Thursday, November 18, 2010

Unschoolers Go To School (sort of)

I don't even know where to start with the upside-down topsy-turvy nature of what has happened to our fall so far. Our local homeschool resource center, after years of battling with the local school district (who would like nothing more than to shut them down) ended up re-opening as a charter school. Initially, the claim was that it would operate much like before, with homeschooling families being able to take whatever classes they wanted to, and homeschooling all other subjects. As unschoolers, this suits our family just fine.

But then, the school district amended their charter plans to make things far more structured for us poor homeschoolers. Of course. Because you know, everyone needs to be educated to the same cookie cutter mold. It's not the fault of the charter school, but that's the way things shook out. Still, both of our kids decided that the cost-benefit analysis came out on the side of giving it a try. Mackenzie really really wanted to take Spanish class, and for Asa it means more theatre, horseback riding, choir, and French. So they were willing to jump through the hoops of providing more structured homeschooling than we've ever ever done. They actually agreed to do things like worksheets and spelling lists on a weekly basis, taking home textbooks and studying for quizzes.

Frankly, it's all very fascinating to me, watching these two unschooled kids suddenly thrust into a schoolish style of learning. Especially because they know that at any moment they can simply walk away from it. So far, it's been over a month and they're sticking with it. I think it's probably harder on me than on them, because I have to print out worksheets and spelling lists and make sure they get done with reading in their Social Studies or Science textbooks. All those things I've never really worried about before. Before, all of our learning has just flowed from whatever they're interested in at the moment. I've also had to coach them on how to answer the silly textbook quizzes, because I didn't realize how little they knew about what a "textbook" answer is.

One of the questions this all puts to rest is whether or not you really NEED to teach kids all this stuff for years and years and years in order for them to get it, or whether an unschooler can and will buckle down into more structured learning if they are provided with an incentive that motivates them. The fact is, these kids actually do their homework, turn in their assignments, and take their tests. Because they want to, because the benefits that they're getting out of it obviously outweigh the drawbacks in their minds.

On the other hand, as the unschooling parent I have a lot of trepidations about all of this. When the glamour wears off, will they still want to do it? I don't want to be the one sitting on them to finish this stuff up. And what if it interferes with their natural love of learning and exploration, having to do all of this forced study? I love the way they are always coming up with new things they want to do. They have far less time for that now. More than anything, it's totally wrecked our schedule and we are constantly finding ourselves scrambling to catch up. I hate that feeling of giving up our more relaxed days.

So the great experiment of unschoolers in school is ongoing. I'll let you know how it goes.


Mud Mama said...

It's funny to read this today :-) I think you know the legal battle I faced with regards to my three and homeschooling? Well the youngest, Sam doesn't need to be schooled, his dad is 100% on board with us unschooling (he's a teacher with a masters in special education btw) and SAM really wanted to go to school so today was his first day at nursery school. He had a great time, can't wait to go back :-)

Andrea said...

I am sorry to hear about your stressful schedule. I am curious to find out how this goes for all of you over time. You bring up many good points, and I am sure you will all work through it.