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Category Archives: Unschooling

Spring Fever

I’m still trying to figure the direction in which this blog is moving. I just can’t bring myself to do weekly round up-type posts. Although I enjoy reading them at other blogs, I find them boring to write. I already do something similar for my records, albeit in a very abbreviated format, and cannot get myself to do another, more detailed version here. I prefer to have something interesting and stimulating to write about; witty if I can manage it. But lately our homeschooling just isn’t providing adequate material for posts. We have a routine, and to be honest our homeschooling is a bit like an old married couple: comfortable, unexciting (usually), and a little dull. You might even say we’re in a little bit of a rut.

We’re really enjoying spelling (cause it’s new) and science, but everything else is just a little stale. Even history isn’t thrilling us anymore. Esa’s disappointed with the colouring pages in the Story of the World Volume 2 activity book, and I have to agree that they’re not that great. (The ones in activity book 3 are even worse; the drawing is terrible.) Math is going well, but we’re not doing much supplementing with stories or activities. We’ve not done art or poetry in weeks. He really dislikes Writing with Ease, in particular dictation. I think it’s a fantastic curriculum, but it can be a little dull. Okay, very dull. He enjoys the narration, and the reading selections have provided us with introductions to books that we otherwise might not have discovered, which is great. Handwriting is a boring but necessary evil. We’ll be starting cursive writing soon, which will liven things up a bit.

I think the real problem is that we’re feeling a little burnt out. If I made a little more effort to supplement, or take him on educational visit somewhere, we might be able to inject some life into our homeschool. But I just don’t have the “umph” for it right now. Spring is here, the garden is blooming, we’re planning to go to the US in a few days, and my mind is just elsewhere. Maybe what we need is to just unschool for a while. Lots of read alouds (also lacking right now), lots of time in the garden (if only it would stop RAINING!), read about herbs using A Kid’s Herb Book, maybe do some nature journaling, and just have an overall relaxed approach for now.

In other news, I have started yet another blog. 🙂 My interest in veganism is providing me with a lot of material to write about, and since I don’t want to bore my readers, who mainly come here to read about homeschooling, I thought a separate blog was a good idea. If you’re interested, here’s the link: http://spillinthebeans.wordpress.com/

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Second Grade Plans

We’re officially finished with first grade. We’ll have a few weeks off, then have a few weeks of light summer school, working on reading, math facts, pre-history, science, and a little handwriting. That sounds like a lot when I type it out, but we won’t do everything every day and it will be very relaxed.

My thoughts have now turned to second grade. I’ve been doing lots of planning, sorting, and arranging. Out with the old and in with the new. 🙂

Second grade sees the addition of a few subjects. Here’s what we’ve got lined up:

Latin

For a gentle and fun (and inexpensive) introduction to Latin, we’ll be using Minimus. Now, I believe in parts-to-whole learning, but looking back on phonics instruction, I know that kind of learning can be a bit boring, especially in the early days.  I want this first year of Latin to be fun and engaging; I’m not terribly fussed if Esa doesn’t walk away being able to read Cattus Petasatus after this first year. Minimus is whole-to-parts and quite lively. I think it will be much enjoyed.

Writing

Last year I purchased Writing with Ease. I didn’t purchase the workbook because I wanted to choose the copywork and narration selections myself and I also wanted to keep costs down. The result was that after a few weeks I stopped using it. I came back to it, but it got dropped again. It was too much work and I wasn’t sure I was “doing it right.” So for level 2, I’ve decided to purchase the workbook. I don’t think we need to begin at level 1; he’s done lots of copywork and narration, plus he’s gone through FLL level 1 which dovetails with WWE level 1, so we’ll dive in with level 2. I’m very excited about this for some reason…I’m not sure why. After all, it’s just a workbook and the WWE programme isn’t new to me…but there’s something about it…it feels weighty and substantial. We’re not in Kindergarten anymore, Toto.

Spelling

In first grade we began using Sequential Spelling. I stopped this because although it was great and Esa was learning to spell, it was a little too much and since he wasn’t doing much writing apart from handwriting and copywork, I worried that he would forget what he’d learned. In second grade he’ll be doing more real writing (he’s currently writing a book called “Lego City Police Story”) and will have more writing assignments and I think spelling instruction will be beneficial.

