Tuesday, September 9, 2014

what unschooling looks like

 This morning, 4 yo asked me to show her how to draw a fish. I did. She tried making her own, but she was not happy with the result (crossed-out fish). I showed her another easy way. She took the paper away and practiced and practiced till a whole school of different fish were swimming.

(In coop classes, 8 yo had to quit a handwriting class many moons ago over his total inability to bring himself to draw a fish. He just could not do it, could not try, and stopped being receptive to the teacher as soon as she playfully asked her students to draw a fish next to letter "f". It did not improve the following week, so I had to switch him out.)

I was giving 4 yo a bath. Among bath toys we have a set of foam numbers that fit into a puzzle and stick to the tub walls. Some numbers are missing. When my oldest was a toddler, I lined them up and said their names out loud. When 8 yo was toddler, I was removing them from his mouth as he kept on chewing them. Sometimes I remembered to say their names, sometimes I did not. When my daughter was a toddler, I just let her play with them. When she started lining them up, I would tell her their names.

She knows all her numbers. Today she took 9 and 1, stuck them on the side and asked me which number they made. I told her, 91. Then she switched their order. I told her that now it is 19. She giggled. As she was getting out of the tub, she stuck 4 on the side, for "her" number. Then she took 0 and 1 and said that she will make someone's age. When she did 01, I told her it's just one. She changed them around to 10 and said that is her brother's age.

She picked Magic School Bus and the Electric Filed Trip as her good-night story. We did not get far, because on the first page Ms. Frizzle is making a list of all items in the classroom that use electricity. She remarked how N at the end of FAN does not look right. I asked her whether she could tell at the end of which word was this N. She read it: fan. Then she found fan on the page. She pointed to the bell and then looked for it on the word list. Then she said: clock, and stopped. I asked her to sound it out slowly, and she found it, too. She was a bit taken aback by "o" making "uh" sound. Finally, she pointed to the light with Lizzie on top and that one gave her harder time. She was not sure how "igh" in light would work, but I told her.

We had this book for a while. She picks her own books to look at all the time, including these ones. She obviously cannot read them, or can she? I have not been reading this one to her for the millionth time, and she normally just likes the story in Magic School Bus, not all the science facts and not even the dialogue boxes. When she picked out this book, I would file it under science, but we somehow ended up doing reading.

My wise older homeschooling friend is unschooling. She has been doing this for a while. She documents how she progressed in her thinking, and, as I follow her, I wonder: will I finally relax enough with the younger ones that they will get the full benefit of a mom who is not so worried about keeping up with the educational system "out there" to let her kids learn and grow as they see fit? 

I see my daughter benefiting from being a 3rd child out of four. I do not have time to sit down and carefully craft her curriculum, and I do not have opportunity to jump in and take over every activity that she starts. She is an independent learner. Granted, she is also a very traditional learner: she wants to be taught, and she wants to do seat work and worksheets. In short, her independent learning produces tangible results, which puts me at ease.

Yet I wonder: what will happen next year, when she will be of kindergarten age? What will be down the road? Will I hijack her learning? Will she continue to pine for school? Will I unschool her, something that I seem to have courage to do with the boys?

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