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View Full Version : 2nd thoughts about NOT unschooling!



mjzzyzoff
08-04-2010, 10:36 AM
As back-to-school approaches I am becoming more and more conflicted with our decision to unschool. In my heart, I still think it's right for us, but my brain keeps getting in the way. Originally when we considered unschooling I planned to do a structured math curriculum because I worried about DS's lack of interest in math. Then we met a local group of unschoolers and one of them mentioned how she thought she had ruined her daughter's love of math by forcing a curriculum on her, so I decided that everything we do should be interest-led. Then I changed my mind. Then I changed it back. Then I called my mom. Argh. That didn't go so well.

Lately I've been slowly moving back on the math-curriculum-bandwagon.

I had a conversation with DH last night. Went something like this:

Me: "I'm thinking maybe we should do a little structured math."
DH: "OK."
Me: "But then I'm worried about spoiling math for him if it isn't interest led. Remember what that unschooling mom said? That she totally ruined math for her daughter by making her do it? I don't want him to hate math!"
DH: "Um, doesn't he already hate math?"
Me: "Well.... yeah. But what if I make it worse?"
DH: "I don't think you can make him hate it more. He pretty much really hates it. It seems to me you have four options; he loves math and understands it, he loves math and doesn't understand it, he hates math and understands it, he hates math and doesn't understand it."
Me: "I guess we can eliminate the first two."

a little later on...

DH: "I *barely* tested out of taking college math, thank goodness, cause I hated it. "
Me: "I took tons of math in high school and college. I hated it too."
DH: "Why did you take so much?"
Me: "My mom made me."
DH: "And do you remember any of it?"
Me: "Nope."

So that brings me to my dilemma. Actually, I think just writing it out here is making it easier to see the big picture. Maybe I am just anxious about the whole unschooling paradigm shift. Maybe I am worried about TRUSTING my child to learn on his own. Maybe after more deschooling he will decide he does enjoy math. Maybe I just don't want to give up control. Maybe I am projecting my own math hangups onto my child. Maybe I'm worried about what my MIL will think if she finds out. Maybe there is NO dilemma and I need to just BREATHE!

Ultimately, I want a happy kid who has a happy place in this world. Although I excelled academically and took college courses for 7 years, I don't have as much as an associates degree, however I started my own business and am very happy with my life. DH went to college for about the same amount of time and has a fancy degree that lets him argue in the courtroom for a living, and he is very happy with his life also.

Thanks for letting my ramble on so, and if anyone has any advice about that breathing thing...

InstinctiveMom
08-04-2010, 10:49 AM
Wow - your conversation is quite interesting :)
I'm also a math-hater (because I don't understand it most of the time), but am married to a man who loves (and understands it) and have managed to produce two children who may or may not love it, but understand it quite well.

I think that it's okay to mix structure with unschooling. I'm not committed 100% to any method - I'm committed to what works. That changes from day to day, week to week - and I'm more and more okay with that as we go along. You'll find your groove.
Warmly,
~h

Shoe
08-04-2010, 11:04 AM
I don't think I can let go of the control enough to be an unschooler. Maybe my kids would do well with it, but I know that I wouldn't. I have decided to set aside a certain amount of time each week for some independent, student led learning-they can choose what they want to learn, how they want to learn it and how to show me that they've learned it...but that's just for one period a week. The rest of the curriculum will be more structured.

As far as math goes, I do use some of it on a regular basis. And it seems to me (remember that I am the one who couldn't let go of control and this may color my view of things significantly) that math is one subject for which a structured curriculum would be really helpful, in ways that it might not be necessary for many other topics.

Good luck.

callie
08-04-2010, 11:15 AM
There is not a rule that says you have to stick with what you start with. If you are wanting to try to unschool math, then go for it. In a couple of months if you don't think it is working then change to a more structured curriculum. I let my son pick his math curriculum, hopefully that will help with the daily math fight.

I am really bad about wanted to commit to one curriculum/style. I just try remember that if it doesn't work - change it.

HTH

Marmalade
08-04-2010, 12:46 PM
I feel like I've been exactly where you are...the problem I keep running into is reading unschooling blogs and hearing how the idea of a structure is so against unschooling-blah blah blah.

So I simply decided to not unschool. Not school at home. Not anything-we will do what works best for us at the time that it's working best. I was stressing out way too much about fitting into a "style"!!!

