Thursday, March 31, 2011


Okay so I'm making up terms here. Recently i've been on a quest to learn more about unschooling. It has always intrigued me, and confused me, and interested me. Through reading various books on the subject I've come to the conclusion I couldn't possibly be an un-schooling parent 100% of the time. Though I think there are some very wonderful things about unschooling that I could (and will) adopt as part of my educational philosophy,  there is no way I could drop everything and jump headlong into un-schooling.

The positive things I've learned about un-schooling, are that it's child led. This means so many things on so many levels. It could be that your child has a special interest in frogs, and you foster that interest the best you can through books, collecting tadpoles from a nearby pond, keeping records of the changes the tadpole goes through, etc. All the while your child is learning! I can so easily and happily apply this to my own style of teaching! My children have various interests and I love providing them with opportunities to take an interest and really get as much information until they are satisfied. Frogs don't have to be on the science list for you to do this! The best learning takes place when there are personal connections made between the learner and the content. Taking advantage of those interests is like doing half the work for twice the pay!

Learning is relaxed, not forced. Even studies show that when a student is forced to complete or "learn", the learning doesn't take place. The knowledge doesn't make an impact and therefore doesn't stay with the child. Children are allowed to learn concepts and knew knowledge at their own pace, not according to a chart or outline or "what your child should know by_____ grade". For me this means taking a seat sometimes and waiting for the concepts to sink in, the interest to flair and the facilitation door to be open. It doesn't mean I get stressed out if Jonah can't memorize his addition facts, or Ellie can't sound out the words! It means I take a deep breath, keep providing opportunities for learning without the pressure.

It's about drawing near to learning, not pushing away. There are so many kids that hate school by the time they get out of 1st grade! It's hard to make "lifelong learners" out of something that seems miserable! It doesn't mean everything has to be super exciting and fun. But learning should be a basic desire. If it's not there it's okay to take a break, not to push and tie the kid to the chair until he finishes his spelling! Maybe it does mean there is a different way to get him to learn spelling, through writing his own stories, or playing spelling games on the computer. It doesn't have to be the same worksheet/workbook every single time.

Un-schooling is about using the whole world as your classroom. This can be both easy and hard. It's about making real life connections with knowledge. Teaching Match concepts at the store, science on a hike, learning about your heart after a bike ride. It's about sharing knowledge as you take the journey! It's about making the most of every opportunity but not bogging down you children with endless lectures and speeches! It's about taking advantage of teachable moments when the conditions are right.

Un-schooling is providing resources for your child to learn through discovery and in their own way. I've seen Jonah teach himself both the add, subtract, divide and multiply with little help from me. I've seen Ellie take to reading and through providing her with the right books, games, etc. Children are natural learners if they are given the right opportunities!

What un-schooling is not:

It's not about letting your kids do nothing all day, leaving them never learn to read write or compute.

It's not about not caring what or when or how your kids learn.

It's not forcing your kids to do things they are not ready to, don't understand or have no interest in.

For my children and I, we are Hybrids, half-bloods, it what you want. I am learning along the way to step back, take it all in and listen to them. I am learning to quiet the voice that wants all the duckies to be in a row, to compare my children to others. I am learning to listen to their interests, to see them for who they are and how they learn, to help them with that.  To stop when they have had too much, to keep going when they are interested. To try new things, change things up, re-do and start over. I can't quite jump into the unschooling waters, but I can surely paddle around in my little canoe!

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