As much as I admire the unschooling approach to education, I have found I'm incapable of leading a family of unschoolers. The intrinsic based motivation of interested based education has many benefits. Kids absorb so much information when they are engaged, and the philosophy of interest based education keeps kids completely engaged.
Unfortunately, I just can't get over the way the lack of desire to explore a subject can leave it completely neglected. My 13 year old daughter has little interest in science, so when left to her own, she never studies science. My 8 year old daughter doesn't like to read, and consequently never reads when left alone.
The experts in the interest based education philosophy say that kids will learn skills as they are required. Therefore, my 8 year old daughter will likely learn to read when the skill becomes necessary to her curiosity, but I doubt my 13 year old girl with ever explore science. For me this is an issue because I want my children to be capable of achieving any future goals they develop. While I believe that they will still be capable of achievement, not having exposure to certain subjects could handicap them significantly.
For example, learning a second language is a difficult skill of which most people are capable. However, experts in many fields state that kids have significant advantages when learning second languages due to the way their young brains work. I believe that kids have similar advantages when learning all kinds of other subjects as well. Therefore, by not exposing them to topics when young, they will be at a disadvantage should they decide they want to explore them as adults.
Now I know exposing children to all topics and subjects is next to impossible, but by ensuring their young education includes a wide variety of topics, I believe they will have an advantage as adults.
Therefore, I now know that I am not an unschooling parent, nor will I ever be. I am a relaxed homeschool mom incorporating principles of many different education philosophies. Last year in June I wrote about the Highhill Educational Philosophy. This post does a good job of explaining how we approach education. Although we go through phases of more and less detailed requirements, the basics still reign supreme. We typically spend between 2-3 hours per day studying reading, writing and math. The rest of the day has more variation. Sometimes we experience phases where the kids spend all their remaining time exploring their interests, other times they select things to do from a list of activities as described in the Highhill Educational Philosophy post, and other times I lead an art, science or craft project. We take clues from each other and alter our school day to create new balance whenever necessary. (usually 3 times per year).
Regardless of our weekly homeschooling detailed or undetailed schedule, whenever the kids have free time to explore their interests, they engage in quality activities. Here are a few of their recent explorations.
My son wanted to improve his drawing techniques, so he followed several tutorials in a learn to draw book.
My 8 year old wanted to try another knitting project, so together we found an appropriate project in a knitting book. She made two small coin purses. One she kept and the other she gave to her aunt for her birthday.
My 13 year old daughter worked with a local seamstress to sew dance costumes for her group. She learned proper techniques, practiced her German and was able to help complete several costumes.
She worked to master the techniques she learned from the expert retired tailor by sewing an identical costume for her stuffed bear. This bear's priceless costume took over two months to complete.
To read more about how we began exploring the unschooling approach to education and then returned to our roots, please click the links below.
Switch to Interest Based Education - Update 1
Switch to Interest Based Education - Update 2
Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.