Monday, January 14, 2008

Experiments in Unschooling

Apology: I just read my last post. It's a grammatical nightmare. Next time I'll proof read. Sorry!

There are several camps of homeschoolers. There are the classical education folks on the one hand (think Latin, Rhetoric and History), and there are the unschoolers on the other side of the spectrum. Most people fall happily in the middle somewhere. I definately land someplace in the middle of this continuum too, but I've always been a fascinated skeptic of unschooling.

Unschoolers, despite the name, are very pro-education, they just are not pro-establishment. They operate on a premise that kids, when untampered with, love to learn. It's the endless worksheets and force feeding of meaningless facts that squelch a childs natural passion for learning. So unschoolers say life is thier classroom and fascilitate their child's educational journey. The read books, and go to museums, they listen to great music and grow experiments in their refrigerator on purpose.

That sounds fun, and I'm sure kids do love learning and learn a bunch. But I remain somewhat of a skeptic. Here's why:

-I think kids might end up with an education of fine swiss cheese. Delicious and robust, but holey.

-I have no idea how you manage the logistics of that when you're teaching several kids with different interestes and personalities.

-I have a hard time believing that my child could ever get excited about multiplication. Unschoolers would say, "Just wait, wait until he wants to do a science experiment or figure out how many cupcakes to bake for a party, then he'll be motivated to learm." Maybe. But I'm betting he'd learn how to operate a calculator before he sat down to memorize what 7x8 is. And to that an unschooler would say, "Who says you have to have 7x8 memorized to be well educated?" Hmm...good point.

Anyway, I've decided to conduct an experiment. It's just for one week; surely I cannot do any permanent damage in 1 week. I'm going to be an unschooler. We're doing child directed learning just to see if it might work. Here's how it went;

-We read the end of a biography on Mary Breckenridge and found the Appalachian Mountains on our map.

-We Googled Mary Breckenridge and Frontier Nurses and watched a slide show of historic pictures.

-We watched Christy, and talked about the poverty in the Appalachians.

-We drew pictures of the most interesting parts of the stories we heard. M drew a bottle of moonshine :) and Bub drew a horse ( a horse drawn by a 4 year old is worth seeing).

-We talked about what a journalist was and talked about the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why)

-We listened to our phonics CD 2x and Bub discovered that you always have to read left to right. Always.

-I spent 30 minutes addressing a particular character issue in a child, who shall remain nameless. We re-addressed the fact that we can show disrespect with our words and with our actions. Foot stomping and eye-rolling are disrespectful.

-We melted ice cubes on our stove top and watched them turn to steam. We caught steam in a Ziploc bag (while boiling pasta) and put the ziplock in the freezer. We put a measuring cup of water in a Ziploc and then nuked it in the microwave. We hypothesized about what would happen and talked about the speed at which water molecules travel.

-M read a book about pets with me.

-E read a chapter in a book about Mt. St. Helen.

-We played legos

-We played pretend.

-Baby scootched all the way down the hall. Bub chased her.

-E made cereal

-M made a snack for her brothers.

-We did no math whatsoever.

-We didn't cover any spelling or grammar

-We had fun. In general it was a success. Maybe I'll be a part time unschooler. Wonder if you can do that?

No comments: