unschooling

What kids need to learn.

I am often perplexed and confused with the idea that kids have to learn specific things. I, also, often wonder who came up with the topics to be taught to children at specific ages. It seems that these thinIMG_0494gs have changed over time and sometimes change from school to school. So what do children really NEED to learn?

Before deciding to be a homeschooling family, I assumed there were some valid reasons for teaching kids topics and skills at certain ages. But the longer we homeschool, and now ultimately unschool, I question whether it is all just a best guess or a mere race to the top of downloading as much information as possible in the limited amount oIMG_0615f time kids are in school. And yes, it seems they are in school forever and for longer and longer hours all the time. But, if what teachers tell me is true, up to 90% of the time spent in school is mere crowd control in elementary grades and not much better as children get older. That would mean that in a 6 hour day of attendance in school only 35-40 minutes of that is quality instruction or teaching. So indeed, it is a limited amount of time.

Kids are instructed, or taught, reading and math earlier and earlier. ThiIMG_0892s despite their incapabilities to neurologically read across a page, without stress, or understand and I mean really understand, not just memorize, abstract concepts. And this push to teach the basics takes away the time for kids to learn experientially and freely. To learn without pressure or stress. To enjoy the process.

So why is the push to get kids into school earlier and earlier? Is is doing more harm than good? I think so and I think it is time to push back, to defend childhood.IMG_1049

Do you think I am off base?

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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.