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#1 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 09:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you make an effort to expose your kids to a more well-rounded set of experiences and interests than they would get naturally? If so, how, and to what extent? 

 

My kids are little (4.5 and 2.5), but I'm leaning in an unschooling-ish direction, and what little structure we have (PBH) is child-chosen topics.  And as we go, I see that their areas of learning and knowledge are highly biased by the interests and activities of my particular family. For instance, they have a huge exposure to science, nature, and the outdoors, but a rather paltry or lacking exposure to music, history, and foreign language. Is this a problem?  Clearly, I'd support a kid who independently developed an interest in one of those things, but am I failing them by not living a well-rounded enough life myself? Will this work itself out as they get older, or do I need to make a conscious effort to add those weak points to our life?

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#2 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 05:58 PM
 
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I don't know if I'm *living* a well-rounded life, but I certainly have and express interest in all kinds of things.  Today we just spent a 1/2 hour watching about 10 teenage boys doing stunts on their bikes at a skateboard park.  That's just one example.  I slow down for vultures with roadkill (also today), giggled at the deer relieving themselves our our back door, watching those round-bale contraptions wrapping those in plastic, musicians busking, we have fun watching football at my sisters house (and playing their video games), and I love love love when vintage car enthusiasts roll out their sweet rides.  

 

It's all very shallow, and I'm not going to run out and start doing flips and wheelies on my bike or even change the oil on my car (though we do peek in on the mechanics to see what they are up to), but I appreciate skill and cool contraptions, human ingenuity.  We groove on Disney Imagineers, David Attenborough, National Geographic, River Monsters, and Shaun the Sheep.  

 

So, show interest and curiosity in a broad range of things, and listen to your kids for hints that they want to go deeper.  My daughter is dying to go fishing.  This is harder for me-- it's not something I do, I have limited access to fishing mentors (some good possibilities, though) and it's something that we are working on.  I'd even take my girls to the car races, if they really wanted to go, even though that is just about the last thing I would want to do short of bungee jumping.  I would find the fun in it, and turn it into a good time-- and bring some really, really good ear protection.

 

Is there a limit to what I would personally do?  Oh, yeah.... bungee jumping, base jumping, rock climbing, climbing Mt. Everest, hang gliding/paragliding, um, yeah, what else..... swimming with great whites, scuba diving any deeper than 10 feet (see "swimming with great whites").  And as cool as it sounds to do an amazing exploration like the "Megatransect" through Central Africa to the coast, yeah, um, no.  However, I real, really appreciate that other people do it and write about it.  


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#3 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 07:25 PM
 
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Is there a limit to what I would personally do?  Oh, yeah.... bungee jumping, base jumping, rock climbing, climbing Mt. Everest, hang gliding/paragliding, um, yeah, what else..... swimming with great whites, scuba diving any deeper than 10 feet (see "swimming with great whites").  And as cool as it sounds to do an amazing exploration like the "Megatransect" through Central Africa to the coast, yeah, um, no.  

... firing "assault" rifles, bull riding, Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.... 


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#4 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 08:57 PM
 
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I like my kids to have balance in their lives. Balance between creative and passive activities, between active and sedentary activities, between social and solitary things, between analytical and intuitive thinking. We talk about the issue of balance a lot; I think in general my kids do pretty well at it: if they're spending a ton of time on the computer we'll talk about that and they'll come up with something that they can do more of to balance out the hours of solitary, sedentary activity. But beyond the natural unschooled learning of the variety of skills and knowledge that are a part of daily life in our society, I don't put much stock in well-roundedness. I'd rather have kids who have developed passion and talent in a few areas than kids who have done a little bit of everything. The world of knowledge is too vast to touch on everything in a meaningful way, and I think passion and depth are worth more than shallow breadth of experience. 

 

My ds(16) has spent his summer playing music with friends, leading tours at a ghost town, playing on the computer, and hiking and biking. I'm not going to try to persuade him to take up a team sport, or try tinkering with small engines, or write poetry. He has a balanced life, and he's really good at the things he does.

 

Having said all that, I think there's a role for parents to model excitement and interest in a variety of areas ... but mostly because exploring as-yet-unknown areas provides opportunity for passion to ignite.

 

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#5 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 11:23 PM
 
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Do you make an effort to expose your kids to a more well-rounded set of experiences and interests than they would get naturally? If so, how, and to what extent? 

 

I actually think that naturally they will get exposed to a most things, and not being in school gives them a chance to follow up more than they may have if they were more booked up. I do make an effort to share the ideas of things with them, but not always the actually things... They will make friends with kids who do different activities and have different interests, and be exposed to things organically. I think when they are older it happens a lot more. They see all the books at the library full of stories about people doing so many different things, they see videos, stuff like that.  We try to take advantage of free activities in our town like music at the park, library presentations, performances.  When they are old enough to flip through the rec center catalogue they will see all the neat little classes offered.  

 

I like what Miranda is saying about having a few passions being more meaningful than dipping your toe into everything. My oldest does highland dance, and sometimes I wonder if I'm limiting her by not letting her try out tap, ballet, and other things... but she LIKES it. She's good at it.  There is nothing wrong with finding something you like and sticking with it instead of trying a bunch of different things :)


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#6 of 29 Old 08-21-2013, 11:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And as cool as it sounds to do an amazing exploration like the "Megatransect" through Central Africa to the coast, yeah, um, no.

