For all CREDITS as well as the full story, please see https://designerdaddystudio.com/blogs/designer-daddy-blog/mothers-day-disney-princesses-imagined-as-queens-2017 !!! Thank you!
Because I have had so many questions about what we actually do every day, and because I can't sleep, and because I got that feeling to "JUST WRITE IT ALREADY!", I decided to do one more blog post on unschooling for now. Feel free to follow along at my Instagram, @bethaniegarcia or my husband's, @designerdaddy_ for even more of the day-to-day shenanigans in our family!
A major reason for our unschooling is that my husband and I are both very entrepreneurial, creative, curious, artistic people, and we want our children to learn to live this way, with this kind of daily freedom as well. I actually believe that EVERY HUMAN BEING is born this way, but that's another story for another day.
EXAMPLE #1: If you follow us, you know that we go to Disneyland. A lot. I'll admit, at first I didn't understand my husband's obsession with it. So crowded, so sweaty, so... Well. You get the idea. But that all changed after a family trip to the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco. That man was one of the truest, greatest dreamers of all time. Tell me, if you can make a difference in the world in ANY WAY, what would you do? For me, and especially after visiting this museum, I learned that the world needs HOPE. That's what my children and I left this museum feeling. Hope for this world. Joy for this world. If that isn't the greatest lesson you could ever learn, I don't know what is. And now for all you practical folks out there, so many of our day trips to Disneyland involve conversations about the basic school subjects. The other day on our very long walk from the park to the car, we were going through the alphabet, making each sound, while the kids figured out a word that started with that letter. Want to know how the curiosity for this came about? Hearing M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E! in the parade! They were interested, learning, and playing a game at the same time. And we're all at Disneyland!
EXAMPLE #2: Listen to your kids when they are babbling in the backseat, because they will give you endless ideas for learning. From a car ride the other day with my 5 year old, Lili: "Mom, we should get some construction paper, and cut out different colorful letters of the alphabet." "You know what would be a cool art project mom? We should take pictures of people and then print them out, and like, draw on their faces!" "I wish there was a camera that could take pictures from SO far away!" Me: "They have that! On telescopes! That's how they take pictures of outer space! Lili: "Wow can we buy one?" I have my own money saved up from my art show!" "Ooh! We should make noodles and learn about China!" "And we could have a bird party with slides and swimsuits and play in the water with lots of birds!" "I want to write a story about that!!"
Guys. That was a half hour car ride. Let your kids know that you're listening. That you LOVE talking to them. And they will talk. And you'll be surprised how observant they are, and what they are curious about.
EXAMPLE #3: On days that we don't have anything specific in mind to learn about, we start watching YouTube. There are SO many STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) channels for kids out there. Inevitably, after watching for a little while, we come up with something specific to explore further. My daughter personally loves the "Making Stuff" videos on the Nat Geo Kids channel. The kids also have different math, spelling, etc, workbooks that they like to do sometimes when they are bored or want quiet time, but it's nothing specifically enforced. We also love to spend a lot of time at the library and reading. ENDLESS amounts of information there! Also, join all the Facebook homeschooling and unschooling groups you can! Lots of field trips, support, and advice!
EXAMPLE #4: The biggest thing for me as an adult and for my children, is to set goals, whatever they may be. THE CORE of what needs to be learned to be a successful, independent adult is to set a goal, and ACHIEVE IT. Lili's most recent accomplished goal was to hold her own art show. She researched the steps necessary to do this. Made her own invitations. Set a date. Created a timeline for having everything ready. Planned a menu. Painted A LOT. Took some art lessons from papa. Experienced buying materials, and selling paintings. EVERY GOAL INVOLVES MULTIPLE SUBJECTS THAT WOULD BE LEARNED IN SCHOOL. Her current goal is to write and illustrate a children's book. Learning this way is most effective if YOU as a parent, are ALSO still setting goals that they see you working towards achieving. For me, it's my dancing. She knows I am passionate about something, and SEES me achieving my own goals. So of course we're not perfect parents, but you have to do your ABSOLUTE BEST to practice what you preach! It's great to have a conversation at the end of the day about what everyone in the family worked individually on creating that day. It gives the opportunity to give support and build each other up.
So there you have it. Some real life examples of unschooling. BUT. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. The days I furiously took notes to give you examples were actually MORE stressful than an average day, because I was trying so hard to document and recognize all the learning being done for this post! THE NUMBER ONE THING IS THAT LEARNING SHOULD BE NATURAL AND FUN. On a typical day, I don't stress about what I'm learning, or what the kids are learning in every situation. We just PLAY. ASK QUESTIONS. DISCOVER. CREATE. And by playing, and by being curious, and by creating, we LEARN.
