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Old 09-02-2003, 08:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone- I have read on unschooling.com for months now and John Holt and the Unschooling Handbook, and some old issues of GWS.

I totally get unschooling and how it works, how it is about a joyous life with your children. The bit I don't get is HOW you unschool.

You know, how do you know what to do each day? Do you have goals? What if your kids have no obvious interests (except tv) and are going through puberty? Do you wake up with a sense of joy? Do your children? Is there structure to your day or not and do your children cope with this?

How can you cope when you see all your friends doing school at home and their children are happy and motivated learners and they are TOLD what subjects they have to cover. I find this a hard one- as I am surrounded by them.

I have heard about strewing but HOW do you do this (frugally)and where do you get your ideas from?

I feel that to unschool successfully- you the parent have to be a joyous, happy and motivated person inspired with ideas of things to do, leaping out of bed in the morning with a sense of advenutre of what the day might bring (or is this the Piscean dreamer in me?) -some days this seems too hard for me and someone elses curriculum telling me what I should be 'teaching' my children seems so much easier.

Any ideas? thank you
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Old 09-03-2003, 01:56 AM
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I think it must be a lot harder to start unschooling after some period of schooling or homeschooling - your kids get into the schooly mindset, where certain learning has value and other learning doesn't, and someone else has to tell you what to learn and when, and if you don't learn things at the right times then there's something wrong with you. That's why most kids need a period of deschooling to get the school-stuff out of their system, so to speak, and with an older child it may take months or years. We have a friend who left school after either 7th or 8th grade, and it took her a couple of years to sort of find her feet again and rediscover the joy for learning she was born with.

I don't have goals for Rain's learning, that's her job. Rain has goals, but then she's 10 and has been unschooling for years and years, so she feels free to have them, and to work towards them or drop them, knowing that it's her own choice. Her current goals (which she hasn't actually stated as such but from what she's said they seem to be goals) are to have a career in musical theatre and to write a series of novels. She's started one novel and works on it sometimes, and she takes dance classes and auditions for and does shows in musical theatre.

Our days are structured around our interests, and they fill up really fast. Rain does her theatre stuff and takes a clay class, we both set up a lot of get-togethers with friends to do various things. Rain is really social and likes lots of friend-time. Sometimes I plan for a day at home... when we're home, we do different things, based on what needs doing and what we want to do. I have a garden, sometimes Rain helps me with that. I also have a home biz, so I do that a lot. Rain is working on redecorating her room, so sometimes she makes plans and does things there. We bothl ike games, so we often do that. Rain reads, watches TV, emails friends, cooks, plays some computer games... lots of stuff...

The strewing concept never really worked for me, because it feels too intentional and manipulative to me. I prefer to model following my passions - I'm learning to knit, to train our dogs, to cook vegetarian... I don't always wake up happy and excited about the day with a sense of adventure, but I often do. What would it take for you to wake up that way? That would be a good first step for unschooling - you start the journey, and invite your kids along - even if they decline, they'll see *you* doing it.

I do offer things to Rain, just whatever stuff that I think might interest her ... if I hear about a play, or a museum exhibit, or a tour somewhere, or a class, or a bead shop, or a festival... but see, she knows she can decline and it's okay, there's no pressure, it's like suggesting something to a friend. I also point out stuff in stores and sometimes bring stuff home from thrift stores... I know she likes Amelia books and Archies comics and Brainquest quiz cards, so I always pick them up, but sometimes it's just something that looked cool.

What do your kids watch on TV? Could you watch with them, and talk about the show? Would they like to look up stuff about the show or the actors on the 'net? Would they like a movie magazine, from the library? We watch CSI and Law and Order, and they seem to being up a lot to talk about. She also loves SNL and Mad TV, and we talk some about what the skits are satirizing (there was a great satire of Veggie Tales a couple weeks ago) and we watch 3rd Rock and Cheers a lot... there's always something in the shows to talk about or build on.

