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View Full Version : Relaxed or unschoolers with older kids - question



albeto
09-27-2011, 10:35 PM
We've taken time off from any official curriculum since December. Probably before that. Dealing with a sibling with a mental health emergency took precedence and we've restored peace and tranquility in the home. My kids have flourished in so many ways that it really does take my breath away sometimes. My boys have readily found their "thing" and having free time allows them to pursue each interest as it comes up. My dd, otoh, really has not. She has definite interests, but she enjoys them when they come up and is not really inspired to do much on her own. She likes art (animation and anime and steampunk genre) and literature.

She told me the other day she wants to start doing "school work." She has a history of feeling anxious, so watching her confidence come back since bringing her home from school is more valuable than anything I can think of for her. I would give her a curriculum and I know she would especially like one based in literature. However, I don't want to force her to do school work because that would undo a lot of the progress she's made, not to mention she really needs to learn to think for herself (okay, I know that sounds awful, what I mean is, she's learned the skill of patiently waiting for someone to tell her what to do and I don't want that for her because I think that's a stress coping mechanism for her, not her natural temperament).

I'm thinking of giving her some general assignments each week, focusing on literature analysis in which history/geography would be incorporated with this as well as language arts of course. For example, yesterday we saw the Picasso exhibit in the city. Before going we watched a documentary on Picasso and between the documentary and the exhibit she was exposed to a lot of history, some of it new to her: Nazi occupation of Paris, communism, Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco, fascism, Spanish Civil War, etc. Recently we took a road trip as a family and listened to much of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" on the ipod. The Victorian era is rich for her because of the steam punk connection.

But see, I'm not clever enough to know how to get her started on some kind of assignment that won't push her over the edge of frustration and self-deprecation but something that might give her direction with regards to her interests.

Can someone help me brainstorm?

lakshmi
09-28-2011, 02:35 AM
Maybe you could some Dragon Dictation software so that the writing isn't so tough, and get some sort of blog going. Sometimes sharing it where it makes sense is nice. Writing just for mom or dad is sort of dull and lacks interest.

Oh guess I am thinking writing because for me that is how I see assignments. Direct toward the Style rookie or rookie. it is a fashion blog, but it is an example of girl interest blogging.

If you wanted to get off the unschool bus then you could check out MBTP. And just don't follow the time frame, she could make up her own. It does involve books, but isn't obviously interest led. Good luck.

Stella M
09-28-2011, 03:02 AM
Blogging is good. Dd12 blogs for fun and I count it as her writing 'work'.

I think it's OK to strew 'schooly' stuff for her, maybe based around her interests. And I'd maybe go down the path of treating any anxiety as a separate issue. If wanting to do school is a coping mechanism for her, what other tools does she have for coping with stress ? For dealing with frustration and self-deprecation ?

Creative responses are always good because there's no right and wrong. Help her brainstorm a list of creative responses to what she reads, finds out about, listens to, discovers ?

Here are some creative responses that my kids have come up with:
Historical diaries
costume design
writing plays/screen plays
writing newspapers
blogging
drawing/sketching
writing picture books
choreographing dance
textiles - making stuff
stop-motion animation
drawing comics
drawing plans of places
storyboards

Could you strew some unit studies like this http://schooldownthelane.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/unit-study-victorian-england-and-sherlock-holmes/

I guess I look at curricula or resource like unit studies as just another item to strew.
Hth, I'm an unschooling failure, so sorry if I haven't made the right kind of suggestions :)

dbmamaz
09-28-2011, 12:58 PM
I don't know how old your daughter is. But some kids really prefer to have directed (rather than self directed ) education, which is fine. What kinds of things tend to set off her anxiety? Have you tried asking her what she pictures school looking like, or tried brain storming with her for ideas? I would think that if you want fairly free style assignments, the key is to start slow, with 'write something about xyz" . . . .and at first, don't grade or correct but just discuss the concepts.

Another idea is to look for pre made unit studies, like maybe intellligo or search on current click . . .but let her do it at her own pace. Just remind her to do it if she hasn't . . .but if she gets upset, remind her it's always ok to take a day off, and you trust that she will do more when she is having a better day

Well, those are my thoughts

albeto
09-28-2011, 02:11 PM
She doesn't mind writing but when I offer her an assignment she'll think it's boring or stupid. She's had a couple blogs, they each last less than a week before she runs out of anything to say. I'm thinking she just needs something to really ignite her passion but what if she just doesn't have a "passion"? But see, I don't believe that. I think she suppressed her self a lot since kindergarten and she's now coming out of her shell but just doesn't quite have the confidence to take risks. But also, she just doesn't know what risks to take and I'm really not so imaginative myself. Thank you for the unit study link - I can't wait to explore this.

Dd is 14. In a lot of ways she's mature (very organized, conscientious of those around her, purposeful), she enjoys being productive and sitting and getting things "done" makes her feel productive, but in a lot of ways her brain hasn't caught up with her age. Information from text books don't really sink in so well so studying something and doing a report or taking a test is hard for her because these facts don't click for her like information gained from more creative ventures.

I don't know that I can really address the anxiety as a separate issue because it impacts her work. She's the younger sister of an older brother with some major behavioral challenges. He is now in a therapeutic boarding school so there is, for the first time in her life, peace and stability at home. She also has some learning challenges herself which make school work difficult. She has expressive speech delay which means she really can't think of the right word to say. This of course makes having friends difficult because girls can chatter at record speeds and she felt increasingly left behind without any way to take care of herself. Not that her friends ignored her, not at all, but she couldn't keep up and as their interests started changing, dd didn't really have a way to collaborate and so that's when she started dropping out. At the same time, school became difficult. Certain abstract thoughts needed in math or science didn't really click in her brain and she was failing school.

