Unschooling Explosions

Ladybug enjoys the end of the January thaw at the edge
of the blueberry field. Little adventures are ours to have
when it suits us.Who doesn't love a flexible
schedule filled with adventure and exploration?
We have had some unschooling explosions here on the homestead. We were stumbling along, unsure of our progress-- a little insecure about our direction-- and boom: fireworks!
Unschooling is a philosophical approach to homeschool that is primarily child-led and founded on the idea that children were born to learn. It is fueled by a love of learning and a frustration with teacher-forced lessons that can't (by nature of the classroom) or won't (by philosophy) take the time to tease out the unique learning style and inherent gifts of an individual. (Keep in mind that we have both been teachers and Shawn was raised in a teaching family-- this is not criticism, it is the greatest sadness of the very best teachers)

There are all sorts of variants of unschooling-- from the radical totally hands-off approach-- to the gentle child-focused homeschool approach. We fall somewhere in the middle.We don't force, but we do have some expectations. 90% of the girls' work is by choice, but every once in a while we ask that they do something specific. They have never said no, and I doubt that if they did we'd force anything.
We do use the technique of "strewing", in which you place objects, ideas, opportunities, or work in places that they will see it-- or by directly showing them the new material and seeing where they take it. It can take a long time for them to pick something up, but inevitably they do.
Turning a gray day around: finding that a young
chicken laid her first egg-- and its blue!
We have progressed a little further into the unschooling philosophy in our second year, although it has still been difficult to fully trust the process. We expect some work in math, non-fiction, and writing each day-- but we try to mostly stay out of what that entails. We don't correct unless asked-- but we are asked! The girls are endlessly engaging us in their studies. It comes from them. Truly.

We've nudged a bit for the memorization of the times tables and we've had late night parent talks fretting over the lack of progress in reading for our youngest and writing for our oldest. Still, we see so much cultivation of a LOVE of learning and an eagerness to explore and understand. We see innovation! They tell us things -- factual things-- that we had no idea that they'd learned. The Battle for Rome. . . How to encourage a successful breeding in your horse. . .  The common names of the most random insects-- the list is endless.

Our biggest joys come from seeing a love of learning that we never knew of; that we didn't come to understand until well into adulthood. It is mindblowing how perfectly built a human mind is for absorbing facts, relationships, language (including music, math, non-verbal), knowledge and wisdom. They have now mastered their times tables, have discovered their writing voices, the youngest has fallen head over heals in love with reading, and they still have time for MineCraft, history, human anatomy, learning the 50 states, violin, piano, and karate-- plus crafts and lots of homestead chores. We don't feel hurried or rushed. They sleep in as long as they like. EVERY DAY. They make their own meals, on their own schedules. They play games without beginning or end. Games with villages, and story lines-- voices, parts, and reflections of all the life skills they are learning. You know, the games we wished we had had more time for. The games the grandparents talk about. We are truly thrilled with the unschooling philosophy. It works for us and our kids are thriving.

She decided herself that it was time to get those states memorized.
I had placed a couple learning apps in her folder both on my phone and
on the Kindle. I did this over last summer.  I also might have mentioned that
I learned my states in 5th grade (she is technically in 4th). A little strewing,
a little challenge--and voila- genius. Here we are, at a department store--
and she stumbles on this.And she pointed to  every.  single.  state.
and told us its name. We had no idea that she'd learned so much.
We are always finding awe.
There are lots of supports for folks wanting a change from system-schooling. Mostly, people worry about how they will do it financially. With my older children, this was a situation for me-- as I was in the middle of a career that I wasn't willing to give up. Finances are always a struggle, but I find that people typically live at their means, so no matter how much money you make, you still can feel like you are struggling. Everyone has to make decisions about what is most important to them. We have decided that keeping our kids at home is one of THE most important things we can do to help them develop into their true selves and to realize their potential for their own version of greatness.

If you are looking for support, try doing some social media searches for homeschooling groups in your area. When I wanted to work out of the home, I was able to find a way, with a homeschooling cooperative. Now, on one income, we make different sacrifices. There is so much going on in homeschooling communities-- something for everyone. If keeping your kids out of public school intrigues you-- find a way. Look to your family, neighbors, or kind strangers (new friends). With an unschooling approach, the kids will be leading the way-- so having a "teacher" isn't necessary.

Change isn't easy because it makes you grow. Growing is hard, at any age, but when children are allowed to grow at their own pace and in their own special way, it does two things-- it shows them how to self-manage and it teaches them self worth/self-trust/self-love. I believe that these traits are becoming obsolete in the general population. These traits, however, are thriving in homeschoolers and in certain types of alternative, private schools. Nurturing a child's sense of self, in any environment, is a recipe for success. For us, the unschooling approach is the clear winner since it also gives us, as parents, a little time to remember our own sense of self. I think. I'm trying to remember. Those sleepless years still seem to have me wandering :).