I have been reading several unschooling blogs. I admire those that can completely unschool. I tread closer to the philosophy every year we home school. I am hesitant to jump all the way into unschooling. So many fears creep upon me.
Would my children really take a lead in their educational efforts? Would Little Man just play Minecraft and other video games all day? Would Egee ever take interest in other things besides hair, knitting, and bracelet making? How do you go about adhering to the state mandates?
Working on lessons.
I feel it is my job as their parent/teacher to introduce them to all sorts of things. We complete history lessons together. I read a lesson and we discuss it. I ask them questions and relate the lesson to things we have learned previously. We spend time listening to each other relate the story to other examples they think correlate. I pick out books from our library to expand the lessons. We watch videos. We have taken field trips to see things we learn about. Some of the history they like, others they don't. I'm not sure they would natural gravitate to history, if I left it entirely up to them.
English grammar is a subject that I truly hated in school. I found it boring and pointless. I memorized what would be tested and then went about my way. I have yet to be asked how to diagram a sentence, as an adult. Do my children really need this knowledge? I would have to go look it up to teach them. If I give them the necessary skills to look it up, doesn't that do the same for them? Some may say, the internet or Google may not be there when they need to look it up. That is okay, we have reference books at the house and they know how to use them. You know Einstein said "Never memorize what you can look up." I have introduced Egee to grammar basics (nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc.) She can write paragraphs and short stories. Little Man is just now starting to write. Like most boys his age, fine motor skills are still developing for handwriting.
I wrestle with the thoughts of what an education really is. I look around at children going off to school daily for seven hours and being 'taught'. The passive activity that is suppose to convert into learning is driven by high stakes testing. The new methodology is constantly being churned out (to teachers) to make learning an active pursuit. But, how does it compensate for those children that are just not ready to learn the material in the time frame presented? What happens to those children? I've been in that world and I've seen those children. The ones that have been left behind. The ones that have been labeled slow and have behavior issues. The ones that hate school because they feel dumb compared to their peers. By the time they got to me in high school, they were so full of despair. They wanted something other than traditional studies. They wanted to go to the career centers and learn a trade, but they didn't have the grades to go. They were in limbo.
I look at our homeschool. The children spend one to two hours on lessons. We interact and have those ah-ha moments. We are always learning. I get the eye rolls when I say, "remember when we studied X and ...". But, they do remember! It may not click for several weeks, or months, or a year. However, it doesn't matter to us. We can afford this luxury of waiting.
Little Man working on a logic problem.
Case in point of waiting for it to click, teaching Little Man to read. I posted an article about it the other day. He is doing great in his reading now. Yes, he is seven and a half years old. His reading level in just six weeks is comparable to any other average second grader. However, most other second graders have been reading since kindergarten!
I want to tailor my children's education to their needs and wants, but I also want them well versed in history and sciences. I struggle with finding the right balance. I would rather them know sequence of historical events and broad time periods instead precise dates and spout off the typical 'players' in history. I want them to understand history. What happened and why. The same applies for sciences. They need to know about the world around them and understand what human impact on the world. We live our science lessons through gardening, playing in the surf, observing nature around us, camping, star gazing, cooking, etc. I have the children read about animals and play computer simulations. Little Man loves watching documentaries about sharks at the moment. Mr. Jack at the Chesnee Library has been wonderful introducing homeschoolers to various physics/engineering aspects of science. I have heard so many scientist tell parents to just let their kids 'discover' their scientific pursuits. I am trying do just that.
I believe they need to know the basics of math. Is Pre-Cal and Calculus really necessary, if they aren't going into a career that needs higher math? Shouldn't they instead learn about accounting and bookkeeping, if they plan on running our business? I will give them the foundation they need. If they desire to continue on to higher math, they will be able to pursue it.
Egee working on math.
Literature is another subject I struggle with the validity. I believe reading should be enjoyed. I want my children to sit down with a book and get lost in it. There are so many books and everyone has an opinion about which book should be read and why. I do think that books considered to be classics offer more than modern books. I try steer Egee towards classical books, but right now I am really just trying to get her to read any book. Today's children do read, just not books! Egee is constantly looking up information on the internet that interests her and reads it. She learns how to do different crafts and hairstyles. She reads what interests her. Books are not her interest. However, I still make her read two chapters from a book of her choosing daily.
So, I guess we can be considered eclectic homeschoolers. We are leaning more to unschooling every year. As we plug away, we continue to evolve. As the children mature, they will take on more and more of the lead for the education. That is the beauty of our journey!