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Do you have "unschooler" tendencies?


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I don't think the term "homeschool" reflects what we do. Heck, it doesn't feel like school in the slightest! Not even a little. What it feels like is my kid is home with me, instead of in school with everyone else his age. I don't feel I have recreated a classroom experience in my living room or kitchen. We break for diaper changes for the baby, we break for coffee for mom, we break for getting on each other's nerves. For a child who has never been in school (except a gloried daycare center in preschool), what do I expect? Do I expect him to raise his hand before he speaks? Do I expect to see him dressed and combed by himself at 8 A.M.? Or do I expect to see him in his jammies and we have a few giggles before breakfast, take our time getting ourselves and the baby ready, and finally, like when 9:30 rolls around, guilt ourselves into getting some work started? 

 

I feel that if I don't relax the expectations, I am doomed to fail at this. And that would be a shame, because we have hardly begun! It's just Kindergarten! 

 

What are your thoughts on the term "unschooling" or "natural learning"? I am ready to abandon all pretense that what we do in our home resembles or strives to keep up with that which is done in school. It creates mental stress for me, fancying myself some super-mom teacher, instead of just a mom who cares about my kid's development and education, a mom who seeks to integrate an education into our home life in a way that has impact and meaning. 

 

Do any of you choose to say "home education" or something other than home school? Did any of you waver between traditional and non-traditional styles of educating before finding your ideal approach that works best for your family? And, if you have friends who are real "unschoolers" what lessons have you taken away from your interfacing with them? 

 

Thanks for your thoughts! 

 

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Honestly, to the 'average onlooker', they don't see the differences in the subcategories of "homeschooling". So to most people, I say we homeschool.

However within the homeschooling community (at least the one local to me), people sometimes do categorize themselves. 

I'm eclectic (and I think to be honest, most people ARE eclectic homeschoolers as no one, at least that I know of personally, actually schools completely according to any one principle or belief system). 

I had just assumed when I pulled my kids out that we would unschool, but it turns out that they (and more importantly *I*) need some form of structure. So we do use some curricula, but its very much still child-led. 

 

If I had to accurately describe us, we're democratic homeschoolers. My kids get choices in how and when and where we learn - but sometimes there are decisions made by my fiance and I. We say "here is what we're doing" and they get a say in the particulars (even sometimes helping choose curricula). 

 

I have quite a few "true unschooler" friends. One is quite to the radical end, some are more middle of the spectrum unschoolers. They implement it beautifully, and their kids (of a good spread of ages) are amazing, bright, articulate, and just fun to be around. I however do not have it in me to constantly supply the tools and books and project materials to follow my kids' whims and fancies. So we do have to be a little structured in that. I think the most important thing I take from my unschooler mates, is the idea that I am on no one's timeline but my own. THAT is the beauty of homeschooling (in whichever flavour you choose to define yourself) - you can go down the random rabbit holes and pick up on things that are fascinating your child at that moment, and then get back to the "planned work" when you want to. 

 

Honestly, if you find a way to home educate/homeschool/unschool/whatever and it works for you - then it doesn't really matter what you label it. We all pull from a variety of places, and I have yet to meet IRL a family who sticks firmly to only ONE brand of homeschooling :) 

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Homeschooling isn't school at home, as confusing as that sounds.  You don't have to sit your child in a desk and say the Pledge of Allegiance and work from eight to two to call yourself a homeschooler.  And if you're sitting down and doing certain subjects each day, you're not really an unschooler, even if you have breaks and interruptions and more days off than you'd like.  (Well, not as most of us think of unschoolers, anyway.)  

 

I think for most of us, the level of structure we need is somewhat less than a public school, but more than the radical unschoolers.  If you find yourself somewhere in that middle ground, you can just go ahead and call yourself a homeschooler and get on with your life. ;)

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I think there are two issues. Homeschooling without unschooling still does not mean that you recreate school at home. Unschooling is completely student led, no regular curriculum unless the students wants to, things like this.

Homeschooling can still be very relaxed, in pajamas, with a flexible schedule.

 

I homeschool, doing rather rigorous academics, and am by no means an unschooler. I am also non-traditional in the sense that I do not follow any set curriculum, but put together a very eclectic mix of resources for education. Yet my kids structure their own day, take breaks when they want to, cover the subjects in the order they choose, select from pre-approved materials those they want to use. They eat when they need, talk when they need, go to the bathroom when they need to.

 

There is NO need to mimic a public school classroom atmosphere in the home. It would be ridiculous!

Even as a very traditional homeschooler who follows a very traditional boxed curriculum this is not needed.

 

Whether you feel comfortable unschooling is a completely different question. That has more to do with your educational philosophies than with how comfortable you feel about a relaxed school day.

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Oh, yeah. Unschooler here. :-)

 

My dd had such a burn-out during first grade that I withdrew her during Easter vacation. The only homeschooling publications at that time--1982--were John Holt, the Father of Unschooling. :-) I read *all* of his books, plus most copies of his newsletter, Growing Without Schooling, in just two weeks. Of course, only his last book,Teach Your Own, was about homeschooling; the others were all about learning and education and whatnot, all of which led up to his deciding that schools couldn't be fixed, so parents should just...teach their own. And so I entered homeschooling with a *totally* different mindset regarding how children learn and all that.

 

There are many things which intrigue me about more formal learning philosophies--I even started a small, one-room school at my church, with children wearing uniforms and everything!--but I am now a died-in-the-wool unschooler. :-)

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I don't like the label "unschooler" right now, but that has more to do with various personalities that are very vocal on Facebook than what we actually do.

