As I talked about last week we are trying something new with our last week of the fall semester. We decided to drop our boxed curriculum for the week and try something new. We decided to try "unschooling" or "child led learning" depending on your vocabulary preference. Both education models allow the child to chose what they learn and how they learn it. This was a giant step in a new direction for our family. I had recently finished reading several books on the topic and found the idea fascinating. I went into this week as a research project for chosing our curriculum for the fall. The kids went into the week ecstatic to be able to chose what they wanted to learn.
The amount of documentation required by homeschool families varies based on state regulations. Our state is very hands off and does not require any reporting throughout the year. I however like to have all my ducks in a row in case of inquiry. For our family that includes keeping daily student assignment sheets. This week however we did not have a set curriculum so I could not record their assignments in advance. I chose to write down exactly what the children were learning throughout the week on their blank student sheets as the week progressed.
Here are the forerunners of our education for the week!
* Safari outside with Lion books
One of our girls is currently fascinated with all types of cats. When I asked her what she wanted to study this week she went straight for the Lion books at the library. I thought it would be fun to have an outside safari and read through the books.
*Read about constitution and bill of rights
Our oldest daughter had quite a few questions about how the governmental process works. Specifically the history of the Presidential Office and how our officials are elected. We sat down together and read through a juvenile reference book on the subject. We both learned quite a bit about the process and were able to talk one on one with each other as we went through the book. It was nice to be able to work one on one instead of with a room full of children. We could speak on her level instead of at a lower level that the younger children could understand.
I don't know what it is about tanagrams but they are a huge hit in our home. Our younger girls were in love with the idea of being able to play with them anytime they liked.
*Types of potatoes
While eating dinner the children started asking questions about all the different types of potatoes. We ran with the interest and learned about all the different types of potatoes, climates where they are grown, their uses, and popularity.
* cadet meeting: Astronomy badge
Our oldest daughter earned her Astronomy badge while at her Cadet scout meeting. She worked with her fellow cadets and her girl scout leader to learn about the different constellations and several space related facts.
*Stained glass lesson
While driving by a church our oldest daughter commented on how beautiful the stained glass windows were. This started a conversation about how the windows were made. My parents and grandfather have all made stained glass artwork over the years and allowed me to make a few small projects when I was younger. We talked about the process as we finished our drive home.
*How glass is made
Learning about stained glass of course moved into how glass itself was made. We ended up staying in the car when we reached our destination and watched some YouTube videos on the subject. The look of shock on her face when she realized that glass is made from sand was priceless.
*4 new badges: budgeting, comparison shopping, good sportsmanship, and comic strips
Our oldest daughter is really motivated to complete her cadet badges. She worked hard and earned her badges in budgeting, comparison shopping, and good sportsmanship. Her good sportsmanship badge was earned through completing her first swim meet with her Special Olympics team. She placed 1st and 2nd in her heats.
*Discussed Geopolitics. Egypt plane crash, terrorism, and bullies
My husband loves CNN and watches it quite a bit throughout the day. I originally felt like I needed to shelter my children from the horrible tragedies in the world. I however have come to the decision that this was not the correct path to take with our children. All 5 older children were part of this conversation. We learned the basics about terrorism which quickly moved to learning about bullies and the plight of people throughout the world who suffer from terroristic threats on a routine basis.
*Discussed democratic process: Difference between democrats and republicans, what is a primary, voting processes.
After learning about terrorism we quickly moved on the learning about the democratic process. I could have talked about this subject till I was blue in the face a few months ago and the children would not have absorbed any of the information. Since learning about this information was their decision however they really absorbed the information and found it fascinating.
*How a rainbow is formed
*Animal tracks. How to track different animals based on tracks
*Measuring Lions and Tigers
We had been learning about Lions and other large cats throughout the week. I knew that learning the facts about the sizes of the animals wasn't REALLY sinking in for the kids. I can say "the Lion is 2 Daddy's long" but that wasn't really working to help the kids visualize how BIG these animals are. So we pulled out the reference books, tape measure, and sidewalk chalk. The children worked together to measure out the different cats on the back patio. They were shocked by the sizes of these animals. I have to admit I was pretty shocked by the size of the Siberian Tiger!
Looking through our list I did see some general points of interest.
Our oldest daughter (11yrs old) seemed to be the most quizzical and interested in investigating different subjects. The younger three girls spent the majority of their time outside playing house and riding their bikes. I am sure they were learning *something* during this time. I am just not sure exactly what they were learning.
The children also did not have any interest in investigating anything math related. The few math activities that we completed were totally my idea and did not go anywhere near the level of the math work they had been completing.
This week was a lot more work for ME! I had the preconceived idea that "unschooling" or "child led learning" would be easier on me for the week. I pictured piles of books everywhere and me off taking care of the little ones and keeping the house clean. In my imagination the older girls would sit down and read about all the things that interested them and I would get a break for a week. Yeah right! This week was exhausting! Between finding all the information and books, coming up with projects on the fly, and randomly stopping what we were doing to go into research mode at the drop of a hat.......I was tired! It is MUCH easier to open a boxed curriculum and work our way through the books as listed in the teachers manual.
So what did we decide for the future of our homeschooling journey?
I am not equipped to be an "unschooling" or "child led learning" parent for the long term. I can see the benefits for children and families however. Being able to follow "rabbit trails" and explore the topics that interest you is a major plus of homeschooling in general. As a year round homeschooling family I could see adding in a week of "unschooling" here and there every few months. Maybe at the end of each semester or right before a major holiday. This is definitely something I need to think and pray about for the future.
If you have experience with unschooling I would love to hear about it!