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#1 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 08:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have three boys, ages 8 (2nd grade), 6 (first grade) and 2. So far, I've had the two oldest in public schools and I haven't had any serious complaints. However, I do worry that the quality of education they'll be getting, especially as they move into the higher grades, isn't going to be what I want it to be (and I'm sure many other threads have been devoted to that topic so I won't go into detail about it here). I've always said that if I need to pull them and homeschool them I will, despite my significant insecurities about my ability to do a good job of it.

 

But let's say I do decide it's time to pull them. Which I haven't yet, but I think about it all the time and want to be ready if the time comes. What if they don't want to be pulled? What if they like their friends and the whole lifestyle of going to a traditional school? Has anyone here been in that situation, and how did you align your kids to the idea of homeschooling, and how has it worked out? I worry that since my kids have now experienced what it's like to be in a traditional school, they'll have expectations for what homeschool "should" be like, which I will be unable / unwilling to meet.

 

Also---another thing that I worry about with homeschooling is that my kids see our home primarily as a place to be entertained. Not that I've tried to communicate this to them, but somehow it has happened. Yes, they have chores to do and no, I don't hand them entertainment on a silver platter (we don't have a TV to speak of or any gaming system; they do get very limited "game time" on my Kindle and occasionally watch stuff on the computer with DH), but their main mindset when they are at home is "when can I get my game time." Either that or they are arguing or fighting about something. They don't seem to play very well independently or even with each other. My fear is that doing school at home would be a constant battle---me trying to get them to do their schoolwork, and them either trying to weasel out of it, or just making a half-baked effort in their rush to be done so they can do something "more fun" (although they often seem to have trouble finding something fun to do despite the mountains of Lego and other toys in the basement and shelves of books and games in the den).

 

So yeah, I have two concerns: one, that my kids might not want to leave the public school environment, and two, that homeschool would be a big battle for us. It might sound like I'm trying to talk myself out of it, and really, I'm not. I'm really trying to talk myself into it, so that I'll be ready if/when we need to do it. If you have dealt with any of these concerns yourself, can you tell me about your experience?

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#2 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 09:59 AM
 
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Well if the kids like school and there aren't any major concerns at this point, personally I wouldn't pull them out. Having said that, if you do want to start homeschooling I think both your issues would be addressed by adopting a rather different mindset with respect to homeschooling. Rather than partitioning home-based learning off as "work" as opposed to "play," I would make an effort to blur the distinction as much as possible. Play and fun can be learning, and if you want to homeschool them I would try to win them over to that by showing them how much fun educational stuff can be in a homeschooling environment. 

 

For instance, if you wanted to take spring break (do you have that where you live?) to demonstrate the fun and freedom of homeschooling, you could plan one day at the zoo, one day making ice cream with salt and ice to chill it, a day at a creek with nets and a hand-held magnifier and a camera, give them extra "game time" with some sort of appealing math or logic app, set them loose in the kitchen one day making microwave granola bars with as little help as possible, show them how to use PowerPoint to do up a multimedia presentation about their day at the creek, set them to watching an episode of Mythbusters on the computer, use styrofoam and water-based printing ink to make monoprints, take them to a park playground for PE and a picnic, go on a nice hike, let them learn how to use your camera and edit photos, etc.. 

 

I have a 10-year-old and while we don't normally pack her weeks with as many activities as this, I'd have to say that most of her home-based learning is comprised of this sort of thing. We occasionally do a bit of structured learning, and she has a couple of scheduled out-of-home activities, but really, she enjoys homeschooling because her learning can be natural and experiential. By comparison school seems very much like "work." On her slate today: open-ended playing with geometry software, skating on a mountain lake, practicing her violin, making cashew brittle (okay, I think she's missing this, because I've started and she's still in bed -- another perk!), running a short trail near our house, curling up in front of the wood stove reading some historical fiction.

 

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#3 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 12:31 PM
 
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I would use the summer as an experiment to see if you would like planning and the day-to-day life of homeschooling.  That's what we did. But I would also caution that real homeschooling vs the summer experiment is much harder.  The grind of months on end without a break can take a toll, but I am in my first year and I think that can be a hard transition time for a lot of homeschoolers.  Sibling squabbles don't go away because you homeschool, but then again there are times when my kids do play really well together and it makes me happy that they have more opportunity to play together than if they were all in school.  

 

Personally, I would not pull my kids out of school if I thought they were doing well and happy.  Public school does work well for some kids. I was one of those kids.  I don't have anything really against public school. I just don't think it works for all kids and families.  You could always do enrichment after school and on weekends or spend the summer doing enrichment activities as a family if you feel their education is lacking in some way.  You might want to look up after-schooling resources. This seems to be a growing movement.  But if you were to go that route wanting to spend more time as a family after school with enrichment, you would probably have to limit extra curricular activities to make time for it.  

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#4 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 01:34 PM
 
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I've been thinking about this too.  Thanks for the post.

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#5 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 02:20 PM
 
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The grind of months on end without a break can take a toll

 

I'm curious why you wouldn't take a break if it feels like a grind? To me this is the beauty of homeschooling: not being tied to an 8-4, Monday to Friday, August to May schedule. You can immerse yourself in things when the flow is good, and then take days or weeks to do completely different things, or nothing at all, when you need to.

 

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#6 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 03:57 PM
 
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My 10yr old loves the community at school. He really wanted to go this year after homeschooling up until this point. I think he really needed to try it for shelf to see how the other half lives. He's thriving.

I didn't think there was any way he'd want to come back home. BUT- he noticed over this holiday break how much time he's sacrificing by going to school. He loves training in his sport and he loves being out of school this week and getting more training time. So, he asked if I would be willing to withdraw him from the school so he doesn't have to return next week.

My point is that if you can find your dc major interest and show them that they will have more time to devote to that interest if they aren't in school they might go for it.

As for struggles over curriculum...we really had a tough time when I was set on forcing a curriculum on my 3rd grader last year. It was a literature based program, so to me it seemed like the most wonderful way to learn, especially since my oldest loves literature, but he wasn't being challenged, and most days he complained, and so I tried challenging him more with more difficult curricula and he ended up fighting me even harder.

