Unschooling a herd... - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 22 Old 05-30-2010, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That is what it feels like some days.

Unschooling works for us. I can see the results. I have supportive family and a wonderfully supportive husband. Yet I get panic attacks that I am not "doing" enough. My reading has calmed me down a bit. Worry is normal.

Still... it would make me feel so much better if I knew this "worked" for larger families. I have read success stories but, the families usually have one or two kids...maybe three. I have four (8,5,3,10 mos). And who knows what the future holds... I am not opposed to having more children.

So.... can I do this?

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#2 of 22 Old 05-30-2010, 04:00 PM
 
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I'd think it'd actually work more easily for larger families. All that lovely natural learning by observing older siblings
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#3 of 22 Old 05-30-2010, 04:58 PM
 
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I have four and my friend/neighbour has 5. One year she had six, because her stepson was also with them. Lots of things are easier with a 'herd.' My kids entertain, inspire and push each other a lot. Much of the 'strewing' of interesting things happens in an inter-sibling way, rather than needing me to introduce ideas and opportunities. Many, but not all, of their interests are in similar directions, so I find there's a certain efficiency to feeding their interests. Lots of resources get passed on down the sibling chain. Some things are more fun to do as a group, and our family makes a group on its own. I think that "school at home" (which we have experimented with a bit) is more challenging to do with larger families than unschooling, because so much of the work needs to be individualized and planned out by the parent.

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#4 of 22 Old 05-30-2010, 05:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The Titanic has been super contagious in our household!

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#5 of 22 Old 05-30-2010, 06:09 PM
 
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We are not totally unschoolers but I agree that I think it would work well for large families. We have five and the more independent learning they can do the better.

None of mine are independent readers yet so we read a lot of books together on different subjects and then they have their reading, math, and writing lessons, each where they are at as far as level.

What I envision for the future is to give guidance in regards to developing basics communication skills and lists of books and media on topics that are important to our family and then letting them spend the bulk of their time on their own various projects.

I think that the burnout that many parents experience comes from trying to recreate the school environment at home. I don't think it works all that well in the schools to begin with but then when you bring it into the home and have kids at all different levels times 3, 4, or 10 kids, you are really setting up mom for a breakdown a some point.

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#6 of 22 Old 06-01-2010, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My previous observations:
small family (can) = unschool and larger families = homeschool with a curriculum.

It made me a little nervous.

I was talking with my husband and he was agreeing with your ideas. He said that probably most larger families are the kind that choose "school at home" NOT larger families do "school at home" because they have to. Sort of a chicken and the egg riddle I was looking at backwards.

Also I was thinking the more children you have, the more structured you have to become..... like institutionalized school. We can do things differently because we are a smaller group. But actually.... we are still a small group compared to 30 kids in a classroom (I can worry when my family gets that big - ha!) and we can learn differently because the setting is different. School vs family. Very different.

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#7 of 22 Old 06-01-2010, 12:32 PM
 
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I would think it would be easier to unschool a herd. I unschool one, but on all the days where I watch other kids...my day is much simpler because they all entertain each other so much. With a large family you're going to be busy no matter what. But I don't think unschooling is going to add to your homeschool stress at all.

I *think* a lot of big families that unschool and use a curriculum are religious. So it's important to them to do the religious centered curriculum's. I don't think it's because it's impossible to unschool a bigger family.

Since I only have one kid, hopefully I'm not way off base here. Best of luck to you.

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#8 of 22 Old 06-03-2010, 04:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think you may be right about the religious curriculum. We are catholic and we started out unschooling. Then I was drawn to a catholic curriculum. A feeling of belonging since we are not part of the local catholic school. I thought it would make our lives easier...I would not have to think so much. But... for the first time we were fighting over school. We never had that before. He just absorbed everything.

So know we are back to what was working and we unschool everything... especially religion.

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#9 of 22 Old 06-04-2010, 03:40 AM
 
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Of course you can do it! And besides they learn from us and each other so the more kids the more teachers right?! They may not learn things at the "right time" but they will.. Remember 2 heads are better than 1.. Then 5 must be better than 4 !! Good luck and keep you head up you are doing the right things and you know it!
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#10 of 22 Old 06-05-2010, 01:47 AM
 
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My children are just about the ages of yours. I completely agree that learning becomes contagious in a bigger family. I am sure that my now 5 y.o. taught herself to read at 4 because of her older sister. I don't know of too many other 5 and 8 y.o.s that hang out singing the libretto to Wicked together, either. I see how inspired my 3 y.o. is to read (and knows many of the Wicked lyrics as well). Ditto for whatever-- we watch a science show geared to 10-15 y.o.s and my 5 y.o. benefits . . .I think the older ones inspire the younger ones and sometimes vice versa.

In the short time (2 weeks?) we tried a more structured learning style, I felt it was more artificial all around. My younger children wanted to participate but it wasn't possible. By not separating learning and living, no one thinks a topic is too hard/not age appropriate. It's all about interest.

My 5 y.o. is choosing KG this coming year and I don't think she'll get nearly the academic challenge she would if she'd stay home, just through us'ing.