I have to laugh at this a little, since Megatransect type things are exactly what my family DOES do.

 

Anyway, I guess I feel like we have full and interesting and balanced lives, and we do well on being curious and interested in stuff that comes up. But they're little. What comes up is inevitably based on what their immediate family is doing. I know my mother sometimes feels that we've basically turned my 4 year old into a narrow little geek. And in a way, he is. And maybe it is my fault? We'd be happy to read him fiction or draw pictures or sing songs, but maybe he senses that his parents quite enjoy discussions of prehistoric evolution or the physics of airplane flight, and that's why he spends most of his time on that stuff?

 

I'm also a little sensitive to the fact that we're really rural (when we aren't actually doing wilderness expeditions), so although I think we have a wonderful community of interesting people and cool activities and amazing natural environments, there are many things we will simply never run into in day to day life. Hay balers, football, and buskers among them (though fishing is quite easy). 

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#7 of 29 Old 08-22-2013, 02:57 AM
 
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I've been pondering this a lot recently and started a thread on it, which got a lot of very interesting replies. 

 

I have kind of come to the conclusion that homeschooling has its own characteristics, things that are neither a strength nor a weakness, but a fact, and this is one of them. Homeschooled kids are typically, IMO, exposed to a narrower range of experiences in greater depth. In the past I've burnt everyone out trying to mitigate that a bit, but really now I am accepting it.

 

I think one of the problems is that for most of us, the waters feel quite untested. In theory I'm all up for the idea of a kid with great depth but not much breadth. But the lurking concern I always have is, what if that kid wants to switch? What if that kid hits their mid twenties and decides that they didn't want to be an lawyer but rather a chemist? I can personally vouch for how hard it is to retrain as a scientist from an arty background.

 

For me, the thing has to be, this is how we are doing it, these are the experiences my kids are going to have. Its about accepting that there will be regrets. There will be things they miss out on.  Homeschooling isn't perfect. It may well be that one of my kids would be an amazing Olympic curling champion, or has an undiscovered gift for the harp, but the odds of them ever getting to discover that are minimal. 

 

The other thing of course is that by becoming very good at one thing you can often open otherwise shut doors, so narrow focus may be a good strategy. 

 

I think as good parents we try to help our kids when they have an interest, we think of ways to help them explore it, people they might like to talk to, etc. I'd say I do this in pretty much the same way I might if a friend had an interest in something, although obviously I do it more with my kids. But because they tend to have existing strong interests which take up their time, and often have strong ideas about what they like, as well as because we don't know or like everything , they are not exposed to everything.


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#8 of 29 Old 08-22-2013, 09:47 AM
 
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Forgive this long post.

 

I don't know if I'm the best example, but growing up I was very interested in books and other creative pursuits. I took up acting in high school, and foreign languages were not far behind-- I took both Spanish and German in high school and had to dig my heels in in college when the head of the drama department didn't want to approve my taking both in addition to drama classes.  I wanted to be an actress, or if not, I wanted to study Chaucer and create my own world with its languages ala Tolkein.  Tolkein was my hero.  I disliked science by comparison (biology was fun) and was totally confused by physics, and I plodded through geometry, my last required math credit.

 

Well, when I was 20, I met this red-head hippie with no shoes and playing a pan pipe, and he took me on adventures, dropped psychedelics for the first time outside a party atmosphere, started questioning the nature of consciousness. I started reading about Buddhism and Taoism and Hinduism, started delving into world mythology, which was something I did love before, but this time as a metaphor for the spiritual journey, ala Joseph Campbell.  I started picking up skills like beadwork, leatherwork, handstitching, while my boyfriend continued to make his own flutes.  Through our own travels and at Rainbow Gatherings I learned to make and cook over a fire, bake in a woodfired oven (of river rock sometimes).  I learned to bake bread, crochet, spin wool.  I picked up knitting and jam making and preserves.  I taught myself herbal medicine at libraries in towns I traveled through, as well as Native American beadwork traditions (and the history of European costume--some old habits dies hard).  I can still look at an old, traditional piece of beadwork and make a fair guess where it came from.  I learned wild edibles and uses of native plants.  I learned some wilderness survival skills and dreamed of wandering off into the wilderness (NOT central Africa, though, thank you!)

 

And science.  I actually started to be interested in science (thank you Dancing Wu Li Masters) and Star Trek (and the book Physics of Star Trek).  I read tomes like Godel, Escher, Bach, and started grooving on what would define consciousness in the ever-expanding digital world, and our connection to it (virtual reality was new and real, and dystopian movies like the Matrix evolved out of it).  I started GETTING IT, and that made learning more science easier.  

 

I started DEBATING, and doing it well, especially about politics and, especially anarchy and libertarianism, about deep environmentalism and religion.  Our coffeehouse had an endless parade of hippies and chess and go players, travelers,  and physicists and philosophy majors and artists..... serious brain candy for a trippin' hippie.....

