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This is so not working.

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Nevermind. I talked to DH and we've decided to enroll DS in public school next year. We've tried really hard for six solid months and it's just not happening. I give up.

Edited by minkajane - 11/28/10 at 2:20pm
post #2 of 19

Hi there! My name is UnschoolnMa, and I am a serial quoter so hang in there with me if you can. Some thoughts for you to mull around:

If DS gets any kind of hint that we might be trying to teach him ANYTHING, he shuts down completely, even if it's something he's interested in or it's a fun activity and he was enjoying it until he realized he was learning something..

This is going to sound totally counter intuitive but... stop "trying to teach him- anything"  and just live each day together. The fact that he is resistant to activities he previously found interesting or "fun" says that the activities aren't really the issue- the freedom for him to decide and choose is! He is 5 yes? I am independent hear me roar (or cry or stomp or refuse to look at you or ...lol)  One of the points in unschooling is that we don't have to make learning happen. It just does as a natural product of life, curiosity, things we find we need to do, things we see, things we find useful, and so on.



He's really good for his age, but he gets really lazy with it. After 5 minutes, he stops reading the words and starts guessing what he thinks they say or asks what every letter says so that he doesn't have to actually read them.

Many children aren't ready for reading at age 5 for a variety of reasons. I mean no judgement at all, but can you ask yourself why it matters at all that he is or that he be "good" at it right now? Language is literally everywhere. That guessing words behavior is extremely normal. Why not start casually talking about letters and words without any lessons implied. You can talk about emails, snail mail, make up your own language, let him play with scrabble tiles, etc. I see it this way: him reading right now is not as important as his being naturally exposed to letters, words, sounds and language. Let it seep in...



He doesn't want to do anything but play video games all day long. When I don't let him play, he does nothing but whine about how bored he is and turn down any activity I suggest that's not video game related.

And what is the worry if he does play video games a lot? If you really look honestly at them can you see the learning that takes place when he plays? Have you played (video games) with him at all? Asked him what he enjoys about them? It may just be where his focus is right now, or it may well be his "thing". (It is my son's thing too) Either way the likelihood of it being his only thing is pretty minimal. Embrace the learning that is happening within the things that are actually happening!



I feel like he's not learning a thing and he's completely determined NOT to learn a thing.

And it's totally normal to feel that way. The trick? Recognize that that's exactly what it is: a feeling. We all learn all the time. No way out of it I'm afraid. ;) That determination you are seeing is his instinctual drive to have his thoughts, wants, needs, and interests accepted ... to have them really matter.




He just wants to sit in front of the TV all day.

What happens if he does that? If it makes him cranky I would start casually discussing that with him. Even relate it back to yourself it that helps. What does he like to watch? What does he like about it? Start talking. You may find out a lot of things. Also, be sure that he sees you following your interests and hears you talking about them positively. "Mommy is reading a new book! It's a cool story." or "I read a new recipe and I want to try it out in our kitchen." 


I hope some of this was a little bit helpful. I know it can be hard to rething and reimagine education in this way. wave.gif

post #3 of 19

I see that you have decided to enroll your son in school but in the mean time I think that unschoolnma has some good advice. Some children just are not ready to read at 5. I have one of them I thought for sure my dd would go to school at 4 and be reading because well that's what I did. But alas she is her own little person and she is not ready to read yet. I know she could if she tried and she reads some things on her own but she is not ready to become a proficient reader. She is also very interested in the world and learning but only on her terms so if I were to say let's do some Math she may say okay but 9 times out of 10 she says no. However, if I am patient and let her do it on her terms she will bring me our math book and ask me to do math with her and we may do 40 pages in one day and then not touch it again for months. But as long as I leave her be about it she "loves math." So we learn as we go and I say we because I am learning as well. Learning to take my expectations and put them aside for her learning style and interests. If I allowed it she would watch TV or play one the computer all day. That is not okay with me so I limit her TV and computer significantly to the point of not allowing it at all for long periods because it makes our life run smoother without it. I realize that does not work for others but it works for our family. When she is away from it for several days she never mentions it and  her learning and creative play increases significantly. It's interesting to see and the change is dramatic enough to tell me this is the right choice for us. As far as learning on her terms it really does work but if takes effort, effort to look up the answers to all the endless questions I don't know the answer to, effort to make the two trips to the library each week, if not more to investigate whatever topic she happens to be interested in today. It's fun, exciting, and interesting to see what interests her and how much we can learn together.


Good luck where ever your quest takes you.

post #4 of 19

Oh my! Don't get discouraged. I like the other advice I've seen here. My guy just started reading this year (he is 7).

And I really, truly, sincerely, honestly, believe that putting him in school, you're just exchanging this set of problems for another (and in my opinion) more troubling one, and one that is outside your range of view and realm of influence.


