We had some friends over last week to hang out. They are going to start homeschooling next year, and the mom wanted to talk about things. At first she wanted to come over to “watch us homeschool,” but I had to laugh and tell her, “You are welcome to come over and watch us sit on the couch and read together, but maybe just plan to come over and play and visit.”
As karma would have it, the morning they were coming over, Zachy was reading a science book and wanted to set up an experiment. So, when they arrived, we were right in the middle of a fun experiment, and we looked just like schooly homeschoolers, which cracks me up.
Then, a couple days later, Buster and Yessa and Monkey decided they wanted to make volcanoes, so out came lots of experiment supplies, and they blew things up for awhile. I remembered I had gotten corn starch at TJ’s, and asked if they wanted to play around with oobleck. Well?! Who doesn’t want to play around with oobleck.
I had forgotten how crazy oobleck is.
And that you don’t want to pour it down your sink…
The other wonderful thing about this day, besides time with Liz, O, and S, was that Liz did a write up on her blog about the day, and it was fascinating to read her perspective of our life. Her blog is “closed,” so I can’t link to it, but here is the write up:
My gracious friend Jennie opened up her house so we could invade for a morning. While the kids ran around like maniacs, we pored over books and I asked question after question.
Unschooling: A movement founded on the principle that children learn best when they pursue their own natural curiosities and interests.
A day at Jennie’s house usually involves lots of reading together and pursing what the kids want to learn. Jennie is cunning, of course – she “happens” to leave interesting history and science books around, and finds it fascinating to see who picks it up first. While we were there, her middle child asked to do a science experiment, and her eldest pulled out a box of circuit building parts and told me how she loves history books because of all the stories in them.
Styrofoam planets float serenely above the piano. All over Jennie’s house I found the signs of free-wheeling and exuberant learning – from the solar system hanging on the wall, to the piles of books, the magnetic poetry lining the stairs and kid projects everywhere.
I was also struck by the way Jennie paid close attention when one of her children came to her with a question or comment. They knew she was listening. She was also comfortable telling them they would need to wait and learn more about it later.
Jennie candidly said that they were a little more structured than when they first started. Right now, from morning until about 1pm is no screen time. Lots of reading and working on various kid-selected projects. In the afternoon they can use the computer or iPad. There’s plenty of chances to get out and play, but so much of what they did while we were there was clearly BOTH learning and play. Jennie said the hard part was actually protecting their quiet time at home, since in Northern Virginia they could literally find something to go out and do every day of the week.
Notes to myself:
– Virginia is very straightforward on homeschooling. Submit a letter of intent (NOT a request for permission) and a brief description of curriculum goals. By August of next year, submit the results of an achievement test that show adequate learning has taken place. The bar is set pretty low.
– I love the easy rhythm of unschooling. Time to play, learn, rest, savor a meal, and whatever else the day may bring. Sam was visibly relaxed by the end of the morning.
– I do think I’ll need some additional structure, especially as we get started. Olivia is a schedule-girl – she likes to know when things are going to happen. And some areas, like math, I want to make sure we’re hitting our milestones.
– I’m totally getting more bookcases.
Liz makes us sound so cool and interesting and fun and progressive. I want to be this person she’s talking about. 😉