I'm seriously considering unschooling but... - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-29-2005, 01:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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it both excites & terrifies me! How do you teach your child everything? Are unschooled children likely to have more problems getting into college? How long does unschooling last? (ps, grade school, k-12?) How do you get started, and when? (my ds is 9 mo, so I have some time to figure all of this out) Can anyone share their experiences w/me?

TIA!
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:29 AM
 
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Well, I'm not an expereienced unschooler, but first of all, you don't teach your child everything. You teach them what they ask to be taught, and you teach them how to teach themselves. You can unschool for as long as it works for the both of you. I know a woman who "graduated" her unschooled daughter last year, at 17. I asked her how she knew she was "graduated", and she said bascially cause she was the right age! I think that unschooling will be something that just develops gradually. Your son will learn to walk and talk and deal socially with other people, and all of that stuff... you can basically consider yourself unschooling right now, it's just different stuff that he's learning! I hope more experienced people will chime in to share their experiences, and perhaps expand on what I've said, because I'd like to hear more about unschooling too!
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Old 03-29-2005, 02:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by jaye_p
it both excites & terrifies me! How do you teach your child everything? Are unschooled children likely to have more problems getting into college? How long does unschooling last? (ps, grade school, k-12?) How do you get started, and when? (my ds is 9 mo, so I have some time to figure all of this out) Can anyone share their experiences w/me?

TIA!
Well, no one either teaches or learns everything so I wouldn't worry too much about that Many unschoolers believe that we (we as in kids, grown ups and everything in the middle) learn what we need as we want, need, or become interested in it. Often one thing leads to another, and another, and another. Unschoolers tend to think that just living is learning, and as such it needs no artificial structures placed upon it. At my house, we just wake up each day and live. I teach them, and they teach me. They also teach themselves. We are all teachers and students.

Unschooled get into college all the time, and often at ages like 15 if it's it what they wish to do. An unschooler would just check out any requirements the college has for admissions and then work toward that just as anyone else would. Often I think unschoolers go to a community college first, and then move forward to a university if that is what they have in mind. There are a variety of options I think.

Unschooling lasts as long as one needs it to I would guess. My unschoolers sort of consider themselves unschoolers for life :LOL but for legal purposes they are unschoolers (or homeschoolers as my state calls it) until they satisfy our states legal requirements. In our case that will be them getting a GED, or testing at 10th grade. Each state is different though, and you can find your states laws regarding homeschooling at www.nhen.org

How do you get started? Well, in my opinion you already are. Your child is just starting to explore his world, and unschooling is just a continuation of that. Nothing has to change really other than that he will grow and change, and you right along with him. When he asks, experiments, researches, devotes hours to a new passion, or just spends his days reading or playing in the yard... that's unschooling.

Best of luck regarding this decision.

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Old 03-29-2005, 04:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by jaye_p
it both excites & terrifies me! How do you teach your child everything? Are unschooled children likely to have more problems getting into college? How long does unschooling last? (ps, grade school, k-12?) How do you get started, and when? (my ds is 9 mo, so I have some time to figure all of this out) Can anyone share their experiences w/me?
I think the first thing to think about is the concept of unschooling itself. I don't particularly like the word, myself, because it makes for all sorts of misunderstandings and misconceptions. I find that I don't even differentiate that much between the concepts of homeschooling and unschooling. The way I look at it is that it's just a matter of continuing to live with your child, and providing him with the means for learning what he needs to know about the world - just not in the manner that schools do this, unless there's something they do that he especially wants to do. Schools were set up to try to educate children in groups, but a home setting provides the means to just go about your lives while natural learning weaves through your days, being an active co-learner and facilitator in your child's learning process. Simple. And learning can't help but happen.

You'll be watching him learn to walk, talk, and all sorts of amazing things that he'll be figuring out pretty much on his own. You'll be helping him learn how to handle utensils, dress, tie shoes, and other things, but he'll be taking on the learning without you making him do "lessons" on it, grading him, testing him, etc., - because you obviously don't need to do any of that in order for him to learn. You'll be teaching him what colors various things are, teaching him in perfectly natural ways what words like "under," "on top of, "in," and "out" mean - just by living together and talking. If you watch these exchanges closely you'll be noticing how natural it all is - and unschooling is just a continuation of that way of learning.