All of this to say that I'd strongly advise you to consider the approach you want to use. In my mind, child-directed learning is the most peaceful way to go when homeschooling because my job is now to facilitate rather than impose and force-feed.

I'll never be a radical unschooler. I come from a Waldorf background and feel very strongly that our family needs structure and consistency, but my approach to academics with my children while homeschooling had to change in order to effectively homeschool my boys. It just had to.
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#7 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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To be clear, I'm not thinking of pulling them anytime soon. We're taking it year by year and there are no major concerns at this point---but I'm not altogether comfortable with curriculum changes that are coming down the pike, and I want to be ready if/when we start to have issues.

 

So...tell me more about making it fun. The child-directed approaches described here sound really great, but what do you do about grammar, writing, spelling, and math? How do those foundational skills fit in with "the fun and freedom of homeschooling?"

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#8 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 08:05 PM
 
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Well, those are easier when they are not made into a chore in the first place.  

 

I think that at this young age (my girls are 9 and 7) you can practically play your way through these foundational skills.  We play with math in many ways, and I don't worry too much about the order of things.  Grammar and spelling are mostly taught in those moments where they are confused by the inconsistencies of English.  We get a laugh out of the whole sordid history, and slowly, we work things out.  The writing happens in their own play and projects.  Oh, we do love Schoolhouse Rock for basic grammar.  

 

Soapbox:  I always keep in mind that the idea grammar came from Latinists attempting to impose the same classification system upon the English language, which is related to Latin to the same extent that a spider is related to a slug.  Not to mention that it is entirely possible that the Latin we know is not the Latin that was actually spoken in the streets of the Roman Empire.  So, for me, going beyond the basic components of grammar is about as natural as a vegan lion.  OK, I exaggerate. :p  Though I guess with enough force, a square peg can be pummeled into a round hole.  

 

Continue to think about what your homeschooling would look like.  I think it's a far better foundation *for you* to gain some understanding of what you are working *towards*.  Working away from something (like a curriculum you dislike) is not the sustaining motivator as what you are working towards, and that is not as good as seeing the immense value of what your family has in the moment.


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#9 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 10:49 PM
 
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So...tell me more about making it fun. The child-directed approaches described here sound really great, but what do you do about grammar, writing, spelling, and math? How do those foundational skills fit in with "the fun and freedom of homeschooling?"

 

Well, foundational skills are foundational because everything else in the course of 'real life' depends upon them. Wanting to be a capable, competent member of society and living your life in daily contact with people who are being exactly that will give a child plenty of opportunity to appreciate why a person might need to be able to multiply in their head, or write a cursive signature, or present a coherent opposing view on an issue. Those foundational skills are everywhere in the world. Which, if you think about it, is a built-in way of ensuring that kids will come to understand their importance and want to strive for the necessary competence. You don't need to pre-teach everything your child may need to know later in life; often it's far better to let your child's interests carry him forward until he realizes that something he really wants to do will require a certain skill, or until he sees exactly why grown-ups need to have certain skills. At that point the motivation is already in place. My ds wasn't that interested in high school math until he realized that the computer physics game engine he was working with required a pretty sophisticated understanding of trigonometry and parabolic functions. So he got busy learning higher math, and hasn't looked back since. 

 

When kids set about learning something in a systematic way, their ownership of the endeavor often provides enough motivation to see the task through. The learning is not being imposed upon them. In child-led homeschooling the child typically has the major say in when and how something is taught/presented/learned. Perhaps your child wants to learn how to write more clearly and confidently, so you and he have brainstormed a few possible approaches. In the end he settles on a workbook program that has students identifying and correcting errors in other people's writing, rather than writing and then correcting their own, or simply practicing a set of rules. Because he decided on it, because it doesn't stress his perfectionist tendencies, because he likes the way it presents things, he's going to enjoy working through it.

 

Another thing that helps is that a child-led education doesn't tend to present foundational skills in dry isolation. A child doesn't need to develop an interest in grammar per se. He might be reading an article about one of his passions, say, about a favourite band on tour, when he comes across a sentence that is misleading because of ambiguous or poor grammar. He'll start asking questions and trying to figure out why it's wrong. Or perhaps he's typing text into a science powerpoint project on a topic he's chosen. Anything he writes or discusses is going to have grammar in it, wouldn't you agree? And spelling too. And if it's science, there's probably math in it too. Kids' interests tend to be, in the terminology of educators, 'cross-curricular.' In amongst those mixtures of subjects and skills you'll find a lot of the academic basics occurring naturally. 

 

And then there's the intrinsic beauty and enjoyment of the basic academics. I don't think kids in school are given much of a chance to discover this for themselves because they come to those skills according to someone else's timetable and idea about how they should be presented. My kids really like math, for example. They don't love every last skill necessarily, and they didn't always learn things exactly when a curriculum-in-a-box would have laid them out for them. But allowed to explore math on their own terms they are often entranced by the symmetry and elegance and logic and inter-relatedness of it. 

 

And then there's just all the outside-the-box stuff that can dress learning up in a more enjoyable more meaningful format. Handwriting practice by writing recipes in your book of "Things I Can Cook." Learning parts of speech by doing silly MadLibs. Playing math guessing games in the car. Apps that use gamification to make spelling or math drill enjoyable. Spelling quizzes while bouncing on the trampoline. Spelling things backwards when playing Cranium. Playing Yahtzee and Monopoly to hone mental math skills. 

 

Really, if you think outside the box, allow your child to do the same, and don't feel the need to teach every little skill before it becomes important, but instead let it develop importance for your child and allow that to drive the learning forward, you'll discover a lot of freedom and flexibility even within the foundational skills.

 

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#10 of 37 Old 11-29-2013, 11:06 PM
 
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Kids naturally love to learn.  If you can get out of the way and let them do some of their own thinking and exploring, supporting them, they learn all sorts of things.

 

We are not an unschooler/totally child-led home - but a lot of the structure I impose is about bringing my kids alongside me in discovering interesting things.  We read them good books.  I pick out audiobooks too.  I have found a language arts curriculum that integrates handwriting, spelling, phonics, crafts, museum art, singing, and probably more.  We use it because I like it and they learn from it, and we don't do it to check off a box, we do it to learn and discover together - and I know that we are systematically covering something that one of my kids is not picking up without that systematic coverage.

