Unschooling 4 (6,5,2,1) - Intro/Call - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 08-25-2010, 09:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello, I'm Jeremiah.

I'm the father of four children (Marion '04, Henry '05, Renee '08, and Evelyn '09). We decided pretty early that we liked unschooling, and we've been going along this path ever since.

Now, however, with our two oldest (at 6 and 5 years) at the point where they would be in standard schooling, there's some concern. This concern comes from my mother-in-law and my wife. I'm not overly worried about my mother-in-law's concerns, but I don't want my wife to feel like we're causing our children to suffer by not having enough focus on learning during the day.

I feel, in general, that they're learning. They're learning a lot about how to interact with other kids (we live in a co-housing community with lots of kids and other neighbors), with adults, with rules, and with the world of their community. We're going to the library (usually once a week), taking walks in the woods (once a month), going to the landfill and talking about that, and such things like this.

I know that part of my wife's concern is that, in general, I'm pretty bad at getting things done. So I shouldn't be surprised she's concerned.

And caring for the younglings, and the house, (and spending too much time on my hobby), are all making it hard to spend focused time on facilitating their education.

I'm thinking of putting together a blog to record our learning, as a way to record, showcase, and motivate myself to help more.

There should be more to this message, but it's already getting longer than 'easy reading', so I'm cutting it short for now.

I'm here for ideas, support, and whatever may come.
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#2 of 9 Old 08-25-2010, 10:24 AM
 
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I'm the same way as you, I get easily distracted and sometimes feel like I'm not doing right by my kids. I have started filling out a "Teacher Book" to keep track of the different things my oldest learns each day, just for my own peace of mind and to have a record for when I submit a progress report at the end of the year. My kids are 6, 4, and almost 2, so officially I only need to worry about my oldest. The book has really helped me to realize how much actual learning occurs in the course of a day. Some stuff I'm not sure how to file (playing with her sisters, for example), but I just list it under free play (I don't even bother to write it down). If you think a blog would motivate you, go for it.

There are times when I wonder if unschooling is the right path for us, like when I see regular homeschoolers and all their curriculum information, etc. Or even public school students and all their "projects", etc. But then I look at my kids and I realize how much real life is teaching them, and how stifled they would be in a school setting (even school at home), and I know it's the right thing to do for us.

Mom to DD#1 8/04, nursed 43 months, DD#2 8/06, nursed 21 months and DD#3 9/08, still nursing strong
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#3 of 9 Old 08-25-2010, 11:58 AM
 
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First of all, anyone who is home with 4 kids ages 6 and under who gets anything done at all is an amazing human being, in my book. Give yourself a pat on the back!

Next, because I understand that you want your wife to be comfortable with the way your kids are growing up, take a few minutes to assess what your kids know in a more academic context. Do they know their letters & numbers? If so, make sure your wife is aware of this-- in unschooling, kids often learn things in such a gradual way that it's not celebrated and highlighted in the way it would be in a school child. If not, is there a way to add a little more exposure to that to your day?

Would it be possible for your wife to work with your older kids on the areas that concern her in the evenings or weekends?

FWIW, all your kids are very young, if they're happy I would take that as a sign that their brains and bodies are getting adequate stimulation. The academics will come easily when they need them.

GL!
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#4 of 9 Old 08-25-2010, 03:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to both of you for the responses. While I'm also still amazed that I get anything done, I do feel like I could do more. I spend too much time at the computer (not like right now, I'm getting a baby to sleep while typing this), and that's really just unnecessary. It's great, though, to have some voices of support.

I'm part of a homeschool group for younger kids, but about 90% of those kids of 'school age' are going to school in the fall, so it's been a bit tough to feel like I'm part of something bigger. I want to have people saying, "Yes, this works, yes, your six-year-old is fine." Even though I believe it, it's nice to hear others.

Next is a book. I need to find a good unschoolling book to get me more motivated.
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#5 of 9 Old 08-25-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OpenAppleDad View Post
I'm part of a homeschool group for younger kids, but about 90% of those kids of 'school age' are going to school in the fall, so it's been a bit tough to feel like I'm part of something bigger. I want to have people saying, "Yes, this works, yes, your six-year-old is fine." Even though I believe it, it's nice to hear others.
Yes this works, yes, your six year old is fine.

Can you find a homeschooling group that stretches into school-aged kids? I find it enormously helpful and comforting to have friends who are further along the journey, and can offer advice and feedback without the competition/comparison stuff that sometimes happens with people who only have kids the same age as yours. We are pretty unschoolish, but we hang out with homeschoolers of all stripes.
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#6 of 9 Old 08-27-2010, 06:03 PM
 
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Hey Jeramiah,
We're in similar situations, actually: I have a 7yo, 3yo, 2yo, and 10mo. Life is lovely, but chaotic most days, huh? I think the day-to-day can sometimes become overwhelming when you have so many that are so young, so it can be helpful to step back and examine what's REALLY bothering you.

