wondering if unschooling is right for us, and what resources do you have available to your kids as unschoolers? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 02-24-2014, 08:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We are thinking of unschooling it next year. DD1 (6, almost 7) did half a year of public kindy, and we have been doing Oak Meadow for First grade...well sort of. She has pulled ahead of both the language arts and the math so we have been supplementing on our own for that. Although we have enjoyed Oak Meadow I feel like we need a change for next year. I have looked into other curriculums but I am wondering if we should just unschool. Besides the fact that full curriculums are so expensive, we have done better on our own anyway for my main concerns (learning to read and basic math). Both of my DDs love to read books about any subject and learn a lot from our library trips alone. We love to take off and camp and explore so we learn a lot from that. I don't want to kill their natural love to discover with a currirculum that ends up not working. 

 

One of my worries is that I am a very disorganized person. Couple that with some mental health issues(depression and anxiety) and I do much better with some sort of plan for the day. So on the one hand I don't want to shell out a ton of money for a curriculum only to do it on our own anyway, but on the other hand a plan helps me get through rough days. I simply can't be "on" all day, ready to jump into an experiment or activity on any given moment. And did I mention DH's ENTIRE family works in the public school system and are constantly talking about standards and testing (neither of which I care anything about for my kids!). I know that shouldn't necessarily factor into our decision but we are close to them and I will eventually have to deal with their questions and concerns (if only to say "this works for our family and that's that." I have no doubt that DH and I are capable of doing it ourselves, it's a matter of what's best for us.

 

So if we were to unschool, I would want to make sure I have plenty of resources available for them to explore at their leisure. What kind of things do you have on hand that help enhance your kids learning and pique their interests? What resources help you as a parent?


Granola-ey, crunchy, marathoning, natural living Christian mamatreehugger.gif down south with DHguitar.gif and DD1 (6)dust.gif, DD2 (2)energy.gif, and DD3 babygirl.gif.    homebirth.jpgwinner.jpgcd.giffemalesling.GIFgoorganic.jpghomeschool.gif
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#2 of 9 Old 02-24-2014, 09:47 AM
 
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Originally Posted by CrunchyMama19 View Post

 

One of my worries is that I am a very disorganized person. Couple that with some mental health issues(depression and anxiety) and I do much better with some sort of plan for the day.  I simply can't be "on" all day, ready to jump into an experiment or activity on any given moment.

 

So if we were to unschool, I would want to make sure I have plenty of resources available for them to explore at their leisure. What kind of things do you have on hand that help enhance your kids learning and pique their interests? What resources help you as a parent?

I am not especially organized, either, and I deal with being something of a "scatterbrain", so I can speak to this.  Unschooling does feel like it enables that more scattered state of being for me, but not unschooling feels like I'm fighting against a powerful current.  I don't feel the need to control that current, I just need to not lose myself to it.  

 

Part of unschooling to me includes helping myself be just a bit more organized, like blocking out the day in a rough routine.  If I don't aim for starting dinner at 4:30, we are eating right before bed and the girls have likely filled up on other stuff.  Morning is my time.  I am not available for more than a simple request.  After lunch is the best time to get some dedicated mommy time for reading or setting up "experiments", etc.  If I'm not needed, I can do things that are "interruptible", or state explicitly that I really need an hour to finish X or make a phone call.

 

I love being spontaneous, I love going on unplanned adventures and adventuring up  unexplored tangents.  I need the sponteneity, I need to allow me to be myself and not fight the current.  I need to be able to brush off chores to do something else.  But I do not need to be that all the time for them.  I do need to get things done.  We do need to make those appointments.  We do need a rough routine.  But they can also be part of creating that routine and schedule with me.  We can schedule in some explore time at the park and a stop at the library between the dentist and the mechanic's.  (I take my car to the shop way way downtown just so I can go the library, toy store, farmer's market, children's museum, etc. while we are waiting.)

 

It's my opinion that having a parent always ready to jump in at a moment's notice is not the essence of unschooling.  Some days, I am ready to dive in by request, most days not.  It's not realistic.  And it misses out on the chance to try doing the whole thing on your own.  Just last night, we watched the Mythbusters build a giant slide, and then dd7 decided she was going to make a toy one.  She told me what she needed, and helped locate the felt.  She grabbed the needles. I helped here with threading in between paragraphs of my book.  I did not sit down with her to discuss design.  I did not say that the planks weren't going to hold together.  I didn't say that felt might be the worst material to choose (though it is easy to sew).  I didn't say anything when she set it aside, possibly to never be finished again.  ETA:  The felt is turning into a corral today!)

