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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 jugs near the bottom and the other near its top, (but still below the waterline).  Measuring how far the water sprayed out of each hole, they could see that water pressure was created by the water itself.  When more water was piled up above a point—the bottom of the milk jug for example—there was more pressure—the water shooting out hit the ground a greater distance away.  That was it, the whole lesson.  There was plenty of elated squealing as water went everywhere, but then we moved onto other stuff, other activities.  Had they really retained the knowledge?  Did they need to work out a few problems?  We didn’t know, so we let it slide

Sure enough though, the world provided the opportunity.  A few weeks ago, on a camping trip, the gang reinforced their knowledge about water pressure when we stumbled upon an old water tank in a forest across the bay from San Francisco.



The gang wandered over to check out the wooden tank.  It was built of vertical planks held together with steel cables.  My partner took the time to point out to the kids that their were more cables binding the bottom of the tank than the top.  She reminded them what they’d learned about water pressure—that water stacked up on top of water built more and more pressure.  She pointed out how it took more cables to keep the tank from bursting at the bottom than it did at the top  Voila, scientific reinforcement in the real world!  The kids didn’t have to do homework, or memorization, we all just had to enjoy ourselves.  The real world provided reinforcement at no extra charge, because, that’s what the real world is happy to do for all of us.


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