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teaching reading and writing, is that still unschooling? - Page 2

post #21 of 32

I think it's important when you are trying to find friends, and support, to be able to know whether the other person practices or supports unschooling principles such as children's autonomy and respecting the child.

post #22 of 32
To be fair, I don't think that alternative (non-unschooling) educational practices preclude the parent respecting the chld and his or her autonomy. I also think it's possible to unschool while exerting parental control in other (non-educational) areas of family life.

Miranda
post #23 of 32
I think it's possible to have friends with a different style, as long as both sides respect the other's choices.
post #24 of 32

Very very interesting this discussion. Quick post before my family wakes up-its snowing here, which is like a once-every-other-year thing!

 

Two points. First off, re the coercion. No I don't think I'd ever coerce, even as a bottom line. I just don't think thats the right way to relate to others, to use the relatively greater economic, or, my god, physical power that I might have to make a smaller, less powerful person do things. I cannot say I have never used any kind of bribery or threats or what have you, and I'm not especially proud when I have, but these would have been in the toddler years, with kids who I couldn't (yet) reason with, and over pure safety life-and-death issues, and a last resort. And I still wonder if it was the right thing, I was a less experienced parent back then. But my aim is certainly no coercion, and I do think I mainly achieve it.

 

So what would I do if I was in a situation where I wanted my kid to learn something and they didn't want to learn? Well first off, I'd be talking with them, and talking with me, and trying to be very sure that I did consider this really important. I've certainly mellowed my ideas about what it is really important kids learn over the years, and especially have become far more confident in what they will pick up. But if I was in a potential stand off, where the kid didn't want to learn something and I truly wanted them to--say reading-then I'd take the onus on myself to create an incredibly exciting situation where they did really want to learn xyz. I did this with my son and reading-I taught him Latin, which gave him the decoding skills he needed, in a situation he excelled compared to his reading friends because he could understand Roman stuff (loads of Roman stuff round here) and created a situation where he was motivated to learn phonics so he could get the Latin. I've done similar with maths-taught programming, or introduced mechanics, etc. I am open about this, I don't do it by stealth, I am clear with the kids that I am trying to get them excited about a subject and they are free to refuse, certainly-that shows me that that isn't the route in for that child, right now. I guess I'd assume that if they weren't bothered about something I considered very exciting, then, generally, it was because they hadn't realised how exciting it was.

 

If I was completely unable to enthuse a kid then I think I'd conclude that they were not actually ready to learn something, I wouldn't get into a stand off. I honestly don't see much point in teaching an unwilling learner, I think you are then teaching them other unfortunate lessons, eg that learning is an unpleasant chore that you endure to get a sweetie or something. 

 

But the thing is, to me, this isn't unschooling. I think the difference is actually coming because I am (openly and honestly) manipulating their environment quite heavily at times to get the result I want. I am prepared to go all out to get a child interested in geometry, say, But for something I didn't consider important, I can't see myself doing this. I've never done it for art history, say, because I've never thought it especially important my 7-12 year old kids learn that and I honestly feel that if they never become interested in it their lives will not be substantially marred (apologies to art historians!). I guess I am also not really trusting that they will necessarily come to the stuff I see as important in their own time, I'm being very proactive and leaving nothing at all to chance, in those few areas I consider really important. Reading this back it does all sound a lot more contrived and structured than it is really, I must say. But I'm not sure how to explain it any better.

 

The other thing would be, I don't necessarily believe that my kids are, per se, able to make good judgments about what they want to learn at any given stage. I don't feel that they necessarily have the information they need to do this, which is why I do want my kids to learn certain things by certain ages. There are only a few things I do want my kids to learn and when they've done that they are free-as they are most of the time-to go off and learn what they want. I can't see me trying to enthuse a fourteen year old about what to learn. Its really these specific skills in these late-early years.

 

I'd actually say that the way I homeschool is closest to that Holt was looking at in his earlier years of looking at education, working in a school and trying to work out how to get kids motivated. How Children Learn / Fail , is full of it but What do I do Monday is basically a how-to of this approach. Whereas, by the mid seventies or so, he was criticical of the teacher who took his class to the airport and then got them making papier mache airport models. The activity didn't actually come from the kids, but was highly scaffolded by this teacher, though they loved it. Now while I'd never get a kid to make a papier mache airport model (if they were keen they could do it themselves) that broadly sounds like my approach to maths and reading.


Edited by Fillyjonk - 1/19/13 at 3:23am
post #25 of 32

Drawn by the theoretical angle of this question (practically, I agree with the others who say it doesn't matter what you call it, and it doesn't even matter whether it is unschooling) ... 

