Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Saturday..... why are we in school?

Well, technically, we're not "in" school any other day of the week, so why are Saturdays, Sundays or holidays any different? These were questions I've been asking myself lately. I started off last month with the expectation that homeschooling would basically be like what I did as a kid in public school, but at home. What I've realized in about 6 weeks is that it doesn't have to be anything like that. It can be totally different. The more I read about unschooling, the more I recognize that even though I've come a long way, I am still a creature of habit. I am still somewhat stuck in the public school box.

Take a look at this picture and tell me what you DO and DON'T see:

Do you want to know what I see? I see my son learning colors, the shape of a circle, fractions and comparison. I see him counting, I see him pulling bits & pieces from stories & movies/shows and making his own story. I see him pretending to cook, to pave roads and build cars. Yesterday he even made the letter A out of play doh after I showed him how to do it.

Now, let me tell you what I do NOT see. I do not see structure, worksheets or curriculum. I don't see frustration or any moment of complaint about being tired. I don't see a child confined to learning on a set schedule. Yet, I still see a child learning.

Now, unschooling and homeschooling are NOT for everyone. I wrote a post a few days back about how anyone can homeschool. I still stick to that - anyone CAN. However, not every parent or every child WANTS to homeschool. The question you have to ask yourself is, "why do we want/need to homeschool?"

If you decide that you and your child DO want to homeschool, one of the biggest hurdles you'll have to overcome is thinking that them doing what you see as nothing holds zero learning opportunity. Even when your child is "doing nothing" they're still learning - don't make the mistake of thinking that this nothing is a negative.

As homeschoolers, we often need to step so far outside the box that we can no longer see the box. We need to think outside set curriculum, grade levels and worrying about IF our child is at the same achievement/academic level as a child of equal age who is in public school. It's not so important that they complete worksheets, or unit lessons, or even learn their ABC's by a certain age. What's important is that as a parent you learn how to encourage them to learn. You give them every opportunity to learn that you can. You turn every thing every day into a learning opportunity. Turn on the TV... let them find something that interests them and discuss it. At some point, if you allow them to guide the process, they WILL learn to read & write because THEY find it a desirable and even interesting thing to do.  They will learn those skills because they'll realize they NEED those skills, and not because you tell them they HAVE to learn them.

What I remember most about my own public school experience was being FORCED to learn things. It wasn't that I lacked interest, or the skill or ability to learn. It became a test of wills. I didn't WANT to learn because someone was making me. When we remove force from the equation, things become so much easier!

A great website is . While Sandra's approach is "Radical" Unschooling, there are always ways to pull in some structure and still let your child guide the way.

In the end there is no ONE way that works for everyone. You need to find pieces and parts of different approaches that work for you and your children. And, you likely won't be able to apply the same approach for your next child that you find works for your first homeschooled child.

One tool that I've added to my skill set is to recognize early on when my son is getting frustrated - at this point we stop what we're doing, right away, not when the next page is done or even when the next letter is written. Doesn't matter what we're in the middle of either. If you keep going at this point you have to use force and nothing you're trying to teach will be retained. We take a break - like a recess. I let him play, watch a short program or part of a longer one. Anything that allows him time to decompress. Later we'll come back to whatever it was we were doing. If I find that he's constantly resistant to this particular topic, I recognize that now is NOT the time to try to do it. I put it away and we can revisit it a month or even several months later, or even next year. One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling is the NOT HAVE TO's - when something doesn't work for you, you don't HAVE to keep going with it. You can find something else that is interesting.

We are starting to do more of what I'd call "real life learning." What I mean by this is that I try to do lots of stuff with him, that interests him, rather than just curriculum. If he asks a question, no....matter how random it may seem or how irrelevant it is to what we were doing, we stop what we're doing and talk about it until he's had enough.

I use this approach more often than not because when HE is interested, HE is learning. 

Forced learning = frustration = not wanting to learn and even a strong resistance to learning. 

I want him to WANT to learn, and to know how to do it. 

Give your child options, choices and opportunities; say yes (or a form of it) more often and you'll never go wrong. Click here for more info on saying YES! Then follow the links you find there. I am starting to feel like Jim Carey in Yes Man..... and it's surprisingly easier than I ever thought. 

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