Tag Archives: unschool

Homeschool Tips for Single Parents

There is a growing number of single parents who homeschool. It seems like I meet someone every week who has gone this route. Some folks have remarried while others are still single. But many have spent time as a single, homeschooling, parent. Because I am currently in the same boat, I wanted to share a few tips to (I hope) help make your life easier.

 

  1. Use a schedule. Yes, as in write it up and follow it. You don’t have to be strict about the schedule unless you need for it to be strict. Even a relaxed schedule can work.
I have included an example schedule. Remember that unschool parents do not insist on certain lessons at certain times so the schedule is a basic outline rather than a concrete schedule planned out by the hour. Also keep in mind that my family is not considered radical unschoolers. As in all groups, there are sub-groups. Though radical unschooling is a wonderful way to live life, it is not the unschooling model my family uses at this time.

I have included an example schedule. You can be as specific or open as you want to be. This schedule may for unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers.

2. Plan ahead even if you unschool. Talk with your children about their interests and what things they want to work on during the week, month, or semester. Then, plan academic activities, child care, classes, and field trips around your work schedule and the interests of the children. If everything is prepped and on your calendar, you can see conflicts in advance and plan accordingly.

messy

3. Find a village of support. I am not joking. You need local people who support you emotionally and in person with actual, physical help like childcare and carpools. Look for other homeschool families with similar interests, values, and who are kind. Reciprocate as well. Perhaps you carpool on Mondays, and the other parent carpools on Tuesdays. Keep in mind that sometimes a nanny or sitter will be willing to also tutor or shuttle kids to and from activities.

4. Take care of yourself. (I’ll wait while you stop laughing at this idea.) I have difficulty with this item on the list so I can understand those who think it is impossible. But, at the very least, we should try to do this. Our health, safety, and happiness directly affect our children’s well being.

yoga stress free

5. Ask for help. It’s okay to not know everything. It is okay to need assistance from time to time. Don’t be afraid to let your kids help out, either. My five year old is so very ready to be independent that he did the laundry last week. I had no idea that he could reach all the necessary buttons!

Remember, you can do this! If you choose homeschool or unschool you can create a fruitful, academic environment in which  your children will flourish. It takes some planning, some will power, and a healthy dose of being realistic. But, if I can do it. You can do it. 🙂

 

What On Earth Do Unschoolers Do All Day?

I am often asked what exactly unschooled students do all day long. After all, they are not forced to comply with a particular curriculum or program. State standards and Common Core are not chosen by the parents. So what do unschoolers do all day?

music lesson

Unschooling is the practice of student-chosen, student-led learning. The unschool educational model encourages lifelong learning rather than a race to a finish line or a race to a test score. A parent who allows unschooling encourages a child’s interests even if that means the child is not doing book work and tests.

So what does a day in an unschooled child’s life look like?

Some unschool students like to be outdoors playing, climbing, and exploring. Other students ask for worksheets and classes. Sometimes children choose to use a computer game to learn coding skills all day. However, most children choose a mixture of activities. The idea is that parents support a child’s choices rather than the parents choosing for the child. This not only gives the student power to follow his interests, but also enables the pursuit of learning without the constraints of testing or a one size fits all curriculum. Read on to see a few examples of unschool life.

Example 1

Joey likes to play Minecraft. He joined a club so he can learn to code. He wants to create his own mod for the game. He also joined a club where he works on pixel art. He wants to design graphic t-shirts and create his own website. Joey recently went to the library to check out books about coding. His mom cannot understand coding, yet Joey has already mastered Java utilizing books, his classes, and YouTube.

Angles

Example 2

Elise wants to be a chef. She thinks about foods, recipes, and dish presentation all day long. She chose to take a class about making sushi recently. She then began a website with a blog. She now reviews restaurants, writes about new recipes she creates, and uses her blog to explain fractions to younger children. Elise found reading difficult when she was five years old, but by age eight she had renewed interest and read through several chapter books each day. Her mother chalks this up to waiting until she was developmentally ready and interested in reading. After all, everyone develops at their own pace.

