What I’ve been up to lately…

It’s gotten a little quiet here, hasn’t it? Yes, it has. We have had some major changes in our family and we are still adjusting so I have to set priorities. Don’t worry, everything is fine!

And I just want to let you know what I’m thinking about.

In the past I have been focusing on unschooling mainly. However, unschooling is something that just doesn’t work for us. Not because of us – we sure love it! But because of the country we’re living in. Unschooling is illegal over here. We have to either public or private school our kids. There is no alternative whatsoever.

I hate that thought and I will ponder about unschooling and homeschooling and home education and educational freedom some more, I promise. But I feel I want to focus more on Catholic Attachment Parenting in the future.

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How does that sound?

There are some great Catholic Attachment Parenting blogs out there and I think this blog can be part of this community. How do you feel?

So what am I planning to do?

I want to share some thoughts about why Attachment Parenting is Catholic – for me. What that means. What we can learn from our faith for our parenting journey. How we can parent our kids in gentle and loving way – not just infants, but also toddlers, kids and even teens.

I want to share some thoughts on how we can build strong families and why that is important. I want to share so many thoughts!

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Are you excited? I know I am!

But let’s take it slow, because I need to focus on my family right now. But what about you? Are there topics, questions, ideas you want to read about here at Living a Catholic Fairy Tale? What’s on your mind? Just let me know!

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…

A typical unschooling day in our home

I know that many of you wonder why I even describe our lifestyle as unschooling – since our kids are still very young and there really is no schooling whatsoever until now. Well, you sure got a point, but you know what? There is really no start to unschooling. You can start to public school or to homeschool your child, but unschooling is natural learning that just happens “by the way”.

Unschooling is self-determined and self-regulated – and since natural learning starts with birth (maybe even before) and young children usually still have the chance to self-determine and to self-regulate their learning. And I consider that unschooling.

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So I think we’re already unschooling. But let’s what we do all day!

In the morning the kids and I usually get up about the time when my husband leaves home. We’ll have a morning prayer together and breakfast afterwards. The toddler loves butter her bread all by herself – which maybe is her first learning experience every day. She will also tell me what we wants for breakfast apart from bread. The baby loves to taste all kinds of things. She grabs basically everything that is around her and she loves to drink water from a glass.

Doing housework together offers us plenty of learning experiences

After breakfast we’ll just do some housework. The toddler loves to participate, the baby loves to watch. But sometimes even the baby wants to be part of our daily work and e.g. grabs pieces of laundry or tries to throw something into the dishwater while I’m doing dishes.

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Usually we’ll sing during the housework part of the day. You can call that music teaching if you want – I’ll go with fun and enjoying life.

Having finished the main part of my daily housework routine we’ll have our family devotions. We’ll pray together the Angelus prayer and the Lord’s prayer and we’ll read in our children’s bible. After that I’ll read in my bible and the kids will either play or “read” their bible.

Nap time…

The toddler recently stopped to take siestas, but the baby will be very tired by now. So the three of us will lay down until the baby sleeps. When the baby is sleeping I’m going to blog, write my book, or do whatever work needs to be done. Or I’m going to just read for a while. The toddler will play for herself during that time – that’s our arrangement and most of the time it actually works pretty well.

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After nap time we’ll prepare lunch together and eat and do some more housework. The toddler loves to hang out the laundry, to dry dishes and to clean with cleaning rags. The baby loves to practice all her new skill like standing, sitting and crawling in her play pen.

Ready for lots of new fun learning experiences we’ll go out to the playground

When we’re done with our daily work we’ll go out to the park or to the playground. Have you ever noticed just how much children learn while they are outside playing and interacting with other children? To me that is my favorite part of the day. I love to spend time just watching the toddler climb, seesaw, slide, play with sand, talk to other children, share and cooperate with them and have loads of fun. The baby will participate as much as possible.

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We all love playground time!

Our evenings are pretty quiet. We’ll just have dinner together, take a bath, pray and read a story from the bible. And then the kids will go to bed.

To me it’s amazing how much my kids can learn naturally. They learn by watching, by doing, by exploring and experimenting. And they learn by participating. And yes, I do think this is already unschooling.

What do you think?

When you’re choosing a lifestyle that is illegal – Compulsory School Attendance and Unschooling

Are you an unschooler? Or a homeschooler? And is your government fine with that? Well, lucky you! Not everyone is as lucky as you are. In a lot of countries Home Education is just not possible because of compulsory school attendance. Home Education is considered illegal. A crime. Home Educators are considered criminals.

Like us.

In our country we have compulsory school attendance and Home Educators are harshly prosecuted. You can be fined until you’re financially ruined, children can be taken away, you can loose custody and even go to jail. There is one thing you really need as a Home Educator over here: Guts.

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No, I’m not joking. This is the reality we are facing. Every. Single. Day.

How do we cope with that? Well, our kids are still very young, so they don’t need to go to school. Yet. So we can pass undetected. For now. But what about the future? I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t know. I don’t. And that’s hard.

We have several options that we can choose but none of them really seems to be the right one for us.

Give up the battle before it really began and try to fit in

Option No. 1 is Give up the battle before it really began and try to fit in. We would just go look for a school that would somehow meet our needs and give our kids away to an institution we don’t believe in. Just to fit in. Just to not get into trouble.

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Look for a great school that is need-oriented and as close to unschooling as possible

Option No. 2 is Look for a great school that is need-oriented and as close to unschooling as possible. That, however, is complicated, since there are hardly any schools like that in our country. There are schools like Sudbury schools that have a very need-oriented approach which could be almost considered as unschooling – the thing is, however, they are hardly ever permitted by the government.

