Unschooling help/advice needed - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We are currently struggling with with unschooling vs a slightly more structured approach. I am not sure quite where we fall, or even where we want to be. Ds is not quite 3 and seems to fall into a "gifted" category (yes I hate the label, but it has been helpful in understanding just how different his thought patterns are in relation to other children as well as explain some of his unusual personality traits). He has a real need to learn, and is unhappy if he is not getting enough mental stimulation.

It is hard because sometime he seems to crave more formal learning, he wants to know what everything says, and he wants to learn about math or science. Other times he resists this kind of learning. We are discovering more and more how easily learning comes to him when we just let him be. Still, other time he seems to want more structure.

He has shown interest in reading so often over the last year so we attempted phonics with him to help him teach himself. It backfired and he started pretending he didn't even know his letters (he has known them since before his 1st birthday). Obvously he didn't want our interference. Turns out he can read a great number of words, but he only practices in secret as he doesn't like us to know what he is capable of until he has perfected the skill in question.

It is hard to know what we should be doing to best meet his needs. It is obvious that he sometimes craves some instruction from me, he can spend hours practicing his letters and numbers or going through workbooks, and often he asks me for help in these things. If I help too much he gets frustrated, but if I don't do enough he gets frustrated too.

I am also struggling with how much to expose him too. When he was about 2.5 he was fascinated with gravity (he loved reading about it in a book we had). We showed him gravity in action by watching things fall off counters and throwing balls up and watching them fall. He would walk around pointing out examples ("what goes up must come down" was his favorite saying LOL). That turned into a fear of things that hang from the ceiling (like ceiling fans or lights) because he figures if they are "up" they will eventually come "down". Its such a hard balance.

Sorry for the rambling post but we are kind of lost about what we should be doing, or how to approach learning with him. I am not sure exactly what I am asking, but any advice, information, or insight is greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
Laurie


 

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#2 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 03:31 PM
 
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Hi there!! At this age what I would probably do is just to let him learn through lots of fun activities....so I guess really unschooling. I did this with my now 6 year old...who was also a little sponge and he learned more that way than he has in a structured Public School Kindergarten this year (he will be homeschooled next year by the way). Even with him being in 1st grade next year I still plan to largely unschool, though I will be using a math curriculum just out of fear of NOT using one...lol. I think that children learn so much just from playing and observing nature, especially if you are fairly good at finding the "learning moments" during that time. I have been blessed with that thankfully so it seems to work well for us. That said, we are all different and comfortable with different levels of structure. If you do what your heart tells you to and not "force" things and follow his interests as much as you are comfortable with, he will develop a love of learning that will make learning later so much easier.
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#3 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 04:04 PM
 
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At that age, I wouldn't force ANY academics. Maybe play a few educational games and take nature walks and that sort of thing. Nothing formal.
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#4 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 05:38 PM
 
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Sounds like you are already doing an incredible job! Keep it up!
You seem to be intensely in touch with your son and his needs, just follow his lead and you can't go wrong.
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#5 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 05:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by akirasmama
[B]It is hard because sometime he seems to crave more formal learning, he wants to know what everything says, and he wants to learn about math or science. Other times he resists this kind of learning. We are discovering more and more how easily learning comes to him when we just let him be. Still, other time he seems to want more structure.

. If I help too much he gets frustrated, but if I don't do enough he gets frustrated too.
Hm, welcome to motherhood. That is the dependence/independence pull. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Moms need a thick skin.

Same thing happening with my teenagers today!
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#6 of 11 Old 03-24-2004, 06:58 PM
 
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I think it's important to separate academic content (math, reading, science, etc.) from schoolish "formal" academic presentation. Just because we all grew up believing the two are inextricably intertwined doesn't mean that they need to be! Teasing the two apart can take some mind-stretching creativity on the part of the parent, though.

I have a 5yo who loves Latin and the etymology of the English language, which she has been "studying" for a year or two already. When my son was 3, he learned about multiplication and then moved on to squares and square roots. My eldest tackled negative number operations at 5 and proper novels at 4.

But the thing is that none of this has been in the context of "formal academics". We play games, they ask questions, we talk, we explore, life happens. The kids lead, and that's that. Some people assume that unschooling is what you do until your kids are suited for "real academics". For us, unschooling includes plenty of "real academic" content, but there's nothing formal about it.

That being said, there have been times when my kids' intellectual ambitions have outstripped their learning ability and it's been a frustrating time. That's not to say that their intellectual ambitions have outstripped their intellectual abilities, but that they haven't been emotionally able to persist, work through mistakes, tolerate some tough slogging, take some direction, or whatever else it will take to actually do the learning they dream of mastering. These are mental growing pains, and I think they're normal. It doesn't necessarily mean you're not doing the right things. Sometimes kids just need to grow up a little before they're able to take the next leap. Personally I'd just keep muddling along, supporting a child-led child-structured learning paradigm. Good luck!

