Unschooling Math

A Few Words (and symbols) About Unschooling Math:
By Luz Shosie

Fingers & toes A pattern blocks, two by two, 4X4, narrow gauge, ruler, tape measure #scale, model, profit (loss), earn, spend $ save, interest, checkbook, recipe, batting average, Captain May I? soccer, baseball, basketball, love § fault, birdie, strike, spare, first and ten, penalty box w map, compass, Pokémon, Candyland, Monopoly, Go, Chess v Sorry!, dominoes, dice, poker chips, Bridge, Crazy Eights, Go Fish, graphs, charts, Origami, mileage, knit 1 purl 2, weave, weigh ¶ motor, engine, pulley, ratio, odds, chances, statistics P average, more or less, even, odd, yards, N scale, circumference, volume, area, score, speed limit, braking distance, fourth dimension ( sixth sense, Indy 500, build, plan, rate ¥ estimate, predict, revise, garden, yardage, height, depth, angle, trade, straight, curve, spiral, high tide, low ball, tempo % quarter note, half pound, temperature, weather forecast, bargain, budget, price, half off, plus tax, sequence, seven percent solution N hundred percent markup, latitude, longitude y light years, escape velocity, precession of the equinoxes (oh Best Beloved) * range, set, stitch, sort, size, tally, calculator, plot, dozen % gain, lose, exactly, approximately, income, borrow, allowance, loan, design, diagram, knots, beads, gear ratio, minutes, degrees # timer, computer, fathoms, grid ø meters, Anno, The Number Devil, half pipe, quarter turn, double time, full bore, safe speed - turning radius, blocks, stacking, nesting, measure up @ scale down, abacus, credit, debit, limit, infinity, first class, third rate, equal share, short shrift, waxing, waning u phase, rhythm, balance, cycle, magnitude, perspective, value, graph, apogee, perigee, frequency, rotation, revolution 8 dollars, cents, pennies, wooden nickels, full deck, full house, double helix £ time zone, millennium, program ø binary, generation, epoch, era, nano second, code, puzzle, calendar, fiscal year, progression, midpoint, watts, lumens * horsepower, ohms, Great Circle Route, 52 Pickup, ‘55 Chevy, Hundredth Monkey, altitude, make change, Lego, shopping, Tangrams & Battleships, Fibonacci series, checkers, speed, height, width, length, volume, latitude, sphere, output, displacement, schedule ] time limit, collection, add up, count down . age, four score, last full measure, census, Are we there yet? dance, a bushel and a peck, postage, efficient operation, elegant solution, gigabytes, google, Powers of Ten Q increase <>

More About Unschooling Math


Be Content Where You Are

I snapped this picture of TJ (one of our dogs) and Buddie (our iguana), each wanting to be where the other one was. It made me laugh watching them look at each other through the glass, but it also made me think about being content with where I am in my life.

I don't think being content with your life means you don't strive to better yourself or your situation. For me, being content means even though there are things I'm working towards changing, my happiness doesn't depend on it.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
-- Socrates

I'd like to share an article with you, from one of my favorite blogs Zen Habits about, that talks about living a life of contentment.

Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment
by Leo Babauta

This fantastic quote summarizes something that I’ve been trying to focus on recently in my daily life:

“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly with ease, in mindfulness,
so not do any tasks with the goal of getting them over with.
Resolve to each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

In our daily lives, we often rush through tasks, trying to get them done, trying to finish as much as we can each day, speeding along in our cars to our next destination, rushing to do what we need to do there, and then leaving so that we can speed to our next destination.

Unfortunately, it’s often not until we get to our final destination that we realize what madness this all is.

At the end of the day, we’re often exhausted and stressed out from the grind and the chaos and the busy-ness of the day. We don’t have time for what’s important to us, for what we really want to be doing, for spending time with loved ones, for doing things we’re passionate about.

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to live a simpler life, one where you enjoy each activity, where you are present in everything (or most things) you do, where you are content rather than rushing to finish things.

If that appeals to you, let’s take a look at some suggestions for living a simple, peaceful, content life:

What’s important. First, take a step back and think about what’s important to you. What do you really want to be doing, who do you want to spend your time with, what do you want to accomplish with your work? Make a short list of 4-5 things for your life, 4-5 people you want to spend time with, 4-5 things you’d like to accomplish at work.

Examine your commitments. A big part of the problem is that our lives are way too full. We can’t possibly do everything we have committed to doing, and we certainly can’t enjoy it if we’re trying to do everything. Accept that you can’t do everything, know that you want to do what’s important to you, and try to eliminate the commitments that aren’t as important.

Do less each day. Don’t fill your day up with things to do. You will end up rushing to do them all. If you normally try (and fail) to do 7-10 things, do 3 important ones instead (with 3 more smaller items to do if you get those three done). This will give you time to do what you need to do, and not rush.

Leave space between tasks or appointments. Another mistake is trying to schedule things back-to-back. This leaves no cushion in case things take longer than we planned (which they always do), and it also gives us a feeling of being rushed and stressed throughout the day. Instead, leave a good-sized gap between your appointments or tasks, allowing you to focus more on each one, and have a transition time between them.

Eliminate as much as possible from your to-do list. You can’t do everything on your to-do list. Even if you could, more things will come up. As much as you can, simplify your to-do list down to the essentials. This allows you to rush less and focus more on what’s important.