Here’s what else we’ll be doing:

Reading

Phonics instruction is more or less completed. We’ll be reviewing things from time to time because although the point of phonics is to get them reading, I don’t want him to forget the rules. Why? Well, I was taught by phonics, but I’d forgotten many of the rules. Since teaching Esa, I’ve found some of those rules to be beneficial to me. I want him to know these rules because reading instruction never ends; even as an adult he’s going to come across words he doesn’t know, so having a good grasp of those rules will be helpful in his reading and his spelling.

He’s been reading a lot of Mr. Men books. These are fun, lively, and challening. We’ll continue with these for the time being. Mostly I’ll let him choose his reading material, but I will steer him clear of twaddle or too many easy selections and there may be times I assign him something to read. I want him to read a variety of things, including non-fiction, which he likes to read, anyway.

Handwriting

We’re currently in the middle of Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Book B. We’ll plug away at this and move to Book C whenever he’s ready.

World History

We’ll be using Story of the World Volume 2: Middle Ages. I have the activity book, purchased as a download from the Peace Hill Press website. (Big mistake; they don’t allow you to save it to your computer and you’re limited in the number of times you can download it, so you have to print off all the 400+ pages…not very economical.) I also purchased the audiobook, which we’re very excited about.

British History

I was planning to do British history alongside world history, but I’ve decided not to do that. When we’ve worked through all four SOTW books, we’ll then spend a year or two working on British history, then we’ll do four years of world history again. The educational system works differently in the UK, so I probably won’t be homeschooling via the classical method all 12 years. During his last few years, he’ll be working on A-levels, which may not even include history, so we’ll probably only have two history rotations.

Grammar

We’ll be continuing with First Language Lessons. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with level 1. Nouns went on for an eternity, but then pronouns and verbs were barely touched upon. And some of the lessons were, in my opinion, downright useless. I also didn’t like how the child was to learn the months (in order), but yet the poem which teaches how many days are in each month (what 6-year-old needs to know that, anyway?) gives the months out of order! We skipped that poem and I taught Esa the knuckles trick, so that if he does want to know how many days are in each month, he can work it out.  However, level 2 looks more promising, so we’ll keep using it.

Art

We’re about 2/3 of the way finished with Artistic Pursuits book 1. This has been a nice curriculum, but not spectacular. Some of the lessons are better than others, and if you want a pick-up-and-go art programme, it’s fantastic. But because we do a lot of art, including art appreciation, this hasn’t been the must-have curriculum that I imagined it would be. However, I do think the upper levels will be more useful to us and we will continue using it. This is a book that I know I can sell on, so I don’t feel it’s a waste of money.

Math

I’m not totally sure in which direction we’re headed with math. Second grade could see us adhering strictly to Singapore Math, we may use a little of it, we may use a different programme altogether, or we may just unschool math completely. I just don’t know. I’ll have a better idea of what the plan is come September. I don’t really like the idea of buying another curriculum. Math curricula is expensive and who knows whether it will be any better. There are some great things about Singapore:

  1. It truly has fostered Esa’s mental math abilities
  2. I like that you can skip around a bit; you don’t have to do everything in order
  3. It’s challenging and thorough

What I don’t like about it is that it’s a little boring. So, it’s one of those programmes that we will probably continue using, but we’ll supplement with other things, skip around, and take breaks from it.

Science

We will continue using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. This is an amazing curriculum and is suitable for all, regardless of your views on evolution because it’s not covered in this programme. It is quite teacher-intensive, but since everything else I’m using is pick-up-and-go, I don’t mind. I think science needs to be this way, at least in the early years. Once Esa’s a bit older, he’ll be able to take on some of the responsibility of initiating science activities himself.

My only complaint with this programme is that it could do with a little fleshing out via literature. There are book recommendations, but they’re all non-fiction selections, not always the greatest, and our library doesn’t usually have them. I think reading about science (in fiction and non-fiction format) is a great way to cement and supplement the learning, and Esa loves science books. I know once his reading skills advance a little more he’s going to be clamoring for science materials to read.

I think it would also be nice if for each lesson there were some sort of outline to ensure certain key points were covered. It’s a little too fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants for my linking. I don’t want it scripted, I just want to make sure I cover all the bases. I do make notes for each lesson, but I still worry that I’ve left something out.

