An Unschooling Curriculum Reviewer? Pt 1 History

How does that happen anyway?  I had a group of friends over, and shared our resource room with them.  One of them mentions quietly, ‘Ya know, you can’t really be an unschooler and have that much curriculum in your house’.

Titles. Homeschoolers love them.  Other moms? Private or public schooled. That’s it. Maybe the word charter gets mentioned. But for homeschool moms, we seem to like to put each style of learning in a box. A separate box.  It not only labels the type of learning going on in the home, but paints a picture of how the entire family functions.

Trouble is – the family who says the label, and the person hearing and interpreting their claim, might have two totally different ideas.

I thought I’d throw my terms out there – so that you might have a better picture of our schooling – we actually do more around here than just Surf. Shocking.

First Year – As many of you know, just before I ordered a full set of Preschool Curriculum from ACE School of Tomorrow, my mentors urged me to stop and purchase every used /affordable field guide I could find.  Scour used book stores on books that told about the topic, instead of taught on the topic. $80.00 later, we had a pretty impressive shelf to answer just about every question a boy could come up with while playing outside. I count myself lucky, without knowing it, that I’d start out with Charlotte Mason as a style.

I seemed to skip over the idea of the short lesson part of the CM teachings.  My son and I would sit for ours with out Writing Road to Reading and Spell to Read and Write for the Home. He just wasn’t moving along as fast as I thought a 5 year old should go. Wasn’t he a homeschooler and supposed to be reading at a college level by now?  Same with math – we would spend 2-3 hours on a single page in our Miquon studies.  It was exhausting. Everything else was fun while Math and learning to Read was arduous.

Speaking of fun – this is when we started talking about Delight Directed.  We’d take a walk and find a pine cone, then take it home, look it up, and find out what tree it fell from. Questions fell from their mouths like a babbling brook fed by an underground spring. I started to make lists of the questions, so that we could search them out.  Our main focus through these early years was to never answer with ‘I Don’t Know’, but rather ‘Let’s Look it Up’.  And we did. Another shelf was created of all of the colorful informative encyclopedias and dictionaries along with books from experts in various fields.  We collected a few schoolish curriculum books to help me with questions to ask them while in the moment. I didn’t know how to spark their fire – and I used those tools to help my vocabulary and offer follow up crafts and projects.

About this time – we moved – and had  death in the family – and I was tired. I learned about a company called KONOS. It was for Unit Studies. I had sort of been doing unit studies with our Delight Directed path – but it was a lot of work. It is hard to know what books to cull from the library all the time – trying to stay one step ahead of their questions. I found out that a lot of moms through the 80’s and 90’s had written down what their kids had done, and they were selling it as curriculum. Hey, if they’ve done the work, why try so hard? We spent the better part of a year using KONOS. At first, we went page by page, activity by activity. However, I found if the boys were not quite interested in making an Indian Basket, they’d hurry through, without trying, just to get out side. I collected all of the KONOS books and the index book instead. As they would have an interest in Butterflies or rainbows or hail, we’d look up that unit in the index and work our way though. This worked much better for us.

It also trained me how the rhythm of unit study worked with any topic.  And, again, without really knowing it, I was using a lot of what Charlotte Mason used in her classroom. We even found the Ambleside Online site and used it for our book reading list during those years.

We still seemed to do better if our study was delight directed – topic led by the child.  This is when I started hearing about Project based homeschooling. The boys were getting into the late elementary school years. They were interested in archery, robotics, guitar, building, our farm, sport shooting, and sports.  They wanted to learn about the occupations of other dads in town. Weekly field trips became a key element to our learning.  From simple field trips around an office supply store to the inner workings of factories, and the sacrificial tour of the Deschutes Brewery to the regulars of the Pool, fire hall and police station.  We wanted to expose them to every occupation, serve time with a little internship here an there, and see what interested them.

Is anyone still here?  Hello? Is this thing on? 

This is about the time that I started using the term Unschooler as my label.  What we did didn’t look like school. The boys were progressing in their math. We’d learned that 15 minutes one to two times a day in Math and Reading would give greater results than 2 hours of crying. Go figure. We’d set a timer for 15 minutes, and most days they’d finish their entire lesson in 12.  Miquon moved to Saxon and Learning to Read moved to Literature and Writing.  We used every resource we could find and our local town had a HUGE used curriculum store.

Gathering at the park moms would ask, “What do you use for homeschooling”.  What they meant was “What type of homeschooler are you”.  If you fit into their mold, you were in. If not – then they’d move to the next circle.  Instead of saying I was an eclectic delight directed CM styled Project Learning Unit study mom – it was easier to say UnSchooler.

Eclectic – Every garage sale grabbing resource.

Delight Directed – You are a slave to your child. They are spoiled. You probably make cookies every day for math while watching sponge bob for literature.

CM – you have lofty goals and want to sound smarter than the rest of us.

Project Learning –you are forcing your child into a trade at an early age so they can help with the rent and pizza money.

Unit Study –and over achieving craft mom who thinks the whole would should revolve around their child 24/7.

Unschooler – those moms who didn’t even ask their child to brush their teeth – never have bed times, rarely move out of pajamas, and watch TV all day. Unless you are an Un Electronic Unschooler, then the kid is on the couch reading Harry Potter all day long with his bowl of cereal that he asked you to make for him.

Except – in the beginning – 10 years ago – Unschooler to me – meant that we were not trying to re-create homeschool. That our day didn’t have a set schedule of changing topics every 45 minutes with a 10 minute recess. (Some families do this).

Unschooling – meant we were free. Free to explore any topic no matter their age. Free to not study native Americans and pilgrims every fall.  Free to learn Latin at any age and dig deep deep into a topic even if it was ‘college level’ material. Free to skim over topics that sparked an interest but didn’t need months of study. Free. Free to learn in any style we desired without needing to report to a curriculum provider that we were ‘on schedule’. When people ask me what word I use to describe homeschooling – I always say Freedom.

And that moves us into the teen years.  Countless nature walks exploring every plant, shrub, tree, newt and insect. Skimming the surface of so many subjects it would make your head spin. I felt the need to help the boys and I go a little bit deeper. A little be richer. A little bit wider. And along came The Review Crew.

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About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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3 Responses to An Unschooling Curriculum Reviewer? Pt 1 History

  1. Diane says:

    Part 1 and 2 are great. Love everything single thing you said. Only wish it didn’t take me over six years to get to the same conclusions. Love, love, love this post.

  2. Another great article! Now on to part 2… 🙂

  3. ats00 says:

    hahaha I so laughed out loud at your description of an Eclectic Homeschooler, a term I often use for us. I’ll be rethinking that one now 😉 Great read!

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