One family's quest to learn together
The Children have been unschooling for about a month now, and our days are taking on a relaxed rhythm that just feels so ‘right’. They are happy, healthy and learning, so what more could a parent ask for? We are lucky that they had just had their 6 week summer break before we started this adventure into unschooling, as so I guess much of their ‘deschooling’ happened then, although I still see some of the old vestiges of school hanging about at times. Deschooling refers to the process that children go through, after being removed from a formal schooling environment, so that the “school mindset” is eroded over time. Children (and parents as well!) who have been taken out of school to learn at home, often need a period of adjustment so they can adjust to learning without the structure of lessons, bells and assessment.
Because we are still at home and haven’t begun travelling yet, at times this can feel like we are on extended school holidays, and I will admit that there are days that I still need to gently remind the children to devote a part of the day to learning time. I try not to push them too hard, (very hard for a former school teacher!) because it is important that they develop autonomy and motivation in regard learning. So I devote my time to fueling their interests and this seems to strike a happy balance. For example, both of them developed a keen interest in the ‘Horrible Histories‘ BBC program. As a result, when we were at the Library, Lucy was naturally drawn to the books of the same series, and others written in a similar genre. She bought home a book about the history of Shakespeare and began to read it of her own accord. After noticing her nose deep for a couple of days in the book, I began to look to other ways to facilitate her learning more about Shakespeare, who she was obviously interested in. A bit of Googling later, and I had found several websites for children about Shakespeare, online games, and a documentary on YouTube, In Search of Shakepeare which we watched together and found very interesting. We also watched the recent 2013 Romeo and Juliet film (when she cried at the end, I knew the plot had made an impression!), and later on the 1996 Baz Lehrman version for a comparison (both are rated PG13). Lucy independently began documenting the life and times of Shakespeare in a Powerpoint presentation, and on Friday we are going to the theatre to see ‘Shakespeare For Kids’.
Oscar of course is a lot younger than his sister, (5 years) so his level of participation in learning about Shakespeare has been age appropriate to him. He loves ‘Horrible Histories’ as much as his sister, and has learnt many facts about Shakespeare from the programs. He stepped in and out of watching the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet, mainly enjoying the sword fighting. Despite the PG13 rating for the 1996 version of the film I wrangled with the idea of whether or not he should see it with Lucy and I, after all, swords and replaced with guns and there is obvious drug references. In the end, I decided he could watch it with us. As a huge Star Wars fan, he’s no stranger to fight scenes and death in film and I predicted that the little white pill that Romeo takes before the party would be probably confused with a sweet. Oscar and I sat together to watch the film and he had many questions, which I answered honestly…
At the end of the 1996 film we discussed which version they had preferred. Both agreed that they rather the traditional style of the 2013 version. They described the 1996 version with words like, crazy, loud, scary, fast, angry, strange. I reminded the children that both versions used almost the same script, and how the interpretation of the script and the tones used in it’s delivery can leave the audience with a completely different flavour of the same play. We are also seeing a children’s version of Romeo and Juliet on Friday so it will be interesting to note their comparison again. Lucy and I discussed that Shakespeare had intended the story to be a tragedy, but in his interpretation, Baz Luhrman had given it a more dramatic feel. Oscar and I went on to discuss that all films are make believe and actors dressed up using props. He remembered a video that he’d seen on YouTube of how one of the scary characters in Star Wars was made up with make-up before filming. I think it important to remind my young viewers of the reality behind film making to help them make sense of, and diffuse the dramatic make-believe. So, you can see, from an interest in one television program both children have learnt many age-appropriate lessons in regards to this and other themes.
We’ve learnt about:
The thing that I love most about Unschooling is that the children’s interests are driving the lessons, which means that they are far more likely to retain the learning that takes place. The best part is that all of this talk about Shakepeare and Romeo and Juliet over the last few days has been scattered in with; off and online maths lessons, reading Harry Potter with Oscar, Science lessons at the dinner table with a flashlight and a world globe (because someone asked about time zones), plus regular swimming at our local pool.
Yes, the natural rhythm of Unschooling seems to suit us just fine.