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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am at a crossroads and would like some advice from those who have BTDT.

For the last few months we have been unschooling, before this we were highly relaxed but not necessarily unschoolers because I required the kids to do SOMETHING for a few hours each day. It was their choice and could be anything; reading, The Science Channel, computer games, board games, cooking, etc. as long as it was "educational". The more I read about unschooling the more drawn I felt to the philosophy so I dropped the relaxed requirements and we just simply started living and learning.

My issue is my own sense of panic. My dc are only 8 and 10 so I know that nothing will be "missed" by just going with the flow for a while and seeing what happens. But I am still having a hard time completely letting go. We are in a secluded rural area with limited resources and I am constantly worrying that they aren't having enough experiences and learning enough. I know all of my free/cheap resources and we do all of those things but where we live most of those are still hours away and we just don't do them as often as I'd like because the kids hate the car trip and the gas money is an issue.

My question is this- Does it hinder natural learning to require an hour or so of educational activities of a child's own choosing? If I drop the requirements for a while, say 6 months, and I feel my kids aren't learning as much as I like will I have difficulty going back to having these relaxed requirements that they've easily accepted in the past?

I see good and bad consequences on both sides of this and I'm just not sure where I stand right now. TIA!
 

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I am in the same place! I am new to all of this, we started in September, and before then my middle son had been in public school for K and 1st grade...

(just to give some background! My oldest is still in public school, 8th grade and my youngest who has a diagnoses of aspergers/gifted just turned 5)

Because C had been in school, I wanted to be pretty relaxed in the beginning, but I always had some sort of plan, we did some work, everyday, but it became a battle of what to do and when etc

Like you, I started reading more about unschooling and it just made sense to me that this was the best approach for us, but now..... well..... it's 8am here and the boys got up and made themselves breakfast and got dressed and are now playing Xbox (Star Wars Lego) they have been playing non stop for oh......WEEKS!

The only things we have been doing are going to our homeschool group weekly activities (gym and art classes) and music lessons/homework, Beavers and dh and I always read to the boys before bed. So, I don't have any advice for you, but I wanted to let you know, I'm in the same boat, and am anxiously waiting to read the replies you receive!
 

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Hey, I hear ya about the rural area and all that!!!
I sometimes think the same way to. Flip that coin over...city kids are missing opportunities that your kids have.

I'm wondering why you chose unschooling first of all. Educational freedom, does it fit your kid's learning style, is their choice/ability to choose in educational matters important to you....if you have a goal/philosophy in mind, it may help ease your fears or give you some focus.

Learning all there is to know...absolutely impossible. We all have gaps. A classroom of 20+ kids...all have gaps...not everyone has the same "knowledge" in the same way of the science class about bugs and meets the same learning objective the teacher has...they are daydreaming about something else, or just learned it for the test and promptly forgot it. I had to learn about medieval history and the Enlightenment in high school...dh didn't at all.
Who is to say who is right? Yes, you need to eventually learn how to read, how to do enough consumer/basic math to get you by in real life and how to write/spell and get your ideas across, but that comes in the form of living a rich life. If yiou need algebra at a later time, there are ways of learning it, and you will have the motivation to. The whole goal of an unschooler I think is to foster the ability and curiosity to learn whatever you want when you need it.

Requiring....what degree are we talking about here. Like no matter what? I have some IRL hs'ers I know that are not relaxed at all, get into power struggles, they have to sit and write that paragraph NO matter what the kids says. Not everyone is like that though. Maybe you can think of the "educational" stuff as a smorgasboard of things they can choose from, just having neat and cool things around and offering to be their "tour guide" in that, rather than they will write a letter today or something. Write down yourself what you see them doing and translate it into "educationese".

For myself, I *try*
to keep up with a notebook for myself, a column for each kid, of learning ideas, or if something I saw or they did triggered something else/an idea for me to pass by the kids. I make it my goal to swing it by them at some point in the upcoming week. Ds had a library book about machines, with some household ones....note to me...buy a toaster from the thrift store to take apart. We started Reading Eggs on the computer, and he enjoys that...a note helps dh see that when he has the kids and I work---and not necessarily because I think it is time he reads, but he is showing some readiness. If he balks at working on it, not a big deal. Dd has been showing a better ability to grasp place value (reading computer game scores), so I noted to finally order the wood place value cube I had been eyeing so I can whip it out when the opportunity comes up. It can all be as flowing and integrated into your life as that. Maybe that would give you a sense of "structure" and organization...I know it has for me and helps my fear somewhat.

