This is our second year of homeschooling, and I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going. This year we have shifted from a more traditional curriculum-based homeschooling style, to unschooling/child-led learning. The more I have learned about the child-led learning process, the more excited I became to go for it and give it a shot. The hardest part of unschooling is worrying that your kids aren’t self-motivated enough to learn what they need to learn to be successful adults. This has been especially challenging for my husband, who was traditionally homeschooled. I have found myself whispering “unschooling!” to him whenever one of our kids is engaging in something educational according to their own free will. Slowly, he has started to see it for himself.
One of our biggest successes so far happened just a few days ago with my five year old, Ava. Ava has been showing a lot of interest in number lately. One of her favorite games is to count and sort her treats. She got a full size bag of M&Ms for Halloween, and I told her she could only eat half the bag. So I gave her a paper plate and had her sort her candies by color, then divide each color into two even piles, then put one pile back into the bag for later. She had more fun doing that, than she did eating the candy. This is what child-led learning is all about! She enjoyed the game so much, that she didn’t even realize she was learning, and has wanted to repeat it over and over again. I believe it was the game with the M&Ms, that led to her epiphany a few days ago.
All day, Ava kept asking me “What’s seven and four plussed together?” “What’s eight and free plussed together?”. The tricky part of unschooling, is knowing when to just give the answer, so as not to interrupt their train of thought and derail their creativity, and when to use the moment as an opportunity to teach them something new. Since Ava seemed persistent in her math quest, I chose to use that time to show her how to do addition on her own using our dry-erase board. Similarly to the M&M game, I wrote out an addition problem horizontally on the white board, and then showed her how to draw small circles under each number (very M&M-like), and then count the circles all together. And whataya know, it just clicked! Seeing her so proud of herself was so fulfilling for me.
I think back to doing math homework with my oldest daughter, Kylie, when she was in public school, and how we would spend 45 minutes on one worksheet. We would go around and around until both our brains were melting from frustration; all because she wasn’t ready to learn it yet. Then, on the flip side, it took all of ten minutes to teach Ava how to add and she had it down pat. Having the option of waiting until my kids are ready to learn something, rather than trying to cram the information into their brains so they score well on their tests is worth its weight in gold. Knowing that my kids will learn what they’re meant to learn, when they’re meant to learn it, is even more valuable.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to homeschool your kids, I say do it! Life is too short to be constantly battling your kids to complete homework deemed necessary by someone else’s standards. For more info on unschooling/child-led learning, please click the links below.
The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Large Survey
“Unschooled” Kids Do Just Fine in College
This link has a whole slew of links to studies and info on homeschooling and unschooling.