My hubby is back at work after two months home recovering from knee surgery.
He’s fully recovered, thank goodness! I feel a bit like Boo after getting a Disney Princess rug for Christmas (see video):
At first having him home was nice, not the part where he was in pain and couldn’t move around, but the fact that he didn’t have to get up so early, so we could stay up and watch movies together. However, this majorly ate into my blogging time and just plain alone time.
Yes, after a while all that time together became a bit tedious. During the day, I was used to zipping around the house, getting chores done at top speed, between home school classes and projects. With him home, I didn’t like to run circles around him, so less would get done. To the kids, Daddy being home meant play time, so, naturally, it was play time all the time with him home all day long. And because he couldn’t get around, there was a lot, I mean a lot, of t.v. watching.
It was no big deal at first. I watched movies and spent that family time together with them. It wasn’t until my messy house started closing us in, almost no learning of any type that resembled school had happened in weeks, the kids were becoming stir crazy maniacs (no, we didn’t stay home all the time, they still went to their usual weekly classes, but that much screen time does have an affect), that I could hardly stand it anymore!
Then, I escaped (my husband was able to move around enough to help the kids get to bed by this time and agreed to my going) to a talk about trusting children to learn by a well known unschooling advocate, Pam Sorooshian.
I had read about unschooling and the idea resonates with me, and it was perfect timing as my kids were doing nothing but unschooling and not entirely by my choice.
The talk reminded me that:
they are always learning
we don’t have a deadline or time frame
I want to let them learn at their own pace and be lifelong learners
I don’t have to over schedule or push them to learn what I think they should know
Much of what is learned in school will be forgotten or irrelevant twenty years from now anyway!
Their interests will lead them down the path they want in their own lives, and they will have the desire and know-how to learn what they need to achieve their goals.
This was a huge weight off my shoulders and we began to have much more fun as my anxiety melted away (for the time being). Also, the longer he was home and the more he could move, my husband began watching less t.v. and playing more with the kids. They would build with Lego’s, draw, create things together, and once he could sit comfortably at the table, we played with puzzles and board games.
I haven’t demanded any subject or specific learning type of activity of my kids since around last November and I have been in complete awe of what I have seen, especially this last month. It seems to me that at first they just played more; played the computer, watched, t.v., goofed off with their freedom. But, as time went on, their thirst for learning increased! Of course, I’m constantly introducing new things, often I will set an intriguing book on the table, watch a documentary, begin a puzzle, play with an educational toy, and the kids will eventually join me or inspect it on their own out of curiosity. If it piques their interest they will ask for more.
Awesome learning that has taken place in the last two weeks by my 7 year old son’s desire alone:
He began reading to his dad at night, is gaining much confidence, and it’s slowly getting easier for him.
Watched the movie ‘The Last Mimsy‘, watched all the amazing special features, such as how the ear works, what a Mandala is, what nanotechnology is, etc. He has drawn dozens of Mandala’s, asked for printable ones to color, made his own with Tangrams, rubber band boards, and other materials, and checked out books from the library on Mandalas and Tibetan beliefs. Best Mandala book is
Full of vivid photos from nature.
Played many games, created a cardboard time machine and other inventions based on the movie, acted out scenes, and created his own similar stories.
Began “writing” a novel (he’s dictating it to me) about pirates that is very detailed.
Played reading & math board games, among others. There has been a lot of Candy Land, too, as that is Boo’s favorite!
Borrowed a Right Start math kit and can’t get enough play with the abacus and scale.
Created his own cardboard scale as exact as he could to the plastic one, so he could keep it. He became so frustrated that he couldn’t get it to balance correctly, that it made me think of a child being forced to do a project he absolutely hated, there were even tears, though this was his own assignment. No one was forcing him to do it! I had to hold back laughter at the scene. I told him he could just use the plastic one. He asked for my help, but didn’t like my suggestions and worked through his frustration on his own, determined to complete his own working scale. It took him all afternoon and he succeeded!
He promptly made it into a catapult for fishy crackers, then modified it to make it fling farther adding cups to hold the fish and rubber bands for tension.
He made a collage of a food web to illustrate how cutting down one oak tree can affect many other species, based on a food web we read about in a book.
He made another collage of the food pyramid and we discussed healthy portions, which foods were healthier, prompted by reading one of the best books for kids on eating and digestion:
I helped by finding all the pictures and cutting them out of old National Geographic for Kids magazines. We had a blast doing it together. Boo, (three) loved the cutting and pasting, and was determined to have her food groups in the right order, though I expected her to just paste them anywhere on her paper.
I’ll try to get pics of these to inspire you to make your own with your kids.
We named coins and values so he could know how much change he had. We counted nickles by 5’s, and dimes by 10’s which I wrote out for him. Now, I had tried to get him to learn this a year ago, but he couldn’t seem to get the pattern. This time, I never mentioned any pattern, and he said, “look mom, there’s a pattern” he took my pen and continued my 5’s in a list down to the number 50 on his own.