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#11 of 22 Old 06-06-2010, 11:11 PM
 
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We are a Catholic family and we plan on unschooling. our girls are 3 1/2 and 18 months now (and I'm pregnant with our third child). And I think I would like at least one more. I know a lot of unschoolers choose this path for other reasons, but I always viewed it as trying to treat my children with the same respect and reverence that God does, and it seemed the best way to give them the freedom to become who God created them to be, a little bit more free from all the societal and school pressures telling them who they should be. I really hope they can listen to that inner guidance and be the amazing people that they are! But yes, the religion thing did concern me at first, but then I figured that the best lessons wouldn't come from a text book, but from my example and just the witness of us experiencing every-day life together and having natural, spontaneous conversations about life, love, joy, disappointments, sorrow, excitement, and about God's place in all of that.
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#12 of 22 Old 06-08-2010, 04:45 PM
 
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Welcome to MDC! I am an unschooling Catholic mom of four. I like to fill in "directly and individually led by the Holy Spirit" in the line for "school" or "curriculum"--good fun.

I agree with various ages being able to participate in activities chosen by members of a larger family. Someone pulls out something interesting or starts a show and they all flock in...
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#13 of 22 Old 06-08-2010, 04:52 PM
 
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But yes, the religion thing did concern me at first, but then I figured that the best lessons wouldn't come from a text book, but from my example and just the witness of us experiencing every-day life together and having natural, spontaneous conversations about life, love, joy, disappointments, sorrow, excitement, and about God's place in all of that.
Right. And if we look at Jesus' example of how he taught the disciples we see them just living life together. He walked along side them and talked to them, no quizzes or classrooms.

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#14 of 22 Old 06-08-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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Well, and as is true with any topic; the best way to learn is from primary sources and experiences. And if you want a good book to read about a topic, the textbooks are not usually what you seek out.
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#15 of 22 Old 06-10-2010, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I did read a book on being catholic and unschooling recently .... I forget the title. It was a good read. She made a wonderful case as to how this method was in line with catholic teaching. Unfortunately, she did not address my primary concern which was logistical. When I looked around I didn't see anyone like myself. All the larger families in the area are definitely not unschooling. I feel kind of like I am hiding out. I live in a small rural area. That is why this forum is great. When you feel alone .... you can reach out and actually find people who are doing what you are doing.

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#16 of 22 Old 06-10-2010, 09:34 PM
 
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Yes! I love that part of such a large online community like this.

Nak so please forgive my brevity, but what was the book's title?
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#17 of 22 Old 06-11-2010, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The book is Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling by Suzie Andres. I was online trying to find a copy of Elizabeth Foss's book about her approach to homeschooling - a Catholic mom who uses Charlotte Mason philosophy. Unfortunately everywhere I have been it is unavailable because it is currently out of print. But.... I found this little gem. (I was shopping at Sacred Heart Books.)

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#18 of 22 Old 06-15-2010, 12:49 AM
 
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Here are two blogs of large families unschooling that may help you:

http://startlinglives.blogspot.com/


http://theriesenbergs.blogspot.com/


These are big families. The first one have 8 kids going on 9 and the second 9.
I have personally met both families at an unschooling conference where I also met several families with 4 kids.
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#19 of 22 Old 06-27-2010, 05:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I checked out the websites. Very encouraging! Also encouraging to hear from all the moms out there. I was hoping for a favorable response because I do so enjoy our learning.

The way I understand the feedback ....

unschooling will work for a larger family
siblings make this process easier not harder
I will actually be doing less work than if I had an only child

Sounds good to me!

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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#20 of 22 Old 07-02-2010, 01:14 AM
 
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Originally Posted by campbellsoup View Post
I checked out the websites. Very encouraging! Also encouraging to hear from all the moms out there. I was hoping for a favorable response because I do so enjoy our learning.

The way I understand the feedback ....

unschooling will work for a larger family
siblings make this process easier not harder
I will actually be doing less work than if I had an only child

Sounds good to me!
I so needed to read this thread tonight. Those worries started niggling...thanks for starting this thread!
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#21 of 22 Old 07-17-2010, 12:40 AM
 
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We unschool a herd...5 girls ages 15,11,5,3,and just about 2. Right now the bottom three keep me hopping because they are in a much more needy phase of their life journey. Since my older girls are night owls the littles and I have the house to ourselves for the better part of the day, then we all share space for a few hours and then the littles are off to bed and if I haven't passed out then I will spend time with the older girls talking, sharing, researching, watching tv etc. I do have a dry erase board that I call "My Brain" and I use it to write down things that the girls have mentioned an interest in or I have the older girls write me notes about things they might want or need for whatever interests they are pursuing.

Wife to my hunky husband and unschooling mom to the girls, Aly 15, SiSi 11, Emi 5, Ace 3,and Z 23months
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#22 of 22 Old 07-17-2010, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Good idea idea of having a board to jot down ideas to follow up on. My brain can only hold so much! -- I currently keep a personal list but I like having the list available to the kids too. (Low enough for my older 2.... high enough to keep away from the younger 2!)

Baker's Wife and Catholic Unschooling Mama to Simeon (12), James (9), Amos (7) and Annie (4) and Jonah (2)
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