 

John Holt and the Hegeners are all over my bookshelves and magazine racks and I'm far more relaxed about bedtime, meal time, and screen time than some of my offline friends who self-identify as unschoolers or RU.

 

 

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I'm not unschooly at all, but when a child is kindergarten age, I still think it should be mostly play and exploration.  I am old enough that when I was in kindergarten, there was lots of playing, being showed new and interesting things (ie, a chicken heart), lots of coloring, and we might have learned the alphabet and words like stop, exit and danger.  We learned how to listen in a group, share, take turns, and cut out paper hearts and snowflakes.  Real phonics started in first grade, along with Dick and Jane books.  I don't think there is any harm in exploring reading and writing with younger kids, but I didn't require much of that type of work at that age.  Now at 8 and 10, I do my best to run a very structured, academic school day.  I really am not an unschooler at all, but at the kindergarten stage, I probably looked like one.

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I absolutely have unschooler tendencies. I think our best educational experiences have arisen from our unschooling moments, but as a pp mentioned, unschooling every subject can be very draining on the parent and budget. In reality, our schooling is a combination of classical, Charlotte Mason, interest-led (the unschooly part), and opportunity-led with even a little school-at-home thrown in at times. The kids have input as to what topics they want to delve into further, what languages they want to study, what electives they'd like to study, etc. This year I'm also having my ds11 plan an interest-led project.

By opportunity-led, I mean that we take advantage of the flexibility homeschooling affords to participate in as many unique opportunities as time and energy permit. For instance, we've spent a great deal of time on WWII after hearing a Holocaust survivor speak. I don't want to discount any great educational opportunities like this just because we happen to be studying ancients this year. Our zoo offered a polar animal class, where the kids were able to pet and interact with penguins during a feeding. Again, this has nothing to do with the official science topic of physics this year, but the opportunity presented itself and we jumped on it. 

All of these sidetracks to cause us to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get through a planned out subject, but my hope is that we are creating life-long learners who crave new information and will continue their education long after their schooling has ended.

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I have two children. The first is ending K at the moment. She requires very structured schooling from me, because that's the way she's wired. I tell her what to learn and when to learn it. That could be anywhere between 8 and 1pm, depending on the weather. :p My second child is probably going to be an unschooled because I can't think what else to do with him. :p

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Do any of you choose to say "home education" or something other than home school? Did any of you waver between traditional and non-traditional styles of educating before finding your ideal approach that works best for your family? And, if you have friends who are real "unschoolers" what lessons have you taken away from your interfacing with them? 

 

Thanks for your thoughts!

My boys use their fingers as air quotes when they say, "Oh, I 'homeschool'! Sure, let's go with that."

 

;)

 

Anyway, here is an article that I think sums up the philosophy of unschooling: And They Played All Day by Naomi Aldort

 

I've found this to be true to my experience. Children in kindergarten learn while they play. And this doesn't end as they grow. If you think about it, many people come here to "play." They come for social interaction, sharing humorous stories and antidotes, finding new resources to enjoy during "downtime" (the adult word for "play"). There is no age where a child stops playing, but their play matures as they grow. As a parent, you have the opportunity to provide opportunities that appeal to their interests such that they couldn't get on their own. You can broaden their learning environment, in other words, open up their playroom from your home and yard, to the local park, to the museums in the cities, to all kinds of groups and social circles in his area of interests. I find meetup to be a good resource for this. 

 

Here's another article that might give you some ideas to start: 8 Ways to Provide an Interest-Led Learning Home, by Christina Pilkintgont

 

Here are a couple standard go-to resources for unconventional learning: Radical Unschooling (don't let the name fool you, "radical" means getting to the root, in this case, getting to the root of how we learn) and Joyfully Rejoycing (great links and examples)

 

My personal philosophy is that once you identify your core values, the things you want your child to know before you unleash him upon the world alone, you can learn how to provide opportunities for him to develop these values. I tend to think big and general values because they can incorporate so many things. For example, thinking, "I value math, I want him to know math," is something I would put in a bigger category like, "I want him to have a large foundation of knowledge and know how to apply that in a practical, effective, and socially appropriate way." This includes math, history, science, language arts, etc. It also includes social skills, hobbies, and the fine art of knowing what to do when you don't know what to do (make sense?). Some of my other goals for my kids to know is values like respect, resourcefulness, critical thinking skills, justice, etc. These are things they can learn outside academic studies of course, but opening up one's schedule to pursue their interests helps keep stress levels down, and these skills can be addressed as they come up, constantly, and in a low-key way. 

 

I think what most people fear about leaving behind the practices of conventional education (and I include homeschool here), is the idea that one won't be able to learn academics if they watch tv all day. I think it's a misunderstanding to think unschooling is about watching tv all day. Hopefully the links provided will help you see your many options. My kids are teens now and I can see how pursuing their interests have inspired their learning of traditional academic subjects. If you think about it, play is much more fun when you have more tools to bring to the table. This doesn't change for older kids, and the "tools" become those very skills taught in class. Eventually you'll see what kinds of things your child gravitates to and you'll know how to introduce him to new ideas he might find valuable. By the time he's a teen, he should have a pretty good idea of what he really likes to do, and will start noticing who in society does that kind of thing. That realization that he can make a career out of what he enjoys is a good internal incentive for picking up any academic skills that might have been less attended to. The same skills of identifying problems and solving them effectively at 5 will help him at 15 recognize how to reach the next big goal. For most of us, that's college, but our kids might have different ideas. My kids are college bound, and my job is to help them reach that goal. I just don't do it sitting at the dining room table between the hours of 9-4, but all day (and night), all the time. 