There is plenty of time to change your mind on this later. At the age of 5, academics is so not even important (I think).


Seriously! Investigate the essence of unschooling. If you are trying to get him to learn things, then maybe you aren't fully understanding what unschooling is? Enjoy yourselves. (BTW we are not 100% unschoolers; we are a more eclectic mix)


The only thing I'd caution is the two main negatives of TV/video games/connectedness via tech.....(1) the possibility of addiction if addiction runs in the family and (2) the effects on the brain, such as the ability to focus and concentrate, think deeply & the like. There are lots of conversations going on out there right now about this issue.


Good luck!

post #5 of 19

Oh my goodness, 6 months at age 5 is not enough time to know whether unschooling is "working" or not! It takes longer than that for the parents to get their footing and start looking for and recongnizing all the learning that happens in every day life! Of course, you have to make the best decisions for your family's unique circumstances, but I just want to put it out there that you may not have had the right information about what unschooling is all about...

post #6 of 19
Originally Posted by minkajane View Post

Nevermind. I talked to DH and we've decided to enroll DS in public school next year. We've tried really hard for six solid months and it's just not happening. I give up.

i never got to read your original post but please give HSing more of a chance. 6 months is nothing and at 5 there is not that much to be taught. when he was 1 did you stress if he knew his colors? at 2 did you stress that he knew how to count? every child learns at a different pace.


if he wants to watch tv then put on something he can learn from, if he wants to play a video game get ones that are educational. if he wants to play a boardgame get one that is a learning one. your ds sounds like my dd if she gets a hint she is learning something thats it she is pissed she is throwing a fit and all mad even if she is the one who asked to know the info in the first place. it is just their nature. we do well in a unschooled setting i can control the things that come in to the house. i can control the tv shows and pc access. so i know that what they do they are learning.

if he is whining for tv and video games then he must think he can win and get them. if it was my house they both would be gone. many times i have taken away all access to the tv, dvd's, and games.

im my eyes it is really not a learning problem he is being a kid. i hear i am borred all the time from my dd. i tell her if you are so borred then go do (something learning) and trust me in 2 min she has found something to do and shockingly 50% of the time she will go and do what idea i said.




i didnt realize that it was in the unschooling part. unschooling dont follow the rules of school there is no set time to learn and i feel that unschooling is not sitting down and forcing them to read or do their learning/ school work. maybe that is why he is rebelling about learning because it is being pushed on him and he is not ready. if you gave it time and in a relaxed non rushed setting i bet everyone would be happy and he would be learning

post #7 of 19

I was really frustrated when we pulled ds out of private school....i wanted to "homeschool" him....and tried to sit down everyday and do "school" but i soon became so frustrated and mad at him, because it was like pulling teeth to get him to do what i wanted him to. So i stopped. Ordeedr lots of read a loud books( witch are still sitting on the shelf...he doesnt like when i read to him) and science project books and told him where they were and what they were about and let him live. Someday he asks to do a science project and some days he plays all day. Somedays he watches movies all day...plays xbox, nintendo.all day. Other days he watches videos on how to care for animals on youtube...all day. He is learning in his own way and his own time. With him not being in school...we have been able to travel as a family for longer periods of time. He has also learned spanish from his cousins and friends. No formal teaching. At 6 he speaks 2 languages...he may not be able to read or write...but he knows what he is supposed to know...and he gained that knowledge at his own pace. It took me several weeks to let go and let him be a boy again. It is very doable.....best wishes to what ever you choose for your family.

post #8 of 19

I read an article that said when you begin to homeschool to give it a go for at least 1 year and to not give up too soon.  There is a TON of adjustment and figuring that takes place.  So..that is my goal.  Kind of like breastfeeding...give it a good year and then for me it became 2 and 3...following the wisdom of my children they weaned around age 4.


I have also read articles that show that if you try to teach (especially boys) to read before they are ready, it is likened to child abuse.  You can actually create learning disabilities if you try to teach before the left and right side of the brain is working well together.  For most children this would start happening around age 7 or as late as 10-12 (and as early as 3 or 4).


