Friday, February 22, 2008

Unschooling what comes naturally

Unschooling is a controversial topics among homeschoolers. It think the reason for this is because unschooling is hard to define. I have never considered myself to be an unschooler, but... If unschooling means not going to a traditional school , then we are unschoolers. If unschooling means never requiring your child to do something academic then we are not unschoolers. If mean being entirely child led then we are not unschoolers. If unschooling means provided materials to inspire your children to explore a topic independently, then we have moments of unschooling in our home.

I have discovered that certain subject unschool more easily in our home. And I have noticed that other subjects come more easily to other families. In our family the subjects that are explored without effort are art, music, and literature. Art happens everyday in our house. Without much effort my girls have become familiar with famous artists and composers. (Thanks Little Einsteins!) The girls beg for one more chapter of reading at bedtime and yell, "turn on the book on cd!" every time we get in the car. They don't even consider any of this learning to be part of school.

The girls also get lots of unschooling moments with their dad. He often discusses science topics with them at dinner time. He was so excited to find out they we were going to be learning about geology that he spent a half an hour one evening explaining tectonic plates and the ring of fire. Last night he and Sierra stood by the world map discussing places around the world. One day he explained why the sky is blue. Something about light waves... And he does it all without preparation. Me, I need a book to help me explain most of these things.

So, I try not to get caught up in the unschooling debate. I watch out for and encourage unschooling moments, but I also plan and present topics that don't happen as naturally in our home. But on days like today when I am sick, I try not to feel guilty for not "doing school." When I observe the paintings made from soap water and food coloring (Art AND Science) and the scenes from various Magic Tree House books being acted out (Science and History), I realize that there are times for schooling and time for unschooling in every homeschool.


Sara said...

Good post! This month I posted the verses from Ecclesiastes, "a time to weep, a time to laugh"...I agree that there are times to unschool and times to instruct. I guess the interesting question remains, "What is the most effective/ideal form of instruction?" As you said, not to "enter the fray" too much as the goal for all Catholic hmeducators is "Thy Kingdom Come," whatever that happens to look like. I do stuggle with when to lesson plan and when not to; and, it seems that often, just as I get my ducks in a row, I have to change the plan. I enjoy your blog! in Christ, Sara

Anonymous said...

I think so much of that debate is about semantics. Some folks want to tie the definition down. But I look at Holt's definition for example and see nothing that precludes using textbooks if that is what helps you child learn what she wants to learn.

"Schooling" is about a whole discipline of what and how to go about education. And I bet a lot of "school at home" folks aren't doing a lot of things schools do.