Now, slow down and enjoy every task. This is the most important tip in this article. Read it twice. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a work task or taking a shower or brushing your teeth or cooking dinner or driving to work, slow down.

Try to enjoy whatever you’re doing. Try to pay attention, instead of thinking about other things. Be in the moment. This isn’t easy, as you will often forget. But find a way to remind yourself. Unless the task involves actual pain, there isn’t anything that can’t be enjoyable if you give it the proper attention.

Single-task. This is kind of a mantra of mine, as I talk about how to single-task all the time. But it’s an important point for me, and for this article. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

Eat slower. This is just a more specific application of Tip #6, but it’s something we do every day, so it deserves special attention. See this article for more.

Drive slower. Another application of the same principle, driving is something we do that’s often mindless and rushed. Instead, slow down and enjoy the journey.
Eliminate stress. Find the stressors in your life, and find ways to eliminate them.

Create time for solitude. In addition to slowing down and enjoying the tasks we do, and doing less of them, it’s also important to just have some time to yourself.

Do nothing. Sometimes, it’s good to forget about doing things, and do nothing.

Sprinkle simple pleasures throughout your day. Knowing what your simple pleasures are, and putting a few of them in each day, can go a long way to making life more enjoyable.

Practice being present. You can practice being in the moment at any time during the day.

Find inspirations. Learn from the best.

Make frugality an enjoyable thing too. Instead of delayed gratification, try enjoying life now while saving for later.


Unschooling Voices

Just a mid-month reminder to send in your entries in for the next edition of Unschooling Voices. Click the link for details.
If you want to submit using blogcarnival.com, we have a widget in the left sidebar or you can email:
unschoolingvoices AT yahoo

Also, if you're interested in hosting, please leave a comment! :-)


Sometimes It Gets Cold In Florida

Cold enough to break out with the coats, gloves and hats!!!

Sometimes you need a warm hug from big sister to get the chill out of your bones. :-)


Quotes by John Holt

John Holt was at one time, a fifth grade teacher who went on to write How Children Fail and How Children Learn. He eventually quit teaching and became a speaker and supporter of education reform and went on to write several more books. Deciding that schools could not be reformed, he focused his energies on alternatives to conventional schooling. He founded Growing Without Schooling, America's first homeschooling magazine and continued writing until his death in 1985.

"The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners."

"...the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don't know."

"It's not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a wrong idea from the word go. It's a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life."

"The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how to behave when we don't know what to do"

"To parents I say, above all else, don't let your home become some terrible miniature copy of the school. No lesson plans! No quizzes! No tests! No report cards! Even leaving your kids alone would be better; at least they could figure out some things on their own. Live together, as well as you can; enjoy life together, as much as you can."

"Children do not need to be made to learn to be better, told what to door shown how. If they are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world then anyone else could make for them"

"True learning - learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning -- can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner"

“It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, nonschool parts of our lives.”

"What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out."


Join Our Adoption Forums!

Our new adoption forums are ready for you to join!

When the Forever Parents adoption forums was first created in 2002, we started on the msn boards, but quickly out grew them and moved to ezboard in 2003, where we've been...until last week. We've joined the big leagues and are hosting our own forum (phpBB) on a shared (for now-maybe a dedicated one will be in our future) server (host gator).

Our adoption community supports and encourages adoptive and waiting families in a private setting. There are lots of issues that we, as adoptive and waiting families, face that cannot be discussed on a public adoption message board or adoption blog because we're to busy having to defend our choices to people that only want to criticize and judge. So, out of that, Forever Parents was born, and now we take our next step.

If you've adopted or are in the process of adopting, come join us! We have a great group of members and we represent all sides of adoption (open. closed, domestic, international older child, infant). We also have general discussion areas for when we want to just kick back and chat. You'll find support, friendship, understanding and compassion...all the things that we need while on our journey.

The process of joining is simple:
1) Register your account and check your e-mail for an activation link.
2) Log in and post your introduction in the forum titled "Request Access Here". It'll be the only forum you can see at that point.
3) Once you've been approved, we'll move your thread inside and give you access to the rest of the forums.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them here and I'll do my best to help you. Spread the word!!

Here's the link!
Adoption Forums

See you there!! :-)


Unschooling Math

When my daughter Jacqueline was seven years old, she asked if I could buy some stories that explained various math concepts. She was becoming more and more interested in how math fit into her world and had started to take notice of it in movies, TV shows and by watching my husband & I. She had a basic understanding of addition and telling time but she was more interested in math as a whole, not broken down into subjects.

After a few online searches, we bought
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table, Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi and The Grapes Of Math. Not only were these books visually appealing and creative, they were fun also!

It wasn't until I started to understand the principles of unschooling that I saw math in a diffferent light. School has a way of making so many children think they're failures in math, when in fact, they're not. They're just not learning it the way school is teaching it.

Now, at nine years old, she has no fear of math. She now wants to learn calculus after watching Apollo 13. She invests in the stock market and has her own Ameritrade account. She found out that the calculator on our PC has a scientific mode and loves to play around with it. She wants to understand E=mc2. This, from a child that has never been forced to learn math. She just thinks it's fun to learn this stuff. It's interesting to her.

Collection of Thoughts on Unschooling Math:

I'd like to share something that I had saved when I first began unschooling. It's an exchange (from the old boards at unschooling.com) between a member who was having some concerns (whose posts are in italics) and
Joyce Fetteroll.

