unschooler

5 Thing That Make Me a “Bad” Unschooler

We have been officially unschooling for just over a year now. And in my readings and research, I have come to notice a few things that make me a “bad” or “fake” unschooler.

1) I don’t agree that all food is food. I know that there IS junk food and real food. To lump twizzlers with strawberries as equally healthy and nourishing is dangerous. Although I understand the concept of letting your children learn on their own I also know that, intellectually, children don’t know the difference between healthy and non-health choices in their food unless they know the facts. Just over 100 years ago we didn’t have artificial flavors, colors or chemicals in our food. So no, I do not believe that there is no such think as junk food. Well let me re-phrase that, there is in fact no such thing as junk food if you are truly eating real FOOD. But a lot of what can be consumed as food, isn’t in fact, food at all. Now we consume chemicals, GMO’s and artificial everything, unless we know and do better.

2) I still struggle with honoring all learning and activities as equal in value. I understand that learning occurs in everything but I still struggle with seeing hours of video games as equal in enlightenment and knowledge as other activities such as reading. I do see learning in all forms, I just still struggle with only learning or being interested in one or two things. Isn’t variety the spice of life?

3) I like my kids to go to bed relatively “early”. (I find that this is “early” for us but generally much later than other kids their age) I don’t like the feeling of them being up after I have fallen asleep. Partly because I worry I am not there and aware of if they need me or what they are doing. Partly because I worry about them not getting enough rest. Especially as my son gets older because I know that he is growing rapidly and needs sleep for his physical and mental health. So yes, I do ask my kids to go to bed when we do, if not earlier (on their own).

4) I still worry some about them “falling behind”. I worry less about this all the time. But it is a little nagging thought from my years of grades and assessments and feeling “dumb” if I didn’t know the correct answers. I think I mostly worry that they will feel down on themselves if they realize that they do not know what their peers do. And yes, I realize that they know so much more on other topics. Like all the names of the different dinosaurs, local birds or multitude of facts on snakes and insects. But when the majority of their peers are in public school, it is more comfortable to know the same things at the same time. (And as a side note my son did his annual, required, assessment test and was above average in almost every category this year…but that shouldn’t matter)

5) I still do annual testing assessments. I think I may loose this “bad” habit next year but my son has done them for 3 years now. Every time easing my concerns because he always did great. So I know this is my deal, my baggage, my mental hurdle. And I am already planning on setting this one aside next year and doing a non-testing style of assessment. Phew…down to 4 things that make me a “bad” unschooler.

I think that this list may not make me a bad unschooler perhaps but a bad radical unschooler. I started to guess whether we were really unschoolers or not because of the 5, above, points. That is until I read a definition of unschooling.

“Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that rejects compulsory school as a primary means for learning. Unschoolers learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in maximizing the education of each unique child.”

I fit that definition 100%. So maybe we are okay unschoolers after all.

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That Pesky Socialization Question….

My children have never attended public school. My oldest went to preschool 2 half days a week for a year and a half. And looking back, I wish he never went. Not because I thought it was bad for him, but I also didn’t think it was really good, or necessary. But as a “good” parent, I thought that it would help if he was around kids his own age to play, to be socialized. I now know it was unnecessary.unsocialized_homeschooler_lg

Kids will play, just let them. Take them to a park. Take them to the library. Take them to the store, the bank, the post office. If you think it is important to teach them to wait their turn, in line, patiently, take them to the post office 2 weeks before Christmas. My children are not hermits. They are not shy or bashful. One is quieter than the other but he is a thinker. It is his nature. Forcing him into a situation he is not comfortable with will do him no favors. But he will chat your ear off, no matter what your age, when he gets to know you a little, he has compassion for little people as well as older people and he loves to observe and learn.

Now to socialization…What IS socialization? According to Merriam-Webster it is the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status.

So what better place to be socialized than to be with a group of peers, your same age, in the same environment, day after day after day? Really?  Is this a group with with superior accumulated knowledge and with the skills to train you to adult status?

Our children spend time with kids of all ages, gaining and giving knowledge all the time. But they are also around adults, a lot of adults. My 9 year old has been known to help elderly ladies find their rooms in nursing homes when they get lost and play a few rounds of bingo. He also has spent many, many days with his grandpa learning about his life and skills. He is comfortable playing freeze tag and nerf war with kids around his own age as well. He doesn’t see kids as “cooler” than adults and he doesn’t feel the need to fit in. If a kid is mean or bullying him, he can avoid him. Unfortunately in public school that isn’t always easy.

Ideal socialization can easily happen in homeschooling. In children observing the real world, with real people, of all ages. Learning from experienced people. Learning from experience themselves. I see my children relating to people differently than even I did as a kid. They have no problem just going up and asking questions, telling stories, being themselves. I am often amazed at the information people share with my children, good information, about all kinds of things that I wouldn’t even think to ask. I just give them the opportunity to ask, to be involved in their learning and to introduce them to people, lots of different people.

How do you socialize your children you ask? Really?