As you probably have heard if you've been around here long, we are unschoolers. (That's the whole point of Mondays Our Way.) The truth is, there are a lot of definitions for 'unschooling'-what one parent considers unschooling another more "radical" unschooler may not. Some unschoolers use textbooks, some do not. Some use projects, some do not. Some allow anything within the boundaries of what they consider potentially educational, some allow anything period. There is a very broad spectrum among unschoolers, but the basic founding principle of unschooling is that learning should be child led.
Hubby and I believe that children, left to their own natural devices, will use their natural curiosity and desire to understand in order to learn everything they need to know-and that we as the parents are here simply to introduce as many interesting and educational ideas and activities as possible in order to inspire our children. We don't believe in begging, requiring, or coercing our kids into desk and paper schoolwork, and think that children learn better in a less rigid environment.
The trouble with kids is they always want to do whatever it is you're not doing. That's why yesterday Monkey approached me and we had this conversation:
Monkey: Mommy, you're my teacher, right?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Monkey: You're the best teacher ever Mommy.
Me: Thank you sweetheart. You're a very good learner.
Monkey: Mommy? When can we start school?
Me: We are learning all the time! Remember just yesterday we learned the Chinese word for happy, and the day before that we learned about butterfly pupae. Wasn't that fun?
Monkey: Yeah.....but I want to do school.
Me: Oh really? What part of school would you like to do?
Monkey: I want to have a backpack. With stuff in it. And a special time to sit and write in my book. And a chart to tell me what my school job is.
Me: Well, that sounds really interesting.
Inside Voice Me: That doesn't really sound like unschooling.
So what do we do as people who believe in unstructured child led education when our child leads us into structured learning? We do it. What other choice do we have? I still don't plan on administering any tests (and I doubt Monkey will ask for them) and I certainly don't plan on having instruction times with me talking and Monkey just sitting there staring at me....but I do want to respect his wishes. This is the time where we really need to buckle down and accept that child led learning might look different than we thought it would. That our children will create their own definition of their unschooling experience, and that sometimes that definition might turn out differently we had ever planned.
So far, this is how I think I will meet the needs he expressed to me-Monkey and I are going to go to the store and buy some special school supplies. Then, together, we're going to make a chart with a list of projects on it, and then we're going to then set up a special "school time" during the day (probably when the girls are down for nap) when Monkey can choose a project that he would like to work on for "school".
Is that structured enough to count as school in the mind of a child who has never been to a public education institution? I hope so-but I'm bracing myself for even more of the unexpected, and learning to let go and trust that Monkey will choose to learn in a way that is most beneficial to him. After all, child led means child led.