Archive for May, 2010


As you can see, I don’t blog a whole lot about homeschooling. [Note from John: this is Gina’s post.  Not that I blaze up the aether with my posting, but hey, at least I’ve done some, right? ;-) ]

Part of the reason for that is that I don’t really consider us to be homeschooling yet.  By normal timelines, our oldest child still has a few months to go before starting kindergarten, so I haven’t been worried about structure, scope, or sequence.

So far, my teaching method has been to try to answer all of my childrens’ questions.  When they ask, “What’s insurance?” for example, instead of saying it’s a grown-up thing, or I’ll explain when you’re older, or otherwise dismissing the question, I take the time to simplify concepts to a five-year-old’s level, introduce new vocabulary words, and actually answer the question.  This is not easy, but it’s made for a five-year-old who talks about the government, decomposition, and flood insurance.

Today, I was at the computer when she woke up.  She came into the room, and her first words to me were, “Let’s look on the internet about the body.”  (Because she knows that the internet is our portal to information and pictures.)  So we spent quite a while discussing the skeletal system.  Afterwards, I realized that we really did some serious learning.  I had to check the clock to see that we spent 40 minutes, nonstop, of pure learning.  Some college students hardly have that kind of attention span.

What’s more, I would say that she learned about the skeletal system at a middle-schooler’s depth, at least.  Besides going through the names of the bones and their purpose, we learned about the structure of bones, how the marrow makes blood cells, the types of joints, the purpose of cartilage, tendons and ligaments, how bones protect the brain and spinal cord, on and on and on.  With each thing, I would an example on her so she could move or feel the bone or cartilage in question.  I was really impressed at how much information she could soak in, without tiring of me adding yet another new word.  We even took the quiz at the end.

So, at the end of this, I was spent.  Like checking off a box, whew, we’ve learned enough for a week!  But no, after just ten minutes of down time (playing the game portion of a DVD) she was ready for something else.  So far this morning, we’ve played Blink (educational about matching shapes and numbers), cooked lunch (including a treatise on how sugar is made from sugar cane), had a treasure hunt (she read the clues herself), and now she’s learning how to darn a sock.  It isn’t even noon yet.

This has got me contemplating the pace at which one learns.  Today must be a good learning day.  You know, sometimes you’re just in the mood, and sometimes you aren’t.  We’re all like that, aren’t we?  I know I am.  Just look at my sporadic blogging history.  I seldom write, but when I do, it’s practically a novel.  I suppose there’s value in being able to work steadily toward a deadline, but I don’t think that’s a particularly important, considering the rest of us procrastinate and hurry, and do just fine.  Yes, I’d like to teach my kids self-control and time management, but I think those can be taught in other areas of life, and don’t need to be the focus of their education.

Speaking of the focus of their education, all of this is coming around to a point.  (I’m not a writer, so bear with me if my writing style is all over the place.)  The point is, unschooling?  I had never seriously considered it before.

Unschooling is for the wackos who are so off the deep end that they basically think their child doesn’t need to learn anything, and any attempt to teach is just indoctrination and brainwashing, right?  Well, maybe not.

Lately, I’ve been reading a guide that helps you choose a home school curriculum.  Among some of the choices that sounded like they might fit my plan were some that are apparently considered unschooling.  I think the idea is that you teach without the scheduling and rigor of school, not that there’s some schooling or brainwashing that needs to be undone.  As one can see by my skeletal system example above, the lack of scheduling doesn’t mean a lack of depth or difficulty.  It just means that you go with the flow.  Topics can come up, be dwelled upon or not (the reproductive system was thankfully ignored this morning), and learning can be accomplished in unusual ways.

When my daughter wanted to draw a treasure map this morning, I had the idea of having her read the clues for a treasure hunt.  She was thrilled to read each one, and I was able to write clues that were just at her reading level.  What a fun way to practice reading!  How completely impossible in a school setting!

(Ok, this may be an arugument in favor of homeschooling, not unschooling per se, but I think my point remains: all of the leaps and bounds of education that ocurred today were succesful largely because of the timing and flexibility of them, which would be lost in a traditional structure.  Even a curriculum made for homeschooling couldn’t be personalized to our family and magically know when my children would be receptive to certain activities and when it was time to leave it for next month.)

The only problem I foresee with unschooling is making sure to cover all the topics.  I want to drop the strict sequencing and scheduling aspects of school, but of course we all want to have a scope, not leave out chunks of education just because they never came up.  Hopefully, it seems that this shouldn’t be too diffictult to overcome.  I’m sure one could find yearly or semesterly(?) exams to gauge expectations, but more likely I will browse curricula and use them as a checklist as the year goes on.  I’ll check off each topic that has been done to my satisfaction, and look for gaps.  Once in a while, my daughter asks, “What do you want to do?” which would be a great time to say, “I want to learn about…” or, “I want to play…”.  It shouldn’t be too hard to bring up any missed topics.

Remember in my opening paragraph, where I said I wasn’t worried about structure yet?  Well, maybe I just won’t ever worry about it.  Hah!


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