PDA

View Full Version : Unschooling fails?



Andi
03-18-2014, 11:01 AM
I'm interested in hearing experiences of people who tried unschooling and then abandoned it for whatever reason. Please give details. I've heard a lot of "it didn't work for us" but not much why it didn't work or how you could tell it wasn't working. How long did you try it before abandoning it, in part or whole? What did you end up doing after giving up unschooling, full structure or light? How old were your kids? Do you think you'll ever try it again?

Some background on my situation. In his 5 years of daycare/pre-school/Kindergarten I was told many times by teachers/caregivers that ds (now 8, second grade) is much more inquisitive and persistent than the average child. It may have just been a kinder way of saying "your kid is stubborn and won't stop asking us questions." I actually had to put a rule in place in our house that if my feet were off the floor, I was no longer open for questions - he would have to save them. He would yell out questions as he was falling asleep and as soon as he woke up in the morning. Yes, it really was that bad for years and I was inwardly very proud of it. Montessori K was amazing for him but he fought against the structure of traditional schooling (pre-school and 1st grade) and especially against those teachers who were the most strict. He would never be described by anyone as easygoing. And now he's fighting against the structure I have in place. He's not openly defiant (thankfully), and does seem to try to follow the rules. I'm willing to abandon the plan for the day if something more interesting pops up, so I see what we do as "loose" structure. Oh, and he doesn't give up. Ever. Do I have an unschooler at heart on my hands or just a typical, but very strong-willed, 8-year old boy? I feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall trying to find what works for him. Because of his inquisitiveness and persistence I am definitely drawn to child-led learning for him and I think unschooling might work. However, I'm having a hard time letting go of curricula or structure when it comes to certain subjects (math and spelling), and I live in PA - I'm not sure how to unschool here without getting into hot water. I know it can be done, I just haven't researched it much. I have recently started looking seriously at Sudbury schools (which I see as unschooling, but in a building with other kids and without the state's homeschooling requirements). I don't want to give up on homeschooling, and the freedom it provides, I'm just having a hard time finding what works. Maybe it's just the long winter?

I've read many of the unschooling posts on this board and many unschooling blogs and was even a member of an unschooling Yahoo group. I've read several books on the topic and watched several YouTube videos and know the positives for many kids, but there seems to be very little information out there that is not on one extreme or the other. I know unschooling inspires passionate discussions and even anger. I'm not looking for a debate, just information. Please share your experience and any advice. PM me if you don't want to share publicly for whatever reason.

Keiran'sMom
03-18-2014, 11:08 AM
I have not considered unschooling myself, the boy loves structure and to know what is coming each day. That said I let him pick our science studies, library books, and anything else outside of math, spelling, and writing. I would be interested to read this information too.

Andi
03-18-2014, 11:37 AM
I have not considered unschooling myself, the boy loves structure and to know what is coming each day. That said I let him pick our science studies, library books, and anything else outside of math, spelling, and writing. I would be interested to read this information too.

I think this is where I'm having problems understanding. I've heard others say this. Maybe I have a kid who's so structure averse that anything that smacks of structure sends him running. Does your son "ask" for structure? Does he just not know what to do with himself if there is no structure? Please give details. I really am trying to understand this but have no experience with any kid other than my own - even my closest friends are childless, so I have nothing to use as a comparison.

Avalon
03-18-2014, 12:02 PM
I've been homeschooling for 8 years now. I have never called myself an unschooler, mainly because I am the type of person who needs some kind of structure and routine in order to feel happy. I like to know what's going to happen today when I wake up in the morning, and I don't like feeling like I'm a slave to my child's every whim. (For instance: "Oh, you want to do science today? Let's run to the store and get whatever you need.... Oh, changed your mind? now it's a craft project? Of course I don't mind turning the house upside down just to help you follow your interests." That's a bit how total unschooling makes me feel.)

I have never really tried total unschooling for more than half a year at a time. I find that after a few months of little to no structure, the kids end up kind of bored and they spend way too much time with the computer, the tv or with boring trashy novels. I find it difficult to keep them happily and productively occupied year-round without some kind of structure in place.

I suppose I'm a real hybrid. I think some people call it eclectic. I purchase curriculum for most subjects, but I am not very attached to using it all year long. It's there if we need it, or as a backbone, or a reference. We have a routine every day that involves some math, reading, & writing. I try to work in a variety of topics within that very basic routine, using the various program I have on the shelves. If the math book isn't working or is getting dull, I find another resource for that topic and move on. We'll go back to that math book again for the next unit. The kids have regular activities like piano, voice lessons, scouts, drama class, etc...

I try to give my kids as much freedom and independence as I can tolerate. If they are excited about an idea, I am usually willing to set aside my plans and let them do what they want. For example, these are the types things that I have let the kids drop everything to pursue:

figure out stop-motion animation with the iPad & making a bunch of movies
make & test every single paper airplane in the Klutz paper airplane book
research how to make miniature trebuchets or home-made bows and arrows on You-Tube, then make their own using sticks and stuff from our area
research everything they can about the food and fashion of a specific era (e.g. Depression-era or 1950s), or watch a lot of health videos from the 1950s and 1960s
learn about the Titanic, including making up imaginary characters with back-stories and pretending to be those characters
cooking & baking (cakes, miniature treats, anything, really)

etc....

There have been times when the kids are full of ideas, and I give them lots of freedom, and there are times when they don't, and so I pick up my curriculum and carry on from where we left off.

I don't have anything against total unschooling. There are a lot of people in my area and my homeschooling group who choose to live that way. Personally, I was an academically-oriented kid who did well in university, etc.. I see the value of my education, and I don't feel like I need to go to the extreme opposite in order to correct what my upbringing lacked. I'm hoping to provide just enough academic skills so that my kids can be successful at university, but also provide as much freedom and choice as possible along the way.

BakedAk
03-18-2014, 12:04 PM
Your son sounds a lot like mine. Does he get turned off if you try to use his passions for learning? For instance, I tried investigating dinosaurs with him, but that "killed" his interest in dinos (It's still there, but he won't do anything school-y with it.)

We do not unschool, though I've considered it. Boy wants to do only what he wants to do, but he can detect (and reject) "strewing" from miles away. I suppose I missed the philosophical point of unschooling, but I can't quite give up teaching stuff that he doesn't necessarily want to learn (like proper grammar and spelling, and math). We do workboxes in the morning (a mix of my priorities and "fun stuff," with structure) and Project-Based Homeschooling (http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog)in the afternoons (whatever they want to learn about, how ever they want to learn it).

