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#1 of 10 Old 09-04-2011, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am unschooling my son who is 4.  I love unschooling and plan to stick with it as long as he wants to.  I just feel like I need some direction.  We recently got an ipad and I have downloaded hundreds of educational games for him.  He is learning so much.  He is reading whole paragraphs, can id states by shape alone, know parts of speech and all sorts of amazing things.  We started word math problems this weekend and he loves them too. He can do logic type puzzles faster than I can. He loves insects, reptiles and robots so as long as I can relate things to those items (I've gotten very creative) then he will happily do things with me. I never push him, in fact I feel like I'm not keeping up with him and not giving him enough new things.

 

I have an 18 month old so my son and I am only able to do ipad with him during her naps.   

 

Where do I go next? He really loves learning on the computer.  Is it bad if he is on the ipad a lot?  I have him take eye breaks every 20 minutes and I have beads on it that limit the electromagnetic exposure.   I wish he wanted to play with me and my daughter more because I miss him when he is lost in his electronic world but he is happy.  He doesn't do it all day, we go play with friends and do art and other things together but I would guess he spends 3 hours during the day (broken up) on a computer.

 

I don't even know what to try teaching him next. Any ideas?

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#2 of 10 Old 09-04-2011, 01:40 PM
 
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I'd just go with his interests. My ds is only 5 so we're not too much further along in this journey but we just follow threads that he is interested in, we get lots of books and documentaries out of the library. We also have a lot of math manipulatives around that we play with. It isn't teaching so much as letting him explore them and discover things. But that's just what we're like here. As for the computer that's a very personal choice you need to make as a family, you can read many long debates in this forum about screen time.

 

As for teaching and learning with young children this site has a lot of wonderful essays, from a variety of authors, about early childhood and education, with an unschooling bent (the site owner unschooled her own son).


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#3 of 10 Old 09-04-2011, 01:52 PM
 
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I'll admit up front that I have serious reservations about kids that young doing that much computer-based learning. Unschooling is of course very much child-led and interest-driven, but I think it's important that parents set up environments that encourage children to strike healthy balances. Fifty years ago your little intellectual might have been out in the natural world every day for hours, carrying a magnifying lens and field guides, collecting bugs and frogs and cataloging everything he finds -- active, social, creative, naturalistic types of activities. Today's culture and and the availability of technology have produced a situation where the same impulses to seek and learn have led him spend time with iPads and computers, in solitary, sedentary, more linear ways disconnected from the world at large. 

 

My kids have many of the same impulses and have been drawn to the same sorts of things over the years. Technology so easily becomes the default activity -- always available, predictable, undemanding, diverting and requiring very little self-management skill or creativity. So I've tried to minimize its appeal.

 

I admit I've relaxed as my kids have grown into teens. But I see childhood as a precious window for creativity, play, the development of social connections and a holistic orientation to the world, so in order to promote those things I need to create an environment that values them. That, for me, has meant putting the precious bits of one-on-one time I have available with my kids into things that help create that balance. For instance I would not be spending a sibling's nap time helping such a child recognize states by shape using iPad apps. I'd be using that time for creative play, hands-on project-oriented things, reading aloud to him, art and music things. If I saw that he was typically lost in his electronic world while I was chatting and playing with his siblings, I would think about finding new ways to run the household and new ways to engage him ... perhaps by taking all of us out of the house for a daily walk along on a nature trail, or by asking for his help with meal preparation and other housework, or moving the computer to a less accessible area or limiting tech time to part of the day.

 

I think there's a danger in constantly feeding children with new interesting things to do. Some kids become novelty seekers and have trouble with aimlessness if others are not planning and filling their days. I think it's important that they learn to deal with fallow time by coming up with ideas for themselves. So perhaps what your ds needs most from you is a little bit of nothing ... the opportunity to have fallow time apart from his electronics, to discover the possibilities in conversation, chores, being out and about in the world, or simply alone with his thoughts. 

 

I may be reading completely the wrong things into your post. If he is sociable and creative and active and contemplative and happy coming up with his own ideas for things to do, then you can ignore my cautionary thoughts. In general I would just encourage you to create an environment that is conducive to balance, and not to worry about where to lead him next ... just let him find his way by giving him opportunities to discover what's inside himself in terms of creative impulses, lateral connections, inspiration and interests.

 

Miranda


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#4 of 10 Old 09-04-2011, 02:39 PM
 
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hmmm hmmmm I don't want to do the usual knee jerk anti-screen time thing but at his age 3 hours seems like an awfully long time on the computer,even if broken up. I know there are a lot of kids who spend more, and I also know that some unschoolers feel strongly that computer time can be something that kids self regulate but...3 hours a day at 4 just seems like a LOT.

