what is unschooling?

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since i’ve been passing our summer adventures off as unschooling i’ve received lots of questions about unschooling, mainly: what is it?

the truth is, i don’t know exactly. My first exposure to the idea of unschooling was on a tv program called extreme parenting. when i first saw it, probably due a bit to dramatic tv editorial, i thought it seemed very strange. but something piqued my interest and i began to poke around on the internet for more information.

i follow a couple of blogs {here and here} that employ unschooling in their homes. with the homeschool movement back in full force, unschooling now seems like not such a big leap.

what has appealed to me about it thus far is that it allows me to educate darla in a very fluid way. i don’t have to prepare intricate lesson plans. i or darla can determine an activity or adventure for the day and we “see what we can see. find what we can find.”  also, unschooling just makes sense to me. children learn by doing. children learn by seeing. children and ADULTS learn by gravitating towards their natural interests.

but i admit i am just now starting to really dig my fingers into the research. i just picked up my first two books on unschooling. i hope to follow these up with more. See, i’m unschooling myself.

i’ll share what i find out. then you can read if you want to and unschool yourself. or not.

unschooling: ohio historical center outdoor session

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dear people of ohio,

take your children to the ohio history center. you’re welcome.

i’m going to tell you about the second half of our day at the ohio history center along with these amusing photos. sound good?

for the second half of the day we visited the Ohio Village. activities like these are a dream come true for me since traveling back in time is my ultimate life goal. before we could actually visit the village we had to dress ourselves appropriately:

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bonnets!

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OMG, the bonnets!

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I like to call this next one “Sad Bonnet” because this is when darla faked sadness and said i never take pictures of her. hahahahaha. future darla has now read a whole entire blog composed just of pictures i’ve taken of her. silly sad bonnet girl.

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and in her sadness she declared she did not like the bonnet any more, so i wore the bonnet. and this took me back to the days when i would run around the yard in my own bonnet and prarie dress playing Little House.

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after dealing with the dressing and undressing, we were finally able to cross the bridge over to the magical Ohio Village. a place where all the volunteers think it’s funny to chastise you for wearing shorts and claim you are showing your undergarments. {it’s not funny.}

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indecent exposure aside, that did not stop us from having all kinds of old-time fun. like making lace!

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yeah, darla made lace! can you believe it? she also almost stabbed a woman but it’s cool.

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this was the point in the timeline that i started feeling like the ohio village was really, really rad. i mean, darla made lace!

side note: does it sound cool when i say rad?

next up, more dress up!

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and there it is. a dream come true for me. i finally got to wear a hoop skirt. i cannot for the life of me understand how those things ever went out of fashion. it was so breezy up in there! i want to make my own. i also want to be corseted but apparently i missed the boat on that about 27 years ago.

we rounded out with the druggist, the toy maker and the barn but i stopped taking pictures here. do we really need to see 50 pictures of our day at the ohio village? no. we don’t. although a few years from now I may be lamenting the fact that i didn’t take more pix of that hot, beautiful day. { i think not though. }

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ending on an advertisement for ridding your body of tapeworm seemed like a good idea. so there you go.

also, i’m going to bet that the kickapoo indians never saw a dime of money from this enterprise.

so that’s the end of a fine day of unschooling. the ohio historical center gets a top-notch rating from me for offering us an extremely interactive experience on our first visit.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today!

unschooling: the audubon center

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darla,

one of the things i struggle with the most with unschooling is feeling the self-imposed pressure to see that you squeeze every ounce of information from the great resources we have available for free in our world. i often have to stop myself and ask is she enjoying this right now? if she’s enjoying it then she is learning. if she’s not then she is reciting information to pacify me.

this was my struggle when we returned to the audubon center last week. our last trip here was on a monday when the center is not open. i actually love breaking this park up into an indoor/outdoor experience. there is just too much to experience to fit it all in on one day. but you had been asking to return on a day when the center was open ever since so that’s what we did.

