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Setting boundaries and rules for the Unschooler

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've been reading more about this Unschooling thing and I really like the general philosophy of it all.

We are currently homeschooling our 10 (m) and 8 (f) children. We also have teenagers that go to public high-school.

My question is, how do you set boundaries or put in place rules with the Unschooled child? When kids are younger, it seems much simpler to have a child-led way of schooling but with the older child that has been to both public and homeschool, it seems to be much more difficult. My 10 year old would love nothing more then to spend all waking hours playing video games. We have lots of stuff in our house to do. Books by the dozens, educational as well as some fun board games, movies, crafts galore, gardening, pets, legos, cooking, etc etc etc... Not to mention a few out of house things we do.


Granted we have only been doing the recent homeschooling thing for about 3 months now, If left to their own devices they would rarely if even choose to do any "school" work.  And I do understand that the concept of "school" work for an unschooler can be extremely broad.

 

Any advice? What if your child never decides to do anything other then play video games all day?

How strict are some parents of unschoolers? How can I help and encourage my children to make "educational" choices? Is there a place for structure in the unschooling lifestyle?

 

post #2 of 8
I see homeschooling as a continuum. Some people do the radical, whole-life kind of unschooling - no limits on tv or computers, no bedtimes, no food limits, etc. Others homeschool as an educational philosophy only. Some people start off leaning in one direction and find that as their kids get older they shift. It's all okay.

You might feel more comfortable leaving your existing rules in place and just shifting to unschooling for education. You wouldn't require them to do any "schoolwork", but you also would restrict their access to tv or video games. I would expect them to spend a couple of weeks complaining that they're bored, but if you yourself have a busy life full of learning and you're willing to help provide them with resources and ideas for their own projects, I think they'll ultimately find their footing and take off with their own projects and ideas...
post #3 of 8

Given that you've only been homeschooling for 3 months, I'd say what you are noticing about your kids and their preferences is part of the whole de-schooling process. While even kids who have never been to school can have their phases where they appear to lack interest in anything, for the most part they are curious and self-motivated to learn and/or master whatever tickles their fancy at the time, or whatever they feel they need to attain a personal goal. To be as brief as possible (and therefore likely offend someone, lol) kids in school quickly lose their natural curiosity and drive to learn. The message they are sent is "what YOU would like to do with your time is not valued; you have to do this curriculum that we have decided is what you need to know", and "you need grownups (read: teachers) in order to learn". It's not long before they lose touch with their natural ability to learn. And, because they have no control over it, lose interest.

 

This is why most parents of schooled kids cannot conceive of unschooling working because they cannot conceive of a child who would willingly "do math" or study anything if left to their own devices. So all of this is to say that if you really want to unschool I think you should prepare for a period of deschooling that, for older kids who've been in school for years, might take up to 1 or 2 years before they fully trust that they are in charge of their learning, that they ARE capable of learning what they need to know without being forced to, and that they can make decisions for themselves about career and their future. 

 

If you truly want to embrace unschooling then the advice would be to deschool them and allow them to spend oodles of time playing video games if that's what they want when at home. OTOH, if the idea of this makes you cringe you can start out with a more structured approach to homeschooling and see if you can slowly lead your way to unschooling. This may take a lot longer, because IMHO unschooling only works when kids fully trust that they are in control of their learning, and that can't happen when decisions are made without their input (note this doesn't exclude structured learning, but only if the child is a willing participant in it). But it's also asking a lot if you have so much schooling experience under your belt (we often say that we adults need to be deschooled too!). 

 

HTH! :-)

 

 

 

post #4 of 8

Quote:
Originally Posted by roadfamily6now View Post

My question is, how do you set boundaries or put in place rules with the Unschooled child? 

 

 

Hi, unschooled kids ages 5 and 2 here.  We don't have boundaries or rules, but I am with them to help sort things out when conflict arises.  As far as what they want to do or eat or when they want to go to bed, we structure things to accommodate everyone's preferences.

 

Quote:

 My 10 year old would love nothing more then to spend all waking hours playing video games. 

 

You might like this story about kids and video games:

 

http://unschooledliving.blogspot.com/2008/05/learning-from-video-games.html

 

 

 

Quote:
If left to their own devices they would rarely if even choose to do any "school" work.  And I do understand that the concept of "school" work for an unschooler can be extremely broad.

 

Yeah, our concept is broad.  If we're breathing, we're learning.  :)

 

Quote:
How strict are some parents of unschoolers?  

 

In one sense, in the sense of what my kids eat and wear and when they go to bed, I couldn't be less strict.  However, I'm very strict about their treatment of others and each other.  If they are causing others harm or distress, I intervene and do the best I can to sort it out.

 

Quote:
Is there a place for structure in the unschooling lifestyle?

 

I believe there are as many definitions of unschooling as there are unschoolers.  In our case, I model certain structures that come naturally to me, and our family falls into those rhythms or patterns.  Toothbrushing, changing clothes, eating regularly--all those are repeated patterns that lend a kind of structure to our days.  

