Sunday, December 1, 2013

Natural Learning

styles of homeschool, how to homeschool, unschooling

What style of homeschooling do you do?
How did you arrive at that style for your family?

Although we do lessons, in our family we still consider ourselves unschoolers or natural learners.
The kids call us Half Unschoolers.

My daughter is supremely allergic to lessons, direction, organization. But she still needs it and grudgingly accepts it as necessary. John needs it and thrives with it. It has been interesting trying to meet the needs of both of these opposing learning styles on a daily basis. Over these twelve years of homeschooling we have adjusted our sails about a hundred times until we hit on a freaky balancing act...that I often mess up.

I want to talk a bit about unschooling. Here in Australia a family is required to register with some sort of umbrella educational institution or to have a learning mentor-type person. I can't speak to that requirement; all I can speak to is what we do and how we do it.

Again, the kids are very different, so the things that they do in their day are different.

Elizabeth is a writer. So she does a great deal of reading and writing. She also has been working on basic life skills for independent living, banking and household finance, employment, driving, Aussie culture, accessing public transportation, using the internet to find essential information, personal coping skills and other tasks for greater emotional intelligence, and personal goal setting.

John loves all things science. He has enjoyed pursuing scientific knowledge from many different venues, exploring philosophical points of view, enjoying satire, and figuring out his own values, goals, and his own personal authentic sense of self.

Both of the kids appreciate a great deal of freedom to explore their own interests. I feel better having regular lessons. The lessons vary as time goes on and our materials are drawn from many different places. Here is a short list of the things that I can remember that we have done together this year.  (my memory is the pits so I know that I am missing things!)

  • From The Great Courses we have done two courses together:  Biology:  The Science of Life and The World's Greatest Paintings. I also have a Physics lecture series from The Great Courses downloaded but we haven't gotten to it yet. 
  • From Coursera we did Introduction to Mathematical Thinking.
  • From Khan Academy we have used his many, many lectures, especially the geometry to accompany our Geometry book.
  • Regularly we visit Classical Poetry Aloud to familiarize ourselves with the wonderful voice, span of topic, and beautiful language of really good poetry.
  • TEDTalks has been an amazing resource for wonderful lectures of all kinds. On a terrible-weather day (which is rare here in Brisbane) we do a thing where each child chooses a lecture from TEDtalks for us to watch, then I choose one, and then we select one that appeals to everyone.  
  • From we have purchased textbooks for our use. I always recommend textbooks rather than homeschool-specific curriculum. The textbooks that we use are Geometry, Vocabulary from Classic Roots series, and a short stories book.
  • We also have used several different useful websites for our lessons on logical fallacies. We try to learn a different logical fallacy every lesson day and we review each time we learn a new one.
  • We have used many different resources for our biography project.  Each lesson day we learn about three different people:  an ancient, a middle, and a contemporary person.  Each lesson begins with a review of every single person we have learned about in past lessons.
  • We use Youtube and Netflix for many different ongoing projects.
  • The kids are working on video blogging our trip here in Australia.
  • All travel here has involved the kids with considering all accommodations and plans, prices and comparing all pertinent information and how to make reasonable decisions. 
  • Many chores.
  • I often assign scavenger hunts for the kids where they take the camera in a given location and photograph essential stuff!
So yeah, that is some of the stuff we do even though we unschool. I don't push, I don't force it, we don't stress, I don't race through material. We just do it as we do it. With the exception of the biographies and our newest project of logical fallacies, we haven't done a single bit of this in weeks. For the most part we have a lessons day when a child requests it and that could be as often as three or four days a week.  Generally, though, it's more like a day or two.

Comments or questions?

WELCOME to all readers in China!

If you enjoyed this post I recommend:  How to Homeschool
Or you may like reading:  Who is Who?
Or for further reading:  A Willingness to Learn


  1. Hadley has an aversion to lessons too but he is a reader. He likes to read anything he can get his hands on. So to "teach" him I buy books, I leave them lying around, I take him to the library. He was even fascinated by the book I accidentally bought, Science from a Christian Perspective. I did not see the last part. I left it on my bed to re-sell. He saw it, sat bedside me and started reading. Even though he disagree with most of the books, he found it fascinating to see what other people thought. So he learned something new that day - that not everyone believes in Evolution. He did not know that before. He also learnt that you can question what you read, and come up with new ideas and theories. So that is how we roll. We still do use Curriculum books for Maths and English - much to Hadley's dismay, but he survives it :)

    1. Seen, now that is exactly what I would have loved as a kid! How I would love to have been homeschooled by you Shona!

  2. We're eclectic here. There are sit-down lessons (maths and spelling/reading involving multisensory approach) but there are also unschooly days though next year we're changing things up to see how we go. Both my children have different learning styles too. I like to emphasise what I call 'life skills', so things like looking after themselves and their immediate environment (aka 'do chores', ho ho...) and things like banking, engaging with people who work at libraries, shops, etc. We love TED videos and my son and husband have their daily What If xkcd where they geek out together :)

    1. Sounds good! I used to call us eclectic; we really are quite eclectic. But I have been brought over to the dark side of unschooling.

      Your post reminds me of another thing with Elizabeth. She is kind of phobic in public, so we are working on that as well!

      Veganopous, I'm glad you are here!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Awww thanks! I'm glad to have made the decision to check out other home ed blogs in Australia!

  3. I just might have to "steal" this format. I like that you use real world, such as TEDtalks. Also teaching logical fallacies, I wish I had grown up with lessons on those. Looking back on growing up, I am wondering if the culture had a good dose of "Well, you should know that by now." I can't seem to remember where I was supposed to have learned logical fallacies, then. Alas not all is lost. I am attempting to teach myself those life lessons and then be ready for my 4 1/2 year old son and 1 year old daughter. Both are in the regular school system. I hope I can properly supplement them with the real world. Chores are no problem, multi step chores my son does with the greatest of ease and I don't see any problems in the future with teaching critical thinking, banking, planning, public transit, etc. My Daughter, will be interesting...I see her being extremely independent and stubborn, though, still very intelligent. I am glad I have found your blog.

    1. You don't have to steal it, Chris! I give it to you for free!

      Yeah, you are going to love that child!!!

  4. I would love to see the video blogging the kids are doing for your time in Australia! Are you posting those to YouTube somewhere? I would also love to see some of the TedTalks, YouTube, Netflix resources that you have tapped into and maybe some of those chores too! :)

    1. Go to TEDtalks and just watch the ones that appeal to you AND watch some that you think are completely not in your interest zone. You might just stumble upon something new to interest youf!

  5. Hey Karen,

    This is very interesting because I have often felt that we don't fit the homeschool mold (if there ihats one). We do a lot of workbooks, worksheets, copy work, rote memorization. I remember a teaching professional who looked at me and said he couldn't believe that i could get my kids to sit down and do work. It's so easy. it works for us and they are learning a ton.

    We do use a lot of electronic form of learning, and I do allow my children to learn and explore on their own. For example, I am teaching Ava cursive first. She is teaching herself print by copying out of book we read. No idea how she figured that out, but it does happen. Ideally, I think this is the best way to learn - just out of interest. However I was scared that my son would have never learned to read through this method.

    Thanks so much for linking up this wonderful post to the #homeschoollinkup. I really enjoy reading your posts!

    1. Well, Lisa, it is nice to have had you visit!
      Your kids sound like they are really digging the natural learning thing.
      But, as I said, and as I agree with you on, I feel much better having some basic lessons so that they don't end up living in my basement.



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