 

One day, at a house on Frat Row  (we called Steal-Your-Frat because the rooms were rented by a fraternity that lost its charter at that university and its old members were moving out while the hippies were moving in), I happened to see a wilting plant, and I watered it.  Next day, it looked nice and I kept it watered and the neighboring plants.  It was a gallardia (blanket flower) and it started blooming non-stop.  I was irretrievably hooked.  I started gardening there.  I already knew most of the local weeds through my studies.  I started wanted to move out to nowhere and "homestead".   A friend told me about permaculture, so I studied that.  Finally (is there ever a finally"?) that lead me to seek out a Certain Gardener who had piloted an urban orchard project, and he became my husband.

 

I picked up yoga and Aikido, studied Japanese sword for a time.  Learned enough about gardening I had some of my own clients as well as working for my husband.  

 

I never came to  place where I suddenly wanted to go back to college and study "that", but I have considered it many times.  No longer acting, it would be either botany (I would also love to be a scientist considering problems of generational space flight and food production--something a permaculturist would be perfect for), soil biology and conservation (we have a lot of timber companies and farmers here who could use the work of a soil scientist), possibly agriculture, and yes, even some thoughts about studying Chaucer again (I do love those old languages) but I think it would be something to do with plants and soil.

 

Buuuut...... well, kids got in the way, and every time I thought about going back to school, it didn't sound like I wanted to immerse myself in that way, to the exclusion of my myriad pursuits.  I have people all around me who could teach me volumes, once I have the time to give them-- I don't need school for that.  I'm learning about chickens and scoutish things, improving and expanding on my outdoor skills.  I am interested in math concepts for a change and the girls and I groove on fun things on the internet and make fun things with paper.  I continue to add skills to my repertoire-- wanting to add basketry (we have a lot of willows and other material on our property) and fermentation.  I still dream of doing a wilderness skills immersion course, especially tracking.  

 

It's my turn to teach other kids what I've learned, and what I'm still learning.  (All that language and mythology study has added to our homeschooling nicely--or nerd-ily, depending on everyone's moods.  Sometimes it's fascination, other times it's eyerolls.  "Not Medusa again, mama!")  I've been a children's Aikido instructor, I'm a girl scout leader and soon to be 4-H poultry leader.  I guess I'm drawn to sharing my interests with kids, passing on what I know and learning more in the process.

 

My post is not about choosing to unschool myself in my adult life.  It is about the change and evolution of interests, and the many places I had the choice to delve deeper into something, even taking it to the university level (I just personally never wanted to make that commitment.)  There were so many opportunities in my mid-twenties and -thirties, before kids, that I could have made those choices and chose the path of diversification instead.  I am not the expert at anything, but I know where to find them and am skilled at garnering their assistance.  

 

I'm bolding this part to make it stand out:  I guess the point of this colossal post (thank you) is to say that immersion does not prevent change.  No pursuit is entirely isolated from others (just as botany is not isolated from the problems of space flight!)  People do change, and opportunities abound.


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#9 of 29 Old 08-22-2013, 08:52 PM
 
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I've wondered about this, too. Especially since my kids are on the autism spectrum and tend to have "tunnel vision", embracing the things they are passionate about and rejecting out-of-hand anything that even smells of being "other than those things I like", even when they have no idea what that other thing is or looks like. 

 

I think in the long run, Miranda said it best. We cannot know a little bit about everything, and I think being passionate about a subject and gaining experience and expertise is the better way to a future occupation that will feed your soul as well as your family. 

 

Also, unschoolers know how to learn, believe that they can learn, are not afraid of wanting to acquire new knowledge or a new skill because they know the path to learning and how to take ownership of it. I've learned many things in my adult life I would never have been interested in as a child. I also learned things as a child in an attempt to make me "well rounded" (like years of violin lessons - not my idea) that I have no use for as an adult, being someone who was (and still is) never very interested in music or being able to play an instrument. 


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#10 of 29 Old 08-23-2013, 03:40 PM
 
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 I know my mother sometimes feels that we've basically turned my 4 year old into a narrow little geek. 

Well, he is only 4, so you haven't turned him into anything yet!  When he is all grown up, if he is still only interested in what he is interested in right now, maybe she can say that winky.gif

 

Other kids might get to experience things he hasn't, but he gets to do things other kids don't.  I don't think that it's narrow, it's just different from some other families.


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#11 of 29 Old 08-23-2013, 08:38 PM
 
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I know this thread is to encourage the OP not to worry about well-roundedness too much... or give her reasons to pursue it, but I had some thoughts.

 

As much as I agree that meaningful depth can be fulfilling, and I agree about not worrying too much about well-roundedness, but encouraging balance, I wonder what we actually mean by "touching on everything" and "shallow experiences" (I think even I used a phrase with "shallow" in it)??  What does that mean?

 

Does is mean diversity?  When does diversity become "shallow"?  When do you slide from Dabbler to Dilenttante?  

 

As much as I appreciate really taking the time to study something, when I read comments like PBH prioritizing depth and considering it ultimately superior, I get a bit miffed.  Sure, there can be levels of satisfaction with mastery that are so incredibly different, but I don't need to be a master to enjoy playing guitar and singing.  I don't need to be an expert to enjoy my chickens.  I don't need to be amazing at knitting to enjoy knitting my kids' hats and mittens.  What is so terribly inferior about sticking with exploring a wide range of things less deeply?

