Thursday, February 27, 2014

U is for Unschooling

When my husband and I first considered homeschooling (when the twins were toddlers), I honestly thought the only way to homeschool was to buy textbooks and workbooks and sit at the kitchen table (or at cute desks you set up in another room of your house) and "do school".  Based on questions I often get from people when we're out and about, I wasn't alone in that assumption.

Thankfully, as I began to research and plan, I realized there is a whole spectrum of homeschooling available. On one end of the spectrum is school at home. At the other end of the spectrum is radical unschooling. Most homeschoolers fall somewhere in the middle. I don't consider us to be unschoolers, per se. I consider us to be eclectic (pulling pieces from a variety of approaches), leaning toward unschooling. But, since this week's letter is U, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of the unschooling pieces of our homeschooling journey.

Unschooling probably has more different definitions as there are unschoolers. Each unschooling family has their own definition, and many other people have, often inaccurate, definitions as well. The most common, not-usually-accurate, definition is that unschoolers "let their kids do whatever they want . . . the kids play video games all day and don't learn anything". defines unschooling as a method of homeschooling that puts the desire, drive, motive and responsibility for life - this thing we call learning, or education - in the hands of the learner.

Interestingly, based on that definition, we most definitely ARE unschoolers. But, for the purposes of this post I wanted to tell you about a few times when their learning has been at it's most spontaneous.

Last winter, we moved. It was rather chaotic, with some major renovation projects that had to happen as soon as we moved in, on top of unpacking and getting settled. During that time, the most I could do for "school time" was to make sure we had something educational in the CD player in the car whenever we drove somewhere. I figured they were helping Papa with renovations, so that was adding in at least a little extra school, and that would have to do for the time being.  But they needed SOMETHING to do, so they decided to start a newspaper . . . they learned creative writing, I occasionally, pointed out spelling and grammar issues, and then, when I showed Lexie how to do the newspaper on the computer, she learned formatting in a word processor (and more spelling and grammar since those little red wavy lines made her more aware). They decided to "sell subscriptions" of the paper to their grandparents, and Daddy and I, so that added in discussions on marketing, pricing, etc. It turned a "lull" in our school into an EXTREMELY educational phase, all at their own instigation.

More recently Ashlyn came and asked to borrow the iPad one day. I didn't think much of it, until she came
down awhile later with a detailed diagram of the heart! At the beginning of the year, I mentioned to her that I'd found an online site with monthly art journal prompts, and asked if she'd be interested in doing that for 2014. She was, so at the beginning of the month I print out that month's prompts and hand them to her. One of February's prompts was to research and draw a diagram of the heart, and my child, the one who has had complete melt-downs when I suggest she look a word up in the dictionary instead of me telling her what it means, got the iPad, found videos and diagrams of the heart, and drew her diagram. Then, since it coincided with dh's visit to the cardiologist, the diagram led to a discussion about what the cardiologist had said, which sent her back, doing more research, and making her diagram more detailed and then explaining to Daddy exactly what was happening with his heart. So a "fun" art journal, led to a science lesson AND lesson in how to research information, a skill she has completely balked at up to this point :)

Those are some of the "big" unschooling episodes, but there are so many little ones in everyday life . . . as we've been learning about fractions in math, the girls roll their eyes at how EASY it is to multiply and divide fractions, because they've been doing it for years, when we double, or halve recipes while cooking . . . reading over my shoulder when I'm trying to hurry to finish a blog post about unschooling leads to a discussion about when/how/why to use those 3 dots . . . and the list goes on.

Whether or not you'd ever consider unschooling as your homeschool method of choice, I encourage you to look for those little everyday moments and encourage them! You never know what your child might learn, when given the chance to follow their own interests.

This post is part of Blogging Through the Alphabet on

1 comment:

Mary said...

Love it. Thanks for this.