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How Does Unschooling Work?

post #1 of 90
Thread Starter 
I know I should probably read a book on it, but I'm honestly curious here.

HOW do you 'unschool'? What does your average day consist of? Do you have books or textbooks, even if you don't follow a schedule for them? How do you teach finite things like math or reading through unschooling? What if you're not the 'creative' type to think of lessons through everyday things? And even if you are, how do you incorporate the vast amount of things we are supposed to learn in school in your everyday activites? For instance, I don't think I could teach my kids something like geography without sitting them down and looking at a map, that sort of thing.

I'm just curious as to how it works on a basic level.
post #2 of 90
NAK
There are so many posts on this board that discuss just this. Spend some time reading, explore blogs.
post #3 of 90
Thread Starter 
Actually, I did check through the recent posts on the boards, the stickies, and clicked in quite a few blogs and didn't get the specific answers I was looking for, just a general "whatever your child seems interested in" answer. I just don't get it. I'm not posting to be rude, I'm honestly curious. I think the "just research it yourself" answer isn't very nice. If you don't want to post your experiences, which I did ask for specifically, then don't post.
post #4 of 90
For me, it's like raising a 1, 2 or 3 year old. I follow my children's natural rhythms, let them awaken when they naturally awaken (unless we are going somewhere early), let them eat when they are hungry (except I do make meals, but they are free to eat none or little of them and I ask for their input). When they were toddlers, I was in a moms club and we went to all or most of their park days, playgroups, craft days and field trips. Now I do pretty much the same thing by being involved in our local homeschool group. I ask my children which events they want to go to and join up for and we just go. When my children want to read, or have me read to them, they or I do. When they get it in their mind to do a science experiment, I help them. When the Parks 'n Rec guide comes out, I show it to them and see if they would like to sign up for anything. We go to book stores and they read stories to me and choose the books they want to buy. We are members of a Roots & Shoots chapter and we do all sorts of charitable and educational activities and service projects and my children are so proud to be members of it and to reminisce about the interesting and helpful things they have done. They love to watch animal and science related TV shows, they love to go to museums of all sorts, they love gardening and growing food, my 7 year old daughter wants to help DH cook every day, and my 10 year old son is constantly coming up with things that he wants to invent.

My children asked to learn instruments (violin and piano). I explained to them that it can be very expensive to purchase those instruments and pay for lessons, so that I needed to be fairly certain that they could commit to practising almost every day (as the music teachers request) and they both thought it over and insisted that they were both willing and want to do it. Now, they have been studying their instruments for over 9 months and the practice almost every day but if they just don't feel like it one day, well, it's their choice.

I find that my children are constantly coming up with new and interesting things that they want to learn, want to follow up on, ideas for things they can do and learn and they are just SSOOOOOO happy. They think they have the best life in the world and tell us that often. It makes us feel so incredibly grateful that we found this way of life and have not strayed from it.
post #5 of 90
Thread Starter 
What do you do about stuff that your child isn't interested in, like math? I think I would rather burn in hell than do math work, but I did end up needing it in real life situations, like when I worked in retail management.

Is the theory that if we don't force them to learn specific things at specific times they will eventually be interested in learning everything?
post #6 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
Actually, I did check through the recent posts on the boards, the stickies, and clicked in quite a few blogs and didn't get the specific answers I was looking for, just a general "whatever your child seems interested in" answer. I just don't get it. I'm not posting to be rude, I'm honestly curious. I think the "just research it yourself" answer isn't very nice. If you don't want to post your experiences, which I did ask for specifically, then don't post.
Sorry, I'm naking, can't type much now, and didn't realise you read up on US already. There's honestly a ton of info here on these specific questions, but I also prefer to engage in conversation rather than seearch Didn't mean to upset you. I'm sure others will share more.
post #7 of 90
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
Sorry, I'm naking, can't type much now, and didn't realise you read up on US already. There's honestly a ton of info here on these specific questions, but I also prefer to engage in conversation rather than seearch Didn't mean to upset you. I'm sure others will share more.
I've had friends who unschool, so the concept is not totally foreign to me. For some reason though, I just can't wrap my mind completely around it.

I'm a master at NAK. I just stuck my daughter on the boppy and typed away *shrug*
post #8 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
I'm a master at NAK. I just stuck my daughter on the boppy and typed away *shrug*
She fell asleep on one arm--can't type long with 1 hand.
post #9 of 90
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
She fell asleep on one arm--can't type long with 1 hand.
happens to the best of us

The way I did it, when she would fall asleep on the boob my arms would be over her...so she'd just end up sleeping on the boppy. But I did end up one handed a few times too.
post #10 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
I know I should probably read a book on it, but I'm honestly curious here.

