Monday, September 24, 2007

What about kids who aren't curious?

Before we get to our regularly scheduled program, be sure to check out Yadda, Yadda, Yadda's answer as to why she unschools.

Jean2 brought another question to the table that I get quite often:
"Your children are interested in learning and thriving. What would you do if they were not?"
First, I could sugar-coat my answer and say that my kids are unique. But they're least, I believe, not in that way. Let me take you back to the days when I taught preschool. I taught the 3yr olds who had never gone to any kind of school before. They came in at the beginning of the year with all their zillions of "why" questions. We'd start on a topic and they'd be off on tangents. But as a teacher (especially one who'd never even begun to think about homeschooling much less unschooling), I did what every teacher needs to do...I reigned them in. I taught them to sit down, be quiet, raise their hands to ask questions. I taught them to focus on the subject at hand and not get far off the beaten path. I had to; I couldn't afford to have 15 kids going in 15 directions if I wanted *anyone* to learn anything that day. I did my job well. By the end of the year, they were walking in lines, waiting to hear what we were going to learn next, staying on topic, giving me the expected answers, etc. But the biggest difference was that the "why's" were gone.

[Insert your version of the views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of all unschoolers]
[Insert "I'm really not trying to dog teachers and school systems - this is just my honest answer to your question"]

I believe that when we take kids who are just beginning to want to connect the dots in life and move from one topic to the next freely and stick them in a classroom and tell them what they'll be learning when...yeah, after a couple years, they (on the whole) won't be as curious as they were. In high school and college - which classes did you do the best in? Which ones did you do extra learning or assignments just because they were fun? Probably your electives. You had the choice to choose what to learn and it probably came much more easily to you because you wanted to learn it.

Again, I'm not trying to dog anyone here. I understand that if you're one adult in a classroom of 30 kids, you *must* keep order and stay on topic (and therefore, have a schedule of 'things we need to learn' i.e. curricula). I get that. But my opinion is that school-at-home isn't necessary for homeschoolers. Why would I take a system that works for a 1:30 ratio and apply it here? I have the ability to reach and spread myself a LOT more with only a 1:4 ratio. Imagine if all schooled classes only had 4 kids in it. I imagine you'd do many many things differently.

I often wonder about the homeschooling movement...if the majority are doing school-at-home, what's the big draw? Are they just wanting to add their religious teachings to core subjects? Are they trying to protect their kids from influences? I guess I'd had to ask some school-at-homers that one. But for me, homeschooling is about helping my kids enjoy learning the way they learn best. Do my kids ever learn from worksheets? Sure. Rose loves worksheets. I do actually have curriculum books lying around here that she picks up and works her way through. Matthew doesn't like them. But what's wrong with exploring a period in history through a Renaissance Festival or a Civil War Reenactment or Wishbone episodes? Exploring Mozart because you found out someone else has your favorite meerkat's name? Writing and learning to read just for the plain FUN of it?
(See Rose's latest drawing - she wrote TIGER at the top...because it was fun and she wanted to write it)

Now, why can't I "count that" as learning? Is it not learning because it wasn't in the curricula I have? Is that just playing for a 4yr old? Should I not count her reading Hop on Pop last night (just because she wanted to) as reading time? Where does our afternoon of making paper airplanes fit in? Science, because we discussed gravity and wind currents, or math, because we talked about angles, or reading because we read and followed directions, comparing and contrasting the different models and methods? It's all just learning. The hardest part, I think, is on my end - when I try to separate our learning into categories at the end of the day. Where *DO* I put the afternoon of paper airplanes? LOL

In the end, it's my belief that humans are curious creatures. I bet that after graduation, you found some hobbies that maybe you didn't have time for when you were younger. Though I certainly don't remember having as much homework as I see kids with today so we probably had more time to play an impromptu game of baseball in the yard, or shoot marbles...though both can teach geometry concepts. I'm convinced that if I were to put Matthew in school tomorrow that within 2 weeks, they'd tell me that he has ADD. Hold on - yes, I believe ADD is very real. What I'm trying to say is that because my son has had a lifestyle of freely moving from thought to the next one, school officials would peg him fast of not being able to stay focused. Though I've seen him spend an hour on one of his own Lego creations to get it just right...and I've often seen him read a book for an hour or more...he can definitely focus and he has the memory of an elephant.

