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Ableism and Being Four, The Big Lie

I’m running into this again and again.  I suspect most homeschoolers do.  The four year-old kid’s not allowed to do something because, “What if other parents found out your four year-old was doing it?  Then they’d all want their four year-olds to do it too.”

If they don’t know the four year-old I hang out with, the adults first tack is to tell me that four year-olds aren’t capable of whatever the given activity might be, (today it was focusing while learning to swim.)  Once they determine, or believe the kid can, or if they know the kid and therefore know for a fact she can, then they inevitably fall back on, “What if everyone wanted to do it?”

First, I have a question.  Is this some sort of public school thing I’ve simply forgotten?  Asking “What if everybody?”  I have vague memories of this sort of argument, but it’s so sweeping and obviously false that it seems comical?  The lie is in the argument.  What if all four year-olds could focus on learning to swim, so their parents brough…
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Learning to Free-Range Hike, and an Excerpt from Cootermaroos

I'm working on a book about unschooling and free-range parenting with the working title:
A Dad's Guide to raising Happy, Adventurous, Well-Rounded Urchins
The following is an excerpt from the book.  To provide a little background, the kids who are now 8, 6, and 4 years old have all been camping since before they could walk.  We apply the same free-range principles to camping and hiking that we use in our every day lives.  On our hikes, the kids range from a quarter to a half mile ahead of us with the single rule that if they come to a fork in the trial they can't range out any further until my partner or I catch up.  With that intro, here's an excerpt on how each of them learned to hike free range!

Since we’ve been camping since before the kids could walk, and since we love hiking, we’ve discovered a few misconceptions about what kids can actually do out on the trail.  Just like in town, as each kid begins to take their first steps, I take them out of the wr…

Learning in Waves

CS First studies started up at the house again this week!  If you’re not familiar with Google’s CS First program, if you have homeschooling, or unschooling kids who would like to learn programming for free, you should check it out. 

The gang here is returning to it after a two month break.  Their break wasn’t inspired by any faults of the program, far from it.  They’ve loved every single class.  Working on their most recent lesson a few months back they spent hours figuring out different graphics schemes for their dancing program. A few days later, they simply became busy with other things. 

That happens a lot here, and is one of the many outcomes of our unschooling practice.  Other things come up.  Some classes end, others start.  In the meantime the things the kids are learning fade in and out of their immediate focus.

And that’s OK, because their focus returns to the things they really enjoy, every single time.  Earlier this week, upon finding the banner she had made for our first …

Classes for Unschooling Kids

Four year-old No. Three had a blast at her cooking class today!  That’s right.  I said it.  Unschooling kids take classes.  There’s a common misconception that unschooling kids sit quietly in their homes, learning everything through mere osmosis.  It’s no wonder—given this misconception—that many people think unschooling, ‘Just couldn’t work!’   The difference between kids that are unschooled and those who aren’t, well at least one of the differences, is that unschooling kids only attend the classes they want to.

That single small difference in personal control makes for an amazingly large difference in how they interact with the class.  Three is delighted to be in her cooking class.  It’s all grins and giggle from the time she enters class until the time she leaves.  Don’t get the wrong idea though!  Grinning and giggling does not mean she’s goofing off.  Her attention is locked on the instructor’s every word.  She follows the steps, measuring ingredients, mixing, placing this weeks …

Sometimes Sugar

Saturday, we went to our comic book stores' 30th anniversary party.  The evening was hilarious!  My partner and I, without discussing it with one another, decided we were essentially going to be the designated driver for the kids.  Designated driver is a bit of a misnomer for two reasons.  First of all, we don’t drive anywhere.  Second, the kids of course weren’t drinking.  There were however, bowls of pastel colored M&Ms—for Spring I suppose—everywhere!  We told the kids they could each have one handful.  However, as I watched, 4 year-old No. Three had not one, not two, but at least four handfuls that I saw.  Of course, her hands are small, but still.  The only kid that resisted the M&M urge was 8 year-old No. One.  She was characteristically responsible.  I admonished One on two occasions that she was really supposed to have had only one handful, but to no avail, and to be honest, I wasn’t really serious. 

The M&Ms took their toll almost immediately.  Three tackled …

Unschooling Outcomes in the 'Real World'

"So, How do you measure outcomes?"

The engineer meant well, when she asked the question and, to be fair, she'd never heard of unschooling.  Still, I had to double-clutch several times as the gears in my mind shifted to traditional schooling terminology. 

The kids and I were at a small company in San Francisco where they were testing a new game package that was supposed to teach coding.  While the kids were testing, another engineer was asking me about the coding work we did at home.  I mentioned that the kids had been working through Google's CSFirst for the last several months.  This inspired the outcomes question.

I went with the not so elegant, but oh so pragmatic initial response of, "What...?" Buying myself some time while I boggled at what the hell an outcome was... Wait, I had it!  That's right, other schooling methodologies measure what's 'taught' by 'testing' what the kid has learned compared to 'the expected outcome.…

Kids R Kapable

Just a little note to concerned ‘grownups’ everywhere.  If you look at a kid—and I mean really look—I don’t mean notice a person shorter than you, I mean make eye contact, notice their facial expression and observe their body language—If you look at a kid, don’t assume they need your help unless they’re obviously distressed, or ask for it.  You might think this is difficult call to make.  You might think, not having kids of your own, that you’re unable to make this determination.  You are.  You do in fact, already have the skills even if you’ve never been around kids  It’s a remarkably simple call to make, just use the exact same criteria you would for determining if an adult was in distress.  Because, guess what, kids and adults are in fact the same species of animal and communicate in the same way.  Honest.  If someone—adult or child—doesn’t need your help, feel free to say hello, give a wave, give a smile, but don’t—do not—try to force help on anyone that doesn’t want or need it.