Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Steps Toward Unschooling

Unschooling scares me.  How will my children learn everything they need to know if I'm not intimately involved in every detail?  Never mind, of course, that I'm already not overseeing every moment of their day.  They do read things they choose.  They play outside with friends.  They even (gasp) sit and think without me.

Now, I don't accept the radical unschooling idea that children should be left completely to their own devices and that they will learn and develop best with little adult "interference".  No, I tend to agree with the Scripture that says that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15).  And we have been known to use the "rod of correction" a time or two, as well!  Children need discipline to learn right and wrong, as well as to learn healthy habits.  I think it's perfectly OK to require my children to do chores and to encourage healthy eating, etc.  I'm interested in some form of unschooling, not unparenting!

SANY0486I'm coming to see, though, that my children are naturally curious and will learn quite a bit on their own.  For example, Ga'hoole Girl has been collecting prisms and making an optics kit.  She plays up in her room with her prisms, learning on her own (and from some books) about the properties of light.  They like to do exSANY0253periments, like making sugar candy as well as play games.  Wild Man and Ga'hoole Girl both have been building domino towers and learning what properties help them stay standing. 

I believe that they do need some guidance, especially if they are planning on education past the high school level.  I've been reading a blog called Yarns of the Heart which encourages me that unschooling high school is a viable option.  Jena's son is a freshman at University of Chicago, and her daughters seem to be learning quite well without the structure I cling to.  (Prior to this, I've heard mostly about unschoolers whose kids are really young or who don't believe in higher education.)

So, how do I mesh these ideas of being a good parent without being completely conIMG_6305_editedtrolling?  I've explored some of this before in a post about how much structure we need to have in our homeschool  .  Now that Wild Man is reading independently, I am more comfortable with loosening the reins even more.

What I'm going to try now is to use Sonlight Core 7 as a guide for reading about History and then exploring interesting other subjects as they come up.  Ga'hoole Girl is pretty happy with her Earth Science book, so I'm asking her to read 15-20 pages per week of her choosing.  This week, she'll be reading about glaciers.  Wild Man got a book about the Mythbusters from a museum in Chicago, so I'll have him read that for science.  I want them each to write something each week.  For Wild Man that will involve dictating to me still.

In terms of regular, disciplined work, I want them both to continue ALEKS math and Power-Glide Spanish, partly because they work, and partly because I've paid for them!!  I'll also work with Wild Man on some reading and spelling to help get him further with independent reading.

When we need more science stuff, I've decided to go with biographies of scientists if the kids don't have any other ideas.  Ga'hoole Girl often checks out science books from the library just for fun, but Wild Man may need some guidance.  They both love stories, and I imagine that the biographies will spark interest and get them doing more research.

Another reason that I want to loosen things up is that both kids are interested in learning to cook all kinds of things.  Ga'hoole Girl has made it her goal in life to make vegetables that I will enjoy eating.  We are also consideringSANY0536 starting a garden in the spring.  For the holiday season, Ga'hoole Girl and I are going to make a gingerbread church from a pattern that I have had for ages, but never took the time to make.  If I quit stressing about doing "school", then we might have time for all these fun (and, of course, completely uneducational!) activities.

What do you think?  How have you loosened up in your homeschool?  Or does it scare the living daylights out of you, too?  How can we balance the responsibility of parenting children without controlling them too much?


KC said...

Yeah! There is hope for a garden at the Martin house!!! Go Ga Hoole Girl! That's awesome that she's striving to make veggies that you will like. I have a good yellow squash casserole recipe that even your parents like (never mind that it's loaded with cheese, Ritz crackers, and butter). If she wants to try it, let me know and I'll email it to ya'll.

Just a quick comment about parenting versus unschooling. Kids are naturally curious about the world and it's great when the parent can guide them with their interests, but as you say to not take over. This "discovery learning" process will allow them to learn more and retain it for the longhaul. I think the hardest part is for us to stay out of it when we see them doing something wrong (as long as it's not dangerous of course) and let them "discover" on their own. But they learn so much more this way. Sounds like the kids are learning lots which is awesome!

KC said...

Another comment (sorry, I kept thinking)---I allow E to "discovery learn" with the unit studies. There are certain things in life our kids need to know---basic life skills (how to read a map), how to read, math, and how to write. Those things I keep structured simply because they MUST be learned. All of the other subjects, I allow for discovery learning. Are my kids ever going to be tested on WWI? Probably not until college and unless they major in history or law, they really don't need to know all of that stuff! C nor I don't even remember the exact date of that war. Does that mean we're not successful or functioning people in our society? Of course not. However, if I didn't know how to read or write, that would be problem. I used to stress when E didn't learn everything we were studying in our unit studies, but I've learned that it doesn't really matter as long as he's having fun. He'll retain what he's interested in and that's where I want him to spend his focus anyway. Exposure to the various studies is necessary though to determine what their interests are, but over time, that will come I have no doubt. I think we all fall into the mindset of "are my kids learning enough" especially when you "unschool". But amazingly, they are learning more than most kids and they're retaining it for the longhaul! The other thing that keeps me focused is the goals C and I have set for the kids. These are longterm goals such as: loving God first, being a critical thinker, being an independent thinker, etc. If you as a parent are constantly showing your child what to do, then how are they going to be a critical thinker and figure things out for themselves? Just some food for thought!