My Unschooling Book Series (7)
In my last unschooling book post, Unschooling: What It Is and What It’s Not, I said that parents can’t just stand back and expect their kids to get on with the business of learning all by themselves. We have to get involved. But how do we do this? I could write a point-by-point description. Or I could illustrate how parents can get involved by including a story.
If I used a story, do you think it would be okay to insert one that I’ve already written? A modified version of the post What I Think Unschooling Is All About might give readers an idea of what unschooling looks like in action. I could write a new story but it might not be as useful. My children are now older and I’m not as involved with them as I used to be.
What Unschooling Is All About
When we first started homeschooling as unschoolers, I did a lot of standing back. I waited for my children to discover interesting things on their own. I expected the house to fill with impressive projects. But nothing much happened. After a while, I decided that children need to be exposed to possibilities. I had to surround them with a rich and varied world. I also had to provide them with an example of learning.
And so I started looking for interesting resources to strew in front of my children, though I didn’t call it ‘strewing’. I’d never heard of that particular word.
I also started sharing learning with my children, showing them that everyone learns, not just school-age children. We have to be willing to do everything we’d like our children to do. We can’t just say, “Go off and learn something.” We have to provide an example of what learning is all about… especially in the early years… Though I am thinking… Children are born naturally curious and eager to learn. We play with our babies and surround them with a stimulating environment, and applaud their every little development. And then they get to a certain age and we stop doing these things. Maybe that’s the problem.
I spend a lot of time with my younger girls. I read to them. They read to me. I am willing to help them with any projects they want to do. I share my own passions with them. I suggest activities and offer resources. I feel any child achieves more if they have an interested person to call upon to share and help when necessary. That person needs to show they value that child’s learning. It is real work.
So I am not stepping back and keeping out of my children’s way. But this doesn’t mean I don’t give them their own space to process what they’ve learnt, figure out things on their own or just rest. We have to be sensitive and balance our involvement and enthusiasm with our children’s needs at any particular moment.
I have noticed that as my children get older, they naturally move away from me. Yes, there comes a time when they are keen to stride ahead on their own pathways without waiting for me. Often they will pause and want to share what they’ve discovered. Occasionally, they may hit a problem. If they can’t solve it for themselves, I can help guide them to a solution. They may just want me to obtain some necessary resources for them or ideas for further investigation. This is where Charlotte (15) is at the moment.
I rarely see Charlotte when she is busy with her learning. She might appear at lunchtime eager to share something she is working on. She might want a suggestion for a suitable book to read. She will look at anything I strew, but she won’t automatically decide to use it. She has her own ideas about what she wants to do. And I let her learn what she wants, how she wants, and when she wants. I have full confidence that by giving her the freedom to direct her own education, she will achieve her goals.
But the younger girls? I am under their control:
“Will you read to us, please Mum?”
“Can we go to the library, please?”
“Could you show me how to use the sewing machine?”
“Can you explain… ?”
“Do you know how this works?”
“Can we do…?”
They are full of their own ideas:
“I’d like to find out more about the Titanic.”
“I want to learn how to draw people more realistically… and cars.”
“I’d really like to learn how to play a longer piano piece like the big girls.”
So I am here to help my children do what they would like to do.
And they are willing to listen to my suggestions:
“I’ve found a TV program about the planets. Would you like to watch it?”
“This looks interesting. Do you want to have a look at… listen to… watch… try this…?”
The girls also go off and do things totally on their own:
“I was reading about Renoir. I made some more jigsaws of his paintings.”
“I’ve been writing. I had a new idea for a story.”
“I’ve been playing some computer games.”
“I decided to try and make a mind map.”
I know that Sophie (11) and Gemma-Rose (8) will gradually go off more and more by themselves, as they get older. One day I will say, “I haven’t seen you all morning. Tell me what you’re working on.”
I guess I will miss the girls and I will have to entice them back with such suggestions as, “I feel like watching Henry V. Do you want to join me?” And knowing my girls, they will drop whatever they are doing, so they can sit with me on the sofa for an afternoon of Shakespeare. For who can resist sharing a play with fellow enthusiasts?
Or I will say, “Does anyone want to go for a run with me?” Before I know it, the girls will be lacing up their shoes. Despite individual interests, we still have many shared passions.
Spending time together, sharing passions, being interested in each other, learning together, encouraging and helping each other, delighting together in new discoveries, and enjoying being a family… I never imagined this is what unschooling is all about. But it is.
Aren’t you glad we don’t have to step back from our kids’ learning but instead, can get involved?
(I might make further word changes as I continue editing but you get the idea!)
Learning From Life
So we can actively get involved with our children’s learning by strewing and sharing our own learning. But sometimes we don’t have the time to do this. And it’s not even necessary. When life is full and busy, we learn just by living. When we were homeschooling rather than unschooling, and life got hectic, I worried about how we were going to fit in all the school work I thought my children should be doing. But everything is a potential learning opportunity and there are plenty of these when we’re looking after babies, coping with bushfires, dealing with medical issues, moving house, enjoying the company of friends, catching up with housework and shopping, filming a music video for a sister… At these times, we don’t need to enrich our children’s’ lives. They are rich enough already.
I’d like to expand these thoughts for the next section of the book, and maybe add an appropriate story.
Images: I took these photos during the filming of my daughter Imogen’s latest music video. She’ll be publishing the video tomorrow (Wednesday). Please support her by subscribing to her Youtube channel. Imogen will be very encouraged if you do this!
Is including stories from my blog cheating? Should I only include new material in my book? Or could I write the main part of each chapter and then sprinkle in some of my already written stories to illustrate the points I’d like to make? I’d love to hear your thoughts!