Hope something here reassures you. Here's some sites that have helped me

http://www.besthomeschooling.org (run by a poster here---LillianJ)
http://joyfullyrejoycing.com (written by an unschooler...I liked the parts about knowing all there is to know, the school subject on the left side)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Kimster... it helps to know I'm not the only one in this place!

canuckgal: thanks you as well! I'm not really worried about gaps and my "requirements" have always been relaxed, basically the smorgasboard idea you mentioned. They kids had baskets full of cool things and a list of things in that basket that wouldn't fit but were still "educational". For example ds's basket (dd's basket would have some of these same things but also things tailored to her interests) would have both fiction and non-fiction books he chose from the library or used book store, videos from the library, the gaming and Nick magazines he subscribes to, sudoku books, unit studies he's asked me to put together for him, workbooks he has picked out on his own, a journal for writing, drawing supplies, and a list that includes legos, computer time, crafts, painting, cooking, listening to me read and science channel. Our computer desktop has a "school" user account and the list of favorites on that account are all educational learning games. The kids could choose any of those activities but they had to spend 2 hours per day on basket or list items. I also used to insist on 1 hour of outside time daily unless it was raining, below freezing, or above 90.

My concern isn't gaps so much as wanting to encourage them to stretch themselves beyond Barbies and video games- both of which have a valuable place in their lives but upon which isolated focus will not make well rounded individuals. On the flip side my concern with having even these very relaxed requirements is that I was somehow hindering their natural learning and seperating learning from life.
 

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I have some of the same fears. Especially when the in-laws or dh's coworkers drill us on what exactly are lesson plans are for any given day.

I have compromised by keeping voluminous amounts of educational stuff around if they want it. Shelves and shelves of books, tons of computer games, etc.

We are also rural and I can't even find music lessons even though my oldest is desperate to learn violin, so it's very depressing. Have you considered moving? Or starting your own groups? Like a co-op group or "play" group like thing? Or art club, etc.? I was thinking of starting a mini-paleontologist group so my dh would be able to get out with other kids and talk about his passion and maybe we can do it after school times so school kids can go to since there are so few people around here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
kittywitty: moving isn't an option for us, we do have a weekly playgroup, and some lessons are available to us, they are just limited so we have to take what we can get instead of being able to choose the best program. We have lots of things available to the kids but they are just not choosing them. I read a lot in front of them, love watching educational tv, send them links to things I find interesting, they are just not following through with a lot right now and I swing between moments of believing that they will follow through when they are ready and find something that really interests them abd worrying that they will grow up with Webkinz being their only skill, lol.

Motherhood should come with a crystal ball.
 

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Yes, I hear you. I think, for me, it comes from the worry that I do not have good sense of delayed gratification . . .so how can I teach this? For example, it is easier for me to sit on the couch and do whatever, but if I get up and exercise, garden, etc., I am actually much happier in the long run-- but I still often choose the couch!


So, on one side of USing, I see it as fantastic if a person is deeply involved in a passion, be it Legos or Shakespeare. But, what if you don't really see a passion, but you do see a comfort zone? When is it (or is it ever?) OK to push someone beyond his/her comfort zone? I know, in my case, if my friend says, "Let's take a walk" or "I'll help you garden today," I am FAR more likely to want to do it, and I'll be happy in the long run, even if I grumble at first.

Right now, I do "make" DD do something daily, which is practice the piano. BUT, she does have the option to stop the lessons at any time-- however, if she is going to take lessons (meaning an investment of money and time on our part, and time on her teacher's part) I think it is only fair that she practice daily. So far, this has been OK with her because she really likes her lessons. However, I am looking into getting more curricula, just to be able to pull out when we are looking for something to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mizelenius View Post
Yes, I hear you. I think, for me, it comes from the worry that I do not have good sense of delayed gratification . . .so how can I teach this? For example, it is easier for me to sit on the couch and do whatever, but if I get up and exercise, garden, etc., I am actually much happier in the long run-- but I still often choose the couch!


This is sooo me!! I see this pattern in my kids as well. We have lists of things we think it would be fun to learn (pottery, Spanish, etc.) but since we know we have all the time in the world to do them we just never choose to because today we can veg out and do that "later". This is why I panic.

I'm still interested in input from some more RU as to how you feel this kind of relaxed requirement affects natural learning and natural motivations. TIA!
 

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I totally understand what you are talking about! Really, I think you should just do whatever seems to work best for your family. If that means having the kids do something 'educational' for your own peice of mind, then so be it! Or if it means letting them have completely control, then thats good too.

I think we (well I and maybe others) focus too much on labels and less on what works for us. It really should be the other way around.
 

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My short answer- Yes, I do think the relaxed requirement does hinder natural learning.

I think you might be underestimating the need for a major deschooling process, even though you are just shifting from relaxed homeschooling to unschooling. The longer you let them do there own thing, the better.

You said you'd like them to do an hour or so of educational activities of their own choosing every day. Can you try to see the things that they are already choosing to do every day as educational?

My son spent two months in K, then we did strict school-at-home, then did two months in 1st grade. It took an entire year to really deschool, and we're still at the tail end of that process. He has only recently, in the last few months, really expressed an interest in diving into some projects and seeking more 'educational' activities on his own after spending a year and a half 'just playing' video games and active play games.

