Sunday, June 2, 2013

Unschooling and teens....

An article about teen unschooling by a young adult who unschooled :

Four Reasons to Quit School and Become a Teenage Homeschooler

"If you've spent your entire life in school (as most teenagers have), it's hard to imagine life without classes, grades, and curriculum. So when you try to imagine how homeschoolers learn, it's easy to think that they simply do "school" at "home."
While some traditionally-minded homeschoolers certainly feel compelled to pore over state-mandated textbooks in the comfort (and loneliness) of their houses, there are also many teenage self-directed learners who create their own curriculums based on their passions, interests, and goals. You're more likely to find these teens interning for a cool company, road-tripping with friends, or building a garden than doing textbook problem sets at home.
Some homeschoolers are so adamant about self-directed learning that they use an entirely different word to describe their approach: unschooling. The unschooling philosophy is simple: do what you love, and the learning (and eventually, money) will follow."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Science post

At the Unschooling Catholics email list, we were asked a question:

"I'm having trouble letting go of the traditional high school Science sequence. What have your kids done for Science and did they have any trouble with college acceptance if they did not complete the traditional Science sequence? "

A response...and please feel free to share your ideas, too!

"I found even in high school that it was best to go with passions and interests. University is always something we kind of expect and so all by sons have gone or are studying for degrees, the youngest Unschooler starting university a year early this year at age 17.

Now some of mine have been Science "mad" and so we naturally sought Science resources for them eg volunteer work at a Science museum, applied for  and studied in a program for gifted Science  high school students at a university, I organised a weekly lab session for homeschoolers at a Scienceworks  venue, buying books and reading on Science, buying a Chemistry set and setting up a mini lab in the laundry away from toddlers, investigating Science courses like Open Uni and Unilearn ( online/external mode and I think the US has online courses, community college) get the idea!

Others were not really into Science so I just strewed resources and articles and experiments and outings and nature study and cooking and life and wrote it down on our transcript/report as General Science.

The kids who want and need Science follow the interest and need; others follow Science in life. And like everything this all comes down to the unschool idea of passion and motivation. 

One of mine was keen on Latin for example so for a year or so he had a Latin tutor. That would never have worked for another son but for him there was no pushing and no mum micro managing because it was what he wanted.

The same could apply for the field of Science.

Some good resources are the book And the Skylark Sings with Me by David Albert - one of his daughters became interested in Science and did correspondence Science college courses. 

Also good ideas in The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn and examples of real life teens following interests and including Science at al in Real Lives: Eleven teenagers who don't go to school, also by Llewellyn. 

And Cafi Cohen's And What About College? 
is good just for the appendix on how to log life as learning and count hours as credits for transcripts!

MacBeth always has great Science resources on her blog - here is one with some suggestions

Saturday, February 2, 2013

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

An interesting blog post on the new Core Curriculum for four and five year olds. 

"Remember the Robert Fulghum book from years ago called "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten?  

In that book, Fulghum wrote that every lesson that you really need from life is taught to you when you're in kindergarten:
Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life -
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
That's what used to be taught in kindergarten.
Now under the Gates/Broad/Murdoch/Obama/Bloomberg/Cuomo/Klein/Rhee/Duncan/Bush education reform movement, they don't teach any of those things anymore.

Instead they teach how to get an eating disorder or a drug habit or an alcohol problem or workaholism or a shopping compulsion or OCD or a sex addiction or neurosis or any number of other issues because your kindergarten years have had all the joy and fun taken out of them and have been replaced with high stakes testing, higher order math and language lessons, and cutthroat competition with your peers.

It's not a mistake that the same oligarchs who have brought this insane Common Core to fruition do not send their kids to schools that use Common Core.

They send them to Waldorf schools.

Or Quaker schools.

Or Montessiori schools.

Or the Lab School. 

