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what would it look like to unschool for a year


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I am really burned out on homeschooling.  On mothering in general, really.  There's too many kids, too many needs, too little of me to go around.  We've been considering sending the oldest three (DD14, DS11, DS9) to a small Christian school.  I think DD for sure will go, but I'm not sure about the boys because they're dyslexic and I'm not sure they'll do well.  But I can't keep homeschooling them.  Public school isn't on the table.  Today I was thinking, "What would it be like to unschool them for a year?"  I have no idea...I am not an unschool-y person.  What could this look like?  We'd definitely continue with their math programs.  Left to themselves, they'd fight a lot, build giant forts in the family room, play outside, and do as much game time as I allow (which isn't much).

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At my friend's house, it looks like book work at the table with Mum in the mornings, LOTE in the evenings with Dad, and a lot of cooking in-between because they are all very enthusiastic foodies and all those kids need feeding all the time. Her eldest is 12 and is certainly a better baker than I am. They've always got projects on the go. The eldest is usually being creative in some manner, the younger boy seems to be growing out of his three year long geography phase in favour of chemistry and theology.

If I were you, I'd include rules for fair fighting. 😄

I don't think my friend spends any less effort than I did, when I was more or less WTM-ing things with my dd. There's sooo much talking.

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From things I have read, there is a wide range of what unschooling looks like. However, what I keep seeing about unschooling is that it works best when:
1. the student is self-motivated to learn, and initiates learning about topics of high interest to them,
2. AND the parent is very involved, expending loads and loads of time and energy to research and provide resources and support for the student's learning

Neither of those aspects sound like your family's current situation, so I would guess that unschooling might well look like the last 2 sentences of your post. Would that be okay for a year? Would that be enough relief to help you heal? Would that make you feel more frustrated or disappointed by the end of the year? Would that be enough moving forward educationally for the students to meet your educational goals for them?

re: sending the oldest 3 to school
For all your dyslexic students, I'd work towards getting testing and official diagnosis, so that an IEP can be put into play, wherever they end up going. That would make them eligible for special helps through public schools (even if homeschooling). So I would recommend getting them evaluated whether staying at home or going away to school.

[For high school students, an official paper trail opens doors for special accommodations for testing, and for college it opens doors for free tutoring accommodations, and other special helps. However, that official paper trail must be started early on in order to have those doors opened up to you.]

Testing and thorough evaluations would also provide info on the specific therapies/techniques that are most likely to help your students, and you can request referrals for therapists and/or tutors who you could pay to provide those services for you -- so possibly taking all of the burden of school, therapies, homework for the oldest 3 off of your shoulders entirely.
 

I am so sorry you are burnt out. Hoping you find a good solution for ALL of you! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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4 hours ago, caedmyn said:

I am really burned out on homeschooling.  On mothering in general, really.  There's too many kids, too many needs, too little of me to go around.  We've been considering sending the oldest three (DD14, DS11, DS9) to a small Christian school.  I think DD for sure will go, but I'm not sure about the boys because they're dyslexic and I'm not sure they'll do well.  But I can't keep homeschooling them.  Public school isn't on the table.  Today I was thinking, "What would it be like to unschool them for a year?"  I have no idea...I am not an unschool-y person.  What could this look like?  We'd definitely continue with their math programs.  Left to themselves, they'd fight a lot, build giant forts in the family room, play outside, and do as much game time as I allow (which isn't much).

Daily household chores, some field trips, maybe go to the library. Leave dc to themselves. Let them build giant forts in the living room, play outside, so as much game time as you allow. You could take up some hobbies, dig a garden, let them join you if they want to.

As an unschooler, I never expended loads and loads of time and energy researching what my children wanted to learn and providing the resources they needed. That would be child focused learning of some kind; unschooling is living your life and inviting your children to live it with you. As a parent, I introduced them to some things such as scouts and 4-H and Scottish Highland dance, and did whatever was necessary for them to be happy with those, but I would not say that I expended loads and loads of time researching and so on.

Children always want to learn. Parents are often disappointed when their dc don't want to learn things that look like school. Unschoolers recognize the fact that *all* learning is valuable, whether it looks like school or not, or follows some recognizable, quantifiable, measurable course of study.

I would tell you to put the books away and leave them away until y'all are ready to do them again. You don't have to call it "unschooling." You just have to say that you're going to just be home with the children for awhile.

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7 hours ago, caedmyn said:

I am really burned out on homeschooling.  On mothering in general, really.  There's too many kids, too many needs, too little of me to go around.  We've been considering sending the oldest three (DD14, DS11, DS9) to a small Christian school.  I think DD for sure will go, but I'm not sure about the boys because they're dyslexic and I'm not sure they'll do well.  But I can't keep homeschooling them.  Public school isn't on the table.  Today I was thinking, "What would it be like to unschool them for a year?"  I have no idea...I am not an unschool-y person.  What could this look like?  We'd definitely continue with their math programs.  Left to themselves, they'd fight a lot, build giant forts in the family room, play outside, and do as much game time as I allow (which isn't much).