But one thing that I do remember reading on those blogs is that a lot of unschooling parents started out with structure and slowly let it go...and then it was only afterwards that they were able to reflect on it and say "I shouldn't have structured"....Personally, I think it's probably normal on the road to "unschooling" to structure a little. Heck, even Sandra Dodd had some structure when she first started out.

mjzzyzoff
08-04-2010, 12:59 PM
Thanks so much for all your input. Marmalade - that sounds like where I'm at. I read about everyone's curriculum choices on here, and feel left out, so I google unschooling and get the whole anti-structure thing, then I feel torn! I think I too am stressing too much over committing and fitting in. And I keep telling everyone around me, "If it doesn't work, we'll change it!" Maybe I should listen to myself more!

hockeymom
08-04-2010, 01:20 PM
You are SO not alone! I go back and forth about "are we unschoolers, or just interest led, and is it different, and does it matter?" all the time, especially now right before we officially start grade 2. I don't know if it's okay to reference another blog here, but one of my favorite bloggers wrote about exactly this today, and it totally reflects how I feel in my heart. Here's the link (sorry if it's not okay!): http://fimby.tougas.net/.

Basically, I think of ourselves as pretty much unschoolers, but not in a closed minded "must do it this way and not that way" way. We will do structured math (MEP and/or Math Mammoth, whichever he likes better) and structured spelling, and he loves worksheets so we'll continue with lots of those. World studies (geography and history) and science are interest led, as are monthly random unit studies and art. For music he takes lessons, same for organized sports.

I don't think it's important to fit one style or mold--I doubt any of us do, or we wouldn't homeschool! :) Truly all that's important is that your son is happy and learning, whether he realizes he's learning or not. And as for math...my high school teacher was kind to pass me (despite a 4.0 in all other subjects) and it fails to make any sense to me to this day. I'm terrified to be the one in charge of teaching math, but kids will soak it up on their own and in their time if allowed.

Hugs!

dbmamaz
08-04-2010, 08:36 PM
PLEASE check out this website: http://www.livingmath.net/Home/tabid/250/language/en-US/Default.aspx Its all about unstructured math, and making it fun. She has great lists of math story books. My 6 yo is very mathy, but was fighting me on curriculum . . but he couldnt get enough of the math story books! Even reading a book which was a few grade levels above him, he insisted I read the math part as well as the story part.

She also has suggestions for math games.

I think you need to think about what kind of unschooler you are, too. I know some unschoolers who seem to think that even suggesting 'educational' activities is wrong, but my understanding is that anything thats not a highly structured, forced on the child against their will curriculum, CAN be considered unschooling. I suspect you and your son can learn a lot about math using resources on that website, and without anyone hating anything, and without an actual curriculum. Just find books and activities which interest you both.

laundrycrisis
08-05-2010, 07:42 AM
I am not an unschooler at all .... so you may want to ignore this idea ;)

What does work for me is being a minimalist. Our oldest has vision and visual processing challenges. As a result of those, he does not enjoy reading or writing at all. However I do not feel these are things I can "unschool", knowing that with his challenges, if I don't get him going in these areas, they may very well be a lifelong serious problem for him.

I don't want to push him so much that he ends up hating it even more...but we do need to do some structured work. So I take the approach of doing just enough to keep making progress, to give him a bite-sized challenge that is small enough that he can handle it and be successful with it without feeling intimidated, frustrated, and overworked by it. I want to guarantee that he will be successful with each bit of work in this area. Then each success builds his confidence and has him feeling more open to a slightly bigger challenge next time, etc. He is learning it is something he can do, and he is making progress without learning to hate it. But it is a small enough amount of work that he doesn't feel burdened by it.

If you feel the need to introduce a little structure in an area or two, IMO our instincts are perhaps our most valuable resource and it may be good to pay attention to those feelings. I would not constrain yourself from doing that for the sake of following a particular philosophy. It is possible to set up a little structured work in a very minimalist way...perhaps beginning with five minutes every other day and making it fun...that you are not going to turn the child off to the subject or have a major impact on his/her freedom to explore and learn in an unschooled way.

farrarwilliams
08-05-2010, 09:27 AM
At one point, I thought we were going to be unschoolers, but as my kids have grown, it just doesn't feel right and they seem to thrive with more structure and I find I want to keep things loose but also introduce them to many things - I find for me, it's a balancing act and a constant tension, but one I sort of like trying to find my way through.

