Thursday, October 27, 2011

What brought us to unschooling

I've been a part of homeschool forums online for many years now. I have always enjoyed learning and sharing with other homeschoolers despite the differences in our homeschooling methods. Over time I have begun to feel less able to relate to curriculum switches and conversations about what to use for what subject. Not that I have any judgement one way or another on how anyone else homeschools of course. But I know I have changed over time. I remember when we first decided to homeschool. I was good with the laws but I had no idea what to cover or how to cover it, mind you my child was two at the time. Present time me would say "Lady you are crazy for thinking of what you need to cover with a two year old." But past time me was all new to it and felt I needed something for everything. I found a good compromise by using Sonlight. It was cuddle up and read (but covered all the "subjects" I was worried over). Present time me would not make the same purchase. As the years have gone by I feel more confident in marching to our own drummer. So much so that I have tossed any type of English/Language Arts off our radar. They will learn what they learn as they need to. I long ago tossed the "history" and "science" requirements out of here. As I'm feeling very confident that they've gotten all that from reading and exploring. A very natural progression seems to be pulling me toward an unschooling frame of mind.

This is not a radical overnight change but a gradual change over the years.  

There have been a few things I have yet to be able to fully change my thinking on and some I've always done just what felt right. 

Bible ~
God's word is really at the top of my list of knowledge I feel compelled to share with my children but the approach I use is not as in a "bible curriculum" it's treasured times as a family. Ways in which we do this: Through conversations about how to put the sermon from church into practice in our lives. We love attending church together. It is something we all look forward to very much. Our church is like a party, a celebration of God and our faith in him. We download songs the band plays into our Itunes library so we can rock out to the songs at home and when we zip around town. The kids play church at home, our Pastor really is easy for the kids to connect with. We bake for our local police officers (who are co-workers of my husband). We read Jesus Calling together and have family prayer time. We read a fun animal devotion book which makes the kids want to look up the animals we read about on you tube after we're done reading. Then we have fun doing that as long as they wish. Animals we find always turn up others they want to investigate so we tend to really spend a good bit of time having fun with this. We have a prayer journal that the kids are free to fill in or not. And we take family walks and spend time in the backyard admiring God's creation. Watching the ants he made, smelling the roses in our back yard, gathering leaves, observing all kinds of little critters.
We make donations to causes that have special meaning to us. 

~ Grammar, Spelling, vocabulary ~
I have not covered these with my kids. Just what they get they get has been my line of thinking. From what they read, to when they write, to others they hear speak.

Now here are the areas I need to unplug from traditional thinking: 

~ Math ~ 
As a non mathy person this is the area that really has been hard for me to sit back and watch happen on it's own. Skylar was using Life Of Fred but she's come to a point where she feels it's boring her. My first thought was, well to bad, plug on because you need to have math. But then I was thinking um... really.... but why should I make her plug on when she's feeling this way about it. Summer was loving a math workbook. But she said now she doesn't like it. Again my feeling was, to bad, plug on.
But I've found myself looking at all the fun things that encompass math around our house without it being something I pre-plan and put on the "schedule" or force. That has been a huge confidence booster, allowing me to say to them, to set it aside and that I'd leave it on the shelf if they want it again. If not, no big deal. This is huge for me, quaking in my boots huge because math scares me LOL. Maybe it's hearing so many say, "they need to have those facts down pat or they will never be able to do x,y and z really has done a number on me. Regardless I'm committed to not making my hang ups my kids hang ups.

~ Writing ~
I always ask my children to write because I felt that, free writing is the best way to become good at writing. But free writing is not quite accurate as I haven't sat back and given them the choice of writing or not writing, only of what they write. So cross Mom requested writing off the list. And my new attitude is write if you want or when a situation calls for it (like when helping write the menu plan or grocery list, or responding to a penpal letter, writing a thank you note, etc.)