Example 3

Trevor loves to be outdoors. He paints, sketches, takes photographs, and more. He also enjoys hosting small meetups with other students to discuss plants and animals native to his area. He often brings examples of leaves for others to try to name. He recently used his birthday money to buy a microscope and guidebook. Trevor now enjoys gathering soil and water samples, then deciphering what is in each sample. He hopes to be an environmental scientist one day. Trevor will begin dual enrollment courses at the local college once he is old enough.

field

As you can see, there is not one way to unschool. Unschooling does not mean doing nothing. Parents may be involved in supporting the child any number of ways. Paying for classes, having discussions, driving a child to the library, and other similar actions are supportive of an unschool education. Students choose. Parents support. That is unschooling. Unschooling is not a lack of education, but a lack of forced education where a student cannot choose topics and activities.

 Feel free to contact me to schedule a speaking event, an unschool consultation, or

a Florida unschool evaluation.

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Get Excited About Volcanoes!

        My son, who is 5, LOVES to read about Earth’s constant changes. One of his favorite books discusses ways the Earth is changing every day. Hands on activities help him understand even more about the Earth’s many parts. He has been particularly focused on volcanic action and tectonic plates lately. I wanted to take a moment to share some information, which I found helpful, with you about volcanoes. This post does contain sponsored links from Educents, but definitely has important educational information, too. Enjoy!

Creater Of Bromo Volcano, East Java, Indonesia by lkunl

Creater Of Bromo Volcano, East Java, Indonesia by lkunl

Volcano Facts for Kids

Before you jump into the volcano science experiment, share these interesting facts about volcanoes with your little learners:

  • There are about 1,900 active volcanoes on the earth. This means they have
    erupted recently or they might erupt. Some volcanoes are extinct. Over 80 volcanoes have been found in the ocean.
  • Most volcanoes happen on fault lines, or cracks in the Earth’s surface.
  • Most of the earth’s volcanoes are in the Pacific Ocean, in an area called the Ring of Fire.
  • The word “volcano” comes from Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.
  • Lava from volcanoes can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Volcanoes spew out ash and toxic gases, as well as lava and lava boulders.

Volcano Science Experiment for Kids

Check out these kids use household chemicals to recreate a volcanic eruption!

 

Using the Volcano Kit from the video, little scientists are asked to mix chemicals to make the volcano erupt! This will be an experiment that Young Scientists will want to repeat again and again!


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Stop Dilly Dallying! (Read the book!)

 

 Child Reading

Yesterday my son wanted to read (as usual) so we sat down with several of his favorite books. I asked him a question about the main character and he answered, then excitedly opened the book to the first page of text. I began to read, then paused to ask another question. He became impatient and stated firmly, “Stop dilly dallying. I WANT to hear the story.” I was taken back for a moment. After all, I am a teacher by trade and part of learning to be an “effective teacher” is knowing how to ask open ended questions and help children make connections while reading texts.

Even though we unschool, I still find myself going back to my old ways. Sure, it is okay for me to ask a genuine question for my information. However, my child just wants to hear the stinkin’ book and I really shouldn’t interrupt his enjoyment of reading. If I interrupt often, he may decide that reading is no longer fun or worthwhile. Truth be told, it really isn’t my right to interrupt a story. I would be irate if someone interrupted my favorite story! Why would it be okay to interrupt his favorite story? It isn’t. It just isn’t.

When I interrupt, even with the best of intentions, I am sabotaging a few things. I am breaking my son’s concentration which reinforces a short attention span rather than allowing a longer attention span to grow. No wonder children have such short attention spans even in upper grades. WE, teachers and parents, interrupt them constantly in order to meet our curriculum standards, our schedule, and our goals. (We also tend to use topics not chosen by students which means they may not be invested in learning the information, but that is a topic for another post.)

 

Children imagination

 

When I interrupt, I cause a break in the fluidity of the author’s story. How can a child learn the ebb and flow of a story or chapter without hearing stories, or a chapter, from beginning to end? Yes, we can list the parts of a well written story, but children can and should learn to write their own stories through reading and hearing uninterrupted examples of stories. Plus, the author would have noted any breaks the reader should take when reading the text. Besides, it is a reader’s right to use his imagination to help him understand a story. My questions can throw this creative process off balance.

When I interrupt, I take the fun out of the story. My child will ask me if he has a question. He will let me know how long he wants to look at an illustration and when he is ready to turn a page. It is not my job to interrupt. It is my job to be here to read with him, answer his questions, and discuss the information when he wants to expand his knowledge.

