From very relaxed unschooling to more parent led homeschooling, anyone BTDT? - Mothering Forums
Learning at Home and Beyond > From very relaxed unschooling to more parent led homeschooling, anyone BTDT?
Vermillion's Avatar Vermillion 03:45 PM 08-26-2010
My son is 8, and up until now we’ve gone about his learning in a very relaxed, unschooling way. Well, that isn’t working out so well anymore. He’s fallen behind his peers in some things and it has taken a bit of a toll on his self esteem. We both agree that it’s time to try something new. So, this year we’ll be moving into a more parent led way of homeschooling.

A couple of weeks ago I signed him up for explode the code online to improve his reading skills as he is SO ready to be reading more, and he’s cruising right along in that Now he needs some help with math, writing, & spelling. Everything else (science, history, etc) will still be pretty much child led, as he has no real problems there.

Soooo... Anyone BTDT? Any advice for a formerly very relaxed unschooling mom & kid to ease into this?

elizawill's Avatar elizawill 04:43 PM 08-26-2010
IME, math is very "trial and error", so i hate to even recommend anything. we use christian light education (which is obviously christian published), but my daughter loves how straight forward and painless it is. she is really "getting it" with this curriculum (after a lot of trial & error). for writing, we use and LOVE writing with ease level 2. it only takes minutes a day & it is perfect for a struggling writer imho. we use it 4x week. it doesn't include any creative writing, so we also incorporate writing strands level 2 once or twice a week (which also takes up very little time). she is learning so much with this combo. for spelling, again there are tons of choices. my daughter (almost 9) struggled the most with spelling though, so after a lot of trial & error, we have settled in nicely with "all about spelling". we startd at level 1, which we flew through, but i felt it was necessary to go from the beginning. we're almost through with level 2 now & she's doing fabulous. i think we'll do level 3 this year as well, & either move onto levels 4 & 5 next year or switch to megawords level 1...i'm undecided still. another good spelling curriculum is sequential spelling. it's awesome & so easy (it just didn't click with my daughter for whatever reason).

anyway, i hope this helps. this is what works for us anyway & our days are still very short, while covering a lot of ground.
lmonter's Avatar lmonter 07:39 PM 08-26-2010
I'm absolutely no help other than to say I'm about in the same boat.
We did just regular life up until a month ago, and I started using a Sonlight core to at least be doing "something" and to keep my 6yo (7yo in 5-6 weeks) excited and into "school." I'm still totally winging it, but it's nice to have backup.
FireWithin's Avatar FireWithin 07:58 PM 08-26-2010
I think with an 8 year old I would be getting regular feedback about what is working, and what is not.

We tend towards really relaxed homeschooling. My expectation this last spring was that we were going to do something everyday. His choice of what. (not necessarily what I'm suggesting for you). After 15 minutes of math, only 2-3 times a week, he was obviously miserable. With a good talk, he explained that math made his head hurt, whereas he could read for hours at a time. We are doing shorter more frequent blocks. My guy was a new 7 at the time and did a great job explaining to me what was going on.

Point being: can he feel in control of the hows and whens, as long as things are being accomplished?
earthmama369's Avatar earthmama369 08:03 PM 08-26-2010
We're there right now, in fact. We generally follow a very community-based style of learning -- lots of co-ops, group activities, classes, field trips, etc., as the kids ask for them. My eldest asks for that kind of experience a LOT. I've come into some physical limitations, though, so we need to massively scale back how much we leave the house each week and how far we go even when we do leave the house. So what was working for us really well previously now needs to change. We're still keeping a pretty eclectic unschooling attitude toward learning in general, but there are certain areas that I need to take a bit more initiative on and make sure the kids have the tools and opportunity at home, rather than relying on community exposure, since we'll actually be at home. It's...weird. We're doing a trial run this week and it's actually been going really well, but it doesn't feel easy and normal yet.
yippityskippity's Avatar yippityskippity 08:35 PM 08-26-2010
My older DD is an independent learner and is doing quite well with Math Mammoth. MM is also very inexpensive and easy to implement. It would actually be GREAT for an unschooling kid, as he/she could just pick it up and work on it without any prep required from their adult helper.
OTMomma's Avatar OTMomma 10:17 PM 08-26-2010
Last year we moved from a sort of unschooling situation to more of a Charolett Mason method. The things I like about CM is that you keep lessons short- about 15 minutes per subject and you do a lot of subjects, to keep interest high. CM doesn't do spelling yet as an 8 year old- they do copy work each day to work on handwriting, and by copying great sentences from classic literature, kids are supposed to naturally absorb a certain amount of spelling and writing skill. They do oral reports a lot that they call naratives, and they begin to start writing those out at age 9. is a resouce for CM, but I don't do their stuff at all, I research and pick my own. Just a thought to look into for you.

