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Unschooling - making the transition

Posted by on Jan. 16, 2012 at 4:51 PM
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I've just started unschooling my two boys, ages 9 and 13. They have been in public school up until now. I get the whole unschooling philosophy and I think it's great, but I could use some advice and perspective on making the transition. So far (two weeks) I've just been letting them do whatever they want to and not pushing any particular activity or direction.

I understand that a transition period is necessary and natural. However, I am a little concerned that they will not move out of their current mode of playing video games and watching Netflix all day. As if every day is Saturday and there is nothing they need to get done.

OK, so what advice can you offer on managing this transition so that hopefully they end up at some point actually interested in learning something some way other than via video games and TV reruns?


by on Jan. 16, 2012 at 4:51 PM
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kreyes330
by Testing the waters on Jan. 16, 2012 at 5:43 PM
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I have read that for every year a child is in school you need that many months of "off" time before kids will become interested in something outside of "fun" stuff.  So for a 9 year old in 4th grade you may need to wait 5 months or so before he becomes interested in more learning activities.  I have been homeschooling my 3 children for a year now and am considering unschooling so I have been reading a lot of John Holt literature and articles from Life Learning magazine, which has been extremely reassuring....good luck!!

unschooldad
by Testing the waters on Jan. 17, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Thanks for that perspective and the references to those resources! Greatly appreciated!

unschooldad
by Testing the waters on Jan. 20, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Anybody else have anything to add about making the transition? My 9 y.o. plays Minecraft all day still after three weeks. Getting a little concerned, but trying to stick to the spirit of unschooling and not tell him what to do. Hope he gets tired of it, but I'm not sure when that will happen. He is learning stuff, but it's starting to look like an addiction or something!

tjetton
by Testing the waters on Mar. 2, 2012 at 3:29 AM

Well, I am also trying the transition. I have been homeschooling my 2nd and 6th grader since the beginning and I am on my second round of trying to unschool. Last year right after Christmas I tried it. But for the rest of the school year, I don't feel like they ever stopped watching tv or playing video games. I never really noticed them getting interested in anything. So of course guilt took over and I went back to a more structured day. So for the first part of this year, we worked fairly well with somewhat of an organized structure. But again, about half way through, the girls were resisting everthing I was trying to teach them. They didn't want to to anything and we fought all the time. So again we are trying it. This time with a little less freedom. What I mean by this is that I make them shut of the tv from 11am-3pm. They can't play any video games or computer games during this time either. They can do anything else they want. Many times they just play all day, but they are always changing how they play. They like building forts int he living room and playing house. They will sometimes go outside and right their scooters or just play. I have also given them more chores. The hardest thing for me to do is stay off the computer myself and be the good example. Believe me, I doubt my techniques every day, but I am trying to be patient. I try to offer lots of suggestions for things and help them whenever I can. I have recently decided that I am going to clean out all my "school" supplies, curriculums, and crafts. Every day I am going to sit down and work on something myself. I am going to pull out manipulatives that I borrowed from the charter school I attend and just lay them out on the table and see if that strikes their interest. If not, I will try other stuff. I always ask them if they want to help me in the garden and they always say no. Now, I have just been trying to go out myself without saying anything to them and see if they come out on there own. They usually don't. I will also put in an "educational" dvd on that I pick up from the Library. I just pop that in on my own. Sometimes they stop and watch it with me, most of the time they don't.

Something I have been noticing that they do like are educational singalong cds. My girls love to sing and dance. We recently borrowed one on planets and they absolutely love it. They have things like that for all kinds of subjects. So anytime we are in the car I try to pop something like that in.

Anyway, I hope that helps. I worry sick daily that I am making the wrong decision every day, but that's just me.

KickButtMama
by G.O. Shannon on Mar. 2, 2012 at 5:32 PM
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I'm a big supporter of child led learning. During this down time, my advice is to OBSERVE. For instance, you said one of you ds enjoys RPGS like Minecraft. Perhaps you could facilitate his interest by finding programs where he can learn to create his own game. My son loves vid games, so he has spent months toying with Alice 2.0 which is a free computer interface where he has learned to program his own game! We also got an iPad as there are ment apps that are educational w/o seeming like school. My kids usually choose a project, like the programming, and I find tons of resources for them. Then make those resources readily available.

Unlike most unschoolers, I limit game and movie time. They have unlimited access to educational shows/movies, bu regular tv programming is off from 10 am - 3pm.

