The concept of unschooling was something that was on the edge of my radar. It's not something I really set out to do or even research, but through various internet groups, I've heard quite a few people who embrace this philosophy of learning. The book I'm reading about right-brained learners, The Right Side of Normal also mentions unschooling as a great option for right-brained learners. I don't think I have the right personality or courage to really embrace full-time unschooling, but I loved the idea that they can spend time on what interests them and learn from those pursuits, and not be bogged down with 'formal learning' lessons that often take up most of our day (because of Monkey's distractability) and don't capture their interest. There's a lot that can be learned in just every day wondering and exploring!
The other week, through the Weekly Wrap-up, I ran across a post by Angelic Scalliwags where she told about her idea of incorporating unschooling alternating with her formal schooling weeks. I loved how she asked her children to "stop thinking about the unschool week as a holiday week but to think of the two weeks together as a two-week schedule which would be repeated. The first week I would schedule and the second week they would schedule."So it's kind of like "partial unschooling", which to true unschoolers probably doesn't really exist. Anyway, I don't know what this would be called officially, but I really loved this idea! I really have a hard time 'letting go' to just let Monkey's learning be completely up to him, so this hybrid method really appealed to me.
So we tried our first week of unschooling this week, and Monkey spent most of his time programming video games on Scratch - as in, ALL DAY Monday and Tuesday, except for short breaks for eating. Yes, it's educational, but there's alot of playing around on the other games on the site too! But I tried to not interfere and let him explore and create. This is his Scratch profile with some of the games he has worked on:http://scratch.mit.edu/users/timwm/ . A lot of his work is unpublished, as he worked on various games and ideas and didn't complete them, but I hope one or two will be finished products. One of the things I need to embrace is that it's not all about a finished product. He is learning through the process of experimenting with different games and animations.
When he wasn't using Scratch, his time was spent on these pursuits:
- We baked some bread from scratch and learned about yeast, fungi, and fermentation.
- He played chess with a variety of opponents.
- He and Bunny dug out a couple snow forts during this past snow storm.
- We watched an episode of Brain Games (on Netflix) and learned about how our brain uses past experiences to make assumptions about what we see, and how we end up seeing optical illusions because of that.
- We read aloud from The Fellowship of the Ring and The Fields of Home (Ralph Moody).
- He built and played with Magneatos and the smaller version with thin rods and marbles.
- He read some books about dinosaurs, Mars, and robots that he borrowed from the library
- We watched Robot Adventures-Introduction to Robotics
I have to admit, the first day was rough. My control-freak, planning-loving, check-list personality couldn't bear the eight hours of Scratch. I kept thinking 'What if this is ALL he does the whole week? What if he doesn't learn anything? What about language arts?' I was so antsy, but I kept myself in check and allowed him to finish the day out without interference.
The second day, I told him, well, you STILL have to practice guitar and do daily Chinese work, because those are skills you will lose if you don't work on it regularly. He wanted to make bread, so we did that, and in the process, talked about yeast and carbon dioxide. He still spent the remainder of his time on Scratch,
The third and fourth days, he finally took a break from Scratch as he went to the sitter while I went to work, and we had a big snowstorm that provided some great snow for snow forts and he branched out to a few of the other pursuits mentioned above.
The last day (today), he had a variety of activity, including some Scratch, but also watched the Robot Adventures movie (with prompting by me), among other things.
So as I evaluate this at the end of the week, I know Monkey loved it. I do think if we did this again in a couple weeks, I would maybe give a little more direction, but not require anything...but suggesting the Robot movie turned out to be good move, as he really enjoyed it. It was very difficult for ME though, to just sit and not direct his time. But at the same time, it was really nice to not be nagging him to start something or complete something.
Next week, we will go back to our formal learning, with Fungi as our science unit. Ideally, when I first started homeschooling, I thought we'd do 'formal' work in the morning, and child-interest-led activity in the afternoon, but the reality was that he rarely had time for that free exploration time in the afternoon, he would be so drained from working on the assigned work that he didn't have any mind for exploration at that point. I hope that alternating weeks of formal and unschooling will allow him the time to explore and learn, while still giving him structure to learn the things that I feel are 'must-dos' (math, writing, science/history, Bible) at a deeper level than he would get by just letting him lead (because honestly, I don't think he'd ever really dig into writing or history).