no-forced learning, aka unschooling

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i posted this a couple days ago at my main blog, and realized i should have posted it here, on my homeschooling blog. oh well, its both places now. 🙂

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i’ve been doing a LOT of thinking about education again since listening to some radio shows about it…i’ve mentioned them in a few posts recently, i believe (i never can remember what i’ve written after i’ve written them)…

i just was thinking some more about it…i don’t know where i’ll end up or what adventures we’ll still have in homeschooling…but i tend to go with what feels right and good, and steer away from things that don’t feel right or good. forcing my child to do anything “educational”, against their protests, just doesn’t feel right or good to me. i’m not putting value on anyone else for their educational practices…just stating how it feels to me.

one of the big reasons (out of about a thousand different reasons) that i chose to homeschool is that i wanted to ensure that learning was fun for my kids. i’m not saying that every single thing has to be a hoot and a holler…i mean, it has to be enjoyable. i read somewhere (forgive me if i’m repeating myself here…dain bramage, remember, LOL!) that whether or not you retain info can be dependent upon your mood at the time you are “learning”. therefore, if you are in a good mood, with positive emotions going through you (not necessarily pure delight, but not negative)…you are much more likely to understand and retain the information. Whereas, if you are in a fowl/negative mood (i.e. throwing a tantrum or fighting it tooth and nail), when you are presented with the information, it just isn’t going to stick. how could it? i mean really!

therefore, i’ve always tried to back off if i get a negative reaction from my daughter when i’m trying some sort of lesson or activity with her. i’ve not always done this right away, i must admit…sometimes we end up with a battle of the wills…and then after we finally get away from the situation i realize there just wasn’t anything positive that came out of that.

oh sure, there probably will still be some tidbits of info that make it through…some new skills even…but how much damage am i doing to my child’s ability to love learning if i persist in this method of education. i wonder. i really don’t know the answer, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

just take a look at any public or private schooled kid. how many do any of us know that can honestly say they enjoy school? oh i’m sure they can be found, i’m not saying its impossible…but by and far, children HATE school! i did. my husband did, my mom did, my dad did…i’m pretty sure i’d be hard put to find anyone in my life that didn’t hate school. why? because school, as it exists currently in our mainstream form of education, isn’t enjoyable. it really isn’t.

therefore, if i’m going to take those same methods and apply them at home, a.k.a. “school at home”, then how am i doing anything different? well…sure i’ve taken out all the negative factors of the environment and the massive amounts of children, etc etc…that’s awesome, and i would say that a school-at-home homeschooler is definitely still better off than a public or private schooled child. (in a private school that uses the same methods) but what about that love of learning? perhaps this isn’t important to some people. its crucial to me.

because if you don’t enjoy learning, you will then not only not retain the info you are getting (which, if you don’t retain or understand it, what’s the point of even spending the time working on it?)…but you will tend to shy away from anything that even remotely resembles learning, in your every day life and later after school.

all this thinking is because i’m realizing that i am probably going to have to let go of more of the things that i have wanted to make work. the curriculums i chose (single-subject) for maeven are wonderful, but they just haven’t been working for us. she really is resisting anything forced. and i don’t want her to reject learning.

she’s such a bright and beautiful child, and i want to keep that spark alive in her…that spark of interest and love and joy in the things she’s able to pursue on her own…its really a beautiful thing. and i really feel like forcing her to do any “learning” against her will, is really a damper on that spark. i don’t want to extinguish that…

that’s what most schools do…you see the kids enter school just so excited to learn and within a matter of just a few years, that fire, that spark, is going out and then it eventually gets extinguished. i fear that using a “school-at-home” technique with maeven will do the same thing, and i don’t want to see that happen. that goes against why i’m doing this!

i’m not saying school-at-home doesn’t work for some families…i’m sure there are children who’s personalities are quite right for that method. they probably find a delight in it. but not maeven. she has started to sound like so many public schooled kids, groaning when i say we are going to do some lesson or whatever… getting grouchy when i push the issue. that’s not what i want. this is not a positive learning environment.

i asked her the other day what she thought about learning…you know what she said? she said she didn’t like it! that she didn’t like someone telling her she had to do this and that. wow, major important moment for me to hear that. she’s telling me that’s not working for her. she’s telling me that spark is in jeopardy when i force activities and lessons on her.

so then another day, not long after…i asked her about the story of the world stories…if she liked those? and if she would be happier if we skipped the map work? she was visibly relieved by the idea! she hated the map work! but she enjoys listening to the stories. so, we are now just listening to the stories…and i’ll continue to get books from the library out on whatever we are learning about in those stories, and we can casually read them. and instead of making her do the map work, i am going to just have us both take a look at a globe from time to time and find out where this area is that we are learning about…maybe even copy the map, but not do the mapwork, just look at it. and maybe she can pick out some activities from the activity book to do, if she thinks they look fun.

i’ll just keep offering her ideas of fun activities…but not force the issue. if she feels like it, great, if not, that’s fine too!

and she will continue to learn. she always does! i stopped doing copywork because she didn’t enjoy it. but now she is doing her own writing constantly. she is writing her own books, even a chapter book! and she writes letters to all of us all the time and she writes emails and types to her friends in toontown…and she started spelling words when talking to us…instead of saying her words, she’ll spell them…too funny. i am pretty sure that she would NOT be doing all this if i was forcing her to read/write, do spelling, etc, every day. it would take the joy out of doing those things, and she wouldn’t want to do them anymore unless she had to.

that’s not what i want.

i want her to find the joy i finally did, years after school (YEARS) when i finally started to develop an interest again in learning things…learning them on my own, in my own time…i even enjoyed going back to college for a few classes…because i had been out of that grind for quite a few years, and had enough of a break to enjoy it the second time around. it would have been fully enjoyable to me if it hadn’t been for the assignments, papers and tests, though. i remember thinking that. that if i could just go and listen to the lectures (many of which i found fascinating) and not have to do all the busy work, i would have enjoyed the classes even more!

anyway, just doing lots of thinking on this lately and wanted to post my thoughts. its possible i may continue to change my mind and my views and continue to learn better things that work for me…for now, i’m really digging the idea of “no-forced learning.” it makes a lot of sense to me.

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