Thursday, December 8, 2011

Unschooling a Lifestyle of Learning

Today I had the pleasure to read the book by Sarah McGrath: Unschooling A Lifestyle of Learning. Her tone is very gentle. She does not have the "It must be done this way or it's not unschooling" type of tone to her book. She encourages that each family find their own niche. 

Her definition of unschooling is Living and learning without the limitations of school. Essentially a life with unlimited possibilities. Learning by doing, wondering, and figuring things out.

Something that I really appreciated about her book was the alternative terms for unschooling, which I think more accurately do describe what unschooling is. Naturally putting the "un" in front of schooling and it makes people wrongly assume there is unlearning or no learning going on.  
The alternative terms for the unschooling style of learning:  
Life learners, Natural learning, Self-directed, interest-driven, delight-driven, whole life, and natural learning.

Key unschooling points she makes:
We all learn all the time.
All learning has value.
We learn best by our own motivation, in our own ways.
Effective learning need not cause difficulty or unpleasantness (if you've have a child crying over math or phonics, but you believe they should push on, this might resonate with you). 
Play provides a perfectly valid mode of learning.
An unschooling parent does not teach but helps children learn.

She talks about how they don't have rules but lots guidance in their home. How her children look to her as a "natural authority" because of the life experience she has. 
She has a nice chapter on Unschooling and Anarchy, learning styles and even homeschooling styles. She gives sample unschooling course of studies, and record keeping which would be a great help to someone in a state that requires documentation. There is a nice resource section. And she even publishes a Spiral bound unschooling journal with writing prompts for record keeping. 

What she had to say about how much interest and concern random people express for unschooling children:
"Just as you cannot teach unreceptive children, you cannot reach unreceptive adults. You need not defend your choices or prove yourself or your children.
Fears arise from things we don't understand, things we have little or no knowledge of or experience with. The majority of people in Western culture attended school and many believe children need school to grow into competent adults. They haven't imagined any other way."

In Sandra Dodd's book she refers to an Unschooling Nest. Ms. McGrath refers to this as the unschooling environment. She encourages the uniqueness of each family and that the environment be unique as well. Enriching the environment essentially. She goes on to say, this does not mean spending tons of money. It could mean putting out art supplies, setting up the computer in a safe way for the child to visit websites, having access to music instruments, sewing and craft materials, books, games, or whatever interests your child specifically.

One idea she shared that I really loved was to set up a blog that is only for my children to access. And use that as their internet home page. From there is where they will access the websites Mom and parent have picked together to save there. 
We have picked up Kindle Fire's for each of the girls for Christmas but we had concern over how we were going to make them child safe. Her suggestion was read in perfect time for us to address this. They each have regular kindles already but those are so slow and no web surfing is even worth the wait, but with the fire that would be an option and something we wanted to be safe with. Of course I know some might question why we'd get these for our kids. One reason being, they love using our Iphones to play games, and together we look things up. But them using our phones is not always possible. And really the price was wonderful for what the fire offers. So many great apps that can be shared from device to device and not to mention books and music. 

I do wish this was the first unschooling book I'd read. I'd highly recommend it be the first read to anyone looking into the unschooling, life learning, natural learning methodology. I do think it answers any question I've had being new to this myself. 

Happy Homeschooling. 

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