Learning his letters and numbers one day can be just as easy and natural because they'll be a part of what you're doing - and you won't be insisting that he needs to learn x at age x just because of that being when schools declare it should be. It will be as he becomes ready and interested. As he learns about letters and numbers, he'll be moving gradually into reading and arithmetic. You'll be using numbers in the course of living and will be showing him the joy of reading by snuggling up with him and reading all sorts of wonderful books to him, showing him pictures, moving your finger along the line sometimes... You can continue to read books to him until later years when you finally need to stop so that he can get on with reading books of his own interest that you just might not feel like reading.

I think you were in one of the threads where I posted this link, but I'll put it here just in case. These are some nice things you can do together eventually, and there will be a lot of learning taking place while you're at it:
A Homeschool Curriculum for Pre-K and Kindergarten.

You can and will be introducing all sorts of things - you won't be just pacing around waiting for him to suddenly burst out with an inspiration to learn something he's never even heard much about. You and his Dad will have your own interests and passions, and they can't help but rub off on him in various ways - and you'll find lots of creative ways of helping him pursue his own interests that come along. You'll also notice that he'll be learning a lot of other things while he does that.

Your child won't know everything - none do, no matter what their education is - and there's no need to. He'll know more about some things than some people do, and less about some other things. It will depend on what comes into his sphere of experience, and he'll gradually learn what he needs to know. More importantly, he'll be learning skills to find out for himself about things he needs to know.

You can make sure you keep a whole lot of interesting things coming into your lives, and share your knowledge and wisdom and love of learning with him - and things will fall into place a lot more naturally than you might now imagine. If you want reassurance along the way, there are things like the World Book Typical Course of Study to refer to. It becomes pretty obvious as you go along what things need to be learned - and he'll have certain leanings toward things that fit for him, so he'll be concentrating more on those.

There will be times when you wonder what ever made you think you could do this - times when you think you've ruined his chances of ever making it in the world. And then you'll suddenly notice that he's way ahead of his peers in one thing or another or that knows much more than you had realized, and that he really does love learning - and you'll practically swoon at how lucky your family is to have come into this way of life. You'll see him growing into a unique individual who's having an opportunity to expore and develop parts of himself he wouldn't have dreamed of if he'd been in a school setting or even a more structured setting that tried to duplicate school.

As for college, it's not nearly as daunting as people make it out to be. My son was not taught by traditional methods. After 1st grade, we gradually dropped the traditional ways of learning. He didn't do spelling books, spelling tests, phonics books, vocubulary study, writing and composition study, book reports, or any of the things a school student normally gets drilled through. We read a lot, went on lots of interesting field trips, played games, used fascinating pieces of educational software, watched interesting TV/videos, got together with other homeschoolers, had lots of great conversation, and he took classes on things that interested him, etc.

He barely used any math texts at all, but got a good understanding of math through other means. He was a voracious reader and learner - interested in all sorts of things that he absorbed with ease. He always seemed to be the one in his crowd that friends would turn to for information, especially about math or science. When he signed up for junior college classes, I assumed we'd have to do a quick remedial brush-up on writing, punctuation, grammar, and so forth, but not at all - he just jumped right in and excelled from the beginning. He'd grown up thinking of learning as a strong and enjoyable natural drive, not as a chore or as "work." And when he took his SAT recently to go on to a four year college, his scores were quite impressive.

He has a good friend who is a graduate student on full scholarship at Tufts University right now, and she was a complete unschooler the whole time, always being allowed to study whatever she wanted - and, boy, did she want to study a lot of things! There are lots of unschoolers doing impressive things in college.
You can read more about his story in this article - and a bit about his homeschooled friends - it has a section where he describes his homeschooling experience in his own words:
Homeschooling - A Wonderful Way of Life

So unschooling doesn't have a set range of ages or grade levels it's done in - it's just a matter of learning and following your interests outside of a school model, and it can go on right up until college. When to study what towards college application becomes pretty obvious when the time comes.