 

A lot of people who have had their kids in school go through a time of "de-schooling" - it's a time for kids to step out and realize they enjoy learning - to get them to take ownership of it in their hearts instead of to learn because teaching is being done at them.  Not all kids need this, but many do.

 

So, how to make them fun:

 

Grammar - fun books about grammar things, mad libs, short lessons, interesting discussions while reading books together or listening to things, memorizing is something that many young kids do well and take pride in their abilities

Writing - write about what you care about - kid loves lego, kid writes about lego building or about stories of the lego adventures...  If you mean printing practice, well, I have used incentives and they have made the desire to try hard increase.

Spelling - I told my kids there was a spelling bee, they asked me what that was, thought it sounded fun, and then studied spelling for a few weeks half-hazardly before the bee.  Did great.  We read books, look at how words are made, etc.  We will start a spelling curric. in a little bit, thanks for reminding me I have it tucked away! :)

Math - math is everywhere in life around us, we use a curriculum that is fun/story-based

 

Really, though, it's about enjoying life and learning as you go together.  

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#11 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 05:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, this is all really helpful. I hope I didn't sound like I was challenging the idea of child-led learning---in fact, until reading these posts I didn't even really know it was a "thing." I'm very new to all this...I mean, not new to the idea of homeschooling (or unschooling), but new to really looking at how a child-led approach would work. So bear with me if my questions are very basic.

 

I think my kids would immensely enjoy a child-led approach (who wouldn't?). So, even though homeschool is probably still a ways in the future for us (or possibly never, depending on how things pan out in the public schools), I want to be thinking about what this would look like for us. Because really, even if we never make the big jump into full on homeschool, I know that our family could benefit greatly if I could adopt this approach in everyday life when my kids ARE at home.

 

I really appreciate the input that has been offered so far, and don't want to presume that anyone has the time or desire to invest in a complete stranger who's not a regular part of this community (I used to be somewhat, when I was in the pregnant newborn stages with my first two, but as you can see from my post count it's not exactly my home on the internet, lol!). That being said, if anyone would care to walk with me a little longer as I try to think this through, I would be most grateful!

 

I have one more question (well I guess it's actually a group of questions) about what child led learning looks like in a homeschooling family. And I'm sure there are resources out there that I could read for myself, so if it's easier to just point me to them, that's fine. But I'm just wondering...assuming the parent has some role of guidance in how the time is spent (and I'm sure there are some families who leave it entirely up to the kids), how do you figure out what to do each day? Do you make a plan? How do you ensure that the activities you decide to do are compatible with the basic needs of the family, such as 2yo nap times, cooking, household chores, and "mom needs to focus" activities such as bill paying, budget tracking, correspondence, appointment-making etc.? How do you make sure you have all the supplies and materials you need for all the activities you want to do? When in your day do you have time to think through what you're going to do, make lists of what you need to get, and go get it?

 

 

I have more questions, but I'll stop for now. :) Thanks.

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#12 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 07:27 AM
 
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To be clear, I'm not thinking of pulling them anytime soon. We're taking it year by year and there are no major concerns at this point---but I'm not altogether comfortable with curriculum changes that are coming down the pike, and I want to be ready if/when we start to have issues.

So...tell me more about making it fun. The child-directed approaches described here sound really great, but what do you do about grammar, writing, spelling, and math? How do those foundational skills fit in with "the fun and freedom of homeschooling?"

I've been spending a lot of time on this blog. She makes the best case for unschooling I've ever heard. She is a trend spotter and a very successful career coach. She cites a ton of research showing that interest-based learning without schooling leads to better chances of success, happiness, and meaning later in life:
http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com
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#13 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 08:10 AM
 
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"I have one more question (well I guess it's actually a group of questions) about what child led learning looks like in a homeschooling family. And I'm sure there are resources out there that I could read for myself, so if it's easier to just point me to them, that's fine. But I'm just wondering...assuming the parent has some role of guidance in how the time is spent (and I'm sure there are some families who leave it entirely up to the kids), how do you figure out what to do each day? Do you make a plan? How do you ensure that the activities you decide to do are compatible with the basic needs of the family, such as 2yo nap times, cooking, household chores, and "mom needs to focus" activities such as bill paying, budget tracking, correspondence, appointment-making etc.? How do you make sure you have all the supplies and materials you need for all the activities you want to do? When in your day do you have time to think through what you're going to do, make lists of what you need to get, and go get it?"

Great questions! As for meeting the needs of the family, we do have a consistent rhythm. I make myself available to my children for a large chunk of the first half of the day, to help them in whatever way they ask (research computer programming courses, edit their stories, play restaurant, order books, read a loud, help spell a word, help set up art supplies and clean up, help bake cookies or muffins, etc). If they are interested in doing something that we don't have supplies for they can make a list (with my help if needed). I don't allow video games during this time on the weekdays (this is just what works for our family, others handle this very differently, I'm sure).

Mid-day is lunch and a few chores (I fold a load of laundry and ask the kids to help put away after lunch). Everyday I take an hour-long quiet time, which used to be during my younger ds nap but he is older now and doesn't nap anymore. I still need the downtime and the boys know they can use this time to play quietly but I'm not available to help them. After quiet time, we are either off to meet friends, go to classes, or mostly, play outside with the neighbor kids when they come home from school while I get other things done and start dinner.

Now that my oldest is returning to homeschooling for athletic reasons, we will have two full days per week where he is training and my youngest is practicing too or can hang with me and listen to an audiobook or play a game. We also use car time on these days to listen to audiobooks, mostly for history.
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#14 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 08:42 AM
 
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I'm just wondering...assuming the parent has some role of guidance in how the time is spent (and I'm sure there are some families who leave it entirely up to the kids), how do you figure out what to do each day? Do you make a plan? How do you ensure that the activities you decide to do are compatible with the basic needs of the family, such as 2yo nap times, cooking, household chores, and "mom needs to focus" activities such as bill paying, budget tracking, correspondence, appointment-making etc.? How do you make sure you have all the supplies and materials you need for all the activities you want to do? When in your day do you have time to think through what you're going to do, make lists of what you need to get, and go get it?

