Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unschooling is Turning Out Perfect!

Unschooling is turning out EXACTLY as I hoped it would when I first read about it over eight years ago and we incorporated it into our family life. Over the years both Alexander and Sophia have been given the freedom to play as often as they desired. It is unbelievable how much can be learned from building with Lego's, creating homes for Playmobil, or even playing video games! I am a big believer in the power of play and feel sad that it is taken from so many children at an early age. We have spent countless hours snuggled together reading book after book. We have explored museums and other interesting places. We have done fun science experiments together generally lead by the kids. We have found learning in cooking together, in exploring together and even on the days we were just being plain lazy.

Both Sophia and Alexander have had their own timetables and styles for learning reading, writing and math. Sophia learned to read almost completely on her own while Alexander needed more phonics instruction. Math has been something that has come from living life. We tend to include them in talks about grocery spending, our mortgage payment, pay from work, credit cards, cooking, music, and more. There is so much math that just comes from living. The secret is really including your children in your daily life and being a part of their daily life. This is the part that is missed by many who believe unschooling parents to be lazy or irresponsible. I have noticed that even some that have tried unschooling and never "got it" just didn't understand this crucial part. You have to really be a part of each other's life.

Unschooling and the freedom it allows has benefited our family. I feel proud of both my children. They have their individual learning styles. They are both always asking questions, always open to exploring new ideas and just naturally curious people.

What I have always loved about unschooling is that our children are given the same privileges to learn as we as adults give ourselves. As adults we dive into things that interest us, but let them go when we feel they have satisfied our needs. We take breaks and do absolutely nothing until our curiosity comes back and we are out reading and researching something new again. This is how unschooling works for us.

Recently we have seen changes in Alexander and what he needs to learn. Alexander has always had a very inquisitive mind. Even while playing video games he has had questions that have set us off researching additional information about the time period, the weapons, and the clothing. Recently he has decided that he wants to incorporate more academics into our schedule. After sharing that he wanted to learn algebra, a class was formed with other boys his age and is run by a homeschooling dad with a lot of math/teaching experience. He loves this class! At home he makes sure we work on reading and writing everyday. I mean EVERYDAY. Weekends don't mean days off to him. Just like adults, once we have something we want to learn, we don't think of our learning time in "school" time. We spend as much of our time with it as we feel we need to.

Since the first day of learning about unschooling it has felt right for me. I have never doubted it because I see my children constantly moving forward in their learning and thinking. As we move into the teen years, we will need to adjust how we unschool to meet the needs of both kids whether that means more social outings, participating in more classes and doing more sit down school work at home. It might even mean that at some point they want to try out public school or an alternative school. Unschooling allows for these changes because you are meeting the needs of the individual child rather than the parent or a school district. So far our journey has been amazing and I look forward to the changes that will be coming our way as both kids get a feel for what they need academically.