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How Does Unschooling Work? - Page 2

post #21 of 90
I have two favorite unschooling allegories. One is from Sandra Dodd's site. It's about this Sesame Street book called "Grover and the Museum of Everything in the Whole Wide World" or some such nonsense. In the book, Grover walks through the museum: there's an under-the-sea room, an in-the-sky room, but ultimately they're all just rooms in a museum, disconnected from their context. Then Grover gets to a door that says "Everything ELSE in the Whole Wide World" and he opens it and walks out into the sunshine. That's unschooling.

The other one is something I came up with. You know how all the really great schools have these hands-on programs where the kids build community gardens to learn biology and math and cooperation, etc.? Well, when we unschool, that's our whole lives. Everything is hands-on.

We cook, we clean, we shop for groceries, we volunteer, we walk in the woods, we stare at the sky, we play games, we watch television shows, we read books, magazines, signs, newspapers, letters, we do crafts and sometimes science-y experiments that look a lot like crafts, we plant gardens, we write to our friends, we google things, we talk to the people in our neighborhood, we play with friends, we swim, we look at bugs, we watch birds, and we talk and talk and talk about all the things we're seeing and doing and thinking about all the time. That's learning.

You can't stop someone from learning. It happens all the time. You can try to dictate it, but that's usually a lot harder to get through, which is why with a rote method, everything must be repeated artificially over and over and over again. In reality, when someone's interested in something, when they're ready and curious and their brain is open to accepting it, it's easier. At some point, things just click. Even in school, reading and math don't just sink in for everyone right when it's supposed to. Some kids come into kindergarten reading already. Others struggle in remedial classes for years. Either way, in the end you have readers. Unfortunately, the side-effects of those who struggle tends to be that they lose their inherent love of reading, so they only use the skill functionally. This is true for so many things. Math is a big one, probably because most kids aren't ready for a lot of the math that is taught in school.

The other thing to think about is to question what is really necessary for growing and learning. What is the long-term goal of education? Break it down. In my mind, I see the long-term goal of education to raise children to adulthood with the skills they need to survive and be successful. Definitions of success may vary, however. My goals for my kids are that they be happy, that they love what they do, that they support themselves (to the best of their abilities), and that they're engaged in the world. To that end, I think that the best way for them to learn all that is to see it modeled and to be truly a part of the adult world. Why isolate them? Why take all learning and all the practical application of that learning out of its context? My children are integrated into the life they will one day be leading. What better way to learn everything they need to know than to do everything they'll need to do?
post #22 of 90
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the insight, everyone!
post #23 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
Think about how you parented your baby/toddler - you didn't worry about how to teach them walking or talking...
Um, yeah, actually i did. I love the idea of unschooling, and think it's the best way. But I don't know how to get myself to that place. The whole trusting bit. So, I'm also having trouble wrapping my head around the process of unschooling. Plus, DS is three, and "Why?" is getting a tad annoying. Surely our whole unschooling career won't be this tedious? How would I know if I really weren't cut out to unschool?

Thanks for all the helpful posts,
-Rockport-
post #24 of 90
You'd be surprised how much one can learn when they are out living life.

My kids, like someone else mentioned, learned math because it became part of their desire to purchase items and figure out how much money they have and what they can afford. They've learned about fractions while helping me in the kitchen. And, we've recently started learning about percentages because of sales.

Learning happens everywhere, so if one is just allowing it to flow, more topics come up than you could imagine and kids have a genuine interest in the world and about learning.

Your math example is a perfect one. You were forced to learn it, it wasn't comfortable, you weren't motivated it was difficult. But, when one is motivated and really wants to learn, it becomes easy because they really want to learn.
post #25 of 90
Not much time to reply and haven´t had a chance to read what everyone else has posted...

With regards to for example learning maths and geography (since you mentioned the two) - I think you can find any of these subjects plus many many more within EVERY single topic! It just depends how deep you look!

Right now my son is really into baseball. But for him it´s not just about baseball the game. He loves throwing, catching, training, watching matches etc. But he´s also into checking out the physics of the ball´s movement, the biomechanics of the throw and the batting, the geography of the US teams, statistics of a match, history of the game etc etc....the list goes on!

So all the subjects that are separate entities in a school setting sort of come together within one topic here - IF you want!

We basically just *live* - I don´t see that the *process* of learning is much different for my now 10 year old than it was for him when he was say 2. He explores stuff, I share my interests, we check things out, we read, we watch movies, we hang out, we travel, we meet people....sometimes one thing leads to another that leads to an intense interest that at some point contains all of the above subjects. Sometimes we only skim the "surface of the topic" - other times we delve deep deep into the depths!!!

