Unschooling and Engagement

Well, what's been going on these last couple of weeks.  Well, we've continued with study days for my eldest with a friend, which has been working really well.  She is working on Human Anatomy and Physiology, along with Maths and French, dependent on time and focus.

Our son is a mind of information when it comes to history and has eagerly consumed Horrible Histories in its entirety like a packet of sweets or a pot of icecream on a sweltering day!  He loves creating in Minecraft and is also looking at Micro-bit challenges.  We've also really enjoyed the story of Stephen Hawking's life and his thoughts and views on the universe in recent weeks, played in the car.

Our youngest is very arty and creative and aside from the Minecraft enjoyment, she loves to paint, make, draw and colour.  Sometimes we listen to a language CD while colouring ... at the moment it's been Japanese and Spanish, both being countries I have spent time in and are beautiful languages.

As a parent, home educating is a completely different way of learning; both for the parent(s) and for the child(ren).  Unschooling / deschooling is very different to school and home education and is very much about letting the children unwind from the constraints of a school environment and allowing them to explore what they really enjoy.  Some children don't even really know what their passions are at this stage, due to having always been told what to do from a young age and so it is important as a parent to allow plenty of time for them to adjust and just be and then once they recognise their educational freedom and they're off, make sure, as you are sprinting behind, that you have plenty of opportunities ready for presenting at any given moment, to continue the inspiration and excitement along their journey!

What is interesting, having been observing and encouraging the children these last few months to read, which they do, avidly, play and try new things (which they are not always so willing to participate in!) - it has been a learning curve to recognise when things are working, ie there is complete engagement and lots of happy faces, discussions and expanding of knowledge and delight in what is happening, or when things are clearly not working and you need to try a different tack.

Whether you are home educating, unschooling, learning automously, relaxed home educating or radically unschooling, it's the engagement bit that's really important, but where unschooling is concerned, it can be difficult time for letting go of control and concern and allowing trust into the mix and watch the child(ren) blossom on their own.  They will be ok and they will achieve so much and they don't always need a parent hovering over their shoulder telling them what to look at, press, write, draw.  They are people with their own imaginations and their own feelings about things and sometimes, it's the parents that need to reflect on their own academic journeys to be able to spot when to step back.  Our son felt bored at school and we spent many a meeting trying to find ways for the school to help engage him in class.  We realised our eldest was also becoming bored and that the amount of written work being completed, was minimal, so as a family, we wanted to try another approach and so we find ourselves here; enjoying the sunshine, painting furniture in the garden and bouncing on the trampoline.

We have days here where the level of engagement, is a bit south of the river, but when you get that smile or that excited question about something you didn't even realise had been acknowledged, whether immediate or some time after a bit of learning has occurred, it's amazingly rewarding and you know you're on the right path.  I am constantly reminded by our eldest, too, that we are unschooling and so she can enjoy indulging in a readathon for hours without me interfering or watch Junior Bakeoff and make notes of her favourite recipes to try!

So, the last few weeks has been about getting out and about.  We've had trampolining, rock-climbing, dog walks, trips to the park and museums, time seeing friends, birthday parties and garden time. We've had days of baking and painting, or just pure indulgent reading.  There are so many ways to learn and we are embracing it all.

Over the next fortnight, we have a visit to The Weald & Downland Museum, a Soap Making workshop, a HE group meet at the beach and a trip to the Roman Baths and Jane Austen's writing territory planned.

The point is to ensure fun is part of the equation, as my son informs me.  Our period of adjustment after being in school is ongoing and when I've spoken to other home educating families and groups, what you come to realise, is that it will be ongoing for some time and your role is to support, encourage, enable and offer up opportunities when you see that wonderful spark for learning appearing.  It was disappearing at school and over time, it will slowly start coming back.

The summer holidays are fast approaching and we will enjoy camping in the garden, maybe a holiday somewhere at the last minute (as ever!), lots of fun with friends and sleepovers, trips out to visit amazing places, quality family time and then look forward to September where we can start having lots of educational fun!