I would use this time to teach them to help around the house. Many hands make light work. When the house is running a little smoother and you have had a bit of a breather you can add in that one super important thing, for me that would probably be reading. 9, 11, and 14 are prime helping years and chores are also important to learn. 

 

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5 hours ago, Lori D. said:

Would that be enough relief to help you heal? Would that make you feel more frustrated or disappointed by the end of the year? 

I think these are super important questions. I wish there was an easy answer and I do think deschooling (which may be what you really want rather than unschooling) can be a very good thing at times. Kids with dyslexia regress really easily though and I'd hate to see you more in a panic afterwards and even more stressed out. A few weeks  at least to get to be "just a mom" might be perfect to help you regroup though. Maybe at that time you can take a deep breath and think about the whole year.



re: sending the oldest 3 to school
For all your dyslexic students, I'd work towards getting testing and official diagnosis, so that an IEP can be put into play, wherever they end up going. That would make them eligible for special helps through public schools (even if homeschooling). So I would recommend getting them evaluated whether staying at home or going away to school.

[For high school students, an official paper trail opens doors for special accommodations for testing, and for college it opens doors for free tutoring accommodations, and other special helps. However, that official paper trail must be started early on in order to have those doors opened up to you.]

Testing and thorough evaluations would also provide info on the specific therapies/techniques that are most likely to help your students, and you can request referrals for therapists and/or tutors who you could pay to provide those services for you -- so possibly taking all of the burden of school, therapies, homework for the oldest 3 off of your shoulders entirely.

 

I would second this. You could really use a hand and then you could relax more knowing they are making progress.
 

 

Edited to add: my replies/additions to Lori's comments bolded/ underlined.

Edited by frogger
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We’re somewhat unschooly. Our schedule varies, but right now, we do math in the morning (this includes writing, since we do proofs), then we do spoken Russian (my first but not my best language), then some Russian cartoons, then we take a break and then read a book together. Then we have lunch and the rest of the day is free or involves chores/play/fun stuff like cooking/sewing until music in the evening with DH.

I don’t assign reading and I don’t assign output for anything we read together or for Russian — only math has output right now. DD8 has started to teach herself to read Russian as a self-directed project. She also builds cool stuff and reads a ton. We also spend a fair amount of time talking about how to treat each other well 🙂 . 

My kids are younger than yours, so I don’t know if this is helpful. We do a fair mix of self-directed stuff and stuff that’s directed by me. We are low on written output but talk a lot 🙂 . It doesn’t take as much organization as doing school at home, but it’s not low effort and requires flexibility. 

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You could try unschooling with parameters.  Skimming previous posts regarding chores and lifeskills - maybe thats a good place to focus your engagement.  Otherwise make sure everyone does math every day (some days can be review, but make sure you are one on one with each one 3x/week minimum for a math lesson).  Then require X minutes of reading everyday and a written response to their reading (no instruction - can be a summary, can be their opinion, can be whatever), at least 3 or 4 times a week, appropriate for their age (for example, 1st grade - a sentence or two, 3rd and 5th grade a 3 - 5 sentence paragraph, 8th grade - 3/4ths of a page minimum).  Limit their screen time if you don't already or if you think you will need to.  For reading, you could make a shelf of possible choices for each one giving them freedom to choose from the shelf.  Put good books across genres and subjects for them to choose from.     

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Based on the things you have said before, I think it would look like frustration and chaos.  I think you need to try the school and see how it works.  It would at least give you some space to figure out what might work if you chose to homeschool again.  It would bring in some outside eyes to help validate some of the things your have said your dh doesn't accept. It may offer you new perspectives and new techniques to break through some of the educational and behavioral issues that have kept you frustrated and stuck with homeschooling for as long as you have been posting on this board.

Dyslexics need more structured instruction, not less.

If I were burnt out and had children I had difficulty managing at my best who also had issues, unschooling would become non-schooling in about 3 days tops.  That would be my concern for you, and then you would feel more defeated.

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36 minutes ago, Another Lynn said:

You could try unschooling with parameters.  Skimming previous posts regarding chores and lifeskills - maybe thats a good place to focus your engagement.  Otherwise make sure everyone does math every day (some days can be review, but make sure you are one on one with each one 3x/week minimum for a math lesson).  Then require X minutes of reading everyday and a written response to their reading (no instruction - can be a summary, can be their opinion, can be whatever), at least 3 or 4 times a week, appropriate for their age (for example, 1st grade - a sentence or two, 3rd and 5th grade a 3 - 5 sentence paragraph, 8th grade - 3/4ths of a page minimum).  Limit their screen time if you don't already or if you think you will need to.  For reading, you could make a shelf of possible choices for each one giving them freedom to choose from the shelf.  Put good books across genres and subjects for them to choose from.     