You know, the kinds of schools that aren't run like army drill camps, where the teachers aren't graded using test scores, where the kids don't take high stakes standardized tests all throughout the year, where students get to explore meaningful subjects and lessons rather than endless test prep and drills."

Perdido Street School

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

If I could tell a new homeschool mum one thing.....

If I could tell a new homeschool mum one thing, it would be… to give it ( whatever it is) Time.
Time. The biggest secret in homeschooling/unschooling.
Time for a child to mature, so that the boy who hates writing at age six
(“why do I have to do this”) is just given time to mature, no pressure to write, just sharing books together until one day he finds his voice and writes and blogs.
Time for the shared experiences to be shared, to shape the child, to allow him to explore, think, play, be a child…so that he chooses, as a teen, to study ancient languages at a university winter school and needs no nagging about homework. He has had time to find out what he likes and how he learns.
Time to spend with family and friends, exploring persona (today it’s Batman, tomorrow it is a Roman soldier), learning how to interact with others, to control temper, to think of others, to learn about self.
Time to read and read together without school schedules and have-tos.
Time for that stubborn toddler to grow into a self disciplined, determined young man. Time for that  very sensitive child to grow into a young man who thinks deeply and spiritually.
Time to cook, to do crafts, to play games, to climb trees, to visit and re-visit museums and libraries, to learn.
And time for mum to realise that things that seem major and  crisis making and overwhelming now will pass.
Time has been my homeschooling secret. Regardless of circumstances and living situations, I have learned to give myself and my kids time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unschooling and Shakespeare

From Life Learning Magazine   

There’s a lot of giggling going on in the back seat of the car. We’re on our way home from the prestigious Golden Boy indoor soccer tournament. My eleven-year-old son Daniel has a gold medal around his neck after a hard-played final. He also has a book in his hand – not exactly standard “Grade Six” reading fare. It’s Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare – and he and his eight-year-old brother are quizzing each other on the lines that they are memorizing. And giggling.… They are giggling at how funny these lines are. I, on the other hand, have tears in my eyes, a smile that reaches to Pittsburgh, and a heart overflowing with gratitude that we are able to learn without school.

This is the beauty of unschooling. That warp and weave of every day life and learning. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An oldie but a goodie!

