Details of Unschooling

In green is a "homeschooling thingy" that was going around Facebook. When it came to the unschoolers, we all started messing with it. Then Linda Wyatt created a new set of questions, which several people answered, but Ronnie Maier's responses were so good it's worth a read by future unschoolers. (Other versions will be linked at the bottom; brown is the original question, green is the new version, black is Ronnie's response which was originally here.)

I imagine my answers will be somewhat similar to Frank's, but that's okay, since his answers are what inspired me to do this one anyway.

Unschooling versions provided by Linda Wyatt.

1. Original question: What time do you get up?
Unschooling version: What sleep schedules do people in your house have? Do you all have fairly similar schedules, or not? Are you the kind of people who wish things were open 24/7?

I am usually the first one awake. When I'm working, I get up about 8. When I'm not working, I wake up about that same time but might not actually get out of bed for a good while after that. Frank and MJ aren't far behind me. Chloe usually surfaces about noon or one but might be awake in her room for a while before that; she loves hanging out in her room.

I like the convenience of open-all-night businesses, but our hours tend to be more conventional than that. Except I tend to do our banking at about 10 p.m. Not sure why.

2. Original question: What do your children wear to school?
Unschooling version: Do you know any good sources for great stuff to wear? Some examples: vests with lots of pockets, good boots, lightweight jackets with a sleeve pocket for pens, comfortable cotton tees with interesting designs. Anything you have that you love that other people might not know about?
We shop at the thrift store when there's something in particular we're looking for. "Something in particular" ranges from jeans to cosplay supplies to just something new. Lately, MJ loves Wet Seal. I like finding things on the clearance rack at Target: cheap, comfortable, nothing I'm going to be too sad to find stained or worn out.

Significant portions of our wardrobes bear unschooling conference logos.

3. Original question: What curriculum have you tried and hated? What have you tried and loved?
Unschooling version: Any good references to suggest? Websites, catalogs, whatever? Any that you have found that tend to be suggested by folks, that you really didn't find useful? Favorite books?
I love Wikipedia. Everything is in there, and while it is generally pretty well researched, it inspires critical reading. The "Needs citation" notes are brilliant for that.

IMDB.com is really fun. (Did you know Kevin Pollack is one of the brownies in Willow? I've seen that movie dozens of times and didn't notice til Frank and the girls pointed it out the other night. Still disbelieving, I went straight to IMDB to confirm. Conversation and research all took place while the movie was rolling.)

Speaking of that, having a laptop is a FABULOUS resource. Portable information, entertainment, communication, networking, computing.

We go to the library about once a week, Half Price Books about once a month, other book stores and Amazon.com as needed.

Any video entertainment your kids want to watch is another fabulous resource. And I do mean Any. Video. Entertainment. I can't begin to list all the learning that has been inspired and/or reinforced by TV shows, movies, and video games. It's astonishing to me that the educational establishment is so completely missing the boat on this.

4. Original question: Who is your most inspirational homeschooling role model?
Unschooling version: How did you decide to unschool? Do you have any good sources of info to share? Anyone in particular who helped you make this choice?
The collected minds on unschooling.com were my primary inspiration. Actually, my first reaction was, "These people are really out there!" But as I read a lot (LOT) of information about homeschooling, those unschooling voices kept calling me. The seeds were planted, and I began to see in our lives—even while our kids were in school—what the people "out there" were talking about. By the time we officially pulled our kids out of school, I was 80% an unschooler. One math lesson after that, it was closer to 90%.
5. Original question: Abeka, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or Classical?
Unschooling version: What kinds of ways do your family members learn about stuff these days?
Books and videos and the Internet. Personal interaction with other people.

But the biggie? Conversation. Conversation is what ties it all together.

6. Original question: Favorite response to “What about socialization?”
Unschooling version: How do you talk to people who ask clueless questions about unschooling? Any favorite stories? Suggestions for dealing with family members who are fearful or critical?
The main thing we get is that unschooling works for us because our kids are so bright. Countering that is tough, because, well, of course I think my kids are the most amazing people on the planet!

