Thursday, February 4, 2016

Learning All The Things, Unschool Style

I did a lot of Pinterest-combing in preparation for starting homeschool this year. When the time came to begin, I continued doing a lot of Pinterest-combing because it was still very much a trial-and-error situation. As I continued to explore different styles and systems and lots of different advice, unschool sounded like the best fit for us. It was a HUGE deviation from what I was used to as a teacher, so it took a little bit to really change my perspective and get my brain on board. One of my biggest hang-ups was how we would be sure to cover all of the essentials. I mean, it's great for a child to decide they want to learn about flowers, but what about reading and math and history? We're talking about REAL, legitimate learning, here. There's a lot to cover and learning how a flower grows may not really seem like the most efficient or effective way to do that.

Well, after further investigation, it actually is- or at least it is a GREAT way to do it :) I feel pretty strongly that a student-led approach is the best way to learn. I think students learn best by doing, rather than hearing/reading/repeating, and I think the best way for students to stay interested, engaged, and excited about learning is to explore things they have a natural interest in. I think a love of reading is best developed by reading books you enjoy. Same goes for science, math, history, and all other subjects.

Here's how we do it- Big Sister chooses a topic to study. From there, I...
1. Set goals for what she should learn in the course of our study. I keep it pretty broad and not too complex. These should always be tailored to the child's age and developmental abilities. It's important to stretch their minds but without overwhelming or frustrating them. I want to spark her love of learning, not extinguish it.

2. List important {and again developmentally appropriate} vocabulary terms that we'll be using and she will need to understand for this unit.

3. Compile a list of pertinent resources that will enhance and support her learning. I break these into 8 categories: books, videos, websites/apps, songs/music, games, field trips, interviews (kids love talking to someone who's an expert, it can be grandma or someone who owns a local business!), and artifacts. All of these can be a great help in bringing a topic to life!

4. List out activities and projects by subject area to ensure we're covering all basic subjects equitably. Most of our work is done in project/activity form, but you could totally include as much pencil/paper work as you wanted.

I made a simple template in Google Docs {below} to outline it all neatly. I fill it in for each new topic of study, and then print it out as a guide to work through our unit. I don't adhere to a strict weekly schedule or calendar because with three little kids, things can change dramatically day to day! But if you're someone who really likes planning your school schedule weekly or monthly, or even several months at a time, you could definitely make that work using this format.

Here's what my template looks like. Anyone could easily replicate it or create their own with whatever word processing software you use.

And that is how we learn all the things with an unschooled approach :)

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