Thursday, May 9, 2013

Unschooling myself.

Someone in our homeschool group recently summed up our first year of school at home perfectly. She said, "Most homeschoolers break the year roughly into thirds. We start out really gung ho with classical education, slide into more of a Charlotte Mason style a few months later, and by the end of the year we're all pretty much unschooling."

I couldn't help but laugh. It's exactly what our year has been like. Well, aside from starting out with classical education. That is just way too much structure for anyone in this family. But mentally I did spend the first few months sizing up all of our options, making sure we had found the best fit for all the important first grade subjects, and just generally worrying that I was somehow going to mess my kid up for life.

Then I started to find my groove and relaxed a bit. We introduced the list and started enjoying our time together rather than constantly wondering if so-and-so was doing homeschool better or how much more the kid next door might be learning with seven hours a day at school plus homework.

But it wasn't until recently (probably the last third of our year considering we'll be learning "year round") that I let go even more. And the last week or so, I've been running a real loose ship. Because the more I learn about unschooling, the more I want to drink the Cool Aid. And as I integrate it more and more into our lives, I am seeing what a great fit it is for our family.

I don't know why I'm surprised. We've been "unschooling" our kids since they were born. We just didn't call it unschooling. We called it parenting.

Intentional parenting.

We tune into our kids, listen when they talk, dive in when they express an interest in something, give them lots of unstructured time to be creative (whatever that ends up meaning), and use the whole entire world for our classroom. There are no school days or hours because learning happens all the time. Everything you do presents a teachable moment. Everyone you know becomes a teacher.

Geocaching with a friend/teacher @ Cumberland Park.
Once you realize that as a parent, it's only natural to surround your children with opportunities for positive growth (they're going to be learning no matter what...why not guide them to pick up some of the basics along the way?). It's why our home is filled with books and music and games and flashcards. Why we've been doing workbooks with Liam since he was really little. Because when you don't think learning is hard or boring or something you "have" to do, it's actually really fun.

But it's the non "academics" that surprise me the most. When I step back and don't tell Liam what to do for a few days (aside from the classes and things we have already committed to), I am amazed at some of the stuff he comes up with. He stays busy all day, making things, reading, starting businesses, thinking, playing outside, teaching Finn, inviting people over for dinner, you name it.

He occasionally watches a show or plays a video game (there aren't really any limitations), but not nearly as much as I would think that he would. Except when he does, of course (we all have those days...). But he's always learned a ton from screens so I don't really have a problem with it (like making maps for Canada and Greenland then locating them on the map...inspired by Phineas and Ferb).

It kind of blows me away how well unschooling works for our family (although I hate the name). I might go so far as to say we've finally found our niche (a little of this, a little of that plus lots of unstructured time). Although, if there's one thing I've learned this year it's that things are constantly evolving. Check back with me in the fall. I may be singing the praises of a school-in-a-box style curriculum.

Although, I'd be willing to bet we'll still be making it up as we go along, using the world as our classroom. We're having way too much fun to stop now. And you never know where the next big lesson might show up...

"Field trip" - Courtney Jaye at the Basement


jen scaffidi said...

I'm taking piano lessons right now. I could play your house theme song!

Cheyenne said...

My husband and I were talking about homeschooling, specifically unschooling, just a couple of days ago and discussing the wide spectrum that exists in homeschooling, particularly as it relates to unschooling. (I'm not a fan of the name either...mostly because it requires explanation to many who don't understand it!) Thank you for your really sums up our conversation well and puts some clarity to the thoughts I have about unschooling. We, too, are an ever-evolving unschooling family and are learning right along with our kids what works best for our family! It's so amazing just how much learning takes place during all of that unstructured time! Thanks again!

No Mommy Brain said...

@ jen - me too! (and liam) it's the first time i've tried to learn music and it is making me endlessly impressed by all you effortless looking musicians out there. you rock! literally! ; )

No Mommy Brain said...

@ cheyenne - thanks for your note. it's always nice to connect with people in the same boat. if you haven't read "the unschooling handbook" i'd recommend you check it out. the last chapter was my favorite - it talked about how unschooling is just as much a game changer for the parents as it is for the kids. so true!