Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mondays Our Way:Cookin' Up Some Education

I am so excited to finally be posting the first of my Mondays Our Way posts! I have wanted a way to communicate (and keep track of!) our homeschooling experience and I think that blogging it is a fantastic idea. [Of course, I think blogging everything is a fantastic idea.]

The first thing I should tell you is that we are unschoolers. In some ways it's basically the same as homeschooling-it does take place at home (mostly) and we (the parents) are the primary "teachers"-but in other ways it's entirely NOT the same. There are several key differences between unschooling and traditional homeschooling-for instance:
  • We don't have curriculum.
  • We don't have text books.
  • We don't have worksheets.
  • We don't have tests.
  • We don't have a schedule.
  • We don't have a desk or other classroom type setting in our home.
The more detailed you get about the process of unschooling the less it resembles anything like school at all actually. So, you may ask, how do our kids learn? It's a valid question, and many people ask it.

Our kids learn academics the same way they learned/are learning to walk. I didn't hand the kids a text book about the mechanics of walking, I let them experiment for themselves and I encourage(d) them and guide(d) them in the discovery of their skills. I never set a 'schedule' for their toddling-I allow(ed) them the space and time to do it when they are motivated to do so. In the end Monkey learned (and Baby Bug is learning, and The Bean will learn) how to walk almost entirely because of their own enthusiasm for learning and their own commitment to practice-all we have had to do is provide the opportunity to learn and then encourage and supervise their efforts. We don't have to test them to know that they are learning-how do you know your child has learned to walk? How do you know your child has learned to talk? Growth and learning is observable, without having to mark it down on paper.

Hubby and I (and most unschoolers) hold this to be true with all learning. All we feel we need to do is provide the opportunity and we believe our children will naturally be motivated to learn all they can, apply that knowledge practically, and perfect their skills.

I know this seems improbable-many people feel, as the public school system does, that if you do not regulate and monitor a child's education that they will not get one-but if you think about it without that preconceived notion for a moment, it will might make sense to you. You know that your children are curious-all children are. You know that your children learn all kinds of things just by watching and doing and experiencing life with your encouragement and under your guidance-you can see them using every skill and knowledge tidbit they acquire. Now think-why wouldn't a curious child want to learn how to read? [How many times does a toddler/preschooler ask "what does this say?" If Monkey is any indication, .a LOT.] Why wouldn't a curious child want to understand numbers, or know how electricity works, or learn about how America became a country? Every single question a child asks is an opportunity to learn and grow....and by that measure most small children have several hundred opportunities a day!

Mommy, why is the sky blue? Why are we going to the store? What's that flag mean? What happened to my juice? Why do I have to eat broccoli? How far away does grandma live? Every one of those questions is a perfect learning opportunity!

I guess now is a good time to warn you that if you don't like responding-in depth-to 10,000 questions per day unschooling might not be for you. Actually, there are a lot of reasons that unschooling might not suit people. Even in the homeschooling community there aren't a lot of us. Many people prefer to track their child's progress with tests because they feel that will help them better assess their children's learning needs-and that is completely valid. Also there is a lot of concern that unschooling doesn't teach your children the "right" things at the "right" time, and to a point that concern is valid too. There have been children who were unschooled who didn't learn to read until they were 13 because they weren't interested in it until then. Of course the only child I knew who did that was enrolled at Harvard by 14, so he was obviously busy learning other things, but not all children who wait that long end up that way-most just learned later and go about a normal life. There can be learning gaps, or gaps between peers, while unschooling and that's why a lot of people don't do it.

In the end, every parent must do what they believe is best for their children-whether that is unschooling, traditional homeschooling, or public/private school. Every kid, and every family, is different and I have nothing but respect for everyone who does what they believe is in their family's best interest-whether or not that is the same as what I am doing in my family's best interest.

We just happen to LOVE unschooling~enough to post about it on a weekly basis!

This week we made Quiche Florentine-Cooking is always a great experience with ample opportunities for learning in many different subjects!

Getting out ingredients and supplies [Opportunity to learn about organization (how do we keep the kitchen clean), mechanics (why is the fridge cold?), science (why do we wash our hands), and helping others]

Combining the ingredients [Opportunity to learn about science (how and why things mix together (or don't)), spacial skills (stir BIG, stir little, stir clockwise/counterclockwise), reading (the recipe), math (measuring things out), and waiting/taking turns (your turn to stir, now my turn to stir).]

