In a more recent post I found myself questioning whether or not we can still consider ourselves unschoolers. To me, unschooling means child-led learning, but then I have to wonder, Is there a range here? So if I tell my child, ‘you must learn this,’ do I lose my unschool card?
And then there was Tuesday, when my eight-year-old lawyer’d up on me, “Well, you didn’t say I couldn’t play with Legos until I had done my schoolwork. You only said I couldn’t play Minecraft.”
Hair not brushed, chickens not fed, and that girl was standing on dangerous ground.
Since then I’ve clarified. And I am sure the clarifications will continue…
“Can We Add Some Things to the Daily Checklist?”
So as I mentioned, I found myself questioning if we still qualified as unschoolers if we had daily checklist and some mandatory subjects (spelling, handwriting practice, Khan Academy, etc).
The jury is still out on that, but something really crazy happened on Tuesday and then again on Thursday, Emily asked if she could add items to the daily checklist.
Specifically, she wanted to do a daily chapter out of Life of Fred, instead of just two chapters per week. And then on Thursday, she asked if I could add daily typing practice as well.
Well knock me over with a feather!
To me, that is the absolutely the definition of child-led learning.
We might not be the epitome of unschoolers, but I think the title is still safe to apply!
“Someday I Want to Go to an Actual School”
Last Thursday, while we sat and ate breakfast together, Em said, “Mama, someday I want to go to an actual school. I mean, I’ve been inside schools, I would just like to see what it is like to take a class inside of a school.”
I chose my words carefully. “Well, once you are 12 or 13 or so, you could take a college class or two. I think you will really enjoy college.”
She peppered me with questions and I described how much I enjoyed college. Elementary and high school not so much, and I did explain why, but college was very, very different.
I was very lucky to attend the school I did in high school, don’t get me wrong. But I truly did not understand WHY I was forced to learn things that I, a) had no interest in, b) have literally never used, and c) did not fill me with excitement. I don’t blame the school or the teachers for that, they were following the requirements the government had laid out for them.
I think that there would have been a way to make those mandatory guidelines work and be appealing, but not necessarily in a school setting. I would have needed an even more individualized learning program than it was possible to receive at ILS (Independent Learning School).
I still have amazing memories of the school, most particularly these four areas…
- 90-100% accuracy was required – basically you took a test or did the homework until you achieved this goal
- Students had the freedom to complete their studies in the order that worked for them
- Students were not segregated by age or grade
- Freedoms were merit-based
These were huge, folks! And they provided the basis for the homeschooling curriculum and approach that I employ today, 30 years later.
And Terry C. or Rachel L., if you are reading this, I really do appreciate the experiences that ILS gave me. Could you ever have imagined I would end up as a community educator or homeschool mom?!
Em seems excited about going to college. And I will be fostering that by offering her homeschool year-round. When we finish with the requirements for third grade, we will proceed to 4th grade, and then 5th, et cetera. She will have holidays, weekends and the occasional week or two off from classes and take several weeks off in the summer to attend Campfire Day Camp and visit her family in California.
However, by incorporating year-round homeschooling, I anticipate the need to add in college level math and science classes by the time she is in her early teens. If things stay on track, I imagine she might be ready to tackle full-time at the local community college by 15-16 years of age. I’m not in any hurry, however, I’m content to let it unfold naturally.
Introducing More “Proper” Writing Habits
At the beginning of September I put Em on notice, “By Week 4’s spelling list I will insist on legible, upper/lower case accuracy.”
She still tends to mix in upper and lower-case letters willy nilly, although if asked, knows that upper case is only used for proper nouns and at the beginning of sentences. So I’m enforcing it. I’m also insisting that when we cover a chapter in Life of Fred that she write at the top of the page “Life of Fred: Cats Chapter [#]” and also write the number of the question and then the answer (there’s usually around five questions per chapter).
As far as the Life of Fred work goes, I’ve been explaining that, while we might remember today, or even next week what assignment we were doing, in a month or a year, we would have no idea if we didn’t label the assignment with the book name and chapter. “I need this for recording purposes and it is good practice for when you are in college and must label your papers according to each teacher’s individual requirements.” I told her.
I pointed out that she is older now and is capable of doing these things with a little more attention to detail and practice.
I will be correcting her letter formation and just asking her to re-write the words if the letters are incorrectly lower or upper case, or the rare backwards formation, but then in Week 4 I will begin marking the words wrong and require she re-take a spelling test the next day, and the next, until they are all written correctly.
I think she is up for the task. She seems willing enough!