My children are very young - 3 and 1 - but we've been leaning toward homeschooling since the oldest was about a year. We don't really do any specifically "educational" activities. We play. Mostly running around outside pushing trucks and going down slides. We read stories. We occassionally do some kind of art. We have puzzles, shape sorters, pattern sequencing kits, etc, but most of the time the just want to push cars, trucks and trains (and pretned to be imaginary sword carrying princesses ) - in other words, toys we've bought that they rarely play with. But we talk about everything . . . in the brief times between the almost non-stop running we are pelted with questions about life, the universe and everything. Especially in the car where there is nothing physical to do.
Right now he asks about volcanos (ever heard a 3 year old say "techtonic plates"? :LOL ) almost non-stop. He's also into dinosaurs, pirates and the baby growing in my "u'erus" (:LOL ). However, while he pelts us with questions - usually in the car - we never do anything. We don't do volcano experiments, we don't pick out books about the topics that interst him (we've tried but he just wants to read his old favorites), we don't even look up answers to the questions we didn't know (again, by the time you get anywhere to look something up he's lost interest).
So are we unschooling with these crazy diverse conversations? Or are we just talking about stuff with no follow up? I'd love to build a volcano (viniger / baking soda kind) but whenever we could, he'd rather just play. Should we more strongly encourage learning "activities"? Or wait until he's older?
You can see why it's a rambling question I didn't know how to ask. Any thoughts?
You can check out www.unschooling.com
there's tons of info about what that is
you can also do search on Sandra Dodd she's written some stuff about it
sorry, I cant write more, I have colicky nursing baby right now.
I think big "projects" are overrated, especially when your kids are so little. And talking and playing are underrated....
Someday in a few years maybe the baking soda volcano thing will seem interesting, or not... but I do think older kids tend to do more project-y stuff.
If you have any good, kid-friendly science museums around, that might be a good thing - the prjects are all set up and you can sort of hang out and do stuff and play and talk all a once... we did a lot of science museuming at 3 and 4...
Single mom to Rain (1/93) , grad student, and world traveler
Anyway, back to your op--a couple of things stand out in your post:
"...we've tried but he just wants to read his old favorites... again, by the time you get anywhere to look something up he's lost interest.... but whenever we could, he'd rather just play."
and I wonder, how would you go about "strongly encouraging" activities that he is not interested in? Wouldn't it mean pulling him away from his favorite books to read something that you think he should be interested in? Or, insisting on listening to answers to questions that he no longer cares to know? Or making him stop whatever play he's engaged in in order to build a volcano (or whatever) that you're interested in building? (See where I'm going here?) I'd think it would a sure-fire way to kill his interest in any topic.
He's 3--you're letting him play, he's following his own interests, and having fun. Sounds fine to me. I'm certain that when he feels he needs to do more, or explore a topic more in depth, he'll let you know.
Single Mom to 3 (12, 17 & 21) and .
At this age, I'm actually focusing on things that I want to learn, and modeling how to drive my own education. I'm trying to learn Spanish (and it would be nice if the kids did too), so I read some material in Eng and Span each morning, I work on memorizing phrases, work on my vocab with items around the house, listen to music in Spanish, and we visit a friend with kids the same age as mine who speaks Spanish and is wanting to learn English better. That's not to say I'm not helping them along, but instead of sitting down to do a kid-oriented project, I'll decide that I want to learn to sew something, and give the kids scrap stuff and darning needles and we talk about what we're doing.
I'm not an unschooler, I hope I'm not just reiterating what unschooling philosophy is.
Mom to DS(14), DS(12), DD(9), DS(6), DS (4), and DS(2)
So, yeah, it's just play right now--but at their ages that's exactly what they need!
No 3yr old will benefit from "educational activities" being subtly or not-so-subtly crammed down his throat when he'd prefer to be doing something else. Although the parent's ego will!
Let them be happy playful 3 and 1 yr olds, and try to shift your perspective as to what equals learning. Just cause it's not flat paper w/numbers on it doesn't mean it's not math. Just cause you're not following up with little tests and projects doesn't mean they're not learning.
