I am pretty sure everybody but my dear SIL, Brandi, is getting tired of reading me rant about unschooling, but that's okay. This is my rant space. And honestly, I expect this to be my last battle within. I have slowly been working on it, and I think we have reached the last battle...I won. I won...So I am going to rant or reason, if you will, just for a bit, then post an update on S. Feel free to skip rant.
I was rereading my most recent blog post on my argument for homeschool/unschool. I wanted to proof it, because what is the point in arguing she can get a great education that way if I look like I can't even spell. Quoting one of the paragraphs listed under, "How do you know your child will learn what they need to learn?" (a commonly asked question when people find out we stopped following the standards so rigidly. We would completely, but I have to know for her "grade placement on paper.") Anyway, here it is...
"Here is a thought. Given a supportive, loving environment, children learn all they need to know before school age without or with minimal assistance. They learn to walk, talk, and sometimes sing their ABCs or even read. Until the last few years, preschools were seen as unnecessary. Children were simply allowed to play...until age 5 when they go to school...until age 18...Then after age 18 we leave them on their own to decide what they want to do in life. They need to learn what is necessesary for their career of choice, weather it be in the medical profession, technical profession, a skilled trade, or even a stay at home mom. They learn to be married, have children, travel, whatever it is they want to do, but they learn it by choice and they find the resources or they learn on their own. What happens between the ages of 5 and 18 that makes us not trust children to learn what they need to learn?"
And then it hit me...What is it exactly that school was preparing me for? What is it that I needed to know for my future that it took 13 years to learn it? Why is it that teachers could never answer the question, "When will I need this later on?" You could argue that you need it for college, but in all honesty, you learn the exact same things IN college. Why learn them twice? You don't take Algebra III as your first math class in college. No, you have pre reqs., and those consist of Algebra I and Algebra II. And really there isn't much prior knowledge required. All the explanations are right there in the text, as long as you have knowledge of very basic math. Not to mention, that only a percentage of people go to college because they WANT to go to college. Many don't want to disappoint family or they just go because that is "the next step." And most of those people don't even graduate, despite all their former schooling. So why are we ALL learning the same stuff? Interesting thought."
Not convinced? I wasn't either. So I continued to read and saw the list of things we do after we graduate. Some go to college. But whatever they do, they prepare for a career, weather it is conventional career, an entrepreneurial career, or staying at home career. They have to learn skills, skills we weren't taught in school. Many people learn it without coercion because it is something they want. Many learn without formal teaching. They research and they DO. I have learned how to be a stay at home Mom. I have learned ALL about homeschooling. I have learned SO MUCH about gardening. I have even done all the research about backpacking, which we enjoy so much. I have learned what gear to pack, and how. I know what areas you can camp and how far in we should hike, what we need around us in order to make the hike/camp easier. And the list could go on about that. I have learned about couponing and bargain finding. I have learned to cook. Not to mention I have learned about alternative medicines. And I am still learning...Okay. I will stop there. You get the picture. So I am thinking. Thinking. What did I learn in school that helped me to get where I am today? What were the pre reqs. if you will, to learning these things. Reading. Basic math. Hm. Now I am stumped. But I learned those things in Kindergarten and 1st grade. I could have taught myself that stuff, with maybe some parental guidance. So where does that leave me? Pissed. That's where. What was I doing all that time? What do I even remember that has helped me throughout the last 5 years? And aren't I going to slowly forget it as I grow older? I have met many people who tell me, "Oh. I haven't been in school for 10 years, I don't remember." But what? I was in school for 13! What do you mean I won't remember any of it in 5 more years?
Okay. So I realize that what I have been preaching this whole time makes even more sense than it used to. Allow children to play. Allow them to explore while they are young and they will learn. They will learn from each other. They will learn by listening to adult conversation. They will learn by seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, DOING. Children will take interest in things and just go with them. And they may not go on that subject very long, but it will stick with them or it will lead them to a new interest. And before you know it, they have obtained all the necessary skills, on their own, to do whatever it is they want to do. One day they may not be reading. And the next they might be gobbling up a book on "How To Draw." Then next thing you know their artistic abilities are soaring. Next think you know they have started their own business selling their drawings and learning about money in order to do that. Then they move on to 3-D models, which sparks an interest in engineering. And then they spend the next year day in and day out, building towns out of model clay. Then they play Roller Coaster Tycoon or Minecraft on the computer sun up to sun down. And then a friend tells them about CAD. So they begin designing things on there. Then as a teenager they get an internship somewhere and that is their life career now. They are happy. They get to work from home and follow their passion at the same time that they can be with their family (assuming that is what this particular child wants in life. Maybe he just wants to travel, and working from home allows it. That would be good too.) Whew! That was a lot, but that is how it should be. I know. I have watched my child go through the beginning steps over the past year. She was practicing drawing. And one moment she couldn't read. Then next moment she could and she was soaring through those How To books. Then she got on the computer and messed around on Minecraft. I just ordered Roller Coaster Tycoon for her...wonder what is next...
