Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winds of Change Blowing from Schooling to more Unschooling

After taking a long winter break, we started homeschooling again this January.  I had not planned on taking a long break. We moved in October, took 2 weeks off to get unpacked and settled in, and began school again.  After 3 weeks of struggling through our days, my hubby and I made the executive decision to stop, regroup and try something different.  

We have been using Heart Of Dakota for most of our schooling.  I enjoy it and so does my 4 year old, working on Pre-K and K.  My 6 year old in 1st grade is not enjoying it as much.  He is a high-energy kid, who likes to move.  Any type of learning that doesn't have him moving or playing is boring and not fun.  I have made up lots of games for him along the way.

This began my look into child-led learning and unschooling.  Such terms were foreign to me.  So let me explain them as I understand them: child-led learning is more like unit studies, but you let the child decide what they want to learn about.  Let's say they show an interest in sharks.  As the educator, I start them on a quest for books about sharks, find educational shows to watch, and visit an aquarium, the ocean or an online live feed of a shark tank.  Then, you incorporate creative writing, which can cover grammar and spelling, geography (map of the oceans), science (life cycle, how gills work, what is cartilage), history (were sharks hunted by people groups, shark attacks), art, math, etc.  If the child shows an interest in the oceans, or say a group of people that hunted the sharks, you start moving in that direction.  I see it as possibly becoming labor intensive since you can't really plan ahead and you would have to make up the curriculum as you go.  But the positive side is that your child would really enjoy learning, since he is interested in every topic you are studying.  

Unschooling is very similar to child-led learning, but I think of it as I have a plan of topics to cover and teach through learning by play, projects, cooking, games, etc.  There are many different ways of looking at the two terms, so please do not take my thoughts as the final say in how to do either of them!  

I have started to move towards unschooling.  Pictured below is my schedule from the beginning of the year, before our move (Monday's column) and after moving (Tuesday's column).  The scheduled times had flown out the window. I just used the order of subjects to keep me on track.  

I was using read-aloud History books for history, science and geography, with the science and geography relating to the history topic.  I changed copy work from poetry lines, which we used in the fall, to sentences from our Bible story.  Jman's (1st grade) reading was a book that I was picking out for him, as well as BG's (pre-k/k) phonics lessons.  Math for both were out of workbooks.  First grade language arts was spelling flashcards and one grammar lesson per week, while pre-k/k was workbooks.  Lots of sitting.

Flash forward to my new schedule, which I started this week.  I threw out the times and strictly went by subjects for the week.  We are doing a lot more together while we figure things out.  I am sticking with the read aloud history, but tweaking the lessons a little to incorporate play while they listen.  For example, today we learned how the pilgrims built board houses.  Why not let them build their own houses with legos while I read?  Or make "logs" out of playdoh? It keeps their hands busy and out of most trouble.  Granted, their little imaginations get going and we have ninja towers, playdoh ice cream cones, but they listened!  

I decided to pick my own science topics and make my own plans, as well as incorporate a few of the fun activities already in my teacher manual.  This week, to go along with building board houses, we are studying beavers.  I tried to keep the two related.  I found books about beavers with pictures and stories and a Wild Kratts episode to watch.  I am keeping the oiled windows activity and build your own wall project.  I'm adding my own art projects to match our science topics.  My goal is to keep things moving and fun.

I'm adjusting math to workbooks and math games every other day for both boys.  I decided to let Jman pick his own books to read to me.  Of course, they are off of a "Special Shelf" that I filled with appropriate leveled books.  Giving him that little bit of executive power makes it exciting for him.  I am sticking with the spelling flashcards and one day of grammar, because I want to have him do a little bit of sitting each day.  It is good to have him be sit and be still for a few minutes.  I kept Jman's copy work to the Bible story.  God has given him a heart for His word and reading and copying it is enjoyable!  

As for BG, I am adding more play activities in his handwriting, like writing letters in bubbles and playdoh.  He is my mellow, sit down and focus child.  So I am keeping it light to keep school fun.

My stack of books and materials hasn't changed much, but the attitudes and levels of excitement have definitely changed for the better! 

I'll let you follow along as we continue to tweak our homeschool unschooling.  Look for more updates to come!

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