Many Successful people were taught differently, and thought differently, from the rest of society. If you want to be different from the rest, you have to think differently from the rest. And if questioning and thinking that way gives you a new answer, DON'T EVER BE AFRAID TO FOLLOW THAT ANSWER. We have so many people who don't approve of our choices, but WE know what is best for our family, and for our children, and YOU know what is best for your family, and your children, because we, and you, know them better than anyone else. Never base your actions on FEAR of what other people will think, or a FEAR of what the future MIGHT hold. When you have those moments of CLARITY and PEACE, THOSE are your answers. THOSE are the moments you REMEMBER when fear comes knocking.
Since being on the Steve Harvey show, I have been asked so many questions about the way we educate our children. I received one email in particular that I really want to address, because I think it will answer a lot of other's questions as well! Here it is:
First of all, I was so touched by this email to see a mother who wants the best for her son. It's something so relatable to so many of us. Know that just the fact that you are looking into options and care to learn about the best ways to raise your son, already speaks volumes about you as a wonderful parent, no matter what you choose. As far as telling you if unschooling is right for you and your son and your situation, I don't know that I can confidently give you an answer. That is something I learned for my situation, for myself through research, trial-and-error, prayer, and meditation. I would encourage you to do the same. What I CAN do though, is share the journey I went on to come to this decision, and if any part of it resonates with you, that might be the answer you're seeking. If you come to the conclusion that it is, don't EVER let the fear of doing something differently hold you back! All the best people throughout history have stood out from the crowd! (That should probably be another blog post entirely, though...)
When my daughter was a toddler, she loved to learn, as all kids do! Every day I picked an activity, something on Pinterest or YouTube usually, and did it with her. It was fun to introduce her to something new, and it naturally led to meaningful conversations (yes, it's possible with a two-year-old) and curiosity about all different aspects of the activity we had done. Sometimes I looked up an activity I was interested in, to see if she might be too, but mostly I followed what she seemed to enjoy doing, and built my ideas for activities off of that. It was amazing to watch her learn and grow, and somewhere along the way, I started thinking about homeschooling. It made sense with the goals my husband and I had set for ourselves to travel as a family and be independent artists and entrepreneurs.
When it came time to think about Kindergarten, and really make a decision, I was pretty sure I would be homeschooling, but I wanted to get as much information as possible, so we started visiting the local public schools. This was extremely disappointing. We went to three public schools in the area we were living in Orange County, CA. They all seemed so run down and just had such a feeling of low energy when you walked in. No one at the front office really wanted to talk to us about the school or tell us about any fun programs they offered or why they loved their school. Everyone just seemed annoyed that we had questions, and honestly like they had lost hope in the school system they worked in themselves. At the end of the day, it just felt so wrong to put our daughter into that kind of environment to "learn" for most of the day!
Next we visited a local private school. My daughter was very excited by this school. They had all the latest technology, colorful classrooms, and a smiling vice principal who was happy to give us a tour and answer all of our questions. There were two problems. One was the cost. I'm sure if we REALLY felt strongly that this was the right place to be, we would have made it work, but it didn't feel right for some reason. It didn't quite align with our entrepreneurial, travel-minded goals.
us on our recent trip to the Grand Canyon! Learning without even trying...
It all led us back to the first thing that felt right, homeschooling. I started joining as many homeschool groups as possible on Facebook, to get ideas of different ways to homeschool, and to meet up for activities, field trips, park days, etc. It was a great way to meet new people for my kids and for me, and to ask lots of questions. In fact, this is how I met my best friend Jen who introduced me to unschooling. I'll let you check out her blog below! She just wrote a great post about what unschooling is for her family.
So back to the homeschooling... I heard about unschooling from some of these parents, but it scared me! What if I messed up my child? What if she didn't learn everything she needed to? What if she didn't go to college?? So I found a local online charter school. That offered us a common core curriculum found in all the public and private schools and the ability to do it at home. We did this for several months, plowing through the frustration and tears to make sure I gave it a fair chance. My daughter turned from a curious child who loved learning into one who was so burnt out by all this "learning" that she didn't want to do anything anymore if I mentioned the word "school". I had to fight her every day. She started to tell me she wasn't smart, and I felt like all we did all day was memorize things right before we took a quiz or test, so that she would remember the right answer. But nothing was sticking long-term! She wasn't able to remember the word that I just made her read ten times. She would read a book perfectly and then an hour later completely seem to forget every word. It just didn't feel like she was actually learning anything anymore. And I had to spend so much time every day reviewing facts that I never had a chance to explore her interests with her anymore. There just wasn't enough time or energy left in me at the end of the day.
before we realized how frustrating this was going to be... Lili SO excited on her"first day of school"
Through much soul-searching, more research, and some heart to hearts with friends and husband, I took the leap of faith and pulled her out of this school. It was a month or so of trying different things and freaking out a little about if I had made the right decision, when I really started to think about the core of what I needed to do for her, for her education. I had an epiphany one day and realized that the CORE of what she needed, and what EVERY successful adult needs, is to know how to set a SMART goal, and ACHIEVE it. In essence, that's what we have been doing ever since! Each goal she sets ends up covering and teaching her multiple subjects she would be learning in school, and it actually applies to real life. She gets to feel that sense of accomplishment in finishing something, and sticking with it even when it gets rough or boring at times. I also have to say that a BIG part of this working, is that your child has to see YOU consistently setting goals and achieving them too. You have to do your absolute best to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. I also set my own goals and rejoice in completing them alongside WITH my daughter. We are both gaining a LOVE for LIFE-LONG LEARNING. I finally feel like we are in this crazy flow and things are all coming together and working beautifully. I hope this helps answer your question, and good luck with your journey!
