Good Days

The last time I wrote, my boy was ill. I am happy to report that he’s getting better everyday. His sores have turned into black spots and they are getting smaller each day. It’s a good day.

Right now my kids are into NASA and space. When we were in Florida a few weeks ago my parents took my oldest to NASA space station. Apparently they let people in now, which they didn’t do when we lived a few miles from there, a couple of years ago. Well, since then it’s been huge topic of play, conversation, and reading for pleasure. Needless to say we’ve dropped our current science subjects and have taken on Space as our topic until we’ve run out of gusto on the subject matter. The book we had been using to navigate our way through science, Weaver, has a large unit study on outer space so I’ve taken those parts out and stuck them in my current binder. The kids work on a rocket made out of a cardboard box and they look up recipes for rocket fuel. They chart the stars in the sky and fill their notebooks with constellations and phases of the moon. The oldest built and painted a model of the planets. None of it was planned more than a day or two ahead of time. This is unschooling.

Although it was the original homeschool way, unschooling has always left a bad taste in my mouth because I could never see my boys memorizing their multiplication facts just because they felt led to do it. I have read several books on the topic and familiarized myself with other family’s child-led methods. It has always fascinated me and I’ve learned over the years what it is all about. I’ve learned that unschooling doesn’t consist of children watching tv and riding their bikes all day. Child directed learning is hard work for the parent, harder than following a planned schedule, which is why I’ve never taken to it. Unschooling consists of having faith that your child will learn everything s/he needs to in order to have a fruitful life as an adult. Once the youngster becomes interested in learning about anything, or shows interest in something, the parent then helps the student find out everything they can about the topic. When it comes to our homeschool, I have never been “into” that style of schooling. As most of you know I am a Charlotte Mason mom and I believe in her teaching, her methods, and her philosophy. Another reason we have not taken to unschooling is because for the last 5 years or so, we have lived in a rented home in which we could not plant a garden, raise chicks or goats, or have a vast amount of nature to work with. My kids have often been inside a small home, played on our pavement front yard,and only got to see their friends once or twice a week. Eventually I joined a gym and my kids made their best friends, other little homeschool nerds. When we went back to Florida last month he got to spend some time with that family while Chris and I were on the cruise. The closeness he has formed with this family has inspired my child who despises writing, to begin writing letters, another unschooling activity.

My kids are still pretty young. As they get older I am finding that without the temptation of meaningless obsessions and games, they are drawn to topics that they are “supposed” to be learning in our homeschool anyway. It’s very natural and organic. I have books about space and astronauts and I don’t even have to schedule them because the kids are asking for them so they can read and learn more. We have made some homeschooling friends up the road who are in the same boat. This family doesn’t know what’s going on in the trendy mainstream kid world. They are way into their animals, their gardens, and their friends and family. I am becoming close with the mom of the house and she loves the Lord dearly, and she passes that onto her kids in a very unschoolish way. She has pieced together the schooling her kids need to know in an organized, higher-ordered-thinking way and everything else is learned in an unschooling environment.

I have always struggled to give my kids a natural setting in which to build up their relationship with Christ. Had they made close friendships with other Christians or spent a lot time with other Christian kids, that might have happened, but they never did because our homeschool group didn’t include the kids. It was more for the moms to support each other. And we did, but the kids weren’t involved with each other. We met with a close friend of mine once a week and it was precious to my kids and me. But even with all these things, it wasn’t enough. So it was up to Chris and myself to show them Christ and we did that in 2 ways, 1)times of teaching and intentional conversation, and 2)modeling Christ’s life when we are faced with a decision to turn to Him or look to serve ourselves. This way of passing on what we hope to instill in our boys is leaking into the way in which we homeschool.

It’s crazy because I have been dead set against unschooling as being an option for my kids since reading all about it. It’s great in theory, but my kids can be lazy, or so I thought. After careful evaluation of my heart while intentionally dwelling in the Lord’s presence, it was revealed that I had not been doing the best I could for them. There had been habits the kids formed that I allowed and/or created. I have learned recently that given the proper opportunity and the setting, they will choose to learn and not even know it. What is that setting? It’s different in every house, but for us it looks like this…

First thing we did was take away meaningless things. Anything that makes them dumber goes out the window. There are so many great toys, why waste time with the pointless ones. Anything that encourages imaginative play stays. Stuffed animals. Legos and other building blocks. Cars and toy fireplaces. All of these things are great for my kids. What went out the back door and into the trash? Crap tv. Stupid silly songs, Twaddle. Anything that makes them feel worthy if they have it, or bad if they don’t- idols, basically. At first it was hard because they felt lazy. Eventually they began to discover the actual, real world around them. The drive to become not-bored overcame their laziness. The natural curiosity boys have drove them to learn. They take electronic toys apart and figure out how things work. On their level of course, I don’t have little geniuses. They become little country boys as we give them the responsibility of running the house with me and helping prepare the soil for our garden. They have already picked out the animal they would like to “get” next year and began to read about how to care for that animal, with the youngest needing me to read to him. And the newest obsession in our home, space, being the main source of discovery That’s unschooling making it’s way into our house.

We use computer math and I have my favorite language arts which we won’t drop. I won’t say never, but I highly doubt we’ll ever unschool those subjects. Charlotte Mason takes on a pretty natural method to reading and writing anyway. We are really enjoying Story of the World 1 for our history so we’ll stick with it for the year, but as far as science goes, we are unschoolers in that area. My kids lead and I get what they need for them to continue on. I guess I no longer detest unschooling. And maybe the reason I judged it so harshly was because of my own ignorance. If my kids choose to watch tv for their school time, what does that say about me? I think I knew deep down, it wouldn’t work for us because I wasn’t excited about the changes and effort I would need to make.

I would like to end this with an understanding that not all children thrive or even want to unschool. Mine are, and do. There are personalities and lifestyles that this would not work for. Just a few years ago, this would not have worked for us, due to our circumstances. I am singing it’s praises now because this is the season we are entering into and it’s really exciting for me. I understand that it does not mean everyone else is in the same place and hope that no parent would read anything other than my own joy into what I write. Sometimes when others have been excited about things it seemed threatening to my lifestyle. So please, if you do your schooling differently, I am all for it. I would even love to read about it, just send me your link.

 

Thank you for reading and have a happy day friends,

Love,

Jackie

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