Monday, April 23, 2012

Inquisition Monday: Schooling

I said I'd blog about the schooling issue. And then Betttina asked me about it for Inquisition Monday. So here it is.

Inq Mon: What made you choose unschooling? Will you ever do formal school? 

It's a choice I go around and around on. Most recently, I realized I was an unschooling mom when I was looking up the new Montessori charter school in our area. Reading their webpage I realized, "Oh wow. This is way too structured for me." It was one of those "You know you're an unschooler if..." moments.

Many of my reasons to unschool are the same as my reasons to homeschool: flexible schedule, more interaction with people of diverse ages, no stress on test performance, and more outside time and sunlight. I like that if we want to stop and deeply study something we can. I like that if someone gets sick, there's no time lost. I like that I won't have to ask permission to see my own child during the day and I can schedule dental and doctor appointments at anytime. 

As far as unschooling over other forms of homeschooling, for me, unschooling seems the most realistic for us. I know parents who have paid lots of money for curriculums to find out they only used only a small part of what they paid for, if any. And then they try to resell their unused stuff. And I've seen that happen so many times that I've decided I don't want to be in that situation. With library cards and youtube and the Internet filled with art projects, book report ideas, and the whole nine yards. We have a community of homeschoolers with many talents and knowledge they can share. Having something set that we have to go through regularly would really irk me to the point of abandoning it. Just as I like not knowing what's next on my to do list, I like the open-endedness of unschooling.

Right now we go to an unschooling group. I started attending last summer when some of Margaret's friends started going to preschools and there was no one for her to play with. I wanted a homeschool group that wouldn't bombard me with philosophies and curriculums: I wanted a place where my kids could just hang out. They have a regular park day as well as other activities ranging from LARPing to math afternoons to hikes. The group also sends out reminders for other general interest activities in the Bay Area: homeschool fairs, charity activities, homeschool prom, the Maker Faire, field trips, museum days, etc. I don't go to many of the non-park day activities because my kids are small. We tried a hike in January and we were definitely the last ones in the pack. When they get bigger, it'll be different.

I also recently tried a general homeschooling park group and I might keep going to their park days. They are on a day that I generally have free and some of the parks they go to are very local to me. I might skip the ones that are further. There is another homeschool group that I have heard a lot about and I might check that one out in the future as well.

Besides the park days, our homeschooling looks like this: I read to the kids half an hour each day. I'm considering increasing this to an hour since half an hour is actually really short. We go to the library weekly, various play groups and park days 2-3 days every week. We decorate the house with art projects and we garden. Isaac loves to cook with me. I recently found some maps and put them on the wall. Margaret tells me that she wants to visit Africa, provided, of course, that there are people in Africa- she wanted to make sure she'd get to meet new people if we ever travelled. Mostly, we live. Margaret especially likes it when we go help people breastfeed, which is something I do from time to time. In fact, the other day she was playing by herself and I heard this remark between she and her imaginary playmate: 

"Hi! How are you? You need help breastfeeding? Ok!"


Sometimes I attempt more structured learning and it goes one of two ways:

Recently my "pressure to conform" sense had been telling me that Margaret needed to learn handwriting, but Margaret's desire to not do handwriting had been beating me out. She told me, "I write 'H' and 'M' and that's it." Ok, then.

Last week that same sense told me Margaret needed to learn to spell her name. Kids her age at church can spell theirs! Conform! 'Margaret' is a long name, so I made up a song and on the way home from the library we sang it together and now she can spell "Margaret." Moral of the story: sometimes she'll let me direct her learning and sometimes she won't.

This summer we're planning on starting Margaret on an instrument. She loves music and makes up songs all the time. When she was 2, she would line up her blocks and pretend they were a keyboard. Our rice pot was a "pot guitar" for a long time. She likes to use my knitting needles as a violin and bow.  I think it's safe to say we should find a musical outlet for her.

I don't know what we'll be doing in 2 years (I hope it's Girl Scouts and 4H!), but what we're doing now is working for now. When it no longer works, then we'll change it up. Nothing needs to be decided right now. 

Betttina- I'll get around to your second question for next week.

Also, I've recently been thinking about how I want to share some of our homeschooling adventures, but I don't necessarily want to turn this into a homeschooling blog. I think I'll do a weekly homeschooling feature in order to balance that. Every Saturday, perhaps?

The pictures in this post are from an activity a fellow homeschooler invited us to. We ended up climbing down some rocks and throwing stones into the Bay.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I am torn between being one of those hard-core homeschooling families where the kids go to college when they're 14...and unschooling. I am leaning toward both, depending on my kiddo!

    I am really disenchanted with ALL! THE!! TESTS!!! in public schools but my bigger concern is that I just don't want to be away from my child 8 or 9 hours a day. I don't like all the bullying in schools, I don't like how many schools seem to have predators and I like my kid, so I want to spend time with her.

    I like the idea of piano lessons and Girl Scouts and 4H and still having time to cook three meals together each day and visit our church family. I like not sending her out the door to strangers for most of her awake-time each day.

    I want her to learn about math and science and geography and history by reading, by doing, not by sitting in a classroom.

    Thank you so much for sharing more about what you do.

    Betttina on Twitter

  2. Love the imaginary breastfeeding conversation — aw!

    We're those "you know you're an unschooler if" types, too. I'm sometimes surprised at how much my perspective on schooling has changed just in the last few years.

    For now, unschooling is working really well for us, and I'm working through my anxieties about it as we go. I find I have fewer the more we're actually doing it than when I was just thinking about it.


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