 

And what do we mean when we use the word "shallow", or other words opposite of "depth" in this context?  (And does anyone truly live this way?)


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#12 of 29 Old 08-23-2013, 11:16 PM
 
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Good questions!

 

In thinking about it, you are talking about things you are *competent* at, but not expert at. To me, those don't fall into the category of a "shallow experience".

 

For example, as part of my "well rounded" high school education I learned a lot about social studies (politics, Canadian history), read a few "required" novels for English, and learned how to conjugate dozens of verbs in French. However, I was never all that interested in these subjects, never delved into that stuff again, and retained virtually nothing of that learning into adulthood. To me, that is shallow experiences in the name of being well rounded. 

 

Or maybe being well-rounded becomes shallow when it is someone else's agenda/idea?


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#13 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 11:25 AM
 
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And what do we mean when we use the word "shallow", or other words opposite of "depth" in this context?  (And does anyone truly live this way?)

 

The better word to contrast with "depth" in this context is probably "breadth." 

 

You raise some good points. I guess I just see that for most people -- though this no doubt depends on temperament -- there's a tendency to seek novelty, and we live in a world with access to so many possibilities right at our fingertips. Compared to a hundred and fifty years ago, when kids might have experienced two or three sports, been taught a few basic handicrafts and a narrow academic education, our worlds today are so broad, so rich, so full of possibilities. Childhoods are long nowadays too. Kids are not out working or making babies by age 15: they may still have another 10 years of being primarily focused on education at that age. Opportunities pop up everywhere. Even if they only try out a couple of new things a year it adds up! I think there's so much about human nature and contemporary society that makes breadth [as opposed to depth] the default. 

 

When kids are young you don't necessarily envision the breadth of experience that accumulates naturally over the years, just in the course of life, with no particular effort put into that mandate. When he's four you worry you're raising a geeky-sciencey kid, but then he learns to read and at age 7 goes on a year-long Harry Potter jag that has him obsessed with story-telling and fiction, and then at 9 his best friend talks him into taking an art class and he has this fabulous year-long experience with the visual arts, and then he sees an aikido demonstration at the park and he does that for a couple of years, and when he's 12 his sister encourages him to join a choir, and your family friends talk you into bringing the whole family to community gardening days which he loves, and one year he decides to do swim lessons, and then there was the spring that his buddy and he did all those crazy mountain-bike rides, and then the choir goes on tour to Cuba, and he picks up an interest in Spanish, and he gets involved in music production with friends, and so on. Breadth is kind of built into the system when you're living in the 21st century, IME. 

 

So depth is the direction that I feel benefits from more active support and encouragement. Sticking with things when they're no longer exciting and new. Refining skills even when the law of diminishing returns has kicked in, when you have spent twenty hours learning to do something passably and another forty hours is needed to learn to do it slightly-better-than-passably. Identifying subtle improvements that can be made and devising strategies that will allow that learning to take place. Reaching out for help from outside sources, learning the discipline of actively studying something in depth, monitoring progress, breaking down problems. In my observation most of these more advanced learning skills are developed to a much greater extent when one is pushing past what comes easily into the deeper complexities of a subject or skill. 

 

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#14 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 11:59 AM
 
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This topic is why I don't self-identify as an unschooler (I feel like I fit better here than in the general homeschooling board, and I am supportive of unschooling, so I hope I don't bother anyone by sharing my opinions.)  

 

I love kids (and adults) following passions, but I think that we need to acknowledge that our children are growing up in a society that has school-based expectations about what a kid will know and what skills a kid will have. In the same way I would (and have) acted when I had a kid who wasn't reading at age 8, and who was increasingly uncomfortable with the way people responded to that, I aim for my kids to have the general knowledge one would expect based on their age. I actually think of a lot of it as cultural literacy-- an American ought to know what the Nazi party stood for and that there was a Civil War and generally what happened, and to be able to locate major countries on a map or globe. They ought to be familiar enough with scientific concepts that they know what evaporation means and what evolution is, etc... They ought to know basically how our government is intended to work.  And on and on-- there's a lot of stuff that comes up that educated people are expected to know.

 

I know that in many households for many kids, this knowledge is simply absorbed, but I have at least one kid who seems to benefit from my being a little more intentional about it. She doesn't want to read between the lines or intuit, she wants to be told flat out. So that's what I do. The alternative is for her to feel uncomfortably ignorant on a regular basis, and while I could give her a little pep talk about the many things she does know, addressing the gaps that concern her seems like a better solution, IMO. 

 

I wouldn't worry about well-roundedness with a 4 year old, but I think there is a point where encouraging a well-rounded foundation of knowledge has its place. 

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#15 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 12:36 PM
 
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This topic is why I don't self-identify as an unschooler

 

I'm not sure this is really the place for me to comment on this, but all your examples of basic cultural literacy are things that have come up repeatedly in my kids' unschooled lives. Not on some sort of "What Your __th Grader Should Know" kind of schedule, of course, but encountered nonetheless. Questions come up at election time, political satire TV shows are watched, a graphic novel refers to historical events, a museum or a historical fiction novel fills in the gaps, more questions are asked, podcasts and video-blogs are watched, etc. etc. 