 

I did start off with classical homeschooling and chipped away until we had no schooling behaviors at all. There are no "field trips" or "library days" or "student-led projects" to be finished. My kids pursue exactly what they want and my role is to provide as much opportunity for learning (academically and socially) as I can. As they get older, I help them find resources that can provide what I cannot. I hope this helps. 

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Do any of you choose to say "home education" or something other than home school? Did any of you waver between traditional and non-traditional styles of educating before finding your ideal approach that works best for your family? And, if you have friends who are real "unschoolers" what lessons have you taken away from your interfacing with them? 

 

 

 

I think it's silly to imagine that there's really any sort of difference between saying "home education" and "homeschooling" or anything else. (I'm not saying that you think like that, BTW. I know some people who try to say that "home education" is different from "homeschooling." :blink: )

 

I don't believe in such a thing as "radical unschooling." Either you is or you ain't. :laugh: And it doesn't matter which one you is.

 

I think children learn all the time.

 

In our home, sometimes learning looked like school, but most of the time it did not.

 

I have children, not students. I'm the mother, not the teacher. Mr. Ellie is their father, not the principal. My children are ages, not grades.

 

I think people should help their children learn whatever way works best for them.

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I did start off with classical homeschooling and chipped away until we had no schooling behaviors at all. There are no "field trips" or "library days" or "student-led projects" to be finished. My kids pursue exactly what they want and my role is to provide as much opportunity for learning (academically and socially) as I can. As they get older, I help them find resources that can provide what I cannot. I hope this helps. 

 

I kind of see us as heading this way also. 

 

For me, I have a hard time with two kids who thrived in a rigid public school, to find ways to nurture their self-learning. It's almost as if that natural desire had already been kinda squelched out of them in their time in PS. 

 

So keeping some structure was a big deal to me, addressing my son's issues with reading was important to me. 

I've told them both that I want them to just love learning, and find things that spark something inside of them. 

So until I find that they are wanting to do that more than 'bookwork', I'll keep providing them SOME form of education and put a lot of subjects and content in front of them and hopefully they will find things that they get excited about and we can just follow that. 

 

I wasn't comfortable just throwing ourselves to the unschooling wind. And I think that the very best, most magical part of homeschooling is being able to say "hey this is what we want to get to, and look at all the ways we have to get there" and forging our own path. 

 

I love the premise of classical education, and for its rigidity I also see it as something that will allow us to rabbit-hole all we want. And it puts a LOT of really cool info in front of my kids and I'm already seeing their eyes light up about certain subjects. 

 

So all that rambling to say, again, I just think we have to find the path that we feel comfortable on, and to see the end goals and kind of work backwards - if we want to get to "X" end point, here's how we can get there. Maybe right now that looks like something structured and maybe down the road that will look like something wholly different. And in the end, how we label ourselves is the least important part of it all. 

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We are eclectic here. I do use curriculum, I do make them get up and dressed and eat before 9, and we usually school from a about 9 or 9:30 until 2:30 or 3:00. That said if the girls show any particular interest in one of our topics then we peruse it beyond the curriculum, we are flexible in our schedule, and we peruse outside interests whenever possible. We have the daily schedule, because without it we would all be up til midnight, sleep half the day, and not get much done. We need some structure in order to be productive. I guess we are naturally lazy. Lol

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I homeschool, doing rather rigorous academics, and am by no means an unschooler. I am also non-traditional in the sense that I do not follow any set curriculum, but put together a very eclectic mix of resources for education. Yet my kids structure their own day, take breaks when they want to, cover the subjects in the order they choose, select from pre-approved materials those they want to use. They eat when they need, talk when they need, go to the bathroom when they need to.

 

Do you think you could have done it this way if you had homeschooled younger children? As I recall you started homeschooling somewhere around middle school, yes? I like the idea you present but am not sure it would work as well for children who are learning to spell, read phonics, form letters, etc. Along the same lines, do you think you could pull off the same methods if your kids were not accelerated?

 

I'm not trying to make you defensive! :)  It's just that I've seen you post things that sound so wonderful and I've always thought they would be great but wouldn't work here because my children are young and not accelerated.

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Do you think you could have done it this way if you had homeschooled younger children? As I recall you started homeschooling somewhere around middle school, yes? I like the idea you present but am not sure it would work as well for children who are learning to spell, read phonics, form letters, etc. Along the same lines, do you think you could pull off the same methods if your kids were not accelerated?

 

With younger kids, I would most likely have been even more relaxed and largely play based. I would have started formal academics not until age 6, kept the "school days" very short (2-3 hours; in my home country, elementary public school students are done by lunch time), spent a lot of time just living and experiencing the world.

The one difference is that I would have had to be present all the time to provide supervision and care.

 

It was my experience that in elementary age, my kids were very eager to learn. They wanted to learn to read, to write, to do math. They were excited about new knowledge. And with a kid who wants to learn, it is so easy to school in a relaxed way. They complained bitterly that they did not learn enough in school. If anything, it becomes more difficult in the middle grades, because part of the natural curiosity gets lost.

