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Unschooling > unschooling
moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 05:00 PM 12-28-2003
Originally posted by morsan
For you unschoolers, how do your kids start to show an interest in something? Is it mainly what the parents are involved in, or do many of you introduce things that you feel would be fun for your kids?
In our family it's about half and half... half things the parents are interested in, half tangents that fly off in new directions. My kids are heavily into music, and that's definitely something I'm a SME (subject matter expert) in. But they're developing interests in composing, and that's a tangent I've never really explored. They're history and mythology nuts, and while my husband has a bit of interest in modern history, they've focused mostly on ancient and medieval times. I've learned tons, following in their wake as they've travelled this web of knowledge.

Where it starts? Well, our experience is very similar to Dar's.

Sometimes it starts with a library book, or a page in an encyclopedia, or with a video, or a question about gravity or world events, or a game or computer program, or a discussion about why one part of the world is the way it is, or with a chance experience or a friend who has a passion for something. There's initial exposure, and then evidence that the child's interest has been aroused, and sometimes it just goes somewhere... they can't seem to get enough. A tiny spark, a tiny flame kindled, leads to a raging fire of passion.

For instance, I trace my kids' deep and abiding love of ancient and medieval history and lore to the sale copy of "Age of Empires II" I picked up 2 years ago when we were on holiday and it was pouring rain and cold and I needed something to throw on the laptop to amuse them for a couple of days. From there it was history books, alchemy lore, picture books, Joan of Arc, Nova shows about medieval ballistics, Playmobil castle stuff, historical novels, illuminated manuscripts, chivalry, mythological bestiaries, ancient history and mythology, Egyptology, hieroglyphics and the history of written language, costumes, pyramids, ballistics constructions and experiments, and tons more. Looking back now, it's huge, but it was just one little path on the web followed after another and another and another.....


nomadmom's Avatar nomadmom 07:57 PM 12-28-2003
Just about any experience potentially can spark an interest. When my ds was 5, he watched the movie "Twister" w/ my dad. That led to a 4-year obsession w/ weather and natural disasters. He read and watched anything he could get his hands on and conducted his own experiments. He was completely absorbed. Then, somehow, his interest faded. He had learned everything he wanted to know (and believe me, he learned a lot!) and has moved on. Last summer he started taking karate lessons (suggested by dh, who was seriously into martial arts in his teens/twenties). Ds has discovered a new passion, and also has become interested in learning Japanese.

When dd was 3, we watched the 2000 Olympic gymnastics competition together. She began flipping and spinning all over the house, so I asked her if she wanted to take gymnastics lessons. She tried it and loved it and is still going strong. She also fell in love w/ ballet when I took her to the Nutcracker at age 2, but she said she'd be too shy to dance in front of people. So, instead of lessons, she continues to enjoy it as a spectator.

Sometimes necessity can spark an interest. Ds is a very early riser and I'm, well, not! One morning he discovered that there was nothing to eat that didn't require cooking, so he decided it was time to learn. Now he cooks breakfast all the time for himself, and even dd sometimes. I wonder what would spark an interest in washing the dishes...:

I think that an unschooling parent needs to offer lots of opportunities for kids to get out and about in their world, and to try really hard to find ways for them to be exposed to the things they express interest in. Also, it's important to remember that it's o.k. if you invest (time/money/energy) in something and one day your child loses interest. Every experience enriches them, but you have to let the experience be *theirs*, not yours! It's hard, and it can be frustrating, especially if you find that your child has a talent but is not interested in pursuing it. To me, the beauty of unschooling is seeing the *joy* of a person free to do the things they love to do.
Kylix's Avatar Kylix 09:58 PM 12-28-2003
I'm eating this thread up!!! It's yummy. I decided a loooong time ago that I wanted to unschool my kids--mainly because I was so disappointed with my own "education" in the public school system. I feel like I missed out on so much. I wish I could have forged my own path when I was still coming of age.