**I have a degree in computer engineering from MIT and there are definitely prereqs. in math that I think my son would need for most math, science, engineering, or computer majors.**

Joyce: I have a degree in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. I certainly agreed with your assumptions about math when I first started reading about unschooling. I, too, was a victim of contextless, rote-learned math. It really seemed the only way. There were specific ways to do addition, multiplication, division, and on up the math scale that just had to be explained step by step and sat down and practiced ad nauseum. And what child was going to put in all those necessary hours on her own?

It took me several years of reading what other unschoolers had to say but it really wasn't until I saw my daughter actually manipulating numbers without being specifically shown how that I understood how unschooling could work with math.

The problem with school math, and as far as I've seen all math curriculums, is they start kids off immediately with the abstract. A child may be able to see they have one brother and one sister and therefore have two siblings, or one gray cat and one yellow cat to make two cats, but put 1+1 on paper it becomes incredibly abstract. Why would anyone want to add 73+48? The process is meaningless. The answer is meaningless. It has no context.

Many math programs do have kids adding sorting bears or manipulating rods or any number of other hands-on things, but they're still basically meaningless. The teacher has created the problem and dumped it on the child. Why does anyone want to know how many blue bears there are? Why are the red and blue bears being added together?

Now, on the other hand, my daughter is quite intrigued to find out how many Jurassic dinos she has versus Triassic. How many plant eaters versus meat eaters. (And whatever other classifications she can come up with, limited only by her imagination -- versus the 2 or 3 categories of the sorting bears.) How many years separated the various ages of the dinos. The heights and weights of them.

And though counting and graphing M&M's by number and color seems the same as doing these same things with the counting bears, it's not. She's gaining information in the form of patterns and relationships (that are often expressed as numbers) about her own world, things *she* cares about.

Obviously there's only so far counting will get you in life ;-) but we manipulate all sorts of numbers in her life and I make sure she's immersed in patterns and relationships between various things in her life for her to examine (or not). Like fractions in cooking and time: "Since the cup is dirty, how can I make 1 1/2 cups?" "The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon but we're cutting it in half. And a Tablespoon is 3 teaspoons. So what would that be?" "It's an hour and a half or 3 Bill Nyes until Daddy comes home." "It's 20 minutes or a third of an hour until Xena comes on." Though learning to take 1/3 of 60 is more universally applicable, she can *feel* the 20 minutes wait out of 60 minutes and she can get the feel that fractions are ways of relating one thing to another. Decimals come up with money. Percentages come up with sales, tax, food labels, possibility of winning a contest, shrinking an image in a paint program.

She's gaining a feel for the contexts the various concepts are used in, she sees me manipulating them and helping her manipulate them. And in the course she's adding pieces to the puzzle of her world, making new patterns and relationships clearer.

Up until recently we've done zero in the way of formal math. Only a few months ago she wasn't totally consistent on her addition but I asked her if she knew what 8x5 was. She said that was 16 +16 + 8. *Not* 8+8+8+8+8, which would have been a good answer showing she understood the concept of multiplication, but she manipulated the numbers properly into something she could feel more intuitively.

Recently she has been doing paper and pencil math under protest. Sort of.

She wants to earn money for Pokemon cards. I buy the packs at any where from $4-$6 a piece, pull out the trainer cards and then calculate how much she needs to pay for each Pokemon card. (Or have her do it for a whole card, though that's still a bit beyond her true understanding even if she does get the answer right.) I suggested all sorts of household tasks for her to earn 25 cents or a dollar or whatever which were met with groans. (She even turned down *$2* to clean out the floor of my car! ;-) I suggested she do pages in the Miquon math workbooks that have been gathering dust on the shelf at 10 cents per page. Being a low energy child (like her mother ;-) she usually opts for the math.

She's getting *much* better at the pages, but I can still see a huge difference between what she does on paper versus what she does with the real meaningful numbers in her life. She quickly calculates in her head how much she's earned and how much she needs and how much she'll have left over after buying a card, tells me how many 36 cent cards she can get with her $2 allowance versus how many 41 cent ones. (And she does this without drills and without pages of workbook practice, just from messing around with the numbers in her life in a very low key way -- the stuff she's doing in the workbooks is actually much simpler.) She told me the way she figured out 16+16 was it was just 10+10 then 6+6 which is 12 which is 10+2, so that was 10+10+10+2 or 32. She's discovering for herself how to break numbers apart and play around with them. And she *knows* why someone would want to do that. If it were taught in a book, it would take weeks and most kids would still be baffled about what the purpose of it was.

Pencil and paper math and head math *are* different. The pencil and paper math are a new language she's learning. And yet, I'm quite confident if we had gone on without much pencil and paper stuff (other than the normal things that come up in life) she would have caught onto it *way* quicker in a couple of years without the agony she was putting herself through.

But that's obviously a far way from algebra and trig and calc.

Someone pointed out that algebra is just figuring out what you don't know from what you do know. Now how did I get all the way through engineering school without realizing that insight? Maybe because I enjoyed identifying the problem types and figuring out which methodology to apply to them. It didn't make any difference whether I truly understood why I was doing what I was doing. The fun was it worked. Because that's how algebra is taught. It's all about practicing manipulating different types of equations. It's not about what those equations mean. Or why anyone would want to write a quadratic equation let alone solve it. It's all just preparation for potential contexts. But the equations themselves have no context. They're meaningless. (Unless you're one of the "good" ones who rise to the surface through this bizarre math-teaching process just because you happen to like to manipulate equations for the sake of manipulating equations.)