Oh, that isn't unschool-y at all. More relaxed than what she had been doing, and maybe just what she needs, but not unschool-y at all. 🙂

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Have you talked to someone from the Christian school about what they can do with students with dyslexia? There's a significant range of what private schools offer for accommodations and specialized instruction, so it might be worth asking if you haven't checked into it.

If they don't offer much, even sending the oldest might take a lot off your plate, since the younger kids' work is probably shorter. You might also look at half-day preschool for your DS4, since he may have fairly intense supervision needs right now.

I sometimes say I started homeschooling preK with DS "in self-defense," because without enough structure, he would just ask me questions all the livelong day. On one hand, that's a great way to learn; on the other, it's exhausting to the parent. (Literally, he wanted to chat about astrophysics before I'd had coffee in the morning.) So you might think about the kids' personalities and how long it might take you all to get into a groove if you gave them more control over their own schedules.

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18 minutes ago, Ellie said:

Oh, that isn't unschool-y at all. More relaxed than what she had been doing, and maybe just what she needs, but not unschool-y at all. 🙂

Do we have to have precise definitions of unschooling for the purposes of this thread?? She's burned out and wants something less onerous. People are making suggestions. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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Unschooling mid-pandemic is not the same thing as unschooling pre-pandemic.

Public school is not an option for many families. Period. There is a lot of unschooling going on across the world right now.

What comes next for the pandemic and the effects the pandemic is having on every single aspect of society? None of us know. No one knows what educational environment kids are going to find themselves in the future. Pretending everything is the same is the way we hide from our fears of the great unknowns.

Merely surviving this this year is enough for some of us.

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I'd be uncomfortable not doing any math and not doing reading with kids learning to read (I'm not sure if continued practice with your dyslexic children would fall into that category).  But, for everything else, I would have no problems with a year of unschooling.  It's not what we've done, but we often have a few weeks at the end of each semester when the kids are mostly done and we just do some Life of Fred math and then just do something productive...which can be reading good books (lit or about history or science or whatever, audiobooks would be fine here, too), watching educational video (documentaries, Crash Course, Schoolhouse Rocks, a classic play or musical or something like Fantasia for some music),  doing projects (online chess, coding, cooking, a Tinker crate, crafts, gardening, music listening/practice), or doing something in nature (exercise, wandering about the yard, digging, looking at bugs and birds).  I don't plan this, although I'll help if they need it - it's mostly just 'no screen time unless I approve what you're doing'.  As long as they are learning or getting better at something, I"m happy.

I know that this isn't true unschooling, but would that work for you - it would keep your kids moving on essentials, but would give you a break?  Or would your kids do anything with it?  When mine were younger, we sometimes didn't take that 'fun' time because they'd use it to bicker, but now they love those weeks and fill their time with all sorts of interesting things.  

Edited by Clemsondana
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3 hours ago, freesia said:

Based on the things you have said before, I think it would look like frustration and chaos.  I think you need to try the school and see how it works.  It would at least give you some space to figure out what might work if you chose to homeschool again.  It would bring in some outside eyes to help validate some of the things your have said your dh doesn't accept. It may offer you new perspectives and new techniques to break through some of the educational and behavioral issues that have kept you frustrated and stuck with homeschooling for as long as you have been posting on this board.

Dyslexics need more structured instruction, not less.

If I were burnt out and had children I had difficulty managing at my best who also had issues, unschooling would become non-schooling in about 3 days tops.  That would be my concern for you, and then you would feel more defeated.

My hesitation about trying the school is DH wants it to be all or nothing--either they go to school and there they stay regardless of how they're doing, or they don't go.   The school doesn't offer any accomodations other than splitting spelling tests in half.  We've done extensive remediation, but I think they will still struggle with a number of things.  

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3 minutes ago, caedmyn said:

My hesitation about trying the school is DH wants it to be all or nothing--either they go to school and there they stay regardless of how they're doing, or they don't go.   The school doesn't offer any accomodations other than splitting spelling tests in half.  We've done extensive remediation, but I think they will still struggle with a number of things.  

Are they making progress at home?  Can you make the committment for one year to see how it goes?  It's very black and white to say always and forever they will now be in school.  Next summer is far away.  You should have equal say in revisiting the decision.  I do agree that seeing it through for the year is wise, because sometimes people need time to adjust to new environments.  And your dh has never been behind this idea that they have learning differences, and maybe the school will help him understand that and help you work with him to get the help they need. 

