Every day for the past couple of months, after lunch, we have all sat down together for some quiet independent reading time.
The older two girls (8 and 10) read some of their current novel each, and the little ones (6 and 4) either look at picture books, listen to an audio book together, or play quietly. We started with just 10 minutes at a time but they enjoy it a lot and now we’re up to 30 minutes a day.
Now, if you’ve been following along you’ll know we unschool. That means no forced learning around here! So how does this kind of thing happen?
I thought this would be a really great example to use to talk about how unschoolers support their children’s learning.
“Children feel empowered when they have companions on the journey. There’s a difference between struggle that leads to frustration, and satisfying effort that leads to success. Our task as parents is to facilitate the latter. What enables children to make progress, to problem solve, to overcome obstacles? A troubleshooting partner, that’s what! When parents collaborate, kids learn.” –Julie Bogart
Reading time was the solution to a problem. Miss 10 had been wanting to improve her reading for a while, but had trouble keeping up the motivation to practice regularly. Miss 8 had been working her way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire which is a huge book and progress was slow. They both complained they couldn’t find enough time to read.
Now, this was confusing to me! Couldn’t find time? Literally all their time is their own! They have the power to use it as they wish. That’s what unschooling is about, right? How could they not find the time?
Over a few more conversations the real problem became obvious. They didn’t want to miss anything! It was so hard to take time out to read during the day because there was always something interesting going on that they didn’t want to miss and reading could happen at any time (theoretically lol).
“If we want our kids to be enthusiastic, self-motivated learners, they need collaborators. This sounds counterintuitive, but what if Steven Spielberg’s mom had simply told him he was on his own to be a filmmaker? Would we have Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hook, and Schindler’s List?” –Julie Bogart
My job is to support them to reach their own goals. Not to force them to learn what I think they should learn, nor to ‘leave them to it’ and hope they figure it out on their own. Unschooling is about trusting our children and letting them own their own learning, but it’s not about abandoning them and expecting them to do it without help. Children have the right to involved adults who act as a resource, supporter, cheerleader, and an ally in their education.
In this case, how I did that was by chatting with them about solutions to the problem. We all came up with ideas and they decided on what they thought sounded best. That was making a time each day where we ALL read together (including me). That way, everyone is getting time to fit in reading but nothing else distracting is happening in the house. We decided on setting aside time after lunch because that is generally a time when everyone feels like relaxing and resting after eating.
We roll on some InTune oil blend to help with concentration and everyone finds a comfy spot where they can spread out. Their younger sisters have only just gotten into audio books so they often choose to listen to one. Everyone agrees to be as quiet as possible so as not to distract anyone else. We can’t expect the little ones to be quiet for too long though so we usually put a time limit on it and I let them know when that’s done. Often people still continue to read though.
This is working so beautifully. Since we started both girls have gotten through so much of their books and improved their reading a lot. This was their goal, but they needed some support to make it happen. They needed someone to help them make time for what was important to them, a skill that will always come in handy.
Unschooling is so much more than removing school. It’s stepping into that role as a learning partner to your children. Helping them to identify their passions, goals, and needs, and then guiding and supporting them as they work out how to do the things they want to do, and achieve the things they want to achieve.
Children are capable of amazing things and are born powerful learners, but that doesn’t mean we have no role here. In fact, leaving it entirely up to them would be doing them a disservice. Children benefit most when we can support them in the ways that they need.