I know that didn't answer your "why didn't unschooling work for you?" questions - I'll be back for that after morning school, but I wanted to point you toward that Project Based Homeschooling site. It's great for letting the child lead and still having a bit of structure.

Andi
03-18-2014, 12:27 PM
Your son sounds a lot like mine. Does he get turned off if you try to use his passions for learning? For instance, I tried investigating dinosaurs with him, but that "killed" his interest in dinos (It's still there, but he won't do anything school-y with it.)

Yes, this!! Although, he does want me to figure out how to teach him ALL math with Legos. I know there's a lot of math that can happen with Legos, but ALL MATH? Again, beating my head against a wall here. Right now he's designing sets on Lego digital designer. We're taking a LONG break from anything that looks like school.

Strewing? Ha! Doesn't work here either, but every time I see the word I imagine someone dressed like a fairy skipping through their house dropping things behind them for their child to happily, willingly discover. And it makes me laugh! I don't know why that particular image is in my head.

Past teachers have stated that "you have to make it seem like his idea" in order for him to do it willingly. I get really tired of trying to manipulate him into thinking it's his idea, and he's caught on to it, so apparently I'm not very good at it. I think this is why unschooling looks so appealing to me right now. As an example just yesterday, this kid struggled with adding one to a number (my questions to him as part of a math review), but not even an hour later figured out what year his recently deceased 97-year old great grandfather was born (just him wondering). I'm working hard at trying to figure out wth I am dealing with here (2e maybe? do I need to abandon my "don't get him tested" plan?)

I beginning to think maybe he's just trying to drive me crazy :)

Andi
03-18-2014, 12:42 PM
It's a tough question, Andi, because people 'unschool' in so many different ways. We very quickly (within weeks) morphed from structured to project-based in dd's first year home. It went so well, we decided to challenge our assumptions and join an unschooling umbrella this year.

Dd doesn't like imposed structure, but she does like having a goal to work towards. Also, something tangible at the end that she can reflect on (and show off). So, she ended up just doing what is essentially project-based, even when left to her own devices. We continued with structure for math (30-45 minutes, 4 days/week), because... I just couldn't 100% buy into unschooling math, I guess. So... did we REALLY unschool? Not according to the other families in the umbrella.

Which brings me to our biggest struggle with unschooling. The unschooling community. We simply didn't fit. There was persistent, unyeilding pressure to allow child-led nutrition, child-led sleep schedules, child-led everything, unmonitored gaming (both quantity and content), unmonitored internet use... sigh. I can't think of a more diplomatic way to say it: We didn't fit.

Our routine now is 1-1.5 hrs of math and language arts. Then, she does her own thing (with my support, when needed) on her projects.

Project-based appeals to me, too and I've tried a few things, but he resists anything that's not his idea or looks like "school". Yesterday, when this discussion started after he yelled "I hate all school" he said he could learn anything he needed to by doing it and didn't need school. My biggest fear is that I would be doing him a disservice by not sticking to some structure. I agree with unschooling on a philosophical level (it's how the world should work) but I have to prepare him for the way the world is, not the way the world should be.

I also have a difficult time relating to most of the unschoolers I've seen online. I haven't met any in real life, but I think it would be similar. We (ok, I) struggle with finding the right fit in the local homeschool community. I'm hoping that by asking these questions here I'll at least get some responses from people who are open-minded enough to try unschooling, but not so dogmatic about it that they're unwilling to return to structure if it doesn't work.

We're doing an unschooling 3 weeks. I told him he's in charge for a few weeks. I know that's not long enough, but it's all I'm willing to do at this time. He's only allowed an hour each day of free tv or gaming. I just can't bring myself to give in to unlimited tv or gaming.

hockeymom
03-18-2014, 12:53 PM
He sounds like a normal, bright inquisitive kid to me. I'd go with his interests when possible, but with enough structure to meet your requirements that he might otherwise balk at.

Most kids--and adults--will more willingly learn about what inspires or interests them. But eight is old enough to start learning that there are boundaries for what is acceptable and when. Right now we do math, then you can look up X passion on the iPad. It gets easier as they get older, I promise. My 11yo can still be like this--must.learn,words.in.Welsh.right.now!--but it's infinitely easier than a few years ago. Having structure makes a huge difference for us, for sure.

Marmalade
03-18-2014, 12:53 PM
I do agree that is seems hard to bring up unschooling without ending up in a debate or a heated discussion...so it's hard to understand what it really is.

I don't think I'd classify us as unschool failures. We dipped our toes in it and came away with new ways of doing things and looking at education that we did not have before.

I think what you have going on, OP is a very good example of child-led learning. I don't really see them as being one-in the same though.

I don't like the idea of making them think something is their idea...the manipulation part gets to me. But if he has an idea then by all means-run with it as far as he'll let you!

and as for strewing...ugh. I swear...these strewing advocates have never met my 2 year old. I could strew to my hearts content but he'd come behind me and destroy all of the interesting things I've laid about. My way of strewing is to get the item and place it on a shelf that requires a ladder to reach....and the ladder is outside. Bah.

Andi
03-18-2014, 01:08 PM
I don't think I'd classify us as unschool failures. We dipped our toes in it and came away with new ways of doing things and looking at education that we did not have before.

Yes, I realize "fail" might not have been the best title, but I didn't know how else to get the right people to read. I have a feeling that dipping in our toes is what would happen to us. Maybe? I don't know, the whole unschooling thing is a big mystery to me despite all the reading and researching I've done.


I don't like the idea of making them think something is their idea...the manipulation part gets to me. But if he has an idea then by all means-run with it as far as he'll let you!

Yeah, I'm not crazy about it, am not good at mind games - even with an 8-year old, and it is truly exhausting to me! I don't know how his K teacher was so successful at it. I have left games, books, project kits, etc, etc around and he walks right past them to his Legos. He has a singular obsession right now. Star Wars Legos. This has been his longest obsession ever.

dbmamaz
03-18-2014, 01:30 PM
Ok, so i'm another 'i'm not an unschooler but'. This is year 5 for us. My older son is autistic and bipolar and came out of school with massive anxiety. He requires firm structure and even needed me sitting next to him most of the time. He still needs me to ride him or he'll do nothing but read fan fiction and lie about what he's done.