 

You mention that he has a lot of interests that actually could be easily studied away from the computer, and also that he's reading. Why not get him some books on insects and read those in her nap time? I agree that for a child this age I would not be using nap time as computer time.

 

We have a child, now 8, who is quite drawn to computers, electronics, and so forth, and one thing we've done is make sure he knows how the technology works and how he can control it to an extent. So he does a fair bit of electronics, he is learning programming, etc. This is absolutely no hardship for him as he loves computers, but its really important to me that he has some sense that he can input into them too. We've also very deliberately kept him away from anything too exciting on the computer, just by giving him a ridiculously sheltered existance really ;-) I mean he is homeschooled and we don't have broadcast tv in the house, its not hard), and done everything we can to give him the idea that for knowlege, books are a really good option. Not ALWAYS the best option, but if you want in depth, critical analysis-and who doesn't? they are a really good idea.

 

sorry just eta, I think life has become a bit harder in some ways now, when my kids were small, our computer was an enormous thing that had to live upstairs in our bedroom because there was nowhere downstairs for it. This meant that if anyone wanted to use the computer they had to make a special trip upstairs. Nowadays there are ipads and laptops and so forth (ok laptops did exist but they were very expensive) and I can see how it could be so tempting to just carry them around with you, so there are no screen free spaces at all. I hoenstly think that the main reason my kids don't generally think to use the computer or tv is just because, for most part, they weren't in our main living space when they were small.


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#5 of 10 Old 09-05-2011, 06:24 AM
 
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Have you seen Play at Home Mom? They have some great ideas for open ended play for the preschool aged kids. 


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#6 of 10 Old 09-05-2011, 08:11 AM
 
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My eyes "bug out" and sometimes I get headaches or mild dizziness from spending too much time on the computer (laptop, not iPad).  One day I was troubleshooting the set up of my new printer and I was on the phone and computer for 6 hours and my eyes were wiggling and jiggling when all was done and I was irritated and annoyed by it.  I definitely think that screen time should be limited somehow, at least that's the way it is in our house.  The girls don't use the computer, so the TV rules are about 1 - 1.5 hours first thing in the morning.  We get limited fuss, and not for more TV but for picking videos. The rest of the day the TV is off (Yes, even for dh and I!)  I am on the computer checking facebook, MDC, the library, whatever is on the list to look up (this morning, what defines a planet), then the computer is off.  All the way off.  If it's on I will check in here and there all day.  So, even for grown-ups, limiting screen time brings the family together.  

 

So, if I were to make computer time rules, it would be something similar.  Not right before bed, but in the morning, at naptime as you are doing, whatever seems to be the *one* best time.  Then off and away.  One of the reasons I like the morning is that there is no fussing about "is it time yet, is it time yet?"  

 

Unlike videos on TV, computer time and games seem to have no definitive end.  They just go and go and go.  The other thing about computers for me anyway, is that they use a different hm.... type of focus?... than watching a bug outdoors does.  It is more "flickery" and distracted, less focused and attentive, less calm.  I apologize if I haven't the words for it, maybe someone can help me here?

 

I do remember that it was shortly after my youngest was 18 months that they started to play together.  Their ages were a bit closer, but right around 20 months I started to see them make friends.


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#7 of 10 Old 09-05-2011, 06:55 PM
 
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My kids are teenagers and have never been to school, so that's where my perspective is coming from.  In general, I haven't limited screen time for my kids, but when I feel like they're grouchy from too much TV or computer time, I tell them to shut it off and do something else for a while (FYI--I've also had to pull them away from non-electronic activities for the same reason--overexposure leading to grumpiness).  I sometimes have to do this for myself too. 

 

I say as long as your four year old isn't getting grouchy or hurting his eyes, then three hours a day on the iPad is fine.  If you feel like it's isolating him, then have him sit near you while he does it (isn't that what an iPad is for?).  If you feel like he needs to be playing with you and your baby at any particular time, then have him take a break to play with you.  Also make sure he has some traditional books around to peruse.  It sounds like he's a smart and curious little guy and needs a lot of learning materials close at hand. :)

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#8 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 04:56 PM
 
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I don't think you understand unschooling philosophy. You don't "do" unschooling. Your child is only 4. An unschooler's attitude would be that a 4 year old should be left to just be a kid. I never thought of my kids as being unschooled until they were 7, the age they legally had to go to school in out state. Unschoolers believe if you provide a lifelong learning environment that kids will become lifelong learners. For example, where we  live there are a lot of butterflies. If a child was interested in the butterflies the family could do a learning project on the life cycle of butterflies. I live in Tucson and there is a butterfly garden the family could visit. You could make butterfly wings to wear.