Miranda

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#7 of 11 Old 03-25-2004, 10:35 AM
 
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The only formal-type of learning I was going to suggest was to teach him to read. After that, the pressure lessons off you some as he find out information for himself, first hand.

Other than that, just keep answering those endless questions as best you can and providing materials and opportunites.

Does he have some math manipulatives and a big book of science experiments for kids?
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#8 of 11 Old 03-25-2004, 03:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your replies!! It is so challenging sometimes

I never want to "force" him to learn things, and he would never accept such treatment anyway :LOL He has very strong oppinions about what he will accept from us!

I didn't think we would be doing any academics at such a young age, but as he has shown me that all children are different (yet again) and he really wants to know everything. Anything he has been exposed to he has learned, and the differences in him when he is mentally stimulated vs. when he is not is amazing.

I can totally see the dependence/independence pull already. I can hardly imagine what the teenage years will hjold. I'm sure it will be a wild ride

Any recommendations for manipulatives/materials to have on hand?

How would I help him with reading, he seems to prefer just to memorize the words instead of sounding them out?

Thanks again!


 

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#9 of 11 Old 03-25-2004, 03:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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moominmamma,

I just wanted to thank you for your post.

When you said

Quote:
That being said, there have been times when my kids' intellectual ambitions have outstripped their learning ability and it's been a frustrating time. That's not to say that their intellectual ambitions have outstripped their intellectual abilities, but that they haven't been emotionally able to persist, work through mistakes, tolerate some tough slogging, take some direction, or whatever else it will take to actually do the learning they dream of mastering. These are mental growing pains, and I think they're normal. It doesn't necessarily mean you're not doing the right things. Sometimes kids just need to grow up a little before they're able to take the next leap. Personally I'd just keep muddling along, supporting a child-led child-structured learning paradigm.
You were so right

That is often what we face and it is so challenging! Its hard to know how to approach the unique challenges we face with him. He is such a math/science/logic oriented child, but often the concepts or ideas become frightening in his mind. He is only 2 after all. If he WANTS to learn about something I want to help him, but sometimes he doesn't have the emotional maturity or worldly experience to fully assimilate the ideas (like with his fear of gravity). Its a tough place to be, but I guess it will get better in time


 

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#10 of 11 Old 03-25-2004, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ooops, I forgot one more thing

Ds always wants to "do school". He equates that with workbooks (my mom bought him a few and he loves to go through them and practice making letters/numbers, to color pictures, to "read" them, or to make up stories). I never control what he does with them, but he picked up the idea because he knows some older children who go to school, he has a friend who went to daycare and referred to it as 'school', and because Blue (Blue's Clues) goes to school. I don't want him to have the idea that he can only learn in "school", nor do I want him to feel different from his friends (we are different enough already ) but I also don't want to intrude with his pretend play. How did you mama's handle these types of issues?

Thanks
Laurie


 

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#11 of 11 Old 03-25-2004, 04:30 PM
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When Rain was two and a half, she played a lot with the girls across the hall, who were 5 and 6 and went to school. They all loved to play school together, they taught her to read some words and write her name and do some simple arithmetic problems. It was great fun for all of them, we had a chalkboard to write on and they'd make up "papers" to do and have "recess" and "lunch"...

Other times they enjoyed washing all the dishes and folding laundry... ;-)

Rain also had unschooling friends who didn't go to school, so she didn't seem to think school was necessary. To her, "school" meant papers and chalkboards, we did lots of other things with letters and words and math. We started doing Treasure Hunts with one-word clues somewhere around her third birthday, and she used to make "books", and we played lots of games involving logic and strategy - some of the Gamewright ones work for pretty little kids, Rat a Tat Cat and Frogjuice... actually, Rain started playing chess at 2 1/2, and checkers before then. I found that games were good because they were mentally challenging but there were many levels to play at... in the beginning, it was enough to focus on how each piece moved, then she began to use some simple strategy, then she would get to where she was planning manuevers 3 or 4 moves at a time... and then she started to beat me sometimes.

We also used to go to science museums a lot... there was so much to take in and it did change some from day to day and month to month, and it seemed that each time Rain would find one specific part and spend a lot of time there. When the big Science Center opened in Phoenix we were going at leats once a week, and then when we moved to the bay area we had our pick of science museums and could rotate a bit. We found a few historical/anthropological museums and they were sometimes fun but less hands-on, so I think Rain got more out of them when she was a fluent reader.

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