song du jour: You & I, Rick James

mood: yes, still funky

I have Found My (un)Tribe!!!

A few weeks ago, I hooked into a yahoo group of unschoolers in Atlanta, and last Friday Skyler and I went to one of their park days. These people were so cool, we hung out at the Lake Claire land trust for 5 hours! For those of you unfamiliar with the term 'uncschooling,' it is based on the idea that education need never be forced or insisted up because "birds fly, fish swim, people think." Here are some of my new favorite quotes and blurbs about the topic.

Trying to teach someone something that they are not interested in is like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it eating. - Rue Kream from Parenting a Free Child, and Unschooling Life

from Shine with Unschooling
All children SHINE when celebrated for being exactly Who They Are.
It sounds so simple and makes so much sense, doesn't i?t it? And yet many children are made to feel less than Whole because they are not *typical* children. They see the world and their minds work differently than the typical child. They are labeled and given the message that they need to change or be fixed in order to "fit in.

and this from my new 'untribe' Georgia Unschoolers
Unschooling is not a homeschool teaching method. We recognize that learning is a byproduct of living life. Unschooling refers to a philosophy of natural learning as well as a mindful lifestyle. This lifestyle encompasses, at its core, an atmosphere of trust, freedom, joy and deep respect for who the child is. We respect our children, and trust that they will learn everything they need to know through living their lives and following their passions. As parents we are here to facilitate and support them in their interests, whether that means taking a class, finding a mentor, or hanging out and living in the moment.

So, if you're already getting the idea that for kids it's a free for all, you're onto something. I've always considered us unschoolers and practitioners of child led learning. My mom, when asked, says my homeschooling style is opportunistic.' I see Sky is into something, and I just go with it. It doesn't matter so much whether it's fractions, Roman numerals (his latest quest because of his clock obsession), or a spontaneous yard sale on my dining room table with a few of his toys priced at $2,000,000. Most of what my son learns is on the fly, and he sucks it up like a sponge. I've been reluctant to talk about this style much. I'll explain it to people one on one when asked, but I'm wary of the criticism. Not that I care what other people think. I just don't want to deal with being badgered, but I'm feeling inspired to blog more about it from now on. When Sky was a baby, people use to tell me how bad it was to homeschool because he wouldn't develop socially and would be too withdrawn. He talks to anyone and everyone. he goes right up to people and introduces himself, asks their names, tells them what we're up to, asks if they have a watch, tells them what time it is (correct to the minute on a face clock), and basically charms the pants (and sometimes the watches) off people. After being sick of the so called socialization worry from everyone she talked to, one mom I met said, "Now, I just tell people the short answer. 'We do worry about socialization because we're not socialists'." ;-)

What I'm learning from these people and the resources I have (at last!) found through them is that I do things the same way they do. The difference would be that I feel tons of guilt for blogging while Skyler is watching TV in the mornings. I think I'm going to start blowing off the guilt. The whole point is not just to perpetually let your kids on summer vacation (although for kids who come out of school or rigid school at home that's often how they detox the first couple of months). It's to include your kids in your life and expose them to things in which they will be interested. There is no curriculumm, although if your child wants do something structured, there's no reason to prevent it, and while this crowd has no problem (and sets no limits) with TV and video games, offering something more fun and interesting is a priority. They give all new meaning to the term "live and learn."

So, yes, there are the radically opposite arguments to all that unschooling is about like how the world will fall apart if everyone just does what s/he wants to. Frankly, I think there are people who crave structure and external order, so things aren't likely to fall apart with a generation of unschoolers grown up and paying taxes. (Although things may fall apart if Bush's plan for coping with Avian Flu is put into action!) Unschoolers have been around for years and are already out there. The reality: Skyler reads at a 4th grade level simply because he loves to read. I helped him learn, but I didn't teach him how to read. When he was 2, my mom figured out he could already recognize 5 words. I just kept writing words, and he just kept wanting to know what they said. I didn't teach him to tell time. For whatever reason, the son of the mother who HATES keeping track of time or being anywhere on time is just OBSESSED with clocks.

It's easy to assume bright kids will behave like that, but aren't we all naturally curious? I found this on Sandra Dodd's site in response to the issue of freedom.

You don't even have to have "smart kids" for them to effectively self- regulate. Gee whiz, our dogs do it. We have two dogs that were raised in a suburban back yard. We now live on several acres, still anytime the gate is left open, those dogs take off and are gone for hours. We have two dogs that were raised on our front porch without any fencing. They never leave our yard. If a dog can figure it out, I think a child has a pretty good shot. - Julie

I've decided unschooling is one of the best examples of agency in communion. I have to say these were the brightest, clued in, secure, and most polite children and parents I've ever been around at one time. I wasn't even excluded for being the single mom, and, wildly, this was the best Skyler's ever been in a playdate situation. (Mine is usually the child, whose behavior upsests the khaki brigade and their 'perfect' children.) He had a blast. We both did. One of the moms asked me if I thought it was because he intuitively picked up being in a group of people, who know all kids are different accept them for who they are. Yeah, and because of that his mother wasn't a freaked out nervous wreck for a change!

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