The thing that I don't fully "get" about unschooling is that even when I was considering unschooling, I wanted to have structure and systems in place to facilitate it. Like, I wanted to have a really organized school space so that when the mood hit us, things were at the ready for art, writing, educational games, etc. We also do portfolios every 2 months where we save all the kids art, worksheets, bits created in classes and whatever and then pick out the pieces that we (the kids pick some and I pick some) like the best to be saved in a big binder. I had intended to do that for unschooling too. We also keep reading journals - we jot down every book the kids read and the date. We also do goal setting - the kids pick a goal and are supposed to work toward it. Like I said, we're not really unschoolers, but all of these were things I wanted to do when I was leaning more toward unschooling and I don't think they're incompatible. I think they just help life feel less chaotic and more like you're really doing something. Which, of course, you ARE whether you keep any records or have an organized bunch of stuff or not, but I think it can help you feel better and help the kids get motivated that there are times they go back and reflect on what they're doing.

Another thought would be to set aside a "math time" - could be once a day or once a week or even once a month - but instead of having a curriculum, let your ds guide what you do. He could sit and play online math games or you could play card games or you could read books with math or go on a math walk or play with geoboards or whatever. That might be a good middle ground to make everyone feel better.

Just a thought.

hockeymom
08-05-2010, 09:48 AM
The math site looks amazing, Cara! I can't wait to explore it. My DS likes to do math first thing in the morning--he says it "helps his brain wake up"--and games are a perfect way to do that with him before I've had enough coffee! LOL

QueenBee
08-05-2010, 10:11 AM
I, too, took lots of college math and don't really remember it... lol

I agree with the posters about not letting the label define you. I think no matter your hs style leanings, it's easy to get caught up in fitting that style. I went through that (briefly) with interest-led and (for a few years) with Classical. I then chose to stop using a label. If forced, last year I'd say "loose classical" or "eclectic." But in my head, we were just homeschoolers. And no matter the methodology, I think we hs parents often doubt ourselves - we're taking on a big responsibility so it's normal to want to be sure we're doing what is best for our children. I've finally hit a spot where I realize that even if what I pick doesn't work, we can make changes and no permanent damage has been done. It's quite freeing. For years I worried about doing 'the wrong thing' and it's nice to have come to a place where I don't think there is a 'wrong' thing, just a thing that isn't really working.

And your son is young - he may surprise you and start to like math. My oldest did that this past year - she went from detesting math to actually liking it. =O I couldn't believe it. I think it was in large part to me stepping back and relaxing about it, and also using a curriculum that was a better fit (Math Mammoth). For you that better fit could be unschooling math for now.

Good luck!!

MamaB2C
08-05-2010, 11:40 AM
This is why I so enthusiastically embrace the label "eclectic", nobody can tell me I am doing it wrong, or try to criticize me not being eclectic enough. I have enough on my plate and have no desire to fight about dogma...again. I have had my fill of "holier (unschoolier/freethoughtier/attachment-parenter) than thou" stuff period.

hockeymom
08-05-2010, 12:36 PM
LOL--"not eclectic enough"!

It's crazy that there's "infighting" about labels even in the homeschool community. I had no idea. Ugh.

Busygoddess
08-05-2010, 01:17 PM
This is why I so enthusiastically embrace the label "eclectic", nobody can tell me I am doing it wrong, or try to criticize me not being eclectic enough. I have enough on my plate and have no desire to fight about dogma...again. I have had my fill of "holier (unschoolier/freethoughtier/attachment-parenter) than thou" stuff period.

We've been Eclectic homeschoolers since we started. I've never been accused of not being eclectic enough. However, I have been accused of being too eclectic, too structured, not structured enough, too school-at-home (because I use programs for Math & Foreign Language), and too unschooly (because I don't use textbooks for most subjects).

Marmalade
08-05-2010, 01:35 PM
LOL--"not eclectic enough"!

It's crazy that there's "infighting" about labels even in the homeschool community. I had no idea. Ugh.

Sad but true!

Not here though! That's why I love this place!

MamaB2C
08-05-2010, 02:44 PM
We've been Eclectic homeschoolers since we started. I've never been accused of not being eclectic enough. However, I have been accused of being too eclectic, too structured, not structured enough, too school-at-home (because I use programs for Math & Foreign Language), and too unschooly (because I don't use textbooks for most subjects).


Oh just great! I had hoped that by not being specific...as in "We just do whatever works"... I would avoid that crap.

hockeymom
08-05-2010, 02:52 PM
Sad but true!

Not here though! That's why I love this place!

Yep, the people on this forum are total sanity savers! I cannot imagine going into our first year (or any year!) without the support here.

mjzzyzoff
08-06-2010, 10:40 AM
I am not an unschooler at all .... so you may want to ignore this idea ;)

What does work for me is being a minimalist. Our oldest has vision and visual processing challenges. As a result of those, he does not enjoy reading or writing at all. However I do not feel these are things I can "unschool", knowing that with his challenges, if I don't get him going in these areas, they may very well be a lifelong serious problem for him.