 

I know it is easy to worry as a prospective unschooling parent: what if some things *never* come up? In that case, do I need to break with unschooling and actively teach them? I've asked myself those questions. What if ... ?

 

But as my kids have grown up I've realized that for us at least the questions are entirely hypothetical. The "if" scenario just never comes up. Imagine you are the parent of a 6-month old baby, asking yourself "what if my child doesn't ever learn to walk? would I intervene with direct instruction? shouldn't I be actively instructing him just in case?" Well, yeah, if my child never learned to walk I'd do something. But that's sooooo unlikely, and it would pretty for certain much be the result of a disability of some sort, which hopefully I would recognize as time ticked by, and of course intervention would make sense. But in the absence of red flags or significant delays I'm not going to let that remote possibility change my approach now. I'm just going to let my baby scoot and crawl and wait for walking to happen on its own schedule.

 

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#16 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 01:17 PM
 
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This topic is why I don't self-identify as an unschooler

 

I'm not sure this is really the place for me to comment on this, but all your examples of basic cultural literacy are things that have come up repeatedly in my kids' unschooled lives. Not on some sort of "What Your __th Grader Should Know" kind of schedule, of course, but encountered nonetheless. Questions come up at election time, political satire TV shows are watched, a graphic novel refers to historical events, a museum or a historical fiction novel fills in the gaps, more questions are asked, podcasts and video-blogs are watched, etc. etc. 

 

I know it is easy to worry as a prospective unschooling parent: what if some things *never* come up? In that case, do I need to break with unschooling and actively teach them? I've asked myself those questions. What if ... ?

 

But as my kids have grown up I've realized that for us at least the questions are entirely hypothetical. The "if" scenario just never comes up. Imagine you are the parent of a 6-month old baby, asking yourself "what if my child doesn't ever learn to walk? would I intervene with direct instruction? shouldn't I be actively instructing him just in case?" Well, yeah, if my child never learned to walk I'd do something. But that's sooooo unlikely, and it would pretty for certain much be the result of a disability of some sort, which hopefully I would recognize as time ticked by, and of course intervention would make sense. But in the absence of red flags or significant delays I'm not going to let that remote possibility change my approach now. I'm just going to let my baby scoot and crawl and wait for walking to happen on its own schedule.

 

Miranda

 

Miranda,

 

I'm not a prospective unschooling parent. I've been homeschooling for 8 years, the first 5 we unschooled according to just about anyone's definition of unschooling. The difference is that while for your family you never got to a point where actively teaching seemed necessary, in my family we have. I'm sharing this for two reasons: 1) I am glad we unschooled the early years-- it was a good fit for our family then 2) I don't think it's a failure that we are more structured and intentional now (although in a lot of ways we are still very unschooly).  

 

I agree that these things come up, but I don't agree that that level of exposure is enough for every kid to feel like they know about a topic. I have a kid who doesn't feel like she knows about things just because we discussed them briefly at dinner or watched a podcast. She wants more than that before she feels competent, and feeling competent is important to her. 

 

Perhaps my kids would seem disabled in some way to you. I don't know. No one else seems to think so. But I do know that at least one of them does better when I am a bit more intentional with her learning. She's happier and more confident when she knows where she stands and can see her own progress, and she is not able to set that up for herself at this point. 

 

I think that if you're in a setting where someone gives a presentation or asks a question that assumes knowledge you don't have, there are 3 main reactions: 1) Decide to learn about the missing knowledge 2) Zone out because you don't care 3) Take your lack of knowledge as proof that you're stupid/ignorant and carefully avoid being in a situation where the topic will come up again. Hard-line unschooling tends to completely ignore that reaction 3 can happen, even though it's what a lot of adults do a lot of the time. 

 

I get that unschooling in your way has been fabulously successful for your family, but my experience is valid too. I'm not sure what the intent of your post is, but it comes across as trying to shame me for not agreeing with you. 

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#17 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 01:25 PM
 
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onatightrope,

 

I think there are plenty of good reasons for not being an unschooler. Seeing that your child is happier and more secure with other-directed education is a pretty excellent one. I just think that the fear that without adult intentional learning a child will never accrue cultural literacy and basic academic skills is an overblown fear.

 

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#18 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 01:40 PM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

onatightrope,

 

I think there are plenty of good reasons for not being an unschooler. Seeing that your child is happier and more secure with other-directed education is a pretty excellent one. I just think that the fear that without adult intentional learning a child will never accrue cultural literacy and basic academic skills is an overblown fear.

 

Miranda

I didn't mean to suggest that. I meant to support the idea that having a breadth of knowledge is valuable, and it's worth a parent thinking about, in the same way they might watch that their kids' diet is reasonably varied and that they're getting an adequate mix of physical and sedentary and social and solitary activities. Also that it doesn't happen effortlessly for every kid. 

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#19 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 01:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just wanted to say I appreciate all the thoughtful responses here. I'm mostly just listening, because as I said, my kids are very young and I don't know how this stuff ends up working out.

