And then they hated math: My journey into unschooling

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Written by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling

remember the first time I called myself an unschooler. I had just read John Holt’s Teach Your Own and was impressed with his vision of an alternative educational style in which children were encouraged to learn outside of school.

He saw children as scientists, eager and capable of exploring and experimenting with the world around them. Yes, I thought, that is exactly what I wanted my children to experience.

I had visions of them spending their days wandering through nature, collecting and identifying leaves, filling notepads with their amazingly original stories, learning math, engineering, civics, and science through a year-long project of designing and building a cardboard, solar-powered city.

It was learning at its fantastical best — fun, natural, and meaningful.
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How to make your homeschool an endless summer

how to make your homeschool an endless summer
Written by contributor Jena of Yarns of the Heart

May is a time of endings and beginnings. Graduation, summer vacation…the world tends to follow a public school clock, and even though we homeschoolers aren’t confined by these boundaries, we still find ourselves relaxing more as May comes around.

While you’re spending more time outside and letting go of some routines, I say, “Embrace the summer attitude!” Let a summer mindset be the climate of your schooling.

Look for ways to let summer last all year long.

Here’s what I mean:

  • This summer, notice how your kids are learning on their own. What do they choose to do? Are they learning anything while they do it? Maybe their natural drive could be the foundation of your schooling in the fall.
  • Ask your kids what they would like to do this summer. Ask why, and the answer will give you a lot of insight into what motivates them. Could these sports, activities or travel opportunities open up unit studies and research projects?
  • Do you keep a strict schedule in the summer? Probably not as strict as the school year, so pay attention to the difference. Do you all get along better? Are you more creative? Are you still learning? Maybe you’ll want to incorporate a less scheduled lifestyle into your schooling.
  • Keep a journal or take pictures of what you do this summer, then reflect in August. What elements of your summer could keep going all year long?

child with shell on beachAs I write this, I am reminded of the first post I wrote for my blog in 2008. I called it School, an Endless Summer. It’s a wistful look back as my oldest was about to graduate high school.

When we started this journey, I viewed homeschooling as a continuation of the preschool years, as a life seamlessly flowing from one season into the next without the abrupt stops and starts that traditional schooling imposes. It really was a life of endless summers.

I guess it’s deep in my bones to keep learning natural and fun, like exploring the beach on a summer evening.

How would you describe the climate of your homeschool?

The myth of the uninvolved unschooler


Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool also writes about motherhood at Steady Mom

I remember the first time I heard the term unschooling. I was standing on a street corner chatting with a homeschooling neighbor, who used the term.

“What’s that?” I asked.

While I can’t remember her exact definition, I remember my reaction–far from positive. It sounded to me as though unschooling parents ignored their children, not getting really involved in their education.

I knew it wasn’t for me since the idea of traditional homeschooling already freaked me out. But then an evolution occurred. And I now find myself parked most resolutely on the informal side of the homeschooling spectrum.

I’m not the type who likes being put into a box, so I don’t label myself or my family. We pull from a variety of influences in our homeschool–unschooling/interest-led learning, Waldorf, and leadership education predominantly. But basically, we just do what works and what best fits our needs.

Last year Jena wrote a post about the two foundational principles of unschooling–that children are born to learn, and that forced learning kills the desire to learn.

But what exactly do unschoolers do all day? That varies as much as individual families vary–in other words, a lot! But as I’ve come to know more unschoolers, it seems to me that we often have in common the following six focuses.
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So, how do you homeschool?

Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling.

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”

~Galileo Galilei

When people first find out that I homeschool my children, their first response is inevitably, “Wow — That’s great!” followed closely by, “How do you do it?”

They wonder if there is a set schedule with a set curriculum. To them, “homeschool” translates to “school at home”. They comment on how hard it must be to keep four kids under control or even hint at my brilliance for being able to “teach” them everything they need to know.

Usually, I just shrug it off and say it’s not really anything extraordinary. It’s all we know and very much just a part of our lives. If anything,  I find the act of getting kids to and from school and extracurricular activities, in addition to making sure they complete all their homework everyday to be an amazing feat all its own.
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Moms Just Wanna Have Fun

Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Some days, we don’t do any school-related work at all.

These aren’t planned in advanced and they aren’t penciled in on the calendar. These days are brought on by my own inspirations and happen as spontaneous as those thunderstorms in the middle of summer. I can feel it creeping up on me, just not sure when it will hit.

Maybe I’ve been leafing through some really cool craft books, or surfing a little too late into the night, and something pops out at me that I just have to make. Then out comes the sewing machine, cutting board, and the kitchen table becomes sewing central.
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