I guess we don't have problems finding ideas, and I think maybe that's because we're not used to being told what we should do, so we've had a lot of practice thinking of cool things we'd *like* to do. I think people get in the habit of having someone else think for them, and unschooling is about rediscovering what *ou* really want to do. It may feel uncomfortable or scary to begin with - it's like you've ben restricted to reading a set of sequential basal readers all your life and suddenly someone hands you a library. The world is very... big. I think the uncomfortable feeling is part of the process; it's okay, and you get past it. Maybe it would help to just read posts here and on lists about what other people are doing, and if any of it sounds cool to you, try it out. Or think of one thing you've always wished you could do, and take steps to learn.

I love our unschooling life. Someone was telling me today that Rain is the kind of kid who just sparkles, who everyone looks at when she walks into a room because she as that kind of charisma. I think it's joy... and it will happen, it just will take time.

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Old 09-03-2003, 03:37 AM
 
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Think summer vacation. And just keep it going. Or think about what you did when your children were babies and toddlers and, if they weren't in school, preschoolers, and just keep doing that. Yes, it's hard to deal with society's and family's and friends' expectations, but if you keep reading and getting the inspiration and support you need, you can deal with anything.

There's a lot that goes on at home during down times that is very valuable, and giving that a chance is important, I believe, to understanding how unschooling works. I tend to like to be out doing things, and my 6yo likes that too, but this past year my 4yo had different plans for us. We ended up staying home a lot, often we wouldn't leave the property for several days in a row, and we would make do with what we had here -- snow, books, tv, games, the computer, each other, cooking, just sitting, whatever just happened naturally with what was here, and I have to say that they may have "learned" more during that time than during all the time we usually spend running around. Being bored, sitting around, doing everyday things really gives you a chance to think, to observe, to discuss, to let things sink in.

I love what Dar said about following her own passions. And I would argue that she does strew. Strewing should, in my opinion, be laid back and without pressure, just as she does it.

I highly, highly, highly recommend the boards at http://unschooling.com/ to understand what unschooling is about and how it is a whole way of life. You can find a lot of support there if you choose to do this. Or you might find out quickly that this really isn't for you.
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Old 09-03-2003, 10:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mand

What if your kids have no obvious interests (except tv) and are going through puberty? Do you wake up with a sense of joy? Do your children? Is there structure to your day or not and do your children cope with this?
I have a 12 yr old son, so I think I know what you mean. He DOES like tv, and at times it seems to me like that's all he wants to do. When I look closer though, I see that he often uses the tv as a jumping off place. He enjoys inventing things -- especially toys -- and has used favorite cartoons or movies as inspiration. For instance, after reading Harry Potter, he really wanted to play Quidditch. He ended up building a broom on wheels that could be ridden. He's also known for spending lots of time doing what looks like nothing. When I ask if anything is up, he'll say, "I'm just thinking." Hours (sometimes days) later, he'll announce the details of a new game he invented. Sometimes, it just LOOKS like they're doing nothing.

Some days I wake with a sense of joy. Other days, not. Any structure our days have come from the outside--who has plans to meet a friend? Who has an art class? Who has an appointment? We work the rest of our day around that, according to what everyone is in the mood for.

Quote:
Originally posted by Mand
How can you cope when you see all your friends doing school at home and their children are happy and motivated learners and they are TOLD what subjects they have to cover.
Really? I haven't experienced this. Actually, I remember going bowling with another hsing family and afterwards the boys wanted to get together to hang out. The other mother reminded her son that he still had some assignments to finish and he whined and moaned about it---reminded me of ps and homework. In all of the school-at-home families I've known, the kids were glad not to be in school, but still complained about the work. I'm rambling today-- I guess, if the families you know are happy then maybe that's what works for them. Doesn't mean you have to do it that way in order to be happy. My dd has recently been very excitedly researching marine life -- if I had assigned it, she would hate it, but that's her.

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Originally posted by Mand
I have heard about strewing but HOW do you do this (frugally)and where do you get your ideas from?
I don't know if this is "strewing" but here's something that happened last year at our house. Ds somehow got interested in the story of the Titanic. I brought home some books from the library on it, told him about them, then left them in the family room. I bookmarked some webpages I'd found, and let him know they were there. When I noticed a documentary in the tv guide, I mentioned it to him. He looked over everything in his own time, got more out of some resources than others. He asked to rent the movie, which we did. We had lots of discussion. This is pretty much how everything goes around here.