My heart has been telling my mind for over a year that unschooling is right for us. Unschooling does not mean her life will be ruined. But I keep hearing that tiny voice inside my head...Her name is Society...and it kept saying, "You are a lazy Mom." "Your child will fail." "You are ruining her forever!" But as this "school year" draws to a close, I have completely stomped that fire out. Now all that is left is a few embers, but I don't expect them to catch flame again anytime soon. For I have made the connection from my heart to my mind that this is the life we will live, and we will live it guilt free. (Who knew writing that letter would help me to convince myself? Ha! Too funny.)
Update On S: Now it is update time. S has been spending so much time playing lately! I watch my brother on school breaks and that gives her plenty of opportunity for unstructured, unsupervised play! I can hear them playing accross the house. (Of course she doesn't realize that.) I can hear them making up games and negotiating rules, trying to keep each other happy. They argue and they figure out solutions. They imagine and play different roles. They innovate together. Most recently they came in to request use of one of my baskets I use for decoration. I did not question, as I could see the creative juices flowing. They headed straight outside and collected all sorts of natural materials to construct a fairy house. They problem solved when they couldn't get the roof right. They preplanned all the extras they wanted to add, then estimated how many of each material they would need to make it just right. At one point S estimated 5 rocks, then said, "I think we need 6, so we are 1 short." I let it be known, at the point where they put the play on pause and said to me, "We can't figure out what to use as sleeping bags." that I had a sewing machine with plenty of scrap fabric. We spent the rest of the day learning to sew fairy clothes and pillows, which sparked my interest in attempting another pillow case dress for S, which is going very well! We used the popcorn popper to make some popcorn, which they always love watching and seeing "how it works," and then they had me pretend I was doing a tutorial on how to make a pillowcase dress. They sat through the whole thing and listened intently. Their interest in learning to use the sewing machine peaked after being allowed to play with it in another room, free to do whatever they wanted with it. I told them if they learned to hand sew well I would teach them the machine. The have been practicing ever sense....It has been a great Summer, the best so far. A good balance between unsupervised play and time together. Time inside and time outside. Time going fun place and exploring and down time. Through all this unstructured (more so than usual) daily learning, S has mastered reading books on her own, reading menus, signs, anything with text really. Money and value has clicked for her. Fractions have clicked for her. Her art has improved. Her understanding of her world has improved. And all the way, it has been fun.
Speaking of fun, we are about half way through Summer break. Most people are about to start preparing for "Back to School" shopping and finding out classes, and in about 6 short weeks, classes in my area will be back in session. Last year we took S to WalMart to "school shop," but quickly found the expenses add up and aren't really worth it for things you aren't going to use. So we may take her to get some art supplies, but for the most part, pencil cases, folders, and the like are wasteful for us. We get 95% of our books from the library, but may take her to McKays to buy some for fun. Last year I also bought academic board games, which will grow with her from US Geography to World Geography, from addition and subtraction, to multiplication, division, fractions, all the way up to Algebra. So no need for more. THIS YEAR, I am collection old computer games for her! Older games were fun. They did focus SOLEY on memorizing, but playing, having fun, and truly understanding and problem solving. So J bought Roller Coaster Tycoon and I am also going to buy Freddi Fish, ZOombinis, Oregon Trail if I can find it, maybe some Reader Rabbit if I can remember the ones I played...any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. This year is going to be great.
Side Note: I have been adding to her progress report all year-for my files. Oh my! The things we have done, seen, and learned this year! Unbelievable! I cannot finish it until September 1st. (The school year starts September 1st-August 31st for us. So I have to wait to finish it.) I will post it when I am done. It is so hard to believe, after all we have done this year and all she knows, that this Fall would be her first year in school. She would JUST be in Kindergarten! I can't even imagine his things would change for us.