Do you know other families whose kids are dyslexic who have attended the school?  They may offer more support than you think.  Also, am I right that you haven't had them formally tested?  It may be something else that's the issue and the school may be able to address that (No judgement--I have one I am almost positive is dyslexic based on an extremely heavy family history, but I've never had him tested.)

I'm just helping you look at the possibilities bc you are burned out.  I do believe that homeschooling can be a good place for kids with learning difficulties, but it takes more work from the parent, not less.  You have a lot on your plate.  It's ok to try school.

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4 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Do we have to have precise definitions of unschooling for the purposes of this thread?? She's burned out and wants something less onerous. People are making suggestions. 

Yes. If someone asks about unschooling, then that's a specific thing. But that doesn't mean others can't make suggestions that are more relaxed than what she's doing, even if they are not unschooling. I think I said that...

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Unschooling is extremely popular around here, and it does not = extended summer. Most people are *facilitating* their dc's interests. 

I don't think in general it's ideal for students with SLDs who are still in the intervention stages of their difficulties. It's also not ideal for kids who are unstructured, unmotivated, or who won't wake up and pursue things for themselves. 

My dd dreamed of unschooling and indeed could drive a lot for herself. My ds would only learn Civ and Youtube if I did not prompt more. No amount of my brilliant "facilitating" will change who he is or his lack of ability to coordinate his own interests.

21 hours ago, caedmyn said:

they're dyslexic and I'm not sure they'll do well. 

It sounds like they need an IEP. In some states christian schools will work with the ps to write an IEP. Might be something to look into. In all states the ps has to eval. Writing the IEP is the 2nd step, after the evals, and the writing of the IEP varies with state law whether they have to or not. But if you had that document, it would be very clear what the students need and what the cs can provide to help them do well. If you've gotten them along as far as it sounds like you have with Barton, they might get by, especially with support from you in the evenings for homework.

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I have gone through seasons of homeschool burnout and we did try unschooling from time to time. What I found is that totally unschooling was too chaotic and it just increased my worries about whether or not the kids were learning. To really unschool successfully you need to let go of expectations that your child will learn what you want them to learn. It doesn't work to unschool thinking that the children will magically teach themselves everything they would be expected to learn in school. That doesn't mean they won't learn if you unschool, it is just that they won't necessarily learn academic things, and if they do learn those things it won't look anything like school learning. 

So when I tried unschooling it just increased my frustration because the kids didn't just naturally pull out their math books and teach themselves...well one of them did...but they weren't spending a bunch of time doing educational things. They just played. And I couldn't see any progress so it just made me worry that they weren't learning.

So that led me to relaxed homeschooling. Like unschoolers we don't really do "school" and recognise that children learn naturally and are learning all the time, but unlike unschoolers we require some work on academics. For my 9yo that means math, phonics, and penmanship. For my 12yo it is math, English grammar, spelling, and reading books I assign as well as books she chooses. For my high schooler it means not following the traditional high school curriculum and learning at her own pace. 

Susan in TX

 

 

 

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Have you had the boys evaluated by a developmental optometrist?  Sometimes a focus mismatch between their eyes manifests like dyslexia, and the earlier you catch it the easier it is to remediate.  Typical onset of seeing effects from this are when kids start having to read smaller print at their desks instead of just big letters on the board., often 2nd grade or so. They don’t realize that the way they see is not normal, because it is how they have always seen.

 

How easy is it to get your 14 yo started on something and then leave her be to work on it herself?  That was a pretty easy age in our house and that makes me wonder whether it would really be helpful to spin her off to school.  

Remember, October and February are when we always burn out and question our homeschooling efficacy and commitment.  But your kids are getting the most customized possible education right now, and it sounds like they really need it.  Rather than starting up with school, I’d be inclined to look for a mother’s helper to entertain the tiny littles, and I’d try to do consolidated work to some extent—whatever is fun and relaxing FOR YOU.  For me that would have been going on hikes or nature walks, or visiting an aquarium and talking about it a lot, and heading over to the library for a bunch of books on the topics, and reading them aloud and/or assigning them.  Everybody then writes at their level—a big report from teh oldest, summaries from teh middles, maybe a drawing and a copywork sentence from the youngest.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  

For you it might be something else.  Maybe cooking projects?  A winter garden?  A fridge box town in the yard?  Building spiderwebs on your trees out of string?  Maybe a stack of books about early American history or your state history, with a trip to a history museum or the state capitol at the end?  Maybe getting them to start a newspaper or podcast about topic they are interested in?  Fruit cakes or springele for Christmas?  Making Christmas presents for each other?  Writing to people in nursing homes?  Cooperative games?

