what my daughter is going to learn without going to school

Now that I am feeling very decided about the fact that I’m not going to have my daughter attend traditional school, I’ve been thinking about all of the things we do naturally, every day, that teach math, science, and everything else. I realize now that before she is 18, just by exploring the world around us in depth, she will have at least a basic knowledge of the following:

Social studies: Politics, history, geography, world cultures, world religions, anthropology, economics
Literacy: reading, writing, literature, world languages
Science: earth sciences (the plant and animal kingdom, geology, archeology), chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology, health and nutrition, technology, environment and ecology studies
Math: fractions, arithmetic, practical problem solving, measurement, calculations
Life skills: food preparation, vehicle and machinery operational, emotional intelligence, planning skills, household management
Electives: sports, music, art, horticulture, physical activity and anything else she wants to try!

I might have left a few things out. The point is that I’m realizing that through doing things like cooking together, gardening together, and traveling together gives me more than ample opportunity to touch on every single one of those subjects many, many times… because really, they are all just a part of real life! I don’t have to separate her from the real world in order to teach her about it!

I didn’t learn a whole lot from these subjects in school. To this day, I can’t tell you what the chemistry class I took was about. I got an A in it, by the way, but might as well have flunked for all the good it did me at the time and now. The things I currently feel “good at” now are things I mostly pursued outside of school, including what I learned in nursing school. That being said, I’m not anti-classroom instruction. I chose to take an amazing African American literature course as well as a Women in Literature course, and they changed the way I saw the world. You just have to be truly interested in the topic to learn about it.

As it turns out, we all start out “unschooling” our children, up until they attend school full time, and sometimes even after. I just see no reason to take a time out from “real learning” to place my kid in a place which is largely boring and oppressive (always exceptions, of course). If my daughter comes out with a basic knowledge of those subjects above, she’ll be at least on par with the majority of other students who were schooled, if not ahead of many of them!

DisclaimerI attended public school and university, and liked school for the most part. You can put your kid in a school and he or she can turn out just fine, with a discriminating mind and many passions. These are just my personal parenting opinions, and the best way I see fit for MY child. If you’d like to debate the merit of traditional schooling vs. unschooling or worldschooling, I’m all for respectful discourse.

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Categories: education, parenting

8 Comments »

  1. My only worry with unschooling is – how do I teach my child how to read? Write? Am I equipped to teach what someone who has had formal training can do? It’s the foundation that makes me most nervous to provide – those early years.

    But by and large, I think unschooling sure does beat traditional schooling. I LOVED school – everything about it. But I know I also would’ve loved to travel, see the world, and learn that way. I would’ve loved to have studied what I *wanted* to rather than what I was *told* to.

    • Yes there are so many interesting articles on the subject. I think most people have found that kids learn to read even without schooling, and it’s math they worry about most! I’m with them… lord knows I can read well and pass that on, but math?? I’ll have to do lots of reading about how to reinforce a subject that I don’t feel confident in!

      • Oh yeah – I’m so bad at math I didn’t even THINK about it! I’ll definitely have to do some learning there…it’s just, I feel so scared of it now. It was 3rd grade that I decided I “sucked” at math, and I’ve hated it & struggled with it ever since.

  2. Money can go in math and life skills! I like the way you are thinking about all of this. I agree that when we are interested in something then we will learn it much better. Self-directed learning is huge. I think the forced learning causes so many people to hate subjects and feel they are no good at them. Or, there is a teacher you totally clash with and then hate that subject too.

  3. I homeschooled my son, boarderline unschooled (I had some structure around reading and math). It worked for us but not so much for others in out homeschooling community. Some kids need more structure than others, the best part about homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to create the ideal learning environment for your kids.

  4. I home educated my bios and 3 adoptees. It was a wonderful experience. All who chose college were fully prepared and were done in less than 4 years. I have one left at home.

    I chose this path for many of the reasons you cite. We had lots of time for them to pursue their passions. One Univ took my son all over the US before college. One received so many scholarships their bank account was larger after school than before. My non-college bounds had a great experience too.

  5. The thing about homeschooling / unschooling is you don’t have to follow ANY special format. You can do what works best for you and your child.

    I never planned on schooling at home. But the public schools where we live are very, very bad! To make a long story short, I brought my youngest two home when they were in 2nd grade and 3rd grade.

    The first year home the 2nd grader did a boxed curriculum and the 3rd grader attended a public online elementary.

    The next two years we basically unschooled.

    But I used curriculum so I wasn’t technically unschooling them. We delved deep into subjects we liked. We abandoned books that were boring. We did several years worth of math to catch up my older boy because the public school had not met his needs. I used every opportunity to teach. Our school didn’t look like school at all!

    This year they decided to go back to public school. The younger one is in 5th grade and the older one started middle school. The foundation I established at home is helping them sort through what is boring and worthless in the public school and not let it change how they feel about really learning. They wanted to do public school for the socialization and extra-curricular activities that aren’t available outside public school (namely football). I can’t afford a ton of private-pay activities so it’s awesome that my kids are in math club, music club, running club, and more.

    And they know if public school starts to suck the life out of them again…they will come right back home!

    I had to laugh when an administrator told me during the enrollment process, “We’ll get him (my younger boy) caught back up.” I looked her in the eye and said, “He’s not behind.” Sure enough…my youngest is head of his class with all A’s! My middle schooler has dyslexia that the public school had not caught or helped with at all. Because he came home, we were able to teach him on a very personal level. We’re still in the process of getting his 504 plan set up in the middle school. But the three years he spent at home are the only reason he’s able to keep up with things now!

  6. Yes, what all these other moms have said. Teaching your kids letters, sounds, how to put them together and sound them out is pretty straightforward. I don’t know what special training would be required, but I didn’t have it. Neither did my seven year old brother when he taught me to read when I was four, before I spent the next 13 years in public school. I think any special training is probably focused on teaching many young kids at one time.

    I really hated the school environment. I had great grades, but was miserable socially. Just a really late bloomer in that regard, but I couldn’t see putting my kids back into a system that left me feeling worthless. And then, as it happened, it really worked for our lives, with a lot of moves and domestic travel (still fully planning to go international!) it just made so much sense.

    As far as math, there are so many free resources available now (vs even ten years ago when I was getting started) like Khan Academy, where you can literally learn along with your children, I would encourage any one who feels as you do too go for it. I have a 14.5 y/o, a 13 y/o, and a 4 y/o. We’ve done so many different things, eclectically dabbling in this or that, but haven’t used a box curriculum yet. There’s a style for every family.

    And I have friends whose kids go to public school, and they’re great kids. It works for their families. I’m just really grateful that we have the freedom and options available to us that we (and I hope you) do.

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