Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Unschooling

This was an e mail I wrote on a yahoo list in response to a mom's question. Well you can see part of her question at the beginning of the post. Her kids are newly out of school and not doing what she expected them to be doing. I thought I would post it here so I can look it up in the future as well. Seems like I get asked this question a lot.
>>>>What does unschooling look like for you who have kidos older than 10? What about if they really don't want to read or write?<<<<<<<<<

I think the key to understanding unschooling is to understand that learning math and history and science and reading and writing looks so different for every individual and with unschooling it will look nothing like what you remember in school. In life we don't break things down into math and history and science and reading etc. It is all mixed up in there and even when they don't look, to the outside world, like they are doing anything...they are learning and doing exactly what they need to be doing and learning. Most kids, and remember I am speaking as a mom who has children who have never been to school or anything that resembles school so take it for what it is worth, have that "whatever...give up" attitude when they are used to other people telling them what to do. They have not rediscovered the joy in doing what they"want" to do yet.
If what interests you is to build a Lego fort my suggestion would be to start doing it. Try to figure out what YOUR passions are, let the children rest. Do what you want to do, the things you have put on the back burner to be a full time mom. The best example we can set for our children, I believe, is to be excited, involved, in the things that we are interested in and passionate about. What a terrific role model of what I want for my kids.
OK just looking at the reading issue. I have two sons one is 13 and one is 10. Very different in how they learned to read (at least to me). My oldest wanted to read from a very young age. It started with a gamer book he picked up at a relatives house when we were on vacation in South Dakota and he was like 3. He was so engrossed in that book and HAD to know every word of it. It went on for months, he would ask me over and over to read sections to him, or he would ask anyone who was near at the time. He started asking what 'this' word was and 'that' word, and how to spell whatever. He would write words down on paper, and ask me how to pronounce things etc until he had it all set in his head, and he was reading by like the age of 4. He reads for hours every day. Same books, gaming books, video games, computer games, dungeons and dragons, star wars miniatures etc. Reads during the day and at night before he falls asleep. Of course we have always read as a family, different books, out loud together.

OK now my youngest who is 10 now. He didn't seem to have that same drive. He would ask me to read video game stuff for him, and computer stuff. Or ask his brother if I wasn't in the room. He would occasionally want to write something down and would ask me how to spell it. He would occasionally ask me to write something down so he could type it into a Google search. But not nearly as much. He seemed OK right where he was. And then all of a sudden, this year, he just started reading, I mean reading difficult words, without asking me to help AT ALL. It seems like it just was something that happened overnight but I am sure he was processing things in his head all the while. It was just an internal thing for him. Had I interfered with the process I probably would have "messed" it up for him. But I didn't, I knew that he would read in his own time, and would ask for help if he needed it. He didn't ask so I didn't push. He still isn't the avid reader my oldest is. He reads video games and computer games, but doesn't really pick up a book to read for pleasure yet, strictly "need to know". He may in time, or he may not. I know I love to read, Jackson, dh, not so much.

My boys do love video games and computer games a lot. And spend a good deal of their time on that. But we also do go hiking, and build Lego forts. Sometimes if I get a wild hair to do something like build a Lego fort my youngest will quickly come join me, he loves Legos. We also cook together, camp together, vacation together etc. Do you know how much history is in those computer/video games. The boys love games like Age of Mythology etc, and that has lead to so many interesting tangents. I am there to bounce ideas off of. Ask questions, help them look things up. Watch TV with etc.
Just remember it doesn't have to "look" like learning to "be" learning. You are still thinking about school like "you" know it. I know...I did that too before I had children and really thought about how damaging school is. We were raised in a society that put a high value on "school". It will take time and effort for you to get past that as well. Read, read, read, read. There are so many good books out there on the damages of school, and about unschooling.

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