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Showing posts from August, 2018

Unschooling Homework Happens Unintentionally

The unschooling gang here gets a science lesson a week.  They learn about things like electricity, magnetism, waves, the Doppler effect, and water pressure.  They don’t do any homework or worksheets . The lessons are based on demonstration and play.  They watch the demonstration first, and then they get to play with it, (perhaps a more stern educational type than I might call it experimenting rather than playing).  There are no worksheets, no homework, and no books.

People might ask, “Can a kid really learn something without doing some type or rote homework to help them internalize it?”  As with most things unschooling, we’re discovering that the repetition that might be necessary to learn happens not at a desk or at our kitchen table, but instead in the outside world where the 7, 5, and 3 y.o. gang here spend most of their time.

Take water pressure for example.  The kids performed a water pressure experiment using milk jugs.  They filled two jugs with water, then punctured one of the…

Free-Range and Unschooling Guilds

Life skill testing?  Sounds like a bad idea, because, well, it is. 

If you’re wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, it came up in yesterday’s post when I wondered if perhaps unschooling kids could hang out with vetted Directors of Tactical Ops, (DTOs aka nannies),  while traveling with their parents on work trips.  As a brief recap, I reasoned/hoped that kids could travel with their parents on business trips, hang out with local DTOs, and then explore the area with their parent over the weekend.  It’s not quite what’s known as World Schooling, where families travel the world freely instead of going to school.  It’s a middle ground.  From the kid’s point of view: Mom or Dad are travelling, there’s stuff I could experience, I’m going with them.  There were two issues though, one was vetting DTOs.  The other one, the one that led me to thoughts of life-skill testing was vetting kids, in order to qualify them to wander around towns with DTOs; to answer questions like, can they handle…

Unschooling, travel, and work are they mutually exclusive?

Unschooling, travel, and work.  They’re three things that don’t always go together, but they should.  When I travel for work, I frequently find myself in places where there’s tremendously wonderful stuff for kids to experience.  Meanwhile, the gang isn’t with me, they’re at home, because work.  Even if we could stay the weekend—frequently, we actually could—to check everything out, where would the gang hang out while I’m at work?  Since the kids here are unschooled, and have been raised free-range, the obvious answer at first blush would be that they should go see the sights without me.  But how?  Many museums--at least in San Francisco—don’t allow kids to free-range below the age of 12, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The gang here is 7, 5, and 3 years old.  They know how to ride public transit, they know how to behave in museums.  They know how to socialize with other kids in markets, and with adults for that matter.  What they need though—-somewhat sadly—is an adult to legi…

Kids in Bars

I recently read about a couple who, while waiting for their table in a restaurant, were allowed to sit at the bar, but thanks to Victorian style child ‘safety’ laws, their five and seven year old kids had to stand against the back wall two feet from the bar.  Kids weren’t allowed to sit at bars in that state.  You know, because safety.  


On our last two trips to New Mexico, we’ve had similar experiences.  On our most recent trip, seven year-old No. One and I were told we couldn’t be seated at the bar even though they served food there, even though we were in a restaurant., because the state of New Mexico has deemed it Wrong.  The trip before that a waitress warned us away from the high-top tables.  Once again, it was for safety’s sake.  On our current trip to DC, the kid vaulted onto a bar-stool, so yeah, I guess she can handle it.

Clearly I think kids should be allowed in bars.  I think it builds both social and real-world skills.  Bars are just one more place they will have already…

Learning Independence

Reading along with the free range kid movement, I frequently see question about how to teach kids to be independent.  Here’s what we’ve done in broad strokes:
We included the gang here in as much of our day to day lives as we possibly can.  One of the best ways to learn anything is to watch someone else doing it.We respect their autonomy, even with eating, even with their personal space, even when they were little.We taught the gang how to move autonomously with us, walking when we walk, running when we run. Our trips were slowed a bit as each kid came up to speed, but now they’re responsible for getting themselves places, not usWe taught them to follow directions from afar.  Part of independence is responsibility.  We taught the gang to listen to our instructions… even if they’re a block away.We taught them not to be afraid of strangers.  It’s hard to be independent if you see danger lurking around every corner. Practice makes Perfect
A big chunk of being independent is practicing inde…

What Unschooling Isn't

Tonight, a few brief notes on what unschooling isn’t.  I don’t mean to be bit unctuous, but here goes anyway.  I see—a lot—that unschooling kids never learn anything what with all the sitting around doing nothing, and eating candy all the time.  I believe these statements are mostly in reaction to ‘radical’ unschoolers who say things like, “The kids eat whatever they want, and pursue their own interests.”
These sorts of statements are true, but not necessarily in the way they’re taken.  Yup, some unschoolers eat  whatever they want.  Why, oh why, would that be candy though?  First, you have to ask yourself, where’d they get this candy?  If there’s no candy in the house, they’d have to go outside to get it, and that contradicts the other ‘unschooling premise’, ‘they do nothing all the time.’

