Without further ado, I am really not an unschooler. I know I have been taking about it a lot lately but, if I am an unschooler... I am a terrible one! I have been researching the concept a lot lately because of some of the challenges we have faced in the last 2 years. I think it is a valid form of education, but not sure it is totally a fit for our family. The older kids are the closest to the idea of unschooling, as everything they do is very independent. I read their papers, give them book suggestions, and such. I have expectations that they need to fulfill, but they really are on their own! The younger kids, they have school work and such that we do everyday (or at least we try!!).
For school we generally do as close to the same thing as possible. This doesn’t work for math, of course, but every year we have a theme, I guess you would call it, lol. This year it is The World. Everyone is working on that aspect. That saves me so much time and trouble! We can watch movies, read books, play games, or whatever all about that and everyone is involved and learning. It is hard, of course, to find things that work for a junior in high school to a kindergartener. So some things are saved for when the younger ones are outside playing or asleep.
If I have learned anything from all these books and research on unschooling, it is that I have to relax. There is no other way around it. I swore last year that I never wanted to see another tear during “school time.” No one learns and all that stress does is make everyone hate learning… which is the opposite of my goal. So if we just don’t get a math concept one day, we close the book and do it the next day.
For example, the other day Rogue was reading to me from his Seton reader (I adore the stories and so do the kids). But he was really struggling. I knew he knew the words he was missing. In the past I would have made him sit there and do it till he got it right, giving him only minimal help. This time? This time , I just said, why don’t we finish this tomorrow. It doesn’t seem to be working today, what do you think? He agreed and we put the book away. Next day he read it easily with no trouble and needed no help.
Another example was about a month or so ago, Rogue was getting really gurmpy about math. I would assign him 2 pages in his Seton math book and it would take him forever. So then one day I gave him his quick lesson (I try not to overdo it on lessons, because I learned that if I spend too much time on the lesson, they are ready to move on... not do more, lol) and only had him do a page. He was done in no time and got everything right. So I look at what he is doing now a little more closely. I don’t make him do every page in the book, because if he gets it, he gets it. He will only come to hate it if I force him to sit there and do 40 problems when he can just as easily understand it and do better if he only does 20 problems. Now he said the other day that his favorite subject is math!
I guess, the big turning point for me, was not making myself follow a pre-written lesson plan written by someone else. For instance I went as far as using Sonlight for a year and it was… well, I want to use another word but I will just say a very not so happy place. I tried to follow everything the schedules said and if I didn’t get it done in the time I was supposed to I would try and shove it all into the next day and the next. Then by early spring we all hated school and spent more time being miserable than learning anything. Once I let that go and worked at our own pace and not let myself get wrapped up in being at or above grade level we all started loving to learn again. And actually learned something!
The thing is, they are only young once. They will only create wild and imaginative games without self-consciousness for such a short time. They need time to play and explore and enjoy life. And if they do, by high school they will LOVE learning. Instead of playing wild and imaginative games they will write wild and imaginative stories! They will read great literature because they can’t stand the twaddle. They will think it is fun to watch a documentary on India (I mention this only because the three oldest are in the living room right now all excited about finishing the documentary they were watching last night, lol).
You are asking how this all relates to homeschooling with tots? Trust me, this wasn't just one long tangent, although I am so good at those. Letting go of the strict lesson plans will free you. Believe me I do have lesson plans... just not strict ones. I don't say we HAVE to get this done this week. Because rarely is it true... that something HAS to be done. So if a baby is having an off day and won't be soothed, you can close the books and all sit together. You can watch a movie as a family. Have the older kids distract each other with games. Do you know how much math is involved in a game of Monopoly? The math books will be there tomorrow. But your baby won't be a baby forever. Some days the books just need to be closed so you can enjoy life with your little ones.
And they should be closed free from guilt.