Is there anything that you definitely want your children to know?
I want my children to have general knowledge of places around the world. I would like them to understand math. Our basic history would be nice. I want to introduce a wide variety of science things like nature and our earth. I want them to hear music. I want them to be able to read and write.
Then I ask myself why I want them to know these things. Reason number one is because I don't want them to sound not smart when we are around other people. I don't want someone saying something about North America and have my children look at them and have no idea what they are talking about. Reason number two is I still have that little worry that CAS will come knocking and my children won't have the basics.
I just want to make sure that I am covering everything. I don't believe in them learning things that they aren't interested in. But really, whatever I introduce they love and soak in. So what if I miss a bunch? Is there a list somewhere where I can check it off? lol I know, so not unschooling of me. But really. I would love a list to follow and then grab a bunch of fun books and read with them. They never show resistance so they are game for everything.
My 9yo daughter is constantly thinking up new ways to start businesses. She is always doing new things and creating new things. She will wake up at 7am and ask to do a Science experiment in the kitchen! My 8yo daughter is not like that. She is very calm and observes people. She loves to create art and she is the most loving child I have ever met. She doesn't have a whole lot of interests but I see her awesome qualities! My 6yo so loves to put things together and figure out how things work. Many questions that he asks amaze me. Today he asked why when juice sits out in the sun, why isn't it a liquid anymore? Why does it become sticky? Or how does water evaporate in the car with the windows up? Questions that constantly make me think! His wheels are always turning. My youngest three are a bit too young to understand them quite as much. I know their personalities but not who they are becoming yet. I am always thinking of ideas to do with them and to foster who they are. I guess I am wondering if you ever feel lost a bit. Like I need some kind of plan but don't know where to start to go along with our style of learning.
I just think they are so incredible and I don't want to ruin them. Does anyone else get that feeling?
The things I will impose on them are:
* Ability to do enough math to balance a bank book
* Ability to read and write enough to fill out an employment application and doctor's health intake form.
I can't even take credit for that. They were the opening to a talk on Unschooling (that I landed in completely by accident and couldn't quietly leave) that changed my entire mindset on how to educate my kids. I thought "SHE. is INSANE. My kids are capable of SO. MUCH. MORE. than that!!!!" and I felt almost ANGRY with her. Joke's on me because I listened to her entire talk and learned just how capable and how much more my kids would do without me pushing them.
Holy moly--I'm so with you. I realize it might be far-fetched but I intermittently freak about it. I live in a state that has one of the most laid back laws in the U.S. but it still has a law and a standard. It doesn't matter that they generally don't come knocking--I COULD BE THE ONE! (this is the insanity I put myself through--but it sounds like you can appreciate it)
I actually use a free online tool to track what they do. So each day or two, I sit down and log stuff they did and how long. I mean, you can pull learning activities out of all kinds of stuff--so I just do. It may seem like a waste of time for many, but ya know what? I sleep better knowing I can go print something out and say "Here. Here's what they're learning in this subject and that."
Yes. My son is ridiculously ahead/advanced in some areas and I was flagged as a "gifted" kid--who was completely wasted. I went through a lot of years being really angry at what I "could've been" and I fear he'll have that same resentment about how I'm handling his education (which is profoundly different, but could result in the same sense of "wasted time and potential"... kwim?)
I'm really just trying to let go of it. It's hard. I also try to envision his day in a school and suddenly I know that what I'm doing is the lesser of all available evils.
I find this sort of question a little difficult to respond to, because words like "requirement" and "expectation" and "want" can have such different meanings in a traditional-education vs. unschooling context.
I expect my children to be literate, capable with basic math skills and critical thinking skills, knowledgeable about basic history, politics and community, and to have at least a couple of marketable skills. But these are "expectations" in the same sense that I might expect to be sore and tired after running a marathon: they're pretty much inevitable. So I have these expectations in the sense them being the inevitable outcomes, not in the sense of them being imposed requirements.
Unschooling is not, in my world, value-neutral. I raise my kids in an environment where it's clear that I value certain things. The things I value as important and necessary parts of basic education, they show in my life and in the environment my kids grow up in. I believe in the power of the environment and honestly cannot imagine a scenario short of a very severe learning disability where my kids could not absorb, say, basic checkbook math skills. Would I insist they learn those skills if they didn't pick them up naturally, had no interest and saw no value in them? Well the question seems moot: in our family those skills are part of life and can hardly fail to be picked up. It seems particularly moot in my case as my four kids already have all those skills in place, and have for some time (they now range in age from 9 to 18). What if they didn't learn them? Well, but, they did, and how could they not have?
I'll be thinking about this one today.
I, too, want them to know the basics. Much of that they seem to be absorbing through osmosis. As a family, we are interested and curious about everything, and that reinforces our girls' curiosity (5.5 and 7.5yo).