Go to www.sandradodd.com, click on the unschooling part of her site, and she had a list of links on the left side of the screen. All of them are good, but in particular, she's got one entitled "seeing unschooling" which might help. Also the message boards at unschooling.com are immensely helpful!
Take it easy, and enjoy your babies while they're still babies!
Freethinking Earth-mama of five.
It sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun. The time you are spending with them right now is priceless.
Play is the work of children, even the very young. Every time you play with your kids, they are learning. Many young children are "unschooled", even if they're parents don't realize it.
Maybe you can look at how your kids learn. Your oldest loves to ask questions and talk about stuff, right? He may be a very auditory learner, someone who needs to talk about things and discuss them. Your kids love to be outside using their large motor skills pushing their cars along and playing on playground equipment. Right now they learn best by using their whole bodies, they are probably experimenting with speed, obstacles, weight, force, and a myriad of other "educational" concepts.
Maybe build a volcano with dirt oustide while they're playing with trucks. A few days later if they are interested in using it in their play, show them out to make it erupt(by then they may have found their own way to make it erupt!). Find some picture story books, rather than non fiction books, that deal with the topics they are interested in. When my kids were younger I would get the informational books for myself, so I could read up on their interests and be more prepared to answer they're questions, rather than using these books to read to them(they weren't really interested).
I'll definitely follow all those links you suggested. (As soon as I have time ) I guess I'm also feeling a lot of pressure from family and friends that my 3 yo isn't in preschool yet - nor am I planning on sending him next year. It seems like it would be easier if I could just say, "He's not in preschool but look at all he's learning." Instead of "Well, we spent most of today crashing tonka trucks . . . ." My issue, not his. Just feeling wimpy and looking for some respose other than "na-na-na-na-na because we want to"
I'm going quit writing now. It's going downhill rapidly. Not enough sleep.
Thanks to all.
The answer to that depends entirely on when/if (yeah IF!) your kids seem interested! If you feel like they'd get a kick out of a baking soda volcano project, go for it now! But don't make them feel guilty or nag them if they happen to be royally uninterested.
I have "curriculum" sitting around my house. What makes it unschooling or not is what we DO with that "curriculum". Do I buy it and urge/nag my son to work on it at least occasionally? Nope. Do I make him feel bad that he doesn't "do" "enough" "real learning" with "curriculum" stuff? Not at all.
My son wanted a workbook he saw on cursive handwriting for ex. He was barely 4 1/2 at the time, even though you're not "supposed" to do cursive until later, right? Well I got it for him, and it sat around for six months in a drawer. I said nothing. I forgot about it myself actually, until *I* noticed it one day. So, I decided to just lay it out on the kitchen table. Didn't say anything for the whole time--kept my nose out. That's as "coercive" as I get. Laying something out to be seen--if it's noticed fine, if not, fine. It doesn't matter--if/when they're interested, they'll dive right in on their own.
Sure enough, my son saw it and was like, what's this? I told him, a cursive workbook. He said, Oh yeah, I forgot about that! And resumed watching tv or whatever he was up to. It continued to languish on the table for another few days until my son came to it and proceeded to fill out several pages at random, doing a beautiful job indeed, along with some freehand drawings.
Do I care if he finished the whole book? No. Do I feel resentful that the money I spent on the book is "wasted" b/c it's not being used in the "proper" way? Nope. I am 100% confident that he's learning from it in his own way, and from everything else in our lives. Not on my timetable, not on someone else's "schedule", but on his own.
Your Q makes me think that maybe you are still seperating the world into "subjects" like in school, or seperating it into "educational" and "non-educational" somehow. Unschooling doesn't break the world up into subjects--not even in mama's mind. I used to keep a mental "tally" that went something like, did my son "do math" today? Anything remotely mathematical?? Did my son "do reading/writing"? Did we "do science type stuff" today?? Even though I wasn't saying "ok it's time to work on science now!" and pulling out workbooks, I was still making mental piecemeal of our world, trying to "cover" all the "important" things.