I also need to devote more time to Esa’s science instruction. We only do science one day a week, plus read a section from The Story of Science, but because this book is being read out of context, it’s not much of a supplement. We’re not getting any nature study in, which I feel guilty about. I just don’t know what to do. We go out, look at a few plants and bugs, and I just don’t know where else to go from there. There’s nowhere within walking distance that will provide more diversity. (I’m working on getting my UK driver’s license, which will broaden our horizons quite a bit  more). I need to make more of an effort with this. And as I write this, I feel more determined to do so. It’s summer and we need to be out there exploring. I’d also like to start doing something about those nature journals.

Handicrafts

We haven’t done a whole lot with this. Esa is learning a little food preparation and he helps out a fair bit with housework, but this winter I’m hoping to begin him with some easy sewing or cross stitch and maybe crochet. I tried him with some cross stitch several months ago, but he wasn’t quite ready for it.

Music

We will continue with our composer study. Well, there isn’t much “study” involved. I choose a composer (usually whoever I’ve manged to pick up at the charity shop) and we listen when we feel like it. Esa likes classical music, so I count this area of our homeschooling as a success.

Artist

This tapered off a little at the end of first grade. We were using this set of discussion starters, but this died out.  We were studying Kandinsky and our library only had a few books on him, none of which contained the paintings I wanted to study. I allowed Esa to choose most of the paintings, but I did choose one or two, including a watercolour. 🙂

I’m hoping get back to our discussions, and I’d like to study a few watercolourists, including J.M.W. Turner.

Poetry

Although we faithfully memorised several poems (I say “we” because when you’re child is memorising a poem, you can’t help but memorise it yourself!), the reading of poetry for fun waned. I want to revive this. It’s just laziness on my part, really. (“It’s almost time for lunch…we don’t have time for poetry now.” Etc.)

Our days will take longer, I can see that. I don’t think it’s going to be realistic to expect to finish before lunch. I think we may do 2 hours before lunch, and 2 hours after. Four hours is a lot, but we will have little breaks here and there. (“I need to put the clothes in the dryer, let’s have a little break” and so on.) And breaking it up like that will hopefully allow us to get a good balance of quantity and quality; I want to take our time with things and not rush, but I also want to get it all in…or most of it, anyway. I always feel guilty when I rush things and I learned to cut out certain things and go  more slowly rather than rush through everything. This is partly why nature study and poetry often get missed out. But I need to make more of an effort to include these things.

We will begin second grade on….er, sometime in September.

 

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I Finally Get It (and about time, too…)

cookie cutterLike a lot of people, I need balance in my life. But for some reason, I’m always attracted to extremes. When I was a child, I wanted to be Amish. I also wanted to be a nun.

Yeah.

Back when I first decided to homeschool, and I thought it was nothing more than school-at-home, I tried creating my own curricula.

Boy, was that a mistake.

Then someone introduced me to homeschooling methods and I was so grateful that I wasn’t going to have to reinvent the wheel. When I began reading about homeschooling, I was drawn to complete unschooling (but not radical unschooling…radical unschooling makes me shiver), and paradoxically, classical education via a strict interpretation of The Well-Trained Mind. Two rather extreme methods of homeschooling.

(And yes, I know I’ve talked about extreme homeschooling before, and about methods dozens of times, and I may have made a promise that I no longer would, but please bear with me.)

So I opted for classical, but found it stifling. In an attempt to soften it up, I decided to follow (strictly) the wisdom of Charlotte Mason. But I’ve realised that Charlotte’s methods can be extreme as well.

The authors of WTM state that a grammar-stage child should be saturated with information. They shouldn’t be forced to dig for it; the parent should provide the child with a feast of words and information for them to absorb.

I was in two minds about this. Initially this  made sense to me. But when I started reading about Charlotte Mason, I really began to question this advice.

Charlotte felt differently, and herein lies what I feel to be the primary difference between WTM and Charlotte Mason: Charlotte, although not completely opposed to reference books, felt all children should gain, in reverse order of importance: facts, information, and ideas through living books. And to do this, a good amount of digging is required. Living books do not spoon feed facts, information, and ideas. The child’s mind must work, and work hard.

Great, I thought. I want my child’s mind to be exercised in this way. Surely this is a better way.