Cooking/Baking [Opportunity to learn about science (temperature and it's effects), also-especially for young ones who are not yet allowed to operate near a stove-this is an ideal time to talk about the history of this recipe (both cultural/historical and within your family).]

Another great thing about cooking with your kids is that it usually provides something hands on for kids to do at many different levels of development. Older kids can focus on technique (sauteing vs frying) and memorizing recipes to use when they leave home. Younger kids, like Monkey, can get their hands in there-stirring, spreading, this recipe he got to pat out the dough (and learn about shapes, texture, and size). He also got to draw a smiley face on the crust!

Another reason we love to cook with the kids is that it has practical application (everyone has to eat!) and it has a very tangible reward for everyone. Monkey got a rewarding sense of both accomplishment and capability looking at his creation....

The Bean got to practice focusing her eyes and recognizing voices..............

Even Baby Bug (who was napping during the actual cooking process) got to enjoy some delicious, nutritious food...[Please pay no attention to the mass of toys on the table-Monkey is going through a collecting/hoarding/organizing phase.]

And-oh joy!-there was even enough left over for Mommy and Daddy. YUM! Also worth noting, this recipe got the kids to HAPPILY-dare I even say greedily-ingest spinach. Educational, nutritional, and kid friendly?! It's a miracle meal, I tell you.

Please steal the miracle meal-I hope you enjoy the process AND it's delicious results with your kids!

Easy Quiche Florentine
[Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees]
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 + 1 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

Mix flour and salt, cut in butter, add water one tbsp at a time until dough is cohesive but not sticky. Bake in a 9 inch pie plate for 8-10 minutes.

2 tbsp minced onion
1/4 cup butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup milk
4-5 beaten eggs
10 oz spinach, steamed and chopped
1/2 cup cooked bacon crumbles
1 cup swiss cheese

Beat eggs in a medium bowl, and set aside. Saute onion in butter. Blend in flour, salt, pepper. Add milk and cook stirring constantly until smooth and thick. Gradually add mix to eggs, then return entire mixture to pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in all ingredients except cheese. Pour into crust, top with cheese, and bake for 25-30 minutes.


RamblingMother said...

great recipe. I am gonna try it. stopping by from SITS, by the way.

Lisa has 6 daughters said...

awesome post. We're unschoolers, too and my 6yr old is currently teaching herself how to read, spell &write. She walks around with a notepad asking everyone in the house "How do you spell 'market' and if she has a question about how a letter is shaped, she asks. No rote memorization or drill, just a desire to communicate in writing. Each day she has less words that she asks about, because she has memorized a lot. We talk about phonics & sometimes if no one can answer her question, or if she wants to write a secret or surprise note, she sounds the words out.

Kris said...

Your quiche looks divine! We fall somewhere between unschoolers and your typical homeschoolers...somewhere directly in the middle's things like this that almost make me wish they weren't going to public school this fall. Thanks for sharing!!

Equidae said...

its an innovative way of least I had never heard of it...but yes it does make sense andf although i will send my kid to a normal school when the time comes i will give him a lot of unschooling when at home :)

Mrs. M said...

RamblingMother-Thank you for stopping by :) We love the recipe because it's tasty and can be made start to finish in under an hour (when you don't have little hands doing the work).

Lisa has 6 daughters-Yay! Another unschooler! Monkey is also learning to read/write/spell. He carries around his Magna Doodle and writes notes, signs, lists, announcements (pretty much all phonetically spelled)...I love seeing their minds work like that, don't you? I would love to see you around for Mondays Our Way on a regular basis!

Kris-Sometimes it's hard to determine what's best for your family because you feel like there are so many good options! Just remember that whatever you choose to do now doesn't have to be a lifetime commitment. There is no reason you couldn't homeschool or unschool later if you wanted to!

Equidae-Not a lot of people have heard of unschooling...usually it's just other homeschoolers who know what it is. Thank you for stopping by!

Your cool friend Cheryl said...

Stopping by from sits...great post! We're debating homeschooling in the future.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I found you through SITS and am so glad I did. I'm an unschooler too. well, kind of.
I just feel in my heart that we are all co-learners and I reject the top-down, industrialized education model. I want to nurture my kids natural curiosity and give them the confidence that comes from knowing that their thoughts, ideas, opinions and desires are respected and valued.