Learning to Say “Yes”

Autumn in Maine is well underway; such a stunning time of year!

Now that we’re practicing unschooling, I’ve been consciously making an effort to say yes more often. We’ve done no formal sit-at-the-table school work this week. Basically it feels as though we’re on vacation, enjoying the New England autumn–and working through our screen-obsession.

As we adjust to the unschooling lifestyle, I’m keeping in mind that saying “yes” opens the door to learning. So, when Summer asked to play the Splat game, I said yes, and was rewarded when the ever-reluctant Winter joined the game as well. When Winter held up a book questioningly, I stopped what I was doing to join him on the couch for some story-time. The boys came downstairs the other night at nine o’clock for the third time and they caught me trying out a mummification game I had stumbled-upon; so when Winter asked to try it I was happy to say “Yes.” Even 3yo Summer took a turn mummifying “Seneb”.

I did manage to write down a few educational activities in my homeschool log, even though we didn’t do any formal lessons this week. After plenty of research and reading of other unschooler’s blogs, I decided to let go of the restrictions on video games and television. The one-hour blocks I previously allowed the boys really isn’t enough time to get involved in some games, and so in the hopes that the formidable glowing screen will eventually become–simply something else to do, not something they feel the need to covet, I’ve relinquished control over screen-time.

Surprisingly, the boys are not playing video games all day, and have a couple times turned them off even before an hour was up. There have been some longer stretches, too–sometimes 2 or 2-1/2 hours–but I’ve kept an open mind about it, tried to show interest and enthusiasm in their games. Here too I was rewarded with happier children, less anxiety and stress for all of us, and Winter has opened up more, sharing information about his games, the characters, their attacks and affiliations willingly with me. I’ve found that by simply offering the boys the choice to finish up and find something else to do, maybe have a snack, that they will eventually come away from their computer or game station of their own accord. It’s actually quite relieving to not have to fight with them over it.

Giving up the curricula and formal at-the-table lessons has given me time to pursue some of my other interests–I’ve been making curtains!  And with cold weather upon us, I’ve been working to get my outside chores done before snow flies (more about my fall garden activities coming soon!). Basically this week has been a relatively good one, but then it would be when you’re essentially on vacation. For now I am able to stave off my fears about their education. I am easing into this unschooling life as one tentatively letting go of that last bit of rope anchoring us to the mainstream.  So far it feels good to be free.

Some Resources You Might Like:

More Ancient Egyptian Games: Online

All My Son Wants to do is Play Video Games

Unschooler’s View of Online Gaming

Unschoolers May Play Video Games All Day

Dayna Martin: Radical Unschooling and Restrictions

Dayna Martin: Unschooling; Media & Materialism

Child-Led Inquiry or Unschooling

It’s been a long time coming, I think, but our family is finally taking the plunge into unschooling.  Unschooling is also referred to as child-led or interest-led learning.  Basically it is a way of viewing the learning in everything so that you see the educational value of it all.  Let’s face it, learning can happen anytime, anyplace, if only you open your mind to it.

Why We’re Making the Switch

My son “Winter” has come to dislike learning.  That’s not to say that I can’t occasionally grab his attention with something particularly interesting, but for years now there has been an incredible amount of resistance.  Winter has struggled with sensory issues since he was  a baby, and it has been suggested that he may have PDD-NOS, though we’ve refrained from putting him through the ordeal of testing; basically he’s high functioning on the Autism spectrum.  I’ve used the lure of video games to coerce him to work through his chores and school lessons, but even still there is resistance.  I can’t say that the resistance I face with Winter is surprising to me; my own husband has a lot of ingrained resistance.  In high school it was his rebel-attitude that attracted me to Keith, but as we grew older, developed our life together, and had children together, I realized the full extent of this “resistance”.  The Burnses are largely Scottish, and that resistance is basically their stubborn-streak shining through.  And it is prevalent throughout the entire family.  How can I teach anyone anything when the attitude ingrained upon their very soul is rebellion?  “I’m not going to do this just because you tell me to.”  And how can there be a pleasant learning atmosphere when you’re constantly locked in a power-struggle with your child?  Curriculum and formal schooling are not working.  It’s time to try something different.

Why Unschooling?

I’ve been considering unschooling for a few months now.  Struggling to maintain control over my children is an exhausting endeavor.  Trying to organize materials and actually teaching takes a lot of time and energy.  It would all be worth it if Winter enjoyed the lessons, but even though I’ve tried to incorporate his interests and learning style into our curriculum, he just doesn’t like learning this way.  And what kind of relationship is that anyway?  Trying to control one’s children?  GASP!  Some folks probably think this is the only kind of relationship a parent should have with their child; the kind where the parent makes a request (gives an order), and the child obeys without question.  But I don’t try to control anyone else in my life on principle.  Why am I attempting to control this little person, my child?  He is his own person, and (apparently) he will do as he pleases whether I like it or not.  And in a household that promotes critical thinking and questioning of the world around you, I’m often met with a very analytical “Why” or “How come?” or any number of variations that involve my child questioning the reasoning behind my requests.

unschoolingfreedomIt is this innate questioning that I want to encourage in my child by dropping the curriculum.  I hope that by not forcing Winter to study and learn that he will come to enjoy learning again and in time willingly pursue his curiosities.  I’ve already learned to see the learning that takes place away from the table where we do our lessons.  Letting go of the battle for control is less scary with the knowledge that he will learn.  Hopefully by giving him the power to decide how and when he learns he will be a happier individual and we will have a stronger relationship for it.

Encouraging Inquiry in the Scientific Homeschool

The more I think about unschooling and how it will affect our scientific homeschool, the more I realize that this is a perfect opportunity to practice scientific inquiry.  By dropping the curriculum we’ll be free to go and do and explore even more.  By exposing my children to the world around us we will be able to observe new things and develop new questions.  It will be exciting to see where these new curiosities take us.