the network for radical unschooling families
I am fairly new to home education (daughter left school last autumn aged 8) and am definitely new to unschooling. I am very interested in how things are done and would love to learn more about it. At the moment we are struggling to fire any enthusiasm in my little cherub, I think school destroyed any sense of wonder for her although we are slowly seeing her imagination come out of its shell. How do you guys do it on a daily basis? I have tried asking her if there is anything she would like to find out but she doesn't seem to know....I have even tried to introduce lapbooking but she just didn't seem to get it. She seems to really object to any form of work...except wring shopping lists of things she wants or school registers for her friends and teddy bears. I don't expect her to sit and do loads of formal work but I would like her to show an interest in something.....so that I could arrange some educational museum trips or craft activities around her interest.
Any help or advice would be welcomed.
*** She seems to really object to any form of work ***
Two shifts in perspective might help:
One, if she had a broken leg, she'd object to walking. The leg needs time to heal before she can walk on it. She needs time to heal the damage that school did to her ability to like anything she associates with school. Rule of thumb is one month recovery for each year she was in school. If her time in school was particularly bad, it can definitely be longer. If she has felt any kind of pressure on her to do anything she associates with school, that counts as school. (And she may have felt pressure even if that wasn't your intent. Just asking if she wants to do something else when she's turned on the TV might feel like pressure.)
Two, I would say she isn't objecting to work but to anything that isn't right now interesting to her or that isn't free of painful associations. So drop the idea of her avoiding work because it carries associates of being lazy.
Look at what she's avoiding as if she were temporarily allergic to it. She is noticing what her body needs and doesn't need and responding to that.
*** At the moment we are struggling to fire any enthusiasm in my little cherub ***
Don't try to change her. Create around her an atmosphere of peace, support, love, nurture and an environment where she has supportive easy access to what she's in interested in and new things that she might find interesting.
*** I have tried asking her if there is anything she would like to find out ****
Don't ask. Look at what she is interested in right now. Ask interested questions about what she enjoys right now. Find out what she likes about them. Unless she's not much of a talker. Then draw understanding from watching and participating (if she wants you to.) Take your clues from her.
What she enjoys will change as she recovers and as she grows. See her interests -- books, TV shows, toys -- as who she is right now.
Try not to see your daughter as broken in need of fixing. See her as injured and working on her recovery. Make the nest around her a comfortable one full of support and interesting things. Don't be anxious for her to get out of the nest. She will when she's recovered. The more you prod her out, the more tightly she'll cling to it.
*** but I would like her to show an interest in something..... ***
I suspect she's already interested in things but you're dismissing them because they don't resemble things people value as learning. You've written a lot about what she doesn't do. What does she do all day? That's what she's interested in right now. Help her do that and more of that. But also see it as what she wants to do as she recovers. People with broken legs often watch a lot of TV. It doesn't mean they'll be watching TV for the rest of their lives. They fill up, their leg heals, they move onto other things.
My daughter only spent 3 months in 2nd grade. Even though she loved drawing, for the next couple of months after she quit, she drew nothing but "snowflakes", basically giant asterisks with markers. Pages and pages and pages of giant asterisks. It didn't seem to be leading anywhere. Then one day she drew a really nice rendering of a stapler lying on the floor. The asterisks weren't leading up to the stapler. They were part of what she needed work through. The stapler was a sign she was at or nearing the end of her healing. (Or transition. Or pause. Or whatever it was she needed to do.)
Keep new things swirling through her days, even if she wants to stay in her comfy nest to recover. Don't introduce them as potential new interests you can pounce on but as moments of interest. Let the momentary interest swirl around inside of her. It may pop up as an interest in a few month. It may create a connection with something she sees next year that causes a spark.
Think more in terms of happy moments than sparking interest.
*** so that I could arrange some educational museum trips or craft activities around her interest. ***
Drop the idea of educational museum trips. Instead think of spending enjoyable moments. Have fun at a museum exploring whatever interests her, even if it's just the escalator for 5 minutes. (Passes are especially good for unschooling because it allows you to spend 10 minutes at the museum rather than trying to get your admission price's worth.) Or at a new store. Visit nicknack shops, antique stores, thrift shops, bakeries, Indian food stores, pet groomers (just to watch :-).