 

I do not think my methods have anything to do with my children being accelerated. They have more to do with our attitude towards learning and our family's general educational philosophy. They also have to do with the children's character and work ethic; I could not school this way with kids who were trying to cut corners, lying about school work, refusing to do work when not directly supervised. None of this has anything to do with intelligence; one could have highly gifted children who are dishonest and lazy.

 

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For most people, "home education" would be perceived as synonymous with "home school." You could try to differentiate and explain but it would probably just annoy and overwhelm most people.

 

When I'm talking to other people who don't utilize traditional schools to educate their children, I'll usually say "homeschool" rather than "unschool" to indicate that I dictate a good chunk of my child's learning. As you can see in my sig, I use the words "relaxed" and "classical" to specify more about how I do that. "Classical" because I focus on the trivium and quadrivium and Greek & Roman methods of teaching those, "relaxed" because as much as possible I use Mary Hood's method of manipulating kids into thinking any particular bit of learning was their idea.

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No, I am just a bit lazy and/or spread thin depending how generous one wants to be in their views. Which is ironic, because we are HSing for academic reasons. We seem to school-light more days than I want, but are still finding our rythm. I underestimated how me-intensive this endeavour would be, I am blessed with a kid that has no intristic interests but is super-compliant, so it really is a  disservice on my part. He would sit and do 5 hours of work if I spoonfed 5 hours worth of material and set next to him. I'm working on it.

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I don't think the term "homeschool" reflects what we do. Heck, it doesn't feel like school in the slightest! Not even a little. What it feels like is my kid is home with me, instead of in school with everyone else his age. I don't feel I have recreated a classroom experience in my living room or kitchen. We break for diaper changes for the baby, we break for coffee for mom, we break for getting on each other's nerves. For a child who has never been in school (except a gloried daycare center in preschool), what do I expect? Do I expect him to raise his hand before he speaks? Do I expect to see him dressed and combed by himself at 8 A.M.? Or do I expect to see him in his jammies and we have a few giggles before breakfast, take our time getting ourselves and the baby ready, and finally, like when 9:30 rolls around, guilt ourselves into getting some work started? 

 

I feel that if I don't relax the expectations, I am doomed to fail at this. And that would be a shame, because we have hardly begun! It's just Kindergarten! 

 

What are your thoughts on the term "unschooling" or "natural learning"? I am ready to abandon all pretense that what we do in our home resembles or strives to keep up with that which is done in school. It creates mental stress for me, fancying myself some super-mom teacher, instead of just a mom who cares about my kid's development and education, a mom who seeks to integrate an education into our home life in a way that has impact and meaning. 

 

Do any of you choose to say "home education" or something other than home school? Did any of you waver between traditional and non-traditional styles of educating before finding your ideal approach that works best for your family? And, if you have friends who are real "unschoolers" what lessons have you taken away from your interfacing with them? 

 

Thanks for your thoughts! 

 

FTR, I think it's appropriate for all of us to get up and get dressed in the morning, rather than hanging out in our jammies all day just because we're not going anywhere, so yes, even though we were definitely on the unschool side of things, we got up and got dressed in the morning. I did NOT expect the dc to be sitting at the table like little robots by 8 a.m., though, lol. I just think it's good social training. My dc usually woke up around 8 a.m., and we all got up and had breakfast and got dressed, very gently and casually, lots of hugs and kisses and stuff, and we were still ready for the day by 9ish. IOW, it is not necessary to guilt yourself into being ready for the day by 9:30. :-)

 

Teaching your children to have good hygiene (taking baths on a regular basis--which for us was daily, brushing hair and teeth, wearing clean, tidy clothing, etc.) and keeping a tidy home are still important, regardless of what your educational philosophy is. It is part of their education. Some unschoolers also unparent; it's where I disagree with John Holt's ideas. Unschooling doesn't mean that you integrate education into your home life; it means that you live your life and draw your children into it.

 

I'd really encourage you to read John Holt--all of his books, not just "Teach Your Own." And I'd encourage you to read Mary Hood's Relaxed Homeschooling books, as well. She says she isn't an unschooler, but it's hard for me to tell the difference, lol.

 

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I started off being very unschooling/John Holt influenced.  Less so now.  My experiences with education, both as a school teacher in public and private school and now a homeschool teacher have been that kids crave structure.  I see my job as helping them head toward being in charge of their own education.  I do like what Lori Pickart has had to say on the Camp Creek blog and in her Project Based Homeschooling book and she identifies as an unschooler.

 

But seconding what everyone else is saying about how nearly everyone uses "homeschool" for the sake of easy identification with the world.  And how there's a huge space in between "keeping up with the public school" and "unschooling."  I see us as being just on a very different path from the public schools.

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I have serious unschooling tendencies but I think that as you add more kids and as they get older, realities are a bit differerent than unschooling 1 Ker. When all 5 kids were home, allowing them to determine what, when and where would have resulted in my destruction. 

 

Having said that, my most popular blog post of all time is the one I wrote on Delight Directed Learning.

 

 

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Me!  I'm sympathetic to the unschooling point of view, and unschooled older DD for 1st grade and mostly unschooled her for 2nd - except when panic set in and I thought, "Oh my gosh, we need to do some real schoolwork!"  So, we'd do some traditional looking schoolwork for a week or two, until we were back to unschooling.