HOW do you 'unschool'?
For us it's similar to the way adults learn something. When my kids are interested in something, they look it up, I answer their questions, or help them find the info or someone who can answer their questions. When they express an interest in trying something, I do whatever I can to make that happen.

If I see a class or event that I think they'll like, I let them know about it.

We have tons of books and other resources, but I don't teach lessons and I don't follow the school's scope and sequence. My kids learn what they need to learn to live their own lives. Things like math and geography and all the rest come up naturally in day to day living. If something doesn't come up, and they want to learn about it, we seek out resources.

Using your geography example, I've never taught geography. But we have maps and use them often. The kids look up places they hear about in the news, places family and friends live, natural things like mountain ranges or rivers they hear of, places they read about in books and magazines or see in movies. They use maps when we travel, and refer to them when we hear weather reports. So, my kids have looked at maps quite a bit, but I've never devised a lesson, nor have I sat them down to specifically learn geography.
post #11 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
What do you do about stuff that your child isn't interested in, like math? I think I would rather burn in hell than do math work, but I did end up needing it in real life situations, like when I worked in retail management.

Is the theory that if we don't force them to learn specific things at specific times they will eventually be interested in learning everything?
Sort of. My son will be 8 in two weeks and is just getting into math. He grew to hate it through school and school-at-home experiences. The thing is, there IS math in real life.
So while I wouldn't classify it as something he's 'interested' in, he does see that it has a value in his life and he's learning things happily as they apply to him. Just a few examples-
-He gets an allowance and has been doing lots of figuring while deciding what to buy, how much to save etc.
-He does math when he plays Pokemon and Gormiti.
-He keeps track of how many coins he has while playing Lego Star Wars and Lego Batman.
-He is recently paying attention to what time it is so he can keep track of his favorite shows or know when his Ninja class starts.
-We set the tripometer to zero in the van when we leave the house so we see how many miles we drove.

There are unschooled kids who just love math and play math games for fun. My son isn't one of them but he is getting a lot just through living.
post #12 of 90
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I can see how you could incorporate it that way. I was more thinking of specific math subjects that are harder to learn though life, like percents, multiplication, ect. It's hard for me to imagine learning that even through a real life situation. It was something that took me many painstaking hours to learn.
post #13 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by midnightwriter View Post
She fell asleep on one arm--can't type long with 1 hand.
That always happens to me too One handed typing makes me :
post #14 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
Yeah, I can see how you could incorporate it that way. I was more thinking of specific math subjects that are harder to learn though life, like percents, multiplication, ect. It's hard for me to imagine learning that even through a real life situation. It was something that took me many painstaking hours to learn.
Maybe you could first examine why it was so hard for you learn? Maybe you'd feel differently about it if you'd been able to discover it and 'play' with it naturally. Maybe you would have happily and easily done the math related to your job.

Math was never a subject I was good at but I can directly relate that idea to my school and home experiences. As a result of unschooling our kids I've decided to stop labeling myself as just bad at math. I got a math workbook and did some on my own and had my husband help me a lot.

When my son is dealing with allowance he encounters multiplication/division and percents all the time. How many $6.99's are in $25? I want 5 characters that each cost $5. What's the total I need to save? Star Wars sets are 20% off so now they cost X?

Looking down the road, if he has a healthy relationship with math he could potentially decide he wants to learn algebra etc. for fun. I think its fun, lots of people do.

Or he could realize that if he wants to become an engineer he's going to need some advanced math and we'd find books/online resources/tutors/community college classes etc. to learn it. Or, he could decide to do something completely out of the realm of math where just the basics is all he needs.
post #15 of 90
Thread Starter 
That's a good point and I did think of that. I am sure the hours of math homework that I didn't understand which I was forced to do (I decided to fail instead) might have had something to do with my dislike for the subject!

By the time I was actually using it for my job, I had already taken the summer school class on percents some years back so I already knew how to do it. And yeah, I don't recall hating doing the sales goals for work, I actually liked it by that point.
post #16 of 90
If you have a library close by, you might check out the book by Mary Griffith, "The Unschooling Handbook". There are a bunch of great books out there, but this one might satiate your curiosity about how specific "subjects" like math and reading are learned at home without a compulsory curriculum.

