We were ‘on holiday’ last week, which means no structured lessons. It was a bit of an unschooling week, really. Stiggy did quite a bit…I just wish I could remember it all now. We read lots of stories (as usual), we read some non-fiction books about the brain and nervous system, we went to the library, he painted some rocks, played outside, listened to some audio stories, and lots of other good stuff.
We took the bus to Trafford Centre on Friday. I just wanted to get out and indulge in a little retail therapy. Stiggy had some allowance he was eager to spend. He bought a lego base, a mini Captain Underpants book with a key chain attached, and the audio book of George’s Marvellous Medicine (his favourite Roald Dahl story). There were a lot of books in the 2 for 3 offer at Waterstone’s, so we picked up Alfie and the Big Boys by Shirley Hughes, 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle, and for myself: The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom (I know it has terrible reviews, but this book sounds great and I’ve long since learned not to trust the reviews for fiction). Stiggy and I had lunch at Nando’s. We shared a chicken fillet burger meal, which was more than enough for us. This was a much nicer lunch than McDonald’s, and actually, if we had each bought a separate meal at Mickey D’s, it would have cost more than the Nando’s.
It was a great week. I’d really like for our days to be more unstructured. I was having a look at our plans for next week, with the hope of eliminating something, but I just don’t know what to cut out. I definitely want to keep the reading lessons because we’ve come so far and I want Stiggy to learn to read with phonics, not look-say, which is how unschooled kids often learn. Our art lessons have really gotten Stiggy more interested in art (and I wouldn’t really call them ‘lessons’- we focus on a colour, read a story, concoct something like play dough or finger paint in that week’s colour, do colour mixing, then he’s free to explore different media in that colour). Our writing lessons are very much enjoyed and only take 5 minutes a day. Our math activities are also much-loved and Stiggy has learned a lot and become even more number-aware.
The solution seems simple: keep the activities and encourage the unschooling. The problem is, by the time we finish, I’m off to do housework, cooking, a bit of time for myself, etc. Maybe I should keep doing the activities, but not plan them. The reading lessons are easy; we just do what’s next, we have a quick review of something, and Stiggy chooses a phonics workbook page. For maths, I could ask Stiggy what he’d like to do, or throw out a few ideas from our activities books and let him choose. Art could stay the same, which requires some planning. We’re nearly at the end of the ‘colour-a-week’ thing, so that will be changing soon and it may not require so much planning. The handwriting doesn’t require any planning, we just do the next letter. Everything could be optional, except for the reading lesson.
We’ve recently purchased a book case, which we desperately needed. I’ve made our books and educational toys more accessible to Stiggy, which will encourage free exploration and more unstructured learning (I hope).
I still want to follow the classical method, but for now, I want his learning to be more unschooly in fashion. I’d always thought of what we do as unschooling, in a way, because he wants to do it, but much of the learning is structured, which isn’t really unschooling. I don’t want to be telling him what we’re going to do next all the time; it feels so contrived, and as if it’s something I’m doing, rather than something he’s doing.
I dearly love our unschooling times, and I feel it’s more real and meaningful. I know our structured lessons work; he’s learning and enjoying it. But there’s something more special and lasting about the spontaneous learning. (He learned today, from our eating some After Eights, that 3+2=5)
I also resent the time it takes to create the lesson plans, and then keep checking it to see what else we’re going to do that day.
I’ve already got this week all mapped out. I’m going to try not to be a slave to that sheet of paper. And next week I’m not going to make any plans. This is going to necessitate logging our activities daily instead of weekly, though. There’s no way I’m going to be able to remember it all. But that still won’t take up as much time as creating lesson plans, on which I spend about 2-3 hours each week. I may also be more likely to use more of our resources. I tend to just stick to what I’ve written down and not look at anything else if it isn’t on the list. The problem is, I spend so much time on the lesson plans that I don’t have time to browse through our other activity books. Now, I’ll be inspired to take something from the shelf each day and read out some ideas to Stiggy to see what sounds fun (hopefully).
If anyone has any advice, words of wisdom, warnings, words of encouragement, etc, please leave a comment. If you’ve switched from Classical to unschooling, please tell me what your experience has been like.