Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Crazy Little Thing Called.......... Unschooling {part two}

I'm thrilled that so many of you are curious about unschooling, I got lots of great questions after my first post last week. If you missed it, click here  to catch up. 

I wanted to start with the middle-school and high-school ages and then I'll talk more about the elementary years next week. This unschooling thing is going to look drastically different for each family depending on your child's most recent learning environment. Have you recently pulled them out of school, do you homeschool but have a very strict curriculum based environment in your home, are you a relaxed homeschool family? Depending on which one you are, will have everything to do with what unschooling will look like for your family in the beginning.

Unschooling requires that your children be interested in pursuing learning on their own, requires that they be self-motivated learners. The question I'm asked most is, "how do you get your kids to be self-motivated learners? I can't ever imagine my fourteen year old picking up an algebra book on her own? I don't think unschooling will work for our family". Here's how it works for us. Our kids have always had a relaxed learning environment. That's a much easier and smoother path into an unschooling style of learning. If we had had a more rigid homeschool, using lots of curriculum, lots of book-work, quizzes, and assignments, the transition to unschooling would have been a huge shock. It would have required a lengthy period of adjustment {months or longer} for them to learn how to feed their natural curiosities without my help. They would have first had to even realize they had an innate desire to learn on their own, a God-given curiosity. So, coming from a relaxed background, easy, but if you are coming from a more rigid learning environment, it will be a longer path, but one that you will see develop over time

So okay, it may take lots of patience to achieve an unschooling lifestyle in your family, then what? That's when you get busy as the parent. It is my job to be an excellent listener, and notice subtle cues from my kids. They may express their learning desires but they may have no idea how to get from point 'A' to point 'B' on their own. That's where I come in. That's where it becomes my job to see if I can help them navigate through their desires. I also keep up with areas that I notice they may be lacking in and 'casually' leave things, that may help them improve in those areas, around the house {aka strewing}. Sometimes they notice a book and pick it up, other times they're just not interested and I'll try again in six months or so. I also plan lots of field-trips. Remember that pop-up camper we are working on, all about hands-on learning and experiencing new environments. We also read aloud daily as a family. Living history and bible are two of our favorites. You never know where your child's talents may lie, expose them to as much of the world as you reasonably can.

I marvel at the growth of our girls' photography skills. They photograph everything  and are growing their talent by leaps and bounds {all the photos in these unschooling posts, our daughters}. They are given an inordinate amount of time every day for their artistic passions, sometimes through watercolors, acrylics, clay, or photography. Our youngest daughter loves reading novels, but our oldest prefers non-fiction, mostly about blogging currently. Last summer, I suggested to her that I thought she may enjoy blogging and I told her that I'd be happy to help her if she wanted to get that started. There was total silence.......... not a peep about starting her own blog. Then about four months later she came up to me and said, "so how do you start a blog". That's my best advice on unschooling, throw out ideas that you believe may be a good fit for your kids, then back up and WAIT. That seed may never sprout or it may grow into the most glorious towering oak that you've ever seen. She has a little blog now and she did it all herself. For any of you bloggers reading, you know that that requires learning HTML and coding and boocoodles of other stuff to get a blog up and running. I'm really proud of her and I know she may never have had time for things such as this if we sat around our kitchen table from eight till two with our curriculum.

Now that leaves me with those subjects that my kids just don't like at all. What then? This can be the most nerve wracking part of unschooling....... if you allow it to be. So far, our girls show no interest in math, none.  So what do I do about this? We do math where we can, cooking, groceries, camper remodels require lots of measuring, sewing and the like, you get my point, life math. I have complete confidence that if in a year or two, they realize that in order to acheive their dreams they must have a college degree, and need math to get in, they can comfortably achieve what is required to pass an entrance examine in six or so months. It's no different than us adults, when we become motivated, we can move mountains. Our kids are sharp and they should be afforded the same confidence we have in our own abilities. 

That's pretty much it in a nutshell for our middle-school/high-school philosophy. The largest factor in our unschooling lifestyle is faith and a deep-hearted belief that our children need only support and guidance to find their own way in life. I've been a curriculum based homeschool mom, a relaxed homeschool mom, and now an unschooling mom, and this is without a doubt the most difficult because it does require a huge amount of faith and prayer. Through all those styles though, I love what I see in my kids through unschooling most of all. They have confidence in themselves that I'm so grateful for. If you'd like to take a look at Olivia's little blog, she'd be overjoyed for you to visit and share if you feel so inclined {Click Here for Liv In Progress}. It's a teen lifestyle blog and I'm ever so proud of her. 

More to come next week on this crazy little thing called unschooling. 


  1. As school subjects evolved over time it struck me that what Sarah needed to know was practical math. I called it PMA, practical math application. Sarah was part of a group where artists sat around a table working on their particular art. A lady asked her what she did for math. "PMA," said Sarah. She went on to explain things like balancing a check book. One of the ladies said, "I wish I had had PMA!"

    1. Perfect! Absolutely perfect and I'm with Sarah, graduated high-school with calculus but had NO earthly idea how to balance a checkbook or be mindful of credit cards, but I could solve one mean calculus problem............... Sadly, that got me nowhere real fast! Wish more mommas taught like you!

  2. As an educator, I think the older the kid gets the more the teachers need to serve as a guide on a child's road map to learning. I got the basics in school but I learned a lot more outside the classroom when I was able to put things together. I try to show my students (I teach in an alternative school with students who don't really care about education) how things relate to their real world. Like we were doing percents and I printed out a bunch of pictures of Jordan's and had them figure out the sales price with different percents, stuff like that.

    With my two kids, I have tried to bridge classroom learning and real life learning. My daughter went to college last fall and was amazed that her dormmates or others could not figure out the public buses (The college encourages public transportation and with their student ID they get to ride the local bus system for free) among other things.

    I think what happens is educators get so caught up in their world that they forget that there is a real world outside the classroom and that the students need to learn about the world. Of course, I grew up in the hood and lived a little before I started working in education. Here is a secret, for many educators, teaching is their first full-time, real job which is a little scary.


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