There will be times when there doesn't appear to be that much going on, but that's normal and fine. What's going on at those times is more quiet and intermal. There will be other times when a lot is going on. If you keep modeling the joy of learning and exploring new things, and keep a lot of fun activity and friends in his life - and keep up a respect and appreciation for who he is as an individual and natural learner, it goes a lot smoother. You can even have some structure - like certain days being library days, math game days, science experiment days (he can have a couple of friends over for those), park days with other homeschoolers, etc. It's honestly not as unnerving as it might seem.

OH! Books! There are some really good ones. That will help a lot. You could start with The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom, by Mary Griffith. That has stories from unschooling families all over the country - so you'll get a lot of tips and reassurance. There's a thread somewhere here where someone asked for suggestions of unschooling books and got a lot of ideas.

I'm running out of steam! :LOL - Lillian
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Old 03-29-2005, 12:40 PM
 
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Lilian,

I just wanted to say real quick that I really enjoy reading your posts- I'm sooo glad that you found this forum
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Old 03-29-2005, 01:25 PM
 
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I would also recommmend The Unschooling Handbook to read. Alot of libraries have it, and I think I even just saw it here on the trading Post. It's such a great book because it will answer all those questions, and not just from the author, but also from lots of experienced unschoolers.

I love books like that, it reminds me of Adventures in Tandem Nursing, where there's all sorts of different experiences and ideas and circumstances shown in the book, and it makes me feel not so alone in the world! I can say, 'That's just what I was thinking!'

Anyhow, it's a great book, also easy to read or pick up anytime, and goes through beginning to Unschool up to Unschooling with more advanced subjects and college thoughts as well.

HTH!

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Old 03-29-2005, 05:07 PM
 
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Tina, thanks so much - that really made me smile all over.

Miranda said[QUOTE]I would also recommmend The Unschooling Handbook to read. Alot of libraries have it, and I think I even just saw it here on the trading Post. It's such a great book because it will answer all those questions, and not just from the author, but also from lots of experienced unschoolers.
Quote:
<snip>
Anyhow, it's a great book, also easy to read or pick up anytime, and goes through beginning to Unschool up to Unschooling with more advanced subjects and college thoughts as well.
Miranda, you expressed what I love about books - they can be read and picked up anytime! You go to park day and try to talk to people about homeschooling (or even more specifically about "unschooling), and they often would rather be talking about things of more immediate interest, like the local gymnastics program or their food coop day. If they do talk about homeschooling, they generally are in a distracted situation where they don't get into their deepest feelings about it. About all I was able to get out of people when I began was a dreamy, far away look and a half-muttered, "When they need to know something, they'll learn it." That did nothing for my anxieties. A book, on the other hand, has been written with a lot of thought and planning, so you're getting the best of the authors' thoughts - and with books that have lots of contributors, it gets really juicy. Same thing with online resources like this wonderful forum! When I began, my only real suppport was a small homeschooling forum AOL used to have, and I'm still in touch with a lot of those people, because it meant so much to us all.

The funny thing about The Unschooling Handbook is that I'm one of the contributors, but if I had it to do over again, I'd change what I had to say. We're the chapter about the 11 year old, where I say that we've developed a mutual respect and that he's perfectly fine with studying certain subjects his dad or I urge him to study. Ha! :LOL It felt at the time as if he was learning about them - because he was studying them - but I don't feel now that genuine learning really works so well when you're doing it because someone else thinks it's important.

Algebra, for instance - Later, once he realized he'd need algebra to do well on the SAT for college admission, he went right to work learning it, and learning it well he did! In earlier years, he had been going through the motions, but couldn't relate it to anything that was important. As he's often said, it's so much easier and faster to learn something when you're older than it is during earlier years. I might have encouraged that interest earlier by digging into the Harold Jacobs books with him more often rather than giving him cool algebra software and other algebra programs to work with so much on his own. And that might not even have mattered - because it was having a real incentive that got him cooking later.