 

Inevitably (because of where and how we live and what we do as a family), my kids' childhood will be very unusual in a standard American context. Even if we send them to the local public school. Not being exposed to a standard curriculum (even if all those cultural literacy things come up in other ways) will make them even more into people who "come from a different world". I happen to think that this differentness is awesome. But would it be more fair or kinder to seek to give a kid a background that will make them more "normal"? What do older kids/young adults end up thinking about that aspect of things?

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#20 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 02:27 PM
 
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What do older kids/young adults end up thinking about that aspect of things?

 

What they think depends on who they are ... and if you grow up weird, I think you tend to like weird. I will say that for my 16- and 19-year-olds, who don't tend to be effusive with their praise at all, when they meet someone they really really like, they tend to express how awesome that person is in terms of how eccentric, weird and "Burkholderish" they are (Burkholder being their surname). So to them, being weird and different just as we are is held up as the highest compliment.

 

Having said that, I know that there are some kids who, as they grow through the early teen years, reject whatever family weirdness they've grown up in and make a conscious effort to adopt a more conforming identity. These are often the kids who choose to go to middle- or high-school, and immerse themselves in that social world. I had feared my middle dd was one of those kids. (One of her reasons at age 12 for wanting to go to school was "to have more of a normal life"). But she has definitely stayed happily weird, even if her life is a little more mainstream.

 

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#21 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 06:28 PM
 
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So depth is the direction that I feel benefits from more active support and encouragement. Sticking with things when they're no longer exciting and new. Refining skills even when the law of diminishing returns has kicked in, when you have spent twenty hours learning to do something passably and another forty hours is needed to learn to do it slightly-better-than-passably. Identifying subtle improvements that can be made and devising strategies that will allow that learning to take place. Reaching out for help from outside sources, learning the discipline of actively studying something in depth, monitoring progress, breaking down problems. In my observation most of these more advanced learning skills are developed to a much greater extent when one is pushing past what comes easily into the deeper complexities of a subject or skill. 

 

Miranda

So, responding to my original line of thought.

 

"Traditionalists" are of the school that learning to do something you don't like anyway is character building.  I think all of being unschoolers, or at least child-led, in general reject the extreme of that.  The other hypothetical extreme is (unrealistically perhaps?) someone who can explore depth with complete joy and all but the most fleeting frustration.  [Let's say hypothetically, for the sake of simplicity, that this person is a young adult, or at least a child can operate at such a level, for the purpose of eliminating the pressure-requirement-from-parents-etc digression.]

 

What is valuable lesson from these extremes-- depth? perseverance?  Clearly we don't want to operate from the stand point of "getting slightly too hard, I'm turning my back on this even though my heart yearns for it"...  Again, wanting to keep "imposed learning" issues entirely out of this, if that's possible.

 

damn.  Lost my train of thought because I should be packing....

 

Have I already made my point and asked the right question?  My mind is kerfuffled.  I have this down so now I can go away and think about it some more (inadvertently, of course)


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#22 of 29 Old 08-24-2013, 06:41 PM
 
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Picking up your tangent and dragging it over here, likely tangling it further....

 

I've never really bought into the idea that unschooling is about being blissful all the time, doing exactly what you feel like doing at every moment. When kids are very young, living in the moment, there may be a lot of immersion in blissful play and blissful exploration. 

 

But as kids get older, more abstract, with bigger dreams and loftier goals, I think that unschooling is often more about following your bliss. With emphasis on the "following" part. Meaning that they are able to see "my bliss is out there, and I'm willing to do this non-blissful stuff to get to it." Deferment of gratification.

 

Along with empathy, I see deferment of gratification as one of the main things parents are charged with imparting to their kids to help them reach full maturity. And I see the pursuit of depth in learning as one really efficient way for kids to exercise their ability to defer gratification. Not the only way, but one really good way.

 

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#23 of 29 Old 08-25-2013, 01:47 PM
 
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Mckittre, darling mama friend of mine and fellow PBH'er ...

You do NOT need to worry about L and K in this regard. The epic adventures you get up to -- and the variety of people who host and support you during said epic adventures -- are exposing your children to more than they could ever take in in a lifetime. You live in a special place, and have a delightful family and community, and to be honest, K is the very same kid he has been since he was born ... to you and your DP, who are environmental stewards & scientists!
So, no doubt your household has a focus on earth sciences (hello ... 800 mile expedition on foot and by boat with two small children over several months!?!?!) I'd be shocked if it didn't!.
Your rich and fully-lived lives demonstrate following your passion to your kids.
I will never have the time, resources, or opportunity to fully pursue all of the things I want to, and so I focus.
As our children will too.
Is it nature that has lead K to his particular passions and social quirks? Or nurture? Both?
It's wonderful that he is excited about the things you are into as a family ... I wonder if L will be the same? Or if she'll bring new interests into the family?
If K had been the kid who made up fairy tales and wanted to draw dragons on every scrap of paper he found, you would've facilitated that interest.
But he gets excited about rocks and fossils and the natural world ... An interest which you are also facilitating!
If he saw a video about fencing and decided to pursue that, I bet you'd track down Alaska's premier épée artiste and hook K up, right?
There is no way of truly knowing what our children will end up connecting with and building a passionate and deep knowledge base around ... And so we go on passionately following our own pursuits and living by example.
You rock, mama. And yes, K is a nerd ... But all the cool kids are!!!