Quote:
Originally posted by Mand
I feel that to unschool successfully- you the parent have to be a joyous, happy and motivated person inspired with ideas of things to do, leaping out of bed in the morning with a sense of advenutre of what the day might bring
Oh, gosh, I hope not. I'm tired just reading that. Okay, there ARE days when I can get that excited, but mostly it's much more low-key than that.

I guess the best "how to" advice is to follow your children's interests. And, of course, be an example by following your own.

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Old 09-04-2003, 12:16 AM
 
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Ooh, good questions.

How I look at it is that it is basically a philosophy that says that nothing really matters in life except what matters to you, that there is no outside authority that knows better than yourself how you should spend your time and live your life. I believe this applies to my children as much as it does to me.

It sounds like you have expectations, or at least hopes, that your children will choose to learn things that either you or society finds valuable (regardless of whether the children themselves do,) or that you have no faith that they will be able to figure out for themselves how to live well -- otherwise you wouldn't have the slightest ounce of interest in how motivated your friends' school-at-home kids are.

You know, how do you know what to do each day? Do you have goals?

How do you know what to do each day? Do you have goals? If not, why? Do you really think that being told how to spend your time would help you create a better life? Or is it possible that you have not successfully unschooled yourself yet?

What if your kids have no obvious interests (except tv) and are going through puberty?

I will argue that TV itself is not technically an interest; it is a passive means of escape. Now the content of what's on TV is another matter. I have no problem with visual media as a vehicle for information. My son is fond of cooking shows, for instance -- the interest in not TV, though, it is cooking. TV is just one particular medium by which he learns about cooking. He likes cartoons too, but again, the interest is cartoons, which I think is fine, heck, maybe he'll grow up to be a comic book illustrator. Fine by me. So I guess I would only be concerned if it seemed like it was making him sick. But if the subject matter was incredibly interesting and he seemed engaged in a positive way, I'd say "watch as much as you like but be aware of when it is no longer fun and interesting, then go do something else."

Do you wake up with a sense of joy? Do your children?

I do sometimes, not always, and my children (who are young) often follow my lead. But I'll tell you what, I do always feel relatively relaxed and free. I never woke up feeling that way when I was going to school and later doing work that I didn't care about just for a paycheck. Now I am master of my time, and that has improved my life greatly.

Is there structure to your day or not and do your children cope with this?

There is not a lot of structure to our day aside from the basic structure inherent in living a life. I mean, we go to sleep when it is dark and we wake up when it is light. We eat in the morning when we are hungry, and fix an evening meal together. We bathe sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night. We do necessary household work, such as washing dishes and going shopping and doing laundry. That is all structure in a sense. Aside from that, we do pretty much what we feel like doing. The children behave as if this is very natural for them.

How can you cope when you see all your friends doing school at home and their children are happy and motivated learners and they are TOLD what subjects they have to cover. I find this a hard one- as I am surrounded by them.

If being given an arbitrary task and rising to the challenge is what you and your children value, great, there's your answer. If it isn't what you and your children value, then it's pointless to do it or to concern yourself with others doing it.

I have heard about strewing but HOW do you do this (frugally)and where do you get your ideas from?

I had to look that one up. Right now we go to the library a lot. We take advantage of as many free community events as possible. We also have friends over to share themselves and their talents and interests with us -- for instance, one friend does ceramics, and he knows of our interest so he is storing his kiln on our property and is going to show us how to use it. My FIL is a farmer, and the kids help him in the fields. A friend of a friend teaches percussion and drumming -- we are thinking of trading services so that he can teach us all. What I have found is that once you get the word out that you are looking at learning about things, people start coming out of the woodwork with talents and resources they can share with you. People love it when you are interested in what they do.

I feel that to unschool successfully- you the parent have to be a joyous, happy and motivated person inspired with ideas of things to do, leaping out of bed in the morning with a sense of advenutre of what the day might bring (or is this the Piscean dreamer in me?)

Unschooling is not something you do *to* your child, it is something the child does for him/herself. So while inspiring role models are good, I think the key thing is for the child to understand the point of unschooling and feel that it is right for him/her and that the parent is encouraging of that. The point of unschooling is taking control of your own destiny; to wait for your parent to lead the way or provide ideas and resources is really not what unschooling is about. I mean, I am still learning things, but I don't look to my parents to lead the way. To get into the habit of relying on others to motivate you I think is really self-defeating.