 

I lean heavily on dh to do some of the more involved things--meaning things I need to focus on for a dedicated amount of time.....like signing up for the health care exchange or troubleshooting the computer which is unfortunately my job or making those boring administrative calls.  Dh and I are there to support each other, but the girls are often playing on their own, and I do things that need doing but are interruptible.  And some days, not much except the rock bottom basics get done, quite frankly.  

 

But the good thing about homeschooling, especially child-led, is that the amount of dedicated time is quite small.  If you approach it like Miranda suggests, not *pre*paring the kids for everything they will encounter, you need even less.  You can keep the same rhythm 7 days a week.  Many if not most families have a year-round rhythm, reducing time even further.  So, if you have a bum day where the baby is cranky and the kids are bouncing of the ceiling and nothing is getting done, you have the luxury to let it slide, forget the housekeeping for the day, forget any sit down time and do something like get out of the house.

 

The girls and I are in constant conversations about what they want to do, but I'm afraid we don't have much follow through.  They are still very much in the moment, so it's not entirely my fault.  But we do plan, and they are getting more involved in the details.  How it goes is usually something like this:  Me (looking at my calendar):  "Looks like we have a slack week.  Do you girls want to do anything this week?"  Their suggestions:  Painting class at the library, look for Christmas trees, make advent calendar, snowflakes (I might suggest Vi Hart's snowflake videos, we go to watch those, they want to follow up with their favorite videos and we might make hexaflexagons too).  Oops, we need plain paper.  That's a trip to ______.  What else do we need?  Tape?  OK.  A smaller brush for painting.  Toys?  How much allowance do you have?  No, 1.50 is not enough to get a plastic animal.  You need to save more.  How many allowances?  "Can we make more of those beaded candy canes?"  Well, when are we headed out towards the bead store?  Not until next week, that's a long drive.

 

Days for us can feel a little random, but that's because I allow them to be that way.  So, I'll let others offer the day-to-day advice.  

 

But I will say that keeping track of what is happening in a small diary or calendar can help immensely in helping you feel that academics are being covered (because most of us, no matter how much we deschool ourselves, still like knowing they are doing them).  DS1 sitting in a corner reading?  What is he reading?  Percy Jackson (Greek mythology-based)?  A science book?  Captain Underpants?  Hey, it's still reading!  Does your younger dc ask you a question about _______?  Make a note of your conversation.  It counts.  2yo playing with the bugs on the coreopsis outside?  Write it down. Trip to the park, with playtime in the forest and creek?  Etc.  Write down milestones, any little thing.  It can be so helpful to your peace of mind to look back on the week and see how much is getting done without any extra work on your part.

 

And we never have *all* the supplies and materials we need.  It is a constant state of collecting and using and collecting some more.  Extensive use of lists can help, but I'm bad at lists.  I tend to want to keep everything in my head....alas.  But many things simply become routine.  Sometimes we have to do without, as with the beads.  Shipwreck Beads-- Mecca to beadworkers everywhere-- is about an hour+ drive from our house.  Minimum internet order s $25.  Somethings just have to wait, either for the drive or when we need $25 worth of stuff.  It's nice that schools can supply everything, but I would contend that it's not all that realistic.  The seemingly automatic procurement of everything one needs for a project seems unrealistic to me, because kids often don't get to see the process, and thats *part of the process*.  That's "real life".  Schools, teachers have to work through it.  You will have to work through it.  It's a process, and there's no reason kids can be intricately involved in it.


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#15 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 09:27 AM
 
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It's a process, and there's no reason kids can't be intricately involved in it.

 

Having seen three of my kids through to high school or college from a very loose child-led approach, I think there's every reason to involve your kids deeply in that process. I think it's an incredibly important part of a child's education, and one that's typically not taught well in schools. It's about discussing, prioritizing, trying out various types and degrees of structure, reassessing, brainstorming, juggling various needs, working out schedules, planning, goal-setting, revamping, and muddling through. By doing this with your children involved, whether by family meetings or just daily in-the-flow discussions, they'll end up with all the skills they need to structure their own lives according to various outside constraints. 

 

In school they call these "executive planning skills" and many kids struggle with them into high school and college and beyond. I think that's because school imposes on them a very narrow system of structure and does not really involve them in devising, monitoring or reassessing that system. Their input is simply in whether they comply or not. That's it.

 

People who see how capably my older kids have handled the demands of work and higher-level academic institutional study often assume that they were raised with clear consistent parental structure that acclimatized them to external expectations and deadlines. The reality is actually the complete opposite: they had almost no imposed parental structure. What structure existed in their lives they helped create. And that meant that when for other teens external structure was falling away and they were floundering with the freedom to not show up for class or not complete practice problems or not get a decent night's sleep before a big test, my kids were simply doing what they had always done: structuring and organizing their lives in order to ensure they succeeded as they wished. 

 

So I would say that it's really important for the parent not to have all the answers when it comes to figuring out how to work around a 2-year-old's naptime and keep math work happening on a daily basis. It's actually good if the parent and the kids are constantly having to work collaboratively to figure those sorts of things out, responding to changing conditions, thinking creatively, experimenting with self-imposed expectations, tossing out the old way and trying something new and non-traditional, making mistakes and learning from them. I really think the Muddling Through approach to homeschool organization is the healthiest one.

 

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#16 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 09:35 AM
 
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Just wanted to chime in and second what SweetSilver said about keeping a record of learning for yourself. I use the Evernote app for this so I can make notes on the go. I have a folder for each child and I not only include key info about what I see them learning but I also try to jot down observations for each child. Like when we are in the car and my son says he wished we would have brought his broken iPod with us since we will be near the apple store and we've been trying to figure out how much it will cost to repair it. Or when he wonders out loud about leopards and bald eagles and I want to remember to research documentaries with him to see if any catch his interest.

I've found that many if my children's interests are expressed while driving in the car.
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#17 of 37 Old 11-30-2013, 10:13 AM
 
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I've found that many if my children's interests are expressed while driving in the car.

The car is the *best*!  I think it has to do with the fact that we are resigned to sitting there together, looking out the window, and not having direct eye contact that makes conversations flow so easily.  Anything from the origins of the universe to why dd1 is "always so bossy" to planning what's for dinner can be approached with a relative ease that face-to-face-at-the-table-when-I-have-better-things-that-I-can-be-doing cannot even compare.