I would get involved with whatever it is they are doing. Just go sit next to them. Ask a question about the game they're playing. Try to connect with them and the things they are interested in. I think the more connected you are, the more value you'll be able to see in what they're doing. Really listen to them. Try to start thinking that whatever they're doing right now, is exactly what they should be doing.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by joy_seeker View Post
This is sooo me!! I see this pattern in my kids as well. We have lists of things we think it would be fun to learn (pottery, Spanish, etc.) but since we know we have all the time in the world to do them we just never choose to because today we can veg out and do that "later". This is why I panic.

I'm still interested in input from some more RU as to how you feel this kind of relaxed requirement affects natural learning and natural motivations. TIA!
Maybe you could all sit and look at the list together and pick a couple activities you'd like to plan for the upcoming week. Make sure you have all the materials etc. and then fit it in to your week when it works? We have recently done this because we felt the same way, that we had a million things we wanted to do that we just weren't doing and we felt bummed about it.
My kids are into it though, and wouldn't have been six months ago so I think its important that you respect that they might not be ready. Its not anti-unschooling to have a plan or schedule or routine or list or guide as long as the kids want that. My son wasn't ready for that when we were first getting going.

I'm encouraging you in an unschooling direction because I get the impression that's what you really want. I agree in general, that we shouldn't get caught up in the label etc. however, I think its also very easy just to say "I'm not comfortable with that, sorry" instead of challenging ourselves to move beyond our fears and comforts so that our children can have the best experience possible. If it makes you miserable, that's not OK, but you might be able to learn and grow into a place where you feel good about it. That has been my experience anyway.
 

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Do you have a rainbow resource catalog or Montessori Materials or something? My kids LOVE them. I let them go through and mark what they want (and mark the pages or write it on a paper) and then I try to buy what I can when I get the money. That way they still have the option, it's not forced, but it can get them thinking about what they are interested in...or not! But at least you will feel like you are going somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all of the wonderful advice!


I do want to say that the label was not my hang up, we are either unschoolers or we aren't and I'm not invested in the label. I guess I was really just trying to feel my through to what works best for us and working through my fears about the choices I have.

For now we are going to continue on the path we are on; me taking a step back and following their lead, no requirements. I had felt like we had deschooled but I think perhaps a bit more would do us ALL some good. I do love the idea of discussing what we want to accomplish from the list and finding ways to meet those goals.

Thanks everyone, I knew I would get great insights from you ladies.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by joy_seeker View Post
This is sooo me!! I see this pattern in my kids as well. We have lists of things we think it would be fun to learn (pottery, Spanish, etc.) but since we know we have all the time in the world to do them we just never choose to because today we can veg out and do that "later". This is why I panic.

Yes! Tonight I had an experience that made me fully admit how much of a perfectionist I am, and that it does thwart my efforts! Maybe, maybe-- we could try breaking things down more? Instead of a big task like, "learn Spanish" it could be "watch Plaza Sesamo this week" (sorry, missing an accent) or something like that? I want to do EVERYTHING and RIGHT NOW and then I get overwhelmed, burnt out, etc. and do nothing!
 

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The best thing I've ever done for my sanity when weighing these questions is to read moominmama's blog and posts here.

She talks about focusing on relationships in her family and how it all moves out from there.

So the question maybe to ask is: What is the effect on the relationships in the family to require an hour of work a day? What is the effect of not requiring it?

She says it much better than I can. It's a worth a click and a search.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mizelenius View Post
Yes! Tonight I had an experience that made me fully admit how much of a perfectionist I am, and that it does thwart my efforts! Maybe, maybe-- we could try breaking things down more? Instead of a big task like, "learn Spanish" it could be "watch Plaza Sesamo this week" (sorry, missing an accent) or something like that? I want to do EVERYTHING and RIGHT NOW and then I get overwhelmed, burnt out, etc. and do nothing!
Great idea! I'm going to try breaking some of these things down and see if that motivates us. My procrastination comes from my perfectionist/overwhelmed by big tasks issues as well, lol.

Quote:

Originally Posted by chfriend View Post

So the question maybe to ask is: What is the effect on the relationships in the family to require an hour of work a day? What is the effect of not requiring it?

She says it much better than I can. It's a worth a click and a search.
This is a fantastic perspective... I am really trying to alter my focus from what "will be" to what "is" and this is a great way to do that in this situation. I'll definately be looking into that blog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Just wanted to say that I realized where my panic and frustration arose...

In looking over our journal for the last two weeks nearly every day looked the same... computer, Barbies, Legos, some reading, the kids budgeting and planning allowance/birthday money, and that's about it. These are all great activities and I love the imagination, planning, and trial and error things my kids are doing with all of these. I just worry that this will be ALL they do when I see them focusing on it for weeks at a time.

I think getting stuck in a rut is my fear and instead of panicing I kneed to find ways to guide us out when we do this. I've already received some great advice about this so I'm feeling much better about the possibilities.
 
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