Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's Natural

People have a lot of questions about unschooling but the one I hear most often is, "If you never do worksheets, and you never give tests, and you never have any official measurement of their progress, how do you know your kids are learning?"

The answer is actually surprisingly simple. The process of unschooling is really just the practice of exposing your children to as many educational opportunities and as much information as possible...then watching them and helping them as they absorb it, mimic it, learn it, practice it, and eventually master their own pace, on their own time table, and according to their own interests.

So how do you measure their progress? How do you know when your new baby is learning how to lift their head, or roll over, or walk, or talk? You don't set up structured learning around these things. I don't know anyone who gives their infant a pop quiz on cruising....but you know they are learning because you're watching them do it. One step at a time, one syllable at a time, your child grows up-on their own, with no tests or official training-and teaches themselves extremely complicated things (the English language for instance) by watching those around them and practicing on their own time and at their own pace.

That's pretty much it. Kind of sounds to easy to be realistic right? That's what I thought too-but the idea of free, interest lead learning really appealed to us so we decided to try it...and every day I am happier and happier with Monkey's progress. I can see him learning and growing right before my eyes, developing passions and interests, exploring and teaching himself.

I have known for the last 4 months or so that Monkey has been teaching himself to read and write (How did I know? I watched! And as always I've been answering his questions.) and that he has been progressing very well. His grasp on phonics is excellent, his reading comprehension is great, and his sight words improve with every day. Today was just amazing though.

Hubby and I were sitting on the sofa after lunch talking when Monkey came up to us and handed us each a folded piece of paper with a heart on the front and started dancing around.

"It's mail for you! Open it open it!"

This is what Hubby got:
Der Dadde, Hapee birhda! I (heart) you and I mayd you a preznt. (picture of a present with a bow on top and a car inside) (heart) Monkey (well, actually his real name, spelled correctly)

And this one was for me:
Der Momee, Did uno that (Baby Bug's real name, spelled correctly) spillld milk? I saw him and ther was a LOT. I (heart) you. Can you and my red books now?
(squiggle squiggle squiggle...which he later explained was "mommy writing" (cursive) but he couldn't read it anymore because he forgot what he wrote) (heart) (his real name spelled correctly)

Okay, so his spelling is atrocious and his grammar leaves things to be desired (he did refer to his sister as "him"), but he definitely has the structure of letter writing down, his grip on phonics is very strong, if inaccurate, and his handwriting was very neat. I was beaming with pride (I still am!) when he looked up at me and said, "So?"

"So what, Monkey?"

"So can you and me read books now?"

"Oh, sure." I had completely forgotten the notes content!

"Good," said Monkey, "I want to read to you this time. Kay?"

"That sounds great!" I said. Then he ran upstairs and brought down his books. My five year old then sat me down and read me The Cat in the Hat, Finding Nemo, I Love To Cuddle, and last October's Car and Driver. Was a lot of it memorized? Probably. Did he get stuck on words? Of course. Still, sitting there listening to my son who taught himself to read was probably one of the most priceless and amazing mommy moments I've ever had. I am still in awe at how brilliant his mind is.

He is brilliant, and I don't have to test him to figure that out; I just inspire him, encourage him, and support him. He's like a tiny seed that I plant in the ground and carefully water...he does the growing-the most magical part-all on his own, and I get to watch in wonder at the miracle of nature at work in my child.


MB said...

This was an interestingly timely post considering I was just looking up stuff on unschooling this morning. Strange. Anyway...I've been thinking about how to incorporate more learning opportunities into my 3 1/2 yr old's day. He's very into reading and learning too, but I'm trying to get him to play a bit more on his own too and do less on the computer. He LOVES to play on the computer and does learn a lot from it since they are mostly educational games, but still. Would be interested in what other types of things you do during the day. Do you have any sort of schedule or is it just mostly free play? Thanks and congrats on such a proud moment! :)

p.s. do you happen to remember seeing a chocolate chip cheesecake recipe during the UBP? I can't find it and want to make it tomorrow!! Ugh!

Mrs. M said...

I didn't see the cheesecake recipe...though it sounds like I would have loved to! I hope you find it =)

I will make another post about what a day looks like for us. It probably won't be for a few days, but if you want I can go ahead and let you know when I post it.

Or you can "follow" me ;)

Muthering Heights said...

How cute...I LOVE his spelling!

Mrs. M said...

Ha ha ha-thanks.

Me too, actually =)

Suzie said...

I am so with you on that one

Jenny said...

That is so great! How old is Monkey?

I get a lot of interesting questions about homeschooling. My favorite is:

How do you have the patience to do school ALL day?

That one makes me LOL!

Mrs. M said...

He just turned 5 in March. My best friend has four kids, all in public school, and she thinks I'm insane for wanting to keep three kids at home with me all day long.

Some days I agree =)