Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Raising Up Hackers (Part 5)

One of the things I want to do to overhaul my daughters' education and make it more meaningful is to allow them time and resources to pursue their own interests. A child who is motivated to learn say....first going to learn SO much more than a child who has been assigned something to learn.

Of course there are things my daughters have no interest in learning that they still must--Math being king around here. That's not even up for discussion. Math is required by law. You need math to graduate. Math is happening. Within those parameters, we can play around a little. We will get into that next week.

Yesterday I asked you what your children chase after. What are they drawn to in their spare time? If you answered "watching TV" then we may have an issue. That certainly would have been my answer for Sweetheart about 5 years ago. She had definite couch potato tendencies. Getting rid of our TV was an excellent move for her future. So perhaps part of having time for children to pursue what interests them is having an environment that encourages that as well.

Sweetheart trying to learn math with Bee helping. 

In researching all of this, I found myself on a lot of unschooling blogs and websites. I have to tell you, reading about unschooling makes me twitch just a bit. When we first decided to homeschool and I was learning about it, I read Learning All the Time by John Holt. I remember I closed the book and said, "You know, I agree with what he's saying.....for little kids." I just couldn't see how my then 7 year old would EVER come to me and say, "Mom, I'd really like to learn how to do long division please???" Not happening. If I just totally let my children go with the attitude of "it doesn't really matter what they are doing because they are learning all the time!" I would have some seriously stupid kids. I do agree that Bee is learning all the time. Even the most mundane of activities helps her pick up new vocabulary and new concepts. Last night while I was rocking her before bed we  had to discuss the heater she heard come on, the air vent the heat comes out of, and the difference between heat and when we turn the fan on. With my 20 month old.

Captain Baby Sword
The Bible tells me that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Also that God is a God of order. That ramble around homeschooling lifestyle didn't seem wise to me. My children would not make wise choices. They would make easy choices. And their learning would be very disorganized.

Now before I get attacked by some unschoolers, let me say this. I KNOW there are unschoolers who have raised up successful, smart, awesome kids. Graduated them and sent them out into the world and it all worked great. I also think that that would work on some kids no matter what. But it's a percentage of children and families who could successfully do that--not everyone. Also, I know that unschooling families differ greatly in their methods. Some are truly hands-off, go on with life and leave the kids to their own thing. Others are very intentional about leaving the right resources lying about and guiding their children into learning. There is interest-led, delight-directed....all kinds of descriptions for what goes on in an unschooling homeschool.

But it got me thinking about the right environment. I think that is key. If I want Sweetheart to pursue writing, for example, then I need to provide her time and physical space to write! She has a school laptop she is writing her book on right now. Her dad has shown her how to do some things on the computer to make it easier. We make sure the girls keep their room cleaned up and the desk area straight. She has access to a camera to make the pictures for her book. Whatever she has asked for, I have tried to help her get. (She needed a board for a picture prop the other day.)
Little Bit working hard
If my child were interested in a topic, I would need to get them to the library and help them find resources. Or perhaps I would need to find a field trip for them to go on. I would need to help them search the web to answer questions they had. Knowing that some questions will require 5 minutes online and then they are satisfied, and some things might take days or weeks to pursue.

I thought about what I have done as an adult when I am interested in a topic. Here comes my super nerdy confession. I've kind of learned not to talk about this stuff because I always have gotten strange looks and yes been made fun of as an adult. We went to see Apollo 13 when it came out in theaters. I had never, I mean never heard of this event before! We went straight home from the movie theater and asked both S's mom and my dad if they remembered it.

Then while Dad was talking I was confused about the difference in the Apollo program, the Gemini program and the Mercury program. So I went to the library. Lost count of how many books I read. Watched documentaries on it. Watched an HBO special. Read more. Then I found myself sitting on the floor in "the stacks" at the old library thumbing through the bound copies of LIFE magazine that featured the articles on the astronauts and their wives and families. Man I miss the stacks. Point is, I LOVED learning about the early space program. Totally intriguing to me. A friend's Dad worked at NASA during the Apollo 13 event and he brought me a file folder with the entire transcript of every radio conversation between Mission Control and the spacecraft. SO awesome.

I can think of other things I've researched and learned about because I wanted or needed to. I read Consumer Reports at the library before I purchased a car seat for Sweetheart. I went to a car seat check up when she was tiny to have them help install it correctly after reading that most are installed wrong. The guy said, "Let me just check to see if there are any recalls on this car seat." I said, "Well, there shouldn't be. It was the top rated one in Consumer Reports." The guy and girl working there just looked at each other.

Yeah, I'll keep my nerdy mouth shut from now on.

The point is, I had time (pre children HA!) to research and read about what I was interested in. I not only loved every minute of it, I could tell you more than you ever want to know about the early space program. I learned and retained because I was interested.

What do you think we need to do for our children to be able to pursue their interests? I'm not talking about buying a horse because my child wants to ride horses. I'm talking about, for starters, Sweetheart picking something she wants to learn and learning it. Maybe it's something your child wants to learn to DO like juggling. I will almost say "this is part of your school day--do it."

Check out this awesome link I found last night. The 20% Project sounds like something we could easily do in our homeschools. It might begin what I want to become a habit and way of life around here. And help Sweetheart to wrap her head around what I'm asking her to do.

What do you think? What needs to happen for kids to pursue their own things?


  1. I found the movie Apollo 13 fascinating too. Of course, I was still a child when it came out....

  2. Whatever, you were in high school!!!!

  3. Absolutely spot-on.

    And I think we must be more alike than even I guessed, because I too was fascinated by Apollo 13.

    Here's one thing I've learned as I've discovered the public library as an adult: When I have a passion, I start ordering books. And more books. And more books. And soon I have an enormous knowledge-base and a very strong working knowledge of my subject - better than I EVER gained in high school or college. While there are some things that have to be done, working with a passion is a powerful way to learn - and of course, one learns oodles of other things along the way! I think that this is an awesome way to learn, and I'm very encouraged by your writing on the subject. If I ever get around to sharing my own thoughts on college, I'll definitely be linking!

    We've been doing country studies, and that's been a great way to spark interests. We just get tons and TONS of books from the library and read on all subjects under the sun (to do with our country of choice). Some are once-read and returned without comment, but some spark huge interests, and I end up ordering even more books in order to feed the fire. Holiday studies, studies to go along with field trips, and personal interests based on field trips or experiences are also often great jumping-off places. Usually they're the ones that I least expect, and the ones that I plan are absolute bombs. :)

    Okay, enough rambling!!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)