 

I think unschooling is something that happens in an unplanned way or on an subconscious level "all the time" or at unexpected and unplanned times.  ... it is not something I can say, today I am going to unschool the way we might say today I am going to make spaghetti.  You can say it but some very interesting "unschoolable moments" if you will, will take place completely unbeknownst to you.  In fact, your not knowing them helps to allow them to happen. 

 

I wanted to share what I wrote in an article What curriculum are you using?  "A prevailing misconception among homeschoolers is that there are those who follow curriculum and those who don’t."

 

I think each of us has an "inner curriculum" which serves as our guide no matter what is imposed from the outside - so even if we are in school, when our mind is wandering, when we are learning something tangential or maybe even opposite to what the teacher is teaching, we are following our inner curriculum.   I think unschooling also relates to things we "don't learn" ... or we get to see the unschooling at work in these areas ...  I have an example in Slow Learning

 

When we are aware of unschooling then we can open possibilities of learning that we don't necessarily recognize as learning.  What I mean is - when a child learns to read or count the same way we read and count, we will say, she has learned to read.  or he has learned to count.  but all the time before that, even when they were making things up or babbling in their own system, they were also learning, free from our teaching, free from our expectation, free from our recognition and reporting or checking off a list.  I have an example at  What is learning?

 

- Aravinda

post #26 of 32

I am subbing to remind myself to come back to this discussion. I am a radical unschooling mama, but I have to go, to give my son a ride to school! I will be back to explain this apparent contradiction. orngbiggrin.gif

post #27 of 32

I think unschooling is a philosophy, an attitude, more than a prescribed set of actions. My children learn what they want to learn, in the way that works best for them. YoungSon has decided he wants to attend public high school, 10th grade right now, and for us, that is still unschooling, in a way. It is entirely his project. I am happy to help and guide him, as I have always done. I wake him in the morning, give him a ride when my work schedule allows, and am available to help with homework if he wants. I remind him school is a "package deal" - if he wants to participate, he must abide by their dress code and rules, even if he feels they are silly and have little to do with his education. At any point, he can choose to quit. For him, the social aspects of this school, ability to be on the sports teams, and potential to earn a standard diploma are enough incentive to go along with the program. He has career goals that (he feels) might be made easier with a formal diploma, and has the right to pursue his goal, in his way.

 

BigGirl is still unschooled (at home, in a more traditional sense, 12th grade, I guess). She has decided that she needs structured help with math. We have hired a tutor, as my style doesn't meet her needs. Her goal is to pass the community college math placement tests, and this is how she wants to go about it. Enlisting a "professional" to teach a specific skill does not change our unschooling attitude, any more than asking a potter to teach us pottery would. Again, I help by paying the tutor, but it is entirely her project.
 

If it were me insisting that BigGirl needs more math before she enter college, that would be a major philosophical shift on my part, and no longer an unschooling approach. I don't much care what label we fall under, but I do feel strongly that children can determine their own learning. It would be more of a clash with my beliefs to insist that YoungSon may not attend school (and I have 100 reasons I could come up with!), than to support him in his choice.

 

Unschooling, for us, was basically a continuation of the style of learning of infancy and toddler stages. Babies don't need lessons or worksheets to learn to walk or talk, and those are skills arguably much more complex than reading and math. Motivation is innate. Other skills can be learned in the same way.

 

Oops - gotta run.

post #28 of 32

Yes, learning to walk and talk are the most difficult things a human being learns - and to think it all happens in the first few years of life! I think this offers the key to the philosophy behind unschooling. We learn to talk because we have a tremendous desire to communicate with others (think of Helen Keller's remarkable story) and we learn to walk because of the desire for mobility and freedom.  Freedom and communication are 2 powerful essences. The desire for essence is what motivates us.

 

I think it helps both the parent and child to identify the essence(s) that the child most desires at any particular time: it may be creativity, ease, community, service, peace, freedom, challenge, fun, etc. There are lots of essences.  The nice thing about focusing on the essence is that later in life the child will not be tempted to focus so much on the physical form of things. As we grow older we can forget that the only reason we want a physical "thing" is because of the essence, the feeling experience, we think it will bring to us. When we re-direct our energy back to the essence we desire, we'll find that there are many different forms that can bring that essence to us. It makes our lives a lot easier!  And ease rates near the top of my essence list!  

post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by carolaubrey View Post

Yes, learning to walk and talk are the most difficult things a human being learns - and to think it all happens in the first few years of life! I think this offers the key to the philosophy behind unschooling. We learn to talk because we have a tremendous desire to communicate with others (think of Helen Keller's remarkable story) and we learn to walk because of the desire for mobility and freedom.  Freedom and communication are 2 powerful essences. The desire for essence is what motivates us.