I was also wondering what exactly unschooling looked like in some families when I first started hearing about it and blogs and posts give a wonderful insight into it, but that book opened my eyes and was easier to find what I was looking for without having to jump around a million places. I was absolutely fascinated by the stories that were given and it bolstered my confidence in finding ways to facilitate my children's learning in lots of ways at home.

We have been homeschooling/unschooling from the start. I participated in two different mom-run, at-home preschool co-ops with my first son, who was very social and loved to be with his friends. He picked up lots of friendships and felt a great confidence in himself during that time, which I consider one of the best benefits from our time in those groups--but what I was mildly surprised to see that his learning was very internal and though his environment influenced his learning, it came mostly in his time and his own way.

For instance, he was exposed to reading and writing at home and through the co-op so often, yet didn't progress from writing his name to writing other letters until maybe 5 or 6, years after co-op. I wasn't worried, but I was fascinated that he soaked up the knowledge and when it was "time", he started writing more numbers and letters. He learns math by asking questions and thinking about it, very internal. He'll be playing with his video games, and then building with legos, and then come and ask me a few questions, like "2 and 3 are 5, right Mom?" Yep. "Then what is 4 and 1? Is that 5, too?" He was excited to discover, on his own, that different combinations of numbers could end in the same number, I guess. But the cool part to him was that it was his discovery. He wouldn't let me "write" the addition problems for a while, he preferred to think them out, but later after showing him 2+3=5 on paper, he became intrigued and began writing math out himself, and plays with a magnetic number kit we have with math symbols, making up nonsense and occasionally finding something amazing, to him at least!

The point in my very long-winded essay is that learning happens over time, it's a process, and when the child is given time and trust (as much as we can give to them) and interesting environments to play around with, the learning will happen. It took time and watching my son learn (without daily heroic, stoic efforts and hundreds of dollars of orderly boxed curriculum on my part ) that was proof to me that unschooling could work.

I might add I have seen how his contemporaries (other 6 year olds hehe) write and do math and think and speak, and I see his progression to be perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary, and though his little brother who is 4 doesn't do what his older brother did at the same age, I see them each growing in ways that are unique to them and see nothing that tells me they are "missing" something by not being made to learn X or Z. From how I see it, if it has worked this long, it will work as they grow older, too. Maybe it will look different, and I am sure it will, at different ages, but the premise remains true.

I emphasize that learning is a process, and even many homeschoolers, after learning at home for a few years, tend to ease up on the curriculum and start having more laxness when they see how easily and quickly their children are learning. We sometimes think it has to be difficult (maybe it was to us, in certain areas like math or reading), and sometimes because we see it that way (we are seeing with "school eyes"), we make it more than it has to be. Reading about how learning happens can be quite the eye opener in that regard to understanding unschooling, and sometimes this is referred to as part of the process of "deschooling", which means getting away from thinking of learning in terms of school subjects and compulsions and lazy students and seeing it as a holistic experience, where the learner can be trusted to know what is meaningful and important to them, and follow that.

I know of many families (unschoolers) that do use "curriculum" to assist their children in learning. For instance, a set of history on CD or a foreign language like Rosetta Stone or, goodness, math books! or Math U See or a handwriting worksheet. How about music lessons? It is based on what the child is leaning towards or perhaps mom or dad want to share something with that child. I think the point is the world is our "classroom", and libraries, museums, books, parks, people, internet, DVDs, it's all fair game when a person wants to learn something.

HTH
post #17 of 90
Someone posted this YouTube video about it once. I thought it enlightening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xxYJZT5YTo
post #18 of 90
How do we unschool? We just live and learning happens. Really it does. I'm still in awe of it, but we've been living this way for many years now and I've come to trust my children and the natural learning process. It is hard to understand before you've experienced it though; it takes a while to deschool. I'm still deschooling!

Examples of how my kids learn naturally:

My oldest daughter increased her reading vocabulary today because she decided to pick up my Smithsonian and Home Education magazines that I had lying around and she read a few parts of each. A few times she stopped, spelled something out and asked, "What's that?" I answered and she went on.

My second daughter practiced her writing skills today because she decided she wanted to record directions for how to make the sofa cushion fort she had just created. She's going to share the plans with friends coming over to visit tomorrow.

