View Full Version : Help me out here, please! Unschooling musings

05-06-2010, 01:56 PM
Every year I vacillate between unschooling and curriculum. I swear I have adult ADD, and I get so bored teaching. It drives me crazy. I think it drives my kids crazy. So this year we joined a co-op, and it has been a fantastic experience. I feel it has kept me accountable on various levels. But the unschooling issues still nag away at me.

My kids are bright and inquisitive. The oldest, who is 13, can be a little (okay, a lot) scattered, but, overall, she's a good kid. Math is a struggle. She likes a routine with school, likes grades. I can pretty much give her an assignment and she'll do it. If she doesn't get feedback, she'll do a halfway job with it, but if I put some importance on it, she will too. She really had no clue on how to write essays at the beginning of the year, and now she does a pretty good job. She recognizes what she needs to do, what colleges are going to be looking for, and steps up to the plate. I really don't do much riding herd on her except at select times.

DDs 2 and 3, who are 12 and 10, are also very inquisitive. The middle one is very artistic. The younger one is just a ball of energy. They are both swimmers, which is a very time consuming sport. The younger one is not a good speller at all, but it is slowly falling into place. The love to explore and create. They both read and watch a lot of History and Science Channel.

Looking at this, one could say I do a very relaxed school. But I need to let go more. We have to do some Ancient Rome with a unit study to finish out the year. But then I ask why? They know about Pompeii, Julius Caesar, Hannibal and the elephants, all that. They know the story of Boadicea and the druids in England. So why study them again?

It's beautiful out! I went for a long walk with my middle dd today. We spent time talking about life in general. She is very moody but far less dramatic when she gets time with me, which unschooling allows. In fact, all of them do better emotionally when we let go on the curriculum. She wants to do a bug collection this summer. She wants to plan and maintain a flower garden. My oldest is volunteering at the library this summer. She wants to do a forensics mini course this summer. And she learned to write and essay. The process worked, but I still panicked. My 3 youngest went to a a dress rehearsal for their play today. My oldest loves to walk up to the library and hang out. She fences and is writing an essay on the history of fencing.

I guess my question is, how do I just let g?. If I could do that, I mean really do that, I think it would work out. I live in the easiest state in the country to homeschool in. This shouldn't be too difficult. My kids are thirsty for knowledge. They are getting old enough to recognize hoops that will have to be jumped through, whether they like them or not. So what am I afraid of?

Okay, rambling done.

05-06-2010, 03:22 PM
I don't know how you let go completely if your natural inclination is toward organization and benchmarks and assessments. I'm not the most organized person in the world and we don't have a lot of rules and, although I hate to admit it, we just kind of let things happen. I think unschooling will be a good fit for our family but then I also know that one day in the future I will go, "OMG Zack hasn't learned this and this and this," and THEN I'll panic. Personally, I think you have a workable system going right now, with a gradual shift toward unschooling as your children become more mature and self-guided learners.

05-06-2010, 04:18 PM
I don't know how you let go completely if your natural inclination is toward organization and benchmarks and assessments. I'm not the most organized person in the world and we don't have a lot of rules and, although I hate to admit it, we just kind of let things happen.

Thanks for your reply! I have to laugh, though. I think I might have given you a different impression of me. I don't keep grades, which drives my oldest crazy, I don't test, my kids have never taken any sort of standardized test, I don't do lesson plans. I have visions of being up the night before a college application is being sent out trying to remember what we did so I can cobble together a transcript!

05-06-2010, 06:02 PM
I think unschooling requires one to have an extraordinary amount of trust in her children and in the process of learning. I don't trust anyone so it would be extraordinarily hard for me to be an unschooler, no matter how lazy I can be or how bored I can be with teaching some lessons! I do want to adopt a more relaxed teaching approach though, now that Noah is a great reader, knows how to write and tell the time, add, subtract and multiply. We're taking baby steps with that and it's working quite well for the most part... until I read some of our members' plans for next year and I start feeling very inadequate (piano? latin? arrggghhh! lol). Planning is definitely my safety net so I'll keep on planning and tossing my plans when the great outdoors or something more interesting comes a-calling. I hope that some day (in the next 3 to 4 years) Noah will be able to be self-directed but I feel that at age 8, he still needs a lot of guidance.

05-07-2010, 11:07 AM
I don't think unschooling is for us. My daughter would stay on youtube and facebook all day. ;)

But I was thinking, maybe you can just continue to be more relaxed with the schooling until it is easier for you. If your daughter likes a more structured learning environment stick with that for her, but slowly become more relaxed with the other two. My best to you whatever it is you decide.

05-07-2010, 11:19 AM
I agree with what's already been said - maybe just keep gradually moving to a more relaxed method. Even with your oldest, she likes structure, so show her how to implement the structure herself. It's a skill she'll use in college & life beyond school, learning it now would be a good thing.

05-08-2010, 12:38 AM
I could never unschool, it just doesn't suit my personality. And my daughter likes some structure although loose and flexible. She likes to see progress with her lessons. And quite honestly I want her to at least be minimally on par with public school kids her same age, if not better, in the event circumstances would prohibit me from homeschooling for whatever reason. You never know what life can throw at you out of the blue. I just wouldn't want her to be terribly behind in one or more areas.

05-08-2010, 09:26 AM
It sounds like you have it all down to me! The kids are doing things naturally and because they are all inquisitive, you don't have to try and force feed anything. ;)
I think you DO need to let go. I bet if they feel like something is lacking, they will let you know. Then you can find a curriculum to meet the need of what they are asking for.

