So what does our particular flavor of unschooling look like? Where are we on this journey? Here’s some info to help orient yourselves to our situation.
We are nerdy parents who did well academically in school. All school. Elementary through graduate school. Philosophizing Husband Dad has a PhD in Philosophy (imagine that!) and I have a Master’s Degree in Information Science. We know how to play the game, and play it well.
Why the hell are we homeschooling our children?!
For soooo many reasons. So many, in fact, that I’m saving that topic for another day. I just want you to know that we, as the parents, are still deschooling. A LOT. All the damn time.
The bottom line is that our kids learn, without school. Silas is learning all the time. He asks so many questions, has so many hypotheses, wonders out loud…it’s amazing to watch, really. It’s like walking, or breathing. He just does it.
We like to be busy – Silas is the type of kid to wake up everyday and say “What are we doing today?” By which he means, where are we going? So we work hard to strike a balance between being home and being out and about.
Our Deal with the Devil…
One thing I need to tell you right away – mostly because I’m kind of conflicted about it – is that we’re enrolled in an online public school, called Columbia Virtual Academy (CVA). We decided to enroll after talking to other local parents who were trying it, and had good enough things to report. Basically, Silas does his thing, learning like he does, and I take that, encapsulate it into educationese, and email his “teacher” once a week. And for that we get free-ish money to spend on books, online game subscriptions (with traditional educational angles – more on this later), access to field trips, and we can get up to one PE type class (think swimming, martial arts, gymnastics) AND one fine arts type class (think choir, music lessons, art classes) paid for at a time. To be clear, they don’t send us a check or anything. I never touch this money. It goes straight from CVA to the vendor or teacher.
It’s a deal with the devil, basically, but we wanted to give it a go to give our wallets a break. Because Silas is one seriously social kid who wants to take a LOT of classes!
We’ve been doing this now for only two weeks. It’s fine so far, but I can see how it does add an element to stress to my life that I hope not to pass on to Silas. It prolongs the deschooling process, because I’m constantly categorizing things into school-ish subjects so that I can report on it later. Silas has no idea we’re doing this, and I want to keep it that way. It’s me and philosophizing husband, emailing each other, “Hey, don’t forget to include that conversation we had about the speed of light in this week’s report!” Not onerous so far, really not. But if the cost/benefit ever starts to tip in the wrong direction, we’ll withdraw. That’s the beauty of it – we can drop out anytime and the only thing we’d have to do is return any returnable items to CVA (think non-workbook type books, stuff that’s not disposable). Easy peasy.
So what’s Silas up to, other than being 5 and learning all the time just by living? Well, here’s the structured and/or schoolish stuff that he’s chosen to do so far this fall:
He’s participating in the Vashon Wilderness Program (which is an awesome one day-a-week nature program). He’s taking an art class and a Math Games class (with the fabulous Marcia Miller!) at a fantastic learning program housed in a local community center, where he also gets to run around and enjoy the bouncy house and all his buddies. He plays around with Reading Eggs, an online phonics game that he loves (and we got a SCREAMING good deal on a while ago through Homeschool Buyers Co-op)…he wants to take swimming lessons, gymnastics, karate, guitar lessons, choir…so much stuff.
We also get together with friends for park days, and we participate in a very mellow art and science co-op with five other families. This consists of the moms joyfully geeking out on Pinterest, chatting about potentially cool crafts/experiments to do on Facebook a lot, and getting together twice a month to do it. Like I said, it’s really mellow – if kids don’t want to do the activities, they really don’t have to. None of the activities take much time to prep, so there’s no feeling of “Aww, I spent all this time doing XYZ and now everything’s WASTED!” Not at all. Really, it’s just a kind of group strewing. Kids get to play, moms get to chat, and we all have a blast!
As for unstructured stuff, well, there’s just too much to really list here, but in general he loves trying new snacks, watching Scooby Doo, listening to The Magic School Bus books on tape, doing art, climbing our plum tree, helping out in the garden, riding his bike, playing in parks, playing all kinds of games (Sorry!, Wildcraft, and Go Fish are all big right now), dressing up in a million different costumes, asking a bazillion questions, trying new shows on Netflix streaming, playing Wii, dancing, playing his ukulele and drum machine…I could go on and on. And he learns from ALL of it.
Are we radical unschoolers? We’re on the path. We’re leaning into our edges. We’re saying yes more. I still stress over food (Please! For the love of god, eat some protein!), and Philosophizing Husband still stresses about TV. But we try to relax. We’re working on it. We are all finding our way on the path.
I’ll leave you with some action shots!