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Help with deschooling/unschooling

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ok, here it goes-hope this is not too scattered;
I have two boys, ages 7 and 9, (also a 3 year old daughter and newborn son). We have "homeschooled" from the beginning, mostly a mix of whatever looked fun to ME. I have only used books for math, and not surprisingly, my boys dislike math the most! They love science and will spend hours mixing vinegar and baking soda and wrapping copper wires around batteries, etc. They read mostly every day, but usually only after my suggestion. I need help with having the confidence to know that my kids will learn math without the books, also, help handling outsiders (other family members) questions. I am trying to follow my heart and not society's rules and just need a little confidence boost here-thanks!
post #2 of 13
Hi Michelle,

I've been going through a similar transition for the past three months with my 9 and 7 year olds. Someone gave me the advice to write down what my kids are doing each day, and over time I would see that they are learning everything they need to in their own time. This has been helpful to me, and in fact, just last week I stopped recording their activities because it had become so clear to me that they really are learning all the time. I don't feel I need it anymore.

We had been doing just an hour or so 4 days a week of basic math, grammar, writing. Now, we're not doing any of that in an organized way - just living life and following our interests

I find that several times a week, I have an irrational impulse to throw some workbooks in front of them, but I resist, realize it's my own conditioning, and then I just observe what my kids are actually doing. Then I come to my senses and realize they are just fine.

I'm also re-reading The Teenage Liberation Handbook revised edition to remind myself about all the wonderful things uschooled teenagers and young adults are doing with their very creative lives. Quite a few of the children quoted or described in the book are 12 years old, and I can hardly believe how quickly my own son will be that age! He'll be 10 in September and is already changing so much. Dropping the little bit of "basics" everyday has freed him up so much that his creativity and joy is soaring even more than it was before.

My daughter - 7, just left her private alternative school 3 months ago today (This is the second year of homeschooling for our son - we let them choose school or homeschool 2 years ago). She is also thriving, and I'm so happy we made this choice.

As far as other people's questions - I don't tell anyone "how" we are homeschooling. Occasionally someone will ask a specific question about how we do math, and I say we measure things, play math oriented games like Monopoly, Life, chess, we do science projects that involve math, etc. I personally don't think it's anyone else's business how we are doing what we're doing. I don't think I need to inform anyone specifically, even family members, that now we are unschooling rather than homeschooling. I just describe what we actually do, rather than get into a philosophical discussion, and this seems to be O.K.

Most schools like to brag about their "hands on curriculum" anyway. Our neighborhood public school even has an artistic little sign planted among the flowers in their "life lab garden" which says "Hands On Curriculum." Our daughter's private school bragged in their advertising about their "Hands On Curriculum." So - now we are doing "Hands On Curriculum" all the time! Only we are doing it better, and more thoroughly than either the "best" public school in our county, and the expensive alternative private school!

Maybe you and I can hold hands through cyber-space and support each other when we feel insecure about our new unschooling adventures

post #3 of 13
My boys are 5 and 7, and let me first say that they are not geniuses. We have not used books for math, and they are learning it anyway, on their own. Really and truly. They are probably not at "grade level" but that doesn't concern me as long as they 1) don't learn to hate it and 2) are making connections that will make later learning easy and fast. Consider this: when they are allowed to learn in their own way and in their own time, they will choose to do it only when it is valuable to them, therefore it *will* be valuable to them. Schooled kids learn math devoid of context and interest, so the value is not inherently there for them, and it does not stick. Nor is the deep understanding -- when you "get" something, you don't have to have it drilled into you day after day. The only reason anybody needs to repeat the same damn exercises over and over and over and over is because there is no deep understanding of it, and therefore the only way it will "stick" is to make them so superficially familiar with the symbols and rules that they can't any longer forget. But what is that worth? Worse than nothing, because they will learn that that is the way math is learned, and eventually that's not enough. That will take you through basic math, just barely, but not through higher math.

So my advice about math is allow it to become as natural to them as learning to speak or eat or breathe. Imagine if someone tried to teach that, how difficult it would make it. But there does have to be some exposure, some immersion. We have to hear speech to learn how to speak. So slip math into everyday conversation when it's appropriate (that is, when it seems natural, a part of everyday life, to do so, for instance, in comparing prices when shopping.) Have mathematical games and building sets around, stuff like that.
post #4 of 13
just yesterday we were doing things during setting the table....4 plates, 4 forks, 4 napkins...that 4, 3 times, 4*3=
its easy to do all the time. I think its funny that math is where many people get nervous. Between an abaccus and life my 6 year old is wanting to figure out multipication. I 'caught' her figuring out her age in dog years!
Math is everywhere, where is the history, that what I want to know!!!
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Oh, wow! I thank you all so much for your encouragement and words of wisdom-I have recently started to journal "light bulb moments" that my kids have had and I can see how much happier they are now that math is done for the year. I am just going to let them live and fill their world with what interests them! I am so glad to have found this board-it's like a weight has been lifted-no more hours pouring over flyers to decide what books to buy and forcing them on my guys. Thanks again!
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'd love to share the journey, especially since we have boys the same age. Zach will be 10 in October. Maybe they can penpal/email? Thanks for your support!
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Cool coincendence-I have 2 boys, 2 years apart, daughter, and just had baby boy-very close to same age differences on all! Enjoy them-four is a wonderful number of kids!
post #8 of 13
I'd love to share the journey, especially since we have boys the same age. Zach will be 10 in October. Maybe they can penpal/email? Thanks for your support!

