Friday, February 3, 2012

how unschoolers learn to follow through if they can just stop whenever they lose interest

FAQ: how will your homeschooler (especially your unschooler) learn to persist through activities s/he doesn't like doing?

There are some underlying assumptions in that.

- ife has many unenjoyable activities that you have to do, whether you like it or not. If you can't, then you won't be successful.

- school trains you to do things you hate doing. for hours and hours. therefore, school (in this regard, at least) prepares you better for life.

Answer #1:

There are many, many opportunities for children to learn persistence and responsibility. Having them clean up after themselves. Making them accompany the family out when they'd rather stay home but are too young. Sticking out the 4 pottery or robotics classes you signed them up for when they aren't super enjoying it (I just pulled that example out of thin air--that never happened. Nope). I think responsibility is taught by the family environment, by having mutual respect: you respect them and you respect yourself, which teaches them to respect you and themselves. Being able to follow through on responsibilities is an outgrowth of security, respect, clear expectations, and consistent consequences. Being able to tolerate doing something you don't necessary like doing because you are part of a social unit is an outgrowth of an emotionally healthy social unit.

Answer #2:

A frequent misconception is that you have to push kids to do something so that they will be capable of doing it when they are older. This pushing often happens when they are too young. I found that if you leave it alone for 3 years, many of the things that are painful and difficult become easy. For example, most 4th graders find 1st grade work extremely easy. Most 7th graders find 4th grade work easy or manageable. This tells me to let the kid play when s/he is young and if you let them do work 3 years behind, they can do it in a fraction of the time and it's a pleasant experience. Or, even more exciting, they already know it. Somehow! And you have made those hours of pain obsolete.

Answer #3:

Do you have any idea how much we PREVENT children from persisting through things?

I'm beginning to think we are backwards. We don't let children work on things while they are interested and trying and trying and trying to figure it out. And then we force them to do meaningless (to them) activities that attempt to teach many of the things we are not allowing them to discover on their own.

One reason we don't let them persist is because we have feelings seeing them getting frustrated. Another reason is that we don't understand the best way to teach and learn, and we want to show them or teach them how to do it "right" or how to do it better or the best way or a more efficient way. We don't realize that these are our own feelings we are putting onto them. Learning by figuring out and by not succeeding perfectly the first time, and by playing around and seeing what happens next, is the most efficient and most interesting way to learn. Leave them alone. My children have screamed and cried in frustration while playing video games and while playing blocks, but they don't want to stop because they want to get it. Let them get it.

Let children explore their environments. You have no idea how much they learn about how things work by playing, experimenting, observing. You sit them in a classroom and talk about "scientific method" when if you leave a kid alone you will see them devising hypotheses and doing experiments and observing results, which lead to new hypotheses and experiments and deductions. But right now, by the time children are out of preschool and into elementary school, they've forgotten how to fiddle around with things because they are never allowed to.

When children have a plan or goal, they are usually very willing to put in lots and lots of hard work and persistence in all the steps necessary to achieve it. If they have a childhood with many such situations, then they experience that persistence is necessary for their goals. But they experience it in an enjoyable way, instead of in a torturous way. They learn that life is about ideas, which then need hard work and persistence to make those ideas happen. Perhaps the underlying assumption of this FAQ is that life is about ideas that other people have for you, and you are required, against your will, to go along with it.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jess,

    I apologize that I put this in your comments,but could not find your email address anywhere on your blog.

    We are getting the word out about this year's Home Education Conference and hope you will help us by putting this notice on your blog. Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you in advance!

    Yael Aldrich

    We have opened registration for the Fourth Torah Home Education Conference!

    You will spend the day learning from veteran home educators, meeting other Jews interested in living a family-based learning lifestyle,
    and be able to peruse and purchase homeschooling materials from local and national educational vendors.

    We are proud to bring you:

    Evelyn Krieger, the author of the popular new novel, One is Not a Lonely Number, and veteran homeschooling mother.

    Mrs Deborah Beck talking about Integrating Kodesh and Chol: Secular Subjects and Torah - Two Sides of the Same Coin.

    Mrs. Robin Alberg presenting Remaining Focused In an Age of Digital Distractions.

    Mrs. Susan Lapin teaching us the idea of VeShinantam Levanecha: Defining Torah Home Education.

    A Veteran Homeschoolers Panel: Addressing Key Questions Including "How Can I Teach What I Never Learned?"

    Mr Max Masinter leading a group discussion on Whether the Homeschooling Community Should Promote Homeschooling as a Lifestyle Choice to Address Communal Issues.

    and several speakers/topics TBA.

    Shabbos hospitality is available with the possibility of a melava d'malka afterwards.

    The conference will be Sunday May 6, 2012 at the Park Heights JCC in Baltimore, MD. Registration will begin at 8:15am and the conference will begin at 9 am.

    To find out more and register for the conference, please visit

    We look forward to meeting you at the conference!