Friday, 11 May 2012

tempted to unschool

Well, we were all getting a little stressed about the star chart again, so I suggested a no-star-chart day today.  DS1 was a bit concerned about whether he would still get a reward, but I said I could bless them just because I wanted to.  I think it's unhealthy for them to grow up expecting a certain reward for everthing they do and thinking everything has to be earned - this is one of the reasons why I'm not 100% happy with on the whole 'incentive' method of learning.  Probably one of the reasons why it appeals to my boys is because their previous school used incentives a lot, so maybe I need to back right off and give unschooling a bit more of a chance - after all, they are still technically still in the 'deschooling' period (so it doesn't matter if they learn nothing! ;) ).  Hmmm, don't know... it's tempting...
I know it doesn't have to mean them sitting around being bored all day. One of the lovely ladies I met yesterday rightly commented that if a child chooses to do workbooks, online curriculum etc, that still counts as 'unschooling' - if it comes from their choice, it's autonomous.  That's my dream: to have the boys learn what they want to learn.... perhaps I could do a week of experimental unschooling just to observe?  I have to admit though, my main concern is whether they would choose to do Maths or English (as those are the two main subjects I want them to progresss in)  If there are any 'unschoolers' reading this, I apologise - I know that's not how it works, segregating subjects like that - my teacher brain does tend to take over still - which is why I'm thinking of trying it for a week to see what they choose.
Anyway, today's unschooling was certainly encouraging  I only had one request: no wii or ds until after lunch.  DS2 cried out "that's not fair!" (which is his default response to anything I say that he doesn't like - well, he is six!), so we had a calm chat about why he thought it wasn't fair ("because it's what you want, not me" - fair point), and why he thought Mummy suggested it.  We talked about it not being a total ban - just a request to save it for later so he and his brothers could have some time to think of other things that were also fun, to do first.  He was actually happy about that, so it was nice to successfully diffuse what could have easily turned into a sulk (phew, 'good parenting' moments are so encouraging!)
The boys very quickly came up with things they wanted to do.  DS1 wanted to build a robot hand he had seen on 'Backyard Science', DS2 wanted to create a collage out of his own imagination, just using bits he had found in the craft box, and DS3 asked to do some painting, which I said we would do as soon as DS2 had finished his picture - trying to contain the mess & prevent any 'he-got-paint-on-my-picture' type arguments.  Fortunately DS3 was happy to wait, watching DS2 for a while until he was inspired to 'decorate' one of Mummy's lists (I have many) with tissue paper, stamps, hole punches etc.  Once DS1 saw the painting we were doing (blowing paint into alien shapes) he had a break from making his robot-hand to join in, but didn't stick with it for long.  DS3's initially promising alien shapes were obliterated by his finding a brush and getting carried away, turning them into the inevitable page-sized muddy blob that happens not infrequently when he gets his hands on paint.  DS2 however, spent a good amount of time, experimenting with different colours unil he was happy that his painting was complete (and Mummy joined in too as it's always good for them to see grown-ups having a go - well, that's my excuse!)  We also had fun with jigsaws, trampolining, marbles, TV & Wii (in the afternoon, as requested). 
The only sticky point to the whole day was with DS1's robot hand - not just sticky because of the amount of sellotape he used while trying to make it work (which was a LOT), but because he became frustrated when it didn't work immediately, and I  had to try to encourage him not to give up on it.  Perseverence is an absolutely essential life-skill, but I didn't want to bully him into completeing it regardless of whether he wanted to or not - that would ultimately be counter-productive. I just wanted him to not throw it away after the first (failed) attempt. Anyway, I mentioned how inventors always have prototypes that they have to make many adjustments to as they progress with their invention, and rather than sending him away to finish it, we came up with ideas together for how we could improve it (even roping in his brothers to hold a bottle still while we tried to pick it up with the robot hand).  I really enjoyed being able to work with him on that one-to-one basis while his brothers built a jigsaw - it took quite a while and I'm sure he'd have given up at the first hurdle without the continuing support.
So, no maths or english today (apart from DS3, who LOVES doing his Reading Eggs - yay), but lots of arts & crafts - and a lesson in persisting.  That unschooling trial is looking very tempting indeed...

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