 

This topic is a difficult one for me, personally. I spent many years teaching canned curriculum easily fall to old habits. (Canned lessons are the curriculum for each subject which is pre-written by a large company. Though I could scaffold lessons to meet the needs of all learners, I still had to follow the topics and standards listed in the lessons.) Going forward, I will work to catch myself before I interrupt a story to ask questions. Yes, my child will learn the conventions of language, reading, and writing. No, I will not interrupt his enjoyment of books in order to teach the topics I prefer to teach. I must trust my child to let me know when he has a question. He will learn organically if I step back from the bossy behaviors which have become my pattern and let it happen.

Yes, I will “stop dilly dallying” and read the story.

*If you want to do this, too, but feel you must also interrupt at times, then please read the book aloud at least once before interrupting the story to practice reading and comprehension strategies.

 

If you want more information or to attend a reading training session or to get more information, please contact me at the link found here. Let me put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Yes, We Unschool. Yes, We Have a Schedule.

mom and child

I am going to share something that may make me “less” of an unschooler. It may not be the popular unschooling ideal, but this is what my family does and it works in our situation.

Yes, we unschool. Yes, we have a schedule.

Here’s the deal. I have to work. I am single. I have mouths to feed. Even with support payments, there is still a need for me to work. So I work and we have a schedule. The schedule is not meant to be rigid or to force educate. The schedule helps my children know who to see in case they want or need help with academic learning, a life skill, or any other concern. My children may need to speak with a sibling and work as a team or check with our fantastic sitter if I happen to be “on the clock”. We practice what to do and how to do it if I am busy with work. I make sure the children know when I am available and how to let me know if there is an emergency which cannot wait.

 

child playing

 

Another issue is that each family member has classes, projects, and events. The children individually choose these activities, but the entire family often has to go out because I am the one responsible for transportation. By using a schedule, we each have an opportunity to plan around the times when we will be out. Also, if there are scheduling conflicts, there is a chance to correct the issue in advance.

 

music lesson

 

I would prefer no schedule. I would prefer to have a chauffeur for each child. But in reality, this will never happen. (Okay, there is always a tiny chance I could win the lotto, but I’m not holding my breath.)

Yes, we unschool. Yes, we have a schedule and we are happy with that fact.

 

I have included an example schedule. Remember that unschool parents do not insist on certain lessons at certain times so the schedule is a basic outline rather than a concrete schedule planned out by the hour. Also keep in mind that my family is not considered radical unschoolers. As in all groups, there are sub-groups. Though radical unschooling is a wonderful way to live life, it is not the unschooling model my family uses at this time.

I have included an example schedule. Remember that unschool parents do not insist on certain lessons at certain times so the schedule is a basic outline rather than a concrete schedule planned out by the hour. Also keep in mind that my family is not considered radical unschoolers. As in all groups, there are sub-groups. Though radical unschooling is a wonderful way to live life, it is not the unschooling model my family uses at this time.

You Can’t Unschool Part Time

Unschooling allows us to learn through living life.

Unschooling allows us to learn through living life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have noticed a continuing discussion among home and unschoolers over the past year or two. Many people say they do some unschooling, while others say this is not possible as unschooling is an all or nothing principle. I have a few thoughts about this topic. You can take them, leave them, or add your own opinions. Your discussion is welcome.

What is unschooling?

 Unschooling is the principle of learning through everyday life rather than through forced education models like pre-planned activities not chosen by the student. Unschoolers may have what appears to be a lack of rules, but usually this means the parents and children work to create mutually agreed upon goals and behaviors. We may not see this process because, usually, no one is forcing authority upon another. Unschoolers may participate in classes, co-ops, or curricula, but these activities are chosen by the students, not by a teacher or parent.

You Already Unschool

Yes, you read correctly. You already unschool if your children have free time when activities and rules are not forced on them. You already unschool if you respond in a positive manner when your child asks to read, draw, join a club, etc. Most families unschool for a few hours per week or more, in my experiences and observations.

Can I Unschool in Conjunction with Other School Models?

Yes, you can. Keep in mind that there is a difference between whole life unschooling and partial life unschooling. Whole life unschooling would mean you live the unschooling principle 100% of the time in all facets (parenting, schooling, bedtime habits, etc). Partial life homeschooling means you adhere to the principle of unschooling part of the time, but not at other times. Maybe you work full time and cannot find a way to unschool during the day, but you unschool during evenings and weekends. This is an example of partial life unschooling.

Why Do People Get So Defensive About Unschooling or not Unschooling?

