Friday, October 14, 2011

Unschooling in the media

I just finished watching a segment about unschooling on The Today Show. If you missed it, check here for the video clip. All in all it showed unschooling in a positive light, which is a huge departure from how it's been shown in the past.

I love the Bentley family in the video. They are a wonderful example of how unschooling works. You can tell from watching the video that those girls know themselves. They know their passions and what they want out of life. And that's what unschooling is all about. Mrs. Bentley seems to share my view of the parent's role in unschooling as well. She says, "I consider myself their facilitator. Bringing the world to them and them to the world." And that is exactly how I see myself when it comes to my children's education.

They say that travel is a big part of unschooling, which leads host Matt Lauer to speculate that only the wealthy can do it. Not true. You don't have to be wealthy to travel, you just have to make good choices. Also traveling doesn't have to mean going out of the country. It can be as simple as driving an hour away to your state park. People who choose to unschool make the choice that travel is important to them, so they make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen.

It was mentioned that unschooling is not right for every family, and to some extent I would agree with that, but not for the reasons they said. It was stated that only children who are self-motivated and self-propelled can be unschooled. I would argue that all children are self-motivated and self-propelled, and it's only after spending years in a classroom, that they start to lose those qualities.

There were a few points made by the 'experts' and by host Matt Lauer that kind of got my blood boiling. Take their many references to the fundamentals. "Will there be gaps in the fundamentals." People, there's a reason they're called the fundamentals. You can't escape learning about them. No matter what your goals and passions are, the basics are there. You don't need to sit in a classroom, eight hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years, to learn them.

One statement that Matt Lauer made, and one of the so-called experts touched on too, was this gem. "If they aren't assessed, how do we judge and compare them to other kids their own age?" And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is most wrong with our school system. This idea that you can only know if a child is learning by comparing them to others. It's not good enough to just compare them against themselves. The idea that only tests and assessments can demonstrate learning is ridiculous.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Concerts and Comic books

Timmy and I took the boys to the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center to see the Orlando Philharmonic Young People's Concert. Nico and Lucas had never been to a concert like this before, and I wanted to be sure to expose them to it at-least once. The full orchestra was on stage, and we learned all about a few American composers, and what makes music American.

Although I enjoyed the concert, and would like to return again next year, no one else really did. Timmy said we were sitting on the wrong side of the theatre. Too close to the drums and base, and he would rather have been closer to the violins.

Nico sat pretty quietly during most of it, but at the end confessed that he was bored and didn't want to attend anything like this again.

Lucas was restless from the very beginning. Complaining that it was too loud, while all the performers warmed up their instruments. Then he squirmed so much in his seat that I eventually scooped him up onto my lap. He turned his back on the stage, and told me repeatedly that he was all done, and ready to go. He too has said he doesn't want to attend anything like this again.

Ah well, at-least I tried to introduce them to a little culture.

On a side note, I have been thinking for a while about introducing the boys to comic books, hoping it might spark a bit of reading. As luck would have it, one of our neighbors dropped by and gave Timmy a stack of about 60 comic books from the early 90's. They include some Wolverine, Spiderman, Predator, Terminator and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics. I've left them on a side table in the living room, and Lucas was the first to pick one up.

Yesterday he started thumbing through a Terminator one. Nico wandered over and tried to read it to him. He came across one word that he didn't know, and gave up. (He does the same thing when trying to read a book.) Lucas still likes to look through the comics, so I'm still holding out hope that they may spark some interest in reading. At-least I didn't have to spend any money this time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Letting them figure it out...

It's sometimes hard for me to sit back and just let my kids figure things out for themselves. Especially when I know a quicker, better way of doing things. In those moments, I need to remind myself of how I feel when others try and tell me how to do something that I know I can figure out on my own. (Timmy is particularly fond of giving me driving directions, even though I know where I'm going. I may not always take the quickest route, but I'll get us there eventually.)

When Nico started doing the laundry for me a few weeks ago, I showed him how to turn on the machines. I explained about how to balance the loads, so it doesn't make that loud banging sound. But I never showed him how to fold the clothes once they were dry. That is something I left for him to figure out on his own. This was particularly hard for me, since I banished Timmy from helping with the laundry years ago, because I hated the way he folded my clothes.

Let me tell you, Nico has come up with some creative ways of folding. He only does the kids' clothes, so I refrain from re-folding everything my way. I'm trying to remind myself that my way, isn't always right for everyone, and I need to let my kids find their way of doing things.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


A couple weeks ago, Nico asked if he could start receiving a weekly allowance. I told him most kids who get an allowance do something around the house to earn it.

After some discussion, Nico and I agreed on $5 a week in exchange for him doing the laundry. (Not all the laundry, just the kid's clothes.) Lucas wanted to get in on this whole allowance thing as well, and we agreed on $2 a week for dusting.

It's been three weeks, and they haven't given up on it yet. As I'm typing this Nico is putting his clothes in the dryer, and getting ready to start a second load in the washer. I really thought this would be another passing interest, like everything else they do, and I am pleasantly surprised. It's nice to have a little help around the house, even if I do have to pay for it.