Next up, I will be posting about what unschooling looks like for our family personally, day to day. Every family is a little bit different, so as I'm getting that together in the next couple days, keep those questions coming!
First of all, being sent to hair and makeup is REALLY fun. The ladies in there know what they are doing and how to bring out all your best features. I got some great makeup tips! Flying business class and staying in a fancy hotel with room service in the city? THAT, I can get used to! So if anyone else wants to interview me, I'm game. Just maybe not with another panel of eight parents who (some of which) don't actually want to have a discussion. ;)
Now, from what I know, the people behind the show have to create the drama, have to improve the show's ratings. They are all incredibly nice people just doing their job. Every parent on the panel is a good parent doing their best in the best way they know how. In fact, I'm sure if I met any of those "Old School" parents under different circumstances, we would have gotten along just fine. We didn't get to socialize with the opposing panelists much, but before we went on set, we were talking and laughing together! They asked me about my dress and LOVED the fact that my hubby made it for me. (I love it too)
Things aren't always as they seem. I already had an idea of this because we all know how unrealistic reality TV looks from real reality. I had no idea however, the extent that producers of a show will go for viewers and ratings. Before being invited on the show, I was "interviewed" over phone and Skype 3 or 4 times to determine that my point of view fit the one of the character they needed on the show. This part was no surprise to me. I just spoke my point of view several times to several people, and to my surprise I was soon receiving flight and hotel itineraries for my baby and I. We were going to Chicago! I was surprised when, the day before the flight, I got an email with "my responses" for the show. I knew they would have moms of opposing views, but I didn't know we would have a script all written out (which we went over three times before taping) to "keep us on topic". In talking to the other "New School" moms before taping, we all found that the way they wanted us to spit out these lines was abrasive and out of context from what we had originally shared with them over the phone. It ended up being hard to tell what comments from the "Old School" parents were genuine, and what was scripted....
...which brings me to another thing I learned. Adults can be bullies! We already know that right? I had just never experienced it myself (as an adult) and it was so shocking the way some of these parents were on me immediately, criticizing what I had to say, bashing, acting defensively, before I even had a chance to finish. It stems from the fact that some people just don't want to hear that there is another way of doing something. It feeds their insecurity. They fear the unknown. (Witch trials anyone?) Don't even get me started on the Internet trolls. It's incredible how someone can take something you said and completely blow it out of proportion! People, you have to realize that this show was edited for time, ratings, DRAMA FACTOR, etc., and based on those few minutes I spoke, you don't KNOW ME. You don't know MY DAUGHTER, or MY FAMILY, how we live, why we do things the way we do. Any judgments you pass will ALWAYS come back around to haunt you. I know that from personal experience. There was just no way for me to even try to elaborate on what I was saying with all the bickering going on in that studio set.
Before we went on, the "Old School" parents and the "New School" parents had not been allowed to socialize or meet. Both of us received "pep talks" of a sort before taping, obviously meant to rile us up. The "New Schoolers" obviously weren't buying it as much, as you can see. For the most part, we were much more respectful and willing to listen. (Or at least let someone finish their sentence)
I was more shaken up than I thought I would be. It was hard to be under that much scrutiny, especially in such an insulting, disrespectful way. I ended up leaving the show in such a rush to catch my plane that I didn't even change out of my dress and heels. I ran through the airport with baby in my arms and barely made it on the plane before boarding ended. It was a whirlwind and I distinctly remember being on that plane, trying to nurse Leo while wedged in between a person and a plane wall thinking, "What just happened???"
However, I've learned that I can handle this kind of pressure. I can voice my opinion on national television. It's empowering, and the people I've met, and the positive feedback I've received has made it all worth it. I found a new, deeper love and appreciation for my family and friends, especially Nephi, who was waiting for me at the airport with the sweetest surprise. I was reminded that THESE are the people who truly matter.
Now, you might be wondering why I even care to respond to any of this, or why I agreed to put myself and my family under that much scrutiny in the first place. I want to spread the word about why we "unschool" our children and parent the way we do, what it means to be a life-long learner for our children and ourselves, and how we have been able to create this life that we live, because we LOVE it. I want to help that frustrated parent who desperately wants to believe that there IS another way of doing things. It's incredible to have this much freedom after so many years of striving for it and believing and hoping it could be possible. I really want to answer any open-minded questions about why we do what we do, and I'll be doing a series of blog posts based on the different topics that were covered in the show, as well as some of my own, elaborating on them and including more resources and research. There's no way everything would fit into one post! Please feel free to ask away by using one of the various social media icons on my "About" page, or by commenting straight on this post!