Ask me how you can make money sitting on your couch enjoy books with your children! It's the most amazing opportunity I've ever seen!!    Home Educators Toolbox  / Articles / Kicbuttmama's Crazy Lapbooks / Kickbuttmama's Home Education / The Usborne Learning Fairy


Albert Einstein -- 
   "Everybody is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid." 

unschooldad
by Testing the waters on Mar. 5, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Thanks for these posts. This feedback is very helpful! I think we'll start limiting game time as well.

SnailGal
by Welcome Squad on Mar. 12, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Hey KickButtMama, I really like your posts and I was wondering if you could elaborate more on how you sorta "plan" (for lack of a better word) your kids' days. I understand you limit game/tv time, and you say you let them choose the topic, and then you find other rescources based on that topic for them to do, right? So say they pick insects do you simply plan a week of insect activities, books, shows, hands-on stuff for them to do (like a mini schedule or weekly guide), or do you more so just find things based around insects that they might enjoy and suggest it to them, and let them do it if they want to?

What I mean by this, is how is unschooling different from unit studies? It seems very similar exceot perhaps unschoolers would maybe lay out the ideas and let the kids choose which ones to pursue, whereas unit studies you'd expect most of it to get done in a certain time frame or order. Am I right in thinking this or is much more different? I feel exhausted from planning unit studies.

Anyway, in reply to the topic, I am looking into a middle ground of unschooling. I don't think I can completely let go of scheduled or planned learning (I feel the need to for math and reading), but I want to deschool myself on the other subjects. It's very hard for me to do due to my mindset and how I was taught. I love learning, and none of that comes from time in PS, but yet it's still so hard for me to give up the notion of going through a set curriculum of history, science, language arts, geography, etc.

I hope to hear more people's comments on how they've transistioned in this topic, it's very helpful. :)


my2.5boys
by Helping Hands on Mar. 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM
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We never made a transition, since we've basically always been unschoolers. I don't limit tv, computer, or video game time. I also don't plan my children's days, beyond the basics. What I mean by basics is, we meet with our home-school group every tuesday morning. They have football tuesday and friday evening. I may plan a beach day, or other type of outing, but I never plan learning. For us, learning is just a by product of living.

Most of the learning my kids experience comes in the form of conversations. We talk to each other, a lot! If we need to go deeper than just talking, I may sit with them at the computer and look some things up. So far they have never gone so far as wanting to get books or movies about any particular topic and going deeper on their own. They are happy with just general knowledge. But they are still young, only 6 and 8 years old.

Blessedby3girls
by Testing the waters on Mar. 28, 2012 at 5:29 PM
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From my short time homeschooling and asking questions about "deschooling" I feel this is an individual thing for each family.  We are in the process of "deschooling". After jumping into a structured curriculum, to provide some guidance and because my educational background was very structured academically. You take these classes at this time and get credit by doing everything this particular instructor wanted.

After about 4 weeks, I realized that the struggles we had were not necessarily from academics, but because the girls needed/wanted a stronger relationship tie. (We haven't been a family for  a full year yet). So this is where we are at: structure is developed through daily chores and expectations (i.e. making one's bed, getting ready in the morning, etc. - mostly life skills focused). And we complete spelling and reading daily. Math is incorporated, at this time, with our activities (i.e. cooking, walking, shopping, etc.).

In addition, I am developing curriculum according to what we are doing. For example, we are taking a road trip through 4 states. Therefore, we are focusing on these states with learning - nicknames, population, when they became a state, state flags, economics, etc. As we travel we will be stopping at fun, educational opportunities along the way as well. And there are a lot of inexpensive, free things to do!

This is how we are working through the many changes.

black.eyeliner
by on Mar. 30, 2012 at 8:53 AM
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I like how kickbuttmama said things. Observation is key. You go with the spark of interest and turn it into a full fire of wanting to learn. My 17 year old always loved RPGs too. She started getting into live action. We learned as much as we could about it. She sews her own costumes, makes her boff weapons, practices with friends, does full character histories, manages her money in game which is a whole different system, has to keep everything period accurate, knows her spells. She learns with all of it. It sounds like a waste of time in the beginning but she has compared her game to actual history, learned money management as a teen, learned sewing skills, quilting teaches geometry, she has learned debate skills through the game, it is full of exercise, and she gets her socialization. I know there is way more but my head hurts right now. 

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