My new way to describe our homeschooling approach

I'm not a big fan of public relations "spin" but I know how important our words are in creating images and dialogue.

I find that the word "unschooling" can be a big barrier in talking about homeschooling or garnering support from others.  It sounds so...irresponsible.

So I when I think about what unschooling actually is in reality, Dayna Martin's description of unschooling as Total Immersion Learning is so perfect!

"Joy of Learning" by Grant Kinzer at NMSU
Our kids are surrounded by math, history, science, technology, and civics lessons in their daily life.

They learn joyfully and on a "need to know" basis and in context.

It is just like how we learn a language from being "immersed" in it and without formal classes.

As Dayna says, "Reading, writing and math are tools to help us get more of what we want and need in life. These useful tools would be learned easily if we weren't so convinced that learning them was tedious and difficult, taking years of practice, training and focus. In our lives, these tools have been picked up easily, quickly and naturally."

Being home and surrounded by CNN, MSNBC, and parents involved in local political affairs, both our kids are well versed in current events on local and national/international affairs.

Beloved library books teach about historical figures in fun and engaging ways.  We always put whatever we read  into a timeline view to figure out where it fits into history.  Who was president when was ice cream invented?

Our soon to be 7 year old daughter loves to draw, paint, create, build, sing, dance, run, swim, cheer, and play soccer. She is our social butterfly.

She has fabulous graphomotor skills but was adamant about not writing letters.  But once I showed her cursive letters she was hooked!  I'm sure in school she would have been forced to learn zaner blosser printing and hated it.

She can print those letters enough to fill out a form "print name here" but otherwise, who needs to print when cursive is so much faster???  Plus she has great keyboarding skills which are probably even more likely to be used in the real world.

She's not too interested in reading yet. But that time will come. In the meantime, she still loves books and wants me to read them to her.  Having a child who enjoys reading for pleasure is much  more important to me than having an early reader.  She hasn't learned that reading can be painful like some of her age mates. She has a fabulous vocabulary and is very rich with words.

She soaks up science ideas from Ms. Frizzle books and some fabulous PBS programming.  With all the science videos online both of our kids have often already done experiments and activities that are part of the classes at the local science center.

My newly minted 10 year old son might not have the graphomotor skills of his age mates who use pencils all day long, but he types about 55 wpm.

He does a ton of math in his head and does it intuitively, so we pointed him to the Khan Academy resources to learn the "rules" behind what he already knows.  It lets him choose his own learning path. So he is doing pre-algebra in some areas while still veering away from other areas until he is ready.

He has sought out resources online and completely on his own set up his own server using one of our old computers.  I thought my techie husband had helped him, but no, he did it on his own.

Our son regularly hosts group meetings and leads an international multi-age team in collaborative decision making, negotiating, conflict resolution and task completion via skype.

Yes, his multiplayer gaming makes him completely prepared for the future work environment.  :-)

He loves hanging with his buddies to swim or play in the gym, but there aren't many that live nearby, so he loves to connect with scads of guys online -- That environment that fits with some of his social anxieties anyway.

This unschooling Total Immersion Learning approach is heavily steeped in intrinsic motivation.  So I guess in that way unschooling really is UN-schooling since so much of schooling deals with extrinsic motivation.

And while this works for our family, it doesn't work for everyone for a variety of reasons.

But there ARE ways to bring this approach into mainstream education.

Learning Joy from Blue Lyon
The UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools reminds us that intrinsic motivation is often missing from schools.

And it can be a key reason why students are disengaged from school learning.

They offer a really good overview of how to approach learning to maximize interest AND meaningful activity.

I know that really good teachers try to do this already.  It's just a challenge in a system with 40 kids in a class and pressures to teach to the test.

Kudos for all those teachers and students that are hanging in there amidst those challenges!


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