Unschooling with the Earth in Mind: Interview with Stacey of Echolage

Unschooling with the Earth in Mind: Interview with Stacey of Echolage
Welcome to a new series of Featured Fridays: member interviews from homeschoolers around the globe.  This week, I am incredibly pleased to present our interview with creative, poetic mama, Stacey of echolage.  Stacey’s thoughtful and poetic blog has inspired me on many a day, as I’m sure her interview will today!  Enjoy!

1. Tell us a bit about your family.

We’re a small family. I’m Stacey, the Mama, writer and photographer, Alder is five (and a half if you ask him) he is part architect and part fireman, and Kevin he’s the Papa, acupuncturist, and teacher. We’re growing roots in downtown Denver where we love the balance between the city and the nearby mountains. We’ve been on a winding road the past five years that included two cross country moves and four cities, of course in the end we’ve ended up twenty blocks from where we began. All of this has been within our goal of creating a sustainable life where we can continue to live our beliefs and passions. The heart of our family philosophy was captured perfectly by David Orr in his book Earth in Mind:

We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.

For us homeschooling (really unschooling), and attachment parenting have always been just extensions of the life we were already creating.

2. Have you always known you wanted to homeschool?

When I met Kevin I was teaching middle school special education on the edges of the Navajo reservation, I hated my job but felt that there was so much potential in schools. On our first date we went hiking, during the hike he mentioned that he would never send his kids to middle school. It sort of just flowed from there. Both our relationship and our decision to unschool.

We had both worked at the same progressive charter school (though at different times) where a lot of the learning was child-led. We saw a lot of great things happen there but we also saw that even if you change the education theory having large groups of similarly aged kids together affects the natural development of their personalities.

Before we moved to Denver we spent a year teaching at another charter school, this one had a program that let homeschool kids in the community come for part of the week. While the program was disorganized I got to know many of the homeschooling parents well and thought what they were doing was amazing. But we were just an unmarried childless couple hanging out at a farm school. We weren’t thinking about our child yet.

Finally, when I was pregnant I discovered blogs, which lead to homeschooling ones and pretty quickly unschooling ones. I spent the first three years of Alder’s life devouring all these and any books or articles that they suggested. It was the best thing I could do, now I feel confident in our choices and can discuss them with people and help them to understand how things work in our life.

3. What is your favorite thing about homeschooling?

For me I love the natural way he gets to create his own personality and how we follow his interests. I’ve watched too many kids stuck in school lose their interest and be affected by their classmates. I know my kid, he wears stretch pants and pink shirts, and I love that even though he spends time with lots of kids no one picks on him or pressures him to choose differently. I love that he isn’t being rushed to grow up and like violent and scary things. Because we follow his interests it means that somedays he’s deep into explanations of geodesic domes and others we’re playing fireman school with stuffed animals. That he has this freedom makes me feel that he is becoming himself more fully.

The other thing I love about homeschooling is the way our community of friends and neighbors have become part of his life deeply. Whether it’s the other unschooling families who we meet up with a few times a week, or our neighbor who dedicates his Sunday morning to hanging out with us, I love how Alder has a chance to create relationships deeply with both children and adults.

4. The hardest thing?

Some weekends I see those parents who haven’t really seen their kids all week be so excited to see them. The energy and focus that they have during those few hours are something we miss out on by spending all our time together. I think sometimes it is hard to have perspective with so little time to step away from each other (both for me and Alder).

5. Does your child ever ask to go to school?


6. Do you prescribe to a particular homeschooling philosophy?

In the simplest of terms we unschool. But I don’t think it is as simple as that.  As a family of researchers, Alder has grown up around people who spend their time learning and experimenting. We become his models for learning so he, even at only five, finds things he wants to focus on. If he has goals (like wanting to know how to read) we come up with ways we can work on them, we make a plan, and I help him to keep with it. Not that I want to control him or force him to do things, but help him to focus and see his goals met.

7. What does a typical day look like at your house?

While a lot of what we do everyday changes depending on what we feel like perusing, there is a rhythm that we have fallen into.

Alder and Kevin spend the morning until 9 or 10 together. Usually they make breakfast together, paint, play games, and sometimes watch movies. While they are doing that I have a few hours to work on projects, sleep, stretch go for a walk or whatever I want.

At 9 Alder and I plan out the rest of our day. Three days a week we have learning time, where we turn off the computer and TV and phone and just focus on what we want to work on together. Some days it’s math and other school-y things, others we’re out digging in the garden or building with Lego. Often those days we go off exploring the city or if it’s nice out we going hiking in the mountains. Whatever it is, the main goal is to have all of our focus on what we are doing, and each other.

On the four other days of the week we have a variety of things that go on.

One day a week Alder goes to an enrichment program 9-3. On those days I take the six hours to get as much of my quiet work done as possible.

On Sunday mornings we go to the neighborhood coffee shop and meet up with friends. There is lots of paper airplane building and games played.

We try to do things as a family on Saturday.

The final day a week usually is a mix of things for Alder and errands and other Mama-centric activities.

Somewhere between 3 and 5 we are home and doing our own things. For Alder it’s either playing or watching a DVD, for me it’s cooking and/or the internet.

Dinner falls somewhere between 5 and 7, though some nights we all graze. After dinner Kevin and Alder play or do projects and I usually hide away at the coffee shop writing or getting other work done.

We don’t believe in bedtime in our house, though if we see him getting overtired we’ll guide him to bed. He usually goes to bed between 7:30 and 9, though occasionally he’ll stay up late. I’m home from writing by around 11 or 12, then the whole adventure starts again the next morning.

8. What is your best homeschooling tip?

Have your own projects. As a Mama who has spent most of the past 5 ½ years with my son, I know that it can seem like you are completely lost in the life of your child. I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t have writing and research projects that I was working on. These are things that are mine, that give me some autonomy.

I love my family and love the life we are creating, but to be able to do this fully I have to have a part of my life that is just mine: one where I am not looked at as mother but as writer. This is what keeps me sane on the crazy day, on the day when we butt heads or I agree to too many hours of playing with stuffed animals.

9. As a homeschooling family, what is the one item you couldn’t do without?

Library card. On average we have 30 books out at a time. We are lucky to have an amazing library system in this city with great books and children’s librarians who will happily spend time helping you find the right books for what you are interested in and have other suggestions of things you might like. Because of the library we have spent around twenty dollars a month on homeschooling (well not including the museum membership).

10. Any final thoughts?

If you are thinking about homeschooling take time to think about how your life will flow. People joke about how blogs can consume lots of time, but if you want to see what homeschooling lives are really like devour them for a while and see if it fits with your image of your life.

Thank you so much, Stacey for sharing a slice of your inspired life with us.

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  1. Wonderful interview. Thanks for the little glimpse into your wonderful family’s life.

  2. Yes, thanks Stacey. I love how life learning has had such an effect on your whole family. It’s great to hear how your days ebb and flow, and how everyone’s needs are met. And – of course – huge cheers for great library systems, and children’s librarians! =)



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