Forgive me, my thoughts are a little scattered this morning. But I hope that gives you a frank look into my thoughts on your question. Basically I think that if all kids were given free reign with learning, they'd all be very curious.

I'm curious about everything. Even subjects that don't interest me. - Alex Trebek


MommylovesRJ said... have been doing such an excellent job of summarizing unschooling, and the whys and wherefore! Each new entry you post, know that I am sitting here cheering you on, and thanking G-d that unschooling has yet another articulate cheerleader.

And a HUGE thanks for the link in your post! =o)

BTW...are we on some psychic plane together? How did you know I was having posting issues, of recent?

Jean 2 said...

Love the quote from Alex Trebek! Although it does seem like a written contradiction. :) I relate more to Dr. Phil, "If I wasn't made to have learned S.S-I would never have learned it." I guess that is what would worry me with my OWN children. I understand all of those things you are doing with your children and I think they are great-I guess the question that still comes to mind is why can't they do both? School and unschool? You could enhance what they learned by getting on the internet and discovering and inquiring about the topics discussed. Basically, above and beyond! Obviously, because you prefer to have them at home and teach them and I think that is so admirable. I am sure there is more to it than that. I remember my nephews doing some of those things at home ...playing forever with Legos and building amazing things after they would come home from school. My daughter and I would read together every night for as long as she would want to...unless I was really tired and told her two books. LOL Yes-I was guilty of that.
Do you think public schools quelch their learning by forcing too many rules and too much curriculum into their minds? I must admit-we probably do but I always believed that is what the world would do to them someday as they became adults and ventured into the world of a career and family. Some things are forced. And since I am so structured (personality dysfunction)-I like things that way. So-take on the next question and take no offense-I might be an unschooler in a year. One never knows! ;)

MommylovesRJ said...

Jean2...I hope you don't mind my replying, but as a fellow unschooler of Laurie's, I feel I am fairly qualified.

Aside from all the obvious issues as to why people homeschool/unschool, there are numerous others as to why doing both would never work for many families.

To begin, the whole concept of unschooling is contrary to public/private school. I would think that could be terrifically confusing to a child. Unschooling is not about lack of schedules, nor children running amok. It is about schooling in whatever way works for that child. For example, some days it means that we spend the day baking, and in the process covering topics such as fractions, multiplication, division, reading, comprehension, science, etc. Other days, my wee one wants to do paperwork. And still others, he'd rather watch an hour of Crashbox, Nova or Man vs. Wild. The point is, that in every instance, he is learning. More importantly, because he wants to do it, he is retaining.

Yet another reason why public schooling/unschooling could be problematic is, due to state demands, teachers are required to teach subject XYZ a certain way. Little to no deviation. While some children are better able to learn in such an automated way (they would be classical homeschoolers, if they were homeschooled), many children learn/retain more when allowed to learn in a way they understand. Another example, that Laurie pointed to within her post: My wee one is just 7, and he not only knows how to multiply, but he also knows how to divide. By public school standards, my son would not have even been introduced to the concept. Had it become apparent that he indeed did know how to, then he would be moved into a talented/gifted program. Not necessarily a bad concept...but IMNSHO, I think it places too much pressure on kids to perform, robbing any fun out of learning.

Due to that very difference in teaching, when our wee one would come home, it, again, would probably be very confusing to them to be taught something one way in school, and likely another way, at home.

I am not disparaging public schools. I am just acknowledging that they are not the right choice for us.

Additionally, please don't take offense to this, as none is intended. However, you suggest that we unschool our children after returning home from public school. I think they already have a name for that. Tutoring.

Jean 2 said...

Oh I take no offense-lol-trust me. I am always learning and all about asking questions. And of course I have a lot to learn! And Laurie has been great about not bringing down public schools-just saying it isn't for *them*! I get that.
I am off to read what else she has written. ;)

Beverly said...

Love the picture!

Heather said...

Never occurred to me to read back through your archives! Wow, you have some great unschooling posts back here! Can you (or I) post them over a the new site, one at a time so others can read them. Wonderful encouragement.

Earthmommy said...

I really enjoyed this post. I found your blog through Heather's An Untraditional Home and I'm adding you to my blog roll. Lately I have relly felt the pull toward unschooling with my three-year-old. That's what we do now and she learns at a break-neck speed, so why change it?