If I were to do it over, instead of asking him to study certain things he hadn't been partiuclarly drawn to, I'd probably put a lot more energy into just making sure he had a lot of exposure to things we felt were important, and bringing those things into his life in a fun and interesting way that might stir his interest.

I do give myself some credit for not ruining his attitude toward math though. I took him to a math tutor when he was about 10 to get him evaluated so we could set a "plan." I thought she'd freak out during the hour long evaluation alone with him, because he didn't know a lot of his "math facts" - we had just been playing with math and exploring it in various ways. My aim had been only to make it interesting so he'd still be drawn to it later when it mattered. When I picked him up, she expressed delight - she said she usually spends most of her time trying to undo damage that's been done by rote drilling and repetition, but here was a child who really understood and enjoyed "real math." So she told us to just keep doing whatever we we were doing, and that we didn't need her services.

I'll tell these stories to people who have their mind made up in advance that math and other subjects needs to be learned from a structured program that goes on for years and years, and it all sounds like fairy tales - but this truly is how it can work! It's not as if my child is special or "gifted" - it's just that learning is so much easier and more natural than we often make it. - Lillian
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Old 03-30-2005, 12:41 AM
 
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I was unschooled and I just want to say that my mom always said that it's not what you know, it's that you know how to find out. That lesson still holds true today. During my first preg. I didn't know much about it, but I learned a great deal before I delivered. It was only important that I knew how to find out information not that I knew beforehand.
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Old 03-30-2005, 02:14 AM
 
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I was unschooled and I just want to say that my mom always said that it's not what you know, it's that you know how to find out. That lesson still holds true today. During my first preg. I didn't know much about it, but I learned a great deal before I delivered. It was only important that I knew how to find out information not that I knew beforehand.
Do you know about the news interview with Einstein when a reporter asked him "Dr. Einstein, what is the speed of sound?" And he replied, "I don't know." The reporter reacted with, "But you're considered the most intelligent man in the world and you don't know the speed of sound?"

To which he replied "If I should need that information, I can look it up in a book." Lillian
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Old 04-01-2005, 12:35 AM
 
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Lillian J, I would just like to thank you for your wonderful insight and desire to "educate" us on unschooling! I found your post and the links to be some of the best I've seen so far. I am also considering home/unschooling my girls vs. Montessori and I greatly appreciate your advice.
Question......Do you consider unschooling to be a form of homeschooling? If I may answer my own question I think so it's just a more relaxed form vs. using a specific set of guidelines and text/workbooks. Am I getting the hang of it? Unschooling sounds so much more interesting I wish I was unschooled!!!
Do you find that we parents have to "unschool" ourselves before we can really relax, go with the flow and have them go at their own pace. Right now I can see my self having a hard time if my girls wanted to read the Nintendo magazine instead of a book "I felt" was appropriate. Any advice on helping us to "unschool" and let our hair down.....so to speak
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Old 04-01-2005, 01:37 AM
 
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Read 'The Teenage Liberation Handbook'. Very much for unschooling yourself. And a GREAT read. It's one of those reads where you kinda just slap yourself on the head and say "Duh! - that makes so much sense! Why didn't I realize that before?" you'll like it!
I don't like the Monetessori way of schooling, because they're so devoted to work. We do incorporate Waldorf into our lives though. Not the schooling part (main lessons, etc.) but do have a "waldorf" home, waldorf reading materials, art supplies, etc.
We call it homeschooling. I considering homeschooling anything that you and/or your child are in charge of their learning, not the school district.

