August 30, 2011

More Unschool-y

This summer we moved even further into the unschooling realm.  This is sort of a taboo statement in the unschooling subculture.  Some of the blogs that I read have never used a different method.  Their advice is (queue Yoda voice) Do or do not.  There is no try.  Rarely are things so simple.  Though we've never used a curriculum and I've never had success at forcing Robotson into anything, the truth is that we weren't/aren't 100% unschooling.  Blah, blah,why am I even waxing on?  Well I don't really know, but it relates to when I think about blogging what we are doing.  I wonder if I am typing it all out as a justification that the kids are learning something.  Despite reading and agreeing that learning can be a more organic process, apparently putting that into practice is going to be a slow process.  I think we move closer each year and I think we made a huge leap this summer.  That's what I meant with that first sentence.  In one way I feel a little guilty that I can't force myself to be comfortable faster for Robotson's sake.  On the other hand, I know that I am doing the best that I can and that has to be good enough.  It's like learning how to be mindful and take care of my temper.  Yes, I'd love to just be present and calm, but right now it's a lot of practicing and mistakes.  

Though no one person can or should be the only authority on any given topic, I did feel a bit better after reading this last week on Sandra Dodd's blog.  She says the more restrictions you have the further kids will push things if you let everything go at once.  So maybe moving slowly until unschooling is a good thing.  I would't say we even have a lot of rules right now, some would claim we have none, but I know I haven't let go completely.  So what did we do differently this summer and what rules are still in place?

This summer we went to more park days, play dates, field trips, took two vacations, and did a lot of swimming.  All of these things "take away" from being at home "doing school."  First there is a lot of driving involved and in some cases we didn't make it back home for days.  This is big because normally I don't like to be out of the house (introvert), but also because being out means we aren't doing the things I generally accepted as educational. To further the weirdness I signed the kids up to do more things outside of the house after the summer:  Girl Scouts and soccer.  I'm still trying to figure out how we became that family that is rarely home because of all their outside commitments.  Even though I really enjoy our days at home, I must admit that being out in the world feels more productive than playing around the house.  

As much as I enjoy the idea of radical unschooling, that is something we definitely are not.  A few of the house rules that remain in effect are:  no t.v. or Wii before 5pm, the computer time has time limits, and bedtimes are 10pm.  We do have free days where they can watch t.v. all day and stay up late though.  There are still chore requirements and (parent enforced) consequences for behavior.  Not every unschooler is radical, of course.  But I do really like the idea that maybe one day even those few things will be how we used to do it.

And here's one more Sandra Dodd quotation that I thought was relevant to this summer.

"We have learning all the time; no waiting. Neither parents nor children need to "lead" learning, if the environment is flowing and rich."

She's got a good point there.


  1. I admittedly don't know much about unschooling - other than kids lead the way with no curriculum and learning occurs when "teachable" moments develop organically. That said, I've got a question. You describe not being fully enveloped in unschooling because you still have rules about video games, tv, chores, etc. How are these things related to unschooling? Aren't they more related to parenting, well-being, safety? Does unschooling encompass more than the traditional idea of language, math, science, etc? Curious to hear more!

  2. I may not have made it very clear. There is unschooling which is learning through living, and then there is radical unschooling which is (very simplified) no restrictions or expectations in any aspect of raising children. So a radical unschooler would set no limits on electronics, have no set bedtimes, require no chores, etc. The idea being that if you foster an atmosphere of cooperation and involvement then everyone will, for the most part, learn how to self-regulate and help out where needed. You can find many people who describe how it works for them and it seems really nice. For me, it seems like it couldn't possibly work. Maybe had I started out more laid back and less demanding, things would be different. I don't know. As it stands now, a certain amount to force is necessary to get the kids to turn off the t.v. and pick up their messes. :)

    But back to not being fully invested even in the educational part of unschooling, that is me still feeling the urge to push something I think they should be learning. Even as I get better about that part, I am also not always supportive of what they choose to do instead of what I think they should be doing. So, for example my son loves music and when he's working with that I feel fine, but if he decides that he'll use his computer time to play a video game, I sometimes criticize his choice. There are a dozen other ways I could handle it, but it's still a mind shift for me.

  3. I just stumbled upon your blog. Thank you! We too are unschooling, and my son is now 12. I suspect Robotson and my son Miro would get along great. Perhaps we can arrange an online play date for the boys? We have been traveling through Latin America for the past 2 years, and we too, have a blog:
    My son, Miro loves minecraft and other games, and would love to connect with other unschooling friends for some online time. Go to our site, and send us a not if Robotson is interested. From reading your blog, seems like our boys are on the same wave length. Either way is fine, just putting it out there. Sending you and your family much love and light from Peru.