I don't want to push him so much that he ends up hating it even more...but we do need to do some structured work. So I take the approach of doing just enough to keep making progress, to give him a bite-sized challenge that is small enough that he can handle it and be successful with it without feeling intimidated, frustrated, and overworked by it. I want to guarantee that he will be successful with each bit of work in this area. Then each success builds his confidence and has him feeling more open to a slightly bigger challenge next time, etc. He is learning it is something he can do, and he is making progress without learning to hate it. But it is a small enough amount of work that he doesn't feel burdened by it.

If you feel the need to introduce a little structure in an area or two, IMO our instincts are perhaps our most valuable resource and it may be good to pay attention to those feelings. I would not constrain yourself from doing that for the sake of following a particular philosophy. It is possible to set up a little structured work in a very minimalist way...perhaps beginning with five minutes every other day and making it fun...that you are not going to turn the child off to the subject or have a major impact on his/her freedom to explore and learn in an unschooled way.

LOVE THIS! I've read elsewhere about the "little challenges they can handle" and I think it would be particularly helpful with math, as DS gets overwhelmed so easily. I actually bought a word problem workbook and made sure it was at/below what I thought he could handle, just as a confidence booster. I also agree wholeheartedly about the instincts vs. following a particular philosophy but I guess I needed someone else to say it because I didn't realize I'd been getting that caught up in "doing it right" !

mjzzyzoff
08-06-2010, 10:45 AM
PLEASE check out this website: http://www.livingmath.net/Home/tabid/250/language/en-US/Default.aspx Its all about unstructured math, and making it fun. She has great lists of math story books. My 6 yo is very mathy, but was fighting me on curriculum . . but he couldnt get enough of the math story books! Even reading a book which was a few grade levels above him, he insisted I read the math part as well as the story part.

She also has suggestions for math games.



Checking it out now - Thank you!

Kylie
08-06-2010, 07:59 PM
Thanks so much for all your input. Marmalade - that sounds like where I'm at. I read about everyone's curriculum choices on here, and feel left out, so I google unschooling and get the whole anti-structure thing, then I feel torn! I think I too am stressing too much over committing and fitting in. And I keep telling everyone around me, "If it doesn't work, we'll change it!" Maybe I should listen to myself more!

And this is what I was going to say to you, is to trust and listen to yourself more. Whilst I know that unschooling mum was well meaning when she told you her story, at the end of the day it was HER story and not yours. I have tossed and turned on the unschooling bandwagon for nearly 3 years now. I wholeheartedly get the concept but I am just unable to let go right now where we are in our journey....doesn't mean that we will never be complete unschoolers but that's ok because we are doing what works for me and the kids (most of the time) and trying very hard to make it win/win for all involved.

I think that like unschoolers like many attachement parenting sites/forums/blogs (and I could slot in fundies here as well) they are so passionate about what they believe in that they very often come across as offensive and snobbish when someone even mentions the word curriculum! Well that is how I have felt after pouring over the few well known unschooling sites that have lots of forum archives posted on them. As soon as someone mentions even a little structure or guidance from mum they are very quickly 'put in their place'. I know that that is not what they are trying to do but it does very often come across that way.

I feel for you because that is exactly where I am, secular, totally relaxed with it all, but certainly not unschoolers.......is there any hope for us ROFL!!!!

Kylie
08-06-2010, 08:07 PM
Also, I hope this is ok to post here, but this mum - http://blog.aussiepumpkinpatch.com/ - doesn't use a math curriuclum (well form what I can gather anyway). They are not unschoolers and are christians but she has good ideas on learning math through games and links to a few good books.

There is also this - http://love2learn2day.blogspot.com/ - a math blogger
Joyful Learner has a weekly Math Link Up - http://joyfullearner.blogspot.com/search/label/math - you could possibly glean ideas from there
http://livingmathbooklist.blogspot.com/ - might also help

Someone please tell me if I am not supposed to be linking to other sites here.

Wilma
08-06-2010, 09:55 PM
I think we get caught up in labels, and what one person views as unschooling is not what another person calls unschooling. I think there are a lot of radical unschoolers out there who would have John Holt scratching his head. While he is considered the father of unschooling, he was not necessarily anti-curriculum, he was anti-school. I remember reading Homeschooling For Excellence by the Colfaxes (great book, BTW, one of the best homeschooling books out there, IMO)and I was told they were unschoolers. They used curriculum. I have a good friend who is an unschooler and she used a math curriculum that her kids chose. Grace Llewelyn is what I would consider to be a radical unschooler, but she loves Saxon math books. She talks about them in The Teenage Liberation Handbook.