Bringing her home has done wonders. The girl who at age 11 couldn't sleep by herself or let me out of her sight now bikes down town to the comic store to look for Beatles records. But she has no friends (she met up with a school friend this summer, they had frozen yogurt and looked at albums, she said she had fun but wasn't interested in doing anything else with her after that). I think she's okay with that but she's bored and she doesn't know what to do with herself. I'm thinking general assignments might introduce her to something that she wants to take off with but I just don't know. I'm afraid that giving her traditional assignments will inspire a battle of the wills that I'm not interested in getting into. She'll do what I say eventually but it will come at a cost I'm not willing to extract. If she finds something she enjoys, she'll take off, I'm sure, but those things she has enjoyed in the past are so short-lived (like a day or two) and I don't know how to help.

Okay, sorry this is so jumbled, I'm mostly just rambling in response to the comments without taking the time to answer each post specifically. I appreciate the ideas and will be taking time to figure out how to incorporate them.

Stella M
09-28-2011, 05:47 PM
That's fair enough re the anxiety. Maybe she's not ready yet for a passion. Maybe some of the qualities you mentioned - organised, purposeful - they are the things she enjoys expressing ? I'd try to work it from there back - OK, to what might she like to apply the skills she already has ?

Then you could strew a whole lot of academic or non-academic resources around that to see if they 'spark' anything for her.

What about mentoring ? Is there a person/people she could spend some time with, shopping around for 'passions' ?

Is it OK to enjoy something and learn about it for a day or two ? Idk, I think there's a bit of pressure involved in wanting her to find 'her thing'...and I say that nicely, with a super huge smile on my face, because I've been pulled up on similar things before, so please don't think I'm being holier than thou.

Does she want an e-pal ? My 14 yr old enjoys corresponding better than she enjoys talking :)

lakshmi
09-29-2011, 12:00 AM
yes, epal.. good idea!

if blogging is tiresome, and the other activities are like that... maybe you could ask for "help" with a project. or tell her to do research for me... I need to find out a lot of stuff. lol.

albeto
09-30-2011, 05:05 PM
That's fair enough re the anxiety. Maybe she's not ready yet for a passion. Maybe some of the qualities you mentioned - organised, purposeful - they are the things she enjoys expressing ? I'd try to work it from there back - OK, to what might she like to apply the skills she already has ?

That's a good idea. I'm having trouble finding something that would work like that. We've tried 4-H a couple times because there are so many things to learn and there's certainly plenty of opportunity to keep organized records, but nothing appeals to her for very long and those meetings are b.o.r.i.n.g.


Then you could strew a whole lot of academic or non-academic resources around that to see if they 'spark' anything for her.

That's my plan. Maybe I'm worrying myself? Yesterday showed me just how far she's come since coming home to school and how much she's let go of her anxiety. Maybe she just needs more time to feel confident enough to do her own thing on her own. She's only 14, it's not like she needs to get a job and an apt in Jan.


What about mentoring ? Is there a person/people she could spend some time with, shopping around for 'passions' ?

I think her speech delay prevents this. She's really self-conscious about this. She won't make phone calls, for example. Ever. She just won't put herself in the position of not knowing what to say and having to endure that discomfort.


Is it OK to enjoy something and learn about it for a day or two ? Idk, I think there's a bit of pressure involved in wanting her to find 'her thing'...and I say that nicely, with a super huge smile on my face, because I've been pulled up on similar things before, so please don't think I'm being holier than thou.

Thanks for the reminder. Today we biked to Target to get some stuff and on the way back she told me she was experimenting with momentum. We tried to remember which is kinetic and which is potential energy and I'm sure most kids her age know this by now but it made me happy to see she's making these connections because they're enjoyable to make discoveries. I guess part of my problem is that I can only identify academic looking connections (like science or math or history). I'm sure she's learning tons of stuff in that brain of hers that will serve her well when she's independent, but dang, I worry that she'll be 18 one day and feel bad for not knowing all the trivial academic stuff her peers learned. It would be one thing if she knew a lot about something else, but I'm just not seeing that. Yet, I guess.


Does she want an e-pal ? My 14 yr old enjoys corresponding better than she enjoys talking :)

:D

Thanks! I'll PM you.

albeto
09-30-2011, 05:29 PM
yes, epal.. good idea!

if blogging is tiresome, and the other activities are like that... maybe you could ask for "help" with a project. or tell her to do research for me... I need to find out a lot of stuff. lol.

Forgive me fellow forum member for I have sinned. It's been a long time since my last confession. Here's my newest confession:

I don't really have a hobby of my own. [deleted bunch of self-pity navel-gazing garbage] I'm no good at keeping a home homey, I suck as a cook, I haven't done anything artistic in so long, and I would never want my dd to compare her art to mine in any way. I would help with our local autism group but I'm so burned out, I don't know what I could do that wouldn't send me into a pathetic PTSD-like tizzy. So she doesn't have much to see at home. God, that sounds so pathetic when I just come out and say it. yikes

I'm sure she'll be happy to research for you as long as it's something from deviant art (http://www.deviantart.com/)!

Stella M
09-30-2011, 06:58 PM
If she turns 18 and feels bad about the trivial academic stuff she's missed, I guess she can find a way to learn it then :) Just from the little you've shared about her here, she sounds like a very interesting and thoughtful kid who will find a path when she's ready.

Have you thought about maybe rectifying the no hobby of your own situation ? :) Maybe she needs a female model of engagement. From what I remember of unschooling, that's a big thing ? But maybe you both need some more time to just be after what sounds like a stressful year or more for the family ?