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I really like the idea of unschooling but we are striving for that. However I get to stressed about what he does / doesn't know. As he gets the passion for a topic we run with it. If he did go to school he would go to a democratic private school. I don't feel there is enough activities and things to do around here to inspire him. Miguel however has a light schedule and picks his own curriculum. It's very hard for me to find things that he will willingly participate in. Unless it's spinning in circles, pacing around, or video games. Currently when he finds something better to do (absorbed in a book, co-op, games, almost anything) we do not have school. I'm fine with not doing school but he has to be doing something, anything.
Right now he's absorbed into twilight so we probably wont be doing work today and maybe the rest of the week. Our homeschool Goal is to inspire learning so usually we only take on the topics he hates. As he gets older I'm hoping to move more and more towards unschooling.
He does have to earn video games and tv time by doing math currently his unliked subject.
In a way, I like the idea. Being a homeschooled kid myself, it seems the most logical way to 'teach' but, I don't think the extreme method of just doing whatever the child is interested in doing is going to work in the long run. I've known three families who took the extreme approach to unschooling, and they all ended up cramming 12 years of mathematics instruction into one. Their kids struggled with everything mathematics related in the first couple of years of college as well. That makes me feel that the extreme child-led learning doesn't work past the early years, and guidance is necessary.
I'm leaning toward having a required 'core' for math and language arts, and 'guides' (by way of text books) for everything else-- history, social studies, science, health, etc. Those 'guides' would serve to tell me directions to steer the learning in a year, and I would probably read the text portion with them, and have books on the subject(s) available for them to enjoy in spare time. If it happened that the study of the senses took us 6 months, we'd take 6 months. If it only took us 3 days, it takes 3 days. That's the general way the child-led learning I want to do is leaning, because let's face it... while following the interests of a child is a wonderful thing, if they're not interested in doing anything math related for 11 years, there's going to be a problem when they try to get into college. Similarly, if they only want to do math, and have absolutely no interest in learning to read (and yes, it IS possible to do math without being able to read-- my sister did it!), you'll have major problems at the end of high school. We DO have to force children to learn to do things that they don't necessarily want to do. It's part of teaching a good work ethic. It just doesn't have to kill their love of learning in the process.
I think unschooling is fine- with intent and direction. Letting kids watch tv or play video games half the day is not going to work. But with an educational environment and plenty of hands-on materials and guidance provided, I think it works as well as anything else. I agree that a math program should be used though. I know of several unschooling families with grown children who recommend the same.
Earthy-Birthy Tree-hugging Mama to 5 (6 for now) great kids:
SciGuy,14 Butterfly Girl,12 Wyldchild,7 FlowerFairy,5 and Babybird,3
When I started reading up on homeschooling that was what I wanted to do. It sounds so natural and just warm and fuzzy. Wouldn't it be great if my kids only had to learn what they wanted, and because learning is a natural desire, they ended up wanting to learn to read, write, do math, plus science history etc.? Unfortunately, I quickly found that while most children want to know how to read, I don't think many of them want to sit and learn phonics for a couple of years. Learning phonics is tedious and takes a long time, and children don't have the foresight or patience.
Math has been the same way to some extent, but I would say not quite as bad. That could be because we took math a little slower.
While I know my children find science and history interesting, and my oldest often prefers to check out non-fiction books from the library, they would more often than not choose computer games and video games (of the non-educational variety) over learning if they were allowed to do whatever they wanted.
There are accounts like this one (under the 'more natural lessons' heading) that I think people must respond to in different ways. I think some people read that and say, "That's great! They boy learned to write well of his own accord! He is really learning to be intrinsically motivated. And isn't it great that everyone got to learn at their own pace?" But when I read it I think, "He's 10 years old and he can't sign his own name?" This is mild compared to some things I've read. It was either in The Unschool Handbook or an issue of Home Education Magazine where one person was talking about how all her children learned to read fluently at different ages. Some of the ages were more or less normal (maybe ages 4 - 8), but one was age 12 before he decided he wanted to learn to read.
Now, part of me thinks all's well that ends well. Does it *really* matter how old you are when you learn to ___(fill in the blank)___ ? And so long as we're not talking about learning a spoken language, the answer is no, I guess. However, in the case of my children's educations I succumb to many societal pressures. A personal reason, though, is that when I look back at my childhood a question I often ask (or maybe more of a complaint I have) is "Why didn't my mother push me more?" When I talk to other people my age, that seems to be a common complaint. We with our parents would have forced us to stick with that musical instrument, study harder etc. While I don't want to push my children to unhappiness, I don't want to allow them so much freedom at such a young age (because of such a lack of foresight etc.) that they resent me when they're older because as the adult, I should have led them to their potential, not let them discover what's left of it on their own when they're older.
In short, if someone decides to homeschool, I understand their motivation and I respect that. I think there is a good possibility that that is the better choice for many children including my own. However, I'm playing it safe on this one.
I think its a lovely idea, but as I've seen it practiced by most, it wouldnt work for me. My son would likely end up just on the wii, and I am not comfortable with just allowing a child to choose whether to learn or not, as many would choose not.
But I am happy setting aside a certain amount required study and then letting him choose many other activities, like choosing computer programmes or math with toys, studying subjects he likes etc.... and when a child is old enough, if they want to come up with their own lesson plans / ideas etc.... brilliant as long as it incorporates the core subjects and a reasonable amount of time learning anything else useful --- the study of Mario Brothers various levels just doesnt cut it - but if he wanted to draw pictures and make up a story about what levels he would create if he made the games, that would be fine.
I should have added, I think that learning the discipline of sitting down and finishing a task is important too. While I've known a few to do very well with unschooling, most of the cases I've known, the child doesnt do anything they dont want to. I am afraid many will have a hard time coping with the real world, where you cant just tell a boss, I dont feel like working today, or I dont like that task so i wont do it. Jumping up and down and screaming usually doesnt work well with employers either.