Quadratic equations don't come up in real life often, but I can help my daughter to think algebraically when we tackle real life problems. (I may be doing it already unconsciously, but you'll have to wait a few years for me to be conscious enough of it to provide real life examples of her using it. ;-)

Of course that isn't enough to get her into CMU. Or into MIT either ;-)

Now, given the choice, I'm quite certain I wouldn't have gotten in enough math on my own to get into CMU. So what makes me certain my daughter will?

Well, I'm *not* certain, but what leads me to believe that my daughter's outlook will be different is, for one thing, I was the victim of force-fed learning. I needed to be force fed math because I'd always been force fed learning. I needed to be force fed school math because it had no relationship to my own world. I didn't *need* it. I can't imagine learning what I learned on my own because the only thing I have to base my imaginings on are the process I went through.

What I *can* imagine, though, is being so intrigued by something that the math gets learned because it makes what I'm interested in make sense. I *can* imagine forcing myself to learn something in order to achieve something else. (HTML comes to mind ;-) Though that was more a combination of both of them.)

What my daughter has going for her is a different experience with math. Other than the workbook pages :-P, she's used to seeing math as a tool. She's used to using math because she wants the information it can give her. So when she gets to high school, she won't have the memory of 8 previous years of drudgework associated with math.

She'll also have a better foundation of understanding what she's doing. Though she might be behind her PS counterparts in calculation speed, she'll be ahead in understanding what the processes mean. (But the speed will depend on her. If she feels working around gaps in her multiplication tables is more annoying than learning the tables -- and if she knows that drilling them or doing other things will help her (and it's my job to help her learn to identify when a problem exists and to seek out solutions) -- then she'll learn them. If not, she won't. (*I* still have gaps in my tables.)

So she'll hit her high school years with a different attitude towards math and learning math. (And this really applies to *all* subjects.)

But will she be able to pick up all the math she needs to get into college just by living? Well, yes and no.

This is where it gets hard to explain because our thinking is based on oodles more assumptions.

It's so easy to project a schooled teen (which includes most of us) as a normal teen and assume all kids given the chance will watch TV and eat concoctions centering on sugar, fat and salt all day and want nothing more in life than 256 channels and a clicker in the hand ;-) That behavior is caused by the stress of school (and a lot of other factors. I have another rant about being forced to spend 12 years working towards a vague goal that someone else has chosen for you. ;-) But in an environment where the adults and everyone else in the family are curious about life, where everyone's interests are taken seriously (even the so-called non-educational ones), the kids are actively curious too. There's no reason for them to want to shut their brains down as a life's goal. (Which doesn't mean my daughter doesn't watch TV. At times she even watches a lot of TV. But she chooses it for other reason than shutting off the world. (Though that's a legitimate use too. It's just that she doesn't have to spend a goodly portion of her free time recovering from 6 hours of force fed learning in a high-stress environment everyday.)

Had unschooling been thrust upon me as a teen, I imagine I would have spent as much time as possible doing nothing. It's hard to imagine a teen learning on their own something that we ourselves would avoid. It seems obvious that given the choice most teens would avoid Shakespeare or American History or Algebra or whatever school made us hate because we know *we'd* avoid it. But, given a choice, would we have avoided it because it's inherently dull or because school made it dull? It isn't fair to assume the behavior of a schooled teen is normal behavior. The only experience schooled kids have had with most subjects is dull textbooks. The life has been sucked out of all subjects for them. Why *would* they pursue them on their own? Especially if they assume the only way to learn them in a worthwhile way is the way schools teach them?

There's no reason for my daughter to avoid learning because she's never been forced to do it. To her learning is something you do to find out more about what you're interested in and to become better at it. It's not something someone makes you do because they tell you you need it.

She *will* avoid learning in ways that aren't natural for her or don't suit her needs. Some kids like workbooks. That doesn't make them better learners than those kids who don't. It just means they learn differently. She *will* avoid learning anything that isn't relevant to what she wants to do or is interested in. Which makes parents nervous for two reasons:

1) What if she never gets interested? It's possible she won't on her own. But it's my job/pleasure to run as much of the world in front of her as possible. The broader her experiences, the more likely something will connect to something else in her life and be relevant. (Though I can't depend on when.) Everything is connected to everything else. And everything relevant is inherently interesting.

*But* it's also possible she won't get interested in something "important". Math? Writing? Chemistry? If she has absolutely no interest in it, then it's unlikely she'll be drawn to a profession that needs it to an extent greater than she can pick up by living. Though she won't leave the house without being able to figure out sales tax or write a letter to a friend or know that baking powder is important in cookies because she'll have used those. She'll have enough to get by. But it's possible she'll need higher math than she has. Or better writing skills. Or an entire chemistry course. Well, if it's just chemistry standing in her way, wouldn't it make sense for her to go down to the community college and take it rather than deciding on a different career just because of one course? And if that's too much trouble, how much did she want that career anyway?

But math and writing? Well, I hope something I'm saying here helps you see why I believe there's a middle ground between "no math" and 4 years of high school math from textbooks. And writing I talk about below.

2) And the second reason it makes parents nervous is supposedly there are things kids need to learn that they won't need until college. And supposedly it takes 12 years to learn them.