And it is true that our unschooling is tailored to their strengths. Our unschooling tends to be somewhat cerebral. We do a lot of things that are pleasing to the academically inclined: lots of words, lots of writing, lots of reading. And my kids actually enjoy their state-mandated standardized testing. They test well, producing lovely, academically reassuring annual test scores.

But I try to explain that unschooling works because all kids, regardless of their so-called intelligence quotients, thrive when they get to pursue what matters to them. I know a lot of unschoolers, and they are all bright and amazing. Most of the time, I have no idea—literally NONE—where those kids would rank in a classroom setting or how they would score on a standardized test. Who cares?


What matters is that they are bright, happy, interesting, accomplished, engaged and engaging. Unschooling doesn't only work for kids of "above-average intelligence," or kids whose parents are teachers, or kids who can recite the alphabet while twirling a baton, or any other limiting factor.

Unschooling works because the unschooled individual has the time and support to follow the interesting byways that lead to real learning.

7. Original question: Favorite subject?
Unschooling version: What are you guys up to these days? What are you doing that is so terrific that you think others should hear about it?
Hmm. Lots of music around here since about January. Actually, for MJ, music is a driving force and has been for years. But we're all playing with musical instruments lately. I can play "Sympathy for the Devil" on the guitar! And my love for African drumming continues.

I learned to hula hoop at LIFE is Good. I've never been able to do it before. My (adult) friend Dana said three words and *poof*, I could hula hoop. (The three words were "make smaller motions.")

I've been exploring the effects of shame on kids and am formulating a new unschooling presentation.

I have put out some feelers and am probably returning to work in July.

We're doing lots (LOTS) of socializing. Movies tomorrow. Gathering of unschoolers on Thursday. Maia is staying over Thursday night. And there's something this weekend, but I'm drawing a blank. Where'd I put my calendar?

Qacei and Chloe want to get together. Mental note: Find calendar. Find blank space on calendar.

8. Original question: Favorite field trip ever?
Unschooling version: Been anywhere cool? Where? Have any stories to share about adventures you've had? I'd be especially interested in hearing about adventures to places that few people know about. Pictures, too.
Frank got into some of our travels, so I'm going to think smaller (but no less precious).

When the Waynforths were here in May, we toured the Boeing facility here in Everett. Despite living no more than 15 minutes from this facility for most of my life, I had never been before. We got to see the first ever 787. We got to sit in the cockpit of a jet and flip all the switches we wanted to. Simon and Linnaea flew a simulator, and MJ blew up a bit of (simulated) desert with a (simulated) missile.

The next day, we stuck chewing gum on a very colorful wall in Post Alley near the Pike Place Market. And we visited the Seattle Aquarium, where MJ and Chloe looked at every creature in the place and played and laughed just like their younger counterparts.

Later, we ate Thai food, and then we visited the Fremont Troll and his pet VW bug, a gigantic but whimsical art installation under Highway 99. The kids took turns sitting on the troll's head.

For some quiet time, we watched "Firefly" and played a card game the name of which is escaping me right now. Munchkins? Is that it?

This is IT, folks. Exploring. Playing together. Talking about it all. Pretending to pull boogers out of a troll's nose. The good stuff!

9. Original question: Best thing about homeschooling?
Unschooling version: we can pretty much leave this one as-is. What have you found to be the most rewarding about how your family lives?
Being together. Knowing my kids. Opening up my own world by being open to theirs. Experiences.

Before LIFE is Good, I painted one window on our van with these words:


That's the best thing about unschooling, having all of those L-words bundled up into one lovely lifestyle.