Keep in mind too that it is perfectly acceptable to not send a child to brick and mortar school until age 6.  Keep him home another year and just "play"--you absolutely should not feel like he's behind or needs to be doing more.


lastly, in my mind, emotional happiness and spiritual wholeness trumps academic success any day.


post #9 of 19

Sarah, I would honestly love to see the sources you mentioned that you read about what you said about teaching children to read before they are really ready can contribute to learning disabilities later.  I have a child who is so smart and amazingly awesome, but she has multiple undiagnosed LDs that I am not going to get diagnosed any time soon because we're learning how to work with them in our own way (and more of an unschooling approach really works well with that, she's learned so many things just by living life and being my "assistant mommy" all day for the past several weeks and learning all the practical aspects of running a home, kid is starting to multiply and understand fractions from cooking since we do double and triple batches when we cook, and so many other things that are just so wonderful to see her doing).  I've never read about a connection between forced learning too soon and LDs, but especially in my oldest girl's case it would make a lot of sense (we started pushing her to start on "gentle" academics at just 2yo because of pressure from my mother and her constant "isn't she reading yet? girl you are a slacker mom, I had you reading before you were 3yo, don't be so lazy!" stuff she would give us) especially if you compare her academic start to the one her little sisters had/have (we don't do anything with them until they start nagging us nonstop about it and the middle two are accelerated and waiting on the youngest to show us she's ready).


And I agree with the others, I gave up on hsing my oldest at this time in her K year and enrolled her in ps at semester because I just didn't feel it was working out.  If I had just followed my gut that she wasn't ready for academics, then maybe I would have had a different outcome.  Please, don't make any decisions about enrollment until the end of the school year, as what you are feeling now will change between now and then (either you'll feel totally different about it or you'll be even more confirmed in your decision).  I wish I hadn't enrolled my oldest in ps when we did, that I had just stuck it out and gotten a feel for what we were supposed to be doing and how to do it.

post #10 of 19

My ds was always very resistant to any teaching, no matter how subtle I was.  The funny thing is that my not teaching didn't stop him from learning;-)


post #11 of 19

I am not sure "unschooling not working" should lead to  "I am going to enrol him in school".


How about a more structured form of homeschooling if USing is not working for you?


There is, of course, a time when trying school is a good response but it is hard to know if that is the case without knowing why you were drawn to HSing in the first place.


good luck,



post #12 of 19

Six months hardly seems like anything.  If you feel happy with the school decision, then that's fine, but if you're just giving up because you think you're not doing it right, I think you should keep trying.  He's only kindergarden and you've got plenty of time to figure out what works and what doesn't.  Maybe you need to send him to school (and volunteer in the class) so you can see how simple it really is.  Volunteering in my son's class and seeing him stuck doing "busy work" or sitting and waiting for the other kids to get focused and just seeing how simple the work really was really helped me know I could do it.  I asked him what he wanted to do when we started homeschooling and he said "science experiments and building stuff."  So, that's what we did.  He's 10 now and starting to write emails and facebook, so he's more interested now in spelling/grammar. 


With my older son (the only one who ever went to PS), he's the easiest to get to do work.  He remembers how he used to get stomache aches every day before school and how hard it was to wake up and get there so early. My other kids don't know how good they have it, so they take it for granted more.  I have sat with them and told them that their education is their responsibility as well as mine and I will not keep them home without some participation.  For the most part, they get it. 


Either way, best wishes:)


post #13 of 19

Hi. Just wanted to mention that public school will not kill him. And you can take him out any time. I tried homeschooling (school at homing, really) for six months with my son in Kindergarten. He hated "learning" to read(Explode the Code workbooks still repulse him). So he went to a lovely kindergarten from February to May, where he was a star student and I think relished being away from me and my over-the-top HS ideals. Then he started 1st grade (we moved to CA) and I did not like the effect it had on him. He turned into a competitive, yet bored, little boy almost overnight. He constantly fought with his brother and was stressed out all the time(30:1 student teacher ratio). School is about "standing in line" he told me. And so I took him out after five weeks. Now we are unschooling. When I am starting to go crazy or when my son is going crazy, I remind myself to back off. My son can read, but I don't bother "teaching him to read". And suddenly he says, Mom, what does this last word say? over and over again all day long and is most importantly--HAPPY!!!


I would like to mention that video games and television make my son crabby and demanding, and so I limit that time. He is a member of our household and must treat us respectfully, just as we treat him. But we are the parents, and unschooling is not just letting your child run his own life while you burn yourself out trying to keep up! IMO, learning to be responsible, treat people well, and have a measure of self-regulation is part of "education". And sometimes learning to do that isn't "natural". A heavy reliance on video games and TV has not been a good fit for our family.


I wish you the best!

post #14 of 19

I know you are doing the ps route,but I just wanted to mention that I waited till my dd was 6 and started her with calvert via an online charter. My ds started ps at age 5 and it was a terrible experience. At 5 I would recommend more hands on lessons. Some things are fun to do and the kids don't even realize they have completed a lesson. Also at younger ages I found pc learning games to be useful.


Best wishes with ps!