By all means keep math going but let the rest develop organically out of what you enjoy yourself.  Parents’ joy is contagious, and it’s fun to learn. They ill catch that from you.  

And take a lengthy break over the holidays to recharge.  Before you know it, it will be fun again, I’ll bet!
 

Edited by Carol in Cal.
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On 10/16/2020 at 11:36 AM, Ellie said:

Oh, that isn't unschool-y at all. More relaxed than what she had been doing, and maybe just what she needs, but not unschool-y at all. 🙂

I will never understand why you feel the need to define things in precisely your way in every thread. It's so odd. 

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1 hour ago, hippiemamato3 said:

I will never understand why you feel the need to define things in precisely your way in every thread. It's so odd. 

I guess I'm just odd like that. Or maybe it's just that I'm old and have seen the results of people randomly calling things whatever they think they are when they actually aren't. Who knows.

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Just now, Ellie said:

I guess I'm just odd like that. Or maybe it's just that I'm old and have seen the results of people randomly calling things whatever they think they are when they actually aren't. Who knows.

I actually think the “unschooling” term has gone through phases...

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2 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

I actually think the “unschooling” term has gone through phases...

I agree. I just feel like she jumps on every thread to try to insist that her old school ways and definitions don't get to change over time with the people who are actually still doing the home schooling. Her  insistence on her specific definiton of "school in a box" has derailed many threads for people who wanted actual help.

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If you don't want to listen to Ellie, put her on ignore. She's allowed to jump on any thread she likes just like the rest of us are.

Arguing *with* her is allowed.

Whinging *about* her needs to be done behind her back. That's only manners. 🤪

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28 minutes ago, hippiemamato3 said:

I agree. I just feel like she jumps on every thread to try to insist that her old school ways and definitions don't get to change over time with the people who are actually still doing the home schooling. Her  insistence on her specific definiton of "school in a box" has derailed many threads for people who wanted actual help.

Well, ok then. I won't be offended if you decide to "ignore" me. You've been here such a long time, after all, and so you know all about me. Kewl.

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1 hour ago, hippiemamato3 said:

I agree. I just feel like she jumps on every thread to try to insist that her old school ways and definitions don't get to change over time with the people who are actually still doing the home schooling. 

Well, I don't think the definition of unschooling has changed. Requiring or assigning schoolwork, no matter how relaxed or child led, is not unschooling. 

Susan in TX

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2 minutes ago, Susan in TX said:

Well, I don't think the definition of unschooling has changed. Requiring or assigning schoolwork, no matter how relaxed or child led, is not unschooling. 

Susan in TX

So, by your definition, unschooling means never assigning work the child hasn't chosen? 

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16 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

So, by your definition, unschooling means never assigning work the child hasn't chosen? 

That pretty much is the definition the unschoolers themselves use, although I (who has never been an unschooler) might call them radical unschoolers, lol.

I thought the idea sounded interesting when my kids were about preschool aged (and thought it was more akin to child-led learning) and I went to an unschooling conference.  Holy wow.  The Lord of the Flies, and also the talk by the unschooling 'expert' where when a person asked what to do if their kid just wanted to do video games/TV/screens 24/7 - nope, no reining that in. Support him.  I've even heard RUs suggest bringing the kid food so they don't have to ever get up.  Don't sleep?  Also not a problem.  Let them do what they want, at all times, require nothing.  Asking the darlings to solve a math problem or read a book that wasn't 100% their idea will ruin the whole experiment and it will be totally your fault when they don't eventually delight in learning and suddenly teach themselves calculus in 3 months after having never looked at a math book before.  Oh, the times I heard that one trotted out...

That conference cured me but good!  (and listening to the 'calculus in 3 months' stories over and over didn't turn things around...) I still did child-directed things, things that were 'eclectic' or 'relaxed', but would never ever call any of that 'unschooling' in front of an unschooler - the Flames of Hell would have descended on me!  That is Blasphemy!

Have the unschoolers gotten less radical since my kids were school-aged, lol?

Edited by Matryoshka
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2 minutes ago, Matryoshka said:

Don't sleep?  Also not a problem. 

Yeah, that one would be a hard no over here, lol. My kids (like me, frankly) have found being awake MUCH MORE exciting than being asleep ever since they were babies... and they also were extremely grouchy if they didn't get enough sleep, also since babyhood. Schedules were really, really necessary over here (and this is despite me being a really hardcore babywearer and otherwise kind of AP-minded!) 

 

4 minutes ago, Matryoshka said:

Have the unschoolers gotten less radical since my kids were school-aged, lol?

