Saturday, January 3, 2009

Unschooling Books

I am currently finished reading volume 1 of Charlotte Mason's Homeschooling series. While I like/liked it, I certainly don't agree 100% with what she has to say and some of her habit ideas are good, but require too much nagging(though she claims it isnt my humble opinion, it is) for peaceful parenting. After finishing that volume, I skimmed the other 5 volumes and liked what I saw in those even less. Many things she suggests will seem contrived to the kids and annoy them. Her education ideas are good and many of her outdoor ideas and other things are great, but as with anything, you take what is good and leave the rest. I am not sure I want to read the other volumes at this point. For now, they will set on the bookshelf until I feel like reading them.

It inspired me to go digging and find my unschooling books and to actually slowly and carefully reread them. I am reading Unschooling, How the Use the World as Your Child's Classroom right now and it is so much better 2 years later with 2 years more experience and fresh eyes. Having read many other theories and continually trying them out, I know that after unschooling for a few years, I freaked out and decided I could be doing my kids a disservice and I ordered Sonlight, only to be utterly burned out by week 7 so we sent that packing. The last 3+ months, we have been using the Charlotte Mason method loosely, only to be finding once again, some burn out. Not sure if other homeschoolers suffer constant burnout and keep changing programs, but we tend to do that unless we are unschooling in which everything is just changing constantly with life/seasons so nothing gets burnt out. One way I think I have found the key to eliminating the nerves next time they arise is to alway be reading a new book on the subject of unschooling to keep inspired. Its very similar to the gospel, if you quite reading your scriptures, you feel less and less spiritually inspired right? I feel reignited to unschool, only this time differently as this time my kids are in a different place where I feel more confident in their learning abilities. As they get older, I am realizing a lot of learning is taking place via osmosis and nothing to do with my doing it. In fact, the things they choose to read and study are things they actually remember. Anything I try to cram in them seems to be a waste. We read together for enjoyment and that doesn't seem a waste at all as we all pick the books together and read some each day. Its become a huge treat that we all look forward to. I guess I am also more confident than ever in unschooling having the dish turned off because I KNOW they are really learning now by not sitting around watching tv all day long. They are always doing something inventive and fun.

Some of the things I have read about that never occurred to me or stood out to me last time I read this book was for begining readers, when they do watch tv/movies to turn on the closed captioning. What a brilliant idea! Why didn't I think of that. So, I turned it on so that when and if they turn tv on to watch anything or if they watch a movie, it will automatically be subconsciously helping my early readers as well as Kayla who is quite proficient. I am learning also that no matter how hard I push or don't push reading, some kids do naturally come to it much younger. I swear I never taught Kayla to read. I don't even know how she learned. It just sorta accidentally happened as at the time I didn't have any program to teach it to her. I just read to her a lot and told her the sounds letters make and wala. Wyatt, I have tried so tirelessly to teach reading to via Hooked on Phonics last year(while we were unschooling everything else), Sonlight, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to no avail. He can read very short, little books with 3 words or so per page, but he is almost 7 years old and no where near proficient. Everett is almost 6 and can't read more than a few select words and you know what, he is brilliant and I am not worried in the slightest. I know it will come to Wyatt and Everett, but I need to allow it to come in their time which means backing off. It hilarious because we did nothing formal for December, just read, watched movies, baked, played games, and did all sorts of things for Christmas festivities and when we sat down the day after Christmas to do some formal schooling, their reading and writing was better than it has ever been....why? Because they weren't being pushed to do anything during December, they were able to relax and be themselves and learn the way kids learn best, through osmosis, through just happened, it was unintentional. Now in our third week back to "semi formal" schooling, Charlotte Mason style of course(which is very unschoolerish in most areas(it lacks unschooling quality though as you are the one suggesting, forcing and making it happen, not the kids), I see the kids already looking bummed when I pull our basket of books/workbooks out each day. Today was supposed to be week 3, day 2 back since Christmas, but I just couldn't bear to see their disappointed faces once again when I pulled out "the basket" so I called off formal schoolwork. Nate had to go to the dump this morning with his dad to help him unload a bunch of old stuff and we had stuff that needed to go as well since we are clearing everything out for the move soon so I asked him to take the boys. He seemed puzzled and asked about "school." I told him, "Where in a book are they going to experience the nasty odors, the ants, the bugs, the weighing of the trailer, the money exchange, the oil bins, the consumerism that fills the earth up with garbage, the land movers burying, the recycling area, the old appliances that no longer work........where could I give them that?" He looked at me and said, "hmm good point, get ready boys." The boys of course had a blast. Kayla had no desire to go as she went with Daddy once before and that was enough for her so she stayed home with me and Kenna and finished knitting a scarf while I read.

I then got a brilliant idea to take the weekly grocery store mailer and have the kids help me, when they got back of course, to create a 1 week meal plan based on things that were on sale this week in the mailer and what they like. I told them the budget was 80 dollars and we all worked together and they came close, reaching 90 dollars, but I of course had to add toilet paper and a few non edible items, bringing our total to 100 with tax. We talked about weight of apples and oranges and about how many pounds we would want. Kayla added .69 four times to get the total that 4 lbs of apples were going to want for the week. Not that I need to categorize everything, but I feel a need usually for outside skeptics(another hurdle of unschooling for me that maybe one day I will get over) so if you look at that planning, it entailed, health/nutrition(I reminded them that each meal needed to be balanced and told them what balance was), math, price comparison, and reading to see amounts and what brands were on sale. Each week, I will be taking 2 kids to the store with me. I will separate my list in half and each child will be responsible to find everything on their own list as we walk through together. They will have to weigh the fruits and veggies, price comparison shop and check amounts per pound and estimate costs(keeping within our assigned amounts). This in itself is like a game to them. They don't realize how much they are learning by doing this and it really eliminates the need for math workbooks in my opinion. Real math in real life is so much more meaningful. Between this activity, baking, cooking, measuring, playing Chutes and Ladders/Connect Four/Dominoes/Monopoly Jr/Checkers, and so many other things they encounter, what good reason is there to force them to sit mindlessly working on math problems that make them all want to cry? Everett actually enjoys his math workbook and they will always be able to access these workbooks if they want them and my bet is that Everett will finish his off even faster now that there wont be a limit. I actually have to stop him most days because he wants to do too much math and we need to "move on" to the next subject. This lifestyle is so freeing. I just had to write about it as I am so passionately reinspired to unschool.

My next read is Christian Unschooling and then I filled my Amazon cart up for my upcoming birthday with a few others that I want to read/own; Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming Parent-child Relationships from Reaction And Struggle to Freedom, Power And Joy, Learning All The Time, The Unschooling Unmanual, and lastly Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves.

Lastly, here is a blog about Radical Christian Unschooling that I like and this post especially really says it beautiful about how and why, if done correctly, radical unschooling can be a part of a Christian home.

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