Just when you start to get nervous about unschooling, sometimes the kids come along and set you straight. This week, my son (who will be 9 this month) asked me to teach him (a) how to do cursive writing and (b) spelling lessons. The cursive writing was something he wanted to do for his drawings of Minecraft elements. He wanted the labels on the drawings to be fancy. With the spelling, he says he is getting extremely sick of not knowing how to spell anything. (He constantly asks us how things are spelled.)
Of course, he'd be much better at spelling if he read more, but still, I just couldn't help but be reassured by the fact that these are two topics that school might attempt to force a kid to do, and yet here he was, on his own, for his own reasons, asking me to teach them to him.
I need to remember them and hold onto them, because things change so fast. I tried to do the spelling lessons he asked for, and he said No, he DIDN'T want to try any words, so instead I just wrote a whole bunch of words on the board (starting with "A" because he wanted "A to Z" lessons).
I also stupidly tried to help by writing the "I before E except after C" rule up there because, well, let's face it I STILL need to recite it to myself sometimes and think that it's wonderfully sing-songy and helpful and I thought if he was feeling stumped by spelling, he would like to know it.
After the words had been up there a full day, I said "I'd like to erase them now, do you want to say them all out loud before they go? "
DS:[ emphatically] No!
Me: Ok, sorry, I thought that saying them out loud made it easier to remember them. [erased them]. Before I erase this "I before E" rule, do you remember it? Well, halfway through it he nearly tore my head off and the rest of the morning was a damn mess, interpersonally speaking. Because when I insult his intelligence (which I apparently had done), he gets so mad at me that he screams and becomes HORRID so then it's not learning any more, it's more about behavior & how we deal with each other & please don't scream at me/words will do just fine.
So I guess I learned my lesson. Don't try to do a single thing. Write them, erase them, don't help unless asked.
Today, I wrote a whole bunch of "B" words on the board, not drawing his attention to them or anything. He can see them when he walks past the board. To my surprise and pleasure, he read them all silently and put a checkmark next to the ones he had never seen before; i.e. words he didn't know the meaning of. So I clarified "Do you want to know what they mean?" and he said yes so I only told him those words and nothing else.
I guess I'm a slow learner.
What still gets under my skin and sends me into fits of unschooling panic is the whole idea of achievement and pride. I see young kids DOING things (that someone probably signed them up for) and they seem so proud of themselves, like they are in a chorus or maybe they play violin or they are in sports, and since my son is an unschooled Only who is afraid to try new things he's not instantly perfect at, then he's not constantly seeking out new experiences. But then that reinforces itself. Be afraid--avoid new things--see other kids achieving--feel bad about self--and so on. Like a cycle.
Ugh. Anyway, I signed him up for robotics this year, just because he needs to do things that will allow him to make friends, and if he has friends, they can be invited over to hang out & play, unstructured. That's pretty much what I tell him; I'm GOING to sign you up for stuff, but it's mainly just so you can make some friends, so what would you like the class to be about? I asked him that today, and he said "They don't probably teach classes like this....I want to learn street art." (sigh) :-) So I'm going to try and find a local artist to tutor him one on one. Doesn't much help with the "meeting kids" thing but it would be a good experience, I'm sure.
Well, I'm glad I don't have the only kid who flips out at being given unsolicited information (even when he asked for it on a different day) or having his intelligence insulted. My ds is also strangely private about what he knows so I have to be very observant to figure that out. I think it stems from perfectionism, not wanting to demonstrate knowledge that he isn't 100% sure of. Oh well, at least he won't be one of those guys who is always asserting "blah, blah, blah" when they don't have a clue. Ds will be like dh and say "I'm pretty sure blah, blah, blah" which really means you can bet your house on that information being correct.
We're forever doing things just in hopes of meeting other kids that we can get together with in a less structured way, too. It's frustrating how hard that is. Good luck with it all!
My girls don't flip out, but they do grow restless and say "I'm done" or they pout or, this from my 5yo, "How'd we start this anyway?" meaning she doesn't want to talk about this anymore. Why do kids do this? Ah, well...... in my house sometimes it's because of this: . That's my "chatty unschooling mommy" emoticon. "What, you really didn't want me to be getting into the details of light and physics when you asked about the rainbow?"
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.