-some days this seems too hard for me and someone elses curriculum telling me what I should be 'teaching' my children seems so much easier.

I don't know if it would be easier, but isn't the really important thing to determine is whether it would be better?
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Old 09-04-2003, 07:16 PM
 
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Hi, i'm enjoying this post, but I'm very new to unschooling. Could someone explain what strewing means please?

Thanks
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Old 09-06-2003, 05:55 AM
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i don't know about strewing, but when everyone else is in school, we're working in the garden in our pajamas.

that's the life.

plus the unschoolers here go camping at the coast every month or so. like outdoor school.

our goal is to put away allthe laundry on the couch, but that really only hapens for company.

why would i want to send my kids away to another mother who has 24 other children?

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Old 09-07-2003, 03:43 AM
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Strewing, as I understand it, is basically "seeding" your environment with interesting things that your child may pick up and enjoy. Some people set up pattern blocks on a table, or leave interesting books in the bathroom, or whatever. I take a more direct approach - "Here, you might like this" - and do the stuff I feel like, rather than trying to lay them in Rain's path. The concept feels too manipulative to me, YMMV.

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Old 09-08-2003, 07:14 PM
 
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I wasn't aware of the term "strewing" but now I feel informed!LOL
Anyhow, I guess I have always done this to a certain extent.The difference for us is that we let the kids know that the stuff is available and they partake as they are interested.I don't set it out or try to coerse them although sometimes I feel like suggesting something according to what I'm seeing that they are into and usually it's a hit.

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Old 09-09-2003, 02:20 AM
 
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I'm with Dar on the strewing issue, I prefer to take the direct approach. I have, however been 'strewing' in my own way for years without knowing that there was a term for what I was doing. Our house is full of intresting books, musical instruments, and plenty of art and craft materials. When I find something of interest I pick it up and most times they are thrilled, but I have been known to buy books or 'stuff for projects' that never get touched.

Amanda you said:
Quote:
I feel that to unschool successfully- you the parent have to be a joyous, happy and motivated person inspired with ideas of things to do, leaping out of bed in the morning with a sense of advenutre of what the day might bring
Well I can't say I'm leaping out of bed each day with joy and a sense of adventure....but generally after a cup of tea I do find my way to sorting out the day.

I do know what you mean, it seems like unschoolers aren't "doing" anything most of the time. Perhaps that is just the key. We aren't "doing" we are simply "living!"

I find that if I have joy, my children will also. (It helps that my youngest dd is named Joy ) I tend to be pretty laid back and lean toward artistic chaos rather than organized bliss. It tends to frustrate my more organized dd, so she askes me each evening before bed, "what are we doing tomorrow?" I try to tell her the fun stuff I have in mind as well as my "goals" of getting laundry and dishes done. I find this helps me to look forward to the next day, and I know it helps her as well.

I think I'm rambeling on here...as far as goals go, I found that one of my son's was very goal oriented and it was really helpful for him to set goals for himself. That is the key...he set the goals for himself, someone else didn't set them for him. He is an adult now and is still this way, setting both long term goals and daily ones. Now my other son is not a goal setter and seems to change direction often, yet he is just as brilliant and avid a learner.

One of my dds is extreamly good at realizing her goals. She set her sights on getting a horse and wouldn't you know she convinced her dad of the benifits and we now own a horse. : This is just the latest in a long line of "goals" she has fulfilled.

The fact of the matter is, she has learned so much from her research in reaching this goal, and her sisters have been learning right along with her. They have picked up her passion for animals, which I assume she originally picked up form me.

