Our Un-Schooling Approach to Homeschooling

I’ve been asked a few times recently which approach we’ll be taking to homeschooling this fall, which curriculum we’ll be using, etc., The truth is that I really struggled for a few months not knowing exactly which route to go. I mentioned in a previous post that I was homeschooled myself and I’m also a teacher so I think most people just assume I have it together and have this amazing plan in place. But I don’t. Things have changed so much since I was a kid and there are sooo many different curriculums to choose from and different approaches to homeschooling. So I started to do some research. I watched a lot of you tube videos and read a lot of other blogs about what other homeschooling mama’s do. But to be honest, that kind of made things worse. The options were overwhelming and every time I felt I had made a decision, I would hear or see something else and change my mind. Having a type A personality doesn’t help either because I like to have everything organized and ready to go far in advance.

It was only as we began to dedicate some time to trying “school work” a few times a week (as a sort of test drive) that I have realized what will work best for our family as we dive into this new adventure. First off, my boys are SO different when it comes to learning. I love this about them. They are both very bright and like to learn but Bryson has a longer attention span and his fine motor skills are a lot more developed then Sky’s. He will sit down and color and won’t leave the table until every spot is complete, trying his very best to stay within the lines. Skyler will do some quick scribbles and be done with it. Bryson was writing his name on his own a while before Sky because he loved the challenge of being able to do it on his own. He would sit down and practice in his own time and would run up to me and show me his paper, so proud of what he had done. Skyler couldn’t be bothered until just recently, when he was good and ready. I was soon noticing that forcing Sky to sit down and practice printing or do a worksheet for more than 5 minutes was an extremely gruelling task. This kid has a wild imagination, and he is such a creative little soul but extended periods of seat work is not what he enjoys doing right now and it wasn’t fun for any of us. I was starting to get frustrated that the boys weren’t always interested in what I had planned out for them and I began to really question my decision to homeschool. But around that time, I remember reading about how at this age,  it’s important to focus on instilling a love for learning. I realized I wasn’t doing a good job of that. I was forcing the boys to do things they weren’t always ready to do and while it’s a good thing to push and challenge our kids,  I don’t feel I need to do a lot of it quite yet at this age.

SO. Things changed. I decided right there and then that I wasn’t going to order a set curriculum for kindergarten. I wasn’t going to follow a rigid schedule for the year with planned themes and activities the way the traditional teacher inside me wanted to. Instead, I was going to take an un-schooling approach. The definition of un-schooling for those of you who are a little confused is: an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. In other words, I want the interests of my children to be a guide for what they learn about.

Studies have shown that children retain a lot more information when they actually enjoy what they are learning about and I started to see this myself since we’ve begun to implement this way of learning. So using a recent example, the kids have been really into “maps” lately. I noticed they were drawing a bunch of shapes and lines on paper, mixed with some letters and then they would roll up the paper and carry it around as their map.  Taking note of this interest, I told them that next week we would learn how to make a real map. I’ll teach them how to make a title, a legend, and a scale and we’ll probably start with just making a map of their room or the upstairs of our house. This may sound a little advanced for 3 year olds but they’re into it and excited to learn. And by making maps together, we’ll be tying in math, writing,  geography and art all into one project.

Using another real life example, the boys have just been introduced to chewing gum and one day one of them swallowed his by accident. They both started to cry worried that something bad would happen because they knew that swallowing their gum was forbidden! After calming them down, we came home to the computer and I found and printed off some diagrams of the digestive system and they learned about how it works. This made both the boys feel a whole lot better when they learned that the gum would slowly but surely make it’s way through. They colored in their diagrams and they can now tell you by pointing to each part how everything we chew and swallow travels through the digestive system from start to finish. Again, sounds a little complex for a 3 year old? My kids are not little geniuses by any means. I’ve simply been observing their interests and using them to determine what we’ll learn about next. It’s been working great. 

And don’t get me wrong, there is most definitely a time to practice printing our letters and numbers and all that important stuff, (I’ll make sure we get through the kindergarten expectations) but we’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. I give them a worksheet (we have a few workbooks from target and scholars choice and the amount of free printable’s online these days is amazing) or have them practice printing a letter a few times a week while I’m preparing their lunch. Or on this particular morning, we brought these fun new chalkboards from Chalkfull of Design  to a coffee shop and worked on number practice and shape recognition after they enjoyed a yummy treat. The boys LOVE these boards and I’m totally planning to order the letter and clock one as well! Learning can happen anywhere and you might just find us taking our books or printing practice to the beach or a park too. The flexibility of where and how we learn is probably the thing I love most about homeschooling.

So while we haven’t officially begun our school year, the focus of the year for us is going to be about instilling a love for learning. It’s kindergarten. We’re going to be doing a lot of play, a lot of free exploring, and our learning will be guided by their interests. I’ll jot down their interests as they come up and in future weeks, we’ll take out library books based around that topic, plan activities and field trips around it, etc.,   We also have a weekly nature group in place for the fall with a number of other homeschool families. We’re really excited about this as our kids already LOVE to be in nature and it provides so many opportunities for learning and free-exploring the world around them. A few weeks ago after a hike through the woods, we had seen a huge turtle in the water and the boys wanted to know the difference between a tortoise and a turtle so we came home and researched it together. Learning can be fun. And that’s what this first year of kindergarten is going to be all about.

Thanks so much for reading!

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