A huge reminder to me that waiting until a child is ready, rather than trying to push a concept they’re just not ready for, because schools say it’s time to learn it.. well, I will store this moment in memory for the future!
We watched a short video on YouTube on the effect Wolves have had after returning to Yellowstone National Park. He made his best friend watch it, too. He sat and watched a longer documentary on Wolves just so he could draw draft after draft until he could produce a drawing that looked like a wolf to his satisfaction.
He scoured the library for every book, story, and video on wolves they had in stock.
His determination to complete a project, his producing multiple drafts of the same thing until he feels he’s improved as much as possible, his focus, his creativity, desire, enthusiasm, love and thirst for knowledge.. I’m absolutely in amazement.
I’m not saying any other kid would do the same sorts of things. Every child is different, every family is different, but what might yours do if you let go of all control of what you think he or she should learn? And for long enough to get past the novelty of their freedom, the pushing of boundaries, to just enjoy learning what they want for no other reason than that they wish to learn it?
I hope you’re inspired to at least give them a chance. Trust that they can and will learn without anyone dictating who, what, why, and how every step of the way, without trying to determine if they’ve learned enough with tests. Think how that system would fare with you at your current age and profession.
My goal is to let my kids find their passions.
They will, and they will learn what they need to know in order to make that passion their living. Ultimately I want them to be happy, very, very happy in life, and being passionate about what you do is much more a recipe for that than anything.
We’re doing a bit of that this week as my hubby is home with a concussion. Nice to have him home, but it means all our routines are out the window as I try to take the opportunity to do more writing while he spends time with the kids, but then the housework and assignments pile up. I’ve made a (partial/flexible) plan for tomorrow – we’ll see how it goes.
With many things just popping up recently, I feel like nothing’s being done, but the kids have learned what a notary public does, they’ve learned all about root canals (and my 6yo made a dentist’s chair from Lego – and then my 8yo created the rest of the office), Tuesday they’ll learn all about optometrists and their equipment during our appointment there, We’ve stopped by museums and exhibits along the way we hadn’t planned on, and they took away some knowledge with them.
It’s great to see kids learn on their own and run with a topic! Well done to your family!
L. E. Mastilock says
Sounds like your kids have packed in a ton of learning without your even trying! Things have been “popping up” for us over the last couple years and we still haven’t been able to settle into a routine. Maybe that is for the best, though! We can keep learning what is relevant and meaningful to us along this bumpy road of life.
Anne Campbell says
It’s so tough when our household routine gets interrupted. Weekends are welcome when they arrive, but then they need to go so we can get back into our groove. When something happens that extends that weekend feeling beyond a few days, things start to pile up and our schooling takes a backseat. It’s wonderful that you were able to turn this around and incorporate some opportunities for learning into your kids’ days, and that they were able to extend it by following their own curiosity to discover more.
Cee Lee Reed says
I like the idea of child led learning but I definitely feel that the parent needs to have a structure in place…even though the little ones don’t realize it. This concept of unlearning is so interesting to me as a natural born hoverer! Ultimately, we want our kids to enjoy learning and MoMs know what’s best for their kids level. Glad that your son enjoyed his creations.
Lillian Connelly says
We are homeschooling my daughter. She just turned 4. I have read a lot about unschooling. I am so nervous about it. I worry so much about my daughter not learning what she needs to learn. Even though unschooling resonates with me on such a deep level, I still have my doubts. Reading this has been really encouraging and has put my mind at ease. I've noticed that the more I try to "teach" my daughter what I think she should be learning the more she resists. When I let her go at her own pace and when she is ready she does really well.
It's so hard not to worry! But when you see them get something without any pressure, and become passionate about their own interests, it's wonderful!
Janice Trinh | Gathering Graces says
Wow. Unschooling is something I just can't imagine doing with my kids. I'm such an old school person and stickler for a system, that I can't imagine just "going with it." But I do let my kids learn extra stuff that comes up during our subjects. My husband and I both know what information they'll have to know later on anyway, so we just introduce ideas earlier as much as they could understand it. It's really great because not only do they know "grade level stuff," they have extra info that other kids wouldn't normally know until at a later grade.
But kudos to you for having the courage to unschool! It must've been really difficult in the beginning. But all the wonderful learning going on is sure bet that you're doing it right! Good job, mama!
Glad they have the freedom to expand into other subjects, or spend time delving into topics they're interested. That's the best things about homeschooling! Freedom!
What amazing learning experiences!! This is inspiring me to take more notes about what my unschooler is up to. I'm convinced it's the best way to learn and to live. Bravo, monkey and mama!
Yes, it's hard to remember day to day, or a week from now, so I do try to write stuff down. Then when I'm worrying if I'm doing the right thing, I can look back at all the learning going on! Just as long as you don't end up following your kids around with a notebook!
So glad your husband is healed. What I great, encouraging learning experience for you, Mom! That is a whole lot of education going on! And fun at the same time. I love child-directed learning–it is such a pleasure to see. : )
I'm glad I had started writing this so months later, while I'm second guessing, I can remember all the great learning that goes on without my pushing