Focus on being interested in the world yourself rather than trying to get your daughter interested in the world. :-) *Not* a false interest to try to spark her interest. A genuine interest. See the world through child eyes. She the world through your daughter's eyes. That's the best way to find out what's she's interested in.
Thank you. Grace was in school for nearly 5 years and I have tried not to push her and allow her to do what she wants....I suppose it is all part of the journey and I need to de-school as much as she does. I certainly didn't mean to imply I was planning lots of school type educational visits to the museums...just short visits to the local one in town so she could look at things for her chosen project i.e. viking jewelery or something but I guess it can wait for her lead.
Thank you, I will try to take your thoughts on board and adjust my outlook....I do want to be much more child led I guess I just have wobbles as I know my family are waiting for us to trip up and like to @test' her on stuff when at family parties etc.
*** I certainly didn't mean to imply I was planning lots of school type educational visits to the museums ***
My point wasn't to criticize what you may or may not be doing but to shine a light on how you have ideas stored in your head. Which will influence the choices you make.
Even if you don't realize it or don't want it to be, the world is divided in your head -- as it is for most people who've been through school -- into "educational/worthwhile/productive" and "entertainment/frivolous/trivial". Your first idea in supporting your daughter's interests was not just museums but educational trips to museums. So it's pretty deeply rooted! After 20+ years of living in a society that makes those distinctions in both obvious and subtle ways, it's hard to noticed and hard to shift gears.
For most people, the first thought in supporting a child's interests is books. :-)
To shift to an unschooling mindset, the first thought in supporting someone is: Listen :-) Then: ask interested questions. Show you're interested in them and their interests.
Then keep your focus on her rather than on how much of the world you can get into her. Be her support system. Help her get more of what she's reaching for. Draw parts of the world you think might interest her into her sphere so she can pick through them. Be sensitive to how much she wants from you.
As for relatives testing her, make your first priority protecting your daughter. She trusts you to be her advocate in the world. If you search the forum on "quiz" or "test", several threads should come up that will give you some handy tools :-)
It will be really helpful if you can drop ideas of 'projects', 'child led', etc. Pretend like you are at the start of a long summer vacation. (one with no assigned reading! ;) ) Plan fun things for your days, without worrying if they're educational, or trying to discern what she might be learning. What does she enjoy? Not, what project does she want to work on? But, what kind of fun does she like to do? Amusement parks? Shopping? Drawing? Lego? Roller blading? Go do those things. What if a friend said she was interested in Viking jewelry? (a friend who was somewhat dependent on you to bring her & resources together) Would you seize up, wanting to make sure you squeezed as much learning into her exploration of that as possible? Or would you share cool pictures you found, and look up things in Smithsonian magazine, and take her to talk to jewelry artisans?
Real life, natural learning looks nothing like school learning. She is learning no matter what you do - and you don't need to be cognizant of what she's learning, or quantify it, at all. You can't see inside her head, you're not privy to the connections she's making, and what she's observing and taking in. It's likely she wouldn't be able to tell you if you asked. (Please don't ask!) Her exploration of Viking jewelry might lead to Simpson's and South Park episodes rather than a thorough knowledge of Norse Mythology, and that would be something to enjoy and encourage. So would Norse Mythology if that's what sparked her!
The narrow list of things that school thinks is important for kids to learn is *nothing* compared to what they WILL learn in a supported, nurturing environment in which they're free to explore. What school would value about Viking jewelry - history, geography, maybe archaeology - pales in comparison to where just enjoying that interest will take you in the rich, real, living world.
And - you don't have to know where it will lead! You don't have to try to fit that exploration into subjects, or make a list of the connections, or measure anything at all. Just do what's fun with it, then do the next fun thing she wants. STOP thinking about "related craft activities". DO crafts, if it's fun for you, ask her to join you, if it's fun for her. She WILL be learning, you can't keep her from learning. How cool is that?