I'm not sure, because I was never going to fully unschool 😉 . We are very into child-led learning, but there are lots of choices DD8 doesn't get. (Like, say, sleep. But also, like math. She has much more latitude about WHAT KIND of math to do than most kids, but she has to do math.) 

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Ellie's answer seemed pretty textbook (lol) Holt to me, and he's the guy who coined the term and started the movement. 🤷. I think in this context I agree with the value of precision. Unschooling isn't just a different method, it's really a different lifestyle. The OP didn't really seem that interested in it for it's own sake so I have misgivings she would be happy with it. 

I like Another Lynn's and frogger's suggestions. 🙂

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3 minutes ago, Spudater said:

Ellie's answer seemed pretty textbook (lol) Holt to me, and he's the guy who coined the term and started the movement. 🤷.

OK, this is what I was actually thinking about 🙂 . Was Holt anti-assigning any work? 

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3 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I just had the impression that when it was coined by John Holt, it meant something else. That's all I meant by the term having gone through phases 🙂

The term originally just meant homeschooling but that was ages ago when homeschooling was in its infancy and the term "homeschooling" had not been invented. 

Susan in TX

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3 minutes ago, Susan in TX said:

The term originally just meant homeschooling but that was ages ago when homeschooling was in its infancy and the term "homeschooling" had not been invented. 

Susan in TX

Ah OK. So it went from meaning "homeschooling" to the current definition? Because I thought there were also fights between "radical" and "not radical" unschoolers? 

I'm really not an unschooler, so I am not very well educated on this 🙂 . Just curious. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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Here is a good article on Holt and the origins of unschooling https://www.johnholtgws.com/the-foundations-of-unschooling#:~:text=Many of you are at,resemble school learning and teaching.

Radical unschooling was a later development promoted by Sandra Dodd.

Here's a blog post that explains the difference in a nutshell https://redheadmom8.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/whats-the-difference-between-unschooling-and-radical-unschooling/

 

Susan in TX

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If you'd like to try a form of unschooling, I'd strongly suggest Lori Pickert's Project Based Homeschooling. It works like this:

 You provide the space for learning with a wide range of materials - drawing, making, books

You provide the time for learning - name it - 'this is project time' - and allow them to do whatever they choose.

You journal what they're doing, as simply or as complex as you like. Use what you notice to help. Eg "I notice yesterday you were looking at the whale pictures in the book. Would you like to get a whale book from the library?" Or "Remember you started a black hole poster yesterday? It's over there, if you'd like to finish it". 

It's different from typical unschooling in that you don't secretly 'strew' items around. You're open. "I saw you were drawing mermaids. Here's a mermaid book.". However, it's similar in that you don't say "you must therefore draw more mermaids."

You can choose to spend a chunk of the day like this, or all day. Lori Pickert's husband 'required' maths of her boys (which he taught), and she 'required' they read a certain number of books of her choosing, which they'd end up discussing. That was it from them. Others might not require anything at all. Some would limit screen time (eg, playing screen time is not during project time) and some wouldn't. That's up to you.

I did this with my kids when they were little and they are really curious learners who seek out information and who have an incredibly broad general knowledge. 

Wanted to add that I feel this works when you have rich discussions, lots of reading and documentaries, a household rich in ideas and language. I followed a lady online who went with 'radical' unschooling and her son, quite literally, spent the next 6 years playing video games and did nothing else. Let's say it didn't end well for that poor boy. 

Edited by bookbard
Edited to add a bit more info
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I have gone through some very chaotic periods where my homeschooling was much more relaxed than at other times. Basically we would have times (weeks, months...) in which math and some small amount of writing were the only things we did as 'subjects.'  This was because I knew that my particular kids were not inclined to want to learn math on their own. One of mine would have learned to write - oh by the way, I mean "write" in both senses here, the physical act of writing and composing sentences/paragraphs/etc - but the other would have happily not.

Besides those two things, we read and played and did stuff. I kept track of the "subjects" they covered, mainly by maintaining book lists. I kept an eye on testing requirements and would sometimes throw in test prep workbooks so when testing came up they wouldn't crash.

It mostly worked fine. I didn't label what we were doing anything in particular. We just had an ebb and flow of what might have looked like partial unschooling and what might have looked like "regular" homeschooling.  

If I'd had more than 2 kids, and/or my kids were not so close in age, I would have probably adjusted differently. If one kid had been more "mathy" I would have adjusted differently.  You get the idea. 

I agree on the testing for the dyslexic kids, if you have not done that. I don't know if I missed that you have an "official" diagnosis? Lori D is spot on about getting that paper trail. 

Edited by marbel
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It is absolutely critical for opposites to rub against each other. If we all just exist in our niches and do not try to UNDERSTAND the liberal and the conservative, and the new and the old, the rich and the poor, the safe and traumatized, we all get weaker.

