – where ever they want. Whatever they want. When ever they want. How they want.

But that is just not going to happen…

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Living a minimalist life as a family – and why that is something worth considering

This is a very special day for me because I want to share some ideas with you  that I’m very excited about: Minimalism.

Have you heard about Minimalism?

In case you haven’t I’m more than glad to give you a short introduction. Minimalism is a highly idealistic philosophy and a way of life that focuses on living a kind of essentialistic life.

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I know, that is very theoretical and I’m going to show what it means to live a minimalist life in practice and why that might be something worth considering in just a minute. But first I want to tell you why minimalism sparks me so much and why I think it is a deeply Christian way of living.

Do you know the saying “less is more”? I guess you do and if you do you also know Minimalism – because that is what minimalism is all about: owning less, consuming less, polluting less, harming less. Minimalism is all about focusing on what really matters and not getting bogged down in details.

So what does really matter to you?

Growing into a Minimalist lifestyle actually requires two things in the first place: Finding our what really matters and reducing things. Minimalists often refer to the “5 R’s”:

  • refuse
  • reduce
  • reuse (+repair)
  • recycle
  • rot

Those are actually not only the 5 R’s of Minimalism but also the principles of Zero Waste – but I will come to that later. So what am I trying to tell you here?

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We often get bogged down in details – simply because we own too much, we consume too much and we want too much. We kind of lose track of what really matters, what really is important and essential because we are so distracted. Other than that we cause pollution and harm others with these kinds of lifestyle choices.

Do you remember what Jesus says in Matthew 6?

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

~ Matthew 6:24

This is Minimalism. Consumerism doesn’t only cause pollution and harm other people due to awful labor conditions in many countries – it also distracts us from what really matters: God and his message to us – the Good News.

Minimalism can do so much for us, for our neighbors and the entire planet. It can help us grow as a person, it can help us grow in faith, compassion, responsibility and love and it can help cure the planet.

I’m very excited about these ideas and how Minimalism can look like in practice. So be prepared for a whole bunch of articles about Minimalism and its benefits! How do you feel about that?

Idealism and parenting

I’ve always been an idealist. I’ve always been called a do-gooder and a goody two-shoes. And you know what? I agree.

I think being idealistic is a wonderful virtue. And I think there is a dramatic lack of idealism in our society. Being idealistic doesn’t mean to be naive. I know my ideals will never come true – but that doesn’t stop me from striving for them.

The way is the goal – remember?

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When I first became a mother people laughed at me because of my idealistic parenting values. But I still stick to them. I know I will never be a perfect mother, or a perfect wife or a perfect Catholic – that’s not the point. The point is that I’m confident that I will learn and grow so much along the way that I will benefit from that. More than that: Others will benefit from my ideals, too.

I am pretty confident that my children will not only benefit but also learn from my idealism. I strive to teach them that it’s a good thing to treat others well, to act responsibly, to be eco-conscious and to honor God. I want to teach them that it is worth striving for ideals.

How do you feel about idealism?

What is Unschooling after all?

I think most of us have heard about unschooling. In case you haven’t: Unschooling is a certain concept of homeschooling that focuses on natural or life learning. Unschooled children are allowed to learn self-determined and self-regulated. That sounds interesting, right?

But what does that mean in practice?

And more importantly for a family with very young children: When and how does unschooling start?

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Unschooling starts when your child is born, maybe even before he is born. Natural learning just happens because your child is eager to learn. Children are never not learning. And they do learn a lot, don’t they?

In his first years a child learns to sit, to walk, to speak and to do so many other things – without really being taught. You don’t teach your child how to walk, learning to walk is a natural learning process. Unschoolers think that basically everything you learn can be learned in such a natural learning process. Children have their own learning goals – and they pursue them. If we let them.

Children are intrinsically motivated to explore the world and to learn so many things – basically everything they really need to. We as parents, however, have to learn to trust them in what they are doing. That’s what unschooling is all about.

