Unschooling. Its a buzzword. A hot topic. A thing of mystery and intrigue.
So many homeschooling parents find themselves fighting with their children to do their assignments. Others feel stifled by the workload of their chosen curriculum. To parents like these who want more freedom in their homeschool, unschooling can sound like a wonderful option.
But when we’ve been trained to believe school is done a certain way, how do we let that go?
And if we let it go, how do we keep track of progress and make sure that our children are still learning what they need to learn?
Can workbooks help with that? Yes they can. If they are the right kind of workbooks, used in the right way.
It seems counter intuitive, workbooks are known for their multiple choices and mindless answering.
Unschooling is based on the idea of being child led.
What could possibly be child led about a workbook?
Here’s what you want to look for:
– workbooks that ask a child’s opinions
– workbooks that ask open-ended questions
– workbooks that encourage a child to research a subject further via books or internet
LittleMan and I designed his entire curriculum together, and one part of that curriculum is his workbook.
Also included in the curriculum that LittleMan and I designed together is lots of unscheduled time for learning through free play, family read-alouds, math work, creative writing prompts, and copious amounts of time spent in nature. Things may be different for your family. That is ok. Individualized education is a beautiful thing. Enjoy it.
The workbook itself leads LittleMan through core subjects such as science, music, art, geography, and history while also encouraging practice in basic skills such as reading and writing. The work is short and manageable, so as not to eat into other aspects of his life and education. He completes four pages everyday, plus one extra page per week.
The workbook is only just a guide and allows him the freedom to choose what he studies and how deep he delves into it.
Every week starts with his weekly vocabulary page. This page is one of those simple things that only takes moments a day to fill out. Whenever he comes across a new word in a book or conversation, he takes the time to write that word and its meaning down. One word a day and in this way he creates his own weekly vocabulary list. At the end of each week we go through this list together to discuss meanings and make sure he remembers what he learned.
Everyday he starts with a simple journal page where he records the date, the weather, and his plans for the day. This helps in giving him a sense of empowerment over his life because he gets to decide everyday how he wants to spend it and he gets to write it down where everyone can see what his priorities are that day.
After that he is given a simple report form on either an animal, dinosaur, or plant. He can pick the subject of the report as well as how he finds the answers to the questions. Shall he look in a book? Shall he google it? Shall he watch a documentary and pause it to take notes? That is his choice. This report can take 5 minutes or it can take an hour- he decides how far he wants to delve into this subject. All the worksheet does is encourage him to look for specific answers and open the door to a subject he might not have thought to research beforehand.
Now here’s where things get interesting. Once the daily work is done, he moves on to special subjects: science, art, music, geography, and history.
Monday he does science. First he picks any scientist past or present and he researches them. Just like with the daily animal/dinosaur/plant report forms, he has control over how much research he wants to do as well as what sort of information source he wants to use. I offer guidance in the form of bouncing ideas around, telling him about resources he might not know of, and showing him how to tell a credible source from an unreliable source. Beyond that, he has control.
After his scientist report, LittleMan has the opportunity to get a little more hands-on learning in. His next page is a place to record an experiment of his own design. (For this page, a child does need to be trained in the basic scientific method.) He starts by asking a question, then designing an experiment to answer that question. He hypothesizes about the answer, records observations, and comes to a conclusion based on the results. Again, he decides the level of effort he wants to put into this project. Some examples of science experiments he has come up with include comparing various inclined planes as ramps for toy cars, creating punnet squares to find the likelihood that his future child will share his eye color, testing various objects for buoyancy, and attempting to build a LEGO tower that touched the ceiling.
Tuesday he does art. First he picks any artist past or present and he researches them. Again, I offer guidance but this is really up to him. Standing back and letting him pick the artist has really resulted in some interesting decisions; I find that half the time he chooses authors who illustrate their own books and the other half of the time he chooses a Renaissance artist. I have in the past suggested artists of other genres and eras but he knows what he likes and generally sticks to it.
After writing a report, LittleMan is then given a blank page in the workbook to sketch something inspired by the chosen artist’s work. Often he will attempt to recreate a drawing or painting with his colored pencils.
Wednesday he does music. First he picks any musician past or present and he researches them. For this subject, I find that he is all over the board. One week he might pick Mozart and the next week he might pick Kurt Cobain. I tend to stay close by and monitor his choices for age appropriateness. I try not to censor sex, drugs, or depression because the music can be an excellent jumping point for a discussion about these difficult topics. That said, I do make sure the songs are void of curse words.
After LittleMan’s report, we listen to some more music and he draws how the music makes him feel. This was a sort of silly activity we did on a whim last year and it has since become something he enjoys doing every week. We often have the best discussions after he explains his drawings to me.
Thursday he does geography. Every week he is given a different continent to write a report about, as well as given the choice of any country he’d like to research and write about. I often encourage him to read a traditional folk tale from that continent, or watch a documentary about the people who live there, as a means of learning about other cultures.
Friday he does history. Every week LittleMan is able to choose which president he would like to learn about, and which historical figure he would like to study. This usually involves a trip to the library for a living book, time spent watching a documentary, or a backyard recreation of some major historical event featuring the person(s) he chose to write his reports on.
I love this workbook because it gives my son control over his own education, because it cuts down on the amount of time I spend planning lessons, and because it is so dang easy to use.
Just print it out, hole punch it, put it in a binder and you’re ready to go. 7 whole weeks of science, art, music, geography, history are prepared without another worry.
Plus, because of the way it is designed, when the 7 weeks is up, I can print out it out and start all over again and my child won’t be bored of it! He’ll continue to learn and feel empowered even on the second or third time around.
Do you want to try it out? Well, you can have it!
I’ll even let you pay whatever you want for it! Why pay what you want? Because I get it. We’re all homeschooling parents here. We all know what its like to fund our child’s education.
I’ve been there, waiting for that certain item to go on sale because you just know it will help your child grasp a new concept but you can’t quite afford the retail price. So here’s something you don’t have to worry about squeezing into the budget. Pay what you want and enjoy a whole 7 weeks of easy unschooling.