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Interested in Unschooling, but don't fully understand

Posted by on Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM
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I have been homeshooling my oldest since kindergarten and he is now in 3rd grade (8). My middle son is 6 and I have had a much slower start on his schooling than with my older one. I have a 2yo, but not worried about her right now. My issue is that my oldest HATES doing school. The attitude has rubbed off on my middle son. I had great intentions of making school fun and teaching them to love learning, etc, etc. But it has become doing some workbooks, a computer program for science and spanish, and we do Right Start Math together (not more than once or twice a week, though). I am doing Learn to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my middle son, and my oldest is a great reader. Sitting down and "doing school" is a battle, though. I like the theory of unschooling, but the last three weeks we haven't done anything because of holidays and illness. I also wanted to just see what would happen if I left them to do what they wanted. My dh has a very traditional schooling kind of philosophy, but he doesn't see a lot of what goes on when he's at work, and he really has no interest in helping with any of it. When I express my frustrations with the kids' attitudes he simply offers to put them in school which is a big NO for me. What I want to know is what does a typical unschooling household look like? Do you plan things for your kids to do and learn? How do you make sure they're learning? I really need some guidance on how to start this and get my kids excited about learning again.

by on Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM
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LindaClement
by Group Owner on Dec. 13, 2012 at 4:39 PM

I think kids come loving learning, and the schooly stuff rubs it off them. 

When the activities turn from the joy of discovery and mastery into the fear of performance and having to explore something at someone else's pace, answering someone else's questions, it's inevitable that the whole activity gets unfun very quickly.

It's probably a good idea to stop sharing your frustration with your husband ... at least until he gets mellow enough to understand the difference between a request for a blatantly simple and obvious answer to a complex, textured problem and a desire to vent... girlfriends are more likely to be able to just listen without adding any 'insta-fix' to the conversation...

I did not plan for what my kids would learn, I trusted that they would learn. I could not predict the pace or order of things they'd learn, and never trusted that any 'expert' in any field could know better than they could what they were able to learn, much less what they were interested enough in to actually retain.

I didn't feel the need to 'make sure' they were learning, it was perfectly obvious to me that they were learning. They learned to read and speak and walk and run and make toast and figure out how much money they had and play new games and talk to new people and ride bikes and swim...

My dh also had a very traditional philosophy, but since it was entirely based upon his utter lack of knowledge or investigation into the subject (how kids learn, what schools really teach), his opinion was valid only inasmuch as he has the right to free speech --not to make decisions about complex, indepth specialist areas he knew nothing at all about.

Since our kids have grown up and moved out of the house, and still actively seek out our company and are entirely self-supporting, have a huge range of friends and activities, volunteer and can clearly manage money and read, he's decided that maybe 'all that' traditional garbage actually interfered with his own education, rather than his kids 'missing' anything of any value at all.

LindaClement
by Group Owner on Dec. 13, 2012 at 4:42 PM

Learning to read isn't 'easy' in 5 lessons or 59,000, if your brain is not yet ready to understand the task. No curriculum on the planet can speed brain development, but a whole lot of them can permanently convince humans that they're utterly incompetent in a lot of areas (know anyone who 'hates' and 'can't do' math at all?)

Let it go and see what your kids are interested in exploring --it's very likely that it will be at a depth no one would ever guess kids that age would voluntarily study anything... and it will bleed their confidence in their ability to learn over onto a lot of other thing, while they learn new and better learning strategies using their natural interests as a motivator...

Ichthus
by New Member on Dec. 13, 2012 at 8:01 PM

So do I just let them do their own things all day, or do I guide them a bit towards things? My boys will spend all day building Legos, playing with Imaginext and GI Joe figures, building tents out of blankets, doing artwork with all the art supplies that they didn't ask if they could use, and building traps for the cat. And then dh comes home and throws a fit about the mess in the playroom. It seems like they do the same stuff every day. Should I try to make time to sit and read with me or go to the library to get books and videos on different themes (he told me he was interested in Egypt when I asked what he wanted to learn about)? Should I try to direct them at all?

Quoting LindaClement:

Learning to read isn't 'easy' in 5 lessons or 59,000, if your brain is not yet ready to understand the task. No curriculum on the planet can speed brain development, but a whole lot of them can permanently convince humans that they're utterly incompetent in a lot of areas (know anyone who 'hates' and 'can't do' math at all?)

Let it go and see what your kids are interested in exploring --it's very likely that it will be at a depth no one would ever guess kids that age would voluntarily study anything... and it will bleed their confidence in their ability to learn over onto a lot of other thing, while they learn new and better learning strategies using their natural interests as a motivator...


LindaClement
by Group Owner on Dec. 14, 2012 at 1:04 AM

I think, for the period of time it takes for them to get over resisting learning anything, yes --doing 'nothing but Lego' for a decade is a good plan.

I don't think you 'should' anything... if you love to read to them, you can read to them while they're building tents out of blankets. They might continue to play, they might stop and come over and listen, they might move between the two. You can offer to read books, or even set up a loose routine where you go outside after lunch, then head back in for quiet/reading time, then free play...

The idea isn't that you 'can't' do anything that's outside their momentary whims or preferences is not the direction to go. Rather, things that are done should be done because a. they might like it and haven't tried it (lately), b. you like it and want to share your joy in an interest, or c. it needs to be done so you'll all live (like cleaning up from time to time, or buying and preparing food). 

Doing the same things every day is what they do in school, too.

Really, rather than thinking about 'what would be good for them' think in terms of what would be fun --for you, for each of them and for all of them. Fun is the natural reward for learning.

