Sunday, January 18, 2009

Unschooling, at least part-time

I intend on testing the waters of unschooling, at least part-time unschooling, as my little one finishes out her two-day-a-week preschool program and through the summer. She is still really not enjoying going to school, even after lessen her days from last year. Our friend, an elementary school teacher in a public school system, says that kids my little one's age really enjoy going to school. A big red flag for me as a parent.

Homeschooling has always been in the back of my mind for a long time before I even decided to have children. I remember thinking about the differences my husband and I had in our education, going to the same school (we met in high school). He struggled and I memorized words in text books and received great marks on tests. The differences in our education did not sit well with me and raised some big questions. Now, I am pursuing more of an unschooling route.

After having my little one, I felt a need to be home with her. It was not planned and these last 4 1/2 years have been a journey. Our journey as a family.

As my little one's school year is half over, I am left wondering what we are going to do. What we should do? So, I am going to try out unschooling. I guess it is something we have been doing all along, discovering new places and exploring the things that she has showed a interest in, allowing her to make decisions on how to spend our day, sometimes giving her options, but most of all allowing for flexibility. I think it gives her the opportunity to experience, explore, discover, create, imagine, and learn in her own way. I feel helping her find the answers to her questions and uncover more about her interests makes for a vivid and memorable learning experience.

At an early age, I did Montessori activities with my little one. I utilized a few books, like Montessori Play and Learn by Joy Starrey Turner, Teaching Montessori in the home, the Preschool Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock, and Teach Me To Do It Myself by Maja Pitamic. We did life skills / practical activities, like pouring, transferring, buttoning, threading beads, using clothespins, and cutting with scissors. We also set up tables, shelves, mirrors, hair brushes, tooth brushes, and coat racks that my little one could access independently. I also set up a bunch of sensory activities like matching shapes, textures, sounds, activities with smell and taste, sorting objects by size and height and some color activities that we did a few times each and with variations, as my little one liked to do things her own way. We still utilize parts of the Montessori nature activities, mostly for the diagrams and life cycles. Most importantly, we try to let our little one do things independently.

When my little one started to play dress-up and start pretending (around 3) , I digressed from setting up the Montessori activities and started incorporating a Waldorf style play room, which creates an environment for a child's imagination. We did attempt more of a Waldorf weekly rhythm, where we had a specific activity for each day, such as having a drawing day, gardening day, nature day, soup making day, baking day, watercolors day and one "surprise day". With my husband's flex schedule and weather, it did not work to set a specific activity daily activity, although we regular do these activities each week. I do think that we did naturally fall into the rhythm of having a balance of physical play, creative/mental activity and rest. I really just try and follow my little one's lead. The nature table, which recognizes the seasons and holidays or festivals has been a wonderful addition, as well as story telling, songs, verses, and fingerplay. My little one loves nature, which connects us to our childhood as well. So, nature walks, natural "treasure" toys, and playing with the elements, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire (roasting marshmallows) will also continue as we feel they are important to us.

With both Waldorf and Montessori, the parent is the child's first teacher. The child is also included in the daily "family" type activities, like baking, making soup, preparing snacks, cleaning up and setting the table. Both take the time to create and prepare the environment for the child. I feel that we will utilize parts from both, Montessori and Waldorf, as we continue on our journey.

Now, I will be looking for some books on unschooling and suggestions they have especially regarding younger children. I am not sure if I should have any goals for unschooling, as to determine if this is successful or not. My husband will also have to think more about what he would like for our little one and what he needs to feel comfortable with unschooling our little one. We do not know anyone who is unschooling their children, so we would love any comments or suggestions or recommendations on a few books that have helped you along the way.


1 comment:

rebecca.hunt said...

A long-time friend of mine unschools her daughter. She has a blog, and while that isn't the primary focus of it, glimpses of their life pop up from time to time: http://www.pinkpricklypear.typepad.com/ Plus, she has some other unschooling blogs on her blogroll.

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