Adding Fuel to Their Learning

by Shanna

I unschool my kids… no, that’s not right…  My kids unschool themselves.

What is unschooling?  If you don’t know you may want to click the link to find out:  Unschooling, what the heck is that?!  

If you already know what it is you also know that it’s MY job to nurture them, support their efforts, and facilitate their learning.  I know I’m doing a good job if my kids are always happy and engaged in an activity of some kind (but it doesn’t really matter what kind, as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or property). Even playing Minecraft or watching TV can be learning, as long as they are engaged.  Yeah, I hear your brain-gears turning… you’re wondering “well, how do you know if they aren’t engaged?”   Ah… the golden question.  Well, they’ll tell you. Listen for the clues (usually in the form of irritating whining): “Mama, I’m bored.” “Mama, I need something to do.”  “Mommy,… *sigh*… I’m tired of playing…”  (?!)  Also, you may experience their behavior reflecting anxiety or irritation, especially with each other.  If your kids are getting aggravated and not playing nicely this could be because they aren’t engaged in learning any more.  Children who are in the middle of discovery are excited, happy creatures!  They want to share the knowledge with each other and, believe me, they want to play.  Learning is like fuel to kids; you will recognize if they’re running on “empty”.


Anyway, I realised that my kids were getting bored when they became fussy with each other. Usually it’s time for a field trip when this happens.  I like to take them out into a new environment and expose them to new things that spark new interests for them to delve into for days, weeks, months…  Alas, I’m broke.   😦   Woe is me!!  What’s a learning facilitator to do?! 


Hmm… what’s free and full of new information?  The library!  We have an awesome library, not because it’s huge, but because it isn’t.  It’s actually the size of a small apartment. Why’s that good? Because no matter where I am in the library I can keep an eye on my littlest kids, they aren’t out of earshot, and I can always see the door.  But I digress…


We went to the library and I discovered that they had the entire collection of Magic Tree House books!  Did you know there are over 50 of them now?!  My oldest one just turned 12 and has finished the Lord of The Ring series, so the stories aren’t really as gripping as they once were, but she still enjoys being read to.  Who doesn’t, really? I saw that the first book was about dinosaurs and the Cretaceous period.  Excellent.  There were plenty of dinosaur books of all reading levels, so I grabbed Magic Tree House #1 and two arms full of dinotastic learning and we headed home to begin our own journey into the wonderful (albeit frightening) world of the Cretaceous period!  I read to all five of them.  They soaked it up.  When I emptied out the library book bag it was as if I rang the dinner bell.  Those little carnivores grabbed at the books like oviraptors at their prey.  I was so proud. 


You can really do so much with so little.  All it takes is a bit of inspiration.  While two of my kids could go on learning more and more about dinosaurs, the other three have already had their fill.  I’m going to start the next book tonight; it’s about knights and castles.  I’ll make another library trip tomorrow to see what I can dig up on the middle ages and medieval times. If you have any suggestions for crafts, games, activities, food, or books to go with that I’m all ears!  🙂  I’ll keep you posted.


See How I Made “Not-So-Paper” Towels

by Shanna

These are my new favorite things in my kitchen.  I’m too lazy to do the math, but I estimate that for the cost of a few snaps and a cheap multicolored pack of washcloths I’m saving… well… lots of money on paper towels.  🙂  Plus, there’s the added bonus of bragging about my crunchiness. Lol

Set aside an hour or two for this project and Enjoy!  Believe me, it is worth it!

Potty Learning, Not Potty Training

I got Horsey's permission before posting this adorable picture of when she was potty learning.

I got Horsey’s permission before posting this adorable picture of when she was potty learning.

(I wrote this a year ago, when little Ox was 3.*) 

When you stop and think about it, potty training really makes no sense. Children are inherently good learners. They want to grow up and become like adults; some of the most popular toddler games are just mimicking adult behavior.

Children teach themselves to walk. They also teach themselves to talk. They require no lessons or scheduled practices to do so. They don’t succeed faster with punishments or reward systems, charts or constant reminders to practice. The only things they require from us are patience and pride in their achievements. The same holds true for potty learning.

To be honest, I was a little worried about how potty learning would go with my current three-year-old. He has a handicap that prevents him from walking or standing.

About a week ago he started asking on and off to sit on the potty. We would take off his diaper and sit him down on the potty. It was cute, and he was just doing it for fun. This morning when he tried, he went! I put his diaper back on, and about an hour later he wanted to go again. He went again! And again! He has had only one wet diaper all day.

I’ll admit, it is a little tiring to stop what I’m doing, put down the baby, take off his diaper, and physically lift him on the potty every time he wants to try, but I am just so proud of him. I will continue to do it because this is his game now, his personal goal, and my job is to help him achieve his goals.

I have already gotten onto my oldest children because they were taking it upon themselves to remind him or ask him if he needs to go. Rule #1 about potty learning… Leave them alone! It’s just like walking and talking. They are not doing it for you. They are doing it for themselves. No nagging. No punishments. No treats. Just pride. Your pride in their own achievements is all they want!

The quickest way to stop his progress and cheat him out of his self-achievement would be to make it MY game, MY goal. To take this project away from him and make it my own project for him to accomplish for me would be a sin! Simply terrible! No wonder so many children have a hard time potty training, or regress once they’ve done so well!

I hope this helps some of you potty training mamas to relax. I know it can be really stressful, especially with your first. But it’s fine, I promise. Believe me, NO ONE wants to be in diapers if they have a choice.

So how do you know when they’re ready? Easy, they start going. 

I hope this was helpful to some people. I just want you to know that it’s not just better and more natural for the child. This way is better for the adult, and on the parent-child relationship too. But, possibly the best thing about them potty learning by themselves, is that once they learn they learn forever!

**Disclaimer** I wrote this in January, 2013, one year ago.  Because he was never able to get himself to the potty, he was never 100% into it. He relies on us right now for most of his mobility, and he eventually tired of making us take him. He still can, and does tell us he wants to sit on the potty, but not as much as when it was new. I know that if he had been able to go all by himself he would never have wanted to go back.  I’m not worried about it though. I stand by my statement… “NO ONE wants to be in diapers if they have a choice.” I also stand beside his knowledge of it. He won’t ever have to “relearn”. He hasn’t digressed, only decided it’s not easier for him. When he gets a bit stronger, and we can help think of a way around this obstacle, he won’t have any problems being independent about it.