Wednesday, April 24, 2013

unschooling and happiness

Today we had a visit with pediatrician for the older boys. This was their annual visit, and we happened not to need to go to the doctor this whole year. Chuck it up to not being exposed to other kids' germs, or my kids spending so much time digging in dirt or just plain old luck. Either way, this was it.

Last year, when I went, I spoke to the doctor about getting 7 yo evaluated for his behavioral outbursts. I was given a questionnaire, and told to think about it. It was one of those ADD/ADHD forms. I looked over it. He would not pass it. Ironically, I would not pass it, too. Hm... and I was supposedly a normal person, who can function well.

This year, since I felt that we did not progress much, I spoke up again. All of this was done out of kids' earshot, and I am grateful to have a sensitive pediatrician. Basically, she told me also not to rush into evaluations, as they are pricey, and once you have a diagnosis, then what? I am not planning on medicating. He is also basically on grade level, despite his great hate of schoolwork. He reads way above his level. He gets along fine with friends and siblings. She suggested finding a special ed teacher, and just having him set up for a session of two, to see what kind of strategies we can come up with to deal with his issues.

Basically, I know that something is off with him. What I do not know is: how off is it? I am left with those basic two issues: do I spend energy pursuing and putting my finger on what is off, and trying to get him to fit into the normal standards, or do I learn how to work with him, so he can still function and be happy despite being different?

Today this video came up. It is speaking about my child. I know what makes him tick, and it is not penciling in the circles or writing descriptions. Today he wanted Story of the World, science and art. For science, he picked out his own experiment, gathered the supplies, copied a picture, glued it on and performed an optical illusion. For art, we watched a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw a Pichu. This is not easy, as he was struggling to make an oval, and he really has hard time with all these fine motor, spatial perception skills. For Story of the World, we read part of the chapter which talks about Native Americans. He retold me the tale of the Rabbit and the Sun. Now he is drumming. He decided to try out drumming with his brother last week, and, to my surprise, he is eager to practice and practice some more.

What if I stop with math and English and Judaics? What if I wait till he asks? What if I trust him to pick those things which make him happy? Basically, what if I just unschool him?

But what about my other son? He needs structure, so he can chafe against it. I tried unschooling right after the baby was born, but he always wanted to know what's on the agenda. He asked me every day. He was almost joyful when we went back to the daily schedule.

Follow my sons' dreams or follow the society? Hope that he does not come to me one day and ask me why he was not taught a given thing? Teach him "like everyone else" and mold him into a shape that I know he will not fit? Maybe nobody else will notice how badly he doesn't fit. Keep him happy by letting him be?

Unschoolers, how do you do it?


  1. "Hope that he does not come to me one day and ask me why he was not taught a given thing?"

    a fundamental concept in unschooling is that as soon as the child wants to learn something, he either goes after it himself or asks his parents to help him learn it, either by making resources available to him, teaching it to him, or helping him find something or someone to teach it to him. so why would he ever come to you and ask why he was not taught a given thing? hopefully, he is used to saying, "mom, i'm really interested in learning japanese. could you help me find some good videos to teach me? the ones i'm looking at are all boring" or "i'm having trouble with a cursive letter "f"--could you show me how to do it" or "what's faster-to read 10 pages 50 times or 30 pages 8 times?" or "can you buy me some origami paper?" or "i need this program for this project i'm doing; can we get it?"

  2. Is there a compromise between unschooling and homeschooling? Maybe start some days with an agenda that includes math and English and Chumash. And some days are just about letting him decide which direction he wants to take. (Obviously I'm not an expert on either unschooling or homeschooling, just thinking about the possibilities.)
    No matter what you choose to do about his education, the fact that he has your unconditional love and support will help him to be successful.