I can't necessarily compared the two as I've not experienced both, but I can tell you my daughter does not want for inspiration at all. I often say life is an all-you-can-eat buffet of learning to her and she never leaves the buffet line. ;) S works on a variety of interesting projects and comes up with many grand schemes, games, and project ideas on her own. I also spend a good deal of time with her so that she can bounce ideas off me while I ask questions to encourage her to think as opposed to giving her answers out right. I like to keep a list of Bloom's Taxonomy verbs and unschooling principles ideas to guide me in answering questions and providing additional challenge in a way that fosters learning and exploration and provides guidance as opposed to authority, if that makes sense. I have found that I have to be careful to not become overzealous with offering ideas while running with a topic she has expressed interest in. I tend to suffer from "inspiration overload" and in the past have killed some of her interests before coming to understand my zeal and excitement was detrimental to her learning process. I needed to learn how to hang back and be more friend, fellow traveler & mentor and less super excitable mommy.
I also strive to assure my daughter has access to other people to guide and challenge her and serve as people she can go to for brainstorming assistance. Some of these people are her same age friends and some are peers a few years older. She and her friends often take up interesting project work together, along with their free play. Using playsilks to craft parachutes and experiment with how these parachutes could be made to fall in different ways was a recent project shared with a friend. I have quite a few childless friends who enjoy sharing links, books, articles, and whatnot with my daughter and have exposed her to various topics and interests, often indirectly by sharing around our dining table or over coffee their passions and work. My daughter is also fortunate to have several adults in the community who are very supportive of our educational ventures and are always willing to answer her questions and provide ideas about how or where she might be able to investigate a topic of her interest further; all done in a respectful and affirming way to her. I've found her to draw immense inspiration simply from being with interesting people of all ages. Nobody necessarily guides her so much as shares themselves and she quickly runs with some new idea or concept she has heard about. The same with magazines, books, and other media and simply life itself. Inspiration is everywhere whether a child has siblings or not.
Some of her projects and activities over the past week:
- This afternoon S spent several hours turning a simple cardboard box into a fruit vending machine. At first she was simply working on the box with her wooden play tools but eventually took out her real tools and markers and drew spaces she desired to be cut out with adult assistance. After the spaces were cut out, she spent a considerable amount of time decorating the machine with buttons, advertisements, and prices. S then decided to utilize metal cooking spoons, a bungee cord, and some other items to craft a mechanism for distributing the fruit to vending machine customers. After completing the device, she realized she would need an opening to get inside the machine to serve as the motor and requested help with cutting a door on the side of the machine. Just as we thought she was done, two more boxes were added to the project to serve as security devices because the last time S used a vending machine was at the airport past the security checkpoint. I believe the entire process took four hours from start to grand opening and then another hour of playing with customers and procuring fruit from the "supply store" set up on the bakers rack in the kitchen.
- On Wednesday, S wrote a book titled "Out of Gas" which was about a family on a road trip whose plans changed dramatically when they found themselves in the middle of nowhere Midwest USA with no gas in the tank and no gas station in sight. They were forced to hitchhike for help and then had to wait in an odd little motel until their car could be roadworthy again. Not only did she write the story and make illustrations, but included copyright, dedication, author bio, and publishers logo demonstrating she has been devouring more than just the content of her favorite picture books.
- Thursday evening found us out & about to pick up a few groceries. While there S noticed boxes of pączkis in the bakery and asked what they were. I explained that pączkis are a Polish pastry often served in the late winter as part of Fat Tuesday celebrations. I also shared with her some of my memories of eating pączkis which were quite plentiful growing up not too far from a Polish community. We purchased a box and S added 'research Poland and Fat Tuesday foods" to our to do list for the next day. Not too long after the bakery discovery, we passed the pineapples causing S to recall a picture she had seen on one of my homeschooling Pinterest boards featuring a winter root view garden for winter nature study. The blogger took the top of a pineapple and placed it in water and grew the bitty beginnings of a pineapple plant. S helped me choose a pineapple and then added another project to the Friday to do list. She also requested we look up videos about how pineapples grow.
- For the entire week S was focused on a science project about the water cycle, including conducting two experiments--a water cycle in a bowl from Pinterest and one she designed herself to see what sort of water would evaporate the quickest. We took a trip to the library where S asked the librarion to help her find some good books on the water cycle, clouds, and all topics related to weather. Lucky for S, the weather was weird this week which meant she had an opportunity to observe all forms of precipitation firsthand, in addition to the observations inside from her two ongoing experiments.
- S's greatest passion in life right now is film-making. On an average week she'll produce two or three films complete with script and casting. This week was no exception with the big movie subjects being surprise birthday parties planned by dolls for other dolls. S then showed her creations to another filmmaking girl and her mother who we met through an unschooling website. The girls typically share and discuss their work either via email or skype on a weekly basis.
This is just a tiny glimpse of her work and inspirations for a week. She is always busy-busy-busy which keeps me on my toes answering questions, helping her locate the items she needs for this or that, running errands for more books, helping her research online, and on and on. I also take a plethora of pictures and keep an in-depth journal to document her work and discoveries.
My experience thus far has demonstrated to me that inspiration is inherent in the mind of a child and that many people can be partners in learning. I don't know if my (long-winded) response reassures you or adequately answers your question but I do hope it might help with some of your concerns. if you have any more questions, I am all ears...or eyes as the case may be. :)