I recently read The Teenage Liberation Handbook and it was both empowering and heartbreaking at once. Empowering because it made me just so cognizant of how the teenage years (and childhood years) should be full of "unschooling" opportunities. To follow one's interests with such intense passion and with all one's time and soul. Not to be burdened with busy work and the monotonous 8 hours of school which for me was nothing more than socializing and being cruel to one another.

Heartbreaking because I feel like I missed out on truly finding myself through my own interests, ya know?

Oy, I've turned this post into a post about me again. :

Anyways, learning about unschooling and wanting it for my kids and enlightened me about my own past and motivated me to follow my interests, passions and dreams fully in the future and not to let my time be clouded with unnecessities governed by the "authorities" or "experts".

I unschooling. Keep the personal stories and advice coming ladies!!

tricia80's Avatar tricia80 10:41 PM 12-28-2003
This thread has been full of advice and links that im glad i got to see.... i have dd who is 5 yrs old in public school.... im thinking of starting to unschool....

her passions right now is music and art.... her teacher has issues with her cuz my daughter isnt too interested in learning to do colors and letters.... she knows her colors but refuses to tell her teacher.... but meanwhile she can paint, draw, and work with play dough for hours.... and loves listening to music on the radio and memorizes some of the songs on my cds...

she seems to be a more hands on learning type of kid...and the school dont like it... i dunno know...but definately keep the links and advice coming.... im reading all of them....
SagMom's Avatar SagMom 11:47 PM 12-28-2003
Originally posted by morsan
... how do your kids start to show an interest in something?
How do YOU start to show an interest in something?

I've found it's no different for our kids. Adults (usually) are not told what to learn about, yet we're all still learning.
ANYTHING can spark an interest in something new...a conversation, a movie, something seen on-line or read in a book, a trip to the store or park or beach....you never know.

The trick is to not judge a child's interests as being worthy of investigating or not. If you think in terms of "subject areas" it's easy to discount things like... finger-knitting... as having no educational value. But of course, it's ALL worthwhile.
morsan's Avatar morsan 06:21 PM 01-06-2004
Joan, thanks for showing me the simple way and thanks to you others. I like to hear about different situations just to get a feel for how it can be like. It's always more comfortable going into something when you have witnessed it being done before (although every situation is unique). I know there's an unschooling group where I'll be moving so hope I can get some first-hand observation.
Right now I feel so happy about coming across Holt's book (and all the other ones leading up to it). It feels like a true blessing. I'm sad I didn't get to experience it myself when it was crucial in my life, sad to see opportunities come and just go for no reason (boredom maybe from being force-fed "knowledge"). I used to love drawing, playing theatre, writing poetry, dancing. But it all faded into nothing because if you're not the best it isn't worth it. Or so they taught me. At least I have decided to stop looking for knowledge in a school setting. I'm constantly looking for more things to learn, I have always loved learning and now finally it's getting exciting because I'm my own master. I want ds to feel this even as a young "school-age" child.
I do believe that his interest will spark naturally. The times I have doubt is when my old school-brain is at work. I'm so used to having people tell me what I should be interested in. And you end up loosing interest in everything. At least I did. I just want to be able to respond in a healthy manner. I also want to treat all learning equally. That learning to read is no "better" than learning to cook. So I won't act accordingly. I want the "mundane" to be ímportant as well.
SagMom's Avatar SagMom 10:06 PM 01-06-2004
Originally posted by morsan
I'm sad I didn't get to experience it myself when it was crucial in my life, sad to see opportunities come and just go for no reason
I hear you. I, too, wonder what my life would have been like if I'd had the chance to unschool.

But it all faded into nothing because if you're not the best it isn't worth it. Or so they taught me.

My dd has this friend. She goes to ps. Yesterday she was over and commented on how much she and my dd have in common, except that "Your daughter is smart and I'm not." I was so surprised that, I asked her why she said that. She replied, "Because I don't do good on tests." Now, dd doesn't take tests, so this friend's judgement of her intelligence was based only their conversations, yet she was judging HERSELF only by the school's tests. I found it very, very sad.

