Thursday, December 8, 2011

Facing Self Doubt

I have been talking with a fellow homeschooling Mom, also new to unschooling and a proud Mom to many. We were recently discussing the intense amount of "rules" that seem to be implied for unschooling to be a success. Edited 1/11/12: I think the reason many (myself included) felt overwhelmed is that we are/were looking for a clear "do this approach" and it doesn't exist in this type of learning. It's the glimpses of what others are doing that give the unschooling picture. And that can be overwhelming to have so many "ways" tossed at you. 
I hope anyone interested in pursuing natural learning, life learning, unschooling or whatever term folks prefer,  does not let the model of anyone else deter them from doing so. When we used Robinson curriculum we did it our own way. We used Robinson as our base and made it our own to suit our own needs. We did the same when using Sonlight, which was all planned out for us, and even then we used it how it best suited us. It would stand to reason that with a method like unschooling, which has no blue print to be followed to begin with that any parent would do the same.
edited 1/11/12: While I would still say that anyone can unschool. I would have to admit that there are some things that do not make one an unschooler. I used to say we had an unschooling bent. By my definition that was we had a smidge of Mom required work and the rest of the day the kids were free to do pursue their own interests. Compared to where we are now, that was not even a mile close to what it looks like here now. How it used to be, was not even close to unschooling. 

Family rhythm, flow, values are different for everyone.
Unschooling is not a pre-designed curriculum to follow. There are no teacher's guides or boxes that must be checked to be "following" the plan correctly.
I'm posting this not as an expert on unschooling by any means. But as someone who has found a very broad set of guidelines to a method which really just added confusion and frustration for me. edited 1/11/12: I see now that it's easy for an unschooler to say "you are not unschooling" because it's so crystal clear to them after they have experience doing it. 

"All John Holt meant to do with the word unschooling was to find a more expressive and expansive term than deschooling or homeschooling, both of which gave the impression of abolishing or creating miniature copies of conventional schooling in the home. Holt created the word unschooling to indicate that children can learn in significant ways that don't resemble school learning and that don't have to just take place at home." 
 -Pat Farenga

I read in a forum archive on unschooling, where one unschooling Mom said all learning can't be fun and the belief that is what unschooling is proves you're not an unschooler.
It is common sense that as children get older, everything won't be (giggly and silly) all the time. Of course they would seek to challenge themselves as they get older and may not use the word "fun" to describe every such challenge, but who's to say, maybe they just might. Fun will always be in play in some way though. Life should be joyful and fun! My husband and I have fun as adults. We play games, we laugh, dance, sing, he rocks out in his band, plays golf. My job as a stay at home Mom is fun, of course it doesn't mean I don't face challenges. As a paralegal my job was fun, and there were challenges. Bry's job as a police officer, though dangerous, is fun, not in the run and skip through the meadow type way, but it brings him joy to be able do the job he does. And enjoyment is having "fun".

Reading, researching and reading more are just my things. I have found that there does seem to be things that will lend better to unschooling or make the road easier as I've found in my research. Again even if you don't feel any of it. But just feel pulled to learn more. Don't be discouraged because you can do it.
Such as:

  • The belief that children learn through living their lives and yes through playing and having fun.
  • You do not feel a need to control the learning. 
  • You do not feel a need to control your children. 
  • You realize that it will be your way of thinking that has to change. You require "school" not them. 
  • The belief that humans are born to learn. It's the way God made us. To seek, to understand, to accomplish to pursue goals and dreams. To want to achieve! 
  • Belief that learning takes place all the time, not exclusively when following a set curriculum. 
  • You follow respectful / mindful parenting or aspire to be a gentle respectful parent and are willing to take the steps to be a respectful unconditional parent (which means showing love no matter what, highs, lows, success, defeat, your love stays the same constant). 
  • You realize you do not need to have set curriculum for learning to happen. Unless your kids choose to pull it off the shelf or you offer or "strew" it and they want to try it without any pressure. Much as you would offer a friend a drink when visiting your home. If they refuse you would not get angry, frustrated or be disappointed with them. The same should be said when strewing materials around. 
  • You trust that your kids will learn, without requiring proof in the form of tests, grades, scores or instant feedback of their learning. 
  • What you are doing may feel joyless and you are seeking a more peaceful and joyful way. 
  • You realize that we have them for so few years and you want to enjoy the ride and homeschool in a way that makes your partners in their learning, not the dictator. 
  • You want their learning time and memories of learning at home to be fun! 
  • You are fighting a child through tears to do a math page, fill in an english worksheet, and you realize that it's doing anything but cementing a good relationship with your child. 

