Tuesday, April 03, 2007

unschooling rocks!

The kids found a new friend at the neighborhood playground yesterday. Instead of playing on the equipment, they all went outside the fence to the rocky slope and dug with sticks and rocks looking for dinosaur bones and fossils. They came home filthy and tired and happy. This morning we baked cookies, talking about fractions (obvious math connection here). But also talked about good habits like cleaning pots and pans as you go, and mixing dry ingredients separately from wet.

But my main reason for posting (twice in one day, wow) is what the children are doing this week. I am focusing on spring cleaning the house, finishing up some sewing projects and just enjoying the beautiful Virginia weather. As an alternative to planning formal, sit-down, paper-and-pencil lessons, I sometimes like to sit back and observe just what the kids can do with a stack of library books and no intervention. As a product of public schools myself, I occasionally catch myself replicating school at home. But the best lessons, the ones that stick, are child led and resemble nothing of a classroom. Here is an example of how unschooling works in our house.
Today, Chas has invented a toy dumper (problem solving skills) from a box and some yarn (recycling, resourcefulness). He used scissors to punch holes in the box, and experimented with where to put the two strings to obtain the correct dumping action (insert small discussion on fulcrums and levers.) He troubleshooted his way through the whole thing, the string kept slipping out so he made the knot bigger, then he figured he needed to add packing tape to secure them, when that didn't work, he talked to me about what else he could do. So we worked out that he could use one string to go through both holes, what could we do to make the string stronger. I showed him how to make a crochet chain with his fingers (home economics). He worked for a while as we talked about how to determine what length to make the chain, one foot for each handle, plus the distance between the two holes (math). He got a bit tired of making the chain, so he decided to lay it to the side for a while and come back to it after lunch (project management). I'll try to get a picture up soon, to do justice to the toy dumper.
Public school's way of teaching the same lessons would have been terribly disconnected from real life and from each other (subjects are segregated in a classroom), would have taken much longer to transmit, and would have cost a lot more money. Change the way learning looks. www.unschooling.com

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