We have a shelf full of workbooks I've collected over the years (some are coloring books, and the Mad Libs are stored on this shelf too). My oldest daughter often pulls one out and does a few or 30-some pages. Last summer, at a used book sale, I picked up a big handwriting workbook -- a complete program from printing through cursive -- and she worked her way through it entirely at her own initiative over the last 9 months. It was just one of the many books I bought that day and I didn't know it would be such a hit with her!

I own lots of teacher resource books but I purchased many of them before I even had kids because I was a teacher before that. I don't use them much anymore, but hold on to them just in case! I'm about to offer to do lessons from the Parents Guide to Teaching Reading with my 5 year old who has been talking about wanting to learn how to read. (She IS learning how to read, but she doesn't think so because she wants to be as fluent as her sister.)

I also have a lot of idea books for science projects, art, math games, etc. I want to get better at using these to plan some activities ahead of time; I'm getting there. I think when the kids are older they will go through these resources themselves and find projects they want to do. Already my oldest has a couple of times. She likes to read through cookbooks and find something for us to bake too.

I don't think you have to be creative with all the idea resources available. There are lots of free resources online too. Also, the kids come up with great ideas themselves. And they will learn more from projects that they initiate.

I don't worry about what they are "supposed to learn" in school. Have you read Gatto? Schools are not the model to live up to. Remember, the public school system has only been around for the last 100 years, and it is failing. Most people were homeschooled before then.

We learn what we need and want to learn, at any age. One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was to remember, "There are no educational emergencies."
post #19 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
Yeah, I can see how you could incorporate it that way. I was more thinking of specific math subjects that are harder to learn though life, like percents, multiplication, ect. It's hard for me to imagine learning that even through a real life situation. It was something that took me many painstaking hours to learn.
My daughter is 6.5 yrs old, unschooled, and she adores math. If you asked her what her favourite thing to do is, she would probably throw 'math' out there in the top three! And while she does love to do workbooks and such, she learns mostly through everyday life.

For example, the other day the kids were outside collecting pill bugs and watching them in a jar. We looked up some information online about the bugs, and she found out they have seven pairs of legs. Then she started figuring how many legs were in the jar each time they added a new bug. When she got to 10 bugs she easily figured out there were 140 legs in the jar (her reasoning: 7 pairs of legs x 10 bugs was 70, 7+7=14, so 70+70 was 140), and from there quickly figured out how many legs were there for 11 bugs, etc. So she was doing a pretty awesome job of multiplication with very little help from me, all because it was really interesting for her to figure out how many legs were in that jar.

From my perspective, these types of situations give me an opportunity to talk to her about shortcuts in counting, place value, etc. So when she starts asking questions like this, I talk to her about shortcuts she can use rather than needing to count on her fingers, etc. It's a very natural process.
post #20 of 90
Learning math and reading and all that stuff just happens...it sounds trite but it's true. As someone else said, we've been living this way for a few years now and I'm still amazed at how eager children are to learn. They really are programmed that way. Think about how you parented your baby/toddler - you didn't worry about how to teach them walking or talking...think about language for a minute: babies learn a whole language from the start JUST BY HEARING OTHER PEOPLE TALKING. That sort of drive and curiosity and ability never really goes away when kids aren't sent to school.

Both my kids learned to read on their own: one was a total bookworm so no surprise she started reading at age 3. DS was never into books, though he enjoyed being reading to when he was around 3 or so. He is now 4.5 and reading quite well. Now they are early readers but so were me and DH so its really just in their genes. Honestly we did nothing to "teach" them except answer their questions about what sounds a letter makes or how to spell a certain word.

Math is everywhere. We've been brainwashed into thinking its this horrible thing that kids have to be FORCED to learn because they hate it. But I believe they hate it b/c of their experiences in school. As another poster said it is hard to get by in life without encountering math in many forms.

Children are hard-wired to learn the skills they need to function in their society. A society where reading and writing and basic math are everywhere will produce kids who want to gain those skills. Whether they start at age 3 or age 9 they WILL want to gain those skills. You just have to trust in that.

Our daily life is just...living. We go to the library every week. We have tons of books, games, puzzles, DVDs, computer games, etc and the kids basically just do whatever interests them at the time. We go on outings, nature walks, homelearning group activities, etc. It's a very wonderful lifestyle, which is one of the things that first attracted me to it. I also believe it's the optimal way for kids to learn: they don't need to be "educated" - they are naturally curious and driven and all they need is an environment that stimulates and access to resources. You don't have to "know" your subject - in fact some of the most fun is learning about it together!
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