I have always been interested in unschooling. I have never been able to understand HOW to do it. I also felt that as an Afrikan woman that I wouldn't be able to ALLOW my children to learn this way, because of the very particular circumstances that our children grow up in. So I had a consultation.
My consultant is an unschooling mother of 6 from grown to 3yrs old (I think). She is a beautiful sista that has taught me A LOT about a lot. You can find her here and here. Well, I finally understood what it meant FOR US after my consultation. I also continued to grow in my understanding afterward as I was shown other things that were so simplistically obvious.
Children learn like we do-When you find a subject that you are interested it normally becomes your focus. It's all you think about. Nothing else is important. You might look for pictures on Google images, stories in the library, and you might even sketch out pictures. You find that it is the single most important information focus in your life. That is the same way children think. If you try to make them do "subjects" when they have shown a clear interest in something else, you will find them being resistant. The best thing to do, in my newly formed opinion, is to fit the subjects into their already existing interests. The fact is that children like to learn, just like we do. Many times we just don't value what they value and because we are the authority figures we feel free to ignore their interests.
What they learn willingly, they retain. How much do you remember from your 12+ years of education. Even if you went to college, you probably only remember the things you learned in the classes that you enjoyed. For instance I remember science, psychology, philosophy, and 1 social studies class because of the way it was taught. Oh, and everything I learned in kindergarten which was how to color inside the lines, add and subtract, and be nice to my friends. The other day my son said, "Iya, when are you going to teach me to write in cursive?" I said, "Whenever you let me know that you are interested in writing in cursive." He expressed that he was interested and he has started his lessons. If I forget, he is remind me. I didn't bother him about it because has never been real big on writing anyway. Now he can write his name and he is SO PROUD. I am also so proud of him. :)
There is nothing that they learn that is useless/unimportant. My daughter has taught me this lesson the hard way. She and I are just different. Right now she is walking around looking like she could be on the cover of a fashion magazine. She is so into image right now, so her interest follow that. EVERY SINGLE MORNING she does a facial. The facials are made from thing out of the kitchen, extremely healthy, AND they work! I didn't find it all that "educational", because I don't do facials. I wash my face with black soap, put 3 drops of jojoba oil on, and I'm ready to go. She shut me up when was able to run down the properties of each ingredient and why she chose to mix it the way she did. She made some concoction that actually made a pimple shrink noticeably. She got skills. I still cringe sometimes at the thought of her focus being skin, hair, make-up, fashion but I smile and move on.
I will still feel insecure sometimes. There are times when fear literally grips me. I fly into a panic, make everyone sit around the table, and memorize stuff and do worksheets. They are very patient with me, because they know the insanity is only temporary. My niece was supposed to go to pre-K. She wasn't able to go, because she was basically deemed to smart as the program apparently is need based. I have taught her somethings, but most of the time she is copying the older children because she is interested in what they are doing.
Their interest aren't always interesting to us. See #3 Simply put, your child is not you and they shouldn't strive to be you. You are seeing the world though adult eyes which, unless you have been very careful, see the world in a very boring blah way. Let them live find their own interest.
They are not our opportunity to relive our lives. When I was younger I wanted to take piano and gymnastics. I didn't get to do either one for whatever reason. That doesn't mean that I can force my son to take gymnastics and my daughter to take piano. Let's say that when you were younger you were aesthetically challenged, so now you want to put your gorgeous little girl in beauty pageants even though she wants to play soccer. You are wrong. They are individuals.
Unschooling does NOT mean unparenting. We have all seen parents standing their pretending that their child isn't acting possessed. We've all wanted to snatch them both and teach them better. Just because I don't want to control my child's interest DOES NOT mean that they don't need guidance. If my son is not "interested" in washing his tail or brushing his teach he is still going to do it. Why? Because bad hygiene impacts other people. Unschooling doesn't mean that you get to be your child's friend. It means that you guide rather than force. It means that you explain more than you say, "...because I said so." It means that you and your child ask each other lots of questions and have really cool discussions because you actually care what they think.
Don't be afraid to "help" them to experience new things. Sometimes your children will not want to try things that are new. They have only lived a short amount of time in this realm and so their knowledge is limited in some respect. There is a gardening program available. I have wanted one of my children to take it for the longest. Why? Because I like gardening of course. lol Well long story short I left them alone. because I knew it was really my interest and not theirs. When I work in the garden my son is the first one out there. He loves walking through the yard picking and eating whatever is growing. He even enjoyed it when we volunteered to help build a raised bed garden for a church. I still left it alone. The other day at an afterschool program he was offered an opportunity to participate in the program and he jumped at the chance and loved it! Apparently it just couldn't be my idea. lol The point is just level the door open. If they hate it, just make sure that they finish the duration of the program with the understanding that you finish what you start, but also understanding that they will not be required to repeat it. Also be sure to thank them for being open to it..
If they don't like the new things they experience allow them to stop at the end of the agreed upon trial period. This is simple. Try it. If you don't like it, complete it and then you're done. This lesson teaches them to try new things without fear, but it also teaches them not to quit before they are finished. VERY important for life.
Enjoy your children. I realized early on that I didn't know my children well. I still remember the day that I realized that I actually LIKE them as people. Yea, big deal, so you love your children. We all do. Everybody doesn't LIKE their children. To like someone requires that you know them. You don't KNOW your children if y'all are apart for 6-8 hours a day. I know many people may disagree, and that's fine. Think about a typical schedule for a public school child. Get up around 6am, get dressed, eat breakfast, and catch the bus to school. If you ride to school you are probably doing last minute homework or listening to the radio. The child is at school for between 6-8 hours. If they ride the bus home that can be about an hour. When they get home there is homework, meal prep, eating, prepping for the next day, and then bed. How much of that time out of 24 hours did you get to spend having a real conversation with your child?