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#18 of 37 Old 12-01-2013, 08:00 AM
 
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I'm with moominmamma on not drawing a dividing line between entertainment and education. Everything they want to do is learning.

 

We have recently gotten to put our child-led learning (unschooling) philosophy to the test because our 13 year old dd, who now really wants the school experience, started the 8th grade in public school this fall. And she's thriving both academically and socially.

 

I think being able to read and understand an extensive vocabulary is basically all a person needs to pursue whatever other kinds of learning he or she needs or feels led to pursue. In dd's case, she didn't start reading fluently until age 12, because that was when she felt motivated to start spending time reading every day in order to get comfortable with it before starting public school the following year. And starting later than average doesn't seem to be hampering her reading and writing skills one bit.

 

Good luck to you as you grow with your own kids and sort all this out for yourself!


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#19 of 37 Old 12-01-2013, 08:57 AM
 
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I wanted to add that I don't think there's any way of ensuring what kind of experience a child will prefer throughout their childhood and teen years. I started unschooling with the assumption that this philosophy was so cool, my kids would be thrilled to keep doing it until embarking on college or other young adult adventures. But dd1 now wants something different.

 

In her case, it may be that she would have remained a happy unschooler if we'd had the finances to enroll her in, and transport her to, more classes and activities throughout the week. We were/are active in church on Sundays and a Wednesday homeschooling co-op group (which became a hanging out at the park group during the summer), and this still seems to be working out great for dd2, who is 8, but dd1 started wanting to have someplace to go, and lots of new people to meet, on a pretty much daily basis. This actually seems to be the norm for the majority of homeschoolers we know with teens, who are not as financially strapped as we are. For our dd, attending our school district's fine and performing arts magnet school is enabling her to pursue her love for drama and participate In some fun extracurricular stuff, too.

 

Dd2 says she thinks she'll want to go to her sister's school when she's 12 or 13, too, but for now she's happy at home. She enjoys sleeping late in the mornings, whereas her sister is the sort who feels like she's wasted the day if she sleeps too late. She's also not as physically active as her sister, which may be one reason why she's already reading fluently. So she may want something entirely different from her sister when she's 13. There's no one-size-fits-all approach.


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#20 of 37 Old 12-01-2013, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, I'm back. :) I've been away for most of yesterday and today, reading and digesting Penelope Trunk's blog and bouncing it off of some of my friends who homeschool (and a few who don't).

 

Couple questions:

 

1. How do you resolve conflicts between the "students" in a child-led learning scenario? Let's say one kid wants to go to a museum, but the other kid detests museums (or doesn't really detest them but just gets it in his head to make things difficult for the rest of us), doesn't want to go, and tortures the rest of us for the entire day with his whining. How do unschooling families with multiple kids navigate those situations?

 

2. A couple of my friends expressed that...well actually, let me just copy my friend's words here: (disclaimer: this friend isn't totally anti-child-led learning, but did express a concern that I resonate with)...

"I feel that the underlying attitude with the child-led learning is that the child is encouraged to attempt the things he/she likes and sort of ignore the things he/she doesn't like, and that kind of approach isn't going to help them in life because from my experience life seems to put a lot of things that you don't like on your plate. I believe God created us such that we human beings grow through facing and overcoming challenges and I want to prepare my children to be able to embrace/welcome adversity rather than escape it."

In other words, what if they don't want to try anything hard?

 

 

Thoughts?

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#21 of 37 Old 12-01-2013, 07:45 PM
 
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 How do you resolve conflicts between the "students" in a child-led learning scenario? Let's say one kid wants to go to a museum, but the other kid detests museums (or doesn't really detest them but just gets it in his head to make things difficult for the rest of us)

 

Just like you'd solve any family conflict. For us, that's collaboratively. Noah really doesn't want to go to the museum. Everyone else either really wants to go, or is okay with going. So what can we do to find a mutually agreeable solution? Noah, would you be willing to come anyway, since last spring we all sacrificed a lot to get you to your soccer games? Maybe you could hang out in the dinosaur gallery with the extra cellphone and sketch, rather than walking around with us? Or maybe we could plan to go to the museum the day you're at Dylan's birthday party? Or you could stay with grandma while we go? Or, daddy wants to spend Saturday doing yard work, so if we waited until Saturday we could go to the museum and you could stay here and help him? Conflict Resolution: another great homeschooling 'subject!'

 

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that kind of approach isn't going to help them in life because from my experience life seems to put a lot of things that you don't like on your plate. I believe God created us such that we human beings grow through facing and overcoming challenges and I want to prepare my children to be able to embrace/welcome adversity rather than escape it.

 

I think your friend is focusing on the wrong thing here. Challenge isn't good in and of itself. Being homeless, or staying at a degrading low-paying job, or enduring bullying, those things are challenging but they aren't worthwhile. What makes challenge good is when it is a means to a worthwhile end. It's being able to work through short-term adversity for long-term gain that is the important thing. So it makes no sense to simply artificially construct adversity; we should be creating situations where our kids' long-term ambitions drive the motivation for persistent work.

 

I want my kids to learn to persist through challenging work so that they can accomplish good things. I don't simply want to create people who are willing to suffer. So I put the focus on helping them connect the dots between long-term goals that they see value in and the short- and medium-term work that, if they do it consistently, will get them to where they want to be. 

 

Assigning 30 minutes of math busy-work five days a week for the sake of teaching a child to be a persistent worker does little to help that child learn the reasons why hard work is good. It simply teaches compliance. And honestly, while compliant children are in a sense convenient, I don't want to raise compliant adults! I want to raise self-assured adults who know what is right and good and are willing to work to make it happen. When a child wants to be able to play the Bach E Major violin concerto, and has it explained by a trusted teacher why work on scales and studies will help develop the technical facility that will make that goal more realistic, and the parent and teacher help the child make the routine of technique practice palatable and habitual, and the child is able to eventually play the Bach E Major, that's a lesson in overcoming challenge that will stick. In this latter example the starting point is the child's desire. In the former example the focus is simply on complying despite adversity. 