My younger son is VERY stubborn. He is very bright, but not, however, highly inquisitive. He was also late to read and write. The first 2 years (1st and 2nd) school was very light. Over time, we were able to be slightly more structured. But . . .

So, every day I want to cover some sort of math, english, social studies/history, and science (and usually fiction reading). As long as its age-appropriate (ie, Wild Kratts might count as science some days in 2nd grade, but not in middle school), I dont much care what it is. We skip around between materials and subjects and I just dont worry. Some times its more formal and sometimes its less formal. Once he really understood the rules, he was able to take a LOT of responsibility for it all himself.

So let me break down what my 10 yo is doing now.

Usually his first subject is his favorite - minecraft mod design. Its an online self-pace class and he LOVES it. I allow him to do as much as he wants, anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours a day. We had 2 different goes at Scratch earlier, so this is his 3rd programming 'class'.

Right now he is doing 4 subjects independently, often in his room while petting the cat.
- math - right now he's doing dragonbox 12+. Before that he was doing a 6th grade spectrum review book. We will start on Life of Fred pre-algebra soon, which we may do together, I'm not sure. At times math has been reading murderous maths or other math readers together.
- science - right now for science he just reads a book from a bin (mostly horrible science) and tells me something he read. I'm hoping to start Story of Science next year.
- geography - we finished up 2.5 years of US history and needed a break. Hes' doing Stack the States
- fiction - he's on the 2nd Harry Potter book. He was so late to read voluntarily, I was still giving him graphic novels at the beginning of this year, so I'm awfully thrilled.

Currently english is a combination of Paragraph Town from MCT (Which i already owned, but he's liking the story - we havent done the assignments yet because i messed up) and some free writing and some writing prompts with next-day revisions. We spent almost a whole year going through Logic of English essentials for remedial spelling, and it also covered some grammar and copywork. He hated it but agreed it was effective.

So, I use some curriculum when it seems appropriate. I dont worry too much about scope and sequence, but do what he seems ready for at the time. I often offer him choices when we finish (or burn out on) something we are doing, so he feels some ownership.

Oh, and the big structure here - no recreational electronics during 'school hours' which are approx 10 am to 4 pm. (but he can test his minecraft projects - he doesnt really get too carried away).

At one point I printed out checklists for him, to make sure he did the required stuff each day, but now he knows and doesnt need a checklist. His brother still requires daily checklists. and gets them.

So for me, the best part about homeschooling is creating the learning environment that works for your kid. Its TERRIFYING to let go of the safe structure of standards and yearly curriculum, but many kids just dont learn that way. They are too far off from average. and compliance is, imo, required for a lot of curriculum . . i mean, who would voluntarily do some of that stuff?

kidsx2
03-18-2014, 01:40 PM
Ok Andi, when did you kidnap my son???
My son is very bright and hates "normal" assignments. We use Moving Beyond the Page, but manipulate assignments so that they are more to his liking. If the lesson is for him to create a poster about saving the animals in Africa, he asks if he can do a poster about great white sharks....I usually give in.

I have tried to teach math with Legos, but definitely see limitations. My so is very, very, VERY stubborn when it comes to memorizing math facts- I am hoping working with Legos, etc. will inspire him.

I love the idea of unschooling, but I don't have the confidence that my kids will be ready for the "real" world when the time comes. We do plan on sending the kids to a private school when 6th grade rolls around, so I am focused on getting them prepared for that. Meanwhile, I do try to follow interests.

freerangedad
03-18-2014, 01:58 PM
I've been homeschooling since the second grade (now grade 5). I was going to say that we practice interest based learning, but the truth is we practice integrated learning. It is interest based in the sense that I ask, "Do you want to study such & such?". We then learn about it, write about it, draw it, etc. However, few kids want to learn grammar or math. There have been times when I had to say, "YOU WILL LEARN THIS!" Teaching seems to becoming much easier as my girl matures. She needed more structure when she was in the second grade. She is much more invested in her own learning now.

I share my story to let you know that we have been there. I think most (all?) of us homeschoolers have had some trying times. My daughter and I have dropped certain subjects for short periods so we could start fresh. You might try that. If you do, I would explain why you are taking a break, and let him know YOU WILL LEARN THIS. :)

Keiran'sMom
03-18-2014, 03:33 PM
I think this is where I'm having problems understanding. I've heard others say this. Maybe I have a kid who's so structure averse that anything that smacks of structure sends him running. Does your son "ask" for structure? Does he just not know what to do with himself if there is no structure? Please give details. I really am trying to understand this but have no experience with any kid other than my own - even my closest friends are childless, so I have nothing to use as a comparison.

My son is high functioning and has always done "better" with a schedule. I mean his attitude and behaviour are better. He can roll with the punches a little but he prefers to know what we are going to do each day in the morning when he rolls out of bed. Sometimes he even wants to know before he goes to bed at night. I believe if we just did what he wanted to do eventually he would become very defiant and shut down on me. We always tell him in advance when something is going to change or something is going to happen. The boy hates surprises. When he asks what we are going to do and I say, "I don't know." He regularly tells me to figure it out and let him know. Lol!

Deli76
03-18-2014, 03:43 PM
I am glad I came across this. I feel like we are at a fork in the road. The only real structure we have is math 4 times per week, SOTW 2 times per week and LA 4 times per week. We are almost done with SOTW and I feel like we cant really go any further with LA after we are done with 5th grade level. I wanted child led at first, and realized there needs to be a bit of structure for her. Now as she gets older I am seeing that she probably needs more project based education. Maybe a bit of unschooling. She is one to ask a lot of questions as well. I don't know. So many options. And they are all so awesome!

Norm Deplume
03-18-2014, 04:43 PM
The only real structure we have is math 4 times per week, SOTW 2 times per week and LA 4 times per week. We are almost done with SOTW and I feel like we cant really go any further with LA after we are done with 5th grade level.

That is pretty similar to our schedule, too. He loves listening to the SOTW audiobooks in the car. He just won't learn anything more than rudimentary math unless I push just a little bit, although I'm mostly flying by the seat of my pants with "curriculum" for it. We're finishing with MCT Island level in the next week or two, and I'm at a similar fork in the road, trying to figure out if I want to invest in the next level of MCT for him, or just try to encourage him to write more.

I feel like I'm built to be an unschooler, as does DS, I think. But I know that a lot of unschoolers would balk at me using that term, because I do some "parent-led" stuff, too. I dunno.