There is no reason you cannot unschool if: 
  • You like to have structure/routines in your home. Everyone has some type of routine. It might be a day  you prefer for cleaning house, for doing laundry for running errands. 
  • You are a Christian. Yes, God is the ultimate unconditional parent. He waits, gives us time, welcomes us with open arms, despite our missteps on our way to him. But if you use God as a way to bully or guilt the kids into doing your will, that would be something important to get away from. 
  • Have a family with many children. 
  • Do not believe in unlimited access to TV, video games, etc.  You know what works best for your family and see how electronics effect your children. However I would add that "rules" and unschooling are somewhat at odds with one another. The "obey or face this consequence" type of rules are something which more than likely you will let go of in time. As someone who has done that myself, it's just a natural progression. Be willing to let go of your rules and restrictions on TV and video games over time. Let your children show you how they can shine when given the trust and the chance to set their own pace for these. 
  • Feel that God comes first, husband second and children third. Meaning you protect your time with your husband, that might mean putting the kids to bed early some nights. But a strong marriage is a wonderful model to give our children. 
Obviously I have not been in this for the long haul yet. But I feel it in my soul that natural learning is right for our family. 
Just the past two days so much great stuff has been going on. Maybe God was giving me affirmation when I was feeling weak. But I feel so renewed having been a part of such a wonderful few days. 
  • Skylar has been constructing all sorts of play structures with pattern blocks and math manipulatives. 
  • Summer pulled out the map of the US (from Sonlight I might add). And was laying on the floor talking to Skylar who was building nearby. They were talking about where Penpals and Grandparents lived in relation to us on the map and discussing how long it would take for each to get where and the weather in each place. 
  • Skylar read for several hours each day. 
  • Summer did flash cards and played math games on my Iphone. 
  • Decklin did a craft. He started to get upset when the girls didn't want to play but wanted to go do their flash cards or reading. I offered him a book of cut out crafts and he picked one. Summer came down while he was crafting and decided to make a Christmas tree craft and decorate it with stickers we had in my scrapbook cart. 
  • They did Christmas Tree and Christmas Wreath Crafts. 
  • I had been reading them a chapter book. Skylar liked it so much she read it twice on her own. And Summer then read it herself as well. 
  • They went to help us look at a house to see if it was the right one for us. 
  • Skylar helped Ember jump on the mini trampoline. 
  • Ember has potty trained herself. She's now wearing cloth pull ups, just in case. 
  • We spent our one on one time. 
  • Ember and Decklin have been creating with playdough. 
  • Summer and Decklin have been building with legos. 
  • We have all been playing Wii sports, Star Wars and some other fun games. 
  • My Grandmother sent a fantastic huge 5 book library of these big thick books on animals and insects. They came today and the kids all grabbed a book to look through. Skylar read us all interesting facts and she came upon them about from her book.


redkitchen said...

I agree. We are using Sonlight in our own way, moving more slowly through each core than the IG schedule dictates. We also add in extra things as well. Each family is unique, and God gives us as parents the wisdom to know what works best for our children. I'm really enjoying following your unschooling journey. Thank you for sharing!

Melissa said...

That's wonderful.

Awe thanks.