So, when I think of what I want them to know down the road I tend to think in terms of: feeling confident that they can learn what they need to learn to achieve a goal; a basic security that financial wellbeing doesn't have to be "out-there-after-college" kind of thing.
Just like your daughter, OP, my oldest is keen on devising her future businesses (future, meaning next month or next decade). At 7.5 these are still "Give pony riding lessons for a dime", and selling grass seeds at a market stand. But in these ideas is a sense of empowerment. We *can* do a market stand, next year if we're ready. They aren't learning about what it takes to get ready for the real world, they *are* in the real world. DH and I are self-employed and have already employed them for an hour or two here and there and they make some pretty good cash that way. Dogsitting, too. I paid them $1 per hour to help me babysit a friend's toddler (babysitting trade-- I was getting something out of it, I offered to reward them as well.) These seem like pedestrian occupations, but being a pro-housekeeper and gardener, and married to a pro-gardener, I like that she sees these "professions" as viable and respectable. And if nothing else, they can pay her way through college. When others are earning $10 per hour, she'll be earning $30 or $40.
I like that they are learning to work with their hands. They are raising chickens for fair and for our "farm". They are planning next year's additions. They can plant seeds. They already know about how seeds sprout. They can identify trees and weeds and vegetables, even from a small sprout. They know about deer and how they browse and have four chambers in their stomachs. These are the practical things that are so important to me. DD2 just told me right now "Mama, robins don't have spurs." Our cockerels are just getting theirs. They know the cockerels mating dance, the bobbing and cooing they do when they find food for the flock.
This stuff is every bit as important to me as the math and the reading, and considering their ages *right now*, I feel it is more important.
I'm sure as they grow, what I feel in my heart they should learn will change. Years ago, during my homeless wanderings on the spiritual hippie trail, my friend and lover told me "If I make the right decision in the here and now at each moment, I will be in the right place in 20 years." I see so much truth in that. While I keep the horizon in mind, I tend not to focus on it that much. If I do, and if I do it too long, I miss all the little things underfoot along the way.
(This paradigm breaks down, though, when my girls show even small signs of the hyper-critical tendencies of my grandmother, or the narcissism of my father. Then I get into a tizzy. So much for the here and now!)
Expectations are such a loaded word in the USing community.
None-the-less, I have some - but they are similar to everyone else's: the basic literacy and numeracy skills that are essential to life where we live.
This is a commitment I make to my children and to society. It is something I would impose if it did not develop naturally- actively teach if need be, seek tutors, etc. I do think figuring out when they are simply late bloomers in these life skills versus having difficulties that require intervention is a very, very tricky thing.
I do have ways I live my life/things I believe in that influence our lives. I am not sure these are expectations, but they do have results, so I do not know. I am not sure it matters. They are genuine and organic, though, and not artificial in anyway (unlike the above mentionned acquiring of life skills - which could be result-driven impositions if need be).
I can think of 3 guiding principals:
1. Learn how to learn. Modelling looking things up, curiosity, openness, risk taking, etc. This is easy when the thing to model comes easy to you, but harder when it does not. A tricky area is knowing when to encourage a child who is struggling with something and when not to.
2. Empowerment: Encouraging and allowing children to make choices, understand there are choices and take ownership of said choice in a developmentally appropriate and safe way. Know how to make want you want happen.
3. Resource rich and varied environment. This is an expectation I have of myself - although we all benefit from it (hehe).
An interesting question (to me) is if USing parents have different responsibilities than schooling or more traditional HSing parents. I am not sure. I think I would expect the above of myself whether they went to school or not. Indeed, my two oldest do go to school - and not much has changed. The only thing that has really changed is I have been able to lighten up slightly on the resources for the older kids, as the school has met some needs that way.
I have always pretty much trusted my children to pursue the knowledge and skills that are relevant to them. Of course, this has often involved me providing access to information and help and instruction as needed. And, of course, providing access to the outside world and to information that they don't know about yet but that I feel will be very helpful and interesting for them.
However, my 12yo has lately been expressing a lot of frustration over not being able to read as fluently as she would like to. She was reading but hadn't been getting the regular, daily practice that she needs in order to develop a familiarity with more words and not have to keep stopping to sound so many words out. This situation has been exacerbated by some concerned comments made by the Sunday School director at church, who was a schoolteacher for thirty years.
For a while now, we've had an agreement with dd that we'll help her remember to get some reading practice every day; which she could get either with us or on her own, it was up to her, and she had gotten into the habit of reading a page or two on her own every day, and just asking us for help as needed. She also does a lot of reading with some of her computer games. Anyhow, she recently got upset because she's still not very happy with her progress.
