Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unschooling Kimani

So remember back over the summer when I freaked out about the unexpected additions to Kimani’s school Behavior Plan and said I was thinking of homeschooling her? Well, I did it. I mean I am doing it. Sort of.

First off I have to say that I am super proud of myself for attempting this. I could have been a SAHM with no kids at home during the day which theoretically means I could be working out at the gym five days a week, planning and executing gourmet meals, finishing the book I have been writing for three years, or maybe just sleeping all day long. But instead, I traded in my freedom to give my precious Tasmanian devil a safe and happy Kindergarten year at the Mommy Academy of Table Dancers.


I suck at this. I knew I would. I told you I would. I bought a bunch of stuff to work from: the big Preschool lesson plan book, a bunch of manipulatives, and edible arts and crafts supplies. I managed (on the third try) to write an acceptable homeschool plan for our district and met with them to rework the IEP so that therapies could still happen. (That is not really working out, but it is a whole separate post.)

In September Kimani played along. We went bowling and grocery shopping with PECs cards. We went apple picking and visited a farm. We studied the color red and the math concept of One and Two. We dressed the weather froggy and painted pictures. We played on the iPad and read Moo Baa La La La. Sounds great right? Well it wasn’t great. It was tortuous because one of us is extremely, ahem, self-directed (okay, maybe we both are). By October she was not willing to play along at all for the things she doesn't care about.

She and I both learned a lot in that first month. She knows that two, when it comes to yummy things, is more desirable than one, and given the choice she will say, Two. She can now say apple. She can jump on her trampoline for long periods of time without holding on to the sides. She knows the difference between pink and red. She now knows that the grocery store gives away cookies to little girls and will say cookie as soon as we enter the store. Because her receptive learning ability is higher than her ability to express herself, these little milestones mean that she is really picking up quite a bit. I learned that she does not want to do anything schoolish. Put a puzzle together? NO! Draw a line (or heck, hold any writing utensil and make any marks at all) NO! Sit for any book other than Moo Baa La La La? NO! You get the idea.

I also learned that she loves to do things that are real, like cooking, shopping, or outings. She prefers playing with whipped cream over playdough. She prefers loud dance music or sitting on the piano and tapping the keys with her feet to playing with toy instruments. I learned that Kimani really understands the PECs system and wants to use it to communicate. I learned that she prefers unschooling to homeschooling. And so now, I am trying to incorporate pre-K level science, math, literacy, etc. into everyday activities that she is willing to participate in. Tomorrow a special education teacher is coming to visit. We might be adding an hour a week of consulting time to the IEP, depending on how impressive she is.


I also learned that while it does make me crazy to never have any alone time anymore, the trade off of getting her all to myself for hours on end is really cool. It has been a long, long times since she was my only child at home. Everyday I see advances albeit teensy tiny ones. Some days I am really encouraged that she is more educable than I had realized. Other days... well on other days, I try not to think about what this looks like in three or four years. One good or bad day at a time, right?


L.L. Barkat said...

For the record? All plans are an acceptable plan for your district. They have no right to say anything about your curriculum.

Okay, now that that's out of the way... I love the "real" approach. It engages all of her senses and lets her participate at the body level, which—table dancer that she is—seems perfect! :)

Baking something chocolate? Cutest picture ever!

Unknown said...

Love your post today!! It's perfect!!

Unknown said...

Good for you! I've been homeschooling our 3 younger kids 13 years. Our 2 youngest are twins (boy and girl) and one of them has Down syndrome (daughter). She went to a private preschool, but when I had to transfer her to the public school for elementary, I brought her home mid-year. She's 16 now. Her favorite things to do are read, dance and sing. We use a curriculum online called Time4Learning, which she loves because the lessons are animated and interactive. I think my biggest worry was being able to teach her how to read. She learned to read when she was about 8 or 9 years old, which was fine. She's now 16, but cognitively she's more like a 9yo. You've still got a ways to go before you teach her to read, but I strongly recommend you read a book titled "Reading Reflex". You can get it on Amazon for less than $15.
You're going to do great!!! You've got a great start just doing the things she likes and teaching life skills! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I'm just starting a blog of my own, actually.
I'm so glad we get our therapies privately and don't have to worry about the IEPs and the school system. YUK! That's one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling my daughter, besides the fact that she's happy and she's having fun learning! We love homeschooling!!!!

Unknown said...

You are my hero, a rock star mom. I love how you love your children for who they are. I Love how you honestly tell things how they are! Love reading your posts. Good luck with the homeschooling. It sounds like you are both enjoying it all around the struggles and craziness!

Lisa said...

Wow. I'm kind of jealous.

jisun said...

This is not so far from what our house is like lately. Mouse is just allergic to anything that looks too "learny". She gets this look on her face and then I know it is over. I hope you keep writing about Kimani and how her particularly fabulous self takes to various parts of unschooling. I'll be stalking you, since I haven't gotten to the whole IEP and homeschooling part yet. It sounds like you're already rocking it, mama. :)

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! You are really doing what's good for her and what works, I am really impressed. I think her progress sounds amazing and she sounds incredibly clever :)

Wordshurtorheal said...

I tried to replicate school at home when we first started. It was horrible and duh, why "school"wasn't working. Then I relaxed and let it be more natural. Do you have a park day there? We used a cheesy program called Sing, Spell, Read Write and Gabriel LOVED it and learned to read phonetically. I am sure you know about STARFALL and Brain POP too. Have fun!

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