But does it? Does it take 12 years to learn math? Or does it take 12 years for *schools* to force feed a child math (and writing and history, et al) by the methods they need to use to force feed 30 kids at a time? Methods which are also limited to ways that can result in outcomes that can be tested to demonstrate progress. Also limited only to methods that must be progressive along a specific track so the next year's teacher can pick up where the previous teacher left off. Does *math* need taught that way? Or do schools need to teach it that way to satisfy the needs of schools as assembly lines?

In a way, school math is rather like learning to spell thousands of words and decline hundreds of verbs of a foreign language without hearing that foreign language spoken. The rationale being that once all the parts are learned, the whole can be built from that. But how many kids survive the rote process? How many kids conclude not before long that the language is useless because the parts have no meaning? My daughter is hearing the language and using it, without formally declining the verbs and learning the spellings. Even if she'd never been exposed to reading it (but already had the decoding skills from reading English) how long would it take her to learn to read that foreign language after having learned it from using it?

Once my daughter has a thorough understanding of what it means to do division, she won't need umpty gajillion problems to practice. Once she has a thorough understanding of problems with a range of potential solutions (programming and robotics come right to mind), and has encountered and understood powers and negative numbers she won't need years of practice to grasp algebra.

My job is to make sure there are reasons in my daughter's environment to need the skills and see them being used. (Just as I talked to her well before she could talk.) Though she finds a lot of uses for the skills on her own, given the freedom to do so. There's no reason for her to avoid writing or reading or math (until the workbooks) on her own because she's never been forced to do them. The hard part is waiting for *her* timescale. I need to wait until these things are internally important to her. I can't worry, well, she's 8 now and should be doing ... because natural learning doesn't have anything to do with calendars and time schedules. It has to do with needs.

If she has a goal in mind, she won't have anything except natural barriers between her and it. She won't have what someone thinks she needs to get there and someone else's *way* she needs to get it standing in her way. If she decides to become a vet, she'll know what colleges require for her to get there. *If* her desire is strong enough, she'll learn what she needs to learn because she wants what the learning can get for her. (Desire is an incredible motivator.) *And* most importantly she'll have better resources to achieve it than sitting down with a textbook and slogging through it. (Though that's an option too. Fortunately she won't have the history of slogging through textbooks putting up a psychological barrier for her.) She'll have a good foundation of *understanding* math concepts and will see it and other math being used (and use it herself) as she explores what it takes to be a vet: taking care of animals, working in a vet office or a horse stable.

**So, if your kids aren't prepared enough to go to a university, then you assume that they will be motivated to study once they get rejected?**

The answer to this one is probably obvious from the above. No, I don't expect rejection to spur her. I expect wanting to do something will spur her to do something. And perhaps that something won't even be college. I too had visions of my daughter going onto CMU or MIT. But now my vision has shifted from preparing her to be anything she wants to be to helping her be the best her she can be. Yet I'm not sitting around waiting to pounce on her interests to nurture them. I'm also directing things through her world that I think are important or I think will interest her. When (if ever) she picks up on them is up to her. The more important I think something is, the more likely I'll keep directing it in her path in a way that will interest her, or connect it to something she is interested in.

** We do provide a very stimulating environment. We have books and materials everywhere. Lots of interesting folks float in and out of our home and office. While my 9 yo son likes to read and mess around with the computer, he wouldn't ever just open up a math book.**

Nor would most kids. For a child to choose the more formal learning in a book requires an interest and need that the book can fulfill. The environment may be there, but he's not ready to ask the questions that the books will answer for him. Or he may be discovering the answers on his own through self-discovery or talking to people. Unfortunately for nervous parents, you can't put unschooling on a time schedule. You can't set up the environment and expect there to be a specific outcome at a specific time. (Though I can just about guarantee that if the innate talent or desire is in him for what the computers and people and books can provide, by the time he's 14 he'll have sucked the environment for all it's worth ;-) 9 is way too soon for most kids to be doing more than playing around with things and exploring broadly. They may be delving deeply into some things, but the cognitive development necessary to make them open a math book for information just isn't there until the teen years. (Of course there're always exceptions. But do the exceptions mean that the nonexceptions are falling behind? Or are the nonexceptions just learning other perhaps less obvious things? A HS'd friend of my daughter's has *at 8* read all the Little House books and all their sequels and is well into other historical novels. Am I jealous? Well, yeah, of course ;-) Yet my daughter is, less obviously, picking up bits and pieces of world and American history. She's gaining a broad overview of it all, expanding some bits here and there as she finds out more about someone or something she's heard interesting things about. Is one learner better than the other or are they just different?)

**My son also wouldn't write anything on paper, which I understand is fairly typical for boys. Writing skills don't progress overnight.**

Who says? Okay, not overnight, but does it take *years* of practice? Or does it take years of *using* the skills in ways that are meaningful for the learner?

**Are you saying that I should encourage, but not demand? I am still missing something in terms of how this unschooling plays out.**

How well would you learn Hindi if someone decided it would be important for your future because they used Hindi in their lives and so made you practice for the next 10 years? Wouldn't your goal be to learn as little as possible to satisfy them? But if you were moving to India, then wouldn't learning Hindi take *way* less time?

What your son needs is being immersed in an environment where it's important to communicate his ideas. He also needs to see others using communication in a meaningful way and to read and hear others communicating in various ways. When *he* needs to communicate using the written word, he will.

