Is this Unschooling? - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-17-2003, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ds just turned 3 and we have no formal homeschooling activities for him yet. What we do is go to the library and he picks out books he wants and we bring them home to read.

Yesterday he wanted this book about a guy who adopts an owlet (he's into owls and bats thanks to Stellaluna). This book is aimed at kids who are probably 10 years or older, who can read chapters with few pictures or drawings. Anyway, we read a few chapters this morning and ds was mesmerized and understood everything. He even laughed at a part that the author was describing in a humourous way that seemed too advanced for him to understand.

He can spell out words we make in the bathtub with letters and last night I put a word together that he hadn't seen before and with very little help, he figured it out.

He loves Sojourner and talks to her at night when we look at Mars.

Enough bragging, is this how unshcooling goes? I love it but what happens when he's 11 or 12 and needs to learn more than the basics of math? How do you unschool algebra?

Am I way ahead of myself here?
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Old 09-17-2003, 09:29 PM
 
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Yes, this is unschooling.

If, at the age of 11 or 12 or 56, he needs to learn algebra, then he will. Maybe on his own, maybe with the help of others.

When YOU need to learn something, don't you set about to learn it? Or do you have someone telling you, "This year, you will learn _______."

That's the thing about unschooling--people learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. It's not dictated by anyone else.

(I suppose there are people in the world who need to learn algebra--I've yet to meet any, but I guess it's possible.)

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Old 09-17-2003, 11:42 PM
 
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I am interested in this question as well, but in my case, I can easily see how someone could learn particular types of math on her own, but I am wondering how unschooled people make their way from learning how to pick up a pencil and form letters to knowing how to produce essays? I am really stuck in a school-based mindset for this, and I would love it if you'd tell me about different approaches.
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Old 09-18-2003, 03:08 AM
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Ya know, I showed some homeschooled kids the Basic Five Paragraph Essay once, they were teens and wanting to know what might be on some test. They thought it was a joke at first - these kids had read real essays by real writers, because they were interested in what the writer had to say. They had written real essays, generally on websites, about subjects which interested them. No one told them how, although various people helped them edit, when asked. They knew how to write essays from reading them.

Rain is writing a novel now, one of her first ever pieces of writing. Seriously, she's spent 5 years writing occasional notes, and then maybe 6 months writing angst-filled emails, and now suddently she can write a book. It looks like something a high school or college kid might write - not the spelling or punctuation, those are getting there but nothing extraordinary, but the ideas and the complex sentence structure and the amount of detail. I though, when she started writing, it would be like most 5th graders in school. Instead, her first novel started with: "On a cold November morning, the wind was blowing, snow was falling, and a kindly old man was standing on the sidewalk, selling newspapers from a stand he had built himself. He was in his late fifties, with gray hair and a beard, with glasses and true blue eyes. "

The older kids did learn how to write the standard formulaic 5 paragraph essays with ease, since the writing they were already doing was far more complex. One wrote a great 5 paragraph essay on the limitations of the 5 paragraph essay,which was quite fun.

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Old 09-18-2003, 10:53 AM
 
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Dar, you truely need to write a book of your own. I love reading your posts--your "take" on things, and your daughter's experiences would make a great story.

Interestingly, college-level writing courses end up trying to undo all the formula-writing that kids have been taught in the lower grades. Writers say that the best way to learn to write, is to read.

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Old 09-18-2003, 11:21 PM
 
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I learned to write well from reading good writing. Simple as that.
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Old 09-20-2003, 02:40 PM
 
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I unschooled my last two years of high school, so though I had a very very strong foundation in school, I didn't learn how to write well there. I learned how to write by writing. I keep recommending the same process for "school" kids I know. I kept a journal and wrote bad poetry. Then I started going to poetry readings. Then I started hosting poetry readings. Then I entered a poetry slam. And won. I never finished college (though someday I might), and yet my husband is constantly asking me to edit his papers for grad school.

About Algebra - I personally think Algebra is good to have. It helps to be able to figure things out. For example, I just bought 50 lbs. of BioKleen Laundry Powder and a 5 gal. bucket of Bac-Out. I need to figure out what I normally pay for these items at the store to see how much money I saved and if it was really worth it. I'm sure it is worth it, but I'd still like to know. So, I have to go to the store & see what I normally pay for those items. I know the Bac-Out comes in 32 oz. bottles and costs about 9 bucks. The powder I buy in bulk by the pound. So I've got to develop a problem to figure that out. Anyway, that's Algebra. Same thing if you ever want to build anything. But anyway, when I was unschooling, though I had a basis in math already, I still needed some more math "classes" to graduate. I chose to do Saxon math because I really love Algebra and don't mind doing problems for fun. Then my motivation was low, so I enrolled in a community college class. You can do "school" things while unschooling if your interest leads you there. You can always introduce "school" things to children and see if they like it.

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Old 09-22-2003, 02:58 AM
 
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I have to agree with blueviolet and others.

