The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffith

unschooling-handbook

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I picked up The Unschooling Handbook at the library in the next town over when we made it into a day trip.  What can I say?  The most important feature to us in any community is the library.  We’re geeks.

They had a decent homeschooling section, and the topic of unschooling is mighty appealing to me.  I’d say we’re already half-way there with our relaxed way of doing school.  We keep holding onto a bit of guiding the kids’ learning though, because the idea of unschooling makes my husband panic.  Daddy is not a pretty sight when he panics about the kids’ schooling.  Usually lectures ensue.

If it were solely up to me, we would be unschoolers.  My views on how to guide the kids’ learning have changed as I’ve seen what my eldest son is capable of if I just leave him alone and let him pursue his own interests, at his own pace.  He reads voraciously.  I have no hope of keeping up with him or even keeping enough recommendations on hand.  Also, he is a bit of an obsessive learner, like I am.  If he gets on a topic that he’s interested in, he will explore it deeply until he is satisfied with the knowledge he’s attained.  He doesn’t like to divide his attention between a variety of topics throughout the day.  Some people just work that way.

For instance, he loves the Percy Jackson books.  This led to an exploration of all different ancient gods and myths.  His curiosity about ancient religions and mythology were spurred on by a series of novels which he found interesting.  That learning stint lasted at least a couple of months.

Now he has moved on to teaching himself JavaScript on Khan Academy.  I would never have suggested this avenue of learning, nor been able to teach it to him.  There is a benefit to allowing a child to pursue his/her own interests and letting their own curiosity set the pace.

So back to the book I’m reviewing.  The Unschooling Handbook is an excellent resource for anybody who wants to learn about unschooling, or who is already doing it themselves.  Not only is this a how-to of unschooling, but it includes a wealth of information from respondents to questions which the author disseminated.

Here is an outline of what you can find in the book:

  • Information on how to incorporate reading, writing, math, science, history, and the arts into unschooling
  • Discussion on practical matters–legal requirements, monetary and time limits, working with multiple children, support group info., how to cope with doubts & challenges, etc.
  • Lots of discussion on learning styles, educational philosophies, the parent’s role in unschooling, etc.
  • A ton of additional resource suggestions
  • Sample schedules or activity lists
  • Many anecdotes & observations from unschooling parents & children

I highly recommend this book to anybody who engages in unschooling or is considering that method.  I think the book would also be beneficial for parents who want to stick with a more conventional homeschooling method.  If nothing else–it may help them gain a bit more confidence in their child’s ability to learn and grow if allowed to blossom on their own timetable.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Unschooling would be helpful to all children: It’s not one particular way of learning: it’s learning at your own level, in your own interest, and at your own pace.  What child wouldn’t benefit from a learning experience like that?”  (p.207)

Hail

hail

 

A few weeks ago, we experienced some adverse weather in our area.  What I thought would be a regular thunder storm actually produced some rather large hail.  It was easily as big as the end of my thumb!

The kids and I took it as a learning opportunity.  We stood on our front porch, which is full of windows, and watched the hail bounce on the ground as it fell.  Once the hail was done falling, I ran outside and collected some in a bowl for the kids to explore.  We put a few in a smaller bowl and popped them in the freezer so that Daddy could see them when he got home.

I can’t remember the last time I saw hail this large!  And the kids really enjoyed this unexpected chance to explore a weather phenomenon!

Why not use real-life weather patterns to fuel a science discussion with your kids?

Recognizing Punctuation & Symbols

recognizing-punctuation-symbols

 

This activity is very easy and cheap!  My son took this handout from church and circled all of the punctuation and symbols he could find on it.

When he was finished we looked at all of the different types of punctuation and symbols, and discussed when each would be used.  That’s it!

How could it get any easier to get your child to explore the uses of punctuation?

Birthday Invitations – Art

birthday-invitation-1

Making birthday invitations is a great way to get your child doing some art!  It is very similar to cardmaking, but this is just another application for the using same techniques.

The invitation above is one that my eldest son made a couple of years ago for his Link-themed birthday party.  I already had all of the supplies he needed, except for the Hyrulian Crest stamp from etsy.

birthday-invitation-2

He used an invitation stamp with fancy lettering inside, and went back to fill in the details later by hand.  My son really enjoyed this hands-on projects.  They didn’t turn out perfect, but he got the satisfaction of doing the job himself.

It can be difficult to hand over party details like this to your kids, but it is well worth it.  I’ve started trusting my kids to do more, instead of taking over because of my perfectionistic nature.

Valentine’s Day Box – Art

valentine-box-1

Here is our Valentine’s Day box from last year!  This is a fun and usable group art project.  You could let your kids plan out a design ahead of time or just wing it.  It’s totally up to you!

I used my X-ACTO knife to cut a slot in the top of our box.  For decorating, we had some silver and pink duct tape left over from other projects, so we decided to use those colors on our box.

The kids decorated the entire box with Valentine’s stickers that I had gotten at the dollar store.  I’m glad I got several packs because they went through almost all of them!

valentine-box-2

To finish off the ends of the box we put on some washi tape I had sitting around–silver glitter, heart garland, plain pink, and pink polka dots.  The tape may not stay on the best, so a bit of clear tape on the ends might help.

I hope our box has provided you with some inspiration for decorating your own Valentine’s Day box.  We just used an old gift box and items I already had around the house.  See what you can make with your odds and ends!

Cardmaking – Art

cardmaking

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This is another art activity which lends itself well to the homeschooling family.  When you and your children make cards for your friends and loved ones, you’re also undertaking an art project.  This is a wonderful way to teach your kids to think of others and send them a note of encouragement.  Sometimes it’s nice to get a card in the mail when you are feeling alone, discouraged, or forgotten.

There is no right or wrong way to make cards, so kids can come up with their own designs, and experiment to their heart’s content.  If you start making cards with your kids, just be careful that you don’t get sucked into the never-ending list of supplies available to you.  It can be quite addicting!

Below are some of the basics that we use in cardmaking.  All of these items can be found at your local Michaels or JoAnns.  There are many, many more supplies available to you in addition to what I have listed here.  Have fun experimenting and see what you like best!

Adhesive Foam Dots

Adhesive Runner Tape

Bone Folder Tool

Circle Punches

Clear Polymer Alphabet Stamps

Colored Card Stock

Envelope Punch Board

Ink Pads

Paper Trimmer

Sizzix Big Shot Plus Cutting/Embossing Machine (or other brand)

Stamping Blocks

Stickers

Washi Tape

White Card Stock

Duct Tape Clipboard – Art

duct-tape-clipboard

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This activity is a fun and easy craft which also serves a purpose in keeping your child organized.  The duct tape clipboard would be the perfect place for your child to keep a list of the things they want to accomplish during the week.

To make these, we purchased some Superman duct tape at Walmart to dress up a plain brown clipboard.  One roll is enough to do two clipboards, if you do about seven rows of tape on each side.  My girls got Hello Kitty ones. Your kids could even make these as gifts for friends or cousins.

There are lots of cool duct tape designs:

Angry Birds

Avengers

Batman

Butterfly

Colored Squares

Despicable Me

Gummy Bears

Hearts

Musical Notes

Peacock Feathers

Phineas & Ferb

Pink Polka Dot

Polka Dot

Skulls

SpongeBob

Star Wars

Zebra Print