I also feel like we have a tough balancing act right now because, as she has grown, so has her need for an ever-widening circle of social interactions. We haven't been able to fill her needs by just getting to know people in the neighborhood and the local homeschooling group. In addition to joining church (which we did a little over a year ago), we've also started taking dd to an activity for her age group at our local library one afternoon a week.
I don't think the reading issue has come up at the library yet, but it could -- and it has at church, as I've already mentioned. Also, regarding church, she will start the Coming of Age program this fall, which she is very excited about, and I've been told that the kids in this program have regular reading and writing assignments.
So, combined with dd's desire to be more fluent in her reading, we are dealing with outside pressures from people we have to deal with if we're going to give our daughter the many and varied kinds of experiences she is craving. I know that if we left one program, there'd be a concerned adult in some other program, because it honestly seems like these busybodies are everywhere!
So this week, I have started giving dd a daily reading assignment and a daily writing assignment. On my morning break from work, I come down and see how she's doing and help her with anything she needs help with. We've done it for two mornings so far; she's expressed a lot of anger while doing her assignments -- but then, just a few weeks ago, she was extremely upset over not being fluent in reading and saying that she needs me to help her. So I've just told her that if we don't keep working on these things, she'll be very upset in a few more weeks that she hasn't progressed. I have tried to get her input about what to read or write about -- but she just kept saying "I don't know," so I've just been giving assignments. But I'll keep letting her know that I am definitely still open to her ideas about what she wants to read and what she wants to write about.
I actually see what we are doing as still unschooling, sacrilegious as it may sound, because it wouldn't be unschooling to just ignore her cries for help in getting to the place where she wants to be skill-wise. I also don't see it as unschooling to keep bringing her into contact with former schoolteachers and the like without making sure she can pass muster well enough to alleviate their "concerns." And I additionally don't see it as unschooling to just drop out of the larger society (though I feel like it sometimes) because dd has made it pretty clear that she needs a broader canvass.
So this is just how unschooling looks for us at the moment.
I have found that my kids are interested in interesting things, and so I can introduce them to stuff I value without having to force it on them. They've all enjoyed "The Story Of the World" books in elementary school (we like to listen to the CDs in the car). They like to know where things are, and so they've been happy to learn some basic geography. They like science, so we've done quite a lot of that. I don't worry about covering everything, because that would be impossible, but most of the basics are basics because they are inherently useful and interesting, and if my kids resist learning them, either the format I've got isn't right for them or they aren't ready, but it's not true that they'll never want to understand history or grammar.
One of my favorite things about being unschoolish (I'm not a "real unschooler") is that my kids don't think it's my job to make them learn things, or see themselves as helpless consumers of knowledge that they must wait for someone else to provide. Not too long ago my 10 year old, who was not terribly interested in academics in the early elementary ages, announced that she doesn't know as much as she feels she should about American History, said she plans to "work on it" and asked for advice and assistance in filling in the gaps she sees in her knowledge. She's not ashamed of where she is, but she's not content with it either, and she feels absolutely capable of getting from where she is to where she wants to be.
Beyond that, my requirements for my kids are tailored to who they are and what I feel they need. My kids have perfectionist streaks that they sometimes need help dealing with-- each can get in a place where they can't see a way forward, and so they will drop a project or avoid a subject because of their perfectionist related anxiety. I do push them to confront their perfectionism when I feel it's important. I also encourage them to keep themselves at a point with their math skills so that they can do the other things they want to do (math is intertwined with so many other subjects) and to read a variety of books. I don't force them, but I have spent a lot of time talking to them about why I believe these things are important.
This is a huge question with what seems, for our family, to be an ever changing answer.
I think all parents have different value systems and will convey those to their children. Academics are just one piece of a much larger picture. I require of my children what seems needed for them and our family at the time. If I'm truly worried about whether or not they know geography or something then I tell them and we work on it (read a book/watch a movie/chat with people we meet from other places, take a trip). They will let me know if I'm getting out of hand in my requirements by protesting heavily! (breaking out the flash cards usually does it, lol) Then, just when I stop worrying about it all, or, as I've come to realize, this is the point where I show respect for my children, they manage to surprise me with a truly amazing accomplishment.