10. Original question: Sports, music, or art?
Unschooling version: I still don't know where to go with this question. Care to share any interesting things you've done or are doing in any of these fields? Anything you've had time to delve into that you might not have if you were busy doing schoolwork?
MJ played volleyball for a while, sometimes with Frank. Chloe hates competitive sports. Frank and I are moderately avid football and baseball fans, and we've had some lovely family outings to Safeco Field, a cathedral to baseball. Chloe and I walk together occasionally. Frank has his sword arts.

Frank goes into some detail about our music. I'll just mention that I've learned guitar chords from all three of them, which I absolutely love. Building my guitar skills is a family project! :-)

Both girls draw, especially Chloe with her manga. She recently drew a whole set of Norse gods and goddesses in manga style, very detailed and clever drawings that reveal the depth of her knowledge of Norse mythology. MJ is a beautiful photographer (and she takes pretty pictures, too! ba-doom). I crochet scarves every now and then. We all take occasional advantage of our shelf of art supplies.

I don't know if school would have kept us from any of that, but there would have been a lot less of all of it.

11. Original question: Beautiful script handwriting, or lightning fast accurate typing?
Unschooling version: Don't know where to go with this question, either, since I don't really understand why it was even asked. Make something up.
MJ has the prettiest handwriting of all of us. She can write in italics. It's nifty!

Chloe and Frank write like typical Maiers. But both can do pretty when it matters. Chloe's captions on her art, for instance, are very flowing and artsy.

I touch type, except I look at the keyboard whenever I want to. Frank hunts and misses. The girls have developed their own keyboarding methods and are really fast.

12. Original question: Best one stop shopping for school books?
Unschooling version: Best place to get books? Or other things, too, like some of those fabulous websites that have all sorts of really cool toys and equipment. Where do you find cool stuff?
Our favorite stores to visit lately are those that sell musical instruments. And I love Fair Trade stores.
13. Original question: One subject you didn’t get to this week:
Unschooling version: What do you wish you had time for this week that you didn't fit in?
The important stuff always gets squeezed in. Time is usually not the problem: I often wish I had more willpower. Chloe (who loves burrowing into her room with books and her sketchpad and piles of dirty dishes) periodically laments the lack of long stretches of time without fun social stuff to do.
14. Original question: What will you do when you run out of kids to teach?
Unschooling version: What ways have you found to continue your own learning? What kinds of things have you gotten interested in since having kids? Do you have any particular plans once fewer people live in your house, whenever that may be?
I'm more open to my own learning than I was before unschooling. I've learned (ha!) to recognize all the learning I do.

New interests since unschooling: African drumming, guitar, blogging, public speaking, sexy backup singing, growing things until I get bored and everything dies, reading historical romance novels (I now know so much more about world history than I learned in school!), birdwatching, Tai Chi... Probably more.

Frank and I want to travel more. Maybe the girls will take over the nest and we'll go be fledglings.

15. Original question: Ever give school books as holiday or Birthday gifts?
Unschooling version: What's the best book gift you have ever given? Gotten?
We give books all the time. Chloe loves getting a box full of manga. I love getting gift certificates to book stores. Possibilities!
16. Original question: Better late or early (delay formal education at home, or start as young as possible?)
Unschooling version: (1) Are there some things you find you prefer a class structure for? (2) What alternatives have you found for learning things most people think can only happen in a class? (3) Do different members of your family have different learning styles, and if so, can you tell me a little about that and how it has affected how you do things?
First, the original question: Start early to strew wonderful things in your children's lives. Delay formal instruction until the kid asks for it (if he ever does).

(1) No.

(2) Fiction. Stories are amazing teachers. Videos, books, comic books, video games, funny pages, and whatever comes out of the imagination. They all lead to more, more, more.

Also, learning by snippets. Most people think you have to sit down for 50 minutes every day for three months and study subject X. Actually, humans are quite capable of connecting and sorting out snippets learned years apart in vastly different venues.

(3) I wrote about this here.

NOTE FROM SANDRA: I've also deposited that writing here: SandraDodd.com/intelligences

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