FWIW, I do not consider myself to be a math person and I never really understood the whys of math when I took it. I did not use my statistics or trig, but I found algebra and geometry useful. I found the early arithmetic boring, but I enjoyed mathematics, and there is a difference. You can't get to Mathematics without doing arithmetic. I just didn't like having to perform for a grade.

You've been give some good websites to check out. You may also want to look at funbooks.com if no one has mentioned that one. That is Pat Farenga's site I believe (but Icould be wrong), and he took over Growing Without Schooling when John Holt died.

elkhollow
08-07-2010, 11:40 PM
I've been reading alot about unschooling and to be quite honest it I am both fascinated and scared to death of it. This is one of those times when an education degree is a hinderance. I felt it was the right thing but I couldn't make myself commit to it. Anyway, after several members of this site recommended time4learning I gave it a try and I'm glad I did. It satisfies the teacher in me that something structured, planned, and standards based is getting done and it takes math out of my hands, which is a good thing for everyone. My dd no longer cries when it's time for math. I no longer cry when it's time for math. She actually enjoys her lessons. It takes an hour on the computer to do math and language arts daily. She usually takes care of handwriting practice herself but if she doesn't then I have her do something which doesn't take very long. In a very short time the three r's are taken care of with very little fuss or bother and I have something concrete to show that she actually learned something that day. She's done by 9:30 and the rest of the day is ours. I don't have to push or require or worry and somehow she and her brother end up learning all kinds of stuff. I sort of feel like I have both now: structured and unschooling. Every family is different and it may not work for you, but if you're interested I think the free trial is still going on. HTH

mommykicksbutt
08-09-2010, 10:15 AM
We've been Eclectic homeschoolers since we started. I've never been accused of not being eclectic enough. However, I have been accused of being too eclectic, too structured, not structured enough, too school-at-home (because I use programs for Math & Foreign Language), and too unschooly (because I don't use textbooks for most subjects).

This sounds like us!

There is no doing it wrong when you are eclectic :D

****************************

OP, Just do what works. This may take some experimentation to find. Get your child involved in cooking, have him help by doing some of the measuring for the ingredients. Then start playing with the proportions... what is the measure if you only made half of the recipe or if you doubled the recipe. Snack time can be math, open a bag of pretzels and start counting up the number in the bag then divide them up and subtract (by eating them). Even cutting pizza is a math lesson (fractions!). You get the gist of this, use your imagination, homeschooling parents get really good at this compared to their brick and mortar peers!

mjzzyzoff
08-09-2010, 10:20 AM
Get your child involved in cooking, have him help by doing some of the measuring for the ingredients. Then start playing with the proportions... what is the measure if you only made half of the recipe or if you doubled the recipe.

Unfortunately, he has figured out that this is "math" and pretty much refuses to help me bake anymore!

mommykicksbutt
08-09-2010, 05:35 PM
Unfortunately, he has figured out that this is "math" and pretty much refuses to help me bake anymore!

See, you've got a smart kid there, he can recognize math even when it is snuck in on him!

lovemylife
08-09-2010, 05:59 PM
Mmm. When I was younger, I did not enjoy math, because I didn't know what I was supposed to do with it. It was like I missed the day in school where the teacher confidently explained it was the key to the universe, and for years after the cosmic joke was on me. I just didn't get it. In creating a curriculum for my child, who is gifted in math (see, the joke's still being told...LOL) I was concerned that he would rapidly surpass whatever I could teach. And he will. In addition to his curriculum, I have here in my bag of tricks:

~ a woodworking class for kids
~ sketching (perspective) art class
~ cooking (I realize your cutie pie is on to you here)
~ sextant unit study (http://www.celestialnavigation.net/classroom.html)

The wonderful thing about homeschool is that it's your home, and your school. If it isn't working, just try something else :D

lovemylife
08-17-2010, 09:43 PM
Rick

You are welcome. If you have time to post about it I would love to hear it works out for you all.

~Theresa

InstinctiveMom
08-18-2010, 12:37 AM
That's a really neat site! Thanks for the link :)

And yes - the 'doing it right' mindset is SUCH a pain in the neck! You're definitely not the only one who gets caught up in that. I think there are so many conflicting views that tell us which way to go that it gets hard to put it aside and focus on what works 'for our family'.
~h