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#24 of 29 Old 08-25-2013, 04:23 PM
 
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just to contribute to the breadth vs depth debate.

 

I live in north America but was raised in Europe and Africa.

compared to North America, europe/asia/africa tends to focus more on a very large breadth. In Ex soviet union, for example, everyone has to finish 9 years of school, and every human being is expected to know some basic stuff.

I didn't see it here. Most of my highly educated colleagues here in Canada couldn't locate my country of origin on a map. most don't even know on which continent it is locate. yet they all  have at least 10 years of college education. 

at first, I thought that this depth and ''hyperspecialization'' is a very negative thing. 

then I realized that I forgot 90% of stuff that I have learned and I never used.

then after studying in college here, I realised that it wasn't the content of learning that I was developing, but the ability to learn.

what I mean by this: a lot of jobs here require potential candidates to have a college degree. in anything. doesn't matter, art or science. 

that surprised me at first. I thought: are we learning all this knowledge for nothing?

But what I realised, is that employers are looking for people with skills to learn stuff, not people with a bag of knowledge.  

once we have developed the skill of learning at a high level, w can always learn anything.

so if my kid spends years learning respiratory infections of a certain species of japanese snails, and has very little general knowledge about a lot of different subjects that society expects him to master....I wouldn't worry.

if his social environment expects him to know something, and he is confident in his learning skills, he will learn that ''something''

But I think he will only be confident in his strong learning skills the day he masters a subject in great depth, doesn't matter what that subject is. 

 

it is not how much different stuff a person knows that determines how easily they can learn something knew.

it is rather how advanced their learning skills are that determines that. 

 

 

anyway, english is not my first or second language, so I am not sure my thoughts are expressed correctly.......I think I am saying the same stuff as Miranda!

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#25 of 29 Old 08-25-2013, 05:16 PM
 
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lilitchka, you expressed yourself just fine and I totally agree with you. :-)

 

I think "knowing how to learn about something new" is really the only skill a child needs. I also believe they are all innately born with that skill, but school can drive it out of a vast many of them. I don't believe you have to be total diehard unschoolers to prevent that (hit tip to onatightrope; we do a wee bit of "required" learning now, too), but having a great deal of unstructured free time as well as support and encouragement to focus on and pursue your passions as far as you want to go is necessary. 

 

If you feel confident that you can learn anything if you feel like learning it, there is nothing to stand in the way of you becoming as "normal" or as "well rounded" as you feel you need to be. Even onatightrope said that her daughter was uncomfortable not knowing things that she felt she should know, and it sounds like onatightrope provided her DD with that knowledge in the way that her DD needed/wanted. So I don't really see that as an example of a kid not being able to achieve "well roundedness" on her own. 


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#26 of 29 Old 08-26-2013, 10:59 AM
 
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lilitchka, you expressed yourself just fine and I totally agree with you. :-)

 

I think "knowing how to learn about something new" is really the only skill a child needs. I also believe they are all innately born with that skill, but school can drive it out of a vast many of them. I don't believe you have to be total diehard unschoolers to prevent that (hit tip to onatightrope; we do a wee bit of "required" learning now, too), but having a great deal of unstructured free time as well as support and encouragement to focus on and pursue your passions as far as you want to go is necessary. 

 

If you feel confident that you can learn anything if you feel like learning it, there is nothing to stand in the way of you becoming as "normal" or as "well rounded" as you feel you need to be. Even onatightrope said that her daughter was uncomfortable not knowing things that she felt she should know, and it sounds like onatightrope provided her DD with that knowledge in the way that her DD needed/wanted. So I don't really see that as an example of a kid not being able to achieve "well roundedness" on her own. 

 

My requirements for my kids don't go past needing a plan to cover each the subjects required by the state for each year at an age-appropriate level. Its only on the internet that that is shocking, most of my unschooly friends IRL are thinking about how to help their kids cover the basics.

 

I don't know why we need to choose between breadth and depth. Can't we don't both? Just like we can have close friends AND be part of a big community with lots of acquaintances? One will rob some time from the other, but not to the extent that we can't manage both. And we may find ourselves growing away from those close friends and some of the acquaintances may become close friends, and others will remain acquaintances, but still enrich our lives...

 

We have all the time in the world, why not aim to expose your kids to a wide range of stuff? I don't see a downside to it.

 

It doesn't need to be a fear-based decision, why not do it because there's so much awesome stuff to know?

 

I agree that it's important to know how to learn something new, but I also think employers like to hire people with at least some relevant skills and knowledge. So they may not care about the major, but they may still want people who can write well and understand statistics and use a computer on day 1.  

 

Honestly, I don't know how people avoid breadth without consciously or not going out of their way to avoid topics. But I think that sometimes we parents, flawed being that we are, do avoid topics that make us uncomfortable, and I think that's a reason for an unschooling parent to consciously consider whether there are subjects they might want to make a point of introducing to their kids.

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#27 of 29 Old 08-26-2013, 09:27 PM
 
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I must say I'm really enjoying this discussion for all the questions it poses...

 

For me, the only reason I would deliberately "avoid" exposing my kids to a subject is if I know my kids would not be interested and therefore would actively complain and protest if I tried. But it's not that they don't know such subjects exist, they just aren't the least bit interested (at this stage in their lives) in learning about them. 