I am not convinced that people get defensive, but I do think people like to have labels because they help us organize our world. If we call ourselves unschoolers, but unschool part time rather than full time, then our lifestyle can be very different from a family that unschools full time no matter what comes along in life. I think humans feel a need to differentiate so that our identities are accurate and so we can find others like us. This may be why people prefer an all or nothing approach to defining unschooling as a concept.

What Do You Suggest We Do?

I suggest we support one another regardless of how many hours or days a week we unschool. Rely more on getting to know people than on defining and labeling yourself (and others). Yes, in theory unschooling is best 100% of the time because it helps develop an inner compass and continued love of learning for the sake of learning. However, you cannot force anyone to be an unschooler 100% of the time. Besides, support goes further than fussing over labels. To be very frank, though I doubt this will happen, I would LOVE to see all schools use an unschooling model. (Yes, I know, good luck with that daydream!)

I Can’t Homeschool Because….

"Thoughtful Kid Sitting In Front Of Blackboard" from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Thoughtful Kid Sitting In Front Of Blackboard” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I could never homeschool because I don’t have the patience.”

I hear this, and other reasons for not homeschooling, every week. The comment above came from a person in a service industry where he works attending to patients’ needs all day so it did strike me as odd. Then again, some people do better with adults than children or better with ill people than well people.

You know what, though? Don’t let your fear or worry over what could happen dictate your choices. Maybe your concern is money, curriculum choices, or even what others will think. If you choose to use public or private school, do not let it be because of fear. Let it be because you know your limits. Choose because you know your child’s limits. Let it be because you know, not think or wonder, but know that it is the correct choice for your child. Truthfully, this can be applied to those making a choice to homeschool as well. Just don’t let fear rule the decision-making process.

I know that some people think homeschooling is the only way. I disagree. I do, however, think that until we have public schools that operate similar to home or unschool models, we will not serve all students properly. There will always be students who have needs left unmet when we use most current public and private school models. If you choose public or private school, offer to help so that the teacher has more resources and can, hopefully, have the time to attend to all learners as needed. (It is extremely difficult to “do it all”. It often burned out my co-workers. Please, please help out.)

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a homeschooler say, in essence, “I told you so” when violence breaks out at school or a public school parent say “Your kid is not going to socialize properly”, I would be rich. I kid you not. There can be judgment from all directions. What I am saying is examine the facts, not your feelings about the facts, then make a choice. Re-evaluate that choice as needed and recognize that the correct choice for one child may be different than the correct choice for a sibling. I know that you can and will succeed no matter what you choose.

If you are interested in homeschool and want more information, feel free to contact me. I am happy to answer a question or work through a consultation with you. I have more insight than those who only homeschool or only use public school because my family has done both. Also, I taught in public schools for many years.

No matter what you choose…..

"Schoolboy" from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Schoolboy” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Learning!

Ways Gardening Teaches Children

garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a quick, informal list of skills and ideas that gardening teaches. I am sure I missed a few skills. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments section. Happy gardening!

Following through

Following directions

How to be focused and calm

Learning about plant life cycles

Being patient

Learning about the food chain

Learn about genetically modified seeds, heirloom seeds, conventional growing practices, and organic growing practices

Pride in a job well done

Persistence

Types of insects and annelids

Types of soil

Types of natural repellants

Measuring

Different plants need different conditions in order to grow

Where food comes from

How pollinators help up and how we can help them

Appreciation for nature

Appreciation for the work that goes into food production

Counting

Geographical information relevant to plant needs

Seasons and environmental factors

 

To Ban Or Not To Ban

Can you ban the world? Should you?

Can you ban the world? Should you?

 

Most parents feel the need to protect children from the ills of the world. I am this way, and you may be, too. There is often discussion, sometimes heated discussion, regarding from what children should be protected. Some parents worry about sexual acts on television, violence in books, or even friends who are perceived to be bad under subjective ideals. Sometimes parents are so concerned about their children that they ban people and things. This deprives children of their chance to learn, discuss, and develop their inner compass.

I suggest we move away from banning these things to discussion and age appropriate exposure when necessary and wanted by the child. For example, a commercial about a male enhancement product is a chance to discuss normal biology as well as variations of normal and when to be concerned about your body. It is also a chance to discuss healthy sexual activity, safe choices, and more. Facts do not encourage sexual activity, but they can help a child to make wise choices with regard to when and how sexual activity occurs. Now, some details may not be needed for a 3 year old child, but a 12 or 16 year old child may need more details. They will eventually choose to participate in such acts so facts and continuous discussion will help more than banning and not speaking of the things that exist in our world.