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You don’t really start unschooling. Unschooling is a process that comes naturally as soon as your child is born – maybe even before birth. The question is if you stop that natural learning process one day to school your child – or not.

There are different unschooling approaches. Some parents do use classical learning materials in a sort of “prepared environment”. That means they hardly regulate their children’s learning processes, but they do offer learning materials and a prepared learning environment in order to take stock of their children’s state of knowledge. And sometimes they even seek to inspire their children to deal with domains they don’t love too much.

Radical unschooling, however, doesn’t instruct or regulate at all. There is no prepared environment or school materials unless the children utterly demand them.

How do you feel about unschooling?

 

 

 

Why need-oriented parenting after all?

Since 2012 there is a huge controversy regarding Attachment Parenting (AP) in the English speaking part of the world which was caused by a cover picture on Time magazine that showed a Mom breastfeeding her almost 4-year-old child.

But what is AP after all and why would anybody breastfeed a 4-year-old?

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AP – or as we call it “need-oriented parenting” – is a parenting style that focuses a lot on meeting a child’s needs and being empathetic and responsive in order to establish a strong mother-child-bond. This bond between mother and child – also called “attachment” – is crucial for a child’s healthy personal development.

Therefore many parents who practice AP choose (longterm) breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapers or elimination communication, homeschooling or even unschooling, organic home-made food and gentle discipline. AP is a highly communicative parenting approach.

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In the US AP is widely regarded as a mainly Christian parenting style, whereas Europeans tend to assume AP to be a secular parenting approach. Feminists often criticize AP as “New Momism” which promotes role models that should be overcome by now – but maybe a child’s needs and his personal development should be more important than social ideologies…

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To us as parents the main reason for bringing our children up in an AP way of life is this:

Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb, a reward.

~ Psalms 127:3

Our children are a gift and a blessing from God – so we should treat them as the gift they are. How would you treat a gift that is very precious to you? We decided we wanted our kids to grow up in a family that grants them love, respect, trust, emotional security, warmth, protection, happiness and the freedom to just be who they are.

That’s why we chose this parenting style.

A Weekend in Pictures – May 1st 2016

This was a very wonderful and special weekend for our family. It was a beautiful spring weekend with lots of sunshine, playground time, walks in the park – and a birthday party! We were happy to celebrate two birthdays at a time which actually was a lot of fun. But why don’t you see for yourself:

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What would be a birthday party without a birthday cake? So here we go!

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Baking the birthday cake was kind of a family event and a great learning experience for our toddler:

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Is there a better place to have a birthday party than a playground? I don’t think so. Our children really enjoyed there time outside – and the Dads did too…

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Aside from baking and playing there was also plenty of time for discovering the world:

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How was your weekend?

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Need-oriented parenting – a Catholic Approach

and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

~ Matthew 18:3

There is a lot you can read about need-oriented or Attachment Parenting in the media or on the internet – but one question you will hardly find to be answered:

Is there any Catholic Approach to those need-oriented ideas?

A few websites do offer a Catholic Attachment Parenting Approach, e.g. the Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, Intentional Catholic Parenting or Simply Charlotte Mason. Mostly Attachment Parenting is a secular philosophy of education, though.

How so?

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Attachment Parenting is all about freedom, need-orientation, respect and about being loving, caring and understanding with each other as a family. Somehow, these ideas seem to be more popular in secular circles – maybe because they can be considered very liberal.

But let’s see, does Attachment Parenting require a secular and/or liberal worldview?

Not really. There is nothing wrong with living social-conservative Catholic values – it’s just an unconventional Approach: You don’t teach your values by indoctrination, you simply live by them. So you’re creating kind of an observational learning experience for your child.

Besides, freedom, need-orientation, respect and being loving, caring and understanding with each other are Catholic values, too, right?

Let’s talk about the Bible verse quoted above: Jesus tells us we should become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. He truly appreciates children! So how could we not treat children according to those beautiful Attachment Parenting ideas as we strive for loving our children just as much as Jesus does?