The underlying guideline is enjoy enjoy enjoy! :
post #26 of 90
Unschooling is a little like magic. : You spend your time doing fun stuff with your kids, and they seem to magically pick-up all kinds of stuff that many people devote tedious hours to teaching formally. It's like finding the secret short cut to education (not that kids necessarily learn things sooner than they might otherwise, but it's so much easier on everyone).

My unschooling analogy: when you feed a child, you can either decide on your own what the child should eat and how much, and then make every meal a battle where you threaten and cajole them to eat the things you've served. Or you could trust them to naturally crave a healthy balance of food, and let them choose freely what to eat (while offering healthy options you think they'll enjoy, and modeling healthy eating, of course). Studies show that the second option is quite a bit healthier for children in the long run, and a whole lot more pleasant in the short run.

In my experience, unschooling is like that, and I keep stumbling on research that suggests that the way my children choose to spend their days-- with a lot more free play than they'd have time for if they went to school-- is actually what children their age should be doing for optimal brain development. Academically, they're doing fine-- they don't know all the same things they would have learned in school, but there's no one subject that's neglected, and they believe they can learn whatever they need to know. (Disclaimer-- in my house we do limit both screen time and junk food)

ZM
post #27 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
HOW do you 'unschool'? What does your average day consist of?
Doing the things we like to do and need to do. Play, reading, talking, making, housework, visiting friends, etc.

Quote:
Do you have books or textbooks, even if you don't follow a schedule for them?
Do we have books? Is that a serious question? Book-owning is so ubiquitous in our culture that it seems incredible to me that someone would even wonder about it. Is your perception that unschooling is about not learning through the written word? I'm also confused by your qualifying the question with "even if you don't follow a schedule for them", as if that's the default. Do most people follow a schedule for book-reading? Sorry, I'm just sort of perplexed about what you are trying to get at here.

But yes, we have books. I'm not a fan of textbooks though. In my pretty extensive experience with the damn things, they are almost always excruciatingly poorly written.

Quote:
How do you teach finite things like math or reading through unschooling?
Mostly they pick stuff up through real-life interactions and interests. They ask lots of questions, what's this, what's that, how does that work, what does that mean. Occasionally they will ask for specific help/instruction. Both my boys learned to read through playing video games and looking at comics. One son learned entirely on his own, the other had a few brief spurts of intense question-asking, but there was no formal instruction. I don't say that to brag, because I don't think it means there is anything special about them. People pick up understanding naturally and fairly easily when something is all around them and they are allowed to come to it in their own best way and own best time, with support available if they need it. Traditional theory of learning doesn't think that possible except in very special cases. Traditional theory is wrong. It's not only possible, but normal. The only reason it isn't the norm is that it's not allowed to be.

Math learning started with money and baking. Those encompass basic arithmetic and fractions. Percentages are everywhere, so eventually they asked about that, too. They don't need to learn higher math. They may want to. One of my children is obviously mathematically-minded, and he loves it. I pretty certain that he will want to continue on, and the types of vocation(s) he chooses will probably reflect that. My other children, I'm guessing not, and that's as it should be.

Quote:
What if you're not the 'creative' type to think of lessons through everyday things?
Then you don't. Lessons come whether you actively think about them or not. I don't intentionally create a "lesson" out of making brownies. They say, "what does it mean when there's a number next to a slash next to a number?" In the process of explaining, other questions arise. And so learning occurs. People are wildly curious until they learn to equate learning with the unpleasantness of imposed instruction.

Quote:
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?
I don't. I could care less about the vast amount of things school officials think we should know. What I care about is what is relevant and interesting to us. And we don't have to work to incorporate that, because it's not separate from what our life is already about.

Quote:
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.
Nothing wrong with maps. We have a book of maps, and two world globes. Google earth is awesome. The kids have asked what it is, where we are on it, what's over on the other side, how far is it, how big is it, what happens when it's day and night (bringing astronomy into it,) etc. I'm wanting to get one of those upside-down maps to put up on the wall (just because I like it and think it's interesting.) We often come across maps on the internet -- election maps, energy consumption maps (lights from space!), unemployment maps.

Maps are an excellent tool for learning about geography. That doesn't mean it's necessary to say, "okay, it's time to learn geography. Sit down at the table and I will lecture you/give you an assignment about it."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
What do you do about stuff that your child isn't interested in, like math?
Are they interested in money? Then they're interested in math. It's a mistake to assume that lack of interest in textbooks and abstract equations and forced learning means lack of interest in math itself.

