Friday, August 11, 2017

unschooled kids don't learn what they don't want to learn

I got this great book out of the library.  Historical fiction, all three boys can read it, it explains about American History and the minutemen.  I had it in the house for weeks, all of them refused to read it and said it was boring.  I gave it to K, and she also declined.

I'm off to return it and I'm giving myself a little pep talk that when they are interested in the American Revolution, they'll learn about it.

A lot of made-to-be-educational materials don't go over that well here.  They are already out of duct tape and almost out of stuffing, though.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

starting the college options route

Since K has been reluctant to learn math in the "classic" way that math is taught, she's been learning once a week with her friend.  On the IHIP under Math I've been writing "Preparing for SAT/ACT."

I had assumed, if K wants to go to college, that she'll have either the SAT or ACT, and a certificate of completion from the NYC homeschooling office, and I would make a transcript and she would apply, possibly writing essays about alternative education theory.

My neighbor came in last night (I've often joked, when people ask about socialization, that if possible, you should recruit your neighbors to homeschool with you, so that the kids can run back and forth for playdates all day long) to tell me about all the research she did for her son (who is entering high school) to do online college at HVCC.  It's a community college and part of SUNY, and the credits are "real, live" college credits, i.e. they are transferable and 24 credits is high school equivalency.  Meaning after 24 credits, you can transfer to college.  No diploma, no SAT/ACT.  Just simple go to college.

So there is a rigamarole of forms that are pretty difficult to understand and get through. Ari and I hacked through some of them.  To get proof of residency involves traveling into Manhattan (#homeschooltrip!) to present ourselves etc etc.

After showing K the list of courses (and hoping for a science, or a math, or a history, or an English), she chose...Russian.  She would have chosen German if she could.  Or Japanese, obviously.  So this unschooler is currently spending a lot of time on Languages.  And more languages.  We'll see if we can get her registered in time to take the online course in the fall.  That will be getting her feet wet in college.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

the arts and crafts bin

Our giant A&C bin has been mostly emptied except for a bunch of cloth that someone donated to us.  I asked the boys to make a wish list:


scotch tape


staples and more staplers

light sensitive paper

giant paper


and then I finally decided to go for


and I threw in purple duct tape to hit free shipping

How 11th Grade Unschooler comes to learn Earth Science

It all started with the Office.  I looked for a clip of the scene but only found a picture:

Kiisu (going by her Japanese name these days because of her great love of Japan) was enjoying the scene but didn't understand the subtleties of this joke.  She decided she wanted to have a better grasp of clouds.  She then spent about half an hour researching clouds, how they are formed, what the different clouds mean and what conditions cause them.  She then discussed this with people online, telling them about what she learned and answering their questions, which led her to more research.

This is probably more efficient than classroom learning because it's very targeted and she will probably remember it better, since it emerged from her desire to know it.

She said to me, "I know you asked me to jot down when I do things like that, but it's pretty impossible because this happens all the time.  I don't even notice when I'm doing it."

That's because for unschoolers, learning and life are not two separate activities.  They don't try to avoid learning or have negative associations with learning because they generally don't learn what they don't want to.  The only reason I even became aware that Kiisu had studied some Earth Science topics is because we were walking on the beach and it started raining and she began pointing out all of the different types of clouds.

unlimited media

Anyone who wonders how unschooled children learn how to persevere and how to deal with disappointment has never seen my children weeping over video games #unschooling

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Cleaning the Bathroom

I had a list of things I wanted to do this summer.  I don't love "to do" lists.  Mostly they happen when I have too much to do and can't keep track of it mentally.  And I prefer my life to be so simple I can actually keep track of what needs to get done in my head.  (Except what I put on google calendar.  Obviously, I love google calendar.)

But this summer, with the kids finally getting older (Chana asked me why we haven't done homeschool trips in years, when so much of her elementary school education was done via trips, and I said, "I haven't been able to leave the house without losing my mind in the last eight years.") and me having free time, things I wanted to do kept occurring to me until I finally started keeping a list.  It is a delicious list, though.  It's a list of things *I* want to do.  Not as a mom, or a person in charge of a household.  But as a creative, intellectual human being who wants to stretch.  (Or merely as a person with some spare time.  For example: "bring broken necklace and bracelet to jewelry store to be fixed.")

One thing I didn't put on the list but did come about because of this new phase of life is that I ended up training the boys to clean the urine from around the toilet.  Their ages are 10 (adhd), 7.5 ,and 6 (mature).  Turns out it is the perfect time of life for these particular children to learn this skill.

Ages ago, before I had any sons, a friend of mine mentioned that the urine gets intense in the bathroom and that she had to clean it regularly.  So when the boys started using the bathroom, I duly got spray and kept it nearby and wiped up regularly, grateful for the heads up.  Instead of lamenting that life was this way, which I undoubtedly would have done without the warning, I just accepted that this was how things were, and handled it.  Whenever I came in to use the bathroom and it smelled like urine, a quick swish and swipe and everything is great.

At the beginning of the summer, I went in and smelled urine, and thought to myself, "Why am I doing this?  They are all capable."  I decided then and there to train each one of them.  I pulled Elazar in and taught him.  And then the other two, the next two times.