05-09-2010, 03:23 PM
I have that same debate with myself at least once a year. I will promise myself that I will take a more relaxed approach (especially with my second child who absolutely thrives on unschooling and gets completely stressed out by structured learning) but after about a week I start to get antsy and start to pile on the expectations. It is a constant back and forth with me and I don't really see anything wrong with that as long as everyone is pretty happy. I know what you mean though and often wish I could relax into unschooling more.

05-09-2010, 11:58 PM
One thing that occurs to me, perhaps you could talk to your kids about it . . . talk to them about them deciding what to do next year, ask them how much time they want to appropriate to their own projects, and what subects they still want you to manage. Make it clear that you need to feel comfortable that they are progressing, learning, and spending their times on growth-building activities. Be honest about where are able to let go and where you still feel a need to set boundaries. What I hear is that your kids really are ready to start making that transition in to being more self-directed, and you all need to find a path there. I think thats one thing that would be a great gift to a child, to let each child move towards independence at a pace which works for eveyrone in the family. does that make sense?

I dont think we are doing that very well at all here . . . but the fact that my two teens are both bipolar, the older one has fibromyalgia and the younger is autistic, does make it even more challenging. My 17 yo simultanously resents me for not being more involved in her emotional life (long story) while insisting that she will move out of the house the minute she turns 18 - with no plan and in bad health. My 14 yo is still happy to have me direct almost everything - he has very few interests beyond electronic entertainment, tho he did decide to buy a sewing machine with b-day money he recieved this week!

05-10-2010, 07:36 AM
Cara, how do you do it? It sounds to me like you are doing better than you think you are. I am so impressed that you are taking on these challenges. It is very inspiring.

05-11-2010, 10:51 AM
Thanks, Ann. Sometimes theres not a lot of choice involved . . .if you think you can possibly do the right thing, you just gotta do it. School was like torture for my middle child, and all he wanted to do was learn. The youngest one is just too stubborn and non-conformist. The oldest one . . . my biggest headache for the past 2 years. And my biggest frustration is that drama from her puts me out of commission and unable to really do as much with the boys as I want. We have a lot of days off. I plan to go year round to make up for it.

05-11-2010, 02:04 PM
We are on our 3rd year of homeschooling and I would say that we do alot of mixing it up. I have two boys the oldest has ADHD which he got from me:rolleyes:

Since I too get bored with teaching lessons all the time , i switch on and off from the harder things that we need to work on (spelling and writing) to the more fun stuff mixed with lessons that the boys can teach themselves or ask me if they get stuck. This is way different than when we started I had workbooks hanging out the front door and i went thru all of them with the boys! Then I had a unschooler tell me that I was doing too much, I thought I can't be doing too much, its their future, right? Since then she has given me some encouragement for making the boys accountable for what THEY need to do. So when I am feeling like I am in a organizing type of mood I plan out for the boys what we are doing for that week, month etc (whatever I can get done while I feel in the moment). They now help me with keeping on track and they even work ahead if they know that they have something coming up that they want to do.

I agree with all the others who have commented, talk with your kids and find out what they want out of homeschooling. You will be surprised by what they say, then you can go into as a team!

We all go thru this, well except for my friend Terry, she has her whole year planned out by Sept! I know alot of homeschoolers who have kids in college now and they said that they felt the same way as we do now.

05-20-2010, 09:29 PM
When you're bored teaching and it's driving you crazy - it's driving your kids crazy. Take a break and carefully watch what needs to be undone. I always think about the economy of nature. Not too little, not too much, just right...

Think robin feeding: in the wide open mouth, side of the nest, calling from a few feet away, from across the yard, moving into a new field, from the woods beyond the meadow... Eventually you have happy little birds chirping and chasing their own bugs all over the countryside. Somehow they are able to cope with everything all on their own!

Thankfully our human options are more diverse than songbirds. I have witnessed the tremendous benefits of unschooling and love it! I also hope my kids exceed the toughest states standards. I'm facing the same tug-of-war you are! I think our basic rational fear comes from the fact that it truly is a big world out there. And the good news is that kids have a way of surviving our biggest failures. So, don't worry, you're doing great as long as you keep paying attention!

07-02-2010, 03:05 AM

I like to think of unschooling as a spectrum. There is the radical end, then there is my end. Right now I am buying tons of used books (focusing on the secular books on the sonlight curriculum) to present to my 4.5 year old. Maybe he'll read them, maybe he won't. I just got some Spanish vocabulary software with the intention of doing it with him. I have the unschooling learning guides to see what societal standards are so I can see if there is anything I want to present to my children. I present then I back off and let them follow their interests.

One of the reasons I'm okay with being an unschooler is I think back to all I learned in elementary and high school. I grew up in an affluent town with decent public schools. I remember very little of what I learned. I can read, write, do math. I have some basic memories of a few bits of history and a little science pre-college. We certainly didn't learn anything about ancient Rome. I'm sure I'd remember at least something about elephants. (Or maybe not. Maybe we did learn about these things.) So even though I got through a bachelor's of science degree without ever learning about Hannibal's elephants, I've done alright. I'm 48 years old, own 3 houses, pay my bills, worked as a professional for22 years prior to having babies and have been to Europe 7 or 8 times. And no Hannibal's elephants?

When I instructed nursing students, I didn't care so much how much book knowledge my students had. Obviously there was a minimum amount of basic information they had to have. What I cared about, what I passed or failed on, were 2 things: 1. Did they know how to acquire the information they needed? and 2. Did they have the ability to think critically about the information they just found? If not, I would not pass them. So it became my job to teach them critical thinking skills and research skills.

Remember, unschooling is about supporting your child's style. If your child likes structure, give her structure. If she's more relaxed, let her have a more relaxed environment.