Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Accidental Unschooling

After almost six weeks of silence here in the blog realm, I'm a little unsure of how to get back into posting again. Our homeschooling has been pretty different than usual over these weeks. For some time now, my general health had been deteriorating, but I couldn't quite figure out why. In November, my doctor (Why did I wait so long to go see her?!?) figured it out for me, and began ordering further tests and treatment. I'm now recovering from a simple surgical procedure with the assurance that within the next month, I should be back to my usual, high-energy self. I am more than ready for that!

With quite a few doctor visits, preparations for the holidays and my need for a ridiculous amount of rest, our regular schedule of fairly rigorous, but varied, learning for Cullen sort of fell apart. But one of the perks of homeschooling is the flexibility, right? I knew I could make up for time missed later, even through the summer, if needed. I was in for something of a surprise, though!

The philosophy of unschooling, which is almost completely child-directed, has been interesting in theory to me, but I never truly believed that it would work for my child or that I could tolerate not being in control, if I'm honest here. I was not at all expecting it, but Cullen stepped up on his own to cheerfully fill in the gaps when I let up on his regular schedule. I still required the very basics from him, but organized science disappeared altogether, along with most history and geography. Any formal writing instruction stopped, as well.

His recent fascination with drawing was in full force, so he worked a great deal on that, not just scribbling the same things, but actively working on foreground, background, perspective and dimensions. Then he wrote stories and illustrated them, creating four or five books. While his spelling is still that of a seven-year-old boy who thinks if you can figure it out, then it's good enough, his stories were very detailed with surprisingly dramatic elements, a clear beginning, middle and end, and strong characters. He is incredibly proud of the result of his efforts. He also wrote letters, made lists for me, planned out a few businesses that he wants to start with his cousin and a friend - things that would be great writing assignments, approached with so much enthusiasm because he thought of them himself!

We did the minimum from his math workbook, but he enjoys problems just for fun. Often he will ask if I'll "play math" with him, where we take turns making up problems for each other. This has been a prime opportunity for extra practice and more than once, a great way to fill time when waiting for the check at a restaurant!

Our birdfeeder right outside the back door has provided a constant source of fascination as we keep up with birds and squirrels that visit, learning names of the different species and noting how their behavior differs sometimes. A new type of bird gets both of us excited, and we have to look up what it might be right away. Breakfast and lunch usually look something like this in our kitchen:

Some of our favorite visitors were a surprise to me. I thought woodpeckers only ate insects, but three different species have frequented our feeder. The resident red-headed woodpecker tries to keep the others shooed away, but they manage to slip past him often enough. Here is one that I haven't identified yet. He is the only one of the woodpeckers that wasn't scared away by the sound of camera through the glass.

This coming week, I plan to steer Cullen back to a more structured day, but I am so relieved that the extensive make-up time I anticipated may not be required. He has kept his brain sharp on his own initiative and saved me a great deal of guilt! So to all of you unschoolers out there, I apologize for doubting you! Though I still prefer a little more structure, I have learned that it can actually work very well!


Jana said...

Oh the joys of homeschooling, doing what is needed when it is needed. And knowing that in the end it will all work out.

I hope your health returns rapidly.

Tonya @ Live the Adventure said...

I need to find out what that red headed woodpecker is! There is one that lurks near our motor home and has awakened me twice the past couple weeks. Great picture!

jonnia said...

Tonya, that particular bird is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. That's the last thing I would have expected, because the belly is not red at all! Who named this guy? We do have a real Red-Headed Woodpecker and he looks like he's wearing a red ski mask over head and neck completely. They can be ridiculously loud, can't they!? Thanks for stopping in.