Cool! Zane says he's never writing again as long as he lives (sigh) - school hangover - but having someone to communicate with online might inspire him! He could always dictate to me if he wanted to. Thanks for your support too.

post #9 of 13
Math is everywhere, where is the history, that what I want to know!!!

My son (9) and husband are outside making a giant catapult right now. This was my son's idea. Where do catapults come from? What are/were catapults used for? What different types of catapults have been used? etc. History!

Historical novels: My daughter (7) was really into the first few "Betsy-Tacy" books which were set in a very small town in the midwest at the turn of the 20th century. It was fun experiencing seeing a car for the first time through Betsy, Tacy and Tibs eyes, for example.

We recently finished reading "The Sign of the Beaver" with my son about a 13 year old boy who's family moves into Indian territory in the forests of Massachusetts in the 18th century. The boy's father has to leave him in their little log cabin by himself for several weeks while he goes back to town to pick up the mom and little sister. The boy is left for a long time, and meets a Native American man and boy who teach him skills he ends up needing in order to survive by himself. This book was so inspiring to my guy! He made his own bows and arrows for weeks during and after finishing this book, and has become quite a good archer!

What are some of the ways your kids have learned about history while unschooling?

post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by mom2zsel
I need help with having the confidence to know that my kids will learn math without the books, also, help handling outsiders (other family members) questions.
Here's my new response (and mind you, my child is 2 and a half years old--why are people worried about his algebra skills now? ):

Well-Meaning Adult: How will he learn MATH?? Like algebra and geometry?

Me: Hmmmm. Good question. Wait! Did you take advanced math in school?

WMA: Yes! Of course!

Me: Well perfect! You can teach him algebra and calculus and all that!

WMA: Well I don't remember much of it.

Me: Hmmmmm. So, maybe you didn't really need it to begin with, huh?

If people need it, they'll learn it. Once it's learned like that it's not likely to be forgotten.

If it's not relevant, what's the point? Most people don't use advanced math in their lives. I took Algebra I, Alegebra II, Geometry, Trig, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus. I passed all of them with grades of A, B, and an occassional C.

BUT, I just learned how to count back change a few years ago (my husband--who can divide fractions in his head--taught me). I still have to use my fingers sometimes for counting and I can't really figure out serving sizes and quantities when I grocery shop. That's the stuff I NEED to know. But, I choke. I am so afraid of math. I don't want my kid to fear a skill like that--so I won't be teaching him it. If he's interested, if he runs into something where he needs it......then we can use it just like any other tool in the toolbox. But, it won't be this big demon we have to slay just b/c everyone else in the world is doing it.
post #11 of 13
Thank you all for this thread! I feel so much better now. I pulled my daughter out of public school this past April because of numerous issues with the school. We started with bookwork and it was NOT working. So I started trying to teach from "life examples". She isn't learning at the speed the publuc school expects (is it just me or are their standards a lot higher than we were kids?) but she is learning at her own pace. I will try to bring in some bookwork, but not much next year.
post #12 of 13
Congratulations, DH! How old is your daughter?

One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can begin to let go of worrying about what they are supposed to know when, and just learn together.

I've known for a long time that my son does not learn the things in the order that school expects. In math, for example, he already knows certain concepts and how to do certain operations that he would be expected to learn two years from now. Other operations he would be expected to already know, and he doesn't yet. I've learned by observing him, that when he's ready to learn a new concept, he does it very quickly - much more quickly than he would be allowed to in school - but he may learn it a year or so after he would have been expected to in school. And really, what difference does it make if he learns long division when he's 9 or when he's 12?

I've been surprised to see that my daughter (7) is learning in the same way. When she left school 4 months ago, she had not yet learned to carry consistently in addition. Last week she asked me to show her how again. I did, and within 45 minutes she was adding two 7 digit numbers together with multiple carries. Just out of curiosity, I looked up this skill in the curriculum I still have sitting on a shelf (Singapore math). The curriculum doesn't cover adding large numbers like this until the 4th grade! So she went from 2nd grade addition to 4th grade addition in 45 minutes rather than 2 years. She was ready for it.

I'm not getting rid of our math workbooks, though, because sometimes the kids ask me how to do something mathematical, and I don't remember how. I like to have the books around so I can relearn all that stuff I've forgotten! LOL!

Enjoy your new life with your daughter!

post #13 of 13
I totally agree with the statement "If they need it , they will learn it". That is how we believe 100%. If it is in life and it is needed, or wanted, or wondered about... we can find it! If it isn't any of those things, then why on earth would we bother to care about it to begin with??

We totally unschool. My kids love math. It can be a language, a code, a game, and a tool.. but they don't fear it like I did growing up.. and that is wonderful beyond words! My son hates writing, but he can do it if its needed and he writes perfect emails and forum posts. We live in the real world, and we learn in the real world.. it has alot to teach us Kristi
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