 

Whether it is possible to avoid 'breadth' depends, I think, on how you define it. I don't consider the State's goals for my children to be any more or less relevant than their own, so I'm not sure I could agree that Prescribed Learning Outcomes define "well-roundedness" (not that anyone said they do, just thinking out loud). So then how do you define it? Is it by the number of topics a child is learning about? Serially or sequentially? Over what time period? Tough questions....


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#28 of 29 Old 08-27-2013, 09:01 AM
 
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I don't know why we need to choose between breadth and depth. Can't we don't both? 

 

To some extent, we can, but there are choices involved, especially if by "depth" one includes "commitment", which I think can be more relevant to adults than kids.  For example, there is commitment required in wanting to study gymnastics deeply (and money).  We made the choice to have gymnastics less often so we could also have riding lessons, and we kept riding lessons only every other week so we could keep gymnastics.  The girls made the decision in this case for breadth.  
 
Now, in the gymnastics case (I'm using that instead of anything academic), how deep is deep?  The girls who have the talent, money and commitment levels to hit Olympics-level skill are choosing a depth that excludes (or, in their case, postpones) the ability to diversify in a way that we will never experience.  It seems almost silly to talk about serious choices between depth and breadth when we look at intense cases like this where it does have a huge impact.
 
If one considers breadth over time then it becomes easier.  If one considers depth something less intense than Olympic-level commitment, then yes, you can do both.
 
This weekend we went camping at the ocean in the Olympic National Park.  We brought a crab shell in to the ranger station to ask questions about (what appeared to be its jaws) and the ranger talked about what we were seeing.  The girls asked about the "hairs" and we find out that they were made by a colony of _________ and she takes some tweezers and plunks them under a digital microscope while she is talking and grooving on what we are finding.  (The life forms had "jumped ship" so to speak, leaving the glass-like "hairs" behind.)  I knew from conversations in the past that she had homeschooled her kids.  
 
I thought the entire time "I want this job!  Cool and delightfully nerdy!"  She reminded me so much of myself.  I briefly started thinking about what she must have studied to end up with this work, and then I thought about the job-- oh, work-- the commitment away from chickens and veggie gardens, not to mention kids but I wasn't seriously considering it for now.  With that depth comes commitment.  And not just self-imposed commitment (unless you consider the whole part and parcel to be self-imposed), it is obligation once the step is taken to commit to a job, something that kids never have to consider in such a way.  
 
So, back down from that idea, continue my breadth of self-study and keep my nerdy ways (mostly) private and file "volunteer park ranger" in the back of my head.  (Somehow it seems to be my calling to be unpaid for everything I do and want to do.  Damn thinking hippie thoughts like "if you love the work, the money will flow"!  It has made me poor :)  In a way, I make choices for  time for chickens and gardens and more domestic things like preserves and harvesting wild foods
 
I have not had the experience of depth at the expense of balance and breadth that some other parents have experienced with their kids.  I also do not think about future employability at this age.  I mention those to give an understanding of my experiences (or lack of) with these issues.

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#29 of 29 Old 08-28-2013, 05:50 AM
 
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I also think its helpful to look at why we are choosing depth and breadth, how either choice can actually be different ways to serve a deeper need.

 

When I was a kid, I played violin to a reasonable standard. It was enough to get me early entry to enough orchestras, ensembles, etc to keep me happy. It was my only instrument really and so I certainly went for depth in that I concentrated on that. But the reason I did this-the reason I practiced a lot and tried to get better-was entirely because I liked playing with others and for a violinist where I was, and as young as I was, the only real way to do this was by being good. 

 

I have an 8 year old who also loves to play with others (and, to a lesser extent, for others). She has gone a different way though. The best way for her to do a lot of music is actually to play several instruments, since each type of instrument has only one or two ensembles open to hs'd kids. And then piano allows her to play with others. So she plays two relatively easy instruments (clarinet and trumpet) in addition to piano which she's been playing for a few years. Like most woodwind players she can also play flute and so on where need be (she actually started on flute). To me, she's clearly gone for breadth. She doesn't play any of these to the standard she might if she played only one, partly because she's mainly interested in playing with others rather than becoming as good as she can. I mean, she barely even has lessons on the trumpet, although because she plays other instruments, she does fine in the brass bands she plays in. But for her, the breadth serves exactly the same need as depth did for me as a kid: she gets to play with a lot of other people. 

 

So for me, looking at the question of breadth vs depth seems like a bit of a red herring. Both are, IMO, really about other needs and whether or not they are met. I went for depth, my daughter went for breath, we both love music and both got/get to play with others. My guess is that when she is old enough for the secondary school ensembles (12) and many more options open up (jazz, small ensembles, etc) she might actually go for one instrument with multiple ensembles, because that would best meet her needs as her circumstances change (I can imagine that lessons and practice on three instruments will get cumbersome as she gets better). That would be seen as depth, I expect, specialising in one instrument. But really it would be a way to meet the  same underlying need, the love of playing with others. Which is of course a serious skill in and of itself-so perhaps we have both gone for depth there, in terms of concentrating on music together with others. Etc. Complicated. 


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