Looking on line today, I was researching other unschooling/life learning blogs. On the list of the Top 50 Unschooling blogs were the following:
Majikfaerie: Adventures in being a majik faerie; unschooling, midwifing, natural living, rainbow life. This blog is written by a woman in Queensland Australia and has 253 followers.
Freeplaylife: From a Mom raising three children and dealing with dyslexia and giftedness. Can’t tell where they live from the posts I read, but there is a lake and some mountains behind them in one of the photos. 329 followers.
AlmostUnschoolers: Homeschooling Mom of 6 in Montana who incorporates unschooling methods into their learning process. 476 followers.
Rickshaw Unschooling: Written by Emily, multimedia artist and unschooling mom somewhere in the woods of British Columbia. Followers not stated.
Journey into Unschooling: San Francisco Bay area blogger Amida is mother to three children and mostly chronicles their daily explorations. 392 followers
Free Spirited Natural Living Blog: Written by Rainbow Rivers aka Carrie from Central Michigan. They unschool and unjob, and she takes criticism for it, so I applaud her bravery in writing about their very alternative lifestyle. Hey, whatever works! 34 followers
I could go on, but I’ll stop with that sample. Why am I mentioning these blogs? Well, I read somewhere recently that out of 53 million school-aged children in the United States, around 1.5 million are homeschooled. Of those, about 100,000 consider themselves ‘unschoolers’ (or life-learners). Most of the life-learning/unschooling blogs I read are written by people who live in the country and who, as part of their family’s life experience, talk about organic gardening/farming and various ways to pursue sustainable living. Nature in all its’ forms plays a large role in the daily lives of their children. And that is great. I grew up on a farm in the country and spent lots of time playing outside, in the woods, near the stream and in the barns. There is much to be said for living close to the land, understanding its’ rhythms and pursuing a lifestyle that creates harmony with nature instead of destroying it. I’m glad that we get the opportunity to travel to Indiana several times each year so that my kids can experience some of what I had growing up.
But we are happy city-dwellers, and as life learners here we are in a super minority – at least as far as I can tell. We seem to have an atypical lifestyle for those who eschew not only schools, but also any type of home curriculum. To illustrate, here’s a rundown of our basic lifestyle, sans schooling:
My husband owns a hardware/locksmith store and we own several small properties in the Harlem area of Manhattan. Our business is very competitive and Joshua’s ability to handle it and stay sane is a marvel. The income also allows us to own our apartment and travel out of the city when we want, not to mention allowing me to be home with the kids, for which I am always grateful.
Maya and Ben are admittedly not big nature buffs. They preferred the man made water slides at the Atlantis Resort to the beach and Caribbean sea. They preferred the Atlantis Resort to anything more rustic and lacking a Starbucks. (Ok, the Starbucks thing was me.) I can enjoy camping, but the appeal has lessened a bit with the onslaught of deer ticks – I have a bit of a tick phobia which has only been exacerbated now that they can pass on a heinous disease! And Joshua always says he roughed it enough for his entire life while in the Israeli Army. With which I find it difficult to argue. Despite this, we do enjoy traveling to rustic places as long as we know the city is waiting for us when we return (and we have a comfortable house or hotel to stay in while we are there).
We love movies. I can watch movies over and over again. Ben seems to have inherited that trait from me. Reading is also big in our house, across the board. Everything from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the Narnia Chronicles to the Twilight Series. (me again) It’s all good. And video making with iMovie and video games on the Wii.
Food. Here’s one where I definitely part paths with many, many people in the homeschooling/unschooling/life learning community. My basic rule of thumb is ‘anything in moderation’, although I won’t buy food or drinks that include high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. (And yes, I know the fact that I sometimes get McDonalds for the kids totally contradicts that statement. And yes, I have read Food Inc. No need to preach.) I don’t cook all of our meals, though I do buy mostly organic food (except for Diet Coke and a few choice snacks). Cooking does not bring me great satisfaction or joy and although I do not resent the task, I will avoid it when possible. In NYC this isn’t difficult and I often take advantage of the easy access to great food that I don’t have to cook myself.
My kids are not vaccinated and our doctor of choice is a homeopath. We recycle and my kids raise money for charities. I don’t garden or make my own clothes, though I do sew and knit, as do my kids. We are not part of any organized religion, but take care to teach our kids respect for all human beings and the earth. (And no, living in the city is not necessarily a contradiction to that last part.)
We may not get to watch the rhythms of nature up close, but my kids can find their way around the subway system with ease. Not as pretty, definitely, but useful. Maya thought the rat we saw on the subway tracks the other day was cute, but when we are at my parents’ house in Indiana, she will insist I dispose of any moth or ladybug that finds its’ way into the house and room where we sleep when visiting. (Of course, the rat was a good 10 feet away – I imagine it would be a different story if it appeared next to her bed.)
We have a motley mix of a lifestyle, with some things that are considered alternative and others that are very mainstream, even bourgeois by some accounts. We love Arlo Guthrie, but when we want to get up and dance it can be Madonna or Katy Perry or Pink or even Lady GaGa. I am not ashamed to say I enjoy shopping at the Gap and Banana Republic, but a few of my best clothing finds came from our local Goodwill. I own a Nook and my only credit card is a Barnes & Noble Mastercard, which means I occasionally earn a gift card from them. I am addicted to Starbucks, and am responsible for Ben having his very own Starbucks card.
Some unschool bloggers write a lot about their own personal struggles, whether they be abuse, depression, dyslexia, etc. I sometimes write about sports, or the Oscars, or talk about the zen of water slides. Who is right or better? No one. Everyone has their own story, and as I’ve said before, there is no dogma or right way to life learn. Who is in the minority? Well, that would be me, according to the blogs I’ve perused.
So here’s a blatant request: If you are reading this blog, and you know someone who reads blogs, no matter where they live, what their learning philosophy is, or if they are married, single, with or without children, send them a quick note with a link to Green Mangoes. I’d like people to read about the city-side of life learning (you can tell them we unschool in your message if you don’t want to launch into a long explanation). As great as the blogs I mentioned above are, they all have a running theme of life in the country and a bent toward more natural living. Nothing against that, it’s just not the only side of things, and whenever I meet people and tell them we life learn, they raise their eyebrows in surprise. Because we don’t fit the criteria they’ve heard.
So let’s give them another.