My goal for today was to get some exercise for ourselves and our dogs. In the process we saw and explored a toad and 3 tree snakes, collected some interesting leaves and sticks that one dd plans to make fairy wands with, and my 9yo asked how the cliff by the river was made, so I did my best to explain erosion, some glaciar history and the local geography. Not bad for an unplanned day with pretty limited goals.
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Old 09-10-2003, 07:45 PM
 
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I do know what you mean, it seems like unschoolers aren't "doing" anything most of the time. Perhaps that is just the key. We aren't "doing" we are simply "living!"
Right. I have finally realized that living is a fine thing to do in itself. Why people feel they have to be constantly "improving" themselves according to our society's and government's dictates, I'll never know. I mean, I didn't know why even while I was taking part in it! I've had enough of that hogwash. I know better than anybody else what I need in my life. My kids already know that about themselves, and I don't want them to ever lose that knowledge. That is a good enough reason as any to unschool!
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Old 09-10-2003, 08:12 PM
 
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i love this thread. my son is four & i am really leaning towards unschooling him. i like what rrr said:

why would i want to send my kids away to another mother who has 24 other children?

why would i keep him OUT of public school, only to over-curriculum (is that a word?!) him at home?

unschooling will be hard for me because my sister's 5 yo lives nearby & just started kindergarten. he will be learning what he is supposed to learn, when he is supposed to learn it. i will feel pressure from my sister & parents. BUT when my sister's boys are in bed at 7:00 each night to get up for school, joe & i are just starting our evening.

last night at 11:00 we were outside looking at mars & the moon with my dad's telescope. i love this type of learning & was so depressed thinking of putting joe in school. my decision to homeschool made me happy & relieved. my intention to unschool gives me a feeling of elation that i cannot express.
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Old 09-11-2003, 05:38 AM
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PEACE is what you are describing! cultivating relationships with other unschoolers and homeschoolers will help with the peer pressure. my 7 yr old daughter only feels inadequate when her grandmother is giving her the soon you will be able to read pep talk.

a bigger motivation is an 8 yr old girl in church who writes her notes in the service. this is very exciting stuff.

my children may develop all my flaws, but at least we'll know eachother and be a team and they will learn my strengths, too.

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Old 09-11-2003, 07:31 AM
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Hi -

Been lurkin'!

I am very excited about the prospect of unschooling Iris and just travelling around the world learning things.

Her French daddy is open to unschooling, but worries about the future for her in France (very academic).

Thanks for the informative thread!

Hi Joesmom!
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Old 09-12-2003, 04:56 AM
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libraries have back copies of the magazine GROWING WITHOUT SCHOOLING. there is also a bound copy of all the articles that you might be able to order through a bookstore.

the magazine was started by john holt, the father of unschooling.

what's so great about it is that it is all parent and child testimony rather than expert opinion. their experience runs the gamut.

it would address your concerns about being ready for academic life. look for the issue about unschoolers who are now in college.

you are not bound by school in your intelectual pursuit. homeschoolers actually do diverse, impressive work.
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Old 09-12-2003, 12:26 PM
 
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Her French daddy is open to unschooling, but worries about the future for her in France (very academic).
I can understand her daddy's concerns, and I hope I can give you some assurance. I have 3 grown children that were unschooled and have gone on to do well in college and life. The one academic area where my unschoolers seemed to lack was in mathematics. It never seemed to be an issue for us and they quickly learned what they needed for college, but it is a weak area for them. I think if we were more concerned about this we could have helped them in the teen years, but again, it wasn't really an issue for us. In all other areas they seemed to excell beyond their "schooled" peers.
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Old 09-12-2003, 05:23 PM
 
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Hm, but they likely would have been "weak" in math even had they gone to school. The fact that they chose not to spend a lot of time on math says to me that they were aware of their strengths on an instinctive level, and so could avoid wasting time suffering over a way of working and thinking (mathematically) that was not natural for them.

I don't consider it an issue either. We could not be good at everything even if we tried, and it would be the height of foolishness, and a waste of energy and time, to try to make ourselves so against our natural bent.
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Old 09-13-2003, 12:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by blueviolet
Hm, but they likely would have been "weak" in math even had they gone to school. The fact that they chose not to spend a lot of time on math says to me that they were aware of their strengths on an instinctive level, and so could avoid wasting time suffering over a way of working and thinking (mathematically) that was not natural for them.

I don't consider it an issue either. We could not be good at everything even if we tried, and it would be the height of foolishness, and a waste of energy and time, to try to make ourselves so against our natural bent.
Very well said Blueviolet. I agree totally.

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Erika

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Old 09-13-2003, 07:54 PM
 
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Yes blueviolet, that is exactly right. In fact my son once said to me "mom, I'm not planning on a career in math so it'll be alright." He did work as a bank teller while putting himself through college, so I guess he knew enough... and how to learn what he needed to know for the job.

