Adventures in Unschooling

Posts Tagged ‘education

I am not talking about a formal education here but rather an informal one. My kids have been a major driver in the topics that I have chosen to learn about in the last five years.

When I became pregnant with my first child I started reading about pregnancy and child birth. I was interested in natural birth but I didn’t know where to find midwives etc. And like many people who lack information I was also a little bit scared of birthing away from an hospital that had “professionals” on hand. So I went with a hospital birth.

I won’t go into it right now but my experience was not pleasant and I started searching for alternatives when I became pregnant with baby #2 (who was born at home in the water).  FYI: Baby #3 was born in a birth centre with a midwife. We did this simply because it was free and it was an equally  wonderful water birth. I heart my midwives. 🙂

My midwife with baby #2 was very holistic and encouraged me to look at more natural way of doing things.  I spent many, many months reading about everything from the safety of  natural childbirth and home birth, to the unhealthiness of processed foods and meat, to the merit of natural medicines.

This research branched off in many areas and resulted in our adopting many different philosophies in parenting and eating. We became vegetarians (who are mostly raw vegan now) who wore our babies in slings and co-slept. Even now, my baby is 15 months old and I am still nursing her. I have no immediate plans to stop.

Then when Trey started to grow older and started to become a lot more challenging I started pouring through dozens and dozens of parenting books. We desperately tried to undo the damage we had done by following Dobsonian (LOL! Dr. James Dobson) parenting methods. We followed his advice for a while but that seemed to only make our kids rebel more. Time outs, punishments, yelling and in our desperation, spanking, only made Trey angrier and less cooperative. I have now learned that a hug can be much more effective at encouraging good behaviour than a time out!

It was through this learning that we learned to practise attachment parenting with our children and not just our babies. I am constantly falling off of the wagon but I try again and again because the happiness, security and self esteem of my children is important. In our parenting we strive to show our kids that we love them even when they act in ways that are difficult for us to accept. And that is hard for us to do too.

I have also looked into many different topics relating to their health. I have read extensively about vaccination, vegan diets, antibiotic use in children and treating childhood diseases at home.

When our eldest was about three and a half we started thinking about schooling. I had always known that I wanted to homeschool but as we started looking at all of the different philosophies of parenting we became aware of one called unschooling. We fell in love with it and have been thoroughly enjoying practising it in our home.

And when our kids show interest in a topic now we find that we begin to learn about it too. For example we started learning quite a bit about nature on our nature walks. We now have all kinds of field guides that help us to identify plants, clouds, animals and bugs.

And lately our kids have sparked an interest in space in my husband. My husband has been avidly reading about the different planets and I have been inspired by his interest and have been immersing myself in the articles and photos from the Hubble Telescope site as well as from my own guides at home and from Wikipedia. 

I have learned things about space that have been blowing my mind.

For example. I have learned that the sun is actually a star. And that there are many, many stars that are much, much, MUCH bigger than ours (see illustation below). I have also learned that some of these other stars have solar systems of their own.

Which means there is potential for life in other areas of our very vast universe. I have also learned a lot about telescopes (how they are built and which ones are good for which conditions etc.) and Kevin has been teaching me all about planets.

I am also up to date on the current theory of star birth and am getting to be pretty well versed in the terminology. Words like nebula used to mean nothing to me but I can tell you what it is and what the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a comet is. LOL.

All this just because my son got interested in planets. 🙂

The image below came from this blog post: http://tomsastroblog.com/?p=5198  You can click on the image to see it zoomed in. It helps with reading the names etc.

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Yeah I know…I got overzealous with the posts this weekend. But back to business:

By its very nature it is virtually indefinable. But for our family it means allowing our children to learn at their own pace, in their own way, in their space. They will learn to read when they are ready not when someone decides they should know this. It is learning by living. It is unstructured so that it can allow maximum time for reading, doing and reflection.

WHY DO WE UNSCHOOL?

SOCIALIZATION:

We unschool because we want our children to be socialized. Not in the way that schooled children are socialized by their peers (who are all at the same level of maturity or immaturity) and by their teachers (who are authoritative figures who spend their time classifying children into varying degrees of smart and unsmart).  But rather by being with adults. They learn to be validated by adults and they also learn to be with a kid with their friends. They develop a truly rounded personality.

For example: A child wants to learn about building musical instruments. The best course of action would be to bring him to the library to research his subject. Then he could try to find someone who builds instruments and do some volunteer work in his shop for some tutoring in this subject of interest. In this task alone he learns about music, math, construction, perhaps running a business. What if the world was your teacher?

JOY OF LEARNING

We unschool because we want our children to love learning. We want them to love reading. But kids quickly dislike reading or learning once they enter school. What can make reading a good book a miserable experience? Well, someone that tells you how you should interpret scenes, characters and events could do it. So could being asked to write reports and being told that your ideas aren’t good enough. Or worse, you might not like the book at all and be forced to do these things. 

I don’t know many people who read for pleasure. My husband adores immersing himself in books but it took him a long time to re-train himself to see reading as pleasure instead of work. He hated school work and it affected his overall enjoyment of learning. This, sadly, is the norm. Especially among males. 

Homework is another big crime against the joy of learning. Not only do you have to endure the drudgery of school during the day but you have to take it home with you as well. When is a child supposed to have time to read for themselves or to enjoy the company of different kinds of people?

In an unschooled scenario, a child would read what they like and learn about what they like. So they may spend a year obsessing about Trojans. How pleased I would be!

In that year they would get a chance to learn about government, economics, training and war strategy, culture and currency. What would you learn if you have all of the time in the world?

TO RESPECT THEM

To think we must teach children to learn and live in our world is cruel and arrogant. Children deserve more respect. They learned how to walk, talk and play all without our careful instruction. My son is learning about time and addition all on his own. He is four years old.

Children are incredibly bright and capable. They could certainly use us as guides. People who help them locate people and resources but they don’t need us telling them what they need to know. They know what they need to know.

I trust my kids to grow as they are supposed to and I will be there when they need help.

TO GIVE THEM CHOICES

If they should want to go to school I would never stand in their way but if they want to stay home I will always be available to facilitate their learning. What are children supposed to learn from always being told where to stand or sit, what to read, how to read, what to think and how to think it. I think we do a great favour to our children by saying that we trust them to make a good decision on their own.

If you are interested in the experience of some other families there are many great Unschooling blogs. I also love this book: Homeschooling our Children Unschooling Ourselves. It’s from the perspective of a school teacher who decided school wouldn’t be right for her children.

 For more information on Unschooling try some of John Holts’ books including Teach Your Own or Dumbing Us Down by John Gatto.