Let me break it down simply.  Unschoolers don’t sit around and eat candy all day for two reasons.  The first reason is that an emotionally healthy person allowed to make their own decisions won’t e…

The Gang Hits the Farmers' Market (Unschooling & Socialization)

We had another first this Saturday, all three of the kids here—7 y.o. No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, and 3 y.o. No. Three—got up at 4:30 in time to head out to the Farmers’ Market!  Three has made the early morning trip once before, but One and Two had busy weeks that time, and so stayed home.  This is the first time the whole gang has trekked across town with me to the market.  It was a blast!


We head out early because the market is too crowded later in the day.  This isn’t really a problem for us so much as it is for those around us.  When Two was three years-old, he was jostled by passers-by on his first trip.  I taught him how to throw elbows, and the problem was solved.  Sort of.  On our next trip on our local subway Two applied his new skills to a different situation, elbowing his way off the train, causing a few “Ohs,” and “Eeps,” as he went.  So, now we go early.  We beat the crowd, and get first dibs on the really good stuff.

Three was immediately a valuable addition to our expedit…

Discussing the Coppers (What Unschoolers Do Instead of School)

7 year-old No. One and I were eating dinner after I picked her up from art camp.  I’d been out of town on travel for the week, so we were catching up.  One filled me in on all of her art projects, then took a moment to quaff a little food—if you’ve ever eaten with a 7 year-old experiencing growth spurts, you know that quaff is in fact the correct word there.

As One chewed I said, “So, I got caught jaywalking by the police this week.”  One and I frequently jaywalk, and I’ve mentioned before that it’s actually against the law. 

Her eyes lit up.  “Really!?”

“Yup.”

“What Happened?”

“Well, I was standing on the island in the middle of the road watching for cars like one does when they jaywalk when I heard a voice saying, ‘Why are you crossing the street like that?’ I looked behind me, and three cars back there was a cop on a motorcycle.”

“What’d you do?”

“I shrugged ‘I don’t know’ at him.”

“Then what happened?”

“He said ‘Come here!’” so I went back to talk to him, and he was all like, ‘Raa…

Motion (What Unschoolers Do Intead of School)

Three year-old No. Three loves motion.  My walks with her through the neighborhood and around town are always spiked with Three’s discovery of new objects and her new uses for them.  Three was the first to discover that bicycle racks in our town aren’t actually for bicycles, they’re one bar monkey bars, also known as monkey bar.  When she was two, she noticed one day that she could see through to the other side of a bike rack.  Five seconds later, she was holding onto it with two hands, swinging back and forth with her feet lifted off the ground.  One of our fancier neighborhoods who seemed to have figured out this trick, robbed the world of the joy by placing decorative metal work across the opening.  The first time Three found one of these, I realized that two year-olds are capable of looks of the purest, un-mollified disdain. 



It should have been no surprise to me when a few weeks later, Three went from a vertical swing to a horizontal one.  Arriving at the playground one afternoon…

ROBOT FAMILY (What Unschoolers Do Instead of School)

Seven year-old No. One spent a lot of time last week pretending to be both a robot, and ‘One: Creator of All Robots on Robot World’.  Walking with her to art camp I’d realize I was actually walking with a robot when I’d hear, “I AM ROBOT 33.  WHAT ARE YOU?”

“A Human”

“NO, THERE IS ONLY ONE HUMAN ON ROBOT WORLD.”

“Who’s that?”

“ONE CREATOR OF ALL ROBOTS”

“Yeah, I’m her dad.”

“SHE TOLD US SHE WAS THE ONLY HUMAN ON THIS WORLD.”

“Ah, well, I’m from another world.”

“HOW DID YOU GET HERE?”

“On a spaceship.”

“ONE THE CREATOR OF ALL ROBOTS, TOLD US THERE WERE NO SPACESHIPS.”

And so on.

It was fun walking around talking to an argumentative robot.  It did get us more than a few sidelong looks on the bus.  Ah well, they were probably too bored before ROBOT 33, and I got there anyway.

Friday instead of busing and walking to summer camp, we traveled via plane to visit with relatives—a family member had passed.  It was really nice to get to visit with family even though it was sad that one of us wasn’t…