Quoting Ichthus:

So do I just let them do their own things all day, or do I guide them a bit towards things? My boys will spend all day building Legos, playing with Imaginext and GI Joe figures, building tents out of blankets, doing artwork with all the art supplies that they didn't ask if they could use, and building traps for the cat. And then dh comes home and throws a fit about the mess in the playroom. It seems like they do the same stuff every day. Should I try to make time to sit and read with me or go to the library to get books and videos on different themes (he told me he was interested in Egypt when I asked what he wanted to learn about)? Should I try to direct them at all?

Quoting LindaClement:

Learning to read isn't 'easy' in 5 lessons or 59,000, if your brain is not yet ready to understand the task. No curriculum on the planet can speed brain development, but a whole lot of them can permanently convince humans that they're utterly incompetent in a lot of areas (know anyone who 'hates' and 'can't do' math at all?)

Let it go and see what your kids are interested in exploring --it's very likely that it will be at a depth no one would ever guess kids that age would voluntarily study anything... and it will bleed their confidence in their ability to learn over onto a lot of other thing, while they learn new and better learning strategies using their natural interests as a motivator...



faeriemom1972
by Member on Dec. 14, 2012 at 8:49 AM

My son is 6 and yes, I pretty much let him do his own thing. It took me a while to get out of the "traditional school" mentality and just let him be. He's not interested in reading yet, and I roll my eyes at moms who brag about their 4 year old reading as though it were the most important thing :/ It's not. He is a great conversationalist and he is curious about everything. I schedule my day, but not his. I'm less teacher, and more facilitator, lol.

faeriemom1972
by Member on Dec. 14, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Oh, I do! When my son takes in interest in something, we look it up. Whether it's online or going to the library. He went through a phase where he wanted to be a crypto-zoologist and we spent a couple days watching re-runs of "In search of..." and "Finding Bigfoot". 

Quoting Ichthus:

So do I just let them do their own things all day, or do I guide them a bit towards things? My boys will spend all day building Legos, playing with Imaginext and GI Joe figures, building tents out of blankets, doing artwork with all the art supplies that they didn't ask if they could use, and building traps for the cat. And then dh comes home and throws a fit about the mess in the playroom. It seems like they do the same stuff every day. Should I try to make time to sit and read with me or go to the library to get books and videos on different themes (he told me he was interested in Egypt when I asked what he wanted to learn about)? Should I try to direct them at all?

Quoting LindaClement:

Learning to read isn't 'easy' in 5 lessons or 59,000, if your brain is not yet ready to understand the task. No curriculum on the planet can speed brain development, but a whole lot of them can permanently convince humans that they're utterly incompetent in a lot of areas (know anyone who 'hates' and 'can't do' math at all?)

Let it go and see what your kids are interested in exploring --it's very likely that it will be at a depth no one would ever guess kids that age would voluntarily study anything... and it will bleed their confidence in their ability to learn over onto a lot of other thing, while they learn new and better learning strategies using their natural interests as a motivator...



LindaClement
by Group Owner on Dec. 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM

I agree. 

I've known kids who could read before their third birthday, and kids who read after turning 12. By 16, they're impossible to tell apart (except the late readers often have phenomenal memory skills) ... and in the meantime, they're all equally-valuable human beings.

It's amazing to me, how much personal credit parents seem to need to take for their children's developmental pace... and how unworthy kids who have a different pace are deemed to be.

Quoting faeriemom1972:

My son is 6 and yes, I pretty much let him do his own thing. It took me a while to get out of the "traditional school" mentality and just let him be. He's not interested in reading yet, and I roll my eyes at moms who brag about their 4 year old reading as though it were the most important thing :/ It's not. He is a great conversationalist and he is curious about everything. I schedule my day, but not his. I'm less teacher, and more facilitator, lol.


jen2150
by Member on Dec. 15, 2012 at 10:11 AM
1 mom liked this

In many way I consider myself their learning coach above anything else.  I ask my kids what they are interested in learning.  I also model the behaviors I want to see them doing.  I read books on science and history because I love them and I want them to know these things interest me as well.  My sons do some workbooks but it is by their choice.  I find workbooks that uses things they enjoy.  My sons use teaching textbooks but it is because they love doing it.  I also read the life of fred books them as well.  I have one rule do not complain about anything I give them to do.  Just ask to do something different. Iam very flexible.  Sometimes my son doesn't want to do math from a book or computer.  So my son gets out a game and we just play together.  He like to take 3 different games and make his own math game.  For spelling we write a list together and I give him the words and tell him to go have fun.  Last week he made a paper scroll and stenciled in all the words.  I remember so many times just giving him a time tables chart and a protractor and tell him to have fun.   I don't know if some unschoolers would consider me an unschooler since I use curriculum from time to time.  To be honest it is what works for me and I don't care what people call me.  Remember when homeschooling the 3 most important things are not the 3 R's but creativity, imagination, and curiosity.  This was a lesson that took me a while to learn.  Legos make awesome math manipulatives.  I used to show my kids all kinds of ways to use them to do Math.  When my kids were young I never taught them to read until they asked to learn.  I did set up a learning environment that encouraged them to want to learn.  My son at 5 years old asked me to teach him to read.  He wanted to know.  Follow their interests above everything else.  I ask my kids every day what they want to learn.  We are doing Chemistry right now because my boys asked to learn about it.  We are learning all about the periodic table and have so much fun.  Our family just put together a 1,000 piece puzzle of periodic table.  We had so much fun.  Yesterday I taught a class on dry ice at our co-op.  We just finished up two months of studying about Chemistry.  One of the kids learned a valuable lesson on why don't put a cap over dry ice and water when it is in a test tube.  Remember there is no right way to homeschool as long as your kids are happy and learning.  Listen to them and you can't go wrong.

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