you seemed to breeze past all the things i wanted you to explore at first. i could feel myself switching into control mode and i had to take a deep breath and let it go. you really wanted to play dress up in the animal outfits. me thinks those outfits are the whole reason you’ve been asking to come back. once i reminded myself that you are learning by playing i was able to incorporate some substantial information into our play. eventually you became curious and wanted to put a little more effort into fact-finding. we spent a few good hours there playing, looking at exhibits and lunching while reading books about caterpillars and butterflies in the bird-watching library.

i will have to remember that sometimes you’re going to be locked in and intent on information intake like when we went to blacklick and sometimes you’re just going to want to put on a bird costume and run around. both are valid and important. sometimes you’re going to want to read a book and sometimes you will want to veg in front of a movie. both are valid and important.

i want this to be fun for you. i want you to know that the whole world is yours to learn from. it’s there for the taking. i know i need to put the work into myself to remove the expectations i have so that this can be fun for both of us. let’s have an adventure together. let’s let it last all our days.

ps. plus when i let you do what you want it often looks like this

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unschooling: blacklick woods

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i’m determined to have our unschooling take us through as many of the columbus metro parks as possible this summer. we added blacklick woods to our list of faves this week. last week was pretty light on unschooling adventures. friends were in town so our lessons for that week were mostly about “hey when you’re besties fly in from the westies you drop everything and spend time with them” which i happen to believe is very good subject material.

so, monday brought us a really beautiful, perfect day for being out and about in the woods. our very first “lesson” was talking about how to read the map and determining our path. blacklick had a perfect length loop hike and a great nature center. darla decided we should visit the nature center before and after our hike. the center had all sorts of information on wildlife native to the woods & insect inspection stations. you can see we spent some time at the touchable objects station where D examined fossils, rock samples, horns and feathers.

the entirety of the hike took us about 25 mins. it would have been shorter but we stopped to make friends along the way, checked out fungi, frogs in the bogs, and even got to see a hawk on the hunt from extremely close up.

our visit ended by spending some time at the observation window which lines the entire back of the center. furry, feathery animals of all kinds come right up to the windows and eat undisturbed by the human folk. d got a real kick out of a momma racoon with her 3 kits and sang the pompoko theme song to them. personally, i favored the numerous chipmunks.

you know, this whole unschooling summer has felt kinda like girl scout camp to me. and that’s a pretty good feeling. i loved girl scout camp! i feel such a calling to this way of bringing up my daughter. i’m looking forward to seeing where else this path where take us.

thanks for checking out this unschooling outing of ours. good luck in your educational endeavors.

unschooling: raspberry picking

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we toned it down on the unschooling last week since we did so much the week before, not to mention the precipitation issue. the cooler temps did make for a very nice outing to picturesque mitchell’s berries. yes, those are sweatshirts on those boys. we went with our friends visiting from abu dabi. these unseasonably cool temps were quite a trip for them.

you could almost call this just an outing. i didn’t really try to do too much in-depth convo about the raspberry picking process since darla was having a good time with friends. the last thing kids want to do is listen to their parents when other kids are around. but the nice thing about unschooling is that i don’t have to stress if i didn’t impart every bit of knowledge possible along the way. they learned on their own from the experience. they will remember the thorns. they will remember discovering that the deep red, squishy berries are sweeter and juicier than the bright red, firm ones. they will remember the difference between the black raspberries and the red. hopefully they will remember the beautiful weather and forget the moments of tiredness and small squabbles. i know that’s how i’ll remember it.

our visit was at the very beginning of raspberry season so i’m hoping to make it back to mitchell’s again. it was a simply lovely set-up. plus, we gobbled up most of the berries fresh so my stores for preserves were greatly depleted by jam time.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today.

