Sunday, September 07, 2008

Unschooling Part Two: The Rules

It's the oxymoron thing again.
Are there rules to not having rules?
To some folks there are.
I guess all things considered, it can be decided moment to moment, based on the family's needs. Which is probably how most folks try to do it.
Unless they don't.
It's all good.
Unless it isn't.

I received an email the other day/week from a stranger (Hi Marcela!) about unschooling, and homeschooling, and the what and how of us doing it.
Was funny to hear that a few miles north and several miles west of here (on the west coast) things are looking very familiar!

When I first read about Unschooling I was intrigued.
For a number of reasons.
It sounded right, first of all.
It sounded free.
It sounded healthy.

Somewhere there in the beginning (among my browser bookmarks of preschool curriculum, what your three-year-old should know by now lists, and does your child measure up? quizzes I found a list made up by someone (I've always thought it was Sandra Dodd, but I've never been able to find it again) in the very beginning of their unschooling process.
A checklist.

A checklist that looks like

Reading - books, magazines, newspapers, websites (fiction,
nonfiction, poetry, drama, essays, articles

Doing - cooking, swimming, dog training, babysitting, volunteering,
working, singing, acting, music, math

Making - art, crafts, building, sewing, weaving, beadwork

Watching - tv, movies, videoes, live theater, demonstrations, exhibits

Listening - tapes, radio, music, audio magazines, lectures

Talking - speech, discussion, explaining, directing, instructing,

Visiting - museums, zoos, fieldtrips

Thinking - planning, analyzing, imagining, plotting

This list really helped me to see that living life - breathing, playing, and exploring - is spectacularly educational.
Not too much after than that I started to think of school as not only "not terribly beneficial", but perhaps (definitely for my children -child, there was only Trev, then- and me) as "detrimental".

So the swing began.

With the evolution of my opinion on what is "knowledge" and "education", other things also started to happen.

Like asking "Why?".

"Why does it have to be that way?"
"Why, when it's of no great benefit to anyone, other than "the authority"?"
"Why do you say no?"
"Why is memorizing it in a book better than tripping in a wooded glen, discovering truths for yourself?"
"Why wouldn't a child be encouraged to say "I don't like that!"?"
"Why not study Egypt when you're four, if that's what you're interested in?"
"Why not let them get thrilled about math by playing a fun monster math cd (all day if they want to)?"
"Why not (happily) let them draw with chalk on the wooden back door?"
"Why not learn about astronomy when the children are seven and three?"
"Why is it disrespectful when a child says "I'm hungry now!"?"
"Why not let them hang upside down from the swingset, even if they're two, if they are strong enough to get up there in the first place?"
"Why is it bedtime before you're tired?"
"Why not cake for breakfast?"

Just because things have always been that way does not mean that it's the best way.

Unschooling teaches us to think.
To reconsider.
To question.
To ask questions.
And even to level the playing field, as I've found out lately.
Much to my surprise.
(Turns out my children feel perfectly comfortable asking anyone What It Is They Want To Know, be that "Why?" of a grandparent or of a passing by Aviary worker.)

So what then?
What comes after the bending of the parental mind?

The fun stuff.
The How.

Start a new group, if there isn't one you like in your area.
Connect with others. Some same, some different.
There's craft circles.
Nature club.
Project Wild.
Culture club.
Book clubs (with homeschoolers, or at the library).
Anime clubs.
Game night.
Math clubs.
Park days.

Be inspired. By everything!
By a National Geographic article.
By the Farmer's Market.
By a youtube video.
By reorganizing a bookcase. Which so often happens to us!
By entering the grocery store at the other door, and walking the rows backwards. (er, by direction, not walking backwards. :) Unless you really want to.)
By a hula hoop. (Thanks so much for the grand Hula hoop, Aub!)
By art supplies, by music, by cloud watching, by magnets, by birds, by your backyard habitat, by walking on the beach (sigh), by bubbles and by moonbeams.

The law of Unschooling is to Be Open, I think.
Open to field trips.
To sleeping outside.
To trying something new.
To answering the thousandth question of the day.
To two more (extra) library videos.
Open to stopping off at the memorial of the Japanese pilot who was trying to be the first person flying around the world.
And the World'd Largest Ball Of Twine.
And the (so boring to me) World's Largest Quilting Exhibit.
Be open to the possibility that learning happens everywhere.

That's the rule, I think.
The particulars are up to you (the Collective Your Family You).
The how often.
The with whom.
The "how far?".
The "to what extent?".
The "when can we again?"
The "ooof, let's get outta here."

One thing I know for sure...
The more you pay attention to it - the how it happens, the when it happens, the wherefore it happens, the more you see it happening, and the more fantastic it becomes.

Life becomes magical.
Life becomes magic.

5 comments: said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.
Thank you for these two posts.


hehe! Cat Steven's is fixed, find his song at the post below

Stephanie Ozenne said...

Ha! I hate shopping backwards through the grocery store! Maybe I need to loosen up and see it as an adventure.

Lovely pair of posts - the checklist is fantastic!

Aubrey said...

exactly what i needed to hear. like medicine for this weary unschoolers' soul.
you have a way with words friend. i can hear you speaking them to me through the computer, soothing me.

Kim said...

Well put. I like the 'be open' statement the best!

KMDuff said...

Ordinary life magic. It appears. Tis true.