In the meantime, you can make sure he has access to the skills. Listen to a variety of things: conversation, books and books on tape, comic books, movies (reading the scripts of favorites is really cool), plays, puppet shows, poetry, folk tales, nonfiction, cereal boxes, TV Guide, political talk shows, lyrics, ministers, magazine articles, Nintendo magazine, science shows, letters to the editor. *Anything* as long as he's interested. He needs to hear good (and bad) literature so his ear can learn the rhythms of language. I've pointed out to my daughter why it's tough for me to read the Magic Tree House books outloud to her and she can now pick up on parts that sound awkward. (It wasn't a lesson, just an outgrowth of a natural discussion. Which is probably the heart of unschooling: just talking naturally about things that happen along. Despite the fact that I'm not a great talker, some amazing things have come up in conversation.) It has probably inadvertently sowed the seed of her being more conscious of there being a range of how well written things are. She would have learned that anyway though perhaps unconsciously.

(That "happen along" part of unschooling is misleading. It's not that I'm leaving things to chance, nor am I deliberately bringing something in as a lesson. I direct a lot of things her way and just from experience know that from the wealth of things, there will be unexpected learning. Nothing I can plan though. She learned more than anyone would imagine from a few weeks watching Gilligan's Island. ;-)

Writing is just talking on paper. You're trying to see where someone mentally is relative to where you intend your words to take them and then you plan out a course to get them there. Talk to your son. Ask him to explain what he's doing and ask questions to help him learn to order his thoughts and learn to see from the point of view of who he's communicating with rather than from his own position. (But only ask if you're interested. Kids have good radar for lessons masked as conversation ;-)

Unless someone has gotten the idea that writing is hard by being forced to write before they are ready or need to, or being forced to write in ways that aren't natural to them, once they realize it's just talking on paper, that little extra step is hardly any step at all. There's additional skills they can learn, like how to organize their thoughts for something longer, but it's not a skill that needs 12 years of practice. (A schooled friend of my daughter's came over to play with my daughter and they decided to make books together. The schooled girl told her there were all these things you had to do: title page, a plan, and some other things. My daughter said "Oh," and just made books. The schooled girl never did finish. Merely an anecdote that may mean nothing, but it is a piece of data.)

I think it only takes years to learn to write when people are forced to write things they don't care about. Where does most writing practice end up? In the trash, right? Real writing should make a difference in people's lives. Sure there's project reports and documentation to write, but do we need to force kids to write boring stuff so they'll be prepared to write boring stuff?

High school is when it's more common for kids to feel the need to put words on paper. But, again, they need real reasons. Perhaps letters of complaint about a product, letters to the editor, a family newsletter, a pen pal, email, message boards, an article for the local paper, or one of the websites out there that kids can submit their writing to.

But many of these things can be "laying around" for him right now, suggested when it's possible he'd be interested. And dropped when he's not or carried as far as his interest carries him. As long as he sees writing as purposeful, then there won't be anything other than natural barriers between him and putting words to paper.

**Studies I have read show that certain windows open for certain math concepts at specific times. There seems to be accumulating evidence for a certain scope and sequence for math too. I am talking primarily about getting skills so you can do higher level math.**

The studies, of course, are based on kids whose basically only exposure to math is in school. Math to them is artificial, irrelevant to their own world. How many parents are helping their kids use the math that's all around them? Math, to most kids (and adults!) is just the stuff in math books.

But, my daughter *is* being exposed to math right now, using it in ways that are meaningful to her. She's using the skills she needs right now. I'm not sitting around waiting for her to pick up a math text.

So, yes, there probably is a window of opportunity for math knowledge. But there's no way to miss it if a child's curiosity is being fed and she is immersed in the language of math. There's a window for learning to speak too, but the only way to miss that is by not speaking to the child. As long as we speak math to our kids, they'll learn the parts they are developmentally ready for.

**What if she chooses no math? How do you handle that?**

Obviously she hasn't yet. It is possible she'll decide to be a painter and won't need math beyond consumer math and what's relevant to the science of color. But she'll have been exposed to fun stuff like Fibonacci numbers and probabilities and algebraic thought. But, honestly, how many people need algebra? Why torment a child with "what if" when it's more likely to cause them to dislike the subject than to learn it?

**If I tell my wife that I want to try this unschooling approach starting tomorrow, then what we would do at 8 AM?**

Sleep? Eat? Watch TV? Go outside and enjoy the sun shining through the trees? Read a book?

**Would my son choose when he gets up?**

Unless he stops breathing, he's always weighing his options and making choices. They may not be the choices *you'd* want him to make. But, what if you knew your wife had an agenda for you and there were "right" choices in her eyes and "wrong" choices and you knew she was weighing the choices you were making against her idea of "right" and "wrong" and judging the quality of your choices? How would that affect your relationship? I assume there are some things you each do to please the other, but they are *still* choices. The more pressure someone feels from the other to make the choices the other wants them to make, the more strain there is in the relationship.

**Would he choose what he wants to learn? Should we let him mess with the Star Wars games on the computer all day? I am going to go out on a limb and guess you would say that he would eventually get bored and look for something else to do or that I should keep offering interesting tidbits he couldn't resist?**

Yup. If he's interested, he's learning. It may be hard to see how what he's learning relates to what is "important" in life. In fact, it may only be relevant to his life right now. But it *is* relevant. It's nurturing the person he is now. I think we concentrate too much on moving kids along to what they should become and preparing them for that.

**What if he says he never wants to do writing ever?**

Well, what if? There's *plenty* of professions where people don't need to write. But do you really think that if he loves something that he will choose something else just because he doesn't want to write?