This fall for math we are going to be playing Timez Attack from to learn times tables (not CM, but dd likes it).
leighann79's Avatar leighann79 10:37 PM 08-26-2010
I eased the transition (for both of us) by starting with them each doing half an hour of "school" every day in the form of educational games online. They were so used to that (and usually did more like an hour) that it was not such a big deal when we started doing different school stuff. Much of ours is still online (I use Lesson Pathways) but we have worksheets and projects too.
MissRubyandKen's Avatar MissRubyandKen 10:42 PM 08-26-2010
I was much more relaxed, unschooling at one time. I also could say we delayed formal education a bit.

My suggestions-

Miquon for Math
Sequential Spelling
Writing With Ease

All of these programs have short lessons that my children, 8 and 10, find fun!
zjande's Avatar zjande 12:43 AM 08-27-2010
I can't be helpful really, but I just wanted to mention that I too did something similar. I unschooled my 1st child all the way through high school, but started regretting it a few years before she graduated. I won't unschool again. It's not an ideal I can agree with anymore. I've been following a structured school setting these past several years & feel much better about my kids' education now.
marilynmama's Avatar marilynmama 08:07 AM 08-27-2010
We have always unschooled and for my family I don't agree with it anymore. It can be an extremely hard transition for kids if they enter ps or college after being unschooled (this is from our personal experience).

This year I have started more structured school at home program (we are still relaxed) and my oldest (12 yo 7th grader) has had her self esteem increase and just enjoys it a lot more I can tell.

The is my youngest first year in ps (3rd grade) after being unschooled and she is having a *very rough* transition! AND the teacher is biased against the face that she was HSed We are going to give it some more time but I honestly dont know if I want to keep her in the system.
Breathless Wonder's Avatar Breathless Wonder 11:03 AM 08-27-2010
Originally Posted by marilynmama View Post
It can be an extremely hard transition for kids if they enter ps or college after being unschooled (this is from our personal experience).
Hey marilynmama!
I just wanted to say I've seen a few of your posts about your family's transition to public school, and say yes, I agree, it CAN be hard. But transitions in GENERAL are hard. And in your case in particular, it sounds as though you have a teacher with a grudge, which CERTAINLY doesn't help.

I have a 17 yo unschooled son, who is taking college classes. And over all, he is grateful for his opportunity to have unschooled. And he is doing very well in his classes. Has he had some glitches adjusting? Yes. But so did his Dad and I when we started college, and we were both public school students with very high SAT scores, who graduated in the top 10% of our classes. Each school is different in its expectations. Each teacher is different, and some teachers are different from day to day. LOL!

I have a bunch of unschooling friends, and one of the things that they articulated for me was the idea that just as with AP, it not about the labels. It is about hearing, responding to, and meeting the individual needs of *your* children.

Vermillion- Ironically, that is one of the tenants of unschooling that so many RUs forget- when it isn't working, and your child expresses a desire for change, then it is time to help them search for solutions. Unschooling is a process, unique to each person practicing it, not a set of rules, based in "not".

I have doubted: myself, my children, our approach to learning... I have worried about the labels, and what it means to *be* an unschooler, or not an unschooler. We have done more formal work. We've used workbooks, and structured classes. The way our days have looked has changed many times over the 12 years we have been doing this. But at the end of the day, I only need to answer to my family, not anyone else.

Good luck to all of you!
mamaMAMAma's Avatar mamaMAMAma 11:40 AM 08-27-2010
Breathless wonder:
I'm actually going the other direction (from more structured mom-led to child-led). I'm curious why people are going from unschooling to more structured approach. How old are your kids? I think just as homeschooling can take on many forms, unschooling is just as varied and individualized to the family. I think that's the beauty of homeschooling.
Tigeresse's Avatar Tigeresse 02:11 PM 08-27-2010
I am considering a gentle move to more structure to "cover some bases" so to speak. I very much believe in learning through all life experiences and freedom. I also believe in respecting a child's needs and desires as much as possible. What I have not seen acquisition of skills to meet a goal or a whole lot of self motivation. What I have seen is a lot of struggle and frustration in some areas to catch up and a bit of discontent that some of these things were not expected from us.

I think in some ways, although our oldest needed and wanted more direction from us, he balked at it when we tried so we let it go. I don't believe anymore that kids always know what they need and will automatically move in that direction. I believe it is true for some, but I have not seen it in my 2 oldest, so I have been following my instincts more rather than suppressing them in the name of following a philosophy.

Still plenty of freedom here and lots of mutual respect, but more guidance. My kids are 18, 14, 11, and 7.
Lisa1970's Avatar Lisa1970 02:32 PM 08-27-2010
I have been very relaxed in the past but have found it has not been working with my younger children. They just spent their days whining for computer games and would not even consider educational games.