 

 

post #5 of 8

I am  a homeschool/unschooling mama of a 10 and 6 yr old. I say both because we go through phases of both. I noticed that you live in AK as well and I have noticed that Nov thru Feb is when we do what some would classify as schooling, i.e reading and multiplying, dividing, fractions, all of the conventional curriculum things. Mostly my 10 yr old daughter wants to be learning the same things as her homeschooled and public school friends that she sees in the summer months. We live fairly remote so we don't do much socializing during the winter months as we have to snowmachine to the homestead. That being said we have weeks of just learning through different books on the shelves, video's from the library and websites we find without any 'teaching" from the parentals, it's just what the kiddos have  decided to do to past their time. Both are very knowledgeable in many aspects of life. I enjoy this balance the most as it gives us the freedom to dive in head first when one announces that they want to learn everything available about... skies the limit because they want to be learning about whatever it is at that moment. At times when I feel like we're in a rut I take it upon myself to give some assignments of sorts, if anything to help break the monotony of winter. The rest of the months we barely even think about 'school" as we are out doing chores on the farm, growing plants, breeding animals and enjoying the sun.

I would be lying if I claimed to not worry sometimes about not having enough structure in their lives, enough discipline compared to other kids their ages but then I stop and remove my brain from being mama and see them for who they are and laugh because somehow in our freeballing chaos we are parenting 2 very real, whole people who know how to live and learn without being told how to.

 What I like about this unschooling forum and unschooling in general is that it allows your children to grow up as themselves, allows them to grow and nurture the gifts they inherited in any style that suits your families style. We are all so different in our day to day affairs but share a common faith in childrens ability to be good humans as well as productive members of life.

post #6 of 8

 

Reminds me of this page, heheh.

 

Quote:
Granted we have only been doing the recent homeschooling thing for about 3 months now, If left to their own devices they would rarely if even choose to do any "school" work.  And I do understand that the concept of "school" work for an unschooler can be extremely broad.

 

The way I see it, the whole point of unschooling is that "school" is not more valuable than non-"school" things, and therefore it is okay to rarely or never choose "school." That's why it's called "unschooling"; the "un" means "not."

 

I know some moms talk about video games the way they talk about heroin, but I don't see the problem. I started playing them when I was young because my parents played them, and they've enriched my life in so many ways. In fact, depending on the game, even my anti-unschooling mom counted playing them as fulfilling any homework requirements to read for a certain amount of time. I predict having to resist the urge to tell my kids, "Put that &*^#$*@ book down and go play a *&^#@*& video game, you lazy bum!!!" pinktongue.gif


Edited by Cyllya - 4/21/11 at 5:14pm
post #7 of 8

Screen time, and specifically gaming, is probably the hottest button in the unschooling world. People left our local group over this very subject.

 

Like prior posters, I also see unschooling as a spectrum.

 

For us, screen time is limited. Our son is allowed screen time during his little sister's nap. He can do documentary dvds, youtube, or family videos. Sometimes we'll let him watch at other times, though those times are rare (though if he's sick, he has complete access to screens.) He does have unlimited access to www.starfall.com. As he gets older, we'll possibly get something like www.time4learning.com and www.cosmeo.com. He will have pretty open access to those so we are holding off on getting subscriptions because we think 5 year olds need to spend a LOT of time playing and screen time limits their playtime. Unless video games have some sort of educational benefit (as we define it,) those will be limited for the next several years.  There will come an age when the kids will get to make those choices, but not for a long time--probably the teen years. Right now he has almost no access to video games. I just don't think he needs them. He needs to be outdoors playing in the dirt or doing crafts or puzzles or dress-up or bike riding or...

 

I would assume your kids are in the de-schooling phase and they may want to do a lot of vegging out. For me, though, video games would still be limited. Studies have shown video games truly are addictive. Just as I wouldn't let my kids sit around eating potato chips all day, I wouldn't let them do video games all day. Personally, I think potato chips and video games can both be fun in limited amounts, but to excess bad things can happen in your body.

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post

Screen time, and specifically gaming, is probably the hottest button in the unschooling world. 

 



My theory is that these things become so controversial when people insist on a "one size fits all" answer. 

 

Based on just the stories here over the years, clearly unlimited screen time doesn't work for all families. Just as I think sweeping judgements of video games don't help the discussion, neither does ignoring parents who are clearly struggling with this. Only the parents can decide if imposing limits has helped or hindered their children, and ultimately I think we all need to respect those decisions when they are made consciously and with the child's best interests at heart. 

 

I will say that because limiting screen time is the default/norm in our society, those who don't limit games feel they have a voice that is less often heard. Just as with cosleeping or unschooling or any other choice that questions society's default attitudes, those who don't limit games feel that this option is not explained well to parents. So perhaps we (okay, me!) come off a bit strong sometimes. :)

 

Personally, I think there are far less problems with kids and video games than we are all lead to believe. But who am I to tell a mother that she doesn't, in fact, have a problem in her home? Heck, my daughter would eat herself into an early grave if I provided her with unlimited access to sugar, and yet I know that many families allow their kids such access with no problems. We each parent the child we have, and "one size fits all" solutions are almost never applicable, IMNSHO. 

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