I think it helps both the parent and child to identify the essence(s) that the child most desires at any particular time: it may be creativity, ease, community, service, peace, freedom, challenge, fun, etc. There are lots of essences.  The nice thing about focusing on the essence is that later in life the child will not be tempted to focus so much on the physical form of things. As we grow older we can forget that the only reason we want a physical "thing" is because of the essence, the feeling experience, we think it will bring to us. When we re-direct our energy back to the essence we desire, we'll find that there are many different forms that can bring that essence to us. It makes our lives a lot easier!  And ease rates near the top of my essence list!  


This is interesting! Can you expand on the ideas for teens? My son is very determined to be a writer, and has no inclination to learn trig or calculus, even though he has the ability.
post #30 of 32

Sustainablility, independence and practicality are essences. I would probably put math under those, to start. Allowing a teen to be in charge of the family budget for a month, if he likes the idea, would no doubt bring to the surface the need for math, and how it can be fun and offer sustainability and freedom.

 

However, since he probably already knows basic math, and doesn't find advanced math juicy at this point in his life, and does find writing juicy, - well there you are! I think it's great when a teen has a direction - whatever it may be. I'd encourage it and provide as many opportunities as you can (like online sites that publish kids' writings). Teens need something to hang onto during what I consider, as a parent, the "I wish I could put my son in the freezer for the next 10 years and take him out when he's 25" stage. 

 

There are probably a lot of writers out there who don't know how to do trig or calculus. I'm one of them! 

post #31 of 32
Thread Starter 

I have to say I am amazed at the debate I opened up with my questions. I enjoyed reading what other Mommies think and I have to agree with the majority of you: labeling what we do isn't really what it's all about. Maybe I am looking for someone to tell me what I am doing is great, because I have many moments in my life when I don't feel like my kids are learning anything. And I really don't want them to grow up illiterate. Knowing how to read and write are the most important things to me. Basic math usually gets thrown in there as a prerequisite for everything else, but I really don't worry about math as much. Math is so logical that kids find out about it in daily life. Although I have heard of mothers with children who taught themselves how to read. I wonder what that would be like.

 

Anyways, I am grateful for all of your great posts. It really got me thinking about what we do and what we do it for. Letting kids be kids I think is one of the main concepts that drew me to unschooling, even though strictly speaking that is not what we do. It's hard not to follow the main crowd who wants their preschooler to be a good reader already. I have noticed that my four-year-old is just not ready for phonics, too, and I am letting it be for a while longer. I think I am just going to do reading with my 7-year-old and writing and then after that only more if the kids so desire. That would satisfy my need for them to learn to read by a certain age and also satisfy my desire to let them choose what they want to do.

post #32 of 32

Okay, I will tell you why I prefer labels and prefer people to use them correctly.  We are long time unschoolers, active in our homeschool community.  We have known hundreds of homeschool families, and have tons of close friends, who all homeschool.  We are the only unschoolers we know really, (within an hour of here) and certainly the only radical ones.  We love our homeschool friends, but man oh man, I get so bored when they all sit around talking about curriculum or complaining that their kids fight them during math or history or whatever.  I try to walk away before my eyes glass over.  ;)  

 

So, when a new family joins and says "we unschool", I get excited!  Until they start talking about the minimum 30 minutes of math and 1 hour of language arts that is mandatory, and how they unschool the rest of the time.  Which to me, if NOT unschooling.  My children are old enough now (11 & 14, plus a 2 year old) that they are also sick of hearing their friends complain about school work or get all excited because "today, I didn't have to do any homeschooling!" when we are at the park.  They also LOVE spending time with unschoolers, because it just feels so nice to not have to explain, to not have to sit there quietly during certain discussions, etc.  Their friends all say, "I wish I could unschool" but the parents don't.  Again, my kids just don't know what to say to that.  THey don't want to brag, and would just prefer to avoid those situations.  

 

I can't even tell you how many people I have met in our homeschool group who seek me out to talk to me about unschooling, and ask me a million questions and talk about how interested they are in unschooling and how much they want to do it, and then I spend all sorts of time and energy talking to them, and well, so far no one I know has ever started unschooling, but I sure have spent a ton of energy explaining it.  I tell myself that it's worth it, because perhaps this normalizes unschooling in peoples' minds, and as my children grow, when people hear they unschooled, it won't seem so foreign, or odd, and they will just nod and smile.  

 

Anyway, I can't tell you how many times I have wished that people wouldn't say they unschooled unless they really truly did, for everything.  I'm not mad at people who don't follow that ideal, but just figured you might want to know why someone might feel this way.  

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