Backwards Unschooling

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This article is intended to share what I am learning, not to define “exactly” how to unschool. Each homeschooler is expected to take his own journey! Now, if you are looking for some new ingredients to add to your unschool recipe, or inspiration to enhance your adventure, you are in the right place! If you want a challenge to your way of thinking, read on.

Backwards Unschooling - By Shelley


Direct to Delight

Contrary to much of what I’ve seen in Unschooling thought in cyberspace, I find that firm direction and happiness can co-exist. In fact, when the parent’s attitude is confident, respectful, and open, direction can be a beautiful thing.

Let me explain with a couple personal unschooling stories.

My son was recently injured badly enough after falling off his bike to need a doctor visit for advice. He had a wound that looked ugly and he didn’t want to look at it. Not once did he show signs of gagging when peeking at the wound. During the doctor visit, however, my son was asked, “Does that make you feel like throwing up?” Later, my son brought that up again. I promptly told him that he never would have thought of that if the doctor hadn’t worded it that way. We went on to discuss the fact that he didn’t like to look at his “boo boo,” but that he could take comfort in the fact that he was healing.

Sometimes we “program” our children, and then turn around to regret it. After all, we teach them to say “yucky” and give them their first impressions of…EVERYTHING if we are a fully engaged homeschool parent, right?!?

[Tweet “If you train your child to enjoy #learning moments, she will. #homeschool #HS #unschooling”]

More recently, I announced that we were having “Backpack School.” This happened because I needed to be busy with some important tax-related work, and would be working on it ALL DAY LONG.

Whether you homeschool or not, you KNOW that mom sitting still all day in front of a computer looking deeply engrossed and less than fully engaged for every single “Mom! Look!” is a recipe for a disastrous day.

Rather than lecture him about “not bothering” mom, we erected a pop-up shelter in my son’s room, and I gave him a “Backpack School” game. The game was, you guessed it, a bunch of “schooly” things to do tic-tac-toe style! The night before, I had put together a “surprise” backpack full of supplies for completing the stuff I indicated on his-tic-tac toe grid. He crossed out what he got done as he went. I sneaked over to the door of his room to check on him from time to time and could hear him reading aloud, see him sprawled on his stomach to write, or crunched up in his camp chair under the shelter, working away! He got done so quickly, we ended up telling him to just play in the tent.

Now THAT is pleasant programming! Please be sure to note that it required respectful previous preparation and think about how you could incorporate some pleasant programming into your unschooling days!

Still not convinced? You can read more specifics of our homeschool dynamic here.

Be sure to respect the random.

I use the word random, but a little prior preparation for learning moments sort of makes them NOT random.  Think of it like this: you know your child loves all things Frozen, so naturally you get something along those lines for Christmas.

What this means is that a parent can respond to learning delight by preparing an opportunity for more.

Instead of scheduling artificial learning moments, you stage for REAL ones.

Once a kid (my kid anyway) finds something fun, he will want to do it again for the sheer adventure of it. Some of our favorite random learning conversations center around Bible characters and stories, math questions, and spelling. Even though my son is reading well, I still have those magnetic letters on my fridge. He enjoys being around me in the kitchen, and loves to practicing spelling words with those letters. Last week, he stood by me as I baked cookies with a whiteboard and marker and learned how to spell baking-related words. Of course the other things my son likes are cookies and spending time with me, so it was a winning situation for both of us!

Then there are the random math questions, one of his favorite is doubles. He will start at 11+11 or something and work his way up until I can’t calculate mentally anymore. He gets the biggest kick out of that one. Today he was musing out loud to me about fractions. Apparently, he came up with the idea  of fractions himself, or did he maybe read the fraction book that I got him at the library?

The “gist” of what I am trying to say is that if you train your child to be a picky eater, he will! If you train him to associate reading with relaxing, he will experience it that way once he is able to read.

If you train your child to enjoy learning moments, she will.

Check out different homeschooling methods by following our Pinterest board below.
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