 

We'd probably still be unschooling, but older DD really needs direct instruction.  That's how she learns best.  She started feeling behind her friends in basic skills (spelling and math) but wasn't sure how to fix it.  It was really hurting her self-esteem.  So, we do spelling and math every weekday.  I'm adding in cursive and composition this spring.  We're also continuing semi-regular US history (mostly just reading aloud interesting books).   We don't do science, but I'm buying them a microscope.  We'll see where that takes us.

 

Younger DD could be completely unschooled and do totally fine, no worries at all.  She's a natural writer and speller, and is good at math without trying.   Is it fair, then,  that I require formal schoolwork from her?  Shouldn't I be meeting her where she's at, instead of letting big sister's style dictate what every kid in the family does?  I really struggle with that.  I give in in small ways.  She passionately dislikes history, but loves American Girl books, so I've decided to just let her read those and call it good.

 

OP, I encourage you to look into the Moores' book, "Successful Homeschool Family Handbook," and the Better Late than Early philosophy.  I think it might really resonate with you.

 

 

 

 

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I definitely have unschooling tendencies, which is funny, because when I first started learning about homeschooling several years ago (when dd6 was a baby), the idea kind of offended me. You know, as someone who loved education and academics, the idea of leaving it all up to "chance" seemed highly irresponsible.

 

Since then, I have learned much, much more about unschooling, and homeschooling in general, and I have gone from being offended by unschooling to being intensely fascinated by unschooling to where I am now--basically fighting my natural tendencies to unschool, because dh is still pretty opposed to it.

 

I actually think I'm working some if it into our homeschool, though, in a way that dh is comfortable with. My tentative new science plan is pretty unschooly--stocking our home library with great science books for the kids and making sure we have a lot of time to explore nature and museums and whatnot. My new approach to history is definitely sliding down the continuum toward unschooling as well.

 

I don't think I could ever feel comfortable unschooling skills subjects. But I have moved away from the WTM approach to skills and more toward a CM philosophy. The more I read CM's original writings, the more I feel like maybe I've found our fit....For now. ;)

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With younger kids, I would most likely have been even more relaxed and largely play based. I would have started formal academics not until age 6, kept the "school days" very short (2-3 hours; in my home country, elementary public school students are done by lunch time), spent a lot of time just living and experiencing the world.

The one difference is that I would have had to be present all the time to provide supervision and care.

 

It was my experience that in elementary age, my kids were very eager to learn. They wanted to learn to read, to write, to do math. They were excited about new knowledge. And with a kid who wants to learn, it is so easy to school in a relaxed way. They complained bitterly that they did not learn enough in school. If anything, it becomes more difficult in the middle grades, because part of the natural curiosity gets lost.

 

I do not think my methods have anything to do with my children being accelerated. They have more to do with our attitude towards learning and our family's general educational philosophy. They also have to do with the children's character and work ethic; I could not school this way with kids who were trying to cut corners, lying about school work, refusing to do work when not directly supervised. None of this has anything to do with intelligence; one could have highly gifted children who are dishonest and lazy.

 

I have a bad cough right now. Between that and your post, I have to say I didn't sleep much last night.  ;)

 

I guess my kids are closer to where yours are at but not quite. They are nothing like the kids in your penultimate sentence. I think they are more eager to learn when they can apply their basic skills and use them in an integrated fashion. Unfortunately they are still working on the basic skills....

 

I can see them picking up math or grammar and being eager to learn the information. They love reading. I don't see them deciding to make 25 copies of a cursive "r" or spontaneously memorizing multiplication tables or the rules for commas. I doubt they will ever create their own spelling list. 

 

For example right now we are thinking about starting a nature collection. They love the idea of collecting, identifying, labeling, and preserving the materials. But all the things that made this possible such as counting, learning to read, handwriting, etc. were met with a lack of enthusiasm, perhaps resignation. The collection (application of basic skills) itself will be a blast.

 

That's why I was wondering about the age thing. They don't seem interested in the basics but they are happy to apply them. Thanks for your post; it gave me food for thought. I tried some different things today and gave them more free reign over what they wanted to spend time on; so far we've had a really good day.

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I can see them picking up math or grammar and being eager to learn the information. They love reading. I don't see them deciding to make 25 copies of a cursive "r" or spontaneously memorizing multiplication tables or the rules for commas. I doubt they will ever create their own spelling list. 

 

For example right now we are thinking about starting a nature collection. They love the idea of collecting, identifying, labeling, and preserving the materials. But all the things that made this possible such as counting, learning to read, handwriting, etc. were met with a lack of enthusiasm, perhaps resignation. The collection (application of basic skills) itself will be a blast.

 

Maybe you misunderstood me, and I am sorry if I have not clearly explained my methods: I am NOT an unschooler. I do give my children a choice of materials I find suitable for a certain subject, and I let them choose the order in which they work on subjects throughout the day, or even to neglect a subject for a few days in order to work on something else - but I do NOT give them the option not to learn a skill that I deem necessary.

So, no, mine would not choose out of their own volition to make 25 copies of the letter r either, but that item will be one of the items on their list of things they must work on. They would get to choose when, whether in pencil or pen, on pink or white paper, sitting at the table or lying on the floor. They would also not spontaneously decide to memorize the times tables - but they could choose whether to work on it after breakfast or in the afternoon, and whether to make a poster, play a card game, be quizzed orally, or use a computer game for this purpose. They might even been engrossed in a science project and be hard at work there, and not work on handwriting at all today.

