Unschooling Inspiration.

Everyday Life 11

While unschooling falls under the umbrella of ‘homeschooling’, since it’s done at home, it differs from almost every other educational philosophy in that it tailors the education towards the child’s interests rather than directing the child based on a standard curriculum. What we learn, day to day, can’t be charted against any State guideline or specific Grade evaluation. If our unschooling was a type of living arrangement, what we do would be considered ‘off the grid’.

The fact is, I’ve tried it both ways…with curriculum and without. Using a curriculum I found I spent 100% more energy to stuff it in their heads, with about 10% retention. Without curriculum, based entirely on interest and curiosity, I found I spend 10% the energy, and see about 90% retention from them. It’s just a basic human truth…we remember what we care about. We learn and retain information that has meaning.

There are some periods in our unschooling life where the kids are obsessed with a particular subject and focus on it for months at a time. We had a fantastic early American History focus that spanned 6 months one time. They just couldn’t get enough of it. The finale of that particular interest was going to Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, Virginia.

Then, there are times when there really is no focus or interest per se…maybe little things they’re working on individually, but nothing big to tie one day to the next or take up huge chunks of our time. It’s like an ebb after a flow…the rhythm of learning has its own beat. I used to get stressed out when this would happen…anxious in the void and stressing over it. But now I notice that sometimes this is the most productive time, even if I can’t test it or evaluate it. This is the time when their minds are searching, open and waiting for the next source of inspiration. This is the time that we do lots of activities and field trips…get out and expose ourselves to as much of the world as we can.

At home, in times like this, I use a monthly calendar as well…the kind that gives all the holidays and month long observations possible. For example, if you follow the link, you’ll see that November is Latin America month. It’s also Aviation month, Drum month, Model Railroad month, Epilepsy month…etc. So the kids pick out the things that interest them, and then for the rest of the month we kind of generally focus on it. This month the kids wanted to find out about Latin America, so we got every book we could out of the library that talked about countries in Latin America. Naturlalist traced a map onto a canvas, and when we’re done learning about a country then they paint it in. When we’re done, I’ll have something special to hang on our wall.

I just never know what will turn from a spark of interest into a passion for them, this helps keep the sparks coming. It’s also fun to see what each day’s events are…Nov. 15th is ‘Pack your mom a lunch” day, the 17th is “take a hike” day…the 30th is “stay at home because you’re well” day. If something we come across takes center stage and becomes a big focus of interest, then I back off the calendar. But in times like this, I use it to keep exposing all of us to lots of interesting things and places.

Link through here to get a list of the remaining months of 2009 and the months of 2010.


10 Responses

  1. So THAT’S where all the books on Latin America went! 😉

    wanna come over and borrow some? We’re done with Brazil, Venezuela, and Chile….

  3. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. thanks for the spark . It is some thing to work on. I think it will also help with history.

  5. Thanks for sharing, I enjoy so much reading about unschooling and how families lives actually live it. We are what I would consider “relaxed” schoolers. Just haven’t found the courage yet to push it to the next level.

  6. Love it! What a great idea for inspiration!

  7. Just another inspirational nugget that I needed. I we are really relaxed homeschoolers…fighting the natural current to move to unschooling and this little nugget will help me during one of my biggest challenges “moments of low passion or interests” that my kids sometimes help.

    Thanks again. Wish I knew someone like you, but thank God for the internet! 🙂

  8. This post completely reminds me of my sons montessori class. They have a world map that they trace and water color in pre-school(3yr). Then at 4 yr they do the United States in water color – but my boy decided to do Africa and all its countries instead…Now this year – 5 yr – he is suppose to do the solar system in acrylics, and the United states, punched out and labeled…They have the entire year to do this – some do a little each day, some don’t touch it for months, some can finish it in a week (Matthew did Africa in a few days – he was so focused) It really is up to the child when they complete and how they complete it. Have you done the punch out? Its actually fun, they trace on colored paper, then have a really big thumbtack place it on a cork board, then punch the outline. Its great for fine motor skills and concentration.

  9. Great post! Thanks for the link to the holiday list. I use one on the Enchanted Learning site but this one looks more comprehensive.

  10. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing your insight on unschooling. Love the comparison to ‘off-grid’! Soooo true! I can see through your posts here, you are an inspiration to so many..now, me too!

    I find the seasons to be helpful in determining subject matter as well as the ebb and flow of what we do when…for literal and practical reasons.

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