The rubbing does not feel good in the moment, but the results of rubbing are so important that sometimes they save our lives.

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On 10/15/2020 at 6:03 PM, caedmyn said:

I am really burned out on homeschooling.  On mothering in general, really.  There's too many kids, too many needs, too little of me to go around.  We've been considering sending the oldest three (DD14, DS11, DS9) to a small Christian school.  I think DD for sure will go, but I'm not sure about the boys because they're dyslexic and I'm not sure they'll do well.  But I can't keep homeschooling them.  Public school isn't on the table.  Today I was thinking, "What would it be like to unschool them for a year?"  I have no idea...I am not an unschool-y person.  What could this look like?  We'd definitely continue with their math programs.  Left to themselves, they'd fight a lot, build giant forts in the family room, play outside, and do as much game time as I allow (which isn't much).

Is there a happy medium? If you are Christian, you might like the schooling from rest book? 
With an 11yo and 9yo boy, I'm not a big fan of a super structured day anyway.  I think 3-4 hours is more than enough and that would include read alouds.   I'm trying to sort through a structure - IEW writing (20 min), Fix It (10 min), a good math program (60 minutes) and something assigned.  Then, read alouds (both classic literature and history/science alternating) 1-2 hours and the rest - boardgames and outdoors.  It's my ideal - boardgames are one of the most worthwhile things we do here, imo.  (They are strategic, cooperative, or logic based, etc. - not the typical roll and move the figurine fare.) We don't allow screens during the day M-F unless you're a shortie and it's educational.

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16 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

OK, this is what I was actually thinking about 🙂 . Was Holt anti-assigning any work? 

Yes, and Holt was even against trying to subtly encouraging your child to learn, like by running your finger under words as you read aloud.  It’s magical thinking, really—the profound belief that your kid will want to learn, will know what to want to learn, and will do so in a completely self-directed manner.

I used to be in an ISP with a lot of unschoolers.  My intro to them was volunteering at the library over the summer with another lady who told me that her kids had not learned to read until they were 12, and that she let them wait because she wanted to preserve their childhoods.  Another time at lunch there was a heated discussion about what a lady should do about her son wanting to learn cursive at 13 but not being willing to try to do so because he thought it would be hard.  Some thought that she should buy him a book of cursive letters to use.  Others thought that she should let him know that she would be willing to buy such a book.  Others thought that she should ignore the whole issue until specifically invited to advise.  

I have known unschoolers whose kids ended up wonderfully, but they were teaching actively, just not academics.  They were quite directive about social norms and values, and about the need to work hard and do hard things.  They were not unparents, which I have literally never seen work out well.

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On 10/20/2020 at 10:41 AM, Carol in Cal. said:

 I have known unschoolers whose kids ended up wonderfully, but they were teaching actively, just not academics.  They were quite directive about social norms and values, and about the need to work hard and do hard things.  They were not unparents, which I have literally never seen work out well.

That is one of the things I couldn't agree with Holt about, the whole unparenting thing (not that he called it that, but it is what it is). Also, I did purposely teach my younger dd to read. Well, I worked for about six weeks on it when she was five, and when she was six, and when she was seven...We finally focused on it when she was nine [insert long story]. It didn't seem to have a negative effect on her, as she started taking classes at the community college when she was 14, and was asked to be the valedictorian when she graduated (she declined because she thought that the whole thing was political and she doesn't do that).

Edited by Ellie
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20 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Ah OK. So it went from meaning "homeschooling" to the current definition? Because I thought there were also fights between "radical" and "not radical" unschoolers? 

I'm really not an unschooler, so I am not very well educated on this 🙂 . Just curious. 

I don't think it originally meant "homeschooling." I'm pretty sure that when SWB was being homeschooled, her mother definitely did not say she was unschooling. 🙂

I don't think unschoolers fight amongst themselves. I think it's that others want to measure the amount of unschooling that's going on. I don't. Either you're unschooling or you're not, and unschoolers are very diverse.

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24 minutes ago, Ellie said:

I don't think it originally meant "homeschooling." I'm pretty sure that when SWB was being homeschooled, her mother definitely did not say she was unschooling. 🙂

I don't think unschoolers fight amongst themselves. I think it's that others want to measure the amount of unschooling that's going on. I don't. Either you're unschooling or you're not, and unschoolers are very diverse.

Unschoolers do fight amongst themselves--about what unschooling means. 

When I read Holt, in the late 90s, I do remember thinking that when he used the term unschooling, he meant not going to school.  I was interested that that was the original way he used it.  But of course, his not going to school didn't mean doing schoolish things "at" home, either.  I also did not get the sense that what he meant was radical unschooling ala Dodd--more like the things David Albert did with his girls.