On a different note, I have a couple of unschooling friends who say that their kids naturally started to crave (and consequently create their own) structured learning at about the age of 12. As if adolescence brings about an awareness of life goals and playing "catch-up" so that they can achieve them. It sounds logical, but I suppose I just don't have that level of trust that my boy would ever be willing to give up watching cartoons to become a scientist. My crystal ball is all foggy-- I'm just not sure what the future holds.

Andi
03-18-2014, 04:45 PM
Thank you everyone for the thoughts and ideas.

My vision of what homeschooling looks like keeps evolving. I'm still trying to find what works. I've tried Montessori at home (didn't work because we're missing the important group dynamic), MBTP (love/hate because my son's writing is so far behind the rest of his brain), Charlotte Mason short lessons seem to work the best so far, but he still wants to do only what he wants to do. I would love to see him inspired again.

You've all given me good ideas to mull over. I'm going to look more at project-based learning, I've read a little about it, but haven't really dug into it too deeply. This unschooling thing came about after a conversation with my husband last night (ds is turning out to be a small carbon copy of dh). DH is very hands-off with ds's schooling - he's active duty military and is gone frequently, so knows nothing about homeschooling styles and trusts my decisions completely. So, last night, when I mentioned my frustration (without mentioning unschooling) and asked what worked in early elementary for him for various subjects his first words were "if people would have just left me alone to do what I wanted, I would have learned a lot more" and went on to talk about how he loved to sit with encyclopedias - essentially following rabbit trails. He said the only place he would have really needed a lot of guidance was when he hit a wall in math. His words were that he thought math was "beautiful" until he hit fourth grade (maybe long division did him in?) Beyond 4th he was convinced that he was a horrible student. His words have just led me further into my unschooling interest.

Sigh, yes, the freedom and choices available to homeschoolers can be both a blessing and a curse!

Andi
03-18-2014, 04:50 PM
On a different note, I have a couple of unschooling friends who say that their kids naturally started to crave (and consequently create their own) structured learning at about the age of 12. As if adolescence brings about an awareness of life goals and playing "catch-up" so that they can achieve them. It sounds logical, but I suppose I just don't have that level of trust that my boy would ever be willing to give up watching cartoons to become a scientist. My crystal ball is all foggy-- I'm just not sure what the future holds.

This and a previous commenters post that it gets easier around 11-12 (I think) gives me hope that I can continue on this journey even though I'm feeling really frustrated (and have been for about a month)!

CatInTheSun
03-18-2014, 05:23 PM
I'm not an unschooler, never have been, but I'm an adaptive child led hs'r.

Two observations from my vantage:

1) there are a LOT of unschoolers in my circle, and although following inters seems to work fine with the younger set, IRL the mom's I've known who've stuck with unschooling seem to have kids who really, really struggle with MATH by middle school grades, especially any math beyond fingering out cookie recipes. I've come to believe that although most standard math curricula suck, math does require continuous work and discipline, even when it isn't "fun" to get to the "fun" stuff. Just my observation.

2) My eldest was a happy scholar, but my middle child was resistant and had to do things when and how she liked it in the 6-8 yo age range. Psychologist call it the "sulky sevens", but it lasted from about 6 to 8. Now she is a delightful member of our homeschooling family/society and is willing to tow the line. I guess my point is to avoid labeling your son too much for things that may be more age/development related rather than personality. For dd, I did "go with the flow" and do hs "lite" for about 18mo until she matured to a point that she understood that I would try to make things fun but her JOB was to do the work to learn, and sometimes work is work. We had some funny examples of me demoing, "Gee, what I would really LOVE to do right now is go clean the toilet! Because obviously I only have to do things I ENJOY doing!" :)

popsicle1010
03-18-2014, 05:30 PM
I know you didn't ask for advice, but my unsolicited suggestion would be to not worry too much about putting labels on what you are doing or naming it. When it works to follow your son's lead, follow it. When you want to introduce something, introduce something. After a few years you can look back and decide if most of what you did (and most of what worked) was "unschooling" or "child led" or "parent led" or "curriculum" or "eclectic" etc etc etc.

At the end of the day I think the only thing that matters is doing something that works for both of you! You'll sort out over time what that is and probably as soon as you do you'll have to adjust it! ;)

I discourage the use of labels and naming because I think they tend to have so many judgments associated with them. In my case, I thought "child led learning" was the be all, end all so stuck with it for a couple of years even though in retrospect it didn't work that great for us. If I had just paid attention to what was working and where we were butting heads etc, I probably would have figured out our true homeschooling style sooner.

Good luck!

Andi
03-18-2014, 05:47 PM
I know you didn't ask for advice

I'm an accidental homeschooler. Homeschooling didn't even cross my mind until just over a year ago.

I still often feel like a fish out of water, so unsolicited advice is certainly welcome :)

crunchymum
03-18-2014, 06:59 PM
I pulled my son out of grade 1 and he had been pretty traumatized. He was the kind of learner that did not want to display his learning for the consumption of others and felt very protective of his passions.

We unschooled (ish) for about the first 2 years. My philosophy was that skill development would be parent directed and content would be child led. I didn't require him to do much in the way of writing for a long time. He did some regular math with me. I required regular daily quiet time (reading) although he was an early and proficient reader. I also required participation in family outings, movies etc - much of what was educational in nature. In terms of documenting learning, I just talked to him. It was pretty easy to see he was learning in so many ways. We also participated in co-ops, which for the most part were not a huge success for him academically so we aimed for more things that were enrichment or social based.

This worked well for him. He needed time to regain the sense of control over his learning. We talked when he was about 8 about the set of skills he wanted and needed and we started a bit more formal work based on his input. A lot of it was unconventional. For about 4 months he did no math at all and instead read every single one of the Murderous Math books plus a bunch of math amusement type books from the library. He really settled in around age 11. He's now almost 16 and doing high school at home. He's back to being mostly unschooled (I still require math, and the occasional course like computer science but he has a range of options to chose from within those categories) but for the most part he directs his own learning.

I have found that with my younger kids that it's common that around the age of 10-12 they seem to be ready to settle into more formal work. My younger ones are not unschooled although they are still allowed leeway in the content of their learning. But they are more open to being "taught" than my oldest was, and more open about displaying their learning. They also have different learning styles. Two of them need structure. The other could go either way probably, but tends towards being more socially engaged than academically engaged and so I am happy to direct her learning in conjunction with her siblings for now.

