To be completely honest I gave myself the B. That said, we don’t actually use grades here.
Thorin and I started our 3rd year of homeschooling/unschooling* on September 3rd. Of course we learn all year long but given classes outside of the home and my schedule we do follow a more structured schedule between September and May.
I have learned eight essentials for me to be an averagely successful unschooler:
- Start with scat. This year the first topic we covered was poo. The first day we went to an animal park that conveniently provided scat in their artifact cases. I took several photos. I also found several informational sheets online with color photos or drawings of different animal scat. Please do not make the same mistake I initially did and just search: ‘scat.’ Let’s just say it’s more than you ever thought was possible. By starting with two of Thorin’s passions– animals and scatological humor we learned a lot about poo, like pheasant scat looks like soft serve ice cream. I don’t like speaking in generalities but I think this might be more of a male topic.
- Ignore nudity. Assume nudity is an attention ploy. Rather than making a big deal about it see it as performance art. It is a brave, bold and provocative stance that is saying something. Try to celebrate that and move on.
- Stop thinking in terms of compliance. See #3. There will be a day when all of your thoughtfully made plans are rejected. Don’t take it personally. Don’t push it. If you do both of those things then it will happen again. It will become a game of ‘How to Make Mom Mad or Sad or Want to Run Away From Home.’ If all that happens that day is your kid reads in their room sitting in pj’s realize that day is a win. And if you are very quiet you can watch something with Benedict Cumberbatch in it.
- Be an active learner. In learning about vertebrates this fall, I learned about vertebrates! I had forgotten everything from whenever I first learned it. And when your child calls you: “an old mammal” rejoice! I also got a refresher in nouns and proper nouns which can only help me as a writer. And don’t get me started on the history of Halloween. In brief, Celts + Catholicism + Potato Famine + Immigration + Commercialization = Halloween.
- You didn’t always know everything and you still don’t. You know that boss you had who knew everything and watched over your shoulder all the time to make sure you got it right? Now take a minute to think of the private nickname you had for them. Learning is not about getting it right it’s about understanding. If that sentence confuses you click here: know-it-all.
- Chop Wood, Carry Water. Housework is meditative and a joy to be shared. Have your child fold laundry, do dishes and be your sous chef. They will do all these things horribly at first just as you did, unless of course you were raised by The Great Santini. They will get better at it if you let them. Once they get the hang of it you can enjoy a few moments of solitude while they meditate on dirty dishes.
- Be outside. When you learn with your child you can go anywhere because learning is everywhere. That sentence would have made me puke a few years ago but now it’s just practical. Plus you will get cabin fever if you stay in doors. Most of the nasty arguments between co-learners happen indoors. When tensions rise somebody has to be able to say: “Let’s walk!” The dog also appreciates it very much.
- Laugh. Seriously have fun! You are rejecting 400 years of public education in favor of learning with your child in the world. You did this so your child could explore their natural sense of wonderment. You did this because you wanted your child to know that the way they think and process information is right– for them. So please do not crap on this by being all serious and stern.
* We do a mix of homeschool and unschool which for us means child directed learning with some curriculum.