I learned to write essays by reading tons and tons. Reading teaches spelling and punctuation because when you read alot you learn what is correct and what isn't just by what "sounds right" or "looks right". Well, that's how it was with me, anyways. And, btw, I learned how to read long before I started school.

I'm constantly STUNNED by how totally pathetic the writing skills of many college students are. It's a wonder any child who ISN'T homeschooled learns how to read or write!

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Old 09-22-2003, 10:49 AM
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See, this is where I get confused.

And I stress the word confused, not confrontational.

I want to say, "No, that isn't unschooling," because you have the letters (for the purpose of teaching reading, I assume), because you spelled out the letters for him (with the intention of teaching him to read, I assume), because you *seem* to go to the library with the agenda of learning, etc.

Sometimes I feel lost because even considering the notion of homeschooling for a 3 year-old seems so odd to me. I realize you don't have a curriculum, as you said, but just even having to clarify that, kwim?

Please don't be offended. I am at a point right now where I am wondering if just allowing my 3 1/2 yo child to *be* is really enough - if I'm not just lazy or if my whole concept of unschooling is screwed up and I actually do have to take the lead somehow.
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Old 09-22-2003, 02:26 PM
 
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Don't take the lead ParisMaman. Although I know it is tempting at those times when that nagging little voice says "but you aren't doing anything!" and "is she ever going to learn to read if you don't teach her?" In the long run taking the lead, as you so aptly put it, will only confuse and fustrate you both.

Having said that, I will also say that I don't think that having things like letters and books with alphabets is opposed to an unschooling life. In fact we have these as well as maps and a globe, etc. The tools are not the issue, it is how they are used. If I am playing with my child and show her how I build a tower with her blocks, I don't consider this "teaching" because I am simply sharing with her something I think is cool and I think she will like also. With this kind of relationship from an early age, it works the same way as the child grows to adulthood. ( I still share things with my grown dd that I think she will find of interest, as she does with me. ) So when my older kids want to know something about algebra or biology, for example, they will express an interest and I will suggest some books, or share something cool I know about the subject. Same as I would with my husband or friend.

I hope this makes sense. I think what I'm trying to say is that unschooling is not about what you don't do or what you do do....it is more about HOW you do things. It is a mindset about how you treat your children; treating them in the same way you treat a friend or your partner. IKWIM?
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Old 09-22-2003, 03:00 PM
 
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We always go to the library, or anywhere else for that matter, with the idea that we will learn something. The difference is that I don't go there with the idea of "teaching" something.

IMO unschooling is learning all the time, but rarely teaching. I say rarely because there are things that are taught. For example, when my Heidi (13)wanted to know how to crochet, I taught her the basics and now she just comes and asks me when she wants to learn a new stitch or how to join something. (To be honest, she is much better at it now than I, and I often ask her to show me something.)

When my children wanted to learn a musical instrument, my dh taught them the basics, but didn't give formal lessons, and they simply ask him when they need to learn something new. Now one dd is taking swing dance classes and another dressage riding lessons. These are things they want to learn and so we found people who could teach them.

Unschooling does not mean never teaching....it means not schooling. Do you see the difference?

As an aside, I thought I tell you that as I'm writing this, I've been interrupted about 5 times by kids with questions about connecting a beaded necklas, making a multiplication table, and how to keep the 2 year old grandchild out of the ferret's cage.
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Old 09-23-2003, 05:11 AM
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Thanks Barbara!

I do enjoy teachable moments with my dd. In the past two days we learned how to feed rabbits, ride horses, play gently with sick puppies; we learned about how trees have skin and how the skin is rough and the wood underneath is so smooth; we learned again about putting the laundry in the washing machine, dosing the detergent and softener, and hanging it outside on the line; we went to a movement class; we went to the big bazaar and bought veggies, watched the old ladies with their buckets of various creams and milks and honeys and butters; we took home some super fatty cream and made whipped cream out of it; we vacuumed and shampooed the rug in dd's bedroom; we went to the home of an old woman who makes down feather pillows and bought one for her baba to use when he comes to visit next week, etc. etc. etc. But this is just part of our everyday lives. For example, we didn't go out to the farm just so she could see the horses; we went there because we were all interested for various reasons.

I would go to the library here if there were one. And I would take Iris because she would enjoy seeing the building, the people, the books, the computers, etc. We would probably sit and look at books, then check out the computers. But it would be done for something to do, for fun. It wouldn't cross my mind, at this age, to take her there to learn something. Does that make sense?

I think it's also because my dd has absolutely no interest in academics yet that every time I see someone talking academics about their 3 yo I automatically think it's some kind of agenda to get the kid started on them. I need to re-think that. All kids have different interests.

I think I'm feeling the pressure for the preschool thing. I'm also going through the process of convincing my dh that unschooling is the best choice for us.
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Old 09-23-2003, 03:05 PM
 
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WOW, It sounds like you are having such a fun and enriching time! That is what it is all about!
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