unschooling: wind and solar energy

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more unschooling from last week. yay!!! it started out as a venture to a local farm for BLACK RASPBERRIES. YES THIS IS IN CAPS AND READS LIKE I AM SHOUTING AND IT’S BECAUSE I’M SHOUTING. I LOVE LOVE LOVE BLACK RASPBERRIES. THEY ARE MY CHILDHOOD ENCAPSULATED IN FOOD FORM.

let’s move on just as we moved on to glacier metro park. we enjoyed an absolutely delicious lunch of peaches, black raspberries and blueberries then wandered around until we discovered the wind & solar energy station. the park has interactive tools darla had an enthusiasm explosion over. this was one of those outings where i was spewing information and what darla took out of it was “the sun is hot and the breeze is mother nature’s breath.” not quite what i was saying but i’ll take it.

and then something happened that made me think maybe she does listen to me every once in a while…

while she was cranking the turbine she started talking about how her energy is a renewable energy source!!!

she gets it. she has learned from this lifestyle of riding bikes, and walking, and using your own energy to accomplish something that humans have a vast resource of energy available and it is ourselves.

and this has me thinking:

we have millions of americans in gyms because our society is so sedentary now that we can’t keep weight off our bodies. we also have an energy crisis. how, HOW!?, has no one yet invented a gym where members get on machines and create an energy source instead of getting on machines that use energy. like a reverse treadmill. i’ve seen it at festivals: get on this bike and charge your phone sort of thing. can someone invent a gym that does that?

should i be typing this here? i mean i don’t even have a copyright on this website yet. who do i talk to about this?

i’m sure it has something to do with working out who “owns” the energy and how to disperse it blah blah blah but i used to be at the gym and just feel so bad about all the electricity being used up for people to “work out” when the answer might be as simple as riding your bike or walking to your destinations.

i better stop now before this post turns into rant status but in conclusion, i think she and i are both learning as we move through this together and that’s all that matters.

*yes, i realize she doesn’t have her top on. no, i do not care. she’s 4 and black raspberry stains do not come out, people. if your child says “i’m hot can i take my shirt off” while she’s eating black raspberries you say yes.

unschooling: nature walk

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you know what i love about unschooling? everything! but one of the facets that suits my personality is that it can be a spur-of-the-moment idea. it can be a moment where you decide to pull the car over to take a walk in that park you’ve been meaning to for years.

unschooling last week included a trip to the smith nature park. this was a great, small little bit of woodland nestled into suburbia. we spent about 30 minutes here walking trails and creek gazing. it’s small enough to let darla be trail leader and big enough to make her feel like she’s a real hot-shot while doing so.

here’s darla’s summary of surroundings for her nature journal that day:

green plants. black trees. red trash. different kinds of rocks. it’s cool and hyperllenic. that means freshwater.  is bacteria a parasite?

hyperllenic does not mean freshwater. it’s a word she made up. at least i think. hold on. yep, she made it up.

picture summary:

1. self-explanatory

2. here’s me trying to revisit the concept of trees adding rings as they grow and examining this cross-section with her but instead she’s interested in these little balls she found which i think might have been some kind of pest repellent. sometimes this is just about me hearing myself talk, i think.

3. woods wedgie!! had. to. include.

4. is a pic of my feet is to show you all how idyllic and serene my life is. i’m just sitting next to creeks all the time gazing prolifically at my thrifted grannie shoes while darla yells requests to get in the creek and fish out trash at me. such a lush, verdant life i lead here by this creek.

in seriousness, our unschooling has provided a lot of peace and serenity in my life and i believe in darla’s. i feel spending time exploring the great wild world is so important. i hope she will remember these days all her life. i hope this will be a foundation for her to have a connection to the earth and find a way to live in harmony with her surroundings. the saying goes: children can’t learn to respect nature if they don’t spend any time in it.

thanks for checking in on our unschooling today.

ps. the ua parks department has this nifty little handout on the web for printing. this would have been a nice resource had i researched before and not stopped in on a whim. next time, i guess.