I think children deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else, so I guess my requirements should try to take that into consideration. I think it could be summed up by saying that I 'want' my children to see their lives in a broader context than say, 3rd grade. I 'want' them to see what they want and try to find a way to get there. My minimum 'requirements' are that they brush their teeth and wash their hands and treat people respectfully....So, this is maybe where my concept of unschooling gets fuzzy because I see the academic aspects as simply parts of a greater whole. In other words, why is it okay to 'require' that they wear a seat belt but not that they learn to add and subtract? My concept of unschooling, and why we consider ourselves unschoolers, is that it's a way of seeing each individual as a separate entity learning to live within their family/community/world. My kids see, at this point, basic educational requirements as something practical to get them where they want to go. But where they want to go usually comes first. I say to my eight year old after he expressed interest in parrots: "You want to learn about exotic birds?...oh, it's a good thing you're getting to be such a good reader. Here's a bird encyclopedia, have fun!" This has been a two year obsession, BTW! So, I've backed off, unless he asks me for something, just like I would hope my friends and mentors would do for me when I'm learning something new. They might worry that my entire knowledge base is exotic birds and discuss with their friends about whether or not they've been a good friend to me....WAIT! no they don't! When you're an adult and you have a limited knowledge base that's called being an expert! When your a child, it's called...I don't know, but society seems to be afraid of it. It's like we have a nationwide obsession with producing "well-rounded" little automatons. Our schools require it and ignore glimmers of hyper-focus. I guess I require, at minimum, the time and space for my children to proceed with their own interests. If their interests require something that I specifically provide, then great. If my concerns require them to learn something they're not really into, then...well, welcome to life, kids! (learning to make change when they spend their allowance money is a requirement as is taking out the recycling and helping to clean their room) It's a constant dynamic that, just like any relationship, can quickly turn sour if we bulldoze our way over each other; however, respect and love usually smooth things out.
We are not 'real unschoolers' either.
I do get basic math & writing materials & they are requested to complete several 'lessons' from each per week that we are 'doing school'.
My 5 year old LOVES workbooks of all kinds so sometimes it's more of a 'can't you go play now?' situation when I need to get other things done.
Over all my goals are to produce capable, functional adults with a sense of confidence, firm in what they believe, and with more than one marketable skills.
Marketable skills does not necessarily mean college to me, could be childcare, food service, whatever they like & can support themselves with. If they can fill out the paperwork & hold a job that provides the funds to live on I am okay with that - assuming they are okay with it as well. Now if any of my children are interested in 'higher education' or careers in technologically advanced fields we may end up incorporating more structured classes later on, or at least stricter record keeping.
I don't require any particular work or learning on a day to day (or week-to-week) basis, but obviously I want my son to be happy and fulfilled and curious. I also want him to be literate and well-informed and capable and to be a critical thinker, because these are things I value and see as important... but I don't see how he could fail to be these things. I don't think I'd be unschooling if it wasn't so clear to me that my son is learning and will learn what he needs to learn to achieve his own goals and pursue his own passions. He's picked up so much just through conversation and books and daily life; he's interested in everything-- science, philosophy, history, geography, mythology-- so although we don't study particular subjects in any structured way, he is insatiably curious and blows me away daily with how much he knows and how capable he is. I just blogged about this actually-- seeing him learn to read and write without schooling: http://www.robinstevenson.com/wordpress/category/blog/homeschooling-blog/
I think he's far more likely to continue to love learning if his learning continues to be self-directed, internally motivated and free of coercion. And if he continues to love learning and stays curious about the world, he can't help being literate and well-informed. He's 8 and he's already pretty competent in so many areas. I think kids, as they grow, are generally interested in becoming capable individuals.
Most of what I listed are really goals than requirements. Though, the barrier between the two is permeable for sure. I can think of one imposed requirement we have and it can be seen as education, though, like everything else in unschooling, the barrier between life and education is permeable as well.
I require my kids to fight fair. This is an extension, or perhaps an introduction, of debate, of civil discourse, of presenting one's case in a logical and convincing manner and accepting a counterargument with openness and grace. They need to know how to argue the opposite viewpoint--play the devil's advocate. I see the difficulties of "requiring" openness, but at least I can teach them it intellectually.
(I am under no illusions that the ability to debate is the key to harmonious life skills. My father is a retired lawyer, and he and my stepmother would get into fights of the meanest kind. A longtime partner of mine was so enamored of logic and debate that it blocked his deep and deeply illogical emotions.)
I'm amazed at the doors that have been opened to me because I can speak well. The connections I've made with people who thought that some trippy hippy couldn't possibly understand their viewpoint. The respect I've garnered both professionally and socially despite the way I dress.
It's not just what this skill can get for you, though. It's also what you can give back to society--thoughtfulness instead of indoctrination.
^ Sweetsilver--- I agree! I guess we call them good communication skills, or a strong sense of self tempered with diplomacy and...yeah, you said it better... this also helps to dispel some of the un-socialized/homeschooler myths as well!
- be able to read, comprehend, and enjoy
- be able to be a good listener
- be able to share
- be able to question
- be able to critically think
- be able to try
- not be afraid of making mistakes
- be able to have basic math skills
- have a good foundation in science, history, geography, etc.
- be able to ask for help
- be able to say "I don't know" and not feel bad about it
- have the skills to find the answers they don't know
- to be open
- to be honest
- to be inquisitive
- to be able to live independently (obviously when they're older!)
- to be happy