Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's all fun and games until someone's eye gets poked out

So Jean2 had a question for me...
"I have always felt that learning does not ALWAYS HAVE to be fun. Do you feel that way?"

Absolutely not. There are many ways to learn. For example, I have learned that I don't want to play with wasps or bees or red ants. I have learned that the stove can get REALLY hot. I've learned that my ankles, who have been sprained more times than I can count, absolutely can NOT handle ice skates or roller blades. These are lessons I've learned that were NOT fun in any way. But I learned and well. ;)

Of course, playing Devil's advocate, I have to throw back to you - given the choice, which way would you prefer to learn? The fun way or the not-so-fun way?

Unschooling isn't all about fun. There is hard work involved (and not just in my 24/7 question Any musical instrument or sports or voice or anything really that they want to excel in is going to take a lot of hard work. I'm not scared of hard work. Since my oldest is only 7 yrs old, it might be a while before we see the big really hard ones that we might give a lot of credit.

I do see hard work going on in his life. Most kids learn to tie their shoes in preschool. Anyone who's watched a child go through this process (or remembers their own) knows it's a very difficult thing to learn for some kids. My son wanted to buy the Velcro shoes because he wasn't ready to work on tying his shoes. So we continued to buy the Velcro ones. Last year for Halloween (he was a young 6yr old), he went as Indiana Jones. We couldn't find Velcro boots but he wanted an authentic outfit so we bought them. That was really the beginning of his interest in tying his shoes. We'd had a book lying around that came with a shoelace and mock shoe on the cover that he'd played with a few times but never was really interested. But, the costume spurred him to want to learn how to do it. He didn't want to have to wait on me to have a minute to help him. He worked on it for a few weeks. He asked me to buy him regular tying shoes so he could practice on them too; I obliged. Sometimes he'd bring the shoe to me or Hubby and ask us to show him how to do it. At other times, he'd work on it from the directions in the book. Some days he got really frustrated with it, just as kids often do in school. But he was determined and I was really proud of him that he stuck with it. He had it figured out by the end of November (I blogged about it here).

Was all that work fun to him? I doubt it. But he could see the pay-off (and so can you if you look at that huge grin he has on his face!) and he kept working at it. No pressure from me. He learned the same thing that any other kid his age was learning (or had already learned) but what do I see as the difference? He wanted to learn it. He made a goal for himself and pursued it. It wasn't an administrator who said he needed to know it by was something he discovered and I think he was perhaps more proud of it because he was in control of when and where and IF he learned it. Does that make sense?

On the whole, we probably do have more 'fun' with unschooling than more traditional methods. We probably do more field trips and hands-on stuff. But the goal isn't to make them learn's more about encouraging that love of learning. If a child learns to love learning itself, there's nothing they can't ever learn. Along the lines of 'feed a man a fish, he eats for a day...teach a man to fish, he eats every day'. On an everyday basis, we're not doing exceptionally fun stuff. Today we went to my Bible study class, had lunch, they're down for quiet time now and later will probably be my reading of The Book Of Three, helping me with dinner, maybe some roughhousing with Hubby, a nightly walk and bedtime. But in actuality, a younger boy at my Bible study class taught him how to make a paper airplane (he's been trying to master this for a while and is VERY proud that he knows how to do it now) and we discussed the Food Guide Pyramid and nutritious foods while they made their lunches (with me overseeing). During quiet time, Rose will work on finding new words to read in her many many books and probably write some new words and numbers out for me to see. She will also do lots of imaginative play with her stuffed animals, teaching them to read and behave in certain ways (LOL - so cute!). Matthew will work on building his latest Bionicle creation (which takes a lot of skill really - maybe he'll be an engineer?), read multiple stories and probably work on math (he's been interested in adding multiple digit numbers). Our evening walk will be full of questions, many relating to animals and science and flora and fauna. Others will be questions I have no idea are even in their heads. The Book of Three will take us to a fantasy world where there is problem solving needed, character development, suspense and, hopefully, a happy white special pig in the end. Dinner preparation is a fantastic time to study math and chemistry. One HUGE chem lab. ;) You should see him when I take a huge overflowing skillet of spinach and cook it down to just a handful of greens. lol

I hope this answers your question Jean2. Feel free to leave more! I enjoy questions. I'm not blogging in order to change people's minds about unschooling - it's me wanting people to get a good grasp of what unschooling really is. When we were dating, Hubby said that he would like to homeschool the kids but since it would be his wife doing it, it was ultimately up to her. I don't mind telling you, that totally freaked me out. My mom has taught pre-K for 20+ yrs. I have a Superintendent uncle, an English professor SIL, a English teacher uncle, a brother who does a lot of men's groups teaching and another who went overseas to teach English as a second language. I'm not from one of those know, the kind who are uneducated or think it's all a conspiracy, etc. I was thoroughly entrenched in public school myself and consider myself well educated. I even knew some home schoolers who seemed to have some weird world views and just seemed a little 'off' in perspective. I also taught preschool for several years. Somehow, my heart did a complete 180 and this is the road God led us to for this season of our lives. Thanks for watching the journey! :)

1 comment:

Jean 2 said...

You are helping my skepticism. ;) But I must admit-I was a lazy learner at one time-better known as learned helplessness. I would rather someone do it for me. For instance, tying my shoes. I am not sure I would have ever mastered it without a little pressure on me. I thrive on some pressure at times. I count on it. I need it. Adrenaline fix.;) And I would have never shown an interest in Science. If my mom unschooled me-she would have never had to worry about that subject or endless questions. However, not everyone is like me. I certainly know that much. Your children are interested in learning and thriving. What would you do if they were not?