So, unschooling, what’s the deal with that?!
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We follow what’s commonly known as an UnSchooling philosophy. For those who are new to the idea of unschooling, here’s a nice little description thanks to Wikipedia “Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction.”
For me, that means that instead of teaching Jaiden a set curriculum, I use his interests to devise an age appropriate curriculum.
For instance, last week we watched a BBC Doco on Reptiles and amphibians. During a section on the Chameleon, they mentioned that in a particular region they use their ability to change their skin color not to camouflage, but to attract the heat by making 1 side black, and the other side white to prevent the heat escaping. Jaiden piped up “Dad, do you think that really works?”, I replied “I don’t know, how about we test it tomorrow!”.
So the next day we got an old camping solar bag (black) and a white plastic bag, we filled them both with water and left them in the sun for 8 hours. At the end of the day we poured out the water and dipped our fingers in each lot, Jaiden was amazed that the black bag had made the water so hot he could barely touch it, whereas the white bag was barely warm. We pulled out the thermometer and took readings of both lots before returning inside and sitting down and working out the temperature difference between the 2 bags using basic subtraction. I also used this as a chance to try and introduce the concept of percentages larger than 100%, being that the black bag was 220% hotter than the white. We then decided to plan several other experiments using different colours and graphing the results. From a simple 5min segment, we covered several math concepts ( liquid measurements, temperature, time, percentages and graphing) as well as the science behind why darker colours attract more sunlight than lighter ones. We then delved into some geography and climate by discussing how different cultures have dress codes that like the Chameleon are used to help regulate their body temperature through choosing darker or lighter clothing.
Because Jaiden is a naturally curious child, instead of planning a Term of lessons, we have a Document saved on Jaiden’s laptop called “things to learn” and it lists random things Jaiden wants to investigate more. This is our inspiration for daily activities, as well as providing a good chance to come up with ideas for potential follow up activities and plan appropriately.
Our move to unschooling was one that happened by accident. As we took a break from our formal lessons over Christmas 2015 I started to notice how much Jaidens natural curiosity was creating this need for him to learn more in areas of interest. After being a defiant reader he’s since taught himself to read, is doing math concepts well above his age level and already diving into things like CGI and special effects. I’ve found that the more interested Jaiden is in the topic at hand, the better his knowledge retention. Not surprisingly really, if you talk to me about something I find boring for an hour, I’ll probably not remember much of it either! Why would I expect my son to be any different?
Many people say to me “Oh but he has to learn to do things he doesn’t want to do eventually”. To those who say that, I pose this question.. Why? Why does he have to do things he does not want to do? Is there a reason he cannot find his passion, master it and make a living out of doing something he loves?
Is not that what we all want for our children? I know I do.
To check out more on unschooling and how it works for us, click here!