**We just wait him out until he thinks he needs it?**

And why shouldn't it be important that he write when he thinks he needs it? Why should it be *more* important that he write when *you* think he needs it? Wouldn't that mean when all kids hit 12 months we should *make* them walk because that's when kids need to walk, and we all know how important walking is so they should get started when we think it's important? Unless there's something physically wrong with them, or their environment discourages it, all kids do eventually learn to walk just because they feel the need to.

If someone made me write an essay on math and kids, it would be as short as possible to make them go away. But since I'm writing this "essay" to satisfy my own need to get all these thoughts in order, it's as long as it needs to be for me.

**Is it my role to lecture the benefits of the things I have to offer, but to back off if he doesn't want them?**

Lecture? Ick. How important would you feel something was if your wife decided to lecture you about it's importance? What would come across is her needing to *make* you feel the same way she does about something. And personally, when someone's trying to make me feel some way about something, I tend to work up the opposite feelings.

**So sorry. I should have read the whole post more carefully. My wife preached to me about that. OK. That is what you would do. I have a hard time with that one. I don't think you can play catch up in math and science all that fast. My opinion only.**

But I do have the advantage of seeing the same math being learned naturally *way* easier than it's being taught and learned in school. I have the advantage of reading other people's kids' experiences with unschooling math.

As for science, ah, I have a rant about that too ;-) The short version is, I think way too much emphasis is placed on memorizing the answers to questions kids haven't asked and way too little time on fostering scientific thinking and fostering a wonder about how the universe works. Once kids are curious, they'll want the facts. Once they want the facts, they go in so easily.

**I need to read a book about the day and the life of an unschooler in my spare time.**

Actually a day in the life of an unschooler looks a lot like summer days and weekends for other people. Unschooling isn't so much in what unschoolers do as in their attitude towards life and learning and how they're intertwined. Our conversations are our lessons without being lessons. Everytime my daughter spontaneously asks a question or tells me about an observation, that's a "test" that shows me unschooling is working. She may not be learning a set group of facts that others think are important and can test, but her questions and observations show she's *thinking* about what she's learning. For example, it's not so important that she learn that sound waves bounce off things because that can go in as a factoid without any real meaning or understanding behind it, but it is important that she bounced a ball off a wall and said that was like a sound wave. She's making connections.


Pam Sorooshian: Principles of Unschooling

I read a lot of essays and articles by Pam Sorooshian when I first started to unschool. I found her to be a great inspiration and she influenced me a great deal.

Principles of Unschooling:

Learning happens all the time. The brain never stops working and it is not possible to divide time up into "learning periods" versus "non-learning periods." Everything that goes on around a person, everything they hear, see, touch, smell, and taste, results in learning of some kind.

Learning does not require coercion. In fact, learning cannot really be forced against someone's will. Coercion feels bad and creates resistance.

Learning feels good. It is satisfying and intrinsically rewarding. Irrelevant rewards can have unintended side effects that do not support learning.

Learning stops when a person is confused. All learning must build on what is already known.

Learning becomes difficult when a person is convinced that learning is difficult. Unfortunately, most teaching methods assume learning is difficult and that lesson is the one that is really "taught" to the students.

Learning must be meaningful. When a person doesn't see the point, when they don't know how the information relates or is useful in "the real world," then the learning is superficial and temporary - not "real" learning.

Learning is often incidental. This means that we learn while engaged in activities that we enjoy for their own sakes and the learning happens as a sort of "side benefit."

Learning is often a social activity, not something that happens in isolation from others. We learn from other people who have the skills and knowledge we're interested in and who let us learn from them in a variety of ways.

We don't have to be tested to find out what we've learned. The learning will be demonstrated as we use new skills and talk knowledgeably about a topic,

Feelings and intellect are not in opposition and not even separate things. All learning involves the emotions, as well as the intellect.

Learning requires a sense of safety. Fear blocks learning. Shame and embarrassment, stress and anxiety - these block learning.

Pam runs a yahoo group called
No More Spanking that I recommend if you're looking for new ways to parent. Not only limited to spanking, here is the groups description:

The point of view of this list is that punishment may control a specific behavior but that it interferes with the long-term goal of promoting self-control and that alternative nonpunitive ways of relating to children are preferred. Punishment includes hitting, spanking, swatting, shaming, ridiculing, threatening, using harsh or cruel words, penalizing, holding back rewards, or other methods that assert adult power or vent adult frustration. We are seeking alternative approaches that provide guidance to our children that will encourage self-control, thinking before acting, learning to take responsibility for their own behavior, and especially that will promote a lifelong warm, close, and open relationship between parent and child.


Unschooling Voices #12, Squidoo Update, Twitter

Unschooling Voices Update:
For those who may not know yet, edition #12 of
Unschooling Voices has been published . Kim at Relaxed Homeskool did a great job hosting and I appreciate her help! Go to the main page of Unschooling Voices and click on #12 to read all the submissions. While you're there, take a look at Silvia's question for edition #13, which she's hosting at her blog. :-)

Squidoo Update:
A whole bunch of you submitted your unschooling links to
A Guide To Unschooling on Squidoo and they've all been added. I just also added two new sections:

1. A place to share the link to any Unschooling conferences or gatherings you may know of.
2. A spot to add your unschooling Flicr photos.

