Monday, December 10, 2007

Unschooling through the ages

Unschooling Voices, Issue #11 asks: How, if at all, does unschooling look different as your child ages and grows? Is it different now than it was a few years back? What role does age play in unschooling?

Even though Violet (now age 8) only went to "school", and that was as a homeschooler through a charter, for 1 1/2 years, I felt than it did affect her in several ways. For one, once we were "required" to provide documentation of math skills based on state mandated standards she started to feel stress and came to dislike "math" greatly. When she started to express that she "hated math" to me it became clear to me that the public school system way of learning was affecting her negatively in this area. Prior to enrolling in school she never hated learning anything. In fact, she had a love of learning that, looking back, I really honestly wish had never been tampered with.

It has taken about 2 years of deschooling math for her to even have an interest in anything resembling math. In fact, today I try to avoid using the word "math". I can now see math occurring almost daily in so many different ways. I have completely let it go, and am now pleased to see it happening very naturally and on a self-motivated, need to know basis. My mom, who has been a great supporter of our choice to unschool, recently picked up a little addition practice chart board. I initially thought that Violet would have no interest in it at all. But, she started going through it, and I think she surprised herself, and found that she already knew many of the answers by heart. I recently read this page on Sandra Dodd's list of "math" in real life. There is a great link called Math A Few Words About Unschooling Math that I found myself nodding my head as I read it. Math is so much a part of normal life that I'm really surprised to see how someone could not learn it naturally.

I'm glad to say that her love of learning in other areas were never affected. She still is an avid reader, and from that alone comes everything else. She enjoys watching on line videos and playing on line games, reading strategy guides, magazines, catalogs, collecting & trading Pokemon cards, watching W.I.T.C.H., Avatar, & Pokemon on TV. They both enjoy a science group that we go to. We started an American Girl club based on the American Girl book series (historical fiction). Going to 4H, where she helps out with craft group, scrapbooking, & photography. Girl Scouts. Several different park days, one being a wide mixture of homeschool types, and one an unschooling group.

Recently, we've been watching this program on TV called Kids Nation. Most of the kids showed a dislike of school, and when given the option of a video arcade or a library, preferred the video arcade. One little girl flat out said that she hated books, hated learning. We were really surprised and saddened to hear a child say that. One must wonder what made her dislike it so much. I thought it pretty ironic though, that the kids all seemed to be learning so much in an unschooly kind of way. It was funny too, that when they were initially given the video arcade many of them spent all of their time in there, disregarding their chores. I think that when a child is restricted from something, when given the opportunity they will do it all day. But as I have seen and other unschoolers can attest, eventually the attraction of it goes away, when they are not controlled from playing games and watching TV whenever they want. When Violet initially got her Nintendo she did play it all day, every day, for some time. Eventually, she got bored with it and wanted to do other things. She still plays with it on and off, sometimes several days go by without her playing it, other times she'll play with it for hours. But, I don't see it as negative thing. It's just one of her many interests. And she amazes me with the things she picks up from playing it, and the interests that it leads to. She also recently asked me to remove her TV from her room. She wanted her desk clear for her laptop and some other stuff.

Olivia (age 4) has never had any type of formal schooling. She lives life fully. Full of joy, full of interest and creativity. She's never been instructed to do something "this way" and therefore comes up with many beautiful, interesting creations. She is a highly motivated self learner. I constantly find her eager to learn. She likes to write letters, cut paper and create things from it, build things, loves to read stories with me, play games on the computer, sing, dance, play with friends. Where I see Violet hesitant sometimes, and often asking permission for something, Olivia just goes head first into things. She is sometimes fearless, but is learning about risks as we let her know what the consequence may be and assist her in making choices that are right for her. Violet was more controlled when she was younger so she usually asks first and is much more cautious. I now, often tell her that she does not have to ask (food, watch TV, etc) but she still does out of habit, I suppose.

I think that mostly unschooling looks different in our home now, because my outlook has changed. All of the things that I've read about unschooling have come true for us. There were many things that I was not sure could possibly be true, and yet when I trusted and allowed myself to be open to the ideas presented, did come true. My children (& I) are learning all the time. It doesn't resemble the learning that occurs in school, it doesn't occur during any specific hours, but I think it is learning that more closely resembles what living an authentic life looks like. Enjoying learning. Having fun. Making friends. Interacting with all types of people. Developing and pursuing new interests, letting them go. Having real life experiences. And so much more.....

For more takes on Unschooling through the ages go to Unschooling Voices. More articles to be linked on January 1st.

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