But when I began following Miss Mason’s advice, my son actually complained, ‘Too many stories!’

What? Really?

Previously, we had a mix of stories, living books, and the Usborne/DK type reference books. He loved these reference books. They’re bright, lively, and engaging. He gained lots of information from these books. He also loved his stories. And his mind crunched and munched through the living books.

But once we put the fun reference books away (I felt they were bad; I wasn’t opposed to books such as bird guides, but those reference books were guilty of too much spoon feeding and so were banished), it all became too much work; the balance was lost.  And so he stopped crunching and munching. He even stopped enjoying Story of the World. His brain was just flooded with too much literary-type learning.

A balance was needed.

Now that we’ve welcomed Usborne and DK back into our house, he’s livened up and crunching away again. Those books are living books because they elicit excitement and encourage him to participate; he’s not passive when these books come out. He points to things, asks questions, makes comments, makes up little stories, draws pictures, and just plain gets excited. His mind is working and digesting the information.

And he likes learning facts. Learning facts really has a bad reputation in the homeschooling world, but I feel a good store of facts is necessary and helps with the knowledge/ideas bit…it’s a bit like learning  a foreign language…you can’t learn just grammar (i.e. knowledge), you’ve got to have lots of vocabulary (i.e. facts) to really be able to communicate fluently. You don’t want to be pulling out your foreign language dictionary every few minutes/

But that’s a moot point. He isn’t just storing up facts and filing them away. He’s using what he learns in his art, in his play, and in his conversations. And here is the crux of it:

He’s creating the ideas himself.

The ideas that Charlotte tells us are so important aren’t just being picked up from books, but are actually being created by what inspires him. Fabulous.

I suppose this formula is closest to WTM: a good mix of stories, living books, and reference books. But to be honest, I think I’m a little tired of the whole methods thing. I’ve realised I need to do two things: listen to my son and follow my intuition. I’ve had lots of people tell me that, but I had to learn the hard way, which sometimes is the only way: through experience. WTM and Charlotte Mason are good reference points, and I’ll continue reading about them and following a lot of their advice and book recommendations, but I’m not going to worry about casting ourselves into any mould.

P.S. I’m not going to promise not to blog about methods. I like reading and talking about methods and I feel the authors of WTM and Charlotte Mason have a lot of experience and wisdom that I do not. I’ll take what they know and use it with what I’m learning to create what works for us.

 

A Little Boy

A Little Boy

by Helen Buckley

Once a little boy went to school.

He was quite a little boy

And it was quite a big school.

But the little boy

Found that he could go to his room

By walking in from the door outside.

He was happy

And school did not seem

Quite so big any more.

One morning,

When the little boy had been in school awhile,

The teacher said:

Today we are going to make a picture.

Good, thought the little boy.

He liked to make pictures.

He could make all things;

Lions and tigers,

Chickens and cows,

Trains and boats –

And he took out his box of crayons

And began to draw.

But the teacher said, Wait.

It is not time to begin.

And she waited until everyone looked ready.

Now, said the teacher,

We are going to make flowers.

Good, thought the little boy.

He liked to make flowers,

And he began to make beautiful flowers.

With his pink and orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said, Wait!

And I will show you how.

And it was red, with a green stem.

There, said the teacher,

Now you may begin.

The little boy looked at the teacher’s flower.

Then he looked at his own flower.

He liked his flower better than the teacher’s.

But he did not say this.

He just turned his paper over

And he made a flower like the teacher’s.

It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,

When the little boy had opened

The door from outside all by himself,

The teacher said:

Today we are going to make something with clay.

Good, thought the little boy.

He liked clay.

He could make all kinds of things with clay:

Snakes and snowmen,

Elephants and mice,

Cars and trucks –

And he began to pull and pinch

His ball of clay.

But the teacher said:

Wait, it is not time to begin.

And she waited until everyone looked ready.

Now, said the teacher,

We are going to make a dish,

He liked to make dishes,

And he began to make some

That were all shapes and sizes.

But the teacher said, Wait

And I will show you how.

And she showed everyone how to make

One deep dish.

There, said the teacher.

Now you may begin.

The little boy looked at the teacher’s dish,

Then he looked at his own.

He liked his dishes better than the teacher’s.

But he did not say this.

