I think a lot of us have grown up with this false conception that to learn you have to go to a school, have a teacher with a degree, and learn a set curriculum at the school's set pace. I feel like a lot of kids do not thrive in an environment with no individual focus and very little consideration to the child's educational needs. Every child is different and our kids should not suffer because our schools systems are made 'one size fits all'. Through experience I have learned that this also applies to homeschooling. If I force my daughter to practice her Spanish vocabulary she has a complete breakdown and then the learning becomes stressful for both of us. I have definitely learned to step back and let her guide me through our day. She has been so much more willing to learn when she can choose what she wants to do and I find that she focuses a lot more time on a subject when she picks it as opposed to when I pick it.
This year we are changing everything and I am adopting much more of an unschooling attitude. If you're not sure what unschooling is you can read about it here. I think that unschoolers really get a bad wrap and their are a lot of misconceptions about what exactly it is and how it is all done. Basically the general idea is that you are harnessing the natural learning process through experience. When you are little you aren't given a book to learn to walk or talk, you learn through observation and practice. The same goes for a lot of other subjects surprisingly. That's not to say that books aren't important because they sure are, but why should my child look at a worksheet with pennies printed on it to learn about money when I can put the money in her hand? Why should my daughter learn about the water cycle by reading a book when we can make a cloud in a bottle or watch to her favorite song about the water cycle on YouTube.
The best part about unschooling is that you follow your child's lead and you find out what he/she takes interest in and then it snowballs from there. Last week Marli was so fascinated by planets, so I gave her everything I could find about planets and space. We read books, watched the Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Magic School Bus episodes all about the solar system, and found fun solar system themed songs to listen to. We spent so much time on the subject because she couldn't get enough and that makes me incredibly happy, she loved to learn because she was interested and because we made it fun.
We still use pieces of our old curriculum, I have a ton of handwriting work sheets and math worksheets, we practice those every day. We use flashcards to work on our alphabet and shapes but we also started using these amazing videos from the Have Fun Teaching channel on YouTube and she loves learning what sounds letters make and her sight words that way as well as the flashcards and sheets. I still use 'Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons' and we work with that about once a week. I still want all of the basics to be instilled in my kids, but I think there are better ways then just making them do paper work. I have mentioned a lot of videos and shows that I use with the kids but please don't think that I'm sitting them in front of a TV for hours and not being active in their education. The point of unschooling is that everyone in the family learns and benefits together. If they are watching a show or a video we watch it together and we talk about it as it plays. Sometimes Marli draws pictures that correspond to what we are learning and she tells me about them using facts from the show or video. Usually after we watch a show we spend time away from the TV, we play outside, read books, do other parts of the curriculum I use, ect. A lot of the Have Fun Teaching videos are just songs, so Marli and Hunter like to move all of the furniture in the living room and then they dance and follow the videos instructions (draw a capital D in the air or walk in the shape of a square) so they are being active, having fun, and learning.
If Marli was in a conventional school she would only be in preschool and Hunter isn't even two but these kids blow me away with their level of intelligence and how much they soak up information. Marli counts in English and Spanish, she has a strong vocabulary, she can write her letters quite well and has even begun to sound out simple words. Hunter has just started to talk and his favorite word is Dinosaur and he also can count fairly well. Most of these things have been developed through their own desire to learn, not because I make it an obligation. It's so wonderful to see them make the choice to pull out their books everyday or to hear Marli beg to do school even when we have been busy learning all day. Every single part of our lives has been turned into a giant learning process and it is absolutely fantastic. I wish every person on this Earth would find education and learning to be enjoyable and they would instill that love into their everyday lives. Maybe the world would be a much better place. Knowledge is power!
If you want to know more about the resources I use or more about unschooling ask away! I'm happy to answer any questions that you have and let you know a little bit more about what we do. I am no expert but I can give you what I know through experience. I hope that soon unschooling will be looked at with a more open mind instead of being criticized and called "radical", that word being used to describe unschooling really bothers me. What is radical about teaching your children that if they want an answer to something they can always find it? What is radical about following your passions and developing a love for education? What is radical about teaching your children to learn by just getting out there and doing instead of being instructed to do it? What is radical about raising self sufficient members of society?
I have witnessed such a wonderful amount of growth in my kids through our little journey and I can't wait to see what is ahead.