 

Oh, and thanks for all your awesome, respectful and insightful questions! Really enjoying this thread!

 

Miranda


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#22 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 08:14 AM
 
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1)  I've never had a problem with one kid torturing the rest of us while out and about.  This is where dh can step in and really help.  For a lot of trips, I bring him along, or I invite Grandma along, or one of their aunts.  That makes the whole trip special, and allows us to break up in the museum/park.  Or, if there is a real divide in interest, I time for when dh can stay home.  But that hardly happens for big trips and events, like museums, etc.  In addition, museums are not a huge part or our life.  Some museums have free days once a month, but otherwise, museums are far too expensive for our family to make regular visits.

 

For years we have had several "clubs" (for our family of 4 :p).  The first is the Dilly-Dally-Sally club, of which I am president.  The next is the In-a-Hurry-Murray club, of which dh is president.  Finally, we have the Just-Right-Dwight club.  Sometimes we need to all be In-a-Hurry-Murrays, other times we are all enjoying being Dilly-Dally-Sallys (usually when dh is not with us).  But often, we divide up into our "clubs" and create our own adventure, and meet up somewhere.  Like  said, spouses and extended family are invaluable here.

 

I have had more trouble with the inside/outside dilemma at home with two girls who each want company.  But I think this is far beyond the normal family dynamics of mixed ideas and desires.  

 

Most of the real discussion and disagreement usually happens beforehand, and I am more that happy to make alternate plans if one of them doesn't want to participate.  We can schedule the trip so that they can be dropped off at a friend's house, or simply stay home.  Usually they do want to go, in the end.

 

2)  I agree that it is valuable for people to learn to work through something that isn't a cakewalk.  However, I think our schools and society in general (well, American society in particular) vastly overstate the need for this.  I don't think it's necessary to slog through something difficult, to achieve something you hate just so you can get a pat on the back, a good grade and a thumb's up from society.  I do think it's important that kids find something where they are motivated to work through something difficult to get to a skill level/goal they are desiring to attain.  I think that how far off the goal is will depend on a child's age.  The younger they are, the closer the goal needs to be.  As their vision lengthens as the age, so the goals can be farther off.

 

So, I think it is important to find the area that a child is willing to work without a great deal of whining.  No, I didn't want to practice my piano every day as a kid, but I did like the results.  But the goals were mine, so there wasn't any fighting about it, but there was along of dragging of feet.

 

For us, the hard thing is gymnastics, but there isn't any feet dragging.  They enjoying working and making mistakes and working some more.  I can't say that it is quite the same idea, they are having so much fun, but it is a start and they are young.  DD1 is enjoying singing and we are working to help her find her voice.  She doesn't have a natural sense of pitch, so she struggles (happily) to find it.  Again, it's something she enjoys from start to finish.  

 

So far, the main feet-dragging is heading out the door for something that they want to do.  That can be hard to get past, and that is easily the same kind of lesson, but the short-term version of it.  It is also what most adults continue struggling with--just getting out the door.

 

In summary, I think our society exaggerates our need for this kind of experience.  It *is* important, but I disagree in what way it is.  I heartily disagree with the attitude of "You have to learn to do the things you hate because that's life".  Man, what a crappy life that is!


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#23 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 08:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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1)  I've never had a problem with one kid torturing the rest of us while out and about.  This is where dh can step in and really help.  For a lot of trips, I bring him along, or I invite Grandma along, or one of their aunts.  That makes the whole trip special, and allows us to break up in the museum/park.  Or, if there is a real divide in interest, I time for when dh can stay home.  But that hardly happens for big trips and events, like museums, etc.  In addition, museums are not a huge part or our life.  Some museums have free days once a month, but otherwise, museums are far too expensive for our family to make regular visits.

LOL, you don't have my middle kid then! I can't tell you the number of times he has made trips to the zoo, museums, mountain train ride, Christmas light displays, fall festivals, etc.---things that are normally very enjoyable for kids---completely miserable for the rest of us. I don't have any extended family in the area and dh can't often take a day off work (or if he does it's so he can catch up on his own schoolwork), so most of the time I have no choice but to bring everybody along. Museums aren't a huge part of life for us either (although they should be, since we are a reasonable metro ride away from downtown D.C. where the Smithsonian museums are free), it was just an example of that challenging aspect of our life where one kid often doesn't want to do what the rest of us want to do---and tortures us if we make him do it anyway. Leaving him with a friend or at a birthday party could sometimes be an option, but sometimes not.

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#24 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 09:17 AM
 
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Part of it is the age.  I know dd2 would scream in the car since the first time she rode in one.  Screamed and cried until she was 2.  It was torture.  DD1 can complain some.  She can get overwhelmed easily by the hustle and bustle, so if it's not something she loves to do she has a limit.  It is not a behavioral quirk in need of discipline.  The busyness becomes unbearable for her, and she needs to leave. Even if she loves something, she has a limit.  DD2 gets in this mood where she wants to play and play and she gets desperate and frenetic if she knows the end is near.  She likes finishing everything.  I have had times leaving the children's museum where one was crying to go and the other was crying to stay.  Sigh.

 

Unfortunately, it comes with the territory of younger kids, unless you are lucky.  You ask about this from an unschooling perspective.  I can give you *my* unschooler's perspective, but I don't claim it to be *the* view.  The complaining is something I would take into consideration.  But doing something that the whole family wants to except you is something they need to take into consideration, and will as they get old enough.  If and when it becomes possible to have him spend the day with friends, then that can be accommodated eventually.  And hopefully, these trips were decided with some collaboration.  He'll get a turn to devise his own idea of a family outing, and maybe that "outing" would be the backyard or the neighborhood park.  

 

As adults we get to : say "no" to things that we detest.  I will promise not to drag dh to a musical (though we've had some fun surprises).  I can roll my eyes and drop my jaw and drag my feet off to bed when he brings another interminable art film home.  (I still think he is awesome and I love him to death, but not, apparently, to a mind-numbingly dull movie).  Also as an adult, I might shut my trap while we arrange to take the kids to the Speedway because they asked and I will find a wy to enjoy myself, if only because they enjoy it.  Bungee jumping?  Skydiving?  Parasailing?  Forget it.  Never in a million years.  As an adult, I do have that choice.  I can stay home, if I want.  I can wander off to a different corner of the museum if I want.

