To much of a good thing? I didn’t think there was much truth to this saying when it came to unschooling! Letting Makai run with an idea or pursue an interest all day or for weeks, letting him decide the direction for learning is what attracted us to unschooling in the first place. People learn best when they are truly interested in the subject matter, wanting to spend time doing or learning about something.
Our first real cue to start facilitating learning for Mak was his obsession with books. He loves going to the book store, and the library and choosing books. Picking books to order from book club is usually a list as long as my arm. Hours are spent sifting through Grandma’s sizable children’s book collection. At random times “read me a story”, “ Let me read you this story”, “what does this say”. One story always turns into 4 or 5 and he will point out words in the stories he knows. He is clearly interested in books and reading.
So we bought letter magnets, flash cards, software, DVDs, early learning books you name the resource we brought it home for Mak. Grandma jumped on the bandwagon too. Taping words to things around the house: fridge, stove, lamp, picture, everything had a label. Now every story included following the text with an index finger and sounding out certain words. Mak started to ask less and less for stories. At bed time “no story tonight” became a regular occurrence. At the library DVDs were chosen instead of books. The new books and stories brought home were left untouched. What’s going on? “Why don’t you want a story anymore?”
Who’s leading the learning now? Just short of pushing it in his face every chance we got, WE were pursuing this interest for sure! Mak ripped down all the labels posted around the house, scattered all of the letter magnets and stopped asking for stories, for 6 months!
In this process Makai’s interest shifted to dinosaurs and lizards. Learning names, anatomy and behavioral characteristics: through the internet, animal planet DVDs, pictures, watching Wild Kratts, dinosaur and lizard toys, not through books. He determined his focus for learning and went about doing just that, learning, despite our dog and pony show.
Kids will learn naturally. This experience has made me wonder what would have happened in a public school environment? Makai’s interest didn’t fall in line with our ideas about reading but he had the choice to pursue something he wanted to learn. He wouldn’t have had the same freedom, taking a 6 month hiatus from reading, going to school. Curriculum doesn’t afford that luxury.
We are back to reading stories and the questions and answers have started again: “What does this say?” or “this word is__.” He looks for guidance on his terms.
That’s just fine with me.