 

For example, today I gave my DS the choice whether he wanted to do a few pages of grammar exercises for Italian or whether he wanted to translate an Italian text. He also got to choose between reading Thucidydes or Sophocles, listening to Vandiver's lectures on the Aeneid or working in the history text. He did not have the choice NOT to study Italian and history, and he did not have the choice not to fill a certain amount of hours with school work using materials approved by me for the subjects we are studying.

 

Does that make more sense?

 

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Maybe you misunderstood me, and I am sorry if I have not clearly explained my methods: I am NOT an unschooler. I do give my children a choice of materials I find suitable for a certain subject, and I let them choose the order in which they work on subjects throughout the day, or even to neglect a subject for a few days in order to work on something else - but I do NOT give them the option not to learn a skill that I deem necessary.

So, no, mine would not choose out of their own volition to make 25 copies of the letter r either, but that item will be one of the items on their list of things they must work on. They would get to choose when, whether in pencil or pen, on pink or white paper, sitting at the table or lying on the floor. They would also not spontaneously decide to memorize the times tables - but they could choose whether to work on it after breakfast or in the afternoon, and whether to make a poster, play a card game, be quizzed orally, or use a computer game for this purpose. They might even been engrossed in a science project and be hard at work there, and not work on handwriting at all today.

 

For example, today I gave my DS the choice whether he wanted to do a few pages of grammar exercises for Italian or whether he wanted to translate an Italian text. He also got to choose between reading Thucidydes or Sophocles, listening to Vandiver's lectures on the Aeneid or working in the history text. He did not have the choice NOT to study Italian and history, and he did not have the choice not to fill a certain amount of hours with school work using materials approved by me for the subjects we are studying.

 

Does that make more sense?

 

 

Yes, this makes sense. Sorry if I was unclear; I have the flu and am seriously under-slept.

 

I didn't mean to imply you were unschooling; at some point in the middle of the night I came to the conclusion that you're pretty much doing what you just outlined. In fact today I used a more parent-intensive ("handholding") version of your method and that's what made a nice improvement around here. Thanks!

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I have to agree, idnib, well maybe not about all little kids because I only know a couple. But from the one I'm already teaching, I agree he's more eager to know something and apply it than to actually learn.

1st timer, I kinda do homeschool and unschool. At the beginning of this schoolyear I did one hr a day for my late birthday 6yr old kinder, trying for the 1hr/day/grade formula a lot of homeschoolers use. I also needed to deschool my kid because I sent him to public pre-k last year. After Christmas I added an extra hr/day. We school after lunch so there's free time every morning and afternoon. We school seven days on, seven days off, planning to school year round. I think the schedulrd unschool week will help me watch my kids to find their passions. I write what they do during unschool week in the homeschool planner (after the fact).

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I can see them picking up math or grammar and being eager to learn the information. They love reading. I don't see them deciding to make 25 copies of a cursive "r" or spontaneously memorizing multiplication tables or the rules for commas. I doubt they will ever create their own spelling list. 

 

The idea of unschooling isn't to craftily manipulate the environment so they learn particular academic skills in a more natural setting. I wonder if that's what you're more interested in. My kids didn't practice writing or make spelling lists either, but they did make menus, signs, and eventually wrote letters to people they admired (like Mythbusters). They wanted to learn to spell so they didn't look immature in print or on the computer. These skills get used because they help the child reach the goal they've made for themselves, not because the parent believes the skills will be valuable at some point in the future. Full disclosure, my kids started off in a B&M school, but I they learned to recognize and pen letters from me before kindergarten. Mine are teens now, and I've not noticed any dropping off of curiosity. If anything, I see the opposite as they share their interests and learn the interests of others. 

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I think things like comma rules or multiplication tables are a good example.  As Albeto pointed out, in unschooling, you simply wouldn't worry about them, because you assume that eventually a situation will arise where they'll want to know them and then they'll naturally learn them.  And that if such a situation never arose, then it's probably that not important after all.  And that's a fine way to look at it.  Of course, some people don't feel like they can let go and trust that much, which is also okay.  But there are other ways to approach it.  As Regentrude pointed out, giving the child control over when they memorize might be one way.  Another might be putting them in context of other things and never making them directly memorize them.  Or waiting for them to come up and only then making them memorize them.  And that gets to the idea that there are lots of ways to approach schooling and to bring some element of student control or hands off or relaxed learning into the equation.  I think every family has to feel their way into their approach.

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Thank you all for this.  It's helping me to see how others approach this idea.  I want to unschool, but with 5 kids from 15 to under 2 I think it might be too much to switch my mindset right now.  They all have such different interests and I think that I'd make myself batty trying to go in that many different directions.  Especially since the funds to do outsourcing are just not there.  Anyone with a houseful that unschools without massive outsourcing?

 

Thanks :)

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I didn't do anything academic (letters, math, reading, etc) in K. We started at 6 with some fine motor stuff and leapfrog letter factory. At close to 7, I taught them to read and started some RightStart math. We really took a long time to slide into things. I've never regretted that.

 

There may be some, but I can't imagine a homeschool situation that would run with the level of structure you are mentioning (raising hand to talk, etc.)

 

I am not an unschooler. I have a good friend who is an unschooler, and she does beautifully. To do it well, unschooling takes a lot more work than what I do! Mostly, though, it doesn't fit my personality or my kids needs at these ages. We eased into where we are now. I expect us to do at least math and language arts work any day we do school. Today we did math, composition, spelling/some phonics work, and reading aloud. All of it was painless, and most of it was actually quite enjoyable. All today's formal work was on the couch with mom. We had lots of time for playing and reading and writing on their own today. Interestingly, the voluntary writing for both kids started after our composition lesson. They wanted to use what they learned beyond our assignment. That was all their interest led initiative. It really wouldn't have happened, though, if they hadn't been excited by and engaged in what we were learning earlier today I don't think.