I'm constantly looking for more things to learn, I have always loved learning and now finally it's getting exciting because I'm my own master.

Isn't it fun!? I find that I'm trying more new things since my kids have been unschooling. Growing up, it seemed that adults would stress to me that things were important to learn because of what you could do with that knowledge later. If it didn't help you to get a job, it was deemed useless.

The times I have doubt is when my old school-brain is at work.

Yeah, that still happens to me. Coming here and reading/writing helps me to secure my beliefs/philosophy, iron out what's important, put things in perspective, and counter school-thought.
barbara's Avatar barbara 03:54 PM 01-10-2004
Greetings unschooling ladies,
My computer has been down over the holidays and I missed the start of this thread. I want to get in on the conversation! I'm going to go back and read it before adding my 2 cents, but don't have time now, just wanted to say hi...

morsan's Avatar morsan 04:38 PM 01-10-2004
Joan- That iIS so sad about your daughter's friend. I feel such sadness for all those kids in public scchools. Yesterday I was passing by my old high-school and looked and thought "I can't believe they (teachers etc) can go on doing the horrible things they did to me, to these young adults". As I'm reading Holt's books as well as Pierce's book Magical Child I feel such anger and hopelessness. I want everyone to be able to experience learning as wonderfully as it was designed to be.
The other day I was talking ot my 15-year old brother who was dreading going back to school again. He said it was all so pointless, learning the same things over and over. I told him that ds would never be sent to school and he just couldn't believe it! There's not alot of talk about homeschooling here in Sweden (good thing we're moving back). He said "why couldn't you be my mom?". Since I was ten when he was born I remember how he was growing up. He was so eager to learn, exploring with all his senses, and when he started to school it all went away. He's always stressed about what he's not able to do- getting good grades. He's shown me some great thinsg he did in wood, just beautiful things he loved to make. He only got a C because the teacher doesn't like his attitude, that he asks too many questions while making his wood art. How horrible to be judged this way.

Yes, learning is and should be fun. Although ds is still fairly young I try to make a point not to value his experiences, so that he can take in every aspect of each new encounter with somethin/someone unknown. I find that it's difficult, but I know that I'm here for a reason and that I can do it. I'm unlearning and learning at the same time.
barbara's Avatar barbara 04:57 PM 01-10-2004
Children do not resist learning, but they may resist *teaching*!
Good point! Dh has been home sick this week and he keeps trying to get dd to read to him.....she is clever and knows when he really wants to listen to a story and when he is trying to "teach" her something. OTOH, she loved doing math problems with him because it is a love of his and he has so much fun coming up with them for her, and figuring out hers.

I remember when my son was young he was an intense soccer player. His love for soccer led him, and the rest of us as well, on lots of interesting learning quests. To this day (he's married and a daddy now) he can still tell you what the flag of every country that has a soccer team looks like.

Because of interests of various children we have all been enriched by their quest for information on the subject of interest. It works the other way around too....when I get interested and involved in something my kids will often pick up on some part of it too. I love to crochet and weave, so all of my kids have persued this to some extent. Most lost interest but my 13yo dd has branched off into custom designs of her own. She has commissions for purses, scarves and hats from her older siblings college friends now. The same with music which is my dh's passion....all of the kids have persued music and some have become very accomplished.

It is a wonderful journey this unschooling thing.
raleigh_mom's Avatar raleigh_mom 10:56 PM 01-11-2004
Hi everyone! I love this discussion. My oldest is just preschool age, but I guess we home-preschool, and I plan on homeschooling or unschooling as they get older. I keep wondering though... what's the catch? I love the idea of unschooling. I think my kids would love it too. (or homeschooling) But it just seems too easy. Knowing myself, I will worry periodically about what I might not be teaching them. Other than that, it almost seems too fun and easy. Is it too good to be true? Am I missing something? Is there a catch?
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