 

So what was learned?  It was the entire process in her head.  It was the idea, the preparation, eventually the trial and error.  I helped with the trickiest parts (in our disorganized house, finding the material can be a tricky part!)  Learning that way can be better--IS better in my opinion--than the little tidbit of knowledge gleaned at the end.  Though a finished chunk of rock candy made at home is a very persuasive argument for finishing what you've started, and for that little (crunchy and sweet) tidbit of knowledge at the end!  Working with a parent's help can be great fun and extremely useful, helping them work at levels they could not work at alone, but working without needs to be cultivated, too.  

 

Resources.  Some of our best resources are not available to other families.  Just up the road is the corner of a 140+ acre forest and farm that is open to us at all times.  I couldn't engineer a resource like this.  Nor could I easily engineer the opportunities of living in a rural area.  But other resources: a great library system, THIS FORUM, girl scouts, 4H, to a lesser extent the homeschooling network, volunteer groups, YMCA, parks departments, the Mountaineers or even REI has classes and events for families, recommended websites, local farmers and poultry breeders.  I also know about more than I take advantage of.  FB has been helpful with its (usually annoying) links from friends' "likes" or targeting advertising, I have found local crafts groups and wilderness skills groups, events.  Finding events in the area through the library or newspaper leads to school events and dance festivals and bluegrass festivals, soapmaking and medieval combat.  

 

Personality helps me immensely.  It helps that I can talk with nearly anybody without reservation.  I can and will pick a person's brain.  I am the person who will stop someone in the park to ask about their dog or their walking stick.  I have no hesitation about asking the right people about the possibility of accommodating our girl scout troop.  I also have no worries of self-consciousness while I kneel down with heiny high in the air to peer down into the grates of a fish ladder to spy leaping fish or the monstrously fat spiders that build their webs just below the grates in October.  Each discovery, new people, events new to us and familiar, opens up so many new possibilities.  Our grangemaster knows a soapmaker...etc etc.  Not every new link successfully opens up for us, or stays open.  The ones that do are priceless.

 

Writing all that down sounds a bit frantic, it's really not.  I have a pile just for cards and flyers and notes about phone #'s and websites in case I need to back and look something up.  But I usually just keep all that basic info in my head, which makes my brain even more scattered.  It's just how I operate, to some extent.


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#3 of 9 Old 02-24-2014, 07:36 PM
 
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Came back to clarify, in case my post came out sounding like unschooling *should* be spontaneous and lacking schedules, and any schedules made are for the necessities.  My unschooling might look like that, but I don't think something different would be antithetical to unschooling.  Schedules are useful.  Schedules can be soothing, the way access to knowing the time (watch, phone) can be soothing while out on errands before appointments or lessons.


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#4 of 9 Old 02-25-2014, 01:36 PM
 
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I think SweetSilver has spoken very well to the issue of organization. 

 

About resources, I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts. First, that having too many choices can be overwhelming to some kids, so that paradoxically "plenty" can be limiting. It depends on the child, and the family, but I've found that my kids have sometimes had their greatest bursts of creativity when there are a limited number of possibilities and they have to push a bit against the limits of what's available. So if you're providing a lot of possibilities, and nothing seems to be inspiring, consider simplifying a bit, paring things down.

 

But mostly what I wanted to say is that with resources, you need to look at what your environment and community have to offer, what your family culture is like, and what your kids seem interested in. Your resources will be best drawn from and inspired by those things, more so than by what other unschooling families are doing. When I was first considering what unschooling might look like for us, my mentor was a mom living in a tiny Quaker community at the end of a dirt road with no internet. Her daughter's unschooling involved plenty of folk dance, learning how to fiddle and drum, goats -- lots of goats, drop-spinning and weaving, hours a week at the library/community centre, a focus on literature and editing skills, wood-turning, period costuming, green architectural design and (incongruously enough) a fairly rigorous community basketball program. But our unschooling, even though it's in a rural community not much bigger than hers and not very far away, happens in a context that is particular to us and the people in our community, and it has involved gardening, martial arts, movies, mountain bikes, formal math fun, classical violin and viola, photography, lots of computer pursuits, and choral music. 

 

So if you're looking for inspiration, I think on-line inspiration can occasional be a little helpful, but you're more likely to really get traction if you start really digging around in your community and within your own interests and beneath the surface of your kids' interests. 

 

Welcome to the board!

 

miranda


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#5 of 9 Old 02-26-2014, 05:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

 

But mostly what I wanted to say is that with resources, you need to look at what your environment and community have to offer, what your family culture is like, and what your kids seem interested in. Your resources will be best drawn from and inspired by those things, more so than by what other unschooling families are doing.

 

So if you're looking for inspiration, I think on-line inspiration can occasional be a little helpful, but you're more likely to really get traction if you start really digging around in your community and within your own interests and beneath the surface of your kids' interests. 