I've seen unschooling work, but with parents who were kind of guiding the process and who had either very inherently driven children or a lot of money to pay for outside classes and materials.  It was not something I felt we could pull off with four children and limited funds.

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35 minutes ago, freesia said:

Unschoolers do fight amongst themselves--about what unschooling means. 

When I read Holt, in the late 90s, I do remember thinking that when he used the term unschooling, he meant not going to school.  I was interested that that was the original way he used it.  But of course, his not going to school didn't mean doing schoolish things "at" home, either.  I also did not get the sense that what he meant was radical unschooling ala Dodd--more like the things David Albert did with his girls.

I've seen unschooling work, but with parents who were kind of guiding the process and who had either very inherently driven children or a lot of money to pay for outside classes and materials.  It was not something I felt we could pull off with four children and limited funds.

John never used the term "radical unschooling." To him it was learning that didn't look like school, where children were trusted to learn the things that were important to them. Between his books (How Children Learn, How Children Fail, Instead of Education, What do I do on Monday?, Teach Your Own) and his newsletter (I think I read the first 35 issues), I was inspired. None of the letters in his newsletter were from parents who had inherently driven children or who spent a lot of money to pay for outside classes and materials; they were letters from people who described how they lived their lives and recognized the fact that their children, while living their lives with them, were learning all the time. There were letters from parents whose dc went on to college, including the one from the mother who was surprised that her ds did so well in college, especially in math, which she herself hated, and her ds said, "But Mom, you taught me how to learn."

I also learned from John that children--all children--want to learn, but that teachers and others only want the children to learn what *they* think they should learn, when they think they should learn it. I learned that it doesn't matter when children learn some specific fact or skill, as long as they learn it. One of his examples that caught me up short was the one about the two children in the math class learning long division (or whatever it was). The first child understood the concepts right away, and aced all the quizzes and the tests and aced the final test. He got an A in the subject for that term. The second child struggled with it; he bombed the quizzes and didn't do well on the tests, but by the time the final test came along, he aced it because he finally got it...but he didn't get an A for the class, because all the other, failing grades were averaged in. How is that right? Wasn't the goal to learn long division? Why should the second child be punished because it took him longer to master it than the first child?

I was not an unparent. I was "quite directive about social norms and values, and about the need to work hard and do hard things." (Thanks, Carol.) I introduced the dc to things like Camp Fire and 4-H, and dance, and marching band, because they wouldn't have known whether they were interested or not if I hadn't. I counted *all the things* they learned as part of their education, not as extras. They were ages, not grades (although I always knew what grades they would have been in if they had gone to school). But I did not spend boatloads of money on outside classes, I wouldn't describe my dc as "driven," other than having interests the way most children do if given the freedom to do so.

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My own experience......

I was completely burned out.....like ashes and a couple of burn-scarred bits leftover....and though I had fought it for years, I put the younger three kids in public school. I was just completely done with fighting with a particular child over school issues.  Done.

That kid did particularly well in school. They needed the outside structure and discipline. They needed the outside social contact. I got to be mom.  It was exactly what we both needed. That kid has a ton of learning issues.  It all worked out.....sometimes with a hiccup here or there, but it did.  Where there were hiccups, it was an outside voice verifying to dh what I had been saying all along. I just kept my mouth shut, iykwim. 

Look, fast forward 10 years.....those kids are likely all going to be adults. The world isn't going to bend itself to accommodate them.  Let them work on learning how to fit into the world while they have parents who love them to kinda help them through the bumps. Putting them in school isn't giving up on them.  It's stepping out of the conflict and letting them have a go at it.

 

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If you could post your kids ages, grade levels, and what you're currently doing, it might help get some specific ideas flowing around here.

From what you've said, just sitting back with no structured learning happening might not yield the results you are hoping for. I think it might spin into worse chaos. ADHD kids do need structure, and perhaps we can help you brainstorm to cut your workload but still keep the kids moving forward.

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3 hours ago, fairfarmhand said:

If you could post your kids ages, grade levels, and what you're currently doing, it might help get some specific ideas flowing around here.

From what you've said, just sitting back with no structured learning happening might not yield the results you are hoping for. I think it might spin into worse chaos. ADHD kids do need structure, and perhaps we can help you brainstorm to cut your workload but still keep the kids moving forward.

My older 3 are going to the Christian school for the rest of the year.  I guess we’ll see how it goes.  

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6 hours ago, caedmyn said:

My older 3 are going to the Christian school for the rest of the year.  I guess we’ll see how it goes.  

Blessings to you all! May this give you all respite and a routine. May it be an unexpected blessing and awesome fit for your family. And may it give you time to heal. Warmest regards, Lori D.

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