Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unschooling and Older Kids

This topic came up on a parenting board that I frequent - what does unschooling look like when your kids get older. I thought some folks who read this blog might also be interested in this topic. I used to really enjoy reading about people who had unschooling older kids in the 12 - 18 year old age range, and one day I turned around and I had one too!

So what does a day look like for an unschooling 12 year old?? There's the daily stuff - taking care of pets (guinea pigs, chickens, cats) and helping out around the house, kitchen, or garden. Today he had some robotics programming to do for our FLL Robotics Team, then we took a bike ride down to a local park where there was a big apple tree I wanted to gather apples from. While I was taking Asa to classes, he probably played some Spore, the big evolutionary computer game that about every tween and teen boy we know loves. It's such an interesting game concept that National Geographic did a documentary on it. A clip is here.
Some younger boys from the neighborhood came over in the afternoon, and he showed them (safely!) how to set leaves on fire with a magnifying glass. There's this little troupe of boys around here who love to come over. He plays Yu Gi Oh with them or pirates or swords or imaginary games, it's very cute to watch him interacting with these littler guys and having a good time with them. I told him I'd pay for him to go take the Red Cross babysitting course, he'd be a great babysitter and I said he should advertise that he "speaks Bionicle and Lego".

He and I walked down to the store together to get some stuff for dinner, and then while I was cooking he read the NY Times online to me. He's especially very interested in all the political stuff right now. In the afternoon, he had watched me fill out my ballot (Oregonians all vote by mail-in ballot)and discussed the ballot issues and candidates with me. He had read through the voter's pamphlet and was pointing out some of the candidates he liked. In the evening, he hung out with Wayne as he filled in his ballot as well. They lay by the fireplace and talked about the issues. Wayne and I had marked up our voter's pamphlets with our personal answers on ballot measures and candidates, so we discussed the ones we differed on and then he went on to finish up his voting. I love that Mackenzie feels like such a big part of the political process, from going to rallies to voting, he's been actively watching and reading about everything that's transpired in this amazing election year.

So that's one day in the life of a 12-year-old unschooler. Every day is different of course. We do karate together on some days, have robotics team meetings and practice on others. So much of his days now are up to him, what he wants to be interested and involved in. It's a bit weird for me to start taking these steps back as he moves more and more in his own directions without really asking for much input from me. It's also cool to watch as he matures and grows into a person I really like hanging out with and even talking politics with (I can't say that about everyone!)


Idzie said...

Really cool seeing this post! I'm a 17 year old unschooler, and it does seem that most of the unschooling population (or at least those in the blogosphere) have younger children, so I can see how that would be a question that's often asked... Anyway, I'm always happy seeing unschooling blogs, especially since it seems there are quite a few of them, which (hopefully) means that unschooling is a growing trend! :-)


Valerie Willman said...

This sounds like a beautiful day. Full of curiosities being addressed, together family time, separate alone time and discussing the big stuff like job training and politics.

But how does unschooling work for the little guys? I'm new to unschooling and wonder if more structure for my seven year old would ultimately be better for him. But he resists it all the way. And when I back-track and try to get him to lead, he plays Parcheesi, xbox games, WoW and watches Ben 10 Alien Force and Tom and Jerry on TV.

Sigh. I feel like I'm failing at something, but don't know what. Blah.