Quote:
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?
Nooooo. Just those things that hold value for them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
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.
But the only purpose of learning it, aside from if you just simply enjoy it, would be to use it in a real life situation, yes? And if you can use it in a real life situation you can learn it from a real life situation. And in fact that's the easiest way to learn it because your brain has something real to connect those abstract ideas to. People think they're not good at math, when what they're actually not good at is making sense out of something completely abstract that is presented out of context, with no relevancy to anything in the real world.
post #28 of 90
Thread Starter 
"Do we have books? Is that a serious question? Book-owning is so ubiquitous in our culture that it seems incredible to me that someone would even wonder about it. Is your perception that unschooling is about not learning through the written word? I'm also confused by your qualifying the question with "even if you don't follow a schedule for them", as if that's the default. Do most people follow a schedule for book-reading? Sorry, I'm just sort of perplexed about what you are trying to get at here."

Obviously pretty much everyone has books of some kind. I meant school related books specifically (so I guess I should have said "books for homeschooling"), textbooks, curriculum books, books geared towards learning a specific thing (for example, those Matt and Tab books we all grew up reading) vs being for entertainment. I'm sorry I wasn't more clear but there really was no reason for you to make assumptions about my perception and get so defensive. I was asking an honest question. Have I made even one negative comment about unschooling in this entire thread? No. I wasn't trying to "get at" anything. There really was no need to pick out one word in an entire post and harp on it.

And yes, many homeschooling parents do follow a specific curriculum and have a schedule for their educational books, just like they do in traditional schools. Some even have a schedule for the entertainment type books too when the kids are older, like how in school you'd spend a specific month reading Where The Red Fern Grows and then read something else the next month. I'm not saying that is the way it has to be done I am just answering your question when you asked if people have a schedule for books.
post #29 of 90
Thread Starter 
I would like to thank everyone for their insight and for writing about your personal experiences! Thank you
post #30 of 90
Quote:
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.
I am also interested in US and I also have a spotted history with math. I've been giving it a lot of thought and here's what I came up with:

I never really learned math until it became necessary for me to apply it to stuff I cared about. I had a horrendous experience with my 4th grade teacher and multiplication- put me off math for years. I scored a perfect score on the SAT verbal portion...and a 500 on the math. I was terrified of math. But later, when I began to love science, I needed math and so I taught myself. And then I started to work in retail and one day at the register, the puzzle that is math came together for me...finally. It's embarrassing, but I was downright giddy over it! So I think you as a parent can guide them toward meaningful applications for the knowledge you think they ought to know. You know them better and have more time to give them than a teacher at school.

ETA: I am reading "Teach Your Own" by John Holt. It's accessible and helpful.
post #31 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
Obviously pretty much everyone has books of some kind. I meant school related books specifically (so I guess I should have said "books for homeschooling"), textbooks, curriculum books, books geared towards learning a specific thing (for example, those Matt and Tab books we all grew up reading) vs being for entertainment.
I was brought up (like most people) with the idea that there were "school books" (books assigned to me) and "fun books" (books I WANTED to read.) With unschooling, there is no such division.

The books my kids read and refer to are ALL books that they choose to read. Since no one is telling my kids what they have to learn, they're just as likely to pick up a book about human anatomy as vampires, say.

When the world isn't divided into "stuff I have to do" and "stuff I want to do" many things are opened up.

Generally speaking, I find books marketed as "curricula" to be dry and very schoolish (ie: a chapter of information followed by some method of testing to see if one remembers the information.) We do have some college texts that I saved which we use as references, and my dd is currently using an algebra program to prepare for the SATs but aside from that, we tend to stay away from things advertised as "school books."

(p.s. what are "Matt and Tab books?" I've never heard of them, and they didn't pop up on an Amazon search.)
post #32 of 90
Interesting responses. I was coming here to post this very question. I'm glad this thread is here. I feel like this past year that I unschooled a lot more than I home schooled my 7 yr old.

My oldest child is independent and does his academic studies daily on his own with little interaction with me for a couple of hours while he completes it, and the rest of his day is spent exploring, hanging out with his little sis or us, learning what he wants to learn, cooking, staying outdoors, etc. But for my 7 yr old DD we started the year out with books and workbooks and she did fine and then after Christmas I got pregnant and had morning sickness for a while and things started to go downhill. I couldn't get her to do much of anything after that except play alone and use her imagination (which I love!) and DH has been giving me a hard time about her learning - in math especially. But she has been learning and I can see it so I feel like that's all that matters in the end.