I still have kept it quite relaxed. I purchased some science kits, which they would have liked anyway. Both are doing Singapore Math and Spelling Workout. Both are doing a handwriting program, but different programs. They are 6 and 8 by the way. The 8 year old is doing an English program and the 6 year old is doing some phonics and also a Learning Quest book or whatever it is called. I do not have it in front of me, but my neice had one and thought it was fun so I just added it in.
Lisa1970's Avatar Lisa1970 02:38 PM 08-27-2010
I want to add, my daughter was unschooled for about 3 years before she returned to public school. The only thing we did was math really. We had given up spelling and English a couple years before she went to school. Then when she returned, she had no troubles. She was so far ahead of everyone that our main issue has been finding a school that will accommodate her being so far ahead. This is a child that was not learning how to read in the public schools when she was there before, which was through 2nd grade. They claimed she had such a severe reading disability that they just could not teach her. When I tried to return her to school, all they could really offer was to accelerate her or have her split her days between the middle school and high school. All the work at the school that she did end up in was so over the top easy that it was a joke. I find myself wondering what they did all day long for those 5 years she was homeschooled.

I will add though, with unschooling, I did not allow video games or TV during the day unless it was educational. I know some people unschool and then the kids just play Wii or Playstation all day. I am in to child led learning, not just child led fun time. Learning can be fun, but I was not about to clean the house and pay the bills and do the cooking and laundry while my husband worked all day long and my children just played video games.

Good luck!
mama2cntrykids's Avatar mama2cntrykids 03:03 PM 08-27-2010
Interesting thread. I'm enjoying reading the replies. Personally, we're moving into a more child-led environment for my ds7. But, for him, it's needed. The only thing that I *really* insist on is math, practicing a small amt of writing daily (two words, he has dysgraphia) and verbal spelling. That's it. Everything else is done through reading, hands-on experiments (that he chooses) and daily living/interacting.

Not the answer you want, I know! I'm just really interested in this thread! Oh, for math, he uses MUS. His older bro uses Singapore math, but I'm switching him to Teaching Textbooks next year (less math stress on this non-mathy mom).
Vermillion's Avatar Vermillion 03:32 PM 08-27-2010
Wow, lots of replies & definitely lots of think about! Thank you all!!

I have to say, it’s a very odd thing for me to be transitioning to a more parent led way of doing things. I myself was unschooled through most of middle school & high school and for me it was great! But my son and I are night and day. Where I would hit on something I was interested in I would really go with it. My son is just kind of, well, not quite as motivated as I was

Plus now that he’s a little older and peer interaction is more important than ever, he’s seeing where he’s behind and it really matters to him now, so he wants me to set the routine for him.

It’s all such an interesting process; the ebbs and flows and constant changes in how things work.
greenmama's Avatar greenmama 11:35 PM 08-27-2010
I really think unschooling works better once they have some real basics down so that they have the skills to research their interests and deeply pursue the things that cross their path. To do that they need the basics of being able to read, able to write and or type, able to do the basic four processes of math. If they can do those things they can reach out and learn anything, but until those things are learned its hard to teach yourself, or identify what it is that they want to find the resources to learn.

My daughter has those basics down, but it is still hard for her to identify what she wants to pursue, and she is still inclined to want to spend her time playing. At this point I let her pick what she wants to learn and study. I help identify for her some options- lots of dialog helps us see where one interesting topic can lead to a related subject to research and pursue. However I still have to push to get an our or two of focused academic time four days a week, if I didn't hold her to that she would still play every hour of the day.

(except she is an avid reader, I never have to ask her to read... even there I currently insist on one non-fiction or somewhat accurate historical fiction for every six fantasy books that she reads)
mamaMAMAma's Avatar mamaMAMAma 02:25 AM 08-28-2010
Originally Posted by greenmama View Post
I really think unschooling works better once they have some real basics down so that they have the skills to research their interests and deeply pursue the things that cross their path.
That makes sense to me... Your daughter sounds a lot like mine. DD#1 has always been an avid reader. This year, (she's turning 10 next month), there is a definite shift. She is asking me to get her books on certain subjects, is interested in taking classes, ... I'm going to try and shift with her and try not to get in her way.

It's great to hear all the other perspectives. I think it's wonderful to listen to our kids whether it is going toward a more structured approach or a more relaxed one.
Eli&SkyesMom's Avatar Eli&SkyesMom 01:08 AM 08-31-2010
My DS is 9, and we just started Life of Fred: Fractions for math, he loves it!
I second a PP's suggestion for Sequential Spelling, we like it a lot.
We use Easy Grammer and Daily Grams for grammer, which I like because they are short lessons.
This leaves more time for reading, history and the other things that we are doing! HTH