Get spray bottle and rag from cabinet.  Spray around toilet, including front and including walls.  Wipe with rag, especially near bolt caps.  Return rag and spray to cabinet.

And now, whenever I go into the bathroom and it needs a swish and swipe, I call one of them in.  So far they've done it about five times and I'm still supervising them.  I think one more time and Elazar can do it himself without supervision, and Aharon is not too far behind.

One of my friends (who also has three boys) told me that when she toilet trained her boys, she taught them to check for pee on seat and floor and wipe it up with provided baby wipes.  Another friend told me that her husband was taught to always put the toilet seat down after he wiped around the toilet bowl with toilet paper, and he modeled that for their two boys.  Perhaps one day we will move on to some of that.  For now, I'm delighted that when I ask one of the boys to clean around the toilet, they do so.

unschooling summer 2017

It's been a while since I posted.  I guess unschooling is doing its deep work.  (That's code word for I can't think of anything we've been doing that resembles classic schoolwork.)  Chana introduced Elazar (and therefore Jack) to Animal Crossing, which is an amazing game with a small town.  You build a house, you make money, you speak to the villagers.  Their talk sounds like mumbling and you have to read everything, and you write letters and respond to them, so they are using literacy.  I am still asked to help with spelling numerous times a day and Chana asks me lots of history questions and philosophy and literature and vocabulary and science.  (Oh, yeah.  I'm supposed to look up the causes of and the end of the great depression.  I already sent her an article explaining how scientists discovered that electrons behave differently when they are being observed vs. not being observed.)

Aharon (age 6) is in camp and enjoying parsha and davening.  He wants me to daven with him, but then I don't do it exactly like he does in camp and he screams.  He came home from camp with kriah sheets that are Hebrew letters saying English sentences, which is a cute idea.  I'm torn about it.  On one hand, it helps the children with reading comprehension and is fun to figure out.  On the other hand, I'm a purist and feel like it's better to read Hebrew words in Hebrew and get a sense of the language that way.  (I'm such a homeschooler--I have an opinion on the minutiae of education even when I don't even use either of those approaches with my own children.)  I put the sheets on the fridge with a magnet in case any of the boys wants to play with them.

Chana and I have made no progress in the expensive chemistry set I bought her.  I did go so far as to send her a list of experiments, of which she chose one, and then I read the lab on it.  Since we haven't opened the box, I don't know what the items or, what they look like, how to use them, etc.  If you know me, you know I hate science experiments and I finally had to embrace that part of my homeschooling personality and admit science experiments are not my bag.  And having an expensive chemistry set is like upping my game at admitting I hate doing science experiments.

We are reading Pride & Prejudice together.  She reads it out loud to me in a British accent and her Mr. Collins has me convulsing with laughter.  It's everything I dreamed about High School Literature: actually reading the book, discussing it as we go: character, plot, themes, turns of phrase, foreshadowing, symbolism.  And enjoying the book.

And we take long walks on the beach together.  I'm really focusing on not having any agenda for our time together.  The teenage years are extraordinarily tricky.  I feel like in a lot of ways I spent ages 12-15 putting out fires and worrying excessively about "issues" and wanting her to "understand" things and desperately hoping to impart my wisdom to her.  I'm carefully refraining from that now.  I just want us to enjoy spending time together.  I read Parent/Teen Breakthrough: the Relationship Approach last year and it said that things are really extremely simple: In each interaction, ask myself if my behavior/reaction will improve my relationship with my teenager or deteriorate my relationship with my teenager.

And in all the things I worry about her being able to handle and manage?  If it affects me, bring it up (in a way that will not deteriorate our relationship, of course).  And if it doesn't affect me, it's none of my business.  The entire rest of the book was to explain how to do this, because honestly, some of it sounded like a foreign language to me.  Sof kol sof, it is the most useful and wisest book on raising teenagers I've read so far.

I've mostly given up trying to convince Chana to learn Bio with me.  It's like every unschooling move I've made over the years.  Why do I keep going more and more towards unschooling?  Because Chana told me, over and over, in all sorts of different ways, that she doesn't like to learn that way.  She told me that she doesn't like to sit down and read from a textbook.  She does LOVE when something catches her attention and then she hunts down information about it and videos that show and explain it.  And then talking about it and explaining to to people, and then researching their questions and finding answers, and talking to more people about it.  That is a dynamic and organic and interactive and social way of learning.  And it feels completely different and more exciting and more relevant than learning from a text.

In the same way, she learned to read by wrestling with texts she was interested in reading.  Or learned bits of math because they caught her attention (probably her most favorite homeschooling lesson ever was when her father taught her binary one Friday night ad hoc during family snuggle.  And one of the oddest math things she ever did was teach herself how to divide polynomials at 3am to help some stranger online with math homework).  And how she delves deeply into philosophy and Social Studies because of conversations she has with people. I now have to trust that when different things in Science catch her attention, she will pursue them.

All that was supposed to be a short introduction to what I came here to write today!  I got distracted talking about unschooling high school.