Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Unschooling Means to Us

Unschooling means different things to different people.  For us, unschooling means giving my boys a chance to study what they are interested in in ways that interest them.  We do occasionally have "real" schoolwork and lessons.  We do read book, and write, and do math.

But there are days when I just sit back and let learning unfold.  It allows me to see where the boys interest lie and it gives me a chance to see what areas my boys might need help in.  Times like this allow me to see when and where the boys are applying lessons too.



The boys spent their morning watching The Curse of Oak Island and playing Kindles.  I was feeling so guilty that we hadn't done anything school- like and I didn't have any plans to do anything school- like when I overheard Ian and Evan talking about math while playing Minecraft together.  They were trying to divvy up all the supplies they had gathered together and Ian was helping Evan divide by two and showing him that "20 divided by 2 is 10 because 10 plus 10 is twenty."  Evan knew he needed an even number to divide them into two equal piles and they talked about leftover pieces too (self guided math!).  
 
Alec informed me that he had read a chapter or two in his Guardians of Ga' hoole book while he was getting dressed.  We listened to our book on CD the Blood of Olympus in the car.   We're only on the second disk but we're already so immersed in the story (reading and language arts).
 
Coming out of the store we saw a car with a Minnesota license plate.  We stopped to look at the loon, trees and mountains shown in the picture.  The boys talked about where Minnesota was and Alec informed us all it's his favorite state because the capital is St. Paul (I guess he likes that name).  Later in the day we also colored North Dakota in on our 50 states map that we're using to keep track of our postcards.  We had received North Dakota last night and after examining the card we added it t our pile.  While the map was out the boys also pointed out Minnesota to me.  They definitely have got their United States geography down (geography).


Once home the boys played gaga in the playroom for a bit and then the two older boys decided to play On A Roll! again.  Evan asked if he could play computer games.  I pulled up Starfall.com for him and he played several first grade math games.

I was floored by all three boys.

I was busy crocheting and they all, not only played math games, but did amazing work.  Typically Ian and Alec ask me step by step as they reduce and make mixed numbers from their fractions but because I was busy they did it on their own.  They got them all right too since they showed me their papers when they were done.

Evan's computer games had him adding numbers to 10 (like 10 plus 15), using less than, greater than and equal adding numbers higher than 50.  I'm sure if I had asked him to do math like that he would have balked but he loved the games he was playing and he seemed to catch on right away.  If I didn't know any better I would have assumed these games were not challenging enough for him the way he flew right through them.  Of course he claims he was just guessing but if he can "guess" and get them all correct than he can go right on guessing the rest of his life! (math)


Evan asked if I could come sit on the couch with him so he could read to me while I worked.  We ran out of Elephant and Piggie books and we've read all the Cat the Cat books at our library so I had picked up some Biscuit readers.  Today Evan chose to read Biscuit Wants to Play.  I warned him that the book might be to hard for him but that I just wasn't sure.  He agreed to try but thought it was to long of a book.  I told him he could read just half of it if he'd rather.  Well, he not only read the whole thing he read the whole thing without making any mistakes!  I had to help him sound out a few words that the pictures didn't prompt (like Daisy and cricket) but other than that he did fantastic!

My hands were busy so he had to be in charge of everything and self- correct when I wasn't quick enough to look at the page.  It worked out beautifully!  While Evan was reading to me, Ian went to read his Roscoe Riley book and Alec asked to play the math games Evan had just finished with on the computer.
 
The boys all decided to make lunch and take a break from school.  I offered to read a few Christmas stories to them and take a break from making the scarf I had been working on.  Ian picked out today's books and we read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree and The Gift of the Christmas Cookie.

Alec pointed out that all the stories we've read this year have to do with history, hard times, giving and Jesus/ Church.  We stopped mid-way through reading one of the books and talked about why that was.  The real meaning of Christmas, the true story of St. Nicholas and that Christmas is a religious holiday.  That morphed into a discussion of Easter and why that is celebrated by Christians also.  We finished up our heart-wrenching stories and had a very brief discussion of the world wars that were referenced fleetingly in the Perfect Christmas Tree book.
 
After we were done lunch and reading Alec settled down in front of the computer to work on a butterfly loom band bracelet while Ian went to play outside.


Evan reminded me that he hadn't done any phonics, sight word or spelling work for school and asked if he could play sight word bingo with me.  Of course I said yes.  I was still working away at my scarf but Evan assured me he didn't mind setting up the game or reading all the card out to me.  He did a good job with most of the sight words and he told me that he knew the word up because it was in his Pokemon game; power- up punch. "I see that word a lot."  He then went on to tell me what the power- up punch was and how it was used but I was only half listening.  I was marveling over the fact that my boys had inadvertently showed me twice today that they were learning important concepts like math and reading through their video game playing.

 
After we were done playing our game (which Evan won), Evan and Alec took off through the house playing a game with their toy swords, a few outdated non-working phones and their animals and blankets.

Ian came in and started a loom band bracelet on his fingers.  Evan saw Ian working on a bracelet and asked if I could look up how to make a simple infinity bracelet for him.  Like usual, once he had it all loomed on he really wanted someone else to take over and hook it for him. I refused to this time but promised to help him and hold the loom steady.  He grumbled a bit but finished the bracelet on his own.  He was then very proud of himself.  He added his new bracelet to his whole collection and showed them off.  Ian completed two simple fish tale bracelets and then headed back outside.


Using the loom 

his completed bracelet 
Alec settled down to read a few more chapters in his book while Evan played with his mini flashlight and all the loom bands.  My boys were busy crafting, reading, and learning all day even though I didn't guide them.  They're getting quite good at guided themselves and I couldn't be prouder!
   
The sun made an appearance late in the day and we headed out for some fresh air and sunshine with a walk.   They didn't want to go for a walk and asked if we could just walk up to the mailbox. Next thing I knew we had turned our walk into a science and nature walk.  We saw lots of trees and stumps left by beavers.  We found a den/ hole at the base of a tree that was quite large and speculated about what animal might have lived there.  We saw a belted Kingfisher diving to the lake for some fish.  We ended up taking most of our walk in the woods.  We talked about road safety and keeping ourselves visible when walking on the road.  Alec and Evan kept weaving in and out of the woods over logs and across rock walls. They even found a small stream that they crossed.


Ian found this small tree with two different teeth marks



This is just one example of how one unschooling day looks for us.  My boys and I naturally weave traditional school subjects and personal interests into a full day of learning.


 

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