Your kids are 6, 5, 2, and 1, right? So take the 2yo and the 1yo out of the eqution, because they're not school age anyway. Technically, the 5yo wouldn't necesarily be either since kindergarten is optional in most states. But focus on the 6 and 5yos. You said you're going to the library once a week or so. Are they able to pick out their own books? Do you spend time reading to them everyday? Do they have access to art supplies? Fun music to listen to? Do you go to the Farmer's Market? A Children's museum? The park? For nature walks? Do they have legos or blocks to build with? Fun video games to play or movies to watch?

I think starting a blog wouldn't be the best idea if you already feel you spend too much time on the computer. Plus, I think it shifts the focus to monitoring their learning, rather than facilitating it. Remember, your job isn't to TEACH them, but to support them in their desire to learn. So talk to them about their interests and make sure they have access to things that would enrich their passions and their environment. If they're interested in dinosaurs, check out some fun books from the library about dinosaurs or get a model dinosaur you could build together...but do it not with the purpose of making sure you can teach them about dinosaurs, but with the purpose of providing them opportunities to learn.

Talk to your wife and find out her specific concerns. "I'm concerned they're not learning" isn't really a specific enough concern for you to work with. "I'm worried that they aren't going to learn enough about math" at least gives you a direction to work with.

Another thing I find helpful to remember is that, because they're not in public school, there's no such thing as your child being BEHIND. The wonderful thing about unschooling is that it allows our kids to learn on their own timelines.

If her worry is more directed at YOU (if it seems you're spending too much time online, etc.) then that's something completely unrelated to unschooling that you can work on. Maybe don't turn the computer on until the kids are all asleep. I have a tenancy to be a bit of a twitter addict, so I limit it to times that I'm nursing the baby, and then work at staying present with the kids the rest of the time.

Anyway...I feel like I'm rambling a bit, so I'll end this now. If you're looking for a good book, Rue Kream has a great book that is an easy read, or I always suggest the website www.enjoylifeunschooling.com or www.joyfullyrejoycing.com

Hope this helps some! (Also...It's okay. This works. Your six year old is fine!)

Jen...wife to Shawn...Radically Unschooling Mommy to Connor (4/03), Autumn (1/07) Aiden (1/08) and Ella (10/14/09) Just had the of our dreams!
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#7 of 9 Old 08-27-2010, 06:24 PM
 
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Your kids are really young. What they should be doing right now is playing and cooking and reading and playing and playing. Which is just what they are doing.
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#8 of 9 Old 08-27-2010, 07:57 PM
 
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I have a 6yo, 2.5 yo and one on the way. I have done the notebook thing like a previous poster talked about when I was freaking out. It suprised me how many "subjects" we covered.

I try and remember that I want to encourage their natural love of learning by providing oppportunites for them to use their gifts/interests. Yesterday I talked with my 6yo and brainstormed a bunch of ideas about things we could try out. I ran stuff by him and asked if he thought that sounded fun. (We have a budget so I like to plan ahead for some of the spending for this year) We came up with: some new board games, a family membership to Discovery museum, indoor rock climbing, do more at home sceince experiments, a magna-tiles set, another marble tower construction set, a microscope and slides...There was a bunch of stuff he says no to like art classes.

...Maybe that could be a good starting point. Notice and ask your kids what they love to do then give them some more ideas about stuff you think they would like. (I write it all down so I don't forget )I think a common mistake in unschooling is to wait for the kids to come up and say what they want to do, but children don't know abut a lot of the cool stuff that is out there! Sometimes I just set up things for them..like put a bunch of craft stuff on the table and leave it there for them to make creations. My kids get bored if they have to think of stuff on their own all the time.

Sandra Dodd's website is very helpful to me (even though we are not radical unschoolers).

Best wishes to you and your family! Some of our extended family thinks that our ways are strange but they cannot help but see our children are thriving. I would ask your wife to explain her concerns to you can both find solutions to make it work. My husband had some concerns but now he is happy because he can see how well the kids are doing. It was just a really different way to think about education that he was used to (his father is a teacher).
Jen

homebirth.jpg<>< Mama to DS, DD, and a new baby girl 4/1! homeschool.gifmdcblog5.gif

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#9 of 9 Old 08-28-2010, 11:01 PM
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i think it would be great to take stock of your wife's specific concerns (and her mother's too, since there is influence there), and then see if you can categorize what they do know within those sorts of "subject areas."

see, there are funny things about my 2 yr old that i didn't realize was "advanced." he knows his colors (and a lot of them too, not just th basic rainbow). he knows numbers (understands quantity at least up to 6 at this point, possibly more, as opposed to just repeating. he actually counts things.) he has sentences going now (3-4 word sentences), and so on. i didn't realize this was 'advanced' until someone told me, and then i joked that we secretly do 12 hrs of flash cards per day. lol

but anyway, he obviously has math, english, and science/art (color--science or art? both i guess). he also is way into cooking and freezing things. lol so, that is definitely science. earth studies? loves to identify weather (windy, rainy, sunny, hot, cold), and he's also into insects and plants a fair bit. studies physics by throwing things. LOL!

no, seriously, playing is learning. perhaps plant a garden (if you don't already have one) and do compost to be a bit more "science-y" if you want. i don't know. i suppose you could plan out activities and then free play times in a more rhythmic way. but, i don't know if that is necessary.
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