I haven’t written much about unschooling lately, partially because it has truly become so ordinary to us that it doesn’t strike me as noteworthy enough for a post! For the last week or so, however, I’ve been very excited about the things my kids have been learning.
Elizabeth, my 11 year old, was given a huge stack of books for her birthday, back in April. My husband and I got her the first four Harry Potter books, and her grandparents bought her the Percy Jackson series and the spin-off series, The Heroes of Olympus. Elizabeth had already read the books once and had started reading through them a second time, when Meghan, my 9 year old, decided to read them as well. This was a big deal to me; not only because they are quite lengthy books, but because Meghan has not previously shown a whole lot of interest in reading. She quite enjoyed the Goddess Girls books that they have, reading through them two or three times each. Other than that, she has not read a whole lot of books, especially fiction. She is now finished with all the Percy Jackson and on the second of the Heroes of Olympus books (I believe we are missing a few from the tail end of the series), which adds up to a thousand or so pages, in just a few short weeks! I firmly believe that reading a wide variety of material is the best way to build an extensive vocabulary and to become an exceptional speller. Not only that, but reading opens the door to so many new ideas and concepts that you might not have thought about before. Even fictional stories can spark conversations and deeper study into topics, such as history, science, and mythology. For example, the Goddess Girl books are based upon the Roman deities and the Percy Jackson books are based upon the Greek deities. A couple weeks ago, Elizabeth began talking about these gods with my husband, and he ended up telling her more about Norse mythology and they watched some YouTube videos explaining it more in depth. Both girls have been quick to point out the striking similarities between the different mythologies.
An unexpected branch of study also arose from Meghan reading the Percy Jackson books. She came to me one day and asked, “What’s V I?” I asked for context and she told me that she had seen it at the beginning of the chapter in her book. I immediately realized that it was Roman numerals! I explained to her what it was and then proceeded to write out the numerals up to ten. She thought that was pretty awesome and understood instantly, so I kept going. I got to one hundred and realized that I didn’t remember what five hundred was! By this time, Elizabeth was also participating, so she quickly Googled “Roman numerals” and showed me a chart. The rest of the day, Meghan was practicing writing numbers, quizzing us, having me quiz her, and even counting aloud, saying the numerals in place of numbers! (“I, II, III”, etc.) The funny part to me is that, about a year ago, I had tried to “teach” both girls Roman numerals (back before I had completely let go of my grip on the control of their education.) Meghan had balked at my attempts and had ended up in tears. And here we were, a year later, her grinning from ear to ear and grasping the concept instantly; all because I let her come to it organically, learning it for a purpose instead of arbitrarily. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for us to grasp the concept that teaching someone who lacks the motivation to learn that subject is useless.
Yesterday, Meghan came to me and asked me to teach her Morse code! I told her that I didn’t know it, and I suggested she look it up. She Googled “Morse code” and was overwhelmed with descriptions and definitions. I suggested typing in “learn Morse code”, which led her to a very good teaching game for kids. She ended up writing all the dots and dashes for letters and numbers and practicing on her own later. This led to a discussion of the practical applications of Morse code, and then I went on to explain what a telegraph is and the concept of telegrams. Now, she wants to buy a couple of telegraphs so that she can set them up and communicate with Elizabeth or me! (Do I forsee that scenario actually playing out? No, but it’s fun to imagine!)
What else have the kids been doing? Well, Minecraft is a huge hit right now. Meghan prefers playing the games with other online players, and Elizabeth has big plans for the construction of a space station. She is very technical and enjoys creating very intricate, complicated mechanisms. She has been figuring out how to apply “skins” and other things that I really have no idea what they are!
Meghan has also been drawing a lot of animals, looking up pictures online of the ones she wants to draw. Elizabeth has been having fun using coloring apps on her phone. They are both very creative.
They both cook and bake when the mood strikes, and are both very adept.
I’ve really only scratched the surface of the depth of their learning as of late. As you can see, they absolutely don’t sit around doing “nothing”! It’s very exciting to watch the way their minds work, rather than attempt to “mold” them, as is what happens with “formal” instruction.