I'm really interested in the concept of unschooling/ child-led learning, and I want to hear more about the early years from anyone who cares to share. My kids are 4.5 and 1.5. We've recently introduced video games,and my son is hooked! Part of me wants to put some control over how much he does/should play, but part of me wants to just let it ride. He still has plenty of other interests and loves learning, so I'm not too concerned. However, I don't want screen time to dominate or otherwise interfere. He usually just gets on the games when I am not available to interact with him directly, but I do often redirect his attention by offering story time while I'm nursing the younger one, or bringing out a game or toy to use, just as a suggestion with no pressure.
I'm definitely curious to know how proactive (i guess) you are with learning opportunities and introducing topics/ideas. Or do you just go about your day cleaning/cooking/housework, and let the young kids do whatever they please? Do you enroll them in summer camps or other alternative structured learning environments? Do you engage them with purpose, or just literally let them choose what to do and learn?
I'm really open to any ideas and anecdotes, and just basically picking brains. I'm coming from definitely wanting to homeschool with a curriculum to touring schools, and now am more interested in the unschool ideas.
I like this topic, and it's very pertinent to our current situation. Our son is 3.5 and I really feel stuck sometimes over what I should do. We mainly just do our daily things, and try to take him out to the park, and help around the house, and read/talk/play regarding his interests. We are also working on developing friendships for us and hopefully for him- that will help. Otherwise we do travel some too. We haven't enrolled him in any athletic classes- like say soccer- which stuff like that is really popular/"normal" here.
I do find myself letting him watch more tv (Dora the Explorer- or other shows- on my computer/netflix) than I thought I would be doing before I had kids- but I myself spend a TON of time on the computer- and we share the screen and talk about the shows he watches so, I feel it's not a harmful thing.
DS: Logan 6/14/10
We make our house as cozy/learning friendly as possible. Loads of books on all sorts of subjects *Usbourne makes great encyclopedias/dictionaries..* Reading nooks, boardgames, things we find in nature, field guides galore, open ended toys, a huge dress up bin, and most importantly TIME! To get bored, inspired, make art etc..oh speaking of art, we have a ton of great art supplies. Just living a home that encourages learning and free play helps ...
We also plan loads of trips (there are programs at nature centers, historical museum tours, trips to NYC etc..) and playdates with friends. Now that Autumn/Winter are on their way we will stay indoors more, but it's cozy. We cook together (they are welcome to join) and I too make lists of the awesomeness I want to accomplish in a week - sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. I know a lot of unschoolers don't limit media, but I do. It's allowed to be on until 10am than it's OFF for the day!
I missed this thread first time round.
I'm too interested in everything to not bring this into the house, but as long as we were staying home, I've let them do what they wanted, pretty much. At those ages we still limited video time. We placed it in the morning so they wouldn't be asking me all day and I could have a slow morning to wake up. The other exceptions were bath time (once a week, they never wanted to interrupt their games) and dinner time (same). Oddly, they had few problems with bed/story time, especially once I started asking them how long they needed to get their game to a place where they could start again the next day. It also helped that they didn't have to clean up their games (well, it helped in some ways, in others......).
But essentially, I did as mommariffic does--set up the spaces and let them have at. On some good days I really did feel like they played all day while I did chores. Some days, not so energetic, I could have the good timing to catch their moods at the right time and suggest we sit and read or go play in the garden or check for eggs and was able to swoop them up into a calmer place. Other days, it felt like I was always playing catch-up and trying to sooth intense emotions and spent most of the time reading on the couch.
My point is that I did plenty of directing of activities, though directing isn't quite the right word for most instances. I tend not to suggest activities that I am doing if they are thick into a game. I don't want to interrupt that sweet flow. I try not to do it, even if it seems like they are just deep in thought. Hard, because I tend to be that person who thinks outloud, and thinks of things far ahead of where is absolutely necessary.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
There is a new book out there (I reserved it from our library) called Nurture Shock and it explains through scientific studies how much "bad" behavior children learned through shows like Arthur, etc.
Dora for some children (aka mine) is a little girl (mommy where is Dora's mommy? Where is her Daddy? Why is she alone? I don't like that.) who is alone without meaningful adults in her life and followed by an adult male (check the credits for voice) who tries to steal from her (no swiping Swiper). In our family, we do not find that story line good to normalize: i.e. for our little girls to think it is okay for another little girl they love to be followed daily by a man and to be 100% without her parents and that this man would harm her (i.e. steal from her). If someone stole from my daughter who was walking alone on the street (even if it was only her banana!) I would be OFFENDED!!!!! Yet swiper does it repeatedly, with no parental intervention whatso ever. Call me crazy, but my daughters don't even get Dora shoes, they asked those questions after seeing Dora twice on TV at a neighbors house and that sealed it for us. They have million dollar budgets to make these shows, I expect quality. I do however love almost all the episodes of the old Mister Rogers!!! Caillou is decent too (IMO, IMO, IMO lol) and Hurray for Baba Ali is good for 3-6 year olds I think.