The grand people at unschooling.com helped me realize that unschooling is just life--everything is important--subjects are artificial--like, where in real life are most people gonna find "just math"? Perhaps in a checkbook balance!
If we think it'd be crazy/contrived/unnecessary to make sure us adults "did something" in every "subject" every day, WHY would we wanna make kids do the same??
The best/deepest learning (the kind with real understanding/retention instead of rote memorization) happens with immersion anyway--if a kid is totally engrossed in shipwrecks for example, and is allowed to immerse himeself in the topic w/o boundaries/limits, he'll learn so much better/faster/easier, on his own terms.
But, you say, what do shipwrecks have to do with anything "educational"?? (BTW you can insert virtually any topic for "shipwrecks", from cold war diplomacy to thomas the tank engine) Well, everything is interconnceted!
Yep, thomas the tank engine--that might look like fluff, but it leads to wanting the toys, and then the computer games, where they can hone their computer skills, from turning it on to using the mouse with skill troubleshooting when the comp crashes. The internet site has games to play (which involve reading, problem solving/math, art etc) and using the internet might merit a discussion of pop-up ads, internet safety, etc... It could lead to an interest in railroading, which encompasses history, physics (how does it run mama? how's the steam made? where's the coal come from?) even math (how long was the continental railway? How long ago was it built? Or even "how many days til we go to buy the new thomas video??" !!) And that's not to even mention reading the thomas books, playing w/the toys, building different track layouts, talking about price differences between toys/videos, searching ebay for good deals/discontinued items, talking about advertising, why toys are retired/discontinued, sales, profit, a company's "bottom line" being important, talking about how things were before cars were invented, diesel engines vs. steam engines, why we use diesel now, why sugar or water ruin diesel fuel, even fuel discussions at the gas pump!
ANYWAY, I'm very glad I didn't write off thomas the tank engine as fluff and forbid/restrict my son's interest in it. When the door is open, you can't begin to imagine where it will lead.
And that's unschooling for us. HTH!
PS--Someone else here asked "when does the whywhywhy stage end?" She is sick of her kid's questions--they're inconvenient and annoying I guess. W/unschooling, my life is the opposite--I want to preserve the whywhywhy stage in my children throughout their whole lives! I don't want to raise good little societal followers--I want my kids to think for themselves, to be their own leaders. Even more than I'd like my kids to grow up and be what *I* wanted them to be, I want them to be true to themselves.
Birds fly, fish swim, humans learn. It's what we're built for, a fundamental human drive--I don't ever want to squelch that out of my kids, so we unschool.
Freethinking Earth-mama of five.
Originally Posted by BoobyJuice
Instead of "Well, we spent most of today crashing tonka trucks . . . ."
Sounds to me like he's "doing" a lot--don't separate "playing" from "doing." There's no rule that says you can't learn while playing : or that you have to do prescribed experiments in order to learn.
I hope there's no age that unschooled kids stop playing and talking--mine do both (a lot.) We also read a lot, but they would not at all be interested in a prescribed unit study or experiments assigned by someone else. Unschooling means, to me, that the kids follow their own interests and choose their own activities.
Single Mom to 3 (12, 17 & 21) and .
Who are these "so-called friends" of yours that "do" things? We had a moment with bones where we went to the library and dd got 6 books about bones and wanted more, but 6 is the limit. But now our life is just like yours except lots less trucks (except for the "Touch a Truck thing this weekend) and more, well,... it depends on the day. I could have written your post too, so that tells me we are doing just fine!!!
Sounds like he is successfully unschooling himself. You don't have to follow up on everything -- to do so when he's not interested would be *schooling*. Assuming that he's got to fill his mind with a certain kind of information (books about volcanos rather than his old favorites) is schooling. Unschooling is following his lead -- he knows what he needs. And at his age especially the important thing is not to fill his brains with certain "educational" facts but simply for his braining to be working. And it is. Everything you're doing -- playing, reading, art, pretending -- is making connections between neurons. At this age, *that* is what is important.