Leave the country and go somewhere where you can live according to your beliefs

Option No. 3 is Leave the country and go somewhere where you can live according to your beliefs. That would definitely be a possibility because there are several neighboring countries that allow Home Education. But leaving the country still is a tough decision. You’ll leave everything behind to move to a foreign country and to an unsettled future. It could be a real adventure. It could also be a nightmare.

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Stay and just do it. No Matter what.

Option No. 4 is Stay and just do it. No matter what. Lots of people do that. Regarding the consequences you can face that is a very courageous decision to make, though.

What will we opt for? I really don’t know. For now I stick to prayer and hoping for the best. What would you do?

How to start a minimalist-zero-waste-need-oriented-unschooling-catholic lifestyle as a family

First of all: What do you think about the headline? It’s quite impressive, isn’t it? And what on earth is a minimalist-zero-waste-need-oriented-unschooling-catholic lifestyle?

Well, let me explain.

Actually this kind of lifestyle is exactly what we chose for us as a family. Sometimes I feel it’s kind of unique and I think it shouldn’t be so that’s why I’m sharing our thoughts and our philosophy here. And I also share what you can do to start something similar.

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Anyhow, why would someone choose something like that after all?

Since we’re a Catholic family our faith means a lot to us and we’re eager to live a faith-based life. And that’s where you can start because actually that’s where everything started for us.

What does it mean to live a Catholic life? Obviously there is a lot of personal and family prayer, Church time, Bible reading, pondering, celebrating and getting together with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Being a Catholic requires you to ask for God’s will and his plan for your life. And that’s what we do – and God answers. He always does. Not always the way we want him to, though. He answers our everyday questions and he also answers the big questions. And you know what he told us?

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

~ Matthew 25:40

So where does that lead us?

It made us ponder the consumerist lifestyle that we mostly have in our Western culture. It made us think about the side effects that are created by it: Substandard labor conditions, pollution, species extinction, mountains of trash, misery.

“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

God always called us to humility – not just for the sake of ourselves, also for the sake of others. Think of those who are sewing our clothes, think of child labor, think of God’s beautiful creation that is destroyed – by our greed basically. God doesn’t want that, that’s why he called us to humility.

Knowing that we started to refuse consumerism, we started to try to live a “zero-waste-lifestyle” – and we started to raise our kids in a need-oriented unschooling way (remember MT 25:40?).

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So what can you do to start?

Well, you want to take it one step at a time. Noah didn’t build the arch in just one day, right? You have plenty of time ahead of you so you can change the way you live. So here’s my top ten:

  1. A good starting point is to ask yourself “Do I really need this?” – because often you will honestly say “No!” Then don’t get it! You don’t need what you don’t need. Simple as that.
  2. If you do need something than there’s another helpful question to ask: “Do I need this to be new?” You can buy so  many things used and they are still good! Search for thrift stores or try to find the things you need online.
  3. Many of us own just so many things. You can go through your things and ask yourself: “Do I really use this?” If not: give it away, donate it, bring it to a thrift store, sell it on the internet.
  4. If you do need something new double-check the way it is produced. Where is it produced? Does the company it is produced for apply certain standards? You may want to support the Fair Wear Foundation.
  5. There is also a lot you can do in terms of food: Opt for organic fresh food. That means vegetables and fruits in the first place. Make sure they are not wrapped in plastic. That IS difficult, I know. Maybe you can get vegetables and fruits from a local farm? Or a food coop? Or something like that? If that’s not possible you will most definitely find some fresh food in the supermarket that is not wrapped – but maybe you’ll have to really make an effort. I think it’s worth it, though.
  6. Try to buy vegetables and fruits that is produced in the area where you live – opt for apples from your neighborhood instead of papaya from kenya e.g. Avoid long hauls!
  7. Eat less meat and other animal products!
  8. Start DIY. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot cheaper than buying everything new and you avoid products that are produced in a bad way (plus things you made yourself aren’t wrapped in plastic!)
  9. In terms of unschooling: Well, there actually is not real start – it just happens naturally. Unschooling is natural learning. Unschooling happens by the way – intrisically. You don’t really have to do much. What you should do is talk with your kids, be a part of their lives, ask them what they are busy with, ask them how you can support them – show interest in them. Try to really meet their needs.
  10. Speaking of needs: Need-oriented parenting isn’t hard, either. Observe your kids, communicate with them, take them seriously, value them – and set your limits.

What do you think? Tell me how you feel!

Why I consider Unschooling as deeply Christian

Just last week I pointed out what Unschooling is all about. This week I want to discuss why I consider unschooling as deeply Christian.

Yes, that’s right, I think unschooling is a Christian thing to do!

How is that? you might ask.

Well, let me point that out to you: As parents we are rewarded with the most precious gift you can get – our children. They are given to us by God – and they are given to us in trust. They are created in the image of God, not in our own image or in the image of society or culture.

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Our children are not unfinished beings who have to be shaped and finished by us in order to fit in. They are little persons who we are fortunate to get to know and who we can learn from. They will also learn from us and they will be shaped by us just as we will be shaped by them – but that’s not the point. The point is we can learn learn together, grow together, draw closer to God together.

So what’s our job as parents, really? Do we have to shape them – for society, workplace, culture? God? Or will it suffice to model our values to them? Will God do the rest? Do we trust him enough to let him do the rest?

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying every Christian family has to unschool their children. And I’m also most definitely not promoting any kind of permissive parenting style!

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All I’m saying is that God gave us our children in trust – so we should trust our children and trust God and model that trust in our families. A beautiful way to do that is a need-oriented unschooling parenting style. It’s not the only possible way and it’s not the answer to all questions but it’s a great path you can choose for your family in order to honor God’s trust in you as parents.

 

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?