What is unschooling? By Earl Stevens

"What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge,
not knowledge in pursuit of the child."
- George Bernard Shaw
It is very satisfying for parents to see their children in pursuit of knowledge. It is natural and healthy for the children, and in the first few years of life, the pursuit goes on during every waking hour. But after a few short years, most kids go to school. The schools also want to see children in pursuit of knowledge, but the schools want them to pursue mainly the school'sknowledge and devote twelve years of life to doing so.
In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award (1990), John Gatto said, "Schools were designed by Horace Mann ... and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population." In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.
The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don't like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don't like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this - even with polite and cooperative children - by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.
The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum - not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known - but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers.Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge.
But despite the differences between the school environment and the home, many parents begin homeschooling under the impression that it can be pursued only by following some variation of the traditional public school curriculum in the home. Preoccupied with the idea of "equivalent education", state and local education officials assume that we must share their educational goals and that we homeschool simply because we don't want our children to be inside their buildings. Textbook and curriculum publishing companies go to great lengths to assure us that we must buy their products if we expect our children to be properly educated. As if this were not enough, there are national, state, and local support organizations that have practically adopted the use of the traditional curriculum and the school-in-the-home image of homeschooling as a de facto membership requirement. In the midst of all this, it can be difficult for a new homeschooling family to think that an alternative approach is possible.One alternative approach is "unschooling", also known as "natural learning", "experience-based learning", or "independent learning". Several weeks ago, when our homeschooling support group announced a gathering to discuss unschooling, we thought a dozen or so people might attend, but more than 100 adults and children showed up. For three hours, parents and some of the children took turns talking about their homeschooling experiences and about unschooling. Many people said afterward that they left the meeting feeling reinforced and exhilarated - not because anybody told them what to do or gave them a magic formula - but because they grew more secure in making these decisions for themselves. Sharing ideas about this topic left them feeling empowered.
Before I talk about what I think unschooling is, I must talk about what it isn't. Unschooling isn't a recipe, and therefore it can't be explained in recipe terms. It is impossible to give unschooling directions for people to follow so that it can be tried for a week or so to see if it works. Unschooling isn't a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them - without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do.
Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school.
Then what is unschooling? I can't speak for every person who uses the term, but I can talk about my own experiences. Our son has never had an academic lesson, has never been told to read or to learn mathematics, science, or history. Nobody has told him about phonics. He has never taken a test or been asked to study or memorize anything. When people ask, "What do you do?" My answer is that we follow our interests - and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music - all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as "subjects".
A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can't buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, "doing real things" invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.
While few of us get out of bed in the morning in the mood for a "learning experience", I hope that all of us get up feeling in the mood for life. Children always do so - unless they are ill or life has been made overly stressful or confusing for them. Sometimes the problem for the parent is that it can be difficult to determine if anything important is actually going on. It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.
Parents come to our unschooling discussions with many questions about fulfilling state requirements. They ask: "How do unschoolers explain themselves to the state when they fill out the paperwork every year?", "If you don't use a curriculum, what do you say?" and "What about required record-keeping?" To my knowledge, unschoolers have had no problems with our state department of education over matters of this kind. This is a time when even many public school educators are moving away from the traditional curriculum, and are seeking alternatives to fragmented learning and drudgery.
When I fill out the paperwork required for homeschooling in our state, I briefly describe, in the space provided, what we are currently doing, and the general intent of what we plan to do for the coming year. I don't include long lists of books or describe any of the step-by-step skills associated with a curriculum. For example, under English/Language Arts, I mentioned that our son's favorite "subject" is the English language. I said a few words about our family library. I mentioned that our son reads a great deal and uses our computer for whatever writing he happens to do. I concluded that, "Since he already does so well on his own, we have decided not to introduce language skills as a subject to be studied. It seems to make more sense for us to leave him to his own continuing success."
Unschooling is a unique opportunity for each family to do whatever makes sense for the growth and development of their children. If we have a reason for using a curriculum and traditional school materials, we are free to use them. They are not a universally necessary or required component of unschooling, either educationally or legally.
Allowing curriculums, textbooks, and tests to be the defining, driving force behind the education of a child is a hindrance in the home as much as in the school - not only because it interferes with learning, but because it interferes with trust. As I have mentioned, even educators are beginning to question the pre-planned, year-long curriculum as an out-dated, 19th century educational system. There is no reason that families should be less flexible and innovative than schools.
Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's mentor and friend, said:
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily". Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.
Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Learning through play

National guidelines in Australia support the importance of play in learning. 

"The guidelines recognise the importance of play, particularly in the way it develops creativity, teaches sociability, negotiating and linguistic skills, and stresses that learning is not limited to a time or place." Guidelines Recognize The Importance of Play, The Melbourne Age

Something we unschoolers knew all along. 

Creativity - our cooking, our free arts and crafts, our Lego, our dress ups, our imaginary play, our forts and cubbies and cars and dolls and music and...

Sociability - getting along with each other day after day, park days, play dates, church, parihs activities....

Negotiating skills - whose turn is it to sit in the front of the car or to have a go at the Playstation or...

Linguistic skills  - we talk, we read, we watch movies, we talk some more, we write,we journal, we are on facebook and blogs and twitter, we learn prayers and poems and languages, we sing, we play games...

Learning is not limited to a time - stories and looking up links on Google at bedtime and watching just-anther-episode  - oh, it's midnight already?

Learning is not limited to a place - writing journals while having ice creams at McDonalds and mum feeds the baby, working on a Maths sheet or reading a religion book in the car on the way to skating, sitting on the sofa to read and use the laptop or lying in the grass outside with that book and play cards and throw balls and everything else....

Learning through play.