That page is growing more and more everyday! Take a look and please rate it while you're there (up towards the top-near the stars). You can also add the link to your (or your favorite) unschooling blogs, websites and magazines.

Spread The Word! :-)

Are you on Twitter? I just added the link to my
Twitter page in the right sidebar under "Also Find Me Here". Feel free to add me and I'll do the same. :-)


Winners in the "Why Homeschool Is Cool" Contest

I received this e-mail last week with the results from the Why Homeschool is Cool Video Contest. Some of the entries were fabulous and so creative!! My kids & I really enjoyed watching them.

Here is some information about a contest that Laurel Springs School, the leader in distance learning education, and YouTube held to get children who are homeschooled more involved with technology by creating their own videos on “Why Homeschool is Cool?”


Laurel Springs School Announces Winners of Homeschool Video Contest
Contest reveals freedom, flexibility and independence as reasons to choose homeschooling

OJAI, CA (PRWeb) January 22, 2008 -- Laurel Springs School, the leader in personalized distance learning education for K-12 students, today announced the winners of its first ever YouTube “Why Homeschool is Cool” video contest.

Hazel Newlevant, 15, of Portland, Oregon, an artistic and creative homeschool student, received the coveted grand prize title and $1,000 for her video entry entitled “What I like About Homeschooling.” Hazel drew black and white illustrations that she brought to life with full animation. The video expresses that the world is a homeschool student’s classroom, not a homeroom – showing that homeschool students can read, paint and do science experiments outside with other homeschool students. Hazel also provided the background piano music, Edvard Greig’s “Watchman's Song.”

“The YouTube contest was a blast. I really enjoyed putting my video together and think it turned out great,” said Newlevant. “I hope my video, and the contest itself, opens the public’s eyes to homeschooling and shows that homeschooling really is cool!”

Laurel Springs School asked homeschool students, aged 5-18, across the country to film creative and entertaining videos answering the question, “What’s Cool about HomeSchool?” Each unique video submission explains why the individual chose homeshcooling over traditional school. Musicians, athletes, and designers who can’t attend traditional school because of their hectic schedules, along with kids who just like homeschool, submitted videos.

Forty-one videos were entered and judged by a five-person panel, made up of homeschool parents and students, a homeschool website editor and a professional video blogger.

“I thought all of the kids did a fantastic job showing why they think homeschool is cool. These students are definitely creative and enjoy the freedom that homeschool allows,” said Markus Sandy, a software developer, teacher and videoblogger, who served as a judge. “The freedom to learn was a resounding message the students portrayed in their videos.”

Video submissions were judged in three age categories: ages 5-9, 10-13, 14-18. First and second place prizes were awarded in each category. First place winners received $250 and second place winners received $100 in each category. The winning videos for the age categories are as follows:

Ages 5-9:
First Place: “Homeschool Freedom” by Logan Gould, age 6. Logan’s video is a slideshow of the activities he enjoys to do while being homeschooled – snorkeling, playing football and the drums, archery, skateboarding and going to museums. The video is accompanied by Logan’s lip-synching a song about freedom.

Second Place: “What’s Cool About Homeschool” by Ian Shaughnessy, age 7. Ian’s video is a claymation he created of himself playing the piano and riding his bike.

Ages 10-13:
First Place: “y i homeschool” by Sam Mason, age 13. Sam’s video was filmed while he’s flying a small glider plane, one of his favorite things to do. Sam has been flying since he was a young child and becoming a pilot is his life-long dream. Homeschooling allows him the freedom to pursue his goal.

Second Place: “This is Why…Homeschool is Cool” by Matej Silecky, age 13. Matej’s video shows his love for figure skating and also displays clips of the fun activities he does like snowboarding, skiing and racing go-carts. Homeschool makes his dream of being a professional figure skater a reality, all while achieving academic excellence, traveling the world and learning self-discipline.

Ages 14-18:
First Place: “Freedom” by Nick Marks-Paschal, age 17. Nick’s video depicts his passion as a digital designer and founder of Metascape Studios, his digital design company that he started in 2005, all of which wouldn’t have been possible in traditional school.

Second Place: “Diagnosis: Homeschooler” by Naresa Budd, age 16. This video is a skit with three actors telling the story of how a doctor vastly underestimates the versatility of homeschoolers. Homeschool has allowed the star of the video to obtain his pilot license, help build a school in Africa, get his band signed, and build his own car.

“This YouTube contest gave homeschoolers everywhere the opportunity to tell their unique story and show people why homeschooling is a creative, exciting, and realistic alternative to traditional education,” said Marilyn Mosley-Gordanier, founder and president of Laurel Springs School. “We’re so pleased with all the entries and would like to thank all the students who participated.”

Visit www.laurelsprings.com/videocontest to view all the winning videos and learn more about Laurel Springs School. All video entries can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/group/homeschooliscool.

About Laurel Springs School

Laurel Springs School, an accredited private school, delivers personalized K-12 distance-learning programs with a commitment to academic and creative excellence. Established in 1991, Laurel Springs School is the leader in distance learning education for kindergarten through high school. Each Laurel Springs student receives personalized, one-to-one instruction. With a student population of more than 5,000 – comprised of students from all fifty states and twenty-five countries – Laurel Springs makes use of web-based communication tools, a standards-based curriculum, and personalized instruction to offer students a top-notch home education experience, no matter where they live. www.laurelsprings.com

Media Contact:
Kindra Krueger
Jones Public Relations
(402) 614-7714