 

If you are doing math problems, educational games, and teaching about parts of speech with a 4 year old you that doesn't sound like unschooling. That doesn't mean what you are doing is wrong for you and your son. John Holt wrote articles for Mothering magazine about homeschooling and unschooling that you may be able to find. He wrote many books. Unschooling involves a leep of faith that everything is going to turn out okay as kids get older since you don't follow a curriculum or use textbooks. My 3 children unschooled and they all easily got into college and have jobs they are happy with.


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#9 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 07:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foreverinbluejeans View Post

I don't think you understand unschooling philosophy. You don't "do" unschooling. Your child is only 4. An unschooler's attitude would be that a 4 year old should be left to just be a kid. I never thought of my kids as being unschooled until they were 7, the age they legally had to go to school in out state. Unschoolers believe if you provide a lifelong learning environment that kids will become lifelong learners. For example, where we  live there are a lot of butterflies. If a child was interested in the butterflies the family could do a learning project on the life cycle of butterflies. I live in Tucson and there is a butterfly garden the family could visit. You could make butterfly wings to wear.

 

If you are doing math problems, educational games, and teaching about parts of speech with a 4 year old you that doesn't sound like unschooling. That doesn't mean what you are doing is wrong for you and your son. John Holt wrote articles for Mothering magazine about homeschooling and unschooling that you may be able to find. He wrote many books. Unschooling involves a leep of faith that everything is going to turn out okay as kids get older since you don't follow a curriculum or use textbooks. My 3 children unschooled and they all easily got into college and have jobs they are happy with.

And at our house, I've said,  we've been unschooling, though we don't "officially" start homeschooling until the age of 8!   Does your family get to call it unschooling before we do?  Why *not* call it unschooling, when most 4yo's go to preschool?  (Most?  Or many?  Anyway.....)  4yo is a good time to start practicing good unschooling parent habits, so why not say you are unschooling?  I've also found it useful for my girls to have a strong "homeschool" identity from an early age.  "We're homeschoolers.  Hey!  Those kids are homeschoolers, too!"  

 

And I certainly hope the "unschooling police" don't confiscate my Richard Scarry "Best Counting Book Ever", Dr. Seuss' ABC, my girls' puzzle books (with scads of math problems....could be a workbook.... OH NO!)  I've brought home "Anno's Math Games" and a cool book on being a zookeeper with math problems on every page.  That was a big hit!   And... OOPS!... I was the one who brought it home.  PARENT-LED-LEARNING!!!!!  THERE!  I SAID IT!  I GAVE THEM THE WORKBOOK!  I'M A FRAUD!  WHERE DO I NEED TO REPORT AND TURN IN MY UN-CREDENTIALS?

 

I am so sorry for that sarcasm aimed squarely at you, when it really has just built up over time and over many criticisms about what is and isn't unschooling.  At some point, I admit, one is probably mistaken in calling it unschooling, but where exactly that is we can't agree on.  You made some very good points and I don't mean to be disrespectful, it's just frustrating when this argument comes up with those particular words "that doesn't sound like unschooling".
 

 


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#10 of 10 Old 09-06-2011, 08:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foreverinbluejeans View Post

I don't think you understand unschooling philosophy. 

 

I'm not the original poster, but I think I have a different definition of unschooling than you, and I've always felt comfortable posting in this forum without being judged for it.

 

Sometimes my kids have requested resources that will help them systematically work through certain areas of learning. I haven't necessarily thrust textbooks at them, but when a kid comes up to you in a used bookstore clutching a Psychology 101 textbook and says "This! This is the kind of book I want to learn about Canadian history," I think it's entirely within the realm of unschooling to acquiesce and buy said child a Canadian History textbook. I'm also the mom of a kid who was given a hand-me-down crepe rubber alphabet puzzle by a neighbour at 19 months and followed me around clutching particular letters, holding them up and uttering letter-sounds in a questioning voice ... "Fff? Fff?" She taught herself to read fluently by age 4, likely in part due to the fact that I answered her toddler-questions about letter sounds. In my area we have a late cutoff (Dec. 31) and my middle kids would have entered Kindergarten at 4. They were the only kids in their age cohort who did not attend the small local public school's kindergarten, and this is such a small town that they knew this -- so you can bet they considered themselves unschoolers at age 4. Their older sibling was unschooling, they were now school-age and not attending either, all their age-mates were in a KG classroom, and I certainly wasn't going to convince them they weren't also unschooling.

 

I would encourage you to give a bit more of the benefit of the doubt in your assessment of other people's unschooling. 

 

Miranda


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