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From: Nina (118.93.10.96)
Subject:         Unschooling the teen years
Date: June 20, 2010 at 4:51 am PST

Hi All

I am looking for some information and shared experiences relating to unschooling or taking a more relaxed educational approach to middle and high school aged children.

Currently pregnant with my 5th child and I am feeling very tired and often nauseous. I also have ds13, ds11, dd9 whom I homeschool and then there is my mischevious ds2.

I have already taken steps to lighten our load for the next year or so and currently assign a certain number of things to be accomplished each week. It is then up to the kids how they structure their workload so long as everything is completed by 3pm Friday.

BUT....

I am now also thinking that perhaps being even more relaxed and closer to the unschooling end of the spectrum might work just as well....IF I can get my head around how to make it work for us.

I do however have some questions and concerns which I can't seem to find the answer to by searching online or from anyone I know personally.

That said, with the way we are currently doing things.....One of my biggest difficulties is the amount of time spent doing academic work when we could be doing other things. I also feel that ds2 is in need of more of my and the older kids time and attention. He gets bored and demanding while everyone else is busy doing 'schoolwork' and I feel I could and should be giving him much more time and attention as could the older children if our mornings weren't taken up with 'schoolwork'.

Here is the way we are currently doing things....

Ds13 has two career choices that he has set his mind to and he is very serious and determind that he WILL definitely do at least one of them if not both.

He would like to be either A professional Sportsman or An Architect or both if things work out the way he hopes they will. We have researched what would be needed educationally if he wants to study architecture at university and as such have tailored his 'curriculum' to meet these educational prerequisites. This is something we have taken very seriously because he has wanted to be an architect since he was 6 years old.

Acceptance into the Architectural degree course at university requires students to have formally studied math, Science, English and Graphics through to the end of highschool. Students are also expected to have some computer skills and a natural flair/passion for drawing and design. Not formal qualification is neccessary although it is preferred.

So......

For English he completes some simple basic skills workbook pages for English at his grade level. This works out at around 3 - 4 pages per week depending on their content. He prefers this approach to using a full curriculum approach as he really just wants to master the skills required for entry into university rather than study English in depth.

He has a Math textbook which he is working through and I require him to complete 3-4 lessons per week.

He also has to read a book of his own choosing and one recommended by me. (I get a huge pile from the library that I would like him to read and he selects some that also appeal to him.)

He has a Science textbook which he is reading through at his own pace but I do not require him to complete all the experiments or assignments included with it. Hhowever we do discuss the value of each one and then decide whether or not he should complete it.

Included in his reading choices he has a range of literature to that focuses on history which he loves but he also has ABEKA World History which he is reading through in the same manner thT he is using his science textbook.

I also have a graphics course which has numerous assignments the same as what he would be required to do if studying graphics at school. He works through these at his own pace as he chooses. My suggestion is to complete 2 assignments per week.

I also feel that learning to research and report on something is an important skill and so I try to assign about 1-2 different research projects per term. (1/2 semster) Last week we started talking about 'The Purpose of Writing' and brainstorming some ideas of what we though was the purpose of writing. This lead into a discussion on 'writing that has changed the world' which then lead us into a discussion on Martin Luthur King's famous speech. So this week the kids are all researching Martin Luthur King and they have to try to find a full and complete copy of his famous speech. (I have a dream.....etc...) We will read through it together discuss as a family.

As part of our homeschool co-op ds13 is also learning guitar and will start film studies and video photography studies in a few weeks time.

When not doing 'schoolwork' as outlined above or playing sport which he loves, ds13 can be found delivering newspapers 3x a week for his part time job, playing playstation (within certain limitations), practicing his guitar, drawing, practicing his design skills using google sketch, which is a design program we found online or listening to music on hi ipod.

He also plays or trains for rugby and basketball 4+ days a week.

Ds11 is still mastering the basic 3R's so each week I require him to do some writing, some reading and some math. He too has a basic English Skills workbook and completes about 3 pages of it per week and he is using Saxon Math 6/5 and does 3 lessons per week. Other subjects such as Science and History are done sporadically despite my best intentions to make these a regular part of his weekly routine. I have all the same resources at his level available to him for science and History that I have for ds13 and we occasionally read a few pages in his History and Science books together. However I originally intended to make this a twice weekly per subject occurance but haven't managed to be organized enough to do this yet. This particular son struggles with writing/composition so I feel he needs to practice this regularly until it becomes more natural and less difficult and he is getting better slowly but still has a few writing issues. Because of this, English/Writing and math are our main focus for now and most other academic subject areas only get covered on a semi-regular basis.

As far as future careers go this son has always wanted to be a chef so enjoys helping out with meals and baking. At my suggestion he is keen to complete 1 main meal and 1 baking activity this week. His 2nd choice of career was to join the police and for a while he thought being an accountant might be a good career as he liked the idea of counting other peoples money.....But then he learned that both these careers involved a lot of desk work and paper work so he was soon back to being a chef and that was the one and only time he has veered away from being a chef since he was about 3 years old.

At Co-op this term he did Home Economics, Hands on Science and guitar but next term he will only be doing the Science class and Guitar as his much loved Home Ec isn't running as the teacher is away overseas.

Like ds13 He is an avid sportsman and plays or trains for rugby and basketball 4-5 days a week.

Dd9 loves all things schooly (except Math) although she prefers to work on her own terms if given the freedom to do so rather than following any prescribed course of study. Art and Craft are by far her most favourite activities. As with ds11 I require reading, writing and Math to be worked on each week. Right now this involves completing a basic skills workbook page 3-4 days a week for English,
3 - 4 math workbook pages and reading books of her own choosing and selecting from some that I suggest. Outside of this she is free to do her own thing, although if ds11 and I are reading his science or History texts then dd9 will happily join us.

At Co-Op this term she did Art and Crafts, Guitar and Home Ec and next term she will be replacing Home Ec with Jewelry design and beadworking. She also plays netball once a week and has piano lessons once a week which she loves. Getting her to practice her music is not neccessary as she plays the piano for fun every day numerous times a day both her assigned pieces and others that appeal to her as well. She also is learning the recorder from a book we borrowed from the library and she practices her guitar most days too.

So you can see we are pretty relaxed but have a fair way to go before we could ever be considered unschoolers.

All this said I would love it if I could step back even further and let them have even more freedom in their education BUT I worry that if I don't guide their education and ensure certain things get done on a regular basis then they wont get done at all and the children may miss out on opportunities later on that would have been available to them IF they HAD met the educational prerequisites.

Past history with my older boys has proven that they rarely if ever initiate any recognized core academic pursuit of their own accord and neither would EVER write a thing if it wasn't required of them. Math too they would avoid if they had their the freedom to do so even though they don't really mind it when they are doing it and are both quite good at it.

Ds11 rarely reads anything other than comics or Guiness World Records of his own accord but ds13 is an avid reader of pretty much anything.

Although fiercly independent, without structure, ds11 tends to get a bit unruly and disruptive so a certain amount of structure and routine for him is actually beneficial for us ALL.

My dh has very few expectations of what the children should learn or be taught but he does have a minimum requirement that they do Math (using a textbook or curriculumas my math ability is poor) and English (of some sort) on a regular basis. For everything else he is happy for them to go with whatever I decide is best for us so long as they are involved in positive and productive activity during the day and help me out around the house each day.

I would love to hear from some unschoolers of teenagers and older kids or even from those who feel that although they are not die-hard unschoolers they do tend to lean more towards a relaxed approach to homeschooling with little if any formal curriculum.

Thanks and Blessings

Nina


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