Un-Schooler. It is a term that some will shudder at, yet others will embrace. Before you draw a conclusion, lets discuss the term and what it entails. Bear with me – it is something that I am trying out this year, so I will do my best to not ramble to much!
Through some of the last blogs, I have disclosed the struggles in getting my children to actually want to do their school work. We had days where we would literally complete TWO pages of work, and always ended in frustration and tears, and not just on the teachers account! The school year started off in much the same way this year, but after a very short stressful period, I knew something had to give. Either we were all going to go insane, or we would end the year completing the work, but not actually accomplishing the goal of learning or retaining any of the information.
Therefore I turned to un-schooling. Each child has their own interests, and while these will change as they grow and mature, we must learn to embrace their interests. So, I have turned our schoolwork into more relaxed lessons. With each of their interests, it becomes eye opening to try and turn these into lessons, but a little creativity and ingenuity can bring anything into a focused lesson. They think they are having fun, but they are actually learning while doing so! Let me give you some examples of what we are doing. I am gong to be honest, getting out of the “rigidity” of the books was a little more difficult for me than it was my boys. I enjoy the organized layout, but I think that is the military side of me.
In another blog, I mentioned that each of my children are doing a special project this year. I have taken those interests and created full lessons. My oldest is focusing on Ancient Egypt. Now this subject can be a bit challenging, given that the scope is rather large, but by picking and choosing different areas, learning blossomed. Math is one of the ones I struggle with a bit. However, using mummies, pyramids, and terrain, I have figured ways to teach multiplication, division and fractions. Maps come in really handy during this last suggestion, and we can “cut” the map into different sections, and learn fractions that way. This easily leads into history, science and writing. I can take one lesson and fit several different subjects easily! As I mentioned above, they are having fun – but they are learning! We have made better strides within some of the subjects that we struggled with in DAYS than we had in WEEKS.
I also began to include some different movies. I know I have stated before that sometimes those lazy afternoons are needed, and I firmly believe this still. Since another of my children is focusing on the Civil War I have found documentaries and movies that fit into the areas that they chose. I was rather surprised when my youngest sat through the entire showing of “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg.” Each of these movies run well over 3 hours, but he sat glued to the television, drinking everything in. While I had some questions to field after each of them, I was pleased with most of the questions he chose to ask. Silently, I thanked one of my old professors who was a walking military historian, and gave me quite a bit of information that I can now pass onto my own son. Couple this with some books, guides and maps of battlefields, we have spent countless hours going over battles, numbers, terrain and MORE! Just from one movie, we went over history, science and technology, math, spelling, writing and reading. EASY PEASY! Since history is my jam – finding that my boys are interested in it as well puts me over the moon.
Now, I am going to temper this a bit and add – do NOT throw away all your curriculum! You are going to need something to fall back on at times. You will also need to find the home school laws for your state. Our state is a bit strict when it comes to certain subjects, but we have a fantastic district that welcomes different tactics. They are more concerned with seeing the student learning and growing, and most likely will embrace any methods you choose to follow. You have to be able to show their work, and prove that the child is learning, but outside of that – we can follow what is working for us. While I consider myself an outside the box thinker, I am more pleased that my children are finally starting to enjoy lessons again. The change has not only made their school days better, but I find that the attitudes of all involved (including the teacher.. ahem, me) are better. Perhaps those grey hairs will quit coming in so fast, as we settle down to a routine that works better for our family, but also helps to move them along in their studies. I still have the curriculum on hand, and I encourage my boys to continue working through it, but we have mostly abandoned the guided learning. We utilize the library, internet and other sources to finish our lessons now. You do not have to have a degree to teach your children – just love and patience (still working on this last piece myself), to see them through. YOU know your child better than anyone else, so seeing them struggle with a particular subject or two can be very difficult. Homeschooling is not meant to be easy. Eventually each child will find that little click that blinks on the light bulb, and after that you can watch them soar!
What do you think of un-schooling? Share what is working for you and your family!