Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feeling Unschooly

I haven't really entertained the idea of unschooling for quite awhile now, although I do agree with unschoolers that free time is crucial in learning. For many unschoolers what I do is not remotely close to unschooling, which requires little to no direction from the parents. I'm not currently interested in giving up parental authority. But this week I'm feeling unschooly, although I'm not particularly acting on it.

It may have stemmed out of a conversation on Monday night where I explained how my education had let me down, that perhaps I am less happy as an adult than I could have been because of education. I've used this spiel in conversation before, so I'm not sure why it seems to have affected me more this week.

But I'm coming back to what it is that I really want our children to do and be, and none of it is related to learning the history of Britain in the seventeenth century. (Although the lesson of trying to plant a colony in America is perhaps more relevant – P has learned than in order for a colony to succeed, they had to farm. Obvious to us, but not to them, and thought provoking for anyone setting out on a brand new endeavor to take the time to figure out what is essential to have a chance of success.)

I want them to find their own place in the world, figure out what they are good at and how to pursue it. I need to remind myself of this when I want to read to one of them and they are running in the opposite direction – even when I have carefully picked a time when they didn't seem engaged in any other project.

It could be I'm seeing the success of my less visible work – the house is a little more organized, and therefore more conducive to constructive play (currently we have tape marking the "mining cart tracks" running through the upstairs hall, down the stairs, and around the living room). We have some routines in place – for instance, the computer is out of bounds between 10am and 3pm, with limits on how much it can be used at other times, so they can put computer games out of their minds for a little while and play at other things.

Their play sometimes makes me crazy – it's nearly all about fighting. I know I give them stories that are not about fighting! I guess I want to keep doing that.

I'm not sure I'll change my approach, but I certainly don't regret paring Ambleside Online down recently (except for the niggling worry that I might not make my year-end summary acceptable to the school system). I've reduced it to the point that we can catch up if we get behind. And both of my school-age children do really enjoy a good story, even if the language is a little difficult. I don't remember that much of my schooling – but I really enjoy learning about what interests me. I guess I want to expose them to many subjects in the hope that one lights a fire for them. And I need to constantly remind myself of that goal when it becomes clear that no fire is being lit, and that there is more chance for an ember to develop if I back off and leave them alone.


Janet said...

I feel the tension between structure/unstructure too. Though my actual school approach is pretty structured, my kids have LOTS of free time, and sometimes I feel guilty for not being more directive about it. Thanks for the reminder of how many good things are happening in their play.

Jacque said...

We are un-Unschoolers too. I think that there are some things that definitely need structure, some that require no planning and a lot of space to let them discover, and all that need Mom's watchful eye.
Thanks for submitting this to the COH. :)