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to give a little update. We're still considering the public school route, but things seem to be going better. DS is fighting learning a lot less and seems to be more interested in practicing things like reading and math. We've been focusing a lot more on science stuff, since he loves science. He and DH have been playing with an electricity kit and DS has also been doing a lot with a magic kit (which I totally think is a learning activity, it's tough!). My biggest worry is that our state has mandatory testing even for homeschoolers starting in 3rd grade, so there are certain things he MUST know by then, such as being at a grade-appropriate level for reading and math. That's why I want to make sure we focus on the things he has to know first and do the fun unschooling part after.

post #16 of 19

Mandy, it sounds like you're homeschooling but not unschooling. Unschooling isn't about doing fun-yet-educational stuff after you've completed your math and reading assignments, it's a whole educational paradigm of its own. Maybe you'd get more useful help and support if you post in the main Learning at Home and Beyond forum.

post #17 of 19

I just had to post that while I was reading this thread, I looked away many times to interact with my very sleepy baby. One of those times, my eyes tracked back, and my brain registered


fun unschooling


as "funschooling." Lol. I thought that was awesome. :D

post #18 of 19
Originally Posted by minkajane View Post

Just wanted to give a little update. We're still considering the public school route, but things seem to be going better. DS is fighting learning a lot less and seems to be more interested in practicing things like reading and math. We've been focusing a lot more on science stuff, since he loves science. He and DH have been playing with an electricity kit and DS has also been doing a lot with a magic kit (which I totally think is a learning activity, it's tough!). My biggest worry is that our state has mandatory testing even for homeschoolers starting in 3rd grade, so there are certain things he MUST know by then, such as being at a grade-appropriate level for reading and math. That's why I want to make sure we focus on the things he has to know first and do the fun unschooling part after.

You may be overestimating how challenging the standardized tests are.  My ds didn't really begin to read until the beginning of third grade, as in he had a few dozen sight words at the beginning of the year.  He did no formal math.  He still did fine on his first standardized 3rd grade test in the spring.  The vocabulary was a breeze.  Grammar was just a matter of picking which verb tense or pronoun sounded right.  I gave him a quick little talk about when to capitalize letters, something he didn't really know.  He did ok with punctuation (when to use periods, question marks, and exclamation points but trouble with when to use commas and apostrophes).  The math wasn't impossible although there were some things he didn't know.  He wasn't used to math equations being written in different formats, vertically vs horizontally.  Seriously, you could probably do nothing special until third grade and order a test to practice just to get test taking experience, and see if any specific topics needed a quick explanation and do fine.  I think for Ohio, your ds needs to score in the 25%.

post #19 of 19

If your son is only five, I wouldn't be worried about testing that doesn't happen until he's in third grade. Just have fun with him. The little ones are fun to teach. We played store: got a bunch of little erasers shaped like ice cream cones, gingerbread men, flowers, and so forth. I added about forty or fifty pennies. I was the supplier to the kids' store. They paid me for supplies. Then I was the customer and bought stuff from them. Then they had to replenish their supplies and I became the supplier again. They loved it.


We read The Boxcar Children when they were little, then we found plastic pint size milk containers that looked just like the quart milk bottles did in the old days. We took that and some bread and went walking in the dark. There were four of us so I pretended to be the oldest boy, my girls were the daughters (dd#2 even had a little sewing bag like Violet in the story) and ds was Benny. DS didn't really get what the walking around at night was for and was a bit afraid (of coyotes, I think - we lived in a sparsely populated area at the time), but we still had fun. After we walked around a bit, we came home and slept outside on a mattress we had set up outside.


You can go to national or state parks, kids museums, visit a bakery (call first), anything your area offers, you can do. There were times when my kids didn't think they were "doing school" - I tried homeschooling with lessons and such, but that never lasted too long. Yet, I was very afraid, socially, of truly unschooling - plus we didn't have many resources. You can do great with your child as long as you forget the way you were "brainwashed" to believe it "should" be (I'm still fighting that issue myself.)


I also let them go to public school if they wanted to and I took them out if they wanted it. I did ban my younger dd from ps when she was eleven. She refused to go to ps (running away instead of getting on the bus) and she was violent toward her family when she did go to ps (she told me a few days ago that she counted up her total ps time and it was ten months), so whenever she wanted to return or one of her friends tried to get me to send her to ps, my reply was, "I like myself too much to send her there." She is 17 tomorrow and does her own schooling.


My son (14) is a source of frustration to me because of being on games and fb "all the time" so I really appreciated UnschoolnMa's comments (even though this isn't my thread). Perhaps he is learning after all. (I did make the mistake of complaining to an older-than-me couple who were immediately supportive of sending him to a charter/public school. When I told the husband later that I'd talked to ds and he didn't want to go, the husband pointed out that I was the parent and it was my decision, not the child's. I didn't bother to point out that, yeah, in our family, the ps scene 99% of the time has been the child's choice.)


I think I'll hang out in the unschooling forum and see what I can glean.

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