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"What do you want to learn about today?"

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I read a blog post of an unschooler describing their day, and in it she said she asks the kids "what do you want to learn about today?". I was surprised - to be honest, it has never occurred to me to ask that! Heh. I ask what his plans are for today, what he wants to do today, what should we do, etc. I know you need to know your kid(s), but I wonder about feeling pressure to perform? Do you ask your kids straight out like this?


Oh, here's the blog post:



post #2 of 7

I do include the question in the context of everything else.  "What do you want to do, where do you want to go, work on, explore, learn about.  It's sunny, should we ride bikes to our friend's?  Walk to see Armando the cow and give him a carrot?  Do you want to work on your X project."  BUT the question also accompanies "I have to get the laundry washed today, should I set up the ironing board for you today?"  "I need to bake bread, do you want to help?"  "I'm out in the chicken coop this morning, why don't you bundle up and come visit the chickieboodies with me. Would you like to put fresh hay in the nest boxes?"  "I need to plan for your family birthday party, do you want to help me?"  Or, "I have to do this X stuff and I'd like for you to be self-sufficient for an hour."


On other topics:  I didn't search around her whole site, but she can keep the computer off all day?  I would love that, but it would last 30 minutes on the best day ("Mom!  You turned the computer off!  I wanted to....")  She gives her focus to the kids' learning, while she does, what?  I admire that she seems to be putting so much energy into this instead of "sitting back and relaxing".  But where are the chores?  The cleaning of refrigerators and drains and the vacuuming?  (Possibly somewhere else, so I'll leave that be.)


I'm curious, and don't mean to be so critical based off one reading of one blog.  These were the thoughts that popped into my head.  It sounds a little like an open-ended "Project Based Unschooling" to me, an extreme of child-led *learning*, but on first reading, it doesn't sound like that other unschooling-- the melding of learning and life, so that the "learning" doesn't stand out as the most important, or often doesn't stand out at all.


Learning is important, as important as the other stuff, and I don't see anything wrong with asking "what do you want to learn today".  I like to see it in the company of all the other good things we could be doing in a day, or have to do, including "nothing."  And I can see where the question might unintentionally put pressure on kids, if the question stood out from all the others, and if there was judgment if the answer was ambiguous or the answer of "nothing particular" was unacceptable..

Edited by SweetSilver - 1/26/14 at 8:13am
post #3 of 7

My problem with asking "what do you want to learn about today?" is that there are a lot of things I need some lead time on, if we're going to dive into them, and also it seems like it's inviting them to pick a new project everyday, instead of perhaps continuing with what they were doing before, KWIM? 


It's different if you've got really little kids, I guess. Mine are older, and I want them to have a little continuity. Also I simply can't afford to support a new project everyday. 

post #4 of 7

To be fair, she doesn't say she always starts the day with that question. I suspect that she's put emphasis on that question to make the point that she sets aside the main portion of her day to support her children in what they want to do without judgement and without distraction. But if that question were the basis of their approach each morning, I'd characterize it as better-suited to a child-led learning style rather than an unschooling style. To me at the heart of unschooling is the lack of separation of learning from life, and a reliance on the fact that all things are interconnected and one will lead to another. 


Especially as kids get older there tends to be a certain intentionality to some of their learning. So I think some discussion of what their learning aspirations are is warranted. It allows them to articulate their goals and ideas, and me to support them better. Though I agree with onatightrope that generally more lead-time and a longer-term view is preferable. We have a Learning Plan meeting about once every 3 months to go over the longer-term intentional learning goals, to procure resources as needed, to flesh out any structure they would like.


I tend to ask my kids "what do you want to do today?" and not imply any particular preference for things whose primary aim is learning. Many of the things my kids want to do aren't really about learning. If my 11-year-old wants to organize the books in her room, or bake banana bread, or go for a ski, or do a stretching and conditioning workout, or read the last half of a novel, or get her brother to show her how to back up and then migrate her iTunes library, she's not thinking about learning, even though those pursuits are all likely going to be full of learning. She's thinking about living an interesting life and getting things done. Learning will spring from those pursuits, and some of that learning will likely lead to other learning that wasn't planned or anticipated. 



post #5 of 7

to me, I have to say, I read that blog and I think, yeah, what she does is great, it seems to make them happy, and I strongly believe in families doing what is right for them and to heck with the labels, but...


Its not unschooling, to me. 


The whole focus on learning-actually the whole focus on the kids and their projects, just does not feel like unschooling. 


Saying "what do you want to learn today", to me, carries with it an expectation that the kids will want to do something that I recognise as learning. It takes away the choice not to do anything that seems recognisably learning. And yes we can have a discussion about whether its possible to not learn but my question would be, if the kids said, "I want to spend the day getting to level 37 of X video game"-would that be considered a reasonable choice? 


If kids don't have the option of not learning, if the expectation is that they will learn something discrete (ie, they have a straightforward and acceptable answer to the question "What do you want to learn today" then that is not unschooling in my book. It can be excellent, productive, sensitive homeschooling, probably child led. It can be absolutely the right choice for some families, especially where, practically, you have limited time and need to schedule quite tightly, or where you have kids who appreciate such approaches. But, in my view, its just not unschooling.


It does seem a bit intense and quite exhausting to me, all that having wholesome fun seems a bit tiring really, but if it works for them, no criticism. None of my kids would actually appreciate me phrasing a question as "what do you want to learn today?". "I have a lot to do, so could you let me know if you have anything you need me to get ready/out for you" or "We have an hour , just you and me, later. Is there anything you'd really like to do?" = good. "List your learning objectives for the day" would nOT go down well, even with my middle kid who loves to play schools and loves workbooks and working gradually through the grades and so on.


Just as cake and ice cream are both quite different things but both very nice things and both very valid choices for a desert, so this is a totally valid way to homeschool. Its just, IMO, not unschooling. Just as cake is not ice cream.

post #6 of 7

All this talk about cake and ice cream is making me want to spoil my dinner...... :yum

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Sorry for dropping this question and running - I'm not very good at posting on forums consistently! Thanks for putting into words what I was feeling - all your lovely responses pretty much mirrored what I was feeling. :)

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