 

Other days we would do more formal work. It just depends. We school year round, so light days like today or days off are not a problem in terms of making academic progress for us. We start when we're ready, though it goes better if I get my act together and we begin soon after breakfast.

 

I love the flexibility of homeschooling. You do what works for you. Go with your instincts, and adjust as needed/wanted. There is no one best way for everyone. You don't need a name for what you do.  Just as unschoolers are still learning without formal instruction, more formal schoolers can have joyful, exploratory learning and leave plenty of time for play.  You will likely never fit in a solid box of this or that for the duration, if at all. Most of us don't.

 

If I had another, I still would be non-academic in K and into 1st. The playing, exploring, reading together, etc. is more beneficial by a lot imo. We didn't suffer at all for the delayed academics.

 

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Our "classroom" has a bed in it...............

 

LOL

 

And a bookshelf full of shoes (I found the best way to get everybody to not leave their shoes everywhere was to assign a shelf to each of them for their shoes.)

 

The bed was the spare bed. We don't really have a couch, the last one got destroyed at some point (went and fell on its last legs) and we didn't replace it, so I moved the spare bed to the schoolroom, push it so the length is against the wall, and this paydate plan to go out and get a lot of pillows and make it a big comfy lounging area for me to read to the kids. The kids spend most of their day bouncing on and off the bed, "reading" books, and playing on it.

 

I prefer something akin to unschooling and was doing so, but with how busy things have gotten in my life, in order to streamline things, I've had to move to a more "traditional" approach (well CM, but anyway) besides when you have as many doctors as we do in our lives, constantly asking about homeschooling and having social workers on their speed dial, one can't be anything but examplary, this includes not being out of the norm, as a biased doctors view unfortunately tops a loving mothers view when it comes to government workers. So homeschooling is already out of the norm, doing non-worksheet or unschooling is likely to make them bring everything reigning down upon you (and has). The thought of fighting and explaining what I do as well as doing what I do, every single day, to every single person, well, it was just easier for my sanity to find some sort of middle ground where I can dump binders or whatever in front of someone who asks.

 

:rant: *rant moment here* But why do people think that the ONLY problem you have is the one you are in there for? They assume you can just devote 150% of your time to that one drama, when in reality you actually have 500 dramas going on and they don't understand why you aren't excelling and flying high with that problem? grrr to them. Then, if they find out about the other dramas are like "wow, you have a lot on your plate" and their version of helping is not to provide something that can actually help you, but send a person who takes up more of your time, who you have to serve refreshments to, who you have to answer their rude/personal questions, who can drop in without a phone call, and whom if they don't like anything about you (including you asking if they could call before they come) can complain to the ones who said they would help and then make everything even worse. *end rant moment* :rant:  Obviously I need to take some breaths, maybe get away for a holiday (ha!). But at least I got to rant somewhere (no matter how off-topic it was, its made me feel better) so thank you! :thumbup:

 

So yes, I really have unschooler tendencies, but the closest I can get right now is trying to be relaxed within a strict schedule, making sure its about the fun and happiness of my child, remebering to give a "real" intentional hug and let each child know how I feel about them each day, and CM has helped me feel more like formal unschooling without being too far off the rails for the many medical persons who constantly question everything. And encouraging their individual pursuits.

 

I also use "A year of little lesson plans" which is sort of like themed weekly/daily unschooling discussions. Whilst unschooling, the one thing we did consistently was discussions, we'd have huge discussions, long debates, and philosophical queries. Now that I'm on more of a tight schedule, I didn't want to lose those talks, so I found this book, and its wonderful! It allows me to schedule in these discussions, but have a free-flow to them that can build.

 

Now that I've yabbered, I should get back to work :tongue_smilie:

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When my dd was 5yo (and a little older) I had gone from being almost "school at home" with my boys to very unschool-y. I had a lot of materials for many different subjects like art supplies, math manipulatives, puzzles, books, workbooks, etc...all on low shelves where she could reach them and I left her violin where she could reach it. If she brought me something and wanted me to do it with her, I did. I made sure to have a lot of free time to play with her whether it was with her toys or with the "school" supplies. We made up games and I let her lead the way much of the time. It was wonderful! She learned so much in those early days and developed a real love of learning. I also gave her a little mini recorder so she could record her own stories and then I would take her dictation and type them out for her.

 

As she has gotten older, I am more structured but I still use her input on different subjects she'd like to learn (music topics are big for her and this year she asked to learn French and wants to learn about the Celts) or how she feels she learns best (computer based programs or textbooks, curriculum she likes or dislikes, etc...). 

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Yes, we have some unschooling tendencies. I let ds determine what time we start school, not everyday but he helped set our start schedule. He basically unschooled a computer programming credit last year. He put in a huge amount of hours and create projects on his own. I stayed out of the process all together. 

 

I wouldn't call us unschoolers, perhaps relaxed, as I have a plan, I pick the curriculum, he has say in what we cover, I choose how. 

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Thank you all for this.  It's helping me to see how others approach this idea.  I want to unschool, but with 5 kids from 15 to under 2 I think it might be too much to switch my mindset right now.  They all have such different interests and I think that I'd make myself batty trying to go in that many different directions.  Especially since the funds to do outsourcing are just not there.  Anyone with a houseful that unschools without massive outsourcing?