He just rolled his clay into a big ball again

And he made a dish just like the teacher’s.

It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon the little boy learned to wait,

And to watch, And to make things just like the teacher.

And pretty soon

He didn’t make anything of his own any more.

Then it happened

That the little boy and his family

Moved into another house,

In another city,

And the little boy had to go to another school.

This school was even bigger than the other one,

And there was no door from the outside into his room.

He had to go up some steps,

And walk down a long hall

To get to his room.

And the very first day

He was there,

The teacher said:

Today we are going to make a picture.

Good, thought the little boy,

And he waited for the teacher

To tell him what to do.

But the teacher didn’t say anything.

She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy she said:

Don’t you want to make a picture?

Yes, said the little boy,

What are we going to make?

I don’t know until you make it, said the teacher.

How shall I make it? asked the little boy.

Why, anyway you like, said the teacher.

And any colour? asked the little boy.

Any colour, said the teacher.

If everyone made the same picture,

And used the same colours,

How would I know who made what?

And which was which?

I don’t know, said the little boy,

And he began to make a red flower with a green stem.

 
 

Methods… My Final Answer

Over the past year or so I have investigated (with much pleasure), and seriously considered, many homeschooling methods. I began with classical via The Well-Trained Mind and loved it, but wanted to see what else was out there. I looked at the Montessori method (love some of the manipulatives), Waldorf, unit-study (too much preparation), lapbooking (love them, but they seem like busy work), LCC, unschooling, and Charlotte Mason.

After a while, I was left with classical with a few elements from Charlotte Mason and unschooling.

Several weeks ago, I started up a new Yahoo group in the hopes of exploring unschooling further. I didn’t like the other groups out there because they seemed so fundamentalist and members were regularly bashed for their opinions or ways of doing things. These are radical unschoolers who go on about freedom, and yet they’re telling other people what to do. How hypocritical can you get? I wanted a group that was different, so I started one. I also found Unschooling Basics. I didn’t get much out of this group for a few reasons. One is that the answers given to questions are often just the pat responses of most unschoolers which you find on all the websites. The other is that I just don’t agree with the parenting philosophies of the members. We do not have a child-centred home, we have a family-centred home. Each member has rights corresponding to his/her responsibilities. I’m not comfortable giving my child complete freedom. So this group was of no help to me. I’ve also come to realise that unschooling can be hard to ‘learn’ about- it’s just about living life and involving your children. Unschooling, largely, has to be learned about through unschooling.

In a lot of ways I do consider us ‘autonomous’ educators, because even though a lot of what we do is structured, Stiggy wants to do it. I also involve Stiggy in just about everything I do. He works with me around the house, helps me make out the grocery list, goes everywhere with me, we have great discussions about things…we do all of those unschooly things. The only difference is that for about an hour every day we sit at the table and do a few lessons, which he wants to do (usually).

As you can see, I was getting too hung up on the term unschooling. I was thinking that unless we left the classical method behind, and became bonafide unschoolers, t-shirt and all, that spontaneous learning would not happen and all learning would be structured. I thought unstructured, spontaneous, natural learning was synonymous with unschooling. And that simply isn’t true. Spontaneous, natural learning happens in all good homeschools (and homes), regardless of method. How else do children learn to walk, talk, feed themselves, dress themselves, etc? They certainly don’t learn about it from a book.

I know a lot of homeschoolers aren’t concerned about a ‘label.’ But I feel the need to have a niche, to have a reference point. Yes, my son is a reference point, but I need a base from which start and then I can tailor that to my son. If it’s not working, we’ll rethink it. No method is right for all families. All we can do is choose what we think will be best and go with it.

After reading about each one, thinking, trying some things, and ‘sitting on it’ for a while, I always come to a point where I will gaze once again at my copy of TWTM. It appeals to me and my sensibilities. It is truly a method for book lovers, which my son and I are. It is language-based, and print-based which I feel is far better than relying heavily on software and educational programmes (See Jane Healy, Ph.D’s book Endangered Minds) I feel it’s no-nonsense, flexible, and uses tried and tested teaching techniques. The child learns to think logically, clearly, and at a much deeper level and in ways than would otherwise be possible. The child reads the classics, learns to write well, speak well, and learns about logic and persuasive argument. Hidden interests are uncovered because the child is exposed to such a diverse range of topics. And there is plenty of room for interest-led pursuits. He/she learns that that not all things worth doing are easy or immediately gratifying. You can use a wide range of materials. Classical Education is not so much about what you use, but how you use it. As long as the materials are good-quality and suited for your child, they’ll work in the classical method.