Also we don't care much for advertisement and sometimes for use that would play a bigger role than the show itself (i,e we were signed up to National Geographic Junior magazine and it has 14 pages of advertizement EACH ISSUE in a 30 page magazine). Some are for video games, many for fish crackers, but either way, I feel like no thanks, so it hits the recycling. Again some people might think we waste, but I feel it's a waste of my kids brain power to have to digest 14 pages of advertizement to get to the other 16 pages of content. Oh yeah and if your kids weren't watching/ reading the advertizement, it wouldn't be there! Advertisers make money off it, and kids do watch/ read it which is why it's there.
Let's not kid ourselves. IF you're not sure, mention a bunch of kid brands to your kids (might be a list online) and ask them if they consider the brand like for girls or boys? Is this product for babies (hmm why couldn't babies eat super cool pizza flavored fish crackers?) Is it an exciting product? Show them the characters on the food items (especially snacks in the stores) and ask them, is this character mad? happy? cool? smart? rude? Is Sponge bob rude? Is sponge bob cool? Is he smart? Does he think girls are cool? Are girls smart to him? Does sponge bob think big brothers should play nicely with their sisters? Results may be surprising and defy adult logic!!!!
Or ask them which tooth paste is really good for gingivitis and I bet many 4 year olds will know just which flavor of Colgate to get the job done (and no they won't get early entry into dentistry school lol). Now if your kid gives you a "huh?" look when you mention a brand, then you can tell your child has not been affected by the advertisement. However if your kid basically repeats EXACTLY what the advertisement says (i.e. I want 3 meat pizza on Thursday because kids eat free!) well you know they've been influenced as far as their purchasing power goes. If they had a wallet and keys you know where they would be on Thursday. And in 15 years if they have kids and Thursdays are still free for kids, they may well bring your grandkids in for pizza on Thursdays and make sure to brush with Colgate after their kids drink the latest Pepsi drink.
In the context on unschooling, is it reasonable that, after some internal research on our kids, to deny that the TV is not schooling them? That Sponge Bob is not really teaching them that little sisters are uncool? That that skating game is not teaching boys that danger is fun and being nice to your mom isn't? That Dora is not teaching girls to just want to live alone too, just like Dora? I mean Dora doesn't have a mom who makes her pick up her socks, rinse her cereal bed and OMG go to bed... Swiper is annoying but ... at least moms not on my back, ya know??
Thank you for sharing your experience and point of view flecet. Your kids are lucky to have a Mama like you who really looks into and challenges the other "voices" that may be in her children's lives.
As for Dora (not sure if you brought it up because I mentioned my son watches it or not?) but even at 3.5 yrs old my son knows that it's a tv show, with cartoon (made-up) characters and plots. I am not in the least bit concerned that he has extrapolated that Dora's limited contact with her parents (and if it will ease your mind a bit Dora's Mom, Dad, and home are shown in quite a few episodes) has anything to do with his current reality or choices. We are an attached family... he certainly has no desire to walk down the street without me let alone go off exploring because Dora said so. The other thing to keep in mind is we as parents have more weight than we ever know! The advertisers and media may try-try-try but if we are at all involved and attentive parents then none of that is going to hold a candle to their relationship with us.
DS: Logan 6/14/10
Actually I just re-read your post and saw Dora, sorry was not trying to be personal! I mentioned Dora because my neighbor's kid was (sorta) addicted to it, aka could tell the time at age 2 and my girls went along and that was the only show that really had an effect on them (also the only "princessy" show they ever watched LOL so maybe that's it!). So yeah after 2 episodes, partial at that, they were begging for chewy bars with Dora on them in the food aisle. I answered (not so nicely) in this family we don't buy Dora chewy bars. Ahem. Okay it sounded rude even to me and to the lady buying pineapple too. I will admit I think it's mostly my kids temperament, my oldest son could watch Dora all day and never ask (and maybe not even care) where her parents, grandparents, Godparents or cousins are). But for the kids who do care, I was just putting it out there that it could be a scary show for them and be confusing.
That's ok! :) I do agree that if a kid picked up on it, it could be confusing and scary for them that the parents are not around. The "philosophy" I have about tv watching is I try to keep it a shared/family activity as much as possible that way you can explain things that may come up, or suggest something else if the content is too upsetting.
DS: Logan 6/14/10