Book banning seems to be a hot topic in my local area. I really do not get the hub bub. I love to read. My kids love to read. We enjoy discussing our books together. If something strange happens in a book, they mention it. Maybe not all children do this, I can accept that. However, you could choose to read what they read and begin the discussions as necessary. You can also speak up if you are concerned a book has information that may be difficult for a child to comprehend fully. I have been known to ask a child to wait 6 months or a year to read a book because of content. They tend to honor my requests. Then again, the requests are rare and waiting a few months is not the same as banning.

Friends are also a big topic in some circles. What I have noticed is that some people are a bit worried that the behavior of one child will affect their children in a negative way. Now, certainly, if a child hits another they have directly affected the other child. I can see the point in that instance. On the other hand, if a child uses what my family calls “colorful language” once in a while, that is hardly a reason to ban the friend. Perhaps mention that certain topics and certain words worry you and ask for respect in that regard. I will mention that my children have been taught to respect difference that harm none. They work very hard to include others, respect beliefs, and be kind. I will ask this, what happens if my rules regarding friends are so strict that no one outside of the family qualifies as a friend? That would be very lonely for my children as well as for me.

The point I am getting at here is that banning in general can rule out necessary opportunities, experiences, and discussions. It is important to take a moment to think about other ways to could address the issues without banning. After all, banning is basically pretending the issues don’t exist. No child develops a wise inner compass by pretending that things in real life do not exist. I would prefer that my children hear my dialog along with any new or concerning information they take in. If they experience these things on their own later in life, they may have a more difficult time sorting through ethics and safety concerns. Let me be the guide, rather than strangers or society at large being the guide.

Finding My Tribe

diffgood2

My family moved across the USA last spring. It was a huge change even though we lived in Florida previous to the move out west. I love an adventure. I really do, but I really hated leaving my friends and familiar groups.

I tried to prepare for the move by searching for and joining groups near our new home. I wanted to find peaceful parenting as well as homeschool groups. I did find some, however, each had a different dynamic and many were different than what I was used to in California.

I felt very, very apprehensive about all the new groups and new people. I am not into organized religion. Many people in this area are. I am not into censoring my children’s activities unless they are harming someone. Others were more into censorship. It really was difficult for me to be open enough to try new groups and find my tribe. I did not want to feel the need to be an activist during park days and potlucks. Then again, I tend to keep my mouth closed until I know group members unless someone is being harmed. Besides, different can be good, too. Sometimes differences help us learn and grow.

I am thankful that there are many groups from which to choose. I am thankful that I can see who will or will not be at an event if, perhaps, there is ever a personality conflict I want to avoid. I am thankful that I put on my big person panties and went to meetups and events despite my stress level.

I did have a small, at home, freak out over potential allergens at an event. I did ask one group leader, point blank, if they had peaceful parents in the group or not because of concerns over the rules and group description. I have left groups because I prefer free groups, yep I am cheap right now. I am not perfect and I will not fit into all groups or all cliques within groups. The same is true for my children. I sometimes choose to ignore rude comments because the overall feeling in the group is great. (Someone even tried to steal a client from under me recently! That was not cool, but also not a reason to leave the group.)

I am so very happy to have found one group in particular that seems to have a lot of people who are similar to me and my children. Some members are more crunchy/granola than me, but others and not. The other children and my children get along very well aside from one incident. (There were hurt feelings over one child saying those who played Minecraft were only allowed to be boys and they were geeks or nerds. One of my children was stern with him and explained a few things about Minecraft, gender roles, and bullying so the situation evened out quickly.)

There are a few other groups my children and I enjoy meeting up with as well. There are a couple groups I avoid, too. Just today an email crossed my path and was so upsetting to me that I may leave a group simply because I don’t know where to start sorting out the issues, there were quite a few, and the group is not really fulfilling any needs we have at this time. Then again, I may wait to see who others reply because it may be that one or two people feel one way, but the others do not. There is no shame in knowing who is in your tribe and with whom you do not get along.

My message is this, try something new. Try a new group, meetup, play date, or event. If you don’t mesh with the group, then move on to the next group or event. Some groups are large enough that you will meet one set of people at one event and a different set of people at a different event. Try it out. It isn’t easy, but getting out there and finding folks you can relate to or learn from is priceless.