Friday, June 3, 2016

Why We Aren't Quite Unschoolers

We have a lot of similarities with unschoolers. We believe that our children are born learners and will gain the knowledge they need naturally from living life with loving, supportive, engaged, and excited parents, family, and friends.

Then we have some differences. We are not radical unschoolers. We have required chores, bed times (for the girls), internet hours (for the boys), and there are some required "academics" for the older boys.

There are reasons for the "academics" for the boys. I am not their only parent. They have a dad who is very much involved in their life and he is not entirely comfortable with true unschooling. Another reason is that until about 2.5 years ago the boys were in public school, so they took some major deschooling to get to the point where they were seeking learning on their own for fun.

For Cassidy it only took about a year to really become self directed and since then he has developed a wide scope of interests and knowledge. He tries new things all the time and doesn't hesitate to ask for resources to delve deeper in to his passions. The only subject that is required for Cassidy is math using Khan Academy. If I dropped dead tomorrow or our living situation changed dramatically Alex and Cassidy would have to re-enter public school and I feel I would be doing them a disservice by not making sure they could at least start classes on the same academic level as their peers and math is the only subject that I worry about.

Things have not come so easily for Alex. He spent more time in school and was definitely pushed harder to "succeed" scholastically than Cassidy was by some members of our extended family. I'm not sure he'll ever be truly deschooled. He does have varied interests and some true passions, but he isn't as likely to ask for help or to go deeply in to any interest. The exception is video games. I don't have a problem with gaming in general and it has definitely helped them develop some skills I didn't even think of being associated with video game play like cooperation, leadership, strategy, and dedication. Video games cannot teach you how to balance a checkbook or write a resume, so supplementation is needed.

Alex is going to be 16 in about 4 months. One of my personal goals as a parent is to make sure that my kids have the ability to function outside of my home, if necessary, by their 18th birthday. That means knowing how a bank account works, how to apply for a job and do the work even when it isn't enjoyable, how to pay bills and budget, how to clean a toilet, how to repair a leaky faucet, how to do laundry, and what healthy relationships look and feel like, to name a few.

Since 18 is looming just two years in the future Alex is focusing on studying to pass his GED and gaining some crucial life skills. We're using a great website and a prep book to get to the point of  being able to pass the GED. We're using the Life of Fred: Financial Choices book to learn about personal finances. Then there are the basic "life skills".  Like cooking, cleaning, and general home upkeep.

Last night he made (with a little help from me) Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup. It's a family favorite for sure! (Recipe is here.)

He would have eaten this whole if it didn't have to go in the soup. Onions, the apple of Alex's eye.

Learning proper knife technique.

Babysitting the soup.

Dishing it up!
Hopefully, since they will never attend school unless they ask to, the girls will continue to have a love of learning free from the restrictive and sometimes suffocating confines of a classroom. I hope to never need to deschool again.

We will probably never be radical unschoolers because it just doesn't fit our needs as a family. We will continue to support our children in their individual goals and interests mostly unencumbered by any outside agendas.

Ultimately, my goal as a partner in my children's lives is to show them how to live a life filled with joy. I hope we can succeed at that.

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