The classical method doesn’t leave it all to chance and place all the responsibility on young shoulders; it gives it to the parent, and over time gradually shifts it to the child.

I find this article about the joys of classical education on the Well-Trained Mind website very inspirational.

Please don’t mistake my words. I am not saying that any method is better than another. Just that one is better for us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that regardless of what method is chosen, a child will do well if the parents are commited, educationally-minded, spend lots of time with their child; if they read to their child, play games with their child, and have lots of discussions with their child. According to Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore in The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, ‘The Smithsonian Institute study of twenty world-class geniuses stressed three factors: 1) warm, loving, educationally-minded responsive parents and other adults; 2) scant association outside the family, and 3) a great deal of creative freedom under parental guidance to explore their ideas, drilling if necessary.’ (italics authors’ emphasis, not mine). (Article here) So the key is to pick what works best for you and your family and go for it.

I feel a bit dismayed at all the floundering I’ve done, all the time spent researching and experimenting, but it was necessary. And it’s probably better that I’ve gotten it out of my system now, rather than in the later years when I’ve invested even more time and/or money in something and change my mind. I suppose I’m still not immune to that, but I feel better protected from it.

I’ve also recently discovered that I have a need for change. But that can be satisfied without scrapping everything and embarking on more research.

I’m feeling quite peaceful now. I’ve cut out a lot of yahoo groups and I think I’ll make better use of my free time. I feel I have a better sense of direction and I don’t need to worry constantly, ‘Am I doing this right? Should we be doing it this way? Maybe we should wait/do more/do less/consult someone on this/that group.’ I feel calm and happy with my decision. We’re classical homeschoolers with a love of learning.

 

I Love Classical, but I Wanna Be an Unschooler, Too

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.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2009 in Kindergarten, Time off, Unschooling

 

Moving On

Tomorrow’s the big day…I will take the pregnancy test in the morning, which will tell me if this nightmare is over yet or not. I’ve had some bleeding today, which may be my cycle. It seems a bit soon, but this whole thing began a few weeks ago, so I guess it’s possible.

Anyway, we had a great week. We got back into doing school, and it was just what I needed.

Stiggy did his yoga this week. Here are some high lights from that:

For art, we had red week. I bought Stiggy the book Red is Best. This is such a cute book. A bit young for Stiggy, but since red is his favourite colour, I knew he’d love it. We made puffy paint, using equal parts flour, salt, water, and red paint. It seemed a bit runny to me, so I added a bit more flour and salt. We put this into an empty squeeze bottle. This was a big hit.

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I’ve recently been reading the book Free Range Education which is a collection of stories, mostly from families who unschool. Now, I’ve always been interested in unschooling, and although I can’t imagine going completely unschooly, this book has really made me want to be more unschooly. Yes, since my son’s only 5 we are already in many ways, but I’d like to take it further, and I can see myself ditching some of my more structured educational plans for the future.

I’m equally fascinated and terrified by this approach, and to be honest, some of the accounts in this book have put me off unschooling, but most of the scary ones were of familes who did the autonomous thing when the kids were teenagers and were removed from school. I think the younger they are when they begin, the better things go. But, I do still have certain academic expectations and I don’t see myself letting go of most of these; I just want to add more freedom and make Stiggy more responsible for his learning.

I’ve just created a new Yahoo group. My reason for doing so is that I’ve been disappointed with the 2 unschooling groups I’ve joined. There’s very little discussion about unschooling, and many members are very anti-structure and curricula…and they’re not afraid to let people know. There’s far too much ranting and debate, and too little discussion of what unschoolers do. The UK list I’m on mainly discusses the political aspect of home education and issues with local authorities. There hasn’t been a single post about unschooling so far. Not one.

So, I decided to create my own group. This is a strictly on-topic group to discuss unschooling, what families do each day, resources they use, problems or concerns, how they approach this or that, etc. No ranting, no bashing, no debating phonics versus whole language…there are other lists for that kind of thing. So, if my list sounds good to you, please join! 🙂