An Unschool Update

“We tackle our schoolish sort of work in the mornings. It’s quite possible to pack twelve or thirteen years of traditional schooling into about five or six at home by waiting for readiness and desire. Most children will buck a lot of sit-down work at eight, but seem to want it at twelve or thirteen. They know what they want to accomplish and are ready to do whatever it takes.” – Shari Henry, in The Homeschooling Book of Answers, edited by Linda Dobson

We’re certainly finding this to be the case lately, in our family and in the lives of our unschooling friends. Well, except for the part about mornings; our family is made up of night owls, so we do most of our academic work in the early afternoons, after lunch (or brunch, as the case may be). Anyway, for various reasons and as they get older, most of the kids in our homeschool group are now doing more formal schoolwork. Of course, they’re still pursuing their own interests, learning through games, and active with various hobbies. I thought I’d give an update on what Dryst and ElvenTiger are up to, since it’s been a while since I’ve done so.

Dryst, age 14, is doing Saxon math, which he mostly enjoys. We both like the way it progresses by adding new material and also providing plenty of review. He’s using a computer program to begin learning French, which is going well. I’m re-learning along with him, and it’s fun to play with the language together. Although he’s a strong reader, much of the reading he does is magazines (he reads several, from cover to cover) and comic books. He’s a good speller and can type well.

Dryst is regularly in touch with many of his friends, both ones he knows in real life and people he’s met online. He plays a lot of X-Box, and for him it’s about the social contact as much as the fun and strategy. He just got a new game, Dragon Age 2 for the PC, and has been exploring that. For the annual Maine Wholeschoolers’ Midyear Review, he’s putting together a presentation on “flopping” in major sports. We just signed him up for lacrosse, which starts next month (assuming the snow melts…) and soccer won’t be long behind. He went through a rough time this winter with up-and-down emotions and some insomnia (mostly due to changing hormones, we think), but has seemed to even himself out recently. He enjoys music, sledding, and watching “That 70s Show” (thanks to Netflix).

I just started reading “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” by Grace Llewellyn, and I absolutely love it. I hope Dryst will pick it up, too, as I think it has many great ideas. I’d love to see him become more motivated at actively pursuing his passions. He wants to work with his Dad this summer, so we’ll see where that goes. I have to remember that most everyone on my side of the family is a “late bloomer,” and realize that he has the delightful luxury of “being a kid” as long as he wishes.

ElvenTiger turned 12 this winter. She has three close girl friends who she’s in touch with regularly. She likes to knit, cook, and listen to music. She sings and makes up her own lyrics. She’s always been very creative and artistic, and continues to draw, do crafts, and cultivate her interest in fashion. She’s been playing PC games like Minecraft, Webkinz, and Dragon Age.

Her main type of learning is hands-on, so the academic work doesn’t appeal to her much, at least on a consistent basis. ElvenTiger, if she had been in school, might have been considered “learning disabled” in terms of reading, or at least have been bullied into reading before she was fully ready. What we’ve discovered is that she has a different way of approaching reading, and recently she and I have both seen a lot of progress. She loves being read to, and has been devouring audio books. Lately, while helping a younger friend with his reading, she’s realized how much she already knows. This confidence has led her to do more reading on her own, and be a bit more bold about figuring things out rather than just asking someone else to read it for her. An adult friend who has a very similar reading style to ElvenTiger also suggested turning on the captioning whenever we watch a movie or a show, and she seems to find it helpful.

Discussing books in her book club has also given her the confidence to realize that she does have the understanding she needs, even if she doesn’t yet devour long chapter books on her own. She and I have been enjoying the library together, and her project for Midyear Review is all about owls. It’s been great to see how excited she’s been about learning new owl facts, and sharing them with family as she researches.

That’s the basic update. I continue to do lots of research about homeschooling and unschooling, and keep up with new ideas and theories. I’m learning the balance between offering ideas and “pushing” them in certain directions. I’m blessed with wonderful kids, and a supportive community. And my own love of learning, which is just unstoppable.

Tell me what you think!

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