Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jumping with both feet

Unschooling is a somewhat radical form of homeschooling where instead of teaching my children, I follow their leads and individual needs and facilitate their learning.

 Unschooling appealed to me from the start when I looked into homeschooling, not because I thought it would be best for me but because I thought it would be best for the boys.  I've toyed with the idea of unschooling, but really have been hesitant to let go of the control and hand the reigns over to the boys.  Unschooling requires a huge leap of faith on the part of the parents that children's innate curiosity will take over and forage their own learning.  



 I will admit openly and honestly that I am a complete and total control freak.  I would LOVE to buy a set curriculum for each subject and follow through each day with worksheets and games and just explore learning, but my boys are openly rebelling and I don't like fighting with them all the time.
      
As I contemplated this new school of learning all weekend I questioned which direction my boys would take.  One of the sites I visited talked about her daughter's obsession with Disney Princesses and how most people would look at that as "fluff" and not learning.  Guilty!  I thought of my middle son and knew that if given free reign, I'd be learning even more about Pokemon since that's his latest obsession. 

While driving (alone!) on Saturday to meet fellow homeschoolers and family members to look for books I started thinking.  I decided to focus on Alec and his obsession with Pokemon-- what is he really learning by reading and studying Pokemon?  I was amazed, truly amazed, once I started thinking critically about this. Perhaps I'm reaching at straws here but in I realized that in studying Pokemon:


       
 1. Alec Reads:  Alec will read guidebooks and storybooks about Pokemon every moment he can.  If you follow my blog at all you know I don't care what my boys read as long as they read.  I  believe children can learn to read better just by reading books they love to read, especially when they read favorite book over and over again. His Pokemon obsession has definitely encouraged his love of reading.
       
 2.  He's learning Language Arts:  The guidebooks are arranged in alphabetical order (something I have yet to teach Alec) and yet he knows that Pikachu starts with P and so he's in the back with the other P's, after the O's like Oshawatt.  He has learned to use pronunciation keys to correctly pronounce all the character's name.  He's learned vocabulary words like evolve, evade, and psychic.  If he does not know one of the words or can't figure out it's meaning he will look it up in the dictionary or on-line.
     
 3.  He applies science:  In case you didn't know, the Pokemon are all ranked according to type.  Some Pokemon are fire types, some are water types, some are ground types, etc.  In battling the Pokemon in his DS game he has often been unable to defeat a certain character and so he pulls out his guidebook.  He reads up on the type of Pokemon he's battling and reads about the Pokemon he has to choose from that could battle against this foe and has often explained to me that water types beat fire types, but fire types will defeat grass types and has explained all to me in terms of simple science.  "Water puts out fire so water types beat fire types, grass feeds fire but ground types will beat fire types like when we put sand on our fire to put them out!"
     
4.  He applies math:  Alec can sort and categorize Pokemon, not only by what type they are but also by ability, fighting skills they possess, color, size, shape, etc.  He's learned to read measurements in his book like 6' 3" (at first he didn't know what the ' and " meant, but now he does).  He's also learning to associate the height and weight measurements of the Pokemon to things in real like so he can get an accurate idea of how tall and heavy they are.  He even told me one day that 2 of the Pokemon (and I honestly can't keep any of them straight to know which ones he was talking about) "are the same size but one of them weighed almost as much as dad and one of them is just a few pounds like a baby so the lighter one must be really skinny!"  He's often trying to figure out how much money he has and how much he needs to save to have enough to buy another stuffed animal or deck of cards.  He used math to determine how many cards he could fit on each page of his card holder book.  He uses division to evenly divide large packs of discounted cards I'll sometimes buy for him and his brothers to share.
     
Not bad for "just playing!" 

I'd love to encourage him to write about Pokemon, or perhaps delve into the history of how Pokemon started but those are ideas I can use in unschooling. 

When unschooling, you don't just leave kids to follow their own path and ignore them, go off and work on your own thing (though you can for short spurts of time-- if they need you they'll find you), but you "strew" as one mom put it. 

As a parent I am always free to suggest ideas; perhaps Alec would like to make his own guide book about Pokemon, perhaps Alec would like to read about the people who created Pokemon, perhaps Alec would like to learn where Pokemon Originated (Japan).  These are things I can suggest for him to think about doing.  He's free to say no but I'm free to suggest.  I can print out worksheets, or find books to suggest.  In other words I can help mold his learning and try to fill any "gaps" I think might be in his learning.  He doesn't have to do any of these things as I'm not assigning them but suggesting things I think he might be interested in.  And often if it's about Pokemon he's more than willing to give it a try and learn all about it.
    
I am excited to forge ahead in this journey, even if we are taking a rather dramatic turn.  I'm sure it won't be a nice smooth path, as I can already envision a few bumps in the road.  I'm anticipating on hearing a lot of "I'm bored" these next few weeks as the boys learn what this is all about as well, and perhaps we'll have to tweak it a bit here and there but for now we're going to try this.  I toyed with the idea of giving each child a chart for the week with a list of subjects and having them check  off which subjects they cover each day but have decided it's time we just jump in!

 Sink or swim, we've got each other to help throw life rafts as needed and I think it's about time. 

Wish us luck!

2 comments :

  1. When my kids were growing up I never even thought about homeschooling but
    the more I hear about it, the more I think it could have been a really good thing. I love that you can use things that they are interested in for learning, not to mention they wouldn't be exposed to the not so good things they "learn" at a traditional school.

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    1. I can remember telling my oldest son that he was NEVER going to be homeschooled... and then three years later were home giving it a try. I am so glad we did. These last few years of homeschooling have been wonderful and really did change my perception of education and learning.

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