Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unschooling, Part 6: Judgement from others

I don't get much sh!t for homeschooling but when I start talking about loosening the reins and letting Maggie lead her own learning, oh my goodness. I worry a lot about how much crap I will get in the future. Most of it I don't really care about. I know my daughter and I've done my research. I believe this is best for her and she is happy and smart and curious and engaged. What more is there?

I am no longer with her Dad and I worry about that. Will he be pissed and try to fight me? I don't know and I can't worry about that right now. All I can do is what's best for her.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Unschooling, Part 5: Academics

This is actually getting much easier for me. I have long thought there was so much ridiculousness in the things compulsory schooling requires. What's radius? What are the major exports of Kenya? What's the capital of South Dakota? Maybe you can answer all these. I can't. But I can look every one of them up, with or without the internet. So why did I (probably) takes tests about each of these. I probably at one time could answer each of these questions and yet, I can't now. Did I really learn anything?

I then felt like, well there are things everyone NEEDS to know. I still think that. I think that everyone needs to know how to read, how to write and basic math. But won't everyone learn these things if they are needed? As long as they are in an environment where these things are coming up and they are exposed to them, I believe they will learn them.

I am still teaching Maggie how to read. But I have tried to make it as painless as possible. I ask her if she would like to do her reading lesson and if she says no, I leave it. Still I don't think it's necessary.

Mainly we're having lots of fun, going lots of places and doing lots of things. We are digging into her interest in bugs and it's been awesome.

Unschooling, Part 4: Food

This was also a hard one for me. Actually I feel very similar about food as I do about TV. Processed food is addictive. It's very hard for me to make good choices about food and I'm a grown ass woman.

I think my plan for this will be to stock the house with only things I am ok with Maggie eating. My sister did this and I think it's great. I do want to have some things prepared at all times (ie, fruit cut up or in places she can get it, cheeses, etc) so that she can just go get what she needs. I just wonder if it isn't annoying to be hungry and have to depend on another person to get that food (no matter how quick or kind they are about it).

But I also want Maggie to have some control in our decisions. To that end, I decided to let her buy one thing whenever we go to the grocery store (maybe any store). I did it at our most recent trip and I noticed it had an added bonus, she was very good about staying with me and not grabbing everything in sight. She knew she could get one thing and she was careful about choosing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Unschooling, Part 3: Chores

This was one I reacted to before I read any information. I felt like kids SHOULD absolutely help around the house (the amount should increase as they get older). The suggestion that they shouldn't have to do anything and their parents should be the maids that cleans up behind them is crazy. But. . .

After actually reading the thinking behind this, I've had a major change of heart. First, there's no saying kids won't clean; it's just that parents shouldn't force them to clean. The recommendation being you ask the kids to help and they do or don't. If they do, thank them sincerely for any help and if they don't, let it go.

A lot of things struck me about this. One, the immediate reaction I had speaks to a sort of prejudice I think the vast majority of parents have about kids: that they are inherently bad. I don't think anyone really thinks it outright but people say kids will take advantage/run wild if you don't control them. When they make bad choices, we see it as what they want to do (as in they make a thought out choice to hit or call a name). I feel like I'm not explaining this well but my point is just that I have that prejudice too. And I had mostly let go of it for babies (ie, babies will manipulate you to get you pick them up/you'll spoil kids by picking them up too much) but not kids.

Maggie WANTS to be good and helpful and kind. If I give her the chance, she will do those things. I can't think of a single time I've asked her (nicely) to help me and she hasn't (not saying it hasn't happened). I can think of a million times when I've asked her to help me with something and she runs to help. Or when I start and ask her to join in and she does without a thought.

Part of it too is not making arbitrary chores. When I was still planning on giving her chores, I WAS having to kind of make up things so she'd have chores. Like making her bed. Who cares? I make my bed sometimes but just because I like it.

A really good point that I read on this site is that you are damaging your relationship every time you force/nag/yell at your kids to clean something. They might do it but at what cost. And who wants to help when they're being treated like that. Again, Maggie almost always helps IF I ask her nicely and thank her.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Unschooling, Part 2: TV/Video Games/Computer

This is a tough one for me. I do see where unschoolers are coming from in this. Video games are amazing for learning. You need to use reading, math, critical thinking, eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, etc. But there are disturbingly violent video games. I'm not ok with that.

You can learn a ton from TV or just enjoy it. But there are shows with extreme, horrific, graphic violence. There are shows that glorify violence. There are shows that show lots of nudity and sex but in a degrading, unrealistic way. None of those things are ok with me.

The Internet is an absolutely amazing source of information. But there are also sites with violence, sex, violent scenes of death, rape, etc and other things I don't think kids should be exposed to.

So for me I feel like letting Maggie partake in as much media as she wants with certain limits (on WHAT she can watch) is fine. I will not let her watch some things.

A lot of people say that if they let their child have unlimited access to media, they would never do anything else. But I know that isn't true for Maggie. There have been times (when I was in a bad place) that I let her watch unlimited TV and she always got to a point where she was done. Where she wanted to do something, anything else.

Is it unschooling if I put parameters on what my daughter has access to? I don't know but it's definitely what I'll do. I do think this is something we've already done. If Maggie asks to watch TV, which doesn't happen all that often (we go days without her requesting it (she doesn't play any video games yet and, while she does have a Kindle Fire, she doesn't use it often, although she always (usually, I leave it places a lot) has access to it)). Um, wow, that was a lot of parentheses.

For further reading on the unschooling opinions of this, go here.

Unschooling, Part 1: What is it?

When Maggie was very young, I remember reading an article in a mommy magazine about all the different homeschooling philosophies. Curriculum-based (basically school at home), unit studies, Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson, eclectic, classical, etc. They also mentioned unschooling. Looking back I can see whomever wrote the piece clearly thought it was crazy and stupid. The questions they asked and the way it was written were definitely biased. However, either way, I thought the whole idea was insane.

How could you not teach your child anything? There are things they have to know, right? And kids won't learn them on their own, will they?

Unschooling is more of a lifestyle philosophy than a homeschooling method. The idea being you respect your child's ability to become who they are. Learning is just living. Unless they specifically request to be taught something or need to learn something to do something else they want to do. For example, if they want to learn how to play some video game, they will probably need to know how to read, how to do some math (there are usually point systems) and maybe other things (not really sure, I don't play video games).

But it also applies to food and TV/video games and chores and rules and pretty much everything else you can think of. Now I feel like I am already living a lot of this. I let Maggie dress herself. . . all the time. If it's cold outside, I encourage her to put on warm clothes but I don't force her. I bring warmer clothes so I can offer if she wants it but I don't force her.

When she decided she hated toothpaste I let her stop using it for a while until it wasn't a big deal anymore.

I let her dye her hair. I let her choose whether or not she gets a haircut. I let her pick out what classes she wanted to take at the community center.

HOWEVER, I have been making her do school work: reading, writing and math. I don't let her eat whatever she wants. I wouldn't let her watch adult movies.

Basically, I want to write out my thoughts on all this. I have been reading a ton on the subject and I have a million thoughts that I want to sort out.