For my oldest, who is academically gifted, the biggest challenge was keeping him "fed". He needed huge quantities of information to keep his brain occupied and engaged or he would start looking for input from other sources (too much tv, too much bugging siblings, too much wandering around asking me crazy questions.) The trick was to be months ahead of him with books, dvds, book tapes, lectures, science kits, games, people to talk to etc. It was one of the bigger challenges of homeschooling in my early years. (And still is. ) The fact that he was an early and proficient reader helped. It also helped to put very big ideas in front of him (university lectures, adult level dvds etc) and have materials that ranged from a grade or two up to several grades ahead of where he was so he could explore those ideas on his own after the talk.

hth

Mariam
03-18-2014, 07:54 PM
I would say that we are doing choose-your-own-adventure learning, but we do math and reading/phonics daily. I have a 6 year old and he sounds much like your son, asks questions day and night, even as he is falling asleep. (I cut him off at bath time. Otherwise we would be up all night.) Right now, if I keep the structure going, he is ok. For example, his bedtime routine is the same every day. Outside of that he is a little resistant to the structure, but not fully. I get resistance when I give wiggle room. (e.g. You didn't have me do that yesterday.)

What keeps him going is that he likes science and I remind him that he needs the math to learn the science he wants to learn. Also he knows that once he can read on his own, that he can read any book, about any topic. (Also he can read the information on his video game on his own.) Those are the motivators for us right now.

Outside of math and reading, we do construct things based on his questions/interests. Right now he is all over the place, so we move around, kind of like a spiral, revisiting a topic over and over, between other topics, getting a little deeper.

I am not familiar with your state's requirements, but I would think that you could incorporate other subjects, that is related to the immediate focus. While it is not required in our state, I try introduce other ideas that are related to the immediate interest that he can explore or move on for another time.

Spelling - are there other ways that you can work on it? Such as encourage him to write about his interests. He will learn how to spell words, just by the act of writing. (I am biased. I was a terrible speller until graduate school. It was there where I really learned how to write and spell. Even now I rely on spell-check too much. I tend to be a little sympathetic towards this. :)

crunchynerd
03-23-2014, 07:53 PM
Andi, I wish our boys could meet...
Your son sounds delightful.

I was trying to write a response, and as often happens, realized it was not much to the point of your question, so I'll try again.
Can't tell of unschooling fails, particularly, because we ebb and flow so much between more unschooling and more eclectic styles.

All I can report of my periodic dips into mostly unschooling is that it hasn't appeared to do any harm, so far.

But our dips into "low impact" periods of time, where aside from chores, I require very little, have not been permanent stays.
I do notice that when we come back around to planned activities or systematic study of anything, they have usually increased in their ability to master whatever it was, in the intervening time. They seem to grow, rather than stand still, whether I am there watering and tending, or not.

Except for certain things.
Multiplication tables do not just spontaneously pop into anyone's head (well, not ours, anyway!), and must be learned by effort and practice. And they are important, if one wishes to avoid being crippled at most maths thereafter.

That's where our unschooling ideas just break down, or don't apply. I'm not ok leaving my kids to be math cripples if it just happens that they know beyond all shadow of a doubt that they want to be professional dancers, and will never need to know their multiplication tables or any math beyond addition. They don't possess the wisdom to make such decisions at this age, and by the time they possibly might, they will be at a station in life in which recovering that loss and all the losses that follow from that inability, will be extremely difficult to remedy, and come at quite a cost of opportunities with respect to time.

Learning multiplication facts is dull, but it won't be any less dull, later, and leaving it til too far into the future, denies any chance at moving forward into more interesting maths, or at least the calculating ability needed to support those other, more interesting maths. Except logic. That doesn't depend on arithmetic.

But if someone is running into a brick wall, we don't doggedly keep running at it; we back up and go elsewhere for a while, and try to keep real interests in the forefront, and come back in better spirits, or try a different way.

I also don't expect nearly as much attention span and cooperation from my DS6 as I do my DD9, and try to keep my senses attuned for signs of listening/attention fatigue and quit before eyes start glazing over, because anything past that point, is wasted effort.

Christen99
03-24-2014, 03:18 PM
It didn't work for us for a number of reasons...

I have two children on the spectrum, and kids on the spectrum are typically very rigid, rule bound, narrow in interests, and generally don't have very good executive functioning skills. As their mother, I share these traits more than I care to admit.

1. My youngest child is a seeker of attention, sensory input, and ACTION. The moment this child is not involved in and activity, all hell breaks loose, and chaos ensues. It stops the entire family, sometimes it's violent, and nothing else can happen until he is back under control.

2. This particular child doesn't do anything else with unstructured time, other than build with Legos (variations of the same types of structures, over and over), or read. Reading is awesome, but he will only read in sequenctial order, and HATES nonfiction. He doesn't have any interest in anything other than this...I've tried waiting him out for a period of over 2 years and things became worse.

3. This same child needs his days structured from the time he gets up, to the time he goes to bed. He functions much better this way, has far less anxiety, and is a much happier child as a result. He also likes his downtime scheduled...meaning "you've finished all of your work, you can choose to read or build Legos for the next hour". I always offer choice C, but he has never chosen it.

4. My oldest has the executive function skills of a gnat. He doesn't remember to brush his teeth unless reminded, and won't wash his face each day unless it's written on his schedule. He also asks me where every single dish goes when emptying the dishwasher, and we've lived in this house for the last 10 years. Unloading the dishwasher isn't new, nor is the location of the dishes.

5. My older child's perseveration has been the vehicles of WW2 for the last 3 years. Prior to that, he perseverated over the Battle of Gettysburg for well over a year. His perseverations can last from a year up to 5 years, and are extremely narrow. They go deep, but generally it's fairly useless information (for example, Star Wars trivia lasted 5 years and it was the names and costumes of all characters in the series).

6. This child needs his day structured, down to the minute. He is extremely anxious, and it increases when he doesn't know what's coming next. He is very rule bound, and we have had his day written out for him for the last several years. Without this, he would sit on the couch and literally do nothing. We've allowed this, and it didn't end well.

