Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Unschooling Experiment

We have officially been homeschooling for 3 full years.

It was this time 3 years ago I pulled B from his prep class and brought him home. We've had our ups and downs but we will always know how blessed we are to have this opportunity.

Our 'homeschool' has always been fairly relaxed in nature, emphasising the importance of play and free time over instruction from mum or a work/text book of sorts.

Thankfully I identified very early on that most of the learning, the REAL LEARNING, the remembered learning happened outside of the times 'we did school'. It happened via way of a conversation instigated by B, by playing games, on 'field trips' by doing things outside the home. I could see it in his eyes, when there was a reason, a purpose, a question that was when the learning happened.

Granted he has learned a thing or two using 'school like' procedures as well, learning to read, his number facts, places of the world, scientific details and the like, however I can clearly see how all of these things would have easily been learned without the 'school like' procedures.

Ok they may not have been in a block covering a unit about Plants or learning about Ireland and St Patrick's Day, it may have been just an inquisition here and a realisation there as opposed to one whole 'unit' of learning.

But does it really matter how and when we learn the things we learn? Who says that all five year olds need to learn about Dinosaurs? Or that all 8 year olds must learn their multiplication facts? Isn't what matters most that by the time the children reach the age of 17/18 they have a well rounded education and know how to navigate their way through adult life?

Seriously, what is all the fuss about, when a 7 year old is apparently behind in his reading! The only reason he is behind is because the school says he is. He isn't fitting their mould and so he is labelled as behind. Maybe, just maybe we should consider this from the other perspective.

What if he isn't behind for him, for his needs? What if he just isn't ready to learn to read? What if it is the school that is not the right fit for the child and not the other way around? Why do parents not ask themselves and the school these questions?

These are all things I did consider in our early days of homeschooling and I read quite a bit about unschooling as well. At the time though it did not fit what I needed. I was unsure of the journey I had begun and I needed something concrete, even if it was wrapped up in a relaxed box.

These feelings have never left me and no doubt one of the reasons I was drawn to Montessori, it is semi - unschoolish in a structured way. More and more I am shown that learning happens without me needing to direct it. So this past month or so I have been reading all of the archives over at Joyfully Rejoycing and seeking out Unschooling Blogs. This is not to say that I completely agree, or at least resonate with everything I have read, but it has allowed me to move forward with my experiment.

Technically we are on school holidays. Yes we do sort of loosely work to the school terms. They are kind of hard to get away from when we have cousins close by that attend school. So really it is easy for me to be hands off, stress free and to truly allow the kids to self direct their day. Leaving me comfortable to just make a simple suggestion here and there, whilst allowing myself to be ok with the kids saying no, if that's what they decided.

So after all of that rambling I give you some snapshots of our week. I kept a pad on the kitchen bench and jotted one or two words about some of what went on over the course of the week.

B spent a small amount of time with the Botany Puzzles.

Although there is no official soccer training or matches over the school holidays, his skills were practiced every single day this week and at times twice a day. Often taking his little brother out with him to teach him a thing or two.

B read all of these this week, including the Captain Underpants book. I think it is safe to say that we are very close to putting away all of the 'high interest readers' and moving on to regular novels and the like. He is just motoring ahead with his reading and the less formal instruction we do the better he gets. You really do learn to read by reading!

C got in quite a bit of ball handling skills too, sometimes indoors on the cold mornings and at other times outside, when the sun was shining high in the sky.

We spent a morning with my sister and her children, they are 12 months younger than both my two respectively so they are becoming great friends since the family moved back to Brisbane. They have a couple of chickens at the moment, which the kids spent the better part of the morning chasing around the yard and working out the best way to pick them up.

Cousins, just hanging out.

C found K's hair clips and wanted them all in his hair, I think all up he has about 6 in there or so. How lovely it is to be a toddler and not worry about whether he can wear hair clips or not.

My dad brought over a large bag of lemons from his tree. The kids helped their daddy juice and freeze them so we have a nice supply of lemon juice on hand.

There was lots of My Little Pony playing. (excuse the funky photo).

B, K and I watched Voyage to the Planets (Mars and Jupiter) one afternoon during C's nap, days later we are still discussing this. Mathematical concepts, like the comparison of time, travelling to the planets and the lengths of the days/years on the planets compared to Earth.

Scientific concepts, the hurricane on Jupiter and the overall environment on Mars and how one's skin would literally boil there.

Geographic concepts, such as Mars is the about the size of Earth if we our oceans were removed. Both planets have the same land mass or there abouts.

After pumping up a couple of balls, K wondered if she might be able to pump up her dad?! The outdoor furniture and even the walls of the house.

The kids had some great use of the Quad Bike whilst we were at my sisters. C even had a turn and enjoyed it, he is a bit scared of things like that that move. Dislikes those shopping centre toys and the like. Even mummy had a turn and yes it was fun. You really need to concentrate on what you are doing as the accelerator is very touchy.

Sylvanian Families is another favourite around here. These got plenty of use during the week.

Look at K giving her baby monkey a bottle, just adorable.

We experienced a trial percussion lesson this week. The kids a blast. Very noisy, lots of instruments, lots of fun and even a little bit of learning. Unfortunatley at $21 per lesson per child I don't think it is something we will be signing up for. That and the fact that it is 30 minutes drive away and I just can't justify it at the moment. It was fabulous though.

And I can't forget the quality time we spent in the backyard taking a closer look around. Our Nature table and enjoying some fabulous nature based stories.

When I look back over the week like this, I think every single subject has been covered and the only real facilitation that I did was to suggest the backyard walk and to book us in to the music class.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I have to say - I am a planner by nature, but I do find unschooling a fascinating concept. I agree that children learn best by asking and answering their own questions. It looks like you had a very good week.

6intow said...

What a wonderful week! I have also found in our homeschool journey that there is an incredible amount of learning done outside of "school." And, often the most important learning takes place when we are just living.

I also can relate to the tough choices as far as the percussion lesson. So many great opportunities, but only so much money and so much time to spend on them all.

Thanks for sharing your precious moments with your family!

Lisa Russell said...

Kylie- your blog is absolutely beautiful. Welcome to unschooling, it's been our family's most blissful discovery :)

Kez said...

That's pretty much how I came to unschooling / natural learning as well. The realisation that "hey, he's learning as much or more when we're not doing 'school' and he's much happier". It is absolutely amazing how every area gets covered naturally as well - not every week will be perfectly in balance, but it does seem to even out over time. Sometimes I need to make a suggestion if I think things are getting out of balance - why don't we do this? It all works!

Unknown said...

Love your comments, Kylie. I ask myself why the education system we have seems to hold kids back! Kids that are ready to fly and learn. Why aren't they given the chance to succeed beyond their wildest dreams? Why is their self esteem challenged everyday and why does their love of learning slowly disappear over time? They too don't fit the 'mould' - whatever that is??! Yep, I think what you are doing is amazing and better than any education an institution can offer. xx

Mozi Esme said...

Loved this post!

I've been fascinated by unschooling, tho the more I've studied, the less hard-core I've become. Life is full of compromises where we do one thing we don't like to avoid doing something else we don't like even more - so I think it's important for kids to take on and accomplish things they don't necessarily like.

But I appreciated this practical example of how unschooling works...

Sara said...

I don't quite know what unschooling is as yet. Actually, I can't tell unschooling and deschooling apart- and sometimes natural learning too, but I'll be looking into it. I haven't actually read enough about them.

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