Dh and I have been reading a lot about unschooling lately, after a particularly miserable stint with classical education. (Dictation and copywork had dd and I both in tears!) So, yesterday dh and I sat down and talked with her about unschooling and just being less restrictive in general in regards to bedtime, food, and video games.
It all went well, she was excited especially when I told her that we'd no longer be doing lessons she didn't want to do. I asked her what she DID want to learn about and she said, "I still want to read Story of the World. I want to learn Math. I want to learn about bugs, space, rocks and animals. I do NOT want to learn about the human body anymore. I want to write stories, learn cursive and listen to everything on librivox." She also asked for a pocket knife, her own binoculars to watch birds and said she wants to learn to cook.
THAT was enormously comforting to me, that she could come up with a list of interests beyond "playing video games".
We also talked to her about listening to her own body in regards to bedtime and food and video games. To my surprise, after the discussion she did not run to the playstation! She had a very full day - she made a mycaenean shield, watched the isopods and millipedes in her critter carrier, pretended to be a minoan bull jumper with her stuffed animals, drew dragons on our white board, read a lot, wrote in her journal, practiced cursive, and played with her playmobils.
Of course, she did stay up until 1am playing animal jam, and today when she woke up she went right to the playstation. I am fully aware it will take her some time to self-regulate but I am really excited about where this will lead.
Any thoughts? Did anyone else transition to unschooling/radical unschooling and can talk about what the early part of the process was like?
That's very exciting!
I just wanted to make a pitch for having follow-up discussions with her that are similar to what you had yesterday. Maybe in a week or two, and every so often after that. In my experience unschooled kids often have great ideas about what they want to do and learn, but life (and video games) can get in the way of them bringing their plans to fruition. If in a couple of weeks you simply revisit her wish-list of things she wants to learn and do, and talk about how it's going, and whether she would like any help in implementing those ideas, or wishes to change tack, or to add new ideas to her list, you'll probably find that she will gradually become more intentional and mature in how she allocates her time. The key is not to impose any judgment, but simply to enquire: "How are things going? Is this something you still want to do? Is there anything I could do to help? Do you have any ideas as to how you might like to do this?"
I'm often amazed when I have these follow-up discussions with my kids. If they haven't bothered to do any work on something, it's usually not that they have lost interest and motivation, but that they didn't realize they would need to make an effort to initiate that learning, or didn't know how to initiate it, or were hoping for more active facilitation from me, or need help creating a structure for themselves or garnering resources. Ongoing discussion helps us whittle away at whatever the obstacles are in a collaborative fashion.
We've been unschooling from the beginning, but not radical unschooling. In the last couple of months I've allowed DD to regulate her own bedtime which she had not done since she was a little baby. So in a sense it was an experiment in that transition (she is 8.5, by the way).
She's always been a nightowl, so it was no surprise that she chose to stay up late. At first it was often past midnight. Over a period of a couple of weeks it grew up to 3 am. What made this easier to tolerate is that, while in bed, she was busy working on many creative drawing projects that she was interested in. She seemed to almost brag about how late she stayed up, one night even telling me that she'd stayed up the whole night! Her excitement about this was, I think, more about revelling in her freedom and being proud of being able to decide for herself. But as the novelty of the freedom wore off, more practical considerations came to light.
As Miranda said, we talked about it regularly (frequently at first) to see how she was feeling about it. For example, one consequence is that she misses breakfast, so her first two meals of the day are lunch and dinner. By the time she is hungry for her third meal the kitchen is "closed" (as far as me making her stuff) and I'm usually in bed. Then there was the issue of her not having as much time with me for sit-down projects, since I usually do that in the first half of the day; by afternoon I'm getting tired and then there is dinner to start taking care of. Finally, if she does have to get up early for something it's not so much fun to be woken out of a deep sleep. We talk about all these things and I just pass the information on, ask how she is feeling about her current schedule, etc. Lately she has started to go to bed earlier as she realized that staying up too late had consequences that weren't really worth it for her. This process has taken probably about 2 months or so.
Thank you for the replies!
Yes, the bedtime thing - we are going through that "reveling in freedom" stage now. She can be red-eyed and yawning but still won't go to bed until after us for the mere principle of the matter - she CAN stay up so she WILL stay up! Although, I discussed garage sale-ing with her on Saturday and told her that she may want to get to bed on the early side the night before so she has time to wake up and eat breakfast before we leave and she agreed that she would do that. We shall see.
I like the idea of re-visiting the topic of what she wants to learn.
She seems to be thriving, I am struggling. It will take me awhile to not try to make everything into a "lesson". We were in an elevator the other day and I almost started going on about counter weights and all that crap, but I didn't. lol I guess I am de-schooling as well.