I love the idea of unschooling, and we did try it for a period of 2 years. For us, it was a miserable failure, but I do believe it works very well for many, many families/kids. I don't think it was a good match for my kids, not just for the fact that they are on the spectrum, but it was a combination of their personalities as well. I think after trying various methods, what ultimately works the best for our kids is a structured eclectic homeschool model. Each of the boys have a custom education that works for them, and would never work well for each other.

ejsmom
03-24-2014, 08:35 PM
Andi,

Our boys sound so much alike! I never completely "unschooled" for longer than a few months. My child really does learn quite a lot on his own, but how useful some of it is, educationally, is questionable. He knows football stats (even from the 70's) out the wazoo, but....so what? If I can use his interest to further what he needs to learn, then great! I have used football to teach math and geography, but that isn't "unschooling" - more "child's interest led".

I do have a boy who likes structure but he is one who asks a million questions and we are off on rabbit trails to who knows where. Our planned lesson on the Spanish American War the other day led to a whole day of questions about Mount Rushmore, voting and taxes for US territories, the climate and geography of Puerto Rico, then other Caribbean Islands, then pirates, and on and on. It was a very full day - from one lesson. Throw in math and grammar (done BEFORE the history) and he learned plenty.

I feel like in my kid's case, he does better if I have a loose framework (especially in things like history, science, art, etc.) and sort of introduce and provide some info on the concept or time period or what have you and then see what questions he asks or where he goes with it, and following that keeps him interested. I have a rule that we have to do math, grammar, writing and handwriting a certain number of times per week. I sometimes have my son determine which days he does what, and which subjects we do in what order, to give him some control. Recently I've discovered that our days go better if I just say we are doing math first and that's that. Being in PA, I get what you are worried about. We have to show progress, by subject.

Lately I've just decided we have to cover so much of each subject each week, and when that's done (it only takes about 1.5 hours per day, maybe 2), then the rest of the day he can read whatever he wants, do nature journaling, research whatever he wants, do experiments, hike, build stuff, cook, draw, paint, watch any show I deem "educational" - just not play mindless games or watch SpongeBob. He does have free time to do mindless stuff, but I do expect him to be exploring, discovering, and learning certain things each week, and independently learning (and spending time in homeschool classes/groups) for a certain time each day/week. Math is non-negotiable here because he would NOT learn what he needs to learn otherwise.

The main problem that I found with hardcore homeschooling, is me. I just don't philosophically agree with it enough. I think spending a lot of time in that way is great - provided I can supply many "seeds" for my child to use as a jumping off point. Which I don't think is hardcore homeschooling. Also, I just feel that much of life, particularly in almost any job, and especially parenthood and caring for a home, is doing stuff that no one really is interested in doing, but just has to be done. Very few bosses care if you are interested in most of your work, they want results - PERIOD. Laundry isn't fascinating and frankly keeping up with vaccuuming and washing my floors makes me crazy, but some things you just HAVE to do, because they NEED to be done. IMHO, I think most (though probably not all) kids need to learn that. I think MY kid, in particular has to learn that.

Of course, I have the distinct honor of being not only the meanest mom in the world, but the meanest mom who EVER lived, as well, so you may not want to listen to any advice I have! ;)

Andi
03-25-2014, 10:03 AM
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded. Your advice and experiences were definitely helpful and it was really interesting to read about the kids who not only like structure but need it to function well. Because my ds is the complete opposite when it comes to structure, I had no idea what anything else might look like.

It sounds like a common theme in responses is keep the skills as a requirement and let everything else be interest-led, so this is what we'll do for a while. I'll be backing off a little bit, but will maintain a steady requirement of math, reading and handwriting. We may also move to a year round "schedule" so that we can take off long stretches whenever he seems to need it but still meet state requirements.

I may get this figured out before he turns 18...

Norm Deplume
03-25-2014, 03:15 PM
It sounds like a common theme in responses is keep the skills as a requirement and let everything else be interest-led, so this is what we'll do for a while. I'll be backing off a little bit, but will maintain a steady requirement of math, reading and handwriting.

That's what we've done, although I haven't been good at getting the writing going (our "deschooling" period was longer than I'd planned, by several months, oops). I figure that science-type things are easier to teach (and be interested in) when it's not so flinging flanging cold outside. Because with a little forethought on my part, a walk in the woods can be a great botany lesson, with no worksheets involved. Bike rides are physics. Swimming in a lake is all about ecosystems.

stix
03-25-2014, 10:39 PM
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded. Your advice and experiences were definitely helpful and it was really interesting to read about the kids who not only like structure but need it to function well. Because my ds is the complete opposite when it comes to structure, I had no idea what anything else might look like.

It sounds like a common theme in responses is keep the skills as a requirement and let everything else be interest-led, so this is what we'll do for a while. I'll be backing off a little bit, but will maintain a steady requirement of math, reading and handwriting. We may also move to a year round "schedule" so that we can take off long stretches whenever he seems to need it but still meet state requirements.

I may get this figured out before he turns 18...

I think your last line says a lot. The real problem with unschooling is there is not enough data on it to show that it is benefitial to the child. Common sense should tell us that children lack experiences that allow them to make long term decisions, and their education is certainly a long term decision. I am not a fan of unschooling at all, in fact I thinbk it is a recipe for disaster, but that is just my opinion. The problem parents make are they analyze what they are doing day to day and if everybody is happy today they conclude we are doing things right. I think unschoolers do not show their real education, or the lack of it, until they get out in the world and attempt to prosper with little or no education. I am an old school guy and I believe the structured school system is the best if we would get back to teaching core subjects and eliminate all of the barriers that exist now in public education. I don't think a purely radical change like unschooling is the answer for any child. Just my opinion.

melissa
03-25-2014, 10:45 PM
Here we go again.

justabout
03-25-2014, 11:00 PM
I have to say that I am always cautious of agreeing with any argument that starts with "common sense should tell us"!

RachelC
03-25-2014, 11:30 PM
"I am not a fan of unschooling at all, in fact I thinbk it is a recipe for disaster, but that is just my opinion."

Exactly. Just your very uniformed opinion (I am getting that from your post on another thread in which you claimed to be unfamiliar with unschooling).

I am not an unschooler by most definitions, but I still find your comments offensive, ignorant, and bigoted. I bet I am not the only one.

melissa
03-25-2014, 11:37 PM
"I am not a fan of unschooling at all, in fact I thinbk it is a recipe for disaster, but that is just my opinion."

Exactly. Just your very uniformed opinion (I am getting that from your post on another thread in which you claimed to be unfamiliar with unschooling).

I am not an unschooler by most definitions, but I still find your comments offensive, ignorant, and bigoted. I bet I am not the only one.