 

Thanks :)

 

Yeah, not a lot of outsourcing here. This week will mark the first time in I don't know how long (a couple years?) that one of my kids is taking a class. He's 14 and next year he'll be in high school. I suspect he'll be happiest with a college degree so that's what I'm helping him get, and for the universities in my state, that means certain subjects are required in the high school years. So this will be a entry-level "outsourcing" thing for us, I guess. Besides, I simply don't have a chemistry lab to give him access to. ;)

 

Before this, the outsourcing would be with other friends in the homeschool community, so it was pleasant, even for me, as I got to see my friends too. 

 

I agree with sbgrace, you do what works for you. Go with your instincts, and adjust as needed/wanted. We didn't start unschooling out of the blue one day. We eased into it at quite a mellow pace. First thing I stopped requiring was grammar, I think. The next thing I stopped requiring was history (that was hard - I love history!). On an on it went until one day when I had asked my kids to do a written assignment, and they made it look like a comedy routine. They clearly didn't want to do this assignment, they had no respect for the assignment, they used the opportunity to be so silly that even I couldn't help but laugh. I could see that they were picking up on these skills themselves, in ways they enjoyed, calling me over or asking each other how to do something ("how do you spell...?" or "where the Beatles during the Vietnam or Korean war?").  I decided we really didn't need to formalize our learning any more (and really, their making the assignment a mockery showed great social skill - rather than complain or argue their point, they had fun and they invited me into that fun while seeing their point). So we just did more of what we were already doing. Our "down time" became just what we did each day and eventually certain trends were obvious. My suggestion to anyone who wants to relax on their homeschooling routine but not necessarily unschool would be to cut out the least favorite subject for you to teach. Just let it go. Eventually you'll find where these skills crop up in life, and you'll know when to offer a little assistance. You just may be surprised to see how much they learn when they have time to pursue things they find interesting.

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I don't think the term "homeschool" reflects what we do. Heck, it doesn't feel like school in the slightest! Not even a little. What it feels like is my kid is home with me, instead of in school with everyone else his age. I don't feel I have recreated a classroom experience in my living room or kitchen. We break for diaper changes for the baby, we break for coffee for mom, we break for getting on each other's nerves. For a child who has never been in school (except a gloried daycare center in preschool), what do I expect? Do I expect him to raise his hand before he speaks? Do I expect to see him dressed and combed by himself at 8 A.M.? Or do I expect to see him in his jammies and we have a few giggles before breakfast, take our time getting ourselves and the baby ready, and finally, like when 9:30 rolls around, guilt ourselves into getting some work started? 

 

I feel that if I don't relax the expectations, I am doomed to fail at this. And that would be a shame, because we have hardly begun! It's just Kindergarten! 

 

What are your thoughts on the term "unschooling" or "natural learning"? I am ready to abandon all pretense that what we do in our home resembles or strives to keep up with that which is done in school. It creates mental stress for me, fancying myself some super-mom teacher, instead of just a mom who cares about my kid's development and education, a mom who seeks to integrate an education into our home life in a way that has impact and meaning. 

 

Do any of you choose to say "home education" or something other than home school? Did any of you waver between traditional and non-traditional styles of educating before finding your ideal approach that works best for your family? And, if you have friends who are real "unschoolers" what lessons have you taken away from your interfacing with them? 

 

Thanks for your thoughts! 

 

When my kids were young I certainly was more in the natural learning camp.  Based on my unschooler friends we were never like them  because I did plan things out etc.  I think up until about 3rd grade natural learning is the best way to go.  It is all about experiencing things together.  But I think there comes a time when the children need to sit down and start learning formally.  For my family things are more natural for the early grades, quite eclectic and relaxed for the middle ones (about 3rd-8th/9th) and then start getting more rigorous/rigid.  Of course the early years should be about pj's, giggles, and playdough.  But pj's, giggles and playdough does not fit into high school for my family until school is done for the day because those things will not take them where they want to/need to go as young adults venturing forth into post secondary options.

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Depends on the day, month or year :)

 

We started out very relaxed. The year ds turned 5 school was a huge stack of read-alouds (1-2 hrs a day), walks outside, games(that he enjoyed and happened to have math), and working on motor skills drawing w/ sticks and chalk outside(half-way through the year he was ready for the HWoT pre-k handwriting book). I've never, ever regretted that year, it was fabulous, we visited the library at least weekly and explored a lot. We read a ton of books. I tried to do more formal science and history the following 2 years but it never worked for the long term and we ended up w/ nature study and interest led in science and history. Last year I only scheduled our skill work and didn't even try to do formal content.  This year well, we've done some more formal science but a ton of interest led. We've done some history but it is more loosely scheduled. Our skill work has been w/ official curriculums but we really like our programs, so that is a win. Right now I'm exploring some more relaxed math w/ ds and I have no idea what we'll do for the long term as there is nothing out there that seems to fit quite right. 

 

Like a lot of people I've been reflecting lately about how I want our days to look and whether or not schooling is going in the way I want. I even had a thread about that maybe a few weeks ago. I've been working on some tweaks so we do more of the things that I think are most valuable. 

 

I totally agree w/ sbgrace, I think most of us are a mishmash of various philosophies and as long as it works for you and your family then it is good. I like- LCC, project-based, interest led, nature studies, and great books- in other words eclectic :)

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