 

I find radical unschoolers like to compare children with adults in similar situations.  They like to see adults and kids as equals.  I simply like to see kids not as objects, reasonable and genuine enough that we can find ways to accommodate their requests where possible, and balance out the rest.  Like many (most?) unschoolers I don't tend to see kids as manipulative, while a good chunk of society sees every snivel as a covert attempt by children to get something for their greedy little selves.  (Ok, maybe I exaggerate, just seems that way from the conversations I listen to/read).  

 

Anyway unschooling does not, cannot mean giving in to every desire.  That would make it impossible to have more than one child, I think, because if they are anything like mine, you will have conflict.  I have been in plenty of damned if you do/damned if you don't situations to understand the insanity of being 100% child-led with no regard to the needs of others.  

 

Lastly, learn some meditation techniques, because your ds is still young (and still in that antsy/noncompliant age/mode that can give boys trouble in the early years of school).  But I'm sure you have your own coping mechanisms by now.:p 


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#25 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 09:34 AM
 
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 it was just an example of that challenging aspect of our life where one kid often doesn't want to do what the rest of us want to do---and tortures us if we make him do it anyway. 

 

This is a bit of a tangent, but I think this is one of those things that improves when one establishes a family culture of collaborative problem-solving where each child really feels his voice is heard and, if not entirely understood, at least afforded respect and the benefit of the doubt. Because really, behaving badly and ruining everyone's day is something kids do to exert their will over others, and they do that when they feel powerless. [And I will point out the obvious: being in school is a huge daily dose of powerlessness. That alone can create problems with family dynamics.] 

 

Anyway, when my kids were similar in age to yours we were at a point where we were having some regular conflict over needs and desires, conflicts where I found I was having to step in and be the judge and jury and decide how to resolve things, which would always make at least one child unhappy, and that unhappiness tended to worsen subsequent behaviour. We also had a fourth child arriving, which was going to add a whole new layer of complications and compromises. So for an entire year I put the focus of our home-based learning on our relationships. We instituted weekly family meetings, and would have frank discussions about what it feels like to be four and have to stop playing and go to someone else's piano lesson or go out in the cold to drive for ages to get to a grocery store. Or what it feels like to be a parent who just wants to get the business of grocery shopping out of the way for the week in the least time possible. Or how tough it is to be 7 and not be able to go ice-skating because your little sister is miserable at the rink and throws a hairy fit. And we would empathize, and feel empathized with, and brainstorm alternatives for issues that arose, crazy unrealistic in-your-dreams solutions and outside-the-box-but-worth-trying solutions and simplistic-and-quickly-discarded solutions ... and we'd agree to try something for a week. Even if some of us were skeptical it was only for a week. And then in a week we'd talk about what worked and what didn't and refine our approach and listen to each others' perspectives. And so on. The process was the important thing, not any particular set of solutions.

 

We had some weird tactics at times. If you've got three kids under ten taking active roles in devising rules and expectations for the family, you'll have some odd ideas put into practice -- for a week, at least! But what did the kids learn? They learned that they had a say in their own lives and in how the family worked. They learned that other people had real, legitimate feelings that stemmed from real needs, and differing perspectives that were valid and worth taking into account. And most importantly they learned that we were all on the same side: we all wanted to get along and to be a happy, functional family. We were working for the same goals, not against each other. 

 

It took a few months for me to see how profound the changes were. But by the end of that year the mutual respect and desire for understanding had taken root firmly, and not only were we getting along but the other stuff that I'd set aside to put our work on relationships first, the academic and creative learning, the balance of physical activity, the nutritional tussles, all that had improved too, because it was no longer contaminated by relationship conflict. 

 

When long-time homeschooling parents look back on their family lives and say "It made us really close as a family," I think this is the sort of thing they're referring to. Homeschooling gives you not only the time and opportunity to work on solving relationship problems between parents and kids or between siblings -- it makes that work necessary and integral to your children's lives and learning. Your kids can't simply drift off into their own peer relationships when they're mad at their mom for some perceived favouritism towards their younger siblings. The work of solving those conflicts simply has to be done because there's no escape. And it's so important to learn to do that, because you know, if you can get along with the people you love, you can get along with anyone.

 

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#26 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow.

 

You people are amazing.

 

Wow.

 

That is all (for now!).

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#27 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 11:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok. Well, now that I've had some time to just sit and process what's been said here so far (2yo is napping), I have another tangent for you. Well, it's not a total tangent; after all, when talking about giving kids more of a say in their own lives, it's bound to come up.

 

Can we talk about video games?

 

Do you limit your kids' screen/video game time, and if so, how? (Reading Penelope Trunk's blog, at the suggestion of another poster in this thread, got me thinking about this.) If not, how have your kids done with moderating themselves? Or does it even matter to you if they moderate themselves?

 

Our family is at a crossroads. Up to now, our sons' screen/video game time has been strictly limited. We've been, you know, trying to be Good Parents, and the prevailing wisdom is that "video games are bad for their brains." But GOSH it is such a struggle. I feel afraid of what might happen if we just blew off the limits and gave them carte blanche with game time. But I also feel more and more uneasy that we could actually be doing damage by being so controlling over the whole thing. I don't know how to find a reasonable middle ground.

 

It's been discussed before, of course. I just skimmed this thread and found some really good arguments on both sides of the issue. I'd just like to know what those of you who have responded to *this* thread think. :)

 

(and on an unrelated note...I'm just having myself a chuckle here, realizing that it is because my kids are in school at the moment that I'm able to spend some focused time thinking about all this. When do YOU get focused time to yourself?)

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#28 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 11:59 AM
 
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I know great people all over the map with regards to screen and video games.  We used to limit, when it was advantageous, now I'm letting the girls mostly choose.  However, we only have videos.  From watching Math Net on youtube, dd1 discovered another old 70's game show and started watching that and I put my foot down.  This is just like TV.  Look around enough, and you will find something that catches your attention.  Nope Nope Nope.  Beyond the evil youtube trap, I'm very lax about it.  However, just like sugar tolerances, every family has different needs in this regard.  You can listen to others to see if you can glean useful information (like how someone without imposed limits made use of that knowledge and turned it into something they were passionate about) and that can be enormously helpful, but also realize that you might be seeing red flags in your family not present in others.  