~ Reading ~
I have a list of reading that I wanted my kids to work through based on the Robinson curriculum, in their own timetable of course. I have required at least a half hour per day of them reading. Skylar loves to read, so her reading time is bliss and she does it long after the rest of the house has drifted off to dream land. Summer is just not a fan lately. She's the one always asking, "Is 30 minutes up yet?".  We have tons of books and magazines. Over 600 free books on the kids kindles. If they want to read them, they are there. They read during board games, Wii games, DS games, Iphone app games, when penpals or family writes to them, when we are driving about the city, and a host of other times reading just pops up in the course of life. So in this light, I'm just not going to force the issue with Summer. She wants to read more beyond what she does, great, if not, I'm okay with that. I am going to be taking the "strewing" it about attitude as I think this will be nice for her. I'm thinking she might enjoy comic books so I thought I'd pick some up. If she wants to read them great, if not, no biggie, I know someone else in the house will get joy from them if she doesn't (my son or myself of course would enjoy them : ). She loves Magic Treehouse so I'm on a mission to collect the rest of the books she has expressed wishing to own from the series and maybe another series I came across that is similar in the writing style that appeals to her but Christian based. 
With Skylar, her thirst for reading amazes me. She has told me reading is her true joy, her passion (she is 9 as I write this). She spent money she was gifted to buy three Ruth Fielding books that we could not find free for her kindle. She said the expense was worth it because she had to know what happened to Ruth. : )

Today the girls and I talked about "no school" for the next few weeks. I explained to them that they didn't have to pull out their schedule and do the check off the list thing, no Life of Fred, no math workbook, no writing unless they wanted to. (Are you picturing the huge smiles that lit up their faces?  : ) I told them we don't even have to use the word school anymore if they don't want : ).  (I honestly don't know why I started using that word at home anyway?) 

They did give me a "list" of things they plan on doing over the next week (just because they want to):

Skylar would like to: 
Play We Cheer
Read, Get to the next Ann book (she's reading the Ann of Green Gables series)
Do a puzzle
Play some games on the Iphone
Watch PBS kids
Play Barbies
Go on walks
Write to penpals
Play outside
Read the bible
Go to church 
Write in journal 

Summer would like to:
Play Barbies
Make funnel cakes
Read Magic Treehouse books
Play Nintendo DS and Iphone games
Write stories
Ride scooter 


Daisy said...

Beautiful post. I'm always amazed at how much my children choose to learn when I back off. I laugh and say our summers are unschooling summers. I wish I was brave enough to do more because I really do believe that children learn an amazing amount informally.

I'll go so far as to say that when we spend TOO much time "learning for" our kids they neglect to become independent learners. They need to learn how to be self-starters.

Sherrie said...

I love it, and I'm right there with you. I, though, do have to have DS do some formal education in math, spelling, and English mainly b/c those are the areas he struggles in; however, maybe I should leave those up to him/real-life, too. We'll see...our "relaxed" schooling was an experiment for the month of October. I told him we'd re-assess at the end of the month to see if we'd continue this route or make changes. Home re-models have interfered, so we actually haven't schooled at all this week, so we may continue the program through November before re-assessing. I wanted to ask...can you share the name of the animal Bible devotion book? DS is obsessed with animals, so I'm thinking it may be right up his alley. Thanks!

Mia said...

Don't you love Jesus Calling? My dd (13)has the JC for Kids and I am doing the adult JC. She keeps a notebook and writes and draws whatever comes to her heart or mind from her devotional that day. Sometimes her page is blank save for one sentence or so. But it has been a real blessing.

Melissa said...

Awe thanks Daisy. I've been reading a lot on the unschooling yahoo groups. My goodness it's so cool to see it all in practice in so many families.
I am learning so much and feeing so encouraged.

Melissa said...

Mia we love both of those. We Read JCFK in family prayer time and then we talk about what it means.
I read the adult JC myself to start my day. The kids and I say it's like a hug from Jesus when we read that : ).
I love how your dd does the writing from her heart after reading it. That is so sweet : )
Good job Mom : )

redkitchen said...

I love this post. I really appreciate your taking the time to not only share your journey, but to go into so much detail. I'm really getting a picture of how unschooling works.

Melissa said...

Awe thanks very much.
My mind needs details and steps to piece it all together. Unschooling has been one of those things I'm finding is much harder to flesh out. The info is all out there but it's so different for everyone that it seems hard to get a "clear picture" so to speak. I don't know if what I'm doing will ever mesh with what someone else would say is unschooling as they imagine it, but I can definitely see a noticeable difference in so short a time here already.

Melissa said...

Sherrie I think it's wonderful you are willing to try new things and see.
Here is a quote by Sandra Dodd:
Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch.

It sounds like you are doing just that : )

Here is the animal devotion we have:
Big Book of Animal Devotions, The: 250 Daily Readings About God's Amazing Creation
If your son likes animals he also might love Character Sketches.