 

Very well said.

 

We live in a city (population over 300,000).  Our resources include the library, internet, homeschooling friends, friends who live in the country and have animals, any local farms/markets/festivals we visit, my mom's cottage on a great lake, we have a membership to a conservation area near us, we now live near a heritage forest in the city which is our playground, family members...they learn a lot from grandparents.   When the season is right we source a lot of our food locally, so that means stopping at markets/farms/stands to buy our food.   We go blueberry/strawberry picking every year.  We get eggs from our friends that raise chickens....so we get to visit the chickens.  We know places to hike when raspberries are in season:)  Last year we started volunteering with some other homeschool families at an archaeology museum to help grow the three sisters garden, they use the food for their powwow in the fall.  I try to garden in our yard too.  The girls take gymnastics, we found a lovely gym and put together a homeschool class so it's during the day and not in the evening.  One Recreation centre in our city has a family gym time one morning a week that we take advantage of (a homschool mom initiated this with the centre).  We go swimming at the Recreations centres in the winter.  

 

Our homeschool group are a big resource for us, especially during the winter when we rent spaces to gather.  We try to make it affordable, usually we split the cost per family and not per kid.  We rent skating rinks, buildings that have a gym/kitchen/auditoriums.  The parents put together classes or organize fieldtrips or lessons at fanilities...all of which we can choose to sign up or not.  We celebrate holidays together, have potlucks.   We share the workload of organizing these group activities.  In the warmer months we meet up in green spaces a lot.

 

Concerning your family, I feel that you don't have to justify what you are doing or even explain it thoroughly to them.  I myself do not mention "unschooling" to my family.  They ask how things are going and I say very well thank you.  If they ask specifics I will give them some ; my daughter is readiing and practicing math (I don't mention any curriculum), she is taking horseback riding lessons, is in a computer science class, both girls take gymnastics, we did this or that with our homeschool group.  If they do ask about curriculum I say there are many boxed sets to choose from but we just put our own together, there is lots of free things on the internet to access and it is much cheaper and I can gear it toward each child.  I just give them examples of things we do that they think fall into the school spectrum.  I don't mention that they spend hours creating on minecraft, that they have a server to play on with other homeschool friends because while I think this is okay I know that they may not....so I don't mention it;)

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#6 of 9 Old 02-27-2014, 07:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys, your responses are very helpful. What you say makes sense about using the resources in our area. I have some research to do!  It's good to know that schedules are still helpful in an unschooling environment. Does anyone here use a curriculum for some subjects and do more unschooling for others depending on their level of interest?


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#7 of 9 Old 02-27-2014, 07:46 AM
 
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 Do you mean available for kids to work on if they want?  Or being parent-led on those subjects?  

 

I know a lot of us here have those materials available.  For the latter (parent-led) I know there are a lot of folks on the main LAH forum who cover, say math and reading instruction and "unschool the rest".  But curriculum as a child-led aid I would say is fairly common amongst those in the unschooling spectrum.


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#8 of 9 Old 02-27-2014, 08:06 AM
 
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If you mean like in SweetSilver's first sense, then yes. We have some curriculum available for (hmm... thinking ...) math, Latin, ASL, music theory, music history, Japanese and science. The only one that my dd11 has chosen to use with any regularity over the past couple of years is math. In the past my older kids have made use of some of the others, sometimes in passing, sometimes more regularly. 

 

Separating learning into distinct subject areas for a child, and granting autonomy over just the [usually] less crucial areas of learning, that doesn't really fit with unschooling philosophically, so you won't find much of that in this forum. So if you mean using curriculum in SweetSilver's second sense, where it is parent-led, with a more relaxed approach for other areas, that's not usually called unschooling; it's best termed eclectic-style homeschooling (with an "unschooling-inspired approach" to certain subjects) and you'll find plenty of people like that in the main Learning at Home forum. 

 

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#9 of 9 Old 03-02-2014, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks moominmama, Mapleleaf and SweetSilver for taking the time to respond! It has given me a lot to think about and I really appreciate you guys answering my questions. As far as curriculum for some subjects, I was thinking of just getting some stuff to have around in case they are interested. Both DDs go through phases of wanting to do bookwork so I thought maybe having something on hand would be good for those phases?

We actually have tons of music stuff around now that I think about it (DH plays guitar and base, I play flute, we also have the Oak Meadow Beginning recorder and some books about drumming). We do the library weekly and my MIL was a science teacher so she is always passing along stuff she thinks my DDs might like. The more I think about it the more confident I am that we can just let her go for whatever interests her and she will learn what she needs. If  down the road she decides to try her hand at writing she can figure out grammar then, I don't need to push it!


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