Thursday, June 18, 2015

Some Of The Pros and Cons of Summer Unschooling


This is the first year we've decided to officially take the summer off from school.

For us this means that we'll be doing a quick, less than 5 minute, review of math facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (with Evan focusing on addition and subtraction only) most days and the boys will be reading at least a few times each week.

Typically we've always had a much more relaxed pace through the summer anyway but this was the first year I warned the boys that we'd be taking a real break from everything.

I don't want to be planning anything for a while.

They're in charge of it all.

 I figured after three years of pretty much schooling year round I really needed the break, even if they didn't.

We're only three weeks or so into our break and I'm already seeing some real advantages to having our summer off.  However, less than three weeks into it and I'm already seeing what could be some real disadvantages to it too.

When I began homeschooling I read up a lot on all the various styles & methods of homeschooling and over the years we've probably tried them all (here is a link to a summary of all the methods).

The one that always intrigued me the most was the unschoolers.

I love the idea of learning without set curriculum materials, learning through life, and giving my kids the freedom to follow their own path.  We've tried unschooling a few times and it's something we fall back on any day we don't have planned school work.

Unschooling doesn't work full- time for us because my kids wanted someone to guide them and they wanted their days to have some sort of a plan.  They asked and begged me to take back over after a few months of unschooling.  So I did.  I've learned it's tricky to balance the amount of child- centered, child- led learning and the planning of SOME curriculum things for us all to do together.

I typically have to plan enough during the school year to keep them busy and entertained but not so much that they feel like we're doing school at home.  It's a fine like that I walk and we typically lean more one way or the other on any given day.

So when I told the boys we'd be taking the summer off they were all thrilled and I was relieved.

It's not easy staying on a tightrope all year long.

But only three weeks into it and I'm already finding myself weighing the ups & downs of unschooling.  Here are some of the pros and cons we've encountered so far:


Pro:

  • My kids are relaxed and enjoying their free time.  They're smiling even more than usual.  Laughing a lot and having a great time filling their time.  
Con:

  • My kids have already complained numerous times that they're bored and I've already had one ask me when we're going to start school back up.  Even though they're pretty used to filling their days with things to do they flounder now and then and not having anything planned at all is throwing them for a loop.  While I think it's actually a good thing that they are bored at times I'm getting rather sick of hearing it. 
Pro:

  • My kids are finding new hobbies & re-discovering the  joy in those hobbies they've neglected!! Ian has been busy building model cars and trucks for three days in a row.  Alec started making loom band bracelets again and Evan has been "caught" playing with his Lego sets a few times now.  
Con:

  • My kids are spending so much time watching TV, YouTube videos and playing video games that we aren't getting to spend much time out of the house!  I know that this a passion of all my boys and I try so very hard not to let it bother me but when it's a gloriously warm, sunny day I can't help but wish they'd feel the same pull I do to get outside and enjoy nature.  
Pro:

  • They're learning so much even without school, books, or assignments.   They've dragged me shopping and learned money management and applied math in real life.  Alec has continued to devour books on ancient Egypt and continues to teach himself hieroglyphics.  Each and every day leads to a new discovery of something.
Con:

  • I'm definitely seeing some slipping of skills.  All three boys are already forgetting some of the skills we spent the last year working on.  I'm trying to focus on all the new skills they're gaining though and know that they'll pick up any lost skills quicker the second time around.
Pro:

  • We're spending less money!  I'm not buying supplies, books, or paying for expensive field trips!  Since I'm not planning anything we haven't been leaving the house much other than trips to the park, beach, or a nearby lake; which are all either free or pretty cheap fun for a family.  The boys don't typically plan ahead or agree on where to go so most days we're just hanging around the house.  
Con:

  • We're spending a lot more time at home and we all seem to be eating just a bit more than usual.  I don't know if we're eating more out of boredom or just because we are home more and they can eat when they're hungry.  I know we don't always pack enough food when we're out and about but it sure feels like I need to grocery shop more often now that we're staying closer to home for the summer.  

    Pro:

  • We're always up for an outing or a chance to visit with friends.  The last few years we often tried to squeeze in schoolwork when heading out to the beach or knowing we were going somewhere.  We often had to scramble around if company showed up and we had all our books and supplies out.  We don't have to worry about that this year.
Con:

  • Most of their public school friends aren't out of school yet and will be attending summer camps even once school is over.  Many of our homeschool friends don't take the summer off and taking the summer off has not lead to a greater opportunity to spend time with friends like we had hoped (at least not yet; I'm thinking that should change pretty soon!).

These are many of the same reasons we struggle with unschooling year round.  We need more structure in our day but I still love the philosophy of unschooling and it has helped me realize and discover all that my kids can learn on their own.   

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