Originally Posted by HerthElde
I believe in the "philosophy" of unschooling and that there are many methods that can be used to unschool. Dd may enjoy doing workbooks and having a somewhat structured curriculum or she may not. Either way, we'd still be unschooling as we'd be following her lead, kwim?
I don't think being unstructured is what defines unschooling. I'm written before about Rain's theatrical endeavors, and at times we've been really tightly structured - to the minute - in order to get her to all of her rehearsals and performances, and me to my work, and then to fit in classes, pet care, and social stuff.
Still, I think it's too easy for parents to interpret children's desires as wanting a "structured curriculum" when really there are many other things that would fill the child's need. CityMomx3's recent thread about her daughter asking for structure illustrated this well.
Sometimes, what children are looking for is *knowledge* about what to expect in their day, rather than wanting *direction* in their day. Rain liked (and still liked) to hear the "Plan for the Day" every evening, and she figured out calendars when she was really young because she liked being able to know what was coming up. We put whatever we needed to schedule on the calendar, from "dance class" to "play Midnight Party tonight". The things is, we both made the calendar, and we agreed on what was on it.
Other times, the way a parent responds to a child can be shaped by her preconceived ideas about education and learning, and those in turn can shape the child's education. I find it more useful to ask in these situations, rather than tell. Almost every kid tells a parent, at one time or another, "I want to learn to read." One parent will respond by purchasing Hooked on Phonics, or 100 Easy Lessons, and begin working through them with the child. The child may not really want to do all of these things... but he may also enjoy the undivided time with mom, or he may pick up on mom's pleasure in his growing reading skills... so he does them, fairly agreeably. Mom thinks the child is "asking for" structured reading lessons, and so continues.
Some children, of course, will decide this is all a pile of hooey and decide to read later, but a good percentage will continue on... not because they really want to read so much, but because this whole process has no been set into motion. And most 3 year olds will learn to read, with enough instruction. They may now be fluent, but they'll be able to read. If Mom knows only one paradigm for learning things, and thinks this is clearly natural and right, and even "unschooling". Later, when child wants to know other things, she'll use the same techniques. At some point, what the child wanted will cease to be the impetus behind the whole process, and the mother will decide that unschooling didn't work for her child, because he preferred "structured learning".
Another parent (especially one who has unschooled for a while) might respond to, "I want to learn to read" with, "Okay, what do you want to read?" If asked, she'll tell the child what a certain book or word says, and maybe offer to write a few words on cards for the child to have. She might talk about some basic letter sounds - "Words that start with 's' begin like this: /s/" - and give some examples. She'd talk about it with the child for as long as he seemed interested, and that would be it. The next time he brought it up - an hour later, 3 years later - she'd ask some more, and they'd talk some more.
She would be equally attentive if the child asked "Where does paprika come from?" or "How do you make brownies?"
Rain had workbooks and some 'reading' computer games when she was little, and she used them, sometimes... she preferred to mess up on the games rather than to play them the right way (she still plays games this way), but it wasn't anti-unschooling to get them... as long as they're not treated like something special, something "better" to do with her time than play playmobil or ride her bike. They're just there...
One thing to remember is that most of us were schooled... and so we tend to think of learning and schooling as being related. Even people who learned a lot outside of school (which isn't unschooling; all schooled kids learn some things outside of school) tend to have a school-mindset about the 3R's, at very least, and often about other things. We're having to guard against this, because we're programmed to think this way. Our kids also get these messages... kids who have been in school or schooled at home have to deal with them, of course, but other kids get them from the media, from friends, from books, and from family... and as primary caregivers, parents are often the primary conduit.