"I know they are still little, but they have friends who like to "do" things. I guess part of my question is based on wondering when they start wanting to explore topics more? What age do unschoolers typically start "doing" instead of just playing and talking?"
But playing and talking *are* doing things, and they are learning important things by doing them. Just not what you perceive as "educational". Let them define what is educational to them -- they are perfectly capable of doing so -- and you'll see it change as they get older. They won't always be interested in just having books read to them and playing with trucks.
As for when kids start exploring things in depth -- I have no idea. I know that for me there aren't that many things that I have felt passionate enough to do anything about, and most of those things I got into in adulthood. A few in adolescence. But I'm speaking about serious academic interest. Interest in non-academics begins much earlier and is much more subtle. For instance, my 5 and 7-year-olds like to play word games and math games in their heads. They'll ask me to solve basic arithmetic problems that they posit to me, then we switch and I ask them. I don't initiate it, it is a natural consequence of living in their world and wanting to take in more and more of it as they are able, and I don't need to start setting up special math games for them or getting them books or whatever. When I try to "encourage" them in that way (really it is teaching) they resist. It is counterproductive and totally unnecessary. Math is everywhere, if you think about it, and the older they get the more aware they become of it, and the more they want to figure out, because they see that there is power in knowing these things, that it will allow them to do things they want to do but can't yet. Like cooking. My 7-year-old likes watching cooking shows, and he likes helping me prepare food. (Don't all kids?) Inevitably he wants to do more and more of it himself (don't all kids?), have more control over the proceedings, and at some point he realizes he's limited by not being able to read and do simple sums. So he naturally wants to figure out how to do that. And so it goes, with their needs and ability to understand growing ever more deep and complex.
Krystal323 - you couldn't have picked a better example! Today he was James and I was Edward, but I was informed that Edward was a girl. James and Edward went on a nature walk and splashed through imaginary ponds. I was told that frogs like engines . . . and on and on. Trains are not only a huge part of his physical play, they are a huge part of his imaginary play. When he isn't a train, he's frequently a dinosaur. Then my husband or I are "a dinosaur that eats other dinosaurs" and have to chase him and gobble him up.
As for my smart alecky friend, coleslaw, you are one of the people who always seems to be doing things. You do art projects every day; your daugher is starting to write her letters; you have empty milk cartons and clothes pin games you make up; you bowl for plastic bottles.You're creative and do cool stuff. And have you ever seen the stuff Jen does?
Anyway, thanks so much to all of you. I do feel much better knowing that it's OK to go with his (extremely high energy) flow.
Originally Posted by Joan
We have lots of car conversations and sometimes I'll say, "I'm not sure, we'll have to look that up when we get home." Sometimes we do, but other times they've lost interest by then. No biggie--I mean, doesn't that happen to you too sometimes? I find when I'm reading the paper or something I'll think to myself that I should look for more info on ____ but then I forget--apparently it wasn't all that important to me, or something else took my interest.
We used to do this all the time. Now, we carry around little notebooks, and whenever anyone asks one of those questions, and we have to say "Dunno", we write it down in our little notebooks.
When we go home, the question goes on our "I Wonder" board. Then, the next time one of the kids gives me the "I'm bored and have nothing to do" line, or we have a rainy day, or we go to the library, they get an "I Wonder" item and learn all about it!!!
Then, on Fridays (our no actual school day), we learn from that child all about their topic. It's led to great discussions, new interests, debates, all kinds of fun stuff!!!!
I really just follow her lead on things. The cool ideas are few and far between (although I am proud of the couple I have had). Sometimes when she is interested in something, I try to take it as far as I can go with my brain power and her tolerance.
Sometimes I'll try and interest her in something that I'm interested in - ie my knitting attempt a couple of months ago. She wanted to knit too so I gave her a pair of small needles and yarn and she went at it. But when I got the "cool" idea to paper punch holes into shapes in a piece of thin cardboard so she could "sew", she never took to it.
What am I trying to say in my sleep-deprived state? Just go with what they like, but don't be afarid to attempt something different even if it is for your sake. It might work, but it might not.