Sunday, June 6, 2010

I admit that I am a very “project driven” person. This is good considering that my big company pays me big money for running big projects. When I started reading homeschooling blogs, the idea of “unschooling” was entirely foreign to my mind. I love the security of a plan. However, as my daughter’s natural interests started to emerge, unschooling suddenly started to look a lot more promising and made a lot more sense, especially after my multiple failed attempts to engage my daughter in something that she was not interested in. That’s why I asked one of my favorite bloggers, Leah from Almost Unschoolers, to share her journey into unschooling. Welcome Leah!

Natalie asked if I would share a bit about unschooling. I think by now most people have a general idea of what unschooling is, if not, there are quite a few definitions, just waiting around out there, to be Googled. So, I thought instead of sharing about what unschooling is, and how exactly it works for us (because quite frankly, it changes daily), I'd write about how we got started on the unschooling road. I read a quote from Sandra Dodd, recently, that answered the question, "Precisely how do you unschool?" The answer was simple, "Pull your children out of school, and don't buy a curriculum." Of course, this answer is tongue in cheek, and there is a lot more involved in unschooling, than not buying curriculum, but looking back, it's actually the way we started. And, baby step by baby step, it's the path we seem to be following on our unschooling journey. First, I should probably explain some of our own reasons for homeschooling. We are not homeschooling because we think there is anything wrong with the public, or private school systems. There might be things wrong with them, but that is not why we decided to homeschool. And, although are Christians, we did not experience the "call" to homeschool, that I have often heard mentioned. It was just something we wanted to try. We enjoy having the children around, and didn't really want to send them away. We like not having to rush out the door in the morning. And, we really didn't want our family evenings to become consumed with homework. Add to that the fact that I enjoy teaching, and had been fairly bored in school, and that my husband, while not bored, had been there mainly for the social aspects - and homeschooling seemed like a pretty natural choice. First though, we had to figure out what that actually entailed. We checked with our state authorities, to find out what the legal requirements were, and then we (mainly I) started reading. Up to that point, much of my philosophy on homeschooling had been formed, by Cheaper by the Dozen, the original novel by two of the Gilbreth children, and not the later movie with Steve Martin. The Gilbreth family, because of the time in which they lived, were not homeschoolers, but they did at least as much of their schooling at home, as they did in their schools. Their father, had a love of teaching, that translates through their story, in a way that is infectiously unavoidable. So, to find out more about how to homeschool, I turned to the local library, bookstore, the Internet, and magazine publications, reading anything, and everything on the topic I could get my hands on. Somewhere in the midst of my research I came across The Unschooling Hanbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith. Which introduced me to the concept of unschooling, or interest driven learning. I found it to be a refreshing, and exciting concept. Of course, learning should be fun, and interesting. And, of course, we learn things faster, and with better retention, when they are interesting, or necessary to us. But, much like my feelings towards the courtship movement, as interesting as it sounded, I wasn't sure it would work in the real world. Verses like Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child," came to mind. And, I worried about the illiterate adults that I knew. If children, left to their own devices will just naturally learn, then why would we have any illiterate, or uneducated people at all? But, even if I wasn't ready to jump into unschooling feet first, it did open my eyes to the fact, that I didn't necessarily have to spend hundreds of dollars, and be locked into a boxed curriculum. That thought really appealed to me. After all, we were beginning with Kindergarten. Did I really need formal, outside help, to teach my son his numbers, and letters, and how to cut, and paste? I was fairly confident I could handle Kindergarten. But, just so I didn't miss anything, I picked up Rebecca Rupp's Home Learning Year By Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School. And, just like that, without our even realizing it, our unschooling journey had begun. We'd made the decision to keep our children out of school, and we'd decided not to buy a curriculum, and we had the tiniest seed of an idea, that learning could look different, than what we were use to seeing. To find out where this journey has taken us, nearly a decade later, come on over to Almost Unschoolers, and take a look. You'll notice from the name of the blog, that we haven't completely given up "formal" education. I keep a little of it, like a training wheel, running along through our days. Some days, and weeks, we lift it off the ground, and enjoy truly free learning. But, at other times, we keep that wheel firmly on the road, assuring us, we're not going to fall. Either way, as I like to say - it's great to be a homeschooler.

8 comments:

Christy said...

Great post. Thank you for sharing.

Joyful Learner said...

Fantastic post! I'm going to check out the books you mentioned. We're unschoolers but the teacher in me is itching to create or follow some curriculum to check thing off...so far we have surpassed the preschool guidelines so we're free to enjoy learning anything we want. Thanks for sharing!

Phyllis said...

I think it is interesting that you have a balanced view between Unschooling and Teacher-directed learning. It seems that both sides tend to be against this as it seems to either side that the middle ground is a corruption of the integrity of the whole. I, too, hold this middle ground. We Unschool when it seems right and fitting and I teacher-direct when that seems appropiate. I have many LD's in my gang, so that is perhaps why we particularly need teacher directed learning. Learning to read is so hard for a few of my kids that I do believe that it would be easier for them to figure out ways around learning to read than to learn to read. I think they would be illiterate if the learning was left totally up to them. My kids have also told me that they like me to show them some ways in which learning and the recording of that learning can be done. Like many things, they don't know what it would look like without someone to show them. Many Unschoolers think that it is okay to show our kids any of our other talents or knowledge, except teaching and learning in general. I find that somehow ironic. I just try not to let this showing become intrusive either. It is a balance for us as well. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express this.
-Phyllis

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - I've always like the analogy of an unschool parent as a tour guide. Sometimes, when I know that there's something really great up ahead (like calculus), that they can't reach without training, I push the training. Just like a tour guide insisting on some long bike rides through the countryside, before taking on the Alps.

Ticia said...

Great description. I think your brand of unschooling is the type I agree with. There's just a few of the more extreme that I can't quite get on board with.

Debbie said...

Blogger did it to me again! I had commented and poof it is gone. I love this post and your style of unschooling, Leah! I agree with Ticia there are some unschoolers that I just don't understand. I think about going totally unschooled, but then I pull back a bit, I think it was easier for me when my kids were younger, I still remembered most of the stuff they needed to learn. Am I showing my age here? No, to be honest, I am one that does need to have the guides to teach with. I admit while I want Selena to learn so much in her own style we will always have certain curriculum books in our home. Not the full curriculum that cost so much money, but the subjects I know I would do better at teaching with a guide to follow and instructions on implementing how to teach the subject. I respect all who can truly unschool and do it correctly, but I know "ME" too well and it isn't something I could do in every area for Selena. Thank you for sharing Leah, keep up the great work!

怡谷ShanikaMaxey怡谷 said...

忙碌的一天終於過了,來看看文章轉換心情,也幫你加個油哦~ ..................................................

Sparkling Adventures said...

There are more Christian unschoolers around -- you can browse through almost 50 blogs via the link-up at http://www.sparklingadventures.com/index.php?id=985