You are absolutely not the only one.

pdpele
03-25-2014, 11:40 PM
Stix - picking on the poster's last line 'I may get this figured out before he turns 18' is a bit....opportunistic..and kind of mean. In an online forum, we all make jokey/sarcastic/self-deprecating comments to soften our tone or introduce a bit of light humor to serious topics. It's also done just to overcome the barriers of lack of tone/verbal or facial expressions in online (text-based) communication.

I think your reply involved reading into her comment in order to further your own argument. I guess. If you want to argue. Not that the rest of your reply contained much worth debating or arguing over.


I think your last line says a lot. The real problem with unschooling is there is not enough data on it to show that it is benefitial to the child. Common sense should tell us that children lack experiences that allow them to make long term decisions, and their education is certainly a long term decision. I am not a fan of unschooling at all, in fact I thinbk it is a recipe for disaster, but that is just my opinion. The problem parents make are they analyze what they are doing day to day and if everybody is happy today they conclude we are doing things right. I think unschoolers do not show their real education, or the lack of it, until they get out in the world and attempt to prosper with little or no education. I am an old school guy and I believe the structured school system is the best if we would get back to teaching core subjects and eliminate all of the barriers that exist now in public education. I don't think a purely radical change like unschooling is the answer for any child. Just my opinion.

Starkspack
03-26-2014, 05:41 AM
I don't understand what Stix is even doing on this whole forum. I've now read three threads into which he has inserted his uninformed, inflammatory commentary. I don't see his purpose for being here other than to stir the pot. Is he homeschooling? Does he have a family member that is homeschooling, so he wants to educate himself on it? I doubt it. Perhaps we should all just set him to "ignore" and he can just argue with himself.

crunchynerd
03-26-2014, 07:12 AM
In this particular case, I get the sense that the original poster was looking for support and advice, and feedback, but did ask for bold honesty and opinions both for, and against, and Stix did answer that, though it could have been couched more diplomatically. However, it would be a shame for someone with a dissenting viewpoint to be unable to express it, so long as he or she is polite about it.

Of course, if one replaced "unschooling" with "homeschooling" and called it a "recipe for disaster" even though that is the person's opinion, that would be an opinion denouncing what this site is all about, and would lead everyone to wonder what the person was doing here, except agitating. But we do have a variety of people here, homeschooling in a variety of styles and for a variety of reasons. Our common thread is that we homeschool, and our primary purpose for it, is not religious.

At any rate, unschooling seems to have such a broad definition as to be rendered a meaningless term, and the only common thread throughout the seemingly limitless factions within it, is that it rejects the idea that the methods used to teach large groups of children in an institutional setting, are best, or should be universally applied. Some people feel that the methods refined in institutional schooling are best, and they have the right to hold an opinion, too, so long as there is no name-calling.

There is a significant gray area as to whether Stix' comments amounted to name-calling, but as for me, on my reading, I didn't see name-calling.

Stix, have you checked out the large and robust site that is referred to here as "the other place"? It has a lively discussion of school-at-home, classical homeschooling, and religious homeschooling methods and materials. You might find the philosophies, resources, and advice there, helpful or inspiring on your own journey of discovery, in addition to the somewhat opposing views here. Just be aware that there, like here, people are primarily looking for support of their views, not criticisms of them.

Except for areas designated as debate rooms (we have one here, if you're interested!), wholesale denouncements of people's entire philosophies, tend to go over like a lead zeppelin.

Hoping this discussion thread can continue in the spirit of friendly discussion of what has and has not worked for those who have tried unschooling, and that any debates over whether unschooling itself is right or wrong, can continue in the debate area, where all participants are (or should be) those who want debate rather than agreement-based discussion.

Maxaroo
03-27-2014, 01:51 PM
We've been embracing unschooling this year for our 14 year old son. He's pretty self-directed with subjects he is interested in and is an avid reader/digger. He is very adept at teaching himself anything he has a passion for and will spend hours/days/weeks on a subject until he is ready to move onto something else. He started out the year wanting to build a computer and accomplished that goal with hours of research and watching tutorials. He also spent time at the University in the IT department hanging out with the computer guys to learn more about the inner workings of computers.

We used a very eclectic approach for 4th-6th grade (unit studies, purchased curriculum, online classes, etc.). He attended a Montessori charter school for 7th grade but had a hard time adjusting to assigned work in subjects he did not have an interest in.......in fact, lengthy assignments were agonizing for him because they left very little time for him to tackle the subjects he really wanted to study. He struggled all year with finding a balance in doing what he 'had' to do and having time and space to absorb himself in the things he really cared about. He resented 'forced' learning and saw no value in it. I've noticed that the things he was forced to learn didn't stick - the material he has covered out of passion has become a part of him, spurring him on to other related subjects. It's a very interesting process to watch as a parent and I have delighted in it for him.

The only structured element we have indulged in is math this year. For whatever reason I think math is a gateway 'drug' :) and is important foundationally for all things fascinating in the world around us. He doesn't share this view with me (yet), but reluctantly does the work. I sincerely hope he will see the value of math later on as things begin to tie together in his mind.

For highschool we are looking at some umbrella schools to help with guidance and to broaden his horizons. There are so many wonderful ways to build an education; the most difficult part for us as parents is trusting in the process we choose, calibrating as we go. My goal for him is to continue to foster that incredible desire to learn so he can maintain it throughout his life. I have found unschooling to be a successful and deeply satisfying method of learning and growing for him. We will continue to tweak as needed each year and let him follow his nose along the way.

Accidental Homeschooler
03-27-2014, 03:41 PM
I took my older dd out of school in seventh and started unschooling in ninth. So she has done almost two years. For me unschooling means that she is in charge. She takes some classes at the high school because we can dual enroll in our state. But she decides which ones and how many. She wants to go to college and she has in mind very competitive schools, so she is making sure to cover everything she needs to apply to those schools. She is going to take trigonometry at CC in the Fall because the high school here does not offer it, so the school district will pay for her to do so. But she met with the advisor at CC without me and is doing the paperwork. I think navigating the paperwork for the school district and CC is sort of an education in itself. If she needs anything in the way of materials she lets me know. It is easy to feel good with unschooling her because her goals are ones I approve of kwim? If she came in tomorrow and told me she wanted spend the next year just making jewelry I would have a problem so I am not sure I am really so much an unschooler at heart lol. But it was still very difficult to let go of it and say that she could be in charge. On a day to day basis I have no idea what she is doing. If I ask she tells me or shows me. She is keeping a daily journal so we can make her transcript. I can look at it any time but I don't much.

