Learner – Not Teacher

Making decisions isn’t easy…

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Raise your hand if you know what unschooling is!  First of all, I’ve violated one of the very few rules of unschooling by adding a “school” thing to the first sentence.  Raising your hand is something we learn in school.  Have you ever raised your hand as an adult and waited to be called on for anything?  I just thought about this now… we don’t stand in Starbucks and raise our hand to be called on.  We don’t sit even in lectures and wait to be called on by raising our hands… usually there are microphones placed around the auditorium and we are asked to walk to the microphone and wait our turn.  I guess there are certain places you might raise your hand as an adult… like a magic show (if you want to be the assistant), or maybe if Jimmy Fallon is walking through the audience and you REALLY want to talk to him and be on The Tonight Show… but in most normal circumstances we don’t raise our hands to be called on.

That has nothing to do with what this post is about… 🙂  But I ramble sometimes… it can’t be helped!!

I homeschool my children.  I want to say I’ve done it since Price (my oldest) was 4 and we started doing “school” at home.  However, with some of the research and reading I’ve been doing, I’d rather say my children have learned at home since birth.  All children are taught at home for the first 4-5 years of their lives.  They learn how to walk, talk, and go to the bathroom on the toilet (some learn this easier and earlier than others).  And that kind of brings me to the point of this, I think.

We are now telling parents that they should let their children potty train when the child is ready.  We are acknowledging that there isn’t one set age where everyone should be able to go to the bathroom.  One of my children was later than I thought was normal for the potty training and I decided to just stop pushing it… my motto became (He will eventually do it… he won’t still be diapers when ______)  I usually filled that blank in with “he gets married”  or “he goes to college”… I just stepped back and stopped pushing… and he did do it… mostly on his own, and moreover, when he finally did start using the pot, he never had that period of not being able to hold it overnight.  He just did it, and almost completely on his own.  This is the same child who taught himself to read by the time he was 4, just by listening to the rest of us read aloud and watching hours of Letter Factory videos! 🙂

The reading thing again… okay.  I brought up the potty training thing to say that I think it’s the same way with the reading thing.  Kids will learn to read when their minds are ready.  To say that every 5 year old in Kindergarten SHOULD be able to read these certain words by Christmas break, or that they will be reading certain short books by the end of their Kindergarten year sets some children up to be failures from the very beginning.  Imagine that you are one of these kids whose brain needs a little more time to catch up.  I don’t mean that there is a learning disability, although… I think some of those things we label as learning disabilities might just mean that they can’t learn the way they are being taught… not that they can’t learn at all.  I’m not saying there aren’t actual disabilities that keep people from being able to learn, I’m just saying if we offered more than “one way to learn” that we wouldn’t lose so many kids right from the beginning.

As a teacher (when I taught public school) I could tell almost immediately the children whose parents worked with them at home and had probably been reading to them when they were small children, and the kids whose parents used school as a babysitter because they had to work or just didn’t want to be around their children all day.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll have to do another post later to expound on these things more.  The point of this post was for me to explore unschooling.  I would like to say that we are “trying it out”!  But in order for unschooling to work, it kind of has to be an all-or-nothing concept.  So I will say that we are now using a child-led learning style that looks nothing like school and looks a lot like watching Ghostbusters a million times to see if we can see any of the people working the animatronics in Slimer.  And to see which camera angle they used to make the marshmallow man look so much taller than anything else.  It also means we have a “Wonder Wall” in our kitchen that everyone (almost everyone) 🙂  has written something they wonder up there… It means we wake up each day not really knowing what we’re going to do or what we want to do and end up having a great adventure laughing about some crazy thing we watched on youtube or some new book we finished… The 11-yr old ran in this morning and announced he finished the first Harry Potter book and wants to know who wants it next (we’re all reading through each book before we watch the movies)… When the possibilities for learning are nearly endless, there is a period of sitting around trying to get your mind around what you want to do, but when we’re all learning together and working together even the periods of sitting around are much more fun!!

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda