Schuyler Waynforth, October 15, 2010:
I am often struck by how much of an effective method unschooling is. Maybe effective isn't the right word, but it feels right, or apt. I don't know of any other approach to people that helps them to feel more themselves, more powerful, more generous, more capable, more loved. And what an outpouring you get in response. And I feel so much better as this parent than I did as the parent I used to be.
It seems that once unschooling is going that it covers everything, and there are no wasted moments, or wasted thoughts.
Trust, Free Time, Compost
Sandra Dodd, responding to the words in green, in 1997 or so:
I am trying so hard (dh says too hard, maybe he's right) to deschool myself, but today I caught myself saying to my children, "Come on, let's actually learn something today."
For about the last week and a half I have been feeling like we're just not "jiving" - if you know what I mean. We get along great when it's fingerpaints and playground time, but whenever learning tries to raise its ugly little head....well, my children are not too happy with me.
The best of my personal deschooling, I think, was to still the running commentary I had been keeping up about what was educational about what they were doing at the moment. To justify for my husband and me, and later out of habit, I had an analysis going every moment. That has stopped.
At least I had never been saying it to the kids. I was determined from the beginning not to distinguish what was "good for them" (educational) from what was "just fun" and in the course of treating it all the same, it became all the same--not only in reality (which I think it was already) but in the eyes of my children (because they didn't know any different) and in my own gut.
Banish the ugly-headed little learning situations. Stay at the playground. Play with sand and water. Find seeds. Sit in the shade, and in the sun. Set ice in the shade and in the sun. Write with ice on a sunny sidewalk. If there's a brass plaque at the park you can set a piece of ice on it when it's hot and get the letters in reverse, melted into the ice. Don't talk about WHY those things happen unless the kids ask. Just let it happen. They'll figure it out.
Free time with Legos, etc. until about 9:00 PM bedtime.
Once they get the hang of figuring those things out, they'll be able to figure out harder things. If they practice on cheap and easy stuff (ice is great—in the bathtub for floaty-toys, crushed ice for snacks...), they'll be calmly confident about figuring out increasingly harder things.
(Wow--I liked what I just wrote. I'm saving it. You might see it again someday.)
It probably doesn't affect your children directly, but I'm guessing that inside your head there are voices and schedules which are causing you distress and agitation. If after dinner is free time, what was the rest of the day? What if they want to browse through encyclopedias at 8:30 p.m.? 8:30 a.m.? No doubt you let them, but maybe in your mind you're ticking off the time clock. "Overtime."
Our typical busy day is someone's coming over and we're taking her (usually a her, not always) with us to do something "out there"--movie, museum, playground, theatrical-something-or-other. We go out to lunch maybe, or bring something back, and a rented video, and watch that and the kids wander off individually or in clumps to do whatever—make up games in the yard, play with the dog or cat, color, paint, play with a game...
I don't know anymore what they do.
A typical boring downtime day is kids in bed until 9:00, one gets up to watch TV, one gets on the computer to play something, one sits in "the toy room" (a storage room/ passage way) and plays alone. We eat some boring lunch, do some laundry, put some stuff away (never as much as we've taken out, it seems), Keith comes home, takes us to dinner because everyone was so comatose there's no plan, and we come back and split into ones or twos at games, video, computer, lying on the big bed talking or telling stories, goofin' in the yard.... something.
We have a great big covered patio in back with a couch, two 6' folding tables, various mis-matched chairs and benches, and a concrete floor. That's where chalk is, and Lego. That's where a lot of summer art is. We have swings, a funky little treehouse, and a big sandbox.
Out front there are bikes, a pogo stick, a pogo-ball thing, lots of rollerblades, a skateboard, a "taxi bike" (a tricycle with another seat behind), and those are used in waves, and left alone in waves.
Kirby takes karate three times a week.
Marty skates on Saturdays. He's up to Basic IV and will start hockey in April, I think. Holly skates too, unfortunately not at the same time. She's in Basic I, having finished a little-kid Snowplow Sam class.
All three kids are in swimming lessons three days a week.
We have a compost pile, and it's kind of amazing how it seems at first that the food and leaves and sticks and banana peels and dog poop will never do anything but sit there looking like garbage, but when I stop watching it, it turns to solid black, rich dirt! I can't find any parts of the elements of which it's made. It's kind of like that with my kids. It took me a few years to quit watching them and trust that it would compost.
In weaving, one thread touches all the others. At first, learning is in one place, play is in another, and work is in a third. Unschoolers can gradually become people whose lives are made of learning and togetherness. When play has value, and parents see learning in everything, the fiber and substance of the family's life change.
What is woven into your life is part of your being.
photo by Nancy Machaj