I do not unschool my younger dd. She has learning differences that make it very difficult for her to learn through observation. She has difficulty generalizing from one situation to another and so she needs to be taught very directly things other children might pick up on their own without much thought at all. She also has a lot of anxiety and a predictable schedule is helpful with that. But I still keep formal lessons in the morning so she can have the afternoons free to make her own decisions about how to spend her time. I want her to have that freedom to explore her own interests.

Emerald
03-27-2014, 06:50 PM
You just described my kids so stinking well. This is why I haven't tried unschooling. Even just taking a week to say, "Hey, let's just relax and follow our own interests," led to screaming and crying. Huge mental breakdowns. Lots of broken stuff from restlessness. It was terrible.


It didn't work for us for a number of reasons...

I have two children on the spectrum, and kids on the spectrum are typically very rigid, rule bound, narrow in interests, and generally don't have very good executive functioning skills. As their mother, I share these traits more than I care to admit.

1. My youngest child is a seeker of attention, sensory input, and ACTION. The moment this child is not involved in and activity, all hell breaks loose, and chaos ensues. It stops the entire family, sometimes it's violent, and nothing else can happen until he is back under control.

2. This particular child doesn't do anything else with unstructured time, other than build with Legos (variations of the same types of structures, over and over), or read. Reading is awesome, but he will only read in sequenctial order, and HATES nonfiction. He doesn't have any interest in anything other than this...I've tried waiting him out for a period of over 2 years and things became worse.

3. This same child needs his days structured from the time he gets up, to the time he goes to bed. He functions much better this way, has far less anxiety, and is a much happier child as a result. He also likes his downtime scheduled...meaning "you've finished all of your work, you can choose to read or build Legos for the next hour". I always offer choice C, but he has never chosen it.

4. My oldest has the executive function skills of a gnat. He doesn't remember to brush his teeth unless reminded, and won't wash his face each day unless it's written on his schedule. He also asks me where every single dish goes when emptying the dishwasher, and we've lived in this house for the last 10 years. Unloading the dishwasher isn't new, nor is the location of the dishes.

5. My older child's perseveration has been the vehicles of WW2 for the last 3 years. Prior to that, he perseverated over the Battle of Gettysburg for well over a year. His perseverations can last from a year up to 5 years, and are extremely narrow. They go deep, but generally it's fairly useless information (for example, Star Wars trivia lasted 5 years and it was the names and costumes of all characters in the series).

6. This child needs his day structured, down to the minute. He is extremely anxious, and it increases when he doesn't know what's coming next. He is very rule bound, and we have had his day written out for him for the last several years. Without this, he would sit on the couch and literally do nothing. We've allowed this, and it didn't end well.

I love the idea of unschooling, and we did try it for a period of 2 years. For us, it was a miserable failure, but I do believe it works very well for many, many families/kids. I don't think it was a good match for my kids, not just for the fact that they are on the spectrum, but it was a combination of their personalities as well. I think after trying various methods, what ultimately works the best for our kids is a structured eclectic homeschool model. Each of the boys have a custom education that works for them, and would never work well for each other.

Emerald
03-27-2014, 07:01 PM
Having had another terrible day (I don't even want to describe it because I knew I did things all jacked up and didn't react like I probably should have or could have and I don't want to feel any more terrible by people telling me exactly that :P), I was interested in this thread because I keep hoping that there is an easier way to get cooperation and excitement. Sometimes it is there, but sometimes it's just a drag of, "You're going to do this because I told you to do this." I put a lot of effort into matching up their interests with the things we're learning and finding activities that I know they will enjoy, but I'm also having a baby in fifteen days and I'm exhausted. So sometimes I just want them to finish up the gosh darn assignment and not whine about how this particular one is no fun and "it's not fair I have to do something that isn't fun."

However, the reminder of what my kids truly are like in Christen99's post and some of the other posts in here have helped me to remember that there is a reason why I do this the way that I'm doing it and gosh darn it… Sometimes you have to do work that just isn't fun. Whether it is laundry, toilets, or defining a gosh darn science word from the dictionary.

RisingPhoenix
03-27-2014, 07:19 PM
Why unschooling wouldn't work for us is always hard for me to put into words. I'm always careful to not seem critical of how others are doing their homeschool thing, so it's tricky to say why it didn't/won't work without sounding offensive. So apologies if it does, that's not at all the intent.

My very dearest friend is a radical unschooler, and when my kids were babies, that is how I was going to do it too. Mine ended up in public school for a couple of years but when we decided to pull them, I just assumed I'd unschool. But I was always left with a nagging feeling that I was doing them a disservice. This world is FULL of cool and amazing things to learn about, and if I left it up to my particular children, they would only look as far as Minecraft and My Little Ponies. It's not always feasible to maintain an environment rich in opportunities to 'happen upon' things.

I think that education is a privilege that is not guaranteed in this world to MANY children. Mine are lucky to be born into a society where we even HAVE the luxury of agonizing over educational philosophies and styles. There are things in this life that they need to learn, and as an adult I am deciding that they will need these skills - reading and writing fluently and effectively in at LEAST the English language, having a foundation in mathematics where they can opt to go into advanced maths should they choose or need to at some later point in their lives, and learning to think critically about the information they come upon in their lives. These are not things I felt comfortable leaving to chance.

My BFF is a true unschooler, and her life is beautiful - her children are incredibly bright and articulate and all of her kiddos are wonderful. It works for her, it just would not work for me.

A major reason why it wouldn't work for ME, personally, beyond the reason I just mentioned above? It's MUCH MORE work and effort to make a successful unschooling environment. Sometimes our life here gets chaotic, and I was worried that the kids' educational needs were taking a back seat to a crazy life. It's easy to have some structure and a few books to work from. We still aim to live a life full of rich activities that engage them, and are still fairly relaxed as far as how tightly we adhere to the curricula we've chosen.

But at the end of the day, I want to toss as much awesome information at my kids as I can while they are at an age developmentally where things can kind of stick - and if we find things that they are just super into, we go on a few rabbit trails and follow their interests, but we always try to bring ourselves back around to our original path. I'm comfortable having a handful of things that are "parent-led" and allowing them the space to follow their interests also. We're pretty democratic about it all, I say "hey we WILL do this, this, and that...here are the ways we can do it, why don't you tell me what you think about them and tell me how you'd prefer to work at these things?"