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Old 04-01-2005, 02:44 AM
 
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I consider unschooling to be homeschooling only in the sense that the kids are at home (sometimes ) vs them being at a school. Also, my state just calls it all homeschooling. We love unschooling, and yes it did take some time to get our heads around the idea that we could do whatever we wanted! There was no schedule we had to adhere to, no lessons that had to get done, and no one telling us what to do and why. My kids spent some time in public school, so this kind of freedom was a little hard to grasp at first for all of us. It sure didn't take long though

I agree with the Teenage Liberation Handbook recommendation as well. For us reading the Nintendo magazine is as good as reading Shakespeare. We believe that whatever we spend time doing is good enough

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Old 04-01-2005, 03:43 AM
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Yeah. What she said. Actually, reading Shakespeare's plays is pretty boring, IMO. Reading them aloud with other people is fun, and seeing them performed well is more fun, but just reading them... blarg. MHO.

I do consider unschooling to be a form of homeschooling, although I also think that unschooling is at the opposite end of the educational spectrum from some extreme school-at-home philosophies, too, whereas most brick and mortar schools would be more in the middle. Homeschooling makes for strange bedfellows, sometimes

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Old 04-01-2005, 03:49 AM
 
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Thank you, ju-cee, for your kind comments. You ask:
Quote:
Do you consider unschooling to be a form of homeschooling? If I may answer my own question I think so it's just a more relaxed form vs. using a specific set of guidelines and text/workbooks. Am I getting the hang of it?
Absolutely! The term "unschooling" was first coined by John Holt when he was advocating keeping children home instead of sending them to school. He eventually came to feel that the best form of that was to let them be in charge of their own learning - how and what, etc. So that term has been used ever since by people who stick by that philosophy. Eventually, the term "homeschooling" grew to be term popularly used for keeping children home from school - although some people still use the term "unschooling" for the more general meaning.

Quote:
Do you find that we parents have to "unschool" ourselves before we can really relax, go with the flow and have them go at their own pace. Right now I can see my self having a hard time if my girls wanted to read the Nintendo magazine instead of a book "I felt" was appropriate. Any advice on helping us to "unschool" and let our hair down.....so to speak
Yes, I think it's absolutely essential to unschool yourself if you want to unschool your children. I assume you're referring to the comments about Nintendo Power magazine in my article (posted above)? I didn't go into it all that much, but that's a very common story. My son learned a lot from his interest in Nintendo - not just reading, but much more. Here's a whole web page about the benefits of video games:
http://sandradodd.com/games/page

There are lots of kinds of unschoolers, but I think most of us put respect for our children's unique wishes at the forefront - and I realize full well how hard that can be to accept as the most sound and realistic one, but I can say from experience that it works.

Besides the Nintendo magazine incident I mentioned, there were many things along the way that showed the importance of giving my son that kind of freedom. There was one month, for instance, when he watched cartoons for hours a day - not the newer stuff, but the old classic Looney Tunes and Warner Bros. I was fascinated to watch him being so fascinated. It was clearly a study for him. He observed every little nuance, and kept running in and sharing things he was noticing - the way the characters wouldn't fall when they ran off a cliff until they'd noticed there was nothing beneath them; the way the landscape elements went by in repetitious cycles, and so forth. And then he stopped and never watched one again.

There was also the period in which he was watching classic old TV series at night - Mary Tyler Moore, Get Smart, and I can't remember the rest, but the really great ones. I had a feeling his future was going to be related to humor and that's been shown to be true. As a matter of fact, we just got one of the referral letters for college admission yesterday from the leader of a program he had been involved with, and the focus of her beautiful letter was his special way with humor in combination with sensitivity and caring.

So it's that kind of thing - recognizing and honoring their special individuality and inner wisdom about who they are - and trusting that they somehow, on some level, know a lot more about what's inside of them than anybody else could. It's not at all that they don't' need parental guidance and wisdom, but that the parent can provide all that without over-controlling and judging every little thing along the way. A parent can lead and share enthusiasm while letting them have lots of freedom. It's not as if I hesitated, when I saw him getting that dull look in front of a computer, to say, "Okay - enough of that. You really need to get out and play for awhile."

You want to be sensitive and aware. Unschooling doesn't mean just going off and leaving them alone to figure out everything for themselves. You need to be right there demonstrating a love of learning, and helping them find out about all sorts of things, providing stimulating materials, and new experiences.... Lillian
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