A few weeks ago when we were unplugged we went to visit some home school friends of ours about 2 hours away for the day. Technically it was a ‘day off’ school but as we watched them it was amazing to see them working and learning together.
They played all day but it was always a process to get all four of them on the same page, communicating and agreeing what to do and how to do it. They did it all themselves. (they were supervised but uninterrupted) In the afternoon we took the for a walk and they played along a creek. At one point they found a place along the bank where they decided to try and pull enough dirt off the bank to stop the creek. The four of them worked together trying to make it happen. (They learned that water was hard to stop and got really dirty). I remember sitting there on the bank amazed watching them working together toward a common goal. This is what group projects in school try to create and it was happening effortlessly before my eyes … much better than any group project I remember being part of in school.
It was another moment in my spring that has helped me relax a bit and watch them learn instead of trying to direct all the time. I kept thinking that if I was trying to teach them or I was trying to guide their learning or their day they would have missed out on the learning they were creating themselves. Sure, kids need to know math, but not near as bad as they need to learn communication skills and the ability to work with other people (who they hadn’t seen in months) to execute and accomplish a plan. …how often does this create hours of work and headache in a business setting.
I have been doing less teaching lately. I am trying to figure out how to help the kids be motivated to learn on their own. I think this might be called experimenting with unschooling.
When they grow up I want them to be initiating, creating, developing. If they are working for others or working for themselves I want them to have the motivation and drive to explore and work without being given an assignment.
In the past few months Lily has been doing much better with the assignments she does have. In seeing the change over the past few months and just understanding kids a bit better I can see how a very structured life and structured school days can be a stressor for kids. When kids (or any of us for that matter) are stressed we behave differently.
However, both kids are still learning a lot 🙂
For structured learning right now we are focusing for Lily (grade 2 age) on Math, writing/creative and cursive, spelling, and memorization. Reading and math I believe are the most important things for young kids but I don’t have to do anything to in courage her to read. She reads for several hours most days. If I am not teaching her and her brother isn’t bugging her she is probably reading. I also added piano to our structured school day. I think it teaches focus but adds different challenges and brain functions. In a way it gives her a break by working other areas.
We have these subjects broken down into a structured school time every morning. However, it is only a few hours in the morning and she is almost always finishing it in the time given.
For the rest of the day she is free to explore. We don’t have a TV, do only a few educational movies, and do very little computer games so they pretty much always have to be learning something.
During the last few months Lily has self taught herself:
- baking (she loves to find recipes online, copy them down and try them out)
- candy making
- comic writing
- lots of jokes and joke books
…and many more books she has gotten from the library. Between the library and YouTube they explore many different subjects.
I have learned that relaxing and just letting them explore and be kids has lowered their stress without slowing learning down at all. We are winding down our structured learning, finishing off books, and getting ready for summer. I have a bunch of reading I want to do over the summer as I plan for how I will school next year. For now, I am pretty happy I have stepped back a bit and let them create much of their own learning.