Back to School. Sorta.

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

So y’all know we’re unschoolers, right? To me, the most important aspect of being an unschooler is following the learner’s lead and needs. Radical unschoolers disagree and insist that no workbooks or structure or expectations should be placed on a child, but I don’t do dogma — I do what works for my family. And yes, I will continue to call us unschoolers, even as I have now begun to use traditional resources for the boys.

 Noah is one subject away from meeting my graduation standards: algebra. He argued vehemently against this, but I figured if the Commonwealth of Virginia holds it as a minimal requImageirement for its special ed students, he should have no problems with it. Weird hangup I’ve got, I know, but there you have it. In the meantime, Noah convinced me that perhaps he doesn’t need a complete algebra course for Real Life. And so I have conceded a bit and am putting together an algebra/consumer math hybrid for him. I’m madly learning about music royalties and business math in preparation for teaching him. Someone, shoot me. The joys of home education!

At least I found a pretty good algebra text that incorporates a lot of real-world application. Wish me luck. The most challenging aspect of this, actually, is not the math itself but rather the consistency required of me in sitting down with him to do the work. I’ve become dangerously laid-back.

Aengus, OTOH, has reached an age and stage in which he is craving a bit more structure. Not sure if he knows that yet, but Mom can tell. So we had our “first day of school” here in the ‘Hood yesterday.
 
For new visitors: all you need to know is that Aengus, now eleven, is completely unschooled, having learned pretty much everything he knows from playing games. We began a structured reading program last year when he became distressed that he did not yet know how to read. This is very, very common among unschoolers, and I had utter faith in veterans’ testimonies that unschooled kids pick up reading very easily on their own, but at a much later age than schooled children. I was fine with that; Aengus was not. So he has a little experience with workbooks, but not much.

So we saImaget down at the dining room table (WTF? All these years and I still equate structured learning with sitting at a desk. Must work on that.) and proceeded to “do school.” For now, this includes just his reading, a little handwriting practice, and math. But the math is new and exciting: geometry! Purists will tell you that unschoolers get geometry through living life, just as they get everything else. And they do, eventually.

But Aengus wants to feel like he’s being taught something, so I’m using a workbook that Noah once used and which I love for its real world relevance. We had fun working through the first pages together, and the map they used for teaching types of lines gave us the opportunity to get out the globe and run off on a geography tangent.

And workbooks or no, THAT is what unschooling is about.

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Comments
  1. Excellent post! Unschooling is about flexibility and connection to our kids’ evolving needs, not dogma. As you know, I’ve gone back and forth on whether to describe my family as unschoolers. That’s how “flexible” I am — I can’t even settle on a label for our lifestyle. My personal definition of “flexible,” as you know, is “pulling it out of my ass.” I just ordered a 2nd hand copy of Head First Algebra, for a couple of bucks, to see whether it’s a good fit for us.

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