Next year I plan to focus on the human body with both of my children and have already accumulated a lot of books and project based things to use, but that's it. I have some workbooks for my DD but I dread trying to enforce them. She just isn't interested. I prefer the U/S approach but DH doesn't seem to like it at this point.
post #33 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
Obviously pretty much everyone has books of some kind. I meant school related books specifically (so I guess I should have said "books for homeschooling"), textbooks, curriculum books, books geared towards learning a specific thing (for example, those Matt and Tab books we all grew up reading) vs being for entertainment. I'm sorry I wasn't more clear but there really was no reason for you to make assumptions about my perception and get so defensive. I was asking an honest question. Have I made even one negative comment about unschooling in this entire thread? No. I wasn't trying to "get at" anything. There really was no need to pick out one word in an entire post and harp on it.
Whoa. First, if you put something out there you should be prepared for it to be discussed, and it's really not for you to be the judge of whether other posters' discussion about any part of your post is "needed". What there is no need for is to be insulting.

Second, "Do you have books?" is a pretty unambiguous question. I can't read your mind, and why would I assume that you were talking only about a certain kind of book? The words as spoken do not make sense except as a query as to whether unschoolers are practicing a sort of extreme naturalism -- there are people, after all, who have the annoying misconception that unschooling is anti-education/ anti-intellectual/ anti-academic, so it wasn't unreasonable for me to ask. Really, all you needed to do was clarify, and I'd be like, "oh, okay."

Anyway, I don't know what Matt and Tab books are, and curriculums are made up of textbooks/workbooks and/or regular books that have been deemed "educational", so I'm still not sure what you're referring to. But no, we don't have anything that is specifically created for teaching in a school or homeschool setting. The closest thing that we have might be reference-type books and how-to books.

Quote:
And yes, many homeschooling parents do follow a specific curriculum and have a schedule for their educational books, just like they do in traditional schools. Some even have a schedule for the entertainment type books too when the kids are older, like how in school you'd spend a specific month reading Where The Red Fern Grows and then read something else the next month. I'm not saying that is the way it has to be done I am just answering your question when you asked if people have a schedule for books.
I wasn't confused on the question of whether homeschoolers use schedules. I wasn't referring to homeschoolers at all (I thought we were talking about unschoolers) and my question didn't expect an answer; it was rhetorical. My misunderstanding was based in your question, "Do you have books and textbooks even if you do not have a schedule?" I see now by your clarification that you were speaking of schooly books specifically, so that you meant it to mean, do we make use of schooly resources apart from schooly structure? The way it was phrased and the wording used, it sounded to me as if you were asking whether we still have books at all in the absence of structure, as if the lack of it implies not.
post #34 of 90
Thread Starter 
I really did not think that my post implied that you do not have books at all. I never thought that to be the case. I'm sorry that I wasn't clear (I did in fact try to word my post carefully as I do with every post I make), but I really think you could have given me the benefit of the doubt instead of the way you responded. I'm super pregnant and grouchy, I apologize for getting my panties in a wad. I know that there are people who really look down their nose at unschooling, and while I admit that I am a little confused on the idea, I'm not against it and was actually considering it (though my husband would have a fit....he breaks out in hives every time I even use the word "homeschool"). One of my kids would probably do way better with no structure rather than being forced to learn...she's uh...spirited

My reference to homeschoolers was answering the question as to whether *anyone* (you did not specify unschoolers specifically, you said "Do most people follow a schedule for book-reading?") follows a schedule for reading books. I don't know if you were refferring to homeschoolers, unschoolers, or people in general, it was a little ambiguous, and I didn't realize it was rhetorical. Just like you can't read my mind, I can't read yours, especially not over the internetz where you can't hear tone, ect.
post #35 of 90
I tried googling Matt and Tab books and came up with this thread.
post #36 of 90
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
I tried googling Matt and Tab books and came up with this thread.
I might have the name wrong. They were the books we had to read when I was in kindergeraden/1st grade. They're the ones that have the really repetitive sentences "Sally went to the store. Sally went to the store to buy a hat. Sally went to the store to buy a yellow hat" ect.
post #37 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
I might have the name wrong. They were the books we had to read when I was in kindergeraden/1st grade. They're the ones that have the really repetitive sentences "Sally went to the store. Sally went to the store to buy a hat. Sally went to the store to buy a yellow hat" ect.
I think they were still using Dick and Jane when I was in first grade.
post #38 of 90
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post
I think they were still using Dick and Jane when I was in first grade.
I swear the name of the ones we used was Matt and Tab, but you know, it was like...oh, 20+ years ago so I could definitely have it wrong
post #39 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talula Fairie View Post
I swear the name of the ones we used was Matt and Tab, but you know, it was like...oh, 20+ years ago so I could definitely have it wrong
Yeah, well try 30+ years.
post #40 of 90
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