 

Regarding focussed time for oneself.... yeah..... it's a bit of a trade-off.  You need to be incredibly proactive in carving time for yourself.  But I think that's easier for the child-led spectrum of homeschooling.  You can do things that, while not entirely, blissfully free of children, still gives you plenty of time to do things you want--read, waste time on the computer.  But, surprise!  I'm doing this while dd2 is narrating the race between pliers and scissors for cutting through Silly Putty.  

 

It's always a bit of a juggling act.  Part of you needs to resign and embrace the new busyness, the other part needs to actively seek time to be alone, or alone with your buddies or with your dp--whatever you do to regroup.  Sometimes you have to be adamant.  It took 2 years to convince dh that I *needed* to take my walks alone.  He was forever bugging me to take one girl or the other.  I finally prevailed by calling it my "lonely walk", which I still call it today, 6 years after I won my battle.

 

Also, when kids reach the age that they get sent off to school, it is the age, or close to, that they start being really pleasant to be around, for the most part.  Parents with kids in school tend to get the kids when they are needing to decompress.  They don't usually get to enjoy them during those sweet hours of the day in which they are fun and energetic and curious and happy.


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#29 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 02:24 PM
 
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Yeah, there are lots of different approaches to computer / video / screen time. There are lots of good arguments on both sides, and as many different approaches as there are families and kids. I prefer to help my kids learn to *self-* regulate, which I think requires experimenting with the repercussions of various different choices, rather than simply imposing rules on them. I do think that some of the gamer-widow effect is quite possibly due to the fact that todays 30-somethings didn't grow up with this technology, at least not to such an inexpensive, pervasive and engaging degree, and so they didn't have a chance to learn to self-regulate as kids. But I've seen in my own family that some kids learn self-regulation readily, while others take a lot longer and require much more active facilitation and support.

 

The other thing worth keeping in mind is that a major reason cited by those in arguing for stringent limits on screen time is that children have precious few hours each day into which to fit family time, physical activity and down time. By the time they get home from school and do homework, they may have only three or four hours for all that other stuff and I certainly agree that if they're filling that scant time with hours of computer gaming they're going to be missing out on a healthy balance in their lives. That's simply not a valid assumption with homeschoolers, though. If my kid does some math and reading and a bit of science stuff, then spends three or four hours on the computer doing something mind-numbing, she still has 6-8 hours in which to sing, dance, run around outside, draw, practice handstands, play Scrabble with her dad and her sister, bake muffins, chill in her bedroom, knit, listen to an audiobook, flip through a cartoon history book, climb trees and chat with me. Loads of time! 

 

We have no computer limits here. We do have a general consensus that when spending discretionary time on the computer, one should decide at the outset how long one is going to spend and stick to that choice by keeping an eye on the time or setting a clock app. This helps prevent the "is it supper time already? where did the day go?" effect.

 

Miranda


Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up

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#30 of 37 Old 12-02-2013, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, another question from my grab bag. What might a "child led learning" day look like with a 2yo at home? I don't mean that I think he should be doing some kind of "school" or anything like that...I'm just wondering, I guess, what is the rhythm that gets established when they are still very young in an unschooling home?

 

Currently, I feel like my 2yo's life is pretty boring. He does pretty well when I can directly engage him, or take him out and about running errands, or go for a long walk with him in the stroller. But during those times that I have to attend to something not so kid-friendly, he just wants to watch his DVD videos. I feel bad sticking him in front of the TV but there are a few activities that I just don't know how to include him in...cleaning up dishes from breakfast (and I KNOW you're going to say to include him, let him stand on a chair at the sink and splash around...but when he does that, I can't do what I need to do with the dishes!), trying to organize something, trying to make a grocery list etc.

 

Do you come up with activities that he can occupy himself with, or do you give in to the TV requests, or...?

 

This kind of leads in to my biggest fear related to homeschooling. I...um...really hate a lot of the things that kids love. I don't really know how to explain this. Part of it has to do with all the "stuff" that has to be trotted out, then cleaned up and put away. Paint. Water. Dirt. Leaves pine needles markers pens pencils erasers scissors glue little bitty bits of paper everywhere glitter play doh clay sand on the floor sand everywhere food flour sugar  on the floor sticky floor sticky stuff on my feet sticky stuff in my bed and on and on it goes. I hate clutter and messes. I'm not trying to use this as an excuse, I'm trying to figure out how to get over it. Do I need therapy? LOL

 

"Go to the creek with nets and magnifying glasses and a camera..." but the camera will fall in the water! We will lose things! The 2yo (and maybe the others) will get wet and muddy from head to toe and we will track mud into the house and then we'll have more laundry and dirty floors! I'll already be behind on the laundry because I will have been at the blasted creek all morning!

 

"styrofoam and water-based printing ink to make monoprints"...I don't really even know what that is, but what kind of stockpile of supplies do you have to keep around, to be able to just pull something like this out and do it? Where does it all live? Or, do you find time to plan these sorts of activities, make lists, and then have a big shopping day periodically to get all the junk you need? (I guess this is a lot like something I already asked.) Do you have a whole room for all the stuff you need in order to do the stuff you do? How do you budget for all the supplies? How much money do you need?

 

It also has to do with some kind of insecurity I have. Ahhhhhh, I wish I could explain. The words that strike more fear in my heart than practically anything else are "mom, can you play with me?" I hate playing! I don't know how.

 

I don't like tearing myself away from my own agendas. Meal planning, list making, cleaning, organizing, cooking, filing, budgeting, correspondence, sorting through junk to get rid of it...these are the mundane things that for some reason occupy my attention. I want to have my ducks in a row. And "mom, can you play with me" makes me stop doing those things. It threatens the ducks. I know this sounds ridiculous---but it's something I've struggled with since DAY ONE with my kids. I think I've even posted about some of this here on MDC before. Again, not an excuse---but I don't know how to get over it! I know WHY I should get over it (please don't tell me why I should get over it), but that doesn't mean I can. So far.

 

Yeah. Therapy it is.

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