Sunday, January 17, 2010

our unschooling and learning...

Soul today, taken with corn starch all over her face. She is on the cusp of walking. She is standing for prolonged periods balancing without holding anything. She is starting to try to walk and walks everywhere holding on. It will be days or weeks. She is not yet 9 months old. She can climb stairs with terrifying speed as well. She is currently 16.6 pounds and 26.5 inches tall. A wee thing to me. She is precious.

K77 asked me about our homeschooling stuff in my last post so I am family getting to writing on that. We are doing primarily unschooling in our home. I was a great rote learner in school. I did well with that methodology growing up but I do not really agree with it. When I was teaching I used a lot of rote methodology in my classrooms, along with alternative methods, Gardner's 7 Intelligences and a whole host of whatever I thought would grab their attention and imaginations. But still I used a lot of rote methods.

I came to unschooling like I came to much of my choices. Through reading and self-searching what my ultimate goals were with him. But the hard part was unschooling myself. That took work. I learned though, that being the constantly-curious-researching-random-crap-I-think-up-always-looking-to-understand-the-who-what-when-where-why-and-how-of-things type of parent makes me a great source for guidance in unschooling.

The reason I say we mostly do it has much to do with reading. Bliss was never interested in being read to. I would do it but often it was met with "are we done yet's" and I learned not to even push that. When he was interested I read to him. He was also not ready to learn to write or read and when I shifted to unschooling away from what we had been doing with lots of workbooks and timed lessons I also let go of all pushing. I did, however encourage any interests and realized early on his preferred medium for learning was the computer.

So we got lots of great learning games like "Pajama Sam" and "Freddy Fish" and "Putt Putt" and he loved those as did I. We had some educational games as well but again I did not push. At 6 I began worrying about reading more often and I found a great site called Click-N-Kids which was perfect for him. It was phonics, it was computer based, and it was a lifetime one time reasonable price so it could be used later for Soul. And he started it. He liked it but was still just on the verge of really interested. It was more a hit or miss and I knew with learning to read it is best an every day thing. But I was pregnant and in hell with getting stuff wrapped up to move across continent and to another country. Then when we got here things were still crazy and then we had dial-up and it was not working. So I put it off.

I had Soul and gave myself permission to not worry about it for a while. Then things settled down and Bliss also suddenly began showing huge interests in reading. I could not get anything working on his computer with our shitty dial up so I began searching for something else to help. He knew the letters well in capital form and he knew the sounds also but he still struggled sounding out words or reading.

After a lot of searching I decided to try "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Engelman. It is didactic to say the least as it is completely scripted but I discussed it with Bliss and he sounded interested so we decided to give it a go. I even made a star chart for the 100 lessons and bought colored stars and gave Bliss incentives for every 10 lessons. We made a pact that if he completed all lessons with me he would be able to read. This excited him a lot. We also had a pact that it would require 15 minutes a day of complete focus but that was all.

I do not do star boards or incentives usually but this was a commitment of 100 lessons and/or days depending if we did more than one lesson sometimes. We began and did 2 lessons a day for the first 50-60 lessons. He has really excelled at it and really enjoyed it. He is sounding out words everywhere. He is asking to be read to and forgoing video games in favor of reading or writing.

One thing I was not expecting in the book was the writing practice at the end of every lesson. I was seriously worried about it as Bliss did not even have proper holding of a pen down and balked whenever I tried to guide him or suggest practicing writing. But with the book, because he knew it was scripted I think it helped. At the start for sure because he was following what it asked of him and it promised him he would be able to read. The book starts out telling the child that. So at first he was ok trying and soon he realized he could write letters and then it quickly became ok for me to be helping him with it.

I am a stickler with letter writing because I know his first imprinting learning how will follow him forever so I make sure he does it completely how it is shown. And although there are days we have to do it over and over he still loves it when I high five him and tell him how awesome his letters are.

So today we finished lesson 80 and this week I got Click-N-Kids to work on my Mac computer with the dial-up. So now along with his one lesson a day he is also doing a Click-N-Kids lesson each day (there are 100 lessons there too) And those are totally different and also encourage spelling practice throughout the phonics learning and also keyboard work since it is online. He also told me yesterday that when he finished the book he wants to do it from the start again, with another star chart but without the every 10 lessons incentive because that was just for the first time and he thinks a second time will be great practice and fun.

So to say the least I am thrilled.

As for other subjects we do math together and he has a lot of favorite Leapster math games. Bliss, however, is a total math head and asks numbers questions all day every day of his life. And other subjects, well we happily unschool those as well.

I thought I would share a lesson we had today about reproductive physiology. Bliss asked about when he would be a father. He thought it would be when Soul had a baby and I explained to him how it didn't work like that and how he would have a baby just not carry it and it could come from him through sperm from his bally's (what he calls his testes). So I then decided to explain sperm and eggs and mitosis and meiosis to him but where we were we did not have paper so this became the ultimate unschooling lesson and I decided to capture it on film for our future enjoyment.

FYI it also gave us another opportunity to discuss how he was made and his donor and how Soul was made and her donor. We have been discussing this openly since he was 3.


battynurse said...

Sounds like he's doing great with it.
They're so cute.

sacredandscarred said...

Bliss sounds a bit like TBB! TBB will be 6 in a couple of months. I've read some great posts on an unschooling list this week about "late" readers which has been interesting and reassuring. TBB loves his stories at bedtime, but does not want to be read to at other times. He's starting to want to know how to read (to read video game instructions of course) and he's spelt out and read a few random words.

He doesn't like to write AT ALL, except for random things here and there, so we roll with that.

We've just signed up for a trial at and he's really enjoying it. It's slow to load though as we have dial up!

Do you have any unschooling website recommendations? I have been visiting (I think that's right) on and off for food for thought. I'm not totally into the RU lifestyle, TBB is so spirited that he needs a lot of help to get to sleep at night. Left to his own devices he simply wouldn't ever sleep. The stuff she says about housework, helping etc is interesting and often pushes me to question myself and my expectations.

Thanks for a really interesting post :)

K77 (though it doesn't show up as that when I choose my WP ID).

Melody said...

Thanks for providing such a thorough explanation of your trial and error method for home schooling your kids. It really makes the case to me that home schooling, done thoughtfully, can best serve the interests of the child. I wish I could find a way to do it for my daughter, but right now my work and insurance situation does not allow it. Perhaps by the time she is four or five I'll have more flexibility. In the meantime, I can only do my best to treat her as an individual and not the subject of all the baby books and early child development books I consult.

Elizabeth said...

Sounds like its going great, what a blessing that you are able to spend this time with your children and teach them in the way that is best for them.

Shannon said...

That is so gosh darn cool. I like how you say you had to unschool yourself - it takes a lot of faith and forward thinking to be able to buck the system, even when the system is broken. I admire you, Bleu.

tireegal68 said...

It sounds like Bliss is doing so well and really guiding the process himself. cute about the reproduction lesson too!
Good to hear how things are going over there:)
Love the pics of he and Soul!