I'm reminded of a story I once heard about how all the forest animals got together and tried to learn what the other's were good at. The eagle worked at tree climbing, while the bear tried to hop and the bunny to fly (or something like that) and they all forgot how to do what they naturally did well. Kind of like what we do with our children in school, huh?
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Old 09-15-2003, 12:59 AM
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Hey! I found a really good site in French called Les Enfants D'Abord (Children First). It has some good testimonials for my dh to read.

Is there anything like that in English? I haven't found testimonials on any of the unschooling sites I've read.
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Old 09-15-2003, 01:28 AM
 
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Testimonials? You mean like, "we unschooled our children and they are all now successful happy adults"? Well, I'm sure they are out there, I don't frequent the unschooling sites so I can't help much. I did just run across one the other day, though:

http://home.earthlink.net/~eaglefalc...n/edweave.html

I've run across others online, in books too, but at the moment I am just drawing a complete blank. Sorry.
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Old 09-15-2003, 01:38 AM
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Successful? No. By what standards?

But, yes, something like "we unschooled, and our children enjoyed it."
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Old 09-15-2003, 03:00 AM
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How about "Real Lives", by a bunch of unschooling teens, edited by Grace LLewellyn? I love that book, and it describes lots of different ways these kids are succeeding in living full and happy lives.

I like what Barbara said, too. I think schools focus a lot of a "balanced" education, and when you're mass-producing it's easier to do it that way. I think balance is totally overrated, though. Rather than having everyone at, say "10th grade level" in everything, how much better for a person and for society to have people at 34th grade level in one area, even if they're at 2nd grade level at another....

Did any of you ever read Harrison Bergeron? Schools are sort of like that story.

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Old 09-17-2003, 11:48 PM
 
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Teach Your Own, by John Holt and Patrick Farenga, is full of anecdotes about and by people who unschool happily.
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Old 09-26-2013, 02:30 AM
 
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the OP's question is a good one, and i want to come back soon and read the replies, so i'm subscribing for now. i plan to unschool, and am currently trying to learn as much as possible about it, b/c i want to be a successful facilitator of learning and exploration. so i have had the same questions go through my head, just less specific, since my little one is not here yet.

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Old 09-26-2013, 06:58 AM
 
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well therei's the Homeschooling for Excellence books. I can't remember the names but google should turn something up. They were a family of political hermits in the 70s who pretty much unschooled their kids while running a farm high up a mountain and having literally no money. I think basically they were too busy to interfere much in their kids' educations. Of their four kids, (two adopted) , three went to Harvard, iirc, to do law/medicine and the other I believe went to uni too-I think he was still at home when the books were written? The title is a bit tongue in cheek, I think.

 

Oh to add. To me unschooling is about accepting your kids and how they are, and that they might not end up academic sucesses. Really not. Noticed you are in the UK, OP? I think unschooling is extremely common among secular families, esp with older kids, but I also think we have specific issues around our education system that from everything I've read don't apply in the US. Are you currently a homeschooler? I'd be surprised if there weren't secular/autonomous groups in Cambridge.


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Old 09-26-2013, 09:24 AM
 
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Wow.  *Ancient* thread.  Hopefully we'll see if these folks come back and check in.


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Old 09-26-2013, 10:09 AM
 
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oh, yeah, i guess by subscribing, i inadvertently bumped a ten-year-old thread. haha, did not even realize it! but hello again, you two (fillyjonk & sweetsilver), i seem to see you guys everywhere! orngbiggrin.gif

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Old 09-26-2013, 10:13 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filamentary View Post

oh, yeah, i guess by subscribing, i inadvertently bumped a ten-year-old thread. haha, did not even realize it! but hello again, you two (fillyjonk & sweetsilver), i seem to see you guys everywhere! orngbiggrin.gif

Uh oh. Bad sign.  I'll just say, "everywhere where you are".  It's not really everywhere, is it?  Aack!


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Old 09-26-2013, 01:38 PM
 
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Wow, I didn't look at the date on this thread! My oldest was 2 weeks old when this thread was started. Still, some good advice here.


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